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Thursday
Feb262015

Lights, Camera, Action in Media Relations

By Natalie Ghidotti, APR

It’s no shocker that online video consumption continues increasing at a rapid pace. According to comScore’s Video Metrix, 190.3 million Americans watched online content videos last summer.

Videos are easily viewed from a variety of devices – whether that’s a smartphone, tablet or desktop computer. They’re also entertaining, while informing. Think of the number of videos you probably watch just in your Facebook feed alone. Don’t tell me you haven’t clicked on one of those Buzzfeed videos before. We all have!

So knowing that people like to watch things, it’s no surprise that using video in your media relations efforts can result in better engagement, clearer understanding and increased dialogue. Reporters and editors – (gasp!) they’re just like us! The gal you’ve been trying to pitch for a year at the New York Times likes watching engaging content just as much as you and your friends.

Our firm has worked over the past few years to incorporate video into all of our PR campaigns. We’ve had some great success in using video for everything from media relations to blogger relations to direct marketing. Here are two recent “wins” when it comes to using video for media relations.

Alliance Rubber Company

www.rubberband.com

 

We wanted to tell the story of this 92-year-old family-owned company that is the world’s largest manufacturer of rubber bands. Alliance is located in a small town in Arkansas and represents U.S. manufacturers who are dedicated to keeping jobs and dollars in our country.

Our goal was to share the story of Alliance’s rich history and product innovation to key national media, including the Wall Street Journal. We conducted our normal background work and had chosen the reporters we felt would be most interested in learning more about Alliance. As part of our relationship building with these reporters, we sent them a video we created to give a good overview of the company and hit on all of our key messages.

A few days after we sent the video to our Wall Street Journal reporter, he emailed us with an interest in learning more and talking to Alliance’s chief executive officer. Through the power of video, we were able to quickly tell the Alliance story and pique enough interest for him to want to know more. The interview went well and was a great follow up to a story he had recently written on the manufacturing of paper clips.

Here’s a link to the story: http://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-rubber-band-maker-survives-by-stretching-its-portfolio-of-products-1401382522

Alliance Rubber Company Overview Video

McDonald’s Central Arkansas Co-op

@mcd_centralar

If you watched the Super Bowl or followed the commercial launches the following day, then you are probably familiar with McDonald’s “Pay With Lovin’” campaign. The company ran its first Super Bowl spot in eight years and launched a two-week campaign where customers were randomly chosen to “pay with lovin’” – a fist bump, a hug, a call to a loved one, even a Hog call (probably only witnessed in Arkansas).

We wanted to make sure the customers in Central Arkansas were well aware of the Pay With Lovin’ promotion. What better way to do that than to produce a video showing all the lovin’ from the first day (when 88 central Arkansas stores gave away free meals to more than 3,000 people)! We sent a video crew out to several of the restaurants, and had a 1-minute long finished product the next morning.

We used the video to push out on our social portals and, most importantly, send to local TV stations for use as b-roll. Our results were phenomenal. All four stations in the market used the video at some level – two that showed the entire video on air and online. All of them tweeted it, several posted to Facebook, and one radio station made the video its “Video of the Day.”

We garnered so much media social love that a reporter with MediaBistro contacted McDonald’s Corporate to ask what in the world was going on in Little Rock that the media was all over the Pay With Lovin’ promo! Needless to say, the power of video worked beautifully with this particular PR outreach.

Here’s a link to the ABC station coverage: http://www.katv.com/story/28016217/central-arkansas-customers-pay-with-love-at-mcdonalds

McDonald’s Central Arkansas Pay With Lovin’

When strategizing for your next media outreach, think of how you can use video to your benefit. Words are great, but seeing is believing!

You can find Natalie Ghidotti, APR online at @ghidotti. Visit the team at www.ghidotticommunications.com or https://www.facebook.com/ghidotticommunications.

Tuesday
Feb172015

Writing Isn’t a Group Process

Barb Harris and Sharon Kreher, teamworks communication management www.teamworkspr.com

We increasingly are involved in creating content for our nonprofit clients.  They have great stories to tell and they are passionate about their work. As a result, they tend to want to be “involved” in the communication process. These organizations also have a variety of stakeholders – donors, board members, volunteers, staff – who also are dedicated to the cause and want to be involved.

The idiom, “too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth” quickly becomes applicable.  So many voices often muddy the waters and result in disjointed message.  So, how do you preserve the writing process, limiting it to one or two creative wordsmiths to work their magic, while ensuring that everyone on the broader team feels involved and heard?

Recently, we embarked on a project to help a local nonprofit revamp its communication tools. The website, newsletter and marketing materials were a mix of catch phrases, taglines, and conflicting or outdated messages. The organization was willing to start with a clean slate, creating new messaging that will help it move forward in its next phase.

Instead of trying to schedule sit-downs with all the staff, the board, and key clients, we developed a survey using Survey Monkey. A dozen clear, concise questions allowed each respondent to share their thoughts about the organization. How did they view it? What did they think its focus should be? What three words would they use to describe their organization? The survey was shared with a list of 45 stakeholders. The response rate exceeded 50 percent and the answers made it crystal clear what our messaging should (and should not) be.

Drafting a new master messaging document that included an “elevator pitch,” key media messages, a revised mission statement and organization descriptors flowed naturally from the data we received. It also brought some “challenging” questions to the surface about previous messaging and positioning that we were able to address with the leadership team.

Our resulting communication “broth,” so to speak, proved tasty. The client noted, “I like the feeling I got when reading it. You seem to have captured a precise, yet broader spectrum of who we are and what we offer.”

Our job as communicators and writers is not to tell organizations who they are. Rather, it is to guide them through the process of recognizing who they are, and then to help them articulate it. Writing doesn’t have to be a group process as long as stakeholders feel their input is heard and valued.

Wednesday
Feb112015

Super lessons from the Super Bowl

by Kristin Helvey, APR, president/owner, Helvey Communications

This year, my husband and I took ouFive hours and counting until Super Bowl XLIX. Can you tell who we were cheering for?r first Super Bowl trip. The football hype began upon landing. Airport workers wore jerseys, balloons lined hallways and murals covered the baggage claim. This was, of course, just the tip of the iceberg. For four days, we were enveloped by building-sized endorsements, crazed fans jumping around in the background shots of athlete interviews (if you saw someone that looked like me, I probably just have a twin), live bands playing ear-shattering music, and more beer than should be allowed in any one place.

I was in love.

As an event professional though, I couldn’t shake the nagging question: How do you pull this off? The number of working parts it takes to execute something of this magnitude astounded me. Soon, I was approaching everything I encountered through a planning lens. What would the process for XYZ look like? (…My husband enjoyed this, too. Not.)

I realized something. Regardless of professional experience, huge, high-profile projects can be daunting. Thankfully, however, fundamentals always apply. Here are a few that stood out last week:

  • Create exclusive experiences. The Super Bowl is much more than a football game. It’s a weeklong phenomenon. Find creative ways to infuse life into your project/event, and provide opportunities to feel like an “insider.” People enjoy showing off these experiences.
  • Don’t underestimate in-person interactions. In the digital era, I assumed an event this size would put less emphasis on face-to-face tactics. Wrong! Meet and greets and photo opps were highlights of our trip. Personal interactions are important.
  • Expect the unexpected. Restaurants ran out of food. And it rained for two days. In Phoenix. Plan for the unexpected.
  • Correct misinformation. Leading up to the game, ticket vendors pre-sold tickets they didn’t have. This is bad. It is worse that notices were given with such inadequate explanations about how this could happen. Of course, angry customers made their own assumptions. Give information, even when it’s hard.
  • Evaluate. Again. Plans can fail. Circumstances change, and sometimes assumptions are just wrong. It happened in the last play of the game, and it happens everywhere else. Evaluate along the way, and make necessary changes.

I may never plan a Super Bowl. Admittedly though, it helps my ego to know it’s not magic. We work hard to stay abreast of changing trends and technologies—but as we vie to lead the cutting edge, don’t abandon the basics!

Kristin Helvey, APR, is the president and owner of Helvey Communications, an Alaska-based professional communications company. Inspired by the potential strategic communication has to effect positive change, Kristin opened Helvey Communications in 2010 and now consults with and assists organizations and individuals to improve internal communications and community standing. A lover of sports and a self-proclaimed “foodie,” Kristin is already making plans for Super Bowl L. If you wonder why there are no photos inside the actual stadium…well, that’s a funny story.

 Front row at the Little Big Town concert during the NFL On Location pre-party. See those green beads she’s wearing? Yep. Those are (were) mine.

Getting ready for the big game.

 

These 12th men don’t mess around.

Monday
Feb092015

Busy-ness in Business

By Alex Greenwood

You know, you just keep your head down in your home office, day-by-day, doing the best you can for four years or so, and suddenly you look up and you’re paying rent for an office, hiring staff and working with great interns in service of some fantastic clients.

Funny enough, I never grew up dreaming of owning a business. As I recall, my dream jobs as a kid through young adulthood involved driving a garbage truck, piloting an Apollo lunar lander, being an actor and eventually being elected to the vice presidency of the United States.

Well, the garbage truck lost its appeal around age six, being an astronaut required much stronger math skills than I possess (and America stopped going to the moon anyway–low earth orbit doesn’t have quite the same allure, no disrespect to ISS astronauts intended), I was an actor for a while but found it ultimately a ridiculous profession, and my time in politics convinced me it isn’t much better.

Therefore, to earn a living I turn to two resources: my skills as a public relations consultant and writer. Thankfully, I make a living at both (though I must admit I wish I made a little more on the writing than I do). At first, I managed to juggle both jobs, but little by little the PR firm has taken more and more of my time. A fourth novel’s first draft languishes while I work on client projects, prospecting for new clients and trying to get more than seven hours of sleep a night. I recall hearing how hard self-employed people work when I was working for employers and thinking “No sweat, I can do that.”

Well, yes, I can do that–but I was wrong about the “no sweat” part.

Owning a business comes with sweat, be it actually perspiration or worry. Don’t get me wrong, I love it and suspect it beats being a garbage truck driver and even vice president (though Joe Biden always looks so darn happy…) but managing clients, projects, staff, interns, payroll, taxes, rent, landlords, salespeople, cash flow, long hours, work/life balance, etc. takes its toll on you.

The truth of the matter is simple: being in business necessitates a certain, unavoidable busy-ness. If you’re contemplating hanging out your shingle, know that simple truth. And get some sleep now, while you can.

Alex Greenwood is wide awake at the offices of AGPR.

Friday
Jan302015

Old Friends, New Faces: A Lesson In Networking

Note: In this guest column, career expert, author, Dallas Morning News columnist and friend of PRCG Tami Cannizzaro shares her thoughts on visiting our recent conference in Dallas. It’s also a great piece on networking! We enjoyed it so much we thought we’d share it here.

By Tami Cannizzaro

“OMG! You look awesome!”  “So great to see you!”  “How in the world are things going?”  “We have SO MUCH to talk about!”

The room was buzzing with everyone talking, and shrieking as another person entered.  The beautiful hors d’oeuvres went untouched; no time to eat when we had so much to say.

It was a business meeting, the kick-off event that would set the tone for the rest of the week. Colleagues who had become friends, getting together to catch up.

There’s nothing like it, is there? The camaraderie, the excitement, the “Is that what you really look like?”

Say what?!

Yes, despite years of doing business together, this was the first time some of us had ever met in person. The event could have been titled, “Old friends, new faces”.

I was particularly interested in attending since it would be the first time I would meet my publicist, live, in person. 

Yet it didn’t really matter if we met or not. We already knew each other.  Over the years we have logged countless hours on the phone. We’ve texted and Skyped and emailed and Facebook’d and Tweeted. Our business relationship is as rock-solid as if we had originally met in person.

So how did we ever find each other, several states away? Through networking, of course.

Much is said about the importance of networking in the business world.  I talk a lot about it during presentations on career transition or when I’m working with college students. Who you know – your network – will be instrumental in both your business life and your personal life.

You never know who you know that knows someone.

My story is a classic example of networking at its best. It happened organically, which is usually the case.  I was talking to another person in my network about a project I was working on when she suggested I contact her colleague, who had experience in the same area.

Introductions were made, we had a phone conversation and before you know it we had a business deal.

Similarly, job opportunities can happen through networking.  It’s not always what you know but who you know.

Networking is so important to me that I purposely set aside time to send short notes to people, forward job leads, or to simply say hi.  Even if it’s just a quick acknowledgement on social media, at least they know I’m there.

It amazes me that others don’t understand the power of networking. Recently I had someone tell me that they don’t use LinkedIn or Facebook.  The reason? They don’t have time.

Whoa. That makes my head hurt.

Both are great networking tools, with different purposes that make it easy to connect with others.  LinkedIn should be a no-brainer for everyone of working age.  It’s your online showcase that tells your professional story to business colleagues.  Recruiters search LinkedIn too, looking for qualified candidates.

FaceBook is clearly more social yet can be effective at building your network. Friends have other friends that might be able to help you professionally.  Just be sure to take it off-line when you need to chat about a job.

Many people tell me that social media is a time-suck and that’s why they don’t use it.  I say that’s an excuse; one that is only going to hurt them in the end.

Networking is part of your job, requiring some time and effort, as well as a bit of strategy. Build it into your work plan, set aside time, and do it.

Or you can sit back and wait until you really need a recommendation or, heaven forbid, a new job.  That strategy – or lack of networking – may bite you in the butt.

Tuesday
Jan272015

PRCG Conference Roundup 2015: Dallas, Texas

By Amy Kossoff Smith, Write Ideas, Inc., and Founder/Editor PRCG Powerlines

Boots and lots of brainstorming were on the ground in Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas, this year for the PRConsultants Group Annual Conference. More than 40 of the network’s markets attended for professional development, networking, and of course, some great Tex-Mex food. Themed, “Not the same old bull,” there was a healthy dose of humor and Southwestern fun as we held our annual crash course in PR education together.

Here are highlights from this year’s conference:

  • Day One, after a team brainstorm (get ready to be wowed in 2015 by some new programs and initiatives now percolating at PRCG’s Virtual Think Tank), the group headed to the Fort Worth Stockyards to hear how social media/PR fuels ticket sales at this bull-riding town. Then, Dr. Adam Richards, TCU professor and author, discussed “Theories of Persuasion,” and challenged our group to consider how messages are received when crafting PR campaigns.
  • Day Two, it started off “social” as Zoetica Media’s Kami Huyse presented “From Flirting to Commitment: How to Build Relationships with Online Influencers.” Huyse discussed the importance of building a community or joining one. Examples include Facebook groups & pages, #Hashtags, and specialty conferences. She reinforced how important it is to create experiences for bloggers that are meaningful to their focus and presented some unique ways to measure PR success from a community perspective.
  • Then, several PRCG member firms presented case studies in “Community Engagement” to illustrate how unique tactics and innovative approaches can fuel a non-profit or cause-related campaign.

o   teamworks communication management’s Barb Harris & Sharon Kreher presented a great way to consolidate a multi-faceted client platform into a coordinated campaign.

o   Nic Creative’s Nicole Candler suggested to work the connections in your community to engage networks to match a cause with achieving goals.

  • Continuing the non-profit agenda, the group learned new PR strategies from a panel of Dallas-based non-profit leaders. Some interesting highlights about these organizations follow…

o   Genesis Women’s Shelter – Domestic violence is “equal opportunity” and knows no boundaries of race or economy. Every 12 seconds, a woman is battered. Our speaker discussed strategies for marketing to multiple audiences – victims, gatekeepers (people who know victims), and donors.

o   American Heart Association – We heard about the organization’s successes and ongoing goals to decrease death from heart disease and to increase healthy living habits. Further, being involved with a cause is good for business. The AHA’s campaign, “Life is Why,” gets people to explore why being healthy is relevant.

o   Dallas Arboretum – It was interesting to learn how they use segmented marketing through education and entertainment for adults & children using tactics such as photography, outdoor concerts, painting outdoors, how to plant a rose garden to attract visitors.

o   Duck Team 6 Street Dog Rescue – Arf! Their mission is “to reduce street dog population through capture, placement, and outreach.” They work with other dog rescue groups to find and place animals that are otherwise at risk. Their PR efforts use digital/video tactics to share unique stories of their rescued dogs and community outreach such as free vaccination clinics and feeding people in need, including dog food so underprivileged individuals don’t have to share their food with the dogs.

  • A Conference highlight, Tech Tools with PRCG’s Julie Dennehy (Dennehy PR) and Toni Antonetti (PR Chicago), showcased 2015 trends including wearable tech, geolocation, photo/video enhancement, etc. Dennehy and Antonetti developed a Pinterest board to broadcast lots of these unique ways to use technology to increase efficiency and creativity, many at a reasonable or even zero cost.

Day Three

  • Rena Pederson, former Dallas Morning News VP and author, talked to our group about considering our legacy. She shared highlights from high profile interviews she has conducted and been the subject of. Pederson has interviewed Fidel Castro, Margaret Thatcher, Lucille Ball, and Julia Child. She shared some profound thoughts, too many to list here, but I’ll share my favorite for PR/marketing folks who love to talk, “While you’re here, and when you go home, imagine you’re only an ear. You can’t talk, but have to listen. Pay attention to the people around you.”
  • Dave Lieber, Dallas Morning News Columnist, storyteller, and a.k.a. “Yankee Cowboy,” said that we live in a bullet point/powerpoint world, but that it’s STORIES that really fire the brains. He illustrated this theory of show and tell with creative, amusing, and heartwarming stories from his own career and personal track.

And it’s a wrap! This post went way beyond my usual or recommended word count, but even with quick highlights, you can see how much is happening at PRConsultants Group! Here’s to a great 2015 for our firms, our clients, and the world of PR.

A very special thanks to our conference co-chairs Lisa Faulkner-Dunne and Jen Evans and their entire committee for the incredible line-up this year. Also, a shout out to our Conference Sponsors (BusinessWire, StatePoint Media, and Spoken Here, who not only supported our program, but went out of their way to discuss ways their products can amplify our PR programs nationwide.

Author Bio:  Amy Kossoff Smith, Founder/Editor of PRCG Powerlines and Founder/President of Write Ideas, Inc., has 20+ years’ experience in retail PR & promotions.  She also publishes an online parenting magazine, The MomTini Lounge.  Featured on The Today Show and all local TV networks, she also publishes a national wire column.  For the purposes of this post, she did not ride a bull, but enjoyed taking pictures of fellow PRC friends braving the bull!  And…she hasn’t yet met a Tex-Mex salsa she didn’t love!

Friday
Jan162015

Public Relations Pros Adapt in a Soft Economy

By Jennifer Evans

I live and work in Houston, Texas. Houston is known for many things, but the oil & gas industry remains a driving business here. Consequently, we see indicators of economic dips due to oil prices before other U.S. markets. While I don’t want to discourage anyone unduly, we are seeing some of those signs in the U.S. and in Texas right now. Public Relations practitioners – internal as well as agency leaders – should pay attention and prepare to help clients/employers adapt. After all, part of the job is therapy, right? Here are a few handy tips to help you help your clients.

1)      Be prepared to have the conversation – Expect your client to raise the subject of budget reduction at some point this year. Don’t be offended. Great people and teams lose their jobs every day. Put on your game face, your big girl or boy pants and have suggestions ready.

2)      Evaluate the budget – Examine the client’s budget with them and make recommendations of small or large items that can be postponed or eliminated. This is a great time to consider shifting from a print newsletter to an e-news format, for example. Zoetica Media’s Kami Huyse offers some excellent tips to measure social media efforts. What needs to change?

3)      Invest in new, modest pursuits – Instinct may initially drive you to cut the new, cool stuff. DON’T. Find a way to help your client try some of those new things. Here’s an excellent read in PR Daily on new trends – give you any ideas?

4)      Put the microscope on events – Social events are necessary for business development, and fundraisers are necessary for non-profits. That said, this is an excellent time to look at ROI on these events and make tweaks. Help your client do a reboot of a renewing event by making the calls to action tighter and the budget leaner. Adjust the timing. Check out Katie Delahaye Paine’s blog for some excellent case studies.

5)      Staff smart(er) – OK, this is sensitive territory. Is there a staff adjustment from your own support package or from the client’s team that should be made? If you are billing your client every month for personnel, you owe it to yourself and your client to evaluate. If the client has a mandate to cut from their own staff resources, help them manage the pain and make the best decision.

6)      No free lunch – One of my clients held a recurring weekly meeting as a brown-bag lunch for almost a year – and no one complained. Help your client eliminate schmooze costs from the budget. Lunch for 10 people at $10 each once a week = $5,200 annually. That’s money any business can repurpose. Since we’re still talking about New Year’s resolutions, it’s an excellent time to change the meeting time and offer some budget-friendly, healthy snacks and water.

Be the chameleon now, and avoid pain later!

Jennifer Evans owns a Public Relations agency in Houston, Texas. She can be found at www.jlevans.com, @jlevans on Twitter and jenniferlevanspr on LinkedIn.