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Best Practices – Are They Really the Best?

By Heidi Langer, Langer Marketing LLC

Being a “Solopreneur” requires many skills.  Some of these skills are inherent, others are learned, but either way, there are always others trying to tell you how to improve your skills or how to become a better business manager.  For those of us solopreneurs in the PR field, not only are we trying to promote the businesses of our clients, but we are trying to perform self-promotion of our own businesses at the same time.  I recently came across a list of The 30 Best Business Practices of All Time that seem to incorporate both the self-help aspect, as well as the self-promotion.  Thank you to for the following excellent information on ways to gain the most out of, not only your day, but also your business.  Many of these can be implemented immediately to make a huge impact in your day, your business and your client’s…

1. Go one-on-one: Get that face-to-face regular formal meeting time with your direct reports. You both need it.

2. Make ETDBW your mantra: you can use this today…figure out how to make your company Easy To Do Business With.

3. Document Everything: Write down what is stored in your head so it is accessible to others and allow for continuous improvement to make things better.

4. Get clients on the blower: You can easily set it up today…call your clients and find out what they think about your service levels in a quick phone survey.  The feedback received can spur great ideas.

5. Open your books: OBM encourages your employees to rally around shared goals.

6. Invoice Promptly: Invoice the day the job is done or move to weekly batch invoicing instead of monthly.

7. Ask for Sales Referrals: For today.  Just ask, the worse you can get is a “no”.

8. Hire your customers: Seek their views and act.

9. Fire your customers: It should be a win-win situation for both.

10. Find your Hedgehog: Focus on that one “thing” that makes you great.

11. Start meetings on time: I would even add, arrive a little early to meetings…we can all make this resolution today.

12. Obsess over metrics: Just measure everything…”What gets measured gets managed.”

13. Innovate Google’s way: Invest in creativity and .innovation …your employees are your best resource.

14. Spy on your own company: Know what the client-experience is like.

15. Give power to your people: Solving client problems turns them into fans!

16. Develop raving fans with NPS: That’s the “Net Promoter Score”…Take ownership for raving fans.

17. Enter Awards Programs: Take any opportunity to tell your story.

18. Turn (almost) everything into a sales message: Include it everywhere.

19. Write the one-page plan: Easy to remember, simple to repeat…effective in every way.

20. Attract, retain and engage employees…survey your employees. A great way to do

this is to sign up in the Best Managed Employees Studies.

21. Wander with a purpose: Walk around and find out what is happening.

22. Paint your picture: Where do you want-the company to be? You need a vision.

23. Add a “Why us?” Section to your website: be clear and concise as to why people should do business with you.

24. Build an advisory board. Get access to wisdom and first-hand experiences.

25. …or join a peer advisory group: Learn from others who’ve been there. (Power Hour!)

26. Pay your talent to find new talent: Your employees know people that know people so use them to find the talent you are looking for.

27. Share the wealth: Explore the potential of profit-sharing and create a culture of ownership.

28. Get unplugged: Reserve time for things other than business.

29. Capture your IP: What is your Inspiring Proposition?

30. Let your staff stretch: I really love this…The “Can you imagine?” wall. Think Big.

Author Bio:

Heidi Langer launched Langer Marketing & Communications LLC in 1995 after having devoted 15 years to the corporate marketing and communications field.  When her employer relocated offices, it was the perfect time to leave the corporate world and become an Independent Practitioner.

Years later, Langer Marketing has become a thriving, profitable business with a varied client base of companies, associations and non-profit organizations.  Langer Marketing provides a diverse array of services including:  media relations, community relations, special event management, internal communications, public relations, media research, association management, market research, advertising sales, and copywriting.

Heidi Langer is a cum laude graduate of Baldwin Wallace College in Berea, Ohio with a major in marketing and minor in communications.  She has received numerous awards for community involvement and volunteerism and resides in Bay Village, Ohio.


Why do some PR folks think that their announcements are bigger news than the real news?

By Jim Gregory, James Gregory Consultancy LLC

As a former daily newspaper reporter, I have formed some opinions about what makes a good press release and what doesn’t. It is interesting to note that the Twitterworld and social media have not yet totally replaced the press release as a communications tool for PR types.

Short, 25-30 word leads still work best in press releases. And leading with the “news” works, too. In that regard, one approach really bugs me. That’s when the press release writer’s first sentence says, “XYZ Company announced that” it did something momentous. Hey, the news isn’t that it “announced” something big; the news is that it did something newsworthy.

Also, I get bugged by so-called PR pros that don’t adhere to the most accepted style guide out there – the AP Stylebook. You know, AP puts a lot of work into that, and every worthy journalist pretty much knows its twists and curves. If you want the publication to run your news, then don’t give them the extra work of conforming it to AP style.

Another thing that bugs me (OK, there are a few) are when first names are used in subsequent references instead of last names. Most any publication that picks up a press release will be using last names, so why make them go through the annoying process of having to change the first name to a last name? Also, why put Mr. or Ms. before a name. Only the Wall Street Journal does that, and not consistently, especially on its (not their) website.

Oh, and another thing: When a press release for XYZ Corp. says something like “XYZ Corp. announced today that “their” first quarter was a record-breaker, I nearly choke. Really, “their or they?” How about, “XYZ Corporation set a record with its first-quarter performance”? Despite some recent politically motivated proclamations, companies (and organizations) aren’t people.

The inverse pyramid style of writing is still best for retention of the main points in the release. And press releases that are shorter are better. Not Many editors are going to read more than a couple sentences (or the headline) before they make a decision whether a release is newsworthy.

And, whatever else is in a press release, make sure it contains dates in the text. The Internet and websites are timeless places where articles can last forever, so it’s always nice for a reader to know whether they’re reading something new or stumbling across something from 2006.

Author Bio:

Jim is expert in public relations, marketing, public affairs, economic development, crisis communications, and communications counsel.  He has executed professional programs for large and small companies in addition to non-profits. He has guided corporations at the highest levels and delivered superior results. He can help you with Web development, newsletters, press releases, strategic planning, advertising, social media and precise communications counsel.

Jim knows you can tell much about his work from the clients he has been proud to serve. Clients like American Medical Response, Forbes Magazine, Kansas Chamber of Commerce, Michigan Chamber of Commerce, MultiState Associates, North Carolina Chamber of Commerce, Salina Chamber of Commerce, and the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce. In aviation and aerospace he has helped the Berlin Air Show, CAV Aerospace, Cessna Aircraft, International Aerospace Consultants, Oriental Publishing, Piper Aircraft, Professional Pilot Magazine, Salina Airport Authority, Groom Aviation, Raytheon Aircraft, URS Corporation, Wall Street Journal and others.


The APR's 50th "Golden Anniversary" - Is the Best Yet to Come?

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

As the Public Relations Society of America’s APR Credential approaches its 50th anniversary, there’s a renewed interest in marking this milestone with renewed vigor.  The APR (Accredited in Public Relations) credential, according to the PRSA website, established in 1964, is…

“…the profession’s only national post-graduate certification program.  It measures a public relation practitioner’s fundamental knowledge of communications theory and its application; establishes advanced capabilities in research, strategic planning, implementation and evaluation; and demonstrates a commitment to professional excellence and ethical conduct.”  Quoted, PRSA website

The website says there are more than 5,000 professionals who have achieved this high mark.

PRConsultants Group Co-Founder and Member, Marisa Vallbona, APR, Fellow PRSA, and President of CIM Incorporated, recently published an article for PRSAY, reflecting on “The APR at 50:  Is the Best Yet to Come?”

Vallbona reports that PRSA has announced plans to “enhance the profile and prestige of the APR credential…to explore the APR’s potential, identify possible avenues for improvement and begin to look broadly at credentialing trends, best practices and the approaches of other credentialing organizations in their respective disciplines.”

She notes that the number of professionals who have achieved this accreditation has declined, and that “dissenters also argue that, because public relations is an art and not a science, there are no hard and fast rules.” However, she rallies that the APR has tremendous potential and value, and quotes this year’s Chair and CEO Mickey Nail, that “we must value our own professional designation and do all we can to encourage public relations practitioners to value their own professionalism by seeking this designation.”

Vallbona, along with many PR professionals, believe that the best is indeed yet to come.

Full text of Vallbona’s article can be found here


The Power of Little Gestures

By Gary Young, GaryYoungInk

A week ago, my wife, Pam, and I were in the Newark airport awaiting our flight home to Minneapolis.  Pam noticed two military men having a sandwich before their own flight. Seeing that that they didn’t have anything to drink, she said, “I’m going to ask them if I can get them anything.”  My initial reaction was that familiar tug of Minnesota self-effacement.  (Like Garrison Keillor of “A Prairie Home Companion” noted, “Jesus said the meek would inherit the earth, but so far all we’ve gotten is Minnesota and North Dakota.”)

Then I thought, such a little gesture would probably go a long way in expressing our appreciation.

A Little Thanks
One should never underestimate the power of small gestures. The impact can make a huge difference. For example, I read recently that former Nabisco CEO Douglas Conant made it a point every day to write five to ten personal notes of gratitude to employees and others. What’s better than receiving a handwritten thank-you note – especially when it’s unexpected?

In The Manager’s Book of Decencies: How Small Gestures Build Great Companies, author Steve Harrison cites a number of little decencies we can do in the workplace. At the top of the list is “Remember to say thank you-or better yet, write thank you notes.” Others include:

  • Greet coworkers authentically and personally
  • For meetings you convene, be the first to sit down and the last to get up
  • Welcome visitors by name. Better yet call them “guests”
  • Answer your own telephone
  • Give away recognition when things go well; hoard responsibility when they don’t
  • Convey bad news in person
  • When you make a mistake, admit it and apologize

A Little Compliment
From a PR standpoint, I’ve learned that small gestures can go a long way in developing relationships. With media, for example, the simple acknowledgement of a well-written or -produced story can be particularly meaningful. You’d be surprised how seldom reporters or producers get positive feedback. (Negative feedback is not that rare, however.) One caveat: make sure the compliment is sincere, as the media have built in insincerity-detectors. (Well, they often use a different term.)

Give a Little
A small donation can also make a huge difference in the life of someone in need. The victims of this week’s Oklahoma tornado come to mind. A small contribution — like donating $10 by texting REDCROSS to 90999; texting STORM to Salvation Army at 80888; or by texting FOOD to Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma at 32333 — can collectively make a huge difference to lighten someone’s load.

The Ripple Effect
There is a real ripple effect that is created by small decencies. And what better time to kick it off than Memorial Day weekend? As we take time to honor men and women who served in the US Military, let’s remember to keep these small kindnesses going.

Even if it’s only offering a couple of Cokes to traveling soldiers.


Business Meeting Has Begun, No More Laughing No More Fun (Says Who?)

by Felicia K. Knight

The ability to run a meeting, either in person or via telephone or teleconference is a skill to which many are called but few are chosen. And that leaves the rest of us contemplating pulling the fire alarm or feigning a heart attack. Or both.

How many meetings have you sat through that meandered so far afield from the topic at hand, you wondered if you sat in the wrong room or mixed up the conference code? This kind of meeting is rarely productive and usually breeds resentment and frustration, not to mention confusion. After all, the purpose of a meeting is to move a project forward, not foment mutiny.

Meetings don’t have to be excruciating. They are a necessary component of doing business—any kind of business—but they don’t have to be a necessary evil. These people are your colleagues and collaborators (or clients). Why subject them to hours of PowerPoint hell or endless rehashes of decisions that were made two meetings ago? You want your meetings to generate productivity and creativity. As with anything, you reap what you sow. Be a leader and lead the meeting.

Here are some tips to run a more efficient, creative, and non-coma-inducing meeting:

1. Have an agenda, including who you expect to speak and on what topic.
2. Distribute the agenda a day (or at least several hours) in advance so that people can come prepared.
3. Start the meeting on time. If people are late, they’ll know be punctual next time.
4. Respect other people’s schedules and workload by ending the meeting on time.
5. Assign someone to take notes and create a recap for distribution later.
6. Get to the point and stay on topic.
7. Invite discussion, but keep it relevant and moving forward.
8. Clarify next steps and who’s responsible for them.
9. Remember that it’s okay to have fun.
10. When appropriate, serve ice cream.


It’s Not the Mistake, but the Cover-Up that Counts


I love teachers.  Anyone who follows me on Facebook knows my daughter teaches music.  She, and most of her colleagues do a great job.

But this is a PR Blog, and hence, it is with a heavy heart I read this article in the Omaha World-Herald.  So, I’m taking this opportunity to remind my clients, my colleagues and my followers it is better to confess to the crime (mistake, if you prefer) than to cover it up.

I’ll never forget the wise words of a Sunday school teacher and High School counselor, who told us, “It is okay to say you are wrong.”  These teachers and the paraprofessionals have learned a lesson the hard way.  But we ALL can learn from their mistake.  Just think what damage they’ve done to their profession and their district.  Trust is so hard to re-earn.

I have a wonderful construction company client. Every one of their customers I’ve talked with has said that when they find a problem, the company’s workers don’t look for someone to blame, they just find and fix the problem. They get wonderful reviews and clients who are willing to provide testimonials. And I get to do pro-active PR, instead of crisis management!


Protecting Your Online Reputation: It’s No Kid’s Game


Last week, I volunteered to speak to a middle school class about “Protecting Your Online Reputation.” Who better to advise kids on this than a seasoned PR Pro?  After all, reputation management is rising higher on the list of things we do for our clients. I considered myself to be pretty knowledgeable on this subject.

Turns out, I know a lot less than I thought. As I was preparing for my talk, I asked my 13-year-old son what he and his friends would want to know. He threw out a list of things – mostly topics that I had never heard about.  Turns out, my child knows much more than me.

My son told me that every kid in his school had seen the video Canadian teenager Amanda Todd posted on YouTube.  Next, my son showed me his Xbox Live account and talked about how you need to have a generic gamer tag, shouldn’t have a detailed bio and never mention anything personal when playing with people you don’t know. Thank goodness, he somehow knew that he should never share his name, age or location with people he plays. I wondered how many of my friends didn’t know their kids were playing online with strangers?

Next, he showed me one of the newer apps – Snapchat. This app allows you to send a photo to a friend or multiple friends. When they receive it, they have 10 seconds to view the photo, then it disappears. Sounds a lot safer than posting a photo that stays on the search engines for years, right?  But as I looked into Snapchap closer, I found out that people have already figured out how to save Snapchat photos-either by taking a screen shot of the photo sent, or by figuring out other ways to save the picture. I wonder how many unsuspecting users of Snapchat would be surprised to find that their pictures didn’t actually disappear.

The more I researched this topic, the more alarmed I became. I asked my Facebook friends what they thought I should cover in my talk and the comments piled up. I learned that one of my Facebook acquaintances actually has written a book on this topic. It’s even filled with all kinds of scary, but true stories that happened right here in Alaska, while he was working for the Anchorage Police Department.

Protecting a client’s online reputation is only going to get more challenging, as social media sites and technology continue to be a larger part of our corporate, and personal lives. We all have a lot to learn. If you run a company, or have kids, the importance of managing your online reputation has never been more critical. People are losing their jobs because of something they tweeted. Kids are bullying others mercilessly without realizing the consequence. Students are being suspended from school or being kicked-off of sports teams because of what they say on Facebook. High school grads are not being accepted to a college or not being chosen for a scholarship because of photos they post on Instagram.

All I can say is that this is a topic that everyone – from corporate execs to parents – needs to master. Start by sharing my presentation with your kids. Here’s a link to a video my KD/PR Virtual team member Larry Bottjen recently produced on underage drinking. It’s a great example of  a communication tactic that resonates with teens. My advice to fellow PR pros and my clients?  Get smart about defending that online reputation today and make sure your employees do the same. Oh yeah, and consider adding a teenager to the payroll. No kidding!

Kathy Day is owner of Kathy Day Public Relations (KD/PR) Virtual, Alaska’s only virtual public relations agency.

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