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Friday
Jul192013

Toot Your Horn – Companies Should Promote their Cause Marketing

By Barb Harris & Sharon Kreher, teamworks communication management

Corporate social responsibility isn’t a new concept. Many companies participate in charitable giving; some even do “cause marketing.” But do most do enough to let their customers know about their giving? Do they give their customers opportunities to join in supporting the chosen cause? Does their charitable giving program involve their employees? Are they getting enough “upside” to warrant maintaining or even expanding their giving?

Corporate giving, of course, starts with a donation to a worthwhile cause. But too many companies, large and small, fail to incorporate additional levels of participation that can directly impact their own bottom line. For example, companies can incorporate a local, regional or national communications campaign to interest existing customers in the cause and to attract new customers. Together, they can help the cause and be part of the change. PR events in markets around the country can direct customers to their stores, wherever they are located (think of the Macy’s Make-A-Wish Believe Campaign).  Sponsoring and promoting local charitable events, with appropriate PR support in traditional and social media, can play a vital role in attracting more customers and in making a further impact on the cause they support.

In a November 2011 article by Geoffrey Lean in The Telegraph, Sir Richard Branson was quoted talking about how he wants his companies to do more good. “If companies become a force for good, the people working for them will be that much more motivated and their brands will shine that much brighter amongst others.”

The same article also quotes a study by LeapCR, conducted across 10 of the world’s largest countries by GDP, which revealed that 93 percent of consumers say they would buy a product because of its association with a good cause.

At teamworks communication management we’ve noticed a definite trend toward smart and compassionate business and charitable partnerships that are a “win-win” for both parties. We’ve matched up new business ventures with charity partners for their grand openings; provided local market media support for national corporations and their chosen charities; and incorporated charitable components to retail store events and social media outreach.  We believe that doing good is good business. Don’t be afraid to let your existing and potential customers know how your business is impacting the causes and communities they care about.

Author Bio:

teamworks communication management is led by Barb Harris and Sharon Kreher – PR pros who each have 20+ years of communications experience, both at major public relations agencies and with our own consulting business. Our strengths lie in sound strategic planning and our ability to effectively develop and manage the execution of communication projects in markets throughout the United States using teams of local market experts.

With offices in Phoenix and St. Louis, teamworks has extensive experience in the retail, food & beverage, non-profit, and consumer products industries.  We develop and coordinate communication campaigns with elements that include communication strategy, message development, communication materials production, radio promotions, community engagement, media relations (traditional and social), and results reporting. We have provided solutions to national clients, including Make-A-Wish® America, Cold Stone Creamery, Relax The Back, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and Barnes&Noble.com On Tour. More info. here.

Tuesday
Jul092013

Media Relations Strategy: PR Does Not Stand for “Press Release”

By Ellie Rand, Public Relations Accounts Supervisor, Deveney Communication

As published in Bulldog Reporter Daily ‘Dog on June 25, 2013

PR does not stand for “press release.”

Although that fact may be obvious to us practitioners, many people assume media relations, including the writing and pitching of press releases, is the primary function of a public relations professional.

I understand the confusion. While other PR tactics, such as partnerships, internal communications and social media efforts, are often employed as part of a comprehensive campaign, the work we do with the news media is often the most compelling.

Media relations efforts can be offensive or defensive. Landing your fashion designer client’s new handbag in Vogue? Offense. Drafting a statement to address alleged sweatshop conditions where that handbag was made? Defense. Definitely defense.

Whether you’re charged with generating consumer coverage or asked to ride point on a developing crisis, you need to be confident in the area of media relations.

Developing confidence in media relations requires the same steps it takes to master most anything. Consider cooking. Or baseball. First you need passion. You need to love it enough to keep going when progress isn’t apparent. Acquire the right tools and equipment, and then learn how to use them. Practice constantly. Consult the experts and learn from mistakes. Once you have the basics down, when you can chop an onion with your eyes closed or field a grounder on a slick field, take risks. Deviate from the recipe. Steal home. Text an editor a short pitch idea they have already turned down, citing a recent event that increases its relevancy.

Here are 3 absolutes I employ in any media relations effort:

1.  Consume the Media Targets

Read the writers and editors you pitch. I mean really read. Not scroll. Understand what details interests that particular writer and then fold that element into your pitch. Attempting to generate a summer travel story for your hotel client? Identify a travel writer who has mentioned a wife or kids in his past articles and then craft the pitch to mention family travel deals and opportunities at the hotel.

Similarly, drop an email to a reporter whose story you enjoyed or to an editor whose blog was especially insightful. They will appreciate your interest in their work and that you took that time to contact them without asking for something.

If you are in a crisis situation, research the reporter who is launching the offensive. Does she know much about your industry? If not, provide helpful background that positions you and your clients as the experts. Does she routinely go back to the same sources? If so, contact those individuals and provide them with information that supports your messaging.

2.  Give the News Media What They Need, When They Need It

Research your media targets to identify existing segments or sections in which your client can easily fit. Watch the morning shows. Listen to the drive time business report. Know what slots the producers need to fill and craft your pitch to fit the opportunity.

In the “timing is everything” department, know that editorial calendars are a terrific resource in Media Relations planning. Editorial calendars, whose main purpose to facilitate ad sales, allow Media Relations specialists to know for certain what topics will be hot and when. I use editorial calendars as a foundation for most of my content and pitch plans.

Timing is also important on the defensive side of the ball. The first question to an inquiring investigative reporter should be about deadlines. If he plans to air something that afternoon, you may want to provide a simple statement that can buy you time while not appearing “duck and cover.”  However, if the piece is still a few days away, you may consider inviting the reporter to sit down with your client once you’ve developed your messaging and administered media training.

3.  Follow Up, Follow Up, Follow Up

When I started in PR, dialing a push button phone after mailing or faxing a press release was the most technologically advanced form of reaching a member of the news media. Email and text messaging allows us to distribute information much more comprehensively and efficiently. However, technology also enables everyone else to distribute their information much more comprehensively and efficiently. The result? Email inboxes so full that your pitch has likely entered the black hole. If so, pick up the phone.  Call the same day you hit “send.” Leave a message. If you’re lucky enough to speak with the editor, assume she has not read your email. Shorten and summarize. Pause for acknowledgement. Try again.

Follow Up is also important in crisis mode. Ensure the reporter received the statement. Clarify and confirm the quotes he intends to use. Ask the timing and tone of the piece while offering assistance to provide further sources that support your messaging.  While these efforts may not head off a negative story, they will build your credibility and help maintain a good relationship with that specific reporter.

Be familiar with the style and content of media outlets with whom you work. Provide useful and timely information that meets the needs of the media. Don’t assume the media received your pitch or other communications.  While these absolutes may be simple, adhering to them will help achieve Media Relations success while rounding out your Public Relations skill set.

Ellie is the Public Relations Accounts Supervisor at Deveney Communication in New Orleans, LA. She began her career in Media Relations as a Publicist with Simon & Schuster in New York City over 20 years ago, after serving as an editorial assistant to the late Hunter S. Thompson.  Ellie holds a Masters in Mass Communication from Louisiana State University and is a mom,  published essayist and show tune junkie.

Wednesday
Jul032013

Sticks and Stones: Grown-ups Behaving Badly Online

By Jen Evans, Principal, JL Evans Communications

Do you sometimes edit, or even erase, a drafted comment or post on a digital forum for fear of being verbally annihilated? Sometimes I stay silent on topics because I just can’t stand the pain that follows from the angry mob. I’m not defending any individual or organization that says or does something stupid, insensitive or just plain wrong. I AM asserting that we have a problem with online behavior in professional forums as well as individual ones. This is about grown-ups behaving badly.

As a PR professional, I know that online reputation managers struggle to find the balance between waving the flag for issues of importance versus ticking off their fan base. Large organizations and individuals with sizable fans/followers/advocates are  better equipped to handle criticism through social media channels, but they are not bullet-proof.  Below, a few recent cases you can easily source online.

Paula Deen, @paula_deen on Twitter, famous for her calorie-rich Southern cooking, recently lost her Food Network show contract after a deposition she made went public stemming from a court case where she is accused of making racial slurs among other things.

Guy Kawasaki, @guykawasaki on Twitter, has more than 4 million followers. In the midst of the Boston Marathon bombing, his scheduled posts kept coming – apparently including a positive post about the Marathon that clued in followers that he wasn’t paying attention to real time events.

These are examples of public figures.  And many will argue that they deserve the verbal bashing.  But what about the rants and insults that we see in friends’ posts directed at each other or even some other individual not present in the online discussion? Can we try a little harder to be kind in our social media conversations? It is possible to state your position without making generalizations or making someone else feel small because they have a different position. But what are some tools for change in our daily habits?

I like these 6 simple steps, curiously found on the guy-focused site Art of Manliness, because they are truly gender neutral.

1)    Remember there is a real person/people on the other side

2)    Don’t say it online if you wouldn’t say it to their face

3)    Use your real name

4)    Sit on it

5)    Don’t respond at all

6)    Say something positive

There are some wonderful resources and posts out there to help us all remember our manners. I listed just a few here. What are yours?

http://www.civilination.org/

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/elements/2013/06/internet-etiquette-emily-post-manners.html

http://www.prchicagoblog.com/2012/08/when-trolls-attack-dealing-with-negative-comments.html

http://www.authorizedstatement.org/#

http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2013/06/17/the-five-rudest-things-you-can-do-online/?mod=e2tw

http://geofflivingston.com/2013/06/18/mean-tweets/

http://www.mentalhealthsupport.co.uk/AdultBullying.html

Author Bio:  Jennifer Evans, Principal of JL Evans Communications, is an inherently curious, “neurotically productive” community advocate who has invested more than 17 years in business and community to better understand why people and businesses make the investments they do and how to guide them to fruitful relationships. You can follow Jennifer on Twitter @jlevans.

Thursday
Jun272013

It’s that time of year: Finding your first job

By Margaret Nathan, Partner, Strategic Communication, Inc.

Every year starting in June, I start to get phone calls, email and the like, “Can you help, my daughter, son, neighbor’s child, niece, nephew, friend of a friend’s child get a job in PR or in some cases a job in other fields?”  I never say no.

My first question to these budding communication types and job seekers is, “What are you doing to find a job?”  They all say the same,  “I have my resume on every jobsite on the internet. I follow up with email and posts everyday, I just can’t understand, I’m not even getting an interview.”

This is like telling someone there isn’t a Santa Claus.  PEOPLE hire people. The Internet does not hire people.  You need to go to your parents and ask for their contacts, your college professors, your college placement center, your aunts and uncles, your college friends parents and find out who they know and get an introduction to “real” people who can actually hire you.

So why do I do this, and why should every adult in every field help a new fledgling group of college graduates find their first job?  Not because it’s fun, even though it is.  I love when they call and say, “I got a job.”  I’m in the PR business, but my college job-placed young adults have been in every field imaginable.  I do it for fun.  I love to connect people; it’s part of my DNA.  I was told by one of the managing editors at USA Today, “You are the original Facebook,” because I love to connect the dots for reporters too.

I realized this week; I have a huge group of young people in my circle of connections. I’m still connecting them, but they are also connecting me to their friends, their voices, their thinking.   The gift of helping people find their first job is a gift that keeps on giving.  Here’s a  link to a super great primer on cover letters from Ragan.com, just had to include, “5 Nontraditional Cover Letters That Worked.”

HELP A NEW COLLEGE GRADUATE FIND THEIR FIRST JOB; YOU WON’T BE SORRY.

Thursday
Jun202013

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 www.profitguide.com 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.

Sunday
Jun162013

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.

Wednesday
May292013

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

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