Fresh Ideas from BurrellesLuce

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Fresh Ideas from BurrellesLuce. Although we’re at the forefront of PR - leading innovation in media monitoring and measurement - we don’t know it all. That’s why we are out there exploring and learning alongside you. Fresh Ideas from BurrellesLuce gathers our resident experts and industry insider guest bloggers to share their thoughts on media, public relations, and marketing and provide you with a place to share ideas about what matters most to you. Together we can ensure breakthrough communications.
Updated: 1 hour 55 min ago

Five Grammar Mistakes to Stop Making Now

Aug 21, 2014

flickr user Nic McPhee, CC BY license

I may have mentioned that my nickname around here (and on Twitter) is “red pen.” There’s a reason for that – I like grammar and editing. In the interest of helping out public relations professionals in their constant quest to improve their writing skills, today I bring to you five grammar mistakes I see and hear very commonly.

As a pro, you’ve probably got a lot of the basics nailed, but with something as broad as language, there’s always more to learn, even for red penners like me. Whether you’re crafting marketing materials, updating your personal Twitter feed, or posting to company social media, here are the mistakes to stop making as of now.

Wary/weary

I can’t tell you how often I see and hear this one. “Wary” means to be watchful or cautious; “weary” is to be tired or exhausted. So don’t say that we should approach a problem or danger wearily – approach it warily. And don’t grow wary of a bad attitude, grow weary of it.

Allude/elude

Just because they’re practically homophones doesn’t mean they’re interchangeable. “He eluded to the possibilities” makes no sense because “elude” means to evade or avoid. When someone one alludes to something, they’re making an indirect reference to that something. So, “He alluded to current events” means he indirectly referred to a current event, but “He eluded speaking about current events” means he avoided and did not talk about current events.

Eek/eke

This one particularly kills me, especially as a crossword fanatic (“eke” is a common answer to clues). “To eke” means to scrape by or manage with difficulty. “Eek” isn’t even a verb; it’s a sound you might make when you see a mouse or errant insect. So while one can “eke out a living,” one cannot “eek out a living.”

Punctuation and quotation marks

Periods, commas, semicolons, colons, and dashes should always go inside quotation marks. End of story (unless you are in Great Britain). Exclamation marks and question marks are a bit more nuanced. Here’s what Grammar Girl has to say:

“If the whole sentence, including the quotation, is a question or an exclamation, then the question mark or exclamation point goes outside the closing quotation mark; but if only the part inside the quotation marks is a question or exclamation, then the question mark or exclamation point goes inside the closing quotation mark.”

Here are some clarifying examples:

Did she say whether she had read “A Modest Proposal”?

I love the song “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?”

Would of/would have/had

This is a gnarly little trifecta of errors in the conditional perfect, the “I wish I would of taken school seriously” train of thought.

The first problem is that it’s never “would of.” This common error probably came about because it sounds similar to “would’ve,” the contraction for “would have,” which is the correct form of the conditional perfect.

But in these instances, the conditional perfect is not the correct tense. “I wish I would have taken the train this morning,” is incorrect; the past perfect is correct. One should say, “I wish I had taken the train this morning.” Let’s look at some more examples:

Incorrect: I wish I would have known that movie had a sad ending.

Correct: I wish I had known that movie had a sad ending.

It’s correct to use the conditional perfect (“would have”) in “then” clauses, not in “if” clauses:

Incorrect: If I would have been famous, we could have been rich.

Correct: If I had been famous, we could have been rich.

What are the most common grammar mistakes you make or see others making?

Thanx Hanx: Why Old-School Isn’t Going Anywhere

Aug 20, 2014

This week in odd pairings, Tom Hanks launched an app. Slickly doing away with that stuffy “ks,” the app is called Hanx Writer, and it’s an iPad app that looks and sounds like a typewriter. If you ever felt like all the swiping and tapping you did on your iPad was just too silent, Hanx Writer rights that wrong and kits you out with all the clacks, dings, and whizzes your 21st Century heart could desire.

It’s been number one in the iTunes App Store since its launch last week, so it’s clearly striking a chord with modern-day typists. Perhaps it’s not surprising, since repackaging of the old in the guise of the new isn’t exactly a groundbreaking sales or marketing tactic. But what makes the app so interesting, besides appealing to sensory satisfaction, is that so many people seem excited to reconnect with an old, some might say more traditional, time and technology.

Hanx Writer is yet another reminder that old-school technology doesn’t really disappear. Five years ago everyone thought books would die and be replaced by ebooks. Spoiler alert: They didn’t. Radio is still around as is its supposed replacement, television; hipsters love shooting on film; and though the news just loves to talk about the demise of print, it’s probably safe to say newspapers and magazines won’t become extinct. So instead of worrying that old technologies will be replaced, let’s just remember new technologies, like new movie stars, just elbow their way in.

The “old” is still there, and often, it’s just as useful and influential as before.

And of course, now there are apps for radio, TV, photos, and print publications. For anyone worried about Millennials who don’t experience the joy of writing on parchment with a quill and inkwell, I’m sure Tom Hanks will get right on that with his next app.

PR Etiquette for Content Marketing

Aug 18, 2014

Reddit has released some basic rules – called “pressiquette” – for writers or contributors to outlets, and if you engage in content marketing, they probably apply to you too.

The new rules require that, should you come across a story that tickles your journalistic fancy, that you message the original poster (aka “redditor”) to “ask for their permission prior to using it in an article or list, ask how they would like it to be attributed, and provide them a deadline … Please respect redditors who may wish to stay anonymous, or to not be featured in an article.”

There are also rules about engaging with transparency, subreddit behavior, and using images with permission.

While the rules are very Reddit-specifc, they’re also pretty universal. So let’s go over some more universal rules for PR etiquette, especially as it pertains to blogs and content marketing.

Always ask permission to repost

Did an organization’s blog do a write-up on you or your work that you want to share on your personal or company blog? Don’t just copy, paste, and link back; ask permission to publish the post in full. While there may not be any legal ramifications on reposting (and we are in no way guaranteeing there won’t be legal issues), it’s just good Internet manners to ask permission. Chances are a lot of outlets that want the exposure will say yes. And what better way to keep the “relations” in public relations than by contacting and thanking people who write content you appreciate?

Correctly attribute images

Reposting images can get tricky since you never know if your source has done their copyright-compliance homework. Unless they link back to an image source that specifically states it’s in the public domain or Creative Commons, go find your own image that you’re absolutely sure complies, and then attribute it correctly.

Don’t plagiarize

There have been a lot of stories about plagiarism in the news lately, from Buzzfeed to The New York Times to True Detective. It should go without saying that you should definitely NOT plagiarize. But sometimes the plagiarism lines are a little blurrier than people think; it goes far beyond copy-pasting whole chunks of text.

The Harvard Guide to Using Sources explains five types of plagiarism:

Verbatim plagiarism – Lifting copy word-for-word from another source

Mosaic plagiarism – copying snippets, rephrasing or changing a few areas without quoting directly

Inadequate paraphrase – failing to convey information in the passage in their own words

Uncited paraphrase – simply paraphrasing is not enough; the idea still belongs to the original author and thus must be cited as a source. Harvard’s rule of thumb: “Whenever you use ideas that you did not think up yourself, you need to give credit to the source in which you found them.”

Uncited quotation – quoting a source but not citing its author

While I’m sure everyone is following these steps, what are your experiences, have you found instances where someone didn’t properly cite you or another source, and how did you deal with it? What other PR etiquette rules can you share?

Take a Happy Break: Three Videos to Make You Smile

Aug 14, 2014

flickr user Neal Fowler, CC BY licence

It’s been a rough week in the news – heck, it’s been a rough summer in the news. It’s tough not to feel overwhelmed and dispirited with all the crazy stuff happening in the world. You may not feel like a video will help, but even the momentary lift in mood can do good things for your health. So here are three YouTube videos that will make you laugh, smile, or just regain your faith in humanity.

For a laugh

I challenge you not to laugh along with this round-faced baby, and I hope you fail at that challenge, because laughter is good for you. Laughing can soothe tension, moderate your stress response, boost your immune system and improve your mood. Plus, there’s nothing better than a baby’s old-man-style wheezy laugh.

For a smile

Without fail, I smile every time I watch Gene Kelly dance. Check out this silly, upbeat scene from Singin’ in the Rain and smile along – you’ll enjoy a rush of feel-good hormones dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin.

For regaining faith in humanity

The news makes it seem like the world is full of terrible people, but clips like this one, from a 2012 Britain’s Got Talent audition, will remind you that there are plenty of kind, wonderful people in the world. And if it makes you cry a little, that’s okay; tears release stress hormones and stimulate production of endorphins.

What videos always make you feel better? Share with us!

4 Essential Components of a Successful Measurement Strategy

Aug 13, 2014

flickr user Randen Pedersen under CC BY license

Measuring the impact of your PR campaigns is the most important way to figure out what’s working, strategize, and prove the benefits of public relations. Here are four things every effective media measurement strategy absolutely must have.

Financial understanding

To demonstrate the value of your position and your department to the C-suite, you must think like a CEO and focus on the contributions you make to the organization and how you’re leveraging your existing resources. This also means you need to understand the basics of how your organization makes and spends money. Acquiring this information isn’t always a simple undertaking if your company is privately owned, but the information is crucial for setting realistic, productive benchmarks and measurable objectives. Start here if you need a primer on the ins and outs of corporate finance and how they connect to PR.

A framework

Your measurement program must have a clear, cohesive framework for measuring media coverage. To have a framework, you must know your metrics, the data you will need, and how you will collect if. Two excellent frameworks specific to social media measurement are part of AMEC’s Social Media Measurement Framework User Guide, and can also start as a good guide for measuring other media components as well.

For other media, you can integrate other tools like the Balanced Scorecard, the Barcelona Principles, and the Sources and Methods Transparency Table. Remember, these are only tools; you’ll still have to sit down and work out the nuts and bolts of your organization-specific measurement program.

A full range of metrics

When laying out your framework, you must make room for metrics that account for both quantitative and qualitative metrics. Quantitative metrics account for things that have a numerical measure, like impressions, circulation, and pageviews. Qualitative metrics include tone and key message delivery. It often feels easier to measure quantitative metrics only, since it’s easier to automate measuring software. But qualitative metrics give you a more multi-dimensional look into the progress of your efforts.

A better understanding of ROI

The way the industry talks about “ROI” is sometimes disconnected from what ROI actually is. Remember, ROI – or return on investment – is a financial figure. Hence, if you’re trying to calculate it, it should be a dollar measure. True ROI can only be calculated if you have a stated goal and you’re truly calculating all the costs that go into your efforts, and that calculation will depend on so many variables, some of which are intangible, that your result might be cloudy at best. ROI can be valuable in certain circumstances, but don’t get so carried away with all the buzz that you pin your entire measurement process on “ROI” that isn’t clearly defined or manageable.

Breaking it down into more specific metrics can help you get a more precise look at how much your efforts pay off. Other metrics that will potentially have more value than ROI would be cost-per-impressions or cost-per-awareness (here’s how to calculate those).

Media measurement is not easy – especially if you’re trying to do it all yourself. That’s why we keep talking about it. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as calculating how many retweets you got or how many media mentions you have versus how many you’ve earned. But the good news is, it’s possible. Start small, focus on doing it right instead of doing it quickly, and keep learning, and you’ll find your insights gained by your measurement efforts will improve each year.

Why Images Impact Your Media Measurement

Aug 11, 2014

Left: early edition Right: Later corrected edition. Image via Twitter user @suttonnick

Last Friday, The Daily Telegraph ran a very lovely picture of the royal family (the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their one-year-old son, Prince George) on its front page. Right above that photo ran a story with the headline “Toddlers at risk from extremists.” Someone overlooked the big picture of the layout and – whoops – all but called the Duke and Duchess religious extremists.

The paper quickly fixed the issue in its later edition, but the image survives online and the impact remains. Had you seen the headlined article online, or read a copy of only its text, you certainly wouldn’t have noticed the issue. While images have always been important, it’s the age of Instagram, selfies, and a “pics or it didn’t happen” mentality, so their value and necessity has arguably increased many fold.

So when we as public relations, media relations, or marketing professionals rely solely on a software to send us text and its metadata for media coverage, we’re not only missing the context of that coverage, but we’re missing the full impact that our audience experiences. And it’s an impact that ultimately affects both our outlook and measurements of our efforts.

If there’s an article with a photo of a celebrity with your product, that article will likely generate more interest and a higher action rate than a story without a photo. But if you’re getting media monitoring coverage that doesn’t even deliver the photo to you in the first place, you’re deprived of a driving factor in the article’s impact. Data just doesn’t give you the higher picture, especially if it’s only quantitative.

In a time when brand storytelling becomes more visual, media coverage isn’t just about the words, but the images the words convey and the images that accompany words. So how do you evaluate whether or not your work has an impact if you don’t even see the full scope of your coverage?

That’s why BurrellesLuce provides not only the full text of an article in its print and online forms, but its accompanying images in both forms as well. Because if you don’t know something exists, you can’t measure it, and if you don’t even know what you’re missing, you won’t even know your measurement is incomplete.

Are Shocks From Pavlok the Best Way to Achieve Your Goals?

Aug 7, 2014

How would your communications goals and habits change if your CEO managed you with electrical shocks? What if a device managed you with shocks, invited your friends to do so, and had access to your bank accounts? While the first scenario might be far off, the second is already here: Pavlok.

Pavlok is the latest in technology wrist bands and it doesn’t just track your activity, it shocks you into complying with goals you set. Let’s say you want to want to stop hitting the snooze button when you wake up – if you set that as your goal, Pavlok will shock you until you get up.

Ostensibly, Pavlok is about helping you achieve your goals and create positive habits. According to its site, “Pavlok will push you to stay on track and form [a] lasting habit” with negative feedback: shocks, monetary penalties, lost access to your phone, all “at the hands of your friends.”

We all know that habits can be tough to break, but is the equivalent to a shock collar taking wearable technology a bit too far? Experiments that use shocks on animals and humans to control behavior are already considered unethical, so putting a shock bracelet on the market seems like a bit of a gray area.

There’s also the issue of voltage; Pavlok shocks are up to 340 volts, and even less can be a deadly shock with direct contact to wires. While Pavlok presumably does not put the wearer in contact with wires, what happens if your wrist gets wet (making your skin a far more effective conductor) and you get shocked? What if there’s a malfunction?

Electrical concerns aside, creating new habits and achieving goals is not easy, but there are ways to do so without shocking yourself. For example, setting SMART goals makes it easier to track your progress and success. Developing new, positive habits also isn’t easy, and it certainly requires time, patience, and willpower; while it may seem like a wrist band might be able to crack the code on habits, the problem with positive or negative reinforcement is that it’s easy to become complacent. Sure, you might figure out how to not get shocked by Pavlok, but when the novelty wears off and you start leaving it at home, those new “habits” stand a good chance of not sticking.

That’s why sticking to proven habit-forming techniques like micro quotas and macro goals is probably a better tactic than pinning your hopes to wearable tech. Pavlok might believe that willpower isn’t enough, but research shows that motivation helps beget discipline.

While you probably wouldn’t want your CEO to put a Pavlok on you, comfort yourself by imagining what would happen if you put one on your CEO while they were being interviewed so you could shock them if they strayed from what you’d practiced. How would both of you fare?

Branding and Marketing Lessons From Car Sales Trailblazer Laura Toyota

Aug 6, 2014

flickr user Mike Mozart under CC BY license

A 25-year-old car saleswoman in Bozeman, Montana, has caused a bit of a marketing disruption at Ressler Motors, the Toyota dealership where she works. As Ad Age reports, Laura Madison won’t take walk-in customers, she won’t help remove snow from the cars on the lot, and she gives out her personal number, not the dealership’s.

She has her own site, lauratoyota.com, which she pays to host, and her personal car is wrapped to advertise that site. (The cost? $3,000, which she paid out of her own pocket.) Her strategy is working big time. While not every marketing and public relations professional has the freedom or the ability to do what Madison does, and her model would not work in every circumstance, there are a number of valuable marketing and public relations takeaways to give your efforts a big boost and greater return.

Forge real relationships

Ad Age reports that Madison sends regular (paper) notes to her customers for their car’s “birthday” or for the holidays. Old-school snail mailed cards carry a lot more personal connection than personalized emails, and since they’re a fast-vanishing, time-intensive tradition, are more meaningful.

Your customers get emails every day. But how often do they get addressed cards in the mail? Investing the time and funds into connecting with people in more personal ways can keep your relationship with customers fresh and positive for a much longer time than a monthly email.

Build your model on referrals

Madison builds her marketing model on referrals and direct content, a savvy strategy given that most Millennials seek out opinions and reviews from their personal networks before making a purchase decision. While there’s no demographic breakdown on her sales, it’s probably safe to say that she sells to people in other generations, not just Millennials.

Word of mouth marketing and referrals have always been vital for the best salespeople, a tactic that marketing and public relations pros shouldn’t ignore. Making it easier for clients and prospects to seek you out based on recommendations from friends will pay off. Consider implementing monthly seminars hosted by a company rep and promote the rep’s bio and expertise more than your brand. Or consider monthly articles from reps accompanied by their bios or getting reps engaged in social media; there are plenty of ways to market the people, not just the brand.

Be a trailblazer

The “we’ve always done things this way” mindset is an easy rut to stay in, but usually doesn’t have a great payoff. Instead of trying to put Madison back in the corporate box, her boss, Jeff Kayser, has encouraged her methods and helped her start educating sales staff to integrate her approach into the dealership’s overall strategy.

Being open to new strategies and ideas is important for any business, not only to harness new talent, but also to keep said talent at your organization.

Be transparent

Car buying is a notoriously opaque and frustrating ordeal, but Madison’s up-front, approachable strategy makes the process easier, which in turn makes more people want to buy from her. On her blog she has an abundance of car-buying advice, including questions to ask your car salesperson and the answers you should expect, an informative blog, information about how she sells, and information specific to hybrids.

This not only positions her as an expert, but also as a resource. Putting good information out in the open helps lessen potential frustration and confusion for buyers and puts her on their side.

Institute a results-based commission

On her site, Madison notes that the dealership doesn’t pay her or other sales reps based on the traditional commission structure, but rather on a pay plan based on volume and customer satisfaction. That in turn makes sales reps more responsive to customer needs, not upselling.

While a revamp – or abolishment – of commission structures isn’t something every organization can or is willing to do in full, it’s something worth considering if it could improve the process for both sales reps and customers.

Demonstrate trustworthiness

Madison’s personal marketing strategy has another benefit – it makes her accountable to her customers. They know exactly where to find her should they have a question or a problem. Most customers find accountability and trustworthiness appealing, and having that sense of security can only be beneficial to business overall.

Kayser reports that since Madison’s arrival at the dealership three years ago, the dealership’s monthly sales have increased from an average of 213 cars to 330 cars. There’s no information to indicate whether this is due solely to Madison’s efforts, or due to increased dealership advertising. Madison’s personal monthly sales almost nearly doubled over three years, from 12 to 20 cars, but it’s hard to measure whether that’s due to the dealership’s overall improvement in reputation and awareness, her natural learning progression, her reputation management acumen, or all of the above. But either way, there are plenty of branding, reputation management, and marketing takeaways from Madison’s drive and skill.

In the Office? Use August to Get These Five Things Done

Aug 4, 2014

While the most popular month for vacation is July, August is almost as peppered with vacationers. That probably means that you have a lot of colleagues and clients who are using up their vacation days this month. Take advantage of this quiet(er) period to catch up on the first half of the year and get ahead of the second by doing these things:

Think about the holidays

Perhaps the last thing you want to think about in the steamy summer is the prospect of another polar vortex, but now is prime time to get your product into the pages of magazine holiday gift guides. Late summer is also excellent for developing public relations and marketing strategies for products that receive a big boost during the holidays, like books, sweets, travel, and anything that’s gift-worthy.

Even if it’s not quite time to pitch television shows, newspapers, or blogs about the holidays, use August to form new connections or nurture existing ones with contacts at media outlets you want to work with. Examine potential holiday trends and work out your strategy now so you’re ahead of the game when the season arrives in full swing.

Prepare for all the upcoming industry events

September through October are busy months for public relations and media relations industry events; in addition to the PRSA International Conference in mid-October, PRWeek’s Good Business, Better Business Conference is coming up in mid-September, as is Content Marketing World Conference; there are lots of digital marketing and social media summits in September, October, and November; the Global PR Summit in late October; and PRNews’s Social Media Measurement Conference in early October.

While these may seem like a long way off, it’s only about two months, so use this month to prioritize which events you want to attend by determining what your learning goals are. Getting a head start will also help you draw up a budget for the events and anyone else attending and get approval for that travel budget. Plus, registering early can help save on costs.

Make time for your intern

It’s nearly back to school season, and if you’ve been working with interns on even an intermittent basis, catch them before they head back to the classroom. There are a few reasons to connect more deeply with them now: they may be mentally checking out, there may be more they want to learn, they may have a lot of questions or just want some feedback.

Make sure your investment in hiring, training, and working with an intern pays off for both of you by ensuring they learn all they can. Don’t forget that interns make for an excellent pool of potential future recruits, and that they might have some interesting insights into a lot of the work your organization does.

Revisit your measurement and social media standards and procedures

Use whatever down time you have to do some constructive retooling or critical thinking about your organization’s measurement procedures and/or social media standards. Since the world of measurement changes yearly, examine what you’re measuring and evaluate whether you’re getting the information you need. There are lots of new resources to use to up your measurement game, so seize the opportunity to improve while you have the time.

Take a vacation

You’re probably tired hearing this from us, but take a vacation. Just a day or two off will do. Since August tends to be a quiet month in a lot of sectors, you’ll miss less if you’re out. Plus, taking time off from work and the digital world is really good for you.

How to Give a Meaningful Brand Apology

Jul 31, 2014

flickr user butupa under CC BY license

Apologies from brands and public figures are a thing now. Many have become so ubiquitous and trite that New York Times blog Dealbook even had an apology watch going on for a few months because the glut of apologies has such a hollow ring.

As most public relations and media relations professionals know, all apologies are not created equal; some are heartfelt and helpful, others lack effectiveness. Apologies – good ones – can be effective acknowledgements and the first step back into rebuilding what was lost of your brand. But a good apology is a fine line; apologizing repeatedly for minor things may seem meaningless and overdone, while an apology for something major (like a massive vehicle recall) can seem like it’s not enough if it doesn’t come with sincere regret and an action plan.

Tread carefully with social media apologies

Sometimes, you just have to apologize on social media, especially if the incident for which you’re apologizing happened on social media. But when it comes to customer service complaints on social media, don’t default to an apology, since a high percentage of tweets that are apologies can exacerbate the problem by sounding empty and unhelpful.

There are other ways to empathize and make it right. Did a customer lose his luggage on your airline? Instead of responding with, “We’re sorry,” try for “We don’t like when that happens, we’ll look into it immediately and respond ASAP.” The promise of action – not remorse – is more likely to make someone feel better and encourage confidence.

If you must apologize, do it well

Boilerplate apologies just don’t cut it, so if you decide an apology is called for, do it right. Your brand’s apology should communicate the three R’s:

  • Regret: acknowledge your regret that you caused harm or inconvenience. Tap into your empathy for the person or people to whom you’re apologizing; feeling empathy will make you more sincere.
  • Responsibility: your brand needs to take responsibility for its actions without blaming someone else or making excuses.
  • Remedy: arguably the most important aspect for brands, because when things go really wrong, people want to know that something will be done to make it right, whether it’s restitution, investigation, or expedited action.

It should be hard

If your brand is having trouble finding the words to apologize, or feels like it’s too hard to deliver the apology, that probably means it the right thing to do. Like other things in life, doing the right thing means sometimes choosing the hardest option.

Tips for Type A Personalities to Bring Life Into Balance

Jul 30, 2014

Lynn Ingrid Nelson at PRSA Midwest Conference. Photo by Tressa Robbins

Many of us in the communications fields refer to ourselves as being “Type A” or having “Type A” personalities. The term has become a catchphrase for those of us who tend to be high-energy, driven, ambitious, goal-oriented, competitive perfectionists with a sense of urgency in nearly everything we do.

HISTORY: The term “Type A” originated in the 1950s when Drs. Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman observed that those most likely to suffer a cardiac event also tended to have more driven, impatient, high-stress personalities, and the term propagated after their 1974 best-selling book, Type A Behavior And Your Heart, was published.

At the recent PRSA Midwest District Conference, one of the sessions I attended was with Lynn Ingrid Nelson, principal at Lin PR, and author of the book Getting Your Life into Balance. She talked about PR pros often running around with their “hair on fire” due to the urgent nature of our work, and that learning ways to handle this constant state of urgency improves our well-being and our effectiveness. In public relations specifically, our stressors tend to be clients, bosses, continual deadlines, round-the-clock demands, cranky journalists, and constant multitasking. This session was interesting to me as I have been the epitome of “work hard, play hard” most of my adult life, but in recent years found it not working quite so well for me anymore.

Not sure if you need to bring your life into balance? Nelson suggests you begin with asking yourself these questions:

  • Does anxiety, workaholism and/or a sense of over-responsibility get in the way of getting what you want out of your life?
  • Do you stay busy to appease your restlessness?
  • Are you obsessive compulsive about work and other areas of your life?
  • Do you do more than your fair share at home, at work, in volunteer activities?

Still not sure? Check out this Huffington Post article, 16 Signs You’re A Little (Or A Lot) Type A.

If you answered yes to many but aren’t sure just WHY you should focus on life balance, Nelson suggests you’ll have more compassion and better understanding of others, more energy for activities (less drudgery), more creativity/play, more intimacy, possibly better health, and more overall satisfaction.

Nelson suggests creating a sort of journal she called an “intentional time diet” where you record how you spend your time now (anyone who’s worked in a PR agency should be familiar with this drill), and then distinguish between discretionary and required time.

She spoke about clarifying your intentions by asking yourself things like: what are your three most important goals, what do you want to do less/more of, and are you willing to make the changes that would be required to meet those goals. Estimate much time are you willing to spend on what. Then, determine what you can do now to shift toward better balance. “Find your own shade of gray,” Nelson challenged.

Through her own struggle, she shared many things she’s learned. A few of the ones that really resonated with me were:

1. Going out of your way for everyone does not lead to good balance.

2. There is little upside to being the most responsible person in the group.

3. “Muscling” through tough situations is less of an option as we age. Intentional is a much better solution.

While I already had some things set in motion to simplify my life and make me more productive and less stressed, this session validated that I’m moving in the right direction.

What are you doing to find your shade of gray?

 

Mia Moo Fund: A Media Relations Dynasty

Jul 28, 2014

L to R: U.S. Rep Trent Franks, Mia Robertson, Reed Robertson, Missy Robertson, Jase Robertson. Photo by Johna Burke

A couple of weeks ago I attended the press conference and media event with U.S. Rep Trent Franks and Mia Roberts and her parents (part of the Duck Dynasty family) for the Mia Moo Fund. My niece, who also attended, was born with a cleft lip and palate, so the Robertsons’ admirable charity and the congressman’s invitation for Mia to speak was particularly meaningful. Amidst all of the Duck Dynasty fanfare I was most impressed by the master spokespeople, Mia’s parents, Missy and Jase Robertson.

The Scene: Your beloved daughter was born with a cleft palate and wants to help other kids with the condition, so you help her start a foundation. A congressman born with the same condition helps raise awareness of the condition’s struggles and provides leadership support to the many children affected. Your daughter writes a speech for the event and you take your family to Washington, D.C. The media interviews begin and you are asked about abstinence before marriage and your family patriarch’s controversial remarks. This IS media relations.

Rosie Fox (front), U.S. Rep Franks, and the Robertson family. Photo by Johna Burke

While it’s always imperative to prep answers to easy questions before a media interview, this event reminded me about the importance and potential perils in lack of preparation on the really tough questions. Mia, Missy and Jase all have strong conviction for their subject matter and their passion resonates in every syllable. That kind of conviction isn’t as easy for the average spokesperson, so in lieu of family conviction and faith, make sure your spokesperson is mindful of these quick tips:

Relevant news topics: If anything is trending in the news even tangentially related to your industry make sure to address the affects to your organization’s mission.

Key messages: All messaging related to the topic and also key messages as they relate to other potential topics that could arise during an interview. Always have strong sound bites.

Importance of rapport: Being relaxed is the goal, but looking relaxed is essential. Body language on camera can indicate when a spokesperson isn’t prepared. While you can’t avoid the tough questions your spokesperson’s ability to build rapport will translate into a more confidence which translates to their ability to control the interview.

A stand-out moment from the interviews was when Mia was asked “What is the coolest part of having a new lip or new palate for you?” Eleven year old Mia responded “I don’t know” and the reporter followed up with “So, no comment. But you’re much happier now.”

No, she didn’t say “no comment,” she answered a bad question honestly. Based on her initial interviews I have no doubt Mia will be bridging and saving reporters from their own bad questions in no time.

The Mia Moo Fund tagline is “Every kid deserves a smile,” and this event gave a proud aunt and PR person a lot of reasons to smile too. Thank you.

Mia Moo Fund: A Media Relations Dynasty

Jul 28, 2014

L to R: U.S. Rep Trent Franks, Mia Robertson, Reed Robertson, Missy Robertson, Jase Robertson. Photo by Johna Burke

A couple of weeks ago I attended the press conference and media event with U.S. Rep Trent Franks and Mia Robertson and her parents (part of the Duck Dynasty family) for the Mia Moo Fund. My niece, who also attended, was born with a cleft lip and palate, so the Robertsons’ admirable charity and the congressman’s invitation for Mia to speak was particularly meaningful. Amidst all of the Duck Dynasty fanfare I was most impressed by the master spokespeople, Mia’s parents, Missy and Jase Robertson.

The Scene: Your beloved daughter was born with a cleft palate and wants to help other kids with the condition, so you help her start a foundation. A congressman born with the same condition helps raise awareness of the condition’s struggles and provides leadership support to the many children affected. Your daughter writes a speech for the event and you take your family to Washington, D.C. The media interviews begin and you are asked about abstinence before marriage and your family patriarch’s controversial remarks. This IS media relations.

Rosie Fox (front), U.S. Rep Franks, and the Robertson family. Photo by Johna Burke

While it’s always imperative to prep answers to easy questions before a media interview, this event reminded me about the importance and potential perils in lack of preparation on the really tough questions. Mia, Missy and Jase all have strong conviction for their subject matter and their passion resonates in every syllable. That kind of conviction isn’t as easy for the average spokesperson, so in lieu of family conviction and faith, make sure your spokesperson is mindful of these quick tips:

Relevant news topics: If anything is trending in the news even tangentially related to your industry make sure to address the affects to your organization’s mission.

Key messages: All messaging related to the topic and also key messages as they relate to other potential topics that could arise during an interview. Always have strong sound bites.

Importance of rapport: Being relaxed is the goal, but looking relaxed is essential. Body language on camera can indicate when a spokesperson isn’t prepared. While you can’t avoid the tough questions your spokesperson’s ability to build rapport will translate into a more confidence which translates to their ability to control the interview.

A stand-out moment from the interviews was when Mia was asked “What is the coolest part of having a new lip or new palate for you?” Eleven year old Mia responded “I don’t know” and the reporter followed up with “So, no comment. But you’re much happier now.”

No, she didn’t say “no comment,” she answered a bad question honestly. Based on her initial interviews I have no doubt Mia will be bridging and saving reporters from their own bad questions in no time.

The Mia Moo Fund tagline is “Every kid deserves a smile,” and this event gave a proud aunt and PR person a lot of reasons to smile too. Thank you.

How PR and Marketing Work Together to Drive Growth

Jul 24, 2014

flickr user Flazingo Photos under CC BY license

by Chris Ourand*

In one corner, your marketing team is doing their darnedest to drive conversions and generate leads. And in the other corner, the PR people are working to generate awareness and tell a compelling story about your firm. This is historically how these two disciplines have been handled and understandably so, to an extent.

But in our increasingly digital world, firms that continue to treat public relations and marketing like separate entities might miss out on opportunities for significant growth. In reality, these disciplines can empower each other—the marketing team helping to create awareness, and the PR team contributing to lead generation and conversions. Here are a few ways to help get the most out of both.

Produce compelling, quality content for prospects. Changes in SEO and analytics have made it necessary to produce plenty of high quality, unique content. PR professionals are expert at making organizational and industry news into compelling content. Your in-house team understands how industry trends impact your firm and clients and can tell these stories in ways that engage prospects and generate interest in your firm.

Integrate news into marketing content. Take news packages (videos, press releases, articles, interviews, etc.) and work them into your content marketing. Integrate these items into your blog, email marketing campaigns, newsletters, guides, whitepapers, and e-books. Find ways of providing this type of content to different audiences. Your PR people will know the best angles for the stories and your marketing folks will know the best time and way to reach the appropriate prospects. Marketing’s ability to monitor and measure your channels will help you know how and when your re-purposed news items are striking a chord.

 Strategize your big picture and the details. Regardless of the particulars of your PR and marketing content, you’ll need a specific strategy. You can start with broad goals (like convey expertise in new market, or grow influencer audience), but the more specific you get, the more likely you’ll generate results and be able to track them. Having a clear idea of your firm’s overall strategy helps the two arms of your visibility/conversion team to work together. Your marketing folks can tailor websites, emails, etc. to combine expertly with your public relations department’s case studies, press releases, speaking opportunities and so forth.

 Connect with customers. Your marketing team is expert at talking to your audience … from a distance. Creating PR events and opportunities outside marketing’s normal comfort zone is a great way to build audience loyalty and get face-to-face feedback on your products, services, and initiatives. It never hurts to remind prospects that you’re part of their community. Nourish these connections and you’ll create brand ambassadors who will promote, support, and recommend you.

 Stick with your story. Sure, taglines are great and can make you quickly memorable. But the story of your organization needs to be told, not replaced by a bumper sticker’s worth of copy. You know why your firm is remarkable. There will be times to be brief, but make sure your combined PR and marketing efforts tell a consistent, compelling story. Include calls-to-action where appropriate and your narrative will drive conversions.

So bring your PR and marketing teams out of their respective corners. Meet in the middle of the room. PR and marketing are different in some very basic ways, but combining them will generate buzz through social media, connect you to the media and other influencers, and create actionable visibility that will result in growth.

 

***************

Chris Ourand is an Account Director at Hinge, a marketing and branding firm for professional services. Chris can be reached at courand@hingemarketing.com or 703-391-8870.

 

How – and Why – to Fact Check Your PR Writing

Jul 23, 2014

As the tragic story about MH17 broke last week, broadcast news networks (especially those of the 24-hour variety) scrambled for any scoop they could find. In the mad dash to find an eye witness, MSNBC got pranked pretty good when a caller who said he was a sergeant stationed at the U.S. embassy in Ukraine claimed he’d seen a missile hit the plane.

He then made a lewd reference and cursed at the host, Krystal Ball, who didn’t pick up on the rather obvious fact that he was pranking her. Both MSNBC and Krystal Ball come away looking rather poorly; someone manning the phones at MSNBC obviously didn’t bother to verify the man’s story – a simple Internet search would have shown that the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine is stationed in Kiev, which is more than 200 miles from Hrabrove, the site of the crash. At that distance, he wouldn’t have seen a thing.

Put that whole story next to the study released this week, which shows that journalists live tweeting during the 2012 election acted more as stenographers than reporters, as 60 percent of them just repeated what the candidates said, instead of fact-checking such claims for veracity.

As more and more marketing and public relations professionals are themselves becoming content creators in addition to their long-established role in working with journalists, it’s important to remember that with your organization’s reputation on the line, fact-checking is something we all need to do – not just journalists.

This doesn’t mean you need to employ a fact-checking machine a la The New Yorker, but it does mean that taking a little extra time to double-check that everything is in order can save you or your organization from making a silly but meaningful blunder.

Things that always need to be fact-checked:

  • Names, dates, locations, job titles
  • Quotes – always check that you have not only the words right, but the context as well
  • Numbers and statistics
  • Basic facts – because “facts” aren’t always completely factual

Google is a useful fact-checking tool, but if you’re Googling to find out whether a statistic is correct, make sure that the sites you’re using for verification are themselves reputable, and that you can find the same statistic in more than one place. While Wikipedia can also be useful, keep in mind that pages can be and are frequently changed and updated, so it should not be your independent source of information, especially if you’re doing an online-only fact check.

Email and the telephone are also great tools – if you need to make sure someone actually said what they said, just call. In journalism, fact-checkers won’t read a quote back to the speaker, but in public relations and marketing, there is no such restriction, so if there’s an error, it’s easy to re-work a quote.

Chances are that you won’t be live-tweeting election debates and that your account won’t be held up to as much public scrutiny as a journalist’s, but even if you’re at a conference and life-tweeting a presentation, keep in mind that if the speaker makes an assertion, you tweet it out, and that assertion later turns out to be incorrect, you could come away with a negative perception. You never know when what you tweet will come back to haunt you – just ask Justine Sacco.

Here’s the Media Monitoring Checklist That Will Enhance or Replace RFPs

Jul 21, 2014

The formal RFP process is time- and resource-intensive for both the requestor and the requestee, and in the search for the right media monitoring and analysis package, more public relations professionals and organizations either don’t have the resources, or are choosing to allocate them elsewhere, therefore making final decisions based on partial data.

To strengthen the ability to make a quick, at-a-glance comparison of media monitoring and analysis services, BurrellesLuce has created this free RFP resource, which consolidates the most important and frequently-asked questions that arise during the search process. This includes checklists for print monitoring, online monitoring, broadcast coverage, self-guided search, software, automated analysis, custom qualitative and custom quantitative analysis, services, and rates.

To help you make an informed decision that fits your needs, there are columns to compare media monitoring and analysis services and what they offer.

And because all good measurement strategies start with measurable goals, the first section is designed to help you outline your measurable goals, your audience, and your needs.

This media relations and PR RFP resource is designed to make the lives of public relations and media relations professionals easier, so click here to download this free resource.

 

Dealing With the Before, During, and After of Vacation Time

Jul 17, 2014

Edinburgh, Scotland. Photo by Ellis Friedman

On Tuesday night, I returned from a two-week vacation to Ireland and Scotland. Since it’s vacation season, I bet a lot of professionals are going through – or are about to – things similar to what I experienced, before, during and after the vacation.

Before

For some reason, American workers only use about half of their allotted vacation time. Some companies make it hard to do otherwise, but if you can take your vacation, you absolutely should. Even if you can’t take off two weeks at a time, take some time. Being on vacation (or just away from work) helps decrease stress and is good for your health. Plus, time off makes life more fun.

Before you head out of the office, leave yourself a list of what you were working on. You might think you’ll remember, and chances are you eventually will, but between the logistics of travel and the unfortunate realities of returning to the real world, there’s a good chance things will slip through the cracks. Take the last ten minutes of the day before your vacation to write down who you’re emailing with, the projects you’re still working on (even if they’re not due for weeks), and the first things to do when you get back. It will make your transition back a lot smoother – trust.

During

When you leave, unplug as much as you can. I brought my phone, no laptop, but I’ll admit, I scrolled through and posted on social media once or twice a day. (Funny thing: my parents were on social media way more than my husband and I were. Who says Millennials are the most connected?)

Isn’t it ridiculous to travel around the world – or go through the hassle of making vacation plans – just to sit at the breakfast table and realize everyone is on their phone? Yes, this happened. My husband, who wisely left his phone off, sat through a few breakfasts where we were all on Facebook. After that, I made an effort to only check social media at the beginning or end of the day and not at the table, but as I’m sure he’d tell you, I didn’t have a perfect record. Just put the phones down. It will be OK.

Finally, try not to work. I scrolled through my work email maybe three times, mostly because I was curious to see if anything was happening, but I didn’t open any emails. About 60 percent of people who do take time off do actual work on that time off. Please don’t work. Work makes a vacation cease to be a vacation.

Things will be fine. The work world will go on, but your vacation won’t.

After

It’s almost guaranteed that re-entry is going to be difficult. After walking five to 10 miles a day (sometimes more), being outside, and having no responsibilities, sitting in front of a computer and writing this is not the easiest or most amazing thing I’ve done recently. And after two weeks on my phone, I can hardly remember how to type.

Regardless, I feel pretty good, but not everyone does; the post-vacation blues are a real thing. Make sure you give yourself time to readjust. Even if you’re back at work the next morning, go easy on yourself. This doesn’t mean slacking, but do things to make your life easier, like simpler dinners, triaging chores, or just hiring someone to clean the house this once. But make sure to get right back into healthy habits like exercising and hobbies – it’s amazing how fast life’s stress comes back.

Brands Empowering Women—Are You Feeling It?

Jul 14, 2014

scan from National Museum of American History via Wikimedia Commons

In this day and age you would think that being intelligent and confident would allow women to be taking seriously in the board room, on the golf course and at home, but there are still many who struggle with self-esteem and the entitlement to feel empowered no matter where or what situation they are in.

Luckily, several brands have jumped on board and created campaigns that don’t just appeal to women that are housewives and mothers but to strong ambitious women. These brands are inspiring women to feel assertive when it comes to the way they look, act and feel.

Let’s look at a couple of brands that are leaders in empowering women:

Dove
Over the last couple of years, Dove, has certainly become the leader in the movement with their “Campaign for Real Beauty”. The goal behind the campaign is to “Imagine a World Where Beauty is a Source of Confidence, Not Anxiety.” The campaign started a global conversation about the need for a wider definition of beauty after the study proved the hypothesis that the definition of beauty had become limiting and unattainable. Among the study’s findings was the statistic that only two percent of women around the world would describe themselves as beautiful.

Ban Bossy Campaign

This is not your customary ad campaign; it is a PSA by Lean In and the Girl Scouts of the USA. Many celebrities have joined the campaign to empower not only women but young girls to take the leadership role, be ambitious, and know there are no limits to what they can achieve. And “bossy” is just the beginning. As girls mature, the words may change, but their meaning and impact remain the same. Women who behave assertively are labeled “aggressive,” “angry,” “shrill” and “overly ambitious.” Powerful and successful men are often well liked, but when women become powerful and successful, all of us—both men and women—tend to like them less.

Pantene
Last year Pantene launched The Global #ShineStrong campaign, which educates and enables women to overcome bias and societal expectations and celebrates strong women. A recent ad campaign was created to trigger water cooler talk regarding how women innocently minimize their power by always apologizing, even though there is no need to. The “Not Sorry” ad has already received over 2.5 million views, with hopes to be a successor of the Pantene Philippines “Labels” campaign from last year that has over 46 million views.

Kevin Crociate, marketing director of Procter & Gamble’s North American hair care business, said “We’ve struck a chord in terms of changing gender norms for women” and that they “used market research to look at what gender norms were holding women back and tried to tap into the most relevant and insightful areas. This problem of saying sorry, it wasn’t just something women in the U.S. were facing but globally. After the success of the first campaign, ‘Shine Strong’ is something we’re committed to as a brand.”

While many of the female species may claim that these brands are being condescending in their attempts to to empower women, I think that ads that enable women to show their true beauty and poise will continue to encourage all of us.

Do you think these campaigns are actually empowering, or are they calling us out for lack of confidence and implying that we hold ourselves back? Or worse, are they pandering?

How to Change the Conversation About Your Brand Through Disruptive Storytelling

Jul 10, 2014

flickr user Tsahl Levent-Levi under CC BY license

We all know that storytelling is a key component of public relations. We tell stories to enhance our brand, our client and/or our mission. You know your story is being heard, but is your audience really listening?

McDonald’s USA public relations manager Christina Tyler, APR, spoke last week at the PRSA Midwest District Conference on how to be disruptive to get your points across. She began by showing McDonald’s advertising clips, spanning four decades (that’s 40 years for those who are math-challenged), all saying their burgers are 100% pure beef. This message was loud and clear in the ads; yet, in nearly every focus group, the main question people had was “What’s in the beef?”

Tyler talked about consumers seeing Super Size Me and making (incorrect) assumptions about their ingredients. Or, perhaps they saw a Facebook post that was a hoax, myth or urban legend, but gets passed along by the uninformed as truth. She discussed how stimuli gets interpreted by our beliefs to form “facts” that may not be facts at all. Perception IS reality.

Time to get disruptive! It doesn’t have to be “in your face” or rude, and you shouldn’t feel obliged to engage trolls. What you do need to do is to interrupt the flow of information. Tyler laid out six disruptive tactics McDonald’s has used and why they work:

 1. Start on the inside of the organization

  • Make sure the customer’s voice is present. Be sure your messages, campaigns and programs support what the marketing team is saying/doing. Push your organization’s tolerance.
  • This works because consumers are naturally “me” focused. Consistency across all touch points improves the likelihood of being heard.

2. Play to the heart

  • Leverage your history and shared cultural experiences (like the Dove soap commercials, for example). Lead with your values. Step aside and let fans tell the stories that matter to them.
  • This works because it makes people feel “warm and fuzzy” so they are more likely to listen. People like to share their own stories—you simply provide the platform.

3. Transparency

  • Show them everything.
  • People need to see to believe.

4. Change the messenger

  • Move away from corporate spokespeople and toward real people. Credibility doesn’t always equal credentials.
  • Letting someone they trust share the story improves believability.

5. Provide unexpected access

  • First, broaden your idea of who should get access. Offer face time with CEO, or take them behind the scenes, or better yet—put them to work. Let them experience it–see it, touch it, feel it. Tyler gave the example here of taking a blogger to the farm where McDonald’s ingredients are grown and having them crack an egg or pick a piece of lettuce.
  • Seeing is believing; doing is even better. That’s why this works.

6. Take yourself out of context

  • Make it possible for customers to experience you in a new milieu. Surprise them by doing something unexpected of your brand. For example, last year, McDonald’s held a Top Chef event in New York where they gave top chefs the ingredients used in McDonald’s restaurants and had them create a menu. They invited 100 people to sample the results. People were amazed that these gourmet dishes came from the same ingredients as are found under their local ”golden arches.”
  • You can probably see from the example why this works. If you can truly set aside existing perceptions, then you have better odds at engaging in a new dialogue.

So, ask yourself, is what’s standing in the way of me disrupting the status quo and getting my message across the adherence to doing things the way it has always been done just because that’s the way it’s always been done? If the answer is yes, then get disruptive!

Branding and Marketing Lessons From Publishing a Book

Jul 7, 2014

Image posted with permission from Lauren Skidmore

by Lauren Skidmore*

You’ve written a book. Great! But that’s only the start of publishing. Even if you do public relations or marketing as a day job, marketing your own debut book can feel like shouting into a void, especially when you don’t have a built-in audience from a large publisher to do half of the work for you. My debut novel was released a month ago, but the work that went into marketing it began long before that. Here are three quick tips on how to jump start getting that book into the hands of readers.

Create an Online Presence

People need to be able to find you. The general recommendations are to pick two or three social media platforms to do, and then do them well. An author website is a must, even if it’s just a simple landing page – you can always expand it later, and you’ll be glad when you’ve claimed your domain name early.

Facebook and Twitter are also strongly recommended, but it also depends on which platforms your target demographic use. With a young adult fantasy novel, I split most of my time between Twitter and Tumblr because that’s where many of my readers are (and it’s where I have the most fun). I also use a Facebook page and my blog for big announcements so readers can always quickly find out what’s new with me.

Build an Audience

When I pitched my novel to potential publishers, one of the things they wanted to know was how many followers I already had online. As a hobby, I had a Tumblr with over 4,000 followers at the time – that’s 4,000 potential readers right there! Publishers don’t like to take risks, and if they see you already have thousands of potential buyers, that’s one more mark in your favor. Again, pick the place that works best for you. It doesn’t really matter whether you do this through blogging, Twitter, or elsewhere, just get that follower count high.

You also want to hold on to your audience, and newsletters are great for that. People can sign up and get updates right in their inboxes. I suggest only sending these newsletters when you have big announcements, such as a book release or promotions, and definitely no more than once a month so you don’t spam your readers. MailChimp and Constant Contact are two popular tools for creating your own newsletters, and if you’re under 2,000 subscribers, MailChimp is free!

Brand Yourself

What will people associate with your name as an author? For non-fiction writers, you should establish yourself as some sort of authority or expert in your field. You can write guest blog posts or maintain your own blog, participate in social media or forum discussions, or whatever you can think of to put your name out there.

For fiction writers, it’s a little different, although doing any of the above certainly won’t hurt. You’ll want to define your genre, as well as what you’re bringing that’s new. For example, my novel was essentially pitched to publishers as a Cinderella retelling in which Cinderella has to rescue the prince.

Genre? Fairy Tale Retelling. What’s different? Role reversal. My target audience knows right away if this was something they’d be interested in, as well as what makes it different from every other retelling.

The good news about doing all this early is that the groundwork will already be done when your release date is here, and you can hit the ground running on your next novel.  Because in the end, the best thing you can do is keep writing and keep releasing new material. Your books will begin to advertise for you as they take up more shelf space and loyal readers return to see what else you have in store.

***

Lauren Skidmore is the Broadcast Keyperson at BurrellesLuce by day and writes by night. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in English Teaching and double minors in Teaching English as a Second Language and Japanese. After graduating, she lived and taught in Japan for a year before returning to the United States where she spends far too much time on computers and the internet. What is Hidden is her first novel.

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