Posts Tagged ‘PRSA International Conference’

Mapping Best Practices for B2B Public Relations

Friday, November 29th, 2013

Businessman and business sketchAt the PRSA International Conference a few weeks ago, I attended my colleague Johna Burke’s talk about best practices in B2B public relations. She focused on several important areas that will always be key to our evolving industry.

Many departments within an organization have a methodical workflow. Accounting and procurement departments have a clear definition of their tasks, and they have a method for bringing in, assessing, and approving information,

PR departments and practitioners don’t exactly follow that type of workflow. Although they might create a template, or spreadsheet to plug in information, the template never quite ends up in its original shape.

PR practitioners are tasked with creating a workflow that provides clear direction for their organization. Everyone from customer service and administrative staff to C-suite executives need to understand what public relations workflow looks like, or what to expect under normal daily operating conditions.

Key to developing an effective communications plan is a firm grasp on the organization’s business strategy. Whether that strategy is education, driving sales and revenue, advertising, public relations, or marketing, understanding that focus allows PR practitioners to develop a workflow that focuses on an organization’s overarching corporate goals.

Integral to the business strategy is an understanding of the organization’s financial statements. Understanding a company’s profit and loss statement effectively aligns PR workflow and department objectives. Public companies produce quarterly and annual financial statements. Look for it, whether it’s publicly or internally available, and study it, because everything ties into to funding.

Do the research yourself. While educating yourself and your staff on your company’s financials, do the same with your competitor. Think twice about hiring someone outside of your organization to gather intelligence; you are your most effective resource.

In researching your competitor, don’t go for the thirty-thousand-foot overview. It’s too easy to misinterpret your market. Also, it’s critical to market against a competitor’s reality, not their myth, or your perception of their overarching goals. Know their concepts, understand their message. Understanding their marketing materials and how your competitor is spending money is equally beneficial to your overall success. The time you put into understanding all of these elements will provide the intelligence to back up what you will ultimately need to sell to your C-suite.

Next, study your customer. How do they find you?  What does their daily organic search look like? How do they get to your product or service? Are you creating SEO interesting enough to speak to your audience and capture your service or product’s attention?

That static audience no longer exists. Understand why people are using each platform and what they’re doing with the information. Are your followers influencers? Can they help your business? Are they able to cause action? How do you communicate with them?

Create thought leadership around the topics your followers have posted. Look for themes around the content you’ve created, or the content displayed about you. This provides an opportunity to invite followers interested in a topic that’s related to your service, product or industry. Create a saturated market by looking at what surrounds your brand and how those themes tie in.

Take an open-mined look at the conversations around your content. Ask someone else in your organization to interpret your message and help you clarify your message.

Talk to your audience. Talk to your advocates, the people who have had a good experience with your product or service. Reach out to your badvocates, those who have had a bad experience and need to be reconverted. Acknowledge the trolls – those posters, who no matter what are going to be out there spewing venom.. Instead, classify them and if necessary, call them out with, “Dear Troll, we know you don’t like us, however, you are not our target audience, so what we’re saying doesn’t resonate with you, but thank you for the comment, we so appreciate your feedback.” Ultimately people connect with people behind the message, not with brands or the message themselves.

How to Give a Presentation in Nine Words Part 2

Thursday, November 14th, 2013
Flickr user olgaberrios

Flickr user olgaberrios

Yesterday we talked about Mike Neumeier’s tips for giving a presentation. He recommends it be less of a presentation and more of a conversation, and to step away from technology when outlining and drafting your presentation. Today, I’ll share his tips for creating optimal presentation slides once you crack open that laptop.

Presentation slides shouldn’t make much sense without the support of the presenter. If everything your audience needs to know is on all of your slides, why have a presentation? Just send it as an attachment in an email.

Don’t abuse your visuals. Keep your slides simple. Pictures and images should add visual interest and when necessary, serve as cues throughout your presentation. Your audience isn’t there to read your slides, they’re there to listen to you, so don’t let your slides tell your story, let them support it.

Select pictures and images similar in style, and just say no to clip art. Use large images compared with small. The key is not to overload your slide. Once large image makes more of an impact than several small ones. Your presentation should be original, and it should be a reflection of your style.

Less is more. Charts and graphs can be challenging. Your audience shouldn’t be occupied reading numerous bullet points, or studying complex graphs and charts; they’ll miss what you’re saying. Neumeier uses the guideline three bars, three words, three numbers when developing a slide that contains graphs and charts. Not filling a slide makes what’s on that slide more important. Be selective; only show what’s necessary to get your point across.

Always prepare for the “Oh No!” Keep a separate copy of your presentation on a thumb drive. However, if you are the only one who notices any of your mistakes, or missteps, continue on. If there’s a typo, don’t point it out. If someone in your audience points it out, thank them and continue on. If technology fails, let someone else fix it; you’re the presenter, keep going. Your audience doesn’t want to watch you fix your presentation. Remember, your slides are important, but they aren’t as important as your conversation.

Questions from your audience are a great sign that you’re engaging. It’s best to decide at the beginning of your presentation how you’ll handle questions and when you’ll take them. Be sure your audience knows this in advance.

Neumeier follows words of advice from Guy Kawasaki. After listening to thousands of business proposal presentations. Kawaski concluded that most were too long and too boring. He developed a rule for the perfect pitch. He refers to it as the 10, 20, 30 rule and explains that any idea, no matter how great it is should be delivered in 10 slides, in 20 minutes, in 30 point font.

So where does “How to Give a Presentation in Nine Words” fit in? The Treachery of Images, the painting of a pipe by Rene Magritte with the text, “Ceci n’est pas une pipe.” It’s not a pipe, but merely an image of a pipe, like a slideshow isn’t a presentation, just an image of on. So, in nine words: have a conversation, keep it simple, know your stuff.

How to Give a Presentation in Nine Words Part 1

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013
by Flickr user IntelFreePress

by Flickr user IntelFreePress

I had a great conversation at the PRSA 2013 International Conference with Mike Neumeier, principal of Arketi Group. Let me clarify: I was engaged in a conversation with Mike and about 75 other people in the room during his session, “How to Give a Presentation in Nine Words.”

Mike’s overarching theme was that a presentation should be a similar to a conversation; it should be a talk between you and the people in the room. For most of us who aren’t natural presenters this can be tricky, especially when our presentation, or “talk,” involves a room full of strangers or – even more distracting – a virtual audience. His advice: don’t treat your presentation like a lecture, treat it like a talk. Whatever your topic, imagine having a conversation about something important you want to explain to a friend.

Research your topic before starting an outline. You have to know what you’re talking about. Understanding or becoming an expert on your topic or idea before starting your outline is key to developing a compelling presentation.

Once you have your big idea, write it down and refer to it as you work through your outline. Jot down notes to complete your points. Use those points to support your idea.

Key to accomplishing a successful outline is to step away from technology. Go old school and use pencil and paper to create your outline. You can’t create a compelling presentation using tools such as Power Point, Key Note, or Prezi. These presentation platforms have their place, but much later in the process. Until you have a well-developed outline, these shouldn’t be used as a source for developing content.

Stepping away from technology has another advantage: it eliminates distractions created from checking email, or voicemail, allowing for better concentration. Neumeier asked us think about a great conversation we had with a friend, coworker or prospective client. During our conversation, were they checking their email, posting to Facebook, or tweeting? Probably not; the reason our conversation was memorable was because their focus was on us, not technology.

Once you’ve done all your thinking offline, it’s time to crack open your laptop. Check back tomorrow for Neumeier’s tips on creating presentation slides. Until then, keep in mind that it’s not about great-looking slides on Power Point, Key Note, or Prezi; your presentation is about developing great ideas that will win people over while using slides to support those ideas.

Smart Tactics for Media Pitching Success

Monday, November 11th, 2013
by Flickr user Keith Allison

by Flickr user Keith Allison

We’re all pretty familiar with the changes the digital age has wrought on media, but successfully pitching stories to journalists and reporters is still seemingly a fraught game of luck. At the PRSA International Conference in Philadelphia last month, I attend the session “New Secrets of Media Pitching Success” presented by Michael Smart. Smart offered concrete tips to reduce pitching-related anxiety and frustration.

He admits that it’s harder than ever to reach media influencers, but on an encouraging note, says it’s easier than ever to land big coverage once you break through. Here are some of Smart’s tips for effective pitching.

Create newsworthy angles: Tie your pitch into the media’s agenda – what current event, holiday, season, or fad does it relate to? [Avoid, however, tying your product into National (insert item here) Day. Smart says the only National ___ Day that ever gets coverage is National Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19).]

He offers the example of a dull scientific paper about satiation from sensory stimulation. On it’s own, didn’t sound newsworthy, but it was spun into the extensively-covered story, Instagram will ruin your dinner, linking it to a hot social media trend as well as the ever-trending subject of health and weight loss.

Link to a trend: Or even better, alert the journalist to the presence of a new trend. Smart’s real-life example: In a pitch to a journalist, a PR rep for Sweet Leaf Iced Tea linked their raspberry iced tea with the trend of raspberry ketones, which supposedly aid in burning fat and spurring weight loss. The PR pro made sure to include other raspberry products (even those she didn’t rep) and plenty of information about ketones, effectively “writing everything but the byline,” says Smart.

Seek great visuals: Smart’s example was about a student who won a small state competition building nanotubes 20 atoms wide, a microscopic size and unenticing visual, and therefore tough to publicize. But by creating the world’s smallest Cupid just in time for Valentine’s Day and circulating an image, the school was able to publicize the student and garner worldwide coverage.

Sometimes content is the story: Smart tells of Brigham Young University, which had the top math student in the country, but faced the challenge of getting the greater public to care about math. So instead of pitching a tough-to-sell math story, the school developed their own story by creating a new piece of content: a rap about mathletes, which now has over 100,000 views on YouTube.

Grab the reporter’s attention in the first 10 seconds: That’s how long you have, so construct your pitch to draw them in immediately. Smart suggests referencing the journalist’s previous work in the beginning of the pitch, but cautions that so many PR reps now use this tactic that journalists are cynical about receiving strategically-doled praise for their most recent headline. To mitigate this, keep your references to their past work specific and sincere.

Follow up without being annoying: Smart advocates following up when you know you’ve got the right journalist or producer, when you’re sure it’s relevant, know you have a good story, or the journalist/producer already expressed initial interest. He suggests this pattern: Send the initial pitch, email again, and if you don’t hear back within a reasonable amount of time, pick up the phone and call.

Whatever you do, don’t ask if they got your email – producers will think that if they didn’t respond, it wasn’t worth the time. Instead, just pitch them again like they never saw the email. Acknowledge  their time pressure and end on the softest of soft sells.

When to pitch: Smart suggests finding out when story meetings are for key outlets and pitching right before that meeting. While conventional wisdom has all but forbidden pitching on Fridays and the week between Christmas and New Year’s, Smart recounts hearing that people who are brave enough to pitch during these times are seeing a lot of success. Remember, the media need topics even on Fridays and holidays.

Finally, he recommends calling TV stations during the first weeks of each semester, as interns there haven’t been trained on how to be rude yet, and will tell you the names of segment producers.

Smart’s tips seem reasonable, useful, and real-world applicable. He suggests that with time, pitching gets easier and more successful, and that successful pitching has positive consequences that reverberate through work and personal life.

Do you use any of these tactics? How do you successfully pitch to producers or journalists?