I was recently introduced to someone at a party and, like most first conversations with someone you just met, the person asked me what I do for a living. “I work for a Public Relations firm,” I told this person. “Oh, you’re a spin doctor,” he responded.
I politely took the time to counter this perception and explain the kind of work McDougall Communications conducts on behalf of our clients—the strategic planning, media relations, digital and social media support, internal communications, public and community affairs, and crisis counsel, to name a few. I couldn’t help but think about that interaction the next day and as I recalled the brief conversation, I realized I told him what we do but not how we do it. Everything we do is based on an ethical foundation.
The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) has established a Code of Ethics to guide PRSA members as they carry out their ethical responsibilities. Conducting yourself in an ethical way doesn’t mean leaving out information that would change the public’s perception of your company or organization or worse, issuing denials or misinformation.
When we hold media training sessions for our clients, one of the topics we cover is “Transparency and the Truth.” Telling the truth is critical to meet the demands of the public and corporate transparency. Today, information is well-archived and easily accessible by anyone. Making false or disingenuous statements will come back to harm you and your organization.
As the PRSA Code of Ethics states, “The value of member reputation depends upon the ethical conduct of everyone affiliated with the Public Relations Society of America. Each of us sets an example for each other—as well as other professionals—by our pursuit of excellence with powerful standards of performance, professionalism, and ethical conduct.” As trusted counselors we are all obligated to conduct our business in an ethical and professional manner, and it is incumbent up us to ensure our clients live up to the same standard.
By Christopher Knospe
How many videos have captured your attention on social media this week? If you’re like the 64% of adult smartphone users in the 2018 Nielsen MediaTech Trender survey, you’ll probably watch at least seven—one per day. If you’re between ages 18 and 34, that’s even more likely.
If you’re not making the most of video on your brand’s social media channels, it’s time. There are occasions that call for a videographer, but a great deal of social media video content you can produce yourself starting today.
Here are a few tips:
Show, Don’t Tell
Starting with a script for your video? Stop. The value of video lies in what you can show your audience, so first take stock of all the visuals that could support your goal. Grab a pen and paper and doodle a storyboard. If your story is about how stormwater runoff impacts the environment—get out in the rain and show it. If it’s about a new product—show us what it can do. Then, if necessary, add words to expand upon or support what the audience is watching.
If your video does involve words, caption it if possible. Not only does this make it accessible for more viewers, it ensures your message gets across to the majority of social media consumers viewing video with the sound off.
To make this easier, Facebook can auto-generate captions that you can edit for accuracy.
You Don’t Need Much
With your phone in hand, you have everything you need for a basic video.
Capture a few shots and weave them together with one of the free or inexpensive apps and programs out there. iMovie is a great tool you may already have on your Apple device. Alternatively, try Adobe Spark or one of these mobile app options.
To reduce editing time, do yourself a favor and find well-lit area sheltered from the wind and away from noisy HVAC systems. You might also consider purchasing an inexpensive tripod and phone mount to keep the footage steady.
Keep It Short
One to two minutes is plenty for a social media video. Any longer and many viewers will drop off before the end. If you have more to communicate, make a few different videos. Conveniently, you’ll end up with more content to share and be well on your way to becoming a social media video pro.
By Hannah Barry
Trends are always coming and going—which is exactly why you don’t see very many people still rocking platform shoes or neon headbands and wristbands (thank goodness). But style-related trends aside, there are other fads that change with the times—including social media.
As a PR professional, I am always trying to stay on top of the latest crazes in all facets of communications, which is why I recently sat in on Hootsuite’s Annual Social Trends webinar. After the presentation, I look forward to putting these anticipated trends into practice during 2020.
Trend #1 – Find a Balance Between Public and Private Engagement
In 2019, we saw that Instagram launched its ‘Close Friends’ feature on Stories and LinkedIn introduced its latest ‘Teammates,’ feature. We expect that trends like these will continue emerging, putting a stronger emphasis on privacy in 2020. While public social channels will still be important for social listening and brand discovery, the creation of private, invite-only groups will allow businesses to engage with their target audience one-on-one, making private social channels more direct—and debatably more effective.
Trend #2 – The Role of the Social Marketer will Change
Engagement metrics (e.g. likes) are starting to disappear, which Instagram has already been testing. There’s also been a decline in organic social reach and an increase in pay-to-play to see notable results. As we enter the new year, social marketing will collide with performance marketing, placing an emphasis on delivering concrete results and ROI. To adapt with this change, social marketers really need to have a hybrid skillset that includes storytelling, managing, and measuring.
Trend #3 – Closing the Social Proof Gap
In Hootsuite’s Annual Social survey, 70% of respondents agreed that they aren’t taking even the most basic of steps towards measuring the real business value that social media is bringing to their organization. In 2020 this needs to change! Having a presence on social media is so much more than simply just being present. Business-driven results can be—and are being made on social media every day. It is a forgotten business metric that all social marketers should be measuring. In 2020, the utilization and standardization of UTM codes will be critical in tracking and analyzing your business objectives. But, there are other means of attribution that can be found in the annual survey here.
These are only a few of the highlighted trends that are expected to dominate the social media landscape in 2020. Social media is a dynamic, ever-changing space and as a social media marketer, it’s important to evolve with the changing trends. After all, nobody wants to be out of style!
By Maggie Munley
It was an honor to sit on a panel at the recent “Women Leaders Thrive” event in Rochester to talk about developing a personal and professional brand. The event, sponsored by Monroe County, Imagine Monroe and The Entrepreneurs Network, brought women entrepreneurs and business leaders together to explore how to make their mark in positions and industries typically dominated by men. Here are some thoughts I shared based on three decades of experience in media and PR:
As PR practitioners, we are in the business of building relationships. That requires ongoing time, effort and cultivation. Those who get this right experience tremendous success for themselves and their clients.
By Charla Stevens Kucko
The numbers tell the tale. The first hovers around a million, mile after mile accumulated over 25 years. The second is exactly 100, achieved last week after touching down at SDF (a.k.a., Louisville, Kentucky). But the third is what’s led us here: zero.
I’ve never avoided business travel, although I find it equally as important to be at home with family and friends. In many cases, I relish it as a chance to spend time with clients and co-workers and feed an appetite to see the world.
But keeping your sanity on the road is an ever-changing game, with new variables cropping up with every step onto a jetway: unexpected detours, fickle wireless connections, over-tired and under-trained security staff, and inevitable delays. That’s one reason I pounce on any article that comes up in a feed breathlessly promising new travel hacks, hoping to find a new idea.
But I haven’t. Most are recycled listicles proffering “insider” tips from airline attendants and hoteliers, such as avoiding in-flight coffee and investing in a good neck pillow (the existence of which I still believe is a myth). Maybe there’s little left to learn. Or maybe not.
So while hustling through MSP (Minneapolis-St. Paul) several weeks ago, I took a few minutes to jot down a few tricks of my own to make the most of your time on the road:
That’s not to say you shouldn’t roll your clothes, use packing cubes, bring along a portable charger, favor carry-on over checked, self-select rooms through the app, and all the other so-called hacks out there. Just do me a favor now and then: raise your head, say hi, and try to finish that last episode of Veep. I’ll be smiling back, ready to buy you a drink and hear about your own secrets for staying sane on the road.
When not in a plane or in a car, Mike McDougall can be found running 5Ks, keeping track of his teenagers, and—yes—actually working out of the firm’s Rochester, NY offices.
By Mike McDougall
Tailgates and touchdowns. Hot chicken and moonshine. Singing and dancing. Escape rooms and milkshakes.
While not part of an average workday in public relations, these are a few of the memories our team took away from our recent company retreat in Nashville, Tenn. Once a year, we choose a destination and step back from our to-do lists and deadlines to focus on our team, our firm, our clients, and our future. Three days later, we return to the office sleep deprived, yet rejuvenated.
In my more than five years—and six retreats!—with McDougall Communications, I have come to appreciate the retreat for several reasons. First and foremost, it is an unmatched opportunity for team building. We work together every day, of course, but there are always a ton of distractions and other priorities in the hustle and bustle of our jobs and personal lives. Take us away from all of that, and we have an extended and largely uninterrupted period of time to talk, laugh, and experience new things together. After all, it’s nearly impossible to take a tour through a haunted, historic prison, cheer for our hometown football team in “enemy” territory (GO BILLS!), or tackle a rousing duet on a karaoke stage without forming a closer bond.
Between all of the fun, we also schedule time to focus on our work. Not the day-to-day, but bigger picture. Every one of us, regardless of seniority or title, has a voice. I think that goes a long way toward the health of our firm—and feeling like we are truly a part of it.
If you have the means to invest in a retreat of your own, here is the recipe to making it worthwhile:
1. Choose a Fun Destination (If Budget Allows). Go somewhere that people want to go! It’s much more exciting to board a plane with your coworkers at 6:00 a.m. on a Sunday when you’re heading to a city like Miami or New Orleans.
2. Airbnb > Hotel Rooms. New this year, we found an Airbnb rental that could accommodate our group instead of booking hotel rooms. Rather than being scattered in rooms around a big hotel, we were together. We also enjoyed more comforts of home, including a kitchen and living spaces that were more conducive to our meetings than drab conference rooms or trying to crowd around tiny café tables.
3. Top of the Agenda: Exploration and Fun. The key to getting a positive return on investment with your retreat is to energize your team. Show them you appreciate them by treating them to some free time together. We like booking food tours in the cities we visit, since they provide a chance to try local flavors and learn local history. Look for other unique fun to be had. We have done everything from the aforementioned ghost tour, NFL football game, and escape room to an Indy 500 tour, plantation tour, live music, many restaurants, and more.
4. Structured Business Planning. Our collaborative planning sessions are most effective when we have a solid agenda and discussion questions in place. Reflect. Examine. Look ahead.
Reflect on what has been happening, how different areas of the business are performing, where you have been successful, and what needs changing.
Examine the successes and challenges. Why have they been successful, and how can those strategies be applied in other areas? What is at the root of the challenges, and how can they be overcome? If there are particular areas of focus for improvement, look into training programs or workshops that you can implement during your retreat.
Look ahead to the future. What does the business look like? Where do you want to focus efforts? What would make you more successful in the year ahead (small and larger scale)?
When your team returns to the office following your retreat, you want them to come back with knowledge, inspiration, and actions to take to help meet your collective goals.
And those new inside jokes from those fun, shared experiences? They’ll never stop being funny.
By Heather Kowalcyzk
Ask any CPA or CFA and they'll tell you, pursuing advanced designation in one's field is a real challenge. It requires discipline, dedication and hard work, along with time, money and effort. For communicators, professional designation is Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).
Why earn an APR after 30 years in communications? Here are five reasons why I’ve decided to go for it.
--by Charla Kucko
A few weeks ago, I was walking down Second Street in San Francisco, when some window signage caught my eye. In a bold font, it declared that the company inside was made of storytellers. Data nerds. Content kings. Digital divas.
It’s plausible they were. It was also clear they were trying a bit too hard to describe their business. In reality, they were marketers and communicators who got a bit too ambitious in playing out their own creative brief.
Now there’s nothing wrong with highlighting your strengths. True differentiation is hard to come by in shops. Self-applied labels can be advantageous, signaling specialties to potential clients while keeping a firm focused. But there’s one label that has given me pause for at least a decade: the “digital” agency.
In reality, having digital expertise is a basic component of any well-regarded firm nowadays. Some may excel in certain aspects, such as social and digital media capabilities, while others may have other pinpointed offerings like SEO/SEM or marketing automation.
Yet leading with the “digital” tag frequently signals an underlying weakness in the firm being able to look at the broader challenge faced by an organization, then develop the right approach. Placing digital first assumes that bits and bytes can cure all ills, solve all problems, and win all battles. It’s a tactic-first approach in a world crying out for smarter, more strategic thinking.
And often, as we’ve seen, the digital-only is quick to fade when put to the test. Digital is part of the equation—usually a big part—but it’s no substitute for the balanced, multi-faceted plans that are at the core of the most successful initiatives.
The next time you’re pitched by a “digital” shop or invite one to consider a project, dig deeper. Are you buying substance or effervescence? The choice is yours.
By Mike McDougall
Journalists, freelancers and bloggers’ inboxes are constantly inundated with media pitches. If you want to grab their attention and get your pitch noticed, consider the following tips:
Play to the Right Audience
Before you can start shooting off emails to that same old list of contacts, be fully aware of who exactly you are pitching. Sounds obvious enough, right? Do a little bit of homework before pitching to the media to get a better idea of who these people are and topics they tend to cover. If it’s not topical or relevant to the recipient, they won’t bother reading.
Don't Copy and Paste Your Pitch
I once was told to write exactly how you would talk. It sounds more natural, conversational and quite frankly, it’s more enjoyable to read. This rule is no different for story pitches. Writers can smell a copy-and-paste pitch from a mile away. You must use your unique voice when drafting a pitch to avoid sounding generic or automated.
Highlight the Value You Are Providing
If your pitch still leaves the recipient with additional questions, chances are you won’t get a response. Before you get started, ask yourself questions like, why would people find this story interesting? Or, how can this story help me reach my target audience? Then, point out the value in your pitch. If you see value in what you’re writing, it shouldn’t be hard for someone else to see it, too.
Get to the Point!
Ever heard the tired cliché, ‘less is more’? Well, it’s true! Make your pitch clear and concise. Be upfront and honest in what you’re asking for right off the bat rather than dancing around the topic for too long. Think about all of the pitches sitting in the inboxes of journalists all over the country—and the world—right now. If you want to stand a chance at being heard over all of the background noise, get to the point!
Here's one way to look at it—if you wouldn’t respond, then writers probably won’t either. So if you want to get ahead of the game the next time you have to pitch to the media, consider these four helpful tips.
By Maggie Munley
Building the foundation for any public relations campaign begins with research. It also helps agencies and organizations plan for the future.
As a public relations professional, I’m a big fan of the work conducted by the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism’s Center for Public Relations (CPR). Each year, the CPR conducts research on the topics and trends that will influence the Public Relations industry in the years to come. This year’s global communications report provided great insights into the use of technology.
Take a moment and just think about your daily lives and how technology influences it. We know who is at our front door through our doorbell, we can control our thermostats at home from thousands of miles away, and Alexa does more for me than my teenagers do these days – just kidding kids!
Technology will continue to drive how brands communicate with their audiences. It allows you to reach your targeted audience through platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, and, perhaps most importantly, measure the return on investment for your public relations campaign.
With technology advances comes our need to educate ourselves on its applications and develop new skills to deploy it effectively. The study showed that 48 percent of agencies rate their company’s current ability to use the latest technology to enhance the effectiveness of its communications as good compared to 35 percent of in-house communicators and 44 percent of CEO’s. These are numbers that show the opportunity for continuous improvement – me included.
Finally, the report includes a six-page glossary of companies cited in this year’s Global Communications Survey. As I look forward to the 2020 report and beyond, it’s a pretty safe bet they’re going to need a few more pages.
By Christopher Knospe
Insights, from us to you.