This past September, I began a new chapter in my career with McDougall Communications. One week earlier, my youngest daughter began her freshman year of high school, now mixed in with more than 1,900 other teenagers. We just held elections across the United States and with them came new legislators, new governors, new majorities and new (well, maybe not “new”) promises. Next year, my oldest daughter will join countless other high school graduates as she heads off to college to experience new and interesting things as she leaves the confines of home.
It’s no surprise that I’m often reminded of what the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, once said: “Change is the only constant in life.”
In a dynamic profession like public relations, we expect and embrace change—and so should your company, not-for-profit, school, association, or whatever your organization is. With change comes opportunity and with opportunity comes the ability to showcase what sets your organization apart and differentiates it from the masses in a cluttered environment.
Not all that long ago, it was common practice that the only way to get your word out was through earned media channels with a press release. However—you guessed it—things changed! Today, the public consumes their information in different ways as more and more entities maximize their exposure through owned media (websites and blogs), shared media (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest) and paid media (branded content and paid integrations).
USC Annenberg Center for Public Relations' 2018 Global Communications report shows organizations will continue to shift their spending from earned media into owned, shared and paid over the next five years. This doesn’t mean that earned media isn’t valued but suggests the recognition for balance across each channel.
This shift in spending across media channels comes with it a change in content. While developments occurring within your organization are still newsworthy, audiences are demanding more. In addition to what’s happening, they want to know what you know and, yes, they want to know what you think. It’s that mix of information, opinion and news that keep brands relevant in an ever-changing life.
Organizations that prepare for change are better positioned to succeed in the tong-term. And if you aren’t prepared it’s not too late to start, because as that other great philosopher Bob Dylan once wrote: “the times they are a changin’.”
By Christopher Knospe
A large meeting room at the recent Public Relations Society of America International Conference in Austin, Texas was recently filled to near capacity, as communications professionals were drawn to an unusual topic.
In a time when crisis seems to be the order of the day in many organizations, with time and energy being placed against containing and controlling any number of wayward issues, I was standing before them to offer a counterpoint: crisis can be good.
Let me frame this, however. Unlike the plot of the not-so-classic Our Brand is Crisis dramedy staring Sandra Bullock and Billy Bob Thornton, I wasn’t advocating initiating a crisis for gain. Yet when problems are at the doorstep, we’re often too eager to chase them away without looking to how we can benefit in parallel. How? First, you need to understand what to look for. Second, you need the infrastructure and mindset in place to turn the concept into reality.
In advance of the discussion, PRSA Strategies & Tactics asked Aimee Lewis and me to author a piece on this way of thinking for its all-crisis issue. While it’s no substitute for having been in the room in Texas, the feature should prompt you to question if your latest challenge – or next one (because there will be a next one) – could create deeper employee belonging, correct process deficiencies or set up your company for a comeback.
Take a read, and let me know what you think.
By Mike McDougall
When taking the right approach, Facebook Live has the potential to go viral, extending reach and engagement around the globe. Here are some “do’s” and “don’ts” to using Facebook Live.
In the end, persistence is paramount for Facebook Live. Don’t be deterred if you have low viewership on your first few efforts. While many broadcasts may not go viral, there’s always one that will soar That one may reach viewers around the world, and when it does, you’ve mastered Facebook Live.
By Charla Kucko
If you’re sitting there asking yourself, “how?”, allow us to explain.
It all comes down sharing a common goal: reputation management. Both public relations and social media are all about sharing a message, increasing brand awareness, building relationships and enhancing brand image.
Once upon a time, PR had a stronger, more reliant focus on finding, targeting and reaching large groups of niche influencers. While this is still a critical ingredient in the recipe for PR success, with a continuously growing emphasis on social media, these influencers are now also present on these social platforms, making it a win-win for both PR and social strategies.
An active presence on social media also gives businesses a platform to resonate with their target audience in a way that feels authentic, meaningful and real to consumers. This increased consumer focus builds positive relationships and gives businesses a chance to resolve issues quickly and avoid a possible PR crisis. That being said, social media creates an effective outlet to give your brand a unique voice – your voice. And because of this direct line of communication, social media can be used in a more proactive way to promote your business on-going in a way that you have complete control over.
Social media has breathed new life into PR in more ways than one. When shared through social media, content has the potential to reach an infinitely broader audience. According to Marketing Week, reach doesn’t just stop at Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Studies show that while networking giants are favored by PR professionals to promote and publish content, they also rely on other social tools like YouTube, Instagram and even lesser-known platforms like Tango.
It’s important to note, however, that social media is not replacing traditional media. Public relations is just as important, but when it is paired with social media marketing, it’s even more powerful. PR generates social coverage, while social media amplifies these PR efforts. So, leveraging the benefits of both social media and PR bridges the disconnect between the two, making them an unstoppable force when in sync.
By Maggie Munley
Upping a price. Changing your privacy settings. A new design.
Any time you or your organization is making a change, breaking the news to those who will be affected can be challenging.
This is especially true when that change occurs to a consumer-facing service. In that scenario, you run the risk of potential backlash from the announcement. But don’t take it from me--just ask Snapchat. At the core of any reaction is this: how does this affect me, the audience? While there may be no ‘right’ way to make this kind of announcement (layoffs, for example, are rarely met with a pleasant response), there are steps one can take to minimizes the negativity.
Enter Digit, a financial app that automatically siphons off small amounts of money from your bank account to build up your savings. The algorithm takes amounts based on recent spending (think anywhere from $0.15 to $10), so you usually don’t even notice. Genius, right?
The app currently costs $2.99 a month—but as a long-time digit user, I remember a time when it was free. When that changed, a question was posed to me: did I want to remain a user? While the fee itself wasn’t a huge amount, the way Digit handled the announcement is what made me stick around. So I took a look at why that was, and how other organizations could learn from it:
Get to the point
Announce the topic at hand in a quick and concise manner. You’re presenting new information to those who will be affected by it. Don’t make them have to think (or search) too long or too hard to figure out how it’s going to affect them.
One of the most crucial ways to announce change is with complete and total clarity. What change are you making? What prompted it? And—most important—how will it affect me, the consumer?
Digit did all of these things right: They were upfront about the change being implemented; they were quick to point out why they needed to do so (to make money); and they were quick to point out why they were opting for a paid route instead.
Provide a forum for response
Give people an outlet to voice their concerns, questions or frustrations. It will enable you to control the message, and open up a forum where anyone with a strong reaction will feel heard. It will also give people a clear sense of where to get answers, should they be looking for them.
Bonus points: A Piece of Good News
Of course, dependent on the news, you won’t always have a piece of good news to offer. But if you can end the message on a high note, you should. People will always appreciate knowing something positive will come out of this.
And, at the very least, people always appreciate honesty. Giving a clear, concise explanation of why change is being implemented is always better than the cardinal sin of PR—not saying anything at all.
By Vanessa Pearce
When I first added “write a blog post” to my to-do list this week, I didn’t imagine I would write about Build-A-Bear.
Don’t get me wrong—I’m no stranger to its stores. With three young children, I’ve been a customer a time or two. Early this week, I saw news of the company’s “Pay Your Age Day” shared by other parents on social media, and I immediately thought, “That sounds like a horrible idea.” For me. (For the record, I’m not a Black Friday shopper, either. Because “time is money” and all that.)
It was obvious there would be crowds. There would certainly be more demand than supply. How would Build-A-Bear handle it? Naturally, I was curious to see how it would all play out.
Across the country, families lined up before stores even opened. Just after 7:30 a.m. ET, Build-A-Bear posted its first update to social media, warning customers of the overwhelming response and long waits, and mentioned the possibility that lines might be limited due to safety concerns. Note that most stores didn’t even open until 10:00 a.m.!
Still, lines snaked through shopping malls and stretched outside. Just a few hours later, at 11:00 a.m. ET, Build-A-Bear published an urgent update to its social media pages and blasted it out to its email lists. Lines were officially closed. People were turned away, and some of those who were already in line had waited ALL DAY. Cue pandemonium.
“How could they not have anticipated this?” people asked. A firestorm of media coverage ensued, with headlines calling it a “botched promotion,” “hellish chaos,” and of course, “a PR nightmare.”
But was it really, though? In this case, I’d argue that this just might fall under the “There’s no such thing as bad PR” cliché. While it’s true that the situation is a crisis for Build-A-Bear, it’s one that could actually benefit them in the long run, depending on the response.
Sure, there are angry and disappointed customers, but Build-A-Bear was quick to come up with a solution. As people were being turned away from the lines, they were handed $15 off coupons—an amount roughly equivalent to the discount offered by “Pay Your Age”—to come back any time (and NOT have to wait in line for hours!). The coupons were offered to those standing in the lines, too, in case they would rather bail and come back. Then, Build-A-Bear went so far as to offer the coupon to all of its Bonus Club members, even if they had never ventured out for “Pay Your Age Day.” And to ensure this madness never happens again, the company brought an existing promotion—“Count Your Candles”—to the forefront, that offers the same discount (pay your age) during a child’s birthday month.
At the time of this draft, Build-A-Bear’s “failed” promotion is still all over the media. But you know what? So are its make-good solutions. I’m positive yesterday resulted in a harried public relations team and some serious regrets, but Build-A-Bear’s CEO was on The Today Show this morning delivering key messages that reinforce Build-A-Bear’s value proposition. How else would that have happened?
Only time will tell the true impact on Build-A-Bear’s business. While there may be customers so upset that they have sworn off the company forever, the coupons are likely to bring even more new and repeat customers back to the stores over the next few months. Plus, all of the traditional and social media hoopla has undoubtedly raised awareness of Build-A-Bear’s “Count Your Candles” birthday promotion, which could drive additional sales as well.
At the end of all of this, Build-A-Bear stands to gain more than it has lost. Some may argue that the sheer number of coupons out there could cut deeply into Build-A-Bear’s profits, but to that I say: You must not be familiar with the price of the accessories!
By Heather Kowalczyk
It was the late ‘90s at a conference in Boston’s Copley Square. A PR industry veteran pulled his chair close to mine, cocked his head, and leaned in. I was a fresh-faced 26-year-old whose blog-focused influencer campaign had been the talk of the meeting. This new approach from a Gen X kid was foreign and fascinating, if not a bit frightening, to a crowd that lived and died by traditional media relationships.
“You know, some people try their whole career to get a Silver Anvil,” he sneered, referring to the Oscars of the profession, which the campaign had just earned. “You’ve got nothing more to prove. So what will you do now?”
I blurted out the only thing that came to mind, “More of the same, I guess.”
Two decades and a few award-winning initiatives later, colleagues are still asking what “the same” is, imaging it to be a secret sauce of some kind. The truth is there’s little secret to capturing people’s imagination, influencing new attitudes, and guiding new behaviors. It comes down to four ingredients that apply to most every scenario, regardless of budget, geography, industry or other variables.
So when I was in Manhattan a few weeks ago for the 2018 Silver Anvils, I could only smile as an industry peer walked over to my dinner table and pointed to the gleaming statuette in front of me.
“Congratulations! People work for a long time to earn one of those. Is it your first?”
Giving her my thanks, I quietly admitted it was not, remaining out of earshot from others nearby when answering how many I’d won. Her jaw dropped, and she mouthed one word: “how?”
With a wink, I gave the only answer I knew. “Let’s chalk it up to more of the same.”
Mike has contributed to some of the communications industry’s most celebrated teams and programs, which have earned recognition from PRSA, PRWeek, The Holmes Report, PR News and others for innovation and results. The 2018 Silver Anvil in conjunction with CORE marks the 12th of his career.
In the race for social media engagement, compelling video and still images are quickly leaving other communication vehicles in the dust.
Don’t just take our word for it. According to Cisco Visual Networking Index, global consumer Internet video traffic will account for 80 percent of all consumer Internet traffic by 2019. Taking the analysis a step further—think about this for a moment—Cisco finds for every second, a million minutes (17,000 hours) of video content will cross global IP networks by 2021.
If that isn’t astounding enough, let’s look solely at Facebook. When you see someone glued to their smartphone, chances are they’re watching a Facebook video. Over 500 million (or half a billion) people are watching Facebook videos every day. And Charlie Chaplin would love this: only 7 percent of Facebook video views are clicked to play sound. More than 93 percent are viewed on auto-play while scrolling through the news feed. Most views last under 10 seconds, so the first three seconds are crucial. But there are steps you can take to optimize viewing: great images peak viewer interest, and captions—another great attention grabber—can be automatically added on Facebook.
The question: How to create short, sharable videos to post on social media quickly and easily to generate maximum awareness and engagement? Here is a list of free, user-friendly video editing apps for your smartphone:
Overall, it’s never been easier to create short, compelling videos that will attract an audience, take your content marketing to the next level, and watch your social media engagement soar.
By Charla Kucko
I’ve had my copy of the AP Stylebook for more than eight or nine years and it sits on a shelf over my desk. I’m working with the 2007 edition and I search its pages more than a few times a week. When I have a pressing style question and my copy isn’t within reach, I’ll go online and I usually find the guidance I need. The combination of resources works well, and it’s easier than memorizing all the rules. Especially when the rules change.
One rule – or guideline – that has stayed with me throughout my career is the use of “more than” vs. “over.” In my early working days, my manager explained the difference: “More than” is used with numbers; “over” is used with physical space.
It was a simple explanation and aligned with the AP Stylebook guidelines. In my 2007 copy, “more than” is described as the preferred choice with numerals, while “over” is described as generally referring to spatial relationships.
In 2014, the AP made a change and the updated guidelines to allow for the use of “over” when referring to numbers or quantity. That opened the doors so that it is acceptable to say that I’ve had my copy of the AP Stylebook for over 10 years. While I prefer to hold true to the pre-2014 guideline and use of “more than”, I didn’t cringe when I typed “over 10 years.”
Rules and guidelines change, and we adapt as best we can. That also means adapting guidelines for different audiences. During my time working in corporate employee communications, our internal usage guidelines didn’t always match up with the AP Stylebook. For example, we always capitalized an employee’s job title, even if the job title didn’t precede the employee’s name – as is the preferred AP style, at least in the 2007 edition. We used bold text for the employee’s name to make it stand out. We used internal acronyms on first reference. There were so many acronyms that we created a list of their definitions to help new employees learn our language.
The readers of our intranet and newsletters didn’t seem to mind – or maybe they didn’t notice or care – that our style was a hybrid that fit our needs. We didn’t always follow the AP Stylebook (or any other external style guide), but we when we landed on our own preferred style, we remained consistent.
Whatever style you follow as you write or edit, be consistent and don’t be afraid to adapt. I’m staying consistent and using “more than” with numbers. And if you choose to use “over” with numbers, or you decide to use the Oxford comma, that’s just fine, too.
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By Will Memmott
As a college senior who has had various internship experiences, and as the current President of the Public Relations Students Society of America (PRSSA) at St. John Fisher College, a lot of what I do focuses on professional development and seeking out experiences that will benefit our chapter members—as well as myself.
Of course, being in a marketing and communications program, having internships under my belt before graduating and going out into the real world is highly recommended. When it comes to having a leg up on the competition, actual hands-on experience can make all the difference.
In job interviews, you’ll always be asked to talk about any experience you’ve had in the field you’re applying for—which can be challenging if you don’t actually have any. So here are some dos and don’ts to keep in mind when you’re hunting for internships:
Do apply early. If you’re looking to find an internship for the fall semester, start your search a few months ahead of time during the summer. Looking for opportunities early will mean that there are more options to choose from; it also minimizes chances of you getting stuck with something you’re not excited about, but had to take because you waited until the last minute.
Do ask for informational interviews. If you don’t know exactly what a position might entail or want to learn more about the kind of work you’d be doing, never be afraid to reach out to someone within the industry and/or position you want to get into. Professionals are always willing to talk about their career paths and help proactive students who show interest.
Do get organized and know your stuff. You may have applied for 10 internships, hoping to land one and gain some experience any way you can, but that doesn’t mean you’re automatically “in.” Do your homework on each of the companies you’re applying to—it will come in handy in the event you get invited in for an interview! Showing up prepared and interested will demonstrate that you actually care about the opportunity and truly want to be part of the team.
Don’t be afraid to try different things. As a student, you’re still learning about the different types of work you can get into. In the marketing and communications field alone, there’s so much to choose from. You don’t have to know exactly what you want to do when choosing an internship, but having different experiences is when you’ll learn what you do (and don’t) want to do.
Previous professional practice is a must-have, especially in the communications industry. Learning as much as you can, coming in each day with a positive attitude, and putting in the effort will make for a successful and worthwhile internship experience, and pay off when it comes time to look for a job in the real world.
By Allie Rudy