All posts by Heidi Dezayas

How Brands Are Embracing Emojis to Communicate

Words are the foundation on which public relations and marketing professionals base the majority of their communication for the brands and organizations they represent. While visuals are often used as enhancers to the written word, some brands are relying on emojis—icons or emoticons—to connect with their audience and tell their story in place of words.

The impact emojis have had on today’s generation has not gone unnoticed. Earlier this week, Oxford Dictionaries named the “Face with Tears of Joy” emoji as its “Word of the Year.” Though it’s not technically a word, Oxford Dictionaries stated that emojis have been embraced as a nuanced form of expression, and that the chosen icon “best reflected the ethos, mood and preoccupations” of the year.

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Brands have certainly been experimenting with the use of emojis as a language in their public relations and marketing campaigns this year in an attempt to connect with millenials. Here are a few examples of how emojis are transforming digital communications:

  • Chevrolet issued a press release written entirely in emojis and waited several days before decoding it for the audience. The move had people talking about the message, and made headlines for days—when it was released and when the message was revealed.
  • Domino’s Pizza debuted a “tweet to order” campaign, which directed customers to order pizza by simply tweeting or texting a pizza emoji after they create a pizza profile.
  • The World Wildlife Fund launched its #EndangeredEmoji campaign on Twitter, aimed at helping to save animals from extinction. The charity highlighted 17 emojis representing endangered species and encouraged users to donate each time they’ve used one.

What do you think about using emojis in professional forms of communication?

Our Favorite Pittsburgh Things: Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

 

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is one of Pittsburgh’s most beautiful locations. Located in Oakland’s Schenley Park, Phipps offers many environments for visitors to explore—alone or with a tour guide.

Here are some things you can enjoy:

  • Visit one of the facility’s many gardens and plant exhibits, including an orchid collection, palms and desert plants. Statues, glass art, paintings and a variety of other artwork are also displayed throughout the gardens.
  • Attend one of the many events and shows hosted at Phipps throughout the year. The Summer Flower Show exhibit runs through Monday, Oct. 5. This year’s Fall Flower Show, which will showcase chrysanthemums and their importance in Japanese culture, will begin Oct. 17 and run through Nov. 8.
  • Take a class! Phipps offers a variety of programs on gardening, arts and crafts, healthy living, and sustainability for people of all ages and abilities.
  • Grab a bite to eat at the café, which offers organic, local food.

 

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Have you ever been to Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens? What is your favorite thing to do there?

Celebrate America—And Be Grammatically Correct

We’re almost two weeks into the summer season, and that means the Fourth of July festivities are kicking off! We shared some spring- and summer-related grammar tips in an earlier post, so this time, we’re focusing on tips to help you celebrate America (while being grammatically correct):

  • The holiday can be written as Independence Day, Fourth of July, July 4 or July Fourth. “July 4th” and “4th of July” are not correct. “July 4” is OK if you’re using it as the date and not the holiday, for example: Independence Day commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.
  • Some people choose to celebrate the holiday with firecrackers and fireworks—both one word—while others like to make s’mores over the firewood (one word).
  • The Fourth of July occurs in the summertime, not summer time.
  • The dog days (two words, not capitalized) of summer—the most sultry days of the season—are July 3 to Aug. 11.
  • If you’re heading to the beach, you might be planning to lie—not lay—on the sand to sunbathe (one word).

Do you have any other tips to share with us? Tell us in the comments!

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Face-to-Face Time with Clients Still Matters

It’s no secret that our world is technologically-driven. Long gone are the days where face-to-face—and even telephone—interaction was the preferred way to communicate with others. Now we email, text, tweet or send Facebook messages to coworkers (even if they’re sitting a few feet away), clients, reporters and other contacts we might need to speak to.

Communicating this way is convenient; it makes it easier for you to keep written records or to refer back to older messages; and a lot of times, it’s the best way to get a hold of someone who has a really busy schedule or isn’t in town.

The public relations industry is based on communication, engagement and relationship building. While emailing or texting have become more popular, face-to-face communication is still crucial in the industry for quite a few reasons:

  • You make deeper connections: Having a face-to-face meeting allows you to connect with clients or reporters on a more personal level because you’re taking the time to have a conversation outside of a superficial email setting. It gives you the opportunity to get to know the people you are working with, and on the flip side, they get to know you. Meetings like these have the potential to create lasting relationships with clients or other contacts because you’re working with someone beyond the computer/phone screen.
  • You come to quicker solutions: While it’s true that sending an email/text is convenient and fast, that’s often not the case when you’re dealing with a complex issue that needs a solution. There’s a bit of disconnect when you’re communicating via email. Nonverbal cues and tone are absent, so there’s more room for miscommunication or misinterpretation. Going back and forth to explain an issue or a solution to that issue in an email chain often is more difficult and more time consuming than talking about it in person. If speaking face-to-face isn’t possible, talk on the phone or have a FaceTime session! You’ll be on your way to a solution in no time.
  • You stay focused: If your client is going to work with you on a big project, invite them to an in-person meeting. In this instance, email would be fine for sending important documents and information that are essential to the project, but go over those documents in person to make sure that everything is covered and all of your questions are answered before you begin working on it. Email and telephone follow-ups are inevitable, but the initial communication about an important project should be more focused and personal.

Meeting with someone in person is definitely worth the effort. To make the process a little easier, talk with your clients about getting together in person once a month or every few weeks. Try to schedule the next meeting at the end of each one. Other plans and projects come up, of course, but penciling in that face time is a step in the right direction.

Spring & Summer Grammar Tips

We’re a full week into May and right in between the spring and summer. Seasonal press releases, ads, blogs, etc. are being published, so here are a few spring- and summer-related grammar tips to help you while you write your content:

  • This Sunday, we will be celebrating Mother’s Day (not Mothers Day or Mothers’ Day).
  • All seasons—spring, summer, fall and winter—are lowercase. Equinox or spring equinox also are lowercase.
  • Memorial Day is a holiday, so the first letter in both words should be capitalized. If you have the day off, you might go to a barbecue (not barbeque, Bar-B-Q or BBQ).
  • Daylight saving time already has passed for the season, but when it comes again in the fall, the written style remains the same—no capitalization, no hyphens and no plurals (it’s “saving,” not “savings”).
  • Graduation season is here, so remember to use apostrophes in the general terms bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, etc. (no capitalization). However, the proper form is capitalized and does not have an apostrophe. For example, Bachelor of Arts and Master of Science.
  • If you’re going on a vacation, you’re a traveler who is traveling (one L, not two).

What are some other good seasonal writing tips! Share them with us in the comments!

Our Favorite Pittsburgh Things: Pittsburgh Marathon Weekend

The 2015 Dick’s Sporting Good Pittsburgh Marathon weekend is here!

Runners and walkers will be celebrating as they cross the race’s finish line, just two blocks from the Yearick-Millea office.

About 30,000 people are participating in the weekend’s different events—5K, kid races, and a pet walk on Saturday, May 2, and the marathon, half marathon, and marathon relay on Sunday, May 3. Race participants get to experience Pittsburgh in an amazing way—running across the city’s numerous bridges and diverse neighborhoods.

Runners take the opportunity to give it all they have and achieve their goals after months of training, while the streets will come alive with thousands of spectators and volunteers cheering on their loved ones and strangers alike. The family-friendly Eat’n Park Finish Line Festival at Point State Park also is a great way to unwind after the races.

The GNC Live Well Pittsburgh Health and Fitness Expo, held Friday and Saturday, May 1 and 2, at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, is another event that everyone can enjoy. Focusing on all aspects of health and wellness for people of all ages, the expo offers Pittsburgh-themed gear and apparel for those who want to show off their Pittsburgh pride.

Are you participating in any of the marathon weekend events? Tell us in the comments!

2014 Pittsburgh Marathon

2014 Pittsburgh Marathon

Generate Ideas With These Brainstorming Techniques

Public relations, marketing and advertising professionals do quite a bit of brainstorming to generate ideas for content, campaigns, events and media pitches. Some ideas come easier than others, so here are a few tips to help you brainstorm when you get stuck (or even just as general practice):

  1. Think Like Someone Else—Put yourself in someone else’s shoes when you’re trying to come up with ideas. Whether you’re working on a project that would appeal to someone who is from a different generation than you are, or someone in a different profession, take the time to think like someone else. For example, if you’re brainstorming ideas for a media pitch, outline what you think a reporter would want to know about your client and frame your story idea/pitch around that. Or if you have a product that you need to market to a specific audience, talk to someone within that audience to get some informal thoughts.
  1. Brain Writing—Just as with writer’s block, writing freely about whatever comes to mind can help you generate ideas. Set aside 10 minutes and write down every idea you have, whether or not you like it. Take a step back and revisit your list after a few minutes. Looking at it with a fresh set of eyes might help you expand on some of the ideas.
  1. Reverse Thinking—Rather than trying to come up with solutions for your clients, thinking about potential problems could be a good way to brainstorm. For example, instead of asking, “How can I make my client’s website more user-friendly?” ask “How can I create a horrible user experience?” and make a list. Once you have your list of ways to create a bad client website, generate solutions for all the items.
  1. Group Sessions—As they say, “Two heads are better than one.” Sometimes, individual brainstorming leads to a dead end, so it’s a good idea to enlist some help from your colleagues and coworkers. Bounce ideas off of each other and don’t be afraid to vocalize your thoughts. A little bit of teamwork can take an incomplete thought and turn it into something great.

What techniques do you try when you’re brainstorming? Let us know in the comments!

5 Tips for Overcoming Writer’s Block

It’s no secret that public relations, marketing, advertising and other communications professionals write a lot. Here at Yearick-Millea, we work on a variety of writing assignments for clients, whether it’s in the form of press releases, social media posts, proposals, website content, blogs or slogans.

However, a writing assignment for a client could turn into a stressful experience if writer’s block hits. Instead of panicking, follow these five tips to help your ideas flow:

  1. Write down ideas—Carry a small notepad and pen with you so you can jot down notes and ideas as they come to you throughout the day, and be as detailed as possible. If you don’t want to carry anything extra, type ideas into your phone. When you’re ready to start writing, you can reference them. You might think an idea is too good to forget, but don’t risk it.
  1. Step away or sleep on it—If you don’t have an immediate deadline for the assignment, set it aside for a little bit. Eat your lunch or take a short walk break to clear your mind, or go to bed and start fresh in the morning (don’t forget to take note of ideas you might have during this time). The concept of stepping away should not be used as an excuse to procrastinate, though. Remember you’re taking a small break to help propel you in the writing process rather than simply trying to put it off until later.
  1. Organize your thoughts/ideas—Make an outline of the thoughts and ideas you’ve managed to compile. You might find that some are more cohesive while others don’t seem to fit. Focus on those that mesh well and start to build on them. However, you shouldn’t immediately discard the ideas that aren’t blending well. They might come in handy later on in the planning process when you have a better grasp on what you’re going to write about, or they might even be something you can work off of for a future project/assignment.
  1. Write—It might seem silly to tell someone to write when they’re having trouble writing, but this step can help get you into the practice of it. Start by writing freely about whatever comes to mind. Because these words aren’t intended for a client or publication, don’t worry about a specific topic or your grammar. You can also find other writing exercises online that can help get you in a creative mindset.
  1. Unplug—When you start writing, put your phone away, shut off email notifications and close all other tabs on your computer. A good writing streak could easily be broken by a minor distraction, which could bring back that writer’s block. WordPress and other applications have “distraction-free” features that block everything but your written words from the computer screen. Take advantage of similar functions if you find that you have a hard time focusing.

 What do you do when you have writer’s block? Share your ideas with us in the comments!

Our Favorite Pittsburgh Things: Downtown

The City of Pittsburgh is no stranger to receiving accolades—whether it’s being named the most livable city, one of the most affordable cities or one of the best cities for recreation.

This week, Livability’s 2015 list of the top 10 best downtowns in America revealed what we at Yearick-Millea already know—Pittsburgh is No. 1. Livability applauds Pittsburgh’s low vacancy rates, its walkable neighborhoods and its high concentration of cultural amenities, including many that have made our own favorites list:

We’re proud to work in this city! As always, continue to check back for more posts highlighting our favorite Pittsburgh things.

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Four Ways Public Relations & Social Media Should Work Together

It’s no secret that public relations and social media are (or should be) a crucial part of a company or brand’s strategy for success. Though both areas are different, they share the common goal of positively communicating on behalf of a company or brand, and both are becoming more and more intertwined.

Here are a couple of ways that they can work hand in hand:

  • Public relations professionals work hard to pitch ideas and content to media outlets on behalf of their clients. If pitches are successful and clients/products are featured in a news article, magazine, TV spot or blog post, share those successes on social media. Not only do you maximize exposure to that content, but it’s a way to make a connection with the media outlet that published it.
  • If your client has an online newsroom, share links to distributed press releases on their social media profiles. If you want to take it a bit further, repurpose the content in the press release. For example, if you distribute photo caption sheets, take some of those stellar images and post them on Pinterest while linking back to the release.
  • If your client is hosting an event, chances are that you’re distributing press releases, fliers and calendar postings to alert the masses. Consider creating an event on Facebook and inviting fans. You can gauge how many people are interested based on the RSVPs, and it’ll give your client, as the host, an opportunity to engage with the audience and answer any questions people might have. If your client is gearing up to attend an important industry event—like a trade show or expo— your press release might announce their attendance, but this is a great opportunity to make the announcement on LinkedIn or encourage them to join an existing event/thread on social media to make connections before they even get there.
  • Great engagement on social media profiles can lead to amazing public relations opportunities. Having a real conversation with someone and creating a relationship is what public relations is all about. These days, reporters and other media outlets can generate an entire story based on the conversations and communication they see on social media sites. Don’t be afraid to issue statements on your profile, and don’t be surprised if a media outlet highlights it in an article.

How else do you use public relations and social media together? Feel free to share in the comments section!