Category Archives: Public Relations

PR Trends to Look Out for in 2016

As 2015 comes to a close, we’re taking a look at recent trends and new technologies that we can incorporate into our clients’ public relations plans for 2016. The industry has certainly gone through quite a transformation in recent years due to the growth of social media, and that plays a strong role in the strategies being used in the PR world as well. What developments should be most prominent in the coming year? Here are a few that we believe will support PR efforts throughout 2016.

Mobile Content

  • Where do most people receive information these days? Whether checking email or social media sites, our digital devices – cell phones, tablets, etc. – are the center of our lives for communication and they’ve become instrumental in spreading news. This past spring, Google began using mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal that ultimately means that those sites not optimized for mobile would be ranked lower and lower. The push from Google will force companies to develop mobile-friendly content, so responsive design and embedded videos will become standard and expected. Use this technology as a way to connect with your audience and the billions of mobile-device users anywhere and at any time.

Visual Content

  • Visual elements tell a story and add emotion, prompting your audience to drive the visibility of your message. Educational and instructional videos are great tools to provide to a customer, perhaps based on a new product or service being offered. In fact, the videos that are gaining popularity are actually user-generated videos, not necessarily those that are finely produced and staged. We all have access to quality cameras through our phones now, which create more meaningful videos and photos.

 

If sending a press release, make sure that a photo, logo, infographic, or video is included as well. Those types of visuals engage reporters and increase the likelihood of landing placements in print, but especially online. Since PR and social media efforts typically tend to support one another, visuals are also great tools to carry over onto social sharing sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Take the time to evaluate what tools worked for you in 2015, and don’t be afraid to take some risks in 2016! Whether your business is B2B or B2C, working in fresh, new strategies will help make your business relevant.

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?

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.

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!

The Importance of Accuracy in Public Relations

As public relations and marketing professionals, we spend a lot of our time distributing information to the public on behalf of our clients—whether it’s via a press release, print collateral, website content, social media or other outlets.

But it’s important for that information to be accurate. As we’ve covered in a previous blog, accuracy is a crucial aspect of ethical behavior within the industry, and distributing false information could ruin the credibility of your firm or client.

In 2010, BP’s credibility took several blows as statements issued to the public addressing the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill were challenged and proven to be wrong.

However, the distribution of false information isn’t always an intentional action. Working with clients in a variety of industries, public relations and marketing experts are tasked with learning about those industries—whether or not we’ve had previous experience with them or knowledge about them in the past—in order to assist with communications efforts.

If you’re working on a project for a client and you don’t understand something, ask them for clarification. For example, if you’re working on a press release about a new product launch, but you don’t comprehend what the product is or what it does, reach out to the client before you start writing. If you don’t, you might be sending the client a draft of copy full of inaccuracies, and you’ll have to start from scratch once they’ve reviewed it. The client should appreciate your desire to get the information right much more than your ability to “wing it.”

Similarly, your relationship with journalists could be negatively impacted if they discover multiple inaccuracies in your content or if they publish the wrong information directly from the release you sent—even if the mistakes were not intentional.

Luckily, most organizations have an approval process in place before any type of information is distributed or published on their behalf, but there’s always a chance for incorrect information to slip through the cracks.

Avoid making careless mistakes by proofreading your content, asking the client for clarification if you need it and checking your facts—especially names, dates, statistics and even basic facts. Remember that not all sources are credible, reputable or up-to-date when you’re verifying information online.

Do you have any other tips that help promote the distribution of accurate content? What tools do you use to check your facts? Let us know in the comments!

Formatting the Press Release: Titles

When you send a press release or media alert, the ultimate goal is for publications to pick up the information and distribute it to their audiences. The information is critical to the message you want to convey, and so is its presentation.  In this series, we discuss tips to help you appropriately format press releases for publication. Your media contacts will appreciate it!

Titles come in all different forms—headlines, job titles, group names—so it can be confusing to get them all straight. Here are some quick rules to remember when you’re writing titles in a press release:

Capitalization 

All principal words in a title—whether it be for a book, article, movie, website, seminar name, etc.—should be capitalized. Prepositions and conjunctions of four or more letters also are capitalized. For example: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Remember that certain titles should be placed within quotation marks, while others should be italicized. 

Headlines

Capitalize only the first word, proper nouns and proper abbreviations. Bold headlines in press releases (don’t underline or italicize them). For example: New PRSA stylebook offers writing tips

Job Titles

There are different rules regarding the capitalization of job titles depending on when they are mentioned.

  • Capitalize a title before a name if there is no comma in between: Director of City Planning Beth Vaughn
  • Lowercase if there is a comma in between the name and title: New York’s director of city planning, Beth Vaughn
  • Lowercase after a name: Beth Vaughn, director of city planning, New York
  • Job titles that include functions should be lowercase unless the function is a branded product: Beth Vaughn, director, city planning, New York
  • Lowercase if it’s not paired with a name: New York’s director of city planning will review the plans.

For more information, check out the Public Relations Society of America’s style guide at www.prsa.org/AboutPRSA/GuidelinesLogos/PRSAStyleGuide.pdf or the Associated Press Stylebook’s website at www.apstylebook.com. Keep reading our blog for more grammar and writing tips!

Ethical Practices On Social Media

As we mentioned last week, September has been named Ethics Awareness Month by the Public Relations Society of America.  As public relations professionals, we must consider ethical practices at all times—especially on social media because of its emerging importance, high visibility and influence on its users.  Content on social media easily reaches people all over the world, and brands use it to build relationships with their audience. That being said, it’s a good idea to have a plan in case you run into some tricky situations. Here are a few things to consider regarding ethics on social media:

  • Best Practices: Take the time to write a social media code of ethics or best practices to avoid getting caught in an ethical dilemma. Think about potential problems that might arise and draft some guidelines for your firm. No two situations are the same, but if you encounter gray areas, having written rules and regulations can help steer you in the right direction.
  • Authenticity, Accuracy and Accountability: Distribute accurate information and avoid making false and/or misleading statements on social media, just as you would in a press release and other marketing materials. Authenticity of voice is especially important when you’re posting or tweeting on behalf of a client. Use real customer/user commentary and testimony versus making it up to make your client look good or relevant. Last week, a publicist came under fire after releasing a fake tape of Joan Rivers promoting “My Son the Waiter, a Jewish Tragedy,” an off-Broadway show. Rivers had been scheduled to record the ad before she died. If you do make a mistake, own up to it and issue an appropriate apology. Some brands have claimed that their social media pages were hacked after publishing content that was not well-received or that was inappropriate. While that is certainly the case sometimes, it shouldn’t be used in an attempt to cover up a social media flub.
  • Keep It Real: On the topic of authenticity, don’t buy Facebook “likes” and Twitter followers to make your page look more successful. Practices such as these are an attempt to cheat the system, and in the long run, they will only hurt your client because you will see little or no return. Sure, your client’s social media pages will have a lot of followers, but your audience will essentially be fraudulent, and it won’t deliver the engagement the page needs.
  • Transparency: Social media pages are meant to be a form of communication between your clients and their audiences. While most brands hope for positive feedback, there are times when they receive negative feedback on their social media pages. It isn’t pleasant, but resist the urge to delete the not-so-nice comments. Unless the comments violate terms of use or cross offensive boundaries, the right thing to do is to leave them and respond in a way that follows your company’s best practices (click here for some tips). Similarly, don’t leave negative feedback (anonymously or not) on competing social media pages. It’s unprofessional and makes your company look bad.

What other ethical issues can arise on social media? Share your ideas and tips with us in the comments.

September is Ethics Awareness Month

The public relations industry can present a variety of challenges and dilemmas, especially when it comes to ethical issues. The Public Relations Society of America has declared that September is Ethics Awareness Month. The organization is spending the month to bring light to the importance of practicing ethical behavior in this profession.

PRSA has a Member Code of Ethics in place designed to anticipate ethical challenges that come up on a regular basis. The PRSA Member Statement of Professional Values – including  Advocacy,  Honesty, Expertise, Independence, Loyalty and Fairness – are the foundations that are meant to guide a PR professional’s behavior.

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(c) Can Stock Photo

As PR professionals, we are hired to act as advocates for our companies and clients by providing credible and honest information to the public. Ethical practices really are at the forefront of every decision made – whether it’s the research and planning of strategic campaigns in an effort to avoid costly mistakes, developing relationships with the media, or determining solutions in the midst of a crisis. One of the biggest challenges faced is technology, as news travels faster than ever through websites and social media networks.

We realize that the public can perceive PR professionals as unethical at times, so we urge our colleagues to visit the PRSA code as a reminder of how to apply those particular values to daily communications strategies.

To read more on the ethics focus throughout the month, follow the Twitter hashtag #PRethics or check out the list of activities provided by PRSA. Participate in these conversations and help to raise the bar of ethics in public relations!

Public Relations or Advertising: When To Choose PR

In an ideal world, every marketing communications plan would include elements of advertising and public relations. In the real world, however, budgets are limited, so marketers often have to choose one tactic over the other. If your resources are limited, here are a few reasons to concentrate them on public relations:

• Cost – Advertising — even in print publications and on websites serving highly specialized and narrow trade industry readership — can be expensive, especially when you factor in the costs associated with creative development, photography, production and more. If executed properly and consistently, a basic public relations program incorporating news releases and targeted pitches can generate lots of “free” coverage for your product or service without the cost of advertising.

• The “news” halo – When an article about your company or product appears online or in a magazine or newspaper, it comes with imprimatur of being news, which inevitably gives it a higher level of credibility with readers than does advertising.

• Ability to target your message to specific media – Most companies want to convey multiple messages about their products or services to different target audiences. A good public relations practitioner understands how to make creative use of that information to craft beat-specific pitches that appeal to a variety of editors, bloggers or reporters. Advertising also is effective for targeted multi-messaging, but exponentially more expensive.

• Multiplicity of channels – With the proliferation of social and electronic media and their insatiable need for content, there are more opportunities than ever to earn editorial coverage for your products and services.

Sounds great, right? Well, like anything, public relations can sound too good to be true. It does have limitations, and there are advantages to advertising that public relations just can’t match. We’ll spell a few of those out in a future blog. In the meantime, if you want to add reasons for choosing PR over advertising (or vice versa), feel free to share them with us.

6 Tips for a Successful Magazine Pitch

Ok, you have a great idea for an article and you’d like to get it published in a specific magazine. Easy enough, right? Nope. The hard part is pitching it to ever-busy editors. Here are six tips for a successful pitch:

1. Research the magazine and editor(s)

It may seem obvious, but make sure you’re familiar with the magazine. Read past issues, know the audience, study the writing style, and browse the website. Also, review the magazine’s editorial calendar for the themes and topics that will be covered in upcoming issues, and think about where your article could fit.

You likely can find email addresses for editors in the magazine or online. Find an editor that is responsible for your topic or department. Remember, there is more of a chance to get a response from an assistant editor than the editor-in-chief.

2. Pitch a story, not an idea

An editor is probably not going to be interested in your idea for an article on a general topic, such as college football. Instead, try pitching a story on the four dark-horse candidates to win the Heisman.

3. Focus on the subject line

The subject line of your email is arguably the most important component of your pitch. Make it short and to the point. For example, “Possible article for November issue?” or “Article pitch: Four candidates to win the Heisman,” can capture an editor’s interest.

4. Send a pre-pitch email

You may or may not have an existing relationship with the editor, so it could be a good idea to send an email to reconnect or introduce yourself. Tell the editor that you were looking over their media kit and have a story on this year’s Heisman hopefuls that would be a great addition to the November issue. Be brief—two or three sentences—and say you’ll follow up in a week with a full pitch. Sometimes, the editor may ask for the article at this point.

5. Prepare the pitch

Think of the pitch as an audition for the editor to judge your writing ability. Write a few compelling paragraphs, starting with a brief summary of the article. Next, explain why the story is a fit for the magazine and its readers. Include a paragraph with details on planned interviews or other articles you’ve written. The closing paragraph should reiterate the article’s topic and why it’s relevant to the reader.

Don’t forget to proofread the email. Aside from checking grammar, make sure the editor’s name is spelled correctly and the right magazine is listed. One little mistake like that can direct your pitch to the trash and your email address to the ignore list.

6. Follow up

Editors are busy, so be proactive—but not annoying—with follow-up emails. If they give you the green light, congrats! If the editor passes on the article, thank them for their time and ask them to keep you in mind for future articles. Remember, pitching an article is not only about editorial placement, it’s also about building a relationship with the editor and magazine.

Do you have any other tips that have helped you successfully pitch an article? Let us know in the comments.