Author Archives | sradick

About sradick

I'm Vice President, Director of Public Relations at Brunner in Pittsburgh. Find out more about me here (http://steveradick.com/about/).

PR Pros: Start Thinking Bigger Before It’s Too Late

This article originally appeared in PR Daily.

I recently had the pleasure of speaking at PRSA Pittsburgh’s Professional Development Day  where I spoke about some of the changes that integrated marketing is having on the PR industry. The part of my presentation that drew the greatest reaction from the mostly entry level and student attendees was when I said that the industry has to stop the incessant whining about how PR doesn’t have a seat at the table or how people just don’t “get PR.” I even shared a great quote from my friend Rick Rice that raised some eyebrows –

“The PR industry is in need of disruptive change and none of this generation are even willing to try.”

All of the issues with today’s PR industry – that we’re an afterthought, that people don’t understand what we do or the value we bring, that anyone can do what we do – are nobody’s fault but our own. For years decades, many public relations professionals have chosen to complain about their lack of participation in the big picture rather than taking charge and forcing their way into it. Here’s a hint for all you young PR pros out there:

Kids Table

Image courtesy of Flickr user terren in Virginia

If you want to sit at the big kid table, start acting like one of the big kids.

What does this mean? Well, to start, it means that you have to start speaking their language. Stop talking about hits, placements, and impressions and start talking about share points, aided and unaided awareness, conversions, leads, and sales. That doesn’t mean that PR is going to be directly responsible for any of these, but it does show that you are invested in the whole of the business, not just your specific workstream. It shows that you can add value beyond the PR section of a deck. Every time a PR pro says “I hate math – that’s why I went into PR,” the industry gets pushed further and further down the ladder.

It means that you have to stop talking about how the sausage is made and start focusing on the impact to the larger business. Have you ever watched a presentation from a brand planner? Compare that to a PR guy’s presentation. The brand planner focuses on the big picture. She gets everyone excited about the insights, the winning strategy and how it leads to the overall end result – the impact that it’s going to have on the business. It’s quick. It’s to the point. It’s visual. But most of all, it’s interesting throughout. The PR guy, on the other hand, will feel the need to justify his existence by diving into the nuts and bolts of each individual tactic. He includes all kinds of bullets and charts and graphs. By the time he’s on phase 3 on slide 14, all of the excitement has been sucked out of the room. He’s now trained everyone in the room to believe that PR is small and tactical rather than big and impactful.

It also means that you have to stop rushing to quick wins and slow down. Before launching into your PR ideas, strategies and tactics, ask to see the overall marketing plan. Ask to see the brand’s business objectives. Ask to see the proof behind the copy points in the ads. Ask if you can talk with customers and employees to learn more about what makes the brand unique. Stop trying to rush around so that you can get some results, any results. Slow down, do your research, understand the business. Make it a required part of the PR process. Don’t give in. As an industry, we have to stop asking “how high?” anytime a client or account manager says jump or we’re never going to get the respect we deserve.

Now that brands can pay to secure native content in The New York Times, The Atlantic, and the Wall Street Journal that achieves similar (if not better) statistics as traditional editorial content, the value proposition of a PR pro has to change. As publishers get better and better at integrating native advertising both effectively and ethically, the PR pro’s old standby – “earned coverage has a lot more credibility paid media” – starts to erode. Given the choice between reallocating some of my paid media dollars to native advertising content, where my impressions, message, and CTAs are guaranteed, in a format that is achieving similar traffic, what’s the incentive to trying to earn editorial coverage where I have none of those guarantees and potentially open my brand up to a negative article? Saving a few dollars? That might work for smaller brands without a large media budget, but what about the big brands with millions of dollars?

Some of us have added things like social media, content marketing, media buying, and SEO/SEM to our resumes to try to stay ahead of the curve but these are short-term, tactical solutions. We have to think bigger, beyond the execution of these roles. We have to understand consumer’s entire journey with the the brand’s category and what, if any role, the brand should play at each stage. In a world where transparency and authenticity have become marketing hallmarks, PR has to think of itself less as a workstream and more as a mindset that’s integrated across everything a brand does.

Someone needs to understand how all of these different parts work together. Why can’t PR assume the role of multi-channel quarterback?

What if PR served as a kind of corporate ombudsman, there to call bullshit on the hyperbolic marketing language and “hit you over the head” marketing tactics?

What if (gasp!) PR led your creative?

What if PR, the people who know the public better than anyone, helped shape a brand’s products and services?

What would happen if we started thinking bigger?

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Running a PR Department vs. Running a PR Agency

Picture courtesy of Flickr user popculturegeek

The PR skillsets and attitudes differ whether you’re leading a PR agency or you’re leading a PR department in an integrated agency

Running a PR department within a larger agency is very different from running your own PR agency. From the employees that are hired to the way PR is even talked about, the skillsets don’t necessarily translate from one to the other. Try to run your department like an agency and watch as you slowly isolate your team from the rest of the agency, leaving adversarial relationships in your wake. Run your agency like a department and get ready for lots of frustration when you’re unable to expand and scale your work. After leading a number of PR and social media teams within large organizations as well as working with a number of people who run their own agencies, I’ve realized that while both roles may have the Director title, the two roles are very different in a few fundamental ways.

  • Bigger isn’t necessarily better. Doubling the number of people on my team isn’t a success metric. Sure, I’m always looking to grow the agency’s business, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the PR business should also get larger. Sometimes, growing the PR business on a particular account may not be part of the agency’s strategy. Sometimes, securing another PR-led account might mean I’m not able to dedicate the time/talent to other integrated accounts.
  • PR vs. PR. There’s no single definition for what PR should or shouldn’t entail. In many organizations, it’s everything – media relations, investor relations, events, social media, web content, etc. In others, it’s only one or more of these. In an integrated agency, you have to understand what aspect of PR you’re responsible for and what other agencies are responsible for and work with them. In many cases, I’ve found myself working right alongside another PR agency because they’re responsible for the client’s overall corporate communications whereas my team is responsible for the earned media portion of an integrated campaign.
  • PR isn’t always the answer. There’s no hammer searching for a nail here. When you’re leading your own PR agency, you’re always advocating for your agency and trying to secure additional hours/scope. In an integrated agency, you have to not only understand PR, but also paid media, SEO and SEM, Digital, Social Media, User Experience, etc. You have an entire toolbox of capabilities at your disposal and you have to understand how and when and where to leverage them all.
  • Learn to give to get. Sometimes when I’m part of these huge client meetings, I’ll say something like, “you know, I’ve got $10K in my budget that I could slide over to the Digital team if that would help get the site up and running on time.” People will still look at me like I have three heads. “You’re giving away the PR budget????” Well yeah, if there’s another strategy or tactic that will help meet our business objectives, why wouldn’t I? When you’re working in an integrated agency, you have to understand that whatever money you take is coming from someone else’s budget. Show a willingness to share budgets and resources with other departments and it’ll come back to you, often from departments with much deeper pockets.
  • Your clients are brand managers, not PR people. There are going to be times where you absolutely kill it from a PR perspective and it won’t matter one bit to the client. You might be uber-excited about that opportunity you’ve secured with that morning show, only to have your client shrug his/her shoulders and say “eh, we’ll pass.” The hits, the placements, the coverage that gets PR people all excited doesn’t always have the same effect on people who are responsible for the overall marketing campaign. To them, every dollar that gets spent on trying to earn media is a dollar that could be spent paying for guaranteed media. You have to understand and empathize with their plight and figure out ways to fit PR into that mindset rather than getting frustrated that they “don’t understand PR.”

As more and more agencies integrate paid, owned, earned, and social media in their own ways, the PR professional needs to evolve accordingly, especially those in senior level positions. It’s one thing to have a leadership role at a PR agency, but unfortunately, many of those lessons learned and best practices no longer apply to leadership roles at a PR department in an integrated agency.

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This Guy Moves to Pittsburgh and You Won’t Believe What Happens Next

If you follow me on LinkedIn or Facebook or Twitter, you already know that I recently decided to become the Director of PR at Brunner in my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA. I was with Cramer-Krasselt for more than two years and can’t thank everyone there enough for the opportunities I was given and for everything I learned there. But having three kids under the age of 4 will force you to change your perspective on a few things, and for me, one of those things was the distance between my family in Chicago and the rest of my family back in Pittsburgh.

I’ve already started diving into our client accounts and new business pitches so before I get too busy to blog here (more on that in my next post), I wanted to give my new colleagues a quick primer on the new guy who won’t shut up in their meetings. And because I keep hearing that no one will read anything unless it’s a listicle and the headline piques your curiosity, here are 19 things you need to know about me:

  1. I have three daughters – a four-year-old (Annabelle) and two 7 month old twins (Kendall and Callan)
  2. Edward Snowden and I share the same former employer
  3. I was once profiled as a “Corporate Rebel”
  4. The only movies I’ve cried at are Rudy and Hoosiers
  5. I started Booz Allen’s unofficial Yammer community and helped take it to more than 7,000 members before it became an official corporate tool
  6. I listen to way too much 90s rap and R&B
  7. My daughter Annabelle had a Twitter account and was featured on FedNewsRadio before she was even born
  8. I used to have a Top Secret security clearance
  9. I went to college in West Virginia, but am a Pitt fan
  10. For the last 11 years, I’ve lived in DC and Chicago, but I’ve still made it to at least one Pirates, Penguins, and Steelers game every single year
  11. I can’t stand onions, mayonnaise, or sour cream
  12. You can almost always find some sort of gummy candy in my desk
  13. My wife and I met when I was a freshman in college and she was a prospective student
  14. I use sports analogies about as often as Pedro Alvarez commits an error
  15. I’m a big proponent of asking for forgiveness rather than permission
  16. I think we’ve forgotten that good PR is ultimately about relationships with people not likes, clicks, or shares
  17. If I’m not saying these things enough to my team, call me on it
  18. I ask a lot of my team, but one thing I insist on is honesty and candor
  19. Someday, I’m going to try out for American Ninja Warrior

If you’re reading this and you’re one of my new colleagues at Brunner, drop me a line, follow me on Twitter, connect with me on LinkedIn, or stop by my desk and let me know a little about you too!

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Stop Wasting Years of Your Life, Social Media Strategists

This article originally appeared in PR Daily.

If you work in the marketing industry (“social media” is not an industry), you’ve probably either read or heard about this anonymous piece in Digiday and either scoffed at or empathized with the author’s plight.

If you haven’t, here are two of the most resonant points:

I sat in a brainstorm. We came up with a bunch of content ideas for our brands’ social channels—images, GIFs, and lines of witty copy. I went back to my desk, opened a container of leftover lo mein, and realized I’d wasted the last four years of my life.

And:

The underlying issue is that social departments place too much value on engagement. Those “likes,” “comments,” “shares,” “re-tweets,” and “pins” are the metrics that social content creators use to (1) judge success and (2) dictate what future content looks like. Here’s the catch. The people who are engaging with that content are predominantly worthless.

As someone who works at an agency that provides similar support to our clients, I empathized. I’ve been that anonymous author. I’ve lived that life. I feel your pain, anonymous author.

Here’s the thing, though: Empathy and pity aren’t going to solve the problem.

frabz-like-and-share-if-you-love-your-grandma-ignore-if-you-want-grand-dafc21Instead of going back to our leftover lo mein to come up with more variations of “Keep Calm and Carry On” posts while questioning our life choices, I figured it would be more productive to offer tips on how to get out ourselves and our clients out of this rut. (Unless your job and/or bonus depends on amassing more “likes,” fans, and followers—in which case, have I got a lead for you.)

First things first—stop taking yourself so seriously. You’re managing Facebook and Instagram, not performing brain surgery. Stop thinking your customers are waiting with bated breath for your content. They’re not.

Stop treating your social media like paid media, and start treating it for what it is—a place for brands to come out of their ivory towers and interact, listen, talk, and share with their customers. Experiment. Be on your customers’ journey with them. Try new things. Engage in actual conversations. Act as though you actually care about what your customers need and want rather than what will get the most “likes.”

“But,” you say, “my client/boss wants to see the ROI of our efforts and if I can’t show the numbers going up, our budgets are going to get cut/I’m going to get fired!”

Here’s where you change the conversation. Review the metrics you’ve been using, and throw them away. Build a new key performance indicator chart, one that’s actually tied to your business goals.

If your goal is to increase e-commerce sales, show how much traffic is coming in through your social channels. If your goal is to improve your brand’s online reputation, point to the quality of the search results. If your goal is to increase awareness, point to the total number of mentions across all media channels. If your goal is customer service, track how many cases you’ve resolved via social media. If your boss/client gives you a hard time about wanting to see more “likes,” comments, and pins, that’s because you haven’t given her any other metrics from which to judge success. Figure out what role you think social media should be playing for your organization and measure against that.

You also should work with everyone in the marketing mix. Figure out what role social media plays in that regard. Figure out how you can use social media to help advance the other areas. Figure out how they can help advance social media. As a component of marketing, social media does not exist in a vacuum—and neither can you.

Rather than fighting for more dollars, headcount, or attention, look at the bigger picture and take a realistic view of where social media can and should fit in. It’s quite possible you’re stuck in this never-ending loop of crappy content because you have a much bigger budget than that of other areas and your clients (internal and external) want to get their money’s worth.

Don’t be afraid to look at the bigger picture and say: “What if we took some of the money we have allocated to Facebook ads and reallocated that to PR so that we can get some more earned media coverage? That would, in turn, drive more social engagement, because we’d be tapping into those publications’ social media channels, too.”

Finally, be ready to find and create content that makes your brand/organization unique. Everyone and everything has a story, so instead of following some social media guru’s best practices formula for online content that will increase followers, friends, and comments, think about the story you want to share and the conversations your customers actually want to have.

When building your social media content calendar, create and share content about your organization’s history, or the “why” behind some of your business decisions, or your organizational culture, your causes, or new product uses. Maybe it’s just to ask them what they think; you might be surprised at what you find out. If you’re scared of how your “fans” will react, you have problems that go beyond social media.

The Digiday piece struck a chord with so many because we’ve let our excitement for these channels overtake our better judgment. All is not lost—let’s not resign ourselves to a fate of leftover lo mein and crappy content. Let’s admit our faults, adjust our mindsets, and push forward.

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