Tag Archives: public relations

31 ‘New Clues’ for PR Practitioners

February 23, 2015

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This post originally appeared on PR Daily

book-midFifteen years ago, “The Cluetrain Manifesto,” one of the most important business books of the Internet generation, took the world by storm.

Last month, two of that book’s authors, Doc Searls and David Weinberger, created the “New Clues,” an updated perspective on how the Internet affects marketing, PR and technology.

As I read over the “New Clues,” I thought about the original “Cluetrain” and reflected on how uneducated so many marketers remain to this day. I was wrong to look at the original “Cluetrain” as predictions of what was to come. They were, as the “New Clues” are today, a rallying cry for how things could and should be. These clues challenge readers to stop and consider the world-changing potential the Internet continues to have rather than defaulting to what we’ve always done.

Today’s public relations pros require their own rallying cry. Since the original “Cluetrain” came out, we’ve watched the journalism industry crumble, allowed social media to be taken over by marketers, and seen the rise of native advertising.

It’s do or die time for PR. We have to stop pining for how things used to be and instead take advantage of the opportunities right in front of us.

Maybe these 31 clues will help kickstart your brain and get you thinking bigger. Maybe they’ll be something you share with your teams as I did with the original Cluetrain. At a minimum, I hope they help replace some cynicism with a bit of optimism.

  1. Let’s say it together: PR does not equal media relations.
  2. Impressions, Advertising Value Equivalencies (AVE), hits, clips, reach, and engagement statistics can be manipulated (or even made up) to say anything we want. Clients are starting to understand this, too.
  3. We become what we measure. And what we’re measuring is garbage.
  4. That segment you secured on “The Rachael Ray Show” is great, but how exactly does that reach the target demographic of 45-year-old, single, male truck drivers?
  5. Bragging about the number of media placements and impressions you got is like bragging about the number of hours you worked. Neither number necessarily means you accomplished anything for the organization.
  6. Just because we can measure and optimize something doesn’t always mean we should.
  7. If you’re tired of your client continually asking you for more hits, impressions, or “likes,” show him the metrics that he should be paying attention to, maybe even metrics that are tied to his business goals.
  8. If we aren’t going to educate our clients on how they should measure PR success, who will?
  9. When trust in the media is at its lowest point in history, talking up “third-party credibility” doesn’t exactly conjure up images of Cronkite or Woodward and Bernstein.
  10. If we showed half as much interest in our client’s sales figures as we did to our last media placement, we’d be more likely to get that seat at the table we’re always asking about.
  11. Thanks for running through your comprehensive PR plan. Since you included every last detail, I can tell you put in a lot of work, but by slide 79, I needed a second cup of coffee just to make it through the presentation.
  12. If you’re going to talk about the value of one-on-one relationships in your proposal, try to wait at least a few days before you send the same press release to a thousand people on behalf of that client you just won.
  13. If relationships are so important, why do I only hear from PR people when they’re trying to sell me on something?
  14. Let’s put our money where our mouth is and require our teams to cultivate and maintain those relationships, even if it’s not during billable time.
  15. Given the choice between native advertising content, where impressions, message, and calls to action are guaranteed, what’s the incentive to allocating dollars to PR where not only do these guarantees not exist, the brand is opening itself up to substantial risk?
  16. Media placements in The New York Times or Time magazine don’t mean nearly as much to cost-focused clients when they can cut a check and get the same coverage with more control.
  17. Integrated marketing involves a lot more than simply bringing the SEO guy to the meeting.
  18. You do know that “writing” means more than just copying and pasting lines from a variety of previously approved materials, right?
  19. Writing in AP style and using the inverted pyramid is great, but you know what’s even better? Writing something that someone will want to read and maybe even share.
  20. 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.
  21. Act as though you actually care about what your customers need and want rather than what will get the most “likes.”
  22. If you’re afraid of what customers might say about your brand if you ask them, you’ve got bigger problems than what to put on your content calendar.
  23. The most powerful phrase for a PR pro, in any medium, to anyone, is simply, “How can I help you?”
  24. Unfortunately, that won’t help our metrics so instead we’ll upload an image of a cat holding a sign that says “I haz help for you” with a search-optimized caption for our brand.
  25. Before you talk about your organization needing to be more “authentic” and “transparent,”you might want to take a peek behind the curtain. What’s authentic about your organization might be greed, scandal and obliviousness.
  26. On your next list of target audiences, include “employees.” Things will go much easier if you consider them before they learn what’s happening to their jobs from the local news anchor.
  27. PR had the opportunity to take the lead with social media and fundamentally change the way organizations communicate with people. Instead, we let marketers take control and turn it into an arms race for “likes,” fans, and followers.
  28. You’ve probably already told the guys writing the checks that if they took half the money they’re spending on banner ads and put it toward providing better customer service, they’d make their money back ten-fold. Keep telling them.
  29. And no, the customer doesn’t care that customer service is handled by another department with a separate budget. They’ll happily take their business elsewhere, and drop you a #fail tweet before they go.
  30. Is this why you really got into PR? Haggling with mommy bloggers over sponsored posts and creating Facebook meme photos?
  31. Even when “big data” becomes “huge data” and “mega data,” and our cars are driving themselves, PR will still be more art than science. It will still be about human-to-human interaction.
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PR Pros: Start Thinking Bigger Before It’s Too Late

November 24, 2014

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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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How a New Communications Graduate Can Stand Out

May 26, 2013

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Image courtesy of Flickr user stevendepolo

It’s graduation season and once again, the resume, internship, and informational interview requests are rolling in. You’ve just graduated with a degree in communications, advertising, PR, or marketing, and have joined the thousands of other grads in competition for hundreds of entry level jobs and internships. It’s a tough market out there and I don’t envy the position you’re in at all. On the one hand, you’re being told you need to have experience to get the job, but to get that experience, you need a job. It’s a Catch-22 that many people never figure out, leading to them either going back to school hoping things will be easier with an advanced degree (they won’t) or giving up hope entirely.

As someone who has reviewed hundreds of resumes and hired a number of entry level folks over the years, I wanted to share five things that make those resumes stand out to me:

  1. Internships located away from your hometown and college - Ultimately, it’s the quality of the internship that is most important – did you get a chance to hold real responsibility? Interact directly with clients? Learn from respected professionals? Aside from that, one of the things that catches my eye is when I see that your internship was located in another city, away from your familiar surroundings. It shows me that you’re willing to take a risk, to go after an opportunity even if it’s not the easiest path, and that you can do it and come out better for it on the other side. There’s nothing wrong with taking the internship that will get you your college credits – with a local business, a family friend, or even with your own college, but if you want to stand out, consider taking that internship that’s a little bit scary and totally outside your comfort zone. After all, if you get a job in this industry, that’s pretty much where you’ll be every day – might as well get used to it now.
  2. Specific, detailed examples - One of my pet peeves is when I read resumes that read like job descriptions. Don’t spell out your job duties in a laundry list of bullets telling me what you were hired to do. Tell me what you did do. Rather than taking five bullets to tell me that you wrote press releases, managed social media sites, created media guides, and pitched media, tell me a story. How many press releases did you write? Can you link to them? What were the results? How many social media sites did you manage? What types of content did you share? What were the results? How many media guides did you create? How were they used? If you pitched media, was it local, regional, or national? Where were the results? What was your approach?
  3. An active, professional online presence – Link to your blog, your Facebook page, your Twitter profile, your Tumblr, your LinkedIn profile – anything that will give me more information than what’s on your resume. Every new grad has a resume. Not as many have a credible, professional online presence. And please, at least make it look like these profiles weren’t started the day after you graduated. The people who have built and maintained their online presence over a long period of time will stand out over someone with no search results at all.
  4. A point of view on…something – If you’re going to have an online presence, make it worth something. Pretty much all recent grads have a decent resume. Most have a LinkedIn profile. Some have an About.me or similar site, but very few have a point of view on something related to marketing, advertising, or PR. You’ve got fresh eyes. You haven’t been jaded by years of bureaucracy, clients, and budgets. What needs to be changed? What do you want to accomplish? What are your thoughts on the future of social media? Are you a PR specialist? Then start a blog and talk about your thoughts on the industry. Get on Twitter and share your thoughts on the latest PR crisis. Share links to articles you’re reading on Facebook. This isn’t rocket science. If you’re a graphic designer, talk about the latest trends in graphic design. Share your opinion on who’s doing it right. Show me your thoughts and beliefs and what sets you apart from the hundreds of other people who claim to do that as well.
  5. A recognizable name – And by a name, I mean your name. It’s pretty easy to find the names, blogs, Twitter accounts, and LinkedIn profiles of people working at the organization you’re applying to. Before blindly filling out some form, attaching your resume and hitting submit, do some research first. Comment on the blog posts of the people in the department you’re applying to. Follow them on Twitter. Share one of their status updates with your network. That way, when your resume hits their desk, you’re not just another applicant, you’re that person who’s been making those insightful comments on your blog or retweeting your tweets.

There are a lot of new graduates and not a lot of available positions. Working three or four internships even after graduating is common. Many will get frustrated and give up. Don’t let a boring, run-of-the-mill resume keep you from reaching your potential. Spend some time now updating your resume and online presence to set yourself apart. Even that may not be enough to get you the job, but it should at least help you get your resume printed out and put on the boss’s desk a lot more often.

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Ten “Boring” PR Skills You Need to Have

November 9, 2012

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A few weeks ago, I was talking to some college students about PR, advertising, living in Chicago, and the work I'm doing at C-K. They loved hearing about the work that we've done with Corona, Porsche, and Cedar Fair. We talked about branding, TV commercials, media tours, and social media. By the end of our conversation, they were all telling me that I had their dream job and were asking me if we had any openings. At this point, I was feeling pretty proud of myself – after all, this was a much cooler reaction than when I'd regale them with stories of working with the IRS or the TSA. However, when I got got back to my office, I realized that I did those students a disservice. I got them all excited about riding roller coasters, drinking beer, and driving fast cars, but failed to mention the really fun stuff that I do every day. 

You want to get really excited about PR? Check out my budget spreadsheets and staff forecasting tools! Join me as I write a statement of work and analyze row after row of statistics! Excited yet? Maybe you'd rather stay at the office until 8PM writing a performance review? 

The best PR pros do a lot more than Tweeting, drinking with press contacts, and attending events. That might be what got you into the industry, but if you want to move up the ladder, you better sharpen these ten boring PR skills too. 

You may think these things are about as exciting as watching grass grow, but you'll want to learn these things if you want to keep growing.

  1. Manage Upward. Do you know how to pitch new ideas and get fast approval to try them? Can you manage your boss and his/her time so they don't become a bottleneck? Learn what makes your boss tick. Learn how they work so that you can expedite getting things done when you want to try something new. Gain their trust so are empowered to take risks and know they've got your back. 
  2. Manage your time. How many hours does it take you to write a press release? Do you know how to estimate how long it will take you to do something and then manage your own workload to get that job done on time? One of the best skills a junior person can develop is the ability to accurately estimate how long it will take them to do a job. 
  3. Give feedback. Do you know how to give honest, constructive feedback to a colleague? To your boss? Learn how to give both positive and negative feedback. This goes beyond saying "good job" – it means giving feedback so that people are motivated to do better. It means giving feedback so that they learn from their mistakes without feeling like an idiot. 
  4. Analyze statistics. Do you know how to make sense out of a mess of numbers? Can you comb through a bunch of spreadsheets and tables to find something meaningful? Learn how to analyze data, but even more than that, learn how to distill it down to laymen's terms. 
  5. Build and manage a budget. Do you know how to allocate $10,000 to get the job done? How many hours do you need? How many hours does your Assistant Account Executive need? How much of that should be allocated to hard costs like giveaways or vendor fees? Learn about hourly rates, profit margins, and scopes of work. Learn how to adjust on the fly and reallocate costs as needed while still staying under budget. 
  6. Delegate. You aren't scalable. You may think you're a hard worker and that you'll do whatever it takes, but at some point, you're going to realize you can't do it on your own. Learn how to delegate work to other people. Learn how to accept that other people may do things differently than you, but that doesn't make them wrong. Learn how to leverage your team's strengths and understand their weaknesses so that you use everyone's time most efficiently. 
  7. Develop and manage a project plan. Can you break up a big project into small tasks, assign them deadlines and then manage to those deadlines? Learn how to create a project plan that integrates deliverables, interim deadlines and costs and how to manage against that. This goes for small projects and multi-million dollar accounts. I've used project plans to help plan my work for everything from website content to huge accounts with multiple workstreams. 
  8. Work remotely. Can you be productive from your couch? How about on a plane? In line? Learn how to maximize your productivity when you're not in the office. I'm not just talking about using technology like wireless cards, cell phones, and video conferencing. I'm talking about knowing how to manage your work so that you're able to take an early weekend because you know you've scheduled your conference calls for while you're on the road. I'm talking about using your time on the plane to write your blog posts or catch up on your RSS reader.
  9. Ask for help. I don't care how smart you are or how hard you work – you're going to need someone's help at some point. Maybe it's because they've got a skillset or experience you need. Maybe it's because you're on vacation and need someone to handle a client crisis. Learn that you don't have to do everything on your own. Learn how to ask for help before it's too late. 
  10. Write a performance review. Sooner or later, you're going to have to write someone's performance review or at the very least, contribute to one. Many organizations have implemented 360-degree reviews where you may be responsible for collecting feedback and writing a colleague's review. Learn how to objectively solicit feedback about someone else, analyze that data and write an objective review of that person's work.  

What other "boring" skills would you add to this list? The opportunity to pitch an idea to the producers of the Today Show or to go bar-hopping with the editors of Maxim may be what got you interested PR in the first place, but those opportunities only happen once someone has done the dirty work first. Someone has to build the strategy, develop the project plan, allocate the resources, manage the budget, and get someone to sign off on the idea before you're going to get the opportunity to make that call. Learn these boring skills now so that you can contribute to the entire process, not just the fun stuff at the end. 

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