I remember when I was a kid my mother telling me, “Don’t sign your name to anything that you wouldn’t be afraid of appearing one day on the front page of the New York Times.” How true these words of wisdom were then, and how they still apply to developing and maintaining a positive public relations image.
Today, with the advent of the internet, it seems that everyone is obsessed with themselves—and others—from constant social media updates, including those ubiquitous snaps of what they’re eating—to selfies. But heed the warning of my mother and beware of the following:
Photos–The next time you go to post photos of your awkward encounters, including drinking, carousing and canoodling, think about what mother said—and don’t do it. It can come to haunt you in the future. Today, employers often ask not only to view your social media sites, but also ask for passwords so they can take a closer look. Don’t risk it.
Social sites—The same warning goes for sites like Facebook and Twitter where people often vent their hostilities towards people, places and things. Mom would tell you to Inhale, breathe slowly and take a minute to rethink posting hostile posts. Like those irreverent photos, they too have a life of their own. And in the corporate world, where you may go to seek future employment, well, this just may be a hindrance. But, on the other hand, a little reverence may go a long way by posting comments/opinions/complaints on company social sites, such as their Facebook or Twitter, and often will engender a rapid response.
Emails—Need I say more than these two words: Hillary Clinton. Be aware that emails too have a life of their own and a strange way of never disappearing—they are like that stray piece of dog hair that sticks to your clothing and try as you may, never gets pulled off. That’s what happens to emails. After you write them, again, think about taking that extra breathe, inhale and then fully contemplate the possible ramifications of the contents of your email appearing on the front page of the New York Times.And, another point of interest: Be aware of that reply to all button, and try NOT to hit it, especially when replying on personal matters. Everyone remembers at least once occasion when that button got us in trouble.
If you are one of the lucky ones to have invented a new product or service, look or even better a new product category, the likelihood of it being successfully introduced to the general public without public relations and marketing support is highly unlikely. This proverbial: ahorse won’t drink the water unless you take him to it, so to speak. So how do you accomplish this?
Well, first and foremost is the use of a public relations agency that will work with you to develop a brand strategy and a launch strategy. Working with both the traditional media (print and broadcast) and the new media (social and websites), an agency experienced in new product and new service introductions will often initiate the following media tactics:
Press Releases. There are certain basic PR tactics that should be done as a matter of course, when you are releasing a new product, starting a business or want to tell the public about any new business related development. Press releases are probably the best known PR technique of all.
Media deskside briefings. In an instance where you have actually created a new product category (lucky you), the PR agency may set up a series of one-on-one meetings right at the media outlet’s office. More cost-efficient then a press conference, and obviously more intimate, the PR person can describe and actually demonstrate a new product.
Product reviews. New product reviews by critical media and bloggers only help to elevate your product’s visibility among your target audiences. Public relations agencies may distribute product samples to targeted media for review. Good reviews may be posted on your product website as a badge of honor.
Contests. Working with the media, your public relations agency may suggest implementing a consumer-based contest in a magazine or newspaper. With this, the media will call upon their readership to actually participate in a contest, the prize being your product sample.
Spokesperson. It is always wise to appoint either a client-based internal spokesperson as the media liaison, or, if not available, to seek out, train, and work with an external spokesperson, such as a celebrity, book author, etc. Often you can work out a deal that you will allow the book author to promote their book in return for promoting your new product—this way you can avoid having to pay for their time.
Live events. Live events can include many different possibilities, from the conventional to the more outrageous guerrilla marketing tactics. Involvement in trade shows, charity events and publicity stunts are the kind of thinking out of the box tactics that a good public relations agency can suggest and implement on your behalf.
A well timed and clearly executed public relations program can go a long way to helping successfully introduce a new product, service, or business. How else will you get those horses to drink the water?
First published in 1988, Robert Fulgham’s book All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten rose to the ranks of a bestseller. But his rules from 27 years ago can easily be applied to today’s public relations industry with just a little jiggering. Here’s how just five of his rules can be applied today:
Play fair. Realize that it’s not only what you do it’s how you do it. What did it take for you to land that big account? To get that big raise and promotion? To land that media exclusive? Did you play by the rules or did you have to do something underhanded in order to achieve your victory? Remember, what you do to accomplish your goals can often comeback to bite you in the rear. Play nice.
Don’t hit people. Remember, there is always room at the top to accommodate everyone who hope to become a winner in the public relations industry. There is never a need to bad mouth or go after your colleagues in order to assure your measure of success. Your superiors will ultimately see right through you and you will have caused your own demise.
Share everything. So you’ve worked half a day creating the most accomplished media list the agency has ever seen, or so you think. Would it kill you to share it will colleagues and ultimately save them the grueling time it took you to develop it? I know, it really irks you when you believe that colleagues are taking advantage of your expertise. But in the long run, remember the adage: share and share alike.
Clean up your own mess. I know it’s kind of a reflex action to try to put the blame on someone else for your mistake. But learn to take it on the chin and man-up to your mistakes and clean up your own mess. No one wants to have to clean up after your mistakes. If you forgot to get out that press release, admit it and move on.
Don’t take things that aren’t yours. That goes for not only tangible items like your neighbor’s stapler, but also your colleague’s glory. If you weren’t responsible for that great media response learn to give kudos to your colleagues.
A well developed and well executed public relations program can do wonders in helping to develop and drive sales. Let me count the ways:
Earn credibility. The big difference between public relations and advertising is that PR takes a lot more effort, thus it is often referred to in the marketing industry as “earned media.” Nielsen’s 2015 Trust in Advertising report shows that people trust earned media (as in editorial articles and posts) and owned content (as in social media) more than any other formats. The dynamic partnership that these two elements play is important to understanding and realizing sales growth.
Generate interest. A successful new product or service launch to your target audiences will greatly help to develop and stimulate interest and serve as a platform for introducing your brand to new audiences. Successfully breaking through the enormous clutter of information available to the average consumer is overwhelming and sometimes confusing. Working with the media to convey your brand messages and values so that interest in piqued, is the job of a good public relations agency.
Educate prospects. A well executed public relations program can not only help to educate consumers to your products and services, but also reach out to and influence potential shareholders as well as potential business partners. The more that they read, see and hear about your brand, the more engaged them will become, and the exciting your brand becomes to them.
Create a buzz. What makes a good public relations campaign is its ability to create a buzz through both traditional and new media outreach–through the earned, owned as well as purchased outlets. By connecting them all, a client soon realizes the value of a well integrated and orchestrated marketing plan.
Door opener. OK, which would you find more credible? Receiving a link to a sales pdf file or a link to a recent news article? This should be a no brainer. The more newsworthy a company or a brand, the more likely it is to engage with its audience–to be more believable, more important, more credible. That’s the power of public relations in helping to drive sales.
Good content is recyclable. Good content, whether it be for a blog, social media site or a press release, should be recyclable and reused time and time again. After all, what are you paying a good PR agency for, if not for them to create content that you can recycle. It’s not only time efficient, but cost efficient. And it’s a way of getting more bang for your buck as well.
A good public relations agency brings a lot to the table. They can increase sales, improve brand reputation, introduce new products or services and take care of your social media efforts, leaving you free to focus on other parts of the business.
But when this isn’t your area of expertise, how do you know if they’re performing well? Here’s some insight on what to look for when it’s time to pull the plug.
Lack of enthusiasm.No, I don’t work for you but I certainly should work with you—and as such I should be able to show a high level of enthusiasm for your company—if not, I shouldn’t be in public relations. Every client wants to feel special, as they should, so be knowledgeable about their industry and be able to bring additional insight and excitement to the client.
Poor writing skills. I don’t know how many times I’ve been told by wanna-be PR people that they are “good with people.” People skills aside, you had better be a great thinker and writer because that’s what the client needs. Clients in industries such as pharmaceuticals or finance are looking for specialized PR professionals who are capable of “translating” their jargon into English for the media and the end consumer.
Poor strategy. Hopefully, shortly after you hired your PR agency it researched and developed a public relations plan for the entire year. And hopefully, they are adhering to the plan, or perhaps even expanding upon it. But without a strategic plan, a good public relations program is doomed to failure. Look to the plan!
Lack of accountability. From the get go your PR agency should have been sending you weekly and the monthly status reports and updates. These reports should show you what the agency has been doing on your behalf, what it has accomplished during that time period and what it plans to accomplish in the coming weeks. Without this accountability the client will feel lost—and a poorly informed client will eventually fire the agency.
Poor communications. Before you fire your PR agency consider talking with the principal. It may not be time to fire the agency, but time to fire or switch your day-to-day account person—the same person who may not be overly enthusiastic about your business may also be a poor communicator. Sometimes a change in the point person can reap short-term and hopefully long-term benefits.
Lack of initiative. You shouldn’t have to instruct your PR agency on what to do. Again, they should be following that plan/strategy that they set forth. Your PR agency should be coming up with new idea and telling you what they are doing—not the other way around.
Not proactive. Your PR agency should be doing ongoing industry research and thinking up great content and creative angles—and then developing ways to amplify that content. If they keep asking you for ideas, then it’s probably not the right fit.
Off-brand coverage. Going back to that strategic plan: It is important to make sure that your PR agency understand your brand and takes its positioning into account when developing a media outreach plan—both traditional and new media. You don’t want to suddenly see an article about your family-friendly brand in an inappropriate media outlet. That would give you cause to pause and reevaluate your agency commitment.
No results. Bottom line: Did you get what you paid for—what the PR agency promised? If not, then it’s time to part company. Also, if the public relations agency is landing opportunities for you that do not compliment the brand, for example reaching the wrong audience or mentions that don’t address your expertise or product, then it’s time to fire them.
You’ve learned a lot in college, including algebra, U.S. history and how to text under your desk. But once you leave your beloved alma mater behind, you may realize there are some very important life lessons that you never learned.
If you want to avoid that terrifying task of entering the real world without many of the skills you need to succeed, take the time to learn these things, before graduation day rolls around.
How to manage your money. So you land a job in a New York public relations agency eight out of college and the company provides you with the option to join its Without a basic understanding of the stock market, which is almost never taught in school, you will be dead in the water.
How to cook. Overprotective parents are not doing their children any favors. Upon graduation they not only don’t know how to slice a tomato, but have no understanding of how to buy groceries or prepare them.
Home repairs. Another area where parents should take responsibility for initially putting that hammer and screwdriver in their kids’ hands and explaining the basics of how to hang a nail on the wall for a painting or remove a screw.
Social skills. The best jobs require social skills, according to recent findings published in the New York Times. As a kid in kindergarten you learned to play well with others. Then, as you moved along in school these skills were replaced by impersonal lecture-style teaching of hard skills, with less peer interaction. In such fields as public relations, the softer skills like client interaction and counseling, motivating colleagues and being a team player are emphasized.
Leadership skills. A good leader’s job is to get work done through people. Skills like how to hire the best people, how to provide mentoring, and then how to get out of the way and let them do their job are skills that unfortunately are often left for on-the-job learning.
How to sew. So, what do you do when you have to sew on a hanging button? Either befriend your local tailor or learn this valuable skill.
How credit works. Just because you were able to secure a credit card doesn’t mean you should use it foolishly and mindlessly. With some credit rates as right as 28%, it could take you years to pay off a $1,000 balance. So, don’t party hardy unless you can pay with cash.
How to find a job. The very basics of how to go about researching and landing a job are skills that unfortunately are often self-taught. Seek out professors and counselors as well as taking advantage of career centers for assistance in this vital area.
It’s been more than 15 years since I opened my own marketing/public relations agency and during that time I have come to realize that an entire new lexicon has developed while I was sleeping, so to speak. I’m a pretty simple gal, so when I come across a new word I immediately Google it. And lately, more often than not, I find myself rolling eyes, shaking my head and then just going back to reading.
The reason I resort to the eye-rolling is that marketing people now, more than ever, feel compelled to invent new words for us to learn and to replace the older, less exciting words. When I hear the younger generation of marketers uttering the newspeak, that’s when I once again find my eyes rolling.
Really? Do we really need a new lexicon to define what we’ve been doing all along? For your ease, and to enable your own eye rolling, is a list of newspeak:
As owner of a New York-based public relations agency who has been working with college-age interns forever, I wanted to go on record saying that it is time that the rest of you realize that they are not slaves, nor in indentured servitude. If they are providing a valuable service, well, then they should be compensated for it, and not just with college credit.
My favorite adage is this: If you pay them then they will come.
When I first went out on my own 15 years ago, and had no paid staff, I quickly discovered the benefits of intern laborers—they work hard, they can accept a lot of responsibility and they should be paid for their work efforts. And from the beginning I decided to pay them an honest hourly wage—even if they were receiving college credit for the internship. I even threw in free lunch just to grab and keep their attention.
So, here’s why I strongly believe that you get what you pay for:
If you pay them they will come. At the beginning I knew I needed cheap labor, though not free. I asked a number of colleagues who like me had tiny start-ups, and to a man/woman they all agreed that I would have better attendance, participation and happier internes if there were paid. They were right.
Mentoring is the key. Since the starting hourly wage and free lunch were still not enough in my opinion, I knew that from the beginning I had to make their internship worthwhile. Therefore I always made sure to provide them with the following:
Credit for having a brain
Valuable opinions. It is important to understand that although these are young people working for you, that they offer valuable insight into the mindset of Generation Z, those born after the millennials—and this can sometimes add an additional dimension that you might not have thought about. Don’t be afraid to ask them for insight.
Internships can lead to jobs. I have often provided invaluable leads and job referrals to my interns and also have served as a valuable reference to them—more valuable in some ways then payment, one does not replace the other.
Foot in the door. Companies that offer unpaid internships often barter that it’s a way for the college student to get a foot in the door. Excuse me, but how is the intern going to pay for the shoe on that foot without a decent hourly wage?
Death knell for college internships. This is what the “other side” is providing as a reason not to pay interns for time worked. Washington is trying to regulate it so that companies that currently take advantage of college kids are penalized for it. Although I myself am not a big believer in Big Brother interfering with my business, this should certainly cause those companies who are abusing college kids to start rethinking their policies.
Here’s a great “geek joke:” Where do you hide a dead body? Answer: On the third page of Google results.
I always tell young employees to be careful of what they post on social networks cause it may come back to bite them in the ass. Whether it’s partying at a frat house with beer bottle in hand or romping topless at a summer share, posting these shots on your social networks can lead to job declines and worse. The best protection is not to post ‘em. Next best is to become proficient at creating your own content and optimized profiles, to push offending content down to that proverbial third page in Google search results.
Search yourself. Do a Google search on yourself including Google Images. Heavens forbid you see that photo of you holding that beer bottle, or worse. If you do, then you know you have your work cut out for you.
Keep private things private. Put privacy settings on all content you want to share only with a select group of friends and family. Remember that social networks are always changing their privacy settings and friends and family can easily forward embarrassing photo without your consent.
Buy your domain name. Yup, for a few bucks you too can have your own website. You don’t have to be a famous author like com in order to get your own personal domain name. This is the place to start building your personal reputation: Place your bio, photos, blog posts, articles from sources you respect.
Join social networks. Here’s where you get the opportunity to tout yourself and your accomplishments. Post your personal information on sites like FacebookLinkedIn, Twitter and even Google+. And if you’ve got some good graphic illustrations try posting on YouTube, Tumblr and Pinterest. Then, if you want to be more active, try joining groups at sites like LinkedIn and posting new content.
Optimize your social presence. Fill out your information as completely as possibly including, of course, your URL and all social network links. Most websites give you the option of linking to other social media sites—do this—it will make your online presence stronger.
So I had been working in public relations so about a year when my parents asked me, “What exactly is public relations? Is it like advertising?” If your parents or spouse don’t understand the difference, don’t be surprised. A recent survey of 1000 PR pros found 72% of them say their parents don’t understand what PR is, and another 41% say their spouses don’t know either.
So, in an effort to try to educate my parents I drove down to Philadelphia and gave a full two-hour public relations presentation to both my parents and an uncle. The case history revolved around a current client at the time, Mannington floorcovering. I brought down sample pitch letters and media lists, explained the difference between earned media and paid-for media, and even went so far as to show them final media placements for the client in both magazines and newspapers.
Although I wasn’t surprised when they asked why my by-line didn’t appear in these content-driven articles that had been basically lifted from my press release, I felt confident as I drove back to New York that my family definitely had a much clearer understanding of the difference between earned content and paid-for advertising.
And then, about two weeks later, I got a letter from my dad. The contents of the envelope contained a full-page, four-color ad of Mannington floorcovering appearing in the recent issue of Better Homes & Gardens magazine. Penned proudly at the top of the advertisement was a hand-written note from my dad proudly saying, “Great job! Love the work you did for your client.” That night I called to thank him for his continued interest in my success. What more could I say?