9 PR Best Practices for Corporate Blogging

Blogging can be a great opportunity for some organizations and brands to enter the social media world and thereby put their best foot forward on behalf of their company/product.  But before you jump head first into the blogosphere it is important to develop a strategy that helps present you in the best light while also grabbing the attention of your target audience.  Here are a few start-up tips:

1. Grab their attention. Nowadays it seems that everyone has taken to the Internet with an opinion, 10 tips or guidelines. Make sure that you start off your blog with something that is relevant to your audience and will make them want to continue reading. You’ve only got a few sentences in which to grab their attention. Make it worth their while to stay.

2. Use bullets or numbered lists. Everyone loves a list whether it is 10 tips, bullets or just visually pleasing in the layout.  You are competing for everyone’s time and attention spans are waning, so the setup of you blog is very important.

3. Develop keywords.  For search engine optimization (SEO), your keywords matter especially in the title as well as the tips themselves.

4. Use hyperlinks. In addition to using strong keywords, the use of hyperlinks aids tremendously in spreading your blog post throughout the Internet.

5. Write about what you know. Everyone is an expert in his/her field so use this platform wisely. Learn how to teach others, how to arrange and present your thoughts in an organized fashion.

6. Provide advice. Position yourself as the guru or specialist in your field. With experience comes knowledge and it is important to pass this knowledge along to others. Blogging offers a perfect outlet.

7. Drive traffic. Blog through other social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook

8. Watch your length. Blog posts are 250-600 words long according to the industry-accepted standard. The more frequently you post, the shorter your post should be

9. Keep the posting schedule consistent. I try to post regularly on my blog so that followers will look at the site as a go-to place for insights from the president of a New York public relations agency.

Why PR Interns Should be Paid

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:

1. 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.

2. 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:

a. Responsibility
b. Accountability
c. Credit for having a brain
d. Dedication/loyalty

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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?

6. Death knell for college internships. This is what the “other side” is providing as a reason not to pay interns for time worked. Really. 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.

9 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a PR Agency

A successful PR campaign can help grow your business and gain awareness of your company. When considering a PR agency to hire, there are a few questions you want to ask to make sure they are a fit for you.

1. Have you worked on campaigns in my industry?
You will get the most out of an agency if they have experience with your sector of business. You can ask for references from previous clients, and to see results from past campaigns. This can give you an idea of their industry capabilities.

2. Who is my direct contact/team members?
You should know who you will be directly working with on your campaign. Ask who your contact person at the agency will be and who will be working with them. It is important to know your team and be comfortable with them so they know what you want and what you expect from them.

3. Which media outlets are best for me?
It is important for PR agencies to know who their client’s target audience is, and for an agency to have experience in traditional and new media. The agency you select knows the outlets that will reach your audience the best. This can range from traditional media placements, such as television and newspapers to online promotions as well as social media outlets.

4. How will your agency measure success?
Before hiring a PR agency, it is important to know how they measure success. The most common ways that agencies measure success with a client is through media placements, and social media analytics. Social media analytics can be social media page “likes”, content reach, and follower interactivity. Another thing to consider when choosing how a firm will measure success is an increase in traffic to your website or increase in sales after a PR campaign.

5. Will you provide media coaching?
See what is being offered in terms of media coaching or training; this can be a valuable lesson to anyone who will be interviewed by the media. If the agency doesn’t handle media coaching directly, ask if they refer you to for an experienced media coach.

6. Are you experienced on social media?
Social media is an important tool to reach many of your stakeholders. It is essential that you find an agency that is well versed in social media, and the social media trends. You can ask to see results from social media campaigns or promotions from previous clients, to gage if the agency has success promoting a company in your field.

7. How will you communicate with me?
It is important that your PR agency communicate with you on a regular basis. Usually agencies will send a monthly status report detailing what they have done and where they have placed your business, however it is still important for them to touch base with you on a regular basis in order to maintain a pulse on your campaign. You can ask how often you will be updated on campaigns for your company, and how often the staff will be available to you. You should also make yourself available to your PR agency, in case they need a quote, or approval in a pinch.

8. What type of contractual arrangement do you provide?
Most New York-based public relations agencies require a minimum contractual arrangement, such as six months, or, in the case of a specific project, time will be allocated against the project.

9. What type of financial arrangements?
Most agencies work on a monthly retainer basis with time worked against the hours of the retainer.

Public Relations Agency Alphabet Soup

They say “It takes a whole village to raise a child.” Well, it takes an entire bowl of alphabet soup to implement our role as public relations practitioners. Here’s a guide to your public relations agency ABCs:

A= Advertise, Advise, Agency, Amplify, Analytics, Authentic, Amazon

B= B2B, Blogger, Branding, Brochures, Bottom Line, Budget, Business Development

C= Cause-Related Marketing, Collateral Materials, Communications, Conferences, Consumer, Content, Core Values, Corporate Communications, Corporations, Curate, Counsel, Crises Management, Crowdfunding

D=Deliverables, Digital

E= Engage, Earned Media, Education, Efficiency, Evidence-based, Events

F= Facebook, Feature Articles

G= Global, Gorilla Marketing, Granular, Google

H= Hacker, Hands-on, Hazard Analysis, Head Hunter, Honesty, Humility

I= Instagram. Integrated, Integrity, Influencers

J=Job Description, Job Enrichment, Job Performance, Job Security, Joint Venture, Just in Time, Justification

K=Knowledge-based

L=Leverage, Literature, Layering

M= Metrics, Market Entry, Marketing Plans, Marketing Research, Media, Media Tours, Media Training, Metrics, Messaging, Monetize, Multiplatform

N= Narrative, Native, Negotiate, New Business, New Media, Newsletters, News Syndicates

O= Organic, Outbound, Outcomes

P= Performance, Pinterest, Platform, Positioning, Presentations, Press Releases, Product Launches, Program, Public Relations, Publicity, Publish

Q= Qualify, Qualitative, Quantitative, Question

R= Reddit, Reputation Management, Research, Resonate

S= Sell, Seminars, Services, Situation Analysis, Social Media, Solutions, Speaker’s Bureau, Spokespersons, Strategy, Surveys

T= Tactics, Traction, Trade Relations, Traditional Media, Transparency, Twitter

U= Uncontrollable Costs, Uncontrollable Factors, Under-utilization, Unintended Consequences, Unique Opportunities, User Friendly, User ID

V=Value Proposition, Viral Marketing

W= Website, Wire Services, Workforce, Workplace, World Wide Web, Worst Case Scenario

X= XmR Chart

Y= Yahoo!, YTD (Year to Date)

Z= ZBB (Zero Based Budgeting), Zero Growth

And now you know your public relations agency ABCs.

Five PR Leadership Skills I Learned From My Cat

 

Five PR Leadership Skills I Learned From My Cat

I’ve been living with cats for most of my adult life and let me tell you, they are the consummate leaders of the house and sometimes of my life.  The first year that Jonny, my current 14-year-old cat, lived with me I hardly knew he existed. He hid from me, played hard-to-get, and really, quite frankly, I thought that he hated me.  At one point I actually said to my sister, “OK I’ll keep him, give him free room and board, but we’ll never bond.”  Well, was I wrong. Fourteen years later he not only holds my heart in his tiny paws, but he has gone on to show me some interesting leadership skills that can be brought to bear on the public relations industry.

Be creative.  I always thought that the manufacturers of cat toys arguably were not cat owners. Why else would they develop some of the least exciting and sometime the largest play things ever?  Just leave it to a cat to find creativity in a small piece of rolled up silver foil, ribbon or a fallen paperclip. Great leaders find creativity in areas that the rest of us mortals may never explore as they go off to turn a problem over in their mind to come up with a creative solution.

Be observant.  Honestly, it fascinates me to see Jonny staring off into space caught up in what, trying to determine the scope of the universe, the distance between Earth and Mars, the square root of 16? Great leaders know how to observe others, to listen to other points of view, and to thereby help to advert conflict, solve marketing problems or to just bring new perspective into an old marketing plan.

Be engaging. Whereas dogs have an in-your-face style of engagement, cats are far more subtle.  They will quietly appear whenever you least expect them, bringing warmth and comfort.  A good leader does likewise, often in the form of a fresh approach, problem-solving guidance or just a warm word of encouragement, “Good job.”

Be an explorer.  Open a door, put down an empty carton, take out a shopping bag, and low and behold, faster than a speeding bullet your cat will be inside exploring the new space, and if you encourage him by putting in your fingers or a small toy, well, you’ve got the beginning of a brand new game.  Well, a great leader does the same. S/he opens new ways of thinking about old problems, brings new challenges into your thought process and helps you to expand your own creative process.

Don’t be judgmental.  A cat doesn’t judge you by your appearance, in fact, if you never put on makeup or shave that beard, your cat won’t care.  A good leader doesn’t judge someone for trying out new ideas or new strategies, doesn’t put someone down for not knowing the next step and never judges a book by its cover, so to speak.  Hiring someone who doesn’t seem to fit your traditional mold can often lead to new out-of-the-box thinking from someone who approaches their tasks with a fresh mind and a new perspective.

 

Defining PR for My Family

Defining PR for My Family

I got my first job in public relations after I married and moved to New York City.  After settling in, my parents invited my husband and I back to Philadelphia for a weekend trip.  Over dinner my proud parents queried, “What exactly is public relations?” something that I learned would become an ongoing query throughout my professional life.

I went on to describe the work I was doing on behalf of Mannington Floors, a manufacturer of hardwood, laminate and vinyl flooring, explaining how I developed media queries (a.k.a. pitch letters) that were sent to target media to try to interest them on developing an article (in print) or segment (in television) on the virtues of hardwood flooring.

I explained that it was my job to compile background information, and in some instances actually write up full length feature articles (content) for consideration by the media for use in their outlet.  My parents nodded knowingly, then asked for examples. The next time I came to visit I came prepared with my media placement book containing all of the articles that I provided to the media and the resultant free placements.

Although they found it a bit confusing to comprehend free media placements in lieu of payment, as in advertising, I thought for sure that after my one hour presentation that they would clearly understand the difference between public relations and advertising: Advertising is paid for and public relations is prayed for. 

The next week an envelope arrived at my office addressed from my father.  When I opened it, there inside was a full page Mannington Floors advertisement from the pages of Good Housekeeping with a little penned note from my father: Keep up the great work. Love Dad.

I realized then and there that this would indeed be a lifetime perception problem; trying to explain the difference between advertising and public relations.  So from then on, whenever I’m in a social situation with new people with whom I have little interest in either networking or engaging with, when queried as to my profession I quickly dismiss them by answering, “Advertising,” to which they usually acknowledge with a knowing nod of the head.  I know that when I answer with “Public relations,” if I wait long enough, the person will invariably turn to me with a puzzling look and query, “So, what exactly is public relations?” And sometimes I’m just not in the mood to try to clarify my profession.

How ironic that public relations, the one profession that helps to improve brand imaging for virtually everything, has failed in its attempts to elevate brand awareness of itself.

 

5 Key Skills for PR Professionals

 

5 Key Skills for PR Professionals

“Why do you want to go into public relations?” I queried.

“Because I’m good with people,” she responded.

I have lost count on the number of times I have heard this response from the uninformed person who acknowledges that she/he wants to pursue a career in public relations.   In order to succeed in the public relations industry, there are several basic skills that must be either honed or acquired. Here is a list of my top five:

Strong writing.  It always surprises me when a newbie is unaware of the need for good writing skills.  In fact, that’s probably the most important skill of all.  Employees have to be able to write to the media (via pitches and queries), write to the clients (status reports and updates) as well as their boss (weekly reports).  A well written media query will garner the attention that clients deserve.

Think like a reporter. I was fortunate to have gotten my first job as a news reporter, but most of those in public relations don’t have that opportunity.  It is a must to not only query the right media, but to read what they write so that you know how to approach them on relevant topics.  If the reporter covers the area of technology, you will surely be embarrassed if you contact her on behalf of your interior designer client.

Confident public speaking.  I can’t emphasize enough the need for students in marketing and public relations to take public speaking courses while in college.  This will prove to be invaluable the first time attending a new business meeting or facing down a client across a conference room.

Know your client’s industry.  I always tell my clients that “We work with you, not for you.” The important differential here is that we know his business as well as if we were actually on staff working for him.  Learn to research the industry whether it’s consumer products, finance or pharmaceuticals…and become an expert in that field.

The ability to just figure it out.  A new project, like learning how to upload a client’s blog to Facebook Instant Article, may seem daunting at first, but once done, will provide a new skill that can be brought on to other tasks.  Take the time to figure it out.  Remember, it’s not brain surgery, and no one will die if done incorrectly.  But if done right, a new skill is added to the resume.

5 PR Agency Fails to Avoid

 

Congratulations, you just hired a new public relations agency and you’re looking forward to moving ahead with a long-lasting and mutually productive relationship.   If you’re not new to the PR agency alliance, then you’ve probably already suffered the slings and arrows of an agency fail.  But if this is your first time at bat, well then I would like to prepare you for what may lie ahead.

In order to enable the most successful partnership there are some pitfalls to avoid.

Unclear goals. Hopefully you have provided clear goals to the PR agency prior to its researching and writing a proposal, and hopefully it has translated those goals into a clear concise strategy with appropriate tactics.  After the hire, it’s important to review your goals with the agency so that appropriate tactics are set and implemented.  There is no point to letting the horse leave the gate if the directions aren’t clear.

Unrealistic budget.  The first question we ask a new client is, “Do you know what your budget is?”  Usually that’s when we see the client’s eyes glaze over as they reply, “I have no idea! That’s what I thought you were here for.”   Some experts recommend using a formula based on a percentage of gross revenue  or projected revenue. For newer companies we might suggest 12 to 20 percent of gross or projected revenue for marketing, from which a portion would be allocated to public relations. For established companies that have been in business for more than five years, the allocation might be between 6 and 12 percent of revenue. However, sometimes the resultant budget is a combination of what the client can afford and what the agency believes it will need to execute attainable results. In this case, I advise the brands not to be penny wise and pound foolish.

Inability to predict trouble before it happens.  Sometimes a good public relations agency has to function as a soothsayer, seeing into the future and anticipating small problems before they develop into big trouble. Start by looking for red flags like the client chronically being late in reviewing needed materials or an agency team member’s failure to report an early problem, and thereby nip it in the bud. Small failures like these, multiplied over time, can be a ticking time bomb.

Failure to properly staff.  On the brand side it is imperative that there is one direct agency report rather than layers. This will cut down on delays and also help to create that vital agency/client smooth working relationship. On the agency side, we have to be able to evaluate the brand’s needs and staff accordingly.  If the brand is social media intensive, we have to make sure that our staffing reflects this expertise. And if the brand is content driven, we must assure that staffers with writing skills are on the job.

No surprises.  Years ago I won the Best Foods® brand after their current agency surprised them with a $35,000 charge to charter a private plane in order to get their spokesperson to his destination in a timely manner.  The only problem with that was that the agency didn’t ask the client for approval ahead of time; they were immediately fired. Now mind you, that was a big whoops.  But even small ones can lead to not only distrust, but to disaster.

 

 

 

Tips to Make Your Corporate Blog Standout

Tips to Make Your Corporate Blog Standout

It’s an powerful tool to have your company’s corporate blog standout. Blogging can be a great opportunity for some organizations and brands to enter the social media world and put their best foot forward.  But before you jump into the blogosphere, it’s important to develop a strategy that helps present your company in the best light while also grabbing the attention of your target audience.  Here are a few helpful tips to start:

  1. Grab their attention. Nowadays it seems that everyone has taken to the Internet with an opinion, 10 tips, or guidelines. Make sure that you start off your blog with something that is relevant to your audience and will make them want to continue reading. You’ve only got a few sentences to grab their attention. Make it worth their while to stay.
  2. Use bullets or numbered lists. Everyone loves a list whether it is 10 tips, bullets or just visually pleasing in the layout.  You are competing for everyone’s time and attention spans are waning, so the setup of you blog is very important.
  3. Develop keywords.  For search engine optimization (SEO), keywords are extremely important to have in your title and in the body of the article itself.
  4. Use hyperlinks. The use of hyperlinks aids tremendously in spreading your blog post throughout the Internet.
  5. Write about what you know. Everyone is an expert in their field, so use this platform wisely. Learn how to teach others and how to arrange and present your thoughts in an organized fashion.
  6. Provide advice. Position yourself as the guru in your field. With experience comes knowledge and it is important to pass this knowledge along to others. Blogging offers a perfect outlet for this.
  7. Drive traffic. Blog through other social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook.
  8. Posting Consistently. I try to post regularly on my blog so that followers will look at the site as a go-to place for insights on public relations.

Skills They Don’t Teach You as a Public Relations Major

Skills They Don’t Teach You as a Public Relations Major

You learn a lot while studying your college major. 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 the skills you need to succeed, take the time to learn them before graduation day rolls around. Here are some skills they don’t teach you as a public relations major:
1. How to manage your money. So you land a job in a New York public relations agency right out of college and the company provides you with the option to join its 401K. Without a basic understanding of the stock market, which is almost never taught in school, you will be dead in the water.
4. Social skills. Some of  the best jobs require social skills. 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 teachings of hard skills and less peer interaction. In a field such as public relations, softer skills, like client interaction and counseling, motivating colleagues, and being a team player, are emphasized.
5. Leadership skills. A good leader’s job is to get work done through people. Skills such as how to hire the best people, how to provide mentoring, and how to successfully lead a team are often left for on-the-job learning.
7. How credit works. Just because you were able to secure a credit card doesn’t mean you should use it mindlessly. With some credit rates as high 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.
8. How to find a job. Unfortunately, the very basics of how to go about researching and landing a job are skills that are often self-taught. Seek out professors, counselors, and career centers for assistance in this vital area.