Putting the ‘Public’ back in PR

I said pubLIC….

So I’ve been reviewing a lot of articles about “why PR is important”, “what is PR”, etc.

Most offer a good understanding of this diverse area of expertise but often only touch on tactics like Media Releases, Press tours, Trade shows, Product shots (and sometimes) Social Networking … but what I found interestingly lacking was mention of the word PUBLIC when describing PR?

As per my website (soon to be refurbished btw) a crucial part of Public Relations for many SMBs is actually centred around your corporate image and relationship with your immediate public, neighbours and community.

In addition to reaching “as many eyeballs as possible to get the word out about how your product is the greatest” !!!…. PR may also be micro-tailored to include strategies that support an organization’s foundation and its roots.

Let’s say your company’s intention is to gain (or sway) support of a specific group or outlet upon which your success depends (investors, government, industry, community leaders) . A PUBLIC Relations campaign may include things like:

  • Developing a multi-level outreach strategy to specific persons or organizations.
  • Create a mini-campaign or separate event (socially, internally) to build following and likeability among similar groups to the one you are targeting.
  • Maintaining a consistent image and message in front of key audiences – speaking, media, other.
  • Fostering relationships / setting up meetings with influencers and change makers in local communities.

The word ‘public’ is also the number of different “audiences” on which your organization depends for its success, such as:

  • Thought leaders
  • Activists
  • Sponsors/Investors
  • Partners
  • Customers…

Each requires their own key messages to be driven home in order to gain their respect and support.

(… and we wonder why it is SO hard to answer when someone asks – “PR – so what does that involve.” … Got an hour?)

What do you think? Do you often consider these micro-publics in your PR strategy? Or are you focused on the big three – MEDIA, FACEBOOK and TWITTER?

Anniversary post – 2013 checklist

Happy Seven Years, Catalyst Communications Choreography!

anniversary

It has been a great journey so far, and one full of learning, excitement, challenge and maturity.

I’d like to reference a post from earlier in 2013, called Walking the Talk and it was a time of great inspiration for me and my company. I called it my Shiny Shoes Take Over because I needed to get a new pair of shoes, I needed to BeDazzle my company in order to accomplish my goals, I needed to start walking the talk!! – Something had moved me, stirring a wave of creativity, knowing I had to aim for bigger and better things.

Here was a few of my “To Do”s for the remainder of 2013 and how it went:

1. Get more Followers: that was it. I needed to get on top of building my professional profile on Linked in and Twitter in order to showcase talents, increase credibility, and get on radar of potential clients. I also used it as a source for B2B networking, which has been a challenge for me.

  • Status: I increased my twitter following by approx 64% as well as made a monthly list of ‘top PR people to follow on twitter’ by the fall – small but satisfying accomplishment. Also, beefed up my Linked in Profile with some helpful expertise. and added about 80 ppl to my network in a few months.
  • How’d she do it?: 1. Better blog posts 2. Commenting on blogs and Linked in Group posts 3. Following more relevant and like-minded PR, marketing and media folks on twitter.

2. Beef up my BLOG: I wanted to increase my influence among professionals and gain credibility using real life client case studies. I have a TON of knowledge and have gained so much experience that it would be a shame not to document and share it.

  • Status: I now have a blog that I am proud of. Each post is relevant, timely, uses real life examples and paints a good picture of my company’s knowledge and expertise. I am still working on more link sharing, following other blogs (sorry!) and related articles but all gets easier and better – and faster. If you’re waiting on this – just START! I also have created a small following – which tells me people are reading, and liking.
  • How’d she do it?: 1. Frequency. I posted more regularly (save December) – and tried to publish on Tues or Thurs at times that were most-read. I’m not saying I could do wayyyy better, but for me, it was a huge step to be able to commit to an average of 1 blog per week – this was my goal 🙂 2. Quality. I do not use my blog for drivel, or rants (ok, maybe the odd rant) but I always try to turn it to something meaningful that people can use, share or take away. Quality over quantity. 3. Audience. I tried to write posts so that they would be relatable for PR professionals, but could be of value to business owners who were looking to understand PR. It also gives clients (present and potential) a feel of ‘what I do’, ‘how I think’ and ‘what my company does’. I now almost direct more people to my blog than my website – (yikes! i know… that’s next)

3. Update My Website: I always knew I needed some updating on my site, but it really hit me when I ran into a former colleague/client and after chatting about the stuff I’ve been doing and the steps I’ve made she said simply, “You need to update your site!” Which to me meant, ‘your site no longer reflects you, and doesn’t speak to how you’ve grown or what you can do for people.’ HUGE!

  • Status: still working on this one BUT have made much progress behind the scenes and may be as early as Feb 2014.
  • How’d she do it?: 1. Engaged with designers and video production people, asking questions and getting ideas of how my company could be better reflected online. 2. Found an affordable and edgy web designer who I think can capture my needs 3. Researched other sites and learned what I liked and didn’t like. Exploring the use of infographics, social media and video to remain more current in portraying my services to visitors.

4. Time to Walk the Talk: This basically means that I had to start leading by example. If I thought I was the expert in using social media to communicate a clear directive and message, I had to be better at it myself. If I knew how to get a news story published, I had share some tips. If I was telling people what wasn’t working for their website, mine needed to do the same. If I was reading and researching the latest PR and marketing practices and expanding my knowledge and being DAM good at what I do – I needed people to believe it!

I have now adopted ‘Walk the Talk’ as a company motto for how I service my clients, and I hope that I can continue to lead by example in 2014.

Happy New Year everyone 🙂

Coca Cola Journey – Why the press release ain’t dead yet!

ScreenHunter_01 Nov. 27 13.59

Coca Cola has developed a new digital magazine hybrid which was built to support and eventually replace; corporate website, corporate blog and social media channels – called Coca Cola-Journey. In a recent seminar introducing the new platform,  Ashley Brown, Digital Communications Social Media for Coca Cola, stated “If there is one mission I have at Coke, it’s to kill the press release”…. Finishing up in the clip with “we have committed to cut the amount of press releases by half in 2014.”

OK PR and marketing reps, Insert “Grain of Salt” here.

I agree that we are in a time and place where it is imperative for PR reps to think ‘beyond’ a press kit, static website, launch package, and media release for their client. (But then… I have always operated under this belief). I also think that if there is anyone to explore and introduce this innovative, brand-interactive platform it would probably be Coke. But I do feel that language Brown uses in the intro such as “the corporate website it dead” or “the age of Press release PR is ending” … needs to be taken in context and seen in light of individual corporate goals and corporate brand placement.

So before you create all-interactive-all-the-time strategy for your client, take this into account;

Sure, kill the press release – Easy to say when you have had brand domination for over 100 years….! Everyone knows Coca Cola’s story, history, brand, image, not to mention they are one of the most recognizable symbols in the world! (besides the holy cross) Yes, you can probably afford to cut down your releases by half and people will still be talking about you.

But there exists a place for rich storytelling through media, perhaps now more than ever. Every story has been already told (sold), but it’s up to us as PR experts to find the innovative, moral and socio-economic relevance of our clients and tell their stories in a new way. It can’t be on the journalists shoulders to find those angles, nuances, and myriad of possibilities. Too much already, we are bogged down by headline inertia and everything ends up reading like a tabloid – bite sized, shock worthy, sharable and desensitized.

Are we just wanting to ‘hear the facts’ or do we want to learn, grow and be challenged and engaged with our news? I think Coke has been a giant so long that they don’t know what it’s like trying to get your neck out above the fray in this day and age…. and why should they? They’re Coke!

But for the rest of us – I would argue that the press release is still very much alive and an important tool in the spectrum of outreach and creating touch points with customers.

What do you think? – Is social media a means to an end or the end itself, if so WHEN does it make that fundamental shift in a brand’s journey to take on such a life of its own?

Take the poll PR pros and marketers! 🙂

@catalystpr

Tweet-a-Coffee – PR in the customers hands

giving

I love this. Starbuck’s tweet-a-coffee/#!  I love it for so many reasons….first and foremost because it’s a great example of giving fuzz factor to the cold, hard internet AND because it bridges two worlds beautifully – PR and promotion.

I will admit that I am not a Starbucks groupie, and while I enjoy their brand, if I had my choice, I would probably select another cup a ‘joe first. However…

I love that they are trying this (in beta), and have found a way to “be” more giving and thoughtful “by way of” their customers. The friend gets the coffee, customer gets the thanks, but THEY get the residual perception and glory.

For a PR person, you can’t say more about ‘living a brand’ than using a coffee shop (a stand alone location) as the means of evoking; involuntary response, (surprise as they open the tweet), emotion (thank you!) and action (walking into shop to obtain gift and hopefully purchase more). It is the epitome of ‘giveaways’ AND they don’t have to give anything away. It’s more than marketing and promotion – this is Emotion in the palm of your customer’s hand…. am I being over zealous? …perhaps.

What does this mean for me as the PR person? It clearly puts social media strategy into a new light and gets PR people thinking outside of the 140 character box.

PR is about eliciting a response which inspires action – in the past we’ve relied on communications, media, events, media interviews – even the odd PR stunt in downtown rush hour. But let’s always be challenging ourselves on how we can make change and change perception using these ‘ego-centric’ and often self-satisfying social channels.

I love the possibilities – I will work to stretch beyond the walls of social media for my own clients also. Bottoms up!

Can you tell I love this sT@**?

When your Message Goes Dark

in the dark

Using the US government shutdown as an example, scientific experts are now saying that the fallout from the lack of activity has not only undercut the efforts of researchers and scientists forced to shut down labs and projects, but has also lost the trust of the people and any patients relying on that data.

It is a grave reminder of what can happen when a brand or company too, goes into MIA status, whether it is forced into shutdown or just taking stock of their branding, PR or marketing approach.

Don’t let your company ‘Go dark’ or fall off the radar completely. The message should never die.

Here are some cases of Going Dark:

  • At times there are extenuating circumstances that will force a company to reevaluate or realign its core messages in order to come back with a bigger, better social or public presence. In these cases, it is best to stick to the basics – communicate and share what you know, stick with your core values and make it about your customers.
  • Other times, you may have aligned your personal or professional profile to an organization that has disbanded or decided to part ways. It is important here to tie up all loose ends – close related social accounts, pages or blogs – continue to monitor any chat groups or forums you may have started or shut them down if appropriate.
  • Perhaps you are having trouble keeping up with your many communications vehicles and are reevaluating your approach – you might create a very simple posting calendar to take off pressure, and keep you on the radar of your followers who have come to expect updates.

A sudden deep void or MIA status of an account or business not only looks suspicious for all parties involved but can deeply harm your credibility as well as any loyalty from followers you may have worked to build.

There are better solutions than hiding under a rock.

Managing a mini-crisis: Triple ‘A’ approach

Two recent events have brought my attention to Crisis Communications and the flurry of panic that ensues when one finds themselves or their company, the subject of negative attention.

Catalyst CC stands by our Triple ‘A’ approach (Accessibility, Action, Accountability) when coming under negative scrutiny and its effectiveness for CEOs, brands and even politicians.

The first, Hobby Lobby’s response to anti-Semitic remarks about its retail chain

The second, New Media Animation public employee “I Quit” video that went viral

In both cases, the owners of the company had two choices: Stay quiet, or take control of the impending backlash.  I think they both responded well by delivering timely, honest and open statements, neither hiding their viewpoint, but careful to respect any offended parties. They also offered solutions, follow-up or some form of next steps.

Here is the Triple ‘A’ approach dissected;

Accessible: Make yourself open and approachable – whether welcoming a personal platform to address individual questions, or delivering a message through a very public forum leaving room for comments and posts. Oh, and don’t wait a week – you’ve missed an opportunity to appear that you care, and people have already formed their opinion of you.

Action: Obvious solution: take immediate action and rectify the situation – HOLD up! This would have to be determined case by case. But be warned, once you publicly address an issue, the next question will likely be, ‘so what are you doing about that?’. Being genuine and letting people know that you are making moves to review or change a policy or procedure, can go a long way. At least it will bide you time to build a plan.

Accountability: The best way to keep people looking forward, not backwards, is to  reinforce any positive steps that your company has taken and share ‘the good’.  This may require a brief review of key messages – or it may require a complete re-brand (depending on the severity of the situation) Your PR rep can work on building a mini-campaign in order to further solidify your ‘best foot forward’ and some new strategies on how to keep people associating you with this image down the road.

To summarize: News travels quickly – Address it fast, and move onto brighter messages. Seems like common sense right?…

I should qualify this post by saying that not all news is good news, and you would be wise to discuss with your counsel before coming up with any appropriate response.

Next Steps: Too often, corporations work backwards and spend money on trying to rectify a situation rather than building worst case scenarios into their plan from the beginning. A one day crisis training seminar could prepare staff and management for mulitple scenarios and provide more confidence in dealing with media, customers or the public.

triple A

“PR Launch Kit” for Start Ups, New Business

launch pic

While Catalyst communications choreography specializes in key messaging and communications plans for SMEs – we realize that smaller companies don’t always have the funds to retain ongoing PR services.

That’s why Catalyst is offering our ‘PR Launch Kit’ for start ups, new launches and small business. If you have invested the time in a business plan, why wouldn’t you take the time to have your long term marketing bases covered before hitting GO?

The ‘PR Launch Kit’ ensures that you have the right messages across all marketing vehicles and you get attention from the people who MATTER to your business. (see previous blog “Ready to Launch: PR checklist for your business“)

This package is for those who:

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