Make Traveling For Work, Work!

The prospect of business travel can cause anxiety in even the most intrepid PR pro. And, even though we can Skype and chat via FaceTime sometimes there is no substitute for “being there.”  With this in mind, here is a guide to making that next trip for work, work as hard as it can for you.

Most of us know some of the obvious trip tips – pack light and smart, maximize your travel time with your laptop or tablet; but here is some additional advice you may want to have handy when planning to be away on business.

Pack more into your packing To save time,  keep a suitcase partially packed – a full toiletries kit, basic jewelry, makeup bag, spare chargers, snacks, notebook, pens and business cards. When you return, simply top it off with particulars for that trip and you are good to go. If you are not a professional packer, check out an app like packing pro.

Give the gift of saving Is there a city you travel to often? When there and not entertaining clients, a great way to save money is to get a gift card to a chain restaurant(s) you like. You save time, as you know the menu in advance and you potentially save money/hassles over unknown local options/hotel offerings.  This works best in a place where time and budget trump exploring the local cuisine!

Avoid the mini-bar  The hotel mini-bar is a trap; never go there! Stock up at a local convenience store before you even check in. Buy bottled water, snacks and whatever else calls to you from the insanely overpriced fridge in your room.

Double down Got downtime on your trip?  Calculate who else you can meet with while you are in town and schedule that in advance. Make media meetings; connect with other pros or even meet people whom you know via social media but have not yet met in person. No matter what your plan, it’s important to organize your schedule ahead of time to optimize your business travel.

Get out. If you’d like to use some free time to explore the sites of your destination, look into deals ahead of time for the main attractions of the town you are visiting.
Calling all road warriors – please add your tips to ours below!

Enhancing Oscar

Merely watching the Oscars on your flat screen is so five minutes ago!

As we in the PR business know, nearly every experience can now be enhanced with a combination of devices, apps and social media know-how. If you are, by some chance, ONLY watching the Oscars on one screen, get with the program!

Here are some fun ways to enhance your award-winning watching:

Before you do anything else, download to your smartphone or tablet, The Oscars (Official App). This aims to be the go-to app for users, bringing you everything from streaming video of the red carpet to tasty recipes to cook up Sunday night. Users can view a list of the nominees, watch videos and see photos, as well as catch a glimpse of the nominees hobnobbing backstage and on the red carpet.

Because you’re bound to thirst for ever more movie knowledge while watching, or because inevitably there is discussion or debate about some actor or director who was involved in some movie you swear you thought you saw, you need IMDb. IMDb will help you curb your curiosity and get to the bottom of that debate. The app contains more than 2 million movie and TV titles and more than 4 million actors and actresses, directors and crew. And this year, the app includes an Oscars section containing a list of nominees, as well as photos from the red carpet and updated results on the winners.

Next, while watching the red carpet on TV, be sure to follow some notable Oscar commentators on Twitter. Mix it up between “real” critics and fun comic types. You’ll want to tweet your own reactions, like, “Oh no @quevenzhanewallis didn’t win!” Or “@silverliningsplaybook scores!” as well as follow, favorite and retweet the experts. These include humorist and author Andy Borowitz @BorowitzReport and Kristen Meinzer @kristenmeinzer, half of the MovieDate critic team on The Takeaway.

Got a group of friends, separated by geography but still yearning to compare notes throughout the telecast? (“Doesn’t Jessica Chastain look beautiful?” “I hope Seth MacFarlane does Stewie!”) Make a Facebook page for the occasion and invite all your friends to a virtual Oscar-watching party. All the fun while still in bed in your jammies!

Finally, the Oscars themselves are a still a storied ritual entrenched in tradition. It was discussed this year that perhaps the results could be delivered digitally sans the fabled envelopes.

But even as tech and social media continue to transform the Oscars into a digitally friendly experience for attendees and viewers, the envelopes have remained in paper format, unlike at other award shows that have presenters read winners’ names on tablets or teleprompters. It appears they will stay that way.

The pundits say the envelope transcends trends, fashion and gadgetry – kind of like the show itself. However you view the Oscars this year, enjoy!

How To Think Like A PR Person

What is it about professional stereotypes? Take public relations, for example: are certain people innately attracted to it, or do we adopt habits and personality traits over time? When an entry-level staffer asked me how to “think like a PR person,” it actually got me thinking…about PR. What differentiates someone in our business? Here’s my list.

You naturally think in sound bites. (But why do the cleverest ones come when no one’s around?)

You work best against a deadline, – the more brutal, the better.

You want to media train everyone you meet, and you sometimes have to hold yourself back from suggesting that strangers “headline” their answers to questions.

You’re a voracious consumer of media and content, from specialized blogs to slideshare powerpoints. You love to compare different media takes on a breaking news event.

You edit everything. Then you edit your edits.

You cringe when someone says “hone in” instead of “home in.” Yet you regularly talk about “key learnings” and “deliverables.”

When a friend or spouse asks for advice on a personal issue you give them a recommendation and immediately outline next steps in verbal bullet points.

You’re always looking for trends.

You’re always looking for things that buck the trends.

You experience a visceral response when you happen to spot a TV news van on the street and have to restrain yourself from running after it.

You instantly connect the dots from one meeting to the next, and all clients programs, even seemingly disparate ones, are relevant to one another!

What PR People Really Do All Day

PR pros have several “products” – creative brain power, smart strategy and arms and legs to implement. This all translates to how practitioners spend their TIME – the agency world’s key to billability.

Understanding exactly what a PR agency team truly does throughout the day enables account managers to see if an account is running smoothly, if the right number of resources are being allocated and if a course correction is necessary.

Here’s a break-down of how some workdays are spent at Crenshaw Communications:

Media monitoring. For many clients, the day begins by preparing a digest of top news for both the company and the greater industry, highlighting any media coverage secured for the client. Thorough media monitoring provides topline news for both client and agency but also offers “thought-starters” for new media pitches and valuable media contacts.

Media pitching and more media pitching. Strategizing on what and how to pitch client stories to the press is the lifeblood of many accounts. It is the team’s job to write compelling pitches, curate the most targeted list, follow up and connect reporters with client spokespeople. This can often take up most of the day!

Writing/editing. Being creative is a big part of a public relations professional’s job. Sure, we write and edit news releases and pitches, but it doesn’t stop there; we also draft plans, write client memos, create Facebook posts, tweets, and blog posts.

Meetings/calls. Structured weekly calls with clients, in-person monthly meetings and internal planning sessions are crucial to smooth-running accounts. Clear, consistent communication promotes adherence to a plan of action for the coming week.
How does your day break down? Let us know!

7 Ways To Bridge The PR-SEO Gap

Public relations and SEO  have never been more compatible.

Ever since Google began its Panda and Penguin updates, links from sites with high domain authority, like mainstream media outlets and popular blogs, have taken on greater importance. Hundreds of questionable backlinks don’t matter as much as they once did.

In giving more importance to high-quality content, Google has highlighted skills like storytelling, content marketing, and third-party endorsement. That’s great news for PR pros.

Yet PR hasn’t quite fulfilled its potential to work with SEO. That’s in part because some PR’s don’t give enough consideration to SEO, or they view it as a bag of “black-hat” technology tricks. And SEO-ers sometimes reduce the practice of PR to dated tactics like keyword-stuffed press releases.

How can we bridge the gap? Here are a few ways.

Use search analytics to inform and develop PR programs, not just execute them.  PR pros routinely work to optimize content and share media results to support it, but the insights that search data provide can be helpful before a program is created. A search history gives us an idea of where competitors are showing up, which sites are linking to them, and which outlets and blogs exert the most influence in the category. Ongoing reviews of search analytics also offer insight into what types of media profiles drive traffic, and sometimes the results are counterintuitive. It’s not always the mega-blog that drives e-commerce conversions, for example.

Don’t overrely on press release enhancement. Many PR pros still think SEO means lots of links in news releases. This strategy is outdated, and spending on newswire distribution of link-loaded press releases can be a waste of money.  In fact, Google’s Matt Cutts has warned PRs not to expect news releases to have a positive impact on their search rankings. His remarks caused a stir in professional circles, but I think he was referring to what I can only call “news-free” releases, – those created simply to generate the now-downgraded website backlinks.

Offer unique content. This is a core PR skill, of course. But it’s not just in the writing or editing. If PR doesn’t own content marketing, it can still support SEO by refreshing the content calendar and dreaming up ideas for differentiated topics and materials, including white papers, articles, videos, and infographics.

Ask for high-quality links. PRs can be reticent to ask journalists and bloggers to include links to client sites, but it’s often perfectly legitimate to do so. In fact, it makes sense to factor in a given outlet’s link policy when planning media outreach.

Write press releases for media consumption. This one sounds like a no-brainer, because news releases are meant for press, yet often the target gets muddled. If PRs are pressed to toss in too many keywords, the announcements become like Christmas trees — everyone wants to hang something on them to help drive search by end-users. But remember, most journalists start story research with Google, so a journalist or blogger should always be the primary target.

Use social sharing. Most PR pros routinely use social sharing to extend the reach of earned media placements and drive direct engagement with customers and those who influence them. But we don’t always build the social following or online community in advance. Where possible, it’s good to have a community in place when the hits start coming.

Measure social influence. Metrics are the holy grail in PR, of course, so we need to give a high priority to the reach that social sharing brings. It can enhance the value of a single blog or media story exponentially, and we want to get credit for every single click, swipe, and share.

An earlier version of this post appeared on MENGBlend.

A Valentine To My PR Co-Workers

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and while the office may not be where the heart is, there’s no reason why you can’t spread the love to the people you spend a majority of your day with– your co-workers. According to Business Insider, the average person will spend over 90,000 hours at work (in PR this is probably 100,000 hours) with fellow employees. Yet, despite being in close proximity for hours on end, we often forget about how much we appreciate them. So, this Valentine’s Day, why not show your colleagues and even clients, how much you care.

Skinny Vanilla Latte, Two Pumps
This is so simple, but in the act of getting to know your co-workers, learning their coffee order is a thoughtful gesture – oh yes, and then bring it to them!

Do Double Duty
Offer to help a co-worker take on a monumental task that will benefit everyone in the office. Devise a brilliant company marketing plan, explore potential new business leads, or do something as simple as cleaning out storage space or replenishing the snack drawer.

Give an APP-ropriate Present
Candy is dandy, but why not gift your co-workers with info on a few cool, time-saving apps that will make their job easier? Try Evernote or Pages, for example.

Words do Speak Loudly
Take a second to congratulate a colleague on a job well-done, or just stop by their desk to see how they are doing. You may not only make someone’s day, but you can also help build rapport around the office. In addition, don’t be afraid to extend appreciation to your clients as well – everyone deserves a little love.

Cats on YouTube
OK, not every five minutes, but do send a laugh-inducing video to brighten your colleagues’ day, whatever stress their workload may have brought, YOU have just lessened it!
Have any other great Valentine’s Day office tips? Be sure to leave them in the comments section below.

Naming Storms Is A PR Blowout For The Weather Channel

I found #Nemo!

This, and hundreds of other tweets about the blizzard bearing down on the East Coast helped propel it to the top of Twitter’s trending topics. And, barring a lawsuit brought by Disney, it’s a cool bit of PR bluster by The Weather Channel, who’s responsible for the nickname that’s been widely adopted by media and the public.

TWC was a longtime client of my first agency, and I’ve loved the brand since its inception. Yet, it was never a brand to take the marketing world by storm. And even weather nerds wondered a little when the network announced it would begin to name winter weather events last year. Some of the early monikers — Athena, Brutus, Caesar — were a bit, well, erudite for public consumption. “Snowmageddon” and “Frankenstorm” were surely more creative, if not very specific.

The naming scheme also caused some blowback from The National Weather Service, which pointed out that it doesn’t name winter storms because they vary from location to location “weaken and redevelop, making it difficult to define where one ends and another begins.” Archrival Accuweather accused it of “confusing science with spin,” and some fans claimed it had moved too far from its humble, pre-NBC springtime.

But the frosty response from the weather community didn’t dampen TWC’s enthusiasm for the storm naming strategy. And that’s a good thing, because it has enjoyed an excellent ratings season and a flurry of PR coverage around Nemo. The branding does make sense. Names make the storms easier to track, and for municipalities to communicate public safety information in a memorable and timely way.

“Snowicane” is hardly scientific, after all. Most importantly, Nemo is searchable, taggable, and tweetable. There’s both ratings and SEO gold in TWC’s naming protocol, and my bet is both the government meteorologists and the competition are just steamed because they didn’t get there first.

Good for you, TWC, for stealing the competition’s thunder and finally branding winter storms for the digital age. Winter storms Orka and Q have already been named; next up is Rocky. Are we ready?

Client-Speak In The PR Agency World

At the start of a new client/agency relationship there is always a period of ramp-up or onboarding or whatever word you like. Most of this is on-the-fly learning about your client’s systems and processes and establishing good reporting schedules and communications. But one of the most important and often nuanced parts of the process is translating what some clients are really saying.

We find that “clientspeak” tends to fall into three main categories. See if your experience aligns with ours.

The Jargoneer
This client is so taken with marketing lingo that even the simplest conversations are replete with corporate buzzwords. And jargon never dies; expressions that were popular a while ago – “out of the box,” anyone? – have been replaced by some other trendy words that often merely bog down the process as everyone scrambles to one-up the other in usage. (My personal pet peeve is “low-hanging fruit.”)

The Secret Handshake
The client with the secret handshake is similar to the jargoneer since each sometime speaks in their own code. The Secret Handshaker, however, has an entire lexicon used solely by them (and their frustrated agency partners who need to adapt.) Often this is company-specific; for example, we used to work with a client whose core technologies had names like LCD, LED, and OLED; product divisions like MFP and SIICA, and corporate divisions known as SEC, CEG, SMCA, and ISG, so meetings would sometimes take place entirely in acronyms!

Mr./Ms. Malaprop
Some people are in love with certain words, however ill-considered their usage might be. In some cases creative terms are born. For example, a former client coined “youthanism” for “euphemism.” These folks cannot be faulted for being in love with the English language, but we can always anonymously gift them with “vocabology”, an app that helps build your vocabulary.

Whatever “clientspeak” examples you may encounter, here are a few rules of thumb to gain clarity.

  • Be an attentive listener. Let your client speak as much as he/she wants. You may find you understand more than you think.
  • Ask good questions. If you ask the first time an acronym is mentioned it will prevent future misunderstanding.
  • Take notes. Typing or writing often helps messages sink in.
  • Put it in a follow-up memo. This way you can confirm that you got it right!

Any examples of “clientspeak” you’d like to share – we’re all ears!

In PR, Every Decision Counts

I once asked a PR colleague whom I respect enormously to tell me the most important aspect of managing accounts and account teams in a PR agency and he said simply, “making smart decisions.”

If you stop and think about it, this is true from the moment your day begins. You choose the right time and setting for an important meeting, who should attend, and how to best implement the resulting assignment, and you realize your day is filled with dozens of decisions.

Of course some decisions are weightier than others, but whether the question is when to promote a junior staffer or how to phrase less-than-fabulous news to a client, I find one tip enormously helpful and never to be skipped!

Listen to the nagging voice in your head.

Even if it’s just a whisper, if you experience even a shadow of a doubt, question the decision. Take a deep breath and consider all your options. Re-read correspondence and memos to achieve more clarity. Run it by a colleague. But do not make a risky decision – even a slightly risky one – in haste. The consequences can haunt you.

Consider the following with each decision you make:

Risk. Most decisions involve some risk. You need to uncover and understand the risks to make the best choice possible.

Consequences. You can’t predict the implications of a decision with 100% accuracy. But you can be careful and systematic in the way that you identify and evaluate possible consequences.

Feasibility. Is the choice realistic and implementable? This factor is often ignored. You usually have to consider certain constraints when making a decision. As part of this evaluation stage, ensure that the alternative you’ve selected is significantly better than the status quo.

Think you’re a decision-making master? Take the quiz and learn for yourself.

Marketers Tackle Super Bowl Blackout In PR Score

The first half of Super Bowl 2013 was a yawn, at least for football fans. For brand-watchers, the commercials were respectable, and a few even stood out. (My favorite was Amy Poehler at Best Buy.)

But the game changer on Sunday was the unprecedented 34-minute power failure that left the players frustrated, the announcers in the dark (and mostly silent), and the network in apology mode.

Like all crisis situations, the Blackout Bowl was a PR opportunity for brands nimble enough to call some new plays and run with it. A few smart marketing cookies jumped on the moment and scored points for social media savvy. Within minutes, Oreo, which had already aired a fun “Cookie or Crème” spot, cooked up an ad featuring a dimly lit Oreo with the tagline, “You can still dunk in the dark.” It was tweeted with the post, “Power out? No problem” and RT’d over 15,000 times. Sweet.

My favorite newsjacking was the most unexpected. PBS, which happened to be in the midst of a Downton Abbey fan chat on Twitter when the Superdome went dark, also seized the chance to join the conversation. Its post, which politely suggested “alternate programming” to the Unplugged Bowl, instantly went viral.

But the biggest off-the-field winner might be Twitter itself. According to Mashable, it was mentioned in half of the Super Bowl ads.

Well played.