Best PR Field Trips

Remember field trips during middle school and high school? How could you not – a day away from your desk, a chance to (possibly) spend some extra time outside, and no classwork.  The best and most important part of these trips, though, was the first-hand opportunity to get out and learn or experience something new.

Who said field trips had to end in school? Keep learning in your chosen “field” with these ideas for PR field trips!

The Newseum in Washington, D.C.
Working in PR, you ‘re spending a lot of time pitching news stories and working with journalists. This museum offers insight into their day-to-day responsibilities. The Newseum bills itself as an interactive museum of news and journalism that provides a comprehensive look at the power and responsibility of the journalist.

Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, NY
Its permanent exhibit, Behind the Screen, is a one-of-a-kind experience that immerses visitors in the creative and technical process of producing, promoting, and presenting films, television shows, and digital entertainment.

TV Stations and News Rooms
Most PR pros will get to visit a working newsroom or studio where an interview program is taped at some point in their career, and seeing how and where these shows operate helps an account person with the “lay of the land.” If you haven’t had a chance to get to a TV studio or newsroom yet, talk to a supervisor to see if you can tag along for an upcoming segment or desk-side.

Newspapers
Before they’re extinct take a tour of a newspaper and get a feel for how they operate. Many dailies such as the LA Times offer such behind-the-scenes peeks. And if you ever have a chance to attend a “page one” meeting at an important newspaper like The New York Times, don’t walk, run. It’s a fascinating experience, and you will never look at the publication in the same way again.

The Museum of Public Relations in Manhattan
More of an “armchair” field trip, take a virtual tour of the roots of the PR profession. Established in 1997, this is the place to go to learn about how ideas are developed for industry, education, and government, and how they have been applied to successful public relations programs since the PR industry was born.

Have any PR field trip suggestions?  Let us know in the comment section below.

Is Tiger Woods Back?

“Winning Takes Care of Everything,” boasts the ad. Sponsored by Nike, the only brand that stuck by the disgraced golfer as he struggled to get his reputation out of the rough, it has an impertinence that’s gotten everyone talking. It’s confident, even cocky, and most importantly, buzzworthy. A winner for Nike.

Yet the tone is at odds with Woods’ carefully choreographed repentance and new, more humble lifestyle. Also, it may be a little premature (the Arnold Palmer Invitational isn’t the toughest tournament, after all!) More to the point, it violates a cardinal rule of reputation management by indirectly reminding us of his fall from grace. And many criticized the ad for seeming to trivialize or excuse his misbehavior.
But, as Nike points out, Woods set a goal to regain his game stature and through hard work, he has – at least for now – accomplished it.

So does his status mean he is, literally, out of the woods? Are his recent wins and (presumably) stable relationship with Lindsay Vonn enough to wipe out the bimbo eruptions and hostage-video-style apology of three years ago?

Probably. Woods is now the game’s number-one player again, which is a tangible and indisputable achievement, and one that at times seemed impossible. My guess is that if he wins the Masters next month, it will clinch his comeback. Because most of us, even casual fans, now really want him to win.

Life doesn’t give us many mulligans, but Woods has earned this. There are few stories more irresistible to the media – and the public – than redemption on such a grand scale. Tiger Woods is a just a shot away from climbing back from the longest, toughest, and most painful match of his life.

Get Your Blog In Shape

Is your blog flabby? Is its content the equivalent of junk food? As with other spring rituals, getting your content in shape is a worthy exercise. Ask yourself these questions and then choose a shape-up plan that works for your particular blog.

Is it carrying a “spare tire”? You need sharper editing. If you are the sole assignment editor, writer and copy editor, you may have become too close to the content and need some outside eyes to do incisive cutting. It only hurts for a minute, but the rewards for sleek, new posts are worth it.

Are your topics stale or the content equivalent of “empty calories”? Overhaul your Editorial Calendar! Really take some time to look at the next 3-6 months with a keen eye to topicality, seasonality, annual posts worth revisiting and some futurecasting to help you come up with fresh, dynamic themes. Consider assigning guest bloggers to keep things interesting.

Having trouble “fitting in” the time? Get organized and set aside an hour to plan, write and edit each piece. This may mean blocking out writing time on Outlook or having Siri remind you “time to blog” – any way that you do it, make it scheduled and rigorous as you would a physical exercise routine.

Does your blog need a new look? Something as simple as a font change can help liven its look. If you have had the same graphics and colors forever, though, it may take a bigger change to keep your blog fresh and appealing.

Whatever changes you undertake to improve your posts, set some realistic goals and recognize that just like losing weight or saving money, goals take time and hard work. Set some and get to it!

How To Create Brand Advocates And Evangelists

It was Guy Kawasaki, former Chief Evangelist at Apple and instinctive PR expert, who coined the phrase “evangelism marketing.” Since then, all types of companies have been trying to let loyal customers do their brand building for them.  Social media makes that more accessible and easier than ever.
But true brand advocacy usually happens organically. The most ardent fans are responding to an authentically positive brand experience. Can a marketer accelerate the process? Here are a few principles that work for many companies.

Start Inside

The best programs work from the inside out. After all, if employees aren’t brand advocates, how can they help customers get there?  Starbucks has an inspiring model. It recognizes that each store manager essentially runs a small business, so it has invested heavily in a “Leadership Lab,” an intensive training experience featured at a recent conference for about 9,600 Starbucks managers. Think pep rally on steroids.

Empower Staff

The most successful employers give their staff the license to make on-the-spot decisions, like waiving an airline penalty or approving a retail markdown.  These moves can engender the kind of instant, but highly shareable, gratitude that is usually the first step towards evangelism. Don’t we always want to tell our friends when we scored a freebie or an upgrade?

Make it Social

Empowerment can extend to social media, too. Wanting to establish a “connected brand,”  iCrossing created not only social media guidelines for its employees, but training on content creation. According to CMO David Deal within one year, the company tripled its volume of blog posts, boosted website visits by 74 percent, and was recognized as a social media role model.  The guidelines are a win-win for the company and employees as they help each with its own brand development.

Remove Roadblocks

Stop targeting. Think in terms of engagement and conversation. and start engaging.  Marketers are conditioned to look at customers and prospects as targets, but it’s more productive to plan for a long-term relationship, or at least a dialogue. The upfront time investment is more than worth it in the long run.

Drop the Marketing-speak

Customers aren’t engaged by jargon or marketing strategy.  People buy from other people.  Usually, it’s people they like and want to spend time with.  The art of community management is to make the human side of the brand—and the manager—come through.

Use Incentives

But don’t assume cash is the best motivator, because, chances are, it’s not.  More powerful lures for evangelists-in-the-making include exclusive or early trial of new products, insider access to information or announcements, trips to corporate headquarters, or other tangible but highly branded experiential rewards.

Create a Community

If they’re not already doing so, encourage your advocates to meet one another and share reviews, opinions, tips, and the like and give them the content and tools to do so. Like attracts like.

Use Humor

Nothing is more disarming for cynics or more attractive to would-be advocates.  Recently P&G brand Crest was criticized on Twitter by comedian John Freiler.  Rather than giving him the brush-off or responding in kind, its community manager engaged Freiler by offering him a three-year supply of “toothgoop” and negotiating a tongue-in-cheek truce to the feud.  Today, Freiler is a Crest advocate, if not an outright evangelist.  Nice.

A version of this appeared on MENGBlend.

Managing The Media Exclusive

In the public relations world, getting an exclusive is often a key part of a team’s overall strategy of securing the best coverage. But it is often a delicate dance between outlets, clients and agency and must be handled with a certain finesse. The definition of “exclusive” has even grown murky (see CNBC’s restrictive booking policy. It prohibits guests from appearing on rival networks like Bloomberg or Fox Business Network once they agree to a CNBC spot, even if that appearance is AFTER CNBC).

Managing the process of securing an exclusive has never been more important. Here are a few tips to consider when trying to nail down exclusive coverage.

How’s my news? Just because you have news to offer doesn’t mean it will get covered (let alone exclusive coverage), so pegging your news to a meaningful hook is key. Launches, acquisitions and funding are all newsworthy hooks, so be sure to do your homework to settle on the most compelling angle.

Which outlet is right for me? Everybody wants The New York Times and Wall Street Journal, and, honestly, it’s hard to go wrong with those outlets. In most cases, though, your exclusives won’t be big enough for those pubs. That’s why it’s important to know which outlets, beyond the big guys, would be considered exclusive “wins” for your client. By steering your efforts towards the best pertinent, targeted, outlets, you will not only stay top of mind for current customers, but for new ones as well.

The approach Your pitch is often only as good as the media list you target. Selecting the wrong media contact or approaching them in a way they dislike (“no phone calls ever”, “no emails only Twitter” ) can mean the difference between exclusive glory and bitter defeat. Pitch only reporters that make sense to your brand, know their preferred M.O., and be sure to speak off the record beforehand.

Sealing the deal Once you have settled on which media outlet will break your exclusive, be sure to establish any key differentiators – features and data that ensure that your client is presented in the manner you want. And don’t be afraid to have honest discussions with your contact to best manage the expectations of your client.

Have any other great tips for handling the ebbs-and-flows of the exclusive process? Leave them in the comments section below.

Once Upon A Time In PR Land

Once upon a time in any given workplace, you could say this to anyone, and they would know what you meant, “So the whole team bought into this silly idea just because the CEO suggested it, it was so ‘emperor’s new clothes.’”

Today, if you were to say that to a Millennial, you would get a blank stare! You could translate, of course, to “Then they all drank the Kool-Aid!” (Though who even drinks Kool-Aid anymore?)

Therein lies the premise for this post. How long does a perfectly good and meaningful “shorthand” phrase last in pop culture? I don’t know the answer, but I thought it was a good time to review a few and see how they hold up. For the uninitiated, the origin of the “emperor’s new clothes” is a children’s story of a vain king tricked into parading before his subjects in his birthday suit by a tailor who claims he’s produced “magical” garments that only the worthy can see.

“This’ll get great PR, it’s a real Cinderella story.” In an informal poll, most 20-somethings know what the phrase means — “coming from rags to riches,” but not because they remember the glass slipper and original source material. They know it as the ultimate sports analogy, particularly in college basketball. Of course, were they to dig a little deeper, Cinderella is actually a tale of deception more akin to being “Catfished” today.

“Everything’s fine on the account; he was just crying wolf.” When I threw out this phrase, there was a vague sense that something called “Peter and the Wolf” existed, but when explained the parable, people immediately “got” that it meant inflating concern (over nothing) for attention’s sake.

“The minute we stepped into the presentation I knew we weren’t in Kansas anymore.” The association to Oz was clear to most, but not the meaning of the phrase. Of course, through the years it has come to be shorthand for “we are way out of our comfort zone now.”

“Looks like we will be losing our client soon, since she just met her Prince Charming.” Easily understandable, but here’s the question for anyone reading. In what story does Prince Charming actually make his debut? I’m going with Sleeping Beauty.

Any examples of terrific shorthand that may not stand the test of time in your office? Let us know here.

9 Things You Should Never Say To A PR Firm

Clients and prospective clients are the lifeblood of any PR agency. We love them! But they do say odd, confusing, and even exasperating things at times. Here’s a list of some of our favorites.

“We finally figured out what we need. Let’s do a viral video!”

“We’re looking for someone to grow with us.”

“We’d like a campaign/stunt/launch like Apple. Something like when the phone was left in the bar.”

“Don’t spend a lot of time on it, and don’t write a plan, just give me an approach.”

“My nephew just graduated from college and has some thoughts about our social media.”

“How much for a press release?”

“The last agency we worked with had a good idea. Maybe you could do a campaign like that, but different?”

“Can you make this look great by the end of the day? But don’t change anything.”

“We’re looking at 30 agencies and hope you’ll want to participate.”

Don’t Trip Up! Fam Trip Planning Primer

Seeing really is believing, and for PR pros, a familiarization press trip, or fam trip, is a staple for securing in-depth, first-hand coverage of a destination.  A successful fam trip will not only provide you with a way to show off your client’s tourist or business features but also give you a great opportunity to build relationships with key journalists and bloggers.

Here are some tips for making sure your next fam trip run smoothly:

Do your research. Cater the fam trip you’re developing toward the reporter’s interests – the more involved and engaged, the better!  Also, check with the reporter and see if there are any “must-sees” or (or any “must-not-sees”).

Prep. Details, details, details… from beginning to end, make sure everything is clearly mapped out. Include a well-structured itinerary, maps and directions, information for key contacts, what to pack, etc.

Discuss angles in advance. If it’s a freelancer, you want to make sure there’s a real assignment in the offing. Before the trip specs are set in stone, discuss the story highlights and iron out any wrinkles. If the reporter is planning a family trip feature, for example, you may want to skip the pub crawl. (or maybe not…)

Encourage social sharing. This is a simple, and sometimes undervalued, way to really highlight the destination and build buzz. Spell it out for the reporter – give them hashtags to use, tell them where they should consider “checking in,” let them know when they’re about to see an Instagram-worthy moment.

Resist the urge to jam your itinerary. As much as you want the reporter you’re working with to experience everything at the destination, give them some down time. After an action-packed day of touring, it’ll be helpful for them to take a break and reflect on everything they saw / experienced.

Any fam trip tips you’d like to share?

PR Winners And Losers This International Women’s Day

In the public relations world, every day is International Women’s Day, since women outnumber men and have for years (70%, according to the Institute of Public Relations).

But for the rest of the world, March 8 marks a range of events designed to inspire women and celebrate female empowerment. Rich and diverse local activities connect women through political rallies, business conferences, networking events, theatrical performances, and more.

In honor of this occasion, we wanted to take a look at some women making news at home and share our opinion on whether their rising profiles should be considered a PR “win” or a “loss” for womankind.

Winners

Sheryl Sandberg. Yes, we know the celebrated Facebook COO’s book is controversial. But, love her or loathe her, the author of the latter-day feminist manifesto (femi-festo?) Lean In is a winner in our book for the sheer volume of visibility she has generated even before its publication date. The proof will be in the pudding however; we’ll wait to see what kind of sales she racks up before finalizing our thumbs-up.

Marissa Mayer. Fresh from a ten-minute maternity leave, the Yahoo chief took an interesting stance on what has become the norm for so many progressive companies. She abolished tele-commuting in order to foster a more collegial and productive corporate culture. Again, the decision’s merits are debatable, but it was bold! (Rumor is she checked login levels to the Yahoo VPN and found them lacking.) And she has supporters; many suspect that out-of-office too often means out of the loop!

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. For most women, they demonstrate class, smarts and humor. In fact, it’s already been suggested they parlay their hilarious Golden Globe hosting gig into an Oscars date next year. But there is a detractor. In a quote to Vanity Fair about a jab the two made during the Globes, Taylor Swift intimated that they were mean girls, deserving of “a special place in hell” for not being supportive of a sister. Instead of getting fired up, the duo responded with humor. A little “bossypants,” maybe, but a good move.

Michelle Obama. Kudos to First Mom Michelle Obama for a near-perfect rendition of “mom-dancing” on SNL, and for being willing to share the light side of her campaign to get us moving! And, while we’re on the subject, let’s give an honorary thumbs-up to “faux” mom Jimmy Fallon for helping FLOTUS bust some moves in an utterly appealing and non-partisan way. Again, they proved that a lighthearted pop culture poke can be a brilliant PR step.

Losers

Taylor Swift. That’s right, Swift came up short when she responded to the Globes wisecrack by blowing it out of proportion in a national magazine, weeks later! She also got it wrong when she cited Katie Couric as the source of the “hell” comment. (Actually, it was Madeline Albright.) We think there may be a special place in PR purgatory for divas who do NOT know how to laugh at themselves!

How To Protect Your Digital Reputation


A while back, I was startled to see myself criticized harshly on an online IT forum. One poster called me “clearly incompetent” and demanded that I be fired. It was a chilling feeling, especially since I didn’t know any of my antagonists.

Of course, it wasn’t about me. I share a name with a former public information officer for a Midwest school system. From what I pieced together, an IT security breach of some kind triggered some fallout for which my namesake was blamed. (I’m pretty sure it wasn’t her fault.)

Given our different geographies and occupations, my reputation risk from the nasty comments was minimal.  But, it was an unpleasant and creepy taste of what it must be like to experience an online attack or mistaken identity. (For an account of a much harsher lesson, pick up James Lasdun’s memoir of being a victim of a horrifying Internet vendetta, Give Me Everything You Have.)

Everyone in the PR or reputation business knows that online reputation damage – deserved or not – is the underbelly of the anonymous web – both for critics and their targets. Google isn’t just a search engine, it’s a reputation engine, and anyone who’s checked out a prospective blind date will agree. What’s more, according to at least one source, 78% of recruiters do reputation searches for job candidates, and 63% check social media sites.

Of course, e-reputation concerns have spawned an entire industry, and the major social media sites have stepped up privacy and verification procedures under pressure, but people can be sloppy, rushed, and ignorant when it comes to social media usage. They’re also careless about anonymous handles, and as we all know, anonymity brings out the worst in just about everyone.

Yet having no digital footprint is also risky, at least in many relevant professions and business circles. So, how do you manage your e-reputation in a proactive way?

Monitor. Yes, we all monitor for online mentions of our name, but remember to watch the social media accounts of your closest contacts, including friends and family. They’re the ones most likely to be posting silly photos or worse.

Protect your online identity. Reputation starts with your  name. Find out who has the same or highly similar name to yours; consider adopting an initial or using your full name if there’s a risk of confusion.

Sign up for every social network. You don’t need to be active on all sites or communities; in fact you can point everything to your Facebook page if that’s your identity hub, but claiming your name will deter squatters or namealikes.

Deal with any problems quickly. The sooner you ask your brother-in-law to delete the New Year’s party pictures or the blogger to correct the inaccurate quote, the better.

Secure your accounts. Obvious, but easy to forget or overlook at privacy settings and policies change. Switch off tagging, opt out of lists, and share your privacy preferences or concerns with close contacts who have access to information and images. A good way to do that is by asking about and respecting their wishes when it comes to sharing personal photos and content.

Don’t reveal personal information. Identity thieves can use key dates, children’s names or ages, or mutual friends to hijack your page.

Create content. Obviously this is the best way to build a positive digital identity and the first advice reputation professionals often give to clients. If a blog is too much, become an active commenter on other blogs or online communities.

Even a casual social media user has to exercise common sense, and a little vigilance, to protect their good name.