Three Ways To Change Up Your Social Media Strategy

Every PR team knows that social media is more than simply a nice thing for companies to have; it’s an imperative. Fifty-three percent of customers who follow a business are likely to be loyal to that business, and 63% of consumers who search for goods and services online are more receptive to those with an engaging social media presence. 

While it’s important to identify and stick with a consistent brand personality for social content, there are times when social content becomes stale. Or, the social content strategy may lag behind trends. In addition to general social media tips such as posting at certain times for maximum views (we like 11:00 AM or between 1:00 and 2:00 PM), PR and social media pros are regularly challenged to tweak social media strategy to increase engagement and attract followers. Here are some ways to do exactly that. 

Mix up your posts

Part of any successful social media strategy includes drawing your audience in through a visually appealing, constantly changing page. If your posts are starting to sound a little repetitive, mix things up. Although voice and messaging may be a constant, one way to keep content fresh is by varying the type of media posted. Alternate between accompanying your post with images, gifs and videos. Definitely change up the images you’re posting on Instagram since it’s such a visual platform. Consider alternation coloration or tone – go black and white, or minimalist or psychedelic. 

Also keep in mind that short videos can be highly effective in engaging viewers. For example, LinkedIn launched LinkedIn native video in 2017, in an effort to expand from being just a long-form content site. With native video, you can record on your phone or computer and then upload recordings to the site. As LinkedIn video continues to grow in popularity, 87% of LinkedIn video marketers say it’s been an effective channel for them. In PR, we make sure to post earned media stories to amplify their reach and to keep our posts interesting – which is effective since LinkedIn posts with images, videos or links get 39% more engagement than text-only posts on LinkedIn. Since 57% of all engagement on LinkedIn is via mobile, the content has to be mobile-friendly – i.e., short and sweet.

Another idea is a social media takeover. If it fits with the tone of your page, have an employee run the social page for a day. Or, consider jumping on the ephemeral content trend, and create content that is scheduled to disappear after a certain amount of time. Ephemeral options are widely available on platforms including Instagram, WhatsApp, TikTok, and Facebook. In 2019, TechCrunch reported that there were 500 million daily active users of Instagram’s Stories features. By simply changing up your posts, you will notice an increase in engagement and followers. 

Give a go at interactive posts

As we saw in several Super Bowl ads this year such as Mountain Dew’s “Major Melon” ad offering $1 million to the first viewer to tweet the exact number of bottles in the ad, people like free stuff and competitions — and brands should deliver. An interesting way to maximize engagement is to run a contest or giveaway on your page. According to data from social media scheduling tool Tailwind, 91% of Instagram posts with more than 1,000 likes or comments are related to a contest, and accounts that run contests on a regular basis grow 70% faster than those that don’t. Or, consider creating a survey on your company’s Instagram page’s story, and keeping followers posted on results. Of course, having interactive posts also includes maintaining your company’s page by regularly responding to DMs and comments. 

Another great way to be interactive is with livestreams or Q&As, whether on Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn. Livestreams, or online streaming media simultaneously recorded and broadcast in real time, are a great way to highlight news for short, high-profile announcements or milestones. They work particularly well if a brand has an influencer or celebrity-driven initiative. Consider a Facebook Q&A, or going live on Instagram. Showing a face can make the brand come across as more authentic, and it will amplify your story. Remember to promote who is going to livestream and when, through banners on social media, email invites or paid ads on LinkedIn or Facebook. Since you have less control over livestreams than on other forms of social media, you will want to prepare for possible questions ahead of time. You can even ask viewers to send in questions beforehand. In 2018, HBO announced the air date of Game of Thrones season seven via Facebook Live – and attracted around 3.5 million viewers.

Be timely

Although a social media strategy requires advance planning, some of the best engagement may result from day-of content that reacts to real-time news events. Try ranking scheduled posts on a scale of importance from one to three, and then overriding some of the threes with more relevant content from that month, like responses to news stories, reposts, or other timely content. Remember, not all of the content on your page has to be generated by you! Peppering in timely retweets or partners’ relevant announcements will not only prove timely, but also help mix up your page’s content. It may be worth delaying that evergreen photo in favor of more pressing news, whether in the news cycle or from within the company. The goal is to maximize engagement and earn new follows. Jumping on relevant news is a great way of doing that, even if it means pushing off posting some of your planned content.

When social media users choose to follow your account, or when existing followers read and engage with your posts, they are giving you their time, even if it’s only a few seconds. Therefore, if you’re managing a social media page, it’s on you to make the content worth their time. When it comes to social media, the secret sauce is having both quantity and quality for the highest engagement. Meaning, post frequently but make sure frequent posting doesn’t come at the expense of quality content. By incorporating these tips into your next social media strategy, you can create a high-quality social media page that really stands out. And don’t forget to track social media engagement stats so you can figure out what works, and where you can improve next time.

Does Facebook Work For B2B PR?

As the social media landscape becomes more complex, PR pros debate whether Facebook is still an essential platform. This is particularly true for B2B PR and marketing teams. For B2B communications, LinkedIn is typically the top social destination, and Twitter may also be useful, but few brands prioritize Facebook. 

Yet it may be a mistake to overlook Facebook. It remains the primary content distribution channel for marketers. Forty-six percent use the platform – more than the 33% who use LinkedIn. Facebook also overshadows other social channels with its sheer size. It has a user base of 1.6 billion, who spend an average of 35 minutes a day there. In 2021, marketers should reassess how they use Facebook and make full use of the tools it offers. But are these stats meaningful for B2B campaigns?

When to use Facebook for B2B marketing

Here are B2B social strategies that perform best on Facebook.

Advertising offers a strong return

Looking to build brand awareness? Remember, business buyers are people, too, and most of them are on Facebook. With the right audience data, Facebook advertising can get your brand in front of your targets. Its relatively low CPM offers a better return on advertising spend than LinkedIn in most cases. It may also offer a greater reach, and its ad tools are far superior. Facebook’s advanced machine learning algorithms, user data, and web tracking and analytics enable greater conversion optimization for ads. 

Retargeting is easy

Facebook Pixel, an analytics tool that can be installed on a website to measure Facebook Ad performance, lets you track leads across various devices and retarget visitors with ads on other platforms. LinkedIn offers a similar tool; its Insights Tag can be used for retargeting but is more expensive than Pixel.

Target groups with thoughtful content 

Facebook Groups offer ways to locate a specific audience and direct commentary on relevant topics to its members. Since Facebook changed its algorithm in 2018, the newsfeed has prioritized posts that inspire back-and-forth discussion, which include posts from Facebook Groups. 

Facebook Groups for business give brands the opportunity to organically build engagement while discussing technical and insider information, with lead generation as an added benefit. 

Targeting local and small businesses

Most small business owners find Facebook to be the best social media platform to connect with their customers. For large B2B marketers who target SMBs, Facebook may be an ideal environment. Small business owners are likely to check their feeds on a daily basis, making them easily targetable with product and service marketing messages.

New and useful Facebook features for B2B PR and marketing

Facebook isn’t the same platform today as it was just two years ago. It has introduced new ways for marketers to share content with an intended audience. Here are some B2B marketing tactics that brands should consider using on Facebook.

Video thrives on Facebook Lives

The rise of social channels like TikTok has propelled video as a major content trend in 2020 – and this is projected to continue into 2021. “Lives” marries the content trend to the popular theme of personal connection. Facebook isn’t the only platform that offers its users the Live feature; LinkedIn has a similar feature – but Facebook allows all users access while LinkedIn requires prior approval.

Brands can commit to conducting a Q&A or demo on Facebook Live once a week, which is a brilliant way to increase video content and repurpose it on all social channels. Facebook Live videos can be republished on YouTube or LinkedIn, and edited for shorter clips to post on Twitter. Video summaries of current blog posts are another way to ramp up video content.

Many marketers recommend that 20% of published social media posts have a video element to them – even animated GIFs count! 

Try unpolished images to drive engagement

Marketers know that posts with images are more likely to make audiences stop scrolling and engage. As social media evolves and algorithms change, users are scrolling more and more. One emerging trend on Facebook to stop the scrolling is nixing polished stock photos for more candid-looking, unvarnished images. This trend applies to both paid and organic Facebook posts.

Think you’ll be met with pushback? Consider testing a consistent brand image versus a more relaxed shot of what looks like could have been posted by a friend. That way, any changes will be data-driven.

Facebook Messenger allows personalized comms

Personalized communication is another emerging social media trend. Human-to-human (H2H) conversations in comments and DMs drive more conversions compared to a messaging campaign or post. 

Facebook Messenger, which uses bots to set up and send personalized messaging, can be an effective tool for engaging and converting page followers. Marketers report significantly higher engagement with Messenger as compared to email. Brands can send messages free for the first 24 hours, then assess their effectiveness through automated tools. If a portion of your customer bases uses Messenger and  you have the budget, a Messenger test could be well worth it.

Customer service and customer sentiment 

B2B companies should be actively working to strengthen relationships with their current customers, as well as limiting any reputation damage that results from posts by unhappy ones. Marketing should work with the customer service to address negative posts in real time. Never let requests for help or complaints go unanswered.

A “listening station” that monitors Facebook for any mention of your brand, products, and events, as well as those of competitors, can provide valuable information about activity on the platform.

Change up your social strategy

Social media is constantly changing. Social strategies need to shift with consumer habits, so most brands rethink or reevaluate their social approach regularly. While Facebook may not be the first line of defense for B2B marketing, but the data shows it can be very effective.

How Editorial Calendars Are Key To Great PR Campaigns

A successful PR campaign is a strategic one. That starts with planning earned and branded content around the schedules of target publications, as well as key dates, milestone events, and industry happenings. Planning is vital to successful pitching and one essential component is the humble editorial calendar. It’s the worst-kept secret in most PR firms. 

An edcal is a content roadmap that ensures a steady flow of media coverage, even absent major news announcements. It’s like an unsung hero of the public relations world — not flashy or creative, but vital to a robust media placement schedule. Here’s how edcals can boost earned media outcomes, track goals, and keep all the moving parts of a PR plan aligned.

What is an editorial calendar?

Editorial calendars are created by publications to help editors plan out future issues. Though they’re typically created for advertising purposes, edcals give a PR team a topic guide for creation of press releases, blog posts and content marketing. By laying out what content to create, when to pitch and whom to pitch, editorial calendars make PR both easier and more effective. Any tool that helps you stay organized is one worth investing time to set up. Edcals help streamline content marketing efforts and reduces the stress of not always knowing what to publish when.

Planning Content

As part of a good PR plan, the edcal can contain special dates, events and occurrences as well as the publication’s schedule. There are four types of content to plan for:

Date-specific content: Begin with dates that are known and likely won’t change, such as holidays, specific launch days or company announcements.

Evergreen content: Not tied to a particular day, evergreen content can be used any time.

Breaking news: While this type of news can’t be planned, it’s still an important part of editorial calendars because it allows the opportunity for prominent placements and can help build credibility with reporters. 

Repurposed content: Refresh previous content and select successful pitch ideas and posts. By updating a headline or freshening a statistic and repackaging the material as a new story angle, you can repurpose most content.

How are editorial calendars used?

Edcals outline the content that media outlets will focus on for the entire year. In a similar way, we keep a calendar that outlines key topics for promotion, including proactive media pitches and social media posts for the year. With a structured plan in place, PR pros can space out appropriate brand announcements on relevant days. Timing is everything when it comes to earned media, so we naturally want to avoid releasing announcements that might be overshadowed by other news during a holiday season or the runup to a major election. Of course, unforeseen media opportunities will come up throughout the year and we may have to stray a bit from the calendar, but that’s the beauty of a flexible media plan.

Measure Performance

In order to see a return on investment, brands will ask about key performance indicators and metrics that have been met for each major time period. Having an editorial calendar can also help measure PR performance over the calendar year. Depending on how many pitch ideas there are mapped out on the edcal, PR teams can set goals for themselves, i.e. three or four published pieces per pitch angle or even set a quarterly goal like 30 stories per quarter based on four pitch ideas per month. You can track these goals right on the calendar, If you fall short, you’ll know to make them up in the next month.

Align the Team

An edcal can also align goals among PR, sales, marketing and higher-level executives so all messaging remains consistent from the top down. For example, a sales team can keep the team posted on important product updates, releases and announcements, and C-level group can share which industry events they’ll be attending that they want to be highlighted in content.

A social media strategy can also be aligned with the calendar to keep messaging and brand voice consistent across all channels. With an editorial calendar you can match your social media updates with the content you’re pitching. For every newly published piece of content, make sure you have several social shares to promote it over the following days and weeks. A long-term vision means you’re pushing a consistent brand voice and content that supports the company’s marketing goals. That’s where a solid PR plan works hardest.

Crenshaw Promotes Team Members

To kick off 2021, we are excited to announce two well deserved promotions.

Caroline Yodice has been promoted to Senior Account Supervisor. Caroline has been a star in Crenshaw’s ad tech group for almost three years, driving very successful programs for LiveIntent, Lotame, Innovid, Boostr, and MediaRadar.  Her clients and coworkers value her hard work and attention to detail and we’re excited to congratulate Caroline on her advancement to Senior Account Supervisor. She’ll be working closely with senior management on successful ad tech programs.

Adam Brett has been promoted from Assistant Account Executive to Account Executive. Adam joined us last February and he has embedded himself as a key team member on accounts like Verizon Media, Uberall, Lotame, and SecureAge, providing excellent media relations and account support. And, no matter what we throw at him, he’s happy to take it on, while asking to do more. We’re excited to see him develop as an AE.

Congrats to both!

 

5 Reasons Your Story Wasn’t Picked Up: A PR View

Every experienced PR person has had their share of media opportunities that looked promising but never resulted in coverage. In fact, most can recall a particular occasion where everything went right, whether it was a full interview or a quick comment, and nothing came of it. Although there’s no magic to guaranteeing a 100% coverage rate, there are ways to maximize your chances of seeing your company’s quote in a story. Below are five reasons why the story didn’t materialize.

The spokesperson wasn’t prepared

Even if your spokesperson is an expert in the field and on the subject at hand, they will need a thorough briefing. This should go beyond a topic and journalist bio. A PR rep should get as much information as possible, pressing for detail on the proposed discussion and the story’s slant. You will not get specific questions, but pulling together a predictive Q&A is useful. In addition, structure is just as important as content. Often your spokesperson will review the briefing document during the interview, so creating an easy-to-scan guide they can review and absorb in real time is critical.

The quote lacked color

For a quote, context and color are often the major factors for inclusion in a story. Make sure your spokesperson is providing new and intriguing insights instead of reiterating what the reporter has likely heard, especially since they might have multiple quotes to consider. A quick brainstorm for unique points and turns of phrase can prepare your spokesperson to offer something new to the journalist. In addition, make sure every insight is relevant to the story and topic at hand. Don’t be afraid to go for a contrarian angle or quote, but make sure the opinion is authentic, and that the spokesperson is comfortable with offering a point of view that’s outside the mainstream.

The interview was too late

Reporters are always on deadline and they often need to speak as soon as possible. It’s important to lock in any opportunities quickly. If your go-to spokesperson is busy and can’t talk right away, consider other executives or experts who might be qualified. There are also circumstances where a pre-prepared quote or comment may be helpful, especially in situations that are anticipated, like the release of government unemployment numbers, or an announcement by a competitor. Also, a quick follow-up with the reporter is helpful. A journalist will often request more information or confirmation of details, so quick responses are warranted and appreciated.

The spokesperson wasn’t the right expert

As helpful as a thorough briefing document might be, it’s also essential for any media spokesperson to have real and relevant expertise on the subject at hand. This is why it can be advantageous to have a matrix of spokespersons, whether in-house or outside experts, on hand for multiple opportunities. Trying to shoehorn a vague or irrelevant comment into a story that needs informed expertise is almost always a waste of time. But when the situation calls for an opinion as opposed to an insight, a colorful metaphor or analogy can win the day.

The comments were too promotional

The quickest way to shut down a journalist’s interest in an interview is to turn it into a sales pitch. Any company spokesperson or third-party expert should avoid jargon, especially comments that talk up a product or service that’s not the point of the story. A good PR rep will coach their executive on ways to demonstrate expertise without devolving into sales-speak. 

How Influencers Can Elevate Your PR Campaign

As digital content consumption continues to grow, PR pros are always looking for ways to target specific audiences through social media. We know the power that social media campaigns can wield – from amplifying earned media that PR generates to marketing products. And adding influencers to the mix can boost those PR efforts exponentially. 

Influencers who resonate with a specific segment help brands stay relevant by cutting through the digital noise. The blend of social media reach and trust in specific personalities can really amplify a campaign. Read on to find out how to craft the best collaboration.

Don’t count out influencers for B2B PR

The splashiest influencer marketing campaigns tend to be in beauty, fashion, and other lifestyle sectors, but don’t count it out for B2B PR. Many B2B categories, like software, have long selling cycles where customers spend significant time learning about products and services. Educational or service-oriented content that shares expertise is typically a big part of a B2B PR program, and that’s where expert influencers come in. A business leader or subject-matter expert (SME) who posts content in the form of bylined pieces, white papers, blog posts, or explainer videos can help differentiate a company and add personality to its brand.

Influencer marketing creates trust

In nearly any category peer recommendations can play a pivotal role in a buying decision. Ninety percent of people are more likely to trust others they see when scrolling through their feed versus a traditional marketing post by a brand that’s clearly pushing a product or service. 

Influencers typically spend a significant amount of time – in most cases, years – building a relationship with a base of fans or followers. Their credibility (or lack of it) stems from how they show expertise while remaining relatable. The most successful will leverage their emotional connections with audiences to create brand loyalty and inspire people to try something new.

Micro-Influencers help manage risk 

As engagement with traditional media channels like TV, radio, and print has declined, marketing with influencers offers a natural and low-pressure way to get brand-related information in front of a targeted audience. 

Micro-influencers have between 5,000 to 100,000 followers and may operate in niche markets. Some will even have higher engagement and conversion rates compared to mega influencers with millions of followers, due to their perceived authenticity. These smaller-scale influencers can also be powerful for B2B PR efforts, where they offer the advantages of lower costs and the ability to generate social engagement that is more tightly focused in vertical sectors like financial services or business technology, for example. 

Working with micro-influencers is also a way to manage risk and stretch a marketing or PR budget. A group of micro-influencers with small, but highly engaged audiences might be a wiser investment than partnering with a single, more expensive mega- influencer, and there’s always the flexibility to ramp up or down as things progress.  

Finding the right influencer

The right fit is essential to a successful influencer campaign. Brands and their PR teams should look for the right partner based on a highly engaged following rather than a dazzling follower count. Here are other factors to keep in mind:

Relevance 

Look through the influencer’s content to see how it aligns with your messaging. The content and the audience of the influencer far outweigh the amount of traffic they receive. 

Engagement 

Engagement is indicative of how frequently an influencer’s audience engages with their content. Frequency of fan engagement is a key sign of meaningful relationships.

Reach

Though it can actually be overrated, reach is a valid metric, and the trend line of an influencer’s reach is an important factor in planning a future relationship. It’s also vital to keep in mind the platforms prioritized by the target audience, of course. B2B brands will want to reach industry decision-makers who are typically more engaged on Twitter and LinkedIn, while consumer marketers may want to focus on Instagram or Snap. 

Frequency

High-quality content posted on a consistent basis correlates with the traffic and a higher rate of returning visitors, which, in turn, this increases audience engagement and reach.

Authenticity 

Influencers with a smaller ratio of sponsored content appear more authentic and are more trusted by their audiences. Personal anecdotes with natural mention of a brand are also a good idea, as they often hold more weight than a review.

It’s also a good idea to see if a potential influencer has strong relationships with other influencers, and if so, how their respective audiences overlap. The overlap between their audience and yours is a key indicator of whether a campaign or long-term partnership will offer a high return-on-investment.

Influencer content and measurement goals 

Explore the type of content that potential influencers publish and compare it with your audience’s preferences and behaviors.  

Creating content with an influencer is a great way to build a relationship. Here are some ideas:

– Host a live Q&A 

– Hold a webinar with an influencer as the host

– Write a series or blog together

– Record a podcast episode

Match metrics like reach and share of voice with your overall PR goals to examine the impact of your influencer.

Engage with your community and build relationships

Once the collaboration begins, it’s time to focus on building and strengthening relationships with your followers. Offering valuable content on a regular basis will lay a foundation, while aligning with an expert or influencer will deepen the engagement and build trust over time.

What are LinkedIn Stories and How Can PR Pros Use Them?

Since LinkedIn launched its Stories feature last month, it has won mixed reviews. But PR professionals shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss it!

Of course, with over 706 million global users, LinkedIn is the go-to social platform for B2B professionals, and it’s probably still the best way to build a network with colleagues, classmates and industry professionals. It’s also a great place to have conversations around hot topics in tech, leadership and current events. 

LinkedIn Stories is similar to Instagram or Facebook stories, allowing users to post an update that will stay live for 24 hours. The story feature makes sense for Instagram and Facebook where you can share real-time updates, but why did LinkedIn feel they needed this feature? 

According to LinkedIn, “LinkedIn Stories enable members and organizations to share images and short videos of their everyday professional moments.” In a pre-COVID world, this feature would have been great to use during industry conferences and events. While the timing of launch may be odd, this is definitely a feature PR pros should convince executives to include in their social strategy. Here are five ways to incorporate LinkedIn stories into yours.

Share professional tips

Instagram and Facebook stories are a great place to share real time pictures, videos and updates, so why not try this out on LinkedIn Stories? Create a social schedule of quotable tips from executives that can be shared a few times a week. The goal here is to share comments or quotes that are short but impactful. You want to grab your audience’s attention very quickly. Make sure content is easy to digest and you’re not cramming everything into one story. If you want to share five tips, create five slides and space out the updates to make a bigger impact.

Highlight ‘events’ in real time

One of the big trends of 2020 was a shift to virtual events, primarily on Zoom. In PR, we believe that securing speaking events for executives is a strong way to promote thought leadership and position clients as industry leaders. Share clips from virtual conferences with short soundbites of high-impact statements from business leaders. When the event is over, if you have access to a full recording, you can tease it in stories as well encouraging connections to watch the full talk if they missed it. 

Host a Q&A

A fun feature on stories is opening a question on your story and asking for followers and connections to weigh in. Consider hosting a weekly or monthly Q&A around current events in a given industry, — maybe on new tech launches or reactive comments around breaking news. Create a two-way conversation between business leaders and their connections. If you’re looking for a way to spread out content, ask connections to submit questions in advance and answer them a few days later. 

Preview company announcements and launches

One of the benefits of LinkedIn Stories is that when users log on, the stories will be featured at the top of the page before they start scrolling. Sometimes user posts can be lost in endless scrolling, but if you have a story, you have a better chance of higher engagement. Did your company just acquire funding or are launching a new tech offering? Tease this announcement in your story. Perhaps preview the headline of a press release to gauge attention and direct users to your company’s page or your own – wherever the press release link is live. Continue this momentum by posting any coverage you generate from the announcement.   

Highlight personal and company achievements

LinkedIn is the perfect place to share job promotions and personal achievements. Use LinkedIn Stories to highlight these wins. On an executive’s LinkedIn Stories, you can also share personnel changes and moves highlighting achievements and accolades. Connections will see how proud a business leader is of their staff, for example, and positive encouragement motivates and inspires any team to exceed expectations. 

How will you use LinkedIn stories? Let me know on Twitter @colleeno_pr.   

Scary Similarities Between Halloween And PR

What do PR and Halloween have in common? They can both be scary as well as fun. Here’s what I mean.

Planning is the key to both

Ever wait for the last minute to plan your costume and feel like a loser at the party? It’s the same way in public relations. For fans of Halloween the planning starts weeks or even months in advance. There’s thought and research put into the ideal costume, candy, décor and celebration. There’s even healthy competition in the suburbs around who can have the most ghoulish yard decorations! In PR, we spend time planning before the “fun” part happens, too. Those plans may be for 90 days to six months, complete with realistic KIPs, media expectations, and outcomes. (Check out some more ways to create that PR plan in this post.) Then we’re ready to dive in and make things happen. Later, we celebrate success. 

Group efforts make the party 

At Crenshaw, we pride ourselves on a company culture that recognizes each person’s successes. We work through things as a team, much like group costumes where everyone has an individual look but together they make up an idea or team, like a LaCroix package or the cast from Schitt’s Creek. Similarly, we hold each other up in public relations. In a pre-COVID office, we could even shout out a question and get multiple suggestions on how to solve the issue. It’s corny to say we have the best team in PR but everyone knows when they walk in the door they are part of an amazing group. Even during these past few months of WFH, we always know our team is just a Slack or Zoom call away.  

PR pros often wear lots of hats….or costumes

During my time in PR, I’ve worked on many different accounts in all different industries – ad tech, retail, cybersecurity, consumer tech, the list goes on. There were days where accounts across the board had major announcements happening, making me feel like I was changing costumes all day depending on what I was doing. Sometimes walking into the office, you never know what ‘costume’ you’ll be wearing. You could be moderating a media interview, holding media training for a CEO, or manning a check-in table at a panel event. Just like for Halloween, we pull out ideas or tricks on a moment’s notice.  

We get very crafty

Some of my favorite costumes were the ones that were homemade and had a lot of thought and time behind them. PR pros are very creative and have the skills to take something bland and make it exciting and relevant. One of our former clients was an emergency “panic button” marketed to women, college students, and runners. After successfully securing reviews in many major consumer tech pubs, our team hit a roadblock – what now? To gain more traction around the importance of being safe when running, we took advantage of Daylight Saving Time. We developed a DST-themed survey and pitched the exclusive to women’s health and fitness publications. Through our creativity we secured an exclusive in Women’s Running Magazine that sparked national TV segments. Without creative thinking, it would have never happened.      

Some tricks, hopefully lots of treats!

One of my favorite parts of PR are the tricks and treats. There are some days where we feel like nothing can go our way. Ask anyone in the business, and they’ll have horror stories about disastrous media events, missed opportunities, or scary clients. Then there are the treats. There is no better feeling than being praised by your boss and colleagues for a job well done, or getting a positive email from someone who is usually hard to please. These little moments of praise and treats remind us why we love working in PR. 

Happy Halloween! Hope your day is filled with lots of PR treats!   

How To Set Expectations In Public Relations

Public relations is known for being versatile, occasionally glamorous, and, yes, stressful. In fact, CareerCast listed “PR executive” as one of the top ten most stressful gigs in its 2019 Most Stressful Jobs report. Some of the pressure we encounter in PR is preventable, however. We’ve all worked with, and been stressed out by, demanding bosses or clients that expect unrealistic outcomes. On the agency side, it’s sometimes because the team overpromises in their eagerness to win a new client. Yet corporate PR officers also fall victim to inflated or impractical expectations when their internal clients don’t understand what’s possible. Here are some tips for avoiding the difficulties that can come with an expectations mismatch. 

Offer honest feedback

Sometimes a client has a program or story idea that they’re certain is a winner, yet the experienced PR team feels less confident. Maybe the story idea simply isn’t compelling or timely enough to capture media attention. PR advisors should voice their opinion when they feel something won’t work. No one wants to be negative, but a viewpoint grounded in experience and phrased constructively can go a long way in heading off trouble later. Often, the idea floated isn’t bad, but it’s incomplete, badly timed, or needs more workshopping. Clients pay us for our recommendations, so we do everyone a service when we share them. 

Explain what is required 

Fortunately, most collaborative ideas can be successful, — with research, work, and creativity. If you want a product launch to be covered in a top-tier publication, journalists will need to talk to someone who has used the product or can speak to its market value. In ad tech, this means getting a brand or publisher client onboard; reporters aren’t going to take our word for it. Stories about products or services in low-interest categories will need to borrow interest in the form of new information, like survey results, new research, or big names attached. Stakeholders must understand that if they can’t secure assets to round out a story, media may not be interested. The same thing goes for business success items; you generally can’t tell a business story in a top media outlet without disclosing financial information. Everyone should be aware of these requirements so they aren’t blindsided later in the process. 

Flag challenges that could impede success

We’re living through COVID-19 and a presidential election year, and both eat up a huge amount of media bandwidth. Media relations deals with the news environment, which is by definition unpredictable. There are huge tech launches, social movements, and hard news stories breaking every day. If a stakeholder is pressing to release something during a big news cycle, it’s the job of PR professionals to explain how the timing will impact reporter interest and coverage. A major announcement or event must be carefully planned around avoidable happenings like earnings calls, congressional hearings, or other news-making things that are on the books, and PR teams need to be flexible for those events that can’t be anticipated. Again, communication is key. 

It’s PR, not ER

News cycles are 24/7, and most PR people are trained to be hyper-responsive to media and client needs. But it helps to establish a cadence for ongoing meetings, email contact, course corrections, and reporting at the beginning of a PR program. Personally, I make myself available from 8am to 7pm on weekdays and only answer email at night or on the weekends if it’s vital. With this, my mind is fresh everyday to think creatively for clients. Others may have a completely different work style or service ethic, but the point is that it should be communicated at the outset.

Never make coverage guarantees

Walk away from any PR person who tells you they can guarantee earned media coverage. A PR team can’t force journalists to cover a particular story, and we don’t exert perfect control over when and how they cover it when they do. Ours is a relationship business, and those relationships will pay off if our insights and content prove helpful to reporters. Being an information resource is an excellent way to build up to getting solid coverage. But for companies who don’t understand that or simply can’t wait, consider mixing earned and paid tactics in the overall plan. Paid opportunities will ensure messaging pull-through while earned media works to validate and build credibility. They don’t have to be mutually exclusive, especially in B2B PR.  

Not everything is about coverage

One function of a good PR campaign is to connect organizations with key media targets so they can tell their story to the right audiences. Unfortunately, those opportunities don’t always result in coverage. For example, we may recommend that a client sit down with a journalist or producer to familiarize them with their brand or business category. We call it a background interview because it is just that – an exchange to provide background for a future story. Every now and then, a PR person forgets to explain the goal, and/or the brand executive gets the idea that the meeting was a waste of time. We need to make sure that participants understand the value of such meetings and make sure they budget time for such media interactions in monthly planning.

And earned media isn’t magic

Congrats, you got a big story! Yet the CMO is disappointed because the interview didn’t immediately produce new business leads. This is also an expectations problem. While earned media can sometimes generate sales prospects, it is primarily an awareness play. Placements generally work to get the name in front of the decision- maker to exert influence over time. If the company name is seen in enough articles, people will become familiar with its offering and recognize it, or even bring it up as an option when making buying decisions. 

Don’t confuse PR and sales

Maybe a marketing executive bores a reporter to tears with brand-speak or hits him with a product sales pitch instead of telling a good story. Our job is to educate them in advance about what media need and want. By the same token, an internal executive may think PR content should look and feel like advertising or sales materials. At our agency we create and place a lot of contributed content, and we know clients need to understand that pieces like bylined articles or op-eds cannot be promotional or commercial. Our content is designed to inform, engage, or issue a call to action, not to sell a product or service.  

With better expectations-setting, PR can be less stressful for those of us on the agency or corporate side. But we still love the “good” stress — tight deadlines, competing priorities, and stretch goals – at least that’s what I’m telling myself today!