Staying Cool Under PR Pressure

When you work for a PR agency in New York, things can heat up even when it’s not the thick of summer. Whether you’re at an agency, in-house, or working with a PR firm, the business tends to put the pressure on.

How to beat the heat: Tips for staying cool when the pressure is high. 
So what are the keys to keeping one’s cool under any circumstances?

Prioritize, and address the most urgent issue first. This is a tip from an air traffic controller. It’s easy to get flustered when a number of pressing matters are vying for your attention. Perhaps that reporter you spoke to yesterday has three follow up questions and her deadline is in one hour. Meanwhile one of your team members has questions about an important document you’re working on that needs to be sent out ASAP. What’s more, the industry event you’ve been charged with leading is right around the corner, with dozens of details yet to be worked out. Learn how to distinguish the urgent from the important, prioritize, and bring your focus to each one in turn.

Stage a mental dress rehearsal. When facing a high-pressure presentation or perhaps a sensitive media interview, take a cue from a cancer surgeon in Dallas, who mentally runs through all the details of a procedure the night before, playing it “like a movie in my head.” That same strategy worked for swimmer Michael Phelps, who learned to “play the tape,” as his coach told him, internally visualizing the steps of a successful race day. This included imagining how he would respond to problems such as gear malfunction. So one day, when his goggles filled with water during an actual Olympic race, he was prepared. Phelps famously closed his eyes, counted the strokes he estimated it would take him to complete the race, and swam blind (setting a world record!) Vividly envisioning the scenario as you want it to play out is a powerful tool to keeping one’s cool and focus under pressure.

Focus on “wins” to avoid getting buried. “Staying positive” can sound trite, but it’s actually important to keep one’s outlook bright when facing pressure from all sides. Did you land an epic media placement using your cunning media savvy? Did you turn a potentially negative PR situation into something that made your brand look good instead? In the face of mounting pressure, savor the small (or big) wins that made you proud, and use them as fuel to get to the finish line in the new tasks you’re facing.

Use your support system. With some smart thinking and a little luck, you’ve made the right choices and have surrounded yourself with a strong team. When the pressure is on, don’t be afraid to ask for help or seek clarification. A solid communications team knows the key to success is to help one another out when in need.

5 B2C Tips To Add Life To A B2B PR Program

B2B PR doesn’t have to be boring. But business-to-business content and PR programs, particularly those that promote a technology product or service, do have that reputation. And while it’s true that the B2B sales process is usually longer, more complex, and more highly targeted than on the consumer side, the PR need not be bland. The B2B game has been revitalized by the growth of social media, and the range of creative content choices has opened up new opportunities for communicators.

What some B2B marketers don’t realize is that classic consumer PR techniques can also go a long way to add juice to a B2B PR program. That’s because, despite significant differences, both depend on the same thing — capturing the end user’s attention.

By now, most B2B marketers know to tell a story visually through real-time data, infographics, slideshare presentations or short videos, and most have crafted a strong narrative around the company or its offering. Here are some additional ways to add flavor to a vanilla B2B tech or professional services PR program.

Borrow interest from pop culture or breaking news. Most consumer PR programs are built around seasonal calendar changes or other predictable happenings, from back-to-school to the Super Bowl. Journalists are always looking for a fresh take on the humdrum seasonal story. Beyond the obvious, you can tie content to the latest web meme, film release, or entertainment personality in the news.  One of our clients, Exponential Interactive, gains attention and visibility by using data science to forecast the outcome of big events like the Academy Awards, with outstanding results in marketing and entertainment press. (Don’t bet against them!)

Use conferences for targeted promotions. Conferences and trade shows are a great opportunity to use contests, scavenger hunts, or other promotional tactics within the business bubble of the show. Contests and giveaways that could never be driven through expensive mass media channels can work well when amplified by a trade show daily, direct-mail list of attendees, or through conference hall “street teams.” (And, yes, most PR people have a few “street team” stories in their repertoire.) Some best bests here include product giveaways, social media contests, or even a conference-themed gaming app.

Think beyond LinkedIn and Twitter. Getting creative on social media, or adopting a new or counterintuitive social channel, is a great way to break through the noise.  IBM, for example leverages its company history on Instagram and Tumblr through #throwbackthursday vintage photos that highlight company milestones and illustrious employees from the past. It earns Big Blue currency with prospective customers while reminding us of its storied heritage.

Leverage people, not technology. This may be heresy within some technology companies, but communications that highlights pure technology is rarely a winner. A story about an engineer obsessed with developing a better algorithm for fraud protection, or a data analyst who can apply her skill to predicting flu trends will gain far more traction than buzzwords or white papers. As MLT Marketing Creative Director Billy Mitchell puts it, “It’s not really B2B or B2C, it’s about H2H, or human-to-human.”

Crowdsource content. The B2B company’s best resource is often customers, so why not let the hive mind of client contacts revitalize your content? Crowdsourced material from customer surveys, testimonial interviews, or simple social-media-driven polls or quizzes can help create entertaining, relevant, and shareable results. There are some clever companies who market to the PR industry who have mastered this technique; they interview “thought leaders” like agency heads and corporate communications executives on topics of the day and count on us to promote the stories where we’re featured. Simple, targeted, and highly effective.