Divining Destination PR

In travel and tourism PR the goal is to promote the visitor experience offered by your client’s destination. From producing and supporting local events to leveraging influential personalities to tell your story, there are a variety of tactics you can use to get a place or property in front of the right people.

So how do you build visibility? Here are some go-to travel PR tips:

Know your destination inside and out. It’s important to become familiar with everything your spot has to offer.  Visit often and take notes and photos to provide a rich sensory picture for journalists. Pay particular attention to what differentiates it from competitive destinations.

Slice and dice your media. Divide your media contacts into categories, from food and family, to fashion and beauty, to entertainment. Keep each in mind when considering story angles and tailor pitches to the various verticals.

Highlight events. This is especially important if you’re planning a FAM trip, but even without that perq, let reporters know about the area’s key events as well as off-the-beaten-path, “only-in-your-area” opportunities. It’s especially important to target the calendar listings editors and see if anyone is pulling together any event round-up stories.

Find the fascinating. For most writers, just the announcement of a new chef or a re-designed hotel ballroom isn’t terribly compelling. But, if the chef is also an extreme mountain climber or the hotel ballroom has all been redesigned in 14-carat gold wallpaper – you might have yourself a story!

Create buzz with big announcements. Make sure you know details in advance and develop a strategic announcement / outreach plan. Rebrandings, key anniversaries or new ad campaigns; new hotels and restaurants; positive tourism statistics – all make for a great reason to stay in front of your contacts.

Practically speaking. Make your mailings memorable but don’t send large PDFs and/or JPGs of dozens of high resolution images. Let someone know what is available and fulfill their request when asked.

Any travel PR tips you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments!

Surveys, Petitions And Polls—Oh My!

The results are in: When looking for a unique angle to promote a client, sometimes it helps to ask for the public’s opinion. Including an omnibus-style survey, social media poll, or even a petition with a slight political bent in your campaign can significantly change the story angle, as well as help the news spread like wildfire. However, each platform requires a little technique. Here are some tips for getting the public to work for you:

Try an online survey. Asking provocative questions via online survey is an easy and affordable way to get a quick sample of public opinion. By asking the right questions, you may be able to put a fresh spin on an over-exposed topic. You might only need one strong question to get the compelling results you need to move the media.

Read the fine print. Nothing’s worse than having great survey results that don’t meet an outlet’s criteria for publication. As easy as online surveys are to conduct, often times, the methodology employed by omnibus polling companies isn’t strict enough for consideration by major outlets. Do your due diligence and make sure you’re not limiting your client’s news by using a survey that isn’t up to par.

Set your budget. Petitions and polls are another creative option for your client to engage with the public. Depending on how large you want your soapbox to be, it may pay to spring for a third-party app to use on social media sites. There are apps for all price points and varying degrees of visibility. Care2, a popular petition website, allows for free and paid petitions to help promote your cause. If you have access to a large budget, Wildfire by Google is another company that provides high-quality content for use on Facebook, creating campaigns from start to finish.

Have a preparedness plan. When you open a public forum, especially one like a petition, be sure to have a plan in place if public opinion takes an unexpected turn or if your petition is lacking respondents. These developments can impact the media’s interest in your campaign and having a contingency plan in place can help move attention from negative to positive.

Overall, adding a survey, poll or petition to a campaign is an interesting way to add depth to a PR plan. Not only does it allow the company to hear valuable public opinion about their industry and company specifically, but it allows them to speak to different media audiences. When looking to break from the routine press release, consider adding one of these tools! Have you used something similar recently? Tell us about it in the comments.

Salutations And Signoffs

While it seems like just a simple hello or good-bye, email salutations say something about you and your company. And given that they constitute your first and last digital impression, they should not be taken for granted, dismissed or trivialized.

So what is the right way to begin or end a simple business correspondence in the digital age?

In the rush to move business along, don’t forget the greeting; you can come off as rude or brusque otherwise. And if you wouldn’t say, “Hey there” to your boss or client, don’t do it in your email. We like a simple “Hi, Mary,” or an old fashioned “Dear Jeff.” For a more professional approach to a group, “Good morning,” or “Greetings” can help strike the balance between too colloquial and too formal.

In my experience, there’s not usually a need to keep adding the greeting if you’re in an email conversation, but circumstances vary. In a negotiation or sensitive conversation where you’re trying to reach agreement, a formal greeting, or a “thank you for your response” may be appropriate for each and every exchange. Cultural norms matter here also. For example, we work with a Japan-based client, and our emails to them reflect a higher degree of formality than with other client partners.

Some people put a signoff in their email signature to save time. This is fine, yet it can be inappropriate to the circumstances (ever get an argumentative note with “Best wishes” embedded in the sig?) Generally, it’s safe to go with “Regards” or “Sincerely.” Although “Cheers” is trendy, and the phrase “XO” has emerged as an “ingenious adaptation to that pressure not to be too bossy, too assertive,” according to Marketplace, try to avoid sounding too casual or flip when closing an email. And, while unique, avoid signatures that are too whimsical, like, “After all is said and done, more is said than done” or “It’s been swell, but the swelling’s gone down.” (Yes, these are actual signoffs.)

Have any creative ways to tie up professional conversations? Then leave them in the comments sections below.

It’s Award Season – Even In PR

by guest blogger George Drucker

We’re getting into awards season. . . in film, television, even public relations. It reminds me of a learning from years ago that has affected my modus operandi for business development and client relations ever since.

Winning awards for creativity is great for the ego. But it’s not necessarily what clients want. At least, it’s not everything.

I will never forget my shock and surprise when Tom Harris – of Golin/Harris fame – published the first of his client surveys of perceptions, wants, needs, and  interests in hiring and retaining outside public relations firms.

Through the years, I had the good fortune to win several PR Awards for creative programs and implementation, from PRSA Silver Anvil to CIPRAs, Golden Apples, Golden Trumpets and everything in between. I thought creativity ruled, that original thinking, tactical implementation and creative results were what impressed and motivated clients to hire and retain their agencies.

It came as an eye-opener to me that, according to Tom’s first study, the #1 priority for clients is actually SERVICE. No matter how you sliced and diced the data, responsiveness and service level were the most important factors in prospect and ongoing client decision making. Out of Tom’s “Top 10 Needs” for clients, creativity ranked #9. It was a factor–but not a vitally important one.

His ongoing surveys through the years have borne this out, and it certainly changed my perspective. Creative product is very important, but not at the expense of client service.

Whether you’re an agency working with corporate communications or marketing departments, or an internal PR function whose “clients” are inside the company, keep in mind that returning phone calls promptly, anticipating client needs, and essentially crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s might be among the most important things you do.

When you can combine that service ethic and flawless execution with inventive thinking and a creative package, you’re running on all cylinders. But start with the basics, and show your clients where your values lie.

A PR Apps Wishlist

“There’s an app for that!”

We have become dependent on the best apps for Smartphone and other mobile devices in both personal and professional life and look forward to the latest and greatest. Here are some promising new apps to make our lives a little bit easier in 2013.

Ideal both for individual users and groups, Asana allows users to not only stay connected to their colleagues but to the tasks they are working on as well. As an added bonus, it’s a free app (for groups under 30), and offers an invaluable service offices small and large can well use.

Parking Panda
I rely on public transportation for my commute, mostly because parking in New York City is a nightmare (as in most major cities.)  Mobile navigation and GPS apps which help us find everything from restaurants to laundromats are fine but without parking tips, some people may never reach them! Enter Parking Panda which provides users with daily and monthly parking options (including rates) that are close to their destination, thus alleviating (some) of the headaches of city driving.

A huge time saver, Buffer allows you to schedule all of your social media content through one place. In addition, it also enables you to schedule to your content at the ideal time of day via their spiffy algorithm.

Running Windows on a mobile device can be a very trying experience. Thus, CloudOn is a necessity for any professional, as it seamlessly integrates Excel, PowerPoint, Word and even Adobe Reader with your devices’ keyboard.

Like eating in big groups, but hate getting stuck footing the biggest part of the bill (which I usually do)? Divvy allows you to scan, mark and calculate just your orders for both ease of payment and peace of mind, about who is paying for which piece of pie. Just snap a photo of your receipt, mark it according who ordered what, and keep your friends honest.

Battery Stats Plus
While a dead battery may offer a much appreciated respite from the trials of work, no one likes the subsequent feeling of alienation, or the drop of an important conversation caused by the untimely demise of your battery. Battery Stats Plus provides you with more than just a visual icon of how much battery you have remaining, it gives you detailed stats on which apps or processes drain your battery the most. Meaning you can have your battery cake and eat it too.
Know of any other great apps that can help make 2013 easier? Leave them in comments section below.

What Your Font Choice Says About You

Every year the graphic design world is treated to a variety of new fonts – the good, the bad and the ugly. Because we PR types are always looking for ways to make correspondence stand out, we checked out some of this year’s contenders. They include some pretty out-there fonts, with names like Bleeding Cowboys, Ransom Note and Aristotle Maple Hero.

These may not be up to par for business correspondence but your choice of typeface does say something about your character, your personality and your attitude, according to researchers at Wichita State University.

Here is a primer on a few popular font types and what they say about their users.

Serif Fonts are those with rounded edges on the letters or extra strokes added to the top and bottom of each character. Common examples include Antiqua and Garamond as well as Times New Roman. The researchers found that TNR projects stability, politeness, practicality and formality. It is recommended for business correspondence, but personally, I find it boring, utterly lacking character and really dated.

Courier New is also a serif, and study respondents found it rigid, sad, dull and unattractive. I can’t imagine using it for much!

Sans Serif fonts are typefaces sans embellishment and include many of those commonly associated with business writing – the aforementioned Arial and Verdana, which are also considered to be stable and conformist, but authoritative and persuasive.

Scripted/fun fonts such as Comic Sans are just what they sound like – fun and informal. They say creative, happy and attractive.

As you might imagine, the pundits come down on the side of “stable and conformist” for most business writing.

So, even though you’re an Arial on the outside, do you have a wild “inner” Bleeding Cowboys or Jokerman just screaming to get out?

Tips For Better Brainstorming

I read once that the main reason some creative PR brainstorms yield little in the way of usable ideas comes down to performance anxiety. The so-called expert went on about discarding the practice altogether and basically asking team members to “phone something in.”

I think we can do better! There is often something magical about one person throwing out a concept and others building on it until you have something really worthy to share with a client. I propose that rather than abandon brainstorming ideas for PR clients, we just add a little spice to the accepted format. I don’t favor criticizing ideas on the one hand, or offering monetary incentives on the other.

What I do mean is, let’s look at what works best about a brainstorm (preparation, collaboration, support,) and what doesn’t (consumption of precious time, pressure to be creative) and find a system that works best for your office. Here are a few concepts we’ve incorporated that seem to be working.

1) There’s no substitute for preparation – Prepare a creative brief or mini creative brief in advance to home in on exactly what you want to get out of the brainstorm. Also, provide attendees with as much client background as you can to help get creative juices flowing.

2) Ten 5-minute brainstorms may just beat one hour-long session – We seem to do our best thinking and advocating in short bursts. Maybe it’s just our sound bite, ADD culture but meeting and collaborating for short periods with a defined goal seems to produce more options.

3) Take copious notes – You, as main client contact or facilitator, may be just too close to the subject matter to appreciate a certain idea when you hear it. Don’t discount anything without giving it a second look!

4) Don’t be afraid to recycle – Everyone has one favorite idea for an event or program that they’ve never fully realized… the one that got away. Every new creative session promises that opportunity!

5) Brainstorm even when you are not – Keep a file online or physically, of good ideas or successful campaigns you have run across and check it whenever you have a new client or are asked to come up with some new ideas for an existing client. You will seem brilliant.

Got any brainwaves for more successful brainstorming? Let us know here.

Six Strategies To Beat Perfectionism

“The show doesn’t go on because it’s ready; it goes on because it’s 11:30.”           — Tina Fey

In her very entertaining book Bossypants, Tina Fey warns against the evils of perfectionism, the enemy of so many creative projects. As she advises, “perfect is overrated.”

Even busy agency folk struggle with impossibly high standards, particularly those who write for a living. What we do as PR pros can be frustratingly ephemeral, but a blog post, white paper, or other content tends to stick around. It’s tempting to keep working until every word is just so. Yet it’s not always a productive use of time.

Here are some proven strategies to beat perfectionism, and its close cousin, procrastination.

Quantify the improvement likely to come from your efforts. Then decide if it’s worth it. If another hour will improve your proposal by 40%, then spend the time. But if the enhancement is likely to be minimal – ten percent or less – it may be better to fight the urge.

Get fresh eyes on the situation. This is generally easy in an agency environment where a team structure is the rule. And someone else is far more likely to spot an error or notice an omission that might never have occurred to you, so it can be doubly helpful.

Focus on the objective, not just the product. Go back to that document that you can improve by 10 percent. Will that increase your odds of winning the project? Or is the time better spent in research or preparation? Sometimes, done is better than perfect.

Start in the middle. This can be an effective strategy for those who have trouble beginning proposals or papers. A perfect beginning is rare and can be fixed later.  I usually end up deleting a few sentences of throat-clearing from posts like these. For procrastinators, it’s better to just jump in.

Set small goals. Instead of telling yourself, “I’ll write an amazing blog post,” or “I’ll finish the proposal tonight,” try thinking, “I’ll spend an hour on the proposal with no interruptions.”

Ask yourself, “How important will this by this time next year?” In five years? This is the ultimate question to ask if you’re really stuck. Taking pride in work quality is admirable, but a little perspective can go a long way.

I wanted to come up with seven strategies here, but six is just as good. Because, sometimes, less is more.

Ode To My PR Office

Office, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Each morning I come into my own space ready to create something new on behalf of a client or for our company.  Like anyone, I make my space my own and draw upon certain things for inspiration and to help me through my day. Some are totems since the dawn of office-time and others are fairly recent additions.

Let me take you through my office must-haves:

1)      Awesome pens. I cannot create without an arsenal of colored Pilot G-2 07 pens. They are smooth and make your writing very neat. They are terrific for note-taking and make me feel artistic.

2)      Scratch paper. Waste not, want not. I cannot throw away paper that is only used on one side. Therefore, I have a whole drawer of “used” yet brilliantly white paper that I recycle and use for note-taking and feel very good about.

3)      Coffee filters. If there is a more utilitarian item in an office, I don’t know about it. They can be used as: napkins, paper towels, plates, servers of microwave popcorn and, oh yes, coffee filters. I could go on.


4)      Gum. Nothing stimulates creativity better than gum. Chew. Think. Chew. Think. Currently I am a fan of Extra Dessert Delights Mint Chocolate Chip, which by now you have surmised is both a dessert and a delight (and sugar-free)

5)      PostIts with funny sayings. “All this and a paycheck too..” and other witticisms can brighten your day and your recipient’s too, especially when the note asks for a favor or delivers less than terrific news.

Well, these are all the things I have to have to keep me whistling a happy tune at my desk, what about you?

How To Be Creative Under Pressure

An episode of “Mad Men” featured Don Draper and Peggy Olson wrestling with a tough creative challenge – how to dream up a breakthrough campaign for Samsonite. Don dismisses a celebrity pitchman as a “lazy” strategy, then criticizes Peggy’s next round of ideas as variations on a theme – a boring one.

At Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, a booze-soaked all-nighter always seems to result in a clever campaign idea. But what about creative heavy lifting in the real world? Though I personally work better when the pressure’s on (like most agency people), a looming deadline, coupled with Draper-like feedback, can be a real creativity-killer. And, unlike our advertising colleagues, PR pros have to unpack ideas that are not only brand-relevant, but inherently newsworthy. How to work against the clock when everything seems like so much useless baggage?

To gain inspiration, I spoke to some of the most creative professionals I know and searched my own background for the most reliable lessons for producing under pressure.

Let it flow. You can sometimes unblock your thoughts by going back to the drawing board and dreaming up as many quick ideas as you can, – including stupid, impractical, nonsensical, or crazy concepts. One creative I used to work with would start each session with the preamble, “Okay, let’s think about ideas that will get us fired.” It removes the fear of rejection or of seeming stupid – both enemies of invention.

Don’t panic. Fear chills creative thinking, of course. If panic strikes, I start a “write-around” (prepare everything but the centerpiece idea) to gain control over the assignment, then return to the brainstorm process. Others walk around the block, do something else for a while, or even have a drink. (But beware the effects of the “Mad Men”-style three-martini lunch on the creative process, as recounted here.)

Keep on plugging. I’m a firm believer in the inspiration/perspiration rule. Keep at it, in the form of frequent creative sessions, punctuated by breaks and fresh participants where possible. Every hour brings you closer to a workable idea.

Keep it simple. Rather than shooting for the next Old Spice viral phenomenon, focus on a simple idea, well packaged and executed. Simplicity is the soul of creative problem-solving.

Get some fresh brains on the case. It’s easy to lose your objectivity – not to mention your enthusiasm – for a creative task, so send in the outfield if you can. When I’m stuck after hours, I ask my husband to be a sounding board. Sometimes an outside perspective is helpful, sometimes it’s not. But anything beats listening to your own thoughts.

Get visual. Use white boards, inspiration panels, color, shapes, or images to get your thoughts going. I know copywriters who swear by mind maps. I’m too text-oriented to find them very useful, but many creatives do.

Change your environment. When I”m stuck, I find it surprisingly helpful to change positions, walk into another room,  or even rearrange my office. It’s a metaphor for changing your viewpoint, and it sometimes does exactly that.

Sleep. I’m amazed at how often physical factors like fatigue come up as thought-stoppers in conversations with people who make a living selling their ideas. The mind-body connection is powerful, which is probably why I always feel more creative in the morning, and why some people swear by catnaps.

Play. Do a crossword puzzle, play a board or word association game, or role play. It unleashes the imagination and helps you think laterally, which is the key to solving creative problems.

Psych yourself. A marathon runner friend once told me that, when the going gets tough, he tells himself how tired all the other runners are getting, a reminder that mental strength can make the difference. This applies in business too. While the competition’s sleeping, you’re still working. There’s no advantage like perseverance.