What Top PR Firms Want for the Holidays

Whether your PR firm specializes in consumer PR or B2B, tech or travel, we bet you have a holiday wish list. We can’t help you with the naughty or nice part (like the wrapped Ryan Gosling here), but we do have some ideas for fantasy gifts in a more professional PR vein. Here’s what made the cut this season.

Auto-Strategy Builder
A gift that keeps on giving – an account team plugs in all the information after a client data dump and brainstorm and a computer program provides a brilliant strategic communications brief!

Wearable Tech Media Monitor
The latest and greatest in wearable tech, this Jawbone-style bracelet for the PR pro alerts you when a media contact needs a source for a story. Then, when the story hits and includes your client’s quotes perfectly, the device measures your accelerated pulse and heart rate!

Have-a-Holiday
Is there anything better than hijacking a holiday for publicity gain? With Have-a-Holiday, you needn’t wait for “National Pound Cake Day” or “Buzzard Day” (really, that exists) Conveniently turn any day into the day YOU need to publicize some important client messaging.

Proposal Wizard
Not that any top PR agency ever writes anything “off the shelf,” but wouldn’t it be swell if you could take your brilliant strategy and an app could whip out some tactics, newsbureau description, budgeting and some of the other more mundane aspects of proposal writing, leaving your team to dream up all the creative ways to tell your client’s story?

Meeting Clone
And its companion product, Conference Call Clone for those of us who just have too many meetings to attend!

But let’s not forget what the holidays are truly about.  ‘Tis better to give than receive, after all, so remember to thank your colleagues for their hard work and support, appreciate a client who went out of his way to get a bold PR initiative approved, and be grateful to a media contact for a well-crafted story.

6 Things That Undermine A Strategic Communications Plan

Strategic communications is more than a business buzzword. A well-designed communications plan is a strategic asset; it can boost brand value, enhance relationships with customers and partners, and build reputation while reducing inefficient PR and communications spending. Assuming you know how to develop a plan that focuses on the right message mix, communications channels, and tactics, how can your plan fall short? Here are the most common ways.

It’s not sufficiently tied to business outcomes.  Some companies still view communications as a service function within the organization, or even as a risk-mitigation resource like legal counsel. In other cases, the communications goals are identified as brand visibility. But a strategic communications plan should have a different endgame – building or enhancing the relationships and values that lead to measurable business performance and growth.

The plan was created in a vacuum.  Sometimes the planning process is too internally focused. It’s developed to push out news of the organization’s mission and values, or it’s based on a C-level wish list. But its chances of success are greater when it’s informed by external insights – key trends, disruptors, and specific industry changes that will affect the company over the long term. The best plans also start with a thorough brand communications audit that includes insights into customer, channel partner, and employee perceptions of the business or its products.

Channel messages are in conflict.  We’ve all been there. PR is focused on communicating a product’s “higher-order” benefits while, simultaneously, direct-marketing promotes deep price discounts. While these types of messages can coexist, if not carefully aligned, they can end up fighting with one another.

Communications guidelines are absent, or inadequate.  Even in a smaller company, visual and content quality standards are critical.  In a Harvard Business Review post, strategist Georgia Everse recommends “brand standards that give ‘rules to create by’” for those tasked with content creation and that set a very high bar for quality of creative content.

The plan is a secret.  Some companies keep the communications plan private among a few senior managers. Why? It’s not a secret. More importantly, many employees have customer contact, and virtually everyone talks about the organization with others. A brand message framework is useful for everyone, particularly because informal conversations will almost always fill gaps created by inadequate brand communication within the company.

The team is lost in the tactics. Though guidelines should be shared, the actual execution of communications tactics needs to be owned by an experienced team. But in the heat of media relations battles or email marketing campaigns, we often overfocus on execution. Someone once said to me that the difference between a strategic plan and a tactical one is that the former focuses on delivered results, while the latter on delivered change.