The Matchbox.

Sep. 27

Doing the Right Thing: Corporate Giving

Everywhere I look over the past few weeks, there are heroes among us. Specifically, the many courageous heroes who are tirelessly advocating for those devastated by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. During moments like this we should consider how we can personally lend a hand and for the organizations we represent to find ways they can show support.

While the monetary contributions are impressive and very important, companies are also donating goods, their employees’ time and offices to help those impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Bass Pro Shops supplied 100 boats for government agencies and rescue organizations and Home Depot’s Team Depot volunteers have helped with the cleanup effort and delivered supplies that customers have donated. In Houston, a local furniture store, Gallery Furniture Stores even opened up store locations for 300 evacuees to take shelter.

As the victims of the recent hurricanes begin long-term rebuilding efforts, it is important to reexamine corporate giving efforts, company match donations and employee volunteer hours. Organizations should do all of these things, not because it is “good PR,” but because it is the right thing to do.

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Sep. 18

Is Your PR Program Flatlining?

shutterstock_125143757As many established PR professionals adhere to proven strategies and tactics for executing successful long-term PR initiatives, how can you tell if your program includes the best approach? And how do you know that your key messages are reaching the right journalists and industry analysts?

It’s a good idea to assess your current PR program on a regular basis to determine if it is generating the intended results. Following are some best practices to keep in mind:

Thought Leadership: Offer Actionable Advice
Whether in a byline capacity, delivering a presentation at an industry conference or serving as a resource in a marketplace trends story, your spokespeople have the opportunity to impart in-the-trenches advice and marketplace takeaways. Avoid self-serving sales messages and be willing to discuss areas outside – but related to – your core business. Is your organization offering relevant thought leadership?

Media Coverage: Forge Real Connections Successful media relationships are symbiotic. Your organization offers valuable perspectives to journalists who cover your industry and are willing to use you as a trusted resource. These connections require an investment in time and a willingness to engage multiple times. Is your organization proactively engaging with key media?

Press Releases: Quality Over Quantity
Instead of pumping out press releases that aren’t newsworthy for the sake of volume, focus on the key announcements that will hook the media – especially if they involve customer successes or new innovations. Save less news-worthy content for blog posts, social media and other avenues. Is your team executing an effective press release and content strategy?

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Aug. 21

Corporate Case Studies: Telling the Right Story

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We often hear people say that products and services sell themselves with customer stories, but it isn’t that simple. The way the story is told matters greatly, as a company’s offerings continuously evolve and usage as well as results may not be cut-and-dry or even impressive in raw form.

The key to a great case study is making it relatable to an organization’s target buyer, as well as compelling for a decision maker trying to address key challenges quickly and effectively.

Following are three keys to getting the story right and leveraging the full power of customer case studies for marketing success and increased leads.

1) Align With Your Buyer Profile – Your potential customers need to feel connected to the issue addressed in the case study, so take the time to outline the problem through the lens of your target buyers. Interview current customers to identify patterns of why they chose your company, and weave these messages into the case study. And, if you’re showcasing a particular vertical market, include angles and points that showcase your knowledge of the marketplace – these are competitive differentiators.

2) Address Business Challenges – While the nuts and bolts of technology offerings may drive the results, it’s important to tell the story on a business level, which can then be supported by more technical details. Why? Explaining how the technology solution or services helped solve the business problem will help your potential customer make a business case to their C-suite for using your solution. Then, depending on whether your target buyer holds a business or technical role, tailor the remainder of the case study story and results accordingly.

3) Include Succint Customer Quotes – The story of a successful customer’s experience goes a long way, but be sure to include actual to-the-point quotes from executives who worked directly with your company and can offer a first-hand account of the stellar work you delivered. Sharing these types of details provides a higher level of validation for your company and shows that customers have been truly satisfied with the results as well as the technology solutions and resources who performed the work.

Once your customer case study is ready for prime time, share it across multiple marketing vehicles. This may include promoting it for media opportunities, hosting a webinar with the customer’s participation, or executing an email marketing campaign with the case study as a driver for setting up an introductory call. Either way, telling the right story will help bring forth prospects who are interested in engaging your company to help them achieve similar successes.

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Jul. 11

Social Media Lessons from the Commander in Tweet

TwitterThe top executive of the United States has been called the first Commander in Tweet. He has a penchant for tweeting – sometimes multiple times a day and at all hours – giving the media, US citizens and the world plenty of fodder to analyze and dissect. Regardless of where you stand politically, there are good social media lessons herein. Just recently, President Trump’s press secretary said the President’s tweets should be considered official statements.

For all intents and purposes corporate social media channels and executive social media profiles – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and more – are a communications stream that should be treated with care and consideration. Executive posts should be thoughtful and genuine not boastful, reactionary or emotional. Posts should be human, not robotic, not a sales pitch and not jargon laden. Executives should consider the audience and community – don’t forget to monitor for @ replies. And please use spell check.

For the communications and PR teams tasked with managing the social streams for the company, monitor your executive social profiles – there could be good repost opportunities or it could be an opportunity to respectfully offer some social media counsel and improve the social program overall.

 

* A version of this post also appeared in the June 2017 issue of The Spark newsletter.

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May. 22

It’s Summer Break, But Don’t Put Your Media Relations Strategy on Hiatus

With the Memorial Day holiday right around the corner, now is a good time to ensure your PR program is on the right course for the summer season.Screen Shot 2017-05-22 at 11.23.27 AM

Although the summer might not be the best time to launch an aggressive PR campaign, it is beneficial to have a good stream of news to show prospects, investors and other key stakeholders that your organization has momentum. Review your pipeline of news announcements and keep a schedule for the summer months to stay on track. This can include new customer wins, new hires, award honors, etc.

While some might anticipate a slow down in media opportunities from June through August due to reporter’s schedules, e.g., summer Fridays, vacation, it is important to maintain a pulse on key contacts and keep a steady PR pace going. It is true that it might be more challenging to reach media, but if other organizations choose to quiet down during the summer months, this can be an optimal time to reconnect with a key reporter or make a new contact. Touch base with priority reporters each month during the summer to ensure you are offering them any necessary resources, research or quotes that will support stories – especially as their other resources may be hard to reach.

Finally, summer months mark the time to plan PR activities for fall/winter and get that big campaign ready. Think ahead as you are talking to reporters over the summer months, as it might be appropriate to prepare them for something coming down the pike in September.

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Apr. 13

United Airlines: #PRfail

UnitedThe United Airlines incident involving a passenger being dragged off an overbooked flight has drawn a monumental amount of attention and viral social sharing this week. Undeniably disturbing to watch, videos recorded by other passengers show an Asian man being forcibly removed from his seat by a member of airport security, bleeding from his mouth, and being dragged off the airplane after he refused to give up his seat for off-duty crew members on a full flight.

To make matters worse, United’s CEO, Oscar Munoz, botched his initial statement – only apologizing for “having to re-accommodate these customers” – and didn’t offer any admission of wrongdoing until several days after the incident.

The cliche cannot be avoided – this was truly a PR nightmare. United’s stock tanked, people called for boycotts, and social media backlash was overwhelming (and frankly, still is). However, United could have responded differently to the crisis and likely averted the severity of current outcomes.

Namely, Munoz, along with his leadership and crisis communications team, should have concluded much earlier that the passenger in question should never have been treated in such a manner and the company should have offered an apology immediately. Regardless of the person’s resistance to get off the flight, or the details surrounding their personal or professional background, resorting to violence is not something any brand wants on their record.

While Munoz’s subsequent statement was much more appropriate, apologetic in nature, and included an announcement of an internal investigation into the incident, it was much too late. Companies must quickly take stock of the situation when crises strike and be prepared to act swiftly – including taking responsibility for their actions and announcing plans to investigate further. It’s important to note that this move doesn’t absolve other parties involved from their role (the passenger should have complied with verbal requests to leave the plane), but it clearly communicates a brand’s intent to conduct itself with professionalism and respect. This approach goes a long way to earn back the public’s trust and respect, not to mention re-stablilizing the company’s financial footing and overall reputation before excessive damage has been done.

 

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Mar. 20

A Tribute to Jean Young

In January, we received heartbreaking news that Jean Young, founder of Young & Associates, had passed away unexpectedly. A cherished friend and mentor, we considered Jean family for her unwavering strength and love, fierce loyalty, toughness, support and a little bit of crazy. Jean was a guiding force in so many lives – both personal and professional. She helped many find, nurture and promote their talents, and most of all, love what they do.

A single mother of two sons, Jean came to Washington, DC in the late 70’Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 10.39.36 AMs after working as the American Lung Association’s Public Relations Manager, to serve as Senior VP for John Adams Associates, a public affairs firm. After nearly five years at the firm, Jean left to establish Young & Associates in 1982, with the love and blessing of John Adams.

Forming Young & Associates as a technology-focused agency from the start, Jean was a trailblazer, serving as a female CEO in a male-dominated industry. Jean was not afraid to voice her strong opinions or take on a leader’s point of view when she knew her strategy was right. Throughout the nearly 30 years she led and was involved in the agency, Jean touched so many lives and remained close to countless former employees, clients and friends of the agency.

A ferocious protector, Jean had a heart of gold and for most of us that were lucky enough to know her, there will never be anyone like her again. Love you forever, Jean.

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Mar. 07

Upstate New York Giraffe April Achieves “It Girl” Status

I was pleasantly surprised when April showed up in my Facebook feed, on my TV and in conversations with friends over the last few weeks. Who is the latest “it girl”? April is the very pregnant giraffe at Animal Adventure Park in Upstate New York. So, how did a small zoo grab so much attention with its live video feedScreen Shot 2017-03-07 at 9.43.13 AM reaching more than 1 billion views?

Operating without a communications staff, the park’s owner began using Facebook to live-stream April’s pregnancy as a way to promote the park, but also to educate the public about giraffes, which are currently on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Viewers steadily increased over the last month with April making headlines across the country. Today, there is coverage across national news outlets, in local media markets and of course a major social media blitz. It is clear that the public is in need of a positive, hopeful story given the attention.

However, when animal rights activists labeled Animal Adventure Park’s live-feed as sexually explicit last week it was briefly removed from YouTube. Via a Facebook Live video, the park owner successfully combatted any criticism with a heartfelt, but straightforward message about the park’s goal to create enjoyment for those interested in April, while also educating the public about giraffes. His honesty has been key to captivating a far-reaching audience and his ability to handle negativity will surely help the zoo achieve future success.

Now, while the world is watching, let’s hope April has a speedy and smooth delivery.

 

 

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Feb. 17

Does Your Corporate Identity Need a Refresher?

As most industries evolve over the year – particularly in certain sectors of technology – and customers’ needs change, revisiting your overall corporate positioning and messaging is a Blogpicssmart strategy. While some executives may downplay the need for this exercise, overall corporate messaging can:

• Concisely articulate your company’s value propositions
• Shape and narrow core differentiators and eliminate out-of-date messaging
• Provide consistent positioning throughout company-wide communications (sales, marketing, product development, professional services)
• Highlight differentiation without slamming the competition or giving them a voice
• Enable success measurement of marketing/communication initiatives

A refresher messaging exercise should review how your brand is perceived in the market based on industry evolution, current focus, etc. Take time to interview key stakeholders within the organization for their viewpoints and to identify future marketplace trends that may shift current positioning. Also, take stock in industry analyst reports and media coverage that may forecast a change in business challenges and demands.

The messaging refresh doesn’t mean a complete overhaul. Rather, nuanced ­­­– but important ­– changes to the brand can make a huge impact in connecting with key audiences.

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