The past few weeks have been a media whirlwind â€“ not only the 24/7 election coverage but two major storms battered the Northeast â€“ including the media capital of New York City Ââ€“ within 10 days. October through the first week of November is usually a busy PR time as companies try to get out any major news before the holidays kick into high gear but these planned and unforeseen major news events certainly put additional pressure on the news calendar and the PR teams debating announcement timing.
In this latest round of natural disaster media coverage, location mattered. As New York City itself sustained dramatic impacts during Hurricane Sandy, and the winter storm close behind, journalists there were even more focused on storm related coverage as many were also personally impacted.
There are a few schools of thought on PR-driven news announcements during holidays and media events â€“ even natural disasters. Some believe that unless you are pitching the broadcast news or local media, the trade media doesnâ€™t put much emphasis on other mainstream news. However, it is important to consider the value of your news story. If your story isnâ€™t industry changing, one week or day versus the next isnâ€™t going to make a huge difference in your PR or marketing calendar but it may make a difference in coverage. While not all trade media is covering the election or hurricane there is typically always a certain percentage of reporters that tie it into their appropriate beat. If there is no significant reason dictating a certain release day, better not to put the release out on Halloween (think newsroom costume contests) or Election Day.
A few outliers that may dictate a certain news announcement day: earnings releases, other news items that need to be released, advances that have already been shared with select media, or any seasonality of the release.
Next week is the last week before the holiday media season kicks into high gear, so get your Black Friday shopping report tie-ins and end of year wrap-up pitches ready.
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This past quarter has been an amazing period for Y&A and we couldn’t be prouder of our growing organization.
Much to our delight (and a little bit of hard work) we also earned Bulldog Reporterâ€™s 2012 Stars of PR silver award in the Small Agency of the Year category. And, we just learned we are a finalist (results still to come for the final standings) in the Stevie Awards for Women in Business as the Company of the Year in the category of Business Services â€“ 10 or Less Employees. The growth of the agency and our recent accolades is a true testament to the dedication and hard work of the entire team as well as our outstanding client base. Now off to pop the bubbly!!!
For more on the agency and our insights, check out the latest Spark newsletter.
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One of the agency’s clients, Madison Performance Group, offers workforce recognition and incentive programs that increase employee motivation and productivity. So, we thought it would be fitting to offer our own guidance on how PR agencies should show appreciation for their employees.
1) Acknowledge successful communication with clients – Keeping clients happy is critical for maintaining a healthy agency. The best PR professionals tend to clientsâ€™ needs in a timely manner and navigate a variety of personalities and work styles to make sure expectations are met and anticipated results are delivered. Since this is an agencyâ€™s lifeline, recognize when account executives meet client expectations through positive feedback whether that be a phone call or personalized email to say good job.
2) Give kudos when executives secure media interest – As PR pros, we know generating media interest or connecting with the right reporter can take weeks, months or more â€“ and not for lack of trying. While building relationships doesn’t always pay off in the short-term, long-term results can make an impact. Keep account executives motivated by offering praise along the way and when their due diligence pays off.
3) Say thank you for being “on” 24/7 – Today, PR executives are challenged to work in a 24/7 media environment. That means monitoring the news and social media channels day and night. Acknowledge this â€śalways onâ€ť mentality by saying thank you and recognize when this dedicated work attitude results in success. Another option is to offer flextime to make up for lack of sleep or client activities that creep into “personal” time.
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A â€śType Aâ€ť personality is often a shared trait among PR practitioners â€“ meticulously planning every campaign detail, following up on all possible story angles and staying in constant contact with priority media and analysts. While these are all helpful (and frankly, necessary) qualities for the fast-paced world of PR, it is also valuable to complement them with a mindset that tempers the pace just enough to maintain clarity into the bigger picture and ensure all activities align. This balance certainly isnâ€™t easyâ€”especially when in the throes of a high-stakes projectâ€”but the best PR pros bring more value and results that tie back to priority business objectives when they can actually see how each moment of their day contributes to the overall marketing program or the companyâ€™s vision as a whole.
Considering the benefits of this balanced mindset, here are a few ideas to help you (and me) find the zen of PR.
- Clarify Your End-Goal First â€“ This may seem like a no-brainer but executives commonly have different ideas of what constitutes success. Ensure everyone is on the same page before you execute on plans.
- Be Flexible â€“ With news cycles constantly evolving, ensure your messages and story ideas address the most critical pieces of the current trend or news angle. Embrace change when it is valuable to the overall goal, even if it means deviating from your original plan.
- Take a Breather – While itâ€™s easy to get wrapped up in the flow of activity when the wheels are in motion on a premier media opportunity, be sure to take mental breaks and regularly huddle with your comrades to ensure everyone agrees on next steps.
Do you practice these tips? Feel free to share other ideas that have worked well for you or your teams.
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Weâ€™ve been interviewing to add a new professional to the Y&A team (hooray) and one of our go-to interview questions is how do you get around the challenge of promoting a client whose own clients wonâ€™t talk to the media.
In media relations, most journalists are not interested in writing feature stories about vendors unless there is a really compelling story. And in our world of tech PR, what makes for a compelling story is a disruptive technology (which are more uncommon than most marketing teams and entrepreneurs think) and/or end users who are willing to talk about how a solution truly made a difference for their organization. The problem is that many customers are not able to take time out of their schedule to navigate their own corporate communications policies and do a rah-rah interview on why your technology is so great.
Here are a few suggestions to get around this hurdle:
- Donâ€™t name the client company or offer an interview, but provide media an unnamed brief case study that includes percentages (not actual numbers) and characterizes the company by industry.
- Offer select clients a beta version of a new version or feature and negotiate joint media relations as part of the beta package.
- Talk to your smaller clients with perhaps flatter hierarchical structures or that may be hungry for media coverage (major brand names are less likely to participate). Position the opportunity as a way to showcase their industry leadership and innovation.
- Offer the publication a byline article that includes some unnamed case study examples around best practices or key industry trends.
What are some of the creative ways youâ€™ve handled this classic PR challenge?
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Southwest’s Spirit Magazine recently spotlighted Domino’s Pizzaâ€™s turnaround campaign demonstrating that with the right strategy, even subpar tomato sauce can translate into increased sales. Designed by ad agency Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Dominoâ€™sâ€™ campaign focused on its lackluster pizza through a television ad series that told the tale of its cardboard-tasting crust and its initiative to reinvigorate its pizza with better ingredients.Â The campaignâ€™s objective to tell the truth and win over former and new customers workedâ€”netting Dominoâ€™s a 14.3 percent increase in sales per store and overall company growth from 2010 to 2011.
From technology solutions to pizza and everything in between, public relations campaigns can and should do the same by being upfront with product updates. Why?
- Truthful communication appeals to human nature. Telling the truth demonstrates honest business practices and integrity and pushes organizations’ positive corporate cultures forward.
- Customers look forward to enhancements. Upgrades to your software, websites or mobile apps are expected.Â Donâ€™t be afraid to communicate product revisions or new features, especially if the end result is a better customer experience.
- Competition might not follow suit. While being upfront is a best practice approach, your competition might not take the same road.Â This gives you an opportunity to one-up them by highlighting your differentiators and showing why customers should choose your product.
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Last week, the team enjoyed some much needed time together to reconnect, review and re-energize in St. Michaels, Md. Yes, we did partake in some beautiful views, gardens, gourmet food and even a mini-massage and caught up on our personal lives and goals, but in many cases the conversation reverted back to the agency, our clients and future goals. How can we do more with social media? What works with our current client structure and what can we improve? Who are we and where do we want to go?
Certainly we planned for and had an extremely productive, dedicated time over the course of two-days to discuss all things agency.Â But funny enough, the “aha” moments seemed to occur while we were casually eating dinner or browsing, (yes, husbands, browsing…) in the little boutiques in St. Michaels. It’s always amazing to me that when you bring bright people together and leave some room for “down-time”, great things happen. So go on and enjoy those retreats. It will likely benefit the organization in the long-run.
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The Y&A team has been enjoying a busy summer so far, including welcoming new clients Interfolio and Wolfe Domain and celebrating several 2012 Hermes Creative Awards for standout client programs.
If you havenâ€™t read our July issue of The Spark newsletter yet, click here to learn about utilizing awards to bolster your companyâ€™s market credibility and tapping into the right internal resources to zero in on media topics that speak directly to your buyer audiences. Thereâ€™s also a great â€śMy Two Centsâ€ť by Principal Jennifer MacLeid Qotb about our â€śPartner Til the Endâ€ť client relationship philosophy and our successful client Rivermine/Emptoris, which was recently acquired by IBM. Weâ€™re fortunate to work with industry-driving technology leaders everyday and truly appreciate the opportunity to partner with each of our clients to help their businesses leap to the next level.
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While some technology executives are skeptical of analyst firms because of their hefty price tags, analyst relations is a critical element of most technology vendorsâ€™ thought leadership and PR programs. Tech industry analysts ranging from Gartner to Forrester to Aberdeen and even smaller niche industry players provide significant value to vendors and enterprises, and almost all industry analysts will offer an annual briefing to vendors without charging a fee.
Tech vendors that brief industry analysts benefit from the opportunity to share their solutions and strategy with analysts who oftentimes recommend these solutions to enterprises and provide third-party vendor assessments to the overall marketplace. If you ask the right questions and pay close attention to their answers, many analysts also offer valuable insights/feedback on the competitive market in the briefings. Not to mention the chance to get on their radar for inclusion in future industry reports. For analysts, it is key for them to understand the whole market that they are advising and that includes a solid understanding of all provider offerings, differentiators, business models and case studies (PR note: include all these items in your next analyst briefing).
If there seems to be a good fit during the briefing, consider the value of a paid relationship as both parties â€“ vendor and analyst â€“ will have the opportunity to gain greater in-depth market knowledge. As a vendor you will get access to analyst reports (which range in a la carte pricing from several hundred to a few thousand dollars) and more interaction with analysts for one-off inquiries, advisory services and support for other vendor-driven marketing and public relations activities.
So before you turn down an analyst meetingâ€”thinking they are just trying to sell you on a subscription/membershipâ€”remember the benefits you may be missing out on.
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