The Matchbox.

Feb. 25

Multi-Tasking: Productive or Bad Prioritizing?

PR and marketing professionals are famous for juggling multiple initiatives or projects, as it is important for them to have a strong pulse on their company/or client, e.g., current objectives, products/solutions, industry trends and what the competition is doing.  Staying on top of things is often as important as solid writing and media pitching skills. However, are we being more productive by multi-tasking or should we spend more time zeroing in on priorities? There is a case to be made for both.

Often PR pros do not have a choice and must be flexible.  For example, a major product launch, industry event and customer initiative might take place in the same week. However, when time isn’t an issue it is best to focus on a set of priorities. Here are a few of my favorite ways to stay productive.

Agree on Priorities – Sometimes it is difficult to prioritize projects, which can lead to an adverse “do-it-all-at-once” approach. Discuss top-level activities via an agenda with your team and/or clients to gain consensus, and then work together to tackle objectives in order of importance.

Stay Organized – With a full plate of activities, it is crucial to remain organized. Luckily, there are a host of available web-based tools that support project management and overall organization. Basecamp or Google Drive, for example, are great for team collaboration and ensuring your colleagues and/or clients stay in the loop on future projects or tasks. But be wary of using too many online tools, which can lead to confusion and unproductive time spent juggling communications across platforms.

Pause for Reflection – Take time to reflect when the activity would benefit from slowing down but don’t procrastinate.  Schedule a brainstorming session with your team, jot your thoughts down on a “real” piece of paper or go for a walk to infuse creativity into a project.  However, don’t fall down on the job by putting the activity off.

My colleague Eve Sheridan recently wrote a post about keeping a balanced mindset, which is sure to increase productivity.  Read here.

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Feb. 08

What Can PR Pros Learn from Super Bowl Ads?

Some tugged at heartstrings and some made us feel empowered…and others were like watching a train wreck (read: GoDaddy). While they varied in themes, this year’s Super Bowl ads were memorable and drove serious revenues in the hours following their appearances. News reports have repeatedly dissected which ads were effective, fan favorites, most revolting, etc., but what can PR pros take away as lessons learned?

For one, some of the best ads, e.g., Dodge Ram, Budweiser, Audi, all played down their branding in favor of a more subtle approach that focused on the consumer’s life experience. It was about appreciating the hard work of farmers, the strong relationship between the Clydesdale and his trainer/friend and the boy who takes his dad’s car to the prom with the confidence to kiss his crush. In the midst of these feel-good moments, consumers don’t mind seeing a brand’s presence and naturally form a positive association with it. PR can certainly take a page from this concept as the best PR campaigns are rooted in messaging that addresses the target audience’s experience and enables them to identify with the issues that a company’s product or service helps mitigate. Conversely, PR programs that come across as thinly veiled ads or are solely focused on product pitches are largely ignored by buyers.

Another takeaway is that a quick response to real-time developments can yield big results. I’m referring to the Oreo tweet that was posted during the 34-minute power outage—a well-coordinated effort between Oreo and its creative agency that resulted in a simply designed image with clever copy (You can still dunk in the dark) along with the tweet “Power out? No problem.” Oreo successfully made its brand relevant in the midst of the outage—a situation that everyone watching the game was focused on. Similarly, when a big industry news announcement breaks, PR pros who quickly huddle with their senior executives and proactively push out relevant commentary are the most successful in generating interviews and inclusion in timely news coverage.

While Super Bowl ads aren’t usually associated with pure public relations, many of the same basic tenets still apply for successful execution—know your audience and prioritize their experience/issues in your approach, and pay attention to breaking news or developments that your organization or clients can naturally comment on.  Of course, including a cute horse or fast car doesn’t hurt either.

 

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Jan. 30

All We Want Is The Wall Street Journal

I’m sure every PR professional has shuddered a little at the phrase from a client, “We’re really just interested in getting into The Wall Street Journal (or other fill-in-the blank high profile publication).” And while with the right strategy, news angle and good agency, that’s quite achievable, many companies are missing the point (and definition) of an effective public relations program.

Everyone wants to see their name in lights but does that really help to drive sales and further distinguish your organization from competitors? We find that industry trade publications are the most well-read and concentrated channel to reach buyers, often yielding tremendous opportunity to establish a strong thought leadership program in the form of contributed articles. In the past 24 months, trade and regional/local business publications have forged strong cross-syndication partnerships with more mainstream business and technology media. For one of our clients, a significant Cincinnati Enquirer article landed prominently in USA Today‘s Tech section.

Additionally, mainstream business reporters often track industry trades when beginning research on a particular story and will tap company thought leaders highlighted in the space. So, while The Wall Street Journal is a favorite of the agency’s and certainly your CEO’s, remember the power of reaching a wide net of relevant publications including trade and regional targets.

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Jan. 03

PR New Year’s Resolutions for 2013

As 2013 kicks off, it is important to set professional goals along with your personal resolutions. Here’s a glance at my PR resolutions for the year ahead.

Offer sound advice even if it deviates from current plans
Making clients happy by delivering strategic PR programs and overall counsel is a top priority. However, this might mean challenging existing marketing plans from time to time. As a fresh year begins, we all need to reevaluate current strategies to ensure PR programs are effective, creative and can reach their full potential.

Pick up the phone
Last year brought a high volume of email, iChat, Gchat and Twitter connections, but these exchanges cannot replace the value of phone conversations. Even a short call can quickly answer a question and avoid miscommunications. This also cuts down on the time required to write (and interpret) several emails.

Reconnect with old professional acquaintances
We all get busy but a quick LinkedIn message to say congratulations on a new job or to share a personal triumph is great for strengthening or rebuilding relationships with reporters, old colleagues or former clients.

Write more blog posts
Although this might be a carry-over resolution from last year’s list, I plan to translate more PR thoughts and lessons learned into blog posts to share with colleagues, clients and friends. Stay tuned for an exciting 2013.

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Dec. 14

Y&A Spark: Holiday Wishes; 2013 Predictions; Aligning PR, Marketing & Sales

The new edition of The Spark is here. In this issue, Y&A would like to send all of our clients and longtime friends warm wishes for a happy holiday season and bright New Year. As the year comes to a close, we highlight how to best leverage “industry prediction” media opportunities in the PR Pulse and how to ensure your 2013 marketing program is on track for success in the Marketing Minute.

Addressing a question we often hear from clients, Young & Associates’ Vice President Eve Sheridan offers tips for aligning sales, marketing and PR in a My Two Cents column. Also, don’t forget to check out our clients’ recent headlines across MediaPost, CRM Magazine, USA Today and the Washington Business Journal. As you can see, there isn’t a media sector our account teams haven’t tackled. Read the complete Spark here.

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Nov. 29

What Makes a Standout Byline Article?

Byline articles are a mainstay of strategic PR programs, but not all topics (or outlets for that matter) are created equal. How many times have you struggled to come up with a compelling topic that spotlights your company as a thought leader rather than a veiled attempt at pitching your wares? It is a fine line, but one that can make a big difference on the impact of your article within the marketplace. Here are three tips for ensuring a solid byline article that hits the sweet spot and elevates your organization’s industry visibility.

 

1) Consider Pain Points – The most relevant topics address issues that are top of mind for your current and potential customers. What better way to grab your audience’s attention than help them address their most urgent or painful problems? Don’t point to your solution as the answer, but offer best practices and ways to combat the problems.

2) Dispel Myths – Every industry has its share of misconceptions. Help educate your marketplace by debunking inaccuracies and explaining the realities of key issues. Score additional points by backing up your ideas with real-world examples (using named or unnamed client case studies).

3) Dig Deep – There’s nothing more frustrating than reading an article without any meat. While there’s no need to give away the secret sauce, the article should go beyond surface discussion and provide industry expertise with relatable and actionable takeaways. Incorporate recent lessons learned to reflect the most timely content.

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Nov. 24

Media Timing Among Election, Storms and Holidays

The past few weeks have been a media whirlwind – not only the 24/7 election coverage but two major storms battered the Northeast – including the media capital of New York City ­– 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 – even natural disasters. Some believe that unless you are pitching the broadcast news or local media, the trade media doesn’t put much emphasis on other mainstream news. However, it is important to consider the value of your news story. If your story isn’t industry changing, one week or day versus the next isn’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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Oct. 19

We Are on a Roll

This past quarter has been an amazing period for Y&A and we couldn’t be prouder photoof our growing organization.

Much to our delight (and a little bit of hard work) we also earned Bulldog Reporter’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 – 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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Sep. 27

Top Three Ways to Show Appreciation for PR Pros

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 clients’ 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 agency’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 – 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 “always on” 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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Sep. 14

The Zen of PR

A “Type A” personality is often a shared trait among PR practitioners – 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 isn’t easy—especially when in the throes of a high-stakes project—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 company’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 – 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 – 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 it’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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