The Matchbox.

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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Aug. 31

Looking for Validation in Media Relations

We’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 won’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:

  1. Don’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.
  2. Offer select clients a beta version of a new version or feature and negotiate joint media relations as part of the beta package.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 you’ve handled this classic PR challenge?


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Aug. 15

PR Lessons Learned; Domino’s Pizza’s Unorthodox Advertising Approach

Southwest’s Spirit Magazine recently spotlighted Domino’s Pizza’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, Domino’s’ 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.  The campaign’s objective to tell the truth and win over former and new customers worked—netting Domino’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.  Don’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.  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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Aug. 01

On Location – Y&A’s Annual Planning Retreat

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.  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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Jul. 19

The Spark: Summer Brings New Clients, Awards and Commentary on Client Relationships Built to Last

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 haven’t read our July issue of The Spark newsletter yet, click here to learn about utilizing awards to bolster your company’s market credibility and tapping into the right internal resources to zero in on media topics that speak directly to your buyer audiences. There’s also a great “My Two Cents” by Principal Jennifer MacLeid Qotb about our “Partner Til the End” client relationship philosophy and our successful client Rivermine/Emptoris, which was recently acquired by IBM. We’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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Jul. 12

New Social-PR Tools Storify & Newsle

New social media resources are a dime a dozen for PR professionals and it can be a challenge to find the ones that will help bolster your PR programs and social media initiatives. Storify and Newsle are two sites that have emerged over the last few weeks as resources that can help strengthen your communication tactics.

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Storify lets users curate news articles, social media posts and visual content to create a “social” view of a topic and then embed that stream into a blog or website. The tool offers users another way to create a narrative using content from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, YouTube and more with an easy-to-use click and drag button. This is an excellent resource for weaving social content together to tell a story from many viewpoints. As one example, use Storify to recap an industry event for a blog post.  Here is a look at our story regarding BIA/Kelsey’s recent Mobile Local Media Conference.

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We discovered Newsle after a tip from Sarah Evans. Newsle finds articles about your LinkedIn connections, Facebook friends or other public figures and sends you instant alerts by email. Sign up for Newsle and connect your LinkedIn or Facebook account to begin tracking news. After reading an article, you can send friends a tweet or Facebook message about the item directly through the Newsle dashboard. Also, follow journalists to receive articles they’ve written and uncover articles that mention or quote key spokespeople within your organization or client company.

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Jun. 26

Analyst Relations: What’s in it for vendors?

While some technology executives are skeptical of analyst firms because of their hefty price tags, analyst relations is a critical element of most technology vendors’ 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 – vendor and analyst – 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 meeting—thinking they are just trying to sell you on a subscription/membership—remember the benefits you may be missing out on.


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Jun. 15

Tactically Speaking, Who Should “Own” Social Media?

As more and more social media channels pop up among an overwhelming, dizzying array of networks to manage, e.g., Pinterest, Instagram, SlideShare, the big debate on who should control social media within an organization is igniting.

Many of my PR colleagues believe that PR agencies should advise on PR strategy but leave the community management, e.g., day-to-day tweeting, posting, responding, to internal marketing folks. While the agency handles our clients’ social media needs on a case-by-case basis – whether developing an overall strategy, recommending occasional posts or engaging in soup-to-nuts social management – we often have a far better grasp on the content than our internal counterparts. Why? Because we operate as an extension of the team that doesn’t drink the corporate Kool-aid. We are objective.


In many ways, social media should be approached from the same perspective as traditional PR—It’s the job of the agency and the account team to learn our clients’ businesses inside and out. As such, we often find ourselves involved in business strategy conversations with our clients—well beyond the realm of PR—as we have invested ourselves in their business as well as the overall marketplace. This is critical to the success of the PR program and our ability to develop poignant bylines and media pitches and advise on analyst relations strategies and tactics, etc. Social media falls into the same bucket— we already know the hot topics as well as which hot buttons to press or avoid. In the end, a unified social media approach will yield better results than parsing it out. After all, how can you advise on strategy if you don’t know the tactics?

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Jun. 08

Statistics are a Goldmine News Hook

No matter the industry, statistics-related news items grab media attention. And, as fresh stats indicate the evolution and forward-looking trends of a given marketplace, they can be the perfect PR opportunity for companies to rise to the top of the media pipeline.

Releasing stats directly from your organization’s research or a commissioned study is ideal, but don’t discount the opportunity to comment on other organization’s stats and what they mean to your industry’s growth, how customers will be impacted, and if appropriate, recommended advice on how they should respond favorably. These types of insights will help forge your company spokespersons as thought leaders on the greater marketplace and its future.

A few pieces of advice:

Weigh In on Questions Beforehand: If you’ll have input into a research study before it kicks off, ensure that at least a handful of questions speak to hot issues that will yield poignant marketplace findings. Try to insert some angles that haven’t been reported on yet.

Provide an Infographic: Develop an eye-catching infographic that brings your key stats to life. Reporters are often more likely to cover research if clear, attractive visuals are available to accompany the story.

Contact Reporters ASAP: Once a study is complete, conduct media outreach as soon as possible to avoid stale data. Or, if commenting on another organization’s research, develop and push out your analysis points right away to be considered as a resource when reporters are in the midst of developing their stories.

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