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 & Associatesâ€™ Vice President Eve Sheridan offers tips for aligning sales, marketing and PR in a My Two Cents column. Also, donâ€™t forget to check out our clientsâ€™ recent headlines across MediaPost, CRM Magazine, USA Today and the Washington Business Journal. As you can see, there isnâ€™t a media sector our account teams havenâ€™t tackled. Read the complete Spark here.
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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 organizationâ€™s industry visibility.
1) Consider Pain Points â€“ The most relevant topics address issues that are top of mind for your current and potential customers. What better way to grab your audienceâ€™s attention than help them address their most urgent or painful problems? Donâ€™t point to your solution as the answer, but offer best practices and ways to combat the problems.
2) Dispel Myths â€“ 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 â€“ Thereâ€™s nothing more frustrating than reading an article without any meat. While thereâ€™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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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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