The Matchbox.

May. 14

Dreams Come True: It Just Takes a Lot of Work

I was rather cocky when I started Young & Associates in 1982. I found a niche not being filled by focusing on technology.”You don’t know anything about technology,” they said. Friends warnings that  “no females own public relations firms” seemed a challenge. Being underfunded certainly was not going to stop me from leasing thrice the amount of space two and half of us would need.  “I’ll need the space to grow,” I countered. Starting with flagship account Intelmatique, an arm of France Telecom, would give me the base needed to grow. “You don’t even speak French and what if you lose them.” Oh, my, there are so many dream slayers out there.

Of course, there were ups and down. That is what business is all about. But, through it all I stayed pretty true to my mantra to “have a measurable impact on the business of our clients by reaching clearly defined goals.” From the beginning I deviated from the industry standard of time-based fees and instead focused on setting objectives, frequently reviewed, with a pre-determined retainer or project fee. With that team approach, we could tackle goals without a clock. We worked with large and small companies alike but it was the people who believed in us that carried us through 28 years – the list is long but you know who you are.

But, perhaps the most rewarding decision made was to seek out talented and spirited people to become a part of the team with a future in mind. The payoff is immeasurable. Not only did the agency have consistency (85 percent retention) but stars were groomed. Two of those bright and talented staffers are now taking over the ownership of the company. They are Jennifer MacLeid Qotb and Meggan Manson, who joined the company in 1996 and 2000, respectively. In fact, they have been successfully leading the company as principals for three years.  They are smart, tough, dedicated and love the business. We also are family. And, of course, many said, “Don’t try to sell your company to employees who also are friends.” Well, it took a while but we proved them wrong.

I will continue in the role of Chairman, but will be a supporter from the sidelines. And my dream, passing along the company and its ideals to the next generation, came true. I told you so.

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May. 04

Media Interviews: Off the Record Doesn’t Exist

Do you have an upcoming media interview and don’t feel prepared?  Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us. However, following a few rules before an interview will help ease nerves and ensure you are ready to speak to any reporter with clear, concise messages.

1. Get to know the reporter

Read the reporter’s previous columns before an interview, so you know what they’ve covered in the past, their areas of interest, tone and writing style. Also, take a look at a reporter’s Twitter page and LinkedIn profile for a closer look at their background and personality.

2. Set an objective and have 3-4 talking points

Whether briefing a reporter on a new product or giving an overall company update, it is important to establish an objective for the interview and have 3-4 talking points in mind to really get your message across. If you are participating in a phone interview, keep those points written out in front of you to help you stay on track.

3.  Use a secure landline when possible

We once participated in an interview where a client’s mobile phone was fading in and out of connectivity. It took 2-3 minutes before the client realized there was a connection issue, despite our MANY interruptions. Today, phone interviews are done on the road frequently, but when possible, make sure you have a secure connection—whether it be a landline or testing out your mobile phone in advance. The reporter (and your PR person) will thank you.

4. Remember that everything is on the record

Most importantly, don’t forget that anything you say to a reporter or blogger can be published. There is no such thing as “off the record”, so don’t say anything that you wouldn’t want to see in print—whether in an article, a blog post or on Twitter.

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Apr. 27

Lessons Learned from @PRSarahEvans: Think Outside the Box to Succeed in Social Media

PRSA Colorado hosted an event last week with social media guru Sarah Evans, and I left feeling really refreshed on social media. It wasn’t one specific piece of the shared content that had me jazzed (and there were lots of great takeaways), but rather Sarah’s open attitude toward social media and its role—from which all the helpful tips and advice flowed.

What Sarah conveyed is that there isn’t one “right” way to approach social media or a magic formula that will turn a company into a social media ruler. Nor is social media all about doing what everyone else is doing. In fact, she is an advocate of sticking your neck out to try new things and much of her success has come from that philosophy. For example, instead of joining the most popular Twitter chats on the iPad announcement, which were filled with noise and so many conversations that you couldn’t keep up, Sarah tweeted an invite to anyone who was interested to join a separate chat on the topic— the chatroom quickly filled up and a more intimate dialogue ensued.

It’s not about getting the most Twitter followers or thousands of random people on Facebook who “Like” your company—it’s about the quality of relationships and engaged conversations/connections that are formed as a result. Those types of social communications are the real keys to brand building and long-term visibility in social media.

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Apr. 19

The Age Old PR Question: Is All Publicity Good Publicity?

Yes, if you can believe it, I am still asked this question and rather frequently (admittedly, it’s sometimes from family members who aren’t sure what I do, but that’s a different blog post altogether). The short answer is no, all publicity is not good publicity. Fortunately, we are rarely dealing with a crisis situation to de-flame or an investigative reporter looking to dig up the truth on our clients, but rather we’re looking to promote a positive company announcement, encourage the client’s inclusion in a trend story or promote their product wares. In doing so, though, interested reporters in today’s “more with less” media industry are misconstruing facts or – if time – looking for the dark side of the rainbow to provide a more balanced article. We often find ourselves counseling our clients who have trouble understanding why the reporter has jumbled the facts or, worse yet, included a negative comment.

The good news is that in the digital age, facts can be corrected almost instantaneously and most reporters are willing to do so. But, what do you do when a negative statement is made when, frankly, it’s true? I’m a big believer in credibility–who isn’t. From a reader’s point of view, a balanced article that highlights both sides of the coin is far more palatable than a press release regurgitation and paints the company in a more realistic light. Give me a new angle and yes, even if some negative points are made, I will appreciate the company’s position and/or product far more in the end. What’s your view?

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Apr. 14

Cheers to 1982!

Check out the latest edition of The Spark, Young & Associates’ newsletter, which we issued this morning. In it we mark Young & Associates’ 28th anniversary and offer B2B social media tips. Founder Jean Young offers a My Two Cents column on valuable marketing investments to support an aggressive public relations program and the PR Pulse looks at how to leverage vertical media for increased exposure. If you are not on the subscriber list but wish to be, let us know. Read the full edition here.

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Apr. 08

Apple’s iPad PR – A Bump in the Road

Apple’s public relations efforts around this week’s iPad launch seemed to go smoothly with stories in all major national news outlets and hype on social media sites and blogs. That was until a Wi-Fi issue was reported by users and was acknowledged by Apple on Monday. To handle the crisis and thwart negative feedback, Apple posted a message on its iPad support website saying: “Under certain conditions, iPad may not automatically rejoin a known Wi-Fi network after restart or waking from sleep.” Apple then offered a long list of tips for troubleshooting the problem.

Is this approach offering iPad owners enough support? Should Apple have communicated the issue in other ways? In my opinion, the company reacted quickly with a fast fix for users, but it didn’t address whether the issue would be resolved for future models. And, if the problem persists, should users return their iPad (likely something Apple would prefer to avoid)? As an Apple customer, I have always been pleased with their level of customer service. However, they better quickly correct the Wi-Fi issue on their “Wi-Fi product” before a social media attack unleashes on Twitter or YouTube. So far, even with the minor product mishap, press coverage remains positive for the most part and more than 300,000 iPads have been sold. Stay tuned.

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Mar. 29

Do In-Person Meetings Give a Stronger Positive Vibe?

I met a fellow technology PR professional at a local Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) event here in Denver a few weeks ago, and after swapping backgrounds and stories, she setup a networking meeting for me with one of her colleagues who manages similar types of PR and social media programs. Working from an independent office, I am equally comfortable with phone and in-person meetings, but the in-person exchanges are less frequent.

Anyway, I met my networking contact’s colleague for coffee downtown and we instantly hit it off. We pow-wowed in the middle of Starbuck’s and the conversation flowed through our professional backgrounds, industry best practices, and anecdotes of what has worked well for our respective companies. But, what really struck me was how the “face-to-face” element made it easier for us to be more forthcoming. Being in person facilitated a real positive vibe – seemingly more so than a phone conversation may have generated – as we fed off each other’s excitement and body language. In today’s “virtual” environment, being able to develop a relationship over the phone and email is still key (we have clients we’ve never met in person) but the face-to-face benefit is huge – perhaps that is why so many deals are forged from introductions at trade shows and conferences.

Of course, this is just my personal anecdote, and some of this depends on individuals’ preferences for how they communicate best, but I’d be interested in others’ experiences—do phone or in-person meetings forge stronger relationships or partnerships for you?

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Mar. 23

Get In the Game: The Value of a Tweet for BtoBs

In all industries these days you will find some social media presence; however, that doesn’t mean it is any less intimidating for the companies who have not yet embraced it. And there are many valid reasons for the adoption lag including the time and resource commitment, the permanence and lack of filter of all things on the Internet, or the challenge to measure the direct impact on the bottom line. Here are five reasons all BtoB companies need to consider a Twitter presence.

1) Participate: The time commitment for creating and monitoring social media content can be a barrier to entry for many companies. Twitter’s shorter posts (140 characters or less) provide a manageable foray into social media.

2) Extend: Twitter is another media channel that can be used to distribute thought leadership content and insight.

3) Build: Twitter is all about networking, communities and relationships, so use the channel to create a bigger brand audience.

4) Engage: While some may use Twitter as a one-way content distributor, it is a vehicle for dialogue and discussion with target audiences.

5) Boost: Having a Twitter account means an increase in content associated with your website – this is one element for improving SEO rankings. Twitter is also another avenue for increasing media awareness – the Internet is most reporters’ #1 source for researching news stories.

What value have you seen?

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Mar. 10

The Virtues of Virtual Vary

Early 1990’s, it was a big snowstorm. In my cul de sac, a dozen townhouses were isolated. No business was conducted. Even those with computers at home were hampered by broadband and Internet limitations. So we had a three-day party. Chili and beer. Pot roast and wine. Afternoon poker.

Fast forward to 2003 in Young & Associates’ expansive offices. It was an unusual morning. Two of the staff, unbeknownst to the other, announced they were moving from the area. To keep a successful team with a remarkable success record together, we decided to “go virtual”.

The “go” needed a lot of planning as our technology and work habits were geared to brick and mortar. An in-house committee reviewed and tested options to seamlessly connect remote offices, enhance intra- and inter- communication and ensure security.

Three years later, others moved and virtual became our way of life, both professionally and personally.  Although we still are exploring, here are some of the lessons we learned:

Take baby steps
– If you have employees who request working at home or you want to explore virtual options, do a test. Measure results.

Upgrade your technology for mobility
– Even if you don’t go virtual, today’s world requires the best in wireless and mobile capabilities for anyplace-anytime work environments.

Deal with the human issues –
Working in pajamas in a corner of your bedroom is not going to make it. Feeling isolated, yes, it is real. To ensure a team spirit we meet bi-annually.

Review, challenge & change
– What is and isn’t working? Formally review personal and professional issues. Something as simple as staff in different time zones impacts office hours. Make adjustments when needed.

I would like to hear your stories about working virtually, good and bad. And, do I miss the snow parties, you bet.

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Mar. 02

In Times of Crisis, Tell the Truth

Crisis communications has had its hands full over the last few weeks.  From the terrible tragedy at SeaWorld to continuing product issues at Toyota to the Tiger Woods’ scandal, crisis communications 101 has been in high demand.

When all is said and done, the first rule of crisis communications is simple and something your parents and teachers probably taught you at an early age – tell the truth.  Yes, I said it: the truth is a very powerful thing.  Public relations – in my opinion – shouldn’t be used to spin or cover up an issue that could damage the reputation of a theme park, an automaker or an athlete.  Instead, it should be used to tell the truth, explain to the public in a straightforward way the reason for the problem and focus on positive steps and actions that will take place in the future to prevent any further wrongdoing.

Of course, it is a challenge when your key spokespeople misspeak or crack under pressure during a press conference, but our role as PR professionals should be to coach them through tough times and give them a strong set of talking points to stick to when the media comes a calling.  Don’t get me wrong, rebuilding reputations is very tough work and takes time, but it can be done with a strategic communications plan that is built around the truth.

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