In January, we received heartbreaking news that Jean Young, founder of Young & Associates, had passed away unexpectedly. A cherished friend and mentor, we considered Jean family for her unwavering strength and love, fierce loyalty, toughness, support and a little bit of crazy. Jean was a guiding force in so many lives – both personal and professional. She helped many find, nurture and promote their talents, and most of all, love what they do.
A single mother of two sons, Jean came to Washington, DC in the late 70â€™s after working as the American Lung Associationâ€™s Public Relations Manager, to serve as Senior VP for John Adams Associates, a public affairs firm. After nearly five years at the firm, Jean left to establish Young & Associates in 1982, with the love and blessing of John Adams.
Forming Young & Associates as a technology-focused agency from the start, Jean was a trailblazer, serving as a female CEO in a male-dominated industry. Jean was not afraid to voice her strong opinions or take on a leaderâ€™s point of view when she knew her strategy was right. Throughout the nearly 30 years she led and was involved in the agency, Jean touched so many lives and remained close to countless former employees, clients and friends of the agency.
A ferocious protector, Jean had a heart of gold and for most of us that were lucky enough to know her, there will never be anyone like her again. Love you forever, Jean.
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I was pleasantly surprised when April showed up in my Facebook feed, on my TV and in conversations with friends over the last few weeks. Who is the latest â€śit girlâ€ť? April is the very pregnant giraffe at Animal Adventure Park in Upstate New York. So, how did a small zoo grab so much attention with its live video feed reaching more than 1 billion views?
Operating without a communications staff, the parkâ€™s owner began using Facebook to live-stream Aprilâ€™s pregnancy as a way to promote the park, but also to educate the public about giraffes, which are currently on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Viewers steadily increased over the last month with April making headlines across the country. Today, there is coverage across national news outlets, in local media markets and of course a major social media blitz.Â It is clear that the public is in need of a positive, hopeful story given the attention.
However, when animal rights activists labeled Animal Adventure Parkâ€™s live-feed as sexually explicit last week it was briefly removed from YouTube. Via a Facebook Live video, the park owner successfully combatted any criticism with a heartfelt, but straightforward message about the parkâ€™s goal to create enjoyment for those interested in April, while also educating the public about giraffes. His honesty has been key to captivating a far-reaching audience and his ability to handle negativity will surely help the zoo achieve future success.
Now, while the world is watching, letâ€™s hope April has a speedy and smooth delivery.
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As most industries evolve over the year – particularly in certain sectors of technology – and customers’ needs change, revisiting your overall corporate positioning and messaging is a smart strategy. While some executives may downplay the need for this exercise, overall corporate messaging can:
â€˘ Concisely articulate your companyâ€™s value propositions
â€˘ Shape and narrow core differentiators and eliminate out-of-date messaging
â€˘ Provide consistent positioning throughout company-wide communications (sales, marketing, product development, professional services)
â€˘ Highlight differentiation without slamming the competition or giving them a voice
â€˘ Enable success measurement of marketing/communication initiatives
A refresher messaging exercise should review how your brand is perceived in the market based on industry evolution, current focus, etc. Take time to interview key stakeholders within the organization for their viewpoints and to identify future marketplace trends that may shift current positioning. Also, take stock in industry analyst reports and media coverage that may forecast a change in business challenges and demands.
The messaging refresh doesnâ€™t mean a complete overhaul. Rather, nuanced ÂÂÂâ€“ but important Ââ€“ changes to the brand can make a huge impact in connecting with key audiences.
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When hot-button issues arise in the media, should your company offer to comment? While we don’t advise taking political sides, if your spokesperson has relevant non-partisan industry insight, advice or analysis to offer, it can be a great opportunity for timely though leadership opportunities.
The agency has been working with client Pace Harmon, a business transformation and outsourcing advisory firm, to provide input for articles surrounding impacts of President-elect and now President Trump’s tech and outsourcing-related policies and Executive Orders. The strategies for leveraging mainstream news stories, however, can be applied universally.
- Follow the story. You or your spokesperson can’t be a valuable resource or expert on an issue if you haven’t read the latest documents and/or articles about the topic.
- When reading these stories, take note of the reporter and editor names that are covering the issue. Often times, if the story is big enough – as it has been lately – new reporters will be assigned the beat, often providing more opportunities for education and basic insights on the topic.
- Make yourself available but agree how far you want to take the opportunity. Timing is everything but time is also precious. Talk to your spokesperson about availability, frequency and priorities for interview opportunities. It can be 24×7 but it also can be managed.
- Be concise and non-partisan. No matter which side of an issue you or your spokesperson is on, recognize you both are representing the company as whole.
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As the year comes to a close, it’s helpful for marketing teams to evaluate what has worked well and what could use improvement in the new year.
While some companiesÂ implement PR as a single stream strategy, a perennial lesson learned is the need for an integrated and cohesive PR program. Ultimately, multi-pronged momentum is a key forÂ long-term media relations and thought leadership success.
Whether you’re kicking off a new PR initiative in 2017 or looking to liven up an already-established program, here are a few tips for getting on track with an integrated PRÂ approach:
1) Track Priority Media Consistently – Just as your industry changes, so does the focus of journalistsâ€™ media coverage. Rather than only reaching out to media when you haveÂ a press announcement, update your priority media list quarterly and keep tabs on how their coverage evolves. By monitoring articles and beat shifts on an ongoing basis,Â youâ€™ll likely identify more timely and relevant opportunities for your organizationâ€™s spokespeople to comment on.
2) Get In Sync with Marketing Programs – Are there specific marketing campaigns or webinars planned for the new year? Will upcoming product announcements focus onÂ mitigating critical customer pain points? Gather your organizationâ€™s main marketing messages – at least for Q1 2017 – and align them with PR initiatives – such as offering on-point advice via contributed articles, quoting opportunities, blog posts and speaking engagements.
3) Elevate Case Studies – Do your customer success stories reflect your organizationâ€™s value proposition and speak to your core buyer? If youâ€™re selling to a business user butÂ your case study is focused on a technical audience, you may be missing the mark. Think about the story you want to tell and choose customers with recent examples thatÂ align. Then take the time to interview them (if theyâ€™re willing to participate, of course) and ask the same questions that youâ€™re typical buyers are interested in. Relatable caseÂ studies can serve as a goldmine for generating media opportunities and marketing campaigns alike.
However your PR program is shaping up for 2017, take the time to evaluate how your plans tie into your overall corporate strategy and where improvements can be made toÂ strengthen key media relationships and offer solid thought leadership advice to the marketplace.
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Itâ€™s hard to believe it is almost Thanksgiving, which means 2017 planning in underway. While mapping out key initiatives for the coming year is important, donâ€™t discount the power of Q4 media relations campaigns.
Following are two ideas for maximizing PR impact during the last part of the calendar year.
Offer 2017 Predictions
Reporters often compile and publish industry forecasts during late Q4, calling on vendors and analysts to share their views of upcoming market trends. Proactively offer your companyâ€™s take to reporters, including counter-trend viewpoints that may pique their interest even further.
Arrange Analyst Briefings
If itâ€™s been some time since you briefed major industry analysts, Q4 may be a good time to bring industry influencers up to speed on your companyâ€™s evolved marketplace role and competitive position. This strategy also gives you a chance to get on their radar for 2017 reports.
* A version of this post also appeared in the September 2016 issue of The Spark newsletter.
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PR programs are not a short-term investment. In fact, programs that have the chance to evolve with creative ideas and strategies and a variety of tactics are the ones that most often flourish and succeed. While a short three- or six-month PR project can help determine if an agency is a good fit, a long-term PR engagement can generate more meaningful results and build a strong corporate profile.
Y&A has been fortunate to work with many long-time clients and, as their PR programs continue and our work relationships grow, we are able to more effectively drive increased visibility for their organizations, thought leaders and products and strengthen their overall marketing plans.
Devoting time to one campaign and then pausing PR efforts can signal a problem if customers, partners and the media notice a slowdown in corporate news and media/marketing activities. Longer engagements make it possible to work toward an organizationâ€™s strategic corporate objectives. Closer relationships between clients and journalists can also be created, which can lead to more media opportunities and a consistent pipeline of news coverage.
Companies should treat PR as a long-term investment for success. When clients become longstanding partners, an agency can provide more value to the organizationâ€™s marketing team and help support business goals and make an impact on the bottom line.
*This post originally appeared in Y&A’s Spark Newsletter.
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The digital marketing evolution as well as the ease of use in sharing information via social media channels has clouded the need and relevance of the online press center, the place where reporters and others can go for a one-stop shop view of company news, facts and relevant contacts. No longer, it seems, is it deemed a ‘must have’ when there are so many other ways to share company news and facts.
However, what often gets lost when the press center goes away is the PR contact – the name, phone number and email for the person in your organization who reporters can easily reach to discuss press opportunities. Many companies today (except public companies which must disclose IR contact) no longer openly share the names of the press contact, much less their email address or direct phone number due to spam, telemarketers, etc. The problem is that this can make it hard for reporters to connect with the right company spokespersons – especially when on deadline. Unfortunately general PR email addresses and voicemail boxes get crowded quick and it is easy for timely requests to get lost or misdirected.
The role of the PR contact – or any company spokesperson – is to help ensure that correct and consistent company information is shared and so the company has a chance to decide if they want to participate in a media opportunity. Without a clear company press contact – reporters may try to get any company employee on the phone.
Do you want growth goals that were shared in a town hall meeting broadcast to a reporter? Do you want to use resources on an opportunity that may end up being pay for play? Is there an opportunity to segue a reporter inquiry into a larger story or share an upcoming development? Or, is your PR team already working on strategy for this story or news outlet? These are all good reasons to ensure you have a PR or media contact listed on your website. This should be the person responsible for the PR program or your external PR team lead – someone who knows media relations protocols, company sensitivities and facts and can and will respond to the reporter in a timely manner.
So, go now. Check your website. Has this detail been overlooked at your organization? Who are reporters gonna call now?
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Industry analysts hold significant power across many markets. Big-budget enterprise buyers often take their vendor and product advice and recommendations as gospelÂ and rely on Magic Quadrants and Wave reports to create short-lists of vendors to consider before making purchases.Â Itâ€™s no wonder that companies want to establish closeÂ relationships with key analysts.
However, simply getting in front of the analyst community doesnâ€™t guarantee a favorable recommendation. Many analysts hold strong opinions and if your product orÂ service doesnâ€™t wow them, your company may never recover from initial lackluster first impressions.
An essential part of analyst relations success is establishing a rapportÂ with analysts including ongoing dialogue around their view of the market and how your product will fulfill demand in the long term. Here are four tips to help evaluateÂ your analyst relations readiness.
1)Â Tell Your StoryÂ – Can your executive spokespersons quickly and clearly articulate your business offerings, the problem or issue you address in the marketplace, and theÂ key differentiators of your product or service? Get the nuts and bolts of how you describe your company straight before presenting to an analyst.
2)Â Secure Customer ReferencesÂ – Often analysts will be curious to hear directly from customers – or at least see a list of customer names – to demonstrate the real-worldÂ applicability of your products and how they mitigate their pain points. Even if it is a pilot program or beta customer, showcasing how your offering works in a real way isÂ invaluable.
3)Â Know the CompetitionÂ – A major piece of an analyst’s job is to survey and understand the greater marketplace, including becoming familiar with the competitiveÂ landscape. Do your research on competitors before engaging with analysts and be prepared to talk to your strengths, but steer clear of blasting the competition directly.
4)Â Be Open to CriticismÂ – Forging a productive relationship with analysts requires two-way communication. You may be great at presenting your companyâ€™s vision, butÂ are you ready to hear analystsâ€™ feedback – including criticism? They may identify a hole in your overall strategy or challenge your product direction based on what they areÂ hearing from marketplace customers. Listening to their feedback and productively discussing your organizationâ€™s direction can help you drive growth opportunities forÂ the future, if youâ€™re open to it.
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Every organization experiences a lull in corporate news. That doesnâ€™t mean PR efforts should go dark. In fact, these quieter periods represent an excellent time to reconnect with journalists with fresh article ideas or about upcoming stories to determine if a spokesperson can be a resource.
Here are ten to-dos to help energize PR initiatives when the news well runs dry.
- Send quick touch-base emails to close reporter contacts to determine if they need a resource based on one of your key subject areas.
- If a client is willing, pitch a customer case study article to a target publication. There is nothing better than a client testimonial.
- Try reaching that journalist you havenâ€™t quite been able to connect with via a short introductory pitch presenting how you can work together.
- Use this time to develop a contributed byline article based on a strong viewpoint or industry trend.
- Review target journalistsâ€™ recent news stories and pitch a follow-on story if you or a client can provide further analysis or a new take.
- Take a look at any key organizational milestones over the last six months and develop content for a half-yearly or annual achievements press release.
- Review HARO newsletters closely for any potential media interview opportunities.
- Check editorial calendars to ensure you arenâ€™t missing a chance to contribute to a target publication.
- Monitor Twitter in the event journalists are seeking content via social media.
- Recharge at the gym, salon or happy hour and start fresh in the morning.
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