The Matchbox.

Oct. 21

In Honor of “Back to the Future” Day

USAToday-BTTFI’ve seen countless articles and social posts marking the real date when Doc Brown and Marty McFly traveled 30 years to the future in Back to the Future II. Heck, USA Today even recreated the front page used in the film as part of a wrap-around supplement today. Since the film trilogy was my favorite growing up, I couldn’t resist posting one too.

From a technology perspective, the movie introduced some innovative concepts that have actually come to fruition in one way or another. Thanks to the ever-evolving community of tech start-ups and larger entities alike, things like self-service touch screens in restaurants and biometric security to access buildings (or iPhones) are now integral to mainstream business and personal life. It also showed us the concept of flying dog-walking drones through Marty’s neighborhood and another when Biff was arrested after crashing into the clocktower on his souped-up hoverboard.

Additionally, the movie eerily predicted accurate consumer preferences of the future, including society’s demand for a personalized and multi-screen experience that offers entertainment, business and personal communications abilities (remember Marty’s multi-screen office where he effectively “Facetimes” with Needles?).

The combination of these concepts has led to the real October 21, 2015 reflecting elements that also existed in the movie—including business trends like 24/7 real-time data access from anywhere and 3D modeling across a multitude of industries. While we may not yet have self-sizing clothing, the concept of “right-sizing” has clearly been applied to everything from software and consulting services to cloud computing.

I’m personally still waiting for the flying cars but can’t say I’m disappointed with the level of uncanny accuracy that the movie delivered. However, they somehow thought we’d still be using fax machines. Those, I think, we can do without.

 

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Oct. 09

3 PR Tips to Close Q4 Strong

The weather is cooling down in many parts of the country, but in many cases PR activities are heating up for organizations. A strong PR push in Q4 can help companies achieve their overall 2015 corporate and marketing objectives and end the year on a positive note. flowers-desk-office-vintage

Revisit the plan: We all get caught up in the day-to-day, but take time to review your overall 2015 PR plan. What goals have you been able to reach and where are the shortcomings? Whether it be increased thought leadership, strong brand awareness or another effort, ramp up activities as necessary to help you meet those objectives prior to the end of the year.

Measure impact: Examine specific PR deliverables and coordinating results to clearly demonstrate how the PR program has made an impact. This will help show the value of PR to your organization’s senior team. You can also make any needed adjustments to goals, targeted audiences, and tactics, as you get ready to prepare your 2016 plan.

Tune in to Reporter’s End of Year Needs: Q4 marks the period when reporters are working on end of year wrap-up stories and New Year trend articles. Make sure you are pushing out your subject matter experts to comment on these stories to create the most visibility for your organization as Q4 closes.

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Sep. 21

Facebook Frenzy: Why B2B Marketers Should Post on Facebook

Y&A on FacebookSocial media has been a PR essential for a while now but many B2B companies still overlook the influence of Facebook. Why is that? Do you think your customers don’t visit Facebook? How many times did you check Facebook yesterday? My point, exactly.

Corporate Facebook posts don’t have to be different from Twitter or LinkedIn – and I’m sure you are already posting updates there. Facebook is another valuable media channel to reach your target audiences, so extend the benefits you are already receiving through social posts on other channels.

Even if the corporate posts are mixed in among the numerous back-to-school pictures, envious vacations, fun selfies and even the plated food posts, you are reaching your audience where they likely spend a lot of their media time already. So the next time there’s an award, news article or press release, go ahead, use it as an opportunity to extend your corporate social media presence. It will be good for your brand and corporate visibility, and it could even help secure a valuable new hire, partner or client.

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Sep. 11

Where’s All The News?

It always amazes me when I go to an organization’s website and discover they don’t have a corporate newsroom when clearly they have retained a firm and are getting ink. From time to time, we’ve even heard a variety of reasons from our own clients why earned media, press releases, thought leadership and even awards can’t get a dedicated page on the website – from not enough space to too much work to no one reads it. Well, guess what, they do!

 

Whether it be prospective or current clients, partners, investors or industry influencers, an established corporate newsroom credentializes the organization and showcases current happenings and trends. In many ways, the newsroom is the living organism of the entire website as it is dynamic, cuts across many aspects of the business and gives the latest on positive ongoings.

 

So, without bogging down the website and establishing a full-time job to manage the news center, here are a few simple tips to either kickstart a Press Room or refresh your current one:

— Delineate Coverage, Bylines and Releases: If you do have enough space or website changes aren’t terribly difficult, separate earned media, press releases and even bylines into buckets. That way, visitors can easily find what they are looking for.

— Call Out Publication Titles or Earned Media: If you have just landed coverage in a significant trade publication or the Wall Street Journal, don’t let it go to waste by burying it in the newsroom. Call it out in the title of the listing and add the publication logo.

— Cross-promote on Company Blog: When you have significant news, a published byline or an award, make sure to develop a quick blog post which highlights the effort. Cross link it to the newsroom as well as the publication site.

 

If you spend the time, effort and money on garnering earned media, make sure you shout all about it!

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Aug. 24

Authenticity Matters

I bought a new car this week and, as you might expect, the experience came with some interesting dealership encounters. One thing that became abundantly clear was which Car dealershipsalespeople were interested in having a real conversation about what would motivate me to make a purchase versus trying to stick to a stilted talk-track or dodging my questions. Essentially, were they willing (and trained) to be authentic in representing their brand, dealership and products?

The importance of genuinely communicating a company’s brand within the context of the real world is paramount to gaining long term customers and market share. In fact, it’s one of the most important aspects needed for customers to place their trust in a company. Marketers who are tasked with this role have an immense opportunity to show their target audiences what they truly value and how they approach customer service across the board. You only get one shot to make a first impression.

To communicate brand authenticity you need a solid corporate identity that transcends every level of a business. Executive leadership must clearly define and communicate to all employees the company’s key focus areas and priorities, including market focus, novel business approach, customer service differentiators, corporate culture, and vision for the future, and ensure that these elements are woven throughout the core go-to-market strategy and sales approach. Without these pieces in place, customers will sense that the business is simply “treading water” without clear market direction or conviction for upholding its values.

Ultimately I purchased my car from a dealership that I had done business with in the past. They stood out because they were able to have an honest conversation about how their company could meet my requirements and ink a mutually beneficial transaction. Their approach to customer service made me feel respected. There was a no-pressure policy and well-trained staff who seemed eager to listen and respond authentically to their prospective customers. The most successful companies in any industry have embodied these best practices for years – their products and services continue to change and evolve but the role of brand authenticity in acquiring and keeping customers cannot be overstated.

 

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Jul. 29

Extending the Value of White Papers

White papers continue to be a strong marketing asset as they demonstrate thought leadership and serve as informative guides for customers and prospects. However, once the white paper is written, it must be properly promoted to reap the full benefit. Here are some tips:

Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 12.13.11 PM1. Write a series of blog posts

While white paper content can be complex, a company blog is the perfect place to break down the topic via a series of posts. Include links throughout to drive readers to the full white paper to extend the mileage of your efforts.

2. Develop a contributed column

A byline article or two, drawing on specific themes from the white paper, can help expand the white paper’s reach and further covey a company’s expertise. To keep the article concise, focus on one viewpoint.

3. Create a media pitch

If the white paper includes a timely news angle, contact reporters with a brief media pitch offering the white paper as a resource along with a company spokesperson as an expert on the topic.

4. Collaborate with sales

Work closely with the sales team to make sure your white paper efforts are aligned with their needs. This might include steering content toward a particular topic or industry. Once the paper is written, ensure the sales team shares it with their list of prospects and existing customers.

*This post originally appeared in Y&A’s Spark Newsletter

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Jul. 17

No Bad Blood – The Power of PR Giants

This post originally appeared as a My Two Cents column in the July issue of Young & Associates’ newsletter The Spark. The full newsletter can be read here.

taylor

When Taylor Swift penned an open letter to Apple protesting their plans not to compensate artists during the 3-month free trial period of Apple Music, it was no David vs Goliath. However, what could have been a publicity nightmare for Apple turned into a huge PR boost.

How many people really took note of the coming Apple Music launch before Swift spoke out? The pre-launch anticipation for Apple Music certainly pales in comparison to the launch of a new iPhone. But the giant PR machines that have made Swift and Apple the beloved brands that they are proved their PR prowess.

Kudos to Swift for using her media influence – and her own blog as the medium – to speak for musicians of all sizes and hats off to Apple for a swift response. Apple’s very “2015” Twitter response ensured there’d be no Bad Blood when they chose not to Shake It Off and continue the Love Story.

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Jul. 09

Please and Thank You Go A Long Way

After returning from maternity leave, I was immediately presented with a clear case of poor email etiquette. Astonished at the lack of professionalism, I began thinking about communication ethics in our now 24/7 crazy work and personal lives, particularly with social media playing a dominant role. light-sign-typography-lighting-mediumWhile it can be easy to fall into shorthand communication reminiscent of texting to quickly convey a point or ask a question over email, spending a few extra moments to take care in email communications can mean the difference in having a positive impact or ruffling feathers regardless of the intended recipient (client, vendor or colleague). Here are a few do’s and don’ts for proper communication:

Do Add Please and Thank You: Most professionals today set-up email signatures that include a closing line “Best, Mary” or “Thanks! Bill”. While that’s nice, consider including a please and thank you in the body of the email. People notice!

Do Re-read Emails: Nothing is worse than receiving an email that is curt, terse or riffled with errors as it shows you didn’t care enough to take the extra minute to be professional.

Don’t Over Do It: While common courtesy and manners can take you a long way, it’s not necessary to harken back to the 1800s with overloaded formalities. Keep it polite but not too formal.

Don’t Send If You Would Be Offended: If it sounds rude or short to you or you are concerned it may not be well received, don’t send it. In the end it will save you countless hours of time and headache and will help avoid cleaning up a mess based on a reactionary/knee jerk, rushed and rude email.

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Jun. 19

Take the Mic: Conference Speaking Tips

Conferences present significant opportunities for networking, client pipeline nurturing, partnership discussions, industry education and more as the in person forum drives stronger connections.

Similarly, speaking at conferences has a greater impact on attendees than presenting via webinars or phone conversations. As a result, vying for speaking opportunities at key trade shows or conferences can be extremely effective for elevating your business’ marketplace visibility and stature.

To increase your chances of being accepted as a conference speaker (not tied to a paid sponsorship) and to maximize secured speaking opportunities, here are a few tips for success.

• Target Topics: Know the conference’s audience before suggesting possible presentation topics. Use this information as a basis for developing a solid abstract that speaks directly to their challenges and how your presentation or panelist perspective addresses them with specific takeaways.

• Avoid Self Promotion: While it makes sense that your thought leadership is rooted in your experience selling/delivering your company’s products and services, this is not the time for a sales pitch. Offering advice and guidance will effectively position you as an industry expert and therefore paint your company in a positive light.

• Note Panel Participants: To help gauge how your industry perspectives will fit within a particular panel, take the time to research the other panelists’ backgrounds and their businesses’ value propositions. This step will help you prepare for the possibility of any competitive discussions or sensitive topic angles.

• Understand the Format: It is critical to have a sense of the flow of any speaking engagement prior to delivery. Ask questions about the format, including whether there will be a Q&A session at the end of the prepared discussion. This applies to keynotes, fireside chats and panel discussions.

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Jun. 02

4 Tips for Identifying Media Trends

PittsburghWhat’s trending? In Pittsburgh, today’s trends are sunshine, food trucks (we’re behind) and the Pirates’ run at hanging above .500 this season. Staying ahead of trends and being able to forecast topics that will pique journalists’ interest is crucial for PR pros. A media pitch/article idea is only effective if it is timely and worthy of a reporter’s time to pen the story.

So, how can we effectively identify and hook into trends?

  • Twitter: The ultimate source for what’s trending is Twitter. Follow trending hashtags and reporters’ feeds to tailor pitches or piggyback on a topic that is generating buzz.
  • Regular, but respectful, contact with reporters: Some reporters are responsive to short touch-base emails. Dropping a quick line to a reporter you’ve had previous contact with can be very effective for pinpointing what they are working on and how you and your clients can be supportive.
  • Editorial calendars: Regularly reviewing key publications’ editorial calendars is helpful for determining the trends that outlets are focused on for the next 6-12 months and the types of resources they are looking for long-term. Also, they give a broad sense of publications’ overall focus and format. Revisit these calendars often to navigate evolving story ideas.
  • Read, read, read: The most important, and the most obvious, tip is to read your key industry and business publications daily. This is truly the best way to identify trends that will help you maximize PR efforts.
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