In late October, the entire Y&A team had a chance to meet-up in Denver to attend the annual EDUCAUSE conference, the largest community gathering of IT technology, academic, industry and campus leaders advancing higher education through technology.
At the conference, we visited with past, present and future edtech clients and spoke to several industry leaders about the future of higher education and the critical role technology continues to play. We enjoyed listening to our client Anthology present at the interactive poster session in the exhibit hall and visiting with them in their marquee booth.
As 2023 fast approaches, we are excited to help all of our EdTech clients further communicate their vision for the future of higher education.
We are thrilled to announce Y&A was recently recognized by the prestigious Marcom Awards for excellence in marketing and communications for client campaigns and placements. Achieving a platinum and gold award as well as an honorable mention, we were up against stiff competition from the 6,500+ entry applications submitted. MarCom Awards are given to those who have excelled in the field of communications via their ingenuity and hard work.
Here’s a snapshot of the award wins and associated campaigns/media placements for our clients UncommonX, Keynova Group and Anthology/Blackboard:
Social media is critical to consumer purchase decisions. Even though my kids joke about my use of “Mombook”, I do use Facebook to find and remind me about events, products and services. And in the B2B landscape, LinkedIn is the place to go to review the companies and people, products and services we choose to do business with.
As more B2B companies look to amplify their brand visibility on LinkedIn, company employees can be another PR channel and cheer section. So, make sure to keep your LinkedIn presence fresh and inspire the entire company to spread the word. This can be done by alerting employees to corporate social posts and/or news and/or providing template post copy for them. It also helps to provide a guide or handbook – with appropriate do’s, don’ts and disclaimers – to how you’d like them to help amplify your brand. Done well, this dedicated effort can result in more followers and increased social engagement but also a more engaged, positive work culture.
As more American companies embrace dedicated Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives, they’re baking it into everything they do. From efforts by fast-food chains to increase diverse franchisee ownership of U.S. restaurants through low-interest loans, to a freight transporter in Connecticut being the first company in the industry to establish a DEI office, promoting these initiatives is important to build relationships and goodwill.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when incorporating DEI initiatives and research into a PR plan including thought leadership, social media, messaging and media outreach:
Stick to what you know: Develop bylined articles on a topic you are already an expert in. For example, an edtech company can draft an article about ways higher ed institutions can improve DEI efforts to attract and retain students.
Prioritize the cause: Stay away from self-serving outreach. DEI initiatives exist to create an inclusive, welcoming environment for all – they shouldn’t be used as a stunt to edge out the competition. The key is to focus on the cause, be genuine and be respectful.
Stick with it: Being a diverse, equitable and inclusive company should not be a fleeting priority or one that only lasts long enough to send out a press release. Instead, build DEI messaging into ongoing efforts across the organization.
Often when issues arise within a business and there is negative chatter in the air (media, poor analyst reports, competitor fodder), all eyes turn to the marketing department and PR to manage the “messaging problem”. And while crisp concise messaging is incredibly important to convey a company’s unique value prop, problems with product offerings, poor customer service or leadership issues cannot be wished away with razzle dazzle messaging or press release announcements. In these cases, the organization has a facts problem, not a messaging one.
Utilize your marketing team as investigators to determine the root cause of the issue and then build a cross-departmental team to begin addressing and fixing it. By acknowledging the problem and demonstrating pro-activity around solutions, the facts will begin to change and thereby the narrative of the story will as well. As an example, after resolving known issues with customer implementations, invite those clients to participate in future product pilot launches and report on the entire journey. Every company has challenges but it’s not magic words that will save the day.
Helping secure media coverage isn’t a PR pros only job in the media relations journey. Knowing what the media is reporting on requires more than simply keeping an eye on byline articles and stories published. Here are several best practices to ensure your media monitoring goes above and beyond the call of duty.
Compile a Media Coverage Report
Whether it’s in the form of a weekly email or a spreadsheet maintained over time, a structured report of media coverage enables marketing and other company leaders to quickly access the information and include it in presentations to show stakeholders how the brand is being positioned externally.
Exhaust All Search Options
Not all media coverage, good or bad, will have the company’s name in the headline or even in the first few paragraphs, so relying on one keyword or monitoring tool to catch all media coverage can cause important articles to slip through the cracks. Use multiple streams to monitor for coverage.
Stay Vigilant After Significant Events
How a company is reported in the media will vary when a major announcement, merger or crisis develops. To be prepared with effective responses, monitor the news and social media as it breaks to keep company representatives and stakeholders updated and strategically ready for possible interview requests.
As PR pros continue to work closely with clients during a time of consistent change and an era of historical events, they face new challenges that come with garnering media coverage in the new reality of life in 2022.
Below are three tips for navigating the industry’s “new normal” while ensuring clients’ stories are told tastefully and efficiently:
Stand Out from the Content Clutter – Media are bombarded with companies offering thought leadership topics and expert opinions. That means your clients’ competition for coverage is heightened, so it is critical to find a unique hook to push through the information overload.
Online or Bust – The pandemic prompted every industry to undergo a digital transformation overnight and it stuck. While the move to virtual life hasn’t been easy, it is our reality, and working alongside clients to turn virtual challenges into opportunities is the best way to move forward.
Relevance is Key – It is essential to stay updated on daily news and the economic impacts. A worst-case scenario would be pitching a media outlet with content that is now irrelevant or no longer fits the topic’s narrative. Review editorial calendars, develop client case studies and ensure your client’s narrative is appropriate and valuable.
I like to think I have a sense of humor, but I am not a prankster. And it shows on April Fool’s Day when it seems everyone uses social media posts to try and punk their loyal customers. I am not a fan. Sure, it is in good fun, but there are varying degrees of efficacy. My 13-year-old’s prank of switching bags of cereal to different boxes is funny and harmless. My 9-year-old creating toothpaste Oreos is not so funny and gross.
So, when it comes to posting April Fool’s Day pranks via corporate social media or creating fake press releases, my two cents is to stay away. The risk is not worth the reward. And definitely don’t announce real news on April 1 as it could be easily dismissed.
Attention spans today are so short that even a well-intentioned joke can be taken the wrong way – especially if read scrolling through a social media feed. And for news organizations, even the niche ones that post fake news stories in the spirit of April Fool’s Day – the results are doubly impactful as readers, listeners, viewers are tuning in for helpful information.
Leave the jokes to the comedians, where, as we’ve recently seen, it can still be a risky move.
When preparing to make a client announcement, it’s critical to stay up-to-date on major news headlines leading up to and the day of to ensure it is tastefully done and positioned for optimal positive impact.
Suppose your client’s press release and social media campaign is scheduled for 8 a.m. and there is a national tragedy overnight. Don’t be afraid to pull the release and any scheduled social media posts. Otherwise, you set the brand up to look callous and disengaged. For example, when working in communications for MGM Resorts in Las Vegas during the tragic mass shooting in 2017, it was critical to hold pre-planned social posts and company announcements. Unfortunately, the brands that didn’t pull their posts in time paid the price. One brand received backlash from the community when they posted a lighthearted photo of their mascot in front of the famed “Welcome to Las Vegas Sign,” which was near the tragedy’s location.
Amid a tragedy, it may be beneficial to work with marketers to develop non-self-serving social media posts that offer sympathy for those affected. Also, depending on the severity, give the media time before pitching your company’s story.
Maintaining a consistent B2B social media presence is critical as it demonstrates the company’s engagement with their stakeholders and involvement in the latest developments in their industry. Social media is also a valuable tool to further promote media coverage and thought leadership.
In managing social media for a number of clients, our team recently completed the HubSpot Academy’s Social Media Certification Program and were reminded of several important, evergreen social media principles.
Establish a consistent tone and brand voice across posts that will serve as the foundation for your social media presence, e.g., informative, playful, formal, etc.
Pay attention to what kind of content your target audience finds interesting and mix of the posts with more than just brand-related content
Post consistently to keep stakeholders up-to-date on company happenings, as well as promoting your page to a larger audience
Use action words to engage more people, e.g., “Read more here” or “Click here for more” rather than just “See more here” or “More here”
Use social platforms as a way to connect with target media via tagging and sharing relevant articles
Humanize the social presence to connect with followers on a personal level, acknowledging holidays, important cultural events and highlighting individual employees, clients and partners.