The Matchbox.

Sep. 18

Y&A Takes DC for Fall Planning Meeting

Y&A Team in DC

We’ve just returned from an invigorating Y&A planning meeting and retreat in Washington, DC. Collectively taking in the city’s grandeur while collaborating on creative ideas, the team reflected on the past year and set thoughtful goals for taking Young & Associates into a successful 2014.

Perhaps it’s because Y&A’s roots are in the DC area or because our close-knit team has been working together for at least a decade (or a little of both) but the topics flowed freely and our team offered up new client delivery strategies and ways to foster the agency’s continued momentum.

Taking the time to looking inward and plan isn’t always convenient for businesses—with day-to-day responsibilities and client priorities leaving little time for self-reflection—but it sure pays off to carve out a day or two throughout the course of the year. I know our team is better for it.

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Aug. 28

I’m In My 30s and Use Facebook, but Do Your Customers?

You might have read the widely circulated Mashable article, I’m 13 and None of My Friends Use Facebook, with insight from a middle schooler about her social media usage—primarily Twitter and Tumblr—and her lack of interest in Facebook.Screen Shot 2013-08-28 at 2.48.39 PM

As the middle school contributor puts it, “We want what’s trending, and if Facebook isn’t ‘trending,’ teens won’t care.” She isn’t the only teen dropping Facebook. It has been reported that Facebook’s numbers are declining among younger users, as they move on to Snapchat, Vine, Instagram (owned by Facebook) and Tumblr. What does this mean for marketers?

First, knowing where your audience currently spends time is critical. For a b-to-c brand trying to connect with teenagers, Tumblr and Instagram might be the most important channels but they shouldn’t eliminate Facebook either. Instead, these companies should continue to track analytics closely and, if necessary, expand their horizons by adding more tools to their social media arsenal.

Many of our clients fall into the b-to-b technology industry where Twitter is often the preferred social media platform for customer engagement. However, some have a healthy presence on Facebook and LinkedIn as well. Based on the business, social media strategies need to be tailored and continually refreshed to successfully reach and connect with key audiences.

Most importantly, companies need to be fluid with social media, especially as user adoption and the sites themselves change frequently. While it can be productive to have a social media plan in place, it is imperative to be flexible in modifying that plan as consumer engagement fluctuates.

While Facebook’s audiences are massive, it is important for marketers to diversify their social media approach. Social media will continue to transform, but focusing on building relationships, engaging with connections on various platforms and adapting quickly to change will help businesses follow the crowd, whether that be teens or Fortune 500 enterprises.

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Aug. 12

Stopping the PR Merry-Go-Round

At Young & Associates we pride ourselves on our long term and valued client relationships. Most of our new business is from referrals and while each year brings some client turnover, we always have a solid group of multi-year agency stalwarts. So it is disheartening when we hear from prospects their negative associations with PR because in trying to find the right partner they’ve worked with a merry-go-round of agencies or freelancers. While every industry has some bad seeds (PR is no exception) and client-agency rapport and work styles play a big role, many client-agency relationships fail because of a short sighted view of the impact public relations delivers.

A PR presence requires a commitment to media results, but it is more than just landing the big hit. A successful PR partnership is rooted in an understanding of the value in a strategic, ongoing and cumulative PR effort and in building relationships. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither are impactful public relations programs.

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Jul. 19

Does Size Really Matter?

In a recent introductory conversation with a new business prospect, the senior executive expressed concern with the effectiveness of an agency that has less than 10 employees. This is certainly not the first time we have heard this concern and some folks – no matter your response – have a predisposition to a larger PR firm. But this time, the question really stuck with me – Does size really matter?
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While a multitude of factors go into the success of a PR agency and the client program, size of the firm really shouldn’t play a part. A dedicated senior team of two seasoned professionals who are well versed in the specific tech/vertical industry is far more effective than an on-again off-again team of five or six professionals with varying degrees of overall PR and industry experience. So what should a growing technology company look for in an agency if size doesn’t matter?

1) Average Client Engagement – If an agency turns over most of their accounts in 12 months or less, that’s a big red flag. It likely means they overpromise to get the account and then under-deliver.

2) Average Length of Employee Retention – Certainly employees come and go, but if the firm has a revolving door of staff, then you may be walking into a hornets nest as the team you just engaged has not gelled – leading to subpar overall collaboration and productivity.

3) Aggressiveness – Is the team able to go that extra mile to make it happen? Are they able to push you – the client – on an ongoing basis to generate creative ideas and keep the momentum alive?

4) Kismet –  If you don’t like the folks who are acting on your behalf on the front lines, then all the other positives are negated. Chemistry between the agency and client is paramount.

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Jun. 25

Why PR is Like “The Voice”

I admit it, I watch “The Voice”. Not for the celebrity judges’ playful The Voicebanter or even for the dramatic back stories on contestants, but for the first few episodes when each singer performs without the judges seeing their appearance. They each make a distinct impression, clearly expressing their tone and style while competing for the judges’ attention. Once selected, they must keep the judges’ and audiences’ interest while proving why they are the best. Is this so different from PR?

PR pros use words to craft a specific picture of an organization’s identity and then proactively communicate its key messages and vision—its “voice”, if you will—to a community of journalists and analysts.  Then we coach the senior executives to go head-to-head against industry competitors by playing up strengths and staying true to the company’s mission. Once the industry gets to know a particular player, they often become fans and regularly “follow” them – in the media, on social channels and at industry events.

While “The Voice” obviously isn’t the same thing as the world of PR (for the record, I’ve never sung to a reporter), the show does highlight some of the basic tenets of successful PR—namely the importance of grabbing attention by making a strong, positive impression, continuing the initial momentum with a consistent identity and messages, and understanding the needs of your “fan” base to keep your organization and its offerings relevant.

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Jun. 18

Media Interviews: Tackling Tough Questions

Most media interviews are known to serve up at least one or two difficult questions. To ensure an interview goes smoothly, it is important to review a potential list of topics – especially sensitive subjects – and appropriate talking points in advance. Some of the tougher areas of discussion include:

The competition. When a reporter asks about a competitor, it is always best to remain above board and avoid criticizing other organizations’ products and services. Instead, flip the question to reference your company’s differentiators and what sets you apart in your respective market.

The financials conundrum. For private companies, it is important to show company momentum and growth. However, revealing revenue figures can land you in hot water with investors, clients, partners, etc. The best approach is to politely tell a reporter that you cannot disclose financial information and show growth through new clients (that you are allowed to mention publicly), product innovation or an expanding employee base.

The product roadmap.
Describing a company’s product roadmap without giving away too much detail can be a challenge. Will the roadmap meet expectations or will competitors grab the information and run with it? While reporters will dig for the next big product development, be careful about revealing too much (even if the reporter says the conversation is off-the-record). Instead, share recent developments and what is ahead in the next quarter. Leave bigger developments to larger trend conversations and discuss in general terms.

While the goal is to secure media coverage for your organization, if you are uncomfortable answering a question it is reasonable to let a reporter know that 1) you will follow-up with the information later or 2) you cannot answer the particular question. It is better to withhold information, than say too much and risk undisclosed information running in print.

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Jun. 04

The Downside of Cheeky Videos – Besides a Good Laugh

Over the past few months, national household retailers typically known for their buttoned-up marketing and branding styles, have unleashed off-color viral commercials on YouTube to reclaim lost sales, lost customers and/or launch new products. Take Kmart’s recent and, dare I say, hilarious “Ship My Pants” video that promoted its new in-store shipping offering due to a myriad of poor customer service issues. The video has amassed over 18 million views and shares. Even more recently, the brand has launched the “Big Gas Savings” YouTube video to promote its fuel offerings, which has eclipsed the first cheeky video.

Are these silly, risqué ads really helping the company improve their bottom line? Unfortunately not. The quarterly revenues released in late May continued to show slumping sales despite the overwhelming views and primetime media coverage across the networks. So while folks seem to be having a good laugh over it all, the viral video craze may not always be the Holy Grail.

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May. 07

The Rise of Video – Benefits of Face-to-Face Time

The democratization of video has arrived at Young & Associates. While we’ve been operating in a virtual environment for nearly 10 years, it has only been in the past year that we’ve really started to leverage the power of internal video. Clients are requesting calls via Skype and we are having staff meetings via Google Hangout. Not to mention we have a client in the business. Every time we do a video call I am reminded how valuable “face-time” is to a working relationship.

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As co-location isn’t always possible in professional collaborations, technology (thankfully) has helped break down location barriers and having a video-based face-to-face meeting really takes the teamwork up a notch. Engaging with your peers, clients or vendors verbally and visually helps shorten the getting to know you curve. Ask us about it – we’d love to meet you face-to-face.

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Apr. 24

PR & SEO: Outrank Your Competitors on Google

Today, public relations provides a strong support for a company’s search engine optimization (SEO) efforts, as content created by PR pros helps build trusted links for associated organizations or clients. With Google’s Penguin and Panda updates, PR teams should ensure that news releases, blog posts and byline articles are optimized for SEO so they can help drive website traffic and reach potential customers.

Here are a few tips to help maximize your Public Relations-SEO efforts.

Develop Informative, Well-Written Content – Sharing valuable content is imperative for ranking well in search engines and attracting new website visitors. Informative byline articles or blog posts including links and even related content from other sources send authoritative signals to Google and other search engines improving a company’s search rankings. This ultimately helps companies’ online visibility, brand recognition and offers the chance to rise above competitors.

Avoid the Keyword Trap – Pushing out company’s targeted keywords is beneficial, but be careful about the quantity and quality of keywords. With Google Penguin, if press releases include too many keywords the associated websites could be penalized and pushed down in search rankings. Instead, use links minimally – no more than one per 100 words. While it might be tempting to link to product pages, links to videos, infographics, white papers and even other articles produce the best results.

Bond with the SEO Team – Whether working for an agency or an in-house team, collaborate with those responsible for the company’s overall SEO strategy. Regular meetings to share messaging and targeted keywords can help PR and SEO work together and reach the company’s goals. If an SEO team doesn’t exist, the marketing manager and PR agency should collaborate on SEO, as it is imperative for increasing online visibility, reaching customers online and ranking above competitors in Google results.

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Apr. 16

Product Announcements: Giving Away the Secret Sauce?

Companies often grapple with formally unveiling products to the media without fueling competitors’ efforts by divulging too much information.  In fact, some shy away from announcing product info at all; however, sharing a limited amount of newsworthy information for media consumption CAN be successfully accomplished without giving away the “secret sauce”.

A good strategy for promoting product launches/updates involves boiling down the value points and centering key messaging around unique benefits, rather than drilling down on the minutia of features and functionality – these items, which may contain some proprietary data, are better served for data sheets and one-on-one customer interactions.

Also, companies can ensure that they are well prepared for product announcements by pre-briefing spokespersons on the level of information to be shared with media, so there is a comfort level and understanding prior to any interviews. Also be sure to create a few screen shots if appropriate, as media often request them to accompany product-focused stories.

In the end, product announcements can serve a valuable purpose—to show your organization’s momentum in providing your customers the latest and greatest solutions or services. By formally announcing significant products and services that meet your customers’ greatest needs, your organization is showing its commitment to the marketplace and serving as a thought leader that understands your industry’s key trends and challenges.

 

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