The Matchbox.

Nov. 15

Back to Basics: Planning a PR Campaign

Whether you are promoting a new product, company-backed research or a new area of expertise, developing a solid plan is an important first step. Time and time again, it has been proven that sketching out a solid strategy, from research to execution to evaluation, can help you achieve success and garner positive PR results.

Research first
What have the results been for similar campaigns? What is the media’s interest level in the subject matter? Reporters (especially those covering technology) shift focus quickly, so it is important to gauge current trending topics to determine how what you are promoting might be received. Reading your target journalists’ recent articles and scanning their Twitter feeds is a must.

Gather the team
After completing the initial research, bring the team together to discuss and collaborate on strategy. This is the time for brainstorming and infusing the campaign with creative ideas and tactical elements.

Put it on paper
Creating a plan with a timeline will help everyone stick to the strategy and schedule. While it is important to build in some flexibility for any unexpected events and/or to adjust or leverage relevant news impacts, following a schedule is helpful.

Evaluate results for future planning
Don’t forget to grade your work following the campaign. While it can be difficult to predict results at the beginning of a promotion effort, taking a close look at what worked and didn’t work following will help you plan future PR initiatives.

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Nov. 06

Media Relations Advice: Email Interviews and Online Comments

While media relations best practices don’t change dramatically week-to-week, there are some trending tactics and questions that continue to come up across clients and prospects. Lately, it is email interviews and participation in the  “comments” section of online news articles.

Email interviews – in which an email Q&A replaces the traditional phone interview – are in vogue and thought leaders can take advantage of additional media visibility by being a timely resource and providing thoughtful email responses to reporter inquiries. It is a way for reporters to quickly gather insights from multiple spokespersons. While this approach offers the interviewee more control over their responses, they shouldn’t confuse this opportunity with a chance to control the overall story. How the reporter uses those responses is up to the reporter, including paraphrasing some of the submitted content without a direct quote. This is similar to a phone interview that includes spokespersons sharing content that may be used contextually in the story.

Another trending topic is the practice of posting comments on news articles for additional visibility. While some argue it is a way to increase a thought leader’s or topic’s media profile, we don’t advise making it a practice as it dilutes your thought leadership and credibility. Most reporters aren’t scouring their articles’ comment sections for interview sources and your potential clients probably aren’t either. That said, if you author a byline that is published, it is prudent to monitor the comments sections for additional questions. Instead of feverishly commenting on reporter articles, share your insights in a blog post, via Twitter (or a series of tweets) or in a byline or white paper – where it can attract more widespread attention.

While media relations is an ever-evolving practice, the core tenets of working with the media consistently apply. Whether giving an interview verbally or in written format or determining the best forum for media-based thought leadership, a solid strategy and on-point, clear messaging are required for successful execution. What are some of your recent media relations FAQs?

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Oct. 18

What Is Our Involvement in PR?

Whether dipping their pinky toe into the PR waters or having never worked with an agency, many organizations–including marketing and senior execs–don’t have a strong understanding of their involvement in or commitment to a strong public relations program. Some have been told by PR firms and consultants that they can “take it and run with it” following an initial kick-off meeting or download conversation. And, they are dead wrong.

While a PR firm can and should do the heavy lifting, involvement and support or lack thereof from both the marketing liaison and senior execs can make or break a PR program. Here’s why. While account teams should have a pulse on an organization’s industry, including news and driving trends, we aren’t on the front lines working alongside their clients who are sharing first-hand feedback on their real pain points and ultimate goals. Not to mention that these issues often change throughout the course of a company’s life.

 

Further, we can’t (and in some cases, shouldn’t) be at every internal meeting with sales and senior execs to glean the latest and greatest on internal and external initiatives. So establishing a firm understanding of a PR program and setting client involvement expectations at the onset is paramount. We need access, buy-in and time from a marketing liasion and senior execs to get into their minds and those of their clients to tell their story to media and ultimately make sound strategy recommendations.

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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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