The Matchbox.

Feb. 15

Extending the Value of PR to Marketing and Beyond

While PR initiatives often generate valuable market presence and thought leadership for organizations, they are often siloed from other marketing activities. To drive more value from PR and marketing activities alike, teams can more closely collaborate through shared strategies and metrics. Following are some tips to get started.

Integrate Campaigns – If your company is making a major marketing push around a particular industry trend or issue, use it as an opportunity to extend your voice and message across PR channels too. For example, offer byline articles that reinforce thought leadership points shared on a recent webinar or at a recent conference speaking engagement.

Align Metrics – Marketing activities, particularly demand generation initiatives, are expected to drive qualified leads and sales lift. PR activities support this goal by elevating a company’s market visibility, brand recognition and thought leadership. Take marketing metrics up a notch by tracking PR-related impacts such as website traffic spikes due to press releases and media mentions, as well as offering refreshed website content on those days—such as an actionable blog post.

Cross Promote Customers – Securing customers to speak favorably about your products or services is one of the most effective sales vehicles. However, marketing and PR teams sometimes spar over customer requests to avoid asking too much of them. Instead, teams can increase their ROI by working together to involve customers in one interaction that can be used for multiple opportunities, e.g., case study, Q&A email campaign, award submission.

This article originally appeared in an issue of The Spark newsletter.

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Jan. 17

Hard Hitting Thought Leadership

While some marketing programs put “thought leadership” into a catch-all category including thinly-veiled marketing articles, effective thought leadership programs go beyond self-serving topics or “how-to” articles and instead highlight new trends and strategic guidance on addressing buyers’ critical pain points. Following are some tips for forging or re-imagining a strong thought leadership program:

Go Beyond the Basics
Your target buyers already know the foundational elements of your industry, so repeating this information is the quickest way to invite them to tune out. Instead, demonstrate your depth on industry challenges or new trends that have real impacts on their day-to-day operations and bottom line.

Offer Contrarian Viewpoints
It goes without saying that there is often general consensus on major industry shifts, especially when backed up by research. However, there is always room for different perspectives on how best to address these developments or if new or different methodologies could help take the industry forward more quickly.

Address Nuanced Problems
As the evolution of industry issues tends to shift over time, discuss the particular angles that are currently impacting the industry. Reference relevant market examples and offer real-world guidance so customers and prospects know that your business understands how to address their current needs.

*This post originally appeared in the December 2018 issue of The Spark newsletter.

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Dec. 14

Winning PR Strategies for New Year Planning

December is often a quieter period publicly (with the exception of those in the retail space), as marketing/PR and product development teams are dizzily working toward an early Q1 product launch or another major company-wide initiative to make some noise and sell, sell, sell. For PR pros, it’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy and forget to review the past year’s successes and challenges and consider how you plan to move forward strategically in 2019. Here are some winning strategies to help steer the course for your PR plans in 2019:


  1. Dig-in to Earned Media Coverage – While helpful tools can monitor media coverage, such as TrendKite, don’t rely on them as your sole source of PR truth. Analyze the biggest media wins that had the most impact on your business vs. just a total number of media mentions.
  2. Review Company and Product Messaging – In preparation for 2019 initiatives, review key external messaging to ensure it still resonates with buyers and influencers. Markets fluctuate, as do the reasons for buying, so it’s likely the messaging used at the beginning of 2018 may not be relevant for 2019.
  3. Less is More – The simple truth is that “spray and pray” rarely works. Talk to sales and BDO teams to determine which markets are ripe for PR outreach. Meaningful, well thought-out initiatives to a targeted group are far more successful than generic campaigns to the masses.

*This post originally appeared in the December 2018 issue of The Spark newsletter.

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Nov. 30

In-House PR versus a PR Agency?

When marketing budgets are tight, teams may question whether to retain an external PR agency versus handling PR in-house. However, in a 24/7 media environment, fast-growing organizations often need the backing of an external agency to effectively meet the demands of supporting communications with important stakeholders – customers, prospects, employees, investors and more across various platforms.Screen Shot 2018-12-07 at 9.36.11 AM

A full-scale agency brings a level of breadth, depth and expertise in a wide variety of support areas, e.g., media relations, analyst relations, crisis management, social media, employee communications. With this level of knowledge and multiple PR executives to gain insight from, an agency partner can be nimble and provide targeted support as needed.

Also, PR agency executives bring a valuable outside perspective. Making strategic PR decisions can sometimes be difficult for internal executives who are very close to product development and messaging or just stretched thin altogether. For example, gauging whether a new product is newsworthy can be tough. An agency can offer a third-party view and help the internal PR/marketing team make validated decisions as well as help set expectations for the C-suite.

That being said, successful PR agency / client relationships require a supportive PR liaison within the company to drive day-to-day activities, share organizational changes, gain quick access to company executives and more. This collaborative partnership approach offers organizations an ideal combination for generating PR success.

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Oct. 04

Understanding Media Outlet Nuances

The media landscape is constantly changing and same goes for PR. No matter whether you choose to work with a PR agency or not, there are some key nuances in interacting with the media that all marketing professionals and/or executives with an eye on PR should understand.

  • Not all media outlets are the same. Some publications are news driven and likely focus much of their content on changes in the industry and the impacts on end users. While some are more open to vendor news than others, news-driven outlets are prime targets to promote an announcement or press release.

    Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

    Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

  • Advances and pre-pitching matters. While embargoes should be reserved for significant news, advances and pre-pitching press releases before they are made public is a PR best practice most industry news outlets appreciate. There are always exceptions to the rule, but giving reporters time to research, interview and report on the news before it is made public enables them to produce more robust stories the same day the news is released.
  • Some outlets are more insight or opinion driven. These outlets may not cover news at all and instead rely on contributed content from industry players. For publications that focus on insights – it is important to note that thought leadership must go beyond your own value proposition and it must be unique and not a veiled marketing or product pitch. While getting to these unique, value-added insights can be a challenge once those articles are produced, there are often numerous ways to slice and dice them to get maximum mileage.

If you are working with a PR agency, these are 101 best practices they should understand about your priority media targets and be able to discuss.

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Sep. 06

Back to School, Back to Messaging

school-909381_1280We’re in the midst of back to school season, with families rushing to finish buying new supplies and hoping their kids are ready to re-focus on the school year ahead.

For the business world, it’s a helpful reminder that corporate identities can benefit from a refresher too. Perhaps you’ve been using the same boilerplate for more than a year or key industry pain points have evolved beyond your current materials. Don’t be afraid to take a pause, look in the mirror and decide if some updates are in order.

Here are three quick tips for getting started on a corporate messaging update. Be sure to involve both the PR and marketing teams, as well as key executives, to ensure everyone is onboard with implementing the changes across all materials.

1) Clear Out the Jargon – Industry jargon and acronyms can be helpful for brevity in conversations with colleagues, but they can also create confusion when trying to communicate the value of your business. Clear, simple language resonates far better when describing what your organization offers the marketplace to solve its most pressing challenges.

2) Listen to Customer Feedback – Current customers are a valuable resource for evaluating performance feedback. Do you know why your customers chose your solution or services? Ask them which differentiators moved the needle and why they’ve remained a loyal customer. Their responses can help you select the most important messages for reaching today’s marketplace.

3) Track Analyst Reports – Industry analysts and influencers have a tremendous impact on the path of particular industries. Keep a pulse on the major analysts’ reports and stay engaged in opportunities for vendor participation to maintain two-way dialogue and gather industry insights about important trends and competitive market changes. These insights can help inform possible new areas for growth and expansion.

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Jul. 30

Elevating Female PR Pros to Senior Leaders

molly-belle-73279-unsplashAccording to networking group GWPR (Global Women in PR), although women represent two-thirds of the global PR industry, 78 percent of CEOs in the top 30 global PR organizations are men. They also account for 62 percent of the PR boardroom table. This has been a persistent problem across organizations, but why such the disparity of female leaders in such a female-driven industry?

The GWPR study states a confidence gap as a major reason for the disconnect, as 26 percent of women say they aren’t confident asking for a salary increase or promotion (compared to 13 percent of men). Additionally, work/life balance (34 percent) was cited as a main reason women do not think they can reach the top of the career ladder.

However, elevating women to leadership roles has been proven to be beneficial in helping organizations achieve their business goals. A study by Catalyst found that Fortune 500 companies with the highest representation of women in senior management had higher return on equities and returns to shareholders.

How do we get there?

Some organizations are working to reverse gender inequality, including PR agencies, and are creating specific programs to reach this objective. Leadership development programs are being instituted to help women thrive in their careers. Also, to ease work/life balance demands, as mentioned in the GWPR study, companies are offering flexible work schedules and telework options (Young & Associates included). Strong mentorship programs can also help young professionals set goals and a solid course for their careers.

There’s no question, it will be a long road ahead to reach equal representation for women at the top. If female PR professionals continue to gain support from their respective workplaces and also encounter examples of other successful women leaders this can help foster their career development and potentially move into more senior roles.

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Jun. 13

Taking a Risk: Hippo Mania

Prior to 2017, the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens had a rough few years. With the shooting of adult male gorilla Harambe and questions surrounding the death of a baby giraffe, the zoo had endured significant negative publicity.

HippoloveSo it was a huge risk for the zoo to embark on a full scale PR and social media campaign documenting the birth of a female baby hippo who arrived six weeks early. Fiona was the youngest hippo ever born and her chances of survival were low. Despite this, the zoo decided to publicly share her journey – celebrating milestones and asking for prayers when there seemed to be little hope.

Despite many twists and turns, Fiona celebrated her first birthday this month and has become an international viral media darling. Hailed as the “Best Thing to Happen in 2017” from ABC News and appearances on The Tonight Show, she has become a bona fide brand.

Fiona now consistently garners millions of views on her “Fiona Show” YouTube videos and the zoo enjoyed a record 20 percent increase in zoo attendance in 2017. Earlier this month, the zoo announced a $150 Million expansion “More Home to Roam” campaign thanks in large part to the hippo mania. People from all over the world come to see the Fiona effect. I, for one, am a huge fan and so proud of my local zoo for taking on this incredible yet risky journey.

*This post originally appeared in the February issue of The Spark newsletter.

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May. 09

And The Winner Is… Awards Programs 101

Awards are an important element of public relations programs as they provide third-party validation of company growth and momentum, product innovation and customer satisfaction. Whether trying to secure market credibility to support sales, drive thought leadership or boost company cachet for recruiting purposes, a robust awards program requires a strategic eye and due diligence in determining the right awards to pursue – ones that are not only respected within your industry but also ones that your organization has a real opportunity to win.

gold star trophy against shiny sparks background emitted from sparkler

As an example, if you are interested in a “Fastest Growing” award, proactively look at the winning growth rates from previous years as this will be a good indicator of the baseline minimum growth needed to compete. Similarly for a product or service innovation award, you will need to determine if you need customer references to evaluate whether your organization has the qualifications for a strong nomination. If you want to be a “Best Places to Work” contender, ensure you have the staff satisfaction levels and internal bandwidth needed for your team to complete the survey. Also be sure to check how many surveys need to be completed – at a minimum – and about how long the survey takes to complete.

Here are a few quick tips for ensuring your awards program is rooted in best practices – and reality.

  1. Do your research. Identify target awards including their deadlines. Award nominations are often due 3-6 months before winners are announced.
  2. Ask questions. Find an award resource – someone at the organization who helps facilitate the awards program. These individuals are often helpful in answering nomination questions and clarifying requirements.
  3. Respect the deadlines. If you are running up against the deadline and need more time, don’t be afraid to ask for an extension. You probably aren’t the only one.
  4. Know the award history. Read up on previous winners to better understand the style of the submission and the types of projects that typically win.
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Apr. 06

The Denver Post Has Moment of Redemption After Stadium Photo Gaffe

Denver Post TweetIt started off as an embarrassing situation for The Denver Post. The only major daily newspaper serving the Denver metro area published a Colorado Rockies 25th anniversary Opening Day story with a very large photo of Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia instead of the Rockies’ Coors Field. ESPN and Sports Illustrated, among others, highlighted the error, and droves of people took to social media to call out the mistake and disparage the outlet’s reputation. The memes started flying.

But The Denver Post editorial staff acted swiftly and professionally – turning the gaffe into an opportunity to engage the public. They formally admitted and apologized for the error and issued a social media contest in response, asking readers to submit their best photo of Coors Field via Twitter or Instagram for a chance to win two front-row tickets to the Rockies game on Monday versus the San Diego Padres. They also added that, “With your help, we might finally know what Coors Field looks like.”

Following the newspaper’s instructions, hundreds of people have flocked to Twitter and Instagram today to post their “best” photos along with the hashtag #ThisIsCoorsField. The Post successfully turned a difficult moment into something positive with humor that reflects the publication’s level of integrity and dedication to its readership – and perhaps even attracted more readers as a result of their chosen response.

Best of luck to the Post’s photo editors, who will likely have their hands full this weekend selecting the winning photo.

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