The Matchbox.

Apr. 21

Maximizing Partnership Announcements

As partnership announcements are often a dime a dozen in journalists’ eyes, it’s important to think outside the box to maximize promotion efforts and clearly convey the unique market-facing impacts.

As the agency has promoted a number of partnerships for clients recently, we offer the following advice for extending the potential for media coverage.

  • Utilize Trade Shows – If announcing the partnership at a trade show, offering onsite reporters a dual company interview opportunity can make a huge difference in garnering interest and coverage when handled well. Be sure to have demos available on the fly, as well as key leave-behind materials.
  • Tie to a Larger Trend or Counter-Trend – Illustrating how your partnership furthers or bucks a burgeoning industry trend offers reporters a fresh news angle that goes beyond the simple partnership announcement. Your CEO’s or CMO’s commentary will be better received if the messaging ties back to real industry impacts.
  • Name Drop – Playing up big industry names will yield added credibility for your organization. Even better, if the more prominent player is wiling to participate in media interviews, setup joint interviews so reporters can hear firsthand how your organization and an industry powerhouse are taking the market by storm.


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

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Mar. 26

Avoiding Social Fails

Today, engaging with customers on social media is a given for most businesses. However many are finding that if a sound strategy is not in place for responding to customer complaints/inquiries or if the various channels are used carelessly, this strategy can backfire.

Recently, a number of companies have been faulted for mishandling social media.

From creating insensitive posts in an attempt to create buzz, e.g., DiGiorno Pizza’s inappropriate use of the #WhyIStayed hashtag, to deleting customer complaints like Smucker’s, it seems like there are more fails than successes. Why? Perhaps companies aren’t weaving social into their overarching PR/marketing strategy or they might be entrusting social to the wrong team or individual.

Whatever the situation, it is important for companies to reexamine their social approach and take it seriously to avoid any costly blunders. If not, these mistakes could be extremely costly, diminishing consumer trust in products and services and negatively impacting business and/or brand reputation.

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

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Mar. 17

Striking PR Gold

Any one who says there is no such thing as luck in PR, or business for that matter, hasn’t experienced success. Sure success always relies on hard work and resilience, but striking gold usually involves a small dose of luck, mostly in timing. Call it fate, kismet, destiny, or fortune, with luck on your side here are three additional PR elements that must align for success.

Strategy – No PR effort, big or small, reaches its full potential without a sound strategy. That means looking big picture at the overall objectives and project elements to determine the best approach.

Tactics – Just as strategy is a guide for the best project outcomes, getting the tactics right matters. A successful PR campaign must respect basic media relations principles – from reporter outreach and interactions to pitch and press release content and media interview best practices.

Tenacity – Even with lady luck’s blessing, dedication is essential. Sending a media pitch to targeted reporters with an advance on your news is important but more important is the effort the PR team puts into follow up with the key publications.

Whatever your PR goal is, success requires all four elements – sound strategy, effective tactics, dedication and a little bit of luck. After all, a breaking news story can trump your news any day of the week.

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Mar. 03

M&A PR: A Different Beast

Over the years, Y&A has developed and overseen public relations plans for mergers, acquisitions, combinations and other M&A scenarios on behalf of clients. Whether these transactions are large or small, the process is nonetheless complex and requires sophisticated coordination of many moving parts to ensure that the right amount of information is communicated both internally and externally to customers, partners, media and the analyst community. Following are some key PR takeaways to keep in mind if your organization is acquiring another organization or if you are in the acquiree position.

  • Develop a Sound Communications Plan – Start with a plan of action that outlines every communication-related piece of the acquisition or merger puzzle. This exercise allows an organization to anticipate each angle that must be addressed in advance–from HR employee letters to partner and customer emails to various media/analyst materials–and yields a realistic roadmap with ownership for the entire process.
  • Rally Around Key Messages – This isn’t the time to improvise. Aligning all communications around a set of key messages enables a unified message to be pushed out and will reduce the chances of confusion and frustration across the board. Of course, all materials will contain varying versions of the messaging depending on the audience, but keeping the core components on the same page is critical.
  • Stay Fluid on Timing – Even with the best laid plans, timing is often in flux for M&A activity as anticipated deal closing dates can (and do frequently) shift. Keeping a flexible mindset can help mitigate additional stress and keep executives’ expectations realistic. Once a media announcement date has been set, offer advances to media and analysts to give them an opportunity to jump on the news before it breaks.

M&A activity can present lucrative opportunities for companies to take major growth steps forward. Taking the time to formulate a solid PR strategy around the initiative is well worth the effort as building a positive perception of the new company among employees, stakeholders, media and analysts will help ensure that the organization starts off on the right foot.

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Jan. 28

When Image and Messaging Really Matter

As the “Deflate-Gate” saga rages on and nearly half of Americans think the Patriots are culpable of the wrongdoing, the bigger issue called into question is image and messaging. From a public relations standpoint, rather than a legal or moral one, the Patriots have bungled or fumbled this mess from the onset. After nearly a week of silence, both the team’s head coach Bill Belichek and quarterback Tom Brady took to the podium during separate press conferences with questionable, ill-handled statements and answers to reporters’ questions. While I agree that Deflate-Gate is a minor issue when juxtaposed with world issues like terrorism, hunger, etc., I wouldn’t make the statement, “This isn’t ISIS, no one is dying.”

It was quite apparent following the press conferences, the PR team quickly convened behind closed doors and hosted a “Round Two” media event where answers were much more polished and precise from Belichek. With any crisis communications issue, regardless of whether the organization believes it is small ball or a huge organization-changing incident, getting in front of the messaging and treating it seriously can mean the difference between the public quickly moving on to another story or the media dragging it out for days as is the case with this incident. Both Belichek and Brady’s flippant attitude and responses to the controversy called into question their truthfulness and unfortunately now the team’s pre-Superbowl preparation and pride have been forever altered.

Sadly for football lovers, 2014 ranks as one of the worst handled PR years for the NFL and many of the teams. Let’s hope they clean up their image in 2015.

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Jan. 15

Renew Media Pitching in 2015

As we jump into a new year, it’s beneficial for us to reexamine and refresh our media pitching approach. And, a recent conversation with tech journalist Kira Newman gave me a few ideas for doing just that.

Keep media pitches short. When reaching out to journalists with a new story idea, it is tempting to offer everything but the kitchen sink, but the reality is that we are operating in a 140-character world and pitches need to be more succinct than ever. Wait for a journalist to express interest and then offer supporting details and research.

Make your PR pitches human. Today, journalists are receptive to a personalized approach and even a more conversational tone. Taking cues from journalists’ tweets and previous stories and using that intelligence is necessary for building a relationship that will help you amplify coverage for a client’s or your own internal campaigns.

Just say no to jargon. In the tech world, it is easy to drift into jargon speak, but breaking down a new technology so everyone can understand will help you quickly convey product value and differentiators. Also, with so many jargon-filled emails running rampant, clear and concise descriptions can help you stand apart from competitors.

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Dec. 23

Longevity: Remember, Recharge, Reset

As 2014 comes to a close, all of us are reflecting on the last 12 months and the impact of that time on our lives. For our team, Young & Associates was recently honored as the #1 Boutique PR Agency by the Ragan Ace Awards. As part of the award, the agency was recognized for its unusual longevity–both in staff and clients–as a core strength that drives our success and accomplishments. This is no coincidence as Y&A was founded on this philosophy more than 32 years ago, and it continues with purpose through today.

The idea of achieving longevity got me thinking about three key cornerstones that support its true manifestation in many businesses, including ours: remember, recharge and reset. These concepts are strongly woven into each year for the agency.

Remember: With ever-flowing lists of goals and objectives, it’s easy to just continue moving forward to keep up with the rapid flow of business (and life). However, it’s tough to learn from past experiences without taking an honest, retrospective look at what you’ve done–whether on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis. This type of regular reflection is helpful not only for examining work products/services but also from an HR and corporate identity perspective. Is your organization living out its intended mission based on how it operated and presented itself during the last year?

Recharge: We’ve all come into contact with workaholics at some point – what I notice about these people is that they often fail to slow down long enough to see what happens when they’re not thinking about the next strategy or ticking off a to-do list. That unstructured time is often when the magic happens for executives and employees alike. Carving out time to recharge means investing in rest, which can be a hard concept to put into practice but is also integral to fostering long-term productivity and creativity at all levels.

Reset: When you or your team have been doing the same thing for awhile and it begins to feel stale, or you’ve gotten yourself into a rut, these are clues to switch out of autopilot mode. Sometimes you just need a “reset” opportunity to stop the train and think about whether a different approach is worth a try. Consciously abandoning something that’s been done the same way for some time can be frightening but also empowering, as it opens the door to new and more innovative ways of thinking and approaching problems. Plus it invites team members to collaboratively contribute new ideas for improving results.

As our clients and friends look onward to 2015, I hope you take a few moments to reflect on the past year and think about steps to foster longevity in your own organizations. Cheers!

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Dec. 12

Y&A Planning Retreat Takeaways: Thank You NOLA

The team and I just arrived home from a successful Young & Associates planning meeting in New Orleans. Even before we moved to a virtual model Young & Associates has always put a lot of stock into annual planning meetings. It is invaluable to have focused time together talking about the company, our successes and goals, our challenges and how we can best tackle them. We talk about what we can do better – for our clients, for the agency and our own professional development.

Approaching nearly 10 years since we moved from our Courthouse Square offices in Rockville, Md., the in-person planning meeting has taken on an even more important role in the agency’s evolution. While the benefits of being virtual are numerous, we can’t deny the power of sitting face to face with a colleague, client or peer. All of our client relationships – most of which are multi-year collaborations – are cultivated working in the virtual model. But one of the takeaways from this year’s planning meeting focused on the face-to-face relationship with our clients and not forgetting the invaluable benefit it affords the account dynamic and chemistry, as well as the impacts on the account strategy and delivery. So a warning to all of our clients – we’ve made it a goal to see more of your smiling faces this coming year – in your offices, at an event or at a mutually convenient destination.


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Nov. 18

Clients to Be Thankful For

As we near the the season to reflect on what we are truly grateful for, in my professional life, I am very thankful for the outstanding clients the agency has represented over the years. These are not just our customers that we provide a ongoing service for, but rather business partners for whom we strive to make a meaningful year-over-year impact. Their success is our success.

These partners often embody many of the same shared characteristics that we look for and embrace as part of the agency’s culture and future. These attributes include:

Willingness to share the good, the bad and the ugly. They know we do our best when all is revealed–not just talking points that can be regurgitated to media and analysts.

Shared common goals across marketing and PR. We hear about silos all the time and continue to evangelize about this pain point on behalf of our clients, but the same remains true in marketing and PR. Information sharing and top-down objective setting is a must.

Flexibility in getting there. Our clients know we strive to reach our goals but sometimes the best laid plans go awry. Working together and understanding that different strategies and tactics can achieve the same desired goals makes a meaningful, long-lasting client relationship.

– Hey, we are humans. These same partners know that, yes, even near-perfect PR professionals make mistakes. And if we admit it, and offer our right to the wrong, they acknowledge it and move on.

There are many more partner characteristics we love at the agency, but most of all, a good many of our clients we now call friends. And that may be the most important blessing of all.

Happy Giving Thanks!

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Oct. 16

5 Questions For Your Future PR Partner

Choosing the right PR partner can be challenging, as presentations, websites and agency materials can often blend together and become repetitive. Professional chemistry and mutual respect play a role but here are a few questions to ask your potential partner prior to an engagement to clarify differentiators and ensure they are a good fit.

1) What creative ideas do you have for our company?

Creativity can make an agency stand apart from the crowd. If PR professionals aren’t able to offer original suggestions during the exploration phase, they likely will be limited creatively moving forward.

 2) Can you provide an example of a client’s media coverage?

Concrete examples are imperative. Ask your potential partner how they generated media coverage for a specific client, from beginning to end. This will shed light on the agency’s processes and ability to deliver.

3) How do you measure success?

Measurement and evaluation of PR strategies is critical for determining a program’s success, so it is important that this is clarified from the get-go. Inquiring how results are measured can shine a light on the agency’s approach.

4) What is your biggest accomplishment?

While this might tread in the territory of a cliché job interview, asking about big achievements tells you a lot about an agency’s ability to reach high, as well as about their vision and prowess.

5) Who will serve as my account team?

Probably the most important question — ask your potential agency partner who will be your day-to-day contact and who will serve on the account team. By asking upfront you help ensure you get an ‘A’ team and mitigate the risk of any bait-and-switch.

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