July. Yes, we are now over halfway through 2017.
Frightening, isn't it?
Where has the time gone? With most communications programs, it usually has been taken up by reactive and urgent projects. Occasionally, you are able to sprinkle in a few proactive and long-lead activities if you are lucky.
Regardless of where your time has gone so far, it is important to reflect and prepare. Similarly to how you need to prepare for the upcoming year, take stock in what's working (and what's not) and adjust accordingly.
A few things to think about: Have any of the themes and priorities changed for the business as a whole or an individual segment? Have any of the stakeholders changed? Has the product roadmap or merger/acquisition strategy shifted at all?
What's going on with the competition? Have there been any major shifts or milestones in the industry?
What's important for customers and partners at this stage in the year? Have their priorities changed at all? Are your messages resonating with prospects?
While consistency is important in any communications program, there is no point in continuing messaging or campaigns that keep the team spinning without true results or just don't resonate. Take the rest of the summer to reflect and adjust the program for the remainder of the year.
We all want press coverage. That's just natural.
But as we've discussed here before, not all press coverage is good. And not all press coverage will drive your overall business objectives. Which is why it is absolutely critical to be strategic on where you and your team invest time and resources as it pertains to media relations.
As a small start-up (and this can be the case for larger organizations too), your reaction may be to take any and all inbound press opportunities. But it is important to ask yourself what impact that story could have on the business.
Is that outlet's audience our target customer demographic? Do our investors read that publication regularly? How has that blog covered our industry and competitors in the past?
Not only complete the due diligence on all inbound press inquiries to make sure they are worth your communications and leadership teams' time, but also do some proactive research to ensure your teams are on the same page around priorities.
What outlets are "must-haves," meaning they cover your industry and competitors regularly and are a must-read for your customers, partners and investors? What publications would be "nice to have," meaning they are stretch goals for the business either because they are top-tier (and everyone wants a mention), tend to cover just outside your industry, or cover a very wide range of topics?
Create your lists and then work backwards on what storylines might work for those particular publications and what pieces of the puzzle (metrics, customer testimonials, third party research, etc.) you might need to place the right story.
But do your research and make sure story opportunities are going to help drive your business objectives, not just get a story for the sake of getting a story.
It's everywhere. And it's at the forefront of many conversations these days.
But there are different ways to gather, analyze and distribute this data -- and, depending on your industry and audience, some approaches might be better than others.
In traditional enterprise settings, analyst firms like Gartner, Forrester and IDC tend to still dominate the third-party research arena, while on the consumer side, organizations like Omnibus have been the go-to to help create quick data points. Each of these can be expensive and time-consuming.
So are they worth it? It, honestly, depends.
In some cases there are cheaper, more DIY alternatives, but it ultimately depends on several factors including your audience and what you are trying to achieve. Sometimes a quick SurveyMonkey survey will do the trick but in others, having an independent, unbiased research team engaged provides more legitimacy to the project.
Regardless of your approach, it is important to be transparent. If you are sharing data points and survey results with members of the press, clearly explain your methodology and whether you sponsored the report. Just like with their regular reporting, journalists will come to their own conclusions and share their perspective with their readers accordingly (remember... this is earned media, not advertising).
Many people in the marketing and communications world have heard the acronym PESO (paid, earned, shared/social, owned) to talk about the different types of media out there in the world today. For this particular article, we are going to talk about the first two since they are so very often viewed as interchangeable by people both inside and out of the industry, resulting in lots of frustration and miscommunication around results.
While they work well together, paid and earned media are still separate entities. Many online news outlets, in order to bolster revenue, have been incorporating paid media outside of the traditional banner ads -- sponsored content, native advertising and/or advertorials -- on to their sites, making it difficult for readers to tell the difference between what was written by their staff and what was paid for and placed by a sponsor. In some cases, contributed articles can be viewed as paid media but that has started causing a backlash by editorial teams who want to ensure that their readers are getting expert opinions on timely topics, not just a self-serving corporate message.
Earned media centers around your traditional articles, Q&As and profile pieces, written by a journalist from their perspective after speaking with a variety of sources and experts. Unlike paid media, where you know when, where and what will be published, earned media is at the discretion of the journalist and his/her editor. Unless there are factual inaccuracies, stories are rarely adjusted. This is why is it "earned" media -- it is critical for your communications team to build the relationships with reporters and clearly understand what the story is about.
If it is a proactive pitch to a reporter, collecting all of the pieces of your ideal story in advance -- spokespeople, messages, data, external sources, etc. -- is vital. But even then, journalists have their own sources and views on various topics so their written words may not be exactly what you and your team were envisioning.
They could be worse -- or they could be even better. This is the gamble you take with earned media. If you aren't willing to take the risk, you and your team might be better off focusing resources on the other pieces of PESO.
This may seem obvious but it is a critical and sometimes overlooked step for many businesses. Identifying, and more importantly understanding, your audience can make or break your business. Yet many organizations tend to skip or gloss over it.
Dig in deep here. Yes, you may be excited to get to market with your product or launch to press but you need to get it right for the people that matter most: your customers.
Who are they? What problems are you facing and how does your product/service help solve those issues? What are their priorities? What values resonate most to them and why?
If you are planning to service different countries or industries, the answers to these questions most likely will be different for each segment. While your overarching points should be universally consistent, you will need to factor those differences into your messaging and value proposition for each market. This will affect everything from your website and your sale collateral to your executive talking points and advertising campaigns.
Taking the time to learn about your audience early on will make a world of difference in the long run. (It is also important to reevaluate your audience over time, as it could shift as your company and/or markets evolve.) Your customers will appreciate that you truly understand them and want to help them accomplish their business objectives.
You have a PR team!
Whether you've hired a full-time in-house PR person, a part-time contractor or an agency, you and the business have committed to a PR program. This is a great first step. But the work doesn't stop there.
A responsible leadership team will not simply hire a PR person or team, walk away and assume that press coverage will start appearing overnight.
While there are no guarantees in PR, there are certainly steps that you can take to ensure you are getting the most out of your team.
Over the last few months, there have been many incriminating stories about Uber, and over the last 48 hours, United has been dealing with its own crisis. But the most recent stories about how these two companies are facing "PR disasters" are inaccurate and honestly quite insulting to the comms teams that do battle on the front lines for these companies on a daily basis.
Kara Swisher at Recode recently took to PR's defense when it came to Uber, Yahoo and others:
"Now, tech has not gotten quite that bad. But it does need to stop blaming PR for bad management and perhaps focus on the actual thing instead of how the thing looks."
This is relevant to United and a variety of other companies that have been facing public backlash recently as well. In fact, we covered it here many moons ago: PR shouldn't be your fall guy.
PR can be a tremendous resource and supporter in both prosperous and disastrous times for a company. But there is also only so much PR can do once actions have been taken from the business. Just like you pay your legal team for their guidance on specific situations, you pay your communications team for their expertise too. If you aren't going to listen and use it, why are they even there?
Don't make it worse by not only ignoring their guidance, but then throwing them under the bus for the mistakes made by the business. That's the immature and easy way out.
Accept the fault, learn from the situation and move on. You'll be a better and stronger company -- and leader -- for it in the future.
From deciding whether to choose a PR agency, in-house person or contractor to approaching PR from the right perspective, start-ups have what can sometimes be viewed as a daunting task when determining their PR strategy. That includes knowing when PR isn't the right answer.
This is why we are excited to have our founder Kat Eller Murray speaking as part of the upcoming "PR Secrets Revealed: Go From Sidelines To Headline & Win A Global Audience" Summit. Kat will join host Heather Burgett for a conversation about what start-ups and entrepreneurs need to ask themselves before committing to a PR program -- and what to do to build it.
The free online series, which brings 20+ top PR experts together to share actionable tips, tools and tactics for entrepreneurs, will run April 17 - May 7, 2017.
Other topics that will be covered during the Summit include:
Make sure to join us by RSVPing here.
Today's post comes from ROAM Communications network partner, Dave Yewman. He is co-founder of Elevator Speech and owner of DASH Consulting and a master media trainer.
Most speakers develop their presentations backwards.
How? They start with slides.
It's not a fatal flaw and it's easily fixed, by starting with the "talk track" -- the words you're going to say.
Presentations or speeches are typically delivered by someone standing up and saying words, right? But most presenters don't stand up and say words when they're practicing. Instead they enter a vast presentation wasteland. They obsess about their slides -- what bullet points make sense, what fonts work, do I have the latest images, can I find good clip art? Then speakers go over and over slides, rationalizing that they already know the material, they're experienced and prominent in their industry.
Then they stand up to speak on the big day with no a second of out loud practice under their belts. And things quickly go south.
No wonder public speaking is statistically the top fear most of us have.
It's time to break the cycle, but it requires a different approach. Three steps:
What happens when you go through this process is you get a sense of what works and what doesn't verbally. If you can't make something work when you're standing up and saying it, then you can change it or cut it -- something you don't find out by adding yet another bullet point to your slide deck.
After you've stood and delivered your speech, or at least the opening 5 minutes, then -- and only then -- do you reach for the laptop and start building slides. But remember this mantra: one thing/one slide. Don't write a short novel on the screen. Use high resolution photos or 90-point numbers or short quotes. Have your talk track drive the presentation. You should control the PowerPoint; the PowerPoint shouldn't control you.
To be clear, this is more work for you. But it's much better for your audience. Because you'll have practiced and refined that presentation so much so that when audience members walk out they can actually remember what you said.
In many ways, following this approach is like being an actor learning lines. British actor Michael Caine was interviewed a few years back and told CBS "I rehearse on my own, and by the time I've come onto a set I have said the line to myself a minimum of 1,000 times."
Yeah, 1,000 times. No wonder it looks so easy and effortless. But it's not, and frankly nothing worthwhile that looks easy really is. Graceful actors, athletes and speakers all practice like crazy -- it just happens behind closed doors and we see only the final draft.
PowerPoint slides aren't inherently evil. They're a tool. But when you're getting ready to present, put them to one side until you've hammered out what you're going to say. In doing so you'll be among the best speakers your audience hears on that, or any other, day.
Let everyone else continue to do it backwards. You do it right.
About Dave Yewman
A friend of Dave’s 11-year-old son Aaron asked, “What does your Dad do?” Aaron thought for a minute, then said, “He teaches people how not to say ‘um.'” That’s a pretty good elevator speech for a presentation coach. Dave likes to think there’s a bit more to presentation coaching than that — but it’s a great place to start. In the past 10+ years Dave’s coached CEOs, professional athletes, tech startup founders, engineers, creative designers and pretty much everyone in between.
Dave Yewman is a strategic communications expert with more than 15 years of experience. A former newspaper reporter and columnist, he speaks regularly to groups about how to use clear, concise, compelling language as a strategic weapon when dealing with reporters, employees, sales prospects, shareholders, and consumers.
Dave lives near Portland, Oregon.
Learn more about Dave and ElevatorSpeech at www.elevatorspeech.com.
PR professionals can spend a good amount of time reading the news and helping correct inaccuracies on behalf of their clients. But quite a bit of inaccuracies are actually related to the job itself and people's misconceptions around what we do for a living.
So we asked top PR pros, "What is the biggest PR myth you've had to fight (or continually fight)?" Here are their responses:
"The biggest myth has always been, and continues to be, that PR happens over night. Or that having a 'relationship' with a particular journalist, blogger or outlet = instant coverage. It doesn't work that way."
"Many people still believe that the purpose of PR is to help increase their bottom line and users/customers. This is slightly true but the real purpose of PR is to reinforce your brand equity and help increase awareness in the marketplace."
"The biggest myth or misconception I see about public relations is that we're here to spin or cover up information when in reality, we push to ensure information is communicated effectively, clearly and at the most opportune time for both our consumers and the companies we represent. Most of the time, we are advocating to communicate information, not the other way around."
"That it's easy to get media coverage in national daily media outlets, such as the NY Times or WSJ. Understandably so, clients often believe their products/services are newsworthy 'just because.' They don't understand that a major news hook is needed to even get the reporter to listen, let alone include them in an article. It's a continuing process to educate clients on how PR and the media work."
"The most insidious PR myth is spin. More specifically, the idea that with the right spin fundamental business or product issues or actual facts already in the public eye can simply be made to disappear."
Welcome to ROAMings, a compilation of thoughts and musings about the PR and media industries. This is an opportunity to discuss the “here and now” of the industry, interesting events or case studies, pivotal moments that affect how we approach PR, etc. It isn’t about brand loyalties or preferences -- and we will not be publishing self-promotional materials or talk about our clients in this setting -- but how those brands, individuals and events are leveraging (or in some cases abandoning) PR.