Unless you've been hiding under a rock, suffering from holiday withdrawals, you have probably seen or heard something about The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) that started in Las Vegas over the weekend. This annual conference and exposition gives companies of all sizes the opportunity to show off their latest and greatest gadgets and gizmos to an international audience of hundreds of thousands. But over the last few years, it has continued to grow, expanding beyond its original "consumer electronics" scope to include pretty much anyone and everything somewhat related to technology.
CES is a big show for anyone touching technology, especially journalists and PR professionals. And with thousands of journalists, editors and analysts on the show floor, as well as the amount of time, money and energy spent to exhibit, speak and just attend the show, companies and their leadership rightfully want to see healthy returns on their investment.
This is the question that occurs not only around CES but with all major conferences: is it worth attending? And more importantly, is it worth making our big company announcements at the show?
The answer to these two questions, from a PR perspective, varies widely. There are a lot of variables to consider as you make these decisions, especially when there is so much time, money and energy at stake. Here are a couple of things to consider:
Again, every company, announcement and conference is different, so it is important for the team to come together and understand what the company's objectives are in advance of committing to a full PR campaign centered around an industry conference. Sometimes it is totally worth the effort, but not every time.
A new year means a fresh start, which can be both exciting and nerve-racking. It is like a fresh sheet of paper -- clean, undisturbed and full of possibility yet daunting, as that first mark/letter/word can direct the where everything goes from there.
While PR programs can and should be continuous from day to day, month to month, year to year, giving your team the opportunity to review and reset with the beginning of the year is important. We all tend to make resolutions with the beginning of the year, why not make some for your PR program?
Here are a few ideas and suggestions for possible PR resolutions for 2018:
Set realistic goals. This one can be tough as we all can get eager and overly ambitious on what is possible but in order to keep morale and energy high across the team and leadership, it is important to get expectations at the beginning of the year.
This doesn't mean you should sandbag your KPIs, but rather look at what can reasonably be accomplished with your current staffing scenario, budgets and other resources. It is also important to set a few stretch goals alongside what you think it totally possible. How can you and your team go above and beyond if the stars align?
What are your resolutions for 2018?
It's November 1. How did we get here already?!
The year has flown by but rather than panic about what has yet to be done, it is important to focus on what can be accomplished with the remaining two months of the year as well as what can be prepared for the year to come!
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.
Content is king. No one disputes that.
There are more than 1.2 billion websites on the internet (and counting). YouTube currently reaches 1.5 billion users each month and their users consume roughly an hour of videos per day. More than 300 million tweets and 2.2 million blog posts have published today alone. Snapchatters watch more than 10 billion videos per day.
But with so much content out there -- from articles and video to infographics and social media -- how do you get your content to stand out from the rest?
Mike Isaac of The New York Times made a few good points the other day on Twitter about blog posts.
This same perspective can be used across pretty much all platforms -- social media, blogs, press releases, videos, infographics, etc.
We need to start being more thoughtful about the content we are producing and publishing. Yes, an announcement might be important to us as a company or to a partner or customer, but we need to acknowledge who our target audience really is and what channels are most appropriate to reach that audience.
Maybe a Tweet, Medium post or short post on the company blog is sufficient to get the news out to a particular audience this time. There might be another time where it does make more sense to push a stronger communications strategy including embargoes or exclusives. But we need to set expectations.
Reporters, just like our customers, partners and investors, are all inundated with content throughout the day. We need to cherry pick the right moments to share information that is relevant to them. They will appreciate the information -- and the company -- much more for it!
To have the most success with your PR team, you need to communicate with them.
This may seem like common sense when said out loud or written down, but then again, common sense isn't necessarily common.
Communication is critical to any successful communications program. The team needs to know what is going on with the company, products, customers, partners, leadership, etc. They need to be aware of both the positive and the potentially negative. Believe it or not, PR professionals are not mind readers nor can we create press coverage with a snap of our fingers.
To get the biggest bang for your buck on a positive announcement or to help prepare for any negative new cycles, the team needs to be given a heads up well in advance when possible. The whole "need to know basis" approach helps no one if your communications team isn't in the loop. Now, it doesn't have to be the whole PR team but at least someone from the team should be aware of what is going on.
Schedule weekly check-ins with your PR team to ensure that everyone is on the same page about hot topics, worry basket issues, the latest on product announcements, customers wins, etc. The more information the communications team has and the sooner it gets the details, the more prepared and successful they can be when it comes time to make an announcement.
Always be prepared. Always communicate with your PR team.
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.
While press hits and social media tend to dominate the conversation when it comes to communications programs, there are still a few more traditional elements that always seem to fall by the wayside.
Two of these are unsexy, foundational pieces to the PR puzzle, particularly when the business lacks news: speaking and awards.
Speaking opportunities allow company leaders to serve as thought leaders amongst their peers at industry events. These events happen year-round. It is important for the PR and marketing organizations to coordinate efforts around events in order to maximize opportunities where the business is already invested (e.g. sponsorships). While some speaking opportunities remain earned -- through submissions, abstracts and networking -- many are becoming pay-for-play scenarios (read: sponsorship is required for a speaking slot). Keep this in mind as you pull together budgets and plans for the year.
It is also important to keep in mind that once an executive has been selected to speak, the work isn't over. In fact, it has just begun. There will be prep sessions, calls to coordinate with your moderator and fellow panelists if it is a panel, presentation development, and practice, practice, practice, particularly if you are doing a keynote or solo talk.
Awards opportunities, like speaking, happen throughout the year. Given there are fees typically attached to each submission, it is important to understand budget allotment for the year as well as priorities. What honors mean the most to you, your customers and your partners? Are they industry-specific, product-based or leadership-focused?
Both speaking and awards programs take time and creativity to create but also need longer lead times to complete and secure. Most speaking opportunities have a 6-9 month lead time, for example. Keep this in mind as you incorporate these elements into your PR program.
Today's political climate is, let's just say... tense.
With many of the executive orders and statements being made by the White House over the last few weeks, businesses, particularly those in the tech industry, are being pushed into the spotlight, whether they like it or not. This can be quite frustrating for communications teams, who needs to create statements and policies for their executives and teams with little to no turnaround time.
Several companies like Airbnb, Lyft and Starbucks have seized the opportunity to make bold political statements and the majority of consumers have responded positively. But very very few have come out on top. Others have tried to make statements and fallen flat, while others have attempted to stay silent or issue vague, impersonal quotes that leave consumers looking for more, or worse -- lashing out at and even boycotting the companies.
This is a tricky time for communications professionals. A time to evaluate your company or client's values and culture. How do you want to be perceived when customers, investors and employees look back at this moment in time a year from now? 5 years from now? A decade from now?
How audiences react can certainly be finicky and you'll never know their true reaction until you put your message and actions out there. But it is important for you and your leadership team to not only be comfortable, but proud of how you managed your value messages during this very tenuous time.
It's only natural to get excited and start sprinting as fast as you can with as much spirit and gusto as you can muster when you start something new, including a new PR program or campaign. This passion and excitement is critical to its success.
But the important elements to any PR program that many tend to forget are focusing on longevity and endurance.
So many times, we jump out of our seats, pulling together our plans, identifying our target reporters and sending out pitches. But if the results aren't immediate or they start slowing down after some initial response, we start getting discouraged and our executives start questioning our processes.
We must always look at PR programs in segments -- both the short-term and the long-term -- and they must work together.
When I ran my first (and only) half-marathon, I mentally broke it into segments, otherwise the entire 13.1 miles seemed practically impossible and I would have failed before even stepping foot on the course. Same thing applies to our PR programs.
We need to look at our immediate and long-term objectives and find ways to weave them together. What do you have to get gone this quarter? How does that change next quarter or the final quarter of the year? Are there messages that can be carried throughout each quarter, but maybe in a different way or from a different angle? Can you convey your messages through different examples or formats?
By approaching our PR programs from both perspectives, we get the immediate returns we need to keep the team excited and motivated, but also allow ourselves the endurance to keep it moving -- consistently -- in the months, quarters and years to come.
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.