October 28, 2013

Future PR Pros Ready For Action

I’ve always believed that it’s important to give back to the profession that has provided me with not only a career but also an opportunity to help companies share their stories.  That’s why it was easy to accept an offer from a good friend and colleague to speak at his PR writing class at the School of Visual Concepts in Seattle.   If these students are any indication of how our profession will fare in the future, I’m happy to report good news.

What impressed me the most about the class was its members’ levels of sophistication and willingness to connect outside of the classroom for additional insights.  At least three of the students sent me LinkedIn requests and asked for the chance to meet for coffee.

Our class discussion focused on the changing PR landscape and how to create strategy and content in this new world of fewer reporters and publications.  They were most interested to learn about how companies are creating internal newsrooms to write news-based stories that are shared across their social media networks.

The students were also very interested to know the specific skill sets needed to be competitive among their peers for entry-level PR positions.  We joked about this tech-savvy generation being already so far ahead of the rest of us and the advantages of being able to integrate their knowledge of technology devices and tools into marketing and PR campaigns.

I left the lecture grateful for the opportunity to share and excited about the future of PR.  I even thought for a minute how great it would be to attend classes again.  Then I quickly regained my senses.

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May 22, 2013

We’re eating lunch at our desks…sometimes

sandwichA recent survey conducted by PR Daily shows that 69 percent of PR professioals eat lunch at their desks.  That statistic holds true across experience level and salary.

The survey doesn’t ask respondents why they chose to eat at their desks, but if it did, the answers would include too much to do and deadlines as reasons.  And that’s really a shame, given the fact that there is a plethora of data showing that a mid-day break makes employees healthier and happier.

We work hard at VOXUS, but team members also frequently take lunch breaks to enjoy a walk, go to the gym, watch a video or hang out with coworkers.  It helps keep us balanced and more focused.  And that’s a good thing.

April 24, 2013

Trade Up!

magazinesWhen some companies engage a PR firm, they have visions of reading about themselves in Time or the Wall Street Journal. And while top-tier media coverage is always thrilling, it’s not the only way to reach your current and potential customers. You may find the best use of your agency’s time and your budget is to focus on smaller trade publications that speak directly to your customers.

At VOXUS, we have a plethora of trade publications we work with on a regular basis. From Network World and Computerworld to Mashable and TechCrunch, there are media outlets that concentrate solely on technology. So while a story in the New York Times will reach a larger audience, a story in Computerworld might actually be better for driving company sales.

Drilling down further, there are sub-sets of trade media that are even more targeted. One of our clients is a technology company that specializes in hosted accounting solutions. So again, while a story in Computerworld would be nice for it, a story in Accounting Technology is even better because it speaks directly to its customers – accountants. And at the end of the day, although you want your PR program to enhance your image and provide credibility,  you ultimately want it to impact your bottom line with increased sales.

The moral of this story is that, just because you may not receive major coverage in the national media, it doesn’t mean you are missing out. If you can have a clear focus on being a resource for your core trade media, you’re already on the path to a more impressive bottom line.

April 15, 2013

Social Media Site’s Up…Now What?

So you think it might be important for your company to have a presence in the social media world…but once you’ve established your LinkedIn profile and set up your Facebook page, now what?  The most important work is about to begin: keeping these sites and others updated with timely, useful information. If you can’t do that, it makes more sense to wait until you can. Why? Because a lack of recent postings will make your company look outdated and uncommitted to this ever-evolving world of communication.

If you are committed to having an active presence, one way to keep content fresh and interesting is to involve members of your team with social media postings. Just like any other shared responsibility, content creation can be parsed out over a calendar period and organized to keep everyone on track. This way, you get different perspectives and no one feels over-burdened with the task. And by setting up this system like a newsroom, where one person is the editor who receives and posts all the content, it can work in a very streamlined fashion and keep your company voice clear and consistent.

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March 19, 2013

Does My Website Need A News Center?

Yes, your website needs a news center because, if it doesn’t, you are limiting potential media coverage. Reporters, editors and bloggers are all busier than ever and rely on public relations and communications professionals to provide them with timely information quickly and easily. By having your entire press kit and other vital materials online, when a member of the media has a request, you can either email what is needed or point to your online news center.

When we work with a client to build a news center for a website, we recommend it have its own page and include the following:

-High and low-resolution logos
-Branding guidelines for using logos
-Company backgrounderOnline_Newsroom
-Company fact sheet
-Press releases
-Historical media coverage
-Executive bios
-Photos of executives
-Product photos
-Product one-sheets
-Videos and b-roll
-Annual reports
-Analyst reports
-Investor relations contacts
-Media contacts

By having all this information in one place, any member of the media working with you on a story will be grateful. In fact, when they see all the information they have access to, your part of the story could automatically get bigger when they find they have all these resources at their fingertips. And let’s face it, we all want to maximize every opportunity we have when it comes to media coverage.

March 6, 2013

And The Award Goes To…

awardNow that awards season has finally ended and all of those stand out performances in the entertainment world have been dutifully honored, it would be a good idea to start thinking about ways your company can become an award winner. Of course I’m not talking about winning a Grammy if you are a hosting company, but every industry has its own set of awards, you just have to know where to find them.

In the technology space, there are ample opportunities to have your company, product or service recognized for innovation or excellence. Start by looking at your favorite tech publications and websites. By spending time researching the media, you are bound to find awards specific to many of them.

Other places to look for award opportunities are professional organizations in your company’s space. Say you provide a technology solution for the HR community. If you do some research on the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) website you’ll find that they hand out awards and you can bet that there will be categories for technology.

In addition, awards are given out in your own backyard. Local business publications and websites are always a good place to start building an awards program for your company. From being the “fastest growing” in the local business journal to being one of the “best places to work” in your city magazine, there are ample opportunities.

By becoming an award-winning company you accomplish two very important things. First you provide validation to your customers that they have indeed made the right choice by doing business with you. And secondly, awards give your staff a greater sense of pride in where they work and what they are doing on a daily basis.

February 8, 2013

Jumping on the Capitalization Train

can-stock-photo_csp6460496Surprisingly, there are a number of options when it comes to making a decision about whether or not to capitalize an executive’s title within a press release.  Do you listen to your executive when she says she wants to be referred to as president with a Capital P…or not?

Like most public relations agencies, VOXUS and its team members follow the Associated Press Stylebook to answer questions on grammar and punctuation.  According to AP Style, titles that follow a name are written in lower case.  But while this explains why we choose to draft a press release and refer to an executive’s title in lower case, it probably is not helpful when your president demands to see his name in a more impressive format.  Additionally, some cultures are traditionally formal; for example, many companies based in Asia always capitalize executive titles.

So what to do?  The answer is simple: be consistent.  If your company policy is going to be that all executive titles are capitalized, stick to the plan, and let your agency partners know your preferences.  A couple real world examples:

Problem: You want to quote a partner or a customer in a press release, and the secondary company’s press relations team insists that the executive’s title be capitalized.

Answer: You graciously agree, then capitalize all titles in the release (including your company executive’s title) — making it consistent.

Problem: Your chief executive officer demands to be Chief Executive Officer.

Answer: You graciously and quickly agree, then shorten the title to CEO.

For other grammar questions, we’ve found Grammar Girl to be a particularly useful blog.

February 6, 2013

Finding the News Within

Having a steady stream of news coming from a company is a key way to ensure media are on top of what your company is doing and that when they think of your industry, they think of you. However, finding that news can be perceived as a challenge and keeps many from reaching out to the media on a regular basis. The fact is, you don’t have to be launching a new product or opening a new international office to have a reason to engage the media. There are most likely things going on daily that would spark a reporter’s interest.

For example, milestone press releases are always a way to stay connected to media with timely information that will be of interest. Has your software product reached a certain number of downloads? If so that gives you a reason to develop a press release and engage with the media. In the release you can speak to why the product has been so successful and what the future holds for enhancements. Again, you’re not launching a new product, but for media covering a certain industry, this is valuable information that will keep you top of mind.

Many companies also overlook what they’re doing for the community as newsworthy. Are you partnering with a particular cause or holding a food or blood drive? This type of community involvement, locally or nationally, can prove newsworthy. Particularly during the holidays, reporters are looking for new ways to highlight how the industry they cover is giving back. Aside from the media, this type of story will give your employees and community members a warm feeling about your commitment to social responsibility.

Media engagement doesn’t always have to revolve around a ‘big’ announcement. Take a look around and think about how you can use what’s happening on a daily basis to tell a story that the media and ultimately your customers will find interesting.

January 28, 2013

Tip: People like seeing people on Facebook (shocking!)

The VOXUS crew bites the Apple.

Looking for a way to boost engagement on your company Facebook page? Finding new content may be a challenge, depending on how many products, customers and partners you have. You could try posting a video of a mama cat hugging her kitten (it went viral in 2012), but perhaps a more relevant and fun idea is to introduce your employees. By acknowledging the people behind your success, you actually make your company — and your product — more relevant.

VOXUS recently had a company field trip to our local Apple store and the resulting photo popped up on numerous employee Facebook pages.  It generated more comments than this post will — primarily because it’s fun and it’s relatable.

So here are a couple ideas for involving your employees on your Facebook page:

1) Celebrate accomplishments.  If you designate an employee of the month, post his or her photo.  Did you win an award?  Ditto.

2) Take a photo at the holiday party or summer barbecue.  Don’t use something in questionable taste, and when in doubt, ask the employee’s permission to post the image.

3) Randomly conduct shout-outs to employees.  You don’t really need an excuse to highlight any employee.  Maybe pose a fun question such as “What’s your favorite lunch spot?,” add a photo and you’ve got a nifty new piece of Facebook content.

December 17, 2012

Giving Back? Local Media Can Help

It doesn’t matter how big or how small your company is, it is important to give back to the community that helped launch you. Here in the Northwest, companies like Microsoft and Boeing give back generously all year long and the community takes notice. Other companies of similar size give back very little or not at all, and the community notices all the same.

Whether you are a global technology company or a regional mid-sized consulting firm, showing the softer side to your business goes a long way in attracting and retaining employees as well as endears you to community leaders and local media. One way to ensure that your good deeds get noticed is to partner with a local media outlet to help them spread the word. For example, during the holidays, if you’re thinking of holding a food or toy drive, ask a local television station or newspaper to partner with you. This way, you’ll be sure to get local media coverage over an extended period of time.

For some companies, partnering with one non-profit organization all year long can help build brand awareness for both entities. For example, you may have seen a Northwest mattress chain partner with a non-profit that provides services for foster children. Whether it’s back-to-school, the holidays, or new shoes for summer, this company is constantly raising awareness and seeking contributions for foster children. When a consumer thinks of this chain, it’s likely they also think of the good work they do for the community. These types of partnerships are a win-win for the community and for your business.