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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July 24, 2013

Is it time to review your company message?

We’re all competing for attention in a world of 24/7 news cycles and information overload. In order to gain brand awareness and market share, it’s critical for your company to have a clear, compelling and impactful message.  The reality is that few companies are able to devote the time and resources needed to tell a story in a simple and attractive manner.  Executives can be indifferent to messaging summits or hiring outside resources, both of which might be needed to achieve the desired results.

So how do you know when it’s time to review the company message?  Even startups can find themselves using outdated messaging in a time when technology is evolving at light speeds.  Some obvious indicators include a rapidly shrinking sales funnel and lack of press coverage.  At the same time, thanks to an easily digestible message,  a competitor is securing high profile media coverage.

If this is the case for your company, it might be a good idea to present a preliminary analysis to executives with the recommendation that it’s time to conduct a message review.  Since this can be a sensitive subject, make sure you’ve done the necessary legwork and are prepared for push back.  But when you get the green light to proceed, consider these tips to help ensure success:images

All-In.  Since the new message will permeate throughout every department, it’s critical to require the participation of all key executives.  This will help ensure that the message is supported across the entire organization.

No Sacred Cows.  The exercise will only work if everyone takes an objective approach to determine the best message based on your target audience.  Anything less will prove fruitless.  There should be no topic that is off-limits.

Nothing Personal.  For executives involved with creating the current message, the idea of change could be a blow to their egos.  Make it clear from the start that the review has nothing to do with personalities but is necessary to achieve strategic business objectives.

Proposing and conducting a company message review can present risks; but, if done correctly, it could also position the company for long-term success.

June 12, 2013

Visualize media coverage

infographic-of-infographics

At VOXUS, we work with a great number of technology companies that have compelling stories to tell but often have a difficult time conveying the true nature of the problem they solve or the burden they ease. When this happens, a very effective tool in getting their message out is an infographic. An infographic is a visual representation of information, data or knowledge intended to present complex information clearly and quickly, so says Wikipedia.

Presenting data in an infographic has been utilized for decades. Think about when you read the weather forecast in the newspaper or online. That information is usually presented in an infographic. Why? Because it cuts to the heart of the matter and gives you the information you care most about.

We use infographics for the very same reason. Reporters and editors are bombarded daily with new technologies and don’t always have time for a half-hour briefing explaining why they should pay attention to our clients. With an infographic, journalists get the core information in an easy to read, compelling manner that more immediately gets to the story they will care about. And many times, the infographic is included in the story or will become the story all on its own. This is an excellent way to help reporters and editors convey your message to their readers in a very efficient manner where they don’t have to invest hours of time conducting research and writing.

June 10, 2013

Five steps to a meaningful infographic

Infographics are becoming even more prevalent in today’s fast-paced, short-attention-span marketplace. That’s a good thing, because computers and networks have created more data than even the NSA can analyze. Your marketing program, no matter what you’re selling and no matter to whom, will benefit from an infographic program.

Design can’t rescue content
Infographic (IG) design takes a lot more than a few pastel colors and silhouette icons and trendy fonts. A successful IG design partner will participate in the research, sometimes more than you might expect (or desire) to deliver a valuable “a-ha” insight to the reader. Without strong, valid data content, design is just lipstick.
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Do the diligence
Read everything. Make sure the facts support your story and connect all the dots. Existing data from your files, along with research from new sources, will form the basis for well-presented insight into complex data. Like all useful communication, your infographic needs a strong narrative supporting a single and unique intent, a main message. We’ve all seen enough PowerPoint decks to prove this point.

Truth wins out
What if some of the data points diverge from your sales message? What if the topic turns out to be boring or lacking relevant data support? It’s important to find truth in the information before the design process begins. Work with your designer to find the true story, even if it’s in a hidden connection, known as a confounding variable. For example, aggressive personality types prefer the color red. Therefore, their behavior, not the color of paint, is the reason accident rates are affected.

Spotlight on the hero
There’s one piece of data that’s a jaw-dropper for almost every topic. Your hero will grab and focus your reader’s attention as it leads the hierarchy of supporting elements in the story. Organize your outline into a framework for a motivating narrative and the opportunity for your reader to “see to learn,” as graphics guru Edward Tufte puts it.

Spend seven minutes with the masters in The Art of Data Visualization.

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.

May 20, 2013

Industry analysts key to converting prospects to customers

Think of the last time you made a decision to purchase a significant item such as a home, new car, furniture or appliance.  It’s likely you spent a lot of time doing research to determine the best products and prices. Customer prospects often engage in the same process; they’ll talk with colleagues, read reviews on the web and even consult with an analyst firm that covers a particular market category.

Is it impossible to introduce analysts to your company without spending a significant amount of money?  Not always. We introduce our clients to major analyst firms including Gartner, Forrester Research and IDC on a regular basis regardless of whether or not our client is a paying customer.  The key is to understand the role of the analyst and to keep in mind how to help him or her be more informed of the latest business and product developments in his or her industry niche.

imagesNot every company that wants to schedule an analyst meeting is successful.  Understandably, the bulk of each analyst’s time is allocated to paying clients.  Without the proper strategy it will be very difficult to gain their attention.  So consider these tips the next time you plan to propose a product or service briefing:

1-    No Advertising/Endorsement. Analysts are only interested in how your company is providing a new solution to a pressing business challenge or opportunity in the market.  Remove any marketing hyperbole from your presentation and refrain from asking for an endorsement during the first briefing.

2-    Earn Trust. This is an excellent opportunity to preview beta or prototypes to gain expert feedback and help position your company as an industry leader now and in the future.  In these cases, the analysts are fine with non-disclosure agreements.

3-    Trust Your Instincts. Don’t hesitate to engage in friendly debate regarding a particular topic or data point.  The analysts will respect your opinion and be more amenable to follow up briefings.

Building a successful analyst relations program takes time and patience.  The results can make a huge difference as to whether or not your company is perceived as a leader and the best choice for prospects seeking to make a purchase.

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 3, 2013

Contributed articles can turn CEOs into thought leaders

As PR and marketing professionals, we hear the term constantly during planning meetings with a client’s executive management.  The CEO wants to be positioned as a thought leader, or someone who is considered to be on the cutting edge of innovation and is helping to guide his or her industry into the future.  A thought leader’s opinion is usually important, sought after and commented on by media, analysts and other industry influencers.

How can you turn a CEO into a thought leader? For those of us in marketing and public relations, it can be a daunting task.  One way to achieve this goal is to utilize contributed article opportunities.

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Contributed articles are great ways to share trends, best practices and a vision for the future within any industry.  Many publications consider these articles to play a vital role in their success.  Most of the time you can work with the CEO to determine the topic and key points, then draft an article for his or her approval.  Once published, the piece can be posted on a website, used for social media posts and integrated into sales and marketing collateral.

Before you go down this road, consider these tips for success:

No selling. Many will be disappointed to learn that the best articles contain no company or product information.  They are specifically designed to help colleagues and other observers stay on top of the latest trends.  Credibility comes from addressing challenges and opportunities facing the industry, not just a particular company or set of customers.  The article will contain a byline for the author, and that’s enough.

Be specific. Before writing the article, you will be required to submit a well thought-out topic, headline and at least one paragraph to explain the focus of the piece and what readers can expect to learn.  Take the time to create a quality pitch to the magazine’s editors.  It’s the most important part of the process and not to be taken lightly.

Be patient. If submitted for a print publication, articles could be held for up to three months.  Conversely, web articles are typically posted within a week or two.

Contributed articles can often open doors to build or develop relationships with key media, analysts and industry influencers.  Other benefits can include speaking opportunities at major trade shows and events.

 

 

 

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.

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.

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.