Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Unconventional Ways to Get PR Work Experience

March 1, 2013

A few weeks ago, while going over applications for our summer internship program, I wrote a post with tips for landing an internship in PR. Shortly after it went live, I got a call from veteran journalist Jack O’Dwyer, who’s covered the PR industry for over 40 years. He said that while he enjoyed my post, the market for internships at traditional PR firms is so competitive, students and recent grads may need to think outside the box to gain real world experience. He suggested that they go door to door to local businesses and offer their services for little or no compensation. “Do anything they need including sweeping the floor and washing the windows. Do what the regular employees won’t. Bring them news of new products or what the competition is doing. Show them how to create a website if they don’t have one,” he said.

At first, the whole conversation made me very uncomfortable. He was essentially saying that people with little to no PR experience should start freelancing. It sounded like a disaster waiting to happen. Interns make mistakes – it’s a part of the learning process, and a traditional internship is a safe, supervised environment where this can happen (usually) without dire consequences. I couldn’t see how any good could come of letting inexperienced 20-somethings run amuck with a company’s public image.

Over the next two weeks we reviewed over 300 applicants and finally hired one. The process made me reconsider Jack’s advice from the perspective of any one of the many qualified candidates we didn’t hire. If you haven’t had much luck finding a traditional internship, you really don’t have much to lose. You don’t have a professional reputation at stake, and you most likely won’t be signing any major clients. As long as you’re careful and only offer services you’re relatively equipped to handle, it just may be what gets your career started.

Andrea Marilyn GarciaJust ask Andrea Marilyn Garcia. Before becoming an Account Executive at Jaffe Communications, she gave herself a head start, making industry connections early on. “While at school I had an art blog for a journalism class and was looking for fresh new media content,” she said. “I realized that if you have a camera, anyone will want to speak with you. I would go to events and take video and interview people. Before I knew it, I was working with PR and marketing people at institutions and events.”

Christina Dela CruzChristina Dela Cruz, now an Assistant Account Executive at a PR firm in Atlanta, got her start with a virtual internship. “I graduated from college right when the economy took a nose dive in 2009, so I found it extremely challenging to find relevant internships in my area. I decided to take up ‘virtual interning’ as a means to gain experience,” she said. “I was able to intern for a small content marketing and digital PR consultant company based out of Virginia (I am located in Atlanta) via email and Skype.”

Nick Patrikis 3Nick Patrikis, a senior at Ithaca College, took a long shot, answering an ad on Craigslist for a VP of Marketing position at a record label startup. Though he didn’t get that job, the head of the company replied and agreed to meet with him. They talked basic marketing strategy and Nicholas left the meeting with his first assignment: developing a new logo for the record label.

The takeaway? Think beyond traditional internships. There are so many small businesses that haven’t even considered PR – each one is a potential client. The owner of my favorite taco truck once offered to pay me in tacos if I’d manage his Twitter account (sadly, I had to decline because I was moving). Though traditional internships may seem like a safer way to get started, in many ways, they may not be as edifying as branching out on your own. Many firms won’t let interns take on important tasks out of fear, precisely because they do have a professional reputation to consider and client accounts on the line. Mistakes will be made, regardless where you work, but fear of failure should never deter you from taking risks.

Diana Kim

Three Reasons Online Images Drive Web Traffic

February 26, 2013

ImageryYou can’t skim a video.  I would much rather take 10 seconds to skim an article to see if it’s worth reading than to stop what I’m doing, look for my earbuds, plug them in and sit in front of a video that might take a couple of precious minutes of my time. Yet study after study shows that online video is extremely popular, as is the sharing of photography online. The news media understand this, and even newspapers and magazines with roots in print are depending more and more on video and photos. Here are five reasons why:

1. Imagery Makes an Immediate Emotional Impact

When I flipped through The Atlantic’s 2012: The Year in Photos, the answer was clear about why online images (both still and video) are so prevalent and well-liked. The Atlantic’s collection of photos offers visual evidence of 2012’s Sturm and Drang. Some of these photos have the power to elicit strong emotions about the numerous and horrible natural tragedies that occurred last year.  Others make the news about game-changing political upheaval around the world come alive. Yet others document the triumphs of mankind, from scientific achievements to the performances of Olympian athletes. These photos are hard to forget.

2. Images Make the News Real

When I read about the Free Syrian Army clashing with Syrian troops, I can absorb the “who, what, when, where, why and how” of the event. But when I see a photo of a Syrian man crying while cradling his dead son in his arms, one of 34 people killed by a suicide bomber, the emotional pain inflicted by the violence in Syria becomes much more real. This is certainly nothing new: a 41-year-old image of a naked Vietnamese child, running with other children away from the scene of an aerial napalm attack, was credited with helping to end the Vietnam War. It brought the horrors of the war to life better than any words could.  The difference between then and now is a matter of speed and degree: the buzz about the 1972 photo was spread by print and television media over a period of days and weeks. Today, it would take only minutes for the photo to go viral and be seen within hours by many millions around the world.

3. Images Motivate People to Act, Creating More News

Online image-sharing technology itself has played a role in empowering people to stand together and take action. No need to carry a camera anymore. A photo or a video can be taken with a cell phone and uploaded to Flickr or YouTube instantly, where it can be seen instantly and globally. The emotional impact of images has motivated people around the world to participate in political protest for the first time. It has moved average citizens to donate money to help disaster victims because of the way it brings crises closer to home for many people. Online images motivate people to take action, and that in turn creates more web traffic to see the images.

Just as these visual social media tools have helped people around the world to connect and share ideas and emotions, they have also helped communications professionals to deliver their companies’ or clients’ messages with greater impact. However, the overwhelming quantity of media images makes it harder to stand out and gain attention, so this is a double-edged sword.

It’s inevitable that I – and others who grew up without computers – will eventually gravitate more to online video.  But I’ll also be happy when someone invents a way to skim a video the way we can skim an article to find out whether or not it’s worth the time to watch.

Lucy Siegel

No More Mr. “Yes Man”: PR Professionals Can Promote Their Companies and the Public Good

February 22, 2013

The public relations industry is often portrayed as a mercenary trade dedicated to delivering corporate propaganda with little regard for the public good. To some extent, this slanted stereotype is rooted in the ethos of the old days of PR, long before the formation of professional groups with ethical standards designed to advance the practice and before it became a major academic field taught in prominent colleges and universities.

The fact is that we have come a long way since the Wild West days of PR, when sensational and sometimes deceptive information was used to influence the public. Today most American corporations rely on their public relations teams for strategic counsel, and PR executives often provide guidance to senior management on ethics. According to findings from a recent study, many PR professionals often espouse ideas for the public interest even when they are at odds with management views or not aligned with business interests.

Yes Man

The study, “Exploring Questions of Media Morality,” published in the Journal of Mass Media Ethics, drew on in-depth interviews with senior public relations professionals who had held top positions at corporations, nonprofits and government organizations. Most of those interviewed viewed themselves as an “independent voice” in the organization they worked for, and not “mired by its perspective or politics,” explained study author, Marlene Neill, Ph.D., of Baylor University.

There are obvious limitations to the study. The sample size of those interviewed was only 30 people, and it’s hard to draw sweeping conclusions from self-reported data (most of us probably like to think that we are ethical professionals). Nevertheless, the fact that PR professionals are embracing their role as the “organizational conscience” is a good indicator that these professionals are at least getting a seat at the table to give their input on ethical decisions.

It also suggests that these professionals are keeping their ears to the ground to monitor public sentiment about issues that could impact their companies. For these companies, PR is more than awareness-building; it is relationship management, which requires two-way communication between the company and its publics. While it may be hard to quantify the financial value of relationship management, we can assume that it’s far cheaper than the cost of crisis management for poor ethical decisions and the potential for downstream damage to the company’s reputation.

There will always be differences between individual companies in the function of public relations, but as one respondent in the study commented, “the ‘yes man’ has no value” in PR.” To be truly valued by their companies, PR professionals must have an independent voice, even when it means going against the grain sometimes by questioning the decisions of higher-ups. This can be a risky proposition. It can expose PR professionals to a “kill the messenger” mindset, and potentially put strain on their relationships with their bosses and the company’s senior management, but it is a risk worth taking.

What are your thoughts? Can public relations provide a moral compass for the executive suite while also looking out for the commercial interests of the business?

 

Jacob Seal

How American PR Is Different from PR Overseas

February 19, 2013

Foreign companies that want to build visibility in the U.S.  are usually surprised to find that there are cross-cultural differences in the role of public relations between their countries and the U.S. In many parts of the world, including most of Asia and some of Europe, the tactics used by most public relations departments have traditionally been limited to media relations and event planning, with social media also becoming more popular recently. The goal is to win over potential customers (both consumers and business customers) and to try to safeguard the company’s public image.Morpheus on PR

In the United States, Canada, the U.K. and a few other countries, there are additional aspects of PR. In these markets, PR is not relegated to building visibility and helping market products, it also includes strategies to build and enhance a company’s reputation. PR professionals look for ways to develop and strengthen relationships that will help the entire company in its interactions with various audiences, including investors, the local community, government officials and employees, among others. In other countries, PR is more top-down, with management deciding what they want to communicate and the PR department executing those decisions. But in the U.S. there is more two-way dialogue with the public, and the PR or corporate communications department is expected to monitor the public dialogue, and also to recommend messaging and develop materials to help support the company in those conversations.

In countries where the PR staff is mostly limited to helping to market products, PR professionals have a significantly lower status than they do in countries where PR professionals have a broader role that includes strategy for and management of corporate reputation. As one would expect, in the countries where PR has a lower status, PR professionals have less contact with top executives and aren’t usually seen as strategic advisors to corporate management. In the U.S., by contrast, the top PR job is often an executive position that reports directly to the CEO. In some cases, the professionals who hold those positions make very high salaries. (In large companies, the salaries are frequently in the range of $300,000. One recent news article reported that the head of corporate communications at a Fortune 500 company was being paid a million dollars a year. Those executives, and the employees and PR firms they hire to help them, manage issues important to the company, trouble-shoot in times of crisis and help with the overall positioning of their companies. They are responsible for fostering good relationships with all of their companies’ audiences, from employees to interest groups to customers and potential customers to government at the local, state and national levels. Some are also responsible for investor relations.

Often when I receive a call from a potential client from overseas, I can see the difference in attitude towards PR right away. I ask what the company is looking for from a PR agency, and the answer I get is usually a prepared list of PR tactics that the executives in the company have already decided will fill their needs. After talking to us and as they begin to work with us, the company’s staff begins to see that we can help in ways they hadn’t anticipated, and they stop telling us what tactics they want us to deploy, asking us, instead, for our counsel on helping them meet their goals.

Cross-cultural PR is a two-way educational process, since the client learns more about the U.S. business culture and sees how communications works here, while, at the same time, we have a chance to learn more about the client’s own culture.

Lucy Siegel

Click here for a free copy of our e-book on international public relations.

 

Ask Not What the Media Can Do for You, Ask What You Can Do for the Media

February 13, 2013

Unfortunately, most emerging companies have approached public relations as little more than an extension of their sales promotion efforts, narrowly focusing their messaging on attributes of their products or services with the expectation that reporters will spread the word to the masses. At best, this approach usually yields a limited number of media placements originating around a product launch. At worst, reporters will view the announcements as editorialized sales pitches and discard them. Then comes the inevitable question from the corporate brass: “What value are we getting from that PR budget?”

kennedy

This scenario often could be averted if the question were turned around: “What value can the media get from our company?” Marketing professionals should appreciate this question—they are accustomed to defining value for potential customers, but reporters are not potential customers. Their needs are completely different.

To effectively engage reporters, it is important to understand how they evaluate information. Their raison d’être is to uncover what’s “newsworthy” to their specific audiences and to report this information in an easy-to-understand format. Thus, for a company’s message to resonate with a reporter it must be perceived to have a certain quality of newsworthiness.

Newsworthiness is a very abstract concept. It differs from company to company. A management change at a large conglomerate, for example, would be considered more newsworthy than a similar change at a startup. It also differs from reporter to reporter. Trade reporters, for instance, view newsworthiness through a narrow lens focused on a specific industry, while reporters with general business and consumer media often (not always) view newsworthiness through a broader lens focused on major social, economic or technological trends.

We’re at a time when major brands seem to wield more and more media influence, and reporters are becoming more and more immune to unsolicited story pitches. So how can a startup company demonstrate newsworthiness in such a tough climate?

The key is to start developing a PR plan early. It’s not uncommon for startups to focus their early-stage efforts on building out core business functions, such as sales channels, product development, logistics and other back office functions, putting off PR until the product launch approaches. This is understandable—resources are always an issue, and expenditures and staff time have to be prioritized. We also understand the competitive reasons for some companies to operate in “stealth mode” until they’re ready to launch sales. However, postponing PR planning until a month or two before going to market can seriously limit the company’s opportunities to drive greater visibility and lead to pitfalls that could have been avoided with proper planning.

As you begin crafting your PR plan, a key component is to identify story angles that will interest the media. This involves brainstorming with your management team and PR advisors to collect pertinent information about your company and its founders that is often scattered across many minds, and identifying the facets that could be used to create compelling story angles. Significant product news creates potential angles, as well as any anticipated milestones (e.g., acquisition of new management, new external partnerships, new funding, etc.). These events may offer good opportunities for exposure in some media outlets, with the highest potential usually being in trade and business media.

But there is no reason to limit the company’s story angles to these business events. PR planning is a creative process that requires you and your PR advisors to look beyond the obvious characteristics of your business to discover other aspects that could distinguish you from the flock. A great example of a company that has succeeded at this is Ben & Jerry’s. The company has been able to command media interest at will. Its products, however, are rarely what grab the headlines. Rather, much of the media coverage has focused on the company’s eccentricities: its unconventional founding (it was originally conceived as a bagel shop), its offbeat management practices (e.g. its erstwhile salary ratio policy) and its reputation as a champion of social issues.

Admittedly, the comparison between the media strategy of an emerging IT or biotech company with that of Ben & Jerry’s is tenuous, but there are opportunities for most companies to seize the limelight in unconventional ways if they try. Before they became iconic brands, companies like Microsoft, Facebook, Groupon and Flickr were successful at this, getting attention for quirks in their corporate cultures,  business models, operational development or founders’ stories.

The bottom line is, in order for your company to derive value from its media strategy, it has to first prove its value (i.e. newsworthiness) to the media. The art of PR is storytelling: mining the various facets of your business to uncover what sets it apart—its newsworthiness—and packaging that information into compelling story angles to engage the media.

Jacob Seal

Landing a PR Internship

February 6, 2013

When I was an undergrad, I started applying for internships without a very clear objective. This approach yielded absolutely no results. Through much trial and error, I managed to land two. Now, sitting on the other side, poring over applications for our summer internship program, it’s quite clear what works and what doesn’t, and why I got the two that I did. Here are some tips for landing an internship in PR:

Internship Problems

The Search

  • Don’t spray & pray. Applying for an internship is not like playing the lottery. Spamming any and every potential employer’s inbox with your resume does not improve your chances of getting hired.
  • Don’t lie. If you think you have to misrepresent yourself to get the position, it probably isn’t right for you. This goes for everything from fudging numbers to faking enthusiasm. Insincerity is detectable in text, and this reflects especially badly on you if you’re applying for a position in communications.
  • Get a referral if you can. This often isn’t possible if you’re a student or recent grad with little to no experience, but you should still explore all your options. As this recent New York Times article explains, it’s more important than ever. One thing you can do while you’re still in school is build great relationships with professors in your department. Many have connections with professionals in their industry, and even if they don’t have an internship opportunity for you, you can ask to use them as a reference later on.
  • Don’t limit yourself to what’s on job/internship listing websites. You already know those listings are getting dozens of applicants. Don’t be afraid to reach out to any company you really want to work for – genuine enthusiasm will only help your cause.

The Cover Letter

  • Include one. If you’re applying through a web form, you can still find a way to include a cover letter. The cover letter is where you make your first impression, and without one, most employers won’t even look at your resume.
  • It’s also your writing test so make sure it’s flawless and have at least one other person look it over.
  • Don’t address it to, “to whom it may concern.” Take the time to find the name of the appropriate person. For a smaller firm, you can address it to the CEO. For a larger firm, find out who’s in charge of human resources or recruiting. If you can’t find it on the company’s website, call and find out.
  • Tailor it to the company and position you’re applying for. Show some indication that you’ve taken time to look into the company and what they do. Everyone likes to feel special.
  • Show, don’t tell. Giving concrete examples of how you’ve demonstrated great attention to detail or stellar interpersonal skills is much more convincing than merely saying that you have these qualities.
  • If you have any especially relevant work experience, summarize it here.

The Resume

  • Keep it to one page. No one applying for an internship has so much experience that it won’t fit on a single page.
  • If you state an objective on your resume, make sure it fits the position you’re applying for.
  • If your GPA isn’t very high, leave it off.
  • Think about how you can best outline your work and academic experience for the position you’re applying for. If you’ve held numerous part-time jobs while going to school, you probably don’t need to include every single one. Job descriptions should be tailored too. For example, if you’re listing your experience as a restaurant server for a PR position, you can focus more on the creative problem solving and guest service aspects of the job than the food handling or cleaning duties you had.

What really made a difference for me was narrowing my focus. I started out applying for many positions but then began to concentrate only on positions that I really wanted. That meant spending a lot of time doing research for every position, but in the end, it yielded positive results.

Lastly, if you do happen to come across your dream internship, don’t be afraid to be a little creative so you’ll really stand out. For a writing test for an editorial internship, I submitted my response using the company’s web template, so it looked like I’d really written a post on their blog. There are many famous examples, like this fellow, who designed his resume to look like an Amazon product page.

In the end, getting hired is never an exact science. Do you have any additional tips or success stories to share?

Diana Kim

Right and Wrong, Black and White: Conventional Wisdom vs. Current Wisdom

January 29, 2013

A lot of what we learned as children has turned out to be misinformation. Not only have the facts changed, many standard right and wrong ways of doing things have also evolved over time.  Both science and language are examples of how right and wrong have changed over time.My grandparents were taught in school (probably around 1910) that there are eight planets. However, in 1930, Pluto was discovered and added as the ninth planet.  But what my grandparents learned in school turned out to be correct after all (at least for now), Learning Right and Wrongsince scientists agreed in 2006 after years of debate that Pluto really did not meet the criteria for a planet. It was reclassified as a dwarf planet and plutoid (also called an ice dwarf).

Another scientific fact we learned in high school is that the atomic weights of elements on the periodic table of elements are constant numbers that do not vary. In 2010 scientists discovered that some of the elements’ atomic weights actually do vary in nature, and should be expressed as a range. For example, the atomic weight of oxygen is slightly more in the air than it is in seawater.

Perhaps it’s not a good idea to categorize scientific theories as right or wrong, since there are grey areas in between. Science is obviously a work in progress. Scientists offer theories, and other scientists offer revisions of the theories.  Theories that are proven wrong may just be proven right after all in the future.

Our use of language is another area where right and wrong shifts over time.  Most of us were taught that it’s incorrect grammar to end a sentence with a preposition.  Most grammarians now disagree with this old rule because using a preposition at the end of a sentence reflects the way people actually speak. For example, it’s uncommon to hear people say, “With what did you open that wine bottle?” It sounds pretentious. The normal way of expressing this is, “What did you open that wine bottle with?”

One language issue now being widely discussed is the spacing between sentences on a typed page. We were taught that sentences should be separated with two spaces, a rule that goes back to the time when typewriters were first used. The spacing on a typewriter was the same for all characters, whether a narrow “I” or wide “M.” As a result, typewriting looked uneven, making it harder for the eye to see the end of one sentence and beginning of the next. Two spaces were used between sentences on typewriters to mimic the spacing by traditional typesetters. Now, however, the computer has provided proportional spacing. The readability problem that existed with typewriters has disappeared. The rule has evolved and now one space between sentences on word-processed material is considered proper.

Human beings tend to feel comfortable with absolutes – right or wrong, black or white, true or false, good or bad. But most things are neither right or wrong, black or white, they are shades of grey. This is as true for moral absolutes as it is for scientific theories and language use. When we’re young, we’re taught moral absolutes of right and wrong, often based on the 10 Commandments. As we get older, we learn to live with the vast grey areas, based on circumstances and human frailties.

In the public relations profession, we are frequently faced with a need to decide what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s truth and what’s not, and sometimes are at odds with our employers or clients over this. We can’t live with the grey areas if it’s obvious that something is actually black or white.

Senior PR professionals surveyed in a recent study by a Baylor University researcher and a professor at the University of Texas at Austin believe they have a responsibility to be independent voices in their organizations not weighed down by politics or the perspectives of their organizations, and to criticize the decisions of people in senior management  when they believe them to be wrong.  The participants in the survey noted that it takes courage to disagree with the boss or the client on ethical issues. Some who did this were demoted or fired for refusing to do something that was blatantly unethical, and some resigned when their advice was rejected, including one who refused to include false information in a press release.

One thing is for certain: popular opinion is not the judge of right and wrong. The majority can be and have been wrong, time and again.

Lucy Siegel

Find out more about Bridge Global Strategies here.

347 Days Left for Entrepreneurs’ 2013 Business Resolutions

January 18, 2013

Making New Year’s resolutions is a tradition that has increased in popularity (in the United States, at least) over the years. According to Wikipedia, about 25 percent of American adults set New Year’s resolutions during the Great Depression. That number had increased to 40 percent by the turn of the millennium.  The tradition has a very old history. The ancient Babylonians promised their gods at the beginning of each year that they would pay their debts and retuThere's still time to  make 2013 business resolutions.rn whatever they had borrowed, and, similarly, the Romans made promises to the god Janus (for whom January is named).

There’s still time to make 2013 business resolutions.

Setting goals helps most people to make changes in behavior and move ahead. This is as true in business as it is in our personal lives. I try to set New Year’s resolutions for Bridge Global Strategies every year.  My business goal for 2013 is to invest both time and budget on new sales and marketing techniques to stimulate faster growth (and my personal goal is to lose 20 pounds!).

I asked a few entrepreneurs to share their New Year’s resolutions for their companies with the readers of Bridgebuzz. Ron Dizy, president and CEO of Toronto-based green technology company Enbala, said his resolution was to “start each day thinking about the best way to have the biggest impact on the most important part of our business.” I asked him what he considered the most important part of his business (Enbala operates a Smart Grid platform that helps shift power use on the grid by controlling the industrial equipment of large electricity users, paying the users to participate – a less expensive alternative to expensive electric grid power storage.)  Ron answered, “That changes through the year, depending on what is most pressing. It might be load (client) engagement, it might be utility business development, it might be regulatory affairs, it might be a personnel issue. I guess the point of my resolution is to think about what thing or action would have the biggest impact on the business … And do that TODAY!”

Carol-Davis Grossman, managing partner of New Jersey- based events company The Charles Group , said that she and her partner, Susan Dunkelman have several resolutions for 2013: “Expand our client base by better leveraging our reputation with our existing clients; increase our company’s online presence; and focus our business development efforts on target markets we identified last year.”

Gary Palermo, managing director of Palazzo Investment Bankers, a  boutique investment bank focused on marketing, interactive, digital, information and new media companies, explained that his business resolutions involved separating business from family life. “My goal is to work even harder than the past year, while spending more time with my family. Sound impossible? Maybe … but while I continue dedicating time to business growth and clients (my other family) as a singular focus throughout my work day, when I’m with my family, I want to spend the time to actually remain focused on staying engaged with them. The idea is to not cross the time, event or moment with work-related thoughts while with my family. Work-life balance? Yes, indeed! I am aiming high this year!”

For C. Filipe Medeiros, founder and CTO of online company Ancientfaces.com,  the  most important resolution for 2013 for his company is becoming increasingly focused on identifying and solving the problems of the site’s users. “When you have a site with as much data and as many users as AncientFaces, nailing that down can be a huge challenge,” Filipe said.

Benton Morgan, co-founder and managing partner of Jet Partners, says his resolution is, “To always innovate. Never get comfortable with my normal routine. Find a way to make daily tasks more efficient. The easy way is not a option!”

Most people agree that stating a goal publicly makes it more likely that you’ll reach it. I know this is true for dieting. I believe it’s true for business goals as well. So, dear readers, please feel free to proclaim your New Year’s resolutions here. It’s not too late – we have 347 days left this year!

Lucy Siegel

Learn more about Bridge Global Strategies’ services for startups here: http://slidesha.re/XkGbit

13 DOs & DON’Ts to Make the Most of Digital Communications

January 14, 2013

The new realities of the digital era of communication can sink organizations quickly or can help them to thrive, all depending on what actions they take. Here are some do’s and don’ts to make the best use of digital communications:

What helps

  • Be active rather than reactive communicators.
  • Communicate both bad news and good news about the company openly.
  • Aggressively create and share good “content” to tell the company’s story (since the traditional media is a shadow of its former self and can’t be depended on as much as it could in the past to get the story out).green thumb
  • Engage with the target audience regularly to develop good relationships and credibility. The target audience includes everyone from employees, to individual customers, to community groups, to influencers such as bloggers , journalists and analysts.
  • Since people will be talking about your company whether or not you give them information or are there to listen, be there online where they are, to hear what they have to say and to respond if necessary.
  • Treat every individual with the greatest respect, since he or she has the power to call global attention to behavior that is disrespectful.
  • Learn the new rules and use the new communications tools of the digital era. For example, be aware that the vast majority of consumers now research purchases online even if they buy in stores.
  • It’s a given that your website is a crucial tool in winning new customers, but you also have to be aware that consumers trust what others say about your services more than what you say.

red thumbWhat hurts

  • Don’t try to hide negative information – in the digital era, information knows no boundaries. Companies must assume that everything will eventually be made public.
  • Don’t be self-serving by only communicating when there’s something to promote. This annoys people to no end and is harmful to an organization’s image.
  • Don’t ignore persistent questions being asked online. Companies that do this are met with considerable backlash, and once that starts, it’s very hard to control.
  • Don’t assume that what you say in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas. It doesn’t.  What you say in Las Vegas can be reported online in different languages almost instantly in Tokyo, Moscow, Beijing and Buenos Aires.
  • Don’t assume that your brand is safe simply because it’s well-known. You’d better be looking over your shoulder at startups with no-name brands, since the cost of building a famous brand has declined.  Even a small startup can use the Internet (and hire a company like mine to build visibility and brand equity at a reasonable price) to compete with you!

Lucy Siegel

How the Digital Era Redefined PR Story-Telling

January 1, 2013

Story-telling has always been the core of any company’s public relations. But a lot has changed in recent years as news and interpersonal communication have been digitalized: the way companies’ stories are told, who tells them, what channels are used to tell them, the time frame in which they are told and the amount of control a company or other organization has over the telling.

Here’s a summary of the way the traditional “who, what, when, where, why and how” of story-telling has been affected by the digital era.

Stories are passed around, from one computer to another

Stories are passed around the digital campfire, from one computer to another.

Who communicates about the company

The old way:  

  • Company spokespeople – CEO and other selected senior executives
  • PR/corporate communications department, investor relations staff

The new digital way:  

  • In addition to those above, any employee can communicate and has easy access to worldwide audiences to do so, whether or not the company approves
  • The company’s various audiences share information and opinions with each other constantly

How they communicate

The old way:  

  • Mostly via traditional mass media, filtered by journalists – news reported by newspapers, magazines, radio and TV news
  • Via analysts

The new digital way:  

  • All of the above plus online, via web versions of traditional media outlets, newer online-only news outlets and bloggers
  • Increasingly companies also filter data to micro-target their desired audiences one-on-one directly via email, texting and social media networks

What to communicate

The old way:

  • Companies communicated what they wanted people to know

The new digital way:

  • Companies must respond to questions, rumors and incidents that they previously could refrain from discussing

Decision-making process about what to communicate

The old way: 

  • Company management and PR professionals decided what to communicate
  • Professional reporters selected and developed stories using both company announcements and their own investigations

The new digital way:

  • Company engages in a conversation with its target audience to tell them the company’s news
  • However, the audiences have their own agendas, are super-critical and powerful enough to demand information they want. There is no use in trying to hide bad news, because in today’s digital environment, it always comes out
  • Self-proclaimed journalists – bloggers without credentials – select what they want to communicate about the company

Where to communicate (which channels, which geo. areas)

The old way:

  • Company management  and PR team decided which communications vehicles to use to tell their stories
  • Company chose which countries it wanted to communicate in

The new digital way:

  • The company is still often able to choose what publications to use to break a story, which can influence the way the story is reported, not only by the media outlet that breaks it, but by others who are influenced by the first media outlet
  • Stories are picked up by media from other media and reported almost instantly
  • News reported in one country can spread globally freely and instantly

When to communicate

The old way:

  • Company chose announcement time frames
  • Time frame could be planned over the course of a week, a month or more

The new digital way:

  • Company prepares announcements and selects optimal timeframes, but must be prepared to answer questions as they arise, anytime, due to the buzz that social media can generate online
  • Time frame may be instantaneous because information can be spread to millions of people at once

How the  target audience is selected; how much is known about the target audience

The old way:

  • Companies selected general demographic groupings, such as young males in their 20s, retired couples, people with incomes above $X, women with children under 12, etc.

The new digital way:

  • Companies micro-target their audiences, using the ability to manipulate data to finely target individuals they want to reach, one-on-one
  • Companies use digital data to gather large and complex profiles of individuals, ranging from standard demographics to previous buying habits and likes/dislikes that will influence future buying

Next blog post:  do’s and don’ts to make the best use of digital communications

Lucy Siegel


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