Fireside / August 2013

Formulating Your Game Plan: The Keys to Success in Football and PR

Game-plan-2With summer fading, most of my thoughts are focused on two things: the always hectic final quarter of the year and football.  With co-workers, clients and media back in the office after summer vacations and tradeshow after tradeshow, fall is a busy time for most PR professionals.  As the weather cools down and work heats up, I spend my weekdays at the office and weekends (along with the occasional Monday or Thursday night) glued to the TV screen, cheering on my favorite NFL and college teams.  With my mind so focused on this mix of business and pleasure, it’s hard not to notice the parallels that exist between a results-oriented PR campaign and the game plan for a Super Bowl contending team.

Strategy is at the Core

Well before players hit the grid iron, they have a well-thought-out, calculated plan of action in place.  They’ve studied the competition and know what they’re up against; they’re aware of their own strengths and weakness.

Strategy is also the most essential element of a public relations campaign.  Before drafting the headline of a press release or picking up the phone to make the first pitch call, it’s vital to understand the ultimate goal and the most effective avenues that will lead to it.  This requires research on market trends and what the competition is doing, as well as an analysis of the challenges and key differentiators.

Tackling the Tactics

The game clock has started ticking.  The team is on the field, carefully executing the plays they’ve been practicing.  While they’ve worked hard to prepare, they know that the other team has the same goal in mind and will try equally as hard to do what it takes to achieve it.

Remember you’re not the only fish in the sea.  As PR professionals, we face fierce competition when it comes to capturing a reporter’s attention.  They receive hundreds of emails a day so to be successful at getting our clients in the news, we must develop compelling content that separates us from the competition.

Just like the team’s quarterback, we can expect that things won’t always go as planned and we must demonstrate the ability to make last minute adjustments at the line of scrimmage.  If a reporter does not accept your first angle, use the intel you’ve gathered from your research on the reporter and his readership, and try pitching a new angle.

Play-by-Play Analysis

Win or lose, after the clock stops it’s time to go back to the drawing board.  The team must analyze the game to determine what went right and what didn’t.  They’ll learn from the plays that resulted in success, such as 107 yard kickoff return that ended with a touchdown, as well as plays that didn’t quite go as planned like multiple turnovers that resulted in touchdowns for the other guys.   This reflection will help the team formulate a stronger game plan for the next matchup.

At the conclusion of each PR campaign, it’s vital to measure the results against the goals initially set-forth.  With a play by-play-recap of the campaign, we can identify the successes and failures and realign our approach to ensure the desired outcome is repeated or achieved in the future.

Whether you’re on the field or in a PR agency, execution of a strategic game plan is the key to achieving success.

A Brave New, Overshared World

SocialMediaI write a series on Fireside about social media resources we use here at Wireside that we endorse.  There seem to be so many great (mostly) free tools and resources for businesses to track and analyze social media output.  I’ve written on this blog about resources like Klout which allows individuals and businesses to gauge their influence on social media; RebelMouse which compiles a user’s social media output into a dynamic, colorful, easy-to-read format; and Bottlenose which allows users to analyze their social media influence and trends in real-time. And I don’t know what I’d do without Hootsuite, which allows me to schedule tweets and Facebook posts in advance, see a number of designated streams at once, and provides basic analytic tools – all for free.  It seems that every day a new start-up pops up to make my life as a manager of our social properties easier.  And I love that businesses use social media; it allows for a two-way dialogue with clients and customers rather than the one-way dialogue of the past.  As a marketer I love engaging with, not just talking to, customers.

But lately, I’ve read news account after news account about adolescents who are being bullied on social media, who are having their lives destroyed by one unflattering picture being posted online and remaining there forever.  In a recent article, in a series focusing on what they term “Generation Overshare,” an HLN.com reporter points out the difference between adolescents growing up today and those of past generations.  He notes that all of us encountered embarrassing experiences in our teen years (oh yes, I can attest to that!), but what’s changed is that now those embarrassing moments are turning up on Twitter, Facebook and/or Instagram to exist in perpetuity and be shared and shared until kids in the neighboring town and around the world have seen it.   Sometimes those images come back to haunt them into adulthood when they go to get their first job and the hiring manager does a quick Internet search.

It’s definitely a brave new world and it has gotten me to thinking about what resources are out there to help adolescents analyze and protect their social media output.  Sure, they could sign up for Bottlenose and track the trends around their handle and their personal brand, but such services are marketed towards people like me – the digital marketing managers – not adolescents.  Where are the start-ups in Silicon Valley dedicated to sniffing out digital bullies and erasing derogatory, bullying posts and tweets?  Are there engineers working to build programs that can erase those awful, embarrassing images once teens graduate to adulthood and realize that hiring managers know how to use Google as well?  It seems there is quite a market for such services judging by the news coverage.  If you know of great tools out there to manage social media output for teens and anyone interested in protecting their personal brand, please leave a comment below.  After all, teen years will always be filled with embarrassing moments and kids will be kids, but should teens be judged forever on one embarrassing, overshared moment?

Worker, Writer, Watcher: Where the Professional and the Creative Collide – The Art of Award Submissions

The planets have aligned perfectly for the 3 Ws this week—an advertising agency with whom we work, Central Coast, is going to be featured on AMC’s “The Pitch” (tune in this Thursday), AND, our own agency was thrilled to find out that we were named Bulldog Reporter’s 2013 Small Agency of the Year.

 

Bulldog-Award

Awards and contests, whether on television or otherwise, have much in common:  promote yourself while letting your work/skills do the talking. That said, writing about and promoting your own agency’s PR expertise is a bizarre experience—like the scene in the surreal “Being John Malkovich” when the actor John Malkovich slips into his own consciousness and finds himself in a restaurant filled with infinite John Malkovich’s all repeating one word, “Malkovich,”over and over again.  I’m sure our friends at Central Coast will find it equally strange watching themselves pitch potential clients on national television.

Sure, PR is work, the work we do every day. But when it’s under the microscope, it starts to look very different. Writing is the same, when no one is watching there is an immense freedom, creating the story, finding your voice, etc. –but how do you find it and how does it change when you know others are watching?

We work in PR! We make our living tooting horns, spreading the word and leveraging our relationships and our knowledge of the industry to do so.  However, this is all behind the scenes, we prefer our clients capture the limelight—we are the worker bees, not the Queen.  When the tables turn and you do that very same thing for your own agency, you see the process from a new perspective.   It touches on the duality of our culture: Do not be a braggart, but be successful! (Exhibit A: The Unsinkable Donald Trump).

The experience of writing the submission, working together to find our agency’s “voice” to tout our accolades, was an interesting exercise. When pulling together our awards submission and writing the narrative, zeroing in on “our story,”  all that we have done as an agency, it was easy to miss the forest for the trees.  Certainly the honor of winning and the exposure is amazing—excellence is what we aim for after all. But that doesn’t account for the experience of working with the team on the submission—passing edits back and forth, pitching in with our various expertise, working late into the night—which was a rediscovery of the core of what makes our agency tick.

From RVA to USC: Sending-off the Business Leaders of Tomorrow

We deliver stellar results to our clients on a consistent basis, but it’s not all work and no play for the Wireside ladies.  Outside of the office, our team is involved in a variety of activities and organizations – from PRSA, Ad Club, AMA, James River Writers to Richmond’s historical Quoit Club.

RVA_GamecocksOne group that I’m actively involved in is the University of South Carolina alumni chapter here in Richmond.  Serving on the leadership team as the organization’s communications and social media chair, I’m tasked with raising awareness of the chapter throughout the region and energizing the alumni base to get involved.  We coordinate several events during the year including football watch parties, networking happy hours and philanthropic initiatives like our SEC Alumni Blood Drive Challenge which is taking place all this month.

Our most recent event was the freshman send-off, held last week at Dave & Buster’s.  The alumni association, My Carolina, partnered with our local chapter to welcome some of the nearly 80 Richmond-based students heading to the University of South Carolina this fall.  We hosted approximately 50 guests, including students, family members and university staff.  Two days later, I traveled with the leadership team to Charlottesville, Virginia to support that area’s freshman send-off event as well.charlottesville_pic2

The caliber of students in attendance at these two events was so impressive.  Many of them had their sights set on the International Business Program, which is no surprise – it’s the number one program in the nation according to U.S. News & World Report.  With strong ties to and admiration for my alma mater, I’m confident the university will equip those students with the education and skill set they need to emerge as strong, successful leaders.  Hopefully they’ll work for Wireside when they’re through!

How Much Klout do you Have?

You’ve set up your company Twitter account and are tweeting with your followers, your company Facebook page is up and running and the number of likes are increasing.  Now what?  How do you measure how well your social properties are performing?  Enter, Klout.  Klout is a free service that measures influence across a number of social media platforms.  Originally just for individual users, the company recently released Klout for Business (currently in beta) to help businesses better gauge their influence on social media.

Klout defines influence as the response received from what a user shares on social media.  The more you engage with your audience and they engage with you in return, the higher the Klout score.  With the individual accout, Klout tracks more than 400 distinct points across a variety of social media channels to create a Klout score, including Wikipedia pages.  Having a number of properties linked will only help the Klout score increase.  Data is updated every 24 hours and scores fluctuate based on how much engagement there is.  Stop tweeting for a week and your score could go down sharply.  Klout The site also includes insights into what topics influencers care about the most and recommendations on how to better engage with your audience.

One limitation with a business account, probably due to it still being in beta, is that not all social media properties are available for businesses as for individual account holders (for instance, LinkedIn can only be connected to an individual account, not to a company LinkedIn page, and there is no way to link a company’s Wikipedia page).  Even with its shortcomings, however, having a Klout for Business account is still a good tool in your arsenal to track how your social media program is performing.  It should not be seen as the authority – each company has unique goals and expectations for their social media program which should be measured individually – but adding Klout for Business into the equation allows one more metric for measurement.  And today, when everyone seems to want to know ROI and have hard metrics behind their communications strategy, having another metric – and a concrete score – is a helpful tool in any communicator’s toolkit.

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