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PRSA’s Media Training Bible with Brad Phillips

Recently, President of Phillips Media Relations and author of The Media Training Bible, Brad Phillips, joined the Richmond PRSA to instruct PR pros on preparing themselves and their spokespeople for media interviews.  Below I’ve outlined highlights from the class.

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Three is the magic number

Brad recommends that speakers develop three main messages when going into an interview or preparing for a speech. Speakers should either focus on one main theme supported by three ideas, or three main concepts supported by interesting data and examples. There is no perfect answer as to why this is the best strategy, but our brains seem to like organizing information into bits of 3.  For example: Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; red, yellow, and green); and small, medium, and large. When an audience is given too many points, they tend to lose interest.  On the flipside, too few points or messages can lead to redundancy.

The three-legged stool of messaging

Keeping the number 3 in mind, when constructing a solid message, a helpful visual is the three-legged support stool.  Imagine a three-legged stool, with each leg representing support for your message: stories, statistics and sound bites.  To put this into action, first, envision your message.  You want to put it into context, so you tell a story.  To support your story, you then cite statistics.  It’s important to keep in mind that numbers tend to not stick with an audience unless they are unexpected or shocking.  Lastly there are sound bites: what key piece of information do you want your audience to take away? Think of superlatives or extremes to give your audience to drive your point home. For example, “This is the biggest technology advancement in 50 years” – using an impressive superlative will keep your audience’s attention and hopefully stick with them after you’re done speaking.

Body Language do’s and don’ts

When giving a speech or being interviewed, it might be easy to focus only on the words you are saying and forget about your motions/actions..  As body language can make or break an interview or speech, Brad provided a few tips for proper body language.  First off, the use of gestures is a good thing.  Some people say the contrary, but as we are naturally expressive to some degree when we speak, we shouldn’t fight it when the spotlight is on us.  Fidgeting and quick movements are distracting, however, and should be avoided. Additionally, gestures actually improve listener comprehension, which many people don’t know.  If sitting while speaking, lean slightly forward to show engagement. This also makes it easier to gesture and be expressive while speaking.  Last, think about hand placement.  It can be easy to fidget and not know where to place your hands when you are nervous.  Get used to either resting your hands in your lap when sitting, or clasped in front of you if standing, or even keeping them by your sides when standing.

The power of tone

Maintaining a proper tone in speech is vital when all eyes are on you.  Though this may be obvious,  it can easily be forgotten when under pressure.  When speaking, think about a topic you are passionate about and speak as if you’re discussing that.  If asked a tough question, never sound defensive.  Instead, say something like, “Thank you for asking that question,” and move on with your point. Maintain an upbeat attitude even when being put on the spot or stumped.  It may be beneficial to practice having someone ask you tough questions and see how you react.

Brad’s tips on preparation for speeches and interviews, in conjunction with his website, http://www.mrmediatraining.com/, provide PR professionals with an arsenal to prepare themselves and their spokespeople for media success.

Wireside Recap: 2015 PRSA International Conference

I recently attended my first PRSA International Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. The event, which was packed with educational sessions and networking opportunities, drew about 2,000 PR professionals from across the country.  Although each session brought something unique to the table, I want to highlight one of my favorite speakers from the conference, and key takeaways from his session.krr

Being part of a high-tech PR firm, I was eager to attend one session in particular.  David McCulloch, Sr. Director, Corporate Communications, Cisco, spoke on the session, “The ‘Internet of Things’: Are You Ready for the Opportunities and Risks?”  He provided some interesting examples to demonstrate the IoT in action.

  • The Henn Na Hotel (which translates to “Weird Hotel” in Japan) will be the world’s first hotel fully staffed by robots. These robots come in different forms; some made to look and have mannerisms like humans; others, like animals or cartoons. These robots speak several different languages: English, Japanese, Chinese and Korean. The robots perform duties such as checking guests in, carrying luggage, and cleaning rooms.
  • Physical sensor technology company Sensum uses sensors to detect the physiological changes of audience members during presentations. These sensors enable a company to determine whether audiences are surprised, excited, or bored. This diminishes the need for traditional pencil and paper surveys, providing the speaker with feedback with little to no effort from his or her audience. Additionally, this allows the speaker to garner genuine feedback that is not affected by hastily – or dishonestly – completed surveys. This also solves the common problem of surveys not being completed, period.
  • This past September, the Food and Drug Administration accepted an application to evaluate a new drug-sensor-app system that tracks when a pill has been taken. The drug under discussion is Abilify, an antipsychotic. The actual sensor will only be the size of a pencil tip. The app will come connected to a Band Aid-like sensor, worn on the body, which will know when a tiny chip hidden inside a pill is swallowed.  This way, if patients aren’t taking their pills, doctors will be alerted.
  • Target made headlines back in 2012, when the store found out about a high school girl’s pregnancy before her father did. The store was able to trace the teen’s buying patterns, and based on her recent purchases, began sending her coupons for baby products in the mail. Her disgruntled father, unaware of the pregnancy, stormed into Target and had it out with the manager. He later found out his daughter was, in fact, pregnant, and apologized to the manager.

McCulloch’s examples of the IoT in full-effect not only engaged his audience, but left some of us shocked – and possibly uneasy – about the evolution of technology and the ways businesses can utilize it to uncover personal details about consumers.

My first PRSA International Conference was an unforgettable experience. Not only was I provided with an opportunity to network with others in the field, I was also able to get a crash course in the do’s and don’ts of PR from some of the most prominent names in public relations.

 

The New Face of Influence is as Sweet as Pie

Over the past few years, the definition of influencer has undertaken a significant transformation.  Gone are the days where our daily dose of news is obtained during the 6 o’clock broadcast, delivered by legendary anchors behind a desk.  For the most part, we no longer read the headlines of yesterday in the form of a newspaper with a morning cup of coffee in hand (unless you’re my 75-year-old father, that is). pie

Media and analysts will continue to be a valued source of information but as PR professionals, we must continue to recognize that the face of those with the ability to influence our clients’ stakeholders is changing.  Through social media, we’ve seen the emergence of a new form of influencer.

Average people, who may or may not be experts in their own right, are taking to various social platforms to share their opinions and inadvertently inspiring others to take action.  In some cases, these social media stars are even benefiting financially.  For example, YouTube star PewDiePie earned $7.4 million from his YouTube channel last year.

A prime example of the power of social influence is the recent surge in sales for Patti LaBelle’s sweet potato pie, thanks to a James Wright Channel YouTube tribute to the tasty treat.  To date, the video has received 4.1 million views.  Viewers watch as the LA-based singer digs into the pie and channels the legendary soul singer, belting out tunes like “On My Own” and “Isn’t it a Shame.”

In response to the viral video, pie sales soared, selling at a rate of one pie per second for 72-straight hours the weekend before Thanksgiving.  As the exclusive retailer for the Patti LaBelle pastry, Wal-Mart’s across the country sold out of the pie – including our own local store where I captured the image to the right.

While building trusted relationships with traditional media and analysts is still, and will always be, an important step in establishing our clients’ brands, we must keep an eye out for those with the power to drive others into action – even as unconventional as it may seem at times.  Whether in B2B or B2C marketing, the need to identify and connect with influencers applies across the board as they may just be the direct line of communication to your clients’ target audience.

Dear Taylor Swift, Thanks for the Social Media Marketing Lesson

Before social media, public relations was ironically not so great at actually relating to the public.  It was almost one-sided.  Brands had a corporate spokesperson pushing the company line, as they say, and maybe a newsletter and that was it.  Of course, those who didn’t agree with the brand could always protest or pen the occasional strongly worded letter to voice their opinions, but who has time for that today? buzz

Last month, Wireside attended an AMA luncheon at the University of Richmond where Natalia Dykyj, Director of Product Management, Cision, gave a brief presentation on how PR and marketing have changed from the “old-school” way of doing things through the influence of social media marketing.  In this post, I’ve outlined a few of Natalia’s key points, supplemented with some real-world examples of marketing success stories.

Today, the consumer wears the pants in the relationship and the brand can very easily, and often does, end up in the proverbial doghouse.  The power of social media (and an angry mob, albeit a virtual one) can greatly impact a brand’s choice – and fast.  A very recent example of this comes to mind.  Apple recently released a music streaming service so new users can stream music for the first three months of their trial period for free.  This seemed like a great idea, until music artists realized they wouldn’t be paid for their music to be streamed for the trial period.  Taylor Swift wrote an open letter to the company voicing her opinion on this, saying that it is unfair to not pay artists for their work and that maybe Apple shouldn’t get access to her next album.  Uh-oh. Less than a day later, Apple changed its policy, agreeing to pay artists during the trial period, and wrote Taylor a mea culpa letter begging for her forgiveness.  Of course this particular situation involves a celebrity and one of the most well known brands on the planet, but wouldn’t it be nice if all customer service issues were resolved this way?  To be fair, similar interactions can and do happen on a smaller scale.

Marketing:  Who’s Doing it Right?

 “Brands are lucky if audiences engage them in conversation,” Natalia said.

And she’s right.  If, as a brand, no one is engaging with you in some way, you probably need to change your marketing strategy.  So who is doing marketing right? Natalia’s first example was Target.  Target, she said, has not one, but two official Twitter feeds.  The official feed  is purely for messaging purposes.  This is where the company updates followers on what’s going on with Target, essentially pushing out its desired message to followers.  The second feed, however, is conversation-based.  This feed is where consumers can voice opinions and ask questions, and Target will talk back.  This is a great way to interact with brand followers, involve them and make them feel like they matter; that they have a voice.  It’s this kind of open brand participation that helps make loyal brand ambassadors.

Target’s Twitter success had me thinking: What brands have utilized two of the other biggest social media platforms of today, Facebook and Instagram, in a way that set them up for marketing success?  Inspiration came from my own personal Facebook and Instagram feeds: Humans of New York and Kayla Itsines.

Humans of New York

Humans of New York is a more unconventional brand in that it began as a photographer telling stories.  The photographer, Brandon Stanton, roams through New York City daily, stopping random people of all ages and asking them questions about their lives.  He then posts a simple snapshot of the person with a quote from the conversation and posts it to Facebook.  He has since expanded to Instagram and Twitter, and has even published a book.  By utilizing its Facebook audience (with over 13 million likes), Humans of New York has not only gained exposure for itself, but has also done good deeds for the community.

In February 2015, Brandon photographed a 13-year-old boy on the street, asking him who inspired him the most.  The boy said that person was his principal at Mott Hall Bridges Academy, a small middle school in Brownsville, a lower income area of New York.  The reactions and sharing of the photo went viral, so Brandon started a fundraiser to help the school take its 8th grade class on a field trip to Harvard to inspire the students to set high goals for themselves.  In two weeks, $1.4 million was raised for the school.  With the use of Facebook, one of the world’s most popular social media platforms, a photographer was able to gain worldwide attention for his brand and help others while doing it.

Kayla Itsines

In recent years, Instagram has taken the world by storm.  The platform’s growing popularity means brands must find an effective strategy for promoting their product or service.  23-year-old Australian personal trainer/health and fitness expert Kayla Itsines has gained an immense following on Instagram, utilizing the platform in several ways.  Not only does she share personal pictures, she also posts before and after pictures of weight loss/fitness success stories of fans that have used her fitness guides on her page.  These pictures show real world results, serving as inspiration to others while also showing appreciation of her fans.  Kayla’s 3.2 million Instagram followers show that she is able to capture and grow her audience with the motivational nature and variety of her posts. I find myself skimming Kayla’s Instagram page daily, and I’m not even into fitness!

Do you have a social media marketing success story you’d like to share? Which social media platform has your brand had the most success with? How do you use it as an effective marketing tool?

 

 

Creating “Brand YOU”: Personal Branding Tips for Millennials

Last week, Wireside attended a luncheon hosted by the American Marketing Association at the University of Richmond, where guest speaker Sima Dahl, International speaker/trainer/coach for Sway Factory gave a presentation on personal branding.  The interactive presentation was full of advice relevant to each and every audience member – because after all, we are all the directors behind our own personal brand. mkt2

“Who do you know who…?”

In the professional world, networking is key.  Often, we hear people ask, “Who do you know who specializes in xyz?” Sima says we should strive to become that resource. If you aren’t the person someone is looking to connect with, then make it a point to know someone who is.  Building up your professional network will enable you to become the go-to for your colleagues, peers, etc.

LOVE LinkedIn

This one may take time.  While it’s easy to utilize platforms where you can share what you’re eating and who you’re with (think: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram), it may be a little more difficult to appreciate LinkedIn, a platform used for growing one’s professional network.  Take a minute at least once a week to update your status on LinkedIn – whether it be sharing an article or writing about a cool networking event you attended, these statuses will get you on the radar of other professionals in your network.

You… According to You

Speaking of LinkedIn, your headline and work experience should make what you do and what your skills are completely apparent. For example, if your headline says “Program Manager,” that’s too vague.  What field are you in? What exactly do you do? Additionally, your work experience needs to be flushed out (but keep it relatively brief). Don’t just copy and paste bullet points directly from your resume.

Headshot Help

Sima stressed the importance of having a headshot. A headshot, she says, must be a close-up picture, professionally done and current.  She also gives tips on Facebook profile pictures: Don’t wear sunglasses, leave the kids out, and don’t make your profile picture a logo or object – you are a person, after all.

Hopefully you can utilize some of the tips I’ve highlighted to grow as a professional. Do you have any tips for personal branding? If so, we’d love to hear them!

 

 

 

 

The Truth About Cloud Computing. Are Enterprises REALLY Embracing it?

IT decision makers are planning to migrate nine in ten business apps to the cloud. In fact, 60% believe this migration will happen within the next two years, according to a recent study by NTT Com (Wireside client.) The ICT solutions leader recently surveyed nearly 1,600 IT decision makers from the US and EU to get their insights about the future of cloud computing. It sounds like global enterprises have embraced the cloud, right? Well, according to NTT Com’s Cloud Reality Check 2015 study, the answer is both yes and no. cloudpic

Cloud will account for over a quarter of corporate ICT budgets by 2018 and the vast majority of respondents expect the number of individual cloud platforms in use in their organizations to grow over the next three years, according to the study. However, though most agree cloud is good for business and many IT decision makers are planning to move more and more important apps to the cloud, respondents view the processes of migration and management once in the cloud as wrought with complexities and challenges. For example:

  • One-third say the cloud isn’t yet living up to its potential (38%)
  • 4 in ten find cloud vendors confusing and challenging
  • 4 in ten claim migrating complex apps to cloud is too much trouble
  • Nearly 50% feel they have less control over apps once in the cloud

Overall, it seems bi-modal IT is a challenge for data center AND cloud and ICT decision-makers are spending much more time managing performance than developing functionality.

So what DOES the future of cloud computing look like? The reality is that as much as businesses care about scalability and cost efficiency, two areas where more than 50% of IT decision makers credit cloud-based applications, the primary concerns of enterprise-class customers concern security, compliance and corporate data governance. For example, 10% of apps will NEVER migrate to cloud.

According to Len Padilla, VP product strategy at NTT Com, though ICT decision-makers see the cloud as a compelling enabling technology, companies need a new approach to ICT transformation through cloud computing, given the variety of platforms available and the complexity of the applications they support. He believes “there needs to be a far smoother migration path from the data center to the cloud,” and that “a different kind of planning approach is required for companies to achieve the large-scale digital transformations business executives are demanding.”

So what’s the solution? According to Padilla, “focusing on continuous improvement and incremental steps is a far more effective strategy than ambitious plans.” A hybrid cloud approach offers the best of both worlds, allowing companies to capitalize on the cost savings associated with a traditional cloud environment while experiencing the improved performance, reliability and security only available with dedicated computing resources.  To read more about the Cloud Reality Check study and view an infographic, click here.

My Fab Five: 5 PR Tools to Know and Love

With thousands of online tools to help us public relations professionals in our busy day-to-day lives, sometimes it seems like there’s just too many to choose from. Worry not! In this post, I’ve highlighted five great tools that help me in various aspects of my everyday work routine. Not only are they all user-friendly, they’re also free!

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  • Hootsuite: Most of us are probably familiar with this one, but I have to give credit where credit is due. Hootsuite is a platform that was developed to organize tweets. Since then, it has developed into a resource for organizing multiple social media accounts in one place. There are a few ways I utilize Hootsuite:
    • To keep track of client Twitter feeds: On Hootsuite’s home page, we have 10 feeds laid out that we’re able to easily monitor; one for each client, one for our own tweets, and a few others for other topics we’re interested in. These live feeds make it simple to keep up with what’s important to the brands you represent.
    • To tweet: Instead of logging into Twitter, Hootsuite allows users to send tweets out directly from the platform for multiple Twitter accounts.
    • To schedule tweets: This is great, because you can get your social media posts out whenever you want, staggering them at different times and even days so you don’t send out too many at once, or can plan ahead for time out of the office, etc.
  • Talkwalker Alerts: Talkwalker alerts are similar to Google alerts. You can set up alerts as frequently as you like, in any language. I’ve found these alerts to be quicker and more reliable than Google alerts, although I use both together.
  • TheSkimm: Keeping up with the news is crucial. TheSkimm is a daily morning digest of top news stories. The newsletter is concise and written in a casual and often sarcastic tone, making reading the news a quick and sometimes even entertaining experience perfect for our jam-packed and stressful days.
  • HARO (Help A Reporter Out): HARO is a social networking tool for sources and reporters. This service is simple; sign up, and you receive 3 emails a day: one in the morning, one in the afternoon, and one in the evening. These emails contain queries from reporters across different outlets covering various beats. This is great for PR Pros, because if your client is knowledgeable about any of the topics, you can answer the reporter directly through the anonymous email address in the HARO email, and connect your client with the reporter.
  • MyTopTweet: This is another handy one for social media. Just go to mytoptweet.com and input your Twitter handle. The platform will automatically generate your top ten tweets that gained the most traction (favorites and retweets) with your followers. This can give you a sense of the content your audience is most interested in; a great metrics resource for the brands you represent.

These are just a few examples of what’s in my PR toolbox. What’s in yours?

Taking a Lesson from the NFL Playbook

The free agency chatter is but a temporary cure for the feelings of football withdrawal that I, like many others, am currently experiencing.  Taking full advantage of the spare time I have during the offseason, I’ve evaluated some of the values and lessons we can learn from a few teams across the league: football1

The Baltimore Ravens teach us to do the right thing.  There will be times in our careers when we have to make difficult choices for our agencies or clients and our ultimate decision might not always be the most popular.  When faced with a challenging situation, take time to gather all the facts and make an informed decision based on the information at-hand.

The Indianapolis Colts teach us to be smart.  With Andrew Luck at the helm, this is one calculated team.  As you develop in your career, never stop seeking opportunities to learn, grow and stretch your (brain) muscles.

The Kansas City Chiefs teach us to be cheerleaders.  Last season this team broke the world record for loudest fans.  As PR pros, we’ve got to be our own biggest fans.  Never miss a chance to champion your work to the client; it’ll keep them coming back for more!

The New Orleans Saints teach us to have fun.  We work in one of the most stressful industries out there.  While we work hard to deliver the results our teams and clients expect, we must make sure that these efforts are balanced with some time doing the things we enjoy – otherwise, burnout is sure to follow.

The Philadelphia Eagles teach us to learn from adversity.  A product of their environment, this is a tough group.  But just like this team, with the right leadership, PR agencies can learn how to tap their inner talent and overcome any challenges that come their way.

The Seattle Seahawks teach us to invest in talent.  While others had their minds set on the likes of Andrew Luck and RGIII in 2012, the Seahawks had their eye on another quarterback; one that would ultimately lead them to back-to-back championship games and the franchise’s first Super Bowl victory.  Talent should be the focal point of every firm.  Seek out the talent you need to strengthen your team and do what it takes to keep them there.

The San Diego Chargers teach us to keep our cool.  Let’s face it; things won’t always go our way.  So when they don’t, take a lesson from this carefree team and know that you’ll always bounce back.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers teach us that the big guy doesn’t always win.  Even with a small budget and unknown client, you can break through the chatter and outdo the big brands.  Just as the Bucs stunned the nation walloping the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII, out-of-box thinking and determination can help you land the premier coverage your client is seeking.

Is there a takeaway from your favorite NFL team that PR pros should keep in mind?

Applied Innovation – The Cure for Tech Overload

There’s an occupational hazard of following tech trends.  The danger is hearing so much about a new technology or acronym that you grow a little deaf.

What’s important for trend-trackers is to note when innovation begins shifting into application. Back in May, for instance, Wireside’s Founder Joya Subudhi wrote a blog about Google’s acquisition of NEST. Her post helped keep the Internet of Things (IoT) real by drawing attention to a familiar and everyday device, the thermostat.

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Another story about Google’s smart contact lens project revived my own interest in another much-discussed category, wearable devices.

Did you see this?

What caught my eye – no pun intended – was news that the Swiss-based pharmaceutical Novartis wants to license Google’s technology in this area.

Maybe you saw it the first time – but one of the ideas is to outfit the contact lens with a sensor that can detect glucose levels via tears, giving diabetics a better way of monitoring their condition.

Time will tell whether this brilliant idea works out, but it got me to thinking about an obvious point: Innovation becomes real when it addresses actual problems, genuine pain points and concrete circumstances.

The smart and networked home

A preview for the Messe Berlin IFA 2014 event (Sept 5 – 10), which encompasses electronics and home appliances, offers another case in point.  One of IFA’s pre-show releases, for instance, discusses trends among manufacturers of large and small domestic appliances.

Why the emphasis on small? Because it reflects a demographic fact: the rise of single-person households.  The engineering challenge is to make appliances that serve that growing market segment just as sustainable and efficient as any others.

Like the smart contact lens project, those manufacturers are addressing real circumstances.And when technology begins working its way into daily lives, for instance when a grandfather is found adopting a smart-phone controllable thermostat to make his family’s vacation more comfortable, you know you’re at an inflection point.  Then IoT becomes more than an abstraction.

Nothing against pure academic research or groundbreaking engineering, but that kind of applied innovation is always an easier story to tell.

The Network is the New Network

As a technology-focused PR firm, we try to stay current with infrastructure and popular trends. That’s not easy, with technology, services and consumer behavior constantly shifting. But I’ve found a key. It’s a little saying that captures what has been happening at the busy intersection of technological innovation, on the one hand, and media and entertainment consumption, on the other.

Here it is: The network is the new network. TV2

Let me explain. For anyone who has been paying attention to the evolution of television over the past decade or so, this is really no big mystery. The infrastructure that drives the delivery of today’s information and entertainment services – the technological network – is supplanting the original bundle of broadcast programming known as the TV network.

The once all-powerful TV network has been losing ground for many years, as these points help illustrate:

  • In 1999, HBO broke new ground when The Sopranos became the first cable network series to be nominated for an Emmy Award for best drama, earning more nominations that year than any show – broadcast or cable.
  • Ten years later, in 2009, Comcast announced plans to acquire NBC Universal. Thus, a company founded simply to extend broadcast signals by way of amplified coaxial cable was taking over one of the old big-three networks.
  • Last year, Netflix became the first non-TV network to win an Emmy. Founded in 1997 as a DVD-by-mail service, Netflix began streaming video a decade later. Now it not only has 48 million subscribers but also produces award-winning content.

My mantra oversimplifies, of course. The old networks ran (and continue to run) on technology, too. Nor has broadcast – or cable or satellite – TV faded away in the face of Internet alternatives. According to data from Comscore for Q3 2013, Americans spent far more (250%) time watching TV than they spent on multi-platform Internet use in Q3 2013. Online video, in particular, amounted to only 5 percent of the time spent with live and time-shifted TV.

But pay attention to the trends. Comscore notes that consumption of digital media has tripled over the past three years. Tablet and smartphone usage has fueled that explosion. Once upon a time, executives at the NBC, ABC and CBS called all the shots. Now that power is shared with whoever can deliver whatever content consumers demand to whichever video display devices they prefer. The network is the new network.