Why Marketing and PR Should Go for the Gut

By Aimee Stern, Chief Bravery Officer of Brave Now PR

I went to a media training workshop recently and the core message I walked away with was connect on an emotional level with the person interviewing you, and you’re golden.

I’ve been watching top tier advertising lately and the best of it makes me want to help, obtain, email, tweet or just pick up the phone and find out more. That’s because I’m listening and I’ve made, at the very least, an investment in taking more time to go further.

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What it Means to Win a Thoth

By Katherine Nicol, Senior Vice President, Hager Sharp

The Thoth Awards recognize the most outstanding public relations programs and components developed and produced in the Greater Washington area, highlighting the top accomplishments in PR. That’s pretty meaningful recognition. Adding the fact that Thoth Awards are judged by many of the ‘best of the best’ of our industry – well, that’s where the significance of a Thoth really hits home.

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Emotional Intelligence: Rising Up in the Face of Organizational Dis-Ease

By Heathere Evans

We are living in an era marked by epidemic dis-ease and misconduct in the workplace. More people every day are finding their courage in a unified outcry for a better way. As communicators, how can we help unhealthy organizations heal and detoxify our workplaces so they stay healthy? A starting point is emotional intelligence.

What is Emotional Intelligence (EQ)?

The term “emotional intelligence” was coined in 1990 in a research paper by two psychology professors, Peter Salovey of Yale and John D. Mayer of UNH. While some popular definitions focus on qualities like optimism, initiative, and self-confidence, this definition is misleading. EQ comprises skills in five areas that all require specialized communications skills, using our inner voice, outer voice or both:

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Go for Both!

By Mitchell Marovitz, Ph.D., APR, Fellow PRSA, 2018 Chair, Universal Accreditation Board

Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion about the APR certification with a group of government communicators.

What a thrilling opportunity! I joined two of my colleagues, one from the Universal Accreditation Board and a second representing the National Capital Chapter, to discuss the benefits of seeking a professional certification.

It was easy for me to explain how certification made me a better, more confident communicator, giving me a proven process and access to thousands of fellow practitioners who share my passion for high quality ethical practice.

One of the attendees asked a question that really intrigued me. She wanted to know if I would recommend seeking certification instead of a master’s degree. Intriguing, because not only am I this year’s chair of the Universal Accreditation Board, I am also a college professor! Now, how to answer…

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Storytelling: Five PR Programs that Succeeded Based on a Big Idea

By Helen Sullivan, APR, Fellow PRSA

I’m into the transformative power of a big idea. You can think, think, think and work so hard to get to a big idea that will be the engine behind a successful public relations campaign. Once all your efforts come together—and research certainly helps that process—big ideas always end up sounding so simple. That’s one of the hallmarks of a big idea that will work.

#1 Turning a Big Idea into a Bigger Budget

Even when clients say they have no money or a too-small budget, I have found that somehow there is often money available for a big idea.

An association client of mine years ago had an annual public relations budget of $300,000. Although this was a national campaign that clearly needed more money for expansion, we couldn’t get the client to increase the budget. Then I decided to stop thinking about it as an “annual” budget.

Instead, I pitched the client on a big idea—one they could leverage to their membership. We were going to launch a million-dollar public relations effort. That had a nice ring to it, and it would be a big splash to share at their board meeting, in their trade publication and at their annual conference. While $300,000 a year had been too much, all of a sudden a two-year, million-dollar PR program became a huge hit.

#2 Sleeping on Big Ideas

Two big ideas have been responsible for the sustained success of the mattress industry under its Better Sleep Council PR arm.

The first early on was that the industry doesn’t sell mattresses—it sells a good night’s sleep. That notion now seems commonplace, but when this program launched in 1983 it was a game-changer.

The second idea more than paid for the campaign: If you could reduce the time that consumers keep a mattress by even one or two years, the revenue increase would be a windfall for the industry. A key program message was that mattresses should last eight to 10 years (which now has dropped to about seven years). The program’s measurable outcomes not only increased revenue and unit sales, but the industry also created a category for ultra-premium bedding that had not previously existed.

These big ideas contributed to the program earning both a PRSA Silver Anvil and PRSA-NCC Best of Show Thoth awards.

#3 Noodling a Big Idea

For a national association of pasta manufacturers, sales had been flat for years. The association’s public relations program was centered around the message that noodles aren’t fattening, and outreach was relegated to recipe drops in food magazines and publications with food sections. Focus-group and man-on-the-street research found that message to be unmotivating and not credible.

What we did notice in talking to consumers was that people smile when you engage them about pasta. We mounted a national campaign to make pasta trendy, focusing on pasta as a lifestyle product. It featured tiered messages to different groups (gourmet, budget, easy-to-portion for singles, etc.).

The pay-off was a complete industry transformation. Within two years of the campaign launch, per capita pasta consumption had increased by one pound. That’s a lotta pasta!

This program won a PRSA Silver Anvil and an American Society of Association Executives Gold Circle award.

#4 A Big Idea that Proved Fruitful

What won over an association of apple growers? A big idea that was so simple, yet irresistible.

For decades, their letterhead had featured an illustration of red apples. Why were they all red? Our new design had seven apples—one for each day of the week—mixing red, green and yellow. The apple farmer board members from Washington state (home of the Granny Smith) were all in.

On a very modest budget, we maximized our campaign by riding the coattails of something familiar (another good idea for shoestring budgets)—an apple a day—and created a program that focused on the health benefits of fresh fruit, which is the industry’s most profitable product.

#5 Driving a Big Idea Home

For the International Parking Institute, the largest association of parking professionals, the goal was to raise the visibility of the often-misunderstood, unappreciated profession as a true profession. We also wanted to earn their members a seat at the planning table with architects, developers, building owners and urban planners.

In laying the groundwork for the PR effort, it became clear that members of the profession didn’t truly understand their worth. An industry-wide public relations and marketing initiative called Parking Matters® turned that around.

A recent survey of parking professionals showed that more than half believe that perceptions of parking have improved in the past five years.

 Building Big Idea Skills

These are just a few examples of big ideas that helped achieve big goals. Beyond the big idea, they were all supported by a comprehensive plan following PR’s four-step process: research, planning, implementation and evaluation.

I love reading about successful campaigns and analyzing messages that really resonate—even corporate taglines—to discern the big idea behind them. Coming up with big ideas is a muscle that needs to be exercised to be ready for the next challenge.

Sometimes the big idea involves narrowing an effort to a single, most-influential target audience or condensing the timeframe to a particular month. Sometimes, the big idea is rethinking how it’s always been done and framing a whole new view of the situation. Once you feel confident you have that big idea, your next challenge is to sell it. We’ll tackle that in a future blog post!

Welcome to Washington, What Do You Do?

How to Get the Most out of Informational Interviews

By Laura Gross, Principal and Founder of Scott Circle Communications

“What do you do?” From networking events to first dates, that is perhaps the question that begins many conversations here in Washington, D.C. More often than not the underlying question is actually “who do you know?” or “how can you help me?” Unfortunately, people seem to be more interested in leveraging themselves than establishing an authentic human connection. I have seen this over and over again in the infamous informational interview.

With an established career in PR in the same city for over two decades, I have plenty of experience to share which is why I suppose I’ve been frequently called to give advice. I’ve received requests from all sorts of people: recent grads who just moved to D.C. looking for a job, college students debating a career in PR, senior professionals deciding whether to go out on their own as a consultant and job seekers too – especially job seekers.

I know why people contact me and I genuinely want to be helpful (in fact I average one informational meeting each week). So, in the spirit of being helpful, here are some suggestions on how to truly get the most out of an informational interview and make the most of someone’s time.

Whats Your Goal?

The first question I always ask is: What can I help you with? If you asked for the meeting, you should have a good substantive answer. Do you want to learn about my career path? Do you want to know more about how to do PR in DC? Do you want feedback on your resume? Use this informational interview to do exactly that: interview me to gather information.

Be Presentable

If you are looking for career advice or networking for a job, prove that you belong in the workforce. It seems like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised how often people come dressed casually and not prepared. You should arrive on time, if not a few minutes early. And dress professionally too – you don’t know what type of office you are showing up to. The more you can show that you have made an effort to present your best self, the more likely you are to leave the interview having left a good first impression.

Bring a Resume

Yes, you might have sent me an email with your resume when you requested a meeting, but I get hundreds of emails every day. Always bring a copy of your typo-free resume with you to show you are one step ahead. I often take notes on the resume, which then sits on my desk for a while. You will be top of mind if I see a relevant job posting that might come my way.

Come Prepared

With one Google search, you can find out almost anything about anyone. What is my firm all about? What is my background? You already know these answers, so how can I actually be helpful? A better question to ask me is what do I look for in a candidate? What is the interview process like at your firm? Do you mind looking at my resume and giving me feedback?

Write a Thank You Note or Email

I’m not looking for the next best seller – I just want a simple thank you email or handwritten note (bonus points for handwritten!).

Follow-up

Let me know what happened to you. Did you get a job? An internship? Decide not to pursue PR after all? Finding success in Washington and other cities often revolves around who you know. Future jobs and opportunities are all about connections, so it will only benefit you in the long run to keep in touch with someone you met. And maybe, just maybe, one day you’ll be the one paying it forward and I’ll be the one requesting an informational interview with you.

About the Author: Laura Gross (@lgross) is Principal and Founder of Scott Circle Communications (@scottcircle), a full service public relations firm based in Washington, D.C. with a mission to make the world a better place.

Time To Step Up, NCC

By Samantha Villegas, APR, PRSA-NCC past president and PRSA Board member

In January, a few of my colleagues and I, who are also more senior like me, were recognized by the chapter for our contributions. It was an honor, and something I will always cherish.

My colleagues and I who received these honors do a lot for the chapter and always have. Between us, we have received more than our fair share of these awards, if that’s possible. I think it’s safe to say that service is in our DNA, but also, as senior practitioners, we each feel a deep sense of gratitude and purpose for PRSA and giving back just feels right.

But, I don’t want this award again.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s an incredible honor, and I am humbled by the recognition. Both awards I have received from the chapter have a prominent place on the bookshelf in my family room and I absolutely cherish them. What’s more, I have no plans to stop serving in whatever capacity I can to advance our mission. But, it’s time for others to be recognized.

This is not a comment on the nomination or selection process. I don’t deny we were – and are – deserving of the recognition. This is a comment on the rest of you. I don’t mean to come across harsh here. But, it’s time to step up.

When you do, here’s what I can promise: Succeed or fail, if you try and put some heart into it, you will learn. You will advance. You will make friends. Most of all, you will gain life-long, trusted colleagues who will mentor you, recommend you, and stand by you (or tell you when you need to be told that you are wrong) as my fellow award winners do with me and I love them for it. But, time is ticking, and your chance to make a difference is now.

So, step up, jump in, and really give this organization and its members the same care and attention PRSA has given you throughout your career. And, when you get the award next time, as I will be hoping you do, I’ll be in the crowd clapping loudest!

Samantha Villegas, APR is currently a national PRSA Board member. Sam was 2016 Chair of NCC’s IPRA, 2013 president of PRSA-NCC, and she served in several other capacities over the years including Mid-Atlantic District Chair, District Rep to the National Nominating Committee, Professional Advisor to GMU, Assembly Delegate, and APR Chair. She was the 2015 recipient of NCC’s Platinum Award and the 2017 recipient of the Diamond Award.