The Meaning Behind Words: Bates Delivers an Acclaimed Workshop for More Powerful Writing

by Alex Hopkins, Communications Associate, Union Plus

Don Bates at Writing Workshop; Photo credit Danielle Heiny/@DanielleHeiny

Don Bates at Writing Workshop; Photo credit Danielle Heiny/@DanielleHeiny

As communicators, we may take for granted that digital communications has quickly become an integral part of the global infrastructure. When our blogs, press releases, and other writing materials appear on the internet, our words contribute to a make-or-break digital paper trail that not only raises awareness of our employer’s image, but also of our own personal brand. Words thus have more power than ever to become motivators for a vast audience to think and act according to our employer’s communications agenda. For many years, this is what veteran public relations expert Don Bates has taught to communicators both in D.C. and New York City.

On August 18, Bates delivered his popular workshop “Write More Powerfully & Strategically for Public Relations & Public Affairs Purposes in Social and Traditional Media” at Hager Sharp. With over 30 participants, the all-day event gave practitioners the opportunity to form meaningful relationships and work together to turn average written pieces into perfectly-polished prose. Throughout the workshop, participants learned that their teamwork reflected Bates’ observation that communicators should be marshaling their audience to work together to discern and accomplish common goals.

Bates was also joined by Anthony Shop, the Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Social Driver, a digital marketing agency based in D.C. In a departure from the traditional top-down marketing approach of the past, Shop observed in his well-regarded presentation that “social media democratizes information — even if there is a lot of ‘noise.’” Using the analogy of a lightning strike, Shop said that, although marketers may only see lightning coming top-down, the energy sparks actually come from the ground — much like how audiences are increasingly calling the shots in a bottom-up marketing approach. With the ability of just about anyone to become a digital communicator, Shop taught participants that, because there is more feedback than ever from targeted audiences, communicators must use increasingly-original techniques to raise brand awareness amidst the marketing storm of “noise” around them.

By the end of the day, participants received a treasure-trove of Bates’ knowledge in the form of 100+ page binder that they could took back to work with them. What the participants learned from the event reflected the universal acclaim of the exercises and presentations. Remarking on Bates’ insistence on concise writing, one participant said, “I’m going to challenge myself to write tweets that are less than 140 characters.” Another participant agreed, adding, “I’m going to think more of how I can work together with my audience before I write.”

Interested in the workshop? Bates and the PRSA-NCC will again host the workshop in December. To register, visit: https://www.prsa-ncc.org/write-more-powerfully-strategically-public-relations-public-affairs-purposes-traditional-and-social.

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Michael Smart delivered a solid repeat performance on June 29 of his two half-day workshops: Pitching Bootcamp and Building Media Relationships

Session One – Pitching Bootcamp: by Ana Pinilla, BusinessWire

Michael SmartThe Morning Session “Pitching Bootcamp” started with Michael talking about the problems PR practitioners can encounter when pitching journalists and went on to offer his “pitching playbook” where he discussed several examples of how to do it right – starting off with turning a press release from boring to glowing – making it into something newsworthy that journalists will want to use as part of their reporting.  It’s also about finding the angle for the story – one that could be holiday or seasonally related, a story with human impact, or even proximity to where we live and work, as well as other ideas. Michael went on to discuss the anatomy of a perfect pitch that included appropriate phone and/or email introductions and how to deliver the story with speed and interest. But with all this being said, success also depends on knowing the journalists – what they write about and knowing their style. What was particularly helpful was that Michael provided audio and video examples of pitches – with lots of do’s and don’ts – that made it all so much easier and real to attendees.

 

Session Two – Going Beyond the Pitch: Why Relationship Building Matters: by , News Generation

Michael SmartAs PR pros, we know the importance of building and strengthening our relationships with reporters. This was the focus of PRSA-NCC’s recent series of workshops with media relations expert Michael Smart. During the workshops, Smart offered participants hands-on, practical tips and social media suggestions on how to engage and build relationships with members of the media.

The most important theme he stressed is that you must invest in your relationships with the media. Invest the time and brain space. It is a critical component of your job and helps us be more effective at what we do.

Also, pay attention to what journalists are covering. Engage with their material. Show them that you are following them, that you genuinely care about what they’re reporting. Doing so will help separate you from other PR pros. Learn their style and pitch them in a personal, customized way, and become a credible resource to journalists. When pitching, it’s equally important to show that that we’re respectful of a journalist’s time and deadlines.

(*re-published from News Generation: http://www.newsgeneration.com/2016/07/01/relationship-building-matters-michael-smart-prsa/)

Finding the Best Research Method: PRSA-NCC Event

by

Pictured: Molly O’Rourke, Sultana Ali, Danny Selnick, Peter Kelley

Pictured: Molly O’Rourke, Sultana Ali, Danny Selnick, Peter Kelley

Research plays an imperative role in the way we communicate messages and attract consumers. Research can be performed internally, using an outside company’s help, or through an external source. The steps to conduct effective research were discussed during the June 16th PRSA event, “Numbers Don’t Lie: The Role of Research in Successful Communications.” Moderator Danny Selnick, Senior Vice President of Strategic Markets at Business Wire, panelists Molly O’Rourke, Partner at Hart Research and Peter Kelley, Vice President of Public Affairs at American Wind Energy Association, evaluated the importance of research in the communications industry.

Molly O’Rourke offered key takeaways on the role of strategic communication and public opinion research in a corporate environment. She emphasized that having strong research can attract media attention, enhance communication abilities, assist with gaining political allies, identify a target market, and increase internal company effectiveness. Important choices to make when conducting research include whether to use a focus group or survey, choosing the most effective sample size, and what audience should be included in the research.

Peter Kelley discussed the importance of accessing free research and how to limit research costs for companies with smaller budgets. Kelley outlined options for “polling without your own pollster” in order to reduce operating costs for your company. In the age of the internet, research can easily be accessed for free. Benefits of opinion research include having the ability to refine messages from gathered information. Oftentimes, using big name pollsters or bipartisan research groups is recommended because they resonate more support with the public.

Moderator Danny Selnick addressed the question of the role of cell phones in making polling more difficult. O’Rourke responded by emphasizing methodological issues in this technological age and how one should go about using different platforms for polling. Hybrid research methods of using online and phone surveys are often used to address a larger market and to receive wider audience participation. Platforms for polling are constantly changing and it is difficult to say one clear cut method is the best. Kelley made clear that transparency is key if you want to eliminate skepticism in the audience to attract a larger support base for your poll. Both emphasized the importance of wording and using unbiased phrases when polling.

Research plays an important role in our lives, and is necessary in continuing company growth and development. Businesses are able to better understand their target audience with imperial data, and the company is able to adjust their messages to be more successful. Research is both an art and a science —you have to try different methods to find what works best.

Stay tuned…

 

(*re-published from News Generation: http://www.newsgeneration.com/2016/06/20/research-method-prsancc/)

Five Ways to Know if Your PR Campaign is Thoth Award Material

*Originally published on May 23, 2016; For the 2017 Thoth Award deadlines, see dates below this article.

By Robert V. Krueger, Senior Director, Public Relations & Social Media at the Urban Land Institute

From left to right: Sandra Wills Hannon, Ph.D., APR, Principal, The Hannon Group, @Willshannon; Jeff Wilson, APR, Senior Director, Business Develoment & Agency Marketing, PadillaCRT, @Wilson0507; Brigitte Johnson, APR, Adjunct Professor, Marymount University, @JohnsonHerronB; and standing Sultana Ali, APR, PRSA-NCC

From left to right: Sandra Wills Hannon, Ph.D., APR, Principal, The Hannon Group, @Willshannon; Jeff Wilson, APR, Senior Director, Business Develoment & Agency Marketing, PadillaCRT, @Wilson0507; Brigitte Johnson, APR, Adjunct Professor, Marymount University, @JohnsonHerronB; and standing Sultana Ali, APR, PRSA-NCC

Every week public relations agencies, non-profits, government agencies, and private in-house communications teams research, design, and execute a variety of campaigns that help their clients achieve certain goals. But, many outstanding campaigns never receive their due recognition.

For years, public relations practitioners have entered their campaigns into industry competitions. In addition, it can be seen as a badge of honor for organizations and individuals to attach a communications award to their portfolio. But, submitting entries for a Public Relations Society of America – National Capital Chapter (PRSA-NCC) Thoth Award or any other PR and communication award can be an intimidating process that is full of uncertainty.

A recent PRSA-NCC panel offered insight into the process and sought to break any myths surrounding what types of campaigns – both big and small – are worthy of winning Washington’s most prestigious award.  The panelists were: Jeff Wilson, APR, Senior Director, Business Development & Agency Marketing, PadillaCRT; Sandra Wills Hannon, Ph.D., APR, Principal, The Hannon Group; Brigitte Johnson, APR, Adjunct Professor, Marymount University; and the discussion was moderated by Sultana Ali, APR, PRSA-NCC President & Communications Officer at The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Based on their discussion, below is a list of five ways you can decide whether your campaign should be submitted for a Thoth award:

  1. Perform a broad-stroke litmus test: First ask yourself whether your campaign was compelling and whether there were clear, measurable objectives that were achieved. Second, did it include a well-designed and clear strategic plan or was it simply tactical? Third, was it beautifully executed? Finally, and perhaps most importantly, is there evidence that your goals were achieved?
  2. Check if there was a clear demonstration of research: If you pass the litmus test, you must be able to prove you utilized primary and/or secondary research in designing your plan. Judges of any PR competition always want to see a foundation of research. Before developing a campaign, you should do an environmental scan and see if there is any secondary research available that is applicable to your goals. In addition, even if you do not have the budget to conduct primary research, many organizations choose the more affordable route and latch on to other firms’ research through omnibus.
  3. Determine whether the execution was both targeted and strategic: Was your campaign planning targeted and based on your research? Did you have a primary and secondary audience? If securing media placements was one of your tactics, did the outlets that covered you make sense regarding target audience and objectives?
  4. Evaluate whether your results were both measurable and mirrored your objectives: Was the execution appropriate to the audience you were targeting? Did the target of the execution match the target audience of your client’s goals? Also determine whether your campaign results data proved whether goals were achieved. When doing this, make sure each result matches each stated objective.
  5. Be able to state your client’s problem and how you solved it: Judges always want to see if your submission can explain what the problem was for your client—and how your campaign helped solve that problem.
thoth2

Susan Matthews Apgood, News Generation, Inc., kicks off the event

Of course it is always best to keep these things in mind before you research and design a campaign. The panel suggested to always craft a campaign as if you would one day submit it to a competition. An additional piece of advice offered was to serve as a judge for other communication competitions, get additional training through PRSA’s APR accreditation, and to review the entries of winning submissions – all which can help you become familiar with the components of a winning entry.

*Updated from original post:
The early bird deadline is Friday, June 30, 2017, and the final deadline is July 24, 2017. For details on submitting, please visit: http://www.prsa-ncc.org/thoth_awards.

Plan, Know Your Role & Listen: PRSA-NCC’s “Is It Really a Crisis?”

By Kelsey Pospisil, News Generation

From left to right: Susan Apgood, Maureen Donahue Hardwick, Nick Peters and Jim Moorhead

Pictured from left to right: Susan Apgood, Maureen Donahue Hardwick, Nick Peters and Jim Moorhead

“Crisis” may mean one thing to one PR pro, and one thing to another. How do you most accurately get a pulse on a situation to know how to react? How can you ensure ahead of time that your team is ready to handle it? These questions and more were the focus of the April 19 Professional Development panel, “Is It Really a Crisis? How to Define a Crisis and When to React.” Moderated by Susan Apgood of News Generation, panelists Maureen Donahue Hardwick of Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, Jim Moorhead of Burson-Marsteller, and Nick Peters of CommCore Consulting Group shared their tips on evaluating and navigating a crisis.

CommCore’s Nick Peters started the session by offering some key advice: going over lessons learned after a crisis is absolutely essential, determine if a crisis is in fact a crisis, and know ahead of time who you sector is, who your stakeholders are, and who your audience is. Peters stressed that just because you determine a situation is a containable emergency, doesn’t mean there isn’t a potential long-term reputational issue based on perception rather than facts.

Maureen Hardwick of Drinker Biddle & Reath said that as a lawyer herself, it’s important for lawyers to be comfortable with crisis communication in order to truly be partners with clients. There are things to prepare and understand in advance, before something big hits. She suggested engaging and partnering with professionals who know what they’re talking about beforehand. Jim Moorhead of Burson-Marsteller gave three best practices to follow in a crisis situation: Figure out what the real threat is, think outside in, and speed kills. Moorhead says that clients need to know three things: “Am I going to be okay,” “Is the situation under control” and “Are you doing the right thing?”

All three panelists stressed the importance of having a set, prepared team in place ahead of time. Have a team who knows their roles before a crisis hits. Peters said the determination of whether something is a crisis or not may or may not always be clear, and that the composition of the crisis team is critical. He suggests a cross-functional crisis team to include HR, Programs, Legal, the Executive Suite, the Communications team, and IT. Hardwick said, “If everyone has the client’s interest in mind, it’s only in our best interest to work better together.” Moorhead suggested the use of pre-approved statements, at least as a general guide, which would then need to be tailored to the particular circumstance.

Crisis Panel

Pictured from left to right: Susan Apgood, Maureen Donahue Hardwick, Nick Peters and Jim Moorhead

Moderator Susan Apgood asked the panelists what tools they would suggest for the audience to help in their crisis communications plans. Peters suggested a literal wheel that contains every single channel, and who is responsible for each channel. He also suggested a decision tree that states if Joe is not available, then Joanne will do it, and if Joanne is not available then Bill will do it. Finally, he suggested having a dark website that can go up immediately in the event of a crisis.

Moorhead emphasized the benefits of survey research – getting to the right community and understanding what people’s perceptions are. You’ll find out: What are effective messages? How would your opponents respond to those messages? What messages work the best in this situation? Who is the best messenger? Hardwick highlighted the importance of being aware of how people are taking information. Be compassionate, honest and interactive – give people a way to comment and be understood. Or in other words, listen to them. There are no downsides to listening, while there are a lot of downsides to talking too much.

Blurred Lines: The New Landscape of the PR Industry

By Simran Kumar, News Generation

Blurred Lines: The New Landscape of the PR Industry Over the past few years, there has been a noticeable shift in the communications and public relations industries. Many of the silos that once existed between traditional PR and related industries like marketing and advertising have slowly broken down. PR firms, non-profits and associations are now integrating what were once separate practices. This new integration was the focus of the March 15 Professional Development workshop, “Blurred Lines: How Is the Public Relations Industry Reinventing Itself.” Panelists Soren Dayton, Senior Vice President of Digital Advocacy at H+K, Sara Wiskerchen, Managing Director of Media Communications at National Association of Realtors, and Beth Perell, Vice President of Communications and Information Management at Goodwill Industries shared their tips and thoughts on how to navigate the new landscape.

When it comes to what’s driving the change in the industry, Wiskerchen feels it is a result of shifting consumer demand. In Perell’s opinion, consumers want to receive content at a much faster pace. And, in order to keep up with consumer demand, Dayton believes it’s equally important to have compelling, unbiased content. Consumers are looking at social and digital platforms as additional sources of information. As the digital arena continues to develop, Perell stresses that one of the benefits of these tools is that they are trackable and allow communications professionals to show clients how their campaigns are performing.

Blurred Lines: The New Landscape of the PR Industry  (From left to right: Beth Perell, Sara Wiskerchen, Danny Selnick, Soren Dayton)

Blurred Lines: The New Landscape of the PR Industry (From left to right: Beth Perell, Sara Wiskerchen, Danny Selnick, Soren Dayton)

PR strategies have traditionally focused on earning media coverage for clients. Now, some firms and associations are starting to pay for native advertising and editorial placements, blending the lines between PR and marketing content. Wiskerchen points that the average consumer likely can’t tell the difference between paid placements and editorial content. Most importantly, Wiskerchen, Perell and Dayton all stressed that content must have a strong unified brand message. To do this, Perell explains how Goodwill’s communications teams have a weekly meeting to ensure that all external messages are aligning.

As communications teams begin to take on new responsibilities and roles, one of the questions that came up during the discussion was how jobs will be affected. Dayton says the new industry landscape puts more of a privilege on creativity, and stresses the need for strong writing skills and the ability to tell good stories.

While industry integration has brought several changes to communications and marketing strategies, one of the things that remains unchanged is the need to be sure we are understanding our organization or clients, who the target audiences are and what we are trying to achieve and accomplish.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Networking 3.0

by Patty Nicastri, Hager Sharp

Networking 3.0 EventSnapchat, LinkedIn, Email, Twitter—the number of tools you can use to network is constantly growing. So how do you navigate social media to connect with someone in a meaningful way? How do you connect with influencers in the age of Networking 3.0?

That was the topic of discussion at the February 18 professional development workshop “Networking 3.0: Building Communications Relationships, Creating Opportunities, and Balancing Privacy.” Matt Bennett, senior vice president and D.C. practice lead at Racepoint Global; Anthony Shop, chief strategy officer and co-founder of Social Driver; and Paige Lavender, senior political editor at Huffington Post shared tips and tools to help develop strategic and mutually beneficial relationships. As panelists pointed out, it is possible to over-network and cross the line. By understanding some of the “Do’s and Don’ts” of networking, you can ensure that’s not you.

First the “Do’s”

Networking 3.0 event

Left to Right: Mike Fulton, Anthony Shop, Matt Bennett and Paige Lavender

DO develop a relationship. According to Anthony, “Often, we’re so obsessed with telling our client’s story, we forget the people we want to reach are telling their own stories. The question is not, ‘How can I interrupt your story?’ it’s, ‘How can I become a part of it?’” That means you have to bring something to the table when you reach out to reporters or other influencers. Listening and then responding is the key to building a strong relationship—just pushing out content is not. Relationships must be mutually beneficial.

DO understand who you’re talking to. If you pitch a reporter, you should know what they write about. Racepoint Global uses Field Facts, a proprietary technology that helps identify, analyze, and target journalists, bloggers, and other influencers. Using a tool to keep track of influencer information is a way to be strategic about building these relationships. If a reporter wrote one article on a topic several years ago, it does not mean they currently write about that topic. Also, you should know where to reach the person. Sometimes, Twitter is not the most appropriate place to reach out to someone. Instead, an email or phone call may be more appropriate. Do your research first.

DO utilize social networks. There are so many apps and networks to choose from and, according to panelists, no one is really maximizing the potential of these networks. You can use LinkedIn to see who mutual connections are. Anthony uses LinkedIn to identify mutual connections and will then ask those connections to introduce him via email or phone or in person. Tools like Rapportive can be helpful for identifying these connections. If you’re trying to connect on Twitter, Paige suggests adding to the conversation instead of just following and retweeting. Retweets can be lost if there are a lot of them, but if you add commentary, you’re more likely to be noticed by influencers.

Now the “DON’Ts”

DON’T act “creepy.” Paige suggests thinking of someone’s online presence as a hierarchy. Facebook and Instagram are personal, while Twitter, LinkedIn, and email might be more appropriate for reaching out. Additionally, if you come across information about someone’s family online, it’s best not to bring that up. According to Matt, “If you don’t know the person, family is off limits.” Additionally, if you meet someone and instantly follow and connect with them on every platform, it might be off-putting. A good rule of thumb: If you aren’t sure what the etiquette is on a particular social network, ask someone who is.

DON’T cast a wide, impersonal net. According to Paige, personalization is key. Taking time to personalize a pitch makes her more likely to respond or pass it along. This ties in closely with understanding who it is you are talking to.

DON’T reach out on networks you don’t use. If you only use Twitter to pitch reporters, you’ll probably be ignored. It can come off as impersonal and inauthentic. Also, if you only tweet once every few months, there’s probably a better medium for you to use to connect with an influencer.

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