May 2019 President’s Updates

Chapter president Stacy Hope recently offered updates on what’s happening at PRSA-NCC. The news includes the Thoth Awards and Hall of Fame induction.

I’m pleased to announce that we’re now accepting entries for the 2019 Thoth Awards! Named for the Egyptian god of communication, the Thoth Awards—now in their 51st year—celebrate the exceptional creativity and ability of public relations professionals in the Washington, D.C. area. Early bird entries are due Friday, June 7; all entries must be submitted by Monday, July 1. Winners will be announced at our awards ceremony on Friday, September 27.

Read the entire President’s Message at the chapter website.

Partner With a Membership Organization to Help Market Your Business

By Kate Perrin, CEO PRofessional Solutions, LLC

This is PRofessional Solutions’ 25th anniversary and while I credit its longevity to providing excellent PR temp services, equally important has been leveraging the reach of our marketing time and dollars through organizations like PRSA-NCC who spread our message to our target audience.

Fish Where You Know the Fish Swim

Small business owners must find ways to get noticed and demonstrate competence.  Membership organizations provide many ways to do that.  Our target audience is communicators and those who employ them, so where better to focus than on PR professional societies?

Each business needs to identify the best ways to highlight itself, but we’ve identified three roles you can play that membership organizations appreciate and will put your firm in the spotlight:

Be a Supporter – Become a sponsor either of the organization or of one of its events.  Donate to auctions that support its programs or causes.  Contribute to its large events.  This gets your firm’s name visible to leadership, members and participants.  And be sure to attend yourself.

Moderating a PRSA-NCC 2012 panel on using a career coach

Moderating a PRSA-NCC 2012 panel on using a career coach

Participate! – Make yourself or key members of your organization available to write for the membership organization’s newsletter, website or blog.  Participate in its mentorship programs.

Meeting with students at PRSA-NCC PR Day 2018

Meeting with students at PRSA-NCC PR Day 2018

Demonstrate Knowledge and Expertise – This can mean serving as speaker, panelist or moderator for the organization’s programs, but also consider opportunities that highlight the accomplishments of others.  Nominate worthy members for the organization’s highest professional recognition.  Or, work with the organization to create events or scholarships which may be linked to your business’ support that will build future industry talent or highlight outstanding industry achievers.

These roles have real value to the organization of which you’re a sponsor and its member at the same time they are valuable marketing approaches for your firm.

2018 annual WWPR dinner for past Presidents and winners of the PR Woman of the Year award

2018 annual WWPR dinner for past Presidents and winners of the PR Woman of the Year award

How To Shift Negative Traits into Positive Leadership Attributes

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Guest post by Heathere Evans

My grandmother lived to 101. On her 100th birthday, I asked her to tell me how she managed to live such a successful life. “Everything in moderation,” she said with a little sparkle in her eye. Who knew that Nana’s simple wisdom would prove to be one of the most effective strategies for personal growth and professional success?

In the work I do as a leadership coach, I see over and over how hard we are on ourselves. We all have things we would like to improve. Perhaps you have a list of what you’d like to stop doing, start doing or change. But even self-improvement needs moderation or we can start thinking we’re not good enough, we’re broken. Before we know it, we’re not feeling good about where we are—ever. It’s classic destination addiction, a term coined by my mentor and friend Dr. Robert Holden that describes a preoccupation with the idea that happiness is in the next place, the next job and with the next partner. This kind of approach to “self-improvement” is the No. 1 cause of self-induced stress.

But what if there’s actually nothing about you that needs to be fixed?

How to Evolve Our Limiting Traits

Fundamentally, there’s nothing wrong or broken about any of us. Inside what we consider to be “negative” traits and behaviors we’d like to improve are simply aspects of ourselves that need to be recognized, brought to the surface and strengthened. Most often, our success depends on the ability to make that shift to the strongest parts of who we are quickly and adeptly.

Think of aspects of your (or anyone’s) personality as existing on a spectrum. Limiting traits are on the lower/weaker end and more productive traits are on the higher/stronger end. To reach our full potential, we need to learn to evolve low-end traits to the highest end of the spectrum, so they actually become personal strengths.

This level of growth often takes some coaching, but every aspect of your personality has a gift to give you. The key is to stop looking outside and start strengthening what’s within. Below are four examples of how personality traits perceived as negative are nothing less than strengths in disguise.

PERSONALITY TRAIT SPECTRUM

WEAKEST POSITION –> STRONGEST POSITION

Self-Doubt   –> Skilled Inquiry

If you’re running self-doubt as information or evidence, then it becomes a block. But one of the most important skills of successful leaders is asking the tough questions! Give the Inner Doubter a new job—helping you build powerful skills in inquiry.

Complaining –> Requesting

Recently I worked with a team in the midst of an organizational change that had not gone well. As a result, lots of people were frustrated and complaining. What do leaders do when we notice we’re caught in complaining? Create a powerful request. The aspect of the personality that notices when things could be improved is an important part of who we are. We want to embrace it and give it a job that supports our success by making requests that improve things in our offices and our lives.

Inner Critic –> Inner Coach

The consistency of the Inner Critic is unmatched in its ability to support our success when it is shifted into the Inner Coach. The inner conversation that was negative switches over into one that is encouraging, supportive and helpful.

Relentless self-improvement can mask feelings of not being good enough and keep us from realizing the gifts of who we are. As we grow as leaders in our lives and our workplaces, let’s embrace and evolve our personalities. Here is a coaching exercise to get you started:

Coaching Exercise:  In what parts of your personality do you think “this needs to change about me” or “this needs to be fixed”? See if you can name one talent or skill you have related to it.

About the Author: Heathere Evans, APR is a leadership consultant known for her emotional intelligence workshops and coaching programs that help transform cultures, individuals and brands. She can be reached at pivotincorporated.com, on LinkedIn and IG @coaching.evolved.

How Online Reviews Improve Your Public Relations

By Grayson Kemper, Senior Content Writer for Clutch

People value and increasingly reference online reviews for your company during their vetting process for services providers.

Reviews are the online form of word-of-mouth marketing. Evidence shows that 84 percent of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.

According to a recent survey, almost all consumers (97 percent) take customer reviews into account as they are making purchases. In addition, customers spend over 31 percent more on a business that has predominantly positive reviews on their site.

These statistics demonstrate that online reviews can both influence whether a customer decides to partner with or purchase from your company and how much they are willing to pay to do so.

Given these stakes, your business needs to use online reviews to engage people online and improve your public relations. If you can do so, you open the opportunity to make a positive impression of your business, better promote your products, and generate more sales.

How Online Reviews Can Benefit Your Business

Reviews can improve your relationship with customers. Customers trust and often engage with online reviews. Reviews also can result in increased customer conversions. Customers who read positive reviews about a business have a 133 percent higher conversion rate.

As clients browse the reviews posted on your site, they will gain more confidence in your products and business as a whole.

Negative reviews can actually work in your favor as well. As long as you handle negative reviews properly, you can prove that your business values excellent customer service.

Online Reviews and Directory Sites Help SEO and Web Traffic

There also are SEO benefits to online reviews.

All major search engines offer reviews, such as Google Reviews, particularly for local listings. Allowing your site to be listed and reviewed increases the chances that people encounter and click through to it, which increases your website traffic.

In addition to search engine reviews, you can list your company on directory sites such as Angie’s List or The Manifest. These sites generally rank well in search engine results for a broad array of terms, which presents the opportunity to earn secondary traffic. They also provide an opportunity to demonstrate the results you can produce for your clients, a crucial factor of consideration for every potential client.

How to Turn Online Reviews Into PR Tools

Your business should encourage your customers to leave reviews on your site.

Client reviews largely contribute to your company’s reputation. Positive reviews can increase your company’s credibility. Even if you have negative reviews, you can improve your image if you can demonstrate a sincere willingness to fix an issue or improve on past mistakes.

Online reviews are a powerful marketing tool, as they play a significant role in influencing customer purchase decisions. If handled correctly, reviews can be used as a PR tool to improve the reputation of your business.

Grayson Kemper is a senior content writer for Clutch, a B2B research and reviews firm in Washington, D.C. He focuses on marketing and emerging technologies research.

How Businesses Can Balance Strategy and Authenticity When Speaking on Social Movements

Post by Toby Cox, Clutch

Businesses and the public relations industry have a tenuous relationship with authenticity, especially when it comes to corporate social responsibility and speaking up about social movements.

The question of authenticity sometimes arises when a company announces its support for a social issue or cause.

Although most people (71%) think that companies should take a stance on social movements, they unsure whether businesses are genuine and whether it even matters as long as it raises awareness for an important issue or cause.

Most people think businesses support social movements for self-serving reasons, like to earn more money (29%), attract specific customers (20%), and earn media coverage (19%).

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Twenty-eight percent of people (28%) think businesses support social movements because they care about the issues the movement addresses.

Of course, these reasons aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. It is possible for a business to both care about an issue and recognize that speaking up about it will earn them more money, customers, and media coverage.

PR experts actually recommend businesses approach speaking up on social movements in ways that make sense for their brand.

“There’s nothing wrong with social responsibility being a strategic decision, but it should also be one that you strongly believe in and are willing to stand up for,” said Josh Weiss, CEO of 10 to 1 Public Relations.

Businesses that balance strategy and authenticity when they choose to speak up on social movements and issues do what’s best for their brand, employees, customers, and the movement itself.

Identify Which Issues Align with Your Brand Purpose

Businesses that have a strong understanding of their brand purpose will have an easier time identifying which issues are relevant to their brand and which they can stay silent on.

“Your corporate purpose is your North Star in determining whether to respond to certain movements,” said Steve Cody, CEO of Peppercomm digital communications firm.

Patagonia, for example, have always aligned its brand purpose around the environment and environmental issues.

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In 2018, Patagonia announced that it will donate the money saved from the tax break to environmental organizations. Its customers supported this bold, political statement because they have come to expect Patagonia to stance unwavering on issues regarding the environment.

“I’m not in the business to make clothes,” said Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, in an interview. “I’m not in the business to make more money for myself… Patagonia exists to put into action the recommendations I read about in books to avoid environmental collapse. That’s the reason I’m in business — to try to clean up our own act, and try to influence other companies to do the right thing, and try to influence our customers to do the right thing.”

Patagonia identifies issues surrounding the environment and conservation as a central component of its brand purpose and has never wavered from that stance.

Consider Your Stakeholders

Businesses typically have a lot of stakeholders to consider, such as funders, employees, and customers.

Every business’s first goal is to make enough money and grow. Taking a stance on a social movement can either help businesses elevate their brand and increase revenue or negatively impact their brand.

This is why it is important for businesses to consider not only their brand purpose, but how their stakeholders will react to them speaking out on a social movement.

Nike, for example, considered its brand purpose before launching its 2018 “Dream Crazy” ad that featured former NFL Quarterback Colin Kaepernick as its narrator.

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The ad featured 16 athletes that have overcome challenges and that challenge people’s stereotypes of what an elite athlete looks like.

When the ad was first launched, it received harsh criticisms and people showed their dissent by burning Nike shoes.

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However, shortly after the ad’s release, Nike’s sales went up, reflecting that most of their customers supported the message of the ad.

Nike’s decision to feature Kaepernick as the ad’s narrator was a strategic one.

“They made their decision with intent,” said Jen Fry, a social justice educator. “It was very data-driven, knowing who their clientele is and what they’ll accept.”

Think About How Your Stance Can Both Elevate Your Brand and Contribute to the Movement

Authenticity and strategy complement each other when it comes to businesses deciding whether to take a stance on a social issue.

By identifying the issues that are a natural fit for their brand and by considering their stakeholders, businesses can do what’s best for both their brand and the movement they address.

About the Author

Toby Cox is a content writer and marketer at Clutch, a B2B research and reviews firm, where she covers public relations firms and industry news.

Communications Lessons From the Government Shutdown

By Lawrence J. Parnell, Associate Professor, Strategic PR, The George Washington University

With the government shutdown now exceeding 30 days, it’s worth asking: – Are there any lessons we, as communications professionals, can learn from this ordeal?

Given the current state – no end in sight and no talks scheduled  – the simple answer is NO. Neither side has distinguished itself in either its communications strategy or public behavior.

However, maybe there are lessons we can learn? At the very least: How not to communicate during a labor dispute or a government shutdown.

A few examples:

  • Don’t let emotions – or scorekeeping – drive communications strategy or tactics
  • Don’t negotiate in the public media (or on line either)
  • Exercise restraint in your comments (limit the posturing and “gotcha” quotes)
  • Limit the use of surrogates and control their messages
  • Remember the stakeholders (e.g. employees, citizens) are more important than you
  • Ultimately no one “wins” or “loses.” Let that go. A settlement is, by definition, a compromise.

While I do not have “the solution” to end this drama – maybe we could get back to actually negotiating? That would be a good start.

The silver lining – if there is one – is learning how essential government services are in our everyday lives and gaining an appreciation for the workers who provide them to all of us.

No one wins when everyone is focused on “winning” the battle – and ok with losing the war.

Don’t forget the old adage: “Never get in a pissing contest with a skunk – you’ll both end up a smelly mess.”

Here’s hoping for a reasonable settlement – for all of our sakes – soon.

Crisis Management in the Age of Social Media

By Aaron Ellis, Professional Development Committee member

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If you attended the National Capital Chapter’s “Crisis Management in the Age of Social Media” professional development event Dec. 6 at Hager Sharp in downtown Washington, you probably walked away feeling you invested your time wisely.

For most, it was their first interaction with crisis management expert and instructor Brian Ellis. A former broadcast journalist who is now executive vice president for Minneapolis-headquartered Padilla public relations and who also teaches crisis management at Virginia Commonwealth University, Ellis’ riveting, rapid-fire lessons about responding to various crises reminded participants that advance preparation is the key to success.  

In today’s age of 24/7 news cycles, where media must constantly produce content and anybody with a smart phone (“citizen journalists”) can record an event and post it online within minutes, the timeline as to who controls the narrative of a story has collapsed to mere minutes. That means professional communicators and the organizations they represent must anticipate questions in advance to tell their side any story, or risk losing the advantage.

With the steep decline in professional journalists over the past two decades, public relations practitioners now outnumber reporters five-to-one. That leaves citizen journalists to fill in the gap.  Ellis said a typical citizen journalist’s response to getting a news event onto social media is two to three minutes after it begins. He said the first hour of a news event is the only window available for public relations professionals to shape the story. After that, it’s mostly damage control and trying to correct errors and misperceptions.

According to Ellis, there are three steps for effectively communicating during a crisis:

  1. Identify what audiences want and need to know by writing out in advance the questions they are most likely to ask.
  2. Based on the anticipated questions, develop three key messages and short, memorable quotes to go with them.
  3. Practice your messages and quote(s) out loud, honing your transitions until they’re seamless.

Ellis said the key messages should focus on: a) showing compassion for those impacted; b) providing information about your organization’s crisis response plan, and c) explaining your organization’s crisis investigation and how to ensure something similar doesn’t happen again.

In Padilla’s online Crisis IQ test, a recent sampling showed that only 21 percent of participants felt “well prepared” to communicate effectively in a crisis, while 63 percent said they didn’t have a solid plan. Seventy-one percent felt they didn’t practice their crisis plan often enough and 86 percent said they weren’t prepared to manage the social media onslaught of a crisis that affected their organization and its brand.

In today’s 24-hour news cycle, Ellis noted that the “media beast” must constantly be fed. To that end, he highly recommends creating a dark website that can be quickly engaged in a crisis, then reviewing and updating its content regularly. He also reminded workshop participants that an organization’s internal audiences can be either their greatest allies or worst enemies in a crisis, depending on how they are treated and kept informed.

“In a crisis, the best strategy is to always play offense and be out there telling a positive story,” he said. “By pointing your audience to what they perceive to be inside information, they’ll pay more attention to your side of the story.”