In the Loop
Crossroads of PR, Integrated Marketing and the Midwest.
Moving to a new city can be very challenging both emotionally and physically. When I first moved to Chicago, I only knew a handful of people. Luckily, I had brought with me valuable networking skills that I had learned from my travels abroad.
So how do you go about networking? One way is to get involved in your local community. See what’s going on in the neighborhood; attend hobby-related events that interest you. For example, my interest in technology led me to several networking events ranging from topics such as mobile technology to strategic marketing. Typically, those who attend these events are interested in meeting new people, so it’s a great place to start. Whether you’re pursuing a passion or simply expanding your professional knowledge, you’ll find like-minded individuals at networking events. The key is to network with individuals outside your particular industry, as well as your own, because you never know when a connection could turn into an opportunity.
Getting involved online is another fantastic way to network and has quickly become the meeting place for millions of people. Before you know it, you’ll be sitting down for coffee with people you met at an online networking event. Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn are all wonderful social networking applications. Personally, I use them all. In today’s world, it is quite easy for people that share a common interest to initiate conversations with one another. While you may not meet these individuals in person, they can still serve as a great resource and stepping stone into a larger network. I find myself using Twitter frequently to keep an eye out for networking events that appeal to my interests in public relations. Although it may be daunting at first, maintaining an online presence is worth the extra effort to get ahead in the networking game.
Regardless of your passion, do not be afraid to get out there and meet people. Utilize the right resources and you’ll have plenty of events to attend and people to meet. Don’t forget the social networking applications– they are a great place to discover like-minded individuals and to stay in touch with those contacts you’ve already made. Now you have the knowledge, hit the road and start networking!
Back to In the Loop Home
Balancing the equation: Media math is hard to reconcile if you’re speaking a different language by Jason Steinberg
Every digital strategist with dreams of running big high-awareness-front-page-of-Yahoo!-with-full-social-integration promotions is gunning for “TV money.” By TV money, I mean the kind of money that 30-second TV spots traditionally cost to both create and run — hundreds of thousands of US dollars for the creative, and several million for the prime time spots it will fill.
The fact is, TV isn’t what it used to be—which means the dream of snagging TV’s abundance of wealth is more alive than ever. TV dollars are finally transforming into digital dollars, but there’s still a ways to go.
One of the barriers digital had to overcome to unlock TV dollars was making sure that CMOs were comfortable speaking the language of TV: rating points and reach. When trying to build awareness for a brand or a product, and getting a piece of the marketing budget, these metrics were (and still are) the keys to the castle.
Digital strategists traditionally talked about impressions, clicks and engagement. This made it very hard to evaluate the marketing mix across channels. Do TV households equate to impressions? For that matter, what is an “impression?” A “cookie?” A “visitor?” What is the value of a click compared to an eyeball? CMOs had to educate themselves on these questions before shifting the dollars around.
Fortunately, these questions have largely been settled. Over the past several years, digital marketers raised (or lowered, depending on your perspective) the level of its discourse and began speaking in the same language as traditional channels. Thus, the language barrier was removed. The net result? Banner ads for every awareness campaign.
Today, when it comes to digital marketing, it’s all about social media. And as a result of public relations firms taking the lead in the social media space, a fresh marketing discipline is now sitting at the table during the creation process of awareness campaigns.
PR is no longer relegated to only issuing press releases and launching events – social media has thrust us into the spotlight. But PR metrics differ from other marketing channels such as TV, print and traditional online campaigns.
As a result, digital public relations practitioners are going through a similar transformation that digital did several years ago as it tries to reconcile its metrics with the other big marketing channels – TV, print, online, and radio (out-of-home has its own measurement issues to contend with). At the heart of the issue are the definitions of “reach” and “impressions.”
In traditional media math, an ad impression is a single instance of an advertisement being displayed. In order to compare ads across mediums, impressions are measured by their CPM, or cost per thousand. (The ‘m’ comes from mille, Latin for thousand.) “Reach” is the total number of unique people (or households in the case of TV) exposed to an advertisement during a set period of time.
In public relations, we do things a little differently. ”Impressions” represent an opportunity to see an inclusion or mention of a brand or product – this is what other channels would call as “reach,” or “circulation.” This does not account for the percentage of the audience that actually viewed content. Compounding the issue, many PR practitioners use a multiplier on impression numbers to account for pass-along readership or to quantify the credibility PR has over advertising.
This practice can lead CMOs to discount or dismiss PRs effectiveness, as they simply can’t compare PR CPMs apples-to-apples against other mediums when it comes time to allocate dollars.
To command larger marketing dollars, PR as an industry will need to reconcile its media accounting practices with the larger marketing community. This will be challenging and will require education. But it will help unlock more of those “TV dollars” and will ultimately be worth the effort.
Got some war stories about translating media metrics from one discipline to another? Let us know in the comments section.
These days, it seems like everyone and their mother has a Facebook page. (Side note: My mother literally has a Facebook page through which she enjoys sending me virtual soup when I’m sick. But I digress.) Thousands of brands have created their own hub on the social networking site, hoping to increase visibility and strengthen their social media reputation. But what many forget is that just creating the page itself isn’t enough. Maintaining a vibrant and interactive environment on your brand’s Facebook page is a full-time job that requires thought and ingenuity. Below are three ways to get you started.
1) Encourage discussion. You should make sure that there’s an open-ended component to the content you are posting. For instance, if you’re posting an interesting video, ask your fans to respond to it, or even post their own video responses. And be ready for real feedback—both good and bad. When your fans feel like they’re being heard, they’re more likely to speak up. Moreover, they may have suggestions or ideas on how to further improve your page or even your brand and products—and if you listen to them by making real changes, they’ll keep coming back for more.
2) Only post things that you’d want to see/read/hear. Though your initial instinct may be to post as much content as possible to your Facebook page, ask yourself—“Is this something that I would want to look at? Would it make me stop and pay attention?” If your content isn’t intriguing, it’s just wasting space—and alienating your audience, who’ll become more and more skeptical of your motives. Make sure your content is newsworthy, engaging, stimulating or just plain entertaining. If it isn’t, toss it.
3) Keep your content current. If your brand is coming out with a new product or announcement, don’t wait three days to post the information. Keep your audience abreast of any new developments (good or bad) as they happen. Similarly, if your company is being mentioned in the news, or your industry is getting national attention, make your page the destination for your audience to discuss the topic by starting a conversation in real-time. Your Facebook page can act as another channel through which you promote your own products and media coverage, but it should also act as an informative and dynamic setting where your audience can interact with each other and your brand.
Essentially, it’s important not to think of your Facebook page as a stand-alone entity. Integrate it with your other social media channels and with your brand’s messaging and platforms. Most importantly, pay attention to your fans by listening to them and rewarding them when they interact with you. They’ll become loyal brand activists as a result.
Back to In The Loop home
Although some people haven’t quite been able to wrap their heads around the social media lingo just yet, the fact is that social media is here to stay. Not only has social media fundamentally changed the way we as individuals communicate, it has without a doubt altered the way brands must communicate with their consumers, and in turn, monitor consumers’ reactions to their brands.
With user-generated content at our fingertips, consumers have more power than ever to influence a brand and leave a lasting impact on the reputation of a brand. Gone are the days when you had to be in one place to listen to, watch or read about breaking news or search for a product to purchase. Now, the news, and the product reviews and the conversations find us… No matter where we are and regardless of whether we were actually searching.
Case in point, news just “found” me via the Mashable application on my iPhone, which told me that Facebook traffic levels have hit another record high with more than 141 million unique visitors last month. That’s up 11 million from the previous month! This means that brands not only need to break into the realm of social media with things like ads and Facebook fan pages of their own, but they also must be alert as to what consumers are saying about their brand on these social media sites. In the amount of time it takes to read one newspaper article or watch the nightly news, abundant amounts of information are passed along via social media to millions of consumers. It’s as simple as this – one person posts something to his Facebook page; another person notices it and tweets it; then someone else re-tweets that to her followers who then have the opportunity to re-tweet it again, and again, and again… get it? Okay maybe not, but the point is that within minutes, I mean seconds, one comment from one person spreads virally to thousands of people all over the country and potentially across the globe.
Erick Qualman, author of Socialnomics said it perfectly, “We don’t have a choice on whether we DO social media; the question is how well we do it.”
This couldn’t be truer. As a summer intern at MS&L Chicago, I’ve seen the importance of social media from an entirely different perspective – the consumer brand’s perspective. Before this summer, I only had the perspective of a consumer sharing my pleasant (and sometimes not so pleasant) experience with brands via my social media profiles.
Now, I see the true impact one person’s comments can make on a brand, and I understand how important it is that brands effectively listen and appropriately interact in social media.
So, what does all of this mean? It means that ready or not, brands have no choice but to get social media savvy, and pay attention to how their brands are being talked about in the world of social media.
Back to In The Loop Home
Going Green. Shallow buzzword or thoughtful platform of public stewardship?
Being more environmentally conscious is something we must all do on a personal level and something that most organizations have found to be both intrinsically rewarding and beneficial from a public perception standpoint.
But these days, nearly every company has a green message plan. It seems that today the best way to get ink in the papers is to plant a tree (oversimplified, perhaps). But when everyone is saying the same thing, does the sentiment lose legitimacy?
How can we as PR professionals help clients cut through the clutter?
The answer, in case you haven’t guessed, is that we must be authentic – have facts to back up our claims. Simply telling the public that a client is green can seem disingenuous or made-for-marketing. Outlining that a client has, for example, reduced its carbon footprint by 30 percent in the past three years and is dedicated to using only recycled materials for its 2011 packaging, makes an impressive and believable statement.
Just because we put a tree logo at the bottom of our e-mail signatures doesn’t mean we have built a global platform of environmentalism for future generations. Not to say that this e-message isn’t a valuable tactic, but we must be honest about the proportions of our environmentalism. In other words, if we are going to build a campaign on being green, we’d better make sure we really are. As PR professionals we must use statistics and researched content to legitimize our message instead of relying on eco-buzzwords. Show tactile and measurable results and the media impressions are sure to follow.
So actually being green is a first step, but as PR advisors, we must encourage our clients to think about being green in a strategic way. We must consider what matters most to our clients’ audiences (not just our clients) and understand what green initiatives will resonate and move the needle. Not all green campaigns are created equal. Although thoughtful eco-consciousness is expected from every company, over-the-top green-crazed campaigns may not help get our clients’ message across to the right audience.
If tactically aligning our clients as environmental thought leaders is a good idea then having clients that actually are environmental thought leaders (and thanks to us, know exactly how to tout their noble deeds) is a great idea. It isn’t just good message strategy – it’s a good message.
Back to In The Loop Home
Layoffs and downsizing are a general sign of the times—there aren’t many industries (if any) that haven’t felt the effects of the recession. One industry that has had its share of challenges is print media. During the last two years, we’ve seen major outlets from the Seattle Post Intelligencer to Christian Science Monitor cut off its print versions due to lower paid advertising and decreased readership. The Midwest hasn’t been immune—last year, the Detroit Free Press/Detroit News changed its distribution model to only three days a week.
The print industry is hurting, causing many outlets to reassess its content, its readers, and in some cases, its leaders. Last week, the Chicago Reader, a pioneering alternative weekly, fired Alison True, editor and staffer since 1984, in an attempt to take the paper in a new direction. Needless to say, staffers and readers alike were stunned at the sudden departure of a talented editor and mentor.
The paper has been an influential model for alternative weeklies across the country. I’ve enjoyed the Reader since high school and I can say that while the paper has gotten thinner, the high quality literary content remained.
Letting go of talented people at print publications is becoming a common trend, but to do so just to change the direction of a print outlet seems counterintuitive to providing the best content to readers. By looking at thriving online channels or mobile applications, many publications have been able to successfully transition to an audience of Web-savvy, information hungry readers. This means more than just having a Web site—it means truly engaging readers online through surveys, citizen journalists, reader tweets, viral videos, and more.
Some may argue that the participatory model isn’t true journalism, and others may say that this is a necessary direction for print media to survive. In my opinion, it seems that embracing online communities and readers are a better alternative than letting go of great editorial content and leaders.
How much does a full-page ad go for in a publication like the New York Times? So much that corporations often institute confidentiality agreements with the paper to ensure the cost will not be shared with the public.
Two full-page ads in the New York Times, countless of prime-time TV spots and other expensive marketing tactics are being implemented by BP in an effort to improve public perception and run damage control over the Gulf Coast spill. That’s millions of dollars towards their self-preservation efforts, while the world watches and wonders why that money isn’t going towards gulf-coast preservation.
Proactive communication via expensive forms of purchased media are actually hurting BP. The millions of dollars spent on ads could be going to the clean-up and to fully compensate those who have submitted claims. I’d argue that BP would be in a better place right now had they decided to stick with press conferences and effective social media engagement.
In the case studies that will be written about this PR disaster in a few years, I bet BP is dinged for one overarching communication flaw, and that’s their inability to completely disregard their self-preservation efforts in order to “make it right” like the tagline says.
I am always on the prowl to get my feet wet (perhaps the correct term is dive in) when it comes to meeting other PR professionals. I believe every opportunity is a potential learning experience, when I was invited to attend a local PRSA Chicago meeting last week, I couldn’t resist.
The conference began with three distinguished guest speakers, all selected because of their strong PR background and expertise. The big topic everyone kept coming back to? You guessed it- British Petroleum. Lately, it’s been difficult to avoid coverage of the company since nearly every media outlet has run some sort of story on them. I’m sure you’ve seen how many of the major television news outlets run video of the oil gushing out two miles below the ocean! Interestingly enough, the public relations professionals at the event were all asking themselves the same question: What was BP thinking?
Our job as public relations professionals is to be both the strategist and the builder– we‘re supposed to make sure our messages are clearly communicated to our clients’ target audiences, while helping to manage their reputation through crises. In addition we protect them from controversy and negative media coverage, and ensure that they are entirely transparent with both the public and the media. British Petroleum unfortunately failed to disclose enough information and broke one of the most important rules in public relations: don’t lose the media’s trust. Unfortunately for BP, this error will likely keep the company on the defensive for the foreseeable future.
Several guest panelists at the PRSA event noted that they couldn’t understand the decisions made by the PR team at BP, especially when they allowed their CEO to go on a “yacht racing” trip. However, one panelist made an excellent point: it’s easy to criticize another company when you’re not involved in the situation. The key is to realize that being on the outside means that we don’t always know all of the variables.
Ultimately, we have to find that fine line between meeting the media’s needs, while simultaneously promoting our client’s messages. As I left the luncheon with a stomach full of ravioli and tiramisu, I came away with a deep respect for the work done by public relations professionals, and a new understanding of crisis communications.
Every Brand’s Golden Ticket by Emily Bendix
The UK has Prince William and on this side of the Atlantic, we elevate pop princesses and action heroes to royal status. We live in a celebrity-obsessed society and though we may not like to admit it, we are curious to know what Lindsay Lohan will tweet about next, and more importantly whether it will make any sense.
The fact that the media landscape has changed by leaps and bounds over the past five to ten years is not earth shattering news, but as PR professionals, we are tasked with finding new and relevant ways to trump our competitors and land our products and brands in the pages of top publications from Good Housekeeping to the New York Times and let’s not forget US Weekly and Star Magazine. Celebrity integration in the form of brand ambassadors still proves to be one of the best ways to stand out in the crowd. When implemented strategically, celebrities have the power to improve awareness, define brand personalities and generate consumer and media interest, which ultimately translates into increasing sales.
The question becomes, with the overwhelming amount of pop princesses, reality stars and teen heart throbs, how do you best select a celebrity to align with your brand? One of the most important qualities to look for is someone that is not overly exposed. For example, now that Brooke Shields has promoted just about everything from Colgate Toothpaste and Coppertone Sunscreen to Latisse, she has lost the credibility needed to provide mediable brand endorsements.
Here are a couple of tips to keep in mind when considering a celebrity partnership:
- Depending on the product or angle you are promoting, try and find a celebrity who is an expert in the area, has publically promoted a similar cause or written a book on the topic.
-Choose a celebrity who has a personality, reputation and the characteristics that are aligned with your brand.
- It’s not just the name that is important. A celebrity spokesperson must be knowledgeable, resourceful and can creatively weave in messages and talking points.
- The ideal relationship is collaboration. A celebrity spokesperson should be able to offer insight and expertise that can work into messaging.
- Know your brand and realize that using a celebrity spokesperson is not always necessary.
Back to In The Loop home
Did you know that more than 60% of people find their jobs through networking? For many people, just hearing the word “networking” triggers a feeling of complete dread. This is probably because you immediately think you have to pick up the phone, call everyone you know and beg for a job. But in reality, networking is much less painful. It’s merely establishing professional relationships with others for the purpose of learning and sharing information, ideas and advice. Put that way, it doesn’t sound nearly so bad.
However, you will want to keep in mind that networking is a process and results, in the form of a new job, aren’t always immediate. So commitment to the process and patience are key. Most employers prefer to hire someone they know or that their employees know and recommend. So while it would be ideal to get in and meet the human resources director right off the bat, meeting and forming relationships with the company’s employees is the next best step. You can bet that when I receive a referral from a hard-working and intelligent employee, his/her referral moves to the top of the pile (assuming he/she has the right qualifications) for the next appropriate opportunity that is available.
Networking also plays to your advantage with the “hidden job market.” These are the jobs that for one reason or another are never advertised or posted by a company. Some statistics say that as much as 75% to 95% of total job vacancies are “hidden” jobs. By networking and keeping your interest and experience top of mind with employers, you have a greater shot of being considered for these opportunities.
So all that being said, how do you go about networking? Obviously there are a ton of approaches. Below are ones that I’ve found to be highly effective in the communications and agency world.
• Linkedin.com—Advertising, marketing and public relations professionals were early adopters of linkedin.com. If you are going to begin your networking and job searching, I highly recommend that you spend some time crafting your profile. The more information about your experience, skills, clients, etc., the better. As you connect with people, you can use the advanced search function to find out if any of your 1st connections have contacts that work in the industry or company that you are targeting. Once you find the persons that you want to connect with, I recommend that you get introduced to that person through your original or 1st connection. This is the linkedin.com way of not “spamming” someone and much appreciated to those on the receiving end.
• PRSA—The Public Relations Society of America, whether your local chapter or national chapter, hosts events, training seminars and the like. If you are not one to walk into those types of events solo and start introducing yourself, think about joining one of the PRSA committees where you can meet people in a more one-on-one way.
• University Alumni Network—Talk to your university and find out if they have an alumni directory that provides job titles, industry and contact information for graduates. Many times the school connection can bring about informational interviews with potential employers and word-of-mouth referrals to the alumni’s network of contacts.
• Volunteer organizations—Volunteering is a great way to meet people personally and professionally. It provides a shared interest and connection for the participants, making the relationship building process a bit more organic (i.e. not forced). And volunteer groups also widen your circle of contacts, introducing you to people that you wouldn’t normally meet. People with different backgrounds, careers and educations.
• Informational interview requests—Informational interviews are a great way to learn more about a company and its culture, and evaluate if you would want to work there. I like informational interviews because there isn’t as much pressure for either party. These interviews allow you the time to ask the in-depth questions not answered by the company website, and they allow you to demonstrate your interest and skills without having to make the hard sell. Plus, if you make a good impression, the interviewer may be willing to forward your resume to colleagues in the industry that may have job leads or suggestions.
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- November 2012
- October 2012
- August 2012
- July 2012
- June 2012
- May 2012
- April 2012
- March 2012
- February 2012
- January 2012
- December 2011
- November 2011
- October 2011
- September 2011
- August 2011
- July 2011
- June 2011
- May 2011
- April 2011
- March 2011
- February 2011
- December 2010
- November 2010
- October 2010
- September 2010
- August 2010
- July 2010
- June 2010
- May 2010
- April 2010
- AREAS OF EXPERTISE
- BLOG SERIES
- GLOBAL PRACTICES
- SPECIALITY PRACTICES
- Automotive Marketing
- BE SPOKE. (Beauty and Luxury)
- ECO Network (Green and Sustainability Marketing)
- Entertainment Marketing
- Food and Beverage
- Home Building and Design
- Insights Creation and Measurement
- Issues and Crisis Management
- MSL Compass (Media Relations)
- Personal Care
- Reputation On Course (Higher Education)