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    1. How I Learned to Embrace Data

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      “Not only does the vacuum give me a coverage report of where it cleaned, but also the time it took to clean!” I shouted in excitement. “That means I can get data around how dirty my apartment is and areas with the most foot traffic!”

      “I’m not surprised this excites you so much,” said my colleague Rachel. “You love data!”

      She was right. When did this happen? I’ve always been a clean freak, so of course I’d love Neato Robotics’ vacuums. But my enthusiasm for data caught me by surprise because I wasn’t always like this…

      These days, I find myself continually quantifying my life: How big was the sample size for the study touted on that whitening toothpaste commercial? What other data points could have been gathered to give more insightful findings? How much weight did I push last week at the gym? Is there a correlation between sleep and strength?

      After digging a little deeper, I realized there were a few moments in my career that led to this new state of data-mindedness.

      My first job in social media sparked a passion for data.

      At the time, I worked at a boutique social media agency where my job was to monitor online engagement for our clients. One of my projects was measuring sentiment around new film releases including compiling weekly sentiment reports.

      The first few reports were absolute garbage; I made qualitative assessments of the tweets I’d monitored simply by reading them and reported on the total number of tweets, followers, and likes of high- and low-performing social content. When I decided to report on the week-over-week change of Twitter followers and Facebook likes, I saw my manager perk up.

      From there on out, I shifted to reporting week-over-week change, percentages of negative/neutral/positive social posts based on a sample pool, and possible correlations based on outbound messaging. This went over extremely well, because I was finally speaking management’s language.

      Asking for more resources? Executives want to see the numbers.

      The second moment that ignited my passion for data was during my time at social media analytics platform Klout. Given that it was a startup, justifying use of resources was paramount. After proposing a project to my C-suite leader, I was given a valuable piece of advice that has stayed with me to this day: If you’re going to ask for resources (whether monetary or human capital), bring data to show why what you’re proposing is worth the investment.

      Before proposing the project a second time around, I tried to quantify everything. I figured out how much time and energy the project would cost our team and compared it to potential ROI of client retention, client satisfaction, and brand recognition. In the end, I was able to pull together a proposal convincing enough that I was allotted the resources I’d requested.

      The last stop along my data-minded journey occurred while I was job hunting.

      My resume used to be a list of achievements and responsibilities. A month into my job search, I wasn’t seeing a satisfying response rate from hiring managers and recruiters, so I started looking at top-performing LinkedIn profiles for people in similar roles. What did they have in common? Data.

      Instead of listing responsibilities, these profiles read more like baseball cards rich with statistics! They included revenue generated quarter to quarter, team growth year over year, and customer retention percentages. These metrics prove value and success instead of listing off responsibilities. I completely revamped my resume and profile and saw better results immediately. Again, quantifying my efforts with data completely changed the game for me.

      So how can you become more data-minded?

      As a PR Engineer, I’m always thinking about how I can help AirPR customers look amazing in the eyes of their bosses. Here are three tips to help you become more data-minded too:

      1. Prove the value of PR and communications efforts by backing your work with data that ladders back to your organization’s business objectives. This will help you demonstrate ROI. And be sure to avoid common PR math mistakes, like reporting follower numbers instead of month-to-month or year-over-year growth.

      2. Communicate campaign results to C-suite executives in easily digestible bits so they can quickly scan and comprehend the information. Rebekah Iliff, our Chief Strategy Officer, calls this the 70% Noise Reduction Rule: Write your email or asset, then cut 70% of the noise. This will make the data you do include shine.

      3. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of data that’s available to us now that the PR industry has caught up with the Big Data movement. Instead of freezing up in fear of the amount of information you have to sift through, keep it simple: begin by identifying the point you want to make or the question you want to answer and let the data prove or disprove it.

      Read “How to Speak Geek” next for tips on how communicators and PR professionals can better mesh with technology and engineering teams. 

    2. The 7 Surprising Super Powers of PR

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      Historically, PR has been a bit of a black box in terms of how much it “helps.” That’s because the success of a PR campaign has been incredibly difficult to measure with any accuracy, until recently. We now have access to PR data that does for PR what AdTech tools have done for the measurement of advertising. In that sense, PR is the final marketing frontier.

      Not too long ago, marketers and advertisers could roll out entire campaigns without knowing how to analyze the results. But today, a prerequisite for working in marketing and advertising is having a solid understanding of data analytics. Thanks to the expansion of the PRTech ecosystem, PR is following suit, and we can see exactly how a story in TechCrunch is impacting a business on a granular level.

      Despite this advancement, PR is sadly still the first department to feel a pinch when the purse strings are pulled tight. But if I’ve learned anything since starting a PRTech company, it’s that PR can’t keep the ballroom lit if someone is always flicking the on/off switch.

      Here are some of the obvious and not-so-obvious reasons companies of all sizes should be investing in PR now more than ever.

      1. Great content inspires trust, creates credibility, and builds brand awareness.

      Think of it this way: PR is one of the very best ways to define your brand as told by a person a potential customer might actually trust. Everyone knows that when they are fed a retargeting ad, the goal is to get them to spend money. But when a journalist features your company in the news, potential customers have an opportunity to learn about your offerings in a way that doesn’t prompt them to take immediate action.

      It’s the equivalent of establishing a friendly rapport with a new coworker before asking them to complete a project for you by end of day Friday.

      2. PR fuels growth.

      In order to grow its user base, Slack worked with a PR firm on an ultimately effective PR blitz which invited potential users to “request an invitation” to use the app. The power of media prevailed, and Slack gained 15,000 new users within two weeks.

      Now, Slack is somewhat of a household name for anyone who works in tech. When you set hyper-focused goals for PR, you can capitalize on its power and give traditional marketing a run for its money.

      3. PR is a powerful lead generator.

      Strategic PR is a significant driver of high quality, top-of-funnel leads. When analyzing our customer data, we’ve seen owned media (blog content, self-published LinkedIn Pulse articles, etc.) perform as effectively as earned media at lead generation.

      And when earned media does lead the charge, it can drive meaningful action. One of our customers found that website visitors driven by earned media not only come to their site but also engage with their brand in meaningful ways (by making a purchase, playing a video, and so forth). With the right combination of data and attribution, you can see exactly which leads are moving down the funnel and converting to customers as a result of PR.

      4. PR is the key vehicle for brand transformation.

      When an industry goes through a disruption, every company in that space must change their narrative in order to have a fighting chance. The mattress industry is a perfect example of this.

      When Casper, Tuft & Needle, Purple, Leesa or any of the other dozen “sleep companies” that have popped up in recent years started making mattress shopping a breeze, veteran mattress companies were forced to change their narratives to remain relevant.

      PR is the key vehicle for shifting narratives and providing a new lexicon for how the press and public should be talking about a company or industry.

      5. PR is the most effective tool for reputation management.

      We all watch along uncomfortably when large companies handle crises poorly, which is exactly why crisis communications and reputation management are so important for companies of all sizes. If something goes wrong and your company must respond quickly in order to save face, your PR team is on the front line.

      In this sense, again, PR shouldn’t be treated like an on/off switch. If you need to correct misinformation about your brand, a journalist is exponentially more inclined to trust new information if they already have an established relationship with you.

      6. PR is an excellent tool for recruitment.

      Early stage companies in particular can drive significantly more qualified candidates into their pipeline when they’ve already secured coverage in respected news outlets.

      Think about what you do when a recruiter from a company you’ve never heard of sends you a message. You check out the company’s LinkedIn page, spy on the profile of the founder/CEO, and Google the company name. Gleaming content and third-party acknowledgement of what’s unique about your product are validation for candidates looking to make a quick decision about whether or not they will humor the recruiter.

      In November of 2016, we saw a spike in interest on our AirPR jobs page driven by both new and old content.

       

      7. PR outlasts advertising.

      PR has the potential to be even more powerful than marketing in the sense that PR content is permanent and essentially dateless, while advertising is temporary and short term. Once you stop paying for an ad, it goes away. But when an article about your company is published, it’s there forever, waiting to be found again and again.

      I’ve experienced this long-tail effect of PR firsthand. Some of the content written by members of my team years ago continues to drive traffic to our website today. Here’s an example of content from 2013 and 2014 that still drives traffic to our site and garners engagement:

      PR’s Bottom Line

      Frankly, if you’re not embracing public relations as the next marketing frontier or viewing it as a long-term strategy, you won’t scratch the surface of leveraging it as effectively as you could — and your competitors might beat you to it.

      A version of this post published on the Nasdaq Blog MarketInsite.


      Live in SF? Be our guest at next week’s Salesforce panel: “PR Upgraded.” 

      Sign up here!

    3. PR Data Insights: Rethinking Narrative Pick-Up

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      One of the most touted PR outcomes I see almost every PR pro report on is narrative pick-up a.k.a how many additional media outlets republish a recent piece of content.

      While story pick-up can be an incredibly positive PR outcome, I challenge the notion that all story pick-up is created equal.

      Public relations is about reaching and engaging important constituents, whether they are current customers or potential customers. But if you’re not actually reaching your desired audiences, does story spread really do anything meaningful for your brand?

      My answer: probably not.

      So how can you be sure your narrative pick-up is indeed driving the kind of reach you want?

      It all goes back to goal setting at the onset of any PR activation.

      One pitfall I see PR pros succumb to again and again is failing to explicitly identify the audience they are trying to reach before story creation and pitching.

      Content is far more impactful when it’s created with a target audience in mind. At AirPR, we challenge our customers to answer the following questions before launching any campaign:

      1. Content: What format shall I choose based on the audience I’m trying to reach?

      2. Channel: What conduit am I using to deliver my content so I can best reach my target audience?

      3. Measurement: How am I defining success a.k.a. what do I want my audience to do after encountering the story?

      These questions all revolve around target audience and rightfully so! Your target audience should always be at the heart of any PR work.

      It’s also practically impossible to say whether a story was successful or meaningful unless there is clarity around who it is for and what you want to happen as a result of someone consuming the story.

      This simple, three question exercise can exponentially increase the probability of PR success and makes it clear how to communicate and showcase those successes.

      Another important step to ensuring story pick-up is impactful is knowing which primary and secondary target audiences specific publications reach.

      Sure, getting a piece in TechCrunch is impressive and cool, but if your target audience is first-time homebuyers, your story is more likely to fall flat considering that TechCrunch is not a publication whose content is designed for that specific target audience.

      Pro Tip: Dedicate 20 minutes to attaching primary and secondary audiences to the publications listed on your target media list. It might surprise you how many of your target media outlets aren’t aligned with your desired customer segments.

      The final piece to identifying and leveraging meaningful narrative pick-up is to analyze the kinds of story pick-ups that occur.

      To date, about 19% of AirPR’s earned media coverage has resulted in meaningful article relationships. Article relationships are a concrete way to track the explicit connectivity between specific pieces of content.

      We track two types of article relationships: syndicated articles and follow-on articles. Syndicated articles are near carbon copies of original articles published on different domains. Follow-on articles contain a link which references a previous media placement to support an “argument” or key point in a new story.

      While syndications are all well and good, follow-on pieces are actually the more important source for insights. Follow-on articles demonstrate who views who as a source of authoritative content and which narratives are compelling enough for someone else to forward and build on them.

      Tracking the evolution of conversations via content can be incredibly powerful when it comes to message development and future narrative creation.

      As with any PR outcome, context is key! Narrative pick-up and spread can be important data points to show off, but only if they are bringing you closer to achieving business goals. That can only be known when who you’re trying to reach and what you want them to do are clear.


      Curious to see which of your PR efforts are driving meaningful article relationships and narrative spread? Reach out! We’d love to show you some data that’ll blow your mind.

    4. How to Be a PR Hero According to a Journalist

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      public relations best practices

      Last week was an interesting PR convergence of sorts for me.

      I emerged from the boiler room with AirPR’s CEO, our lead investor, and some of the top marketing and PR minds on the planet with what I’m sure will be the next big thing in navigating our story-driven world. (Stay tuned. It’s going to be a fun ride.)

      One of my dear friends simultaneously sent me this article on the birth of PR and where it is now, which helped frame the conversation. It’s well worth the read if you have five minutes.

      Additionally, LinkedIn announced the launch of Trending Storylines, which is a noteworthy attempt to diffuse the noise and surface quality content to interested readers.

      Then, I ended up on an informal call with Jason Feifer, editor-in-chief of Entrepreneur (a publication I’ve been contributing to for over five years). We discussed TechCrunch’s recent announcement to cut PR pros out of the mix in terms of contributed content.

      The result of our convo has been documented below for what I believe is the culmination of this PR convergence: The future of PR is all about quality. Data helps. Research helps. Being a human and not a robot helps. Creative thinking helps. Good products and services help. Impeccable storytelling helps…

      But how do we get there? Check out Jason’s thoughts below.

      Rebekah Iliff: How do you think PR played into TechCrunch’s decision to accept contributed content on an invite-only basis?  Do you think we will continue to see publications raise standards for what they accept in terms of contributed content?

      Jason Feifer: I can’t speak to TechCrunch’s decision-making, but I do think every brand is thinking hard about how to remain relevant and trusted. A media brand is nothing without its credibility; it needs to be considered an authoritative source for information, and that authority is built or diminished with every story it publishes. Quality control is a must.

      RI: An overabundance of pitches from PR people makes it difficult for reporters to manage their inboxes. What’s a solution? Or, what’s a better way for PR professionals and reporters to work together?

      JF: I’ll tell you the solution from a journalist’s point of view, although I know it isn’t a practical solution from a PR firm’s point of view: PR people should send far fewer pitches. Like, maybe one tenth of what they currently send.

      I receive probably 100 PR pitches a day, and 99 to 100 of them aren’t a fit for Entrepreneur. If publicists were only pitching publications they were confident would be interested in the story—a confidence built upon research and a deep familiarity with the publication and the kinds of stories it runs—I’m confident that I’d be getting only a small handful of pitches every day, and those pitches would more regularly lead to coverage.

      Here’s a situation that repeats itself with regularity: A publicist sends me a pitch that’s way, way off from the kind of stories I run. I ignore it. They send me two or three follow-up emails, and eventually I relent and respond to say “this isn’t a fit.” The publicist then replies to say something like, “I figured it was a long-shot, but had to try anyway.” This response drives me crazy. If you knew it was a long-shot, why pitch it? That just damages your credibility, and makes it more likely that I’ll ignore the next pitch entirely.

      I do understand that a publicist isn’t always exercising their own judgment. They’re sometimes at the mercy of their boss, or specific demands from their client. But the entire industry—and every client—would benefit if pitches were sent with real discretion.

      RI: How do you think PR professionals can be better “PR citizens” in terms of the quality of content and ideas they pitch?

      JF: Research. Most publicists who pitch me haven’t spent any time understanding the kinds of stories Entrepreneur covers. Their emails make that very clear. If they truly dug into the magazine—and to every major publication they’re pitching—and thought critically about what’s in there and why, I really do think they’d more consistently land stories. That would serve their clients better, and, for what it’s worth, make journalists’ inboxes happier places as well.

      RI: What makes a great source? 

      JF: When I’m interviewing someone, I want humanity. The best sources are willing to tell me how they think and feel, and reveal their concerns, mistakes, and challenges. When a source only sticks to their talking points, or speaks like a Harvard Business School textbook, or glosses over the challenges they’ve faced in their business, I lose interest and am more likely to exclude them from the magazine.

      Now, if you’re talking about those pitches that PR people often send where they say “if you’re covering X subject, here’s an expert you should interview,” I don’t think I’ve ever replied to a pitch like that. Those pitches are frequently tied to the day’s news, and as a monthly magazine editor, I’m just not chasing the daily story.

      At a monthly, I can’t envision any situation where those pitches would make sense. They’re so temporal; for it to be useful, I’d have to be working on a story at the moment that email came in. Otherwise, I’m just going to delete it and forget about whatever source is being pitched.


      Thanks, Jason.

      AirPR Blog readers: Let’s work together to push the PR industry from a state of noise pollution to thoughtful storytelling and consciously useful information sharing. What do you say?

    5. PR Reporting for People Who Care About Data

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      The thing about PR reporting is that it’s really fun when you have positive results to share and the opposite when you don’t. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Even when a campaign doesn’t work out the way you’d hoped it would, valuable learnings always lie between the lines.

      That’s why, this week, we’re sharing our top posts focused on reporting the qualitative and quantitative metrics that matter most to your CEO, CMO, or head of communications.

      The first one, “Common Math Mistakes PR People Make,” identifies a few “problem reporting areas” that many of us, number-savvy or not, fall victim to. For example, reporting percentage growth can imply radically different things for small as opposed to large businesses. Read more here to make sure you’re not committing these communications faux pas.  

      And as much as we’d like to think we’ve nailed how to report PR results to the C-suite, chances are we still have a bit to learn given that AVE and impressions no longer rule the PR world. In order to report the metrics that matter, consider how the person you report to sees PR. Do they understand that all content is essentially part of your company’s narrative, or would it be beneficial to explain to them the idea of paid, earned, shared and owned media first? The “70% noise reduction rule” will help you with this too. Read the rest here.

      Lastly, this article shares a few mini case studies about how Bayer Corporation and The Coca-Cola Company effectively measure and report internal communications results. These brands have comms down to a science, and you should too. Check it out on Forbes.

      PR-reporting primer adjourned.

    6. Universal Truths About PR

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      In life, there are certain universal truths that exist. If you’re waiting for a call and go to the bathroom, the person will call when you go. Or, when looking diligently for something, you can never find it. No matter how you break it down, you can’t get away from the fact that certain things will always be the case.

      In light of examining universal truths, let’s look at the universal truths of PR.

      Truth #1: Your Job is Never Done

      PR is all about storytelling. From conceptualizing to developing to monitoring and optimizing messages and perceptions. Public relations does not stop when a media placement goes live or a blog post publishes. True industry professionals are always crafting relevant and impactful stories, and always forming new connections with which they can share those stories.

      The results of PR-driven content have a longer life than the amplification they receive on their publish date. They often continue to drive engagement and site traffic long after the content has gone live. Given that companies of all sizes are becoming increasingly focused on branded content, it’s more important than ever that PR professionals demonstrate the residual results of their content and storytelling efforts. The circle is round, it has no end.

      Truth #2: You Must Be Comfortable With the Unknown

      Meticulous planning is the norm for the average PR pro, but crisis communications situations are never scheduled. Brand and client needs can happen at any time. Because of this, it is fair to say that a significant percentage of PR efforts for any team are reactive.

      Given this nature of work, do everything you can to ensure that your team and clients are as prepared as possible with approved reactive messaging, explanations, and further information. Just like with any other crisis, preparation can make a huge difference in your end result.

      Truth #3: First Impressions Make a Difference

      I’m not just talking physical. This also applies to pitch emails and all other first-touch outreach. Is your pitch email too long? Does it include grammatical errors? (Everyone’s worst nightmare.) Before interacting with anyone for the first time, do your research about them and study your notes so you can bring things up where appropriate. Think of all first professional interactions like a job interview — show you’ve studied up!

      Truth #4: Relationships Really Matter

      Everyone knows that relationships are a significant part of any public relations strategy. People are your public. Especially in this digital age, genuine, face-to-face conversations — both formal and informal — are what really make our human relations successful. It is through these conversations that you can learn the personal things that help to maintain those positive relationships, like a person’s favorite color and birthday. When the time comes to send them a present or gift of gratitude, personalization matters.

      Truth #5: Your Are More Valuable Than You Will Ever Get Credit For

      Too often PR efforts are either unrecognized or misunderstood. Although this industry and the work of PR professionals is far from new, there is still a lack of understanding about what exactly constitutes public relations — and what PR teams should be responsible for.

      Even with new and improved measurement options that help to prove the worth of your work (wink, wink), the vast majority still may not understand its value — because, let’s face it, it’s difficult to value what you don’t understand.

      Don’t let this discourage you! Telling the ongoing story of your brand helps to drive and maintain all aspects of business, which means you’ll only get more opportunities to be given credit where credit is due.

       

      As with all universal truths, these are in large part products of perception. Keep your eyes on the prize and optimize, optimize, optimize!

       

      Thanks, Kelly. Meet another bright mind behind the scenes at AirPR:

      Leta Soza

    7. Common Math Mistakes That PR People Make

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      Let’s be honest. The typical PR person has an aversion to math.

      Couple that with the fact that the PR industry has historically lacked the type of quantitative performance data that’s usually available to marketing teams, and you’re left with a large group of professional communicators who are prevented from tapping into insights that could help them perform better in their roles.

      Here are some examples of common number-blunders. If you’re making these mistakes, you’re downplaying the role of PR:

      Math Mistake #1: The Law of Large Numbers

      For data to be statistically relevant, you need a sufficiently large sample size for your estimates to have reliable predictive value. Pitching survey data is a common area where this issue comes into play. For example, Penny the PR manager has a great idea for an internal communications survey about job satisfaction, but journalists are unlikely to justify using her data because the sample is simply not big enough to return meaningful results.

      Math Mistake #2: Reporting % Growth

      One of the most egregious positioning errors is when small companies pitch extremely high percentages as impressive growth rates. This often causes the adverse effect: instead of “Whoa, Company X crushed it last year!” the reader thinks: “Whoa, I had no idea Company X was that small to begin with.”

      If Sammy’s String Cheese had $2,500 in sales in 2014 and $70,000 in sales in 2015, it would be mathematically true to say Sammy’s String Cheese grew 2700% despite a relatively small increase in revenue of just $67,500. When a bigger company goes from 10MM to 20MM, the growth figure is 100% but revenue is actually up by 10MM. Business-minded people get the nuances of this and gawk at those who don’t.

      Math Mistake #3: Reporting % Change

      A similar error occurs when calculating % change. If your employee count grows from 100 to 400 in a year, many people would eyeball that as 400% growth when it’s really 300% growth or 3x plus your original number. You can’t include your starting point as part of any growth you report. That’s just not how it works, folks.

      Math Mistake #4: Believing in Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE)

      Since much of the influence of PR is felt indirectly, the industry has struggled to develop effective proxy measurements to connect PR success to revenue-related figures. Sadly, AVE (also known as ACE or Advertising Cost Equivalency) is a proxy measurement that is prone to lead people astray.

      For marketers, it’s much easier to arrive at reliable figures for return on investment. If you spent $100K on AdWords and sold $150K of product to people who clicked on the ads and converted, then your campaign returned 1.5x. Since most marketing measurement is based on link tracking, earned media, which rarely features links, is especially difficult to accurately measure in this way. (Only ~15% of all earned media includes backlinks.) Without links, there’s no way to determine direct causation.

      Using AVE to assert that the cash value of earned media is proportional to the amount of money a brand would have paid in order to purchase advertising is incorrect for so many reasons. What you pay for something is not necessarily what it’s worth.

      Math Mistake #5: Overvaluing Impressions

      Impressions sound the most impressive, but while representing the total number of people who could have seen a given piece of content does provide some insight into your ability to reach large numbers of people, impressions do not tell you whether or not you’ve accomplished a business goal.

      You can use one gallon of water or 10 gallons of water to wash your hands after handling bacon. Though 100 gallons sounds like it could give you a better chance of accomplishing your goal of cleaning your hands, if you don’t have any soap, more water isn’t going to help much. If your approach is ineffective, no amount of impressions will drive increased performance.

      What you need to know is what works. Even if the number of PR-driven conversions is just 100, therein lies the answer to improving PR performance. What content, publications, or messages were most successful? That’s the important question. Not, “How can I reach the largest number of people with a message I can’t be certain is influencing anyone?”

      No one’s perfect, and we all have room to grow in certain areas of our professions. But if you’re a PR pro, you don’t have to fall victim to the embarrassingly common math mistakes outlined above. Rest assured that there are tools today that can help you effectively measure the worth of PR, and remember that it’s all about asking the right questions.

      How are you ensuring that your efforts are impactful?

    8. How To Best Manage Outsourced PR

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      Whether you’re on an in-house PR team that occasionally outsources specialized work or you’re engaging with a PR agency for the first time ever, there are a handful of best practices for optimizing outsourced PR to keep in mind. The goal of these practices is to provide a view of how it’s all supposed to work while setting proper expectations for all parties involved. 

      Once you have vetted candidates and found the perfect PR pro/team to help make your comms dreams come true, here’s what to do next:

      #1 – Develop a clear and detailed strategy.

      In a typical scenario, it can take two months to begin to see press coverage. This means the first 30 days are reserved for strategy, message development, positioning, and media research. This is also an ideal time to set your outsourced PR person or team up for success by giving them access to your product; Have them test it and allow them to give you feedback. Their input can be invaluable when it comes to key message or value prop development. Plus it never hurts to have another set of objective eyes.

      how to manage outsourced PR#2 – Ask for a weekly status call.

      Even if you don’t have anything to talk about, regular check-ins are a great opportunity to touch base, voice concerns, and ensure everyone is on the same page. Developing a close rapport with your partner helps them to feel invested in your business, and they’re likely to be more enthusiastic when they conduct outreach on your behalf because of it.

      #3 – Set expectations for bi-weekly or monthly reports (via email).

      Regularly updated documentation will keep you informed as to what outreach is being done and where your PR pro is currently focused. It also helps everyone stay on track or identify potential gaps in strategy. Sometimes monthly is enough, but if you want to see this stuff weekly or bi-weekly, your PR pro should be able to show you the goods (without getting heavy-handed on hourly billing).

      #4 – Provide your PR pro with what they need in terms of content, feedback and access.

      Without you, your PR pro may find themselves working with limited resources thereby undermining your potential success. Arm them with what they need to work their magic. This means data to help round out stories, access to the C-suite for media opportunities/interviews, and the list goes on. Help them help you.

      #5 – Be quick to respond.

      Respond to your PR pro within 24-48 hours when they have requests that will enable them to do their jobs better. Failing to get them what they need quickly is a lose-lose situation and, honestly, it’s just plain unprofessional.

      Conversely, if your PR pro takes more that 24-48 hours to respond to you, that’s a problem. Their primary function is to push things through the funnel and if they’re not doing that, it could be cause for a larger concern (i.e. a waste of your money).

      #6 – Agree on measures of success from the get go.

      The worst thing you can do when working with an outsourced PR pro or team is not having a candid conversation about your PR expectations and measures of success. It is most important that both parties agree on what’s feasible and what the outcomes of the PR outputs should be. This conversation must fall out of your overarching business goals and should be a dialogue that may or may not evolve when the work starts.

      Got more tips for those looking to outsource PR? Keep ‘em coming → @AirPR @LetaSoza

      Thanks, (author) Leta! Meet another bright mind behind the scenes at AirPR…

      VincentPark_EmployeeSpotlightGraphic

    9. A Simple Customer Philosophy: “Meet Me Halfway”

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      Two people stand on opposite sides of a two-lane highway, separated by a four-foot wide, one-foot high, concrete median. Cars fly past them at nearly break-neck speed. They need to figure out a way to reach one another to exchange a backpack (which is full of vital information), but the noise from the highway makes it nearly impossible to communicate. An additional caveat: they only have one minute.

      Person one, let’s call him “Joe,” waves furiously motioning for person two, let’s call her “Jenny,” to come over to his side. He’s ultimately asking her to make 100% of the journey. She balks, knowing that she’s a clumsy, slow runner and the chances of her being side-swiped by a quickly moving car are high, not to mention the fact that it would probably take her at least a minute to cross the street while dodging cars.

      “No way,” she shouts, and motions for him to come to her side. He remembers his heavy backpack and realizes he’d probably be able to make it 70% of the way before he’d need a break, but the last 30% would be tough given the weight of his bag. This would put him squarely in front of a moving car just past the concrete median.

      Meeting halfwayHe shrugs, and shouts back, “It’s too heavy. I can’t make it all the way over in less than a minute. No chance.”

      They both pause, somewhat stubbornly, then Jenny waves her hands to snag Joe’s attention. “Hey,” she calls to him excitedly, “Just meet me halfway, on the median. We can do the exchange there!”

      This concept of “Meet Me Halfway” came to me a few weeks ago when I spoke at the RetailROI fundraising event in New York as part of the National Retail Federation Conference. During that event, keynote speaker Jimmy Wayne recounted his story of growing up in the foster care system, making his way to the top of the country music charts, then dedicating his life to raising awareness for foster kids’ needs. As part of his mission, in 2010 he walked halfway across the U.S. in a campaign called (you guessed it) “Meet Me Halfway,” then subsequently wrote an NYT bestseller called Walk To Beautiful.

      His goal for “Meet Me Halfway” was to shed light on the fact that it’s not about giving people (in this case, foster kids who are aging out of the system) handouts, but rather giving people the opportunity and resources they need to have a shot at stable, secure lives. In other words: meeting them in the middle and giving them a fair chance to thrive. I agree wholeheartedly with his sentiment: no one wants to feel like a charity recipient.

      How often do we operate like this in life? How often do we really ask ourselves the question “Am I meeting this person or situation halfway, or am I over-giving or underselling myself?” I’m all for being of service, being a giver, and showing grace, but at some point over time the scales must balance.

      So if we use this idea of “Meet Me Halfway” in terms of how we treat our customers, or how we prospect customers or clients, what would change?

      Last week, I caught wind that a competitor (I use that term loosely) had offered to buy out one of our customer’s contracts in order to win the business. They were willing to go 100% to our customer’s side of the road. Our customer wouldn’t have to budge an inch. But you know what happened?

      We’d invested so much time and energy into meeting the customer halfway along the journey thus far that our customer told them to take a metaphorical hike. We’d never over-offered anything, nor had we ever asked the customer to completely come over to our side of the road. With every twist and turn along the way (from prospecting to closing to retaining), we’ve brought our customers what they’ve needed and they’ve brought us what we’ve needed in order to have a successful engagement.

      Now, I understand how business works. I understand competition is fierce and that often times in order to thrive, you believe that you first must get what you need to survive. (There is a level of truth to that.) But when you’re surviving, you don’t think about things in terms of the “Meet Me Halfway” principle; you’re only thinking about how to get what you need at any cost.

      The result can go one of two ways…

      #1 – You overcompensate. You don’t ask the other person, customer, or client to budge; You just waltz on over to their side of the road and throw it all in. While it may seem like you’re being generous, it actually makes the customer begin to question your intentions or even your credibility. It can even look desperate.

      #2 – You become detached from your customer or client’s needs in order to get what you need and want. They come all the way over to your side of the road, dodging dangerous traffic in order to do so. They may not even realize they’re doing it at first, but after a few brushes with death, they will wise up and get the heck out of Dodge.

      As we think about the best way to operate, not only in business but in life, this concept of “Meet Me Halfway” goes a long way. This isn’t about tit for tat or give-and-take because “Meet Me Halfway” doesn’t pre-suppose immediate reciprocity or restitution. It merely invites each party to offer as much as they can while both do their best to find a solid and even playing field on which to mutually thrive. Meet them halfway.