More Bang for Your Trade Show Dollars

24 03 2014

(Guest post by Kayla Brown, Intern)

When it comes time for your company to take part in a trade show or an event just showing up isn’t enough and it won’t guarantee the media coverage you are looking for. So this time around shake it up and try something new.KB Headshot

Trade shows offer prime opportunities to showcase your newest products, as well as opportunities to extend and amplify your messages to a broader audience.

Your company has already spent thousands of dollars on a booth, developing messaging and creating a unique experience for your customers and prospects. Why not enhance that by inviting and interacting with the media?

Engaging reporters with interviews and demonstrations will help reinforce your message by earning media coverage, which can add to your credibility and also reach thousands of customers and prospects who could not attend the show.

Best of all, this can be easily achieved. Here are some simple tips:

1. Reach out to media several weeks before the show. Let them know what you’ll be offering such as new products, demonstrations and who will be available for interviews;

2. Set up interviews or demonstration appointments a week or two before the show;

3. Prepare press materials and brief your spokespeople;

4. Have a PR expert handy during the show to engage and pitch reporters on the spot; and

5. Conduct follow-up with the media after the show to answer any questions and make sure they have all the materials they need (press kit / images / etc.).

Of course, social media is another great way to generate extra buzz before, during and after a trade show. Here’s how:

Twitter

Create and promote a #hashtag for your show presence so users can find all related tweets. Also, tweet links that lead media and prospects to where they can find information, especially if they were unable to attend.

Facebook

Post coverage and links on your company’s Facebook page and encourage attendees to “like” your page, so they can post replies, share feedback and learn more.

YouTube

If you have any videos from the show or press conference, edit the footage into short, exciting segments then promote and link videos to your website and other social media sites.

Integrating traditional PR and social media with your trade show activities can maximize your reach, credibility and impact for enhanced marketing ROI.





Making Personal Connections on a Professional Level Can Lead to PR Success

17 03 2014

(Post by Jessica Killenberg Muzik, APR, Vice President – Account Services)

Not that long ago, I had the opportunity to pitch “key” national and regional media in other parts of the U.S. for a client, which can be a challenge when you don’t already have solid, established relationships with target reporters in areas such as Washington, D.C.JK FB color

Rather than look at this task as daunting, I broke it down into manageable pieces and began my approach. When I pitch, I typically start with a high quality media list that is researched and developed internally at our firm. I research the reporter and study their previous stories. Then I work on drafting my pitch. Now it’s not a “one size fits all pitch,” I customize if for each reporter and, when possible, on a personal level.

Why personal? PR is very much a relationship-based business and when you can find a common personal denominator to break the ice … it simply WORKS!

For example, I needed to pitch a Pittsburgh, PA-based reporter from a major national newspaper. The reporter didn’t know me. However, one of my husband’s best friends works for the local NHL team there, the Pittsburgh Penguins. As a result, I once had an opportunity to visit the area to attend a game. Thus, my note to this particular reporter took on a conversational tone, mentioning the recent Penguins visit, with my pitch later being woven in. It worked. The reporter got back to me immediately. We chatted back and forth a bit and I was able to book a media meeting for our client’s executive with this key reporter. Thus, a very happy client.

So at the end of the day (I hate that phrase, but it works here), we are all just people and making connections on a personal level in our professional life can mean all the difference.





Bringing Credibility to Your Content Marketing

1 10 2013

In the last post (http://wp.me/ppqb5-sA), we discussed how Gartner’s Three Cs of Content Marketing – Creation, Curation and Cultivation – hinged upon what we see as the fourth, and most important, C – Credibility.

Ultimately, if your content is not credible, it could end up ineffective … and your effort wasted. But how do you gain credibility?

Because credibility is in the eye of the beholder and because it is earned, not manufactured, it can be HARD to come by.

But there are ways you can help your company earn it. Consider that credibility has two key components: trustworthiness and expertise.

You or your company earn trust by proving your integrity and worth over time through your performance. You perform. You do what you say you’re going to do. You demonstrate you can be relied upon. And you keep at it. Every time. Every day.

As you start to win trust through your performance, there are ways you can enhance and extend it by demonstrating your expertise using some “traditional” PR and media relations approaches, such as:

  • Conducting research that will benefit your target audience and sharing the results with them, demonstrating your company is willing to go the extra mile to understand the environment in which your audience must operate;
  • Pro-actively reaching out to reporters, analysts and bloggers who follow your industry to volunteer as a source of information, insight and perspective;
  • Taking (and promoting) advocacy positions and offering perspectives on industry trends and issues that are bigger than your company;
  • Speaking at key industry forums and events – and focusing on your audience’s concerns, not your own key messages;
  • Working to generate media coverage in the outlets and platforms that your audience already uses and trusts. No need to reinvent the wheel — the implied third-party endorsement that comes with positive media coverage in trusted media is invaluable. (For example, one story in BusinessWeek magazine generated a C-level meeting and ultimately millions of dollars of new business for one of our clients.); and
  • Leveraging opportunities to secure and share endorsements, testimonials, likes and shares throughout the various media platforms that your audiences uses,  to harness the amazing power of endorsement.

Credibility doesn’t come quickly … or easily. And that’s exactly why it is invaluable to your content marketing and your customer relationships.





Great Bosses, Great Dads: Thanks!

12 06 2013

Great dads and great bosses share some of the same qualities. So, Father’s Day is the perfect time to thank your paternal parent … as well as any male mentor who has helped you in your personal or work life … for their guidance, counsel and support.

If yours is still alive, thank him this weekend. Dad 2

My dad, who passed away four years ago, wasn’t a businessman, but a blue-collar electrician at an automaker. Still, he taught me a great deal about people, business and life by his example. And for that, I’m eternally grateful.

Thanks, Dad …

… for spending your time with us, and showing interest in our interests, rather than forcing your own interests on us

… for trying to broaden our horizons by exposing us to a variety of places, things and activities that you never got to experience at our age

… for showing us what true commitment is, by honoring every commitment you made

… for always being there to support us, especially when it wasn’t fun or comfortable to do so

… for teaching us the importance of honesty, the power of faith, the steadfastness of loyalty and the grace in helping others

… for showing us the joy in nurturing growth in all things, whether it was vegetables, pets, colleagues … or our own friends and children

… for standing behind us unconditionally, no matter how we might have angered, offended, disappointed or ignored you

… for showing us the warmth and lift that a smile, a kind word or a pat on the back can bring someone else

… for laughing with us, not at us, and, more importantly, for teaching us how to laugh at ourselves

… for showing us the satisfaction of a job well done, for encouraging us to pursue our dreams and follow our hearts, and for teaching us to look at adversity as an adventure.

Thanks, too, to three of my former bosses and mentors – Wayne, Horst and Dick – for their lessons about taking care of details … being prepared … never giving up … being a team player … and thinking big … among other things.

I hope, as a dad and a boss/mentor, to pass your lessons on.





13 Lessons Learned in the PR Agency Business

7 06 2013

Back in ’92, when I started my PR firm, I had more than a dozen years of PR experience – and more than half of that with another agency – so I thought I knew pretty much all I needed to know.

I was wrong. Really wrong.MC900437062

And as Bianchi PR heads toward its 21st anniversary, I realize just how much I have learned over the past two decades … and thought it might be helpful to share a few key lessons.

Here’s my baker’s dozen list:

  1. If your staff needs a pool table or basketball hoop in the office in order to have fun at work, either they’re doing it wrong or they are in the wrong business … or both.
  2. If a prospective client or employee is problematic or inconsiderate at the very start, they’re just going to get worse.
  3. It’s good to take PR, your job and your client seriously; it’s not good to take yourself too seriously.
  4. If a prospect won’t give you a budget figure upon which you can base your proposal, they probably don’t have an approved budget.
  5. Toxic employees are not worth all the pain. Neither are toxic clients. Move on.
  6. No one is irreplaceable, not even you. Really.
  7. If you spend the client’s money and time as carefully as you would spend your own, you’ll both be better off.
  8. Monthly PR retainers are not necessarily evil. Some clients actually need and prefer a predictable budget spend and a steady, consistent effort.
  9. If you take care of your clients, they will take care of you. Same goes with your employees.
  10. It’s not our job to be the hero. It’s our job to make the client the hero.
  11. It’s okay – even beneficial sometimes – to make mistakes … as long as you own up to them, fix them, learn from them … and don’t make the same ones twice.
  12. Listening is the most important skill in PR. If you’re talking more than you’re listening, you’re broadcasting, not communicating.

Oh yeah, one more thing ..

13. It’s not as easy as it looks.





12 Things to Expect from Your PR Agency – Reprise

29 05 2013

In an earlier post, we outlined a list of seven things a client can do to make its PR agency great – our thoughts on how a client can make its PR firm more effective and a better partner ( here’s the link: http://wp.me/ppqb5-iF).

Based on our firm’s 20-year history – and a few client relationships that have lasted more than 16 years – we’ve learned there are also a number of things an agency should do to make its relationships with clients mutually beneficial.

Of course, results are ultimately the most important thing in the client-agency relationship.

Generating solid results, however, is just the start of a great relationship, according to many of the clients we’ve talked with over the years.

If you’re a client, your peers think you should also be able to expect your PR firm team to:

1)      Be attentive – they should be responsive, accessible and pro-active, and they should feed the relationship

2)      Think long-term and strategic – not just about short-term activities or easy billings

3)      Offer ideas and opportunities that are good for your business – even if they are outside of the PR realm and don’t add any revenue or work for the agency

4)      Be a good steward of your budget – they are prompt and fair with billing and are thrifty with your money

5)      Keep you informed – they strive for transparency and no surprises

6)      Anticipate your needs – and they work hard to meet them before you’ve asked them to

7)      Provide a realistic view of what you can expect – honest, accurate, puffery-free predictions about cost, timing, impact and/or results

8)      Demonstrate that they are always thinking about you and looking out for your best interests

9)      Make you the hero – and not seek or take credit for a program’s successes

10)   Know, and cater to, your preferences and priorities – instead of forcing you to accept theirs

11)   Communicate with you candidly, honestly and frequently – better too much than too little

12)   Make it pleasant, friendly and fun for you to work with them – everyone does better in a positive environment.

I’ve always believed that if we, the PR agency team, take care of the client, the client will take care of us. So far, in the majority of cases, that has proven true. It can for you, too.

Clients: What other expectations do you have for your PR agency?





Business Best Practices: Every Office Needs an Eagle Eye

17 04 2013

(Post by Jessica Killenberg Muzik, APR, Vice President – Account Services)

I’ve always had a love of editing.  Sure, as a communicator I like to write, but there’s something about editing that I enjoy even more. JK FB color

Perhaps it’s taking a fresh eye at something and realizing that you caught an error before it went out the door that feels almost rewarding … or perhaps it’s knowing that one small editing suggestion made the final written product that much better?

Whatever the case may be, at our office we call this person an “eagle eye” – which, by definition, is one that observes with close attention. Yep, that sounds about right.

As long as I can remember, we’ve always been in the practice of having an eagle eye review and proofread our work before it is sent to a client / reporter, is posted to the newswire / website, etc. Typically, this eagle eye staffer has been uninvolved in the drafting process for this project, so she or he comes to this review with a clean, fresh perspective.

Why uninvolved? Why an eagle eye?

Well, it’s pretty simple. As writers, sometimes we are too close to our own work to see the imperfections. Our minds tend to gloss over typos and fill in the gaps between what we wrote and what we thought we wrote.

When you have someone who is far removed from a project take a final look at a document, they will often catch a mistake or two that those closer to the project may have simply overlooked.

It adds a step and a little time, but taking the time to do things correctly the first time actually ends up saving time, money … and, often, embarrassment.

Having an eagle eye is a safety netEagle Eye

Even still, mistakes occasionally can and will happen. We’re only human, after all.

But having an eagle eye process in place can minimize mistakes and enhance credibility, especially when writing is a key part of your business.

What best business practices have you implemented within your organization to catch potential mistakes before they happen?





Business Best Practices: Kudos, WOWs and All That Good Stuff

3 04 2013

(Post by Jessica Killenberg Muzik, APR, Vice President – Account Services)

Meetings … love them or hate them, they are an essential part of doing business.

But what if meetings were something your team actually looked forward to or, at the very least, didn’t mind attending?

Yes, it can happen.

Hands Applauding

At Bianchi PR we have a standing (albeit flexible) Thursday morning staff meeting and toward the bottom of the agenda is always a bullet point titled “kudos.”

During the kudos portion of the meeting, our leader acknowledges each team member’s achievements for the past week.  Sometimes the achievement is a major media hit for a client in a key publication, sometimes it’s scoring a big media interview, and sometimes it’s just stepping up on those everyday tasks that keep things humming along for the firm and our clients.

The key point: giving positive recognition to each team member for “things gone right.” It encourages and reinforces positive behavior. And beyond that, it helps close the meeting on an upbeat, sometimes inspirational, note.

Now, above and beyond the kudos, we also celebrate “WOWs.” A WOW is an acknowledgement for those times when a staff member has figuratively “Walked On Water” for a client.

Although our clients are unaware of it (until perhaps they read this blog), WOWs actually come directly from them.

Any time a client takes the time to write an unsolicited email or note of thanks to the agency for a job well done, our agency CEO generates a WOW certificate for that staffer.

The certificate itself isn’t anything fancy.

It’s simply a piece of paper prominently featuring the acronym WOW along with a brief description how the staffer wow’ed the client.

It’s presented at the next weekly staff meeting, and the recipient posts it near their workspace, as a pleasant reminder of an appreciative client and a grateful employer.

Now, who wouldn’t want to attend a meeting that promises kudos, WOWs and all that good stuff?

When you end a staff meeting on a high note, it encourages your team to continue to do great work. And isn’t that what best business practices are really all about?

What have you done to make your meetings more enjoyable or to encourage great work among your staffers?





10 Business Buzzwords You Have Sentenced to Death

18 12 2012

You have spoken. The word “synergize” leads our annual list of business buzzwords that PR, communications and business professionals would like to eradicate from the lexicon before the start of the New Year.

That’s according to a couple hundred nominations from our colleagues and peers across about a dozen LinkedIn groups.

Based on our unscientific survey conducted over the past few weeks, here is the complete list of Top 10 Business Buzzwords to be Banned in 2012, with comments from some of the nominators:

Wordle: Biz Buzz

  1. Synergize – “Taking a bogus word like synergy and turning it into a verb just adds insult to injury.”
  2. Value add – “Along with its evil twin, added value, it has literally lost any value it might have ever had.”
  3. Leverage – “As a verb, as in ‘leverage our expertise’, it’s simply wrong.”
  4. Ask – “Used as a noun, as in ‘what’s your ask today?’  ask is plain awful. Just ask anyone. ”
  5. Optimize – “Another noun-turned-faux-verb with the addition of –ize. Please ‘demise-ize’ this one.”
  6. Out of the box – “ … and into the trash.”
  7. Engagement – “Unless we’re talking about getting married, forget it.”
  8. Iconic – “Unless you’re talking about a sacred image, it’s probably not really iconic … or epic, either.”
  9. Paradigm – “I thought we killed this buzzword two years ago?”
  10. Curate – “Can’t we just say ‘keep’?”

Thanks to all for their contributions.

And in closing, let me quote a contributor, Brooke Candelaris, who asked: “Can we have less ideation about dynamic content in a seamlessly contextual multi-channel environment?

Indeed.

What business buzzwords hit you like the sound of nails on a chalkboard?

(To see the 2011 and 2010 lists, go to http://wp.me/ppqb5-dA and http://wp.me/ppqb5-8v.)





Advice for the PR Student

6 11 2012

(Post by Jaclyn Reardon, Assistant Account Executive)

As a recent grad with one year on the job, I’ve found that there’s a lot more you should know about the practice of PR than you learn in college. 

While college PR courses are an excellent source for the basics of things such as writing, programming and communication theory, there are many aspects to the industry that aren’t covered in your typical coursework.

So it helps if you give yourself a head start by building your knowledge base through internships and by attending workshops and meetings put on by your neighborhood PRSA or PRSSA chapter.

Beyond that, here are a few other things to keep in mind as you make your way to the PR profession:

Computer skills

In school, we all use computers to complete assignments. But do you really know how to use the programs you may need on the job?  Enhancing your computer skills by taking courses on the basic business programs such as Excel, Word and PowerPoint can really help. And honing your research skills and getting experience with both Macs and PCs will also be extremely helpful in your first real PR job.

Balancing a workload

Time management is extremely important on the job, especially if it requires you to deal with multiple clients. Whether you are working in-house or at an agency, you will need to stay organized while juggling several projects. There are a number of approaches and tools you can use, so investigate and experiment with them, and see which one works best for you and your situation.

And while you’re interning, don’t be afraid to ask the professionals you work with what methods they use. When you find a system that works for you, be disciplined about using it consistently.

Relationship building

While most college instructors will remind you to always conduct yourself professionally, they don’t really explain how to build successful relationships. PR, after all, is a RELATIONSHIP business, so relationship building is a must — whether you’re working with the media, clients or colleagues.

Relationships take work … so make the effort, be available and responsive, always follow-up and always follow through. For information on how to create and maintain relationships with the media (one of the most important groups with which you’ll deal as a PR pro), check out Reflect & Relate: Eight Factors for Successful Media Relationships.

The business side

In PR classes, while you may typically practice writing press releases, creating media lists and even developing larger scale projects, you may not get much exposure to the business side of things. If you have an opportunity to work in a PR agency setting, things like the logistics of billing clients and how to keep a timesheet will be necessities.

Also, in the real world, you must always keep a client’s budget and timeline in mind. No longer do you have a professor saying “sky’s the limit” for hypothetical projects. You’ll be working with real clients with real budgets … and often tight deadlines.

In a corporate or non-profit setting, there’s a slightly different aspect to think about. You must have a solid understanding of your organization and its products, services or cause … your key publics and what is important to them, and how PR fits into the enterprise’s big picture.

Next Steps

So take what you’re learning in the classroom, add some practical experience with a few internships and ask a lot of questions. (Our CEO recommends three internships if possible — one at an agency, a second at a news outlet and a third at a corporation or non-profit — so you get well-rounded view of our chosen profession.) If you’re interested in checking out our tips for interns, visit The Freshman 5: Tips for Interns.

If you do these things, you’ll be off to a great start!








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