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Do PR Pros Need to be Moneyballers?

Merge Do PR Pros Need to be Moneyballers?

This is a post by PR columnist, Alison Kenney.

The mega merger announced by Publicis and Omnicom last month is a big deal for a number of reasons.

One of the key messages that arose from the merger chatter is that Big Data itself is a Big Deal.

Entrepreneur saw the move as a way for the two firms to “be better equipped to participate in an industry that’s quickly become dominated by data analysis and automated ad buying.”

While others might argue that this mega merger isn’t the best or only way to equip oneself, no one would disagree that

“Advertisers now have the ability to deliver highly targeted ads to individuals over the Internet, using a trove of data collected about that person’s location, likes, age, gender and shopping preferences.”

And, that, therefore, has established a new paradigm of players in marketing: “All of that means the new giants in the field – and a competitive threat to Omnicom and Publicis – are those with plenty of user data: Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter and even Salesforce.com and Adobe Systems.”

Patrick Morrissey at DataSift, a big data platform for social businesses, sees the Publicis/Omnicom deal as recognition of Big Data’s importance and a harbinger of changes to come in the advertising world. He predicts that agencies will double down on social data, they will get into the software game and the analyst/engineer will become the new AE.

It seems everyone from the largest advertising firms in the world to niche independent players is trying to convince clients and shareholders that they can establish a winning business model around data and social platforms.

As Phil Johnson, CEO of PJA Advertising+Marketing said to AdAge:

“Clients want agile agencies with an entrepreneurial spirit that can move fast and respond to change in real time. Small agencies have been selling this point hard for years. On the other hand, large brands also want global agencies that can reach every corner of the world, harness the power of new digital technologies, create every imaginable form of content, ride the wave of mobile advertising and tame the black box of media-buying algorithms… To be effective, we all need to make peace with that contradiction between agility and global scale.”

What does this mean for PR firms? Do PR pros need to be moneyballers skilled in the use of sabermetrics?

Not so fast, says Todd Defren who wrote on SHIFT’s blog:

Make no mistake, this merger was about Advertising, Technology and Media Buying more so than Public Relations. Even though the workaday practice of being successful in Social Media (e.g., community management, social customer service) belongs squarely in the PR camp, the Big Money is still to be made in the Paid Media arena.  There are a great many superb PR pros in those conglomerates, but they will always play second fiddle to the paid media masters of the universe.

And, Marketo’s Jon Miller is adamant that Data needs Creative just as Creative needs Data.

What impact do you think this merger will have on the PR industry? Will Big Data play a role in PR? What would it look like if you merged a traditional PR program with data analytics?

Alison Kenney an independent PR practitioner with more than 15 years of PR consulting experience. She is based on Boston’s North Shore and has worked with organizations in the technology, professional services and consumer industries. She writes a bi-monthly PR column on LindsayOlson.com. You can find her at www.kprcommunications.com. Learn more about Alison Kenney.

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Top 7 PR Grad Programs in the U.S.

masters program admissions Top 7 PR Grad Programs in the U.S.

This is a guest post by Sam Peters, a blogger who enjoys writing about career development and education.

Public Relations has seen a recent explosion of new jobs within both the private and public sector. Whether you’ve trained to be a publicist, investor relations professional or public affairs officer, more companies are now seeing the importance of PR within their company, and have thus, opened positions to thousands of communications professionals in the workforce.

Although opportunities in this field are rapidly increasing, many employers still require its potential employees to have some form of specialized training through post-graduate studies.

If you’ve often thought about going back to school to earn your Master’s in order to move up on the corporate ladder or even to qualify for a coveted position, you should definitely only consider attending one of the best programs in the nation. To better help you research graduate programs, here’s a list of the top 7 nationally-ranked programs in PR.

Ball State University

Located in Munice, Indiana, Ball State University’s undergraduate PR program is one of the most popular PR programs in the country. The past few years, the graduate program at BSU has received an increasing number of applicants that wish to further their understanding of PR through a PRSA-certified program. BSU offers both campus and online classes, making it easy to attend classes remotely.

Columbia University

Looking to expand your understanding in strategic communications? Columbia University offers a program made specifically for potential-PR executives. Located in New York, the hub for all PR in the east coast, this Master’s of Science degree program takes about 40 students per year, which makes it one of the most competitive, and highly-sought after programs in the nation. Because Columbia University is one of the most expensive private universities in the U.S., you may need to consider a combination of loans, financial aid and college credit cards from NerdWallet to pay for tuition. It’s definitely worth having a name like Columbia University on your degree.

Emerson College

Located in Boston, Massachusetts, the strategic communications program in Emerson College is considered one of the best PR colleges because of its award-winning, professional faculty. Instead of learning from PR researchers and college professors, the classes at Emerson College are taught by actual, PR executives, making one of the PR practice-oriented colleges in the U.S.

Georgetown University

One of the oldest universities in the country, Georgetown University has been known to produce industry leaders, including pioneers in the PR field. The college offers a Master’s degree in public relations and corporate relations, ideal for those who want to advance within their current position. The program emphasizes strategic thinking, leadership and the use of ethics in the profession.

John Hopkins University

If research and theory in communications is your forte, then the Master’s of Arts in Communications could be ideal for you. Located in Washington D.C., the PR program at John Hopkin’s uses research-based tools to make strategic decisions in PR in order to certify desired results, skills that could be put to great use in consumer relations and public affairs. This amazing program is accessible online and on-campus, making it easily accessible to anyone who’s admitted.

New York University

Like Emerson College, the Master’s of Science in PR and Corporate Communications program revolves around executive PR-practices. In fact, the faculty at NYU’s PR program is also made up of industry professionals. This program combines theory and practice, which makes it unique among other PR programs in the nation.

University of Southern California

The Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at USC offers professionals a Master’s Degree in Strategic Public Relations, ideal for those who want to gain intimate knowledge in specific fields of PR. The program is centered around PR trends and practices. The school also offers an international degree, where grad students can apply what they’ve learned in PR in countries like the UK, China or South Africa. Did I mention they have amazing financial aid coverage for tuition?

There’s no better investment than education. Education will never decrease in value, especially if they have the teachings of one of these amazing schools behind them. By continuing your education in public relations, you’ll learn what it means to be an industry professional.

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11 Habits of Highly Effective PR Relationships

puzzle 11 Habits of Highly Effective PR Relationships

This is a post by PR columnist, Alison Kenney.

It takes more than tactics and knowledge to succeed in public relations. Your career needs more than the ability to land clients in feature coverage in top media outlets. You also have to be a skilled salesperson, able to convince others that your communication strategy is the right way to go.

Think about it:

What good are your pitches if client doesn’t sign off on them so you can send them?

Your brilliant strategies won’t be worth anything if you don’t have “a seat at the table” and the ability to pitch your ideas to management and get them on board.

In other words, your role as a trusted strategic partner will be a bust if you can’t get your client or boss interested in what you have to say.

How do you do that?

Communicate regularly – As Jenny Schmitt tweeted in a recent chat about bringing team members together, “calendars…so simple, so often overlooked.” Do you have a regular, standing meeting to discuss PR updates and ideas? If not, get one on the calendar stat!

Don’t be afraid to mix it up – Call, email, text to get through to your contacts when you need to. Most of us find a preferred method for communicating and stick with that…unless you’re not getting the response you need. Tailor the communication method to the message – really important ideas that are more complex may be best explained in person or over the phone, while straight-forward status updates can be left to email.

Think before you speak – Before you jump into that great idea, think for a minute about what your counsel will sound like on the other end. Put yourself in the recipient’s position and consider how they’re likely to react to what you plan to say.

Ask questions – Open the door whenever possible to discussions that can reveal interesting background stories and help you learn more about the company, your client, their co-workers, their hobbies and interests outside of work. You never know when this information can inform a PR strategy!

Put yourself in someone else’s shoes – You know what it’s like to do your job, but how does your boss perceive your work? What does your manager or client need most from you? What do they do with the updates and status reports you send? If you don’t know the answers to these questions – ask!

Make sure you’re starting on the same page – Do your contacts understand PR? if so, what does PR mean for them? Who did they work with in the past and how has that shaped their understanding of what PR is and what it can do? What type of return do they expect from their PR investment?

Build a relationship – Take the time to get to know your client or boss and make an effort to develop a relationship that goes beyond that of a client and vendor.  This could mean sharing personal information (but not too personal) or it could simply mean getting to know their schedules and their assistants better so that you can get in touch faster and easier when you need to.

Set expectations – Everyone knows that getting buy-in on goals, measurement and timeframes is a PR “must,” but sometimes we get busy, people come and go, and priorities shift. Re-setting can be as easy as checking in again.

Offer counsel – You were hired for your experience and with the expectation that you’d apply that experience to your current job. Offer your perspective and illustrate it with examples of situations (your own or famous case studies) to make your point or underscore your recommendations.

Listen – Chances are you’ll work with non-communications professionals at some point in your career. If they’re not good at communicating their needs, you’ll have to listen for cues. Repeat what you hear, draw out deliverables and discuss them.

Be clear when budgets are concerned – It may feel awkward to bring up the question of budget, but it’s much worse to have to talk about surprises when dollars are concerned.

Alison Kenney an independent PR practitioner with more than 15 years of PR consulting experience. She is based on Boston’s North Shore and has worked with organizations in the technology, professional services and consumer industries. She writes a bi-monthly PR column on LindsayOlson.com. You can find her at www.kprcommunications.com. Learn more about Alison Kenney.

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Will Email Pitches Become Obsolete?

not on email Will Email Pitches Become Obsolete?

This is a post by PR columnist, Alison Kenney.

David Gerzof Richard created some buzz last month when he spoke with several media outlets, including Fox, NPR and the Boston Globe, about the decreasing interest in email as a communication tool.

People gave multiple reasons for steering away from email: it’s full of spam, they favor real-time communications, younger people think it’s old-fashioned, it’s “one-to-one” in a time of “one-to-many” communication.

The discussions made me wonder what this means for PR professionals. As younger generations enter the PR workplace will they change the way we pitch and communicate? Will their preference for short, immediate communications – such as texting and tweeting – force us to accommodate those styles?

On the one hand, I can see it. We’ve witnessed the demise of pitching via fax (some readers may never have sent a pitch via fax in the first place) and one could argue that pitching via phone has become taboo. It’s become almost impossible to find a publicly listed phone number for some members of the media. Is email the next likely candidate for extinction?

When Vocus asked media for tips on pitching them , at least one writer suggested avoiding email. Freelance journalist Pam Baker responded, “My tip is to pitch me via Twitter or G+ and wait for invite to email me more. That way, pitch doesn’t get lost in email swamp.”

Freelance writer Menachem Wecker makes the point even clearer. In this Vocus article on reporter’s pet peeves about PR pitches, he says, If someone ever tracks down a reporter who prefers phone pitches to emails, it’d be worth creating a low-budget film documenting that person’s biography. (Perhaps she or he is based in a very small town somewhere, with poor Internet access? Or in a different century?) I happen to prefer Twitter, Google+, or Facebook pitches to email ones (my social media ‘boxes’ are less clogged than my email), and I never understand why spokespeople in training are taught it’s a good idea to send an email pitch and then follow up by phone immediately thereafter.”

On the other hand, the pragmatist in me feels that while email may be becoming obsolete for personal communications, it still plays an important role in business communication. Others have also made the case for email as a business communication vehicle citing its ability to convey and document complex thoughts, lists, action items, etc.

A few email alternatives have sprung up in the business world. As the Boston Globe reports, “the new generation of networking tools from IBM, Salesforce.com Inc., Yammer, and others (like @prsaraevans’ Tracky), go way beyond basic communication. They are, in essence, virtual workplaces that combine the functionality of multiple programs, from e-mail to logistics to content production. In these closed networks, employees can share files, show work in progress, and have personal and group conversations or communications using text, pictures, or live video, without switching back and forth among multiple programs. If users still can’t do without traditional e-mail, those programs can pipe in outside services such as Gmail.” In the PR world,  PitchEngine devotees swear by the power of this next generation press release distribution tool.

What do you think? Is pitching via email about to become extinct?

Alison Kenney an independent PR practitioner with more than 15 years of PR consulting experience. She is based on Boston’s North Shore and has worked with organizations in the technology, professional services and consumer industries. She writes a bi-monthly PR column on LindsayOlson.com. You can find her at www.kprcommunications.com. Learn more about Alison Kenney.

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Not Another Sad Desk Lunch

desk lunch440 Not Another Sad Desk Lunch

Are you reading this at your desk during your lunch break? According to PR Daily’s Salary and Job Satisfaction Survey, more than 70 percent of PR pros eat lunch at their desk. Hopefully, you’re not also subject to one of these sad desk lunches!

Most of us understand that it’s important to take a break during the day – for physical and mental health, as well as to keep your mind fresh and creative. For instance, this Wall Street Journal column on sparking creativity tells us to, “build time for mind wandering into daily routines, breaking away from tasks requiring concentration to take a walk or run, look out a window or do some relaxing, routine physical task.”

And since lunchtime occurs around the middle of the work day, many of us attempt to combine feeding with rejuvenating ourselves at the same time. To start, Harvard Business Review recommends scheduling a formal break for yourself.

Once you’ve booked the time, consider these ideas for getting away from your desk at the lunch hour (at least occasionally):

Getting outside:

  • Taking a walk in nature
  • Watching the clouds
  • Going to a farmer’s market
  • Visiting a body of water
  • Go for a drive
  • Take the subway/bus to another neighborhood

Refocusing:

Shifting focus:

  • Calling a friend
  • Knocking personal errands or tasks off your to-do list
  • Planning dinner

Switching gears:

  • Listening to music
  • Viewing some art
  • Practicing an instrument
  • Knitting
  • Drawing or painting
  • Reading (something that’s not work-related)
  • Surfing the web
  • Going online shopping
  • Squeezing in exercise:
  • Going for a run or walk
  • Dancing
  • Taking an exercise class
  • Jumping on the treadmill
  • Walking the dog

Can’t afford to completely turn off the work flow? Try:

  • Visiting a client
  • Eating out with colleagues
  • Having a working lunch away from your desk or office
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Should You Keep a Work Journal?

5727475823 79fd05f346 Should You Keep a Work Journal?

This is a guest post by PR Columnist, Alison Kenney.

You’d think that in our over-sharing world with accommodation for more than 31 million bloggers (Source: Blogging.org, 2012) and hundreds of millions of social media status updates (my own estimate), keeping journals would be the norm. But I’m not sure it is yet. (Given the private nature, it’s hard to tell.)

In addition to being an outlet for your observations and frustrations, journals can be very useful tools for professional development, which is why media from Harvard Business Review to Inc. to Forbes have covered work journals recently.

In the HBR blog, author Teresa Amabile asked her graduate course students to keep a journal and one student continued the practice during throughout her career:

Teresa’s former student, Sarah Kauss, recently wrote that the journal she was required to keep in the MBA course Managing for Creativity led to a daily practice that she has found invaluable as she traveled a career path from consultant to entrepreneur. (Sarah’s company, S’well, makes and sells unique insulated drinking bottles.) At first, Sarah rebelled at the idea of keeping a journal:

At the time, as a busy MBA student, this seemed uncomfortable and time-consuming. I needed to be working and networking, not taking time to write about perceptions and feelings. Or so I thought. Professor Amabile’s assignment introduced me to an entirely new type of journaling that has helped me in both my personal and professional life.

Sarah highlights the first three benefits:

Journaling about work has given me the focus to identify my strengths and the activities that bring me the greatest joy. Surprisingly, the least glamorous tasks of my professional career to date have been some of my career highlights. I have gleaned many lessons about where I can be most engaged and therefore most successful in the workplace. Journaling has also given me patience and sharpened my ability to plan. Although it can seem that I’m making only baby steps of progress — and, yes, sometimes going sideways or even backwards before moving forward — my journal is an independent arbiter (and a silent cheerleader). There will always be more progress to make, but for me it is important to know that I am moving closer to my goals. I am always encouraged to look back and know how far I have come in a year’s time, and how major obstacles seem to become minor speed bumps in hindsight. This record gives me great patience and perspective when new challenges come my way. Even now as a very busy entrepreneur, I can’t imagine not taking a few moments at the end of each day to record in my journal the progress made and my hopes and plans for the next phases of success.

If that isn’t enough of an endorsement for starting a work journal, consider some other benefits. For instance, keeping a work journal can help you:

Develop new perspective – writing about an experience at work “keeps you honest” and taking the time to describe an event in writing often allows you to uncover other perspectives.

Identify problems – a work journal can serve as a log to help you spot issues that you may be too busy to notice otherwise.

Track progress toward goals – by referring back to written goals and comparing daily progress a journal will help you track your progress

Notice patterns – are your work disappointments the same each day? Do you rejoice in the same successes? These patterns may serve to point out strengths or weaknesses you weren’t aware of.

Jot down inspiration/ good ideas – journals are good repositories for ideas – be they notes, photos, quotes, or whatever jogs your mojo.

In addition, Forbes cites these six reasons for keeping a journal: log good ideas, learn lessons, list good advice from mentors, vent (in a safe space), collect compliments and envision the future.

In the PR world, work journals could serve as note keepers on work-related activities from managing a client’s expectations to jump-starting a new campaign.

In this Business Insider article, Madeline Stilley writes about the questions she asks herself at the end of each work day:

  • What events stand out in my mind from the work day and how did it affect my inner work life?
  • What progress did I make today and how did it affect my inner work life?
  • What nourishes and catalysts supported me and my work today? How can I sustain them tomorrow?
  • What one thing can I do to make progress on my important work tomorrow?
  • What setbacks did I have today, and how did they affect my inner work life? What can I learn from them?
  • What toxins and inhibitors impacted me and my work today? How can I weaken or avoid them tomorrow?
  • Did I affect my colleagues’ inner work lives positively today? How might I do so tomorrow?

She also recommends asking yourself “what’s going well?”

In a presentation at the Solo PR Summit, Mary Ellen Miller and Amanda Littlejohn recommended a work diary as a way to keep track of peak events. They referenced the book, “Do more great work” by Michael Bungay Stanier and suggested that a work journal serve as a place to work out the exercises in Stanier’s book to help guide you through the process via brainstorming, reflection analysis of actual observations.

It might be obvious, but logging journal entries seems like a great activity when you’re looking for work. This Jobacle.com post shares some ways that journal entries go beyond spreadsheets for tracking contacts and statuses to help provide insight during a job search.

What do you think? Should you keep a work journal?

Alison Kenney an independent PR practitioner with more than 15 years of PR consulting experience. She is based on Boston’s North Shore and has worked with organizations in the technology, professional services and consumer industries. She writes a bi-monthly PR column on LindsayOlson.com. You can find her at www.kprcommunications.com. Learn more about Alison Kenney.

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If Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg Worked in PR…

 If Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg Worked in PR...

This is a guest post by PR Columnist, Alison Kenney.

If you’re reading this you’re probably aware of the PR ups and downs experienced recently by Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg, two very prominent businesswomen. Sandberg is step-by-stepping her way through a case study on successful book launches, while Mayer ignited backlash and was perceived as setting family/work balance issues back a generation for ending Yahoo!’s policy of allowing some workers to telecommute.

I won’t get into the mixed messages that the media is communicating over whether Mayer and Sandberg are worthy role models for modern feminists or examples of how to ‘have it all.’ What they both are is terrific examples of how to be successful at work and in your career. And their examples translate well in the PR industry.

Picture Marissa Mayer as the new head of a PR agency, one that’s suffered in recent years due to the recession and needs an injection of fresh leadership to reinvigorate its client relationships and to amp up its bottom line to satisfy the bigwigs in its holding company.

PR agencies are in the service business, which means they must be accessible and responsive to clients and their needs. Agencies that are experiencing contractions in business and greater competition are more likely to call ‘all hands on deck’ meetings and stress personal accountability to meet these business challenges. In tight markets, firms may search for ways to combine or consolidate resources or they may try to establish new service offerings and revenue streams. The process innovations they come up with are most likely going to be geared toward helping each employee reach ultimate productivity levels and drive business results. (I realize not all PR agencies are the same; independent firms and virtual agencies, among other types of PR firms, may have different guiding values and different ways to achieve their desired results.)

Mayer gets it. She can talk the talk because she’s walked the walk. She was Google’s first female engineer and the 20th employee for the startup. During her career at Google, Mayer was an engineer, designer, product manager, and executive, and launched more than 100 well-known features and products. She was also in charge of some of Google’s acquisitions. She’s a Wal-Mart board member and angel investor. If anyone can right the ship, it’s her (we think).

Now picture Sheryl Sandberg as a senior vice president of corporate communications. She’s a great boss who brings a broad perspective to the role from her varied and impressive background of experiences. She knows what it takes to get PR a ‘seat at the table,’ too. Even better, Sandberg enjoys mentoring the next generation of internal communications directors with great advice on how to navigate the corporate career ladder.

I’ve written before about how the lines between PR and other functions in an organization can get blurred with PR increasing being measured for its ability to impact sales, customer service and other marketing functions. Sheryl’s experience as COO at Facebook is a good example of how to build inter-organizational bridges among various departments. At Facebook, Sandberg oversees sales, marketing, business development, HR, public policy and communications. She was a driver in uniting these functions to make Facebook profitable, one of her first major accomplishments at the company. Sheryl also understands the importance of transparency and authentic communications, which are essential to corporate communications and brand development.

And who better than Sheryl to shepherd PR through a period of massive change? Technology and social media are changing the PR role, complicating the way we work and measure our results. If anyone can teach us the importance of staying open-minded and encourage us to learn and adopt new methods, it’s the woman who is launching a cultural movement to get women to be better represented in corporate leadership roles.

Like the many places Mayer and Sandberg have worked in their careers, PR can be both hospitable and tough on working parents. I don’t think most working mothers are in a position to follow Mayer’s and Sandberg’s examples of balancing work and family, but both women offer lessons in how to succeed in the workplace.

Alison Kenney an independent PR practitioner with more than 15 years of PR consulting experience. She is based on Boston’s North Shore and has worked with organizations in the technology, professional services and consumer industries. She writes a bi-monthly PR column on LindsayOlson.com. You can find her at www.kprcommunications.com. Learn more about Alison Kenney.

 

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Signs that PR Has Become More than a Job for You

we love pr Signs that PR Has Become More than a Job for You

This is a guest post by PR Columnist, Alison Kenney.

  • You have multiple identities on the social networks you use
  • You reframe your witty ideas several times to get them under 140 characters
  • You know that when the Chinese calendars rename 2013 the ‘Year of Beyonce’ it’s a testament to the PR team that coordinated her domino-like performances at the inauguration and Super Bowl, her HBO special, her appearances at the Grammy awards, magazine feature spreads, new album launch and world tour.
  • You momentarily get excited when you find a spelling or grammar error in whatever you’re reading
  • Your friends and family ask you to proof-read their writing
  • Your reaction to Lance Armstrong’s appearance on Oprah is “what a great case study”
  • You shake your head in pity when public announcements are handled poorly and immediately tick off the steps the organization should have taken (anticipating questions/backlash, prepping their spokesperson, considering the spokesperson) before making their announcement
  • You consider time on the treadmill billable because it’s when you come up with your best ideas
  • You bring your smartphone into the bathroom or into bed
  • When you have a spare minute or are waiting in line, you look for headlines to scan
  • You quickly digest the news in a breaking story and then dissect it to find out which reporter did the writing, who was quoted as a source and how the editor framed the lead.
  • Planning a vacation means just fitting the same amount of work into less time
  • In addition to the entertainment value you get from American Idol, The Voice or Dancing with the Stars, you watch to see how the celebrity judges are doing with their comeback efforts
  • You justify new clothing and accessories by telling yourself that you are “in the image business”
  • There hasn’t been a day this year that you haven’t looked into a computer screen
  • You read lists like these to make sure you’re not missing any tactics

(Hat tip to Ragan’s PRDaily.com for their “you know you work in PR if” lists)

Alison Kenney an independent PR practitioner with more than 15 years of PR consulting experience. She is based on Boston’s North Shore and has worked with organizations in the technology, professional services and consumer industries. She writes a bi-monthly PR column on LindsayOlson.com. You can find her at www.kprcommunications.com. Learn more about Alison Kenney.

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What is PR? A little of this, a little of that…

what is pr What is PR? A little of this, a little of that…

This is a guest post by PR Columnist, Alison Kenney.

Many folks smarter than me have struggled to answer the question, “What is PR?” (Heck, I can’t even explain it to my mom.) Last year, PRSA attempted to define public relations once and for all. Since it’s a new year, I propose a new attempt at solving this dilemma and respectfully suggest that the reason we can’t see ourselves to a clear definition of this profession is because the lines around it are so blurry.

Take the buzz around ‘content marketing.’ To me, much of what content marketing purports to do sounds a lot like PR. Creating content – whether it’s a white paper, a book, a video, shareable research or a forum for customers – has been a staple in the PR pantry for years. Only now, marketers are using technology to assign analytics to these efforts so they can be linked more directly to lead generation, further blurring the line between PR and other members of the sales team.

Sometimes, there’s so much content already out there that we PR folks are tasked with side jobs like editing and curating. We comb through this content, select the best pieces for our needs and incorporate it in our pitches and social media efforts.

When it comes to the ‘relations’ part of our name, we know we can’t afford to focus solely on the media. As most of us know, there are many ‘publics’ that we need to be concerned with. What’s new is a practice of communicating directly with customers, which means the line between public relations and customer service can get blurry.

Some will argue that PR is best suited to managing an organization’s social media efforts (whatever that means!), but that isn’t likely to end up being the last word. Since the sales, customer service, HR, etc. roles also invested in social media efforts, PR’s involvement in managing the process could end up blurring the lines between PR and those various functions.

Along with this, many PR pros are becoming more involved as an advisor and managing conversations and interactions between brands and customers. I don’t think we’re there yet, but I wonder if this ‘trusted counselor’ role could mean that the line between PR and legal teams is getting fuzzier? Will we see an increase in PR firms hiring staff with legal expertise?

There have always been people who have confused PR with advertising and new terms for different forms of advertising aren’t helping the matter. Gini Deitrich recently blogged about a new form of advertising, native advertising, that is subtle and blends with other content in this post about how native advertising will affect public relations (read the comments, too). Gini’s description of native advertising sounds like the ‘branded content’ campaigns that Ad Age covered in this article 7 Branded Content Campaigns that Got it Right in 2012. And they all sound like ideas that a PR team could have worked on.

What other roles have you seen morph with PR’s responsibilities lately?

Alison Kenney an independent PR practitioner with more than 15 years of PR consulting experience. She is based on Boston’s North Shore and has worked with organizations in the technology, professional services and consumer industries. She writes a bi-monthly PR column on LindsayOlson.com. You can find her at www.kprcommunications.com. Learn more about Alison Kenney.

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How to Get Great PR Even When You’re in Stealth Mode

stealth mode 300x291 How to Get Great PR Even When You’re in Stealth Mode

This is a guest post by PR columnist, Alison Kenney.

Stealth-mode PR. It sounds like an oxymoron, but I bet you know what I’m talking about.

You know — a company hires PR talent to raise its profile, but doesn’t want to put itself too far out there. For instance, a small private startup might want to convince investors and potential employees that it’s the next best thing, but doesn’t want to tip off competitors by revealing too many numbers (e.g. revenue, customer data, etc).

This can put the PR function in a bit of a bind.

It’s tough to get top media outlets to profile your company if you can’t show why you’re relevant to their readers by mentioning customers with recognizable names or spotlighting your meteoric growth and attractiveness as a potential investment.

However, if you find yourself in this situation – working with a client who doesn’t want to reveal too many ‘secrets’ or even just one who is less aggressive when it comes to PR – here are a few suggestions:

Take the focus off the company and its product and build awareness of its ‘thought leadership.’ The term ‘thought leadership’ has been around for awhile and is the label for establishing an individual as an authority or forward-thinker on a topic or in a particular field. The work can involve strategizing about messaging, brainstorming new language terms and making ideas come to life through examples and application. Tactics can include writing white papers and bylined articles; speaking/delivering presentations before live or web audiences; authoring a book; conducting surveys and sharing the results; and establishing and sponsoring an awards program.

Or, focus on the personalities behind the business. Concentrate your efforts on the firm’s leaders and managers, perhaps even without mentioning by name the business they’re working with currently, by promoting them as speakers, award nominees and online authorities.

Build an online presence. Invest time in developing a web site (perhaps you don’t publish all of the content at once if it’s deemed sensitive) and social media channels. You can also monitor and respond to industry- or topic-specific online communities. Building a following online will come in useful when you are able to share news. It can also result in better SEO and search results that may be important to other company initiatives.

Plan ahead and prepare for the moment when you hear “go.” Brief influencers, such as industry analysts and significant customers, so that they can serve as references when you’re ready to tell your story. In the same way (using NDAs if necessary) prepare the media by offering bloggers and key beat reporters a background briefing and general outline of your future plans.

Develop non-news content. Content is king and even pitchable these days. Create and build a bank of quality content by interviewing other people (experts, customers, etc.) about your industry or issues; record summaries of industry events (e.g. highlights from tradeshows); develop case studies (and make them anonymous if necessary); or hire a comic who can create original art for you.

Align with the company’s current goals. If publicity isn’t a priority, understand what goals are most important to the company’s success right now and how PR can support those goals. Is it developing channels for customer communications, e.g. emails, newsletters, online chats, online portal sites? Helping the sales team with support materials? Organizing events to facilitate networking? Participating in industry groups to gain credibility and meet partners?

Have you ever been in this position? What did you do?

Alison Kenney an independent PR practitioner with more than 15 years of PR consulting experience. She is based on Boston’s North Shore and has worked with organizations in the technology, professional services and consumer industries. She writes a bi-monthly PR column on LindsayOlson.com. You can find her at www.kprcommunications.comLearn more about Alison Kenney.

 

 

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