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digital media

Internal Tools from PRSA Connect

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Internal Tools from PRSA Connect

It’s rare that a PRSA national conference comes to our hometown, so when PRSA Connect announced its 2016 location in Dallas, I was in. (Not to mention, our awesome clients Topgolf and DFW Airport were presenting.) After nearly two days of presentations and networking, I’ll share a few key internal communications tools and learnings.

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Blake’s Take: Keep the C-Suite Strategic

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Blake’s Take: Keep the C-Suite Strategic

An interesting article recently came out at CIO Dashboard, entitled “Who’s in Charge of Digital?” The world often presents dramatic business changes that cause questions about C-suite roles and responsibilities. But I'd caution leaders to pay close attention when changes are proposed to executive designations.

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On the Radar: Snapchat

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard of Snapchat. The mobile app has done some big things lately and is making strides toward becoming a relevant social platform and news source – so much so that The Wall Street Journal and the White House have jumped on the bandwagon. WSJ         

The Wall Street Journal is now publishing stories on Snapchat and it’s safe to say Snapchat has officially earned a seat at the social media VIP table. The pairing of an established and prestigious newspaper with an app primarily used by millennials is a win for both parties. For the Journal, it’s an avenue to reach and retain young readers. For Snapchat, whose users are mostly young people, the addition of the Journal may appeal to an older audience and attract new advertisers.

The White House

Yep, the White House joined Snapchat just in time for the President’s State of the Union address last month. This isn’t the first time the Obama administration has taken strides in the social media world – President Obama is the first sitting president to have his own Twitter account and Facebook page. Obama’s director of product management said the White House was joining Snapchat to reach the growing percentage of the population that uses the app to consume news and share with friends. I bet Snapchat was pretty pleased to hear the White House thinks the app is 1) big enough to reach the national audience and 2) a legit news outlet for something as prestigious as the SOTU.

Geofilter

Geofilter

Geofilters

Snapchat has offered geofilters – geographically restricted graphics that can be added to a user’s photo or video – for a while. However, it just introduced a new geofilter option that will allow anyone, even smaller companies, to submit temporary geofilters for a party or an event for a $5 fee. The company currently receives floods of “on-demand” geofilter submissions, but Snapchat hopes the fee will slow the pipeline to a more manageable number of submissions. As Snapchat continues to grow, this is a huge innovative step in terms of both revenue and user retention.

Whether you’re a fan of Snapchat or not, you can’t deny the company’s ingenuity and strategy. The app is constantly searching for ways to reach a broader target market AND create new channels of revenue.

Bravo, Snapchat, bravo.

(Featured photo: via Flickr; Geofilter photo: via Flickr)

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On Our Radar: Content is Crap

A recent Harvard Business Review article has been making the rounds in the marketing and communications circles, “Content Is Crap, and Other Rules for Marketers” by Greg Satell.   We’ve all heard that content is king, so declaring that content is crap is a pretty strong statement to make. The point isn’t that content doesn’t matter. The point is you should want more than some flash-in-the-pan content—you should want a relationship with the consumer. The article explains, “Today, marketers need to build an ongoing relationship with consumers and that means holding attention, not just grabbing it.  To get people to subscribe to a blog, YouTube channel, or social media feed, you need to offer more than a catchy slogan or a clever stunt. You need to offer real value, and offer it consistently.”

We like this idea. We see this as relationship building, and relationships are what drives engagement and results for businesses and organizations.

Thinking about this relationship-building and engagement-driven content, I wanted to highlight some organizations on our radar. These are just a few examples that have caught—and kept—our attention by keying in on the human experience.

General Electric– GE has been pumping out quality content since before Ronald Reagan was in politics. They are constantly innovating, and I, personally, am consistently impressed with its marketing efforts beyond the customary Facebook and Twitter channels. I have to admit I follow GE on Instagram, Periscope, Snapchat and even LinkedIn and Tumblr. It’s all different content, and it’s all done exceptionally well.

GE has come a long way since the days of General Electric Theater. If your team needs some inspiration in the digital space, check out how GE is and engaging the younger generations through #EmojiScience.

  • Bonus: GE Health is also creatively promoting their new Automated Breast Ultrasound technology by explaining breast density with emoji. (Don’t worry, it’s pretty G-rated.)
GE - Breast Density Explained with Emoji
GE - Breast Density Explained with Emoji
Southwest Periscope Teaser with Rangers
Southwest Periscope Teaser with Rangers

Southwest Airlines – You’d be hard-pressed to find a value airline that has more LUV for its customers than Southwest. Enter its new trademark: Transfarency, Southwest Airlines’ philosophy that means “low fares actually stay low — no unexpected bag fees, change fees or hidden fees.”

So our bags fly for free, and the in-flight hot chocolate always hits the spot. We’re on board, but what’s really caught our eye with Southwest lately is its Periscope channel. While most big brands have jumped on the Periscope band wagon, Southwest has definitely set itself apart from the noise. Building anticipation through Twitter, Southwest shows us different sneak peeks inside the company that aren’t stuffy or scripted, and the company engages with its viewers by listening and responding to comments. Viewers get an inside look at operations, company events and employee life, and back in August, Southwest put the Texas Rangers to work for a day! Southwest is definitely one to watch.

REI – This company is truly all about relationships. REI is a co-op and values its members heavily. They offer special events, discounted rates for its Outdoor School and a great return policy for members—not to mention the year-end rebate. REI promotes clean, crisp and wanderlust-evoking images and videos on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram that make you want to quit your day job…

REI_OptOutside
REI_OptOutside

If you haven’t heard yet, REI plans to #OptOutside on Black Friday and is closing all 143 of its stores for the day. This bold move, which includes delaying any online sales that day and paying its employees to enjoy the day outside, aligns with the company’s core values. While social is still reeling from this news, we’ve also noticed a coordinated effort for holiday shopping encouraging “no inside gifts.” People seem to like the idea to #OptOutside on Black Friday, and admittedly, it’s probably going to create much more consumer-created content for them. Overall, well-played.

With everything floating out on the internet, we’re impressed by what these brands are doing to grab our attention and keep us engaged. We’re on the lookout for what’s next, what works and what doesn’t, and we’re interested to hear what you think, too. What’s on your radar? Comment below and fill us in!

(Photo Credits: General Electric, Southwest Airlines and REI)

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5 Years & 100 Posts

It's hard to believe, but five years - and 100 posts - ago, the Lewis Public Relations team started on a journey to bring public relations thought leadership and news to our corner of the Internet. User-generated content has changed over the years, but it's just as relevant, if not more so, than it was in 2010. In our first posts, LPR focused on major agency and client news releases and media coverage. (Our very first post on June 14, 2010, linked to my comments to USA Today about the BP oil spill.) Since then, our approach to blogging and user-generated content has evolved.

To commemorate our 100th post, here are five blogging tips that we've picked up along the way:

  1. Blog with frequency.  Building a blog audience is a lot like cultivating a relationship. It takes time, and you have to commit to investing in conversation. Starting out, we posted once a month...sometimes once a quarter. Today, that simply isn't often enough. In the past few years, we've upped our game and share new content at least once a week. It keeps our audience engaged and encourages us to stay current and fresh.
  2. Give an inside look.  Many professionals are used to staying behind the scenes, but audience like to see behind the curtain. Regular blogging - with photos and videos - gives a peek into your culture and team. It's content the audience can't find from anyone but you.
  3. Brag a little.  Our most popular posts come from sharing our team's and clients' successes. We work hard to get great results, but too often we hesitate to make it known. Did you get mentioned by a great media outlet? Share it! Did one of your team members learn from a fantastic professional development session? Ask them to relay what they learned. Your audience is interested.
  4. Use your keywords.  Search engine optimization are three dirty words to many writers, but it makes sure your content gets the attention it deserves. It's important to know your keywords and weave them into your titles, tags and content with finesse. This can be tricky, and it puts even the most skilled wordsmith to the test, but the results are worth it.
  5. Track your progress.  Blogging brings highs and lows, but tracking your progress gives incredible insight into what your audience likes...and doesn't like. We track our blog readership weekly and use data to understand the type of content our readers want. We've found that posts with public relations insights, results and photos from inside our agency do very well. Your audience may like something different. Watch for patterns and blog accordingly.

Five years ago, we set up a blog to post big news every once and a while. Today, we have a robust platform to engage our clients, colleagues and friends in a dialogue about our industry and our agency.

Photo by William Allen via Flickr

What's in a (Twitter) name?

I recently decided to make a change. To be honest, it's a change I was hesitant to make. No, I didn't do anything to my appearance, my routine or my lifestyle... I changed my Twitter handle.

It sounds a little trivial. What should have been an easy change, actually took some contemplation. For the duration of my Twitter experience, I had been "@blaketexas081." To many, that was a string of characters and numbers. To me, it was my identity.

But I also understand that success and visibility in social media comes from others' ability to connect with me. To my dismay, @BlakeLewis has already been claimed by the season six American Idol runner-up. Outside of that one time I convinced a Nashville hotel staff that I was, in fact, the singer and just looked younger on TV - that handle is unavailable.

Instead, you can now find me at @LPRBlake. It's simple, short and easy to find. It still represents me and what I do with @LPRDallas. It's great for searches that include LPR, PR and LPR Blake. It's the right fit at the right time.

So, follow me on Twitter at @LPRBlake, and let's talk PR, Lewis Public Relations and all things Texas.

(And follow the rest of the LPR team: @AmandaLHill, @ChristiChesner, @ashley_brazell and @shelbyTidwell.)

Beating Google's Mobilegeddon

If you stop in to the Lewis Public Relations website from time to time, you may have noticed a few changes. (Ok, so maybe a whole new site...) We've been working over the past several weeks to launch a fresh, new website design to give our clients, colleagues and prospects a better feel for our brand and results. A side benefit, though, is optimizing our site for mobile and beating the now infamous Mobilegeddon deadline. For those outside the PR world, Google announced that its mobile page rank algorithm would take a website's mobile-friendly design into account, starting today. Web designers said "Finally!" PR pros said "Oh, cr@p!" A lot of companies and agencies went back to the drawing board to make sure their sites were ready.

PR agencies are experts at counseling on digital best practices, but we often put our own brands aside to focus on our clients. At LPR, we're working to give attention to both - starting with this new site. In the coming weeks, look for more frequent updates on client wins, news hits and meaningful results. Our team scores big all the time. We want to use this site to share those successes with you.

With all this Mobilegeddon talk online, I read an interesting point about chasing the Google algorithm (see also Facebook, etc.) versus stepping out in front of what the algorithm wants. As experts, it's our job to stay in front, and LPR wants to lead the pack.

Want to know if your website is optimized for mobile? Take a second and check out Google's mobile-friendly test.

The Modern PR War Room

Photo by Ewan McIntosh
Photo by Ewan McIntosh

We live in a world of increasing connectivity and demand for real-time marketing. With a 24-hour news cycle and content being pushed through multiple social media channels, it’s vital to have the intellectual bandwidth on staff to manage the immediate demand. With centralized operations to facilitate rapid and targeted messaging, public relations war rooms can make or break a successful campaign, event or brand.

Preparation and Planning

What makes for an effective modern PR war room?  Preparation and planning are essential. Draw strategic inferences and scheduling cues from previous, similar or competitor events and programs. Was the last townhall, Twitter chat or Google+ Hangout a success? Why or why not?

Is every department or issue area represented?  Do you need surrogates lined up for media hits? Check schedules to see who is available. Ensure all team members and spokespersons have background and appropriate messaging going in. Getting the right team prepped and ready to go should be done well in advance.

Resources

Have as much pre-approved content as possible, including messaging strategy with examples, talking points for spokespeople and digital content with infographics, photos and videos.

Build a timeline, but remember to budget room for spontaneity. Inevitably something will surprise you. Will you have the intellectual, informational and physical resources to provide a thoughtful response?

For rapid response events, what will you need to maintain successful operations for the duration of the event? Equip your team in advance—a live stream, multiple screens to monitor news coverage, pre-approved statements and news releases and maybe even dinner to keep the staff going.

If you don’t have the right team in place with the right resources, your brand likely won’t be on message.

Social Media

How do you win on social media? You’ll need to have a focused strategy for messaging throughout.

Think about who the influencers are and engage appropriately, using replies, retweets and favorites. Does your brand have a frequent complainer on Twitter? It isn’t effective to reply to every negative comment, but you should respond to critics and customer service complaints.

Use apps to maximize your reach. Don’t miss out on opportunities to appropriately exploit innovations of social media like Instagram, Swarm, TweetDeck or HooteSuite.

Having socially savvy people with content and messaging that’s pre-approved equips and empowers your team of digital ninjas with a solid foundation to win.

Metrics and Evaluation

Deliverables should be clearly defined, and feedback should be expected.

Are you trying to beat last year’s social media analytics? Which ones—impressions, engagement or new followers? Defining the goals specifically sets the expectation for success. Doing this will ensure you have someone ready to go on-camera after an event or can push your team to capture a wider audience for digital engagement.

Continuous feedback is important, too. Listen to your team on site so nothing is missed. And before you put the campaign to rest, make recommendations for future operations to help the next event or program be an even bigger success.

Bringing it all together.

Preparation and planning will be the crux of the operation. Focusing on these tips for a modern PR war room should set you with a stellar team equipped to effectively communicate – and more importantly, engage – with your most critical audiences when it matters most.

Photo Credit: Ewan McIntosh

Survey: CEOs Preparing for Media Interviews Must Have an Online Presence

Preparing to be interviewed by a North American journalist in the United States or Canada? While the top source of interview preparation material is still past media coverage, today’s journalists are getting a jump on their executive interviewees by studying their social media profiles.

Active Connecting through Wearable Tech

With today’s big event for the new Apple Watch, it’s time to highlight a new angle of connecting with customers through wearable technology. Consumers have increased their focus on health and fitness, and smart companies will find ways to serve the market’s needs. At Goldman Sachs’ Technology and Internet Conference, Apple CEO Tim Cook timely declared, “Sitting is the new cancer.” The idea that sitting leads to increased risk of diabetes and heart disease like smoking does with cancer resonates with all of us. Most of us lead a fairly sedentary work life, but through technology innovation we can stay more active. Whether or not you should invest in a standing desk is up to you, but there are cheaper and possibly more effective ways to get moving and stay engaged.

 

Photo by Mark Mathosian

 

With wearable technology and now-standard health apps on smart phones, we can all track our activity on a regular basis – from steps to sleep cycle. The new Apple Watch, like the JawboneUP series, will vibrate when the wearer is inactive for too long.

All this works, too. We’ve started to take the stairs down for that afternoon latte run. We challenge our co-workers and FitBit friends to a “Workweek Hustle.” We've downloaded the Couch to 5K app to gear up for that Corporate Challenge race next month. We all double-tapped when we saw Beyoncé’s #GimmeFive Instagram engaging with First Lady Michelle Obama’s Lets Move! Initiative.

As life imitates art, we begin to capitalize through what I’d like to call “active connecting.” In the past, some of our favorite assignments have been helping clients connect through race sponsorships, like the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk. Social media coupled with wearable technology gives us a new way to connect. We helped DFW Airport give away new FitBits to customers through social media engagement and highlighted the Airport’s LiveWell Walking Path. Later this month, we’re excited to utilize Twitter to give away a 10K entry to GE’s Irving Marathon. Living well is important to all of us. Why not incorporate it into our corporate and brand culture?

Thanks to wearable technology, connecting with customers to get active and encouraging them to live healthy is a big win. So will the Apple Watch be a big flop? Time will tell, but active connecting through digital engagement is here to stay.

Photo Credit: Mark Mathosian

The 2015 Oscars: A Podium for Social Justice

2015 Academy Awards - Oscars for Social Justice Like millions of other Americans, I tune in each February to the Academy Awards - arguably our country's biggest soiree to celebrate art and culture. Rarely have I seen the movies that are nominated, but I enjoy watching ostentatious fashion come to life and pop culture's biggest stars walk the red carpet.

What I didn't expect this year, though, was the many ways celebrities used public relations best practices to raise awareness for inequality, suicide, debilitating diseases and other social issues.

Before stepping out of a limo and onto the red carpet, Reese Witherspoon shared posts on Twitter and Instagram encouraging reporters to #AskHerMore. The social media campaign prompts journalists to ask women substantive questions - and encourages fans to share suggestions for interview topics in real time. At the end of just the red carpet parade, the hashtag was trending in the U.S. with more than 27,000 tweets.

Speeches by prominent actors, directors and screenwriters also thrust causes onto the national stage. Many opted to apportion part of their allotted 60 seconds to raise awareness. While none can dig deep into the intricacies of these causes in under a minute, a captive audience is one way to ensure your message is heard.

Of course, the art can speak volumes for causes, too. Some of the year's most celebrated films addressed social issues of veterans' affairs, racial equality, early-onset Alzheimer's and ALS. In today's age of 140-character messages, a two- to three-hour movie dedicates infinitely more time to the intricacies and complicated facets of these causes. When it comes to awareness, you just can't replace in-depth explanation.

So, what are the measurable results for these causes in the days, weeks and months following the Oscars buzz? Only time will tell. But the Academy Awards as a social megaphone? I think PR-savvy celebrities will be sure that's a trend that continues.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Satriale, WEBN-TV Boston

#MediaMonday: Keven Ann Willey, The Dallas Morning News

HMA Public Relations, our PRGN affiliate and friends in Phoenix, Ariz., have a great blog series they call "Media Mondays." This week's featured newsy is Keven Ann Willey, editorial page editor at The Dallas Morning News.

Video Tour of LPR Dallas

It takes a team to run a successful PR agency. At Lewis Public Relations, we value the strengths each individual brings to the table. Got 2 minutes? Take a video tour of our office and get hear what makes our LPR team unique.

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5 PR Wins in 2014

Well, 2014 has come and (almost) gone… Can you believe it? When thinking back on the biggest news stories of the year, I found that 2014 was pretty good for public relations.

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Powerful HAS#TAGS Build PR Results

Although hashtags are still used to accumulate common posts, they’re being used more and more as a means to spread news, ideas or trends – a virtual word-of-mouth, if you will. They have also proven to be a valuable PR tool. In 2013, Baylor University's athletic department used a hashtag to help spread the word and build excitement about an upcoming football game.

My First Celebrity Event – What REALLY happens behind the scenes

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Before my internship with LPR, I’ve only ever attended an event as a guest. In the few charity events I’ve been to (or, really, seen on TV), everything seemed so coordinated and effortless. People smiled for cameras, guests of honor spoke without nerves and everyone was focused on the benefiting charity.

After working my first charity event, the DeMarco Murray Foundation’s Celebrity Waiter Night, I’ve come to realize that all of those things do happen – but not without a lot of behind-the-scenes work. Here are my two big takeaways: how an event like that is put on, and why we did it.

The “How”

My role leading up to Celebrity Waiter Night was pitching the event to Dallas-area bloggers, where I gained firsthand experience inviting them to attend and following up for both participation and coverage.

On the day of the event, I staffed the celebrity room. (Pretty cool for this sports-loving Dallas girl!) Some things were out of our control, like DeMarco Murray being stuck in traffic when CBS needed to film their live shot. A lot of things, however, were in our control, like maintaining consistent communication between the media and celebrity rooms about when the next item on the agenda was happening.

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But the biggest challenge of the evening, I realized, was finding the balance between accommodating the players, guests and media.

The players – the celebrities of the evening – needed time to eat before they began serving the guests and wanted to enjoy the night with their dates just as much as the guests of the event. Meanwhile, the media wanted every possible photo op and detail of what happened, which is why they were invited.

It was important for me and the rest of the team to remain sensitive to everyone’s wants and to try and cater to those wants as best we could.

Although a few portions of the evening didn’t flow as smoothly as we’d hoped, we had to keep two things in mind: the players and media arepeople, too, and there was a cause behind every hectic moment.

The “Why”

When the timing of things didn’t happen the way we wanted, it was important to keep sight of the vision and purpose behind what we were doing.

The planning, arranging, organizing, scheduling, inviting, publicizing, calling, emailing, set-up and implementation of weeks of preparing was all for one group of people: the Dallas-area youth who would receive educational help and resources thanks to DeMarco’s foundation.

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Professional athletes, especially football players, haven’t had the best publicity the past few months. This event came at a crucial time for the NFL’s reputation. Thanks to the media who attended the event, members of the Dallas community had the opportunity to see the players they cheered for, sometimes even idolized, doing good for their hometown.

And, no matter the size of my role, I was a part of helping them do good. To me, that makes my first celebrity event a success.

You’ve Captured Their Attention…Now What? How to Develop and Grow Your Relationships with the Media

It can take a lot of time and energy to create new relationships with the media (or anyone else, for that matter). You have to do your homework, network, reach out and follow up until you either make a connection or move on. But, what’s the best way to move forward once you’ve captured their attention? Here are a few steps you can take to strengthen and maintain mutually beneficial relationships with the media. Make the Most of the First Meeting

With any type of relationship, the initial meeting is arguably the most important.

Preparation is key.

Photo courtesy of Dave Throup

Make sure your client or colleague is fully briefed on the media outlet, the reporter and the particular subject matter they want to cover.  Create a list of potential questions and review them with your client in advance to make sure he or she is comfortable and ready for anything.

Likewise, talk with reporters to find out what topics they’re interested in covering and give them as much information as possible up front. Making their lives a little easier is a great way to earn points and providing them with information can help steer the conversation.

Lastly, pay attention to the logistical details. For example, if you’ve secured a briefing at a major conference, it’s a good idea to reserve a meeting room that gives the reporter and your client a quiet place to chat. If you have visuals to show, but can’t meet in person, set up an online meeting instead of a regular conference call.

Stay in Touch

Photo courtesy of Tim Peacock

After the initial meeting, always follow up to thank reporters for their time and provide additional resources based on the questions and interests they expressed during the conversation.

But, don’t stop there. Continue to cultivate the relationship by following the reporter’s coverage areas, sharing relevant story ideas, providing updates on client news, and staying in touch via email, phone or social media.

Remember, your client is a subject matter expert, so look for opportunities for them to provide commentary on current events or serve as a resource for a story. Sometimes all it takes is a quick check of a publication’s editorial calendar and an email to get back on the radar.

Give and Take…and Give Some More

Photo courtesy of Chase Barrington

Relationships are two-way streets. When it comes to maintaining good relationships with the media, it’s not always about you and your client. If a reporter is coming to you for help, they’re usually under a tight deadline. Respond quickly and help if you can.

Even if you can’t always deliver (and there will be times when you can’t), making a concerted effort to help reporters not only preserves relationships, but speaks volumes for your clients, your agency and the PR profession overall.

Getting your foot in the door is only the first step.  Know your audience, stay in touch regularly and be available when they need you. In the PR profession, relationships are created every day, but the professionals who tend to be the most successful are able to take new relationships and grow them into something truly great.