Essential Books for Better Writing — News, PR, Corporate Communications and More

Words of Wisdom

Words of Wisdom

Posted by Tom Gable

Our client was growing rapidly throughout the U.S. based on clearly differentiating the quality of its service against what was offered by the huge national organizations that dominated the industry. The plan worked. Its business grew and it was attracting new talent wherever it went based on its culture, vision and mission.

The CEO found one troublesome and unexpected consequence of the growth: a decline in the overall quality of communication. Research found it occurring in new areas and also in existing markets where staff was under the gun to deliver on increased demands for company products. The CEO believed that every communication — from short email to formal letters and proposals — needed to support the quality image of the brand. How to build firm-wide standards without having platoons of editors in every region?

The solution: the Gable PR team created a guide to better writing. The primer covered how to think about positioning, branding, research, understanding the audience, having a personality, preparing to write, basic rules for better writing, keys to editing and how to test messages before launch. It took almost one year to create the primer. The goal: keep it tight and bright. The result: 10 short chapters on 30 pages. The hard part: writing short.

For the best traditional resources to help your writing, browse through these fine works, which provided many big ideas for our little primer.

On Writing Well, William Zinsser. HarperCollins Publishers, 1990.

The Careful Writer, Theodore M. Bernstein, Free Press, 2005

The Classic Guide to Better Writing, Rudolf Flesch and A.H. Lass. HarperCollins Publishers, 1996.

Business Communication: Building Critical Skills, Kitty Locker. McGraw-Hill, 2010.

Eats, Shoots and Leaves – The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, Lynne Truss. Gotham Books, 2003.

Fresh Passion: Get A Brand Or Die A Generic, Michael D. Brown. Greenleaf Book Group Press, 2013.

 How to Write Short, Word Craft for Fast Times, Roy Peter Clark. Little Brown and Co., 2013.

It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences, June Casagrande. Ten Speed Press (Crown Publishing), New York, 2003.

The Associated Press Stylebook, Perseus Publishing, 2014.

The Book on Writing: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Well, Paula LaRocque. Grey and Guvner Press, 2003.

The Elements of Business Writing, Gary Blake and Robert W. Bly. Macmillan Publishing Company, 1991.

The Elements of Style, William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White. Allyn and Bacon, 2000 (earlier editions, 1959 and 1972 by McMillan Publishing Co.).

Weinberg on Writing: The Fieldstone Method, Gerald M. Weinberg. Dorset House, 2005.

Ego, Arrogance and Twittercide — the Olbermann Eruption

Viral Voting

Viral Voting

Posted by Tom Gable

As covered well in AdWeek, Keith Olbermann jumped into a Twitter war with students at Penn State. He had a history of attacking the university, faculty, students, alumni and anyone associated with the university for the Jerry Sandusky scandal. He received a Tweet from an alumna he had dueled with before on Twitter who was proud to announce the school had raised $13 million for children being treated for cancer at the university hospital. Rather than conduct a little research into the topic, he went into attack mode. The result: picking a fight he couldn’t win, taking oafishness and insensitivity to a new level and getting suspended by ESPN.

The AdWeek story has good basic guidance for researching and thinking before you respond in social media. The Daily Beast carried an in-depth feature on the psychology of engaging in social media flame wars. The driving factors are ego, arrogance and a need to be right. The Daily Beast went through different examples of people in high places who engaged online with the trolls, elevating the trolls while diminishing their images and reputations. The absurdity of this type of engagement: the troll and critic may be a fictional online character.

To quote the story: “The end result is fighting over nothing, with someone who may or may not even exist. If that’s not the definition of insanity, then what is?”

For crisis PR counselors, sometimes the best advice to a client who is fired up to fulminate in response to social media attacks:

  • Consider if it really matters in the big world and will have any long-term impact (if it will, have a positive response program in place)
  • Set aside ego; you don’t have to respond
  • You don’t have to be right
  • Consider the half life of a Tweet (two to five minutes according to studies we covered here before)
  • If you respond, you simply perpetuate the madness
  • Move on to positive communications on other topics to help build your reputation

Boost the Brain: Take a Newspaper or Two to Breakfast, Magazines to Lunch

Creative Resources

Creative Resources

Posted by Tom Gable

Where do creative PR and other marketing, positioning and communicating ideas come from?

Experts recommend checking a broad range of media, including those you may not have encountered unless you go non-digital and take a newspaper or two to breakfast and a magazine or two to lunch.

In interviewing more than 20 applicants (ages 22 to 34) for jobs at Gable PR over a two-month period, I asked where they got their news. We were in a small conference room, with several different newspapers scattered on the table. All said online. One said she occasionally read the weekly business journal. I thumbed through a local daily and a weekly business journal with a couple of candidates just to see the reactions. None was aware of how the publications were organized but enjoyed following the flow of  the news, something not often experienced online.

It’s too easy to subscribe to different digital news trackers and feeds, click on a promising link when one arrives, check out the single story and then move on to another link to a different story. The process is efficient and valuable for following certain topics, people and organizations. The missing parts for anyone in communications: the joy of discovery of new topics and nonessential information that can broaden your base of knowledge, providing new stimulus for future creative thought.

As a former print journalist, I have always started the morning with newspapers, even in today’s digital era. I subscribe to two local daily newspapers (one regional metropolitan, one business and financial) and The Wall Street Journal. During the week, I get hard copies of the local weekly business journal, the Sunday New York Times, and a dozen magazines (news, business, science, wine, management). In reading the physical product, one sees how the editors ranked the importance of the news based on story and photo placements. You get a sense of the world as you move page to page. And this is where discovery occurs — finding odd little features or analytical pieces you might not have seen elsewhere, adding to your intellectual database. I find stories that I missed in scanning through the digital editions of several of these publications.

Stephen King, in is book On Writing, talked about where his ideas came from. “There is no idea dump, no story central, no island of buried bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky; two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.”

If we are coming up short on creative ideas for our clients during a brainstorming session, we’ll take a break for a day or two, assign further reading of the media covering our client, its competitors’ materials and general business media. We then ask each individual to come back with their top three ideas and compile the results for further brainstorming. The quality of the creative thought rises considerably as do the results for our clients, from positioning, to media stories, feature pitches, new product introduction ideas, conference speech topics, promotions and staging events for broadcast coverage, among other things.

For example, in helping position a new company and its software products for launch, the team read competitive coverage, marketing materials, trend stories in the industry and local news stories on some of the major customers in the space. They looked for what was there and also what wasn’t there — the ying and yang of creative thinking. The result: distinctive positioning for our client that became the foundation for a long-range strategic plan to help it break out of the competitive clutter and grow.

A little morning, midday and evening stimulus with a newspaper and magazine or two can go a long way.

Ten Tips to Becoming a Better Editor (and Writer)

Producing Peerless Prose

Producing Peerless Prose

Posted by Tom Gable

After slaving over a piece of peerless prose, many writers fall in love with their own work. You may have revised it a time or two and feel it is ready to launch, but you need to tackle the last important steps: editing and proofreading your work with diligence and precision. Both take some patience and a critical, distanced approach. With a little literary cosmetic surgery, you can make your work attractive to future readers.

How to Edit and Proofread – Professional Guidance

Editing and proofreading are both important to ensure clear and clean communications. If your news release, media pitch, blog post, website content, letter or email message has typos, misspellings, and bad punctuation or doesn’t flow well, your reader may perceive you as unprofessional, lazy or sloppy. Even simple typos such as misplaced apostrophes and commas can leave a bad impression and raise questions about your professional skills.

By editing and proofreading well, you will be able to ensure a level of quality control for all your communications and reinforce your growing professional image.

To set the stage, first let’s go over the difference between editing and proofreading. In Leah McClellan’s “25 editing tips for your writer’s toolbox,” she defines editing and proofreading with some examples of how they differ:

“Editing refers to structural changes (the big stuff) and rewriting sections of the manuscript, article, or blog post. Editing also focuses on changes at the chapter, section, and sentence level. Examining and correcting content, organization, style, and logic as well as grammar, spelling, punctuation, and more are all part of the editing process.”

McClellan adds: “Proofreading, on the other hand, is about little stuff that’s hard to see. Proofing does not include changes beyond spelling errors or typos, minor punctuation errors that don’t require text changes, spacing, format, numbering, or stylistic matters such as italics and underlining.”

McClellan recommends setting aside separate time blocks for both editing and proofreading in order to stay focused. Always allow time between writing and editing – and editing and proofing. You are guaranteed to catch and correct more items if you give yourself a breather and space out these activities. If you aren’t on a deadline, revisit the piece to edit the next day. If you are in a time crunch at least wait a few hours before you start editing. For proofreading, go ahead and review your piece yourself. Then, for important and more complex communications, have an eagle-eyed friend or colleague provide one more level of scrutiny and quality control. A fresh perspective and a second set of eyes (and brain!) will significantly reduce the chances for error.

Editing should always be done before proofreading. The proofreading stage is not the time for rewriting or rewording. If you find yourself doing these things, you are still editing. You may lose your focus and introduce new mistakes if you start editing when you are supposed to be proofing!

The following can serve as a handy checklist for improving your editing skills.

Follow these 10 tips to become a better editor:

  1. Eliminate unnecessary words; keep words and phrases concise. Use the fewest words possible to communicate your meaning. Avoid using adverbs, adjectives, and other modifiers. Strong verbs (simplify instead of make simple) and precise nouns (blouse instead of top with long sleeves) are better choices than lengthy descriptions.
  2. Stay on subject, don’t introduce off-topic items. Don’t go on tangents or rants, which will get you sidetracked. Make sure any statement you make adds value and ties back to your main point. If it doesn’t, cut it.
  3. Delete information that is not strictly needed, any extra paragraph or sentence that isn’t absolutely necessary. Get to the point. Don’t ramble. As covered in a fine piece in The Harvard Business Review on the art of writing, kill your darlings. Enough said!
  4. Set a word count limit and stick to it. Give yourself a goal on word count. Setting a guideline will help you stay focused on what’s important and only necessary to include in your piece. Writing shorter, more compelling copy takes time. As Blaine Pascal, French author and scientist, noted in the 17th Century (to be echoed by Winston Churchill three centuries later), “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.”
  5. Fact-check. Names, titles, locations, dates, numbers, references to other resources such as legal documents or regulations — any and all factual information – should be checked for accuracy. A quick Internet search can often find answers in minutes. When in doubt, consult a colleague.
  6. Don’t rely solely on grammar or spell check. Make sure you read for errors, too. The spell checker on Word and email catches the obvious typos and mistakes, but it overlooks context and won’t correct misspelled words that are, in fact, words (for examples, its, it’s; their, there, they’re; herd, heard; here, hear).
  7. Read it out loud to check flow. Go to a quiet place where you can concentrate and read your piece out loud. How does it flow? Do you trip up on any sections? If a sentence or paragraph reads awkwardly, you should reword or rework it.
  8. Consult a style manual routinely. A style guide or manual provides a set of standards for writers. Scan it; become familiar with it. It’s a great reference for grammar, style, and formatting and will come in handy in all your writing and editing. The preferred source: The Associated Press Stylebook, used by journalists, editors and broadcast producers (and most top PR professionals!).
  9. Take breaks. During earlier revisions, most writers develop a feeling for when they are at your creative or critical best. For editing, you need to be extra sharp. Never try to edit when you are tired or frustrated. Set the piece aside for a better time, when you are alert and reenergized. You will be more focused, with heightened editing skills.
  10. Lastly, request a colleague’s review before calling it final. Sometimes you just don’t see what others see. Ask a colleague or a friend to read your piece for feedback, proofread your document and pay close attention to anything you may have accidentally missed. An outsider’s review and seal of approval makes a big difference and will confirm your piece is ready for its recipient.

Now, you are ready to launch your fine work!


  • “25 editing tips for your writer’s toolbox,” by Leah McClellan. From, July 5, 2013.
  • The Book on Writing: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Well, by Paula LaRocque. Grey and Guvner Press, 2003.
  • Eats, Shoots and Leaves – The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, by Lynne Truss, Gotham Books, 2003.
  • The Associated Press Stylebook, Perseus Publishing, 2013.

Proper PR Pitching Scores Coverage, Builds Respect, Relationships

Bad Pitch!

Bad Pitch!

Posted by Katelyn O’Riordan

At Gable PR, our team works on clients in a diverse set of industries, ranging from technology and education to real estate and employment law. We pitch a plethora of subjects and stories: graduations and student successes, new devices and apps, residential real estate sales and renovations, new bills in employment law – you name it!

We pride ourselves on being skilled in targeting our approach to meet the specific needs and interests of the reporters and journalists that we are contacting. We work diligently on behalf of our clients, telling their stories using compelling information, statistics and facts that are relevant to our contacts and offering our clients as experts in their designated industries.

Journalists receive hundreds of emails per day, so it’s important to be concise while also detail-oriented. As a PR professional, nothing is more exciting than getting an immediate response to a pitch or news release. We obsessively check our email inboxes, whether sitting at our desks or scrolling through our phones at the gym or happy hour. When a member of the media responds instantaneously (which unfortunately happens less often than most of us would like), it’s like your parents letting you skip school when you’re seven years old to go to Disneyland. Pure elation.

I digress. When a member of the media responds positively, the aforementioned sentiment is experienced. A negative response from a reporter can leave a PR pro feeling defeated and anxious. Now we get to tell the client that said reporter isn’t interested in their story and a feature article isn’t in their future this time. Another bummer!

But with any response, we at least know that they saw our message and we can halt the follow-ups. To share results from some of our efforts, the Gable PR team has compiled a round-up of the nice and not-so-nice responses we’ve received from media:


  • After pitching a client as an expert on sexual harassment in the workplace (surrounding a steadily unfolding scandal in the City of San Diego where the mayor, Bob Filner, was being forced to resign), a local daily newspaper columnist responded, “You are so good. We don’t do angle stories like this, however. But if your client wanted to send me a couple of paragraphs about this sexual harassment related issue, I could probably use it. Thank you for your creative, insightful thinking!”
  • A national trade publication reporter responds to a pitch on a client’s franchise rollout, “Thanks. We’re exploring some potential stories in coming months involving franchise services like your client’s. We’re going to hold onto this idea until then. Cheers.”
  • After following up with a local reporter on a client’s work with a local homeowner, “Thanks for following up! I’d lost track of the original email. This would be perfect for our homes section…this is right up my alley.”
  • A daily newspaper reporter reaches out (without us pitching him first) for expert commentary from one of our clients who gave great commentary for a previous story. “I know this is last minute, but would your client be able to comment on the effect of the Hobby Lobby decision on employers?”
  • When pitching a broadcast reporter on a tour of a local home renovated by a client with a unique business model (paying the upfront costs to fix those in disrepair to secure a higher sales price and be compensated after escrow closed): “I like this. Thanks for the note, let’s set this up.”


  • When contacting a local broadcast assignment news desk editor in regards to a press conference, “Why are you calling me? Are you aware that the entire city is on fire?” Then, he hung up.
  • En route to meet a client for a broadcast segment at 5:30 a.m., the morning segment producer called to cancel due to “breaking news,” but after watching the morning show, the Gable PR team found there was no such thing.

Five Platforms for Monitoring Digital and Social Media Trends

Tracy Moehnke

Tracy Moehnke

By Tracy Moehnke

According to a recent study, 82 percent of marketing and public relations professionals have at least six applications open on their desktop at any time during the average work day. Sorting through the clutter to identify relevant trends and new channels for reaching your target audiences can be tedious, but it is a necessity for any public relations program.

Media relations, digital strategy and social engagement benefit from incorporating the newest trends and ideology into campaigns. Consistent monitoring of the digital and social landscape helps PR professionals develop approaches to exhibiting thought leadership that adds relevance to client programs and your agency and personal brands. At Gable PR, we’ve found the following free platforms to be among the best for tracking trends in the digital universe:

  • Think With Google searches for studies, trends and news by different industries, topics, products and platforms. Think With Google only uses credible sources to compile data on the newest trends. Have a client in the healthcare industry? Simply choose healthcare and scroll through studies like ‘how healthcare administrators make purchase decisions’ and ‘how hospital administrators research online.’ Incorporate this information into your campaign strategies; targeting audiences on their preferred platforms.
  • Twtrland is a one-stop-shop for discovering people and places. The platform facilitates search of Twitter users based on their characteristics. Twtrland then categorizes users as influencers, champions or casual users. You can use this platform to search by keywords or demographics relevant to your business and client. Find all the 30-year-old women in New York who follow your account through a simple search and sort by influence. Explore and reach target audiences easier than ever, reaching the opinion leaders that matter.
  • SocialMention searches the web for user generated content with keywords of your choice. It then classifies results by sentiment, strength, passion and reach. Filters can be selected to examine certain sources, users, hashtags and content type. SocialMention’s analytics provide comprehensive data that can be applied to digital media strategy by identifying what is hot on different platforms.
  • Topsy is a Twitter maven, boasting an archive of every tweet since 2006. The platform offers search options for videos, photos, links and influencers. Expand your searches by clicking on ‘show search tips,’ which provides a keyword box to assist the search process. Search for all of a specific user’s posts that include certain link sources, or use a topic to search for trending relevant content. Topsy also creates great visuals on a line graph by comparing the popularity of one to three keywords over a length of time.
  • Digg compiles trending news stories. The home page lists the most popular news stories by analyzing clicks, shares and comments. Digg also offers personalization through a Twitter sign-in process, allowing users to see trending stories from their feed. The platform is great for staying up-to-date with the ‘topic of the day,’ ranging from hard hitting news to pop culture events. Brands and businesses can use this to stay relevant with audiences.

Every monitoring platform will have its downfalls with certain industries. Spend time experimenting with various services to discover what is most applicable to your business or client. For ultimate success, checking in with your preferred platforms on a daily basis will keep your business relevant and up-to-date with your target audience’s chatter.

Five Fast Steps for Reversing a Social Media PR Crisis

Your Audience Awaits

Your Audience Awaits

Posted by Tom Gable

Clients in three different industries were getting pilloried in social media for various customer service transgressions. The largest firm monitored conversations by the minute, day and night. A smaller organization monitored throughout the day. The smallest used news trackers and other alert services and viewed them randomly, with occasional forays during the day into the different social media outlets.

Experiences with all three clients and reviewing best practices from PRSA and others led to creating a simple five-step process as a starting point for responding. Of course, the complexity and severity of each complaint will drive additional creative and strategic approaches. The steps are thought-starters and assume a high degree of integrity and solid core values within the organization:

  1. Apologize as soon as possible. (“We are sorry to hear you have had a problem. We would like to help in any way we can.”) For timing, responding immediately is best; within an hour is fine; a few hours is okay; waiting a day doesn’t help the reputation and could lead to the negative cacophony building.
  2. Identify the specifics of the complaint if it is not covered in the social media or other posting. (“Can you please send the details to XYZ? [Give a person’s name and email address.] XYZ will take care of this as soon as possible.”)
  3. If the details of the complaint are on the social media site, along with negative comments from friends and followers, provide a partial answer online and also try to connect directly. (“Again, we’re sorry about your problem. For next steps, we would like to help you with A, B and C. Please contact XYZ who will work on this personally.”) This shows progress and a commitment to a solution.
  4. Take immediate action on solving the problem. Provide updates if needed. (“Quick update: we should have an answer in the next two hours.”)
  5. When the problem has been solved, post a quick summary of your success story. (“XYZ reports that your problem has been solved. We’re sorry you had this experience – a very rare occurrence for any ‘Company Name’ customer. We are using this to see how we can continue improving internally. If you have any other thoughts, please send them to XYZ, your personal contact here, and we will follow up. Thank you!”)

The language will vary according to the personality and culture of the company.

Gable PR worked with one fast-crowing financial services company where social media complaints began rising faster than historic trends. Most related to newer offices or acquisitions, which were still working to align with the company’s well-honed and personal approach to customer service. The company moved quickly through the social media steps outlined above. It solved most problems and gained new fans while showing off its great culture through social media. Gable PR also started increasing the number of positive news stories, blogs, Facebook posts and Twitter conversations and links to quality news coverage and testimonials, which helped better content to rise higher in online searches.

The negative noise on Facebook and Twitter soon faded to isolated whispers, fitting a phenomenon we covered here previously on the Half Life of a Tweet.

Similar approaches have worked for consumer companies big and small. Microsoft used an aggressive social media response program to turn around its image from being an insensitive monolith with no interest in helping the consumer. Microsoft bloggers and individuals on social media listened aggressively and responded to complaints in a human voice. With time, the company went from being one of the least admired companies in the country to rising on the most admired ranks, something every organization hopes to achieve.

Creating Personal and Agency Brands Through Good Writing

Words of Wisdom

Words of Wisdom

Posted by Tom Gable

Every individual has a personality, which makes us unique, one of a kind. Family, friends, colleagues and casual acquaintances enjoy our company in person. In writing, we have an opportunity to showcase who we are and communicate our “personal brand,” to new audiences of all kinds. This short piece introduces the concept of how to think about building personal brand, standing out from the crowd and reinforcing the brand values of your agency, company or your clients through good writing, with some of your personality shining through.

Michael D. Brown, a career consultant, author and motivational speaker on branding, defines personal branding as “a method whereby you precisely lay out and clearly communicate what makes you different and unique.” To get started, answer these questions: Who am I? What makes me special? How do I want people to see me? Your writing in all communications, from a formal business letter to an informal email message, presents an opportunity to make an impression.

Picture how you can leave your mark as a bright, creative, knowledgeable and personable professional and part of an organization with strong values. Your goal is to stand out from the clutter with clear, concise messages that connect to your different audiences: customers, community connections, partners and colleagues in the industry. Think about how you can best touch each audience in your own way – emotionally, rationally, and by showing core values and beliefs, such as a dedication to creating spectacular results for a client, no matter what the size.

Branding expert Brown explains that presenting yourpersonal brand should be evident in the way you write and in everything you do: the way you talk, walk, dress, and the content and appearance of all your communications and interactions. “Your personal brand is that solid and consistent impression that comes to mind when people think of you,” said Brown.

Writing clearly and succinctly is an important first step. Take your time in thinking about what you are trying to communicate. An organizational tip: write down the three most important points you want to make. Draft your copy and edit well. Set it aside for an hour or even a day. Make the final edit and you are ready to launch!

This approach gives you control over how you communicate clearly and builds new perceptions with every reader. The second step involves building your brand around your strengths and talents and simply being yourself. What are your best attributes? Your industry expertise? Your people skills? Do you have a sense of humor? Are you dedicated to responding quickly and professionally to all inquiries?

Remember your time, talent and expertise are serving the needs of your organization and your clients. Showcase what you offer in how you communicate about yourself and the work of your agency. Once you clearly understand and can define your brand, tie it back to the agency brand. Through your writing, you can reinforce the benefits and values that firm offers to every target audience.

Here are some steps to consider when creating a personal brand:

– Identify your target audiences and markets; know whom you are targeting. Is it an existing client? Potential client? Community connection? Editor? Supplier? Strategic partner? Industry organization? Thought leaders?

 – Determine your audience’s needs and wants. Is your target audience looking for a trusted resource for sage advice and up to date information? A fresh perspective from someone in-the-know? Support for new business initiatives? Solving a communications crisis? In any response, create reasons why your audience should believe you will deliver the results that your brand promises, which builds that rare attribute in any business: trust.

– Figure out what makes you and your agency different from your competitors. Be consistent in communicating — professionally, warmly and with authenticity, where your personality shows.

Keep in mind, building and maintaining your brand is a work in progress and a never-ending task. PR professionals need to be dedicated to continuous improvement in all that we do. The approach is critical in an era of ever-changing communications tools, channels, technology and client needs. According to Brown, “Nailing your brand is not something you do once and walk away from, it is a constant process of fine-tuning and adjusting your brand to the changing needs of the market and your changing interests, abilities, experiences and skills.”

Next: the ever-expanding PR professional’s communications tool box

Six Steps to Building Brands with Great PR Stories, Memorable Content

PR Chess in 3D

PR Chess in 3D

Posted by Tom Gable

Can you be the award-winning designer and contractor for building a new brand image for your organization or client?

Architects and engineers start with a vision of what the completed new building or device will become. What are the essential elements to build on?  How to add nuances and features that give it style or utility? Novelists weave in key themes and ongoing evidence to advance toward a conclusion. Artists envision the final painting or tapestry.  They add strands, swaths or dots of color and create their masterpiece over time.

The same approach works in building brand image and reputation with public relations. Use smart positioning, bright writing, colorful stories and facts to create your own masterpiece.

Start with determining how your organization wants to be known in two and three years. What do you stand for? What are your core values? Can you deliver on the promise over time? And do it with personality, facts and ongoing proof of principle so your reputation and brand image grow accordingly?

The method: own content and become a great teller of the brand story at every level.  With all the communications tools available, every PR professional has the opportunity to reach targets regularly through many channels and with a purpose. The following six basic steps can help you develop your own approach:

1. Research – Delve into company and industry research, market dynamics and other measurable factors. To mine gems for the creative side, conduct an internal audit of key people. Ask each what the organization stands for and to describe its key values. Does it have a culture, with case histories and anecdotes that can bring them to life? Are there great people stories? Technology breakthroughs?

2. Creative – Review the research and audits, brainstorm and think about true differentiation, not just throwing a bunch of jargon into the mix (e.g., “we are a national leader in software solutions”), especially in industries with me-too products and services. Develop key, compelling themes that can be woven into every story you sell.

3. Strategic Planning – This is essential if you are working with two and three-year horizons. You can map your route to global dominance with project management software. With all the new channels and tools available today, the game is more like three-dimensional chess (or a big PR Rubik’s Cube).

Start by identifying each of the different segments you are trying to reach (target industries, media, investors, customers and future customers). How do reach these vertical markets? The essential channels can include media relations, website, social media, trade shows, investment conferences, webinars and video.

Then, determine how you are going to build your plan over time with daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, semi-annual and annual activities.

4. Implementation – Find ways of integrating the elements and leveraging one channel against the others for maximum impact. As an example, a hotel in downtown San Diego needed a rebranding after a bankruptcy, deteriorating service and soured relationships with the community. The new owner, Kimpton Hotels, was committed to long-term success and changing perceptions as soon as possible for the newly named Hotel Palomar. This led to repositioning the renamed property as a hot boutique property in the heart of the emerging cultural district in downtown San Diego, with an ultra-community friendly staff and spirit.

The steps to creating the tapestry: develop positive ties with the civic, political, business and arts communities (opera, youth symphony, museums, local artists), celebrate the arts with regular events (commission original art for the hotel, have street-side opera performances and create arts-oriented packages for guests), and donate to local causes (nights at the hotel, dinners in the restaurants, and spa treatments).

The hotel team delivered on the promise. The media began referring to the hotel as a boutique gem in the heart of the emerging cultural district.  Stories about their local commitments and activities multiplied. Positive reviews on the travel websites soared and occupancy grew.

For complex technologies and new products, you can also strive to connect with the target audiences with emotion and power, not just data.

In preparing to introduce a new portable oxygen concentrator that would replace oxygen bottles for people with pulmonary disorders, agency research found what the new device could mean to many older users: the freedom to enjoy a more normal active lifestyle without being tied to an oxygen bottle.

Rather than use industry jargon in positioning the device. People stories would demonstrate the new freedom and benefits better than any data sheet.  The media covered patients taking tours and vacations they never before would have enjoyed before, such as an adventure to see spring colors in the Colorado Rockies with a device the size of a child’s backpack. Print and broadcast stories added color, with additional video testimonials on YouTube and on blogs and other online forums. Bottom line: the device went from zero sales to market leader in 18 months.

Lacking technology or other technical advantages? Proprietary processes and other magic ingredients can help break through

In the cluttered mortgage banking space, a growing regional lender was competing against giant banks. To differentiate, the company wanted to emphasize its customer-friendly personality. The result: creating the Home Guru, dedicated to the finest in customer and community service. The Home Guru would blog helpful weekly tips (home repair, selecting a school district, staging a home for sale, and best websites for homebuyers, among others). Daily Tweets and Facebook postings would provide helpful links (the company’s blog site, government resources and loan calculators). Local stories on community relations activities and local personalities built outside validation and awareness. Regional and national stories covered company growth. Awards programs highlighted many attributes: best places to work, fastest growing, CEOs and CFOs who make a difference, rising stars under ages 30 and 40).

Every square in the PR Rubik’s Cube and 3-D chessboard filled with color about the friendly customer service culture of the company and its commitment to strong community relations. The result: building a brand image for one of the fastest-growing mortgage companies in the country.

5. Analyze – How is the plan working? What needs to change? How to keep improving? Get critical and analytical.

6. Repeat – Back to the research, then march through the other steps to find new stories to keep reinforcing the core values and quality of the brand and watch your image momentum soar!

(Note: a condensed version of this appeared earlier in PRSA Tactics)

Seven Easy Steps to PR Intern Orientation

Tom Gable

Tom Gable

Posted by Tom Gable

The PRSA Counselors Academy discussion board provides ongoing stimulus for improving the profession. Bright members from agencies of all sizes contribute ideas on emerging trends, social media, measurement challenges, mentoring and other key topics. Occasionally a more fundamental request lands, such as how to properly onboard interns (or any other new hire) when the agency is running full tilt.

The key: figuring out what the new hire needs to know to be successful and then establishing a process to make it happen. Our favorite approach over the years is to outline what needs to be covered and then develop a detailed checklist to get there. We’ve borrowed liberally from the classic book by Michael Gerber, e-Myth Revisited; and The Checklist Manifesto:How to Get Things Right, by Atul Gawande; plus others. This leads to responding to the Counselors Academy request and providing the Gable PR Orientation Checklist.

It has seven sections, which can be shared among different members of your team for implementation. This spreads the wealth, while also exposing the new person to the different personalities in the firm, even if it’s a two-man (woman) shop. You can assign deadlines to each section and have updates with the new person to see how things are progressing. The new person will feel more valued and a part of the agency, rather than just another summer serf.