Posts Tagged ‘creative’

Essential Writing Books for Every PR Pro

Thursday, February 27th, 2014
Writing Wonders

Writing Wonders

Posted by Tom Gable

Gable PR has been working with a rapidly growing mortgage broker company on building its national image and reputation. The program components include media relations, community relations, awards programs, social media, video and other tools, tactics and channels to reach their different audiences with good news about the company, its people and quality, which is in abundance.

The company differentiates itself based on its entrepreneurial culture, quality people and commitment to unparalleled customer service. Its leaders urge everyone in the organization to communicate its values well and deliver on all promises, to build credibility and trust – and loyal customers that keep coming back.

The leadership team has taken the quality communications theme even deeper by creating a continuous internal education program to improve writing at all levels. They started by giving several hundred team members copies of The Associated Press Stylebook and Stephen King on Writing. They provided classes and guidelines on blogging and social media. The next stage: establishing an ongoing series of tips on how to improve writing skills at every level.

Gable PR, with former journalists aboard and team members who teach at the university level and write and lecture for national audiences, was asked to create the series. As with any program, we started with research to find compelling ideas from outside experts to share with the company’s internal audiences.

We started with some old friends, such as Strunk and White (Elements of Style), then searched more broadly. We are still reading and looking to quote more sources, which is great fun. We also get smacked in the frontal lobe on occasion when we find an obvious shortcoming in our own work. The quest goes on and we have a growing bibliography shown below. Out of all this, we did find four seemingly universal truths to good writing:

1. Use short sentences and one idea per sentence.

2. Avoid jargon, acronyms, and clichés.

3. Use active verbs and the active voice; not the passive voice. Choose positive language versus negative.

4. Use definite, specific, concrete language.

That’s a start. Now, for your ongoing reading pleasures, some of our favorite resources:

  • “25 editing tips for your writer’s toolbox,” Leah McClellan. Ragan.com, July 5, 2013.
  • 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.
  • On Writing Well, William Zinsser. HarperCollins Publishers, 1990.
  • Stein on Writing, Sol Stein. St. Martin’s Griffin, 1995.
  • The Associated Press Stylebook, Perseus Publishing, 2013.
  • The Book on Writing: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Well, Paula LaRocque. Grey and Guvner Press, 2003.
  • The Careful Writer, Theodore M. Bernstein. Free Press, 2005
  • The Classic Guide to Better Writing, Rudolf Flesch and A.H. Lass. HarperCollins Publishers, 1996.
  • 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.
  • Writing Tools, Roy Peter Clark. Little, Brown and Company, 2006.

Creating Great Content: Five PR Research Tips for Starting Right

Friday, January 10th, 2014
Digging Wide, Deep

Digging Wide, Deep

Posted by Paige Nordeen

One of the daily challenges and adventures for PR professionals is helping our clients break out of the clutter of competing messages. What are the anecdotes, case histories, cultural attributes and other credentials to help bring their stories to life? How do we create great content to show what may be different or compelling about each on a continuous basis?

We interact with media specialists with expertise in many areas, making it our duty to be prepared to speak and write intelligently on a wide range of topics. From representing a biotechnology company to promoting an up-and-coming chocolatier, PR pros are responsible for translating their client’s desired message to connect with different audiences, often in a short time frame. How does one effectively conquer this communications challenge? Research, research, research!

The process can be daunting. But if you approach it with a plan and then just chunk away, you will soon find yourself amassing potentially great content to use in your work. Here are five tips for building your own database of information for creating brilliant client content.

Use all Media Outlets and Channels

In addition to your favorite search engines, check out every available online channel. Track the company’s Twitter feed to look for potential interesting anecdotes, insights and links to intriguing facts. Delve deeper into their voice, vision and personality by following the client’s Facebook page or Google+ account. Check LinkedIn for details on the leadership team that go beyond what is found in a standard executive biography. Use the same approaches to learn more about a specific journalist before making the big pitch. Listen to the online conversations. Get a feeling for tone.

Add Facts from Credible Sources, Remove Jargon

In the PR world, we translate company and industry jargon into more precise and interesting language to connect with outside audiences. This isn’t always an easy task; especially when working with clients in complex fields such as the life sciences, technology and law. Searching for terms with Answers.com is a quick way to find more information and links to other resources. Lexis/Nexis and industry websites can provide exquisite detail and precise definitions if needed. Wikipedia can be a useful starting point as well by looking for additional resources in the footnotes. Also, keep in mind that Wikipedia should be considered a tertiary source of information and not to be cited.

Slice and Dice, Chunk Away

Chopping up a huge research task into smaller, individual categories will help keep you organized, on track and not let those daunting research projects get the best of you. Try dividing the main assignment into little research buckets, such as people, products and points of differentiation.  Be journalistic and research who, what, when, where and why. Pursue a chunk or two at a time.

Keep plugging away at the task at hand. Look at each topic as a separate task and you’ll avoid an information overload.

Take 5

A small break here and there will keep you focused and your eyes and mind fresh while you work your way through your research. Keep a few pieces of candy in another room; step away for a moment and have a little dose of sugar. Watching calories? Take a short walk around the office or an outside break to stretch those legs and the mind. Read something different. Alternate between different projects to stimulate the mind in different ways.

Fact Check

Make sure that whatever you deliver to your client and the media is stellar and error-free. PR professionals need to be diligent, obsessive fact-checkers. Don’t rely on automated spell-checkers or just reading documents on a computer screen.  Scrutinize a printed copy, update and then share with a colleague.  Anyone can miss little things, if they have been with a document too long. Outside eyes (and brains!) can help ensure that you have turned your research into clear, fact-filled and compelling content to delight the client, the media and the ultimate target audience.

Happy researching and best of success telling those exciting new client stories!

Are your pitches newsworthy or snooze-worthy?

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

By Anna Crowe

Lost-interest

When I first moved into the public relations profession from marketing, one of my biggest challenges (opportunities) was thinking like a journalist. This notion resonated everywhere I turned – from PR blogs and the Twittersphere, to media and colleagues. Having no experience as a reporter (nor a journalism degree), I was now asked to identify what made my clients compelling (people, products, services, technology), write the story in journalistic style (huh?!) without hype and then pitch with all my might in hopes of securing coverage. I needed to quickly perfect my storytelling skills and be able to continuously identify the news over the snooze.

Back in one of my first jobs, in auditing, I did my share of ‘investigative’ work but the resulting working papers weren’t exactly stories and although some of my findings may have been compelling, I never had to sell the information to anyone for promotional purposes. I just documented with my #2 red pencil and moved along to another financial statement.

Then, having spent nearly a decade in a traditional marketing environment, my brain was accustomed to jumping on the latest product development, bonus feature or upgrade as if it were breaking news. Although I was used to selling the ‘value,’ I was also accustomed to selling the features of my clients’ products and brands. Another brand attribute meant more bullet points on a sell sheet, ammunition for sales reps and potential enhancement to an existing marketing campaign.

Journalists (and readers) don’t care much for bullet points unless those bullet points can relay the benefits of a product or service and demonstrate that something had occurred or changed. The attribute may not be a factor in a compelling story but the life-changing nature of that added benefit can mean the world to a reader if properly conveyed. I quickly learned that the capability to sniff out the news is both a creative talent and a procedural skill.

If 80 percent of writing is reporting (and generating media interest and resulting coverage), we need to continuously be asking ourselves – what does the product or service do that people would care about? Does it solve a common or important problem? Does it improve health, appearance, love life or save time and money? Does it help one’s career, a business or investment? Is it informative, poignant, humorous, sexy, provocative or inspiring? Of course this takes us back to that critical ‘so what?’ question, which editors aren’t afraid to ask when pitched with a potential story.

Facts are essential – we can’t overhype or oversell the story. But unless we’re dealing with breaking news, facts are not always enough. What’s the story and is that story interesting, compelling and of interest to anyone other than the client, or snooze-worthy? Working hard to tell a good story will be much more likely to generate coverage. The snooze-worthy, superficial approach will likely go directly into the reporter’s trash folder, among all other underwhelming, inferior and misspelled or overcapitalized pitches. That’s my story, anyway.

 

See Anna’s post on Ragan’s PR Daily

 

PR Professionals: the new chief relationship and reputation officers

Sunday, June 30th, 2013
Masters of Listening

Masters of Listening

Posted by Tom Gable

According to Dr. Glen M. Broom, author of the definitive university textbook on strategic public relations, the role of the PR professional has evolved radically in the past two decades from being focused on communications to that of the more strategic role of chief relationship officer (CRO).

This evolution into trusted counselor to the most senior executives and managers was chronicled by Dr. Glen M. Broom, retired head of the public relations school at San Diego State University, during a recent presentation to the San Diego and Imperial County chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). He said the role of PR has gone through three stages:

  • In the old journalism model, it used to be: ‘How do we say it?’
  • As PR evolved into a more strategic role, it became: ‘What do we say?’
  • Now, as PR works directly with CEOs and senior management: ‘What do we do?’

Broom, co-author and author of the last five editions of Effective Public Relations, the comprehensive, case-rich textbook used in public relations classrooms worldwide, said PR combines the conceptual, creative, communications and critical thinking skills that can help change perceptions and behaviors for the long term.

As covered here many times, PR professionals should become chief reputation officers (CRO-2), providing strategic counsel to build reputation and image with all audiences for the long term as a part of organizational strategy. Click here for a piece from PRSA Strategist on the topic. The key elements:

  • What do you stand for? What are your core values? Can you walk the talk over time?

Only PR is capable of advising individuals and organizations of all sizes on doing this because of its role in building and maintaining relationships for the long term. Its professionals have become the masters of all the relationship-based communications channels and tools. PR professionals routinely manage complex programs using a mix of media relations, community relations, social media channels, trade relations and ensuring that organizations maintain a sensitivity to all of its constituencies and their communications needs.

Broom said that in the current era PR is being approached as a strategic component of organizational growth and not part of the traditional marketing functions. PR is driving the creation of content for all relationship-oriented channels. The same key values-based, non-marketing themes and core values can be adapted into paid channels, such as advertising, marketing and sales.

Broom advised that as chief relationship officer, each PR professional should be looking at the big picture, keeping public and client interest in mind at all times and using a wide-angle lens to view all audiences, not just the customer. We learn in marketing that customer is No. 1 but it’s not just the customer.

“Relationships are key,” Broom said. “Build and maintain relationships with all audiences to help organizations achieve their goals.”

 

Crisis PR: Fundamental Change First, then Pro-Active Reputation Management

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013
New Road Ahead?

New Road Ahead?

Posted by Tom Gable

NBC reported that the White House is facing a major PR crisis related to the IRS and other recent issues that have rocketed to the top of news coverage globally. As noted by many PR gurus over the years, this isn’t a PR problem. It is a management problem and deals with the fundamental values of any organization, its operating culture and ability to commit to change, then achieve it.

In crisis PR, the correct approach starts with introspection, critical analysis and long-range thinking. In the short term, recognize the problem, apologize if necessary, pledge to make changes to right the current wrong and prevent its occurring in the future, set a vision for where the changes will go, and then deliver on the promises.

We’ve covered many transgressions in the past two years that provide good lessons for any organization, individual or institution dealing with a management crisis. As referenced in an earlier blog on crisis PR, the concept is simple.

As management guru Peter Drucker noted decades ago: “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

The lessons come from TEPCO and the Fukushima Daiichi Plant in Japan, BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, Penn State and its molestation scandal, a surge in Toyota recalls, HP management and market turmoil and Tiger Woods, among others, with the classic case being Tylenol. Here are links to the previous posts, which carry a common theme based on the Drucker teachings and sage advice from crisis PR luminaries all over the globe that real values, mission, organizational culture drive crisis PR. Get it right internally, then tell the world.

PRSA Silver Anvil Competition – Ideas for Improving Your Next PR Plan, Program

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013
PRSA Silver Anvil

PRSA Silver Anvil

Posted by Tom Gable

The judges in the 2013 Silver Anvil competition were faced with a plethora of programs built on using the latest and hottest tool or distribution channel available. Beyond the fluff, we often found a spectacular lack of substance. This leads to sharing a compelling truth that runs through the heart of every winning Silver Anvil entry and may benefit all PR professionals: good research provides the foundation for smart strategic planning, brilliant creative and precise execution toward achieving measurable objectives that matter.

The PR tool kit has expanded considerably over the past two decades of my judging Silver Anvil entries (done in years when Gable PR didn’t enter). But are we using the tools in an integrated and strategic fashion? Will the results drive anything meaningful? Are we just having fun playing with things that don’t really drive sales, help achieve marketing goals or turn around an image?

The annual competition can feel like the classic movie, Groundhog Day. The same fuzzy-edged little critters keep popping up each year and in every category (usually chirping about media hits). In reviewing results with other veteran judges from the Counselors Academy and College of Fellows after this year’s recent session, I found a universal impression that some of the entrants hadn’t read the rules or bothered to check out past winners on the PRSA website. The latter exercise would have saved several hundred of the 847 entrants from wasting their entry fees.

The judging criteria are straightforward: 10 points maximum in each category of research, planning, implementation and evaluation, or 40 points total. Sadly, we had many entries that didn’t hit double digits.

I delved deeper in last year’s Silver Anvil coverage. This year, I asked some fellow judges for insights they felt were worth sharing.  Here are the highlights:

Top Five Winning Program Essentials

  1. Solid research to establish a baseline for measurement and evaluation (this can be both secondary and primary; polling; online surveys; crunching one year of social media data to find trends that could lead to a new position for a client; use of psychographics, demographics and other findings that would help in the positioning and planning).
  2. Setting measurable objectives (e.g. turning around image from 3-to-1 against the company to 2-to-1 favorable within one year; successfully introduce the new family of mobile applications, build market awareness to X percent within six months, generate reviews in the top ten media, grow subscribers by Y percent within one year, introduce one cause marketing program that adds another Z subscribers in one year and generates $X for the cause).
  3. Implementing strategically through all channels that can help drive a result (print, broadcast, social media, local events, direct mail, contests, guerrilla marketing, promotions, conference programs, and cause marketing).
  4. For evaluation, the best programs set measurable objectives in many categories. As noted last year, the top programs included achievements in: meetings and special events held, increased attendance, better product reviews, increased distribution, doubling social media likes and followers, winning design awards, expanding promotional program results by a certain percentage, improving share of voice, launching a cause marketing program that raised X dollars, doubling the number of analysts following the company, increasing stock volume, improving internal communications globally as measured by continuous progress in online surveys among all employees on impressions of quality, using social media to drive more hits and qualified leads to the company website, reducing calls to the 800 number in favor of website conversations and increasing sales and market share.
  5. Always keep the results-oriented continuum in mind: great research drives new creativity and smart planning; the detailed planning across all channels helps set measurable objectives and guides precise implementation; and evaluation ties back into all your brilliant work in research and planning.

Ten Biggest Shortcomings

  1. Poor or missing research (e.g. one entry noted that they conducted research by interviewing the client contacts; another cited research in the executive summary about consumer motivations but didn’t include anything in the Research section for validation; some didn’t have a Research section)
  2. Not setting measurable objectives
  3. Setting objectives based solely on amount of media coverage
  4. Setting vague objectives, such as building brand image, but with no means of measurement (the winners documented how they conducted research on baseline consumer awareness, and then built their programs to drive awareness, which was measured at the end, along with metrics)
  5. Developing one-dimensional plans, such as just having a social media strategy
  6. Not outlining the rationale behind strategies and plans (e.g. one judge called this “doing a lot of stuff because the tools were exciting”)
  7. Relying on huge budgets and spectacular events to carry the day (fellow judges shared background on several entries where the scope of the program was impressive but the results weren’t)
  8. Not having a precise plan for implementation
  9. Providing numbers on media hits, Twitter followers and other metrics but without tying them back into the research and planning
  10. And the number one shortcoming: not turning in an entry that covered each of the four areas being judged: research, planning, implementation and evaluation

Beyond the transgressions, there was agreement that the PR profession is continuing to raise the overall quality of all programs. We are being given more opportunities to conceive, create and implement complex and strategic programs that are out of the purview of most marketing, advertising and other consulting companies. We are becoming more trusted advisors in the C-suite and included in company-wide long-range strategic planning. But the bar needs to be raised another notch. These ideas may help.

Hot Dog on a Stick: Sticking a Smile on a Gable PR Employee for 20 Years

Friday, February 8th, 2013

Fun Food

Posted by Katelyn O’Riordan

The red, white, blue and yellow colors light up the food court, beckoning mall visitors with the bright and inviting façade. The friendly employees clad in uniforms in company colors and matching chapeau catch my eye. I immediately picture them handing over a paper boat filled with a crispy, golden-brown treat – the iconic Southern California Hot Dog on a Stick, with a cup of fresh lemonade. It was one reward my mom would offer my brother and me for our patience after dragging us elementary school kids around to stores like Ann Taylor and Crate & Barrel.

To this day, every time I visit the Fashion Valley mall, near our office in San Diego, I visit my old friends at Hot Dog on a Stick and indulge in an ice-cold fresh lemonade. Memories of my childhood always come rushing back and now I have a greater understanding of the work and passion that go into each store location.

It wasn’t until working for Gable PR that I got the rare opportunity to learn about Hot Dog on a Stick’s brand and the company culture behind the menu items and colorful uniforms. Gable PR was retained to promote the company as it expanded nationally through franchising and a new drive-thru concept. Our research and working directly with their passionate team afforded me the chance to build on a fun family memory that has endured for years and continues to make me smile (proving that the Hotdoggers behind the counter really do live up to their mission, “to stick a smile on your face!”).

For me, a remarkable trait of working in public relations is you are given ongoing opportunities to learn about a company or brand that you may have only known superficially.  In preparing to launch a creative, strategic PR program, you discover a wealth of information: the company’s history, mission, vision, inner workings, team ethic, culture, history and personality.

Here are 10 interesting facts about Hot Dog on a Stick:

  • Hot Dog on a Stick started in 1946 next to the sandy beaches of Santa Monica, Calif., and was originally called Party Puffs. Founder Dave Barham changed its name to Hot Dog on a Stick in 1948, and the company has since flourished into 100 stores, spread throughout 12 states and three countries.
  • Employees have a vested interest in company success; Hot Dog on a Stick is actually a 100 percent employee owned company!
  • Hot Dog on a Stick’s leadership team has as an average tenure of more than 19 years with the company; several started as Hotdoggers and worked their way up.
  • Founder Dave Barham used to call the signature uniforms “red, white and blue, with a splash of lemonade!”
  • Past celeb Hotdoggers include actress Eva Mendez and singer Sara Bareilles.
  • Dave Barham created Hot Dog on a Stick’s “Party Batter” using his mom’s delicious cornbread recipe inspired from his childhood on his family’s Missouri farm.
  • The employee uniform has changed over the years from polka dots and berets, straw hats and knee-length shorts to the catchy striped uniform and hats worn today.
  • The lemonade is made fresh every two hours, and all menu items are made-to-order using fresh ingredients.
  • Hot Dog on a Stick has new growth initiatives that include franchising and opening more drive-thru restaurants away from the traditional malls.
  • If all the fresh lemons used in one year by Hot Dog on a Stick (more than 6 million) were laid end to end, they would reach from Los Angeles to Monterey!

The knowledge gained from research, interviews, writing, and ongoing involvement in new client activities gives the PR team priceless insights to help plan community events, drive media coverage of a new store, and land a print article or a broadcast segment for a company or brand that you believe in. The results bring a special joy and sense of accomplishment that I hadn’t found in other industries, putting another smile on my face!

Beyond gibberish and techno-babble: social media as part of the strategic PR tool kit

Sunday, January 13th, 2013

Playing with Tools

Posted by Tom Gable

We first pitched the Internet startup in July 2012 on supporting the launch of its new hobbyist portal/platform, which was envisioned to have distinctive features and functionality that could drive rapid growth and profits (we are under an NDA, so can’t share any more). Our Gable PR team provided a multi-faceted strategic plan based on our experiences launching the world’s first Internet payment system and a pioneering online greeting card company, plus introducing other disruptive innovations.

They liked our plan. It integrated old school strategic thinking with a full array of communications tools – traditional and new – fully orchestrated to roll from soft launch, gain momentum and then rocket to greater heights after the official launch. But we were the veteran grey-haired firm (although staffed with bright young talent!), so they were also shopping the hottest social media gurus in the region. The process went on for several months. We assumed they had gone elsewhere when we got the call in December to set a meeting to launch the Gable PR program.

What changed? Although they were initially charmed by the energy and enthusiasm of the fresh-cheeked social media evangelists, one of their partners said they were worn out by the jargon and promises to build their Twitter footprint and drive other social media metrics. The partners started asking for “what could be done beyond measuring things that might not count.”

“We got a lot of great-sounding gibberish but nothing we could directly connect to helping grow the business, not just buzz,” he confided.

Not surprising. A good piece in Techi.Com cited an AdAge survey that showed some “180,000 people on Twitter who claim to be social media mavens, experts, consultants, ninjas, pros, warriors, or some other noun that’s intended to fill you with confidence about their ability to save you from the evil world of Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.”

Many social media firms of note do provide valuable programs to support a client’s business and marketing plans. But all of this reminds us of one of the great parodies of social media from Onion, which packaged it as a TED presentation.

Check it out to appreciate the humor as the social media guru brags about his firm making huge amounts of money even though using social media “eliminates the need to provide value to anyone.”

He talked about helping a client raise its Twitter footprint by creating fake Twitter accounts to raise the number of followers from 300 to 900,000 in less than a week, all done by robots, so the his firm didn’t have to do any work. They added advertising the robots could see, but not buy from. And the companies didn’t care, because they were “liked.”

Saturday Night Live also had a classic bit skewering social media during the election. Seth Myers, host of Weekend Update, asked the social media expert if what voters are saying online is an accurate barometer of public option. She said of course. It captures how people feel. And each voice is valid even if it has no punctuation.

The expert provided sample Tweets from the election pointing out the physical characteristics of the candidates and their sexual attributes, plus use of scatological words to describe President Obama. Seth wasn’t too taken with the examples and asked if this really mattered.

She said in social media, everyone’s opinion is equal, including the New York Times columnist and the person using a series of equal signs and a capital D to indicate…

Long story short: As our new client came to understand, it’s not just getting excited about the latest technology, social media or other tool. It’s how to fit any tool and tactic strategically into an overall program to build image, reputation and leads in support of long-term business goals. And can you explain the benefits in something other than techno-babble and gibberish?

Drawn and Quoted: classic one-liners on PR, writing, editing and literary criticism

Monday, December 10th, 2012

Sir Winston

Posted by Tom Gable

In preparing for a speech or thinking of adding a touch of humor to an article, I used to sit in front of a blank screen (or piece of typewriter paper in bygone days) and rummage through the sometimes dim corners of the attic of my mind in hopes of finding a forgotten gem or two. I started collecting favorites in a file for easier and more accurate recall.

The file has grown to more than 60 pages. I pulled it up over the weekend to stir the senses as I worked on a piece on how to improve PR writing for PRSA Tactics. I’ve pulled out some classics on PR, writing, literary criticism and editing that might stimulate a chuckle or two (or maybe not!).

PR, Advertising, Marketing

There is nothing so futile as having the right ideas and getting no attention. – John Kenneth Galbraith

You cannot bore people into buying your product. You must interest them into buying it. You cannot save souls in an empty church. – David Ogilvy 

I honestly believe that advertising is the most fun you can have with your clothes on. – Jerry Della Femina

Writing

I love being a writer. What I hate is the paperwork. – Peter de Vries

Every journalist has a novel in him, which is an excellent place for it. — Russell Lynes

Writing is easy; all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead. – Gene Fowler

Trying to be a first-rate reporter on the average American newspaper is like trying to play Bach’s ‘St. Matthew’s Passion’ on a ukulele. — Bagdikian’s Observation

My father has spent the best years of his life writing his extemporaneous speeches. – Randolph Churchill on Winston Churchill

I am returning this otherwise good typing paper to you because someone has printed gibberish all over it and put your name at the top. – An English Professor, Ohio University

Literary Criticism, Guidance

There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are. – W. Somerset Maugham

This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force. — Dorothy Parker

From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it. – Groucho Marx

Where facts are few, experts are many. – Donald R. Gannon

There are grammatical errors even in his silence. — Stanislaw J. Lec

The covers of this book are too far apart. – Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary. – William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway

It had only one fault. It was kind of lousy. – James Thurber

Editing Tips

If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times: Resist hyperbole. – Anon

Never use a long word when a diminutive one will suffice. – Anon

Eschew Obfuscation. – Anon

Avoid awkward or affected alliteration. – Anon

Last, but not least, avoid clichés like the plague. – Anon

I wish people who have trouble communicating would just shut up. – Tom Lehrer

 

PR Pros as Masters of the Communications Universe — Think Like a Publisher

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

Rolling out new tools

Posted by Tom Gable

How to develop social media programs for clients in different industries and professions but with the same need to connect with multiple audiences and build image, reputation and increased connections? After considerable research, brainstorming and analyzing potential strategies, we pulled together approaches taken from the pages of our favorite journalism books and publishing models.

The concept was presented at a PRSA Counselors Academy Spring Conference in 2011 to promote the PR profession as being the new “Masters of the Communications Universe.”  Unlike those in any other field, PR professionals have: proven histories of using strategic programs to build image and reputation; a robust arsenal of tools and tactics; the power to change perceptions and behaviors; the abilities to position new companies, markets and industries and reposition companies that have become stuck; disrupt a market; pre-empt the competition; manage a crisis; and so much more!

Ready to become a master of the communications universe? Here are the 13 lucky steps Gable PR uses as a starting point for developing programs:

 

  1. Set Program Goals and Objectives – These can be big ideas, such as supporting an organization’s annual business and marketing plans, or can get specific about increasing penetration in each communications channel, driving leads to the website, increasing stock volume and other metrics.
  2. Determine Your Target Audiences – This can include internal audiences, customers, future customers, the media, suppliers, regulators, elected officials, the community, government agencies and more. Whom do you need to reach? Where do they get their information? Whom do they trust? What do they need to know to begin developing a clear picture of what makes you rise above the crowd – the clear points of differentiation that are the essence of your brand and reputation?
  3. Develop a Position, Personality, Tone and Style – How to deliver quality content to impress and educate your target audiences? Think about your favorite publications. Will your different publications — electronic and otherwise — be similar to a trade journal, a general business publication (Business Week, Forbes), a more general all around publication or website (Time, Newsweek, Huffington Post, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, the Sunday magazines in daily newspapers), something feature-packed (Wired, Fast Company, Inc.)?  Your goal is to show a consistent personality, tone and style, whether for blogging, Tweeting or posting to Facebook. How do you want to be perceived? You want to come across as helpful, knowledgeable, trusted, dependable, reliable and, of course, human!  Be friendly and authentic; connect with your audiences, don’t talk down to them.
  4. Create an Editorial Calendar for the Year – Make a list of the topics you want to cover and then develop what the news media call an Editorial Calendar. Are you going to publish your blog weekly? How will you integrate Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+ and other channels into the plan? Assign a topic to each of the next 52 weeks. Once the calendar is established, have the discipline to publish accordingly. Then, if some important piece of news surfaces that you want to blog about, go ahead and share the breaking news and simply push the calendar back a week.
  5. Develop a Content Creation Plan to Make it Happen – Assign content development one to two months ahead of when the copy, video, infographic, photo album, news story, podcast, interview or whatever is set to run. You can use project management software to manage the process, or create your own means of tracking when an assignment is made and to whom, when the draft is due, editing date, final approval date and then run date.
  6. Have a Nose for News; Find Hot Topics to Cover – Subscribe to news trackers (Google, Yahoo, New York Times and most newspapers and magazines). Set up search terms in Twilert (a search engine for Twitter) to find interesting Tweets on key subjects and links to other resources. Identify your favorite news columnists, blogs, industry experts or others to follow and check them regularly. And if you ever feel you don’t have quality content but want to communicate according to your plan and schedule, blog about your “Best Sources.”  Write a short introduction about why you like the sites or people and provide links to four or five of your favorites. This can also lead to reciprocal linking and more followers.
  7. Provide Variety – Newspapers, magazines and news websites usually have sections, such as news, sports, entertainment, business and finance, home and garden, lifestyle and people news. Think about the potential topics you want to cover. You can cover one or more in each blog. Alternate topics to keep fresh.
  8. Invite Guest Columnists – Find outside experts, peers, customers, visionaries, thought leaders in the industry, fellow board members in trade associations and others to invite as guest columnists and bloggers. If your organization supports important local, regional or national causes, dedicate an issue to the topic, such as promoting the annual 10k race or other fundraiser for cancer research. Invite the head of the organization to contribute a short piece on the need and how the funds will be applied. Think of other ways of connecting to the community. Having these types of contributors builds credibility, helps search engines find you in new ways and increases the number of followers.
  9. Ask Questions, Do Quick Surveys – A favorite trick for engaging your readers is to ask questions and create short surveys they can answer online. It can take less than an hour to create a short survey using one of the free survey sites such as Survey Monkey or Zoomerang. The surveys can ask respondents to rank hot industry topics for the coming year, favorite news media in a particular niche and helpful hints from users of a company’s products or services. The surveys need to generate results that can be turned into a future news story, blog, post on Facebook and Google+ or topic for a speech.
  10. Have a Photo Contest – If appropriate to the company, organization, institution or cause, engage your followers (and add new ones!) by having regular contests to generate fresh content in appropriate categories. These can include nature, people, recreation, local attractions, street scenes and seasonal submissions (skiing, soccer, softball, spring flowers, cutest animals, ugliest dogs, raging rivers), most innovative use of your product and other helpful hints. Have prizes that tie back to the organization or a cause. Recruit two or three celebrity judges. Launch the contest and give it a deadline, such as three weeks to submit, then a week to judge before  announcing the winners. Post the best on Pinterest then Tweet the link and post on Facebook.
  11. Draw More Traffic to Your Blog and Website with Email, Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook – Whenever you post something new, let the world know with quick Tweets, emails and Facebook posts with a short description of your new blog content and a link. This will help build your numbers and also make it easier for people to find you when they are searching for trusted resources and respected brands in your category. To make it even easier for your targets to find your key messages, include hyperlinks to your blog, Twitter handle, Facebook page and LinkedIn profile in your email signature, Tweets, posts, news releases, comments on other sites and in the body of email correspondence.
  12. Be Responsive – And do so within the personality! Communicate within the core values you have established. Keep it high level and positive.
  13. Track Everything; Have Regular Creative Sessions to Keep Improving – Are you achieving program goals and objectives? If not, why not? Post a survey to ask for feedback from your target audiences on what they like or don’t like. Find out what works best and build on it. Be consistently creative and how you, as a publisher and master of the communications universe, can keep providing quality content that engages your readers and builds your reputation.

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