Say What You Wanna Say…Sort Of

By Jessica Sharp, Maven Communications

My daughter loves the Sara Bareilles song “Brave.” The chorus goes like this: “Say what you wanna say, and let the words fall out. Honestly, I wanna see you be brave.”

As she was singing it at the top of her lungs this morning, it got me thinking that, as a communicator, it’s my job to work with clients to help them say what they wanna say…but in a way that their target audience will understand and react to.

“Say what you wanna say, but use terms your audience understands.” Doesn’t quite have that same empowering vibe as the Bareilles version.

So, how do you determine what your audience wants to hear?

The first step is understanding what their concerns and drivers are. What keeps them up at night? What motivates them to take action? It’s important to get into their head. Here are a few effective ways to do this:

Focus groups – pretty straight forward. Get together a group of folks who fall into your target audience category and have a conversation focused on them. It’s important not to focus on your company or services. You already know what you offer, what you’re looking to uncover is how you can best talk about what you offer in the context of how it fits into their lives.

Individual interviews – same concept as the above, but on an individual basis. Again, you want to ask direct questions about goals, apprehensions, and drivers and listen to the words and phrases that he or she is using. This is not the time to talk about your product or service or their experience with it.

Online group observations – almost as effective and less costly are “sitting in” on group chats that include members of your target audience. Here you’re specifically looking for questions they’re posing to the group that will reveal the challenges they face or concerns they have.

Social media influencer observations – figure out who your target audience identifies as an influencer and observe the terms and messages he or she uses. If members of your target audience are following this person, it’s likely they consider them a trusted resource. Using the same phrasing and terms that he or she uses will likely resonate.

Google search terms – research the most utilized search terms and phrases people use to come across your product or solution category. It’s easy to get caught up using industry lingo when you speak it every day, but it’s important to realize that your target audience may not be using those same terms to search for the solution you offer.

Once you’ve got a good list of frequently used terms and phrases, as well as a solid understanding of what the concerns and drivers are of your target audience, you can now craft your company’s messaging. You can still say what you wanna say, just make sure you’re staying it in a way that will catch the attention of your target audiences.

Note: PPRA is composed of many distinct organizations and individuals, each with different perspectives and specializations in diverse areas of public relations. Many of these members’ websites feature blogs with valuable insights and advice, and we would like to make this content available to you. Periodically, we will repost content from member blogs. If you would like to see your company’s blog considered, email Stephen Krasowski at skrasowski@rmahq.org.

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#PPRAMemberMonday

Meg Kane is Senior Vice President at Brian Communications. She’s been a PPRA member for 5 years.

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/megkane/

Twitter: @margaretkane

Meg describes herself as a Proud Philadelphian … and more: An Explorer first and always (B.A., La Salle University ’03 #NeverLost). But, I did rub Testudo’s nose for good luck before my Seminar Defense (M.A., University of Maryland ’05 #FearTheTurtle). Board of Trustees: La Salle University and La Salle Academy; Proud Supporter: Fred’s Footsteps. Unexpected Job Hazard: People tend to ask me how Pope Francis is before asking how I am. Passionate 4 for 4 Philadelphia fan but if you follow me on Twitter, you know the SUPER BOWL CHAMPION PHILADELPHIA EAGLES are my No. 1 (That will never get old…). Lover of “The Shore” but never without SPF 50. Daughter; Sister; Godmother to Avery Claire, Aunt to Gianna and Mark; “Fun Aunt Meg” to the 20+ children of my wonderfully supportive and hilarious friends from Philadelphia to Des Moines to Charleston.

PPRA: Who are your clients and/or what projects are you working on right now?

MK: I am lucky that I have an opportunity to work on different and dynamic clients at Brian Communications. From Independence Blue Cross and the East Market Development right here in Philadelphia to the Horatio Alger Association in Washington, DC, day-to-day is always different. As the agency of record for Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia three years ago, one of my most recent projects has taken me across the pond to Ireland to serve in a consulting role for the upcoming World Meeting of Families and Papal Visit to Dublin. Issues management is also a large part of my portfolio. For young PR pros, issues management is all-consuming but one of the best ways to learn how to prioritize. There is nothing like having multiple fires to put out to help you learn quickly what’s an inferno and what’s a burnt Pop-Tart.

PPRA: What is your favorite part about your job?

MK: Well, I love a big idea (Ask me about “The Mosaic”) and I’ve never met a press event I didn’t like (That’s a joke). But my favorite part of my job is watching our team grow in their own careers. Every week, our agency has a meeting to highlight the team’s “Wins of the Week” and nothing makes me happier than to hear about their journeys to success. And those wins aren’t always a splashy placement… sometimes it’s in advocating for a key correction, nailing a 3 sentence statement or helping an intern build a media list. Whatever the “win” is, each one is critical to our team members delivering great client work as well as growing in their individual roles.

PPRA: What was your latest and greatest accomplishment at your job?

MK: We recently helped a long-term client through a comprehensive communications audit and brand refresh that ultimately extended to the full scripting of the organization’s annual three-day awards events. It was a near year-long process that culminated in a 100+ hour week. But it was a “Wow!” and the client was just delighted with the outcome. Clearly, this is a shared accomplishment but to be part of that team is something I’m very proud of.

PPRA: What one piece of advice would you give to your fellow PR pros?

MK: I’d love to give one, but there are two pieces of advice that Team Brian has heard me share time and again – and equally. First, you don’t get what you don’t ask for. If you want to work on something or have a passion for a client or new business prospect, go for it. Find a way to be part of the team, contribute an idea and make yourself known. Second, know when to “flag it up.” Don’t wait until it’s too late to address a concern. That’s how small, solvable issues become crises.

PPRA: What book or movie could you read or watch again and again?

MK: “Goodfellas.” If it’s on, it’s never turned off. Great story. Sharp writing. Sharper characters. And gorgeous, rich scenes that we take for granted today. That scene when Henry and Karen walk into the Copa through the kitchen is just a masterpiece.

PPRA: What’s your favorite spot in Philly (museum, park, store, etc.)?

MK: Villa di Roma on 9th Street in the heart of the Italian Market (Ravioli, Meatball and a glass of House Red) or Citizens Bank Park, which is just a great place to catch a game and a beer.

PPRA: How do you take your cheesesteak?

MK: Not at Pat’s or Geno’s. I prefer chopped steak with American cheese melted throughout and fried onions. And the roll is critical. A terrible roll can ruin a cheesesteak. So, when asked, that typically leads to a Dalessandro’s recommendation.

PPRA: Our PPRA 2017-18 PRoactive partnership is with Tree House Books. What was your favorite childhood book and why?

MK: I was a voracious reader as a child and I was always drawn to stories with young women heroines. I loved “From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” as well as Nancy Drew, but only the classic hard covers such as “The Hidden Staircase” and “The Secret of the Old Clock.”

#PPRAMemberMonday

PPRA_membermondaytemplate.jpg

Meg Kane is Senior Vice President at Brian Communications. She’s been a PPRA member for 5 years.

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/megkane/

Twitter: @margaretkane

Meg describes herself as a Proud Philadelphian … and more:  An Explorer first and always (B.A., La Salle University ’03 #NeverLost). But, I did rub Testudo’s nose for good luck before my Seminar Defense (M.A., University of Maryland ’05 #FearTheTurtle). Board of Trustees: La Salle University and La Salle Academy; Proud Supporter: Fred’s Footsteps. Unexpected Job Hazard: People tend to ask me how Pope Francis is before asking how I am. Passionate 4 for 4 Philadelphia fan but if you follow me on Twitter, you know the SUPER BOWL CHAMPION PHILADELPHIA EAGLES are my No. 1 (That will never get old…). Lover of “The Shore” but never without SPF 50. Daughter; Sister; Godmother to Avery Claire, Aunt to Gianna and Mark; “Fun Aunt Meg” to the 20+ children of my wonderfully supportive and hilarious friends from Philadelphia to Des Moines to Charleston.

PPRA: Who are your clients and/or what projects are you working on right now?

MK: I am lucky that I have an opportunity to work on different and dynamic clients at Brian Communications. From Independence Blue Cross and the East Market Development right here in Philadelphia to the Horatio Alger Association in Washington, DC, day-to-day is always different. As the agency of record for Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia three years ago, one of my most recent projects has taken me across the pond to Ireland to serve in a consulting role for the upcoming World Meeting of Families and Papal Visit to Dublin. Issues management is also a large part of my portfolio. For young PR pros, issues management is all-consuming but one of the best ways to learn how to prioritize. There is nothing like having multiple fires to put out to help you learn quickly what’s an inferno and what’s a burnt Pop-Tart.

PPRA: What is your favorite part about your job?

MK: Well, I love a big idea (Ask me about “The Mosaic”) and I’ve never met a press event I didn’t like (That’s a joke). But my favorite part of my job is watching our team grow in their own careers. Every week, our agency has a meeting to highlight the team’s “Wins of the Week” and nothing makes me happier than to hear about their journeys to success. And those wins aren’t always a splashy placement… sometimes it’s in advocating for a key correction, nailing a 3 sentence statement or helping an intern build a media list. Whatever the “win” is, each one is critical to our team members delivering great client work as well as growing in their individual roles.

PPRA: What was your latest and greatest accomplishment at your job?

MK: We recently helped a long-term client through a comprehensive communications audit and brand refresh that ultimately extended to the full scripting of the organization’s annual three-day awards events. It was a near year-long process that culminated in a 100+ hour week. But it was a “Wow!” and the client was just delighted with the outcome. Clearly, this is a shared accomplishment but to be part of that team is something I’m very proud of.

PPRA: What one piece of advice would you give to your fellow PR pros?

MK: I’d love to give one, but there are two pieces of advice that Team Brian has heard me share time and again – and equally. First, you don’t get what you don’t ask for. If you want to work on something or have a passion for a client or new business prospect, go for it. Find a way to be part of the team, contribute an idea and make yourself known. Second, know when to “flag it up.” Don’t wait until it’s too late to address a concern. That’s how small, solvable issues become crises.

PPRA: What book or movie could you read or watch again and again?

MK: “Goodfellas.” If it’s on, it’s never turned off. Great story. Sharp writing. Sharper characters. And gorgeous, rich scenes that we take for granted today. That scene when Henry and Karen walk into the Copa through the kitchen is just a masterpiece.

PPRA: What’s your favorite spot in Philly (museum, park, store, etc.)?

MK: Villa di Roma on 9th Street in the heart of the Italian Market (Ravioli, Meatball and a glass of House Red) or Citizens Bank Park, which is just a great place to catch a game and a beer.

PPRA: How do you take your cheesesteak?

MK: Not at Pat’s or Geno’s. I prefer chopped steak with American cheese melted throughout and fried onions. And the roll is critical. A terrible roll can ruin a cheesesteak. So, when asked, that typically leads to a Dalessandro’s recommendation.

PPRA: Our PPRA 2017-18 PRoactive partnership is with Tree House Books. What was your favorite childhood book and why?

MK: I was a voracious reader as a child and I was always drawn to stories with young women heroines. I loved “From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” as well as Nancy Drew, but only the classic hard covers such as “The Hidden Staircase” and “The Secret of the Old Clock.”

Museum of the American Revolution Hosts Monthly History Series

Image result for american revolution museum

By Elena Bras, Museum of the American Revolution

The Museum of the American Revolution hosted “History After Hours: Power of the Press” on Tuesday, May 15, from 5:00 – 8:00 p.m.

This event is part of the Museum of the American Revolution’s monthly History After Hours series, which features extended evening hours until 8 p.m., special themed programs, happy hour food and drink specials in Cross Keys Café from 5 – 7 p.m., and full access to the exhibits. The Museum highlighted the theme of press and printing and its impact during the American Revolution in several ways.

Ben Bartgis, a book historian and bookbinder demonstrated the process of printed sheets becoming pamphlets and books. Visitors could make their own pamphlet, featuring poetry by Phillis Wheatley or a mini booklet of The American Crisis by Thomas Paine.

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Stamps featuring historical letters and symbols were also available as printing tools for guests as they made their own political pamphlet or broadside. Also offered in the lobby was a re-created Liberty Tree. Guests could write down answers in response to the prompt “How will they carry on the Revolution?” and add them to the life-size tree vinyl placed on one of the lobby walls. The Museum café also offered special happy hour-priced food and drinks, with a signature cocktail made for the event. Guests could enjoy these in either the café or in the lobby with the activities.

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Museum Registrar Michelle Moskal gave a tour during the event that examined the challenges of displaying paper collection items. Some of the objects featured included a signed book of poems by the first published female African American poet, Phillis Wheatley. In the featured gallery, a costumed educator stood under the replica of the Boston Liberty Tree as they told stories of the Sons and Daughters of Liberty who would post broadsides to revolt against the British tyranny. In the same gallery, the touch-screen interactive “Posters of Protest” was also called out. Guests could interact with original broadsides on the digital platform by expanding on original text and translate era-specific language.

Finally, guests and staff were invited to donate a book to Tree House Books, a Giving Library and Literacy Center in North Philadelphia. The organization provides free books to the community as well as programs that increase literacy skills to promote a lifelong love of reading and writing in children. At each History After Hours event, the Museum partners with a specific organization that ties to the theme of the night.
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Top Tips for Managing a PR Crisis

By Kirk Dorn, Ceisler Media

Sometimes, bad things happen to good companies. Even the best can’t always avoid a crisis – whether it’s man-made or a natural disaster.

But you can make a bad situation better by taking the right steps. That’s where I come in.

 One of the services we offer at Ceisler Media and Issue Advocacy is crisis management, guiding a business or social agency or individual through a negative event. We are experts in helping people and companies identify the problem, take steps toward defraying it, devise a strategy to get through tough times and come out healthy at the other end.

It’s hard work, and it often isn’t fun – for all sides. But dealing head-on with a crisis is important, and a lot smarter than the alternative.

Before we get into the steps of handling these challenges, let’s define what we’re talking about. There really are two kinds of crises:

  • A negative-event situation. This can be a train derailment, a natural disaster, an incident of violence – any unforeseen episode of trouble. For example, we at Ceisler are currently helping a large energy company after a gas leak explosion in Ohio in February.

  • A reputational-damage situation. This involves crises created by, say, criminal or ethical misbehavior by a company executive. Alas, these cases are in the news far too often these days – in government, industry, show business and sports.

Of course, the first kind of problem can spill into the second if the executive in charge makes a poor decision or an ill-advised statement. A small negative can balloon if matters are mishandled at the top.

 Sometimes, there’s a perception when I’m called in that I can make the problem disappear. Hey, I’m good, but I’m no magician. If something really happened, it has to be dealt with.

Or, an occasional client will see me as being like a character from the TV program “Scandal.” Well, it’s a fine show, but it’s way over the top. Life can be thorny, but it’s rarely that dramatic.

Like most of television, however, a crisis can have a happy ending. But only if you take the right steps.

It starts by doing the right thing. And doing it quickly. If there are allegations that someone in a position of authority did something improper, my first word of advice is that the person has to step aside from the scene – a kind of self-suspension or one imposed by the board of directors while a full investigation is conducted.

That’s necessary to send the right message to the work force. And, if the story is already in the media, it sends the right message to the public. You are not convicting the person, but you are suspending until the facts are determined.

I’ve worked cases for Ceisler Media where there has been a reluctance to do this when the person accused of wrongdoing is popular with the board. I have to tell them to put their personal affection aside and do what’s right for the company.

By the way, sometimes the person accused is not guilty. If the accused can make a compelling argument of that innocence we can help the individual and the organization take on the most credible defensive posture. But those cases represent a minority. Most often, we are protecting an organization’s reputation.

Once we had a case where the leader of a religious congregation was accused of having an inappropriate adult relationship with a congregant. The clergyman was beloved, but he had to be suspended and it had to be investigated.  Many members of the congregation opposed the move. But in the end, it became clear the clergyman’s actions made it impossible for him to return to his job.

If the problem is more rampant than one person at the top of the organization, you need to do more. You need to have someone with an impeccable reputation come from the outside and investigate. That ensures the community that the company is taking the issue seriously.

Once those initial moves are made, there’s a basic step-by-step process to follow:

 1) Establish a core team to handle the situation. This should include the CEO (assuming that the CEO isn’t the problem), one or two members or the board of directors and – if the company has one – the communications director. And let us help.

 When that gas line burst in Ohio, Ceisler Media Managing Director Kurt Knaus and associate Caitlin O’Connor went to the scene with top energy company officials to develop a strategy and address the concerned community. They stayed there for several weeks, talking with citizens and reporters.

 2) Do your fact finding. What went wrong? What better decisions might have been made? Who is handling what issue? Where do we go from here? Decide what needs to be done and run it through the prism of what is ethical and legal.

 3) To the extent you can, try to take your emotions out of your dealings. I know that isn’t easy, and that’s why a crisis communications manager like me is so important. When I walk in, I’m not as personally invested. I can better see the scope of things without getting caught in the emotion. Sometimes I have to remind clients to breathe throughout the process.

The biggest fear clients often have is the media. Not that long ago, I was often asked, ‘How do we keep this out of the media?’ These days, with the prevalence of social media, chances are good that employees have already posted Facebook messages before I even come through the door.

Here’s the top rule in dealing with the media and public: Everything you say has to be true. It really is the case that the cover-up can be worse than the crime. That doesn’t mean you have to disclose everything behind the scenes, but be honest in what you tell people.

You should always have a unified message. Even if the board of directors splits 4-3 on an issue, everyone has to be on the same page in public. I’ve seen situations where a lone wolf within a company writes an opposing-viewpoint op-ed. That can blow up the entire strategy.

And, of course, you have to honestly attack the problem. Whatever went wrong, you need to aggressively work to fix it and keep public apprised of your progress. Show people your commitment to never allow it to happen again. The key is to communicate that you’re doing everything possible to do the best.

There’s typically a crisis cycle.  Unfortunately, you do need to bottom out before you can recover. But if you do the right thing and effectively communicate your message, you can win people’s confidence. And in some cases, you’re actually more attuned to the need to promote yourself positively going forward.

Note: PPRA is composed of many distinct organizations and individuals, each with different perspectives and specializations in diverse areas of public relations. Many of these members’ websites feature blogs with valuable insights and advice, and we would like to make this content available to you. Periodically, we will repost content from member blogs. If you would like to see your company’s blog considered, email Stephen Krasowski at skrasowski@rmahq.org.