Four Ways That Being In Public Relations Is Like Being a Backup Singer

BUSAL

When I first watched the 2013 documentary “20 Feet From Stardom” I was captivated by the storytelling, the history, and the music that made it an Oscar-winning film. I also felt some personal connection to the characters, and I couldn’t help but see their relevance as metaphors for the public relations profession, at least as I know it.

In my experience, being a PR professional has been all about working outside of the spotlight to make others look good. Rather than a Flavor Flav-type hype man, if the client is the “star,” then in many cases I’m the “backup singer,” adding detail, accentuation, and the necessary ideas to flesh out a plan or initiative and make it feel complete. In that spirit, here are four ways that being in PR is like being a backup singer.

1. You work to make the star shine brighter

There’s no doubt that public relations takes talent to perform well, but you’re always applying your skills to draw the attention to the main attraction, whether that’s an individual, a business, or a product. It’s a role we play mostly anonymously. Some PR folks do become rock stars in and of themselves, like Richard Edelman or Peter Shankman to their Luther Vandross/Sheryl Crow counterparts, but it’s clear that they’ve succeeded on the merits of their core work ethic in addition to their talent.

2. You understand what can be accomplished as part of a team

There are great independent practitioners out there, but nobody works in a complete silo, especially those of us at agencies. When you have colleagues that you can bounce ideas off of, share insights with, and talk through problems with, it’s possible to work at a different level than you can alone. As recounted in this Washington Post article on the movie, a festival-screening participant addressed director Morgan Neville, saying; “Most of us work collaboratively, for bosses, in positions we’re proud of and which are key to the successful running of an operation, creative or otherwise.” I believe this is true no matter how talented you are.

3. It’s the depth and details that sell the story

What would “Young Americans” be without the backup singers? Would “Walk on the Wild Side” even be considered a classic if not for the “do do do’s”? Let alone the wailing of Merry Clayton in “Gimme Shelter”? The details and the hooks brought out by the backup singers add richness to the story of the song, and are often what sell it to the listener. In much the same way, PR professionals find the information that substantially transforms an ordinary pitch, press release, or piece of marketing content into something much more valuable.

4. Success is defined by the love of the art

As Merry Clayton says in the film, “there’s no guarantees in entertainment,” and the same is true in public relations. We can’t guarantee a media placement. We can’t guarantee the messaging will be relayed verbatim, or even accurately. We can’t guarantee an article run date. But we can guarantee putting in the time and critical thinking and creativity to make sure a client’s goals are achieved to the best degree possible. Every one of the best public relations practitioners I’ve worked with has had many times where things didn’t work out as planned, but they’ve continued to persevere in the industry because of their integrity and their work ethic. What keeps a true PR pro going is the inspiration of helping to get a story told, just as delivering the music drives the singers in the film.

Public relations has its ups and downs, just like any job. We work not to garner accolades, but to provide a foundation for communications and often guide the direction for clients. It’s a presence that is felt and is vital, yet when executed properly is hardly noticed. By filling in the details, public relations ensures that the background is developed, providing complete harmony instead of an awkward silence.

Adam Leiter is a PR professional with ab+c Creative Intelligence, responsible for the strategic development and implementation of communications programs for clients in a variety of industries. Working with a team of communications professionals to earn media opportunities for accounts including B2B, B2C, non-profit, and civic engagement programs, he seamlessly weaves in social media strategies, digital services, and creative development to ensure an integrated marketing program on behalf of clients.

*This post was previously featured on LinkedIn.

 

Advertisements

Technology & Social Media: How They’re Revolutionizing the PR Game

As an intern and a college student, I try to be a sponge and soak up as much IMGknowledge as I can. After three years of general education classes and longing for some real world experience, I finally got to dive into public relations and marketing in school as well as in my summer internship at AWeber. With a fresh pair of eyes and a spot on the marketing team at a modern, technology driven company, I’ve been able to see what PR practices are being utilized and what seems to be becoming the new industry standard. What I’ve come to learn is that social media, other technologies, and the internet in general are rapidly changing the game.

For starters, everything is online now. This can be seen as a blessing or a curse. It’s a blessing because businesses are able to have a huge reach in areas that they could have never dreamed of before. Someone 2,000 miles away could be reading this blog post right now and that is a truly amazing thing. At the same time, however, this means that everyone and their mother can put anything they want on the internet. More content means more competition. It’s harder to get the media to accept your pitch when they’re getting 500 emails a day from other agencies and businesses.

This brings me to my next point. Creativity and innovation are key in today’s world where everyone has access to almost every article that’s ever been written with one quick Google search. Most stories have already been written. That’s why it’s important to put an 180 degree angle on whatever story you’re pitching in order to get reporters and journalists to bite at it. Run of the mill stories and articles won’t get picked up unless they are buzz-worthy and offer a new, fresh perspective.

Because of the growth of the internet, it’s important to make your online presence loud and clear. The more media outlets and social media networks you’re on, you’ll have a better chance of reaching more publics and growing you or your client’s business. As a young adult and YouTube vlogger enveloped in the online world, I see too many companies with botched social media accounts. Some seem to be made with little effort and others seem to just not fully understand what they are doing. Too many businesses don’t think with the mind’s of consumers.

Social media does need to make sense in the context of your business, but it’s also equally (if not more) important that it looks good and grabs people’s attention. For example, if you run a jewelry company, you can’t just post pictures on your Instagram account of every necklace you’ve ever made. Yes, people want to see the products you’re offering, but you need to be creative and switch it up in order to make sure you’re getting loyal followers who actually look forward to seeing the content you post each day. Post pictures of your jewelry paired with cute clothing or grouped with other accessories. Posting a funny or inspirational quote that your demographic can relate to is also a good way to change up your content. Additionally, the timing of each post is just as important to get optimum reach. Look at accounts with 100k followers for inspiration. They’re obviously doing something right.

Keeping social media in mind, a lot of newer companies are capitalizing on the fame of bloggers and Instagrammers by getting their products in the hands of these social media celebrities. By offering a free wardrobe full of new clothes to a fashion blogger along with a nice commission, these companies are making the right move. These days, people go gaga for their favorite Instagrammers and want to use/buy everything they see them use. The fact that these sponsored posts don’t feel like traditional advertisements really helps because it feels like raw, original content rather than an annoying, pushy commercial or billboard.

Although PR is still a relatively new concept and term in the business world, it’s changing and growing rapidly. Newspaper clippings are no longer the go-to measurement for success, a strong online presence has become standard, and social media has completely changed the relevance of traditional advertising. The bottom line is that nothing is ever set in stone. Tactics change constantly and it’s up to every PR professional to stay on their toes while searching for the next new way to drive awareness to their company.

Julia McNamee is the Marketing Intern at AWeber. She’s also a Corporate Communication major at Penn State, a part-time freelance makeup artist, and a YouTube vlogger. Check her out on YouTube. (www.youtube.com/jaayforever).

4 Musts for Any Agency Offering Social Media

SMI

Lots of small and medium sized businesses are spending a lot of time on social media because they understand its potential. They typically fall into three categories: doing well at it and content to keep it going, doing well at it but ready to outsource it, and don’t know what they’re doing and want real help.

In many cases, it may make sense for these people to outsource their social media needs to the same agencies handling their public relations and other marketing needs. As a PR professional, you already know what’s going on within the client’s business, what their overall goals are, and how to get them in front of their ideal audience.

I’ve seen PR agencies and marketing agencies do some things right and some things wrong when providing social media services to clients. I’m here to share my insights so you can add social media to your service offerings without the risk of failing your client or spending all of your time on social.

Know what’s on the menu.
Before you offer social media services to your clients, you should know the different ways that you can “slice” social media. Some clients might want full social media management that covers content creation, audience engagement, inbox monitoring/customer service and ad buys. But you may choose not to offer the whole enchilada. You may decide it only makes sense to provide prewritten social media posts that the client can schedule to accompany a public relations campaign you’re managing more fully for them.

If you break it down, you can offer clients:

Content calendar: This can mean different things to different people, so be sure to define it for within your own agency and be clear about its meaning to clients. It might mean a simple list of weekly themes they should follow, a yearly calendar that outlines several campaigns, or a day-by-day list of pre-written tweets, posts and updates.

Scheduling: This is simply the scheduling of social media posts to be sent at a predetermined time from within a tool such as Hootsuite. If the client insists on approving the prewritten content each week, you may want the client to handle scheduling so that any delays in approval do not affect your ability to schedule the updates to go out on time.

Engagement/Audience growth: This is the daily maintenance of the client’s platforms and real-time interaction with audiences. This includes following those who follow the client’s competitors to grow their own following and reposting and liking content from other users to get their attention. Related to this is customer service or inbox monitoring wherein you keep an eye on the social media messaging inboxes to keep track of any concerns customers have with your client’s business. You might answer these customer concerns if you’re equipped to do so or to quickly notify the client of messages that require their attention.

Ad buys: Do you want responsibility to creating ad campaigns to reach new followers, drive traffic to the client’s website, or boost posts on Facebook? How about sponsoring tweets on Twitter or posts on Instagram? This might include the creation of graphics that won’t get rejected by Facebook and reporting the results to the client.

Reporting: Whatever social media services you offer, you’ll want a system for reporting analytics so they can track progress on social media. Social media managers do reporting in different ways. Hootsuite has built-in analytics tools, Facebook has pretty advanced analytics in its Page management system, and even Twitter lets you track the reach of your tweets. There are plenty of others tools you can use. Some clients will only care about their number of followers going up while others will want to know what messages are outperforming others.

Get an ally in the client’s office.
Inevitably, there will be “fires.” You’ve seen it time and again with media placements and other PR elements: the client’s name was misspelled or there was a word missing from their quote and they want you to fix it RIGHT NOW! Well, it happens with social media too. The client might notice a word misspelled or a missing period and want the tweet or post edited or deleted right this very second. Now, you’re busy. While PR pros pride themselves on being well-caffeinated and quick to respond, it just isn’t always possible. The best thing to do to prevent client frustrations in this situation is to ask them up front to appoint someone on their own team that you can train to be responsive in an “emergency.” Then teach them the basics of editing or deleting. You might even make it super clear by giving them a handy tipsheet they can keep nearby that tells them if a post on a platform is able to be edited or must be deleted, etc.

Keep PR & social media on the same page.
If you can’t have the account executive that’s already handling the client’s PR do their social media (some of your account execs won’t be comfortable in that role or have the bandwidth to take it on), make sure that the person managing their social media has really easy access to the account exec handling PR. This is especially important when your clients have had your agency handle their PR for a long time and are just now handing over social media. Your account exec likely already knows what’s going on inside the client’s company or knows how to get that info out of the client. The person in charge of their social media needs that information too. While social media can consist largely of news aggregation and other forms of content that aren’t breaking news about the company, their social media will feel naked without such updates from within the company.

Feel free to give the client homework.
Don’t feel like because you’re taking money from the client to manage their social media that it should be entirely off their plate(s). You might ask that clients email you articles you can share from their feeds, share updates from the company page to their personal pages, or upload images in real-time from major events they’re participating in (or texting those images to you so you can upload them).

There’s a lot to consider when you’re thinking of or starting to offer social media services to clients. This really is just a brief list of the things I’ve seen other agencies mess up.

Rosella LaFevre is a marketing consultant helping solo entrepreneurs, small businesses and C-level executives with marketing strategy, public relations/thought leadership and social media. She’s also a business and marketing coach helping entrepreneurs do more good and make more money. If you want an outsider to consult on your agency’s approach to social media for clients, schedule a consultation here.

(Image via)

Shopping Gets Social: Pinterest and Instagram Updates

 

Mobile-shopping-525x600As the digital landscape has transformed the way we send, receive and seek information, online shopping has increased significantly in the last few years. Research by Wipro Digital found that in 2013, 36 percent of U.S. shoppers reported doing the majority of their shopping online, and since then, ecommerce has increased by 25 percent. Today, 61 percent of U.S. shoppers are making the majority of their purchases online. This trend will continue to grow this year. According to Wipro, 50 percent of U.S. shoppers plan to do more shopping online, while only 4 percent plan to make more in-store purchases.

On June 2, Pinterest and Instagram unveiled “Buy buttons” that allow users to purchase items they see while scrolling through Pinterest boards and Instagram feeds on their mobile devices. On Pinterest, you will now see “buyable pins,” enabling users to search for pins within a specific price range, product color and more, while buying directly through Pinterest’s mobile app. Rich pins (pins with information for ingredients and DIY projects) will also have “buy it” buttons, so users will be able to buy the list of products without leaving Pinterest.

While scrolling through Instagram, you will see ads with “Shop Now,” “Install Now,”  “Sign Up” and “Learn More” buttons. These features are an addition to Instagram’s carousel ads that launched in March and will help companies with their selling and marketing efforts on social media. For companies, these new ad features will have better targeting options based on age, location, gender, interests, places and other demographics.

Some marketers believe these new features on Pinterest and Instagram will increase brands’ conversion rates and boost engagement and sales, but others believe these features don’t help them get to know their consumers enough.

While the new buyable pins on Pinterest could significantly increase company sales and enhance the consumer experience, some people do not believe the same can be said for Instagram. Adam Padilla, creative director of BrandFire, describes the new Instagram features as “risky” and “a mistake.” As an Instagram user with over 17,000 followers, he doesn’t want to feel like he’s shopping while he scrolls through his feed. Padilla described Instagram as more of a personal experience than Pinterest and said Pinterest was similar to a marketplace like Etsy.

With these features, companies will have to be cautious and think about their digital strategies because consumers don’t want to feel like their Pinterest searches and Instagram feeds are being taken over by ads.

While some believe these updates won’t help drive sales, others believe these features will make shopping even easier with instant access to products. One thing is for sure, digital technology is changing the way we live our lives, and these new features on Pinterest and Instagram have the potential to change the way we view products and make purchases.

Megan Healy is a senior at Temple University majoring in Strategic Communication with a concentration in Public Relations and a minor in Spanish. She is an active member of Temple University’s chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America and is an account executive for PRowl Public Relations, Temple’s student-run PR firm. She will be studying abroad in London this summer and will be graduating this December. Follow Megan on Twitter at @Meg_Healy_ and connect with her on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/meganhealy22.

5 Things PR Firms Need to Know About Their Legal Clients

GravelIf you are a communications professional and have decided to take on some law firms or individual attorneys as clients, you will likely face a unique set of obstacles. Attorneys are very particular about the way they market and that’s not without valid reason. On one hand, an attorney needs to promote her- or him- self in order for potential clients to find them. On the other hand, if an attorney decides to advertise in a new or innovative way, they may risk drawing the attention of their state bar ethics board. Here are some things that PR Firms and marketing professionals need to know about their legal clients and a few tips that may help you navigate the attorney-marketer relationship.

1. There is no time for marketing
In a law firm production is king and anything non-billable such as marketing is often discouraged. Therefore, lawyers often fail to see the big picture and the potential return on investment from participating in marketing efforts. For instance, many firms have very lucrative reward compensations systems, which are triggered by bringing in new business. A lawyer cannot bill for the two hours you spend a week handling their social media accounts or the five hours it took to write a bylined article for an industry magazine. However, in a few months when they get a call from So-and-So, CEO from “Big Company” because he/she read your clients intriguing article in The Legal Paper and saw their profile on LinkedIn, and he/she wants to meet to discuss representation of Big Company in a multi-million dollar deal, everything changes. Only then will a lawyer feel are those tedious-unpaid-for marketing efforts are suddenly reaping some benefits. This is not to say that having a LinkedIn profile and writing a bylined magazine will undoubtedly lead to huge client deals, however, it can multiply the opportunity for that to happen tenfold and your client needs to understand that.

Tip: Create substantive measurable goals for your clients and explain how some results may not initially reap benefits. Whenever possible, track as much of your marketing efforts and engagement as possible. Having solid numbers representing growth prior to- and post- marketing initiatives can instill trust and motivate attorneys to participate in your marketing strategies.

2. Social Media for Lawyers
The good news is that lawyers are finally beginning to understand the impact of social media and many have begun to interact on a variety of social networks. The bad news is that legal ethics committees across the country have recognized this and have issued conflicting and sometimes confusing, opinions regarding the ethical issues presented when lawyers interact online.

Tip: Make sure you know the law before you give your clients advice on what their social media efforts should entail. If you go into your meeting with your client armored with the knowledge and understanding of the ethical issues that can arise with social marketing for lawyers, they will be less resistant to participating and confident you can help them navigate what many are calling the “social media ethical minefield.”

3. Lack of understanding, focus and accountability
This one may surprise you. How could a smart lawyer lack understanding, focus and/or accountability? Lawyers are trained to learn a lot of information in a short period of time, to make sense of it, and to analyze it. However, they are not trained to promote their business. In general, attorneys are uncomfortable with marketing. Many times marketing is poorly understood and ineffectively implemented in law firms, small and large. This is not a new revelation, but the reason is often due to a lack of understanding, training, and experience with the process in addition to the ethical issues that comes along with it.

Tip: Tell your clients to treat marketing as a new specialty rather than an added job. By law, an attorney must provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation, according to the law. In other words, when a lawyer is practicing on a new case with issues the lawyer has not worked on previously they must take the time to educate themselves adequately enough to represent that client competently. Encourage your clients to treat themselves as a client and marketing a new law they need to learn. They can think of it as a contingency client. Only if they win (participating in your strategies), they make money. The more your client understands what marketing is the easier you job will be.

4. Strong “anti-marketing” culture
There is a distinct culture for lawyers and their marketing efforts and getting lawyers and law firms do anything different or new is not an easy task. Lawyers do not look at marketing in a positive light. Instilling a marketing mindset among lawyers is a major effort for most legal marketing professionals. Generally, law firm culture perpetuates the stereotypical lawyer tendencies to be highly skeptical of new ideas and concepts, needing proof that change will work; to prefer their own judgment over all; and to have a high sense of urgency, expecting immediate results on even complex efforts.

Tip: The legal market is changing and law firms must evolve in order to survive. Any firm that wants to last in today’s increasingly competitive marketplace must support a marketing and sales culture, to some extent. Market changes are forcing lawyers run their firms more like a business than ever before. As they should! Remind your client marketing is what enables a firm to attract and retain desirable clients, and it puts the firm in a position to fire the ones it no longer wants. If nothing else, the capability of releasing a difficult client without feeling it in the bank, will motivate an attorney to ramp up their marketing efforts.

5. Credibility
Some lawyers believe marketing is not a valid profession or discipline. You and I know that’s a falsity and we are responsible for invalidating that perception. Many attorneys are confused about the difference between marketing and advertising and do not realize that marketing activities can exist without any promotional components. As I mentioned earlier, attorneys do not look at marketing efforts in a positive light. When lawyers discuss some more traditional and explicit forms of advertising (i.e. billboards and commercials) it is often considered a joke. Therefore, at times, lawyers do not see the profession of marketing as a credible one. It is the job of the legal marketing professionals to dispel any misconceptions of the profession and show their clients how effective marketing can be for lawyers. In fact, most marketing initiatives recommended lawyers do not involve traditional advertising at all.

Tip: In order to build your credibility with your clients, be careful about how you look and speak. It is very important that you are professional and that you choose your words wisely. Lawyers are trained to analyze language. In addition to that, you must make an effort to understand, at the very least, the gist of the particular law your client practices. Understanding the terminology and the basic framework will take you a long way with your lawyer clients. Explain to your client that you understand the complexities of the law firm brand and that your services are tailored for the particular industry. When you can show that you perform your services at the same standard that an attorney performs theirs, credibility and trust is created.

My number one piece of advice when dealing with lawyers as clients: Do not take anything personally!
Lawyers are infamous for being explicit and frank. They are not going to delicately turn down your ideas. They will tell you they hate it, why they hate it, and how silly they think you are for thinking it was right for them. Learning to take this as constructive, albeit rude, criticism, will take you much father with your law firm clientele.

As an Account Executive at Maven Communications, Valerie Calderon specializes in professional services public relations, business development, crisis communications and content marketing. With a diverse and accomplished background, Valerie brings a deliberate and distinctive style to critical communication strategies for her clients. Valerie has more than half a decade of legal and real estate experience. Her business and legal background provides her with insight on working with C-suite executives and attorneys in creating successful communication plans that provide measurable success for their companies.  Valerie earned her Juris Doctorate from Villanova School of Law with a concentration on corporate and international law. She also earned a Master of Science degree in accounting with a concentration on marketing and her Bachelor of Science degree in marketing with a concentration in international business from the Tobin School of Business at St. John’s University.