Ready. Set. Collaborate – Five Ways PR is a Team Sport

Word PR.Working in public relations is as exhilarating as it is demanding. I can say with assurance that no two days are alike and that a career in this field promises to keep you on your toes at every turn. Most would agree that PR is for those who prefer to create their own destinies, blaze their own trails. There’s plenty of opportunity for this in our field, and that’s why we love it, right?

Sure, but as much as PR allows us the creative freedom to come up with ideas that’ll knock the socks off of our key audiences, PR is very much a team sport. Here are the top five ways.

Teaming up with customer service
In nearly all organizations, there is a segment of the team dedicated to one audience and one audience only: the customer. Since, ultimately, it’s the job of the PR person to attract more of them, you better believe that the customer service team is a key player in the success of the PR team. No need to be a mind reader when your fellow team members are talking to the customers day in and day out; getting to know their needs, their wants, their pain points and so much more. So what do you do? Turn that information into fuel for awesome PR campaigns and strategies.

Collaborating with designers
Once you’re ready to implement a campaign idea, it’s likely that you’ll want some creative assets to go along with it. In the visual storytelling age in which we now find ourselves, having a talented graphic designer on your side is priceless. Whether it’s creating an image to add to your press release or turning facts and figures into a beautiful infographic that can be shared across the web, a graphic designer can add tremendous value to the success of a PR team.

Tapping the stats guy (or gal)
Speaking of stats, nowadays we have more and more companies with a dedicated team member (or an entire team) who simply does data all day long. This is great news for the PR team because we all know journalists love data. Everything from customer trends and company growth to website traffic and Google Analytics; the data guys and gals are on it. Another reason you want to stick by the data miners is to help show and tell the value of PR and how it’s impacting the bottom line. For more on this subject, check out the previous blog post Communicating the Value of PR: Stop Dodging, Start Measuring.

Working with in-house experts
As PR people, we’re usually fielding media requests and coordinating interviews for others. Whether you’re on an in-house PR team or on the agency side, collaboration with your internal experts and thought leaders is a must. Successful teamwork requires more than just setting up time with reporters. It means collaborating on story ideas and PR opportunities that match the person’s expertise and that align with the organization’s goals and key messages.

Cooperating with journalists
Finally, we sync up with journalists to bring value to our respective audiences. Media pitching an idea and working with a reporter to bring a story to life requires input that meets the needs of both sides. On the one hand, reporters have a story to tell. On the other, PR pros have key messages to deliver to their target audiences. The happy medium is a story that adds value and brings something new to the audience.

What are some of the other ways you see PR as being a team sport? Would love to read about them in the comments section!

Andrea Carter is a Public Relations Specialist at AWeber, a certified news junkie and an aspiring world traveler. Check out Andrea’s back story here then follow her on Twitter @SheLuvsPR and connect on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/carterandrea/.

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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.

Communicating the Value of PR: Stop Dodging, Start Measuring

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Recently I was out to dinner with a digital strategist friend and she raised a question that, admittedly, caught me off guard. “What is it that you do?” she asked. From one communications professional to another, the question seemed unapologetically sarcastic. Then, as if to add insult to injury, my friend ever-so nicely followed up with, “Ok, how do you measure what you do?”

Oh no, the “M” word.

In all my years in PR, I’ve essentially been able to dodge the “M” word. How? Easy. By hiding behind media clippings, fancy media reports, shares, “likes,” tweets and elaborate, but successful, events. If this is you, it’s time to come out, come out wherever you are. Not only is it time to stop dodging; it’s time to start measuring.

Translating news releases and news hits into dollars and cents
Given the sheer amount of data that’s available to us nowadays, PR pros have ample opportunity to quantify their efforts and show executives what’s working and what’s not. As hard as it is for me to succumb to, it’s also high time that we get comfortable showing how our efforts affect the bottom line.

Data, where have you been my whole life?
By creating key performance indicators (KPIs) and specific metrics tied to “awareness,” I now have even more ammunition to communicate the value of public relations to organizational leaders. For the first time, our PR team has a dashboard which provides a monthly analysis of not just media hits and news releases, but things like tone and message quality. What’s more, we use tagging links and Google Analytics to track conversions tied to our press releases, proving that PR does indeed help drive company revenue.

Getting started
To say that quantifying PR efforts beyond the typical vanity metrics makes me uneasy would be a huge understatement, but embracing it has enlarged my perspective on the power of analytics and given me a newfound love for data. There are a plethora of dashboard tools and tips out there to get you started. For instance, check out Dashboard Junkie or the PR Measurement solution offered by Meltwater. Warning, once you’ve been bitten by the PR data bug, you’ll likely want to track any and everything. However, it’s best to start small, be strategic and continually iterate.

Already measuring your PR efforts and showing value to your execs? Share your tips and tools with me in the comments below!

Andrea Carter is a Public Relations Specialist at AWeber, a certified news junkie and an aspiring world traveler. Check out Andrea’s back story here then follow her on Twitter @SheLuvsPR and connect on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/carterandrea/.

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How Search Engine Optimization Benefits the Field of Public Relations

seoimage1As a content writer for 1SEO.com, an award-winning digital marketing agency headquartered in Levittown, PA, I have written numerous pieces of search engine optimized (SEO) content that is used to help websites rank better in the search engines. Companies hire our agency to help them achieve visibility in the search engines so that they can gain more consumerism by providing customers with the information they seek.

The same concept is pretty much used in the field of PR but more for advertising and promotional purposes. PR is mainly about establishing and maintaining relationships for beneficial reasons. Combining the two initiatives can produce positive marketing results. If SEO and PR went on a date together, they’d make a really great couple – and, maybe some good-looking babies.

The Digital PR Outlet
Blogs, websites, and online press releases are all virtual channels that are used to target audiences on the internet in the field of public relations. But did you know that these channels are also used for search engine optimization purposes? Put the two objectives together and you’ve got yourself a double marketing bonanza.

Sure, the old-school PR methods such as the distribution of pamphlets and flyers still work, but advances in technology have generated new strategies of how public relations can successfully be initiated in the digital world. One of these strategies is conducted through the use of content search engine optimization. If I sound like I’m speaking a foreign language, read the next paragraph to form a new wrinkle in your brain.

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SEO: A Very Short Explanation of What it is
Most savvy internet junkies that grew up with the development of computers already know that search engines are digital platforms such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo. These websites find information instantly on the internet when words, questions, or phrases are typed into their query bar. The engines are designed to arrange all the webpage findings from the most informative match of terms to the least through a ranking process. Algorithms, links, keywords and quality content are all factors that help the engines decipher which websites are the most valuable and provide the best information. In short, optimization is a method used by digital marketers to elevate information to the top of the results so that users can consume it.

The SEO and PR Mix Up – It’s a Small World After All
So how does the field of public relations fit into the use of search engine optimization in content? It enhances and improves the marketing goal of the PR campaign being operated through the internet. With the instant connection to millions of online users, audiences can be targeted through quality SEO content. As long as the content is well-written, not duplicated, contains a minimal amount of keywords and has healthy links, it can assist in reaching out to an audience using SEO principles.

Need to announce the 40th anniversary of a company or inform the community of a huge event? An SEO enhanced published piece of content about it can produce promotional victory – as long as it successfully shows up high in the results listing. When a user searches for a term that associates with the event or company, they’ll be able to find it.

seoimage3The Scheme Reversed
In a way, SEO content can cause the PR channel method to work backwards.  Typically when it comes to public relations, an audience is targeted first and then a strategy is planned out to expose the information. But with successful search engine optimized content, the audience discovers the information on their own. Instead of introducing the information to the audience through the use of a strategized channel, the focus group comes to you by searching queries in the engines.

But don’t think you’re going to be a sudden informational magnet – much work still goes into an SEO campaign to initiate an effective plan. The typical PR approach is still necessary to attract the right audience through the use of links and keywords in the content.

The Right Attraction
The best thing about content in a PR SEO campaign is that it helps keep the audience engaged even after they have found the information, so that they keep coming back for more. If you are using a blog to connect with the online community, great content will encourage them to subscribe or keep checking back for new updates. A company website with quality SEO content will gain trust from new visitors, who in turn will continue to come back.

That One Hitch
It is important to mention the few drawbacks that SEO campaigns can have when it comes to public relations. One is that the digital platform has to be able to rank high in the search engine listings, or else audiences will not be able to discover it. If it doesn’t, gaining trust in the search engine rankings can be a lengthy process, but the good thing is that it is fixable.

That’s where our digital marketing experts at 1SEO.com come in, since they have the skills to analyze data, diagnose issues, and develop an SEO strategy that will bring websites to the top of the rankings. In the meantime, other digital marketing strategies can help reach out to targeted audiences, such as social media tactics.

A Need for Text and an Endless Network
As search engine optimization (SEO) evolves with the change in program updates and algorithms, the field of public relations can be adapted to use it to meet marketing objectives. There are various advantages that PR pros can obtain from using search engine optimized content. Both certainly go hand in hand when it comes to providing information, promoting, and developing positive relationships.

The internet remains an open channel for limitless communication that PR practitioners and digital marketers will use to their advantage. In a digital informational playground that delivers constant results, SEO and PR can balance out on the seesaw of internet marketing. It’s up to you whether it tips up or down.

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Michelle Brown is a content writer for 1SEO.com where she generates search engine optimized content such as blogs and press releases for clients. She loves that she contributes to helping both small and large businesses gain consumerism through the use of the internet.  Michelle graduated from Rowan University with a degree in Writing Arts and wrote for the college newspaper, The Whit. She enjoys writing a variety of genres and loves to be creative. You can check out her writing at http://acolorofwriting.weebly.com/ and follow her on Twitter: @michelle1seo and @mybrownwords.