Throughout the year, Kimball Hughes Public Relations participates in a number of philanthropic endeavors alongside our partners and clients in an effort to give back to local communities and those in need. We enjoy supporting all the good our clients do in whatever ways we can, but when we can also get them comprehensive, quality news coverage on their charitable endeavors – that is a sincere thrill.
We did just that earlier this month when Pennsylvania Lumbermens Mutual Insurance Company (PLM)held a head-shaving event fundraiser during their National Meeting benefiting the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a nonprofit organization supporting childhood cancer research. We secured the attendance of three Philadelphia network-affiliate television news crews to show their audience 17 members of PLM’s team, including CEO John Smith and Assistant Vice President of Marketing Lindsey DiGangi, shaving their heads after raising more than $150,000 for the important cause. Agency Vice President Eileen Coyne and PR Manager Hari Rajagopalan were in attendance at the event, enjoying live string band music from the famous Philadelphia Mummers. Kimball Hughes PR was honored to make a monetary contribution to PLM’s fundraiser as well. Well done, PLM. We’re proud to work with you. To learn more about the St Baldrick’s Foundation and their mission, please visit https://www.stbaldricks.org/.
Our team at Kimball Hughes PR is also getting our collective steps in for charity by participating in the fourth annual Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation (IICF) Step Up Challenge. From April 24 to May 21, 2023, the team at Kimball Hughes PR, alongside thousands of insurance professionals, their friends and families will participate in a four-week exercise competition to raise funds for children and communities in need across the US and UK. This will be our team’s third year participating and we’re looking forward to some friendly competition benefiting local nonprofits. Last year, agency President Rod Hughes took home the gold among our team with a whopping 331,329 steps. This year, it’s anyone’s game.
Both teams and individuals are welcome to participate in the challenge. A total of four IICF winners, the top two from the team and individual categories, will be able to allocate a grant to a nonprofit of their choice. To learn more about and sign up for the fourth annual IICF International Step Up Challenge, visit their website, https://stepup.iicf.org/.
The Academy Awards took place just a few short weeks ago, honoring the biggest movies and artists in cinema. What better time to hand out a few of our own “awards” to the biggest stories in PR of 2023 so far.
Without further ado, the “awards” go to:
The Hotseat Award: Adidas Yeezy Overstock
In October 2022, Adidas was in the hotseat for taking too long to cut ties with their spokesperson Ye (formally Kanye West) when he made public antisemitic comments on social media. Today, Adidas is left with over a billion dollars in Yeezy merchandise, the brand on which they collaborated with Ye that generated around 10% of Adidas’ annual revenue. In 2023, the company expects to take a significant loss as a result of pulling the merchandise.
Aside from the financial aspects of the ordeal, Adidas is still facing issues as many social media users, activists and more wait to hear what Adidas plans to do with the $1.3 billion of Yeezy overstock. From a crisis communications standpoint, Adidas continues to have a problem. Because their original response received considerable backlash, the brand must tread lightly as they balance their public reputation and their bottom line. Disposing of the merchandise could come off as wasteful, selling the merchandise would still financially benefit Ye due to contractual obligation and donating the merchandise could result in it surfacing in the resale market.
As Adidas executives mull over their options and offers roll in to take the Yeezy merchandise off their hands, the company’s future moves will impact its overall business and investors, collectors, activists and social media users. Communications pros are certainly curious to see what happens next.
There are a few things to learn from Adidas’s missteps. First, act quickly. A crisis communications plan is key to ensure businesses can confidently respond and are prepared with talking points, media training and more. Silence can sometimes be as bad – or worse – than saying the wrong thing and the ongoing speculation regarding what Adidas should do with the overstock merely keeps the crisis top of mind for many. Regardless of their final decision, the brand would do well to remain transparent through the process. When a decision is made, they should be prepared for people to ask tough questions.
The It’s About Time Award: The Academy Finally Gets a Crisis Communications Team
In an exclusive Time interview at the end of February, Bill Kramer, CEO of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, revealed the organization hired a crisis communications team for the first time in its history. The development came after the infamous events of last year’s Oscar Awards Ceremony. As most will easily recall, actor Will Smith slapped comedian and MC Chris Rock on stage. If that wasn’t enough, a separate controversy erupted simultaneously around a campaign that led to Andrea Riseborough winning the Best Actress Academy Award for her role in a small indie film To Leslie. Some argued the promotional campaign to bring the little-known-at-the-time movie to the forefront violated Academy rules related to lobbying members for nominations. The organization had no crisis communications team on hand at the time and the headlines began to mount.
The events demonstrate that even an organization with 70 years of experience broadcasting an award show may not be prepared for everything. Today, a crisis communications plan and designated team is critical for almost any business or organization given how quickly narratives can take on lives of their own and social media can skew perception and sometimes results. Kramer recognizes in his interview with Time that while they cannot prepare for every scenario, having a crisis team and modifiable frameworks in place better positions the Academy to handle whatever comes next.
The Biggest Let Down Award: Google’s Bard Announcement
Modern technology is moving at record pace, especially since OpenAI’s artificial intelligence breakthrough in November 2022 with their large language model product ChatGPT. During the past few months, some of the largest technology companies in the world have quickly developed their own AI tools to compete in the race, including Google. However, in the first demo of their product Google posted to Twitter, viewers were quick to notice and call out the obvious flaws in the tool. Shortly thereafter, Google’s parent company’s shares dropped 7.7%, costing an estimated $100 billion and drawing national media attention in the likes of TIME Magazine, CNN and NPR.
While it may be tempting for brands to rush to tout their own products when a competitor breaks the internet, it’s important to recognize what is at stake. Consumers are keen for near perfect technology and there are enough players in the AI race for investors to explore other options. A proper launch takes meticulous planning and preparation, which requires time well spent.
Before a launch, a good PR team can help give business leaders a perspective of how their product, service or announcement may be perceived by media and the public. For example, in Google’s case, a more carefully crafted launch plan might address limitations of AI chatbot technology such as potential product accuracy issues. When things do go wrong, a PR team can help limit any additional damage by assisting with media requests, crafting statements to address the issue and help brands effectively connect with their audience, even when the audience may be losing trust.
And that’s a wrap on this round of awards highlighting some of the biggest stories in public relations so far this year.
Public relations is all about relationships—the people behind the stories. That’s why we’re offering this blog series all about our team members. This isn’t about our professional accomplishments but who we are as people. We hope you have as much fun reading along as we do interviewing each other.
1. What got you interested in public relations?
My love of public relations spun off from a combination of my early journalism career, a deep love for American history, and my love of good storytelling. After a short but intense stint covering politics on Capitol Hill at CNN and working local news in a few regional Virginia markets and my hometown in Western Canada, I realized I wanted to do communications differently than I had previously. I learned that I was really excited by taking on the challenges of shaping messaging, crafting narratives, and helping organizations navigate the media world, crisis communications, and engaging the public in mission-focused communications. Working in the non-profit world was an easy jump after graduate school. And that road ultimately led me to here – a new and exciting way to keep telling great stories and engaging clients in new and innovative ways.
2. Tell us about your favorite movie and what appeals most to you about it?
Anyone that knows me knows that this is a multi-hour discussion. However, because I’ve got a word limit, I’ll grudgingly choose one; and that is The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of The Ring. This movie never fails to give me chills to this day – and as a young kid, this movie blew my mind. The movie score, the cinematography, the acting, the scale and scope of what was built and created gave life to Tolkien’s masterpiece. I truly believe there’s never been a movie like it… and short of the new Dune movies, there may never be again.
3. What was the last, best book you read and what about it spoke to you?
The last book I read was a guilty pleasure: World War Z by Max Brooks. Totally just an entertaining and thrilling book, written in the form of a pseudo-documentary about a global war against zombies. The movie wasn’t great, but the book is fantastic. The last book that I read that inspired me and spoke to me was probably Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow. The life of George Washington is truly something that people need to read to believe. There’s something very inspiring about a person whose singular commitment to honor and duty shaped the way that we view civic virtue and our system of government to this day. Not without his flaws, the book also does a wonderful job exploring how deeply complicated and conflicted Washington was with his own family, his career, and his view of the revolution he helped fight. How that book and the story of George Washington hasn’t been given a proper treatment or at least translated into an HBO mini-series a-la John Adams or Chernobyl, is beyond me.
4. Tell us about a meaningful hobby or outside of work commitment that is important to you.
I am really into winter sports, which makes living in Florida an interesting place for someone who grew up playing ice hockey and snowboarding. But any time I can manage to get to the mountains I feel completely refreshed. There’s nothing quite like the total peace and quiet at the top of a mountain. It is a great place to clear your head and decompress.
5. Share a fun fact about you.
I am an avid cook and am constantly trying out new recipes for my wife and me. Not all of them are winners, but we’ve stumbled across some absolutely great ones that have become staples in our house. To quote the great classic, Ratatouille: “You must try things that may not work. Anyone can cook; but only the fearless can be great.”
Have you ever wondered what really gets a brand on the front page of Google? For brands today, search engines are paramount to any successful marketing or public relations effort. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) employs a series of tactics to increase a brand’s visibility and ranking on search engines such as Google, Microsoft Bing, Facebook and Amazon, and it is one of the fundamental considerations of any marketing or public relations strategy.
SEO, however, doesn’t need to be a heavy lift. While there are a myriad of algorithmic factors that impact a brand’s search engine ranking, a few essential ranking factors allow brands to optimize their public relations efforts. Let’s look at how brands can leverage simple shifts in their content development process to improve their rankings and climb the search engine ladder.
Links: Links are critical in SEO because they tell the computer when people are visiting content. When creating content, consider linking back to relevant owned content such as blog posts on a similar topic, resource pages or other pages on your website that relate to the topic. Additionally, ensure there is a link to the website homepage placed in the post as a link (https://www.kimballpr.com/) rather than rich anchor text. It may be tempting to load up content with links, but this can be counterproductive. Brands should try to stick to three or four links at most. Doing otherwise may run the risk of triggering a spam or bot flag, which will ultimately hurt the brand’s SEO value.
Keywords: Brands can leverage the search engine habits of their audiences to help better target their content. Generally speaking, every audience has specific search engine habits, or keywords they look for, that can help brands identify what language to use in their content. Once a brand has identified what those keywords are they should strategically use those words throughout their article/blog/website, etc. These keywords will help the search engines identify what the content is about and send it toward the right audience. Brands should research what keywords will help them reach their audience, what they care about and what they are turning to search engines for, and use those keywords in the body, headline, URL and wherever else they naturally fit within the content. Similar to the note above about links, brands should avoid using too many keywords or “keyword stuffing” to avoid being flagged as spam.
Headlines: Keywords are not the only way brands can leverage the language of their content to raise their SEO rank and better target their audiences. When creating a headline for a piece of content, whether it be a blog, article or otherwise, brands should consider using strategic language. The headline is the first part of a piece of content a potential audience member sees and is vital in grabbing the attention of readers. With that in mind, brands should consider using pithy language, paired with targeted keywords to catch the eyes of readers. For example, using listed titles such as “top 3 reasons to use social media,” or pointing out an issue the content can help solve such as, “inflation is high: social media marketing can help,” will help catch the eye of the reader and entice them to engage with content.
Break Up Content: The format of the body of the content can be used to climb the SEO ladder as well. Once the headline captures the attention of the reader, the content of the article needs to keep their attention. There are strategic ways that brands can format their content to best engage readers. As mentioned above, placing keywords throughout the piece will help. It is also important to make the content attainable. Using straightforward, easy to read and plain language will help consumers understand what they are reading. The average individual in the U.S. reads at a 7th grade level, so keeping content at that level will help keep the reader engaged. In an increasingly digital age where attention spans are shorter, breaking up the content is key. Numbered or bulleted lists are the easiest way to format content in an attainable way. If content is not listable, shorter paragraphs will help readers feel as though they can consume and understand the content, whereas longer, meandering paragraphs will feel more daunting.
Leveraging Original Content
Of course, in order to incorporate the tactics listed above and climb the SEO ladder, an organization needs somewhere to place links, keywords and important information. This is where original content comes in. Original content can be anything from a blog or infographic on an organization’s website to an interview or thought leadership article printed under the byline of an organization’s subject matter expert (SME) in a reputable publication.
These types of original content can be broken into two categories: owned and earned. Owned content is content that an organization owns. They come up with the concept, have complete control of what goes into the content and put it on their website. Blog posts, infographics and more fall under the purview of owned content and allow organizations more control over what goes into the content regarding links and keywords. Earned content or earned media is content that an organization, or public relations agency partner, secures in a reputable publication, whether it be an industry trade publication or national business publication. Interviews and thought leadership articles fall under this definition. A good public relations partner will have established relationships with many of the editors of industry trade and national business publications and can help secure opportunities for interviews or articles in these publications. While owned content gives an organization more control over the content, earned content often gets more visibility, is often perceived as less biased and can help build or expand an organization’s reputation.
Regardless of whether the organization builds its content library in-house or through an agency partner, leveraging original content is the best way to incorporate SEO tactics into a brand’s content to boost their reputation on search engines.
SEO is a necessity for modern brands to exist in the age of the internet. When approaching the wide world of search engines, it is important to remember to play the long game as success is not achieved overnight. With a plan in place, brands can build up an online presence alongside a few strategic SEO practices that can help bring them to the forefront of search engine results over time.