PR pros, take a lunch break!

Lunch at Koinonia

Wouldn’t it be nice to eat without getting mayo all over your keyboard?

We’re all guilty of not talking a lunch break and eating over our laptops at times. Even if we do step out for a “break,” we’re usually fiddling with our phones, checking emails, etc. Many PR professionals eat lunch at their desks. “Sixty-nine percent of PR professionals eat lunch at their desk rather than joining that chatty klatch heading out to a nearby deli, according to the PR Daily Salary and Job Satisfaction Survey” (PR Daily) With the year coming to a close, PR pros are especially busy planning for 2014, but it’s not an excuse to skip lunch.

Why it’s vital to take a lunch break

  • Food=fuel. If you take some time for lunch, you’ll have more energy to tackle the next project.
  • If you step away from your desk, you’ll be able to clear your mind and take a break from the digital world.
  • Heidi Mitchell (WSJ) discusses other benefits of taking a lunch break in this video, “Is Taking a Lunch Break Better for Your Health?

A few things you may want to do on your break

  • Refuel, but not with coffee. Try an apple or fruit instead.
  • Take your dog for a stroll if you’re nearby or work from home.
  • Take some time to breathe in the fresh air to help relax your mind.
  • Pamper yourself occasionally. Why not schedule a massage?

Like this post if you’re sitting at your desk reading on your “lunch break.”

Photo credit: NatalieMaynor / Foter.com / CC BY

Sometimes Bigger PR Agencies Are Just Bigger

At big agencies, you're paying for the overhead ... and all those chairs.  Image courtesy of adamr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

At big agencies, you’re paying for the overhead … and all those chairs.
Image courtesy of adamr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mark Twain once said, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”

Sadly, this lesson is sometimes lost in the process of evaluating public relations agencies. Often the bigger agency is selected because they are seen as “the safe bet.”

However sometimes the safe bet with PR agencies isn’t always the best bet and the little guy is overlooked to the detriment of the company conducting the search. To those companies, I offer six reasons they would do well to consider small agencies like mine.

  1. It’s Personal, Not Just Business. Working with a smaller agency, clients typically have direct access to the agency president and senior staff. So do the agency’s employees. This means ideas aren’t just top-down, and everyone has a stake in the success of the account.
  2. What You See Is What You Get. The better-run small agencies have less staff turnover, especially at the senior level. So the folks you meet at the new business pitch meeting are the folks actually doing the work for your company. That almost never happens at big agencies.
  3. Small Agencies Are Built By Big People. Small PR agencies are populated with PR pros who left big agencies to focus on good work instead of billable hours, or by established journalists who bring a well-honed reporter’s eye to the story-craft of public relations. Big agencies are not the only bastions of talent.
  4. Budgets Don’t Drive Success. Small agencies have less overhead then larger competitors. This means smaller agencies work toward success, not billable hours. At larger agencies, clients with small budgets are often relegated to a few hours of work per month, led by the most junior, least experienced staff members.
  5. Flexibility and Responsiveness Are Watchwords. Small agencies usually don’t have “big” accounts to fall back on, so ensuring every client feels like the only client is the hallmark of a well-run small agency. This means responding promptly to clients, and being able to adapt well to changing priorities.
  6. It’s a Business of Personality and Ideas. Success – with big or small agencies – is predicated on the people on the account and the ideas they generate. In this area, size is not a factor. One smart, industrious solo PR pro with good ideas and a little elbow grease can be as valuable to a client as an army of well-polished and mildly talented PR practitioners. As Twain said, it’s about the fight in the dog.

This isn’t to say all big agencies are bad and all small agencies are good. It’s simply why smaller agencies should not be disregarded as a “best bet.”

I’ve heard too many stories from clients and co-workers alike about companies that chose big PR agencies based purely on the idea they were a perceived safe bet. (As the saying goes, “Nobody ever got fired for hiring IBM.”) These same folks, after prolonged discovery periods and big “start up” fees, came to find bigger isn’t always better.

Sometimes bigger is just bigger.

When to Hop Off the Facebook Bandwagon

Jump Off

via Flickr user psmithy

In my internal life as a secret pundit, I hold strong, unpopular opinions on a wide range of topics. I’ll spare you my monologue on the proper storage of tomatoes, but let’s discuss my wildly unfashionable opinions on Facebook, which are probably more relevant to your interests.

Here’s a radical thought: Facebook doesn’t work that well for some brands, particularly small B2B service providers. Yes, that Facebook—the stuff of marketing mavens’ dreams. For many, it turns into a marketing nightmare; after devoting time and energy to creating and curating a brand page, a chorus of crickets greets you instead of legions of grateful fans.

Many self-proclaimed social media experts will suggest that you are doing it wrong. That is true in some cases, but not all. If Facebook isn’t working for you, I think there are a few reasons it is more than okay to stop using your brand page.

It’s cost prohibitive

Contrary to popular belief, using Facebook as a PR and marketing tool is far from free. It is time-intensive, no matter what strategies and tools you use. It’s cliche but true: at work, time is money.

To get the most out of a Facebook brand page, you should spend time and money not only perusing and posting, but also creating videos and custom visual content like infographics, memes and quality photos. Last time I checked, graphic designers don’t work for free. Plus, paid ads, contests and promoted posts are often the only way to get any semblance of a noticeable boost in fans and engagement. This could be time and money well-spent, but not if you don’t see results.

Your content never meets its mark    

When I say engagement, I’m not speaking in abstract jargon. What I mean is people seeing, liking, commenting beneath and clicking thru to your content. On Twitter, engagement defined this way is possible any time someone logs on and scrolls through their feed. On Facebook, what someone sees on their News Feed depends on a number of factors analyzed by the company’s EdgeRank algorithm, which you can read more about here.

From a personal user’s perspective, there are advantages to EdgeRank and otherwise being in control of your News Feed. For example, with a few clicks, you can hide future posts from your Facebook-addicted auntie and never again be subjected to her semi-literate rants on the tyranny of everyday objects.

However, the same tool may prevent a user from being exposed to your brand’s content, even if s/he would like to see it—which s/he presumably does, since s/he “likes” you. Users rarely return to a brand’s Facebook page after they have liked it, so they won’t see your pithy posts there. And if you don’t share a photo, it is unlikely that they will see a post in their News Feed. As many have lamented, EdgeRank prefers gimics over content that is relevant to your audience. If you provide B2B services, or something that is equally ill-matched to meme-ing or Harlem Shaking, you just may never stand out.

There are other options    

Should you want to stand out on Facebook? This question nags me. For companies that provide consumer products or entertainment, the Facebook News Feed is a natural fit. You want to be (and often are) an integral part of your customers’ personal lives, so you fit in snugly between a cousin’s baby pictures and political rants from college friends.

For most other kind of brand, the Facebook News Feed is an awkward fit, like trying to wear the clothes you thought were cool at age 15. No one thinks you look cool in those JNCOs, and no one wants to hear about some esoteric corporate service while they are perusing their iPad on the couch.

In the wide world of digital marketing and PR, there exist many more agreeable options. If you are struggling with Facebook and don’t even enjoy the medium, maybe it’s time to redirect your efforts elsewhere. Perhaps your time and energy could be better spent on Twitter, LinkedIn or a blog. Read case studies, ask around and give a new network a try.

I’m far from the first person to suggest Facebook isn’t the social media marketing magic bullet, but I don’t think many take action in response. Has anyone out there abandoned their Facebook strategy? Tell us about it in the comments.

Summer Flex Hours in the PR industry

Spring is here, and employees have one thing on their minds: summer schedules. Some companies offer summer flex hours that may include half days on Fridays, longer work days during a 4-day period with a full day off during the week, etc. There are many benefits to a flexible schedule, but there are also a few downfalls to consider.

hjhipster / Beach Photos / CC BY-NC

Benefits of a flex schedule

  • More time to accomplish personal tasks. Flex schedules benefit employees by allowing them to have more time to get things done.
  • Rewards for employees. Flexible schedules can act as a rewards program for employees.
  • Employees may take less time off. Flex hours allow employees to get an early start on the weekend without taking a full day off.
  • More refreshed. Having a few extra hours may help employees feel renewed and ready to dive into the next project or task.
  • An increase in productivity. Read about how one city added a flexible work schedule increasing productivity.

Negative aspects of a flex schedule

  • Clients may not approve. Clients may not have a flexible schedule and may not be open to your company having one.
  • Looming deadlines. Deadlines still need to be met.
  • The PR world never closes. The digital world does not shut down. Emails, phone calls and comments on social media platforms still need to be answered in a timely manner.

Tips for incorporating flex hours

  • Let clients know well in advance.
  • Get clients input on a flexible work schedule.
  • Make yourself available when needed.
  • Set up a schedule for employees so they know exactly when you’ll be in the office.

Does your company offer summer flex hours?

Photo credit: hjhipster / Foter / CC BY-NC

Think Digital First: Podcast

Video

Gary follows up his recent column in Best’s Review with a Best’s Day podcast. Listen below.

Gary on Insurance PR in Best’s Review

There’s a familiar face next to the “Top 5” insurance marketing column in April’s Best Review.

Gary shared his top-line insurance communications rules for the social media age, including best newsroom practices and the importance of a social media strategy.  Download the PDF of the column to read more — and let us know what you think.

10 Steps to Being Presentable: Giving Great Presentations

I’m getting ready to train a client group on delivering effective presentations and thought I’d revisit this sometimes scary topic.

Gary and his trusty cheat sheet. Notice how big the font is? That makes it easier to read at a glance.

Gary and his trusty cheat sheet. Notice how big the font is? That makes it easier to read at a glance.

We’ve all been on the other end, in a room with someone standing rigidly at a podium next to a screen where a PowerPoint is about to bore us to tears. Slide after slide filled with data we can’t read and a monotone speaker who looks at the screen more than the audience. We gain nothing more than we could have gleaned from a report and just can’t wait for it to be over.

So when it’s your turn to give a presentation, how do you make it a good one? Here are a few tips based on more extensive advice (and video training) I’ll be sharing with my client:

  1. Know your audience. This helps in so many ways. Make sure your material is geared toward their needs, not yours. If necessary, find out what they want to know in advance.
  2. Get over your nerves. How? Practice so you know your material. The more you know your stuff, the more at ease you will be. But don’t practice in front of a mirror. That just makes you feel weird.  Videotaping yourself, on the other hand, works. Also, don’t worry about perfection. That’s putting a lot of pressure on yourself. Just try to be engaging and interesting. If so, you’ll be better than most.
  3. Nail the open. But how? Unless you are absolutely certain your joke will work, don’t do it. Instead, ask your audience a question. That engages them and is an easy way to get moving in the right direction. And please, don’t try to memorize your opening. Again, that’s too much pressure to be perfect.
  4. Make sure your technology is fool proof. If not, don’t use it. A funny video from a popular movie or television show can be a great icebreaker. But show it to others first to make sure it works. And if the video, PowerPoint or audio is not tested in the facility where you are speaking, just skip it.
  5. Speaking of PowerPoint, it’s not necessary, too often boring and takes away from what the focus should be – your words. If you have important data to share, send it in advance or use it as a hand out. Just hit the high points in your speech.
  6. Make it interesting. That means you don’t read from a script or use big words or jargon. Instead, use stories, case studies, examples your audience can connect with. And tell your audience why they should care about what you’re saying. That is why they’re there.
  7. Don’t get hung up on verbal tics, like uh and um. Many people do it and you should learn to avoid them. But that’s a daily self-training (I heard one trainer recommend putting “uh” in a circle with a line through it and leave it on your desk. That way, as you are talking all day, you are conscious of it). But when you’re presenting, just let it go and keep talking.
  8. Create a presence. We’re not all gifted speakers who can walk the crowd and feel comfortable. But you should use your hands, use your voice so it’s not monotone and at least move a few steps and shake that icy grip you have on the lectern. Try it, it feels good.
  9. Prepare for problems. You go blank? Keep a one-page cheat sheet in front of you so you can quickly glance and find out where you are. You have technical difficulties? Go in with a back up and just move on. If you don’t dwell on the technical problem, neither will your audience. You’re audience does not seem interested? Then ask them questions.
  10. Speaking of questions. Many people ask the audience to hold questions until the end. Why? Because they don’t want to get sidetracked and lose their place. But if you have a cheat sheet, you have no worries.