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.

#RFTweet: And now for something completely different

Yesterday, Aloft Hotels officially ended their novel #RFTweet process. Most businesses vet PR agencies through a time- and paper-consuming Request for Proposal (RFP) process, one with which we have ample experience. We were game to try something new in the pursuit of a fun, new client.

If you follow @kimballpr on Twitter, you’ll notice that we aren’t hourly tweeters like many other agencies. Frankly, we’re busy writing and calling and posting and tweeting for our clients. But don’t let that lull you into think we can’t deploy our social media skills when necessary. We did what we’re best at, producing a thoughtful yet timely, multimedia-enhanced pitch. Even if we don’t get a call for the second round of vetting, this was a valuable exercise in practicing what we preach, namely:

  • Acting, not reacting, on social media
  • Incorporating video, photos and fun
  • Making use of evergreen content

See our Storify of the experience for the full story.

[View the story “#PitchAloft with Kimball PR” on Storify]

The Picture – or Rich Media – Is Worth 1,000 Words

For the public relations practitioners out there, let’s take a poll: How important do you think visual elements are to journalists?

A) Very important.

B) Not important at all.

If you answered A) Very important, then your views align with 80 percent of the journalists polled in a recent PRESSfeed survey who said it is important or very important to “have access to photographs and visual images.”

While your answer might have matched up to journalists, nearly half of the PR practitioners polled said visuals in news stories are not important at all to journalists.

Of the surveyed PR professionals, 45 percent said visuals were unnecessary in news stories. Another 39 percent said the same for press releases. Even considering the wording of the survey and how answers might have been perceived, these results demonstrate a stark divide between journalists and PR practitioners regarding the value and need for visual content.

As social media trends continue to embrace highly visual platforms, such as Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter, I ask: how could the polled PR practitioners not answer in favor of visuals paired with news content?

Although journalists have controlled the media straps for decades with article placements, PR professionals have their hands firmly on the reigns regarding social media content and engagement. The polled PR practitioners should have considered the volume of pictures and video populating all social media pages as they were clicking in answers to the PRESSfeed survey.

PR Newswire also conducted a study demonstrating the increasing number of press release views where visual content is added. In that study, press releases with photos, video and other media receive 77 percent more views than text-only releases – a lesson PR practitioners know – or should know – instinctively, and need to consider when filling out future surveys on the subject. Get the picture?

Sony’s Hacking Response: The Good, the Bad, the Vague

As you have probably heard, Sony has revealed that their customer databases have been hacked twice in the past month, potentially affecting users of their PlayStation Network, Qriocity and Sony Online Entertainment products. Not only have legions of gamers been dealing with a blackout of services that they pay for and fear that their credit card information may have been stolen – but Sony failed to inform them of this massive cyber attack for a week.

According to news reports, Sony learned that they had been hacked on April 19th, took down PlayStation Network service on the 20th, and told customers seven days later, on the 27th. Sony maintains that they were unaware of the breadth of the attack until much later, but I’m not sure that is a good reason for their failure to inform customers more quickly.

Sony gamers, internet security experts, and the odd politician are angry that Sony waited so long. From a PR perspective, the outlook is equally troubling. Sony had an opportunity to take control of the situation and keep this group of highly engaged customers as happy as possible considering the circumstances. Instead, they have turned a challenging situation into a major image problem.

However, I do think some of the lambasting from the press is unwarranted. Sony could have provided more information up front, but they have made great use of the PlayStation blog to consistently communicate with their customers, including lengthy customer Q&As. Of course, the content of that communication could have been better early on.

What do you think? Could Sony have communicated better about this security breach?