Chef Polignano of the Ryland Inn brings his own flavor to one of the state’s premier restaurants

Fulfilling one of his culinary dreams, Chef Craig Polignano of Basking Ridge, New Jersey joins the Ryland Inn as its newest executive chef. Find out how he and one of the best eats in New Jersey are making Craig a top chef and the Ryland Inn a top restaurant, in this NJBIZ feature story.

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Responding to Golden (State) opportunities

I was recScreen Shot 2016-07-20 at 2.16.36 PMently reminded that publicity is perhaps one of the most important tools for a non-profit organization. Athletes C.A.R.E., a student athlete organization focused on ending homelessness and hunger, received an unexpected shout out from Nick Young of the L.A. Lakers on a recent episode of Cupcake Wars: Celebrities.

This was an unplanned windfall for Athletes C.A.R.E., but absent a plan to respond and capitalize on the event, it would have ended as a one-time happening missed by many.

Fortunately, Athletes C.A.R.E. took advantage of its active social media presence. For non-profits, leveraging social media can mean a huge boost in messaging attention, and even fundraising.

The first step is to post about the event. Take to every platform where you have an active presence and let followers know your organization has been publicly recognized. In those posts, be sure to tag the relevant names and organizations. For Athletes C.A.R.E., this meant tagging Nick Young, the L.A Lakers, The Food Network and Cupcake Wars. By tagging the appropriate parties (and their social media accounts) you widen the reach of your post and expose your organization to broader audiences. Now not only will your followers see the post, but the followers of anyone you tag will see the post as well.

Additionally, you can reach out to your local newspaper and other local media outlets to alert them of events such as having Nick Young reference your non-profit on national television. Something at that level might warrant a local news story.

Finally, you can follow-up two or three more times via social media over the course of the following week, pointing out different aspects of the initial event to extend the message and the reach. However posting more than that will likely be unwelcome. And any additional social posts about the event should be broken up by other content on social media.

With limited budgets and personnel, publicity and social media are two of the strongest tools in a non-profit’s arsenal. The ability to capitalize on and expand your organization through opportunities such as the situation with Athletes C.A.R.E. will strengthen your organization and help spread your message.

This post is courtesy of Cassidy Taylor, Lafayette College class of 2017, Kimball’s summer 2016 intern.

You can run, but you can’t hide #TwitterFails

Twitter Fail!

Photo credit: Transferwise.com

Social media is to branding a successful business as cheese is to mozzarella sticks. We’ve known for quite some time that marketers need to look alive every second of the day (or even just six hours per week), on the Twitterverse. But when opportunity arises or crisis strikes, it’s all about tactical PR. A strong media presence requires time commitment, creativity, and responsiveness; dedicated and experienced PR support is the best way to meet these demands. Without a practiced PR team or agency, your company may fall victim to the #nightmares detailed below.

#Wheresthecheese

Speaking of mozzarella sticks, McDonald’s launched them as a new item on their menu recently. Customers quickly took to social media to vent their frustrations with their cheesy purchase turned “lactose-free.“ McDonald’s came out with their explanation/ apology via The Chicago Tribune, but not before some smart competitors took to social media to boast the cheesy goodness they offer.

PR Takeaways:

1) Keep a close eye on social media callouts, so you can respond to the problem before the hashtag becomes the new problem.

2) Seize the opportunity, or dare we say, “cheese the opportunity.” Use humor and offer incentives to keep the situation friendly. Your audience will get a good laugh and hopefully drop in for a bite to eat. Just be sure to put your money where your mouth is if you’re going to play this card.

Meanwhile, McDonald’s has discontinued this product in response to negative feedback.

“Fire your agency. Then fire everyone who hired them”

Twitter users across the country did not appreciate the response Red Lobster gave to their Super Bowl Sunday shout out from none other than Queen Bey herself in her newly released single, “Formation”. The somewhat controversial lyric referencing Red Lobster turned all eyes on the seafood chain restaurant. While clearly trying to maintain their family-friendly rep, Red Lobster landed themselves in hot water with the masses on Twitter who waited hours for a clever response.

PR Takeaways:

  • Always be ready. You only get one shot to impress a lot of people.
  • You need to impress all of those people while sticking true to your brand, so tread lightly, but not too lightly.

#RIPTwitter

The social media site fell victim to the power of its creation when rumors spread that they may change their news stream from reverse-chronological order to an algorithm based feed, similar to Facebook’s. Even a few celebrities got on board with #RIPTwitter to express their discontent, to which CEO Jack Dorsey had to step in and quell the chaos.

PR Takeaways:

  • It never hurts to have employees at all levels involved with social, even the CEO—his word over all when it comes to shutting down rumors.
  • Don’t stick to just one outlet. With Twitter’s user growth slowing, it’s important to maintain messaging across multiple media outlets, social, news or otherwise.

Whether you work for a fast food giant or an insurance company, it’s important to control your own message. A small business may not generate viral hashtags the way Red Lobster would, but you can never be too sure what will happen in the realm of social media. Stay alert, stay focused, and stay out there.

Ebola Strikes New York

Photo courtesy of the CDC.

Photo courtesy of the CDC.

It’s official. Ebola has scared the hell out of everyone. With Friday’s news story of a doctor in New York City being diagnosed and today’s “testing” of a 5-year-old boy for Ebola as well in the Big Apple, hysteria is sure to hit new heights.

However, as public relations professionals, our job is to offer wise council in times of crisis. We must anticipate how this latest news impacts our partners and determine how best to help them inform and better educate their audiences. A myriad of businesses can find themselves in the center of a media storm as Friday’s NYC media coverage demonstrated.

So the best advice for businesses is to start with facts.

For those businesses being asked about Ebola risks and protocols – and the public’s perception of your business’ Ebola risk – there are five steps to take quickly:

  1. Share the latest information from a recognized authority source (e.g., the CDC, the World Health Organization, your local or state department of health, etc.). Unless you are a medical professional well versed in infectious diseases, regardless of your business, you have no business advising on health issues. Leave that to the professionals and simply point people in the right direction.
  2. Examine your realistic exposure. NPR recently reported most American’s have a 1 in 13.3 million shot at contracting Ebola. In fact, NPR suggests studies show you’re more likely to die from a lightning strike or a bee sting than you are of catching Ebola. While many businesses are not likely to be at risk, the Manhattan case from Friday demonstrated how Uber, a Brooklyn bowling alley and NYC Metropolitan Transportation Authority needed to address Ebola concerns on a moment’s notice. Therefore it’s helpful to have thought through your messaging and delivery method in advance.
  3. Reassure your audiences you are following coverage and authoritative information of U.S. Ebola cases so as not to be surprised by developments that could impact your business operations or vendor relationships.
  4. Consult with your public relations professional to ensure any crisis communications plan your organization has in place is updated and that your team is prepared to respond quickly.
  5. Update your audiences as appropriate.

A sixth but less urgent step is to revisit your crisis communications plans at the conclusion of this latest pubic health scare to fine tune your policies and procedures so you are better prepared next time. And trust me, there will be a next time.

Socially Irresponsible

Some small business owners don’t believe in using experts for social media engagement and content development. They see the practice as novel and unproven – until it isn’t.

Such is the case of The Union Street Guest House in Hudson, N.Y. This picturesque small town inn quickly discovered the demonstrative impact of social media when comments about a fines-for-reviews policy hit the inn’s Facebook page and Yelp, the popular online review site.

According to an ABC News story resulting from the social media dust-up, the inn claims its “policy” was posted to its website as a tongue-in-cheek response to a wedding from years ago and should have been taken down. The policy in essence stated bridal parties would be fined $500, taken from deposit monies, for each negative review the inn might receive connected to a particular wedding or event.

A Google search for the inn's name brings with it a wealth of negative online content that will impact the business' bottom line.

A Google search for the inn’s name brings with it a wealth of negative online content that will impact the business’ bottom line.

Unfortunately, a simple Google search of the inn’s name now produces both a link to the inn’s website, as well as countless social media and news articles referencing this not-so-amusing policy.

The result is a Search Engine Optimization nightmare for the inn coupled with a runaway train of negative comments on its Facebook page (more than 200 at this writing; although it appears the inn may now be deleting posts from its Facebook page).

Since this firestorm hit mainstream media, the inn's Facebook page has been inundated with negative posts.

Since this firestorm hit mainstream media, the inn’s Facebook page has been inundated with negative posts.

The news coverage and social media firestorm – with only a half-hearted response from management that appears to have since been deleted  – have created a massive public relations problem to overcome. This isn’t the type of crisis you wait out. And without a strategy for responding to and recovering from this communications nightmare, The Union Street Guest House is likely to see a steep decline in business, assuming it has the wherewithal to survive at all.

Small businesses are successful because they do what they do well. Where they often fail is when they try to do something outside of their expertise.

By consulting with a social media professional or brand content specialist, small businesses can avoid errors – even tongue-in-cheek responses – that might not seem substantial at the time, but with an extra set of trained eyes, can be seen for the potential disasters they are and thus avoided. Alternatively, bringing in the professionals after a crisis has erupted is not optimal, but it can mean the difference between staying in business or going under.

Most freelancers or public relations agencies can find equitable arrangements with small businesses that won’t break the bank, and can avoid or attempt to correct business-ending mistakes.

For a free consultation on how working with a public relations agency can help protect and promote your business, please contact me at rhughes@kimballpr.com.

Employee Travel: Preparing for Summer Travel

For Kimball Communications, summer is packed with conferences, workshops and events. Our employees attend conferences across the U.S., and since we cannot physically be together each day it’s important to have a plan before traveling. You, too, can keep everything running smoothly by following this simple, yet effective strategy.


Eelke de Blouw / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)
  • Prepare ahead of time. Have an internal meeting to go over everyone’s travel plans. Be sure you know when and where everyone will be throughout the summer. Keep a calendar of employee’s travel arrangements and daily schedules.
  • Stay connected. Technology is key. Skype, voice call, text and email will keep everyone informed.
  • Be aware of time zones. Remember, there’s a good chance you will not be on the same time zone. Schedule calls with each other appropriately.
  • Delegate tasks. Make sure all your bases are covered. Assign timely tasks to colleagues. This will ensure deadlines are still met and will simplify things tremendously.
  • Reach out to clients. Ensure clients are aware when you’ll be out of the office. It’s important to let clients know there will always be someone they can reach out to if a problem or question arises.

How do you stay connected during travel? Follow #KPRontheroad to see where we’ve been, and where we’re going, this summer.

Photo credit: Eelke de Blouw / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

3 Business Success Trends for 2014

take the plungeWelcome to 2014. This year will be more competitive. This year, the marketing din is going to get a lot louder. This year is also going to be the year you get savvy about marketing your small or medium size business. To help you do so, here are three trends that will affect the business landscape, and your own bottom lines.

Social Media Is Not Optional. The days of just dipping your toe in the social media waters are long gone (circa 2011). You’re either engaged in social media marketing or you’re not, and – trust me on this one – you have to be engaged. No modern, effective marketing plan is complete without a social media component. Get expert advice on how to start. Pick your platforms with care. Develop a content strategy that is authentic to your brand and develop protocols and best practices for conversing with your followers. When all of that is done, then you can jump into the social media pool. (Remember, no toe dipping. This year calls for a full on, no hesitation cannon ball into the deep end – but you have to plan it out first.)

The Value of Public Relations Is Growing. While publishers may be consolidating media outlets, the ironic twist is the demand for quality content is disproportionately expanding. What this means for your brand is opportunity; opportunity to develop meaningful content and, more importantly, content people want to share. One caveat – that content must rarely be brand-centric. While the content should be relevant to your space, it cannot put your brand front-and-center if you want it to be seen as authoritative, authentic and of innate value to the public. PR is increasingly going to require a mix of earned and owned media, but that owned media – if executed well – can pay significant dividends. This content marketing (or brand journalism) trend is growing rapidly, and your public relations advisor or team needs to be leading the charge.

Smartphones Are Windows to the World. As mobile access continues to become part of everyone’s new normal, brands need to consider how to engage their consumer audiences via this medium. A responsive designed website is just the start of ensuring your brand and/or products are accessible on any mobile device. You’ll also want to track your website’s analytics to monitor your level of mobile web traffic and adjust your marketing efforts accordingly. Additionally, opt-in SMS text messaging campaigns and branded Apps are two mobile marketing tools we’ll be seeing more of in the year ahead.

These and other tactics are the new business as usual tools. More and more, companies will need to adapt to the latest technologies if they want to engage with their audiences. Meanwhile, the New Year offers new challenges and ample opportunity. On behalf of everyone at Kimball Communications, may your businesses find success in overcoming the former and excel at leveraging the latter.