What to do when PR is “not working”

What to do when PR is “not working”

Every so often a client will tell us they aren’t sure our PR (public relations) efforts are working. The first time a client expressed that sentiment to me I was immediately defensive – because we had been placing well-written bylines in industry publications, coordinated multiple interviews and helped them populate their website with meaningful press releases and blog posts.

Then the client went on say he was basing his opinion on the fact that his company hadn’t seen an uptick in sales leads since starting their PR program six months earlier – which immediately stopped me from obsessing. I then realized that my client 1) didn’t have a firm grasp of what public relations is and isn’t, and, 2) didn’t understand what his company could and should be doing internally to leverage our PR efforts to advance other organizational goals – including the generation of more sales leads.

In case you ever find yourself wondering if PR is working for your company – and what to do if it’s not – here are a few thoughts on what public relations is and isn’t, as well as some suggestions to help your organization maximize the value of its PR initiatives.

Back to basics: what’s PR anyway?

At a high level, PR involves raising public awareness about a company, including its leadership in the industry, unique offerings and differentiating qualities. Public relations professionals focus on making companies top-of-mind within their specific industry niche.

To help raise a company’s profile, a PR firm will often capitalize on national industry trends to showcase an organization’s capabilities, differentiators, innovation and/or expertise. PR companies also promote members of a client’s executive team as industry thought leaders, either through media interviews or the placement of bylined, thought-leadership articles.

On the other hand, PR is not:

  • A lead generation service – though occasionally a well-placed interview does attract new prospects.
  • My octogenarian father doesn’t fully understand what my PR job entails and often tells people I handle things like writing catchy slogans, creating magazine ads and coordinating promotional campaigns. Of course, these are all functions that fall under the advertising umbrella and not traditional PR activities.
  • Marketing, which primarily focuses on the promotion and selling of specific products and services.

One final point of clarification: though advertising, lead-generation and marketing are not considered PR activities, many PR firms – including Amendola – offer these services, as well as content creation, social media, strategic counseling and more.

PR: a marathon and not a sprint

PR is often described as a marathon, rather than a sprint, because it typically takes months – even years – to realize the fruits of your PR labor. But a well-crafted and strategic PR program usually delivers the desired results over time. Within our firm, for example, we’ve witnessed small start-ups grow into industry leaders. We’ve also seen clients who have realized their exit goals after PR campaigns helped them appear on the radar of companies looking for investment and acquisition opportunities.

If you are just a few months into a PR program and questioning why your CEO still hasn’t appeared in the Wall Street Journal, you may want to check the marathon mile marker and reframe your expectations. Results rarely happen overnight – and this is particularly true if you don’t have end-users or executives willing and able to talk to media, or if you are in an over-crowded market niche.

Amplifying the value of PR efforts

If you’re anxious to see results from your PR program, here are a few best practices to help amplify the value of your PR efforts:

Social media. Any time a new interview or thought-leadership is published, share the news on your social media channels, including LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Also consider sending an e-blast of the article (or a link) to your customers and prospects. Be sure to include relevant hashtags and a short summary. Do share the article link multiple times, though try to mix up the messaging each time.

While you do want to leverage all placements, make sure too that your social media content includes more than self-promotion. You’ll gain new followers faster if you also post commentary on industry news or share interesting articles that are not directly related to your organization. To be seen as an industry thought leader you must demonstrate awareness of the broader market, and not just what’s going on in your company.

Here are some additional social media best practices to consider.

Stay fresh.  Try to maintain a regular cadence when issuing press releases, posting new blog posts and publishing thought leadership articles. Companies sometimes struggle with this, especially organizations that must secure content approval from multiple team members. However, fresh news and commentary should be a priority as it helps keep your company top-of-mind with the media, prospects and customers.

Also, be sure your website is updated with new content on an ongoing basis. When dropping a press release to the media, the news should also be immediately shared on your site. Similarly, add links or summaries of interviews and bylined articles as soon as they’re published, and regularly add new blogs on relevant topics. Visitors will return to your site more often if it’s seen as a source of interesting and regularly-updated content.

Cultivate thought leaders. For many company executives, the role of industry thought leader comes naturally. For others, talking to the media about current opportunities and future trends is more of a struggle.

If you have executives who find it challenging to communicate the company’s key messages or share their vision for the industry, encourage them to invest time in media training. Many PR firms offer this service and can help executives craft jargon-free messaging, as well as provide tips for delivering their story clearly and succinctly.

An additional tip for thought leaders: make yourself readily available to media when opportunities arise. Editors appreciate leaders who make themselves assessible and will remember the courtesy, should your company ever need a favor from a member of the media.

Find more tips for thought leaders here.

How does your organization evaluate the effectiveness of its PR efforts?

What An Older, More Mature Lebron James Can Teach Us About Crisis Communications

What An Older, More Mature Lebron James Can Teach Us About Crisis Communications

In most cities, a sports star leaving to join another team wouldn’t quite reach the level of crisis. No doubt, the world has countless far more serious and urgent problems.

But Cleveland’s a little different than most cities. Egos are a bit more fragile here after decades of job loss, population decline, environmental damage, and not to mention sports ineptitude –  or so it seems to this (humble) outsider who first moved to Cleveland about a decade ago.

So after the Cleveland Cavaliers’ drubbing yet again at the hands of the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals in June, coupled with LeBron James’ impending free agency, thing were looking pretty bad for Cleveland. Despite hailing from nearby Akron and enjoying close ties with the local community, LeBron looked likely to depart Cleveland for a sexier, more glamourous destination, leaving the locals he left in his wake feeling abandoned and forgotten.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened. But to LeBron’s credit, he learned from a past mistake, and let Cleveland fans down a little easier this time, while simultaneously providing a lesson on crisis communications.

We’ve seen this movie before
The date of “The Decision” by James – July 8, 2010 – is one that lives in Cleveland sports infamy. On that night, the then-25-year-old who is perhaps the greatest sports star the city has ever known crushed his hometown fans by announcing on live TV his intention to “take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat.” Next came the reaction. A city mourned, jerseys were burned, insults were hurled, and one melodramatic fan called it “the worst day of my life.”

Later that night, Cavaliers Owner Dan Gilbert hastily published a scathing open letter notoriously printed in comic sans font excoriating James for a “several-day, narcissistic, self-promotional build-up culminating with a national TV special.” Illustrating that Gilbert’s PR team had ready access to a thesaurus, the irate owner peppered his letter with several enjoyable descriptions of James and his decision, including “cowardly betrayal,” “shameful display of selfishness,” “shocking act of disloyalty,” and “heartless and callous action.”

To be clear, the majority of Cleveland fans weren’t angry at James for signing with Miami; they were upset by the “needless pain” he inflicted on the city for the spectacle of “The Decision,” which I recall one commentator comparing to a newly minted millionaire going on national tv to tell his high-school sweetheart he’s dumping her to move in with a supermodel.

Indeed, players change teams all the time (LeBron has now done it three times) “but no player has ever done it with the pomp, phoniness, pseudo-humility, and rehearsed innocence” as James, as a Chicago Sun-Times columnist correctly observed. That’s what understandably perturbed Cleveland fans, and later provided James with an opportunity to show growth in his style of public communication.

A second chance
After James spent four seasons in Miami and won two championships while making the NBA Finals every year, in 2014 he did what was once unthinkable. He mended fences (kind of) with Gilbert, rejoined the Cavs and led the city to its first major professional sports championship since 1964.

Then James broke Cleveland’s heart all over again. On July 1, 2018, the now-33-year-old James announced he was leaving the Cavaliers once more, having signed with the Los Angeles Lakers.

But this time it was different – no self-serving, nationally televised special; no week-long buildup of drama and, thankfully, no jersey burnings or lamentations about the worst day of fans’ lives. James and his advisors simply delivered the news in 36-word press release:

LeBron James, four time NBA MVP, three time NBA finals MVP, fourteen time NBA All Star, and two time Olympic gold medalist has agreed to a four year, $154 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers.

While unnecessarily trumpeting his major accomplishments on the court isn’t the height of modesty, James deserves credit for learning from his mistakes and rolling out his latest “decision” in a far more muted, low-key fashion.

And that brings us to what we can learn from James in crisis communications: Be brief, take responsibility, get to the point and don’t sugarcoat things.

While this is a lesson that apparently took James eight years to learn, healthcare organizations can learn from his mistakes by never committing them in the first place.

And it’s probably best to avoid ever proclaiming that you’re taking your talents anywhere.

Webinar Wisdom

Webinar Wisdom: 3 best practices for webinars that wow… and get results

I have a confession. I’m not ashamed. It’s my truth. I love a webinar. I love everything about it. I love writing the title and description. I love promoting it and watching the registration count rise each day. I love when the day finally arrives and the presentation comes to life.

I even love the items on the post-webinar to-do list like sending the follow-up emails to keep the audience engaged, warming up the leads for the sales team or converting them into new sales opportunities. Yes, that’s really why I love webinars. I love the results—and by that, I mean the results when everything is done right.

However, I’ve found that many marketing and PR professionals don’t share my pro-webinar passion. In fact, much to my horror and astonishment, many of them are firmly planted in the anti-webinar camp. But I understand their point of view. Most likely, they have been discouraged by a webinar that fell flat, or they simply don’t understand how to harness the true power of a webinar.

As a lover of webinars, with a successful track record over the last decade, I’m here to help with some tried-and-true best practices.

Create customer-focused content

There is almost no better forum than a webinar to highlight your customer’s successes. Why? It’s much different to just read a case study than to have your customers verbally share their stories. On a webinar, attendees can experience that case study live, identify with the challenges and celebrate in the successes – which could soon become their own successes with the help of your company.

Now, having a customer co-presenter is the best-case scenario. We know that complete, fully baked customer case studies can be hard to come by or even nearly impossible when companies are launching new products. But there is incredible power in a customer case study that’s still in progress as well. Whether the journey has just begun or the results are preliminary, it’s still better for attendees to hear from their peer rather than just your team.

Webinars with customer co-presenters are almost always more well-attended and more successful. Plus, with customer co-presenters, your company also benefits from being associated with your customer names and brands. Even if someone doesn’t attend your webinar, they may remember that you work with that top hospital.

Prepare for an interactive experience

Even though a webinar is somewhat similar to any other speaking engagement, it’s technically much different. It’s challenging to speak into the phone rather than speak into a crowd of faces that may be either nodding their heads in agreement or nodding off out of boredom. That’s why it’s so important to leverage the technology to create an interactive experience that benefits both your attendees and your speakers.

Even the most basic webinar platforms offer a polling feature which should be used 2-4 times throughout the webinar. We often recommend to clients that they start with a poll question to get a better understanding of what the attendees are looking to learn or why they chose to attend. It can also be helpful for the initial poll question to serve as a gauge for understanding the “level” of attendees. For example, how would they rate their organization’s progress on the journey to value?

Also, did you know that one of the easiest, most painless ways to drive future registrations is right at your fingertips during each webinar? At the end of your presentation, while you still have a captive and hopefully happy audience, simply invite attendees to the next relevant session in your webinar series. When sessions are monthly or quarterly, attendees who enjoyed your webinar usually will vote “yes” via a poll to be automatically registered for the next session.

Focus on follow-up, not just promotion

Lastly, it’s incredibly common for even some of the savviest marketers to focus almost entirely on webinar promotion rather than placing equal importance on the webinar follow-up communications.  Don’t neglect the attendees who just spent 30-minutes or an hour with you! They are now primed and ready for more so it’s mission critical to send timely (ideally within 24 hours or less but 48 hours max) follow-up emails to attendees and those who registered but didn’t attend.

It’s also important to send them more than just the webinar recording or the slides. Perhaps you can offer them a new eBook about best practices featured on the webinar or you may have a written case study to share on the same topic. It’s not always about having new content to share. It’s about having relevant content to share and becoming a go-to expert.

Regardless, it’s important for your follow-up communication to be educational and informative to drive continued engagement. After all, once someone spends an hour with you via a webinar, they are more invested. Now it’s about keeping them invested in your content, your customers and most importantly, your company.

The Science Behind Using Analogies to Convey Complex HIT Concepts

The Science Behind Using Analogies to Convey Complex HIT Concepts

For many writers, including (especially?) this one, analogies are one of the most important and commonly used tools in our toolbox. Relating a new or complex topic, such as just about anything in health IT (HIT), to a familiar example readers already know and understand seems like a good way to shorten the learning curve and ultimately move the sales needle.

Of course, not everyone buys into that idea. “Our target audience is made up of serious and highly educated people,” some say. “They don’t need some silly reference to cars, or movies, or building a house to understand our products/services. They just want the facts.”

That’s why I was so excited to discover the work of Robert A. Bjork, Ph.D., a Distinguished Research Professor at UCLA who specializes in cognitive psychology. Dr. Bjork’s research on how we learn shows “If information is studied so that it can be interpreted in relation to other things in memory, learning is much more powerful.” In other words, if you want someone to understand a new concept, it helps if they can relate it to what they already know and understand.

So it turns out there’s actually some science to the use of analogies. Giving information context, or “seating” it within what someone already knows (to use Dr. Bjork’s term) helps readers comprehend the information faster.

That’s where analogies can bring a lot of value. You start with something simple and familiar to get them thinking in the right direction. You then show how the new, complex concept fits within that familiar landscape.

Because you have already set the context, you’re far more likely to get the target audience to start nodding their heads in agreement. As any good salesperson can tell you, gaining that agreement is an important key to closing the sale.

Going deeper

Using analogies also helps ease readers into deeper conversation. It’s like opening a serious lecture with a joke, or sprucing up the front of your house when you’re trying to sell it to make it more inviting to prospective buyers. (See what I did there?)

First you capture their interest, then you get into the meat of what you want to say. That works a lot better than just launching right into the detailed information.

Another reason analogies help is they can take what might otherwise be a dry, technical topic and spice it up – like adding a good rub to a steak before grilling it. (I’m on a roll now!) The steak is still the star, but the rub helps bring out all the flavor the steak has to offer.

Editor reaction

One more good reason to use analogies is in my experience, most editors like them. Especially editors of publications that cover technology products for business or even technical audiences.

They get tons of contributed articles that sound like they were written by engineers for engineers. The articles convey facts, but they don’t “grab” readers and compel them to pick up the publication.

A good analogy can help spur reader interest, which is the editor’s main goal. Throughout my career I’ve received many nice notes from editors, including some from very technical publications, thanking our clients for taking such an interesting perspective and writing an article people might actually want to read.

Now, that doesn’t mean you should always try to work an analogy into every byline, blog post, or other content. Even I don’t do that. Sometimes playing it straight is the right approach to take, whether that’s dictated by the publication or the subject matter.

But where you can, and where it works, using analogies is a great way to draw your audience in and help them quickly understand the key point you’re trying to convey.

Mastering Unspoken Messages

What Are You Really Saying? Mastering Unspoken Messages

Have you ever heard the phrase, “it’s not what you say but how you say it?” This “how,” or nonverbal communication, accounts for more than 90 percent of what we convey. In fact, former UCLA Professor Albert Mehrabian found that the use of one’s voice makes up 38 percent of what we communicate and body language comprises up to 55 percent. By not paying attention to cues, you could be mixing messages or sending unspoken messages in ways that go beyond the Oxford comma debate.

Depending on how the words are delivered, carefully crafted messages can be disregarded, along with an expert’s credibility. This spokesperson could instead appear disinterested or worse. Is that person carefully pondering the question or thinking of what is for dinner? That answer lies in the interpretation.

Conference calls

A major part of work days, including a high percentage of media interviews, are spent on the phone. Many of us jump from one conference call to another without a second thought. However, just because someone can’t see you, does not mean your actions are unnoticed. Here are some pointers for navigating these interactions:

  • Know your key messages: Don’t memorize them; rather, internalize the main three points you want to leave behind. That way, they will naturally integrate into the conversation.
  • Smile: This truly does change how your voice projects and can be heard on the other end.
  • Speak calmly and confidently: Voice tone can portray openness, knowledge and legitimacy of the person talking. Using frequent ‘ums’ or sounding overly emotional can have the opposite effect.
  • Mute the sound track: Background noise can distract both ends of the conversation and take away from the main points. This may also come across as though the call was not a high enough priority to find a quiet location.

In-person Meetings

Whether you are embarking on a media tour, going for coffee or taking meetings at tradeshows, these in-person encounters are a great way to make a lasting impression – make sure it is a positive one. Your audience, including reporters and business prospects, can now see you in addition to hearing you, so there are more messages being conveyed in meetings that typically run longer than telephone interviews. Make sure they are all working in your favor.

  • Speak with your body language: No, this does not mean the cha-cha, floss or any other dance du jour. This refers to how you carry yourself, so you appear approachable but not sloppy; confident without coming across as arrogant. It is the details, including making eye contact and leaning forward a bit to the person you are speaking with to show you are engrossed with the conversation.
  • Appear engaged: Smile periodically and occasionally nod your head in agreement with the person you are meeting. Beware of crossing your arms – you may be cold, but it will come across as disinterested.
  • Respect personal space: Provide enough distance to keep the other person comfortable but not so far away that you lose the connection.
  • Remove distractions: Show the reporter, analyst or prospect that they are important enough to have your undivided attention. Turn the cell phone off, or keep it on vibrate, and put it away. The temptation to check messages is strong, so remove it from the equation.

Many of the points discussed above are subjective. More than anything else, read how your nonverbal communication is being received, so you can adjust as needed. Great spokespeople leave an impression because they know how to present themselves and understand how they are being received. Listening to the unspoken messages of others will help you become a master communicator.

Hashtag Misuse

Only You Can Prevent Hashtag Misuse

Do your research. Or end up with #EGG on your face.

hash·tag: A word or phrase preceded by a hash mark (#), used within a message to identify a keyword or topic of interest and facilitate a search for it.

Communication has and will continue to evolve. It is a powerful tool when used correctly, and social media has taken communication to new heights. Now, we can reach beyond our own networks to communicate, discover and assemble instantly.  However, a tool is only as powerful as its operator.

Though each social network has its own way of displaying posts under a certain hashtag, and their own algorithms for specifying trending content, these rules tend to hold true in general across each social channel. Follow them and you too can prevent hashtag misuse.

Only you can prevent hashtag misuse

6 Common Pitching Errors to Avoid

6 Common Pitching Errors to Avoid

Pitching stories is one of the essential skills of a PR professional. Yet it is surprising how many PR people neglect the basics of how to pitch what to whom. In most cases, a little thought and preparation can help PR pros avoid these kinds of mistakes. Yet they continue to be made on a regular basis, as any working journalist or editor can attest. Here are some common pitching errors and how to prevent them.

  1. Doesn’t know the publication. When a busy editor gets a pitch from a PR person who doesn’t know his or her publication, it’s an immediate turnoff. The pitch might be for a consumer story when it’s a business or trade publication, or the story might concern a sector of the industry other than the one that the magazine or website covers. In either case, the editor is unlikely to consider the pitch and will probably delete future emails from that publicist. To prevent this error, all you have to do is read sample articles in the publication or just glance at its home page.
  2. Doesn’t know the publication’s editorial policies. Even among trade publications, there is a wide range of different policies on how guest columns and news stories should be written. Some publications will not allow any mention of a client’s name or products. Others actively solicit promotional pieces (usually in exchange for ads), and there are variations in between those poles. The publications that take a strict stance against product promotion are more desirable for thought leadership, but some clients may want placement in publications that allow a mention of how their products helped their customers. The important thing is to know a publication’s editorial policies before pitching its editors. Usually, those policies are on its website. A PR firm should also ensure its writers follow these rules; if not, the publication may reject the piece.
  3. Doesn’t understand the publication’s slant. Depending on its audience, a publication might be looking for very specific kinds of stories and opinion pieces that cater to its readers’ interests. For example, a publication for CISOs will be receptive to pieces that focus narrowly on security but not on topics of general interest to CIOs, even though CIOs are also concerned about security. The editor will also look for trendy topics in that field, such as blockchain’s potential use in security. But if the publication has covered something frequently in the recent past, such as how to foil ransomware attacks, it may not be interested in that. To prepare for this possibility, do a keyword search in the publication’s archives or on Google.
  4. Doesn’t keep up with changes in direction. Some publications change their editorial direction, either because of a change in leadership or in response to market forces. Publicists should not assume that because a publication accepted certain kinds of pitches in the past, they will in the future. Keep up with what’s happening with key publications by reading them regularly, and also take note of personnel changes. When a new editor or journalist joins the publication, introduce yourself and ask what kinds of stories that person is looking for.
  5. Doesn’t pitch stories in a timely way. In the competitive field of journalism, timing is extremely important. If you pitch a news-related story too late, it will be rejected because no one is interested in that topic anymore. If a client has an important news story, it’s always a good idea to give key editors the news just ahead of its release on an embargoed basis. But don’t provide the release to just one editor, or the others will feel slighted and will remember that the next time you pitch them.
  6. Fails to present the pitch concisely and intelligibly. Any PR professional should know how to write a good pitch, but it is surprising how many emailed pitches fail that test. In some cases, they go on interminably before getting to the point. Other pitches are so poorly written that they’re difficult to understand. You should always remember that editors’ time is limited and that they may have to read hundreds of emails each day. Just as in a published article, a catchy headline and a cogent lead will go a long way toward getting an editor’s or journalist’s attention.

None of these mistakes are difficult to correct. With a fairly minimal effort, publicists can learn what publications want and how to deliver it. By doing so, they can vastly increase their chances of having their pitches accepted and of placing articles in sought-after publications.

Should People in Pancake Houses Throw Burgers?

If you spend any time on the Internet not exclusively dedicated to work, shopping or seeing what new shame Cousin Frank is bringing to your family on Facebook, you understand that the Internet’s true purpose is to facilitate a relentless parade of jokes, memes and reaction videos related to anything and everything going on in the world.

So if you’re a beloved brand trying to navigate this ocean of hot takes, dry bon mots and raunchy non sequiturs do you A) be very careful so as not to become instant joke-fodder, or do you B) hit the gas and drive right into the lion’s den of Twitter comedians and smug Photoshoppers? Well IHOP was willing to take that risk and it looks like it’s paying off.

IHOP, which most of us will remember from our 20s, decided to play fast and loose with its deeply rooted brand, changing its name (temporarily) to IHOB in order to draw attention to a promotion around its new burger menu. The breakfast giant, loved deeply by both syrup-addicted toddlers and exhausted college students in need of a 3 a.m. carbo load and every hilariously specific demographic in between, made the bold choice to proclaim “We are a burger joint now!” Did this get made fun of? You know it did.

These are just a couple of the jokes. But in activating this promotion, IHOP had to have known what it was in for. If you take a look on Twitter, one very common quip by the millions of self-styled witticists is “Oh, yeah, when I think of a great burger, I think IHOP,” – the late 90s favorite “NOT!” is, of course, implied.

But, guess what funny peeps? That was the point! Did you suddenly find your mouth forming the words “IHOP” and “burger” in the same sentence? I’m guessing that a profitable percentage of people out there poking fun at the Pancake House are going to, at some point this summer, give one of those new burgers a try.

IHOP’s gambit has a lot of people talking about them – and their own competitors took the bait and are using their resources to talk about the promotion. Sure, they get their jokes in, but they’re also strapping a jetpack to IHOP’s message and blasting it into burger-loving faces by the thousands. It’s a great example of using a little creative thinking to drive your brand awareness.

Do the Tweets, Grams and quill-written letters on parchment decrying this name change hurt IHOP’s feelings (or brand)? I’m guessing no; if the stunt sells burgers, they won’t mind at all, and once the promotion ends, people still enjoy pancakes and will continue to do so, internationally.

So what’s the lesson? Maybe we shouldn’t treat our brands like sacred idols and, instead, understand that people on the Internet are going to make fun of us no matter what. IHOP understands that if they’re in on the joke, they can have the last laugh.

Integrity in Public Relations – For our Clients, the Media and the Profession

Integrity in Public Relations – For our Clients, the Media and the Profession

Recently, I heard someone speak about Integrity and the importance of having it in all aspects of your life. It might sound like a simple concept, but when someone, especially someone in a leadership or advisory role, doesn’t apply integrity in their life, there seems to be a great deal of fall-out. And let’s face it: it can be news-making in the worst conceivable way.

Integrity is “a firm adherence to a code of especially moral or ethical values; soundness of character; honesty or a state of being whole.” Another definition is a “concept of consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations, and outcomes.” I like to define it as always doing the right thing when nobody is looking.

I began thinking about how essential integrity is in business and certainly as a part of public relations. When we as PR people are responsible for building our clients’ brands and reputations, integrity is most certainly an important attribute. To support this belief, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) has developed a Code of Ethics as part of its commitment to integrity and expects its members to adhere to this Code.

There are many examples of how important integrity can be in public relations. Here are just a few examples of where I find integrity to be especially critical:

With our clients

It is our role as PR practitioners to advocate on behalf of our clients and advise them on what is in their best interests. Sometimes those interests contradict what we know to be right or perhaps goes against our own best business interests. This is where integrity is essential.

PR practitioners tend to be people pleasers. We want to make our clients happy. However, our clients engage us to provide more than just a service, they retain us as advisors who get results. Sometimes saying “No” and explaining why a client request is not in their best interest is part of our role.

With the media

I have heard two theories throughout my career. The first was “He who has the gold, makes the rules.” The other was, “Clients change. It’s your relationship with the media that you need to hold sacred.” I personally adhere to the second theory.

Don’t misunderstand, I truly value my clients; but they generally hire me because I can obtain coverage for them in the press. Honesty, providing accurate information, meeting deadlines, and pitching appropriate information to the press is the foundation for a great relationship with the media.  What good am I to any client (present or future) if I have burned a bridge with one of the key healthcare editors at a tier one publication because I conducted myself unethically or if I have a reputation for supporting fake news?

Within our profession

Of course, we should treat each other with fairness, respect and pursue honest competition. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. As we seek to impress clients, build new business and grow profits, it is sometimes too easy to drift away from doing the right thing.

I could share multiple examples of backstabbing, bad-mouthing, and undermining colleagues that I have witnessed throughout my career. But more frequently, I get to see colleagues supporting each other, providing meaningful honest feedback, helping peers to grow and learn new skills, and working as a team towards success and to support our clients’ communications goals.

There is a truth in six degrees of separation. It is a big, wide world, but the PR community can be small, and reputations follow us. At the end of the day, all we have is our reputations which rely heavily on the integrity we exhibit consistently.

In the time that I have been with Amendola Communications, I have seen the highest levels of integrity demonstrated from management, to the account teams and with the administrative staff.  Not only are my colleagues extremely knowledgeable and talented, but they consistently work in the best interests and to the highest standards for our clients, our media contacts, with each other, and the profession as a whole. I’m pleased to say that I work in an environment where complete integrity is one of the agency’s four key principles.

The trust of clients, colleagues, the public, the media and the wider community is fundamental in maintaining a positive reputation in the PR industry. The subject of integrity might not seem the most interesting of topics, but it’s often misunderstood and something that we could all give more thought to.

Analyst Briefings Best Practices

Analyst Briefings Best Practices

Earned media bylines and interviews get the most attention in healthcare public relations programs, but in many ways analyst briefings are even more critical to companies navigating a noisy and fiercely competitive marketplace.

Admittedly, analyst reports don’t have the curb appeal of a slick vendor profile in a top-drawer health IT publication. But they make up for it in other ways.

Many of your potential customers use the reports generated by KLAS Research, Gartner, AITE Group, The Advisory Board and others to evaluate vendors and solutions; better understand emerging healthcare categories, such as artificial intelligence and blockchain, and how they are defined; and leverage the valuable primary and secondary research to make technology investment decisions.

Analyst reports are also beneficial to vendors. They can be invaluable for testing market positioning, providing clarity on where a given solution type is on the hype cycle, and how close competitors are responding to the ebb and flow of market trends.

If your PR executives are good, they are already researching all of the healthcare-specific analyst firms—and many of the cross-industry outfits—and scheduling briefings. If they are smart, they are helping you prepare to make the most of this opportunity.

This post will assume that your PR firm has secured an analyst briefing and is helping you with strategy and tactics to maximize your opportunity. (If my assumption is wrong, let me know).

Phase 1—Preparation

A good PR firm is going to provide solid guidance on analyst firms to pursue. The 500-pound gorillas like IDC and Gartner seem like no-brainers, but smaller firms that specialize in specific areas of healthcare can be just as valuable. (Long-time Amendola client Health Catalyst has a terrific breakdown of most of the major healthcare and cross-industry firms.)

Once a briefing has been secured, it’s time to prepare—even if the briefing is several week or months out. Preparation for analyst briefings can be resource- and time-intensive.

A media interview may run 15 to 20 minutes and be handled in-person or on the phone. Analyst briefings can last an hour—if not more—and often involve prepared slide decks, input from multiple executives, a demonstration of the solution or platform, the willingness to provide detailed answers to questions about your company’s history, competitors and financials.

Your PR executive should have a detailed understanding of what the analyst wants from this briefing, then help you edit and shape the presentation to align with those needs.

Phase 2—Who’s Invited

Many analyst briefings veer off in the wrong direction because the company hasn’t invited enough people—or simply too many.

We recommend that unless directed by the analyst, no more than three company representatives join the call. Those people should include the CEO, who can provide company positioning and higher-level commentary; the Chief Product/Solutions Executive, who can provide detailed information regarding the solution or platform; and the Marketing Executive, who can ably describe market positioning, customer outreach and information regarding competitors.

Of course, other company representatives are free to join, but they should quickly introduce themselves, then place themselves on mute for the duration of the call. The goal of this briefing is to provide the analyst will a smooth, clear, coherent narrative about your company. That can’t happen with people talking over each other, drawing the conversation down a half-dozen blind alleys, and random background noise intrusions.

Phase 3—The Slide Deck & Demo

Sometimes, companies are tempted to throw the kitchen sink at the analyst, covering every conceivable base from every conceivable angle. The intention is good, but attempting to cover everything since the Big Bang drowns the potential for telling a compelling story.

We encourage our clients to keep slide decks and demos short. Not more than 10-15 slides and a demo lasting no more than 10 minutes. You want to explore the details, not get bogged down in them.

As such, your slide deck should address your company’s most important competitive differentiators; provide a brief history of your company and a brief overview of its most relevant products; and offer compelling, results-oriented client success stories.

Ancillary information that may provide helpful context can be delivered to the analyst pre- or post-briefing, for them to peruse on their own time.

Phase 4—The Presentation

About a week before the briefing, we recommend a dry run. For this exercise, your PR executive and an internal communications manager should stand in for the analyst. Run through the briefing. Here are some useful metrics to judge by:

  • How long did the briefing take? Ideally, you should have left a generous space—at least 15 percent to 20 percent of the allotted time—for questions and conversation.
  • Did the subject-matter experts talk over each other or contradict each other? Were their responses thoughtful without also being epic monologues? Were their answers transparent and sincere, or riddled with meaningless jargon?
  • How was the flow of the presentation? Did anything feel missing, superfluous or out of place?
  • Did the presentation hit on all the agreed upon value propositions?
  • Did you finish with case studies and proof points?

Phase 5—Stick the Landing

After your main presentation is done, the analyst will likely have final questions. This is a key intelligence-gathering opportunity for companies. Unlike media interviews, where the questions go in only one direction, analyst briefings allow for more back and forth.

This is a good time to test your assumptions and theories about your positioning in the market or mine valuable insights from an analyst well-versed in your area of healthcare.

Also be sure to leave your analyst with some takeaways—case studies, white papers and blog posts—that will provide additional context to the presentation.

 

Analyst briefings require a lot of preparation, but done correctly, they can be invaluable sources of information about your market and a rich source of customer prospects.