Posts

Time to Spring Clean Your PR Strategy

Time to Spring Clean Your PR Strategy

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and the flowers and trees are blooming. It’s that time of the year when I think about Spring cleaning, especially living in Atlanta where everything inside and out is covered in pollen. As I was dusting my entire house last weekend trying to rid it of the fine yellow dust covering EVERYTHING (the struggle is real y’all); I started thinking about how to spring clean your PR strategy and what would benefit the most from a little extra attention.

Media Lists

The media landscape is constantly in transition.  Journalists change positions, beats, contact information, etc. They might have altered their interest in specific topics. Throughout the year, we try to keep our press lists up-to-date, but spending some extra time going over your media list, updating the notes based on feedback from pitches and researching new media outlets can be a great use of time.

Messaging

This is a great opportunity to review your business’ messaging and assess if it needs updating. Perhaps you’ve announced new products in the last six months, or perhaps the industry has developed a new acronym for your niche, or maybe there is a new piece of healthcare legislation that is key to what your business does that should be mentioned in your messaging. Maybe you’ve learned more throughout the year about what your key audiences want to hear. Now is a great opportunity to take another look at your key messages to make sure they are conveying what you want them to and effectively reaching your target audiences.

PR Coverage

With a fresh look at your media lists and messaging, it would also be timely to review your coverage.  Where have you received the most placements? Are any angles played out at this point? What outlets have you not gotten coverage in that you want to be in? What angles do you need to push harder?  Are you actually reaching your target audiences with these outlets? A review of all of this will help you spring forward to make your coverage blossom even more.

Events

We PR people like to develop our annual plans generally at the beginning of each year.  But so many details for events such as conferences and tradeshows are updated throughout the year.  Determining which conferences you plan to attend, submit a speaker application to or want to include in your content strategy is a key component to any PR campaign. Take this time to update your events list with deadlines for speaking and any other promotional activities.

Review and Set New Goals

With a fresh perspective on where you’ve been and what you have to work with, it is also a great time to review the progress you’ve made in achieving your goals and updating them or maybe upgrading them. Utilize the S.M.A.R.T. goal format as a best practice.

Some of these recommendations take some ongoing maintenance but think of this time as a chance to really dust off what you are doing with your PR campaign and apply a fresh strategic approach to it. So, before you grab a vacuum, go grab a pen and review your PR strategy to help your business make the most of its PR activities.

 

Unless You’re Monitoring the Media, You’re Missing Out

In college, I had a journalism professor ask our class how many of us had signed up for Google Alerts as a media monitoring tool to support our coverage areas. Aging myself a bit, Google Alerts was a relatively new idea then. All the same, when no one in the class raised their hand, we all got scolded. It’s a painful memory.

Luckily, I never forgot the core tenets of that lesson. Media monitoring is crucial for anyone with a media life, including healthcare tech companies. If you don’t know what is being said about your area of expertise, it’s hard to keep up with the conversation. And, more importantly, unless you’re actively keeping an eye on what the web is saying about you, you can miss out on valuable media coverage, not to mention all the insights hidden within the coverage you didn’t get.

Today, we’ve gone beyond Google Alerts to include social media and other resources, but the benefits remain the same. Here are four examples of why media monitoring is important for any business:

Is Your Messaging Working?

Are journalists referencing your company in the way you want? How is the media reacting to your marketing, product launch, thought leaders, and public announcements? Is your CEO instilling confidence? The only true way to know is to look directly at the source. You don’t know what you don’t know, and the ability to quickly adjust messaging based on feedback is the only way to ensure you’re delivering a public image that is genuine, unique, and well received by the media and public at large.

See the Crisis Coming

When things go wrong, sometimes the media is the first to know. Even with proper damage control procedures in place, you can’t always prepare for the worst. Accidents happen and things go wrong, and, honestly, the crisis may not even be your fault – maybe a customer had an unrelated emergency you’d like to respond to. Maybe it’s something that can be easily corrected, like your CEO being misquoted in a magazine. Regardless, the only way to respond in a quick, effective way is to know what’s happening, so you can manage a proper response and put all that crisis planning into action.

Do Your Research

Media monitoring should be as much a part of the research phase for a new product or public awareness campaign as test groups and customer surveys. Dig deep into the news and social media buzz to see what people are saying about a similar product or idea. This has the double benefit of allowing you to avoid previous pitfalls others may have encountered while also allowing your campaign or launch to improve upon those that came before it.

By thoroughly digging into the noise of the internet, you can also get a better sense of the area you’re entering to see how well you’ll fit. Sure, the surveys and focus groups matter. However, sometimes looking outside your bubble completely will reveal information you never thought of, possibly inspiring completely new ideas.

Smarter Outreach

A major benefit of media monitoring is simply to get a roadmap of who is out there and what they’re covering. New journalists pop up on the radar all the time, and some of them may be covering your niche area. It’s nice to know who they are so you can get your brand and experts top of mind, in case they need a source in the near future. For any media relations strategy, monitoring what’s already published is a crucial to get more leads and generate new coverage. Further, knowing what coverage your competition is earning helps you get a general sense of how well your own outreach is going, so adjustments can be made in order to maximize the possibility of success.

Since the days of Google Alerts, media monitoring has become much more sophisticated. Where Google Alerts will reveal what the search engine indexes, that’s simply not enough in today’s market. By employing PR software, subscribing to the right RSS feeds, and digging into social media, we can paint a picture of what’s being said, who is saying it, and what that means for a larger media relations and public relations strategy.

Podcasts: 4 Tips to Prepare for a Great Guest Interview

Someday, you may be able to tell your grandchildren you lived through the golden age of podcasts.

From the humble beginnings of first being listed in iTunes in 2005 to the emergence of “Serial” as the medium’s first breakout star in 2014, podcasts have evolved from “the nichiest, wonkiest content platforms to a star-studded, self-contained media ecosystem with hundreds of millions of dollars in annual advertising revenue,” according to Wired.

Plenty of Americans have noticed. A report last year from Edison Research found that 112 million Americans had listened to a podcast, a jump of 11 percent from the prior year. Overall, 40 percent of Americans age 12 or older have listened to a podcast at some point, and the demographics don’t skew as youthful as you might think. For the first time, more Americans aged 25 to 55 were monthly podcast listeners than those aged 12 to 24, the report found.

Podcasting has, of course, made its way into healthcare, just as it has with other industries. Popular healthcare podcasts include TEDtalks Health, Harlow on Healthcare, Mayo Clinic Radio and Healthcare Tech Talk, just to name a few.

So there’s a fairly strong chance that you or an executive you work with will be asked to appear as a guest on a podcast – if it hasn’t happened already. If and when that happens, following the tips below will help ensure a successful podcast, and hopefully a return invitation. (Many of these recommendations are applicable to media interviews, in general.)

  • Research the podcast and host: In short, do your homework. Nothing says, “I have no clue why I’m doing this interview, but my public relations person told me I should, so here I am,” like an interview subject who doesn’t know the name of the media outlet (podcast) or reporter (podcast host) that he or she is speaking with. In such circumstances, trust me that the host is not blind to the apathy and indifference the subject is showing toward the podcast, and it will immediately start the interview in a negative place. Research the host’s background and listen to a few episodes. What topics does the show cover? Does it have an agenda, or is it fairly neutral? What is the background of other guests? In some cases, interviewers will use a standard opener (“Tell me about yourself and your company.”) and closer (“Anything else you want to mention?”). By identifying those routine questions ahead of time, it’s easy to be prepared to knock them out of the park.
  • Hone your message: Really, there’s no reason not to knock virtually every question out of the park, as long as you’ve prepared a few talking points. Here’s where the research you did in the prior step comes into play. Once you’ve identified what the show is about and who the audience is, tailor your talking points to individuals in those professions. If it’s a podcast about a niche like electronic health records, for example, you can bet the audience is generally very knowledgeable on the topic, so feel free to get as far down into the weeds as you like. If it’s a general healthcare podcast that runs the gamut of the industry, keep the talking points more brief and high-level. Be sure to write out your talking points, keep them in front of you during your interview, and hammer these key themes multiple times, so listeners have no doubt about what you and your company are about.
  • Think about sound quality: To state the obvious – podcasts are something people listen to, so sound quality is kind of important. If you’re being interviewed over the phone, use a landline. If the interview is via Skype or a similar application, be sure your internet connectivity is strong. In either case, using a good quality headset is definitely a plus. Find a quiet place with a closed door away from dogs, kids, coworkers or any other distractions. Finally, be sure to have a cup of water (or another favorite beverage) next to you at all times to avoid a scratchy, hoarse-sounding voice.
  • Promote the interview: Before the interview, post messages on your social channels previewing it and sharing your excitement about appearing. Tag the host, who will notice it and appreciate it. After the interview do the same, thanking the host for an enjoyable and stimulating conversation. Post it on your website and include it in any relevant e-mail campaigns, too. You worked hard to prepare for the podcast, so be sure to get as much mileage out of the appearance as possible.

Podcasting is certainly enjoying a cultural moment, but the medium likely has more staying power than just a moment. Despite the surge in popularity noted in the statistics above, Edison’s report found that just 60 percent of Americans are “familiar” with the term podcasting.

That means podcasting holds strong growth potential as the other 40 percent of the nation begins to discover the medium in the coming years. When you or a colleague receive your first invitation, remember these tips to prepare for a successful podcast guest interview.

Start at the very beginning, it’s a very good place to start

5 Keys to Building a Brand

Clients have high hopes when they first engage a public relations firm. Building a brand will mean interviews with the Wall Street Journal! Blogs that go viral on Facebook and Twitter! Appearances on CNN! And well they should. After all, clients are paying good money for marketing and PR services, and they should get results.

But unfortunately, what many companies—either young startups or more mature companies hitting an inflection point such as an acquisition or new product launch—DON’T have is a clear message they want to convey. And that is the first building block for any brand.

In fact, we find with many clients, simply launching an intense media relations and content marketing campaign is like starting in the middle of a race when you don’t know the course. Companies will reach that finish line—an effective PR strategy—sooner if they begin at the starting line with a clear understanding of the race course and where they are going.

Here’s some advice for companies looking to create or hone their messaging for a precision brand-building strategy.

  1. Begin with a brainstorming session

A good PR firm can lead your team in exercises that will help fine-tune your messages for each product and for each audience you hope to target. This could include efforts to name a new product or to determine which concepts resonate with consumers versus potential investors and/or partners. We find that at some companies there may be a significant gap between the messages the CEO wants to convey and those advocated by the head of marketing or other important stakeholders. By engaging in a brainstorming session, those differences will be revealed and can be mediated by the PR agency to help guide the team toward the messages that will resonate best in the marketplace and show the company to its best advantage.

  1. Develop messaging documents

An investment of time upfront to create comprehensive messaging documents will save a tremendous amount of time down the road. Individual documents for each product are advisable. These should include a one-sentence descriptor of the product, a list of differentiators, customer pain points and gaps in the market addressed by the product. The product messaging documents should also include relevant context, including the competitive landscape. In addition, companies should develop a few versions of the overall value proposition and mission of the company, geared toward different stakeholders including investors, partners and customers. Developing these messaging documents will likely require interviews of key subject matter experts at the company to make sure they correctly reflect the most current features of the products. These documents could also include a company FAQ to either be posted on the website or used internally. CEOs should sign off on all messaging documents before they are finalized.

  1. Use messaging documents as “already approved content”

Once messaging documents are completed, they can form the basis for content marketing assets including blogs, bylined articles and company whitepapers. While additional input or interviews may be required, this work will be cut down significantly by having agreed-upon messages as a common backbone for all content. This will also streamline approvals for each new piece of content and preempt messaging differences among team members since all stakeholders have already agreed upon the key messages.

  1. Use messaging documents for media interview prep

The appropriate product messaging document, the overarching company messaging asset and the FAQ can all form the basis of media interview prep for CEOs or other company spokespeople. Your PR agency can come up a list of targeted talking points and sample questions based on the outlet, audience and angle the reporter is pursuing. But ultimately, every interview should circle back to the company’s core messages which are contained in the documents. Using the messaging documents as “lane bumpers”, as in bowling, will prevent a passionate CEO from running afoul of investors, partners or customers by veering off-message. Combining a message development program with media training, which high-quality PR firms should provide, is the best way to ensure that CEOs and other spokespeople take the best advantage of every media interview opportunity.

  1. Periodically update the messaging

A common challenge in developing consistent messaging for clients is when a member of the team, often the CEO, is out a step (or two, or five) ahead of the company’s current capabilities, size or product development status. Visionary CEOs are a tremendous asset for companies seeking to advance their brands, but risks abound if the CEO promises things the company can’t deliver. One way to overcome this obstacle is to commit to messaging as a dynamic process and not a static set of documents. A quarterly review to sync up messages to goals achieved is a great way to make sure that customers, partners, investors and the public are continuously reminded of the company’s forward march. Companies may also want to consider adding a “future goals” messaging document which can be added to as goals are achieved and moved into “current messaging” status.

Start at the very beginning…

It’s a very good place to start, as Julie Andrews sang in The Sound of Music. And it’s great advice for companies who are newly engaged in building a brand.  Your PR firm will start by making sure everyone is on the same page regarding the company’s key messages. Then they’ll get it in writing via messaging documents you can leverage again and again to develop a consistent, memorable brand for your company. Even if your company is well-established, your key messages may need a refresh to help take the company to the next level in its maturity.

Infographics can provide a major boost to PR and content programs.

Getting the Picture: 5 Reasons to Use Infographics

Effective storytelling has always been an integral strategy of PR and marketing.  But in today’s digital world, where online users are flooded with information, sometimes “showing,” rather than “telling” your story can be an effective approach for communicating your message.

Infographics are an excellent tool for turning content – especially complex data – into a colorful, compelling, easily digestible, visual. A truly successful infographic will utilize innovative design elements and robust data to capture your target audience’s attention and deliver important, educational information.

While not new, it is surprising the number of companies still not utilizing infographics as part of their content marketing strategy. In addition to helping drive brand awareness, infographics also attract website traffic, generate buzz and boost social media engagement.  Here are five reasons to consider using infographics as part of your next PR/marketing campaign.

  1. Most online users don’t have the time to scroll through endless paragraphs of text. Infographics present information in a clear and concise manner and make mundane and heavy topics fun and easy to comprehend. Infographics help your audience understand your message effortlessly at glance.
  2. Individuals process visual content faster than long-form, written copy and are 80 percent more likely to read content if it includes colorful imagery. Infographics can make the most seemingly boring information blossom when displayed as a dazzling visualization.
  3. Research shows that infographics are liked and shared on social media 3X more than any other type of content. Top that with an infographic that includes a punchy design and some startling statistics, and your content has the potential to go viral. Bloggers value and admire quality infographics, so if you promote yours effectively, there’s a good chance it will be distributed among numerous social media channels. Infographics also have a much longer shelf life than traditional media since they are often shared months after they’ve originally been published. More shares mean more visibility for your business – leading us right into number 4 on the list.
  4. If your infographic is making the rounds on blogs and social media, there is a good chance it’s boosting your SEO ranking. Ensuring that you add an embed code to your infographic makes it easy for your audience to share your content. The result is a wealth of inbound links, since the embedded image of your infographic automatically links back to your website, thereby elevating your search ranking. Add some targeted keywords in your infographic’s title or description, and you can amplify your page ranking even more.
  5. Infographics are one of the most successful ways to bring your content to smart phones, tablets and other mobile devices. As portable devices continue to be a fundamental tool for both consumers and businesses, information like infographics is much more conducive to viewing on-the-go. It’s also ideally suited for viewing on small screens.

It’s easy to see why infographics are a vital and effective tool for building brand awareness, engaging your audience, and making your message memorable. Just remember to keep the design and content of your infographic simple, creative and accurate. Don’t overshadow your data or confuse your audience with superfluous graphic elements. While an impactful design is essential, so is the quality of the information you are sharing – so be sure you the sources you are citing are reliable. The visual component of your infographic may draw your audience in, but it is the content that educates, informs, and truly drives your message home. Get the picture?