Know thy objective

Guest post by Linda Jacobson, APR

I recently judged communication campaigns and tactics, and was struck by the lack of planning involved in nearly every entry.  Particularly absent was the lack of specific communications objectives. If you’re in public relations, marketing or corporate communications, you need to know how to craft a solid strategic communication objective because that is the single most important focal point of any communications campaign. If you don’t know what you’re aiming for, you’ll never know if you reached it.

Below are components of a communication objective, but ultimately, you’ll want to ensure this is part of a strategic communication plan that aligns with your organizational or departmental business objectives.
  • Expect your outcome. Are you trying to raise awareness of a new widget or new process? Or do you need to move the needle by changing employee or customer attitudes? Perhaps you need a target audience to adopt a specific behavior. Before you can craft an objective, know what you expect the outcome to look like.
  • Use verbs! Once you know the expected outcome of your objective, select an appropriate verb. Do you want customers to buy, ban or endorse? Are you looking for employees to adopt, support or change?
  • Be specific. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at communications plans that aren’t tied to specific objectives. If you can’t articulate the objective specifically, then you are already missing the goal.
    • Who is the audience?
    • What is the timeframe?
    • What is the attainment level?
  • Measure the objective.  Know how to accurately measure your objective, and know your baseline. This is your starting point. What is the current status quo? You need to know this before you initiate your strategy; otherwise, you won’t know whether you moved the needle or not.

Below is an example of a specific communication objective that anticipates an increase in audience awareness:
 

Within the next 60 days, 70 percent of our organization’s customers will see or hear about our new widget.
Starting with these basics, you’ll add a solid, measurable component to your strategic planning. What other components help you achieve your goals?

Three Signs You’re a PR Pro

Public Relations is ever changing – and as it becomes more integrated with marketing and advertising, we are starting to see many new facets of PR professionals. So what constitutes as a PR professional? We’ve discussed the definition, but what about types of people? Types of personalities? We will never all be the same, but we might have some of the same traits.

1. ‘Dude I can’t put down my BlackBerry/iPhone/snazzy smartphone‘: Admit it. You check it incessantly. You have to be on all the time. You’re checking social media channels, Google Alerts and national media coverage. If something negative hits, you need to be ready. If a client pings you at 2 a.m., you might be expected to answer. It might vary depending on your industry, but clients come first. In associations, members come first.

2. ‘Proud, Honored and Words Like it Make Us Cringe’: It’s hard to look at those words in a press release and not take out the red pen and cross it out. Innovative and Synergy are starting to become over-used words as well. As PR professionals, we don’t want to have the same type of press release as another, especially a competitor. It’s hard to believe something is ‘incredible’ if everyone else is shouting the same thing. Make your client unique.

3. ‘Grammar Pet Peeves’: Mine is ‘your’ v. ‘you’re.’ Yours might be ‘loose’ v. lose. Many of us are writers at heart, and a large portion of our job revolves around it. I’ve noticed many have quirks and like things done a certain way – and grammar is always one of them.

So what would you add? What are your signs of a PR professional?

Three reasons why PR is no longer the whipping boy

This is cross-posted from The Saltlick blog.

From marketers to journalists to mom bloggers, PR has traditionally been the favorite scapegoat of those in other areas of the communication field. Commonly referred to as purveyors of the “dark side” of communications, public relations professionals have dealt with a tainted label far too long. But that label is a non sequitur now, and here’s why:

1. The economy is a great leveler. Hoards of journalists have exited their profession – and at least some of them have entered public relations, a field they once castigated. I’ve watched this trend with interest and predict that more seasoned journalists will come to view public relations professionals with a lot more respect.

2. Digital deadlines and a “news now” mindset necessitate an alliance. News journalists simply have more to do with fewer resources. Today’s journalist must view PR professionals as a service-oriented commodity, necessary due to digital news timeframes. Newer journalists will welcome strong PR relationships.

3. The mommy blogger PR Blackout yielded backlash. Even Trisha, owner of MomDot.com, admits that she ill chose the name of a one-week campaign whose intent she *claims* was to encourage mom bloggers to get back to the basics of parent blogging. The ensuing conversation split the parent blogging community, yielded poor participation (latest estimates were 20 committed to participating) and had journalists like Cnet’s Caroline McCarthy declaring that “Working with the public relations industry is core to any journalist’s (and now blogger’s) job, as is the use of press releases and in some cases review products.” It’s a sure sign that whipping up on PR is passé and not to be done.

I also think that PR is naturally embracing strategic relationship management and expectations from an increasingly complex array of stakeholders and publics in a way that marketers and advertisers cannot in Web 2.0. Stakeholder demand for authenticity is placing PR professionals in the leadership role to define corporate values and to sustain interactive relationship building. The result is that the PR profession is building trust with more constituencies than ever before.

Taken together, these markers signal – to me, at least – a new era in PR, one that shows the value of the profession.

Words Every PR Pro Should Know

This post is cross-posted from FW PRSA member, Lauren Fernandez’s blog

There are many words that every public relations professional should know. Below are four that I think you should never leave home without – preferably in a cool Johnny Bravo lunch pail.

high-five

Preparation

I’ve heard many say that a PR pro is only as good as their next pitch. But how do you get there? How do you make sure that your message is being heard; that the right outlets and correct beat reporters are receiving your pitch? You prepare and plan. Media plans are an effective tool when outlining your course of action. My media plans to detail this way.

  1. Date
  2. What type of outlets I’m pitching (National Radio, Local TV, blogs, etc)
  3. How I’m doing it (Pitch, Media Alert, etc.)
  4. Angle I’m taking
  5. 3 points I can touch on if I connect with a reporter

Media plans should also include your follow-up time, and if applicable, what you plan to do after the event occurs. Being prepared to pitch a press release is important as well. You will, at best, have 30 seconds to hook a reporter. If it is filled with ‘uhms’ and stammers, the likelyhood that a reporter will continue to listen to you is pretty non-existent. You don’t sound prepared or knowledgeable, and a reporter views you as their first source and connection to a possible story. If they have a hard time with you, that will cast the first impression on your client. Even if it’s a great story, if you can’t get it out, it means nothing.

Evaluation

The best laid out plans need to be consistently evaluated throughout the process. You need to be able to demonstrate value by setting benchmarks and continuously measuring the impact. If it’s not working, change it. A media plan is not set in stone. A reporter hates the idea? Maybe you are pitching the wrong beat. You aren’t gaining any traction? It could be because you’re not hitting the target audience appropriately. If you continiously evaluate your success and learn from the failures, your plan will go consistently smoother and shows that you can project manage efficiently.

Concise

The two most important skills (in my opinion) for a PR pro to have are writing and research. Writing should be concise and tight, and get straight to the point. Remember the 30 second rule? You need to be able to grab a reporter’s attention in the first two sentences. I joke that PR pros have to be ADD because they are constantly switching projects or getting new ideas, and reporters are no different – I had a reporter friend that said unless they can see me sitting in front of them in a cute dress and smiling, they probably will have an image of me in their head as a robot talking/writing to them. If your writing doesn’t follow the basic principles (yes, including AP Style) you will be viewed as incompetent by the reporter. It doesn’t matter if you have the best hook in the world – if it isn’t written well and tight, you might as well forget getting a placement.

Confidence

It seems to be a no brainer, but you have to exude confidence in your professional role. You are the expert. You know the client well and should be passionate about the topic. If you are nervous, a reporter will pick up on that. They will probably ask you harder questions and try to find the “juicy juice” because they think you might slip. Before you pitch a reporter, practice. Write down a few sentences, or opening lines, on your computer to refer to when you’re on the phone. Bullet some key points to hit on. Practice in front of the mirror. Pull a co-worker aside and have them fire questions at you. Send a news release to someone who has no link to the company and ask them if they would be interested in reading a story on it. This will give you the confidence that you can pitch a release and have a great story for a reporter to pick up on.

So, what words do you never leave home without?