10 Things PR People Should Do Every Workday

productivity

In keeping with the spirit of the New Year/new leaf theme for January,
we’ve been trying to harness the burst of resolution motivation to establish
habits that lead to better efficiency, productivity and effectiveness, both
personally and collectively, this year. And one source of inspiration was J.T.
O’Donnell’s article on LinkedIn about her approach to the “how do I get it
all done” conundrum.

As the time-pressed CEO of Careerealism Media, O’Donnell suggests that we limit our daily to-do list to 10 things, which includes a mix of job tasks, social chores and developmental goals. Now, before you ask – yes, she does more than these 10 items every day, but these, she says, are the 10 she chooses to do with consistency because they’ve proven the best way for her to grow her career and business over the years.

This, of course got us thinking, “What would the list look like for PR professionals?” Again, these aren’t the only things we think you should be doing each day, but rather a list of suggestions to help promote growth over the next 12 months. So see below for our ideas, and feel free to add your own two cents in the comments!

1. Scan the news. Take 10-15 minutes every morning to do this — and not only the top national news, but also the news in your company’s or clients’ industries. It’s a good way to stay on top of industry and competitive developments, not to mention it’s a necessity for identifying news jacking opportunities.

2. Make a to-do list. As every PR pro knows, ours is a reactive business, which means planned activities can get pushed aside easily. Stay organized and on track with daily task lists that keep you accountable to the proactive and maintenance items that often get overlooked in the heat of the (inevitable) times of crisis.

3. Contribute to the conversation. We’re talkin’ social media here, but the key is to keep it meaningful – not mindless. Find a handful of valuable articles, blog posts, infographics, etc. that pertain to your clients and their industries, the PR profession, or even just business in general, and share with your network.

4. Learn about a new tool or technology. This means not only familiarizing yourself with your clients’ products and services, but their competitors, as well. Got an interest in a particular area? Bone up on a new site, app, tool or technique, and teach your colleague so you can all be knowledgeable about what’s out there.

5. Connect…offline. Step away from the computer. Yes, cut the digital umbilical cord, and go grab a cup of coffee with a client, invite a reporter to happy hour, attend a local conference or try out a new network event. After all, business is about relationships, and you can’t keep connections as strong behind a keyboard.

6. Write. It’s probably the task that gets pushed off to the last minute because there are emails to answer, calls to make, and just about any other task seems more appealing than staring at a blank page with a blinking cursor. But flex the writing muscle, and it WILL get stronger.

7. Get momentum with media. Keep goals focused, actionable and realistic – then chip away at them each day. Start with a short list of six to eight media outlets that are a good match for your client, research contacts, get to know them, read their content, get creative with your pitches and connect with them accordingly.

8. Engage your clients. Ask questions that will help you understand their situation better. Make time to regularly check in with them to get to know how they think and feel, and encourage them to share observations regarding the progress of the project and your performance so you can course correct before it’s too late.

9. Make it measurable. Force yourself to develop and adhere to a method for tracking metrics. Not only does it allow you to create a benchmark for progress, but it also provides a means with which you can communicate those intangible successes to your clients. Just keep the process seamless, simple and straightforward.

10. Do stuff that inspires you. It sounds fluffy, but it’s arguably the most important: Allow yourself the space to get creative, let your mind wander and explore your imagination. It feels contrary to marching toward those business objectives, but granting yourself permission to dream is really when the best work happens.

 

Photo/Image by David Carpenter

Changing it up for 2014: Get Agile with New Year’s “Revolutions”

Well, we’re halfway through January (seriously, where did the time go?!), so there’s no better time to do a quick check in with yourself to see how those New Year’s resolutions are panning out. Have you been able to make any new habits stick, or are you still feeling like you’re stuck in the same rut from 2013?

New-Years-Resolution-Cartoon

When we asked our staff the same question (for those of us who actually buy into the whole resolution thing), it became clear that being successful with these desired changes means less about going cold turkey, and more about committing to an ongoing process of overriding old habits and rewiring them with new patterns of behavior until something clicks.

Case in point:
-”My resolution is to be as organized and productive in my personal life as I am at work. I can’t say I’m knocking it out of the park, but I’m making progress. Although the fact the Patriots have been in the playoffs isn’t helping my cause at all since my husband’s participation is required to finish some of my home projects!”
-”This year I wanted to keep it simple, so my resolution was to walk the dogs each evening before dinner. Not only would it be good for all of us to get some fresh air, but it forces me step away from the computer for a few minutes. Our new routine lasted all of a few days, but at least we are getting out more often when we can.”
-”I resoluted to slow down and play with my kids more. It was going well until they got back to school, I went back to work, and they started all their activities. I need to have some sort of reminder to stay on track better.”

See a common theme here?

So did we, which got us thinking about our clients, particularly the Agile software development methods they use (for both product development and team management) and how much more fluid an iterative and incremental approach can be when it comes to making significant, sustained progress. As you know, Agile is a solution-oriented process that relies on adaptive planning and evolutionary processes, along with rapid and flexible response to change…so if it’s been proven successful in our business lives, it only makes sense that we could apply the same techniques in our personal lives, as well.

Enter what we like to call our New Year’s “Revolutions” for 2014.

Sure, we still need to keep an eye on the bigger picture (such as losing 10 pounds or seeing X increase in revenue), but you’ll get there more quickly if you create a list of actionable steps for the short-term, adjusting as you go along. Is something working – like a pitch that strikes a nerve with reporters, or a new way to remind yourself to stop and smell the roses with your kiddos? Then double down on those efforts to see bigger gains. Or is something not working – like an old press release format that’s lost traction, or dog leashes strewn about the house, so it takes you 15 minutes to find them before you lose all momentum to get outside? Then it’s time to switch things up, and try something new that removes the friction that’s preventing you from moving forward.

Respond to change – both positive and negative – and you’ll see results more quickly. See results, and you’ll no doubt be inspired to do more. The cycle slowly snowballs, and before you know it, you’ve got some major momentum to keep you going toward – and achieving – all of those goals.

Have you successfully added agility to your personal life? We’d love to hear more in the comments!

Happy Dictionary Day!

Ok, so there may not be presents, fireworks or candy to mark the occasion, but we can assure you that lexicographers across the country are certainly celebrating today. (Don’t know what a “lexicographer” is? There’s no better way to partake in this unofficial holiday than to break out your dictionary!)

ppr_dictionary_day_2013

Why? Noah Webster, otherwise known as the “father of the American dictionary,” was born today in 1758. Fun fact: It took him 27 years to complete his first dictionary in the English language!

But rather than break out our dusty books in honor of the event, we thought we’d pay homage by talking about what’s inside them, as that’s the true impetus behind this annual observance.

See, as PR professionals, we rely on the word (both written and spoken) daily. Just as Edward Bulwer-Lytton said in 1839, “The pen is mightier than the sword,” we, too, know the power of words and their ability to inform, inspire and even incite action.

Whether we’re writing a pitch, press release or bylined article, we’re constantly aware of the words we choose – and how their tone and meaning will be interpreted. In fact, as we’re creating and circulating information on behalf of our clients, we strive to stay adept at striking a balance between keeping the messaging consistent and the language fresh.

So take a few moments today to open or click onto a dictionary, and peruse a few new words to add to your vocabulary. If you’re in need of some inspiration, go to www.worldwidewords.org, or check out our infographic above, which highlights a few of our personal favorites. We’d also be remiss if we didn’t include a few words from Mark Twain, a man who had a definite way with them:

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”

The lesson here for us PR folks? Words are the building blocks for success, as they can help you communicate more clearly, yield better results and separate yourself and your clients from the competition. Use them wisely!

Exploring the Convergence of PR, Journalism and Marketing

Photo courtesy of Tech Cocktail

Photo courtesy of Tech Cocktail

PR practitioners used to have it easy! Remember the good ‘ol days when it was all about our media relationships and campaigns were linear, like this?

  • Step 1: Work with client on strategy; get content.
  • Step 2: Pitch content to media; get placement.

Ok, that’s simplifying things quite a bit, but you know what we mean.

Now, though, the entire landscape has changed with the explosion of the Internet, which has removed virtually all barriers to publication. Suddenly we’re responsible not only for the message, but also the mode and the medium, which follows more of a vicious cycle:

  • Step 1: Coordinate with client on strategy.
  • Step 2: Create actual content, which could be anything from case studies and white papers to blogs, eBooks, guides and all kinds of other collateral.
  • Step 3: Publish content, which runs the gamut from media placements, company blog posts, contributed articles, events and more.
  • Step 4: Promote content via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.
  • Step 5: Interact with community on various platforms, reacting, responding and re-adjusting your course, as needed.
  • Step 6: Start from the beginning and do it all over again!

Software Advice‘s article on The B2B Marketing Mentor does a great job of explaining the creation and importance of this new kind of role that merges marketing, PR and journalism functions.

In an nutshell, since we now play a larger part in the production of content (journalism), we’re no longer simply pitching and promoting it (PR), but are challenged to leverage it as a strategic tool for lead generation and brand awareness (marketing).

The only problem is that, well, everyone else is doing the same thing, which means it’s pretty noisy out there as we all compete for the time and attention of our audiences.

That’s where the shift to “inbound” comes in; it’s an offshoot of content marketing that focuses on aligning content with customer interest so that they are “pulled” toward your company, rather than the old-school spray-and-pray methods.

We’ve embraced this, both in theory and in action, with our clients. In fact, we recently attending the Inbound Marketing Summit in San Francisco and the Inbound Marketing Conference in Boston where we talked about how it’s not about being the loudest; it’s about having the right content for the right audience at the right time.

Put simply, the only way we can guarantee our clients are in the media nowadays it to help them become  the media. Content has become their new currency when attracting, engaging, converting and retaining customers.

Savvy PR professionals are embracing their status as content custodians. But the most successful ones will recognize the beauty in marketing’s ability to measure return and directly tie to their clients’ bottom line.

10 Grammar & Spelling No-No’s for PR Pros

proofreadingIf the number one thing on which PR people are judged is our reporter rolodex, grammar and spelling savvy ranks a close second. Make sure you don’t fall prey to some of these common mistakes:

No. 1: Your & You’re
“Your” is possessive, as in “your client” or “your press release,” when “you’re” is a contraction of “you are.” A handy tip: When in doubt, insert that phrase (you are) into the sentence, and use it if it still makes sense.

No. 2: Its & It’s
Same idea here – “its” is possessive, as in “the early bird got its worm,” whereas “it’s” is a contraction of “it is.” Try the same swap in a sentence – you wouldn’t say, “the early bird got ‘it is’ worm,” right?

No. 3: Numbers
According to AP Style, numbers one through nine should be written out, and figures should be used for 10 and above. (Bonus: When writing percentages, always use numerals with the word “percent,” not “%.”)

No. 4: Fewer & Less, More Than & Over
Use “fewer” with things you can quantify (e.g. fewer than 10 pieces of coverage), whereas “less” is used with hypothetical quantities (e.g. Their launch was less successful than ours). Along those same lines, “more than” is used with numbers, where “over” generally refers to spatial elements (e.g. She sent more than 25 tweets; I positioned the logo over the text in the document).

No. 5: Complement & Compliment
To “complement” something is to add to or supplement it (e.g. That color really complements your complexion), whereas a “compliment” is an expression of praise or admiration (e.g. That color looks great on you!).

No. 6: Into & In To
The word “into” answers the question, “where?” – although it doesn’t necessarily need to be a physical place (e.g. I walked into my office). The words remain separate when they happen to show up next to one another in a sentence (e.g. My boss came in to see me).

No. 7: E.g. & I.e.
The abbreviation e.g. is Latin for “exempli gratia,” meaning “for example.” The abbreviation i.e., on the other hand, stands for the Latin “id est,” meaning “that is to say.” Here’s an example: “We like social media—e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn.” Or you might write, “We like social media—i.e., we’ve made a point of connecting with others.”

No. 8: That & Who
Always use “who” when referring to people. Otherwise, if you say something like, “employees that are present today in the office,” you’re referring to them as objects.

No. 9: Affect & Effect
“Affect” means “to influence” (e.g. This heat is affecting my ability to concentrate), whereas “effect” is a result (e.g. The heat has had an effect on productivity levels in the office).

No. 10: Alot & A Lot
Trick question! “Alot” is not a real word, so always be sure you separate the two. And, when in doubt, try to replace it altogether with a number or something like “many” or “ample” to sound more professional.