What does a public relations agency do?

QuestionMarkNo, seriously! Perhaps you’ve come here looking for public relations help with your company or a job in the field, or maybe you simply stumbled across our blog (in that case, hello and welcome!). But either way, there’s a good chance you may find yourself asking that very question at one point or another.

And you’re not alone. There’s a reason we have a dedicated Facebook page about the fact that explaining what we do can be tough – even for us folks in the industry!

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fielded questions from people about “ads” or “articles” at personal gatherings and family functions when the inevitable job topic arises. I don’t think I’ve ever described it the same way twice; the definition may start off the same, but it usually ends up taking different paths each time, based on the audience and the types of questions they’re asking.

And rather than give a tactical rundown of a ‘typical’ days’ worth of activities (e.g. writing a press release or pitch, tweeting, calling media contacts, brainstorming during a messaging session, monitoring client and competitor news), it’s oftentimes more effective to address the actual purpose of our job – meaning raising awareness, shaping a brand, influencing demand, generating leads, and much, much more.

So, inspired by a recent Forbes article on the topic, we decided to tackle the topic ourselves. See below for a sampling of some of the PerkettPR staff’s perspective on wrangling the ever-evolving definition of PR and what it is we’re doing here:

“One of my favorite quotes having to do with the definition of PR is from Reader’s Digest, attributed to M. Booth and Associates: “If the circus is coming to town and you paint a sign saying ‘Circus Coming to the Fairground Saturday,’ that is advertising. If you put the sign on the back of an elephant and walk it into town, that is promotion. If the elephant walks through the mayor’s flower bed, that is publicity. And if you get the mayor to laugh about it that is public relations.’ But even though this definition drives at the heart of PR, what we do encompasses a whole lot more than that!”

“On a daily basis our roles are ever-changing and hard to define – from media relations, crisis communications, social media, copywriting, event coordination, C-level strategy sessions, reputation management, videography, web design, customer service, infographic creation, etc. But the one constant is the overarching common thread between them that stays the same – the value we add by earning people’s attention though a thorough understanding of our audience(s), well-crafted stories and good old-fashioned communication skills.”

“Public relations is a form of marketing where I utilize my writing and communication skills to make the public understand my company’s product or technology. It is my job to spread the word about the product or technology in a positive way to keep customers coming back again and again.”

“When I started in this business, I thought of my job as creating awareness. And while I think that’s still true, the way we accomplish this has changed dramatically. Now I tend to think of PR as a form of content creation. Whether it’s creating news via press releases; visuals such as infographics or video; events like Twitter chats or Google Hangouts; or creating community via engagement across social channels; these efforts and the resulting content combine to create awareness for our clients. Regardless of how we define PR and the role agency plays, there’s no doubt we play an important part in our clients’ success directly and indirectly.”

“Defining PR is no easy feat – especially as its definition is constantly evolving. Good PR, however, is the process of building relationships, creating conversations, influencing the news while shaping a company’s brand perception. It’s how a company engages, discusses and fosters positive awareness with the right audience at the right time using the right medium. PR is powerful, and Bill Gate’s summed it up the best when he said, ‘If I was down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on public relations.’”

Got anything to add to our descriptions of the PR function? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Considering a career in PR? Tell your story for a chance to win

VideoInterviewCalling all future PR pros! Test your storytelling chops in a new video contest called, “Take Flight with PR,” launched this week by the Council of Public Relations Firms (Council), our industry’s trade association.

Contestants are invited to choose an interest, idea or passion they have, showing in their videos how a career in public relations would enable them to bring their dream to life. In particular, the Council is searching for the best video that most persuasively, and creatively, finishes this sentence:

“A Career in PR is an opportunity for me to: _______________.”

The contest is aimed at showcasing the multitude of careers possible at public relations firms, including career paths in brand marketing, public advocacy, video production, design, and more.

Submissions are being accepted from now until June 28, and then crowd-sourced voting will determine nine finalists, plus one “critic’s choice,” who will advance to the final round to be judged by a panel of PR pros.

Prizes will include a $2,500 cash prize, an expense paid trip to New York City for the winning video’s premiere at the Council’s Oct. 23 member dinner and online visibility on prfirms.org.

“It is critically important that we as an industry continue to educate the next generation of PR practitioners about the many career opportunities that exist in our business,” said Kathy Cripps, president of the Council of Public Relations Firms. “When it comes to finding the best people, we can’t be complacent. We need cutting-edge talent across disciplines to push our industry to new heights. We hope this video contest showcases both memorable creativity and great future PR talent.”

Spring cleaning tips for your email inbox

According to the calendar, spring has sprung, even if Punxsutawney Phil indicated otherwise (and, incidentally, is now being indicted by a prosecutor in Ohio for his “misrepresentation of spring!”).

But while we’re tucked away inside for a few more weeks, it’s a perfect time to work on some spring cleaning of an area that, if you’re like the majority, you’ve probably been neglecting for some time now: the dreaded email inbox.

The good news is, this kind of cleaning doesn’t require mops and buckets. But it will require a bit of time, some discipline and figuring out a method of organization that works for you. Here are five quick tips for dealing with the daily digital deluge:

  1. Get rid of old items. Do you really need that email from last year? Start with oldest first, and scan for anything important, which can be filed (more on that later) before the rest are banished to the trash.
  2. Control the incoming flow. Avoid an inbox pile-up by turning off unnecessary notifications, unsubscribing from unwanted newsletters and old Google Alerts.
  3. Set up a system. Keep a handle on new emails by creating filters for certain senders or subjects, and set up a filing system with subfolders to manage other items as they come in.
  4. Adopt a mantra. Repeat after me: “If you don’t need it, delete it!” Half the battle is keeping things from piling up in the first place.
  5. Take out the trash. Finally, don’t forget about cleaning up those oft-forgotten spots – deleted and sent items! Say, ‘good riddance’ and do a final delete on that pile of old drafts and scrapped emails.

And here’s some more advice from our team on what they’ve found works best:

“I first go through my folders and view the emails from the bottom up (oldest first) and delete anything I won’t need again). Then, I delete the folder itself. Finally, I enter my sent items folder and delete anything older than one month…I find this really helps!”

“I have a daily filing system so I clean up a lot as I go along, and try to keep my inbox limited to items that need my actions. I find that filing other emails and saving attachments to Dropbox helps, too, but I still like to go through old, deleted and sent emails to get rid of those defunct items that take up much-needed space.”

“I do a sort by name and mass delete newsletters (that I thought I would get to) and Google alerts, spam, etc. but I still have way too much!”

“I tend to save emails for months! But, two tips I find helpful: 1) Create folders and subfolders for very specific things so it’s easier to find what you’re looking for quickly. 2) Color code emails by client or category so it’s easy to sort your inbox visually.”

“DO rely heavily on folders and subfolders to organize your emails. For example, consider one folder for each client with subfolders by program, e.g., Acme Co. has 3 subfolders for media, awards, and announcements. All emails pertaining to those programs can be filed accordingly making them easy to find later.”

“My tips: A) Sort by sender and take note of any junk senders; mark as appropriate to avoid future deliveries. B) Delete anything over 6 months old. C) Review the newsletters you receive and unsubscribe from any that aren’t pertinent to your daily needs. Consider having these sent to a “newsletter only” alternate Gmail address that you can check versus having them come to your work address.”

“Not sure if my strategy would work for all, but I basically limit my Inbox messages to immediate action items only. For everything else, I immediately archive into folders. If there are things relevant to future to-dos, I make a note in my planning/to-dos calendar to revisit. But to keep my head straight, I always keep my inbox so that all messages show up on my screen and are only the most pressing.”

“Don’t save every email in an email discussion – save only the most recent email that contains the entire thread.”

“Arrange your inbox by conversation; each time a new email comes in relevant to a specific discussion, the entire thread is moved to the top of your inbox. This not only groups related emails together for easy reference, it can act as a reminder as new updates come in.”

“Edit your inbox aggressively; do not hang on to newsletters you’ll never get to. It’s like those old skinny jeans you’ve saved for three years – just get rid of them already!”

PerkettPR’s ‘Naughty & Nice List’ for PR and media in 2012

Before 2013 gets too far ahead of us, we wanted to share our look back at 2012 – a year in review of the PR triumphs and tragedies that made headlines: The good, the bad, the ugly. Here are a few of our top picks, along with the applicable business lessons we’ve learned from them.

First, the ‘Nice’…

Election Goes Social. This year’s Presidential race was one for the record books. The polls were close, the predictions were numerous and the attack ads were relentless, but it sure got national conversation going. From Big Bird memes to non-stop Invisible Obama jokes, the 2012 Election was one of the most shared and commented-on events in social media history.

Our takeaway: Ignoring the opportunity to engage via social channels is no longer an option.

 

NYC Marathon Near-Misstep. After becoming a lightning rod for criticism in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and organizers of New York City Marathon cancelled the race amid growing concerns that holding the event would divert resources from cleanup efforts. As a result, thousands of would-be marathon runners converged on the area to put their endurance training to work by lending a hand.

Our takeaway: The most effective crisis control always includes empathy for all involved.

 

Hostess Hoarding. After filing for bankruptcy twice this decade, Hostess threatened to liquidate after announcing that it will lay off 18,500 workers, blaming a labor strike. As a result, consumers took to convenience stores to snap up the snack cakes, and a ten-count box of Twinkies was even seen listed on eBay for an opening bid of $200,000, with a buy-it-now price of $250,000.

Our takeaway: Beloved brands die hard (as does the nostalgia of childhood!).

 

Royal Treatment. After years of tragedy (Diana) and scandal (Fergie) plaguing the palace, the Queen sought outside PR assistance, but it wasn’t until 2012’s Diamond Jubilee, Royal Wedding and baby news that the Monarchy seems to have emerged from its former dark days. As the most popular royals in history, William and Kate’s impact is far-reaching and, as a result, support for the Monarchy is at a 20-year high.

Our takeaway: Don’t underestimate the power of the ‘right’ spokesperson.

 

And now for the ‘Naughty’…

 

Fast Food Backlash. Between McDonald’s supersized #McStories Twitter backlash, Burger King workers behaving badly, Taco Bell employees defiling menu items and the industry grappling with the stigma of pink slime, it’s been a rough year for the fast food industry.

Our takeaway: For better or for worse, remember that every employee is an extension of your brand – and a network branding blitz can do a lot to promote panic.

 

Rogue Tweets. In an epic #BrandFail, we saw several companies get burned in social media mishaps: Chrysler’s Twitter account dropped the F-Bomb, a Red Cross employee tweeted about getting “slizzered,” a Ketchum exec insulted a client’s hometown and KitchenAid mocked President Obama’s dead grandmother on Twitter, just to name a few.

Our takeaway: Heed the old “measure twice, cut once” woodworking maxim and always “check twice, tweet once” when manning multiple handles.

 

Retail Blunders. In an attempt to ride the coattails of the storm, several retailers tried to be savvy with their marketing efforts, but ended up getting soaked for capitalizing on bad news. For those “bored during the storm,” American Apparel advertised a “Hurricane Sandy sale” in the Northeast with the checkout code “Sandysale.” Gap had the decency to plead that residents “stay safe,” but then followed it up with an inappropriate, “We’ll be doing ‘lots of Gap.com shopping today; how about you?” And last but not least, Urban Outfitters glossed over the storm with an offensive pun about wind, offering free shipping with the checkout code “Allsoggy.”

Our takeaway: There’s a thin line between agile and opportunistic, edgy and offensive – tread lightly.

 

Apple & Instagram Outrage. This year we also saw rivalry and greed get the better of some companies. For example, in the next chapter of the Apple vs. Google saga, Apple ditched pre-loaded Google services, such as Maps and YouTube, from its iOS 6 update. This was only made worse by the release of their own (ineffective) Apple Maps platform. And most recently, the majority of us have been involved in the collective Internet outcry against Instagram’s change(s) in its terms of service, which is still in the process of getting settled.

Our takeaway: Consumers don’t take kindly to feeling taken advantage of, and thanks to the web and social media, they have found their voice – and it can be heard louder than ever before.

 

Any other PR peaks and pitfalls from 2012 that you’d like to add to this list? Tell us in the comments below!

The “12 Days of Christmas,” PR-style

‘Tis the season for the annual Christmas Price Index from PNC Wealth Management, which tallies up the cost of the “12 Days of Christmas” each year. According to the 2012 appraisal, there’s just over a six percent mark-up from last year, meaning it’ll set you back a cool $107,300, as reported by USA Today.

Here’s a detailed list of the breakdown:

  • Partridge, $15; last year: same
  • Pear tree, $189.99; last year: $169.99
  • Two turtle doves, $125; last year: same
  • Three French hens, $165; last year: $150
  • Four calling birds (canaries), $519.96; last year: same
  • Five gold rings, $750; last year: $645
  • Six geese a-laying, $210; last year: $162
  • Seven swans a-swimming, $7,000; last year: $6,300
  • Eight maids a-milking, $58; last year: same
  • Nine ladies dancing (per performance), $6,294; last year: same
  • 10 lords a-leaping (per performance), $4,767; last year: same
  • 11 pipers piping (per performance), $2,562; last year: $2,428
  • 12 drummers drumming (per performance), $2,776; last year: $2,630

But here at PerkettPR, we’re singing a bit of a different tune. In keeping with the coming holidays, we thought it would be fun to create our own version on the classic song, just for our PR pals. After all, what good is being in this year’s so-called seventh-most-stressful job in America if we can’t poke a little fun at it – and ourselves? So without further ado:

On the first day of Christmas the PR gods granted me… a last-minute press release edit.

On the second day of Christmas the PR gods granted me… two misquoted clients. 

On the third day of Christmas the PR gods granted me… three RFPs.

On the fourth day of Christmas the PR gods granted me… four conference calls.

On the fifth day of Christmas the PR gods granted me… five cu-ups of coffee (Or is it happy hour? Then co-old martinis it is!).

On the sixth day of Christmas the PR gods granted me… six urgent emails a-waiting.

On the seventh day of Christmas the PR gods granted me… seven events a-networking.

On the eighth day of Christmas the PR gods granted me… eight stories not a-newsworthy.

On the ninth day of Christmas the PR gods granted me… nine awards needing drafting.

On the tenth day of Christmas the PR gods granted me… 10 products a-launching.

On the eleventh day of Christmas the PR gods granted me… 11 tweets to be posted. 

On the twelfth day of Christmas the PR gods granted me… 12 HAROs needing pitching, 11 tweets to be posted, 10 products a-launching, nine awards needing drafting, eight stories not a-newsworthy, seven events a-networking, six urgent emails a-waiting, five cups of coffee (oh, forget it…just bring on the martinis), four conference calls, three RFPs, two misquoted clients… and a last-minute press-release edit.

Care to add some more ideas on how we can “spin” the 12 days our way? Let us know in the comments below. And, last but certainly not least, we wish you and yours a very happy holiday season from all of us here at PerkettPR!