Tips For Working Through The Holiday Blahs

Thanksgiving week not only commemorates the pilgrims’ grateful celebration with their Native American neighbors, it also marks the unofficial start of the winter holiday season in the U.S. (including Hanukkah this year).

In most cases, this is the week when U.S. businesses begin rewarding employees with early release days and extra time off to enjoy the festivities.

Not surprisingly, it’s expected that productivity will suffer a bit over the next 35 or so days. But, we do still have jobs to do and work that must get done. The challenge is finding the energy and drive to work when all you want to do is hit the holiday eggnog and cozy up by a crackling fire.

ToDoAs virtual workers and PR pros to boot, we know a thing or two about working smart, so we’ve compiled a few tips to help you stay productive through the holidays:

  • Just say no to big projects – contrary to popular belief, this is not the best time to start in on a big project, especially one that requires collaboration with your colleagues who may be less present than usual. If you really feel the need to get started, though, focus on getting organized. Identify the people, tools and time you’ll need to deliver the best result. Communicate your needs and deadlines to collaborators as soon as possible and build in extra time to account for the holiday schedule.
  •  Plan for time off – whether it’s your own holiday vacation or your colleagues’, it’s important to communicate and plan for coverage and contingencies (weather delays, sickness, etc.). If you need help with an assignment, give your coworkers plenty of notice and information to accomplish the task in your absence.
  • Focus on work – with retailers’ propensity to pre-announce Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals well in advance of the actual sale dates, it’s easy to get sidetracked at work. But limit holiday shopping to personal time and focus your work hours on work. The days will fly by, and you’ll be showrooming before you know it.
  • Stack small tasks – rather than tackling that big project, now’s a great time to attend to smaller, less time-consuming (yet still important) tasks, such as updating your databases or writing a blog post. Get after that stack of small tasks, and you’ll soon be feeling much more merry and productive.
  • Get organized – As the end of the year approaches, spend some time organizing your workspace for success. Clean out your inbox, organize your files, archive old emails, toss old magazines and unsubscribe from unread or irrelevant newsletters.

Don’t let the glow of the holiday lights lure you to the dark side. Stay focused, and make the most of the season to catch up (and perhaps even get ahead) amidst all the holiday cheer. Then in January, when your colleagues are complaining about how far behind they are, you can relax a bit, knowing you rang in 2014 with a fresh start, a clean slate and a great attitude!

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!

Today’s Best PR and Marketing Executives Employ “Creatalitics”

“How do fevers in the human brain produce the dreams and visions that become transformed into blazes of insight?” The Creative Brain

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When I was in college, I was proud to be studying at a University that had its PR program in the School of Business, resulting in a Bachelor of Science in Business degree. This was – and stills seems to be – a rarity in the field. Most PR and Marketing degrees are housed in the School of Communications and/or result in a Bachelor of Arts. In the past, this seemed to make sense for PR – it reflected the creative arts side of the field – writing, event planning, branding, messaging, etc. But today, with the explosion of analytics and data in the field, PR and Marketing executives have to think differently. They need to use both sides of their brain – the right, creative side and the left, analytical side. (Luckily, my degree prepared me for both before the market turned that direction.)

The creative side of the brain is still crucial to coming up with marketing strategies, branding and messages that appeal to people. We have to understand how to entice strong emotions that lead to action. Once that action is taken, we now have to use the right side of our brain to determine if that action resulted in value to our organization (or our clients’ organizations). Our creativity is crucial when it comes to content – we are in fact content creators and publishers in the day and age of social media. It takes fun, whimsy and innovative risk taking to create content that’s really going to stand out. But in order to truly create the best content, we need to use the right side of our brain to analyze how that content – if that content is working.

It’s not enough anymore to say “That was a really catchy headline” or “The logo is awesome” – or even to just write a creative pitch that gets a reporter’s attention. We now need to drill down and, after the reporter writes his or her article, analyze if the messages within drove the right interest. Was the article placed in the right outlet? Did the messages appeal to the right audience? What did they do as a result? Did they click through to our site? Did they buy? Why or why not?

This movement is also reflected in the banter about CIOs and CMOs battling for budget and suddenly sharing some tech responsibilities. CMOs are responsible for more data-driven decisions than in the past, and that includes managing the website’s content (which CIOs also need to make sure doesn’t then result in slower performance or other issues), and purchasing analytical software. As Dell chief information officer Andi Karaboutis recently told ZDNet, “Things for which I work together with Karen [the CMO]? Analytics, big data.”

And thus, today’s best PR and Marketing executives are what I’ve dubbed “Creatalitics” thinkers. They combine really creative and innovative ideas – those “dreams and visions” with data and analysis – the “blazes of insight” that tells them if their creations go beyond initial appeal and into the world of actionable value to the company’s bottom line. How are you using “creatalitics” in your PR or marketing position? If we can help you better undersatnd and merge this new way of thinking into your organization, let me know.

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.