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.

Brilliant Example Of Engagement Reminds Us All To Keep Pushing The Envelope

bodyformTo say that the lines between PR, media and marketing are blurred is putting it mildly. What was once about facilitating and gatekeeping has now become a creative free-for-all as more brands step into the role of content makers to try to strike a chord with their respective audiences.

As an agency, we’re constantly thinking about best practices among the complimentary disciplines, along with how we can leverage a combination of them most effectively for our clients.

One of the more recent discussions was around engagement on social media. While we’re all familiar with it from a personal perspective, it’s still an area that can be a challenge from a business standpoint.

Even though there’s a general understanding among brands that social media is a marketing tool that can help them reach out to their customers, it can be difficult to convince them to loosen the reins and fully harness their network’s power to unlock the true potential.

Bodyform 1But rather than brainstorming something like a list of the “10 tips for better social media engagement,” we simply wanted to show an example of the magic in action in this video from UK maxipad maker Bodyform, made late last year. The company created it in response to a man’s tongue-in-cheek “rant” on their Facebook wall, claiming that he’s been lied to about the “happy periods” depicted in their ads over the years.

What might make some brand managers bury their heads in the sand to avoid addressing, Bodyform embraced as an opportunity to get a conversation, ahem, flowing in its community.

“We found Richard’s post very amusing and wanted to continue the positive dialogue around periods that this generated,” said Yulia Kretova, brand controller for Bodyform, in a statement. “…Breaking down the taboo around Bodyform and periods has always been a challenge, and I hope that we have started to address this.”
The result? Well, not only did it delight fans and followers, but the video went viral, and we’re still talking about it months later as a hilarious – and effective – example of engagement at its best.

While the saying “no publicity is bad publicity” will always be up for debate, there’s no denying that any kind of feedback – even negative – can be a major opportunity in social media to convert its loudest naysayers into its most fervent fans. And that’s something none of us should overlook – period.

5 Desk Exercises for Busy PR People

desk-exercises-300x199Between client deadlines, monitoring headlines – and everything in between – regular gym visits all too often slip down (or completely off) a PR person’s daily to-do list.

But this lack – or total absence – of activity is serious business: According to this infographic by Medical Billing & Coding, most of us spend more time on our behinds (9.3 hours per day) than in bed (7.7 hours a day), and this sedentary lifestyle (i.e. sitting for more than six hours a day) can increase your risk of death up to 40 percent.

Wait…what? Yes, simply put, the more you sit, the shorter your lifespan, which is a very scary prospect.

But the good news is there’s something we can do about it. Even if squeezing in an hour-long sweat session into your day isn’t feasible, there’s still hope for staying in shape. By incorporating short bursts of exercise into your day, it’s easy to increase your overall level of physical activity and help stave off things like obesity and cardiovascular disease.

This doesn’t have to involve sprinting around the office so you arrive sweaty to meetings, however; keep it simple and gradually work your way up to more movement as your body adapts.

Here are a few simple desk exercises to get you started.

  1. Chair Dips. Sit on the edge of your office chair (without wheels is best!) and place your hands on the edge of the seat, fingers facing your body. Slowly lift off the seat, and lower your body toward the floor, bending elbows into a 90-degree angle. Push yourself up, using your triceps.
  2. Plank. Work your entire core by positioning yourself, facing down, with both hands and toes on the floor (like the upper part of a push-up). Keep back straight, and pull your belly button upward to engage abs. Hold for one minute.
  3. Lunges & Squats. In the comfort of your cubicle, time yourself for 30-second sets that combine stationary lunges (alternating sides) with squats to wake up your entire lower body.
  4. Incline Pushups. Stand a few feet away from your desk, placing both hands on the edge. Carefully lower yourself so your chest is a few inches from the top of the desk, before pushing back up to engage your chest, arms and upper back.
  5. Pushouts.” Stretch your back and strengthen your biceps by sitting in your chair (a rolling one this time!) and grasping the edge of your desk. Slowly push back until your head is between your arms and you’re looking at the floor, and then pull yourself back in.

Perform three rounds of each exercise with 10 reps each (and just three one-minute segments of the plank) for a complete workout, or break it down and do one exercise at a time throughout the day.

What are you waiting for? Get off that heiney and on the road to better health!

The Perfect Pitch In PR – Not So Different Than Baseball?

With headquarters in Boston, the PerkettPR team is naturally composed of many sports fans. As we gear up to watch the Bruins win the Stanley Cup, keep an eye on the Red Sox and their unique manner of winning, and listen to the controversy over the New England Patriots‘ most recent player acquisition, we can’t help but think about how PR is often a lot like sports. It takes a team to win, but each player must be at their best and support each other. You’ve got to keep an eye on the ball, practice a lot, and analyze your plays in order to stay ahead of the competition. If your pitches aren’t quite right, you’ve got to recalibrate or sometimes pull the player. You’ve also got to deal with tough management decisions and sometimes you have to rebuild after a bad season where things didn’t quite work out the way you had planned.

In particular, we liken PR to baseball – how could we not with all those PR “pitches” – in the graphic below. What do you think – did we score?

ppr_pitch_tips_graphic

Self-Serving PR is Never Okay: Just Ask Dane Cook

danecookOn May 30, Boston hosted a fundraiser concert for The One Fund to support victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. By all accounts, it was a great success with numerous celebrities, most with Boston ties, contributing their time to help raise $1.5M for the fund.

Unfortunately, the event and the meaning behind it was marred by the decision to halt live web streaming of the event at the request of comedian Dane Cook. As he explained on Twitter, he didn’t want his new material to hit the airwaves yet and sought to minimize that risk by shutting out millions of online viewers.

It’s certainly no surprise that folks in the Boston area have some rather strong opinions about the topic. Some believe he used this charitable event as a promotional opportunity; others believe he was justifiably concerned about protecting his material. Personally, I question the event producers’ decision to go along with this, as catering to celebrity demands seems to go against the overall spirit of the event.

Which got me thinking: Why, in this social media-empowered world, would anyone pull a stunt like this and not expect widespread negative backlash?

Perhaps Cook and his management subscribe to the old school mindset that ‘any press is good press.’ Or perhaps they just didn’t think it through. History is overrun with stories of brands and celebrities using tragic events for personal gain. As PR professionals, we’ve all been in the position where we’ve had to carefully weigh the potential backlash of a disaster-related story and have advised caution versus the risk of appearing insensitive.

This is precisely why I wanted to weigh in on what Cook could have done differently to avoid – or minimize, at the very least – the damage.

  1. Don’t. Just don’t. Charity events are neither the time nor the place to be opportunistic. If leaking information is too large of a concern, use other content – or don’t participate.
  2. Seek feedback outside your immediate circle/company. Cook’s agent or manager has as much stake in his success as he does. Can they truly be impartial? And where, oh where, was his publicist?
  3. Know your audience. Whether you’re delivering a presentation at an industry conference, visiting a partner in a foreign country, celebrating a company milestone with employees, or entertaining the Boston Strong community, it is vitally important to understand what your audience is all about. Know what they care about, learn what to avoid, and customize your actions to best fit their needs.
  4. Don’t underestimate the power of social media. Yes, social media can be a boon for many, but it also has the potential to be a monster…a living, growing, roiling beast with sharp claws. Don’t ignore it, and never underestimate its potential to both help and harm.
  5. Apologize. A heartfelt apology can go a long way. Sam Fiorella at Sensei Marketing shares some excellent examples of well-executed brand apologies and their PR value.

In the end, Cook’s actions may have been self-serving, but he did fly across the country to take part in an important fundraiser and I suppose he should get some credit for that.

So what if he locked out a couple million viewers (and satellite radio listeners)? Did he really cause any irreparable harm to The One Fund or to those people in attendance at the event? Probably not. Does that make it okay, though? Hell no!

And as this PR firestorm rages on, I’m willing to bet Cook recognizes his colossal misstep for what it is: a big fat PR don’t.