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!

Lights, camera, action, oh my?

clapper with handsJust as personal computers and the Internet have sparked the writer and publisher in everyone; camera enabled devices and social media are now making videographers and producers of us all. Video has not only become a part of everyone’s social life, it’s become a necessary skill in the public relations and marketing world.

Shooting and editing video has never been more accessible. Whether you use a laptop, tablet, phone, helmet, or glasses you have a video camera at the ready. With a little luck, you can capture the fun, happy, mundane or big moments in your life with ease. Where do you start when you need to shoot video in a professional capacity? A shaky camera and bad lighting may fly in coach, but a poorly shot video will lose its charm in business class.

Here are some simple tips to consider for your next video shoot:

  • Use a tripod if/whenever possible.
  • Position your subject (or yourself) a little to the left or right of center and leave a little headroom at the top of the frame.
  • For online video, avoid pans (horizontal movement of the camera) and zooms (focusing in or out using the zoom feature on the camera).
  • Don’t shoot your subject in front of a window or with the sun behind them, the best light source comes from behind the camera. If you happen to have a lighting kit – or even a few floor lamps – check out Media College’s illustrated guide to Three Point Lighting Technique.
  • Use the viewfinder on the camera to watch the interview at the same time that you look over the camera and make eye contact with the subject. This puts the subject at ease, gives him/her someone to look at and also makes the interview more natural-sounding.
  • If your subject will be looking off camera for cues, it will work best if you sit next to the camera and have your subject focus their attention towards you, not the camera, and you provide cues. This also helps put the subject as ease and makes the interview feel more natural overall.
  • Don’t make any sound at all when your subject is talking. Flipping pages, coughing, moving in chair, etc. can all get picked up by the camera’s microphone and will surely sound undesirable to viewers.
  • If your subject stumbles in their response, instruct them to relax, gather their thoughts and respond again. Make sure they do not feel rushed.
  • If your subject is willing, consider shooting multiple takes. When editing footage, it is always helpful to have multiple takes to choose from. If nothing else this offers your subject the opportunity to run through the process and to feel more at ease in subsequent takes.

Circle back after the shoot for Part 2, where I’ll discuss choosing a video editor and provide some helpful editing tips.

Have some helpful tips of your own? Please leave a comment 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.”

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!