Our Ode To KNOWvember

This month, we thought a lot about what we as a team are thankful for when it comes to our careers in digital marketing and PR. We are, of course, always thankful for our clients, industry colleagues and teammates. But we thought we’d also share what we’re grateful to have learned during our years in the industry – thus, what we know and what we know to say no to as marketers. Click on the infographic to read the details.

Happy KNOWvember!

KNOWvember_Infographic

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.

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

It’s All About the Details

Details have been on my mind lately – you know, the nuances in life that make life, well – interesting. I thought this topic would be a personal blog post, because the details that have stood out to me recently have been pretty personal. One of our three dogs passed away recently – a sad first for our family – and while the event itself was huge, it’s the little things that stand out the most in regards to his absence. The way my youngest son still pushes his plate back from the edge of the table because the dog used to steal his food, the empty chair in our bedroom where we’d find him every morning, the fact that I can put bird seed in my bird feeders again and not have to worry that the dog will eat it. These and many other little details are what remind me every day of the bigger loss.

So how does this post end up here, on our agency’s blog? Because it has occurred to me that it’s the details that matter in business, too. The big events are certainly the most memorable – winning new clients, watching the first sale come through, unveiling your new brand or opening a new store. But it’s the little details in between all these larger situations that really matter – and the little details that help you not only to keep your business up and running, but to beat the competition.

Are you thinking about the little details? Once you win a customer or a client, are you welcoming them and thanking them for their business? Does your website make an interaction with your company pleasant and easy, or are you making prospects work too hard to become a customer? Can they easily find what they are looking for? Do you have a waiting room that’s comfortable or stark? Do you think about simple yet “nice touches” that would make a prospect want to do business with you over a similar competitor?

Once you win a customer or a client, are you communicating with them regularly – but not more than they want? Do you know how your customers prefer to be contacted and how often? Have you asked? When you’re following up with a prospect, do you make them feel personally wanted as a customer? Just this week, a company followed up with me based on an interaction at a trade show (good) but I was turned off by the method (bad) of follow up and it made me not want to do business with them. I understand that companies need to maximize time – that sales leads have to be captured and plopped into databases (we’ve worked with enough sales and marketing software clients – Landslide, Salesnet, RightNow, Genius, etc. – to understand how it works and why). And maybe I’m naive, or expecting too much – but as technology gets better, it seems to me it could also help companies to at least appear to be more personable in sales. When I receive a sales email that’s claiming to understand my business, and want my business, but is clearly a generated “next step” email from a sales automation software solution, I feel insulted – not really wanted as a customer. When they use my login name as the lead – which appears as “christine” because I rarely capitalize when I’m signing up for something online – it’s obvious. It’s a little, tiny detail, right? But to me – it’s a detail that turned me off from doing business with this company. A little detail that turned into a lost sale.

On the flip side, we’ve got a client who – even as they’ve grown from startup to public company – calls each prospect when they trial a product. I remember the first time I tried Constant Contact – the call startled me – it literally happened within minutes of me entering my information online. I didn’t need help but you know what? Knowing that if I did – especially in this day and age of electronic communication – I could get a human on the phone, was a nice touch. It stood out – the call was brief, to the point and not intrusive. I was impressed – and that was before they were a client.

An experience that falls somewhere in between these two is a recent interaction with our bank. They recently upgraded some services for us and assigned a personal Account Manager (great!). He emailed and called me to introduce himself, which was good, but the little details that were missing, some that I felt could have made me a happier customer (and not feeling like a call was wasting my time), were some suggestions or thoughtful interaction. The introduction, in my opinion, could have included something more along the lines of, “We noticed you often do this, and we think this change will make your life easier – do you want to learn more?” It didn’t need to be anything complicated, but just something that showed a personal touch about my business and my banking habits that demonstrate you care about me specifically as a customer.

In PR, one of the biggest complaints reporters have always had is that they receive off-topic, automated emails from PR executives. PR teams do this – using software to automate email blasts – because time is money in our business, literally. Not only can you move faster and thus work on more clients and charge more hours, but the more pitches you get out, the longer a “We Pitched” list you can give to a client, right? Well, I guess that may be true – but the little details, taking the time to pitch a reporter with a custom email or call, mentioning personal details that remind them you know them or you at least know their work and read what they write – are more likely to yield big results. Would a client rather have a long list of “We pitched 100 reporters” – but no coverage results – or a shorter list of “We pitched 10 key publications and here’s the result – 10 quality feature articles”? I’m guessing the latter.

So take time to think about the details today. Whether it’s how you sell, how you service or how you build your business – branding, HR, promotion, etc. – caring about the little details can make a big difference.

How do you incorporate the little details in your daily business?

Old School Media Relations: The way of the past or a lesson for the future?

With college graduates flooding a still challenging job market, I couldn’t help but reminisce about my early days as a fresh-faced, energetic PR coordinator for a large national agency based in Boston. Those were the days! It’s both astonishing and amusing to realize how much PR tactics have changed since then. I remember spending countless, neck-kinking hours reading the broadsheets and weekly hard copies and manually cutting and pasting print coverage into neatly organized clip books for my clients.

And who else remembers printing and collating those expensive, full-color press kits with a meticulously edited pitch letter on the client’s letterhead then sending it in the last drop-off of the night by FedEx for the media VIPs on your target list? In some ways, the art of media relations was more about a compelling mailing presentation and who-you-know than it is today. The best PR executives prided themselves on their relationships with key media contacts and bolstered those relationships with coffee or lunch meetings or exclusive invitations to industry or client events.

Pitching processes have changed a lot over the years as well. As recently as a few years ago, I worked for a hospitality PR agency where we literally taped photo slides to calendar listings, and mailed them by the hundreds. Today, we’d be hard pressed to generate the sheer number of calendar listings and news briefs accompanied by photos that regularly appeared as a result of this mass mailing. Yet, in technology PR, we’d never dream of such broad net pitching.

Sure, we’re still looking to generate hits, and we do, but we go about it a little differently and a lot more carefully. With the likes of the Bad Pitch blog sharing the latest ill conceived, poorly written, audacious pitches, you’d just be plain foolish to spam your media contacts or send file attachments without permission. Those of us who’ve been in the business for a while understand that good media relations requires a lot of research and very targeted, personal pitches. This method absolutely takes more time and effort and requires a more narrow focus on fewer media targets, but the results are well worth it.

Thinking about the old school method of media relations, one has to wonder if our industry has lost some valuable strategies along the way to the digital age. As these outdated pitching methods have given way to the online press kit, email communications, and 140-character pitches via Twitter, have we forgotten the basics of good media relations?

Personally, I think there’s something to be gained by recalling the archaic methods of PR’s past to remind us of the foundation of our livelihood. Here are a few of my favorite tips from Rafe Needleman’s Pro PR Tips Blog that reiterate that the Old School lessons learned are still pertinent today:

  • Stay on target: Study your target. How hard is it to read his/her stuff before you pitch? (#10)
  • Don’t Nag: 90% of the phonecalls I get are people asking if I got the press release they emailed. Yes, I got it. Did I read it? Maybe. Do I care? You’d know already. Oh, wait. Here’s something new and even more annoying: A phone call from a PR person telling me she will be emailing me a press release later. Argh! Just send it! (#82)
  • Anything you say… Remember…Anything you say…can be used against you. Or for you. Assume that your phone call, email, IM, or Twitter message is on the record. We sure do. Want to be off the record or anonymous? Agree to it beforehand. (#110)
  • Three Degrees of Lame Lesson: If you’re going to ship a presentation in a clever package, the message should fit the medium. (#118)
  • Circle Jerks: Don’t blast a ton of people with the same crap. Pick and choose your media targets, and write personal notes to them. (#127)
  • The Only Rule: Ryan Block said it best: “Pro PR Tips can always be summed up as: Do your homework and be courteous.” (#100)

I’m not suggesting we regress to faxing press releases, or spend our clients’ money wining and dining editors, but by keeping in mind the hands-on approach and results of those old school methods, we find the key to better and lasting media relations today.

Do you still rely on the core foundation of traditional PR tactics you learned in your first jobs or have you morphed these tactics into something new and better today? Do you consider yourself a traditionalist with digital communications skills or do you consider yourself a digital communications professional with a background in PR?

Share your perspectives on “old school” vs. new media techniques for capturing the attention of important media targets. How has our profession’s media tactics evolved and where will it go next?

Extra Bonus Question: What’s the name of the “Old School” character pictured above.