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President’s Point: How to Get the Most Out of Virtual Conferences

President’s Point: How to Get the Most Out of Virtual Conferences

With conferences shifting to a virtual format, there are new ways to branch out and connect with industry leaders from across the country.

Of course, attending a conference from your couch is much different than a large conference hall surrounded by your peers. But that doesn’t mean they’re any less valuable. Here are 5 ways to get the most out of virtual conferences.

1. Turn Off All Distractions

While you may think you’re an expert multitasker, try to limit disruptions. In order to get the most out of a virtual event, you have to give your undivided attention. Set your phone on silent, move to a quiet space and consider taking notes by hand.

2. Make a Game Plan

Just as you would before a big game, go in with a solid strategy to accomplish your goal of attending. Maximize your time and learning by selecting topics and sessions in advance. The point being: do your homework.

One advantage of a virtual conference is sessions are typically recorded and available for later viewing. You no longer have to decide between two sessions scheduled for the same time, and instead attend both at your own convenience.

3. Network Virtually

A large part of attending conferences are the networking opportunities. While we aren’t physically together, virtual conferences still offer opportunities to network.

If you attend a seminar where a speaker captures your attention, follow up with a message on LinkedIn. Utilize the Zoom or Google Meet chat functions to ask questions and connect with other attendees during the presentation. Post about your attendance on social media and engage with others using the conference hashtag. Since you aren’t physically seen, you have to be proactive to be heard.

4. Participate in Roundtables

Virtual roundtables are a great way to learn, share and network within the industry. When opportunities arise to voice your thoughts, make sure you’re not muted and are ready to share something educational, but not promotional. This isn’t time to be a company salesperson but a time to act as an industry leader.

5. Recharge In-between Sessions

Let’s face it—staring at a screen for extended periods of time is tough. Make time in between sessions to recharge by going for a walk, grab a snack or follow up with someone you just met. Taking 5 minutes to refuel can set the rest of the day up for success.

We’ll be physically back at conferences soon enough, but for now, we can appreciate the convenience of a lower cost and time spent traveling.

Jamie Izaks is the president of All Points Public Relations, a franchise-focused PR agency based in the Chicagoland area, www.allpointspr.com.

3 Learnings from PR in an Election Year

3 Learnings from PR in an Election Year

An election year always serves as a great opportunity for the public relations industry to learn and grow. Considering that 2020 was an election year unlike any other, it’s especially important for PR professionals to take some time to reflect on the timeframe and refine approaches. Here are three big takeaways to consider during an election year. 

Be Prepared

Prepare, prepare, prepare. You must be well prepared in the months before an election to ensure your brand or your client is still heard as the election approaches. Election coverage hits its peak in September and October, and as we know, it will dominate headlines at least until the results are finalized. You should be thinking about six months ahead on what angles you can pitch earlier in the year so that coverage is secured and running in the third and fourth quarters. Do your research, hold frequent brainstorming sessions and prepare strong angles and news hooks that will break through the clutter of dedicated election news coverage. The earlier you prepare, the better you will understand the editorial calendars and how to best execute your pitch. In addition, it will also give you more time to reinforce your relationships with key media contacts.

Remember – just because the election is dominating headlines doesn’t mean there isn’t a chance for your story to be heard. It all comes down to media relations preparedness.

Give Context

It’s important to continue your due diligence as the election is happening. Is there a tasteful way of inserting your brand or client in the current news cycle? Maybe there are opportunities for you to be a part of the election coverage in a way that deals with the issues but is also appropriate. Read up on the daily political stories and understand what specific news outlets are covering. Scan headlines from unbiased sources to ensure you’re receiving ample information while considering the viewpoints from each side on the biggest issues. This kind of research can help you discover an angle that can be an “in” for your brand or client. Think about a side of the story that hasn’t been told yet, or ways that you can provide more context to your brand’s involvement. Then, work with the appropriate executives or spokespeople to fine-tune these angles to insert yourselves into the conversation in a tasteful way.

Pivot

Always pivot. In normal years, you would likely pursue national coverage opportunities at any point in the year. During an election year, however, you’ll either want to begin your pitching months in advance as discussed, or focus on local and trade publications as election coverage hits its peak. It can be difficult to insert your brand into breaking national news coverage when the election is upon us, so pivot your strategy to focus your energy on trade and local outlets that would be more interested in community news such as upcoming openings, charity events, etc. This is your best bet when it comes to optimizing your outreach and results as the election news cycle peaks.

From a PR perspective, there are no shortage of opportunities to learn from an election year. As election years come and go, keeping these three tips in mind will help your team or your agency continue to spread the word and be a part of the conversation.

Jamie Izaks is the president of All Points Public Relations, a franchise-focused PR agency based in the Chicagoland area, www.allpointspr.com.

President’s Point: Beware of Blunders

President’s Point: Beware of Blunders

PR doesn’t always go according to plan. This is especially true if your team doesn’t put enough time into weighing all of the potential outcomes.

With careful preparation and consideration to the execution of a campaign, it becomes much easier to anticipate the outcome. Even if you couldn’t possibly imagine a poor response, you must be prepared for any situation – otherwise, you just might end up with a PR nightmare on your hands.

Fortunately for us, unfortunately for those who suffered through them, there are plenty of well-meaning campaigns that we can learn from. Here are a few with important learnings for us all.

Blunder #1: Build-A-Bear Workshop’s “Pay Your Age” Day

In July 2018, Build-A-Bear Workshop held a special Pay Your Age event to kick off its new celebration of birthdays. The concept is as simple as it sounds – the sale for a plush toy equals the age of your child. The event created a frenzy at American malls when more people showed up than expected, leading to massively long lines and tons of media attention. Eventually, the retailer had to start distributing vouchers, closing stores and turning disappointed customers away. 

The Lesson

Don’t underestimate the traction of an event, especially one with a heavily discounted offer. While the idea of the event was good, it lacked the proper forethought and operational execution, which resulted in unhappy customers. Always have a backup plan, consider as many contingencies as possible and create a way to make it up to stakeholders in the event things go south.

Blunder #2: Neymar and Messi Mastercard Campaign to Feed Starving Children

In 2018, Mastercard announced on Twitter that it would donate 10,000 meals to the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) for children in Latin America and the Caribbean each time professional soccer players Lionel Messi or Neymar scored a goal. While the company likely expected a universally positive reaction, the pledge quickly backfired on social media. Some branded the event as a “horrible” and “morally wrong” PR stunt that meant the fate of starving children rested in the performance of two soccer stars.

The Lesson

As one Twitter user put it, “Don’t let the fate of starving children rest on multimillionaire footballers.” If your company has the means to donate money or contribute to a good cause, don’t create any fancy hoops or stipulations for publicity – especially when child hunger is involved.

Blunder #3: McDonald’s #MeetTheFarmers Campaign

In 2012, McDonald’s rolled out a 24-hour Twitter campaign to share positive supplier stories. The campaign used the hashtag #MeetThe Farmers and was intended to focus on the brand’s organic potato farmers so that people would think “healthy” when they thought of McDonald’s. As the campaign failed to gain traction, McDonald’s introduced a second hashtag, #McDStories, which caused the campaign to blow up and turn into a channel for customers to share negative stories about the brand. 

The Lesson

Any social media campaign, especially one that encourages the use of hashtags, opens two-way communication between a brand and its customers. Social media can be very unpredictable, so don’t underestimate its reach and have a crisis plan to anticipate negative feedback, especially in the event that your hashtags get hijacked.

Jamie Izaks is the president of All Points Public Relations, a franchise-focused PR agency based in the Chicagoland area, www.allpointspr.com.

 

President’s Point: Maintaining Trust

President’s Point: Maintaining Trust

Now, more than ever, consumers are scrutinizing the companies, people and brands that they have either have done business with or are considering to engage with for products and services. They’re seeking out and re-connecting with businesses that will help them feel safe and supported during this time of uncertainty and unrest. Consumers want to align with companies committed to doing their part in rebuilding society.

In fact, Edelman’s latest Trust Barometer Report has found that brand trust is the second most important factor in purchasing decisions, topped only by price. For 53% of 22,000 respondents across 11 markets (South Africa, Brazil, US, Canada, UK, India, Germany, China, France, Japan and South Korea), brand trust was ranked before company reputation, performance, how they treat customers and how easy it is to find and buy. 70% said that trusting a brand is more important today than it was in the past.

Of course, when considering how trustworthy a brand is and how companies establish trust, most of these other factors – especially company reputation and treatment of customers – are naturally determining factors.

So, how can businesses maintain and strengthen trust with customers? I’d say that it mainly boils down to authenticity. To be authentic is to ensure that our actions and words are congruent with our beliefs and values – not an imitation. What good is a strong mission statement or a post on social media proclaiming your societal commitment if they’re not acted upon when action is needed most? This is the time where authenticity can shine and your company’s beliefs and values should be at the forefront of business operations.

If community is a core value for your brand, for example, consider how you can best recognize your employees, support your corporate team and give back to your local communities to show your appreciation. Associate your brand with content that alleviates anxiety and relates to your audience on a human level. Now is not the time to pursue marketing initiatives solely for commercial benefit – consumers will be quick to recognize your authenticity and true purpose.

Finally, it’s important to be as empathetic and transparent as possible. The world is in a vulnerable state, and being open and honest about how you’re keeping your employees and customers safe and following through on your pledges, even in these uncertain times, is essential in solidifying trust. No matter what your strategies may be moving forward, there’s no avoiding the importance of the trust you build and the authenticity of your actions and long-term commitments.

Jamie Izaks is the president of All Points Public Relations, a franchise-focused PR agency based in the Chicagoland area, www.allpointspr.com.

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President’s Point: Public Relations for a New Decade

President’s Point: Public Relations for a New Decade

Public relations is often considered an art and a science. It requires an understanding of human behavior, and the ways in which PR evolves over time in order to effectively insert and represent yourself, your brand or your client in today’s world.

The way we communicate and rely on technology has especially changed, affecting how PR professionals pitch the media, as well as how the public consumes news. In order to prepare for PR in the new decade, it’s important to understand PR’s history, how it has reached where it is today and where it’s headed in 2020 and beyond.

1990s through the early 2000s

The late 1990s and early 2000s marked a revolution in communications with the tech boom. At the time, newspapers, magazines, radio and television were primary news sources, with journalists as the main gatekeepers to news. Press releases took a lot longer to go live, considering many faxed or snail mailed physical copies to editors.

Public attention was captivated by tech innovation, the excess of dot-coms and the first websites, including news sites and blogs, which all began to emerge. Individual use of the internet became widespread by the year 2000, and companies rushed to create their own online presence. The tech boom also ushered in new and quicker forms of communication, with electronic mail becoming a popular method of correspondence.

Cable news and 24/7 access wasn’t an entirely new concept in the 1990s – CNN, the first 24-hour cable news operation, was launched in 1980. The success of CNN inspired many other 24-hour cable news stations, with FOX News and MSNBC launching in 1996 to compete.

Cable news grew even more in the new millennium, with an increasing trend in cable networks becoming more opinion driven. The beginning of the 21st century also called for vast improvements in crisis communication following 9/11. Previously, PR professionals and agencies took longer periods of time to respond to a PR crisis due to limited and less timely communication channels. The 9/11 attacks heavily impacted the way crises were handled, with an increasing demand for speed and accuracy in news reporting.

The first recognizable social media site, Six Degrees, was created in 1997. 2003 marked the launch of LinkedIn, and 2004 onward led to the creation of additional social sites that are still heavily used today, including Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. By 2008, social media would be used extensively and effectively within politics. The public relations profession took a leadership role in social media’s use and development as a two-way communication tool between brands and consumers, as well as between professionals, such as PR pros and the media.

Just as social media was starting to gain traction, 2008 marked a complete crisis for newsrooms and journalists. In the wake of the economic crisis, there were nearly 8,000 job cuts in the media industry during the first five months of 2009. These layoffs would set the stage for continued employment decline in the news industry over the next ten years.

2010s to now

The start of the new decade created a major shift in the media landscape, with blogs, social media, podcasts, digital outlets and online review sites building up major influence in the 24/7 instant news cycle. As a result of the increasing number of bloggers and social media influencers, journalists were no longer the only gatekeepers of the media.

Today, PR professionals outnumber journalists 6 to 1, creating heavy implications for agencies trying to break through the clutter. In order to effectively reach journalists, it’s essential for PR professionals to hyper-customize pitches, spending more time than ever doing prep work.

Unsurprisingly, crisis management is also more important than ever. With the lightening speed of information online and through social media, word travels fast, so a quick response is vital. Organizations must have meaningful responses and thorough crisis plans that are regularly updated, enabling the appropriate individuals to address the public as quickly as possible and collect accurate details. Trust is essential, so don’t underestimate the power of a sincere apology. Recognize your wrongdoings, outline a clear plan of action and ensure you can – and will – follow through on those promises.

 PR for the future

 Everything connects. In the new decade, PR professionals should prepare for a world where androids and virtual assistants act as the new gateways or barriers in attempts to connect with people.

Primary survey data from Business Insider Intelligence indicates that as many as half of U.S. respondents reported living in a home with a voice-enabled AI device. In fact, 63 million American homes will qualify as “smart” by 2022! Smart homes can have the ability to learn about their owners, knowing and anticipating their needs. This allows them to provide recommendations on where to go, what to buy, who to vote for – the list goes on. It will be necessary to learn how data will be collected through new technologies and how this can be tapped to inform PR strategies.

 User-generated content (blogs, videos, social media posts, podcasts, etc.) will continue to grow into a source for news and information. Everyone has access to their own broadcast outlet online, and the number of online users is only going up. Statista reports that there were 0.97 billion social network users worldwide in 2010. In 2018, an estimated 2.65 billion people were using social media worldwide – that number is projected to increase to nearly 3.1 billion in 2021.

Influencers and other online content creators are affecting more traditional news outlets and journalists. In 2019, nearly 8,000 people lost their jobs in the media industry, the highest rate since the 2008 recession. As the number of professional journalists shrinks, the number of online influencers – and the demand for their service – becomes larger. Google searches for “influencer marketing” grew 1500% in the last three years. 

As we’ve come to discover in recent years, it will be more difficult to pitch stories to media outlets with massive audiences. While bloggers and social media influencers create more outlets, they will likely seek paid opportunities and sponsorships in return. It will continue to be necessary for PR professionals to build solid relationships with credible, respected journalists in the new decade, as well as influencers who attract wider or more appropriate followings.

As far as crisis management goes, it will need to evolve with technology. In the past, crisis management came down to experience and judgment of professionals – little data was available in fast-moving and uncertain situations. Today, predictive search analysis and other tools are allowing for anticipatory crisis prep, informed message development and real-time response measurement. Technology and AI-based solutions can help those responsible by assessing risk, developing training programs, monitoring the development of crises online and continuously improving upon strategies.

It’s no question that PR is always evolving. The new decade will bring an abundance of opportunities to inform strategies by leveraging the changing media landscape and advancements in technology. It will be more important than ever to keep up with these trends and ensure you’re using the right messaging and platforms to connect with your audiences.

The Top PR and Social Media Trends that will Power Up 2020

The Top PR and Social Media Trends that will Power Up 2020

2020 is here, and as we embark upon the new year, our team at All Points has been laser focused on new and fresh ideas that maximize trending PR and social media strategies for our clients. The All Points team looks forward to sharing more about these strategies with our current and prospective clients in the franchising industry at the upcoming IFA Annual Convention. We will be there with our 2020 marketing campaign, Power Up!, in its fully glory. Our team is ready to discuss how we plan to Power Up franchise brands by amplifying sales, revenues and awareness.

Taking place in early February, we will already be in “go mode” by the time we gather in Orlando for the IFA 2020 Annual Convention.  So, it’s important to have a high-level understanding of the trends impacting the PR scene in the new year as you prepare to get the most out of this element of the marketing mix for your brand before we speak at the Convention.

From the presidential election to the ever-growing impact of new social and digital media introductions, there are no shortage of opportunities in 2020 to make your voice heard – what’s important is that you take the right approach for your brand. Here’s a closer look at the trends we have top of mind in the new year, and what to keep in mind to energize today’s cutting-edge lead generation and revenue-building strategies.

Election Year

In this election year, the media’s attention will be heavily focused on the political debates and issues. So, how can your brand messaging break through the clutter? It’s all about timing and angles. Once you nail down the right angle that’s significant to both the issue at hand and your brand, it’s important to choose the most relevant time to insert yourself into the conversation and ensure that you’re really heard.

 User-generated content

The voice of your fans can make a huge impact. Strong testimonials reflect well on your brand, and help establish credibility in a time where trust is everything. So, what platform can you provide to help them share more often about your brand? In what ways can you inspire them to talk about their positive experiences? Ultimately, what’s most important is that the content authentic so that newcomers can get a genuine feel for your brand, and that established fans can build upon that trust.

 Functional content

People want to research on their own, and with access to a wide variety of devices and technology platforms, it’s never been easier to do so. What content should you share to create loyalty or interest? Think infographics and short videos – ensure that the content is digestible and, more importantly, adds value for the viewer.

 Community Engagement

Consumers and investors value authenticity and social responsibility, so it’s important for your brand to get involved with organizations that represent your values. When consumers use a product or service of a socially responsible company, they feel like they’re doing their part. The same holds true for investors who want to align with a brand that reflects their values. Everything you do will reflect on your brand in some way, so take control of the narrative and truly show your audience what you stand for.

 Social Media

You only have a few seconds to grab your audience’s attention, so make them count. Do you have a live streaming strategy? Eye-catching imagery on file? Video content with good production value? Create an arsenal of content spanning multiple mediums that can be shared across various platforms – remember that content can and should be repurposed in multiple ways to help you gain the most mileage. It’s important to mix your media and not just rely on text-heavy posts to tell your brand’s story.