SHIFT Agency PR Blog and PR News

18 Apr 2014

Selfies Are Here to Stay, So How Can Brands Leverage Them?

As much as some of us would hate to admit it, selfies are here to stay. Tens of millions of selfies were snapped in 2013 and use of the word itself has increased by 17,000% since 2012. While many of us Millennials are indeed selfie-obsessed – 55% have posted one on social media as of last month – more than a quarter of the American population itself has shared a selfie to date. In case you’re wondering, that’s nearly 80 million people.

The trend became all but official this past November when Oxford Dictionary named “selfie” as its 2013 Word of the Year. If you needed any further convincing, we have now seen the likes of Pope Francis and Colin Powell join the ranks of selfie mavens Miley and Rihanna.

Vatican Pope Youths

With selfies so engrained in popular culture, brands must now ask themselves how they can capitalize on a trend that transcends any one demographic. Many have entered the fray and achieved a great deal of success along the way. Here we explore various strategies that brands have implemented to leverage selfies on their social media platforms.

Celebrity Spokespersons

One of the more recent and widely known instances of a celebrity spokesperson snapping a selfie was when Boston Red Sox standout David Ortiz posted one with President Obama on his Twitter account during the team’s visit to the White House earlier this month. What many saw as an organic moment was quickly debunked when it was revealed that Samsung had hired “Big Papi” to be its official “MLB social media insider.” While the selfie incited a national debate about presidential appearances in selfies, it did garner thousands of likes and shares across social media.

Another effective (and far less controversial) use of celebrity spokesmen was Turkish Airlines hiring NBA All-Star Kobe Bryant and soccer superstar Lionel Messi to serve as the faces of a #SelfieShootout contest in which fans could upload selfies for a shot to win a free flight.


Campaigns

Turkish Airlines is also a prime example of a brand that leveraged selfies as part of an integrated social media campaign. While we are more accustomed to seeing selfies on platforms like Facebook and Instagram, the airline showed how the images could be effectively utilized through vehicles YouTube as well.

Axe Deodorant has demonstrated success when it comes to campaigns, too, teaming up with non-profit Peace One Day for an engaging Valentine’s Day contest in which its audience submitted #KissforPeace selfies in honor of the organization’s global mission of nonviolence. Axe shared its top picks on its social media platforms in addition to cross-promoting the campaign with traditional advertising forms like digital billboards. In its approach, Axe was able to effectively publicize its brand while also promoting an altruistic cause.


Product Presentation

With its cup prominently featured in each Fan of the Week submission, brands like Dunkin’ are smart to incorporate their actual products in selfie campaigns. The company’s “Fan of the Week” contest allows diehard drinkers to showcase their passion for the brand by snapping a selfie and submitting it on social media.

In true cross-platform fashion, not only does Dunkin’ leverage the usual social suspects like Facebook in its campaign – further promoting the contest with its  #mydunkin hashtag – but like Axe it also features its Fan of the Week on its digital billboard in Times Square.

dunkin cover photo

Another company leveraging its brand through selfies is GoPro, which does not even need to feature the product itself in the picture to achieve success in this regard. As can be seen in the photo below, Go Pro utilizes selfies to portray the types and quality of images that can be taken with the camera.


Self-Promotion

Selfies can also be a great source of self-promotion. Celebrities like Miley Cyrus can snap an impromptu selfie on stage to convey the atmosphere and entertainment value of attending one of their shows, while the Lauren Conrads of the world can take a quick pic of themselves that offers a glimpse into their lives while simultaneously plugging a product.

The average person can also benefit from the selfie, as has been the case with Dan Pearce, who has built his “Single Dad Laughing” blog into a self-sustaining empire. As part of the blog, his fans can upload selfies on his Facebook wall that he’ll then feature in his “This is Beautiful You” series every Sunday. Pearce exemplifies the notion that you need not be a celebrity or major company to profit from one of today’s biggest digital and cultural trends.

It is clear that selfies are no longer only for high schoolers and that brands big and small can capitalize on their use. There are a variety of strategies to try across a range of social media platforms and further leverage with various types of traditional and nontraditional tactics (e.g., blogs, billboards, etc.). With selfies being such a social norm nowadays, companies and individuals alike can seize this opportunity to enhance their brands in a way that is both engaging and relevant to the public at large.

As someone who’s taken one selfie in his life (seriously!), even I admit they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. So be thinking about how you can leverage them to benefit your brand.

Zach Burrus
Marketing Analyst

Download our new eBook, How Social Broke PR

17 Apr 2014

Public Relations and Media Relations: What’s the difference?

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If you work in public relations, you’ve definitely been asked, as have we, “What exactly is PR?” (If you still don’t have an answer, check out our take on the question here) The next question is usually, “So is it the same as media relations?” Our answer? No, and here’s why.

The Public Relations Society of America defines public relations as “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” In this sense, “publics” could be defined as stakeholders of any kind – customers, prospects, competitors, community members, employees, etc. It encompasses anyone who interacts with or is impacted by the organization on any level.

PR pros are the “middle men/women” between companies and the media #MediaRelations@jenarossi
[Tweet This]

PR teams use creative storytelling to portray a company’s point of view to gain public exposure. This can be achieved through a number of tactics, including social media, special events, or tailoring messaging on the company’s website. Another way to accomplish PR goals? Media Relations.

Media relations is one of the key phalanges to the hand of #PR.@jordanhayley
[Tweet This] 

Media Relations is an aspect of public relations. The terms are not interchangeable as media relations focuses solely on the relationship between the company and the media. They use different media outlets and coverage to tell the company’s story, rather than directly engaging with the publics and key stakeholders.

In less than 140 characters, you can credibly catch the attention of reporters. #MediaRelations@sarahsalbu
[Tweet This]

The lines between media relations and public relations, however, have blurred with the evolution of the Internet and our ever-connected society. There were almost 7 million people blogging in the United States alone last year, and that’s not including those blogging on social networking sites, which makes that number jump to 12 million! Blogs have become competitors with mainstream media.

The key to success in a top-notch communications strategy is the combination of strong public relations with strong media relations. Earned media is just a piece of the puzzle that makes up a successful PR strategy. Find where your customers are watching, find what they’re reading, and engage with that reporter or blogger. You may be surprised when you find out exactly what (or who) is influencing them.

Tori Sabourin
Marketing Coordinator

Download our new eBook, How Social Broke PR

16 Apr 2014

PR 101: What is a media impression?

One of the most common metrics talked about in traditional public relations as well as advertising is the media impression. However, it’s not always clear what an impression is or why it matters, not to mention, some folks believe impressions don’t matter at all. Let’s dig into this metric and understand what it truly measures.

Impressions, broadly defined, are any interaction with a piece of content and an audience member. For example, when you read the front page of the New York Times, every article on that page counts your viewing as one impression. When you drive past a billboard on a highway, that counts as an impression. When you read Facebook, every ad that scrolls by in your News Feed is an impression. An impression is the broadest possible metric for any piece of earned, owned, or paid media’s performance.

With such a broad definition, do impressions count for anything? In the biggest possible picture, they do matter a little – after all, if you have a choice between having your media be seen by one person or one million people, the logical choice (all other factors being equal) is to choose the larger audience.

Think of impressions as a directional metric. If you’re out there working to get publicity about a story, product, idea, or service, and your impressions count is zero, then the rest of your PR and marketing metrics aren’t going to look great either. Impressions bridge the gap between the world and the total addressable audience that you have and the rest of your PR and marketing funnel.

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The reason why impressions are given a bad rap is that many advertising and PR measurement efforts stop at impressions. Impressions are only the very top of the funnel – much more has to happen after an impression of an ad is served or a story is displayed. Just because someone has driven by a billboard doesn’t mean they will remember it. If you’re not hungry, chances are you aren’t going to pay attention to a fast food restaurant sign.

So what should you logically measure after the impression? Engagement. Did someone pay attention? In digital PR and advertising, this is more easily measured than offline. Metrics can range from simple behaviors like bounce rate and time on page to more complex metrics like branded organic search over time and social media engagement.

After engagement, we must measure conversion. Who did what we wanted them to do? From walking into a store and picking up an item to clicking through to the story or filling out a form. What tangible, measurable, impactful thing did the audience do next that advances the business?

It’s important to emphasize that impressions do matter; they’re the “once upon a time” of your earned media story. Impressions help us set the context for everything that comes after. Just as a child wouldn’t be satisfied with a bedtime story that ended after “once upon a time”, nor should we be satisfied with impressions being the only metric reported. However, a bedtime story that didn’t start with “once upon a time” would equally feel incomplete. Our measurement of earned, owned, and paid media feels just as incomplete without that big picture audience understanding.

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology

Download our new eBook, How Social Broke PR

15 Apr 2014

Boston Stronger

We remember.

Here are the charities helping those affected and helping to make Boston stronger every day. If you have the ability to contribute and help, please do.

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Photo credit: The Boston Museum of Fine Arts, To Boston With Love exhibit

14 Apr 2014

The next big social network does not exist

One of the questions we are asked the most about social media is “what’s the next big thing”? What’s the next big network? Where should companies be looking next? How can we get ahead of the curve and find the next Facebook, the next Instagram, etc.?

The answer may be a bit disappointing. Facebook seems likely to be the last of the mega-networks. It’s a rare and unique accomplishment to build a brand that talks to over a billion people on a regular basis, a rare and unique accomplishment to connect 44% of the Internet-enabled human race. What’s next isn’t likely to be another single major player at all. What’s next is more likely to be fragmentation. More and more companies see an opportunity to specialize in an aspect of social networking and excel at it, something that sets them apart from the monolithic Facebook/Twitter/Google+/LinkedIn oligarchy. After all, if a new market entrant offers no feature better than Facebook, chances are people will just stay with Facebook, since that’s where all your friends are already.

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What kinds of features might compel someone to spend less time on Facebook? Here are three classes of social networks you should probably pay attention to. First are the chat apps. These apps are incredibly popular, especially in parts of the world where SMS text messaging is expensive and Internet access is cheap. Apps such as Tango (SHIFT client), WhatsApp (now a part of Facebook), Line, Kik, WeChat, Path, and others provide a friends circle without the “pollution” of commercial advertising that fills up Facebook news feeds. Serendipity and meeting new people is more difficult with these apps, but users make that tradeoff in exchange for being able to privately talk with their friends.

The second class of social networks are the rise of anonymous apps such as Whisper, Rumr, Secret, Confide, YikYak, etc. These apps are growing in popularity by leaps and bounds because they offer a promise of anonymity (though how anonymous they truly are remains to be seen), which in turn stimulates discussions that aren’t found in identified public social networks. It’s much easier to state something controversial when you believe that your identity is not at stake. In an era when your entire career can be ended by one tasteless tweet, anonymous apps have a great appeal.

The third class of social networks are the increasing dominance of media-first apps such as Instagram, Snapchat, Flickr, Minecraft, DeviantArt, etc. that have social aspects but are fundamentally about the creation of media. YouTube isn’t just a search engine, it’s also a social network (though technically part of Google+). Content creation online is nothing new, but in an era when everyone is struggling to find their voice, versatile content creation abilities is a defining factor.

These three classes of applications and social networks pose three very difficult problems for PR and marketing professionals. First, they’re incredibly difficult to monitor. The era of “full firehose” social media monitoring has numbered days as more and more conversations occur behind closed doors in private chat groups, or on platforms where identity is completely obscured. There will always be a place for public discussions and communities, but the trusted referrals and conversations will increasingly happen out of sight and out of monitoring tools’ reach. How much more powerful is a positive brand mention if no identity (and thus no social status) is tied to it?

Second, they’re incredibly difficult to participate in at scale. When consumers have conversations in invitation-only private spaces without brands, there’s no way to fight new fires or perform advance crisis communications. The first signs of a problem will be when larger groups of people begin taking public action together – long after a decision has been made behind closed doors. Brands will largely be excluded from participation at the lowest grassroots levels or intercepting problems before they brome crises.

Third and finally, these changes will demand much more of brands. Brands will need to become much more versatile at content creation just as a differentiator – the days of posting text status updates are growing shorter. Most importantly, with many of the trend-setting conversations happening behind closed doors, brands will need to focus much more on what their brand actually means and stands for, since the only people who will be able to defend the brand in a million private conversations will be its advocates and evangelists. Closed-door communities are largely immune to astroturfing and other popular (but dishonest) tricks.

None of these changes will happen overnight, or even in a couple of years. Facebook’s dominance isn’t likely to fade immediately, no matter how many times they change the newsfeed. These are large macro trends, not imminent changes, and brands will have a few years to make changes. That said, the top ways to future-proof your brand against these trends are to strengthen the brand with quality products, incredible service, and unique experiences that only your brand can deliver. Your brand’s future success hinges on your ability to get people talking about your brand without your participation. Build now for the day when your best fans and worst enemies will be largely invisible to you.

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology

Download our new eBook, How Social Broke PR

11 Apr 2014

How the Red Sox Social Strategy Won Washington

It may have been April 1, but the Red Sox were no fools. With the reigning World Series champs in Washington, D.C. for a White House ceremony honoring their 2013 title, the club ultimately won international headlines across sports and news outlets alike on a day when the Affordable Care Act numbers were to be announced just hours after the ceremony.

Thanks to a consistent and integrated approach to their digital efforts over the course of the day – along with a little help from Big Papi’s now-notorious selfie – the Sox exemplified how sports teams and other organizations can make the most of positive PR opportunities. Given that a world championship and subsequent personal invitation to the White House are so rare (as a Cubs fan, I know this all too well), it is imperative that teams take advantage of such opportunities, especially when they transcend sports and can result in coverage across a wider range of news media.

As a political and sports junkie, events like the team’s trip to the White House are a perfect intersection of my two passions. After following the Sox’s efforts closely on April 1 and now reflecting back on them a week later, it is clear that the club had a great deal of success in utilizing its owned media to engage fans. Its internal efforts helped one of sports’ most popular franchises leverage the elevated stage on which the event took place and gain extensive coverage from international outlets ranging from ESPN to The Guardian.

The Sox used several key platforms to showcase the events of the day:

Twitter

The Sox leveraged Twitter to offer their 754,000 followers an inside look at the team’s time in the nation’s capital. After teasing the trip with a tweet the night before, the Sox started tweeting early and often the following morning. To help preview the ceremony, the club tweeted plenty of pictures of the team en route to the White House (e.g., landmarks), posing beneath grandiose portraits upon arriving, the setup on the South Lawn and even a few photos of the players’ “unique” getups.

Calls to action were regularly interspersed throughout the morning to inform followers of the various ways they could tune into live coverage of the ceremony. Players’ Twitter handles were mentioned whenever possible, which led to retweets from them and further sharing by their followers.

During the ceremony itself, the Sox tweeted photos of the proceedings along with quotes from President Obama. The former was highlighted by a tweet capturing David Ortiz’s unprecedented selfie with the President, which has since become a source of national debate on social media.

Following the events on the South Lawn, the Sox tweeted coverage of the team’s visit to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center before closing the day with an In Case You Missed It (ICYMI) tweet linking to the most widely discussed moment of the day – Big Papi’s presidential selfie.

In more closely examining the Sox’s Twitter activity, the club engaged its followers throughout thanks to copious visuals and an informal, often humorous voice. It also consistently utilized two designated and relevant hashtags – #WorldChamps and #SoxAndStripes – in addition to capitalizing on the use of #selfie. Equally as important was the team’s consistency in providing updates leading up to and during the ceremony.

Facebook

In comparison to Twitter, the Sox exercised a more limited approach to engaging their 4.4 million Facebook Fans. The team opened the morning by posting details about where its Fans could find coverage of the day’s events that included the widely recognized photo of catcher David Ross hoisting an exuberant Koji Uehara after clinching the 2013 title.

Given the extended reach often granted to users who post photos versus text-only Facebook statuses, the Sox continued leveraging visuals in posting Ortiz’s selfie and another final photo of Ortiz and the President with a link to a video showcasing how Big Papi won the Internet that day.

Taken as a whole, the Sox successfully used Facebook by including noteworthy photos with their posts and only several high-impact updates so as not to clutter its Timeline and users’ News Feeds.

Instagram

The Sox used Instagram in much the same way as Facebook, selecting three photos to visually convey the team’s experiences to its nearly 300,000 followers over the course of the day. Similar to its Facebook strategy, this helped paint a picture of the day’s events while not cluttering followers’ feeds.

Website

After previewing the ceremony with content about where to catch live coverage, the Sox posted an article on their official website recapping the various events of the day. The recap focused on highlights like Ortiz’s selfie, and included quotes from the President, Manager John Farrell, and several players. Also featured on the site were the text of President Obama’s full address and an article detailing the team’s afternoon visit with injured veterans at Walter Reed.

The club would post three video recaps on its Red Sox Video platform as well. Given sports fans’ ever-increasing demand for online video content, supplementing their written content with such was a must. Furthermore, with ardent fans like myself often visiting their teams’ official websites on a daily basis, the Sox were wise to offer their fans a timely recap that afternoon shortly following the ceremony itself.

Through these tactics, the Red Sox were able to make the most of a very positive and large-scale PR opportunity. Their efforts resulted in tens of thousands of retweets, shares, and likes that then helped bolster the earned media gained by the day’s events.

Teams and other groups can learn a lot from the Sox. In today’s digital-centric world, organizations must strive to take advantage of the many new media tools available to them and how to most effectively use these resources over the course of the days leading up to, during and after an event. It is also important to maintain consistency in your approach across platforms and to concentrate on timing and frequency with each respectively. From my own professional experience in sports communications, I would also recommend that everyone involved with your digital initiatives be on the same page about the strategies surrounding your events.

While most of us will not be visiting the White House anytime soon (my Cubs certainly included), be thinking about how you can help your organization knock an event big or small out of the park to achieve the positive PR you desire and that your group deserves.

Zach Burrus
Marketing Analyst

Download our new eBook, How Social Broke PR

10 Apr 2014

How to handle criticism from a PR perspective

One of the biggest perceived problems in the world of public relations is criticism. Since the advent of the social media era, handling criticism has been one of the top requests made of PR professionals and agencies by brands and companies. Criticism is perceived as a negative in the world of PR, especially by stakeholders who are looking for applause and positive reviews.

For clarity’s sake, let’s specify that we’re talking about legitimate, honest criticism and not “trolling”, or baseless criticism that’s without merit. Legitimate critics will complain about their experience in a way that has a discernible issue, such as long wait times, poor customer service, etc. Baseless criticism tends to just be non-specific sentiment (“XYZ brand sux!”) or criticism about things that are irrelevant to the experience your brand delivers, like a coffee shop customer being unhappy about the size of your logo on the cup.

The perception that criticism is the enemy of good public relations is incredibly incorrect. Let’s look at three reasons why changing our view of criticism is important.

Who cares?

One of the most valuable things that criticism tells you is that you have an audience that cares. The worst outcome in public relations isn’t criticism or anger. It is apathy. When no one cares about you, no one thinks about you, no one has even the slightest inspiration to talk to you. Criticism may be telling you that something’s wrong, but you have enough brand visibility and loyalty to warrant feedback. Some companies would love that.

What your friends won’t say

At this year’s Marketo Summit, one of the keynote speakers had an insightful piece of advice for the audience: “don’t take criticism personally, but do take it seriously. Your critics will often tell you painful truths that your friends, loved ones, colleagues, and allies might not be willing to tell you.

When we’re creating something we have a passion for, we’re often not able to see what’s wrong with it. Our friends and colleagues might not see the flaws, but our critics will. If we’re being honest and open to their feedback, we’ll acknowledge that there could well be something wrong we need to fix. We need criticism to pierce our illusions about our brand, products, and services.

Winning hearts and minds

Who are the most loyal customers, the most powerful brand advocates? They’re the former critics whose legitimate issues you’ve addressed and repaired who now love you for your dedication to them. If there’s a most-criticized product feature or service issue that you can and do fix, you’ll earn the respect and even appreciation of your critics. Do that enough times with the stuff that matters and your critics will become your most powerful fans. No endorsement, no earned media is more powerful or credible than someone saying, “I used to dislike this company but they won me over”.

How to handle criticism

Here’s a bit of linguistic trivia: the word critic and the word crisis (in the sense of crisis communications) both stem from the same Greek word, krinein, which means to judge or to decide:

etymology_of_critic_-_Google_Searchetymology_of_crisis_-_Google_Search

If you handle critics and criticism well, you’ll prevent them from festering into a crisis. That means deploying crisis communications tactics early:

SHIFT Crisis Communications Strategy

The three broad strategies for handling critics and criticism are simple (but not easy). Take ownership of valid criticism by honestly acknowledging a critic’s complaints. If your service is slow, own up to it. If your product has a known defect, admit it.

Do it quickly – speed is the second principle of crisis communications. The sooner you can raise your hand and say, “Yes, that is a problem, and we thank you for pointing it out to us”, the better.

Finally, provide knowledge. Tell your critics what you’re doing to solve the problem if it’s legitimate criticism. Give them a sense of the timeline for a repair and what the outcome of said fix will be.

If you handle criticism as a series of tiny crises, chances are you’ll prevent them from growing into one giant crisis. Take your criticism seriously, handle it well, and you may enjoy more dedicated fans than ever.

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology

Download our new eBook, How Social Broke PR

09 Apr 2014

Twitter Profile Redesign (2014 Edition)

Twitter is changing its profile design again, and they’ll be rolling it out to users over the coming weeks/days. (Look like Facebook to anyone else? We thought so, too.) While not much of extreme importance has changed, you’ll want to be prepared for the new look. Here’s a quick rundown of what you need to know.

Best Tweets

To make the most popular content stand out, Twitter will be enlarging tweets that get the most engagement, such as favorites and retweets (does this mean Ellen’s selfie would have taken up the entire page?). While the exact algorithm for how this works isn’t a known factor, this doesn’t really change much. Your most compelling and important content should be useful and/or helpful in order to drive engagement.

Also, keep in mind that your audience may not actually use Twitter to engage with your profile/read your tweets, which means, anyone who uses Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, etc. aren’t going to see this new feature unless they click through.

best tweet enlarged

There’s one other downside to this feature – your most popular tweet may not necessarily be the best, from a brand and PR perspective. Luckily, Twitter provides a way to fix that…

Pinning Tweets

The most intriguing new feature looks to be the Pinned Tweet. Sharing what you’re all about should be covered in your bio, right? Sometimes though you will want to say a little more to your audience. Pinned Tweets will be pinned to the top of your page so users see what you’re on about. You’ll just choose which tweet you want to have stay at the top of your profile.

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This will be handy for pinning your latest promotion by pinning to the top of your timeline, a la highlighting posts on Facebook. Very useful to show off something positive, especially if you’ve got a “best” tweet that isn’t so best. (See above.)

Cover and Profile Photos

Mama always said looks aren’t everything, but you will want to polish the look of your cover photo so that it’s not all stretchy. Twitter has been playing with their version of the cover photo for a couple of years trying to get it “right”. Time to hone your Photoshop skills again to touch up and enlarge your photo to fit 1500 x 500 pixels. You might want to check your profile photo when the update rolls out to you and ensure that it’s still working fine.

Kerry Washington has some editing to do, for instance, since Scandal is hidden. What kinda public relations pro hides their promotion? ;)

twitter kerry washington

Other Features

There are definitely some other changes to be had in the new Twitter design, but we don’t foresee that they’ll have a huge impact on how to interact with others. If you’re interested in the full rundown of changes, check out Twitter’s blog post on the announcement!

Chel Wolverton
Account Manager, Marketing Technology

Download our new eBook, How Social Broke PR

08 Apr 2014

Public Speaking Tips for PR Pros

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We’ve all been there. Standing in front of a crowded room, palms sweaty, mouth dry, dreading what’s to come with all our being.

Three out of every four people have a fear of public speaking. You could almost say being nervous before a presentation is the “normal” reaction in today’s judgmental world. But it doesn’t have to be.

In PR and marketing, this is what we do. It’s what we are “supposed” to be good at – communicating. Now, that’s not to say we still don’t get those same pre-speech jitters. We’ve put together some of the classic public speaking tips with our own SHIFT spin on them.

 Imagine everyone in the room is in their underwear happy

Is envisioning everyone in his or her underwear supposed to put you at ease? Why would you want to do that? One of the first things anyone learns in a public speaking class is to make eye contact with the audience. So tell me again why you want to imagine those people as half naked?

Instead, just smile. If you smile at someone, they’ll smile back. It will put both you and the audience at ease, giving you the confidence boost to get that speech rolling.

Dress for success the audience

It’s just like going in for a job interview; you want to dress to impress – wear the shiny new suit and they’ll be so blindsided by your impeccable fashion taste that you’ll win them over in a second. Okay, so maybe not that fast. There is something to be said for dressing for your audience. Like in an interview, we can’t condone anyone to show up to speak at an event – no matter how casual – in shorts and flip flops, but being aware of your audience and the setting should absolutely play a role in your appearance.

Rocking a full suit to speak to an audience of college students may not have the same effect as if you were speaking to CEOs. Adjusting your appearance to your audience will make you more relatable and trustworthy, and they will be more likely to pay attention to what you have to share with them.

Know your material like the back of your hand and make sure it doesn’t suck

You definitely need to know your stuff before giving a presentation. But knowing word-for-word what you are going to say and having it memorized is not the way to go. Keep things conversational and talk to your audience in a way that encourages them to ask questions when you’ve finished speaking. Which brings up our next point: have meaningful material that tells a story.

It does suck to be stuck in a presentation where the presenters share about too many things irrelevant to their story. Your presentation should be about the audience – what’s in it for them? What can you do for them?

Last, but certainly not least: Content is key

If you only remember one thing from this post, let it be this: well thought-out content and organizational structure trumps all. If your content keeps the audience engaged, they won’t remember what you wore or that you had your hands in your pockets the entire time. Which is the point, right?

As with any marketing or PR, you’ll want to make sure your message sticks during your pitch or presentation. Once you’re off the stage, it won’t matter how the message was delivered or where they heard it, as long as it made it through noise and clutter to make an impact with the audience, consider it a success.

Tori Sabourin
Marketing Coordinator

Download our new eBook, How Social Broke PR

07 Apr 2014

Who is a thought leader?

MARCOM in Ottawa

Are you a thought leader?

Can you even define what a thought leader is, and what conditions cause someone to consider you to be a thought leader?

For the marketing, communications, and public relations world, understanding what defines a thought leader is an obvious and logical prerequisite to helping one of your company’s subject matter experts or executives become a thought leader. The problem is, no one can agree on what thought leadership actually means, much less how to become one. There are so many definitions which conflict that it’s difficult to ascertain who should be a thought leader.

I’d like to propose a simple definition: the ideal of the thought leader is someone whose thinking guides the decisions you and your company make. They publish a thought-provoking article or talk about a topic in a way that makes you think differently about how you’re doing things. Perhaps their ideas make you change how you do business.

Their thoughts change how you lead.

Thus, someone who is an exceptional executor, an exceptional do-er, may not necessarily be a thought leader. Consider the difference between a chef who can reliably cook exceptional meals from existing recipes and a chef who can create new, never-before made recipes. The former may be a leader, may be a peerless performer, and certainly is someone whose restaurant you’d want to frequent if you wanted a favorite dish cooked just the way you remember it. The latter chef has the restaurant you go to when you’re just not excited about the same-old meals. You want something new, something different, hopefully something better. That’s the difference between a leader and a thought leader. Both are needed. Both are essential.

One of the tasks we’re often assigned in the world of public relations is to create a thought leadership campaign. The best thought leadership campaigns are ones in which you’re not “trying to be a thought leader”. If we accept that thought leaders are people whose thoughts change the way we lead, then the people who are true thought leaders are ones always coming up with new things for us to try, in the same way that the best chefs are always coming up with new dishes for us to try. If you want to be considered a thought leader, then you need to distribute new and different ideas all the time, over a sustained period of time, so that people gradually come to see what else you’ve got to teach them. When we’re working on creating a thought leadership campaign, we need to identify who the creator of ideas is in your company – and it may not be the best executor of those ideas.

Think about where you currently go as a leader for new ideas. Social media. Blogs. Email newsletters. Conferences. Those are the vehicles, the methods by which you’ll prove your thought leadership on a regular basis, by always having something new to share, by always having “new dishes” for other leaders to try in their organizations.

Ultimately, you must create new things, be constantly testing and experimenting, developing and designing, so that your recipe book of leadership secrets continues to grow and you have more to share. Some thought leaders’ reputations wane over time because they have something that’s innovative but then becomes commonplace; they’re no longer considered thought leaders because everyone knows their recipes, even if they are still effective executors of their ideas. To remain a thought leader, you must always have something new to teach.

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology

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