SHIFT Agency PR Blog and PR News

28 Jul 2014

From Journo to PR Pro: Mike Kelly, Senior Account Executive

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It’s not every day that journalists make the move to the PR world, but SHIFT Senior Account Executive Mike Kelly did just that. Formerly a producer and content coordinator at NECN, Mike decided to make the transition to the other side of the fence this past June. We wanted to hear first-hand about what the career shift has been like (pun intended), what he’s learned thus far and advice for PR pros who want to build better relationships with reporters.

What led to you making the change from journalist to PR pro? And on that note, why did you choose SHIFT? 

The ultimate catalyst for the change was lifestyle. After nine years of fluctuating schedules (including my shift being 4:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.), breaking news, working holidays, and now with a baby on the way, I knew I needed some sense of normalcy in my life. When you’re in the media you have a lot of interactions with those in the PR world, so it’s a very natural transition. Let’s face it, as a journalist you’re essentially the gateway for an individual’s or company’s public relations efforts.

I produced a business show for almost two and a half years and made many contacts through various pitches and interview segments, which included fellow SHIFTer Jena Rossi. Looking through SHIFT’s portfolio of clients and body of work, I knew it would be a good fit for me. I made an inquiry about openings, and the rest is history.

What inhibitions did you have about making the move, and how did you overcome them?

The biggest inhibition was familiarity. After getting a masters in broadcast journalism and spending nine years at a TV station, it was a daunting task to think about doing something else. Age-wise, I’m also probably a few years older than other people in a similar role across the industry, but it’s something you adjust to; I haven’t found it to be as awkward as I was expecting.

When it comes to media, I had an obvious familiarity with the big national TV outlets and newspapers. But seeing just how many different trade publications are out there was pretty scary. I also had to overcome some journalists’ perception that the PR world involves constant nagging. I received 50-plus pitches a day, many that obviously were not a fit for me, so sometimes you can have a negative view of the industry.

Getting my mind on the other side was key in the weeks before I started, so I started paying more attention to all the pitches I received and looking at what stood out to me. I also wasn’t a fan of taking phone calls, so I had to get used to the idea of calling people I’ve never talked to before who might want nothing to do with what I have to tell them.

What do you see as the biggest differences between journalism and PR?

The biggest difference is the day-to-day work flow. When I was a producer, I knew exactly what I had to do every day: Research the news, format my show, react to changing news, write my show, execute the show. If there was breaking news, I adjusted and went with it, but for the most part when I left the station at the end of the day, the work was done. Tomorrow was another day to start fresh.

From what I’ve seen in PR so far, it’s all about big picture in terms of balancing multiple clients and figuring out what you need to do as the week progresses. I now write goals on my white board and check them off throughout the week – knowing that I might have to add something else up there and remove something that’s not as important. At the end of the day, you write it up again knowing that when you come in the next day, there’s something else waiting for you that you couldn’t get to.

What skills have been most transferable between the two professions? Are there any new skills you’ve picked up that you weren’t expecting to need? 

The most transferable skill is concise creative writing. I was trained to be able to get across the main point of the story in 25 seconds or less, which means about three or four tight sentences. I always found that long-winded pitches were prime candidates for immediate deletion, so I’ve tried to bring that news writing style here.

The other skill that transferred nicely is an overall awareness of current events. I was constantly on Twitter in the news world, and that hasn’t changed. I think it’s very important to be up to date on current events, whether it’s for rapid response purposes or just being able to talk to a journalist or contact about what’s going on in the world.

I wouldn’t say it’s a new skill, but I’ve definitely had to work on time management and scheduling. Coming from a very structured industry to a more free-flowing and evolving workplace makes you re-evaluate your day-to-day priorities.

Oh — I’ve also had to become much better at Excel. And Gorkana. And Lync/Chatter/Yammer/whatever other communication network is out there.

What have you enjoyed most about the transition?

I’ve definitely enjoyed the culture. In getting feedback about SHIFT, I knew that it was a great place to work and nothing about being here has changed that so far. I think I’ve most enjoyed the communication. Coming from a workplace where you were lucky to have one staff meeting a month to having multiple team, manager and agency-wide meetings in the same week is refreshing.

What aspects of the transition have proved most challenging?

Being in the media gives you a broad view of many topics, so you know a little bit about everything (business, technology, health, science, crime, etc.). Having to become super focused on very specific B2B clients was definitely eye opening. Programmatic ad exchange platforms and data analytics were not exactly prime fodder for good TV, so I’ve really had to try to immerse myself quickly.

Much of journalism centers on storytelling. What role does this play in your current role?

It plays a huge role. Storytelling becomes very important when you’re dealing with clients who may not be the most exciting. You have to figure out how to pitch them in a way that makes them appealing. Being able to pull out the little tidbits and highlight those unique traits comes with being able to tell a good story, whether it’s a 25-second TV script or a two-paragraph pitch with bullet points for a potential story.

In your opinion, why do some say that journalists make the best PR people?

I actually don’t necessarily fully agree with that statement. There are many journalists who make great PR people, but I think that’s only true when it comes to in-house and corporate communications. It’s much easier when you’re the one voice shaping the message for a hospital, corporation or governmental organization. In my short time at SHIFT, I’ve already seen some brilliant creative minds that I don’t think any journalist could outdo. If a journalist can break through the wall of TV/news speak and branch out and expand their writing skills, then they could definitely make a great PR pro. Journalists do know how to spot those interesting nuggets and tell a great story. In the end, good communication and storytelling can trump all.

What advice would you offer a journalist looking to follow your lead to the PR world?

Weigh your priorities. There’s a reason newsrooms are full of young people. So few people make it to the corner offices without getting burnt out. If you do decide to leave, make sure you find somewhere that fits in with your goals both career-wise and culture-wise. Figure out your role and exactly what you’re going to be doing. The first few weeks will be tough simply because you’ll feel like you’re twiddling your thumbs, but that ends soon and it really ramps up from there.

As a former journalist now in the PR field, what advice do you have for PR pros in working with journalists?

Make a connection. I was always more likely to read and respond to a PR pro who I had successfully worked with in the past. I always appreciated it when they knew specifically what I was working on, or saw a trending topic and thought it might be a good fit for my show (even if they weren’t offering a guest). Try your best to determine what they need and when. If you help them one time, they’re definitely more likely to come calling on you when they’re in a pinch.

Zach Burrus
Marketing Analyst

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24 Jul 2014

What’s a UTM Tag and What’s it Doing in my PR?

Ever followed a link to an article or blog post on Twitter, and noticed that it had a string of extra text tacked onto the end with a bunch of underscores and equal signs? It probably looked something like this:

http://www.shiftcomm.com/blog/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=SHIFTblog

That’s a UTM code. Though a familiar friend to the digital marketer, to many PR professionals it reads like gibberish. But that bit of text is an indispensable weapon in the marketer’s arsenal – and it can also be an invaluable tool for PR if you understand how to use it.

UTM = short for “Use This, Marketers!”

Measure THISOK, not really. But it’s so handy to the marketer’s toolkit that it might as well be. A UTM tag is string of text added to a URL that allows you to monitor traffic to your website by source (i.e. where it’s coming from) and medium (i.e. how it got there).

In summary: by understanding which sources drive more (or less) traffic for each specific campaign, marketers can measure the success of a campaign and draw valuable insights about what works, what doesn’t and how to tweak for next time.

But what’s in it for PR?

As a PR professional, being savvy about UTM tags will bring you one step closer to that elusive phantom that escapes many a PR campaign: concrete metrics that matter to the client. While in the past we’ve noted that the job of PR is not to directly drive sales, make no mistake: good PR should be helping. UTM tags can help you demonstrate the value of your work by showing how it drives quantifiable marketing results (i.e. website traffic and, ultimately, sales).

Imagine this scenario.

You’re running social on behalf of a client, and they want to run a Back-to-School giveaway campaign on Twitter and Facebook. They set up a landing page for the campaign, and your goal is clear: use your PR prowess to drive as many people to that landing page as humanly possible. You pitch the news to your media contacts, you draft promotional content to push out on Twitter and Facebook, you utilize all the right hashtags.

Then comes the reporting. You can track metrics such as follower growth and post engagement with access to Facebook Insights and Twitter Analytics. There are tools out there (like Sysomos and TweetReach) that can help you calculate how many people tweeted/shared, and estimate exposure or impressions generated. This is the easy stuff for most PR professionals.

This is where UTM tags can add an extra “oomph” to your metrics. Create and add the appropriate UTM tag to the landing page URL, and via Google Analytics you’ll be able to see not only how many people visited the page, but whether they came from Facebook or Twitter as well. Plus, it differentiates the traffic from your individual posts from all the other traffic that reached the page independently – allowing you to measure the actual impact of this specific campaign, and use it to offer your client more meaningful recommendations for future campaigns.

So show me how to do it!

Firstly, UTM tags will only work if your client has an analytics platform like Google Analytics set up with goals. Encourage your client to give you Analytics access. Without it, you won’t be able to see any of the awesome results of your campaign!

Secondly, understanding when to use UTM tags is a simple matter of asking yourself, “Does the URL link back to the client’s website?” If yes, use a UTM tag. If no, a UTM tag will do you no good.  Examples of times to use UTM tags can be anything from social campaign landing pages to sharing eBooks and webinars.

Next, use Google’s Campaign URL Builder. Start with the URL you want to drive traffic to, such as a homepage or landing page, and fill in a source (e.g. Facebook) and a medium (e.g. social). (Term and content are optional and can give you more customization if you’re tracking paid keywords.)

So to stick with the above example, if I were running a Back-to-School campaign for a client on Facebook and Twitter, I would fill out the form twice as such:

Website URL: www.clientwebsite.com/landingpage (both times)
Campaign Source: facebook (first time); twitter (second time)
Campaign Medium: social (both times)
Campaign Name: back to school (both times)

I would end up with two separate URLs, one to use when sharing the landing page on Facebook, and the other to use when sharing on Twitter.

Acquisitions -> Campaigns
In Google Analytics is where the magic happens. Look under Acquisition -> Campaigns. After you share the UTM’ed URL and it’s received a few clicks, you’ll see your campaign right there. If you click on the campaign, you’ll see traffic broken down by the social media channels you set. At the end of the campaign you’ll be able to deliver your client a robust report beefed up with web traffic metrics, all thanks to a small snippet of text that Google will generate for you (until you learn to create them yourself)!

JJ Samp
Marketing Analyst 

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23 Jul 2014

Sharing Big News

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If you haven’t heard, we shared some pretty big news yesterday. As you might imagine, a lot of planning went into our efforts to get the news in front of clients, potential customers, friends and reporters yesterday. Last week, we covered how to prepare for a big announcement like this — but what are some of the best ways to share that news once the big day comes? Here are a few ways we shared the news.

We created a microsite.

For this announcement, we wanted to do something different while giving readers a one-stop place to read all content drafted by Todd Defren, our CEO, and Scott Monty, our new EVP of Strategy. The result was a microsite filled with content about Scott coming aboard, including the option to easily share the page via several channels, a Q&A video with Scott, blog posts from Todd and Scott, coverage like an article in AdWeek and finally, a Twitter collection of the day’s best tweets pertaining to the news. (Okay, we threw a newsletter subscription form in there, too.)

In my own personal experience, when I read a blog post on a certain news story, I follow the links that the author deemed important enough to direct attention away from his or her content. I want to learn more. And with that in mind, all of the content is here for any audience to filter and read what they want to read. This also gave us an easy place to direct reporters who needed photos and quotes for their stories.

We continuously monitored all channels.

When you have big news, monitoring for comments, articles and reactions from an audience is important. We made sure to have our social channels open and were monitoring them throughout the day, ready to respond as needed. We also kept an eye out for any articles or posts that went up that we didn’t know were in the works. Overall, it was great to see our audience’s excitement about the announcement.

We prepared.

In order to make this all go as smoothly as possible, we put quite a lot of thought into what materials we needed to create, what the deadlines needed to be and who was responsible for what pieces. Announcements at the last minute will rarely go well, so preparation is key. Knowing what content was finished, what needed to be finalized and what each person was responsible for lent an order to things that helped each of us stay productive throughout the planning and creation stages.

On the day of, an exhaustive check list of what needed to be pushed live and when helped us greatly yesterday morning. I knew we wouldn’t forget to add one piece, one link, one image. It was all written down. That made a world of difference.

We made sure all of our properties aligned prior to release.

Another super important thing to do prior to a news release is double check that all content on the website is updated, all images are aligned and showing up, all forms are working and that any user who visits will have a great experience. The odds are you’ll be attracting more new visitors than normal, and you want their experience to be ideal so they keep coming back even after the news dies down.

Conclusion

One thing I wanted to also mention is the importance of finding the right audience that will be interested in your news. In our case, it was our main audience. But that can differ depending on the subject of your announcements. Make sure that you’re reaching the right people with relevant news.

If you’re on the verge of releasing news to the masses, start planning. Discuss creative ideas, and get to work on the pieces needed. A blog post can always be revisited and edited, but writing at the last minute will leave no room. The same is true with all the other materials that you’ll need to create so start early and end with the best results.

Finally, I want to say personally, that I am so very pleased to welcome Scott to SHIFT. It’s going to be an awesome ride.

Chel Wolverton
Account Manager, Marketing Technology

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22 Jul 2014

Big News: Scott Monty Joins SHIFT

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Scott Monty could have gone anywhere after his hugely successful stint at Ford Motor Company. For the past 5+ years, when anyone asked for “great examples of companies doing great work in Social Media,” Ford was one of the few examples universally cited by newbies and the experienced alike. While Scott is the first to remind folks that he was supported by an amazing team, he was for many years both the face and the brain of the operation. You can just imagine the courting calls that made their way to Scott when he announced his departure from Ford.

He could have gone anywhere.

He came here.

Please join me in congratulating Scott Monty on his new gig as Executive Vice President of Strategy at SHIFT Communications!

As you might imagine, we are delighted. As a legitimate industry icon, we are honored to welcome Scott to the family. As a trusted friend for the past 10 years, I am personally delighted to work alongside Scott as we work with the rest of our exec team to forge SHIFT’s path forward in the fast-evolving marketing landscape.

Still, you must be wondering: “Why SHIFT? Of all places? Why not another Big Corporate Job? Why not join one of those Mega Agencies?” Good questions. Scott provides his own answers on his blog, but here’s my take:

SHIFT is an innovator. Hark back to the heady early days of Social Media and you’ll no doubt recall our role in debuting the Social Media Press Release, the Social Media Newsroom, the Blogger Bookmark, etc. Now, we’ve by no means rested on our laurels following any success, instead opting to challenge ourselves in new ways. Scott says as much in his own words. This same challenge excites him as much as it does us. The intersection of analytics, data, PR, marketing tech, and creative is the future and we’re leading the way. In fact, we recently gave Scott a peek under the covers and – remembering that this guy has been working with some of the best agencies in the world for the past 6 years – we were delighted when he came away saying, “This is far and away ahead of anything any other agency is doing, or even thinking about!”

That’s the kind of agency that deserves to attract talent like Scott Monty. Scott has seen the potential at SHIFT and wants to help us maximize it.

Finally, we can’t discount the personal connection. Scott and I grew up in this industry together. We’ve known each other from well before his Ford stint. We disagree on almost everything having to do with politics, but agree on darned near everything related to Social Media Marketing – and in every case, whether we reach an accord or not, we debate like gentlemen and end every interaction on a gracious note. That level of respect and cordiality give us both great hope that we can build something amazing.

As our EVP of Strategy, Scott will work hand-in-glove with Chris Penn, me, my partner Jim Joyal, our president, Amy Lyons, and of course the rest of SHIFT’s exec team to deepen relationships with existing clients and strengthen their campaigns; explore partnership opportunities with outside allies; assist in the development and integration of new service offerings; develop curricula and content for events and our blog; etc., etc., etc. Something tells me there will be no shortage of to-do’s!

We’re proud that Scott has chosen to call SHIFT his home and we’re eager to get started.

Let’s roll.

Todd Defren
CEO

21 Jul 2014

The Writing on the Wall: 4 Tips to Speak to the Healthcare IT Market on Twitter

479221989People are brought together by the act of communicating; it is engrained in our DNA. We have been connecting and forming relationships through conversations since the beginning of time, why would business relationships be any different? We form relationships by connecting through a subject we are passionate about (sports, food or interoperability standards). That conversation then grows into something bigger, which may lead to a new opportunity, RFP or a new client. So what has changed? The art of communicating to connect is still the same; we just have access to more mediums.

Social media exploded as people began to niche themselves into smaller groups. Social media has allowed us to talk to anyone at any time and form small social circles based on our interests. The social savvy healthcare industry is exactly the same. There are social circles that love to talk about workflow, interoperability or even revenue cycle management. If you want to learn about a topic or take a thought leadership stance, this niched mindset provides a unique challenge. How do you find the right group of people to connect with and how do you seamlessly fit into the existing conversation?

It can be very daunting to get your feet wet if you aren’t already active in the network, and you may be struggling to find a way to integrate yourself or your organization into the conversation. Yet many of the same rules apply to Twitter as they would in any social setting. Here are four ways you can break into a niche conversation on Twitter (or any social network):

  1. Find a conversation. Take the same approach as you would at any social gathering. Work the room and listen in to a handful of conversations to see where you can add value. Instead of using your ears, search hashtags of relevant topics that you company can easily talk about. When you find a conversation that interests you, hang around to see where you can fit in. Some hashtags that I check daily are #healthIT, #ICD10 and #populationhealth.
  2. Go to the source. We all know what it was like to be in high school. There were the group leaders, and they guided the actions of their group. Social media behaves in a very similar way. Find the “popular kid” or the thought leaders involved in the conversation and add to it. Adding to existing conversations can help you make connections that will share your brand or at the very least let you show off your skills around an active audience. Use a free service like Topsy to search hashtags and determine the top influencers.
  3. Speak often. Social media conversations happen so fast that your impact is quickly buried in a pile of new tweets. Even if you offer ground breaking advice or facts, you may be overshadowed by a cute cat picture. (Yes, they even occur in niche healthcare conversations!) Keep your message fresh by always offering your view point through your profile. However, you do want to stay away from repeating the same message over and over again. If you are struggling for time, you can use hootsuite to preschedule your posts to have a constant presence and then respond in real time when you can.
  4. Add value. If there is one thing you take away from this post, this is it. Every tweet you put into the world should give your audience value. Provide them with one tidbit of knowledge they didn’t have before or give them a tip on how to make their lives easier. This type of messaging will cut through the digital clutter and bring back the heart of relationship building. Plus, you will quickly stand out from the vendors that are using Twitter to only show self-promotional messaging. So how can you add value? Easy – ask yourself if you would be interested in what you are about to share. If your tweets don’t provide value to you, how will they add value to people who are interested in the same topics.

Go on and get your feet wet. Still not sure where to begin? Check out our post on “How To Get Started On Social Media in 4 Steps” or check out TedMed’s 20 Greatest Health Challenges for monthly Twitter chats. The conversation has already begun but you can join at any time.

Jim Ernst
Account Coordinator

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18 Jul 2014

Interview with PR Practitioner of the Year Matt Trocchio, Part 3 of 4

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At this year’s Publicity Club Bell Ringer Awards, SHIFT Account Director Matt Trocchio was honored by the New England PR community as PR Practitioner of the Year. In this part 3 of 4 in our interview series, we talk about what’s working, mistakes made along the way, and 10 years of change.

What tip or trick in your toolbox consistently delivers great results for your team’s efforts, or what recipe is consistently successful? You’ve previously mentioned talking to the right people.

This is one of those things where if I give away the recipe, then the chef is out of a job, so I won’t give away too much. But from the time I was an AC until now, the most success I’ve had on the editorial front has come by tying my pitch into something with a broader audience, like  big movies or TV shows. Pop culture never goes away no matter what industry you’re in.

In your journey from Account Coordinator to Account Director, what would you say has been your greatest career success?

I was asked this once before, and I remember saying “You know, if I had my greatest career success before thirty, I have a long and boring life ahead of me.” Now I’m 33, and I still feel the same way. But, there are a lot of things that I’m proud of.

From a client standpoint we worked very hard with the Christian Science Monitor for their centennial and with their news about slowing down their print model and focusing everything online. That to me was unique because you were taking a story about journalists and pitching it to other journalists. That was a huge win in terms of the amount of coverage and how happy the client was on a very tactful scale.

Personally, what I’m proud of when I look back on the past 10 years is that I’ve stayed at one place that I’m really happy with, and I’ve worked hard at. I’ve grown a team of 12 people. I remember sitting as an Account Executive on a 1-on-1 with Todd Defren and saying, “In 5-6 years I’d love to be an Account Manager with a team of 2 or 3.” I remember him teasing me about it being an “aggressive goal”. Now at the 10-year mark I’m managing 12 people with full account loads and, that’s the aspect I love; you can actually work with the team and grow it. That’s what I’m proud of: the team I built and the people I work with daily.

You have a new AC on board who looks at your success over 10 years and says, “I want to do that.” What mistakes and mis-steps did you make on your way to the top that you advise them to avoid?

Don’t fall into the habit of thinking all snowflakes are the same. Make sure you look at every person’s situation differently. You can learn from the past, but it’s not always going to be the same every time. In that same vein, caution yourself against saying, “We can’t do X because client Y will just say no.” Our job is to push the client and always remain creative. Avoiding offering an idea to a client because they often say no doesn’t help that client. That doesn’t help you learn to grow either, because you end up growing stale. If you’re doing the same thing every day, you probably hate your life — and your client probably isn’t very impressed with their program.

What do you wish that people outside the PR profession understood most about PR? On the outside looking in they’re like, “Uh… what do you do again?”

That’s the answer. I wish people just really knew what we did. I think it’s very funny how many people still equate it to advertising. I’ve had friends that I’ve known since high school that will see a commercial and say, “Hey, if you ever make a commercial like that I’d smack you,” and I say, “Well, if I made a commercial like that I’d be in a different industry.”

I think it’s difficult for people to grasp what we do. With the adoption of social media, I think the communications field is getting a little easier for people to understand. Overall, maybe we need to do a better job in explaining to people what it is we do.

What do you think PR professionals need to learn the most from the world outside PR?

I think the answer holds true to every industry. I think we probably look at it too much through our own lens and say, “this is wrong” or “that’s wrong” or think about it a different way. “That’s wrong” is the silliest thing you could possibly say, because we all come at it from different angles. We all have different skill sets and priorities. I suppose I would recommend listening to everyone else and finding the middle ground.

What other things besides the aforementioned have contributed to your success in the last 10 years that have earned you this well-deserved award?

There are two things that I’d attribute to success. One is the ability to work hard and play hard. I think you can get very lost in the job and taking it seriously; you should take it seriously – there’s a lot of hard work that goes into it and clients have expectations – but I think what’s helped me the most over time is being able to stop and laugh with peers, pull a prank, or walk into my office and see it’s been covered with Nick Cage photos (A colleague actually did this to me.). It makes a difference and allows you to see the world in a more positive light. It also helps you stay creative with the pitches you’re trying to do.

In addition, use every person you work with as a resource. I don’t mean that in a negative taking-advantage-of-them way, but you have so much brain power around you at an agency that if you don’t pick your head up and learn from your coworkers, it’s the biggest waste. A big part of why I’ve grown and why I’ve succeeded is because of our wealth of talent, not just at the VP level but all the way down to AC and even interns. Just as interns come to us to learn about the industry, you can also learn from what they’re taking out of school. You can learn from everybody just as much as they can learn from you, and I think that’s the biggest take away you can have. Tap into everybody. I know there are three or four VPs that I consider key mentors in different areas for their peer groups that do that across all three offices. Never stop learning.

Where do you see the profession going in the next 5 – 10 years?

I actually had an AC candidate ask me this recently, and I remember thinking that it was a great question because we do change so rapidly. I’m probably the only person who thinks this, but I wonder with all of the technology advancements and everything being in the limelight if there’ll almost be a regression to how much will go back behind the scenes. Does face time versus social become important again? Is it more video, even if it’s just video because it’s the visual connection vs. the anonymity of Twitter or different web pages? How much of the older ways of doing things will sneak back up in a different format? I really don’t know. I wish I did, because then I’d be making a lot of money getting ahead of things.

In next week’s conclusion, Matt will share his perspectives on SHIFT’s 7 core values and why working at SHIFT might be for you.

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology

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17 Jul 2014

How to Prepare for A Big News Announcement

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Every so often we catch the moans and groans of PR pros who come across that one client that just never has any news. We’ve all been there. But what about those glorious times when you do have big news to share? Whether it’s a new product, a big new hire or an IPO, there’s a lot that goes into a successful announcement. It can be downright overwhelming when you take that initial step back and look at the road ahead.

Being fully prepared in advance is not only going to make you breathe easier leading up to the big day, but it will ensure that it all goes as smooth as possible. So where do you start and what should you make sure is included in your strategy? Here’s a quick rundown that will help you cover all your bases.

  • Step One: plan, plan, plan. Before launching into anything, map out the different tactics you’ll use for your announcement in one full plan. This includes big items (like the ones you’ll see in the following points) as well as a timeline for each individual project. Having a full picture what needs to be done and when will keep everyone on task and save your team from any last minute scrambles (barring any of those last minute changes to the announcement itself of course).
  • Create your collateral … all of it. The collateral that will be paired alongside your news can include anything from a press release, to product sheets, landing pages, graphics or video. Think about what will serve as pieces of content that your audience can turn to for more information about the announcement. Once you have a list of the items you want created, get started. Having all of these things ready to go on the day of launch will be ready to flipped on, set up and sent out. As soon as the announcement hits, people can immediately turn to these things.
  • Get your spokespeople in order. With big news comes media interviews. Who will be speaking on behalf of your company? Are they media trained? Are they prepared for any questions that come at them on social media? Help your spokespeople feel comfortable by providing them examples of questions most likely to be asked, including how to respond to some of the stickier ones that could pop up. Encourage them to set aside blocks of time on their calendars the day of the big news if possible so that they aren’t trying to squeeze in interviews between meetings and appointments.
  • Be ready to meet the press. Media outreach will undoubtedly be a part of your announcement strategy. Have a clear picture of what the media relations portion of your plan will look like. Will you be offering an exclusive to a publication? Compile a list of your media targets, how they will be split between your team and whether or not you’ll be pre-pitching or doing most of your outreach on the day of. Personally, I like to have the pitches drafted in advance so that I’m ready to hit send as soon as we get the green light. Building on top of the point mentioned above, make sure you have availability from your spokespeople to easily present to media who are interested in an interview. That eliminates wasted time digging through calendars.
  • Get social. Another piece of the puzzle is the social media component of your announcement. Big news means you’ll undoubtedly receive feedback and questions on your social channels. Not only should you have social posts drafted beforehand, but you should also have one person (or a team, depending on the size of the announcement) on hand to monitor and respond to tweets and comments in real time. This will let your audience know you’re available and listening.
  • Incorporate digital advertising components. In traditional PR plans, digital advertising often falls to the wayside. After all, it often falls into the marketing bucket. However, digital ads can provide a boost to your news – especially if you’re launching a new product. Set a budget for your advertising, and based on where your audience spends the most time, pick the channels to advertise on – whether it’s AdWords, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn – or all four! It’s another tool that will help you reach beyond your audience and grab the eyes of potential new customers. Draft your ad copy for each channel ahead of time so you’re able to launch your ads in tandem with the actual announcement.

This might seem like a long list to take in, but having all of this prepared in advance of your announcement will allow you to breathe a little easier when the big day finally comes. Go for it!

Amanda Grinavich
Senior Marketing Analyst

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16 Jul 2014

Breaking Down Personal Branding

personal branding girl

What’s a personal brand? It’s one of the many buzz words we hear thrown around in the working world nowadays. But if you’re anything like many pros I know, you may not even know what personal branding is.

Oscar Wilde had it right when he famously said, “Be yourself, because everyone else is already taken.” Personal branding is all about what makes you uniquely “you” and sets you apart from the crowd. So in my case, what makes me different from the millions of other talented and highly motivated workers out there?

What personal branding doesn’t involve, however, are many of the myths surrounding it. If I can climb atop my soapbox for a hot second…

  • People ARE indeed brands.
  • Yes, you DO in fact have a personal brand.
  • No, you’re NOT the lone soul who hasn’t established one yet.
  • Personal branding is NOT all about the professional you.
  • Your accomplishments DON’T speak for themselves.
  • Personal branding ISN’T only important to develop before job hunting.
  • And no, it doesn’t take spending all day on social media to develop your brand.

Personal branding is who you are as both a person and a professional. It’s who you are at work and when you let your hair down on nights and weekends. It’s who you seek to portray yourself as when you’re in the office and out networking; interviewing for a job and just living your life in general.

So why’s it matter? Well, frankly, people are a lot like my dog – they don’t have the attention span to assemble all the pieces of what makes you tick both personally and professionally. Never let others define you. Only you know the true you and what makes you both credible and incredible. (I could go on the speaking circuit with that last line, right?)

Since the personal branding process involves knowing yourself, it shouldn’t be a complex and time invasive thing to distill it down to you (it’s a red flag if it becomes one). When developing your brand, first ask yourself, “What are my passions, values and beliefs?” These three things represent the holistic and authentic you: the total and true you.

After considering these three elements, move on to determining the one (yes, one) word that combines all three. That will then drive the one or two sentence personal branding statement that will serve as the core of everything you do and touch (e.g., resume, blog, social media). With your statement set, seek feedback from people you know and trust (e.g., boss, mentor, work BFF, family, close friends, etc.).

Now that you’ve worked so hard to create your brand, own it and make it count. You can do this online and in person. When you’re online, and particularly in regards to social media, remember the 1/3 rule: balance your writing and posts between your life, your thoughts and others’ content. Your life is you the human – who you are and what you do on nights and weekends. Your thoughts are what you’re personally sharing online that’s reflective of yourself. Finally, sharing third-party content that relates to your brand gives balance to the first two. Following the 1/3 rule helps you engage your audience and attract new members by not over-promoting yourself or oversaturating yourself in any one area. Some of the first folks who come to mind here are NBA star Kevin Love, actress Mindy Kaling, CEO Jeff Barrett and, all bias aside, our very own Chris Penn.

When you’re living your life in person out from behind the screen, you need a solid introduction that will spark questions and further conversation. This intro is an extension of your brand statement and your personal social media feeds that show what you’re interested in while opening a dialogue with others that have the same interests. And remember that it’s not all about you – be a thoughtful listener who asks questions and never monopolizes the convo. Of course, be sure to follow up with these new connections over social media so they get an even better feel for your brand.

Finally, be accountable. Set attainable goals, whether it’s mastering your elevator pitch or striking that balance on social (I personally never want to be “that guy” who always posts pics of his puppy). Reflect back on these goals (Are they making an impact?) and on your branding statement (Is it tying back into everything you’re doing?).

Doing so will your push your brand and yourself forward. You never know when that opportunity to venture to the next level will arise, whether it’s landing that dream job or even that dream man or woman. So at the end of the day, always remember to be holistic, authentic and accountable.

Zach Burrus
Marketing Analyst

Photo credit: Inc.

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15 Jul 2014

Google Analytics 101: 5 Updated Metrics for Public Relations

GA madness

One of the greatest challenges of Google Analytics is the frequency at which Google iterates the application, making changes to improve it and add functionality. For people who don’t use it on a daily basis, coming back to the application even a month later can be bewildering. Back in April, Google Analytics made this all the more confusing by changing the names and layout of data you can find inside of the software. Let us help you get caught up on recent 5 big naming changes and what they mean for you.

Visitors become Users

Visitors were the people coming for a visit, but somehow this word often confused the end user of GA. The term ‘users’ now makes it more clear that it refers to single entities who visit a website and are tracked by GA. Remember that ultimately, effective PR and marketing should be increasing the number of users you have all the time.

Visits become Sessions

Page hits (the number of times a page was viewed) and the number of visits per person was also confusing to GA users. Now the term sessions gives context and clarity, referring to what exactly happened during that user’s session instead of what pages they viewed. Another change: the term pageviews is now an indicator of what individual pages are seen by what users. If your PR and marketing are working to generate content that people want, sessions should increase at a faster rate than users, because users keep coming back again and again.

Content becomes Behavior

When users come to a website, visiting pages isn’t the only action they take. They read, click, fill out forms, watch videos, look at photographs and more. Behavior tells us what the user is doing during their session on the website.

The behavior section can also help you with event tracking results, A/B testing and in-page analytics, showing step-by-step what the user did, where they stopped in the process of completing desired behaviors, what makes them stay, what makes them leave, and where they left.

Advanced Segments becomes Segments

Custom segments can be a little overwhelming while you’re still getting used to the wealth of data inside Google Analytics, but once you understand the data available, you’ll eventually want to use this feature to answer a question. This change reflects how segments are becoming standard use by all GA users.

Google updated the interface to be much easier to use, and the advanced features have been baked into the system, avoiding the overwhelming feeling that it might be too technical for GA users to use. Say goodbye to the terror of breaking something while using a setting whose description reads like a foreign language.

Traffic Sources becomes Acquisition

Before the changes, traffic sources told us where the users were coming from, what got them to the website. This section reflects what PR does to get eyeballs on a client’s website, what marketers do to keep them there or help users find the content that answers their questions. It reflects advertising efforts, SEO configuration, tools and campaigns that results in the acquisition of users.

Google Analytics’ New Structure

Ultimately GA now follows a logical structure, and it’s easy as ABC.

Audience

This section is about YOUR audience. Age range, gender, interest, location, and what technology they are using to access your site.

Acquisition

This tells us where the traffic is coming from, what sites referred traffic, campaign performance, keywords used to find the site, AdWords visits and social referrals.

Behavior

Primarily, the behaviors section tells us about the user’s actions, what site content they found of interest most often and in what order they visited pages.

Conversions

Conversions shows us what purchase or prospect actions the user took. From filling out a form to making a purchase, this section tracks goals, goal values, paths users most often took before converting, and ecommerce sales.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

It all sounds very confusing, reflecting a lot of change just when users are becoming more familiar with the platform as is. One of the upsides and the downsides of being a Google Analytics user is the number of changes to layouts, terminology and data. It’s a downside because it means we must always be learning new things to keep up, but an upside because inevitably we get better data that makes logical sense. (Author’s note: I’d be happy to pay for Google Analytics to know about and learn details about the changes in advance to soften the blow. I suspect I’m not alone in that.)

Spend sometime getting comfortable with the new terms. Once you do, you’ll know where to look for problems and where in your marketing and PR you need to go and fix things. For example, identifying bad content will be in behavior while identifying social media programs not working will be in acquisition.

Dig in! The worst that can happen is that you learn something new.

Chel Wolverton
Account Manager, Marketing Technology

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