Social/Digital Media: Planning is the key to your success

Launching a social media campaign as a key component of your marketing and traditional media strategy can have valuable positive results.

If not well planned, however, with measureable objectives for your target audiences, your social media campaign will be an expensive, embarrassing flop.

Executives should resist the call from others to, “hey, let’s get this out on social media!” Stop right there. Instead, follow these guidelines:

Set your objectives.

Your campaign’s measurable objectives may be …

  • Planning for a crisis
  • Crisis response (if you haven’t done the above, right?)
  • New product launch
  • New business development; lead generation
  • Sales (or, to shorten the sales cycle)
  • Major organizational milestone announcement
  • News!
  • Developing a competitive advantage
  • Branding or rebranding; brand defense
  • Behavior change

What else? Be creative!

  • Determine the specific target audience or audiences to which you want to communicate.
    • Know their age, gender preferences, income, education, language proficiencies, ethnicity, marital and family status, political biases, buying, eating and leisure habits, employment, and a host of other characteristics (height, weight, eye-color? Sure). The more the better.
  • In your plan, be equally specific about what action you want your target audiences to take, what behaviors you want them to change, by when, and for how long.
    • Determine the metrics for change measurement
  • With support from market/consumer research, identify and market test the messaging that will move the audience to your desired actions (as stated in your objectives).
    • To those who warn you that “market research is too expensive,” ask them if they would please calculate the cost of the campaign’s failure.
  • Identify the social media platforms with which your target audiences interact. There are hundreds. However, because you have narrowed down your specific target audience and know them intimately, and know the messaging that will motivate them, you are able to select the right social media platform that will move the needle.
  • Assign responsibility and authority for managing the campaign, knowing that frequency of posting is essential to cut through the clutter and reach your objectives.

15 more media interview tips – slow down your delivery!

1

Slow down your delivery; speak to the reporter's note taking speed.

2

Ask if they are getting it all down ("Am I going too fast?").

3

In a phone interview, listen to their keystrokes on their PC, and sloooow down.

4

Repeat your key messages at least three times for each key message.

5

Know reporter/blogger math: 6X1=0 ... 3X3=1
That is, six messages or more provided randomly will result in no retention. However, three key messages stated succinctly three times may result in the retention of one (which could be the headline or lead element in a story/blog, or evening news teaser).

6

Have handouts and written documents the reporter/blogger can take away or receive by e-mail.

7

Respond to reporter questions in writing by e-mail.

8

Rehearse and role play before the interview.

9

Speak in sound bites of no more than 10-15 seconds, pause, provide another key message.

10

Never repeat the negative; you will be the one saying it.

11

Avoid corporate speak and jargon; use plain language your mother would understand.

12

Ask to say it again; if you bloop or make a mistake in a statement, acknowledge it and ask to restate the point.

13

Don't ramble, get long-winded or wander off message; pause-- dead air is your friend.

14

You are never off the record; don't go there!

15

Articulate clearly and don't mumble.

15 tips to help you prepare for a media interview

1

Find out what others in your organization are saying, and be consistent with the organization’s views. Your Public Affairs Office or Marketing Department can help with clips and other background materials.

2

Determine the audience who will be reading the story, watching or listening to the broadcast.

3

Develop key messages. Tailor your key messages for that audience, remembering that often you will want to speak to multiple audiences.

4

Develop talking points to support your main points. Keep in mind the limitations of the medium as you prepare. Radio and television don’t allow for as much detail as newspapers and magazines.

5

Gather necessary background materials. Select handouts for the reporter.

6

Find out about the reporter’s style, reputation and past coverage. Have they been fair and accurate?

7

Role-play and rehearse. Have someone ask you the tough questions

8

Prepare to treat the interview as a presentation that will be interrupted by questions.

9

Select an interview venue you can control, if possible.

10

Set a time limit, preferably less than 15 minutes.

11

Practice delivering your key messages and using bridging techniques to get them into the conversation.

12

Take a few minutes before starting the interview to build personal rapport with the reporter, no matter the venue.

13

Feel free to ask about the subject areas the reporter will probably cover.

14

It’s OK to ask what other sources the reporter has spoken with or will use.

15

Never ask to read the story before publication. But it is OK to ask if they know when it will be aired or published.

Why public relations is VITAL to your marketing success

Public relations is V-I-T-A-L to marketing success, but what is PR?

There have been numerous attempts in recent years within our profession to define or redefine public relations, and in fact, most people do not understand what “PR” is.  However, in the marketing world, one truth is not in dispute: Mutually beneficial relationships with its key publics are vital to an organization’s success. There’s those words again – “relationships” and “publics.”

With public relations as an essential component of your growth plan, any marketing initiative your brand undertakes has better potential to achieve your objectives. Public relations is vital to marketing success. But what is PR?

Using the acronym VITAL, public relations can be explained (perhaps too simply) like this:

V

The V stands for visibility. In its very basic form, a public relations campaign is designed to achieve visibility for the organization. Of course, all brands, whether people or organizations, already have visibility of some sort. That visibility may be negative, or worse, neutral (invisible), with no mindshare at all. To cut through the clutter of the 6,000 messages we all receive each day, the visibility component of the public relations campaign must be well planned, effectively targeted, creative, memorable, consistent and frequent.

I

 The I stands for interest. PR can and should drive interest in the brand. A research-based, well-planned and managed public relations campaign will achieve levels of visibility that will generate interest from and among specific, target audiences or publics. Remember, there is no such thing as the general public. There are only audience segments or groups that we must target specifically to generate interest. Here is where behaviors and attitudes begin to change, which is what you want.

T

 The T is all about trial, or better yet, trust. After you have achieved visibility that leads to interest in your brand, message, product or service (or yourself) from a specific target audience, members of that audience may respond to your messaging by trusting you and/or trying your product or service. They may trust your message, and take the action you determined as your objective when you planned your public relations campaign initially. Now, we are getting buy-in, action, trial; more behavior change.

A

 The A stands for one of the elements that will define your public relations campaign’s success: Acceptance. You have the right visibility, you have generated interest, there’s a level of trust that may lead to trial, and as the campaign progresses, your goal should be to achieve acceptance of the brand, the person, the product or service, among your target publics/audiences. Embracing your message and accepting your brand promise is one of the key elements of behavior change.

L

 And, now, the great leap, perhaps the most difficult and tenuous stage of a public relations campaign to reach and maintain. The L stands for Loyalty, brand loyalty, loyalty of thought and action, complete – although potentially temporary – behavior change. If you can develop loyalty to your brand and its promise (as provided in your messaging), you have achieved the objective of the public relations campaign as defined in the original plan.

There is a caveat (of course, right?). Be aware that brand loyalty is a delicate state of being, and maintaining the behavior change you achieved with your public relations plan will be your challenge from then on. So, your strategic planning phase before the campaign launch must anticipate the inevitable erosion of loyalty and include tactics to minimize or eliminate that leakage of trust over time.

The complete CEO has effective media interview skills

Successful media interviews require planning, practice

Roberto C. Goizueta, the late chairman and chief executive officer of the Coca-Cola Company, presided over an historic period of record growth in his company’s business, profits, stock price and geographic expansion. During his tenure at the helm of the beverage giant from 1980 to 1997, Coke became the best known brand in the world, and made legions of investors millionaires. Those were heady days at Coke, fondly remembered.

Goizueta, a business philosopher, was known for short, one-line quotes that distilled an issue to its essence. One of his most famous is a maxim that all CEOs should follow: “Communication is the only task a leader cannot delegate.”

Excellent communications skills complete CEOs. And certainly, media interview capabilities are an essential subset. However, in more than 25 years of working with some of the world’s leading executives in routine media interview opportunities and in crisis communications situations, I’ve observed that about half understand the implications, the importance, the advantage and the power of knowing how to effectively handle the news media. The other half don’t, and that sets the tone for the organization.

Like leadership skills, some executives possess natural talents in the art and science of the media interview. However, all can learn how to employ effective media interview strategies and tactics in order to thrive in a media encounter.

As you take next steps to be proficient in media interviews, in order to become the complete CEO, here are some basics to think about.

Plan Your Media or Blogger Interview

A media or blogger interview should be treated just as any critical business initiative that can affect your organization’s reputation – and your career. You should have an overall strategy going in, complete with tactics and goals you want to achieve. Put it all in writing, just as you would any other business plan, but prepare to be flexible and adapt to changing situations.

Rehearse Aloud with a Colleague

Take the time to role-play with a colleague you can trust to tell you when you are off message, rambling or fidgeting – or worse, insincere. Ask them to pepper you with likely questions, some of them off the wall, so you can determine if your answers make sense and if you can think on your feet. Practice, practice and practice until you are confident and sincere in your delivery.

Speak to their Note-Taking Speed

You know your material, you are the expert and you are passionate about your business. It shows when you launch into a lengthy speech while the print reporter is furiously scribbling away (or, in a phone interview, is clicking away at his computer at the office), trying to get down even a little bit of what you are saying. Slow down. If you want to be misquoted, or have a video editor cut in a poor sound bite, speaking too fast is one of the most effective ways to do it.

Develop Key Points

A media or blogger interview is a two-way encounter. You will want to answer the reporter’s questions honestly, but you will also focus on getting your key points across (one of your interview objectives). Brainstorm and write down three key points you will want to make during the interview and practice them out loud until they come naturally. Do not memorize them.

Repeat Your Value Messages Often

Focus on opportunities in the question and answer exchange in the interview to get your key points stated in different ways as often as possible. One of your several goals should increase the probability that your key points will become part of the story. Take advantage of reporter silence or dead air to restate a key point.

Speak in Short Sound Bites

Broadcast reporters want short, complete sentences that can be easily edited into their on-air stories.  The long, rambling explanation in answer to a question will never make it on the air. Television news is using sound bites that are three to eight seconds in duration, and a little longer on radio. As a general rule, practice to keep your key sound bites down to 20 words or 10 seconds – max.

Ask to Say it Again

Most broadcast reporters are seeking that perfect sound bite for their story so they can finish with you and get on to the next story. They are usually happy to allow you to restate an answer if you fumbled on the first try. In a print interview, you can simply say, “let me answer that another way that might be clearer.” In a taped interview, just ask if the reporter will restate the question so you can answer it again a little more clearly. A live broadcast interview, obviously, requires you to apply a measure of finesse to restate an answer for clarification or accuracy. Again, practice is essential.

Never Repeat the Negative

Obviously, your negative assessment of a situation in response to a reporter’s negative suggestion will end up in print or on the air, attributed to you. A recent classic example during a news cycle about a toxic chemical spill went something like this: Reporter—“This is pretty scary for the people of the town, isn’t it?” Interviewee – “It is a very scary time for the people in this town.” Guess what the headline of the story was and guess who was quoted as saying it?

There is No Such Thing as Off the Record

Finally, in any media interview or conversation with a reporter or blogger, you are never off the record.  Period. It is a very simple, very iron-clad rule, so don’t ask to go off the record and don’t agree to. If you do not want it to be quoted, do not say it. The camera is always rolling;  the mic is always live. They are not your friends. They have a job to do.

A risk analysis process can help CEOs avoid a crisis

Could a corporate crisis put your business out of business, or cause a major financial setback?

If it’s not managed effectively, the answer is clearly “yes.” As a CEO, that fact might be one of the concerns that keeps you awake at night. The chances are good you won’t even see the crisis coming unless you take steps now to assess your vulnerabilities.  Where are the soft spots, the areas most likely to generate a corporate, product or organizational crisis? Just how vulnerable are you? The only way to answer those questions is to roll up your sleeves and start digging.

Job One For the CEO

Appoint action teams from top management to conduct an exhaustive, company-wide vulnerability audit. Personally hold the teams accountable to provide solutions and action plans that will eliminate weaknesses and minimize the effects of a crisis. Then, start building your crisis management plan. The crisis management plan is a blueprint for how you will react to, manage, survive and emerge from a corporate, organizational or product crisis.

In the first step, the risk analysis, where do the teams start?  In most businesses and organizations, the areas of operation in which vulnerability to a crisis is most severe are:

  1. Human resources
  2. Business practices
  3. Building and plant
  4. Information technology

Here’s a look at all four areas, complete with some suggestions and some questions for which the action teams had better find answers. It is a foregone conclusion that you will identify other questions and discover other areas of vulnerability within your organization, but these points provide you with a strong start.

HUMAN RESOURCES TEAM

This team will:

  • Develop an emergency chain of notification procedure for key personnel. How are you going to reach people in a crisis? Provide for regular updates to the list and assign responsibility to get it done.
  • Develop a solution for ensuring that all employee contact information and their emergency contacts are kept up to date, with copies stored off site somewhere.
  • Develop a method for keeping a daily record of employee travel and itineraries, including flight numbers, destination, and arrival and departure times.
  • Determine if your company is legally vulnerable to a challenge to its hiring practices. Are you meeting standards for inclusion regarding race, gender, disability and age? Is a class action suit in your future?
  • Develop a plan of action for employee health and safety emergencies on site, such as a bad fall, food choking, heart attack or seizure. Who would call 911, or who would administer first aid?
  • What about workplace violence? Are your managers close enough with their employees to be able to spot signs of domestic trouble at home – or outright abuse? Is an angry spouse or significant other likely to suddenly appear at the workplace to do harm?
  • Do you, as the CEO, and your key managers practice management by walking around (MBWA), or are they invisible to staff? Informal, impromptu employee meetings with the boss at the water cooler or on the loading dock are great pressure relievers, and can give top management a real sense of the emotional health of the workforce.
  • Is there a formal employee complaint procedure, or, at least, an employee advisory committee that receives, assesses and acts upon employee concerns and issues?
  • What about termination policies? Is it likely that a terminated employee could make cyber treats or return to do harm? Is there a written termination policy that provides for a formal exit interview?
  • List other areas of vulnerability you can think of.
BUILDING AND PLANT TEAM

This team will:

  • Create an easily accessed roster of emergency response agencies, service providers and vendors to be available at the switchboard or manager’s office; provide a plan for quarterly updates.
  • Identify areas of your operation that are likely targets of internal or external sabotage and provide a plan that outlines the actions needed to alleviate those threats.
  • Review current procedures for off site storage of server backups and determine if this procedure sufficiently meets security needs. Can crucial work be lost in a server crash? Of course.
  • Develop an emergency exit procedure and schedule drills for fire, workplace violence, toxic substance release, and other building emergencies.
  • Would an extended power outage put you out of business?
  • When is the last time you conducted a fire hazard walk-through? Have you ever looked for overloaded electrical outlets in employee cubicles, proximity of combustibles to heat sources, frayed wiring and aging break room appliances?
  • Develop a response plan for an onsite chemical leak or toxic spill.
  • Now, list other areas of vulnerability you can think of.
BUSINESS PRACTICES TEAM

This team will:

  • Develop a plan of action for the continuation of business in the event that you and your top executives are deceased together in an auto accident or plane crash. Is it unpleasant? Yes. But it does happen.
  • Develop a succession plan in the event of your extended absence because of illness or other factors.
  • Examine the strengths and weaknesses of your relationships with your key publics. How close are you to your media, vendors, suppliers, health inspectors, clients, law enforcement, elected officials, industry leaders, customers and other key stakeholders and influencers? Provide an ongoing action plan to strengthen areas of weakness. Outside relationships must be kept strong. Relationships with key stakeholders and regulators are the keys to survival during and after a crisis.
  • Develop a company policy requiring all staff with client/vendor responsibility to provide their contacts with all locator information and alternate contact information so the staff member can be accessible always.
  • If you are a public company, are you on good terms with the analysts and media covering your business?
  • Are your auditing procedures sufficient enough to uncover evidence of embezzlement or lapses in business ethics before they reach severe status? Do you have a code of corporate behavior/governance?
  • Is your board independent, and is it made up of outside directors?
  • Do you have multiple vendors or suppliers for unique components critical to the continuation of your key elements of business, or, do you rely primarily on one supplier or vendor. How is the financial health of your key suppliers and vendors; what about their labor relations?
  • Do your key executives experience media spokesperson training at least once annually? They should.
  • What safeguards exist against product tampering, and are they tested regularly?
  • Would you as the CEO be informed immediately of a cyber attack or hacking event, product tampering or fraudulent use or application of the company’s products, services or intellectual capital? Are you kept in the dark about field operations?
  • Other areas of vulnerability you can list?
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY TEAM

This team will:

  • Conduct penetration testing to determine paths of least resistance for hackers and cyber thieves.
  • Review access permissions both for internal and external personnel (vendors, suppliers, providers, offsite staff).
  • Examine personnel and external
PLAN OVERSIGHT AND DEVELOPMENT TEAM

Composed of CEO, VPs for corporate communications, human resources, legal and a top manager from every operating unit, the Plan Oversight and Development Team:

  • Merges the plans from the three action teams into one comprehensive crisis management plan; identifies other areas of high importance and requests action from the appropriate team.
  • Develops a crisis management and crisis communications plan, often in conjunction with outside counsel from experienced crisis managers.
  • Manages accountability and implementation timeline.
  • Ensures monthly updates of the crisis management plan.
  • Conducts regular drills to test plan effectiveness.

Implementation Timeline: 60 Days

  • Week 1-4: Team meetings to discover vulnerabilities and provide solutions/answers/action items. Significant interaction with external consultants/experts.
  • Week 5: Group presentations to Plan Oversight Team.
  • Week 6: Plan Oversight Team meets to review plans; suggests revisions.
  • Week 7: Plans revised by action teams and external consultants/experts.
  • Week 9: Oversight team meets, reviews and adopts action team plans, creates final crisis management plan for the business.
  • Follow up and updates: Ongoing for the life of the plan.
  • Crisis drills and simulations held semi-annually.

CEOs: A Word of Caution   

CEOs who cannot plan to be 110 percent supportive of this process and take part in it fully risk wasting their time and the time of their key personnel because the process will fail without you. Time after time, crisis management planning procedures have been launched with good intentions all around, only to be derailed by a lack of genuine support from the top. Don’t start the process unless you intend to be fully involved throughout all phases, and then play a major role in managing the plan going forward.

Before sale or merger, consider a PR campaign to increase firm’s book value

Investing in market visibility multiplies profit when owners plan to sell or merge

Owners considering sale or merger should be doing all they can to improve company book value – and increase profit. One established method of doing both is to plan and launch a well-crafted public relations campaign that drives positive visibility to multiply brand value. Here is some research that supports taking that action:

  • Brand value can be used to negotiate a price when licensing the brand, transferring the brand to another firm, or valuing a firm for mergers and acquisitions (Justin Anderson, Cal State).
  • A study by Interbrand and JP Morgan concluded that on average, brands, that is, positive market visibility, account for 30{d87b4e287420082dd0760556628a3e4d22cfee77ccf701baa48c771896dfe2f9} of shareholder value.  The converse? No brand recognition may deprive you and your firm of 30{d87b4e287420082dd0760556628a3e4d22cfee77ccf701baa48c771896dfe2f9} of its market value.
  • For major brands, the shareholder value of the highly visible brand is much. For Coca-Cola, the brand name alone is estimated at 60{d87b4e287420082dd0760556628a3e4d22cfee77ccf701baa48c771896dfe2f9} of market cap. For Microsoft, 65{d87b4e287420082dd0760556628a3e4d22cfee77ccf701baa48c771896dfe2f9}; IBM, 51{d87b4e287420082dd0760556628a3e4d22cfee77ccf701baa48c771896dfe2f9}; GE, 41{d87b4e287420082dd0760556628a3e4d22cfee77ccf701baa48c771896dfe2f9}; Disney, 29{d87b4e287420082dd0760556628a3e4d22cfee77ccf701baa48c771896dfe2f9}; Mercedes-Benz, 21{d87b4e287420082dd0760556628a3e4d22cfee77ccf701baa48c771896dfe2f9}. McDonalds? An astonishing 71{d87b4e287420082dd0760556628a3e4d22cfee77ccf701baa48c771896dfe2f9}. Visibility is indeed valuable, while invisibility is worthless.
In general, name brands command 30{d87b4e287420082dd0760556628a3e4d22cfee77ccf701baa48c771896dfe2f9} more margin than generics (common, standard, non-specific). Which one are you? Brand or generic?
  • There is a global trend in corporate accounting to treat the brand value as an asset on the balance sheet that in some cases has more genuine shareholder value than factories and employees.
  • Brand value can be calculated as the net present value of future price premiums that a branded product will command over an unbranded or generic equivalent.
  • People will pay more for a branded product than a generic one, and more for a favored brand than the alternatives. (Brand research firm Millward Brown).
  • Brand equity has been defined as the financial value that a firm derives from customer response to the marketing of a brand.
  • Investors will and should pay more for a firm that owns brands with favorable brand imagery associations and strong loyalty than a similar firm with less appealing brands (Madden et all 2006).
  • The firm that owns the brand derives economic rent, which is earned revenue to the firm; the firm benefits from the favorable associations created by the firm’s marketing policies for the brand.
  • Brand image resides in the consumers’ minds, but brand equity is a dollar value to the firm. It is the profit that a firm makes from owning the brand.
For a consultation on how to launch a branding campaign to increase your firm’s value, that is, take it from generic to a name brand, contact:

Andrew Bowen, APR
Clearview Communications & Public Relations
813-258-9123
[email protected]

Attorneys should know perils of court of public opinion

Legal counsel and public relations counsel: oil and water? Not necessarily. We both are often required to collaborate to provide our professional points of view and expert advice to chief executive officers facing or managing a corporate crisis.

August legal counsel will often argue in favor of “no comment.” I’ll counter that polls show people view that retort as evasive, stonewalling, covering up, hiding something and at the least, disingenuous. Further, I will argue, if you don’t comment, others will (competitors, perhaps, critics, regulators, plaintiffs?)

As a public relations practitioner with more than two decades of senior level experience helping to guide CEOs and other top executives through crises or knotty public relations challenges, I often enjoy having corporate legal counsel on my team of advisors. Some of my best friends are attorneys.

Corporate public relations counselors and legal counsel can work especially well together when the CEO we are advising understands that he or she must receive and analyze advice from public relations and legal experts with equal weight, and then reach their decision.

One of the strongest arguments for a client to ascribe equal weight to advice from PR counsel and legal counsel, is, of course, that while legal counsel may eventually be called upon to manage the outcome of a crisis in a court of law, public relations practitioners operate real time in the very unruly court of public opinion. It has been proven time and again that what the client says and does before, during and after a crisis can often eliminate the prospect of legal action altogether. “No comment” won’t.

Open Communication Averts a Lawsuit

One of our most significant successes was achieved in a landlord/tenant dispute we kept out of court by applying a policy of open communications with homeowners after legal counsel had urged a strategy of silence. Angry about substandard construction on outdoor patio decks that made them dangerous to use, the homeowners association (HOA) leadership was threatening to sue the condominium ownership company (our client).  The ownership’s legal counsel was fearful that opening lines of personal communication with individual homeowners, which we recommended, risked “saying the wrong thing” that could then be used against the company in court.

We countered that by going around the HOA and opening a dialogue with individual homeowners about the damage a lawsuit could do to their property values, salability and the property’s brand, we would be able to generate popular opposition against the pending suit.

It worked. The HOA was overruled by concerned (informed) homeowners and backed down. The suit was averted, and the condominium owners proceeded with repairs, to everyone’s satisfaction.  (I recall how upset the local media was because they had been alerted to the pending suit by officers of the HOA, and when the settlement was reached, the media was left without a story.)

Quirky Differences Between Court of Law and Court of Public Opinion

Here are some well-established, albeit quirky differences between the court of law and the court of public opinion that keep seasoned public relations practitioners awake at night. We know these unrules very well, and consider them thoroughly as we provide advice to clients in crisis (and their legal counsel):

  • In the court of public opinion, a speedy trial is always guaranteed, usually on Twitter
  • You have the right to remain silent, but it will be held against you
  • In the court of public opinion, the rules of evidence are suspended
  • Court reporters? Sure. They tweet, blog, vlog, post, pin, tag and text
  • The accused can be tried, convicted and sentenced in a sound bite
  • No one is sworn to tell the truth
  • Rumor, innuendo and lies can be admitted as exhibits for the prosecution, but not the defense
  • There is no judge, but many who judge
  • Once something has been said publicly, you cannot instruct people to “disregard that last comment”
  • There is no one to order the court reporter to “strike that last from the record”
  • Objections? Really? Objections are always overruled, and even shouted down
  • While generally inadmissible in a court of law, past indiscretions and misbehaviors are always juicy topics in the court of public opinion
  • Hearsay is not only allowed, but encouraged and widely established as actual fact
  • Character does not count; in the court of public opinion, character references are suspect and subject to abuse
  • Spouses can testify against each other, and are encouraged to do so by the media
  • It does in fact help to throw oneself on the mercy of the court of public opinion, practicing the 3Rs of crisis communications: regret, reform and restitution
  • In the court of public opinion, you have the right to call witnesses, but it doesn’t matter
  • The record is never sealed and nothing can be redacted
  • And finally, there is no higher authority than the court of public opinion; once the verdict is rendered and sentence handed down, there are no appeals.

Analyze your audience or waste resources.

Audience analysis a key component in PR success; My MacDill message is an example worth studying

Audience analysis is the most critical component in any communications initiative designed to motivate a target demographic to take specific action. I’ve written about this extensively, spoken about widely, taught the concepts to groups all over the U.S., and apply the laws of audience analysis rigorously every day to achieve success for my cherished clients. When I am presented with an example of the failure to analyze an audience before crafting potentially motivational messaging, I’m concerned.

The most recent example I found at the baggage pickup-carousels at Tampa International Airport. There, small panels of lighted, electronic billboards at eye-level provide local advertising messages for travelers awaiting delivery of their luggage. Awaiting mine after a recent flight home to Tampa, I caught a brief glimpse of one of the bright, colorful panels for a few seconds. I recognized the My MacDill logo on it. It is quite a powerful and moving logo, featuring an abstract eagle figurehead wrapping around an image of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

My MacDill is the name of the well-crafted public relations campaign celebrating the 75 years that MacDill Air Force Base has been headquartered in Tampa. It was the tagline on the electronic board that concerned me: “My MacDill: 75 Years Serving Tampa Bay” (http://bit.ly/1Ptwg6N).

More than 17.3 million travelers passed through TIA in 2014 (http://bit.ly/1WiRXdK), with more than 600,000 of them international visitors. Analyzing that vast audience, one could conclude that the message proclaiming “75 years of serving Tampa Bay” would motivate these millions of national and international travelers to think … what? That MacDill Air Force Base serves only Tampa Bay.

With so many government policymakers, military leaders, elected officials, international business and political decision makers and visitors of all backgrounds exposed to those TIA message boards, why would we want them to think – even subconsciously – that MacDill benefits just Tampa Bay?

Would it be more effective for the My MacDill’s brand objectives to have that audience of global influencers know that MacDill is an indispensible national treasure that benefits the nation and the world, that it is the headquarters of the planet’s most powerful force focused on ensuring national security and global stability? (When I think of the MacDill I know, I get an image of something like “Pentagon South.”)

Could a more effective message for the international audience surging through TIA annually be something like: “My MacDill: 75 years of serving the nation”?

With the Base Realignment and Closure Commission – BRAC – convening again in a couple of years, MacDill stakeholders need to be very careful about promoting the value of MacDill to the Tampa Bay area only. There are powerful forces in government and the military that don’t care very much about Tampa Bay’s future, and they are coveting that $13 billion and 13,000 jobs the Tampa Bay Defense Alliance figures MacDill generates here annually (in TBDA’s  widespread messaging).

So be careful in your creative. Audience analysis is the key component that can help guarantee you’ll hit your communications objectives – or not.

No, you don’t need a press release.

One of the most troubling questions public relations practitioners are asked goes like this: “We just need a news release. Can you do a news release for us? How much would a news release cost?”

As I cringe inside and try to avoid an obvious eye-roll, I attempt to keep my composure as I respond: “Well, there are some things to think about first: What is your objective, how will you measure success, who is your target audience, what is the messaging that will motivate them, what is your call to action, and for gosh sakes, what is your NEWS, who should care and why?”

Often, I hear only silence. The fact is, if you have to ask that question, you really don’t need a news release. You will be wasting your money if you find someone to write one and then “send it out.”

Ah, but here’s a thought: You might actually need an objective-based communications campaign plan. And, if you are talking to a seasoned public relations professional (and we actually have a few here at Clearview Communications and Public Relations Inc.), a news release will absolutely not be part of that plan.

However, your plan may include various appropriate communications initiatives, and several well-crafted and well-thought-out news releases might be part of the plan. Might not. If so, they will be supported by appropriate social media initiatives, audience engagement events, speaking gigs, perhaps videos, radio and television appearances (only after mandatory media interview skills training), op-ed submissions and journalist/blogger deskside interviews or coffees, along with other tactics.

Now, we are getting somewhere. Your plan must include these very basic components:

  • Objective: A simple description of what you want to accomplish with your communications campaign, all quantified in measureable metrics. What do you want your target audience to do or think? And, who is your target audience? (Remember, there is no such thing as the general public anymore).
  • Strategy: Describe the overall approach and process you will use to reach your objective. Will the campaign leverage traditional or social media, rely on permission-givers or thought leaders to move the audience, require event management, and, will it focus on a broad or specifically targeted audience? (Are you assertive in a positive, proactive situation, or in reactionary mode, as in damage control?)
  • Tactics: Identify the specific action items in your arsenal of tools you will apply to support the strategy. Here, we may actually be able to determine IF a regularly timed cascade of appropriate, well-written news releases, optimized for the search engines, are part of that arsenal. We call this tactic organic SEO, and when we do it at Clearview, the process beats the heck out of Google Ad Words in driving traffic).
  • Timeline: What will be the duration of the communications campaign in order to execute the strategy with supporting tactics to achieve the objective?
  • Budget: What have we calculated will be the financial requirement to staff up to execute the tactics? Will the budget be allocated by monthly retainer, hourly or project fee? What could ROI look like, and was that question answered in the objective-setting process?

So, considering all of the above, we now have an organized, structured program for a communications campaign that will motivate your target audiences to take specific action or to change behaviors, is measureable, will provide a return on your investment that is acceptable to you and your agency, and enhance your brand’s positive visibility.

The alternative, that single news release, would have gone deep into the darkness of that black hole where all single news releases go to die, with everyone wondering why nothing happened.