February 13, 2013
This morning’s Solo PR chat started with a robust discussion about blogging; whether or not to make your blog your home page. This quickly changed to a much broader discussion about blogging in general. The typical answer to questions like this is…it depends.
As with all aspects of public relations or strategic communication, a good plan is the best way to begin. Some questions to consider:
- Why do you want to blog?
- What do you hope to accomplish?
- Who is your audience?
- What do you want to talk about?
- What are you known for?
- What do you want to be known for?
- Is anyone else already blogging in this space?
- If so, how will your blog be different?
Once you decide to blog, and what to blog about, consider the time commitment. Begin with the assumption you can write, edit and post in 90 minutes to 2 hours. If that’s the case, block out time on your calendar to write your posts.
Based on the general topics you’ve defined through the planning process, outline some posts for at least the first three months. This should give you a base from which to build some consistency.
Several participants on this morning’s chat shared my issue with confidence. Do people really want to read what I write? For some reason, the public nature of blogging raises confidence issues for many of us who regularly write for others. One way to overcome that is to have a trusted colleague who’s in the target audience take a quick look at your posts before they go live. It often helps strengthen a post.
Once you’ve decided to blog and determined your topics, look at your website and see where the blog should live. That’s actually what started the discussion on the chat…whether your blog should be your home page or not. Again, look at what you’re trying to do and why. Should you even attach your blog to your business site? For some, the blog is their business site.
Chances are, as long as you’ve thought it through, whatever you decide will work. It’s just like many aspects of strategic communications:
One size doesn’t fit all.
February 7, 2012
Are you seeing the world through rose colored glasses?
This phrase has often been on my mind recently as we’re mired in divisive political discussions and this last week in the Komen/Planned Parenthood debacle. It has caused me to wonder if we can ever be unbiased, or ever read straight news stories. I realized we all have filters but they are often in our subconscious. It’s amazing we can hear the same words and listen to the same news story and come away with different interpretations.
When we read the paper, a magazine article, watch TV news or even (my favorites) Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert, it is the reporter/anchor’s interpretation of a story; their version of an event. But what we actually hear is yet another version that’s colored by our own beliefs and background. It’s really not something we can control.
As concerned citizens and especially as public relations and communications professionals, we need to make sure we’re doing our best to remove those filters before advising clients or making decisions. I find one of the easiest ways to remove the filters is to gather information from many sources.
- Watch TV news on MSNCB and Fox.
- Read the local underground paper as well as the traditional daily.
- Listen to NPR and talk radio.
- Read a blog you like and then one that’s cited by that person as completely biased and wrong.
- Talk with – and listen to — people you know are on both sides of the issue.
One of the things I like about social media sites like Facebook is when people are excited about a subject, there are lots of posts/messages where I can learn. I suggest you read them critically. It may seem there are many different filters on a subject, but studies show we gravitate to people who are similar to us. It’s only natural.
So, while social media provides new sources, they might not present an opposing view. It’s easy to gain a false sense of security around an issue.
When next you are faced with learning about a subject, check your sources and add a few you might not normally review. Look beyond the normal websites and blogs to those sites, people and blogs you know will offer an opposing view.
And for heaven’s sake, listen to what’s provided on all the sites, and from friends. If you read but don’t listen or learn, you’re just wasting your time. As a communications professional that’s a very dangerous road. You need to understand both sides if you’re going to offer advice.
If we’re going to make this world a better place we can only do this if we look at issues and situations through multiple filters. We will only be able to collaborate on an issue once we realize and accept the many different filters through which others see the same world.
How do you make sure you’re listening to multiple sides of each story?
February 3, 2012
This week’s news regarding the Susan G. Komen Foundation and Planned Parenthood sent shock waves around the world. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, this has been an important lesson in the power of social media and individuals to affect a decision.
This has affected me, and many of my friends and colleagues, in a variety of ways:
- As a communications professional I have read many posts analyzing the communication strategies of both organizations. There will undoubtedly be many more.
- The situation also puts the spotlight on the research smart corporations should complete before selecting community partners.
- As an individual, there are also obvious implications for personal funding choices.
The need for this research doesn’t change because the issue changes. Research and a strategic focus should always be part of a giving strategy.
I don’t want to get into who’s right and who’s wrong here but instead provide a guide to choosing nonprofits you support – as an individual or as a corporation. If we haven’t seen anything else this week, we’ve certainly seen the power social media has in swaying public opinion.
I’m sure you’d agree you want to know where your hard-earned dollars are going. It’s not that time consuming to make sure the vast majority of your check will go to direct services. Merriam Webster defines these as:
“active service on cases and work with patients as distinguished from staff functions”
While I understand completely the need for administrative costs, it’s important to understand the details behind those numbers. Here’s a portion of my post from January 20, 2010 detailing the research you can do before writing that check:
In talking with my children about the importance of giving and the school’s drive, we’ve also had to teach them a bit about what unfortunately might be called the seamier side of fundraising. As we saw after 9/11 and the 2005 tsunami, there are unscrupulous fundraisers who are more than happy to take your hard-earned dollars. It’s important to take a few minutes to make sure your money goes where you want it to go. Make sure you give to organizations you trust, or that your friends trust.
Guidestar and Charity Navigator both offer services that help you learn about nonprofits. United Way of America is another organization that thoroughly screens their partners before providing them funds. And, of course, there are any number of blogs and experts out there to tell you what to do as well. One of my favorite public relations people, Shonali Burke, offered her thoughts about the aftershocks on fundraising.
If you have the time, an organization’s IRS Form 990 is a great source of information. Pay close attention to the percentages of funds that go to “program services” as compared to administrative costs. Program services funds are actually getting to those the organization helps while administrative costs are generally overhead. Personally, organizations I like to support keep their overhead to no more than 10% of expenses.
November 21, 2011
Last week, the conversation here was about ways to listen (and hear) and on joining the conversation on the Internet. In this post, I want to tie social media/electronic tools back to the traditional tools many of us cut our public relations teeth on.
In the late 1970s when I began my career, we hand delivered news releases to local media and mailed (yes, snail mailed) releases to out of town media. We arranged events and wrote tons of speeches for our clients to get word out at key constituent meetings. Newsletters and mass communication were mimeographed, and we did all our work on typewriters.
Today, many of the tools are still important, especially relationships with key influencers. I always tell my clients it’s important to work in both worlds using tools based on the needs outlined in an overall strategy. Take, for example a client who wants to sell businesses a product that comes with a high price point, but it’s a younger tech savvy group that understands its use in the work place.
Executives in a larger company are more likely to respond to information received through a chamber of commerce or rotary meeting, or on traditional news programs. They might have a couple social media accounts but aren’t using them the same way younger staff might be. Younger employees are more likely learn from their peers on social media and less likely to read/watch traditional news programs. Without using tools in both worlds, you’ll limit your exposure.
Regardless of which tools you use, developing a story around your program is critical. Think about your story from the perspective of the reader, and not that of the company marketers. Focus first on the features the customer/target will get and then the advantages and benefits. Leave the boilerplate to the end, or incorporate it into the features.
The tactics you choose should include traditional news releases, speaking engagements at business meetings as well as a series of Google+, Facebook and Twitter campaigns chosen because you know where individuals decisions makers can be reached.
What hasn’t changed today is the importance of reaching out to individuals who can help you tell your story. More about that tomorrow.
Part 1: Listening (And Hearing) Crucial In Communication Plans
Part 2: Now That You Know What’s Being Said, Join the Conversation
Part 4: Reach Out and Engage Someone
October 4, 2011
I’ve posted quite a bit about the importance of planning before beginning a communications program. As strategic guides for management, we need to keep our eye on the goals and objectives of our plans. It makes us look smarter to management and also guides us through the year.
Once you’ve completed measurable goals and objectives, the next steps are determining your audience (also called stakeholder) and strategies.
I find the audience part is the easier of these two tasks. Geographic and age targets are fairly easily set. When psychographics are added, it can be more difficult but is still something familiar to many. Often, actually choosing a subset of the overall market that can be the challenge. I like to explain to management that just because our focus is on Alaskans 18-34 living off the road system doesn’t mean that a 45 year old in Anchorage won’t see the message.
The confusion often sets in when it’s time to select strategies and tactics. I’m often asked to explain the difference and find an analogy that works for me:
Think of it as a road trip. The strategy is the road you choose to drive on while the tactics are the vehicles you take on the road.
On last week’s PR20chat the discussion came up again and Jeremy Pepper said a former boss who used the World War II Battle of Normandy as an example:
Goal is to take the beach. Strategy is who lands where. Tactics is what they use
In the Universal Accreditation Board’s APR Study Guide, they add that strategies determine the “how” in a plan while the tactics are the “what.”
Understanding the importance of planning and the elements therein is one of the most important aspects of public relations for professionals who want to be known for strategy. Securing APR certification is critical for public relations and communication pros who want recognition as strategic partners. While studying for the test (which I highly recommend), professionals learn more than 30 KSAs (knowledge, skills and assessments) critical to senior communicators.
But, back to strategies. Do you have an analogy you use to separate strategies from tactics? Do you always include at least one strategy in your plans? Why or why not?