Tag Archive | public relations

Case Study: Broad Street Run Registration Complaints Hijack Facebook Page

Facebook proved again this week to be a top spot for people to express concerns, share complaints, and demand answers when issues arise. When runners encountered major delays while registering for the popular Broad Street Run in Philadelphia, PA, yesterday, the official Facebook page took quite a beating.

How did the team monitoring the page handle the surge of customer service issues? I’d say they did better than most:

Throughout the day, the admins explained the situation, responded to numerous comments left on the Wall, and shared updates about the registration process and website issues. I am also impressed no one is complaining that negative comments have been deleted or removed, which is a knee-jerk reaction many brands have when faced with a deluge of angry posts.

Though, I did encounter one area for improvement involving the default settings of the Facebook wall.

As I tried to register for the race, the site seemed unreasonably slow. Turning to the Facebook page for answers, I could not easily find the Broad Street Run’s administrator comments. I began to doubt whether organizers were using Facebook to provide updates. After sifting through hundreds of angry comments, I finally found info that the page had shared about the registration process. While trying to find official updates, I read a lot of the negative reactions to the race organizers. This left me wondering if I’d made the right decision in signing up for the run.

So, let’s recap:

  • I tried signing up for the race and realized the site seemed very slow
  • Wondering if others had similar issues with the registration process, I turned to social media and visited the Broad Street Run’s Facebook page looking for official notifications
  • When I got to the page, the default view for the Wall featured many negative comments from other runners
  • I could not easily locate official updates from the page owners
  • I doubted that the Broad Street Team was even providing updates through its Facebook page
  • Getting inundated with negative reactions to the race, I began to question my decision to register

With so many upset runners flooding the Wall, the team behind the Broad Street Run should have changed the default settings of the Facebook page so that people automatically saw only official status updates. This allows Facebook users (both fans and nonfans of the page) to quickly receive official information and stay informed, especially with how quickly updates disappear from the News Feed. Should anyone want to read comments from others, there is an option to switch the view to “Everyone:”

This is especially important to consider knowing that over 425 million Facebook users visit the site using a mobile device. Using the iPhone Facebook application, it is very tedious to scroll through Wall updates from both consumers and the page trying to find official news.

In both web browsers and mobile applications, if a page chooses to show its updates by default, only those posts that the page makes will appear unless someone manually switches the view back to “Everyone.”

Normally, I recommend brand pages default to comments from “Everyone” since Facebook is a community platform that thrives on engagement and conversations, but sometimes it is more important to provide updates to users rather than featuring the social conversation taking place on the Wall. In this case, sharing news about the registration process and status of the website should have taken precedence, especially when the page was doing a great job keeping people informed through consistent posts.

What do you think about how Broad Street Run’s Facebook page handled the issues yesterday? Would you have changed the default settings of the page?

Pretzel Crisps Uses Super Bowl Social Media Buzz to Engage with Twitter Users

Like most people who work in the communications industry, I spent last Sunday night analyzing the commercials and campaigns that ran during and in conjunction with the Super Bowl. Posting many of my thoughts to Twitter, I kept wondering what companies would do to follow through after the big game ended (in a heart-crushing, devastating way for me…)

I kept latching on to the ideas of follow-through and engagement because so many companies featured social media channels in their ads: Facebook URLs, Twitter handles, hashtags. In my opinion, far too many brands forget that social media is supposed to be, well, social. Conversational. Engaging. Two-way. A dialogue.

What’s the point of throwing up a hashtag on a multi-million dollar spot if no one from the company is going to follow-up with people who used it, who asked questions, who tried to connect? Sure, it’s great to get a hashtag trending for a couple hours on Twitter, but what else can be done with that conversation stream the days after the game aside from throwing it up on a microsite or Facebook tab?

Using social channels and tracking conversations, brands can truly make an impact that results in a aquiring new customers, building brand loyalty, and increasing awareness. An event as popular on social media as the Super Bowl (peaking at 12,333  Tweets Per Second at the end of the game) provides countless opportunities for brands to find compelling ways to engage with consumers.

Somehow, I luckily got to experience this first hand thanks to the company Pretzel Crisps. On Monday, I received an email notification from Twitter that Pretzel Crisps had mentioned me. The pessimist in me wondered what sort of spam I had just received from this company I’d only vaguely heard of before, so I headed over to Twitter to check out the message. They responded to one of my Tweets about Super Bowl ads in a pretty clever way:

Obviously, being a smaller company, Pretzel Crisps didn’t advertise on Super Bowl Sunday, but the team didn’t let that stop them from reaching out to people chatting about the ads. Taking the engagement a step further, @PretzelCrisps offered the Fleishman-Hillard DC office some of the product to try.

After a couple of DMs, the team told me to expect some pretzels a couple days later. I figured they’d ship me a box of sample packs and that would be the end of it.

The company surprised me again.

A little after lunch time on Wednesday, I received a phone call that someone from Pretzel Crisps was waiting for me at the front desk. Slightly surprised, I walked to the receptionist desk to find two Pretzel Crisps employees with bags and bags stuffed with snacks. They politely introduced themselves and I hounded them with questions about the campaign – growing increasingly impressed with how they are running it. Basically, a team of three people are monitoring Twitter regularly looking for people mentioning that they are hungry and not sure what snack to eat. The Super Bowl provided them with tons of engagement opportunities and I have to admit they definitely followed-through:

The FH team raved about Pretzel Crisps all day and left them lots of love on Twitter. As a team, we concluded that original Pretzel Crisps + Nutella = amazing combination everyone should try.

Due to the simple “surprise and delight” factor, I am now a complete convert and brand loyalist. For the past few days, I’ve been singing the praises of Pretzel Crisps to anyone who will listen… making this marketing initiative extremely successful.

Most impressive, though, is that the engagement didn’t end when the team walked out the door earlier this week. Today, @PretzelCrisps gave my office and me shout outs for #FollowFriday – a nice touch that showed the company wanted to sustain the relationship beyond Super Bowl Sunday.

 

 

A Case Study on Blogger Engagement: Nuun’s Hood to Coast Team

When done well, a promotional partnership between a brand and an online influencer is mutually beneficial. Though it sounds simple, it is often difficult for companies to develop strategies on how to best engage bloggers in a meaningful and effective way. Over the last three months, I’ve watched closely as one company – nuun  – has, in my opinion, brilliantly executed a blogger engagement campaign in conjunction with the popular Hood to Coast relay race taking place this weekend in the pacific northwest.

Unless you are an athlete, you probably haven’t heard of nuun. As an avid runner, even I hadn’t heard of nuun until late May of this year. That’s when all my favorite running bloggers starting posting about this seemingly obscure product. My interest piqued, I did a bit of digging and discovered that nuun is an electrolyte-enhanced hydration product.

“Okay… I don’t get it,” I thought. Yes, the product is certainly relevant to runners. But it didn’t look big enough for all these major blogs to start posting about it almost simultaneously.

Through some additional research, I learned the reason so many blogs had mentioned nuun was a contest of sorts had been announced:

Nuun is putting together an ALL FEMALE, ALL BLOGGER team for the 30th anniversary running of the Hood to Coast epic relay event

A blog post on the company website provided more information about the contest, which asked bloggers to submit creative applications on why they should be chosen for the Nuun Hood-to-Coast team. Those selected for the team would have everything taken care of during race weekend, except for travel costs to and from Seattle.

Image from the 2010 documentary "Hood to Coast"

As the bloggers began submitting applications, they began promoting their entries through their own, very established social channels. I was hard-pressed to browse my Google reader that week without seeing mentions of the Nuun Hood to Coast team.

In late June, Nuun announced the bloggers who had made the team – and to everyone’s surprise, the company ended up selecting two teams comprised of 20 bloggers (and four nuun employees).

As a runner who one day hopes to compete in a relay as exciting as Hood to Coast, I was excited for all those selected, eager to read their posts as they trained and planned for the event.  As a communications professional, I couldn’t help but admire nuun’s genius campaign. Through the initiative, the company handpicked 22 influential fitness bloggers with large communities to be ambassadors for nuun in the months leading up to Hood to Coast.

When nuun announced its teams of bloggers, I added all the blogs I wasn’t already reading to my RSS feed.  Since then, I’ve noticed weekly posts from each of them covering their training, packing plans, team bios, information about their specific relay legs and, of course, the nuun product. A couple of weeks ago, nuun sent the bloggers a care package filled with products. Around the same time, the company provided a 25% off promotional code the women could share with their readers.

The best part? The bloggers’ posts never seemed overly promotional. From what I read, they did not feel taken advantage of or under-compensated. Instead, they were all genuinely excited to be a part of nuun’s team, which made me – as a reader – excited about Hood to Coast and even got me to check out the nuun product website several times. In fact, I’m planning to make a trip to Washington CitySports soon to pick up my own tube of nuun as I hit the homestretch of my Army 10 Miler training plan so I know the program gained nuun at least one new customer…

Kudos to the nuun team – this certainly made for a great blogger engagement program. To all the runners, good luck this weekend!

17 Links to Bookmark So You Can Pitch Like a Pro

Pitching is integral to any young PR professional’s career. Despite it’s importance, many of my peers (myself included) find this to be the most challenging aspect of our profession. The only way to truly get better is to have experience, and many companies have policies that don’t allow interns to pitch.

So how do we learn about pitching without practicing? Doing a lot of research and reading numerous case studies helped me grow more comfortable when I first started doing media and blogger outreach.

Over the months, I’ve collected quite a few posts that have helped me enhance my pitching skills. They are all bookmarked and I refer to them often, especially when I’m stumped or uncertain about how to approach a new contact.

Below are some of my favorites that you might find useful, too:

Blogger Relations (and Social Media Release) Case Study by Todd Defren

How You Might View Bloggers by Chris Brogan

A Day in the Life of My Inbox – and When E-mail Marketing is Spam by Josh Bernoff

Open Letter to Fitness and Health Brands Pitching to Bloggers by Stephanie Quilao

Anatomy of a Bad Pitch by Dave Fleet

Great PR Manners Go a Long Way by Chris Brogan

Putting PR People on Notice by CityMama

e-Book: The Art and Science of Blogger Relations by Brian Solis

PR-Squared’s Blogger Relations Bookmark by Todd Defren

How Do I Get Placement on Blogs by Jason Falls

5 Wrong Ways to Pitch RWW and 1 Great Way by Marshall Kirkpatrick

How to Pitch Bloggers: 21 Tips by Darren Rowse

The PR Professional’s Credo: 7 Promises by Todd Defren

The Bad Pitch Blog’s Compiled List of Resources

How to Talk to the Press by Guy Kawasaki

Say What? A .pdf of What Not to Say to the Media compiled by the Bad Pitch Blog

5 Tips for Media Relations Success by David Mullen

Reviewing A, Lady First: Letitia Baldrige’s Autobiography

ladyfirstMost people in my generation have probably never heard of etiquette connoisseur and public relations executive Letitia Baldrige. I hadn’t until my grandmother gave me a copy of her autobiography, A Lady, First, as a graduation gift. Now that I’ve finished Baldrige’s book, I have found my newest hero and someone I would love to emulate during my career.

Baldridge, who is most famous for being Jacqueline Kennedy’s social secretary at the White House, immediately warns her readers that her story lacks the scandalous makings of a best-seller. Fortunately, her story doesn’t need scandal to be entertaining and inspiring, especially for women in the public relations field.

During her career, Tish Baldrige broke through barriers that society placed on female professionals. After college graduation, when most of her girlfriends were starting families, Baldrige moved by herself to Paris to work as a social secretary for U.S. Ambassador David Bruce and his wife, Evangeline. From that position, she went on to serve as an assistant to Clare Luce, the U.S. Ambassador at the American Embassy in Rome. It was rare for young, single women to forgo a personal life to advance their careers, but Baldrige was determined to work abroad.

The chapters about her time in Europe provide insight into international affairs, political discourse, and public relations. Baldrige wrote that succeeding at this point in her life meant “wandering far beyond her job description” – advice every new employee should take.

When Baldrige returned to the U.S., she became one of the first female executives at Tiffany & Co., where she was the Director of Public Relations. This part of her life interested me even more than when she worked in the Kennedy White House. She focused on her role as a PR practitioner when the field was still in its infant stage, which enlightened me about the history of my profession. It didn’t hurt that Baldrige wrote about meeting my idol, Audrey Hepburn, when the actress was filming Breakfast at Tiffany’s on location at the famous Fifth Avenue location.

On Baldrige’s first day as an executive at Tiffany’s, she asked the CEO exactly what her job duties were. He looked at her and said, “I’m paying you to know what to do,” without giving further direction. For the next five years, Baldrige relied on gut instincts, past experiences, innovation, and creativity to cultivate a new direction for the communications department of one of the most prestigious companies in American business. I highlighted several anecdotes about her successes and missteps during this period, as she provided great PR campaign case studies.

Baldrige opened her own PR agency, helped U.S. First Ladies transition to the White House, and published over 20 books on a variety of topics. She also managed to live in Paris, Rome, D.C., New York, and Chicago, and maintain a work-life balance that allowed her to maintain an active social life while raising two children. Reading about Letitia Baldrige’s professional and personal lives was refreshing and inspiring.

While A Lady, First has great advice for all communications professionals, it caters to an audience that is interested in history, international affairs, and politics. It might not be for everyone, but if you’re looking for an entertaining, insightful read with a powerful message about using ambition to achieve your goals, I encourage you to read this book.

Life Post Graduation Part 1: Summer Internships

This time last year I was dreaming about life post-college and wondering what I’d be doing those first few months when I was no longer a student – for the first time in 12 years.

I thought about backpacking around Europe with friends, moving home and taking a mental health vacation before jumping into the real world, landing my dream job at a top-tier PR agency, or maybe even gearing up for a fall semester at grad school somewhere. There were lots of potential plans.

I never thought I’d be interning. By the time I graduated, I figured I’d have had enough internships to be ready to take on an entry-level position. Plus, I looked down on being an intern with a college degree. I thought it would be like wearing a neon sign around my neck: Meg Roberts – intern with a B.A., inadequately prepared for life in the real world.

I was very wrong.

My first summer as someone with a Bachelor’s degree just ended, and I spent my time interning with an excellent company in Washington, D.C – VOX Global Mandate. Now that my internship is nearing an end, I’m glad I got over being an intern snob. Interning after graduation was the perfect transition to full-fledged employee, and it was also incredibly rewarding.

Making the jump from my college town (and home state) to a different location was something I wanted to do, but that didn’t make it any less intimidating. Interning in a new city before landing a full-time position gave me a 3-6 month cushion to see if I even liked D.C. It allowed me to monitor my cost of living (which helped in that infamous salary negotiation conversation), and if I could handle the separation from family and friends. If I had hated D.C., it would have been okay for me to head home without feeling like I was quitting a job after only three months.

After graduation, I knew I wanted to leave Florida and try something new. Interning was a great first step in marketing my personal brand in a new town. While social media can help build a long-distance network, nothing beats genuine, face-to-face interaction. As an intern, my company allowed me to participate in numerous events where I was able to meet congressional members, other PR practitioners, journalists, and fellow social media fanatics. I’m not saying that this can’t happen in an entry-level position, but this helped me extend my job search once I was in D.C.

Holding a full-time internship is very different than popping into an office 2-4 days a week for a couple hours at a time. Because I was working every day for 8 hours (or sometimes 10), I got to see a lot of the behind-the-scenes grunt work that goes into public relations (or any industry!). I learned more about company culture and morale – two things any potential employee should consider before accepting a job offer. Since I was there all day, I got pulled into more meetings, worked on more projects, and got to know my colleagues better.

All of these things helped me realize that I chose the right career. But imagine if I found out I hated public relations – I’m the type of person that would feel very guilty about jumping ship, and would probably stay in the industry far longer than I wanted.

Coming into an internship with past experience helped, too. My executive team at VOX let me work on a variety of client projects once they saw that I was capable of pulling from my past internships and integrating them with the my new team’s knowledge. Now that I’ve been interning for a couple of months, I know that my previous work helped me get even more out of this current position.

This summer taught me that being an intern after graduation does not, in any way, reflect poorly on preparedness. So while interning wasn’t on my list of things-to-do-after-college, I’m very happy that it ended up being my plan and I hope others will see the benefits of graduate internships.

Building Relationships: The Foundation for Good PR

For the past few weeks, the blogosphere has been home to a dynamic conversation about the necessity of public relations. I know this happens every now and then: someone says that hiring a PR shop is useless, and we in the profession come together to defend our honor. While I don’t appreciate the bashing, it does allow me to step back and evaluate my role as a public relations practitioner.

I can tell you one thing: I didn’t decide to pursue a career in public relations so that I could send out spam-like e-mails to bloggers and spend hours hounding reporters about my clients. Media relations is not what drew me into PR, and even though it’s valuable, it is not why I will stay in this field, either.

I chose PR for a number of reasons. I loved the idea that I could facilitate relationships between an organization and its consumers. Me? I like people. I like helping people. I like talking and engaging in informative conversations. I love writing and thinking strategically. All of these interests translated well into a career in PR, where these interests could become a valuable skill set.

Last night put a lot of things into perspective for me. I had a great time hanging out with Paull Young, Converseon employee and fellow PR blogger. Paull introduced me to some incredibly smart, hilarious people who all happen to have blogs. As we sat there talking and eating fried pickles (yeah, I know… but they’re actually good!), I realized why I love what I do.

The most rewarding part of my job is not landing a placement in the Wall Street Journal or on a top-tier blog. For me, the gold medal comes from meeting someone and trying to figure out how I can build a mutually beneficial relationship between that person and myself, and maybe down the road, between that person and my client.

And you know what? That’s what the people we’re trying to reach want, too. You know – the important people, the consumers. They want to interact with companies and organizations that seem personal, that at least try to understand the people using their products or services. The same goes with the media: if they know and trust you, they are going to be more inclined to work with you. This is simple Communications 101, yet it seems to get lost as we struggle to get large impressions numbers and prove our contributions to the bottom line.

When you really listen to others, you start to gauge their interests and passions – with this, you can gain their trust. Trust is the building block to relationships, and relationships should be the foundation of good PR.

If you are the CEO of a major company or the president of a new start-up, you might not have the time or resources to find the right people to build quality relationships with. That’s where we PR folk should come in handy – it’s what we do, or at least what we should do. As communicators, we have an onslaught of tools and tactics that can help create worthwhile relationships, whether it’s with consumers, journalists, bloggers, analysts, employees.

Even though measurement and proving our contributions is fundamental to the success of our profession, it will be easier to do so if we start acting a little more human and a little less like impressions fiends. Don’t get me wrong – I know the value of measurement! I’m simply agreeing with others in the field who are saying that the key to these numbers depends on strong relationships and excellent communications skills. It takes time, but so does the creation of any good foundation.

A Young Pro’s Take: Media Relations and the New PR Blacklists

As a new—brand new!—PR professional, this tug-of-war between public relations practitioners and the media is exhausting. For those of you who don’t know about this already, another public outing of PR agencies that apparently spam bloggers and journalists has been created. Coming only a couple of months after Chris Anderson’s infamous blacklist, this shows that PR pros haven’t learned their lesson yet. But what exactly is the lesson that needs to be learned when it comes to media relations?

After reading the slew of posts covering this topic that popped up on the blogosphere yesterday, I think I’ve narrowed it down to a couple of core issues:

  • That’s not how I want to be contacted. These PR pros pitched the blogger at her personal e-mail address, when she clearly said this is not how she wanted to be contacted. This should be the first step in media relations—if you are trying to build a relationship with someone, you should respect their requests. All relationships are built on trust and respect, right?

**UPDATE: In this particular instance, Cision listed the blogger’s personal e-mail address as her main form of contact. Clearly a mistake on this company’s part, which might account for the heavy influx of pitches sent to this address. I’m interested to see how Cision handles this specific case. I am not making excuses as I still think it’s important for PR pros to monitor their media lists, making sure that they are up-to-date and correct.

  • 587 new e-mails…Bah humbug. Bulk pitching is, apparently, the devil. Bulk pitching equals laziness. It shows that the PR professional didn’t take the time to read the journalist’s past work, comment or engage in the material, and decided to send out mass pitch e-mails instead. Brian Solis’ post broke down e-mail pitches into three categories: spam, bacn, and tofu. The varying levels of processed (eh, or fake) meat depend on the level of connection the pitcher made with the journalist. I won’t go into too much detail because I really want you to click on the link and read the post for yourself—the post and the comments make for an interesting read. The point is that you have to know who you are pitching. Todd Defren at Shift Communications posted a terrific guideline to blogger relations and how to build these relationships before you pitch. He makes his employees laminate it and stick it on their desks—I’ll be doing it, too.
  • But I write about technology, not pet care. Another problem is that the journalist never writes about what we are pitching. This is the issue I have the most difficulty understanding, because it seems like common sense that you would only pitch those writers who have an interest in your client or product. I find it hard to believe that every agency listed on that wiki pitched an unrelated topic, which makes me wonder how broad is too broad? If you cover technology, and my client is releasing a new product related to Web development, shouldn’t I pitch you? Maybe I’m over thinking the whole process, but this is where my knowledge of media relations grows thin. How can I ensure that my message is wanted without being a mind reader?
  • What do you expect? I don’t know what I’m doing! Jeremy Pepper thinks the main issue is that PR pros aren’t being properly trained when it comes to media relations. While I can’t speak from the professional side, I can agree with him from the academic side. As a recent grad, I can tell you that I have had minimal exposure to pitching the media. This is, obviously, very difficult to do in the classroom setting, and most of my internships would let me pitch only when everyone else was swamped with bigger clients. For many of my peers, pitching is the thing we know the least about after graduation, which means it’s the area we need the most training in when we enter the workforce. What do we need to know? How do bloggers and journalists want to be pitched? Better yet, professionals, what are your media relations training programs like in this PR 2.0 world?

Back when I was a baby blogger, I wrote about this topic. I asked how to be better, and I got very few responses. So here I am, a PR professional, asking (again) what I can do to help make the relationship between PR and the media more beneficial for both sides. What’s the lesson that needs to be learned?

Because, personally, I want to stop this tug-o-war. My hands are getting blisters.