3 Things PR Pros Should Know Before Working With Bloggers

By Amanda Limoges

We’ve all heard it before: Media relations is rapidly changing and bloggers have become an emerging, more common source of news. In fact, blogs might even be the perfect outlet for sharing a client’s story, but how they function and expect to be contacted can often be misunderstood by PR pros. Since I began working at RLF, I have had the opportunity to work with bloggers on behalf of numerous clients, and have developed a few best practices along the way:
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Three Things to Look for in a PR Internship

By Adam Bowers

If you’re studying public relations, you’ve probably heard this countless times from professors, peers, parents and professional connections: It is really important to find an internship. You’re no doubt sick and tired of hearing it, but unfortunately, it’s true. Internships are important in any industry, but they’re especially crucial in PR. The good news is that there are a lot of agencies looking for strong intern talent to support them. Many budding PR pros are tempted to take the first internship offer that they receive, but it’s important to remember that not all internship programs are created equal. There are three things that RLF believes every young PR professional should seek in an internship:
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5 Ways to Survive Your First Year as a PR Pro

By Alyssa Bedrosian

Graduating from college and diving headfirst into the world of public relations can be scary. No matter how many internships you had or how great your professors were, you will never be fully prepared for your first full-time position at an agency or an in-house communications department. Managing client relationships, mastering the pitch, and working effectively in a team are skills that you learn on the job – not in a classroom.
However, there are some concrete ways you can prepare for your first year in PR. As a young professional myself, I’ve learned how to navigate the industry and come out successful, even when that meant getting a few bumps and bruises along the way. Here are some of my tips for those entering the field:
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3 Valentine’s Day Campaigns Spread The Love This Season

By Marina Panagopulos

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, companies are finding unique ways to spread the love. Whether it’s through fun in-store challenges or more serious matchmaking efforts, brands are successfully (and sometimes not so successfully) getting in the Valentine’s Day spirit.
Here’s a review of three impressive campaigns that are bound to spark conversation this year:

World’s Largest #StarbucksDate

Starbucks and Match.com are pairing up on Feb. 13 to host what is expected to be the “world’s largest Starbucks date.” Single Match users will get access to a special “Meet at Starbucks” feature to send out invites and arrange first dates. Starbucks will offer $5 pairings of coffee and bakery treats for two.
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Fewer Numbers, Bigger Goals

By Monty Hagler

We’re two weeks into 2015, and I’m proud to say I’m right on track with my New Year’s resolutions. Cynics might say it’s because I set them too low, but I have a different point of view. Rather than focusing on daily numbers and measurements, I’ve instead decided to concentrate on the ultimate objectives. Fewer numbers, yet bigger goals.
In my personal life, I’m not going to chart my weight, count my calories or clock my times in the pool this year. My goal is to be fitter, leaner and healthier. A dual-edged strategy should get me there – work out with more intensity and more often, and eat less and more infrequently.
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Hamlet’s Blackberry by William Powers: How to Build a Good Life in the Digital Age

By Taylor Smith

I have read many books and articles discussing the digital age and how smartphones and laptops have taken over our lives and diminished our ability to communicate face to face. I have read fewer books and articles that provide useful insight on how to not fall victim to our technologies and how to be a productive and skilled communicator in this era. Hamlet’s Blackberry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age, thoughtfully crafted by William Powers, is the answer to our connected conundrum. Powers provides insight on how human beings have adapted to new technologies since writing and reading were invented in ancient Rome, and how to be a productive employee while still enjoying and utilizing our Internet connectedness.
During my time as an intern at RLF, I’ve noticed the challenges that face public relations professionals in the digital age. When is it appropriate to email a client versus call a client? What is the best way to pitch a reporter – email, social media or phone? How should I effectively communicate with my account team? While the answer isn’t always black and white, Hamlet’s Blackberry shares insight on how to effectively use new technologies to help us live a good life in the digital age.
Here are the top three digital life lessons I learned from Powers:

Create balance

Email is necessary for just about every PR function—pitching reporters, working with clients, communicating internally, etc. It is impossible to ignore our forever overflowing email inboxes, but sometimes it is necessary to take a break and step away from the emails and the computer all together. As an intern at RLF, I was surprised by the amount of emails I had waiting for me every morning and it took the first 15-20 minutes of my day to sort through them. There is something to be said about using pen and paper to take notes and draft ideas, as well as picking up the telephone to have a conversation with someone rather than sending them an email or a text. If you are using email for internal communication, try instead to get up and talk to your coworkers face to face. This type of communication provides a break from the computer screen, ensures you won’t get distracted on an unrelated website, and can ultimately be much more efficient and productive.

Be adaptable

Laptops, smartphones and tablets are just a few of a long list of technologies that have been introduced to society over the course of human history. First there was writing and reading, then printing, followed by a whole slew of inventions that were created to make our lives easier. At some point, most of these technologies were met with resistance because they were new and changed the way things were historically done. The point that Powers makes in his book is that our society eventually adopted writing and reading, and our lives would be missing substance without these technologies. It is only a matter of time before our society adapts to more recently introduced technologies, and the excessive Internet connectivity will become regularly and effortlessly integrated into our daily lives.
Personally, I use my smartphone and laptop on a daily basis to conduct school work and balance a social life, and I could not do these things without them; using these technologies are a normal part of my day from the time I get up to when I go to bed at night. In the same way, it’s important for PR and marketing professionals to adapt to and adopt new technology as part of our overall strategic plan. Whether it’s social media, digital marketing or website development, the industry is always changing and communications organizations have to keep up.

Know when to unplug and when to plug in

Knowing when to plug into the connected “crowd” and when to unplug and be alone with your thoughts is essential in obtaining and maintaining the aforementioned balance. Powers suggests taking a break from being connected because we are often plagued with information overload, and it is beneficial to unplug in order to process it all. The more time we take to process information, the more useful it will be to us in the future and will enhance our productivity. Sometimes we need to step away from the screen to foster creativity and develop new ideas and strategic plans that will help set our clients apart from the competition.
I find it helpful to take a break and walk away from my computer periodically during the day, and when I am at home I make an effort to put my smartphone down and focus on conversations with friends in person or meditating on my day. Doing these things clears my mind and allows me to be more productive and effective when it comes time to be connected at RLF or for school.
As PR professionals, we need to learn both how to connect and how to disconnect when necessary. While we need to be on top of news as it happens and constantly available for clients, we also need to be able to step away from the screen and communicate in person. Fostering relationships has been achieved without computers for centuries — we can still do it today. Growing up as a millennial, I am prone to sending an email or text instead of making a phone call or having an in-person meeting, but that isn’t going to get us as far in an industry centered around building relationships. Powers’ advice to the digital generation is this: “Sometimes the coolest device is no device at all.” Put the screen down for a moment and enjoy the ride.

Unreal PR

By Ross Pfenning

With the impending day of spirits, ghouls and costumed chicanery fast approaching, it seems most anyone with access to a blog or some social media outlet is attempting to jump on the trend-wagons of #halloween or #trickortreat. So, in the eternal spirit of “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” we give you the following fantastical feature.
For the duration of this blog post, I have one simple request: Allow yourself to believe – just for a couple of minutes – that vampires, werewolves, wizards and witches, along with all the other supernatural creatures of legend, do, in fact, exist; that they breathe the same air as you and even walk down the same dimly lit streets you do. Was that a chill or did it just get colder in here?
So, if these creatures really do exist, it raises one critically important question: Why is the (mortal) world so convinced they do not? And here’s the only ‘logical’ answer I can fathom: Someone or something is pulling off the most masterful PR campaign the world has never seen. I’m dubbing it “Unreal PR: Public relations for all beings who are mythical, legendary or otherwise fabled—and want to stay that way.”
To uncover this mysterious enterprise, we’re going to examine some of the PR tactics these folkloric fiends have likely employed – as long as they don’t get to us first!

Crisis communication

As anyone involved in the public scene knows, anticipating the next territorial werewolf dispute or vampire feeding frenzy is the key to keeping a situation under control. By pre-emptively developing and continually updating plans for different crises, the powers that be are able to regulate the release of information to the public, giving them time to perform damage control and deliver a situation-appropriate message.
Of course, in the case of paranormal occurrences, the general public’s dedicated unwillingness to accept things which cannot be explained with cold, hard facts and forensics lends a massive assist to those attempting to cover up the possible discovery of their kind. So, the headline “Amateur Wizard Accidently Ignites Warehouse in Attempt to Woo Girlfriend” becomes “Unattended Gas Leak Leads to Inferno on the Docks.” “Wrestling Giants Use City’s Buildings as Bludgeons” instead reads “First Earthquake in County History Levels Entire City Block.”
As for the eyewitnesses, who knows what happened to them?

Consistency of message

Not only is it critical to get out ahead of a crisis, but also to create and circulate a standard message that is echoed and reinforced in subsequent deliveries. Electing trained spokespeople to handle all interviews and briefings mitigates any chance of incompatible or otherwise incongruent messages from being communicated to the public.
While this “monster” of a PR campaign has inarguably been successful, it has not been without its share of complications. In carrying on such an elaborate deception for so long, mistakes have inevitably been made. Now whether some have been purposeful – to keep us guessing – or purely accidental, it’s hard to tell. But one has to wonder: Why do we have so many competing theories on the best ways to kill a vampire?

Knowing your audience and medium

No, I’m not talking about crystal balls or a séance. Crucial to delivering the right message is knowing who will be receiving it and how. More often than not, there are multiple, distinct parties seeking explanation after a crisis has occurred. While, for the sake of expediency, it is appropriate for the first public address to take more of a one-size-fits-all approach, subsequent messages should be tailored to each of the different audiences to quell their respective concerns. Of course, it is necessary to also take into account the medium by which the messages will be delivered. The public at large may accept a news broadcast and a few well-worded, sincere tweets, but stakeholders potentially affected by the situation will require greater, more personalized attention.
The general public is a skeptical bunch, except for matters concerning supernatural events. Time and again, the oblivious, disbelieving humans conveniently play right into the hands of the otherworldly deceivers. They may have our number, but where our antiquated antagonists fall a bit short is in their comprehension of modern communication. Vampires might have superhuman speed and agility going for them, but that doesn’t mean they can necessarily compete with a teenager on a smartphone (unless they’re a teenage vampire who was recently turned, in which case GAME OVER). News travels lightning-fast these days, so it’s more important than ever to respond to crises faster than a witch on turbo-charged broomstick. The trick comes in doing so without sounding like a senseless zombie.
As for the treat, who doesn’t like a PR win? Those magical, mythical, monstrous types certainly do. And let’s be real, they’re probably in the act of hunting down each and every person currently reading this post. Your only hope now is to share this information with everybody you can! Then run and hide. Just make sure to take your phone with you so you can document the experience in 140-character increments. And pics or it didn’t happen!
Photo courtesy of Daniel Hollister’s Flickr photostream.

From Music Sensation to PR Pro: 3 Lessons We Can Learn From Taylor Swift

By Alyssa Bedrosian

Taylor Swift is a singer-songwriter, actress, philanthropist, spokesmodel, fashion icon, and now, according to The Washington Post, a “public relations genius.”
With the release of her new album “1989” set for Oct. 27, Swift and her PR team have embarked on a strategic, full-force publicity campaign that has left “Swifties” (myself included) desperately counting down the days to the album release. The campaign started with multiple clues on her Instagram account, which led to a worldwide live stream event on Yahoo where Swift announced her new album and released her new single “Shake It Off.” Since then, Swift has been on just about every magazine cover possible and has made numerous television appearances, including an interview on “The Tonight Show” and performances at the MTV Video Music Awards and X-Factor UK.
While much of Swift’s PR success can be attributed to her high budget and seasoned PR team, it’s obvious that the 24-year-old has picked up some tips and tricks along the way and is a strong force behind her publicity strategy.
Here are three PR lessons the rest of us can learn from the star:

Know your audience

One of the basic principles of PR is to identify and understand your target audience. Swift has an in-depth understanding of her fans and is constantly engaging with them — she attended a fan’s bridal shower over the summer, included fans in the “Shake It Off” music video, and has commented on fans’ Instagram posts, most notably writing an uplifting comment to a fan who had been bullied. Swift connects with her fans through numerous channels, including magazine covers, late night talk shows, social media, television music competitions and Diet Coke commercials. Swift has secured a very wide, yet targeted, reach through a variety of channels, and as a result has fostered engagement and enhanced her credibility as an artist.

Build a strong, authentic brand

In addition to building a highly engaged audience, Swift has developed a strong brand identity that is key to her success. Swift understands who she is as an artist and public figure, and works hard to maintain her position and image. While many artists use their social media accounts as a mind dump, Swift takes a measured approach. Even as she has grown up over the years and changed from country artist to emerging pop star, the essence of Swift’s brand is the same, and she has remained honest and open with her fans about the ways in which she has evolved, a feat that can pose challenges for many artists.

PR = Relationships

While Swift works to maintain her strong personal brand, she still allows for relationships and experiences to shape her, her music, and ultimately, her fans, which brings me to the cornerstone of Swift’s success: Swift has bought into PR as a mutually beneficial relationship. PR is not a magic bullet—it’s all about building relationships that benefit both the organization (Swift) and its publics (Swifties). Swift and her team understand the importance of relationship building and have used both traditional and new media to create a culture in which Swift’s target audience can participate in a two-way, engaging conversation. Most recently, Swift has taken to social media to share lyrics from each track on the new album and has used hashtags to foster an ongoing conversation about “1989.” Swift influences and inspires her fans, and they seem to influence and inspire her as well — an achievement that most companies can only dream of.
Swift and her team have successfully built a comprehensive PR strategy focused on Swifties, a strong brand identity and relationship building. However, PR is not advertising — you can’t always control your message, and sometimes you are forced to be reactive rather than proactive. Despite Swift’s accomplishments in the world of PR and all the positive coverage she has secured leading up to the release of “1989,” she knows all too well that the “haters are gonna hate” and that the negative press will come. Her solution? Shake it off.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Black-Belt Tips for PR Professionals

By Michelle Rash

Last August my daughter, now seven, began taking tae kwon do lessons. She quickly demonstrated a passion and a talent for it, and when her dojang offered parents free trial lessons in May, she persuaded me to give it a try. I will admit, I initially thought I would do free classes and then stop, but I quickly saw why she enjoyed it so much and began taking classes regularly, earning my yellow belt last week (my daughter is now a blue belt).
As I work my way toward a black belt, it has occurred to me that there are several lessons I am learning at tae kwon do that I can apply to my professional life.

Stop and breathe

At the start of every class, we take a moment to meditate. It gives us the opportunity to clear our heads from distractions and focus our minds in preparation for class. And often, during the class, the masters encourage us to take a moment to pause and catch our breath as we prepare for the next task.
In PR, it’s also important that we pause every now and then to refocus our energies. So often we get caught up in dealing with the situation at hand, the “fire drills” of immediate client needs that come with the territory, that we forget to take the time to pause, take a step back, and make sure that we are spending our time and energy on the most important things for our clients and their businesses.

Start with the basics and work your way up

While the ultimate goal of tae kwon do is to achieve a black belt, you have to first learn the basic kicks, blocks and punches.
So it is with PR. It is important that we work with our clients to have the basic “moves” down – such as defining their audiences and determining their key messages – before any advertising or media relations campaign can begin. While we always want to achieve “black belt” results for all of our clients, we first need to guarantee that all of the basic pieces are in place to make the most of our time and energy.
And even once you have mastered some of the more challenging skills, it is important to spend some time back in the basics. Just as a black belt may spend some time focusing on a basic kick or simple punch to make sure it is perfect, we need to remember that, even in this age of businesses looking for the next big thing, sometimes the basic, tried-and-true communications techniques are the best.

Strive for consistency

Tae kwon do takes a lot of practice and preparation. As with other sports, if you miss too many practices, your skills can get rusty and the more you miss, the harder it is to get back into shape. You can’t just attend class once or twice a month, or even once a week, and expect to improve.
Similarly with PR, it’s important to be in front of your audiences consistently and regularly. It takes a constant stream of advertising to be noticed, and more importantly, stay at the top of a potential customer’s mind. And it often takes a steady stream of media relations outreach to be known as the go-to source for a reporter. While not every pitch will hit the mark with every reporter – and not every punch will hit the target with full force – the effort is still key to achieving the results you want.

Set goals and build upon success

The natural goal of tae kwon do is to get a black belt, but there are several milestones along the way – every new skill mastered or belt obtained. Each of these is celebrated, whether by a high-five from a fellow student or at a belt ceremony. Recognizing these achievements and building upon them helps to keep our focus on the larger goal, but also allows us to rejoice in the progress we are making.
So often in PR, our attention is so focused on the long-range goal of our campaigns and our clients, that we fail to recognize the small accomplishments along the way – a great media placement, a response from a key reporter, reaching a milestone in developing a new website, or even some anecdotal evidence that the work we are doing is paying off. We need to take time to rejoice in the little victories, at least for a few minutes, to help keep us energized and motivated for our bigger goals.

Pay attention to the competition and think about your next move

A key piece of tae kwon do is sparring with a competitor – going back and forth looking for an opportunity or a weakness to score a point. While I still have just a little experience with sparring, I know that it’s crucial not just to pay attention to what your opponent is doing, but also to think ahead to your next move and determine the best strategy to win the match.
While the fights are not as clear cut and obvious as a sparring match, in PR it is critical that we keep an eye on our clients’ competition and industry trends. This helps us look for opportunities to differentiate our clients from others in their field and play up their strengths. We also need to always be thinking ahead to our next move and figuring out the best way to give our clients an edge or finding the next opportunity to get them in front of their target audience.
Whether it’s the thrill of landing a hard-to-get interview with a key publication, seeing a new website go live after months of work, or the stress relief that comes from a great workout at the end of a hectic day, I get the same adrenalin rush and sense of accomplishment from both my professional life and new-found hobby. And that thrill, that joy, is what makes all the hard work worthwhile.