Swiss Money?

April 17, 2014

by Roger Pynn

I’m a fan of Fast Company.  It doesn’t matter what business you’re in, there’s always something to learn from FastCo whether on design, technology, marketing, workplace issues, leadership or dozens of other topics they cover so smartly.

But this piece on how to get the press to cover your startup company fails to deal with a gut-level issue that every startup exec needs to understand:  that before you start pitching your company to the media, you have to have done something that makes an impact.

The Q&A format item by Gannett CMO Maryam Banikarim, and Maxine Bédat, co-founder of the fashion site Zady, has some great practical advice.  But this preface is, I’m afraid, apt to make startups focus on the wrong objective:

“It’s not enough to have a great business if no one knows your company exists, but getting the media to pay attention to your startup can be tricky.”

In our experience, too many startup leaders want that exposure before they are ready for primetime.  To the authors’ point, our question is often, “What have you done to make sure you’re ready?”

The point is that many of them forget market research that confirms there is pent-up demand, that their product or service provides the features the target audience wants and that they’ve actually developed an answer the market will buy.

We’ve been working for a couple of weeks to develop a relationship with a startup that appears to have done everything right.  They’re anxious to get to market, but patient like what savvy real estate folks often call “Swiss money” … investors who know when it is finally time to sell.

So, long before they take the tactical advice Ms. Banikarim and Ms. Bédat prescribe, they are doing the due diligence necessary to make sure their pitch is based on a market-ready concept.  Swiss money.

Few Words, Big Meaning

April 11, 2014

by Dan Ward

Tim Siedell, one of the funniest people on Twitter (@BadBanana), today offered proof that 140 characters is more than enough to send a powerful message.

“Pretty cool how the Internet allows everyone to have a voice on who should be silenced next.”

Those of us who communicate for a living should strive to put so much meaning into so few words.

Flight 370 Clues: Ties to Orlando?

April 10, 2014

by Roger Pynn

That headline was a cheap trick.  Not, perhaps, anywhere near as questionable as the nonstop babble on CNN devoted to the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, but nonetheless I was using that to get your attention.

However, the real purpose of this post is to point out how important history is to telling a good story … and, more importantly, how important it is for journalists to know and explore history in their work.

If you’ve lived in Orlando most of your life as I have, you remember a mysterious building at the northeast corner of Summerlin and Gatlin Avenues, south of the city on a murky little pond known as Lake Gem Mary.

The U.S. Navy Underwater Sound Lab dated back to the 1940s and much of its technology is at work today … almost certainly helping those who are searching for the missing airplane … and yet none of this shameless nonstop coverage has looked at how searchers know how to find it.

At the Lake Gem site, naval researchers worked on the development of underwater sound measurement devices and precision measurement on sonar equipment.  For years there was a huge steel dock extending over the lake that was used to hold listening equipment tested in the tiny but very deep lake … very much like that being used now in the Indian Ocean.

naval lab

Photo Credit:  State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory

And that’s what history can add to a good story.

And the Award Goes to …

April 10, 2014

by Dan Ward

One year ago I received a tremendous honor, being named the PR Professional of the Year for Career Excellence by the Orlando Chapter of the Florida Public Relations Association.

In my remarks that night, I mentioned a few professionals who I thought deserved to one day share this honor, and tops on my list was Grant Heston, associate vice president of communications and public affairs for my alma mater (and client), the University of Central Florida (UCF).

I’m glad to say my prediction came true, and tonight I look forward to watching Grant accept an award for which he is most deserving.

For nearly seven years, Grant has earned the respect and trust of UCF’s president, board of trustees, provost, deans and vice presidents through consistently strong and strategic advice and counsel, and never was this more apparent than in the days and weeks following a crisis that thrust UCF into the national spotlight.  His team jumped into action after a planned mass shooting was thwarted, and they earned well-deserved respect from the community, and from national media, for their commitment to transparency.

Grant played an instrumental role as well in the effort to save public television in the Central Florida market, leading UCF’s charge to become the primary public television provider … all while he was in the midst of earning his master’s degree from UCF.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Grant for nearly 10 years, both during his tenure at UCF and at OUC, and have always been impressed by his knowledge, his ability to stay calm under pressure, his sense of humor, and most importantly, the example he sets for his peers and colleagues.

Congratulations, Grant.  I can think of no one more deserving.

Happy Anniversary!

April 8, 2014

by Kim Taylor

Twitter so kindly reminded me this morning that I’ve been tweeting for seven years now—SEVEN!  Twitter’s only been around a year longer than that, so I guess that makes me an early adopter.

TwitterI thought I’d use today’s anniversary to reflect on why I still regularly use the social network.

I’ll admit, when I was urged to give Twitter a try by a friend, who has always been a thought leader in the social space, I was skeptical.

So, what’s kept me coming back?

Relationships/Access:  I’ve always said this is my No. 1 reason for tweeting.  Journalists, brands, leaders are all just a tweet away.  Some are remarkably better than others at interaction, but those who do engage make sticking around worthwhile.

Breaking News/Info:  For me, there is no better source for breaking news than my Twitter feed.  In terms of information, I like to use Twitter as an RSS feed of sorts.  By following a variety of people, news outlets, blogs and brands, I feel I’m exposed to so much I would have to spend hours tracking down otherwise.

Promotion:  I like to keep things light on Twitter.  I believe people follow people, not organizations.  I share our company blogs and successes there, but I also mix in personal tweets.  We’re human, and humans aren’t all business all the time.  Sometimes it’s nice to see that a person has hobbies or interests outside of their career.

Hashtags/Search:  Although, I’ve admittedly abused the hashtag in Twitter for fun, I still find the hashtag incredibly useful.  Especially for monitoring buzz around conferences I can’t attend in person.  Conference-goers are really good at getting those useful sound bites and sharing them with their followers—that’s Twitter gold if you’re paying attention.

The search function in Twitter has gotten so much better over the years.  It’s a go-to resource for me to find that extra layer of goodness on a topic, brand or person.  Did you know you can search by date range, location, or even by particular user account?  The options are endless.

So, do you Tweet?  I’d love to know why/why not—share some of your reasons in the comments.

Opportunity Lost for Government Responsibility

April 8, 2014

by Kerry Martin

I loved hearing recently about the teen who had the idea to save the government money by switching fonts and reducing the amount of ink used.  My first thought was, “give that kid a scholarship!”  But my second thought was, “I wonder if the government will end up doing anything about it.”

More than one week after the press went wild with the story, there hasn’t been much in the way of announcements from taxpayer-funded entities other than a spokesperson saying how much the government has cut down on the amount of printing it does.  Tell that to the EPA, which throws away thousands of printed pages a year.  Even though some analysts have determined that the estimated $400 million in savings was probably a stretch, I’m sure this calls attention to the fact that font, type size and style have an effect on ink usage.

At a time when the general public is concerned with wasteful spending, budget deficits and sustainability, I would have thought that local, state or federal government offices would grab any opportunity to piggy-back their messaging onto a hot news story like this.

To me, this was a lost opportunity to institute new policies and communicate commitment to saving money through small practices like switching to Garamond.

Can a PR Firm Not Be a “Best Place to Work”?

April 4, 2014

by Julie Hall

We often counsel clients on entering awards programs as a way to promote their successes through third-party validation.  It’s a great way for companies to receive recognition for their work and secure positive attention within their industry and among potential customers.

For many companies, there is no greater accolade than being recognized by its own employees as a great place to work.  Many regional and statewide business publications run annual programs that aim to showcase the best workplaces in their area.  Often, companies nominate themselves and the publication hosting the awards program polls employees to determine the final results.

Some PR firms in the Boston area are not happy with their local business paper, as its publisher has banned PR agencies from submitting their own companies for the annual best places to work awards.  The Boston Business Journal stated that “no one industry should dominate the category” and “the sheer number of submissions from PR firms” resulted in their decision to disqualify PR agencies from entering.

I think many agencies fall into the trap of not doing enough to promote themselves (after all, the cobbler’s children often have no shoes) as we focus on delivering the best results for our clients.  I commend any agency that takes steps to showcase its own successes, whether that’s entering their work for PR industry award programs or submitting themselves as a best place to work.  PR firms submit awards on behalf of many different companies, and I think the agencies themselves should have the opportunity to throw their names in the hat, as well.

What do you think?  Should PR firms be allowed to enter awards programs for themselves, or does it unfairly stack the cards against other companies that want to enter but may not have the same PR support?


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