Social Media Engagement: The conversation is happening now – with or without you…

Corporate circles active on Facebook were going crazy wondering why their Facebook fan pages’ likes are dropping so drastically today. Its simple, according to news.cnet.com Facebook is getting rid of fake accounts, likes and users! ( http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-57521074-93/facebook-trashes-fake-accounts-users-and-likes/ )

This has been a point of discussion in social media circles for a while – when will corporations understand the need for engagement and not increasing likes and follows?

It is best practice to outsource your social media activities to a digital marketing agency as it is very extensive and creative work. However, the grievance of any digital agency is the same; clients are always asking for increased likes and follows for their brands. So far it can be managed by using applications that ensure large numbers of fake profiles to get the deed done. Guess what? This approach doesn’t do anything for your business.

The key is to engage! A simple three-step process really…

1. Be Present:
Consumers today expect companies they do business with to have a social media presence. By being there you give them the satisfaction of being accessible and having the capacity to move with the winds of change.

2. Listen:
Consumers expect brands to listen and acknowledge when they have feedback to give. This is real-time market research, brands learn more about their target audience by hearing them out and understanding their needs.

3. Act:
Acknowledgement can only be communicated via engagement which is what you must do in order to maintain an active social media presence. This gives you the opportunity to improve according to the needs of the consumer and recommend them of any misconceptions they may foster.

Community isn’t developed through campaigns it’s developed through continuous, authentic engagement. The rules of social media are being written everyday – brands that experiment, innovate and engage will see the most success.

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Avoid a Disastrous Event – Cancel!!!

In today’s fast paced life, anything can happen at any given time; may it be civil unrest or a natural disaster, one can never predict. In such scenarios it is likely that a media event will definitely take a big hit with no-shows and cancellations. Know that it is perfectly acceptable to cancel your event; however, a change in plan such as postponement or cancellation may lead to confusions and even complete disasters. It is advisable for any PR pro to always have a contingency plan ready to be put into action if such a scenario occurs.

The name of the game remains the same – COMMUNICATE!!! Here’s how…

– If you do decide to cancel, email/text all invitees (speakers, sponsors, presenters, media partners, and everyone else involved in the event) immediately. Mark it as URGENT in the subject line to maximize readership of the message.
– Post daily updates on your website and Facebook/Twitter channels about what you’re doing to wind down the event.
– For your regular contacts, show the courtesy of calling them personally and informing them of the change in plans.
– Try and use other PR tools to salvage the news dissemination. Send the news out via emails and fax. Arrange for exclusive sound bytes with local press via phone/email/skype etc.
– Be available and accessible for invitees to be able to get in touch if needed.

What not to do when pitching a story.

It is essential for any PR professional to know how to pitch their clients’ story to the media. It is equally imperative to know how NOT to pitch your stories as well. 

The basics; know your clients’ business and audience stays in place, the learning here is to know your media just as well. This entails knowing the following:

1. What story should be pitched to which media outlets

2. What story should be pitched to what tier of media, reporter, editor, business editor, city editor etc.

3. What segment/section of the newspaper/program is relevant to your story

Once determined who to take which story to, while pitching avoid the following:

– Never mention a competitor’s similar news story as the journalist may take this as a demand or worse complaint. It may also come off as a ‘me-too’ situation bringing your credibility down as a strategic consultant.

– Never quote a similar story that has appeared in a competitor media outlet. No journalist wants to do a story which has already been published/aired by their competitor. Repeat – Nobody wants to be a ‘me-too’

– Remember media relations does not mean that the journalist you have previously worked with is your ‘friend’. Stick to the facts of the story, if you are talking about the journalists’ area of interest, they will definitely listen. Overly friendly attitude will get you nowhere since you are never off the record with the media and they expect you to know it!

– Never pitch a story to a journalist on a casual or social platform. Ensure professionalism and ethics to win the trust of the journalist. You may call them to pitch a story but never facebook them for a story. Understand the meaning of personal space. 

– Never, EVER, pitch a negative story of a competitor! More than anything, it is unethical and bad practice for any business. 

– If pitching a stealth story, don’t tell them it is a stealth story. Give them all the material, try to tap a human interest angle which they can relate to. Make it a discussion and make it sound like their idea – not yours. 

– If you have previously done the journalist a favour, don’t mention it while pitching a story. It’s all about relations and even a gentle reminder of a favour you may have pulled will make the journalist question your intentions and character. 

– Don’t deviate from the topic to another story you want to pitch or a press release of another client. Stay focused.

– Lastly, once you grab their attention, don’t disappear for a second and always be available to provide more information or support to the journalist. 

If you guys have any more tips and tricks from your experience, please feel free to share them.

Happy pitching! 🙂

Remember, it’s called ‘happy’ hour…!

Having a casual hang out with colleagues is always a good idea as it allows the reinforcement of a positive and friendly working environment. This in effect is the key to a more productive organizational structure.

However, it can also go horribly wrong.

As a PR professional, your colleagues are not restricted to your own firm but in fact can extend to people of the same industry, clients or worse – media. The key to interaction at leisure is to always remember – it is called happy hour for a reason. Means no shop talk! Here are some simple rules that can help you stay clear of potential conversations that may go sour.

  • Avoid gossip

After a long day at work, you might let down your guard and steer the conversation to a negative place. It’s never a good idea to make happy hour into a place to vent about everything you hate about the workplace. This may help you vent and feel better for the time being but may not give the best impression about you to your colleagues.

Bitch sessions about work should stay restricted to limited friends or a spouse – anywhere else and you may as well burn your CV and stay stuck in your ‘sucky’ job for time immemorial.

  • Watch what you say

Even worse than gossip are threatening remarks. Just as in the case of media, remember – you are never off-the-record with work buddies. Speaking out of turn or acting too smart may lead them to judge you. You want to keep your reputation as a competent, reliable employee in tact. Don’t give in your two cents into conversations just because you should take part. Nobody likes a know-it-all and it is completely acceptable to be a listener.

  • Keep it kosher 

Happy hour doesn’t necessarily have to mean the consumption of alcohol. It can just as easily be a relaxing coffee date with your work buddies. Just a light unwinding session to shake off the happenings of the day.

  • Remember, it’s called happy ‘hour’ for a reason

Don’t linger, because you might end up making a casual relationship with work mates into an intense heartfelt debate. You don’t want to be the talk of the office come Monday because you disclosed too much. Keep it clean – keep it classy!

Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy – Pakistan’s most effective PR tool…!

Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy is a Pakistani documentarian who is the first Pakistani to win an Oscar. Sharmeen brought home the Oscar for her short documentary film, Saving Face. Previously to this, Sharmeen also won an Emmy for her documentary, Pakistan: Children of the Taliban in 2010.

After a very long time, Pakistan is in the limelight world over for something positive, and something Pakistanis all over the world can be proud of. As a PR person, the first thing that started brewing in my head after the emotional win was, how can Sharmeen, the pride and joy of Pakistan help in the positive profiling of Pakistan?

Keeping in mind the fastest mode of communication and awareness available today, i.e.; social media – (which is already burning like wild fire with the news), it is most important to control the pessimists who are raining on her parade with their negative comments. What must be highlighted is the fact that this accomplishment reflects on our growth as a nation accepting our shortcomings and trying to tackle the internal issues faced by the people of Pakistan through innovative means such as Sharmeen’s documentaries.

Pakistan is on the international radar right now and what the international media reports is very important to the country’s image. How we manage our image and change the perception of Pakistan to the rest of the world is of crucial importance right now.

Perception Management through PR:

One of the key functions of PR is to educate and change perceptions. This Oscar win for Pakistan has been dedicated to the women of Pakistan working to bring about a change for Pakistan. This heartfelt dedication by the Academy Award winner leaves a large playing field for PR to work its charm and educate the world about the positive aspects of Pakistan.  It is time to drive the change we want to bring to Pakistan and showcase it to the world as well.

Some ways to influence your audience:

Define your goal. Once you know what you want your audience to decode from your messaging, apply the strategies below to manage perceptions.

–          Clarity:

It is important to clarify your position and communicate a comprehensible, precise message about yourself and your brand i.e. – Pakistan.

–          Understanding:

Build an understanding of Pakistani society and represent a literate and aware society which is willing to help the masses and bring them up to par with the 21st century.

–          Consistency:

Repeat your messaging to make it top of mind recall.

–          Credibility:

Make sure all of your information is consistent and always backed by the truth. Endorsements are a great way to bring credibility.

–          Crisis Management:

Crisis communication should always be factored in. A crisis should be managed by relaying the truth, accepting responsibility and having a solution to propose.

In the case of Pakistan’s PR it is important to showcase the positive aspects of Pakistan clear strong messaging – repeatedly! Lastly, another round of applause for Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy for bringing pride and joy to Pakistan.

Befriending the Media.

PR people are usually a source of nuisance to the media. They hound them to put in a good word for their client, try and stop negative news and are always asking for more coverage for the client. But as PR folk, we must strike a balance and make sure this relationship between our main stakeholders, i.e. – the media folk is of give and take. Let’s see what we can offer them!

Information:
First and foremost, the job of PR folks is to have the information and provide that information according to need. We know what makes good news and we can channel it through to the right audience! Information is also what sets apart a great PR person from the PR folks.

Contacts:
Our highest privilege is our contacts in all spheres of life, especially our clients – we are able to provide access to extraordinary personalities who may otherwise not give the time of day to the media.

Reliability:
The crucial thing about news is, it is time sensitive – PR folk are extremely reliable sources when a reporter has a deadline to meet and input from a client is needed. A PR consultant can badger the client into catering to the reporter then and there in order to achieve two goal;

1. Most important, PR mileage for the client
2. Obliging the media when they need it the most

Corporate Favours:
Quite often you will come across a situation where one of your clients is in a position to favour a certain media person in need of something, example; a discount on airfare, expediting delivery of a product and if you are really lucky – with an exclusive story that the reporter needs. These are small things for the respective client but come across as you have gone over and above and favoured the journalist. Never underestimate the small favours you can do for a media person, they can go a long way and help build stronger relations as well as indebt them to help you out when you are having a dry spell with a client’s PR mileage.

Entertainment:
Albeit being a very small part, PR people need to keep interacting with the media as they are the main stakeholders of the PR industry. It is always good to invite a journalist from time to time to an event of his/her interest apart from work (one company expense of course!) to make them feel special.

Insider Info:
This tool can be used in following scenarios;

1. Crisis management – Imagine your client being in a fix, you are the first person the media will call and you can give them the right scoop while safeguarding your client’s interests.

2. Industry FYI – As PR professionals it is our job to have an insight into the business community. This enables us to keep abreast the latest happenings and serves very well as a conversation starter with just about anybody. The trick is to share your insider knowledge by gauging the journalists’ area of interest and then give them the information as a thoughtful gesture of your close personal relationship with them, especially if the information is not related to any of your clients. It shows that you are well informed and the best source of information for the journalist.

3. The other side of the story – With your contacts, you can help a journalist out in getting the ‘other side of the story’ from time to time. This usually works in the case of policy matters involving large corporations.

Know Your Media!

They key to any successful PR campaign is knowing your media and their various social segments.
1. The Head Honchos:

These are the owners/publishers and their extended families and friends who basically feel like they own everything they touch as they are the people with the contacts! They are the glitterati of the media, usually spotted in the Sunday editions of magazines as part of every social event of the week.

How to handle:

They are easy enough to approach at a social gathering if you are dressed right and have a host of renowned clients to flaunt. Name dropping is an easy tactic to attract their attention.

2. The Serious Journalist:

You can spot this type of journalist by their appearance. They tend to be scruffy, always carry a notepad, wearing the press card like a badge of honour (usually stained and battered as though it was created in 1900) and dressed in clothes that were never in style. This breed almost always works in print—important to remember because the bad business situation of that medium really angers this folk and they are determined not to accept that newspapers will ever go out of style. References to it should be avoided at all costs! They HATE the PR people, firstly because they earn a lot less and always believe the latter to be lying to serve a client’s agenda.

How to handle:

Handle this group with care, and prepare for brusque behavior—and the distinct scent of stale cigarettes.
3. The Cub:

These are the fresh out of J-school lot who come with a vigor for the truth and nothing but the truth! They’ll be demanding, pushy, and generally unpleasant if they don’t get what they want. They have the power of knowledge and usually no respect for anyone other than themselves.

How to handle:

Don’t worry too much this breed; the Cub is not sent to cover stories of major consequence and is easily handled. However, they may go around sniffing for negative stories which may lead to a byline for them!
4. The I-am-the-media People:

They believe themselves to be the most IT-thing in media. Mostly the face of the show on the television or the local RJ who never intended to be journalists but are fulfilling their failed dreams of becoming a model/actor through the world of news. These are also the entertainment journalism folks who live under the delusion that their news sells more than actual news. They spend considerably more time on their looks than on learning the facts of a story.

How to handle:

Be careful – they may look impressive what with their designer clothes and almost always perfect hair but to get your message through REPEAT!
5. The Social Media Guru:

This mafia has come into force in the recent decade with the influx of social media. They call themselves Bloggers. These are the folks who perceive themselves to be the influencers of the masses today. They are usually the ones creating havoc on the internet and talking about controversial topics just to build a following.

How to handle:

This cult requires plenty of information and they want it now! The best way to handle them is proactively. Lobbying is a strategy applied best with this media.

Knowing the media will enable you to handle them such that your campaign gets an all rounded applause!