Arguably more difficult than landing that perfect company feature in a top-tier outlet is managing and maintaining positive client relations year-over-year. As your client’s company culture morphs, executives come and go or product roadmap shifts, your trusted PR team is along for the ride, adapting on-the-fly as the company evolves. Despite the inevitable changes that you’ll experience with your client, what should never change is continually striving to maintain close relations with the client. Whether you’re working directly with the CEO or marketing lead, there are a few key success ingredients that should remain top of mind. After all, an investment in client relations is going to make your work life more positive and productive.
Here are a few fool proof ways to build successful client relationships:
It’s All About Expectations
One of the biggest PR-to-client pitfalls is being misaligned on goals, strategy and associated metrics. Even worse? Getting through a launch and presenting what you believe to be a positive recap only to find that the client expected a different outcome. Ouch. To avoid those awkward and unwelcomed conversations the best bet is to start the relationship with a clear strategy that both parties agree on. This means that the PR team needs to call BS when the client believes something is worthy of the NY Times when in reality it’s better suited for a blog. In the same vein, the client needs to be forthcoming about their expectations for PR – are we looking for lead gen, general awareness, app downloads or product inquiries? All of the information sharing and transparency will ultimately lead to better expectation setting, resulting it better PR outcomes that both parties are happy with. As client priorities and goals shift, revisit the strategy on quarterly or bi-yearly basis to ensure you’re keeping pace with the quickly evolving client.
Communication is King
While it seems obvious that PR pros (most who have communication degrees) should be communicating with clients, it’s not always the case. Communication isn’t simply following up on the status of a press release that’s in the reviews process or scheduling a call with a reporter. The most successful PR-to-client relations are those where the communication is multi-dimensional. When’s the last time you picked up the phone to check in with the client on the status of the account or catch up on the company? How frequently are you sharing an article on the client’s space because it reminded you of a recent conversation you had with the client? How frequently are you having in-person meetings? Don’t forget that client communication can be personal as well. Whether it’s asking about a vacation or commenting on the status of a sports team they follow – these interactions are important in establishing closer ties to the client. While sky is truly the limit when it comes to client communications, refrain from being transactional, deviate from the action items and look for opportunities to truly build the relationship.
As PR pros, we spend a ton of time getting to know our client’s, their product, company and space. Admittedly, you’ve probably been out on the weekend and something sparks a great idea for your client. Indeed, it’s a 24/7 gig. In being so close to our clients, it’s also important take time and have fun together as well. A little personal time where you force yourself to not talk about work and get to know them goes a long way when building what you hope to be a long term relationship. Does your client like baseball? Take them to a game. Music fans? Go catch a show. Don’t miss an opportunity to grab coffee or lunch and catch up.
After a big product launch and the biggest conference of the year, our client, Airbiquity, treated our team to a funday where we played tourist in Seattle. From tacos in West Seattle, to the Smith Tour observatory deck and the Great Wheel – we didn’t talk about work once and had a blast.
While building and maintaining positive relations is much more robust than three simple tips, it’s something that every PR pro and agency must invest in and continually work to develop.
Being new to things is always a mix of discomfort and energy. At the start of my PR journey, that is exactly how I feel. Leaving the marketing classroom, I was excited to finally put all of my “book” knowledge to use as part of my career. While my college classes were helpful, I find myself most often applying to PR what I learned as an assistant research analyst with my university’s research center. Some people tend to joke that marketing and PR people are on a mission to avoid numbers, but I’ve truly found that they go together better than we think. Here are my insights after a couple months on the job:
Use Excel to excel
I can vividly remember sitting at my desk as a research intern staring at excel, not knowing one thing about the program. Fast forward a few months of learning from other interns and a search history list that could be titled “Excel for Dummies,” and it became the center of my comfort zone. Now working in PR, I see a lot of charts, tables and media lists that could benefit from a little creativity and user-friendly techniques often used in research.
Clarity is key
This goes for most group projects, but there is nothing worse than walking out of a meeting, sitting down to work on the assigned project and thinking, “Ok, what am I actually supposed to do?” For the sake of efficiency, it is vital to set specific paths to achieve your goal. In research and PR, I have found spending time on creating clear goals always produces a better end-result.
Information is out there, you just have to find it
Whether you’re building a media list for a client or trying to find methodology for a research topic, the Internet is often your most powerful source of information. Although information is almost always somewhere online, it is important to think outside the box when searching. I have spent countless hours looking for information and often all it takes is changing a key search term or readjusting my mindset.
Numbers are your friend
Despite the chuckling about PR and numbers, there is no doubt that PR professionals see the impact of incorporating data points into pitching. If research has taught me anything, it’s not to be afraid of data. Leverage it to your advantage. Surveys, graphs, and statistics are a growing part of PR and I am happy to have strong research experience to support this.
So, the next time a project comes your way, remember that research and data can provide you with a great foundation for success!
June 15 marked a momentous occasion, the Grand Opening of W Bellevue, the newest hotel opening for W since 2010.
Over the last few months, we have been working with W Bellevue as the team prepares to open its doors to tech business travelers, staycationers, and locals looking for a new place to sip cocktails and unwind. We were fortunate enough to get a few behind the scene tours as the property came to life to see just how incredible this hotel would be. From design elements which pay homage to the traditional lake house, to beautiful and creative street art adorning the walls, W Bellevue is something spectacular.
As we marched toward Opening Day, one thing was clear: our PR approach had to be as non-traditional as the hotel itself. While we still wanted to ensure we hit the local print, broadcast, and blogger networks, we identified an opportunity to create relationships with local influencers who would be integral in sharing the hotel elements with their thousands of followers. The result: 20 pieces of coverage including a CNBC travel article, and 60 social media posts which total nearly 1 million impressions!
The best part of it all? We’re just getting started! We still have a number of opportunities in the works including a larger national campaign that will be sure to drive additional placements and ultimately heads in beds (aka bookings) for W Bellevue.
If you haven’t had the chance to stop by and sit in a porch swing, or cozy up to one of the fireplaces, I highly encourage you make your way to W Bellevue. It’s the ultimate place to see and be seen while imbibing in the area’s best craft cocktails.
The first place you should always start is to create a content calendar where your team and your client can see all future content that will be published, as well as the content that has already been published previously. This will keep your team and client organized, and on the same page in terms of strategy and execution.
Make sure you’re utilizing the appropriate hashtags and keywords when posting on social media. Using the hashtags that will drive the most traffic is important and it’s our job as public relations specialists to know these like the back of our hand.
Always tag the reporter, and/or the publication if you’re sharing industry news with your audience. This not only helps amplify a reporter’s story, but it will get your client involved in the conversation on social media. This strategy will in turn drive additional web traffic for you client.
Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn all have social media analytics pages that you should utilize on a regular basis. What content is driving the most traffic? What visual components are driving traffic? Is there a specific hashtag that works better than others? These are all questions you should be asking, and answering, in order to align your efforts with your client’s goals.
Google Analytics should be another key go-to resource for analyzing and evaluating the success of your social media efforts. What pages on the website are consumers visiting the most? How often are they staying on the page? Which social media channels are driving the most traffic to the website? All important questions to keep in mind moving forward.
Monitoring the news is arguably the most important aspect of our job in public relations. We always need to be finding every opportunity to insert a client into relevant conversations — it solidifies them as a leader in the industry.
A few tools to consider using when monitoring social media:
TweetDeck – help keep track of where your clients are mentioned and what is being discussed in respective industries through the customizable columns feature.
HootSuite – monitor conversations on multiple social media channels in one user interface.
Sprout Social – find conversations by searching relevant keywords related to your client and their industry.
I’m sure you all know PRSA can be a great resource, especially as students looking to land that first internship/job. I’ve been in those shoes. BUT, it’s also a great resource to develop your skillset through the webinars offered on the website (free with your membership!). Here are my key takeaways on the best steps to becoming that social media expert and the webinars I suggest for those looking to improve social media savviness:
Why is social media so crucial? It drives third-party conversations around the client/product you’re representing. Earned media is more effective in driving company business results — 83% of word-of-mouth referrals translate into a sales lead and editorial content 66%.
Reporters get paid by editorial coverage (i.e. article clicks!). As a PR specialist, make sure to help a reporter you’ve worked with to secure coverage for your client amplify his/her story, the reporter will appreciate it and remember you in the future.
Start to implement visual press releases in the future. Press Releases with a multimedia aspect get 3X more views, coverage, and activity. Something to consider for your client’s next press release.
What is a social newsroom? A page on your client’s website where all shareable social media content published by the client can be found and easily shared by customers. Visit the Lenovo newsroom for a good example of how to execute.
Why implement this on a website? 91% of the public follow news on social media, 60% share what they read, and 70% visit a corporate website or newsroom after reading news on social media.
How to start a social newsroom? Make a Facebook and/or Twitter news account for your company, which will be separate from the main consumer-facing account. This is where companies post/tweet all company news and link back to the social newsroom on their website (a.k.a. driving organic traffic to themselves). Back to my first point – make sure all content a visitor sees on the social newsroom is shareable in order to amplify further!
Social media has been, and will continue to be, an area of the industry were we all need to become experts. As consumers move to receiving news via social channels rather than a newspaper or magazine’s website, our job in this industry is becoming more important now than ever. Taking the first steps and implementing these tips and tricks will help you develop your own social media savviness. Until next time!
For those of you in tech that haven’t caught the Silicon Valley bug yet, you should watch it. Each episode chronicles six guys as they go through the ups and downs of launching a startup in the infamous tech capital of the world, Silicon Valley. From securing funding, to understanding the ins and outs of a startup incubator, and dealing with sheisty sharks out to steal the company’s IP, the HBO series paints to me, what seems like a hilariously real look at the tech industry.
Throughout the three seasons of Silicon Valley, the guys (Richard Hendricks, Erlich Bachman, Gilfoyle, Dinesh, Jared Dunn and Big Head) learn several important PR lessons along the way. *Read: SPOILERS AHEAD!* Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, we can begin.
One must stay calm in all fire drill situations.
After reading an article about Pied Piper’s mediocre tech in the show’s TechCrunch-like publication, Code/Rag, an enraged Richard demands to set up an interview with the reporter, C.J. Cantwell to set the record straight. Richard Hendricks is forced to meet with the head of PR before the interview to work on his communications skills. In an unfortunate mix-up, Richard is led to a conference room where he assumes the woman sitting there is in charge of PR. Richard launches into a tirade and once his rant is over, the woman reveals herself to be to the Code/Rag reporter and leaves.
I can thankfully say that this has never happened to me, but “fire drills” as we call them, or in other words s*** hitting the fan, happens all the time. Sometimes the reporter gets a fact wrong, sometimes the client has said something “off the record,” but regardless of who is at fault, the team must remain calm through these situations. Calling an immediate internal huddle to discuss the best path forward, in addition to taking one million deep breaths, is the best way to approach the fire drill. At the end of the day, one must always remember: it is not the end of the world, even if it feels like it at the time.
One must SWOT it out, when in doubt.
In what is probably my favorite episode of Silicon Valley, the guys attempt a publicity stunt of livestreaming a monster car jump for an energy drink brand. When Richard and the crew encounter the extremely rude monster car jumping stuntman, they decide to use the SWOT method to determine if they should allow the stuntman to die in a fiery car crash. Jared had originally introduced the corporate decision-making tool, the SWOT, to the team, which was widely rejected until they find use for it later on in a cruel matter. The startup is ultimately double-crossed by the energy drink company, who decides to remove Pied Pipers logo from the live steam and instead replace it with their arch enemy and competitor’s logo, Endframe.
In our line of work, especially in the world of technology where we’re moving at the speed of sound, it’s mission critical to have a strategy for our communications campaigns. Bringing it back to the basic SWOT matrix when we need to develop a new strategy or pivot our efforts, will help you craft a compelling PR program while taking into account the bigger picture. Sometimes we get wrapped up in what our clients are doing and completely miss what the competition is doing, and a handy-dandy SWOT can help prevent this from happening.
One must track the right metrics for success.
After enduring humiliation, a legal battle with a Google-like monster, Hooli, the guys are having a hard time seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Just when the company thinks they’re on the verge of failure, Pied Piper achieves 100,000 downloads, a significant milestone for the startup. It’s only once they’ve hit the mark when they realize that their investors, Raviga Capital, only care about the daily active users on the platform. Low and behold, the daily active user profile was much lower than what they had anticipated, leading the company to provide fraudulent numbers via an offshore “click farm.” Pied Piper risks losing their funding and shutting down all together once the fraud is revealed.
Drawing the parallel to PR, we must provide the right metrics as a scorecard to our clients. Working with tech companies, many of which are startups, need to see what ROI they can expect from their public relations program. You should always have an honest conversation to set expectations upfront and get everyone “on board” before beginning your program. This will set the standard for your partnership and avoid turning your company’s story into a real-life comedy.
With a great mixture of comedy and applicable lessons for the industry, Silicon Valley is definitely worth a watch. Hopefully I didn’t spoil too much of the show for you, but as a tech PR pro, Silicon Valley should definitely be on your radar.
At Barokas PR, each team member brings a passion for bettering the places we are lucky to call home. So, in the spirit of giving a shit – about our clients, each other, and improving our communities – the Denver team spent last Friday volunteering at Habitat for Humanity. What better way to show our passion for our city than by taking the day to help build a home for a family in need? Despite the early Friday morning wake-up call and mid-90s temperature, I’m proud of our team for kicking it into high gear and proving that a little teamwork can go a long way when it comes to giving back to our community.
It’s not every day that you get to see your co-workers handle power tools and everyone, including those that you may not expect, got super into it! Geared up in our hard hats and safety goggles, we spent the day doing it all – from hammering, gluing, and heaving lifting, to building the floor of the home’s second story and of course, taking the occasional break to rest in the shade. But, one of the best parts was seeing the progress we were able to make in one day by working together.
Not only was volunteering a great team-bonding activity, but through partnering with Habitat for Humanity we were able to directly be a part of improving our community. As the tech community is flourishing in Denver, it comes as no a surprise that finding affordable, quality housing is challenging for many families. The location that we helped build a house in will ultimately provide more than 65 adults and children with stable and affordable housing in Denver.
It was awesome to see everyone step out of their comfort zone and embrace the blood, sweat, and (very few) tears. I think it’s safe to say I’m not the only one who left the day feeling rewarded and proud. Here’s what some of our other team members have to say:
“Having the opportunity to help build a house that a family will soon call home was fulfilling to me personally, and it’s always a good team-building activity to do with co-workers. It may be hard to find the time, but I’d recommend making time as a company, or by yourself, to go out and volunteer in the community.” – Jake Kasowski
“Going into our Habitat for Humanity volunteer day, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. What I got out of it was an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and warmth knowing that we were helping a family achieve something that may have been out of their grasp. Knowing that made it easy to get excited about helping build this home.” -Cait Shaughnessy
“It is powerful to see the results a group of under 20 people can create in one day of work. With barely any experience under our belts, we all smiled and laughed as we worked hard to build the second story of a Habitat for Humanity house. And, I must admit, we did a damn good job! We moved the needle to complete the house and we all did it together. Proud to be a member of the BPR family – a company that gives a shit about the community.” – Julia Milzer
I want to end by giving a big shout out to our Volunteer Program organizer in Denver, Julia, for setting the whole thing! And thank you to Barokas PR for valuing the importance of giving back to our communities. The day was more than we could have asked for – excited for the next one!
As PR professionals, the art of media relations is our bread and butter. How does one find the perfect balance of ‘not too creepy,’ while still being personable and hitting our client’s key messages? It doesn’t sound like an easy thing to do because it it’s not.
Today we’re diving into three ‘Rs’ for avoiding reporter fatigue, because after all, what’s worse than a reporter getting tired of you when you know you’re going to have to hit them up again?
Research – when it comes down to it, if you do your research into the reporter’s beat and past coverage, and think what you are throwing their way is actually something they would be interested in, it really doesn’t matter how many times you pitch them. This also means you need to dig in and make sure you are pitching the most relevant person at each publication. Another ‘R’ that ties in well with this is respect – if you do the research, you will in turn be respecting their time and we all know this goes a long way with a reporter.
Relationships – remember, there’s a human behind each email on your media list, and you need to make sure and treat them as such. If you represent a local organization, or know for whatever reason you will be pitching them frequently, building an actual relationship with them is crucial. Do your due diligence to know who you are pitching, what they like and dislike, and make sure there are personal touches in each pitch. Even if you just say something simple like “I hope all is well since we connected last month” or go more in depth to reference their alma mater or favorite sports team, personalization goes a long way. It’s pretty easy to spot when you are victim of a blast pitch, and it’s simple to avoid.
Resource – if you’re already working with a reporter on another story or on behalf of a different client, don’t be afraid to switch gears. Let them know you will still close the loop on the other chain, but wanted to pivot and introduce them to another client. This falls within the ‘reporters are humans’ reminder – they know we work with several clients and look to us to be a resource for them in more ways than one.
It isn’t rocket science, but if you can master balancing these ‘Rs’ when it comes to frequenting the same reporter, you’ll be in great shape no matter how many times you drop them a line. Happy pitching!
I had the opportunity to attend TechCrunch Disrupt in New York in mid-May. It was a whirlwind of meeting new companies, hanging with media, and getting to watch Pharrell perform with a new startup he’s supporting. It was a successful trip for sure.
When Will and I arrived Monday morning, we didn’t really know what to expect. We had our table, our branded merchandise (our coveted No BS Buttons) and we were armed with stacks of business cards. As soon as the doors opened, we were off: talking about Barokas PR, educating some on what PR is, but mainly talking about what makes us different. By the end of day one, our ‘pitch’ had evolved. I’ve worked at Barokas for nearly seven years so when people ask me, ‘what do you do?’ I pretty much have it down. But after hearing one of my teammates talk about us, and knowing what questions to anticipate, I came back Tuesday and Wednesday with a new approach.
Barokas PR has been around for almost two decades so we don’t necessarily fall into the startup category— although if you work with us, you know we are just as nimble and agile one—so it was surprising to me to see my pitch change from day one, to day two. It got me thinking about startups and their pitches. Walking the show floor, I heard a lot of pitches. Some great, some that were just OK and others that were down right dismal. If you’re asked, ‘what does your company do?” and you start with an audible ‘sigh’, I know right then and there it’s not going to end well.
Here are my tips to get any company thinking through a successful pitch:
Keep it Simple
There’s nothing worse than having to listen to someone talk around themselves trying to figure out how to explain their company, what it does, and its vision. You should take no more than three sentences to tell anyone (a friend, parent or potential investor) what your company does and why it’s important or different.
No, not the example, ‘it’s the Uber of fillintheblank’. Use a tangible example of how you solved a critical industry problem, or better yet, a customer use case. This can help people who are not familiar with your company, product/service or industry connect the dots.
I can’t tell you how many times I heard the words ‘AI’ and ‘Machine Learning’ during the conference. Some companies are doing incredible things to advance these industries, and others were just tacking the monikers to their company description because they are trendy. At the end of the day, the buzzwords might get you noticed, but anyone who has experience in these industries will know as soon as they take a deeper look that you’re full of shit.
I can’t stress this one enough. If my pitch changed in a day of talking to people, yours likely will too. Practice in front of different audiences and have them ask you questions. You might be missing critical information that is easy to weave into your intro. I’d also recommend asking others in your company to pitch you. It’s useful to hear how others within your organization describe your business.
Coming back from New York, I am energized. We made great connections with people and companies doing great work (sadly, Pharrell was not one of them). Most importantly, the next time someone asks me about Barokas PR or what I do, I know exactly what I will say.
So you’ve made the jump from intern to your first full-time position in PR. Now what?
Whether you have one internship or four, have been out of college for a year or have just graduated, your first entry level PR role will be sure to challenge you in ways you never anticipated – but that makes it all that more rewarding. Based on my experience as a recent graduate and Assistant Account Executive at Barokas PR, I’ve put together a highlight reel of things to know when starting your first job in PR:
Procrastinators and coasters beware
They’re not kidding when they say PR is a fast-paced industry. At Barokas PR, we’re all rock stars – which means expectations are high and the pace is quick. This isn’t meant to scare you off, in fact it’s meant to encourage and motivate (because who wouldn’t want to work with a bunch of rock stars?). A good rule of thumb when starting your first entry level job in PR is that each project will probably take you slightly longer than you think. As a new AAE, you’re still learning and your coworkers will understand that. Show them you’re on top of things by not only getting tasks done on time, but providing some wiggle room so you have time to incorporate feedback. It will go a long way.
Have a system. Find what works for you and stick to it! This means knowing what’s going on and who’s doing it, write everything down! The easiest way to miss deadlines is to have something slip off your radar and into the black hole of chicken scratch…believe me – I’ve done it. Develop a way to stay organized, whether that be a personal spreadsheet to record to-do’s, sticky notes or the good ol’ fashion handwritten list. More times than not, your coworkers will have a system that works for them and will be happy to share their tricks of the trade.
Read. A lot.
Or as I like to say, Always Be Reading. This is especially important when you are starting to work on an account in a field that is ‘new to you.’ Invest the time upfront to become an expert on the industry – it will boost your confidence and give your client confidence in your recommendations. As an AAE, you should read up on industry trends related to your accounts, determine which topics are making headlines, and bring your pitch ideas to your next internal team meeting. Not only will your account leads notice and appreciate the effort, it will also show progress in mastering core AAE responsibilities.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
Falling behind on your workload? Communicate. Starting a project? Communicate. Had an amazing weekend? Communicate. Do you get where I’m going with this? You would think that as communicators, this would come easy. However, communicating as a team is not always as easy as it sounds. The best way to build trust with your teammates and ensure the account moves smoothly is to be constantly sharing and talking about the next steps. Something that has helped me is the age old saying, “treat others the way you want to be treated.” When you eventually lead an account, you don’t want to be constantly wondering if your supporting team saw your email or is on track to meet a pressing deadline – you’d want them to tell you! When it doubt, overshare. It may seem annoying to your team, but more often than not they’ll appreciate it.
Volunteer and be uncomfortable
You’re not going to know what you’re doing 100% of the time. Even the most seasoned PR pros questions themselves at times to ensure the best outcome. As an AAE, this can be to your advantage if you take control and own it. If there’s a pitch or an event/award nomination that needs to be drafted, volunteer! The only way you’re going to learn and grow is to step out of your comfort zone and learn to do things you haven’t before. Not only will it show your initiative, but you’ll realize these things aren’t as daunting as they seem. Give it your best go, asking as many questions as you need to get the job done right.
Enjoy the ride!
Time will fly by. In your new role, you’ll meet some of the most impressive and badass people you ever have before. Enjoy the fun silly moments and embrace new friendships with your coworkers. We’re all here because we love what we do and it’s the laughing, joke telling and playful jabs that make every day fun to come to Barokas PR.
Public relations may be my primary occupation, but I have a side job that may rival that passion–PR pro by day, bulldog sitter by night. While the two may seem very far removed, they’re actually quite a few parallels between them.
For the purposes of this blog post, I’ll keep them short and sweet. Here are the top three:
Attention to Detail
The bulls I sit aren’t your every day dogs; they have very unique, individualized needs—just like a client. Living under the same roof, and raised with the same pup-parents, the two bulls require different care. Similar to client relations, two clients, even operating within the same industry, will need and want different things. No two are the same, so a uniform approach cannot be used. This is why it’s essential to build each account from the ground up, through close collaboration with the client. I can confirm that if I cared for the two bulldogs the exact same, regardless of their age difference, their medical needs, and their attention requirements—neither would be happy. While this may sound tedious, it’s actually the most fun part of both jobs. After all, variety is the spice of life.
Focus on Body Language
Being a bulldog sitter sure would be easier if both dogs could talk (as long as they had nice things to say, that is). I’d know about all their aches and pains and how to best treat them, when they needed to be let out, and what all the barking was about. But the hard truth is, they can’t, and they don’t. Instead, the bulls communicate in their own different ways, and it’s up to me to decode it. Are they wiggling their bulldog butts because they’re happy? Are they looking sad because they want attention? Are they standing by the door because they need out?
Both media and client relations, two key parts of PR, work in similar ways. While people of course have the gift of speak, they don’t always say what’s truly on their mind. Being an effective public relations professional means being able to read between the lines, and a big part of this is paying attention to body language. As they say, silence speaks volumes.
Their Needs Come First
When the bulldogs are in my care, their needs come first. Before I get ready for the day, I wake up the bulls and let them out, get them their breakfast, and give them their morning pills. When something or someone relies on you and your services, whether it’s to fill the food bowl or advise them through a funding announcement, that’s the priority. Just as I don’t leave for work without taking care of the bulldogs’ morning routine, I don’t leave work until my clients’ needs for the day are met.
With all these parallels, it’s obvious why the bulldog is the official mascot of Barokas PR. And that my friends, is not BS.