Three things I learned while in school that I encountered within my first week on the job

By Casey, guest contributor

Casey, author of Three things I learned while in school that I encountered in my first week on the job

I recently graduated with a bachelors degree in public relations. I am a lifelong learner and expect to head back to school as soon as I can. After graduation I took an internship as social media specialist with the United States Army at Fort Lewis in Tacoma, WA where I got to experience the government PR environment.

I currently work with outdoor digital signage. My position has me doing anything from working with our advertising clients to creating advertisements that reflect their brand, developing interactive social media campaigns for our advertisers, to boosting the social media presence for our business.

In the midst of the transition from student to professional, I am planning a wedding set for June of 2014 with my fiance Eric. In my freetime I like to take far too many photos of my dog Zoey, and watch entire series of T.V. shows on Netflix in a weekend.

Let’s connect on LinkedIn!

 

I am brand new to the professional world. By new, I mean I have been working at my job for approximately one week. I graduated with my bachelors degree in public relations in May and then went on to a summer internship. So, I am just starting my professional career. When I started my position as a digital content coordinator on Monday at a local audio visual company, I was nervous. By the end of my first day, I was overwhelmed and completely exhausted.

As I write this at the end of the week, I am thrilled with the position I have chosen. Throughout the week I have noticed several things that my professors either taught me or warned me would happen in the professional world. I was surprised every time I was asked to do something by my boss that my professors had said would happen when I went out into the “real world.” I guess I just didn’t expect these things to happen to me. I was wrong.

So I am going to share my experience from the perspective of a recent graduate and first time professional:

(These lessons are in no particular order.)

#1 — Public Relations comes in all shapes and sizes

When I was in school, I was told to excessively research all the different types of PR fields. Many times college students think that PR is just one job or can be defined in one quick description. In my classes, I was surrounded by people who wanted to be event planners and only event planners. Events are great for people who want to eat, sleep, and breathe event planning. But, there are jobs out there that involve event planning on a smaller scale, as opposed to planning and executing events everyday.

In my job search I noticed that many communications job openings have event planning, social media, and media relations embedded in them. In just the first week of my job, I have had the opportunity to gain knowledge and experience in social media, internal communications, and media relations. So perhaps one of the most important things I learned and implemented after graduation was how I went about searching for my first job. If I didn’t listen to my professors, I would still be searching for the “perfect” PR career.

#2 — Strong writing is the key to success

I am lucky enough to work at a growing business that is excited to take the steps to create a strong social media presence. But if I suggest something, I better have a well written proposal in hand. We are far past the days of just saying “Hey, I think this a good idea” and then making it happen. Just suggesting that my company should create a stronger LinkedIn presence led to me creating a 7 page proposal on the who, what, where, when, and why. If I didn’t have a professor in college who was almost irritatingly obsessed with a red pen, I would have never been able to complete the 3 proposals I have written this week.

#3 — They aren’t going to take it easy on you in the real world

Wow. This is so true. Within the first couple of days at my new job, I had a client set a meeting with me for the same day. I wasn’t prepared, but I had to force myself to be. I ate lunch at my desk and did my research. In college, I spent my time glamorizing what it would be like to have my first professional job, but it turns out its all not sunshine and roses. No one ever asks you if you CAN do something, they just expect that you know how to do it. Now, I obviously suggest you ask questions if you need help, but your boss won’t typically walk around the building asking if they can help anyone or answer questions. This was perhaps the hardest lesson that I have learned, and my professors warned me about it in advance.

Even the most successful college student can have a hard time adjusting to the expectations of a new career.

What lessons did you learn from your first job in the field? Let us know in the comment section below!

Five lessons I learned from my first job in PR

By Staci

I was extremely fortunate to land my first job in the field of public relations. What started out as an unpaid internship in a small department that never previously hosted an intern turned into a full time job with benefits. Go me! It’s not always that easy. The PR gods were clearly looking out for me.

It turns out that my first job was exactly what I needed. I had an amazing boss who was very interested in making me the best communicator that I could be. She got many things right when dealing with me, but I’ll save the specifics for a different blog post at a later date.

I spent four great years at my first job. Your first job in the field is probably one of the most important jobs you will have in your life. After reflecting on what I learned in that four years’ time, I realized that I learned a lot! The following five things seem to stick with me wherever I go:

(These lessons are in no particular order.)

Lesson 1: Make nice with the food people

Food people make the world go round. Or, I should say that food people make my world go round! Get in good with the executive chef, the general manager and the cashiers and your workdays will be much happier. If you don’t have food services at your place of work, make nice with the workers at your local dining establishments. A little bit of chatter, a whole lot of friendliness and a good tip can go a long way when it comes to scoring free food.

Lesson 2: There are two types of senior professionals – know the type you are dealing with

Young professionals will encounter two types of people when they are just starting out. The first group consists of veterans who are inclusive. They actively seek your input in meetings, they take care to provide you with necessary background information so that you can approach your job more effectively and they are encouraging and supportive. They understand that when you do better, they will do better and when everyone is doing better, the organization does better. Win, win, and win!

The second group consists of veterans who are dismissive. They don’t care for your input or to include you in the decision making process. Your development is not their concern and can sometimes even be seen as threatening. These people like to throw their years of experience around as a way to demean your own experience. Unfortunately, there is little you can do in this situation. Keep your head up, demonstrate your competence and get the job done.

The bottom line is that you should soak up every bit of knowledge you can from the first type of senior professional. Be sure to take notes on how you should not act when you find yourself on the other end of the situation later in your career so that you don’t end up like the second type of senior professional.

Lesson 3: Never write off a media outlet

The first organization I worked for was quite difficult when it came to media relations. It wasn’t that we didn’t have good stories to pitch. We were actually quite active and able to place several stories a month. It was just that the media consistently got the story of the organization wrong due in large part to the history of the industry in the region the organization was operating in. As frustrating as this could be at times, my first boss taught me to never write off a media outlet, no matter its carelessness or vendetta. It was our job as PR professionals to tear down those walls and build those relationships. It took some time, but with a lot of persistence and a little help from staff turnover in newsrooms, our team was able to get journalists to more accurately portray the organization in news coverage. Don’t back down…double down.

Lesson  4: Never accept the status quo

This is perhaps my favorite lesson I learned from my first job in PR. As a PR professional, you are the eyes and ears of the organization, you are the cheerleader and, most importantly, you are the change agent. Think about it – you are imbedded in the organization like a wartime reporter. This allows you to see where the organization is going and better advise senior leaders how to navigate the waters of change to get the organization there. You know the staff, you know the conditions and you know the external publics. This is the environmental scanning function of PR.

Do not become complacent and do not allow your senior leaders to become complacent. EVERYTHING can ALWAYS be better. Good is simply not good enough. Achieve excellence and once you get there, go further. If your organization is not constantly working to improve, it is falling behind.

Lesson 5: Relationships are everything

Relationships truly are everything in this business. Whether it is a pushy and persistent sales person, an incompetent colleague or a less than reliable vendor, the universe has a way of putting these people in your path time after time. Suck it up, Buttercup. Chances are you will run into these very same people after your first job, or you will meet someone who knows them and thinks of them fondly. Heck, you might even need them!

Your reputation will follow you. Make sure it is a good one.

So, there you have it. I learned a lot about myself while in my first job and a lot about the industry. We unfortunately don’t get any do-overs when it comes to our first jobs. First timers should take note and make the most of their experience in these very formidable first years. Your first job can often set the tone for the rest of your career.

What lessons did you learn from your first job in the field? Let us know in the comment section below!

Awesome and Useful Keyword Search Tools

Paid and Free Tools for Your Convenience

By Isabel

Keywords are an integral part of digital marketing. Over 98% of all web searches begin on a search engine where the user, types in keywords and phrases that are specific to their interests and topics. These searches can be broken down into three different categories:

  1. Issue related words and phrases (hair cleaner, shampoo)
  2. Product specific words and phrases (dandruff shampoo, baby shampoo
  3. Brand related words (specifically naming the brand such as Johnson and Johnson baby shampoo)

Gaining an understanding of keywords and phrases used by people, can assist companies in determining how to best influence the consumer to view their digital scope. I have compiled a list of both paid and free keyword search tool platforms to assist you in your quest for the best keywords. Use these tools along with the categories above to create a keyword analysis excel spreadsheet for faster and more efficient searches.

MOZ Keyword Difficulty Tool 

The MOZ keyword difficulty tool retrieves the top 10 web rankings for any keyword allowing users to optimize for the best keyword choices, and also weed out difficult to rank for words. The tool also provides analytical information on competitor’s keyword searched in order for the user to make decisions on how to better rank for these words. You will need a MOZ subscription to access this tool. MOZ offers a free 30-day trial.

Keyword Spy

While Keyword Spy focuses primarily on paid search, you can also use it for organic word searches. Keyword Spy constantly updates their research based on top paid search and organic sites, top ad spenders and top per click keywords. It also has a segment listing most words clicked per day. Keyword Spy offers both free (but limited) and subscription based tools.

One of the best free tools offered by Keyword Spy is the domain spy tool.

Screen shot 2013-09-05 at 2.28.11 PM

This tool allows you to enter any domain and shares results on what searches that site is conducting, how much money they spend on keyword search as well as similar searches and their cost per click.

Wordtracker

Wordtracker allows users to search for top keywords from up to 700 million word searched within the last 365 days. This tool will also search for phrases containing keywords and synonyms of those keywords. Wordtracker helps to organize all of this information in easy to read reports and includes research on competitor searches. Subcriptions start out at $69 dollars/month.

Wordstream

Wordstream offers four different keyword tools, and all are free. The free keyword tool allows users to get keyword suggestions from over a trillion keyword searches. The niche keyword tool, allows users to find the best and most cost-effective keyword opportunities. The negative word search tool helps eliminate unnecessary words from your searches saving both time and money. My favorite, is the keyword grouper tool.

Screen shot 2013-09-05 at 2.25.29 PM

This tool allows users to type in 1,000 words from which to create the most profitable keyword groupings. This tool is completely free. Use it up to 10 times whenever and then once a day anytime after.

These are just a few of the keyword search tools available to you. I am just beginning to explore Google’s Keyword Planner. Please comment if you have had success with Keyword Planner, any of these search tools or other tools not mentioned on this list.

 

How to write a news release quote that will get published

Set your quotes up for success with this quick tip

By Staci

It is no secret that quotes are among the first elements to be cut by editors and journalists from a news release. This should come as no surprise because most quotes are useless to the release and obviously self-serving. Shame on us!

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If you want to prevent your news release quotes from being thrown in the trash, you have to give journalist something worth publishing.
Photo credit: Cayusa / Foter / CC BY-NC

I can’t promise that this tip will absolutely get your quotes published, but if you abide by it, your chances will greatly increase. In fact, I like to make a little challenge out of the whole affair. How many outlets are going to run my quote in its entirety and how many outlets are going to cite the information shared in the quote and attribute it to the quote giver? I always try to beat my previous record.

The key to getting your quotes published is to make sure that they introduce new information, ideally in the form of facts and figures. News desks appreciate measurable and objective data. Also, don’t be afraid to be bold with your quotes.

The following two examples illustrate how you can use facts and figures to your advantage:

“We closed out the third quarter with orders up 30 percent over the same period last year,” said Mister Boss, CEO of Acme Co. “This continued growth tells me two things: we are meeting and exceeding our customers’ expectations and the local economy is starting to make a comeback.”

“We are honored to be one of only four centers to be selected for this government grant,” said Mister Boss, president of ACME Foundation. “This grant money will provide healthy and nutritious lunches for over 450 at-risk children throughout the summer.”

See what I did there? Can you identify the sound bites that are likely to make their way into a news report? Don’t give all of your best information away in the paragraphs of the news release. Save some of the compelling information for your quotes.

To say this is where the hard work ends would be a lie. You have to properly set up your quote with the lead-in paragraph. You also have to follow-up with a paragraph that builds off of the quote and ties up the information nicely with a big shiny bow.

The bottom line is this – if you want to prevent your news release quotes from being thrown in the trash, you have to give journalist something worth publishing.

This is a rule that consistently works for me. Do you use this approach or employ a different one? Let us know in the comment section below!

Getting to Know Your Brand

A Brief Intro to Archetypes

By Isabel

“A brand is essentially a container for a customer’s complete experience with the product or company.”

- Sergio Zyman , Author of The End of Advertising As We Know It

The experience and relationship that consumers attain with brands are the key decision making factors as to whether or not the consumer becomes a brand loyalist. According to the 2011 Customer Experience Impact (CEI) Report, 86% of consumers will pay 25% more, for a better customer experience (based on a survey commissioned by Right Now and conducted by Harris Interactive).

Present day consumers use emotional connections and perceptions in order to decide what brands they will choose to purchase. When these consumers are not happy about a specific brand, they now have outlets such as Twitter and Facebook, to lay their grievances out and tell other consumers.  Therefore personal experiences and connections with brands is highly important not only to the consumer, but to the brand as well.

Brand Archetypes

Archetypes first got their start within psychology, when Carl Jung introduced the archetype as a part of the collective unconscious. Jung suggested that these archetypes are innate, universal and hereditary. Meaning that, it is within everyone to put archetypal significances to life experiences.

Since customers associate brands with experiences and emotional connections, using archetypes to explain a brand, can be very beneficial. As Hartwell and Chen mention in their book “Archetypes in Branding”, archetypes can give human attributes to brands and humanize the brand within the consumers mind.

Selecting Your Brand Archetype

Archetype RingV2

The above chart is a suggested list for choosing archetypes. Forty, has created a free download of archetypes and their suggested meanings that can be found here. You can print and cutout this exercise so that a group of people from your company can be involved.  You can also find great in depth definitions and cutout cards in “Archetypes in Branding”. These exercises will assist you in selecting your brand archetype.  You may even want to choose what your past, present and future archetypes are. This can be a useful tip when designing new brand messages.

I have provided a list of companies that work within their brand archetypes. The messages these companies send out are clear and concise when speaking to their target audience in reference to their archetype.  Because these brands understand their archetypes so well, messages are not misconstrued and brand loyalty and recognition are strong and well placed.

Creator: Apple Inc.

Hero: Duracell

Outlaw: Greenpeace

Caregiver: Johnson and Johnson

Jester: Old Spice

Magician: Tide

Everyman: McDonalds

Using these brand archetype examples can really help to bring out the personality of your brand. This exercise may take sometime, so don’t be afraid to step away and come back to it. It is also a good idea to conduct this exercise yearly, so that you can ensure that brand perceptions have not changed and that messaging does not need to be altered as well.

Tell us, what is your brand archetype? I made the list above based on my perceptions. Do you agree or disagree with my thoughts? We would love to hear from you. Comment below!

How to develop a sentiment map around an issue your organization is facing

This clear and concise visual tool helps senior managers weigh the most pressing perceptions

By Staci

I learned about the concept of message mapping while studying for my bachelor’s degree in public relations. A message map is a wonderful tool used to ensure that an organization is telling a succinct brand message. With a quick glance, you should be able to articulate your company’s playbook based on the flow of core messages and proof points.

Among its many uses, a message map is a great tool to use for media training. An overall message map detailing a macro view of your organization is great to have on hand for media training at all times, but narrowly focusing your message map to address a singular issue can do just the trick when trying to prepare a senior manager for an interview. An issue based message map helps build the bigger picture and makes it easier for the trainee to identify opportunities to bridge responses and get back on message.

But, developing an issue based message map requires a certain level of insight to make sure that you are delivering the right messages. This is where the idea of the sentiment map comes in.

Introducing the sentiment map

communicator's quick tip guide sentiment map

This is an example of a sentiment map. Similar perceptions are grouped together to illustrate the root cause of emerging misperceptions.

The concept of a sentiment map is essentially more like the prelude to a message map. Environmental scanning is an important function of public relations that often gets overlooked. When times get tough with the media (or a key public), it can be difficult to get senior managers to focus on the underlying sentiment and the key perceptions that are emerging from all of the noise. We all love our organizations, often causing our first reaction to be dismissive and defensive in the wake of negative news attention.

Developing a sentiment map can help you refocus the attentions of your senior managers to the REAL issues at hand. Let’s face it – perception IS reality. It may not be the reality of your organization, but it certainly is the reality of your key publics. Addressing those misperceptions is precisely where your work needs to be done.

You can develop your sentiment map from a macro perspective to stay proactive with your environmental scanning and keep it “alive” by updating it periodically to see the change in perceptions over time. You can slice and dice your map by key publics, media outlets or issues. Another way to use the sentiment map is to develop it around a single issue raised in the media, allowing your senior managers to have a snapshot of what is feeding the sentiment towards your organization at that particular time.

Creating a sentiment map is simple. The suggested steps below are specific to a singular-issue based map (similar to the one pictured above), but once you have worked through the exercise, you will see how you can adapt it to better work for your purposes.

Just follow these steps and your map will take shape:

1.  Survey comments

When a negative story takes hold in the media, it is often perpetrated through several outlets. Make sure you are searching for any and all comments made in response to the media coverage. Do not dismiss comments, even if they are made by a regular adversary. Also, do not limit yourself to comments only made on news sites. Make sure you are entering into the social media abyss for any chatter surrounding your organization in relation to the issue.

2.  Group like comments together

This step is completely subjective. You want to start grouping comments together based on the sentiment of the underlying message. Do not be overly aggressive when grouping comments. You want key insights to bubble up to the surface and be able to stand on their own.

3.  Tally the perceptions

Once you have identified your emerging perceptions, start tallying the number of times those perceptions appear in the broad base of comments made around the issue.

4.  Assign perceptions to a bubble size

This is an excellent time to develop a point system to help you determine where perceptions fall within the various bubble sizes. I like to stick with three to four bubble sizes depending on the depth and variety of perceptions. You can choose your point system based on the overall size of your comment pool and the number of perceptions that have emerged.

For example:

  • If a perception appears one to five times, it is assigned to the smallest bubble.
  • If a perception appears six to ten times, it is assigned to the second smallest bubble.
  • If a perception appears eleven to fifteen times, it is assigned to the second largest bubble.
  • If a perception appears 16+ times, it is assigned to the largest bubble.

5.  Plot the bubbles

You are now at a point where you can begin to plot the bubbles, grouping related perceptions together in the same area. The larger picture will begin to take shape. This visual tool helps you see how the lesser held perceptions morph together to create a greater, overall sentiment about your organization.

Using the sentiment map allows you to focus your message to address the largely held misperceptions that are in play. While at the same time, you can work on flipping the smaller misperceptions with a more targeted approach. To take it a step further, take another look at your pool of comments and create a profile for each “person” that feeds into each individual perception. The possibilities that come from the sentiment map are endless. Take this tool and tweak it to work best for you.

In full disclosure, I am not aware of this idea being widely used. I was inspired by the concept of a message map and found the use of a sentiment map to be helpful in organizing our response around an issue that caught fire in the local media. It is safe to say that the results presented on the sentiment map surprised my senior leaders. They had attached a lot of importance (and emotions) to a few misperceptions, but what had actually emerged on the sentiment map was an emphasis on misperceptions that were not even in their field of vision pertaining to the issue. This ended up being a very important exercise for us. If this idea is widely used and there is a common name for it, please let us know in the comment section below!

Do you have a go-to-tool that you like to use to visually communicate information to your CEO?

Declutter Your Website

6 Easy Steps to a More Efficient Website Presence

By Isabel

Often times, companies find themselves trying to communicate a lot of different messages to their target audience via their most important web presence–the website. This overload of messaging can leave users confused and distracted when entering a site, which may increase the website bounce rate. Here are a few quick and easy tips on how to declutter your website and hone in on successful messaging and information.

1. Gather all of the information on your site including menu headings and sub headings

This step will help to ensure that no information on your website is lost. It will also help you begin to notice how many headings and subheadings are included on the site. Having all of this information written out, will also assist in showing you the amount of information and topics through which your audience must navigate.

2. Write out all information onto note cards and sort by like items

Once you have gathered your headings and subheadings, write down each one on a separate note card and begin to sort together by like items. This is the beginning stage of organizing your sitemap. As you begin to sort, you will gain a better understanding of what items may fit  together, what information you can combine, and which menu items can be discarded.

3. Discard duplicates, menu items that are no longer relevant and menu items that can be combined under other items.

This is the stage where clutter reduction really begins. Many websites are overloaded because there are outdated and irrelevant items located within the sitemap. At times, some menu items may be duplicated under a different heading name, confusing the user as he/she navigated through the site. Be sure to complete this stage with a group of 2-3 people. This will allow you to effectively make choices and get answers to questions from others who view the site as well.

4. Sort the note cards and create top menu items, limiting your navigation menu to less than 8 main header items.

Main header menus should contain only the most pertinent topics and should not contain so many items as to confuse the user. A good rule of thumb is to keep the headings within an 8 item maximum. Although sometimes tough to do, this will assist the user when making decisions on finding information he/she needs and will also keep website clutter to a minimum.  If you find yourself with more than 8 menu items, consider using a second navigation menu within the homepage such as the one on awhealthcare.com.  The AW Healthcare site allows users to sort by top menu items,  or by important services located just below the image slider. When creating header menu, consider items such as; Who We Are, What We Do, and News and Insights.

5. Design sub headers under your main header menus using leftover notecards.

With the remaining note cards, create subheader menus underneath your headings. Since the cards have been grouped together, you can easily choose what items fit under what headings. Do this as a group. Be sure to include subheadings that will create an easy flow for the user. Like a book, the menu items should flow from left to write, allowing the user to breeze through, building on information as he/she goes along in order to keep their attention. Once this step has been completed, step away from your sitemap and come back to it the next day. A fresh perspective can assist you in making the map even sharper.

6. Create content specific to the menu headings and subheadings.

Finally, create the content that will fit under the headings and subheadings. Now that the sitemap has been completed, it is much easier to see what content is necessary on the site and what content can be eliminated. Be sure to include keywords in your content for Google and other search engines to easily crawl your site for relevant information. You will now have a much more clean and efficient website for your users to search.

To get a PR degree, or not to get a PR degree, that is the question

Is a degree in public relations necessary to be successful in the industry?

By Staci

I was browsing the latest and greatest discussions in one of my LinkedIn groups last week and came across a topic that was stirring up some heated responses. A young professional working outside of the field of public relations was wanting to the switch to PR and asked the following questions:

“I was wondering what the best degree is to go into public relations? Should I study communications? Is a degree required for public relations?”

As you can imagine, there was a dividing line drawn between those who feel it is best to jump right into the trenches and work your way up in the industry and those who advised taking the time to get a formal education and training. I happen to fall into the latter camp for the following reasons:

The times they are a-changin’

Back in the olden days – you know, before the internet, personal computers and…gasp…fax machines – bright eyed and bushy tailed kids could jump headfirst into the industry and work their way up to the top. Keep in mind that a college degree wasn’t necessary to make your way in the world only a couple of decades ago. Formal public relations programs were even only just broadly adopted by most schools of communications within the past 15 to 25 years.

So yes, many of the pioneers in the field did not need a degree in public relations to be successful. I tip my hat to those veterans. In fact, it is because of those trailblazers that many colleges and universities have excellent degree programs which include faculty who were initially among the ranks of degreeless practitioners. But, the truth is that you often need a degree in public relations (or a related field) in order to even get past most automated application systems today. Most employers won’t consider your candidacy without meeting their minimum requirements for the job.

And with so many great public relations degree programs available throughout the country, why wouldn’t you just go for it and get your degree anyway? This brings me to my next point.

It’s more than just a degree

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Photo credit: University of Denver / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

A degree in public relations is more than just a slip of paper that can help you get past automated application systems. If you choose the right program, you will walk away with a strong foundation based in theory, a thorough knowledge of public relations practice fundamentals and, most importantly, you will be exposed to all aspects of public relations before being cast out into the cruel harsh world. (This broad exposure early on will make you a better practitioner.)

The most optimal time to get your sea legs in the industry is to do it while in school. You will get countless hours of writing practice, be exposed to numerous internship and networking opportunities and will most certainly experience personal AND professional growth. If you are going to make mistakes, do it surrounded by the comfort and constructive support of your school. Don’t worry, you will get the opportunity to have blunders on the job, because really trial and error is what this industry is all about, BUT you are expected to walk into an entry level job in the field already well versed in the public relations skill set. (Personal Note: I don’t even take on interns who can’t demonstrate a basic PR skill set. Ain’t nobody got time for that.) The learning curve once you land that first entry level job is already steep enough.

My advice is to do yourself a favor and get a degree. Starting behind the curve is just that – starting behind a large pool of applicants who are immediately more qualified than you because they have a degree.

Only you can lead the way

Another reason to get a degree in public relations if you want to seriously practice in the field is because most organizational leaders do not understand public relations. This is a constant battle that you need to be prepared to take on for the rest of your career. (Public relations is not simply media relations!) I’m not knocking senior managers here. Public relations is a complex and multilayered craft. Sometimes it is even hard for me to explain the full scope of the field to other people who are not practitioners. An organization that is not utilizing all aspects of the public relations machine in its strategic communications strategy is not realizing its full potential.

Let’s be honest here. You are the practitioner. It is your job to counsel on all matters of communications for your organization. If you don’t even know what it is that you are supposed to be doing or could be doing, you are doing a disservice to your organization.

Now, I realize that may be a little harsh, but we live in a cruel harsh world.

Whether you start with or without a degree, you are going to have to work VERY HARD to make your way in the industry. The only difference is that starting with a degree gives you a head start. A degree in public relations is like the Yoshi to your Mario. It gets you where you are going faster and proactively helps protect you along the way. I choose Yoshi.

So, if I haven’t already made it clear by now, go ahead and get that degree in public relations. Where do you fall in this debate? Let me know in the comment section below!

Measuring Engagement on Facebook

Two formulas to determine your Facebook engagement rate and virality

By Staci

In my current position, I focus mostly on the digital side of communications. I have searched far and wide to come up with a system of metrics that accurately reflects the efficacy of my organization’s efforts on social media.

The way that I have looked at and measured activities on Facebook has evolved over time, but I have finally landed on an engagement metric that I can get behind…for now. Facebook is an excellent social media platform for most businesses and organizations. However, with the adoption of the EdgeRank algorithm, creating and growing a Facebook page from scratch is a steep uphill battle compared to the good ol’ days of the past.

Our content is not guaranteed to show up in the newsfeeds of those who have liked our pages; instead the visibility of our online activity is linked to the relevance of our posts as determined by the involvement and engagement of our fans. This means that each and every post will have to ride on its merit. (There is a certain formula that you can tweak in various ways to optimize your posts for EdgeRank, but that would require an entirely separate blog post.)

So, let’s get down to business. Factoring the number of “Likes” a page has into the metric for engagement no longer makes sense. It is great to have a ton of “Likes,” but what really matters is the actual activity of your community. The metric that I like to use for engagement measures the number of engaged users versus the number of reached users.

The formula looks like this:

(Daily Page Engaged Users / Daily Total Reach) x 100

I like this formula because it takes into account the actual number of people who have seen your content and helps you determine what percentage of the people who saw your content were actually moved enough to interact with it. (Why should we factor in the number of fans of a page to determine the efficacy of a page or a single post? To me, including the fan base of a page is not logical when trying to evaluate your activity.)

So, some basic explanations might be helpful:

Daily Page Engaged Users – This metric consists of the number of unique users who have clicked on your content or created stories about your page. This measures activity regardless of whether or not the activity actually created a story that showed up in newsfeeds.

Daily Total Reach – This metric consists of the number of unique users who have seen any content associated with your page.

There are a couple of other areas of interest that I focus on when making sense of our Facebook analytics. I regularly measure Daily Total Impressions and Daily People Talking About This (PTAT). I like to measure impressions in order to compare the reach of Facebook with the reach of our online advertising. (This is solely used to provide some perspective when looking at online media buying.)  I like looking at PTAT to get a better picture of the virality of our content.

To look at how many engaged users were converted into volunteer viral brand ambassadors, you would follow a formula that looks like this:

(Daily People Talking About This / Daily Page Engaged Users) x 100

This takes into account the ultimate level of involvement that people can have with your page. PTAT measures the actions that have been taken that create “Stories” that show up in the newsfeeds of your friends on Facebook. PTAT stories are created when someone likes or comments on your post, writes on your wall, shares your content, RSVPs to your events, participates in your polls, mentions your page, tags your page or checks-in at your business on Facebook.

With the engagement formula, we are looking at message penetration. With the virality forumula, we are looking at motivated actions.

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You can find the data for the insights mentioned in this post by downloading the Facebook Analytics Report accessible through your admin dashboard. I like to track these metrics on a weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual basis.

What Facebook insights do you like to track? What metrics do you like to use? Let us know in the comment section below!

Quick Tip: The 5 Important Parts of a Great Creative Proposal

Steps to writing a great proposal

By Isabel

Proposal writing can, at times, seem somewhat daunting. Many proposal writers fear offering up not enough or too much information to potential clients, making the process confusing and potentially losing the business. Creative proposals should be specific and to the point, allowing the audience to easily navigate through the information and get to the heart of the proposal–budget.

Including these 5 parts and following these simple tips will allow you to write an intelligent and thoughtful creative proposal.

1. Understanding Your Audience 

Be sure to include a one pager on the your client’s business, mentioning also the scope of work at hand as you understand it, and what hurdles the partnership may need to tackle along the way. If you use a proposal template (as many often do), be sure that you are speaking directly to your client and their industry throughout the proposal. Clients want to work with firms that take the time to understand their business and profit model.

2. Revealing Your Approach

Clients want to be sure that they understand exactly what they are paying for, and that the strategies and tactics you suggest within the proposal will effectively assist in their communications and creative efforts. Ease their burdens by providing a clear outline of the approach and process. Include all recommendations and considerations for their business within this section as well. Furthermore, break up the monotony of reading a lot of information by adding easy to read graphics to illustrate your thought process. 

3. Solidifying Your Budget

The budget section is the meat of the proposal. Here is where clients conclusively make the decision to either invest in your approach or walk away. Break up your approach into different sections within the budget, e.g., website, collateral and brand identity. Include all elements and steps of each creative strategy within the budget section, and how much each individual step will cost. If you are proposing a website, include a budget line item for research, one for design and one for construction. Try to include payment options (such as retainers) and payment schedules, so that there are no surprises once work gets underway.

4. Showcasing Your Team

This is the section that allows your personality to shine. Use this section to provide the client with a little background history on your firm, your mission statement and the main players. Be sure to include a bio for all members of your staff that will be involved in the creative process. Including pictures of your staff adds a nice personal touch to the proposal and helps to make you more amiable to the potential client.

5. Providing Excellent Case Studies

Within each proposal, provide no more than 5 and no less than 3 case studies. Use the case studies as a means to explain your approach and process as it pertained to previous clients and projects. Make sure to include visuals of the scope of work whenever possible and keep each case study to a one-page minimum. Also, remember to pull from past work that is relevant to this potential client. You would want to include B2B work for a B2B client for example, versus showcasing a product launch to consumers.

Including these 5 parts in your creative proposal will certainly assist you in writing a concise, and well-defined proposition that will be easy for potential clients to understand, and surely succeed in getting you the business.