Author Archives: Grace Lavigne

How Social Media Is Changing PR

On the last Tuesday of each month, ProfNet hosts ConnectChat, a monthly series of Twitter chats exploring key communications and media topics. During a recent ConnectChat, Deirdre Breakenridge, CEO of Pure Performance Communications, discussed the changing role of PR in the digital era and how we can adjust our mind and skill sets accordingly.

Breakenridge says that with the rise of social media PR professionals need to:

  • Master information technologies as a “technology tester,” including video, SEO, website analytics, monitoring applications, CMS and more.
  • Start dialogue and build relationships through new channels.
  • Strategize to connect directly with stakeholders, especially customers.

Breakenridge notes that being a technology tester is the most challenging new skill for PR pros to master because it requires constantly paying attention to new apps, resources and platforms. “It’s so important to understand use technology the way stakeholders,” she says.

To excel in these new practices, people in the PR industry need to become hybrid professionals, says Breakenridge. This process includes:

  • Moving the best of traditional practices forward and integrating them with digital and social communications.
  • Working cross-functionally with marketing and moving outside of the PR “silo,” which includes learning and applying marketing tactics.
  • Collaborating with other departments too, like Web/IT, sales, customer service, HR, etc.
  • Being flexible and adaptable in a global communications environment.

Breakenridge provides some new roles popping up in the PR industry:

  • Internal Collaboration Generator: knows good communication starts on the inside with technology sharing
  • Pre-Crisis Doctor: plans for crises through new approaches, processes and recovery steps
  • Relationship Analyzer: takes relationships to deeper levels through technology and visualization
  • Master of the Metrics: understands metrics tracked over time and can track them back to executive goals

To successfully use metrics, PR pros must have objectives and know what they are trying to achieve, adds Breakenridge. “It’s important to know what you’re measuring: leads, sales, registration, awareness (buzz), community growth, etc.”

Listen to conversations and identify influencers to drive discussion and systematically map out audience connections, explains Breakenridge. “Understand the culture, critical issues and passion in the community to make better connections. Use crowdsourcing, contests, and promotions for deeper engagement.” She notes that you can use @mentionmapp and @TouchGraph to visualize connections.

Social media provides incredible intelligence, and, when filtered, can help PR pros plan more strategically, says Breakenridge. For example, social media can help companies react quicker to negative situations and crises. “You can strategically engage for more valuable outcomes: leads, sales, registration, better CS, more productivity.”

Social media should move across an organization, says Breakenridge. PR should work with other departments (marketing, advertising, branding, etc.); it should cover everything from social governance and planning to content curation and the monitoring of programs. PR should spearhead social media, but not own it. “Working with other groups doesn’t mean we lose our core purpose; we have just expanded our opportunity!” she says.

Where is PR headed? Breakenridge says PR will:

  • Continue to integrate with other areas and strategize cross functionally.
  • Start incorporating interactive living rooms, touch experience, augmented reality, etc.
  • Gain influence by telling more meaningful stories through technology and educating others on best practices.

Written by Grace Lavigne, senior editor of ProfNet. Check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.

Grammar Hammer: A Curmudgeon-y Perspective on “50 Shades of Grey”

“50 Shades of Grey” has taken the “literary” nation by storm. Whether you love it or love to hate it, it seems like it’s being read in every book club, every bedroom, every coffee shop right now. With more than 31 million copies sold worldwide (according to Hollywood Reporter), the novels’ dull vocabulary, flat characters and unfulfilling plot hold no weight compared to the sexy and enticing fantasy escape being offered. For many readers, it’s like a mental vacation from everyday life — and I can appreciate that. If “50 Shades of Grey” gets people to enjoy reading, who am I to criticize?

But in total, brutal honesty, I read “50 Shades of Grey” after hearing the hubbub, and hated it. I’ll spare you the recap — you probably have some idea of what it’s about by now anyway. But the silver lining of reading a book I didn’t like is that I’ve gotten a great deal of enjoyment reading the critiques by people who also found it to be subpar.

One reviewer in particular pointed out an irksome grammar mistake in the first chapter of the first book, when author E.L. James is initially describing main squeeze and heartthrob, Christian Grey:

  • He’s tall, dressed in a fine gray suit, white shirt, and black tie with unruly dark copper colored hair and intense, bright gray eyes that regard me shrewdly.

Wow! Where can I buy a tie like that?!

There’s something essential missing from the second sentence of the quote: a semicolon. Without a semicolon after “black tie,” it makes the rest of the description that’s supposed to be about Christian Grey seem likes it’s actually about the black tie – as in, a black tie with hair and eyes. As Anastasia Steele would say, “Oh my!”

Without rewriting the sentence entirely (which seems like the best option), here’s what the sentence should look like:

  • He’s tall, dressed in a fine gray suit, white shirt, and black tie; with unruly dark copper colored hair and intense, bright gray eyes that regard me shrewdly.

Lesson: Always be conscious of the subject of the sentence!

Also, check out my post on semicolons: Sherlock Holmes and the Mysterious Case of the Semicolon

What did you think of “50 Shades of Grey”?

Written by Grace Lavigne, senior editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. Grammar Hammer is published weekly on ProfNet Connect, a free social networking site for communicators. To read more from Grace, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.

Dear Gracie: Clearing the Hurdles of Sports PR

Each week, Dear Gracie answers questions from ProfNet Connect readers with advice from our network of nearly 50,000 ProfNet experts. Has there been a question burning in your mind lately, something you’ve been wondering that none of your colleagues can answer? Please send it to grace.lavigne@prnewswire.com

Dear Gracie,

I recently acquired a professional athlete as a client, although I have no experience in sports PR specifically. Any advice? Unique challenges?

Athletic Amateur

***

Dear Athletic Amateur:

Three ProfNet experts with sports PR experience weigh in:

What to Know About Sports PR

  1. Professional vs. Fan: “If you choose to get involved in sports PR, understand that the fan element must be removed from the equation,” says Christopher Navalta, senior account executive for Graham and Associates, with experience managing NBA players and teams, as well as minor league baseball players and teams.
  2. Long Hours: And while you don’t have to have a passion for sports to work in sports PR, you probably won’t like it if you don’t, warns Adam Siepiola, assistant athletic director for media and external relations at Adelphi University, a Division II institution in New York. Sports PR includes long hours at games, and the ability to know what you’re watching and writing about. “As a collegiate PR professional, we are required to travel with our teams regularly and to be at all home games,” says Siepiola. “Your work day really starts after the game.”
  3. Unstructured Work: “Every day is different,” says Navalta. “Managing a team is obviously more structured than managing an athlete, but if you’re the type of person who enjoys every day being different, then this is the perfect fit.” From head injuries in the NFL to ethics violations in the NCAA, the sports industry faces many challenges that require the assistance of PR professionals, agrees Amy Littleton, senior vice president of KemperLesnik, a PR, events and sports marketing agency in Chicago.
  4. No Riches: “Sports PR doesn’t pay very much,” says Littleton. “You have to do it for the love of the game.” It’s long hours, average pay, weekends spent working and no real time off until June, warns Siepiola. “But the good outweighs the bad!”
  5. Untapped Stories: “There is so much more beyond just the final score,” says Siepiola. “For example, we had a four-time All-American women’s lacrosse player who has been dealing with diabetes since she was 6; she overcame that to become one of the best in the country!”

Potential Challenges

  1. Competition and Clutter: “There are so many sports and events competing for the attention of consumers, that it is often difficult to break through,” says Littleton. “This is exacerbated by the fact that ESPN holds a lot of power when it comes to sports news and coverage.” You have to find compelling, human-interest stories — anything that goes beyond wins and losses — to get coverage sometimes, says Siepiola.
  2. Changing Minds: Because professional athletes are paid millions of dollars, they are considered one-man institutions. Unlike working in a PR agency, where there is plenty of structure, working with athletes can be challenging, depending on who you’re working with, because athletes have the ability to change their minds constantly when it comes to their brand, says Navalta.
  3. Brand Direction: “Like any business, the sports industry is about building a brand,” says Navalta. “I’ve run into a lot of athletes and coaches who have wanted to build their own brand, but really never had any direction or foresight on what they wanted to do with it.”
  4. Damage Control: We frequently see professional athletes in trouble the law, says Navalta. These athletes obviously do not have a lot of the necessary structure to build and maintain a brand because they’re around the wrong people. “If sports leagues want to avoid having the reputation of having athletes who are always getting into trouble, they need a better PR plan.” Plus, damage control is always time consuming. Avoid athletes or teams with histories of bad PR, unless you’re the kind of person who thrives on helping underdogs.
  5. Uncensored Social Media Chatting: Social media is a great place to grow a personal brand, says Siepiola. But since it’s also a place to vent and talk with friends, social media can be risky business. A PR professional can educate and monitor this type of social media usage. At some point, an issue will come up, so have a crisis management plan in place, warns Siepiola.

Perks

  • Sports PR pros get to watch games up close for free, party with some of the biggest names in sports (along with the celebrities who want to be close to those athletes) and travel, says Navalta.
  • “Getting inside the ropes, courtside or into locker rooms to get up close and personal with players and see behind the scenes at events is pretty awesome,” says Littleton.
  • “I vividly remember a time this past spring — an April afternoon at around 2 p.m. — when I was out at our softball field watching and keeping statistics for a game,” says Siepiola. “It was in the mid-70s and sunny, and I remember thinking: ‘I get paid to do this — how cool is that?!”
  • Siepiola also says that he’s travelled to places he probably never would have been to otherwise.

Gracie

Written by Grace Lavigne, senior editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. Dear Gracie is published weekly on ProfNet Connect, a free social networking site for communicators. To read more from Grace, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.

Grammar Hammer: Is It Presently or Currently Storming?

Storms have been tearing through the U.S. in recent weeks, causing severe power outages, frenzied hoarding trips to the grocery store, paranoid people staying home from work, excessive online shopping for rain boots, and an unreasonable number of check-ins with the weathermen.

When the clouds start rolling in, do you say it’s currently or presently storming? Well, it depends what you mean. So before you start battening down the hatches and squirreling away your freeze-dried food and batteries, consider the subtle difference in meaning between these two adverbs, according to Merriam-Webster.com:

  • Presently: before long
  • Currently: occurring or existing in the present time

Confusingly, presently doesn’t mean “at present,” it means “in the near future.” Only currently refers to “right now.”

Examples:

  • The wind’s picking up; it will storm presently.
  • There is currently thunder and lightning.

Pro Tip: Replace “presently” with “soon” to double check grammaticality and correctness.

So if it’s currently thundery outside, you’ll need an umbrella presently!

Written by Grace Lavigne (@GnightGracie1111), senior editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. Grammar Hammer is published weekly on ProfNet Connect, a free social networking site for communicators. To read more from Grace, check out her blog.

Image courtesy of Flickr user zuzkins.

Summer reading: our free ebook: “Modern PR: The Art & Science of Integrated Media Influence” will help you refresh your organization’s PR tactics.

 

Grammar Hammer: It’s All Pun and Games

According to the book “Comedy Writing Secrets,” a pun is “the intentional confusion of similar-sounding words or phrases” that is used as the basis of a joke.

In other words, a pun is humorous word play that allows for two possible interpretations at the same time.

Pro Tip: Because puns generally make word plays phonetically, they tend to be better when spoken or heard vs. being written or read.

Here’s are some examples of puns: I recently read an article about a family that got lost in a corn maze for hours and couldn’t find their way out — they actually had to call the police to be rescued.

  • Being lost in corn maze at night must have been earie.
  • I wonder if one of the search dogs was a husk-y.
  • How earesponsible of the parents!
  • What did they expect entering a maize?
  • The poor kids were probably shrieking to Dad, “Pop, corn!” over and over.
  • They had the feeling they were being stalked.
  • Hominy idiots does it take to get out?

Puns can also take the forms of double entendres, riddles, and homonyms and near homonyms:

  • A double entendre (literally “double meaning” in French) is the use of an ambiguous word or phrase that allows for a second interpretation (warning: frequently risqué!). The idea is that the listener assumes one meaning, and the speaker slips in another meaning. Consider these headlines, taken from YourDictionary.com:
    • Panda mating fails: Veterinarian takes over
    • Miners refuse to work after death
    • New obesity study looks for larger test group
    • Children make nutritious snacks
    • Criminals get nine months in violin case
  • A riddle according to Merriam-Webster.com, is a puzzling question to be guessed or solved that usually has a double or veiled answer.
    • What kind of bird writes letters? A pen-guin.
    • What do all inches follow? Their ruler.
    • Why couldn’t the strings ever win? They could only tie.
    • What position does a cat play in baseball? A cat-cher.
  • A homonym is two or more words that are spelled and pronounced alike but differ in meaning. A near homonymis two or more words that sound alike due to an intentional mispronunciation.
    • Why was six afraid of seven? Because seven eight (ate) nine.
    • What do you call a smelly chicken? A foul fowl.
    • Do you want this pasteurized? No, just up to my mouth’d be fine!

What’s your favorite pun?

Written by Grace Lavigne, senior editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. Grammar Hammer is published weekly on ProfNet Connect, a free social networking site for communicators. To read more from Grace, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.

Dear Gracie: Personal Branding Tips Every Social Media User Should Know

Each week, Dear Gracie answers questions from ProfNet Connect readers with advice from our network of nearly 50,000 ProfNet experts. Has there been a question burning in your mind lately, something you’ve been wondering that none of your colleagues can answer? Please send it to grace.lavigne@prnewswire.com

Dear Gracie,

What are some general tips that I can give my clients about creating a personal brand on social media?

Branding for Beginners,

*****

Dear Branding for Beginners:

“Because of the open Web, explosion of user-generated content, social media and mobile apps — anyone who uses the Internet has a personal brand, whether they know it or not,” says Stefan Pollack, president of The Pollack PR Marketing Group.

Therefore, all public interactions must ultimately contribute to a controlled perception of how one wants to be perceived, Pollack continues. Whatever the objectives, only contribute information that supports that identity and an online personal brand will be formed.

“The Internet has already branded you, so it is up to you to cultivate that into a brand that supports your ideal online identity,” he says.

Determine Your Personal Brand

  • There are six ingredients for an engaging personal brand, says Joellyn Sargent, principal of BrandSprout LLC. Consider:
    1. Who you are
    2. Who you want to be
    3. How you see yourself
    4. What you want people to see
    5. What others perceive (how they receive your message)
    6. What they believe (what resonates, or “sticks” from your message)
  • Like company brands, consider what your personal brand has to offer that competing brand don’t, says Catherine Kaputa, author of the book “Breakthough Branding: How Smart Entrepreneurs and Intrapreneurs Transform a Small Idea Into a Big Brand.” Analyze your strengths and weaknesses, and do some fun brainstorming with friends to determine what sets your brand apart.
  • Share a compelling narrative, instructs Kaputa. The best profiles tell a personal or career story that ties all of the pieces of the journey together into a coherent whole. Profiles with captivating narratives are sticky — they’re easy to remember.
  • There are so many social media platforms, it can be overwhelming, says Kaputa. Begin broadly where you can catch the most clients by focusing on Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter. Then branch out to Google+, Pinterest, etc., that are more targeted to your industry.

Create a Plan of Attack

  • Try to express your brand idea in one catchy, differentiating line that defines your brand, says Kaputa. (Analogy can be a memorable device, e.g., a market researcher calling herself the “Oprah of Madison Avenue” or a finance executive calling himself the “Steve Jobs of Finance.”)
  • Set both short-term and long-term goals, and come up with a mission statement to identify what you want to be known for, says Bill Corbett, Jr., president of Corbett Public Relations.
  • Determine which vehicles are best for promoting your brand and reaching your target market, says Corbett. For example: website, blog, videos, social media, e-newsletters, real-world marketing, networking, speaking, trade shows, etc.
  •  “Create a social media and marketing schedule for your brand marketing,” says Corbett. “Identify how much time you will spend each week on social media and stick to it.”
  • Consider automating tweets, blog posts, updates, etc., using services like Feedblitz, HootSuite or Social Oomph to help you manage your brand, suggests Kaputa.
  • “The real challenge is not discovering your personal brand; it’s adjusting and augmenting your brand to work across multiple social mediums,” notes Elliot Tomaeno, head of consumer technology at Morris + King Company. Your voice on Twitter is not your voice on Facebook — each medium requires a different approach.

Share Compelling Content

  • If you only tweet client news, you will not be establishing any personal brand — you will only be furthering your client’s agenda, explains Tomaeno. Share original thoughts, and add personal comments when sharing other’s work.
  • “Your brand is most effective if you mix your personal experience with business interests, skills and expertise,” Corbett continues.
  • “Publish your brand content and messages frequently,” says Corbett. The content should be interesting, helpful and consistent. This will drive people to your brand and lead them to become regular followers, and eventually customers.
  • Keep the content simple, and keep it you, suggests Grace Kang, founder and chief buyer of Pink Olive Inc. “You don’t want to overload people with information, but you do want them to be able to see your overarching style and philosophy.”
  • Balance sharing best practices from thought leaders with original content, says Jeff Bunch, digital strategist at LANE PR.
  • Support complementary brands and businesses, and they’ll be more likely to spread the word about your brand in return, explains Kang. You’ll build a community with similar ideals and audiences.
  • “Make sure you have quality photos and headshots on your social media sites,” says Corbett.

Monitor Feedback and Activity

  • Develop key talking points and see what resonates with your audience, says Bunch. Where does your community think you’re adding value?
  • Ask for feedback from trusted fans and brand ambassadors, says Corbett. Don’t be afraid to change your approach!
  • Protect your reputation online by monitoring your brand by using Google Alerts and regular online searches, says Corbett.
  • “Make it easy for people to pass along your content or your professional information,” says Kaputa. Consider adding Twitter and Facebook buttons, for example, to your website or blog so that people can spread the buzz about you. “People tend to pass on what moves them emotionally.”
  • “Create a system for capturing contact information from people you meet in the real world and online,” says Corbett.

Be Generous, Interesting and Inspirational

  • Be generous and promote good work by others, says Bunch.
  • Don’t try too hard to make your personal brand about only one thing, says Tomaeno. Everyone is multifaceted! Clients, partners and even your boss want to know that you have a life outside of work. Have a sense of humor sometimes!
  • Be inspirational and inspirational, says Kang. “Customers want to find experts that they can trust and follow implicitly. Hold yourself and your brand up to a high ideal and only post what you feel truly represents the core of your brand and vision.”

Gracie

Written by Grace Lavigne, senior editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. Dear Gracie is published weekly on ProfNet Connect, a free social networking site for communicators. To read more from Grace, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.

Grammar Hammer: Ice Cream Compliments and Complements

It’s ice cream weather! Whether you’re a cone or a cup person, this heat wave means that either way you’ll need to try extra hard to eat fast before the ice cream melts (this shouldn’t be a problem anyway). Otherwise you’ll end up with ice cream and sprinkles dripping all over your hands!

Let’s take advantage of this scorching heat to lick the problem of when to use compliment vs. complement. If you drip some ice cream on your shirt or lap, does it compliment or complement your appearance? Here’s the scoop:

According to Merriam Webster, a compliment (with an “i”) is an expression of respect, affection or admiration.

  • That ice cream on your shirt looks stylish! (Don’t I give the best compliments?) [noun]
  • Right after he complimented her on her new dress, she dropped ice cream all over it. [verb]
  • The ice cream at the hotel is complimentary, but all they have is Rocky Road! [adjective]

On the other hand, a complement (with an “e”) is something that fills up, completes or makes perfect.

  • The ice cream complements the root beer very nicely. [makes perfect]
  • The ice-cream store has a full complement of flavors. [completes]
  • The waffles came with a complementary scoop of vanilla. [makes perfect]

Pro Tip: If you’re still not sure about when to use compliment vs. complement, it helps to remember that compliments are generally exchanged between people. If a sentence is referencing inanimate objects, then likely go with complement. Your ice cream can’t compliment your shirt!

Written by Grace Lavigne, senior editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. Grammar Hammer is published weekly on ProfNet Connect, a free social networking site for communicators. To read more from Grace, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Joelk75.