Friday, September 11, 2020

LCWA Honored by PRSA Chicago and PCC

Like everything else, awards season looked quite different this year. But Chicago’s
community is creative and resilient, and we were proud to gather with our peers at two amazing virtual events. The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Chicago conducted its annual Skyline event earlier this summer, and the Publicity Club of Chicago (PCC) held its Golden Trumpet Awards last night. Adding to the fun? Winning some awards for our great client work! We were lauded for three campaigns:

Thank you to these organizations for recognizing our efforts, and to our teams and client partners for striving for excellence every day!

Friday, August 28, 2020

‘Tis (Always) the Season for Pitching

We all know the goal for PR pros is to keep our clients top of mind with reporters and editors, but it’s not as simple as blasting a general pitch every couple of weeks to the same media list. Planning is vital to successful pitching – and a year-round seasonal pitching schedule is an essential component of a successful media relations program. Having a well thought out calendar of when to pitch, what to pitch and how to pitch is very effective, and will help set you and your client up as a go-to resource for editors.

Here are a few tips to help you launch a seasonal pitching program:

What to pitch
The goal is to have relevant and timely pitches strategically planned throughout the entire year. Magazine editorial calendars, typically found in the media kit or advertising section on the publisher’s website, list topics that will be covered in each issue and can act as a guide to crafting targeted pitches. Take note of any key focus points, like trade shows, product launches or events that will require media outreach. Finally, take a look at seasonal opportunities including other recognition months and days, holidays and important times of the year for your client’s brand or products.

When to pitch
Depending on the type of media outlet you’re pitching, your lead time could range from days to weeks to even months in advance. Make note of magazines editorial deadlines, then backtrack a few weeks on your own calendar. While lead times vary by publication and writer, as a general rule of thumb, our agency sticks to long lead times when pitching media. Here’s an example: 
  • Magazines: 5-6 months in advance
  • Regional magazines: 3-4 months in advance
  • Newspapers: 4-6 weeks in advance
  • Online: 2-4 weeks in advance
Whom to pitch
It’s important to prioritize media opportunities. If you work through all your valuable pitching opportunities for the year, you’re bound to see some overlap. Take into consideration your goals for media coverage for the year – whether it be national magazines, regional or local coverage – and prioritize media opportunities based on the best fit for your client’s news or product.

Seasonal pitching calendars can be a valuable roadmap to year-round media placements. Keep these tips in mind while building out your calendar and you’ll have great media opportunities and placements to share with your client in no time! 

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

DAP Platinum Patch Earns Feature in Better Homes & Gardens

Receiving inclusion for a client’s product in award programs or round-ups from key media outlets can greatly influence your efforts in driving awareness for a product, as well as sales. Back in January, our team worked to secure interest from Better Homes & Gardens in DAP Platinum Patch™ Advanced Exterior Filler. The home product was recently featured in the “On Our Radar” round-up of the national home improvement magazine’s Fall DIY issue, reaching millions of potential consumers. 
Better Homes & Gardens expressed many of Platinum Patch’s key benefits, as it noted, “Ideal for exterior repairs, this paintable patch requires no messy mixing. The weatherproof compound is strong like an epoxy but quick-setting like a putty. Two-hour drying time and water cleanup make it easy to fix almost any surface.” Our team is proud to have helped our client claim this national recognition with one of the most well-known magazines in the home arena.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Five Tips for Pitching Media during COVID-19

There is virtually no industry or business activity that has not been impacted by COVID-19 in some way, and media relations is no different. With the global news cycle focused on the pandemic, the COVID era is challenging and changing the way PR pros engage with journalists. Over the past several months, our team has had to continually adapt our outreach approaches to effectively and sensitively support our clients. 

Here are five tips we’ve found for cutting through COVID to keep clients and brands top-of-mind with media.
  1. Do your research. Even before our “new normal,” this was arguably the most important pitching tactic. With shrinking newsroom staffs, many reporters have transitioned to other beats and some sections are not being published as regularly as they once were. Before reaching out, be sure to double check what journalists are covering, even those you may know well. Follow newspapers closely to understand the extent and frequency of coverage and plan outreach according to the current cycle for that beat. 
  2. Check schedules. As newspapers and magazines adjust to stay afloat, many are publishing less frequently and/or cutting staff hours. Check in with your contacts to stay updated on their current work and publishing schedules. Some newspapers, for example, have reporters working every other week or only on select days.
  3. Keep emails concise. One thing that hasn’t changed is that most journalists prefer email because they are especially crunched for time. With heavier workloads and reduced resources, it’s now more important than ever to adhere to the best pitching practices frequently cited by journalists, such as straightforward subject lines and to-the-point emails with assets that are easy to access.
  4. Offer video interviews. With social distancing protocols, media are looking for experts who can interview via FaceTime, Skype or Zoom. And, this applies to more than just broadcast studios. Many print publications are seeking video interviews as they increase their digital coverage. Be sure to media train interviewees on best practices when conducting a remote interview.
  5. Go local, think global. Locals outlets are especially challenged as they try to maintain advertising and subscription revenues. Local stories and experts are more likely to garner media interest across all types of media. Even better, if you can identify a local angle that connects to or exemplifies a national or global news story, especially COVID, you have a real opportunity to break through the clutter.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Key Elements of a Crisis Communications Plan

Today's business landscape is littered with risks of crises and unexpected issues. Should a crisis arise, it’s vital to respond in an accurate, timely and thorough manner.The key to responding well in a crisis is preparation. While most organizations are aware that it’s critical to have a crisis communications plan in place, many often struggle with what to include in the plan.

A crisis communications plan should include several key details, such as protocol to follow and how to respond and communicate appropriately, but also should be kept as simple as possible so it’s easily understandable during a time of crisis. Following are some key elements to include:

  • In-Depth Overview: Introductory materials should outline why the plan was developed and detail best practices for how your organization will handle the situation and how messages are communicated.
  • Crisis Team: Identify and include complete contact information for each member of the crisis team. Then outline the responsibilities of each member. Determine who will collect information, who will field media calls, who will serve as the spokesperson, and who will handle internal communications.
  • Key Messages: Develop some overarching messages about the organization to convey should any crisis occur. These messages should guide your organization’s response to the crisis. Develop no more than three key messages and expand on each message with appropriate supporting facts and statistics.
  • Tactics and Targets: Once messages and talking points are created, establish a communications action plan for reaching key publics. List all possible internal and external target audiences as it’s essential to communicate with any audience that might be touched by the crisis, using a consistent message. Consider adding support materials such as communication checklists, media lists, company policies, fact sheets, news release templates and other important materials in appendices.
  • Outline of Crisis Scenarios: Every crisis plan should include examples of a crisis or incident that would trigger the need to respond. Examples of potential incidents include a natural disaster, lawsuit, cyberattack, violent crime, rumor, health issue or workplace harassment. A plan should include several hypothetical situations, a communication action to respond and key messages and talking points for all stakeholders.
  • Internal Procedures: Determine how employees will receive key messages and how they will be reached during a crisis. Identify who will monitor the crisis so that the course of action can be adjusted as events warrant, as well as to further refine message development and focus communications activities more precisely.

Once a communications plan is complete, be sure to share it with all key executives and crisis team members. Prepare both digital and hard copies so that it’s easy to access quickly if needed. Keep in mind that a crisis plan should change over time. It should be a living document that is tested, re-evaluated and updated as needed. Incorporate the date the document was last edited or in an index that lets reviewers know what section was updated and when.

Incorporating key elements into a quality communications plan ensures your company will be more prepared to effectively handle communications related issues that arise during a crisis and should be a key component of an organization’s overall disaster recovery plan. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Shifting Expertise from Office to Home During the Pandemic

When the COVID-19 pandemic took its grip on the world in March, office workers suddenly changed to a new “work from home” structure. Our client Boise Paper, which has carved out a social media niche as an expert on “Office Life,” needed to adjust its content and pivot messaging to better appeal to a drastically different workforce.  To achieve this, we worked with them to adjust to timely topics and provide needed advice to workers via its blog and social channels. 
  • Working remotely won’t disappear post-pandemic, so the Boise Paper blog provides a perfect opportunity to provide valuable insight on how to be both productive and happy while working from home. Post topics included getting acquainted with Zoom meetings, how to maintain professional development remotely and ideas for how to build teammate rapport at a distance.
  • On Boise Paper’s social channels, we also shared remote working tips that followers could relate to. Additionally, we bridged the content to highlight community topics of interest during the pandemic. In particular, we drove awareness of Boise Paper’s partner the American Red Cross’s blood donation shortage. We also highlighted employee efforts band together to make masks for employees. The shift in content direction not only highlighted things of interest to followers, but also allowed Boise Paper to support its partners and communities from afar.
Check out Boise Paper’s social pages – Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn – and blog for more career advice – whether you are working from an office or your home!

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Global Partners Set the Tone for PR in ‘Era of Responsibility’

There’s no doubt that the public relations industry has faced new challenges during the global pandemic. Whether it be reduced marketing budgets, saturated media landscapes or decreased consumer engagement, PR pros have seized the opportunity to find creative communication solutions while strengthening brand authenticity. To stay up to date while navigating COVID-19 and heightened social activism, we’ve turned to the expertise of our Public Relations Global Network (PRGN) partners for global trends and insights:
  • As consumers spend more time online, managing clients’ web reputation has never been more important. According to our PRGN partner Toomas Kull of Cabinet PrivĂ© de Conseils, S.A. in Geneva, Switzerland, The Five Pillars of Online Reputation Management point to building cohesive messaging and transparency. Consumers crave authenticity, but it has to be backed up with integrity, and more importantly, with brand action. Adapt content to be timely and reflect a concern for what your audience cares about by listening, staying informed and staying engaged.
  • As states reopen, agencies will begin to revisit in-person event planning. According to Keri McIntosh of The Castle Group in Maui, Hawaii, event planning must place a substantial emphasis on public health and safety. Reinventing the Live Event Experience – Key Considerations for Meeting Planners includes taking significant, transparent precautions to ensure that vendors are vetted and credible, venues are compatible with social distancing and participants are informed. Most importantly, planners must integrate and document COVID-19 protocols into official emergency response planning.
  • In an exploration of Female leadership and PR: What have they in common?, PRGN partners’ Alessandra Malvermi of Sound Public Relations in Milan, Italy, discusses the value of having women in leadership roles within the industry. At a time when empathetic, complex communications are essential, the value of skills that are often owned by women must become central to communications strategy.
  • Going back to the basics might be exactly what your clients’ social feed needs. Canadian PRGN partner’s Ashleigh Cartier of Media Profile in Toronto claims that now It’s Time for a Social Media Marketing Reset. For starters, foster two-way conversations on social media platforms rather than one-way content pipelines. Focus on quality of content rather than quantity. Lastly, think of your social audience as a huge focus group. Listen to what they have to say!
  • Dawn Burke of Cullen Communications in Dublin, Ireland, provides relevant insight on How to communicate in our new era of responsibility. Now is not the time for brands to go silent, but rather to reflect on communication strategy, core values, community engagement and how to build or rebuild public trust. If done right, brands will come out of the pandemic stronger than when they entered it.
Balancing public safety, marketing and credibility to meet the emerging needs of consumers during COVID-19 has placed a larger responsibility on companies to steer conversations and set authentic, progressive standards. We’re proud to have a strong partners in our global network of independent agencies to collaborate with as we navigate newfound public relations challenges and opportunities.