Tuesday, November 29, 2011

In the Mix...First Alert Makes Front Page of USA Today!

This year the First Alert/LCWA team was charged with raising awareness and educating Americans about the importance of carbon monoxide protection and the growing legislation, which requires consumers in many states to install carbon monoxide alarms in their homes. After several robust state-wide campaigns in 2011, the team took a national approach this month and as a result, piqued the interest of USA Today. The team’s efforts resulted in a front page story on the second-most circulated newspaper in the country! Read the story here!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Networking Know-How for Client Events

Our client Trex Company recently hosted its annual sales and distributor partner meeting in Las Vegas, and I was pleased to attend with another colleague. Not only are these yearly get-togethers a fantastic opportunity to learn about and interact with new products, but they also provide a chance to sharpen networking skills. Admittedly, walking into a room full of hundreds of new faces can be a little intimidating – so here are some tried and true networking tips that I regularly put to use at client events:

  • Perfect Your “Elevator Speech” – Unless they’re in the marketing field, most people truly don’t understand what a public relations executive does. Practice describing your job and – even more importantly – how it benefits your client. Keep it to 30 seconds maximum! Don't be afraid to share good news too. For instance, did your team land a strong placement in the New York Times or on "TODAY" in support of a new product? Keep a few successes in mind to illustrate your work and the value of PR.
  • Know the People – If possible, try to obtain the names of event attendees beforehand. Create a mental list of the five or 10 people who are most relevant to meet and check out LinkedIn profiles and business websites to prepare for your initial conversations. Consider asking your client to facilitate introductions.
  • Do Your Homework – Spend some extra time reading trade publications and brush up on industry terminology to make sure you can effectively speak to any topic that might be of importance to the people you meet. Remember that as a PR pro you may be asked for your opinion on topics ranging from crisis management to customer relations to social media strategy.
  • Cultivate Other Interests – Some of the most interesting conversations you'll have won’t be related to business. Keep up-to-date on current events, and don't be shy about discussing books and movies you've enjoyed recently or the upcoming vacation you've planned. The tried and true rule of always having three conversation starters in your back pocket is very effective at making small talk flow more smoothly.
  • Stay In Touch - Did you offer to send a new contact an article or to cooperate on a project? Take notes about your conversations on the back of business cards and then remember to follow through when you're back in the office. Even if there are no specific action items, a quick "nice to meet you" email goes a long way to building a lasting professional relationship.

With a little preparation – and a healthy dose of confidence – networking at client events can be both advantageous and enjoyable.

Monday, November 14, 2011

In the Mix…A Decked-Out Photo Shoot

Images, images, images! If there’s one thing we hear repeatedly from media, it’s the need for high-resolution, editorial-quality photography. That’s why we were excited to coordinate the photo shoot of the $20,000 rooftop deck makeover done for the winner of Trex’s recent Designer Deck Contest. The “urban oasis” created by home design expert Eddie Ross features beautiful, low-maintenance decking and railing from Trex. To capture high-quality photos, we selected the photographer, created an “urban chic” theme with a stylist, developed a shot list, coordinated props, furniture and accessories…and at one point, yours truly even stood in as a model – though I think it’s best if I keep my day job! The results are jaw-dropping, and these “ready-to-print” images will be perfect for outdoor living features this spring!

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Closer Look at Internal Communication - Part 2

If you’re thinking about a research project to assess internal communication and identify unmet needs and opportunities, the first step is to pinpoint the objectives. An assessment can take several weeks or several months. Project scope and cost are heavily influenced by project objectives, organizational size and complexity, and whether the entire work force will be able to access a web-based survey.
Here’s quick rundown on typical components.
  • Qualitative research. Qualitative research can take many forms, but those most often useful are observations, interviews and focus groups. Most people are familiar with interviews and focus groups, but why do observations? I’m repeatedly amazed at the challenging environments and situations in which effective communication is expected to take place. The best way to internalize those circumstances is to see and feel them; structured observations of individuals and work groups can bring terrific insight into the organization’s communication realities.
  • Quantitative research. After analyzing information collected from the qualitative components, the researcher can identify common themes, trends and issues and craft effective questions for an employee survey. At LCWA, we start with the questions the comprise our proprietary Internal Communication Climate Index™. This tool will gather reliable information from the entire work force, or a sample of it. Though web-based internal communication surveys will do the job for most organizations, printed surveys are still needed by some. Quantitative data collection is followed by rigorous statistical analysis – that’s where important findings are identified and interrelated. Important insights will flow from these analyses, and the results can guide priorities for any changes and improvements that may be indicated by survey results. In addition, advanced analysis techniques can identify key drivers for accomplishing desired outcomes – such as more effective communications or more engaged employees.
  • Report and action planning. What matters in the end, of course, is not the research, but the changes and improvements that are made because of the information that’s collected and understood. Every assessment should include a formal reporting and action-planning component – a process focused on translating data into change in the organization. Plan to report results to all employees as quickly as possible. Failing to report the results and the changes that will be made because of them likely will fuel cynicism and mistrust. And of course if employees don’t see the results they’ll be less likely to participate in the next survey that comes along.
Quality research isn’t inexpensive, but it’s worth the investment. For many organizations, the communication assessment and needs identification becomes a watershed event. It’s an opportunity to move the importance and effectiveness of communication to a new level.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Closer Look at Internal Communication - Part 1

The research group at LCWA does a lot of research to assess the effectiveness of internal communication and to identify opportunities and unmet needs. Here’s a quick rundown on why they should be done and what’s involved.

I’ve found that while these assessments are enormously valuable, many communicators don’t know when they’re needed, how they’re done or what to do with the results. In fact, communicators who may in the end buy an assessment are more likely to call for help wrestling with core communication issues. But they’re asking certain questions that foreshadow an assessment:

  • “How can our communication vehicles be more focused on business objectives and more integrated?” or,
  • “How can we rework communication to help the company face increasing competition and improve customer service?” or,
  • “How can we know if our communication vehicles are doing the job?” or,
  • “How can we prove to senior management wants that what we’re doing makes a difference?” or,
  • “Do you think we’ll cause problems by discontinuing the newsletter and just doing it all online?”

It’s great that these questions being asked before changes are made. Too many communicators jump into retooling their internal communications system in the hope of improving their effectiveness but without any factual basis for assuming that will be the result. Effective change begins with understanding the organization and its employees. Important questions like those above are not likely to be adequately answered with canned responses. Some of the questions go right to the core of an organization’s culture and values. Actionable answers must come from the organization’s people and processes.

When I talk to communicators to clarify the issues they’re raising, potential objectives for an assessment begin to emerge. It’s these objectives that will determine the assessment’s scope. Objectives that flow from these discussions might include, for example:

  • Determine the effectiveness of the overall internal-communication process;
  • Determine how to leverage communicators in multiple divisions;
  • Determine relevance and usefulness of various communication vehicles;
  • Assess whether employee have received and understood key messages;
  • Develop an ongoing process for measuring effectiveness of communication;
  • Develop a fact-based, strategic internal communication plan.

With these objectives in hand, it’s time to move forward with an assessment. I’ll sketch the components of a typical internal communication assessment next time.

Monday, November 7, 2011

In the Mix...Snow Joe Warming!

As the temperatures fall and communities all over the country prepare for cold temperatures and snow, we’re helping our client Snow Joe to warm a few hearts. As a part of a seasonal campaign, Snow Joe is matching $1 to charity for every new fan it gets on its Facebook page. The goal is to raise $10,000 for the One Warm Coat® non-profit organization, which has a mission to provide any person in need with a warm coat, free of charge. Please join in as we put this philanthropic effort into action!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

In the Mix...Daylight Saving Time Safety

Daylight Saving Time starts this weekend, so it's the perfect time to replace the batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. In fact, Daylight Saving Time is a great time to remember these replacements, both when "falling back" and "springing forward." We're taking this message to Facebook on behalf of First Alert and in partnership with Duracell. For its quarter of a million Facebook fans, Duracell is offering the chance for 300 people to win a smoke alarm, a CO alarm and a 9-volt CopperTop battery four pack. Through strategic collaborations like this, we’re able to remind consumers to be safe by replacing batteries, and offer a truly useful package to contest winners. It’s a win-win!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

In the Mix…A Media Launch Fit for “Extreme Performance”

Our client Pergo has pulled out all of the stops for the launch of its new collection, Pergo XP – and we’ve been hard at work launching this laminate line to media! To show that Pergo XP – which stands for “extreme performance”– can withstand just about anything, Pergo staged an extreme challenge on the Venice Beach boardwalk in California, complete with elephants, male wrestlers in women’s heels and breakdancers wearing steel wool. Photos from the fun demonstration were featured on the Los Angeles Times website. In addition, we coordinated a fall home improvement-focused broadcast segment that aired around the country; we’re creating a fun, interactive press kit to be mailed to our priority media contacts; and we’re working with bloggers on makeover and home renovation projects. As this product launch continues to gain momentum, we look forward to sharing more information about Pergo XP to media.