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Top 11 Things I Learned at Content Marketing World

Content Marketing World was this past week. I looked forward to it for months. I went. I learned a lot.

But the highlight for me is the people. Making those face-to-face connections is priceless.

Yes, we live in a digital world. In fact, I was marveling recently at how many people I “know”—but have never met in person, or even spoken to on the phone. While I value those relationships, there is just something about actually being able to make that personal connection with someone.

Content Marketing World

TrackMaven had one of the best vendor booths at this year’s Content Marketing World with its “See What Sticks” marketing target, complete with spaghetti to throw.

Beyond that, here are my top 11 takeaways from my time at #CMWorld: Continue reading Top 11 Things I Learned at Content Marketing World

Yes, You Need A Website For Your Small Business

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I was doing some research recently when I came across an article that said nearly half of small businesses don’t have a website. You read that right, nearly HALF. 45 percent is the number quoted in the article, which by the way was titled, “You’ll be shocked to learn how many small businesses still don’t have a website.” And yes, I was shocked.

I’ve seen research like this before, and on one hand, it isn’t hard to believe. Small business owners are strapped for time and funds–I get it. They’re overwhelmed by the demands placed on them, including not only sales but marketing, operations, business development, HR and the list goes on.

On the other hand, how can a small business NOT have a site? It is simply a must for any business today. Even if you’re not selling anything online, a site is the hub of all digital marketing activity—social media, content marketing, PR, advertising and SEO. Where is the first place many will go when they look for a product or service? Online. If you’re not there, they may not bother to seek you out–and go elsewhere.

Continue reading Yes, You Need A Website For Your Small Business

Why you should create a crisis communications plan BEFORE you need one

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Summer is nearly here. How did we get here already? Everyone’s calendar is filling with plans for graduations, Memorial Day and other celebrations.

But, not everyone is celebrating.

The past couple of months has been anything but a party for several well-known brands. Pepsi. Delta. Adidas. And of course, United. All these brands have had major missteps that became headline news.

While we may cringe when we hear these tales of corporate missteps, there may be a silver lining. These mistakes present an opportunity to talk about how PR, specifically crisis communications planning, can help in times of trouble. Continue reading Why you should create a crisis communications plan BEFORE you need one

It All Started with a Flying Machine

As I celebrate 18 years of Garrett Public Relations, I’ve been thinking back to my very first client.

When I launched my business, I was in the Bay Area—one of THE places for entrepreneurs with great, if sometimes crazy, ideas.

As I was preparing to leave my day job to go full-time as a solopreneur, I was fortunate to be introduced to one of these entrepreneurs, an inventor. What had he invented? A flying machine. For real. It was called SoloTrek and was a vertical take-off and landing aircraft based on ducted fan technology. (The two-person model, the DuoTrek, resembled the flying car that’s been in the news this week.)

Continue reading It All Started with a Flying Machine

Turns Out Knowing How to Apologize Matters in a PR Crisis

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Well, this week offered no shortage of things for communicators to talk about. Crisis after crisis struck, as United, Pepsi—and even the White House—made major missteps that created PR headaches for each.

On the upside, crises like these make it easier for PR pros to explain just what it is we do!

But, on a more serious note, as we examine these incidents, what can be learned? In the wake of making a mistake, what’s the best way to handle the situation before it blows up into a bigger disaster? Continue reading Turns Out Knowing How to Apologize Matters in a PR Crisis

4 PR Lessons to Learn from United Airlines’ #LeggingsGate

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I’m sure you may have heard about the trouble United Airlines found themselves in this past week when they wouldn’t allow two young girls on a flight because of their attire. (They were wearing—gasp!—leggings!) Turns out the girls were flying on special passes that require passengers to adhere to a dress code—and that dress code doesn’t include leggings.

But, none of that really mattered, because, by the time United had gotten around to getting the word out about this special policy, the story had already gone viral, catching fire on Twitter with celebrities from Chrissy Teigen to Sarah Silverman joining the dialogue. The debacle was dubbed #LeggingsGate.

To make matters worse, instead of issuing any type of apology, “United staunchly defended the policy, answering critics with curt ‘follow the rules’ tweets.[i]

From a public relations perspective, this quickly became a nightmare scenario for the brand. So, what PR lessons can be learned from United’s missteps?

Continue reading 4 PR Lessons to Learn from United Airlines’ #LeggingsGate

6 Communication Lessons from the Presidential Debate

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Last night was the first of three presidential debates between Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton. Millions watched as the candidates went head to head on issues affecting our country. But, for those of us in the audience who communicate for a living, we were probably watching as much for the lessons in what to do—and NOT to do—as we were for anything else.

Here are six communication lessons we can learn from watching:

  • Preparation matters: It was clear to most of the viewing audience that one candidate seemed very prepared—while the other less so. When it comes to important events in our careers—big meetings, presentations, negotiations, speaking engagements—we can’t just “wing it.” Taking the time to prepare appropriately pays off when you can confidently deliver your message and handle tough questions.
  • Sometimes, it’s better to say less: We watched several times as Clinton let Trump hang himself by not saying anything. She could’ve intervened, but she waited—and let him go on. This was a strategic move on her part. The more he talked, the more missteps he made. She simply stood by and let it happen. This can apply in a meeting or negotiation, as well—even in written communications. Sometimes, saying less really is
  • Moderators need to moderate: Trump continually interrupted Hilary last night—AND he interrupted moderator Lester Holt. Of course, this is bad manners, but if professionals do this, they need to be reigned in. The moderator’s job is to help control the amount of time each person speaks and not allow anyone to step on others’ time. Holt is taking heat for allowing it to go on and not stepping in more assertively. It works the same way when you’re part of a panel at an industry conference, for example. This should be a lesson to anyone moderating—maintain control of the event.
  • Keep your cool under pressure: If we’re under pressure, sometimes, we crack. We saw this last night, as Trump continually lost his cool, baited by Clinton multiple times. We must remember that, no matter what happens, we need to keep our composure. Don’t let anyone throw you off your game. When Trump stuck to his game plan, he was able to make some solid points. Unfortunately, that was overshadowed by his inability to remain calm to cool-headedly answer questions and stick to messages he knows resonate.
  • Don’t interrupt: Communication 101—try not to interrupt when others are speaking. Yes, sometimes someone will go on and on—and then we may feel the need to try to get a word in edgewise. But, interrupting continually should not be our default mode of operation. It’s rude. Children do it—but they’re children. Professionals shouldn’t operate this way. Keep interruptions to a minimum, if you feel you must interrupt at all.
  • Every once in a while, smile: If you noticed last night, the only time Trump smiled was at the end of the debate, while Clinton smiled throughout. Smiling makes you more likable, more relatable. According to The Definitive Book of Body Language, if you smile at your audience, they’re more likely to feel a connection with you (even if the smile is forced). Struggle with remembering to smile? Put a reminder in your notes.

What communication lessons did you learn from watching last night’s debate?

Without Media Relations, Is It Really PR?

This post by Geoff Livingston caught my eye this week:

PR Cannot Escape Media Relations. In this post, Livingston talks about the inescapable connection between PR and media outreach and how some in the PR profession struggle with this.

This struck such a chord with me, because I, too, came to a point in my PR career when I was really resistant to continue doing media relations. I struggled with this—I’d really rather just write, I told a few trusted  PR-savvy colleagues. “Well, then, is that still PR?” some of them replied.

So, I took some time to think. When I looked closer at the needs of my clients, I began to realize what an integral part of PR media relations is. What did my clients really want, in many cases? Media coverage. And why? Because media coverage:

  • Adds to a company’s credibility
  • Raises visibility
  • Paves the way for your sales force
  • Is shareable
  • May be repurposed
  • Feeds content marketing

When you think about all that media coverage can do for a company, it makes sense that businesses are looking to include media outreach in their PR efforts.  

So, instead of distancing myself from media relations, instead I embraced it. And what have I found over the years since? This has become a differentiator for me. I don’t how many PR pros I’ve met who say, “Oh, I don’t really do media relations.” Then, how can you call yourself a PR practitioner, I would ask. As Livingston mentioned, “You can run, but you can’t hide” from media relations.

Further, I get the impression that some PR practitioners tend to look down at media relations—almost as if it’s something beneath them. This was what I encountered when I worked at an agency, as well. The “smile and dial” approach was often used, which is probably why people didn’t enjoy doing it. And, it would be assigned to the most junior person on the team…further demeaning it and its value to the client. If this is the most important thing to the client, why would you look down on it and assign to a junior team member? If it’s so important, as Livingston points out, wouldn’t you want to assign to someone who has some experience and even skill doing it?

“I believe a media relations pro or agency that can open those doors and facilitate that story breakthrough is even more valuable today than ever before,” writes Livingston. “Practicing public relations without media relations is much like playing the lottery. Assuming the media will stumble upon your business story may as well be a raffle, one that loses probability every year.”

As long as media relations provides value to clients, it will continue to be a vital part of PR. “PR pros who no longer want to offer media relations could position their service offering a little differently. They can clearly offer marketing communications services, or social media marketing or simply content,” Livingston continues. I like this line of reasoning. And they can leave the media relations to those of us who understand its value and truly embrace it.  

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