During the Dallas Spring Meeting for PRGN members of the Leadership Roundtable, we were given the opportunity to get out of the hotel conference center and explore one of Dallas’ top corporate headquarters (and a Three Box Strategic Communications client) – Topgolf. While the visit was a great opportunity to cut loose and have a little fun, it also served as an opportunity to learn from a top national brand and get a refresh on some basic PR principles we should be applying to our work each day.
Three Key Learnings from Topgolf that apply to all PR professionals
Your Message: It has to resonate with your audience(s).
This point is an oldie but goodie and it was nice to hear Topgolf reinforce it during our visit. We heard from director of corporate communications Adrienne Chance and she discussed the breadth of audiences that Topgolf has to reach with their message from millennia
ls and families with children to avid golfers and traveling businessmen. Each audience is unique, but the core message must stay the same.
As PR experts it’s our responsibility to ensure the message is aligned with the brand and resonates with each defined audience. However, we also can’t be everything to everyone so we must clearly define which audiences are most important and play to their pain points in our outreach and message.
SNL has always been known as the best place to get hilarious commentary on everything from current affairs to the latest on pop culture and Hollywood’s favorite movers and shakers. It turns out it’s also a great place to pick up some public relations tips from some of the funniest folks in the game. Keep reading for some of the top PR lessons taken from the 42nd season thus far.
Uber is your friend.
Whether it’s dashing off to a meeting, hitting a networking event or attending a new retail opening, the PR hustle is real. This is where Uber, aka your best friend, comes in. Living in a growing, major city like Nashville, the parking struggle is no joke. Becoming friendly with your local neighborhood Uber drivers is just good business sense. Especially when being late just won’t fly. Watch host Aziz Ansari and longtime castmate Bobby Moynihan reenact the importance of an Uber experience. Don’t forget that five-star rating.
Media is the real MVP.
One of the main pillars of PR is media relations. This makes getting to know your local media market essential. From familiarizing yourself with top reporters’ regular beats to becoming friendly with publications’ upcoming editorial calendars, knowing how best to work with journalists in your community separates the pros from the amateurs. Politics aside, PR professionals should learn from Melissa McCarthy’s fan-favorite turn as White House press secretary Sean Spicer and respect the media’s duty to share news. After all, they’re the gateway to the people. I guess that makes us security? See the SNL guest supreme act it out for us, here.
A little polite stalking is necessary.
When it comes to getting the information you need in PR, some sleuthing is key. Whether it’s finding contact information for an unlisted reporter or pulling a press clip from a small community newspaper, research is part of the job. It’s important to have savvy discovery skills so that when a client needs the Facebook of a potential connection or you need to track down that blogger you just met at an after-hours networking event you can rise to the occasion. Watch guest Kristen Stewart and popular SNL staffer Pete Davidson’s coffee shop meet cute with a side of light investigating, here.
Our fifth birthday is this year. That just blows my mind.
To some companies, that’s a blip in their history. To us, it’s a huge milestone. The reality is I didn’t plan on being a business owner. I didn’t have a business plan. I didn’t want employees. I definitely didn’t want the liability of a long-term office lease. I’d be just fine working as a freelancer, thank you very much. Or so I told myself. But the Nashville market was hot, I had to grow to avoid turning down projects and here we are almost five years later. When I first started out, numerous people told me that if I could make it five years, apparently my chances for long-term success increased exponentially.
It’s been full of extreme highs, the lowest of lows and everything in between. I’ve cried (a lot), I’ve laughed (even more) and I’ve learned more about myself these past five years than in the previous 29. And while it is difficult to pinpoint just a handful of lessons – because, quite frankly, I make a lot of mistakes and each one provides learning opportunities and a greater self-awareness – here are the ones I’d offer to aspiring business owners.
Surround yourself with people who get it. Other business owners have been critical to my sanity. Not everyone knows the pressure of making payroll or trying to figure out the right thing to do versus the affordable thing to do when it comes to employee health care benefits or how the heck to try and take a maternity leave and still run a company. Those are the people you want in your corner. There are organizations for business of all levels. I participated in the EO Catalyst program early on and still meet monthly with some of the other business owners from that group. Depending on the day, the people in my forum are my sounding board, my cheerleaders, my reality check or sometimes my happy hour buddies. It’s been inspiring to watch their businesses take off. As my company has grown, I’ve also joined the Women Presidents Organization, where I’m able to tap into the advice and expertise of a group of truly amazing women running multi-million dollar businesses. Find a group and plug in. You will inevitably hit tough times as a business owner and I firmly believe the support of others who have been there can be the difference between fighting through and coming out stronger on the other side or giving up.
Hire people smarter than yourself. Being a lifelong learner is critical to running a successful business. I want to be surrounded by people with skills and natural abilities that I might not have. If I’m the smartest person in the room, who will I learn from? Set your ego aside, figure out your weak spots and hire people who can make you better. This is especially important in my business. I’m not selling widgets. I’m selling our time and expertise. I personally only have a finite amount of hours, so I need really smart people to a.) do the things I am not good at so I can spend my time working on the things I can do well and b.) handle projects and clients that I am not involved in, increasing our capacity for additional revenue.
Reward success. The job’s not done once you hire those smart people. You need to make them stay. The top talent could walk out today and get other jobs, especially in a strong market. Pay people what they are worth. Teach your team that compensation is directly tied to the value they bring to the company and then reward them for growth. In my experience, being generous with profit sharing has only caused our revenue to grow.
Know your ideal client – and the value that you bring. Early on, I thought we had to be the perfect fit for every client and we had to win every single account. We had to recognize that not every client is going to be a great fit. Until we learned that, we weren’t able to do really great work for those who were a good fit. By working with just anyone who knocks on the door and not paying attention to red flags, you aren’t setting yourself up for success.
Sometimes you just need a donkey. Or puppies. Or tacos. Or whatever it is that lightens the mood and reminds you not to take yourself too seriously. Life gets busy, work gets stressful and even the most functional team can wear on each other’s nerves. Have fun. While the resulting visit from the landlord was slightly awkward, one of my all-time favorite days was sneaking a live donkey into our office to film an invitation to our Cinco de Mayo party.
It’s funny – while I never wanted to be a business owner (let someone else sign the rent checks!), after five years I can’t imagine having it any other way. I’m most grateful to my family and friends for their constant grace as I try to balance mom life and work life, my team for showing up every day and making me look awesome (even after that one time I was in Hawaii and forgot to run payroll) and my tribe of other business owners for their support.
Oh, and we’re obviously going to have a party. Stay tuned.
Depending on your industry, you can spend anywhere from 40-60 hours a week with colleagues. That may be more time than you spend with your family or friends, so your interactions shouldn’t be limited to work tasks and meaningless small talk. What’s the last non-work related activity you did with your coworkers? And no, hour lunches and post-work happy hours don’t count.
The RPR team recently went to Escape Game Nashville, figured our way out of The Heist – a room with a 27 percent success rate – and strolled out like bosses. Why? Not because it was someone’s birthday or an exclusive activity for just a few coworkers after work. It was a part of our company retreat, a quarterly practice in which we set aside a day to refocus and regroup. Whether it’s a day at the pool that turns into a failed attempt at teaching me how to swim or gathering everyone to watch an epic skit from the account services team about our core values, we always make a point to have fun.
But it doesn’t stop there.
We’ve rock climbed, taken a company spa day, cruised around the city singing karaoke while looking at Christmas lights and a number of other outings that range from mental to physical and everywhere in between. The one thing they have in common – they have absolutely nothing to do with our work.
It’s easy to become so consumed with work that you think of your coworkers as just another part of the job. While your colleagues don’t have to be your BFFs, there should always be mutual respect, trust and support. Take these relationships a step further by incorporating team activities within your company – it will help combat those monotonous days and alleviate stress.
While some of the more daring women of RPR consider swimming with sharks and bungee jumping ideal activities, there are enjoyable outings for every work group, big or small.
Attend a sporting event
Paint and drink art gallery
Go to a festival
Wine and cheese tasting
Tour a historic landmark
Volunteer at a local charity
Activities don’t necessarily have to take place outside of the office to be effective. In October we had a pumpkin painting party complete with Angry Orchards and homemade trail mix to celebrate fall. We’ve also been known to squeeze in an hour of in-office power yoga. We’ve even implemented TEDTalk Tuesday, a casual biweekly discussion of our favorite TEDTalks.
The bottom line is you shouldn’t let your work relationships be characterized by business conversations, status meetings and countless emails. Want to help build a stronger-knit team? Invest some time, money
and creativity in occasional company activities. When done right, your team will appreciate you for it and your company will reap the benefits through improved performance and stronger bonds. At RPR, our close connection has created an even deeper respect for one another and provides reassurance that we have each other’s back.
Most everyone works with some sort of professional service providers to accomplish the goals of their organization – partners, vendors, suppliers, whatever we call them.
Anyone who provides a professional service likely understands the most important goal of client satisfaction is making certain the customer is happy and there is a good working relationship.
What many in a service-oriented environment tend to forget is perspective. Ultimately, we have to make our clients happy and not just do what we want. We have to do what our client wants and the way they want it done while still showing our value and expertise.
After working in the agency world for several years and then taking a leap in-house, I learned exactly how I wanted and didn’t want to be treated by those partners, giving me some invaluable lessons as I stepped back into agency life.
Be patient. They have a long list.
While billable hours and moving the ball forward are what we focus on in an agency or professional services firm, our clients’ priorities aren’t always in line with that. We may only have one project we’re working on with our client, but they may have 10 others that come before it. Not to mention their boss may have other ideas about what’s important and should be done quickly.
That’s not to say that we should let things slide until a project fizzles, but striking the right balance between pestering and following up is key. Understanding that clients have other priorities and letting them know you’re aware of that will go a long way toward making them feel like you’re on their side.
Know their budget and where you fit into it.
Our clients often have large budgets, but our work may be just a fraction of that. When you know your client’s total budget and how you fit in, it helps you to understand where you fit in the line of priorities.
Some clients have extremely collaborative environments where multiple partners are brought in at a time. Others keep things in silos and control the pieces themselves. Whichever way a specific client likes to work, partners should seek to know all moving pieces and how their particular portion functions for the organization.
Ask clients about their current priorities to get a clear understanding of where you fall into their daily tasks and current projects so you can exceed their expectations.
Make it easy on them.
The best partners and vendors I had when I was in-house were the ones who made things easiest on me. How did they do this? At first, I didn’t realize it. But after working with several partners, I took notice of those who understood my priorities and went out of their way to make things clear and easy for me.
That included those partners who could lend their expertise and direction so I could just say yes or no, partners who gave me firm deadlines to ensure things were accomplished on time and partners who helped me showcase the work and goals accomplished to my boss/team.
As partners to clients, it’s our duty to make those contacts we work with look good and make their lives easier. When we understand what their world looks like, where they’re coming from and what their goals are we have a much better shot at making that happen.
San Francisco: the city by the Bay. Famous for the oldest Chinatown in North America, clam chowder in bread bowls and, of course, the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s also home to one of the best PR firms in the country: Landis Communications Inc. Because of Reed PR’s membership in the Public Relations Global Network (PRGN), I was fortunate enough to visit their agency and see how PR is done on the West coast with a team that is actually 60 percent male – a rarity in our industry. Here’s what I picked up:
Educate them. A PR professional should never assume a client knows what they want or the best way to achieve it – that’s what they’re paying us for, right? But it actually goes further than that. Because we develop launch plans and pitch media and create traditional & digital campaigns every day, it can be easy to forget that clients are experts in their fields, not ours. When they say press release, they may actually mean internal newsletter for their customers. When they agree that they should be positioned as thought leaders, they may not realize that means attaching their names to bylined columns and doing media interviews. It’s no one’s fault, but it’s our job to explain our tactics to clients and set clear goals so we’re all on the same page.
Educate yourself. The Landis Communications team places a huge emphasis on staying “plugged in.” That means staying on top of PR industry trends and their clients’ industry trends. One way they’re doing this is by attaching a sticky note to every magazine that comes in their door with a place for each team member to sign off once they’ve read through it. This goes for everything from San Francisco’s newest high-end glossy mags to the latest edition of AARP. We have a similar set-up at RPR minus the sticky note (we might have to steal that one from you, LCI) and we’ve recently adopted Ted Talk Tuesdays, where each month a team member shares a Ted Talk and we meet to discuss how it can help us grow both inside and outside of PR. It’s an easy way to stay in tune with how industries and our team members are evolving.
Don’t be afraid to push back. At RPR, we’re far from Yes Men (or Women?). But it was nice to hear from another agency that sometimes pushback is necessary to keep a client on track and help them reach their goals. We’re not advocating forcing a program onto a client or pushing them too far out of their comfort zone, but making firm recommendations for when and how an announcement should be made, which events will have the most impact and which tactics we think make the most sense is essential for both the PR team and the client.
Overall, it was an amazing trip that left me with a greater appreciation for the small PR agency environment. Once I got back to Nashville, I learned that Landis was given the ACE Award for America’s #1 #PR agency (small) from Ragan Communications and PR Daily. So congratulations to Landis and thank you for letting me see a small part of what you all do each day!
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Well, to some folks. While the Reed PR team is all about being festive, we know many aren’t as enthused about the holiday season. Our curiosity led us to conduct a survey assessing attitudes among Baby Boomers, Gen X and Millennials. So which generation lacks holiday spirit when compared to the others? Check out the full article in the Nashville Business Journal.
One of the biggest perks of being a part of the Public Relations Global Network? Constantly being introduced to some of the best agencies in the world.
Last month during our network-wide meeting in Dubai, PRGN added a new affiliate based out of Los Angeles to the group.
The Hoyt Organization, Inc. was founded in 1986 and has grown into a full-service strategic communications firm that provides PR counseling and crisis communication services and specializes in developing PR programs for business to business and business to consumer-based companies. Their clients often have a focus on the real estate, financial and professional services, retail, legal, technology and healthcare industries.
We’re digging their current client list, which includes Auction.com, Sotheby’s International Realty, USC Lusk Center for Real Estate and Genton Property Group for the Four Seasons Private Residence, Los Angeles, among others.
Needless to say, if you have a PR need in L.A., we now have a stellar partner that can help you out.
If you are part of an agency interested in joining PRGN, the network is actively recruiting PR members in China, Africa, Belgium and New York. Visit the PRGN website’s member recruitment section for more information or email its membership chair, C.L. Conroy, at CL@conroymartinez.com.
As a public relations agency with a focus on cause marketing, we help our clients make an impact in their communities. But why did we come to work each day? What was our core purpose?
We spent hours trying to figure it out as a team until one night it just clicked. We want to work for something more than just a paycheck. We want to help others go out and do good in the world.
That’s how this initiative was born.
Through Be The Good, our agency provides travel grants to individuals who want to do volunteer or mission work at home and abroad.
We believe that mission work changes you. It makes you a better team member, spouse, parent, friend. As an agency, this allows us to work for something bigger than ourselves. As individual people, it’s a way for us to pay it forward.
Will you join us?