How to Take your Industry Conference Attendance to the Next Level

Picture this. It’s 9 AM. Coffee is brewing and you’ve just logged into Twitter to catch up on this morning’s news. You scan to find out what people are getting up to and then you see it… hashtags galore over an industry conference you had no idea was happening!

We’ve all been there. We’re only human, but missing the boat on attending an important industry conference is something that shouldn’t happen in this day and age. With many events to choose from, the search for the best industry conference can sometimes feel a little overwhelming, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Media monitoring tools can act as your right-hand by helping you with your third-party event planning, from the cradle to the grave.

Finding the best industry conference

A quick keyword search on a news monitoring platform can gather a list of industry conference related articles, no matter how niche your industry may be. Narrowing the search down by location can also be useful if budget is tight and you want to avoid trekking around the country to mingle and find leads.

You no longer have to rely on event organizers words to gauge the success of an industry conference. By looking at previous year’s editorial and social media coverage, and the tonality of the articles, you can make an unbiased and informed decision as to which option is best to book.

You can also make use of social media monitoring tools to help with identifying and tracking key influencers in attendance. This is a great way to effectively build desired relationships with them and make sure your brand has a presence in locations where they hang out.

Reading industry publications and blogs may be a slightly more old school way of researching industry conferences, but it works just as well. 

Making the most out of exhibiting

Once you’ve found an industry conference that looks promising in lead generation and brand awareness, it’s time to shout about your attendance from the rooftops! Make sure every man and his dog knows you’re in town and why your booth is worth a visit. Add the event link to email signatures and the website, tell customers during phone calls and invite them by email too. Find out which social media platforms your target audience and influencers mostly use and engage with them on these channels.

On the day of the industry conference, it’s important to listen to conversations taking place about the show online so that you can successful insert yourselves into the discussions. This helps your brand remain relevant. You’ll quickly be able to spot if there’s a particular keynote happening that’s creating a lot of buzz and can check it out. Perhaps the speaker is trending, or maybe it’s the theme of the talk. Either way, such insights will help you optimize your future industry conference strategies.

It’s worth remembering that many people follow event hashtags without actually attending, thus reading post after post saying “come and say hi at booth 20” can get rather boring. Use your imagination and creativity – take photos, write inspiring posts and quote interesting facts learnt from the presentations. After all, it’s these kinds of posts that are likely to receive high engagement. Don’t forget to tag the speakers too as this will help grow your network!

Tracked conversations = precious gold mine

Conversations hold a vast amount of information beyond who said what. By analyzing and dissecting the data you can see:

  • Individuals interested in certain topics – this kind of personalized information can be relayed to your sales team and help them to better personalize their pitch and close more sales!
  • Highly engaged posts – this helps with judging who the influencers were so you can network with them and explore future collaborations.
  • Key themes and trends – this could provide the basis for future strategies or blog posts.
  • Peak times of the day that had the highest engagement – this can help you understand what time is best to choose for a speaking time slot for future events we attend.

The above are just a few ways you can avoid missing the memo and keep on top of industry conferences in order to improve your event planning strategy, but the most important tip of all is to keep leads hot! The longer you wait to contact potential clients, the quicker they slip away. The success of your industry conference planning strategy is ultimately defined on the event’s ROI, so don’t let cold leads overshadow the hard work you have put into your detailed plan.

A version of this article originally appeared on our UK blog.

PR Career Paths: Top Skills for Communications Grads?

As we head into graduation season, many newly minted PR professionals are hitting the job market and wondering about the best steps to take as they embark on PR career paths. The good news is that employment of public relations pros is projected to grow 10 percent from 2016 to 2026.

Growth also means change. It’s important to remember that public relations job descriptions today barely resemble those of previous years. How are the changes? What skills do today’s PR job seekers need to have to stand out from the pack and succeed?

PR Career Paths Are No Longer Just About Media Relations

When we look at the job descriptions for PR pros, what do we see?

“It’s not just the standard one-two punch of writing and media relations,” says Lou Hoffman, CEO, The Hoffman Agency.

“While great writing is essential, today’s PR practitioners are expected to do a lot more than preparing releases and media relations,” said Martin Waxman, President, Martin Waxman Communications and a social media and PR professor at Seneca College. “My students tell me employers want them to have design, photography, and video production skills. They need to be multimedia storytellers.”

They should also know how to set up and manage digital platforms and build relationships on social media, Waxman adds.

“And they require an understanding of strategy and how to link the results of their communications programs to business goals,” Waxman says.

Hoffman agrees. “More than building a media footprint, companies today want to see PR directed to solve specific business challenges.”  

And to do that, critical thinking should be one key skill possessed by those seeking a PR career, Hoffman says.

Technology Skills Top the List

Technology skills for public relations pros are now a necessity. Based on this year’s annual Global Communications Report conducted by the USC Center for Public Relations, designed to provide insight into the evolution of the global communications industry by analyzing emerging trends, these are the top technology skills that new grads need to be successful now, and as they progress down their PR career paths:

  • Big data analytics 65%
  • Video production 59%
  • Search engine optimization 59%
  • Digital design 54%
  • User experience 53%
  • Predictive AI technologies 43%
  • Data management 38%
  • Coding 17%

Fred Cook, Director of the USC Center for Public Relations, emphasizes that students are getting more comfortable learning skills like coding, not because they need to build web sites but because it’s good for them to understand how to do it—even if they don’t need to do it very often in their day-to-day roles. “Understanding the technology and how things work behind the scenes makes them more effective,” Cook says.

“In the near future, students will also need to understand statistics, analytics and data, and be conversant in what artificial intelligence is and does, and where some of the opportunities, risks, and challenges might be,” Waxman adds. “I don’t believe we’ll need to be expert coders, but we should have coding basics, and an understanding of how to communicate with data scientists, so aren’t left behind as more organizations adopt AI across the enterprise.”

Storytelling Isn’t Just about Words

Video production is another area that may show up in a PR job description. “So much of our business is in pictures these days,” says Cook.

“People who enter the PR profession often come from the world of words, majoring in mass communication or journalism or English,” Hoffman said. “Yet, the visual side of communications has increasing importance, particularly with so much content consumed on mobile phones.”

What Does All This Mean for Today’s Communications Grads?

Job descriptions will continue to evolve as the definition of what PR pros do gets broader. Cook says that one of the promising signs he sees is that while in the past, PR graduates went to work in traditional public relations roles, now they can be a fit for different types of jobs in various industries, like digital design firms or ad agencies.

“They’re taking on a much broader scope of work,” Cook says. “That’s an advantage for PR students. The opportunity is greater, but a broader skill set is necessary to take advantage of it.” 

And as they progress down the PR career path, they should expect to keep acquiring new skills. To stand out, young PR professionals should continue to hone their writing ability but look to add at least a basic understanding of analytics, video production, coding and AI to their skill set. As what we do and how we do it continues to expand, the opportunities are there—if the talent is ready.

Get Ahead on Your PR Career Path

To get yourself a step ahead, download our comprehensive ebook on how PR sets goals, both individually and for the team as a whole.

The Power of Social Media in the Age of Influencers

 

The ebbs and flows of the markets on Wall Street have long been influenced by external indicators found in the media, from press releases to quarterly results, to changes in leadership, natural disasters and more. The proliferation of social media has enabled this type of information to be dispersed manyfold, now no longer confined to media outlets but open to any individual with a Twitter handle. Today, social media conversations continue to spark knee jerk reactions and can result in massive shifts in company valuation.

As a result the need for every brand to listen to conversations online is greater than ever before. Tools like Meltwater help decision makers intelligently monitor those mentions and sift through the massive amount of data available, while new AI tools help decipher real information from the “fake news.” Today, Outside Insight is no longer a nice to have but a necessary competitive advantage.

A familiar story

Kylie Jenner’s Snapchat roast isn’t the first tweet that has sent stock prices flying. Campaigns like #GrabYourWallet have been leveraging the power of social media to influence brands’ revenue for years. During the 2016 elections, after the release of a 2005 video featuring Donald Trump speaking about women in a derogatory manner, Ivanka Trump’s personal brand took a serious hit, and leading retailer Nordstrom ended up dropping it completely. This move was largely credited to the #GrabYourWallet movement.

Alternatively, Elon Musk created $1B in value for Tesla when he first tweeted about the upcoming launch of their new product line in 2015.

 

On the other hand, icons like Kate Middleton have the capacity to spark major profits for fashion brands – for instance, when images of Kate in one of their pieces make it to the web. Kate is now well-known for causing most fashion items she wears in public, including brands from GAP to Marchesa, to sell out instantly around the world.

Influencers like Jenner, Middleton and Musk hold enormous power within (formerly) 140 characters, and every single one of the brands they have the ability to impact should be listening carefully.

Outside Insight Tesla Twitter Elon Musk

Fake news, real impact

The emergence and proliferation of “fake news” in the US and global media spiked during the 2016 US presidential elections, when Hillary Clinton first claimed “fake news” by the Russians had enabled Donald Trump to secure the presidency. While reaching new heights since then, false reporting has always been an issue when it comes to impacting the stock market.

In 2013, a fake AP tweet about an “explosion” at the White House that injured Barack Obama was constructed by hackers, and it caused the Dow to drop $130B in a matter of seconds. The impact of high frequency trading, combined with instant proliferation of news that hasn’t been fact-checked and algorithms designed to crawl the web for such keywords in real time, means even misinformation can have far-reaching consequences.

Today, AI is being developed in order to help traders decipher between real and fake news and to better manipulate all the data available on the web. Companies like Adverif.ai aim “to detect phony stories, nudity, malware, and a host of other types of problematic content.” They’ve introduced what they call FakeRank – a page-ranking system for fake news detection.

Outside Insight AI ad

As evidenced by Kylie Jenner’s recent impact on Snapchat’s valuation, however, it’s not always news – real or fake – that causes a change on Wall Street. The opinions of influencers continue to matter, and those who are prepared to take immediate action will weather potential PR storms much more smoothly than those forced to react once the storm has passed.

Key Takeaway:

Kylie Jenner’s Snapchat takedown is far from the first incident involving social media that led to real results on Wall Street. The impact of online conversations reaches far beyond the marketing and communications teams. Decision makers across a company need to remain well informed of any discussions that might impact their brand in real time – and be prepared to respond.

This post was originally published on Outside Insight. An online resource designed to help business executives understand the power of external data and the impact of forward-looking insights on the decision-making process.

Eight Tips for Increasing PR Coverage

Landing PR coverage can be tricky, even for some of the biggest brands. It’s easy to see how “cool” brands, like Apple, Nike or ASOS can find stories that would appeal to the general public, but what if your brand or industry is considered “boring”?

All PR professionals have the option to increase their PR coverage, they just need to know to find and tell a story that resonates.

In this blog we’ll be rounding up some of tips from Andy Barr (co-founder & co-managing director or 10 Yetis Digital) and us!

TIP 1: Make sure your product and company aren’t awful!

If your product is fundamentally crap, there’s no point in trying to pitch PR stories.  Media attention will simply lead to an increase in negative PR coverage around your brand. So, make sure your product & company is built on a solid base. If there are lots of skeletons in the closet, they’ll be revealed as soon as your brand is in the public eye. Working on areas of your brand that can be criticized before moving on to think about how to make your company exciting is fundamental.

TIP 2: Get internal buy-in

Before trying to get sexier media coverage, you’ll need the support of someone internally. Target a member of the c-suite who’s more open to ‘new ideas’. Influential internal stakeholders are key to generating wider buy-in from the rest of the organization, and the senior management team.

A good way of creating buy-in is to collaborate on the project, that way both parties feel they’ve been involved and a sense of ownership and pride. Don’t underestimate the power of enthusiasm, it’s contagious!

TIP 3: Baby steps

If you’re not used to doing ‘out there’ campaigns make sure you take baby steps. Ramp it up gradually, otherwise, stakeholders might freak out. Not only this, but your audience may be a little confused that you’ve gone from one extreme to another.

Test the waters and use a social listening tool like Meltwater or Meltwater Social to understand whether the tweaks to your campaign are resonating. It’s better to keep your finger on the pulse of your audience and media to spot spikes in negative conversations earlier on, prior to rolling out a complete campaign.

TIP 4: Have goals

Consider how ‘interesting’ PR coverage will help your brand. What are your goals and how are you measuring them? Also, think about how PR will help you to achieve wider organizational objectives. For example, if the company is hoping to enter a new market, you may want to focus on getting ‘authority links’ from big news sites in that market to help improve SEO amongst that demographic. 

TIP 5: Test & come up with your ideas using ‘The bar factor’

Would your story be talked about by your mates at a bar? If yes, this could suggest you’ll get social shares, engagement and generate general public interest.

We typically apply the pub (bar) factor to every idea we have, be that B2B or consumer…when we have our team brainstorming sessions, we involve our whole team, not just the PR team. All the ideas get written on a board, then we score each idea out of ten” says Andy.

TIP 6: Get inspired by other ideas

In an ideal world we’d all be coming up with only original ideas, but in reality, chances are it’s already been done to some extent before. 

There’s nothing wrong with taking inspiration from other campaigns, just as long as you’re not pinching the ideas. Use a social media monitoring tool to understand which parts of campaigns are resonating by breaking the conversational data down into positive trending themes.

Don’t be afraid to look outside of your industry for ideas too. Take a look at how celebs like Kim Kardashian use social media. A list celebs employ the top publicists, as such, they’re full of creative ways to engage audiences.

Also get inspired by sites such as PR examples, The Drum, AdWeek.

Top 7: Come up with more than one angle for a story

If you come up with a fun idea, give yourself multiple story angles. Don’t limit yourself! Take John Lewis as an example. They sent a press release about the Christmas TV ad itself, then how the ad led to an increase in the toy sales, then how many people have viewed the ad since the initial reach. 

John Lewis - multi angle pr coverage

If you create a fun piece of content, consider how you can stretch it out over a period of time by drip feeding the audience with new insights. Don’t lay all your cards on the table at once!

Tip 8: It doesn’t always have to relate back to your product

Depending on what your goals are, think outside the box when creating content. One of Andy’s clients, a pharmaceutical brand, created a ‘sex calculator’ to land PR coverage which drove traffic and authority links to their website. 

A version of this article originally appeared on our UK blog.

Why You Need a Crisis Communications Plan Before Crisis Strikes—and What to Include in It

“Always expect the unexpected” should be every communications professional’s mantra, yet more often than not companies appear blindsided by issues they should have seen coming (hint: using a crisis communications plan).

Extreme weather, for instance, is a predictable urgent issue. Yet, we frequently see companies caught off-guard and poorly handling customer service issues that stem from blizzards, flooding, hurricanes, and other hazardous weather conditions. While this extreme weather may randomly appear, the possibility of extreme weather, and its impact on your customers and team members, is entirely predictable.

A seasoned pro knows the value in developing and maintaining a playbook on how to address these issues, often in the form of a crisis communications plan. Your plan will not only save you from reinventing the wheel in seemingly endless fire-drills, but it could also be what stops an issue from becoming a full-blown crisis for your company.

Preparing for the Worst with a Crisis Communications Plan

While extreme weather is just one example, other recurring issues can regularly impact companies of all industries:

  • Website outages due to technical glitches
  • Delay in regular communications (i.e. monthly statements) because of unforeseen circumstances
  • Negative press articles
  • Issues related to team members, including workplace misconduct allegations
  • Issues related to the leadership team, including unanticipated departures or controversial statements
  • Social media issues, including inappropriate posts from brand accounts
  • Customer dissatisfaction due to product malfunctions

Any of these could become a crisis if enough momentum swells behind them and they are left unaddressed for too long.

It is your corporate communications team’s responsibility to envision any worst-case scenarios before they happen so that you can plan communications for all relevant stakeholders (employees, customers, investors, partners, and the general public) in a controlled and less time-sensitive environment.  

The first step in this process is a simple brainstorm. Picture every possible way that something could go wrong for your brand, and write it all down. With this list, you can then document how each individual stakeholder is impacted, and you then have what you need to start your playbook.

What to Include in Your Crisis Communications Plan

Your crisis communications plan should detail everything you need to address an issue and, ideally, stop it from becoming a crisis. The exact format of your playbook can vary (here is a great template created by Meltwater), but common elements will include:

  • Team roles: Determine who is responsible for what during an issue or crisis management process. Clearly define what each individual is responsible for handling in an issue to ensure that no duties go unassigned, and clearly identify the appropriate approval chain for any messages. You should identify individual team members for each of these roles:
    • Social media
    • Media relations
    • Internal communications
    • Executive review—the CEO or another leadership team member
    • Legal and compliance (if needed)
    • Communications counsel
    • Department/subject matter leads
  • Quick response steps: With your team roles defined, list out the steps that should be taken in addressing your crisis:
    • Step 1, Information Gathering: There should be an information gathering phase to first identify what is/is not known about the incident. Take inventory of the basics (who, what, when, where, why) and determine what the current sentiment toward the situation is and whether it is gaining attention in print, digital or social media.
    • Step 2, Team Assembly: The crisis comms team should be contacted and assembled to begin the communication management and message development phases. Brief your team on the facts of the situation, and follow the roles and assignments as detailed in your comms playbook.
    • Step 3, Comms Development: Using the templates (described below) you have ready, begin creating your communications for your variety of stakeholders. It is important to not spread misinformation, and you should let your audiences know when another update will be available (and stick to that timeline).
    • Step 4, Ongoing Management/Monitoring: There should be constant monitoring of the situation and external conversations to assess whether the issue is escalating or whether your team needs to pivot on its approach.
  • Communications templates: For each of the scenarios you brainstormed, craft various template communications for your multiple audiences. Use these as an easy plug-and-play format so that you can quickly fill in relevant details for your specific crisis and send to your audiences through the most appropriate channel. Plan communications for email, app alerts, your website homepage, social media, press releases, press conferences, and any other regular communications channels so you are prepared for any situation.
  • Corporate messaging and spokespeople: Keep an updated copy of your corporate messaging to ensure consistency in any word use or tone, and identify who will serve as spokespeople for various topics or issues.  

Ongoing Readiness

After you’ve faced your first issue, edit your playbook with your learnings and add in key details so that you are better prepared during your next issue.

Your crisis communications plan is a living document that you should constantly update as new potential threats are identified. Any time a competitor faces a crisis, make sure that your team is ready for a similar situation should it occur.

At a minimum, update your plan once a year to check for any team member changes or corporate messaging updates to reduce the likelihood of a last-minute scramble.

With your plan in place, you’re more likely to crush issues before they become a crisis, sparing your company from a potential downfall.

Next Step

For a deep dive into how media intelligence can serve you before, during, and after a crisis—or better yet, help you avert it altogether—read our comprehensive ebook on brand crisis.