Thoughts on diversity, leadership, and integrity from #PRSAICON

The annual Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) conference is aimed at bringing together industry professionals to learn from each other, hear from those that led the way and get equipped with the most effective tools and resources to adapt to the ever-evolving trends. 

PRSA ICON 2019 in San Diego focused on diversity, leadership, and integrity. The event brought together one of the largest turnouts, with close to 2,000 attendees. Members and sponsors learned about finding the leader within yourself, remembering brand values during a crisis, and that authenticity is king. 

Power of Looking Within 

The keynote speakers included former President of Mexico, Vicente Fox, world-famous international journalists, Laura Ling and Bob Woodward, and actor/comedian, Richard Dreyfuss. Each had the opportunity to capture the room of hundreds of people. The most common theme among all speeches? Leadership. These industry leaders exposed their paths to success; how listening to themselves and the leader within them allowed each to create movement against resistance.

We all know that change is inevitable, and the world of public relations is seeing it now. In a world where anyone has the ability to tell a story, the spread of information is faster than ever before. Trust is becoming harder to find, it’s the Public Relations and Communications professionals duty to rise up, find the leader in themselves, and act with the duty to do the right thing. 

Welcome to the World of Diversity 

Last year, the topic came up that there is not enough diversity and inclusion in the industry, which clearly triggered organizers to have “Diversity and Inclusion” as a subject for over 10 breakout sessions. 

PRSA organizers are encouraging people to make this an integral subject to many professional conversations with the Diversity Inclusion awards.  

Crisis Communications…a familiar word in our industry

Crisis communications is certainly not a new development since the age of social media. PR professionals and communicators have had to navigate sticky, unwanted, and often dangerous situations since the beginning of its existence. However, what’s changing is the way we respond and what the strategy is behind the communication in crisis. 

Whether it’s identifying who your key stakeholders are, or keeping relationships with journalists strong, it’s important to maintain the integrity of your brand values when in a time of crisis. 

Animal Therapy… and PR 

What happens when you get a sloth, kangaroo, and porcupine on stage at a Public Relations conference? A lot of tweets (58 to be exact). 

It’s been proven that animals can have a resounding effect on individuals who are healing from a mental or physical impairment and San Diego Zoo took to the stage to prove it. They ran through their program through the zoo that works with children to showcase the “Healing Power of Animals”. 

Was it a coincidence that they placed this at the end of the 3-day conference? 

Overall, the conference never ceases to impress first-timers, keeps legacy members coming back year after year, and invites vendors to showcase their latest product developments that emerge alongside the trends of PR. 

A big thanks to PRSA for another great conference. We can’t wait to see you in Nashville next year! 



A Marketer’s Guide to Using Social Media for Lead Generation

For far too long social media has been the lead generation underdog.

Whether direct, indirect, marketing-qualified, or sales-qualified, the leads generated by marketing teams are rarely attributed to social media. Social media continues to be referred to as a brand awareness tool, and marketers often take for granted just how effective it can be for lead generation.

Today we’re putting an end to the speculation and sharing a delightfully short marketer’s guide to using social media for lead generation

3 Ways to Use Social Media for Lead Generation

1. Active Listening

Selling your product is (arguably) the most important goal of your marketing efforts. Social listening can be an extremely effective way to discover and connect with potential buyers.

Meltwater’s Boolean search allows users to create very specific searches. For example, you could set up a search for PR opportunities or people who might be interested in your product. For example:

(“Window cleaner” AND (“Recommendations” or “looking for”)

This will bring up anyone who is looking for a window cleaner. You could even include an area, for example (“Window cleaner” AND “London”) AND (“recommendations” OR “looking for”). Here’s a quick overview on effective Boolean searches:

Boolean Search Guide.png

Another way brands use social listening for lead generation is setting up automatic searches for people who are discussing competitors in a neutral or negative light. This can provide an opportunity for your brand to provide a better alternative.

2. Social Media Advertising

For many marketers, social media advertising has become a mainstay in their marketing programs. Apart from generating brand awareness, ads can be one of your brand’s top lead generation channels.

Social Media Advertising Funnel.png

Success in the conversion (BOFU) stage comes down to three critical components:

  1. The quality of your targeting
  2. The quality of your ads
  3. The ability to track results

Great conversion-focused ads almost always contain an irresistible offer. This might be a discount on a product, a free-trial, a coupon, or a buy-one-get-one-free offer.

Tracking results through tools like the Facebook Pixel, Google Analytics, or even your brand’s CRM is critical. Understanding which campaigns are driving conversions, which campaigns are resulting in higher lifetime value customers, and which campaigns are losing money is helps you double down on what’s working and drop or iterate on what’s not.

3. Contests

Contests have been a huge success for brands on social media for nearly a decade.

The biggest upside of contests is that they draw a lot of attention and potential leads. The downside is that the leads generated aren’t always the highest quality. Regardless, contests are a surefire way to increase brand awareness and gather email addresses of potential customers.

One of the most successful social media contests to this day is Shopify’s Build a Business.

Since the launch of the program in 2010, Shopify has helped thousands of companies start and grow successful businesses using good old-fashioned competition.


Shopify Build a Bigger Business contest winners gathered at the Namale resort in Fiji to learn from mentors like Tony Robbins and Tim Ferriss.

Winners of the contest each receive a $50,000 investment and mentoring from seasoned entrepreneurs. Now in its seventh year, the competition has generated more than 100M impressions, 1.5M engagements, 1M shares, and most importantly, more than $500M in GMV for the businesses that participated. 

Need some creative inspiration for what to give away? Here are a few examples to get you started:

  • A limited-edition product
  • An entire product collection
  • Product(s) from influencers in your market
  • Gift cards
  • Travel

The key is to make it a win-win for everyone, and make the prize compelling enough for participants to share with their friends and family (don’t go cheap!).

Give It a Try

If you’re not using social media for lead generation there’s never been a better time than now to start.

And don’t worry, you don’t have to be an expert to include lead generation in your social media strategy. Simply begin by trying out a few of the techniques that I discussed here today and build on your successes.

Take a look at our customer journey ebook to help craft the right strategy for your business.

Want Big Global PR Results? Time to Think Small

When your business is international, it’s only natural to ask the question “should our PR agency be global too?” But, increasingly, some companies are finding it’s a better fit to manage a stable of regional PR agencies that really know their audience.

Whether you have an existing partner that says it can support your new regional activities or you’re starting fresh with your search, it’s important to be thorough in your decision making, especially since international PR and marketing activities gone awry could permanently damage, or even destroy, your brand.

Why Bigger Isn’t Always Better in Global PR

Global PR agencies have innate appeal simply because they can act as a one-stop-shop that can scale with you. And, in many cases, these brands have earned their reputation through a track record of success and true global expertise.

But an agency should not be chosen as your best partner simply because it is global. Further, the convenience of having one agency may come at costs that your team hasn’t considered.

Understanding the difference between translation and localization is crucial when choosing an agency partner. Translation services simply take a message from one language and turn it into the equivalent words in another language. Localization, on the other hand, is the process of adapting a message with the region—and its preferences and idioms—in mind.

The difference may seem subtle, but localization controls how everything about your communication—from your word choice, imagery, layout, channels for distribution, etc.—may be received by regional audiences. For PR, this also means tailoring your media approach based on the communication styles of that region.

In an attempt to stay competitive, agencies may tout regional expertise that is nothing more than translation. Or, many global agencies now partner with local agencies who actually do the work at the local level, begging the question of if you should cut out the middle management—the global PR agency.

Topics to Vet with Your Global PR Agency Partners

When considering a global agency relationship, be thorough in your discovery phases to ensure you have a full scope of what services they actually provide. Make sure you cover each of these topics when vetting your agency partners:

  • Scope of International Services: Dive deep into the exact nature of how the agency conducts its international business. Do they have established offices in your target market, partner with outside agencies, or do they conduct all business out of their HQ? Agencies may outsource work that gets added to your bill, so you should understand what is performed in-house and what is included in the fees.
  • Case Studies and Customer References: Ask to see case studies of work done in your target region(s) and ask for client references.
  • Main Contact: Who would your primary contact be, where are they located, and what languages and cultures have they mastered?

The Case for Regional Agencies

Engaging with multiple regional PR agencies carries added responsibility around communications and further complications with your workflows (don’t you love scheduling meetings for three time zones?), but the benefits can outweigh these added hurdles.

Working with multiple agencies is a very common practice. In 2017, an estimated 43% of companies were working with multiple agencies, and over half of the comms pros in the same survey noted that one of the top reasons for working with PR agencies was because of activities in specific geographic markets.

Much like in your home country, the local options will vary greatly in quality, but you’re eliminating chances of translation gone wrong.

Finding regional agencies to partner with may seem daunting. But it can greatly reduce the risk of brand blunders in your most important international markets. Use these strategies for success when exploring regional partners:

  • Ask Your Network: Check if your existing agency has an international partner they recommend and ask your peers and colleagues about their agency relationships.
  • Have A Local Representative on Your Search Team: Regardless of who is leading the agency search, a member of the regional team this agency would partner with should take part in the conversations. They can better identify potential red flags, and dive deeper on if the local agency is able to deliver on the services you need.
  • Start Small: You do not need to invest in a year of PR services upfront across a handful of agencies to decide if this approach will work for you. Consider starting a small project to get a feel for the agency before committing to a larger scope of services.

How to Go Small Without a Huge Internal PR Team

If you decide that a multitude of agency teams are the way to go, follow these best practices to ensure the most effective use of your team’s time:

  • Designate a Lead: Ensure that there is a single representative from your company that is overseeing all of the agency relationships. If regions start operating in silos, there’s a potential for them to launch campaigns that damage the brand outside of a localization error.
  • Hold Cross-Agency Planning Session(s): Each year, or more frequently if resources allow, host a (preferably in-person) planning session that with all of your agencies. This will help build a greater sense of unity, especially since these agencies will be working side-by-side during campaigns that span their regions.
  • Find Tech to Help: When you’re working across time zones, it helps to have technology that assists with these logistics. Find video conferencing solutions that allow you to record your meetings so you can easily share replay links with any regional partners that could not make a meeting. There are also collaboration tools designed to enable seamless communications for global teams

Global Success with Your Partner(s)

Regardless of how many agencies you collaborate with to execute your PR program, it’s important to establish consistent global PR metrics and dashboards that each agency uses to ensure you’re meeting your PR goals—and not creating unintended brand harm. With this governance in place, and combined with regular cross-agency strategy meetings, collaborating with a group of regional PR agency partners has the potential to truly localize your brand, and better realize your brand promise in your highest growth potential markets.

For a complete guide to PR measurement—for internal teams and agencies—read our ebook on PR and social media KPIs and everything you need to know to prove ROI.

10 Ideas for Media Pitches When You Have No News to Announce

There you are, humming along, with plenty of news to pitch to media on behalf of your brand or client. There seem to be no shortage of announcements coming up on your calendar.

Then, one day you wake up to discover—we have NO news on the horizon. Panic begins to set in. It’s then that PR pros wonder, “What kind of story ideas can we share to get earned media coverage when we have no news?”

In answer to that question, here’s how to get media pitching unstuck.

10 Media Pitch Ideas That Don’t Depend on News

  1. Show a peek behind the scenes: Stories like “a day in the life of” or a behind the scenes look can be of interest to journalists, says business coach Joseph James, @JosephJamesMMS. Pulling back the curtain on your organization allows reporters to bring their audiences inside how things work.
  2. Tell an origin story: “I always appreciate a good origin story, for example, how an established company grew or a profile of the owner,” says tech reporter Kelly McSweeney, @kellysimonsays. Talk about the history behind the brand.
  3. Try custom-tailored media pitches: When your brand is having a slow news day, spend more time tailoring your pitch to a particular reporter. “The more tailored your pitch is to the publication (or to the writer), the more likely we are to move forward with it, regardless of how ‘newsy’ it is,” McSweeney says.
  4. Give newsjacking a go: Can your company jump on a trending topic? If you act quickly, you may be able to achieve what David Meerman Scott refers to as “newsjacking.” Start the day by checking Google Trends or taking a look at what’s trending on Twitter to find some possible story angles that may present opportunities for your brand.
  5. HR stories can be hidden gems: It’s more common these days to see pieces that focus on a company’s HR practices, as organizations try to change things up to compete for the best talent. “Often what PR qualifies as news doesn’t interest editors as much as routine things companies take for granted,” says journalist Jared Lindzon, @JLindzon. “Interesting culture quirks, productivity hacks and unique hiring practices that develop gradually are often hidden gems.”
  6. Use data to create a compelling media pitch: “Make a story with interesting data,” says @ginarau. “Almost any hypothesis can be supported with data these days. Curate it in a new way for an interesting story about the problem your client solves.” What if you don’t have your own data? Try pulling some from Google. “Google has a really great rich library of micro bite-size data analysis, if you don’t have the ability to do the analysis yourself. Take a look at what other companies are putting out there and maybe put together a response piece to some of your competitors,” Katie Robbert co-founder and CEO of Trust Insights, @katierobbert.
  7. Look to your employees or customers: Perhaps the media relations team can come up with a story about an employee or customer who’s doing something interesting, suggests PR pro Olivia Adams, @OliviaAdamsPR. “Share community service initiatives and personal stories of how employees, customers or volunteers are making a difference,” adds Mary Beth West of MBW Communications, @marybethwest.  
  8. Feature charitable or CSR causes: Digital media strategist Sarah Clarke, @sclarkeOville, says tying in a brand’s involvement in a charitable event or effort can be a smart way to get press. If your brand is taking part in some sort of corporate social responsibility initiative, that can also make an interesting story idea.  
  9. Are they celebrating an anniversary or milestone? Margie Dolch, @margiedolch, says that a company anniversary can be pitched to press. The longer they’ve been in business, the more compelling the story can be. How did they reinvent themselves to stay relevant through the years?
  10. Tie a story into an “awareness” day: Gemma Birbeck, @LeulyPPR, says awareness days provide a great foundation for stories as there are some that most businesses can relate to. Meltwater runs a piece each month listing “awareness” days and other national days that brands can look to for ideas.

Next Steps in Media Pitching

Try plugging a few of these ideas into your slow news periods to chalk up some media relations wins. And for a comprehensive guide to pitching stories, connecting to journalists, and getting your messaging right, read our ebook, New Strategies in Media Relations

How to Get Executive Bylines in Publications

Thought leadership and subject matter expertise are essential to an effective marketing strategy. Positioning company leaders as industry experts helps the brand express a point of view, vision, knowledge, and experience. Great thought leadership will help your audience gain a greater understanding about relevant issue and trends that affects them—and they’re learning about them from you and your company.

Jennifer Kutz, Communications and Public Affairs for Google, shares her insights on why and how publication bylines should be part of your marketing strategy.

Why Go After Executive Bylines in Publications?

An executive can always post their expertise and thought leadership on sites like LinkedIn or a company blog. But, contributed content in key media outlets provides deeper benefits. These include faster and deeper trust, as well as credibility, based on the idea that you know something of value that others don’t. Since the audience views those publications as reliable resources for information, attaching your name to that publication extends that credibility to you.

Public relations tactics have shifted from only increasing an executive’s visibility or getting them quoted to getting full executive bylined articles. The publications provide high-quality, relevant content for their readers. Meanwhile, executives and companies enjoy exposure in a reputable publication. Because of the mutual benefit, bylined articles and guest blog opportunities have gained in popularity. But, marketing isn’t the only thing that benefits from bylines.

“Often, company executives can raise the company’s profile, which goes a long way toward establishing a reason for potential investors to invest in that company,” Kutz says. “Having a bylined presence can be a deciding factor that sways those investors toward putting their money (and trust) in that company.”

Once you have a byline, you can get more traction by going back to LinkedIn, your company blog, and all other channels with a clip or link to that published article. If you stay with a direct-to-social media or direct-to-company blog approach, then you only have one pass at getting it in front of your audience.

A Strategy for Getting a Publication Byline as a Subject Matter Expert

Here are some strategic steps to start getting these executive bylines.

Identify the right publications and journalists that cover your expert subject areas.

Their audience is your target audience. For example, let’s say your company makes software that drives energy efficiency. Seek publications that target topics related to energy efficiency. There are many industry publications that cover that space.

Yet, Kutz says it’s important to go deeper with your targeted publication list. “You want to look for broader startup or tech publications that touch on sustainability and topics related to energy efficiency. If you are looking to attract the attention of investors, there are publications like VentureBeat that cater to venture capitalists.”

If you have never had experience identifying the most appropriate publications and journalists, then the best strategy is to hire a PR consultant or PR agency. These have this experience and have already developed media relationships.

Create a spreadsheet of publications and contacts, subject areas and guest post guidelines.

Work with your comms team to create and review a spreadsheet that will help understand these publications and effectively pitch for greater publication success. You cannot take shortcuts for this process. The only way to shorten the time to a certain degree is to again work with a PR expert.

As Kutz explains, “You can’t send a blanket email to an email address like or to whatever publication you are trying to get your article in. You need to put in the time to explore the media website to see if you can find a contributor section. For example, is there a thought leadership section? Is there a perspective section? If you see that they accept executive bylined articles, then you can kind of look for a contact address, reach out, and gauge their interest.”

Also, go beyond the publication website to get this information. Many publications rely on social media, including Twitter and LinkedIn, to encourage interaction. On these channels, you can learn more about contributor content, bylines, relevant topics and key contacts. You can also use Google search engines to learn more about how to place executive bylines.

Use spreadsheets to track topics, subjects, and related areas that align with each publication’s focus and purpose. Match your unique perspective with these topics and publication angles. Doing so helps you achieve relevance and value for your intended audience.

Share your previous thought leadership results to prove your value to their audiences.

You can use blog posts, conference speaker materials, podcasts, videos, and other quality content. You can also include statistics about followers, likes, and shares. Get involved in industry groups to further your subject expertise and following. If you haven’t done much in this area, then expand these content areas first.

While it helps to have published content, you can also start from scratch. Kutz adds, “You don’t need extensive writing experience. What’s more important is what you are talking about, your story, and what you want to say. Where startup founders or business executives go wrong is thinking that a byline is a place to sell their product. Instead, it’s about defining and sharing your unique perspective.”

Interact with publications and journalists to start building relationships with them.

This is also a way to highlight your values and differentiating qualities, knowledge, and experience. Be persistent with sharing content samples and expertise.

It can be difficult because roles change and reporters move around. Yet, if you connect with journalists on social media, you can maintain these relationships across publications. Throughout moves and changes, the most important lesson is to always engage like a human being rather than just asking for a byline.

“Think about what you can do to help this person. Make sure you are familiar with their work before you approach them before pitching them any ideas,” adds Kutz. “You can find this out by looking at their Twitter feeds and seeing what type of content they are sharing.”

Kutz also suggests doing something a little different. Pitch article ideas to reporters that may have nothing to do with what you do. This shows the reporter you want to help them even when there’s no direct benefit for you. Then, you may be more likely to come to mind when they have a topic that does have something to do with your industry.

A Long-Term Strategy That Delivers

Getting an executive byline published doesn’t happen overnight. Think of it as a slow-building process. As part of your “long game,” creating successful thought leadership pieces involves nurturing content, relationships and connections in a targeted, thoughtful way. In time, you can see a big return that enhances your marketing and branding efforts.

Social sharing goes hand in hand with creating content. For a complete executive guide on building social influence, read our ebook, filled with recent examples of business leaders who are engaging their audience through original, meaningful content.