From Papercuts to Smartphones and Back Again

February 14, 2017

by Heather Keroes

I’m an addict.  It’s a Saturday morning and I am glancing down at my iPhone while attending a child’s birthday party.  Although I try not to respond to emails over the weekend and after close-of-business, I like to keep an eye on things.  The world doesn’t stop because it’s a weekend and as a PR professional, it’s my job to always be listening.  And so, over the cheers of children hitting a piñata, I multitask, switching between my phone and another forkful of cake.

I am not alone.  Most of us check our emails on smartphones and tablets and this mobility has changed the way we work.  When I began my public relations journey more than 13 years ago, you couldn’t check email on-the-go (unless you were among the first lucky folks to own a BlackBerry). And even with access to my desktop computer, I stuffed envelopes, mailed press kits, faxed information and (shocker) regularly pitched media by phone.

These days, I have significantly fewer papercuts and I’m able to manage client requests and issues anywhere at any time.  But this doesn’t mean that the “old ways” are obsolete.  In fact, they can still be the most powerful ways to communicate (I’m a fan of phone calls, especially).  It’s important for all of us – those who have grown up with email and tablets, as well as those of us who remember the pre-Facebook days – to not lose sight of the tried-and-true communication methods that foster conversation and engagement.

Ask anyone at Curley & Pynn, and they will tell you that once we have determined our publics and our message, we take aim and fire through mediums that have the greatest impact with our target.  And while that may often mean email or other digital means, that doesn’t mean we don’t get papercuts from time to time.


Everything Else

February 10, 2017

by Dan Ward

I read a tweet today in which George Orwell was quoted: “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed; everything else is public relations.”

We’ve written often on these pages about the changing industry of public relations and how we often tell client stories in ways that no longer involve journalists.

Orwell today could just as easily say that public relations is telling stories that deserve to be told, but which journalists do not see fit to print.


Do Good. All the Time.

June 27, 2016

by Ashley Tinstman

In the days since the tragedy in Orlando, our city has experienced immense pain, sadness and shock.  But in spite of our grief, we’ve also experienced something positive—incredible strength and resiliency.  As we collectively come to terms with what took place in the city we call home, the outpouring of love and support has been absolutely inspiring.

While local citizens have come together to give blood, donate money and volunteer their time, the response from dozens—if not hundreds—of companies, both large and small, has been equally as impressive.  Just a quick Google search will yield countless stories highlighting various companies and how they’re supporting the community.

Take JetBlue, for example.  As has been widely reported, the airline is offering free seats to and from Orlando for the immediate family members and domestic partners of the victims.  The company also made a $100,000 donation to the OneOrlando fund.  Similarly, Comcast NBCUniversal, parent company of Universal Orlando Resort, generously donated $1 million to the OneOrlando fund.

In the hours following the tragedy, Publix quickly mobilized to hand out free food, water and ice to first responders and others affected by the shooting.  UnitedHealth Group also showed extraordinary support by opening its mental health counseling help lines to anyone in need—whether they had insurance or not.

I could go on and on with dozens more examples—and that doesn’t even include the many bars, restaurants and local businesses holding fundraisers.  But my point in sharing all that is this:  It’s good to see companies doing good.  But giving back and supporting a community shouldn’t be a temporary thing.  It should be a way of life in business.

After tragedies such as this, it’s easy to come together, donate your resources and then go back to business as usual.  But “doing good” should be part of your company culture—all year long.  And I’m not talking about writing a few checks to a worthy cause out of obligation.  This is about creating a culture where it’s a natural part of your business on a regular basis.  Not only will those you support benefit from it, but so will your employees, your reputation and, ultimately, your brand.


The Early Bird Gets the Worm

June 22, 2016

by Kim Stangle

For years, my business partners and I have been participating in an annual cohort of agencies from non-competing markets to share best practices and learn from each other.  Sometimes value comes during the “formal” sessions and other times it’s just a nugget of wisdom passed on in a roundtable.

During last year’s session, the founder of a very successful Texas agency shared his ‘nugget of wisdom,’ which I’m paraphrasing as essentially, the early bird gets the worm.  He went on to tell the story of at least one client his firm had won because (among other reasons, I’m sure) they were first to respond to an inquiry for service.

We saw the same result unfold last December when we quickly answered an email inquiry through our website.  With little to no cost to “land” the business, we suddenly found ourselves in the middle of a new brand launch.

I’m not at all undermining reputation and expertise, but sometimes, the early bird does get the worm.


Who Knew?

November 3, 2015

by Roger Pynn

We often advise clients to forego asking for a retraction when something untrue has been published about them.  Why?  Primarily because we believe that in publishing the apology the media outlet will very likely expose people who never saw the error to the subject … and it will only arouse their curiosity.  In other words, “Why regurgitate the error?”

I couldn’t help but think of that when I received this email from a small restaurant we frequent occasionally.

“Hi everyone, I just wanted to let everyone know, how sorry I am about tonights (sic) Pot Roast special. It wasn’t up to our standards in quality of meat. When it was brought to my attention, I discovered that our vendor had switched products without telling us. I assure you the next time we have the Pot Roast special, it will be as delicious as it has been in the past.  
Thank you”

When I say “small,” we’re talking a total of about 40 seats … and they are rarely full.  In fact, this pub serves only the residents of a specific gated community.  You have to live there to eat there … almost a private club.

Now how many folks do you think ordered this awful pot roast?  Not many, I’m sure.  But the email list serves 1,200 property owners … all of whom are now likely wary of what their next meal will taste like.

So, the next time you are tempted to ask for a correction, think about pot roast.


A Lesson from Taylor Swift

November 2, 2015

by Ashley Tinstman

Last week, I had the privilege of seeing Taylor Swift in concert for her 1989 World Tour.  (Full disclosure:  Before I get too deep into this blog post, I should probably warn you that I am a devoted Taylor Swift fan.  I could talk about T-Swift and her music for hours, but that’s another conversation for another day.)

Now, you’re probably wondering, “Why are you writing about Taylor Swift on a blog about communications?”

Well, believe it or not, Taylor Swift can actually offer some valuable lessons for companies and professional communicators.  While you may know her as the chart-topping artist who writes break-up songs, she’s also developed a reputation for being incredibly loyal and generous to her community and her fans—arguably her most important stakeholders.

For instance, following the release of her hit album, 1989, Swift announced that she would donate the proceeds from the sale of her single “Welcome to New York” to New York City public schools.  And earlier this year, she quietly donated $50,000 to a young fan battling leukemia to help pay for her medical expenses.

Swift also gained international attention last Christmas when she personally took the time to peruse her fans’ social media pages, getting to know them and their interests.  Ultimately, she selected a group of lucky fans and sent them individualized Christmas packages filled with presents and handwritten notes.  She made a similar gesture a few months later when she sent a fan a personalized care package along with a check for $1,989 to help pay off student loans.

I could go on and on with countless anecdotes, but the main takeaway is that Taylor Swift’s actions serve as a prime example of how to develop lasting relationships with your stakeholders.  This doesn’t mean you have to donate $50,000 or send care packages, but acts of corporate social responsibility can go a long way in building and maintaining a strong reputation.

Ask yourself:  “Who are your key stakeholders and how can you strengthen your relationships with them?”  Perhaps that means investing in a cause related to your organization’s mission or coordinating regular team-building days for your employees.  Or maybe your goal is to form stronger connections with community leaders and local organizations.

No matter what type of investment you make in your stakeholders—monetary or otherwise—the end result will be stakeholders who make a greater investment in you.  Taylor Swift is proof of that.


Hot Desking

September 25, 2015

by Kim Stangle 

When I saw this Bloomberg story yesterday about hot desking I had an immediate hunch what they were referring to even though the term seemed to appear out of thin air.

In rowing, we have a term called ‘hot seating’ which is when two crews share the same boat during a regatta.  It’s almost always chaotic, because it typically happens at the dock or finish line without ever taking the boat from the water.

No question that the two terms share a similar concept:  too many people and too few resources.

In hot desking, companies might have 50 desks for 100 employees, knowing that varying schedules would mean everyone would be able to find a workspace during their scheduled office time.

From an efficiency and cost-savings perspective, I get this.  But, then why have office space to begin with?  Co-working spaces have been operating under a similar shared-resource philosophy for years.

Hot desking is being touted as the “new way to work,” but, personally, if I’m going to be sitting at a desk for eight hours a day, I’d at least like to look around and see pictures of my husband and pup.


Creative Brainstorming

September 9, 2015

by Heather Keroes

Your job title doesn’t need the word “creative” in order for your role to be creative.  That’s one lesson that struck home for me when I attended the PRSA Sunshine District Conference this year.  Hundreds of PR professionals gathered from across Florida to experience an amazing line-up of speakers, including Duncan Wardle, vice president of Walt Disney Company’s Creative Inc., Disney’s team of “creative ideation and innovation catalysts.”

Wardle did not get up on a stage to give a presentation.  Instead, he took our large group through creative exercises designed to push past our own barriers.  Here are a couple of examples that may inspire you and serve as catalysts for your next brainstorm.

  • Start with a Smile – In groups of three, we took turns playing expert and reporters.  And boy, Wardle selected unique subject matter for the experts!  When it was my turn to play the expert, I became a relationship therapist for unicorns.  The result?  The most fun and fantastical “media” interview on the planet.  And bonus, it was a great way to get the juices flowing and incite laughter.  Smiles = relaxed way of thinking = creative thoughts.
  • Say, “Yes, And …” – Question:  Who are the most creative thinkers out there?  Answer:  Children.  But why?  As Wardle explained, when we become adults we think more efficiently and we seek to rationalize.  So when you bring up that next truly “out of the box” idea at your team brainstorm, the chances of it getting shot down are pretty high.  The problem isn’t that others don’t appreciate your idea; it’s that they have already weighed it against a predetermined set of criteria (resources, budget, time, etc.).  We’re naysayers by nature, so instead of saying, “no,” or “yes, but …” try saying “yes, and …” By doing so, you’ll make a good idea even better and encourage others to share their creative thoughts.

Other tips:

  • Give your employees dedicated time to work on “ideation” – the creation of ideas.
  • Hold your brainstorms in different places, not just conference rooms.  See the sun once in a while.
  • Keep the number of participants small for each brainstorm, so you have more time to explore ideas.  Wardle recommended four people as the ideal.
  • Invite “naïve experts” to join your brainstorm.  These experts come from outside your department or profession, so they aren’t constricted by the knowledge and preconceptions your team may possess.  For example, Wardle has invited chefs to join his team for brainstorm sessions that aren’t about food.

Our brainstorm sessions at Curley & Pynn have always resulted in fun ideas (especially when aided by my favorite brain fuel, ice cream), but I plan to start adding some of the above approaches into the mix.  Do you have any unique brainstorming tips?  Share them in the comments below.


Just One Bite.

September 4, 2015

by Roger Pynn

No.  This isn’t a diet tip.

It just struck me today while scanning one of the many sources I read for thoughts on communication, business and leadership that hardly a day goes by that I don’t get at least one bite from the magazines, newspapers, aggregators and blogs I follow … and that single morsel makes the investment of time worthwhile.

The folks who work in our firm – and most others like us, I imagine – probably often feel the pressure to “be billable” … to make sure they are doing productive client work.  And, yes, we want them to do that both because our clients expect it and that is how we remain profitable.

But they are also more valuable to our clients and to us as they grow from experience and from the accumulation of knowledge.  A Harvard Business Review item passed on by the Public Relations Society of America caught my eye with the headline “6 Ways to Reduce the Stress of Presenting.”  I found my bite for the day in four-time New York Times best-selling author Joseph Grenny’s  second step:  “Rehearse, but don’t obsess.”

I present a lot these days and I’ve found myself over-rehearsing instead of, as he suggests, rehearsing just three times:  once when he finishes preparing the talk, then the day before he is scheduled and, finally, a few hours before going “on.”  I like that cadence.

We live in an age of lifelong learning and thankfully technology surrounds us with a classroom without walls.  You don’t need to be a full-time, Web-surfing student at the expense of achieving your assigned responsibilities, but your boss will benefit when you take time to look for an intellectual snack each day.


The “L” Word

September 1, 2015

by Roger Pynn

People in our profession ought to see it as job security that so many articles on success in business are dedicated to communication.  For instance, my inbox today brought one from Forbes and another from Fortune.

On Forbes.com, SnappConner PR founder Cheryl Conner’s item headlined “3 Steps to a Billion Dollar Company” had a parenthetical subhead:  “A Hint: Communication is Key.”  One of those steps was “Tell the authentic story only your brand can tell.”

Fortune published a piece by Halogen Software VP of HR Dominique Jones titled “The single worst mistake that a manager can make.”  She shared a list of things managers should do, beginning with “Communicate goals clearly and often.”

You ought to read both of these.  They deliver things you probably already know, but they are good reminders.  More importantly, both make it clear that communication isn’t just about what you say.  What you hear is critical … which means you have to remember the “L” word.  Listening is just as important as sending messages.

Conner, who was talking about marketing communications, wrote “Figure out what people will want, and give it to them.”  That takes active listening … sometimes in the form of formal research, but in today’s world it more and more frequently is about listening to the countless conversations that go on around us.

HR exec Jones was talking about internal communications.  So what did she say is the worst mistake a manager can make?  Hiring people just like you.  But her remedy is the “L” word:

“It’s easy to fall into the trap of hiring employees whom you can relate to, but building a strong team starts with understanding the strengths and weaknesses of you, the leader, and your team members. 

“By simply listening to what employees have to say and responding to their specific issues, you can provide meaningful feedback that will not only help them in their current role, but also assist them in achieving long-term career aspirations.”

And that would make you the good boss.


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