How to do media relations and PR during the pandemic

How to Approach PR During the Pandemic

The media relations landscape has never changed so quickly. Virtually overnight, media relations has pivoted to “all coronavirus, all the time,” as editors and reporters work feverishly to understand the impact of a virus that has upended all of our lives.

How can a PR agency communicate in a crisis like this? It can be summed up in a single word. Pivot—and the faster, the better.

In the last few weeks, we’ve worked closely with our clients to quickly adjust their communications programs and meet the needs of editors, reporters and other audiences.  Clients have stepped up to creatively collaborate with us and become part of the media conversations that are changing hour by hour. We’re proud of the way they’ve responded. And in working with media on behalf of our clients, we’ve identified four essential principles for PR during the coronavirus pandemic.

Read the room.

The worst thing PR professionals can do right now is send pitches that are tone-deaf or irrelevant. Now is the time to understand and respect the changing needs of editors and reporters, and only offer them the information that matters to them now. Save the routine communications for later; otherwise, you’ll lose the respect of the very people you’re trying to reach.

As one reporter recently shared on Twitter: “Dear PR friends, this is simply not the time to be casually dropping in to see what types of stories I’m working on or telling me about your client’s new skincare product. Please, spare my inbox just once in these trying times.”

Share your insights.

Does your company have unique insights that can help reporters better understand the current crisis? Now is the time to step forward, but only in an unbiased, non-promotional way.

For example, one of our clients, a leading national law firm, created a Coronavirus Resource Center to share insights on legal issues arising from COVID-19; it’s become a rich resource for business media. An ad-tech client created an infographic that advises brands on how to shift their advertising strategies in real time. We wrote an op-ed for another client on managing supply chain crises.  And we’re coordinating media interviews for another of our clients since one of their consultants is a former retail executive who helped his company navigate the SARS and H1N1 crises. We’re working with a number of our clients on media strategies during this crisis, and we’d be glad to share more examples.

Lead with empathy.

As my colleague Kirsty shared in her blog about how marketers can adapt to Covid-19, empathy is essential. Acknowledge that editors and reporters are operating in a high-stress, fast-changing environment. They’re working longer hours than usual, and they’re worried about their families and friends just like the rest of us. Even a simple recognition that you’re emailing them in a time of crisis will be appreciated.

Think beyond the current crisis.

In a webinar on the state of the retail economy today, IHL analyst Greg Buzek said there are two ways retailers will mark time after this year: BC (Before Coronavirus) and AC (After Coronavirus). We haven’t reached the AC phase yet, but it will happen. A new normal will emerge, and communication needs will shift.

We’ve already seen a few glimmers of hope. This week we surveyed key editors and reporters, asking them how we could better serve them as they cover the COVID-19 pandemic. A reporter for a top-tier national publication responded that her coronavirus coverage was actually starting to slow a bit, and she was returning to stories she was working on before the crisis.

There will be a time for new product press releases, customer announcements, case studies, blogs and thought leadership content that’s not focused on coronavirus. We’re not quite there yet. However, now is the time to begin planning, focusing on “AC” strategies, and developing the kind of content and media relations programs that will resonate in the AC era. Companies that do this will be the ones that succeed as we emerge from this present crisis.

how to address marketing through covid-19

Feel, Reflect, Create: How B2B Marketers Can Move Forward in Light of COVID-19

The world is changing more quickly and more dramatically than most of us have experienced in our lifetime. The coronavirus will fundamentally alter our lives. It is a lot to wrap your head around. 

At the same time, most of us are antsy to identify ways we can move forward. We want to keep doing what we love: creating unique campaigns, communicating with customers, driving a business forward. 

To help you move forward, we’ve identified three simple steps:

Feel: Begin at the Beginning

Before you can take action, you must understand your situation. That’s why I believe the very first thing we must do is feel. We must commit the time to wrapping our heads around the present, learning how our environments are shifting, feeling the impact COVID-19 is having on our business, our community and ourselves.

What is frustrating about this step is that, for many of us, the feeling phase may last much longer than we’d like. But because a global pandemic is a new experience for all of us, there is a lot of new information to take in, which takes time. Think of this period like you would a marketing campaign, your very first step is often to collect a lot of data. Feeling is that collection period.

Reflect: Identify the Marketing Work

Once you have taken the time required to understand your situation through feeling, you’re able to move into a period of reflection. The reflection period is all about evaluating the situation to develop a strategy for action. 

As B2B marketers, our essential question is what action can I take to help sell? Unfortunately, in times like these the old-standby-style answers are not always correct anymore. Reflecting must entail identifying what actions you can take to help sell in this new environment. Consider what you need today to support a sale in the short term and the long term. You can begin by asking yourself the following questions:

  • How is my sales cycle changing? Is my company’s sales cycle increasing or decreasing? Does it require different types of engagement? The virus could be shifting your cycle in ways you don’t imagine. Understanding how it’s changing will help you identify what you need to support it.
  • To support the shifting sales cycle, what resources do I need? Identify what prospects need at this moment. Do they need help grasping the new retail environment? Maybe you can support them with a byline article. Do they need advice on creating better digital experiences? Maybe you could offer a free consultation via email. 
  • What do people need when it comes to communication? The methods you use to communicate may need to change. If you use marketing automation, evaluate campaigns to ensure they empathetically address the situation. If you can, it may be even more effective to create tailored communication for each contact, calling some or waiting to contact others.

No matter what, you can’t go wrong by being compassionate. Asking empathetic questions and offering ways you can help will help us all identify a path forward.

Create: Develop Campaigns and Prepare for the Future

Once you have reflected on how things are changing, you’ll have the information you need to create new marketing efforts. Your sales process is likely changing. The volume and readiness of the pipeline may be altered, but your actual cycle may be decreasing or increasing as well. 

If your sales cycle is decreasing, you’ll want to focus on crafting action-oriented campaigns that can help convert prospects quickly. Dive into your data to identify which campaigns were the most effective at converting and dial those up. If an email campaign promoting an ebook has worked particularly well in the past, invest in that campaign. Just make sure the messaging has been updated to more compassionately address the current situation. If an ad on LinkedIn has shown success, maybe it’s time to re-active it, again updating the content and creative in light of the coronavirus.

If your sales cycle is lengthening because of COVID-19, it may be the right time to hunker down and invest time into big projects that will set you up for future success. Events and awards may have been rescheduled but there are things you can control. 

We’ve seen that long-form content is the backbone of B2B tech communications. Now is an opportune time to sit down and write. As a general rule, it’s good to have two to four long-form pieces of content (whether a whitepaper, eBook or research report) released per year. These can inspire blog posts, social media posts, ads, print collateral, webinars, articles, proactive pitching and even press releases. Overall, we see them help generate leads, illustrate your expertise and inspire new or ongoing campaigns.

Similarly, this could be a good time to invest in a time-intensive project such as a rebrand, website update, newsletter launch or persona refresh. 

Don’t Stop Engaging With the World

Now is our time to rediscover the world. As we feel the impact of the coronavirus on our environments, it can be very challenging to identify a path forward. But by remembering to feel first and then reflect, we’ll be able to identify steps we can take to create our new environment.

You do not have to go through this transition alone. If you are ever looking for perspective, advice or a compassionate ear, we are here to help. We’re in this together. We have your back.

Old time general store representing the basic retail model built on relationships

Coronavirus Puts the Focus Back on the Basics

Like nearly anyone offering a few words of reflection on the Coronavirus phenomenon, I’m far from an expert on the matter. I have tried for weeks to write this blog, and every two days the situation has changed so rapidly that I’ve had to essentially start over.

While I can’t offer any advice on how to assuage the public health, mental health, or economic threat this pandemic has affected, the process of learning, acknowledging, adapting and persevering that these few months have mandated from all of us is something I believe we should all take a moment to consider and to find great value in.

Like many, my first connection to Covid-19 was watching the virus take grip of China from the (physically) safe haven of Twitter, wondering along with everyone else whether what we were seeing was an authoritarian overreaction to assert political power or a global crisis exploding before our eyes.

When it burst through the border and put Italy under lockdown, I felt the emotional stress of being limited to FaceTime updates from my brother living 45 minutes from the country’s outbreak center with his wife and two kids – who as of this writing, we still understand to be healthy and safe.

When SXSW along with the City of Austin – where I live – canceled the event last minute, it felt like the most significant public acknowledgment that this crisis wasn’t just a blip on the radar or concern of only a foreign ‘other’.

Now, as we hunker down with our frozen pizzas, 1000-piece puzzles and the most organized junk drawers the world has ever seen, it’s provided the time to contextualize the moment and think about where we go from here and the lessons we should take with us.  

The benefit of being proactive

While I’m bummed that SXSW was canceled, it has proven to already be the right decision. The same goes for our clients who have had to cancel or postpone their customer events at their own expense.

Some things are just bigger than the bottom line, and I applaud the companies and executives being proactive about their broader long-term role in society even when they do so to their own short-term detriment. Their foresight and compassion had a massive effect on our ability to dampen the barrage.

It’s not always about being first to market with a new gadget or service. It’s not about being a fast follower. It’s not about taking credit as a pioneer in your field. The value comes from being quick to adapt and change to new conditions, for the betterment of all.

Flash vs substance

Having worked so closely with retail technology vendors for the past four years, it’s been very clear that most of the emphasis for building a modern retail business has been on customer engagement. When engaged, shoppers are likely to take desired actions.

We think about personalized marketing, same-day shipping, on-demand merchandise and endless aisle assortments. We talk about hyper-localization within a global economy and dynamic pricing in stores. It all sounds pretty wonderful, and it is.

But engagement doesn’t come from an innovation lab alone. It comes from personal understanding and connection to shoppers. For example, personalized marketing can only be done once you build real relationships with customers and learn enough about them to know what they want, when they want it.

If you can’t deliver on a shopper’s fundamental needs, all the work you’ve done to create new conveniences and ‘engagement’ is for naught.

Relationships and values are everything

What we’ve seen in recent weeks emphasizes this point. Families are paying more attention to grandparents than ever before. Businesses are finding ways to create more flexible, human-centric employee schedules. Dogs are getting more walks and parents are spending more playtime with their kids.

In times of crisis, we gravitate towards comfort and connection. We are drawn towards truth and fulfilling our fundamental needs. We realize more clearly what matters to us and what has been a distraction. And we see that much of our time and attention is dominated by clutter.

But who we are and what we mean to others is eternal.

When considering the future of business – all other considerations of financial management, product value, and bailouts aside – I’m sure that the companies who fare best and emerge from this with momentum will be those that have always emphasized building a brand and a culture of authenticity and responsibility, and actively cultivated customer and employee loyalty above all else.

Because when everything else gets called into question, our identity, our values – and what others know of them – are all you can rely on. It’s not only in times of stress that they matter, but it’s as good a time as any to realize the depth of their impact.

A most helpful Covid-19 legal resource:

Our client, national law firm Foley & Lardner, is offering a terrific library of support for companies navigating the complex legal ramifications of business disruption. If you’d like to get in touch with them, let us know!

Person holding microphone for media interview

Media Interviews: Best Practices for Spokespeople

If your company has ramped up its public relations and marketing program, chances are, your company has been asked to take media interviews.

Whether this is the spokesperson’s first time or their 100th time to take a media interview, their ability to successfully drive the interview is critical to achieving the desired coverage.

When it comes to media interviews, each spokesperson must find their own unique style. After all, a journalist is typically reaching out to a particular spokesperson because they need a subject matter expert. Therefore, exuding confidence and knowledge during the interview process is a must.

Tips for nailing the interview

Though each spokesperson should have their own unique interview style, there are a few things you can do prior to the interview to prepare and nail the talking points.

Do your research

Just as the journalist did his/her research before reaching out, the spokesperson should do the same. Getting to know the journalist’s reporting style will help the spokesperson provide relevant points during the interview. Doing the research will also provide the spokesperson with additional fodder to create a connection with the journalist during their chat.

Keep in mind that journalists receive more than 100 emails a day and take about 3-5 interviews on a daily basis. Therefore, ensuring that you are providing a differentiated point of view and unique data points, will help the journalist explore different angles to the story they are working on.

As well, if you are currently working with a PR agency, the agency should work to gather sample questions ahead of time and provide the spokesperson with a media profile that highlights the journalist’s experience to help the spokesperson prepare.

Talk it out

Keep in mind that the interview can happen in a variety of ways; via phone, in-person, podcast recording or over live broadcast. We recommend having the spokesperson undergo a mock interview training process to identify areas of improvement and hone their unique interview style.

Keep in mind that public speaking is not everyone’s forte and therefore, practice makes perfect. Having the spokesperson run through several mock interviews that go over the nuances of all these forms will only help the spokesperson perfect their style.

For example, if the spokesperson plans to do a live broadcast interview, taping the person during the mock interview process and then reviewing the tape will help the spokesperson identify areas of improvement in clarity, tone and body language. This will help the spokesperson ace the 15-30 second segment that will eventually make it on air.

This will help avoid the scenario Ricky Bobby from Talladega Nights found himself in when being interviewed live and he kept raising his hands up to his face, saying to the broadcaster, “I don’t know what to do with my hands.” With a little practice, you can avoid this problem during your spokesperson’s interview process.

During the interview

It’s go time! As your spokesperson speaks to the journalist remind them that everything they say to them should be deemed “on the record.” Key tips to keep in mind include:

  • Provide soundbites. Remember that the journalist may only use a portion of the interview in their story. Therefore, ensure that your comments quickly relay the key messages you want to be published.
  • Provide unique data points, numbers and statistics that you can reference publicly.
  • Be energetic, honest, transparent and yourself.
  • Do not answer a question you do not know. It’s ok to not know the answer to every question.
  • Do not comment on speculation.
  • Do not name any customers that you cannot reference publicly.

After the interview

As the term states, media relations is about building a relationship with each media contact. Therefore, ensure your spokesperson connects with the journalist to thank them for the interview. Additionally, connecting with the journalist via Twitter and LinkedIn will not only help the spokesperson keep the relationship going with the journalist, but will also help to keep a pulse on their ongoing coverage.

As we’ve mentioned before, practice makes perfect! If you have an upcoming media interview, now is the time to start preparing. Utilize the above helpful tips to get started, but don’t be afraid to call in the pros once your program really takes off!

Stack of newspapers that you will earn coverage in by following the advice in this blog.

How to Build a Great Retail Tech PR Program

Done right, a great retail tech PR program can have as strong an impact on a vendor’s success as their solutions have for the retailers they serve. As retailers look to innovate alongside Amazon and avoid being next years’ Sears, they’re turning to emergent technologies such as AI, machine learning, robotics, machine vision, and IoT.

But in an ecosystem full of marketing hype and hyperbole, retailers aren’t ready to trust an unknown commodity. In other words, they won’t just take your word for it. Innovation, without broad recognition, holds surprisingly little value. That’s where the influence you gain with a retail tech PR program comes in.

Retailers trust the media to be the gatekeepers of truth. Not just about the news stories, but trends and the impact and value of those trends.

Our clients at Ketner Group have been taking advantage of this to place themselves at the forefront of retail trend conversations for nearly three decades. By building close media relationships, they have earned coverage in publications ranging from The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Bloomberg and Forbes, to influential retail, grocery and CPG trade media.

How can your company create the best retail tech PR program? Keep these four principles in mind to increase your market visibility and attract new customers, partners and investors.

1. Define your unique story.

Does your company have a promising new solution for retailers? That’s great, but how can you stand out to decision-makers from the hundreds of other technology companies that are vying for attention?

It begins by creating concise, easily understood messaging that answers fundamental questions:

  • Who is your audience?
  • What specific challenges do they face?
  • How does your solution answer those challenges?
  • What are the benefits?
  • What do your customers say about you?
  • Do you have data and performance metrics to back up your claims?

Answering these questions isn’t an easy exercise. But it’s fundamental to creating a unique brand story that differentiates your company from your competitors in the market.

2. Consider the broader context.

Every problem/solution must fit into a larger context in order to find market acceptance. If your PR program is focused only on you, you’ll never get the results you want.

For example, one of the biggest disruptions in grocery retailing is the rapid rise of e-commerce, especially from Amazon and Instacart; grocers are moving quickly to deploy their own e-commerce and delivery solutions in order to retain customers and protect market share. It’s a trend that one of our clients directly addresses.

Other clients have introduced technology for fully automated, cashierless stores; solutions to help companies navigate major supply chain disruptions; AI technology that can identify new opportunities for profit while helping retailers cut their losses.

All these are just a few of the market dynamics that are reshaping retail. And to be successful in retail technology PR, it’s imperative to frame the context for your solution and show how it addresses significant business trends.

3. Know what to say, when to say it and who to say it to.

The life of a typical editor or reporter isn’t easy. Typically, it’s marked by tight deadlines, heavy workloads and information overload. Our job as PR professionals, in partnership with our clients, is to make their jobs easier with newsworthy, timely and relevant information.

What do editors want?

For starters, editors always welcome unique, compelling data that are unavailable from anyone else. The data should add a fresh dimension to an ongoing story or reveal a new conversation the industry should consider.

Editors also appreciate commentary from thought leaders on fast-breaking industry trends, as this can support their story development with an expert perspective. If you can provide a customer that’s willing to speak, so much the better; nothing adds to a story like the real-world perspective of a retailer.

4. Create a well-rounded retail tech PR program.

Much of this blog has dealt with media relations, and it’s typically a primary focus when companies decide to hire a PR agency. However, earned media is only one facet of a well-rounded PR program. As Ketner Group president Catherine Seeds made clear in her recent blog about what to do after NRF, an effective PR program also includes:

  • Analyst relations
  • Social media
  • Digital marketing
  • Speaking engagements
  • Event participation

Together with all forms of original content—ranging from blogs to thought leadership articles, case studies, e-books, white papers and more—these are the fundamental elements of a comprehensive PR program for retail technology companies and other businesses as well.

Companies that create comprehensive programs like this, usually in partnership with a PR agency, will reap a number of benefits. Charles Dimov, VP Marketing at our client ContractPodAI, underscored this point in a blog on the connection between PR and lead generation.

At Dimov’s former company (also a Ketner Group client and retail technology company), he implemented a disciplined method of tracking qualified leads. The company traced a third of the company’s leads to PR—a result that can make a significant difference in the bottom line.

So can a robust PR program pay dividends? The answer is “yes,” and hopefully these tips can help point you in the right direction, whether you’re a retail technology company or other B2B business. Now go out and build a great PR program (and contact us if you need help along the way)!

Amazon Prime Day public relations case study

Capturing Attention Around Prime Day with Our Client Adlucent

Update: since publishing this blog post, Adlucent has garnered additional pickup in seven more publications (plus syndicated publications) including AdWeek.

A couple of weeks ago, Amazon announced that its annual Prime Day would occur July 15 and 16 this year. Also occurring a couple of weeks ago, on the very same day as that announcement, we were psyched to have planned the release for our client Adlucent’s consumer survey and corresponding whitepaper, “Getting the Most out of Amazon Prime Day 2019.” 

The coordination of the survey and the resulting pick up is a super example of a well-positioned release and great team work. Since the release, the survey data has been incorporated into 10 articles (two of those top tiers and those not including syndicated publications), has lead to a handful of specific media inquiries and resulted in two industry analyst appointments. Not only has Adlucent given itself a name in Amazon Prime Day marketing. Even better, it has positioned Adlucent as an expert in the space of digital marketing.

What This Pickup Says About Our Client Relationship

As excited I am as a media person to have garnered this attention for our client, I’m even more excited about the way we worked with Adlucent to make this happen. From the very beginning, this report was a great collaboration. We helped develop the survey questions with Adlucent, wrote an outline from the results, passed the content over to Adlucent for final development and then planned together the most interesting story lines to pitch. 

In preparation for our go-live date, we prepared and distributed a media advisory, while Adlucent prepared for advertising and internal promo on their side. Since then, Adlucent has featured the report in their newsletter, followed up with leads who downloaded the survey, and promoted the content further via social media, while we’ve been active coordinating interviews and responding to follow up requests. 

This week, we’ll be keeping our eyes on developing Amazon news to see how we can continue to pitch Adlucent as an expert source in this category.

How This Prime Day Survey Promoted Adlucent As A Thought Leader

Outside of our collaboration, I want to also highlight the uniqueness of this report. The Adlucent consumer survey not only dug into what’s happening with Prime Day on Amazon. It also dug into what consumers are doing when it comes to shopping off Amazon around Prime Day. 

Adlucent found that 72% of consumers will look beyond Amazon to comparison shop on Prime Day in its survey of 1,000 consumers ages 18-64. This stat reflects the fact that Prime Day has become a sort of holiday of the back-to-school shopping season. Further, of the survey respondents who planned to go back-to-school shopping, 55% plan to do so on Amazon.

Adlucent used these results to inspire a list of recommendations for how brands can take advantage of the shopping phenomenon. Recommendations included creating lightning deals, promoting shopping on social and preparing your product listings for the extra visitors. But I’ll let you read on in the report itself to get that full list of advice. 

Where We’ve Received Prime Day Pickup

Last but not least, this wouldn’t be a celebration if we didn’t actively highlight the pickup we have received. In addition to our direct requests and interviews with analysts and journalists, we’ve seen pickup in:

Want To Talk About How To Get You Attention?

Interested in talking with us about how we can do some work like this with you? We’d love to! Just reach out. We’ll schedule a time to discuss how we can use media relations to position you as an expert.

mother career inspiration

How Our Mothers Inspired Our Communications Careers

This Mother’s Day, as usual, we at Ketner Group are feeling thankful for the inspiration our mothers have had on our careers. Whether by being our biggest champion, encouraging us to do the right thing or shaping the way we craft stories, they have influenced who we are as people, and as communications professionals.

She Taught Me to Always Do the Right Thing

Catherine Seeds and her mom Susan
Catherine Seeds with her mother Susan

For Catherine Seeds, our SVP and Partner, her mother’s biggest influence was teaching her to always do the right thing. “This is such a simple guide, but it has really stuck with me my whole adult life, particularly as a working mom,” Catherine remarked.

Catherine has had to make some tough decisions in her life, when it comes to her role as a mother and an agency VP. But through it all, that mantra has guided her to make the best decisions.

My Mother Was Always My Biggest Champion

“My mom was always my biggest supporter in anything I pursued growing up,” shared Account Coordinator Mikaela Cannizzo. “If I was excited about something, she was too. If I was passionate about achieving a certain goal, she encouraged me until I accomplished it. And when I wanted to pursue a career in writing and journalism, she was all for it. I think she still has all my clips saved from my early days at The Daily Texan.”

For Mikaela, her mother has always been someone she could confide in and rely on. “She is exactly the type of woman and mother I strive to be one day,” Mikaela expressed.

I Learned How to Craft a Story to Stay out of Trouble

As for our very own Greg Earl, his mother taught him how to perfect his stories. “I always had to fine tune my stories so I wouldn’t get into as much trouble. I learned to frame stories in a better light but also not to lie too much—in the event she got intel from around town.”

Without her, would Greg be so capable at crafting a great story? Maybe not. “But fortunately, she was there.”

My Mother Taught Me Empathy

Ann, Katie and Ashley Stone
Ann, Katie and Ashley Stone

“My mom taught me a lot about empathy and kindness.” Our intern, Katie Stone learned a lot about compassion from her mother, who is a stay-at-home mom.

“She taught me those soft skills that you aren’t going to learn in a classroom,” Katie said.

She Inspired Me to Ensure Everyone Has a Voice

Jenna Jordan’s mother is a teacher who emphasized the importance of recognizing and ensuring that everyone has a voice.

“We as a collective population are always learning and on the course of gathering knowledge,” shared Jenna. “My mother works with kiddos, so understanding empathy and different perspectives has always been a constant in my life!”

Mom Taught Me I Could Make My Own Career Choices

Kirsty Goodlett and Karen Corcoran Hughan
My mother and me in her element at Nashville’s botanical gardens

As for me, growing up, my sister and I referred to our mother simply as “the boss.” We didn’t know exactly what she did, we just knew that she was powerful and that she made her own path.

My mother taught me that when it comes to your career, you always have a choice. Whether you wish to work in a highly corporate career wearing power suits, like she did in Atlanta in the ‘90s, or you want to start your own landscape design career, like she did in Connecticut in the ‘00s, the choice is yours to make.

This has inspired me deeply. Now, I know that whether I want to work for someone else, myself or something in between, that choice is mine.

sustainability strategic messaging

Integrating Sustainability Into Your Strategic Messaging

This blog post has been provided by our intern, Katie Stone.

Earth Day is a special day to me. Not only is it a day that celebrates the Earth and its resources, but it is also my parent’s wedding anniversary. Though not intentional, the holiday seems fitting. Growing up, my parents taught me to respect the Earth through evenings spent watching nature documentaries and taking family trips to national parks. Now as an adult, I care deeply about the planet and climate change issues. Likewise, I know I am not the only member of Gen Z to think this way.

According to the 2019 Retail and Sustainability Survey by CGS, 68% of Generation Z shoppers have made an eco-friendly purchase in the past year. The survey also shows that Gen Z ranks ethical business as one of its top factors when making a purchase. Therefore, retailers who aren’t using eco-friendly strategic messaging are going to be abandoned by the up-and-coming generation.

Be Transparent About Sustainability

Before you publicly declare your company an eco-friendly one, do a quick analysis of your company’s current practices. If your company has made, or is currently making some environmental mistakes, get in front of it. Be open and transparent about past mistakes while directing your messaging toward the future. Detail your company’s plans to reduce or eliminate its negative effects on the planet through proactive digital media campaigns. When your company reaches a goal, use social media, press releases and other PR tactics to get your message heard. A strategic approach to eco-friendly branding will strengthen your brand amongst Gen Z and your other target audiences.

Include Sustainability in Your Strategic Messaging

Developing strategic messages will establish your company as a thought leader in sustainability. Spend some time developing key messaging that aligns with the messaging you already have. Test out what works and doesn’t work. Then, work with company spokespeople to get all of your strategic messaging consistent and include it in traditional and digital media.

When you identify the messaging you want to use, it is important that the messaging is laced throughout your brand. One post on social media using #EarthDay isn’t going to cut it anymore. Demonstrating your company’s sustainable initiatives year-round will give your larger Earth Day campaigns more validation.

Flesh Out Your Community Relations Initiatives

Showing is often more important than telling when it comes to environmentally friendly initiatives, as it proves that your company genuinely cares about the environment. Fortunately, there are plenty of possible community relations practices. Here are a few earth friendly community relations ideas to try in your office:

  • Incentivize volunteer work
  • Get your office to participate in #MeatlessMondays
  • Donate time and money to local environmental charities
  • Start a rooftop garden, or sponsor a community garden
  • Encourage carpools and working remote

When your company takes part in community relations activities, make sure you include it in marketing pieces. For example, highlight the activities in a newsletter or write a blog about the experience. Visual content is key, so make sure you get lots of pictures and video. You can use this content on social media and other branding materials.

Find Your Approach to Branding

There are many different approaches that companies can take when branding themselves as sustainable. To sum up, find what works for your brand and run with it. Looking to build out your strategic messaging beyond Earth Day? Send an email to [email protected] – we love to talk branding!

language-equality-marketing-pr

How We Can Use Language to Promote Equality

A few years ago, I made a conscious decision to stop saying, “you guys.” For someone who spent an equal amount of their childhood in both the north and the south, this decision carried some weight. Moving to Connecticut in middle school is an easy way to remove “y’all” from your vocabulary. In an effort to conform, “you guys” became my norm.

Lucky for all of us, with age comes confidence. As I found my place as a woman in the workplace, I became dedicated to gender equality, working to promote inclusion. “You guys” didn’t stand a chance.

The reason is simple: the phase is exclusionary.

In our society, we use language to emphasize pre-established situations. And we can use language to change them. Ultimately, this is the power in marketing and PR, which allows us to use language to impact people’s perception of the world. It’s no surprise that, as a marketer, I became hung up on just a couple of words.

Changing my vocabulary wasn’t easy. But after a few years, the phrase is (mostly) gone. The next step is to help others change their language too. Why? Because the state of women in the workforce is not changing, and we can use language to change that.

The State of Women in the Workforce Is Unchanging

The Women in the Workplace 2018 report by LeanIn.org and McKinsey found that “Companies report that they are highly committed to gender diversity. But that commitment has not translated into meaningful progress…Progress isn’t just slow. It’s stalled.” This is despite the fact that women are doing their part, obtaining bachelor’s degrees at a rate higher than men and asking for promotions and negotiating salaries at the same rate as men.

(If you need to be convinced that diversity in the workplace is important, there are plenty of reports that can help prove “gender-diverse business units have better financial outcomes than those dominated by one gender.”)

To Improve Diversity, Change Your Language

LeanIn.org and McKinsey seek to make improving diversity easy by providing six actions companies can take to find success. One of these is particularly relevant for our industry: foster an inclusive and respectful culture.

Language is a simple way to promote an inclusive culture. If you’re looking to change your own actions at work, be considerate about the language you use. Select words and phrases that are more inclusive. Because language is so ingrained in us, making an effort to be more inclusive will take some work, but if you take a collaborative attitude and give yourself the grace to make a slip up, your language will begin to improve.

How to Ask Others to Change Their Language

Once you’ve begun the process of changing your own language (it will be a process), you can begin to help others change theirs. Through trial and error, I have developed some personal best practices when it comes to asking others to change their language. (Interestingly, the strategy I use is similar to one I use at work to advocate for a project or cause I believe in.)

  1. Share a personal story. Sharing personal stories at work requires a balance—we don’t want to get too personal—but by sharing how we view the world, we can help others see situations through our eyes.
  2. Share the research. Do your research to understand why what your advocating for is important.
  3. Suggest a next step. Once your audience is bought in to your idea, they’re ready to take the next step. Share a suggestion for how to move forward.
  4. Be supportive. Changing ingrained habits is hard! Give people the benefit of the doubt and be there to help them with a supportive, cheerful attitude when (not if) they slip up.

I found success with this approach at a previous job. One of my colleagues came to work anxious after reading an article arguing against the use of “you guys” and feeling concerned about how his use of that phrase may have impacted those around them. I was glad he felt comfortable talking about this with me, and I used the opportunity to share my story of changing my language, provided research into why it was important to do so, suggested some alternative phrases he could use and cheered him on as he practiced shifting his language.

Steps You Can Take to Promote an Inclusive Workplace

If you’re ready to take it even further, some great resources exist!

She+ Geeks Out’s blog post on covering and passing in the workplace provides some great tips for supporting our colleagues so they feel comfortable being themselves at work.

A couple of my favorites (that helped inspire this blog post)…

  • “Be explicit in your language. If someone says something discriminatory, say something to make it clear that that language isn’t tolerated.
  • Share your own story of difference.”

In addition to making our workplaces more inclusive, it is also important to set up practices that promote inclusive hiring. Another post by She+ Geeks Out has some great tips for mitigating bias in hiring. Writers like me will be interested in this tip, “If you’re struggling to get candidates to respond to your job posting, you may want to start with your job description.” Inclusive descriptions that remove adjectives typically associated with one gender (example: ‘driven’ = masculine, ‘dependable’ = feminine), go a long way to encourage a variety of candidates.

Take Your Changes in Stride as You Promote Language Equality

As you make an effort to change your actions and support women’s equality this month, give yourself grace. Changing habits is hard. But remember, I’m here to cheer you on as you make strides. Just get in touch.

Storytelling Is for PR Too

As someone who majored in journalism, telling full and complete stories inverted pyramid style is practically ingrained in me. While writing for PR clients differs, both require the writer to tell a story. Whether it’s a blog post, bylined article or press release, you need to do more than describe a product. Instead, you need to capture the attention of their audiences with a genuine, compelling story.

To deliver on this expectation, ask yourself, “What’s the story here?” Once you determine an answer, you’re ready to write through the lens of that story angle. Along the way, I’ve learned some helpful tips when it comes to keeping the heart of the story front and center in your writing.

Have a Thorough Understanding of What You’re Writing About

First and foremost, unearthing a story is nearly impossible if you don’t understand what you’re writing about. Whether you’re writing about the latest retail technology tool (tends to be where my mind is at these days) or a new hire, a thorough understanding of the subject will help you create your story. To hone in on this, create a ‘topic sentence’ based on the story to help guide your writing. Within this sentence, highlight the main sentiment you want to convey to readers in just a few words. I like to write it out and keep it handy to refer back to as I delve into creating content.

Let the Story Unfold

With your ‘topic sentence’ in mind, your thoughts are given direction, allowing a story to unfold. As you write, glance at your topic sentence to ensure your words line up with your core idea. On top of a thorough understanding, creativity is key. If you’re constructing a press release about a new product launch, chances are the story runs deeper than the objective features of the product. Put yourself in the shoes of a prospective customer. Think about how the product solves pain points in everyday lives to shine light on the story you should tell.

As PR professionals, we may not be commissioned to write novels, but that shouldn’t stop our inner storyteller from emerging. Human nature gravitates toward stories. Stories tend to engage more than direct facts without a connecting theme. As you endeavor to serve clients well, envision yourself as a storyteller for the brand and products. This goes a long way with the media, readers and the agency-client relationship.

To learn more about the power of storytelling in PR, you can find more helpful tips on Cision.