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.

Meet our newest addition to the team: Madeleine Hatley

This blog post was written by our intern, Madeleine Hatley.

Hi, everyone! My name is Madeleine Hatley and I am a senior public relations major at the University of Texas at Austin. Coming from the small town of Paris, Texas, I was ready to head to a larger city with more growth opportunities and also more things to do other than take pictures in front of the world’s third largest Eiffel Tower complete with a cowboy hat.  During my spare time, I love seeing live music, discovering new restaurants, and taking my adorably fluffy Corgi, Oliver, to Zilker Park.

Prior to joining the Ketner Group team, I mainly worked in politics. My past experience has taught me that internships are vital to figure out what best suits your personality and what path you want your career to follow.

My first internship was with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott at Texans for Greg Abbott. I mainly worked on his social media, press releases regarding the governor and event scheduling. It was a great first internship in that I learned how to further develop my writing skills and got the opportunity to represent a single client via social media.

This past semester I was an intern at Axiom Strategies, a political consulting and public relations agency. I got the chance to represent and write for House and Senate members and meet lots of interesting people. I also got experience helping with crisis management and handling tricky situations that can easily escalate online and by word-of-mouth.

My cute puppy, Oliver. I wish he was still this size!

However, after two political internships, I decided it was time for a change of pace. I imagined I could be the real-life Kerry Washington in Scandal, but the job was far less glamorous than I imagined. The political sphere did not allow me to connect with people how I like to nor did it allow me to utilize much that I had learned in college. I felt like a small fish in a very large pond.

This is one of the reasons I think my internship at Ketner Group will be so valuable. The people here are so welcoming, actually care about your ideas and want to help you learn. On my first day, they ordered pizza for me and we all got the chance to get to know each other a little better over lunch. If my first day is anything like the rest of my internship, I know I will love it here. It took me long enough to find an internship that suited me!

Trial and error is the key to college internships. Get your first or second (maybe even third) internship out of the way to find which path you want to take. Internships give you real world experience so you aren’t forced to be in a field you dislike for the rest of your life. Try, try and try again until you get your dream internship that leads to your dream job.

As for my dream job after graduation, I would love to work in an agency setting that allows me to grow as a writer, team member and professional. I am a native Texan, so I would love to stay in Austin or move to Dallas to be closer to home.

I am very much looking forward to my time here and hope to learn valuable skills I can carry with me to my future career!

 

What to do on the first day of your summer internship

You’re probably feeling some nerves. Finals are finally over and summer is finally here but the first day of a summer internship is likely making you feel a little anxious.

16719524657_06f8bd29de_b
courtesy of Creative Commons

Lucky for you, I’m here to share some good news. Having both experienced the first day as an intern (four times!) and a boss (twice!), everyone feels excited and a little nervous about the first day.

Plus, an internship is a great opportunity to uncover your strengths and try out a variety of projects. It will help you get the job you want and it will also help you understand who you are and what you can offer.

In order to help you prepare for that first day, and the days to come, I’ve come up with three Do’s to ensure you make a great first impression and create a lasting positive impression. Say hello to a guaranteed recommendation!

Do: Ask Questions

Curiosity shows engagement and interest. The first day is all about getting the lay of the land. Questions will help you figure out how the company is run and how you can best support the goals your employer is hoping you can help achieve. Your questions should be aimed at understanding first and achieving second. Questions will help you to understand how the company works and what you’ll do. But they’ll also help you figure out how you can best succeed on a project you’ve been assigned. Remember, you’re interning to support the company but you’re also interning in order to learn! Questions ensure you impact the company the best way you can and prepare you for your next job.

Do: Dress the Part

Ah, the blessing and the curse of clothing. No matter whether you love it or hate it, our clothes represent who we are and reflect our opinion of any situation. For the first day of your summer internship, you’ll want to dress to reflect your respect of your new organization and fit in with the company culture. Did everyone wear jeans and a t-shirt when you interviewed? Go for a tailored but relaxed look: black slacks, a knee length dress or a sweater and blouse. Consider wearing your new suit as separates and save the jeans for your second month on the job. Did everyone wear suits and tie when you interviewed? Match their clothes and find yourself something equally buttoned up. Nordstrom Rack and Neiman Marcus Last Call are great resources for a college budget.

Do: Your Homework

Help make your first day less stressful and ensure you make a great first impression by spending an hour or so preparing for your job. First, you’ll want to get familiar with your company: check out the website, make sure you know the name of your new employer and figure out the route you’ll travel to get to the office. Second, set some expectations and goals for your work. How do you want this job to help you get your next job? How do you want this job to set you up for your dream career? What do you want to learn? Who do you want to meet? By understanding these answers before you even set foot in the office, you’ll ensure you achieve what you want. That makes for a better future and a more fun, relaxing present.

Now, you have the tools you need to start your new internship. By encouraging yourself to ask questions, dressing for success and doing you’re homework, you’re guaranteed to have a great first day. And remember, you already completed the hardest part of getting ready for your first day: you were hired. You’re already well on your way.

How to Find a PR Internship

This blog was written by our intern, Cambria Sawyer.

That whole “chicken or the egg” question may be archaic, but it’s more relevant than you think.

Walking into your freshman year at a university and landing that first internship is not particularly high in the priorities list – but it should be. When it’s all you can do to find time to feed yourself in between classes, class projects and research papers, how can something that seems so far away be so immediately important?

The thing is, when it comes to internship interviews, you need some experience to prove you’re up for the job, which is kind of hard to do, considering you’ve never worked anywhere before. Classic chicken or the egg.

But the puzzle can be solved, and here’s how:

Experience
Get involved early. This is how to get over the “lack of experience” hump.

First things first, join a club. This is why starting early is such a big deal, because it takes a while to absorb enough information from that membership to be worthwhile. For public relations students, joining the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) is an excellent starting point. As a member, you will have the opportunity to participate in third-party mentorship programs, volunteer activities, networking events and PR agency tours. In other words, the good stuff.

The organization doesn’t have to revolve around PR either to be meaningful, but PR is always relevant to any group wanting to stay afloat. Run for an officer position that handles communications, PR or social media for a club. Any way you can get your hands on some real-life application of the things you’re learning in class will make you a stronger candidate.

Resume
You can be the most qualified person they interview and still not get the job. How? The way you present yourself can make or break you, and it starts with the first impression you make, your resume.

First, make sure it’s one page. It shows that you can pinpoint what is important and convey it concisely, and in reality, it’s just easier to read.

Image courtesy of Flikr
Image courtesy of Flikr

Second, make it your own. No need to glue sequins on it or anything, but find a way to personalize it in a way that reflects who you are and helps you stand out, but is still professional.

Third, do not send it off as a Word doc. While converting it to a PDF shows a heightened level of professionalism, it also safeguards the formatting of your resume. It may look fabulous to you on your Mac computer, but your interviewer is seeing awkward spacing and weird margins on their PC.

Interview
There is a reason people interview candidates instead of just look at a resume; they want to see what you’re like.

Here are three steps to ace the interview:

  1. Research. Make sure you become familiar with the company and the interviewer, if you know who it is. If they specialize in something, look into that industry a bit. Read up on the clients they work for and what kind of work they do for them. Check out the interviewer’s LinkedIn page to understand their background and what they do at the company. Your choice to research correlates with the amount of investment and ingenuity you will bring to the job – something an employer definitely wants to see.

    Photo courtesy of Pixabay
    Photo courtesy of Pixabay
  1. Ask Questions. This one is pretty straightforward. Actually have some questions in mind when they ask the standard, “do you have any questions for me?” This shows that you’re engaged, inquisitive and are there to learn more – which is the whole point of the internship in the first place, right?

 

  1. Be Yourself. Sorry for the cliché, but it’s important. Be professional and unique, but not in a way that misrepresents who you are as a person. If you get a job pretending to be someone you’re not, it won’t be a good fit. When you get a job offer from your future employer to whom you were completely genuine with, both you and the company will grow – because that office is exactly where you should be.

 

Happy interviewing!

Scoring a Perfect 10 on Earth Day

This blog was written by our intern, Cambria Sawyer.

Cause marketing is a lot like college.

I first started to see this connection in my journey as a Ketner Group intern back and forth from the office to the jungle (a.k.a. campus). You see, college is a balancing act.

Professors assign you more hours of homework than you have in a day. Somehow I’ve managed to survive off of cheese sticks and grapes for the past week, but the grocery store is in my imminent future. I need to go to the gym, steel drums practice, a club officer meeting and still go out with friends tonight– and all I want to do is take a nap.

Figuring out how to fit all the pieces together so they make sense and reach a goal is a delicate art; the same type of challenge comes with devising an effective cause marketing campaign.

If you break it down, it has two, equally important parts: the cause and the marketing, but putting the two together is easier said than done. Brands have to be careful when they choose a campaign. It must be simple, interesting and brand-relevant, while not appearing insincere. Digiday explains the stakes well in an article warning brands of “cause fatigue,” where poorly balanced campaigns cause consumers to stop taking corporate social responsibility seriously.

This Earth Day, I want to take a few brands from the apparel and fashion industry and rate them on a 1-10 scale for their Earth Day cause marketing balance skills.

 

Photo courtesy of Amour Vert
Photo courtesy of Amour Vert

Amour Vert
Rating: 4
The sustainable fashion brand’s “Buy a Tee Plant a T(r)ee” campaign is fine, but that’s kind of the point– it’s just fine. While the rhyme is catchy and the cause is admirable, the connection between the fashion brand and planting trees is not particularly strong. Not to mention this is definitely not the first time a campaign identical to this has been launched, so it also looses points on originality. It’s clear to a consumer that this campaign is more about the marketing.

 

Burton
Rating: 8
A brand for the earth-conscious adrenaline junky, Burton takes environmental campaigns to the next level.

Photo courtesy of Burton
Photo courtesy of Burton

Their most creative plan to save the world (yes, they have many) is, in my opinion, the Burton x Mountain Dew campaign, where recycled plastic bottles are converted into the thread Burton uses to make some of its equipment and athletic wear. It’s unique, but still hyper-relevant to what they do as a brand. Where the brand falls short is its lack of focus on a specific campaign. While it undoubtedly earns a perfect 10 conservation-wise for facilitating a whopping 11 separate eco-campaigns, the marketing aspect suffers. As the Harvard Business Review advises, keep it simple. There’s a fine line between impressing and overwhelming your customers.

KEEN
Rating: 10
The footwear brand’s motto is “Follow Your Feet,” so that’s what it’s doing– and it’s awesome. KEEN’s Live Monumental Film Tour campaign began as a cross-country road trip 10 months ago in a yellow RV. As the brand ambassadors travelled 7,500 miles from Oregon to Washington, D.C., a film crew captured their efforts as they received more than 40,000 petition signatures to protect 3 million acres of public land, according to Cause Marketing Forum.

Photo courtesy of KEEN
Photo courtesy of KEEN

The grand finale? A yellow-carpet movie premier of the film on Earth Day and film tour to follow. The campaign directly correlates with the hiking- and travel-oriented merchandise the brand offers. Even if it wasn’t relevant, the idea itself is so intriguing you forget it’s a marketing move in the first place. What’s even better? Two of the five natural areas the KEEN campaign focuses on have been declared as “protected” since the outset of the movement, a tangible achievement consumers can really take to heart when evaluating the brand.

A perfect 10. Nailed it.

To Press Release or Not Press Release, That is the Question

Little Mermaid
Image courtesy of Creative Commons

As PR professionals, our main goal is to drive and secure coverage for our clients. As Ursula the sea witch from Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” says, “It’s what we do. It’s what we live for!”

In our last blog, we talked about the value of the modern press release and the benefits releases generate for PR campaigns. But according to our friends at NonProfitPR.org and as PR folks worldwide know, press releases are not always the best course of action and can often be just a big waste of time and money. See below for examples of when to not go down the press release path:

  • Announcing an event
    Many companies, private and public, often use a press release to announce an event such as attendance at a conference or the launch of a propriety event. Even though you’ve taken the time to craft a release and send it to local media, rarely will you see these releases published among general media. Instead, consider listing on a community page or industry calendar. You can also utilize social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to highlight the news of your event and motivate your network into action.
  • Announcing a great story
    When you have a great story to tell, look beyond a press release. Whether it’s to highlight a successful implementation with a customer or a longer feature story on a specific topic or trend, writing a release may give you some coverage, but there could be a better way to highlight this news. This is the perfect opportunity to give the scoop to a journalist to write a more in-depth story and publish your news. Not only do you begin to develop great media contacts, you end up with a great story about your organization.
Image courtesy of Creative Commons
Image courtesy of Creative Commons
  • Sometimes it’s just not newsworthy
    Some companies assume they have to send a particular number of press releases each month or year in order to engage in strategic public relations. It’s never a good strategy to send releases simply to fill a quota. Sending the media lots of non-newsworthy releases (awards, speaking opportunities, small product updates, etc.) could cause journalists to stop reading your news altogether. When this happens, even when you have something truly newsworthy, it’s possible you still end up with no news coverage through no fault of your own. It’s much better to objectively analyze the worthiness of your announcement from a reporter’s perspective and then decide if a release is really the way to go.

There are many ways to have your news heard beyond the press release. From utilizing social networking, industry calendar listings and even pitching directly to journalists, picking the right strategy can provide better coverage and more public awareness, all at a more efficient cost.

A Lou & Grey Love Story

This blog was furnished by our Nashville-based Account Manager, Kirsty Hughan.

Photo courtesy of Lou & Grey
Photo courtesy of Lou & Grey

I’m in love and I don’t care who knows it!

My sweetheart? The flagship store of a soon-to-be big time brand called Lou & Grey.

You may be familiar with the name. If you are an Ann Inc. fan, you’ll have seen the name on some of their clothing’s tags at Ann Taylor Loft. Lou & Grey started off as a line within Loft and has now branched into their own division under Ann Inc. The new retailer is slowly opening brick and mortar spaces throughout the country, positioned as a “tomboyish fusion of active and street wear, or ‘lifewear.’”

But this post is not about style—and trust me I could go on and on about how much I love the style—the post is about how the decisions of the brand tapped into ongoing trends in technology and buyer behavior to develop a retail environment that’s both fresh and effective.

The first trend the retailer noticed and ran with was active-wear. Traditional retailers like Urban Outfitters and Tory Burch, among others, have launched their own active-wear lines in the past few years based on the success of fitness brands like Lululemon and Under Armour. Beyond that, the clothing line draws from the way modern women dress: focused on comfort, switching outfits seamlessly from day to night and valuing fit. That translates to natural fabrics, beautiful neutrals and fit perfect for any body type or age. There was a hole in the market, “lifewear,” and Lou & Grey filled it.

Photo courtesy of Lou & Grey
Photo courtesy of Lou & Grey

Next up, mobile POS. Lou & Grey has the benefit of opening brand new stores, meaning brand new POS software, while harnessing the deep technology already present in Ann Inc., namely their CRM. Open the door to the flagship store and you’ll find clothes on wall racks to either side, a long table with folded items and at the very end a beautiful, curated table. On that table? Accessories, books and a sheaf of tissue. Worked in retail? You’ll see a traditional Cash Wrap missing one item: a clunky computer powering POS. That’s because Lou and Grey’s point-of-sale is stealth, iPad powered and easy to move through the store. This not only declutters the space, increasing the easy going feel of the brand, it makes customer interaction easy. Need to do a quick ring up in the dressing room? No problem.

But my personal favorite trend Lou & Grey builds upon is the re-valuing of local artisans. Integral to the brand is the Makers Movement, Lou & Grey’s curated collection of third-party vendors focused on their craft. The Westport store features makers from throughout the country, with a larger focus on vendors from New York and Connecticut than their Texas store, who focuses more highly on—you guessed it!—Texas. Next to each maker’s items is a beautiful, hand written card featuring the name of the maker, their location and a description of why they come highly recommended. Talk about educating the consumer, and the sales associates. As someone easily swayed to shop locally instead of with a large chain, this personal touch wins me over and increases my brand loyalty.

What strikes me about each and every one of these trends and executions is the ease by which Lou & Grey integrates them into a retail space. As big brands grapple with how to capture customer attention and launch challenging technological tools, it is refreshing to see a retailer focus on a few key trends integral to their brand. Now you know more about my sweetheart I wouldn’t be upset if you fell just a little in love too.

Ice Cream’s Biggest Fan (and our new Intern): Meet Cambria!

Hello! My name is Cambria Sawyer, and I am thrilled to be joining the Ketner team as their newest intern! And yes, Cambria as in the font, wine, California town, and the heavy-progressive rock band Coheed and Cambria- but I am actually named after an old sailing ship in Rhode Island. My middle name is one of the most commonly chosen for children in China, but I’ll let you guess about that one!

CambriaWords are some of my favorite things on this earth. You can use them for good or evil, express your deepest thoughts and feelings, ask for ice cream (very important use of words), harness them to become closer to someone or push them farther away, motivate people toward life-changing action and a million other things. Words are powerful but also mischievous- it is not always known what effect they will have, and I think that is so dang cool. It’s truly a science to figure out how to best approach communication, and I think that is why I am so drawn to the fields of PR and marketing- they are mysterious and very, very fun.

My first major try at figuring out words came last year when I ran the promotion, marketing and creative aspects of a local non-profit’s 5K. We decided to call it the Record Run (themed around breaking a new world record every year), and broke the world record for the number of pennies collected for charity with over 500,000 pennies. Although it was my greatest challenge yet, I had an absolute blast branding the race, contacting media and strategizing for how to get more runners at the starting line. If you’ve ever wondered what half a million pennies look like, you can check it out here.

During my internship freshman year at the Frank Erwin Events Center, I had the Cambriaopportunity to approach marketing from an entirely different angle. Between holding interviews, analyzing social media response, and blog-writing, the learning curve was steep and also totally awesome. Plus, getting to high-five practically every professional fighter in the UFC was an added bonus.

Of course, there are a few completely non PR-related things that play a considerably large role in my personality, so here you have it:

  • I am six feet tall, but I am an absolute sucker for a pair of high heels.
  • My younger brother has a severe form of Tourette Syndrome. He and I have become ambassadors for the Tourette Association of America to help raise awareness and funding for the disorder. I am also currently writing a book about my family’s journey with Tourette’s (there are just way too many good stories for them to go untold).
  • If you give me ice cream, we are friends.
  • I absolutely love to travel and try new things. If you want to go on an adventure, the answer is almost always yes.
  • I am a drummer- I spent seven years in percussion, and four years playing tenors (55 lbs) on drumline. My next step is to learn steel drums!

Going into my sophomore year at The University of Texas at Austin as a PR major, I could not be more excited about the adventures that await me both on and off-campus. I am so thrilled to have been welcomed here at Ketner Group, and am excited to see what I can learn from such a talented team!

Connecting Technology and Trust

Technology is a cool thing. I’m realizing this more and more as I become immersed in the retail tech world. Our retail technology clients are able to help retailers become more price-competitive via price intelligence software, others can connect all the enterprise dots of an international, omni-channel retail organization to keep all the moving parts of the company on the same page. On a more personal level, technology has completely changed the way I communicate – because of social media sites like Facebook or mobile apps like Snapchat, I can instantly connect with with friends in Canada or Europe without leaving my chair or having an exorbitant phone bill, which is no fun.

But as the old saying goes, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Technology allows you to make all these social and business connections, but what about the flip side of it? The security side of it? You’re sharing your information over this invisible dimension and trusting that no one is going to use this information against you.

Technology connects people across the globe. Facebook is a great example of this, but have they taken it too far? Their messenger app recently received a lot of bad press for reportedly using personal contact information and using spyware-type coding, not to mention it’s a completely separate app from the actual Facebook app. This new application brought up a lot of discussion of terms and service agreements and personal knowledge of your privacy, which is something we should all be aware of when checking that little box. Here is a great read about the app and its permissions.

Trust is a major factor in any relationship made, whether between friends or as a loyal customer. Yet there are so many instances where trust is not enough. Take the celebrity photo leak scandal, or the five million Gmail passwords that were leaked. Home Depot is the most recent retailer to have a data breach with more than 2,000 stores affected and customer data exposed. Retail Systems Research analyst, Paula Rosenblum, recently published a great article in Forbes about the data breach and consumer protection.

Apple just came out with a payment platform, Apple Pay. Will our payment and banking information go the way of nude celebrity photos? Yes, Apple has security measures in place, most prominently not utilizing the traditional magnetic strip, but everything is safe until its not.

Retailers undertake a great responsibility using customers information, be it banking or personal, and if (actually these days its more like when) their systems get breached they have to be willing to go above and beyond to regain consumers’ trust.

Most all retailers have taken huge financial and operational strides to ensure their systems are PCI-compliant as to avoid costly customer data breaches. These are huge undertakings to protect us and maintain our trust, but as consumers, we must also monitor and protect our personal information and be mindful of technology’s capabilities, good and bad.