At a recent staff meeting that included champagne (we were feting the 5-year anniversary of our SVP), we started talking about our blog and the idea of “green” came up in the conversation. Basically, the team wanted me to write about our “green” policy and I had to point out that it wasn’t very hefty. They in turn disagreed. So here we go, writing about green…
We recycle! In fact, I had a dream about it last night after our discussion. In the dream I was remembering to take the paper out of my office trash can and to transfer it to the recycling bin. This morning, I am setting up a new system to make sure I do this on a consistent basis (the former VP of the lux team who is on a sabbatical around the world used to check in on my waste can—recycling was her idea). So, we do recycle, and apparently many offices don’t. I’ve set up a fairly unwieldy group of bins in our kitchen for this purpose and we have a recycle office maven who scolds people if they put the plastic refuse in with the paper (she is the new VP of the lux team so maybe there is something about fancy clothes and diamonds that also translates into a heightened green conscience. Apparently, not a lot of offices do this, so good for us!
We also use green cleaning products, or at least we try to use them. Our cleaning crew likes to install their own version of products behind our backs, but we do our best to keep the products environmentally safe. We also use natural scents to keep our bathroom smelling fresh (which is a MAJOR feat since unfortunately it appears something may have died in there before we arrived—it’s an ongoing source of frustration for an office that looks super fab). Plus, we have a chocolate brown sea grass carpet throughout the office that doesn’t require cleaning with chemicals (and absorbs any stain, thank goodness!) AND WE ALWAYS TURN OFF THE LIGHTS and generally keep them off during the day (yeah for big windows and sunshine!).
So, I guess there is a greener element to our office than I thought. Not as green as it could be, maybe. But here’s what the BBC staff said to me: Every little bit counts… Ok, so we’re doing our little itty bitty part. It’s definitely motivation to do more.
When all the news is bad, how do you keep your clients’ brands in a positive spotlight? Keep it real…
Just a few years ago it seemed every independently owned public relations agency out there was being bought up by the “mega conglomerate.” Being acquired can certainly be a great exit strategy for the independent. Plus, it presumably gives clients more services to choose from given the depth and breadth of the acquired company’s inter-agency/brand “partners.” But in today’s “down economy” is it really a good thing to go with an agency that is saddled with P&L requirements that can often serve as a ball and chain for creativity?
I’m not sure, but while I do know that running your own show can be both liberating and scary, I do believe that it continues to offer clients an edge. Obviously, if you’re small and you run by the seat of your pants you can’t compete against the big guys who have ROI written across their forehead (and they should, this is the age of ROI). But if you are small and have a process that jives with the marketing mix models required by the larger corporate clients, then you’re in good shape because what you do have going for you is FLEXIBILITY. If something isn’t working you can change it, and fast! Plus, you may very well be just a tad bit more creative, because you have to be in order to thrive.
We smaller agencies cut our teeth on smaller clients that generally have smaller budgets and need our “innovative” thinking to help them compete with their larger competition (ROI for these clients isn’t just “numbers” it’s revenue). Apply this savvy to a larger client with an actual budget and there isn’t a lot you can’t do.
In a time when online WOM is gearing up to assume its share of the public relations landscape a smaller, more agile agency may be the best partner for a “high touch” campaign that requires having real conversations with real people. Our new U.S. president made a point of saying that it was the entrepreneur that will get us out of this mess (my words). I think he might be right. What we need now is some gutsy innovation, and in our world the independent agency may be just the group to deliver.
As online WOM starts to take root and brands start asking for their communications programs to include platforms that feature Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms, the question is posed: Who’s best to lead the charge?
Our company works with consumer products brands that are beginning to understand the value of leveraging the emerging and evolving online WOM and social media marketing levers (something we have been promoting for a while now). As they start considering their options, various agencies are putting forth their WOM credentials – most notably the digital firms (and for good reason, obviously). We’ve always contended that public relations agencies are the right partner here because this has always been our job—talking to consumers. Why we LOVE WOM so much is because now we can go direct with our key messages and the conversation can continue past a strategic media placement (plus, there is GREAT ROI). Granted it can get tricky, but almost everything is tricky these days.
So who should do the job? A friend of mine who was at Yahoo forever said that the recent Forrester conference was all about social media —a few years ago SEARCH was the buzzword. Digital agencies have long been the proponent of search, and other notable ways to make sure a site is SEO. My opinion is that both parties working in tandem best serve this new frontier. Together there’s nothing we can’t do. Separately, we both bring a lot to the table. Digital agencies are going to start bringing in pr professionals to lead their WOM campaigns, and pr agencies are starting to add digital staff members (we have). Digital + PR. It’s the way of the future, so get on board!
I don’t know how it’s going in your neck of the woods, but in the NE corner of the country we are being pollinated. It’s ugly. Really. All I want to do is go to bed early and sleep in late. I’ve sworn off alcohol for a season, but you would think I was out partying hard the way I feel in the morning. What has this got to do with public relations? Focus on the relations part. If I’m feeling like this, chances are everyone else on the team is as well. It’s time to give the peeps a break.
One of the perks of owning your own shop means you can come in later than 9 a.m. if you want to. Granted, I work all weekend, and am up at 5:30AM on my Blackberry, but still, if I’m straggling along I can come in after 9:00 a.m. Not so for the peeps. So when the weather turns, its time for summer hours! Starting Memorial Day weekend it’s half day Fridays! And I came up with another idea – how about letting the VPs work from home one day a week… Why not? They wouldn’t be a VP if they haven’t proven they can make it happen (from a plane a train or a hotel room). So, have at it, if you made it this far you deserve it. Plus, it gives others within the organization something to look forward to, because once you’re on the train there is nowhere to go but up!
Over a year ago our company hired an outside firm to run a WOM campaign for an online promotion we were doing for Valentine’s Day. After looking at what they did I thought, hey, if we don’t start doing this ourselves we’ll either be obsolete
, or miss out on a new revenue stream. Let’s face it, you can’t afford to bypass either when you’re running your own business.
But how to get started in what was a burgeoning discipline? Basically, study some of the success stories in this new “genre” (though most of these stories are happy accidents) and, in our case, apply some of the same tenets we use in lifestyle public relations to this online discipline: create a good story and tell people about it. Since we rep consumer brands it is our ultimate goal to encourage people to choose our client’s products and services over the competition. Online WOM just means reaching out to people directly with that pitch. The Internet has made “direct access” possible in a way the media never did. But that doesn’t mean you throw your traditional media relations to the curb, integration of the two just creates a bigger, better plan.
But what has this got to do with the geek factor? As a public relations agency we know all about building the right team to create and distribute a story. It’s pretty straightforward, though your success will depend on your ability to read the culture right and develop a creative platform with great ROI (brand alliances, spokesperson endorsements, Hollywood promotional partnerships, etc.) But for online WOM we are talking Squidoo lenses, twitter, and google analytics. There are all kinds of “tricks”* that can help your campaign gain traction faster. This is where the geek comes in. Although you may never be able to take him to a meeting (he’ll start talking in a language only he understands and usually with a rapacious intensity that might scare people), he is entirely necessary and must not be overlooked. And if he is faithful to his designation (most often self confirmed) then he will be satisfied adding the much-needed fuel for your fire without being a front man.
So don’t forget the geek. You’ll need him. And if you’re a “traditional” public relations agency don’t forget the online WOM, you’re going to need that too. It’s not going away.
*As a member of WOMMA transparency is critical
Follow BBC at http://twitter.com/brandbuildingco
US News and World Report recently published an article on materialism and whether or not things make you happy. I go back and forth on this myself, but as a marketer that is dedicated to helping my clients (both in the luxury and the “masstige” arena) promote their products, it’s definitely a question to consider. After all, if everyone decides “things” don’t make us happy, then my clients might be out of luck.
Ok, I know it sounds insane to point out that as communications specialists we’re in the people business. Of course we are… but I honestly think, and especially with certain types of shops, that we often forget what our real assets are—people. Why is this the subject of a blog entry? Because everyday I have to remind myself of that fact.
So, who are the people? If you’re a communications practitioner you’re going to say the media, the clients, your employees and co-workers. And that’s 100% right. But there are also YOUR vendors, various cab drivers, the drycleaner, etc. Really? Well, think about it… running your own lifestyle PR business or just working in this industry can be HIGHLY stressful. All day long it’s our job to “convince” people to do things: write stories about our clients, trust our agency to give you good advice that you SHOULD take and NOW… this is stressful. It’s not always easy to convince anyone to do anything, just think about your own family and friends (how often do they do what you want them to do?). So what happens with all this stress? Well if you’re not a saint (and if you work with me you KNOW that I am not one to blithely pass things off to fate and lightly move on), then you might find that you are just a tad bit curt with your staff, not to mention the guy at the corner bodega.
So, here’s my point. Remember, you’re in it for the people. All that practicing you do, being polite when you’re irritated (yes, Mr. Cabdriver you really don’t need to jerk me all over the backseat) or holding your tongue when the super tells you that he can’t fix the toilet, will help you when your client refuses to take good advice (do magicians and diamonds really go together?) or when your employee screws up the call-in number for your new pitch (that you really need to sell in or you can’t hire that new person in LA). It all adds up in the end. Because if you do lifestyle PR and rep consumer brands like we do you might think it’s about the chocolate, but it’s really about the receptionist.
I know this is a gross generalization, but I think lifestyle public relations and especially the consumer product arena (food, beauty, health, etc.) is dominated by women. And where there are ladies there is most likely going to be babies—at least at some stage in the company’s lifecycle. In our company the trend began with our Vice President. When she became pregnant I had a decision to make: give her the bare minimum in benefits (what the law says you must do) or go for it. We are a growing company and providing good benefits helps us retain good people, but it’s also expensive. Having one of my best people out on full pay for three months was a lot to digest. BUT, that’s exactly what I would want if I were in that position and so, “Do unto others…”
When my VP came back to work we agreed that she could leave at 5:30 p.m. everyday (she has to pick up her adorable little boy) for the first 6 months—that has been extended to forever… Hey, she’s amazing, the job is getting done and apparently it leads to a quality of life that will make it easier for her to stay with our firm. And now, she’s working from home one day a week so she can get personal things done.
What’s the point here? If you work with lots of women you have to plan for things like this. My advice: Be generous and look for loyalty and great work in return. If you’re a small firm you may think you can’t afford it, but you can. What you can’t afford is to have a stressed out, disgruntled employee that resents having to leave her little munchkin at home while she works away creating strategic alliances, promotional platforms and managing high maintenance clients.
My ex-assistant, who has been promoted to a position in our WOM Division, has also just returned from her 3-month sojourn as a new mom (she has an adorable little girl—the cuteness doesn’t stop, who’s next I wonder?…) She feels so comfortable in this “Mom Friendly” atmosphere she pumps away right at her desk. I didn’t know this until I heard the sound of the pump, an unearthly wheezy whine that could be a sound effect from Star Trek.
So, when you work with mostly women be prepared for the inevitable and remember, you are also helping to raise well-adjusted kids—less stress on mom means less stress on the family.
Burnout. We all know what it looks like and, let’s face it, it’s ugly. So how do we avoid this nasty beast? I’ve found that a vacation can help, but honestly a week away (by the time you get where you’re going and get back it’s over) isn’t really the respite you need. Plus, how many of you are constantly connected to your PDA? By staying connected you stay burnt.
I run my own business, so I’ve come to accept a certain amount of burnout will go with the territory. However, I have a vested interest here since I willingly signed up for it. My employees are the ones I’m most concerned about. Burnout is bad for morale and it takes the edge off of a vital player.
Here are some ideas to avoid burnout and I hope my employees will read this and follow along:
DON’T READ ANY EMAILS ON THE WEEKENDS OR BEFORE WORK UNLESS THEY ARE FLAGGED URGENT. Bosses like me like to get their ideas out and move on. BUT that doesn’t mean if I send an email at 6:30 a.m. I expect a response. (And bosses like me should get more organized and compile all thoughts into one document that they share with their people at an appropriate time).
SCHEDULE A LONG WEEKEND AT LEAST EVERY 1- 2 MONTHS. It may not seem like a real vacation, but a long weekend can REALLY make a difference in your month. It’s something to look forward to, plus one or two extra days can often feel like a week. So get organized, make sure your division is covered and schedule some “me time.”
GO OUT TO LUNCH. Everyone I know who works in NYC eats lunch at his or her desk. It may seem archaic but getting out and getting a breath of fresh air can improve your look on life. DO IT.
MAKE A HABIT OF SMILING. I spend most of my day with a scowl on my face (ok, I’m stressed out). But every now and then I remember to smile, just for the heck of it, and guess what? When I smile on the outside, I start smiling on the inside. Corny, sure. But we’ve all heard that it takes more muscles to frown than smile. Try it…
Try these soul lifters (we’ve had enough of the suckers) for a month and see if it doesn’t help. And when you do go on vacation, leave a great travel memo and turn off your PDA. You most likely deserve it!