Visiting PR clients in person should be an easy task, but sometimes it takes that old Southern charm

Common sense would tell you that clients who hire you as their PR consultant would want to meet with you face-to-face on a regular basis, but we’ve learned that isn’t always the case. Sometimes you just have to knock on their doors – several times – and take food.

We have had clients who were just too busy to meet. One hired us to launch several campaigns and paid us for months before they were able to meet with us. We were handcuffed, not able get started until they provided us needed information, in person.

“Food,” I told my PR team in the huddle. “We must take them food.”

So we got up early the next morning and went by our neighborhood Einstein’s Bagels and ordered a dozen bagels, cream cheese and coffee and charmed our way into the office of the marketing contact who had proven especially elusive.

For other clients who were equally reluctant to meet, we offered an upgraded version of that same strategy. These two clients were always too busy to meet, continually refusing our requests to go out for coffee or to join us at a weekend Falcons football.

We ordered lunch and blackberry cobbler for several dozen employees who were working away inside my clients’ offices. We gave the clients one day’s warning and showed up early, filling their buildings with irresistible aromas. Finally, the handful of executives whom we had specifically targeted drifted in and sat down with us for nearly 45 minutes, talking about how we could get things back on track.

Nevertheless, at one of the clients, the president never did actually sit down with us or eat our lunch, though he did stand nearby and chatted amiably with us until he was called away for a phone call. As the rest of us enjoyed our blackberry cobbler, I told the marketing executive I’d prepare a plate for the president and take it to his office, but she warned me not to bother.

“He doesn’t eat,” she said. “He just works.”

And on that day, at least, he also met – with us…read the full article here.

Social media proves it not only connects but also can be a matter of life and death

If you’ve watched TV news in the past week, you saw the constant coverage of the devastating Boston bombings as well as the tireless pursuit of the bombing suspects. If you were on social media this past week, you saw the same thing – but at a faster pace. Following the bombing, more than 500,000 tweets with the hashtag #BostonMarathon were collected by a research group from Syracuse University.

This saturated, unfiltered coverage eventually led to as much, if not more harm than good. Social media users made false accusations after examining photos and made up false headlines to try to take the lead in reporting. Suddenly, the medium that served as a watchdog, alerting the country of tragedy, became an unpredictably wild dog in the overall story.

The impact of social media isn’t new or surprising to PR practitioners. So it is still somewhat surprising – although very welcomed – when clients ask us why it’s important to be on social media.

In future social media presentations, I’ll remember to refer to this past week to demonstrate the impact social media channels can have. It was an example of not only how powerfully social media can engage others but also how quickly the unfiltered medium can take a turn for the worse. As we tell our clients, social media needs to be managed and we are able to train our clients on the importance of a successful crisis plan.

While many are still skeptical of the importance of social media in our lives, it is irrefutable that social media played a major part in our nation’s coverage of last week’s terrorist attack. That proves to me that the same channel of communication that drives traffic to business blogs such as this one, is also giving people vital information that could be a matter of life and death.…read the full article here.

Trending: I hear people say they don’t read eNewsletters any more, but this past week has proved just the opposite

I’ve been so busy this past year that when Schroder PR Account Manager Sarah Funderburk would ask me every few months how the firm was going to celebrate its 10th anniversary, I’d just shrug my shoulders, shake my head and gaze back into my computer. Lucky for me, I’m not in charge of anniversaries.

One afternoon a few weeks ago, I was wondering why Sarah kept asking me questions about an upcoming presentation as I was trying to get out the office door. Suddenly, my wife and our firm’s editorial director Jan Schroder walked in while the other teammates grabbed champagne and cupcakes. “We just couldn’t let you go any longer without celebrating our 10th anniversary,” Sarah said. I grabbed a camera and snapped a group photo in our Rhodes Hall office.

Last week, just before we pressed “send” on the latest issue of Clear Messages, our PR firm’s company eNewsletter that included our champagne and cupcake team photo, I suggested we change the subject line to reflect our milestone. “Clear Messages:” it read. “Schroder PR celebrates 10th anniversary.”

A few minutes after we sent that email to exactly 2,195 folks – many of whom I threw in at the last minute out of my address book and from whom I hadn’t heard anything in years – my own email inbox began to fill up. Before the week was out, I had received 157 emails with personal congratulatory notes.  I received emails from high school classmates, college roommates, clients, competitors, former bosses from my 1980s days at The Greenville News – even one from Wendy Binns, the current owner of Atlanta INtown, whom I hired out of college years ago.

Today, with eNewsletters, we can monitor and report specific numerical data in real time. For example, this edition of Clear Messages was opened by 590 recipients, for an open rate of 31%, which is 16% above the industry average, our electronic reporting tells us. We also know 93 of our recipients clicked through to read more at our firm’s website.

In 2013, PR professionals are blessed with an ever-growing array of communication platforms through which to promote our clients and our causes. In the coming years, we’ll be helping clients use communication vehicles that are not even invented yet. No matter what we end up doing, one element in our campaign will be the eNewsletter and it will still warm our hearts when you press reply and let us know in a few words – or characters – that you still care.…read the full article here.

Maker’s Mark gets a lesson in brand identity

Every southerner knows that messing with bourbon is a surefire way to not get invited back to a party.  Except Maker’s Mark. Beam Inc., the parent company of the Kentucky bourbon, announced last week that due to the company’s success and the time it takes to age a batch of whiskey (six years), they could not keep up with demand. As a result, Beam announced they would be reducing the alcohol content from 90 to 84, diluting the alcohol to make more batches.

Maker’s Mark fans took to social media and voiced their opinion that they rather have no Maker’s Mark than pseudo-Maker’s Mark. Beam listened. Less than a week later, they reversed their decision.

Loyal consumers can be hard to come by and when you find them, you should hold on tight.  For those true fans of the bourbon that have been making purchase decisions based on this brand for some time, Maker’s Mark decision to compromise quality and keep the brand, affected the integrity of the brand.

Fortunately, Maker’s Mark heeded their customers’ outcries and kept their public relations blunder to just the one brand identity flop. By listening to their customers, they avoided diluting both their product and their brand.  Hopefully other brands will take note as well: When your message is getting through loud and clear, don’t tone it down!…read the full article here.