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.

A visit to Hawaii can teach a PR person a lot about the important practice of consistent storytelling

One of the most valuable tools modern public relations professionals employ is the ancient art of storytelling. At Schroder PR, we remind our new clients that if they bombard their prospects with numbers and facts, they will likely curtail their interest in working with them. Telling well-shaped stories, however, will attract clients and increase their desire to hire you.

I was reminded of the power of storytelling this past weekend, as we were hiking through the rain forests of Oahu in Hawaii. Driving to a remote location in the hills above Honolulu, our BikeHawaii guide, Jeremy, pointed to an “immersion school” nestled on the forested hillside. Within those walls, dozens of Hawaiian students take classes each day – all taught in the Hawaiian language. The only course in which the English language is spoken in these schools is English class.

A dozen years ago, only 0.1% of Hawaii residents spoke the native language, but a revival is now preserving the endangered language that only has five vowels and eight consonants – the smallest alphabet in the world.

Throughout our hike, our guide told stories about the land we were exploring and about the trees and bushes that were brought from foreign lands and were now choking out the native plants.Hula at Oahu's Polynesian Center

When we attended a luau at the Polynesian Center, the emcee told stories that were handed down through 75 generations of his ancestors, back to the islands’ first settlers 1,500 years ago.

“Hawaii never had a written language,” he said. “Our history and culture was preserved only through story telling.”

Hawaii’s stories were often delivered through dance and song. Today, visitors are treated to these stories through the hula dance. This important verbal vehicle not only preserved the islands’ cultural tradition through repetitive performance, it increased its imprint on the minds of the Polynesian settlers by incorporating accompanying visuals of hand gestures and hip movements – each of which had its own meaning.

Though marketing and PR professionals have many more vowels and consonants available in our languages and countless more vehicles through which to deliver the messages in ever-emerging technologies, we are aided in same tools the Hawaiians have used for generations.

Whether teaching our clients how to deliver a speech, to produce a video or to take advantage of the latest social media platform, we often stress the importance of repetition, music, body movement, hand gestures and story telling.

No matter where you are in the world, if someone drapes a lei over your shoulders or says “Aloha” or begins to dance the hula, you immediately think: Hawaii. In our business, that’s called excellent branding, developed on the most remote islands in the world and preserved through some of the best storytelling ever developed on our planet.

– Chris Schroder, Schroder PR