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I was recently searching for a hotel in New York City. I searched a few online hotel sites that let you compare, and then went to the website of the hotel I was considering for a stay. It was full of grammatical errors and typos.

This is a nice hotel. Their nightly rates are expensive. It made me wonder… if there is this lack of attention to detail for what I expect is an important marketing tool, what else do they miss?

I went to check out their social media. It too had grammatical issues, typos and spelling errors. I went to review sites to see what others were saying about their experiences. And, there it was. So many reviews focused on how things that were promised didn’t happen and that the details that they expected to be standard were overlooked. There was a lack of attention to quality and excellence that was a concern to me. I booked somewhere else.

Content Is Key to Success

We create a lot of content for clients. Social media copy, web content, blog posts, editorial-style articles, white papers, presentations, speeches, op-eds, brochures, videos, podcasts, webinars, backgrounders, news releases, media statements… the list goes on and on. Content is king, queen and the court jester. It’s how organizations strategically inform, engage and persuade.

Brand storytelling is at the heart of how an organization tells its story. And if there are mistakes in it, you lose credibility. Factual inaccuracies, typos, grammatical errors and spelling mistakes hurt your brand reputation. Ensuring that your content not only has a great narrative that engages, but that it also meets strong quality standards in these areas should be a given.

The Language of Social Media

Some of our clients have an audience that requires them to embrace a new language paradigm of social media slang. This means abbreviations and using numbers within a word (l8 = late). It depends on the demographic you are addressing. It has to be relevant.

Copy Editing, Proofreading and a Grammar Expert

We’re in a time of change – and that includes language. Words and sentences that would have been unacceptable even ten years ago are now accepted. In fact, the Oxford Dictionary comes out with a list of new words that are being added to it on a regular basis.

Language evolves and will continue to do so. It’s important that we, as communicators, stay on top of that evolution. We need to stay current with the words we use, but that doesn’t mean we can get sloppy, lazy or thoughtless about creating content. In our line of work, we can’t have typos, grammatical errors, spelling mistakes or factual blunders.

What Kind of Impression Do You Make?

Let’s face it – for the most part, the first impression that a potential customer or client gets of you is online. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, your website, a video, a webinar… What if this communications piece has mistakes in it? What does that say about the quality of your work? What does it say of your professionalism? It says that you don’t care enough to pay attention to the details.

What Can You Do?

We work with clients to make sure that they always represent themselves as intelligently and professionally as possible (because that is who they are). Quite often, even if a client has written a piece – they send it to us for a copy edit, fact check and proofread before it is made public.

This includes social media copy. The challenge is that sometimes it is easy to dismiss an error on Twitter or Facebook because you were working quickly and had to put it up. The fact is, as much as social media is personal and more casual than other content, it still represents your brand.

As an aside, you should have a content strategy that clearly defines your content, storylines, the narrative and what your overarching content objectives are. Don’t wing it, don’t post for the sake of posting, and if you are always randomly posting – that’s what your ROI will be.

Be thoughtful about your content. Be detailed. Be aware that it takes time and effort to create great content. Don’t toss its impact out the window by making mistakes in it.

The Last Laugh

We found a roundup of some of the worst typos ever – that made it out into the public. We thought you might enjoy them.

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We recently managed a client event that had a live stream component. The engagement that this event had showcases how powerful this type of outreach can be.

This was an important industry-relevant event and it featured three exceptional speakers – all experts in their field (which are closely related). People had flown in from across Canada to the venue in Vancouver’s Lower Mainland and we had a packed house of well over 200 people.

There wasn’t room for everyone who wanted to attend and some influential professionals couldn’t make the trip here – and that’s where the idea for the live stream on Facebook came in. Live streaming provides the opportunity to extend and expand an event’s reach and ROI – and to create strong engagement with your audience.

No matter how many times we have produced live stream events (and they are becoming a regular occurrence in our world), there is always a concern about them. We work with an exceptional videographer/live stream team that consistently delivers excellence – and yet we still lose sleep when we have a live streamed event coming up. Well, more sleep than usual. We worry a lot – will the technology work, will the Wi-Fi go down, will the online audience have a positive experience… the list goes on and on.

We did produce our first live stream about five years ago with the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry. There was a series of public policy meetings planned and we knew that it was crucial that those who were not in Vancouver had the opportunity to view the meetings and to provide feedback.

Facebook Live and other live streaming platforms weren’t out yet – so we streamed through the Commission’s website. There wasn’t a huge opportunity with technology and within our budget to be interactive during the live stream, but it did allow interested individuals and groups to watch and provide feedback to the Commission via e-mail.

Today, interactivity is a key component of a live stream, and it improves the experience substantially. Given our extensive experience with this type of engagement – live streaming an in-person event – we thought we would share some tips and insights on how to produce an effective live stream.

Tips for a Facebook Live Event

  • Hire a great videography team – we work with Sean Lam and his team and highly recommend them. Call us if you want more information, but I can tell you – they are excellent partners. They are skilled, experienced and they care.

 

  • Identify the purpose of the live stream – is it to increase Facebook followers? Build engagement? Educate? Entertain? Influence opinions? Provide news and updates (especially important if you are dealing with an issue or crisis)?

 

  • You need to know what you want to achieve before you plan out your live stream content strategy.

 

  • Promote the live stream from two weeks out. Any earlier and people won’t notice. From two weeks out, push out information via Facebook, e-mail, your website, your newsletter, via event announcements and other communications methods.

 

  • If you have speakers, ask them to (please and thank you) promote the live stream to their community. And help them to do it by providing visuals and content. Make it easy for them.

 

  • Run special promotions one week ahead of the live stream. This could include giveaways or other contests. Engage the audience with the subject matter that the speakers will address.

 

  • Double, triple and quadruple-check your technology.

 

  • Review your speakers’ presentations to ensure that they will work for the live stream.

 

  • Put up signs at the event so people in the audience will realize that there is a camera and that if they walk in front of it, they will block the view for the people online.

 

  • Assign someone to monitor Facebook for comments and questions – and to engage. If there are breaks in between presentations, have that person ask the online audience questions.

 

  • Ensure that if the speakers take questions, the audience on Facebook has a chance to ask some too.

 

  • If you can’t get to all of the questions on Facebook, explain to people that there is a limited time for questions. If there are questions that the Facebook engagement person can respond to, do that.

 

  • Ensure that the person engaging online knows the full presentation schedule and can explain what is happening and that the video will be available post-presentation for viewing.

 

  • At the end of your event – thank the Facebook audience specifically for being there. They took time out of their day to participate in your event.

 

  • Post-event, go through the comments and make sure that you have responded to each one. In the hectic pace of a live event, it is reasonable to expect that you will miss a few.

 

  • Find a quiet place, post-event, to have a glass of wine or a beer. You deserve it!
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dreamstime_xs_35528466By Ruth Atherley

Four new 90-minute Gilmore Girls episodes are set to air on Netflix late in November 2016. I hadn’t seen the original series and after seeing the excitement for the release of this Gilmore Girls revival, I thought I would check it out. And while watching Seasons 1 through 7 over a couple of weeks, I realized that there are some communications lessons worth sharing, hidden in the episodes.

We’re going to assume that you have a working knowledge of the characters so as to not make this post too long with the explanations of who is who.

The top three communications lessons are:

Your critics aren’t the “enemy” – they believe they are doing something good (and if you can get past the conflict of it, you might learn something).

In almost every episode, Lorelai’s society-minded mother, Emily Gilmore, has something critical (and usually nasty) to say about how her daughter lives her life. Now, Emily is an elitist, autocratic snob whose ideas are, in my opinion, outdated, backwards and have no place in Lorelai’s world. However, she operates from a center of good (in her mind), where she truly cares for her daughter and her granddaughter and wants what is best for them.

Almost every communications professional has faced critics on a campaign, project or initiative. And sometimes it can be incredibly frustrating, especially when the criticisms appear to be uninformed or lacking context or knowledge about the subject matter or are self-serving, rather than useful. Taking a step back and looking at the critics and their motivation is an important thing to do. Understanding that they feel that they are doing something good, something important – puts the criticisms or conflict in perspective. It opens a discussion rather than an argument. And, in the show, when Lorelai steps back and realizes that her mother actually means well, she has a different response, which creates a more positive outcome. It doesn’t mean you need to agree or acquiesce, but understanding the motivation is an important tool.

Listen to that little voice in your head, your heart or your stomach – and act on it.

Throughout the entire Gilmore Girls series, we watch Luke and Lorelai pine for each other. During this time, they both have serious relationships with others. In fact, they both marry other people. And they date, they break up, and we all root for them to get back together. And they seem to, at the end of Season 7 (the final season of the initial series). Both of them have that little voice telling them something about who they are meant to be with, but they ignore it, disagree with it or silence it. And they spend years being unhappy, confused and lonely as a result.

I think, as communicators, we need to realize that the little voice we hear is important. There is a reason we chose this profession – we understand that clear, understandable communication takes effort. It also takes empathy, sympathy, knowledge and understanding of the audience or stakeholder groups. We spend our days immersed in this. Sometimes, before we consciously realize something, our instinct tries to tell us this. It’s important to listen when it does. Ask yourself – why am I feeling uncomfortable about this? What is my concern here? Is there something here that doesn’t feel right? Listen to that little voice that is trying to tell you something – more often than not, it knows something you haven’t realized yet.

Money can’t fix everything.

I happen to be a fan of the actor Matt Czuchry who plays Logan Huntzberger, the trust fund kid and boyfriend to Rory Gilmore in several of the later seasons. In the show, Logan buys his way out of most problems, until he no longer can. In the final season, after losing most of his trust fund and millions of dollars of his father’s, Logan is forced to move to San Francisco for a job (granted, he is still a child of privilege, but his days of doing whatever he wants are over).

In the world of communication, if you are dealing with an issue or a crisis, having a big budget isn’t always a solution. Don’t get me wrong… having enough money to do your job well is always a good thing, but the fact is – money can’t fix everything. If there is a situation or incident where someone in the organization has done something immoral, unethical or illegal, if a majority of the community is opposing something you did, are doing or want to do – you need some elements that money just can’t buy. You need transparency, authenticity and a commitment to working through the issues by opening a dialogue, not by steamrolling through it and pushing other opinions and perspectives down.

And one small bonus lesson from the Gilmore Girls that I think most communicators will agree with – Lorelai Gilmore thinks coffee makes everything better. It makes the tough times easier to deal with, the good times better, and it’s a drink for all hours – not just breakfast. Here at the AHA office, we tend to agree with her. Coffee, coffee, coffee!!!!

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EventEvery organization planning to host an event wants media coverage. It’s a way to create awareness and raise the profile of your organization, your products or services, your brand, and your spokesperson. Depending on the event, media coverage may lead to more attendance the following day or the next year (if it is an annual event).

How do you engage the media and make them interested enough to want to know more?

An AHA client recently held an event that we were able to generate a tremendous amount of coverage on. Media coverage included eight newspaper articles, four television feature segments (three to eight minutes long), three radio feature segments, nine website/blog features, and 14 event listings – excellent coverage for a local first-time event. (Needless to say, our client loves us even more now. And we love them right back.)

We’ve decided to share a few tips and hints on how you can generate strong media coverage for your next event.

Host a Public Event

Rather than just inviting people on your networking or sales database, invite the public. The more people that the event is open to, the more the media will be interested.

Tie the Event to a Charity

If there is a cost to attend, tie it in with a worthy charity. Provide a percentage of ticket sales, allow them to participate with you at the event if possible, and identify ways that your organization and the charity can work together. Not only will this be of interest to media and to the public that may attend, if your event benefits a charity in some way, you may also get event suppliers to provide their products and services to you at a discounted rate.

Hold a Great Event

It is easy to fall into the trap of assuming the event is great and that it deserves media coverage. Brainstorm with people in your organization and think blue sky! Those seemingly over-the-top ideas may be what are needed to host a great event, get lots of interest from the public, and grab the media’s attention. Are there fun things you can incorporate? Media love children, animals, unique activities and special opportunities. Think about how you can pitch the event to media by tying it into a current trend or time of year. What will make the event be of interest to a large segment of the population – that is what media will want to know.

Submit Information to Event Listings

There are many media outlets, websites and blogs that offer free event listings. Develop a short paragraph of the “who, what, when, where, why and how” of your event and reach out. Make sure you understand the format that this information needs to be presented in for each outlet. (They are generally all different.)

Be Prepared

When a journalist e-mails or calls, be ready at a moment’s notice to respond. Take the call or immediately call them back. Have your key messages on the “tip of your tongue” and be ready to tell the world (or taped over your desk as long as you don’t sound like a robot when you are reading them out). Ensure that your spokesperson is always available during the time you are pitching. You never know, you (or your client or spokesperson) may be asked to do a radio interview within the next few minutes or a breakfast television show the next morning.

Develop a Visual Opportunity Notice

You need a great visual to attract media attention. Plan this carefully. Let media know exactly what they can photograph/film at the event. The more details the better, but keep the notice to one page or less. Work to offer two or three great visuals so that media have a choice. One is not enough; there may be dozens of other events at the same time as your event. What visual does your event have to offer that would create interest from the media and put you on the top of the list over other events? It is important to provide media that come to the event with interviews with spokespeople.

Phone the Media

The day of the event, it’s a good idea to call the media newsrooms to make sure that you are on their radar. Just because you sent information to them, that doesn’t mean they saw it. A newsroom receives hundreds or even thousands of e-mails a day. Be prepared for a brief 10-second call (that’s about all the time you will get) to explain the visuals of your event. Have your pitch ready – make it brief, but make sure you have enough information to interest the journalist on the other end of the telephone line.

The key to engaging media to attend and cover your event is in the preparation. The publicity magic happens for your event in the planning stages. Making the effort to plan will result in strong, positive media coverage.

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