Things That Make You Go hmmm…

Anyone who knows me or has worked with us at AHA knows that we have a commitment to authenticity. Being true to yourself is important. In my opinion, it should extend outwards and should include those times when you have to reach out to a complete stranger on a professional level.

I have written about this before – using those pain in the neck marketing/sales calls that every organization receives. You know the ones… where the person mispronounces your name, then cheerfully asks how your day is going, how you are enjoying the weather (often not realizing you are thousands of miles and several time zones away from them and often have different weather) and tries to get you to buy, donate or support something that has no relevance in your life or business. Those unsolicited calls (and sometimes visits to the office) are a pet peeve of mine.

This morning, I woke up in a bad mood. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. As I sat down to drink my coffee and embrace my crankiness for exactly the amount of time it takes to drink a cup of coffee, I came across a great piece by Barb Sawyers on

The lesson of the day is don’t pretend you know me, don’t make assumptions and don’t act all buddy-buddy when we’re not. And – if you want money from me, don’t misrepresent it by trying the old bait and switch. We’re on to you. And we don’t like it.

Now, I don’t know Ms. Sawyers, but I have a feeling that she and I would get along just fine. She doesn’t appear too impressed with those phony baloney, pretender, feels like you want to trick me calls either. And her astute (and funny) blog post was just what I needed to make me snicker and get out of my cranky pants.

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Each week, I get a little piece of wisdom in my inbox. It’s from Della’s Deck.  This engaging, interesting, well-written, smart as all get out blog provides techniques and tips to help you be a better communicator. Della’s Deck offers weekly communications advice to make life easier and more enjoyable. And it delivers.

Full disclosure here, Della Smith is a close friend, my mentor and she used to be my boss. However, she is also an incredible communicator. Della brings a strategic approach (believe me, she thinks like a CEO) and she combines it with realism (she knows what we go through as communicators), perspective and an in-depth understanding and consideration of human nature. Blend this with her knowledge of communications – including social media. Her tips and advice are relevant, timely and interesting.

The blog posts are shared in a way that allows her readers to take them and implement them immediately. They aren’t filled with corporate speak or bafflegab. They are relatively short, to the point and – I have to say – I have yet to read one that I didn’t relate to.

Check out Della’s Deck.

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I had a discussion with a potential client recently that got me thinking about the value of PR, how to measure it and how to explain what it takes to get results – especially to someone who isn’t familiar with public relations strategy or tactics. In the conversation with the potential client, his focus was on what the measurable results would be from a public relations campaign. It’s a fair question, but I think it’s one that needs to be put into context. It isn’t necessarily a straightforward answer.

Public relations, publicity, media relations, communications – whatever you call it – we’ve always had a challenge in defining its value, specific to measurement. The online world has forced an evolution in how the work we do is measured. The shift in traditional media has created the need to redefine what we measure and how we report out. And the blurring of lines between sales, marketing and public relations has created a demand that what we do be linked back to return-on-investment. None of this is impossible; it just all needs to be put into context and objectives need to be clearly defined at the start – relevant to organizational goals, campaign goals and impact, value and return-on-investment benchmarks.

The potential client I spoke with asked specific questions such as: “How many leads will a public relations campaign provide?” I couldn’t answer that question for him because I didn’t have all the information. The fact is, no matter how effective a PR campaign or initiative is, without creating a strategic PR plan, defining the budget, tactics and timeline, setting the objectives and goals and defining the criteria for success, it’s almost impossible to answer that.

The questions I had in return were:

  • How many leads do you get a day/week/month now?
  • What are the budget, length and approach of the PR campaign?
  • Who is the campaign targeting – what is their natural lifecycle of action or influence?
  • What are the metrics that can be used to understand the impact of the PR campaign? (Website visits, social media engagement/conversation, sharing with friends and colleagues, calls to the office, behaviour/action benchmarks, increase in awareness, message recall & retention, and purchase consideration.)

However well-defined the components are, they take time, energy and budget. An organization with a limited budget that sends out one news release or editorial style article once every year isn’t going to generate the same results as an organization that has a consistent focus on sharing information and on creating opportunities for exposure and engagement. Exposure and engagement lead to influence and action. For most organizations, that takes a commitment to PR beyond one short campaign.

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There are many ways to communicate these days – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, texts, email, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr… the list goes on and on. But it’s important to understand the protocol, uses and the impact these mediums can have if they are used in an inappropriate or ineffective manner.

Specific tools are good for certain messages. An “I’m at the coffee shop. Where R U?” is a good use of a text. However, texting to inform someone that a meeting has been cancelled, that you are home sick and won’t be into the office, or that you quit is not a good use of this medium. I have seen people share information such as “Grandmother is in the hospital, not expected to make it – please send prayers” – which, while that’s not a place I would share this kind of news, might not be so bad for that person (they are asking for support from their community, after all), except that they had not yet informed all family members of what was going on.

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In the past week, we have had several conversations with clients about social media and what they could be doing or doing differently in this area. It’s always interesting to have these types of discussions and to take a good, hard look at what is being done, what needs to be done and what could be done differently.

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