Press Tour Secrets

3minPRwithKimberly

I’ve booked, staffed and supported media desk sides, also known as press tours throughout my PR career which has included many big, well known brands such as Williams Sonoma and west elm and many small companies who enjoy a national market presence and have a distribution strategy in place but they lack broad based, national consumer awareness as a brand.

So, for the larger, well known brands, media desk provide an ongoing platform for them to tell they’re seasonal and product story with the goal of maintaining a presence, relevance among top consumer media. For the smaller, lesser known companies, media desk side tours provide an opportunity to introduce an unknown company, to tell their story and to show their most interesting and newsworthy products and services in the hopes of garnering awareness, influencers among the top tier media leading to coveted third party media endorsements.

In this first video blog post of what I hope to be a series of ongoing video shorts, I am going to share with you my top insights and key tips to help you maximize your investment of time and money when considering a NYC media desk side tour!

Video Blog Post:

Press Tour Secrets (video transcript)

  1. Book meetings in clusters by publisher. Most of the top publishers, Conde Nast, Time, Inc. Hearst, Meredith Corporation, have their world Headquarters in New York City where the majority of their media titles editorial staff sit under one roof. Knowing this and booking accordingly will save you time and stress. Trust me.
  2. Two words: Car Service. Build this into the budget when building out costs. Your stiletto loving feet will thank you.
  3. Desk side does not have to be at a desk. Lunch and HH meetings are a great way to meet with the many freelance writers and bloggers that do not work in a traditional office. Everyone needs to eat and seriously who doesn’t like happy hour?
  4. This is your 15 minutes. These folks are popular. Against many odds, you won this meeting against hundreds, possibly thousands of other companies. You have 15 minutes (actually more like 12, to tell your story). Be prepared and go for it. But keep it short and to the point.
  5. Designate a note taker. Not super sexy but this is key. During your 15 minutes, there should be a lot of engagement, information, ideas, and opportunities happening. Have one person who is clearly not the spokesperson or CEO, take copious notes at each and every meeting. That way when you get back to your hotel you can review and priorities all the next steps. This is what you came here for. Do not miss out because you forgot an important detail or failed to follow-up on a key question or deliverable.

PR is not rocket science but the results can be magical. Thanks for watching.

Why Hire an Agency… When You Already Know What to Do?

Errant Musings
Whyhire

During one of several recent potential new client meetings, as I listened to a successful business owner tell me over and over again, “Yes, yes we already know what to do, we just don’t have the bandwidth to do it” I wanted to smile, but of course I didn’t.

It is true that bandwidth is always an issue, especially for start-ups or solo entrepreneurs feeding and fueling their vision. However I will argue that selecting an outside agency should amount to more than hiring “arms and legs.” If aligned, you are embarking on a relationship with a key stakeholder and business partner that will help you define and grow your business.

First of all let me dispel the notion that (the good) agencies or solo PR practitioners are in business to simply bill hours. This is not the case among successful people in our field.

We are vested in your growth and success. Your wins are a reflection and proof point of our success and our skill as PR professionals. In the consulting space, we cannot push a button; we cannot “increase production” of our services without increasing our hard costs and our investment into our business by hiring additional talented people. When the client falls short of success for whatever reasons, the agency partner is almost always the first to feel the bottom line impact.

So, agencies and practitioners cannot afford to make investments and enter into service for clients with whom we cannot envision succeeding.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, following are some tips for managing your relationship with your PR agency for maximum return on investment:

  1. Communicate + Be Honest

We know your days move at lightning speed. For most young companies, this is the norm. Take the time to share what’s happening with us. Knowledge is powerful in our hands. We know some things are not going to stick but be sure to tell us what’s confirmed and what’s in your pipeline going forward. We can continue our focused execution on what you have today but we can also start laying the groundwork for tomorrow’s success.

  1. Understand Roles

As our client contact, your day-to-day looks very different from ours. We know you need to focus on your business and continue making it happen. You have internal business partners that need you. Know that we are 100 percent focused on making sure that your most important influencers and customers know what you are doing and how your company is making an impact in your market space.

  1. Objectivity + Focus Are Your Friends

As an outside voice, we are by definition objective. This is key to achieving your business goals. Objectivity enables us to remain relentless and focused on results-based execution. Our job is to make you look good. We don’t know how to rest on our proverbial laurels of past success. We are always focused and looking at next.

  1. Knowing ≠ Execution

We know that you know what your business needs. Trust that we know how to execute a public relations strategy that compliments your company’s goals. We’ve done this before. We offer value in our ability to leverage our credibility, to craft your story, to deliver it to the right audience and to adjust as needed in order to continue to drive results.

  1. Relationships + Industry Expertise Matter

Beyond picking up the phone and pitching your story, we look at the industry and market space and we know how to make the connections for you. We have seen many of the situational challenges you face before with other clients in your space. Let us bring our relationships and our industry expertise into play to help you.

Helpful, interesting or entertaining? Feel free to comment or to share your experiences as either a client or service professional. In the end, remaining aligned on goals, defining success and most importantly, honest communication will inevitably translate into success for all.

Maximize Trade Shows for Media Success

Projects + Events

We recently attended 2014 Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim (see my story, Where the Brands Are the Stars from the 2013 show) and International Housewares in Chicago. Both shows were incredibly successful in terms of brand story telling to media, conversion into placement wins and overall relationship building for our client. After many years of attending trade shows such as Fancy Foods, Gourmet Housewares, Expo and now Housewares, we have developed a go-to trade show strategy that has proven to be successful time and time again.

From a branding and PR POV, every show offers very different opportunities, but following are some tips to maximize industry trade shows for PR success.

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Think Ahead. A three-month lead-time from the date of the show is ideal. This gives you enough time to research, plan, develop materials and conduct outreach and follow-ups.

Develop a Plan. What are you hoping to achieve from a PR perspective? Help your client define the show objectives and integrate PR planning into their overall trade show thinking. I present a creative brief for clients that drive the execution of all tactics. The brief begins with the objective(s) – what are we hoping to accomplish? This is not about # of impressions or placements, this is a bigger vision statement of what success looks like. What is the story we are telling, how does this particular trade show help to tell the story, what do we want to accomplish by telling the story to this audience and of course what does a media coverage win look like?

Be Creative. Don’t simply re-hash what worked last year. It’s about more than a press list and massive email campaign. It’s critical to come up with new and targeted strategies to win. How does the booth presence help us to tell the story? How can we use the assets created by the marketing team to engage with a media audience? What are the key materials needed to garner the right audience, engage, romance and win? The brief also contains a week-to-week timeline of PR action items and deliverables. This timeline keeps everyone on track and ensures that the big pieces are not forgotten in the race to get everything done. Details matter.

Stay Focused and Drive. For companies, trade shows are about driving sales, winning PO’s and if the company has been around a few years, shows also become a great way to engage with former and new business partners. The PR plan often becomes a last minute after thought. This has always seemed so crazy to me. The amount of cost and resources put into a trade show, from entry fee, booth production, signage, product displays etc., creates the PERFECT platform to tell the company brand and product story to a qualified media audience. As the PR partner, it is our responsibility to drive this vision and make sure the PR plan is in place and executed.

Everyone is a Spokesperson. Hopefully your client values PR enough to send you to the show. Even assuming you have a prepped and ready media spokesperson at the show, you still need to have everyone from the company trained and ready to engage with media attendees and key influencers. I like to hold a pre-show all hands meeting. Have your client walk through the product features and benefits one last time as well as the sales PO process. This grounds everyone on the sales priority. This is also the perfect time to share the key messages PR has been sharing with the media. Anyone walking into your client booth is important – a retailer, partner, or media prospect. Everyone from your company should be enthusiastic and ready to speak with the same voice.

Follow this as a guide to get you or your client started when thinking and planning for your next trade show. Trade shows are a perfect platform, especially for retail brands that are not multi-channel (i.e. do not have stores, catalogs or other channels for media to engage and to “see” the brand and product story in a meaningful and memorable way). A trade show booth can become the platform for communicating the best piece of the brand story. Plus, you get to see and to meet all the other wonderful products and brands that play in the same space! And, don’t forget to have FUN.

Tips for Managing Exceptional Employees

Errant Musings

During my corporate career at big name retail brands as well as start-ups, I had the opportunity to build my own teams and to manage some very talented people. I assumed that I was a good manager. Why not? My employees seemed happy, they were focused and they were productive.

After I left my last in house manager role, I was speaking to one of my former staffers, one that I had hired. I asked her how things were going at work and she enthusiastically recounted how great things were now and how her new manager did such a great job helping her to succeed. Ouch.

Some serious reflection ensued.

I had just launched my namesake PR firm and I was thinking about the culture and the environment I wanted to create. I knew that I only wanted to work with companies with passionate leadership and companies with products and services I personally believed in. Oh, and no ass holes, but that’s for another rant, I mean post.

Dial forward six years and I can say that I have learned through countless experiences, bad hires, good hires, and unexpected great hires how to somehow become a good manager. How do I know this? My former employees still reach out to me and tell me how much they learned, how much they appreciate the time with me. Oh and they are all successful, go getters in the PR field making it happen in NYC to Los Angeles and great cities in between.

How did I get from average and over confident to inspirational leader spawning and incubating PR superstars? Following are some tips gleaned from six years of managing young talent in the PR field:

Set the Bar High. When I was single (many years ago) I had very specific expectations about how I wanted to be treated. I really loved the experience of dating mainly because I was in charge and I set expectations right from the start. People I dated either met my expectations or I simply didn’t date them. Work relationships are similar – when you set clear expectations, employees (like potential boyfriends) will meet your high bar more often than not.

Don’t Over Praise. In the beginning I caught myself often over praising young staffers for doing good work. My thinking was that I was helping junior workers feel good and that I was helping them to build confidence. Wrong. I quickly learned that the folks that were praised for doing expected work actually did less. The confidence was adorned and the low bar of expectation had been set.

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Compliment and Move On. By the same token, when someone performs above and beyond in execution, creativity and exceptional thinking, do acknowledge with specificity and when truly exceptional, a bonus, gift, or special lunch is always a welcome expression of appreciation.

Inspire and Teach. I absolutely love what I do. Every day I get to be creative, to develop strategy and at the same time be hands on with the tactical execution. This passion and enthusiasm has helped to launch and to grow exceptional young brands. It is this genuine love for “building things” that has become a natural source of inspiration for my employees. PR is a tough profession. It is not for everyone. The highs, the lows, the rejections, the big wins that none of us get to savor and enjoy because we are already moving toward the next, next. But I would not change a thing. And it is this natural love for what I do that my employees see each and every day.

I did not set out to be a manager that leads by inspiration. I was focused on creating a business with a culture and an environment that I wanted to work in. It is in this genuine effort that a management style of inspiring employees to exceed their expectations was born.

Want more tips and anecdotes from a life lived in PR? Check out some of our clients at kimberlystrenkpr.com or Facebook.com/kimberlystrenkpr for the latest musings and rants.

RISE Logo

RISE Austin, PR for Small Business

Errant Musings, Projects + Events

Very often I am asked to share PR insights and best practices.  PR is such a misunderstood profession that I relish these opportunities to share, educate and inspire.  My goal is to break down PR myths, one presentation at a time.   Just this past week for example I had the chance to host a RISE (Relationship and Information Series for Entrepreneurs) session, “PR for Small Business.”

Although, PR should be such an integral part of any business, most business owners don’t approach PR with an understanding of how it fits into their overall business strategy.   My focus for the session was to provide a solid framework for thinking about a business-aligned communication strategy.  That is to say, to create guidelines for all external communications. Businesses need to have a proactive approach to PR as opposed to a reactive approach, i.e. they should actively seek PR opportunities that will move the needle on their business, not just respond to whatever might come their way. In order to create a true business communications strategy, PR should have a seat at the table when business goals are being mapped out.  If not, a true business aligned communications strategy is not a realistic goal.

When I launched my namesake firm almost 3 years ago, I began with a simple premise that has guided my business; I stick to what I know and love and the business will grow.  I was fortunate to have learned the craft and honed my skills while working with some of the most respected and beloved consumer brands, from Williams Sonoma to Nordstrom and many companies in between. An insider perspective is what is needed to create and sustain a brand that evokes a positive, loyal consumer response.  There is no magic bullet.  Understanding smart PR and being able to execute consistently in partnership with marketing is a powerful business driver.

Kimberly Strenk PR is a boutique lifestyle PR agency.  We focus on promising young companies in the premium brand space.  Premium is not about a price point.  In our lexicon, it means that a company delivers on their consumer promise.   Sound simple?  Companies have to do what they say they will do and offer up products and services that delights the consumer.   That is why we are successful delivering consistent and sometimes spectacular results; the story is real. That is when PR can be realized as a truly powerful and strategic asset.

With that, let’s jump right in:  Common (PR) Myths

Common Myths

  • You need a big budget. Social media and proliferation of specialized boutique agencies makes it easier to do PR on a smaller budget.
  • Editorial = Advertising. Editorial is not the same as advertising. Editorial is earned. Advertising is paid.  Talk about ROI!.
  • If I could just get on Oprah. A press hit like this is a gift, say thank you and move onto a sustainable + strategic plan.
  • It’s all about spin. Authenticity is the benchmark. Consumers have a voice because of social media.  Be real, be consistent and deliver on the consumer promise.  A company that relies on their PR agency to “spin” the story will not be sustainable in today’s environment of instant publication and connectivity.
  • Just do it. There is no short cut.Competitive analysis and smart planning BEFORE execution will always pay dividends.

Simple Truths

  • Be real. Avoid hyperbole.  Are you really the only, the fastest, the first and the best?
  • Keep it simple. No jargon or trendy catchphrases, please.
  • Focus is your friend. Prioritize.  None of us can do it all, all of the time.
  • Let the story unfold. As your business grows and captures important milestones, always communicate the vision and let the facts speak for themselves.
  • Share. So busy moving forward and executing day to day, don’t forget to communicate your successes.

Now that we have some basic ground rules, how do we get started?

Getting Started: Internal

  • Who are you. What’s your story.  How did you get here?
  • What makes you special. Understand what makes you stand out from the crowd.  Be able to articulate this.
  • Identify key influencers.  Who are the people in your industry, in your marketplace and in your social circle who can impact your business?  Identify these influencers and prepare to reach out to these folks.
  • Build your network.  You can’t do this alone.  From employees, to vendors and contractors, surround yourself with talented and smart people that can become trusted advisers beyond their individual contributor role.

You’ve done your homework, let’s start communicating.

Getting Started: External

  • Feedback. AKA “friendly bullet proofing” is the first stop.  Ask people in your network to listen to your story and have them tell you what they think.  Do people outside your industry understand your story?  Are you compelling?  If not, why not?
  • Prioritize your battles. Again, remember to focus and prioritize.  Don’t get discouraged and feel overwhelmed.  There’s a lot you could do.   What can you do today? And what can be pushed out?
  • Be consistent across all touch points. Your brand should look and feel the same everywhere. Think about how adults process and learn, as espoused by “Consciousness of Competence” theory.  Basically, an adult has to see a message/new idea four different times to really process and learn it.   This theory of adult learning can be applied to branding as well. Logos, business cards, web sites, FB, twitter and messages all need the same look and feel.  Create an identity kit and share it with all your contractors and business partners who work on your behalf.  Everyone should speak with the same voice.
  • Low hanging fruit. Long-term goals are essential to your business, but short-term goals will serve to give you momentum and open up immediate opportunities. Local based business?  Reach out to your local editor who covers your industry and book a meeting.  These folks are tasked to cover their beat in their local market.  They are always looking for great new products and services to share with their readers. Don’t make all your wins long term: you need some achievable wins in the short term, too.

The participants generated some great dialogue and discussion points.  I encourage them and you to post questions on our FB wall facebook.com/kimberlystrenkpr.

Here’s link to the PPT preso I used:  Austin RISE 2011, PR for Small Business.  Was this helpful?  Do you have other tips or best practices that worked for your business?

Best,

Kimberly