Tuesday, August 19, 2014

To Engage or Not to Engage, That is Thy Question

By: Rachel Tabacnic

It’s not rocket science — our world is shifting from a print-focused universe to a digital database, where with one click of a button you can be engaged with someone across the country. In 140 characters or less, you can pitch a reporter, find out what someone ate for breakfast or even avoid traffic before you begin your commute. Whether your passion is to focus on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn, you must stay conscious of what you share on these mediums as it can influence your audience’s decision to connect with you in real life.

Today’s social media life allows us to expand into new horizons by giving us the opportunity and ability to share our inner thoughts, secrets and aspirations by pressing share, post and connect. In a recent Entrepreneur article, a reporter chronicles the basic rules for connecting with your audience via social media. While some of these tips may seem black and white to you and me, others are learned along the way.

Tip #1 - Leave meaningful or humorous comments on people's photos or blog posts.
Just because you’re trying to engage with people to attract new business leads or story ideas doesn’t mean you can’t share your own person comments. Engage for yourself and show your followers that you are a unique individual, who isn’t only focused on one end result.

Tip #2 - Cross promote your followers’ articles.
Simple enough, if you like something that you read, share it with others. Not only is it the fondest form of flattery, but also it’s showing your stance in life. We always recommend that our clients share content that could influence their audiences’ decisions to engage with our brands. Why not do something that can benefit your own personal credibility?

Tip #3 – Get Chatting.
My most favorite tip of them all: engage personally with others on social media, whether it is a one-on-one conversation or in a group chat centered on a specific topic. It's the most vulnerable place to take a stance on what you believe in, but it also can allow your audience to see you in a new light and not just as a hard sell.

Tip #4 – Take the Conversation Offline.
Don’t forget about the real world. It’s still out there. Once you make a connection online, take it offline to build and nurture your relationships. I’ve personally made hundreds of connections that have turned into lifelong friendships, professional references and even national media stories.


Most importantly, remember that social media is not a one-way conversation. It takes two to tango, after all. You’re already half way there, so now is the time to join the discussion.

Monday, August 18, 2014

And the Debate over Press Releases Continues...

By: Ashley Rodriguez

Don't know who this guy is, but thanks, Google Images, for accurately
describing the stages of writing a tough press release: (1) I just don't know;
(2) I still don't know; and (3) I'm taking a nap.
A few weeks ago, I read an article from PRNewser about a study reporting journalists spend less than one minute reading a press release.

Ouch. (Do you know how much time I spent writing that? And revising? I figuratively gave birth to this press release!)

But the good news is PRNewser says more than one-third of the journalists surveyed get story ideas from press releases and nearly 90 percent find value from them. But 68 percent say they "just want the facts" (cut the fluff, kids) and more than half prefer info delivered in bullet-point form.

Think about it: how much time do you have during the day to sift through emails? The best ones are the ones that get to the point. And I'm repeatedly shocked that PR pros need to be reminded that sending a journalist news relevant to his or her beat is critical -- or that quotes should actually say something worthwhile. (#facepalm)

I think everyone at Fish will agree the best way to get a reporter's attention is to develop a brief, targeted pitch and simply paste or include a link to the press release for more information. Brevity is both appreciated by journalists and a successful strategy for PR pros. So keep it simple, relevant and newsworthy.

Worst PR Pitches Pegged to Robin Williams Death

By: Chad Cohen

Great story in Washington Post by Alyssa Rosenberg that also includes really interesting statistics on number of people working in PR versus journalists. Story in its entirety is below. Well worth the repost and the read.

 Earlier this week, Alex Williams at Pew Research filed a report on the discrepancies between reporters and the public relations specialists whose job it is to pitch those reporters. By examining Bureau of Labor Statistics data, he found that last year, 43,630 people were employed as journalists, up against 202,530 people working in PR (and for every dollar publicists made, reporters were making $0.65). Those numbers are up sharply: In 2004, there were 3.2 publicists for every working reporter. Now the ratio is up to 4.6 people working in PR for every reporter out there.

This is good news for anyone concerned about the basic robustness of the publicity industry. But it also makes publicists’ jobs harder to do. More of them are competing for fewer reporters’ attention. To try to cut through the clutter, some (though by no means all) publicists take unfortunate advantage of tragic events, occasionally in ways that exhibit a shocking lack of taste and good sense.
These pitches are a common joke among journalists. But even I and some of the reporters I know were stunned by the boldness of some of the releases or offers of interviews that came through the transom in the wake of Robin Williams’s suicide.
A number of my colleagues forwarded me a pitch from Wilks Communications offering up “Cyber security expert” Steve Weisman as a source. The hook? “Robin Williams’ tragic death leaves consumers at high risk of identity theft. The 1.2 billion people already endangered from the massive Russian hacking just got more vulnerable as identity thieves lure curious citizens with links promising details about Robin Williams.”
One reader forwarded me an e-mail from LeadingThinkers suggesting that this would be a great time for reporters to talk to the writer Joyce Maynard, essentially on the grounds that we are all having a lot of thoughts and feelings.
“If anyone knows how to talk about the elephant in the living room, it’s Joyce,” the e-mail suggests. “Whether it’s a novel about a teenager whose mother died on 9/11, coming to terms with the legacy of an alcoholic parent, detailing the ugly truth about her relationship with J.D. Salinger or sharing the painful personal story of her experience adopting and then relinquishing custody of two Ethiopian girls, Joyce has never shied away from the facts at hand.”
I suppose the pitch acts as further proof of Maynard’s — or at least her representative’s — willingness to forge forward without concern for how anyone might react.
Lots of e-mails offering up physicians who treat or research mental illness landed in my inbox.
Most of these were relatively benign, even if the publicists were not exactly exerting themselves to draw clear connections between what is known about Williams’s mental health issues and their clients’ specialties. But one that came to me via Samantha Rollins, the news editor at the Week, stood out. X Factor Digital Marketing wanted her to consider talking to clinical psychologist Dr. Bart Rossi, who, “although he has not treated Robin Williams or can definitely determine what happened,” is apparently eager to declare that Williams “most likely had a longstanding personality disorder.”
Not all of these pitches are necessarily terrible — a broader version of the identity theft pitch, drawing on more examples, and pushed out after a more decorous interval might have been a story I was interested in writing. But it rarely seems to occur to folks that patience might serve them and their clients better (as would more targeted pitches).
And publicists are hardly the only people prone to draw tenuous connections and to show serious lapses in taste when processing and analyzing a tragedy as part of their jobs.
Maureen Dowd has a perfectly fine explanation for why she associates Robin Williams with the late journalist Michael Kelly, but I simply do not believe that this particular memory always leads her to contemplate Hillary Clinton and the war in Iraq. Rush Limbaugh, who is normally impervious to criticism, has attempted to amend his remarks drawing a causal relationship between “leftist” politics and Williams’s suicide. I received 15 e-mails from NBC News or NBC News publicists trying to get me to write about the network’s coverage of Williams’s death.

The examples of PR pitches that landed in my inbox succeeded at half of a publicist’s job: They cut through the noise. But the harder half is just as important. When sending out a pitch, you should think about how a signal might be transformed by context and what it might look like in a journalist’s inbox.

Friday, August 15, 2014

For Gluten-Free Diners, Social Media and WOM Marketing are Key

By: Ashley Rodriguez

Back in May, I went to the NRA Show in Chicago to support our client, the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. It was my second year attending and, to be honest, when I wasn't with the client, I was happily wandering around the massive trade show floor kindly accepting every free sample that was offered to me. I have no shame. I was hungry and it was there, so I took advantage. I think it's IHOP that says, "Come hungry. Leave happy." That's me at the NRA Show.

But this year was different. Now I traveled to the show as a very hungry person with non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Basically that means I can never again have bread, cookies, pasta, beer, chicken fingers, crackers, cereal, soy sauce, salad dressing, etc. (Yes, it's ridiculous.) And it took a few (sick) weeks after being diagnosed to fully understand what I could and couldn't eat. My doctor didn't even give me a list of DOs and DON'Ts. So I, being the good millennial that I am, turned to Google, Twitter and Facebook. I messaged my college roommate who was diagnosed with celiac disease (the way-more-serious version of what I have) way back before gluten-free food was "trendy." I found people and bloggers on Twitter. I starting tweeting restaurants asking about gluten-free menus. I was a hungry girl on a mission.

I've always been more drawn to brands that are active on social media, but suddenly I was basing all of my dining decisions on who responded to me on Twitter/Facebook with information about gluten-free dining options and which brands were proactive enough to post allergen information online.

Now, before I travel anywhere -- Chicago included -- I spend a significant amount of time researching where I'll be and what options I have close by. Local bloggers have become incredibly important. So has an app called Find Me Gluten Free. At the NRA Show, I spent a lot of time in the Alternative Bitestyle and organic sections because of how many gluten-free brands were exhibiting. Because of that show, I am now a lifelong fan of Smart Flour Foods' pizza. My go-to lunch spots where I live in Alexandria, Va., are now Chipotle (everything but the flour tortillas), Panera (salads) and Le Pain Quotidien (Six Vegetable Quiche, which has a gluten-free buckwheat crust). Of course, there are a variety of other places I've researched, but these are my big three, where I know pretty much no matter where I am, I can find one and know it's a safe choice.

So word to any restaurants and brands that have gluten-free options: promote the hell out of them. Know your customers and where they get their information. Reach out to local g-free bloggers to do reviews. Call out on your regular menu if a gluten-free menu is available. Hang up signs, even. My husband and I once walked by a restaurant in Arlington, Va., that had a sign advertising gluten-free pizza and beer. I was sold. (You're my new place, Fire Works Pizza!) Proactively search for local Twitter users that are hungry and gluten free and send them your menu. Word-of-mouth marketing is so incredibly important with this group of consumers and you'll certainly see a strong ROI.

All that said, I try to have a sense of humor about my daily quest to eat food that won't leave me ill. It's a difficult task considering how many people -- particularly restaurant workers -- who don't know what gluten is. Case in point below. Enjoy.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Tips for Communicating Better with your Team Members

By: Chad Cohen

Are you satisfied with the level of communication from your team leaders?

I help lead the agency here at Fish and I know that we still have a lot to learn when it comes to communicating the goals and priorities of our organization. It's a healthy self examination because as leaders, we can and should do better when it comes to communication. To create a more engaged and motivated workforce, leaders need to establish effective communication strategies that keep team members abreast of important developments, provide clarity on direction of tactics and provide a means to receive and respond to feedback.

Here are a few approaches that we embrace and think you should take a look at also:

Make it consistent. Good communication requires long-term focus, not just quick hitting tactics.

Communicate through multiple platforms. Traditional one-on-one meetings and emails will always have their place, but embrace the power of technology and social platforms. Video conferencing goes a long way in connecting with remote team members.

Keep lines of communication open. Effective communication can only occur when team members know they have a voice and the ability to express themselves upward.

Implement employee ideas. Simply collecting ideas from your team does little to improve satisfaction if leadership does not use that feedback. If it's good, use it. Great ideas are not the sole property of leaders.

Monday, August 11, 2014

If You Laugh at This, You're Probably a Writer

By: Ashley Rodriguez

"Weird Al" Yankovic never fails to be awesome. Always. And forever.

Enjoy!


Did Foursquare Just Win Me Back?

By; Chad Cohen

The check-in had kind of died for me a while ago. It was relegated to the occasional airport sign-in and maybe if I was at a cool sports event. I paid relatively little attention to where my friends were and was not very interested in the 10% off the local sandwich shop was offering me when I shared that I was in the store buying a turkey sub.

Fast forward to today and Foursquare 8.0 is a lot different. Gone is the dependency on the check-in (moved to a sister-app called Swarm) and in its place is a really great city guide and totally revamped user experience.

When you re-launch it for the first time, you'll be promoted to log in just like you always have, but right afterwards the app begins creating a profile of you by asking what you are into. Coffee, burritos, conch fritters or sea kayaking? Choose as many as you like and Foursquare will know to show you that stuff. It uses the preferences, along with your check-in history, its own ratings and data from other users - to generate recommendations just for you. The more you use it, the smarter the recommendations become according to the app.

It gives you a lot of information and cramming all of that on to your iPhone screen can be challenging, but Foursquare's filters are what make it useful and unique. You can filter by the usual suspects such as cuisine, price and location, but you can even get into the weeds a bit more  by searching for specific features such as Wi-Fi or gluten-free. You can even go into the filters and choose "Places I haven't been" to create even more unique lists or organize by what your friends have recommended, places you've saved, liked or visited. There's even a map view, which provides a cool twist on places to explore.

Have to admit, I don't really miss the check-in, but I'm down to explore more of what the new Foursquare has to offer.

Friday, August 1, 2014

I Got 99 Problems -- That Rebranding Won't Fix

By: Ashley Rodriguez

You know when something really, really bad happens and you wish it was possible to just pack up, change your name, move to a new city and hope no one ever recognizes you? That's what Malaysia Airlines is essentially hoping for after experiencing not one, but two disasters this year.

Media recently reported the airline is considering a name change and a "major rebranding".

But how much will rebranding help? No one anytime soon is going to forget about flights MH370 and MH17. And with the Internet, especially Wikipedia, the history of the company easily can outlive the airline.

You can change logos, planes, crew uniforms and websites and, yes, maybe that will in some psychological way -- that I'm not qualified to explain -- ease people's minds about flying with the "new" Malaysia Airlines. But rebranding won't fix a mechanical issue, a pilot-gone-rogue or a flight path that should never have been flown -- or whatever reasons brought down MH370 and MH17. Malaysia Airlines needs a change in leadership, policy or both.

Recently, Hugh Dunleavy, commercial director for Malaysia Airlines, penned an op-ed in The Telegraph urging authorities to take more responsibility for air travel safety. Which is basically like yelling, "Who approved this?!" when you're looking at the area over which MH17 flew. The answer? Everyone, apparently, but it was still shot down. Rebranding won't fix that. Policy changes will -- whether it's at the airline, local government or aviation association level.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Instagram vs. Vine: Who is Winning?


By: Chad Cohen

Video is here to stay and as it transforms itself into a truly social medium, marketers are asking themselves: Which one is winning? Is Vine better than Intstagram to connect with fans?

The common knock on Vine is it's too short and that the 6-second video is limiting when it comes to storytelling. Instagram on the other hand gives you 15 seconds, some basic editing capabilities and the important ability to upload video created outside of the app. 

Vine has around 40 million users and Instagram has around 250 million. But a closer look will reveal that Instagram is still at its core a photo-sharing app with a video feature. 

The real promise of both is that they don't give just marketers a broadcast channel, but a two-way channel where users can talk back. Smart marketers will create promotions and campaigns that leverage this, because those loyal customers are often your most raving fans. Both platforms also allow for users to pretty easily discover content, use hashtags and integrate well with their parent companies of Twitter and Facebook.     

I guess if I had to choose, I'd pick Instagram for a couple reasons. First, Instagram's audience is bigger and second, the platform offers more flexibility and story-telling advantages. And while we will always be fascinated by platforms and gadgets, there will never be a substitute for great content. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The New Networking: Human Curator


By: Chad Cohen

The LinkedIn invite is the business handshake of our generation. But it's also a bit like Business Speed Dating and the outlet for millions of spammers, trollers and others looking for a shortcut to business success. While social media has made it easier for us to connect like never before, there is still something to be said about being more human when we network. Because no matter how much you tweet, blog and update, nothing in business is as powerful as actual face time with prospective business partners and customers. From Vegas to Hong Kong, Atlanta to Mexico City, here are my five favorite tips for in-person networking:

  1. Speak on Panels - Let's face it, walking up to a complete stranger can sometimes be harder than speaking to a room full of them. The great advantage of being a thought leader in your industry, is that everyone at the event gets to know you and usually those with the most needs for your services will want to meet you following your talk. Focus on educating your audience and communicating your expertise, because no one wants to sit through a sales pitch.
  2. Show Value - People are more likely to connect with you if they think there's something advantageous to them in making a connection with you. It's the classic case of "what's in it for me." Therefore, build relationships first with new connections rather than straight out asking for new business or a new job right away. 
  3. Make Introductions - I love introducing people. If you introduce two people and they hit it off, they will always be grateful to you. And people you have introduced to someone else are more likely to return the favor. 
  4. Be a Good Listener - Listen hard. Rather than talking only about yourself, spend quality time listening to what others have to say and what they are looking for. The more you listen, the more you will learn and the more helpful you can be to the person you are networking with.
  5. Share Your Passion - Win people over with your enthusiasm for what you do. Leave a lasting impression by telling a story about why you work where you do. Talking about what you enjoy is often contagious and can get other people to share their passions while creating memorable two-way conversation. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

How to Deepen Business Loyalty: Be Transparent

By: Chad Cohen

Transparency - that is making the practices, policies, operating procedures, data, and future development ideas available to customers, employees, or even strategic business partners - runs counter to the traditional business model. I would argue that while unconventional, transparency also has the potential to increase loyalty and deepen relationships, reveal problems you might not even be aware of, spur innovation, and increase the value of your core product or service. 

By becoming vulnerable, brands can open up to what they traditionally hide from customers, partners and investors. Talking about these issues openly can even deepen relationships with those often kept at arm's length, even groups within their own company. 

To understand the value of transparency, franchises have to ask the the question: What was someone able to do as a result of new knowledge that they could not have done otherwise? What benefit or value did I get as a result of exposing data? 

It's all well and good to work hard on a project today, tomorrow, next week - but what is it all for? What are we working towards? What do our customers really want from us? How do they want to interact with us? 

Transparency is not just good ethics, it's smart business. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Millennials: Don’t Fear Us, Embrace Us

By: Andie Biederman


Millennial. The simple uttering of the word tends to put people in a tailspin (minus the Gen Y’ers themselves of course, myself included).  Are we a blessing, or are we a curse? Many say millennials have no regard for money, are too attached to technology, are self-centered and the epitome of a narcissistic society, lazy, and the list goes on. But there are those who seem to understand this generation — a generation that has caused quite a stir over the last decade for embracing an overly passionate, open-minded outlook on life.

Let me help you love us. I read an article once in Forbes that called us “globally-minded,” lending support to the idea that we millennials are in fact self-expressive, upbeat, connected and yearn for an existence that is nothing short of grandiose. So what’s wrong with having a little vigor and intensity? When it comes to careers, these attributes are what executives look for in young, budding professionals. The workforce is made for people like us, the go-getting folk who strive for success and seek out opportunity to make an impact, climbing up the ladder as quickly as we can. We have a collaborative mindset, are influenced by pop culture and relevant trends, are adaptive to a variety of environments and appreciate open communications.

So don’t fear us, embrace us. Because we’re sticking around and making moves faster than the blink of an eye.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Avoiding a #PRFail During A Crisis Situation – What Not To Do

By: Rachel Tabacnic


In the wake of the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight #17, there are plenty of ways to handle the situation of addressing the media via television and social media.



According to Ragan’s Daily here’s a list of the five essential questions that should be asked during the first fifteen minutes of a crisis situation, which is better known as the “golden hour”.
  • Focus on the most immediate and pressing issue.
  • Get the facts.
  • Determine who is involved and who needs to be.
  • Identify the community impact. 
  • Know where the media stands.

From today’s situation, it seems like everyone is just starting to get a bearing on what should be addressed during their “golden hour”. At this time, Malaysia Airlines has released a public statement via Twitter addressing the crisis, but what’s next.


What I’ve seen today over television and social media has been total chaos. Everyone is in a frenzy trying to place blame on what took the flight down. In times like this its best to sit and wait for the news to release statements, but when CNN starts showing coverage of people climbing around on the wreck it, doesn’t seem as effective to me. It’s a crime scene and it should be off limits to the public and media at this time.


Also, while I am at it, I really hope that someone determines if the black box has been located instead of going back and forth on Twitter reports they have it. Apparently, Newsweek is the only publication reporting that the box has been found!

It’s hard to believe that Malaysia Airlines has experienced two crashes within in a year of each other. When it comes to situations like this, we always learn from past situations. Here’s an article that shares five lessons that were learned from the last Malayasia Airlines crisis - http://www.ragan.com/Main/Articles/48122.aspx.

Do you think they learned anything from their first go around that they are applying to today’s situation?