What’s HR got to do with PR?

If you’ve ever wondered if a company’s human resources programs have anything to do with their public relations, then let me tell you assuredly that the answer to that question is: Definitely! HR is just one component of your overall PR activities but it is really an important one. Do you have employees? Do they talk about work? What do they say? If you haven’t yet realized, those people you employ are the frontline brand ambassadors of your business or organization. What they are saying about their experience can help or hinder your business. Why would you jeopardize the power that employees have by not training them properly and not providing them with a positive message to take home every day? Positive public relations practices need to permeate everything you do. From the way the phone is answered, how visitors are greeted, and with the behavior throughout your offices. Your employees need to feel natural and pleased to carry out these tasks. When people feel good about their place of employment, their language and demeanor reflect that. Here are a few HR potholes that need to be repaired to foster brand loyalty and positive buzz marketing from the people closest to the product or service they deliver. Onboarding Step one to onboarding a new employee correctly is to coordinate a complete orientation to their new company. Explain the history of the company, the values the founders held when establishing the company, the good things it does in the community, the current mission and vision statements, and every policy an employee might be held responsible for or care about. This is a direct human resources department responsibility and needs to be supported fully by management. Handing over an employee handbook and calling it a welcome is like giving someone a cake mix and calling it a birthday party. There’s no satisfaction in that hollow gesture. Create an orientation that it is a fun experience with relevant information, delivered thoroughly and cheerfully. Ignoring Morale Issues If you ignore a problem, it festers. The bad feelings and complaints spread well beyond the cubicle walls like drug-resistant bacteria. It infects the lunch room, grows rampantly when alcohol is added at happy hour, and of course becomes deadly when shared on social media. Once the complaint is on one of the ever-growing social media platforms, you, the employer, have lost all control of the message. It...
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Best Practices for Conference Call Success

I’m pretty sure I can hear eye rolls on conference calls. The truth is that when we aren’t meeting in person, we get casual and maybe a little unprofessional. There’s usually at least one person who you know has muted the call so they can work on other things. You know this when suddenly he’s asked a question, it takes a minute for him to turn off mute, and then he has no idea what the group was talking about. Be present and respectful to your colleagues. Speaking of respecting your colleagues, don’t schedule a conference call for what could be an email. Wasting people’s time will not win you any favor. Have an agenda sent out prior to the meeting so people are clear about the point of the call. Treat conference calls as seriously and professionally as you would a face-to-face meeting. Above all, be gracious, regardless of your position in the company. Don’t use a conference call, or any meeting, to blindside someone. If you think the data they have submitted is incorrect or incomplete, communicate that with them before the meeting. Don’t use a meeting—in-person or call—to embarrass a peer, or even worse, a subordinate. Here are 10 tips—some obvious and some apparently more challenging: Don’t eat on the phone unless it is a lunch meeting and this has been established before the meeting. Don’t have music playing in the background. Don’t mute unless you have to be in a car or a busy location (airport, restaurant, etc.). Be prepared. Have an agenda and stick to it. Start and end on time. Ask to extend the meeting if it’s necessary to go longer. Identify yourself before you speak. If you have to leave the call early, inform the group. Be kind. McCormick L.A. has been helping organizations and individuals meet their public relations and branding goals for more than 20...
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Creating Brand Ambassadors

On my recent vacation to tour the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, I learned some surprising things about the business of distilling liquor that started with the regulations that determine legitimate bourbon from whiskey and ended with the steps that made me a brand ambassador. I was posting on Facebook constantly throughout our trip and when I did so, Facebook’s location capability would find the distillery on the map and suggest I like that fan page. Turns out, these places, Buffalo Trace in particular, have some really great Facebook feeds featuring some mouth-watering photos of their bourbon recipes that include many desserts. I LIKE the photos, I SHARE the posts and have inadvertently become a brand ambassador. Added to my digital promotion, I bought plenty of merchandise from the distilleries and other Kentucky and Tennessee hotspots. One tradition of ours is to buy a Christmas ornament every place we go on vacation. And you thought a bourbon Christmas ornament was just a fantasy! Fear not … or be fearful, they exist! Beyond the realm of being a Facebook Fan, there are other added incentives for the true bourbon aficionado, including having your name on a barrel that’s still aging at Maker’s Mark. My husband signed up to be a Maker’s Mark ambassador a few years ago. They send him a cute little gift every Christmas like a knitted cap for his bottle. It’s just cute, silly stuff that says, “We appreciate you!” If you are in charge of your business’s promotional efforts, including the social media, then you know that it is not always easy to entice people to LIKE and SHARE posts. Here are a few tips that Kentucky distillers taught me about recruiting brand ambassadors. They successfully recruited me and I barely realized what was happening. 1. You need an online presence. There’s no staying in the shadows these days and hoping to keep a viable following and loyal stream of customers. People use their smartphones more and more and if you can’t be found, that’s a problem. Make sure the information online is correct. If you have moved locations, make sure you change that on all platforms—Foursquare, Yelp, Google, etc. 2. When people do visit your business, make sure they have a great experience, even if they don’t buy anything. There were tours and tastings that were better than others, but all of the staff were hospitable and...
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Reap What You Sow, and So and So …

This is a picture of the side of my house. The most neglected side of our property, for sure. That thing growing maniacally is a tomato plant. One that we did not plant. Upon spotting this unusual growth and learning that we really need to pay more attention to this side of the house, I realized a few other things that can be applied to business and life in general. Intention and Results First, it struck me as funny that my daughter had planted tomatoes from seeds in tiny cups in a window this spring. Once they sprouted and seemed like they could endure the great outdoors, she planted them in our garden on the other side of the house. It wasn’t long—maybe a week—before the birds or other critters had snatched away the sprouts leaving nothing behind. That the intention was to grow tomatoes and there are tomatoes growing on our property is what we wanted. That the tomatoes grew by means wholly unknown to us, is startling. Things like this happen all the time and it’s okay. Life just doesn’t always follow the path we expect or that we are trying to pave for the result. The key is to keep your eye on the result and not worry about who gets the credit or how the route changed. We have tomatoes and that’s what matters, right? Persistence We don’t know how long this rogue tomato plant had been trying to grow over there but it succeeded. The seeds that my daughter planted and nurtured inside for a few weeks were decimated quickly with no sign that anything was ever planted there before. Where did the seeds for this plant come from? Did they blow down the corridor between the house and the block fence? Did some mysterious gardener plant them as a gift? And does it matter? I don’t think it does, but it is mysterious. Conditions That this tomato plant did so well is certainly amazing considering there is no water source over there, the soil is little more than silt, and hardly any sun shines over there until the late afternoon, and then it is blazing. Evidently, the critters have yet to venture over there—at least critters who would be interested in tomato plants. Somehow the ideal conditions naturally converged and tomatoes emerged. Neglect or Freedom? That we had no idea this plant was growing...
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Insights of Your Success – How Do You Measure Up?

How do you know whether your promotional efforts are working? Of course, the answer is that you have to measure your success somehow. You have to ask your customers and potential customers. Most importantly, you have to be proactive and put those measurement techniques in place when you start. I asked my friend and colleague Laura Keene of Keene Insights a few questions to share with you. Laura is a self-proclaimed data geek, and an expert researcher–she’s definitely the right person to answer these questions and help your company or organization investigate your successes, not just in promotion. Just to make it simple to follow along, I’ve labeled my questions McLA and her answers KI, and the answers are in blue. McLA: One objective that almost all of my clients state is “to increase awareness.” I urge them to be more specific and develop an outcome that is easier measured (e.g. increase sales, donations, requests for a consultation). But some insist that this is all they want. How would you suggest a local nonprofit or entrepreneur measure this kind of nebulous objective? KI: Well, first and foremost, I have to say that I agree, it’s a good idea to take it a step further. Once a person knows more about the company or the cause, what do you want them to do with that information? That outcome may be more important and a better measure of success. That said, ‘increased awareness’ can be a first step toward action and may be helpful to measure. Assuming there is a web-based component to the work, some decent proxies (estimates) for awareness that can be easy to collect are: Website traffic (number of visits, time spent on the website, number of pages visited) Social media engagement (number of followers, number of shares, number reached) Blog subscriptions and visits Downloads of materials Mentions of the company/cause across platforms/websites (paper newsletter subscriptions) You can track these using built-in analytic features and see if they are increasing. Just be wary of focusing too much on ‘how do we get people to come to the website/facebook/twitter/other.’ Remember, these are just proxies or estimates for what you’re really looking to change, which is awareness. You may also want to consider asking people whether they’re aware of the company/cause directly. This requires getting access to a decent number of current and potential clients/supporters. You can partner with another organization...
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