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Executive announcement news releases – productivity wasters or useful PR tools?

Back when I was working for other people, I had a job where I had to write and post a steady stream of executive announcements.

Oh, you know the drill: “Gary Jones joins Company X as executive vide president of ya-da-ya-da-ya-da.”

If you’ve been in the PR business for any length of time, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Exec Announcement

These news releases are then sent out in hopes of liberal “pick up.” (read: very short mentions in newspapers, magazines and web sites in your industry).

Sounds easy and pain-free, right?

Except here’s the thing: It’s not. In fact, not only is it not easy and pain-free, it’s actually very painFUL.

I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.

Allow me to walk you through the process, as I remember it (it’s been a while–bear with me).

First, the executive team shares the news with you that a new EVP will join its ranks. You are tasked with writing a news release on the announcement.

You write said news release–probably takes you a couple hours in terms of researching and writing.

Then, you submit the release for approvals.

And, the fun begins.

Your executive team weighs in.

One by one.

Each one has changes.

Some of the changes actually contradict one another.

Some then have additional changes when they’ve seen what their colleagues change.

The CEO even has changes. And, their nit-picky, small changes.

You revise.

You submit for final approval.

Again, individual executives weigh in.

It’s like they didn’t even see it the first time.

They tweak the headline.

They insist “executive vice president of ya-da-ya-da-ya-da” should be capitalized.

They change their minds. Again.

You revise. Again.

You submit for final approval. Again.

The CEO says she has a few more final changes. Calls you into her office.

You revise. Again.

You submit for approval. Again.

Legal says they’d like to review. They have changes.

You revise, because, well, it’s legal and you like your job.

You submit for final approval.

Your boss weighs in. She hasn’t responded to other emails because she’s been traveling.

You revise again.

You submit for final approval.

Finally, mercifully, it’s approved.

You distribute with media.

All told, the process takes two weeks. It also took upwards of 15 hours including time to research, write and seek approvals.

15 hours.

So, here’s my question: Are these corporate exec announcements a complete waste of productive time? Or, do they have some semblance of value in today’s information-rich climate?

It’s a tough question.

On one hand, there’s little doubt these types of news releases are supreme time-wasters. The example above is hardly an exaggeration. In fact, I’m quite sure I’ve lived it a few times in the past.

On the other hand, these types of announcements do get picked up. They do make a difference (albeit a small one). And, most importantly, they are HUGE ego strokes for your executive partners.

In fact, I might argue that’s the number-one reason these types of announcements even get written.

It’s all about ego. My name in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The Business Journal. The Wall Street Journal.

So, from that perspective, maybe this whole thing is worth the time. After all, relationships are key to our roles. And, keeping our executive partners happy is pretty darn important.

But man, I could really use those 15 hours for a few other tasks…

photo credit: 150902-D-HU462-021 via photopin (license)

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How–and why–I changed my social media sharing and participation habits

I’ve been hearing and talking a lot lately with folks about the way people are creating and sharing differently on social networks.

Much has been written recently about Facebook, in particular, and how fewer people are creating and sharing content there–and what that could mean for the future of Facebook (and social media, in general).

SM Sharing

So, I started thinking about how I create and share on social these days. And, as I reflected, I realized a lot of my views and opinions have changed over the last few years. And, as a result, my actions have changed, too.

Overall, I’ve definitely trended toward creating and sharing less–which, according to many reports, is part of the trend.

For me, my behaviors have changed for a few different reasons:

Family activities have ramped up.

As our kids get older, family and kid activities are taking off. Basketball practices, gymnaastics, more studying, band concerts. It all adds up. And it all takes priority over sharing the latest moment on Facebook. When my kids were younger, it was actually easier to be more active online. They went to bed earlier. They didn’t have as many activities. I had some degree of “downtime.” That’s over and done with now 🙂

My life really isn’t that interesting.

No really. Here’s my life right now: Work. Sleep. Kid stuff. Maybe golf. So, unless you want a steady stream of pics of me on the golf course, there’s not a lot for me to share (visually, at least). I know this was a key part of the discussion as social media started to gain popularity–who cares what you’re eating for lunch? Why do I need to see 40 pics of your new baby? Maybe some of that has caught up with me. Maybe I want a little of my privacy back. It might be a combo platter. Whatever the case, I just don’t believe I have as much to share as I did 3-5 years ago.

I don’t want to add to the noise.

Sure, I definitely have opinions on a number of topics. Truth be told, I probably have too many opinions and too many topics. But, so too does everyone else. And sometimes I just feel like I’m adding to the noise around a particular topic. This is why I look for specific topics and themes to comment on within Facebook these days (sports, golf, personal stuff). I usually tend to stay away from politics completely. I tend to stay away from the “topic of the day”. Sure, I discuss key topics as they relate to PR/marketing–but my approach there has changed, too. 3-5 years ago, I would pile on to the conversations my peers are having on Twitter and Facebook each day. Today, I’m just getting a little tired of it. Case in point, the recent “should brands tweet when a celebrity passes away” conversation. We’ve been having that discussion for 5-7 years now–AT LEAST. I’m completely bored with it. My opinion has not changed. And, neither has the discussion. Again–I just don’t want to add to the noise.

I was an early adopter.

For the early adopters (like me), Facebook and Twitter are now going on 7-9 years old. That’s 7-9 years of constantly posting and creating content. That has wore me down the last year or so. The first few years, it was super fun and exciting. We were breaking new ground. We were blazing new trails. Now, it seems like work. It’s heavy. It’s hard. It’s not as fun. Huge bummer.

So, what does my social sharing and participation look like today? It’s actually pretty simple. I’m actually still producing almost the same amount of content as I was 3-5 years ago–I’m just “participating” less. Here’s my routine/approach.

Still blogging 2-3 times per week.

I’m still writing 2-3 blog posts per week. If you’re a blogger/writer, you know how much work that is. Nothing to sneeze at. I’m still putting in 8-12 hours per week on the blog. I continue to do this for two big reasons: 1) I have to–it’s a big part of my job and new business strategy, and 2) I LOVE to write. I started this blog because I love to write. And that’s why I continue it each week.

Sharing and repurposing blog posts on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn

All part of the blog “promotion” process–share on Twitter and Facebook, and repurpose some posts on my personal profile on LinkedIn. This participation and sharing is minimal.

Posting pics on vacations/trips on Instagram

Besides the “big three”, the other social network I participate on is Instagram. And 80 percent of my Instagram involvement these days comes on vacations. I might post once in two weeks, but I’ll post 15 pics in 3 days on a long weekend up north. I mean, if you’ve been to the North Shore, you know why. And, I’m taking my family to Yellowstone in four weeks. So, get ready for about 456 pics of buffalo, bears and moose in a week-long span 🙂

Bulk of time = scanning/lurking

The irony is I spend the bulk of my social media “participation” time these days lurking. I’m constantly scanning Facebook and LinkedIn for articles and tidbits I can use for: 1) The Talking Points Podcast, 2) The Talking Points e-newsletter, 3) Clients, 4) Professional development/learning, and 5) Personal interest. This is the flip. 3-5 years ago, I was actively involved on Twitter and Facebook. I was posting much more on Instagram. Today, I’m a total lurker. I’m not a “content creator” on social networks. I’m a contributor. A scanner.

I’m sure my sharing and participation approach will continue to morph and change. For now, like I said, I’m happy being a lurker and semi-regular contributor of longer-form content. Maybe that will shift again soon. After all, my kids are now 8 and 11. They’ll undoubtedly be on Snapchat soon. Who knows, maybe I’ll become a “Snapchat influencer”, make my millions and retire to the North Shore.

Stranger things have happened.

photo credit: Open Space with Ron via photopin (license)

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The most essential–and overlooked–skill in PR

With a headline like that, you might expect me to talk about something like media relations skills, or video editing skills, or maybe even writing skills.

But, while all those skills are essential and key to today’s PR counselor, what I’m thinking about is actually more more basic.

But still just as essential.

Typewriter

Typing.

No, I’m not talking about typing on your iPhone. I’m talking about typing on an actual keyboard.

Yes, typing is the most essential and overlooked skill in PR.

Think about it.

According to most experts, a “competent” typist can type in the 40 words per minute range.

Pros can type in the 70-80 words a minute range. I was curious how I ranked, so I took a quick test–turns out, I’m pretty fast (78 words per minute!).

Now, those who never learned to type are relegated to the “hunt and peck” method. While I’ve seen some people perfect this method and actually type pretty darn fast, the truth is it’s generally slower than those who use the “touch” method (a technique you probably learned in high school or college).

So, let’s do the math. The average “hunt and peck” typist probably types in the 20-30 words per minute range. Meanwhile, I’m typing in the 70-80 words a minute range.

Let’s say you had to type up a 2,000 word blog post. According to my math, that would take me 28 minutes to complete at 70 words per minute.

The hunt and peck typist? An hour and forty minutes.

I saved a whopping hour and ten minutes just because I knew how to type.

Talk about productivity advantages.

Now, think about how much you actually type in a given day.

Emails.

Memos.

Blog posts.

News releases.

Feature stories for the intranet.

I mean, isn’t our ENTIRE day spent typing? If we’re not in meetings, we’re working at our desks. Which means, we’re typing.

So, typing is a skill we practice every single day. And, depending on your job, it may be the skill you use most in your day.

So, most essential and overlooked skill in PR? Am I right?

photo credit: 6313 Emporium Window via photopin (license)

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PR Rock Stars: HealthFitness’ Andy Jacobson

A few weeks ago, a colleague recommended to me that I feature more experienced pros within this series from time to time. Maybe I had gotten a bit *too* focused on our millennial audience in 2016. But, rest assured, I certainly haven’t forgotten about our more senior-level counselors, as I’ve showcased people like Betsy Anderson, Holly Spaeth, Richie Escovedo, and Melissa Berggren (now Melissa Voronyak), in the past.

And today, I wanted to add another experienced counselor to that list: Andy Jacobson. Now, Andy is a client. So, you could construe this post as Arik keeping a client happy. Except, that’s not what it is at all. I got to know Andy about a year ago when we started working together. What we soon discovered is that we have a number of common interests–chief among them: Great TV shows!

Let’s hear about Andy Jacobson:

Andy_Jacobson_L

You’ve spent the bulk of your career working on the agency side. You’ve worked for large agencies and smaller shops. What do you see as the pros and cons of each?

I never worked for an agency that only did PR so was fortunate to experience public relations within the context of other agency disciplines.  That being said, the larger agencies tend to “get” PR more and when you’re in a smaller shop with people who are more schooled in the traditional ad agency way of thinking, it presents some great opportunities for educating colleagues on what PR brings to the table. Fortunately the rise of content marketing has blurred the divisions even further and I believe will help people who work at agencies be less siloed in their thinking and work.

You’ve made the transition to the client side quite well, if I do say so myself. You’ve been at HealthFitness for just over a year, and you’ve already earned a promotion. What have been the keys to your success in making that transition? And, what were the biggest challenges?

I’m very fortunate at HealthFitness in that from day one I truly was able to embrace the brand; understand why I was there and how I could help contribute to the company’s vision and success.  It also helps to have passionate co-workers who literally see their work as helping make a lasting difference in people’s lives. And coming from the agency side, I don’t think I ever will be able to shake the client mentality. Not only do I treat my colleagues like clients, I also very much empathize with my colleagues who work in client service; I get their world and it has enabled me to build trust and demonstrate value.

You oversee PR+social for HealthFitness, an organization that plays in the wellness space. What trends do you see currently impacting that PR+social arena, especially from a B2B perspective?

I would imagine it’s no different than what peers of mine observe in their field. It’s about finding that balance – staying current, knowing where the industry is heading but also recognizing from a day-to-day level what works (and of course, doesn’t really work) and educating your internal stakeholders (clients, like I indicated previously). Especially with social media, my goal is to have an answer prepared for the “Why should I care?” question.

You’re also a fellow blogger! You’ve been blogging at shishkabobgirldad since 2012. Why did you start your blog, and how has it impacted your day job?

Andy J 2

It began as a way to hone my chops but evolved into so much more. I found myself at a point in my career where I was writing less and missed it. But starting the blog ultimately turned into an amazing educational experience. I learned about finding your voice, being authentic, posting with the right amount of frequency, what makes people react (or as the case may be, not react) to certain content. This helped inform my recommendations to clients when I was on the agency side and my peers and key HealthFitness stakeholders in my current position. When I provide counsel on content strategy or weigh in on the content development, I’m often calling upon personal experiences.

Much like me, you also repost your blog posts on LinkedIn–with much success. What have you seen/learned on LinkedIn that you didn’t see/learn on your blog? Especially since your blog is more personal in nature.

The key learning is that where you engage with content is almost as important as the content itself. Many people who read my posts on Facebook know me (or knew me years ago) on a personal level; there is a built in comfort level. But the content on LinkedIn (even though primarily the same) often is read with people who know me mostly on a professional basis. They’re engaging (or not engaging) because of the content itself and I believe they perceive it much differently. With LinkedIn you also see this engagement by proxy, which I find tremendously rewarding. I’ll come upon someone who liked a post of mine or commented on it, for example, who I don’t know at all but they saw someone in my network respond to the content. It really puts the onus on you as a writer to be truthful to yourself, always, while remaining mindful of who is reading your content.

Let’s get to the tough questions: What’s the best TV show you’ve watched in 2016 so far? And what are your top three series of all time?

I was very impressed with The People Vs. OJ Simpson. Great acting and a really gripping look at a key moment in our modern culture where we’re still feeling the repercussions. 

As for Top 3, I would list Sons of Anarchy, The Wire and The Shield. A common thread is that each of these shows features antiheroes – morally compromised individuals that we somehow root for – possibly because we see a bit of ourselves in them. And each features tremendous dialogue writing and plot development.  

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The Skimm: THE case study for employee social advocacy

By now, I’m guessing 99.9 percent of you have heard about The Skimm.

In large part, that’s because they have a virtual army of “Skimmbassadors’ helping share their message–literally, and figuratively.

6,000-plus Skimmbassadors, to be exact (according to the founders).

In fact, that’s really how most people have heard about the The Skimm. By word of mouth. The Skimm only has 15 full-time employees, so the Skimmbassadors have been a HUGE part of publisher’s success over the last couple years.

The Skimm Logo

Go ahead ask 10 friends if they read the Skimm. My guess is you’ll get at least eight people who RAVE about it (mostly women, according to the founders).

The Skimmbassador Program may be the best example I’ve seen of an employee social advocacy program. And the organization didn’t use a “social media advocacy software solution” to get it done. I know, BIG surprise.

So, why is the Skimmbassador Program so successful? And how did they pull it off without the use of one of these “innovative” software programs I hear so much about (can you sense the sarcasm yet?)? Let’s dive in:

What Skimm does: Give Skimmbassadors free stuff

The Skimm is constantly giving its Skimmbassadors free merch. Sure, some of it is standard promotional items like Skimm t-shirts and Skimm tote bags. Those aren’t sexy, but you’d be surprised how much people like free stuff (for evidence: Just visit the MN State Fair sometime). But, The Skimm does more than just hand out a free bottle opener every once in a while. Reportedly, they offer up free trips to NYC to meet their team for Skimmbassadors who refer a ton of new Skimmers.

Brand lesson: Never underestimate the power of free stuff. Especially if said “free stuff” is either cool or useful. I can’t help but think about professional sports teams–like the Minnesota Twins. What do they do every game day at Target Field? Give away free stuff! Specifically, bobbleheads (before certain games). People LINE UP to get these free bobbleheads. And, then they post them on their mantles or in their man caves for all to see. Does that lead to more season tickets purchased? Not necessarily. But, I can almost guarantee it’s leading to more brand affinity for our favorite baseball team (after all, how do you account for tens of thousands of people showing up at the park each night for a team as putrid as the Twins?!?!).

What Skimm does: Make Skimmbassadors feel like they’re part of an ultra-exclusive club

Every employee advocacy blog post or article you’ll read will state this claim. The key is execution. The Skimm does a lot right here. They organize a quarterly call for Skimmbassadors where they can connect and learn about what’s coming next. They have a private Facebook group to do the same. They even have a special web page devoted exclusively to updates and Skimm news. If that’s not enough, they also organize face-to-face meetups called “Sip and Skimms” that allow Skimmbassadors to get together in different cities. Now, are those all obvious things for the Skimm to do? Certainly. But, if it was so damn obvious, how come everyone else isn’t doing it? Execution, my friends. Execution.

Brand lesson: Focus squarely on execution when it comes to making your biggest employee advocates feel the love. Focus on the little things. The personal notes. The extra special giveaways. The time your CEO might spend on a quick phone call to them. Those little things all add up. Those little things ARE execution.

What Skimm does: Give Skimmbassadors the spotlight

Skimm Bdays

It’s a subtle little thing, but in each issue of the Skimm you’ll find a list of the birthdays of all the Skimmbassadors for that day. Is that a tough thing for The Skimm to do? Hardly. Does it go a long ways to building trust and affinity? Absolutely. Why? Because what’s more important to people than their birthday? Answer: Not much.

Brand lesson: It doesn’t have to be recognizing employees’ birthdays–but it does have to be about recognition. After all, everyone likes to be recognized. Everyone. So, think about little ways you can recognize your employee advocates. A thank you note. A profile on the intranet. A small gift for a job well done. It all adds up.

What Skimm does: Give Skimmbassadors the chance to feel like they’re one of the first to do something.

Skimm Insider

I have no real proof here, but I have a feeling one of the absolute key reasons the Skimmbassador program has been so successful is because it’s like an insider club. And, then by recruiting others to join, you seem uber-cool by default. That’s a feeling people LOVE! And, I see it in almost every Skimmbassador I meet/talk to. I mean, just look at the post above from my friend, Laura Kaslow. How many of these kinds of posts did you see when The Skimm launched this new app a couple weeks ago? Total insider club mojo here. Who doesn’t like that feeling of being with the “cool kids.” That’s what the Skimmbassador program has captured. That’s magic in a bottle.

Brand lesson: The real key to a successful employee advocacy campaign isn’t the software or platform–it’s the sense that this is something really cool, and you got an invite to be a part of it. Locally, here in Minnesota, I think about Prince. For years, Prince would “organize” late-night jam sessions out at Paisley Park. It was widely known, except it wasn’t widely known. And, it certainly wasn’t advertised broadly. You just had to show up and hope he opened his doors that night (at 2-4 a.m., mind you). But, people did it. Regularly. Why? Because they wanted to feel like they were the only ones to be doing something *really* cool. That’s the same feeling you want to capture with employees as part of an employee advocacy program.

 

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