Tips for Picking the Right Influencer for Your Influencer Marketing Strategy

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It is no secret that influencer marketing has become one of the most popular go-to buzzwords in the industry, in the last few years. Mediakix has noted that “Marketers are discovering that one of the best ways to target audience groups, drive awareness and elicit engagement across social channels is by creating innovative advertising partnerships with select social media influencers.” Hubspot also noted that 71 percent of consumers are more likely to make a purchase based on a social media reference. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding – i.e. influencer marketing is big business and it works.

A few months ago, I wrote about the benefits of businesses and brands investing in influencer marketing. However, one of the most important factors in achieving a successful influencer marketing strategy is to have the right influencer. So with that said, here are a few tips for picking the right influencer for your influencer marketing strategy.

  1. Relevance – This is quite possibly the most obvious and most important factor in picking the right influencer for your business and/or brand’s influencer marketing strategy. And yet, many companies fail at it. Finding an influencer who is relevant to your business/brand means knowing and understanding what your goals and objectives are for your influencer marketing strategy in the first place, knowing and understanding your audience and knowing and understanding that it is not a one size fits all with influencers. There are many different types of influencers that all come with their own unique voice and influence.

 

  1. It’s Not Always about the Big Numbers – As noted in my previous blog post about the benefits of influencer marketing, while the number of followers a potential influencer has is important, it is not always the most important thing and sometimes is not an accurate indicator of their influence. An influencer’s follower count indicates the extent of the influencer’s reach. However, it doesn’t always indicate the level of engagement and that is key because engagement is a true indicator of an influencer’s power. It is of little use for a brand and business to have an influencer who has a million followers but they are inactive followers. That is, they do not comment, retweet the tweets, repost the images, engage with the influencer at all, versus someone who has 200,000 followers who actively engage with everything they post, i.e. sharing it, reposting it, commenting, etc.

 

  1. Credibility – Another one of the most important factors in picking the right influencer for your business and brand is the credibility of the influencer and/or influencers you pick. Just like the case of using spokespeople for your brand, it is important to vet any potential influencer to ensure that there has not been any questionable social media behavior by them in the past, e.g. attempts to mislead or defraud followers, etc.

 

  1. Past Relationships of Influencer – Piggybacking off the previous point, in researching any potential influencer for your business and/or brand, it is important to consider any past partnerships, relationships, etc. they have in the past that may conflict with your brand and your message. For example, have they been advocates for brands or businesses that do not align with the kind of message that your business stands for and represents? Were they loud advocates for one of your biggest competitors? Because if so, your audience will likely not trust their sudden change of heart in advocating for you. Not to mention that the influencer themselves may lose credibility with their audience and by that token, no longer be as effective.

 

  1. Know What Type of Content You Want to Create – Finally, tying back to your influencer marketing goals and strategies, it is important to know exactly what type of relationship you want with your potential influencer and/or influencers, before deciding on someone. For example, do you plan to hand over complete creative control to an influencer in advocating for your brand, or are you looking for someone to share content that you create or will it be a collaborative partnership where you and the influencer jointly decide on the content that will be shared? Knowing where you stand on these issues is key to picking the right influencer and avoiding a potentially negative experience and partnership.

Is Snapchat Right For Your Organization?

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In just five short years, since its launch in 2011, Snapchat has quickly risen to one of the most popular social media platforms. Current data lists its average number of daily active users between 100 – 150 million, (second only to Facebook and far surpassing Twitter in daily usage). More people are aware of and use Snapchat than Pinterest and LinkedIn, which have both been around longer. However, despite this impressive growth, many organizations continue to be wary of the popular app as a social media channel for their business and their brand.

It is important to remember that it is not necessary for an organization to be on every social media channel. In fact, doing so can increase the risk of spreading your company resources too thin, resulting in not enough time and effort being allocated to any one channel. Also, every social media channel has its pros and cons, which means deciding to invest time and resources in any means deciding if that channel aligns with your organization. This is based on a number of factors including – your organization goals and objectives, your audience, the type of content you want to produce, your resources, etc.

So should your organization invest in Snapchat to promote your brand and help benefit your bottom line? Let us consider a few pros and cons of the popular app.

Pros

Works in Real Time – The key unique selling point of Snapchat is the time sensitive nature of the content created, i.e. posts and videos disappear after a few seconds. While the creators have since added the Story function that allows snaps to last up to 24-hours, the temporary nature of any content created continues to make Snapchat a tool that works best in real time and that can be a good thing for businesses. It allows organizations to communicate any important news about the company to their audience immediately and it can also increase engagement through promotions and discounts that require followers to act quickly because it will expire as quickly as it appeared.

One to One Engagement – Unlike many other social media channels, e.g. Facebook and Twitter, Snapchat does not have a status update option and by that token a timeline of posts. Snaps are seen individually by those who follow the account and who cannot tell who the other recipients of the snaps are. As a result, this helps to foster something of an intimate, one on one feeling between an organization and its audience. This can be particularly appealing for small businesses with a very niche and close-knit customer base.

User-Generated Content & User Engagement – One of biggest appeals of Snapchat for users is the ability to create their own content they can have fun with and manipulate in different ways. Organizations can take advantage of this by encouraging their followers and audience to create videos or take pictures that demonstrate their use of the organization’s product(s), why they love said product, why they love the brand or the organization and much more. Having contests that award the most creative content will also appeal to followers. This increases not only audience engagement but user-generated content as well.

Can Influence Search and Drive Traffic – Organizations can influence search and drive traffic to their websites through the use of Snapchat, as long as they are smart about it. As is the case with most social media channels, it always helps to promote one via another. Cross promoting and cross-linking channels can help increase followers and engagement on all channels and also help solve some of the negatives of one channel. For example, using the short length of Snapchat videos, organizations can create a teaser using a 10-second snap that then encourages followers to view in its entirety on their YouTube account.

Helps Create Your Story – One of the most important goals of any organization is to tell its story. If an organization cannot really explain or show who they are, it makes it very hard for their audience to truly connect with them. Snapchat’s appropriately titled Story function helps users do exactly that – tell a story. If organizations are smart and strategic in their approach to using the tool, they can create some very interesting and compelling content that gives their audience good insight into who they are as a business and as a brand. The channel is particularly good for behind the scenes sneak peeks at organizations and brands, the organizational culture, employees and more. Fashion label Burberry did this brilliantly before debuting their 2016 Spring Collection at New York Fashion Week. In the days leading up to the show, the fashion house gave fans sneak peeks of the clothes that would be debuted, they showed the models gearing up for the show and featured Vogue Editor-in-Chief, Anna Wintour. The campaign worked to help build excitement and anticipation for the new collection.

Important Insights – One of the most commonly stated negatives of Snapchat is its limitations regarding measurement. While this is true, there are two important insights organizations can measure or at least gauge, based on the unique qualities of Snapchat. One is their audience on the channel. Snapchat makes it very difficult for individuals to lurk. While one can just search for an organization’s name on Facebook or Instagram and see their content without actually following them, with Snapchat, you have to follow an account to view its content. Therefore, organizations can know exactly who is following them, which can also tell them who is at least interested enough to want to see their content. Another unique aspect of Snapchat is individuals have to click on the content to view it, which also shows an interest level.

Cons

Limitations in Measurement – As stated above, there are some limitations in measuring the success of Snapchat. There is currently no defined data tracking attached to the app or an external online tool, which makes it challenging for organizations to accurately measure its success or failure to their bottom line. Unlike Facebook or Twitter, Snapchat currently does not offer targeted and detailed analytics. And although organizations can measure impressions in terms of how many people opened the snaps, it is difficult to know how many actually watched it because individuals can fast-forward through the videos. Most importantly, because the content is time-sensitive, it is difficult for organizations to accurately measure how engaged individuals were with it, as is the case with Facebook posts or Instagram posts or Tweets which can be liked, re-tweeted, shared, etc. In terms of the sales process, Snapchat currently does not offer any type of user click or tracking that could direct an individual to a specific landing page so as to start them down the sales process and help establish prospects and/or leads.

Time-Sensitive – As the old adage goes, “it is both a gift and a curse”. The same element that makes Snapchat unique, is the same element that may be a downside for many organizations and brands trying to promote themselves using the app. While the element of communicating in real time has its appeal, many organizations may still not view the app as a worthwhile investment, when all the content they create will disappear, thus making it difficult to curate. There are ways to save snaps that can then be shared on other social media channels for a longer shelf life. However, that may beg the question of why not just simply use those channels instead?

Limited Two-Way Engagement – While it is true that one has to choose to see a snap, which at the least proves they were interested enough to click, there are still limitations for organizations to know just how truly engaged their audience was with the content. There are tips and ideas for encouraging engagement, such as asking viewers to take a screenshot of something in response to a snap but these options are significantly limited in comparison to other channels that offer the ability to share, like, retweet and repost the content. This limited two-way engagement also restricts interaction between an organization’s followers and non-followers, which makes it difficult to reach a new audience via sharing of content.

Niche Audience – Although Snapchat has significantly increased in active users in the past few years, its audience is still fairly niche, with an average of 70 percent female who are mostly between the ages of 18 to 34. This is great for an organization whose key target audience falls within that range but for an organization whose key audience may be males who are between the ages of 45-60, they understandably might wonder what benefit could there be for them in using Snapchat.

Competition, Thy Name Is Instagram Story – In August 2016, Instagram introduced a new feature to its popular channel, called stories. The new feature allows users to create videos and take pictures to build a slideshow that lasts for 24 hours. Sounds a lot like another channel, doesn’t it? Almost immediately, social media experts, influencers and, opinion leaders were wondering what the Instagram Stories feature would mean for Snapchat and its future. While it’s certainly far too early to tell if there has or will be any significant effect on Snapchat, it is hard to ignore that this move by Instagram throws a wrench in the former’s sail, particularly as it attacks the thing that makes Snapchat most unique. That is its short, quick and disappearing content.  While Snapchat’s growth has been incredibly impressive and exponential, Instagram still has 400 million users to the former’s 150 million. Given the choice to invest in another channel, many organizations may just decide to stick to the channel they’ve already established a presence on, had success with, especially since it now offers a feature similar to what Snapchat does.

Bottom line, should your organization add Snapchat as one of the channels in your social media marketing strategy? As previously stated, every channel has its pros and cons and it is up to you and your team to consider what your goals and objectives are, what audience you’re trying to reach, your brand identity and persona and more, and decide if what Snapchat offers aligns with those factors.

Originally published in PRNews: The Book of Social Media Strategies & Tactics  Vol. 2

What’s in the Air? (United Airlines Image Crisis)

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By now, we’ve probably all seen the video – a man forcibly being dragged from his seat and off a United Airlines flight. To say the video was disturbing would be an understatement and naturally, it immediately sparked a huge backlash against the airline company. The incident occurred less than a month after the airline found itself at the center of a Twitter backlash, after Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, tweeted that the two gate agents for the airline would not let two young girls board a flight, because they were wearing leggings.

While public opinion of the latter incident was a bit divisive, especially when it was explained that the two girls were pass customers and not paying customers, the double whammy of that incident and this latest one has made for a very negative and P.R. nightmare for the airline company. As this past week came to a close, the airline saw its stock fall by 4 percent. However, what made this recent incident particularly damaging for United Airlines is the very tone deaf response of its CEO Oscar Munoz.

Ironically, just a little over a month prior to this incident, Munoz was named Communicator of the Year by PR Week for, according to editors, being “An excellent leader who understands the value of PR”. Munoz’ response to the airline’s current PR crisis certainly makes one call the former statement into question.

I have written quite a bit about crisis communication on this blog, always reiterating the four key steps of crisis management that all organizations and businesses must adhere to in the face of any PR crisis. No matter the incident or issue, an organization should always remember to 1) do not hide, 2) be timely in response, 3) avoid being defensive and 4) explain why it won’t happen again. While United and Munoz did two of these things correctly – namely not hiding and being timely in their response, they failed at one of the most important rules, i.e. avoid being defensive. More importantly, they made one of the biggest follies of crisis management – dismissing or blaming the victim and not offering a sincere apology.

The first comment on the matter from the airline came in the form of a tweet, which stated, “Flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville was overbooked. After our team looked for volunteers, one customer refused to leave”. Naturally, this outraged many, as it seemed to suggest that the individual being dragged off the plane was at fault.

Next, Munoz made his first statement on the matter, which was also posted on the airline’s official twitter page. In the statement, the CEO referred to the situation as upsetting and stated that the company was reaching out to the passenger. However, it’s Munoz’ apology for having to “re-accommodate these customers” that sparked outrage from some individuals. Many commented that the sentence read as dismissive of the gravity of the situation and that instead, the whole incident was merely an inconvenience to some customers.

The greatest backlash came when an internal letter sent by Munoz to United employees, went public. In the letter, Munoz is quoted as saying, “As you will read, this situation was unfortunately compounded when one of the passengers we politely asked to deplane refused and it became necessary to contact Chicago Aviation Security Officers to help. Our employees followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this.” Once again, to many, the statement read as blaming the victim and that the CEO was essentially saying that violently and forcibly dragging a paying customer off their plane was completely within their right to do so. Naturally, this did not sit well with many and the public outcry against the airline intensified.

Since then, Munoz has put out two more statements, each more conciliatory than the previous one and the airline has now vowed to change crew flight policy. However, the damage has been done and it may take a little while for the bleeding to stop.

This was a horrible situation in many ways but Munoz and the company’s initial response is another compelling study of why the first few hours of any crisis are the most important and why those initial public responses are so crucial. United was faced with a very damaging situation, particularly because there was visual evidence. The public reading about a man being forcibly removed from a plane is no way as damaging as the visual of a bespectacled, middle-aged man being dragged violently, as he’s screaming and bleeding, off a plane.

That visual alone should have alerted the airline company to the fact that this was a very delicate issue that they needed to navigate cautiously and with as much sensitivity and empathy as possible.  However, they didn’t do that. Rather, their first reaction was to go on the defensive and point the finger at the victim.

Not many individuals are going to initially side with a billion-dollar company over a vulnerable looking man seemingly being violently dragged. And United and Munoz should have been perceptive enough to realize this. The good news for United is that so far, tickets for the airline have not declined. That may change of course but as of right now, I’m sure any positive news is a great thing for the company. Still, the damage to the airline’s reputation has been done and that damage may cost them a lot more in the long run.

How Effectively Did The Academy Handle Oscars Mix-Up?

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It was the Oscar moment seen and heard around the world – La La Land was incorrectly announced as the winner of Best Picture, after presenters, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were inexplicably handed the wrong envelope.  Social media immediately went crazy and the press was all over it in the days that followed.

More importantly, it was an extremely embarrassing moment for The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and possibly one of the most embarrassing in the show’s 80 plus year history. And while host Jimmy Kimmel was right that at the end of the day, it’s just an award, for the filmmakers who work in the industry, the Oscars is one of the highest achievements they can receive.

And the mix-up not only robbed the winners of their winning moment but falsely made the producers of La La Land believe they’d achieved something that they hadn’t. In those moments they went from joy and pride to disappointment. The moment was the definition of a P.R. nightmare for The Academy.

The reality is no organization, no matter how profitable and effectively managed, is immune to experiencing a crisis situation at some point. The key is in how the organization manages and responds to said crisis. There are a few important steps any organization should practice, in order to weather any crisis as best as possible, including one, don’t hide, two, have a timely response, three, avoid being defensive and four, ensure and explain how it won’t happen again.

So how well did The Academy handle this recent crisis, based on these four key steps? In my opinion, they handled it fairly well and definitely get a passing grade. Regarding the four steps:

  1. Don’t Hide – The Academy did not ignore the moment and hope that in a few days everyone would forget about it and move on. They issued an immediate apology to the producers of both films, as well as the presenters and later issued a more detailed apology from the president of The Academy.

 

  1. Timely Response – Piggy-backing off the first point, not hiding also means being timely in the organization’s response to said crisis. In this case, The Academy issued a first statement hours after the incident, early Monday morning. The second statement from Academy president Cheryl Boone-Isaacs came four days later and the president addressed the time taken for her statement by acknowledging that they wanted all the facts to be properly gathered and assessed.

 

  1. Avoid Being Defensive – While those identified as being responsible for the mix-up were quite publicly reprimanded by The Academy president in her statement, the tone of both statements were for the most part contrite and chastened. There was no attempt to make light of the situation or dismiss its importance and seriousness.

 

  1. Explain Why It Won’t Happen Again – As wonderful as it is for an organization to admit their error and apologize, it is little comfort if they can’t explain how they will ensure that it won’t happen again. In this case, The Academy explained that not only would the accountants responsible for the error not be allowed to ever work the show again but that they were implementing new guidelines and reviewing the protocols of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the accounting firm that has handled the Oscars ballots for years. The statement also made clear that a future working relationship with the accounting firm was still under review. Rather than a vague promise that the incident would never happen again, the president, in her statement, made sure to explain how they would try to ensure it didn’t.

Oscars Controversy

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The Oscar nominations were announced a few weeks ago and as was the case last year, it came with some controversy, as once again all the nominees in the acting categories were white. However, unlike last year, the backlash has been loud enough and significant enough to create widespread media attention and a very vocal reaction from the entertainment industry, including many high profile actors.

I am not going to say what my personal opinions are about the issue (and trust me, I have a few) but rather would like to focus on the response by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), the body that governs and votes for The Academy Awards, to the controversy. After all, this is a public relations blog and this is without question a P.R. crisis for The Academy.

If I were to award a grade in terms of how well I think the organization has handled and responded to the controversy and the issue in general, I’d say they are at a solid B. There are many things that they have done right when it comes to the rules of successfully weathering an organizational crisis.

  1. Respond in a Timely Manner – One of the first rules of good crisis communication is to never hide and simply hope that the crisis goes away on its own. While it is important to take some time to construct an intelligent, well thought out and relevant response, because you certainly don’t want to make a situation worse by rushing and saying the wrong thing, it is important that the organization delivers some kind of response as quickly as possible. It helps the public know where the organization stands on the issue and helps in trying to gain control of the story, as well as the narrative. The Academy did this, with President Cheryl Boone Isaacs releasing an official statement about the controversy four days after the nominations were announced.
  1. Avoid Being Defensive – It is never a good idea for an organization to respond to a crisis by being angry, defensive or belligerent towards the media and the public. The best approach is to simply acknowledge the issue, accept and acknowledge the organization’s failure and/or culpability, whatever that may be, and be sympathetic and understanding to the public. And The Academy did that, with President Isaacs expressing sadness and disappointment at the lack of diversity among the year’s nominees and admitting that things do need to change.
  1. Be Clear and Concise – While it is good to acknowledge an organization’s mistake or mistakes and to make promises to do better, providing a clear and concise statement on how the organization plans to make these changes and fix things is also very essential. Doing so adds credibility to the organization’s response and makes the public less skeptical, as it shows that the former has given real thought to the issue and to creating real and tangible solutions. The Academy did exactly this, when on the heels of President Isaacs’ official statement, the Board of Governors took a vote a few days later that resulted in a number of specific and detailed changes to The Academy’s membership and voting polices. The six specific changes were made public in a statement.

As positively as The Academy has handled the current controversy, the reason I gave them a B grade is because of the fact that this even happened at all. As noted above, it was just one year ago that the organization faced heavy backlash on social media when all the acting nominees and majority of nominees were white. Many were particularly upset about actor David Oyelowo not receiving a Best Actor nomination for the film Selma, as well as its director Ava DuVernay not receiving a Best Director nomination, although the film did receive a Best Picture nomination.

At the time, Academy President Isaacs made a statement insisting that the Academy was “committed to seeking out diversity of voice and opinion”. And yet, a year later, virtually nothing had changed within the organization and its voting body. Therefore, I consider it a public relations failure on The Academy’s part that despite being aware of the public’s response, reaction and discontent, they chose to simply ride out the controversy and continue with business as usual, only to have this become an issue again. It is hardly surprising that this time the backlash and outcry was a lot worse.

The key lesson here is that as an organization, you must listen to your public and take the necessary steps to minimize a crisis as much as possible. Trying to ignore it and hope it just goes away is never the answer, as it is likely to only grow into something bigger and much more complicated.

The Year In P.R.

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As 2015 comes to a close, it seems more than fitting to take a quick look back at the year and what may come in 2016. After all, as the classic saying goes, “we can’t know where we’re going unless we know where we’ve been.”  So with that mind, here is my summation of the 2015 year in public relations.

Most Notable Crises

Crisis management continued to be a cornerstone of the industry, as 2015 saw its fair share of major crises. There are way too many to list, so I have chosen to focus on the ones I felt dominated much of the year or had a very significant impact on an organization and/or individual.

Subway/Jared Fogle – In probably one of the most shocking and upsetting crisis no one saw coming at the start of the year, Subway’s once very popular spokesman Jared Fogle was indicted and subsequently prosecuted on child pornography charges. Subway quickly distanced itself from Fogle and cut all professional ties. Some have debated the fast food chain’s response to the crisis, including me, in this post. However, Subway’s response aside, perhaps the greatest lesson drawn from this crisis was the reminder of the inherent risk involved in tying a company brand so closely to an individual spokesperson.

Bill Cosby – Celebrity scandals, sadly, are rarely ever unexpected. Still, it was shocking for many to witness the dramatic downfall of a once beloved television icon. Much of the first half of the year saw woman after woman come forward with accusations of sexual assault against Bill Cosby. Cosby has and continues to deny the allegations and as the year comes to a close, he has filed a defamation suit against seven of his accusers. Whatever side of the issue you stand on – whether you believe Cosby is guilty or innocent, the damage is done. It seems highly unlikely that Cosby, who built his career and success on the image of being the warm, lovable pseudo-dad, loving uncle type, can recover from this. The lingering questions and doubts and suspicions will always remain.

Volkswagen Recall – Car manufacturer crises are nothing new. Recalls, accusations and allegations of companies circumventing responsibility to cut corners and save money are constant. And this year was more of the same, when U.S. regulators accused Volkswagen of cheating on emission tests. While the German manufacturer company responded quickly with a public statement admitting wrongdoing and later followed that by then-CEO Martin Winterkorn publicly apologizing to the public at a press conference, things still fell apart for the company. Their stocks and sales tumbled, Winterkorn later resigned and at year’s end, the company’s stocks and sales, as well as its public image are all still on a downswing.

Brian Williams – Despite all the talk in recent years of traditional news media dying and being replaced by online news sources and social media, there is still an appreciation and respect for the traditional news source. And by that token, there is still a certain standard of quality and credibility expected of journalists; a fact NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams learned this year, after reports surfaced that he had fabricated and exaggerated parts of his experience in a military helicopter during the Iraq War. What followed were awkward, fumbling apologies from Williams and a six-month suspension without pay, after NBC officials did their own investigation of the allegations. Williams has since been transferred to MSNBC and was officially replaced by Lester Holt as NBC News Nightly anchor.

Chipotle – It has been a rough year for fast-casual restaurant giant, Chipotle. First, there was a salmonella outbreak in Minnesota, found to be tied to the tomatoes being used at the locations. Then there was a foodborne virus called Norovirus, which affected a total of 100 customers and employees combined, at a Ventura County restaurant. But the restaurant chain’s biggest crisis came when more than 30 cases of E. Coli in Washington and Oregon caused them to temporarily shut down 43 restaurants across the two states. While many have praised Chipotle’s handling of the crisis – including, timely and consistent updates to the public, taking full responsibility, cooperating fully with government officials and agencies – these incidents still remain a significant blow to the popular restaurant chain. As I began writing this, news of five new cases of E. Coli from other locations of the restaurant, broke. You do have to start wondering how many more crises of this nature Chipotle can survive, before customers begin walking away for good.

Ashley Madison – How does a company that is largely built on the privacy of its customers survive a major hack that threatened that very privacy? In the case of Ashley Madison, the website for married individuals looking to cheat on their spouse, I’m not sure it can. I commented on the scandal back in August when it happened and questioned then whether or not the company could recover. As of October, some members of the site were still reporting getting emails from hackers trying to extort money from them in exchange for silence about their being a member of the site and very recently, some members claimed to have blackmail letters sent directly to their homes. The company also still faces numerous lawsuits from its members.

Race – It’s been over fifty years since Martin Luther King Jr.’s seminal “I Have A Dream” speech and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Supposedly we now live in a post-racial world and yet, as 2015 comes to a close, that notion seems highly unlikely. Race, discrimination and treatment of minorities took center stage for much of this year.  From the University of Alabama’s fraternity scandal back in March that saw members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) chapter chanting a racially offensive song to the University of Missouri, which saw walkouts and protests from faculty, students and the football team in response to the university’s poor handling of a series of racial incidents. The situation culminated in the resignation of the university’s president and later chancellor. However, the most notable issue of racial tension throughout the year included the multiple allegations of police misconduct in connection with the arrests and deaths of African Americans. The situation escalated to a series of protest and riots around the US and spawned the #blacklivesmatter movement. Many city and state officials opened investigations into the conduct of the police force but with a very tense presidential year coming up, it remains to be seen if things will get better or worse.

Key Industry Trends

Use of Video – Being visual is always an excellent tool to grab and maintain your audience’s attention and to increase the chances of their remembering your message well after it’s over. Visual elements, such as infographics, charts and videos and more, have always been a big appeal to individuals. And this year saw more of this, especially with the emergence of live video streaming. Video streaming became a big part of the industry’s conversation with the introduction of the apps Meerkat and Periscope, the latter which has quickly amassed a significant number of followers. I broke down the pros and cons of live video streaming in this post and it remains to be seen how truly dominant it will become in the industry. However, the use of video is definitely not only going to stay but also continue to expand and evolve.

Rise of Instagram – Social media continued to be a focal point of the industry, as is likely to be the case for years to come. What was particularly interesting this year with regard to social media, was the growing influence and importance of Instagram. According to statista.com, as of November 2015, the photo and video sharing network had a total of 400 million active users, ranking it seventh on the global chart of most popular social networks and just above Twitter. According to the social network itself, there were 14 million active UK users, while research conducted by Ipsos in August 2015, showed that 19% of internet users in Ireland used Instagram. eMarketer.com reported 11% of internet users in Japan and 55% in Canada were using Instagram and Adweek reported 22% of the population in the Middle East/Africa region are on Instagram. Organizations and brands started paying attention, and if your organization’s audience is teens and young adults, then you really needed to be paying attention as the platform has surged far ahead in popularity within that demographic.

Mobile Marketing – As the pervasiveness of smartphones continued this year and by that token, mobile usage, mobile marketing continued to be a key trend in the industry. Research showed young and adult alike used their smartphones and other mobile devices for everything from shopping, surfing the internet, paying bills, etc. Naturally, brands and organizations paid attention and made continuous efforts to reach their current and new audiences through the medium.

Integrated Campaigns – With the worlds of public relations, advertising and marketing continuing to intertwine and overlap, integrated campaigns employing elements of each continued to be prevalent throughout the year and is likely to continue into the next year.

Emergence of African Markets – On the global level, 2015 saw the continued emergence of African markets in the public relations industry, which began a few years earlier. Global strategic communications firm Hill + Knowlton announced its launch of new operation in Nigeria back in March, making it the eighth African location in the firm’s operations, which already has locations in Tanzania, Egypt, South Africa, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Ghana.

Looking Ahead – Trends To Expect In 2016

Mobile – As noted, the use of mobile devices continued to dominate this year and it is unlikely that this will be changing any time soon. Thus, the industry is tasked with keeping up with this change and aligning its strategies accordingly. I noted the focus on mobile marketing above and while that is sure to continue in 2016, firms and brands are going to have to evolve and adapt even more to take full advantage of the medium. That includes having specific strategic plans focused solely on mobile, understanding the firm’s specific needs and goals with regard to the mobile world, establishing expertise in that specific area, etc. Mobile essentially needs to be treated in the manner that social media eventually has. It’s not enough to throw it in as a small part of a larger plan – it needs to be regarded at its own specific focus and medium.

Good Content Matters – You’ve probably all heard about the traditional press release being dead and with mobile and social media, everyone is always rushing off to the next thing and essentially has little time to read or care about anything longer than a paragraph or two. That may be (not sure I entirely agree), but even in the digital world, good content still matters which yes, means good writing still matters. In fact, in a way it matters even more. Because if you have a very little window of time to grab and hold a person’s attention, delivering poorly worded and badly written content is not going to accomplish that. New or traditional media, public relations is still a storytelling function and the best way to tell that story is still through well crafted, well written, clear and concise content.

PR & Marketing – The worlds of public relations and marketing will continue to merge and blur into each other in 2016. While the two industries are different in many key ways, they do share many similar elements, which often makes the intertwining so seamless and natural. Firms and brands now understand the importance of incorporating elements of public relations, marketing, advertising and new media into creating a successful large scale campaign and how all these industries essentially need each other.

Real Time Feedback – With the world going mobile and essentially having so much of their lives at their fingertips, firms are now able to get more immediate and timely feedback from consumers and the public. While in-depth research and measurement reports are still important, immediate reactions to a new product, an announcement, etc. can be very valuable and more firms are recognizing and embracing this.

Thought Leadership – One of the more recent growing focus in the industry, has been the role and importance of thought leaders and thought leadership, which I wrote about a few months ago. This focus continued to increase this year and is likely to continue in 2016, as many more firms and organizations continue to recognize its significance.

Tips For Writing And Delivering An Excellent Speech

newsspeechispower

As public relations practitioners and communicators in general, speeches are a common part of our professional lives. Whether it is simply writing and preparing one for a higher level executive to deliver or writing and delivering it yourself, a strong, well prepared and well delivered speech can have a significant professional and sometimes personal impact.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s seminal “I Have A Dream” speech is still quoted and referenced all the time, more than fifty years later. And many consider it one of the most defining and impactful moments of the entire Civil Rights Movement. However, writing and delivering an effective speech isn’t always the easiest task, particularly the delivery part for many.

Full disclosure, I have major stage fright and public speaking is quite honestly one of my least favorite parts of public relations. However, it was something I knew I could not avoid and have worked very hard at overcoming. Don’t get me wrong, I still get nervous, my voice still shakes slightly but I have come a long way from the person who literally trembled standing in front of a classroom of my peers to deliver a presentation. The following are some simple tips for writing and delivering an excellent speech.

Writing a Good Speech

  1. Have a Plan – As with every project, you need a well-structured, well-designed plan before writing your speech. What is it about, what are the key points, what are the relevant quotes/references you will use, how are you going to transition from one point to another, etc. Without a solid plan outlining the details of your speech, you are likely to struggle a lot more and end up with a disorganized mess.
  1. Keep It Short – As William Shakespeare said, “brevity is the soul of wit.” The easiest way to not only lose your audience’s attention but go off course with your point is to be long winded. Always keep things as clear and concise as possible. Establish no more than 3 to 5 key points to expand on briefly. One of the most important skills in public relations is learning to say a lot as briefly as possible.
  1. Know Your Audience – As is the case with any form of communication, it is very important to know and understand your audience. Doing so will help you strike the right tone and perfect balance for your speech. For example, will you be speaking to an audience of college students or industry thought leaders or a minority group, etc.
  1. Humanize Yourself – It is always wise when communicating anything to anyone to try to speak to them on a personal level. One of the easiest ways to do that is to personalize or humanize your comments as much as possible. That is why using cute anecdotes or stories from your own life, career, etc. is often a very effective way to grab the listener’s attention.
  1. Be Visual – Many people tend to be very visual and are better able to retain information when they can see it, when it’s bold or colorful. Therefore, attaching visual aids to your speech is another very effective way to grab and maintain the listener’s attention. This can include anything from story boards, power point presentations, banners, etc. Being visual can also include your prose. Sometimes the use of imagery and poetic language can paint a clearer picture in the listener’s mind, which can get your point across more effectively.
  1. Be Memorable – Whether it is a funny story or cute anecdote or a really clever line, it helps greatly to have something in your speech that will truly stand out and be memorable. Consider John F. Kennedy’s inaugural speech for example. There are probably very few who remember that speech from beginning to end but millions know the line “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” That one line solidified that speech as one of the greatest of all time.
  1. Reference Other Great Lines, Quotes, etc. – Sometimes the best way to get a point across is to reference the words of another. Letitia Elizabeth Landon said, “an apt quotation is like a lamp which flings its light over the whole sentence.” Referencing words and phrases and quotes that are not only relevant to your point but recognizable to the listener is a great way to not only grab their attention but resonate with them.
  1. Open Strong and Finish Strong – There is a reason that the introduction and conclusion are often two of the most powerful parts of any writing. The introduction is your chance to grab the listener’s attention immediately and the conclusion is where you summarize everything you’ve said in one powerful paragraph. Your conclusion is the last thing the listener will hear and likely one of the things they will most remember from the speech so make it count.
  1. Why Should The Audience Care – One of your main goals in presenting a speech is getting the audience to care so they want to listen and will remember what you talked about. Well to do that, you have to give them a reason to care and that is where it is essential to write your speech always with the thought in mind of “will the audience care about this, will they understand it, will they relate to it, etc.”
  1. Revise, Revise, Revise – One of the most, if not the most important step in writing anything is editing and making revisions. It is never a good idea to go with a first draft. No matter how talented and skilled you are, as human beings we are always prone to error and there will always be something that was missed or accidentally misspelled or misused, which will only be caught in the editing and revisions.

 

Delivering a Speech

  1. Practice – Practice makes perfect and one of the most important steps for perfectly delivering a speech is to practice beforehand. This should include practicing your timing so you make sure that you stay within the allotted time, practicing to better memorize the speech and perfect your delivery and to get a sense of how it will sound. Practicing with at least one person listening is also very helpful as they are likely to give you helpful feedback.
  1. Use Relaxation Techniques – Even the most confident people get nervous before a big speech or presentation. Being nervous is a normal human condition and sometimes all it takes to calm your nerves is a few breathing and relaxation techniques. Take some deep breaths and try to get to a calm and centered place before walking to the podium or stage or wherever it may be.
  1. Maintain A Confident Stance – There is an old saying that you should fake it ‘til you make it. Even if you are nervous, it doesn’t mean others have to know it or see it. Maintaining a confident stance and/or appearance can help you be confident and deliver a confident speech. This includes things like standing up straight with your shoulders back, maintaining good eye contact, etc. If you look like you know and believe what you are saying, others will pay attention and believe you.
  1. Do Not Read Your Speech – The worst thing you can do is basically read your speech word for word off note-cards or a piece of paper. You will certainly lose the audience’s interest and more importantly, it will give the impression that you are not confident and truly knowledgeable in what you are speaking about. That is one reason why practicing is so important. You have to be able to deliver your speech as if it is something spontaneous that you have only just thought of and decided to share, even if you have worked for days or even weeks on it.
  1. Slow Down – I know that I have a tendency to talk really fast the more nervous I get, almost like I’m just trying to rush through this painful ordeal. And that is something I have had to work on through the years. That is, learning to slow down, take a breath and make sure my words and thoughts are coming across clearly and articulately. No matter how amazing your speech, no one is going to remember it or care if they barely understood a word you said.