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A Changing Industry: Why Public Relations is Now Personal Relations

A Changing Industry Why Public Relations is Now Personal RelationsPublic Relations. When broken down it quite literally means relating (i.e. communicating) with the public. Yet, the term “public” is no longer as fitting as we move into an ever-increasingly personal society where we share intimate information with one another every day. Within our social circles, technology has granted us the ability to know what our neighbor had for dinner on Saturday, what our second cousin purchased at a sale on Sunday and the new job a fellow high school graduate accepted on Monday.

No matter how you slice it, we are personally connected and we have grown to appreciate and expect this personal communication. It’s only fitting that Public Relations has caught up with the trend and has moved into the realm of personal relations in order to be more effective and well received.

Let’s take a look at four main reasons why the Public Relations industry is shifting toward personal relations – and how you can utilize resources and opportunities to keep your business ahead of the curve.

There are more ways than ever to communicate with the masses on a personal level

I’ve written about how important it is to highlight the human element within your business and to build your personal brand. Thanks to technology, there are more ways than ever to achieve both of these PR goals easily and fairly inexpensively. Social media is an obvious (and very powerful) platform for connecting with your target audience on a personal level. Finally, us “regular folks” can address a concern or give a compliment to the biggest brands and get a direct – often real-time – response.

In addition to social media, technology has enabled businesses to make even direct marketing a more personalized experience. Mail and email messages not only address the recipient by name but can be crafted to reflect their very specific interests like what car they drive or what street they live on.

As surprising as it may be sometimes to receive an email from a business that knows I have a Russian Blue cat based upon a previous purchase, I love that the offers and coupons are directly relevant to my needs.

Social media encourages sharing the “human” side of your business

I don’t expect everyone to be willing to get extremely personal on social media, but I do encourage you to find a point on the spectrum that is comfortable for you. Whether you are sharing content on your personal profiles or your business’s profiles, you will increase the visibility of your posts by crafting genuine content that engages your viewers.

What this really means is skip the stock photos and use real photos of your staff or pictures from inside your office. Give a face to a name. Don’t just share a link; ask a question or offer an insightful thought that will inspire people.

Social media platforms are getting smarter at weeding out overly promotional content and spam. Avoid getting trapped in these filters by remaining genuine and personal with the content you share.

People don’t want to be sold something, they want to learn something

Think about the websites, blogs, emails and social media posts that catch your attention. Do they engage you because they are trying to sell you their product or service, or do they engage you because they offer information you deem to be valuable. I would imagine the vast majority of you responded with the second option.

Practice “personal relations” by first building trust with your potential customers. Give them useful information at no cost and with no obligations. As an expert in your field you should be grateful for any opportunity to share your knowledge.

Technology provides us with the ability to access information we need right at our fingertips which has evolved us into a society hungry for knowledge. Feed that hunger – and build trust in your brand – by offering useful information to your target audience.

Telling your story is what breaks through the noise and gets you remembered

If you have visited my new website, you will know that my PR philosophy is “Every business has a story. What makes yours stand out is how well you communicate it.” I truly believe in the power of modern day storytelling and I also believe that every business has a unique story or angle that can be their point of differentiation.

As the Public Relations industry shifts toward “personal relations,” telling your unique story is even more important. As a potential customer, yes we need to know what you do and how you do it, but we also now want to know WHY you do it. What inspired you? Where did you gather your expertise? Are you carrying on a tradition or legacy?

The answers to these questions are what will break through the PR and marketing noise that we are inundated with daily and help us remember why we want to do business with YOU over anyone else.

Do you agree or disagree that Public Relations has a growing emphasis on personal relations that is reshaping the industry? Share your thoughts by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2015 in Business & Success

 

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How to Get Comfortable with Getting Personal on Social Media

personal genuine real quote

If you’ve taken notice of how your personal social media accounts engage far more interactions than your business accounts – you’re not the only one. In particular, Facebook continues to make major changes to their algorithms that determine whether or not your content appears in people’s newsfeeds. The bottom line is that business pages are getting hit the hardest with the negative impact of these changes and personal accounts are becoming more and more valuable for reaching a broader audience.

Yes, social media is a vast unknown and a very public forum. It can be intimidating to think about how the content you put out on your social profile will live on for eternity. So while it’s more important than ever to be smart about what you post, it’s becoming equally important to be personal and genuine. This type of content is rewarded with far more views. Additionally, people feel more compelled to comment, like and share content that feels “human” – and not like a sales pitch.

If we want to better promote our personal brand, engage our core audience and grow our business, we need to shift our focus away from trying to “outsmart the system” with shady SEO tactics and tricky automated posting and toward quality, genuine content posted by us – a human. Moreover, we need to open up, get more personal and allow our fans and followers to connect with the person behind the business.

Let’s take a look at 9 ways to get comfortable with getting more personal on social media – in a safe and professional manner.

Speak to your core audience.

For the vast majority of us, we have far more connections on our social media profiles than we will ever have friends in real life. This is part of the beauty of social media, but also part of the downfall. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the thought of your content reaching thousands upon thousands of people.

Who are these people, really? What do they think about me? Why do they even want to hear what I have to say? These doubt-filled questions can really do a number on your self-confidence and your willingness to share personal and genuine information about your life. Forget about these “unknown” followers and rather focus on your core audience – the people you know in real life or with whom you have built a meaningful relationship online. Talk to your supporters, your cheerleaders and ignore the opinions of all the rest. If they don’t like your content, they’ll weed themselves out.

Showcase more than just your “brag reel.”

Social media is fun because we can carefully frame all of our life events so that they appear far more fabulous and perfect than they really are. Not to mention how we are able to completely crop out the mistakes, bad days and blunders we don’t want people to know about.

But in order for people to get to know the real you, you have to share the good with the bad. This means letting people know when you’ve made a silly mistake, have a “case of the Monday’s” or are just in a bad mood. Not only does this make you more genuine, it helps people connect with you on a deeper level because, guess what, they’ve been there too! Best of all, you will find that your core audience will rally around you in support and help move you on to a more positive moment.

Be positive.

In sharing both the highs and the lows on your newsfeed, be sure to stay positive. Don’t rant or throw someone/some business under the bus. I have yet to see a scenario where this is ever justified – maybe between you and a close friend in a private conversation, but never on social media. Stay classy and stay positive. This will draw in other positive people and create a welcoming and uplifting environment in which you feel comfortable getting personal.

Mix in quotes with photos.

There are only so many selfies or photos of your food, pets and kids that you can share in a day without overdoing it. Mix up your social stream by sharing images that capture people’s attention and inspire them. Use quotes! Pinterest is a great source of quotes for any topic you can imagine that are already formatted into images. Build a small library as you have time so that the quotes are ready to go whenever you want to share them. Inspiring people is a powerful way to connect with them on a deeper level and build a loyal following.

Interact with your audience.

This one is so important! If you want to engage people on social media, you must give to receive. This means setting aside a finite period of time each day (and don’t go over!) when you browse your newsfeed and like, comment, share and follow content that interests you. Leave meaningful comments or ask questions. I can’t say enough about how important it is to be “social” on social media.

Don’t take yourself too seriously.

No matter how you slice it, selfies are always going to feel a little awkward, cheesy and narcissistic. Just have fun with your social media content! Make a funny face, crack jokes, be sarcastic and make fun of yourself from time to time. All of these things will help to make you real and relatable to your audience.

Not everyone has to be shared in real time.

Some days lend themselves to countless opportunities to share updates on social media. Vacations, holidays, weekends, birthday parties and other celebrations provide far more content than what our audience likely wants to see in a day (or an hour). Enjoy the moment, take those snap shots, but save some for later. Thanks to #ThrowBackThursday and #FlashBackFriday (or any day of the week, if you’re feeling bold), you can use these photos as content for another day. Whether or not your audience connects with your content really comes down to the caption, so make it clever and relevant!

Don’t tolerate trolls.

Even if you post genuine, uplifting content that shows your personal side, you will inevitably run into social media “trolls” who have no problem leaving biting comments while hiding behind their social media mask. This is my advice on how to handle such situations. If a comment contains a personal attack, profanity or untruthful information, you have every right to delete it and black the user. Just as you wouldn’t put up with being bullied in real life, don’t tolerate hateful and hurtful comments that are unsolicited.

Be personal while still being appropriate.

Finally, and most importantly, carefully walk the fine line of being personal while still being appropriate. It’s possible (and we’ve likely all seen it) to get too comfortable with sharing personal updates on social media. I’ve had everything from family feuds to detailed medical information voluntarily shared by members of my network. The best rule of thumb is to assume your grandma can and is reading everything you post. Make her proud by building a strong personal brand that is engaging and professional!

Do you choose to share personal photos and updates on social media? What are some of the reasons behind your decision? Join in the conversation by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2015 in Social Media, Technology

 

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How to Rebrand Your Business: Part 5

Welcome back to the fifth and final week of our 5-part series on how to rebrand your business. Each week we will cover a unique and important aspect of the rebranding process. Be sure and catch up on the previous weeks’ posts if you’re just joining us! And now for this week’s critical question…

What is my action plan for rebranding?

what is your plan

You’ve now reached the point in the rebranding process where you need to outline your plan for implementation. You’ve made the decision to rebrand, identified your current customers, revisited your mission and tied it all into your unique story. This is the exciting part where all these pieces come together to unveil your new brand and begin the process of introducing it to the world.

Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet or big red button that will allow to you seamlessly insert your new brand where the old once was and have everyone recognize it, relate to it and build a positive relationship with it. That will take time – and most importantly – consistency. I emphasize consistency because time alone will not get the job done. You cannot sit on your hands and wait for your new brand to start driving sales. Rather, you need to take action immediately to build a strategic plan and follow through with that plan day after day.

So let’s talk more about this strategic plan of action and what you need to consider when laying it all out. While every part of the rebranding process we talked about leading up to this week is indeed important, your plan for implementation can be the make-it-or-break-it moment. Even the best brand will have little impact if it’s not strategically and consistently implemented. To help you confidently craft your own plan of action, here are 5 tips you should keep in mind.

  1. Think beyond the logo

Just as there is a lot more to a person than hair and clothes, there is a lot more to your business than its logo. Updating your website, social media profiles and email newsletter template with a new logo is only the surface of rebranding.

Remember to dig deeper when creating your plan of action. For example, change the content on your website to reflect your new mission, story and overall “vibe” that you want to create with your new brand. If you’re moving toward a modern and fresh brand, do away with that long and stale messaging that no longer resonates with your target audience. Another example is to apply your new brand to the voice you use on social media. Share content that will interest this newly identified target audience and spark discussion with things they care about.

  1. Include tactics across multiple platforms

In the point above, I mentioned some tactics pertaining to your website, email newsletter and social media. Don’t stop there! Identify all the ways in which you communicate with your customer base and be sure to apply this rebranding to each platform. Some examples include your automated emails (such as when a customer purchases a product or fills out a contact form), blog post topics and direct mail pieces.

Additionally, the rebranding process doesn’t end with your visual or written content. Depending on the situation, this may call for some media relations. Issue a press release emphasizing the newsworthiness of your new brand, host a party at your place of business or hold a press conference. The more reason you give your audience to celebrate with you, the more memorable you make your rebranding process.

  1. Emphasize in your communications why this is a positive and exciting change

Have you ever seen a business with a sign saying “Under new management!” hung in their window? I have and I always read this as “Sorry we failed. We fired the screw-up, so give us another chance!” You customers may question your motive behind rebranding; make it clear that this was a strategic decision and a positive change that has made your already successful business stronger than ever. You can communicate this in any way you choose to announce your new brand. Whether it’s on social media, on your website, in your newsletters or through a press release, take control of the speculation behind your new brand and align it with a sign of positive change and exciting things to come.

  1. Empower your employees to be advocates for the change

Your employees are a valuable part of the rebranding process, so be sure to empower them with the ability to share the word and get excited about it. Make them feel like they are on the “inside” and let them be among the first to know about your decision to rebrand before you go public with it. This is their company too, so make them feel a part of it! With the support of your employees, the unveiling of your new brand will be a much more powerful and positive experience for everyone.

  1. Scour every corner of your business for remains of the old brand

This final step is one that many companies fall short of completing. It’s taking the time to search every nook and cranny for remnants of your former brand. This could be anything from old letter head, coffee mugs, t-shirts, business cards and even email signatures for all your employees. All of this needs to be changed, pitched or donated to make room for your new brand. The danger of allowing these items to stay is that people within your company will inevitably use them and although it may be subconscious, it will send the message that the old brand is not really gone.

Just as you should clear the clutter of a past relationship before moving on to a new one, you should also clear the clutter of your old brand to set the tone that the new one is the only one that matters now!

And remember…rebranding alone won’t fix a poorly run business or a broken process any more than a bandage will fix a gaping wound. When venturing down the road to rebranding, be sure to reevaluate all aspects of your business to identify weak spots!

In case you missed it, here’s a look at the previous posts from this 5-part series:

Part 1: Do I need to rebrand?

Part 2: Who are my customers?

Part 3: What is my mission?

Part 4: What is my unique story?

Join in the conversation by commenting below!

 
1 Comment

Posted by on March 16, 2015 in Business & Success

 

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How to Rebrand Your Business: Part 4

Welcome back to the fourth week of our 5-part series on how to rebrand your business. Each week we will cover a unique and important aspect of the rebranding process. Be sure and catch up on the previous weeks’ posts if you’re just joining us! And now for this week’s critical question…

What is my unique story?

what is my story

Last week, I talked about the importance of establishing your current mission as part of the rebranding process. This week, I want to share with you how to take that “standard” mission statement and really make it stand out by strengthening it with a story.

When you took that fresh look at your mission statement, you may not have needed to change much. A few tweaks and word substitutions may have done the trick to bring it up to date with your business’s current brand and future goals. But making your mission relevant isn’t enough – you must also make it resonate. Simply stating “We strive to offer the highest quality of service at the best rates possible…” will quickly blend into the noise of every other company saying the same thing – unless you include a personal story to make it uniquely memorable.

I emphasize the power of storytelling frequently on both my blog and in my consulting business. I have always been captivated by stories, but I became an advocate for this art as I continued to see the impact it had on helping a message resonate with its audience.

Your own rebranding process is the perfect time to identify that story that best tells your customers about your passion, your innovative ideas and why you’re in it for so much more than just a paycheck. This is your chance to humanize your business in a way no competitor can completely replicate – by telling your personal story.

In a past blog post, I talked about how to incorporate this story into your branding efforts, but I want to take it back one step and give you some starting advice on how to first identify the perfect personal story to highlight. Let’s take a look:

  1. It doesn’t have to be about you.

Make it about your customers instead. A story can still be personal to your business even if it isn’t about you. Instead, tell a story about how you solve customers’ problems, make their lives more enjoyable or inspire them to do great things through your products and services. Use real life examples with which your audience can relate. Make them feel like you’re telling “their” story.

  1. Highlight a point of differentiation.

Tell a story no one else can. To really stand out from your competition, you want to highlight what makes you unique and unable to be replicated. This might be the relationships you’ve built or challenges you’ve overcome. Or maybe it’s about your level of education and experience that is more than what’s expected in your industry. All of these angles will showcase what makes you different and will attract customers to work with you.

  1. Let your customers tell the story.

A testimonial from your customer is a very powerful and compelling story. Let them be your megaphone. I love when a customer’s story takes you on a journey, relaying their struggles and positioning a company as the answer – so long as it feels genuine. This should be more in-depth than a traditional once sentence testimonial and should have a beginning, middle and end, just like any good story does.

  1. Recount your “Aha” moment.

Rather than telling the story about how you’re changing people’s lives with your business, talk about how your business is changing your life. Was there a definitive moment when you remember being inspired to start your business? Tell the story of the time you realized your calling to do what you’re doing now – and why you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Sharing this passion with your customers will make you feel human, trustworthy and likable.

And remember…rebranding alone won’t fix a poorly run business or a broken process any more than a bandage will fix a gaping wound. When venturing down the road to rebranding, be sure to reevaluate all aspects of your business to identify weak spots!

In case you missed it, here’s a look at the previous posts from this 5-part series:

Part 1: Do I need to rebrand?

Part 2: Who are my customers?

Part 3: What is my mission?

Join in the conversation by commenting below!

 
2 Comments

Posted by on March 9, 2015 in Business & Success

 

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How to Rebrand Your Business: Part 3

Welcome back to the third week of our 5-part series on how to rebrand your business. Each week we will cover a unique and important aspect of the rebranding process. Be sure and catch up on the previous weeks’ posts if you’re just joining us! And now for this week’s critical question…

What is my mission?

what is my mission

Once you’ve assessed and confirmed your need to rebrand your business and reevaluated your current target customer base, it’s time to determine your new mission.

While your mission will most obviously be described by your mission statement and placed on marketing materials such as your website, social media profiles and brochures, it must also be something you and your employees live and breathe every day. Most importantly, your mission must be demonstrated by your actions and it must also align with your vision for the future of your business. Yes, this will require a little critical thinking/soul searching, but is an important part of the rebranding process that many people overlook.

Mainly, I believe most people avoid updating their mission during the rebranding process because it can be a daunting task to fit everything your business stands for in a succinct sentence or two. But this exercise alone demonstrates your innate understanding of your business and its purpose. It’s not always fun, but it’s necessary – ah, such is life!

To help you get started with honing in on your new mission as part of your new brand, let’s think through these three questions together.

What benefit do you provide to your customers?

Whether you sell a product or a service, you should be ultimately selling a “benefit” to your customers. Common examples are expertise, efficiency, peace of mind, enjoyment, quality and comfort. Focus on your one or two most prevalent benefits and identify the key parts of your business that affect your ability to provide these benefits. For example, a restaurant that provides enjoyment and quality to its customers relies heavily upon its cooks and wait staff to produce these benefits. These should then be a main focus of your mission statement.

What makes it more desirable to work with you than a competitor (or no one at all)?

Let’s consider that restaurant example again. It provides enjoyment and quality to its customers – just as any other restaurant aims to do. Why should people patronize your establishment over the countless others nearby? This point of differentiation will become a very important part of your mission statement, so take note as to how you personally answer it! Price, atmosphere, convenience and professionalism are some good examples as to how you might fill in this blank.

What gets you out of bed and into the office every morning?

Finally, dig deep and honestly answer what gets you out of bed and into the office (or in front of your computer) each morning. Not only will this shed light on an important part of your mission, it will also identify any internal issues you might have with your business that need worked out with the rebranding process.

For example, if it’s only the thought of cash that gets you to work, that is a red flag that you may also need to focus some time on finding a passion for your business that isn’t solely financially focused. Rather, if it is the passion for helping people, collaborating with your employees, solving problems or telling someone’s story that “drives” you to work, you now know one more very important piece of your current mission!

And remember…rebranding alone won’t fix a poorly run business or a broken process any more than a bandage will fix a gaping wound. When venturing down the road to rebranding, be sure to reevaluate all aspects of your business to identify weak spots!

In case you missed it, here’s a look at the previous posts from this 5-part series:

Part 1: Do I need to rebrand?

Part 2: Who are my customers?

Join in the conversation by commenting below!

 
3 Comments

Posted by on March 2, 2015 in Business & Success

 

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How to Rebrand Your Business: Part 2

Welcome back to the second week of our 5-part series on how to rebrand your business. Each week we will cover a unique and important aspect of the rebranding process. Be sure and catch up on the previous weeks’ posts if you’re just joining us! And now for this week’s critical question…

Who are my customers?

who are my customers

When you first start a business, you have to take an educated guess as to who is most likely to be your core customer base. But after several years in business, your sales may suggest that who you’re targeting is not who is actually buying. It’s important to monitor this data and regularly evaluate whether your current brand is still appealing to your target market.

If you should find, for example, that your brand is designed to appeal to men, but most of your sales are to women, this is one indicator that rebranding your business may be a smart move. So how do you begin to identify such trends and changes in your customer base? Here are several ways to pinpoint who your customers really are.

Who is most engaged on social media?

What people are saying about your business is just as important as who is saying it. Take a look at your business’s Facebook page, Twitter accounts and Instagram followers. Who is tagging you in posts, leaving comments and liking your updates? It shouldn’t take too much digging to uncover the demographics that describe your most engaged social media connections. Their names will give you an indication of their gender, their photos will give you an estimate of their age, their profile will tell you where they live and their updates will help to understand their passions and hobbies. The is a powerful way to begin understanding who your target audience really is, but first understanding who is currently engaged with your business.

Who is making the purchase?

Next, you should look at who is paying your bills. While social media provides some great information about your fans and followers, there are many people who will sing praises of your business, but have never made a single purchase with you. Sure, they might be potential customers down the road but the only thing they are paying you right now is lip service. Look through your client accounts and identify the gender, location and any other pieces of personal information you collect to identify who is giving you money. This will tell you who you should continue to target because they are people who have already moved to the “action” step and will likely do so again.

Who are your loyal customers?

Finally, identify those customers who have made large and/or multiple purchases with you. Who keeps coming back for more? Try and find what they have in common. Are they of a similar age, geographic location or income level? Create a profile of what this “superstar customer” looks like and use it for the next and most important step. Which is….

Evaluate how well your current brand connects with your core customer base?

So you have all this great information about your most engaged and loyal customers, now it’s time to evaluate your brand against what appeals to them. Ideally, you will form a small focus group with people who fit this customer profile. If your resources are limited, hold an internal brainstorming session with your team and play the role of this customer. Critically look at all aspects of your brand – logo, slogan, colors, website, social media, marketing materials and outreach. The ultimate question to answer is “Do our efforts align with the brand that is most likely to attract our best customers?”

And remember…rebranding alone won’t fix a poorly run business or a broken process any more than a bandage will fix a gaping wound. When venturing down the road to rebranding, be sure to reevaluate all aspects of your business to identify weak spots!

In case you missed it, here’s a look at the previous posts from this 5-part series:

Part 1: Do I need to rebrand?

Join in the conversation by commenting below!

 
5 Comments

Posted by on February 23, 2015 in Business & Success

 

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