Whether we admit it or not, we all want to be recognized for the work we do. Be it a casual “atta-boy” from your boss, encouragement from a friend, or even simply the sign of general interest from a new acquaintance, recognition feels good. In one form or another, organizations, too, seek accreditation because it keeps them moving forward.
In what I call “The Commenter Era,” everybody’s a critic. We review everything — the movie you just saw in theaters to the vegan taco truck down the street — the list doesn’t end. There’s no denying the power of the mobile influencer and businesses are right to appease them. I’ll argue, though, that efforts are perhaps better spent locking down third-party accreditation from other professional entities. Winning an award can be the most successful way to do this.
Here’s a brief walk-through of the process of winning an award for your organization and how to ensure you get some coverage for your hard work. Maybe soon, your website’s front page will look like this:
The front page of our client, Logical Position, a digital marketing agency.
Step 1A: Do good work…
This should go without saying, but in order for your organization or an executive within your organization to win an award, you need to actually be doing award-worthy work. Having said this, the work you’re doing should not be motivated by an award you want to win — let the award be the reward for the brilliant work your organization already considers standard practice.
Step 1B: Choose wisely.
Being nominated for a prestigious award sounds great, but in most cases it doesn’t work like that — more often than not, your organization will have to submit your work to a particular competition (I will get to this process). It seems that there are awards for nearly every business category, given by every type of organization imaginable. This means that some awards would be more work to acquire than they’re worth. For instance, I’m not sure we at Veracity would benefit too much from being named “Best Public Relations Agency in the World” by my Dad’s blog — although he may think so! Moral of the story, put your time into throwing your hat in the ring for an award that is both attainable and helpful to your organization.
Step 2: Writing the entry form.
Honesty time: if your submission isn’t written the right way, you can just ignore the following steps. Here is where the real art of the PR agency comes into play. In public relations, we take an outsiders’ perspective to create a narrative for the work of your organization, that you might not have even known was there. We then tell that story to the most fitting audience using the most fitting language. Crafting and adhering to the right messaging goes a long way. Here is where the PR professional will have a field day. Make sure that you follow ALL of the directions on the entry form. If it asks for the answers in less than 500 words, don’t submit 700 words and hope they don’t care — details like this are important! Complete the entire entry and make sure it’s submitted on-time.
Step 3: Win.
Assuming you have performed Step 2 correctly, there is not much more you can do now but sit it out, twiddle your thumbs, keep cranking out that award-worthy work and wait to hear from the powers that be. That is unless there is a voting or social media portion of the winning criteria. In this case, call on your network to help you win.
Step 4: Flaunt your prize!
It’s time to leverage the culmination of your hard work via your owned channels: your website, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages. You can promote your award the same way you would any good press hit, considering your internal, external, partner and paid opportunities. This is also a great time to play good-sport — send shout outs on your social channels to the institution that gave you the award, as well as any other winners or nominees. If the award is one that you wanted, that means other people did too. On this note, make sure your internal team is flaunting the win as well!
Step 5: Earn some media play.
Local outlets want to celebrate their community’s organizations, and you’ve just given them all a great opportunity. If a specific person at your company has won the award, submit it to the Business Journal’s People on the Move section, which has a category for professional recognition. Next, draw up a press release that details the award you won, and more importantly, the project or campaign you won it for — getting traction that celebrates your work in the press is really the target in mind. Building up an invested cadre of outlets that will cover your organization and your story will do wonders in the long-run as you grow and continue to produce award-worthy work.
The process of winning an award can be long and daunting, but the returns and connections as a result will make waves. We all seek accreditation in some form or another. Public relations can help you get recognition for that recognition, all in an attempt to drive your organization forward.
We get many ghost written articles placed for our clients, but like with most hard earned media, there is a story behind the recent article we placed in the Portland Business Journal (PBJ). The idea for this commentary was sparked by listening to the worries of our client. Time and time again they expressed their great concern about the lack of qualified employment candidates — rattling off many alarming facts — for these well-paying jobs.
I started on this quest to get the word out by involving the client’s national HR executive, who sent many stats that would be compelling on a national level. I used those stats in an original pitch that also conveyed an urgency of need to the PBJ. I mentioned that I’d have Oregon stats to them, if they were interested. I knew that without Oregon stats I’d have a hard time getting them to run an article but I didn’t want to invest more time in gathering the local figures without buy-in from the editor.
The publication responded to my pitch with strong interest. But they had a very short deadline of four days. It was a Friday and the article would be due the following Tuesday. On top of that, the article was only in the conceptualization phase, not a word had been written, nor had the local research been started. I am not a stranger to working on the weekend, but to make matters worse we were set to go out of town that weekend. But still, without even a draft in hand I knew we had to jump on this. What if another opportunity such as this didn’t open up with the PBJ for this particular client? You only get this level of service with a nibble firm that doesn’t have protocol to jump through.
An outline, along with detailed instructions from me and some specific ideas from the PBJ editor, was provided to our writer Josh who created the first draft over the weekend while we were out of town. As usual, Josh’s article was wonderful but I realized I hadn’t provided him with enough Oregon stats. We always pay close attention to what we promise the press and aim to meet their requests.
OED was very helpful providing statistics to support the article.
Business writers here are lucky that the Oregon Employment Department (OED) offers some amazing economic reports online that detail job outlook and employment stats based on industry. The hard part here was that the skilled trades are not broken out into their own specific category. The stats are lumped into the construction field, which could also consist of non-skilled trade workers such as managers and administrators. Numerous emails and phone calls with the OED helped me understand how I could break out the numbers in a way that made sense for the article. Mind you, by the time I had gotten back from the beach on Monday, I had only one day to turn this around to make deadline. I not only needed to get the Oregon stats in there, but also get it approved through various client layers (including legal!). The OED was very fast in their response to all of my questions and was a wonderful partner in this process.
Getting good articles placed goes way beyond relationships with press. It’s about paying close attention to what’s affecting your clients and translating that in a meaningful way to press. Once you have the attention of the press, you must work to understand their needs and be sure to deliver! It may not always be easy and you may have to hustle, but when articles like these hit, it’s all worth it.
Refreshed look, design and infrastructure for Hallmark Inns & Resorts
Hallmark Inns & Resorts has two locations on the Oregon Coast: Hallmark Resort & Spa Cannon Beach and Hallmark Resort Newport. Both properties recently had major renovations completed in the hotel rooms, common areas and event spaces. However, the website hadn’t been touched in years.
Armed with the refreshed brand, logo and marketing creative that we’d just created for them–it was now time to give new life to the website.
In addition to a refreshed look and better user experience, a primary goal of the redesign was to maintain organic search traffic (we’d typically have the goal of increased SEO presence with a redesign, but we do not handle SEO for this client, so the goal was to maintain). We managed to not only sustain traffic and conversion rates, but to dramatically increase them.
From the graphics below you can see the significant improvements as we compare traffic and revenue changes on a year-over-year (YOY) comparison and separately looking at the previous 90 days prior to launch of the new site.
Please visit the new HallmarkInns.com to see the entire new site. The old site can be viewed using the Wayback Machine.
First three months after launch, YOY (previous year)
- Traffic (Sessions) increased 68%
- Users are up 59%
- Organic Search Traffic increased 138%
- Overall Ecommerce Revenue increased 61%
- Organic Search Ecommerce Revenue Increased 108%
- Organic Search Ecommerce Transactions increased 107%
- Pageviews and Unique Pageviews are up 38%
First three months after launch, last 90 days (previous period)
- Traffic (Sessions) increased 91%
- Users are up 91%
- Organic Search Traffic increased 154%
- Overall Ecommerce Revenue increased 101%
- Organic Search Ecommerce Revenue increased 133%
- Organic Search Ecommerce Transactions increased 75%
- Pageviews are up 73% and Unique Pageviews are up 77%
The new site is also responsive, so we’ve provided a better user experience on mobile and don’t expect any negative impacts from Google’s upcoming mobile-friendly update.
An attendee of a presentation I gave emailed me the following:
Do you think this [HARO] is an effective means of getting known? Do most of your customers write their own responses or do you help them with this? I guess my question stems from a concern around capacity and the best use of scarce resources (me).
This is my basic response, with some added commentary:
I think it depends on the business and the value of the publication/website.
You have to start asking yourself some questions:
- Is it something your target customer reads?
- Will the story be relevant to your company or industry?
- Does the website have “authority” in your industry or target markets/verticals?
- What is the likelihood of a story running and if it does, will I get a link as well?
If the answer is yes to the above, it can be effective, but you also have to consider your time and resources as you mentioned. Sometimes you can edit content that you have already created to fit with specific results. Sometimes you have to create something new. If you are developing content already for editorial calendars, bylined articles, blog posts, social media, etc. often times a lot of the work is already done.
The other factor is the SEO value that can be gained by being included in stories like these…links for relevant “news” sites are very valuable.
With our clients, we tend to find, vet and create the responses for them, with their input of course as they typically have more expertise in their industry that we do.
Using the example he sent, we’d probably have a short conversation/interview with him and then write a response – assuming it was an outlet we deemed valuable. Of course it depends on the level of engagement.
Regarding this specific opportunity.
Here is what I advised him to do:
- Determine if he can come up with a good answer to the question in a timely fashion (do you have time). If no, drop it. If yes…⇒
- Look at the website (which is usually in the HARO post and if it is not a quick search of the requesting reporter should give you an idea). Is it relevant to your market and/or potential clients. If not drop it. If yes…⇒
- Write a response (make sure to follow any specific direction and include a link to your website) and email it to him.
- Note that attachments do not get passed forward when you respond through HARO.
- If he does use your response, check to make sure you are quoted correctly and that he included a link (if he didn’t ask for one).
In summary, HARO can be an effective marketing tool, but there is also a lot of junk. So make sure you are going to reach a target audience in a quality outlet before putting forth too much effort.
Create the Community Engagement Plan that Connects with Consumers
Amy Rosenberg, President of Veracity, presentation at 2014 Northwest Credit Union Association’s Marketing Conference. Amy provides actionable examples of how credit unions can create community engagement plans that connect with consumers through public relations, social media and community outreach.