Six Trade Show Tips for Beginners

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By Julia Prior. Account Coordinator

With the spring conference season over, Public Relations representatives from companies around the world are in recovery mode after attending industry conferences and trade shows. The three to four month flurry of trade shows, expos and conferences can be daunting, even for a seasoned professional, but for a beginner, it’s downright terrifying. Between traveling, staffing booths and meeting with media, the whole season can be quite an ordeal. Here are our top six tips for getting through it in one piece.

Image courtesy of flickr.com/energytomorrow

Image courtesy of flickr.com/energytomorrow

1. Preparation. This is probably the most important item on the list. Starting as soon as possible, nail down travel and logistical plans that you can. As soon as you have your hotel and booth number, begin planning your logistics. Will you be renting a car or walking? Are Taxis readily available in case walking isn’t an option? (Rain, heat, etc.)

2. Preparation. This is on the list twice because yes, it is just that important. Not only should you have any and all logistics planned out, but you should also have planned your messaging and key topics for the conference. Be focused and remember your audience. Make sure that if a reporter walks up to your booth, you have something newsworthy to tell them.

3. Research. This goes along with the preparation points. Research everything. What other companies will be attending? Will there be media there? Will you have a chance to meet with the media? Have they written about you before?

4. Comfortable Shoes. On a more literal note, you’ll be standing a lot during a conference. Make sure to bring comfortable shoes that you’re comfortable standing and walking in for hours at a time. You don’t want to worry about your feet aching when answer questions from reporters or potential customers.

5. Start your planning early. Begin nailing down messaging and booking media appointments at least 2-3 weeks before the conference. Don’t risk missing out on a media opportunity because you waited too long and all your target reporters were booked solid.

6. Sleep! Make sure to get enough sleep every night of the conference. I know, there are always tons of networking events, happy hours, and sponsored parties to go to. But you want to be on your A game when representing your brand, so make sure you are operating at your highest level. Making sure you get enough sleep during the conference will also help you hit the ground running when you get back to the office after the conference.

Bonus Tip! Don’t go alone! Make sure you have support, whether on or off site from your PR and Marketing teams. They can help set media appointments, brief you on the background of the media in attendance, and even assist with nailing down messaging so everyone at the conference is saying the same thing.

So now you’re ready! Keep these tips in mind this fall when you start planning your conference schedule. Remember, planning and preparation is key for conference season success.

What are your top things you do to survive industry events?

7 Ways to Care for Your Customers

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By Julia Prior

No matter what industry you’re in, customers are the bottom line of your business. Without them, there would be no business and the best way to keep them around is to show them how much you appreciate them. Strengthening that relationship allows for collaboration, communication and an overall happy business connection.

  1. Notes: Everyone loves receiving a hand written note. Whether it’s to say thank you outright, or to wish them congratulations on a recent win, it will show that you have been thinking of them and keeping up to date on their events.
  2. thank_you_noteGive them shout outs on social media: Did they just get a big award or score an awesome media placement? Feature them on your blog, post about them on Facebook, gush about them in less than 140 characters on Twitter. Associate yourself with them and show that you are happy for their success, even if it wasn’t directly because of your services.
  3. Reach out: E-mail is a great way to connect quickly and see what’s going on. If you haven’t heard from someone in a while, reach out by phone or e-mail and just check in to make sure they don’t need any help with anything. Sometimes you may not hear from them because they are very busy and don’t realize that you can help them be less busy.
  4. Take them to lunch: Nothing says “thank you for being my customer” quite like a shared meal and a little face time. Have a casual lunch and make sure to discuss things other than business. You’re not there to sell them anything, just to gently let them know if they need anything, you should be their first call.
  5. Introduce them to your connections: Do they have an issue that you cannot solve but you know a partner who can? Make the introduction and the customer will remember to always go to you, no matter what the problem is. The same goes for hiring. If they are hiring and someone in your network would be perfect for the job, go ahead and make the introduction. Having a shared connection in the office will help your relationship grow.
  6. Birthday Cards: This is self-explanatory. Even though most professionals don’t make a huge deal of their birthday, it’s still nice when people remember.
  7. Stellar Service: There’s a reason your customers are your customers to begin with. Keep doing what you do, and it’ll be the icing on the cake of the message to your clients that you appreciate them and value their business.

As you can see, it’s really the little things that set your business apart from your competitors. The relationships you have with your customers are one of the most valuable things about your business, so don’t forget to nurture those relationships and those connections.

What other ways do you show your customers you care?

5 Ways to Strengthen Your Writing Skills Without Breaking a Sweat

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By Julia Prior

As PR professionals, our writing skill is one of the most important that we have, but also the one we probably take for granted the most. It’s important to consciously strengthen and improve our writing, not only to benefit ourselves, but also to benefit the brands that we represent and support.

But what do we gain from the same old writing exercises? Press releases, backgrounders, industry blog posts definitely build your writing skill, but after a while you start to run on autopilot.

Below are my favorite ways to spice up my writing routine and strengthen my PR muscles. Go ahead and give them a try.

  1. Read. We’ve always been told that reading makes you smarter. It’s true. Reading also helps you write better. It can fuel both content and craft in ways you don’t even realize until you start reading on a regular basis. Plus, reading for pleasure has been shown to help you sleep better and will lower stress. Read books from industry leaders as well as novels. Variety is the key; it will expose you to different information as well as new ways of telling a story.
  2. Volunteer for writing projects. Does your company have a blog? Write up a few posts for it. Write case studies and white papers. Each project will flex a different part of your writing muscle.
  3. Start your own blog. Have a passion for something unrelated to your work? Write about it. We live in an age where anyone can be a writer, as long as you have a topic and the passion and dedication to build an audience. Sure, write about your industry, but also write about your passion in fishing, local music and BBQ. If you have multiple passions, pick one. Personally, I write about social media, public relations, writing, healthy lifestyles and weight loss. I used to write about college basketball. My point is: write about what you love and suddenly writing won’t be such a chore or cause anxiety.
  4. Tweet. The ability to get your thoughts, messages and points across is good, but to be able to get them across in less than 140 characters takes skill. The essentials behind writing for Twitter are the essentials of writing for PR. Be engaging, informative and concise.
  5. Ask for feedback. Ask someone you trust to read over what you’ve written and give you honest, but polite reviews of your work. It will help you grow as a writer and will ensure you produce a quality end-product.

What are your favorite ways to exercise your writing muscle and mix things up?

5 Ways to get the Most out of Your PR Firm

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We’re here to help. Really.

By:  Julia Prior

Having a PR firm under contract can be a huge asset to your brand, and if you know how to use them they can help your brand grow and succeed in the media and the minds of your customers. We’ve put our heads together on the top ways you can get the most out of your PR firm.

  1. Communicate with them. Your PR agency is an extension of your marketing team. Keep them in the loop with any changes to your marketing strategy. Allowing them the same insight as members of your in-house marketing team will allow your agency to create a more seamless, comprehensive strategy for your brand.
  2. Take them with you to events. Big events, small events, your PR team can help you extend the value of your trade show investment.  We can promote your news at the event and schedule 1:1 interviews with media and analysts. We can ensure that your news appears in the conference Show Daily or newspaper. As communicators, PR people have skills and knowledge stretching across many subjects and are the perfect asset to help you make the most out of your event.
  3. Don’t underestimate them. PR professionals are skilled multi-taskers and jacks of all trades. It’s easy to assume that they just do press release writing and media pitching if that’s all you’ve asked them to help with.  However, their list of services may range much wider.  If it isn’t in their scope of work, not only will they tell you, but they might also advise you on where you can get the service you need.
  4. Don’t think you’re overloading them-unless they say you are. Your PR firm is there to help you. Their primary role is to help you do your job and  o help your brand grow. Don’t be afraid to call them, think you’re interrupting them or think they’re too busy for your project.
  5. Trust their instincts. The value of hiring a public relations agency is the perspective they offer as an outside member of your team.

At its very core, your contract with your PR firm is a business relationship. Communication and collaboration are the basic steps that will allow both you and your firm to grow and succeed with each other.

Three Corporate Words that Drive Me Bonkers

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By Robyn Brown

There are certain corporate words that just make my skin crawl. Some are corporate-speak and won’t be found in Webster’s dictionary. Others are used so much they start to lose their original meaning. Here’s my top three:

Targeted as in targeted communications, targeted media list or targeted messaging. I am very guilty of this one. It’s a good example of including unnecessary filler words. Targeted is redundant, as if we’re saying the media list isn’t normally reaching a specific audience. Of course it is! Don’t use that word unless you want people thinking your communication is not always targeted.

Drive as in “we will drive results from our PR campaign.” I laugh when I read this word. Several years ago, I sat in a client brainstorming meeting listening to overwhelming excitement for a campaign based on the word drive.  One participant, representing the branding team, got so enthralled that he suggested a race car theme complete with more language like ‘finish line’ and ‘full throttle.’ We are appealed to the word drive because it connotes focus and speed. If we are going to drive results, we will do it with lots of efficiency. Additionally, the person who uses this word is often putting themselves in the driver’s seat and will lead everyone on the road to results. Be sure you are that person before using the word!

Anything ending in –ize. Let’s be honest here: These are made-up words. In an effort to simplify, use the base word instead.

  • Use instead of utilize
  • Finish or complete instead of finalize
  • Promote instead of publicize
  • Incent instead of incentivize
  • And the list goes on

Finally, we often use extra words to make simple communication sound more intelligent, technical and corporate. And yet, we are only adding to the complexity of our message. I challenge you to carefully review your writing after a first draft and eliminate at least a dozen ‘filler’ words. Your readers will appreciate it.

Dr. Seuss once said “the writer who breeds more words than he needs is making a chore for the reader who reads.”

 

Leading Pro-Am Day with PRSA Dallas

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Since the beginning of this year, I had the privilege to join the 2012 Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) of Dallas leadership board. I serve as one of the two co-chairs on the University Relations committee. PRSA is a wonderful national organization to be involved in, especially as an entry-level employee, because of its diverse networks, educational meetings and leadership opportunities.

My committee hosted the first big event of the year, Professional-Amateur Day, which is known as Pro-Am Day. This annual event connects undergrads and recent grads with seasoned public relations practitioners in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Students are paired up with a professional- who we call the ‘mentor’. The students had a firsthand view of the public relations industry in their desired sector- corporate, agency or non-profit.

(from left to right) Sana Merchant, Chase York, Nelli Tokleh

Planning this event with the University Relations committee started as soon as the first leadership board meeting was hosted in January. Chase York (chair) Sana Merchant (co-chair) and I made up the team. As the girls and I recruited students to sign up, we also contacted local professionals to volunteer as mentors. With our combined efforts, we recruited 40 students and 25 mentors. Some mentors hosted multiple students in their offices. Our other duties on the committee were selecting professionals for the luncheon panel, drafting tweets, creating post-event surveys and attendance and sponsorship outreach. After the students shadowed their mentors that morning, everyone headed to the Park City’s Club in Dallas for the monthly PRSA Dallas luncheon. Attendance for lunch hit 103 people overall! Brooks and Associates’ account executive Stephanie Santos McLeese was among the audience.

(from left to right) Denise Stokes, Carmen Branch, Scott Allison and Wendell Watson

Working on this project taught me valuable lessons that I can apply to any job, especially while working in the PR industry. Communication is crucial. My team and I set up weekly committee calls to review our plans of action and set deadlines for ourselves. We couldn’t have moved forward so quickly without meeting via phone or sending emails multiple times each day. Also, we’ve all heard of the phrase, “There’s no “I” in team.” That statement is absolutely true. Without my team present and having the additional PRSA Dallas board members available right away to help, the event wouldn’t have been successful. Each board member provided a unique service to Pro-Am Day.

Working with the board overall gave me the chance to meet PR folks in Dallas, and it helped establish new friendships. If you would like to get involved with PRSA Dallas or learn more about the benefits, shoot me an email at Nelli@BrooksandAssociatesPR.com.

Brooks & Associates Team Helps Girl Scouts Celebrate 100-Year Milestone

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2012 marks the 100th anniversary of Girl Scouts of the USA, a national organization dedicated to building girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place. The movement began March 12, 1912 in Savannah, Georgia with 18 girls led by Juliette Gordon Low. Today Girl Scouts is 3.2 million girl scouts strong, over 850,000 of whom are adult volunteers. Robyn Brown, a 25-year girl scout and volunteer, and Virginia Brooks, a girl scout alumnae and long-time supporter, did their part to support the milestone year.

World Thinking Day

In June 2011 Robyn joined a special planning committee comprised of both Girl Scout staff and area volunteers to support the 100th anniversary momentum and celebrations in 2012.

Mattie Jenkins, a membership specialist for Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas (GSNETX), noted why she recommended Robyn for the volunteer position: “Based on my knowledge of Robyn as a troop leader for older girls (girls in grades 9th thru 12th), the planning committee would benefit from her creativity, planning and project management skills and her keen sense of knowing what young and older girls like and consider fun.”

The committee organized a 100th Anniversary Thinking Day event for area girls to look back on 100 years of Girl Scouts through each decade and imagine Girl Scouts of the future. World Thinking Day is an annual tradition where Girl Scouts and Girl Guides around the world celebrate their sisterhood and commonality through culture, music, art, and food – a perfect venue to kick-off many more celebrations scheduled throughout 2012. Over 1,500 girls and adults attended the event on February 4 – deemed a success by the organizers and attendees.

Girl Scout PSAs

“Robyn played a pivotal role in the planning, decision making and implementation stages of the event,” Jenkins said. “Robyn’s signature mark was the idea to create a compilation of public service announcements (PSA) by Girl Scouts describing what they like about Girl Scouts to be featured on GSNETX website. Robyn also choreographed a historical Girl Scout timeline in a video format that was played throughout day at the event for participants to see. I am proud of Robyn’s contribution.”

To teach and encourage girls to contribute PSAs, Robyn filmed and edited a video featuring Virginia Brooks and long-time friend Sharon Parsons who shared their experiences attending the 1965 Girl Scout Senior Roundup in Farragut, Idaho. They also described how Girl Scouts has impacted their lives:

“Girl Scouting has been a lifelong experience for me,” said Parsons. “I have carried friendships and values, love for the outdoors and especially all those songs. It was a very enriching experience and one that I will treasure.”

Brooks added that her years as a Girl Scout gave her the confidence to challenge herself and believe that anything was possible if you tried. “It gave me a framework to push and challenge myself to try things that I wasn’t positive I could do. I can’t recall any other area of my life that encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and be willing to try new experiences,” she said.

Watch the interview with Virginia and Sharon to hear their more of their stories.

Girl Scout Senior Roundup – Sharon and Virginia from Brooks & Associates PR on Vimeo.

Support Girl Scouts – Donate Today!

Today’s world needs more women leaders – in local communities, in the board room, and in The White House. Help girls learn leadership skills and take action in their communities by supporting Girl Scouts. For more information about making a donation, please visit:

http://www.gsnetx.org/Default.aspx?tabid=136.

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