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?

Creating Killer Visual Content for B2B Brands

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By Julia Prior, Account Coordinator

The verdict is in – compelling content in the digital age comes in the form of images. And it makes sense because images are an eye-catching way to convey information, feelings and news in an easy to digest and relatable manner.

But how does all this work for B2B companies?

Often a major strategy in a B2B plan is to position the employees and executives as thought leaders and trusted experts on the company’s particular topic. Images are a creative way to disseminate this kind of information to the general public.

Southern Methodist University Cox Executive Education (client) uses images like this one to share thought leadership in order to promote its programs that help professionals grow in leadership and management roles.

Southern Methodist University Cox Executive Education (client) uses images like this one to share thought leadership.

By sharing a quote or industry insight on its own, you may gain a few customers that read it and think about it. But people are more likely to read and engage with the content if it is presented not only in short and sweet “snackable” sizes, but in a graphically creative way.

Instead of just sharing a headline or quote from an article, try pulling a sound bite sized learning out and creating an image out of it. You can then use the image to post to social media, or even use as an embedded picture with the article in a publication or on your website or blog.

The key here is to make the content interesting. Support your executives’ brilliant articles and thought leadership pieces with compelling images that help tell the story.

The easiest way to do this is to simply impose a quote or learning from the article into an image, as shown here. This gives readers a quality look at topics and draws them into the article. Make them want to read more.

High resolution images of your company’s product can also be used to this effect. If you work in technology, use the images to back up any claims you’re making.

Paradigm, Ltd (client) uses product images to demonstrate the capabilities of its software for geological exploration and reservoir characterization of oilfields.

Paradigm, Ltd (client) uses product images to demonstrate the capabilities of its software for geological exploration and reservoir characterization of oilfields.

Get creative with your visuals. Showing your product on its own is nice, but to really add weight and credibility to the image, try using a picture of someone using your product. Pair this with a quote from your executives or customers about the product or technology, and you’ve got a compelling image to use practically anywhere.

In addition to small, snackable sized images, give some thought to using the research your company has no doubt done to create your own infographic. By teaching the reader something unique about your industry, and supporting your claims and products with data and facts, you earn the readers trust and become an expert in their mind. Infographics are also a great way to show how your customers are benefiting directly by using your product or service.

Lastly, don’t forget the fun side. Take pictures at conferences and events, even around the office. Office birthdays and special events provide a chance to show your customers and the world what kind of personality your brand has. Give a peek behind the curtain every once in a while and allow your Facebook fans or Twitter followers a glimpse at what your company does at conferences or events.

Images are a great way to tell your brand story not only through social media, but to make your website, blog posts and contributed articles more interesting. As long as they are high resolution, professional in appearance and relevant to your overall messaging goals, images can be a great way to draw more attention to quality content, which will in turn draw attention to your brand’s product or services.

What kind of visual elements do you use to tell your brand’s story?

The Top 4 Social Media Penalties

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By Julia Prior

With the Super Bowl this afternoon, don’t find yourself committing a social media penalty. Here are the top four.

Illegal Formation: A tweet that has more than 140 characters, more than 3 hashtags or is too vague for the average person to comprehend.

Messaging is key on social media platform, but so is execution. It takes skill and strategy to communicate and contextualize your message in a quick, engaging and thoughtful manner.

Offsides: Retweeting a story you haven’t fully read. Always do your research and get the back story, and don’t just share things because the people you follow are sharing it.

What if there’s a point in the story that your company doesn’t fundamentally agree with? Read, research and strategize before sharing or posting anything. I cannot stress this enough.

Unsportsmanlike Conduct: Also known as trolling. Purposely commenting, posting or tweeting in a way to elicit a negative reaction from others and either de-rail a current discussion topic or to bring attention to your own brand by hijacking your competitor’s community. This can also be exhibited by brands who use hashtags and topics in their tweets to show up in trending searches.

Just don’t. It’s poor form, and frankly it’s very rude. You wouldn’t drop into a conversation in real life and immediately change the subject to yourself, so don’t do it online.

Helmet – to – Helmet Collision: Attempting to address and resolve a customer complaint directly in a public forum. If a customer takes to social media with a complaint, offer to contact them privately to discuss, either through a Twitter direct message, email, or even better, a phone call. Always offer your information first. Example:

mortons

Morton’s addresses the customer directly, in a timely manner (this replay was time stamped only 3 hours after the original comment was made) and offered another medium to hear additional grievances, with the promise to look into the issue.

 

UPDATE: 

Power Outage: Going dark and not posting for an extended period of time.

Social media is a relationship tool. You wouldn’t neglect any of your other relationships for an extended period of time, would you?

 

What do you think the biggest social media penalties are?

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.

Will Public Relations Become Branded Journalism?

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More and more we are writing news. Does that make us a new type of journalist?

By: Robyn Brown

There’s been talk recently in public relations circles about our industry becoming a form of branded journalism. And it got me thinking: What is branded journalism? And that sounds like something I do already.

We all know that the size of newsrooms has been shrinking, that media powerhouses are forced to evolve in the digital age and that younger generations have less trust in traditional media. With fewer media to call upon to report our news, wouldn’t it be easier to become the media? Instead of packaging the story for someone else and hoping they get it right, why not just tell the story ourselves?

What a radical notion! But we are moving quickly into this role – from corporate blogs to short video interviews with an executive. Large businesses are even employing former journalists to write stories for their websites and social media. At the heart, brand journalism is about telling honest stories about brands and inviting audiences to respond. We are not trying to be, replace or compete with traditional journalists, and we certainly won’t be telling breaking news (election stories, crime, weather, etc.) any time soon.

As PR evolves, we must seek to imbue in our communications an even greater level of narrative and audience participation. It’s about telling stories relevant to a brand’s industry. Do you sell pool supplies? Write an informative and engaging article about the best times to winterize a pool. Are you an oil and gas operator? Be a roving TV reporter and visit your workers at the oilfield drilling sites to tell your story through their eyes.

If we’re going to continue to pump out branded content, we need to keep our audience in mind and work more like media rather than publicists. Use facts rather than opinion and source information as much as possible. Let’s not use corporate speak or acronyms. And always keep people at the heart of our stories, even when the story is about software.

And lastly, stories are memorable, but a list of your product features may not be.

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.

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