By Joanna Huss, CEO of Huss Group
How can we build a Pittsburgh community that helps institutions, nonprofit leaders, corporations and entrepreneurs ignite their organizations? Answer: bring great minds together over libations, good bites and problem-solving breakout sessions at a place synonymous with ‘next level’ – Bakery Square.
I have a problem. I run a boutique traditional + social PR firm. I’m a busy mom. But I also have amazing clients who rely on our firm’s expert advice. And I need to constantly look ahead at business development and revenue generation while staying on top of the latest communications trends. I can’t be stuck in the weeds of ‘how to do social media.’
So I committed to figuring out the best way to keep up with social media insights and trends so that I can maximize the value of our efforts because, well, it’s what we do. We’re communicators. We have to adapt to this Social Media Age. And if you’re like me, you refuse to be saddled with regrets and missed opportunities.
I’m 100% certain that most organizations have this same problem. Perhaps yours is one of them. Enter Social Media Day Pittsburgh, held June 30th on National Social Media Day.
There’s major talent right here in our region, representing every piece of the social media puzzle. Influencers such as Google’s Benjamin Weaver show nonprofits how they can leverage Google’s $10,000 free monthly AdWords. Writer Salena Zito‘s rapid rise from local political reporter to well known CNN commentator has mirrored her entrepreneurial ability to amass a social media following in the hundreds of thousands. Andi Perelman, the Pittsburgh Penguins manager of new media, has built a massive news media organization from scratch within the Pens’ social platforms.
I asked these people and others to come together, literally, with two weeks’ notice. Moving at Internet speed is not a luxury; it’s a necessity in our 24/7 world of information and innovation. This late-stage idea is a cause that I know will be worthwhile for everyone, from marketing specialists and start-up entrepreneurs to C-suite executives of established organizations.
But, as I tell my clients, let’s focus on substance, not fluff. At #SMDAYPGH, we’ll have “meaty” breakout sessions taught by proven marketers such as Felicia McKinney, who increased Point Park University’s Snapchat story views by 84% in three months and John Mahood, CEO of ImageBox, a firm that builds dynamic, SEO-driven websites for nonprofits. From the basic ‘how to’s’ and free templates for building an effective social media editorial calendar to #SocialPR – how to get reporters’ attention with a social strategy – you will walk away with knowledge that quite literally will ignite your organization. You simply have to be here.
Register by Friday at 12 noon for 25% off with discount code SMDAY25.
We can’t wait to see you!
By Andrew Blum and Robert E. Swadosh
Remember the Emotional Drivers
With the 2017 proxy season well underway, it’s important to remember that what you convey about corporate governance impacts far more than investors alone. It also has the potential to leverage the power of your corporate brand and enhance your corporate reputation. Just ask the scores of activist investors who increasingly focus on issues much broader than operating performance – and do so in real time.
Messaging is key at all times, not just at the Annual Meeting but also during proxy fights and in response to activist investors, such as the May 10 move by Whole Foods to revamp its board. Developing proper investor messages is not simply about responding to governance issues or updating the same old metrics. Ironically, perhaps the most effective way to create compelling investor messaging is to know what your client’s key audiences are thinking.
At the start, understand that up to 20% of non-algorithmic investment decision-making is affected by emotional, rather that rational, factors. So, in addition to providing strategic communications advice, you also are acting as a de facto psychologist. This is particularly relevant as you help a CEO and CFO better understand the underlying dynamics that move investors.
One way to ensure accuracy and consistency in company messaging is to use the PR quiver in your IR toolbox:
- Today that includes social media content as well as traditional media vehicles such as press releases and advisories for business and trade media relevant to all constituencies.
- And don’t think its passé to reach out to key reporters.
Approaching IR communications generally, it’s important to tell your client upfront that all companies face heightened uncertainty and increasing doubts about the best path forward – especially in an era of social media and humongous amounts of data (useful or not).
In fact, all of a company’s constituents – employees, customers, investors, and competitors alike – find themselves in the same web. Clients need to understand that now is the time to ensure they have a handle on their most important audiences – and continuing in real time.
We as IR/PR practitioners need to help clients evaluate and improve the effectiveness of their efforts by providing objective guidance that:
- Identifies the most promising directions for communications strategy
- Establishes priorities
- Sets reasonable expectations
- Implements positioning and messages that address multiples audiences and similar needs.
How To Make It Happen
We recommend using qualitative and quantitative techniques to develop a holistic view of the corporate brand – one that considers cultural as well as business and financial factors. This provides significant actionable insights into the attitudes, motivations and behavior of a company’s most important constituencies.
The first step is to establish a baseline, a rolling, qualitative research study that generates rapid-response strategic development feedback. It will quickly provide an understanding of how investors, business and trade media, a cross-section of C-suite influencers, and others assess the client’s issue or situation and its longer-term impacts.
The objectives of this study are:
- To gauge the attitudes and beliefs of key audiences about the client, and
- To identify sources of discontinuity between these perceptions and the messages the company is intending to convey.
- To determine the Company’s strengths and weaknesses and whether its messages are clear, credible, persuasive and differentiating.
How often? Quarterly at minimum, typically tied to earning reports, and then attendant to significant events, whether planned or responsive.
At minimum, this will help create opportunities. At worst, it may prevent one of those feared “jump off the cliff moments.” At best, it provides valuable insight into the psyche of your key influencers and decision makers.
*Andrew Blum is a PR consultant and media trainer and principal of AJB Communications. He has directed PR for professional services and financial services firms, NGOs, agencies and other clients. As a PR executive, and formerly as a journalist, he has been involved on both sides of the media aisle in some of the most media intensive crises of the past 25 years. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @ajbcomms
*Rob Swadosh is Senior Consultant – Crisis Communications and Predictive Media Training for Huss Group. He is a trusted corporate advisor who develops strategies to manage crises, enhance brand and reputation, heighten consumer awareness, support a company’s business model, and enrich valuation. He has held senior management roles at The Dilenschneider Group, Golin/Harris, MWW Group and Georgeson, and helped shape iconic brand transformations for clients including Allstate, Cutwater Asset Management, IBM Services, Johns
This story originally appeared in CommPro on May 16, 2017. https://www.commpro.biz/shaping-governance-messaging-that-builds-corporate-brand/
Author: Charles Crane, Huss Group Senior Consultant
You don’t have to be a Wall Street wizard to understand that companies that make more money are worth more to their shareholders. A company that earns a billion dollars is going to be more valuable than one that makes a million dollars, right?
Then how can a company like Amazon have achieved a market value of hundreds of billions of dollars before it ever earned a penny of profit?
By telling its story, perhaps more effectively than any other company in history.
Amazon had a vision: to disrupt the way products are bought and sold through innovative use of technology. And in Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos it had a visionary who was (and still is) extraordinarily effective in sharing Amazon’s story of innovation, disruption, and growth.
The lessons of building value through effective storytelling apply to businesses of all sizes, publicly traded or privately held. If you run a successful business, you know that great advertising, marketing and public relations are the keys to finding new customers–your company’s most important stakeholders–and to building loyalty among those who already love your firm’s products and services.
Those same elements, most notably PR, are just as important to maximizing what your business is worth. Value is in the eye of the beholder, and the more beholders your company has, the more valuable it becomes.
Even if you are a sole proprietor who owns 100% of the business, you want to grow its value for future owners, whether you wish to sell it someday or pass it along to the next generation. Telling your story to a broader audience through earned and owned media gets you and your company noticed by more potential owners, and as anyone who has ever attended an auction knows, the more bidders there are, the higher the price when the hammer goes down.
At Huss Group, we specialize in telling stories that make a difference. We know how to identify your company’s unique competitive edge and then to broadcast your story to the audiences that matter most through traditional, digital and social media channels. We’d love to show you how an effective communications strategy can build value for your business.
Author: Joanna Huss, Huss Group CEO + Founder
Carpool drop-off. Morning Cortado. Forbes Avenue traffic. It felt like a usual morning drive to the office. Eh, not quite. Listening to my usual local NPR station, where Trump policy talk takes the deafening shape of white noise (shout out to WESA, 90.5), there it was. The consummate nectar for every public relations professional: A long-form radio interview with an on-the-brink CEO. And even more fun, the CEO of maybe the 21st century’s largest PR disaster stories – United Airlines’ Oscar Munoz. But Munoz isn’t done yet. Embattled, but not broken after his tone-deaf #UnitedGate response, he did a kickass job with this radio interview hosted by David Brancaccio. A terrible nitpicker when it comes to food, drinks and, oh yes, media interviews – some call me The Judgmental One – I was surprisingly impressed.
It’s clear that a top-tier crisis communications firm intervened, and since you aren’t a popular writer these days if you don’t present a “Top 5” or a “Top 10 Ways” list — here it is, spoon fed for you — the Top 4 Reasons Why United’s CEO Finally Gets Public Relations Right.
1. He Stayed On His Lifeboat.
And squarely on it he did stay. You’ll get rocked and rattled by a reporter, especially when you’ve acted, well, not smaht. Munoz didn’t take the bait. When the reporter tried to rattle him with pointed, hypothetical questions, he got right back onto his heartfelt “it’s about the people” apology. His lifeboat message points never failed him. He came off as passionate, sincere, and yes, media-trained.
2. He Humanized Himself.
At one point Munoz talked about going against his gut in his initial response, saying – and I abbreviate – “backing the foot-in-butt policy was like putting my foot in my mouth.” But he acknowledged the error and used relatable language to communicate his fault, saying, “It just didn’t feel right in my gut.” That shows he’s human. And now I must mention why companies need PR firms as constant partners. It’s too easy to go tone-deaf when you are surrounded by your employees whose world is working for the company under fire. Ever hear of group think? Outside counsel – PR counsel – is always needed. Especially in today’s 24/7 news cycle.
3. He Communicated Something Tangible.
The press sniffs out fluff better than a pig on a truffle hunt. Had Munoz done this interview before United’s new policies were announced, he wouldn’t have something to back up his apologetic response. He can tie his communications to the tangible changes his company is making to be, well, better. This tells us a sophisticated firm with a public affairs practice intervened.
4. He Engaged in a Conversation.
While following his carefully crafted messages, Munoz still came across as if he were having an honest conversation. He balanced the need to be scripted with the even more important need to not come off as phony. How could we tell? His intonation. His tone was melodic and his pace was natural; he left no time for awkward pauses.
Although Munoz did very well in the interview, there’s always room for improvement. Radio offers no body language communication for its listeners to absorb, so you have to overcompensate for that. We tell our clients to turn up the energy level in their voice by at least three notches. The last thing you want is to come off sounding annoyed, low-energy, or disinterested. In the very beginning of the interview – literally at the “hello” – we would have liked to have heard more energy from Munoz. It’s a new day for United. Be positive about it while reflecting on mistakes. No one died. It wasn’t a plane crash. It’s not the end of the world.
And lastly – for goodness sake, boards of multimillion-dollar corporations – stand united (wah, wah) in making these CEOs act immediately in hiring a professional PR firm. It took Munoz more than two weeks to get it right. Stocks and consumer confidence took a dive while memes and late-night TV jokes about the airline skyrocketed. United’s biggest failure was letting its passenger policies get in the way of common sense. Every CEO and board chair should look at himself or herself in the mirror and ask:
“If my company is faced with a public relations crisis, will I ask for help?”
Author: Sandra Tolliver, Huss Group Senior Associate
Passion is the lifeblood of your nonprofit: the passion you and your colleagues share for the mission, the passion of your clients for your organization’s services, and the passion of your donors for the dynamic, unselfish work you do. Passion is what turns on the lights in the morning and gets you through the inevitable twists and turns each day brings.
Whether your organization is small and financially challenged or large and richly endowed, your ability to convey that passion to your funders is critical to your nonprofit’s continued success, especially in today’s world of intense competition for finite resources.
Telling your nonprofit’s story loud and clear—and with passion—is the key to connecting donors to your mission and ultimately those who benefit from your work.
As a business-savvy executive director, you’ve got that special knack of talking to people about your organization. You wear your passion on your sleeve. With any audience, you can inspire people with specific examples of how your nonprofit carries out its mission.
But do you connect those inspiring stories to funding?
With some nonprofits, it’s easy to make the “where your money goes” connection: $100 buys food, medicine, or building materials, for example. For others, it’s not so clear. In some cases, even small contributions have a notable and measurable impact, while in others the cost of a specific program may seem large relative to the population served. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the challenge of connecting funding to stories – it must be tailored to your organization.
Human stories that pique your funders’ interest–stories about your clients, staff, volunteers or even donors themselves–are the natural centerpiece of any communications strategy. Many donors, especially those who can make substantial contributions, are keenly interested in where their money goes and want to know the mix between programs, overhead and fundraising. A pie chart that breaks down expenses is one easy and visually appealing way to show this data. A favorable report from independent agencies that measure nonprofits’ efficiency (such as GuideStar) should also be a part of your story. And if you have corporate sponsors that underwrite the cost of your fundraising events, allowing 100% of donations to go towards programs and your mission, shout about it!
Huss Group has extensive experience in the art of effective storytelling for nonprofits, and we can help yours establish that crucial link between your mission and your donors.
When Candace Lightner, the founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, started a new nonprofit, We Save Lives, to make drunk, drugged and distracting driving unacceptable in society, she turned to Huss Group to tell her story. We helped to generate buzz for the nonprofit’s #ReflectionsFromInside campaign. With a viral video in which a man in prison for a DUI fatality tells his story to bar-goers, we got to work pitching national media networks. A producer from NBC saw the video on his Facebook feed, and we negotiated the best possible segment time with NBC Nightly News and granted them the exclusive. Then we worked to share the story across social media platforms and NBC UNI distribution channels. Ultimately, the story reached dozens of major media outlets in many countries from Canada to Japan.
When the Pittsburgh-based Hopital Albert Schweitzer wanted to raise awareness of the 60th anniversary of its hospital in Haiti, Huss Group stepped in to share compelling human interest stories during the 2016 outbreak of Zika. We told the story of the hospital’s network of 42 mobile medical workers and several hundred medical volunteers who delivered Zika preventative education and family planning to more than 10,000 Haitians and began tracking several dozen pregnant women who experienced Zika-related symptoms. To some media, we told the story of the purpose-driven life of Manhattan socialite Louise Stephaich, the niece and goddaughter of HAS founders Larry and Gwen Mellon, highlighting why family members born into unimaginable wealth continue to embody the founders’ fiery passion to provide a stable source of hope for one of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere.
You have a story to tell. Let us help you tell it in a way that gets noticed and ignites your donors’ passion.
In today’s world, social media is undeniably the most powerful resource for marketing and public relations. Your target audience most likely spends a significant time on social networks. Your dream customer could be scrolling down a Facebook feed at this moment. A marketing plan without a social media strategy is a huge missed opportunity.
Statista predicts an estimated 2.67 billion social media users worldwide by next year. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram have the capability to connect people across the street or across the world. What other media source has the clout and capability to disseminate information to a worldwide audience just by clicking “post”?
Your business or non-profit needs a social media strategy.
Data from Facebook shows that- every minute, 293,000 posts are published, 510,000 comments are posted, and 136,000 photos are uploaded.
It’s easy to get lost in the sea of content, but with a strong and well-managed strategy, the right message reaches the right people. In the past couple of years, we’ve watched videos and photos go viral without intention. By studying this phenomenon, we’ve learned that a great social media strategy depends on the right content delivered to the people who care about the message. Changing algorithms are changing the heart of social media marketing. Hyper-targeted delivery is more important than ever as organic reach is losing value. That means social media marketing is no longer free.
To stay relevant it’s important that brands of all scale and size uphold the goal of being “discoverable.” How will anyone find your Facebook page, read that awesome blog, or stumble upon that quirky tweet that describes their life in 140 characters? It’s not an exact science, but there are several factors that have led Huss Group to success:
- Consistent– It’s important to keep your post frequency consistent to create a system that works.
- Attentive– Social media is ever-changing. It’s important to pay attention and adapt your strategy, budget, and message to meet the need of your audience.
- Creative– It takes creativity and unique ideas to cut through the density of online content and make your message stand out.
- Engaging- Social networking is like socializing in real life. You have to give your audience a reason to want to talk to you.
Content that makes a splash will trigger a response. Our job is to help you guide that conversation.
There are 40 million active business pages on Facebook. To help yours stand out in 2017, Huss PR Group offers social media services ranging from isolated campaigns to full page development and daily management. Our goal is get clients noticed through creativity and business acumen that cuts through the clutter so your business can shine in the space where that matters.
Interested in receiving a free social media consultation? Contact Lauren Kucic at email@example.com.
Tips to managing events that threaten your organization, even if they loom large
Any organization, no matter its size, can encounter a problem that requires crisis management. A crisis is something that threatens or hurts people and property, with potential to damage the organization’s reputation, disrupt operations and affect the bottom line.
In a crisis, it’s important to respond quickly yet properly. Sometimes, how people inside and outside your organization react to something that is said or done can determine whether a problem becomes a full-blown crisis.
Of course, some crises are obvious – accidents or bad products that cause injuries or fatalities, for example. A crisis might evolve from an oversight or irresponsible decision, making the organization appear inept or, worse, criminally negligent. Some crises result from something outside your control, such as a disgruntled employee who spreads falsehoods; a social media hack or rant; or a data breach.
You can’t change what happened, but you can take control to help shape the outcome.
Anticipate crises by identifying risks that are specific to your organization. Name team members who would respond in a crisis, and train them to gather and disseminate information properly.
Prepare an action plan to keep operations and communications from breaking down. This plan should include a social media policy that prohibits staff members from venting or arguing online.
Don’t react without adequate information. Identify who will speak for the organization, so that no one says the wrong thing.
It’s important to acknowledge a crisis. In some cases, an apology might be necessary.
Your legal team might not want you to shoulder blame, but you can still deal with a problem head-on and be accountable. This helps to minimize drama and resolve matters more quickly.
Your team’s crisis plan should include prepared statements that could apply to any situation for immediate response:
- “We have activated our Crisis Response Team, and we will share information as soon as it becomes available.”
- “We know that individuals and families are hurting, and our hearts and minds are with them at this difficult time.”
- “We understand the urgency of this situation and we ask for your patience. Right now the health and safety of our (employees/customers) is our top priority.”
- “We have nothing new to report at this time, but we are working to learn the facts and will supply information as soon as we can.”
Reach out to employees and other stakeholders, including the media.
Who needs to know what’s happening, internally and externally? The messages and how often your team conveys them may vary by audience. If the crisis involves an accident, you may need to identify places to gather families and the media, to keep them separate.
Technology can help track down executives and others who need information immediately, via automatic calling or texting, and allow them to confirm they received the message.
Problems don’t resolve themselves, and storms don’t pass quickly in today’s social media-oriented society. Misinformation can spread, compounding a crisis. Reach out to those affected – by phone call, text message, emails, or in person, as necessary. Let people know you care, even if you can’t tell them anything substantive immediately. Keep your cool online, on camera and in public. Be respectful – including with those who will share your story.
A debriefing after a crisis is as important as preparing for one.
- What did your organization learn from what happened?
- Do you need to change any organizational policies?
- Do your notification and monitoring systems need tweaking?
- Are there employees, clients, vendors, investors, donors or others who need longer-term reassurance as a result of what happened?
Be sure to thank your crisis response team for their hard work. Review with them what went right and what went wrong, including things beyond their control. This way, you can improve everyone’s crisis management skills.
Take advantage of the opportunity to get maximum exposure by calling reporters together.
When your company or organization has something newsworthy to announce, a news conference can give you the exposure you need with the ease of telling everyone at once. Such events draw reporters and photographers from newspapers, magazines, business journals, blogs, television and radio – giving you a chance to reach a wide audience.
A news event allows you to outline your message without interruption and emphasize important points before taking questions. As your publicist, we manage the crowd and gauge when to stop the Q&A, though you might conduct individual interviews after stepping down from the podium.
For journalists, a news conference reduces the chance of missing the story. And it means they can share in the questioning. But with “pack journalism” especially it’s important to stay on your toes. Reporters who cannot get an exclusive story will jockey for something “big” to break from an event meant to give you publicity.
Your event will be friendly and easygoing to start – you get to talk about something reporters want to hear and you might field some “softball” questions that you can hit on the mark. But reporters won’t just give you free advertising. Here are tips to handle awkward moments.
Expect edgy questions – at least one you don’t want to answer. It’s OK to say, “I can’t talk about that.” That’s a better response than “No comment,” which sounds like you have something to hide. It’s also OK to say, “I don’t know the answer to that, but I’ll try to get you an answer.”
The ‘loaded question’
Good reporters pretend to know more than they really do when asking a question. The reporter may have some knowledge of a situation and will try to elicit confirmation indirectly by asking about details. If you get a trick question, smile and say, “I can’t talk about that, but nice try,” and call on someone else.
Two behaviors are treacherous when you talk with reporters: Lying and losing your temper. Deception robs you of credibility when it becomes evident you knew something that you denied knowing. If you have a short fuse, watch your tongue. Frustrated reporters might try to provoke you into reacting badly.
Stay on message
If the topic of your news conference wanders way off track, guide the conversation back to your message by repeating a talking point. Or, ask for another question. Be diplomatic but firm. If the reporters pile on, wrap up – that’s better than an ugly clash that ends up on the front page or TV news!
Invited to speak with an editorial board? Follow these rules of thumb to avoid pitfalls:
Many politicians, civic leaders, CEOs and others eagerly agree to meet with a newsroom editorial board and then wonder, “What have I walked into?”
Often it’s a room with editors and reporters clamoring for headline news. If their guest slips up in some way, all the better. There’s a delicate balance here, involving mutual respect. The interviewee wants to get across certain points and stay on message, but the paper’s goal is to elicit something exclusive.
Consider these real-life scenarios:
- A politician says he doesn’t need the political machine to get elected, and loses votes when those he insulted work against him.
- A corporate executive, upset with a newspaper’s editorial on his industry, demands an audience to try to cut the editors down a notch but instead gets bludgeoned with facts.
- A local elected official reveals prematurely that he plans to run for governor because he hesitates and laughs nervously when someone asks about the rumor.
An editorial board can be a cordial give-and-take, but handled badly, it can turn into a bashing. Don’t assume that your guest status tips the balance in your favor. Sure, someone will welcome you and the reporters will listen to your pitch – but their questions might wander from polite to aggressive out of hunger for a good story, or just for sport.
Here are some tips to help manage your editorial board visit:
Arrive on time and stay longer than scheduled, if asked. Make a good impression with a genuine smile and strong handshake. This meeting doesn’t have to be contentious. You’re all assembled here with a common goal of imparting information to people. Speak candidly.
Bring someone with you, to track what’s said or to do quick online research for you. Bring documents; reporters like fact sheets, statistics, schematics, or other “proof” supporting your words. Before you arrive, review any notes an aide prepared for you; practice what you want to say.
Stay calm, relax
Be cognizant of your expressions and body language; act confident. Holding a pen can occupy your hands if you’re nervous. Taking a drink of water allows you to pause and reflect on what to say. Remember, no one expects you to be perfect.
Feed the beast
The editors control the line of questioning; make sure you control the message. Emphasize your important points and anticipate questions. Know your stuff, so that you don’t appear vulnerable. Don’t let the pack get “hangry.” You’re the expert whose information feeds their need.