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(More) Words of Wisdom

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Following up on last week’s roundup of prominent PR pros proffering advice to their younger selves, here’s entrepreneur Richard Branson’s take on the assignment. Writing to his 25-year-old self, he says:

Dear Richard,

I’m writing to you from 40 years in the future. You’re now 65 years old, and while you’ve lived a happy and healthy life with no regrets, I have some advice for you.

Congratulations on launching Virgin. I know you’re still trying to find your feet and work out the ins and outs of business, but stick with it. I can guarantee the best is yet to come. While I don’t want to spoil the mystery and fantasy of the unknown, I can tell you there will be so many wonderfully rewarding moments and the most incredible people in your future. And, yes, many of your wildest dreams will come true. But there’s a clause: you will have to work hard to make them happen.

The road ahead is pock-marked with many bumps, chasms, and forks. There will be times where you want to give up and throw everything in. Don’t. By turning challenges into opportunities, you will find success you never realized you were capable of achieving. But you won’t always succeed. In fact, you will fail time and time again. That’s OK, though, because failure is an inevitable part of every personal and entrepreneurial journey. It’s important to pick yourself up, retrace your steps, look at what went wrong, and learn from your mistakes.

“Entrepreneur”: now there’s a word that you might not be overly familiar with yet. But you will be. It’s a word that will become synonymous with your name and your approach to business. It’s also a word synonymous with risk. You took a risk when you left school to start Student magazine, and again when you moved from Student magazine to Virgin Records—and both paid off. Continue to take chances. In the future, how “lucky” you are in business will be determined by how willing you are to take calculated risks.

Let your dreams guide your path. Keep the people you love and respect close to you. Don’t be afraid to delegate responsibility. Don’t let the naysayers deter you. Screw business as usual and do things your own way. The Virgin brand will take you places other than music. Your ability to take calculated risks and your incurable optimism will lead to great heights—both in business and in life. Like one of your favorite authors, Dr. Seuss, wrote, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” Reach for the moon—it’s yours for the taking, if you go out there and grab for it with both hands.

Good luck—

Richard

Sir Richard also “corresponded” with himself at ages 10, 50, and 65.

Words of Wisdom: Women in Communications

womens history pr communicationsWrapping up this Women’s History Month, we’re featuring some inspirational—and insightful—answers by women in the PR business to the question: Knowing what you now know about work and success, what advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?

There is no crystal ball. You don’t know where you will end up, so enjoy the journey and enjoy wherever it takes you. Work as hard as you can and learn as much as you can. Be curious, be inquisitive, and ask a lot of questions. Be indispensable. Always do your best and impress with your enthusiasm. Build lasting relationships.—Tami Hausman, Hausman LLC

If you don’t ask for it, you won’t get it. Go out there and get it.—Liz Torres, Hill+Knowlton Strategies

Play the long game and don’t look for shortcuts.—Amy Lyons, SHIFT Communications

Be the person everyone want to work with and ultimately you’ll be the person everyone wants to work for.—Catherine Hernandez-Blades, Aflac

Celebrating Women's History Month: Women in PR

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As a Minority/Women Owned Business, we’re pleased to see the many ways Women’s History Month is being observed. One celebration has particular relevance for us: The role of women in the PR business is the focus of a new exhibition at the Museum of Public Relations and Library. The opening of the show was marked by a panel discussion of the contributions women have made to the industry over the years; participants included Karen Russell, University of Georgia; Meg Lamme, University of Alabama; Karla Gower, University of Alabama and director of the Plank Center; Muriel Fox, co-founder and PR director for the National Organization for Women; and Anne Bernays, novelist, teacher, and daughter of PR pioneer Doris Fleischman Bernays.

Open by appointment, the museum is home to the world’s largest collection of historic public relations materials and artifacts. Books, journals, letters, posters, audio tapes, and films chronicle the evolution of the field and the innovative women—and men—who help shape the way we see the world.

Tips to Strengthen Professional Relationships

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Do you want to be top-of-mind not only with people that you want to do business with, but also with those who can help build your influence? The secret is to get personal. Here are four tips to help build your professional relationships and get larger returns as a result.

1. Reach out IRL. In this world of e-mails, texts, and tweets, the value of a phone call is often underestimated. Take time every so often to pick up the phone to touch base with a prospective client or colleague. You can also stop by a client’s office to say hello or drop off a small token of appreciation you’ve picked up during a recent trip. Gestures like these let people know you’re thinking about them, and that they are important to you.

2. Perfect your timing. Reaching out is key, but don’t forget to factor in when it’s appropriate to do so. Don’t just get in touch with journalists when you want them to write about you or cover your project. Instead, suggest meeting for a coffee—your treat—to talk about the stories they are working on now and down the road. Make a friendly introduction to a third party that shares common interests with your writer friend. Send a thank you note and connect on social media by sending a LinkedIn invitation within a day or two after your meeting.

3. Socialize on social media. Social media is an essential tool for successful marketing. You can share your work and ideas in real time, while simultaneously making connections with other design pros. Maintain active Twitter and LinkedIn accounts and open up communication channels with writers, peers, and potential clients. Connect with, or ask for an introduction to, those folks you want to know. Familiarize yourself with journalists’ Twitter handles and say hi once in awhile. (Of course, don’t forget to mention your latest project!)

4. Really get to know people. If you take the time to find out what’s important to the individuals you want to connect with, your chances of establishing professional relationships with them will increase. Make a list of personal as well as professional details about each person, ranging from their alma mater to their extra-curricular accomplishments to what non-work-related subjects in which he or she is interested. If you demonstrate that you’re knowledgeable about a person’s life outside of work, it shows you’re interested in building a mutually beneficial relationship.

A Quick PR Quiz for AEC Professionals

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To help you perfect your communications strategy in 2017, we’ve put together a pop PR quiz highlighting some common misconceptions about public relations. How do you think you’ll score?

True or False: Use as many social media platforms as possible to promote your projects

FALSE. It may be tempting to set up as many profiles as possible in the hopes of reaching the widest audience, but it’s more effective to selectively choose the channels that will reach your target audiences. For example, image-centric Instagram is ideal for showing your firm’s creativity through photographs; more text-heavy postings on LinkedIn will connect with executives. Remember “Less is more”: It’s the way you use your social media platforms that matters, not how many you use.

True or False: Designing a great building means your firm will get noticed immediately

FALSE. Your latest project may be the best work your firm has ever done, but that doesn’t guarantee that you will get top press coverage overnight. Quality editorial requires solid strategy. Developing an effective PR campaign for your firm and projects takes time. Getting the word out about your work should start long before the project is finished, so it is helpful to establish a schedule for all press related activities. Update your social media regularly with photos of the project to alert the press to construction milestones.

True or False: If an editor doesn’t answer your follow up about a project, it’s helpful to reach out again

TRUE. If an editor hasn’t responded to your follow up about your latest project, it doesn’t automatically mean they’re not interested. The key to grabbing an editor’s attention is to find new ways of pitching your project; don’t just repeat the content of your last email. Tip: Keep your emails concise. Make the most important information easy to find by putting it in the first few sentences, or use bullet points to call out key ideas.

True or False: Social media is impersonal and time consuming

FALSE. Social media offers a great advantage in showcasing your firm’s personality by providing a “behind the scenes” look at your firm and its work. You can offer brief, personable updates that don’t need to follow the formalities of press releases. Updating your accounts daily or a few times a week takes only a couple minutes, and can help keep your firm’s name top-of-mind with clients and target audiences.

True or False: Developing relationships with the media is not as important as sending out lots of press releases

FALSE. To create meaningful exposure for your projects, quality content is essential, not the number of press releases you send out. It’s important to keep in mind that while reporters might not cover a story the first time you pitch to them, maintaining regular contact with them can help lead to an exclusive story down the line. That’s why building a professional network of media contacts is critical. By establishing a solid rapport with an editor, it will increase the odds that he or she will remember you the next time they’re looking for a story on a specific type of project.

Public Relations: A Resolution for 2017

 

public relations pr hausmanHiring a public relations agency is a positive, proactive step in building your brand and reaching the right audiences with your message. While most searches will start with the internet, don’t forget other sources for recommendations: professional organizations, colleagues, and even competitors will be able to offer suggestions on who to consider (and just as importantly, who to avoid). Once you’ve identified some potential PR firms to hire, it’s time to take a closer look at their qualifications:

People and practices. In a large part, you’ll be entrusting your business’ reputation to a public relations agency, so it’s key to have good chemistry with—and confidence in—its management and staff. Do some sleuthing, and check out their LinkedIn profiles and professional bios. Follow up with a face-to-face meeting, and find out who will work on your account and in what capacity.

Corporate culture. Will you be best served by working with a large PR firm, with a traditional organizational structure and resources? Or would you find a small, specialized shop that’s an upstart in the industry more in keeping with your own business style? Think about whether you want to be challenged—or complemented—by your public relations team.

Results. As with any hire, you’ll need to get and vet references for every public relations agency you are seriously considering. There are two sides to this: feedback from the firm’s current and former clients, and recognition by the PR industry. Ambitions are all well and good, but achievements are what counts.

End-of-Year Top Tips for PR Professionals

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Holiday parties and celebrations notwithstanding, the last half of December can seem pretty quiet as many clients wind down their newsworthy activities, putting the bulk of new business on temporary hold until January. PR pros can take advantage of this respite to lay the groundwork for a successful new year. Here are four tips on ways to make this momentary lull more productive:

1. Update your media list. You’re sending out holiday cards anyway (you are, aren’t you?), so it’s a logical time to make sure your directory of contacts is accurate. If there are new names on publication mastheads, write a short note introducing yourself and your clients, making sure to position your firm as a resource.

2. Remember that deadlines know no season, and the December slow-down can make a journalist’s job more difficult as sources and stories are in short supply. Capitalize on this by following up with editors and writers who might have more time to review your pitches during these weeks.

3. Review 2017 editorial calendars and note any opportunities for strategic story placements.

4. Develop a press release or a blog post that summarizes industry trends, using your clients’ achievements and expertise as examples. This will provide searchable content for journalists working on classic “year-in-review” stories.

Online Visibility Not Dot Com

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For PR pros, helping clients stand out from the crowd and increasing online visibility is an everyday objective. That can be particularly challenging on the internet, where dot.com is an all-too-common denominator. Google has created an alternative to this online anonymity: top-level domains, or TLDs, that inject digital cachet into this otherwise undifferentiated realm.

There are dozens of TLDs from which to choose, from .academy to .zone. Using a Google Domain TLD can enhance brand identity, instantly conveying the nature of a business and better communicating the value of the website. They can also be employed on a temporary basis, for specific marketing and promotional purposes. For example, a company staging a contest targeting its social media followers might create a website with .social as the TDL for the duration of the event.

Annual registration fees for the TLDs vary. Twenty bucks secures a year of .studio; for $30, choose from .builders, .construction, .contractors; .engineering costs $50. Interestingly, .design ($40/year) has a limited lifespan, with a maximum of nine years of registration.

When it comes to search rankings, TLDs with these descriptive endings are not treated any differently than the conventional .com, .org, or .net. They come up in searches just like any other domain name. And it’s possible to seamlessly redirect an old domain name to a new TLD—this ensures there won’t be any lost traffic to a site.

Customized top-level domains offer a simple, efficient way to boost the visibility of a website and reinvigorate a brand. Who wouldn’t want to be dot.cool rather than dot.com?

Change is in the Air: PR Today and Tomorrow

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To say that this past week has been a time of change is quite the understatement. While not as roiled as the current political arena, the PR industry is evolving, too. Following up on last week’s post, here’s more insight from the latest Global Communications Report, compiled by the USC Annenberg Center for Public Relations.

Most of the PR executives surveyed for the report anticipate change in the structure of their agencies and departments to better address changes in the communications landscape over the next five years, primarily driven by the adoption of new technologies and increased demand for content delivery across more channels. There is universal agreement that over the next five years, executives will be expected to deliver more strategy, more creativity and more measurement.

Relationships also are shifting. Corporate communications clients acknowledge that they value agencies more for their strategy and creative prowess than for their “arms and legs.” Meanwhile, agencies disclose that about 30% of the time they report into marketing or brand management, versus 34% into corporate communications.

By 2020, agency leaders expect to see their revenue streams shift away from earned media, but it will still be the dominant revenue driver at 36%. Meanwhile, all of the other media categories will grow—owned to 24.6%, shared to 24.2% and paid to 12.9%. In total, PR executives predict 63% of all media outlets will offer paid placement opportunities in five years. Ironically, only 8% rank media-buying skills as an important staff skill for the future.

“The pace of change in public relations has never been faster than it is today, but at the same time, it will likely never be this slow again,” added Paul Holmes, editor of The Holmes Report, which partnered on the research. “Both agencies and their clients recognize that change is occurring, but it is not clear that they appreciate the extent, when it comes to finding non-traditional talent or developing non-traditional services, particularly outside of earned media channels.”

Looking to the future, it is clear that PR as a profession is changing. All survey respondents agree that in five years their jobs will become more complex, challenging, and strategic. Only 27% of agency leaders believe by the year 2020 the term “public relations” will clearly and adequately describe the work they do.

PR: An Industry Snapshot

 

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To best serve our clients in the architecture and engineering fields, we keep on top of the evolving state of the PR industry. The 2016 Global Communications Report, a comprehensive survey of senior public relations executives by the USC Annenberg Center for Public Relations, predicts the worldwide PR agency business will grow from its current estimated size of $14 billion to $19.3 billion over the next five years. To accommodate this growth, agency leaders anticipate their headcount will increase over the same period by about 26%.

Industry leaders, both in agencies and in-house, believe future growth will be driven by content creation and social media, as well as more traditional activities such as brand reputation, followed by measurement and evaluation. Earned media still ranks relatively high for both corporate and agency leaders. Paid media ranked last of 18 possible growth drivers.

“Overall, we are sensing a continued optimism about the direction the industry is headed, which is good news for people entering the field,” said Fred Cook, Director of the USC Center for Public Relations. “But questions remain about the industry’s ability to attract the right talent, adapt to new technologies, and increase the level of investment required to capitalize on these opportunities.”

Both agency and corporate executives strongly agree that the ability to attract and retain the right talent is their greatest challenge, and the majority of both groups believe the PR industry is not good at sourcing talent from outside its ranks, citing salary levels as the major obstacle.

Traditional expertise still tops the list of skills communications departments and PR firms view as key to success over the next five years. Written communications is the skill ranked most important by client and agency respondents. When asked what personal traits they felt were critical for the future, industry leaders ranked traditional values of teamwork and hard work near the top—but they also believe their teams are already strong in these areas. They say more horsepower is needed in curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking.

When asked about diversity, only 45% of agency heads and 44% of corporate executives believe their ranks are as diverse as their clients’ customers or stakeholders. Both groups cite lack of access to diverse talent at senior and entry levels as the primary challenge.

“It’s clear that finding the right talent is by far the most critical factor in the PR industry’s future growth,” said Cook. “The more complicated question is what skills should this talent possess. Industry leaders still value traditional communications skills but are searching for more strategy, creativity and diversity.”

In a follow-up post, we’ll take a more detailed look at what’s in store for public relations pros.

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