New Year, New De-Stressed You.

Post written by Lauren Wasley, Creative Media & PR Strategist, energi PR.

Many of us make New Year’s Resolutions, perhaps in hope that the combined unity and benchmark of a new calendar year will help them stick. Unfortunately it’s a sad reality that most of these plans begin fizzling out come March (just look at gyms for an easy example).

If you work in public relations, chances are you’re familiar with stress. Last year, the industry ranked sixth in the annual CareerCast.com list of most stressful jobs alongside positions in the military, firefighters and airline pilots. Unfortunately for PR practitioners, this doesn’t come as a surprise, as public relations has been a fixture on these delightful lists.

Knowing that your mental health is just as important as your physical health, I wanted to share some tried and true tips for managing your stress levels in the office.

  1. Get up every hour: Whether it is to stretch or take a quick walk, a break from the screen can do wonders.
  2. Cut back on the coffee: I know it’s hard, but you won’t miss the jitters, believe me. If you suffer from anxiety, you know that it’s recommended to cut down the caffeine and there are many tasty and healthier alternatives from herbal teas to even decaf coffee if you can’t forgo the flavour.
  3. Stay hydrated: Coffee doesn’t count, so make a trip to office water cooler or kitchen (because I’ve not seen a cooler since the mid-2000s). Not only will it get you moving and away from your desk, it will prevent you from overeating and make your insides happy.
  4. Make friends: Work can be stressful and nothing beats having a support system when times get tough. Even if you’re not the most social person outside of work, having someone to vent to or bounce ideas off is invaluable. So consider eating in the lunchroom instead of your desk for once.
  5. Work-life balance: Try not to get in the habit of spending all your evenings at the office. Unless you’re on a hard deadline, leave at a reasonable time, or bring your work home. That way at least you can work in sweats on the couch, while watching the Kardashians… or, CBC. Definitely CBC.

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Lauren Wasley

Lauren Wasley

Skills: We’ve all got some, but which ones do you need to sharpen for 2015?

Written by Lauren Wasley, Creative Media & PR Strategist at energi PR.

Many careers paths are chosen because they provide areas where our natural skills or interests can best be realized.  If, like me, you have a knack for creative writing, a passion for presenting and a short attention span, you might end up in public relations.

As an industry, a lot has changed in the seven or so years I’ve been practicing. Surprisingly, I started at the end of the fax machine era. Coverage came in each morning, hard copies were even kept in binders and we used rulers and calculators to measure the public relations value of each clip.

These past few years it seems there is a new tool, trend, app or offering emerging every few months. Keeping track of these developments alongside the movements of Canadian editors and freelance writers is a full-time job. So, as you can imagine, staying at the top of your game is a skill in itself.

Based on the evolution of the industry, I predict the following four areas will become more critical for public relations practitioners in 2015:

  1. Crisis Communications: 2014 was a tough year for the airline industry with several globally-documented crashes. Although rare, these tragic incidents are a reminder that crisis can hit at the most unexpected times. Whether it’s an accident, financial loss or scandal, it is important not only to react quickly to a crisis, but to speak and act appropriately. Local news can become global in an instant and if an issue is not handled correctly, it can quickly spin out of control.
  2. Measurement: Although Media Relations Points (MRP) is the industry standard in Canada, many agencies have clients around the world. As global integration becomes more commonplace, different practices are often employed to develop a level of consistency and allow for countrywide comparisons. Exploring best practices that all teams can understand and use will be key.
  3. Socially Savvy: Most of us can handle content development for social media, but as further emphasis is put on these channels a deeper understanding is required. From both an analytics and advertising perspective.
  4. Paid Content: Although editorial content is still our bread and butter, as newspapers shrink due to cuts in advertising revenue, organic stories are not always an option. To maintain coverage and exposure, agencies need to seek out sponsorships, partnerships and paid content opportunities, like mattes and ANRs, for their clients.

One of the most exciting aspects of our industry is that it is in constant motion. We need to think of change as a positive evolution. The more we know, the better we can do our jobs and that’s a plus for everyone.

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Lauren Wasley

Lauren Wasley

The Way We Were…and Should be Again

By Esther Buchsbaum,  co-founder, energi PR 

I was recently inspired by a colleague’s blog on his family business and the true meaning of “work ethic” and “customer service”.  It gave me a warm and welcoming feeling like the kind I get when I walk into my local bakery or grocery store or butcher.  There’s something inherently comforting knowing that I am being valued and appreciated and that the standard of product and service I will be receiving will be impeccable.  It makes me want to come back – again and again.

I am very loyal.  I had the same hairdresser for 30 years, I travel out of my way to visit the “cheese guy”  who I trust implicitly to design my après dinner delights, and I bow to my favourite sushi chef who I allow to tell me what I want for dinner as opposed to the other way around.  Why would I want to look elsewhere?

That doesn’t seem to be the case so much these days.  It’s all about the quick hit, short term gain, instant gratification; people don’t seem to want to take the time, nor expend the energy, they want it all and they want it now.  Well, relationships, the foundation upon which a solid public relations practice is built, cannot be forced nor can they be rushed.  Corporations who get “it” enjoy longevity, stability and brand loyalty through the generations.  And when they screw up, cause people inevitably do, then I have no problem giving them the benefit of the doubt and cutting them slack. Cause that’s what friends do.

Why PR still struggles with ROI

*Originally published in Marketing Magazine

Close to 20 years ago at a Spring Conference of Counsellors Academy (Public Relations Society of America), I heard a startling presentation from the then chairman of one of the big five American accounting firms. For PR to be successful, to be allocated sufficient budgets and earn corporate trust, “buy in” must come from the top.

In the same breath he warned that management consultants may represent our industry’s greatest threat. What did he mean by this? Simply stated, short of being proficient at doing media relations or event planning, management consultants bring the kind of talent that resonates with the C-suite. They are analytical, strategic, have great written and verbal communications skills, understand business dynamics and market forces, are highly productive and organized AND they know and can explain numbers. What’s more, they are comfortable responding to tough questions about profitability and can do so with really nice charts.

Were we all now going to hire MBAs? At the time that thought was quite appealing and the buzz among my PR agency colleagues was that if we didn’t get the ROI thing down pat, we’d soon end up pitching against consulting firms Mercer and McKinsey.

The industry hasn’t seen this prediction come to pass. It may be because we don’t offer the salaries commanded by management consultants or because promotion and publicity are still a big part of what agencies do. While Canada’s PR industry can be held up as a model for its Media Rating Points system, I’d say that we haven’t made nearly enough progress in quantifying ROI.

Why is measuring ROI for public relations such a challenge? To begin with, I believe that PR is so diverse in what it comprises that a campaign or strategy would have to be fractured into all of its parts if only to begin to probe each element, let alone dissect them into something that could be evaluated. PR initiatives are also not generally undertaken in a vacuum, so how do we carve out the impact of the PR and attach a number to it? Another obstacle I’ve experienced is the difficulty in getting sales data from clients as well as details on other marketing programs that may be running concurrently. Company structure may be another impediment when the sales and marketing departments are separate.

I agree with Ford Kanzler, principal of Marketing/PR Savvy in Redwood, California whose approach to the ROI question with prospects is to point out successful brands and the correlation to PR. Al and Laura Ries did a good job of this in their book The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR. The problem, though, is that public relations has not become any easier to understand, explain or sell, therefore it has not become easier to measure its value. Or maybe we should reverse that statement.

The greatest challenge will be to convince those who question public relations in the first place. I am not sure that we can or whether we would even want to try and convince these folks. I maintain that unlike other forms of marketing that can be seen, touched and better controlled, for some, public relations is difficult to digest conceptually.

Businesses that have experienced the outcome of a well structured and executed executive reputation or crisis communications plan, whose brands have become household names after a clever social media campaign, those that have harnessed patient and physician support for an advocacy program or driven patients to an information website, recognize the value of their investment. This is where the opportunity lies.

Having a successful ROI discussion with clients and prospects lies in the hands of the PR industry and we should employ the same rigorous processes to get to a meaningful answer. We know what clients want; we need to find a way to give it to them. If we’re not sure – then let’s find out how best to do so. As the excellent storytellers we are, we need to author the story that speaks to outcomes in a way that our readers can learn. But we may need to illustrate our story with some colourful charts.

This column is the first in a two-part series. Up next: What’s out there, what to measure and how.

SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGEMENT RAPIDLY GAINING IMPORTANCE FOR CANADIAN PUBLIC RELATIONS PROFESSIONALS: SURVEY FINDING

TORONTO, August 18, 2014 – A majority of Canadian public relations and communications professionals say managing their organizations’ social media has become one of their most important functions. This was one of several key findings included in two new research studies on public relations in Canada released today by the Communications + Public Relations Foundation (CPRF). CPRF funded both studies.

Conducted in partnership with the Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS) and Halifax’s Mount Saint Vincent University, the CPRS GAP VIII: Canada Report 2014 provides Canadian communications practitioners and t heir employers the first national picture of the Public Relations industry and the primary issues it faces.

The study also illustrated principal difference between Canadian and American communications professions. When compared with similar studies undertaken south of the border, it becomes clear that a higher percentage of Canadian communications professionals are employed in government and non- profit sectors as opposed to U.S. data which indicated a higher concentration in corporate public relations.

The second study, conducted by McMaster University, Do They Have what it Takes?, found that writing skills are still the number-one desired competency in public relations and management communications, followed by strategy, leadership and competence in information and communication technologies.

“These studies demonstrate the high degree of relevance for public relations practice in Canadian business today,” said Bruce MacLellan, APR, FCPRS, Chair of the Foundation. “As new forms of media and digital publishing blend with trusted traditional channels, the need for credible, authentic, engaging, and high-quality communications is more important than ever. Our Foundation will continue to provide insights for the PR profession and demonstrate the growing role and importance of public relations and communication in the workplace.”

The CPRS GAP VIII study, led by Amy Thurlow, PhD, APR, Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax, is part of a larger international study that reflects public relations trends and practices. The international study includes USA, Brazil, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand in addition to Canada. Results of the study, co-ordinated by the University of Southern California, will be released in September in Madrid, Spain by the Global Alliance for Public relations and Communications Management.

The McMaster study, Do They Have What it Takes?, led by Terry Flynn, PhD, APR, FCPRS, focused on the views of entry-level public relations professionals and senior business executives regarding the competencies, skills and knowledge needed by young professionals to succeed in today’s demanding and complex public relations workplace.

GAP VIII – A Foundational Study for Future PR Research
Completed in March 2014, the Canadian component of the study provides new and valuable benchmark data about PR in Canada and includes four key insights:

  1. Public Relations and Communications is perceived as valuable by the C-Suite by 75 per cent of respondents and as contributing to financial growth by 52 per cent of CEOs.
  2. Public Relations and Communications professionals are considered the dominant players in the strategic use of social media by organizations, well ahead of Marketing and Sales, Information Technology, Human Resources and Customer Relations.
  3. Social Media is the top tool for measurement and evaluation for PR. However, the majority of respondents (55.7 per cent) use tools developed in-house for measuring and evaluating PR, 35.2 per cent don’t measure PR at all, and 27.9 per cent use standard or proprietary tools used by consultants.
  4. As in the US, media relations continues to be the core responsibility of public relations and communications, cited by 95.9 per cent of respondents.

McMaster – Do They Have What it Takes?
The McMaster study, with a focus on the competencies, skills and knowledge required by entry-level PR practitioners to succeed in today’s PR workplace is a snapshot of the public relations workplace at a particular point in time. It offers insights affirming known trends and highlighted gaps in expectation and performance. Four key findings:

  1. At 95 per cent, the overwhelming majority of participants hold a positive outlook of the PR profession in Canada in terms of growth and development.
  2. Junior and entry level public relations practitioners are reasonably well-educated with 29 per cent holding a university undergraduate degree and 22 per cent holding a university graduate degree in public relations and communications.
  3. There is a gap between junior entrants’ estimation of their knowledge, competencies and attributes (higher) and that of their employers (lower)
  4. Writing is still the number-one desired competency in public relations/management communications, followed by strategy, leadership and competence in information and communication technologies. Based on the study results, senior business executives clearly want to hire passionate, creative, professional and enthusiastic candidates who demonstrate excellent writing, critical thinking, creativity and confidence. They want individuals who can manage multiple demands in a constantly changing environment.

To access the complete GAP study report, visit http://cprs.ca/education/research.aspx or http://cprfoundation.ca/thepresent.html#anchor-research. For the McMaster study, visit http://cprfoundation.ca/thepresent.html#anchor-research

The Communications + Public Relations Foundation is a national organization that united business, academic, and public relations leaders in the advance of public relations education and research. It has been advancing education and k knowledge about the value and power of public relations in Canada since 1979.

The Canadian Public Relations Society is the only national membership public relations organization in Canada. It establishes and encourages high levels of professional standards, ethics, and studies in the public relations discipline.

Infographic link: http://CPRFoundation.ca/infographic0.png?v=1u1k0ciz6txs77

For more information:
Chitra Reddin, Research Chair, Communications + Public Relations Foundation, 416 423-9536 Karen Dalton, Executive Director, Canadian Public Relations Society, 416 239-7034
Bruce MacLellan, Chair, Communications + Public Relations Foundation, 416 920-9000

Keep Peggy Olson’s ambition, but ditch the drab duds

Written by:Lauren Wasley, Creative Media & PR Strategist at energi PR, Toronto.

With Mad Men on its final run, it’s time to follow suit and modernize your workplace attire

We’re not accountants or corporate lawyers, but why do many PR agency professionals insist on dressing the part? This question plagues my mind at night as I toss and turn amidst bouts of insomnia, counting the tiny number of bumps in my popcorn ceiling.

Ok, that was mildly exaggerated, BUT it is a topic I often think about.

As a professional in a creative field, it makes sense to show a little bit of personality and style when dressing for the job. Now, I’m not saying wear flip flops and overalls to the office, because they’re never ok, but I do think it’s time to leave the 1960s rule book at home.  Yes, Don Draper is THE MAN, I get it, but restrictive suits, ties and (for women) nude pantyhose don’t need to be your every day.

Now there are times when it’s appropriate, of course. For example, your agency could be pitching a conservative client; attending a high level meeting or presenting at a global conference. All scenarios where you might want to find your Sunday best.

But what if you’re in a brainstorm for the latest energy drink? Or working with a fashion-forward new designer? As PR professionals we’re expected to be in-the-know and “on trend” and sometimes that ill-fitting tweed blazer with oversized shoulder pads isn’t the best demonstration of that.

Just like food, exercise and sleep, fashion trends should be used in moderation. Brightly painted nails, leather biker jackets, colourful socks and even (gasp!) jeans can be incorporated into your wardrobe if you’re properly prepared. Just leave a spare blazer and nice shoes in the office and you’ll be fancied up in no time. Seriously, Superman will have nothing on you.

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Lauren Wasley

Lauren Wasley

 

After July 1st, will you be King of the CASL? Or Just a Dirty Rascal?

If there is any doubt about whether I am frustrated, cynical or just plain grumpy over this CASL law, the answer is yes to all three. I might feel differently if I was a lawyer, or could have one permanently on staff, but that’s not the case.

As CEO of energi PR, a mid-sized, independently owned, Canadian public relations firm, I am trying to understand why Canada’s anti-spam law needed to be so complicated and costly to implement. The law applies to all individuals and businesses sending commercial electronic messages (CEMs) and so, ignorance or a lack of sophistication or resources will presumably not be an excuse to be deviant. And so the rational part of my brain says, wait a minute all you small and medium-sized business that form the cornerstone of the Canadian economy and are trying to do business, win business and stay in business, why would anyone want to penalize those Canadian businesses who do not send SPAM? Ours is the business of public relations. We tell stories. From important medical discoveries to the colour of a new lipstick – and everything in between. Those who take these stories and develop them for their audiences and communities generally want to hear from us and, even when they occasionally might become annoyed by a bit of persistence, they would hardly describe our email communications as SPAM.

Yes, we want to ENLARGE our client’s business and our own, but does this compare in any way with penis enlargement supplements, the latest weight loss scheme or an invitation to meet the woman or man of your dreams?

Make no mistake. energi PR is CASL compliant. We’ve distributed our consent requests, hired one of the country’s most knowledgeable internet law specialists, engaged our IT team, implemented a contact management system, ensured that our email signatures provide an unsubscribe function, trained our team, documented our procedures and anointed a Compliance Officer. Can you imagine any better use of our resources?

As I said at the start of this rant, I am tired and grumpy about all of the machinations and cost that CASL has imposed. But I am also sympathetic to those in PR and in other businesses who simply do not have the wherewithal to jump into the CASL action.. The Canadian Council of Public Relations Firms, an industry association that represents more than 25 of Canada’s leading PR firms, of which energi PR is a founding member, has further supported its members by obtaining its own legal opinion that focuses on our stock and trade, including communications with journalists. The Canadian Public Relations Society webinar explaining CASL is another valuable resource for our profession.

I agree that SPAM is annoying and efforts should be made to eliminate it. I also don’t think that the authors of CASL were intentionally mean-spirited. But sometimes even the very best of intentions come back to bite one on the butt. My sense is that CASL will have little impact on the email junk we’ve received to date and convinced that unnecessary obstacles have been put in place for honest, legitimate individuals and companies that want to be profitable and contribute to Canada’s economy and society. I would have much rather have made a charitable donation than pour thousands of dollars into CASL compliance.

As a final note. I started in business before fax machines were invented. Who knows, maybe making the Canadian commercial email message such a villain will force us back into personal business interaction, which wouldn’t be so bad.

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Carol Levine (@Carol_levine) is co-founder and Managing founder of energi PR, digital, communications, an award-winning independently owned Canadian PR consultancy established in 1990 with offices in Toronto and Montreal. energi PR is the Canadian affiliate of the Public Relations Global Network, providing expertise in consumer and healthcare public relations to national and multinational brands. Carol is the immediate past Chair of the Canadian Council of Public Relations firms and is a 2013 Inductee in the Canadian Healthcare Marketing Hall of Fame as well as a Fellow of the Canadian Public Relations Society.

Feeling entitled? You won’t get a glass slipper working in PR.

Written by:Lauren Wasley, Creative Media & PR Strategist at energi PR, Toronto.

Maybe I’m getting old, but after almost seven years in the industry I’m beginning to feel a growing sense of disconnect between myself and many of the new graduates I’ve met lately. I grew up with parents who ingrained that hard work pays off ethic into me at an early age. My first job, at 14, was a paper route which I thoroughly despised (braving the elements with a cart full of newspapers is not my forte), and so as soon as I was able I get a “proper” job, I did. It was at a pharmacy and that job remained a constant fixture in my life for a good seven years as I went through numerous other part-time jobs and paid my way through school.

But I digress.

The root of this disconnect is this sense of entitlement that seems to exist in today’s young workforce. New PR school graduates may have the theory down, but doesn’t mean they are immediately capable of putting it into practice. A good PR practitioner has years of experience under their belt. Media monitoring and reporting, for example, is often viewed with disdain, but it’s actually an ideal task to ease new PR practitioners into their roles.  So what am I missing? Do they not realize the importance of this vital task? Securing and sharing editorial coverage is what we get paid for. Arguably, it is one of the most important tasks we do, alongside media relations.

The industry has also advanced a lot in the years since I was an intern. I remember having to come in earlier than my colleagues to read each newspaper and magazine. This was followed by ninja-like Google searches. Then I’d scan and format each clip one by one in a nicely formatted word document and evaluate MANUALLY to get a dollar value (ruler and calculator in hand).

Nowadays most agencies use programs like Cision which do all this for you – that’s right, all of it. See these new graduates are unlikely to ever experience a world where newspaper-stained fingers are a daily occurrence, or where sourcing event decor or product for a mailer meant running around Chinatown in the middle of a snowstorm in 4 inch heels. They can just go online.

I think what new graduates need to understand is that in every job, and at every level, there is some tedious (and maybe undesirable) work to be done. It’s inescapable. But, if you can check your ego at the door, you’ll be just fine, trust me.

Lauren Wasley

Lauren Wasley

 

6 things from PR Boot Camp

Boot camp drills. (Photo credit CCPRF/CPRS)

Boot camp drills. (Photo credit CCPRF/CPRS)

In the spirit of Hemingway where “all are apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master,” many PR agencies recently sent their senior communicators to the Fourth Annual PR Agency Boot Camp, hosted by the Canadian Council of Public Relations Firms and the Canadian Public Relations Society.

PANKs, pics and gimmicks were some of the top takeaways from six members of the APEX PR crew in Marketing Magazine’s PR Filter.

Also check out some live-tweeting from PR Boot Camp.

#AwarenessDays are the new black

Written by:Allison Goodman, Account Coordinator with energi PR’s Healthcare Practice in Toronto

World Health Day, Daffodil Month, National Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Week, Parkinson’s Awareness Month, International Hemophilia Day, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome Awareness Month – these are just some of the awareness milestones that occur this April.

Although some may consider these to be merely special awareness days, we in the public relations business view them as key leveraging opportunities.

This day, week or month is the chance for organizations, associations and foundations alike to have their moment to shine and communicate their message and story to a captive audience. This is their opportunity to spread awareness for the disease area or condition that affects their stakeholders every day.

Some commemorate the given milestone with a major announcement, some with a news release and now, the more and more common tactic is through social media sharing. Perhaps an organization will develop a video or infographic that can be shared across all social media channels using a designated hashtag.

Go ahead and search one of the above awareness milestones that have recently passed or are ongoing on Twitter and you are sure to come across numerous mentions and shout-outs.

Let’s take, for example, this month’s Canadian Cancer Society’s Daffodil Month campaign. Type #DaffodilMonth in the Twitter search tool and you are brought to countless tweets, videos, links and articles all with a common theme – a message of awareness, strength and courage. This hashtag brings together conversations, stories and encouragement supporting the Society, its efforts and those touched by cancer – either directly or indirectly.

In addition to healthcare-specific awareness milestones, health-related organizations can also leverage non-traditional milestones to share a message and engage a community. As PR practitioners, it is our chance to get creative and correlate our clients with these milestones, becoming engaged in a conversation that extends the reach of their message beyond its typical audience.

Other awareness days this month that can be connected to a health client’s message?

World Book Day – Is there a compelling book related to your client’s disease area? Well, why not post a link to the book with the hashtag #WorldBookDay?

International Jazz Day – Did you know that Natalie Cole, jazz vocalist and daughter of the great Nat King Cole, received a life-saving kidney transplant? This is an opportunity to spread awareness and encourage the importance of organ and tissue donation.

These milestones, and others, are endless… and so are the possibilities.

Allison Goodman

Allison Goodman