Posts tagged ‘Customer Satisfaction’

Blogging is a great tool for small business owners

If the various ways of communicating and engaging on the Internet has “democratized” (is that really a word?) the media, it also has “equalized” (OK, a little better, but I hate ize words) public relations and business communications. One person really can run a worldwide business out of his or her basement.

While public relations used to be something used only by the largest companies, the craft’s ability to engage people means that small business, whether they know it or not, are engaged in PR. With that in mind, I had a great time the other night meeting with a group of small business owners at the Mendham (NJ) Business Association about blogging. The slides I created and presented are on Slideshare and  you can see them here.

Blogging is a great way to engage your customers, clients and even employees. I found some of the reasons people weren’t blogging interesting:

  •  “I have nothing to say.” Of course you do! You’re a business owner, which means you’re knowledgeable and passionate. You could write every day about your customers, tips on doing whatever it is you do or issues in your field that impact your clients (or customers or whatever you choose to call them).
  •  “I don’t know anything about the Web.”  Sites like WordPress and Blogger make it simple and tell you everything you need to know.
  • I don’t have the time.” So who does? Keeping your posts short is one of the keys to good readership. And if they’re not perfectly composed but the info is interesting, who cares?

Blogging is one of those activities that’s easy and fun. It’s just another habit to develop. We talked about the need to be honest and authentic, but when you’re speaking to business owners in a small town, that’s usually a given.

Let’s watch for some new blogs from businesses in Mendham, N.J.

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July 22, 2011 at 8:06 am

Apple vs. Android Lawsuits: PR Should Be Part of the Strategy

Apple has filed a lawsuit against several of its Android-using competitors, claiming the Android devices violate certain patents. Earlier this week, a court issued an important first decision in the case. There will be lots of appeals and companion cases.

 

Apple vs. Android

Is that Apple going to diminish the effectiveness of my Android tools? Where's the customer engagement?

I have no clue who will ultimately prevail in this battle. I hope we, the users, will, but I’ve seen no evidence that Apple is concerned about that. I’m an Android user, and I won’t forgive Apple easily if they take away or diminish my HTC Thunderbolt and my new Samsung Galaxy 10.1 (I love toys).

While the Apple vs. Android debate is great stuff for barbecues and water-cooler debates, these legal actions can impact reputations, sales and investor confidence. For that reason, lawyers should include public relations people when they undertake or defend against an action like the one launched by Apple. While the lawyers are worried about the fine points of the law and how to sell them to judges and juries, someone has to worry about the reputations of the companies involved in the lawsuits.

Whatever the legal arguments, public relations people need to:

  1. Explain in simple terms why the highly technical infringements are so important that they threaten the company and – equally important – its customers and employees;
  2. Head off those who will say the company is turning to the courts because it can’t compete in the marketplace through innovation;
  3. Assure customers that they will be protected, no matter what the outcome.

I’m not seeing much of that from Apple or any of the Android manufacturers.

Innovators should profit from their innovation. But high-tech, pharma and other innovating companies know they can’t protect innovations from competitors for long. While innovators certainly have a right to protect their intellectual properties, they should also consider that their defensive actions impact their reputation and the confidence of their customers, employees and others on whom their success depends. Similarly, those accused of violating intellectual property laws also have their reputation and consumer confidence on the line.

PR needs to be part of the intellectual properties strategy for both sides of these controversies. Apple, HTC and Samsung PR folks…where are you on this?

July 20, 2011 at 12:48 pm

From Inkhouse.net: How PR is Getting Better.

I write about things I think are important in public relations, and sometimes that means commenting on bad moves by my colleagues. I get tired, however, of the wholesale and unsupported criticism of public relations. Beth Monoghan wrote a great piece about how public relations is improving. It appeared in her blog ( http://www.inkhouse.net/inklings-blog/) and in PR Daily.  Thanks, Beth, for giving me permission to republish this. It’s definitely worth a read. 

In the early days of my PR career, I stood in the mailroom with a stack of a hundred or so cover letters sending out blast faxes to newsrooms as our press releases crossed Business Wire.

That same period saw me making late-night runs to Logan Airport, where the very last FedEx pickup happened around midnight as I rushed to get five boxes of press kits—which we’d been stuffing that evening—to Las Vegas in time for the opening of NetWorld + Interop the next day.

Inevitably, we’d outsource the press kits, receive them in the late afternoon, and discover all too late that a page was missing, so we’d take them all apart and redo them ourselves.

I can’t remember the last physical press kit I’ve seen or the last fax I’ve sent to a reporter. Today, our addiction to email and social networks has fundamentally changed the way in which PR professionals connect with reporters.

We used to call pitching “smiling and dialing” when I was just out of college, but caller ID put a quick end to stalker-style PR. And that is a good thing. It means that relationships, research, and quality content matter now more than ever.

Though many can argue the inherent lack of wisdom in 140 characters, the need to cut through that din with thoughtful, compelling, and divergent points of view makes public relations a more exciting profession. We have to be more creative and know our facts like never before. So, without further ado, here is my list of the six ways in which I believe PR has changed for the better:

1. Blast emails are going the way of blast faxes.

No one has ever liked bulk mail. I remember building long lists of reporters’ email addresses so we could send out our press releases when they crossed the wire. Inevitably, the mail merge wouldn’t work and Jane would receive a message that began, “Hello, Frank.” Thankfully, this is (almost) a thing of the past. We don’t allow blast emails at InkHouse. They don’t work. Personal emails related to a reporter’s area of interest have always been the best route, and today it’s the only route.

2. Quality content matters.

We used to struggle for the press to tell our clients’ stories in the words we’d like them to use. Today, the opportunity for quality content is practically endless. Companies have vast opportunities to seed, syndicate, and curate their own points of view and position themselves as thought leaders. However, the only way to do this is to have something interesting to say that is truly different. It’s not enough to agree with your peers.

3. New channels.

Between press releases we used to rely on trend stories, customer case studies, speaking engagements, and awards to maintain momentum and buzz for our clients. These tools are still important, but social media and blogging open up new channels every day. There might be a community just for cloud-based customer service that is eager for content. You may have a blog post on mobile travel technology for executives that Forbes wants to publish. Or maybe your point of view on the Groupon IPO is so unique that you are lighting up Twitter and the LinkedIn Groups about daily deal sites. Opportunities are out there, and they can drive real engagement, conversations, and even traffic. Good PR people know how to find them and how to engage in them.

4. Relationships matter more.

Media relations has always been about relationships. I have always believed that PR professionals should treat journalists as clients—we should help source information and experts even when it does not benefit our own companies or our clients. Social media has made relationships easier, which is the good news. However, you have to participate to be in those conversations. Yes, Twitter does matter for PR professionals! It’s a different kind of relationship, but suddenly PR people have instant access to real-time information about reporters’ stories, opinions, and deadlines. If we pay attention, there are volumes of useful information. The trick is organizing the onslaught into something easily perusable; I highly recommend Twitter lists organized into TweetDeck columns!

5. PR drives SEO.

It’s no secret that reporters aren’t using the wire services as news sources. In a recent conversation, Jon Swartz of USA Today said that he hasn’t looked at Business Wire or PR Newswire in more than five years. However, the wires do provide an important source of search engine optimization juice. Of course, this assumes that you are maximizing your keywords terms in your press releases, but if you are you can do your company or client a great favor and drive some traffic.

6. We can measure results.

I remember the days when we provided reports on circulations, which we multiplied by two-and-a-half to get impressions. We were mirroring advertising measurement models, and we knew that it wasn’t an appropriate comparison back then, but it was all we had. Today, there are lots of ways to measure PR success: Klout scores, Technorati Authority rankings, engagement through social channels (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), name your favorite new social measurement tool. My favorite tool is Google Analytics and its handy annotation feature. We can show how PR achievements—press clips, blog posts, conferences, keynotes, Twitter chats, you etc.—drive traffic. We can also see which PR activities are driving traffic through the top referral sites.

Beth Monaghan is a principal and co-founder of InkHouse Media + Marketing. A version of this story originally appeared on the InkHouse blog.

 

June 30, 2011 at 2:07 pm

I’m accredited for another 3 years — here’s why that’s good

I got a note from the Public Relations Society of America the other day informing me that my accreditation has been renewed. That means I can put that APR thing after my name for the next three years.

The second paragraph of the letter warned me to start collecting continuing education and professional development hours because in 2014, I’m again going to need to show that I’m keeping up with whatever the world is throwing at us.

I get a kick out of all the debates I see on Linked-In and other places about accreditation. All I know is that my father, Norman, was an APR (among the first) and the credential served him well and that it has served me well.

So what do those three initials mean to my clients?

Well, let me start by telling you what it doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean that I have any official status that my unaccredited colleagues don’t have. And I readily admit that there are some excellent practitioners out there who, unfortunately, are not accredited. I don’t get to charge clients more for my APR. And I don’t buy the idea that masters degrees in PR have replaced accreditation.

 OK, so it’s nice to put those letters after my name. What does it do for my clients?

Jim Lukaszewski, APR, once told me that APR stood for “accepting personal responsibility.” I told him I was going to steal that line and use it and now I have. But that’s one of the things it means: Clients know that I take responsibility for my professionalism and my behavior.

  • Related to personal responsibility, APR is a pledge to live by the PRSA Code of Ethics and conduct myself accordingly. By extension, it’s a commitment to demand a level of ethical behavior from colleagues and clients. So clients who hire me know that they’ll be treated ethically and that I’ll represent them aggressively, but ethically. They also know that I’ll expect that courtesy returned.
  • Also related to personal responsibility, the APR – and the warning to start piling up new CEUs — is a commitment to professional growth. At my age, it would be easy to coast. Instead, I keep up with developments in my chosen profession. That means I understand social media as well as traditional media. It means I am current with thinking on how the law applies to public relations. And it means I don’t just talk about social media and turn a kid loose to explain it. Instead, I understand it as a tactic and how it fits into a communications strategy.  Clients, then, know they’re getting somebody who understands public relations and communications, and the latest technology and trends in research, communications and measurement, but also has some perspective about how those fit a strategic approach to communications.
  • I enjoy the company my APR puts me in. For clients, that means they get the advantages of a network where I’m usually only a couple of phone calls away from top-notch people to help me accomplish whatever the client needs done.

In short, my APR is a commitment to myself and to my clients to do the best job I can for them. So there’s no debate in my mind that accreditation is good for me and good for my clients.

 Signed: Doug Fenichel–APR

June 14, 2011 at 11:38 am

In-House PR is not just a blog anymore. It’s a full-service agency. May I help you?

I’ve been putting this off, but it’s time to make the big announcement: I’m hanging out my own shingle.

My new public relations firm will be called In-House Public Relations, and this blog will be my soap box. The firm, in fact, is named after the blog, which has been around for three years. It’s as good a reason for an agency’s name as any other.

You’re probably thinking, “Oh great. Just what we need: Another one-man PR shop.” I’ve said the same thing myself. But times have changed for me and for the business world. In addition, I bring something special the table: my energy, my outlook and my passion.

For more than 20 years, I’ve helped organizations large and small tell their stories, build their reputations and use strategic communications and engagement to meet their business goals. Being passionate about your reputation permeates an organization, influences the behavior of its employees and makes its stories compelling and credible. That, in turn, leads to business success.

In-House Public Relations will focus on real estate, homebuilding and related businesses, applying what I’ve learned over the past 11 years in that business. My sites also are set on clients in the public safety area, where I can combine my years of communications experience with my even-more years as a firefighter and paramedic. I’ve also worked in telecommunications, automotive, packaging and other areas. Naturally, I’m more than happy to work with any organization.

I moved from journalism to public relations to join the internal team that took AT&T through its historic break-up. Since then, I’ve been fortunate to work with and around people who bring uncompromising quality to the job, as well as a high sense of ethics. By quality, I mean a strategic view, attention to the client’s needs, effective and measurable tactics and a lot of energy to get it all done.  The network of top-notch professionals I’ve put together over the years and through my active involvement with the Public Relations Society of America will become my clients’ network.

Over the years, I’ve successfully used most of the tools in my box: sales support, media relations, crisis management, employee communications, government affairs, special events and social networking. I have the insight and experience of a guy who’s been around the block once or twice and the technical skills to understand the latest social media trends. What’s equally important is I see how they all work together strategically.

So why head out on my own now? I believe the current economy is creating new opportunities. In-House Public Relations is an example of that new economy, and is taking advantage of the opportunities it has created.

As large companies shed staff in response to the economic downturn, those people used their expertise to set up smaller companies. While they might not be able to do things on the scale of their former employers, their smaller scale, lower overhead and more nimble structure enables them to do things their former employers couldn’t do. The Fortune-750 national homebuilder I worked for over the past decade has spun off at least two new homebuilders, a floor-covering store, home-design consultants, sales coaches and others…and now a public relations firm. These new, smaller companies also need public relations counsel, just as they need financial and legal counsel. A firm like mine can use its network to take care of a large national or regional organization’s needs, and we welcome that opportunity. But we have more flexibility and lower overhead, enabling us take care of these new companies’ needs, as well.

I’ve spent most of the past 20-odd years as a client. That is, I was the in-house public relations counsel for different organizations. I know what clients need. I know how I liked being treated. And now I’ve got the opportunity to meet that high bar for my clients.

And now, a demonstration of my new entrepreneurial technique: Give me a call. Let me be your in-house public relations counselor.  At least wish me good luck.

May 16, 2011 at 12:43 pm

Customer Service Needs To Be On PR’s Radar

My wife, Karen, and I had an incredible customer-service experience at the Culinary Institute of America this weekend. We had dinner at one of the student-run restaurants. The food was incredible and the service was like watching a ballet. With all that, students still had time to talk with us about their curriculum and studies.

What does that have to do with public relations? Everything. Public relations professionals must do better at considering the reputational impact of customer service, especially in today’s social networking world.

 I doubt any PR person wants to run call centers. But what sales department doesn’t want to work with PR? What progressive legal team doesn’t consider public relations to part of their strategy? So it should be with customer service.

Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles wrote about the sorry shape of customer service in their wonderful book, Raving Fans. If you haven’t read it, buy it today. It’s a quick read, but one that will change your view of serving customers. “Good or bad,” the book concludes, every “company had a customer service product that was how well the merchandise suited the customers’ needs and the human dimension of the customer/company relationship.” Another word for that combination is reputation.

Every customer contact is an opportunity to reinforce your organization’s reputation, good or bad.  Every question, comment, compliment or complaint is an opportunity to build relationships and reinforce reputations, especially in the social networking world.

“Social media represents an entirely new way to reach customers and connect with them directly,” say Deirdre Breakenridge and Brian Solis in Putting the Public Back in Public Relations.  “Your new role transcends the process of broadcasting messages and reactively answering questions to investing in and building a community of enthusiasts and evangelists.”

But even in the real world, you can observe customer service and consider its impact on reputation. The student restaurateurs were a good example of good customer service. More routinely, a lady at Staples who walked me through placing an order online because the store didn’t have what I was looking, presenting another wonderful example of customer service. She even helped me fill out the rebate request…all for a $10 sleeve of labels.

When you watch the people who represent your organization to the public, either online or face to face, what kind of reputation are they building for you? We would never let someone talk with the media without some coaching. Should we let people talk to individual customers without coaching from PR when those customers can instantaneously tell the world about their experience?

February 23, 2011 at 2:30 am 1 comment

Join my talk at IBS: Using PR to reposition an active-adult community

This week, I’m in Orlando, Fla., where builders from around the country are gathering at the International Builders Show, sponsored by the National Association of Homebuilders.  Along with three others, I’m speaking to builders about repositioning their standing inventory of active-adult communities.

My position, of course, is that the prettiest homes delivering the best value won’t sell unless the community and the homebuilder enjoy a solid reputation. I’ll be talking about public relations, reputation and social networking with this group. Typically, I’m still massaging the talk and the accompanying slides, but I’ll post them here before  Friday.

Meanwhile, I’ve just kicked off the discussion with this post in a Linked-In Group sponsored by NAHB. Pls join our discussion:

Greetings from Orlando, where I’m at the IBS (#IBS2011). Along with Randy Hix, an expert in sales management; Cathie Daly, president of Design East; and Dottie Fawcett, of Constellation Web Design, we’re going to be talking with people about repositioning active-adult communities on Friday afternoon,.

Randy will talk about buying trends among active adults and how to adapt your sales strategies and tactics for that group. Cathie is on the cutting edge of what active adults want in their homes and in their clubhouses. Dottie will talk about who’s using the Web and someof the tools available. I’ll be talking about the power of your reputation and social networking.

The nice thing about social media, though, is we don’t have to wait until Friday to start the conversation.

We know many of you may be looking ahead to see what the active-adult market may be doing in years to come, but right now, you’re more concerned about standing inventory and how you revive those communties. Take a moment, please, and take this five-question survey: http://bit.ly/i85pSt .   Also, please tell us here what challenges you’ve faced and how you’ve addressed those challenges. Have you been successful? What are your main concerns.

Meanwhile, I’ll be writing about this on my blog, www.inhousepr.wordpress.com and we’ll use the twitter hashmarks #revivemy55 in addition to the #IBS2011.

January 12, 2011 at 1:46 pm

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