New Members, eh?

November 18, 2009

The Public Relations Global Network (PRGN), an international alliance of the world’s leading independent public relations firms, has further strengthened its global presence with the addition of two new international affiliates.  The new members are Fantail Communications Inc. of Toronto, Canada and cometis, a financial communications firm in Weisbaden, Germany.

As a founding member of PRGN, HMA Public Relations takes great pride in the quality of the firms that are part of the international network.

Jim Warrington, president and strategy leader for Fantail, along with managing directors Michael Diegelmann, Ulrich Weihle and Henryk Deter of cometis, all presented their agency’s strengths during the recent PRGN meetings in New York.

Each is a talented communicator with an exceptional sense of humor, which helped each agency gain unanimous support on their entry into the PRGN. 

This article appeared originally on proto.pl

Microblogs and PR

By Bartek Lewicki, Senior Account Manager, Multi Communications, PRGN POLAND

Late last year the owners of the American tourism portal TravMedia were thinking of ways to increase their brand’s recognizability, the number of unique visits and, most importantly, revenue, all on a limited budget. They were aided by the Boston-based Castle Group agency from the PRGN network. Their advice was simple: Twitter. A focused use of the micro-blog service as a marketing tool proved extremely useful, and helped increase the number of portal visitors by 150%. More importantly, revenues in the first five months of this year twice exceeded the budget prognosis.PRGN Logo Hi Res Color

There are many more such examples. Not surprisingly, the eyes of PR consultants in Poland are on Blip – the Polish equivalent of Twitter – a service which allows you to post messages of up to 160 characters. This amounts to a message about as long as the previous sentence. Can such short messages be useful in building effective and efficient communications? Opinions vary, not only among Polish PR specialists, but also their global counterparts.

No one doubts that micro-blogs are becoming a very important tool in the everyday work of communication specialists. Abbie Fink of HMA PR in Phoenix believes that Twitter will become a staple of most communication strategies developed by her agency, enabling them to directly involve consumers and journalists. “We use Twitter every day to communicate with the media. We use it to signal a story that we elaborate on by e-mail or over the phone.”

David Landis of LCI, San Francisco-based agency, emphasizes:  “I follow the media, and the media follow me. With Twitter I have a good sense of what journalists may be needing at a given moment and I do my best to provide it to them.” Landis believes that Twitter is an indispensable tool in everyday communications. “The way we access information is changing rapidly. As communications professionals we must speak where people are listening,” he says. As an example, he describes a project carried out for the San Francisco symphonic orchestra. “Twitter helped establish a loyal group of lovers and sponsors of the Orchestra, as well as fans of its conductor, Michael Tilson Thomas. With daily updates, music lovers became more attached to the orchestra.”

Twitter is also invaluable in crisis situations which require fast reactions and ongoing monitoring of the development of events. Patricia Pérez of VPE PR in Pasadena California says: We have been following Twitter on behalf of our clients and report on ongoing discussions, especially if they are negative. With the shrinking of traditional media, we have less opportunity to place our clients’ opinions. Twitter enables us to reach the public directly.” For Pérez it is also important that micro-blogs help her keep in touch with opinions on the client side, which is invaluable when cooperating with large corporations.

But not everyone is equally enthusiastic about micro-blogs and public relations. Mark Patterson of Australian-based Currie Communications believes Twitter can only serve as a source of information for monitoring potential crisis situations, and emphasizes that: “The majority of our receivers do not take this form of communications seriously. There is also insufficient proof that it can influence audience attitudes and behaviors. We find it hard to encourage our clients to invest in such activities.”

The TravMedia portal mentioned in the beginning of this article had no reservations about investing in communications via Twitter. Mark O’Toole from The Castle Group in Boston admits that the biggest challenge lied in establishing the initial group of people who would follow the company’s Twitter account. In the first month, the agency managed to attract several hundred people from a database of opinion leaders. This initiated a viral marketing campaign into social media. Less than six months later, the @TravMediaUSA address had over 3400 followers. This enabled the company to rank among the top 400 tourist portals (from among 20,000) in the Twellow ranking. The Twinfluence ranking placed this microblog in the top 15 000 – which is a success considering that Twitter has 10 million users. With Twitter, TravMedia reaches out to over 5 million people.

Uwe Schmidt from Hamburg-based IC AG believes that Twitter may be used to communicate with consumers, but it will not be successful in B2B communications. “In Germany this tool is still looking for its place in the PR professional’s toolbox. We are beginning to introduce it slowly in our services to selected clients, because it speeds up communications and provides support for classic PR” – he says.

Representatives of other agencies agree with his opinion. “Social media like Twitter are another communications tool, but they will never replace materials developed by professional journalists, who continue to prefer traditional ways of developing and verifying information” – believes David Landis.

Abbie Fink adds that this isn’t about replacing “traditional methods” but about applying different strategies that must be planned, tested and developed. “You cannot just open a Twitter account, make a bunch of entries and call it a strategy. You need to manage it like any other communications plan”, she emphasizes. “You need to remember the three basic premises: involvement, dialogue and fun.”

Poland’s most popular micro-blog – blip.pl – is approaching half a million user, but it is hard to find evidence of successful marketing campaigns in the medium. Rather, agencies are testing the capabilities of the new service and focusing on building a network of contacts, referred to as “observers”. Lively discussions are underway to integrate the public relations community.

Mariusz Pleban, president of Multi Communications admits he is interested in what goes on in Blip.pl. “I currently see two benefits for businesses that open accounts in Blip. Firstly there is the opportunity to talk directly to the consumer, which translates into the second benefit – imagebuilding. However, there are no tools to precisely verify effectiveness, which chills our enthusiasm somewhat. Fortunately, we have access to the experiences of our global colleagues associated in the Public Relations Global Network. Their experiences with Twitter have been very valuable for us”

The benefits of twittering and PR are there for… Twitter itself. The monthly value of its advertising equivalent is around $48 million.  Hard to believe? Not if you got 2.73 billion quotes over several months in CNN, Fox News and the press all over the world.

Independent of whether the PR industry has fully embraced the possibilities offered by micro-blogs, the phenomenon of Twitter and similar service is undeniable and cannot be ignored. Agencies which come up with the right idea and persevere in including social media (micro-blogs in particular) into their communications strategies, will be successful.

The PR agencies and firms quoted above are part of Public Relations Global Network associating 40 independent agencies operating on 80 international markets.

trump-youre-firedFlipping through the June issue of Inc. magazine, I came across this great quote from Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari.  He says: “I have come to believe that job security is one of the worst things a person can have, especially early in their career. Getting fired gives you a chance to reinvent yourself.

All of a sudden you have the whole world in front of you and you can now leap to a career that you may love more.”

That got me thinking – I have been fired a few times.  And each time, it was the best thing that happened to me.  From my first job at a local magazine where I was asked to write restaurant reviews without ever trying the food.  They were actually paid ads so my journalistic ethics wouldn’t let me do that.  From my first agency job where now looking back I learned so much about what it means to work with integrity and honesty – characteristics I hope I continue to demonstrate everyday.  From the job after that where it really did come down to finances.  But it was that job that gave me the contacts and courage to strike out on my own and start an independent consulting firm.  Which led me to Scott and the team at HMA Public Relations.

I will be forever grateful to those first bosses who knew me better than I knew myself and gave me the swift kick to the curb that I needed.  Without them, I wouldn’t be what I am today.

What about you?  Any great getting fired stories you’d like to share?

Agencies and Indies

July 6, 2009

abbieOver the past several weeks I have had numerous conversations about what is happening in the public relations agency world.  Of course, the usual topics of billable hours, responding to RFPs, doing more with less are common themes.  But an emerging conversation is about the independent practitioner – smart communications professionals who have taken the plunge and decided to do this on their own.

I applaud them – running a business is challenging, and in today’s economy … well, who knows what to call it.  What I do know, is that there are plenty of business opportunities for both the indies and the agencies.  And if we’re thinking creatively, we will figure out a way to work together.  Certainly there is business out there that comes to a firm that might be better served by a sole practitioner.  Conversely, I would guess that the indies are finding new business leads that might need a little more staffing than what they can provide on their own.

So I offer this challenge to all of us – agencies and indies – let’s help each other out.  I’d love to know what types of work you like to do, what client industries you specialize in, what are your billable rates, etc.  I’m happy to share that with you as well.  Just think about the possibilities.

mark-stantonLong-time Valley PR practitioner and former HMA staffer Mark Stanton has been appointed deputy director of the Arizona Office of Tourism.  Gov. Jan Brewer formally announced this appointment late last week.  Mark has a tremendous amount of experience in hospitality and tourism marketing communications and we are confident he will do great things in his new position.  Mark, we’re proud of you.

scott1The nine Independent Newspapers around the Valley will have a new look soon.

They are going the way of the Arizona Republic‘s Community Sections and The Tribune’s tabloid format.  The new format is “meant to appeal to readers and advertisers.”  I’m thinking that a smaller format paper means smaller type – which leads me to believe a sponsorship with a reading glass company should be part of the mix.

The word is that each of the newspapers’ commitment to local news remains the same.  The reality is that less advertisers equals less editorial space, which eventually leads to less news.

Too bad, because the Independents have always done a solid job of keeping neighborhood news important.

Time Flies

February 20, 2009

scott5I received a nice letter from the Society of Professional Journalists recognizing my 15th year as a member of the organization.

The letter pointed out some things that were going on back then, including:  the end of the Persian Gulf War, the end of the Soviet Union and the end of apartheid.  It also noted that the nation watched as a woman testified about alleged harassment by Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas and welcomed a new family named “The Simpsons” into primetime.  The Exxon Valdez leaked 11 million gallons of crude oil into Price William Sound and Ted Turner launched Turner Network Television.

It will be most interesting to see what’s written about in my next letter.

Rock’n’Roll!

January 19, 2009

abbie1
For the sixth year, I participated in the PF Changs Rock and Roll Marathon.  Not as a runner, but as the manager of the first stage of entertainment. I have the pleasure of seeing all of the nearly 30,000 runners (full and half) run past me, still in good shape, with big smiles on their faces.  My band this year was Come Back Buddy, a Buddy Holly tribune band, complete with poodle skirts and penny loafers. 
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This year, I had a little help from Terry, a student in ASU’s tourism department who came out bright and early at 5:30 a.m. to get a little hands-on experience with special events. hma-sign-marathon-leaders-0548

The full marathon course runs right past HMA’s office.  The elite runners seem to glide through the race. 2009-rock-and-roll-marathon1

Congratulations to all participants and I’ll see you again next year!

prgn-logo-hi-res-colorHMA Public Relations’ Public Relations Global Network (PRGN) affiliate in Sweden, Coast Communications, has been named the top public relations agency in Sweden for 2008 by the country’s leading trade magazine, Resumé. 

Coast has offices in Stockholm and Copenhagen and is led by former television journalist Karl G. Rickhamre.

HMA is proud to be affiliated with such a top-notch firm.

abbie1Each year I attend the PRSA Counselors Academy Spring Conference – a couple days with fellow agencies and owners.  It is always a great experience – not only networking with other professionals but the breakout sessions and roundtables as well.  This year’s event is at La Quinta Resort in Palm Springs, May 31 – June 2 and will focus on maximizing your company’s profit, people and potential.  I encourage you to give it serious consideration.  Super Saver Rates are available until the end of January.  Invest in business and join me at Conference this year.prsa-counselors