Those of us who work at an agency are no strangers to juggling. Not one member on the KCSA team only works on one or two accounts; more likely it is closer to seven or eight. To compound the frenzy of addressing multiple client needs, most of us have to prioritize tasks from several managers on a daily basis, making this ability one of the keys to success in agency life.
As KCSA’s resident OCD team member, I’d like to offer up the following tips on how to get tasks done in the most efficient and timely manner, with as little stress or miscommunication as possible.
Write it down – Sure, you have all of your meetings for the day scheduled in Outlook and some random tasks floating around in your inbox to check off, but having your to-dos in multiple places is setting yourself up to drop the ball. Make one to-do list each day – I like to write mine before I leave for work the night before to feel more organized in the AM – and include all tasks, from meetings and administrative items to phone calls and document drafting.
Communicate with your managers – If you have multiple tasks and overlapping deadlines, the best way to make sure all of your to-dos are completed on time is to speak to your managers. What would they like you to focus on first? Is there any wiggle room for the deadline of a certain project if you need extra time?
Know how you work best – Some people like to check all of the small tasks off their lists before tackling bigger projects; this is how I work. Others like to dig into a bigger project before getting to the minutiae. Know what style makes you most comfortable and allows you to work best and go by that, but always understand and respect deadlines.
Don’t wait until the last minute – Think you work best under pressure? Maybe, but don’t leave the other members of your team hanging while you wait until the last minute to complete a task. Make sure to give yourself enough time to check in with the rest of the team so that the deliverable isn’t due to a client before the rest of your co-workers have time to review or edit a document if necessary.
Check in – This goes hand-in-hand with communicating with your managers – if you thought that a task would only take two hours, but you’re three hours in with no end in sight, have a discussion. If you want a manager to look at the work you have so far to make sure you’re not spinning your wheels or going down the wrong path – ask!
At the end of the day, we are all communications professionals here. The bottom line is to be transparent with your team about what you have on your plate, ask for help if you don’t know what task should be completed first and be honest with yourself about how long certain assignments will take you.
It’s nearly impossible to predict what the social space will bring in the coming year but that won’t stop us from having a little fun and taking a look into the “social media crystal ball” to predict what might happen in 2014.
Filling in the Generation Gap: In the past few years we’ve seen social media go from being a hangout (if you will) for early adopters and millennials to a place where all generations can engage, share their thoughts and opinions.
Employees Are Your Biggest Fans: In 2013 companies took notice that employees can be a brands biggest asset … or in some cases the biggest downfall. When brands put in place simple guidelines that allow employees to use their digital savvy to build up awareness for their companies and activations, they can see that their best brand advocates are their own people. Companies like Mastercard are leading the way in these efforts.
Video Is Necessary: This is something that will certainly carry over from 2013 but will be even more important for brands in 2014. Brands, if they haven’t already, will need to start to embrace short form video, like Instagram’s 15 second format, which will allow companies to create content that is both easily digestible and more cost efficient.
Social Media Is Not Free: This seems to be an annual mention – and in turn a prediction, however as the years pass brands are starting to realize that like all marketing efforts, a little money can go a long way in the social space. In 2014 brands will realize that there is a strong return on the investment and therefore a value in putting money behind their social media efforts.
Social Ad Integration: Each year we see that ads across all social media platforms become more and more entwined with organic social media content. This will continue to happen throughout 2014 as we see ads appear in our Instagram feed and will soon pop up in your Google+ feed. So what’s next? Snapchat ads?
What do you think are some upcoming trends? We’d love to hear your thoughts – email me at email@example.com and let’s chat!
Bitcoins were created in 2008 as an open-sourced peer-to-peer payment system. Since then, they have evolved into the world’s first digital currency, traded by individuals and accepted by merchants across the globe. Unlike traditional currencies, the transfer of ownership for bitcoins is tax-free and completely unregulated.
The growing utilization and popularity of bitcoins as a currency and investment has sparked an interesting discussion about relative value, a fundamental concept for any investor relations professional. The market value of anything, whether it is an investment, currency, or product stems from demand for that item due to its relative scarcity. Nothing can be valuable unless there is a limited supply of it. People can want it; for example if a stock has high appreciation potential it will be in demand. But there is only a dollar amount assigned to each share because there is a finite amount of shares outstanding. In investor relations, we try to communicate the value of each of those shares to the investment community.
Interestingly, the value of bitcoins has appreciated only because there is a limited supply; with only approx. 12 million in circulation. It’s deregulated and decentralized — it’s not tied to anything — so its value is completely determined by the asker and the bidder within each transaction. It’s not as if they created a bunch of bitcoins, and one central body priced each one for a certain amount and negotiated with buyers, like a bank might do with an IPO. Instead, they created the bitcoin peer-to-peer network, and during each transaction let the global market regulate itself. As the bitcoins became more widely used and legitimized, their value potential was realized.
Bitcoins have established a new model of creating currency. The old way was tying notes to or simply exchanging precious metals, such as gold. The currency’s value reflected how much an individual would be willing to pay for gold — a historically scarce item. Now, in our global economy, most countries’ currencies are only worth their comparative value to international currencies. That is in turn driven by each of these countries’ money supply and economic conditions. Bitcoin is novel because its value was established by artificial scarcity and realized through usability.
Alternative currencies are rapidly gaining acceptance in the mainstream economy. Companies like OKCupid and Overstock.com have begun to accept bitcoins, startups for digital wallets have flooded the Silicon Valley, and the Winklevoss twins of Facebook fame have filed with the SEC for approval to begin trading bitcoins through an exchange-traded fund.
Now, that’s not to say that developing a new currency wouldn’t have its share of hiccups. Recently, regulatory agencies in the People’s Republic of China action moved to ban the usage of bitcoins. In October, the FBI shutdown the black market website entitled “Silk Road,” which supposedly hosted nearly half of all bitcoin transactions. Well, as my favorite history professor in college once told me, “Human history shows that bad people are going to do bad things whenever the opportunity presents itself.”
A cap has been put in place that the mining of bitcoins will cease once 21 million are in circulation. Bitcoins are quickly becoming an artificially created tangible “future,” similar to oil, gold, and other precious metals, of which market price is determined by what an individual is willing to pay for it. Fascinating stuff.
Without question, the history of bitcoins up until now has unveiled a very intriguing perspective on how the markets, or human beings, perceive and apply relative value.
As we approach the holidays and the beginning of a new year, I thought it would be fun to take a look back over 2013 to see what brands and campaigns stood out with a real marketing moment. It seems that 2013 was all about content and how brands used that content in different channels to connect with their core audiences. Here are a few of my faves…
Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches”
I loved this piece and thought the brand message was spot on. In this video you see an artist sketching different women without actually seeing them. The sketches are based on how the women describe themselves to the artist. The artist then creates a second sketch of each woman by hearing a description of her by a friend. It’s interesting to see the differences between the two images because boy, are we women hard on ourselves! It was emotional and heartwarming and really draws upon Dove’s ultimate brand message that real women are beautiful. The overall message it leaves viewers with is one of empowerment, inspiration and confidence, all attributes you associate with the Dove brand. Way to go Dove, #WeAreBeautiful.
DiGiorno Live Tweets Sound of Music
I love musicals and therefore was sucked into watching NBC’s The Sound of Music Live along with nearly 19 million other viewers a few weeks ago. Maybe it wasn’t quite as many viewers as the Super Bowl, but it was still a touchdown for NBC and a great opportunity for brands to take advantage of this captive audience. DiGiornio Pizza jumped on this opportunity and began live tweeting during the show with catchy tweets integrating The Sound of Music with pizza. Some of my favorites (no pun intended) include:
“Dough, Ray, Me = Pizza party with me and a guy named Ray.” #TheSoundofMusicLive
“So long, farewell, the Pizza’s gone no reason to be here anymore.” #TheSoundofMusicLive
And the list goes on. It reminds me of Oreos taking the blackout situation at the Super Bowl and turning it into a marketing opportunity when they tweeted “You can still dunk in the dark”. Both examples show not only the power of social media for brands but the power of being nimble, showing relevancy and connecting with your audience. As a result, DiGiorno picked up about 4,000 new followers and their first tweet got approximately 550 retweets. Not bad!
Got a new job? Get some free underwear from Fruit of the Loom
Even the most mundane brands need to find ways to use creativity to connect with their audiences and build awareness with consumers. Fruit of the Loom did this recently by partnering with LinkedIn, offering free underwear to every LinkedIn member who either changed jobs or got a new job for a 30-day period. Why? They said “Great fitting underwear can help you start your workday in a great mood.” The box of undies for new employees said “Fresh Fruit for your Fresh Gig”. Apparently the campaign has helped sales and new employees are feeling happy. Everyone’s a winner here!
The list could go on and on as so many brands delivered incredibly creative and thoughtful campaigns and content this year. We saw this in the examples above as they drew us in, kept us engaged and ultimately impacted our brand awareness and perception. I look forward to seeing how brands capture our attention in 2014.
A couple of months ago, I came across a journalist testimonial on Muck Rack on the 10 things that PR professionals do that immediately get their e-mails deleted by reporters. In the piece, the journalist, USA Today writer Natalie DiBlasio, infers that while she understands how stressful the public relations environment can be, account executives and publicists should still take the time to craft a pitch that’s appropriate for each reporter and outlet they want to reach.
She goes on to mention a couple of (embarrassingly) common PR tendencies that we’ve all seen at one point or another during our careers: getting reporters’ names wrong in the salutations of pitches, sending reporters unrelated story topics in the midst of an unfolding national crisis and pitching story ideas that are identical to pieces that reporters have just covered, to name a few. As I read through the list, I started to think about other, more basic aspects of pitches that I believe make certain ones more effective than others. Here are a few:
Brevity is key.
Every word that a journalist puts into a story is there for a reason, and pitches should be approached in the same way. It’s important to formulate each sentence in a succinct, straightforward manner. There shouldn’t be any flowery language in the pitch, and it shouldn’t take long for PR professionals to get to the point.
Target the right people. Even though most, if not all, public relations employees keep media lists with reporters’ beats and contact information, it’s essential to go through these lists regularly to ensure that they’re up-to-date. Reporters change jobs. Reporters change beats within the same jobs. And the nature of what constitutes a beat changes over time. If an account executive or publicist pitches a story to a reporter that he or she would never typically cover, it shows the reporter that the PR professional didn’t do the necessary homework before reaching out.
Know what’s going on in the news (and what’s already been covered).
This applies for not only the beats that your clients typically appear in but also for those that they wouldn’t appear in. You never know where you can insert your client into the conversation, traditionally or nontraditionally, and it’s a good idea to be as well rounded as possible when it comes to reading and current events. The more that you’re in touch with the news, the more opportunities that you will be able to generate for your clients.
Tell a story. The job of a journalist is to tell a story—not to promote a product or campaign. When talking to reporters, don’t waste any time highlighting the implications that your pitching initiative has for real people in real communities. Pitches aren’t meant to be sales-y or self-serving; they should be direct in telling reporters why they have an obligation to let their readers know about the story. The pitch should have a clear news hook right at its opening.
Sometimes, a little wit and humor helps. With some pitches, you may even have the opportunity to have some fun with the language. While it’s important to keep the tone somewhat light and conversational in any pitch, I’ve found that subtle humor and wit can also go a long way with a reporter for certain initiatives, as long as it’s not forced and the subject matter is appropriate.
On any given day, journalists receive hundreds of e-mails from persistent PR people who are trying to get coverage for their clients. With that in mind, constructing a pitch that is both memorable and informative will not only keep you out of future Muck Rack PR nightmare stories but also increase your chances of attracting media attention and aiding in the making of news stories simultaneously.
I recently had the opportunity to hear Ashley Brown, Group Director of Digital Communications and Social Media at The Coca-Cola Company speak at the PRWeek Annual Conference. For a PR professional, like me, it was both scary and inspiring at the same time.
Coke, a behemoth organization, took such a risk with its communications function that it has made me rethink what is possible. Coke’s corporate website? Gone! Microsites? Never to be created again! Coke’s PR professionals? They are content creators! Coke’s press releases? Reduced in half with the goal of eliminating them completely.
Everything that we’ve come to know about PR was replaced by Coca-Cola Journey. Journey is Coke’s corporate story telling mechanism. Go there! You would think you are checking out a very consumer-oriented news site… It kind of is, but it’s much more. It is Coke’s new way of creating content that showcases the Company’s values, priorities, and…. Oh yea, products!
Coke isn’t the only one taking this approach to communications. Nissan is doing something similar. They have actually created a video news studio on their campus in Japan.
Public relations and corporate communications doesn’t need to be just the bucket of ’same old’ tactics we are used to. It can and should be great story telling.
A Call for Independence for the Securities and Exchange Commission
After recently scoring a string of successes and appearing to have the wind at its back, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) took one on the chin earlier this week when a Dallas jury cleared Mark Cuban of insider trading charges. While this is not a big case in terms of scope or dollar amount, anytime you go up against a high-profile individual—whether it’s Martha Stewart or in this instance, Mr. Cuban—exposure and scrutiny increase dramatically.
When all was said and done, the SEC had far more to lose than Mr. Cuban. Already known for his outsized and bombastic personality, the most that could have happened to him was a few million dollar fine and a smudge on his reputation— but no jail time.
Conversely, the SEC walks away battered and bruised, once again failing to win big against a formidable opponent. With that said, I tip my hat to the SEC for at least having the guts to proceed with this case, which is more than we tend to see from government agencies.
And therein lies the problem: Because the SEC is an agency of the U.S. government, I believe it is impossible for it to act independently of the government influence. Time and again, we have seen examples where the SEC has chosen to turn a blind eye to potential malfeasances that have been committed within the scope of the capital markets.
While I don’t purport to understand the nuances of each example, the Monday morning quarterback in me can’t help but conclude that government, including state and federal agencies, has unfairly influenced the decision-making process of the SEC: i.e. which cases to pursue and which cases to offer a free pass.
For the sake of the reputation of the SEC, and to empower them to effectively do its job, I suggest that the SEC be “spun out” of the federal government so as to be able to maintain its true independence. While cutting these ties won’t completely eliminate or deter illegal behavior, it’s certainly a step in the right direction.
Anyone who has seen a good Western film knows that when the bad guys becomes too much for the Sherriff to handle, he often turns to bounty hunters and the like to clean up his mess.
While I’m not prescribing anything so drastic, I do believe that if the SEC was truly independent, it would be far more successful in bringing down the bad guys.
A Completely Avoidable Mistake Becomes a Lesson in Mea Culpa and Crisis Communications
Massachusetts Port Authority What Where You Thinking?!
On Wednesday, September 11, 2013, on the 12th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, the Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) conducted a fire training exercise at Boston Logan International Airport.
Yes, really! Unfortunately, Massport made a major PR blunder in the planning and execution of this fire drill, which could easily have been avoided with a simple call to their PR team.
Yes, Logan did make an announcement regarding the drill at about 9:30 a.m. that morning, but it was only a brief two sentences on Twitter: “The Fire Department will be training this morning. Smoke on the airfield is part of the training.” Too litte, too late.
Television news camera footage later showed a large structure looking much too similar to a plane (!) with a large fire and billowing black smoke rushing out of it.
This one just baffles me. Seriously, Massport, what the heck were you thinking????! With all the people needed to organize this drill, the fact that you conducted it on September 11 is just astonishing. Didn’t anyone object?
“It’s just dumb,” Boston’s Gov. Deval Patrick said. “The timing could not be worse.”
That’s an understatement!
Sure, Massport pulled a mea culpa saying, “Safety and security is our top priority and constant vigilance and readiness is critical, but the exercise should not have taken place on the anniversary of 9/11,” Massport’s apology stated. “The airport community recognizes the day with moments of silence, a service in the chapel, and a wreath at the 9/11 memorial.”
Every company, listen up! Use this as the benchmark of ‘what not to do’. Massport had 364 perfectly good days to conduct this fire drill, but didn’t. I guess you could say it sure did turn into a fire drill – one of crisis management – fanning out the flames of absurdity or poor planing. If they had conducted it on one of the other 364 other days of the year, no one would have cared or even known about it.
Hey, Massport, you have a PR team, next time use them. And, if they did think September 11 was a fine day for a fire drill, then fire them and call us! We’ll help you out!
Twitter and Groundhog Day – what do they have in common?
I feel like it’s Groundhog Day. Don’t you? When it comes to investors and social media stocks, it really is true that those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
Over a year ago Facebook filed an S-1 for an IPO with a more than $100 billion valuation. At that time, I questioned the veracity of the valuation the company was putting on itself. The company filed an S-1 with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The problem I had was that the information communicated in its filing failed to justify the valuation it was asking the markets to pay for its stock. Post-IPO, as we all know, the markets agreed that Facebook maybe “liked” itself a little too much and the stock fell significantly. That hurt a lot of institutional investors who had invested directly in the IPO as well as individuals who invested indirectly through mutual funds, 401ks, 529 plans, etc. (Clearly their communications of recent and performance have helped ameliorate this.)
As we learned yesterday, Twitter announced via a tweet that it also was going to seek the assistance of the capital markets by way of a public offering. The main difference between Facebook and Twitter is that Twitter filed confidentially under the guise of the JOBS (Jumpstart Our Business Startups) Act, passed by Congress more than a year ago. This means Twitter is now able to gauge the receptivity of “institutional” investors via their lead underwriter, Goldman Sachs, without publicly communicating how their company should be valued.
So what’s my issue this time? I have a few.
First, Twitter’s tweet yesterday makes its “confidential” filing no longer “confidential.” We all know about it now. In my opinion this is an affront to the spirit of the JOBS Act which was to allow relatively “small” companies to consider an IPO without having to “publicly” commit to it. Well that cat is out of the bag. Does anyone really think they won’t eventually go forward with it, and is Twitter a “small” company as Congress intended?
Second, I don’t believe the JOBS Act was intended to allow companies to shield themselves from the obligation to be transparent in their communications and to have to justify their valuation. Yes, it is true that Twitter will eventually have to file, but again, does anyone think that an IPO isn’t a fait accompli? They should have to file now so we can all start to think about the company’s valuation and whether or not, if given the opportunity, to invest.
Third, as with Facebook, I have an issue with the fact that institutional investors are going to have an advantage over everyone else by way of information and communications. I may be wrong but I am pretty certain that in the coming months Goldman will not be hosting public, non-institutional investor exclusive events where Twitter management will make a presentation about its business and answers questions to explain why they believe the capital markets should invest hundreds of million if not billions of dollars. I don’t believe the JOBS Act was intended to supersede Regulation Fair Disclosure when it comes to leveling the playing field between the individual and institutional investor.
Facebook undoubtedly will be forever remembered in the history books as one of the great IPO calamities. Unless it does something different, it seems that Twitter might be included as well.
Will the SEC’s New JOBS Act Rules Hinder Investors and Hurt Startups?
Lifting the ban on advertising for private securities offerings was widely hailed, but it may come with a raft of new regulations that could make life difficult for both angel investors and the startup companies they fund.
On July 10 of this year, the SEC made a landmark ruling that essentially changed 80 years of securities law when it lifted the ban on general solicitation for private securities issuers raising capital under Regulation D, Rule 506.
Private securities offerings are an enormous source of funding for startup and early stage companies (some $900 billion raised in 2012, compared with roughly $40 billion for the IPO market that same year) and liberalizing the advertising rules is expected to grow investments in these companies dramatically – a key goal of the JOBS Act.
Complying with these rules may not be cumbersome for established companies or institutional investors with compliance, legal and communications teams, however this is not typically the case for startups with small staffs, or for angel investors – often the first source of funding for early stage companies.
Understanding this new communications and disclosure landscape is important for entrepreneurs and young companies who may face strict sanctions for non-compliance, including up to a one-year ban from accessing the capital markets – potentially a death sentence for many startups.
An immediate change, and one that is in place whether a company chooses to “advertise” its offering or not is “bad actor” due diligence. This is new for issuers under the Dodd-Frank Act and means that startup companies will have to actively undertake due diligence to find out if any of its investors or “other relevant persons (such as underwriters, placement agents and the directors, officers and significant shareholders of the issuer) have been convicted of, or are subject to court or administrative sanctions for, securities fraud or other violations of specified laws.” The SEC does not give specific guidance on how to go about this, but failing to do so could result in the loss of a company’s securities law exemption.
While this rule change is currently adopted, there are also a myriad of proposed new filing requirements and penalties that go into effect on September 23, 2013, with comments on the proposed rules due that same day.
Perhaps the most controversial requirement is that startup companies wanting to take advantage of Rule 506(c) fundraising will need to “take reasonable steps to verify that all investors are accredited investors.” This is a new change and puts the burden on startup companies to make sure that any potential investor is “accredited,” rather than relying on that investor to self-certify, as was the case in the past.
Complying with this could potentially require a startup company to ask for an investor’s “pay stubs for the two most recent years and current year;” or “reviewing copies of any IRS form that reports income,” (including Form W-2, Form 1099 or a copy of filed Form 1040)” as part of a compliance “safe harbor” for the SEC.
This has raised concerns among the angel capital community, many of whom feel this would result in angels refusing to participate out of fear of disclosing personal financial information. “With thousands fewer angels participating in this market, startups will have far less access to capital, the millions of jobs they create each year will disappear, and the economy will suffer,” said Marianne Hudson, executive director of ACA. “This is the exact opposite of Congress’ intent in its near-unanimous passage of the JOBS Act.”
Other potential hurdles for startup companies include a requirement to make a publicly available filing with the SEC 15 days in advance of any general solicitation or general advertising. This pre-clearance would seem to put a damper on the typical ebb and flow of discussions between an entrepreneur and a potential investor.
Another proposal states that startups, “submit to the Commission any written communication that constitutes a general solicitation or general advertising in any offering conducted in reliance on §230.506(c) no later than the date of first use.” Difficult to do in an age of Tweeting and social media.
Early stage companies will also need to be vigilant on their SEC Form D filings under the new proposed rules. Late filers can be subject to a one-year prohibition on Rule 506 eligibility on their next financing.
The proposed rules also raise a number of other questions: would participating in a demo day, business plan competition or pitching to an angel organization constitute a general solicitation and make an entrepreneur subject to the requirements above? Final rulemaking is set for September 23 and comments on these proposed rules are due the same day to the SEC. (to send comments via the SEC website, click here).
This new law is a dramatic and largely positive development for the entrepreneurial community in the U.S. It will mean, however, that startup companies need to coordinate closely with their legal and communications counsel at the very earliest stages of fundraising, to make sure they comply with the Commission rules and can take full advantage of the law’s new fundraising opportunities.