Oceans by Hillsong United
at Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, NC
My lovely and talented wife killing it on sunday.
Maybe I’ll Write Tomorrow
I’ve put off writing for my blog, and I’ve missed it.
As it turns out, the longer I wait to do something, the harder it seems. And I don’t just mean blog writing. Any work project, home organization or school assignment can seem insurmountable when delayed. Just the thought of starting is intimidating and cringe worthy.
Why do we hold off?
- Distractions. The TV, emails, social media, a good story to read, a nap, cookies… you name it – everything is scheming to pull me away.
- Life gets in the way. An unexpected phone call or emergency can throw a wrench in well-intentioned plans.
- Over commitment. I really want to do everything! I want to help with every service project, I want to jump in on every project, I want to keep the house spotless and read five books at once. Ha – it’s impossible. Why do I set myself up for failure and let others down?
- Fear of failure. I admit that I’m a basket-case perfectionist. If it can’t be done perfect, why do it at all? There are no first drafts, there are just perfect drafts. Yet, I know that mistakes are learning opportunities. A perfectly written blog or document is the result of many drafts and many re-writes.
- Old habits. I want to change and set new standards for myself but old habits stand in the way. Getting up at 6am would be so much easier if my body wasn’t screaming out in defense.
- Laziness. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed and think I don’t have enough time to tackle everything I want to do. See my note on over commitment above. But I really don’t think time is the issue. I do have the time. I would just rather veg out instead.
- No sense of urgency. I had a boss once who shared her favorite time management trick with me. She would list out everything that had to get done that day and then mark a 1, 2 or 3 next to each item. One’s were urgent, two’s had to get done but maybe not today, and three’s could happen but it would be okay if they didn’t. The process made sense. I got a lot of urgent things out of the way. But I never wanted to do any 2’s or 3’s. After I finished what was urgent, I took an indefinite break – well, until the 2’s became critical 1’s.
- Lack of goals. It’s easy to avoid a task when you don’t know why something is on the list or if it’s been there so long you forgot.
There are obvious negative consequences to putting things off: incurring a fine, letting someone down or getting fired to name a few. Surprisingly, there are benefits to waiting as well. Perhaps you weren’t really that passionate about the article topic that’s been sitting on your idea list for months. Maybe you’ve overcommitted, and what you ended up putting off is the thing that you need to eliminate from your life. I believe that the things you that get you the most excited in life are what you’ll wake up at 6am to pursue. Those new projects that you could spend hours on and not even noticed time going by.
But let’s face it: There are things in life – like grocery shopping, returning phone calls and brushing your teeth – that are real pains (at least for me) but must get done.
Emily, a sophomore in my Girl Scout troop, shared with me a chant her ROTC group chants. I think I’ll use it for myself those early mornings when I want to sleep in, those times I need to write a webpage but would rather browse Pinterest or when ‘maybe tomorrow’ slips off my tongue. Here it is:
Are you motivated?
Motivated, motivated, motivated sir/ma’am!
How motivated are you?!?!
Highly motivated, super dedicated, no slack sir!
No slack, sir! No slack, sir! *clap*
No slack, sir! No slack, sir! *clap*
How Acquiring a Label Can Change Your Behavior
Have you ever noticed how identifying yourself with a title, label or descriptor will influence how you act? It’s as if that label becomes you and you acquire all of the characteristics that come with it.
Over three years ago I became a vegan. It was so much easier to make the change by saying out loud, “I’m a vegan.” I knew that vegans don’t eat meat or dairy or use products from animals, so I didn’t do those things. It was pretty simple. My friends and family will point out that I’ve become lax in this area lately, so maybe I need to start using that label on myself again.
As another example, earlier this year my personal trainer told me that he was going to turn me into an athlete. Honestly, I was just transitioning from sitting on the couch in my free time. Athlete was a bit of a stretch and largely intimidating. But the label stuck with me during our workouts and on the days between. How would an athlete act? They might get up at 6am and go for a run. They might see their food as fuel. They might tough it out in workouts. It really changed the way I thought about my choices, even if I’m not an Olympic athlete.
And so I use the label to my advantage – a way to Jedi-mind-trick myself into good habits. I am a Christian, so how would Jesus like me to act? – like Him! I am a writer, so I work on improving my writing skills every day. And so on.
Most people also have personal experience with negative labels. When children are told by their peers that they are stupid, ugly or losers, they start believing it and identifying the label with themselves. One bad teacher might say that their student is bad at math, at writing, at science – and the student tragically believes it and steers away from pursuing that subject. He writes it off as, “Well that’s just not my area,” and he doesn’t try. There have been so many studies about girls believing some myth that boys are better at math. Bad labels can even come from our parents. I have numerous friends who’ve shared stories where their parents have predefined who they are.
And often we can give ourselves negative labels that also influence the choices we make.
My suggestion is this:
- Let’s recognize the power of labels.
- Let’s think about how we label other people – and ourselves – will affect that person. Are they really stupid? Or are they acting stupid right now? Is she just the “pretty one”? Or are there other qualities that define her as well?
- Let’s identify ourselves with positive traits that either define who we are now or who we want to be.
- If you have trouble coming up with a list of positives, ask your friends and family who know you well.
Website for Storytellers
My brother Clay and I just wrapped our second web design project – a new website for my friends at Brooks & Associates Public Relations: http://brooksandassociatespr.com/. It’s really a complete 180 from the awful site it was before, and I can get away with saying that. I managed the updates before Clay stepped in and gave the entire site a makeover. He designed, I wrote and we made it work. We’re exceedingly proud of this new website, and I couldn’t be more happy for Virginia and her team that they have a website that can be proud to represent their brand!
The importance of nice
All of us can tell when someone is being genuinely nice. It’s in their body language – they make eye contact, their smile reaches their eyes, and they seem relaxed instead of on edge. Genuinely nice people ask you how you are and care about your response. They seek relationships that are mutually beneficial and not one-sided in their benefit.
People gravitate toward genuinely nice people.
There’s a neighborhood, organic coffee shop that I like to work from. It’s 20 miles away from my home but there’s something about the coffee shop that makes me not mind the drive. The owner remembers my name each time I come in. He asks how work is going. Once he noticed my North Texas t-shirt and started a conversation about college. Though I may feel special and unique when we talk, the owner gives the next customer the same level of attention. It’s that warm and comfortable feeling that brings me back, like I’m in his home and he’s extending genuine hospitality. Coincidentally, I don’t feel that way when I visit chain coffee shops.
When you are fake nice, people feel conned and walk away.
When you are genuinely nice, people genuinely want to support you.
I have noticed that freelancers, startups and even small businesses have a similar desire to support one another. At first, I thought this was just among young adults, like we have a different social/collaborative mindset. But I don’t think that’s the always the case. How hard is it anyway? I may have an extra hour in my work day, so I write an extra blog article for a friend’s web development company. Or I may listen on the phone and offer advice to someone who is getting their nonprofit going. I don’t worry about how my giving will immediately benefit me. It may help down the line… or it may not. Genuinely nice doesn’t worry about that.
Like the idea of pay it forward, nice is contagious.
To be honest, I’m not always nice. I’m just not feeling it. Often we have to catch kindness again from other people. That’s when we need to surround ourselves with people who infect us with their positivity. Then, we need to pass our new good mood on to a friend or stranger via kind words and deeds – tell a friend how good they look today, let that person with only a few items cut in front of you at the market, take the time to read your co-workers first draft. And don’t let someone’s negative mood prevent you from being nice. Did your mother ever say, “Kill them with kindness”? Mine did. The simple act of being genuinely nice to those around you – your friends, colleagues, clients, bosses – will help create more genuine relationships.
Nice is not the same thing as making everyone to like you.
That goal is impossible and almost always ends in misery. Sometimes ‘being nice’, means you give a friend the hard truth that they don’t want to hear. Sometimes it’s admitting that you failed. A small design company that I support recently had a glitch in their automated e-newsletter system, resulting in their e-newsletter going out to their database 50 times. After multiple IMs, emails, phone calls, tweets and texts from their network, my friends issued the following genuine apology by email:
Subject: We’re Sorry!
Friends and Colleagues:
If you are getting this email right now, it’s because you received our latest newsletter. About 50 times. We can’t begin to express how sorry we are. Our newsletter got stuck in a loop when being sent though our email marketing distributor. Like us, they are a startup whose customers mean everything to them. We made an epic mistake today, and we can only express how sorry we are. We received your calls, chats, texts and emails letting us know that you were getting bombed by us. We would like to say thank you for letting us know, and for sticking with us during this crazy day. The problem is being worked on right now. We assure you that this will not happen again. We hate spam more than anyone, so this is very embarrassing for us.
We hope that you will stay with us as we move forward into the future, and if you are in Dallas or Tallahassee, we’d like to buy you a drink sometime to make it up to you. Have a great weekend!
What if every company operated like this? The design company could have ignored the issue out of embarrassment. They could have blamed the email marketing distributor instead of relating to them. They could have even written a trite one-lined apology. I replied to this email to let my friends know I appreciated the genuineness of their communication. What a great example!
If Communication Can Fail, It Will
Confession time: Sometimes I can really fail at communications. That is tough for a professional communicator to write. But let’s be clear – there is professional business communications (ex: a corporate email to employees) and there is interpersonal communications between individuals and teams. Sometimes we often focus so strongly on the first type whether written or presented that we fail at communicating with one another. The negative result can impact working or personal relationships, the ability to get work done and meet deadlines, and assumptions from miscommunication.
From my own experience, I most often notice myself miscommunicating during the following situations:
When I am in a hurry – You have done this too, I’m sure: You are running late for a meeting and think you have no time to inform the other attendees that you will be late. You probably think: “They are just catching up. The first ten minutes is not productive time.” Then you spend wasted time when you finally arrive at the meeting explaining where you were.
Also, when we are pressed for time, the need to ensure that others understand what we are saying can feel not as important. We may hope that they get it the first time. However, our audience will inevitably make quick assumptions or misunderstand – perhaps keeping their questions to themselves out of embarrassment.
When I am afraid to speak up – How much easier life could be if people said what was on their mind – a question for clarification (see my prior point) or to question other’s opinions or instruction. We fear judgment, looking bad for being the only one who did not ‘get it’ (you are not!) or risking punishment for contradicting a superior.
In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell describes the ethnic theory of plane crashes (Chapter 7). In airlines from many Asian and Latin American cultures, subordinates failed to alert the captain about a potential situation out of respect for the captain’s authority. Who wants to point out the leader’s mistakes? Yet, if the crew members would have shared the information they held back, they could have prevented numerous deadly plane crashes.
When I fail to put myself in another person’s shoes – Sometimes I can get so buried in my work that I do not see the larger project or objective from other people’s points of view. I direct a Girl Scout day camp each summer. Several of our staff positions were created organically based on need and do not have any set responsibilities or boundaries. Further, staff did not always share updates about their progress. Instead they assumed a task needed to be done and moved forward. As a result, we had two staff members one year who both made parking assignments, which led to confusion from our volunteers.
When I let emotions take the lead – Whether it is a boss giving critical feedback or a team member who did not deliver on their part, an emotional outburst can often be our first response. When anger, fear, excitement, hurt, etc. get in the way, we can miss the underlying message the other person is trying to deliver. Perhaps the boss is trying to share guidance to help with a specific task or the team member is having personal issues and needs someone to talk with. Stop and think before reacting with emotion.
Interpersonal communication is complicated. Finnish researcher Osmo Wiio penned several communication maxims in 1978 similar to Murphy’s Law:
- If communication can fail, it will.
- If a message can be understood in different ways, it will be understood in just that way which does the most harm.
- There is always somebody who knows better than you what you meant by your message.
- The more communication there is, the more difficult it is for communication to succeed.
Although humorous, Wiio’s Laws remind us of the difficulty of accurate communication.
Five Reasons Why PR Should Lead Social Media Efforts
Who owns the social media function within an organization? Lately, social media seems to be shared among marketers, advertising, PR, IT, HR, customer service and even sales. A recent Social Media Club of Dallas gathering I attended confirmed this diversity. Clearly, everyone within the company wants a slice of the social media pie.
Here’s why I think PR pros should take the lead:
- Social media is a form of communication – a function managed by PR. It expands our option for sharing news, thought leadership and an organization’s story. In addition to writing a news release, we submit a tweet, publish a video with a spokesperson or customer and write a blog article about the news. Jason Falls stated in Social Media Explorer, “Social media is public relations in the online world.”
- It’s a medium for social interaction. It satisfies the human desire for conversation. Once businesses realize this, they can open vibrant conversations with their customers and clients. In the current issue of Public Relations Tactics, Steve Cody of Peppercom, Inc. described the role of PR as the following: “We own the conversations. We understand better than any other marketing discipline how to engage in conversations and, critically, how to create compelling messages that will be passed along because they’re relevant and informative.”
- PR controls the corporate message and the story it shares to the public. We’re also best prepared to handle communications with the public during a crisis.
- Social media demands open and honest conversation. The minute you use corporate speak and sales language with online audiences, you lose credibility fast and people tune you out. PR is already comfortable conversing with different audiences and speaking their language. According to The Spiritual Art of Dialogue, “the key to successful conversation is being open and honest in expressing opinions, feelings, and theories, and having a willingness to share views even when the ideas are controversial and unpopular.”
- Journalists are now on Twitter – many looking for new story ideas. Media relations is still a PR function.
Whether you are dealing with negative feedback, communicating with the media or engaging in conversation that represents your brand and image, a communications professional needs to be involved.
Epic PR Group offers this great analogy:
“Liken it to a cocktail party. Technology, legal, marketing, interns, etc. are all invited. But PR should be the host: introducing people, keeping the drinks filled, mingling and stimulating conversation, vacuuming beforehand to make a good impression, and handling ‘that guy’ who has had a bit too much to drink. The best parties are the ones that people keep talking about.”
The Clock Is Ticking: Tell Me What You Do
This week I attended my first Chamber of Commerce meet n’ greet. Right off the bat, I was fascinated by the business owners in attendance and their passion for their businesses – from real estate and roofing to karate and life insurance. After calling the meeting to order, the Chamber president asked each attendee to stand and speak about their company for 30 seconds. A woman at the front of the room kept the time and rang a bell when they hit the 30-second mark.
With their catchy slogans so quickly rolling off their tongues, it was obvious that each person had delivered their ‘elevator speech’ countless times before. Some of them made me cringe and others left me impressed. I was reminded of how often we are called upon to explain what we do and how important it is to get these words exactly right. After all, like the Chamber introductions, we are often given 30 seconds or less to talk and pique someone’s interest.
Perhaps it’s a pre-planned media briefing, executive speech or sales meeting. Other times it’s unplanned – the times you can take advantage of a casual conversation at a party or connecting with someone while you wait in line. Your corporate story also influences written communication in your boilerplate, website copy and other collateral. It’s critical to get the message right.
One of the most common mistakes in elevator pitching is forgetting to tell people up front what you do. Don’t worry about starting with a hook or clichéd slogan that would make late-night paid programing hosts wince. Tell me plainly what you offer without the jargon. For example: We make drilling software for the upstream oil and gas industry.
An elevator pitch should include:
- What you do
- What benefit is provided – that the customer cares about
- Something that backs up the benefit such as statistics and customer success
- How your company, product or service is different from the competition
- A call to action
Above all, simple and concrete language is key. Yet for many business owners who live and breathe their work, simplicity is not so simple. It’s a skill that must be mastered. If you are not skilled at brevity and precision, consider hiring a professional communicator who can help you articulate what you do and your value proposition. A great elevator pitch takes work, communicating with a writer, re-writing, practicing delivering your message and asking for feedback.
A professional can also offer guidance on how to integrate your pitch in all of your communication channels. It does little good to have a great elevator pitch and key messages and then have different ones appear on your web site, brochures, and press release boilerplate. Consistency is important.
Telling your story is essential in business. The unique, concise, pithy, jargon-free, memorable and repeatable articulation of what your company offers can help open doors to even longer conversations.
Confessions of a Constant Rule Maker: How the Grace of God Comes in Belief and Not in Good Works
I have a bad habit of making up rules for myself. You must read your Bible every day, work out every day, fill out your food diary, call a friend, clean the house, and on and on. While these are great in themselves, the pressure to complete all of them and not miss a day can be too much. And I wonder sometimes if, like the Pharisees 2,000 years ago, I had good intentions for creating these rules but quickly forgot what those intentions were. They became a burden I just couldn’t bear.
You see, I want to do good things daily, but it’s usually the opposite that happens. I really just want to lounge in bed and read and eat junk food. You’re probably thinking (and you’re right): Why are you so hard on yourself? That’s everyone.
Even the apostle Paul had the same trouble, remarking in Romans: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate to do.” (7:15)
I think it is human nature that we have this obsession with doing things in order to receive some kind of value. The biggest misconception in the Christian church is that the path to heaven is our goodness and works. Ask anyone you come across, “How do you get into heaven?” And most with unfortunately reply, “Being a good person.”
And yet, nowhere is this reflected in the Bible. We have foregone reading the scripture and trusted our own expertise on the matter. Friends, nothing we can do will ever make us ‘good enough’ to get into heaven and be with God. Nothing! Not even Mother Teresa, as the greatest example of good deeds, was good enough. Romans 6:23 states: “For ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” We all deserve destruction and death. “But God demonstrates his own love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
And therein is the glorious magnitude of what Jesus did for us on the cross and the power of grace. He took on all our punishment for sin himself and died for us… then overcame death. Through Jesus we have life with the Father. He remarked, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
How to Get Customers to Give You Referrals
For most small services companies, the biggest opportunity for new sales are the friends, family and work associates of their current clients. For this reason, word of mouth marketing – though not an exact science – should be a necessary element of your integrated communications campaign.
Consumers are often more likely to trust the recommendations of their close networks rather than advertisements and marketing messages. Additionally, we continue to give our friends tips and advice face-to-face – more so than online interactions. Yet, the hard truth is, even if your customers love your service, they may not tell their friends about you unless you ask them to.
For example, my financial planner (Perry Conner) is great, and if someone asked me for a recommendation on financial planners, he would be on the short list. Yet, it wasn’t until Perry told me about a promotion his company offered (recommend him to five friends and receive a $50 gift card) that I started to proactively consider who might benefit from his services.
Here are some helpful suggestions for other ways to encourage your clients to talk about you:
Ask them directly for referrals. An email to your clients might say:
"I’m really glad that you enjoy my services and see some benefits. I am always looking for referrals and wonder if you know anyone else who would be interested in <your service>. If so, would you mind sharing their name and email so I may reach out to them? Also, feel free to pass along my name, contact information and website <your website> to your family, co-workers and friends…"
Challenge them. Hand clients a stack of your business cards and challenge them to pass them out by the end of the week.
Show your appreciation. Send clients a ‘Thank You’ card or even a gift card after they have offered a referral to let them know you appreciate their help.
Track your leads. Create a spreadsheet that logs each new potential client and the instances that you’ve followed up with them. Set a goal each month of how many new leads you’d like to secure.
Offer special deals for the referral. Give your clients something exciting to offer their friends and family, in addition to recommending your service. This could include a special coupon that clients can hand them or a ‘bring a friend’ week where friends get a free or discounted service.
Meet your client’s network face-to-face. Ask clients what organizations they are members of and if there would be an opportunity for you to speak or visit other members.
Ask for names. Hand clients a piece of paper with five blank lines and ask them to provide the contact information for a few friends who would be interested in your services. They will be motivated to help their friends by passing on your service.
Ask for their recommendations. Add a testimonials or success stories page to your website. LinkedIn also allows you to ask contacts for recommendations and endorsements for your skills.
You can also introduce people through LinkedIn. After someone sends you a recommendation through LinkedIn, ask them to introduce you to someone in their network, like this:
"Thanks for your recommendation. I really appreciate it. Since you’re obviously happy with the service I’ve provided and much of my business is built on excellent word of mouth, do you know of any business associates or friends, who would benefit from personal training? Would you consider introducing them to me via LinkedIn?"
Ask for feedback. According to the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA), customers might be more likely to tell a friend if they know that you truly care about their opinions. “This is especially true if you act on what they have to say. Offer comment cards or an online survey, and if you receive a particularly useful tip and institute it in your business, consider contacting the customer to offer thanks for the suggestion.”
Above all the best tactic you can use is excellent customer service. Make your clients happy and they will be more likely to tell others about you… plus remain your customers. RB
Four Great Excuses to Get Outside
My mind has totally been on getting in shape lately. I’ve always preferred an outdoor workout rather than a gym, outdoor exploring when I’m on vacation rather than shopping and enjoying the sun rather than staying in.
The sun is shining, the breeze is cool and the parks are once again green. We all have the perfect excuse to take advantage of the great weather and enjoy an outdoor workout. And in Texas we know, the summer heat is only around the corner.
Here are my favorite outdoor exercises. Try one this spring!
1. Hiking is a more intense challenge than simply walking, depending on the terrain. Hilly and off-road paths will work your glutes and strengthen your leg muscles. Check out the mobile app All Trails (http://alltrails.com) for ideas and reviews on trails in your area. Some of the most popular trails in the Dallas area include Boulder Park Trail, an 11-mile loop trail near Dallas and the White Rock Lake Trail, a 10-mile paved walk and bike path through a park constructed around a city reservoir. Remember to take plenty of water and a backpack full of essentials like sunscreen and a first aid kit. REI offers a Ten Essentials list for day hiking and backpacking: http://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/backpacking-checklist.html.
2. Mountain Biking is a full-body sport that requires aerobic strength, endurance and coordination. Whether you’re a weekend casual rider or competitive biker, you’re sure to see results that target your upper body, lower body core muscle groups by selecting a challenging yet appropriate bike path for your skill level. Try the Big Cedar Wilderness Trail, a 13-mile loop trail located on the property of Mountain Creek Church near Interstate 20 and Camp Wisdom Road in Dallas. With an elevation gain of 300 feet, the trail is rated difficult and is a favorite for area mountain bikers.
3. Kayaking is a great exercise for any age and is perfect for family or group outings. Paddling against the resistance of water builds upper body strength and cardiovascular strength, working muscles around the shoulder joint, abdominals, obliques, lower back muscles, biceps, triceps, pecs and muscles on the forearms for gripping. The White Rock Paddle Co. rents out single kayaks, tandem kayaks and canoes and stand up paddle boards for use at White Rock Lake for as little as $14.99 per hour. Intimidated by kayaking? Discover Kayak offers classes at Lake Grapevine and Lake Arlington by licensed instructors.
4. Adult sports leagues like kickball, soccer, volleyball and softball are perfect for the competitor in all of us and can help former athletes live their glory days again… or just have fun for the rest of us! After all, a workout can seem less like exercise when you’re having fun and socializing. Find a group online or start one of your own with some friends.
All of the activities mentioned are offered through meetup groups in the Dallas area. Just add your location and desired sport in the search options at http://www.meetup.com/find/. Groups include the DFW Adventurers, The Dallas Backpackers and Hikers Meetup Group, North Texas Kayak Fishermen and Sports FUNatics.
(source: Sports FUNatics group)
5 Grammar Mistakes You Didn’t Know You Were Making
It appears I’ve missed National Grammar Day by a week. (It’s March 5 by the way). Let’s be honest though, in the world of business communications every day is Grammar Day. There are several grammar mistakes that I come across most frequently – and still other typos that I catch even myself on. Below I offer you the top five on my list.
Two spaces or one?! Many of us were taught in elementary school to add two spaces after every sentence. Yet today, the common business usage is only one space. This may originally derive from the limited amount of space in most newspapers and the push today for tighter formatting and brevity in copy writing.
Adding unnecessary letters. In a recent article, PR Daily offered a good reminder about not appending an s to words in which, in most usage, the letter should not be included. For example: regards, as in “in regards to”). Another similar sign of poor usage is the -st ending in such words as amidst and amongst, which is also incorrect.
Using last instead of past. Read the following sentence and think how it might be misconstrued: “My last book did well on the market.” Although it may have been written about a person’s latest book, the word ‘last’ implies that it’s their final book. Instead, use the word past to convey the meaning most recent.
Lowercase seasons. You may have wondered, as I often have, when to lowercase and when to capitalize the seasons of the year. Here’s the rule: Lowercase “fall,” “autumn,” “winter,” “spring,” and “summer” unless the word is part of a proper name. For example: Winter Olympics is capitalized because it is the formal name of an event. On the other hand, fall schedule is lowercase because it’s simply descriptive.
Comma confusion. Avoid using a second comma in a simple sentence with lists, as in: “We offer IT support, computer repair and related services.” Otherwise, a comma helps to avoid ambiguity in complicated sentences with lists, such as: “I would like to thank our sponsors, Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates.” RB
Will Public Relations Become Branded Journalism?
More and more we are writing news. Does that make us a new type of journalist?
There’s been talk recently in public relations circles about our industry becoming a form of branded journalism. And it got me thinking: What is branded journalism? And that sounds like something I do already.
We all know that the size of newsrooms has been shrinking, that media powerhouses are forced to evolve in the digital age and that younger generations have less trust in traditional media. With fewer media to call upon to report our news, wouldn’t it be easier to become the media? Instead of packaging the story for someone else and hoping they get it right, why not just tell the story ourselves?
What a radical notion! But we are moving quickly into this role – from corporate blogs to short video interviews with an executive. Large businesses are even employing former journalists to write stories for their websites and social media. At the heart, brand journalism is about telling honest stories about brands and inviting audiences to respond. We are not trying to be, replace or compete with traditional journalists, and we certainly won’t be telling breaking news (election stories, crime, weather, etc.) any time soon.
As PR evolves, we must seek to imbue in our communications an even greater level of narrative and audience participation. It’s about telling stories relevant to a brand’s industry. Do you sell pool supplies? Write an informative and engaging article about the best times to winterize a pool. Are you an oil and gas operator? Be a roving TV reporter and visit your workers at the oilfield drilling sites to tell your story through their eyes.
If we’re going to continue to pump out branded content, we need to keep our audience in mind and work more like media rather than publicists. Use facts rather than opinion and source information as much as possible. Let’s not use corporate speak or acronyms. And always keep people at the heart of our stories, even when the story is about software.
And lastly, stories are memorable, but a list of your product features may not be.