Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The iPad rocks Gregory FCA's holiday party

Posted by Greg Matusky
A hallmark of Gregory FCA has always been our holiday party. A year to plan, it celebrates the 12 months of hard work and perseverance our people commit to our clients nationwide. And each year, it parodies something from the media.

Two years ago, six Gregory FCAer's spent a month taking dance lessons in order to perform an evening of "Dancing with the Stars" at our party. This year, a take-off of "Minute to Win It" brought the house to its knees.

Jaime Kenworthy stacks apples in the final round of "Minute to Win It."
But the real excitement came when we gave every employee an iPad as our gift to them for an outstanding year's worth of work.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Four more key skills for PR pros in 2011

Posted by Greg Matusky
I can't believe the number of people who contacted me about my post on key skills for PR pros. Kristin Jones, a fellow PR practitioner, took the time to comment and relate a couple of additional key skills. Thanks, Kristin. Great insights.

But as I mentioned in that post, I only gave six of the 10 skills, hoping that I could lure you back to read the additional four. So here are the four additional skills a new PR person needs to develop to make it in our industry.

7. An ability to balance tactical with strategic. This is perhaps the most important skill of all to gain for a new PR professional. It requires mastering the writing and media skills needed to land clients high-profile coverage. But it also demands an ability to determine the client's real business objectives and deliver on their needs -- all of which vary greatly. PR is not simply a game of gaining the most possible visibility for a client. Rather, it's the science of delivering the results that hold the greatest marginal value for a client. That requires an ability to empathize with the client, understand their real goals, and then create a plan that achieves those goals. It's no small undertaking.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Reports of media's death have been greatly exaggerated

Posted by Greg Matusky
Traditional media is falling like dinosaurs. Or is it?

Five years ago, I never would have imagined that the media I loved and cherished would disappear.

Like dinosaurs caught in a comet storm, I watched the large and powerful fall under their own weight. Newsweek bought by The Daily Beast. BusinessWeek usurped by Bloomberg. Adweek down to about 15 pages of content. U.S. News & World Report now sporadically published online.

All doom and gloom, right? But not so fast. With every door closed there comes a Gizmodo. A Gawker. A Mashable. An Examiner.com. And it's not all just upstarts. As of December 2010, the top trafficked online news sites included some familiar faces. Consider:

1. Yahoo News
2. CNN
3. MSNBC
4. Google News
5. The New York Times
6. The Huffington Post
7. Digg
8. Fox News
9. The Washington Post
10. Los Angeles Times

So it's not the loss of opportunity that causes pause. For a large part, the top online news sources present the same opportunities for exposure as the media of the past, sans the printing press and postage. Rather, it's the fluidity of circumstance that has caused such chaos and resulted in obituaries written before their time.

It all reminds me of a meeting I had with a video rental chain in the late 1980s. I just had to ask, "How long before cable and this thing called the Internet delivers movies directly to your home, thereby killing the need for storefronts?" The executives all laughed. I blamed it on their own denial. Yet, it took nearly 20 years for those threats to bankrupt Blockbuster, which is now re-inventing itself as an online play.

The reality is that no one knows who will win the revolution. No doubt, the simple economics and efficiencies of the Internet will drive more print and broadcast media online. But the counterbalance is there. Major traditional media continues to generate much of the content that powers the Internet.

And while more and more online publications are making the jump from re-reporting the news to creating it themselves with staffs of reporters and editors, big media -- The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, and The Associated Press -- still play major roles in what shapes the context and bounds of what is and what isn't news. Their voices remain large and important as the top list of news sources confirms.

And so our jobs are assured. After all, we're not in this to call the winners and losers. We're in it to feed those voices with ideas, information, and content that can advance our clients' causes, regardless of whether those voices are printed, digitized, or broadcast to the ultimate audience.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Year-end planning yields tremendous insights into industry changes

Posted by Greg Matusky
I get pumped each year at this time, when I sit down with the top minds at Gregory FCA to review the past 12 months and set goals and objectives for the upcoming year. This year, 14 of us met with an outside facilitator to assess our strengths and weaknesses, and identify the key objectives for 2011.

And while the planning is unique to Gregory FCA, many of the conclusions are a simple reflection of broader industry issues. So we thought we would share some of our findings, if only to reduce them to writing which binds us to action.

1. Keep moving into mobile. The space is hot as a sector and as a PR offering. We're ramping up to develop more apps for clients and creating new ways to deliver their content to devices.

2. Formalize our commitment to training. The best way to learn public relations is from those who practice it. We see a huge opportunity to establish internal training protocols and certifications as a way to continue to attract high-level talent and sharpen it once in the door.

3. Feed off our big account successes. The recession came with opportunity in 2010, when a number of major brands sought our expertise as an alternative to large, high-cost, hollow New York firms. Mitsubishi Digital Electronics America, Hearst, and Unisys availed themselves to Gregory FCA's value proposition in 2010, and are glad they made the switch in order to get more for less.

4. Celebrating excellence to motivate and inspire. In one major account win in 2010, we transformed what had been a lifeless campaign led by a major Chicago PR firm into vibrant media coverage. Some 230 articles and appearances in six months and an active social media campaign connected the client with thousands of customers. With it, came many small lessons learned that are now being shared throughout the firm as a way to educate, motivate, and inspire.

5. Attack and overcome instilled expectations. Are your expectations your greatest limitation? Too often, we set our own limits thinking that the media will never be interested in a story, even before we submit it. Or we look at the risks too closely and discount the benefits. In 2011, we're dedicated to challenging ourselves and our industry. The old model of PR as an exposure machine, while valid, now incorporates a new range of services -- everything from next-generation blogging, to SEO, to in-house news production, to digital newsrooms, to soup-to-nuts communications and investor relations products and initiatives.

We're going to be there in 2011, and I plan to keep you all abreast of these changes and advances right here at Gregarious.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

10 key skills for PR pros in 2011

Posted by Greg Matusky
One of the greatest pleasures of a life-long career in public relations is meeting a constant flow of young people who dream of breaking into the industry. I try to meet or respond to as many as possible, even if the flow of resumes is daunting at times.

Each conversation inevitably includes some measure of the key skills needed to succeed in public relations. And while some have changed over time, others remain the same.

So for all of you who have asked over the last few months, here are the key skills needed to succeed in an industry under tremendous pressure to change.

1. Read. It sounds basic. But the best way to understand the media is to read it daily, hourly, and by the minute. Set up RSS feeds. Download media apps. Bookmark media favorites. Start each day with The Wall Street Journal, and end it with AP. Know the news and how it's reported. And learn journalism's standards of how information is gathered, vetted, and reported.

2. Write. Every day. All day, if you can. The key to improving writing skills is to write all the time. I started my career by writing a book. It took eight months at 14 hours a day, and required me to write, rewrite, edit, and write again each chapter. It was a crash course in writing that consumed more than 2,500 hours and gave me a jump start on the 10,000 hours needed to master any pursuit.

3. Get edited. Often and always. Even after a 25-year career in public relations, I make sure all of my work is edited, and edited heavily. Editing exposes weaknesses, improves clarity, and breaks lazy habits.

4. Stay current. This week, I had a chance to listen to the first Internet broadcast of a radio show -- an episode of NPR's "Science Friday" that first aired 20 years ago. Even then, the transformation was on. The Internet was a breaking story as thoughtful people considered how it would transform human communications. It has, and the pace has only quickened. The iPad, Google TV, next-generation blogging. They're all accelerating the rate of change, and causing us to learn more, more quickly, and try new things every day.

5. Learn instant re-prioritization. In our business, refresh rates hit quickly. Plan your work, but be forewarned. You have to be able to shuffle priorities in order to capitalize on breaking news, address client demands, and meet changing expectations.

6. Think more like a newsroom and less like an advertising agency. Public relations fails the moment bias is seen or promotion is obvious. We're the insidious few who control the story and tell it invisibly, without the crass hand of promotion. Think beats, news flow, and assignment. Forget about offers, come-ons, and schemes.

It's all pretty simple stuff that takes minutes to consider and a lifetime to master. But where are the other four skills? Check back in a week to see them.
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