May 13, 2013 § Leave a Comment
By Julie Caan
YP Week Milwaukee. A series of events presented by Newaukee that celebrate all that is vibrant in Milwaukee – giving the city’s young professionals an inside look at what’s going on in our city and how it affects us. Both Jessica and I attended a few of the week’s events. The following is a recap of the highlights and what we learned.
Milwaukee: The Silicon Valley of Water
Many young people know Milwaukee as the Brew City. Given our city’s rich history of breweries and deep-rooted German culture, this label is an easy one to apply (and one that many Milwaukeeans, including myself, take pride in). However, thanks in part to organizations like The Water Council, an alliance formed five years ago by leading water technology companies in Southeastern Wisconsin, things are starting to change. AKA less focus on beer, and more focus on one of our Earth’s most precious resources: water.
Rich Meeusen, CEO of Badger Meter, the world’s leading provider of water meter technologies, and co-founder of The Water Council, kicked-off Tuesday morning’s event by providing a history of water in Milwaukee and a glimpse into our future as a world water hub. Rich, as always, was entertaining, humorous, and most of all, informative.
Here are my takeaways from Rich’s talk:
- Every 20 seconds a child dies from lack of water – water is an immediate problem. Rich shared that he believes Milwaukee is the solution.
- Over 21% of the world’s fresh water is found right here in the Great Lakes.
- Milwaukee has an image of a beer town, but we need to get back to our roots – and that’s water.
- Tanning companies, breweries and other industry first came to Milwaukee because of it’s connection to the Great Lakes. Today, more than 150 water technology companies call Southeastern Wisconsin home. This rare concentration includes companies from every cycle of water. What’s even cooler, is that through the Water Council, these companies work together.
- The area is also home to more leading water technology companies, more flow labs than anywhere in the world and the first ever school of freshwater sciences (UWM) – Milwaukee is the Silicon Valley of Water.
Perhaps Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said it best when he closed out the program by saying, “You have the East Coat and you have the West Coast, we are America’s Fresh Coast – we are not the Rust Belt anymore, Laverne and Shirley no longer work here.” Amen to that.
To learn more about Milwaukee’s status as one of the world’s most significant hubs for water research and industry, visit The Water Council’s website – you’ll be glad you did! http://www.thewatercouncil.com/
“Tips and Tools for Growing Your Career” presented by TEMPO Milwaukee.
Another event we really enjoyed was Wednesday morning’s breakfast event, “Tips and Tools for Growing Your Career” presented by TEMPO Milwaukee.
For those unfamiliar with TEMPO, it is an organization made up of women in leadership in the Greater Milwaukee area. The group is comprised of approximately 275 members from more than 100 companies in Milwaukee. Basically, when these women talked, I made sure to listen – they all gave great advice!
Here are just a few of the valuable nuggets I took away from this discussion:
- “Not everyone is born a leader, but everyone can develop the capacity to lead” – Mary Dowell, director of global community relations, Johnson Controls.
- “The ability to accept when you make a bad decision and to learn from it; Solicit feedback from key people; Be confident in your decisions,” – Peggy Williams-Smith, senior corporate director of catering, Marcus Hotels & Resorts.
- “Take time to brainstorm with people with different strengths and skills than you have. Gain as diverse a perspective as you can in order to arrive at the best decision” – Linda Newberry-Ferguson, managing partner, Newberry Ferguson LLC.
- “A good mentor won’t just tell you the things you want to hear. They will also tell you the things that no one else will take the time to have the courage to tell you. In order to move forward, you have to have the willingness to hear the good and the bad and be thankful.” – Ellen Trytek, chief marketing officer, CliftonLarsonAllen.
Perhaps my biggest takeaway from this talk was to not be afraid to make mistakes because that is how you grow. A difficult lesson to learn, but a valuable one nonetheless.
Sunday Brunch with Zappos CEO
The last event we attended was brunch with Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com. Wow, it’s not every day you can say you had brunch (well, theoretically speaking) with the CEO of Zappos. Despite his great amount of success and power, I found Tony to be surprisingly down to Earth. As he explained how he started his company, and the tremendous emphasis it puts on culture and community, I really got to thinking how these same principles could be applied to Milwaukee.
I could go on and on about takeaways from Tony, but you’d stop reading, so I’ll keep it short and sweet.
- Whatever you’re thinking, think bigger.
- No matter what your position at a company, or in any aspect of life, treat people with respect – you never know who’s watching.
- Money shouldn’t affect your decisions. Chase the vision, not the money.
- Downtown Las Vegas (where Zappos is headquartered – not the traditional Las Vegas strip as most people would think) focuses on community and collaboration. Utilizing the art of “co-working,” people focus on increasing their “collisions” with others in order to create the greatest amount of idea sharing and betterment for the entire community. I like this concept and think it is one that is being increasingly applied in our area, especially through organizations like the Water Council and Newaukee.
Overall, YP Week taught me to really take ownership and pride in our city – and myself. Even if you don’t consider yourself a leader now, you will be. It’s important to know what’s going on and to take stock in Milwaukee’s future!
March 5, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Measuring the value of public relations is an important, yet often overlooked, process. Knowing what groundwork and benchmarks must be in place and how to utilize the information you gather through measurement is important to ongoing success and key to recognizing where further improvements can be made. With this in mind, we’ve developed a group of ideas to consider when measuring your PR efforts.
Before creating your PR tactics, you need to have an understanding of what specific goals your client wishes to achieve. Objectives must be clear and holistic, looking at the “big picture” and addressing large-scale outcomes. These objectives can range from generating basic awareness to growing your client’s market share by “x%.” Your objectives should be as specific as possible – outlining what effects are intended to come from the campaign. Having quantitative objectives is preferred – as they are easier to measure and more useful when presenting results to a number-oriented audience. “Bolstering awareness,” is not a good objective, as it is too vague and impossible to measure. However, “bolstering Facebook awareness with women ages 20-25 by a 5% increase in engagement by March 2014” is a strong objective as it is specific and easily measurable. Building objectives is an opportunity to work closely with your clients to help develop and tap into their overall business strategy.
Measure Outcomes Relevant to Business
When measuring the effectiveness of PR efforts, it is important to focus more on the outcomes of the work – rather than the outputs. Were there any changes in consumer habits, employee attitude, company reputation, brand equity or similar effects? Those changes are what the client’s business executives and planners are going to want to know. To validate your PR campaign, it is important that you can prove that business objectives were met effectively. Developed objectives that are focused on what your client wants to have change in perception, attitude or behavior from the campaign will make this step in the measurement process easier.
Quality over Quantity
The amount of total impressions in the media is often mistaken as the most important aspect of measurement. The quality of the impression is much more important, as each impression is an opportunity to connect with an individual on a personal level. Quality is enhanced when the medium is relevant and credible to the audience and delivered using the most appropriate method. Also, adding a third-party spokesperson improves the credibility of your message, enhancing the quality of the impression.
After understanding the significant measurements, it is important to present your findings to your client appropriately. All PR measurements must be presented in a way that is fully transparent to the process used to gather the data. If surveys were used, the size, margin of error and questions should all be released. Likewise, the method used to calculate metrics and specific statistical information should be made available as well. Another important feature of measuring results is making sure the process used to get the results is replicable. Using the same method to compare results of future PR efforts and campaigns will be important to make meaningful comparisons.
Measuring Social Media is Important Too!
Measuring social media efforts is a young but important aspect of PR. There is no single tool or metric in which to measure social media outcomes – and combining a variety of different methods can prove beneficial. With social media, it is important to have clear, concise and specific goals in mind. When dealing with social media, the measurement is going to be focused on “conversation” and “engagement,” not simply reach and frequency. It is important to understand reach – however putting more time and consideration into experimenting and testing is key to effectively measuring your PR efforts. Reach and frequency measurements can be explored through the use of a free service called Klout. This tool uses an algorithm to determine how influential a social media account or accounts are. It is important not to use any social media measurement tool alone, Klout can be paired up with Google Analytics, which can show the traffic on a client’s website. Combining both services’ information, a PR team can determine not only how influential the social media account is, but how well it engages the audience by moving them to visit your client’s website. Facebook has its own built-in analytics tool. This feature can show increases or decreases in regards to a page’s reach as well as key demographic information about the audience. TweetReach is another tool that can calculate the reach and engagement of your Twitter page. Regardless of what tool you choose – it is important to monitor the effectiveness of your social media efforts.
Clearly, it is important to measure the effectiveness of a PR campaign or just a PR tactic. How did it align with our objectives? Did we accomplish our goal through this tactic? Keeping expectations realistic by developing specific objectives prior to executing your tactics is the foundation of strong measurement results. Remember to keep measurement focused on quantitative results, and quality engagement. While measurement isn’t always easy, it is important in making the most out of a complete public relations plan. Ongoing evaluation and measurement is an essential part of the PR process.
November 8, 2012 § Leave a Comment
By: Julie Caan
At Vollrath Associates, we love working with the media. Being media junkies, nothing gets our blood pumping more than securing a TV segment or seeing our client grace the front page. Media relations is an exciting aspect of public relations, and one of the reasons we love coming to work each day. Working with the media takes patience, know-how and a true understanding of an industry that revolves around deadlines and timing. Part of that understanding comes with crafting the perfect pitch.
Team VA recently attended a Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Southeastern Wisconsin Chapter panel where key players from all four Milwaukee TV stations shared their tips for working with PR professionals, specifically pitching morning news and entertainment programs. Gone are the days when the morning news served up the nightly news’ leftovers. Today, morning shows are more dynamic than ever, seeking fresh content and delivering stories people need to know to start their day. It’s the job of morning news producers, editors and anchors to deliver content that effortlessly mixes hard news with lighter content, capable of putting smiles on viewers’ faces. That’s where PR practitioners come in. News stations need our help to find the stories people want to know about. And it all starts with the pitch.
Below are a few key takeaways to keep in mind when pitching morning shows (Milwaukee and beyond):
- Local. This one seems obvious, but it’s important that your story really resonate with the stations’ viewership. Take Superstorm Sandy for example. Was your company affected? Did it contribute to the relief effort? Members of the PRSA panel also agreed that there is definitely a trend towards more local programming featuring hyper-local content, which creates even more opportunities for PR professionals.
- Timely. Depending on the news value of your story, the timing will change. If you are delivering breaking news content, make sure your pitch is sent out first thing so that it has a chance to appear in that day’s newscast. If your story can wait, or is considered “soft news,” it might not receive airtime for several weeks and may require advance planning. At Vollrath Associates, we generally pitch items for our consumer-based clients several weeks in advance. These topics may be seasonal in nature, receive their own segment or require more coordination.
- Personalize your Pitch. One anchor from a local entertainment show shared that she receives pitches all the time addressed to her competitor’s station. In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to pitch the wrong show with the wrong station. However, this is a huge no-no and one that editors, reporters and anchors in a fiercely competitive market do not take lightly. This is a sure-fire way to get your pitch sent straight to the trash as well as a costly mistake that could affect your relationship with the show.
To avoid mix-ups, know the show you are pitching. Each media outlet prides itself on having a different flavor, and it’s important as PR professionals that we recognize that. And within each station, each show is unique. Take the time to really get to know the show you are pitching – its segments, talent and featured content.
- Be Up Front. Don’t bury your angle beneath a wordy pitch or flashy packaging. If you have something great to say, then say it up front. Each member of the panel shared experiences of pitches that took too long to get to the point, which ultimately led them to stop reading. Some PR professionals, on the other hand, get too caught up in a pitch’s presentation. For example, one anchor shared an experience where he was sent a basketball along with a video game, however, he received no information about what the product actually was or why it was being sent to him. Instead of receiving airtime, the attempt now serves as an example of what not to do.
- Incorporate Visuals. Morning shows love visuals. If you can tell your story visually, make sure to communicate that right away. In the past, we’ve side-stepped the traditional “talking-heads” approach by offering up a fun demonstration, performance or unique off-site interview location.
- Social Media. Follow key media contacts on Twitter to stay informed on what they’re talking about, future story ideas and as a way to personally connect with them. Media people, after all, are people too. J When asked if they use social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook as a way to find stories, the answers were mixed, with an emphasis placed on using social media as a way to discover and enhance breaking news stories and connect with viewers.
- Follow-Up. In some cases, the follow-up is just as important as the pitch itself. Most of the panel admitted to being buried on a daily basis with press releases and advisories – following up either over email or on the phone is a great way to make sure your story stands out from the pack. The follow-up is also your chance to add a fresh angle to a story that isn’t receiving traction.
Do you have any advice for successfully pitching local morning news and entertainment shows?
October 26, 2012 § 1 Comment
By: Casey Schaak
On Wednesday, October 10, a few of our VA team members spent the day at Marquette University taking a deeper dive into social media practices, policies and trends. The fourth annual PR + Social Media Summit was quiet the success, and the hashtag “#prsms” was even trending nationally on Twitter.
Here are some of the key takeaways from our #prsms experience:
Creativity is key. Content is king.
U.S. Olympian Nick Symmonds kicked off the summit with his own unique social media experience. He auctioned off his left shoulder on Ebay with the intention of displaying the winning company’s Twitter handle on the space during the 2012 Olympics. Hanson Dodge Creative, of Milwaukee, won the auction with a bid of $11,100.
Nick’s experience showcased unconventional brand building. While the Olympic Committee required him to cover the temporary tattoo during his races, the buzz created around the auction led to free publicity for both Nick and Hanson Dodge. The auction and the tattoo increased awareness and Twitter followers for Nick and Hanson Dodge, and even shed light onto some controversial Olympic rules prohibiting Olympians from recognizing their individual sponsors before, during and after the games.
Balancing Work and Personal Life on Social Media
The Social Media Policy Panel, comprised of Erik Ugland, Diederich College of Communications, Mary Henige, General Motors Company, John Kalter, Godfrey & Kahn, William Caraher, College of Business Administration, and Eric Rumbaugh, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP, focused on how companies handle employee social media interactions.
Each employer has its own social media culture. For GM, its policies require employees to be transparent and identify their role within the company when posting or commenting on the internet. They also must say that their opinions are their own, not those of GM, and employees are encouraged to link to approved GM content found on the GM website when necessary. A key legal take-away when it comes to a company’s social media liability is “put it in writing.” Employees are going to be on social media, so it’s important companies have guidelines.
- Truth 1: People have perceptions about your brand.
- Truth 2: Act of listening and responding can change your business.
- Truth 3: You never know where the fire will come from.
- Truth 4: Response can be more important than the situation.
- Truth 5: We’re operating in a society of continuous partial attention.
McDonalds has learned to deal with negativity towards its stereotypically unhealthy and fried meal options by embracing its brand. Through social media, it creates an emotional brand connection along with authentic and transparent conversations with followers. In response to negativity regarding large soft drink sizes, McDonalds took the stance that the consumer makes his or her own choices. The company has developed a variety of menu options, and the consumer can choose which items and sizes he or she wants.
The Human Touch
Mary Henige, director of social media and digital marketing for GM, showed how GM is engaging with consumers and fans/followers by creating a personal side to the company. Instead of showing buildings and copy about the company, GM has created a video blog on its website that features different employees, showing their work life and personal life. The blog also highlights local owners and dealers. It takes the GM brand and gives it a human touch.
Additionally, the GM Facebook page features “Fan Friday.” Each Friday the page changes its banner photo to display a photo submitted by a fan. By adding a personal connection to its website and social media pages, GM paints a compelling story and engages with its fans on an emotional level.
What is Social Media and Why Should I Care About It?
Brian Moran, small business consultant, gave a compelling presentation on the importance of not just being on social media, but taking the time to do it right. Social media is a great tool for lead generation, customer service, market research, competitive analysis and PR, but if it’s not done right, it’s a waste of time and money.
Here are Brian’s 10 suggestions for social media users:
- Tweet, retweet, reply
- Be consistent
- Avoid politics, religion and tweeting after midnight
- Make connections
- Give and get recommendations
- Join groups
- Ask questions; give answers
- Use Google alerts
- Engage with industry communities
- Get employees involved, but make sure they know the rules
Social Media for PR
The News and Social Media Panel, with Kati Berg, Diederich College of Communications, Sharif Durhams, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Kathryn Janicek, NBC Chicago morning show, Andy Tarnoff, OnMilwaukee.com, and Herbert Lowe, Diedrich College of Communications, gave an inside look at the media’s perception and utilization of social media.
For traditional media reporters and anchors, social media is a conversation. It’s a way to connect with the community and extend and develop their on-air/on-paper personalities. Stories that are covered in print and broadcast can be expanded through social media and the public can engage with the news and join the conversation.
When it comes to relationships with PR, social media is a way to build relationships and set yourself apart amongst the many email pitches the media receives. Just as the social platform adds personality to reporters and anchors, it adds personality to PR pros as well. It is a unique way to find a common ground and connect – reporter/anchor to PR representative.
Winning the Social Media Race
Augie Ray, of Prudential, gave some great insight into the value of social media. By his definition, “social media is a medium where value is exchanged and relationships are created mutually.”
The winner in the social media race is not just the brand with the most fans, but the brand with the most fans having the most meaningful engagement.
As you can tell, every speaker and panel during the PR + Social Media Summit provided a wealth of insightful information. It was a great experience and we’re looking forward to attending the event again next year!
October 11, 2012 § Leave a Comment
By: Casey Schaak
PowerPoint has become a staple in the presentation world. PowerPoints are easy to create, update and transport. Not to mention they can be found on almost every computer. But with the regularity of use of these computer-based slides, it’s easy to fall into bad habits and thus, create a less-than-ideal presentation.
Don’t fall into a PowerPoint slump – make the best of this extremely useful presentation tool by following these important content and design tips to keep your presentation clear and effective.
The most important part of a PowerPoint presentation is content. Follow the steps below to make sure you are presenting the right content in a concise way:
- Before deciding on the design of the PowerPoint, first define your objective and the key points you want to get across. Also, keep your audience in mind and remember that your presentation must be geared to them – their familiarity with the topic and what is of interest to them.
- Create an outline to ensure the messages are consistent and the structure of the presentation is solid.
- Limit the content. Follow the rule of six: six words per line and six lines per slide.
− Go through your information and narrow down the points so only the
most important information is on the slides.
− Avoid using complete sentences on slides. Cut paragraphs down to
sentences, sentences into phrases and phrases into key words.
− You can fill in any details during your presentation, but every word you
say should not also be on the slides.
- Keep wording clear and simple, use active visual language and cut any unnecessary words.
Slides are meant to support the speaker, but aren’t supposed to be the main focus of the presentation. When designing a presentation, avoid clutter and establish a professional and consistent layout. Follow the design tips below to create an effective look and feel for your PowerPoint presentation:
- Create a clear and consistent theme and color scheme throughout the presentation by using a template within PowerPoint, creating your own or using a company template provided for this purpose.
- Use high-contrast fonts and backgrounds to make text stand out.
- Keep the background consistent. Complicated backgrounds make it difficult to read the text.
- Avoid flashy, distracting animation or sound effects. The focus should be on the presenter, not animation on the screen.
− If text moves, keep it simple and consistent throughout the
− Avoid using movement transitions between slides, or keep it consistent.
- Always practice your presentation on a large screen, one similar to what you will be presenting on, to make sure all fonts, graphs and images are clear.
- Use a font that is big enough for the audience to easily read.
− Font should be 24-32 point size, with titles 36-44 point size.
- At most, use only two fonts per slide. One for the title and one for the other text.
− Sans serif fonts (Arial or Helvetica) are generally easier to read than
serif fonts (Times New Roman).
- Don’t use too many different colors in the text – two or three at most.
- Avoid all upper-case letters. Upper and lowercase letters are easier to read.
- Use left or right text alignment – centered text is difficult to read.
- Use bullets to present information clearly.
Graphics and Charts
- Graphics should balance the slide, be easily understood and complement the text without overwhelming.
− Avoid using more than two graphics per slide.
- Visuals, such as graphs, diagrams, photos and media clips, can be used to engage the audience in place of text. In this case, use only enough text to label the graphic.
- Use the same style graphics throughout (cartoon, photographs, etc.).
- Use clip art sparingly and if possible, avoid using PowerPoint clip art, as this is commonly used and the audience has most likely seen these images before.
- Charts are a great tool to visually present information.
− Pie charts should be used to show percentages.
− Vertical bar charts should be used to show changes in quantity over
− Horizontal bar charts should be used to compare quantities.
− Line charts should be used to demonstrate trends.
Once you’ve established the content, designed the slides and finalized your PowerPoint, make sure to proof read your slides for potential errors and practice giving your presentation.
By following these tips, you are now ready to give an effective PowerPoint presentation – good luck!
August 9, 2012 § Leave a Comment
By: Casey Schaak
Ciao amici! This year, the Vollrath Associates team returned to Festa Italiana to offer our public relations expertise. The four-day festival and the weeks leading up to it were jam packed with press releases, alerts, media inquiries and opportunities, as well as some great coverage, if we do say so ourselves. While we were certainly busy with media relations and keeping Festa Facebook and Twitter followers in the know on the latest and greatest happenings, we all had an excellent experience at the event.
From enjoying delicious food, to spending time with the friendly and familiar faces of Festa and watching plenty of entertaining acts and spectacular fireworks, the 35th anniversary of Festa Italiana was a hit with team VA! Take a look at our highlights from the week:
From Italian dancers and musicians, to the Italian Idol contest, opera singers, a surprise country act and even a magic act, Festa provided excellent entertainment that appealed to audiences of all ages.
Of course, we all enjoyed arancini (rice balls) at various times throughout the weekend, as well as sfincione (Sicilian pizza), spinach stromboli and sfingi (Italian donuts). Gelato and vino were also crowd pleasers!
Pronounced “bo-chi” ball (not to be confused with the pronunciation “botch-y,” which means kiss in Italian), this fun and interactive game was available to festival-goers throughout the weekend, with a tournament on Sunday. Also check out the video here!
For a deeper dive into all the Festa festivities and pictures from all four days, check out the Festa Italiana Facebook page!
Arrivederci until next year!