What’s in a Name?

September 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

Written By Jessica Vollrath

Often we have the challenge – and the opportunity – to name something.  An unborn child, a new car, a pet or a recreational sports team.  In the marketing industry, we have numerous naming opportunities – a client’s blog, an ongoing e-newsletter, a theme for an annual report, an event, an HR video or simply headlines in a client’s guest article.  You might think it’s easy to think of a name – but what you don’t realize is the impact that name can have.  That name will become a brand.  And as a brand, it will resonate with customers and live not only on a page, but in people’s minds.  Therefore, before just throwing out any old name –it’s important to consider a few helpful tips to make sure that name has what it takes to become an effective brand.

Lately at VA, we have been busy creatively thinking of names for various projects.  When I am brainstorming different names, I think of the following:

  • What is the communication objective?  What purpose does it serve?  If it is a serious piece, such as an annual report, you want to develop a name that represents shareholder value, performance and a message for the future.  If you are naming a new blog from the CEO, you have more flexibility to be creative and out-of-the-box to reflect the CEO’s personality.
  •  Who is the target audience?  For example, if you are naming a monthly e-newsletter from the CEO, the purpose is to inform his/her associates about company news, fun facts, growth initiatives and HR-related matters.  For this product, a name should represent the personality of the CEO while still aligning with the company’s communication objectives.  The name can be creative and welcoming while still sharing important information.
  •  What is the context of the product?  Will this name live forever on a website or will it be changed every month, or year?  If you know this name will live for a longer period of time, you need to research potential trademark infringement, how it fits with the overall marketing strategy and objectives and how it fits with other communication vehicles under the same marketing umbrella.  If it is a name that could be changed every month, you need to be more general with the name – research ways it can still be changed while communicating the same message. 
  •  Appropriateness.  If you are naming a communication piece from the CEO, there’s a fine line between being creative and being appropriate.  You want the name to represent the CEO while also catering to associates in a suitable manner.  If you are creating headlines for a new website that is fun, sexy and intriguing – you have the ability to be dangerous but keep your ideas in line with the product – in other words, don’t push it.
  •  Have some fun.  Sometimes I am the most creative while driving in my car (even though I should be paying attention to the road) or on a long walk.  For my fellow colleagues in the communications industry, we all know creativity takes time.  If you think of the perfect name in five minutes – that is great, but most of us know it takes some deep thinking and lots of brainstorming.  This can also be fun – sometimes the names you least expect to work will come together to form your brand.

                In closing, I have to admit, naming can be a challenge.  It is a lot easier said than done.  I hope  some of these tips will help you with your naming duty.  Remember – your name will live on, so make sure it has the power to flourish and not be forgotten.

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Stop, Listen and Respond

January 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

Written By Jessica Vollrath

Dealing with a crisis situation is the Super Bowl for public relations professionals.  Most crisis situations happen unexpectedly, hence why they are called a “crisis.”  When this happens, it’s important to follow a crisis communications plan or strategy that has been established in advance.  It’s also important to practice your crisis plan with the people that could be affected and involved beforehand, so designated spokespersons are aware of the proper procedures to follow.

As a PR firm, our clients are put in testing situations – not often, which is good, but it does occur.  Below are some simple steps to follow as a guideline if your company were to have a crisis situation arise.

1.  Stop and Listen.  When a crisis situation happens, blood levels rise, people begin to think the worst and tempers sometimes may flare.  Instead of making the situation worse by hyperventilating, it’s good to just stop for a moment and listen to what is being said about your company.  You need to get all the facts lined-up so that you can tell your story correctly.  Talk to the people involved, follow your local news outlets, social media and any other form of communications to establish the facts and see what is being said. 

2.  Implement the Plan.  Once you have all the facts, it’s time to prepare your response.  Again, since this is a crisis, you need to move quickly.  As we’ve seen so many times with many companies, a response does not work if it comes a week later – others will tell your story by then, and it will be even more difficult to make things right.  Here are the most important items you need to figure out while responding:

  • Gather the crisis team together and define responsibilities (CEO, legal, PR, HR, etc.)
  • Develop the statement or response with the crisis team.  Determine the facts to be communicated.  Think about the company’s credibility, its impact on the community, etc.  Think about the company’s “image restoration.”  In a response, it’s never good to deny or shift blame, or to lie or fudge the statement.  Tell the truth, be empathetic and state your case.
  • After the statement/response is finalized, determine the key audiences that should receive your response and the correct communication vehicles to be used to tell your side of the story.  Your local news outlets, social media, your website, letter from the CEO, etc.  Not every single communication vehicle has to be used in a crisis situation – use your best judgement and use the communication that will reach your key audiences most effectively.

3.  Tell your Story.  Once the communication vehicles are determined, get your story out.  The spokesperson(s) have to be ready and on call for any media or other requests immediately after the response is issued.  It’s important that after releasing a statement the company spokespersons are available for comment.  This will increase the company’s credibility.  Hiding behind a press release will not garner more support for the company by the community.

4.  Monitor the Media.  Keep track of all the media/communication outlets that are responding and take note of how they are telling your story.  If a media outlet isn’t telling the story correctly, contact the local reporter or assignment editor and talk with them about your side of the story. 

Again, it’s always important to practice a crisis situation beforehand and train the crisis response team that will be involved.  Practice makes perfect and having a strategy in place will enable the company to properly react timely and efficiently should a crisis arise.

A Time to Say “Thank You”

November 23, 2010 § Leave a comment

Written by Jessica Vollrath

Instead of providing my insight on a PR trend or topic, I wanted to touch on this important week of Thanksgiving. 

This time of year is always my favorite.  The month of November is the time of the year to take in the smell of pumpkin candles, fall foliage, Sunday night football, pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks and the perfect time to bring out those warm, cozy sweaters that have been hiding in your closet during the summer months.

November is also home to my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving.  How can you not enjoy this holiday?  The Macy’s Day Parade, the beginning of Christmas and holiday cheer, football and of course, plenty of turkey and all the Thanksgiving Day fixings.  But, Thanksgiving is also a time to take a step back from our busy schedules and appreciate the things in our lives that we can be thankful for.

Thank You for my Job

As I reflect on my own life, there are so many things I am thankful for.  In this very tough economy we are living in today, I am thankful for my job.  I love PR and the team at VA and am very happy we bring value to our clients’ communication programs and continue to help them add value to their clients, customers and shareholders.

Thank You Clients

I am also very thankful for our clients.  Every client we work with is unique.  I want to say to all our clients “Thank You” for trusting our team with your news and stories every day.  At VA, we enjoy being an extension of your team and look forward to adding value to your business and growth plans now and in the future.

Thank You Co-Workers

I want to say thank you to my co-workers at VA. In fact, I think all of us should say “Thank You” to those we work with every day.  These are the people that see us when we have our best days and our worst days, our happy days and our crabby days.  

Thank You Veterans and Active-Day Military

Recently, my great uncle Fred was selected to be a part of the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight.  This organization enables World War II veterans to fly to the WWII Memorial in Washington D.C.  These honorable veterans, most of them in their 80s or older,  fly to Washington D.C. and back in one day, to be surprised at their ending point at Mitchell International Airport by their family members and many others applauding, crying and honoring them as they walk through a sea of supporters.  This definitely brings a tear to your eye, at least it did to me, and I just want to say “Thank You” to my dear uncle Fred for fighting for our country and all our military men and women who have risked their lives for ours.

Thank You Family and Friends

And of course, I want to say “Thank You” to my family and friends.  Without you (and you know who you all are) I would not be the person I am today.  It is all of you who fill my heart with love and laughter and help me navigate this journey called life.  Thank you for all the little things that you do – I appreciate them every day.

 So, make today the day that you reach out to your co-worker, boss, great uncle, client, spouse, best friend and family and say “Thank You.”  Those words are what should be celebrated during this week of Thanksgiving.