The Secret to Becoming a PR Expert

By Julie Wright, President


It’s what every bright up and comer wants to know. How do I become a PR expert?

What’s the straightest line to the top? What blogs do I need to follow? What technologies do I need to use? Are there short cuts?

If you aspire to be an expert in PR, there is one thing you need to know and to do.

The answer to becoming an expert transcends conventional wisdom or insider scoop because it is backed by scientific research.

Social scientists have studied this question because it is an important one and has significant implications. In fact, in demanding, complex jobs like PR—particularly in an agency environment—research has shown that the top 10% produce 80% more than the average. Even in low complexity jobs, the top 10% produce 25% more than the average.

So researchers isolated and removed all variables – how much people practiced, worked, studied, networked, got lucky, etc. — to identify the single factor that most correlated with becoming a top performer.

But before I tell you what it is, I’ll tell you that it’s entirely within your control. It is an internal factor. And it’s not talent.

J.K. Rowling was once jobless, living on welfare and deeply depressed. She was also rejected countless times by publishing houses for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Now she’s a billionaire and one of the world’s best-known authors.

Rowling worked through her setbacks and spent five years penning her first Harry Potter book and never gave up on finding a publisher. She was going to be an author.

Michael Jordan didn’t make the varsity team when he tried out as a sophomore. But he went on to be one of the best basketball players of our time.

Jordan famously said “You must expect great things of yourself before you can do them.” Clearly, when he thought about his future, it was as the best basketball player he could be.

So, here’s the answer to the question “How do I become an expert?”

It’s your commitment.

Ask yourself “How long do I plan to do this?”

If the answer is “for a couple of years,” “until I start a family” or “I’m not sure;” you can still do well but it’s unlikely that you’ll get to the top of your game. If you answered that question with “forever,” “this is my life’s work” or “until I’m the CEO;” you are on your way to a level of achievement few attain.

If you don’t believe me, read more here in my favorite weekly blog, Barking up the Wrong Tree, by Eric Barker. It is worth subscribing to as it is always filled with wisdom backed by social science—or as Eric explains “science-based answers and expert insight on how to be awesome at life.”

Barker’s post on how to become an expert includes seven other tips. It’s well worth the read if you’re serious about becoming a PR expert.

The Buzz About B Corps – Why You Should Care

Photo Credit: B Corporation https://www.bcorporation.net/
Photo Credit: B Corporation https://www.bcorporation.net/

By Kat Beaulieu, Communications Strategist

Remember when you were back in business class and it first dawned on you that the system is rigged against people who want to do good AND make money? I do. It was one of those “Wait – what?” moments where I felt another shred of my ignorance/innocence slipping away.

My big “a-ha, well-duh” moment followed this obvious nugget of truth: corporations are legally obligated to make money for their shareholders, so their decision-making is necessarily driven by profit. Non-profits on the other hand, are legally forbidden from making a profit, so they’re actually discouraged from creating wealth for their employees.

In my own selfish way, I remember thinking my choices were to either embrace a life of poverty working for a non-profit, or cobble together some financial comfort by turning a blind eye to some of my ideals and working for the big, bad corporation. I suppose I’d had enough of the starving student scene and a martyr I am not, so off to the corporate world I went.

I’m certain I wasn’t the only person faced with this decision, and fortunately there are some smarter and more committed people than me who have been working to change the system, so that now (since 2010 in Maryland and now in 30 U.S. states and the District of Columbia), there IS an alternative to choosing between non-profit or for-profit. It’s called a benefit corporation, or B Corp, and it is both shaping and shaking up how business, employee recruitment and consumer spending are going to look in the near future. Why? Because Y and Z.

Generations Y and Z, that is. Unlike prior generations, Y and Z haven’t had to sever that part of their conscience that chooses between “good” non-profit and “evil” for-profit, because they’ve grown up with companies like Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s and Seventh Generation showing us that companies can be both for-profit and good. That’s exactly what B Corps are – they are people using business as a force for good™. They have shareholders, but they’re not exclusively tied to them—they’re also legally obligated to serve their mission, which can be anything from delivering shoes to third-world children to achieving world peace.

 

The B Corp movement is one of the most important of our lifetime, built on the simple fact that business impacts and serves more than just shareholders—it has an equal responsibility to the community and to the planet.

Rose Marcario, CEO of Patagonia

 

Y and Z can choose to give their money and their brains to “good” companies, and that’s exactly what they’re doing. What this means for traditional corporations is that in order to remain competitive for Y and Z’s brains and share of wallet, they’re going to have to start upping the ante in terms of the “good” they’re doing inside and outside of the organization. And these are the stories that need to take priority in press releases. These are the stories that are going to capture media attention, get shared on social media, and ultimately drive Y and Z’s choices.

Why (or Y) is this important? Because Ys, whom we define as those ages 18-34 in 2015, now number 75.4 million, surpassing the 74.9 million Baby Boomers (ages 51-69) in the US.

Are you panicked yet? You should be! The B Corps are coming and if your PR strategy has been focused exclusively on profits and growth, it’s time to change tactics. Talk up the great initiatives your employees have been collaborating with non-profits on, and the positive impact your organization has had on your community. Turn your eyes to measure the social good you’ve achieved each quarter, rather than earnings alone.

So whose wallet and brains is your organization targeting and what mediums are you using to get those stories out? Is it time to YZ up?

Kat Beaulieu would love to repent for some of her ideal-stomping past and help you craft a YZ targeted communications strategy that profiles the social good you’ve been up to. Get in touch.

San Diego Public Relations Agency CEO Joins San Diego Venture Group Board

Grant Wright joins leadership of premier venture capital community associationGrant

SAN DIEGO, March 29, 2016 – The San Diego Venture Group (SDVG) has elected San Diego public relations agency (W)right On Communications CEO Grant Wright to the Board of Directors. Additionally, Wright is leading a new sub-group of Board Directors dedicated to advancing effective communications for SDVG.

Previously Board Chairman of the Southern California Aviation Association for five years and Director for nine years, Wright was instrumental in helping grow that organization from an original small core of members to more than 600 corporate and 6,000 person members today. CEO of (W)right On Communication since 2004, he helped lead the San Diego public relations agency to become among the largest in California. In 2016, he was a finalist for the San Diego Business Journal’s Most Admired CEO awards.

“My goal with the San Diego Venture Group is to help steward the continued success of this excellent organization and introduce innovative communication methods to advance SDVG’s interests,” said Wright. “San Diego is home to one of the nation’s most exciting and growing entrepreneurial and venture capital environments. As evidence of the even stronger environment to come, Money Magazine just named San Diego the #1 US travel destination. SDVG is a great organization and I’m honored and excited to support it.”

(W)right On Communications, a San Diego Public Relations agency, specializes in public relations, marketing solutions and strategic communications services – ranging from social media marketing to multimedia and web development. (W)right On is exceptionally strong in technology public relations with experience working with the Internet of Things (IoT), major utilities, cleantech companies, and renewable energy providers.

“It’s an exciting time to invest in San Diego-based startups. We have an exceptionally strong and growing tech sector, in addition to one of the top three biotech centers globally. Just 90 minutes by air from Silicon Valley, we continue to exploit our proximity to the largest venture capital region on the planet,” stated Mike Krenn, president of San Diego Venture Group. “We are excited and fortunate to have Grant join the board. His expertise, passion for entrepreneurial ventures, and energy will help us build regional momentum.”

 

About (W)right On Communications

Founded in 1998 in Vancouver, British Columbia, (W)right On Communications is a full-spectrum communications and public relations firm headquartered in San Diego, California. Specializing in hospitality, healthcare, energy, technology and development, (W)right On has produced results-driven media relations, social media and promotional campaigns and programs for clients including hotels, hospitals, utilities, startups, developers and universities. To learn more about (W)right On, visit www.wrightoncomm.com.

About San Diego Venture Group

Founded in 1986, the San Diego Venture Group (SDVG) is a non-profit organization designed to bring San Diegans who are interested in new enterprise and the process of creating it together. With a mission to provide a networking forum for entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and advisors in an informal atmosphere where human expertise can foster new ventures, SDVG is comprised of professionals with bright ideas to share and the practical skills required to implement these ideas. For more information, visit www.sdvg.org.

Four Keys to Getting the Most Out of PR

 

By Chance Shay, Senior Communications Strategist

Over a decade ago, Entrepreneur Magazine explained why every brand needs PR (back then brands were called “companies”) and while explaining that “good PR is the telling of a good story,” referenced The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR to illustrate their point. Long gone are the days where CEOs asked if public relations is important to their company. Instead, they’re asking how to make PR the most effective it can possibly be. Every brand in every vertical in every geographic market is different, but these four keys to getting the most out of PR are universally found at the foundation of all great public relations strategies.




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Focus on Efficiency

Whether you’re Justin Timberlake, Oprah or an exhausted PR director of a brand producing widgets, you have 24 hours in a day. Making the most out of that time is critical to beating competitors to the story angle punch and seeing your brand’s name in lights instead of on the outside looking in. Be smart about where your time goes.

This could come from instituting efficient work behaviors. Commit to starting the day off right. Schedule time for checking emails instead of responding to them as they hit your inbox. Make a point to prioritize your to-do list.

Another part is making sure you’re using technology to amplify the results while minimizing the time invested. Use tools like Hootsuite, Buffer or Soci to manage social media accounts, optimize content development and publishing, and streamline reporting (see below for why reporting is important). Use Basecamp to alleviate budget-eating project management time.

Remember, don’t bang your head against the wall. If there’s something your team lacks expertise in, outsource it.

Emphasize PR Measurement

To optimize your team’s efficiency, focus on results that provide the biggest bang for your buck. To understand which results are actually moving the needle, you have to measure them.

Without measurement, you won’t know where your resources are best spent. ROI was the buzzword (acronym?) of 2013, but it’s just as relevant today. Think of it this way: is an hour of your time best spent pitching a story or developing an eblast? If the time spent pitching media results in 10 sets of target audience eyeballs seeing your story, but that same time spent on the eblast results in 20 sets of target audience eyeballs seeing and engaging with your story, it’s easy to see where your focus should be.

But not all PR measurement is the same. Make sure you’re gauging outcomes over outputs. For good, strong and valid PR measurement, your team should follow the guidelines set by the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communications, or AMEC.

PR and Marketing Go Hand in Hand

Do you still think of marketing as driving sales to customers and PR as building a brand’s reputation or trust? You shouldn’t. More so than ever, a brand’s reputation can make or break sales.

But the importance of traditional media is coming back down to earth, too. In fact, scholars and experts were writing about the declining influence of traditional media way back in 2010. With fragmented audiences and the socialization of the Web and its information, a brand doesn’t have to rely solely on traditional media to reach a large, targeted audience.

In 2016, marketing and PR are most effective when they’re done in tandem. Making sure what’s being said about your brand (media) and what you’re saying about your brand (marketing) are consistent is important because future or prospective customers are more informed than ever when they make a purchase decision. If there’s something out of sync with the information they’ve turned up in their research, they’ll see it as a big red flag.

Most importantly, PR and marketing working in tandem amplifies the result. If your PR results are driving the audience to additional brand-created content, then it’s easier to move them down the sales funnel.

Proactivity Over Reactivity

Finally, like a prize fighter, PR is most effective when it’s out in front of opportunities rather than back pedaling and swinging from its heels. Make sure a solid amount of lead time is given to prepare and launch campaigns. This allows you to tee up media wins in advance of the press release or advisory hitting the wire and ensure key influencers are already in the know before a single piece is published.

Being proactive is also important for fostering the strong media relationships. The quickest way to burn a media bridge is to cause a reporter to miss a deadline because you couldn’t provide the information they need fast enough. Anticipate the questions they might have and identify what information your brand is not comfortable releasing. If you’re announcing a development project, anticipate the detailed financial-related questions and have responses pre-approved. Be proactive in providing whatever is necessary to make it easy for a journalist to cover your story.

There is no magic bullet in PR. However, brands can set themselves up to maximize the return on their public relations investment by following these four keys. If you enjoyed this read, make sure you poke around the (W)right On Target Blog for some other pearls of wisdom from the world of PR and marketing. Some of my favorite recent posts include 12 Signs PR Agency Life Isn’t For You, 10 Feelings Anyone Who Works in PR Will Relate To and Reflections to Begin 2016, written by (W)right On’s CEO, Grant Wright.

Meet the Team: Kara – Communications Coordinator

Headshot_KaraWe’re giving you the inside scoop on the entire WOC team with our “Meet the Team” series. This month, the spotlight is on our new Communications Coordinator, Kara DeMent.

Kara is known for her “out of the box” thinking and passion for the media industry. As Communications Coordinator, she supports (W)right On’s land development, energy, utility, technology, B-to-B, professional services, hospitality and non-profit clients. Before joining (W)right On, Kara served as a PR Assistant at a boutique PR firm and supported communications for the Orlando Magic and LA Clippers. She graduated from California State University, San Bernardino with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications with an emphasis in PR and Mass Communications. As a California native, she enjoys the beach, Disneyland trips, crafting, and being outdoors.

What would you be doing if you weren’t at your current job?

I would be looking for my current job! Haha

What’s one word you would use to describe yourself?

Ambitious

Fill in the blank. “If you really knew me, you’d know ____.”

If you really knew me, you’d know that I have this dream of becoming a New York City Rockette and performing in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

What super power would you like to have?

I would love the power of having super strength.

What would a “perfect” day look like to you?

A perfect day would be going to brunch (I love mimosas) and going to a sporting event. Preferably, a Clippers game J

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in the past year?

To be patient and know that things will happen when they’re meant to.

Best vacation you’ve had?

A family trip to Walt Disney World, followed by a cruise to the Bahamas!

What’s your most embarrassing moment at work?

There was one time I spilt coffee on Deandre Jordan before a press conference. He was cool about it, but I about died. Haha

Favorite quote?

“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” –Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban

If Hollywood made a movie about your life, who would be cast as you?

Jennifer Lawrence, for sure!

What’s your drink of choice?

Jack and coke.

If you were stuck on an island and could only choose 5 CDs, what would they be?

Usher 8701, Matchbox Twenty Yourself or Someone Like You, NSYNC, Bing Crosby Christmas CD, Brittney Spears (not sure which one though), and Journey’s Escape CD.

Fill in the blank. “People would be surprised if they knew___.”

People would be surprised if they knew that I have a weird obsession with everything supernatural and Harry Potter. I own a wand from Harry Potter Land.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?

I feel like I have a lot, but the one that really gets me is when people don’t say thank you.

What tv show/movie is your guilty pleasure?

I have a lot of these too, but if I had to choose one Vampire Diaries would have to be it.

What’s one thing you can’t live without?

Disneyland. Haha

Favorite line from a movie?

One of my favorites, “SANTA, I know him!” – Buddy, ELF

Do you have an office nickname? What is it?

No.

What’s the best/worst gift you have ever received?

The best gift I’ve received would have to be my Mustang. I love that car.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I enjoy sporting events, hiking, crafting (specifically painting), brunching, Disneyland, being with my friends and family, and Netflix.

REI Wins Big with Black Friday Boycott… So Far

Photo via REI
Photo via REI

By Shae Geary

As part of the growing group of people who are turned off by the endless consumerism that surrounds the Thanksgiving holiday, I was thrilled to hear of REI’s recent decision to shun Black Friday and instead #optoutside. The outdoor gear company announced in October that it would close all 143 locations on the day after Thanksgiving AND pay all employees to take a day off and explore the outdoors. REI’s news made headlines nationwide with some estimating that whatever REI may be sacrificing in sales, they’ll have made up for in publicity. So what is it about REI’s decision that has turned it into a PR “win”? Let’s break it down…

Authenticity: Rather than seeing themselves as just another big box retailer competing for market share, REI recognized that they are a different kind of company that is “dedicated to one thing and one thing only: a life outdoors.” REI’s decision perfectly aligns with the brand’s personality, mission and guiding philosophy.

First to the Market: REI has dominated the Black Friday conversation for two reasons. First, the company’s announcement was well timed a month before Black Friday and before other major retailers announced their own Black Friday strategies. Second, they are the first major company to publicly own the concept of staying closed on one of the biggest shopping days of the year. It doesn’t hurt that they also did it with gusto, conviction and a solid alternative to spending the day shopping. No one else can claim this space.

Bucking the Trend: REI’s decision to take the “less traveled fork in the road” has been described as a bold and possibly risky move. However, by bucking the trend, REI has essentially become a trendsetter in its own right. As every PR professional can attest, the media loves trendsetters.

Leading a Social Movement: REI has successfully started a new kind of holiday conversation with its social campaign #optoutside. The company is now the poster child for a social movement of people fed up with endless holiday consumerism. #Optoutside is likely to be a conversation relevant long after Thanksgiving and forever associated with choosing outdoor adventure over shopping mania during the holidays.

While there are critics of REI’s decision and the possibility exists that financially the retailer won’t be able to adopt this strategy for the long term (in which case, the company could face some negative PR backlash), I think I’ll be opting outside this Black Friday. Where will you be?