Meet the Team: Grant – CEO & Managing Partner

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To help our audience learn who is behind the content on this blog, we’ve been releasing a series of Q&A’s from our team. In this month’s edition, you will learn all about our Managing Partner & CEO, Grant Wright.

Grant joined (W)right On full-time in 2004. As CEO, Grant provides oversight and senior-level communications and business counsel for the agency’s clients while also overseeing agency management and administration. He has over 20 years of senior management experience leading external affairs and business development for major American and Canadian corporations and their subsidiaries. With extensive skills in all aspects of communications including media, regulatory, governmental, community outreach and labor relations; he has also led major infrastructure project development, M&A due diligence and implementation management, marketing and brand development efforts and strategic and business plan development for Fortune 500 companies as well as small to mid-level growth ventures.

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

I would be traveling more with family; experiencing other cultures.

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

Optimistic.

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

I’m only as good as the great people around me in my life.

What super power would you like to have?

Flight/Teleportation

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

Light breakfast; workout; read/nap; beach walk and oceanfront drinks/dinner; great live performance.

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

Patience.

pura-taman-ayun-209533_640 Best vacation you’ve had?

 Indonesia with Julie.

 What’s your most embarrassing  moment at work?

 Locking myself out of my room at a 5-star hotel in my underwear when I was sick.

Favorite quote?

Wow. So many. Ok here are two…

“Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.” – William Shakespeare

“This life is what you make it. No matter what, you’re going to mess up sometimes, it’s the universal truth. So keep your head high, keep your chin up, and most importantly, keep smiling, because life’s a beautiful thing and there’s so much to smile about.” – Marilyn Monroe

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

Someone saying, “Dang, what happened to my acting career?”

What’s your drink of choice?martini-548031_640

It changes, these days a Martini. This phase could be ending soon; excited for the next one! 😉

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

CD’s? What are they? Love Actually Soundtrack; Elton John Live in Australia; Dark Side of the Moon; Beatles 1; Boston Pops Classical Compilation.

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

I like EDM way more than someone my age should.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?

Negativity.

What TV show/movie is your guilty pleasure?

The Voice.

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

Air.

Favorite line from a movie?

Too many, but here are four:

“I love getting up in the morning! I clap my hands and say ‘This, is going to be a great day!”

“Unless you love everybody, you can’t sell anybody.”

“Roll with the punches, tomorrow’s another day.”

“If your heart is empty, your ideas don’t matter.” – Dickey Fox

Do you have an office nickname? What is it?

If I do they haven’t told me!

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

Our two sons with Julie / There is no worst, because every one is well intentioned.

What do you like to do in your free time?

  • Be with family and friends
  • Play racquetball
  • Read
  • Be on the water
  • Travel to new places/experiences

 

Check out a couple blog posts written by Grant here:

In Communications, the Only Constant is Change – Part 2

In Communications, the Only Constant is Change

Our picks for the top PR, marketing and social media campaigns of 2014

Top PR and Social Media Campaigns of 2014

As 2014 comes to an end, our team reflected on some of the best PR, marketing and social campaigns the year had to offer. Whether it was as extreme as Ebola or as casual as ‘Alex from Target’, here are the top five that made the cut (in no specific order):  
  1. Phillip Singh, Intern: AT&T #SummerBreak campaign
AT&T launched a social media campaign for Summer 2014 that followed a group of eight high school graduates as they spent their final months together before venturing off into the real world. The campaign was such a huge hit that AT&T launched a second campaign the same summer with a new group. The campaign was successful because it massively appealed to the target audience: teenagers. AT&T was able to combine the things that the teens of today can’t get enough of: reality television, cell phones and just about every social media platform out there. The “cast” of friends uploaded YouTube videos, Instagram posts, and Snapchats on the #SummerBreak account which garnered a huge following. It was extremely personal and interactive because followers were able to see the adventures (parties, roundtrips, beach days, etc.) in real time as they were happening, instead of watching an edited episode. This could very well set precedence for the future of reality entertainment and I think its genius. AT&T Summer
  1. Danielle Cobb, Communications Coordinator: Doritos #crashthesuperbowl campaign
For the past couple of years, Doritos has launched Super Bowl campaigns where customers can create their own commercial in hopes of it being aired during the big game. User generated content is always a win in my book. It’s a great way to have people engage with your brand, build awareness and source content all at the same time. Plus, people come up with awesome ideas that Doritos probably wouldn’t have on their own. Doritos
  1. Molly Borchers, Senior Communications Strategist: How a humble little ad became the world’s biggest marketing win
This isn’t actually a campaign, but an advertisement turned viral. Enter the MailKimp. MailChimp, an email marketing company, underwrote the first season of the podcast Serial, which is the most popular podcast in the world. (We’re rabid fans here at WOC.) The quirky little ad, heard before every episode, became a meme itself thanks to an adorable mispronunciation of the brand name (listen here: https://soundcloud.com/mollyfitzpatrick-2/mailchimp-promo-on-serial). Serial producers actually created the ad, getting people on the streets of NYC to read the lines. Then started the buzz on Twitter. Serial2 Serial Serial4 This humble little ad is the runaway marketing success of the year, with more viral success than many Super Bowl ads that cost millions of dollars to air on TV.  From Oct. 3 (the day the show premiered) to Nov. 21, 1,300 tweets mentioned the hashtag #MailKimp. More than 2,400 tweets mentioned Serial and MailChimp together, equivalent to about 12 percent of the 20,200 tweets related to the email vendor during the same timeframe. The ad even spawned a MailKimp Twitter handle and people are gushing about it on Reddit. How’s that for brand awareness?
  1. Julie Wright, President: Community Outreach for a High-Density Residential Development
This was my favorite (W)right On Communications campaign of the year. We organized a series of community open houses for a client with a 13-acre redevelopment project in a tight-knit, well established coastal community. Our team did a great job getting the word out and driving attendance. We coordinated closely with all of the project’s stakeholders—developer, property management, architect, traffic consultants, landscape architects, engineers—to make sure everyone was prepared to speak accurately on the project and answer neighbors’ questions. Traffic, construction timeline, parking, safety, density, height—neighbors had a lot of questions about how they would be impacted by the increase in density. At the open house, we provided visual displays and handouts, directed neighbors to online materials and invited them to attend a series of open houses. We followed up via mail to all neighbors, thanking those who attended and notifying those who couldn’t attend about the online materials and open houses. Overall, we created many opportunities and methods for people to learn about the project and provide their input. Several people came forward to say that they really understood how the project could improve and enhance the neighborhood. Community Meeting
  1. Erica Schlesinger, Communications Strategist: Lay’s “Do Us A Flavor” campaign
This year, Lay’s held their second “Do Us A Flavor” contest where fans were asked to submit their ideas for the next big chip flavor. It had a big enough “WTF” factor (read: interest) to create buzz past the initial “ask” – with flavors like Cappuccino, it was hard not to join the conversation. The campaign leveraged a number of popular digital mediums, especially social media, to get and keep the audience involved. It also built upon an existing popular campaign – sometimes, sticking with classics is the way to go. Lay's    

Don’t Be Guilty of the Two Worst PR Writing Habits

If I read another Tweet, Facebook post or quote in a press release that starts with “We are excited…,” I’m going to shoot myself.

There’s only one person in the world who is excited by your excitement, and that’s your mom.

What I need to know is why I should care. Why is this at least interesting to me?

Call it WIFM (What’s In It For Me) or just common sense, but your communication—be it 140 characters, a 10-minute speech or an entire campaign—must meet some basic need in your target audience for it to be effective.

The only sin worse than “We are excited…” or “We are pleased…” in a press release quote is to open your release with the awesomely redundant lede, “XYZ Company announces today that…”

A press release is an announcement so it’s quite unnecessary, Captain Obvious, to tell the reader you’re announcing something. That is assumed. Seeing this laziness makes me want to put a stick in my eye.

What if every press release followed this mundane structure? Then, I beg you, put two sticks in my eyes. (I’m sure journalists who look at hundreds of press releases each day feel the same way. If you’re a journalist, I’d love to hear your press release beefs in the comments section below!)

Sadly, a search of PRWeb’s news feed showed over 20 releases with quotes containing “We are pleased…” in just one day!

These are the bane of even mediocre, let alone good, PR writing.

So fight the urge to boast.

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Add a touch of creativity to stand out.

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And avoid stating the obvious.

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How can you avoid these writing traps? First, just try harder and think before you write!

If you are stumped, an easy fix is to pay attention to the verbs. They are the most important element of speech in your communications. What is the action you are announcing? Winning an award, reporting financials, signing a major contract, acquiring a company, advancing a cure for cancer?

Replace “announce” with that action so that the lede is focused on the newsworthy action.

Here’s another essential writing tip: Always put your audience’s needs first. This is the first commandment of good communication. And when you live by it, you’ll avoid the sin of self-serving excitement—a.k.a. press release masturbation.

Put your audience’s pleasure ahead of your own if you want a loving and lasting relationship with your target market.

This is particularly helpful when you must write about events of questionable newsworthiness but great C-suite excitement. These include industry awards, new executive hires or partnerships.

Try applying these strategies:

  • Does your news meet an emotional need in your customer? Share it in a way that makes them feel good or better. “Even Grumpy Cat nearly broke a smile when he learned about our Super Duper industry award!”
  • Tweeting about a new CEO? Rather than “Our company is excited to welcome…” try engaging your followers to welcome her. “What do you want new CEO Juanita Doe to know about our products and service? #welcomejuanita.” Share responses and show your new CEO that the company’s social media network is a source of important feedback and input from customers and employees.
  • Did you win an award thanks to the support of your loyal customers or the work of your dedicated employees? Make that your message and instead of saying “we are excited,” try “we are grateful.”

Instead of a one-off post about the award on social media, plan a series of posts over a few weeks that profile an employee or a customer who contributed to your success. Create a campaign to raise awareness about the honor as well as grow your community and build goodwill with your most important stakeholders.

This could work for a tech company’s Most Innovative Product award or a resort’s success in reaching #1 on TripAdvisor. Who helped you get there?

What creative or strategic approaches have you had success with?

Sometimes the challenge is convincing decision makers at your client or company that being engaging and interesting is more important and productive than chest beating. Ask them to share the news with mothers and then with their teenage kids. Somewhere between those two extremes is the true indicator of whether anyone cares.

I will concede there are times when your audience may be just as excited about some news as you are, and it’s valid to share in that. A San Diego company might Tweet, “We’re excited that the San Diego Chargers are going to Super Bowl.” That would be legitimately exciting to people in the local market.

Just resist the urge to Tweet, post or speak like a cheerleader—particularly if you’re cheering for yourself—unless conditions really call for a cheerleader.

And never, under any circumstances, announce an announcement. Announce your news.

By Julie Wright, President

 

Twitter’s New “Buy” Button is Ready to Shake Up Your Social Media

Twitter's New Buy Button Ready to Shake Up Your World

In today’s digital-loving environment, it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t shop online. Retailers tempt with exclusive products, special deals and shipping incentives; and Cyber Monday is quickly on its way to taking over Black Friday, just about the biggest brick-and-mortar shopping day ever. So e-commerce has the world wrapped around its proverbial finger – but what about s-commerce? Yes, s-commerce, or social media commerce, is A Thing. Platforms like The Fancy (like a purchase-minded Pinterest) are in on the game, and Facebook started sussing out a Buy button in July. But people today move at a rapid-fire pace, and need something to keep up – enter Twitter’s new Buy button.

“We are beginning to test a new way for you to discover and buy products on Twitter,” the company announced last week. “This is an early step in our building functionality into Twitter to make shopping from mobile devices convenient and easy, hopefully even fun. Users will get access to offers and merchandise they can’t get anywhere else and act on them right in the Twitter app.” Already tested out by influential retailers, nonprofts and music acts including Burberry, The Nature Conservancy and Pharrell Williams, the “Buy” button works like it sounds – within the Twitter app, users can view a tweet offering a product. If they like what they see, they simply need to tap “Buy Now” to pull up more details, enter shipping and payment info and – done. Although results of the test run haven’t been provided, we at WOC think this will be a game-changer in terms of how brands do business on the Web – and on social media to boot. It’s a streamlined and straightforward way to make a purchase, and it’s intuitive – it speaks to the ever-present need to get things done and get them done fast. Where networks like The Fancy and Facebook encourage browsing, Twitter’s buying feature works just like the platform itself – real-time and easily consumed on the go. This tool is in beta for just the elite members of the Twitterverse for the time being, but it doesn’t mean you can’t plan ahead. Brands with marketable goods and services are wise to start thinking about how they can leverage this for success once it’s available to all. Sure, clothes and music are a great fit for this, but ponder how you can step outside the box and be an early adopter in your industry. For hotels, for example, this feature could act as an excellent sales tool. When new seasonal packages or meetings promotions roll around, tweet them out with the option to buy. Booking directly isn’t supported (yet), but a Twitter follower could easily purchase a voucher and connect with you to arrange their visit. You could take it one step further and create a great first impression, as well as maybe secure a true social media evangelist – when Twitter-sourced fans check in, greet them with a special treat and a note encouraging them to tweet about their stay with a preset hashtag. Nonprofits could use “Buy Now” to sell event tickets and donations by creating buy amounts, then let people buy $5, $10, $20 and so on. Much easier to manage – and more likely to make people feel at ease – than a buy-with-hashtag situation. Or, for agencies or inidviduals touting thought leadership, you could peddle whitepapers and access to webinars reserved just for your loyal Twitter fans. Any brand could build excitement and high-quality followers by releasing regular specials on a certain day, too – people would quickly look forward to “Travel Deal Thursday” or “Webinar Wednesday.” Have you tried out s-commerce, or will you now that it’s becoming so easy? Talk to us about it @wrightoncomm. By Erica Schlesinger, Communications Strategist

Communication Changes, Constantly

At (W)right On, we pride ourselves on being at the forefront of good communication practices. Had the agency been around in the 50’s – 90’s, things would have been easier – there was stability and relative predictability. There were also far fewer communication channels (e.g. in TV, radio and print), journalistic work wasn’t executed at such breakneck speed and attention spans were longer.

Times have changed, and “dramatically” would be an understatement. Hundreds of communication channels became thousands, then millions with the blog community; communication became instantaneous and instantaneously global; Gen Y (Millennials) entered the scene having only known life with a gadget in their hands; sound bites became character bites (no more than 140); recipients’ message absorption capacity decreased with a greater need for stimulation and interaction is increasingly digital instead of human-to-human. I could go on. Stating these facts is not meant necessarily as an indictment of them. To the contrary, there’s much good to be found in them – it’s simply recognizing that many aspects of communication have profoundly changed.

But through these decades, and for centuries prior, there remain constants in stories.

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Stories will never go out of style. We humans often have the most engaging conversations when a story is shared: Around the dinner table. When there’s actually news. Sharing wisdom with a child or friend. Motivating a group to action. For entertainment and relaxation.

The same rule applies to business communication, too. The art of and need for storytelling – beyond a status update or picture share – is ageless. Involve any element of intrigue, protagonists and antagonists, humor, conflict or any of the universal themes we gravitate toward and your message will get across.

While distribution channels and methodology will continue to evolve, telling stories is a stalwart in conveying messages. Well-told stories capture attention, elicit emotion, engage the audience, provide relevance and inspire to action. For organizations, stories can connect and emotionally invest people in their brand.

Storytelling – just one of many constants in the sea of communication change.  What’s your story?

Social Media and Media Relations: Like PR’s Peanut Butter and Jelly

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How many times did you check your favorite social media channels today? I’m willing to bet it’s definitely more than one, and if you’re anything like the average person, it’s probably more around 14 – and that’s just Facebook. Even if you haven’t reached the point of constant connection, social media is a big part of everyday life.

In the professional world, social media is a great resource for info gathering. Most of us are on at least a network or two, and given the time we spend on said networks, we leave a trail of facts and tidbits about ourselves that can be useful for taking care of business. Competitors can suss each other out, business development pros can track and connect with leads, fashion influencers can gauge the style tendencies of the season – the list goes on. It’s stalking, really. I don’t mean this in the literal, creepy sense, of course; it’s a jargon-y terms that explains how we employ Twitter and the like to learn about the people around us.

In PR specifically, social media is an invaluable tool when it comes to connecting with members of the media and building strong relationships. While excellent for tracking down specific contacts, media databases like Vocus and Cision don’t always give us the robust and ongoing information on journalists their own social channels can. Social media is also a fantastic way to talk with consumers and efficiently manage communications – any good PR strategy should include social media presence, after all. Social Media Today reports that between 2012 and 2013, brands using social media to respond to customers increased by 143%, and 71% of consumers are likely to view a brand in a positive light and recommend it to peers when they receive satisfactory communication through social media. With that in mind, platforms like Twitter – definitely the holy grail of making media connections – are indispensable resources in a successful PR pro’s box of tricks. Here are a few key best practices to keep in mind:

  • Spot trends: Twitter has easy trends to follow on its sidebars, which can be tailored to your city, the location of key influencers– wherever you’d like. However, that’s just the beginning when it comes to your ability to track trends and current events on the network – plus, the “suggested” trends are often dominated by non sequitur topics. Follow news organizations from hyperlocal to international, sync up with journalists you’ve worked with or have collaborated with in the past, connect with fellow publicists and look to movers in shakers in industries relevant to your clients  – these people will be on their game when it comes to current events that matter to you.

Once armed with this information, think about how you can pull together a creative and impactful pitch that piggybacks on current events and will be all the more likely to catch a journalist’s eye. Is a writer at a big fitness publication talking about gluten-free foods that actually taste great? Did the health food brand you work with just roll out a new line of GF treats? Bingo.

  • Make friends: Journalists are people, and people are more likely to work with others they know and trust. So, use Twitter to “make friends” with media people you’d like to collaborate with. Understand who they are, what interests them both inside and outside of work, what they like to write about, and even their “voice.” Engage with their content and ask questions – genuinely, of course. Don’t pretend you’re an expert on nuclear fusion because you want a writer to cover something in Scientific America.
  • Do your research: Continuing on the trend spotting component of Twitter, it’s important for PR pros to have a handle on what’s going on in the world. However, PR being an extremely busy profession by nature, it can be hard to stay on top of news. Twitter is perfect for quick updates – its snackable content gets to the point, and if something piques your interest, you can choose to take additional time to read more.
  • “Listen” and learn: Targeted “social listening,” or monitoring social channels for topics that relate to your industry, is a great way to track sentiment. Social listening can help you out when:
  1. You’re dealing with a cool launch, a big announcement or a crisis comms situation. It’s a quick and direct path to connecting with the consumers talking about your brand or product. Simply type a search term, or better yet, a hashtag, in your Twitter search box and voila – hundreds of conversations at your fingertips. From there, you can plan responses and next steps, build a social sentiment report, or plan for a follow-up campaign.
  2. You’re running a social media campaign or contest with a special hashtag, this will give you an easy rundown of how quickly the Twitterverse is picking up on your content.
  3. You’re trying to build a quality follower base. Use social listening to find conversations that make sense to become engaged in – give opinions, retweet good points, and ask your community for their input. As like-minded users see you sharing their content, it’s likely they’ll return the favor somewhere down the line and earn you a new follower. For more advanced brands, this is a great way to find brand advocates – bloggers, industry leaders, and the like. If a conversation takes off or they tweet something that indicates they’re the perfect match for a brand or product, a publicist can take that cue and make a connection outside of social media.

PR pros, how else do you use Twitter and other social networks to enhance your skills and effectiveness?