Monday, Dec. 1 is World AIDS Day, it’s a time to pull out the red ribbons and unite in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Like Breast Cancer Awareness in October and American Heart month in February (to coincide with Valentine’s Day), stars come out and make a big to-do over the disease of the month. Not surprisingly, the media jumps on the bandwagon and delights in writing about all of the activities taking place on that special day.
What many in the media fail to acknowledge, or write about, are the people working in the trenches day-after-day hoping that what they do will make a difference. They are the researchers who must fight for every scrap of funding they receive in hopes that one day they will discover a cure. They are the volunteers who work behind the scenes to make sure those in need get assistance. They are the fundraisers who work day and night to raise money to ensure that their organization is around tomorrow to continue the fight.
I still remember the days of the corner independently owned drug store, hardware store and video store. I am also a product of those days, as my father owned a small bicycle store, which was started by his father.
I miss the days of being able to walk into one of those businesses where, like in Cheers, everyone knew my name. That’s why Small Business Saturday, which will be celebrated this year on Nov. 29, takes on an even more special meaning for me. Nearly two years ago I caught the entrepreneurial bug and started my own public relations firm.
Small Business Saturday was created in 2010 as a way to support local businesses and to recognize that entrepreneurs are the backbone of our economy. While it has traditionally focused on retail sales from small brick-and-mortar businesses, that’s not to say it cannot include service-oriented companies, i.e. the solo practice attorney, independent insurance agent or even a public relations firm.
If you are anything like me then life is hectic. I wake up at the crack of dawn, take a shower, take care of the dogs, cats and guinea pig, get the kids fed, ready for school and out the door -- all by 8:30 a.m.
In between, I am responding to emails, checking various social media channels and looking for relevant information to post on clients’ various social media sites. More days than not I ask myself “Have I done everything I am supposed to?”
As a public relations practitioner with a stable of clients, it would be easy to become overwhelmed. And, when I started my own PR firm nearly two years ago I was. But that was before I started using a to-do list.
Success expert Brian Tracy wrote: “Every minute you spend in planning saves 10 minutes in execution; this gives you a 1,000 percent return on energy!” I couldn’t agree more.
Not every public relations firm is created equal. That’s why when deciding which firm to hire, it’s imperative that you do your homework. The first thing any company needs to understand when hiring a public relations firm is that bigger (and usually more expensive) isn’t always better. By the same token, just because a PR firm is small that doesn’t mean it can’t offer quality and personalized service. The firm you hire needs to be big enough to be able to meet your needs, but not so big that you are just another retainer fee to them.
Before signing on the dotted line, it’s best to meet the publicist with whom you will be working. Often senior publicists are the ones who go out and meet with potential clients. But once the contract is signed PR efforts are handed over to younger and less experienced publicists with some senior publicist oversight.
Meeting the person who will handle your PR is important because you will want to make sure that you feel comfortable working with that person and that they understand exactly what you expect of them.
Why blog? It’s a question I hear all of the time. As someone who, for the last few decades has done a lot of writing – first as a journalist and then as a public relations professional – the answer comes easy. Businesses blog because it lends them visibility, credibility and sociability. What many business people lack is the ability part of it.
Let’s start with visibility. It’s one thing to spend a lot of time, effort and money on a nice looking website, but if you don’t have the kind of written material on it that will generate solid search engine optimization, then you might not be found. It’s like building a big beautiful house and then putting a big wall around it and never inviting anyone inside. Who is going to know it’s there?
These days it’s hard to find someone who isn’t using some kind of social media – either for business or pleasure. We have Facebook accounts and Twitter accounts, Instagram and LinkedIn … to name a few. We are a generation of people who communicate not with each other, but to our electronic devices and – in some ways – this scares me.
Don’t get me wrong; social media has its place. I use it throughout the day as part of my public relations and marketing efforts for my clients and myself. But as the parent of a soon-to-be teenager and an 11-year-old, I am struggling with the “How much is too much?” question. Last year, Pew Institute published some interesting statistics about where and what teens were posting. It’s very telling.
A few months ago, after much discussion, I allowed my older daughter to sign up for Instagram with the caveat that there will be rules AND that mom gets to monitor her. She’s smart enough to know what she can and can’t post and knows she will lose the privilege and her account if she breaks the rules. (We even drafted a written contract).
I heard my teenage daughter talking to a friend yesterday about Alex from Target. Perhaps you haven’t heard about him yet. Earlier in the day, while surfing the net for clients, I ran across the story of this young man who became an overnight Internet sensation when someone tweeted his photo with the word “Yoooooo,” which we are to assume means something positive in teen lingo.
Since then, Alex from Target has his own hashtag and more than 500k followers. I don’t know how many he had before rising to fame, but he’s certainly caught the attention of not only young, swooning female fans, but if his tweets are to be believed, even Ellen DeGeneres has given him a shout-out by writing: “Hey, #AlexFromTarget, it’s #EllenFromEllen." and later had him on her show.
Last week, USA Today reported that the University of North Carolina was spending nearly $800,000 with a public relations firm as it deals with the results of an investigation of academic and athletic problems at the school.
Also last month, Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas had to undertake a major PR campaign to regain public trust after mishandling the nation’s first Ebola case.
What many people fail to realize is that public relations isn’t just about crisis management; it’s about building trust, brand and loyalty all year long so that when something bad happens you are not scurrying around putting out fires.
Garton-Miller Media is a full-service, South Florida-based public relations firm. Founder Susan R. Miller has 30 years of experience as a writer, journalist and PR professional.