Posts filed under ‘Public Relations’

If Only Scrooge was a Business Roundtable Member: Professional Services Companies Wise to Ape Group’s Progressive Pledge

The Business Roundtable – a star-studded group of U.S. businesses – on August 19 announced a new definition of what a corporation should be, noting that they should operate for the “benefit of all stakeholders – customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders.” This is a significant policy shift from the hardline definition that a corporation should be focused solely on financial profit. For professional services companies, the move is also meaningful: when you have no physical widget to lure in customers, reputation and messaging are everything. And, increasingly, no one wants to do business with Ebenezer Scrooge.

Scrooge may have been a deft businessman, judging by the wealth he had on hand, but he was terrible to his employees and only cared about money. Scrooge’s money-lending business was no doubt lucrative, but where was his social mission? Where were his progressive employee benefits? Was it a diverse and inclusive business? All-in-all it appeared to be a miserable place to work, helmed by a miser and with a singular focus on profit. It seems unlikely that Scrooge was good at attracting and retaining talent (Bob Cratchit’s misplaced loyalty aside). In a competitive marketplace, it’s quite possible that a “warmer” competitor across the street – even with a 0.001 higher rate – might peel off much of Scrooge’s business. Your business may not be Scrooge’s, but do others see all the good you do, for employees, the community and your clients? If not, it’s time to work on your messaging.

Taking a page from the Business Roundtable, consider pledging and messaging your good. Here’s an adapted set of planks:

Delivering value to our clients. Professional services companies’ raison d’etre is to solve problems and help businesses succeed. (Some might even call this “Bringing Business to Business. See what I did there?) Your company’s messaging should showcase these successes, blending the tools available with examples of their real-world application.

Investing in our employees. Businesses of all stripes have made great strides expanding employee benefits and working toward fostering diverse and inclusive workplaces. These efforts need to be championed. And, if your firm is behind the 8-ball, it needs to get going. Other businesses and consumers are increasingly voting with their wallets in favor of workplaces where employees feel safe, respected and *gasp* happy. Tell the world what your company believes in. Have values and live them.

Dealing fairly and ethically with our suppliers. You’re on your own on this one. However, you can rest assured that failure to do the right thing will ultimately lead to bad PR (or legal action).

Supporting the communities in which we work. Most companies have great, employee-driven initiatives that build houses, feed the hungry and help the world. By telling these stories professional services companies humanize their professionals and showcase their commitment and care to where they are and the good they do.

Generating long-term value for shareholders, who provide the capital that allows companies to invest, grow and innovate. Long-term, mission-focused operations and messaging create a solid reputational base that helps a professional services firm when bad news happens. Taking the steps now to create a runway for regularly messaging positive developments creates intangible but impactful value.

Scrooge’s intervention was drastic. Professional services companies need not travel through dimensions nor commune with the spirits to see how purely profit-driven policies have impacted their image in the past and how they will continue to do so in the future. Just like the members of the Business Roundtable, why not evaluate your organization and ensure you are doing well by your employees, clients and communities – all while remaining focused on business development and profit?

Michael Bond

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September 5, 2019 at 7:10 pm Leave a comment

Getting to Know You: Joey Telucci

Next up in our series “Getting to Know You,” we profile Account Executive Joey Telucci, aspiring home chef, celebrity watcher and Bay Area sports fanatic.

1. Have you found it beneficial professionally/enjoyable to have a personal interest in entertainment news, “Keeping Up with The Kardashians,” as it were, given that you work with some of the firm’s entertainment clients?

While I try to avoid anything related to the Kardashian clan (except for Kanye West – can’t get enough of his music), I do find it both beneficial professionally and enjoyable to keep up on the latest entertainment news. I am always looking for new shows to watch. My favorite this year was, hands down, American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson. Although I already knew the outcome, all of the details inside and out of the courtroom made it a great watch. One of the standout performances came from Courtney Vance, who played Johnny Cochran. About half-way through the season, while reviewing an award submission, I found out that one of our clients actually negotiated the deal for Courtney to star in the show. I thought that was a really cool instance where my love for entertainment and my professional life collided. 

2. As a former bat boy for the San Francisco Giants, do you ever feel that your work in arming clients with the tools to connect with the media is similar?

Growing up in a professional sports locker room is a very unique experience to say the least. However, I learned how to deal with a variety of personalities and demands at a young age which helped prepare me when I entered the workforce as an adult. In that regard, it’s very similar. Whether you are corresponding with media or a client, everyone has their different needs and quirks, and you have to navigate through these to be successful.

3. Word is that you do a fair amount of cooking? Is this a passion that you hope to develop more fully? What is your best dish?

I do cook a lot – more out of necessity than anything. I like to mix it up and make sure I’m eating semi-healthy while not burning a hole in my pocket dining out all the time. I make a pretty delicious jambalaya (at least I think so).

4. What is the biggest lesson you have learned since entering the world of PR?

Stay organized. With the amount of things that can happen on a given day in our industry, it is best to set reminders for yourself whether you need to follow up on something internally/externally immediately or 5 weeks from now. It always helps to stay on top of things so nothing falls through the cracks.

5. Any advice for those just starting out in the industry?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions if something does not make sense to you. Everyone needs to start somewhere, and while you may think asking a ton of questions is annoying or may make you look dumb, it shows that you want to learn and get things done right. This is probably advice for all jobs – not just PR specifically – however, it’s an important one.

 

May 3, 2016 at 4:56 pm Leave a comment

Getting to Know You: Penny Desatnik

This is the first of our series, “Getting to Know You,” profiling the professionals of Blattel Communications and exploring what makes them tick. Today, we check in with Account Supervisor and native Clevelander Penny Desatnik.

1. You are a “long-suffering” Cleveland sports fan. (Is there really any other kind?) Yet, you are living in San Francisco, where championships – Giants and Warriors – abound. How do you keep the faith?

It’s easy to be a fan of a team that wins, but when you grow up supporting a team that never does, it builds character. It has given me an appreciation for sports and for long-suffering fans. Jumping on the bandwagon could be tempting to some, but I’d rather keep the faith in the team I grew up with, which forever holds a place in my heart. It’s my hometown, my family, my past, and I’m proud of all of it.

2. What is your favorite part of working with professional services professionals?

I like working with professional services professionals because it gives me the opportunity to be a creative storyteller. When you’re selling a service, as opposed to a product, it is even harder to develop differentiators and distinctions. This job allows me to look beyond stats and tell a fuller story.

3. If you had one tip for someone starting out in public relations, what would it be?

Follow the news.

4. What is your favorite social media tool?

Professionally, nothing tops Twitter, where I can find up-to-the-minute information. Personally, it’s Instagram because you get to experience some creative voyeurism, without monotonous text-only posts or check-ins letting me know when people I’ve met once in my life are at the gym/park/grocery.

5. What is the best piece of professional advice you have received?

Don’t take it personally.

April 20, 2016 at 6:59 pm Leave a comment

The Secret Sauce for Writing (and Publishing) Commentary Submissions

Leafing through your Sunday newspaper, steaming cup of coffee in hand, you have no doubt seen commentary articles – opinion pieces written by local citizens and business leaders focusing on specific issues. Maybe the thought has even gone through your head, “You know, I would love to write about X topic and be printed on these pages.”

The reality is that commentary writing is a challenging pursuit. Really interesting, engaging and knowledgeable people are stumped when it comes to this unique blend of persuasive and fact-driven writing. However, bearing a few key tenets in mind, you can greatly strengthen your submission and enhance your odds of being published.

Before we start, I feel I should come clean. I’ve published six personal commentary submissions in major newspapers. So, my suggestions come from personal experience and from consuming an unhealthy amount of newsprint over the years

Let’s start with the key ingredients:

Topical Contents – Your submission either needs to have as its main point a topic active in the news cycle or be supported by recent developments.

Clear Viewpoint – Are you advocating that a piece of legislation be passed? Are you making a direct counterpoint to a current line of thinking? Are you responding to an article or commentary submission/op-ed that you felt was inaccurate or unfair? The editor first – and later the reader – needs to be able to walk away with a clear idea of why you spent the time to write a submission. If you waffle too much and qualify statements constantly, the end product will either look like a news article (not the goal) or lack any muscularity (a surefire way to end up in the recycling bin).

Proper Length and Format – It may take some time to dig up the word count and other parameters, but it is always worthwhile to know what a publication is looking for before pen goes to paper or fingers tap on keys. Cutting a beautiful submission in half is a painful process as there is only so much tightening that can happen and fat that can be cut away before edits strike at the meat and then the bone.

Great! We have the basic elements down. Now, let’s consider some often overlooked aspects of the process.

Have you been reading the targeted publication? – Publications have their own styles, and editors and reporters reveal what topics are of interest on a daily basis. If you are looking to be published in your city’s major newspaper or business journal, you need to be a regular reader. This aspect is directly tied to the “Topical Elements” ingredient above.

Do you actually have time to craft a submission? – You may be really energized by a topic and feel ready to hammer out 500-1,000 words, but freeze up when the cursor is staring back at you. If the subject matter at hand is prominent in the news cycle, will it still be in heavy rotation when your submission is reviewed by the editor? Knowing thyself as a writer is key.

Are you repurposing an alert or byline article? – Finding ways to leverage existing content is wonderful. However, the style of commentary submissions generally demands original text. Partially, this is due to the audiences in question. A commentary article needs to appeal to the widest cross-section of readers possible and often assumes little-to-no knowledge on a topic beforehand.

Do you have a fact set or report to back up your viewpoint? – The difference between a common Facebook rant and a commentary article lies in buttressing opinion with fact. Look for white papers, data sets and research that support your argument.

Here’s one more consideration.

Many commentary submissions are collaborations. – Setting aside co-signed pieces (maximum of two authors, please), the high-level articles that grace the back pages of The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times are rarely written entirely, and sometimes at all, by the stated author. The best writing is the product of a process, meaning that marketing and public relations professionals provide a crucial assist in producing a submission.

There is real value in expressing an opinion eloquently and in a vehicle that reaches a mass audience. The process for putting together a commentary submission is fairly straightforward. However, short-circuiting it and drafting a long manifesto in the middle of the night is a recipe for failure and, generally, an exercise in futility.

Michael Bond

January 29, 2016 at 7:50 pm Leave a comment

Five Tips for Setting New Year’s Marketing and Communications Resolutions

Setting New Year’s resolutions is a great exercise, and one that can yield tangible change as the calendar moves along. Now is the time to identify a few marketing and PR goals and outline next steps.

In identifying goals, professional services providers should consider these filters:

  1. Will you have the time needed to achieve your goal? – When setting a goal, are you being realistic? Picking an arbitrary number – e.g., 10 byline articles, six blog posts a quarter – can prove extremely difficult to achieve, leading to frustration and abandonment of goals. It’s often better to start by saying, “I’m going to write a byline article this year.” Or even, “By March, I am going to finally finish this piece I started last year.” Achieving a goal leads to a sense of accomplishment, which fuels further ambition.
  1. What is the payoff for your goal? – It’s always important to begin with the end in mind. Is your end goal new business, increased dialogue with current clients, cross-marketing, to sharpen your writing skills or all of the above? You may decide that you find writing satisfying and a pathway to being a better practitioner. This is a perfectly worthwhile payoff. However, stick to that pathway. Don’t move the goalposts on yourself. And, at times, you may decide that the payoff doesn’t merit the time and effort required. There is no shame in this conclusion. Just look for a new goal.
  1. Do your goals complement each other? Have you spent the time to develop a comprehensive strategy document? – The old chestnut, “If something sounds too good to be true, it is,” also applies in marketing and business development. Many times, self-help articles and coaches will champion strongly a single initiative. This can create unrealistic expectations and short-circuit or prevent holistic conversations with marketing and communications professionals that examine effort-to-potential payoff and explore leverage opportunities.
  1. Are you stuck on last year’s goals? – Are you setting the exact same goals as last year? If so, consider the progress you made toward your stated objectives. What hindered you? As you jot down your new resolutions, allow yourself to pivot away from objectively worthwhile goals that just didn’t prove realistic.
  1. Do your goals make you miserable? – There is a wide-spectrum of marketing and communications activities available, and as mentioned previously, there is no single pathway to guaranteed success. If the goals you have made in the past made you miserable and quickly became buried on your desk, you may need to take a new approach. You may really enjoy charitable work, but you have been pushing yourself to write byline articles. Is there a way to expand your professional and referral network through your connections in the community? Or, you may dread networking and find little value to suffering through multiple meetings every month. Instead, you may find happiness and traction by speaking to trade groups or blogging on timely issues.

Channel the excitement of the New Year and hit the ground running, but be strategic!

Michael Bond

January 15, 2016 at 2:42 pm Leave a comment

Splitting Hairs on Marketing ROI

Numerous times in the past I have been asked to weigh in on marketing’s impact on business development. And, while instances certainly do occur whereby clients specifically cite reading a blog post or seeing a name in the newspaper, for the most part, it is fairly difficult to generate meaningful ROI metrics for marketing and PR. Rather, these functions generally serve to complement and amplify a professional services company’s core business functions.

In the past, we have worked with companies that have been truly excellent at their core business but put virtually no effort into sharing their message. In these situations, marketing and PR has helped increase product awareness and open doors. Today, there are any number of tech startups making really interesting and potentially useful products that virtually no one knows about due to ineffective communication and marketing strategies. Similarly, there are numerous professional services companies – law firms, accounting firms, architectural firms – whose brand awareness is limited.

On the other end of the spectrum, stories abound of companies with outstanding marketing and PR masking a crumbling financial or operational structure.

The above dynamic places the purchaser or decision-maker in a bind: some companies are constantly promoting themselves – but are little more than puffery or good packaging – and others are truly excellent – but virtually underground, as their brands are so poorly developed.

When carefully considered, and setting aside preconceived notions or visceral reactions, professional services companies are in the “sales” business as much as any consumer products company. “Products” become “services” and “customers” become “clients.” But, in the end, it’s all semantics.

Accepting the above dichotomy, what lessons can we take from a direct-order, Internet-based consumer products company challenging its competitors on both price and quality? Here is my personal story.

The company’s claims are: a) our razor blades cost much less than our competition; and b) our blades are crafted to a similarly exacting precision to uber brands X and Y. If A and B are true, I as a consumer, have uncovered a real bargain and the industry is likely in for major upheaval.

Seemingly just as susceptible, if not more so, to marketing pitches than any non-marketer, this startup company’s razor blade pitch checked a lot of boxes for me, offering: cost savings; appealing design aesthetics; and a well-covered compelling backstory. They also advertised on a podcast I enjoy listening to from time-to-time. They gave me a promo code, and I bit.

“Unpacking” the razor set I was genuinely excited to lather up and shave. But, when it came time to actually evaluate the quality of the product, no amount of marketing (which I still find clever) can overcome my personal verdict: the shave is appreciably worse than with brands X and Y.

I took a few lessons from this experiment:

  1. Clever and engaging marketing and well-executed PR may make an initial sale, but quality is how a long-time customer or client is born
  2. There is a whole range when it comes to this issue, but price alone does not drive consumer decisions. (Having to re-shave a patchy beard negated my lower blade cost.)
  3. While industry disruption can be a good thing for the consumer, established brands need to ensure they continually look for new ways to connect with customers and clients (on the platforms where they live and the channels they watch) and always look for opportunities to share their stories and forge long-term relationships.

In the long run, any company – consumer-facing or B2B – is ultimately judged based on quality. However, marketing and PR are vital components of a holistic client retention and acquisition strategy that every business should have in place.

Michael Bond

June 23, 2015 at 8:41 pm Leave a comment

Ten Years with Blattel Communications: Melinda Hepp

How Did You Come to Blattel Communications?

I majored in rhetoric and media studies in college, so communications and media relations were long-time professional interests. I came to Blattel Communications after living in Oregon and working in the wine industry. Surprisingly, I wasn’t interested in continuing my career in wine, even after moving to Northern California’s renowned “Wine Country.” Instead, I decided to look for an agency position where I could work with a number of different companies and industries.

It was a very challenging job market at the time, and, since I was attempting to enter into a field with no prior agency or professional services experience (except for one law firm summer gig), I knew I had to differentiate myself. I thought, why email my resume? It might not stand out in a sea of others. I’m going to hand deliver it – perhaps I’ll be viewed as the persistent, determined and professional person I think I am. The worst case scenario is that Blattel Communications (which had an open position at the time) thinks I don’t know how to follow directions and am overly pushy or finds the whole nontraditional application attempt bizarre. Oh well, what did I have to lose? I saw Ellen Blattel’s picture on the website and I thought she looked nice and approachable, so I gave it a shot.

I drove down to the San Francisco Financial District from the North Bay and parked in what I thought was a two-hour spot on Sansome Street. (You can probably already guess what happened to my car.)

I walked in and was greeted by the office manager at the front desk. I asked for Ellen, and while she wasn’t available, Traci Stuart walked out to inquire as to why I had showed up unannounced. I was able to give her my crisp folder and polished resume, express earnest interest in an interview and put a face to a name. I won’t lie: she had a somewhat puzzled look on her face, but apparently the action sparked conversation in the office and, coupled with some good timing, I was added to the short list of interviewees a few hours later – receiving the call as I was driving home. (Those few hours in between my planned/unplanned drop-in and heading home were spent not taking in the sights, but rather fetching my car from the tow lot.) Despite my San Francisco rookie mistake, I was happy to know that I had made a good impression. Fast forward and not only was I lucky enough to land the job, but, ten years later my origin story is one that Traci and Ellen have told to prospective clients as a testament to my tenacious approach to media relations.

I haven’t looked back, and my interests are far from pigeon-holed in this agency setting because my clients span multiple industries. Architecture, construction, real estate, law, public agency, banking and accounting are all market sectors in which I work. I get a lot of satisfaction out of this diverse client base and creating and executing custom campaigns. And, I get to work with a number of different media outlets, editors and journalists. No pitch is ever the same.

What Makes Blattel Communications Special?

Blattel Communications’ dedication to working with professional services is one of our biggest differentiators. Ellen Blattel founded the agency 25 years ago as the first PR firm in the country focused on legal marketing. And while this served as the foundation, our agency has expanded into complementary business-to-business industries.

Blattel Communications is special for many reasons, including our longevity with clients. It’s truly rewarding to evolve and grow with them. Our clients rely on us an extension of their own marketing and business development departments, and they often tell us that we know them better than they know themselves. We are able to bring an outside perspective, yet we have the insider institutional knowledge of a client’s foundational mission, a dimension core to its strategic messaging.

I’ve worked with some of my clients since I started at Blattel Communications nearly 11 years ago. We put a concerted effort into adding value and making sure they want to continue working with us. Not a lot of agencies can say that most of their clients have been with them 10 or even five years. We can – though we don’t take this for granted.

Personally, Ellen, our CEO, and Traci, our president, have long supported my professional growth at our agency. I’ve gone from a single lady living in the “Big City,” to a married mom of two young children long moved out of the city and into the North Bay Area. I’ve attempted to create my own little business unit in the North Bay – a pursuit Blattel Communications supports – and it has worked out well. I co-founded the Professional Services Marketing Group-North Bay and have become involved in various other regional groups and business development endeavors that have afforded me the opportunity to focus and grow the agency’s client-base in this region.

Where is Blattel Communications Headed?

So much has changed since I began working for the agency. Obviously, advancements in technology have been the catalyst for the biggest changes in pretty much all facets of business, and especially communications. We have evolved with it all, and our clients know this and trust that we keep ourselves ahead of the curve. While the marketplace has changed, our outstanding client service has not.

The online media landscape requires us to act quicker – basically in real time when it comes securing quotation “ink” for breaking news, as well as publicizing client announcements. It will be interesting to see how much more instantaneous we can get. Social media, like Twitter, has become a force in breaking and sharing news.

Additionally, moving from print to online media consumption has resulted in in a greater absorption of content more frequently. Therefore, it is imperative that businesses continue to curate, update and share original content. The opportunities for publishing content have multiplied. Gone are the days of having a few columns per year available in industry trade publications to publish byline articles, or limited opportunities to see press releases published in article form due to print cycle time lapse. Today, the media wants to constantly keep their online news pages fresh, and there is virtually never-ending demand for content. We play a large role in keeping the fresh content stream flowing for our clients – which, as we know they are very busy, takes a tremendous amount of creativity, strategy and manpower.

Visuals, like videos, photos and infographics, are desired to support written content (or as stand-alone communications pieces) for online media, so we are consistently conveying to our clients the importance of considering the visual element of their communications strategies, especially in the AEC and real estate industries.

It is a very exciting time when it comes to communications, and Blattel Communications is at the forefront of this evolution. I feel fortunate to be part of an agency that values its employees. Over the next few weeks you will hear from team members who have been with the agency 15, 20 and 25 years. Both clients and employees value what we do. It makes for a wonderful combination that has proven staying power.

Melinda Hepp

May 8, 2015 at 1:41 pm Leave a comment

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