My small, woman-owned public relations/marketing firm, Advice Unlimited, has been serving the Federal government marketplace for nearly 30 years to help companies with innovative technology get their solutions to the government. Every month, I’ll offer unlimited advice on how to work with this unique market. Please email me with questions or comments.
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Do: Have a clear direction
Many of the negative comments about organizations’ blogs focus on the writers of the blogs. The main issue with poor blogs is that there is no clear objective. This can be a main deterrent that turns readers away. The goal should of course be known to the author of the blog but more importantly, to the reader. If a reader has no idea what to expect from a post, there is a good chance they will not be subscribing to the blog. For example, The Federal Times blog has a clear mission – inform and create brand loyalty. They make it easy to navigate and spark strong interest by using up-to-date posts, topic separation and page interaction.
Do: Create order out of chaos
For a blog with multiple writers, it is good to have each writer have their own page that links to the main blog of the organization. On the Office of Management and Budget blog, they feature a main column of blog posts from each of their different writers. On the right side of the page, the reader can easily find past posts of a specific author they might like. There is no clicking from page to page to find the information; it is all in one place. This is a great example of a blog that could have been much more cluttered or chaotic.
Do: Make your posts social
Writing a blog is pointless unless people read your posts. An extremely easy and effective way to do that is by linking your organization’s social media pages to the blog. Nextgov is a prime example of how to link a blog directly to a story. Every story on this page is linked to Twitter at the beginning of the post. It makes it easy for readers to share the story with as many people as possible and gives the blog a much wider reach.
Do: Create interesting content
For every blog, creating a buzz should be a goal. Having a blog that posts content that matters is great. Having a blog that posts that same content but can make it compelling -- that is huge! VMware does this very well. They have many bloggers covering many different topics. The one thing that they all do very well is post stories that capture the attention of the reader instantly because of the uniqueness of the topic and the relevance of the topic to the targeted audience
Don’t: Post without purpose
Some people might think that because your organization has a blog that they have to post every day. This is not true at all. Posting regularly is a must; however, doing it just for the sake of frequency is not the best idea. This is what I would call “empty posting”. Empty posting gives the perception that the organization does not put thought into what they are saying. It also can take away from the credibility of the organization if the post is rushed and sloppy. Be sure that you have a purpose with every post.
Don’t: Forget about Design
A blog can really lose a reader if they have a hard time navigating the blog. A blog that I really believe captures the audience by design alone is FedScoop. FedScoop has brilliant colors and is easy to navigate. The black and white color scheme with a touch of pink is simple but also catches the reader’s attention. The page is also linked to all of FedScoop’s social media pages in the top right corner. This makes the blog well-rounded as well as well-designed.
Don’t: Talk to yourself
Blogs are a great place to spark a conversation. Having a blog that people can respond to and want to comment on is wonderful. This gives the writer a chance to respond to comments and create buzz on their story. All the comments that a story gets can be used for great feedback for future posts and insight on if and how you are reaching your target audience. An organization that has a good blog comment section is the USDA. On their blog they have a large section for commenting and feedback. They also integrate the rest of their brand throughout each post by linking to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and email.
Don’t: Forget to use the power of the internet
For any blogger, this should be an essential element of their blog. The internet has so many connections and can relay a story in a more interactive way than a print copy can. So take full advantage of it. NASA does a great job of using the power of the internet. On their page they have videos, pictures, links and news feeds which can be easily navigated on their homepage. They also include links to their social media pages on the top of the page. This not only looks great on the page, but it keeps the reader on the page longer. Clicking and following a picture to a story and a video creates more time for the reader to connect with the brand.
Creating a blog is a great idea for any organization, especially when the blog leverages its platform for optimum communication outreach. Using the power of the internet, social media and strong writing skills, blogs can create good site traffic and brand loyalty – and help you communicate your message directly to your audience in a fun and memorable manner. Maybe it’s time you started blogging?
Thursday, October 24, 2013
Even though the content of an article may be extremely well written, only a small portion of people will read that article. Headlines pull people in. A good headline will catch the eye and help the reader engage. The following tips can help you create a strong headline:
Kids Make Nutritious Snacks
Nutritious Snacks Created by Kids
Two Soviet Ships Collide, One Dies
Two Soviet Ships Collide, One Person Dies
Hershey Bars Protest
Hershey Staff Protest
Squad Helps Dog Bite Victim
Squad Helps A Dog Bite Victim
Marry Your Headline with Your Subject
Monday, September 23, 2013
The good news is that approved social media sites are relatively inexpensive tools, as they really only require the cost of labor -- creating the content, vetting it, posting it, monitoring the sites and responding to constituents' postings. This method of communication is fresh and easy to use, and millennials are very comfortable perusing these sites for information and insights.
The key question then becomes: how do we make our message catch -- and keep -- their attention?
According to a study done in 2010 by the Pew Research center, 90% of millennials use the Internet and 75% of millennials have created a social networking profile. It is important to remember though, that social media users are looking for more than just information when they browse. Several studies have shown that people participate in social media for socializing, entertainment, and self-status seeking, on top of strictly searching for information.
Social media is a setting in which two essential processes take place: peer-to-peer influence, and interaction-creating connections. These processes, along with the nearly instantaneous speed of the Internet, make for the perfect vehicle for distributing messages. Government organizations can tap into and creatively utilize this space to generate a "viral" campaign. Package your message in a medium that can be easily distributed from peer-to-peer and dress it up in the latest/dominant trends and fashions of your audience. And enjoy how effectively your constituents will help you share your message.
Here are some tips on getting a message to go viral:
- Plug in: Take a look at current dominating mediums that your audience is latching on to. In addition, popular themes can serve as a powerful tool for getting those initial contacts.
- Do something unexpected: Rather than emphasizing what is great about your message or product, do something that draws the attention of your target audience to it. The message promotion should be visible but subtle.
- Follow up: Give your audiences more of what they like. If you have a great idea, play with it and reinvent it for as long as you can. People say millennials have short attention spans, but they also know what they like and will only share brands they trust to deliver.
- Allow and promote sharing: Make your content as accessible as your organization's guidelines allow. When appropriate, create opportunities for people to participate in your campaign: ask for insights, suggested themes, etc.
In 2011, the "Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse" campaign swarmed the U.S., inspiring families all over to "get prepared." Director of the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, Dr. Ali Khan, pointed out, "If you are generally well equipped to deal with a zombie apocalypse you will be prepared for a hurricane, pandemic, earthquake, or terrorist attack." This campaign creatively provided information on staying safe, outlined how the CDC operates in potentially dangerous situations, and allowed anyone to make their own preparedness videos to share on the site. The campaign was so successful that from it, the CDC developed lesson plans for educators, t-shirts, posters, and even a graphic novella.
The government sphere has the power to distribute important messages creatively and effectively. Government organizations' passions no longer have to suffer the limitations of yesterday. It's about time we caught on. With the power and accessibility of social media, combined with a little creative fortitude, government organizations can really leave a lasting footprint in the web-space of tomorrow.
Monday, July 22, 2013
“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”
To define more clearly what public relations is, it may help to delve deeper into two aspects of the PRSA definition: strategic communication and beneficial relationships.
Just about anyone can communicate. But effective communication requires thorough planning, connections, and craftsmanship. There is a common misconception that the only way organizations can communicate to the public is by dispersing their message to as many people as possible through as much advertising as possible. This method works for some organizations, when the target audience is broad based, undefined, or difficult to define. “Inbound marketing or content marketing,” an approach used by many PR/Marketing professionals, is the purposeful placement of your organization's message in a way that earns the attention of your customers and entices your customers to come to you.
To break things down practically -- the world each and every one of us navigates is entirely made up of information delivered in different forms and through different venues. Each of our decisions, especially regarding business, is based upon the information that we’ve come across throughout our navigations. As we go through life, we find ourselves maneuvering through this world of information overload as efficiently and effectively as we can; avoiding information we deem useless and holding onto information we regard as useful (or potentially useful). Sometimes we hold onto information simply because it’s fun, sometimes we ignore information that might be good for us because we don’t trust or like the messenger. We will only hold onto the information that we find valuable enough to keep and we can only hold onto the information we find during our daily maneuver-filled navigations. For an organization to be successful it needs to disperse information in a way that can and will be retained, using communication channels your target audience uses and trusts. Public Relations presents your information so that your target audience can find it and will hold onto it.
Pure PR is when the message and the outcome desired drives the communication channels used. The strategic PR professional will determine which media or communication channels are most used and trusted by your target audience, and most appropriate for the type of message you’re delivering. This ensures your message reaches your target audience in an environment that they respond to, where they’ll read and absorb the message, and in the language and format that resonates with your audience and inspires your desired action.
The advantage of this strategic communication is magnified by ongoing proactive PR; which leverages the PR professional’s relationships with respected journalists and helps build beneficial relationships between you and your audience. When you’re doing it right, PR becomes a key channel for developing a positive relationship with your audiences. A PR professional gets your information to the places it needs to be in order to get the optimal retention from your audiences. Continuous PR gives your target audiences frequent and varied positive encounters with the information they need to better trust, understand, and respect your business.
An essential factor in any organization’s growth is reputation. What people say and who is saying it both play an immense factor in making any monetary decisions. Pure PR communicates your organization’s trustworthiness to deliver on the expectations you establish, through communications channels that your audience views as trustworthy and capable.
Having your solution or service talked about as news in the right publications is at the heart of what makes public relations so valuable. This third party credibility is validation that your organization does what it says it does. Positive press coverage builds trust in your organization.
When a consumer reads a particular publication, it is out of the trust, respect, and credibility they associate with that publication. They rely on these publications to serve as a trusted distributor of news they care about. When your organization’s successes and visions for the future are articulately expressed in an article, readers transfer the esteem they give the publication they’re reading over to the businesses mentioned – this establishes credibility via association. This pathway to credibility is particularly valuable in the government sector, and in any industry where there is a trusted pool of influential media, and balance, fairness, and third party credibility are crucial in procurement decisions.
With good public relations, organizations are properly presented to relevant audiences and audiences are pleased to be introduced to relevant organizations. Pure PR is the symbiotic element added to the organization/public relationship. Proactive PR -- continuous strategic communication -- is an invaluable tool to engage, educate, and influence your target audience regarding your products, services, and vision.
Friday, June 7, 2013
We had a wonderful group of over 50 government communicators who participated in the symposium. We talked about how to strategically drive public outreach using traditional and new media, reviewing the pros and cons of different communication tools, discussing best practices around leveraging social media to build a community and help drive your mission. The session was dynamic, and I had a great time interacting with the group throughout the presentation, learning as much from my participants as I hope they learned from me!
MACo is a non-profit and non-partisan organization that serves Maryland’s counties by articulating the needs of local government to the Maryland General Assembly. The Association’s membership consists of county elected officials and representatives from Maryland’s 23 counties and Baltimore City. Yesterday’s symposium was one of the many opportunities offered by the organization to provide government officials and representatives the ability to improve their capacity to serve their residents.
The organizers did a great job of keeping the day moving, the discussions lively and the information relevant. This was a great opportunity to talk about specific outreach methods used by various agencies, and to get information firsthand from Maryland PIOs on how they’re using social media now, as well as how they hope to further integrate these tools into their future communication efforts.
I appreciate MACo inviting me to speak at this valuable symposium – it’s clear that most government communicators, as I’ve always believed, truly care about doing the best job they can, and understand the importance of the message they are often tasked with communicating. Technology is changing and evolving at a more rapid pace than ever before, which makes it essential to balance the importance of traditional methods of communication with the value of being open to trying new techniques as well. If you’d be interested in my providing this presentation, or this service, to your organization, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Monday, April 22, 2013
An organization of government Public Information Officers and Communications professionals, the NAGC (National Association of Government Communicators) Communications School provided three days of practical educational sessions to help government communicators increase their skills.
The standing-room only session I led included a great group of government communicators from a wonderful mix of organizations, across civilian, Defense, and state and local organizations. The focus of the session was on how to effectively use social media in a disaster, and we discussed real-world scenarios where social media played a crucial role, including the Boston Marathon bombings.
The session was interactive and dynamic, and I learned just as much from my participants as I hope they learned from me. We discussed specific outreach methods used by various agencies, and covered the pros and cons of each. We talked about the challenges of effective communication outreach in today’s 24/7 world, and the importance of still ‘getting it right,’ while ensuring continuous updates and information were getting out in a responsible manner to our constituents.
With the rapid pace of technology innovations, it’s essential that we balance the importance of traditional methods of communication with the value of being open to learning and trying new approaches and tools. The driver must always be our mission, our message, and our audience – what will help us communicate better with our constituents – during a disaster, and every day. If you’d be interested in my providing this presentation, or this service, to your organization, please contact me at email@example.com.
Friday, March 15, 2013
USO-Metro’s Annual Awards Dinner a Touching Tribute to Service Members, Military Families and Volunteers
Mr. Lou Diamond Phillips, host of the Military Channel’s An Officer and a Movie, was honored with the Legacy of Achievement Award for his deep commitment to our men and women in uniform, and General Peter Pace USMC (Ret.) presented the annual Merit Award to Mr. Joe Mantegna. This year’s COL John Gioia Patriot Award was presented to Mrs. Kathleen “Kat” Causey to recognize her tireless dedication to soldiers’ welfare, especially her work advocating for proper mental healthcare for combat veterans.
Monday, February 11, 2013
Advice Unlimited LLC has changed pretty dramatically from when I first hung out my shingle 30 years ago. When I founded this Public Relations firm, I eagerly accepted anyone who was willing to hire us. We worked for real estate firms, banks – even Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus!
Once we secured our first government contract, in 1986, I knew I was home. We worked with local organizations, such as the Montgomery County Office of Economic Development, and Federal programs, such as Health and Human Services and the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. I felt we were really making a difference, and changing how people lived their lives by helping them to learn about different services that were vital to their everyday lives.
Working with government organizations naturally led to opportunities with companies trying to reach these government organizations, and we discovered this was the perfect complement and extension to the unique specialization we had developed. As we expanded our efforts with government contractors, I quickly learned that working with the companies that serve the government is another wonderful pool of people who care and projects that matter. And when I discovered technology – wow. The innovation possible when you bring together really smart people who are solving new problems with really caring people who are focused on making our world a better place is exciting, inspiring, and rewarding.
Today we are very proud of our unique niche of supporting government organizations and the technology companies that serve them. We are proud of our specialization and depth of knowledge in this important area. Over the years, we have built amazing friendships and relationships with government, media, and industry leaders. To everyone that we’ve worked with – thank you. To all the folks we hope to work with as we move forward – we can’t wait! Here's to the next decade!
Tuesday, January 15, 2013