A Valentine to Charleston

“A problem is a chance for you to do your best.” – Duke Ellington

We write this during a time of uncertainty. Weather predictions for our beautiful city range from mildly disconcerting to DefCon 4. And it will be days before we learn who was best at guessing (for, in the end, we suspect all those paths are best guesses).

Our city and adjacent towns feel pretty empty right now. And that’s because our Governor took a decisive action, days before the storm, to encourage people to leave. She encouraged businesses to shut down so that their employees could take care of their families and lives. And a staggering number complied.

We are amazed by the spirit of the many clients we are proud to represent, each of whom put people first this week and elected to “shut it down.”

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Restaurants on Folly Beach boarded up ahead of Hurricane Matthew (Source: Live 5).

This is no minor act. For small businesses, a day or two – or five – of disrupted business has a big impact on their bottom lines. And yet, they locked their doors or boarded up their windows and walked away.

We’ve done the same, and have teammates scattered about, working remotely by laptops and cell phones. We have been touched beyond measure by the many offers from colleagues, friends and mere acquaintances to camp in their homes. Those generous invitations will not be forgotten.

Nobody knows what awaits us come Sunday, when most will make our way back home. Typically, the day after a hurricane is clear and sunny. Sometimes, it feels like a cruel joke as we survey devastation. Other times, it lends a celebratory air to the discovery that Mother Nature was kind, this time.

Whatever the result, we wanted to pause for a moment now to wish all our friends well, whether they are fixed on Matthew’s path, or encountering other challenges today. Keep updated on the storm and stay safe!

Don’t like Change? Don’t be in Media

Touchpoint organized a good, old school “media day” this week, and it got us thinking about how much that industry has changed. 

marketing-survey-trends-mediaIt’s no secret that smart businesses of all stripes have learned to pivot – frequently –  in order to survive. And it’s fascinating to see it happen, almost before your eyes. 

Which is where we landed this week, as several “traditional” media companies showcased the many ways in which they are harnessing new technologies to reach increasingly hard-to- get audiences. 

From our view, here’s what progressive companies are doing to earn advertising dollars:

  • Optimizing digital platforms for all they’re worth. Sure, digital display still plays a big role in online advertising. But we’re all a lot more excited about pinpoint targeting, retargeting, and conversion reports. Mining the interwebs for all they can deliver is a big competitive advantage for these “OG” companies.
  • Being sociable. When you’re blessed with a legacy brand like Southern Living or The Post and Courier, you have a whole bunch of friends. And advertisers would love to befriend them, too. Smart companies find ways to monetize their followers, without losing their trust.
  • Remembering the value of “traditional.” While it’s easy to write off newsprint, magazines and television as irrelevant, they remain anything but. People still connect to news, entertainment and ideas through time-tested channels. And that’s why we still include them in our promotional mixes. 

Assessing this change had us thinking about our own business, and our clients’ portfolios. None of us is a static entity, behaving precisely as we did a decade — or a year — ago. Right?

Gone Fishing: Don’t Short Yourself on Time Off, Out

Brain Craves Vacation Time OffNews Flash: it’s August, and you haven’t taken a vacation yet.

Wondering how we know? Because plenty of Americans are in the same boat –failing to disengage from work long enough to justify calling their break a vacation.

There are plenty of suspects in this “vacation murder” crime scene, among them:

  • Technology: when you can be reached 24/7, you probably frequently are. Things have gotten so bad with constant “on-ness” that employers in France and Germany are forbidden from contacting employees on their off hours. We think that’s laudable, but we also wonder what happens if there’s an emergency to contend with? We’d rather know, than not.
  • Lean staffing: hiring may be up nationally, but many American workplaces are still pretty no- to low-fat enterprises. Shouldering more work often means that it feels impossible to break free. Sometimes – and we’ve felt this ourselves – the extra work of preparing to leave and returning to one’s desk scarcely feels worthwhile.
  • Competition: one of the lessons of the Great Recession was that nobody was immune from a downsizing. Plenty of workers still feel that keeping their nose to the proverbial grindstone keeps the grim reaper away. It may, but then again, plenty of research also shows that time does not equal productivity. According to a study of HR directors, 77% of them believe employees who take vacation time are MORE productive than those zombies who grind away with no time off.

And that’s why we are proud to say that around here, we’ve taken some time off this summer. Weddings, beach houses, cool New York lakes and other getaways beckoned. And in a few cases, there was neither WiFi nor 3G available. Talk about luxury!

Some of this was in small chunks tacked onto a weekend. And one of us left town for two whole weeks. That felt scary. But guess what?

The office didn’t crumble. Competent colleagues extinguished little brushfires. Emails awaited our return.

More importantly, we came back revived. We had creative thoughts to share with clients, renewed energy for the days ahead, and ideas for growing our business.

So if you’re still reading this AND haven’t vacationed yet this summer, close this window and jump on Kayak.com or Expedia. Book a vacation between now and Labor Day. Bring the people you most love. Or don’t. Just make yourself go.

Your brain will thank you. And so will your coworkers.

In PR, Attitude Trumps Aptitude

In the midst of a search for a PR/Social media coordinator, we paused to reflect on what, exactly, we seek. And we figured the answers we’ve uncovered could help not only prospective employees, but anybody in the hunt for PR talent – whether on staff or representing their organizations within a firm.

Typically, folks believe PR professionals are  “people persons.” And while that is often true, it’s not the most important talent we seek. Rather, we look for individuals who are naturally curious; who seek insights and intel from all sorts of places (i.e.: if you quote TMZ and The New York Times within a single conversation, we want to chat!).

We want passionate people who can work hard on numerous projects at once, bringing creativity and tenacity to the office every day. We look for a strategic mindset, since all the creativity in the world is meaningless if we aren’t advancing clients’ business goals.

Our profession also demands flexibility. The day you envisioned at 8 a.m. rarely unfolds perfectly. The plan you write in January can pivot mightily in March. That’s either exciting to someone, or enervating to them. We want the excited ones!

Finally, there are the “table stakes” of good PR representation. Solid, accurate writing is key. Polish and poise really do matter. And the ability to demonstrate high personal ethics will always be important.

Sure, it sounds like we’re looking for rock stars. That’s because we are. And so are the clients who entrust us to represent their brands. It’s a competitive world – so why hire anything less than the best?

How To Turn Ideas into “Ink”

We recently wrote this piece for the Harbor Accelerator’s blog, and figured it might be helpful to folks who stumble upon ours. Let us know what you think!

“I want to be on page one of the Wall Street Journal.”

We hear it all the time: a very real, very deserving business focused on the biggest PR hit possible, and throwing down the gauntlet before their PR agency.

And we understand: having a big, juicy PR hit acknowledges one’s genius. It signals to the world that all the pain and suffering of the entrepreneur and her loved ones were actually worthwhile.

As a long-time practitioner of publicity and earned media, I have lost count of the new business meetings that started with the challenge to land a big fish, ideally on our first foray into the waters. And that is usually followed by narrowed eyes and this challenge: “I mean, we’re hiring you for your contacts, right?”

Here’s the truth: the right marriage of client and publicist has less to do with ready contacts and more to do with strategic thinking and creative relationship skills.

It’s important to understand how publicity really works. Typically, it’s up to the publicist to do the research, help craft the pitch, find the right target (journalist), take aim, and “shoot.” We tenaciously outreach, follow up and cajole. This is true whether the target media person is a dear old friend, or a stranger. (In fact, dear old friends sometimes make us work harder, just to guard against their own bias).

We, and lots of others in our field, favor the term “earned media” to define coverage. Working closely with our clients, we earn this media by cultivating the right storytellers and sharing the right story. This is not advertising: we can’t write the script. We suggest, we influence, and then we wait.

The old saying goes: in advertising you pay and in PR, you pray. And it’s true. You hope someone picks up the pitch, writes the story as you’d like it to be, that it makes the final cut among editors, and appears in print, online or on the air. You and your publicist both pray you hit all your messaging points. And we hope it makes the phone ring or fills the shopping cart.

So when your time comes to assume the spotlight, what should you ask a publicist?

Hah, that was a trick question! You should start by telling said publicist the following:

  • Why your product/service/discovery matters to the world.
  • What sorts of people would benefit from reading about it or seeing it online?
  • Who will be the spokesperson for your product or organization?
  • How have you measured success within your business plan?

It’s then up to the publicist to help you achieve those goals through a smart use of earned media.

That might mean you focus on less-sexy, but highly profitable opportunities in trade publications, in online forums that build SEO, or with baby steps involving local media that build to the big leagues.

And it might just mean a shot at the Wall Street Journal. But only because you – and your publicist – believe you’ll earn the right to appear there.

Listen Up – Social Media Is a Two-Way Street

Social media outlets have become important online forums for communicating – and now more than ever, people expect real-time responses.

Most businesses utilize social media on a daily basis to connect and relate to followers. Brands want to be the holders of information – to tell people what to do, where to go and what’s going on. But what happens when you need to dispel false information or respond to unsatisfied customers? That’s why companies are investing in social media experts and ambassadors to monitor these channels 24/7. People rely heavily on these news feeds for up-to-date information, breaking news, event updates, personal milestones, etc.

Followers don’t want to feel like they’re communicating with a computer; they want to trust that real people are behind the brand. “Treat social media more like a telephone and less like a megaphone,” said Huffington Post contributor Simon Tam. Communicating online should be similar to interacting in person – fluid conversation back and forth.

Your goal should not only be to increase the number of followers, but to build lasting relationships with those people.

If someone comments on your page, photo or post with a question, be sure to respond as quickly as possible. People expect that.

Living the #SweetLife in The Birthplace of Sweet Tea

There is nothing more Southern than sweet tea – the table wine of the South. In honor of National Tea Day – June 10 – the residents of Summerville set out to shatter the Guinness Book of World Records for World’s Largest Iced Tea (sweet tea, of course)!

We got to be the PR team behind the ‘Record Smashing Tea Party’ – a community celebration with live music, local food vendors and 1,425 gallons of locally brewed record-breaking sweet tea. This family-friendly celebration and Guinness Book adjudication was a huge success – yielding more than 76 million impressions – and was a lot of fun to work on.
Congratulations to The Town of Summerville!  If you’re heading to Summerville, be sure to get out and take a picture with ‘Mason.’
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Our PR Swiss Army Knife

photoTechnology has presented business owners, marketing professionals and PR pros a real challenge: considering the seemingly limitless tech resources at our fingertips, we can be compelled to dabble in them all.

Over time, we often find one or two multi-function tools really do save the day.

Around here Cision, the vast database of multi-media contact information, is that invaluable tool. It spares publicists and other “connectors” countless wasted hours and fruitless pitches. The subscription based service actually saves money, despite a healthy subscription fee. And that’s because, after all, time is money.

As a PR agency, we treasure personal connections. We value having relationships with media, with clients and within numerous community leaders in many places. These relationships provide a solid foundation for our company. So we value programs that allow us to grow these networks. Thanks to Cision’s immense resources, our connectedness extends tenfold.

The site allows us to generate targeted contact lists and efficiently answer four W’s:

  • Who should we target?
  • Where should we pitch our news release?
  • When do these targets want to hear from us?

Cision is a key link between PR/Marketing agencies and the media professionals they aim to reach. It doesn’t replace good strategy, by any means. But it does lead to strong results. And at Touchpoint it is our mission to connect our clients to the most relevant media opportunities so that our time – and their resources – can be maximized most efficiently.

Written by our PR intern, Ruthie Lovejoy.

 

Summerville’s Blooming with Fun

Mayor  photo Sweet Tea Pitcher

Summerville – or Flowertown in the Pines – is about 20 minutes from downtown Charleston, and we tend to spend a day or two a week there, thanks to client meetings. Lucky us. Summerville is a beautiful community filled with graciously appointed homes, a bustling downtown, and a burgeoning food scene.

And now, it’s offering free WiFi for all!  Google has partnered with The Town of Summerville to provide free Wi-Fi for the entire downtown Summerville footprint. We had a great time celebrating at the ribbon cutting ceremony with Mayor Collins, and folks from Google and local businesses.

We’ll be back there tomorrow to “Meet, Greet & Eat” at Summers Corner.

Buffalo Lake House is a beautiful and tranquil community meeting place with wooden benches, docks and fire pits on the lake.  We’ll be there to host a few activities for guests who arrive to experience the community and meet its builders. Hint: if you see clusters of wild flowers pop up over the Lowcountry in coming weeks, credit Kerry and her compost-driven seed bombs!

And we’ll hope to see you there on June 10, for the town’s Record Smashing Tea Party!

You can beat the summer heat at the Birthplace of Sweet Tea.  Summerville is set to shatter the Guinness Book of World Record for World’s Largest Sweet Tea. They’re filling a 10-foot tall fiberglass container from Scout Boats with 198 pounds of tea leaves from The Charleston Tea Plantation, 2,100 pounds of sugar from Dixie Crystals and 2,800 pounds of ice. Plus, they are throwing a killer summer block party perfect for all ages.  Join us to help make history and enjoy live music, specialties from local vendors, entertainment and more!

A Week Made for Caffeine

What a busy and eventful week it has been for the Touchpointers!  We were all over town celebrating creativity, collaboration and new connections on behalf of clients (yep, that’s a lot of C’s!)

We were psyched to attend several DigSouth sessions, and to help align our client Nexton with the digerati who frequented dozens of sessions.  We love our world of communications, but if we had it to do over again, we’d opt for coding. That’s where all the action is!

Meanwhile, The Southern C Summit kicked off its third year in the Holy City and we got the chance to meet loads of great people from near and far.  The summit took place at the beautiful American Theater and the historic William Aiken House and featured delicious cuisine, specialty cocktails and an incredible lineup of presenters.  Lasting connections were made – plus, we netted what has to be the best swag bag ever!

We believe – and are lucky to find clients who agree – that it’s important to support local artisans.  We helped Summers Corner create a beautiful dinner party for local “makers”- from farmers to potters and quilters to chocolatiers, all in the gracious setting of the Linwood B&B in Summerville.

Just a few hours later, we were in the WCBD studio with client and Grammy award-winning musician Mark Bryant…who also apparently never stops. HE was just a few hours post the Hootie appearance on Late Show with David Letterman, Mark’s promoting Live at the Charleston Music Hall, which this weekend features American Idol finalist Elise Testone and music festival faves Stop Light Observations.

And finally, we’re bragging a little about our communications specialist! Cristy was chosen as the alumni judge for the College of Charleston Department of Communication’s Spotlight on Scholarship and Senior Celebration.  She got the opportunity to meet graduating seniors and judge their capstone presentations ranging from social media to gender identity.  Look out world: smart young people are on their way!

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