An Internship That Bridged Classroom and Real World

maddy-longenecker-touchpoint-communications-charleston-prThere’s so much more creativity and science behind public relations than I thought.

When I started my internship at Touchpoint Communications, I was aware that public relations involved social media and event planning, but did not know the extent of what Touchpoint does for its clients.

I quickly learned that PR is also about more than events and posts!

Beyond posting Instagram photos and Facebook updates, they manage a company’s entire public image. I helped Michael and Emily reply to customer complaints, repost customer pictures, advertise new menus and promote different events through various media channels.

Figuring out what kind of audience a company hopes to attract and then creating a social media presence that encourages that audience is pretty clever. Being able to help the team work to meet the goals of their clients was a real learning experience.

Meanwhile, PR is often about working with the media. I learned that the creativity and insight required to gain a writer’s interest combines some of the skills I learned in college. It’s interesting to see the blend of interpersonal skills, marketing and writing that goes into pitching the media.

Writing turns out to be a big part of the work here. After writing innumerable essays for college, it was encouraging to see how those skills will come in to play in the workplace!

Studying organizational communication has exposed me to various theories about structure and its impact on the interactions between employees and their bosses. Watching those different theories unfold in real time proved fascinating!

Seeing a group of adults work in a professional setting that is laid-back and amiable is pretty reassuring for a college senior, and makes the “real world” so much more appealing. This team clearly loves what they do and enjoys their work environment.

The lively work atmosphere and the jovial relationship between all of the employees made my first office “job” far more entertaining than expected.

Written by intern Maddy Longenecker

Why We Love Charleston

So today was pretty special: the first flight of the Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner, a miraculous feat of engineering and imagination. We were out at the airfield with colleagues from the Coastal Community Foundation, rubbing elbows with . . . well . . . everybody.

Boeing_Dreamliner_Plane_CharlestonSenator Lindsey Graham was there, along with business and nonprofit leaders from all over the community. Fittingly, the biggest group of all was the men and women who built the sleek, new bird. So that’s what we mean when we say “everybody.” It was magical.

Welcoming guests to the celebration, plant executive Joan Berry Robinson warmly noted: “Welcome to Boeing, welcome to your house. All of Charleston made this day possible.”

And that’s what we love about Charleston. It’s a real community. And it’s one we are proud to call ours.

So what’s it like to live in a place that attracts so many? (i.e. this weekend alone we will welcome tens of thousands of out-of-towners for a flower festival, a national 5K across America’s most beautiful bridge, and countless other celebrations.)

Here are our top 5 “Charleston Love” Notes:Colleen_Troy_Boeing_Dreamliner_Charleston

First of all, despite dozens of new residents arriving or being born here DAILY, it still feels like a small town. Live here long enough, and you will inevitably run into friends old and new while walking downtown, running an errand (note: always prepare for a chance encounter, lest you be caught in your Sunday worst), or dining out.

Secondly, with just a bit of effort, you can truly feel a part of this community’s fiber. In Charleston, people welcome others who want to make this place even stronger. As a result, our robust non-profit community benefits from new ideas and energy as volunteers and board members come together in beautiful ways.

Thirdly, it’s pretty on the inside, too. We know Charleston oozes charm. But beyond the beauty of Rainbow Row and moss-cloaked Live Oak trees, we see beauty in the people. Strangers acknowledge one another on the streets with a polite hello or wave. Virtual strangers take our calls in an emergency, and offer help. (Try organizing an event in 24 hours in some other place! We’ve done it here, and it truly takes a village.)

Fourth – We’re a hungry bunch, and this town feeds our many appetites. First, the food is amazing. But there’s also the cerebral nutrition in the form of art festivals, concerts, galleries and more. We are strengthened when we watch amazing athletes, artists and others soar to new heights in the Holy City.

Fifth: it’s home! Our motley crew has migrated to Charleston from Texas, New York and Hawaii. But each of us has found a home right here in the soft loam of the Lowcountry. How do we know this is home? Because pluff mud smells good (to us); because we know how to coexist with noseeums; because we can argue for an hour about where to find the best biscuit in town.

And we know this is home because when that gorgeous plane took off today, our hearts soared.

It’s Festival Season at Touchpoint!

“Is this work? It can’t be. Nobody should be allowed to have this much fun.”

That’s the text a Touchpointer sent on day 3 of a 4-day triathlon otherwise known as Charleston Wine & Food. That annual celebration of culinary arts brings amazing chefs, wine experts and others to Charleston, and focuses on the homegrown talent we marinade in daily.

For the PR folks who work with those talents, Wine & Food is an exciting, action packed festival marked less by eating or drinking, and more by connecting, pitching and charming. (Ironically, many of our ilk work so hard during the Festival, we scarcely eat and end up at McDonald’s drive-thrus late at night. Don’t judge!)

And it’s all in hopes that we help our clients (seven of whom were showcased at this year’s festival) make lasting love connections with media, influencers and icons. The results can be immediate or long-term. They are always exhilarating, as witnessed in that exuberant, opening text from a publicist on the trail of a hot lead.

That festival weekend falls just 10 days before Charleston Fashion Week, another marathon that finds our Touchpointers going all-in and all out to make great things happen.

For 2017, we’ll be helping bloggers, traditional media and social influencers get up close and personal with established designers like Rachel Roy and Bibu Mohapatra, and a host of talents who may soon dominate the world’s runways.

We enjoy bringing the festival to the attention of local fashionistas and those from “off.” We’re also proud to have snagged the American Marketing Association’s award for Best PR 2016 for our work on behalf Charleston Fashion Week.

Next month, we’ll be shuttling writers and influencers to Lake City, S.C., to witness the amazing transformation art can have on a small town. We’re excited to be promoting the fifth annual ArtFields, which recently snagged South Carolina Tourism’s coveted Bundy Award for tourism marketing.

Bedazzled by 400 original works of art, Lake City will likely be home to more galleries per capita than any other U.S. city, thanks to the fact that barber shops, mattress stores and libraries give themselves over to display art for 9 days (April 21 – 29).

So, if you’ve discerned from this post that Touchpoint loves festivals, you’re right. But we don’t love them because they’re fun. Rather, they put us to the test in real, immediate and tangible ways. We thrive on the hunt. We embrace the strategy that drives success. And we are pretty addicted to the rewards – enduring connections between our clients and their publics.

Is this work? Yep. And lucky for us, we get to do it!

Speak Up!

Yesterday, we had a group visiting our office, borrowing a conference room for a planning meeting.

You know how it is at home, when you have guests? You suddenly notice the dust bunny in the corner or the scuffed paint?

Well, we felt the same exact thing yesterday, with this extended guest visit. As they met in the room behind me, I noticed something I often don’t: we Touchpointers are pretty vocal people! And I started to worry about our productivity. Did we seem unserious to others?

I’m not saying we were hosting a party in the office. We weren’t telling raunchy jokes (not this time!) nor reciting long lists of rules. We were chattering amongst ourselves. If somebody had diagrammed our conversations yesterday afternoon, they’d have revealed a nearly constant, zig zagged pattern of speech ricocheting from one desk to the other and on and on.

And then I focused on the most interesting thing: we were working hard the whole time.

It got me thinking about professional kitchens and effective sports teams. In both of those cases, teammates communicate with one another constantly. In fact, there’s all sorts of evidence to support that high performing teams get that way by communicating. A lot.

Our friends at LeadStar recently wrote Spark, How to Lead Yourself and Others to Greater Success (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). It’s a great read: so great, everybody here is book clubbing it, and we’re sharing it with anyone who wants to join our Word Nerd Party!

One constant theme in this great book is the importance of accountability among all team members (and, guess what: all team members can and should be leaders!). Chief among the proven paths to success is communication: being honest about one’s own failings, willing to correct others’ actions, and striving to spur change through overt expectation setting.

When I think back to yesterday, I marvel at how much of that was happening naturally. Colleagues jumped to help one another with that perfect word, an appropriate response to a challenging question. They were taking ownership in the moment, and for the long-term.

That’s not to say we’ve nailed this leadership, thing. But it is to say that around here,  speaking up is key to success.

Does that sound like the place you work?

It’s 2017. Time to Get Busy

We write this on January 2nd, a day that somehow was named a holiday for every company but ours.

We’re back at our desks after a week of telecommuting from places as far as Texas, Virginia and NY, and near as the Isle of Palms. During our time away, we had plenty of opportunity to muse about loss (RIP Princess Leia, George Michael and way too many others); love (we love our clients and legitimately missed them!) and low-down dirty crimes (see: Mariah Carey’s rockin’ NYE).

And so what do we conclude from each of these disparate things? Let’s just say we determined a few rules for the road ahead. If we do this coming year right, we’ll look in the rear view mirror and see that in 2017 we collectively:

  • Worked hard at things that mattered. We never gave up. We overcame obstacles. We gave 100% knowing that there was somebody else out there willing to do that, and more. When we write the obituary for 2017, we’ll make people weep, knowing what an awesome year it was. That’s our pledge.
  • Played hard when we could. This is a stressful business, full of absolute responsibility and nearly zero control over outcomes. That wears on everybody. But making each other laugh, or breaking away for an occasional adventure, balances out the Cortisol. Try it…your spirit will thank you!

Colleen_Touchpoint_Communications_Charleston_SC
Colleen’s favorite holiday event is the Polar Bear Plunge on Sullivan’s Island, SC.

Kerry_Touchpoint_Communications_Charleston_SC
Kerry shares her knowledge on media buying with College of Charleston marketing students.

Emily_Touchpoint_Communications_Charleston_SC
Emily at Facebook HQ in Palo Alto, CA for a social media summit.

  • Took our lumps. Unlike a certain diva who threw shade at everybody in sight (but, it turns out, refused to participate in the New Years Eve rehearsal), we’ll be successful this year if we admit when we’re wrong. But we’ll avoid catastrophe by doing the prep, the thinking, the planning. And we’ll get extra points if we credit others for our wins. After all, there’s no fun in a lonely, solo victory lap.
  • Grew. We want to look back 12 months from now and gasp seeing that our 2016 selves were not nearly as awesome, smart, prepared, savvy or professionally fit as our 2017 versions have become. But, miraculously, we will all look younger. (Hey, it’s our dream board!)

Cristy_Touchpoint_Communications_Charleston_SC
Cristy is seen with other CreativeMornings organizers from across the globe at the CreativeMornings Summit in Austin, TX.

TPT_Touchpoint_Communications_Charleston_SC
Planning a shot list for Jamaica resulted in great photos like this.

Michael_Stettner_Touchpoint
Michael takes a break to spend time with family in Dallas, TX.

What do you want to see in the coming 12 months, and how will you make it so? Drop us a line. We’d love to share goals and benchmarks along the way!

 

The End of an Internship: A Love Letter to Touchpoint

Like many great love letters, this one starts with an emotion that cannot solely be placed into words. This particular love has changed me for the better while allowing me to uncover aspects of myself that I did not know I possessed.

What is the source of this love, you ask?Ali_Holiday_Touchpoint_Communications_Charleston_SC

It’s a PR and Marketing firm whose team took a chance on an artsy girl. It’s Touchpoint Communications, a firm in downtown Charleston that I’ll miss coming to several times a week.

I remember walking through 522 King Street for my first interview like it was yesterday. Hands sweating, nervously fidgeting, I marched into the office armed with just my resume. From that moment, I knew I wanted to intern at Touchpoint. While I felt under qualified, I hoped that the employees saw a special spark that would separate me from the others.

Apparently they did. Meanwhile, this spark grew the more time I got to spend here. From event planning to media pitching, I was handed real challenges. And the more real, the more the fire inside of me began to grow. In time, I knew it was love.

The endless opportunities that have been given to me are immeasurable, allowing me to be take part in so many facets of Public Relations. These new skills allow me to understand the field and gain important practical experience, to boot.

But the most valuable thing I have received from my internship is five, loving mentors.

Ali_Holiday_Touchpoint_Communications_Charleston_SCThe Touchpoint team has treated me with every kindness one could ask for. From helping me with my resume to their patience as I fumbled through tasks, their vested interest in me not only as an intern but also as a person is something I have never felt in a work environment. These professionals became not just my supervisors but also my friends. As this feeling grew and their consistent support was demonstrated every day, I knew it was love.

This final bow feels bittersweet. I am sad to miss seeing those five smiling faces three times a week, but I am optimistic to what the future has in store.

I love you, Touchpoint.

(Editor’s note: And we love you, Ali!  We are so glad that artsy girl took a chance on us! Thanks for contributing your heart and your soul to all that you do.  And by the way, who’s to say there won’t be an encore?)

Top Three Reasons Gotcha Bike Is Saving The Earth

There are some days at Touchpoint Communications when we just have to #humblebrag about a client. This week, that shoutout goes to our client, Gotcha Bike.

gotcha-bike-saves-earth-top-threeCharleston’s City Council is preparing to vote on a contract with Gotcha Bike this Thursday, which would make a citywide bike share program a reality. But what makes Gotcha Bike different from so many other bike share programs across the world?

Well . . . Gotcha Bike is saving the Earth in three huge ways:

  1. Promoting a Healthy Lifestyle
  2. Reducing Carbon Dioxide Emissions
  3. Saving Us Money!

But first, what is Gotcha Bike? Gotcha Bike is an innovative, sustainable and eco-friendly alternative to transportation. Every bike is GPS-enabled, which allows riders to locate and access the bikes using a smartphone or computer.

Yes, the technology integrated in each bike is impressive. But what deserves the #humblebrag is how Gotcha Bike is saving the Earth through its bike share program in those three ways.

Launched in early 2015, Gotcha Bike is now in 13 different cities, collegiate campuses and residential housing communities across the nation. Look at how 9,500 Gotcha Bike users have benefited from over 63,000 trips since launch:

  1. 2,516,180 calories burned
  2. 55,470 pounds of CO2 emissions reduced
  3. $36,484 saved (versus driving)

Just looking at those numbers leaves me in a state of awe. As I look down at my SoBi app, I am literally seeing how many calories I burn each ride, how I’m reducing my CO2 output, and how much money I’m saving on car maintenance, repairs and gas. That’s cool.

We at Touchpoint cannot wait for Gotcha Bike to arrive early next year, because we think everyone in the Holy City should have a chance to see how they could help save the earth too.

 

michael-stettner-touchpoint-communications

Social Media Strategy Straight from Facebook HQ

One might assume that I’d return with all of the answers after hearing from a few of the brightest minds in the biz at Facebook HQ for Ragan’s Social Media & Storytelling Summit over the summer. My brief stint in Silicon Valley led to divergent thinking while also confirming what most content strategists already know.

As silly social-media-strategy-touchpoint-cmmunications-sc-blogas it sounds, social media is a lot like weight loss. What works for one person, and in our case, client (business, public figure, nonprofit etc.), may not work for another. There is no easy solution, no magic formula, no shortcuts.

For example, just because Pokémon GO was a phenomenon, tailoring social media posts to include references to the game might not have made sense for your brand. It’s not necessary to jump on every trend. It may have helped increase the social reach of game stores and the like, but does it elevate your business? Or is it an (off-brand) attempt at gaining followers? If the answer is the latter, then this type of post will seem tone-deaf to fans.

It’s important to experiment, but don’t let social content deviate too far from the strategy outlining where you want the brand to go. When creating content, ask yourself, “will this help the client get there?”

Just as you probably wouldn’t lose 10 pounds without paying attention to what you’re eating, you won’t gain a significant number of followers by posting random content. This is where social listening comes in: You have to know what your brand’s followers want to see, and you learn that by following them and incorporating them into your brand’s story.

Strategy relies heavily on trial and error, considering the rate at which the rules of social media algorithms and advertisements develop. These “rules” and best practices aren’t changing by chance though, the consistent shift to content that’s (even more) instant, visually-oriented and authentic is a direct reflection of what emerging generations need to stay engaged.

Generations are refreshing faster and technology is changing monumentally in short time periods. The summit’s first presenter, Jeffrey Eagle of AARP, said that when you’re creating content “Keep short attention spans in mind: As short as it can be, as long as it needs to be.”  

It became apparent by the end of the first two presentations that a pattern had emerged. From AARP’s poignant videos on aging that people of all ages have shared to their own social media followers, to Southwest Airline’s proven success in social listening, certain themes are gaining momentum.

  1. Authentic content performs best, keep things relevant to your audience
  2. Followers want in, give them behind-the-scenes access
  3. Evoke emotions and inspire
  4. Don’t chase shiny objects

Each theme is a world of its own that we’ll delve into in future blogs. Staying true to the strategy with social content will help you decide which “shiny objects” you should experiment with and which you should leave alone. Nothing is more inauthentic than posting for the sake of “fitting in.”

Overall, content that hits a nerve — whether it tickles the funny bone, arouses sympathy or is extremely relatable, has the power to be shared across social channels to viral levels.

*written by Account Executive Emily Portoghese

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.”

a-valentine-to-charleston-hurricane-matthew-touchpoint
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?

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