What a Wild Ride: 13-Year Old Bikes Across the Country for Water Mission International

Potential clients often ask if they can engage us for project work. And our answer is always “that depends.”

It depends on a shared understanding of goals. For us, project work demands and deserves as much heart as we bring to long-term projects. Maybe more. The simple fact is we are pretty bad at doing anything half way.

We had the tremendous pleasure of spending our summer cheering on a 13-year old boy from Charleston as he pedaled from Santa Monica, CA to Sullivans Island, SC to raise money for new wells to bring safe drinking water to other parts of the world.

We’re always happy to lend our powers to others trying to make this world better. And our money’s on Scotty Parker, the young man whose “heart hurt” thinking about other kids who died drinking unsafe water. Thanks to his effort, thousands of people will now count on safe water from new wells.

Project Work: Scotty's Ride For Water Touchpoint Communications Charleston SC After 8 weeks, countless flat tires, and more than a dozen media interviews in towns big and small, Scotty and his team netted more than $580,000 in contributions. And the money continues to roll in.

Scotty’s Ride for Water supported Water Mission International, a global non-profit based here.

This sort of project also reminds us that everybody brings unique gifts to each challenge. Our gifts come in the form of world-class publicists with tenacious, unbending hearts. They spent plenty of days (and evenings, and weekends) pitching, persuading and talking logistics with people all over the Southwest, Midwest and Southeast.

One of our many firm mottos is: “let’s not ask how much we’ll make, but rather, what difference we can make.” Working with people like Scotty Parker inspires us to keep asking that question!

Telling Your Story . . . Digitally

The phrase “tell their story to those who need to hear it” reverberates through our office daily at Touchpoint Communications because stories are at the core of Public Relations. Traditional storytelling is not the only option. A strategy combining traditional and digital storytelling reaches even more of those people who need to hear your story.

Digital storytelling is critically important and goes beyond social media channels. Consider the list below when developing your digital storytelling strategy.

Digital Storytelling – A New Web Standard: HTTPS.

Touchpoint Communications Charleston Blog Digital Storytelling SSL HTTPS

Google is calling for all websites to switch to HTTPS (a secure connection) to ensure they remain safe for transactions like credit card purchases.  When a website has a standard HTTP connection, unauthorized parties can observe the conversation between you and the site, i.e.what you are doing or typing while on a website.

Google’s long-term plan is to require an HTTPS for every website, even when users are not sharing sensitive information. This means without an HTTPS address in the future, your website will be marked as “not secure” and will not display your landing page.

Plan ahead and install the right type of SSL certificate to prevent any drop offs or inaccurate analytics tracking for your site.

Digital Storytelling – Mass adoption of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP).

If a website is taking too long to load, most of us will immediately close the webpage. Google knows this. User experience, such as page load time, is a primary factor in ranking a website in search engine results.

Touchpoint Communications Charleston Digital Storytelling AMP

Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project provides a way to instantly load mobile optimized content (created once) and published everywhere. This saves digital content creators time while making audiences happy, according to a survey from 9to5Google suggesting users prefer AMPs over regular content.

 What are AMPs? They allow static HTML pages for mobile users to render more quickly. Instead of sites having inconsistent sizing and coding parameters for loading a page in a browser, it will all be streamlined. 

Digital Storytelling – Optimize for Voice Search.

Voice search is booming. According to a Google survey in 2014 conducted by Northstar Research, 55 percent of teens and 41 percent of adults are using voice search more than once a day. Recent studies have suggested that the use of voice recognition will double in the next five years.

Touchpoint Communications Charleston Digital Storytelling Voice SearchVoice search in mobile has a higher percentage of featured snippets (the answer boxes that appear beneath the search results). This means any optimizer should start including keywords based on how people search when they speak into their mobile phones.

The growth in popularity of voice search requires us to anticipate our users’ wants and needs to ensure we are answering their questions above the competition.

Written by Michael Stettner

Social Media Tools All Publicists and Marketers Should Use

It is no secret that social media changed the landscape of PR forever. With 1.94 billion monthly active users on Facebook and 328 million monthly active users on Twitter, this modern-day obsession is impossible for anyone to ignore, especially PR professionals. At Touchpoint, we use social media (mainly Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat) every day for our clients because we recognize users as our target market.

Due to our lack of access to the viral nature of Kim Kardashian’s selfies, our social media content curation is a little more complicated. Here are few tools that we use at Touchpoint to make this vast world of sharing and screen-shotting work for us:

Graphics Grab Attention

Canva makes it simple and quick for us to create polished graphics that are ready to post across all social platforms. It allows us to add text, multiple photos and fun backgrounds. The site even comes equipped with tutorials to make it the most user-friendly image creator we have ever used. Thanks Canva!

Organization for Optimization

Google Sheets is the Excel of the future. This is a really easy way to stay organized, and show-off how organized we are. We use this to coordinate social media content. Once created, the Google Sheet can be shared and edited by multiple users at the same time (don’t worry – there is an undo button in case you happen to be the user that accidentally deletes the entire document…speaking from experience!)

Schedule to Stay A Step Ahead

Hootsuite is a very sophisticated calendar; it’s a digital platform that allows us to schedule social media posts for clients on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We stay a step ahead in the fast-paced social media environment thanks to Hootsuite.

Sharing is Caring

We use the above tools to create social media content that people want to share. Consider this: 84 percent of all social shares are Dark. “Dark social” refers to “content that is shared peer-to-peer through channels other than social media – over emails, chat services and messaging platforms including text messaging.”  Shift Communications notes that this type of social is considered dark because we have no way of tracking the number of times content is shared. This is basically digital gossiping: It’s sharing content without the content creator knowing you shared it. And it’s awesome.

Our goal for all of our clients is to receive as many likes and shares as Beyoncé’s pregnancy post. High expectations…we know. But heck we can dream!

Written by our intern, Sidney Harper.

Encouraging Tourists to Flock to Summerville

We all know the proverb “it takes a village to raise a child” and the same can be said for certain PR campaigns.

While brainstorming ways to drive visitors to Summerville, S.C., all roads led to community involvement. And what better way to showcase this sweet, southern town than by inviting the community to help tell some of its story?

During our thought session, we discussed how in real estate, success comes from location, location, location. We applied that adage to Summerville’s avian tourism push. Much of the town’s activity links to its proximity to plentiful parks and world-class bird habitat, The National Audubon Society’s Francis Beidler Forest.

Partnering with Summerville organizations and businesses with an interest in avian activity is what enabled us to transform what was once just an idea into a full-fledged campaign: #FlocktoSummerville

Summerville birding campaign

The original thought is only one (very small) piece of the puzzle

In the PR world, the success of a project is contingent on results, and efficient execution lays the groundwork. Projects with multiple moving parts can be complicated, but support from those with a shared goal is essential. And that’s exactly what we got from the Summerville community!

As news of our campaign migrated to Summerville, we were excited to learn that people throughout Town were up to the task. We enlisted help from folks at the No. 5 birding destination in the country, Beidler Forest (as per this USA Today 10Best article).

Through those conversations, we discovered more ways we could promote Summerville’s abundant aviary offerings. Some programs already existed but weren’t heavily promoted. For others, we teamed up with business owners in other capacities to create bird-inspired programs to flesh out the campaign.

Town business participation bolsters Summerville birding campaign

  • Warbler Blend Coffee: Forest staff collaborated with local business Coastal Coffee Roasters to produce Warbler Blend coffee, exclusively sold at Beidler. All proceeds benefit Project PROTHO, a program that recruits citizen scientists to help Beidler learn more about the Prothonotary Warblers’ breeding biology.
  • Downtown Summerville Guided Birding Walks: Beidler staff offer free walks in Summerville on Saturdays in the spring and fall.
  • Painted Buntings at Summerville’s 7-mile Sawmill Branch Trail: Guided walks offer great birding locations; the trail is one of the best places in the area to see the beautiful Painted Bunting.
  • Night Flight Yoga: Strike an eagle or a crow pose! Night Flight Yoga happens in the Coastal Coffee Roasters warehouse twice a month during migration seasons. Participants offered beer flight after class.
  • Stretch Your Creative Wings: Sit and sip with family or friends while painting beautiful birds at Summerville’s Wine & Design during migration seasons.
  • B.I.R.D.S. – Birds in Residence Downtown Summerville: Birders and art lovers appreciate the chance to catch a glimpse of the region’s most recognizable birds in still form (sculpture) at 22 stations downtown.
  • Beidler Forest: This old-growth cypress-tupelo 16,000-acre environment with a 1.75-mile boardwalk is home to the warbler and numerous other bird species. The park provides a free boardwalk-specific app for iPhones to help guide your adventure.

Coordinate with team before any ideas leave the nest!

After all of this, we still wanted to increase the campaign’s wingspan (hehe), so we tapped The Southern Weekend to shoot a video highlighting Summerville’s outdoor offerings. 

As a team, Touchpointers seek to make connections whenever, wherever and between whomever we can. We love helping to shine a light on the amazing assets of our community client partners. Collaborating with so many folks in Summerville on this multi-tiered campaign is one such example!


PR Never Sleeps

Another crop of freshly graduated college students are looking for jobs in the communications fields, and that means aspiring PR mavens are plentiful here in the Lowcountry.

One of the subjects we cover with potential interns seems like a trick question, “what is PR, what is PR to you?” We have learned there are almost as many definitions for the profession as there are intern candidates. And none of the answers are completely off base.

My friends and family sigh with jealously when I describe a Charleston Wine + Food Festival event we attended or tell them I’m hosting a writer at one of our restaurant clients. “Your job is so fun!” they say, “It’s my dream job, drinking and eating!”  

There are numerous specialties within the field and many approaches to PR, but any pro can tell you it’s not all schmoozing over cocktails and floating from one fabulous event to another ( à la Sex & the City’s Samantha Jones).

Sometimes I’ll think “we’re not surgeons, we don’t have to be on call” but…we actually kind of are. 

No we’re not saving lives, but when a PR crisis arises our office turns into the ER for PR!

One night we’re chatting with journalists over cocktails at The Darling Oyster Bar. The next night at 11 p.m. on a ::cough cough:: Friday that we were supposed to have off, we’re drafting a crisis communications plan and then spending our Saturday responding to a media blitz.

It’s exciting, to me at least. But is it glamorous? No.

Words are our tools, and constructing a response on a sensitive subject takes needlepoint accuracy, strict adherence to strategy and a great deal of creativity. If we miss the mark, it’s our client’s reputation on the line, and often ours as well. This is our version of surgery – and no two cases are ever alike.

So here’s a word to the wise for graduates pursuing a career in PR:

  1. Don’t expect to become Samantha Jones or Don Draper (he’s in advertising anyway).
  2. Craft your own definition of what PR means to you before the interview at your dream job, and expect that definition to change dramatically as you gain experience.
  3. Do some pre-interview digging to learn about the company’s clientele. Scan the social media feed and website to find clues on what PR means to that team.

At Touchpoint, PR is a verb. It manifests in many ways. It’s about action and consistent growth – challenges we instill and accept. We might not have to perform surgery every day, but we’re always sharpening our scalpels.

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

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

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

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

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!


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