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.

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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?

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.

“Wait . . . Is This Public Relations?”

Following the advice in a past blog post, “Using Competition to Boost Creativity,” I took a stroll down King Street to clear my mind. Sauntering past restaurants, bars and shops housed in historic century-old buildings, I noticed the impeccably renovated and updated interiors. This King Street stroll triggered a question that would not leave my mind.

What is Public Relations . . . today?

Each local business on King Street strives to uphold the importance of Charleston’s history. They respect the fundamentals that define its allure and charm. At the same time, they are continuously evolving by adapting to new technology and a new kind of customer.

The King Street business owners recognize the importance of the fundamentals. They are also aware it is time to evolve. As a King Street PR Professional, I must similarly respect the PR fundamentals and adapt to master the list of new skills required in this digital era.

Traditionally, we study and monitor daily trends. We then deliver newsworthy information to the public. We are research advocates always on a quest to find alternatives to paid media. This digital age, however, brings our quest into unchartered digital territory. The modern PR Practitioner must evolve and redefine their skills.

PR SEO Collaboration
Source: intergreater.com

We are now working on Analytics, Website Design and Digital Ads. Fluency in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has evolved as the new competitive edge. Developing these new skills may seem daunting, but Ronn Torossian (Bulldog Reporter) explains why we need not worry. We engage in SEO every day without even realizing it.

PR Professionals are experts in monitoring daily trends. It tells us which stories, amidst the noise, we should successfully pitch. Similarly, SEO Experts monitor which hot button words will get their digital content to the right people. The similarities between both fields explains why these skills are beginning to merge.

There is no definitive answer to the question I repeatedly asked myself while walking down King Street. My takeaway? As long as I hold on to the fundamentals of Public Relations, I should have no trouble evolving and adapting to the new list of skills required of a PR Professional.

Still feeling a tad overwhelmed? Check out PRWeek’s recent article for strategies on how to merge the PR and SEO skills.

 

Written by the newest member of Touchpoint Communications, Account Executive Michael Stettner.

Two Ears, Two Eyes, One Mouth

blog photoOur friend, Rick Jones (Fishbait Marketing) has lots of great sayings, and one that strikes us as most pertinent these days is: the Good Lord gave humans two eyes, two ears and one mouth –and we should use each accordingly.

Or put another way – shut up and pay attention.

What has us thinking of this happens to be a cascade of recent meetings that had prospective or new client partners bemoaning past relationships with firms that just “didn’t listen.”

We are big believers in the power of patterns, and this one is proving to be persistent. And we think we know what’s going on here. There are cultural and business trends afoot that prompt professional communicators to spend more telling than listening and watching.

  1. Business is good! For many fortunate folks, there is an abundance of opportunity these days. Faced with a surplus of clients, it can be challenging to remain fully present. But we must. Few clients appreciate being “templated. They seek unique, meaningful solutions to their challenges. And those come from really leaning in.
  2. We’re so smart, we’re getting dumb. That’s right, we are all so incredibly plugged in and up-to-date that we are failing to pick up our heads and look around. We seek the Googleable, the benchmarked, the “proven.” And that means we sometimes fail to think anew as often as we should. Not all answers lie within our past successes.
  3. We are possessed by our technology. Email is easy. Texting is fast. Analytics are sexier than gut instinct. But we fail our clients when we fail to pick up the phone or hop on a plane (heck, to even drive a few miles!) and check in with them. Truly immersing ourselves – physically – is one key to “getting” what clients are doing.
  4. Listen for what’s not being said. Sometimes clients are completely forthcoming. They tell us what they need. They ask us for more engagement, more care. We professional communicators fail when we brush off these approaches. Listening is about more than hearing, and seeing is about more than vision. Absorbing intent and taking action – that’s the sweet spot.

Admittedly, we sound a little preachy here. And we must also acknowledge that we don’t always get it right. It’s easy to get swept up in the current of “now” and forget to connect, collaborate and conjure. We appreciate the times client partners are willing to let us know where we fall short.

So how are you engaging – and are your teams trained to really listen, look, and repeat?

Have you noticed a similar pattern lately? We’d love to hear from you!

Phew – Lessons from a Busy Spring

FullSizeRender 2Around here, we’re pretty enthusiastic organizers and promoters of public events. Over the past few months, we’ve had a hand (or all hands, heads and feet in some cases!) in more than a dozen events ranging in size from a dozen attendees to 5,000.

Of course, we approach every event as we do any communication exercise: with a clear goal in mind, and a whole-hearted commitment to exceeding that goal. Reflecting on what it takes to be successful had us considering a list of “must do’s.” We share a few here. And if you would like to know more, we invite you to give us a call to chat about how we can help YOUR next event soar!

  • Set your date early and avoid overlapping with other major local events. This is super challenging in Charleston, where events define our every weekend. But at least be mindful of any events that seem to focus on the SAME audience you seek.
  • Get details out quickly on social media and your website. Sponsors and attendees alike will be visiting you online for Intel. And that continues THROUGH your event, where social listening and responding becomes a critical communication function.
  • Send updates to event attendees on various platforms: social media, e-newsletters, your website. Never underestimate your audience’s desire for information!
  • Clear signage and directions/instructions are a must. The very best event plan can break down simply because logistics were not fully fleshed out – nor communicated. One trick we like is to walk/ride your event a week before, imagining you are a first-time attendee. What “touchpoints” along the way are ideal for communication and illumination?
  • Ensure sociability by strengthening your on-site Wi-Fi signal. Our cultural FOMO has your guests posting their whereabouts and braggies with abandon. But only if they can access some juice. Help them do that!
  • Collect feedback! We find that it is human nature to end a big event and consider it “over.” But that misses the important opportunity to learn and grow and improve. Ask guests what they loved, what they loathed, and anything in between and you will guarantee an even better run next time around!

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