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 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

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!

The Closest Thing to Super Powers

In our ever-changing digital world, social media is a superhero that awes its users with constant, creatively displayed content and instant connectivity. When it comes to harnessing the power of this platform, the closest thing to super powers for a social media marketer is the hashtag.

A The New York Times article, #InPraiseOfTheHashtag, notes that since its birth in 2009, the hashtag has infiltrated one in eight tweets. Huffington Post even claims that the hashtag has changed the way we communicate through tagging our thoughts, i.e.: #HuffPoRocks!

Through my time as an intern at Touchpoint Communications, I have spent a lot of time with this sociable Superman (against whom I feel like Lois Lane).hashtags

Sure, our relationship has had its ups and downs. From navigating through Hootsuite to learning how to convey your client’s brand in 150 characters, I’ve been pushed to work magic – to make content stand out.

And key to standing out is that seemingly humble hashtag. I witnessed its power at this year’s Charleston Fashion Week, when attendees were encouraged to use #chsfw. This hashtag amassed over 15,000 posts and allowed for the event to get social media buzz. Simply clicking allowed others to engage in the event.

I also observed this phenomenon through the eyes of a content creator. Anyone who lives in Charleston knows that the Bridge Run is one of the bigger events in the spring programming. The Bridge Run brings people from all over the Lowcountry to the Charleston area.

And you know what that means? Plenty of eager visitors looking for places to celebrate one of Charleston’s signature events. Social media – studded with hashtags – allowed us to match client restaurants with hungry, thirsty racers. We brainstormed messages that would speak to the bridge runners in a creative way. Our restaurants had wonderful Bridge Run crowds. Now tell me that is not #powerful!

From the integration of the hashtag in our society, culture, and thought process, it looks like the pound sign is here to stay! It is our job as social media mavens to throw on our superhero capes and embrace the #powerofthehashtag.

Written by Aliana Holliday – PR & Social Media Intern

Spot-on – Make That Elegant – Advice From a Fashion Icon

The 10th annual Baker Motor Company Charleston Fashion Week (CFW) strutted into downtown Charleston March 15-19. We were there … providing local and regional PR efforts and having plenty of fun along the way. In preparation, we traded in our flats for stilettos and rustled up some serious fashion press for the week of shows under the tent.

For those who have never been, CFW showcases emerging designers and model talent hailing from along the East Coast. It has become one of the premier fashion weeks in North America.

This five-night celebration under the tents in Marion Square featured more than 40 runway shows, bridal show, Rock the Runway Model Competition™ and of course, the hotly-anticipated Emerging Designer Competition.

We rubbed elbows with top fashion bloggers, the Charleston elite and even one of the biggest icons in fashion – Fern Mallis. She is credited with founding New York Fashion Week and is a celebrated international fashion consultant. We escorted her to a TV appearance at Lowcountry Live, to her book signing at RTW and to the Art Institute of Charleston.

During her appearance at the Art Institute, Mallis turned to hopeful designers to dish out some advice. And was that advice what you’d expect from a fashion titan? Did she tell people to behave like divas? To forget everybody they met on their way up? To pursue fame at all costs?

Nope. Fern told the students and fashionistas: “Be nice!” Simple, elegant and spot-on.

We haven’t stop thinking about this advice since, because it rings so true. Here’s somebody who has built her own successful brand in a tough-as-nails business. As they say on Project Runway: in fashion, one day you’re in, the next you’re out. Fern has stayed in the game a long time, and now we believe it may just be because she combines smarts, taste and niceness. Now that’s a winning collection!

She’s not the only one saying it either. Huffington Post published an article titled, 6 Ways Being Nice To Others Is Actually Good For You which proves that being nice actually has health benefits.

Finally, it may come as little surprise to hear PR practitioners counseling niceness. But truth be told, we’re not all people pleasers in this business. If we’re good at our jobs, we dispense tough love on a regular basis. But if we’re doing it right, we’re delivering it with a spoonful of sugar.

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We’ve Got A Spark!

IMG_5129Summerville’s Guinness World Record-breaking sweet tea event last summer netted the town more than 70 million media impressions, thousands of event participants, and real revenue from post-event sales. And as a result of their support, we earned a Spark Award from the Charleston American Marketing Association in the category of Best Event Marketing.

We provided national, regional, local and social media support for the event, which was the brainchild of town staff. While Guinness record breaks have become relatively common activities, the Summerville sweet tea event harnessed numerous special features: it paid homage to the town’s claim as birthplace of sweet tea, enveloped a number of local vendors to help break the record, and engaged thousands of attendees.

We were thrilled to help the Town of Summerville gain national recognition for this record-breaking attempt. We are also honored to be recognized by the marketing community for this work.

Bone Up On What is Essential

During a general session at this week’s SC Governor’s Conference on Tourism, flash artist and motivational speaker Erik Wahl did some amazing work. He painted portraits in moments, got the audience squirming, and elicited some very teary eyes.

But what really struck us was this: when approaching a new painting, Erik focuses on the most basic lines of the drawing. He eliminates all the excess “noise” right from the start, and only then builds up with color and texture. The result is something beautiful: the essential truth of the painting.

It reminded us of a landscape architect we know, who once shared that the best gardens start with bricks and concrete. Hard-scaping comes first. Showy plants come last.

After all, a living being cannot be fully healthy if its skeletal system is weak. The same is true for a garden. Or a communications program.

Getting at the essential truth of any pursuit is, ultimately, a key to success. Erik knows that – and it’s why he preaches this notion of essentiality to corporate audiences.

We happen to also believe that every great campaign, event, press release or blog post (!) has to start with a solid skeletal structure. Strip all the other noise away before you begin to work. And then, build from there.

One of our client/pals, Jennifer Howard, is a master of this technique. She is great at addressing a large group of super smart people with the most basic – and often challenging – question imaginable: what problem are we trying to solve here?

Focusing on the essential deliverable has a way of getting everybody at the table rowing in unison toward a goal.

Likewise, we recently organized a pretty complex event in one location. In reality, it was two events, held concurrently, in one fluid space. By asking ourselves what the client ultimately wanted to achieve, we were able to conjure a winning answer. (By the way, what they wanted was to connect people to one another in distinctly different yet warm, welcoming ways. That was a great strategy brief from which we could do meaningful work).

And one final proof point speaks to general public relations. We believe we’re pretty good storytellers. So we often begin a PR assignment as an effort to pare down before we build up. What is the key message we want our readers to embrace? Knowing that answer makes the work efficient, and effective.

So the challenge we’d lay down to others is this: on any given day, what is it you’re trying to achieve? What are the bones of your story?

Using Competition to Boost Creativity

Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 1.08.46 PMWhen it comes to landing media placements, winning industry awards or even ordering lunch, we are pretty cutthroat around here. Our competitive streak really picked up after the umpteenth time somebody walked in all self-satisfied with her morning workout.

So we came up with a way to encourage healthy competition: Every time we exercise, mark it on the calendar. At the end of the month, the person with the most stars earns a little prize, and most importantly, bragging rights.

Nothing motivates us like some competition, so our contest keeps us healthy and gives us something to chat about (not that any of us need help in that department!).

It also encourages a workplace philosophy where it’s OK to step away from the computer and go for a quick walk down King Street to clear the mind and reignite creativity.

We all know the physical benefits of exercise, and most are aware that working out can help reduce brain clutter. But, it also boosts creative thinking.

A study by Stanford University found that a person’s creative output (divergent thinking) increased by an average of 60 percent when walking. The “working memory” focuses on walking while a person’s thought process gets some free time to roam.

Now that we know a morning spin class or even a quick stroll will stimulate our creativity, it gives us another reason to reach for the title of monthly exercise calendar winner at Touchpoint.

We are always brainstorming new and exciting ways to tell our clients’ stories, but being able to say “So the best idea came to me during my morning workout” at internal meetings is an easy way to brag a little while providing better service to our clients.

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