A Clear View: The Clearpoint Agency Blog

5 Similarities Between Baseball and PR

Posted on September 01, 2016

Professional baseball players on  grand arena

When you hear the words pitching, hit and home run, the first thing that probably comes to mind is baseball. But after working for a PR firm and spending many of my summer nights and weekends at the ballpark, I have come to realize baseball and PR have many parallels.

Teamwork –  Both Baseball and PR are team efforts. Whether you are bouncing ideas off each other during a brainstorming session, pooling talents to develop a winning PR strategy, or making a double play, baseball and PR heavily rely on good communication, camaraderie and collaboration.

Pitching – An experienced pitcher in baseball can determine the best pitch to strike the batter out or walk him to first. Similarly, effective media pitching can either make or break an effective PR program. Landing great media hits is a way to increase your client’s exposure and ensures their message is heard or seen by a broader audience. If you do not effectively pitch, the lack of media coverage gives competitors the opportunity to hit a “home run” by landing coverage and getting ahead in the game.

Home runs – A home run in the PR world can mean a number of things – securing a big media hit, winning an award or organizing a successful event. Just like a home run in baseball, home runs in PR take patience, skill and a bit of luck.

Every hit counts – In baseball, every hit matters, and that is also the case when it comes to media hits. Earning a media hit, no matter the size of the publication, gets your client’s name out to create awareness and inform target audiences. Having a strong foundation of media coverage builds credibility and leads to those big “home run” hits, too.

Pause and “stretch”– When you work on a PR project, pitch or proposal for an extended period of time, it is a good idea to pause before submitting the final version. Just like the “seventh inning stretch” in baseball, getting up from your desk to stretch your legs, going outside for some fresh air, and pausing to get a new perspective on your PR game all lead to better results.  You will be amazed to see what a fresh pair of eyes and break from your screen can unveil in something you were staring at for hours.

Whether your home run takes place on a baseball field or in the PR world, one thing is certain: a good baseball player or PR pro can always knock it out of the park if they employ teamwork, patience, skill, and recognize a lucky break when they see it, too.

This blog was contributed by Clearpoint Agency Social Media and Digital Media Coordinator, Nikki Sachman.

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Clearpoint Agency Earns Three More Awards

Posted on October 27, 2015

Public relations, social media and digital marketing agency has been recognized by PRSA, Health Care Communicators of San Diego County, and PR Daily over its 13-year history

SAN DIEGO – Oct. 27, 2015 Clearpoint Agency, Inc., a public relations and digital marketing firm, received three awards at last week’s San Diego Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Edward L. Bernays Awards. The agency continues its winning streak, having received peer-reviewed Bernays awards for every year in which it has entered the competition. To date, the agency has earned a total of 32 industry awards since opening its offices in 2002.

“Bernays Awards are earned by organizations that performed exemplary public relations work during the past year,” said Amber Albrecht, APR, president of PRSA San Diego/Imperial Counties Chapter. “The awards are challenging to win because the judges are not familiar with the nominees and must critique the work completely on its own merits against work completed by PR teams of all sizes and budgets. Year after year, Clearpoint Agency proves its ability to create exemplary communications programs, earning them awards.”

At this year’s Bernays event, the Silver Mark of Excellence award for integrated communications was presented to Clearpoint for the integrated program for AleSmith Brewing Company, an award-winning craft brewery based in San Diego. As the brewery celebrated 20 years and opened a new brewing facility, Clearpoint created messaging, generated public awareness with significant earned national media, assisted with fundraising concepts, created mascot themes, and ensured the entire strategy from media relations to events was integrated and on track. This is the third time Clearpoint has earned the Silver award for integrated communications programs.

The second award Clearpoint earned was a Bronze Mark of Excellence in speech writing for SynteractHCR. The award-winning speech, entitled “Tomorrow’s Treatments Today,” focused on the opportunities and challenges in bringing new drugs and therapies to the patients who need them and was delivered by a President Obama look-alike at the company’s Washington DC reception for clients and media. This is the fifth award Clearpoint has earned for its work with SynteractHCR. Past awards include business-to-business marketing, website writing and rebranding, overall public relations campaign for rebranding, and internal communications.

The third award was a Bronze Mark of Merit for social media campaign strategies for Zodiac Pool Systems, a global leader in pool and spa product manufacturing. Clearpoint took a fresh approach to Zodiac’s social media to present Zodiac as a fun, approachable and knowledgeable brand. Clearpoint created social campaigns including a 12 Days of Christmas campaign based on Zodiac Pool products, and a “Did you Know?” educational series to increase engagement, followers, “likes,” and fans. This is the fifth PRSA award Clearpoint has earned for its work with Zodiac. Clearpoint was previously awarded for research and evaluation, integrated communications, and social media strategy and management for the pool product manufacturer.

“Every year, the PRSA Bernays submission process challenges our team to examine our creativity, strategy and skills as PR professionals in an ever-changing industry,” said Clearpoint Agency President Bonnie Shaw. “To submit your work and have others in your profession say it’s award-worthy is extremely meaningful to our team. We are honored to be recognized by the PRSA year after year.”

The annual Bernays Awards are open to all agencies and organizations in San Diego and Imperial counties and recognize the finest in public relations campaigns, professionals and elements in a range of categories.

See a complete list of Clearpoint’s award-winning projects here: http://clearpointagency.com/index.php/awards/.

About Clearpoint Agency, Inc.
For more than 13 years, Clearpoint Agency has developed award-winning PR, social media and marketing communications programs for B2B and B2C clients in technology, consumer products, financial and professional services, manufacturing and biotech industries. From strategy and content development to media relations and social media, the experts at Clearpoint’s team have the experience to generate buzz for your brand and creatively communicate your message to target audiences.

Website: www.clearpointagency.com                   Twitter: @ClearpointPR                Facebook: ClearpointPRAgency
LinkedIn: Clearpoint Agency       Blog: Clear View

Contact
Julie Willis
760.230.2424
Julie@clearpointagency.com

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Misconceptions About Public Relations – An Insider’s Perspective

Posted on October 01, 2015

Hand drawn vector illustration icons set of digital marketing and media strategy doodles elements. Isolated on white background

When I was younger, I never really understood the point of public relations. The first time it was described to me, I thought it was a more upscale and esoteric version of advertising, with the occasional writing task and a lot of PowerPoint presentations. With that uninformed perspective, of course, I thought it sounded easy. But as I grew up and eventually started working at Clearpoint Agency, my prejudgment of the industry was replaced with immense respect for it. According to the Public Relations Society of America, “public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” Although people say they understand it, I still hear people confusing public relations with other professions or dismissing it altogether. With that, I want to dispel a few misconceptions people often hold for public relations and hopefully give some perspective on what PR professionals do (I’ll tell you right now, it’s a lot more than just PowerPoint presentations).

Not just a cubicle job
There is always one question people ask when you tell them you work in an office: what do you actually do all day? Stereotypes from Office Space and The Office make people think every office job consists of sitting in a cubicle, endless memos, countless water cooler breaks, and more slow days than full work days. But working at a PR office is not a normal office job; actually, working in a PR office is hard to compare to any job. It’s like the beach: a wave of tasks come in, leaving you to dive into work, and as soon as you come up for air there’s another wave (and occasionally, a break between swells). Even if you go to shore, sometimes the tide is still high enough to reach you. Essentially, work at a PR agency is continuous and ever changing, which makes it varied and interesting. And if a client needs something completed, whether we are at the office or away, we get it done!

If you like sameness, PR is not for you
At a PR agency, day-to-day projects are never the same. You will spend some days pitching journalists, drafting social media posts, or creating media lists; however, most days you will spend doing all three, along with many more unique tasks. Unless you work at a specialized agency, most of your clients will have different expectations for your work. Sure, the process of writing a press release is similar every time, but the subject matter depends on your client’s audience and brand. Our job is to represent our clients, to build the reputation they want. Of course, we provide input when necessary, but we do not make decisions for our clients, as some might assume. PR pros carve the story, present compelling arguments and communicate to target publics.

“I’m a people person”

Along similar lines, prospective PR employees often qualify themselves for PR based on their people skills. After all, the term “public relations” ought to suggest a fair amount of relating to the public. However, PR is a grossly hybrid occupation. It involves social skills in addition to writing proficiency and time management among other things.

Social skills go beyond “being good with people.” At a PR agency especially, it means thinking strategically, handling criticism and being a diplomat. Every piece of original content is read at least twice and edited accordingly to ensure it matches the client’s brand and goals. People who cannot take criticism (or worse, cannot criticize constructively) do not last long in the PR business. Most accounts require work from multiple types of people, meaning there is a decent amount of teamwork involved with PR. We communicate with clients, journalists, other agencies, and coworkers on a regular basis, not just when we feel like talking, to maintain clarity between the many people involved with the business process.

PR practitioners are writers
Still, social competency does not alone make you good at public relations. Many of the services we provide our clients (press releases, website management, media relations, digital marketing, social media campaigns, etc.) require a strong writing ability. It’s not about being a clever writer who can use metaphors and rhetorical devices. It’s about clarity and making sure people understand our client’s message.

Time management is critical
While anyone can understand the merit of time management, most people do not recognize how much time creating relevant content takes. Contributed articles take hours of research, writing and editing. Even the process of creating a single Facebook post begins with a decent amount of research. PR agencies research trends and developments in their clients’ industries, which means looking at analytics from previous posts in addition to competitor and consumer posts. After finding the right content, it’s time to dress it up: proper wording, eye-catching imagery, hashtags, and buzzwords among others decide whether your post is seen at all (and even if it is, there is no guarantee).

The entire process for creating strong content often takes hours between research, writing, approvals and edits; and even then, most posts can’t gain a fraction of the attention generated by a single cat photo. In browsing sites like Facebook and Reddit every day, people have grown into “highlight snobs,” sometimes ignoring substantive posts and looking at content that has already generated volumes of attention based on a fad. Since PR firms create original content for their clients every day, they must adapt to this environment full of memes, trending topics, expectations and judgement in hopes of gaining exposure for their clients. Businesses sometimes hire PR agencies specifically for content generation and social media management because of strategic thought it requires and how time consuming it can be.

These are just a few of the many misconceptions about the public relations industry. It is not, as I once thought, a different form of advertising; nor is it a single-variable profession. Understanding the truth behind the myths will show you that public relations is an important element to communicating what an organization stands for and what it wants to communicate. I know my time at a PR firm has shown me the incredible value a good PR firm provides to its clients; a value not measured in dollars, but in sense.

This blog was contributed by Clearpoint Agency intern, Conner Shaw.

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Substance Or Style? 10 Things to Consider When Hiring a PR Firm

Posted on January 13, 2015

Businessman Choosing The Right Door

Working with a public relations firm can help your company generate buzz and differentiate against your competition, creating awareness of products and services as well as improving brand identity. A good PR firm will create messaging, develop a customized communications strategy, manage your corporate reputation, communicate with your audiences, pitch the media on your behalf, and even build loyalty with your audiences via social media. But how do you know that you are choosing the right PR firm? What questions should you ask when interviewing agencies? Here are 10 tips that will help you to navigate the process:

  • Clearly identify your goals before you start interviewing. When you are clear on what you want to achieve, it will be easier for you to indicate goals and expectations to the prospective agencies. They will be better able to define strategies and assess if they are even the right agency to pitch your business. If you are concerned that you may need to tell them about upcoming products or services that are, as of yet, not released for broad review, ask them to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Reputable PR firms will not hesitate to sign it, and they will be prudent in keeping your secrets.

 

  • What experience do they have? Some agencies are focused on B2B or B2C clients; others have had a mix of both – which is right for you? Do you need local, regional, national or international exposure? Look for an agency that has handled clients with similar needs. An agency doesn’t have to have had clients in exactly your same industry but they do need to know how to get up to speed quickly. Ask what methods they use to get an in-depth understanding of your market and competitors.

 

  • Can they write? Content is king – as Bill Gates said way back in 1996! In nearly 20 years since then, almost every company has become its own publisher. An agency that focuses only on media relations or social media won’t meet all your needs today. Ask to see samples of press releases, articles, websites, blogs and posts they have written. Do they follow AP-style guidelines? If they don’t know what that means, beware!

 

  • How current are they on social media and digital marketing? The world of communications evolves daily. An agency should be able to explain to you the various methods they use to develop relationships with your audiences and how they integrate all of those techniques to gain the most exposure. Integration and re-use of marketing and PR materials will get you the best bang for your buck, as the saying goes.

 

  • How do they pursue media coverage? Gaining media coverage, especially in print publications, is challenging. Your company must have the stories that will appeal to the editorial community and your agency must be persistent in pitching those stories. Ask them about their responsiveness and how they keep abreast of topics that the media might like to cover. Can they offer media training to your executives? What does it consist of? How does your PR team support your interviews? Can they handle a crisis? Look for a team that cares about your reputation just about as much as you do.

 

  • Is the chemistry good? This is a tricky one. Make sure that the primary contacts who will be working on your account are the ones you meet in the pitch. Then focus on substance over style – you’re not looking for the flashiest agency but one that understands your business, has a proven track-record, and cares about your success. We also think it’s important to have a team with a range of ages on your account – the senior members have strategic experience and business acumen, the younger ones have current technical skills and creative passion – when you get a mix of the two, you’ll have a more complete range of perspectives on your account.

 

  • Are collaboration and communication important to you? Assess what type of agency you want to work with – one that is very collaborative and becomes a close member of your marketing team or one that just takes your lead and executes it. Communicate that to the prospective team. Find out if their style matches yours. Ask how long their clients typically stay with them and look for an agency that has longer-term clients to know that they play well with others.

 

  • Do they have systems in place to maximize efficiency? Even a boutique firm needs to have enough established procedures to ensure efficiency. Ask about what they do to track your competitors, what tools they use for identifying appropriate reporters and for handling social media posts. What planning do they engage to ensure your budget is well-utilized? The directness and honesty with which they handle these types of questions will help you to know if you can work with them.

 

  • Is your budget realistic? Recognize that what an agency has to sell is its time and expertise. When you find an agency that has the contacts, the writing skills and the philosophy that provides what you need, ask what their typical client budgets are. You want to be running in the same ballpark with their other clients so you will get the time and attention your account deserves. While boutique agencies are often specialists at getting quite a bit done on modest budgets, they still need enough hours to think, plan and strategize so that the writing and pitching they do makes sense for your company – so give them a large enough budget to meet your goals.

 

  • How do they measure success? How much reporting is done often depends on the size of your budget because that is time spent on your account, too. Sending you clips of media coverage is only one measure and it is pretty typical. Some agencies do extensive activity reports; others keep those status reports short and put more time into the actual implementation of your activities. So check to see what reports they do as a standard matter of procedure. Then if you want additional reporting, plan the budget to accommodate it.

 

By assessing both “hard” and “soft” skills you will have a better chance of working with an agency that meets both your substance needs and style of operation. Remember that most agencies, even though they may require an annual contract, have a 30-60 day cancellation clause. The reason for this is twofold: one, it allows you to get out of a contract if you’re really not happy, and two, it gives the agency time to fix issues before you drop the relationship. Public relations success takes time and persistence to achieve, so, while you should see a flurry of activity pretty rapidly, expect results to increase over time. PR is a long term strategy that builds momentum over the course of months, not weeks.

This blog was contributed by Beth Walsh, Vice President at Clearpoint Agency.

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5 Ways Video Content Drives Results for Your Brand

Posted on May 30, 2014

Workplace with tablet pc showing media player and a cup of coffeVideos are a mainstay for the modern marketer and for any business wanting to compete for attention online. Engagement rates are often higher with video than with other forms of marketing content today. Competing for attention in a vast marketplace is challenging, demanding and often confusing for marketers and content managers. Utilizing video will help get attention for your brand by reaching overwhelmed audiences with creative and compelling content. Here are 5 of the biggest reasons Clearpoint Agency suggests using video content in your digital marketing strategy.

 

  • Immediacy: The Content Marketing Institute asserts that there is simply “no content on the web today has the same viral potential of video, and few forms of content can match it for immediacy.” Video impacts directly, and is absorbed very easily; with the sights and sounds an audience experiences, video provides the most direct contact besides actual face-to-face interaction.
  • Traffic: Cisco recently estimated that video will account for nearly 70 percent of all Internet traffic by 2017. Using video to create traffic to your site is a great idea not only because of the size of the market, but due to the fact that 64 percent of people are more likely to buy a product after watching a video about it. Having your videos in multiple locations drives customers directly to your site to make purchases.
  • SEO : YouTube is the second most popular search engine in the world, accumulating more than 30 million viewers per day and more than 1 billion viewers every month. High-quality videos with the proper tags and key words often earn very high search rankings. Having well-produced videos linked to your site, or to your social media accounts can really go a long way in terms of search engine optimization (SEO).
  • Engagement: Videos are a great way to become more important on social media because visual content yields high levels of engagement, and video content surpasses still images. Social Media Today reports that companies with Vine (a popular video sharing app) accounts see a 400 percent higher share rate with Vine videos than any other form of video content.
  • Retention: Consumers are much more likely to remember video content than other marketing materials. Text and pictures simply cannot compete for space in the viewer’s memory if there is video present. According to TechSmith, 80 percent of people can recall a video ad within 30 days – that’s the retention rate every marketer dreams of.

 

As the Internet and social media landscape continue to evolve, adapting to changing trends will elevate your content marketing program and drive results. Video has evolved into an indispensable marketing tool to grab your audience’s attention and boost engagement with your brand.

 

In short, people love video – USE VIDEO!

 

This blog was contributed by Ryan Sabatini, Account Coordinator at Clearpoint Agency.

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Five Tips to Make Your Business Facebook Page a Success

Posted on April 28, 2014

Woman Clicking Like Button. She Likes It!Today it seems like everyone is on Facebook. That’s probably because more than half of the United States population has a profile. Even Grandma writes “happy birthday” on your timeline. The good news is Facebook isn’t just for catching up with grandma or posting pictures of your cat anymore, it is an effective marketing tool for business! According to HubSpot social media produces almost double the marketing leads of trade shows, telemarketing, direct mail, or PPC.  So, how does your business get a piece of this marketing pie? Here are five tips to develop your business Facebook page into a successful marketing piece.

1. Always keep an eye on your end goal, otherwise you run the risk of getting caught up in all the Facebook chaos. Set up a list of objectives to accomplish through the use of Facebook. This will prevent straying from the path. Questions to consider when establishing goals are “Why should the company have a Facebook page?” or “What is the company trying to accomplish through social media in general?” For example, some companies invest in social media to increase brand exposure, to increase web traffic, or to gain market insights, according to Social Media Today. Decide what’s important to your company and stick to it. Remember to keep your expectations realistic, too.

2. Don’t spread yourself too thin. Stay dedicated to the plan you have committed to. There are many social networking sites out there, and it’s tempting to join every one so as not to miss out. However, too many companies set up a social media profile, update it once and then forget about it. The profile turns into a “ghost” of your former ambition. It looks careless and inconsistent. Best to have just one or two profiles and do a good job managing those.

3. Stay relevant. This goes back to posting pictures of cats, and other stuff people don’t care about. For example, it’s not effective social media if a pharmaceutical company posts about a celebrity’s tragic outfit. Facebook is an opportunity to present your company as a highly credible and knowledgeable industry source. Post about topics that your audience is going to be interested in and find valuable.

4. Have fun! This is a chance to swap formality with personality. People like to see companies as humans too. This opens up possibilities for great brand and customer relationships, and to build trust between the two. Show your brand’s personality and your company culture with cool images, fun pics of your team, feel-good posts about your community and other human interest posts.

5. Be generous and you will be rewarded. Share the posts you find valuable from other Facebook pages.  By sharing you not only help a customer, partner or influencer reach your audience, but you will benefit from reaching a wider audience because their followers will see your share when you tag the original post with that Facebook’s handle.

This blog was contributed by Samantha Forth, Account Coordinator at Clearpoint Agency.

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The Press Release is Not Dead

Posted on March 06, 2014

The value of press releases has been a topic for debate for a few years now, and we heard it discussed recently on a PRSA Google+ Hangout with several top Los Angeles tech reporters. That inspired us to give our answer: we contend the press release is not dead! Coincidentally, so did all of the LA reporters on the Google+ Hangout.

Here are three reasons why the press release is still a knockout tool in public relations –

Boxing business woman punching towards camera wearing boxing glo1) Helps reporters fact check: Whether or not a reporter interviews a source, they still rely on press releases for the important details. Several of the reporters at the PRSA Google+ Hangout said they use press releases for fact checking. Releases provide pertinent details such as dates, properly attributed quotes, features, pricing and availability in one quick, accessible resource. Is the press release dead? “Absolutely not,” said Natalie Jarvey, tech writer for the Hollywood Reporter. The details are especially important for time sensitive news. “[The press release] has all the information you need,” says Ben Kuo, of SocalTech.com.

Pro tip: Make sure your release has those key data points. Hard facts, quantifiable numbers, and real data is important to give your press release life.

2) Provides SEO and general visibility: Your press release can increase search engine optimization (SEO) and help your company be seen by current customers, potential customers, and the media. Thanks to Internet distribution, these key audiences can see your press release on RSS feeds and news portals, and be inspired to give you a call. We regularly get calls from reporters who saw a client’s latest press release and wanted more information.

Pro tip: Use professional newswires for the best distribution online, know the key times to release news for optimum visibility, and always do custom pitches for coverage.

3) Builds your content marketing toolkit: To continue to rank well in search engines, websites and blogs need regular updates with fresh content. Updating your website’s News section with the latest press release is a great way to keep it refreshed. The same goes for your blog. And press releases really get nine lives when they’re used as posts on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

Pro tip: Make sure when updating your website or blog with a press release that you use a platform that can be easily read by search engines. Some methods are easier than others.

The press release IS learning to share: Those are several reasons why the press release is still alive. But it is evolving, as are other news-dissemination tools. The press release is no longer the only viable platform for public disclosure. In March 2013, the US Securities and Exchange Commission announced that Facebook and Twitter were considered valid for corporate disclosures. Some companies strictly use their blog as the place to share company news.

The important thing to remember is the press release tells your story, and it has to be legitimate news backed by real facts. There are still people out there who wrongly believe press releases can use “spin” to make something out of nothing. That is not the case! Sometimes, a press release is just not the right option. For example, if someone important said something nice about your company? Great – put it on social media. Or your age-old software got its 15th update? Unless it’s a major change, put it on your blog and send the update to specific audiences. Your latest news may be best suited for another tactic.

We see great value in press releases and were so pleased to hear several reporters agree with us. We encourage our clients to use press releases to share newsworthy information, and we’re always happy to provide guidance on what is, or isn’t, appropriate for a press release.

Long live the press release!

This blog was contributed by Lexy Haynes,Director of Client Services at Clearpoint Agency.

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The Life of a PR Professional

Posted on October 31, 2013

I was recently asked to create a video to share with Public Relations and Marketing students at SDSU. The goal was to hear from PR professionals about their experiences working in the field. In particular, they had two questions: what I wish someone had told me about PR, and what my favorite part about working in PR is. We thought it’d be a valuable thing to share on our blog too.

Check out the video for my answers here: http://youtu.be/CTiF7EqpF0M, or read highlights below!

Highlights:

What do I wish someone had told me about PR before I entered the field? I had two answers:

  1. Lead with your writing skills. There is a misconception that PR is all about hosting events, networking, and engaging in-person with people. The reality is that the majority of our work in PR is sitting at a computer writing. When you prepare to enter the field of PR, lead with your writing skills and make sure they’re great. Because you’re going to need them.
  2. Be prepared for a never-ending balancing act. In public relations, your day is never the same. We are constantly getting requests, both expected and unexpected, from coworkers and clients, and we have to be able to manage an always-changing list of priorities. You have to be flexible and organized.

My favorite part about PR? My answer is simple, but I think it really is the true essence of what I love about the job:

  1. I love being a problem solver to our clients. Just doing great work that takes care of their needs and helps them do their job better. Whether it’s analyzing survey data, writing a creative press release, or crafting an award nomination that wins, I love creating and delivering a beautiful piece of work that solves my clients’ problems. It’s very gratifying and I get to do it every day.

Senior Account Executive Lexy Haynes

If you ever have questions about the life of a PR pro, feel free to contact me at the office or on Twitter at @ayates. I also highly recommend checking out your local PRSA chapter. In particular, San Diego has a great chapter for new professionals, click here for more info.  (Shout out to our own Antonia G. who is currently serving on the New Pros board.)

This post was contributed by Lexy Haynes, Senior Account Executive at Clearpoint Agency

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Awards are expensive, labor intensive and stressful – and we highly recommend them!

Posted on September 30, 2013

bigstock-Successful-Business-Team-Showi-6981887Recently our public relations firm received three Bernays Awards from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) for media relations, internal communications and blogs. We also recently placed as a finalist in PR Daily’s Digital PR Awards 2013 for best website for our agency’s website redesign. Clearpoint Agency has been entering and winning these types of awards throughout its 11 year history.

I won’t lie, it feels good to win! But entering your work for these types of awards is time-consuming and costly in terms of man hours. And when combined with the entry fee, award dinner tickets, and often a new outfit so you can look good as you sit there with your fingers crossed, awards are an expensive endeavor.  So why does Clearpoint enter these awards year after year? And why do we suggest you enter awards in your industry, too?

Verify Excellence. Awards affirm you are doing great work, creating stellar products and employing the best in class techniques. Especially when the award entries are judged on the merits of quality and creativity, or whatever criteria is most appropriate in your industry, by impartial professionals or experts.

Keep You Focused. Let’s face it, there are shortcuts for everything.  Yes, even in PR. But the process of completing winning award submissions reminds us that by developing solid strategies and following the correct process  – research, planning, execution and evaluation – we assure the marketplace we are creating strategies that are well-thought out and objective-driven.  As a PR firm, we know that inventive and sexy PR programs can be exciting, but do they do any good if they don’t address the market accurately or meet client communication objectives and business goals?  No.

Raise Visibility. People like to do business with a winner. Awards communicate excellence to business prospects, partners, associations, recruits and opinion leaders. For awards that are more than a popularity contest, like the PRSA Bernays Awards, the market has one more way to judge your importance in your particular industry and standing against competitors.

Improve SEO. Award announcements, in the form of press releases, blogs, and social media posts also boost your search engine optimization (SEO).  Fresh content, photos, links and posts all work to raise your visibility with search engines.  So don’t be shy about spreading the word if you are honored with an award.

Attract and Retain Talent: In the PR agency business, talent retention is an important goal. It may be a challenge in your industry as well.  If you submit the company’s work for awards and receive accolades, your employees feel confident they are working for a company that produces top-notch work or products. They feel proud and part of something that is deemed “award-winning.” The benefit?  Increased loyalty.

Awards are also important for recruiting. Today’s job hunters do a lot of research before they apply. Awards on your website and news sites makes you attractive to young professionals and experienced professionals alike.

Onboard New Employees: We use our award-winning submissions as examples of good work to show our new employees as part of the onboarding process. They are a great way to explain who our clients are, show how we develop PR programs, and detail creative strategies we have used in the past to get results. In your business, you can do the same and set the stage for the quality level you expect from new hires.

Help Land New Business: Awards provide third-party validation and signal to prospective customers that they are making a good choice in considering your company, particularly if the award is for a market area or business challenge that is paramount for them as well.

Create Another Line in Your Company’s Story: When you win, tell the world. We put out a press release when we win awards. When people search for PR firms, we want them to see that Clearpoint consistently does award-winning work and our peers recognize us for that. It also helps us tell our firm’s story of consistent quality and goal-driven PR that keeps our client retention high, and keeps us loving what we do! By broadcasting your good news to the world, you are sharing your culture and improving your history.

So, are award submissions difficult and costly? Absolutely! Should you enter the next time you are proud of your product or service? Without a doubt!

This post was contributed by Bonnie Shaw, Clearpoint Agency President.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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10 Pointers on Writing and Distributing Extraordinary Press Releases

Posted on May 06, 2013

At Clearpoint Agency we think daily about writing press releases that not only convey the news, but communicate what our clients and products are all about.  The press release is critical to the entire PR program because it serves as the hub for so many forms of communications – emails to clients, social media, blog topics, website content and more.

Here are 10 tips we recommend if you want to write and distribute press releases that are exceptional!

1. Write a clear and compelling headline – no more than 22 words
Always put the company or product name in the headline. If you are using a newswire service (which we recommend you do – see tip #9) they will require that you identify the company or brand in the headline as well.

Make the headline interesting – search the web for ideas on how others have announced a new client, product or version.  Use your research to make your headline straightforward and interesting to your target audiences.

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2. Optimize your headline
Search engines rely heavily on page titles when determining rankings. Your press release’s headline is probably the single most important factor in press release optimization. Search engines don’t understand a play on words, so your headline should be straightforward and use the same language someone would use to search. Make sure you include your most important keywords/phrases. To be indexed in Google News, your headline should be between 2 and 22 words. Google Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) often limit titles displayed to about 67 characters, so your most important news should be in the first 67 letters and spaces of your headline.

3. Don’t forget a subheadline
The subheadline is another opportunity for you to tell the audience how important your news is or highlight benefits to key audiences. Just try not to repeat words from the headline or communicate the same exact concept in the subheadline. Give it some thought.

The subheadline can also help with SEO. While the subheadline will not be included in the title tag and therefore has a less significant role in press release SEO, its early placement in the body of the release makes it a great place to incorporate additional keywords not included in your (less than 22-word) headline.

4. The lead is important
When writing the lead paragraph remember the inverted pyramid, which calls for most of the facts of a press release be contained at the beginning. The lead paragraph succinctly includes the who, what, when, where and how of the story. If the reader were only to read the lead of a good press release, they would have a clear idea of your news. You can expound on the details in subsequent paragraphs of the press release.

5. Link early in your release
Hyperlinks are critical to SEO and press release optimization. Links help search engines associate the content of a release to other sites, which helps the release’s ranking. As with using keywords, linking is most effective in the first few paragraphs, where search engine spiders focus the most.

6. Avoid clichés like the plague (pun intended)
Basically a cliché is something that has become too familiar, overly used or commonplace. The use of common expressions instead of more creative, compelling phrases to communicate an idea is the true mark of an amateur writer.

7. Don’t use weak quotes
Really no quote should start with “We are so (fill in the blank with pleased, excited, honored, etc.) Get creative and maximize the power of the quote.  Use quotes to inject opinion and color into the press release.  Include a benefit statement or address the pain that the audience is experiencing and how the news solves the challenge.  Quotes are valuable real estate – don’t waste the opportunity.    You don’t want the CEO or other executives to seem as if they are going on and on.  Keep it tight and conversational. Also, here’s your chance to be promotional and insert some of the company’s key messages and/or services.

8. Add rich media to your releases
Readers love to see links to videos and images so they can learn more about your company and product. Google and the other major search engines love content with rich media (images, video and audio) too. Optimize your images by ensuring they have clear file names that describe the image and even incorporate a keyword (“ProductName.jpg” rather than a file name “Image_1234_v1.jpg”). Include a descriptive caption for any multimedia asset you distribute. Don’t forget to include your logo with your release (some wire services charge extra for this), as it is the image most likely to come up if someone searches directly for your brand name.

9. Use a newswire service if you can afford it
The newswire service will distribute your news to third-party sites, which is very good for SEO, and typically distributes to news rooms and bloggers across the country (depending on the wire and circuits you choose).  And an added bonus: the editors at the newswires who review the press releases before they are distributed over the wire are typically very good at catching mistakes and typos!
Also email your press release to key media contacts along with a CUSTOM pitch that tells them why the news is so important. Don’t “spam” editors, journalist and bloggers with emails that start with “Dear editor.” Instead personalize your note to them and offer a little information they might not get from the press release alone.  Here’s another hint: read a few of the journalists’ articles before you contact them to be sure they would even be interested in the topic of your announcement.

Email the press release to your staff, customers, partners and investors.  It’s astounding how often we think of getting news out to complete strangers before the people who care the most about the news.

10. Hire a PR firm if you don’t have the capability – it’s worth it!
If you are uncertain of your press release writing capabilities or simply unsure what the news angle should be (that’s a hint that it should contain an angle) then hire a PR firm to assist.  The good firms will ask you a lot of questions, and do their homework before they start developing press releases for you. And it’s worth it. PR is more than a press release or getting pickup of your announcements – it’s a long term strategy that will raise your visibility and strengthen your credibility, with the press release as the core.

This post was contributed by Bonnie Shaw, Clearpoint Agency President

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