content marketing

Good Communications = Good Business

A recent Fortune 500 company survey says chief communications officers are gaining more access to C-suite decision-making. That's a good trend, but it's also an old trend that somehow got sidetracked.

A recent Fortune 500 company survey says chief communications officers are gaining more access to C-suite decision-making. That's a good trend, but it's also an old trend that somehow got sidetracked.

A recent corporate survey reflected a growing reliance in the C-Suite on chief communications officers. While this is encouraging, it is about time. Or, more accurately, about time again.

"These best-in-class corporate affairs officers shoulder a broadening scope of responsibilities and an increasing mandate to act as high-level strategic advisers to CEOs, and they frequently serve as members of the senior leadership team," according to a Korn Ferry Institute survey.

Good news, but the public relations profession in the United States began as senior advisers, usually reporting to the president of a company. Only over time did PR became a department that was shuttled down the hall. PR became a corporate function, not a source of valued advice.

In fact, heads of PR departments struggled to be in the room when key corporate decisions were made. Sometimes they were given directions, but never consulted on matters revolving around communications.

There may be many explanations for why the role of a senior communications officer has been resurrected and accorded more respect. Certainly one reason is the rise of online content marketing and the eclipse of traditional advertising. Customer engagement puts a higher premium on two-way communications, and brands can be negatively impacted by an ill-advised CEO tweet or an inappropriate or ill-timed post on Facebook by a staffer.

In a digital world where everyone with a laptop, tablet and smartphone is an editor, communication strategy and style plays a larger role in cultivating and maintaining a brand.

Internal communications is no longer just about a bland note from the CEO or pictures from the holiday party, but a forum for continuous improvement and an advance warning system of competitive trouble.

A communications crisis can happen any time, requiring companies to respond rapidly using tools like Twitter to provide real-time updates to the media, employees and impacted communities.

While companies certainly need hands on deck to pitch stories, write ads and engage on social media, they also need a voice or voices at the very top level to ensure corporate strategies reflect sound communication strategy. That's where senior PR counselors started and, hopefully, that's where they will return.

Embedding smart communications into an overall corporate strategy is good business. And it has been good business for a long time.

Public Affairs and PR

Communications are strategic when they are based on solid research, regardless whether you are pitching public policy or soda pop.There is a difference between public affairs and public relations, but not much, or certainly not as much as some would say.

A recent blog by Paige Hawin contrasted the two, saying public affairs is associated with legislation and public policy, while public relations is aimed at connecting with the public to implement a marketing plan. She said PR is often regarded as an extension of advertising. 

We disagree. All forms of strategic communications are at their core marketing, or should be. The marketing discipline demands solid research to inform communications strategies, choices of spokespersons, mix of tactics and preferred channels — regardless whether your objective is to change public policy or sell deodorant.

Ringing in New Year of Media Relations

Media relations hasn't disappeared, but it is evolving along with media itself, requiring successful story pitchers to be nimble, adaptive and creative.Media relations hasn't gone away, but it has changed as media has multiplied and evolved. There are more outlets to monitor and pitch, including your own self-publication platform.

Even the press release has managed to survive in a faster-paced, highly segmented media world, but it also has assumed new shapes and purposes.

The overlapping crazes of social media and content marketing have lost some momentum here and there, but they also are adapting and adjusting.

So the key is not to arrange eulogies for positions and tactics. Instead, be alert for change and learn how to capitalize on new circumstances. Most important, concentrate of delivering quality, useful information with sharp story hooks, which remains the hallmark of attracting media attention

Storytelling as Your Elevator Speech

You need to be able to make your pitch in 30 seconds. Just as important, your elevator speech needs to focus on why what you do is important to your customers or clients. 

The elevator speech has taken on added importance as more people realize you have only one, fast-moving moment to make a memorable first impression.

But the last thing you want is a first impression just about you. That first impression needs to center on how your work uniquely benefits your customers or clients.

This difference parallels the evolution from advertising to content marketing. Instead of shouting a message, you deliver useful, relevant information. The elevator speech, in its slim 30-second format, needs to follow the same pattern. Don't shout, solve a problem.

So instead of rattling off your list of services or products, your elevator speech should focus on a simple story about how you helped a client or customer. You only have 30 seconds, so offer just enough detail to showcase your value.

People have a hard time remembering lists of things or key messages without a lot of repetition. They can and do retain the essence of a good story. And stories are a tried-and-true way for people to absorb complex information, put it into context and coat it with a positive feeling.

Staff meetings and marketing retreats often stress the need for a solid elevator speech that everyone in an organization can use to underline a brand promise or identity. Too often, the elevator speech exercise in a staff meeting or retreat is just that — an exercise, not a new habit.

Rarely can a group write concise prose that conforms to the way different people actually talk. And elevator speeches need to be more than a glib tagline. A story with the right stuff can be told in various ways to the same effect. It is a perfect answer for a widely accepted and commonly used "elevator speech" in your organization.

Original Content is King

When you share content from other sources, you are sharing other people's thought leadership, not your own. The antidote: write about what you know.

For talent-strapped organizations, content curation has come to mean surfing the Web, finding relevant material and reposting it on your blog or website. There is nothing wrong with seeing what others are saying. But it doesn't say much about you if you just parrot what others write.

Original content is the best — and perhaps only — way to demonstrate your thought leadership. Original content is based on your experiences and reflects your point of view. It is your expression, not a counterfeit.

Borrowing a theme or imitating an approach is as old as, well, Shakespeare, who plucked his plots from ancient texts. But what you do with what you borrow is what counts. No one would say Shakespeare plagiarized Plutarch even though he borrowed some of his words.

Your thought leadership goal should be to project your unique experience or value propos

Content Marketing in Public Affairs

If your aren't adhering to the principles of content marketing, you may not be doing your job as a public affairs professional.Some public affairs professionals pooh-pooh content marketing, even as they devour op-eds, letters to the editor and media coverage of their pet topics.

Content marketing has been embedded in public affairs DNA for a long time, becoming an essential tool to explain complex issues and demonstrate the consequences of action — or inaction.

White papers, proof of concept, legal analysis, third-party testimonials and financial audits are long-time public affairs staples. They have been augmented by SlideShare presentations, infographics and videos to tell your side of a story.

A critical principle of content marketing is producing material that attracts and sustains the interest of your target audience. When they do their jobs effectively, public affairs professionals zero in on what's important to a lawmaker, regulator or neighborhood group. They generate communications that answer the questions their audiences want answered.