Peak Communicators
April 16, 2015

Visuals, Social Media, and Hillary Clinton, oh my!

On Sunday April 12th, 2015, Hillary Clinton finally announced her much anticipated run for presidency. When this news broke, the conversation did not seem to focus on her qualifications, her platform, or even the possibility that she may become America’s first female president; the chatter was all about her campaign logo.

Within hours, social media was ablaze with critiques and comparisons to her block-letter “H” with a red arrow running through it: some saying it resembled hospital signage, while others stated it looked like something created by a 10 year old on MS Paint.
To be fair, Hillary is not the only political pundit to be on the receiving end of this type of “crowdsmashing”, a term coined by Paul Ford to describe how social media has allowed people to rally in a mob-like fashion to pick apart something they are not pleased with.

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Crowdsmashing can be even more vicious if a well-known entity decides to undergo a rebrand. People do not like change, and social platforms allow them to voice that displeasure, and find out who else shares in their unhappiness.
This whole debacle surrounding logos and social media got me thinking about two facets of communications I deal with on a daily basis:

1. Our world is becoming increasingly visual

Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram currently lead the way in terms of fastest growing social media platforms. What else do these three platforms have in common? They’re light on text and heavy on imagery. In a digital era where our attention is so fleeting, we are placing increasing value on things that are visually appealing to us. If we don’t like what we see almost immediately, we are clicking/swiping/scrolling on to something better.
This phenomenon can also be extended to something like your company website. You may be the best and most innovative at what you do, but if your website appears dated, unorganized and difficultto use, it will be seen as a reflection of your business and users will start looking elsewhere. Remember that 55% of users spend as little as 15 seconds on your homepage, so your website has to catch their eye in order for them to stick around and potentially use your service.
In terms of media, TV places an extremely high value on great visuals. If your pitch to TV outlets doesn’t offer imagery that will entice their viewers to continue watching, don’t expect to have it picked up.

2. Everyone’s a critic

When a client story is told on any outlet type, the content is typically shared across social channels, or is open to comments online. You could be telling the happiest or most factually correct story possible, but there’s likely someone out there who wants to point out something negative, or who claims to know even more than you (I’m sure all the people critiquing Hillary’s “H” have years of graphic design and branding experience).
One negative, anonymous commenter on a story likely isn’t something to sweat about; however it is important to continuously monitor the chatter surrounding your brand online. Whether you’re running a social media campaign or a news story about your company just broke, following along with audience sentiment is vital in informing you of what aspects are and are not working, and whether or not you need to get out in front of a crisis before it starts to escalate.
When it comes to day-to-day social media responsibilities, if your company is receiving questions or complaints, it is important to respond to them quickly and professionally even if you find them trivial or know them to be incorrect. Ignoring these public comments will make it appear as though you have something to hide, or are neglectful of customer needs.

So whether you’re trying to become the President of the United States or just trying to generate business, understanding what is visually appealing to your audience and monitoring the conversation surrounding your brand online is important.

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March 20, 2015

Kickstarter: Online Dating for Companies

Until recently, my experience with Kickstarter was fairly limited—I loosely understood it as a fundraising platform for companies or projects. So when one of my for-profit clients announced they were launching a new product via a Kickstarter campaign, and needed extensive PR support to get more “backers” (campaign supporters who donate funds in exchange for a product or service) to reach their fundraising goal, I knew I had my work cut out for me. kickstarter-badge-funded-300x287

In a nutshell, Kickstarter was developed to help creative projects flourish among target audiences—it is a low-risk channel that connects early adopters and innovators by introducing new products or services online at a discounted price. The concept is comparable to a commercial version of online dating—matchmaking in commerce. Typically campaigns last for 30 days and all financial proceeds collected during this time are used to help the company cover innovation costs and the expense of bringing the product or service to market.

While Kickstarter was a novelty that received extensive publicity when it launched in 2009, it is now ubiquitous. Rising above the chatter to deliver a topline Kickstarter campaign can be a difficult task that requires a well-thought out marketing and publicity strategy. Product websites, ad buys, news releases, case studies, video, social media, bloggers, events and direct marketing executed before, during and after a campaign are all excellent promotional tactics that increase exposure.

However, I quickly learned one of the most invaluable tactics, that has consistently achieved the best results in campaigns, is word-of-mouth support from your backers and brand supporters. Getting your backers to endorse, rate and review your product or service will always produce more authentic public content than you can generate internally.
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Furthermore, if the media—i.e. influential bloggers and well-known outlets (such as The Huffington Post, Forbes, Fast Company, Mashable)—see that the general public is buzzing over your campaign, they will listen and are more likely to mention you in their next blog or article. Don’t underestimate the power social media, word of mouth and the loyalty of brand fanatics. While marketing your campaign is both important and necessary, taking your Kickstarter campaign to the next level requires looking outside the walls of your company for support.

Pebble-Kickstarter1-300x188Take Pebble Technology’s most recent Kickstarter campaign for its new Pebble Time smartwatch. The company has raised $$19,256,637—3,851% of its $500,000 Kickstarter goal—with seven days of the campaign still to go. While Pebble benefits from previous experience with Kickstarter, much of the campaign success is due to the company’s large social media following, word of mouth and ongoing media attention.

Here are a few basic tips that I learned from my experience. I hope they prove useful for those of you preparing to launch a Kickstarter campaign of your own:

  • Be sure there is a genuine interest for your product or service, and a real need for external funding
  • Communicate with your customers before you launch your campaign, and maintain consistent communications with backers and customers during and after the campaign—do not lose contact with them simply because they have pledged for your campaign
  • Ask your backers to talk about your product or service among their networks
  • Remain active on your social media accounts and be sure to post consistent updates to your website and Kickstarter webpage
  • Proactively identify and reach out to select media and bloggers that have a specific interest in your product or service area
  • Be consistent, transparent and genuine—continue to post updates and communicate with your backers and the media well-after the campaign is completed. You never know when you will launch your next Kickstarter campaign and the ongoing exposure is vital for the success of your company.

Many of the writers and bloggers I spoke with were interested in publishing a follow-up piece on the successes and learnings from the campaign. All publicity is good publicity, after all! So you didn’t get the results you were after? My advice: reach out to your media contacts and backers anyway to tell them what you were happy with, and what you would change next time. This shows your humility and willingness to learn, and will help generate support for your next Kickstarter campaign before it’s even been conceived.

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Interested in learning more about Kickstarter? Here are a couple of useful articles that may help get you started:

 

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March 6, 2015

12 Years in Business

This past Wednesday marked 12 incredible years of Peak Communicators. It was great gathering with our friends in the media and past, present and potential clients to celebrate with a sparkling wine tasting, live music and lots of delicious food!

If you weren’t able to join us for all of the festivities the other night, check out these photos collected from “#Peak12” for a taste of the fun.

Thank you to all who attended – support like yours has been what has helped our company flourish for over a decade. We can’t wait to see what the next 12 years has in store!

 


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February 27, 2015

Sweating for the Wrong Reasons

Fans devoted to hot yoga typically embrace the heat, but in recent days Bikram’s founder Bikram Choudhury is sweating for a different reason. The famed guru is currently facing six U.S. civil lawsuits for rape or sexual assault. The latest legal case has been filed by a Vancouver woman who claims Choudhury sexually assaulted her while she was yoga training and working with him.

When a negative allegation is made, even if it’s eventually unproven or dismissed like in the case of John Furlong, the damage is done.  It takes years to build up a brand, but only seconds to have it shattered by slander or harmful rumours. There is much at stake for the reputation of Choudhury’s trademarked empire. With 650 yoga studios around the world including 29 in B.C., a breach of trust will have a detrimental impact on Choudhury along with the businesses that spent years building their individual success upon the multimillionaire’s personal brand.

This is where crisis management communications comes into play. Peak Partner Alyn Edwards was recently interviewed on CBC News to discuss what local Bikram franchises can do to confront the current reputation crisis. He also looks at the dangers of why it’s precarious to build a brand around a single person’s name. Unless you have an irreproachable reputation, it’s impossible to escape the burden of risk. Watch Alyn’s interview below for expert PR tips on what brands can do to mitigate the impact of a crisis. *Hint – it starts with having positive key messages and sticking to them.

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February 24, 2015

Peak a Finalist in 2014 Ragan PR Awards

For the second year in a row, we’ve been named as a finalist for the best health/fitness program in Ragan’s 2014 Employee Communications Awards!

The International Ragan Communicationsawards accept entries from across the globe. From an abundance of top-tier entries, Peak’s was chosen by the judges to be one of six finalists. Ragan-PR-Awards

For that reason, we’re proud to even be recognized. The award winners are to be announced in late March – consider our fingers crossed until then (all positive vibes appreciated)!

As proud as we are about being chosen as a finalist, it’s the actual program itself that we want to boast about.

Health and fitness is a huge priority here at Peak. Maybe it’s due to the fact that most of us are natural fitness fanatics and health enthusiasts… or the company breeds them – either way, keeping fit is a huge part of our daily culture.

Why workplace fitness?

Speaking as one of those fitness fanatics, incorporating daily fitness and overall wellness is essential to productivity and contentment in the workplace. It’s one of those ‘oh I know it’s important, but I don’t have time’ components that unfortunately aren’t made to be a priority for many companies. But, for those companies who do, and especially those who incorporate health and wellness as part of their culture, they reap many benefits.

Here are a few:

  • Healthy employees will be more productive and cost employers less in absenteeism and sickness costs (reference: The Globe and Mail).
  • Fitness encourages group participation which helps employees build relationships with one another. A more connected team results in a more productive one.
  • Employees participating in health programs are three times more likely to be engaged in and satisfied with their jobs (reference: a 2013 Keas employee happiness study).
  • Fitness helps reduce stress and mental-health related issues in the workplace.

Worried about the cost-benefit for increasing health and fitness programs for your employees? Check out this article on 11 low-cost ways to keep your team healthyfrom Entrepreneur.com (now you have no excuse).

Whether you have fun fitness challenges at work, provide your employees with gym passes or have an employee health plan, you are making your employees happy and healthy and cutting costs related to your bottom line – sounds like a healthy business model to me.

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January 22, 2015

We Are Hiring! Digital PR Consultant

Location: Vancouver   |  Closes: Ongoing

Peak Communicators Ltd. is looking for a hardworking and enthusiastic Digital PR Consultant to join its expanding team in Vancouver.

Reporting to the Vice President, the Digital PR Consultant will contribute to the day-to-day strategy and tactics of various fast-paced and exciting digital and social media accounts.

Responsibilities

  • Daily social media monitoring using licensed tools
  • SEO & SMO of social media accounts including basic design
  • Updating clients’ social profiles including design
  • Organizing and managing social media client files
  • Managing blogger and influencer relations
  • Creating, fostering and managing social brand communities
  • Creating original strategic social media campaigns
  • Establishing metrics programs for social media campaigns
  • Blog post writing and social post authoring
  • Develop and master different types of social media writing skills (e.g. social news releases, blog posts, social posts, Twitter chats, blogger pitch notes)
  • Contribute well to internal brainstorms and add creativity to campaigns
  • Know and work within budgets set
  • Assist in generating ideas for clients by proactive and lateral thinking
  • Assist proposal or RFP preparation – provide research, conduct social media analysis
  • Develop confidence with clients, social influencers and colleagues by building knowledge and expertise
  • Develop good time management and task prioritization, delivering to agreed deadlines

Qualifications

  • Minimum five years related experience in social media communications at an integrated marketing, PR or advertising agency
  • Experience working with social media tools such as Radian6, Sysomos, Hootsuite and Google Analytics
  • Experience with InDesign and Photoshop considered an asset
  • Proven ability to work efficiently and diligently as part of a team
  • Experience publishing on various blog platforms
  • Excellent written and verbal communications skills
  • A bachelor’s degree in a relevant field from an accredited college or university is required

If interested in applying for this employment opportunity, please send your résumé and cover letter to hr@peakco.com.

Interviews will be held on a rolling basis and the successful candidate will begin immediately.

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September 5, 2014

Chasing Bigger Results? Think Broader When Defining Your Audience

think-big-wavebreak_media-stockfreshBuilding a company image or brand profile is no easy task: competition is tough and consumers are sales-savvy and cynical. While it’s natural for companies to want to promote their product or service, some methods are more effective than others.

As an independent public relations agency, we act as the extended arm for many in-house marketing teams. Though we have a common goal of increasing exposure and building a positive public image for the company, we often go about it a slightly different way.

Typically, we hunt out and share a company story or concept that appeals to a broad audience that could include journalists, potential customers, industry experts, researchers and even competitors.

This often means taking an idea, a thought or an industry trend that, while relevant, is one step removed from the company’s product or service, and holds greater meaning to more people. Such content may come in the form of a media articles, research trends or blogs, and will:

  • Have broader relevance
  • Allow more people to relate to the topics discussed
  • Back up all claims
  • Avoid promoting a single product or service
  • Potentially draw upon credible research
  • Leverage a trending school of thought

Most importantly, this content will appeal to journalists who’re seeking objective, informative and digestible stories to keep their readers coming back for more.

Sounds simple enough, right?

Perhaps in theory. However, we’re frequently faced with the challenge of striking a balance between creating informative stories that attract diverse readership, and elevating a company’s product or service to target potential customers. What pleases a journalist commonly will not appeal to a brand ambassador.

So how do we manage this predicament?

According to Marketo’s recent market research and Content Marketing vs. Traditional Advertising info-graphic, sharing media articles is one of the mosteffective content marketing strategies—in fact, it is ranked a close second behind social media out of all available marketing tactics.

download (3)Based on these findings, and in our experience, there has never been a better time for companies to expand their reach via original, objective and compelling content that resonates with journalists and is likely to be published.

Once published, not only will the coverage become an invaluable asset for the marketing toolkit, and boost the company’s SEO via high-quality inbound links, it will demonstrate to both potential and current customers that the company has a vested interest in thought-leadership and contributing to its industry—not merely boosting the bottom line.

In our opinion, any well-rounded marketing and communications plan should include quality journalism and media coverage that appeals beyond the company’s immediate audience—thinking broader produces bigger results.

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July 2, 2014

Email Etiquette 101

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By now everyone knows to be careful what they share on social media.

Potential and current employers may be monitoring your online activity, or it may be brought to their attention by others who deem your posts inappropriate or offensive. Even corporate social profiles have a heightened sense of what they share after the US Airways NSFW image fiasco, and more recently the Delta Airlines giraffe debacle (get it together airline social media!)

When we share on social channels like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, we know our posts will be broadcast to either the public or to a list of followers we have approved. Emails, however, we often assume are private. Like a phone call, they are typically not intended to be viewed by the general public.

Evan Spiegel, the 23-year-old founder of the billion-dollar app SnapChat, learned that this isn’t always the case, when a number of blatantly sexist emails he sent out to his fraternity during his college days, were publicized on Gawker.com and nearly every major business and technology publication in the days following. I am not here to condemn Mr. Spiegel on his less-than-eloquent language, as it may be argued that he was, and is, a 20-something frat boy uneducated in the impact of language. What I am here to do is remind us that we too could fall victim to embarrassing email mishaps, and provide some simple steps on how to prevent them.

Double check who you’re sending to

A certain member of my family who shall remain nameless once told me how he responded in a not-so-favourable manner after finding out that one of his colleagues would be taking charge of a major project, not realizing that the same person had been cc’d on the email. This resulted in a 45-minute phone call of back pedaling and apologies.

Proofreading the body of an email is second nature for many, but it is also important to make sure you check who exactly you are sending a message to before hitting send.

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Know your audience

You may be quite chummy with clients, reporters or coworkers, but at the end of the day you are involved in a working capacity and a level of professionalism must be maintained when communicating over work email. Be aware that what you share and how you present yourself to these people could have an effect on your rapport with them.

Be wary of your formatting

Tying into the previous point, how you format an email to your mother or best friend should be different to how you format a business email. A proper greeting and signature, punctuation, and a clean font can say a lot about the quality of your work. It’s difficult to take someone seriously in Comic Sans.

Think before you hit send (or at least be prepared to stand by what you say)

At the end of the day, be it on social media or in an email, don’t send something you’d be embarrassed to have publically shared. I’m sure Mr. Snapchat figured his messages would never go beyond the inbox of those in his fraternity, but in a leadership role with his Stanford University chapter there was an expectation of him to have a  level of professionalism, and his subsequent success made him an easy target for dirty laundry airing.

Though most of us won’t go on to create wildly successful phone apps, everyone wants to have a good reputation in the working world. If you are going to say something risqué, be confident in backing that statement if it is ever brought to light.

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June 4, 2014

Why Bloggers are Essential to Your Media Relations Campaign

Did you know that 8 in 10 internet users trust information and advice they get from bloggers, and that 6 in 10 have made a purchase based on a blogger’s recommendation?

What if I told you that 63 per cent of consumers are more likely to be influenced toward purchase by a blog than a magazine?

Blogger outreach is becoming an increasingly important element of a successful PR campaign. Traditional media sources such as TV, radio and print used to be the only way to share stories, ideas and opinions – but as we know, sharing information via the internet has allowed information to be available at your fingertips within seconds.

new-bloggers-tagsWhat is it about blogs?

Honesty and trust: Bloggers share personal opinions and reviews that readers trust to be honest and authentic. The average person has exposure to roughly 600 advertisements a day. It doesn’t take long before people start realizing ads are intentionally placed to make you feel as though you need or want something.

  • Blogger benefit: People trust real people. When they can put a face to a name and feel as though they can relate on a personal level, that trust provides more value than any other form of communication.    

Influence and leadership: Some bloggers are just as influential as journalists. Most news outlets reach a certain demographic and, depending on their scope, may not be your target demographic. Bloggers are seen as thought leaders and can generate massive followings.

  • Blogger benefit: Look at your campaign goals and think about your demographic. Would they be more influenced by way of traditional media, blogs or both?

Trend starters: Due to the mobile generation, bloggers have begun to actually share news before media can even become aware of the story. With blogs being the first source for information, traditional media outlets often reference blogs to provide credibility and value to their own stories.

  • Blogger benefit: Bloggers live in the real world and blog anywhere on the spot, giving them an upper hand when it comes to timeliness. People no longer need to read the news paper tomorrow morning to find out what’s happened the day before – they turn to social media to find out what’s happening now.

Social amplification:  It’s every brand’s wish to have something they’ve created “go viral.” Blogs are the landing pages which are then turned into links to be shared though social sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Reddit. Bloggers create social sharing opportunities that traditional media often cannot.

  • Blogger benefit: Bloggers want their content to go viral because of the fame that could result. From sponsorships to media coverage and increased followers – it’s in their best interest to work with you. Aka, a huge win/win.

Don’t just take my word for it  – take a look at these three outstanding blogger outreach campaigns to get an idea of how beneficial blogger campaigns have been for other brands.

So the next time you are planning a media relations campaign, ensure that targeted blogger relations component is included to complement your traditional outreach. This combined approach will optimize exposure, influence and engagement for your brand.

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March 21, 2014

Peak Announced as Finalist for Ragan 2013 Employee Communications Award

Employee_Communications_Awards_2013_FinalistsThis week we were excited to learn we made the finalist list for Ragan’s 2013 Employee Internal Communications Awards. Peak was one of five finalist companies selected under the “Best Health/Fitness Program” category for our innovative health and fitness month that took place in October 2013.

For 31 days, our dedicated team supported each other to eat healthy food and drive our fitness routines above and beyond the status quo. Points were awarded to each staff-member who went the extra mile and increased their daily workout.  Management at Peak supported staff by hosting yummy fruit-filled breakfasts and a series of healthy pot-luck lunches. In addition to our workplace gym memberships, they also kindly supplied Peakers with sports-bags to help the team carry exercise equipment to and from work. There was an energetic buzz about the office throughout the month.

“For fitness, I’ve always biked during Vancouver’s warm weather months. For the six years I’ve been doing this, I always stop in mid-September,” says Ross Sullivan, Partner at Peak Communicators. “The Fitness Challenge made me rethink that. This year is the first time I biked throughout October and beyond, and felt the health benefits as a consequence.”

download (43)Each year, Ragan awards companies throughout North America for their innovative initiatives and achievements. Ragan’s 2013 Employee Internal Communications Award is designed to recognize companies that push boundaries and try new tactics that achieve great results. Ragan selected this year’s finalists based on their“irreverence, off-beat humor, risk-taking and creativity in the execution of everything they did.”

The winners of Ragan’s 2013 Employee Internal Communications Awards will be announced in the coming weeks in a Special Edition of Ragan.com.

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