Peak Communicators
December 23, 2016

PR in 2016: A look back at a digitally shaped year

With the New Year fast approaching, many of us are already getting ready for the holidays. However, before saying goodbye to 2016 – thankfully! – we at Peak decided to take a look back at what’s taken shape in our industry over the last year. Here is a flashback to some PR breakthroughs that set the stage for 2017.

Changes in the digital world

When acknowledging the benchmarks of 2016, it is difficult to overlook the skyrocketing popularity of Snapchat, or what is now Snap Inc. By launching its Spectacles (sunglasses with a purpose built integrated camera), Snap Inc. ceased being just a social app and became a “camera company”. Snapchat changed the way we shared pictures, now they are changing the way we take them.

Tess Flanders said, “A picture is worth a thousand words” and that idiom has never been more appropriate than it is today. With pictures lasting a maximum of 10 seconds, Snap Inc. is the embodiment of “fast and visual” – a new trend that seems to be catching on. In 2016, the world of news continued its evolution to the visual, but it has also gained velocity. Images are circulating faster as the means of sharing and reposting grows exponentially, meaning opportunities can be squandered more often. Something to keep in mind when creating a new PR campaign in 2017, be ready for snapping!

How to deliver your message

2016 has seen some extremely strong digital campaigns created by both conglomerates and non-profits alike. Disney’s #ShareYourEars, West Jet’s Mini Miracles or 7-Eleven’s Reverse Day are only a few examples of 2016’s successfully carried off digital campaigns. For brands to be relevant, they need to create exclusive content specifically designed for social media; the days of simply repurposing traditional media content are over.

Paid social ads

Increasing use of social media for promotional content is linked to the appearance of another phenomenon that strongly influenced the way PR professionals planned their campaigns in 2016. The digital evolution led to the rise of paid digital and social content, and those efforts are increasingly proving to deliver results. To stay ahead of the pack, PR and communications professionals will have to come up with new strategies to best leverage paid content.

We thought the digital age had already reached its peak several years ago, but technology seems to be as good as its word, and has continued to innovate, challenge and shape the way our industry works and thinks. H.G. Wells said it best, “adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative.”

As we look back at a very interesting year, for the world at large as well as for our industry, we can’t help but wonder what 2017 will bring us. Stay tuned and come back in January to read about our predictions for 2017.

Happy Holidays everyone!

November 25, 2016

How to Spot Fake Online News

As the world’s knowledge grows exponentially, the challenge to sort through the information clutter gets more difficult. We have been bombarded with fake online news stories that are sometimes difficult to differentiate from legitimate news.  A proliferation of fake online stories during the recent USA presidential election made decision making even more difficult for American voters, as they tried finding out the truth about who to vote for. Recently USA Today College posted a story on seven ways to spot fake news stories. It’s an important list that all online news consumers should remember.

Some of the seven ways are obvious but worth repeating. For example, check the date of the news story to make sure that it has not been repackaged or reposted, which is usually an attempt to generate new “clicks” and start the story trending. The original news story may in fact be true and accurate, but repackaged it may be taken out of context and turned into misinformation. Take a look at the publication date as soon as you load the story.

Check the source of the story and find out what other articles they have posted. Does it seem legitimate with a history of good posts or do most of their articles read like a checkout counter tabloid.  After that, do a quick Google search and see if any other legitimate news sources are running similar stories. If you can find it on www.cbc.ca or www.cnn.com  it’s probably real news. Another simple way to determine if a news story is fake is to do some fact checking and find out the source of any accompanying images. Websites like Snopes, Factcheck.org, and TinEye allow you to compare the information to the facts or determine where images, that often add great credibility to a story, come from.

Finally, don’t get trapped by Clickbait – headlines, stories, articles and images that are so funny, so scary or so frustrating that you feel compelled to read or even re-post. After a minute of reflection, ask yourself if this story is too funny or too scary to really be true.

There are other tools available to check news story sources, but it’s also important to use good common sense and a healthy dose of skepticism about anything you read from an online news source, at least until you are certain it is real and credible.

September 28, 2016

Skittles’ Tasteful Response

Every brand both dreams of it and dreads it. It’s the moment the company you represent goes viral and either ‘breaks the Internet’ or just breaks down. Two weeks ago, Skittles was put in this very situation as a result of Donald Trump Junior’s tweet comparing Skittles to Syrian refugees.

Skittles 2nd pic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a Monday and 4:41 P.M. Enter stage right the on-duty social media coordinator for Skittles. Within a matter of hours, Mars’ colourful candy had become the top trending topic on Twitter. All eyes were on Skittles – my own included. What would they do, how long would it take to put together a response, get it approved internally and post it error-free under the pressure. Tweets of support flooded in as PR and social media professionals (and just generally nice people) empathized with the on-duty Skittle social media person, but the clock was ticking…

Skittles 3

 

 

 

 

Skittles had to make a decision – and quickly.

Skittles said what?

Instead of capitalizing on the situation, Skittles smartly stepped back from the situation. Hours later, the brand’s parent company responded from their global handle with:

Skittles 4

 

 

 

 

The response was short, simple, but perfect. It showed that Skittles was totally on top of taking charge of unexpected issues without turning them into reputational crises. While it can be tempting for brands to take full advantage from awkward viral situations, thinking of the bigger picture and how the story will play out is fundamental – especially when it involves politics, religion, disasters or emotive topics.

So what can brands and communicators takeaway from this?

  1. “Keep responses short, sweet and to the point”, Brian Bell manager brand PR, branded entertainment, and talent at Dr Pepper Snapple Group.
  2. Don’t overthink and complicate responses
  3. Avoid getting sucked into providing further commentary once you’ve released your statement
  4. Don’t self-promote or appear to capitalize on sensitive situations
  5. Emotion. Mars’ response demonstrated that they were human and not just a faceless corporate brand

Nice work Mars and social media Skittleperson!

September 23, 2016

‘Parlez-vous français?’ – PR in a Multilingual Environment

As a Pole who spent most of her life in Belgium and recently arrived to Canada, I’ve always experienced communication through the multilingual lens. This unique experience was enhanced by my internship at the Alliance Française de Vancouver where we were regularly asked: ”How do I engage English and French communities?”  In a city like Vancouver which is so multi-cultural, this is an issue we face more often than not – especially from a PR perspective.

Below are a few important aspects to keep in mind when creating an efficient multilingual/multicultural PR campaign.

Iceberg theory

The language is just the tip of the iceberg. We sometimes only concern ourselves with what is visible, or in this case audible; but language is built on a shared history, specific cultural norms, beliefs and behaviours. Or in the case of this metaphor, the invisible and more substantial part of the iceberg.

We don’t just speak a language; we experience it. It’s very difficult to artificially leverage a language without immersing ourselves in the context and the values that surround it.

A language grows and evolves within a culture, and this culture must be taken into account when we apply our PR campaign to another linguistic group. Doing PR in another language does not mean just duplicating the words. We have to take into account the social and cultural context of the people that the campaign is directed to.

Context and cultural background 

While working at the Alliance Française, I was in responsible for organizing cultural events and promoting them to French and English speakers alike. I couldn’t simply translate a promotional campaign that was working well in French into English, the soul and purpose had to be translated as well.

One example, for the 60th anniversary of women’s right to vote in France, we decided to organize a conference about Simone de Beauvoir – a leading figure in French feminism during the second half of the 20th century. We found that the process was quite straightforward for the French speaking public, who were very familiar with the impact of Simone de Beauvoir. However, we had to take an additional step when promoting the event to the English speaking public who were less familiar with her.  We explained who Simone de Beauvoir was in our English promotions and connected the event to the history of Canadian feminism, which proved more engaging.

This is a perfect example of why a PR campaign needs to be sensitive to its audience. Start by researching the subjects which are relevant to your audience. Then test your campaign materials on a native speaker to ensure that they are receiving the message about what the campaign is promoting. In the case of the Alliance Française, if we were assuming that all English speaking Canadians were as familiar with the French culture as Frenchmen are, we wouldn’t have been able to attract much of the English speaking public, had we not tailored our promotional materials to their needs.

“You’re welcome” is not “For nothing”

Most importantly, be aware of word-for-word translations. If you have ever used Google Translation, you might have noticed that it’s usually not the best tool to use if you want to be understood in another language. Translated literally, you’re welcome”  in French will result in “tu es bienvenu”  which means ”you’re welcome to my house”, and if we translate ”de rien” (which is actually what we say for ”you’re welcome”) in English, it will become ”for nothing”, which is not really used in English.

It’s one of the most extreme examples, but it’s definitely not the only one, and it shows us that we must pay attention to different expressions when we pass from one language to another, as what is obvious for you isn’t always obvious for others.

Speaking another language means seeing the world differently, and our diversity is what makes us interesting!

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August 23, 2016

How to Maximize the Value of your Facebook Page

Facebook is often one of the first social platforms a business sets up – and with good reason. Facebook has over 1.59 billion monthly active users as of January 2016, marking a 14 percent increase year on year. Each day, over a billion people log into this channel to review their news feed and messages.

Brands are fully aware of the potential of this platform. In the US specifically, 80 percent of companies have a Facebook page.

What is worth considering is how your Facebook page can be optimized, and whether your business is utilizing all the tricks available. Below are some ideas to make your content work harder for you.

  1. Add value: The trick to creating great content is producing images, text or videos that your audience values – rather than what you want to ‘sell’. If you sell ice cream for example, have fun with it and create ice cream based recipes, run contests for the quirkiest ice cream flavour or incorporate posts on keeping cool during the summer months. Whatever you post, add value every time to your audience.
  1. Community-focused: People ‘like’ Facebook pages to feel part of a community – whether that’s supporting a specific cause, interest or business. While you may have other business related objectives for setting up your page (such as increasing web traffic or sales), keep the idea of ‘fostering a community’ in mind. You can enhance the sense of inclusion by facilitating group discussions and responding to comments in an authentic and helpful way.
  1. Consistency: Posting content sporadically or leaving a Facebook account dormant is a big ‘no no’. People will ‘unlike’ your page when they see it’s not adding value. Create a content calendar and post ideally once a day, minimum, to justify being a worthwhile page to follow.
  1. Facebook Insights: Facebook has a great tool called ‘Insights’ that provides an overview of how much engagement your posts are generating. As well as tracking the number of followers to your page, take time to look at the insights – paying particular attention to the levels of engagement generated by each of your posts. Facebook Insights also tracks clicks, reactions, comments and shares. Use this to learn what your audience likes and responds well to – and provide more of it.
  1. Pin that ‘wow’ content: If you have important content that you want to promote over a longer period of time (say a week, rather than a day) or a post that’s receiving an impressive amount of traction, you can ‘pin’ it to the top of the page. This means even when you post your daily content, your ‘pinned’ post will remain in prime position. It’s a neat trick to make important content go further – without creating a new post.

Most of these are content-focused suggestions. What other ways do you recommend for optimizing your business Facebook page?

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August 8, 2016

Chelsea Clinton’s Speech vs Ivanka Trump’s Speech – who won?

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Chelsea Clinton at the National Democratic Convention 2016

 

Both of the Presidential candidate’s daughters spoke a week apart at the respective conventions. Both are young and attractive women and mothers. Both spoke with praise about their parents. For both it was the most important speech of their lives and in front of the biggest audience ever.

Chelsea Clinton talked of her mother’s love for service and her great skills and love as a mother and grandmother. In contrast Ivanka Trump’s speech was about her dad’s focus on his business career.

If you were reading the text of each speech, they both supported their parents and described what they are well known for. But that is not how TV works.

Back in 1964 Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase: “The Medium is the Message.”  He wrote all about it in his most widely known book, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, published in 1964. McLuhan proposes that a medium itself, not the content it carries, should be the focus of study. McLuhan said that a medium affects the society in which it plays a role not only by the content delivered over the medium, but also by the characteristics of the medium itself.

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Invanka Trump at the Republican National Convention 2016

So put the content of the speeches aside, and think back on how the ladies presented. One person had a clear advantage and expertise performing on TV.  That was Ivanka Trump.  She has co-hosted her dad’s national TV show “The Apprentice” and spoke with ease to the thousands in the stadium and the millions tuning in. She was confident, paused when she needed to and looked like she had made dozens of similar speeches before. She definitely has the training and like her dad she knows how to put on a show.

Chelsea Clinton, not so much. Chelsea has made speeches before, but she’s more tentative, not a commanding presence as all.  While pleasant, she is not a forceful personality. Subtly, she came across as lacking confidence.

Donald Trump does not have a lot of substance in what he says, but his bombastic, argumentative and dominating presence his taken him to the top of the Republican ticket. None of his competitors work TV the way Trump does.

One of the big knocks on Hillary Clinton is that people don’t know who she is – they don’t know her; therefore they don’t trust her. Even when TV media are friendly to her, the TV medium is not.

Does the top TV performer always win? The Trumps hope so.

Fun to watch.

 

May 11, 2016

How Corporate Social Investment Can Improve Your PR Game

Last year I was invited to be a keynote speaker at the Canadian Public Relations Society’s (CPRS) AGM to share my public relations CSI experience on the African continent. This is my story….

Before we get started let’s clarify the definition of CSI and CSR, which are sometimes used interchangeably.  CSI, or corporate social investment, is the organization’s contributions (either monetary, employee time and resources, or gifts in kind) which bring benefits over and above those directly associated with the core business activities. CSR, or corporate social responsibility, on the other hand is a corporation’s initiatives to assess and take responsibility for the company’s effects on environmental and social wellbeing such as companies “going green”.

Companies need to invest in CSI as it ensures their contribution towards building and enhancing the quality of life for the people in the communities that they operate in, both internally and externally.  When companies involve themselves in CSI programs it improves the recognition of their brand and can contribute towards brand loyalty.

CSI provides a social return on investment

Corporate social investment is more than just financial spending; it can also intensify a company’s commitment to its own mission.  Global pharmaceutical company, Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS), for example, launched the “Secure the Future” program in 1999 offering grants to countries in Africa for women and children living with HIV/AIDS.  To date, this has made a positive and lasting difference in the lives of more than 1 million women and children.  The information that BMS has access to in the pandemic, as a result of their social investment, may also prove to be helpful in their on-going research and product development.

CSI initiatives have to be sustainable to be effective

In order for a CSI initiative to be sustainable, it needs to be treated like a business initiative. It cannot merely be an investment with no financial return. Even the most innovative, well-received CSI initiatives will eventually fizzle out if not directly tied to the business motives of the company.  It will only continue for as long as the company has the appetite for spending money. As soon as the economy suffers or profits drop, CSI will be the first thing to be cut from a company’s budget. CSI program stand a much better chance of survival if they are tied to the profitability and sustainability of the company itself.  Therefore, due diligence should be performed on all CSI initiatives: there should be a strong business case, and like all businesses, there should be a business plan with clear, measureable outcomes.

One company that has succeeded in proving a sustainable CSI campaign that is tied to its organizational goals is McDonald’s McHappy Day. In South Africa, for instance, this is a global charity event that aims to raise money for HIV/AIDS orphanages in South Africa.  In the past, celebrities have enthusiastically worked at McDonald’s restaurants nationally over one weekend to raise the targeted amount of money while customers flooded the restaurants to meet their local celebs and to buy a meal.

CSI campaigns have to be authentic to survive

CSI activities cannot be a smokescreen for an organization’s real social or environmental impacts. For example, a company that sells designer clothes that runs an excellent CSI programme aimed at looking after HIV orphans, while most of its clothes are made through child labour in textile factories that use and pollute water unsustainably and foster corruption, is not accomplishing anything but setting themselves up for scandal.

While companies can contribute through CSI initiatives, the impact is far more significant if it is integrated into its core business at a local level, such as its procurement and employment practices.

At the end of the day, a well thought out and executed CSI campaign can work wonders for one’s brand identity and help the brand achieve PR exposure far beyond their expectations. Combined with public relations, a good CSI campaign can take a company to a completely new level and even establish it as a leader and innovator in its industry. As such, companies should consider investing in a reputable CSI campaign to share the love, spread the love and organically boost their brand identity too.

 

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May 3, 2016

Looking Back (and Ahead) at the Canadian Media Landscape

In just a handful of years, the Canadian media landscape has evolved by leaps and bounds. Traditional media outlets like print and television are beginning to give way to digital media, resulting in a significant and dramatic shift in the way media is produced and consumed. Newsrooms have consolidated as digital media continues to change and develop at a faster pace than ever. As more millennials enter the workforce, we’re starting to see brands rely more and more on social media tactics right alongside traditional media.

So, let’s take a look back at a brief timeline of the Canadian media landscape:

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This blog post was contributed by our 2016 Peak Communicators Practicum Scholarship winner and intern, Thomas Miller. Connect with Thomas here!

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April 19, 2016

Creating a Strong Brand: How Ladurée Did It

Almost every day for the past month, as we walk to and from the Peak office on Robson Street in Vancouver, we are greeted by long line ups of people excitedly waiting to get a taste of our newest neighbor, Ladurée Paris. This is not new to us Robson Street dwellers, as we have also recently witnessed the overnight Tesla line ups as well as the many line ups for Kanye West shoes. But, never have we seen it for a month straight. So, what makes Ladurée so appealing that people are willing to wait for hours day after day?

Consider these four reasons:

It starts with a story

It all starts with a strong story: one which not only shares the vision of the brand but is relatable to the audience. This is followed by a commitment to maintain and enhance that story with all other public relations efforts. The Ladurée brand story is intertwined with Parisian history and refinement, and through that story they invite the audience into their world of French luxury and elegance.

The ‘je ne sais quoi’ factor

An important question to ask once the story is defined is, “what makes your product more unique than similar products also on the market?”  Ladurée has been able to differentiate themselves through the idea of authenticity, elegance and sophistication, and by being an active part of the definition of Parisian haute couture over the years through partnerships with high fashion houses and like-minded celebrities.

Old world meets new world

For any brand to be strong, it must be an important part of modern culture while still holding true to its own story and uniqueness. This is done in different ways, but most commonly through celebrity endorsement, social media, word of mouth reviews and of course, PR. From a brief sweep of the 20+ official Ladurée Instagram accounts, it is apparent that they have managed to keep the old French sophistication at the forefront, while still being culturally relevant – from creating decadent macarons based on Disney’s Frozen, to featuring celebrities such as Pharrell and Blake Lively, to partnering with Vogue magazine.

Ladurée is also the first of its kind to open in Canada, and with its choice to be on Robson Street, a street known for having high class designer shops and restaurants, it is also culturally positioning itself in Canada as being more than just another macaron shop, but a standalone designer store.

Personality always wins

The product has to appeal to their target audience and allow them to be drawn into the world the brand has created. At this point three questions must be answered – Is the brand appealing? Will I purchase it? And if so, why? In addition to a strong product, Ladurée has surpassed all expectations on this by answering all three questions. Ladurée has created an experience that is not only appealing to a wide range of people, but is an experience people are willing to pay money for in order to gain something they cannot get anywhere else. Macarons can be bought in many places, but curated Parisian culture and art cannot.

From the pretty pastels, fine china and floral patterns to the visually appealing deserts, the brand has curated a story that the public wants to not only buy into, but to share with their friends and on social media. As a result, Ladurée and other brands with similar buzz are not only accessible, but they create an experience worth coming back to, again and again.

 

 

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April 5, 2016

Three Reasons You Should Care About the Latest Instagram Changes

Did you know: the average Instagram user only sees 30 per cent of their newsfeed? As social media continues to evolve as a business tool, Instagram (conveniently owned by Facebook) is likewise making large strides to adopt the business-minded algorithm that Facebook newsfeeds adopted years back. With this in mind, here’s why the new algorithm is going to affect you and your brand a little more than you think it might:

You’re going to have to try a little harder

Any savvy Instagrammer that you currently follow – businesses and brands included – will be battling it out to be categorized in the aforementioned elite 30 per cent. How do you do this? The answer’s never as straightforward as you’d like, but the bottom line is that you simply need to generate more appealing content so you don’t get buried in the other 70 per cent. ‘Likes’ and comments matter now more than ever.

So how does this affect the once-authentic (and chronological) nature of this image-based platform? Plenty if you ask John Mayer

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Turning post notifications on may not be the answer

If you haven’t been living under a rock the past week, you’ll have definitely come across brands begging their followers to turn post notifications on in light of the new algorithm changes. But, as a business, is this really your best and smartest option?

Asking followers to turn notifications on is a big ask and it puts the pressure on you to deliver. If people start to get flooded with too many notifications, the quick fix is – you guessed it – to turn those notifications off.

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The short answer to keeping people engaged with your page is simply to create engaging content that entices people to ‘like’ and comment on. Unfortunately for content creators, this probably means extra brainstorming hours, but if you keep people coming back despite the new algorithms, you’re golden. Just remember: quality > quantity.

The “Golden Age of Advertising” is now

Advertising on social media doesn’t carry the same stigma now that it did when it was first introduced on Facebook, then Twitter. There’s a reason you’re starting to see more sponsored posts on Instagram these days – it pays off.

And, thanks to the new Instagram algorithms, you’re seeing ads from businesses that are deemed interesting and relevant to you based on the people you follow and things you like on Instagram and Facebook.

As a business, considering advertising buys on Instagram isn’t a sign of defeat. It’s a means of generating engagement from an audience that is hand-picked to fit your target market. The ads are also unobtrusive meaning they look just like any other shared image or video. So, while you may be seeing less organic reach in the future, you’ll at least be seeing more lasting engagement.

So, for now, we’re saying goodbye to the chronological Instagram newsfeed users have come to know and love and embracing (or at least trying to) its new algorithms. Above all, keep calm and don’t turn on post notifications…just yet, anyways.

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