Sunday, October 21, 2012

The recipe calls for 3 cups reputation, ¼ cup engagement, and a dash of edginess…

Image credit

Although researchers at The University College London are claiming that ‘happy accidents’ a.k.a. serendipity moments are no accident, it does not mean you can rely on them to make your PR campaign an effective one.  There is definitely some great timing required which you can chalk up to luck, but unless you have a well-researched and planned out campaign all of the luck in the world isn’t going to help you.  With the added pressures of budget and time restraints a PR pro cannot afford anything other than getting their campaign right the first time.

Luckily there are a multitude of methods you can employ, which are completely customizable, to get you the most salient data for your campaign.  If you are trying to examine a particular issue, or discover something then you may want to employ primary research methods such as surveys, interviews, polls, and focus groups.  These are usually quite expensive, and if sample size, question format, or quantifying subjective ideas so they can be measured is not done correctly you will not get accurate results.  Most of us use secondary research in our daily lives when we look at existing data and information, and using it for a PR campaign is just as effective.  These campaigns cost much less, trends are apparent, you get extensive information in large areas, and data is easily measured. 

Regardless of which method you choose you will be conducting research for the same reason.  You want to know who you publics are, how they feel, what’s important to them, thereby where you should focus the most time, money, and energy.  The formative research is the difficult part, but it is going to ensure you are running your campaign effectively and efficiently.  Without completing the formative research you run the risk of missing your target audience, sending them the wrong message, sending them extraneous and irrelevant information (zero value added at a high cost), and having your product/brand ignored.  When you put the effort into doing the appropriate research and correctly interpret your results this translates into the most tangible measure – dollars and market share.  Your social media presence and popularity can be measured by social media measurement tools, a positive reputation and customer loyalty will endure long after your campaign has ended.   Once your campaign has been completed you will do some evaluative research, which is especially important if your campaign is not as successful as anticipated.  This will provide you with invaluable secondary research for any future campaigns, and a great opportunity to learn from your mistakes. 

There is no measurable combination of qualities that will determine how your PR campaign will turn out.  What from outward appearances seems to be completely subjective – perceptions, opinions, ideas, and beliefs can be quantified.  This is done through (proper) research.   You only make the sophistication of the extrapolation, interpretation, and translation of that data look like luck because you were so prepared.     

Monday, October 15, 2012

Interview with Shelly Smith-Hines

Image Courtesy of
Her name is Shelly Smith-Hines (LinkedIn), and she has over 15 years of experience with event planning, fundraising, sponsorship, marketing, proposals, presentations, promotions, and everything in between in both the non-profit and for-profit world.  She is currently the Manager of Marketing and Promotions for Bell Media Radio Winnipeg and a member of the Certified Meeting Professional  (CMP) and Canadian Marketing Association (CMA) professional organizations.  She received her Bachelor of Arts in Geography and History from the University of Manitoba, but has obtained a lot of her myriad of experience through life-lessons.   Read on to discover her PR journey.


Did your education prepare you for working in the industry?

I was going to be a teacher, but the more time I spent thinking about what the day to day job would be it didn’t appeal to me. I finished university but got quite sick just before the end of my last year, and had to go home close to 9 months. I am from a small town in North Western Ontario and everyone is connected. I ended up working at a child development centre for the wife of one of the university teachers that my family was close to. I worked with her planning meetings and marketing for different programs. I learned a lot through trial and error from the school of hard knocks and that’s what set me on my path. I learned a lot at university, mostly about life, but not a lot about what I would end up doing. There is a lot to be said for education and the formal end of things, but there is so much more to be said for the connections and networking. The formal education is so much more important now than it was then [when she started], because it will open the door, but the ability to network and connect with people is huge.

How did you get to where you are today?

My first real big break was doing a lot of the event planning and marketing for the Folk Arts Council of Winnipeg, which is Folklorama , and I did that for 5 years. That was a huge engagement opportunity that was a ton of fun. You get to meet people from every culture in the city, and because it’s a festival and everyone is having fun you make some great connections – many that I still keep in contact with to this day, and will keep in touch with for the rest of my life.

From there I went to the  Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba for 6 years doing the community events and the Teddy Bears’ Picnic planning, which to this day, is one of the most rewarding jobs I have ever had. If there were more growth opportunity there for my career I would have stayed, without question.

I did a few contracts after leaving the Children’s Hospital Foundation which worked well for certain aspects of my life, but did not provide the flexibility I was looking for long-term.

After that, I went to work with The MS Society of Canada, which I did for five years, and loved it. It is a great organization - they are one of the most innovative non-profits going, there was a lot of collaboration across the country which I got involved with. I was on the National Sponsorship Team, did a lot of presentations and training at different conferences and I really enjoyed it.

Then this opportunity came along, and it was unlike anything I had ever done. I had also received an offer with a non-profit at the same time. I thought to myself, “I want to diversify my portfolio.” I had a few friends that worked in the industry and spoke with one that worked in a similar position with a different radio group. He said, “You will never be bored!” which I think translates to ‘you will never stop working!’ [laughs] I love it – there is never a dull moment and I feel lucky to be here. Our local leader is innovative and he has done every position within the building. I cannot say enough about his ability to lead and nurture our growth.

Tell me about a project that you worked on that you are especially proud of.

With the MS Society I changed the way that we did sponsorship, and ended up getting us hundreds of thousands more [dollars] than we would have had without the change. I am probably most proud of that. I spoke at conferences and wrote a few articles that went along with that, and it is still a model they continue to use. It was by no means a model that I developed, but it was something that I had learned through a few very intelligent people that are still engaged in what I do today.

What has surprised you the most in working with PR/Promotions?

What is most surprising is the rate at which things are changing. Unless you have the flexibility and ability to move with the times, there is much that changes so quickly, you can fall behind really fast.  

How important is writing in your career?

It is about to become more important. We write proposals for clients that are value-added to any sales campaign going out. What we have done in the past has been far too clinical, and we’re about to shift the focus to detailing the benefit to our client. During my life in non-profit all of my sponsorship packages had at least a page and a half of information about the client and what I had learned from talking with them. During our discussions they told me their needs and desires, I came back to them with what we had to offer. Great writing comes from great listening. You don’t have to be the most eloquent writer, but if you can prove to someone that you have understood and actually heard them, how can they say no to your proposal?

Do you believe that Social Media has changed how you do things?

Yes, it has on several fronts. There is so much more that you have to be aware of, even on your personal accounts. There really is no such thing as a personal page anymore – if you list your company, connect with partners, sponsors, or anyone you have business connections with it is no longer a personal page. Anything and everything you say is reflected on yourself and the company and I am continually conscious of that. Once you say something it’s out there and cannot be undone, every word you put out there and every picture you post is forever. The announcers do a lot of the blogging and posting, so we remind them to be cognisant of that. There are also great positives to it as well – it provides a great opportunity to engage a large group of people. The beauty and objective of any post is that it can get picked up virally. The number of people that have ‘Liked’ a page isn’t really important, so many people focus on that, and it’s great but unless that information is passed on it hasn’t made a connection with anyone. Any post that you put out needs to be thoughtful, but there still needs to be some ‘organic flow’ to it. I am not a fan of the expression, but it cannot appear to be scripted or insincere. If you want to see a great example of that check out the @LAKings during the 2011 playoffs. There were real comments from real guys about what was happening and they did a great job.

Describe a typical work week.

It’s not a Monday to Friday 9 – 5 job; it’s a Monday to Sunday whenever-the-phone-goes-off kind of a job. There are days that are 18+ hours, but there are days in the summer that you get the opportunity to take off on a beautiful afternoon and enjoy the weather.

Radio is unique - it is a lot different than many other mediums and you can change things on a dime. If someone calls me today to let me know they need something changed, it gets changed.

I have a team of two other people that I work with, along with our part-time folks. I could not do this job without my Coordinator Amy Houston and Assistant Travis Mitchell – we’re a comprehensive team and everyone works closely together. We are appropriately positioned in the building in the middle because we have a huge balancing act between the programming end of things and the sales end of things. How do you make the clients and advertisers happy, that are bringing in dollars, and still not compromise the content that is put on the air for the listeners. It’s an interesting little juggling act.

If I had to give a ‘typical’ explanation of the week:

Mondays are a follow-up from the weekend and prep for the rest of the week. Tuesdays we have our promotional meeting to discuss how we will execute any promotional campaign that comes in. The team splits up the work discussed during the promotional meeting for the week.  Following the promo meeting I will typically have a 3 hour teleconference with the Bell Media Review Panel. So any logo or usage of corporate images or branding has to be reviewed by this panel. Wednesday we try to make sure we have all of the scripting, which is called ‘liners’, prizing, and report guides put together. Travis will work on making sure that all the proposals we have that will include a liner are provided to the announcers so they can review them the following week. Thursday we are trying to wrap up any proposals that we have promised for the week. Friday we review of where we’re at, and what is going on during the weekend.

You can have a perfectly laid out plan for the day with a checklist and by the end of the day worked your tail off and not checked off one single item. We impact so many different people within so many different departments, your day can get hijacked at any moment, and you need to be able to flow with that.

What do you wish you had known before starting your career?

The differences from a non-profit and for-profit company on the money side end of things. So I would not have had to learn that one the hard way. It would be nice to have a crystal ball to see how things are going to morph and change, and how quickly. That being said, I wouldn’t be here if I didn`t enjoy it.

What are three tips you would offer to someone just starting out in the industry?

1.  Make Connections! Especially if you are a student, so many of us are so willing to talk to people. Take advantage of student rates for membership to professional organizations. There are a lot of social media groups on LinkedIn I would connect to. Don’t use it like Facebook and add people indiscriminately, but never decline a LinkedIn invitation because there is a reason that person wants to connect to you and you just do not know it yet.

2.  When you look at moving into the industry, go and interview people. Don’t be afraid to do this, even if it is not for a class project. The more you can do that the better. When I was starting out my mentor told me to do this. There may not be any positions open at a company, but you’ll get an in-depth look at so many different opportunities. Ask for 15 minutes of a manager’s time to interview them, and respect that time.

3.  Talk to headhunters so they have your information on hand. You never know what opportunities may spring up.

The brands Shelly Smith-Hines represents

I really cannot thank Shelly enough for taking the time out of her very busy schedule to speak with me and give me a snapshot of her professional world.  As I had mentioned in my first blog post - this industry is wrought with hard work, but the rewards are endless.  Speaking with Shelly has done a lot to inspire and encourage me and I feel a deep inner excitement to see where this road will take me.  It has always appealed to the part of me that requires a fast-paced, dynamic, and challenging work environment.  She has also reiterated something we have heard Samantha Lapedus discuss in class - this industry is a group of personality traits and the instincts needed are learned.