Bold Moves Inspire, Motivate and Change the World!

By, Aaron Blank

At The Fearey Group, we live and breathe our motto, which is thinking fearlessly while coming up with bold ideas. We always challenge ourselves to think outside the box in ways no others do (or at least we tell ourselves this!). So, of course, I would say yes, when asked to speak about my Bold Moves in 2013 at the annual Counselors Academy PRSA conference in Key West. Goal: inspire fearless thinking, invoke boldness and demonstrate how boldness wins as agency leaders.

2013 was the boldest year of my life.

The local Puget Sound Business Journal said I took over a PR firm from “the godmother of Seattle’s public-relations industry…where she presided over an about-face in gender dominance and a legacy of community involvement.”  Bold? In my world, not bold enough.

In April, my family and I adopted Ermias from Woliso, Ethiopia. When we traveled to this third world, we didn’t really know what was in store for us but we didn’t care. Ermias was our family. His first month at home in Seattle was spent at Seattle Children’s battling a few nasty infections.  Several weeks later, we learned that Ermias had Epidermolysis Bullosa, a very rare genetic connective tissue disorder that is known as the worst disease you’ve never heard of.  Bold? Not bold enough in our world.

In November, we partnered with Children’s Hopechest to find 150 of the most neediest children in Ermias’s birth town and started a new care point site. The goal is to find people in our social networks to fund these children’s childhood from now until they are 18. In exchange, they will get food, shelter, clothing and security in a place where that simply is not available. Bold.  Yes, but we are not done!

Life is full of unknowns. Boldness only advances the ball.

In my talk, I will tell these stories while providing real world examples on why being bold sets you apart from those around us.

Running a public relations firm is a tricky thing.  The first several years are considered to be the years when you’re learning how to ride a bike, or learning how to type. Garrity PR agency owner Tom Garrity said it best: it is like you are in a “hunt and peck” mode and then you transform it into its own unique form. CAPRSA is a place for PR firm owners and agency leaders to share, inspire and motivate each other. Tom, along with many agency leaders from around the world will be there to share their bold moves. Join in on the conversation. It is worth the time, energy and resources!

 

Guest Post: PRSA Counselors Academy Preview – How You Can Develop Marketing Solutions to Drive New Business Opportunities

Today’s guest post comes from Pam Golden, President, GLA Communications and Bret Werner, Managing Director, Catalyst Public Relations, an IMG Consulting Company. Pam interviewed Bret to get a sneak peak of his presentation to the PRSA 2014 Counselors Academy Conference. The conference is from May 4-6, 2014 in Key West, Fla.  

Virtually every agency faces the same internal struggle.  We excel at doing great work for our clients, helping them achieve their communications goals.  But, when it comes to achieving our own goals we tend to fall down on the job.   You know what I am talking about.  We’ll focus on the agency when we have time, but clients come first.  And, more often than not, creating a new business strategy falls to the bottom of the to-do list.

The time has come to make your agency the number one client.  And, there is no one better to tell us how to achieve this than Bret Werner, Managing Director, Catalyst Public Relations, an IMG Consulting Company.  At the upcoming Counselors Academy Spring Conference, Bret will discuss “How You Can Develop Marketing Solutions to Drive New Business Opportunities.” 

 Bret will discuss why every agency needs a differentiator that sets it apart from the competition.  He will share how creating a marketing piece that showcases your expertise and insights, that works for you throughout the year and that resonates with prospective clients is the key to success.  And trust me, he knows what he is talking about.  The Catalyst Fan Engagement Study is the industry standard and Bret will share how his agency comes together to create this study and how it has helped them attract top tier new clients.

 I met Bret at last year’s Counselors conference in Austin and can promise you that you will come away inspired to create new marketing solutions for your agency. 

 A veteran attendee at Counselors Academy, Bret Werner joined Catalyst as Managing Partner in 2006 and is spearheading the agency’s dynamic growth as a leader in strategic media relations. Prior to joining Catalyst, Werner spent 15 years at Taylor, formerly Alan Taylor Communications, becoming one of the youngest Vice Presidents in the company’s history. Werner has created marketing communications efforts to help distinguish consumer brands in a variety of industry categories, from sports and nutrition, to online and packaged goods.

 

Pam Golden, President, GLA Communications

Pam founded GLA Communications in 1986 during the first wave of the home technology boom. Since then, her expertise has helped fuel many of the most successful communications campaigns in the field. With Pam’s help, home satellite TV became the most quickly adopted consumer electronics product in industry history. Just a few years later she helped launch the technology that would become the new market champion—the DVD.

In addition to managing the agency, Pam provides high-level strategic and tactical counsel to GLA’s clients, bringing the benefit of more than 20 years of experience in creating and executing campaigns that work. Her extensive network of key media relationships, keen understanding of the inner-workings of the media, and affinity for strategic communications in the technology sectors have brought consistent, winning results for clients in national broadcast, online, cable, and print media outlets.

Twitter: @PamPR

bret-bio-lg.jpg

Bret Werner, Managing Director, Catalyst Public Relations, an IMG Consulting Company 

Bret joined Catalyst as Managing Partner in 2006, and is spearheading the agency’s dynamic growth with global brands that include SUBWAY Restaurants, Under Armour and vitaminwater. During his tenure the agency has experienced revenue growth every year while maintaining client and staff retention at 90+% on an annual basis.

Prior to joining Catalyst, Bret spent 15 years at Taylor, becoming one of the youngest Vice Presidents in the company’s history. Bret has created a variety of marketing communications efforts to help distinguish consumer brands in a variety of industry categories, online, sports, health and packaged goods.

He helped develop consumer strategies for brands such as Subway, Microsoft’s Xbox and ESPN.com.

His work on behalf of MasterCard’s global sports sponsorships has taken him around the world, from the European Football Championships in England to the African Cup of Nations in South Africa where he played an essential role in the development of global activation communication platforms.

Twitter: @bret_werner

Why Attend a Conference?

By Aaron Blank

Each day our email boxes are full of mails from conference planners trying to entice you to attend their conference. Is it worth it? The time and money alone are pricey hills to climb. I am writing this blog post to tell you that you should find and pick the best conference to go to — and go! Break out of your day-to-day motions and learn from others.

I’ve done both – been to PR industry conferences – and I’ve been to conferences outside my industry. Both are equally as good. This year I am attending the PRSA 2014 Counselors Academy Conference from May 4-6. The focus is on the keys to PR agency management. I’ll have the chance to expand my knowledge base, improve some skills and network with others with similar situations. In past years, I’ve attended WPPI’s Wedding and Photography Conference & Expo (2014’s conference was last week). Why? Well, I learned a ton about the multimedia facet of our industry in a completely different way. Plus, I left feeling inspired in new ways.  

While you may think you are awesome at your job (YOU ARE!), I am sure you will learn something valuable just by spending a day or two outside the office. What do you get from attending a conference? Rejuvenation, excitement! for your work, ideas, and relationships!

For my agency counterparts, who either manage an agency or a team of PR professionals, CAPRSA’s annual conference is worth the time and effort. I assure you, your work will still be at your office when you return, but you’ll come back to it with a refreshed outlook.

See you in a few weeks!

The Power of the PR Baton

The PR Baton

By, Aaron Blank

We hear it every day – “Twitter is changing the way we tell stories.” As a PR professional, I have to love it.

Twitter and the endless tools and apps that rally around it each have contributed to my professional development, my awareness of the community around me, my ability to connect with others at any time. More importantly, it has aided me in telling stories and to hear those of others.

When I was asked by Dana Hughens and the Clairemont Communications team (Raleigh, North Carolina folk) to carry the @PRBaton, I was immediately interested. Though in its infancy (I was baton twirler #3) it was the chance to help the PR industry tell a story about itself that excited me. People always ask – “what is it exactly that you do?” My answer is usually – we help build relationships for people and companies with people and companies. But it is way cooler and sexier to show your industry in a visually compelling way.

The PR Baton opens up a window in to our world. We’re fathers and mothers. Husbands and wives. We drink coffee or tea (or wine!). We have small offices or big offices or no offices. We run, jog or drive to meetings. We’re up early and go to bed late. We listen, read, taste and dream.

As a PR professional, no two days are alike. One day we are live streaming a major announcement, the next we are in the trenches with our clients strategically planning for 2014, or helping them through tough situations. In the morning, it is writing blog posts, by mid-day we are building out a social media strategy plan and come nightfall it is off to an event to support media. Big brands, small brands. Business to business. Business to consumers. From Forbes to the community daily newspaper. From C-Suites to those on the front line. Every day we get the chance to help people tell their stories – so who are we?

The Baton is a powerful new tool that displays our PR profession, brings it to life and shares a story from one end of the world to another.

Dana is thinking fearlessly. She and her team have created a simple concept, using off-the-shelf social platforms, to tell a story. The PR Baton does this so perfectly and it gives the world a straight up look at what Public Relations is really about in a visual way. The goal of it is simple – Show the world what a day in #PR looks like one photo at a time. It allows PR pros come together in an Instagram photo relay that offers a play-by-play pictorial of what it takes to make it in the PR business.

Dana, the Baton was a great experience. You have me hooked. You have my team hooked. As a result, we’re giving you the title of: “Ultimate PR Baton Twirler!”

My experience was documented. It came and went. If you missed it, you can still check out my PRBaton.com story to visualize my day and see exactly why I switched phones because of the Baton experience.

The Fearey Group: The Next Thirty Years

Imageby Pat Fearey

The first thing I wanted when I started my public relations business was an electronic pencil sharper. I needed to write a lot. And the efficiency and technology of those whirling blades seemed to foretell a promising future. That was 33 years ago, and I couldn’t have guessed my good fortune.

I got my start doing public relations for the Seattle Center. After a few years, I began dating the man who eventually became my husband: Jack Fearey, Seattle Center director. I didn’t want anyone feeling they had to show me special deference because I was dating the boss so I left for a short stint doing PR at the Southland Corporation. It wasn’t too long before I hung out my shingle. My first big client was the Northwest Marine Trade Association, the folks who put on the annual Boat Show. And we never looked back.

Just a few short years ago, we used to huddle around a large table in our office to assemble press kits. Today, that table is pretty much unused, a place to put the large paper cutter, which also seems like an antique. When I started, there were no cells phones, no faxes (remember those?), no desktops. An IBM Selectric was a big investment. Everything has changed in communications. Sometimes, it simply astounds me.

But technology isn’t the biggest part of the story. That’s always been the people, both who we’ve worked with and those we’ve worked for. I feel blessed to remain in contact with so many former Fearey Groupers. They are an amazing group of people, with energy and passion and good ideas. I have always thrilled in the creativity of my colleagues. The learning experience never ends.

And of course, there are the clients. I’ve been there when they’ve won national awards for projects we helped develop. And I’ve gotten the call when things seem the darkest, when tears well up as problems are explained and situations unfold. It’s hard in this business to not get close to your clients. It just happens. I’m proud to say some of these friendships have stretched for decades. I’m delighted that I’m still making new ones.

I’ll be taking a lot more of my energies out in the tennis court instead of the court of public opinion in the next few years. But I’m happy to pass the baton to someone whom I both trust and admire, Aaron Blank. Integrity has been foundational to my business. Aaron shares this value. He has the people-skills, critical-thinking skills, and social media chops to lead and grow the company for the next 30 years.

I’ll still look over the balance sheet, offer an observation or two, make connections and share ideas. I’ll come into work and continue to be inspired. And every once in a while, I’ll make sure I have the sharpest pencils in the office.

5 Tips For PR Results

By Aaron Blank

(Editor’s Note: This is part three of a series of posts from Aaron Blank following his attendance last week at the PRSA Counselors Academy in New Orleans.)

Partnering up with a Public Relations firm means you are adding more bench strength to your team. The new players are usually seasoned professionals supported by a host of different levels of account executives with a diverse mix of skill sets. How you use this firm is really up to you. Make sure you get the most out of your firm.

Here are five tips on how you can maximize your results:

  1. Find the best fit for you. When you are out searching for a Public Relations agency (or any agency for that matter), make sure you find a team that you can work with. Sure, each agency has its different experiences. Its different skill sets. They all have worked for a variety of different clients. So what works? It all starts with, do you like them as people? Can you work with them? Then look at their bench strength and examine it.
  2. Fees. Agencies usually bill hourly, even if you are on a retainer fee structure. A retainer means you have a certain hours dedicated to your account each month. It is different than say time and materials because you don’t have an unlimited budget to work from. Retainers usually benefit the client. It sets you up with a limit on all sides. Know what you’ll get from your agency if you decide the retainer fee structure. At most agencies, hourly rates range from $50 and can exceed $400 (depending on the agency and marketplace). (Note: At PRSA’s Counselor’s Academy I learned that some of the larger agencies actually charge a management overhead fee and embed that into your retainer fee each month. Get to the bottom and understand this before you sign on.)
  3. The first question we ask our clients is usually – what does success look like to you? Right out of the gate, define success and measure results. Things you can measure can be: certain number of column inches, air time, sound bites or online hits, feature articles placed in an influential journal, greater customer awareness of your brand, influencer engagements, social media impressions, sales results as a direct result of your engagement, a specific number of sales leads within a specific timeframe, online and search analytics, invitations to speak at prestigious events or seminars, specific industry awards, more media are calling. The list can go on but you get the point.
  4. Manage the process. You are in control of the work. Make sure your account team creates a plan and a scope of work that is mutually agreed upon. This will dovetail you on the program. Schedule weekly calls with the team and make sure you are all on the same page. Communicate as often as possible and be up front with your account manager. Know who your day-to-day contact is and develop a relationship with that person. Maximize their potential and offer them as much information as possible. Don’t give them a project that is too easy to handle.  Think of them as counselors who can implement your work. They are only as good as the information you provide. Share sales numbers and business goals and objectives. The deeper their knowledge base, the more successful you are. Don’t wait to tell them something. As soon as you know it, share it. They can create ideas for the next program.
  5. Develop strategies on where you want to go. What’s next? Where do you want to be in two years? Your team should be strategic. They should offer up strategies and insights that could help your bottom line. A good communications team will help you meet your business goals.

Why Would You Hire a PR Agency?

By Aaron Blank

(Editor’s Note: This week ReinventingPR.com is running a series of reports from Aaron Blank’s trip to the annual Counselors Academy, sponsored by PRSA. This is Part Two of an occasional series.)

There are many reasons to hire a Public Relations firm to support your organization or communications team.

Here are just three reasons.

  1. With an agency, you get a mix of expertises from senior counsel to middle management support that can perform the work with some junior staff members who can implement basic tactics. Your team expands at great lengths.
  2. When you hire a Public Relations agency, you get a variable cost. You don’t expand your head count. You don’t have to pay extra insurance.  Your agency does not go on vacation. You get a full team of experts who can support your communication strategies without the added overhead.
  3. Your Public Relations agency usually comes to the table with a host of innovative ideas and fresh thoughts. They usually offer up a different perspective and add value almost immediately.

I Went to PRSA And All I Learned Was These 10 Things

By Aaron Blank

(Editor’s Note: Aaron actually learned quite a bit at PRSA’s Counselors Academy Conference in New Orleans last week. This week, the Reinventing PR blog will feature several takeaways from the event. For more on the event, see below.)

  1. Agencies and counselors with strong points of view break out of the hubbub. People are attracted to viewpoints. Clients want it. They expect it. Share your views online. Don’t be afraid to do it.
  2. Generating new business might mean more speaking engagements, lunch-and-learns, offering up more online content, giving away free information on your website, and focusing on a specific industry.
  3. Google Plus is the only social platform with a material impact on search engine results.
  4. We all think we have the “secret sauce” but all we have is Thousand Island dressing. Customers just want the truth. Offer up your “secret sauce” and make it available online.
  5. Growth is the number one problem marketing- and communications-service companies face. Make sure growth can be handled by your staff.
  6. If the flag pole is missing from a golf course, the golfers will not find the hole. Show your staff the flag pole. Give them a vision and direct them to the hole.
  7. Being different is attractive. People like new, innovative solutions that are different. Be different.
  8. Agencies give people the ability to be entrepreneurs. Empower the entrepreneurial spirit.
  9. If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life. Enjoy the ride.
  10. Create more content online. Answer questions. Become an “available” brand.

The Counselors Academy is a national professional-interest section of PRSA that facilitates peer-to-peer exchanges between senior-level agency executives regarding public relations agency management. Focusing on professional development, ethical standards and agency practices, Counselors Academy programs are designed to encourage networking, mentoring and peer support between principals and senior counselors of public relations firms.

Each year, the Counselors Academy hosts a national conference where agency leaders get together to discuss best and worst practices. This year it was held in New Orleans. Next year it will be Austin, Texas.