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MythBusters: Public Relations Edition

Confusion about who to contact to get your message out there and how to contact them has stopped many small businesses from getting involved in public relations. Business owners get hung up on all sorts of “myths” that circulate about PR, and they are losing out on valuable attention their company could gain.


Here are the top seven PR myths busted:


  1. Press releases don’t work anymore. Press releases do work, and they are a great way to get your news out there. The key is to use a press release in the right way – find your news story first and then package it in the right way for the right journalists.
  2. It’s all about contacts. If you can establish and build a relationship with journalists, then all is well and good. But the key for journalists is the value and relevance of what you have to offer.
  3. You have to be able to write. Writing is an important part of PR, but there are ways to work around it if you are not confident about your writing. Instead of relying on press releases to announce your news, the phone can be just as effective.  
  4. You have to have a lot of news stories to get coverage. You don’t just need news to get noticed. Establish yourself as an expert by commenting on other people’s news and contribute to feature articles to raise your profile.
  5. PR is all about press and media. Press and media relations are just one part of PR and just one way of reaching your target audience. Think more widely about your business objectives, what you want to achieve, who you want to communicate with, and what you want to say.
  6. Journalists won’t be interested. A little bit of research goes a long way. Take the time to identify a few key journalists to target and get to know what interests them and how you can take advantage of that. A well pitched story or idea will interest journalists.
  7. PR is free and easy. While you aren’t paying directly to have your messages printed or broadcast, you will need to invest time and effort. You might not get a response from a lot of your email pitches and that can be disheartening but don’t give up. Be prepared to keep at it.

Social Media Lessons From Queen B

Queen B (AKA Beyoncé) released a surprise album, “Lemonade,” right after her HBO special debuted this spring. Leading up to the event she did not participate in any interviews, pose for any magazine covers, or guest star on any late-night talk shows. Instead, Beyoncé and her publicity team took to social media to promote the release of her visual album. Through the videos and photos that were posted to her accounts, her loyal followers, dubbed the “bee-hive,” were tipped off, setting the internet on fire.

Let’s take a look at the social media marketing lessons we can all learn from Queen B:

  • Give them what they want. Beyoncé’s social media accounts are full of candid pictures of her family and behind-the-scene videos. In order to find out what your followers really want, analyze your top performing posts and research the most engaged followers to find commonalities.  
  • But also give them what they need. Not only does Beyoncé utilize social media to give her fans a glimpse into her fabulous life, she uses the platforms to promote her campaigns. Videos and photos of her new clothing line and details about her tour and album are weaved in among her personal posts. Your followers need a mix of content containing your core messages but also highly-engaging posts, so figure out a system that works for your brand.  
  • Control the message. When rumors speculated that Beyoncé and her beau, Jay Z, were going through marital problems, Beyoncé and her team flawlessly dismissed the rumors by announcing she was going on tour with him, allowing her to bypass traditional media and fully control the message she wants presented.  

Now let’s all channel our inner Sasha Fierce and create social media content that would make the Queen proud.  

Say, WHAT? 9 Phrases You Are Mispronouncing

Mispronouncing words and phrases in your speech or misspelling them in your writing can be extremely embarrassing. But some mistakes have become so common that you have probably don’t even realize that you are incorrectly phrasing or pronouncing it. Language experts have argued whether you should use the common or proper usage . Advocates for keeping the words and phrases in their incorrect form say that readers will get confused. What do you think?

Take a look at this list of commonly mispronounced and misspelled words and phrases to see what you have been using incorrectly:

1. Incorrect: Chomp at the bit

Correct: Champ at the bit

“Champ at the bit” refers to race horses chewing at their “bit”, a metal mouthpiece used to control them. 

2. Incorrect: doggy-dog world

Correct: dog-eat-dog world

This phrase refers to the world in which people will do anything to be successful, hence the “eat” part.

3. Incorrect: hierarchy (prounced hi-archy)

Correct: hierarchy (prounced \ˈhī-(ə-)ˌrär-kē \)

Remember to pronounce all four syllables of the word, and not just skip over the second one.

4. Incorrect: for all intensive purposes

Correct: for all intents and purposes

“For all intents and purposes” means “in every practical sense”.

5. Incorrect: nip it in the butt

Correct: nip it in the bud

“Nip” refers to pinching something to destroy it, while “bud” refers to the bud of a flower. Thus, creating the meaning of the phrase which is to stop something completely.

6. Incorrect: irregardless

Correct: regardless

“Irregardless” is a made-up word, and a double negative.

7. Incorrect: spitting image

Correct: spit and image

“Spit and image” is a Bible reference, meaning when God used spit and mud to create Adam in His image. The term is commonly used to describe something who looks exactly like another person.

8. Incorrect: try a different tact

Correct: try a different tack

“Try a different tack” refers to trying another approach. A “tack” is a term for an abrupt turn of a boat, while “tact” is a shortened form of the word “tactic”.

9. Incorrect: victual (pronounced vicshual)

Correct: victual (pronounced \ˈvi-təl\)

“Victual” is actually supposed to be pronounced so that it rhymes with “whittle”. It’s a word meaning food that is prepared to eat. 

What Your College Classes Don’t Teach You About PR

Your four (or more) years of college often consist of hours spent in the library doing homework, studying for exams, and working on dreaded group projects. But acing midterms and writing killer papers might not prepare you for the career of your dreams. Professors do their best to pass on their knowledge and prepare you for the “real world” upon graduation, but some things just can’t be taught. Certain skills can only be learned through experience from internships or summer jobs.

Here are some ways to gain the skills necessary for a job in public relations:

  • Be a news junkie: College classes do not emphasize the importance of keeping up to date with current events. It can be easy to get wrapped up in your day-to-day life and events that directly affect you. As a PR professional it is extremely valuable to stay on top of the happenings of the regional, national, and world news.
  • Press releases: Learning how to write a press release is something you probably covered in your public relations or communications classes, but it is also important to know what happens after the release is drafted. Your college doesn’t teach you how to write a quote for the release, how to compile a media list, or how to actually distribute the release. These are skills you would learn in an internship.
  • Proofread: Technology and relying on your own proofreading skills have taken the place of peer review sessions. The ability to proofread your own work is one of the most valuable skills in the industry. Public relations writing must always be concise, timely, and most importantly client and media-ready.
  • Client contact etiquette: College does not instill the confidence needed to contact a client directly. While you probably won’t gain this upon your arrival at an agency, it is important to understand proper email etiquette, timeliness, and how to approach various situations. It may be helpful to ask a friend who works in a professional setting the proper way phones should be answered and emails should be responded to.

College cannot prepare you for everything, which is why internships are a great opportunity. They expose you to your field of study and allow for ample learning opportunities. Internships also build your resume, which will make you a more viable candidate for future jobs.

Spring Cleaning for Your PR Life

After a long, cold, snowy San Diego winter (…yeah right!), hooray! Spring has arrived. And you know what that means – flowers blooming, warm weather, longer days, etc. One of the most crucial parts of the season, however, is spring cleaning. While spring cleaning is typically associated with cleaning your home (which we all know is needed, especially since you ate popcorn on your couch while watching Netflix all winter), spring is the perfect time to revisit different areas of our professional lives, decide where improvement is needed, and conduct a professional “spring cleaning”!

Here are some tips to help you clean up your professional PR life:

Clean up your media lists at work.
No one wants to open their closet and find they have tons of clothing but NOTHING to wear, and no one wants to open a media list and find they have tons of contacts, but no one to pitch. Spending the time to find valuable articles, uncover new reporters and follow media movement can make all the difference.

Throw out unnecessary items.
Delete old emails, folders, and documents that are creating unneeded clutter on your computer, your desktop and in your life. Try to delete all emails that you haven’t touched and more than two years, and definitely consider deleting those that have been sitting in your inbox for more than 6 months.

Check in on client strategy at work.
Everything at work might be fine on the surface, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t use a little tidying up. If you’re consistently using tactics that are making the client happy, and getting results, you might think your job is done. However, it’s important to revisit your overall strategy several times each year, asking yourself, “Are these tactics (events, media engagement, earned or paid placements, etc.) helping us reach overall goals and contributing to our strategy?”

Finally, clean your social media.
Use this opportunity to revisit your social strategy. Ask yourself, are my client’s followers engaging? What content is working (and what isn’t), and where is the best content coming from? Consider chatting with your client about how you think social media is going, and come up with a best course of action to change any areas.


With all of this cleaning, valued clients will be impressed by your ability to not miss a beat and you’ll get a fresh start and a new chance to work toward your professional goals.

A Long Time Coming

Yesterday, the U.S. Treasury Secretary announced that the nation’s well-known revolutionist, Harriet Tubman, will be replacing Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill.  Unfortunately, there was no set date set for when we will see the actual change-over.

But on an equally positive note, five women will be added to the back of the $5 bill in the year 2020.

It’s been a long time coming, but bravo to the Treasury for finally recognizing women for the amazing contributions they have made in this country since its very beginning.

The Not So Scary Truth About SEO

SEO is a term that is thrown around in daily conversations around the office, but what does it mean exactly? SEO stands for “search engine optimization,” and it is the process of affecting the visibility of a website in a search engine’s unpaid results, which are often referred to as “organic” or “earned” results.

SEO rules can change upon a moment’s notice. It is important to stay in the information loop so you are getting the traffic you deserve to your website. Ultimately, understanding how SEO works will help draw in more visits to your site.

  • You must be mobile friendly.

If your site is not mobile-friendly, you will not rank in mobile search results. Mobile search is the pinnacle of local SEO making up 60% of searches.

  • Bad SEO is bad for business.

A nickname for the bad guys in Western movies, “Black Hat” SEO is a practice that increases a page’s rank in search engines through means that violate the search engines’ terms of service. Black Hat SEO evolves as search engines change the rules about what is acceptable and what is not; tactics that were once good become toxic. As long as you are filling your website with quality content, link to other quality sites, and stay on top of innovations, you are golden.

  • Duplicate content can hurt your SEO, but not always.

Duplicate content is not as bad as it once was for a website. As long as you use recognized tags when you republish content on your site, duplicate content is not as devastating as you might imagine. If a site is using your content without permission, you should still report them, but there is less need to worry about consequences from Google.

  • Incoming links are not always good for SEO.

Incoming links are a great way to boost your ranking, except when the place that is linking to you has some sort of authority issue. Questionable domains and sites unrelated to your industry can hurt you rank. In this case, quality is far more important than quantity.

  • Everything must be relevant.

Everything you publish on your site must be related to your website’s focus. Image descriptions, HTML tags, title, sub-headers, and other page attributions should all be semantically related to the purpose of your page.

Take Public Speaking by the Horns

If you fear public speaking, you are not alone. Known as “glossophobia”, the fear of public speaking is the most common of all social anxieties.

Luckily, it is an anxiety that we can be taught to conquer. From the popular Ted Talk series, there are six significant ways in which we can improve upon our public speaking abilities.

  • Use the tools in your vocal box

          Register: Speak in a deeper voice so that you are associated with authority.

          Timbre: Meaning the way your voice feels. People prefer rich, smooth and warm voices.

          Prosody: Meaning the melody of how we speak. It’s important to avoid monotone.

          Pace: It’s important to vary the speed of your speech, and strategically use silence.

          Pitch: Varying in pitch can change the feeling or message that comes from a statement.

          Volume: The use of loud and soft speech can add emphasis or cause your audience to listen carefully and respectfully.

  • Be Engaged: Be passionate and familiar enough with your presentation so that you can be excited and animated while you present, rather than just reading information from a screen. This will make your audience want to stay engaged with you.
  • Keep Their Attention: Keep the presentation short. Typically, people’s attention spans start to drop off after about 18 minutes. Keep their attention by using headlines instead of bullet points and adding images to PowerPoints.
  • Connect with the Audience: Make it easier for your audience to understand what you’re talking about by drawing parallels between them and your topic, in order to present familiar situations in a relatable way.
  • Body Language: Body language affects our behaviors. For example, we smile when we’re happy, but we also feel happier when we smile. Therefore, you must keep your posture open, rather than hunched over and closed off so that you send the right message to your audience.
  • Break the Ice: Tell a joke before a talk, or even poke gentle fun at oneself in moderation. This help the you stay calm your nerves, and it will help the audience relax and be entertained.

Overall, with baby steps, all of us can overcome the fear of public speaking, as long as we practice presenting and remember to engage the audience.

For an inside look at each of the above tips in action, check out the following Ted Talks: How to Speak So That People Want to Listen by Julian Treasure, The Best Stats You’ve Ever Seen by Hans Rosling, How to Pitch to a VC by David S. Rose, How Great Leaders Inspire Action by Simon Sinek, Once Upon a Time, My Mother… by Carmen Agra Deedy, Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are by Amy Cuddy, How I Beat Stage Fright by Joe Kowan

6 Writing Mistakes PR Pros Should Never Make

In the PR world, most of your work consists of writing so it is important to make sure your work is grammatically correct and error free. But no matter what field you work in, writing is unavoidable. Think of all the emails, reports, and performance reviews written each day. If you are making common writing mistakes, your peers have most likely taken note. A report or email filled with avoidable writing mistakes is seen as unprofessional and careless. Many of the mistakes you are making, you might not even be aware of. Review this list and cut these errors out of your business writing:

  1. “Here’s some”: This is a fairly common phrase, as in, “Here’s some tips on how to beat writer’s block.” This is incorrect because “here’s” means “here is.” The correct version is “Here are some…” because you are referring to multiple tips.
  2. There, their, and they’re : Confusing these three words is still a common mistake, even in PR. There is a place, their shows possession, and they’re is short for they are. This is an error that most people will notice right away in your writing so be mindful when choosing the correct word.
  3. Long-winded sentences: Aim to write like Hemingway. People are busy, and they do not want to waste their time poring over complex and drawn-out sentences. Write short sentences and simple words that get right to the point and make your writing easy to understand.
  4. Stationery vs. stationary: These two words can be easily mixed up because they are pronounced the same, but they have different meanings. Stationery with an “e” is paper that you use for writing letters or notes and is something PR firms often design for their clients. Stationary with an “a” means not moving or fixed in one place.
  5. Buzzwords: PR writing is filled with buzzwords and jargon that puts a wall up between you and your readers and can confuse them. While it may sound professional, your readers most likely will not appreciate the lingo. Lose the buzzwords and write plainly and concisely.
  6. i.e. and e.g.: These two abbreviations are frequently used interchangeably, but they have different meanings. The first, i.e., is Latin for “id est,” which means “that is.” It is used to re-state an idea or fact for clarity for better understanding (think: “in other words”). The second, e.g., is short for “exempli gratia,” which means “for example.” It is used to indicate that what follows is a particular example of the generality just stated. Use i.e. to summarize and re-state and idea and e.g. to list examples.

If you eliminate these errors out of your business writing practices, you will be on a path to better writing in no time. Your reports and emails will be more professional, and your co-workers will stop nitpicking you.


4 Reasons to Bring Back “Old School” Customer Service

Technology has made keeping in touch with customers easy. While customers enjoy how streamlined and fast-paced communication with businesses has become, there is something cold and impersonal about many 21st century transactions. No matter how much technology improves, customers will choose brands and companies that take the time to get to know them, interact with them, and make them feel like they matter. No matter what business you are in there is still a human being on the receiving end, and that human being has a name, a face, and feelings.

In a world of constantly-evolving technology, here are four approaches to help you bring back “old school” customer service:

  1. Show customers that you care. You can provide fast, on-demand service while still making people feel like they had an authentic, deeply personal experience. Take the time to send a more personal email or to reply to their tweets.
  2. Know that customers crave a connection to simpler times. Nobody wants to interact with a machine. Customers want to have the ability to pick up the phone and talk or communicate face-to-face with a human being who shares their interests. These interactions should be to the point but also have compassion and empathy – part Silicon Valley efficiency and part “Main Street” values.
  3. Fit in with the growing artisanal movement. Gone is the mass-produced junk offered in the last few years. Shoppers are now choosing products and services that are unique and customized. The craft beer craze is an excellent example of this. Microbrewers have reclaimed the art of beer making, and more and more people are falling in love with craft beers because of this.
  4. Your service style will help you stand out from the pack. This is the most compelling reason to adopt an old-school approach to customer service. With so much competition, the way you treat and relate to your customers might be the only thing that defines your brand and helps sustain your business. Even though technology is ever advancing, the basic need of human interaction has remained the same.