Wednesday, September 30, 2009

iPhone's Niche Apps Appeal to the Masses

By: Cole Buergi, Sr. Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations

What’s next? I recently purchased the iPhone and even I’ve been blown away by what it all can do. I expected to have some great technology applications which is why I bought it but, wow, the variety of applications is endless.

There are serious applications for work, some fun games just to kill time and a host of apps for just about every interest. Heck, there’s even a compass for those challenged by direction. And, if the compass doesn’t help, simply go to MapQuest.

The newest iPhone feature highlighted in today’s USA Today is its app that works with Zipcar is a Cambridge, Massachusetts based car-sharing service. The new app lets you locate and reserve one of its vehicles, unlock it using the iPhone's touch-screen and drive away. This is incredible and what a new, handy way to obtain a rental. If you want to read more about this amazing technology, here’s the link to the full story:

I’m bragging up the new phone because it’s truly a case of Apple tailoring its services to meet its customer’s needs, even if those needs are relatively niche. The iPhone and its apps are the perfect example of target marketing. Instead of developing apps that appeal to the masses, Apple develops apps that appeal to smaller, more select niche groups. Of course, you still have the basics such as web browsing, etc. , but it’s the niche apps that really make this phone so exceptional and, ironically, attractive to the masses.

Businesses should take a page out from Apple’s marketing strategy and work to identify and meet the needs of its clients. Targeted marketing may prove to have mass appeal.

If you’re using a cool application for work or fun, share it with us. Our readers might find it useful.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Does your company have a social media policy?

By: Susan Finco, President, Leonard & Finco Public Relations

In recent weeks, a number of people have asked if our clients have social media policies. My answer: “Many do, but not all of them.” The next question is, inevitably, why not? Usually it’s because the companies or organizations are grappling with just how to use social media as well as whether or not to allow employees to use social media during work hours. We work with them to sort out those issues, but it’s always an interesting discussion with some widely varying opinions. Here’s what we’re seeing and hearing among our contacts and clients:
  • Some simply refuse to allow any employees access to social media. Big mistake. Whether you like it or not, someone in your organization is using social media during work time. People just find ways to do it.
  • Most companies are developing / implementing social media policies that will allow some use of social media among employees as well making it part of their communications efforts.
  • A smaller number of organizations allow all of their employees to use social media with the understanding it needs to be appropriate, professional, not divulge any proprietary information about the company or its clients, or make subjective, judgmental statements about the company or its clients.
  • And there are companies that allow social media use by clearly spelling out their policies, educating their staff about social media and the responsibility that goes with it. They also spell out what is prohibited (confidential information, threats, etc.) and what the consequences will be for violating the policy.

As you might guess, my preference leans toward the last bullet point. You aren’t going to stop the social media train, so it makes sense to identify appropriate use of it and clearly communicate your policies, procedures and consequences. Like just about everything else at work and at home, good communications are the key to success. What is your organization or business social media policy? I’d love to have you weigh in with your thoughts and comments.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Looking to enhance your PR skill set?

Submitted by: Angela Walschinski, Account Assistant, Leonard & Finco Public Relations

There is no doubt that public relations has changed significantly within the last few years and the way in which we communicate is evolving. It’s hard to deny the importance of tweeting, blogging and the impact online conversations can have on a business’ brand. However, even with the growing popularity of social media, we can’t forget the importance of our roots. The skills and attributes of traditional media are still just as valuable as they’ve ever been in successfully communicating a message. For example, in today’s public relations world, try launching something using social media alone. You’ll quickly notice the gap that traditional media can leave if it’s lacking and vice versa.

So, it’s a combination of understanding and utilizing a combination of PR tools that will help you grow in your role as a public relations professional. As a recent college graduate who is rather new to the public relations field, I wanted to provide some insight into the skills that not only future college graduates should have, but skills that all public relations professionals should have.
Entry-level public relations professionals still need to be proficient at writing, communicating, paying close attention to detail and being proactive. They also need to be business savvy, a team player, understand basic media relations and, above all, have a good work ethic.

With the recent development of social media there are new skills that public relations professionals should have related to the Web. Whether you’ve worked in public relations for years or if you’re just entering your career, here are three skills all PR professionals must learn and use:
  • Social networking platforms – Having a basic understanding of the leading social media tools and how to engage in them is key to building a social media profile for yourself. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, take the time to review and learn the tools and determine which one(s) best fits your needs.

  • Social Media Releases (SMR) – This is a spinoff of the traditional media release and a SMR allows you to create an interactive experience with your message. You can include photos, audio and video, Web links and logos to compliment your information.

  • Blogging – You don’t necessarily have to have one, but having an understanding of the importance of blogs and how they can be used is key.

These are my thoughts on the skills that should be incorporated into a public relations professional’s skill set, both new and old, what would you add?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Social Media: What are you waiting for?

Submitted by: Scott Stein, Sr. Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations

For those of us immersed in social media, it’s almost unthinkable not to be using this valuable communication tool. Still, many businesses are holding out, waiting to see what will happen; thinking that social media is a separate form of marketing and public relations. But, while they wait, others jump using social media as another tool in their arsenal.

For example, Procter & Gamble is building brand awareness of its dish detergent, Dawn by establishing a clear link with wildlife rescue and animal rehabilitation. It’s a brilliant use of branding and cause marketing. The campaign promises to donate $1 per bottle sold to the International Bird Rescue Research Center or the Marine Mammal Center. The goal is to generate $500,000 through October.

There are television ads, re-branded labels and packaging and, yes, social media.

The social media tactics include elements such as the Web site that also links to the Everyday Wildlife Champions Facebook page. Visitors are urged to get involved and become an Everyday Wildlife Champion. A visit to the site clearly shows that Dawn is building a community of supporters for its product and the cause. Brand loyalty is being built with every click, visitor and bottle sold.

It’s hard to imagine that when a business hears of an example like this, it would still be hesitant to include social media as part of its marketing efforts. Obviously, I’m a champion of well planned social media use in business. That’s why I’d love to hear from you as to why you’re hesitant about using social media for business reasons.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Does it Make Sense to You?

Submitted by: Kristin Rabas, Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations

Do you ever feel like companies are trying to talk to you in a language you don’t speak? Recently, I was searching the web looking into some home improvements in order to take advantage of a current tax credit. The first site I went to informed me that new windows or doors need to have a less than .30 SHGC. What does that mean?! No explanation, so I had to look it up. I found that SHGC stands for solar heat gain coefficient. OK…I found the definition, but I still didn’t know what the heck it meant as far as what I should be looking for in a product.

Ok, this is a pretty industry-specific but still, why couldn’t this site just say that SHGC measures how much solar heat is allowed to pass through the window? And then explain what kind of rating I should look for and why. I’m guessing most people aren’t familiar with the energy star ratings of windows, so if you’re trying to get me or anyone else to buy these windows we need to understand what you’re telling us!

Whether you’re promoting a new product, explaining a catastrophe or talking about a community outreach program, it’s important that you use language that everyone will understand. In some cases it’s impossible to use a word that the general public knows. Maybe you make widgets and that’s just what they’re called. Instead of just using the term, take the time to explain exactly what a widget does and why it’s important – in plain English.

One of the most important aspects of public relations is communication. This means communicating coherently, accurately and concisely. I think we’ve all been in a situation at one time or another when a colleague, friend or maybe even a stranger has used some language or terminology that we weren’t familiar with, but why would you want anyone to be confused when you’re selling a product or promoting your business?

I’m not saying we have to treat everyone like they’re idiots. I’m just saying that if you make me feel like an idiot or make things confusing, I’ll be less likely to read your news release, buy your product or tell others about it. No one has the same experiences, backgrounds or culture. So remember, even if you and I speak the same language, it doesn’t mean I’ll always understand what you’re saying.

I hope I’m not alone on this one. Anyone else ever been in a similar situation?