2020: Is it even possible to plan communications?

Climate change. Artificial Intelligence, blockchain, robotics. Lack of clarity around Brexit. U.S. Presidential election. Overall sociopolitical uncertainty.

These are just a few key market dynamics that will impact business in 2020. So why bother setting up a communications strategy at all, right? If everything is going to change in a few months why not just embrace “semi-controlled chaos” in our messaging, outreach and reputation and influencing strategies?

Resist this idea.

Sure, everything is changing around us all the time, but it always was changing.

Not this fast, you say? Not at this level?

Consistency in who you are in the market is the way to get the market to notice you, as much as launching a brand new idea. Sure, we want people to believe we just invented the New Big Thing — with as much enthusiasm as the launch of the Internet, the iPhone, and the scientific proof that wine is really healthy for you. (Okay, I made that last one up.)

The key to gaining quality attention (i.e. attracting people who are seeking what you have to offer) is to showcase a consistent story, which includes delivering quality, effective products and services while acknowledging the trends and changes around them. Clients and customers want help they can rely on, but which includes how you are listening, improving and responding to them – not just debuting “what’s new” all the time.

If you change your story frequently it sends the message you haven’t nailed down your strategy, products or delivery mechanisms. In other words, it shows chaos. Why give your customers a reason to delay in engaging you?

The Only Question You Need To Ask for 2019

As organizations scramble to meet year-end and fourth quarter goals, take a moment to pause and ask yourself this question: Did more people who are important to your goals “get” your story this year more than the year before?

“More” people means more reach and more opportunity to sell, enroll or engage. And, this is what I mean by “get” your story:

  • They reacted to you in some way when they heard what you do and/or what you offer. This means they at least got “a” message.
  • They may have asked a question. Asking for clarification or more information means you’ve hooked their interest at the most basic level.
  • They understood you. They could accurately reflect back what you’ve communicated.
  • They acted on your story. They bought your stuff. They signed up. They participated in some way.

If the answer is “no” the next thing for you to do–and I mean the VERY next thing–is to find out why.

If the answer is “I don’t know,” why? Are you measuring your communications efforts? And if not, why not?

Ask yourself these questions. More importantly, act on the answers.

Happy Holidays–and may you find all the answers you require for a successful and effective 2019.

Four Leaf Client TurfMutt Honored by PRNews

Four Leaf Public Relations is proud that our media relations effort for TurfMutt, the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute’s (OPEI) environmental education and stewardship program, received an honorable mention in PRNews’ CSR & NonProfit Awards program. The awards were announced yesterday at a special ceremony held at the National Press Club.

“We were thrilled to be a finalist in this awards competition and to see the hard work that has gone into building the TurfMutt program recognized at this level,” said Suzanne Henry, president of Four Leaf Public Relations LLC. “The message of this program is powerful. We all have a responsibility to take care of our living landscapes. These green spaces influence our lives in important ways.”

Lucky, the real-life rescue dog of Kris Kiser, President & CEO of OPEI, is the “spokesdog” and superhero behind the TurfMutt program, which shares the important message that nature starts at your backdoor and  living landscapes, such as our yards, parks and other community green spaces, are critical to our health and well-being. And,  who knows the value of green space greater than a dog?

The TurfMutt program has reached more than 68 million children, educators, and families since 2009, showing them how they can “save the planet, one yard at a time.” To learn more about the TurfMutt program and get free e-books, online games, lesson plans, and more to inspire students to take care of green spaces, visit www.TurfMutt.com. To learn more about caring for our living landscapes, visit www.SaveLivingLandscapes.com.

Each year, PR News honors the top corporate social responsibility campaigns, and the brands and communicators behind them. Corporate Social Responsibility Awards finalists represent the very best in corporate responsibility initiatives, with each campaign making a visible difference on the local, national or global level. Finalists were chosen for their ingenuity and creativity, strategic approach and measurable impact.

The awards announcement is available here: http://www.prnewsonline.com/csr-awards-2018-announce-finalists

If you are a member of the media and wish to learn more about TurfMutt, contact our media reps:
Ami Neiberger-Miller, Four Leaf PR on behalf of OPEI, 703-887-4877, ami@fourleafpr.com
Debbi Mayster, Four Leaf PR on behalf of OPEI, 240-988-6243, debbi@fourleafpr.com

Giving Life To Your Messaging With Storytelling

Why is it so hard to tell a business story? Because you can’t stop selling. There, I led with the punchline.

You’re trying to sell your products, services and ideas. That’s fair. But in order to get people to hear and remember you–to get your sales and marketing efforts to stick— engage in more storytelling and less selling.

Here’s how to move your communications to the next level with the art of storytelling. First, know what a story is. It’s the why, how and examples that showcase why your products are better than anyone else’s offerings.

A message simply states what you want people to know. Think of it like the conclusion of the story. You should definitely have messages. The story, however, gives life to your messaging. It leads up to that conclusion.

Stories have characters, a plot, conflict and resolution, a beginning, middle and end, and they leave the reader or viewer with something that makes their lives better or helps them feel connected in some way.

So, who are you characters? That one should be easy. Your customers, your employees and other stakeholders are all characters. What have they done with your company? (Big hint about storytelling: what do people like to hear about more than anything else? Something about themselves.)

What is the plot? This goes beyond “Customer A” bought “Company B’s” product and all was well. But what happened when “Customer A” really started to use the product? How is their life better? In fact, talk about how you identified the problem they needed solved to begin with. What conflict existed to get your product into their hands? Once they started using what you offer did the heavens open up and angels sing? Okay, that last question was a tad dramatic, but you get the point.

Be sure to organize your story logically, starting at the beginning (we had this great idea!), providing a middle (all was almost lost!) and end (we made it!). Ask yourself how did you identify there was a need for your product? Then what did you do to bring it to market? And how did you get it into customer’s hands? What did they experience once that happened?

Avoid the temptation of cramming in every virtue of your business and tell the story–the real story.

5 Ways To Kickstart Your PR Efforts When Your Muse Has Fled

It’s the start of a new year. You should be energized, right? Ready to hit the ground running and fresh ideas should be bubbling up like a Colorado spring, right? Perhaps.

What if that’s not happening? What if every idea you have feels stale and unoriginal?

Here are five things to do to kickstart your public relations efforts if your muse is no where in sight.

  1. Spend a whole day doing things differently. From the route you take to work to moving your ‘office’ to the conference room instead of your desk, change the scenery. Then, change other things like the time you go to lunch, the colors on your desktop, the font you use in word documents. These small, seemingly inconsequential changes will disrupt any complacency that has set in. They also aren’t permanent; if the changes have the opposite effect, you can easily revert to “doing things the way you always had.” (But that’s not why you’re reading this list, is it?)
  2. Declare a “no screen” day. Get off the computer, phone, television and more. Pick up a pen and paper, go outside and walk around. Do anything to give yourself a break from reacting to what’s in front of you. This will give your mind (and eyes) a break to do what it does best—think.
  3. Interview your team. Ask your colleagues the number one lesson they’ve learned in their careers or about your business. Ask them why they are here, what they love about their job and their single most proud working moment since joining your company. From their answers, develop “Why I Do What I Do” pieces and other human interest stories to spruce up your web site, newsletters, social channels and more.
  4. Visit the physical place where your customers live. It’s tempting to let others, market research and the online world tell you all about your customers. But when was the last time you visited a store–or other physical place–where your customers buy your products or services? If you don’t sell something physical, when was the last time you sat down with your customer in their office? Observe how they operate, what language they use when talking to you and how they interact with others in their office. Take notes. Now compare that to how you’ve been talking to them or about them from your office. See any differences?
  5. Go through the last year’s worth of research, data-mining, media interviews and white papers and select a few interesting nuggets. Develop visual memes and soundbites that you can spread over social channels or send to bloggers and reporters to spice up their coverage. In other words, think about everything you’re trying to say visually. Forget words for a minute…or two.

6 Things To Do Now So January Is Smooth(er)

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Ah, the holiday season. It’s either a time of scrambling to complete projects before the end of the year or it’s completely dead. Not dead-dead. Just quiet and filled with emails and messages that deliver the (hoped-for?) message “let’s hold off until January.”

But is this something to wish for? Come January 2, your to-do list could be a mile longer than usual. Besides projects to complete and the renewed energy a new year brings, landing new business is often at the top of the list. Below are things to do in December to make your January less crazy.

  1. Have coffee or lunch with new vendors, partner organizations and other key stakeholders. The environment is generally more relaxed and you’re giving these new potential partners time to think about how they might help you before you need them. This ensures when you do need them, they can be better prepared.
  2. Clean your office. Everyone has something that is sitting around on their desk (or under it), in the corner or tucked in a closet that either should be filed, sent to someone else or be pitched. See how clean you can get your desk top. Then revel in the extra space you never knew you had.
  3. Empty your email inbox. Are you laughing? Of course, you are. Try it anyway. It may take an entire day, but file or delete anything that you can. At least get that inbox down to one screen. If you can’t, perhaps some delegating is in order? If you can, imagine the relief an empty email inbox can bring. (I do this once a month at minimum.) If you haven’t already done so, set up rules for certain emails so they file themselves in folders.
  4. Write down your goals for 2017 — both for your career and your work. With December’s more relaxed business environment, your brain now has a chance to stew and simmer on these ideas. Don’t do anything on them–unless you really, really want to. Just identify them. When January rolls around, you may find you’ve had a few subconscious brainstorms that will make tackling these goals easier.
  5. Celebrate your successes in 2016. Given the pace of life, letting your victories go by unnoticed is common. Think of all the things that went well in the last year. Pat yourself on the back and throw a little party, even if it is just internally. In fact, do this several times in December. You deserve it, and acknowledging what went well will provide a little extra bit of energy needed to tackle a new year.
  6. Take the time to thank someone who contributed to your success. ‘Tis the season of gratitude after all. Remember the simplest of compliments can pack a wallop. Send a handwritten note, email or text with a simple sentiment, such as “Before the year ends, I want you to know your work on XYZ made all the difference.”

These are simple activities and can help you ease into January. You don’t have to do them all. But definitely clean out your email inbox. Trust me on that one.