Category Archives: Strategy & Tactics

The Future Looks Bright For The PR Profession: Lessons From The 2018 PRSA International Conference

While attending PRSA’s International Conference in Austin this year, I thought how proud JJ&W’s founder, Patrick Jackson, would have been of all the conversations revolving around measuring behavioral outcomes and the PR practitioner’s role as relationship-builders and strategists… particularly at a time when our organizations, and our country, need these skills the most.

A few themes from the keynote and breakout sessions:

1.  As PR Professionals, it’s our job to help organizations understand how their key audiences think – how to reach them – and motivate them to behave

There were many sessions offering glimpses into the psychological profiles of Baby Boomers, Gen "X", Millenials/Gen "Y" and Gen "Z".Aria Finger, millennial marketing expert and founder of TMI Strategic Consulting, has engaged 6 million young people with her “DoSomething.org” website.Described as a “global movement for good,”she takes a creative approach to getting Gen Z involved in issues ranging from anti-smoking campaigns to collecting clothing for teens in need by asking them 3 simple questions:

       "What are you passionate about?”

       “How much time do you have?”

        “What would you like to do?”

Check out their website for more examples…including the “Teens For Jeans” partnership with Aeropostle.By the way – their original outreach for “Teens for Jeans” via email registered 89 volunteers – but their text outreach garnered 3,560 responses!Know what channels work best with your target audiences.

2.   PR can help drive the “Purpose Beyond Profit” movement by helping organizations identify the causes that make the most sense for their business.

In the “Digital Transformation of Communications” session, panelists discussed the fact that more than ever, CEOs and businesses are expected to lead change.Patagonia's very clear purpose of making the environment better and Starbuck's“Changing the World One Cup At A Time” campaign are two of many examples cited at the conference.Jonathan Mildenhall, marketing expert and former CMO of Airbnb, talked about the concept of “purpose driving performance”.He described how Airbnb took on the transgender discrimination issue with their “Mankind/Womankind/Trans-kind” universal belonging campaign.They used the triggering event of the ESPN ESPY Awards in 2015, when Caitlyn Jenner received the Arthur Ashe Award for courage, to launch the campaign.How has their approach impacted the bottom line, you ask?Airbnb now has 4,200,000 homes, 70 million guests and the company is valued at $31 billion.

3.    PR has the skills to bring conflicting parties together and facilitate civil debate and “eloquent listening”. 

The current Edelman Trust Barometer ratings show trust is at an all-time low. Keynote speakerRobert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor, cites several reasons for the tumultuous, anger-filled environment we have today :

  • Tribal Geography (we live — online and off– where everyone thinks like us; we need to break out of our geographic and psychological bubbles, but it’s uncomfortable so we don’t like to do it)
  • Stagnant Wages:  Median wages since the 70s have not changed very much and there is a general frustration that “the system is rigged against us” – thus explaining the political gravitation to more extreme political figures like Trump and Sanders, who represent a move away from “politics as usual”.
  • Media Stirring The Pot.  The media is good at using anger, fighting and conflict as a way of grabbing reader/viewer attention.  As a society, we’ve lost the ability to listen with respect and engage in civil dialogue.  Reich says PR people can have influence not over the conflict of debates but over the tone of the debate.

There is an opportunity for PR to showcase our trust and relationship-building skills…both externally (i.e. by engaging communities opposed to an issue) and internally (i.e. within our employee work groups), capitalizing on our counseling and organization development skills.

4.    PR can help our organizations “break through the clutter”, by both using what we know about graphic psychology and utilizing emerging technologies.  Fun fact from consultant Christopher Hannegin:  4 out of 5 Smartphone users check their device within 15 minutes of waking up in the morning.  Yes…guilty here! 

And if you don’t believe we live in an over-communicated world, check out www.internetlivestats.com to see how many photos have been posted to Instagram, how many tweets have been sent etc…

According to Hannegin, we need to “tell the unexpected story” and “show familiar stuff in new ways”, incorporating the use of infographics when relaying complicating earnings data for our clients, for example.Stella Low, Sr. VP of Dell, urges us to continue learning about immersive technology and to consider how “virtual reality” and “augmented reality” can be used as new tools in the PR toolbox.

5.    PR is worth its weight in gold during crisis situations.

For years we have been talking about the need for the “court of public opinion” to be considered along with the “court of law” – and it is clear from the number of crisis communication presentations at conference that we have arrived at the decisionmaking table in crisis situations.Higher education consultant Joe Brennan and Eric Stern did a session on the “6 Tasks Every Leader Must Do” in a crisis and urged PR practitioners to:

  • Prepare for multiple scenarios – and while you’re preparing the spokesperson, include your 2nd in command — needs backup!
  • Guide leadership to speed up a traditionally slow decisionmaking cycle – your statement can’t wait in today’s 24/7 news cycle
  • Define the end of the crisis; rituals help to transition (e.g. a candlelight vigil after a shooting allows people time to grieve, and then move on)
  • Conduct a lessons learned review – it’s an opportunity to fix what went wrong for next time – but also, to recognize what went well.

Robin Schell, APR, Fellow PRSA is Senior Counsel and Partner at Jackson Jackson & Wagner, a behavioral public relations and management consulting firm based in the Seacoast of NH.For more information, visit www.jjwpr.com or email her at rschell@jjwpr.com.

Strategic PR Planning Is Critical To An Organization’s Success

If your first thought when presented with a public relations problem or opportunity is to brainstorm tactics – e.g. “let’s do a newsletter” “send a tweet”, “post on Facebook”, “hold a meeting” — then you are planning, but not strategically.

If your first thoughts are: “how does this opportunity fit with our overall goals?”, “what behaviors do we need from our priority stakeholders?”, “what are the underlying psychological or structural barriers in the way of achieving those behaviors?” , “what communication/behavioral theories or case studies could support or guide our decisions?” … then you are being strategic.

I explain to PRSA Strategic Planning workshop attendees that they probably are strategic thinkers already. However, it’s often easier to default to tactics that are in our comfort zone and can be quickly implemented. The problem is that just executing tactics without strategic direction could end up being a waste of our time and our organization’s resources. In today’s environment, public relations practitioners are being held accountable to the bottom line … we need to be able to justify our actions to senior management and provide measurable results, just as legal, finance and other departments do..

The strategic planning process consists of five distinct areas of work: 1) Establishing Direction, 2) Gathering/Conducting Research, 3) Objective Setting by Priority Publics, 4) Determining Strategy, Tactics, Evaluation, 5) Setting Timeline, Budget and Staffing. Once the plan has been determined, we need to stay flexible, knowing the environment we are operating in could change; a “triggering event” could impact the effectiveness of our strategy; or research could show that our priority audiences are not responding to our key messages.

Before we even begin the implementation of our plan, we must have a clear idea of what success will look like …for example: our internal audience will buy-in to and support our process; senior management will lead by example; our budgets and person power will increase; we will achieve the behaviors we set out to change or reinforce; and we will become an integral part of the leadership team charged with achieving the organization’s overall goals.

I’ll be presenting a half-day version of the day-long workshop at PRSA’s International Conference in Austin, TX on October 7. Join me!
For more information about Jackson Jackson & Wagner, visit our website at www.jjwpr.com

Patrick Jackson and The Start of Modern Behavioral Public Relations

Pat Jackson, JJ&W’s founder, was a behaviorist.  Plain and simple.  He taught those of us fortunate enough to work with him over the years to learn to be behaviorists, too.

Behavior change is hard – ask anyone who has tried to go on a diet, stop smoking or change a dominant personality trait – so Pat taught us to look for triggering events that could be a hook into behavior change, and to engineer behavior reinforcement into existing behavior patterns.  Most of us, for example, go to the dentist twice a year – and for those who aren’t good about flossing as a regular part of their oral hygiene, those dentist visits become “triggering events” to “cram floss” – usually the 2 weeks prior to the visit, and definitely the two weeks after the visit, when the dentist’s lectures and scary-looking gingivitis posters are top of mind.  But it is what happens in between those visits to reinforce flossing behavior that is the key to going from “cram flossing” to flossing that is part of your regular oral hygiene routine.

We’re about to embark on a campaign to educate and change behaviors around an important health problem — Lyme disease.  There is a need to educate both children  and parent, about Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses so they can take steps to prevent it … and when prevention isn’t possible, to identify and treat it early to minimize long-term effects.

Data is leading us to target kids between the ages of 5 and 15 – particularly those with greater exposure to ticks, such as those kids in outdoor camp programs.  This is a fantastic opportunity to partner with local not-for-profits who serve children and their families organizations for the one-two punch of effectiveness, to reach the parents so they can reinforce the behaviors we are teaching.  These behaviors include, on the simplest of levels, how to conduct a check for ticks – and if a tick is found, how to remove it and what to do with it afterwards.  If we think like strategic communicators about the best time to check for ticks, it’s when you’re naked – so tips that can be posted in the bathroom – and even more specifically, the shower stall —  make sense.

In fact, Pat was a big proponent of using the bathrooms to communicate messages, and I had to laugh when I went out to eat one of my favorite restaurants in Amesbury, Mass and saw the poster advertising the fact that the restaurant is now open for lunch, right on the bathroom door.  Educating those most apt to come to lunch — a current customer.  Very effective!

Whether you are spreading news about new restaurant hours or how to prevent Lyme disease, two cardinal rules prevail:

  1.  Learn about your target audience and the best place to reach them with your message
  2. Think about the natural ways to reinforce behavior change until it becomes a force of habit … kind of like recycling is with many today.

Yes, Pat was a  behaviorist, whether he was in a boardroom or a bathroom.  He often closed his speeches by talking about how the directions posted near the hand dryers in the bathrooms should have read:  1.  Push button to turn on dryer.  2.  Place hands under dryer.  3.  Rub hands vigorously under dryer.  4.  Wipe hands on pants!  Because 9 times out of 10, that’s what we all do.

Want to learn more about Pat Jackson and his approach to behavior change?  Check him out at www.patrickjacksonpr.com.

Robin Schell, APR, Fellow PRSA is senior counsel and partner at Jackson Jackson & Wagner, a behavioral public relations and management consulting firm. For more information about JJ&W, visit their website at www.jjwpr.com or email Robin at rschell@jjwpr.com.

22 Measurement Standards To Help Really, Really Understand Employees And Build Effective Communication Systems To Reach Them

For a long time, the focus for internal communications has been building and measuring employee engagement. How “engaged” are our employees in our organization and in what they do? How does our workforce compare to others? Fortunately, there are all kinds of tools to measure employee engagement and see how your organization rates compared to others. Woo hoo!

But in the words of legendary PR practitioner Patrick Jackson, “SO WHAT?” What does it mean that your employees are on par with or slightly above (or below) others in your industry or region on their engagement score? And, what can you do about it? What does it really mean and how do you raise a low score or increase an already high one?

This month, the PR Journal has published a paper on this very topic that I have been working on, along with my colleagues, Julie O’Neil, Ph.D of Texas Christian University, Michele Ewing, Associate Professor at Kent State and Sean Williams, M.A. True Digital Communications, OH, for the past few years. We recognized a while back that it is the components of engagement that we must measure, in order to affect change — not the overall concept of engagement. “But what are those components?” we wondered.

After conducting both professional and academic literature reviews, a two-round Delphi study with leading Internal Communication professionals (those with 10 years plus of practice in the field and a known thought leader in the profession), plus numerous presentations at PRSA, International Public Relations Research Conference (IPRRC) and elsewhere, we arrived at 21 specific standards divided into 3 “buckets”. Those buckets are:

1) Outtakes (whether employees received, paid attention to, comprehended or retained particular messaging),
2) Outcomes (evidence of changes to or reinforcement of opinions, attitudes or behaviors)
3) Organizational Impact (if and how internal communication has influenced organizational performance).

Each bucket has specific standards that can be measured independently of each other and thus be tackled for improvement in many ways– words, symbols, actions, etc. All together, these 21 standards might define “engagement” but without measuring them independently, we really don’t know the root cause of an engagement problem. See specific standards for each bucket below or in the article at: https://prjournal.instituteforpr.org/

We also believe that it is not necessary to measure all 21Standards concurrently or even work on all of them simultaneously to see improvements. Your organization could identify a few in each bucket (or just one bucket) to begin work. Just identifying areas for work is a step in the right direction! Utilize your employee body to help select those standards that need the most attention. Ask them what can be done to improve. Involving them in the process is a great first step to building a new path and a culture builder/healer.

Currently, the team is seeking a few organizations who would like to work with us in identifying how to measure each of these concepts — with survey research and behaviorally with data an organization may already have on hand. If your organization might have an interest, let us know!

Measurement Standards for Internal Communication 2018

The “So What” Factor: Migrating From Outputs to Outcomes in PR Research

For years, PR practitioners measured effectiveness by “counting clips” and calculated the dollar value of press coverage they obtained for their organizations. Some PR people are still doing this — mostly, we hope, only when their bosses are demanding it. We have made progress, but we know we have much more work to do to educate management on what Public Relations and Communications professionals can …and should … be measuring.

The good news is, more and more public relations professionals are thinking about what JJ&W calls the “so what” factor – we measured it, but so what? What are the behavioral results? It’s nice that we know how many people recalled seeing our hospital's advertising …but what really matters is, how many people chose our hospital for their healthcare needs?

I’m happy to report that the subject of how PR professionals measure the impact of what we do is being presented on, discussed and debated a lot more frequently than when I started my career 30 years ago. In 2010, the Institute of PR Research formed the Barcelona Principles. There are 7 principles, which are continually discussed and refined, and they reflect the direction PR research is moving in our field. Principle #2, for example, states unequivocally that “measuring the effect on outcomes is recommended vs. only measuring outputs.”

JJ&W has been talking about the importance of measuring behavior for years; Pat Jackson, JJ&W’s founder, together with leading academic professional Jim Grunig, created the Public Relations Behavioral Model and implored practitioners to define the “ultimate desired behavior(s)” they were seeking — in order to have a clear behavioral goal against which to measure success. It’s nice to see the scales in our field tipping in the behavioral direction.

At the International PR Research Conference in Miami this past March, practitioners from all over the world shared ideas on measuring ROI (return on investment) relative to PR activity. Visit www.instituteforpr.org to download and listen to some of those conversations.

Both keynote and breakout session speakers at the PRSA District Conference held on April 28th in Corning, NY focused their remarks on delivering measurable results.

• Ross Levi from the NYS Division of Tourism talked about the impact of the “I Love NY” campaign and its efforts to broaden tourism beyond NYC to all parts of NY – generating a staggering $102 billion in tourism dollars for the state.

• Katie Paine of KD Paine & Partners urged PR practitioners to “measure behavior, not activities”. Instead of doing research to measure our performance, she said, PR should be conducting research that will produce better results for our organizations

• I added to the District conference research conversations by presenting with my colleague Dane Wiseman on the topic, “Your PR Data Has A Story”. Part of dissecting the behaviors we want to reinforce or change is finding out what motivates our audiences, and what’s blocking the behaviors we want from our audiences. We need to make sure our research is asking the right behavioral questions so we have the information we can use to develop the right PR strategies.

For a copy of my Powerpoint on “PR Storytelling with Behavior-Based Data”, email me at rschell@jjwpr.com. For more information on Jackson Jackson & Wagner, visit our website at www.jjwpr.com.

Robin Schell, APR, Fellow PRSA, Senior Counsel & Partner,       Jackson Jackson & Wagner

 

Just Because We Can, Should We? Why Organizations Should Not Rollback Policies, Just Because Washington Now Says We Can

The Trump Administration is busy reversing a myriad of policies that had been put in place by the previous administration.  They say these policies "hinder productive business growth and job creation".  I am not arguing that one way or the other. I do want to remind us, though, of the impact these decisions could have on the bottom line of many organizations. 

It is evident, despite the pendulum swing to the right, that the majority of society does care about — and hold accountable — organizations who conduct themselves in ways that damage the environment, discriminate against employees, cheat customers, etc.  Even if the court of law says these actions are technically legal, the court of public opinion will prevail in the form of fallen reputations, loss of profits and in some cases, businesses that are forced to close their doors.

Consider just a few examples from the past and today — Philip Morris and cigarettes, Hooker Chemical and Love Canal, W.R. Grace famously retold in "A Civil Action", and more recently, Volkswagen and BP Oil.  Sometimes these actions were legal — but eventually, these companies suffered for those actions and were deemed “unethical” if not “immoral”.  As society evolves and becomes more and more sensitive to "bad actors", it is even more critical that public relations have a seat at the management table to weigh in on business decisions, anticipate the issues that could take our organizations down and help to build the bank of goodwill that will keep reputations intact during a crisis situation.

Public relations practitioners today have the great responsibility of building and protecting organizational reputations over time.  We should be impacting decisions before they are made and warning leadership about actions that could hurt the organization in the future. It is our job to warn leadership of the long-term effects of bad decision-making.  Whether these actions are legal or not, the question is:  are they ethical? responsible? in the best interests of our organization in the long run? 

 Here are a couple of examples of businesses seeking regulatory rollback:

http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/329664-chemical-companies-ask-epa-to-kill-pesticide-risk-study

https://thinkprogress.org/mats-delay-pruitt-trump-5c9ad958b44f

And some examples of companies trying to do the right thing:

https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2017/jan/10/donald-trump-climate-change-letter-businesses-investors

https://www.bna.com/industry-scrambles-save-n57982085162/

 

Stacey Smith, APR, Fellow PRSA
Senior Counsel & Partner, JJ&W

 

CLEAN OUT YOUR COMMUNICATIONS JUNK DRAWER WITH A COMMUNICATION AUDIT

It is a time for new beginnings, fresh thinking, purging files and finding different ways of doing things.  If you’ve been managing your communications function for a while — or, if you’ve recently inherited the position and found yourself asking, “why are we doing what we’re doing?” – it is a good time for an audit.

The word “audit” is a bit daunting, but really what we’re talking about is an evaluation of what you’re doing now to see if it is:

  • in line with your organization’s goals… your communication department’s goals should be directly aligned with those of your organization
  • meeting the needs of your stakeholders, because if it isn’t, then why are you doing it?
  • driving knowledge and behaviors so that stakeholders act on what has been communicated

A communications audit examines what you are doing now to assess what’s working and not working for your critical audiences.  It helps focus on communications vehicles and messaging that has the greatest impact.

JJ&W asks the following questions when conducting a communication audit:

  1. What does your organization’s communication system look like?  We look at how communication is flowing from the top down, the bottom up and across the organization (laterally).  Do you have a good balance of one-way and two-way communication tools?
  2. What audiences are you reaching with each communication tool? Have you asked these audiences how they would like to be communicated with, or are you just bombarding them from all directions and hoping something sticks?
  3. Have you accounted for the changing demographics of your target audiences? If you’re a utility who is geared toward communication with the senior generation, have you thought about how you might change things up to reach the millennials who are becoming your customers – and will be with you for a long time to come?  Are you communicating in the right languages (not actual languages but idioms of that generation)?
  4. Are the key messages resonating with your audiences? Are those messages driving understanding and behavior?
  5. How effective are your digital communication tools, including social media? Are your target audiences using and responding? Are they clear on where to get their “need to know” vs. their “nice to know” communication?
  6. Do all your communications look like they come from the same organization? Do they have an easily-recognizable family look & feel that immediately lets audiences know where to find information?
  7. Have you gotten the perspectives of more than the senior management team? Have you talked to the front-liners who may not be sitting at desks with computers to find out how, and if, they’re getting the communication they need to do their job?

And if you want to leverage the real power of communications… how about some questions to probe the culture at your organization?  Do people perceive they can “fail forward” or are they fearful of taking risks that might result in punishment?  Do they feel communication is transparent, or does leadership hold things “close to the vest?”

This is an excellent time to clean out your “communications junk drawer” – get rid of anything that’s not working and fill in the gaps with effective methods and messages that are right for the stakeholders you are trying to reach.

Robin Schell/rschell@jjwpr.com /603/770-3607.

The Power of Triggering Events

When we talk about motivating behavior change, we tell people that simply making them aware of something rarely drives them to that behavior.

They usually need a triggering event – whether it is naturally occurring, like a time of year or an anniversary – or “manufactured” – something the organization does – to gently push stakeholders toward a behavior. The possible exception to this is advertising during the holidays, when people are already poised and ready to deliver the ultimate desired behavior in a retailer’s
eyes…buying merchandise!

Even with the naturally occurring triggering event of the holidays, though, companies are creating “manufactured triggering events” to drive behavior in the form of sales, coupons, emails, apps that entitle the shopper to discounts etc. Once they get you into the store to purchase what you came for, of course, their ultimate desired behavior is that you make some spontaneous additional purchases of cool stuff that catches your eye.

New Years as a triggering event? Everyone in the personal training/fitness facility world knows that New Years is the perfect triggering event for signing people up for health and fitness programs…since they have probably just made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, train for a specific event or just lead a
healthier lifestyle.   (Personally, I try to avoid going to the gym at peak hours during January  because it is packed! I wait until February to resume my normal routine,  knowing that even the best-intentioned folks will have trouble sticking to their newly-adopted behavior without some positive reinforcement to keep them
going).

In our business, the New Year is a triggering event for our clients to finalize budgets, conduct strategic planning and re-evaluate their activities from the past year … what’s been working and what hasn’t?

This is the time of year that we like to remind them how JJ&W can be helpful in many areas beyond our crisis communication work…including (but not limited to) research, strategic planning and employee communications. The intermediate behavior we want is for them to think of us when they have a need for public relations or management consulting services…the ultimate desired behavior is that they call us to help them on  whatever problem or issue
they are about to tackle.

The question for you is: As we enter the New Year, what are the triggering events to get YOU to move YOUR key stakeholders toward specific desired behaviors?

Robin Schell/rschell@jjwpr.com

Pan-Mass Challenge: A Case Study In Establishing A Signature Event

This past August was my 4th opportunity to ride in the Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC), a 2-day bike ride across Massachusetts ending in Provincetown, to raise money for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

The PMC raises more money for charity than any other single athletic fundraising event in the country. I’ve been reflecting on what they do right from a PR perspective, and there is a long list.
Goal-Driven: The PMC raised $45 million in 2015 with a goal of $46 million in 2016. Visit www.pmc.org and check out the Vimeo with PMC founder Billy Starr – powerful!

Get An Early Commitment: Those of us who are repeat riders are signing on the dotted line in January for an August ride, giving us ample time to train & fundraise. We put our credit cards down & then pray we can do the hard work ahead. One PMC t-shirt says it all: COMMIT – You’ll Figure It Out!

Establish A Clear Mission: The PMC’s mission is “Our hope is to provide Dana-Farber with the necessary resources to discover cures for all cancers”. Tough not to be for that one.

Design Healthy Competition. The fundraising can be overwhelming, but the PMC is a well-oiled machine that provides plenty of helpful tips, templates and systems to help you succeed. The “heavy hitter” and “top 10%” levels urge those with a competitive spirit to go above the required minimums.

Create Ambassadors. Last year the PMC attracted 6000 riders and 4000 volunteers – it takes everyone to pull off an event of this magnitude, from the folks pouring Gatorade at rest stops to those loading luggage bound for specific locations. Participation is infectious – all of us that have ever experienced a PMC will tell you to join the movement! There is nothing like seeing the crowd lining the streets with cowbells and signs, thanking
you for what you are doing, to pump you up as you muscle through the final miles.

Have A Passionate Champion Leading The Charge. Billy Starr founded the PMC in 1980, and he is out there creating events around check presentations, raising awareness through speaking engagements and touting accomplishments to keep everyone motivated.

For more information about the PMC, visit www.pmc.org – and consider becoming a sponsor, a rider, a volunteer!

Robin/rschell@jjwpr.com