Guest Post: Advice: Working With Millennials

Millennials are often characterized as lazy, self-entitled and disrespectful of authority. We’re often seen as the “me” generation, but does that necessarily make us bad employees? I would argue that millennials are not less motivated to work than past generations. We just like to work in different ways, and this difference often leads to negative stereotypes. Gone are the days when sitting in an office full of cubicles, with a traditional hierarchy of managers, is seen as the norm. Here are three things to keep in mind when working with millennials.

1: Create a strong company culture.

Millennials are attracted to companies where employees are excited to be there. Surroundings with creative, like-minded people in an environment that encourages free discussion and sharing of ideas appeals to millennials more than the traditional office setting.

One way that I get a feel for a company’s culture is by looking at their social media and recruitment videos. When I see pictures and videos of employees dressed in business-casual, with open workspaces and doing other activities together (other than work) I am automatically more interested in the company. When you’re excited to go to work, you’ll often perform better.

2: Create a work-social life balance.

As a whole, millennials are less driven by money than previous generations. We are less worried about getting a job that will make the most money, and more focused on finding a career that we genuinely enjoy. As a result, we are less willing to spend all of our time at work or thinking about work. The ability to fully “clock-out” at the end of the day and enjoy life outside of work is an important part of finding, and staying, with a company.

3: Timely feedback matters.

Millennials are used to getting answers in seconds, with just a few clicks on the computer or a smartphone. One way to keep millennials motivated to work is to provide feedback and comments at a relatively fast pace. This keeps us constantly challenged and motivated to work hard. In addition, it lets us know that our work is acknowledged and recognized.

About the author: Marissa Alsip graduated from Miami University in May 2017 with a degree in strategic communications.

Guest Post: What PR Professionals Need to Know about the Millennials

As millennials graduate from college and join the workforce, it is important to get to know the generation. A millennial was born between 1980 to 2000, grew up in an ever-expanding online and socially-networked world, and is often pinned as entitled. Falling into the category of a millennial and recent college graduate, I have insider insight for PR professionals about working with our generation.

1. Ditch the Stereotypes

First, ditch the stereotypes. Millennials are often lumped into a bucket of negative traits like laziness and entitlement. There are differences between every generation, and it is important to be open-minded. A key part of a successful work environment is acceptance. Without it, disconnect forms. Once people see beyond these stereotypes, a company will be able to better communicate and become more successful.

2. Embrace Change

For millennials, the increase in technological importance shifted many aspects of our lives, especially the way people interact and learn. Millennials can multitask like no other generation. Embracing this change involves learning new best practices for how this generation best communicates and works. For instance, realizing that just because someone is on their phone or device doesn’t mean they aren’t paying attention. Many millennials take notes on their phones and portable devices. In addition, millennials thrive working in groups, as this was a common practice during their education.

3. Offer Mentorship

Millennials want to learn and succeed. Implementing a mentorship program in your company would not only foster stereotype reduction and acceptance of change, but would also create a more meaningful work atmosphere. Millennials want more from their professional atmospheres.

About the author: Annie Aldrich graduated from Miami University in May 2017 with a degree in strategic communications.

 

Support PR's Future

 

By Shara Clark, APR

Shara Clark, APR, is the former chapter board president and current community service director.

Shara Clark, APR, is the former chapter board president and current community service director.

Did you know what PR was in high school? I personally had no idea of the opportunities available in the field until I was well into my college years.

With our PRSA Goes to School program, we are trying to interest the next generation of diverse individuals to enter our field. On Friday, April 21, the Miami University PRSSA will be hosting a group of students from Shroder High School to learn more about the opportunities in the field of public relations. These are students who have shown an interest in writing and are considering how they might use those skills for a future career. We'll be working with students in small groups to complete examples of PR activities as well as introducing them to the college experience.

How you can help: The Miami PRSSA chapter will be planning the activities, so all we need is some willing professionals to spend a few hours helping the groups brainstorm and create. Time commitment would be Friday, April 21, from 9-noon (option to stay for lunch and a campus tour if you're available). Please send me an email at sharamclark@gmail.com if you're interested in participating!

We’ve hit the ground running…

By Chris Holtman, Cincinnati PRSA President

January was here and gone in the blink of an eye – in no small part due to the excitement and prep for another productive year with Cincinnati PRSA.

Here are a few updates on some of the exciting things we’re focused on in 2017:

Chris Holtman

Strengthen ties between our local PRSSA chapters and Cincinnati PRSA

Cincinnati PRSA is lucky enough to have four PRSSA organizations in our service area. These schools – UC, Xavier, NKU and Miami University – are chock-full of talented, diverse, intelligent, driven, and passionate soon-to-be professionals, and we’d be fortunate to have them as part of our organization. We’re working towards building our visibility and strengthening the relationships we have with these local chapters in order to get students more involved and engaged with PRSA. As we all know, the public relations industry is constantly changing, and the game-changing ideas these students can bring to our trade is exciting. This is a mutually beneficial relationship that will pay dividends into the future.

Revamp our Blacksmith Awards categories, criteria and submission process

The Blacksmith Awards has served as the Super Bowl for Cincinnati-area public relations professionals for years. And since its inception, hundreds of awards have been given out to recognize our colleague’s outstanding work. This year we’re going to take a look at our award categories, criteria and submission process to assess any changes that need to be made to our annual event. Is a particular category still needed? How does our reciprocal judging chapter evaluate each entry? Can we update our submission process? These are questions our task force is going to ask to build upon this already fantastic event for Cincinnati PRSA and our local professionals.

Cincinnati PRSA Committee Growth

Want to get the most out of your PRSA membership? Is there a skill that you’d like to work on outside of your 9 to 5? Joining one of PRSA’s various committees is a great way to do just that. I wanted insight into event planning, so I joined the Programming committee to help plan, execute and evaluate monthly events. I know of others who sought to brush up on their blog writing skills, so they joined the Content committee. Our committees are truly the heart and soul of Cincinnati PRSA, and getting our members plugged in to areas that will be most impactful for them is a win-win. Committee work is also a fantastic opportunity to network with other professionals – another reason why so many people join PRSA.

Our energetic leadership team and volunteers are already well on their way to helping us achieve these goals, as well as those of each of our various committees.

To say that I’m excited about what our year has in store would be an understatement. We’ve hit our stride and I hope you’ll join us along the way.

Cincy PRSA recognizes the zoo's Thane Maynard with Presidents Award

By Kathleen Williams, APR

At our last event of the year, the Presidents Award luncheon, Thane Maynard, Director of the Cincinnati Zoo, was presented the 2016 Presidents Award.

Past presidents gather around Thane Maynard. Back row, from left: Carrie Phillippi, Rob Pasquinucci, Mike Boehmer, Thane Maynard, Lee Oberlag, Shara Clark, Lauren Doyle, Jonathan Kissell. Front row, Rick Pender and Tom Schick.

Past presidents gather around Thane Maynard. Back row, from left: Carrie Phillippi, Rob Pasquinucci, Mike Boehmer, Thane Maynard, Lee Oberlag, Shara Clark, Lauren Doyle, Jonathan Kissell. Front row, Rick Pender and Tom Schick.

This prestigious award is the highest honor PRSA Cincinnati can bestow on a non-public relations professional. It honors a Cincinnatian who doesn’t work in the public relations profession, but who uses PR essentials like strategy, storytelling and brand building to bring positive awareness and build the positive reputation of the City of Cincinnati. It is called the Presidents Award because it is decided upon by past presidents of PRSA.

Thane Maynard is indeed a worthy recipient. He is one of the most respected zoo leaders in the country, but the past year truly let his ambassadorial light shine. As the chief spokesman of the zoo during a protracted crisis, he was called upon again and again to represent the zoo in the sometimes unforgiving glare of the public spotlight. He did that with clarity and empathy for all those involved, from the family to the zoo team to the public itself.

“The committee showed overwhelming support for this decision based not only on his grace and artful communication as the spokesperson for the zoo this year in the midst of the tragedy that struck. But, also because he has been a positive ambassador for the Cincinnati community and our world-class zoo. His personal initiative and exemplary use of honest and authentic communication have been remarkable during his tenure at the zoo both on a local and national level,” said Shara Clark, APR, Immediate Past President of PRSA.

Congratulations, Thane, on this well-deserved award and thank you for all your work on behalf of Cincinnati and the Cincinnati Zoo.

Trump triumphs: Election 2016 lessons for PR pros

By Rob Pasquinucci

This isn’t the blog post I thought I’d be writing a few days following the election. If the widely-predicted results of the voting happened, I’d share a few post-mortem notes about how Trump (or Clinton, for that matter) didn’t handle crisis communication well. But the surprising result offers some valuable lessons for PR pros. Here are some that come to mind: 

Message matters

Rob Pasquinucci is a content strategist at Intrinzic.

Rob Pasquinucci is a content strategist at Intrinzic.

Whether you like or loathe the president-elect, he had a consistent theme that resonated deeply with the electorate. “Make America Great Again,” emblazoned on countless red ball caps, is easy to understand and remember. He also was authentic – Trump was Trump, whether firing off ill-advised tweets at 3 a.m. or making incendiary comments at a rally.

Meanwhile, the ever-wonky, glued-to-talking-points Hillary Clinton’s message was a collection of unmemorable phrases designed to offer a pat on the back to every Democratic special interest group, as Boston Globe reporter Matt Viser’s article points out. Even her tagline – “I’m With Her,” is focused on the candidate, not the country.

So, the takeaway here? Politicians are brands. And, just as corporate brands, they need to have a story and true character that connects with the audience and builds trust. Once that’s achieved, the candidate can enjoy the power of brand loyalty, as we saw during this election cycle. Trump’s people stayed with him through every scandal, controversy and kerfuffle.

Digital power

There are several election cycles that represent the “firsts” for using a new medium to connect with voters. FDR was the first to use radio. John F. Kennedy used TV. Obama was the first to truly maximize social media to raise money. I’d argue that Trump used social media – particularly Twitter – as a conduit to speak directly to his supporters, many of whom were clearly overlooked by the mainstream media.

This piece from Cision outlines how social media conversations and engagement shaped the election. I note that Donald Trump dominated those conversations by a nearly 3-1 margin. My friend Dave Almacy’s D.C.-based  digital agency put together a scorecard on the candidates’ social following. Not surprising, Trump’s numbers on Twitter and Facebook are the highest.

Crisis? What crisis?

Both campaigns were rocked by crises, and both responded in ways no public relations pro would likely recommend.

Let’s start with Trump. Every time he had an “open-mouth-insert-wingtip” moment, he would double down, seemingly digging a deeper hole for himself. But, being Trump means never (or at least rarely) having to say you’re sorry (or offer an apology), and that played out throughout the campaign.

Meanwhile, Clinton dealt with the lingering story about her email server, along with questions about the Clinton Foundation. She and her campaign never fully addressed these issues, causing them to linger, fester and proved to be a millstone.

http://www.odwyerpr.com/story/public/7871/2016-11-09/important-pr-lessons-from-election.html

 

Does your brand have a distinctive voice? It needs one

By Christine Hall

As communication professionals, we operate in a globally linked information society where the rate of change continues to grow exponentially. Public relations principles have evolved and each brand we work with seems to look at the world through its own hand-crafted lens.

Christine Hall is Vice President and Business Development Director at Wordsworth Communications. 

Christine Hall is Vice President and Business Development Director at Wordsworth Communications. 

In this ever-changing, multi-channel, no-rules communication environment, the role of PR has also evolved from earning publicity to content creation and curation, social dialogue, thought leadership, influencer relations, and much more.

As communication experts, writers and relationship builders, we must find ways to stay true to our brand’s voice so it can be successful in the fight to gain relevant share of the conversation in this environment.

One way to help our brands do this is to root them in communication fundamentals. A set of brand beliefs – rather than rules – define who the brand is and what they believe in. Of the communication fundamentals brands can choose to develop, the one every PR professional should understand is brand voice, often called tone of voice. Voice is the verbal style brands use to communicate with their audiences. Developing a clear and ownable brand voice will help establish equity across multiple channels.

Here are a few tips to consider:

Understand what a brand voice is and is not.

While messaging guides WHAT you say, audience guides WHO you say it to and WHERE you engage, voice guides HOW you say it. Voice consists of a set of attributes to guide word choice for writing and speech. Voice is no longer just for written copy only; it should be considered for everything from speaking engagements, social media content and dialogue, to owned content and earned media pitches.

Understand your audiences to determine if modulation is appropriate.

Today, brands are rarely just B2B or B2C; many speak to professionals and consumers each day. Modulating your voice, or ‘dialing-up’ one attribute over another, may be required. For example, you may have two very different voice attributes, one more credible and relevant to professionals and one more casual to humanize the brand for relevance with consumers.

Understand the role of vocabulary.

Voice attributes guide the rhythm and flow of language, the pacing, as well as the words you choose. For each attribute, write examples for what it is, and what it is not, as well as examples for how the voice should come across. Provide vocabulary lists to express each attribute. This is important so each individual doesn’t translate the attribute based on  his or her own beliefs.

Understand how to apply voice to different types of content.

Depending on the channel and type of copy, voice has a different fit. For example, if you are pitching an idea to an editor via a tweet, it’s more important that they understand how clever your story idea is than to recognize the brand voice. Voice fits best in owned media, like marketing, advertising and sales materials, blogs, social media, trade shows, recruiting, and speaking engagements. It doesn’t fit as well into contracts, pricing or spec sheets, and research summaries.

Keep it simple.

The more complicated you make your communication fundamentals, the less likely people are to embody them and use them. And if you have multiple writers, agencies and employees, keeping it simple is key to keeping voice attributes in use. For voice, 2-3 attributes are ideal. Perhaps if it really adds value, you can have four attributes, but beyond that, we just can’t recall them. And if we can’t, how do we expect our audiences to?

Ideas & inspiration from ICON in Indy

By Mike Boehmer, APR

Wow! What an experience. The 2016 PRSA International Conference in Indianapolis served up an endless flow of interesting breakout sessions, thought-provoking keynote talks, and opportunities for connecting with public relations professionals from around the country.

Mike Boehmer, APR, Chris Kemper, APR, and Jonathan Kissell, APR -- all Cincinnati PRSA members at the International Conference.

Mike Boehmer, APR, Chris Kemper, APR, and Jonathan Kissell, APR -- all Cincinnati PRSA members at the International Conference.

I’ve been mulling over the almost overwhelming abundance of information presented at the conference. Here are some thoughts that bubble up:

  • Don’t get too distracted from the fundamentals. The basics we learned in college and at the outset of our careers still ring true. We’re here to help build mutually beneficial relationships. We need to provide value to key audiences. We need to help them solve problems. We need to listen carefully to their needs and plan accordingly. They will reward us with loyalty, referrals and/or repeat business.
  • We can make great strides by identifying the key influencers in various communities and working with them.
  • Enlightened leadership counts on our counsel, especially when it comes to reputation management. One stupid employee action can sink a company, but organizations can build great credibility by handling crisis situations properly.
  • Tie your communication goals to business goals. Your communication dashboard should reflect how you are helping achieve these overarching goals.
  • Don’t stereotype, especially when it comes to millennials. Not everything is generational.
  • Pay for play is growing and will continue to do so. Earned media and media relations remain vital, but paid content continues to play a larger part in our world.
  • New technology, demand for content, an explosion of communication channels, and rising need for reputation management are fueling a time of growth in our field.

To the last point, Fred Cook, CEO at Chicago-based agency Golin and a faculty at member at USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, offered findings from a recent survey of 1,000 industry leaders.

The survey points to time of growth in next five years: $14.4 billion to $19.3 billion. Agencies expect their head counts to grow 26 percent, and in-house 11 percent.

Cook said that PR needs to tap creativity and courage to grab its share from marketing and advertising. But we’re in a bit of an identity crisis. In this time of convergence and rapid change, only 27 percent believe the name “PR” even describes what we do. (By the way, more than one person mentioned during the conference that we need to collaborate and partner with marketing and advertising, and not see this as adversarial.)

According to the survey, the most important skills in next five years: writing (89 percent), strategic planning, verbal, content, social media, media relations, business literacy, analytics (62 percent). How to instill these skills? Hiring or retraining.

Most important traits: teamwork (90 percent), problem solving, critical thinking, curiosity, creativity, adaptability, hard work (79 percent).

Cook said the survey points to more complex, strategic, challenging and important work ahead for us.

Whew! I’m sure glad we have PRSA to help us along the way with great educational and networking opportunities like the annual conference.

Mike Boehmer, APR, is the Media Manager for Mercy Health.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Congratulations to Carrie Phillippi, our WVB honoree!

By Chris Holtman

Congratulations to this year’s 2016 Werner-VonderHaar-Bogart (WVB) Award recipient, Carrie Phillippi, APR. She will be honored at the upcoming Blacksmith Awards on Thursday, Nov. 17.

The WVB Award is the highest honor that the Cincinnati PRSA Chapter can bestow upon a member. Carrie’s dedication to the public relations profession, PRSA, and her community make her a worthy and well-deserved recipient of this accolade.

Carrie Phillippi, APR, and WVB honoree

Carrie Phillippi, APR, and WVB honoree

Carrie has helped elevate the brand and reputation of some of the biggest companies in town over the course of her 20+years career. She currently works for GE Global Operations focusing on HR communications. Previously, Carrie was part of the Copperfox Marketing team prior to its merger with Intrinzic, the PR director for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and before that, led the Media Services Group of Dan Pinger Public Relations. Carrie has also served as a part-time instructor at Miami University, shaping the minds of future professionals of our industry.

Carrie has been an engaged and active member of Cincinnati PRSA for 17 years. As part of the Chapter’s leadership track, she served a four-year commitment to the board as VP programming, incoming president, president and past president, and has continued to be a critical member year after year.

She provides support of the President’s Award, has served on the Media Day planning committee, the Blacksmith Awards committee, and the APR committee. She’s taught many APR classes, participated as a Media Day panelist, and judged countless awards from other chapters through our reciprocal judging agreements. Additionally, you’ll often see Carrie at events, including regular luncheons, happy hours, the Blacksmith Awards and Media Day.

When she is not busy with PRSA, Carrie is an active member of her high school alma mater, the Ursuline Academy Alumnae Council. She is also a former member of the St. Xavier High School Mother's Club, Little Sisters of the Poor Communications Committee, Red Cross Communications Committee and the Women Helping Women Communications Committee.

Carrie holds a B.A. in speech communication from Miami University of Oxford and lives in Wyoming with her husband David. Her stepson, Conner, is currently a senior at the University of South Carolina.

Join us at the Blacksmith Awards on Thursday, Nov. 17 to honor Carrie as this year’s Werner-VonderHaar-Bogart (WVB) Award recipient. Tickets are now available at the early bird rate. Register here.

Congratulations, Carrie! 

The power of persuasion

By JD Bruewer

I’m a pretty good communicator and storyteller, but I’m not always a great persuader.

JD Bruewer is a PR specialist at Hamilton County Job & Family Services.

JD Bruewer is a PR specialist at Hamilton County Job & Family Services.

One reason we need persuasion in public relations is to get the internal audience to understand that they are not our target audience. Their impression of the plan is different from the public's. In health care, the challenge often is getting physicians to buy into campaigns that work, instead of campaigns they like. In adoption and foster care, it’s getting caseworkers to understand that prospective parents will view information about a child differently than people who know the child.

My first career, as a journalist, helped me refine skills in gathering and translating information for public consumption, as well as the ability to boil a story down to its key elements.

But the volume of work against daily deadlines didn’t lend itself to respectful building of consensus before taking action. There were usually about 20 minutes to decide how to handle an issue for the next day’s paper. Quite often, when reporters and editors disagreed on the approach we should take, the door to the conference room was closed and yelling ensued.

Each party expressed their position clearly and forcefully, no pleasantries. When all sides had spoken, a decision was made, by seniority or majority rule and we moved on. That approach didn’t fly too well when reporting to the C-suite and I assume it wouldn’t work with clients if I were in an agency.

How do we persuade our bosses and clients to trust our expertise? I wanted to find out more, so I did a bit of research.

I found this advice, specifically tailored to health care, from health care brand consultancy Franklin Street.

Author Stephen Moegling recommends bringing the clients in early and educating them on the metrics used to measure success. Teach them to evaluate the campaign on metrics that matter. Doing so not only brings clients into your thought process, it allows them to feel a part of the process before decisions are made.

A couple of years back, I had coffee with James McKenna, a long-time copywriter in the Cincinnati area. I sought his advice on persuasion. His advice was to slow down, get input from the clients, then offer a plan that echoes their input.

Even if their input doesn’t have an impact on the plan, you can explain how the plan addresses their concerns.

McKenna emphasized the slowing down part. “Listen, listen and listen,” he said. “Don’t offer your plan until they ask for it. If you can get them to ask for it, they are going to be more receptive.”

Another bit of wisdom I found was from PR software provider Cision.

Author Allen Mireles believes persuasion is often the biggest difference between success and failure.

He offers six key principles to persuading client to buy in to a plan.

Likability: Find similarities and offer praise to the clients.

Reciprocity: Give what you want to receive -- trust, cooperation, a smile.

Social proof: Show that the idea has been well received by peers.

Consistency: Show up regularly, communicate clearly and honor commitments.

Authority: Express your expertise in blogs, white papers and social media.

Scarcity: Highlight the unique benefits or exclusive information you or your plan provide.

 

Library’s MakerSpace makes PR projects easier

By Joy Landry

Joy Landry is a Public Relations Specialist at Hamilton County Environmental Services.

Joy Landry is a Public Relations Specialist at Hamilton County Environmental Services.

Last year, my co-workers and I were brainstorming ideas to create our annual recycling awards out of reused materials. We all loved the idea of purchasing tiles from the ReStore, but we weren’t certain where to have them engraved. Someone suggested the MakerSpace, located at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County’s (PLCHC) Main Library in downtown Cincinnati. The library staff gave us a tour and answered our many questions about their engraving machine. We had our solution – handcrafted awards made from reused materials on a shoe-string budget.

MakerSpaces are an emerging trend in libraries as they continue to evolve with the digital age while providing the most recent technical resources to their patrons. MakerSpaces are community areas with tools such as design software, manufacturing equipment, and craft machines.

The MakerSpace may be the perfect solution for non-profits and small business public relations professionals who do not have the budget to support expensive software and print projects, yet are DIY-savvy. The Main Library's MakerSpace features a host of tools and software that may benefit PR pros: Adobe Creative Suite software, video and audio editing software, a video recording studio with green screen, and an audio recording booth. These are just a few of the incredible resources offered at the MakerSpace. Oftentimes, the use of the equipment is free; you just need to bring your own supplies, media, or flashdrive.

A word of caution -- there is a high demand for some MakerSpace equipment, especially the vinyl printer and the engraving machine. To ensure time with these stations, schedule an appointment in advance.

In addition to the large MakerSpace located at the Main Library, smaller MakerSpaces are located at the Reading and St. Bernard branches. Several branches offer “tech centers” that include Apple computers with Adobe Creative Suite.

Take advantage of our library system and its many resources!

Honor our top PR pros – nominate a colleague for the WVB award

By Rob Pasquinucci

Rob Pasquinucci is content strategist at Intrinzic and the 2015 recipient of the WVB Award.

Rob Pasquinucci is content strategist at Intrinzic and the 2015 recipient of the WVB Award.

Our city and region are lucky to have an abundance of top public relations talent, and we are especially lucky to have so many talented PR pros who are willing to give back. These individuals give back to the industry by serving on the PRSA board and committees, by going to national conferences, speaking at events, teaching and helping prepare other professionals earn their accreditation. These pros also give back to their communities, volunteering their talents on local boards, coaching Little League teams and just being good neighbors.

The list of Werner-Vonderhaar-Bogart winners provides so many great examples of the best of our profession and our community. This list extends to the three PR pros who the award is named after – three Cincinnati PRSA members who went on to serve as national PRSA presidents.

Once again this year, we are looking for someone in our community who exemplifies the spirit of this award. Know someone that fits the bill? Nominate him or her today! Visit the WVB Award Nomination page to learn more about award criteria, the selection process, and to submit your nomination for the 2016 award! The deadline to submit a nomination is Friday, Sept. 23, at 11:59 p.m.

The 'wow' factor: How to keep your clients happy

By Steve Kissing, APR

How do your clients feel about you? I mean really feel about you?

Steve Kissing, APR, is managing partner of Wordsworth Communications.

Steve Kissing, APR, is managing partner of Wordsworth Communications.

Whether you work at an agency with external clients or at an organization with internal ones, how your clients feel about you is critical. And while annual client “check-ins” or more formal reviews have a place, my agency has learned (the hard way) that a regular gauge of client happiness, or lack thereof, is best for all involved.

To accomplish this, we ask our account teams to regularly — meaning monthly, if not weekly — pause for a few minutes and take the “Meeting Reminder Test.” It’s not a written essay or a multiple-choice exam, but rather a thought experiment:

Imagine that your client is in the middle of writing an important email to her boss. She has lost track of time and what’s next on her schedule. Then, a meeting reminder pops up on her screen and she instantly recalls that her next meeting is with you. At that exact moment, what goes through her head? More specifically, what does she feel? Is she thrilled because working with you is focused, productive and upbeat? Is she feeling dread because you seem to complicate her life rather than make it easier? Is she wishing she had called in sick because your lack of knowledge about her needs and her industry is headache-inducing? You get the idea.

The ‘Meeting Reminder Test’

For this test to work, you and your team members have to be brutally honest with yourselves and each other. And you have to provide evidence for your point of view on just how happy the client is (or isn’t).

Very happy clients are easy to spot. So are the very angry ones. The real trick is identifying the client who seems happy and content but truly isn’t. This may be because he manages to hide his frustration well or he just doesn’t know how to tell you. (Or maybe he’s waiting for that annual check-in to share the bad news.)

But it’s more likely that you haven’t noticed because you’re not paying enough attention. The answer can be found in the results you’re delivering and his tone of voice, his word choices and, of course, his body language.

If you’re struggling to confidently answer the “Meeting Reminder Test,” then it’s most likely time to just ask your client: Are you happy with me and the service I’m providing? If she expresses any degree of unhappiness, you need to address it immediately. Meaning, before your next meeting reminder appears on her screen.

Tips for inspiring client joy

  • Strive for brevity. Keep meetings as short, yet productive, as possible. To this end, prepare agendas that are lean and mean. And stick to them.
  • Remember you’re the servant. They call it client service for a reason. You should be lightening your client’s workload, not adding to it.
  • Delight often. Regularly share something unexpected with your client. For example, go above and beyond on some assignments or surprise him with some bonus thinking.
  • Listen more, talk less. Resist the urge to talk a lot. The better you listen, the better the chances you’ll deliver thinking and executions that work, and you’ll wow.

This post originally appeared on PRSA’s blog, PR Tactics.

You never know the connections you'll make through PRSA

By Mike Boehmer, APR

On Nov. 19 of last year, I walked into the 2015 Blacksmith Awards at the Bell Event Centre feeling a bit anxious and slightly lost. My wife of 18 years, Tami, had passed away just 15 days earlier after living with Stage IV cancer for seven years. Many of those inside the historic hall had known Tami, a long-time PR professional in Cincinnati.

Mike and his beloved wife, Tami. Mike is the Media Manager at Mercy Health.

Mike and his beloved wife, Tami. Mike is the Media Manager at Mercy Health.

My slightly awkward feelings evaporated almost immediately as PRSA friends and acquaintances greeted me with compassion and understanding. I felt a deep connection to those I had gotten to know over the years – a bond far beyond our professional commonality.

I share this story to thank those who supported me during this challenging period. I also want to give a vision to PRSA newbies of the connections you will make by getting involved in this wonderful organization.

My involvement in PRSA started way back in the early ‘90s (1990s, not 1890s!), when my manager suggested that I join to help him keep a pulse on the latest in PR. He even suggested that I might meet a nice woman there, as I had entered my 30s as a bachelor. I was new to PR, having served as a print journalist for 12 years.

I actually did meet Tami at an IABC meeting! She was short, cute and an Ohio University graduate. I overheard her saying that she had broken up with her boyfriend and lost her job. I had just completed a job search – with the help of PRSA contacts – and quickly volunteered to assist her. One thing led to another … but that’s another story.

My involvement in PRSA has ebbed and flowed over the years, as life circumstances have dictated. But I have reaped the benefits of my times as board member, committee volunteer, APR course instructor and evaluator, assembly delegate, program attendee … tenfold.

If you haven’t already, please join PRSA and start attending meetings. Volunteer to serve or lead a committee. Serve in chapter leadership. Do whatever your busy schedule allows.

You will develop relationships with fun, creative, amazing people. They will do far more than offer you career advice or discuss solutions to your latest PR challenge. They will help you celebrate the good times and handle challenges. I know from firsthand experience.