Applying big-brand strategies with few resources

By Justine Daley

As PR professionals, we all dream of that fateful day when we’d have the endless resources and support needed to implement our dream strategies. We fantasize about social media command centers and expensive, perfect tools, all at our fingertips.

                   Justine Daley is a copywriter at GNGF.

                   Justine Daley is a copywriter at GNGF.

I know I have. And let’s be honest; if I had a dollar every time I griped about the amount of hours there are in the day I might have the cash to do all of these things.  

I was recently reminded of this when I attended the Ragan PR and Social Media Conference. The speakers of the conference represented big brands like NASCAR, National Geographic, Disney World, and Coca Cola. The attendees were comprised of people just like me and you – hard-working individuals with big ideas, but not necessarily the time, money, or people to implement them. From non-profit to corporate, we all have the same struggle. We learn about big brand ideas and think about them, awe-struck, but then come back down from the clouds with the ever-present question: How can I make their strategy work for me?

Before I go on, let me give you a little idea about where I come from. I am currently writing content and maintaining media earning efforts at GNGF, a full-scale legal marketing agency. We’re a fast growing start-up with big, big ideas, and just like you, we’d be quite happy if there were more than 365 days in a year to implement each and every one of them. But unless global warming is having some unexpected effects, that’s not going to happen anytime soon.

The truth is, there are some things we won’t be able to do, despite our headstrong entrepreneurial spirit – that’s just the nature of the beast. We aren’t all NASCAR; we aren’t all able to collaborate with Snapchat and Kid Rock for a mere weekend project. What we can do is focus on the core aspects of a big brand strategy. What are the fundamentals, because in reality, behind every big brand strategy is a mere Excel sheet editorial calendar.

Below are three fundamental applications I took away from the conference.

  • Tools vs. manpower: Whether you have a one man shop or a large team behind you, efficiency is always a concern. Luckily, we live in a world where people are always creating new tools and apps to expedite some of the most time consuming processes. Boomerang, Rapportive, and ClicktoTweet are just a few that I found to be beneficial.
  • Boring content will never win: No matter how efficiently you tweet it or email blast it, boring content will forever just be, well, boring. Every brand has the same challenge: How do you make something exciting for your industry’s audience? What are people ultimately interested in? Focus on your audience and focus on what matters: pure storytelling.
  • Take a step back: Look at the tools, the people, and the strategies you’re already implementing. Could you use these for any other purpose? You could already have all the skills and tools to be implementing your seemingly too-big strategy. Take a step back, refocus, and think about it in a different way. Sometimes closing the computer and taking out a pen and paper can be more productive than negotiating with your content strategy over and over.

 I admit it; getting a backstage view of these big brands is fun and exciting . But by honing in on the small aspects and small takeaways, we can still make a big-time impact in our day-to-day.



Lessons in juggling from Cincinnati's communications director

By Rocky Merz

Last summer, I transitioned into my new role as Communications Director for the City of Cincinnati. Prior, I served for about 6 years as Public Information Officer for the Cincinnati Health Department. Bed bugs, syphilis and a flu pandemic are just a few of the public relations issues that helped prepare me for the new assignment.

Rocky Merz, CCPH, is director of communications for the City of Cincinnati.

Rocky Merz, CCPH, is director of communications for the City of Cincinnati.

The City of Cincinnati government is an organization of 6,300 employees and 20 stand-alone departments, which means the media relations pace of the new position is intense. One moment we are dealing with a bridge collapse, and the next we are responding to inquiries about the changes to the pension plan. I’d like to share a few thoughts on how I attempt to keep pace.

  • Build relationships. I view my role in large part as a media ombudsman. At the end of the day, my team represents the local government, which belongs to all of us. The media are partners who help share the workings of government with our bosses, the general public. Navigating a large bureaucracy can be challenging for anyone, and reporters are no different. Sincerely working to get questions answered, promptly, goes a long way toward building trust.
  • Make time to plan. Far too rarely do planned items dominate my week; rather, time is consumed by items that seem to come out of nowhere. I view communications two ways, proactive and reactive. The latter are the unplanned items such as a building collapse that, without warning, dominates days or weeks at a time. These situations must be dealt with, with attentiveness and commitment. But whenever possible, spend time proactively identifying, packaging and releasing news items that are interesting and help promote organizational goals. In the long run, this informs the public and reduces the amount of future “fires” burning away hours of the workday. 
  • Monitor and track. Monitoring media provides a sense for whether your point came across and can provide insight as to where the story line may be heading. Further, this provides the opportunity to share the stories with those who should see them, whether the news is good or bad.
  • Respond. When approached about a controversial or complicated issue there is a tendency to freeze, or stick your head in the sand. Regardless of the topic, I make it a goal to return calls from reporters as quickly as possible, certainly no later than the end of the day. Reporters have deadlines. You don’t have to wait until you have all the information. Reach out and let them know when to expect a response, or why certain information is not available.
  • Have a process. The ability to quickly research and synthesize information is critical. I try to remember sequential steps to follow when responding to media inquires. This checklist of sorts helps ensure I don’t overlook something that will cause problems later, which often results in spending time correcting misinformation. 

 The last six months have been a whirlwind. I appreciate the opportunity to share a few insights about my recent transition and very much look forward to the lessons ahead.