Posts Tagged 'marketing'

Why I Like the PR Agency Life

By Amanda Guisbond, @agbond

I was speaking with a soon-to-be graduate student last week about getting into Public Relations and applying for an agency job. I became physically sad to hear her say that she had been “afraid” of applying to agencies until several folks suggested she attempt it for the sake of “getting agency experience” on her resume. This is a girl getting her master’s in PR. What hope is there for those communications/marketing/journalism majors if the PR grads are already set up to think agency life is waterboard torture with a little media pitching mixed in?

As we in the profession know well, PR often gets a bad rap. What’s worse, PR agencies are stereotyped as factory-line machines that work people to the bone. Well, as someone who’s now worked in two different PR agencies, I want to put a stop to it. I like the agency life – and here’s why:


1) You get to try a little bit of everything – As far as I can tell, the marketing specialist at X brand writes press releases and talks strategy about the same X brand all day. In an agency,  I have the opportunity to work with and represent multiple brands – some big, some small, some just starting out, some very savvy about communications and some still learning. That makes for a diverse to-do list everyday – and it means that I’m constantly learning about my own job as well as my clients.

This also means that in just 3 years, I’ve had experience not only with different clients/industries, but skill sets – including competitive PR, product and company launches, crisis communications, social media management, etc.

2) You get to be creative – One of my favorite things, especially at SHIFT, is our brainstorm chats. It’s when people from different teams get together and discuss new, creative ways to promote one particular client or prospect, or a new initiative/campaign. This is just one of the many ways we get creative in an agency setting, but I think it’s a pretty good example of how agency life forces you to think outside-the-box and lean on your co-workers for inspiration.

3) You have so many resources – Again, if you’re working in the marketing department at X brand, you’re working with and learning from your marketing team. In an agency, you have access to your teammates, your office mates, people in other offices, and everyone in between. EVERYONE there is a PR pro, whether at entry-level or a 20+ year veteran. Most mid-size to large agencies hold internal training programs just so all employees can leverage the array of experience and knowledge available to them. I can’t say enough about how much I’ve learned from other people I work with, and probably how many mistakes I’ve avoided as a result.

4) There’s a clear career path – To one person, clear role definitions and measurable results that lead to promotion might seem “machine-like” – to me, PR agency life provides a clear, reliable career path that recognizes accomplishment, experience and passion.

5) But you can still divert from the script – Not every agency is awesome, maybe I’ve been lucky. But the right agency and the right people will work with you, not against you. If you’re not the stereotypical Type-A personality that many PR folks can be, that’s OK in an agency. From what I’ve seen, all kinds of personalities can do awesome PR – from the more analytical and detail-oriented pros to the assertive, action-oriented types. In life, you’re going to work with people who think and act just like you, and those who couldn’t be more different. In an agency, you get them all. I find this to be comforting and something I can learn from daily.

So, that’s my stream-of-consciousness on why agency life is GREAT, not EGADS. What are some things you like about working in an agency? Please pile on in the comments!

Drinking the Marketing Kool-Aid: The Origins of Popular Phrases

By Amanda Guisbond (@agbond)

Ever been in a meeting with a teammate, client or prospect, and heard a marketing/business phrase that made you pause to think, why the heck do we say that?? This has happened to me on several occasions recently and I felt the need to do a little digging on why, in fact, something can be explained “from soup to nuts.”

Feel free to pile on in the comments section on some more wonder-filled phrases I may have missed, whether you love them or hate them!

“Soup to nuts” – A fun image, and the inspiration for my post. In marketing speak, it means “from beginning to end.” It is derived from the description of a full course dinner, in which courses progress from soup to a dessert of nuts. Which means, if you’re me, it’s more like “From gazpacho to chocolate cake.”  In Latin, the go-to phrase is “from egg to apples.”

“Putting lipstick on a pig” – More common in modern political conversations, this is a popular marketing/business term for trying to dress up or disguise the true nature of a thing. This expression has been linked to the 16th century phrase “you can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear.” In more recent times, the term has been used to criticize “spin” and (fun fact!) Dick Cheney once called it his “favorite line.” Clearly, pigs have always gotten a bad rap.

Th-th-th-that's not very nice.

“Pushing the envelope” – This phrase was first used in mathematical terms, to describe the mathematical envelope, which is defined as the “locus of the ultimate intersections of consecutive curves.” (I’m sorry, what? I was a Humanities major.) More to the point – an envelope is that which envelops something. So by pushing the envelope, you’re pushing boundaries or limitations. This phrase was likely coined in the forties, when aviation folks discussed the “flight envelope” or the upper and lower limits at which it is safe to fly.

“Low-hanging fruit” – I used to LOVE this term to describe an opportunity that should, in theory, be an easy sell and quick win. In reality, veteran fruit pickers actually start at the top of the tree in order to avoid harder picking and poorer fruit.

“Drinking the Kool-Aid” – What did we say before the Jonestown Massacre, in which cult members were voluntarily poisoned with a Kool-Aid-like product called Flavor Aid? This phrase refers to a cult-like mentality that can affect a group or individual who has mindlessly accepted the dogma of a group or leader.

“The bottom line” – It will probably come as no surprise to the Economics majors, but the bottom line literally means the last line in a financial statement showing net income or loss. In marketing speak, the bottom line tends to mean the “main point” or conclusion of a conversation.

“Flack” – A derogatory, slang term for a PR pro or publicist, that I have come to loathe and yet, remain curious as to its origins. This one’s been a toughie to dig up – for example, did you know that the noun “flack” is English for a “slick spokesperson” as well as an anti-aircraft gun?? Trying to see the similarities here…

“The perfect storm” – This phrase has come to be synonymous with “worst-case scenario.” Sebastian Junger’s 1997 book by the same name introduced the phrase to popular culture.

“Fat cat” – The infamous “fat cat” has several meanings: in business, we think of it as someone who has become “well-fed” over the course of their career and now rests on his/her laurels; the simplest definition is a wealthy person. This expression originated in the twenties in the U.S. in reference to those who made large contributions to political candidates.

And for more “marketing speak” fun, check out the American Airlines commercial “Win-Win”  (Thanks, @kdespres !)

SHIFT’s Amanda Grinavich Talks With PR Pro Arik Hanson

Here’s a little something to snack on this Wednesday afternoon/evening: SHIFT’s very own Amanda Grinavich (@agrinavich) talks social media with PR/marketing guru Arik Hanson. Check out the interview here, also recently featured on PR at Sunrise:

Arik Hanson is a blogger and communications veteran who has worked with many clients including Mall of America and Select Comfort

What Every Company Needs to Know About Social Media

If you’re a marketing or PR pro active on Twitter, it’s likely you’ve seen @arikhanson crop up once or twice. Arik Hanson is a digital PR consultant with more than 14 years of PR/marketing experience under his belt. He was recently included on PRWeek’s “required reading” list for his blog, Communications Conversations and was kind enough to spend some time talking with us about the future of social media and mistakes he has seen companies make in this space.

Q. Are you surprised to see how big social media has become? And how useful?

I don’t know if I ever thought Facebook would hit 500 million users or that we’d see our 20 billionth tweet, but you could see the huge potential early on. That much was clear from my vantage point.

Q. Do you think it’s possible for brands/companies not to be involved in social media and still be successful?

Oh sure. I certainly don’t think it’s a “must have” for all brands. It’s all about employing the strategies and tactics necessary to reach your key audiences that will drive results for your business. Resources and company culture have an awful lot to do with a brand’s engagement online too. There’s a lot of “me too” marketing going on right now as it relates to social media. Just like the late 90’s with the Web boom: ‘my competitor has a web site – I need one too.’

The smart companies are taking their time researching, evaluating options, exploring — before moving ahead. Without moving too slowly of course.

Q. Sometimes we see companies make mistakes when it comes to social media. What do you think some of the major, common mistakes are?

1) Not narrowing their focus. Typically brands are short on time and resources. They’re not infinite. You have to make the most with what you have. I think some organizations get into trouble because they have so many great ideas, and they want to execute them all. Not possible. I usually suggest a “slow-but-steady” approach. Start with a narrow focus. Put your time and energy where the biggest payoff is, and build out from there.

2) It’s about them–not you. By their very nature, most brands want to talk about themselves. A lot. But to be successful online, you need to frame up posts, tweets, updates, etc. in terms of the customer–not your organization. Take blog content, for example. Some brands will use a blog to talk about new products, features and benefits, new hires … the list goes on and on. All about “me.” Now, it’s OK to have some of that, no question. But the bulk of your blog content should focus squarely on the people reading your blog–your customers (and potential customers). List ways your product can help make their lives easier. Use guest posts from customers and other experts in your field. Have conversations with other customers about how to make your product/service even better. Organizations just need to flip their thinking a bit.

3) Social is pay-to-play, not pay-for-play. I can’t remember exactly who coined that phrase, but I think it rings true. Some organizations treat social like advertising: ‘I’m paying a consultant/agency to handle this for me.’ They want the consultant/agency to basically manage their community for them, and I guess that’s fine. But, I don’t see it that way. In order to be truly successful online, your organization needs to embrace the key tenets of what’s happening online these days. You get what you put into it. For example, if you’re blogging for business, and you only post twice a month, you’re probably not going to get a lot out of it. Now, if you’re posting 2-3 times a week and actively building community around your blog, I bet you’re going to see some results. You get what you put into it. That’s a different kind of concept than what marketers and PR pros are used to.

Q. Do you think these are mistakes that will continue to be made, or do you think that over time, brands will better understand how to execute on social media?

I definitely think companies will learn at a faster rate, but to think we could reach a nirvana-like state where everyone is operating perfectly? I think that’s a little far-fetched.

Q. What is your first suggestion for organizations getting ready to jump into social media for the first time?

Listen. But, don’t just listen—research!  Sure, you want to listen to what your customers and key stakeholders are saying about you online. But, if I’m new to the space, I also want to know: 1) What my competitors are doing and what’s working for them and what’s not ; 2) Industry best practices; 3) Audience profiles for my key audiences; 4) Key influencers in my niche (among other things).

Armed with that information, you are definitely ready to create an informed social media strategy.

Q. What is one of your favorite examples of an organization using social media right?

I love what Punch Pizza is doing locally here in Minneapolis/St. Paul. I just wrote about the case study in a post the other day.

This post was written by Amanda Grinavich who is an account coordinator at SHIFT Communications. Amanda tweets  via @agrinavich and blogs about one of her favorite things: hockey. Amanda Guisbond (@agbond) also contributed to this effort



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