A musician’s guide to public relations

Like any young boy, I went through phases about what I was convinced I was going to do with my life. When I was 10, I was sure I wanted to repair cars for a living. When I was 12, I wanted to be a musician after I first picked up the guitar, and by the time I was 22 I had been introduced to the wonderful world of public relations.

The car thing fell by the wayside, but the music has always been a constant – I’ve been playing at local shows with a band since I was 14. Of course, times have changed and the advent of YouTube and other online platforms have made things a lot more convenient for musicians to get themselves out there.

Along the way, I’ve met a lot of people and picked up a thing or two, be it about making music or the art of connecting with people and audiences. Thanks to my chosen career in PR, I’ve been able to apply a lot of what I’ve learned into my music and managing the profile of my band, and vice versa.

1. Messaging

Messaging in this context refers to what your audience takes away from listening to you, which happens to be a very big component in PR. How do I explain my music to an individual in a way that is most appealing to them? I came up with a formula and translated it into the context of PR:

  • Relevance

How do I convince the organiser I am relevant to their event? What relevance does my music have to the audience?

Similarly in PR, how do I craft my message in a way that’s most relevant to the audience or media? Would this media be interested in the business aspect of my client or the R&D done for my client’s product or service?

  • Tone

Part of the beauty of playing music in a small community is having the chance to meet people of different ages and backgrounds. In order to better relay my key messages, I use different analogies and references to get them across.

Just like in PR, depending on who you are talking to, your choice of words have to be picked carefully and need to be tailored to engage various individuals.

  • Engagement

What makes some music more popular than others? I’ve always believed that it’s a result of how that music subconsciously relates to a person one way or another.

When it comes to PR, I translate that principle and take a step back before engaging with people, by researching about them before speaking to them. That way, it allows me to better relate my messages to their interest and seamlessly advocate the mutual benefits.

2. Always be ready

As the great Ronda Rousey said, “I don’t train to get ready, I train to stay ready”.

It’s not uncommon for musicians to be booked at the very last moment as a replacement. The challenge lies in getting the band ready in time to put up nothing short of a spectacular show, because that’s all that matters.

Similarly in PR, it’s not unheard of for clients to request for a press release to be done and blasted the next day. Just like the audience at a music festival, all that matters is getting the job done. This is where I realised that systems and processes in are important to get things done in the most accurate and time efficient way. Who will write the release? Who will collate a media list? Who will pitch?

3. Sincerity

Last but not least, being sincere goes a long way and usually has a big part to play in the art of convincing. Everyone can tell when someone is not sincere, and faking it ‘til you make it will never work when you’re in it for the long haul. By being genuine in your cause, you will find yourself adopting the right tone whilst relating well to your audience.

In PR, we meet different people all the time and first impressions are somewhat of a big deal. One way to combat the potential problem of being misconstrued is to be sincere – that alone subconsciously sets the mind on the right path.

If you’re interested in exploring what a PR strategy can do for your business, get in touch with us at [email protected]

Digital Crisis Management: Dealing with haters on social media

It shouldn’t matter, and you shouldn’t care what other people think of you, but we all know how hard negativity is to ignore.

When you get a negative or unfavourable comment on your personal social media page, you can choose to deal with it as you please – delete it, ignore it, report it, or reply with a string of expletives.

But things are different when you are managing a corporate business page. There are certain protocols that need to be adhered to, especially when it comes to dealing with feedback.

It’s a delicate issue. Likes and positivity are easy to deal with, but when the dark, ominous cloud of negativity looms, it becomes a true test of sustenance. Sometimes all it takes is one bad comment to override all the good ones.

The recent social media revolt triggered by model and influencer, Essena O’Neill is proof that more people are bold and unafraid to air opposing views. It’s important to always be prepared.

Handling negativity professionally is an important asset and skill to have, offline and online, as more consumers turning to social media to communicate and share feedback about brands.

Due to perceived efficiency and visibility, consumers often resort to social media to get in touch with a brand. Studies have shown that 67% of consumers have used a company’s social media site for servicing, while 33% of users prefer to contact brands using social media rather than the telephone.

Knowing how to deal with with criticism, or even just haters trolling comments is necessary – because online, everyone is watching.

DO – Acknowledge

Good or bad, make sure you reply to a comment and acknowledge its presence. ‘Ignorance is bliss’ does not apply in this situation. Expectations are set high these days – and they’re even higher (sometimes bordering on unreasonable) when a customer is upset or has an urgent request. They want an answer right away and won’t hesitate to make you look incompetent for not being able to respond immediately.

DON’T – Give a template answer

Yes, people can see through your lack of authenticity. It takes a bit more effort to type in a response from scratch, but at least you will sound sincere – a genuine response will take you far. If you know you’re going to be held back on what you can respond with due to corporate policy, try and outline a few key messages and potential responses you might need to use before putting your crisis plan into place. You’ll sound like more of a person and less of a robot, and people will appreciate it.

 DO – Be sincere in your apology

It’s everyone’s favourite thing to hear, or in this case, read. And since they took the time off to get in touch, you can do the same. Read what they have to say, and respectfully answer their questions. Don’t hold back on using that magic word – “sorry” – if you have messed up. It goes a long, long way in retaining customer loyalty.

DON’T – Lead them to another “feedback link”

We all know how frustrating this is; it’s like taking two steps back. Don’t pile yet another task on them, especially if chances are that there is going to be even more waiting time with no follow up.

DO  Try your best to solve the problem

Some situations may vary, but do try your best, and provide regular updates on your progress. This is also a good chance to reflect and discover ways of improving to serve customers better, leading to less complaints – online or offline.

It’s a simple solution, but also the hardest. It’s all about being authentic and sincere.

Some other quick helpful tips:

Timeliness: Reply as quick as you can. People generally don’t like waiting, especially if they’re upset.

Offline vs Online: Decide if the situation calls for an open discussion online, or a private message. Each problem varies, and needs to be handled differently. A well-managed crisis can earn you positive word of mouth by other punters online.

Not all feedback is constructive: There are many trolls and keyboard warriors who enjoy making personal attacks – they’re not worth your time. It’s best to ignore these responses, keep your chin up, and focus on the wrongs that you can right.

Haters, be gone!

Get in touch with us at [email protected] if you’d like to find out more about integrating a social media strategy into your PR campaign.

How to communicate like Elon Musk

Elon Musk is the world’s raddest man. Sure, he’s an engineer, investor, genius, innovator, and has an actual car startup. But did you know he’s also really good at email?

Musk’s success comes (in part) from his effective interpersonal skills. He’s a stuttery public speaker, but he can pitch. He’s nothing special in interviews, but is often quoted. Being an effective communicator doesn’t mean being a great talker — that’s why politicians seldom create big changes they promise.

Communicating a vision and being a leader takes tact, it’s about having great interpersonal skills: Listening, having manners, social skills, and really understanding who you’re speaking to.

Here’s three ways you can communicate like Elon:

  1. Cut the acronyms in emails:

In an interview with Henry Blodget, CEO and editor-in-chief of Business Insider, Musk joked: “I do a lot of email – very good at email. That’s my core competency.”

His secret? Avoiding acronyms. The man hates them. I found this excerpt from his book on this Quora thread, “Why is Elon Musk so good at email?”

Screen Shot 2015-11-05 at 12.56.11 pm

Singapore’s multi-cultural business environment both breeds and suffers from too many acronyms. When staff in a big company are from different parts of a region, they might not want to spell out the whole word, but how many times have you looked up from your desk and hollered, “Hey does anyone know what AFB is!?” Sure you’re saving on word economy, but acronyms are not good for productivity.

Like Musk says in his email: “No one can actually remember all these acronyms and people don’t want to sit there in ignorance. This is particularly tough on new employees.”

So, the next time you’re sending an email out to staff, be clear! It saves everyone time and gets them on the same page.

  1. He cuts the jargon

Musk isn’t an eloquent speaker, but the worst thing than a shaky voice is one that’s full of buzzwords. In this perfect pitch for Tesla he breaks down his problem and solution in a way the audience can understand, not just in a way he understands. The man got people on their feet, over batteries.

https://youtu.be/yKORsrlN-2k

Musk finds a common problem and tells us about a simple solution. It’s classic storytelling. See the full article on how to pitch like him here.

  1. He uses real content to advertise:

Wait but Why is a personal, yet investigative tech blog followed by thousands of people. But at the end of the day, it’s a blog with stick figures on it. Musk called up the writer Tim Urban and asked him to interview him for SpaceX and Tesla. Um what? Check out his post published two days ago on the Huffington Post.

After Urban finished gathering his brains from off the floor, the blogger agreed and met up with Musk to write the multi-part blog series.

Musk is so good at cutting the crap, he doesn’t advertise Tesla. According to Urban, he refuses to advertise for his electric car startup, because “he detests vague spin-doctor phrases like ‘studies say’ and ‘scientists disagree’, and he refuses to advertise for Tesla, something most startup car companies wouldn’t think twice about – because he sees advertising as manipulative and dishonest”.

Bonus lesson:

You don’t have to be a great orator or rocket scientist to communicate your vision. All it takes is thinking about making things clear and simple for your audience. If Elon can make electric cars and space travel easy to understand, you should be able to, too.

The last lesson on how to be more like Musk is a bonus one: Always say what you mean. We’ll leave you with this quote from the part one of the interview with Musk:

“He’s been saying the same things in interviews for a decade, often using the same exact phrasing many years apart. He says what he really means, no matter the situation – one employee close to Musk told me that after a press conference or a business negotiation, once in private he’d ask Musk what his real angle was and what he really thinks. Musk’s response would always be boring: ‘I think exactly what I said’.”

Do you need to better communicate your messaging through effective content? Get in touch with us at [email protected]

Image Credit: Elon Musk, Tesla Factory, Fremont (CA, USA) by Maurizio Pesce. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons

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P.R.W.A (Public Relations Wit Attitude)

You might think gangster rap and the PR industry have little to do with each other, but if Straight Outta Compton has taught me anything, it’s that with the right attitude, you can do anything you want.

(You know, like creating the above photo to accompany this blog…)

The long-awaited biopic about N.W.A (Ni**az Wit Attitude) only hit Singapore screens earlier this month (thanks to The Projector for making it happen!). When news broke that we would, in fact, be able to see this movie locally, me and Mutant’s resident hiphop head, Rebecca, aka The Erratic Conquerer, were preeeeeetty excited.

Overall, it was a decent bio; a little predictable, and evidently biased as both Ice Cube and Dr. Dre – two of the founding members of N.W.A – were producers of the movie.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the subject matter, Straight Outta Compton is a movie about the iconic and game-changing gangster rap group N.W.A, who forever changed the face of the music scene with their album of the same name. Emerging from the ghettos in the 1980s, the main characters of the show – MCs Eazy E, Ice Cube and producer Dr. Dre – were a trinity of messiahs who got together in Compton, California. They were later joined by DJ Yella and MC Ren, to form the original members of N.W.A (they left Arabian Prince out, but more on that here).

At the peak of their fame, still thriving on unadulterated talent and raw passion, music – the common thread that bound them together – also became the catalyst to tear them apart. It was a spectacle of industry debauchery, political dissent and raw emotions conveyed through poetry and spoken word.

Caught in the manipulative web of the music industry, it was a combination of intuition, street smarts and personal ethics that most of the characters possessed. Each had different beliefs, but stood so strongly by them right or wrong.

Call me crazy, but there were a few messages I took away from this biopic that I think we can all apply to a professional career in PR.

In the movie, Compton is a figurative (and oftentimes literal) battlefield that is the working industry, and it’s all about rising from the ashes to become the best you can be.

Beware of spoilers ahead!

1. Eazy-E: [doing a rap song] “Cruising down the street in my ’64…”
Dr. Dre: “That was dope, E. That s**t was dope, man!”

Stuck in a creative rut and under pressure from his crew, Eazy E was forced to come forth to record a track in the studio – with no prior experience in rap. It was afterall, a business. His business, with his own money invested in the record label – that was strong enough of an encouragement to take the leap and do it.

Boyz-n-the-hood ended up a being single on the label’s debut, Eazy-Duz-It, which charted on two different charts and went 2x Platinum in the United States.

Lesson: It is all about taking risks and challenging yourself. Get in front of the microphone, get out there and don’t be afraid of trying out new things, and make lots of money.

2. Ice Cube: “Speak a little truth and people lose their minds.”

…which is why most people tend to lie and get away with it. It’s easier to deal with.

Have you ever avoided speaking your mind, often biting the bullet to a client’s unreasonable requests, only to kick yourself about your lack of judgement later? Sometimes, we become too much of a pushover that we forget standing up for our own principals, clients, colleagues or otherwise.

It can also stop us from remember that we are the experts. Your clients might have very set ideas on what they want, but you are the professional they are paying to tell them if you think that’s a bad idea, and why.

Lesson: It is important to listen, please and deliver, but also to be fair to both yourself and the client by sharing some sound advice. You will be surprised how people will react and appreciate your honesty.

3. Ice Cube: “ I ain’t mad – you’re just doing your job. I’m a journalist just like you.”

This was Ice Cube’s comeback to a journalist’s futile attempt to pull a fast one with a question. It must come with being a wordsmith, but Ice Cube is incredibly charming, eloquent and, in an absurd way, a media trainer’s dream.

He carries himself incredibly well and is always prepared even for the toughest questions. He’s a little blunt in his approach, but always confident and coherent.

Lesson: It’s good to prepare yourself before an interview by doing a bit of research on the media, the writer or presenter, and think about questions you could be asked and expected to answer. It’s easy to get intimidated by bright lights and camera, but a little bravado sometimes goes a long way. You are in front of the camera for a good reason – give them something to talk about!

4. Jerry Heller: “Let me tell you what I see here: a lot of raw talent. Swagger. Bravado. People are scared of you guys. They think you’re dangerous, but the world needs to hear it.”

Music Manager Jerry Heller’s character is a little ambiguous, and his relationship with the group at the end of the show left little to be desired. But he’s a businessman – an incredible one who took risks and chances at managing nascent rap groups and bands.

Lesson: This is an intuitive one, where you listen to your gut feeling, which might sometimes pull you away from doing the ‘right thing’. Trust your instincts but don’t be impulsive. It’s a delicate balance, but teaching yourself when to listen to your head versus your heart is an important skill in the land of PR.

5. Ice Cube: [Smashing up the office] “You should’ve kept the word, Bryan.”

In this scene, Ice Cube is demanding his cheque for his work. When he wasn’t paid, he went crazy with a baseball bat in his manager’s office.

Lesson: Pay your clients, bills and employees on time.

Interested in chatting further about how a public relations campaign could help grow your business or event? Get in touch with us at [email protected]

How to make your Instagram content discoverable

Congratulations! You’ve created an Instagram page for your business. Now what?

Since acquiring Instagram in 2012, Facebook has kept this simple photo-sharing app going from strength to strength.

With developers tirelessly rolling out updates to enhance its existing features, marketers and business owners alike need to ensure they are keeping up with the changes and learning to use the functionalities to their advantage.

Earlier this year, Instagram shifted its focus to its search function, giving users an even more comprehensive experience. This function was later made available on Instagram’s website, making the Instagram’s explore function one of its strongest suits at the moment – excellent news for users seeking out new content!

I’d like to present you with 3 simple, yet frequently overlooked, habits I promise will amplify your content’s visibility on Instagram.

They require little effort and time, and – best of all – there’s no cost attached to help make your content more discoverable (unless, of course, you’re wanting to explore Instagram’s latest developments – advertising – which is taking off around the globe!)

  1. Geotag your content

Geotag: To Include the specific location of your photograph at the moment you upload it.

Essentially, geotagging stores your current location – longitude and latitude – along with your photo, and this data is accessible to Instagram with your permission. You can also choose to add a location to your photo through the “Name this location” option, meaning you can tell people where you are at any time – a restaurant, a shop, an event or a business headquarters.

It’s simple and effective, but most businesses don’t make proper use of this very simple function.

Having your business as a location option allows people who come by your business, whatever it may be, to choose it as a location. This means customers can ‘check in’ at your location, and it allows other used to follow the location link and see other people’s posts related to the same location. This is an incredible effective way to showcase your product or venue and reach new customers. If you’re a shop on a busy street, it can be a great way for tourists to find out about you, for example.

It also gives you the option of regramming (re-posting) the images your customers are sharing to your official business Instagram, if it aligns with your branding and tone. This opens up lines of communication between your business and customers, which is always a positive.

  1. Using hashtags

Another way to enhance discovery on Instagram is to keep up with the #hashtag game.

Please note that I am not encouraging you #to #hashtag #every #little #thing – too many people do this, and it’s a strong indication that they don’t understand the actual usage of hashtags. Too many hashtags will distract your content from its key message and gain invaluable traction.

A good rule of thumb is to stick to one hashtag unique for your business (such as your brand name), along with two to five other hashtags made up of keywords relevant to your content. Not hashtags that will get you as many “likes” on your post as possible. (i.e very generic terms that can be linked to something else entirely.)

Pairing good content with inappropriate hashtags is like putting a snake and a mongoose together – it’s painful to watch, and the mongoose has no chance.

Over time, relevant and appropriate hashtags can create a following of their own, allowing users to search for it and find out more about your business. The more specific you can get with your hashtag, the more targeted your audience will can, which ultimately leads to better engagement.

  1. Following your followers (and non-followers)

If you’re unsure of who to start following, try making use of Instagram’s search function to carry out either a location-based search, or a hashtag search. The search will lead you to images that will help you locate people who have interests similar to yours.

Look through a list of people with interests aligned with your brand’s, or people whose demographics are closest to that of your intended audience. (Their bios and posts would be a good indication of their personalities, to a certain extent.)

If you already have a following, you may want to consider following your followers back. Alternatively, you can go through your competitor’s followers, and identify those you would like to follow.

Following people is almost like an open invitation into their lives, allowing you to find out more about what people are talking about and what they care about. You will also be able to identify social media trends taking place and better craft content around that trend to stay relevant!

If you’d like to speak about your brand’s social media strategy, please feel free to reach out at [email protected].      

Image: Courtesy of @sharpie‘s Instagram page

Social media lessons from the rich and famous

The growth and popularity of social media has been incredible. As consumers, we use a multitude of platforms to keep in touch with people across the globe and to access information about products, events or brands, while the end goal for businesses is to make sales and connect to a target audience.

Many brands splash big bucks on social media spend in hope of explosive engagement, but many fail to ever get the traction they desire. They just seem to miss what their audience really wants to see, and too often lack personality and structure to their plans.

Celebrities are some of the best brands out there. They’re everywhere. Yes, they typically have a team of people shaping the way are seen to the public, but the biggest celebs in the world have an innate understanding of their appeal, their target audience, and the key messages then ensure they’re presented in the way they wish to be seen. And they do it damn well.

So, how can companies get their brand to become insta-famous? Gaining a little bit of inspiration from E!, I’ve outlined some of the best tips we can take away from our A-list mates.

Watch your tone

This may seem simple enough. Companies know what their brand stands for, right? Consumers generally respond when they feel the brand is talking directly to them, appealing to their needs.

While it’s nice to boast about your success, this gets old quickly. Instead, write like you would speak and include content that resonates with the audience.

Take actor Ryan Reynolds, whose lovable personality, humility and humour is showcased so well on social media. This recent Twitter post really made me laugh – he’s personable, funny and relatable, making me want to read more from him (luckily his posts just get better by the day).

ryan-reynolds


Be recognisable

Ok, so before you judge me for my next comment, I’d like to make it clear that I do not support the Kardashians, nor do I actually really like them, but there is something about that family that makes me (and the rest of the world!) pay attention. You have to give it to them – their social media following is through the roof! Between Kim, Khloe and Kourtney, the girls have a collective Instagram following in excess of 100 million – yep that’s right!

What makes their profiles work is their content. Take Kim Kardashian – just do me a favour and visit her Instagram profile. It’s filled with selfies, an act she has damn well perfected and more or less claimed as her own. It’s what her fans recognise her for! Kim’s narcissistic personality has worked in her favour (not an easy feat) but she also showcases behind-the-scenes shots and a glimpse into the crazy world that is Kim and her husband, Kanye West.

kimk

While companies might not be able to compare themselves to the Kardashians, you can learn a lot about building a recognisable brand, giving the customers what they want, and constantly, constantly engaging with them.

Avoid the sales pitch and bring out your personality

Too often I stumble across a Facebook or Instagram page where a sales pitch is just screaming at me. And yes, these platforms are great for getting directly in front of the customer, but there are more subtle ways of doing this.

Musician Taylor Swift has become a social media master. This savvy artist has an excess of 140 million followers across all her social media platforms. How does she do it? Well, she doesn’t sell her music directly – instead, she ‘sells’ her personality.

This video she uploaded to Facebook is just brilliant (click on the image below to view). Her likeable personality and ‘girl next door’ attitude is what people love her for, and she knows it.

taylor-swift

Similarly, let’s consider Lady Gaga, who’s ‘Little Monsters’ follow her every move. She loves her fans, shows genuine appreciation for her success and knows what works where. By showcasing her personality and letting her fans into her life through social media, Lady Gaga is indirectly selling records.

Brands need to understand that providing consumers with quality content is more likely to generate sales than direct marketing alone.

Learn the difference

Each social media platform is different and caters to a different audience. I’m sure many of you are thinking, “well that’s pretty obvious” but it’s important to mention, because too many companies are still posting the exact same content in the same manner across all their social platforms – a big no no!

Since retiring from professional football, David Beckham’s popularity has risen to new heights. Of course, being one half of ‘The Beckhams’ helps, but his social media presence really demonstrates who he is – something many professional sports personalities fail to do.

Go through some of his accounts and you’ll see a trend. We see more of his charitable side on Facebook, his adoration for his kids on Instagram, and constant support for his wife’s career on Twitter. With each social network that David Beckham joins, he finds new and unique ways to engage with his fans. He is strategically growing the Beckham social media empire by allowing fans to, in a way, experience life in the Beckham family.

Looking for some structure and strategy around your social media campaign? Get in touch with us at [email protected]

How to send a memorable media gift

So, your client has requested a hand-delivered gift for the media. Believe it or not, there’s an art to making sure press material will be remembered and appreciated, rather than chucked aside.

Also known as a ‘media drop’, personally delivering press material in the form of a gift is meant to build a rapport with an editor or reporter.

Despite the good intentions here, there are a number of reasons why it might fail to get the job done or drive the objective your client has considered.

With keeping journalistic ethics in mind (remember, to many media folk there’s a fine line between a gift and bribery…) here is a solid plan of attack to ensure your media gift is accepted with enthusiasm.

1. Plan your assault

Before you begin, there are a few questions to ask when deciding on your gift of choice:

  1. What is the budget allocated and how do you fully maximise it?
  2. Does the gift give an essence of the business? What objective does it drive?
  3. How practical will it be for media?
  4. Will the gift travel well?
  5. Is it Instagram-able and social media friendly?

Having clear answers to these questions before delivering your gift will be the difference between creating a positive impression and being forgotten.

Then presentation is key. Would you prefer a gift that is properly wrapped or one that looks like a re-gifted fruitcake from a great aunt?

2. ATTACK! (But in the nicest way possible)

  • Set up a time to drop in

Don’t call in on unsuspecting journalists unannounced, if you can help it. A simple phone call to make sure they’re in the office and establish an appropriate time to drop by is all it takes.

Apart from being polite, this also gives you a schedule to plan your route and make sure you’re maximising your time (and can avoid rushing and showing up sweaty and unpresentable.) If the item being delivered is time sensitive (e.g food), route planning makes it even more important and it may be a good idea to invest in proper packaging to ensure safe travels and freshness.

Timeliness is key to having your gift either brighten up someone’s day. Think about the best times to receive the gift if you were to be on the receiving end. For example, if it’s a sandwich, it would be great to receive it just in time for lunch, or when the 3.30pm munchies hit.

  • Stop to chat

In my experience, it has always been beneficial to hand-deliver media gifts, as it allows me to have valuable face-to-face time with key media personnel. This is important for building relationships and ensuring they associate my face to the agency I work for.

According to Jane, our resident content manager and former journalist, conversation is key.

To make sure they are not forgotten, you have to actually have a conversation with the journalist and tell them how the drop ties into the event, product launch, or whatever it may be about. It will be forgotten if you just drop off the stuff and peace out.”

3. Follow up!

The battle isn’t over once the last package is delivered. A round of follow-up is required, which can entail dropping your new media friends an email, checking social media to see if your drop gained any coverage, and then reporting back to the client.

Media drops aren’t just a matter of winning over journalists with gifts – it’s an important chance to make a lasting impression, which is crucial for us in the PR industry.

Need help with your PR strategy and media relations? Drop us a line at [email protected]

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4 media training tips we can all learn from Ahmed Mohamed

In case you’ve been off the Twittersphere or living in isolation, you may have missed the story of Ahmed Mohamed – the bright, 14 year-old student in Texas who brought a home-made clock with him to school to impress his teachers, but ended up in handcuffs instead when she (wrongly) assumed it was a bomb.

The hash tag #IStandWithAhmed has since been shared and circulated hundreds of thousands of times, with support for Ahmed coming in from Barack Obama, Mark Zuckerberg, Hillary Clinton, Steve Wozniak (who had a similar incident in 1967) and a host of other incredibly supportive fans.

The story really resonated with me on a few levels. One, because he looks freakishly similar to my nephew Sam who is exactly the same age and is half Muslim. I would be horrified if Sam were to go to school with a brilliant invention, only to be considered a threat and subsequently arrested. Oh, did I mention – Ahmed was interrogated without his parents’ knowledge for one and a half hours?

But the other thing that stood out to me as a PR professional and media trainer is how eloquently and calmly Ahmed has conducted himself through this whole debacle and subsequent social and media frenzy.

There are a lot of public figures that could learn a lot from this young man.

Here is Ahmed’s very polished interview:

Here are media training lessons we can all learn from him:

1. Controversy can lead to good change

The most important takeaway is that Ahmed has managed to take a very upsetting incident and turn it into a voice for change and progress. He’s not sulking about it or voicing his opinions negatively. He acknowledges “since the charges have already been dropped, I would like to say that I really want to go to MIT and TAMS” and later adds, “but since I have gotten this far, I will try my best not just to help me, but to help every other kid in the entire world who has a problem like this”. He’s managed to bypass the unpleasantness to reveal hope for change and a desire to make that happen.

2. Keep it short and simple 

Ahmed did not take a long-winded approach to explaining his story and ordeal. He stated facts, as they were, using no complicated language or jargon and immediately got to the point. He expressed that he was sad about the way he was treated but kept it to two clear and concise sentences. Which made them so much more powerful.

“I built the clock to impress my teacher, but when I showed it to her, she thought it was a threat to her. So it was really sad that she took a wrong impression of it and I got arrested for it later that day.”

3. Good interviews and speeches usually start on a lighter note before getting serious

Ahmed started his interview with a slight grin and a light tone. He introduced himself by saying, “So, I guess everyone knows I’m the person who built a clock and got in a lot of trouble for it”. What a great, succinct and fun way to sum up why he’s starting the speech.

4. Stand up for yourself and your values

Ahmed’s words here speak for themselves: “Don’t let people change who you are. Even if you get a consequence for it. I’d suggest you still show it to people because you need to show them your talent”

Ahmed’s confidence, tone, voice and presence are such a great lesson for everyone preparing for an interview to address a difficult issue. Thank you!

#IStandWithAhmed

#AhmedMohamed

Want to pick up a few more tips on how to better conduct yourself in front of media? Get in touch with us at [email protected]

Lessons from @jonnysun: Why content marketers need a journalism background

Emotions make content viral, not the content itself. Anger, awe, happiness, enlightenment and sadness create the urge to share with others. When content is written with the intention to “give you the feels”, facts can become secondary.

In comparison, journalism in its traditional form is designed to inform, yet the lines between the two fields of communication blur in the convoluted slush pile of tweets and soundbites packed nuts to butts on the internet. It’s our job as content marketers to stay on the latter half of the thinning media tightrope.

Fake information spreads like wildfire – take @Jonnysun’s twitter “scandal” last week.

Jonathan Sun, the biggest internet celebrity you’ve never heard of – also an MIT researcher – posted a fake fact about actors Will Smith and his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, online. To do this, he created a fake Google search image about the origins of their children’s names, Willow and Jaden Smith. The made up fact was nothing ‘amazing’ in itself, but what happened next was an eye-opener.

Nineteen thousand retweets and 25,000 favourites later, tweeters were bragging “they already knew ages ago” about this so-called fact, while others were enraged this ‘old’ news was making headlines.


When the jig was up, the experiment had the Twitterverse facepalming, while Sun was praised for confirming what we always suspected: the majority of people online do not fact check before sharing.

As content marketers, we market through shares – of thoughts, insights, knowledge and information. So if there’s something off about our information, there’s something off about our brand.

People are already skeptical, since it’s getting increasingly difficult to differentiate between paid content and well-researched original facts and quotes.

Here are some tips from a former journalist on how to do proper due diligence:

  1. Be hands on. If you’re talking about a product, instead of looking up a review of what someone else thought of it, download it or get your hands on it to form your own opinion.
  2. Pick up the phone. While it’s easier to copy and paste a quote from an article, a sure fire way not to misquote someone is to just ask them.
  3. Check statistics: When you see a stat in a post, look for the original research document that the article cited from. Most of the time they’ll have the actual link.
  4. Um, Google. You’d be surprised how many times I’ve caught a slip up, typo, or hoax just by Googling it.
  5. Read the news. Instead of just retweeting existing news, take the facts from a real news story and spin your own angle on it. This way you can’t possibly be wrong, since it’s your own opinion crafted from hard facts.

In a time when we’re always trying to hop on to what’s trending for engagement, it’s important to step back and say, “Really?” If authors don’t take the extra few minutes or an hour to check facts, readers will start to view content marketing as the new clickbait.

Knowing something intimate and relatable about a Hollywood couple made everyone go “awww” – and it sold. But while tugging at heartstrings racks up numbers and engagement, it’s authenticity that retains and converts.

Mutant’s content experts are all former journalists. If you’d like to chat with us about your content marketing needs, please get in touch with us at [email protected]  

4 media pitching mistakes to avoid

Media pitching is one of the key components making up public relations, but the act of pitching is often easier said than done.

To many people it sounds simple enough: “I’ll just write a press release about my client’s business or event, find some media contacts, and send it to them! They’ll definitely run a story because it’s so interesting.”

Unfortunately, there’s a lot more to it than writing and sending emails.

Pitching typically involves a PR professional working with a business to identify key messages, interesting story angles, writing one (or multiple) targeted releases for specific media, and utilising their strong personal connections with media to ensure your story gets the coverage you feel it deserves.

Journalists receive a phenomenal number of press releases every day. The chances they won’t even open an email from you are high. The ball is in your court to do everything possible to ensure your press release reaches the right journalist and media, with the right message that is likely to get the attention of their target audience and readers. That’s what they care about – so that’s what you have to focus on.

And yet, mistakes are so often made during this process, and sometimes the smallest blunders have the biggest consequences. Being aware of the following potential mistakes can make all the difference between a story getting published… or sent to the trash.

Pitching the right story to the wrong media

Imagine you are a journalist, and you cover technology-related news, for example. You receive on average about 20 press releases a day and suddenly, you’re pitched something that has nothing to do with what you write about.

Why should you feel the need to respond to that person if they clearly don’t know what your publication covers?

huge-mistake

It sounds simple, but the mistake of pitching non-relevant content to media is probably the largest error seen in the industry. Under pressure to deliver results for client, PR professionals wrongly assume that blasting out a press release to the maximum number of journalists will result in the most coverage.

Not doing enough research before a pitch reflects very poorly on you as a PR pro and annoys journalists who don’t have time to waste as their deadlines loom.

When pitches land in the wrong inboxes, don’t expect journalists to help forward it on to the relevant parties. It is our job to ensure our pitches land in the right hands, not theirs.

Not looking into your email bounce-backs

If you’re pitching via an email blast, you’re bound to come across email bounce-backs. This could be because journalists have gone on vacation or medical leave, or because they’ve left the publication. Perhaps their overflowing inbox is finally just full.

Your job is to ensure they see your news, so you need to determine why they bounced and do something about it Journalists will usually include alternative email addresses in their automated replies to inform you of fellow journalists to get in touch with for your press releases.

Seize this chance to know someone new from the particular media, re-pitch your story and update your media database!

If that fails – PICK UP THE PHONE. It’s amazing how few PR professionals can be bothered to make a call to follow up (more on that later.)

Losing touch

Public relations is all about connections, networking and relationships. Without this, you’re just a person behind a computer hitting ‘send’ over and over again.

Staying in touch with media is what sets you apart from mediocre PR people. Make an effort to touch base with them regularly, catch up for coffees and lunches, and get into the habit of picking up the phone to say hi. Ask them what they’re working on, and whether you might be able to help. The more you stay in touch, the more likely they are to remember you when they do need something from one of your clients.

conversing

As well as staying in touch, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and time zones. When pitching a story that transcends the region, international pitching comes into play. This also means we need to be more mindful of some aspects that can affect pitching efforts.

Always make it known which time zone you are working from. This saves you from leaving the impression that you are difficult to contact (if, you know, they decide to ring you at 4am). Journalists have pressing deadlines to deal with and with you being out of contact when they will require additional information may result in them forgoing the story altogether.

If you’ll be away from the office for a period of time, ensure your colleagues have been properly briefed on what to expect should they come across any media requests. The last thing you want is to lose the chance of a great story placement from a lack of communication.

 Not following up with media

Like I said, journalists’ inboxes are flooded with press releases – meaning yours probably isn’t all that important to them. If you haven’t heard back from a journalist, it is imperative that you follow up on your pitch with a phone call.

By doing this, you will learn whether the journalist has even seen your pitch or received it at all. This gives you a second chance to bring attention to your story, and pitch over the phone in real time. Usually, this is a much better way to get a straight ‘yes’ or ‘no’. If they say no, you can immediately ask why, and try to see whether there’s any way your story can work better for their publication by focusing on a different aspect or angle.

It’s possible a tweak is all it needed – but you might not have known that if you didn’t pick up the phone.

To discuss how Mutant can work with your business to push your story into the media spotlight, please get in touch with us at [email protected]

5 lessons in public speaking (as illustrated by famous people)

It’s hard to talk in front of an audience. Your palms sweat, the lights can be too bright, and your brain can abandon you right when you need it the most.

Public speaking is an art form, whether you’re in a boardroom in front of three people or an auditorium in front of 3,000. The language, the tone, the pace, the structure – getting it right is no easy feat, and the best speakers in the world have had years of practice to iron out their mistakes.

If you’ve got to talk in front of people in your working life, the best thing you can do is to keep practicing. The second best thing you can do, is watch and learn from others.

I’ve chosen five (well, actually eight – I had to lump a few together) famous faces to help teach us all a few different aspects about speaking in front of a crowd.

1. Donald Trump: Command the attention of the room

Personally, I find nothing particularly great about Donald Trump. His politics, his ideas, his comments, and yes, his hair – none of it is very appealing. However, when he speaks, I find it hard to tune out.

Listen to him in the clip below. He is enthralling. Don’t pay attention to what he’s saying, but listen to how he is saying it. He delivers his message effortlessly, he commands the attention of the room and he says everything with such conviction. He orders everyone to listen to him when he talks – and that’s the sort of confidence gained via years of public speaking.

The next time you’re addressing a group, remember Trump’s confidence and attempt to exude the same vibe. YOU are on stage. YOU own it. Don’t let anyone tell you to shut up.

2. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Be authentic and sincere

If you don’t know this Nigerian novelist, you should watch the below clip in full. Chances are you were introduced to her after Beyoncé sampled the below TED speech she gave in 2013 in her hit song Flawless, but you didn’t know it. Now you do. You’re welcome.

I have listened to many of Chimamanda’s speeches (she’s in quite high demand these days) mainly because I love her stance on feminism, gender construction and sexuality, but also because she is so easy to listen to. Her voice projects well, but her message projects more. Why? Because she genuinely cares about what she’s talking about. Her whole life has led to the point where she’s in demand globally to talk to others, and the sincerity of her being comes through, whether she’s addressing one person or one hundred.

You don’t need to have a story to be genuine on stage, but you do need to believe in what you’re discussing. Whether you’re talking about big or trivial issues, you will connect with your audience if you are authentic.

Tip: You might have notes prepared, but if something strikes you mid-speech, just say it. It sounds trite, but if it comes from the heart, your audience will pick up on it straight away. Sometimes that’s better than referring to your notes.

3. Steve Jobs: Tell a compelling story

The best way to get your audience’s attention is to engage them in a story. Everyone loves a story.

“Today, I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it – no big deal – just three stories.”

With that first sentence, Jobs sets the scene for everyone in the audience, and they eagerly wait to hear what nuggets of wisdom he’ll come out with. As it happens, his three stories are about why he dropped out of college and “connecting the dots in your future”, love and loss, and – sadly – death.

The stories are littered with anecdotes and honest assessments of his past and present – perfect for an audience of college graduates, really – and they weave together effortlessly. Getting your point across by telling a story is so much more effective than listing your points and just talking at people.

A story builds a narrative, humanises your message, and engages people in something that is ‘real’ – that they can relate to.

4. Lupita Nyong’o (and Roberto Benigni, Winston Churchill, and Martin Luther King Jr.): Choose your words carefully

When giving a speech – in any capacity – the speaker holds the power to change things. Sometimes big things, like people’s opinions and beliefs. When this is the case, it’s extremely important to be vigilant and careful in how you deliver your message.

Language is a beautiful thing, and a good speech can read like poetry. This speech by Lupita has its downfalls (mostly her sniffing, but I think that’s due to be overcoming with emotion, so I can’t really fault her for that), but in it, she says such a beautiful line that has always stuck with me:

“You can’t eat beauty. It doesn’t feed you. What is fundamentally beautiful is compassion for yourself and for those around you. That kind of beauty inflames the heart and enchants the soul.”

Too cheesy? I’m also quite partial to this speech from Italian actor Roberto Benigni when he won an Oscar for his leading role in Life is Beautiful (also my all-time favourite movie – if you haven’t seen it, watch it!)

The poetry in his speech isn’t in the language of his endearingly broken English, but in his body and mannerisms. He speaks with his whole body and his energy seeps out of him (he even makes Goldie Hawn cry). He is so grateful that he is loved by so many, and even though he sometimes struggles to find the words, you can tell he’s thought a lot about how he would accurately express his gratitude if he won.

And I can’t talk about poetry, emotion and the power of language without giving mention to both Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech, and Winston Churchill’s “We shall fight on the beaches” speech – both of which, in two completely different ways, united people, reassured them and inspired them.

5. Matthew McConaughey: Structure is important

Oscar speeches are usually filled with too much emotion and excitement to be coherent – they babble through a list of people’s names and flub over their words. Which is why it was rather fantastic when Matthew McConaughey won for his role in Dallas Buyer’s Club and jumped up on stage to give what I think is one of the best Oscar speeches ever.

He leads in with the expected thank yous, but quickly goes on to tell a short story about his hero, which is both insightful and entertaining. He has planned what he was going to say – you can tell, because he almost doesn’t say a single “umm” – and has structured it in a way that will keep people’s attention, make them feel, and make them laugh.

Ending with the “alright, alright, alright” was a genius touch (anyone who has seen Dazed and Confused will get it) leaving his speech on the perfect note.

If you’d like to discuss public relations, content marketing and media training for your business, please get in touch with us at [email protected] 

How to create a newsletter people actually want to read

newsletter

From beginning to send, you need to know what works for your business when constructing an effective e-newsletter to engage with customers.

 

We all want the best returns on our marketing activities. Whether you are a small startup or a large corporation, we’re all after effective marketing with the highest ROI.

When coordinating your marketing plan, it’s important to spread your activities across multiple mediums to get your message across to your target audience. As part of this, one of the most important things you can do is maintain regular contact with current and former customers. But rather than forcing phone calls on them, this can be done effectively by employing a more subtle approach through branding and content. Visibility can be so effective – they get to know who you are and stay familiar with your brand.

One of the best ways to do this is by providing an e-newsletter. We receive these in our inboxes every day – but what makes you inclined to open one and not the other? How you curate your newsletters can be the difference between success and failure, so it’s important to get it right from the start.

Newsletters are not only extremely cost-effective but can be a very targeted marketing tool, providing real-time relevant content to a target consumer. Whether you use it as a direct sales tool – such as a retailer having a mid-year sale – or to sustain an ongoing relationship with clients, you need to think clearly about what matters to your audience.

With that being said, here are a few simple tips to get you going:

Design matters – a lot!

A well-designed newsletter speaks volumes. It represents your brand and what you stand for. This is one part most people tend to pay the least attention to, but it’s the most impactful and striking factor for readers, who want to view something that is well thought out, clean and clutter free.

A poorly designed header can make people feel like they are getting unwanted spam, while too much cluttered text can look messy and hard to read. If your design is not suited to your target audience, the chances of them unsubscribing or deleting future newsletters is higher. So put the time into the design and make it work.

Content counts

Plan your content well. Like the design, the content you include matters a lot. It needs to be relevant and valuable to the reader. Whether it’s industry tips, personal experiences or a simple discount code, know your customers and ensure the content resonates with them.

Your newsletters provide an opportunity to send out timely content directly to your consumers, and there are options to segregate your mailing list depending on subscriber interests for a more targeted approach. Don’t forget to include calls-to-action throughout your newsletter – it can be a hyperlink to your website, a landing page or checkout page.

The subject line of your newsletter is also a vital component. This is the first thing that the reader will see when deciding whether to click to open. It needs to be succinct and to the point – pick something that will entice the reader to open your email and avoid using subject lines such as “Newsletter 1” or “Company Newsletter”.

Be consistent

There is nothing more annoying for a consumer than getting a multitude of irrelevant emails. A good way of getting noticed is to be consistent when sending your newsletters – people are more likely to recognise you and are less likely to ignore the mail. Pick the frequency of your send (i.e. daily, weekly, fortnightly, monthly) and select a day and time of your send and stick to it!

When starting out, monitor your results and observe when people are more receptive to your newsletter, then alter your send time accordingly. It’s all about trial and error.

Don’t ignore the results

Each time you send out a newsletter, check out the campaign report – who is clicking on what? Did more people unsubscribe on a particular send? What type of content is getting the most clickthroughs to your website? Does it make a difference when you include an image or not? Monitor actions and use that data to your advantage to better your next campaign.

Finally – and I can’t stress this enough – always remember to test your newsletters on multiple devices (send it around the office first!) and never be afraid to ask for a second opinion.

Click below to download Mutant’s e-newsletter tips:

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If you would like to look at ways to incorporate e-newsletters into your marketing and PR strategy, get in touch with me at [email protected]