PR Campaign 101: Why not just wing it?

"Routine, in an intelligent man, is a sign of ambition." - W.H. Auden

It’s hard to believe I’m writing this post, because I don’t like going through a set of repeatable steps. Actually, I’ve fought hard against the idea because I’m intuitive and spontaneous and formulas and plans are not my preferred method of working or living.

But developing your communications is like learning to play an instrument. Practicing chords or scales helps you also play the songs you perform and if you know how to do something right you can better also break the rules. 

The same way learning a well-tested process instead of one that “just kind of happens” is that it will keep you focused and more aware of what it is you are doing and why. You don’t have to use so much energy on second guessing and if something isn’t working, it’s easier to trace back to where you went wrong. 

The basic process can be broken down in many ways. You can break it down to 4 steps: Research, planning, taking action and evaluation. But I personally recommend breaking it down to more detailed steps:

  • Research (What do you need to know beforehand)
  • Objectives (What do you want to achieve)
  • Audiences (Who do you need to reach)
  • Strategy (How are you going to make it happen)
  • Tactics (What specific things will you do)
  • Evaluation (How did it go, what can you learn for the next time)

In the next posts I will go through each of these steps one at a time as well as some related aspects and topics.

Anne Gregory  actually has broken the process down to 10 stages, but I’ve modified the steps a little to draw out the main idea. Things like budget and timeline need to be kept in mind along the way, so I’ve taken them out of the list and I’ll talk about them at the end instead.

What kind experiences do you have about creating campaigns or following through them?

PR Campaign 101: Introduction

"Growth is never an event, it's a process." -Ifeanyi Enoch Onuoha

What is the big communications-related question or goal you are trying to tackle right now?

Do you need to reach more people who could fall in love with your music? Inspire fans to spread the word and help you out? Connect with them better? Build a strong fan base? Grow your mailing list? Grow your twitter following? Market a tour or an album? Or simply “make it”?

The beauty of struggling with it right now is that internet is full of other people’s blog posts on pretty much anything to do with PR, marketing, social media etc. The possibilities of teaching yourself are endless. 

The downside is that there are so many tips, opinions and experiences it is hard to know which ones apply to your situation – especially when they contradict each other. It easily gets confusing or frustrating.

About a year ago I got tired of trying to figure it all out and went back to school to clear my head. I’m now almost 2/3 through my Master’s degree in Public Relations and here is the most important lesson I have learned in my studies: PR is all about a process.

I did know it before and I could have googled that, too. But it was not the quick answer to any of my burning questions. So it never sank in the way it now has.

Celebrating the relaunch of my blog, my new series “PR Campaign 101” will go through the process step by step, explaining why it will help you and why all the “extra work” actually saves time and energy.

As a highly intuitive and spontaneous person often working in environments full of sudden changes and waiting for final confirmations, I can say that just having the process in the back of your mind helps enormously. 

4th Let’s Learn from: Ex-Shopaphobic?

Turn a hater/skeptic into a fan, and know you’ve done something spectacular! Great service can tame even a passionate shopaphobic like myself.

There aren’t many things I hate more than shopping. I can tag along for social reasons, but I hate having to do the shopping myself.

Last time I had no choice than to find some new clothes, I experienced something magical at a regular Finnish clothing store. The store had such an atmosphere I reluctant to stop shopping.

These lessons once again highlight the link between community/service and successful sales and marketing.

Lesson #1: Be available, friendly and involving but not pushy

The base of the whole experience was how the staff friendly and involved, but still not pushing too hard for the actual sales. Every time I wandered around looking actually interested in the clothes someone would come and ask if I needed help or could find right sizes.

It is possible to be available and not make it awkward. So why is the awkward usually the norm?

The rest of the lessons show points of how they did it.

Lesson #2: The customers you serve are people, treat them like that!

What first released me to enjoy shopping that day was when I bumped into the first girl who had helped me to find right size jeans to fit. I knew she had already served many other customers in between much the same way, yet she remembered me and my case said hello and asked how it had gone.

She didn’t have to be so friendly and reveal she remembered, but she did and she put a smile on my face and so I found myself looking at shirts as well as the jeans I really needed.

Lesson #3: Share your taste/Show your own fandom!

This is one where I easily catch myself afraid of getting awkward. But sharing something something personal adds an extra dimension to the experience. The lady at my cashier told me she was jealous of how I had found the jeans in my size.

She had wanted them, too. But the day she started working at the store that size had just sold out. I was already buying them so financially she won nothing by telling her story. But it felt special and natural that she share it. I left the store wishing I lived nearby so I could do all my shopping in that store.

Special atmosphere and good service makes difference with a community! As a result of how I was treated, I ended up helping a fellow customer find what they were looking for. It’s the first time in my whole life I could actually help a stranger while shopping clothes for myself.

3rd Let’s Learn from: Gravity Happens

Kate Voegele played tonight in London. Inspired by excited tweets from the gig I decided to share a Let’s Learn From experience from last May, when Kate released her third album Gravity Happens.

The release took me by surprise. I had not expected to be so drawn into a release day buzz, but with everything going on I could not help it. Here are four points from my observations of awesome community involvement around the album release.

Lesson #1: Don’t be afraid of fans hearing music before the release

Kate gave many songs as previews before the album was released. I had been listening to at least 3 full songs before the release date of May 17th.

The album went all the way to #10 on iTunes charts right on the release day. We can see that such generosity in previews did not put off the fans from buying the music. In stead it feels like it helped create excitement towards the release and so encouraged to buy. After all, we rarely buy albums we haven’t heard anything of yet.

Lesson #2: Relate? Tag yourself.

About a week before the release Kate Voegele’s facebook page’s album “Gravity Happens” got its first song lyric photos. They are beautiful like cover booklet pages. And each one’s caption said that if you relate to the lyrics, tag yourself in it. Throughout the week more songs were added so that a little after the album release all the song lyrics were in the album.

It’s so simple, yet genius because:

  • It’s the booklet many of us most miss from CDs, when we buy albums digitally.
  • It built up excitement about the album as the release date was approaching.
  • Tagging illustrates and supports a sense of belonging to the songs
  • Tagging is also the best way I know to get something spread easily on Facebook.

Lesson #3: Share the excitement in real time

The album was released at midnight on May 17 and right then Kate held “a Twitter Party” answering to questions with #gravityhappens hashtag. First tweet after announcing that the party had started was that the album was now released on iTunes. Then she answered questions ending the Q&A with announcement of an online release party the next evening right before her song was to be played at One Tree Hill’s season finale.

I was asleep during the release moment’s fun, but waking up in the morning and opening twitter I couldn’t help but be drawn into the celebratory mood. Over the course of the day the Online party got sold out a few times and extra tickets were added. All of it built wonderfully towards the evening.

Lesson #4: Celebrate the release with an online party/chat/gig

If you’re not merely a local act, you most likely can’t host a release party where everyone has a fair chance of making it. So why not take it online, so that even those who can’t physically come to where you are can feel included? If you do have a physical release gig, could you live stream it? Or spare 20 minutes to do a chat, Q/A or anything with the fans online! It’s best to start a new chapter with whole community feeling appreciated.

Kate used StageIt for the “party”. And I must say the concept was a positive surprise. You need tickets to attend, but tickets can be set to “pay what you can” and Kate tweeted she doesn’t really care about the payment and invited to ‘just come hang’. StageIt also allows fans to “tip” the artists. Many payed more than the pay-whatever-you-like tickets.

Low profile but exclusive is a wonderful concept. Easy but special is such fun, great service that it makes people wanna give back. Fans seemed to have fun also “tipping” Kate while the chat was going. The money was probably still trivial. But it shows the familiar concept of good quality and being special and generous are qualities that make us want to give back somehow.

Why Be Nice to “Wrong People”?

I arrived to my native Finland last week and was greeted with a story about service my grandmother had gotten.

Basically, she had had problems with her lap top and taken it to a shop to be repaired. They screwed up and did not provide good enough service to then help fix the mistakes of themselves and the repairing service. A friend went to the store with my grandma to give them a piece of his mind and fix things for her.

What should have happened is that the manager of the store would have come and taken the critique and then made sure their bad experience is somehow fixed. Instead the manager came in and got angry at how it’s not their problem but the repairer’s.

First of all, if the shop sent the machine to the repairer in stead of the customer, they became the face to the customer service and therefore any problem is “theirs”. They should be mature enough to take it and then deal with the one who really screwed up. No need to take the customer into inner policies.

I’ve been wondering for days how any business can afford to be so rude and unhelpful to its customers.

Yes, a retired grandmother who doesn’t understand much about technology may not be “target group” for a phone and computer seller. But here’s the deal:

People are linked. Behind that grandmother were children, grandchildren and many friends.

The same applies in everything.

  • So musicians: Be nice to also those who don’t like your music. They may just end up having a discussion with someone who is into your genre and for them to speak for you can be golden.
  • Politicians: Don’t be rude to people who can’t vote for you. They are still likely to have friends who can.
  • And job seekers: Don’t only impress the future employers. Gold-digging is tacky and in the end integrity makes you much more valuable.

And even if your mind is not on networking, it still takes you the extra mile as a person to calm down, keep your cool and be friendly.

Even the likely “unimportant people” are important. Really, I shouldn’t even have to explain, because everyone deserves to be treated well anyway. But if you need the motivation as to what’s in it for you: It’s with them that you prove a good character.

And if that’s the story that gets around, it’s such an asset to the image. That matters in all relationships from friendships to customer relationships.

Fansite Connection: Heather’s interview

One of the greatest things to me about Fansite Connection has been getting to know Heather and working with her. We made up a wonderful team and even though I no longer work with her on Fansite Connection, the friendship and co-operation is still going strong.

Here are some of Heather’s thoughts on fansites and the story of Fansite Connection:

Audio version of this interview is also an episode of Tsuua’s podcast. You can download the mp3 by right-clicking here.

Find out more about Fansite Connection on their website, forums and twitter.
More about Fansite Connection on this site: Fansite Connection: Introduction

Fansite Connection: Introduction

Fansite Connection was founded in October 2008 to unite fans of Avril Lavigne, Evan Taubenfeld and Sum 41 and have news of the three well linked artists collected under one site. I came on board as a moderator on the 2nd day of Fansite Connection.

Already within the first months we organized Evan Taubenfeld’s fan community the Black List Club’s first live chat and found our special strength in organizing contests and events that strengthen community and encourage the fans to promote the artists.

About a year after the initial launch, when Avril Lavigne and Sum 41 front man Deryck Whibley announced their separation, there came a need for a change from the original platform. The natural change was to shift away from uniting Avril, Evan & Sum 41 fans to connecting the fans with the bands.

Fansite Connection works independently, but in close relationship with Sum 41, Evan Taubenfeld and some of their affiliates. It specializes in connecting bands with fans through online chatting, contests and other special fan interaction projects and events.

Fansite Connection. Connect with the bands. Connect with the fans.

Find out more about Fansite Connection on their website, forums and twitter.

More about FC on Fansite Connection: Heather’s Interview

2nd Let’s Learn from: My Waiter

Still on the Easter vacation trip, I spent some time in Niagara area in Ontario, Canada and also there one of the restaurant visits was a notable experience. (I don’t remember the name of the restaurant but it’s in a big beautiful building on the main street of Niagara on the Lake, hard to miss.) Our waiter was incredible at community management! He made me understand what a value simple people skills hold.

Lesson #1: If your product is great, believe in it and be proud of it

We were the first ones to be seated upstairs and our waiter suggested that the Soup of the Day, Coconut-Curry-Chicken soup was so amazing all the employees had taken more than one cup of it. I couldn’t have it, but the waiter promised my friend that if he didn’t like it, the soup would be on himself.

Lesson #2: Connect your community!

When my friend got his soup, a party of six was seated near us. The waiter told to check with my friend if the soup was worth it and then later when we were already on the main course a couple was looking at the menu. Our waiter, at least 20 years younger than my friend, said “Excuse me, son, could you tell this couple if the soup was worth having?”. Everyone was having a good time because of this little socializing. And my friend was taken by the friendly inclusion that he happily told the couple what the waiter had told him “If you don’t like the soup, it’s on me”. Great service is a must, but to get an experience beyond that you need to connect the community.

Lesson #3: When you build a relationship, you get to be human

For some reason our waiter did not remember to give my order to the kitchen. My friend had already eaten the soup when he came, apologized and asked again. He was sincere and he offered me a plate of cheese while waiting as compensation. We had also already created a good relationship with him so I didn’t even feel very disappointed. Now this does not give right

Lesson #4: Offer more than the obvious

Community is more than a personal and social way of marketing. Our waiter could have kept his interaction simply about the food. As the previous lessons show that already could have made a difference in our experience. However somehow our waiter ended up competing in telling riddles with the customers who came after us. It made such a difference to the atmosphere in the whole room, when every time he was serving that table there would be friendly and fun conversation that wasn’t held down to the quality of food or obediently making sure everyone has had what they wanted.

Do you have any similar experiences? I would love to hear more stories.

1st Let’s Learn from: Hyman’s Seafood

Over my Easter vacation I got to spend a day in my favorite city, Charleston, South Carolina. There is a famous restaurant Hyman’s Seafood that I found really inspiring for community management. I’ll share four things I picked up from them.

Lesson #1: Be open and honest (but humble) about what you want.

They had a sign on the wall saying more or less the following: If you liked us, tell others about us. If you didn’t, tell us about it. The rule of thumb in life is to ask if you want or need something. However often we try every other way than the simple, honest wish.

Asking seems somehow rude. But if you create a good relationship, it is fair to be open and honest about what you wish from your community. Just be humble and respectful!

Lesson #2: Think beyond the obvious to add to the experience

On the same wall also informed that the restaurant also offers to borrow umbrellas if it was raining. At the exit you can give 15 dollars for an umbrella and when you return the umbrella you get the money back.

Traditionally thought a restaurant really wouldn’t have to offer umbrellas, but why not offer? If it gives a feeling your experience and well being is important, why not offer it!

Lesson #3: Customers are human beings, treat them like it!

In my experience most people like friendly conversation, being noticed and listened to. At Hyman’s there was someone, maybe owner or nonetheless not a waiter, who’s “supposed” to be talking to us, walking around talking to us customers and asking if he could help in anything.

Also, fellow customers asked their waiter for directions to a place that turned out to be quite further to the wrong direction than they had maybe thought. The waiter automatically offered to call a taxi if they needed one although it had nothing to do with the restaurant’s services. They didn’t need one, but it was such a nice offer anyway!

Lesson #4: Why not offer something for the waiting times?

Whether it is concerts or restaurant (or almost anything, even just a bus) there is always some waiting time for the customer. Time when you are sitting or standing and just waiting for that which you you came for to happen. Many may come with company that helps in killing time. The ones working may not have that waiting time, but are especially busy making the food or whatever, but I believe that the experience gets much better if there’s something special for the waiting time, too.

Hyman’s Restaurant has had a lot of celebrities dining and their walls are full of pictures and messages from the celebrity guests. Also every place has a little plague telling who also has sat in the table. I have found that it is a wonderful subtle way of contributing to the discussions while waiting for the food. “Who’s eaten at your spot?”, “I wonder where she ate..?” It is fun and special. It also makes up for a way in which Hyman’s may come up in a discussion elsewhere.

Overwhelming Happiness

You know the feeling of overwhelming happiness, when you feel like dancing on the streets and screaming or rolling on the floor and laughing? It makes even worst over-analytical lyric girls loosen up and just enjoy the Music. It’s a good thing that the kind of extreme doesn’t come around daily, but when it does I hope we can take it in and enjoy.

The overwhelming happiness hit me harder than ever this morning and it called for a soundtrack I struggled to form from my three days of music in my iTunes library. I had 33 playlists for different occasions: Angry songs, Best Love Songs, Broken Heart, Consolation, Party, Upbeat and so on. But even the cheeriest and most upbeat ones weren’t happy enough for my overwhelming happiness.

So my today’s soundtrack and 34th playlist got name “Overwhelming Happiness” over the course of the day I have found three songs to suit the mood:

When you next time experience this weird state of being, I highly recommend you to add the three songs to your playlist, do a little happy dance and enjoy! Do you have any song recommendations I could check out for my new playlist? Please let me know…