Friday, January 21, 2011

Inquiring Minds Want to Know – Does Quora Provide the Answer (and the Question)?

I’m sure by now you’ve heard the latest buzz about the newest social media tool on the block - Quora. If you’re like me, you’re already scouring articles, blogs and possibly even Wikipedia to figure out just what this new tool is all about and how it can benefit your clients or aid you in future research. 

Here is a quick overview of Quora. Designed by two former Facebook employees, Quora is a Q&A site similar to Wikipedia. All answers are submitted by users, but unlike Wikipedia, users can pose questions as well.  Users then vote answers up or down (think Digg) with the most popular answers at the top, but of course, there is no guarantee answers are entirely accurate. One big difference to note – this social media tool is not “open” to the public. Only registered users can pose questions and view answers. Rather than providing even more details about the site, read this article from the Wall Street Journal to get a more comprehensive review of this tool.  

Before you leave this post to read all the hype about Quora, one thing you need to be thinking about as a PR pro is how the media will be using Quora. With the advent of Twitter and sending 140-character pitches to reporters becoming more commonplace, Quora seems to be opening another door to connect with media. So, as you delve in to your research about how to start using Quora, take time to think strategically. How can this new tool help you do your job and successfully connect you with the media?  After all, isn’t our job as PR professionals to think like a reporter? Perhaps reporters will be using the site to poll users in their area about what questions they would like to see asked of particular interviewees in an upcoming interview session or maybe reporters will utilize the site to ask what is the “hidden neighborhood gem” that only locals know about. Or, they may even be searching the site to get their next story idea, contacting users directly to cite as expert sources for future trend stories. 

Whatever the question/answer is and before you jump in to the next social media tool, I would provide the same counsel to you that I do to clients. Be strategic! In fact, I’m sure the next “it” thing in social media is being developed as I type this. So, ask yourself: How useful is this tool to your PR strategy and can it help move the needle on your client’s business model? Whether you’re a PR exec in the business-to-business realm or business-to-consumer industry, you should be pondering that question.

At first glance, Quora seems like a useful thought leadership tool, providing even more online space for your clients to answer questions related to their industry (remember – no self promotion!) or it can be a great spot for doing research to learn more about the latest trends or to learn what is going on in your community. Or, maybe, just maybe, you’ll be able to make a connection with that hard-to-reach reporter who won’t respond to your email pitches or calls. 

Here is my question:  Have any PR pros found success yet with this tool or made meaningful connections with the media utilizing Quora? I guess that is a question I will have to pose to the Quora community…

This post was contributed by Leah Ekmark


Monday, January 17, 2011

National Mentoring Month - Give As Much As You Get

Not only is January a time for resolutions, it is also a time for giving back and re-evaluating what you’ll be working on this year to “do your part.” Here’s one thing to think about – January is national mentoring month! If you’re up for the challenge of serving as a mentor, what better time than the month of January to kick off this initiative?

Here at our agency, we’re regularly engaged in the mentoring process, intermittently hosting college students to shadow us for the day and learn about a day-in-the-life of a PR agency. We also have a student intern work with us each semester. Serving as a mentor for these college students is extremely rewarding knowing that we’re passing along all the knowledge we can to help shape this student’s future, which also indirectly impacts the future of the PR industry. On the other hand and much to our benefit, our interns serve as mentors for us from time-to-time, teaching us about the latest and greatest in social media. (Be sure to refer to our previous blog post for more on this reverse mentoring process we have “resoluted” to maintain in spring 2011).

But apart from the mentoring process in the professionalism realm, I would encourage you to consider being a mentor outside of work. I know we are all busy professionals, but one skill set all PR pros in the agency world possess is the ability to multi-task and juggle many activities at once. Why not put that skill to good use and consider becoming a mentor to someone in your community? As we all know, it’s important to practice what we preach which is why I want to share that I am involved in Big Brothers Big Sisters. I have served as a Big Sister for nearly six years, and I have become a constant force in my Little Brother’s life, helping to positively shape his future.

My time as a mentor has helped to shape who I am today – my Little and his family have become a part of my life and it has been one of the most rewarding experiences for me. So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to figure out how you can help change someone’s life… or maybe the shoe is on the other foot, and you need to find someone to help provide guidance. If you are that “mentee,” then get out there and figure out who can be that positive force in your own life.

Either way, it’s time to figure out how you can get involved in the mentoring process. Not only will you feel good that you’ve ticked one thing off your resolution list, but you can also feel good knowing you’re taking a step in the right direction as a mentor or mentee. Even President Obama has asked all of America to take action now and issued this proclamation in honor of National Mentoring Month. Take a clue from our President – Start Something!

This post was contributed by Leah Ekmark


Thursday, January 6, 2011

A New Plan for a New Year

If you’re anything like me, you’re still trying to fulfill last year’s resolutions, and the thought of kicking off a whole set of new ones is a little overwhelming. But the truth is, 2011 is upon us and it is time to map out a plan for the new year. While in the past most of my resolutions have been of a personal nature, this year I am making a list of resolutions we can implement here at C. Pharr. I have broken them down into seasonal goals to limit the initial burden, but take a look at what we “resolute” for 2011, and consider adding a few to your agenda in the new year.  Cheers!

Winter 2011 –
·    At the beginning of the year it’s time to gather all relevant client award application information, calendaring out deadlines to prepare for the year ahead vs. scrambling to pull nominations together at the last minute.
·    Thoroughly research and review editorial calendars to assist in setting a 2011 strategy for each client.
·    Time to start “scrubbing” media lists, reviewing and updating all contact information so we can proactively start pitching and stay ahead of the game whenever a last-minute media opportunity pops up.
·    Brainstorm and pull together a list of evergreen story ideas , which can be revisited in slower months throughout the year; but let’s be realistic, when do we ever have a slow month?

Spring 2011 –
·    Spring Clean! Go through old client files and archive things you need, throw out things you do not need.
·    Each semester (Spring, Summer and Fall), we hire a student intern. They  are often privy to new trends, which we may not yet have on our radar. One of our goals this season is to not only take time to mentor our intern, but also to take time to be the “mentor” as well absorbing all the new information we can. You never know what you might learn in this reverse-mentor role!
·    Spring is all about being fresh, so this season be sure to spend time researching new social media tools, and dare I say, even implement one new idea.

Summer 2011 –
·    The phrase, “The Dog Days of Summer,” is most often used by people in the media world. During the summer news is slow and reporters are always looking for story ideas. Our resolution during this season is to meet three reporters for coffee or lunch and pitch away. I might just bring along my lists of aforementioned evergreen story ideas!
·    The holidays always creep up on me, and this year, we vow to start the client “holiday initiative” conversation even earlier! With the extra time, we’ll be able to implement tactics that really stand out, while still leaving plenty of time to pitch.
·    Even after we do all the leg work in the first quarter reviewing editorial calendars, publications are notorious for making changes throughout the year. Translation – it’s time to dust off that “ed cal” file and revisit these calendars in search of changes, updates and new opportunities!

Fall 2011 –
·    Especially in Dallas, Fall means the kick off of the social season! With a calendar full of charity events, there are plenty of opportunities for our clients to get involved in the community. Our goal is to narrow down some of the larger events around town, and identify participation needs and deadlines. After evaluating what’s out there, we can encourage and coordinate our clients’ involvement in the events where they can make the greatest impact.
·    It’s easy to get distracted during the fall with football, weddings and of course – holidays! This is a good time to resolve to stay focused on meeting deadlines and seeing through with a year’s full of hard work. 

This post was contributed by Shelby Sabin