Incorporating Awards into Your Communications Initiatives

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect, Sonnhalter It feels good to win an award. But beyond being able to bask in the glow of recognition, can awards help you reach your marketing goals? Entering for awards is one tactic we work into the public relations mix for our clients. Winning an award, or even being nominated for one, can go a long way to boosting brand recognition and can act as an endorsement for your product/service/organization. 5 Questions to Ask Before Entering 12797read more >

Case Studies Should Be Part of Your Content Mix

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect, Sonnhalter The terms "case study" and "testimonial" are sometimes used interchangeably, however case studies are not exactly testimonials. Although one piece of content can pull double duty, a simple testimonial can't provide the value for your organization that a case study can. In marketing, a testimonial is essentially a statement by a customer providing an endorsement of a product or service. A case study is a more in-depth, valuable piece of content. Spinach content if you will. Case studies explore a user's journey, not just with your organization, but through their entire problem and solution. Ideally, 12528read more >

Thousands of vocational programs, many ways to connect

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect, Sonnhalter More than a year ago, we released an extensive database of thousands of vocational education programs across the country. We recently updated that list, adding about 1,000 new programs, separating them out by state tabs and standardizing the descriptions to make it even easier to search, sort and use. Why would a marketing communications firm make such a resource? We hope the tool will bridge the gap between manufacturers and educational programs. The database serves as a helpful tool for companies looking to implement more grassroots campaigns to recruit the next generation of professional tradesmen. There are a myriad of ways to take advantage of a tool like our database. I'd love to name a thousand ways to use it (given enough time and coffee I probably could too!) but I'll leave you with a few suggestions of how to make our work, work for you. Fill the Talent Pipeline 12075read more >

Making a Thought Leader

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent, Sonnhalter “Free advertising,” who doesn’t want that? One of the best side effects of the boom in content marketing is the growth of brand-neutral trade magazine articles. Pay-for-play has been relegated to the back burner as more and more publications see the benefit of offering knowledge-based problem solving articles. That’s also an offshoot of the lack of skilled workers, as more and more knowledge retires, there’s an increased need to transfer that knowledge. With less opportunity for direct, apprentice-based, transfer, white papers, problem solving articles and general knowledge pieces gain added importance. So, how can your company benefit? Create thought leaders. A bragging title most people would reject, it can still help you promote your business and create a knowledge warehouse. How to Create Thought Leaders 11927read more >

Take the Interview

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect, Sonnhalter It’s time when we start thinking about New Year’s Resolutions. Which means we’re making plans to improve ourselves over the coming year, as well as improve our marketing efforts. Here’s a PR resolution for your organization this year: Take Every Interview. Every time you have an interview request from your local media or trade outlets, take it. One of the biggest frustrations for a public relations practitioner is turning down editorial opportunities. An editor of a trade publication that we work with regularly at Sonnhalter told me this week that one of his biggest struggles is getting companies to take advantage of editorial opportunities with the magazine. 11729read more >

Make Sure Your B2B Communication is Still Human

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect, Sonnhalter When it comes to B2B communication, sometimes we get a little too caught up in the 2 Bs (business and business) that we forget about the Hs, Humans. Your organization is made up of human beings and the businesses that make up your target audience are also made up of human beings. When you recognize that your audience is made up of humans, you're already one step toward more effective communications. Communicating with humans means you need to take into account emotions as well as logic and make an effort to connect on a personal level. Be Human Mike McDougall gave a presentation at the PRSA International Conference on using the HUMAN method to connect with B2B audiences. Here's the model: 11132read more >

Anyone Can Write a Press Release

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect, Sonnhalter Given the appropriate details, anyone can write a press release, however, not everyone should write a press release. Too often when companies try to DIY their press releases rather than have a public relations professional write it, their message gets lost. Here are the most common mistakes that we see with DIY press releases: It isn’t actually news. If you’re going to ask for the media’s attention, you need to actually give them something, that something is news. If you inundate an editor with press releases that don’t contain news, you’ll do more to damage the relationship than build it. It isn’t written in a useable format. Press releases need to be written in AP Style; it makes them incredibly simple for the media to use. It’s a sales pitch. Sales pitches are not press releases. It puts the important information last. When was the last time you actually read to the end of an article? It assumes the reader knows anything about you upfront. A press release came across my desk once that was announcing a new tool and relied so heavily on the tool’s brand name, it never actually told me what the tool is used for. Press releases are a valuable public relations program basic that when done well can earn you media coverage and help build relationships. Don’t assume that just anyone can write a release well. Press releases have changed over time, here's a quick look at the Modern Press Release.read more >

Learn My Name!

There’s a woman that I know from a local professional organization. We’ve been “formally” introduced multiple times. After the first time we met, I knew her name, her face, we traded cards and connected on LinkedIn.read more >

Doing the Right Thing, and Not Patting Ourselves on the Back

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect, Sonnhalter As human beings, and companies made up of human beings, sometimes it’s important to do the right thing and not talk about it. This may be a little strange coming from a PR person, but there’s a point where the “R” in “PR” (remember PR= Performance then Recognition) goes away and we simply need to perform like human beings. A good communicator recognizes that point and smart companies rely on the counsel of good communicators. In the wake of crisis situations such as natural disasters or community safety crisis like what we’re seeing with Flint Michigan, we simply need to do the right thing and not seek praise for being human and helpful. By stepping up but not shouting out, we do the right thing, no one questions our motives and the real heroes get the credit. For example in Flint, the plumbers who spent a weekend installing new faucets and water filters for residences for free deserve the credit. The organizations who donated the supplies and food for their efforts aren’t pounding their own drum and saying, “look at us, we did something good.” No, they’re working together with their competitors to directly help people who need it. If your organization’s values are in the right place and your actions align with them, there’s no need to pat yourself on the back.read more >

Don’t Get Lazy

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect, Sonnhalter Sonnhalter has used several services for a very long time… as in decades. I’m not sure how we started working with these services, but  I had to assume there was a reason. However when I took over the contracts with these services, no one seemed eager to provide the most important service of all… customer service. Coming into my new role, I wanted to understand our various contracts so I reached out to the most recent person assigned to us. No answer. I reached out to the company referencing our account number. No answer. I attended a conference and visited the service provider’s table, and immediately got attention because they thought I was a new customer. The sales person apologized up and down and said our rep would be in contact with me. He was able to look up answers to some of my questions. More than a week after the conference, I had no contact. When it comes to your customers, it’s crucial not to become lazy. Don’t expect your relationship to maintain itself just because you’ve been with them for years. Don’t focus all of your time and attention trying to win new business that you forget your current business. As I learned in Marketing 101 in college, it’s cheaper to maintain an existing customer relationship than to build a new one. When you ignore, forget or don’t serve your current customers the way that you should, you are in danger of losing them. At the conference I met with several competing service providers who would be happy to have me as a customer, what makes our current providers think we’ll stick with them if there’s someone else who isn’t lazy? In your personal life, if you were to call your mechanic…read more >

How to Define “PR” in 2016

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect, Sonnhalter Sometimes I get scared that others in the industry don’t know what PR actually is or stands for. The textbook definition of PR is simply put as Public Relations, the way that you communicate (relate) with your audiences (publics). For 2016, I challenge you to think of PR differently than ever before. Banish words like “spin” or “promote” and instead think about PR as Performance, then Recognition. Meaning, your organization needs to perform, do something, before seeking recognition or media coverage. The articles that practitioners like myself get for your company is called earned media, the “earned” part is very important. PR Pros can help you identify recognition-worthy aspects of your company, but we can’t create it for you out of thin air. As you go about your business this year think about the cool things your company does, such as launching a product, breaking a world record or being the first to provide a service that adds value, and recognize that these are opportunities to communicate with your audiences. PR is more than just getting headlines, it’s telling the stories of your company. Make 2016 a year of action stories for your public relations team to tell. Doing this will help you build your organization’s credibility in 2016.read more >

Online News and the Press Release

I’ve been reading the book, “Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator,” by Ryan Holiday at the recommendation of a colleague. It’s full of interesting, and damning, tidbits of information about today’s online publishing world.read more >

Crisis Communication: If a crisis hits, do you have a plan?

Today we have a guest blog post from Nancy Valent of NMV Strategies on crisis communication. Your phone rings. It's a CNN reporter wanting to know why your facility had an explosion, which injured five of your employees. What is your response? Probably the first reaction you have is to say: "No comment." It seems harmless and a good safety net to buy you some time. In reality, your "no comment" starts a snowball reaction of assumptions that you are trying to hide something or go on the defensive. Spokespeople who use this phrase are subliminally communicating that they are not being proactive or stepping out to really tell the truth. This type of response drives both consumers and business clients away and starts to degrade your brand and corporate identity faster than just saying in a very truthful tone: "I will get back to you in an hour with the facts and information, which I can confirm." Too many large, medium and even small manufacturing businesses operate under the philosophy that a company crisis will never happen to them. But, if it does it won't get media attention and somehow they will ultimately handle it. If you research any of the past company crises that get national attention and talk to the manufacturing operations people who have lived through it, they will tell you everyone should be prepared for the sudden and the smoldering crisis...it can happen to you. Preparation is relatively easy if you have created a plan before a crisis hits. Here are some questions to ask the management team and/or your communications department: If we had a crisis, who would be the spokesperson? How would we communicate with our employees and our customers? What are three key message points we would want to share about the…read more >

Perspectives from 2013 International PRSA Conference

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to attend a motivational week of education and networking at the 2013 PRSA International Conference. The entire three days of the conference I was bombarded with incredible amounts of expertise and thought-provoking ideas, but several of the impressions stood out.read more >

Relevant Social Media and SEO

Today we have a guest post from Rachel Kerstetter, our PR Engineer, about the evolution of social media and SEO. In our B2T niche, as well as in the general B2B market, we use the word “relevant” frequently. When it comes to B2T social media, quantity does not equal quality. Quality social media engagement can’t be measured in simple number of followers or likes. The relevance of those follows and likes is where we find the quality. It can be hard to keep up with current SEO tactics that will land you on the first page of Google search results since the algorithms change every day, but as social media continues to grow, SEO is getting easier because it’s no longer optimizing for search engines that will land you on page one of Google. Social engagement is becoming the new SEO. One of the many benefits of being involved in social media that I explain when we create social strategies is improving search visibility. I was reading, “6 Reasons Social Media is Critical to Your SEO” on Social Media Today and Stephanie Frasco explained the concept so well when she wrote about the old SEO strategy of link building, “Think about it - why did Google ever allow links to determine which websites ranked above all the others? The answer is simple: links were like "votes" for your website. The more votes you get, the better off you are. So SEO companies started building links (aka "votes") manually[…]The idea behind links as a ranking factor is a very good idea, but since it's become so easy to manipulate, Google has been forced to turn to social media channels which do the same thing but are much harder to manipulate. Link building was always about social proofing.” The shift toward social…read more >

Relevant Social Media and SEO

Today we have a guest post from Rachel Kerstetter, our PR Engineer, about the evolution of social media and SEO. In our B2T niche, as well as in the general B2B market, we use the word “relevant” frequently. When it comes to B2T social media, quantity does not equal quality. Quality social media engagement can’t be measured in simple number of followers or likes. The relevance of those follows and likes is where we find the quality. It can be hard to keep up with current SEO tactics that will land you on the first page of Google search results since the algorithms change every day, but as social media continues to grow, SEO is getting easier because it’s no longer optimizing for search engines that will land you on page one of Google. Social engagement is becoming the new SEO. One of the many benefits of being involved in social media that I explain when we create social strategies is improving search visibility. I was reading, “6 Reasons Social Media is Critical to Your SEO” on Social Media Today and Stephanie Frasco explained the concept so well when she wrote about the old SEO strategy of link building, “Think about it - why did Google ever allow links to determine which websites ranked above all the others? The answer is simple: links were like "votes" for your website. The more votes you get, the better off you are. So SEO companies started building links (aka "votes") manually[…]The idea behind links as a ranking factor is a very good idea, but since it's become so easy to manipulate, Google has been forced to turn to social media channels which do the same thing but are much harder to manipulate. Link building was always about social proofing.” The shift toward social…read more >

The Scary Side of Public Relations

Today Rosemarie and Rachel from our PR department are sharing some of the aspects of public relations that can be the scariest to clients. We find the realm of public relations to be fun, exciting and consistently fresh, but some areas of our field can be scary to our clients. Here are the top five fears people have about public relations, and why you shouldn’t be spooked by them. 1. You can’t control what the media does with a story once you’ve given it to them. “Earned media” is highly credible because readers know that you didn’t purchase the space to promote your company. Public relations and media relations professionals cultivate positive relationships with media, we work with these folks on behalf of multiple clients most of the time so we’ve built the foundation for positive coverage before they even get your story. In B2T public relations, we’re working with trade publications primarily and their goal is to be a source of helpful information for their readers. It can be scary not to see the actual article before it’s published, but with long lead times of trade media, it can be a sweet surprise to see your words in print. 2. Negative comments on blogs and social media. Your responses to negative comments offer an excellent opportunity to show off your wonderful customer service. Negative comments happen, and if they happen on your social media, you can control the outcome with your response and the community response from your other fans. It’s actually scarier to hide your head in the sand or cover your ears when it comes to social media. 3. Giving interviews is intimidating. When we set up interviews with trade publications, they often send some sample questions ahead of time to help you prepare. Knowing how you…read more >

The Scary Side of Public Relations

Today Rosemarie and Rachel from our PR department are sharing some of the aspects of public relations that can be the scariest to clients. We find the realm of public relations to be fun, exciting and consistently fresh, but some areas of our field can be scary to our clients. Here are the top five fears people have about public relations, and why you shouldn’t be spooked by them. 1. You can’t control what the media does with a story once you’ve given it to them. “Earned media” is highly credible because readers know that you didn’t purchase the space to promote your company. Public relations and media relations professionals cultivate positive relationships with media, we work with these folks on behalf of multiple clients most of the time so we’ve built the foundation for positive coverage before they even get your story. In B2T public relations, we’re working with trade publications primarily and their goal is to be a source of helpful information for their readers. It can be scary not to see the actual article before it’s published, but with long lead times of trade media, it can be a sweet surprise to see your words in print. 2. Negative comments on blogs and social media. Your responses to negative comments offer an excellent opportunity to show off your wonderful customer service. Negative comments happen, and if they happen on your social media, you can control the outcome with your response and the community response from your other fans. It’s actually scarier to hide your head in the sand or cover your ears when it comes to social media. 3. Giving interviews is intimidating. When we set up interviews with trade publications, they often send some sample questions ahead of time to help you prepare. Knowing how you…read more >

Your Most Important Audience

Today we have a post from Rachel Kerstetter, Sonnhalter’s PR Engineer. I have noticed in some companies that internal communication is not made a priority. External communication in the form of advertising and marketing seem to be pretty important though. Here’s the problem: Within a company, if you can’t communicate internally enough to get everyone on the same page, how exactly do you expect to communicate with anyone else? One of my mentors once told me that internal communications is definitely “public relations,” because a company’s employees are its most important audience. Think about it: Would you want to hear news about your company from a source outside of your company? If a friend comes to you and says, “Hey, I heard your company just started Initiative X,” but you have no idea what they're talking about, it's embarrassing to you and your company. Internal communication is really very simple, talk to each other. Clue your employees in and let them know what you're doing. Word-of-mouth recommendations are incredibly valuable and have to be earned through solid communication. We live in an age where we look at online reviews before purchasing a pair of flip flops, so if your staff knows what your company is doing, they can be an excellent resource for recommendations. I know that my answer to the question: How’s work going? is a lot more interesting when I know about new things happening at Sonnhalter. Internal communication is also important if you’re hiring outside help... for example, an agency. There’s a reason for a reporting structure, even for outside help. It saves you not only hassle, but also money, if everyone on your team is on the same page, because your outside help won’t have to decipher what your messages and goals are.read more >

Evolution of a Press Release

Today we have a guest blog post from Rosemarie Ascherl, PR Foreman at Sonnhalter, discussing the evolution of the press release. Yes, it still is a legitimate marketing communications tool.   Perhaps this will date me, but I remember the days when issuing a press release on behalf of one of my clients meant printing copies, stapling and affixing 4x5-inch prints or slides, folding, stuffing in envelopes and metering for postage. Whew! Eventually, many media outlets requested that the press release be faxed. The press release of today, while no longer issued on paper, still bears some similarities to press releases of yesterday. It should be well written, factual, using A.P. Style [which updates its guidelines each year]. Same as always, it shouldn’t present information in an opinionated or sale-sy style. But, today’s press release must be written with digital in mind. It will appear online first, that is, if it is properly optimized. To be effective, it should be clear and very concise. This is not the time for long-winded sentences filled with industry jargon. The headline, with proper key words for search, is key, and adding a subhead helps by adding more searchable key words near the top. It should include logos, photos, charts and videos to convey information. It should also contain two or more key links, directing readers to more information. Because of digital, the modern press release is getting to its audience faster and with even less filtering than in the past. Now, press releases are often published as-is on blogs, websites and e-newsletters. At Sonnhalter, when we issue a press release on behalf of our clients, within minutes, the press release shows up on trade publication websites. Occasionally, the debate will surface that the press release has run its course, and is no longer…read more >

A Powerful Story

Today we have a post from Rachel Kerstetter, Sonnhalter’s PR Engineer. Working in public relations gives me the opportunity to tell stories. I get to tell stories about company histories, professional successes, how products came into being, etc. Stories are a powerful tool in getting messages across. I’ve been thinking about safety since June is National Safety Month and one powerful story stood out to me. Here’s the headline: Laborer Dies in Trench Collapse and Lives to Tell the Tale It compelled me to read further and it brought me to a more in-depth account of Eric Giguere’s story about how not focusing on safety cost him his life and the tough decisions that those around him had to make, which ultimately brought him back. That article is here. Basically his team had been working in an unsupported trench without incident for quite some time, then it unexpectedly collapsed and buried him. The people around him had to make tough decisions about how to dig him out and then administered CPR. One of Eric’s statements about safety stuck with me: “I’m a guy who got comfortable doing things the wrong way.” By not taking the proper safety precautions, they were saving time on the project. But the cost was great. Eric’s story is powerful and carries more weight than statistics can. It’s not a horror story to scare people into following the rules rather, it’s a lesson in consequences for taking short cuts and an example of tough decisions, made quickly in a time of crisis.read more >

Awards: When Are They Worth It?

Awards competitions can sometimes be valuable, but they can also be a waste of time and money in some situations. Sonnhalter’s PR Engineer Rachel Kerstetter is with us today to talk about when awards are worth it and when they aren’t.read more >

Spring Clean Your Social Media

Since the social media scene developed many years ago, it’s become cluttered. There are accounts on all social platforms that sit, gathering dust for years. Do any of those accounts belong to you or your company? Today Rachel Kerstetter, our PR Engineer, is sharing some pointers on how you can spring clean your social media. When I entered into the realm of public relations with a broad social landscape, I was a little surprised that much of my social media consulting and instruction wasn’t about getting social programs started or operating them, it was a lot of clean up. It doesn’t take much time to get your social media back on track if you know what to do. 1. Take a look at what you have. How long ago was your last status, tweet, post or picture? Do you have messages or invitations that are waiting to be read? When you look at an old account, try to see where/when things went stale and identify what may have been the cause. Did you have an intern running your social that has since left? Did you “run out” of content or ideas? Do you need help? 2. Check your branding. If anything in your company’s branding has changed, all of your social accounts should reflect that. Get your logos, profile pictures, covers and banners up to date. Make sure that you have a Twitter cover, a LinkedIn banner and a Facebook cover for your company. Use your own company and product names correctly. 3. Is your profile complete? Fill out the boxes with information about your company. Make sure there isn’t a blank spot where an About section should be and make sure that you have links to your website and contact information on there. Here's what the About Section on…read more >

Google Shuts the Book on Reader

Google announced that it will discontinue Google Reader as of July 1st. Here are some of the details. I’ve asked Rachel Kerstetter, our PR Engineer, to share some recommendations for moving on without Reader. If you’re currently using Google Reader to keep your blog and news organized, you’ll need to find another way by July 1st.  There are many RSS reader options out there, but here are some options that we recommend. The built-in Wordpress Reader is a pretty good option if you follow only Wordpress blogs, which is a popular choice for company blogs. But if you follow nonWordpress blogs or don’t blog using Wordpress, this is not a good option. Feedly is our top pick that offers a quick and easy transition of your feeds from Google Reader right to its service. Feedly has an app for both Apple and Android. Their blog has instructions on seamless transitioning here. BlogLovin’ is pretty popular among lifestyle and fashion blogs, but might start growing due to Google shutting down Reader. There is a bloglovin’ app in the Apple App store and they offer a way to import directly from Google Reader before it’s shut down. Since importing your Reader contacts is really easy on both of these services, you can always test them both out and see what works best for you.read more >