Fall is definitely the season for change, and not just as far as weather is concerned. Two of America’s most popular companies underwent their own changes this past month as both Google and Verizon debuted updated wordmarks to their iconic looks.
Recently I also had the opportunity to work with an organization for their rebranding efforts. The Somali Bantu Community Association in Syracuse is becoming Refugee and Immigrant Self-Empowerment, also known as RISE. It makes sense for the organization to rebrand itself now that they deal with a more diverse clientele. So, to help them out with their rebranding process, why not give them a new wordmark?
In public relations, there are a few things to consider when your organization is undergoing a rebranding effort. Your new look is a reflection of your company’s culture, attitude and persona, making it all the more important for getting your new look right.
Here are some elements communicators should consider when going for a new look:
Font styles – Knowing the difference between serif and sans serif typefaces can make a tremendous difference in the type of personality your new wordmark conveys. Google’s old wordmark had a serif typeface that portrayed the company’s practicality and ease-of-use. Now, their logo is sans serif giving their brand a child-like exuberance, much to the dismay of critics. As for RISE, I decided to use a sans serif typeface to communicate the organization’s easiness to deal with and approachability.
Colors – What many people may not know is that there are meanings behind the hues a brand uses. The difference between blue and red can be immense in terms of setting the mood for what you want your audience to feel. For RISE, I decided to use two colors: a lighter hue of blue to communicate the organization’s approachability, and a medium hue of green to reflect the organization’s positive direction that it provides clients. Together, the colors portray RISE as a globally diverse organization, hence, the use of Earth’s colors.
Symbolism – When you have a name that also doubles as a noun or verb, you have room to experiment with wordplay. Verizon’s new wordmark keeps a similar concept from its old one by keeping the red check or V, symbolizing that “you’re good” (from the old commercials). The symbolism in RISE is much easier to notice. I used the “I” to form an arrow signifying the positive direction the organization is moving its members. Also, when you think of an upward arrow, you tend to think it being positive; therefore, I gave the “I” and arrow in this wordmark a green hue.
Rebranding isn’t just a thing for designers and creatives; PR professionals need to know the characteristics that go into a brand as well. Not knowing the little characteristics that can set your new wordmark off can unintentionally turn away an audience at first glance. That’s why PR professionals need to be involved, so that they can clearly communicate an organization’s rebrand to old and new audiences.
When it comes to getting information and news about your interests, who do you turn to? Is it their personality that draws you in? Do you often find yourself modeling your opinions after theirs? Just what is it that causes them to have such an affect on you?
Whether you know it or not, your favorite media personality, blogger or even entertainer may be a “One-Percenter” – that is, an influencer in the vast community of content creation. According to W2O Group‘s strategists, who spoke to Newhouse students at many events this week for Social Commerce Days, the influencers make up the top 1% of your interests’ community of content. Influencers are the ones who create the content that becomes shareable with their audience. Their biggest fans, or their advocates, are in the 9% who repackage this content into their own. Meanwhile, the other 90% consists of enthusiasts – average consumers of content who look to influencers and advocates to stay on top of trends. This is the 1:9:90 framework of social content, and it’s important for PR professionals to understand this as they seek out non-traditional methods of getting their message out to target publics.
Influencers have three characteristics that make them appealing to communications professionals:
Reach – Influencers get to be in the 1% of content creators because of the large audience they attract. They have their fair share of advocates who not only repackage their content to reach more people, but they also defend their influencers from criticism.
Relevance – If you let the strategists from W2O tell it, relevance is the new reputation. Previously, communications professionals wanted to align themselves with someone with a positive reputation. Now that attention spans are shortening, communicators have to find ways to align their content with influencers who have a stronger grip on their audiences’ attention.
Resonance – Finally, it’s not just enough for professional communicators to create content – it has to actually be good, if not, exceptional. Audiences flock to influencers because their content has a personal touch or flair to it. Influencers brand themselves to be memorable and not just put out content that their audience won’t find useful; therefore, communicators must be sure their content fits the same criteria when pitching it to the influencers they want to work with.
At the end of the day, being in the 1% isn’t always glamorous. Influencers have spent months, and probably years building their audience and delivering content that matters. It’s this drive that makes influencers unique, enviable and in a position to be gatekeepers of information, similar to journalists. Once PR professionals find and build the relationship with influencers, their clients will reap the benefits of an increased audience and another channel to reach them.
Digital analytics has become somewhat of a dirty buzzword for those in the communications industry lately. Ironically though, it has been the theme of my third week into the fall semester at Newhouse. From Sysomos training for my research course, to my continued work as Dr. Ford’s research assistant, I’ve found myself regaining my appreciation for the science behind gathering meaningful analysis.
Whether you like it or not, public relations and analytics are becoming synonymous with each other. It’s not just enough for PR professionals to communicate their clients’ message, but they also have to prove that those messages are effective. Best of all, you don’t have to spend a ton of money to have decent analytics in place as social media tools like Facebook and Twitter offer dashboards for you to see how your content is performing.
Here are some ways that analytics can be a beneficial tool for public relations professionals:
Finding your biggest advocates – One of the best things you could have in PR is a loyal fan who’s willing to go to bat for you. They’re the ones who are always sharing your content and are usually the first to leave comments. The frequency with which your biggest fans share your content is a metric you could utilize in addition to recognizing them for their free promotion.
Following the process – If you have a registration process for attracting donations or purchases, you can use analytics to determine the likelihood of visitors to complete the process, also known as the conversion rate. High-end tools like ForeSee, and easy-to-use tools like Google Analytics, allow you to set up tracking codes to determine where visitors might be losing interest and leaving your site, especially if it’s in the middle of a process.
Timing your visitors’ stay – If you’re putting out content that features multiple elements, you’ll want to find out how much visitors are engaging with it. With tracking codes on your website, you can find out just how much time the average user is interacting with your site’s pages. For instance, if you embed a five minute video on a webpage, you might be concerned if visitors are spending listen than five minutes on that page.
What you’re doing right – If you’re putting out a steady stream of content you eventually want to know what type of messaging works for your audience. By keeping track of metrics such as likes, visits and page views, you can notice trends that are more effective than others.
What you’re doing wrong – Of course if you find that engagement with your posts are low you can use analytics to figure out why your messaging isn’t resonating with audiences. You could also use sites like justunfollow.com to see if you’re losing your audience on social media.
With this in mind, I’d hope that more PR professionals will come to recognize digital analytics not as a niche area, but as part of the overall strategy. Just as PR has become integrated with advertising and marketing, digital analytics will continue to make its way into the mix for years to come.
Speaking of Dr. Ford, I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to work with her as a research assistant. The project we’re currently working on involves creating high-level messages for the National Black Public Relations Society’s upcoming annual conference. While I can’t disclose the exact findings based on their recent survey, there’s one common trend that I’ve found interesting:
More experienced black professionals are opting to start their own agencies rather than climb the corporate ladder into an executive level position.
It’s apparent to me that blacks, as well as other minorities and Caucasian women, are tired of waiting for the doors of the executive level to be opened to them. Instead of waiting for their chance, underrepresented PR professionals are taking their career destiny into their own hands by becoming employers instead of remaining employees.
This trend is in line with my thinking at times as it pertains to pursuing my career goals in PR. Even at the entry-level, I experienced the same frustrations breaking into the PR profession. In the summer of 2009, I was one of thousands of Detroit teenagers and young adults who went through the excruciating process of applying for a job through the city’s summer youth employment program. To make a long story short, I spent what nearly felt like eight hours waiting in lines to go through the bureaucratic process of potential employment only to have never been contacted regarding where to report for my job site. It was this experience that motivated me to create my own opportunities upon graduating from Northwood as I established myself as a freelance consultant two years later.
Just as I didn’t want to wait for a job opportunity in PR to present itself to me, black mid-career professionals aren’t waiting around to move into executive level positions. Life is too short to wait on the things we truly want out of it. There is nothing wrong with creating the life you want, even if it means taking risks and being uncomfortable. Perhaps by more professionals starting their own firms, corporations in need of high-level PR will take notice of the vast array of capable talent out there and begin to diversify their executive offices.
One thing that’s for certain though is that PR professionals are not only defined by the skills that they have, but also by the way they carry themselves within their profession. Here are three important traits (or “rules”) I think are important for PR professionals to have:
Accountability – PR professionals must own the work that they do for their clients and be held responsible if or when their plan doesn’t go exactly according to plan
Honesty – As much as possible, PR professionals need to be forthcoming when they’re communicating on behalf of their clients in order to earn their publics’ trust
Impartiality – While PR professionals exist to serve as advocates, they must remain fair when dealing with their audience to ensure a two-way communication
When it’s all said and done, PR professionals should keep this quote from John Kultgen in mind throughout their careers:
“If I have done my job well for the right purpose, my life has substance and meaning. If I have done my job poorly or for the wrong purpose, I have squandered my life, however much I have prospered.”
I believe if we all can do this, PR will gain acceptance as a profession worthy of true respect.
As an improv comic I always knew there was something special drawing me into public relations. Sure, improv is a great space for me to get a few laughs out of my random moments. However, last night I was reminded of another similarity between the two when I attended professor Bill Jasso’s Public Relations Principles and Practices course for my master’s program at Syracuse. Both improv actors and PR professionals are judged primarily on one thing: the art of storytelling.
Think about it: When you’re storytelling as a PR professional, you’re advocating for the work your organization does so that it builds a favorable reputation with its audience. Similarly, actors (comedic or not) tell stories on behalf of the characters they portray, using their talents to convince you that they are who they want you to believe they are.
The sweet art of storytelling consist of three components:
Protagonist – One of Eddie Murphy’s most memorable characters from Saturday Night Live is Buckwheat, a singer with an obvious speech impediment and infectious smile. PR professionals have their own Buckwheat (the client) that they’re in charge of finding a unique characteristic to engage their audience with.
Conflict – Naturally, Buckwheat, with his unique speech impediment, has a challenge pronouncing some very common songs. Buckwheat’s challenge would be much more serious, if it weren’t so entertaining. Meanwhile, the challenge PR professionals constantly face is finding ways to keep their client relevant in a world that constantly pulls our attention spans elsewhere.
Resolution – After trying (and failing miserably) to enunciate several songs, the audience is forced to come to the conclusion that Buckwheat just has speech issues; however, the audience is okay with that because Buckwheat offers tremendous entertainment value. On the other hand, PR professionals have a wide array of results they can achieve for their clients. Ultimately though, it’s up to them to define success for the stories they have to tell.
In the end, PR professionals are nothing more than Eddie Murphys, Wayne Bradys and Jim Carreys representing organizations. Each have stories to tell and it’s their responsibility to persuade the audience to believe they, or their client, offers credibility – and hopefully, entertainment value.
Last Friday afternoon I took a major step towards pursuing a career in public relations by officially sending my security deposit for the Master of Science in Public Relations program at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. Getting to this point was a long journey that started around the beginning of September. From researching the top graduate PR programs to actually making a decision between the five schools I was accepted into, the long process has finally played itself out in order for me to come to this decision.
But, how did I get to this point to begin with? That’s an interesting story…