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Meet True’s Summer Intern

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Meet Latisha, our new content intern for the summer! In this blog post, she tells us more about her PR experience so far, what she likes to do in her free time and where she sees herself in the future!

Name: Latisha Ellison

School: Kent State University

Major: Public Relations

Year: Senior

Other internship experience: Flash Communications, a student-run agency located in the Kent State University Communications and Marketing office. We write stories for the Kent State homepage and the faculty and staff e-newsletter.

Do you have any hobbies? Does trying different red wines and binging the latest Hulu original count?

What are 3 fun facts about you? I celebrated my 21st birthday in Barcelona.  I became an aunt at the age of 5. I’ve seen all three queens live, in person (Beyoncé, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj).

What’s your favorite snack? Popcorn and M&Ms

What do you hope to gain from your internship at True? I hope to gain a better understanding of how an agency operates and a better understanding of how to measure social media’s impact on brand growth.

What made you interested in an internship at True? I knew that a lot of the focus is on digital communications (surprise!) and I want to learn more about being digital and to gain and expand on those skills. I also heard there was a really great collaborative culture at True, which is something I’m looking for in a company.

Where do you want to be in ten years? I’m a firm believer that no matter how hard you try, life has its own agenda for you, so I have no idea where I’ll end up. Hopefully I will be at a purpose-driven company working with a passionate team, and hopefully working with a local nonprofit in some capacity.

Welcome, Latisha! We’re so excited to have you on our team!

 

The “Marketing” Connection to Internal Communications

There’s a brewing problem in marketing, and the solution to it might be staring back at us across our desks at the office.

When you’re making a decision about a product to buy or service provider to hire, how do you do it? For years, if you knew someone who worked at the company, you’d ask them. Social media has expanded that network from your first-level contacts to people around the world. Sites like GlassDoor, Great Places to Work, Indeed and many others offer first hand reviews from the people behind the scenes.

In response to this development, some companies are trying to bring marketing techniques to bear. They launch campaigns to encourage social sharing by employees, going so far as to script tweets and Facebook posts. They might target specific sites and ask employees to write reviews about how terrific the company and its products are. This is a mistake.

The connection between “marketing” and internal communications needs some work. At a regional bank some years ago, we reported to the marketing department, and our principal internal client looked at a newsletter one day and exclaimed, “These are like, articles!” Patiently, we agreed. They indeed are articles, collections of sentences and paragraphs that inform, inspire and motivate. What she wanted were ads. Brand-connected images with cutlines, graphical illustrations…things that evoked mood rather than information.

We wound up somewhere in between, but the lesson I took away from that experience was that marketing and communications weren’t the same thing. Marketing is based on an exchange relationship – you give us money, we give you stuff. That dynamic lends itself to the high-visual, low-detail world of advertising.

But internal communications needs context and detail alongside the motivational, emotional feel of marketing.  That’s not to say it always is textual, or that it’s always lengthy. The sort of relationship IC is about is a communal relationship – the sense of getting people to identify with the organization, its mission, its vision and its values. When that sense of identification is well established, employees are more satisfied, happier at work and more fulfilled. They tell others. Organically.

Developing identification relies on building comprehension, understanding and commitment, and that means managers and supervisors play a crucial role. Manager communication effectiveness is highly correlated to those factors, according to research Dr. Julie O’Neil of Texas Christian University and I conducted a few years ago.

What marketers should be doing instead of thinking of employees as one more set of influencers to exploit is to partner with internal communicators to support managers and supervisors with solid tools, techniques and information to help them lead, guide and better understand their employees. Improving the communication environment will help expose issues and problems, develop solutions, innovate and generally make for a great place to work

If that happens, organizations will reap the rewards of a motivated, engaged workforce – which helps the organization win in the market.

How to Get Value Out of an Internship – Whether You Get the Job or Not

Are you a college student? Take a seat and let me tell you how it is.

Just some advice from the one that does the hiring. An interview is a great opportunity for professionals to not only get to know students, but for students to find out as much as possible about the company. Plus, just an interview can give you a gauge of whether or not you like corporate, nonprofits, agency or the other million options.

Let’s start at the beginning. When you enter a business, enter with confidence. You know who you are there to meet with, so show that. Also, dress professionally. I know True has a relaxed culture but I appreciate someone who comes dressed for the job they want. Work! Also, bring extra copies of your resume and work samples, but I’ll hit on that a little later.

My pet peeves that are a must from interviewees: Ask questions. Please, please, please ask questions. Some good ones are:

  • What is the favorite project you’ve worked on?
  • Have you ever had an instance that you didn’t know what to do or recommend? What did you do?
  • What is your favorite part of working at XYZ? What’s your least favorite?
  • What will I be working on?
  • Can you show me some work you are doing right now?

Bring work samples and extra resumes. Don’t just bring them but show them off! I want to see them but it’s also a bit of a test because I’m not going to ask you every time to see them. Work them into the discussion about your resume. Own it! Writing is key to any marketing, public relations and even analytics internship. Good writing is a lost art form and we want to see you can write to a key audience and know the right messages.

That leads me to one that may seem picky – but make eye contact. And act enthusiastic! If you don’t seem to care, I’m not going to hire you, because you don’t fit into True’s culture. Also, send a thank you. You pick the best way but I really love to get snail mail… (hint, hint)

At the end of the day, I have to tell people no. And that’s the no fun part. We can have 10 good applicants and interviewees but we only have one spot. Get the most you can out of an interview. If the interviewer tells you to keep in touch and follow-up for additional help or advice, do it. We don’t tell everyone that.

Keep in mind that someone telling you “no” is certainly not the end of the world so keep your head up, and keep on shining!

Conference Recap: PRSA Counselors to Higher Education

It’s my first PRSA Counselors to Higher Education Senior Summit, and it shall not be my last. In my new role at True Digital Communications, I lead the education practice, so these are some of MY PEOPLE! It was terrific, and here are five reasons why, along with some commentary.

  • Some universities get the concept of integrated communications, and some do not. Marketing, public relations, community relations, alumni and internal communications should be working together more consistently. Common planning would help a lot, and it would make measurement easier. These things might be out of the communicator’s control – as with a lot of organizations, if you’re a member of the leadership team, you’re in better shape than if not.
  • Universities who feel unprepared for the coming communication convergence know they need help. Integrating comms can be controversial, so stepping through the process of opening up lines of communication, coordinating among the comms functions and collaborating as opportunities avail seems to be recognized as a path forward. We need to watch out for the belief that we, as PR people, are somehow above the marketing function. It’s true that we often have different objectives and audiences, but we also can play a vital role in improving advertising and marketing performance, and contributing to other university objectives. “All marketing is communication, but not all communication is marketing” is a truth, but that doesn’t mean we’re “better” than marketing.
  • Communication measurement is a continuing developmental need. There’s a fair amount of “output” measurement, but still a disconnect (with a few exceptions) with business impact measurement. Attribution of a “lead” is part of the problem. What leads came from comms and what from marketing? Why does that matter? We’re all on the same team, right? We hope we’re on the same team (see above…) Measurement is as much about improving planning as proving value — let’s have clear objectives for our measurement as well as for our programs.
  • Internal communication in universities is an increasingly pregnant problem. (Like it isn’t in other organizations? ROFLMAA!) But who’s responsible for it? Anyone? Anyone? The comms function should include internal in its planning – and find the faculty, staff and administration leaders to partner with to improve it.
  • Crisis preparation and response is probably the dominant issue universities are grappling with. Some universities have well-prepared, trusted advisors, and some neither. Crises occur, and yes, we have to respond. We also should do solid research (including environmental scanning) that help to identify potential crises in advance.

Good information, good discussion — good food and beverages! Thanks for making the True Digital Communications crew feel so welcome. We appreciate it!

3 Ways to Get the Most Out of Professional Conferences

Last week, multiple members of Team True were lucky enough to get out of the office and attend the 10th Annual YouToo Social Media Conference at Kent State University. (And two members presented a break out session.) And while I love attending conferences, I’ve noticed more and more that the people attending conferences are there physically, but not always mentally. You might be asking what I mean by that last statement. Let me explain.

It’s no surprise that we live in a society where multitasking is the norm. And while I’m all for trying to cross multiple items off of my never-ending to-do list, it’s not worth it when you miss out on what’s happening right in front of you. Not to mention that professional conferences aren’t cheap, so you should absolutely get the most out of your company’s investment. So the next time you find yourself at a conference, try the following tips to get the most out of your experience.

Limit Emailing: Professional development is one of the main reasons you go to conferences, right? But if you’re constantly working and emailing and taking calls, are you really getting anything out of the conference? Put your out of office response on and try to limit the number of times you check your inbox. You’ll get so much value out of actually giving the speaker(s) your full attention. I promise!

Resist the Urge to Live Tweet: If you don’t tweet about it, were you even at the conference? I’m joking- but seriously, for those who can continuously live tweet at a conference, I applaud you. For me, I find that I’m listening for the next great quote to tweet, and then not really paying attention to what the speaker is actually saying. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not telling you to never post to your social media channels during a conference, but I would absolutely try to limit the number of times you’re staring at your screen instead of looking at the speaker. Instead, go old school and take notes with a pen and paper!

Don’t Skip Networking: A few years ago, if I would have seen a networking session at a conference, I would have tried to avoid it at all costs. Why? Because networking is nerve-wracking! At least for me anyway. But now that I’m a few years into my professional career, I realize how crucial it is to attend any networking opportunity that is presented to you. So make sure you pack extra business cards and get out there and talk! You never know who you’re going to meet.

There you have it- three easy tips to get even more out of your next conference experience. And if you’re looking to improve or sharpen your social media skills, I would highly recommend attending next year’s YouToo Social Media Conference!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Benefits of Having a Dog in the Office

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Meet Murphy: True Digital Communications’ official mascot. He is friendly, fun and a bit crazy at times. He loves taking naps in his bean bag chair, eating treats and gets overly excited when the mailman stops by. But you might be asking yourself, why are you writing about a pug in the office? We’re glad you asked! We’ve found that being a dog-friendly office has many benefits! Here’s why:

  1. Relieves stress-  At times your workload can become heavy and breaks seem unrealistic. Having a dog sitting at your feet can definitely reduce some of that stress. A two minute snuggle session or even a short walk can be exactly what you need to refresh your brain and get on with your work.
  2. Breaks the ice- There are numerous people in and out of the office daily. With client visits and internship interviews, having a dog in the office is a great conversation starter. (Just make sure they like dogs before you begin the introductions.)
  3. Brings the office together- Usually during lunch breaks the team congregates where Murphy is. He allows everyone in the office to bond over something, even if it means watching him attempt to get treats out of his toys. He sparks casual conversations and definitely adds humor to the office. And on days where you have to stay late to finish up a report, having a pug in your lap makes it so much better! 

Of course having a dog in the office does come with some precautions. Always make sure you have a pet friendly environment and a well trained pet. Also, be sure to let visitors know that there is a dog around because believe it or not, not everyone is a dog person. Lastly, before bringing your dog to work, make sure to check with your co-workers and management to make sure there’s no allergies or pet restrictions in the office.

Murphy the pug makes days in the office fun and entertaining. He creates an exciting and positive atmosphere to work in. Just one look in his eyes can make your workload seem lighter and turn your stressful mood into a positive one. Not to mention, Murphy is just another reason True Digital is the place to be! Is your office dog friendly?

 

Choose Your Own Adventure: Joining Boards

There’s a million boards out there…professional ones, non-profit ones, company ones, it goes on forever. So, how do you figure out what is worth your time, and really who can use your help and expertise the most. Joining professional and non-profit boards have been some of the best experiences I’ve had since I graduated from college.

They make it easy (in my opinion) to be involved in college but it can be intimidating once you leave that happy, little bubble. I’ve met several professionals in advertising and public relations through groups like the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and the American Advertising Federation (AAF), plus it’s given me the opportunity to hear some fantastic speakers and expand my knowledge set. I also had the chance to serve on the board for the Akron Zoo’s Summer Safari event, the zoo’s biggest fundraiser annually. Plus, for fun I am on the board for a soccer supporters group called American Outlaws.

Everybody’s experiences are different and I think there are a few different ideas that can frame your decision:

  • Advocacy: Are you passionate about a particular civil right? Do you feel strongly about an issue in the current political landscape? Has your life been impacted by a disease or illness you want to help raise funds to cure? This is the perfect place to start. Find the nonprofits locally (or a local chapter) that has a board or committee that acts on their behalf. Help create a voice for that group locally – the passion of the board members will create excitement in the local chapter.
  • Skills: This leads me to the follow-up to advocacy – what can you offer? Do you love event planning? Writing? Organizing? Recruiting? I could go on forever. Think about what you do day-to-day or what kinds of skills you may have to easily offer to a board. For me it’s always been a communications play – social media, content and promotions. Remember! You don’t have to do what you do from day-to-day – just find a position or committee you are interested in and something you can offer of value.
  • Career: Every career has one (or 10) groups and clubs that you can join easily. Join a committee and help out to start, groups like these always need the additional support to keep the professional groups running. Plus, events like these help you create new professional bonds and even friendships.
  • Hobbies: What do you love to do? Do you love sports, crafting, running, food, beer, music? I could name 100 things – and they all have groups that love the same thing. These groups have boards and committees to help create and promote events – or just plain recruit. Plus, they are great ways to decompress from a long day and a way to find others that share your love of that coffee IPA.

So, there you have it! Take the leap and reach out to a non-profit or organization you have been looking to get involved in today. It’s not that scary, I promise!

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Stephanie and a group of the Summer Safari Volunteer Board.

Why Isn’t My Site on the First Page of Google?

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It’s the question anyone responsible for a school’s online presence dreads: “Why isn’t our site on the first page of Google?”

From page headlines and site navigation to social signals and relationships with other websites, there are hundreds of factors at play in Google’s search algorithm. Getting your site to the top of search rankings and keeping it there over time can be a long, frustrating, labor-intensive effort. And even if those efforts are successful, SEO focused on keywords that are too broad, too specific or out of sync with how target families search won’t drive an increase in site traffic, inquiries or applications.

The first step to increasing online visibility in a way that contributes to your school’s enrollment goals is defining the role your website plays in your larger communication strategy. From there, optimization efforts depend on:

  • Benchmarking your current site’s performance and identifying opportunities for improvement
  • Understanding the online behaviors and search habits of prospective families so you can hone in on the best keywords for your site
  • Following best practices for keyword use site content
  • Building reciprocal relationships with trusted websites
  • Establishing geographic cues that help Google place your site in the right location searches

Search engine optimization is not a one-time effort or a quick fix. It can take weeks – or even months – for search rankings to reflect your efforts. Understanding what organic search rankings can and can’t do for you in terms of site traffic and qualified inquiries can help you determine where best to invest your time and budget, and arm you to answer the inevitable, “Why isn’t our site on the first page of Google yet?” questions that are sure to follow an optimization project.

Want to know more about search ranking factors and how they impact your site traffic? Join True’s SEO experts on March 31 for a one-hour webinar. We’ll cover:

  • The role search plays in the potential student families’ decision-making process
  • SEO factors that do (and don’t) influence your site’s visibility in online search
  • Ways to identify “low hanging fruit” – the immediate improvements you can make to improve your site’s search ranking
  • How to set expectations for the time and effort needed to drive lasting improvement in your site’s online visibility

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Navigating the Influencer Triangle with the PESO Model

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Have you heard of Doug the Pug? Did you know Doug has 5.3 million Facebook friends and 2.3 million Instagram followers? Doug the Pug along with many others have become influencers in the world of social media and marketing. Chris Baldwin, our fearless leader at True, recently spoke at PRSA Akron on navigating the influencer triangle with paid, earned, shared and owned channels. Chris spoke about the importance of these influencers in marketing and created examples for the audience. According to the PESO model all aspects work in different ways but are all successful. Below are the examples he shared with the audience:

Paid media involves posting sponsored ads and posts on Facebook and Twitter, fan acquisition and lead generation. Chris discussed how Arizona Expedition used paid media by selecting five millennial social media influencers in different topics to do a five-day shoot around Arizona. The topics these millennials specialized in were golf, cooking and wine, photography and adventure sports. These millennials shared how they “Let Go” for Arizona Expedition’s “Let Yourself Go” project with great success.

Earned media includes publicity, media relations, influencer relations and partnerships. A good example of a company who uses earned media is Duck Brand Duct Tape. The brand has had many influencers because of its involvement with the community. Duct Brand Duct Tape has found many people who create DIY projects share them on blogs, websites and social media channels. Since they already had Duct Tape enthusiasts, Duct Brand Duct Tape created a Stuck at Prom Scholarship contest where teens created prom dresses out of the material. This created thousands of media stories for the company and also named Duck Brand Duct Tape the #1 selling brand in the world.

Shared media involves many one-to-one interviews and engaging with your customers, advocates, employees and partners to review the brand and company. Some companies that partake in shared media are Amazon, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google Places, Yahoo! and Facebook reviews. Reviews are a huge aspect of shared media. Chris shared an example of a review on Amazon for the Three Wolf Moon T-shirt. This T-shirt had a 5-star rating and great reviews from an Amazon customer. This influencer was not paid but still had a strong effect on the product. From the review the T-shirt became the top selling item in Amazon’s clothing store and a virtual hit.

Owned media includes all of the communications channels within a company’s control such as the website, blog, social media and email. This contains content from the experts, employee stories, customer stories, user generated content, reviews and multimedia posts. Having a Facebook page and other sharing sites available for your company or brand helps with owned media. As a company, you get to control the conversation but it also has a personal touch.

Key Takeaways

  • Find the best way to influence your target audiences whether it is one of these four ways or a combination of all.
  • 2017 is the year of influencers and it is important for your company/ brand to find its influencers and create a bond with them.
  • As a company you must nudge your influencers to share information in a positive way. To achieve that you must help them out and ask them questions throughout the process and make sure the communication is clear.

How to Make Instagram Albums Work for Your School

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If there’s one thing that is constant with social media, it’s that social channels will constantly change. From new features to updated layouts, you’ll find that as soon as you get used to a channel being a certain way- it’ll change. Yesterday, Instagram released a huge update to its platform with the introduction of Instagram Albums- a feature that allows an Instagram account to post up to 10 photos and videos in one post. Followers can then swipe through the post, viewing the grouping of photos and/or videos.

What Does This Mean for Schools?

If you’re an independent school and Instagram is a channel that is part of your social strategy- then Instagram Albums can be a powerful way to continue to tell your school’s story. However, make sure that whatever photos or videos you’re sharing stays on brand and has an intention. Take a moment to revisit your Instagram strategy and update accordingly.

Where Do I Start?

While the rollout of this feature won’t happen all at once, check your App Store to see if the update is there. From there, you’ll see a little icon of stacked photos when you go to post as you normally would. That’s where you get to select the photos you’d like to be featured and you can select which order the photos will be in. You can then batch edit the photos so they remain consistent and on brand. After you type in your caption and select your appropriate hashtags, hit post and voila! You now have an Instagram Album.

Ideas for Integrating Albums Into Your Online Presence

Since this feature is a game changer for the platform, this is a great time to sit down with your marketing team and brainstorm ideas for albums. Think through how you can tell your school’s story to potential and current students, as well as parents and alumni. A few ideas may look something like this:

  1. A tour of your campus featuring buildings and landmarks
  2. Introduce faculty and staff
  3. Showcase a day in the life of students
  4. Announce campus news/promote events
  5. Share photos/videos of sporting events

So there you have it, a quick look at Instagram Albums and several ideas for getting started with this exciting new feature. As long as you create albums with intention and have a strategy behind it, you’re sure to see the engagement on this channel increase.

If you have any questions about albums or Instagram strategy for schools, we’d love to chat!