5 Reasons HR & PR Don’t Get Along

Ask any corporate communicator who they want to report to and they’ll say, “the CEO!”  Now ask who they’d NEVER want to report to. They’ll say, “HR.”  why is that?

Our corporate cousins in Human Resources have many of the same issues that we do. They want to be seen as strategic resources, not mere tactical cogs in the wheel. They struggle to be taken seriously outside of their functional silos.  They fight for budget and resources with some difficulty, because they “don’t drive sales,” or “don’t understand the business.”  By these lights, we should be strong partners — the shared pain of the back-office services would seem to be a logical impetus for a good relationship.

My own experience demonstrates that possibility. Goodyear’s (now retired) Kathy Geier was a trusted member of then-CEO Bob Keegan’s cabinet.  She reached out to me often on all kinds of matters, and recruited me onto a task force on business process optimization. Many of her team sought me out (and I, them), and we forged a strong, positive relationship. KeyCorp’s Diane Coble and Jeff Darner (since moved on) and I enjoyed similar mutual respect and partnering. Even my brief tenure at National City Corporation included positive experiences working with HR.

But in other organizations, jealousy, turf wars, even outright stiff-necked opposition are the order of the day. Why?

Here are 5 reasons why HR and PR don’t get along.

1. HR thinks they’re smarter than PR. There’s a stronger academic body of knowledge in HR, a business school connection missing from most all PR programs, which reside in Journalism.  They think their college experience was more demanding and quantitative than ours.

2. HR is hungry for budget and control.  They want more than just the functional duties of compensation, personnel, etc.This is key to their strategic aspirations; the “support services” model often puts an HR person in charge of all the support functions, elevating them to higher pay and bonus as a result of larger budgets and spans of control.

3. HR often believes that only information critical to the employee should be communicated to them — and that means comp/benefits, business conduct and training opportunities should be top of the fold in the employee newsletter and front-and-center on the intranet. They believe that they know more about communication than we do (and sometimes they’re right, but that’s another post).

4.  HR provides training in many fields, so it believes it knows better how to train managers to be communicators than we do.

5. HR likes checklists. Communicating something is an output to be checked off, not a process with a closed loop. They prefer push to pull, wanting to declare that a communication has been sent and therefore is complete. This is especially fraught when discussing how to measure the effectiveness of communication activity.

Just a reminder — these aren’t hard and fast rules, they’re examples. Your results may vary.  In fact, share your thinking here!  Do these resonate with you?

Rio Olympics 2016 – How do they beat the bad press?

The countdown is on. Behind the FIFA World Cup, my favorite sporting event is almost here! Leading up to the 2016 Rio Olympics, the talk from the media across the world has been about how big of a disaster the outcome of the Olympics could be. We all remember the tweets from the Sochi Olympics in Russia about gross water and rooms falling apart…

It’s always amazing to me how the event draws millions or billions of tweets and viewers, regardless of the background issues. The Olympics are a time that countries get together and cheer with huge amounts of pride – it’s not often whole countries can get behind one team all together. Social media has been abuzz of names we all know when it comes to Olympics time: Michael Phelps, Simone Biles and Kerri Walsh Jennings. The story of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team going for the first ever gold medal as the reigning FIFA World Cup Champion has been a constant on the soccer sites.

The stories of these athletes beat the bad press with a one-two punch. Rewind to 2012, Phelps was at the end of his career, over swimming and clearly unhappy. Four years later he is on the other side of a DUI arrest, rehab stint and the birth of his son, plus he loves swimming again. What a story, right? The Today Show on NBC has been using clips of his one-on-one with Matt Lauer for months leading up to the Olympics. These athletes become role models for people of all ages in sports like gymnastics, track and field, swimming and more.

The advertising dollars spent on product or service advertising goes through the roof. AdWeek has dedicated a whole page to advertising during the Olympics. The U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) released the stringent rules for the Olympics’ intellectual property. Businesses and brands need to carefully watch how they use trademarked words or phrases like: Olympic, Team USA, Road to Rio. Even if a company sponsors an athlete but is not an Olympic sponsor, they could be served a cease and desist as soon as that tweet goes out. These brands can’t even wish athletes luck.

This has always been interesting to me since the nature of social media is to use hashtags and retweet things to create buzz, but I suppose the Olympics have plenty of buzz without these brand mentions. The last factor is also the locked down security measures due to the threat of terrorist attacks. It’s sadly become a fact of hosting a huge event, one that Brazil and Rio have taken into account. The New York Times did a good job of covering this issue more in depth.

Regardless of these PR issues, I’m sure in a few weeks we will look back on the event with pride and excitement of what these athletes and teams all accomplished. I’ll be watching as they make history and bring those medals home to the United States!

Measuring Influence: 4 Learnings

Measurement for its own sake is a waste of everyone’s time and money. It’s got to be in service of a strategy.

You might say that the foregoing statement is a canard; no one is beating down our doors asking us to just measure something, anything.  But there remain a feisty few, particularly on the social media side of the equation, who keep offering up horsepuckey in the guise of gold bullion.


Here are four questions that hold promise when considering how to measure influence:

  1. Does the opinion leader “play” in the right sandbox for our intended audience/stakeholder?  Chris Brogan and Brian Solis have lots of followers, tribes that hang on their every tweet. Are their tribes our tribes?  They’ve got awesome scale by sheer numbers, but it’s anyone’s guess how involved they are or whether their followers in turn reach people we care about. We could get Brogan or Solis to talk about our service, product, leader or whatever, but to what end if their followers aren’t the right fit for us?
  2. Can we create a solid chain of links from the opinion leader’s actions to our desired actions?  If we’re working on building corporate reputation, retweets, Facebook “likes” and blog comments should have a relationship to opinions voiced by our final target audience. Simply passing along a leader’s statement (tweet, post, comment, etc.) shouldn’t be construed as adoption! Here’s where content analysis shows promise, especially in blogs and perhaps during Twitter chats. The opinion leader’s output should have some effect if he/she is truly influencing others. Note that this is a qualitative effort and suffers from lack of scale.
  3. Are we mistaking popularity for influence?  Celebrities routinely land atop the Twitter rankings, and there are brands on Facebook with upteen hundreds of thousands of “friends.” But having a lot of friends/followers just makes you popular. See #2 above.  We’ve long wondered about how to judge the effectiveness of influence in conventional relationships, but I don’t think many of us think the most popular student in high school was necessarily the most influential.
  4. Are we inappropriately drawing general conclusions from narrow findings?  Influence is personal and specific.  We make assumptions about readers of newspapers, TV viewers, etc., and have a body of research to back those assumptions up.  In social media, the appearance of influence may be mere output, or outtake at best. Outcomes outside of e-commerce are tough to come by, though clear objectives can solve this problem quickly.

The best measurement starts with research up front, which informs our strategy and objective-setting, followed by more research to determine effectiveness and progress toward objectives.  It’s not just tactical measurement designed to cover our butts or justify our budgets, especially when it’s trying to measure influence.

Google Analytics – It Just Keeps on Getting Better

Real-time Google Analytics

Google’s infamous Panda updates and the launch of Google+ may have captured search headlines this year, but we’ve had our eye on a series of updates to Google Analytics that resulted in some very cool new tools for data-minded marketers. Here’s a recap of our favorite new(ish) features and how we’re putting them to use for our clients.

  1. Google Analytics Real-Time

    Google has always been great for analyzing past performance but we’ve often wished for a way to gauge the immediate impact of media hit, blog post or Tweet on a client’s site traffic. With Google Analytics Real-Time, we can see how many active visitors are on a site at any given time, which pages they’re viewing, and what traffic source sent the traffic.  Sweet!

  2. Social Plug-In Analytics

    Google Analytics Real-Time tracks Facebook "likes"

    Google Analytics Real-Time tracks Facebook "likes"

    With a tweak to the standard Google Analytics tracking code, it’s now possible to know which site pages, articles or blog posts are most commonly “liked” or shared, and from which social networks. You can track a variety of social actions, from Google +1 clicks to Facebook “likes” and Delicious bookmarks. And you can compare visitor engagement for visits that did and did not include social interaction to determine whether the ability to share content results in more in-depth site visits or more time spent viewing content.

  3. Using Events as Goals

    This one gets a bit geeky, so bear with us. Google Analytics makes it easy to track goals that are tied to a specific set of actions and an outcome (think adding an item to a shopping cart and checking out or completing a contact form). But there are a lot of other on-site activities that can indicate a high level of engagement and interest that aren’t so straightforward. By taking advantage of events as goals, it’s now possible to track PDF downloads, video views (including how many visitors viewed the complete video as opposed to only part of the video), use of site tools like calculators or quizzes or interaction with a slideshow (like clicking through rotating content on a home page).

    We can go one step further and tie these activities back into transactional goals, making it possible to determine, for example, whether visitors who view a video about a new product or download a PDF version of a brochure are more likely to complete a “request more information” form.

There’s a wealth of information buried in your Analytics if you know how to find and interpret it. With end-of-year review season rapidly approaching, we can’t wait to put on our spreadsheet goggles and get to work!


Lessons Learned from Two Girls in Pink Tutus

Back in September, a YouTube video featuring one eight-year-old diva and her shy, five-year-old lip-syncing cousin, uploaded a video of the two performing Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass.” Within the month, this homemade video went viral and attracted more than 11 million views. This prompted Ellen Degeneres to invite the little girls onto her show to preform the song live. Little did they know that this was the start of something amazing.

Sophie Grace with Ellen Degeneres and Nikki Minaj

Sophia Grace and her cousin Rosie, both from Great Britain, sat down with Degeneres and made the audience go wild with their accents, maturity and pink tutus. After the interview, Degeneres handed the girls microphones and they performed the perfect a capella version of “Super Bass.” After the standing ovation they received from the crowd, Degeneres surprised the girls with a visit from Nicki Minaj. (If you have a few minutes, watch this video. You’ll be glad you did!)

On Tuesday, Degeneres invited the girls back on her show. During the interview Degeneres told Sophia that after she posted their video onto the Ellen Show’s YouTube channel, 23 million people viewed it over this past month. Degeneres then asked Sophia if she understood the number of views the video received, to which Sophia replied, “ it’s more than a thousand!” The girls went on to explain how they are now considered celebrities back home in England.

Why You Should Care About Videos

Even though the little girls can’t comprehend the impact their video has made, PR professionals certainly can. Now more than ever, companies are trying to create unique videos that will cut through all the clutter and stand out. According to a video from the Simply Zesty Simply Viral blog, a website that is correctly optimized with video increases the probability that it will appear on the first page of Google by 53 times. This video also claims that the effectiveness of an email marketing campaign will increase by more than 90 percent if it uses video.

The Cisco Visual Networking Index forecasts that in 2013, 90 percent of Internet traffic will be online video. PR companies should now, more than ever, be thinking of new ways to incorporate video into their strategies to enhance a clients’ reputation and brand image. To be most effective, the videos should give your audience the chance to interact and begin a relationship with the company. Then, direct your viewers to a social media platform, a blog or another website to further that relationship.

As for Sophia Grace and Rosie, their next adventure will be going to the American Music Awards and interviewing celebrities on the red carpet, all thanks to a little help from Ellen Degeneres and one very cute viral video that you won’t regret watching.


Pink: It’s not just a color; it’s an awareness tool

The month of October was quite eventful, if I do say so myself.  After a long await, Yuengling was finally released for sale in Ohio, 56 exotic animals were let loose from a farm in Zanesville and Kim Kardashian ended her 72-day marriage to Kris Humphries—I’m worn out just thinking about all that hoopla. Despite all the craziness happening around the States—more so Ohio—National Breast Cancer Awareness Month still received its own time in the spotlight.

According to, one in eight women in the U.S. will develop Breast Cancer during her life. We have seen Breast Cancer awareness initiatives take place on the national level as well as in our local communities. Pink has practically become the new black for the month of October, and every year, there seems to be more and more awareness created for those affected by Breast Cancer.

Why, you may ask? Breast Cancer gets support—big support! Here’s what I like to call the triple threat of Breast Cancer awareness:  personality, visuals and connections.

Save the Ta-tas ShirtSave the Ta-Tas®: Personality Development

Nothing says breasts like Ta-Tas®. A fairly new initiative, Save the Ta-Tas® puts a spin on the serious subject of Breast Cancer with a catchy name to raise funds for Breast Cancer research. This organization isn’t bashful about calling out the white elephant in the room—cancer—and looks at different ways to beat it in exciting, engaging ways through events and funny apparel. It allows audiences to associate Save the Ta-Tas® positivity and optimism with Breast Cancer. Because of its branding standpoint, Save the Ta-Tas® has created an identity and personality for itself which individuals will come to know, love and support for years to come.

NFL: Visual Impact

A Crucial Catch caught the attention of sports fans once again with an explosion of pink on the football field. The National Football League teamed up with the American Cancer Society to acknowledge National Breast Cancer Awareness Month by wearing pink cleats, pink gloves, pink hats, on-field pink ribbon stencils— basically, you name it, they have it.  All pink gear, game balls and coins are auctioned off at the NFL Auction which gives earnings to the American Cancer Society as well as team charities. Call me crazy, but combining big, strong men with more pink than Barbie® to support a huge initiative is genius. These elements create a visual impact of Breast Cancer Awareness that has caused a trickle-down effect into college and even high school sports. I’m no Vince Lombardi, but that’s what I like to dub a good play call.

Susan G. Komen: Personal Connection

Susan G. Koman Race for the CureFinally. The big kahuna for Breast Cancer awareness: Susan G. Komen.  The brains behind this operation are astounding. Not only does it give women tools to maintain a healthy lifestyle and outlets to prevent Breast Cancer, Susan G. Komen’s Race for the Cure® serves as a way to connect cancer patients and survivors with their family and friends. This organization personalizes the experience by allowing others to walk for their moms, grandmas, sisters, aunts, etc. who have been affected. Susan G. Komen provides an outlet for women, friends and families of cancer patients, victims and survivors to learn and do something proactive that represents a huge issue.

No matter what issue, organization or product you may be raising awareness about, maintaining those three key “threats” will get your message noticed, even if exotic monkeys, tigers and bears are freely roaming in your backyard.


4 Content Marketing Lessons from Chuck Testa

Screenshot from Chuck Testa adI bet you thought this blog post would teach you four content marketing lessons from Chuck Testa – you are absolutely right. It will.

We can make all the jokes we want.  The ad for Chuck Testa and Ojai Valley Taxidermy is hilarious and has spawned hundreds of equally hilarious memes. Whether or not Testa knew he was making viral gold, he has taught us several content marketing lessons along the way.

1. It doesn’t take a lot of resources

Looking past the infamous video, Testa regularly posts taxidermy tips on YouTube.  I don’t know much about taxidermy, but he appears to be a thought leader in the industry and has a lot of advice to give.  Testa repurposes the video content into blog posts on his basic WordPress website and links posts back to a gallery of his work and an online store selling a “NOPE!” shirt (If you haven’t by now, watch the video).

Even though all the elements are basic, they come together in a cohesive strategy.

2. It’s not about production value

Testa’s taxidermy tips are about two minutes long, use absolutely no editing and are shot on Handycam with no external microphone. But they provide great value to his audience. I’ve seen several educational YouTube videos shot in HD quality with eccentric narrators. I’ve also watched a grainy, muffled smartphone video to remember how to tie a Full Windsor.

The production quality of educational content is low on a viewer’s priority list.  The first thing on the list: quality of content.

3. It’s focused on the audience

If you are not a hunter or aspiring taxidermist, please do not watch Chuck Testa’s other videos. If you are a vegetarian or animal lover, I implore, PLEASE do not watch his other videos.  They are somewhat graphic and are not targeted at you.

I’m an animal lover, but I’m also from a small town in central Ohio where the first day of deer-hunting season is considered an excused absence from school. These are the people who make up Testa’s audience.  I can picture several friends back home on the edge of the seat while watching Testa’s tips for mounting an antler rack.

4. It’s all about seizing a fleeting opportunity

We may never know if Testa recognized the treasure he possessed when uploading that video to YouTube. One thing we do know, he embraced it.  Testa still regularly retweets people using his signature catch phrase. My personal favorite, “Homework finished? NOPE #ChuckTesta.”

He also held a contest to find the best Chuck Testa memes and posted the winners on his website. Viral video stardom is fleeting to say the least. Testa immediately used the video to draw traffic to his website, Twitter and Facebook page. When your name comes up and your website traffic spikes, you have to act to ensure the spike lasts as long as possible.

Making do with a simple WordPress site, he blogs, syndicates his social media feeds and regularly updates and repurposes site content.  You might think he uses a digital marketing agency. Nope – it’s just Chuck Testa with a well-executed content marketing strategy.


True communications

Many people now have an aversion to traditional advertising

It started with an idea that scared the hell out of me.  What if PR and advertising as we’ve all known it to be didn’t work anymore? What if the media didn’t carry the same influence as it always had or if people simply stopped watching television? At the time, these
were radical thoughts, but now they aren’t so far-fetched and people are actually beginning to watch less television.

True Digital Communications was formed on the belief that digital communications is built on a foundation of open, honest and relevant conversation. Gone are the days of simply interrupting with advertising or building brands with crafty, expensive public relations campaigns. Simply by performing a search, key audiences can learn everything they need to know about a brand including its products, personality, customer interactions, employee morale, history, reviews, etc. This is what I call a brand’s Digital DNA – the brand with all of its beauty and warts is on full display, every minute of every day. There is no place to hide it. So why not embrace your organization’s Digital DNA and build a proactive communications program around it?  Sounds like a bold idea but to the digital marketer, this is the opportunity.

I created True to help brands find and develop their voice through search marketing, digital public relations, email marketing, mobile and analytics. True, honest and effective communications is not just from the brand, but from all of its constituents, too. Working together, the effects on brand awareness, loyalty, customer service and thought leadership is exponentially more powerful than anything implemented through traditional means.

New thinking and new processes are done through a new type of marketing professional.  They love communications but understand the power of spreadsheets and analytics to understand what’s working and why. They are trailblazers who respect traditional means but embrace technology and new thinking to create better, more effective ideas and processes.

Team True is made up of professionals who vary in age and experience, but who are the best-in-class at what they do. Working together, we bring down the wall between traditional marketing silos and embrace new technologies and new thinking to create a brand voice in the digital space.

We welcome your thoughts and reactions to our ideas. The potential for an organization that embraces true communications – pure, relevant, naked, honest – is enormous.

It’s time for True communications.