A Bittersweet Goodbye to TrizCom

By Maelyn Schramm, TrizCom PR Intern

Maelyn in a completely casual, totally candid, hard at work shot.

Maelyn in a completely casual, totally candid, hard at work shot.

My time at TrizCom PR is about to come to an end. As the sun sets on the month of May, I will bid adieu to my nook in the little office that I made my workspace. It truly is a bittersweet moment.

Firstly, it’s bitter. I love working alongside such creative, like-minded individuals who have a passion for storytelling and a dedication to produce excellent work. I will miss playing – and ultimately losing – Yahtzee during lunch, and I will miss popping my head into Katie and Dana’s office to ask them about their weekends. I will miss hearing all of Jeff’s crazy stories and catching up with Jen about what her adorable family is up to. I will miss how Jo surprises us with sweet treats to reward us for our work. In many places, it’s hard to find a boss who acknowledges 1) interns and 2) your sacrificial efforts to complete tasks and meet deadlines. She says “thank you” at the end of every day, and as someone who cherishes words of affirmation, it means the world to me.

Secondly, it’s sweet. Over the past four(ish) months, I’ve experienced such exponential growth as a creative storyteller and human being. TrizCom pushes me to exert 100 percent of my energy and passion into every project I produce – this includes reports, releases, social media outlines and blogs. TrizCom equipped me to write stories about any and everything, with assignments ranging from Heroes for Children – a nonprofit that benefits families who have children battling cancer – to Healthway Education Systems, a medical marijuana continuing education program. TrizCom gave me an idea of what I’m looking for in future employers – to find companionship, to test my limits, to receive respect from my peers and superiors alike.

I’m about to leave, but this is not a permanent goodbye. I plan to stay in touch with every person I’ve connected with, to hear about TrizCom’s incoming intern class, and to shriek with excitement on the word of new clients. To leave behind an era of so much growth and refinement is bittersweet, but my time at TrizCom was nothing but sweet.

5 Important Things to Expect with Social Media

By Karen Carrera, TrizCom Public Relations

I begin this piece with a disclaimer: I am no social media expert. My specialties are media training and crisis communications. I know just enough about social media to be dangerous.

However, I do coordinate my clients’ social media needs with the experts – and make sure that my communication plans and content integrate with the goals of a robust social media plan. What does that mean? Basically, that the right arm is talking to the left arm. Your social media efforts should augment your PR plan, and your PR plan should align with the content and channels you’re using to execute your social media plan.

Just like on the PR side of the table, it’s important to manage expectations. If a client doesn’t want to post consistently but insists that an important posts gets shared and commented on a lot, that client is in for a big disappointment. Here are 5 important things I’ve learned that help clients know what to expect from their social media efforts (or nonefforts).

1)      Start with goals to guide your activities. Just like you would never send out a random press release or distribute a generic brochure, you don’t want to aimlessly post on social media channels. You can burn a lot of time and worse, lose the interest of the friends and followers you have. A social pro will help map out what you want to accomplish, recommend the best channels to accomplish those goals, and design content with a voice consistent with your brand. This is the chance for your brand’s personality to shine through!

2)      Growing your base takes time. Social media happens organically – it can’t be forced, and while technically you can buy friends and followers, people can sniff out phonies in no time. You want to attract and cultivate people who care about your service or product, and who will engage. Depending on your brand and the goals you’ve set out to meet, your target audience might be 1 million people…or it might be 100.

3)      Feed and nurture your followers and friends. Most of us have been on Facebook at one time or another and know about friends who are either over posters, under posters, or who post annoying content. A social pro will help develop bright, engaging content so people want to follow, comment and share.

4)      Changes are the only constant. As you probably found out the hard way, LinkedIn just did a major overhaul that pleased a couple of users but frustrated everyone else. Like all technology, just when you get used to something it’s likely to change. Social media experts are able to more easily track these “upgrades” and anticipate what’s coming.

5)      Be prepared for negative posts that try to distract or upend your message. I’ve worked with clients who demanded that their social media channels be taken down at the slightest whiff of crisis. To me, that’s like rearranging chairs on the Titanic. Today, many crises play out on social media. And because of that, you have to communicate through those channels as well. Instead of pulling the plug, make sure that dealing with negative responses is anticipated in a social media policy and plan. That goes for dealing with internet trolls as well who post contrary, inflammatory or distracting content. With a plan in place, you’ll be ready when they inevitably appear.

Seven Skills Every PR Pro Must Have to Excel at Storytelling

By Jo Trizila, CEO of TrizCom Public Relations & Pitch PR

This post orginally appeared on Spin Sucks

My undergraduate degree and graduate studies were in theater.

It wasn’t until I graduated that I discovered I did not have much talent for acting—but I did have the storytelling bug.

Theater to PR isn’t much of a stretch.

In theater, we have a script, a director, actors, audience members, and location.

In public relations, we have the story, the client, people who make up the story, audience members, and location.

Our firm writes everything very editorially—we treat each opportunity as a story.

With this method, we get predictable results.

Storytelling has been and always will be the single most valuable skill any PR pro must have.

Storytelling is an art.

A lot of uncommon skill sets go into storytelling. A good storyteller is…

A Detective (i.e., Mining for Stories)

Clients notoriously don’t know what makes a good plot line for a story and often we find stories in the oddest ways.

One of my favorite stories was with Massage Envy.

I was in the tranquility room waiting for my appointment.

As I was waiting, I saw a therapist come out of one of the rooms using a long white cane.

The franchise owner had four legally blind therapists on staff.

I “sold” the story to the Associated Press and to this day, it is still one of my favorite stories: Blind Masseuses Don’t Miss Seeing a Thing.

A Playwright’s Writer

You must be a rock-solid writer.

Not a lot more needs to be said here.

A Salesman

You need to be an incredible salesperson, both to the client and to the journalist.

This is a big one.

Just having an incredible story to tell is only one part of the equation.

You must have an outlet to tell it.

In the summer of 2014, we were tasked with developing a worldwide publicity campaign for Jeff Gusky’s The Hidden World of WWI.

This is a collection of black-and-white photographs of never before seen WWI underground cities.

Because these underground cities had never been photographed before, and because we could not reveal their actual location, the media didn’t believe our story.

We thought this story would sell itself, and the phones would be ringing off the hooks.

We were wrong.

It took a few weeks of heavy hitting before the wheels started moving.

However, at the end of our yearlong campaign, we had the client in virtually every major news outlet.

Here’s BBC One’s coverage: Underground Cities.

A Clairvoyant

You have an amazing opportunity for your client with an even more amazing story.

We know that unless it is national or breaking news, multiple features are unlikely—you must know what outlet is going to give your client maximum exposure.

It’s about analytics.

For example, I knew (with the above-mentioned story on blind therapists) I could get local coverage, but I also knew it was a national story.

I had my top three outlets printed out and went from there.

This happens with every story we pitch.

Also, sometimes the story is better told in print than video and vice versa.

You need to know this—just as a director knows if his piece is better suited for the stage, small screen, or big screen.

A Master Builder

Storytelling 101: Build your story/script.

You are the playwright here.

How do you want the client’s story to be told?

Who are the players?

What is the setting, how do you wrap it up?

It must be captivating with a very clear focus.

And for the love of God, keep the sales pitch to a minimum.

Go buy an ad if you are trying to sell something.

A Creative Director

The best compliment we get at our firm is when a journalist comes back to us and says, “Thanks for making my job easier.”

#Winning!

Think like the journalist.

What are they going to need to help them tell your story?

Is it video? Photography? Infographics? Statistics? A real customer testimony?

Have all these assets lined up prior to pitching your story.

Last, but most definitely not least, a good storyteller must…

An Award-Winning Marksman

The devil’s in the details.

We all know that a missing comma can totally change the meaning of a sentence.

We also know that specifying an interview in eastern/central/pacific time zones is critical, if a television shoot is live or recorded, etc.

PR is all about credibility.

If you miss or blunder on important details, you lose your credibility.

Storytelling is the Number One Skill Needed

In all my years in this profession (25+), storytelling is the number one skill I seek.

Most PR pros can check boxes: Writing—check; grammar—check; AP format—check; pitching success—check.

But if they can’t originate, locate, identify a good story, the above is worthless to my firm and to our clients.

One does not have to have connections in the media (although it does help) to pitch a great story.

A great story will trump connections anytime.

Tap, Tap, Tap … Is This Thing On? Tips to Nail a Radio Interview

By Dana Cobb, Senior Account Executive

We are constantly pitching our clients for radio interviews. All sorts of formats: news pieces, CEO interviews, product announcements, expert commentary, celebrity phoners … the whole gamut. While the concept of capturing a conversation on air seems simple, it is often not.  Just like being a Boy Scout, the key to having a successful radio interview is to BE PREPARED.

Prepare for an abrupt start. Most radio interviews are done by phone, not in studio, and most stations prefer to call you. Some producers call a few minutes before the interview begins, allowing you to listen for few minutes to get a feel for the program’s tone. But others wait until the last possible second, meaning you’re on the air within moments of picking up the phone. When you pick up the phone, be ready to go live on a second’s notice—or on no notice at all. You’ll hear the host over the phone line, so turn your radio off to avoid hearing a distracting delay.

Express passion. Sure, you’re on the radio. But listeners will hear it if you stand, move your hands and smile—so get a telephone headset and gesture away. Try to match or slightly exceed the host’s energy level to avoid sounding flat.

Sit close to the microphone (in-studio). New Radio 1080 KRLD’s David Johnson always tells our clients to “sit uncomfortably close to the microphone.” We can literally hear the distance when the interview airs.

Make the connection (in-studio). We suggest that our clients make eye contact with the host and speak with them as if they are having a great conversation at a party. Be confident, smile. The listener hears confidence. It’s absolutely acceptable to bring a few notes or talking points in studio, but never read them—glance down occasionally if you need to and try not to lose your connection.

Don’t depend on them to make the plug. You’re probably on the radio because you want to promote something—a new book, your website, your company. Although many experienced hosts are adept at “plugging” whatever you want promoted, some aren’t. We send the producer a short bio and key points in advance of the interview which many hosts use verbatim to introduce me on the air.

The truth is in the tape. Few people enjoy listening to tapes of their interviews, but doing so can help you identify and fix problem areas. This is where you hear those dreaded “uhs.”

When Was the Last Time You Checked In?

By Jeff Cheatham, Senior Account Supervisor at TrizCom PR

What checking in might look like…

What checking in might look like…

Every client is different, we all know that. And typically at some point in the onboarding process, you should find out exactly who your regular point of contact will be. You should also find out about their typical workload and preferable times to reach out to them. Always operate from the assumption that your client contact has a “day job” to complete. You don’t want to be seen as any type of a nuisance.

I clearly remember a new business meeting we had at the TrizCom offices over a year ago. A commercial real estate company in Houston sent two executives to meet with us, hear our proposal and see if we might be a good fit for their business. They were working with another PR firm, but they almost never heard from their account manager. When we showed them what our typical quarterly PR plan looked like, they were stunned. They told us they never received any advance plans, strategies, tactics or clip reports. Then it was our turn to be stunned.

What struck me the most is how little they interacted with their account manager. A long time ago, several jobs back, I began sending my clients what I call the “Monday Morning Check-in.” It’s simple, really – just a checklist of pending items, notating exactly where we stand on the different action items in our quarterly PR plan. If I am still waiting on approval for a press release, I re-attach the document. If there’s a pending interview, I’ll add a reminder. If I’m tracking a few current media wins, I let them know of the status. If something is urgent, it gets the ALL CAPS treatment.

As a PR firm, that’s the minimum you should be doing each week to stay in touch with your valuable client contacts. Once they’ve been trained to expect your updates, they’ll come to depend on them. I have clients that I email several times a day. I have others that I may only hear from twice a month. But they’ll be hearing from me. All of my clients can count on the weekly Monday Morning Check-ins. At TrizCom, that’s our way of reminding our clients that our relationship is valuable and shares a common goal to succeed in achieving our public relations goals. In short, our clients always know what we’re doing on their behalf.

What TrizCom clients are saying about us…

What TrizCom clients are saying about us…

In addition to the Monday Morning Check-ins, TrizCom is diligent in providing other updates such as quarterly PR plans, quarterly clip reports and immediate email notifications of earned media wins. If our clients have a pending interview, they won’t begin without first receiving our one-page talking points memos, specifically tailored to the media opportunity.

For us, these communicative efforts are a process not to be taken lightly. Communication is our business. And this is how we check in. When was the last time you did so?

 

Surviving the Hamster Wheel

By Sarah Mosso, TrizCom PR Intern

TrizCom PR intern and equestrian Sarah Mosso

TrizCom PR intern and equestrian Sarah Mosso

Life seems to be this continuously moving wheel that we can’t get off of, no matter what life throws at us. We have to keep running, or we’ll slowly fall behind into an overwhelming mass of dizziness. As a college student, student-athlete and now employed intern, trying to juggle everything that is required of me leads to a variety of countless challenges. But I try to remind myself that I can’t be the only one who feels this way at this current stage in life – or any stage in life really.

With my senior year of college quickly coming to an end, I often reflect back on all I have learned through my various experiences since childhood, but specifically the experiences of these special past four years at SMU. As a student, I’ve learned to always try my best in school, doing what I can to make good grades. That partly stems from the people pleaser in me, where not only do I not want to let down my professors, but I also see the value in completing what is expected of me. And I understand now that the value of education is only half the material you actually learn; the other half is learning values such as discipline, work ethic and accountability.

As a student-athlete, I get the pleasure of being able to continue doing something I’ve been passionate about since the day I turned 6 years old – except that now that passion and dedication for horses has led me to become a part of the SMU Equestrian team, an NCAA Division I collegiate team. Doing something that truly makes me happy while being supported by an institution that values both academics and athletics has taught me more than I expected. I’ve learned the importance of being a part of something that requires you to not only be responsible for representing yourself, but also for representing your school. Not to mention, the horses have taught me special values that no human ever could.

As an employee and intern, I’ve been witness to real world client relationships and the importance of getting your individual job done in accordance with the whole company’s goals in order to achieve success. Every encounter I have while at work poses an opportunity for self-improvement and new knowledge.

If there’s one takeaway I get from all of this, it’s that balancing good relationships and hard work tends to pay off. Through my experience here at TrizCom, I have seen that philosophy prove true. Everyone at TrizCom values good and fair relationships with clients, and due to everyone’s combined hard work, the expectations of great and effective PR become reality.

I plan to take all of these experiences with me wherever I go post-graduation and will strive to always be a part of something I love, can work hard at and form relationships in for a purpose or cause that truly makes a difference for others.

When Apologies Come Too Late

It takes years to build a brand but moments to take it down

By Jo Trizila, CEO of TrizCom Public Relations & Pitch PR

If your Facebook feed is anything like mine, you have seen the United Airlines parodies and the memes circulating this week. Since Monday, you haven’t been able to turn on the news and not see something about the United crisis. And, if you are like me, you shake your head in disgust that this crisis could have been vastly minimized – so much so that it might have only been a quick mention on the news. Instead, this situation will be printed in their Wikipedia history page.

For a recap of the United Airlines Flight 3411 communications, read The Washington Post story: The full timeline of how social media turned United into the biggest story in the country.

Please note, I am NOT saying that the actions taken by the crew and staff of United Airlines Flight 3411 were OK. As in most crisis situations where the brand is at fault, the actions are almost never OK. However, the way a brand approaches a crisis can set the tone for the entire event.

United Airlines created their own crisis. Had the CEO come out Sunday night or – heck – even Monday morning and owned the situation by stating how deplorable this incident was and how it will never happen again on a United Airlines plane, this topic would not have spun out of control like it has. However, the CEO’s first few statement(s) were about United Airlines’ legal rights, employee policy and how they are looking into the situation. These statements don’t offer much consumer confidence. The CEO totally forgot that PR is about perception. The public is thinking "this could happen to me, and this company doesn’t care anything about its passengers.”

In an age where video is going to happen and social media breaks news, owning responsibility is critical. And even more critical is owning responsibility quickly. If you made a mistake, say that. We have all made mistakes. But shifting the blame is unacceptable.

Here are a few of my thoughts on how this crisis could have been handled differently.

  1. The social media team should have a plan in place for issue management (an issue is defined as something that could escalate to a crisis). This plan would, of course, have the appropriate people to contact including the PR team (internal and external). Brands need to respond quickly. Waiting an hour to respond (as United did) is unacceptable – even if it is only asking for more information.
  2. It is very clear that the legal department was involved with the CEO’s statements. Let legal do their thing; let PR handle public perception. This was the first statement that came out from United (note, at this point the video was going viral), “Flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville was overbooked. After our team looked for volunteers, one customer refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily and law enforcement was asked to come to the gate. We apologize for the overbook situation. Further details on the removed customer should be directed to authorities.” There is no apology and absolutely zero care or concern for the passenger(s) of Flight 3411.
  3. Again, when the CEO issued his statement, it was all about how his employees followed procedure. Obviously, United’s policy is flawed. The perception is: United doesn’t care at all about the passengers it serves, it only cares that its employees followed policy. The CEO statements were self-serving.  This so reminds me of the BP’s apology.
  4. Not until Tuesday did the CEO apologize – reversing his previous statements. From a consumer perspective, this apology has no merit. It only came after reports that he should be fired and after the company saw the financial repercussions.
  5. Wednesday morning, the CEO made his rounds on morning television – apologizing profusely. Unfortunately, this apology came way too late and is not believable. United has lost the trust of its customers, and I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but sometimes it is too late to do the right thing. Do you believe his apology? Check out the story that aired on Wednesday (4/12/17) on Good Morning America, United CEO Oscar Munoz felt 'shame' to see passenger dragged off flight.

In my opinion, the only winner of this crisis was Pepsi. From Wednesday to Sunday, the topic of conversation was Pepsi’s ad. Now, no one is talking about Pepsi – well, except the memes.

For more information:  

Crisis Social Media – You Need to Have a Plan

OU and SAE, The National Organization, Got It Right

Responding to Customer Complaints on Social Media

Not the Vacation I Planned: Tragedy Transitions Vacationing PR Pro into Media Relations Juggernaut

Check out Dallas Business Journal’s What a drag: How United turned a $1,000 inconvenience into a hundreds-of-millions crisis

Hang Up and Hang Out

By Maelyn Schramm, TrizCom PR Intern

A couple of weekends ago, I went on a ladies-only camping trip with two of my closest friends. We hit the highway and headed east to Martin Creek Lake State Park. Once we unloaded the car and set up the tent, I did something I almost never do: I turned off my phone. Not on mute. Off. Over the next 24 hours, we hiked on a few paths, lounged on a picnic blanket, made a fire, ate tacos and watched the sun go down. All the while, we did what we ladies are known for: talking. We talked and talked and talked. During our conversations, I was completely engaged and joined in on laughing and making witty remarks. I didn’t want it to end.

My phone-free weekend was rejuvenating. I felt refreshed once I put the world on hold. It rid me of distractions and allowed me to focus on the present moments I lived in. Phubbing, a fusion of “phone” and “snubbing,” is when one person is distracted by their smartphone in another person’s presence. I think we all do it from time to time, if not on a regular basis. Sometimes I’ll be in the middle of one of my ramblings, look up, and my friend is scrolling through her news feed. Other times, I’m the one at fault.

A new phrase is catching on among us millennials: hang up and hang out. We can forget what we miss out on when we’re absorbed in what’s happening on our phones. We miss out on hearing a funny story, sharing a heartfelt moment, making a connection. We miss out on quality time with people we love. When we hang up, we hear and listen, we look and see, we talk and speak. When we hang up, we say, “I’m here in this moment with you.”