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A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the PRSA Western District Conference in Scottsdale, AZ. Flying out of Denver in a snowstorm and landing in beautiful 75 degree weather was definitely one of the bonuses of attending, but I also came back with a lot of good ideas to implement. The Western District did a great job of lining up engaging speakers from a wide variety of organizations, which really made each session unique and valuable. It was nice to meet other PR professionals who work in a variety of fields – there were people from agencies, highway construction companies, non-profits, medical offices, financial institutions (like me) and many more! Having such a wide representation was helpful to gain a new perspective on what’s going on in our industry. I learned quite a bit and thought I’d share some of my key takeaways:

In today’s social media world, people want to be more personal:

Consumers want to have relationships with brands these days. They want to feel connected to the brands they use and feel a sense of belonging with them. Companies can accomplish this by not simply pushing products, but using storytelling, testimonials, pictures, etc. to convey their messages instead of just an ad trying to sell them something. People now days are more apt to share personal information online and are quick to tell all their friends about their experience with a company – good and bad! Having the consumer be your advocate is your greatest weapon.

Research is ALWAYS important:

When launching a new product, project or campaign, it’s vital to do your research before you come up with a PR strategy. The same tactics won’t work every time. Study your target audience and find out where they play and how they want to be communicated with. One speaker discovered that her techy audience didn’t really engage with Facebook, but loved Twitter, so they focused their efforts there instead. Also, don’t discount “old school PR.” One construction company discovered their target audience was pretty low tech, so they ended up doing door-to-door meetings, flyers and community events; which proved very successful. Internally, get to know your leadership! Research your spokespersons so you can more effectively pitch them to media. Perhaps your CEO went to the same college as a reporter you’re targeting – these common threads can make a difference.

Implement these engagement tips:

In a world with short attention spans, consistent engagement is key. Update your website, Facebook pages and Twitter feeds often to maintain interest. Photos are a great way to keep engagement high. One speaker, who worked for a highway construction company in California, did a great job with this. She would post “behind the scenes” photos of their project and a weekly trivia question to keep her audience informed and interested. They also started a “You asked….We answered” section on their website to keep an open dialog with their customers. These practices helped make a traditionally painful project – highway construction – less irritating and those in the affected area felt more involved in the process. Another great idea to engage the media is to include a “social media boiler plate” on all press releases. To do this, simply add “Share this story via Twitter” above your standard boiler plate and craft a tweet for the reporter to post. Nine times out of 10, the reporter will post the tweet you provide verbatim on their twitter page and – bam – instant coverage!

These are just a few tips I took with me from the Western District Conference. If you’re able, I’d highly encourage attending this conference next year (happening March 20-22, 2014 in beautiful San Diego!). I found the conference to be very valuable and it’s always good to meet others in our industry to learn best practices, new tips and make lasting connections.


Dana Chippindale
PRSA Pikes Peak Chapter