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5 marketing & PR trends for 2021 CMOs need now

5 PR Trends CMOs Need to Watch for 2021

There’s no shortage of uncertainty in marketing and PR planning for 2021. But there are some trends happening that are sure to impact PR and Marketing in 2021. At Avaans PR, CMO’s love us because we know consumer trends impact where our target audience will be, the frame of mind they’ll be in and what journalists will write about.  On a tactical level, trends impact our content creation, journalist relationships, and campaign recommendations we’re making now and in the next year. We’re ready for 2021 to require agility, but we’ve found that even agility requires forward-looking and yes, some planning. These are 5 of the marketing and PR trends for 2021 we’re watching on behalf of our consumer-forward brands.

PR Trend #1: Techlash Continues

From a PR trend perspective, this has a huge impact. Now is the time to reimagine how you’ll use social and digital media in 2021, from both a marketing and PR perspective.

The sting of social media won’t soon to be forgotten by consumers, regardless of political affiliation. During 2020, in particular, during the pandemic, social media took on outsized importance, but also affected consumers in new ways, and not all of them positive.

Yes, consumers continue to spend time and even buy on social media, but they are spending more and more time in micro-groups of their own on platforms like Slack or Messenger, or in like-minded platforms. This means brands will have to be extremely smart about their placements and presence in 2021. The separation also requires brands to be exceptionally clear about who their customers really are.

Further, the coveted 25-55 college-educated, earning $100,000 or more per year are using social media for customer service. This coveted group will not support companies who don’t support customer care. If 2020 was the year of pandemic-related customer acquisition for your brand, 2021 will most definitely need to be about keeping them happy and engaged. Part of that will most definitely be a branding effort to existing customers, ensuring your values align with theirs (more on purpose-driven initiatives below).

But it’s not just customer service affecting social media in 2021.  e-Marketer reported:

We have increased our forecast on mobile messaging and now believe time spent by US adults will grow by 4 minutes in 2020, to 24 minutes per day, not only due to the pandemic but also data showing strong engagement on messaging services like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Apple iMessage.

 

PR Trend #2: Work With Media in New Ways

Whether it’s TV, programmatic, or print, all media outlets are bracing for reduced advertising revenue in 2021. This will have very real implications for public relations initiatives.

First, according to Edelman, trust in media actually increased in 2020. This means you should absolutely be leveraging the trust of other outlets, particularly in lieu of the distrust around social media. However, you should do so with earned media and branded content.

Expect to see more “branded content,” in 2021. Well done branded content can be very effective in both PR and branding, so consider these options carefully. Branded content is better received than traditional ads, in fact, Second Street Lab reported in June that branded content through premium publishers sees a 50% brand lift.

Further, outlets will need to keep eyeballs on their content, to help drive ad revenue, brands with media relations campaigns should be looking at ways to support outlets who support them. At Avaans PR we are actively doing this for our clients already and seeing great brand lift and also enhanced journalist relations.

 

PR Trend #3: Purpose-Driven Buyers

Trusted brands saw huge increases during the pandemic, up to 50% growth, according to McKinsey. This is due to an unprecedented shift in brand loyalty during the pandemic.

Even pre-pandemic, affinity for brands who take a stand and align with consumer’s values were seeing real ROI on purpose-driven initiatives. As Americans slog through the pandemic, they are consistently re-evaluating priorities, this is especially true for Millenials and GenZ.

PR trends for 2021, include self-love and body positivity will be a purpose for many buyers, especially those who emerge from isolation hibernation with a few extra pounds. GenZ is feeling stressed. While some are still below the age of 18, they remember the great recession. Right now, self-care and home comfort are top of their list. Pre-pandemic, GenZ was actually returning to malls, but the pandemic has left this generation feeling a bit powerless and reconsidering purchasing behavior, at least for now. But 51% of GenZ’ers say they will return to in-store shopping. But when GenZ returns to stores, according to Retail Dive, they’ll do so with the expectation of safety and a frictionless environment that mirrors the ease of online shopping.   GenZ is also moving towards “thoughtful consumption,” especially those brands with responsible sourcing, environmentally friendly policies or support social issues. Local businesses and minority-owned businesses are also on their radar in a whole new way.

As for Millenials, the eldest of whom are in their 40’s already, are leading the way, followed by the often forgotten GenX, to continue online shopping across almost all verticals from essentials to alcohol, according to McKinsey.

Plus, record low-interest rates have created a whole host of new home buyers. In September 2020, 60% of U.S. homebuyers were Millenials, they’re likely to spend an increasing amount of time at home, items that allow them to spend more quality time with friends and family will be attractive, so delivery and home-based products will take a new focus for that generation.

PR Trend #5: The Re-Opening of America

We can’t really say when the “re-opening of America” will happen, but what we DO know Americans are ready for it already. The pent-up demand for all things in person will require ALL brands to pivot marketing and PR in 2021. We predict safety and trust will be key for the reopening of America.

Work is likely to be forever changed, more people will work from home than pre-pandemic. This means fewer people will waste time commuting. How will your initiatives work into their newly found time in the newly re-opened America? Will podcasting remain as vibrant as it was pre-pandemic? What about the TV surge happening now? Think about where your customers will be spending new time as we emerge from a post-pandemic world.

From tourism to retail to direct-to-consumer products, brands will need to be thinking about how they will be relevant at the right moment.

From a public relations standpoint, you’ll want to be thinking about how your brand will differentiate itself in the media and marketing activities. With trust and security taking new precedence, brands will need to think about how they will reinforce those messages in a brand-consistent way.  Now is the time to explore partnerships and the potential activations, which will create the memorable moments consumers are craving.

The time to plan for the Re-Opening America is now, the campaign should be fully ready to pull the trigger. From content to media relations to events, now is the time to plan, but bake in flexibility. For example, secure your video producers now, and create three original scripts, secure the time and the talent now, so you can move faster than everyone else when the moment is right.

PR Trend #5: Cross Collaboration

This is the year where everything needs alignment. If you haven’t already, tear down the silos between PR, Marketing, and Branding. Get those people together now so they can be more effective together in 2021. Think about how each department can align on digital and in-person initiatives. Think about initiatives that are word-of-mouth worthy, there will be plenty of industry and even national coverage for brands that are thoughtful about how they align.

A unified, personal experience will be an expectation in 2021. So ensure your messaging, your purpose, and your plans are operating together, not just in tandem, but together.

Use your owned, earned, and paid media together in new ways and your brand can benefit from the realignment of brand loyalty happening right now.

 

If you’re ready to use these and other marketing & PR trends for 2021 in a more customized way, let’s talk. 

 

purpose driven public relations

Why Purpose-Driven Public Relations Have an Edge 

It’s easy to see why some companies are skeptical of shifting to a “purpose-driven” business model. Doing so requires companies to take a position on important, potentially controversial issues like environmental protection, workers’ rights, racial and gender discrimination, income inequality, and so on.

Is Taking a Stand the New Social Media in Public Relations?

Taking a stand can generate a swift backlash from the community and consumers. For an example, look no further than the reaction from many fans of the National Football League when several players, mostly notably San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, knelt during the national anthem as a protest against police violence.

The NFL is one of the few monolithic institutions left in American life, and the response from its fans would seem to discourage other brands from getting involved in political and social issues. Even President Donald Trump got involved by putting pressure on team owners and league officials. And yet, the NFL’s handling of its players’ police violence protests offers an instructive example of why brands should lean into social causes instead of avoiding them.

After all, what was the ultimate outcome for Kaepernick? The NFL caved on player protests and is allowing social justice messages in the end zones this year. Kaepernick partnered with Nike on their “Dream Crazy” ad, which helped spread his message to a much wider audience. Though the ad was criticized in some quarters, most people responded positively to it. Younger audiences, one of Nike’s key demographics, responded especially well.

Making that ad was a risk for Nike, but it’s a risk that clearly paid off. By being aware of social trends — particularly among some of its core customers — and partnering with someone who had legitimate social justice credentials, Nike scored a public relations coup and rode the wave to increased sales.

Jumping into the realm of social activism is new for Nike, but other brands have engaged in social, political, and environmental causes for many years now. The clothing company Patagonia, for instance, supports many social causes, especially groups focused on the protection and preservation of public lands in the United States. They’ve also imposed a “1% for the Planet” tax on themselves, in which they spend 1 percent of their sales (not just their profits) on environmental activism while encouraging other companies to do the same.

Another brand that’s making headway in terms of changing the way business is done is King Arthur Baking Company. Unlike many larger bakeries, King Arthur is a private company that is owned by its employees and is a benefit corporation. This means that having a positive impact on the world is built into the company’s corporate structure. In an article for the New York Times, Ralph Carlton, one of King Arthur’s chief executives, said “Being accountable to our employee-owners means we have to take them into account. We don’t believe in growth for growth’s sake.” The company’s message is clearly resonating with consumers; according to the Times article, King Arthur’s sales tripled this past spring when many people went into quarantine and started baking their own bread and other goods.

Is a Purpose Driven Public Relations Strategy for Everyone?

These examples and additional research illustrate the gains to be had for brands that embrace social causes. For instance, the research firm Accenture found in 2018 that 63 percent of consumers prefer to support brands that share their values and beliefs. In that same study, Accenture also found that 62 percent of consumers want brands to take a position on social and political causes, and 65 of consumers said their buying decisions are influenced by the values, actions, and words of a company’s leaders.

As we saw with Nike, these trends are even more pronounced among younger audiences and consumers. Other researchers have found that 54 percent of teens age 16-19 boycotted or bought from a brand because of its ethics. Furthermore, 63 percent of teens say they are more likely to buy from brands that back charities or other causes they believe in.

These figures provide more evidence that consumers are eager to buy from brands they perceive as having strong morals and values. However, brand trust is a precious commodity that companies should not take for granted. About 37 percent of teens surveyed in the study mentioned above said they didn’t trust the claims brands make about the causes they support, and 69 percent of teens in the survey said brands overstate how much they support the causes they supposedly champion.

That last point is critical. It’s not enough for companies to say they want to make the world a better place, they have to back it up with their actions and policies. If you tell consumers you’re moving to a purpose-driven business philosophy, you need to give them proof.

Once again, we can look at Nike for an example of this theory in action. Regardless of other criticisms the company has faced in the past, making Kaepernick the centerpiece of a campaign took courage, as he was a pariah in many circles and hadn’t been a star player for several years. But because Kaepernick had sacrificed his career and his reputation for his beliefs, Nike benefitted from his social justice bona rides.

As more consumers push for brands to become more socially and politically engaged, companies that have already adopted a purpose-driven approach or are willing to make a good-faith effort have a tremendous advantage in the marketplace. If you can show consumers that your brand shares their values, they’ll flock to your business.

How to Celebrate a Purpose-Driven Public Relations

 

Of course, getting your message in front of consumers is easier said than done. You need a public relations firm that understands the challenges purpose-driven brands face and the benefits they can provide consumers. Fortunately, PR for purpose-driven brands is what we do at Avaans Media, and we can help show the world what makes your company special.

It’s important not to be too bold or too generic when it comes to PR for purpose-driven brands. You need to be specific about what you’re doing and how it’s generating the kind of positive change you’re striving for. We’ll create a campaign that’s tailored to your company’s specific strengths and goals, and we’ll show consumers that you’re serious about achieving those goals.

This kind of campaign is something we already have experience doing. One of our biggest successes came from helping a nonprofit create content to help parents who were non-native English speakers improve their children’s early education outcomes. We listened to what they wanted to achieve and created streamlined, easy-to-understand social media content for parents to share with each other and their children. Furthermore, we helped the nonprofit lobby the state legislature to fund early education programs for pre-kindergarten students.

Our campaign was a tremendous success, generating more than 401,000 impressions over six months among our target audience, with an engagement rate over 50 percent. The state legislature also saw the extensive community support for the program and funded more early education programs, providing an even greater benefit to the community.

Our organization has the tools and talent to bring this kind of success to your purpose-driven brand. To learn more, visit our contact page to schedule a call with one of our offices. You can also find us locally in New York, Los Angeles, Honolulu, Phoenix, Denver, and San Diego.

why brand values matter to consumers

Why Brand Values Matter to Consumers, Now More Than Ever

The proof is in the numbers

It’s more and more competitive to capture consumer attention, that’s why brand values matter to consumers more than ever. It’s getting harder and harder for brands to create positive impressions in the minds of consumers. Negative impressions tend to linger longer in our minds, and unfortunately for brands who try to make a positive impact on the world, there are innumerable examples of companies doing the exact opposite. From wanton environmental degradation and exploiting workers to harvesting users’ personal data without permission and companies bending to the will of authoritarian regimes abroad, we’re awash in stories about bad corporate actors.

 

This is all the more frustrating for companies who are trying to set good examples of what socially and environmentally responsible entrepreneurship looks like. When you’re trying to do the right thing and your message is drowned out by a sea of reckless and irresponsible businesses, it can feel hopeless.

 

Don’t worry, consumers will take note of your brand values efforts

 

However, companies who are truly committed to building a better world can take solace in one powerful fact: Consumers are on their side. As more and more stories about corporations behaving badly surface, consumers are increasingly looking for alternatives. These more environmentally and socially conscious consumers want to know that their purchases are going toward a good cause, and they want to see companies take a stand on social, environmental, and political issues.

 

When you consider the current political and social environment, together with increasing evidence of climate change, this change in consumer preferences becomes even more obvious. People don’t want to contribute to the destruction of our planet, and they want to support companies who are working to disrupt or improve the current status quo. Why wouldn’t they choose to buy from purpose driven-brands?

 

The proof is in the numbers

 

There’s plenty of research to back up these claims. Take this 2018 study from Accenture. They surveyed nearly 30,000 consumers from around the world about their purchasing decisions and the brands they support. Accenture found that 63 percent of the consumers they surveyed preferred to support brands that reflect their values and beliefs.

 

There’s more: Accenture also found:

  • 65 percent of consumers prefer to support companies treat their employees well,
  • 62 percent of those surveyed preferred to buy from companies that try to reduce their use of plastics and want to improve the environment.
  • 62 percent of those surveyed also wanted the brands they support to take a stand on the social, cultural, environmental, and political issues that they care about.

 

Accenture is not alone in their findings. A 2018 study from the research agency Edelman found that 64 percent of consumers will either buy from or boycott a brand based solely on the brand’s stances on social or political issues, which highlights the challenge for brands. This is why a brand-friendly PR firm is so important, we can help you navigate the risks and opportunities that optimize purpose-driven communication. The survey included over 8,000 people in eight different markets worldwide, and the researchers also found that 53 percent of those surveyed believed that brands could do more to inspire social change than governments can. Regardless of whether brands really have that power, consumers increasingly believe that they do and are basing their-decision deciding accordingly.

 

These trends in buying habits are particularly pronounced among one key demographic: Teenagers. A 2018 report from MediaCom found several important statistics related to teenagers’ buying habits and the brands they support. The survey found that 54 percent of teens age 16-19 had deliberately bought or stopped buying from brands because of the brands’ ethics. The research also found that 63 percent of teens are more likely to buy from brands that support causes or charities they believe in. However, skepticism among teens concerning brands is still rampant, as 37 percent of those surveyed were doubtful of brands’ claims regarding the causes they support and 69 percent believe brands overstate their level of support for their chosen causes.

 

Taken together, these data points represent a massive swing in consumer decision-making habits. In the past, many companies stayed away from social or political causes out of fear or because they didn’t want to risk a backlash from consumers. But the data show that if brands take a stand on social issues and can demonstrate their authenticity, consumers will respond positively and adjust their buying habits.

 

We can already see how major organizations are taking this data and incorporating it into their marketing efforts. The shoe company Toms has donated one pair of shoes for every pair sold since its founding 13 years ago, making it an exemplar for other businesses to follow. Additionally, Toms has become a certified B-Corp, meaning they meet strict standards for accountability, transparency, and social and environmental impact. Finally, Toms has also pledged to spend at least one-third of its annual net profits on charitable causes, which is much more than most other corporations can say.

 

So, where does this leave your brand if you’re dedicated to making the world a better place? It’s simple really: You need to get that message out to consumers, and you need to do so in a way that’s genuine. That may be a challenge for some companies and some PR agencies, but not for Avaans PR. Helping purpose-driven brands get their message across is what we do, and we can create a campaign for you that plays to your unique strengths.

 

How Avaans PR Can Help with Brand Values

 

We’ve already helped a number of brands do exactly this. In one case, we worked with a nonprofit organization focused on helping pre-Kindergarten students from economically disadvantaged families become better students. We had to create compelling content aimed at two very different audiences: The families who needed help and state legislators considering funding more early education problems.

 

We kept the design of our content simple, using visuals wherever we could, and maintaining a supportive tone throughout. This encouraged families to share content with one another and avoided coming across as paternalistic or lecturing, which also helped to avoid alienating decision-makers at the state level. And the campaign worked: The state legislature funded the early education problems, and we generated over 401,000 impressions among our targeted audience during the length of our six-month campaign.

 

If your brand is seeking to expand its reach and you’re not sure where to begin, we want to help. You can set up a call with our team by visiting our contact page, or you can find us locally in New York, Los Angeles, San Diego, Denver, Honolulu, and Phoenix. We look forward to hearing from you.

b-corp public relations

B-corps are uniquely positioned to be storytellers. But how does PR differ for B-Corps?

Is purpose all it takes to thrive?

 

You started your company to make a difference in the world. You know it, your team knows it, and your loyal clients and customers know and believe in your product and your mission. So, how do you expand your reach? How can others find you in an increasingly crowded B-corp marketplace? Does PR play a role in successful B-corps?

This is an issue no matter what industry you’re in; the audience for your product or service may be larger than ever, and there may be more ways to reach them, but there are also more competitors out there looking to connect with that same audience. This is where a focused and strategic public relations campaign can help.

Expanding your awareness beyond traditional marketing campaigns is especially vital for companies who aren’t focused solely on profits and want to make a positive impact on the world. Becoming a certified B-Corporation isn’t easy, as it requires meeting exacting standards regarding accountability, transparency, and social and environmental impact. After going through the rigorous certification process to obtain B-Corporation status, it’s deeply discouraging if you can’t get your message out to those who want to hear it.

Should B-Corps Leverage PR Over Other Channels?

So, what are your options if you’re a B-Corporation looking to expand your reach? You could try the traditional tools: TV advertising, ads on social media, content marketing, direct mail, and so on. But these tools require significant resources that not all companies have, and worse still, there are signs that they are increasingly ineffective. One study showed that 86 percent of people skip or ignore TV advertisements, 44 percent of direct mail is never opened, and 91 percent of email users end up unsubscribing from company email lists they had previously opted into. These tools may work if you have the resources for a large, prolonged campaign, but they’re not feasible for many organizations.

A better approach for B-Corporations is to let other brands tell their story for them through a strategic public relations campaign. This may seem a bit counterintuitive; after all, you’re giving up control of your message when you use PR instead of more direct marketing or advertising tools. But for many people and businesses, getting a story from a brand they trust is more impactful than when companies try to engage them directly.

Is there any research that proves this theory? In fact, there’s quite a bit of it. A study from the Content Marketing Institute showed that 80 percent of business decision makers and 70 percent of customers prefer to get information on a company from articles rather than ads.

Is PR More Effective for B-Corps?

Why is it that so many people seem to prefer reading about a company in an article rather than seeing an ad from the company directly? For one thing, advertisements can be very pushy, and they have a way of inserting themselves when you’re trying to do something else. If a businessperson or customer comes across an engaging article about a company, however, they can choose to read it when and how they want, on their own terms.

The other reason people prefer to read about a company in articles is the issue of trust. Savvy decision makers and cynical consumers are often skeptical of the messages they receive through advertisements, social media posts, and other types of marketing with a more direct approach. They know that they’re being marketed to, and they’re suspicious that the message and information they’re receiving may be untrue or misleading.

On the other hand, if they get that same information from an outlet that they already know and trust, they’re more likely to be receptive to the message and believe it. This is particularly true for the Millennial generation; research shows that Millennials are 247 percent more likely to be influenced by blogs and social media sites than are older generations. Similarly, 96 percent of B2B buyers are looking to read more content from industry thought leaders, and 93 percent of B2B buyers begin their buying process with an online search. If you can get articles in well-known, respected publications, you’ll rank highly in online search results — and there’s an eager group of businesses who are waiting to hear from you.

This isn’t to say that PR can’t function in conjunction with other tools to help your business grow. In fact, that’s exactly how PR should work. By getting information about your company into relevant and respected publications, consumers and other businesses can learn more about what you do. From there, you can direct them from the articles to your business’ website, social media pages, and other venues where you can engage them more directly.

 

How To Use B-Corp PR with Other Channels

That’s exactly what we do at Avaans Media. We are experts at harnessing traditional PR tools as well as newer marketing strategies, to help purpose-driven brands find success in the marketplace. No matter what you do or what your goals are, we will help you grow and thrive by crafting a strategy uniquely tailored to your strengths.

Here’s one example of how we can use PR to help your business. Our client was looking to break into the consumer packaged goods industry with a range of hemp-based products. Despite the differences between hemp and marijuana, many consumers were unfamiliar with these kinds of products or had negative views of them. We knew we needed purpose-driven campaigns.

To help our client reach their goals, we took a multi-pronged approach that increased their brand awareness and shaped their public image in a positive direction. We celebrated purpose throughout our campaigns, from health and wellness to global sustainability.  We leveraged our media contacts to generate more than 200 articles about the company over three years, averaging five articles per month. These articles generated more than 10 billion earned media impressions over those three years, with an estimated value of over $5 million dollars. By the time the client was ready for their initial public offering, the company’s share price had risen by more than 300 percent, and much of that increase can be attributed to our campaign.

 

Contact Us To Get Started

social media ads during COVID-19 case studies
successful social media influencer campaigns

Successful Influencer Campaigns Aren’t Unicorns

PR has a number of tools in its tool belt, one of them is successful influencer campaigns & partnerships.

In consumer goods, influencer marketing is establishing a significant place in the mix. When we see some of these campaigns, a little part of our PR soul dies. Frankly, some of them are brand-damaging and unlikely to have an influence on sales. When working with influencers, you’re already taking a risk that there’s a past or future PR fiasco that could affect your brand reputation.  Influencer marketing should be considered paid media and owned media and just like you wouldn’t put out an ad or other content that damages your brand, nor should you execute an influencer campaign without consideration. Some people seem to think so long as you’re getting your product in someone’s IG story that’s all that matters, we disagree.

We believe all consumer goods PR should be executed with strategy and thought. While influencer campaigns aren’t exactly the same as ads, we take insight from advertising research to inform our recommendations. 

On average, it takes 21 brand exposures to bring someone to the purchase phase.
5-9 brand exposures to create brand awareness
more than 10 exposures during the consideration phase

While influencer campaigns are a paid opportunity (influencer rate range from product exchange to $1 million per post), there are public relations and brand opportunities and implications as well. While you might not be able to spend $1,500 per post, you should seriously balance the PR and brand implications.

 

Working with an influencer is NOT the same as placing an ad, so we also wanted to share our best practices for a  influencer campaign.

Get Crystal Clear on Your KPIs BEFORE Reaching Out to Influencers

If your consumer goods influencer campaign objective is SEO value as opposed to brand awareness, those are actually very different campaigns. They are both relevant.  Who you work with will be different. The number of influencers you work with will be different. How you CHOOSE the influencers might be different.  But even if you’re doing an influencer campaign for SEO value, we beg you to consider the brand implications.

For many CPG brands, their brand may be their most valuable asset, so treating the brand with long-term implications in mind is essential to the longevity or value of the brand. From a brand building and cannabis PR perspective, for MOST brands, our perspective is to go deep, rather than wide with cannabis social media influencers.  The biggest reason this is our typical approach is because of the importance of repeated exposure. This is PARTICULARLY important to emerging CPG brands whose other marketing initiatives are constrained.

Influencer Campaign Success #1:  Choose Your  Influencer Partners Carefully

No matter what strategy you apply to your influencer campaign, align with influencers who align with your brand. If you’re a wellness brand, maybe partnering with an influencer whose feed is about their last party isn’t natural synergy, the influencer’s audience may not receive your product well.

Why is a wellness driven product doing an influencer campaign with influencers aligned with party culture? Why not align with a nurse, a yogi, and a marathon runner? It’s jarring for customers to see inconsistent messages and creates brand confusion. Getting brand awareness is hard enough to do when you act with brand clarity, why make it harder on yourself?

Instead of looking at followers, look at engagement & reply rates. But dig a little deeper on those engagement rates, they should be consistent with typical engagement. If your influencer has 10,000 followers and 3,000 likes and 1,500 comments, that’s a red flag and suggests automation. On the other hand, if your influencer has 700 posts and 35 million followers, that’s disjointed as well. For context, as of this writing Kylie Jenner has 42M U.S. followers (164M globally), of which 1.2M are evaluated as authentic U.S. engagers, according to HypeAuditor.   Is it POSSIBLE that they reached 35 million followers over 700 posts? Yes, but there must have been a viral trigger, so look to see what that could be.

Take a careful look at the other brands the influencer has worked with and see how they align with you. Have they worked with your competitors? Is that an advantage or a disadvantage?

Since this is likely a paid relationship, you should also be evaluating their overall professionalism. How thoughtful and eye-catching is the content, how professional is their response to your inquiry?

Ruthlessly review their past content for any red flags that could cause your brand problems, and also consider ways to mutually separate in case of a brand clash in the future.

If you follow the other steps below, this stage is incredibly important.

Build a Relationship with the Influencer Before Your Influencer Campaign

Note I keep referring to social media influencers as partners. Treat them as such, treat them as humans. Social media influencers will have an emotional response to how they are treated and no matter how professional they are, how you treat them impacts the outcome. That’s because the POWER of influencers is in the PERSONAL.

Why undermine the most valuable part of the partnership? Why not turn that influencer into an actual advocate?

By inspiring your cannabis influencer, you can bet they’ll have an easier time inspiring their followers and creating content that’s consistent for both brands. Meet with the influencer if you can, engage with them as they’re experiencing the product for the first time.

Explain your favorite aspects of the product/brand and discuss your brand values and vision, so the influencer can align their value systems and genuinely connect with the brand.

This more personal relationship approach is something 90% of influencer campaigns lack, and it shows.

Another reason to build a relationship with a brand influencer is to review how you’ll mutually handle it if the account is shut down during the campaign or afterward.

Allow The Influencer Creative Freedom & Voice

Effective  influencers have their own style of content and voice, you’re likely attracted to that style and voice – let then keep it. Influencers are master content creators, they see the world through a lens that sparks enthusiasm by their followers. A great influencer will happily develop content ideas that meet your objectives, while also reinforcing both brands. This content will put a fresh spin on your brand.

Collaboration magic happens when two brands align in such a way that it seems absolutely natural. Collaborating WITH the  influencer on content as opposed to directing or scripting the content enables to you leverage the influencer’s own brand while also enhancing yours.

Know FTC Guidelines

Make sure to review FTC guidelines on disclosure. This is especially important because it’s almost always the brand who the FTC investigates. The brand has more skin in the game, so the brand needs to be the enforcer.

 

securing speaking engagements

There are only so executive speaking spots in a given year.

Securing an executive speaking engagement is an honor, so if your  PR and marketing plan includes pitching trade show organizers, it’s never too early to get your house in order. Every conference opens calls for speakers differently and every conference accepts pitches differently, but if you get your house in order submitting for speaking engagements will become exciting and fun!

1. Do Your Homework 

Before you submit your industry speaking pitch, take a look at the speaker FAQ page, if one doesn’t exist, send an email to the conference organizer asking what topics they’re seeking and what parameters you should consider before submitting.  As a former conference organizer, it always surprised me how many questions we received which were readily available in the FAQ; alternatively, when I received questions, it was always a welcomed opportunity to hear what was unclear and how we could improve.

Review past speakers and talk to attendees at the conference, if you haven’t been yourself. Find out who the most successful presenters were and why the audience loved them so much. Review the conference hashtag and see who people talked about and why. Take a look at relevant magazine headlines, where are the emerging industry stories and can you tap into that in your presentation? Before you start pitching, do your travel budget because most executive speakers pay their own way.

Take a servant-leadership mentality and really think about who the audience is and how you can add real value to their business.

2. Consider the Organizer’s Needs

During your pitch, it’s not about you. It’s about how you can add value to the conference organizer and attendees. Take stock of your recent PR wins and use them as social proof. Conference organizers want to be sure their limited presentation spots are filled by people attendees want to hear from. The conference organizer’s job is to get people in the door, enough people to make exhibitors and sponsors thrilled by attendance – many people are so focused on promoting their key messages in the pitch they forget about the audience when they’re submitting for a speaking engagement.

Regardless, when you’re developing your pitch, don’t shy away from pointing out how your topic is timely and relevant to the specific audience the conference is trying to attract and why the attendees will be thrilled by your presentation. Articulating how you will drive traffic to the conference will also get an organizer’s attention.

Help the organizer visualize how you can help them, point out your strengths:

Conference organizers are also drowning in applications. Sifting through speaker applications is often like sifting through resumes, it’s monotonous, so speak directly to the conference organizer’s needs in your blurb. For this reason, some conferences are largely pay-to-play, speaker slots are primarily reserved for industry heavy hitters and sponsors or those willing to pay the conference organizer a fee. In that case, you have three choices: become an industry heavy-hitter by using the many PR and content avenues open to you, sponsor the conference, or blow them out of the water the other 4 tips presented here. Want to guarantee a speaker spot? Do all of it.

 

3. Develop Your Distinct Point of View

Be a Bold Thinker

Be bold, be current and don’t be afraid to take a strong stand on an industry or cultural topic. A strong point of view and a strong title will go along way. If you’re unwilling to take a bold stand, then think about sharing an insightful case study that transparently digs deep into what went right and what went wrong.

Be an Expert:

Share your distinct expertise, give the attendees something no one else can give them. Develop 1-2 memorable, quotable statements which you’ll use in your pitch and during your presentation that illustrates your distinct point of view. Show the conference organizers that you’ll have the attendees talking about your presentation.

4. Get Your Assets In Order

Because executive speaking engagements are competitive, make sure your house is in order.  One key element is all your public-facing assets. You might say that you don’t have time for this, but if you look around, the conference speakers who always get the gig do these things – even CEOs.

Social Media

For example, kick it into gear on social media. Many conference organizers will look at your personal and cannabis brand’s social media to get a sense of how engaged you are with the cannabis industry and whether the industry views your CEO or brand as leading in some way. Use your social media strategically and be sure to engage your audience.

Company Website

Create a speaker’s page on your blog with sample topics and presentations you’re prepared to give. Social media is another straightforward way for conference organizers to differentiate executive speakers.

Content

Make sure your headshot is professional, develop some industry blogs for your website that reflect your thought leadership. Use LinkedIn for those pieces as well.  For these pieces, you can think of quality over quantity.

Do a Google search on your name so you know what the conference organizer will see when they look you up,  take the necessary steps to improve the search in advance of your speaking pitches.

If you’re new to speaking at the conference, be prepared to submit a video of yourself presenting on your topic and a letter of recommendation from a communications professional or industry professional.

5. Be Human & Personalize

Speaking at industry conferences is an honor, and yes, a great opportunity. Remember to be authentic and genuine in your speaker pitch. Make your pitch empathetic and about the industry and the organizer, show that you really understand that it’s your job to make your presentation great, not the other way around.

public relations success

Plan for public relations success with these critical 3 tips

A little advance planning can make all the difference between public relations success and public relations frustration.  Public relations is increasingly important for companies and there’s nothing like a new year to give your brand and company a fresh image. PR firms are here to be your partners in success. As you pull levers for world domination next year, lean on your  PR firm so that together you’re on the same page about how you mutually define success. Here are 3 tips for working with a PR firm or formulating your in-house PR plan.

1.Determine Your Measurable PR Goals for Public Relations Success

PR success comes when there’s absolute clarity about goals. Your PR goals should match your business goals; make sure your PR firm knows how you’re REALLY defining success. Don’t hide your perspective from your PR firm and expect that the results you want will magically appear.  Make sure your  PR goals align and support your activations, product launches, and partnerships.

PR and marketing goals and KPIs should be:

  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant

The two most important considerations when defining your goals is ensuring that they are measurable and ambitious enough to be significant, but attainable with your budgets and efforts.

Measuring your PR and marketing efforts should include a baseline so you can track improvement. If you don’t have a baseline, you may need to evaluate how you will measure success and it may require something like an industry average or an industry survey. At Avaans, we include a number of KPIs during our monthly reviews, these KPIs are tracked the same way every month, so over time, we can really pinpoint what works and what doesn’t for each brand. We’re completely transparent with our clients about how we came to those KPIs and why they’re important for us to track internally for cannabis PR success.

Attainability is an important KPI. If you’re shooting for the stars, make sure all your assets are in place to support that goal. Assets also include time and brainpower.

There should be KPIs for marketing and KPIs for PR that have crossover. For example, new website visitors, inbound links to your website, both of those metrics will be impacted by both PR and marketing initiatives.  Sometimes we hear people say that they don’t want to give PR and Marketing joint KPIs because they feel it reduces responsibility, but when your KPIs are aligned with your overall business goals that encourages your PR firm and marketing agency to work together to accomplish the company’s mission-ultimately it’s not about pitting one set of KPIs against one another, it’s about achieving success and measuring respective impact.

2. Define Your Target Audiences

As a PR firm who works with highly ambitious brands, we often hear goals like “We want to be featured in XYZ publication.

When a single piece of press helps secure millions of dollars in funding, throwing all your efforts at securing that press is worth almost any PR and activations fees. That’s a great goal, so consider who your ultimate audience really is for any given publication so you can set yourself up for  public relations success. Many times, public relations  success is defined by share of voice within a specific audience.

Your audiences may be in the B2B space, they may be  consumers, they may be investors or partners. Be clear on who you’re trying to reach with each KPI and objectives-share your objectives with your PR firm, so they’re clear on where you REALLY want to be.

Sometimes earning national press even when you’re only in a few markets is strategic as the audience is potential investors or industry partners who like knowing that the brands they’re partnering with have enough clout to secure national coverage.  Alternatively, you may want to show that your brand is well received by multiple consumer types, in which case you may wish to have press in particular interest verticals.

3. Plan for Public Relations Success and Budget Your Activities

Public relations is an incredibly broad level to pull. Within your budget, you should be allocating events, sponsorships, social media, media relations, and asset/owned media development.

Chances are, in order to reach your pr and cannabis marketing goals, you’ll need to execute on some initiatives.

And, you’ll need a corresponding budget for these activities. A good marketing and public relations firm can help you allocate your budget to match your objectives.

At the very least they can tell you how to best allocate an over-all budget or at least inform you of best practices and first steps. A great example of this is events – events can be held for all sorts of objectives, from customer appreciation to media awareness. While both of those objectives MIGHT turn into earned media, it’s important you consider what it will take to earn press coverage on an event, before you spend the money on an event. Sponsorships are another area where the activation is an important marketing objective, but PR may be able to help you define some ways to use your sponsorship in a way that improves your industry image or earns you media coverage.

Need Some More Direction? Give Us a Call

Hire in-house PR or a PR agency?

Emerging or growing brands often find themselves asking should I hire in-house or use a PR agency?

They’re asking themselves this question against a wild backdrop and volatile marketplace. But even during corrections, thousands of businesses are finding their footing and growing. It truly is the wild, wild, west in right now. The reason executives are asking themselves this question is because regardless of lay-offs and investment size, what both these businesses also have in common are some enormous plans that require PR and marketing.

Many companies have concerns about hiring agencies, they worry about finding the right PR agency, they worry about disclosure to people outside the company; they worry about failure. Those are legitimate concerns, many of those same concerns can be an issue with employees, but with an agency, they can be addressed with strategic questions and planning, and taking a little time to get to know your potential pr agency. And the good news is that the best agencies seem to know one another. If you find a great marketing agency or a great branding agency, chances are, they know a PR firm they like and trust.

In-House PR Advantages

Proximity

If you like having someone to bounce ideas off on a whim, in-house PR teams offer that flexibility more than PR agencies. PR agencies are typically a little more formal about meetings and goal-setting.

Cross-Departmental Integration

As companies and brands grow, it’s often great to have someone in-house who formalizes internal communications and ensures other departments are considering PR implications.

Agency Management

If you’re managing multiple agencies, like a marketing agency and a public relations agency, having an in-house point person is a great advantage. Agencies will often work together, but someone needs to ensure the brand’s objectives are always at the forefront.

But what are the practical business reasons for hiring an agency over an in-house team for brands?

Cost-Effective

A single hire’s salary can cost you more than an agency, and that single hire, because they are human, has limitations. Agencies specialize in providing you with the team of specialists you need when you need them. Add this to the fact that you won’t be paying benefits, payroll taxes, and health insurance, and it adds up to savings for both big brands and startups.

Think about it, in addition to your CMO and/or a Communications Officer, who will each need a manager and team, including a media relations specialist, a content writer, a social media manager, a graphic designer, and a multitude of marketing and listening tools which can all easily add up to $400,000 or more, plus benefits.

Plus, if something dramatic happens, it’s also usually less expensive to separate from an agency. Many PR agencies, including us, have a separation agreement in the contract that spells out the process if something radically changes, so it’s a reasonably straightforward process that brings peace of mind to executives in this volatile time.

The IRS Sees PR Agencies As an Expense

Agencies streamline payroll AND they are also a straight business expense.  Talk to your CPA about what makes the most sense for your business.

PR Agency Superpower: Scaleability

Think of your agency as your expansion team. In addition to receiving top-notch strategy and planning, you’ll also have access to team members who are in the thick of it and can give a point of view from the front lines too. When you have a team of people, it’s easier to tap into insights and trends that you might otherwise miss. But it’s also important to note that when you hire a cannabis PR firm or a cannabis marketing firm you’ll get a team of professionals who can more easily scale up during launches or big campaigns.

Even if you do decide to take certain elements in-house, your agency continues to serve you with perspective and resources that support your in-house team. For example, many brands want a PR expert in-house for a multitude of reasons, especially corporate communications and investor relations. But your PR executive still needs a team to help execute, especially in the area of media relations. Few in-house communications executives are actively pitching and engaging with journalists as often as our team is, our media relations team is a top-notch time saver for in-house PR teams.

Seeing the Forest Through The Trees

It’s easy to lose perspective when there’s a lot going on. An agency can provide additional listening and strategy insights you might not have considered. Having a team that has your back and isn’t bogged down in your office politics can really keep things moving along.

In-house team members tend to be front-line advocates internally. And that’s a really important role, especially if you’re trying to build a culture as many brands are. But those day-to-day tasks, meetings, and internal cajoling tend to make consistent outward-looking perspectives difficult. Use your agency to bring you a consistent overall vision of the marketplace and strategies that will set you apart for the long run. Look for agencies with whom you can have open and collaborative dialogue to get the most out of your agency.

Get to Work Fast!

The right agency can get to work much faster than onboarding an employee.  Agencies have a client on-boarding process that will be systematic and strategic because they want to get to work too. You won’t spend your time showing someone where the coffee maker is, you’ll spend your time reviewing strategy and goals.

Access To The Latest Technology & Tools

You pay a fair share for platforms and services that are critical to your business. So do agencies. We have top-notch monitoring, analytics, and communications platforms – you get access to those without adding those non-critical operating costs to your bottom line.

Hiring a great PR firm

What Should You Really Be Look For In A PR Firm?

 

We know, hiring a PR firm can be daunting. With increasing frequency, we’re hearing stories from  colleagues who have experienced “bad PR.” What should you ask before hiring a PR firm?

We truly believe many of these stories are due to client and agency were a mismatch, rather than a “bad PR firm”. Taking a deeper look at PR before hiring them can save you money, but most importantly, time.  Much of this can be attributed to the vast distinctions with how PR agencies operate and handle their clients. The intention of this piece is to provide you with questions we would be asking OUR PR firm before we hired them, and why those questions are important. Also, consider these “6 great questions you can ask us before hiring Avvans PR”

6 Questions to Ask Before Hiring Your Next PR Firm

 

Do You Understand Our Product?

Ask yourself how important a baseline understanding of your product or industry is to your overall communications. We’ve heard story after story of people unhappy with their PR firm because their PR firm doesn’t understand an emerging industry’s regulations or a technology. Understanding the industry isn’t just important from a regulatory and technical perspective, it’s also the ability to monitor relevant news, understand what’s relevant (and what isn’t) and move quickly. Now, that’s not to say that a beauty PR can’t handle B2B PR for the industry, but expect to educate your firm.

What tradeshows and conferences has your team attended?
Does your PR firm understand what makes your product distinct within your industry?
What publications are writing about your vertical?

Before Hiring a PR Firm, Establish Clearly Defined Ways of Measuring Success for PR

Most companies today want consistent placement, strategic oversight, and outstanding communication. But what else? In a mature, less regulated industry, a PR firm typically works with multiple other firms from branding to experiential to an ad agency.

PR is THE leading brand trust and awareness tool.

In addition to earned media, companies should be looking at additional metrics for PR such as SEO value. Website traffic, brand mentions, brand name reach, and even share of voice are all KPIs that are relevant, depending on the overall strategy. Your PR firm should be ready and able to provide those kinds of metrics to you on a monthly basis. Changes in public perception or decreased sales cycle are also metrics with which PR can support. If you’re measuring your PR firm against KPIs like this, work with your PR firm to set a baseline and a reasonable timeframe.

Is the Fee Structure Fair & Does It Make Sense?

Most PR firms work on a retainer, so make sure you have an understanding of what’s included in your retainer?

Does the firm charge for wire releases?
Is branded content included, and if so, does that extend to graphic design?
Is there a markup on expenses incurred by the PR agency and if so, what is it?
Are off-site activations included?
How are hours tracked?

There’s no single way to manage a retainer, so asking questions like this upfront will give you a deeper understanding. Be fearless about asking these questions, after all, you’re the client. You should expect a rationale that isn’t arbitrary. While you may view this as a negotiation opportunity, be wary of cutting the budget to the point where your brand isn’t on the radar daily. You want your PR firm engaged with your brand on a daily basis – make sure you’re getting that because the alternative often provides unsatisfactory results. A great PR firm will be transparent about their billing methods.  Financial terms form the foundation of your relationship with your PR firm. Get that right and find a balance that works for you and your PR firm.

Look for Good Personal Chemistry in Your PR Firm

While this one is tough to put on a spreadsheet, asking some tough questions will often reveal the quality of the chemistry. As an engaged client, you should be working with your cannabis PR experts regularly and you REALLY want that process to be enjoyable. Make sure your company culture meshes well with your cannabis PR firm’s value system.  Teams who like one another, work better together. If you’re not gelling with someone in the first call, chances are, that’s not going to change.

Compatability breeds productivity and results.

Before Hiring Your Next PR Firm, Consider: Location, Location, Location

Before you start narrowing down your PR firms, decide how important location is to you. We think having account presence in major journalism markets is priority one, but if you’re the kind of person who needs to meet face-to-face once a week, acknowledge that and find a firm close to your base of operations and hire a PR firm that’s near by.

Flexibility AND Systems

Pay close attention to the systems your PR firm uses and also take notice of their flexibility.

For starters, there should also be a clearly defined exit clause in the contract.

Who owns content?
How will the PR firm handle future press inquires when/if the engagement ends?
What is the cancelation agreement?

Your PR should have systems and processes in place, but those systems and processes should also be nimble enough to manage the PR world. For example, getting a press release right is exceptionally important, but it shouldn’t take your PR firm a week to write it. You should be able to review the first draft within hours on an emergency or breaking news circumstance. On the other hand, there should be a consistent drum beat and strategy behind media relations.  Which bring us to:

A Strategic Approach That Makes Sense

Before hiring, your  PR firm should be able to articulate an approach and strategy that makes sense to you. While credible PR firms won’t reveal details about clients, they should be able to articulate some case studies of  PR strategies and why they worked. For example, provide an experience that required a decision to respond to industry news. When, where and how you respond to breaking industry news is determined by your brand strategy, BUT your PR should be able to articulate a strategy and when/why it worked. Your PR firm should have some strategic storylines and outlines in mind for your brand, which proves they’ve done a little research. Even if they aren’t perfectly on-brand, at least you’re starting with a strategy which is better than starting from zero.