To Be, or Not to Bee?

By Jennifer Kuenzer, TrizCom PR

I am a staunch proponent of the Oxford comma. I am rabid about the proper use of their/ there/ they’re; too/ to/ two; and you’re/ your. I bristle when I see “at” at the end of a sentence. But I do not call myself a “grammar queen” or some other variant – because I work for a company that employs a terrific editor (Hi, Allison!) who looks at my work and tells me where I have made errors according to the AP Style Guide, the resource used by the national media, as well as more general grammatical errors I incurred.

 

Even without being a grammar queen, I have always felt using proper language and grammar is important. I read Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss when it came out in 2003 and applauded almost every page. But I am not grammar or punctuation-perfect and still find myself mixed up on occasion. So many rules! I often turn to grammar websites. There are many, and while they do serve similar purposes, they communicate in different tones. I thought I’d highlight a few of my favorites. Each of the following sites has something about them that sets them apart from the others. But all have the same goal in mind – making you a better writer. Because whether you are writing a casual blog or putting together a formal proposal for a client, grammar counts.

 

The New Yorker: Comma Queen

The New Yorker’s Mary Norris hosts a series of short videos, clearly titled and cleverly presented, on everything from when to use affect vs. effect to pronouns for your pets. For any professional who finds themselves stuck on a rule they forgot or never quite learned in the first place, Comma Queen is a great and entertaining way to refresh your knowledge base.

 

Grammar Girl

This award-winning site is incredibly accessible. You can find it on all the social media sites. You can subscribe to the RSS feed or the podcast. You can even download the Grammar Girl app on your phone. Mignon Fogarty is the magazine writer, technical writer and entrepreneur behind Grammar Girl. Her lessons are short, easy to recall, easily put into practice and aimed at making you a better writer.

 

Oxford Dictionaries

The Oxford Dictionaries website has an uncluttered, easy to navigate grammar section. It’s all there and right at your fingertips: grammatical terms, proper grammar explanations and handy grammar tips. Coupled with the dictionary and a synonym finder, it’s an invaluable one-stop resource.

 

Grammarly

Another award winner, Grammarly is a grammar platform that can check your documents in real time, offering not only corrections to spelling and grammar, but also word choice and style mistakes. There is also a plagiarism checker that compares your uploaded texts against over 8 billion documents. It’s no replacement for an editor (nothing is), but it is a solid tool that will help you improve your writing.

 

Edited by Allison, who deleted the Oxford commas according to the AP Style Guide. Sigh.

 

The Benefits of Interning During Spring Break

By Trina-Jo Pardo, TrizCom PR Intern

Jealousy and severe #FOMO come over you as you scroll through your Instagram. Pictures of tan bodies and foreign lands fill your friends’ news feeds while your spring break is filled with press releases and media contact lists. The sandy beaches and abundance of mai tais will still be there at the end of this semester, but your internship won't.

 

Here are some benefits of spending your spring break as an intern rather than as a tourist.

 

1.        More time in the office

Spending spring break at your internship allows you to devote more time to understanding the business without the distraction of school. It allows you to take on more responsibility and prove your worth to your employers.

2.        More for your portfolio

The additional week at your internship not only means more face time with your employer, but it also means more samples of work you can add to your professional portfolio.

3.        Get ahead in school

Weeknights spent in the dorm or home will give you time to focus on future projects or tests. While your friends are out of town, you can be getting ahead! Making spring break into a proactive workweek will lessen the stresses of the second half of the semester.

4.        Get ready for the real world

After graduation, unless you become a teacher, there is no such thing as “spring break.” You will acclimate yourself to work life more quickly by opting to work at your internship during spring break.

5.        Saves you and your parents money

Vacations and plane tickets can be expensive, especially around the spring break travel period. Opting out of a traditional spring break trip will save you some serious money and will also save you the time of planning a weeklong trip. Plus, you can use the money you would have used for spring break for an even better summer vacation. If your parents are your primary source of income, I’m sure they will thank you for deciding to stay in town for the break by using that cash for a great graduation gift.

Changing your screensaver image can decrease those spring break blues.

Changing your screensaver image can decrease those spring break blues.

Don’t have an internship? No problem! This week is the perfect time to research and apply for possible internships. It’s also a great week to shadow a person who has a job that interests you. You’ll be able to see the daily routine and the ins and outs of what it takes to get the job done!

Spring break is ultimately about you and how you choose to spend your time. Whether this is your first spring break as a college student or your last, make it count and have fun!

Trina-Jo Pardo is an intern at TrizCom PR and a senior at Southern Methodist University.

Stealing Focus

By Dana Cobb, TrizCom PR

HIYA, ONLINE BLOG WORLD! I don’t know about most of you, but I am woefully unsophisticated when it comes to technology. For being in the field of communications, something about technology befuddles me.

What I do know is what I hate. Pop-ups. Pop-ups that steal focus. It’s like being photo-bombed right on your computer screen. A bit of trivia for you: “Stealing focus” is actually the technical term for when a program window spontaneously appears in front of others.       

It’s annoying, intrusive and literally can slow operating systems to a halt. Stealing focus came to the forefront with the introduction of Windows XP in 2001. It has been determined that focus stealing can be due to malicious programming by developers or buggy software or operating system behaviors that need to be fixed.

Roger from Fix It Fast Computer in Dallas told me that “It’s not possible for Windows to block all programs from stealing focus and still work properly. The goal here is to identify the program that shouldn’t be doing this and then figure out what to do about it.”

Now I’m not going to get all esoteric here on a blog, but that seems like some universally good advice.

You see, the implications of stealing focus are often not felt by the stealing but rather the audience.

We, as consumers, citizens and somewhat intelligent human beings, have seen focus stealing become rampant through the media that we utilize every day on behalf of – and sometimes, in spite of – the client or organization we work for. We are competing with malicious “programs” and buggy “software” (or in our case “who”) trying to steal focus.

But here’s the thing:

You don’t need to steal focus if you can just arrange for someone to give it to you.

Yup. It’s that simple.

You don’t need to steal focus if you can just arrange for someone to give it to you.

PR is Not a Luxury in Your Business Budget

By Jeff Cheatham, Senior Account Manager at TrizCom PR

Ask almost any small-to-medium sized business owner about advertising and you’re likely to hear, “We have to advertise or we won’t succeed!” Then ask that same owner about budgeting for public relations. “PR? That’s for big companies who need hot-shots to get them out of a jam every once in a while.”

Really?

The existing narrative that hiring a public relations agency is a luxury, akin to treating yourself to a spa day, is harmful to businesses seeking trust and engagement among their target audiences. Study after study confirms that a well-crafted and executed public relations campaign is far more accepted that paid advertising attempts.

What a Spa Day Looks Like. Not PR.

What a Spa Day Looks Like. Not PR.

In perhaps one of the most powerful citations, the group inPowered conducted a Nielsen-backed study in 2014 on the topic of the decision-making process in consumers. Its findings indicated that PR is 90 percent more effective than traditional advertising. The reasoning comes down to endorsement. Consumers are aware that ads are a paid quid-pro-quo. But a well-placed and glowing article about a business and what it has to offer in the pages of a respected media outlet reads like a tacit testimonial.

Let’s look at a quick real-world example of advertising vs. public relations:

This billboard ad I saw on my morning commute just told me to go buy a Casper Mattress.

This billboard ad I saw on my morning commute just told me to go buy a Casper Mattress.

Now let’s look at what a well-developed public relations campaign message looks like.

Did Business Insider just tell me I should buy a Casper Mattress?

Did Business Insider just tell me I should buy a Casper Mattress?

When you accept the reasoning behind why public relations encourages more trust among your target audience, it’s easy to see why brands clamor for rankings with J.D. Power & Associates. If I say I’m awesome, I’m simply bragging. If J.D. Power & Associates says I’m awesome, that’s actual proof.

One of the most eloquent examples of advertising vs. public relations is outlined in the book, The Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PR, by Al and Laura Ries. One of their central themes states that advertising is like the wind, but PR is like the sun. Based on one of Aesop’s Fables, the sun and wind enter a challenge to see which has the most influence in trying to get a traveler to remove his coat. You can guess what happens. The harder the wind blew, the tighter the traveler clung to his coat. When the sun shone, the traveler removed it. The lesson for advertisers that the authors provide with this parable is that you can’t force your way into a prospect’s mind.

Advertising often results in resistance. If you disagree, I’ll assume you love to read pop-up ads and watch auto-play videos when you surf the web. If you click through or exit the ads to read the content you intended to do before you were interrupted, it’s likely you’ll see a fine example of public relations work.

Establishing a budget for public relations shouldn’t be seen as a luxury spend for your overall communications budget. Brands are discovering more and more that their customers seek trust, credibility, proof, engagement and a personal connection from the products and services they buy. A public relations campaign checks off each of these five boxes. Traditional advertising doesn’t meet a single one.

If you’re a small-to-medium sized business looking to increase awareness and visibility among your core audiences, it may be time to discard old notions and begin thinking about the utilization of a positive PR campaign of your own.

Because you can’t buy your way into a J.D. Power & Associates ranking.

Responding to Customer Complaints on Social Media

By Karen Carrera, TrizCom PR

This post originally appeared on SocialCentiv.com

 Everyone loves a social media train wreck. Take Amy’s Baking Company. Their self-induced social media nightmare began after super chef Gordon Ramsey refused to finish filming a “Kitchen Nightmares” episode with the owners. Amy’s actually had a track record of raging against the dissatisfied, but they blew it out of the water after the Ramsey incident went public, attacking, on Facebook, “reddits and yelpers” [sic] as trash, pathetic and weak. The page is still there if you want a real lesson on how NOT to engage with customers!

Earlier this year, Comcast once again made headlines after sending cable bills addressed to “A_ _ hole Brown” and “Super B____ Bauer” less than a month apart. People came forward with similar derogatory name changes from the mega cable company (Ars Technica Consortium), and the incidents created a media and social media firestorm.

The company apologized, but after their own bad experiences with Comcast, customers were cheering the public scolding from the sidelines. To be fair, Comcast has been Tweeting @comcastcares for years now, but it’s really hard to protect a reputation when customer service reps lob huge grenades.

No matter how good a company is, at some point they are going to have a customer relations crisis. So when a customer gets angry on social media, how do you make lemonade?

ENGAGE, ENGAGE, ENGAGE.

Social media has redefined customer service. And while plenty of companies want to put their head in the sand to either ignore – or worse, abuse – unhappy customers, progressive companies are taking the opportunity to engage those customers and recover their business.

Believe it or not, complainers are actually doing you a favor! Stats show that for every customer who bothers to complain, 26 other customers remain silent. (HelpScout) So it’s more than worth it to win back every vocal dissatisfied customer!

Forrester research shows that major brands aren’t just adopting social customer service, they’re making it a major priority: 67 percent of companies believe that social customer service is the most pressing short-term priority for the contact center.

But if your business defines a social media strategy as a one-dimensional calendar of content to post, Tweet or share, you’re missing the boat. Like anything, it’s about engaging your customers with a proactive plan for how to deal with unhappy people.

Some companies get this and some don’t. Companies that don’t understand the role marketing and PR play in an organization probably won’t understand the nuance of engaging over social. Companies that don’t understand why the voice of a company – visually and verbally – should be consistent across all bands of customer communication, including employee interactions, probably won’t understand social.

Here are some interesting stats cited on Business 2 Community that give us a peek into the social stumbles that businesses take:

90 percent of enterprises say they use social media to respond to customer service inquiries – yet 58 percent of consumers who have Tweeted about a bad experience never received a response from the offending company.

93 percent of shoppers’ buying decisions are influenced by social media – because 90 percent trust peer recommendations. But only 14 percent trust advertisements.

Only 20 percent of CMOs use social networks to engage and collaborate with customers.

KEEP IT SIMPLE.

Lululemon does a nice job handling complaints on its website. Whenever an unhappy reviewer gives a thumbs down to a product, the sportswear store keeps its response consistent, sincere and simple:

When a colleague got caught sitting on the runway for two hours on a Southwest airplane, she took to Facebook. Because Southwest understands customer engagement, they do a great job monitoring comments on their social channels. Immediately, my colleague heard back:

SO WHAT DO YOU SAY?

There’s a formula to social media response:

Make it fast. Listen to what’s being said on social media and respond quickly. According to Edison research, nearly half of customers complaining on social channels expect a 60-minute response time. People constantly monitor their social media accounts and expect the rest of the world to do the same. Gartner found that failure to respond via social channels can lead to a 15 percent increase in the churn rate for existing customers.

Make it appropriate. Make sure your tone is appropriate, and don’t try to defend. Just say you’re sorry to hear it and that your company strives for [insert company promise].

Ask. For a second chance, that is. Once you’ve said you’re sorry for the experience, ask for the chance to solve the problem, and suggest how you will avoid future problems if necessary.

Go offline. If the customer is really angry or especially derogatory, ask to take the conversation offline. That way you can help them much less publicly.

And the final social media rule: Unless there is profanity or a threat, don’t delete a negative comment just because you don’t like it. It takes the authenticity – which drives your credibility – away from your page and makes you look like you’re hiding something. If you delete, your social community will call you out. Let others see your positivity, a consistent voice, and the proactive way you are willing to try to fix things.

TrizCom Client: Soulman’s Bar-B-Que Celebrates the Commander-In-Beef

PRESIDENTIAL HISTORY IS FULL OF BAR-B-QUE TRADITIONS

By Dana Cobb, TrizCom PR

Bar-b-que has been a longstanding tradition for holidays like the Fourth of July and Labor Day. Families and friends gather around a grill to enjoy ribs, brisket and sausage smothered in sauce. Many do not realize that, like America, bar-b-que has evolved over time as presidents pass down their traditions from one to another.

America’s love for bar-b-que began with our first president, George Washington. In a 1769 journal entry, he wrote, “Went in to Alexandria to a Barbecue and stayed all Night.” He attended and hosted several bar-b-ques from then on, passing down a tradition many of our leaders continued. The seventh president, Andrew Jackson, made bar-b-que a staple at presidential campaigns and is credited as the first to establish the Election Day bar-b-que.

Former President James K. Polk was not known as a bar-b-que supporter, but he was in power in 1845 when Texas was added to the Union. Without him, Texan bar-b-que would not be American. Former President Abraham Lincoln’s campaign rallies were usually at picnics with pit bar-b-qued turkey. Burgoo, a stew-like meal of meat and vegetables, often accompanied the turkey.

Former President Dwight Eisenhower was seen grilling at the White House on several occasions throughout his residency. He said he could eat steak every day of the week. At times, the public wrote to the White House inquiring about recipes for different sauces. He was delighted to pass on his tips and tricks.

Former President Lyndon Johnson became the most important representative for Texas bar-b-que. His caterer, Walter Jetton, fed 300 hungry mouths at the first bar-b-que state dinner. LBJ continued to host prominent leaders at the White House and his Texas ranch throughout his presidency, usually serving ribs and brisket.

Former President George H.W. Bush also preferred Texas bar-b-que. He hosted regular Sunday bar-b-ques on the White House Lawn. He passed the tradition down to his son, former President George W. Bush, when he served as president. President Bush had planned a bar-b-que on Sept. 11, 2001. The event was cancelled, and the meals were instead given to first responders at the Pentagon.

America’s newest president, Donald Trump, also enjoys some good bar-b-que. He surprised diners after a rally in Greensboro. He ordered a large chopped pork bar-b-que plate with slaw, hush puppies, French fries and sweet tea. It will be interesting to see if our current president will utilize bar-b-que at the White House during his presidency and if bar-b-que will continue to make its mark on American history in the years to come.

Reaching New Heights

By Maelyn Schramm, TrizCom PR Intern

I love to rock climb. I started climbing in high school. I wasn’t very good, but I did it for the thrill. I didn’t even understand how routes worked: that certain rocks were “on” – allowed to be used – and others were off. But I did it anyway.

In college, I began to get the hang of it. I learned the different levels of routes. I started to understand special skills, techniques and verbiage like “jugs” – holds with excellent grip – and “smear” – dragging your foot along the wall.

Post-college, I’ve climbed regularly for over a month straight now. I went all in and purchased a membership just a few days ago. Now I can climb whenever I want at an all-inclusive price per month. I’ve already seen great improvement and have been able to bump up to higher levels in routes. It makes me feel accomplished and confident.

Perhaps what I love most about climbing is the thought process, the strategy that goes into reaching the top. First, I analyze the wall. I assess the hand and foot holds, and what order I should go in. Second, I think about how I need to twist my body, stretch my arms, point my toes. Lastly, I dive in. I attack the wall, muster up strength, ignore my weakening muscles. I keep my eyes on the prize: the last hold, the very top. I sweat and grunt and even whimper. But the satisfaction of reaching the top is always worth it.

The way I climb translates into the way I write. First, I analyze the assignment. I assess the theme and voice I should use, and the paragraphs’ flow. Second, I think about my choice of words, the rhetorical devices I should incorporate into my article. Lastly, I dive in. I attack my writing, muster up knowledge, ignore feelings of insufficiency. I keep my eyes on the prize: finishing the very last sentence, receiving an OK from my superiors. I pause and furrow my brows and bite my lip. But the praise from my superiors is always worth it.

Crisis Social Media – You Need to Have a Plan

By Jo Trizila, President and CEO, TrizCom PR

Every business should have a crisis management plan and a social media crisis plan. The strategy will be similar but different tactics.

It can take a brand years to build its reputation, yet it can be destroyed in seconds.

It is not a matter of if your company/brand will face a crisis but rather when it will face a crisis. Preparation will either make or break your brand reputation. Nowadays, crises seem to happen, or rather break, online first and then spread to traditional media.

It really doesn’t matter, in my opinion, what the crisis scenario is: having a social and traditional plan in place is key. Just as a traditional crisis plan is never final, a social crisis plan is never final.

o    The crisis communication plan approach:

§    Anticipate

§    Prepare

§    Respond

§    Evaluate

 o   Social media crisis plans should include:

§    Identification of the social crisis team

§    Social spokesperson identified

§    Identify social crisis command center (this is key – if something happens to your headquarters, where you will be posting/responding from?)

§    Identify target audiences for various anticipated scenarios

§    Company “media policy” procedures and protocol (include: Social Communication Policy, Company Statement and Social Communications Process)

§    Response plan (who, what, when, where, how and situational assessment)

§    Social media asset inventory (what social channels do you have? where are the passwords kept?) – IMPORTANT: this also includes any prescheduled social posts you may have. (This happened in Texas last year. The Lt. Gov. had a prescheduled tweet “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” This tweet was sent out following the Florida gay nightclub attack. Many people believed that it was an attack against the LGBT community. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick claimed that it was prescheduled and pulled the tweet – though the damage had already been done.)

§    Preapproved company statements and key messages (internal & external) Keep in mind, transparency AND honesty are key. If you have been hacked, if someone made a mistake and/or if the fault is yours, OWN IT and admit it. Your followers recognize that mistakes happen, but when it takes a brand an hour to respond or if they hide/deny, they will come out looking like a brand that does not care.

§    Social media Crisis Communication check list

§    Social media monitoring tools inventory

§    Contacting process (who contacts who to advise on crisis)

§    Testing

§    Social media role playing

§    Sharing the social crisis plan to stakeholders

Educate yourself on what is an issue and what is a full blown crisis. So many crisis situations we work on started off as issues. Issues are much easier to control.

Speed is imperative. Since most crisis situations today break on social, brands have to respond quickly. The slower a brand is to respond to a crisis, the more assumptions are made and the faster it spreads.

Many times in crisis situations, brands either say way too much or say nothing at all. Know your messages/statements inside and out. Practice. Practice. Practice.

In addition to your crisis plan, companies should also develop a social media crisis plan. The message/statement does not change.

National Crisis – turn off Auto-Posts: see example above with Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick

Tell the truth. As Steve Jobs said, “To me a brand is one simple thing and that is trust.”

You have to practice/test your crisis social communication plan. Think of a fire drill. You have an exit plan that is circulated throughout the office, you practice your evacuation route a couple of times a year, and you revise accordingly. This is how brands should think of their crisis plan. Unfortunately, many businesses pay for a top notch plan and then put it on a shelf and don’t ever look at it until they need it.

At TrizCom PR, we specialize in issues and crisis communication. If you are in need of a plan or a reactive response please contact me, Jo Trizila. I answerer my phone and check email 24/7. jo@trizcom.com o) 972-247-1369 c) 214-232-0078.