The other day, a communicator from an iconic brand admitted he’d not had a chance to take care of a small item. Part of the reason is that his team is decimated. Nearly all of them are on furlough as a result of the pandemic’s nearly total grounding of business at the company he represents. At the moment, this capable senior communication executive literally is a PR army of one. Without warning, he has gone from overseeing a sizable team of professionals to having to do nearly everything himself. It’s “Undercover Boss” on steroids. While this is an extreme example, it has industrywide application. ‘Doing more with less’ was a popular refrain of PR pros prior to the pandemic. Now, it’s ubiquitous.
To get ready for the free, PRNEWS webinar on this topic, How to do More with Less: An Holistic Approach to PR, Aug. 18, 1-2 p.m. ET, we hunted for tips and tactics centering on being a PR army of one.
We started with content marketing, “a practice all communications professionals must master,” says Lana McGilvray, founding partner at Purpose Worldwide. Consensus was reached quickly. Instead of a time-consuming scattershot approach, strategic brand filters can help guide and streamline content creation.
“Make sure that your content matches the brand’s voice. Your audience can tell when content is inauthentic,” says Troy Blackwell, former press advance lead for the Kamala Harris Presidential Campaign. In addition, “Make sure it’s consistent, and that you view content as data,” he adds.
Aflac’s approach ensures its content matches brand values. Before creating content, Aflac insists it be relevant and interesting, but also that it have a specific goal. For content it places on the corporate Facebook page, Aflac designs it to enhance reputation.
Aflac partners with RepTrak, which analyzes reputation through seven dimensions of reputation, including citizenship, workplace and governance. “We make sure that each piece of content we post is in alliance with one of those dimensions,” says Jon Sullivan, Aflac's director of corporate communication. “We don’t post content solely to promote, but to influence consumers and stakeholders and improve our company reputation.” Aflac believes this content “moves the needle toward creating a better environment for sales,” Sullivan adds.
McGilvray’s an acolyte of Rebecca Lieb’s books on content marketing. She recommends beginning with "Content Marketing," which urges communicators to think like a publisher. Similar to the suggestions above, McGilvray advocates guidelines to ensure efficiency: identify your audience, connect its members to engaging content that solves their problems and institute metrics that enable you to measure your results.
Readers of this site know well of PRNEWS’s support of communication measurement. For the PR army of one, measurement keeps track of your effort, but more important it’s also critical in discerning operational insights.
One of the secrets of measurement is that it doesn’t require a big budget or a lot of time. “Google provides free, limited analytics as does Facebook, which provides limited analytics in terms of reach, shares and views,” Sullivan says.
Adds Blackwell, “Some of my favorite tools are free or low-cost.” Similar to Sullivan, Blackwell taps Google Analytics and says tools on Instagram and Twitter are “easy to read and digestible.” In addition, he mentions Muckrack, Talkwalker and Meltwater, which “lets you measure share of voice, website traffic, and estimate potential reach, which I love.”
A Good Investment
On the other hand, should a small PR army have a significant budget, a customized tool is a good investment. Aflac, for example, obtains actionable data for media relations and social media via a Meltwater tool. “We use it to determine share of voice, and sentiment for social and traditional media, as well as other data,” Sullivan says. The goal, he adds, is to understand content’s impact and “determine if we should continue what we are doing or make changes.”
Beyond Onclusive, McGilvray says she doesn’t have any favorites. She agrees, though, that you don’t need to be a big shop to measure. “You can pretty easily build a low-cost commtech stack and begin using and tying a bunch of solid, low-cost point solutions together to get the data, creation, distribution and measurement you need to be fairly dangerous,” she says.
So measurement is easy, right? With all the things a PR army of one needs to do, we don’t want to mislead you. In addition to too much and unreliable data, the need to use multiple tools is an issue. “We need a lot of things,” McGilvray says, “but most aren't [available in one tool], which makes it very difficult for us to unify our teams and the technologies to do our jobs as effectively as possible.”
McGilvray’s wish is for a best-in-class, easy-to-use, holistic operating system “that allows the tech to do the stuff humans really don't need to, so we can spend the majority of our working hours developing and then executing on the bright new ideas that break through.”
Daily Efficiency and WFH
Pandemic or not, efficiency is the PR army of one’s rallying cry. To ensure efficiency, Blackwell prepares a daily list that’s focused on time-sensitive things that need to be done that day. “Often when we create a list, we include things that can wait until tomorrow or the day after. I recommend managing tasks in a time-sensitive order.”
When working on a team, he likes the MOCHA model to make approval processes smoother. It helps team members “gain a clear idea of their role and whom to go to for approvals.”
Working in the Dog House
With PR teams, small and large, working from home, McGilvray and Sullivan emphasize pacing. “Most of us are sleeping at work or working from our pet's home," McGilvray jokes. "I've seen quite a few pets try to upstage entire meetings this week," she adds.
Seriously, this arrangement can seem overwhelming. “Many of us," McGilvray says," feel like we just can't get it all done, which is completely understandable.” Indeed, surveys show PR pros are working harder during the pandemic.
This why it’s important to pause. It’s “a tremendous relief during intense moments and a huge efficiency driver,” she says.
Break It Up
Sullivan urges taking a break between Zoom meetings. A brief break, he says, "enables me to refocus and make the best use of the time that I am putting into a project.” Don’t forget, in an office setting you have natural breaks; colleagues stop in to chat, or there’s a group activity that provides diversion. “I find myself stopping to walk outside or just petting the dog. That actually helps me manage my time better and avoid distractions.”
McGilvray has a similar philosophy. A break, she says, allows you to focus on challenges and opportunities ahead. “And, like an athlete, you think about how you are going to get there most successfully with the least amount of energy and waste.”
Note: McGilvray and Blackwell are among the scheduled speakers for PRNEWS' webinar How to do More with Less: A Holistic Approach to PR, Aug. 18, 1-2 p.m. ET . You can register for this Aflac-sponsored free session here.
Seth Arenstein is editor of PRNEWS and Crisis Insider. Follow him: @skarenstein