Inside PR and PRSA present: Silver Anvil Awards Finalists – Part 1

This week, Inside PR and PRSA present a special show where Martin interviews two Silver Anvil Awards finalists.

Scott Brooks is vice president, marketing and communications for IBM Research. He talks to us about Watson, the computer-contestant on Jeopardy that defeated two of the show’s best players. Watson’s technology is based on the concept of  ‘automatic question answering’.  A team of 25 people worked for years to improve the ability of computers to answer questions.  When the communications folks saw the initial results, they realized the PR potential to build awareness and contacted Jeopardy to see if they might be interested in a man-machine competition.

Getting an early start and narrowly targeting their prelaunch outreach was one of the strategies the communications group used  to tell the complex story in long form. About 18 months before the matches, they approached three media influencers, New York Times magazine to write a feature, PBS TV’s Nova to produce a documentary, and author Stephen Baker to write a book.  The three had open access to Watson throughout its development.

The biggest communications risk IBM faced was presenting Watson live on television and not knowing what the outcome would be. Brooks said they made big decisions early on that were game changers including what to name the computer, what kind of voice it would have and what it would look like on stage.  Watson was actually named for for first president of IBM.

Their strategy paid off and Watson garnered prelaunch awareness and much traditional and social media coverage during the matches and after the win.

Kari Mather works as a senior communications consultant in corporate communications at Allstate Insurance Company. (Disclosure Allstate Canada is a Thornley Fallis client though we don’t work with Allstate U.S.)

The company created the Allstate Foundation, a not-for-profit organization, to fund cause-related programs in support of safe and vital communities, safe driving and ending domestic violence.

In this case, they helped the community of Tuscon Arizona build a playground in honor of Christina-Taylor Green, the young girl born on 9/11, who, along with 10 others sadly lost their lives during the shooting that injured Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Not long after the tragedy, the Allstate Foundation learned the community wanted to commemorate Christina’s short life, stepped forward and granted funding to build a playground at Christina’s elementary school and ensuring her classmates were involved throughout the project.

In addition to the funds, Allstate Foundation was active throughout the design and build, brought in more than 100 volunteers and stood side by side with the community to help bring the Christina-Taylor Green Little Hands playground to life.

What could have been a local story was picked up by local and national media and it became an important milestone in the company’s history as they were able to involve the community, agencies and employees in a cause they really believed in.

This year’s Silver Anvil awards will be presented in New York City on June 7, 2012. Inside PR will be there.

********************************************

Send us an email or an audio comment to insideprcomments@gmail.com, join the Inside PR Facebook group, leave us a comment here, message us @inside_pr on Twitter, or connect with Gini DietrichJoe Thornley, and Martin Waxman on Twitter.

Our theme music was created by Damon de SzegheoRoger Dey is our announcer.

This week’s episode was produced by Kristine Simpson.

Inside PR 2.97: Jazzing it up with Counselors Academy

This week, Gini, Joe and I are all together at PRSA Counselors Academy’s annual conference for agency owners/leaders in New Orleans (and we all had our parts to play…). The theme is ‘Jazz Up Your Agency: Stylings from the Best in the Biz’ and we thought we’d recap our first day and a half.

Joe talks about the opening keynote – a one-two punch featuring Gini and Jay Baer. They interviewed each other and offered a primer in content marketing and how agency owners can build trust and their businesses by integrating certain aspects of their personal and professional lives. We may think otherwise, but we get clients based on people and not the company name.

In addition to an engaging talk, the attendees all received a copy of Gini and Geoff Livingston’s new book, Marketing in the Round.

We continued our focus on content marketing with our second keynote, Marcus Sheridan, a hilarious, in your face presenter, who transformed his pool business into a content marketing powerhouse that used the long tail of search to generate sales results. His takeaway is to think about all the questions your customers are asking and write content that offers helpful answers.

As an event geared to business owners,  Counselors’ other focus is to provide practical sessions that improve the way you run your agency. These range from profitability and processes to understanding and managing people and creating a culture. Joe did a roundtable on how to get your staff thinking about the business of the business and turning them into an army of entrepreneurs, based on Jen Prozek’s book and her 2011 keynote.

Next year, the conference will be in June 2013 in Austin Texas and Dana Hughens is the chair.  If you’re an agency owner or leader, we think you’ll find a lot of value and encourage you to check it out.  In the meantime, you can get a flavor of Counselors Academy from the Sharypic photowall.

********************************************

Send us an email or an audio comment to insideprcomments@gmail.com, join the Inside PR Facebook group, leave us a comment here, message us @inside_pr on Twitter, or connect with Gini DietrichJoe Thornley, and Martin Waxman on Twitter.

Our theme music was created by Damon de SzegheoRoger Dey is our announcer.

This week’s episode was produced by Kristine Simpson.

Inside PR 2.96: Lee Odden’s Optimize

At the recent Digital Impact Conference in New York, roving reporter, Martin Waxman, caught up with Lee Odden. Lee, as most of you know, is the CEO of TopRank and the author of new book, Optimize.

Lee has been talking to PR professionals for a long time about how to diversify not only their thinking, but also their skill sets.

As a side note: I (Gini) met Lee for the first time in Orlando at the PRSA conference last year. And he described to me how, many years ago, he was talking about search engine optimization at PR conferences and everyone looked at him with blank stares. He said this past year was the first time many were jumping out of their seats to ask questions about how to incorporate SEO into their content and storytelling.

During his interview with Martin, he discusses how he’s now pushing our industry to think about the why instead of the how.

He begins by discussing his content marketing trilogy, which is: Where do your audiences look for things, how is it that they consume content, and what are their preferences for sharing.

He goes on to say, of course, sales is part of every objective, but when it’s a content program, your goals should also include gaining a social share or a referral, which leads to new audiences who buy.

Optimize is about how to approach reaching particular audiences by thinking about what they care about, their pain points, and their goals. This forms an editorial approach that ties together marketing and public relations.

Listen to Lee talk more about this…and his soothing voice that will make you a fan for life.

********************************************

Send us an email or an audio comment to insideprcomments@gmail.com, join the Inside PR Facebook group, leave us a comment here, message us @inside_pr on Twitter, or connect with Gini DietrichJoe Thornley, and Martin Waxman on Twitter.

Our theme music was created by Damon de SzegheoRoger Dey is our announcer.

This week’s episode was produced by Kristine Simpson.

Inside PR 2.95: Richard Binhammer on social business

This week Martin Waxman, Gini Dietrich and Joseph Thornley speak with Richard Binhammer at Dell about social business, moving forward and the roll of PR firms. We want to thank all those who send in their comments. Last week, Petra Opelova commented on last week’s episode. She agrees with Gini that webpages are still very significant. She also liked Matthias Lufkens’ approach of treating our customers as your friends. Adapting this approach not only humanizes your customers but also humanizes your company in the eyes of your customer.

As an early pioneer of social media, Richard was at Dell six years ago when Dell first came alive to social media. Today he is a director of Dell social media campaigns. Richard Binhammer was the second keynote at the PRSA’s Digital Conference. Joe caught up with Richard just before he went on stage to discuss social business and the role of PR firms in corporate social media accounts.

After the interview, Joe mentions that the relationship between business and PR firm is more than just tactical, the businesses are smarter and know how to use social media. As PR firms we need to support businesses from a strategy perspective.

Gini mentions that PR firms are being hired for different reasons today compared to five years ago. PR firms used to own relationships, especially with reporters. Today, we no longer own that relationship and we now have to redefine ourselves. With the social web, crisis is an emerging threat to businesses. PR agencies should be able to help on strategic crisis management.

Martin thinks that PR professionals need to acquire new skills. For example: amature video production, audio production for podcasting, and more. This will help us create, tell and distribute stories.

If you are out and about travelling, don’t forget to check out the Inside PR team in a couple weeks at PRSA’s Counsellors Academy in New Orleans.

********************************************

Send us an email or an audio comment to insideprcomments@gmail.com, join the Inside PR Facebook group, leave us a comment here, message us @inside_pr on Twitter, or connect with Gini DietrichJoe Thornley, and Martin Waxman on Twitter.

Our theme music was created by Damon de SzegheoRoger Dey is our announcer.

This week’s episode was produced by Kristine Simpson.