Timely PR Advice for BART Workers

A commuter at the BART Fremont station (Photo from iStockPhoto.com)

A commuter at the BART Fremont station (Photo from iStockPhoto.com)

I’m not taking sides in the fight between BART management and the BART union. As some of you know BART is a transit system that’s really popular here in the Bay Area. It gets people to work, school, events, shopping and other places. When I last took it, I was going to Golden State Warriors basketball game in Oakland. The Warriors won. It was a great night.

What’s happening now is that the BART union workers are threatening to strike unless they get an agreement for more pay and better benefits.

However, I’d say management is winning the publicity war so BART workers, step up your PR game a bit to get your point across better.

According to today’s San Jose Mercury News, BART union members argue that they are due a pay raise and haven’t had one in a few years. BART is doing well financially so they should be rewarded.

Management’s take on this is that the average blue collar BART worker makes $76,000. That’s a nice salary for someone who doesn’t need a college degree to get a job, even in the expensive Bay Area. So the PR team for management gets more points for getting this point across and in most stories I’ve heard or read about this issue.

I read an Op-Ed by a teacher a month ago who uses BART who made a lot less than the BART workers who might strike. She made at least $30,000 less than $76,000. She was furious that they were complaining about the high salary considering she had to get an undergraduate degree, master’s degree to do her job and, “Shame on them for complaining.” Her letter said she needed BART to get to work so, “Striking is bad,”

But then again, two wrongs don’t make a right. Just because teachers are underpaid, doesn’t meet hard working BART workers need to be underpaid.  When we took BART to the Warriors game, I noticed the workers did an awesome job so kudos to them.

I also heard a radio interview yesterday. A news talk show host was interviewing a BART worker who was fighting for better pay and benefits.  The worker who had a ton of time on air to say his peace could not articulate why they deserved more.

I was hoping to at least hear, “There’s a problem with the health insurance. Here’s what it is!” but no, all he did was complain endlessly about how goofy it was for someone PR person to make up that it costs $70 million when they walked off the job about a month ago.

He said, “That can’t be right. Who makes that stuff up?” Seriously, this is the union defense on a popular radio show? Most intelligent people can understand how much money a transit strike could cost the economy. I don’t need proof of the $70 million. In fact I could easily make a case that it’s higher.

I was really just trying to understand what’s so bad about the current package but instead they insulted people in my profession. Epic message fail on his part and waste of an interview to help the union’s case.

One reason BART management is doing better in the publicity wars is because of its great PR team.

So my advice to the soon-to-strike BART Workers is this.

Clearly articulate what is so unfair about your benefits package. Be very specific so that people understand with some proof and not just, “We need more.”

Make the message very short and add a number to it so that every media outlet picks it up, even in the shortest of stories. 

The net is quantify in a compelling manner to fight the “$76k for a blue collar worker” argument.

By the way, thanks for the nice ride to the Warriors game. BART rocks and keep up the great work.

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Michelle McIntyre is the president of Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC, based in Saratoga, CA. She does PR for high tech start-ups headquartered in California and Europe and is also the director of marketing communications for the Silicon Valley International Association of Business Communicators, a non-profit that promotes ethical and quality communications.

Three Trends That Have Drastically Changed the Way I Collaborate

One of my colleagues at the Silicon Valley International Association of Business Communicators (SV-IABC) just asked me about major collaboration trends.

She’ll be on a panel at our SV-IABC luncheon event at Michael’s at Shoreline in Mountain View, California, on Thursday, April 18. Here’s the website to register, or if it’s too late since it’s happening tomorrow, just pay at the door.  http://sv.iabc.com/

I have so much to say on the topic that I decided to blog about it instead of just giving her a couple of quick comments.

 Three trends have affected the way I collaborate in the work place in big ways.

 They are industry collaboration, content marketing and the crazy fast rise of social networking.

 1) Here’s some elaboration on the first one. When the recession hit a few short years ago, industry consolidation grew rapidly. The large New York based company I worked for acquired 100 companies in just about a decade. They were smart strategic acquisitions and today the company is doing quite well just based on the stock price alone.

 

I had a lot of new coworkers. Many of my PR projects involved working with the new company communications teams.

 

Because it wasn’t economical to continually fly to all the sites where these new coworkers were, our company started massively collaborating on-line. Instant messaging (IM) became the “norm,” meetings in Second Life became the norm for some groups and then a few years ago, the company standardized on an enterprise social collaboration tool, a sort of Facebook for the enterprise.

 

Management loved IM because you could better tell if someone was working or not. The challenge was that if you turned it off, for example to focus on writing a press release or to run a meeting, some people thought you were not working.

 

2) The second trend is the growth of content marketing. More and more, the communications siloes of internal communications, press relations, product marketing, advertising, and web communications have blurred. The company I worked for changed the press relations folks’ titles to “external relations.” We were charged with “finding” and driving news and trend stories that would publicize our key messages and back our growth strategies. These stories might be part of a sales pitch or become the lead news peg on the website. As you know, a nice Youtube customer use story can be used by any group want to demonstrate the value a company provides.

 

3) The third trend is the crazy fast rise of social networking, especially Facebook.  I have spent the past 12 years mostly physically working alone from my home office, both at my last corporate job and while I consult for my new clients which are mostly software start-ups. However, I do feel like part of my work teams and collaborate in a higher quality manner because I know my faraway coworkers due to getting to know them through Facebook. The vast majority of Facebook friends are coworkers, former coworkers and business partner types.

 

Yes, I’d see them at a few of our annual events like industry conferences or events we’d hold for press and analysts so it wasn’t all on-line but the on-line connection certainly helped.

 

However, since LinkedIn has become so popular, I’ve mostly just connected with business associates on that site instead. For example, I’m connected with all of my software start-up clients and new business partners on LinkedIn but not on Facebook.

 

As a result, my number of FB friends has stayed consistent but my LinkedIn contacts list has grown dramatically.  I’ll elaborate on that topic in another blog someday.

 

In any case, collaboration is a hot topic and some big happenings in recent history like the rise of social have definitely changed the way we do this task.

 

I hope to see my Silicon Valley communicator friends at the SV-IABC luncheon on April 18.

 

 

Three Trends Driving Demand for PR Now

Multi-ethnic group portrait

I attend a lot of business networking events and talk to a lot of smart, experienced and educated people who are on top of industry trends. I also enjoy talking to people who have just a little work experience. Sometimes the ones who have only a couple of years of work under their belts are more in the know about what’s hot and what’s not. 

The Silicon Valley Public Relations Society of America Future of PR round table earlier this year in East Palo Alto was excellent with Facebook, Dell and others on the panel, as was a meeting I recently had with Global Fluency, a marketing communications and strategy firm headquartered in Palo Alto, Calif. That firm runs the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council.

I used to work at Global Fluency in the early 90s when it was called something else. It was awesome to touch base with Donovan Neale-May who runs both Global Fluency and the CMO Council again after such a long time. The firm seems to be doing just fine and has evolved over the years along with the market.  It was great to see that Executive VP Dave Murray is still there and doing well.

Additionally, I enjoyed the Silicon Valley International Association of Business Communications (SV-IABC) event on gamification in Santa Clara in November.

I took notes at all of these gatherings and have put together the top three trends driving for PR now.

1. The new IR is influencer relations. 

There’s a new acronym in town. It’s IR. No, not investor relations. I mean influencer relations. Because so many people blog now, from large corporations executives and industry analysts to consumers posting on Yelp, organizations should be focused on influence and not necessarily “press relations,” “analyst relations,” or “client relations.” Typically the acronym for external relations is public relations but the term is often misused.

 Public relations actually means “changing someone’s mind.” But over the years, most of us in PR mostly came to know it as press relations.

I advise that all communications departments at organizations globally reorganize their staff and put all of their PR and external communications people in a group called influencer relations. Rumor has it that SAP done a bit of this already and if that’s true, good for them. Nice job IBM for calling its PR team “external relations” because that is a nice start in moving in the direction of the trend.

2. Content marketing is white hot. 

In order to gain attention and make noise in a crowded market place, companies must focus on being great content creators and communicators. It’s called content marketing. They need to hire people who can come up with timely and interesting content.  People with a journalism background do great at this task. Kudos to Global Fluency’s Dave Murray for his recent white paper related to this topic. Here’s the link:  http://www.globalfluency.com/news/index.html

3. Digital marketing is top of mind.

CMO Council and a partner firm recently released a survey (http://tinyurl.com/cckvb3e) that said, among other things, that the thing that most marketers are concerned about is digital marketing. Digitizing everything is a “modern” communications task and it’s an interesting change from decades ago when we just had to hire a graphic designer, write some prose, slap them together, get them printed and mail everything to the intended audience.

I believe the CMO Council survey was much more complicated and meaningful than my summary here, but that was still my key take away from it.

Today the communications expert or marketer creates smart and interesting content and then digitizes it so it can be properly socialized.

It’s wild when you think about communications 20 years ago versus today. Back then, you’d fax a press release to your top 10 reporters or mail a hard copy invitation to 100 customers. Today, you’d socialize survey results on Youtube, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook and use the online invitation tool to get everyone to the party.

The funny thing is, I remember asking someone 20 years ago, “What did we do before faxes?”
My 12-year-old who is now begging me for his own Youtube account just asked me, “What’s a fax?”

If you want to keep up on the latest trends, join me and my other IABC colleagues at our March 21st luncheon at Michael’s at Shoreline in Mountain View, Calif. I’m a director with the SV-IABC and I personally invite you to come.  It’s not free but it’s also not expensive and the networking benefits are priceless.

This month’s speakers will talk about the pros and cons of consulting for a big IT corporation. To register, visit: http://www.sv.iabc.com/

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Top 10 Take Aways from the 2013 Silicon Valley PRSA Future of PR Panel

Last night I attended the Silicon Valley Public Relations Society of America’s “Future of PR” networking and panel event at the Four Seasons Hotel in East Palo Alto, California.

Panelists and audience members ended up speaking mostly about modern PR, as opposed to the future of the profession.

They highlighted the importance of creating content with entertainment value that is interesting to a more general audience than an organization’s specific industry.

Also, great PR people need to add business value and when driving a campaign, consider the gamut of tools from videos to events.

The panelists were Andy Getsey, Co-Founder & CEO Agency Atomic, Kelly McGinnis, Vice President, Communications at Dell, David Swain, Director of Technical Communications, Facebook and Burghadt Tenderich, Associate Professor of the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. The panel was moderated by Steve Barrett, Editor-in-chief, PRWeek.

New Silicon Valley PRSA President David McCulloch, a Director at Cisco, also added a few comments.

Here are my 10 top take-aways from the event:

1.  When measuring PR campaign results, showing strategic outcomes is better than showing number of hits, views or clicks. The strategic people are more successful. – Tenderich

2. To be respected and valued, a PR manager needs to have a seat in the board room and add business value.  -McGinnis

3.  Attendees and members were surveyed and understanding influencers is top of mind. –PRSA president

4. Facebook places a lot of emphasize on PR. We have a lot of PR agencies but only one ad agency. -Swain

5. Companies have turned into media companies. I like when someone links to Dell’s news material.  That shows success. Sometimes your news content has nothing to do with your company and that’s fine. -McGinnis

6. The only proper way to measure a PR campaign is pre and post surveys. This is expensive -Tenderich

7. PR people need to be bold and have a seat at the branding table. I like to work on the corporate side because I can stay close to the action. -McGinnis

8. Attitude is more important than skill. You have to have the mind set to stretch beyond in PR. -McGinnis

9. It is sad that we need to show analytics results to prove the worth of PR. -Getsey

10. Facebook’s plan is to hire communications people, empower them and then scale projects. –Swain.

For more information about Silicon Valley PRSA news and events, visit http://www.prsasiliconvalley.org/

Additionally, I’m a director with PRSA’s “sister” organization, the Silicon Valley International Association of Business Communicators and for information about our news and upcoming events, visit http://sv.iabc.com/

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