Finding the Best PR Firm for Your Business – Part 2

A small business hiring a public relations firm stands to become a large business.

It won’t happen overnight, but if you choose the right PR specialists, the gain in brand recognition can translate into real, significant growth for your company.

And here is where we come to the crux of the matter - choosing the right Toronto PR firm.

How do you make that choice? Most businesses find this out the hard way, by switching between a few PR firms and gaining the experience necessary to differentiate between them. But that’s costly experience - both in terms of time and money.

We are here to save you this long journey and give you the best practice principles of choosing a Toronto public relations company.

Define Your Needs

Your needs depend on your goals. Choose where you wish to get and you’ll know what you require in order to get there. More specifically, what’s your target demographic and how do you need to reach them. Some audiences read newspapers or watch TV, others do neither of those things, but are active on social media. Social media is also divided by generations and interests. There are PR agencies in Toronto that specialize in one of those fields of action, and you might want to choose one depending on that.

Ask Around

PR companies also have reputations. Ask online about the PR firm you are considering, or just inquire with other small businesses in your field about their experience with theirs. In other words, ask people to recommend a PR company to you. Word of mouth is still the best PR out there.

Look Online

If you are here and reading this, we naturally assume this is exactly what you’re doing, but here are a few more ways you can get additional information. Once you have a list of companies to consider, type their name and “reviews” to see how they are doing from their clients’ perspective. Also, go on their own website and look at their list of clientele. Are those companies in your own field? Can you contact them directly and ask about their experience with the PR firm? Get all the information you can before you decide.

Contact and Interview

Once you have a list of 3 or 4 PR agencies, call them and get a first direct impression. Once you had a few of those phone interviews, the list will likely shrink to about 2 candidates. That done, it’s time to meet and talk shop. Ask who’s going to deal with your file, what kinds of deals and services are available, and how they measure progress. Ask about fees and packages, and ask them to show what they did for other clients in your industry - how they promoted their growth is a good indicator of what they can do for you.

And as you ask, listen. Take notes, compare, and then take your time to decide.

We hope this brief guide will help you choose the right one. Good luck!

Key Factors in Choosing a PR Agency

Just like every other kind of shopping, finding a PR agency in Toronto, or anywhere else for that matter, is involved in very little actual searching, and a great deal of choosing and deciding.

The possibilities are vast, with a multitude of companies offering seemingly the same services. At the same time, you know that even comparing apples with apples, some are better than others, and it matters which you choose.

Daunting? Not at all, especially once you go through this list of factors. After reading this, choosing a Toronto public relations agency will be a breeze. Well, maybe not a breeze exactly, but not a hurricane anymore, either. Enjoy!

Examine the scale of the company

PR agencies range anywhere between a boutique-sized 3-person agency to giant operations employing over 1,000 professionals spanning offices in a number of countries. The big corporate agency might not give you the personalized treatment you require, and the small boutique company may not specialize in the sectors you want to reach.

Do they know the field?

We need to clarify this. We don’t mean their field - we mean yours. PR in one industry is not the same as PR in another. The audiences, brand language and other factors differ between a clothing brand and a travel agency’s office. The PR strategies will not be the same for them. It’s best to go with a Toronto PR agency that has developed and maintained successful public relationship strategies for clients in your field.

Meet the people who will work with you

If you met with several agency representatives that you liked and who got you on board, ask if they are the ones who’ll be working with you directly. Some companies will get clients to meet with key representatives and then switch them over to the actual staff that will be implementing your campaign. You really should meet those people too, before you sign on.

Talk about the money

You get what you pay for. While it doesn’t mean that a $1-million contract will get you a million-dollar result, the opposite is definitely the case. A suspiciously cheap price tag can be a sign of inexperience or incompetence, or both. Go for the healthy average and you should be just fine. Also, make sure you know precisely what you’ll be getting for your money. A full breakdown of costs and deliverables should be presented right from the onset, so you know exactly what your money is getting you.

Follow your gut

Yes, this is also an important tip, and here’s how you make it work. When you are there, take a walk around the offices. Are the employees happy and energetic? Are there pictures of family on their desks; is there a feeling of contentment around the office? If not, walk out. A PR agency delivers communications and emotion. If they look like they lack either of those components when they work amongst themselves, how can they deliver it to your audience?

PR is an art, and art is craft intertwined with emotion. Look for a competent Toronto PR firm that has that vibe you can relate to, and it should work magnificently.

Good luck!

Questions to Ask About Media Relations when Choosing a PR Agency

Picking a PR agency in Toronto, or any similar big city can be daunting.
There are so many to choose from. You need to make sure the relationship will pay off in so many ways. It needs to develop the right voice, strategy, vision, have the right passion, and many more things. It should work for you, for your audience, and find ways to advance your brand in a reliably quantifiable manner.

So how do your make sure your candidate PR Agency is right for you?
By asking questions - the right ones. And here are a few examples of things you will want your PR agency to tell you about themselves.

How do you measure results? Remember, you pay for results, not services. If a PR firm just goes through the motions but the goals are not reached, then it’s not worth the time, money or effort. Make sure those goals are set, and the way to measure reaching them is also defined.

How do you keep track of current trends? A PR agency should be always growing, learning and adapting. Using a traditional approach could have pulled the load some 10 years ago, but not anymore. The market is changing rapidly via social media and other innovations. Make sure you work with a company that knows how to ride the waves.

What do you require from us? This includes access to materials, regular meetings with key staff members and more. The answer to this question serves as an indicator of the level of involvement (which should be high) of this firm, and how serious they are about their clients.

What is the expected media coverage frequency? This one’s important and should always have a clear answer, never left to interpretation. A range will do, but it has to be set.

Do you integrate media relations with other forms of PR? It’s a bit of a trick question, actually, because of course they do, or should - and what you need to know is how they do it. Everything in our world is intertwined, and connecting marketing mediums is essential for a successful PR campaign.

What other things you can do for us? If your PR agency is also good at blogging, social media or anything else, why not get them to work on all of it together, and have these sides of your marketing enrich one another! A very good way of enhancing different sides of one brand, by connecting them.

Are there additional fees for services? Make sure you know exactly what you are paying for and what’s included in your package. The answer to this question may also give you information about actual bonus services and features you might decide to make use of later on. Always good to have a card in your sleeve in this game we’re playing.

If you follow this checklist, you should be able to choose your Toronto PR agency without breaking a sweat or making costly mistakes.

How to run a Successful Consumer PR event

One of the best ways to raise consumer and media awareness of your new lifestyle brand, product or service, is to organize an event that appeals to the media you want to attend.

A well-executed PR event will attract journalists’ attention and create the media exposure that no amount of paid advertising can achieve.

Running a PR event can be tricky, and we all know that if it flops, the effect will be just as strong, only very negative. This means you need to get it right, following the rule of first impressions - you only get one.

As Toronto’s consumer PR specialists, we have compiled a list of tips you can use when preparing your event:

Set Your Goals in Advance. What you do depends on what you aim to achieve and what you’re promoting. Is it awareness of your brand or a new line of products? Or maybe it’s a new campaign or company appointment. Each of those will require you to emphasize different things, so plan based on your objectives.

Define Your Audience. Who do you intend to reach? Choose the publications that you would like to attract and the journalists in them that you will be contacting. Don’t forget to consider bloggers, YouTube channel personas and celebrities. This will give you additional valuable buzz online as well.

Decide on a Budget. All consumer PR agencies in Toronto know full well that those kinds of events cannot be done without careful budgeting. Everything has its cost, from printing invitations to hiring a photographer. Make sure you are capable of covering every expense.

Choose a Theme. To give the event a unique feel, make sure it’s in total stylistic sync, starting with the invitations, decorations, and up to the follow-up press material.

Plant the Wow Bomb. You can give your invitation an edge if it is served with something extra. It can be a promise of a surprise, some free giveaways during the event or unique artistic invitations. Be creative about it.

Time it Well. Certain times of year lend themselves to this type of event more than others, and some - less so. Avoid seasons when journalists are commonly engaged elsewhere, such as big award ceremonies, fashion weeks and the like.

Follow Up. This one is as crucial as a thank you letter after a job interview. Drive your message home by following up with your guests. Use this opportunity to credit your brand and reiterate the event’s message while you’re at it.

Good luck! And if you want some advice from Toronto’s consumer PR specialists, all you need is to contact us. We will make sure your brand shines and your event leaves a lasting impression.

It’s all about Tweetability

As a Toronto consumer PR agency, we have helped create many memorable social media campaigns.

In this new world of social media public relations, the rules have changed, which means best practices are not the same as they used to be in the conventional media world.

The social media PR scene is busy, interactive and fast. Grabbing and holding onto your audience’s attention will require precision and following the new social media PR rules.

We have put together 5 helpful social media tips:

  1. Create, Anticipate and Respond
    Unlike conventional media, social media is all about interaction. When a conversation is happening, you need to be ready to step in and represent your brand. It can be useful to time your own posts during and around hashtags trending at the moment. When your own posted materials are relevant to a hot topic of discussion you will enjoy the attention of everybody in this conversation.

  2. Create Tweetable Press Releases
    When composing your next PR blog, make sure it’s headline is retweetable. This will not only achieve the obvious benefit of having it retweeted by other users, but will also bring potential followers back to your page - the source of the tweet.
    Tweetability hinges on a short headline, having a Twitter handle featuring the brand or company name in the beginning (so it doesn't get cut off), and including relevant keywords to make it searchable. A good headline should be punchy enough to invite retweets almost regardless of the rest of the article’s continent.

  3. Rig Your Blog as a Social News Source
    Blogs are rapidly replacing old school news outlets as the source of information about brands and companies. They have become powerful tools for spreading multimedia content. Tumblr Facebook, Twitter and other platforms are being used by companies as an online newswire. This becomes increasingly valuable when many of the followers are themselves reporters who end up sharing, retweeting and writing about your post and brand.

  4. Lean on Social News Backgrounders
    It is often hard to pack all the background information into a single post, so using backgrounders makes perfect sense. It is also appreciated by reporters who often have little time to conduct thorough research into a given topic. Accompanying your pitch with a backgrounder link will save them a lot of time on said research and help them promote your story.
  5. Make Use of News Aggregators
    The search for daily content is much like the fight of Good and Evil - eternal in nature. But unlike the fight of Good and Evil, it does have its shortcuts.

You can now save the time it would take you to scour the social media and news feeds by using a blog aggregation tool and creating a dashboard of relevant content ready for immediate use in your own posts.

There is, of course, much more to social media PR then these tips, but they definitely cover the most important bases in your game.

For more information and advice from your Toronto social media experts, contact PUNCH Canada. We would be pleased to help.

How to run a successful consumer PR event

One of the best ways to raise consumer and media awareness of your new brand, product or service, is to run an event dedicated just to that goal.

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Journalists love them - it gives them the perfect incentive to leave their desks and enjoy a different experience. Many reporters will tell you socializing is the best part of their job. A well-executed PR event will attract their attention and generate the media exposure that no amount of paid advertising can achieve.

Running a PR event can be tricky, and we all know that if it flops, the effect will be just as strong, in a negative way. This means you need to get it right, following the rule of first impressions - you only get one.

As Toronto’s consumer PR specialists, we have some tips you can use when preparing your event:

Set Your Goals in Advance. What you do depends on what you aim to achieve and what you’re promoting. Is it awareness of your brand or a new line of products? Maybe it’s a new campaign, or company appointment. Each of those will require you to emphasize different things, so plan based on your objectives.

Define Your Audience. Who do you intend to reach? Choose the publications that you want to attract, and the specific journalists in them that you will be reaching out to. Don’t forget to consider bloggers, YouTube personalities and celebrities. This will give you additional valuable buzz online as well.

Plant the “Wow Bomb”. Journalists will come if the event looks promising, but it will give your invitation an edge if it is served with something extra. It can be a promise of a surprise, some free giveaways during the event or unique artistic invitations. Be creative.

Time it Well. Certain times of year lend themselves to this type of event more than others, and some less so. Avoid seasons when journalists are commonly engaged elsewhere, such as big awards ceremonies.

Choose a Theme. To give your event a unique feel, make sure it’s in total stylistic sync, starting with the invitations, decorations, and up to the follow-up media material.

Set a Budget. All consumer PR agencies in Toronto know full well creative events require careful budgeting. Everything has its cost, from printing invitatios to hiring a photographer. Make sure your event fits within your budget.

Follow Up. This one is as crucial as a thank you letter after a job interview. Drive your message home by following up with your guests. Use this opportunity to credit your brand and reiterate the event’s message while you’re at it. Give a thank you gift as guests are leaving.

Good luck! And if you wish the advice of Toronto’s consumer PR specialists, all you need is to contact us. We will make sure your brand shines and your event leaves a lasting impression.

How to Pick the Right PR Agency

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Working with a professional Toronto PR agency can benefit your business and social outreach, but before you can obtain these benefits there is one challenge: finding the right agency that fits your needs.

There are many communications agencies in Toronto, and navigating through them can be daunting. To make it easier for you, here are 5 tips that will help you to pick the right Toronto PR agency:

  1. Do your homework. You needn't know everything about the PR world, but choosing the right company involves knowing what you need and what the options are. Make sure you are on top of main concepts in the industry, such as paid vs. media, advertising vs. PR, know your service or product’s media landscape and so on. When shopping, take a good look at a PR agency’s work history, see what fields they are involved in to make sure they have had experience working with clients in your industry.

  2. Get the company's references. Most communication agencies in Toronto carry credentials which are easy to substantiate. Get a list of clients they’ve worked with in the past and talk to them. Take the time to make a few phone calls.

  3. Define your goals clearly. Knowing exactly what you want for your business will allow you to choose exactly a PR company that will be able to achieve that for you. Some PR agencies in Toronto will be better at TV features, others work with magazines, and others still mostly do online profiling. Make sure the agency you pick is capable of providing the services you need.

  4. Think of them as part of your team. Your new PR agency will work closely with you every step of your PR campaign, essentially becoming a part of your own team. Make sure to shake hands with everybody who will have any influence on your public relations campaign. Knowing the people handling your brand and its public representation, being sure of their capabilities, is essential to the success of the campaign.

  5. Draw the bottom line. Money will have to become a part of the conversation at some point so don't shy away from it. Leaving this question for later might result in unnecessary complications. Be upfront about your PR budget and your expectations. This will allow the agency to assess the cost of service with more precision, making the process easier for both sides.

Good luck and good PR agency searching!

Make your travel PR media pitch a trip

A question we get a lot is, how do I reach my target audience and make sales?

At first glance, advertising may seem like a cost-effective option, but only until you separate the cost and effectiveness, considering them separately.

While the cost of advertising may be reasonable, the effectiveness of this method, especially compared to the returns on investment for PR and social media marketing, may not fit your budget realities.

As an established travel PR agency in Toronto we have found users are more likely to open up to a brand that shares information with them instead of pushing sales their way.

Here is our list of advice that can help you to get the attention of travel editors, landing you a spot in their publications.

  1. Use uncomplicated, formal language. Jargon and buzzwords don't sound professional. Be straightforward and avoid acronyms and informal language.
  2. Use facts. The foundation of good press is statistics and data, so having numbers behind your story will give it a solid base and make it appealing to the editor. If you are saying that a certain type of tourism has grown in a certain region, being able to support that with numbers will lend you lots of credibility.
  3. Prepare them in advance. Before shooting them the email with the story, give them a heads up. Send them a brief email with an advance notice that a story is brewing. If you’re expecting something big to happen in six months’ time, let them know now so they clear up some space for it in their calendars.
  4. Keep it calm. Try to keep it truthful and down-to-earth. Overhyping the story may lead to lack of trust. Editors have an ear for these things. Staying factual and accurate will lend you credibility.
  5. Direct it to a specific writer. Every publication has a reporter that is better suited for your story. Read some of their previous publications and reference it, so they know you are familiar with their work.
  6. Form a relationship. Follow up with them after sending the email. Try to get the person to meet up with you for a cup of coffee. You want to be able to reach out to them in the future, not only this once, so maintaining a relationship is important.

Finally, a bonus tip - be politely persistent. If they don't respond at once it doesn't mean a rejection. Often all it means is that they're busy with other things. Write to them again and if your material is worth it, it will get published.

And hey, if you want your travel PR portfolio to be handled by people who don't need these tips, and already have connections with important publishing houses, all you need to do is give us a call.

Why The News Release is Still Relevant

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The advent of SEO and other types of Google magic has led to the decline in the reputation and perceived value of the good old news release. It has even gone so far as to be declared dead by many pundits and online marketing professionals - killed in a battle of wills with the new hero of online marketing, the content.

While content marketing is undeniably a strong tool with outstanding capabilities, we have to report the news release is also very much alive and well. The power of a properly phrased, professional, journalistic news release is as strong as ever, if not even stronger.

The Internet didn’t make it “irrelevant” or “obsolete”. If anything, the immediacy of the brand-audience connection has made it an even more powerful PR tool. The possibility to quickly convey client information to writers, bloggers, stakeholders and employees in a professional, positive manner is invaluable.

The New and Improved News Release

The times changed indeed, and the news release has evolved with them. The news release of today’s PR professionals is full with rich media and valuable content that can be reused, spread and delivered to a multitude of users in the shortest time spans. This new and improved PR tool is full of images, videos, links and infographics and is written for SEO to begin with, battling for our clients on both fronts. Today’s marketing may be a hybrid game with new rules, but this pro player turns out to be exceptionally good at it.

The news release is a super convenient way to communicate your brand information to clients and shareholders by engaging journalists who create and share relevant, meaningful stories with their own audience. So how is the news release different from content? The main game changer was the move online from other media, but otherwise the news release is content marketing at its best.

PR pros had taken their tried and tested content creation techniques and put them on the internet, where they were made even more efficient by rigging them for search engines. It is like SEO on steroids, high quality content which is then picked up by a small army of owned, earned, paid and shared distribution channels. Content marketing alone could not possibly achieve what the News Release is capable of today.

Another Power of the News Release - Credibility

While it is true that the web is full of bloggers, tweeters and independent writers, the power of professional journalist sites is that they are credible. The most popular blogger won’t be taken as seriously and read by as many people as a columnist in at a major Toronto newspaper with print and online capabilities. Another thing to consider is that content on your own website will get you Google ranking, but it will not do much for your PR. News Release publications online will boost both your PR and your SEO.

The conclusion is obvious - the news release is alive and well, to the delight to all Toronto PR professionals and their happy clients. If you want to join those ranks, give us a shout!

How Social Media is Changing PR

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Social media has revolutionized the very way people share information around the world. With over 200 million accounts on Twitter and 110 million tweets per day, the way companies and brands communicate with their audiences has to change as well, if they are to keep pace with this changing world.

PR specialists in Toronto realize a PR strategy which simply “copy-pastes” itself from the “conventional” media to the web is doomed to fail miserably. A new age PR strategy should be made for the wand social media, where audiences are found from now on.

New Audiences Need to be Engaged in Dialogue

Unlike the older, non-interactive media channels, social media doesn’t tolerate information to be delivered in a one-way manner. Two-way communications is the new way to reach your audience. This is invaluable because you get real-time feedback from consumers and followers. Never before could a brand hear the voices of its followers with such clarity and adapt to their needs. If a TV/newspaper PR campaign was not going well, you will have only known about it a long time after it was over. Today you have real-time, verifiable data and live feedback, allowing you to make adjustments and refine your campaign on the go.

A brand that listens to the audience and uses this opportunity will gain a tremendous advantage.

New Ways of Conducting Research

The speed with which information is generated and shared has never been faster. A simple keyword search on Twitter will show ways to connect companies with consumers at the exact right time, offering them the solution they want. This proactive engagement is far more powerful than a one-way information blast via a corporate channel or a website link that people may or may not even see. It allows PR pros to approach your customers directly, when it will have the most impact.

The Advent of the Personal Approach

While most consumers can still be divided into categories and approached with widely spread targeting nets, the new approach is to have concerns addressed directly. It is not a small challenge even for PR veterans, especially when dealing with an online rant by a disgruntled customer on a Facebook page or worse, in a blog post somewhere, but it is becoming the new requirement. The key point here is to be able to identify real crises and respond accordingly.

We are seeing more and more PR companies in Toronto and elsewhere focusing on social media in their PR efforts, and for good reason. This type of new public relations may take more concentration, attention to detail and can be very unforgiving to mistakes, but we still love it. Why? Because when done right, social media PR is much more rewarding!

Is PR the New SEO?

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Google, in a new patent, came up with a system that is supposed to take a reference or mention of anything and count it as a link without an express link being present. How that works exactly is a bit fuzzy, but it led Christopher Penn, a leading social media and digital marketing expert, to declare that “PR is the new SEO”.

So what exactly does this all mean? Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is based mainly on keywords and backlinks. Keywords are descriptions of products. They are the way your site gets “nailed” in search results. The Hummingbird algorithm implemented by Google recently favours natural language. For example, while some people would search for “Toronto boutique PR agency”, the Google machine is more equipped to answer a question, such as “how do I find a PR agency in Toronto?”

Then there are the backlinks, which are links from any other place (blog, publication, etc.) leading to your own website. Your site being linked from forums, blogs and other websites was considered a testimony of worth and credibility, giving you higher ranking. Then there came the “link farms” where tons of fake backlinks were generated - a practice that thrived until Google cracked down on them hard. Now only high quality backlinks will work.

Those “kosher” backlinks will remain a good source of ranking, regardless of how the new Google patent works. If a Toronto Star reporter publishes a story about a client of ours with a link to their website, it will serve as great quality backlink, boosting your company site.

Then What is the Connection of all this to PR?

What this new patent seems to mean is that a mere mention of a brand name will be as beneficial as having a backlink. Again, we really hope that Google understands how this will work (because nobody else seems to), but if it does, it will definitely boost a brand’s ranking in search engines just by regular PR.

If this is correct, then it will add tremendous value to all brand stories told by PR agencies such as ours. In this new setting, beneficial media coverage will promote positive brand awareness while additionally boosting a company’s Google search rating, essentially granting your Toronto boutique PR agency some serious SEO powers.

Now before we all get too excited, we have to add our own belief is that while obvious benefits will be gained by this, PR is definitely not going to turn into “the new SEO”. It will undoubtedly make a strong case to invest in PR, in addition to digital marketing, making those two strategies an essential mix for any brand’s marketing. Up until now PR was considered “optional” by some brands, while SEO was seen as a necessity. With this on the horizon, PR is definitely a must.

Regardless of how this ends up working, it still means good news for Toronto boutique PR agencies like ours who focus on generating positive, meaningful news for their clients online. All of our work concentrates on telling our clients’ brands stories and making their name be heard. If this is also going to help SEO ranking, all the better!

5 ways to make your clients love you

It is undeniable that many of the same traits one acquires to make them a good communicator can also be applied to making your clients love you. Things like trust, respect and knowing who you are talking to are all ways to let your client know you’ve taken the time to get to know them, thus creating a positive relationship, something that is essential for several reasons including success!

Happy client, happy everything!

From an agency perspective, if a client is happy they are more open to a variety of things, including: accommodating budget adjustments, managing tight deadlines, and the likelihood of them retaining your services go up exponentially. We are in the people business after all. And plus, as with media, people want to work with people they know, like and trust – it’s that simple. Without clients, well let’s just say, there is no work.

Here are 5 ways to get your client to love you:
BUILD TRUST

Trust takes time, but without a strong foundation of trust between you and your client a successful working relationship, or success in general just isn’t possible. A great way to build trust with your client is to show them you understand them and their brand/product. By taking the time to get to know them and re-iterate what they stand for, you will reinforce that you are there to succeed with them.

BE PROACTIVE

Don’t wait for them to give you directions. Bring them fresh, new ideas and opportunities, over and above things laid out in your original proposal. Things change daily, hourly, and even by the minute, that’s the beauty of news and our industry. If an opportunity arises for you to justifiably insert your client into the conversation, let them know. Sometimes it’s these opportunities or last minute “light bulbs” of ideas that spark great results. If you are just sticking to a script, you’ll miss these opportunities and the chance to make a great impression with your client.

COMMUNICTAION

A no brainer really, but it’s important to remember that this is true for EVERY aspect of PR, especially on the client side. Be diligent on keeping your client up-to-date on your success, process and any feedback – good and bad. Having an open dialogue with them will let them know they are always top of mind and will help with building trust. Also, take the time to ask them if they have any questions on your work, strategy and the results you’ve generated. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback, positive or negative. All constructive criticism can be positive, and it will help you learn more about your client and what success means for them.
FACE-TO-FACE

Also, it’s important to note that although emails are a great way to handle your client’s day to day needs, picking up the phone and even scheduling regular face-to face meetings are key to maintaining a strong, positive work relationship.

BE YOURSELF!

Enough said.

How to get the most from your Toronto PR agency

The five Ps the marketing world stands on are: product, price, place, promotion and partnerships. PUNCH Canada’s approach incorporates all five, emphasizing partnership as the most important component.

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A strong client-agency relationship is the base for collaboration and success. It defines the levels of trust, which influence the efficiency of teamwork and communication making it the prerequisite of the other four.

The client-agency relationship has to be built and cultivated. As an agency, we do all we can to encourage a strong, vibrant dialogue and energetic collaboration levels. We delight in working with clients that listen, learn, grow and engage with us. This is the best way to deliver spectacular results for them.

If you are a client and wish to know how to help your Toronto PR agency deliver top results, this list of tips will help:

Set Goals and Expectations. Make sure you know exactly how you will benefit from the relationship. Define the way those benefits are measured and delivered. This will protect you from misunderstanding and disappointment in the future.

Listen a Lot. If you have never worked in PR yourself, or have little experience working with a PR agency in Toronto, then you have a lot to learn. Your PR company is the expert in this business and understanding them will simply help you help them. There is no better way to improve efficiency and drive better results.

Educate the PR Agency. While the PR people are experts in their field, they don’t necessarily know all there is to know about your own company and field. Take the time to relay as much information as possible to them so they do a better job for you.

Communicate Frequently. Keeping in touch on a regular basis strengthens the relationship and allows you to clarify things or make adjustments on the go. Be available for your agency when they need to ask you about something, and call them whenever you have a question yourself. Even better, schedule weekly calls to keep your hand on the pulse and see how the objectives are being met.

Celebrate Achievements. Celebrating every small success with a grand banquet may not be necessary but recognizing strong work is a good way to keep everyone motivated. Small shows of appreciation go a long way to further the relationship between an agency and client. And when a successful campaign is concluded, a real celebration may be in order.

If you find this advice useful and are on the lookout for a professional PR agency in Toronto, feel free to contact PUNCH Canada. We will tell your brand’s story like nobody else can!

Please contact Vice President Marela Lucero-Lee at marela@punchcanada.com.

Tips for dealing with negative PR

Every Toronto PR expert will tell you reputation is one of the most valuable assets a business can have. Good public relations brings positive publicity and brand-building, while a negative issue not handled properly can have a devastating effect on your business.

What’s worse, the damage can take years to rectify. There are many ways your brand can take a hit, ranging from online rants and rumors to unfavourable media coverage, but the way to treat them is the same if you want to mitigate the damage they will cause.

Here are four tips to handle bad publicity:

Address the root of the problem. Every rumor or online tweetstorm has a source, which you need to address if you are to deal with the problem efficiently. When a competitor starts a rumor about your business or an angry customer is ranting online, localize the effort on them instead of putting out small fires all over the place by addressing retweets. Approach the person politely in a non-combative way. Offer facts if they are wrong and an apology if they are correct (more on this later). Basically you need to take a proactive approach to answer the negative narrative in a way that will quell it.

Admit When You’re Wrong. Acknowledging mistakes can go a long way. If the criticism stems from your own mistakes, admitting it is the only way to retain dignity and trust. Attempting to cover up or avoid responsibility will lead to distrust and resentment. A company that admits its own mistakes can be trusted to fix them, one that doesn’t will likely make those mistakes again.

Make Amends. When the blame is on you, the responsibility for fixing the problem is yours as well. If you go out of your way to make amends to your customers, they will feel you care about them. When one customer has a problem (late delivery, damaged goods, poor customer service, anything), hundreds of others are watching. Take the complaint for what it is - feedback - and use it as a means to grow and improve. It is better to lose some money now by issuing a full refund, than losing much more in sales later if this customer remains upset and keeps complaining. Moreover, the good PR that you will gain by dealing with the problem in a generous manner can be really beneficial.

Recruit Support. Speaking in your own defence is important, but having someone who is not affiliated with the brand speaks in your favor sends a powerful message. Enlist the voices of loyal, satisfied customers when you are dealing with bad PR and see it shrink into thin air.

For professional issues management counsel, contact PUNCH Canada Managing Partner Jeff Lake at jeff@punchcanada.com.

How Tweet it is - PR Tips for Twitter

If you had read our article Facebook PR - Getting Your Content Seen, then you already have a good idea on how social media PR strategies work. Now let’s talk about Twitter. It’s also an enormous platform of users that can be engaged and motivated to take part in your brand’s life and story.

As one of the leading consumer lifestyle PR agencies in Toronto, PUNCH Canada has worked on Twitter PR strategies for many of our clients and have developed a list of must-know points that any professional should follow.

Develop a Defined Voice

Whether you are a blogger, simple user or a brand, one of the things that your audience connects to is your voice. The voice is not only in the messages you publish, but is part of your bio, the avatar and other visuals. Being recognizable is one of the most significant things in the social media steam. Tweet positive messages and avoid typos. They are a major turn-off. A voice comes out through self-expression, so make sure to produce original messages that originate from your identity.

Build Your Community

There are millions of people out there, so make sure you engage your chosen community and avoid getting distracted with everybody else. Don’t follow bots and people of little interest. Check their tweets to see the content, levels of integrity and creativity. You are largely defined by who your friends are, so choose your friends wisely.

Seek Engagement

Connecting with key influencers is one of the surest ways to build your own influence. Search by hashtags, trends, and take part in Twitter chats. Write comments, ask questions and make yourself part of the dialogue. Retweet with original style via attribution to show respect to the influencer.

Use Twitter Lists

Twitter lists allow you to organize groups of experts and access their content when needed without having to follow all of them. You can access other people’s lists as well, to gain access to more focused, relevant information. Aim to land on one of those powerful Tweet lists by being around people from one.

Use Twitter for Recruitment

Twitter is an amazingly efficient recruitment tool. You can use it to get an idea of who the user and recruiting publicly is also a publicity tool. Whether you are developing a brand or running a PR agency, this is a very good strategy.

Promote Client or Partner News

When you share good news from or about a partner or client on Twitter, it gets amplified and generates powerful outreach. As a Toronto consumer lifestyle PR agency, we have seen this work for our clients many times. And if you follow the rule that your message has to also give something to the user, it might even go viral which is absolutely invaluable.

Have fun! And if you want to work with an experienced Toronto PR agency, give us a shout. We are here for you! Please contact Account Manager Erin McKay at erin@punchcanada.com.

The Millennial Marketing Enigma from a PR Perspective

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The marketing potential of the growing millennial generation is obvious for brands, but for some reason it remains largely untapped. The main problem as seen from the perspective of some communications agencies in Toronto and around the world is that the Millennials are hard to predict, tend to have low brand quality and harbor a strong distrust towards advertising.

The Millennials don’t rush to buy things like the Boomers did. They don’t buy nearly as much and when they do, it’s not the same things, and not for the same reasons. Compared to the Boomers, who were any marketer’s favourite generation, the Millennials are a black box with vague controls and undefined functionality.

When we get down to it, there is a solution in there somewhere and if a brand is to have any success in the next several decades, it has to be found. They are already here and they are the consumers of tomorrow.

Solving the Millennial PR Enigma

The question is, if we look at the problem from the PR perspective, how do brands connect with Millennials? They are not like previous generations and so communicating with them should not be done in the same manner.

Millennials are primarily social. They were the tidal wave that brought in social media movements. They are constantly connected to social circles via their mobile devices. They prefer the density and diversity of the urban neighborhood to the suburban environments favoured by their parents. They have a tendency to buy local goods and they value ingenuity and authenticity.

As a consumer lifestyle PR agency in Toronto, PUNCH Canada has cracked the code. We share the three principles of connecting with this mystery of a generation:

  1. Communicate with Millennials, not to them. The age of one-way marketing is over. Dialogue is the key to everything. Engage them by listening first and talking later.
  2. Create local content with local impact. Once you benefit their community, you are in. Once your brand is close to home, it will immediately be treated differently than its distant counterparts.
  3. Produce Immediate value. Share things that are helpful and appreciated. The value of the shared material can be social or material, but it should be there.

Following those principles should give you access to this emerging market. Use this wisdom well. And if you’d like to work with a leading Toronto communications agency, shoot us an email and we’ll work out a detailed strategy for your PR campaign.

Please contact Vice President Marela Lucero-Lee at marela@punchcanada.com.

Enlisting a PR Spokesperson: a Checklist

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If you read our article Build and Protect Your Brand by Media Training a Spokesperson, you understand the importance of this PR strategy. It is also obvious finding the right person for the job is not an easy task.

The first thing that comes to mind is to use an executive team member for this role. When this makes sense, it may be perfect, but it isn’t always the case. If this is not an option and hiring a celebrity is too expensive, you have to look elsewhere for a person who will be capable of representing your brand. This person should be eloquent and engaging. Not necessarily a natural media personality, but definitely someone who doesn’t shy from a camera and is comfortable with public speaking.

This person will represent your brand, and your reputation will largely hinge on their performance. It has to be a fit.

As experienced media relations Toronto PR specialists who have led many successful PR campaigns, PUNCH Canada has compiled this list of criteria for choosing a PR spokesperson for your brand:

  1. Define your brand’s image and voice. The spokesperson should be able to serve as a mirror of the company’s image, what it stands for and where it is going. The brand’s message and voice should sound natural coming from your PR spokesperson.
  2. Take the audience into account. The link between the spokesperson and the audience is imperative for the message to be accepted by your followers and consumers.
  3. Define your budget. A celebrity spokesperson can increase your brand’s impact and revenues, but they don’t come cheap. You can save on this by choosing a company employee for the role, but keep in mind this choice will often require special training and time to establish this person as your PR persona. The audience will need to get familiar with him or her to form an adequate connection and trust.
  4. Research and compare. You might want to consult a Toronto media relations firm such as PUNCH to help you make the decision, but you can also do it yourself. The most extensive checks should be made for third-party candidates, to make sure they don’t have a negative reputation or any engagement with competitors. The ambassador of your brand should be trustworthy and a 100% committed to your brand’s promotion.
  5. Media training. No amount of natural talent makes a person automatically good for the spokesperson role. Seek out someone who has had adequate media training. Charisma and eloquence should be there to begin with, but the ability to deliver consistent on-brand information is an acquired skill.

As a bonus point - take your time. It’s better to make the right decision months from now than the wrong one now. The time it takes to salvage damaged reputation is longer by far.

For professional advice or help in hiring your brand spokesperson, contact PUNCH Canada Managing Partner Jeff Lake at jeff@punchcanada.com to start working with Toronto media relations pros!

Build and Protect Your Brand through Media or Presentation Training

Jerry Seinfeld once said that death was people’s number two fear, preceded by the fear of public speaking. Just think about it, death is number two most dreaded thing after addressing a bunch of people in a more or less formal setting.

Regardless of whether this is accurate or not, it still says a great deal about public speaking, which can be extremely uncomfortable to many people. Add a TV camera, and the word “recording” magically manifests itself, turning this already not-so-comfy experience into something downright terrifying.

This is exactly why having a well-trained company spokesperson is essential for any firm that might have to respond to journalist questions or come out with important statements. Whether the issue being addressed is complicated or simple, it should be addressed correctly in order to get the message across and create a solid, consistent PR image. When the brand’s reputation is at stake, this is the only way to do it right.

Being Ready When the Media Comes Calling

Because PUNCH Canada specializes in media and presentation training, we are amazed by the number of brands that should be using a trained spokesperson. Every single one of the top PR firms in Toronto will tell you that training a person for this job is not only crucial.

Our own proprietary media training programs have turned out many successful spokespeople who have done magic for the brands they represented. Our program contains advice on how to prepare concise, strong messages to support the brand. To give you an idea of how a spokesperson works, here are 10 components of a successful media interview:

  1. Prepare. A spokesperson should know what the interview is going to be about.
  2. There is no taking back statements. You don’t know when the microphone is on. And even if it’s off, people are still listening. Everything is “on the record”.
  3. Develop short, powerful key messages that are easy to memorize, and stick to them.
  4. Keep your message honest, ethical and credible, that are factually correct.
  5. Know who your audience are and speak in their language.
  6. Respect the journalist’s deadlines.
  7. Be attentive to questions. Answering incorrectly may be interpreted as evasiveness.
  8. Make sure to correct false assumptions or statements immediately.
  9. Don’t offer negative commentary about competition, or mention them at all. Focus on your brand.
  10. There is no such thing as “no comment”. You should always have something to say (see point 1).

Want to know more, or wish to work with one of the top PR firms in Toronto? Please contact Managing Partner Jeff Lake at jeff@punchcanada.com for all your media and presentation training needs. A former newspaper editor, Jeff has trained hundreds of executives.

Facebook PR - Getting Your Content Seen

The power of social media platforms in general and Facebook in particular is obvious and undisputed. As a consumer lifestyle PR agency in Toronto, we make sure to put it to good use ourselves. With hundreds of millions of daily users, what started as a way to stay in touch with friends has grown into a full blown universe. You can read news, play games, chat, watch videos, get updates from favorite bands and connect with bloggers and influencers without leaving the white and blue interface.

Facebook PR Game Rules

Facebook has become an enormously efficient PR platform for brands and companies. It is evolving constantly, and the way you would use it now is significantly different from how you’d use it when brand pages first became available. Back then, if you got ‘liked by someone, they’d get your updates automatically. Not anymore.

With more brands vying for users’ attention, the algorithm had to be altered to ensure people got to see what was really relevant to them. This takes into account posts they ‘liked, commented on, and engaged with. When they post a comment on your brand’s wall, that’s when they are on the list of getting frequent updates. The name of the game, therefore, is content. What you post and the reception it gets will define the exposure your page is going to garner.

Here are our insights into what works with today’s Facebook rules and should work for you as well:

  1. Media Rich Content. A picture is worth a thousand words, and a video is worth a million. Use photos and videos that are relevant to your brand to attract attention. Facebook will more likely show your HD video organically than a more modest post.
  2. Invest in Engagement. Create dialogue by encouraging questions and opinions. The more buzz you have in a post, the more people are going to see it. Answer questions quickly to keep the dialogue going.
  3. Invest in Paid Ads. Do this for key messages only, but still do it. It will ensure your most important ads are seen. Moreover, Facebook gives you an ability to target audiences with precision, reaching very specific groups. Done right, this method yields great ROI.
  4. Experiment Constantly. Testing every idea you have is the best way to see what works. Times of day, types of content, different outreach groups - all these things you find out by casting the bait all over the place to see what works.
  5. Avoid Negativity. Answer troublemakers politely or not at all, but try to quell the negativity at the very onset. It has a way of spreading and you should never let it.

As a boutique Toronto PR firm, PUNCH Canada is here to help you grow and reach your fans and customers. Please contact Managing Partner Jeff Lake at jeff@punchcanada.com.

The Importance of Trust in any PR Campaign

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As any communications agency in Toronto will tell you, trust is the most important cornerstone of any PR campaign. If a brand is not trusted, even a million-dollar PR campaign led by the most brilliant communications agency in Toronto will not yield results. The story and message will be ignored by the audience, and the funds and effort wasted. This all seems profoundly logical and even too obvious at times.

So why are we writing about this? Because while the goal may seem plain and simple, attaining it takes concerted conscious effort and some discipline. In other words, it can be missed and you won’t even know it.

Let’s start from how not to approach this. Don’t put effort into measuring trust. Phrases like “trust deficit” only create confusion, because trust is not easily measured or tangible. It is also relative and not equal.

There is a difference between creating trust and worrying about how trusted you are. Trust should be cultivated. Don’t look for trust or try to gauge what some call “trust levels”, because it is largely a waste of time. There is no ranking system to it.

Instead, look to the best brands out there. They don’t ask how trusted they are, but apply conscious effort to being more trustworthy. This is an actionable course within clear and immediate control of your ongoing public relations.

Here are five ways to establish trustworthiness for your brand: 1. Always tell the truth. It can be difficult and may sometimes hurt you, but getting caught not telling it will hurt far, far worse. 2. Be transparent when dealing with the public. There is no way that avoiding tough questions will be seen as anything but untrustworthy behavior. Besides, with the pervasiveness of phone cameras, avoiding the public eye is simply impossible. If there’s a concern, be proactive and come out with a statement even before you are contacted by the media. 3. Put something on your banner. Leading with values is a strong way of promoting a visionary brand. It can be ecology, animal rights, social issues, anything. A brand that makes its community better will command respect and gain vast amounts of trust along with it. 4. Listen first. Take consumer feedback to heart and mind, then communicate back to show you are with them. Respect the individual in every person and be prepared that opinions will vary. Brands that talk “at” instead of “with” their audiences are abandoned very quickly. 5. Be proud of what you are and what you stand for. Brands that radiate integrity and strength get the most respect.

If you want to know more or want to work a professional communications agency in Toronto, please contact Vice President Marela Lucero-Lee at marela@punchcanada.com.