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Author: Andrew Ryan

As the number of communications channels continues to expand, individuals and organizations have almost limitless tools at their disposal to reach their target audiences. These new channels certainly have provided valuable opportunities. However, one tool — media relations — is still among the most important ways to increase awareness and credential a person or company. Media relations has been a stalwart strategy of PR and marketing professionals and remains so today, even despite the changing newsroom landscape. The Pew Research Center’s “State of the News Media 2014” report finds that although staffing levels are beginning to stabilize, newsroom headcounts have dropped double digits in the past decade. Shrinking newsrooms have certainly been tough to watch and the realignment has put more pressure on reporters. This new dynamic also reinforces the importance of strategic media relations. When you’re positioned as a resource, reporters will call and you can showcase your expertise.

You know that a word or phrase has officially made it when it becomes a part of the venerable Oxford English Dictionary. That momentous achievement was announced earlier this summer for “hashtag.” Born in social media, the hashtag has been in existence since 2007 and has skyrocketed in popularity over the past few years. Noted by the # sign in the front of a word, phrase, or string of words, hashtags offer a lot of benefits for users on social media platforms. Many social media sites encourage the use of hashtags, including Twitter (where it all started), Facebook, Google+, and Instagram. They’re not only helpful for users, but savvy brands have leveraged hashtags for marketing purposes as well.

The fact is that property owners and developers rarely like engaging the public for their input during a project. The rationale is that the community at large does not understand the nuances that go into financing deals. This is very true. However, there is something to be said for engagement with the public on projects where rezoning is needed, parking or ingress/egress is impacted, or a variety of other factors are at play. This engagement does not start at the Planning Commission phase, true engagement means being more proactive.

Are you prepared for a crisis to hit your organization? This is question is less about if a crisis will hit and more about when a crisis will emerge. Whether the result of a natural disaster (i.e., hurricane), human error (Comcast’s now infamous “customer service” call), or something more nefarious (i.e., data security breach), every organization and company will face crises. You may have the necessary insurance and some operational contingencies, but too often the communications side of a crisis is ignored. The organizations that don’t address crisis communications do so at their own peril. As countless examples demonstrate, how a company responds to a crisis could have a more significant impact on its bottom line than the crisis itself.

For the past year or so, when we log on to Facebook, Twitter, or another social media profile, we’re seeing more and more sponsored posts and ads. Embedded in our news feeds or populated as display ads, we can’t seem to escape social media ads. And there’s a few reasons for it. They are very effective and make social media platforms a lot of money. In fact, some social media platforms, like Facebook, are becoming increasingly “pay-for-play.” Facebook has diminished the organic reach of business pages, putting more pressure on companies to sponsor or boost content in order to be seen by more users.

Any organization, no matter its sector, often focuses most of its communications attention on external audiences. It’s not surprising, since many key constituencies, whether client or otherwise, tend to be outside of the organization. However, far too often companies see communications efforts as zero sum. With such an outward focus, it’s easy to lose site of internal audiences. Internal communications — which can really be considered internal marketing and PR campaigns — are critical for the success of all organizations.

For years, when working on a real estate or transportation project, the developer or public entity leading the project was often seen front-and-center. This is still the case in many developments, but increasingly the architect, engineering firm, or construction company is finding itself in the public spotlight. Those types of firms have not traditionally invested in community relations programs. As players behind the scenes, they weren’t called on for significant interaction with the public and key other constituencies. All of that has changed in the wake of the Great Recession and the return of large-scale public projects, especially in the transportation sector. As A/C/E firms become more central players — and often pointed at as the scapegoat when a projects takes a bad turn — community relations and external communications should take greater priority.

Tony Robbins, the iconic motivational speaker and author, often says that it’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives. It’s what we do consistently. This statement can just as easily be applied to companies. Organizations are defined by what they do day after day and how they talk about themselves. If your firm has conflicting or even inconsistent messages, it will be much more difficult to highlight what makes you unique and why a potential customer or client should hire you. Just think about it. If all of your employees have different answers when asked about your company’s services or vision, what does that mean? If you have difficulty explaining who you are and what you do, why should others work with you?

The notion that word of mouth and referrals are marketing gold has been a well-understood reality for decades. As these movements have been steadily migrating online, even sectors that seem immune to online reviews are feeling the effects. Take the role of online reviews for senior living communities. Whether independent living, assisted living, or nursing homes, potential residents and their loved ones are looking for guidance online. The best guidance can come from existing residents and their positive reviews can serve as a critical marketing tool.