Millennials in the Digital Space

“How Do I Reach These Kids?”

Millennials in the Digital Space

By Nathan Shryock, Manager of Digital Strategy

The Millennial generation has adopted a very unique habit of forming digital communities.  These communities are made up of online social groups of people that share a common interest and are often tied to a person’s identity. It’s not uncommon for one person to belong to several different communities, each representing a different facet of their personality or interests. However, that’s not to say that Millennials only interact with people online.

For example, say a group of friends go out to a bar:

  • The artsy friend is going to make an Instagram (IG) post of the interior design.
  • The foodie/drink friend will post what cocktail they’re having to a social channel like Facebook and give a blurb on how they enjoyed it.
  • The musically inclined friend will comment on the music selection or make a post about the live band that played.
  • The social friend will gather everyone together for a group picture and post about the night they shared.

Digital Communities

Each person above is fully invested in their experience AND committed to sharing with their digital communities. This kind of earned publicity is invaluable, and it’s FREE. The bar in the example received the attention of thousands of people inside those four distinctly different groups, with content curated just for them, without spending a dime. Embracing these digital communities is the key to reaching that elusive generation.

Reaching Millennials

Businesses commonly make the mistake of casting too wide of a net with Millennials. By trying to advertise to everyone, you effectively reach no one. Highly-targeted marketing is easier than ever in today’s social media-filled world, and by simply paying attention to trends and behaviors of specific groups, half the work is done. By tapping into the culture of the different digital communities you are more likely to not only grab the attention of the younger generation, but prompt them to share your content and create content of their own next time they visit.

So next time you see someone on their phone, pay close attention to what they are focusing on. It may just give you the insight you need for your next marketing endeavor.

Here at TVG, digital strategy is something we’re passionate about! Call us at 314-991-4641 or visit our website at www.vandivergroup.com to learn how we can help you effectively reach your audience in the digital space.

Six Best Practices for New Interns (Besides Keeping the Coffee Pot Full)

Six Best Practices for New Interns (Besides Keeping the Coffee Pot Full)

By Andrew Woodcock

Congratulations! You just landed an internship at the PR agency of your dreams! What’s next? Besides scheduling a trip to the store for new clothes, office supplies and cubicle decorations, you’re going to want to prepare for the culture and environment of working in PR — especially if this is your first internship.

I started my first PR internship knowing very little about PR. And I truly mean very little. In college, I studied political science and Eastern European languages. I could explain to you the rationale behind the Warsaw Pact’s decision to invade Czechoslovakia in 1968, but if you asked me to draft a pitch note for a client, I’d just stare at you blankly before opening an incognito window to Google “how to write a pitch note.”

I learned a lot during my first internship — not only about the PR industry, but also about steps an intern can take to make the most out of their time. Even if you start out knowing virtually nothing about the industry (as I did), following these steps will help you to hit the ground running on your first day:

1) Dress for the job you want

These days, it seems that the workplace is getting less strict and more relaxed about what employees are allowed to wear. For example, wearing jeans in the office five years ago was a big no-no, but now it’s not uncommon to see jeans on everyone, from assistant account executives to senior vice presidents. Still, it’s better to overdress than to underdress. If you notice that your boss or supervisor dresses more formally, then you should match how they dress. Taking the extra time in the morning to look nice shows that you care about your job and enjoy where you work.

2) Take time to meet your colleagues

You’re going to be working with these people for the next four to six months. Don’t you think you should get to know them, so that they’re more than just an email address that gives you daily assignments? During the first couple weeks at your new internship, try to schedule meetings with the people you’ll be working with so you can introduce yourself, talk about what you expect from this internship, and get to know them as a person. If they like who you are as a person, they’ll naturally want to work with you more. People you’ll really want to meet are former interns: they have been in your shoes not long ago, and can share some good advice!

3) Overcommunicate

PR is all about communication. This applies not only to communication with clients, but also communication in the office among your coworkers. Make sure that you’re replying to your emails as soon as possible, in order to let your coworkers know that you read their message. It can be as simple as an “I got your note, I’ll get on this right away.” Update them with any progress or snags you hit along the way. Hitting “reply all” is also a good practice, so as none of your colleagues are in the dark as to what you’re doing.

4) Don’t be afraid to ask questions

A lot of interns are afraid to ask too many questions, fearing that they might be judged for seeming stupid or unprepared for a task. I can assure you that this is NOT the case! In fact, it shows your bosses that you’re thinking critically about the task, and are making sure that you want to get it done completely right. If you feel like you’ve already asked too many questions to your boss, go to a former intern; they’ve certainly done similar assignments during their time as an intern, and can point you toward the best methods and resources to get the job done.

5) Don’t be afraid to say no

This part might be the most difficult for an intern to be comfortable with. As a new intern, you’ll want to prove to everyone that you’re capable, dependable and hardworking. If a senior vice president emails you with a task to complete, it’s really difficult to say no, even if your plate is completely full for the rest of the day. Ask yourself though: is it a good idea to take on a task you know you won’t be able to complete to the best of your ability? The senior vice president isn’t going to be angry you’re too busy. Simply write back right away and explain you have too many urgent tasks to properly take on another. Ask your fellow interns if they have any free time for a new task; if they do, reply to that senior vice president with a solution: your fellow intern is free and is more than happy to take on that task!

6) Make your work clear, understandable and thorough

Employers look at interns to do the tasks that can’t be done by the employers themselves. They’re counting on you to do research, write reports, talk to reporters and more because they don’t have the time or ability to do so. That means everything you do must be very thorough, covering all possible bases. Doing research for a client? Use multiple sources (and check them! No fake news!). Pitching to a journalist? Write down the whos, whats, wheres and whens (don’t forget the time zones). Don’t just rely on Google; used advanced searches on social media platforms, scour websites, or ask someone for information. You want the final product to be easily understood and digestible, so that anyone can use it to consider next steps. Don’t be afraid to make some suggestions of your own, as well!

One final piece of advice: be confident and always do your best. It’s a cliché as old as time, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less important! Make the most out of this internship; who knows, you might get hired at the end and be well on your way to becoming CEO before you know it.


Andrew Woodcock is an account executive at The Vandiver Group in St. Louis, Missouri. Follow The Vandiver Group on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

Messaging: A New Era of Business Communications, Part 2

By Nate Shryock, Manager of Digital Strategy

In Part 1 of this blog series, we outlined how messaging apps can be useful business tools. Today, we’ll explore some best practices for businesses who want to use Facebook Messenger to communicate with their customers.

Best Practices for Businesses Using Facebook Messenger

Respond promptly

Facebook publicly displays your company’s response speed on your homepage. It is important to gain the “Very responsive to messages” badge, which is achieved by having a response rate of 90% and a response time of 15 minutes within the last seven days. Slow response times often lead to escalated social posting by an individual with complaints.

Shoot for 100% response rate

More than ever, people simply want to be heard. By acknowledging every post, your customers feel like a larger part of your community. While 24/7 monitoring is not always possible, Facebook offers tools to help ensure that people are heard outside of business hours. Away messages, pre-written replies and chat-bots provide customers with an immediate response and let them know that their concern is heard and will be addressed.

Use first names

The power of messaging for business comes from the human element. Using a person’s first name is an easy way to build a rapport and establish a connection. If you are responding to a comment, use the @tag of their first name (ex: @Nate). In addition, have moderators sign off with their first names as well.

Know when to take a public comment private

One of the biggest challenges of social for businesses is how to handle negative comments. Facebook offers the ability to initiate a private conversation with any commenter, and will display a public message saying that comment has been replied to privately.

Keep an updated list of your best customers

While difficult to manage, showing special attention to your most loyal customers will surprise and delight them — making them customers for life. Something as simple as sending a happy birthday message with a coupon or discount goes a long way to creating a positive relationship.

Conclusion

Just like you wouldn’t want to leave a customer waiting in your store, you don’t want to leave them waiting on social. Messenger apps offer a quick and effective way to add the human element back into the digital business world, and when used correctly, can build long-lasting and mutually-beneficial relationships with your customers.

Need help using messaging apps for your business?  Not sure how to create a strong digital strategy? TVG can help! Call us at 314.991.4641 or visit our website at www.vandivergroup.com for more information.

Think Typos Don’t Matter? Think Again.

more than an typo, red pencil circles the typoI overheard a conversation the other day while working out at the gym. A woman I had seen there before- let’s call her Cindy- was telling someone about how she works in PR. Cindy was annoyed that her client called her, upset, because her name was misspelled in an article in the local business journal. “I have to tell people all the time that this is PR, not ER.” Cindy mused. “It’s not my emergency! A typo is not that big of a deal.” Oh, but it is Cindy.

Accuracy is extremely important in our field. Not only do we have to manage our clients’ reputations in the media, we also have to make sure the facts are correct and that we’re telling their story in a meaningful and impactful way. A single error could mean a devastating blow to a corporate reputation, and gives fodder to the rumor mill. And yes, typos matter. Especially when it’s your client’s name! Typos in your media releases indicate sloppy work. You always need to proofread your work before you submit it. Yes, an occasional error can happen – we are only human after all. But I’m talking about the errors that occur from just not caring very much about the ramifications of these seemingly small mistakes. You have to care. Our clients depend on us to care. And they deserve to have the highest quality work at all times.

How can you avoid these kinds of errors? Here are a few simple tips:

  1. Have a team of people who proofread documents before they go out the door. The more sets of eyes you have on that important release for a client, the better.
  2. Always use the spellcheck and grammar tools in your word processing program as another layer of protection.
  3. Sometimes it helps to print your document and read it on paper to catch errors. Computer screens make our eyes tired and less able to find simple errors.
  4. Try reading your document out loud. This can help you find errors in verb tense, especially, and it will help you decide if you are conveying the message you mean to convey.

Accuracy matters. Our clients depend on us to get it right. And when they look good, we know we’ve done the best job we can possibly do for them. It’s kind of a big deal!

The Reality of Crisis Communications

The Reality of Crisis Communications

by Andy Likes, Senior Vice President

In light of the recent events in the media, we wanted to share this piece written last year by our crisis communications and reputation management pro, Andy Likes.

Not “If,” but “When”

Throughout my 20+ years in broadcast journalism and public relations, I’ve seen my share of crisis issues. They happen every single day. I tell my crisis communications training classes that it’s not a matter of “if” a crisis happens, but “when.” Whether you are part of a small non-profit organization or a major multi-national corporation, you are vulnerable. It could be an employee issue, a cyber-attack, lawsuit, natural disaster or any other number of things, but it’s only a matter of time before your reputation is on the line for one reason or another. The biggest issue in a crisis is time!

We have clients come to The Vandiver Group in one of three phases of a crisis; pre-event, mid-event, and post-event. The clients who come to us before a crisis happens are being proactive. They want us to help write a plan, create messages, and draft template press releases before things go bump in the night. They may or may not see a crisis on the horizon, but they know anything can happen. Other clients call us mid-crisis, or after the crisis is over, for reputation management and overall communications to mitigate the damage.

Proactive Crisis Planning

Implementing a crisis plan before a crisis occurs can save you three things: time, money, and frustration.  Planning ahead saves you time. It’s easier to write a plan and use it as your guidebook when bad things happen, rather than “wing it” and address things as they occur. Planning takes preparation and time, but it’s a fraction of the time you could spend on a crisis when you’re in the middle of it. Having a succinct, understandable plan that is easy to find can also be the key to rebuilding your reputation after the crisis is over.

Having the right messages that are timely and well-delivered helps build trust with employees, the media and the public, no matter what the issue may be. Holding information back because you don’t know everything may seem easy, but it’s not the best way to handle a crisis. Give all the information you have at the time and say you’ll be back with more when you have it. It’s like ripping off a bandage – it might hurt initially, but the quicker you respond, the quicker the crisis will be over. Ultimately you want to get from the crisis to the post-event stage, so you can rebuild your reputation as quickly as possible.  That all begins with the crisis plan and having your team ready for anything.

TVG has helped companies in all three stages of a crisis for more than 20 years. Are you ready to tackle a potential crisis? How can TVG help you? Tweet us @VandiverGroup or email info@vandivergroup.com for more information.

Cause Marketing Important to Millennials, Too

By Madeleine Smith

While the term “cause marketing” was coined in the 1970s, it’s become increasingly important today for companies to support a cause or sponsor a charity. If you want proof that cause marketing is on the rise, it’s in the numbers. Engageforgood.com tracks several consumer studies, all of which support the importance of cause marketing:

  • Cause sponsorship is reported to reach $2.06 billion in 2017, a projected increase of 3.6% over 2016 (IEG Sponsorship Report, 2016).
  • 33% of consumers are now choosing to buy from brands they believe are doing social or environmental good (Unilever Study, 2016).
  • 74% of employees say that their job is more fulfilling when they have a positive impact (Cone Communications Employee Engagement Study, 2016).
  • 80% of global consumers believe that businesses must play a role in addressing societal issues (Edelman Trust Barometer, 2016).

What’s most interesting is where Millennials factor into the picture.  A 2014 Cone Communications Digital Activism Study found that:

  • 74% of Millennials surveyed learn about a companies’ social or environmental business practices, versus the U.S. average of 54%.
  • 80% of Millennials were likely to donate to a cause after learning about it through an online source, versus the U.S. average of 63%.

However, Millennials are often portrayed as the “me” generation–selfish, entitled, lazy… Also, it seems every Millennial has had the talk with their grandparent about how, “back in the day, they had to actually read books to write research papers, and walk to school uphill both ways in the snow.” The bottom-line is that they think technology has made Millennials’ lives much more convenient, and we have it so much easier than they did.

That’s probably true to some extent.  Growing up with computers, cell phones, and technology has made things easier for some of us, but harder for others.

While I’m not walking to work in the rain or churning my own butter, I’m involved in my community. I’ve spent countless hours doing unpaid work for causes that I care about – and, after doing research, I know I’m not alone.

If you’re a business owner and you want to reach Millennials, consider supporting a cause or devoting pro-bono work to a non-profit. Cause marketing statistics show that it does pay off, no matter what side of the transaction you’re on.

The Importance of Media Literacy in the Age of “Fake News”

Donna Vandiver, President & CEO

Laura Vandiver, VP of Research & Strategic Insight

Long before there was “fake news”, there was disinformation, propaganda and censorship. Many Americans are able to evaluate and decide if something they are reading is real or not, but many also have difficulty discerning “fake” news from actual, factual information, especially when false stories can be shared in an instant across the globe via social media channels. Read more

The Business of Storytelling

Andy Likes, Senior Vice President

 

Over the last 11+ years in PR, I’ve had the opportunity to work with nearly every type of subject matter expert, including doctors, engineers, lawyers, financial planners and everything in between. One thing is certain with subject matter experts- they know their job and the company better than anyone. Read more

Random Acts of Kindness, Inspired by Dr. King

Patty Olsen, Senior Project Manager

 

Celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day was more than just a single day of giving back to the community where I have lived, worked and flourished- it was an opportunity to model what principled citizenship looks like to my elementary-age son. Read more

TVG’s 2017 Day of Service: St. Patrick Center

Andy Likes, Senior Vice President

 

For more than 20 years, TVG has been giving back to clients in St. Louis and across the country. When you look at dollars and hours donated over that time, our firm and our employees have given more than $3 Million back to the communities we serve. Read more

The Art and Science of the Exhibit Hall: Presentation Skills for Conferences

Andy Likes, Vice President

 

How many of you have been to a conference in the last year? You probably remember lots of helpful breakout sessions and keynote speakers you’d love to hear again. Now what about the exhibit hall? Read more