Just like our icy sidewalks, winter 2017 is shaping up to be a slippery one as the Trump team storms into office. We can look forward to grandstanding and post-truth politics at their most virulent, as emotions and personal opinions seem to gain the upper hand over objective facts.
What do we stand to lose under this new style of politics? To what extent will we be affected by the decisions of the new controversy-loving president? And what if Trump’s methods drive certain attention-hungry organizations and brands to take a page from his playbook in a misguided attempt to achieve their ends?
A strange model
We hope that leaders will be able to resist the temptation to imitate the new commander-in-chief. How can you build trust relationships when deliberate lies and reckless statements become the new norm? Leaders—be they heads of state or corporate CEOs—should choose their words carefully and follow through on what they say. One can’t lash out at perceived adversaries without expecting to be paid back in kind. Indeed, denying troublesome facts and dismissing reporters who ask inconvenient questions is the kind of behaviour that we’d be inclined to call—in the words of Mr. T himself—“Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!”
As we all now know, we can’t underestimate the influence of Trump and his acolytes. Their trashy brand of communications clearly has a lot of followers. The question remains: will it affect our profession? If so, who will stand up to companies that play the populist game? While we wait for an answer to this question, let’s reread our code of ethics.
The coming year will be a test for communications companies and their clients. We all must hold strong. Otherwise, as Meryl Streep said at last year’s Golden Globes, “We all lose.”
Removing the muzzle
Trump’s victory is the result of a large number of people feeling ignored by traditional politicians and the media. Who knows, maybe the Trump phenomenon will help purge us of political speak and political correctness!
As we all know, however, things are likely to remain a slippery slope for a while yet (winters are often long, as you know!). But maybe this instability can encourage us to be more careful and better informed, perhaps even more engaged and more involved in debates.
Let’s be optimistic for a moment. This is the opportunity for communications professionals to speak more openly, directly, and honestly—from the heart to the heart.
In 2017, it will be more important than ever to:
- Speak the truth
- Base your work on facts
- Have or be a credible and understanding spokesperson
- Really listen
In this pivotal year, vigilance and open-mindedness are the keys to success for communications professionals.
Have you ever thought about including Canada in your business’ growth plan? CASACOM has welcomed several foreign brands in Canada over the last few years in both its Toronto and Montreal offices. All of those brands have benefited from an integrated PR program and have since seen their income grow. Beyond the lucrative currency exchange rates we are currently seeing, here are 8 reasons to expand in Canada in 2016.
Diversification reflects the realities of changing consumer tastes and evolving business opportunity.By expanding into Canada, alternate sources of revenue open up for a business, making it more resilient to changes in the domestic market.
2. Financial stability
For the eighth consecutive year, the World Economic Forum has professed Canada’s banking system to be the soundest in the world. According to Forbes and Bloomberg, Canada is the best country in the G-20 to do business.
3. Financial growth and market access
From 2005 to 2014, Canada led G-7 countries in economic growth. It also provides a market worth a combined gross domestic product of $38 trillion, or nearly one-half of the world’s output of goods and services.
By expanding into the Canadian market, businesses have the chance to increase output with lower variable costs. This can benefit their profit margins, cut down production costs and make them more competitive in the domestic market.
5. Low business tax costs
Total business tax costs in Canada are by far the lowest in the G-7 and 46 percent lower than those in the United States.
6. Competitive edge
Expanding internationally is vital in order to remain competitive. Choosing Canada is a logical first step due to its geographical proximity. Canada also offers a competitive R&D environment, with the lowest business costs in the G-7 for R&D-intensive sectors, with a 15.8 percent cost advantage over the United States.
7. Educated workforce
Canada’s workforce is the most highly educated among members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) as half of the working-age population has a post-secondary education.
8. Great place to live and work
Canada is one of the most multicultural countries in the world, with a universal healthcare system, clean and beautiful landscape and outstanding universities. The OECD’s Better Life Index shows Canada as best in the G-7 in terms of overall living conditions and quality of life.
At CASACOM, we can help grow businesses in Canada. Contact us if you wish to discuss this further.
Brands interested in entering the Canadian marketplace face cultural differences that demand unique communications strategies in order to be effective. Our Worldcom PR Group Houston partner Ward sat down with CASACOM CEO Marie-Josée Gagnon to discuss what it takes to enter the Canadian marketplace and how B2C and B2B brands can cause the results they desire by following a pragmatic set of communications guidelines.
Q. Are there any business tips you have for B2B and B2C companies looking to enter the Canadian marketplace?
A. Over the years, at CASACOM, we’ve helped many foreign brands enter the Québec and Canadian markets. We’ve learned the best strategies to land smoothly. Here are a few of the best practices collected along the way:
1. Plan early and partner with a local firm. It’s important to find the right communications partner that will facilitate your entry, connect you with the right people and inform you about the challenges you may face.
2. Fully acknowledge the difference. Sincerely accept that there are differences and sincerely engage yourself in identifying them. Do not put your head in the sand thinking that they will go away, it will backfire for sure.
3. Understand the market. You need to understand the market you are entering; consumer trends, cost of living, culture, politics, etc. Conduct a comprehensive research and check your assumptions through surveys or focus groups.
4. Be represented locally. Having a local spokesperson representing your brand helps create a better relationship between you and the consumer. Consumers tend to follow people from where they live versus an “outsider.”
Q. There are two primary languages used in Canada: English and French. What do you recommend international clients do to jump the potential communications barrier? Do French language media speak English with PR people pitching them?
A. We always recommend that international clients seek people who speak French fluently or a local PR team in Quebec to help with any communication barrier issues. Most French language media do speak English and will respond to you in English, however many of them prefer to exchange information in French. It is easier for them to communicate and understand material better when it is written in their first language. From our experience, French media respond better to pitching that is in French over English.
However, we highly recommend to be compliant with Bill 101, Quebec’s French Language Law, and follow a few rules:
• Translate all documents used in common business applications into French.
• Provide French content to Quebeckers is about more than following the rules; it is a way of reaching out and engaging with a community.
• Consider the “cultural difference” when doing business in Québec. This allows companies to extend their reach by engaging customers in French on multiple platforms. For example, what about creating a French Facebook page or Twitter account? These extra details will not go unnoticed in Québec and are sure to help an organization establish a solid brand identity and build positive relationships.
• Work with in-market translators.
Q. What is the greatest difference in how the news media operates in Canada versus other regions in the world?
A. There are some key differences in how the news media operates in Canada versus other regions in the world. For example, major Canadian magazines devote more than 80 percent of content to Canadian-authored editorial and many Canadian journalists seek out local angles; 88 percent of readers feel it is necessary to have editorial content created specifically for Canadian readers.
Canadian media also want to be perceived and treated differently from other news media around the world. They desire Canadian content, statistics, facts and spokespersons and focus on localized news rather than general interest stories. They also expect materials to be delivered using Canadian Press style and in some cases, UK English (e.g. labour/labor) and prefer materials in well-adapted French and English.
Q. Give a few examples of good public relationsinitiatives conducted in Canada by American B2B and B2C companies.
A. Starbucks is doing a good PR job in Canada by keeping their digital marketing campaigns and/or promotions consistent, but still adding some Canadian flare. They make an effort to deliver genuine moments by connecting with Canadian customers whether it is in person or through social media.
Home Depot Canada has been involved in the community through The Home Depot Canada Foundation and creating campaigns, which supports initiatives that help put an end to youth homelessness in Canada. We were quite impressed with the way Michaels stores entered the Canadian and the Québec markets. Their open and humble attitude made a positive difference in how Canadian consumers responded to them. Finally, Etsy Canada also understood that to connect with a given population you have to build a program that talk to the people of that specific community or region; what they value, their cultures, trends, etc.
Q. How has digital technology or social media changed the way Canadian media gather and report the news?
A. Social media has definitely impacted the way Canadian media gathers and reports the news. A lot of information is constantly posted online and I’m sure a number of them do get some of their information from there. But I have seen more and more that the media tweet their facts or provide small tid bits in 140 characters to explain a breaking story or announcement. Everything has become shortened and it’s about who can get that news out there the fastest. Canadian media seek social media and video content to integrate with their editorial content as well.
Q. Mega-retailer Target recently pulled out of the Canadian marketplace due to a poorly executed growth strategy. In your opinion, do you think PR strategies were used effectively in the region to reach target audiences? Could they have done better to support the expansion?
A. Unfortunately, I don’t think the right business strategies were used when Target entered the Canadian market. For instance, they acquired too many stores in a short period of time.I think they could have done a better job understanding the market they were entering, inventory issues, pricing, as well as the needs of consumers. Although, Canada and the United States have similar views or ways of life, we are still separate countries that have different cultures, trends, currency, etc. and brands need to adapt.
Q. Anything else you would like our Ward to the Wise readers to know?
A. CASACOM loves to help foreign businesses entering Canada. With offices in Toronto and in Montreal, we bring a deep understanding of cultural differences resulting in unique and highly effective communications strategies. We would be thrilled to help any businesses to get a better understanding of the Canadian market. To do that, we offer a free Canada 101 webinar.
– See more at: http://www.wardcc.com/blog/how-to-communicate-effectively-in-the-canadian-market/#sthash.YzuN0Sn4.dpuf
This year, for their 25th years in the public relations and communications business, our Houston Worldcom PR Group partner Ward decided to highlight their global footprint by showcasing the expertise of our partners. They recently interviewed our dear Phoeniz partner Carol Klimas, VP, Partner and Director of social media at Off Madison Avenue on the latest trends and strategies by which clients are reaching and engaging with key influencers online. Here’s what they wrote:Q. What ways have you seen your clients effectively interact with bloggers to promote a product or service? And more important, what has been your ethical experience working with this audience? Pitfalls to avoid?
A. Last year, we supported our client the Arizona Office of Tourism in its launch of a guest blogger program. The program identified bloggers who could provide real experiences and original photography of the state. In taking this approach to the blog, the Arizona Office of Tourism is not only able to curate quality blogs on an ongoing basis, but can also more effectively reach its target audiences.
We found that when working with bloggers, it is important to have a clear policy in place to outline requirements and restrictions, and to clearly define the relationship between the client and the bloggers. We didn’t compensate the bloggers in any way, which made the content they provided all the more authentic.
When working with a large collection of, mostly, amateur bloggers, it’s very important to keep in contact and to ensure that they have enough direction and motivation to stay excited about the program. You also want to make sure that you aren’t making too big of an ask from them.
Q. Clients have become increasingly familiar working with LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Which new platforms do you see evolving into powerful communications tools for clients in the next 5 years? What social trends do you see of impact to B2C and B2B companies?
A. With millennials and Gen-Z quickly becoming a focus point for marketers, platforms like Snapchat and Instagram should be considered in consumer social media strategies. These tools allow a brand to connect on an even deeper level with its audiences, which is what these generations are seeking in brand interactions.
User-generated content is a growing trend that should be taken advantage of whenever possible. Whether guest bloggers or shared Instagram photos, leveraging this type of content not only eases the time commitment of the client, but also further engages the audience with the brand.
On the other side of the coin, long-form content is also going to see a resurgence in coming years. There was recently a statistic that cited videos longer than 19 minutes are soaring in popularity and Facebook is integrating long-form native articles into its feeds. The communications pro of the future is going to have to have that journalism-minded storytelling ability and an understanding of social media’s ability to engage.
Q. What’s a minimum spend level for social media relations? For example, what should a client realistically budget to obtain results? And how do you measure those results to justify an effective return on investment?
A. The budget for social media has to be dependent on the client’s needs and objectives.
However, we do know the need for social media spend is growing every year. Social media definitely isn’t free anymore!
When we’re asking for hundreds, thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars of client budget, ROI becomes paramount and measurement has to be a consideration from day one. We have the ability to generate direct sales via Pinterest, track donations made from Twitter, see app downloads from Facebook and benchmark increases in brand affinity across all platforms. Vanity metrics simply won’t cut it, anymore. Results should be measured on, at least, a monthly basis, allowing the client to review performance and optimize effort where needed.
Q. What’s the biggest risk clients – especially B2B companies — face when they do not consider a social media strategy?
A. Without a sound social media strategy in place, clients miss a huge opportunity to connect with their target audiences in a space where conversations are already happening. They also miss the chance to handle issues when they are still issues. An unhappy customer caught quickly isn’t a big deal. An angry customer who is ignored and makes a YouTube video with millions of views becomes a crisis.
While brands do not need to be on every platform, it is important to be aware of what is being said about the industry and product in a social setting.
Q. What else should Ward to the Wise readers know about social media dynamics?
A. Social media is always evolving, and we as agency partners should be constantly researching and sharing these changes with clients. It is important to stay relevant in this space, and to always position the client in the best way possible.
This year, for their 25th years in the public relations and communications business, our Houston Worldcom PR Group partner Ward decided to highlight their global footprint by showcasing the expertise of our partners. They recently interviewed Dr. Norman Booth, vice president and public relations specialist at Coyne PR to hear his take on the current hustle and bustle of the New York media landscape.
Q. Coyne PR has offices in New York City, the media mecca of the world. Describe the current media culture there.
A. Extremely fast-paced and competitive. Reporters receive thousands of pitches daily and it’s tough to break through the clutter.
Q. Do reporters, editors and producers respond to PR professionals with a good story? Are they more amenable to your correspondence because you’re local? Do outsiders have to work even harder to grab their attention or will a strong news angle win out?
A. A good story is paramount, but the key to getting a response is making sure you have the right reporter for the story. You could have a great story, but if you’re pitching the wrong person they will never be interested in it. While being closer does make it easier to meet with reporters in person we don’t feel that reporters are more amenable to our correspondence solely because we’re local, but being in the same time zone is a huge benefit. You want to make sure you’re reaching out to reporters at times when it’s most convenient for them.
Q. What changes have you seen in New York-based media? Are more outlets opening or closing? Are there any new niche media outlets on the rise? What has the impact of digital publishing had on New York media? What do current staffing levels look like given the state of the business…are they in decline or holding steady? What are new risks and opportunities for PR practitioners as a result of these trends?
A.One of the biggest changes we’ve seen is the shrinking of newsroom staff and a heavier reliance on contributed content and syndication models. The opportunities here to create content and drive the news rather than simply comment on it are growing significantly, but this also comes with some risks. One of the effects of a shrinking newsroom is that many publications are syndicating content from other channels and partners. There is a greater level of concentration in the business which is rapidly eliminating competition among some of the larger outlets. This is great when your client’s news appears in multiple outlets from one placement, but it can also make it more challenging to find the right person to reach out to and break through the clutter.
Q. For clients outside New York looking for a national media presence, what’s an example of a minimum budget spend level for media relations? For example, what should a client from the Southwest realistically expect and prepare for to obtain results with top-tier business media?
A.There is no one perfect number, but the key thing to get across to clients here is that getting national media is not immediate and it is expensive. Breaking through the clutter of thousands of pitches takes a significant time investment and involves a much more strategic media approach than a few quick story ideas.
Q. Some towns are press conference towns and some aren’t. Some media outlets respond to events and some don’t. What surefire tactics do New York-based media respond to?
A. Events are great if you have really compelling speakers, but with shrinking newsrooms it’s really difficult for reporters to get away from their desks. One of the things we find works best is to go to the reporter. Make time to visit the area and offer to meet with them at their desk for 15 minutes and bring them a cup of coffee. Make it a simple conversational meeting that will benefit both of you. You, as a PR professional, can find out more about what types of stories appeal to the reporter and some things they’re looking to focus on in the coming months. And the reporter gets an opportunity to learn more about your clients and the types of things you work on.
Q. What else should Ward to the Wise readers know about working with NY media?
A. Reporters, especially those based in NY, are busy and move at a really fast pace. Make your pitch straight forward, simple and get right to the point of why you’re contacting them.
Many thanks to our friends at Coyne PR and Ward for these insights. See more at: http://www.wardcc.com/blog/worldcom-wednesdays-big-apple-media-trends-with-coyne-pr/#sthash.ZDk9SlpI.dpuf