THE ART OF DELEGATING

Yes, there really is an art to delegating.

The very definition of delegating is “assigning the responsibility or authority to another person to carry out specific duties.” It is one of the core concepts of management leadership. However, just the thought of delegating is stressful, and most people struggle with the idea of giving up control on a project. Just as in other aspects of business, there is a process and procedure you should use to help you delegate effectively.

Delegating is an opportunity to remove a project or task from your plate so that you can focus on other more pertinent tasks and improve your management skills. By assigning the task or project to another colleague, you are essentially giving them an opportunity to grow and further develop new skills, which helps build an engaged, efficient team.

Assessing Your Team

When considering projects/assignments to delegate, first you should consider your team. It is important to select a team member who has appropriate strengths and skills as well as capacity to handle the assignment. Other things to consider: Is this a one-time project or will it be a recurring task?  Does this team member have the time to dedicate to the task?

Assign and Empower

Once you have identified the team member, be sure to set up a kick-off meeting to discuss the project. Provide all background, discuss the roles and responsibilities and set expectations. Be sure to communicate the objectives, goals, budget and deadlines. Setting up a regular time to meet to check in on your team member’s progress is also a great way to stay in the loop and provide feedback without micromanaging.

Do’s & Don’ts of Delegating:

DO:

  • Share key priorities so your team knows what’s most important
  • Clarify expectations by communicating essential information about the project
  • Provide complete instructions
  • Give your team members the support they need to leverage YOU better
  • Be patient. Let others learn and grow
  • Be clear about your team’s level of authority
  • Check on progress
  • Show recognition

DON’T:

  • Expect people to read your mind
  • Give “drive-by” delegations
  • Underestimate the time it takes to do things
  • Micromanage
  • Underestimate your team’s capabilities
  • Get discouraged if your team asks you for advice
  • Look for perfection

 

A final piece of advice: “Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.” – George S. Patton

Do you have a proven method of delegating? Join us in the discussion and tweet us @DEVENEYMKTG

 

 

 

 

NEXT-GEN PR AND THE TURN TO SOCIAL INNOVATION

What do you do when customers stop trusting you, or stop listening entirely? Consumer behavior is shifting rapidly, and we are seeing decreased return on advertising and corporate communication as a whole. Customers trust online reviews more than they trust corporate voices, but many companies don’t create opportunities for that kind of feedback or attempt to “stack the deck” in reviews on Amazon, Yelp, or even Glassdoor.

So customers look instead to more concrete forms of word of mouth (that Holy Grail of communication), focusing on tangible experiences and authentic engagement. In other words, to be successful in many ways means changing our perspective from attracting and retaining customers to converting those customers into ambassadors and loyal stakeholders whether or not they’re purchasing from us or using our services.

While this is across the board, more or less, it is also a generational thing. Millennials and “generation Z” now comprise almost half the population (48%) in the US, and stand to inherit trillions of dollars from their baby boomer and gen-x parents (although that can be a misleading statistic). They also came of age during the insane rise in college tuition and the cost of student loans, as well as the shift from “yes we can” rhetoric to Nazis marching openly in the streets of supposedly progressive college towns.

These generations are also very active, volunteering at high rates and emphasizing a social conscience in the products they buy and the services they use, as well as feeling perfectly at home pressuring those companies they don’t like to get in line (the best recent example would be the unprecedented pushback against US gun culture after the Parkland shooting).

They spend, they don’t save, and they certainly don’t trust anyone they don’t know (and certainly not if that voice sounds corporate). They’re even more hungry for tangible good, demonstrable impact, and authentic experience (e.g., craft and maker culture, immersion into other cultures and community service, etc.) than other demographics, and are intolerant of smoke, mirrors, and half-truths just as much as they are easily obsessed with the idea of being an “influencer.”

All of this means, however, that the millennial and gen-z demographics are primed and ready for public relations as a positive force for trust and relationship building (rather than spin, agentry, and reactive crisis communication). There are a few ways that organizations can develop to suit their needs, and luckily those are in line with best practices for economic sustainability as well.

 

Cause-Related Marketing (CRM) and Social Marketing

Build engagement and identification with your stakeholders by aligning your corporate interests with their personal/social interests. Leverage your brand identity (or redefine it) through a social identity, remembering that audiences now are looking for social change, and are willing to back it as consumers. Be careful not to be cynical, though; using social good to mask huge profit margins, greenwash your products, or for publicity itself can backfire.

 

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Creating Shared Value (CSV)

Engagement marketing doesn’t have to look like marketing, and your brand can sell itself. If your employees want a socially responsible company, and they are some of your best ambassadors, make sure to engage with the community in such a way that the 4Ps (product, place, promotion, price) of marketing become the 6Ps (adding people and planet). Just be sure it’s strategic and brand-aligned (strategic CSR or “creating shared value”): Cliff Bars encourage healthy living (and teaching that to the community), Google pays its employees to spend their time on pet projects, and companies like Target, Starbucks, and IKEA have pushed gender equity, sexuality equity, and environmental responsibility in various ways to connect both to employees and their customers (with incredible success).

 

Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Let’s not forget that Gmail came from Google’s 20% idea, and Starbucks gained much-needed brand goodwill (and talent retention) from its stance on marriage equality and its efforts to support employees with education and healthcare. But the idea that we can find inspiration and opportunity by combining social needs with corporate strategy isn’t new; it’s just becoming even more important with millennials and gen-z. The key is to always innovate, but also always consider suitability and sustainability of the project. But even if it doesn’t work (right now), the push towards an innovative mindset always pays off.

Regardless of which road you take, it’s essential to remember that the stakeholder/user comes first, and that a good strategy not only means a good story, it also means you might need indirect tactics to get your message across in a way that doesn’t alienate or sound fake. While your personality makes you visible, memorable, and engaging, it also is still corporate; find a balance between who you are and what you want, and the potential ambassadors that the next generations want to be and listen to.

THE THREE STEPS TO A GENTLY HOLISTIC PR AGENCY

In the Douglas Adams series Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, success isn’t something you can always see clearly, and it’s certainly not something you can control. The world is too complex for any one person or team to make sense of it or make everything turn out “right.” There aren’t many better metaphors for the current state of public relations, especially as the rise of digital media challenges what we thought we knew about communication.

 

Digital media isn’t fundamentally different from non-digital media; no one wins if you let the tools, rather than your story, guide the strategy. At the same time, social media represents a broader shift that moves attention away from companies and towards users, integrating user-oriented storytelling into everything from operations to finance. No matter how good you are, user perceptions of politics (Chic-fil-A), customer service (United Airlines), or environmental impact (Tyson Foods) can result in rapid breakdown as well as opportunities for innovation.

 

Communication professionals are usually still in silos that rarely interact and so can’t adapt quickly enough in a time of continual and aggressive shifts in competition and industry disruption. How often do we start with a coherent story that has buy-in from each team, and then work together to form that story into strategic initiatives before we get to tactics and implementation? How often do we rethink what we “know” about how customers view our core value and competencies? And how often does that turn into real innovation that spans multiple departments? While most of us would answer “rarely” to those questions, there are a few steps you can take to stimulate the innovative and entrepreneurial energy of your communication teams.

 

Step 1: Holistic Workflow

Hiring talent isn’t enough; collaboration should occur along every step of project development. Each team or account executive should brief the others on progress, team leads should brainstorm across silos, and documents should be shared along the way. Don’t just bring creative in at the end, and don’t pretend that engineering is completely separate from PR and marketing.

 

Step 2: Holistic Research

Immerse yourself with clients completely; understand when and how services/products are used, but also get to know the competition, how production and sales operations influence experience, etc. If you don’t understand how the whole process works, you have far less ability to propose or execute projects that fit an overall strategy. At the same time, getting to know the process gives your teams valuable time and space to interact with the whole operation, gaining goodwill and buy-in across the board.

 

Step 3: Holistic Pitching

Remember to let things go. In a constantly changing environment, you need to be able to be flexible. When clients change their minds or our research shows that a good idea won’t work, make it an opportunity to be creative and innovative. What would work, or when would that good idea work? Is it a fit for another project? Can you use this time to throw out a few more pitches and get feedback? While pitching lots of ideas that tie into multiple areas of communication might result in few leads (or maybe just a green light for the PR side or advertising side), the process also keeps you sharp and opens ideas for other clients or initiatives. It also means that you’ll have to let a lot of good ideas go.

 

GETTING TO KNOW GENERATION Z

As marketers, it’s crucial to continuously research and know our ever-evolving audiences. Our newest target audience? Generation Z.

But who exactly is Gen Z?

There is some debate on birth years, but most agree that Gen Z’ers are those individuals born after 1995/1996. They are 60 million strong, and will make up 40% of consumers by 2020.

Most importantly though, Gen Z’ers are not just an exaggerated version of Millennials – in fact, they are extremely different given the historical context they grew up in:

  • Gen Z’ers have been shaped by the recession and are prepared to work hard to create a stable future for themselves. They don’t remember a time when the economy was booming, so they are much more pragmatic and realistic than Millennials.
  • Additionally, they grew up believing that acceptance is the semi-norm and are generally more inclusive and tolerant than older generations. After all, they witnessed the election of the first black president and the legalization of gay marriage.
  • Gen Z’ers are global citizens. They actually interact with their global peers as the world continues to go online and geographical barriers shrink.
  • Technology-wise, Gen Z’ers are different because they are digital natives. They grew up surrounded by advancements in technology and don’t really remember a time when they did not have those tools. They see technology more as a tool than as an obsession. Technological innovation is not as exciting because they have come to expect it.

So, what does this mean for marketing?

Because Gen Z is such a unique audience cohort and will make up such a large portion of the market, it’s important to understand key aspects of their demo- and psychographics so that we may begin to shift how we communicate brands and ideas. Key takeaways include:

5 screens, 8 seconds: Because they’ve grown up in a world with access to information 24/7, Gen Z’ers have extremely small attention spans – 8 seconds to be exact. Even more, they are consistently plugged in to about 5 screens at a time.To account for this, make your content engaging and concise, and be sure to wow them (they expect it) – show value as quickly as possible.

Make sure your website is updated and works on mobile devices. They judge with their eyes first, and if one platform is lacking, they will notice and criticize you for it.

Tailor your marketing posts to each specific platform while keeping the overall message the same – it’s up to you to find the best way to communicate, and remember: each platform has a different purpose. Overall, Gen Z’ers are typically top users of platforms that allow them to choose who sees their content, and trends show that they prefer visual content over written word.

  • Instagram: conveying style and identity
  • Twitter: learning the news, real-time talk around trending events
  • Snapchat: share real moments in real time
  • Facebook: glean information, but tends to be viewed as an “over-sharing” platform (and thus its popularity among Gen Z is dying)
  • Another tip: Utilize online influencers to connect with the audience on a personal level. Gen Z’ers aren’t naïve and know influencers are paid to endorse products, but they still trust the individuals they follow on social media to make a conscious decision about the brands they work with.

Strong “BS” filters: Gen Z’ers have a very different relationship with brands and companies than their elders – they are less trusting and tend to have the strongest “BS” filter because they grew up having so much access to information so constantly. Overall, they tend to trust individuals more than institutions, so make sure to promote transparency and authenticity in everything your brand does.

  • Another tip: Utilize online influencers to connect with the audience on a personal level. Gen Z’ers aren’t naïve and know influencers are paid to endorse products, but they still trust the individuals they follow on social media to make a conscious decision about the brands they work with.

Empower them to change the world: Gen Z’ers aren’t as impressed by awards and industry jargon – they are motivated by companies that demonstrate a desire to make a positive impact on the world. They are very socially and politically active and want to be involved in the next movement for change. Don’t just talk about how your company helps others… inspire people to join you.

How has your brand shifted to target Generation Z? Tell @DEVENEYMKTG how you did it!

CURATING A CAREER PATH: MY SHADOW ASSOCIATE EXPERIENCE AT DEVENEY

As a New Orleans native and rising junior at the University of Southern California, I felt like I had experienced it all. From L.A. to LA, I have spent my college career in a persistent pursuit of determining what exactly my professional life was going to be. With internships that ran me through a multi-industry gauntlet (international Fashion PR Houses, celebrity stylists and social media startups), I had grown confident that I knew exactly what I wanted to do: visual branding.

This past month I had the opportunity to be join DEVENEY as a Shadow Associate, working with and learning from each of the departments – Digital, Creative/Advertising and PR.

First, I worked within the Digital team. I was blown away by the breadth of platforms, and both the amount and intricacy of platform usage itself. I was blown away by the breadth of platforms, and both the amount and intricacy of platform usage itself.

Second, I worked within the Creative team. I was tasked with gathering logos of companies that the Creative team was working on creating. They even trusted me with finding a stock image to be manipulated by the team for the main image for the quarterly report. Through hands on experience, I truly learned the creative process that goes into developing content.

Finally, I worked within the PR team, where I was brought into the immersive and fast paced world of crisis control. I learned about the importance, and delicate balance, of customer and client relations, as well as the multiple avenues through which brands maintain and craft their images and personalities.

At the end of each day, I found myself questioning more and more what exactly I had originally meant when I said that I was interested in visual branding. As consumers, everything that we see is a communicated message, intentional or not. To be able to curate that message is complicated, nuanced, empowering, and all together the industry of PR and Marketing. Every department approaches communicating information visually in its own way, whether it’s an enticing Instagram with the Digital Team, a strong logo with the Creative Team, or developing a strategic campaign with the PR Team.

Being a Shadow Associate at DEVENEY allowed me to immerse myself in an industry in which you can only learn through participation. I am able to leave this program with both a greater understanding of self and the expansive world that is visual branding. My only regret? That I didn’t apply to be a full Associate and Summer Scholar programs. If you have any interest in the advertising, digital, public relations and/or overall marketing field, make sure to apply by the end of July for consideration this fall. Taking charge of your career through gaining new experiences is truly the best way to curate it.

CALLING FOUL ON ACTIVIST GROUPS

Graphic of Activist Groups

Preparing for the Future of Crisis

Over the past couple of years, there has been an increase in activism and protests to voice concern over various topics and issues such as abortion, gun reform/school shootings, sexual violence and animal cruelty, just to name a few. Supporters of these groups are very passionate about their respective causes and can create turmoil for a brand’s reputation if one happens to get caught in their cross hairs.

Activists will do anything to bring attention to their cause, whether it be staging protests outside of a business or vandalizing a brand’s identity through every possible outlet, including social media networks, advertising, direct mail and grassroots efforts. By engaging with and empowering their supporters, these groups can quickly build momentum, control the conversation and increase support in other locations.

On March 25, 2018, McDonald’s was targeted by an animal rights group that criticized the chain for its “chicken welfare policy” – pressuring the corporate giant to agree to source its chicken from more sustainable/humane farms. Over the past year, the group has also targeted other fast food empires, food suppliers and manufacturers demanding the same commitments, many of which have agreed to the group’s demands such as Subway, Starbucks and Burger King, Sodexo, General Mills and Carnival Cruise Lines.

The group launched an aggressive fight against McDonald’s and has appropriated its logo, slogan, products and mascot for a negative image campaign, which has been implemented online, on bench ads in front of restaurants, on mobile billboards and in full-page ads in the Chicago Times and the New York Times. The group has also taken to projecting negative messaging on buildings next to restaurant locations and erecting large-scale, branded product installations around Chicago. Through an online campaign, including email newsletters, supporters are being mobilized to protest outside of restaurants around the world and at McDonald’s U.S. headquarters in Chicago.

To date, the group has not received the commitment they are seeking from the brand, and each day the attack continues. McDonald’s has not publicly responded to the group.

Think your brand might be targeted next? Here are a few recommendations on how you can identify and monitor any activist groups possibly targeting your brand.

Activism Monitoring Toolkit

Research:

  • Identify current groups and groups on-the-rise that might be targeting your brand and/or your competitors
  • Keep an eye on the news and hot topics nationally and globally and identify topics that might be a pain point for your brand (animal welfare, gun reform, etc)
  • Listen to public opinion, as it changes quickly

Monitoring:

  • Set up Google Alerts for trending terms/issues
  • Utilize social monitoring tools such as HootSuite or Sprout Social to see posts and engagements as they happen

Befriend the enemy:

  • Sign up for newsletters
  • Follow social accounts to keep an eye out on what brands they are targeting and why

Prepare:

  • Develop a media relations plan, community relations plan, and risk communications strategy
  • Assign roles to team members who have relevant experience in crisis management
  • Conduct a media training for key executives and spokespeople
  • Prepare talking points and a holding statement
  • Prepare responses in the event you begin receiving calls, emails or negative comments on your social networks

Want to learn more? Join our conversation by tweeting us @DEVENEYMKTG.

CONSUMER LISTENING; UNDERSTANDING HOW YOUR BRAND IS UNDERSTOOD

Listening (DEVENEY Image)

As marketing and public relations professionals, we are in the business of building brands and helping to shape consumer conversation. We use methods like advertisements, social media, influencer endorsements, public relations efforts and more, but in the end, unless we have access to marketing mix model (MMM), do we truly know how our brand might be perceived by the general public or what our return on investment might be?

Often expensive and labor intense in process, MMM is an analytic tool that determines the effectiveness of a variety of tactics, but unfortunately most small businesses cannot afford its use.

But what other indicators can we look towards, to get a gauge on the effectiveness of marketing and public relations efforts?

Social Media Listening– these days most brands actively engage in some form of social media listening. And if you are not, you should! A decent listening tool can provide a deep dive analysis into the conversation currently being had surrounding your business. As most individuals actively maintain one or more social media profiles, social media listening can be an effective tool to gauge how a particular consumer demographic views your brand, often in real time. Is your marketing message making its way into the vernacular of your target consumer group? That’s a good indicator that your messaging is effective.

Sales Numbers– Should you have access to your sales numbers, often times a lift can be attributed to an individual tactic. And through digital tools, coupon codes and a variety of other tracking methods, a direct correlation is easier than ever. Instagram is a good example of where a tactic can be directly linked to a sale. Featured influencer content can direct a consumer on where to purchase, making the connection VERY clear.

Consumer Reviews– According to the Pew Research Center 82% of U.S. adults say they at least read online customer ratings or reviews before purchasing items for the first time. There is no question that consumer reviews impact purchase behavior, but what can these reviews provide to marketers in terms of gauging sentiment? While not something that can directly link to marketing efforts, reviews can be utilized to spot trending indicators. Are consumers regularly commenting on price? Is there a commonality in regards to the negative reviews posted? A brand is wise to regularly monitor comments and adjust their product or service offering accordingly.

So, while not every brand can get into the analysis of their marketing spend, the above methods are excellent options for getting an overview of how your brand is being received. By paying close attention to what people are saying, incites often reveal themselves. It’s up to us to determine how we react to these incites to improve or adjust our marketing strategy.

Want to learn more? Join our conversation by tweeting us @DEVENEYMKTG.

HOW TO SLOW DOWN IN A FAST-PACED AGENCY WORLD

Slow Down (DEVENEY Graphic)

When you’re given a new project, it’s easy to go into autopilot and want to start right away to finish as soon as possible. However, before starting, try to dedicate a few minutes to thinking of any potential problems or questions you may have noted before diving in, and how you might want to tackle the assignment. Be rational: do you even have all the information you need to complete the project, or do you need to do some further research first? Remember to give yourself some time to think and draw logical conclusions about the project at hand.

Communicate with the client (or the project lead) to make sure that all expectations are understood and clear from the beginning.

To make more efficient use of your time before starting, confirm that you have a correct understanding of what the project entails and any important deadlines to keep in mind. That way, you are headed in the right direction from the get-go and won’t be halfway through the project before realizing that what you’ve done isn’t actually what the client was looking for.

Create your own action plan.

How are you going to get your project done for your client by the deadline? In this step, I usually create mini-deadlines or internal goals for myself – for example, when writing a press release, I budget the time I’m allotted to account for research, writing the first draft, editing, and so on. By forming a mental checklist for myself, I not only keep myself on track, but am able to make sure each stage of the project is completed thoroughly.

If you finish before the deadline, take a break and come back to the project later, before turning it over to the client or account lead for review.

By allowing yourself to take a break and come back with fresh eyes, you are giving yourself the opportunity to think of an idea to include that may not have occurred to you the first time around, or even a completely new — and better — angle for the project that the client will love. You may end up having a breakthrough if you let the assignment sit for a while, and you’ll also be able to catch those grammatical or spelling errors you didn’t realize you made.

If all else fails, take a deep breath and remind yourself to relax – the work will get done!

Ultimately, slowing down will help you pay closer attention to detail, which will enhance your productivity in the long run. It may feel painful at first and as if you’re not being efficient, but after a while, it will become second nature. Being efficient is important, but so is serving the needs of a client to the best of your abilities, and that all starts with mindfulness and slowing down.

Keep in mind: people may not remember how fast you did it, but they will remember how well you did it!

How do you stay efficient at work while not sacrificing quality? Share your techniques with us @DEVENEYMKTG!

 

 

LESSONS TO LEARN FROM SOUTHWEST’S CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS

Southwest Blue (DEVENEY Image)

No company ever wants to deal with a crisis, let alone a fatal one. However, the sad reality is that certain industries and sectors are high-risk and fatalities are just one of the many crises that could potentially arise.

Unfortunately for Southwest Airlines, on Tuesday, April 17, 2018, they dealt with their first in-flight death when an engine failure caused an object to fly through a window above one of the wings. While we certainly would never wish this kind of tragedy on any company, Southwest’s swift action is something to learn from. Let’s take a quick look:

The Company Responded Quickly

One of the most challenging things about a crisis is that innate reaction most of us have to deflect responsibility. None of us wants to be responsible for poor service, a defective product or, in this case, the death of a customer. Southwest, however, took swift action and immediately took responsibility.

The company issued a press release on their website at 12:04 pm, 41 minutes after Flight 1380 made the emergency landing in Philadelphia, PA. That response time is impressive.

Southwest Airline Press Release regarding Flight 1380

The Company Used Social Media to Respond

Following the press release, the company updated their social media profiles. On Twitter, they shared a video message in the form of a tweet that was pinned to the top of their profile and then updated their bio to reflect the information:

Southwest Airlines Twitter Response in Crisis

They also shared the video and response on Facebook in the form of a pinned post:

Southwest Airlines Facebook response to crisis

And they shared it on Instagram:

In addition to taking responsibility so quickly, Southwest Airlines also very quickly updated their social media profiles to reflect the severity of the situation. They changed their profile picture and cover photos to be more somber, while still maintaining their brand identity, as well as their bios to direct people to the press release.

Additionally, they ceased posting to their social media with the exception of responses and customer service (which we’re about to get into) allowing for the news of the crisis to maintain top position of their feeds. Many times in a crisis, brands are tempted to bury a negative story by overcompensating with  positive ones. In this particular instance, Southwest refrained, which further enforces the seriousness of the issue to them.

southwest airlines adjusted their branding following the crisis

They Adapted Their Social Media Strategy 

Even in the face of an unimaginable crisis like the one Southwest is dealing with, regular life continues to occur. In a service industry, people will always need support no matter what issues you’re dealing with. Sometimes, our natural response during a crisis is to cease all communication, of any kind, until things have blown over. Unfortunately, that isn’t always something you can do.

Southwest handled the situation well by ceasing their regular social media posting and focusing their narrative on the tragedy and the steps they are taking as a company to ensure it never happens again. That said, they did continue to respond to any customer service requests. This is incredibly important because it helped to maintain the reputation that they have for top-level customer service and care. Even while handling what I can only imagine is one of the worst crises in the history of the company, they managed to make all customers feel valued and heard. That’s hard to do.

Southwest's continued customer service in the face of a very serious crisis

Additionally, they came up with clear messaging for instances where people specifically addressed the engine failure and fatality. They didn’t shy away from the crisis, they confronted it head-on, another thing that can be intimidating and difficult to do.

They Continued to Update the Public  

Two days later, Southwest continued to provide updates to the public regarding the incident. This is another tactic that people tend to shy away from; it’s bad enough to admit you have failed let alone continue to talk about it.

As a whole, we give major kudos to Southwest Airlines for how quickly, honestly and sincerely they addressed the tragic fatality experienced on one of their flights. And, while we all hope for the best we know that is smart to learn from their experience and prepare for the worst.