PRN Insider

Communication is at the core of what we do as public relations and marketing professionals, and many communications take place online. That's why PR Network revamped one of its major communication tools, the bi-monthly newsletter, to an online format – the PRN Insider. An easy-to-use and modern format allows our members to stay up-to-date with organization highlights and educational posts.

Fresh content will be posted regularly. Relevant industry articles. Program recaps. Student submissions. Corporate member profiles. The list is endless. Members are encouraged to participate in the blog as well. Submit your post to Communication Director Lea Hensel, who can be contacted via email at lea.hensel@uni.edu.

 

Corporate Member Spotlight: Media Link, Inc.

We’re excited to share the Corporate Member Spotlight for October – Media Link, Inc.

Media Link, Inc. is a full-service strategic communications and advertising agency located in Rock Island. We have built a reputation as a strong, strategic partner for our clients by providing thorough and transparent end-to-end services:

  • Market Research: we are data-driven and confident in our marketing analyses and focus groups.
  • Media Planning & Buying: our unique media planning and buying process ensures maximum cost-efficiency and ensures both clients and vendors are happy. We prioritize long-term relationships.
  • Digital: we are Google certified and stay up to date with industry trends. From websites and apps to social, SEO and Snapchat – we do it all!
  • Government: marketing public entities is a special challenge we happily commit to. Our government certifications give us that special edge.
  • Press Efforts: we know how to get the word out and we are passionate about PR.
  • Creative Services: Media Link allows you to assemble your dream team by matching you with the talent that truly gets you.

Thank you to Media Link, Inc. for being a corporate member and sponsoring the October 2017 program, Quad Cities Steamwheelers Return which took place on October 19, 2017, at the Stoney Creek Hotel and Conference Center.

For more information about becoming a corporate member, please visit Membership.


A Letter from the President

TiffanyHello PR Network members,

I’m Tiffany Stott and I’m very much looking forward to being the Board President of the PR Network. This month we will be kicking off the 2017-2018 program year and I am so excited about what our board has in store for our members for this upcoming year.

As always, we will continue to have monthly programs in various locations throughout the Quad Cities and this year we are covering a wide range of topics! Emails have started going out regarding the September program which will take place on Thursday, September 28, at The Current Iowa in downtown Davenport.

Additionally, I would like to introduce you to the 2017-2018 board. There are many familiar faces and a couple new ones as well.

  • Tiffany Stott, President
  • Lindsey Lobur, Secretary
  • Amy Simler, Treasurer
  • Kristen Anderson, Membership Director
  • Lea Hensel, Content Director
  • Rachel Lawrence, Events Promotion Director
  • Raya Harvill, Student Membership Director and Social Media Manager
  • Brianna Aust, Half-Day Workshop Director
  • Doug Tschopp, Webmaster

Our current slate of officers is a terrific group of dedicated individuals who are interested in making PR Network a great group to be a part of. We enjoy putting together new ideas and ways to improve the group every year. If there are any suggestions, we very much welcome new ideas and thoughts as that’s the best way to grow!

Again, we can’t wait to see what this new year holds, and we’ll see you all at a future meeting!

Sincerely,

Tiffany Stott


Corporate Member Spotlight: The Current Iowa

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To kick off the 2017-2018 program year, we are excited to be at one of the newest establishments in the Quad Cities – The Current Iowa. The program, Opening a Unique Boutique, will provide attendees a look from the corporate perspective on opening a luxury boutique. And to tie it all together, we’re equally as excited to have The Current Iowa as our featured corporate sponsor this month.

The Current Iowa embodies the energy of the riverfront renaissance. Built in the heart of the Quad Cities, on the foundation of Davenport’s first hotel, this stylish, luxury, boutique hotel places an emphasis on taking an artful approach to every guest experience while still offering Midwest hospitality.

Focusing on comfort and style, every room feels like a VIP suite that must be experienced. Curl up in our Serta Comfort beds with high thread-count linens while enjoying world-class views of the Mighty Mississippi. All 78 guest rooms feature in-mirror bathroom TVs, evening turn-down service, and original artwork.

Viva’s Baja inspired dishes are art on a plate. Enjoy street tacos made to perfection for lunch or dinner, our private dining and tequila aging tasting room & gallery. Breakfast at UP will take your breath away with a commanding view of the Mighty Mississippi River. UP will also satisfy your need to howl at the moon with well-crafted drinks and small plates.

Every moment deserves an inspiring space to stir creativity and invite the unexpected. Choose from our strikingly different meeting spaces for your next meeting, or social gathering and let our team of experienced Event Planners plan your day so you can focus on enjoying your successful event.


PR Network of the Quad Cities is an informal organization that brings together professionals in public relations, marketing, and communications to network and exchange ideas. With over 180 members, the group represents a wide variety of businesses and industries in the Quad Cities area. Members meet once a month over lunch for an educational program and a chance to connect with colleagues. Corporate members get all the benefits of an individual membership but with the addition to have up to five employees from one organization attend monthly programs at the member rate, 3-5 contacts listed in the PR Network Member Director, and become the corporate sponsor of one monthly program each year. To learn more, visit Membership.


Solepreneur Panel on Digital Content

We had a great panel discussion at February’s program that centered on blogging, SEO/web copy and social media.

They kicked off the conversation explaining why your company needs a blog hitting on three main reasons: it allows for continual, fresh content, it helps SEO, and it’s a way to constantly communicate with your customers. When you’re just getting started, the more often you can post, the better but be sure your content is ‘evergreen’ so that it lasts.

Deciding on a Platform

As with many questions that were answered, choosing the platform depends on your needs. The panelists recommend WordPress for blogs and Wiks for websites.

Developing Content

Most blogs tend to go by the wayside after awhile for a variety of reasons but by having fairly regular content brainstorming sessions, you can devise your plan far in advance so you’re always prepared with topics. And how can you come up with topics? The panelists gave us some great tips there.

  • What are clients asking you about?
  • What are people saying on social media?
  • What do people search for when they come to your website?

Start with the mass basic education, then look towards seasonal topics and even lists. And when you republish content, make sure to always get permission and syndicate properly. Not doing so can lead to both websites getting negative insights from search engines.

What About Video?

One question asked how important video is for blogs. The panelists all pretty much agreed that while video is fantastic at driving engagement on social media, it’s not as important when it comes to your blog posts.

Measuring Success

As with most marketing and communication efforts, we need to be able to measure success. Especially if you’re managing a blog or social media for a business, that business wants to know its financial efforts are worthwhile.

Start with your website analytics. Both of the recommended platforms (WordPress and Wiks) offer analytics. Look at where clicks are coming from, popular keywords, what sources are driving people to your website, are they looking at your site on mobile or desktop? And on social, check your engagement – likes, shares, comments.

The panelists also shared two other sources they use for measurement and ideas – Google Search Console and Keyword Finder.

Overall Success

Analyze your content on a consistent basis for what works and what doesn’t, and cater your content as needed. It’s really about developing that ‘evergreen’ content and getting it out there for your clients and customers.

The Basic Three Steps

Overall, they summarized the program into three steps to a successful blog.

  1. Create compelling content continually.
  2. Make sure it’s easy to follow, get updates, and share it everywhere you can.
  3. Continue, continue, continue.

How the Isle Casino Hotel in Bettendorf Made Their “Big Little Move”

On September 15, PR Networkers kicked off the 2016-2017 program season at the new Isle Casino Hotel in Bettendorf, IA. Mark Panther, Director of Marketing Operations, shared with us how the establishment navigated the marketing strategy of moving the casino 223 feet at the same time as a competitor was making a move to a new facility as well.

Competitor Confusion

As with any business, differentiation from the competition is crucial, but with three major casinos in the area, multiple casinos in the region, and “convenience” gaming in Illinois, the Isle Casino has a lot to consider. This does not even include the fact that one of those major casinos, Rhythm City, had a very similar timetable for breaking ground, building and opening a brand new casino.

“The one on 80 &74?” Panther says he was often asked that throughout the process when talking to people about the new Isle, referencing the new Rhythm City.

Differentiation

So how did the Isle differentiate from the competition?

Well, when the Isle Casino first launched the initiative of the move, it started with the tagline, “Excitement’s on the rise” and their marketing materials looked similar to their current branding. But then, partway through the construction and launch came a big switch to a different marketing agency.

That’s how distance became the big differentiator for the competition. “The Big Little Move” campaign highlighted just how close the new Isle Casino would be to the boat. Only 223 feet. In case you wondered how they determined how many feet to use, Google Maps.

Then throughout the entire campaign, moving boxes, bubble wrap and packing tape were used in the marketing to emphasize backing up the boat and moving it only 223 feet away.

Construction Hurdles

Unlike certain other competitors in the area, the Isle had an interesting hurdle when it came to construction in that their construction wasn’t visible. Panther explained that because of its location, you couldn’t see the building being built and when that’s usually a visual focal point of new construction, it becomes another hurdle when the public can’t see the progress.

And for those of you in the Quad Cities that know the location of the Isle, you know it is closely situated to the I-74 Bridge, a headache for commuters and travelers this summer.

However, with all said and done, the Isle Casino Hotel in Bettendorf was leading the market overall as of August 2016. It’s safe to say the PR Networkers enjoyed seeing behind the scenes of how the “Big Little Move” happened and were equally surprised to learn about the switch to a different marketing agency partway through the big move. That’s something none of us wish upon an agency or client!


PR Network Announces New Board Members

The Public Relations Network of the Quad Cities is excited to announce the new slate of board members for the 2016-2017 year.

“I forecast this year to be just as rewarding and more, and am thrilled to lead the charge for continued growth as President,” says Ronna Walker-Johnson, Senior Marketing Consultant at Media Links Inc. and new Public Relations Network President.

The volunteer-run organization provides professional development, networking and educational opportunities to those in the Quad Cities interested in public relations, communications, and marketing.

The board organizes 10 luncheon educational programs, a half day workshop, as well as additional networking opportunities, especially for area students. “At my side, I have the pleasure to work with an amazing collection of PR professionals this year. We have already begun bringing new and innovative programming ideas to the table, added some new venues, as well as begun continued advancements to our own internal PR efforts. All this and more, ensuring our members will experience a fantastic year,” continues Walker-Johnson.

The new board members include:

  • President, Ronna Walker-Johnson (Media Link, Inc.)
  • Vice President – Programming Director, Tiffany Stott (Edwards Creative)
  • Membership, Kristen Anderson (Russell)
  • Secretary, Lindsey Lobur (iWireless Center)
  • Treasurer, Amy Simler (Bush Construction)
  • Student Membership Directors, Emily Fahs (Augustana) and Janessa Calderon (St. Ambrose University)
  • Communications Director, Lea Hensel (University of Northern Iowa)
  • Publicity Director, Rachel Loussaert (American Heart Association)
  • Half-Day Workshop Director, Brianna Aust (MindFire Communications)
  • Webmaster, Doug Tschopp (Augustana College)

June Event Recap: Multi-channel storytelling

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Story-telling isn’t just for children’s books. It can be successful across many platforms, but in it needs tie-ins from all types of media outlets (traditional press, social media, publications, etc.) Dana Larson from the University of Iowa Foundation spoke during the June program on multi-channel storytelling and how to effectively create unique and appealing stories for the media.

Larson started with a story. The University of Iowa Foundation received a half-million dollar donation, and she was looking for an exciting way to thank the donor (Hy-Vee) while also raising awareness for the new UI Children’s Hospital (the designee). Hy-Vee did not want a lot of recognition – so the UI Foundation knew they have to be creative with their campaign – and had to make sure Hy-Vee was comfortable with the way they were presenting it.

  • She decided not to send out a traditional press release – too boring and it was the way they had always done it.
  • They started with a social media campaign instead – to share with the world about the wonderful gift. The campaign would feature Hy-Vee employees and children who had benefited from the hospital.
    • To really help engage Hy-Vee employees at the store level, they asked managers to nominate ideal employees to participate in the photo shoot for the campaign.
    • They ended up finding some incredibly incredible employees for the job! See here.
    • Thank you videos were posted on the foundation’s site and on social media, and resulted in great coverage for the local Hy-Vee.
    • The campaign photos featured the child, the employee, and fresh produce. The social media campaign was so successful they printed the photos into posters and placed them in the Hy-Vee stores in the children’s home towns.
  • Once the posters were in place, they contacted local media outlets in the children’s communities and shared the stories, which resulted in a lot of positive local coverage for the Children’s Hospital campaign.
  • The stories were also shared in the foundation, alumni, faculty and staff newsletters.
  • The campaign was successful because it:
    • thanked donors in a very public way
    • raised awareness of the need for additional funding for the hospital
    • drove donations
    • inspired the creative team at the foundation – they loved the project!

Another example:

Las Vegas mogul Steve Wynn donated $25 million to UI Hospitals for vision research (a cause very dear to his heart).

  • They named the building after him – The Stephen A. Wynn Institute for Vision Research.
  • Mr. Wynn was so excited about the potential for the research and how well UI had showcased his gift, he decided to give the Institute logo prime placement on his Indy 500 car!
    • Dana said she had no idea what a big deal this was, but figured it out very quickly!
    • The Foundation came up with a clever way to showcase the prominence of this logo display gift, and they coordinated with the race car driver to create a website and feature the Institute. http://www.uifoundation.org/wynn-indy/ They called the website BuddysDrive.com (easy for the driver to remember when he spoke about it) and it would re-direct to the Foundation’s site.
    • At the race, they distributed information to Indy VIPs and media – they had prominent banners and a press kit explaining the cause to everyone who attended.
    • The campaign was successful because it:
      • Raised visibility of the Wynn Institute
      • Gained credibility with the donor
      • Partnered with local media
      • Taught the team that heaps of donations don’t always follow great PR.

Main takeaways for successful storytelling:

  • Find the BEST story and tell it as many ways as you can!
  • Help other people tell your story.
  • BE CREATIVE! A regular press release just doesn’t cut it today, where you’re fighting for attention and for every dollar. Think outside of the box to share your story in new ways.

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President’s Letter

Monica Wolfe

It’s been a wonderful ride, PR Network! As this fiscal year has ended, I am stepping down as President of PR Network, but will continue on the board as Past President. I started on the board in 2011 and have seen this organization grow tremendously! It’s amazing what a group of volunteers can do when working together for a common goal. Not only did we move away from the email newsletters to a blog format, we’ve started accepting PayPal for payment, started recognizing a professional in our industry and have a brand new website. I’m excited to see where PR Network will be in five years.

As we discussed during our strategic planning meeting in the fall of 2014, we want this organization to be well known in the Quad Cities PR and marketing industry, and be a place people go for professional development and networking. I think we are well on our way.

PR Network can only be as good as its members. We have received great feedback and program suggestions from the surveys. YOU are the members. We want to provide educational programs you are interested in and will take away new information from. Keep the feedback coming!

This year has shown incredible growth, not only in our membership, but in our program attendance and social media interactions. Having more people show up to a program than what we expected is a good problem to have. Hopefully this problem continues, and we continue to see growth.

Thank you to everyone who has brought someone new to a program, shared one of our Facebook posts or just mentioned us in passing. Because of you the future for PR Network looks very bright!


May Event Recap

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The QC Times newsrooms receives thousands of emails a day. How do they chose what to cover or pick up? What are some tips and tricks to optimize your chances of getting your event or news release covered? Jan Touney, Executive Editor at the Quad-City Times spoke at the May luncheon giving an inside look to the newsroom.

Photos! If you include a photo (or your logo) with your news release, it is much more likely to be picked up. Or, include a hashtag or something reporters can tag into.

Photo galleries on www.qctimes.com see huge traffic. QC Times will put 1 or 2 photos in the newspaper article, and the rest go online. For example, the 2013 Bix 7 Photo Gallery had 500,000 views. In 2014, this number almost doubled to 996,000 views!

Contact the editor. The editors are available via phone or email, and they are there to talk! Connecting with the correct editor gets you a better chance of coverage. Avoid sending your release to the general newsroom. That goes with follow-up calls, too. Public relations is all about building relationships. For example: If your organization is doing something cool, or there is an employee doing something really special at your company, call the feature editor, they may want to cover it. Do not hesitate to contact the editors – they want to be told about events.

Free QC Times Resources:

Twitter: live from the newsroom. Traditional journalism has changed. Consumers want the news now – they won’t wait for the newspaper the next morning. Reporters get a story, immediately go to the scene, take pictures and start tweeting. Then, a fresh story is posted online, and is updated throughout the day, as new information is gathered. Follow QC Times reporters on Facebook and try to connect with a reporter to get more information about your story.

Quad Cities Calendar – add your event for free! Reporters regularly scan the calendar for events and news.

Reporters get their daily assignments by 8:30 or 9 a.m. Send your information out early! Don’t send your press release on Friday afternoon. 

Morning, breaking news and afternoon enewsletters are all available.

Know your audience. Is your event targeted to the 40+ crowd? Than print might be the way to go. Is your organization hosting a fun event targeted toward young professionals? Try connecting with a reporter on Twitter or Facebook. Digital advertising can be an inexpensive was to get your information online – and what you’re buying is audience. News consumption is moving to the mobile platform. Mobile page views now outnumber desktop, but desktop is still very strong Monday through Friday. Print people still love print. Printer lovers are people in upper demographics, good for if your event skews 40 plus.


Spring Student Article: by the numbers

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By Hannah McInerney, Saint Ambrose University

Directly out of college the job market pool is shallow. But when considering a career, public relations has a bright future. The job market for public relations fundraising managers between 2012 and 2022 is currently growing at a rate of 13 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The BLS, an extension of the Department of Labor, collects, processes, analyzes, and outputs statistical data that is used by Congress, federal agencies, businesses and the public. Data goes through a number of criteria before the BLS can put the information out into the public.

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As the infographic shows, most communication professions are expected to grow.

Entry level education for a career in public relations fundraising management requires a bachelor’s degree. Applicants hold degrees in a variety of studies. Employers provide no on-the-job training, so public relations students should seek opportunities to gain experience while in a university. Quad City Chamber of Commerce Vice President of Public Affairs Jason Gordon holds a degree in political science.

In 2012, the BLS estimated a total of 291,200 jobs in the public relations field. Of those jobs, 62,100 were specifically fundraising managers. The BLS anticipated an increase of 8,000 jobs between 2012 and 2022.

Gordon does about 50 percent of his work in his office at the Quad Cities Chamber. The other 50 percent of his work is meeting with people in the community, going to events, and having meetings with other leaders of the Quad Cities. Gordon’s typical work week could be anywhere from 40 hours to 60 hours.

“Some days there are so many things going on, and I will end up having to work late. Some days there is nothing going on, and in that case I get to go home and relax” Gordon said.

According to the BLS, an increased need for public relations managers is on the horizon. New and growing companies would like to maintain or improve their image in the public eye, and fundraising managers are especially needed in non-profit organizations to raise money. Fear not college graduates, the public relations job pool is one to dive into.


Spring Student Event Recap

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By Rachel Parkin, Student Director, Saint Ambrose University

Going from being a college student to a young professional can be a difficult transition. To help students prepare, PR Network planned an event for students to come speak to communications professionals in the Quad Cities. The spring student event took place on March 26 at St. Ambrose University. Students were able to ask the professionals questions about the job search process, and network.

Job/internship application tips

The professionals had numerous tips for students. Before applying for jobs, your resume, portfolio and social media pages should be up-to-date and professional looking. Make sure to have a professional photo − that photo from spring break may show you know how to have a good time but probably isn’t your best option. Also, make sure to proofread. One misspelled word and your resume is going in the trash. If you’re applying to multiple jobs at once, organization is essential. Tweaks should be made to your resume for each job position, and you should save each employment listing and description in an excel sheet. This way, if you get asked for an interview, you can use the sheet as a reference.

Internships

Students who have internship experience will have a greater advantage of landing a job in the future. Internships give you the opportunity to learn, grow and develop your career so that when you do land your dream job, you are that much more prepared.

You got the interview – now what?

First impressions are everything. From the way you dress (ladies, wear nylons!), to having a firm handshake and nice smile, the little things matter. You got the interview because of your skills and accomplishments, so take a breath and relax; they want your personality to shine through and see how you would work in their office environment.

Throughout the process, patience is important. It may take a company months to make a decision. Don’t be afraid to contact the company to see where they’re at. In the end, have confidence and you will succeed!


March Program: Event Planning Panel

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From keeping things fresh to tight budgets, event planning is a challenging profession.

But stop. In the middle of the event you’ve been planning for months and months – stop and look out at the crowd. Pick out one person and see the enjoyment on their face.

That’s your “ah-ha” moment. That “ah-ha” moment is why you put all the hard work into planning the event. Through all the stress and craziness, “ah-ha” moments will make you remember why you are in event planning – because events bring joy, excitement, energy and inspiration to others.

An panel of event planning professionals discussed their experiences, challenges and new ideas at PR Network’s March luncheon. To nearly 60 attendees, the panel consisted of:

Lynn Hunt, Vice President, Sales at Quad Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau, Catherine Rodgers-Ingalls, Executive Director, The District of Rock Island, Dawn Rahe, who helps plan the Make-A-Wish Foundation Gala and Doug Tschoop, EDGE Center Director, Augustana College.

Here are tips, tricks and advice to help you pull off successful events that support the brand, mission and goals of your organization or company.

The more you bring the cause into the event, the better. It reminds people why they are there.

Community involvement is important. For example, in 2009 the Convention & Visitors Bureau hosted an international softball conference. The Quad Cities hadn’t hosted since the 1970s, so they wanted to bring a retro feel to it. They asked people who attended and played in the 70s to return, had them attend events and games, used old photos and it was a success.

Keep things fresh

  • Software options available for online bidding from cell phones – a lot easier for people bidding and also for tracking after the fact, on the back end
  • People usually know what they are getting at an event – try to plan one unexpected surprise!

Planning

  • Use data/research and the PR process to make sure you are hitting the right target audience.
  • Start at the end: what is the vision, objective, audience for this event? From there, create your task and action plan. Ask yourself, what is the attendee looking for?
  • If you’re looking to get involved in event planning, join nonprofit committees/boards. As the professional, make sure new volunteers have a task with direction but also the means to be successful
  • Ask yourself: who, what, where, when and why? Reach out to others in the industry for ideas for the how.

What’s on your wish list if budget wasn’t an issue?

  • Celebrities – they always bring in people!
  • Create an event destination in The District
  • Nonprofits always have a budget, so that isn’t a feasible question. Look for ways to make money wherever you can. Get things donated for free! EX: Cookies by Design cookie bouquet baskets, that is no cost to organization

Partnerships

  • dphilms is a great partner for video
  • Sponsors are your partners – what ideas do they have? Work with them so they want to continue to be a sponsor (partner)

Tips for getting more attendance

  • Make sure you understand who your audience is, and your event hits your target market
  • Weather can be a big factor, although out of your control
  • Timing – can your event be the same weekend every year? If that’s the case, the event is automatically on the calendar every year, and that helps
  • Galas – are they getting old? No, not if you are thinking outside of the box. To avoid gala from becoming static, do something fun like have a signature drink for the event (make sure to follow state liquor laws for licensing)
  • Wine events are gaining momentum!

The Quad Cities embraces the local economy, the businesses and local suppliers within them. There is a wealth of talented people here. Use them!

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April 3 deadline for “Marketing and Public Relations Professional of the Year” award nominations

For the first time, PR Network of the Quad Cities will honor a member with a Marketing and Public Relations Professional of the Year award. The award was created this year to highlight the accomplishments of marketing and PR professionals in the Quad Cities, and will be awarded during the Half Day Workshop on April 21.

Award Description

Based on a nomination process, the Marketing and Public Relations Professional of the Year award is the most prestigious honor awarded to a member of the association and honors outstanding accomplishments in the field of marketing and public relations in the Quad Cities.

Nominees are solicited from PR Network members, but you do not need to be a PR Network member (or a marketing professional) to nominate someone. After all nominations are collected, a committee will select the winner.

Eligibility

Individuals must be a PR Network member and be on the membership list as of April 1, 2015, have at least three years of experience in the field and have clear leadership and ownership of the work they are submitting; those holding marketing or PR positions or leading creative projects are preferred.

“When the board sat down last fall for a brainstorming session on how to improve our organization, we discussed the importance of recognizing the hard work marketing and PR professionals put into our community,” said Monica Wolfe, PR Network President. “We’re asking for nominations for this award, hoping to bring attention to the brain power, time and passion marketing and PR professionals dedicate to their jobs and to the Quad Cities.”

The award will be presented during PR Network’s annual Half Day Workshop, which takes place this year on April 21 at the iWireless Center.

Nominations for the Marketing and Public Relations Professional of the Year award are due April 3. Nominations can be submitted to nominations@prnetworkqc.org or PO Box 3043, Rock Island, IL 61201. Find more information here.


February Event Recap: A Case Study to Rediscover SouthPark Mall

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In 2014, SouthPark Mall, located in Moline, Ill., underwent a transformation. The center reevaluated it’s size, updating to better fit the community, and enhance the offerings and shopping experience. Aleshia Chiesa, Marketing Manager, Macerich, presented to PR Network during the February luncheon about the marketing and communications plan used throughout the transformation process.

SouthPark Mall needed a communications and marketing redevelopment plan to highlight and inform the community of the changes and progress. SouthPark was highlighting:

  • The mall’s 40th Anniversary
  • Redevelopment underway
  • New big box retail announcement
  • New enhanced shopping experience

They identified communication challenges:

  • SouthPark was open for business during renovation.
  • Sustaining traffic and sales for the remaining retailers throughout the phases of redevelopment, a larger percentage of which relocated to temporary spaces.
  • With redevelopment, the 20-year food court was demolished. When shoppers visit, they tend to stay longer when they can stop and take a break to eat. Post renovation, SouthPark has two restaurants and two snack options.
  • Lose the children’s play area.

Target audiences included: shoppers and retailers.

Using PR, outreach, digital and social media outlets, the redevelopment team placed an emphasis on providing consistent, timely messaging, and minimizing construction inconvenience. They focused on project development and store relocations and openings.

  • Signage directed people where to go
  • Kept website up-to-date with photos and news releases
  • Balanced messaging with construction updates and retailer news (EX: sales)
  • Social media posts that engaged customers
  • Gave an insider’s look into redevelopment process, communicating exciting news
  • Messaging remained positive, even through challenges
  • Developed a digital calendar to keep regular and consistent messaging
  • Added a redevelopment page to the website, to highlight FAQ’s, photos, etc.
  • Lots of photos in social media posts!

The campaign started small, but evolved; from “We’re having work done” to “Resdiscover SouthPark.” A creative campaign was also developed. The tagline changed to encourage people to shop NOW! Instead of Fall 2014, it changed to “New look. New stores. New experience.”

Marketing tactics used: Billboard, radio, signs on wall, fence signage, events included the Grand Opening

Lessons learned: Go with the flow! When going through a redevelopment process, you have to be flexible. Things don’t always happen on time, and you have to change to meet in the middle.


January Program Recap

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Take a guess… what do you think the most shared Facebook post was of 2014?

The answer may surprise you. The number one most shared post was “Holiday Minions” from the Despicable Me movie series.  You can see the full post here.

Mike Mickle from Mickle Communications spoke to nearly 50 PR Network members at the January luncheon, speaking conversationally about social media and the benefits of working collaboratively with other organizations in the community.

He started the presentation with a video on social media trends. Here are some quick facts on finding the right social media platform for your organization:

1. Small, local organizations – go where your customers are (Facebook!). The average Facebook user is 40.5 years old. That is two years older than the average two years ago. The 25-34 age range makes up 29.7% of Facebook’s demographic. What does that mean for your company? Small, local companies should cater to families on Facebook – because families are the demographic most likely making up your page.

2. Who is on LinkedIn? LinkedIn is great for Google connections, and is the place to show your polished, professional brand. As a company, LinkedIn is the social media outlet for your long form posts.

3. Twitter – who uses it? The Twitter demographic skews lower, with 49% of its users falling between 18-49 years old. And a staggering 67% of users buy from companies they follow.

Social media should not be an afterthought – it’s not going away.

In a digital age of “DVR-ing” – we have to find a way to NOT be ignored. Social media may be that avenue for you. Marry your social media messages to other outlets. Work collaboratively with other organizations in the community to spread your messages.

Facebook demographics are changing, and they’re changing quickly. Attendees shared success stories of social media campaigns and collaborations, including:

This past holiday season, the HyVee Elf posed for various photos and attended community events to introduce HyVee’s new gourmet cookies and cupcakes. It was great for getting the word out about the new HyVee products! He even stopped by the Davenport Police Department with treats. The HyVee Elf helped spread the word about HyVee’s new products and boosted holiday orders.

The Quad Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau switched from Pinterest to Instagram (food and scenery pictures, anyone?). They’ve seen a lot more interactions and conversations on this platform. We encourage you to follow them!


Welcome to the PRN Insider

Welcome to the PRN Insider! In an effort to modernize the PR Network newsletter, the Executive Board decided to move our newsletter to a blog format − the PRN Insider − where you’ll get just that − the Inside Scoop on what’s going on with PR Network!

PRN Insider will allow us to post in a timelier, more efficient manner, giving you valuable, educational information when you need it. We’ll include event recaps, member profiles, posts from our student members, and more.

If you’d like to contribute a blog post, we’d love to work with you to publish your work. Contact our Communication Director for more information and to get the process rolling.

Thanks for stopping by! Check back for more updates soon.


3 smart phone applications for PR professionals

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By Brook Schelly, St. Ambrose University

In a world that revolves around technology and instant information, having access to easy-to-use online communication tools is vital for PR professionals. As a senior public relations student at St. Ambrose University, I am well into the process of learning how to sift through the information exchange to find the important pieces. I rely heavily on my smart phone to help me along the way.

More often than not, smart phone applications come-and-go on my phone as I deem them unhelpful or as newer programs are announced. However, in the search for applications that make my life easier, I’ve found three that I consider worthy of any PR professional (or student!) to help get tasks done more efficiently.

PULSE by LinkedIn

LinkedIn allows users to form connections with other professionals on the site, with the aim of leading to real world business connections. In 2010, LinkedIn created a separate application called Pulse, which allows users to follow feeds of news stations, blogs and industry-related sites.

First, the user creates a list of websites to follow. Then, Pulse puts all of the information into one place for easy viewing. Pulse is a great application to check numerous news sites at once. Pulse has options for all categories of news and is perfect for following blogs and websites for a variety of topics and categories.

Pulse is available for iPhone, Android and Windows markets.

Wunderlist

Wunderlist is one of the most universal task managers I’ve used. It’s easy to operate and syncs directly from any smart phone to any computer, tablet or to another smart phone, for real time to-do list updates. The user creates his or her to-do list, and has multiple opportunities within the app to make organization simple and efficient.

  • List can be accessed and updated from any number of locations.
  • Wunderlist allows you to share lists with others over the app.
  • Collaborate easily in groups: Wunderlist makes collaboration easier between group members in a way that ensures everyone knows what needs to be completed and what has already finished.

Wunderlist is available for iPhone, Android and Windows markets.

Facebook Pages Manager

Facebook has taken the social media world by storm. But, flipping between my personal page and business pages can be difficult on the Facebook app. The Facebook Pages Manager app allows users to:

  • Keep all your Facebook business pages in one place.
  • Allows the user to post as an admin directly from the app. Admins can post on the page, review insights, reply to private messages and complete other Facebook page tasks.
  • Helps keep pages and tasks separate.

Facebook Pages Manager is available for iPhone and Android markets.