Eric and Allison recently had an opportunity to sit down with Hannah Smoot, one of the newest reporters on staff at the Charlotte Observer. Hannah shared all about her background in journalism, thoughts on the future of the newspaper industry, and some fun stories she’s covered in the past. Check it out!
Tell us about yourself… where are you from, and what brought you to Charlotte?
I grew up in Raleigh and went to college at UNC – Chapel Hill. When I graduated in 2017, I went straight to Rock Hill for a job with the Rock Hill Herald. I worked down there for a couple of years for the same company that owns the Charlotte Observer, so I had been working closely with some of the editors and reporters in Charlotte. I really loved living in Charlotte and being part of the community, so I wanted to get up here as soon as possible. When this job opened up, I just had to apply for it and had to get into Charlotte… so its been really great being able to live and work in the same place!
What beats did you focus in Rock Hill, and what will you be covering here?
In Rock Hill, I was focused mostly on politics and business. Now here in Charlotte, I’m on the business desk focusing on healthcare and aviation, and a little bit of retail as well. Its definitely a lot different than what I was doing… but the reason I was so comfortable making the shift is because I always liked taking hard to understand topics and translating it to how it affects people in their everyday lives. I think there’s a lot of opportunities to do that in all of these beats, especially in Charlotte.
So now that you’re here in Charlotte… what does your day to day look like?
I’m still figuring that out! It’s still new, so it’s a lot of reaching out to different PR people or spokespeople and meeting them. Right now, I’m really focused on building relationships in the community. I’m planning on being in Charlotte for quite a while, so I wanted to take the time to build up those relationships and get to know people.
Knowing that the media landscape has changed dramatically in recent years, what do you think the future of the traditional newspaper industry looks like?
Of course, I think digital is going to be so important… we’ve already seen that in other industries. I’ve seen this in covering retail, since this is something that retailers are focused on. People are going online to shop… people are going online to read our news… people are going online to do everything. So I think it’s going to be very important for us to figure out how we can get our news to people while also building a community online. For years, people would sit down at the kitchen table and read the newspaper on a Sunday morning, and we have to learn how to create that same effect online.
What’s one of the most memorable stories you’ve worked on during your career as a journalist?
There’s been a couple of interesting ones… One of my favorite that I really enjoyed was actually one of my first stories in Rock Hill. I got to report on the BMX World Championships that was held in Rock Hill a couple years ago. So as a part of that, I got to go and ride a BMX bike down the track… which is TERRIFYING, but also a lot of fun! I did wipe out (my editor told me before I left that I wasn’t allowed to break anything 😉) I did sprain my ankle, but otherwise it was a lot fun. Personally, I really enjoy those stories when I can go out, get hands-on, and try something new.
The term “PR” (public relations) is often conflated with communications-related references like press, buzz, and publicity. However, while public relations practitioners frequently consider such ends in a PR strategy, simply garnering publicity for a client is rarely, if ever, the end goal. If you’re surprised to hear that, let us help you make the distinction. Here are four clear ways PR is different from publicity:
- Publicity considers the now; PR sees tomorrow – PR professionals develop communications strategies that are anchored on an ultimate business goal. This requires a holistic approach to planning and execution that occasionally involves publicity-generating as a tactic, if it is appropriate within the context of the organization or individual’s current story. To put it simply: sometimes a business, organization, or individual needs publicity for something one-dimensional. Alternatively, a PR strategist crafts measured steps toward a goal-oriented future that learns from the past and is thoughtful in the present.
- Publicity focuses on quantity; PR is all about quality – ‘Good publicity’ and ‘Good PR’ aren’t always interchangeable. A publicist can achieve success by securing maxed-out event attendance or high volumes of press inquiries. A PR professional, on the other hand, has succeeded in a tactic when an organization or individual achieves the intended communications objective, be it proactive or reactive. PR teams must navigate nuance and sensitive messaging with ease, and be agile when executing on a campaign. For PR campaigns, results aren’t always quantifiable.
- Publicity is one-dimensional; PR adopts many forms – A publicist’s work generally revolves around amplifying a positive turnout, announcement, or story. Conversely, PR is about setting the tone and controlling a narrative, no matter the context. Often, a PR campaign isn’t something overt or clearly visible; many can work behind the scenes, subtly influencing customers or tactfully working to shift perceptions on a hot topic. As a result, success varies widely for PR initiatives. For example, low press interest can often define a successful campaign, thanks to a PR team’s ability to keep a crisis or misstep under the radar.
- Publicity is a transaction; PR is a partnership – Where publicists can execute quick campaigns, PR teams counsel businesses, organizations, and individuals every step of their communications journey. It is often appropriate to hire a contract publicist for one-time or limited-time events or messaging campaigns. On the other hand, PR teams can best fulfill their maximum potential inside long-term partnerships. Because public relations is best practiced as a long-game, extended partnerships between PR teams and businesses are advantageous; and when PR teams truly walk alongside organizations, anything is possible.
We hope these points provide some clarity the next time you overhear someone refer to ‘Good PR’ or ‘Good publicity’. We also hope hearing ‘Good PR’ reminds you of PIVOT PR – because we can do it all.
Every organization is different. Depending on your size, industry, region, product/service, employee skill set, etc., you’ll likely find yourself with a unique set of marketing and public relations challenges. Oftentimes, it’s difficult to pinpoint your areas of need, so ask yourself these three questions when considering if you should hire a PR firm.
1. Does your marketing team need PR support? Most organizations have a modest marketing team tasked with a bevy of responsibilities- sales support, inbound marketing, advertising, design, social media, collateral, and website maintenance to name a few. They likely don’t have the time or experience to execute on public relations, which is very much a niche within the marketing umbrella. Most small to mid-sized companies don’t require a full-time person, but typically 25 – 50 hours per month.
2. Do your stakeholders truly understand your value proposition? Many organizations struggle to articulate what they do, and as a result, their customers don’t fully appreciate the product or services they offer. An outside agency, with an outside perspective, will force you to evaluate your organization’s true identity. Only then can you have the appropriate market positioning, messaging, and content to speak to your customers effectively.
3. Can you afford a public relations firm? Most companies spend 5-10% of their total revenue on marketing, and around 10% of that should be spent on public relations. Figure a few thousand dollars a month at minimum, but it really depends on how much assistance you require and how quickly you’d like to reach your goals.
If you’re interested in working with a PR agency, let’s discuss your specific needs and see if we’re a good fit. Here at PIVOT PR, we won’t lock you into a long-term agreement, which minimizes your risk exponentially. Why, you ask? Because we’re confident in the value we provide to our partners, and we know you’ll appreciate working with a local, boutique, and tenured team who loves what they do!
By 10 am this morning, chances are you saw a digital advertisement for something you merely thought about over breakfast. Ads are everywhere; especially on the many devices that keep us connected. It’s no surprise that, as digital advertising gets more savvy, brands across the globe are spending record amounts of money to reach customers online – surpassing historical spends in more traditional mediums like TV and print.
True, digital advertising is effective, and for those with the budget, it’s usually worth the spend. But as online influencing and selling increasingly become a pay-to-play game, how do businesses with smaller budgets keep up? We’ve put together 4 budget-friendly tactics to help your messages stand out between the ads:
- Keep a schedule – A sporadic approach to content-sharing never helps anyone. Followers are more likely to stick around when there’s regular, interesting content they’ve grown to appreciate. Content themes can and should change on a week-to-week basis, but the frequency and types of posts – outside of limited-time and rare major promotions or events – should stay consistent.
- Remember, it takes two – Brands should strive to establish and maintain a two-way relationship with audiences online. That means making a concerted effort to listen, not just feed content. So whether it’s opening your page for a contest asking for feedback submission, hosting Q&As, or simply breaking the “sell” cycle with a feel-good message before the weekend, be creative and always seek new ways to invite followers in.
- Keep it real – Stock images should always be a last resort. Many of the most successful paid digital ads lead the way with a compelling image that tells either a relatable or aspirational story; the same standard should apply to unpaid content on your owned channels. Whether it’s a storytelling infographic that educates and motivates action on your issue, or a photo of a real customer enjoying your product, these images convey authenticity. Keep them coming.
- Leverage suspense and surprise – Building momentum is a great way to keep current followers engaged and attract new ones. Have a big announcement to roll out, but don’t have the dollars to promote a big-splash campaign? Use your social feeds to tease the news in a series of posts that feature succinct captions and cryptic, playful images that gel with your brand. Invite followers to tag their friends on the posts so they don’t miss out, too.
The moral of the story here: Quality content can still compete with high quantities of ads paying for customers’ attention. Don’t let intimidation by the big shiny campaigns hold your brand down! Along with proper attention, listening skills, and creativity, following these guidelines over time will enable you to cultivate a loyal followership, while spending less.
Who knows? In no time, your followers might just start thinking about you over breakfast, too.
Pivot PR, a dynamic and rapidly growing public relations agency, is seeking a highly motivated communication professional to serve as the client lead on business-to-business and business-to-consumer accounts. The PR Manager role requires deep communication acumen, keen project management skills and creativity. As a boutique agency, Pivot PR offers employees an unmatched opportunity to grow and expand in his/her role and work with top-tier brands/companies, all within a traditional agency framework yet cutting-edge and current-day mentality. The individual must have agency experience.
Key Responsibilities & Qualifications
- Create customized and strategic public relations plans for clients
- Lead meeting(s) with clients to assess business goals and gain needed information
- Conduct secondary research to shape plan
- Hold internal brainstorm meetings to ideate creative strategies and tactics to include in the plan
- Strong knowledge of all public relations communication tactics; must know how/when to execute, including but not limited to:
- Messaging/Content Creation: must be extremely adept at all types of writing, including media materials, blog/social media/web copy, white papers, case studies, technical articles and award nominations
- Media Relations: building media lists, developing creative pitches, story angles and media lists, as well as monitoring and spokesperson training
- Influencer Relations: identifying influencers, building rapport and project managing social media campaigns
- Community Relations & Events: will be in charge of developing community-based programs, identifying appropriate partners/organizations, establishing communication plans for trade shows and all aspects of promoting events
- Additional consideration for crisis communications and content marketing
- Should have experience leading client and new business meetings, in-person and via teleconference; must be organized and clear with agendas, follow-up items and campaign/project management
- Needs to be proficient in recording billable time for clients
- Will develop detailed monthly client reports including work completed, goals attained and future forecasting
- Develop new business proposals
Compensation & Benefits
Competitive salary based on experience with additional profit sharing opportunities. This is a work-from-home position (must be in Charlotte area) and candidate must be available during regular business hours. PTO and other benefits also dependent on experience.
- At least a four-year degree in journalism, public relations, mass communications or marketing
- Strong writing experience; must provide writing samples and perform writing test
- Must be proficient in Microsoft Office suite and in AP style
- Should be a self-starter, able to work independently and proactively, but also able to collaborate and work well in a team setting
- Additional considerations for experience in social media, web development, design, video production and/or advertising
As a consumer, do you feel as if you are able to trust the brands you interact with? The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer revealed that 52% of the U.S. population does not trust businesses as an institution. Meanwhile, consumer trust has become a controversial topic that is leading brands to further discuss how they interact with their consumers. Contrary to popular belief that brands are not to be easily trusted, many brands are now working actively to establish trust with their consumers. Below are four ways your brand can enhance consumer trust and, in the process, improve the overall consumer experience:
- Stay consistent: Every aspect of your brand should be consistent including your overall message, logo and design, and brand personality. If any of these are inconsistent, consumers may not recognize it, and you risk “losing them”. Using a brand management software like Frontify can be very helpful in staying consistent and organized across all channels. Consistency is a proven strategy that will secure a local brand following while solidifying your reputation as a trustworthy brand.
- Above and beyond customer service: The foundation of any positive personal relationship requires reliability, honesty, and care. The same values should apply for businesses as they relate to their consumers. Showing consumers that your brand cares can come in many different tactical forms, including surveys or questionnaires. Surveys allow your consumers to feel heard and empowered while also showing that you not only value, but require, their opinion. But no matter how you choose to execute your excellent customer service, always remember that a successful and trustworthy brand relationship must be two-way. Your customer needs to see that you give, and not just see you as the only recipient “taking” something in your transactional relationship.
- Be personal: Making your brand feel authentically personal is a great way to gain and keep consumer trust. It must start from the inside: Encouraging employees to be less scripted and “robotic” is the first step to relating in a more personal way with your consumers. To put it simply, always view your consumers as the real people they are – and less like someone you are trying to win over or sell something to. Being more personal is an easy principle to nurture and can quickly change the overall impression of your brand.
- Always be accessible: Making your brand available across all platforms and through different forms of communication is vital. A huge miss for businesses is forcing customers to search exhaustively for contact information. A phone number, email, direct message option, or even an instant chat box should be noticeable and easy to access on any website or social media account. It is also important to remember that not everyone prefers the same line of communication. Therefore, having a phone number ready for the consumer that wants instant answers is just as important as regularly checking your direct messages on social media for the consumer that prefers to online chat. Accessibility will allow your consumers to not only trust your overall brand, but also trust you to give them the highest levels of clarity and communication.