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I’ve had the privilege of working with the top contractor in the state of Texas in addition to some of the top construction companies in the city of San Antonio. For some, I have been able to work on their employee publications, but for others, I have simply seen the need for a publication.

Photo by James C. Mattison

Photo by James C. Mattison

For one, construction companies typically have a diverse list of capabilities. Why not showcase your range of abilities through a marketing publication sent to your current customers and potential customers. Showcase how you used a new type of concrete to build your latest project. Outline how you shaved two months off a project’s schedule through pre-mobilization planning. Tell how you worked hand-in-hand with the project’s engineers to save the customer money. Stories like this will reconfirm your customers’ choice in contracting you and hopefully show others why they should use your company for their next project. Also, it will show the customer you built a hospital for why it should consider you for its next multi-purpose building. 

 Secondly, turnover is typically high among construction companies’ employees. To help keep your employees working for you and not switching to your competitor, think about starting an employee publication. Tell your employees about the great benefits you offer. Help them see the company’s future. Let them know that things are still going well — especially in today’s economic times. Talk about your new training programs. Thank them for their hard work. The more you can stay in front of your employees, the better. This is especially true if your organization is spread across a state or even the country. Help your employees know that they matter to you.

Finally, the publication can serve as a recruitment piece. With one magazine you can show recent graduates why your company is a great place to work. They’ll see the projects that you have been a part of. They can see the benefits you offer your employees. A publication can be a great introduction to your organization.

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Doctors and patientDuring the past two years, I have been a part of at least three different hospital publications — two magazines and one newsletter. From my work on these publications, I have seen some great ways for hospitals to use publications to achieve various purposes.

1. Marketing your offerings. Hospitals have uncountable offerings. From community events to inpatient surgeries to outpatient needs, there are numerous things to talk about. A publication is a great way to talk to your community about what you offer. Talk about how your doctors are using cutting-edge technology. Introduce people to your groundbreaking research studies. Welcome new doctors. Ensure that when people think of great hospitals in your area that your hospital is the first on their list.

2. Donor relations. This holds true for any nonprofit or not-for-profit organization. A publication is a great way to keep your donors informed of what your hospital is doing and how you use their generous support to offer the best services possible. It also shows your donors that they matter to you and is a way to stay in-front of them year round — hopefully to generate additional donations.

3. Educate the public. One role hospitals have in their community is to keep the public educated. While this is often done through public relations and events (i.e., monthly health screenings), it also can be accomplished through a community publication. Use the magazine’s pages to talk about healthy eating, skin cancer detectors and the importance of keeping your children active. This is a great way to position your hospital as the one in the community that cares.

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For any company publication, an editorial board plays an important role in ensuring a variety of voices are represented. It helps keep the coverage widespread and, typically, will help ensure the goals of the publication are met. Because of these important end results, it is important that you choose your editorial board carefully.

Photo By Mary Ann Muher

Photo by Mary Ann Mulhern

1. Find people who will work well together. Editorial board meetings are often filled with heated discussions and debates. Because of this, it is important to choose editorial board members who will stay cool under fire. You need even-tempered people who can debate but also discuss. You want to keep out people who will try to monopolize the editorial board meetings and instead find people who are team players. Choose those who will put their personal vendettas aside for the good of the publication.

2. Pick opinionated people. While this may appear to be in contrast to reason No. 1, but it actually is right in line. You don’t want to choose editorial board members who will sit on the sidelines and not contribute. Frankly, it is a waste of a seat. You need people who will bring ideas to the table, represent the company and help make the decisions that drive the publication forward.

3. Represent the company. I’ve mentioned in earlier posts how important it is for one group to not monopolize the publication. Whether the publication is going to your customers or to your employees, more than likely the goal is to well-represent your company to its fullest. That means showcasing different departments or divisions. When choosing your editorial board members, ensure you have people who represent all facets of the company. This way, when they bring story ideas to the table, you hear the great works from all across your organization.

4. Choose a leader. It is true that everyone can’t be a leader, but someone needs to be. There has to be a person who can break ties and make the decisions that no one else is willing to make. This person also needs to be willing to stand up for the editorial board if and when a story or decision is questioned by outside sources.

5. Have a contrarian. On the editorial boards I have been a part of or managed, some of my favorite people to work with are the ones who voice the opinion that no one else is willing to say. You need the person who will stand up to the popular vote and help people see things in a different way. This helps keep your publication honest and, in many cases, keeps you from writing an article  or publishing a photo that could damage the organization.

What do you think? What are things you consider when choosing an editorial board?

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When companies start thinking of employee publications, they often believe it should be an in-house product. It makes sense when you first think about it. Who knows your employees better than you do? However, there are huge benefits to letting a public relations / marketing firm write and manage your publication.

Mainly, a neutral / outside voice is important and key. When employees write their own publication, it is almost impossible to remove each person’s biases from their writing / coverage. For example, if the HR department runs the publication, it is easy for more HR articles to make it into the publication, which may upset the Accounting department or the Marketing team. It is human nature. You write what you know, so you write about your department.

An outside team of writers can help prevent bias claims because they have no bias. They can provide the third-party point of view to keep the writing neutral and keep everyone happy.

Also, when things are run in-house, it is common for them to be pushed aside and forgotten. Again, it is our nature — take care of your customers first, deal with your in-house stuff second. An outside agency can help keep the publication moving on schedule to ensure it hits mailboxes when it is supposed to.

Finally, when it comes to writing, let a professional do it. We know AP style and grammar. I’ve seen numerous engineers, doctors, lawyers, etc., try to write copy for various publications. It isn’t pretty. I guarantee you’ll be happier with your product if you let a team of professionals handle the writing. We don’t try open heart surgery. You don’t try writing a publication.

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So after a few months hiatus, I am back on the blog. Like so many clients do, I got really excited when I first began this blog. I posted almost daily. I monitored the stats. Over-analyed my posts. But then got discouraged that I didn’t really feel like I was making a difference. My posts seemed just like everyone else in the PR industry.

Now I’m armed and ready to make a difference.

I’ve re-introduced this blog once again — this time with a niche. Story Assignments focuses on publication management. I hope to teach lessons, offer opinions and encourage others to start or update their current company publication. This is a niche of public relations, but it is a strong one. From eight to 48 pages, I’ve seen the full gamut of what a publication can become.

Just because the newspaper industry is struggling and magazine subscriptions are dwindling, doesn’t mean publications are dead. Instead, now they may be more important than ever (more to come).

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New name

If you are a regular follower you will notice a change in the name of this blog. Since I started it two months ago I’ve been trying to determine a name that better states the blog’s purpose. I’m still not 100 percent sold on PR Footprint, but it definitely is a step (pun intended) in the right direction toward helping readers get a better grasp of what this blog’s purpose is.

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“Although it is now cheaper to launch an initiative leveraging Web 2.0 technology – it requires qualified and passionate people to make them successful.” – David Armano (as quoted on Ann Handly’s 50 Social Media and Marketing Predictions for 2009).

How true is this. You’ll notice that the most successful people on Twitter or the most successful bloggers are the ones who get giddy about what they are writing. The love this stuff. They live and breathe social media and want to help others live their passion. This is an important idea for PR agencies to take notice. You can’t automatically turn the Web development guy into your agency’s blogger. Or your best writer may not be your best Twitter. A social media campaign doesn’t automatically mean your senior account executive or your new college-grad hire is right for the job.

Pick a person who gets excited about social media. Form a team of people who want to learn. Social media requires too much effort and attention to others to try to force someone into this role. You’ll have much better luck with those who get giddy about blogging.

However, just because someone spends half their day on Facebook, they might not be able to successfully run a campaign for one of your clients. You have to balance the passionate with the managerial skills needed to make the PR campaign a successful one.

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