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posted by Kelly Davis Feb 18,2014 @ 02:23PM

Making PR Magic

While much of the nation was under snow last week, I had the fortune of spending the week in beautiful and sunny Orlando, Florida attending the PRConsultants Group conference, our annual gathering of senior-level PR professionals from around the country.

When we originally booked our conference hotel within the Walt Disney World Resort Area last year, we were told that they would be in the process of converting from the Royal Plaza Hotel to a new property, the B Resort. Renovations were expected to be completed by the time our group arrived, but as anyone who has ever built or renovated their home knows, construction doesn’t always happen on our personal timelines. As our conference approached, it became evident that they were a bit behind schedule. (The hotel is now slated for a grand opening in the summer of 2014.)

Since it would have been terribly difficult to find another location to suit the needs of our group on such short notice, the hotel agreed to accommodate us, with the understanding that they were in "soft opening" mode. You had to feel for them. They had potentially the worst set of critics around – a group full of outspoken PR people with extensive experience in event management and logistics, and national media contacts to boot.

What began as tempered expectations were quickly turned around and sustained throughout our stay by a staff that was committed to exceptional customer service and hospitality. From the moment each guest arrived to the moment we left, the staff went above and beyond to make us feel extra special. They were friendly, welcoming and accommodating. Their willingness to solve problems and to find quick resolutions to minor inconveniences demonstrated not only a customer-focused culture, but also a leadership team that empowered their employees to pursue any idea or remedy that would make our stay better.

Here are just a few examples of how they ensured that we had an experience that we would be proud to share:

  • Their culinary staff served a cooked-to-order breakfast and provided complimentary snacks, including custom-designed cookies.
  • They ordered and assembled stylish furniture for the lobby so that we would have somewhere to congregate in the evenings.
  • They arranged with nearby hotels for the use of pools and fitness rooms.
  • When winter weather along the east coast threatened some guests’ travel plans, they offered to accommodate anyone impacted by canceled flights.
  • When a staff member overheard one of our members lamenting a sore throat, he prepared a special, soothing “homemade recipe” with cucumbers and tonic water.
  • Minor maintenance issues were resolved within minutes, including one repairman who provided a guest with his name and personal extension in the case of further concerns.
  • Most notably, the general manager asked us to serve as a “test guest group” and report to him directly any suggestions that would be helpful for future travelers. It made us feel that our opinions mattered, and gave us the satisfaction of knowing that our input would help future hotel guests have an even better experience than we did.

In the end, this property created 40 ambassadors who came away feeling impressed, relaxed, pampered and appreciated. The PR value was immeasurable. The cost of making it right was priceless.

In a culture that is so resigned to bad customer service, shouldn’t we all shine the spotlight on those who go above and beyond? Share your stories of great customer service in the comments section below!

posted by Kevin Smith Jan 27,2014 @ 09:56AM

The Fast Route to Instant Recognition

What if you could instantly tell if a business is enlightened?

Organizations that recognize the importance of corporate social responsibility are part of what I’m now calling the Enlightened Economy. These companies have emerged from the Great Recession with a more considered perspective on how their business impacts the world.

We all know national brands who make social responsibility central to their messaging; among them Subaru, Newman’s Own and Kashi. Yet many local businesses and national corporations’ efforts are invisible. What lost opportunity.

The National Recovery Administration, fighting unemployment and deflation during the Great Depression, asked employers to shorten hours and raise wages. Participating businesses, from JC Penny to Gillette to the local hardware store, put the blue eagle in shop windows and on factory doors. Americans were asked to boycott businesses that did not participate.

While the blue eagle only lasted a few years, what a powerful example it sets. What if we could tell who was doing their part, who had grown wiser from the days of corporate avarice? The right logo could make it happen.

For more detail about the NRA, listen to NPR's "Planet Money."

posted by Apprentices Oct 01,2013 @ 07:03AM

New Work: Doing Pro Bono, Pro Bono

Inspired by the American Bar Association's Celebration of Pro Bono, our friends at Taproot Foundation wanted to create a global celebration of pro bono, skills-based service across all professions. They chose last year's Global Pro Bono Summit as the birthplace for their movement. As business leaders gathered to discuss the increasing viability of the pro bono ethic across industries, Taproot rallied the troops. Summit attendees were quick to demonstrate their enthusiasm, and in that moment, Taproot's idea became a worldwide movement.

As lovers of all things pro bono, we were thrilled when the folks at Taproot asked us to develop Pro Bono Week's brand identity. Ryon Edwards and Nate Puza collaborated on a design that captures the essence of the movement: Proud. Spirited. Visionary. The energetic yellow-orange reflects the contagious positivity of that moment last year when Taproot first unveiled their ambitious plan, and the flag bearer dares every participant to think big. Pro bono is no longer a nicety. From now on, it's serious business.




posted by Apprentices Apr 17,2013 @ 08:50AM

Hands-On Experience

There’s something fitting about my first week as a writing apprentice at Riggs falling just days away from April 20, 2013, the sixth anniversary of Record Store Day. While the event, which encourages music lovers to support their local, independently owned music stores, has become an international phenomenon, it has also garnered the beleaguered music industry’s attention by reviving a corner of the market once believed to be barely standing on its last leg. Vinyl record sales have gradually increased since 2008, and in 2012 they reached a 15-year high.

While the numbers reflect only a small drop in the larger industry’s bucket, for me, this growing (and they are growing) niche of consumers says a lot about how consumer culture, in general, is changing. Instant gratification and tech-driven convenience isn’t the selling point it used to be. The Great Recession seems to have spawned a desire to have something to show for one’s hard earned dollar. A new generation is falling in love with their record collections.

From the careful removal of the disc from its cover and jacket, to the equally cautious placement of the needle and the satisfying hiss as it moves into the silent grooves between each song, a preference for vinyl is as much about the owner’s tangible experience as it is about the warm, robust tone only a record can produce. Vinyl seems to imprint its grooves upon our memories in a way digital music has yet to achieve. My dad has a story for every album he's ever bought. Now I can say the same about many of my friends. More importantly, you can’t carry a record around in a pocket-sized device. We invite vinyl into our homes, allow it to take up space, and return to our favorite albums again and again. It's a long-term, committed relationship.

And it's this thought that brings me back to my first few days as an apprentice at Riggs. Earlier today, I enthusiastically updated the work section of my Facebook. Jokingly I listed my position as "Wannabe Peggy Olson," in tribute to Mad Men's plucky copywriter. But as I thought about Record Day, with its own hints of nostalgia filtered through a modern lens, I was reminded that we now live in a world where a snappy slogan touting the features of a well designed product isn't enough to ensure market success. These days, with so many options and dollars stretched thin, brands that aspire to greatness must first inspire consumer engagement above anything else. Advertising tells people what they should buy. A strong brand strategy guarantees they will never forget why they made that decision. It paves the way for that tangible experience and ignites the initial spark for an enduring relationship. That's why I wanted to apprentice with Riggs. Anyone can write "effective copy." Here we strive to write love stories.

posted by Julie Turner Apr 08,2013 @ 10:29AM

The Pick of Spring

Buckets of goodness from Cottle Strawberry Farm in Hopkins, SC

There’s something ultra delicious about picking fresh strawberries in the warm spring sun. They are redder, plumper and oh so very sweeter. My family visits the local farm almost every weekend they’re in season. My four year old, who takes such great care to find the best ones, sneaks a strawberry or two as we carefully pick our way through the rows. They are that irresistible.

As I wander through the field each year, I can’t help but think about this game — the one where mankind and all of his advanced technology cannot outsmart this beautiful recipe of nature, time and weather. Throughout the fall and winter, you can see and taste failure in hard, half-green strawberries forced to ripen as they are shipped across the country (or globe). Strawberries that don’t smell at all like sunshine and sweetness. Imposters.

There was once a time when strawberries could not be found in the off-season and it’s easy to see why. So, more and more, I find myself waiting for the real strawberries. For the next few months, I’ll eat, drink and blend local fresh strawberries into every meal and beverage I can think of.

There’s a short window for one of nature's greatest gifts. It’s open now at Cottle Strawberry Farm.




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