Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Tips to Keep Your Projects on Schedule

By Karen Preston-Loeb

Being organized in the workplace is an integral component of a company’s productivity and profitability. Missed deadlines irritate clients which can result in loss of business. Late work makes a company appear overwhelmed and incapable. However, keeping a streamlined process in place to deliver projects on time and within budget satisfies both clients and employees. Below are some project management tips to improve efficiency in your company.

Utilize a project management software system:

Various platforms exist that provide companies with job tracking, reporting capabilities, timesheets, and even invoicing, and most are accessible through the internet to allow for remote working. The system best suited for a company varies depending on the functionality desired. At Furia Rubel Communications we use Basecamp for all of our marketing, public relations, crisis communications, graphic design and website development projects. Every project is created and named, and a calendar is generated to schedule the milestones for each job. Milestones for every task that need to be completed are assigned a date and team member. Once each task is finished it is checked off and, as long as each agency representative completes work on time, the project stays on schedule.

Create a project naming system:

Keeping the workplace organized is more than filing cabinets and inboxes. With work being done on the cloud and remotely via the internet, organizing has taken a digital turn and a naming system is essential. Clearly labelling jobs allows every team member to be on the same page and easily access a project in the future. Oftentimes project management software systems will help organize this process by numbering jobs or prompting a job name field. Still, the company needs to determine a naming convention to be used internally. Acronyms for clients work well along with project titles and dates created. For instance, a 300 x 250 web banner created for ABC Corporation’s August website might be labeled: ABC_300x250WebBanner_8_2016. This would then be filed alphabetically by the client on a server. In two years, if the client wanted to re-run that web banner, it could easily be found.

Break out a project into tasks:

Looking at a large campaign or assignment can be overwhelming, but organizing the job into tasks that can be completed and checked off gives a feeling of accomplishment along the way. A builder who undertakes an addition onto a house doesn’t just dive in. The builder begins with a plan that may begin with blueprints, then demolition and removal of debris, followed by each individual step that needs to occur from adding plumbing to final coats of paint. Whether laid out on paper or in the experienced mind of the builder, a job has a sequence of events that occurs. The same holds true at any company. Every project has a succession of tasks that can be mapped out and completed by one or various team members. In a marketing and public relations firm, for instance, we might break out an e-Newsletter into steps from drafting content, editing, or proofreading, to obtaining client approval, adding web links, and scheduling distribution. These project tasks can also be added to your project management software as templates which leads to greater efficiencies and productivity.

Maintain Schedules:

How happy would a client be if a firm did excellent work but missed its deadlines? A press release announcing an event that gets distributed too late is no good to the client no matter how well-written. Staying on schedule is imperative to the long-term success of a company. Work backwards from the final due date and break the job into tasks. Each task should fill the calendar up to the final due date (and be sure to give your team some leeway whenever possible). Assign these tasks and due dates to appropriate team members, and track any missed deadlines. Once a milestone is overdue, the schedule needs to be adjusted appropriately to ensure the job stays on track.

Organization is essential to project workflow. Keeping jobs on track not only maintains client satisfaction that can lead to referrals and future business, but also promotes a healthy workplace of employees who feel proud to have accomplished goals and be a part of the company’s success.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Getting to Know Account Coordinator Megan Quinn

Megan Quinn is marking her two-year anniversary with the Furia Rubel team. What has she learned over those two years, and what is the best advice she’s been given? We sat down and asked her a few questions to get to know her better. Read on.

What role do you play in the Furia Rubel team?
I am on the public relations side of things here, which includes a wide range of responsibilities, from writing blog content one day to drafting press releases or pitching stories the next, then securing interviews and creating interesting social media posts for our clients.

What has been the most rewarding project you’ve worked on (or task you perform regularly) at Furia Rubel?
When I’m assisting a client with a big story by pitching their news to reporters, responding to media inquiries, and tracking breaking news stories, and the client feels good knowing that we are on their side, that’s when I feel the most rewarded.

Describe a challenge you’ve faced in the workplace, how you solved the issue, and what you’ve learned from it.
One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced was when I was pitching stories for a client and I wasn’t getting the kind of responses I’d hoped for. I had to be resourceful and think of alternative ways to reach the media. I took a step back and re-evaluated my methods and thought, what could I do better, or what haven’t I tried yet to get their attention? As soon as I started to ask myself those questions, I got more creative and found other ways to reach the journalist to whom I was pitching. The project turned into a huge success, and I’m proud of myself for overcoming that fear. That was a learning experience that helped me grow in my career.

What is the best advice you’ve been given by a parent or a mentor?
Double check everything and write down EVERYTHING.

What is one important skill anyone working in PR should have?
These are two skills, but the ability to write and to speak well are fundamental to this work. Having the ability to effectively communicate the messages that you need to get across is crucial in public relations.

Do you have any favorite quotes?
Yes – by an icon I have always looked up to, Audrey Hepburn. “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says 'I'm possible'!”

And another, by one of my public relations idols, Judy Smith: “To some degree, you need denial to get anywhere; you have to ignore the fact that the odds are often stacked against success.”

If you could go on vacation anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I’ve always dreamed of going to Paris, France someday, but Iceland looks gorgeous and that’s definitely a place on my bucket list now!

What are your favorite applications (on your phone)?
Probably Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and occasionally MyFitnessPal when I’m in the mood to track my diet.

What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
Reading, watching HGTV, and going to parks for a stroll with my fiancĂ© when the weather is nice. I’m completely drawn to the sun as soon as it’s visible, and I have to be outside.

Describe yourself in three words.
Resourceful, quirky and a spitfire.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Crafting Proper Photo Captions for Publication

By Sarah Larson

Visuals such as photos (and videos) are an important part of your communications plan, but the work doesn’t end once the image is made. If you are submitting that photo for publication, you have a little bit more to do.

Photos submitted to media outlets should be accompanied by clear information about who is pictured, what they are doing, and where and when the action took place. Here are the guidelines the Associated Press (and, therefore, most news outlets) follows for photo captions.

The first sentence of a caption should:

  • Describe who is in the photograph and what is happening in the photo in the present tense.
  • In general, names should be listed in order, left to right, unless it is impossible for the caption to read normally otherwise. With multiple people identified with the caption, enough representations to placement are necessary so there is no confusion as to each subject’s identity.
For photos created by Associated Press photographers, captions also must:
  • Name the city and state where the image was made.
  • Provide the date the photo was made, including the day of the week if the photo was made within the past two weeks.
An optional second sentence of a caption can be used to give context to the event or describe why the photo is significant. Many publications do not include a second sentence, as it takes up additional space and often is subjective, rather than being strictly factual.

The structure of a basic photo caption, therefore, can be expressed as: (Noun) (verb in present tense) (direct object) during (event name) at (proper noun / location) in (city) on (day of the week), (month) (date), (year).
Photo Credit: Jung Wi, Allure West Studios

For example, an appropriate caption for the photo at right would be:

Gray Wirth, President and CEO of Impact Thrift Stores, addresses the audience during the 1st Annual Regional Impact Breakfast at Talamore Country Club near Ambler, Pa., on Wednesday, June 15, 2016.

Note that we always recommend triple checking the factual information, including the spelling of people’s names and organizations and titles.

Having your own professional photographs to submit to publications along with your press releases, story pitches, announcements, calendar listings, articles and blog posts is more important than ever as communication continues its shift from text to visuals.

Including the correct information along with those visuals will give your submitted photos an advantage over the competition and increase your odds of having your photos chosen for publication.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Protecting Brand Identity Through Trademarked Colors

By Heather Truitt

In a recent blog post, I wrote about the importance of color selection in website artwork and design, but did you know that some companies go as far as trademarking their colors? Brands need to protect themselves from competitors in their same industries trying to use their signature colors.

One of the best examples of this is Tiffany Blue. The jeweler Tiffany & Co. started using its robin’s-egg blue in 1845, when founder Charles Lewis Tiffany chose the color for the cover of “Blue Book,” the company’s annual collection of jewelry. Tiffany Blue is a custom Pantone color created for Tiffany & Co. and is not available for public use. (Pantone is a color-matching system that helps ensure that colors reproduce consistently across various printing techniques.) Not only is the color trademarked, but the boxes in which the company’s jewelry is packaged also are trademarked. Tiffany & Co. uses Tiffany Blue on everything from its advertising to its boxes and even as the background color for its website. No other brand is associated with that distinct blue, certainty no other jewelry companies. Trademark protection for a brand color helps consumers clearly identify the source of a product or service. Tiffany & Co. has protected its brand from competitors by trademarking the color blue.

Many other brands also have trademarked their colors, including AstraZeneca’s heartburn relief drug Nexium and Prilosec, which is marketed as “the purple pill.” A trademark protects the purple pill from other pharmaceutical companies using purple to sell their medication. In a recent court case, another pharmaceutical company tried to create a generic version of the drug using the same color purple. AstraZeneca sued the company and won an injunction, forcing the generic drug maker to choose a different color.

Even having a shade similar to a trademarked color could cause legal trouble for a company if it is promoting similar products and services. In 2013, T-Mobile sued AT&T for infringing upon its trademarked magenta color. A federal judge sided with T-Mobile, saying AT&T’s “plum” was too similar to T-Mobile’s distinctive hue and ordering the company to stop using magenta and similar colors in its marketing and advertising.

Choosing a color to represent your brand – whether you sell jewelry or medication or telecommunications service – carries important ramifications. Clear, consistent use of an established color palette is a vital part of building a brand, as is protecting the usage of that color within the same brand sector. What steps does your company take to ensure that its brand color is protected from competitors?

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