Helping honour the province’s long-serving employees

Saskatchewan is known for its dedicated public service workers and we were happy to work with the Public Service Commission (PSC) to organize yesterday’s Long Service Recognition Program at the Conexus Arts Centre to honour 25- and 35-year employees.

To effectively pull off this event, it required a lot of preparation. Leading up to the event, one of our main duties was to contact and follow up with the honourees and special guests to make sure they had all the information about the event and confirm if they planned to attend. Using this information, we created name tags and organized the materials the honourees would receive at the event. All the while, we coordinated details with the PSC, printers, florists, venue staff, caterers.

During the event itself, we arrived early in the morning to begin setting up the registration, dignitary, stage and banquet areas. We helped coordinate a number of volunteers that showed up. As honourees and guests arrived and moved from one area to the next, we helped direct traffic and answered any questions they had.

The event ran very smoothly. It was inspiring to see how proud the long-serving employees were to get up on stage and receive their pin.

Upcoming Benchmark media relations training session

Are you nervous, scared or unprepared for media interviews?

Are you thrown off guard by either tough questions or hostile reporters?

Are you looking for more effective ways to get your organization’s message out?

Then make plans to attend our upcoming media relations training session on Nov. 7, 2017, at the Travelodge Hotel & Conference Centre Regina (4177 Albert Street S.). The session runs from 8:30 a.m. to Noon and costs $100 plus GST per person.

Participants will learn what the news media expects from you: how to develop a plan for when a reporter calls; how to face reporters with confidence and make the most of your media encounters; how to handle ambush interviews and take control of out-of-control interviews; how to develop key messages and deliver an effective quote; how to avoid common interview pitfalls; and how to dress for interviews and use body language and tone effectively.

If you’re interested in registering, please click on the PayPal button below. For more information, email info@benchmarkpr.ca.

Making a pitch perfect media list

When you’re looking to generate media coverage for your organization, there are two major steps involved.

The first involves planning your media event/campaign and carefully crafting the key message(s) you’re hoping to deliver. But the second, and often overlooked aspect, is informing the media of your event/campaign and getting them to dedicate resources toward covering it.

There’s a misconception among some organizations that if you host a media conference or have an important cause, the media will automatically show up. You need to learn how to effectively communicate with the media to ensure you get media coverage. And one of the best ways to do so is having a detailed media distribution list and understanding how to target selected audiences.

Step #1 – Create your media list: You’ll want to create a list of all the possible media contacts in the area that you are located in. The amount of contacts on your list will largely depend on the scope of your organization (whether your services affect people in one city or an entire province). For each media outlet you add to your list, be sure to include their name, a general email address (typically for the newsroom), a mailing address (if you plan on sending out more formal invitations), a key contact (usually an editor) and a website URL link to the contact/staff/masthead page (for updating staff contact info in the future – more on that later).

Step #2 – Organize your media list: Most media lists can get cluttered very quickly if they’re not organized. The fastest way to do so is by category: daily newspapers, community newspapers, TV stations, radio outlets, Indigenous media and magazines/specialty publications. Furthermore, you should organize your contacts in a program such as Microsoft Excel. Avoid creating contact lists through your email browser, because it is usually very time consuming to manage and difficult to navigate. Using Excel will also make it easier to update your contact list in the future

Step #3 – Consult your list before each mass distribution: Once you’ve created an extensive media list, it can be tempting to include all of these contacts on every media release distribution you make. This is a mistake. Say you have contacts from all over Saskatchewan but are hosting an event in Regina. It wouldn’t make sense to send the media release to contacts not in Regina or surrounding areas. Media outlets don’t like to be overwhelmed by unnecessary emails and may wish to unsubscribe. Along with the geographic area, strongly consider the subject. If you’re promoting a technology conference, for example, you can check through your list to see if any publications have beat writers focused on that area. By contacting them directly, there’s a chance they might then sell their editor on the story.

Step #4 – Strongly consider specialty publications: Mentioned earlier in this article, specially publications range from magazines to industry publications to community newsletters. These are valuable publications because their focus is much narrower than traditional media. They may have room to run larger stories on your subject. After you have sent out a media release, go through your list and highlight some of the specialty publications in your area that align with your topic. Personally follow through with them and see if they require help setting up interviews or need any more information.

Step #5 – Update, update, update: This can’t be stressed enough. Even the most well-put-together and organized media list will be ineffective if it isn’t updated. The great thing is, it’s normally not too difficult to know when it’s time to update. If you ever send out an email and receive an undeliverable reply: make a note of the address, see what organization it’s affiliated with and then visit their website to find the new contact information. It may turn out the publication has ceased to publish. By using a program like excel, you can easily add, erase and edit contact information.

If you feel overwhelmed at the idea of putting together and managing a media list, there are other options. Benchmark Public Relations publishes the Saskatchewan Media Directory and Manitoba Media Directory on an annual basis. These directories contain hundreds of provincial contacts, organized into categories. They are rigorously updated to ensure you have the newest contacts at your fingertips.

Beyond our media directories, Benchmark also maintains extensive media lists and offers media release distribution services. We specialize in sending out your media release to the right audience and targeting specialty publications. The end result is that you receive a large amount of media coverage.

How to plan the perfect corporate event

If you’re unfamiliar with corporate event planning, you may think it’s a similar process to planning a party: get a great venue, book top-notch entertainment and ensure there is plenty of food.

Although some of these points certainly hold true for corporate events, the planning process itself is much more intricate. Whether it’s an annual general meeting, fundraising gala or advocacy event, this is your organization’s opportunity to deliver a key message to a large audience. While you’ll likely want your guests to relax and have a great time, you’ll want to make sure your key message resonates with them once they walk out the door.

Here are some tips to make sure that happens:

Start planning early: “The early bird gets the worm” certainly applies to corporate event planning. Venues, for example, can book up months or even a year in advance for certain dates. Starting the process early can give you plenty of time to adjust your plan if Plan A falls through. Starting early will give you plenty of opportunity to hold committee meetings and nail down all the details of your events, including what message you’re hoping to deliver and what elements are crucial to deliver this message.

Make an action plan: During the rush of planning a corporate event, it’s possible to miss deadlines or forget certain responsibilities. This is why it’s so helpful to put a plan down on paper that includes a list of tasks that need to be completed, the date they need to be completed by, and who is responsible for the task. While you may have to diverge from the plan a little bit due to unforeseen circumstances, creating a plan will at least ensure everyone knows their roles and can be held accountable.

Consider multiple options: Corporate event planning is certainly not case of one size fits all. You may have your eyes on the hottest venue or caterer in town, but you have to determine what fits with your budget and needs. When it comes to the room, for example, you have to make sure you select a venue that not only provides adequate space, but is suited for your type of event. You’ll want to select a different room for a music recital than you would for a quiet business meeting.

To consider multiple options, you have to seek out multiple options. Talk to a variety of businesses and obtain quotes. Make it clear what you’re looking for and they will tell you what they have to offer. These companies usually will go out of their way to get your business and will offer competitive pricing if they know you are considering other options. When it comes to the venue, you should never book one until doing a walkthrough to make sure it will satisfy the needs of your event.

Be creative: There are great opportunities to think outside the box when planning a corporate event. Granted, for more formal business meetings or conferences you may want to keep things more formal, but embrace the chance to be creative whenever you can.

If you organize an annual Christmas party, for example, try to shake up the entertainment each year. No one likes to see the same show year after year. Seek input from the guests and research what some of the entertaining acts are out there. For advocacy events, try to distinguish yourselves from groups who simply state their problem and ask patrons for money. Instead, create an interactive activity that showcases why you group is in desperate need of funds.

Hold pre- and post-event walkthroughs: On the day of the event, you don’t want there to be an unpleasant surprises. Do a final venue walkthrough to make sure everything is in place. Have a final meeting leading up to the event to make sure everyone is on the same page. If you are running an interactive activity during your event, it would be a great idea to do a mock run-through, even if you don’t have access to the venue itself.

The post-event walkthrough is all about reflecting and looking to the future. While you can’t go back in time and fix mistakes that occurred during the event, you can make notes of those areas and make suggestions as to how to avoid them in the future. If you learn from your mistakes, your future events will run much smoother.

Benchmark Public Relations has a long history of helping companies host outstanding corporate events.

From 2011-2013 and again in 2017, we are serving as the event manager of the Public Service Commission’s 2017 Long Service Awards. The awards honour public service employees with 25 and 35 years of experience. Serving as event manager has involved reviewing the location and gift suppliers, maintaining a detailed inventory list and replenishing when necessary, procuring all service providers and goods, and creating a list of eligible honourees, among numerous other tasks.

For seven of the past eight years, we have managed the Saskatchewan Music Conference. The conference, alternating between Regina and Saskatoon, features more than 20 workshops, luncheon concert, tradeshow, receptions and an evening awards banquet. At times, there have been five provincial music organizations involved so it’s an extensive process each year to create an event that satisfies the needs of all the clients. This year’s event takes place on Oct. 27 and 28 in Regina.

Brand, identity and logo: the complete package for your organization

If you’re an organization that is focused on enhancing its public image, you’ve likely heard these common buzz words: BRAND, IDENTITY and LOGO. If you’re not familiar with these terms, trying to distinguish them can make your head spin.

But it’s definitely worth becoming familiar with them.  Each of these terms are unique and play a crucial role in how customers and the public view your organization. Let’s review these terms to provide you a better understanding.

We’ll start with one many people are likely familiar with: LOGO. The logo is quite simply the visual centrepiece for your organization. It’s a visual element that can be a mark, flag, symbol or signature. Whether your logo is located on the front of your building, on a business card or as the profile picture of your various social media accounts, it’s the symbol of your business that people will identify with, even though the logo itself doesn’t include any description of your company.

There are many different approaches to designing a logo. The important thing is that a logo should derive its meaning from the quality of the thing it symbolizes. Some tips for a great logo include: 1. Be unique and clever; 2. Understand your brand (more on that later); 3. Choose colours that reflect your organization; 4. Keep it clear and recognizable; and 5: Create a variety of options to choose from.

Think of Apple’s logo (a small white apple). The company sells technology, but when people see that logo they’ve come to expect quality electronics. When people are looking for shoes, they’ll often seek out the white checkmark on a black background that signifies Nike.

A company’s logo ties directly ties into its IDENTITY. An identity is based around the visual devices used within a company. To effectively craft an identity, a company needs to create a set of guidelines that lay out what elements will be used consistently such as colour palettes, fonts, layouts, etc.

When you distribute a marketing letter to a prospective customer, you should use a consistent letterhead that contains your company name, logo and contact information. If you are a retailer, having distinct employee uniforms will ensure customers can seek help if necessary.

Together, a company’s logo and identity are major parts of its BRAND. A brand is truly a company’s corporate image and while you can shape it with things like logos, letterheads or slogans, it ultimately comes down to how the public perceives you. Think of it this way. When you’re out on your weekly shopping trip, how often do you add a familiar brand to your cart? There are usually multiple ones, including no-name to choose from, so why do you choose that brand?

There are several factors that influence your decision. You’ll seek out that brand if it is of high quality and has delivered for you personally for many years. A great way to build a brand is by creating a solid product that is quality assured and backed by outstanding customer service. Some people also consider whether the company behind the brand is corporately ethical. Does the company give back to the community? In creating its product, does it show empathy for the world around it? And yes, advertising with a consistent look also helps, as it gives your brand name recognition and makes people more likely to add it to their carts.

Recently at Benchmark Public Relations, we have been working on a logo enhancement project with the Northern Healthy Communities Partnership, a network of organizations working to improve the health of people in northern Saskatchewan by influencing the conditions in which they live, learn, work and play.  We are currently revamping the group’s various logos, creating new visual identity standards they can use in further marketing materials, and new templates featuring their enhanced logos. We have also done a major review of their website and provided recommendations for the redesign.