Vote for TJA for Ranking Arizona 2021!

Voting is now open for AZ Big Media’s Ranking Arizona 2021 and we need your help! Follow the simple steps below to help TJA rank #1 again this year. You may vote once per hour through July 31 at 11:59pm.

How to Vote:
1. Visit the Ranking Arizona website
2. Register with your email address and create a password OR use your login information from last year
3. Vote for TJA in the following categories by clicking the VOTE button:

  • Advertising and Marketing
    • Advertising Agencies
    • Best Workplace Culture
    • Graphic Design Firms
    • Internet Marketing
    • Public Relations Firms
    • SEO/Social Media Marketing
  • Business Services
    • Best Place to Work
    • Event Planning
    • Women-Owned Businesses

Thank you for your support!

Your brand’s digital presence is more important now than ever before

“I want to be where the people are”

I think everybody can relate to The Little Mermaid these days; we all want to be where the people are. Thankfully, conversations surrounding COVID-19 are finally turning toward recovery. However, even as the world reopens, the effects of the quarantine will be lasting and businesses need to adapt to how consumer digital behaviors have shifted. The bottom line: to be where the people are, you need to update your digital strategy. Doing so will benefit your business both in the short- and long-term.

Improve your website

One simple way to invest in your website is to regularly update your content to ensure its relevancy, something that will be especially important post-coronavirus. For example, adding video content can increase time on site. Likewise, virtual experiences allow your customers to take your product for a spin from the comfort of their home. We recently developed a new website for Camelot Homes, a luxury homebuilder in Arizona, which included more imagery, video content, interactive floor plans and their professionally-shot virtual home tours that maintained buyer interest when in-person tours weren’t available.

Streamlining the design of your website can guide consumers more naturally through your site and increase conversions. Staying on top of your site’s SEO will help consumers find you through search engines. If you’re unsure of where to start, we recommend a website audit, which is the foundational service we offer our web clients. An audit will reveal what’s going well with your website and what needs improving, providing you with clear direction and actionable next steps.

Email is low-risk, high-reward

Maintaining open communication is crucial in gaining trust with your consumers. In a time of crisis, transparency is even more important. Newsletters are great digital tools that offer direct lines to your brand’s biggest fans: people who voluntarily opted to receive updates from you. So, give the people what they want.

The economic landscape is shifting constantly in reaction to the coronavirus. With recovery around the corner, it’s imperative to keep your consumers informed with updates to your business, like shifts in offerings, changes in hours of operation or new content. Whatever the messaging, make it consistent, relevant and timely.

An email campaign also is a relatively inexpensive marketing channel with a historically high ROI. According to Litmus, for every dollar spent on email, marketers saw a $42 return. With so many advantages to email, creating a newsletter strategy is essential.

Create content constantly

When stay-at-home orders were declared, streaming services and social media apps experienced a rise in traffic and usage. According to The Next Web, 29 percent of internet users reported they were streaming significantly more movies and shows, while 23 percent said they were spending significantly more time on social media platforms. People quarantined to their homes crave content, presenting an opportunity for businesses to bolster their organic social media.

When compared to the last quarter of 2019, Instagram saw a 22 percent increase in campaign impressions in the first quarter of 2020. Even as the world eases back into a normal cadence, and people once again can meet in-person, we anticipate the high rate of social media use will continue. Undoubtedly, consumers will feel compelled to share their first experiences out in public. Preparing and scheduling timely and visually engaging content maintains your relevancy and increases brand awareness.

Earn trust and impressions

Right now, news sites are seeing big increases in readership as even more people want to stay informed. The New York Times reported in March that news site page visits increased 57 percent, and subscriptions to U.S. news sites were 57.5 percent higher on Sunday, March 15 compared to an average Sunday.

Submitting bylined articles or expert commentary on how trends or current events are affecting your industry can lead to earned media coverage in online news sites, increasing your business’s exposure and strengthening your expert positioning. Providing insight and thought leadership in news outlets also garners trust with readers, deepening your brand awareness. Partnering with experts like The James Agency can not only help you create an effective PR strategy, but also execute on that strategy and prepare you for the inevitable media opportunities. 

Be prepared

We’re all experiencing a harrowing moment in our history, and the full effects are yet to be seen. One thing for certain has changed: the customer journey. The brands that will continue to win have a few things in common, one of which being a strong digital presence that allowed them to stay in contact with their customers throughout the days of quarantine. At The James Agency, we leverage 15 years of experience and a wealth of data to evolve our clients’ digital assets, ensuring they are prepared for anything. Drop us a line to determine how we can do the same for you.

On Becoming a Brand Defender and Other Musings of a PR Pro.

In PR, I wear a lot of hats: I pitch stories, schedule media opportunities and make sure my clients are interview-ready.

On top of all that, I’ve become an expert on each of my clients. I know the ins and outs of their businesses, their goals and their challenges. Most importantly, I am acutely in tune with my clients’ audiences; it’s my responsibility to engage them through a plethora of channels. This distinction puts PR professionals at an amazing advantage when it comes to the role of brand defender. Continue reading “On Becoming a Brand Defender and Other Musings of a PR Pro.”

The James Agency’s Creative Wins Big with U.S. Travel Association

Ad agency’s ‘Split Decisions’ campaign for client Travel Costa Mesa wins two ESTO awards

SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. (August 22, 2019) – A marketing campaign created by hospitality and tourism advertising agency, The James Agency (TJA), was awarded two Destiny Awards at the U.S. Travel Association’s ESTO conference in Austin, Texas this week. The annual awards ceremony recognizes excellence and creative accomplishment in destination marketing at the local and regional level.

TJA’s “Split Decisions” campaign was part of a total brand refresh for client, Travel Costa Mesa, a Southern California destination marketing organization (DMO). The campaign utilized a “two halves of a whole” design narrative that transformed stereotypical branding into an authentic realization of the fresh and urban experiences that Costa Mesa has to offer. Of the 16 Destiny Awards presented, Travel Costa Mesa won two: one for a branding campaign in the $500,000 – $1,000,000 marketing budget category and another for the People’s Choice Award.

The campaign included the creation of brand videos and the design of traditional and digital ads targeting a younger market of foodies and weekend travelers. Within a year of the campaign’s initiation, Travel Costa Mesa saw a 23 percent increase in engagement by its target age market and a 22 percent increase in leads to its hotel partners.

“TJA was tasked with captivating a younger age group – a generation that dreams of travel and curated experiences,” said Veronique James, CEO of The James Agency. “I’m proud of the amazing creative my team conjured up that captured the notion of limitless possibilities in Costa Mesa.”

TJA, an integrated advertising, public relations and digital marketing firm, lead the research, brand development, website redesign, email and content marketing for Travel Costa Mesa, which is located in the heart of Orange County.

“The Travel Costa Mesa team is thrilled to be recognized for our work in destination marketing this year for the unique and vibrant City of the Arts®,” said Kim Glen, Director of Marketing. “We’re grateful to the U.S. Travel Association and all those who voted for us, and big kudos to the creative talents of our partners at The James Agency, who were instrumental in developing this fun, integrated branding campaign.”

Founded in 2005 by James, TJA specializes in working with hospitality, restaurant, real estate and experiential brands. In addition to Travel Costa Mesa, TJA is the agency of record for the National Harbor Convention and Visitors Association on the East Coast.

A complete list of the Destiny Awards finalists and winners can be found online.

About The James Agency

An integrated agency specializing in consumer advertising, public relations and digital, The James Agency (TJA) custom fits a comprehensive, insights-driven marketing strategy for each client. Founded in 2005 by Veronique James, TJA represents travel, tourism, hospitality and lifestyle brands.

About Travel Costa Mesa

Located in the heart of Orange County in Southern California with a population of approximately 113,000, Travel Costa Mesa was established in 1995 with the primary goal of promoting tourism to the city and to fund programs and activities that benefit the hotel and motel businesses within the city of Costa Mesa. For more information on travel to the city of Costa Mesa, visit www.travelcostamesa.com  or follow @travelcostamesa on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Travel Costa Mesa is a 501(c)(6).

PR Pros, Take Note: These are the Best Email Clients for Pitching

I think most public relations professionals would agree that there is an art to pitching the media. No, seriously. Google “The Art of PR Pitching,” and you’ll find more than 53 million results. Hell, even we’ve written about the ins and outs of a good pitch.

In addition to mastering a concise lede or writing the perfect subject line, we have to traverse the simple, yet infuriating hurdle that is the forwarded email. A forwarded email can be the PR pro’s best friend or worst f-ing nightmare.

What I mean is, when we craft a pitch, we will re-use the main skeleton of that pitch over and over again, and we’ll send these recycled pitches to our friends in the media (with a custom and personal note added to each one, right guys?).

For something that seems so technologically trivial in 2019, it sure can be a big pain in the butt to get your forwarded emails formatted correctly. Has anyone else cringed when they’ve gone to look at a pitch in their “Sent” folder only to find the fonts are different sizes and lines of space in the middle of paragraphs?

Well, fear not, because I’ve taken the liberty of testing some of the most prominent email clients out there so you don’t have to. If you’re a Mac and/or a G Suite user, take a look below at my recommendations for the best email clients for PR pitching.

[Note these recommendations are based solely on my experience with using Mac OS X. Some of these clients are not compatible with Windows operating systems.]

Apple Mail

Up first is Apple Mail, the default email software pre-installed on all devices created by—you guessed it—Apple.

Apple Mail is simple, easy and streamlined for the Mac, making it far less prone to crashing on dated MacBooks.

When it comes to forwarding pitches, you have to do some digging in the Preferences to remove the formatting on quoted lines text. That’s when the forwarded copy changes colors and are given big lines to highlight that it’s an old message. Obviously, you want each pitch to seem like a brand new, fresh email, so getting rid of the quoted text in a pitch is essential. With some work, you can make it happen in Apple Mail.

Rating: Overall, Apple Mail provides a clean (if not overly simplified) experience. 3/5 stars

Gmail

Google’s signature email service has more than 1.5 billion users making it one of the most used email clients out there.

With the backing of one the largest tech giants in the world, Gmail offers a fluid, glitch-free experience. Plus, its integration with Google Drive can come in handy, especially for G Suite users.

However, pitching in Gmail is a nightmare and a half.

Try to copy and paste from a third-party source—say a Microsoft Word document—into a new Gmail message, and it will look like a completely normal, nicely formatted email.

But hit send, and some kind of dastardly magic happens that turns your pitches into an amalgam of fonts and sizes and spaces. Your beautiful looking pitch has transformed into the embarrassing, email equivalent of a 3-year-old’s finger painting of a Sasquatch. Every time I’ve pitched through Gmail, it would have gone better if I’d sent the Sasquatch.

Rating: 10/10 would Sasquatch over Gmail

Outlook

Microsoft’s Outlook is a formidable email client for PR pitching, even on the Mac. Though the interface is busy, it’s highly customizable. And like Gmail, Outlook has the backing of a tech titan that provides peace of mind.

Forwarding emails are easy off the bat. They look perfect and you can count on the format being right. The search function works when you need to recall an old email from a client, and the contacts are intuitive.

The cons? It’s a hefty piece of software. If you happen to search for an old email while it’s downloading new messages, you often run the risk of crashing the software. Also, Outlook is only available when you pay for Office 365, which costs about the same as 15 cups of your morning coffee. So, weigh your options carefully.

Rating: A very smooth experience that works. Though, it comes at a potentially caffeine-reducing cost. 4/5 stars

Airmail (for iOS & Mac OS X)

Last up is Airmail, a sexy, Mac/iOS-only email client created by an independent developer. This one looks great, and the amount of aesthetic customization available is bonkers. At only $10, it seems worth the price.

But in the end, it was too good to be true.

Unfortunately, Airmail comes with fairly annoying issues. Back in 2013, Macworld stated that “Airmail is a great-looking email client, and does a few things quite well, but it has a few annoying quirks.” Six years later, that still holds true.

First, to forward emails, you have to actually reply to the email that you already sent. When you forward your message, the body turns into annoyingly formatted quoted text, and there isn’t a clear fix to that. For whatever reason, you can change quoted text in email replies—a simple workaround, but quirky.

Also, if you want to place an image in the body of the email, Airmail doesn’t allow you to freely change the size, but instead has three stock sizes that it chooses for you.

The search function is unreliable. When you are in the thick of responding to emails and you just need to quickly check your information against an old email, having the search function crap out on you is infuriating, to say the least.

Lastly, because I’m on a roll here, the contacts are a mess – at least when you use Gmail for email hosting. For Airmail to save a newly added contact, you can’t actually add it via Airmail. You have to create the contact via Google Contacts, resync the database in Airmail’s preferences, quit and then reopen Airmail. Then—and only then—will your contact be saved in Airmail.

Rating: Seriously beautiful software with serious issues. 2/5 stars

Winner: Outlook

For me, Outlook is the clear winner. Not only does it work, but it works well.

How to make the most of earned media

Our responsibility as PR experts is to get the most eyes on your brand as often as possible.
Typically, that means securing interviews and placement in news articles; to leverage our contacts in the media, secure segments with TV producers and make sure you look and sound good for interviews.

Earned media coverage is gold. An article in a respected magazine about your restaurant’s grand opening, or a TV interview between a beloved local anchor and your executive chef, builds trust between your business and the community. Plus, the potential for the coverage to introduce your brand to thousands or even millions of people doesn’t hurt.

However, gone are the days that news coverage alone is enough to significantly impact a company’s bottom line. Because people consume so much content on so many different platforms every day, it’s nearly impossible to capture a consumer’s attention for long. The key is to maintain the story’s momentum and shelf life by leveraging earned media on your business’s other communication platforms.

So, without further ado, here are five ways to maximize earned media coverage.

Get social with it
Social media platforms are a simple way to keep the earned media hype train a-chugging. Each one of your followers chose to follow or like your company’s page. That means you have an audience willing to listening. So, give the people what they want and post a link to your earned coverage on Facebook, Twitter and – if you have a great visual to accompany it – Instagram, while including the link in the bio.

Step up your earned media sharing game even further with paid social media posts. This not only drives more people to the article, but allows you to expand your audience beyond those who already follow you. Through paid social media, you can carefully target who will see the earned media, and whom you target depends on your goals for social media growth and overall content strategy.

Utilize your newsletter
Including an article that features your company is perfect content for your external e-blasts. A news article legitimizes your brand and provides a source of education for what your company is all about.

Share news coverage with your carefully procured email list to expand brand awareness. You did make sure your business’s email marketing is GDPR compliant, right?

Post it to your newsroom
Speaking of legitimacy, creating a newsroom on your company’s website is a great way to show visitors that your business means business. These also serve as backlinks that make a significant impact on SEO ranking by improving your website’s prominence in search engine results.

Some companies prefer to make their newsroom more visual by developing a page that features the mastheads of all the news outlets they’ve been featured in, while others prefer to post full articles and links.

We keep it simple at TJA with a list of all of the news our team has been featured in, alongside our most recent press releases. It’s a no frills, no fuss way of showing we’re in the news a bunch.

Spread the news internally
We’ve educated a surprising number of clients about sharing earned media within their company. Your employees will appreciate being kept in the loop. This also can help build a sense of pride for your company and boost morale. Take this a step further, and encourage your employees to share on their own social media platforms.

Put it on your resumé
We’ll let you in on a little secret: TV news producers like to work with spokespeople who have done TV interviews before. Live TV interviews can be a gamble, and the more experienced you are, the lower the risk of something egregious happening on air. (QUICK TIP: Always assume a microphone is on and recording.)

That’s one reason why we carefully track all news coverage that we secure for our clients. We reference past interviews and can even create highlight reels to send to the more prestigious publications or TV programs to ensure they know they’re working with an experienced interviewee.

Sharing earned media helps to spread the good word about what you do, legitimizes your business and builds trust within the community. Yet, maximizing earned coverage has yet another benefit: it helps to boost the web traffic for the media outlets that featured your business, which is one of their key revenue drivers. Fostering relationships with media partners is yet another stepping stone to enhancing public awareness.

Plus, more visitors to your article’s web page shows there is interest, making it easier and more desirable for reporters and producers to work with you in the future.

Luckily for you, TJA is chock full of the expertise and talent needed to capitalize on earned media. We really mean it when we say we’re a full-service agency.

How to Write an Award-Winning Nomination

Winning an industry or business award is one of the best ways to showcase your company’s achievements, gain recognition, impress potential clients and build team morale, but having great work to nominate is only part of the equation. To receive the recognition you deserve, you’ll also need to craft an award-winning nomination, which is an art in itself. Follow these seven tips to increase your chances of bringing home the win.

Read the instructions
This may seem like a given. However, just like on your middle school math test, if you don’t thoroughly read and understand the instructions, you won’t ace it. Take time to confirm that your company meets all of the award program guidelines and is willing to submit all of the required information. Furthermore, meet the deadline, follow the word count, use the requested file types and be aware of maximum file sizes.

Answer the questions
Again, this may seem obvious, but many awards programs require essay-style responses to questions with multiple parts. Be sure to answer every question asked and highlight any specific buzzwords.

Do your homework
Review past award winners to learn more about what it takes to win the particular award you’re focusing on. Research the judges, if possible, because they are your target audience.

Tell a story
Your nomination should have a clear beginning, middle and end and focus on the five Ws (and one H) of storytelling. Remember that judges are likely reviewing hundreds of nominations and don’t have much time to dedicate to each one. A well-organized, unique and compelling story will increase the time spent reading your nomination, thus increasing your chances of winning.

Back it up with facts
Don’t be vague. The most important part of your nomination is highlighting the tangible results generated from your work and how the project’s goals and objectives were met. Third-party validation from surveys or testimonials can add weight to your nomination, if applicable.

“Optional” means “mandatory”
Some questions may be marked as optional, but be sure to take advantage of the extra word count and the opportunity to tell more of your story. It’s your best bet to consider all responses mandatory.

Shout it from the rooftop
If and when you DO win, make sure that everyone knows about it. Distribute a press release, share your news on social media and showcase your award wins on your company’s website.

Check out TJA’s awards here.

How to Create A Crisis Communications Plan

Contrary to public opinion, a PR pro’s job is not just schmoozing with the media, hanging out at TV stations and hosting swanky events. Our job often involves preparing clients for the unexpected and providing critical crisis communications counsel. More often than not, it is a high-stress and high-stakes job.

Since the very nature of a crisis insinuates that it is typically unexpected and out of your control, attempting to manage it can be daunting. While a crisis can certainly be detrimental to your company’s reputation, the way you handle it is arguably more critical and can make or break your brand.

Although the majority of crises can’t be prevented, they can be prepared for in advance and effectively managed. Here are six tips for dealing with sticky situations:

Plan

Having a plan in place is essential for successful crisis management. Although it seems counter intuitive to plan for something unexpected, it can save your team a lot of time, confusion and stress in the heat of the moment.

Develop an approved protocol and action plan to be activated in the event of a crisis. It should specifically outline the internal communication and approval process, as well as the chain of command. This includes determining the following:

  • Who on your team needs to be notified of a crisis and in what order
  • Who is in charge of the crisis communications efforts on your team
  • Who is approved to communicate updates to your team
  • Who is the approved media spokesperson
  • Who is the ultimate decision maker that has final approval when it comes to crisis management decisions

 

Role Play

Depending on your industry and type of business, specific types of crises may be more likely than others. Spend some time thinking about potential landmines your company might face. Although it’s not pleasant to envision, what situation would be your worst nightmare? For example, if you’re a restaurant owner, this could be something like an E. Coli outbreak or something unappealing being found in your food — think of the recent Chipotle crisis or the fingernail that was found in Taco Bell nachos. Crazier things have happened. Once you’ve identified potential crisis situations that could affect your business, outline how you would handle them. Develop key messaging that could be customized for each specific scenario and used, if needed, down the road.

 

Control the Message

The core of crisis communication is in the message and delivery. In the event of a negative situation involving your brand, it is imperative that you respond quickly, truthfully, thoughtfully and empathetically. It is human nature to be defensive and emotional in the midst of a crisis, but take the time to get your facts straight, understand the issue and craft an appropriate response. Always be honest and transparent. Acknowledge the incident and your company’s role in it. Sympathize with those affected and do everything in your power to make it right.

Avoid Social Media Mishaps

As part of your crisis communications plan, you also should have your social media protocol clearly outlined. Canceling scheduled posts should be one of the first steps in the event of a crisis. Nothing appears more insensitive than a scheduled post being pushed out to promote one of your offerings or services when your brand is embroiled in a crisis. Your social media posts should be limited to statements addressing the crisis and thoughtful responses to your fans’ comments and concerns. No matter what, don’t engage in a heated online debate or defensively respond to accusatory comments.

Recap

Once the dust has settled, take the time to objectively assess the situation and how you handled it. What was done well and what could have been done better? What did you learn and what changes should be made to your crisis communications plan to help better prepare for future issues? Be honest with yourself and look at the shortfalls as opportunities for improvement the next time around.

Recover

After you’ve recapped the crisis and your management of it, start the recovery process by identifying ways to shed a positive light on your brand. What good stories can be told about your company? Whether it is a heroic act or gesture of goodwill that arose from the crisis, or something completely unrelated to the crisis that had a positive impact on the community, publicizing your company’s good news will help push down any negative coverage in search results.

Crisis communications is serious business, but if handled well the damage to your brand can at worst be mitigated and at best result in positive coverage. A great recent instance of turning a PR nightmare into positive press is Crockpot’s response to the This is Us tragedy. Rather than reacting rashly and defensively, Crockpot capitalized on the opportunity of having its brand in the limelight and used sympathy, creativity and humor to respond to and educate the show’s fans. The brand was applauded for its response and came out of the predicament looking like a hero rather than a villain.

When in doubt about how to handle or recover from a crisis, your best course of action is to consult a professional. Having a PR team on-hand and a plan in place for crisis communications are both good precautions to safeguard your brand. An ongoing PR strategy also can be especially effective in rebuilding a damaged brand.

Want to learn more about the industry as a whole? Peruse our other articles on public relations, or check out this comprehensive guide to PR by G2 for an in-depth read.

TJA Office Snapshot

The James Agency has a new home, and we love it. A lot.

We’re not the only ones: Office Snapshots did a profile on the new TJA HQ, highlighting its open multi-level floor plan, the massage room (our personal favorite) and the thoughtful design that inspires our creative collaboration. Edgy inspirational quotes, pops of orange everywhere and industrial elements convey a fresh approach to advertising; just another way we’re shaking things up.

Check out the article and see why our office looks more like a hospitality concept than a corporate office.

Read the Article

How to Build A Positive Workplace Culture

It’s no secret to any professional that we spend the best hours of our life (at least Monday through Friday) at our place of business. Your colleagues often see you more than your family does, and your office, desk or cube could be considered your primary residence. As a business owner and leader, I never take that for granted. I’m a mother and wife myself, and there are some weeks when I see my kids a total combined seven hours in a five day span. The math can be heartbreaking, but it is a reality in today’s fast-paced business age. 

16 years ago, I started my career as a junior designer. I was at the bottom of the totem pole, and I had very little experience to compare what a positive workplace should be. I’d worked in the restaurant industry in college and managed a few hair salons, which taught me how to work with dynamic personalities and disgruntled clients…but for the most part I was naive. Fast forward a few years and a couple “big girl” jobs later, something was telling me there had to be a better way. Either I was loving the client work but hating the vibe of the culture, or I was loving the culture but wasn’t feeling fulfilled with the work. My young 20 something mindset was starting to challenge the status quo, and I was dead set on cracking the code to finding a positive workplace that also flourished in super juicy creative work. Thus, The James Agency (TJA) was born.

Selfishly, I created TJA to be the embodiment of all the things I wanted and craved when I started my professional journey. Some of my most precious relationships have cultivated from this business, and the energy that fuels this place is addicting. Want to know the secret to how we got here? Here are seven tips for building a positive workplace:

Start with gratitude.

I always tell our team members, clients and partners that it is a privilege, not a right, to work together. It sounds like something my dad would say, but it is true. At TJA, we love to open every Monday morning with a 15 minute all-hands team hustle, and the first thing on the agenda is team kudos. Why, you may ask? Giving people a vehicle to express their appreciation for one another in a public forum raises the morale of the group as a whole, sets a positive standard for the week and frankly makes people feel pretty darn awesome when they are acknowledged. Starting with gratitude in any professional situation, whether it’s responding with a thank you to someone who took time out of their busy day to send you an email or handwriting a thank you first thing in the morning to one of your teammates, sets the intention of appreciation. This will elevate how you show up and will also permeate within your organization.

Create a safe environment.

There isn’t room for toxicity in a professional environment. It’s a cancer that can spread quickly and can be harder to recover from than you may realize. I believe that creating a safe work environment means eliminating those negative personalities or breaking bad habits that seem to send a business into a downward spiral quickly. There are the HR terms of safety, and there are the psychological terms of safety. At TJA, we respect every idea, whether it is derived from a junior team member or a tenured senior member. We also practice humility daily, because we all know that an ego the size of an elephant can cannibalize all the cool work you are trying to accomplish together. In the advertising industry, there are so many unknowns that we can’t control (like fire drill phone calls from clients, quick deadlines and rush jobs). So let’s control what we can and show up with respect for everyone we work with. Honesty, integrity and vulnerability is how we roll.

Don’t pee on the toilet seat.

You are probably reading and thinking “what the heck does this have to do with creating a positive workplace?” Actually, it’s a saying we use at TJA that means, don’t leave a mess for someone else and respect everyone’s time. Nowadays, most professional environments are comprised of a multi-department structure or virtual teams. There is nothing more frustrating than when you go to pick up where someone left off and the files are missing, the work is a mess or someone has saved that crucial document on their desktop and now they’re on a flight to Paris for a two-week vacation. Drats! They’ve peed on the toilet seat! Not leaving a mess for someone is the functional meaning of this, but the emotional definition means “respect everyone’s time.” If someone has to duplicate your efforts and take time out of their daily duties to recreate work or go on a hunt for that missing document, you are basically saying you don’t care about their time. To me, time is our most valuable currency; and if we aren’t respecting our colleagues’ time, we are creating a negative workplace environment.

There should never be problems in business, there should only be opportunities.

Look, there is a reason why work is a four letter word. It’s HARD! Deadlines, client expectations, flub-bubs, it can all get pretty hectic and stressful. And most of the time when it rains, it really seems to pour. When emotions are high and stress is even higher, issues in business can seem like GIANT boulders. Whenever someone rushes in to my office with that “holy sh*t” look we all know too well, I ask them to take a different perspective. I ask them a couple questions:

  • What is the learning opportunity that we can glean from this experience? I always tell my team that a problem isn’t a problem, it’s an opportunity for us to reflect and evaluate so we can do better the next time around.
  • What is funny about this situation? Finding the irony or humor in a stressful circumstance can quickly lighten a very emotionally charged room.

Be consistent.

There are so many new trends and influences on how to derive a positive workplace or culture. Flex hours, team builds and open work environments have all seemed to be tactics that business owners are testing. What we have found consistency is what works for us, and not being influenced by the newest professional culture craze. It’s easy to get caught up in what might seem like the newest positive workplace habits or maybe you caught a glimpse of what your competitors are doing…however a left turn in workplace rhythms can actually do more harm than good. Although change can be healthy, disrupting a good thing can be detrimental and affect the cultural balance of your organization.

Encourage positive thinking.

Our yard stick of life is short, and there are only so many inch marks left. Why waste that time on disruptive or toxic behaviors that don’t align with your business’ moral compass? I proactively encourage my team to think positive – all. the. time. Even when things seem to be going nowhere or the result didn’t pan out as we had hoped, positive thinking eventually cultivates positive outcomes. Setting yearly, monthly and weekly positive intentions as a group can also align your team and ensure everyone is facing the same North Star.

Don’t sacrifice the important for the urgent.

All too often, I see fellow business leaders punt team huddles or one-on-ones for that urgent client call or meeting. That connection with your team is crucial to maintaining your positive workplace environment. As the leader, you are the cheerleader of the company and the glue of your organization. Without that regular connection to your people, the mission, vision and energy of the business can quickly dilute and affect your cultural fiber. Rescheduling is fine, just don’t let those conversations get replaced with urgent client demands and deadlines.

Dependability, structure, clarity and meaningful work are all ingredients that, when combined, can culminate in a solid foundation for a positive workplace. Add some awesome sauce and voila…you have the magic recipe!

Media Training 101

The studio’s a little smaller than you imagined, and the lights are much brighter. A nice person with a headset stuffs a battery pack down your shirt and clips the microphone to your collar as you’re directed to sit on a couch. Except, you were expecting a desk chair.

How does a person look good sitting on a couch? Normally, you would sink into the cushions, making yourself comfortable. You do want to appear comfortable, right? Or would you look unpoised and slouched? The anchor asks if you’re ready. What? Already? What were you supposed to say again? Where should you look? Straight into the camera, right? What do you do with your hands?

But it’s too late.

“Ready in five, four, three . . .”

Going on TV can be nerve racking. Something about the bright lights and all the eyes and camera lenses on you sparks a kind of anxiety you didn’t think was possible. But you’ve seen people nail their news interview. What do they know that you don’t? I’ll let you in on a little secret: behind every great interview is a PR person and a professional media training session.

Lucky for you, I’m going to share our agency’s pro media training tips to a killer on-camera interview.

Ain’t No Party Like a Preparation Party

Preparation is paramount when it comes to appearing on TV. You should first determine your goal of the interview: What do you want your audience to know by the end?

Write down the five main ideas you want to get across to the news anchor and the viewers. These will be your talking points. While these will be different on a case by case basis, you should include who you are and why your company matters to the audience.

Then, refine your talking points into a sentence or two each that you will have no trouble remembering when it comes time for your interview. These will become your sound bites, or the nuggets of information that the station can replay, that paint a general picture of what you’re talking about. Television news is run on a very carefully managed schedule. Sound bites help producers piece together your story efficiently. And if there’s anything you should take away from this, it’s that you always want to make the producer happy.

Getting the right information across to the audience is the key to nailing an interview. Accomplishing your goal will depend on how efficiently you can communicate your ideas within the length of the segment (which can range from one to 10 minutes), and ultimately on your preparedness.

Audit Your Closet

Be ready to dress the part for your interview. Pastel-colored clothing translate well on camera, especially light blues. Do not wear white, black or any patterns – only solids. Unless the interview is more serious, we encourage you to wear your own branded clothing. Otherwise, stick with professional attire.

Day of Interview: Calm Those Qualms

Calming your nerves before an interview is incredibly important. The last thing you want is to forget the talking points you carefully prepared, or worse, completely freeze mid-segment.

Here are a few exercises you can run through right before your big debut:

Breathe it in

It’s amazing what deep breathing can do for you. If you’re feeling those pre-TV jitters, take in a big breath of air, all the way down to your belly, and let it out with a sigh. Repeat a few times.

Slow, deep breathing will ease your heartrate, calm the anxiety-driven voice in your head and refocus your thoughts back to those talking points we discussed earlier.

Shake it Out

Now that your mind has slowed, it’s time to release the nervous energy that trapped itself in the rest of your body. Get on your feet, shake your limbs, go for a short walk – anything to get your body moving.

Laugh it Up

Nothing gets rid of pre-TV anxiety quite like laughter. I recently tested this theory with our client Colleen’s Dream Foundation and 9-year-old Chloe Cundiff. Chloe raised nearly $10,000 for the ovarian cancer foundation  by selling lemonade over the summer. Cool story, right? Local TV thought so, too. And soon enough, Chloe had several interviews scheduled.

To help calm her nerves, I came up with a breathing technique called the Lion Roar. I told her to take a deep breath in and then let it out in her best impression of a lion’s roar. Not only did it incorporate our first nerve-calming technique, the roar would make Chloe giggly and ready for the interview.

Find something that will bring a smile to your face before your interview. Whether it’s your favorite compilation of “The Office” bloopers, or you make a friend at the station to crack jokes with, laughter really is the best medicine.

Lights, Camera . . .

You’ve reviewed your talking points, have the perfect outfit on and eased your nerves. You’ve been invited to the onset couch and they’re about to go live. Let’s go over how you should carry yourself throughout the interview.

First, sit up straight. However that needs to happen (like sitting at the edge of the couch), ensure your posture is correct and hold your head high. This will not only make you look professional and confident, it will make you feel that way too

For most interviews, especially live ones, you don’t want to look directly into the camera. In your mind, think about the message you want to convey to the viewers. On the outside, however, you’re there to have a conversation with the anchor. So, look him or her in the eye.

Sitting on a couch or at a desk, fold your hands either on your lap or on the desk top. If you’re standing during an interview, keep your hands at your side. Never cross your arms, hold them behind your back or play with your face or hair – nothing says, “I’m nervous,” quite like these interview faux pas.

Lastly, be friendly, courteous and smile often. Just like the old adage that the camera adds 10 pounds, the camera also adds rigidity. Being animated can go a long way.

You’re a Star, Kid

Follow our media training advice, and going on TV will seem easy. Need more specialized advice? Comment with your questions below!

Tips for Creating a Memorable Event Space

It’s October, which means that we’re in the full swing of event season and rapidly approaching the busy and event-filled holiday season. Among the seemingly countless special occasions and corporate gatherings, it can be challenging to make your event stand out. While having delicious food and drinks, fun entertainment and a cohesive theme are all important details, you can’t throw a party if you don’t have a venue and a memorable event space.

Selecting your venue is one of the first decisions you’ll make during the event planning process. It’s also the element that has the most impact on determining the overall tone of your event. Keep reading for our tips on choosing and transforming a memorable event space.

Non-Traditional Venues

Think outside the box, or in this case, outside the hotel ballroom. A growing trend in the event planning industry is to use non-traditional event spaces: libraries, art galleries, warehouses; the possibilities are endless. Our CEO, Veronique James, is actually in the midst of planning our annual holiday party in an airplane hangar.

Of course, like everything in life, there are pros and cons. The pros include the uniqueness, creative freedom and “wow” factor. Among the cons are that many unconventional venues don’t have the dedicated onsite staff and turnkey amenities that more traditional options offer.

If you decide that an unconventional venue isn’t for you, there are a number of ways to transform a more traditional event space into something extraordinary.

Drape Your Space

Scottsdale Fashion Square Event SpaceIf you’re unhappy with your venue’s wall colors, bored by its blandness, or need to confine a wide open space into an exclusive reception, you can create a room within the room using draping. Pick clean white drape for a classic and elegant look or choose a color that accents your overall theme. You may even want to drape the ceiling for added effect. Our team transformed a shopping center courtyard into a luxurious cocktail venue with floor-to-ceiling white drape.

Divide and Conquer

A massive ballroom or conference room can be overwhelming, especially if all of the furniture is identical. Instead of filling the room with standard eight-top tables and banquet chairs, intersperse some high top tables for standing guests and a few groupings of comfortable lounge furniture to break up the space and add visual interest.

Light It Up

One effective way to give a room an instant makeover is with lighting. Wireless LED uplights can create every color of the rainbow and are conveniently portable. Add sophistication and style to the plainest of spaces with uplighting that matches your event theme. If you’re not sure which color to choose, amber lighting is universally flattering and gives off a warm and inviting glow. Gobos, beams of light with metal stencils on top that project shapes, are a great way to add elements of design or customized branding to your event.

Element of Surprise

Hang a chandelier in a barn. Bring high-end lounge furniture into a conference room. Place a fashion show runway down the center of a hotel lobby. By adding an unexpected detail or activation to a traditional space, you’ll create an element of surprise that’s sure to get your guests talking.

Whether you’re planning an elegant cocktail party or a weeklong corporate retreat, sometimes it’s best to leave the planning to the experts. We’d love to help you knock your next event out of the park (which, appropriately enough, could be another cool non-traditional event venue).

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