#InnovateNow With Heather Whaling: Plan Smarter. Implement Smarter.

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The proliferation of owned media. The democratization of voice through social. Media’s evolving landscape. New ways to accurately measure and track PR’s value.

The PR and social media landscapes have changed so much in such a short period of time. While some may see that as daunting, many have relished the new opportunities it presents and innovated methods for connecting with target audiences.

Heather Whaling - PR InnovatorTo celebrate the launch of two innovative products Cision Social Edition and Cision PR Edition, we have scheduled a series of Q&As featuring some of the finest innovators in our field. Up next is Heather Whaling.

Heather is founder and CEO of Geben Communication, a PR firm that helps emerging brands and forward-thinking, established companies excel in a social world. Known for taking a fresh approach to traditional and digital PR best practices, she is considered one of the most influential voices in PR 2.0. Heather also operates the prTini blog.

Without further ado, here are Heather’s answers to how public relations has changed and how she has innovated in this space:

How has social changed over the last five years?

I started Geben Communication five years ago. Back then, social media consultants were all the rage. It seemed like anyone with a Twitter account could get paid for advice. It was crazy and not productive for businesses. Thankfully, today businesses are looking for people who can deliver measurable, tangible results.

There will always be the new “killer app,” the new trend or the new media channel. But now, five years from now (and far into the future!), the PR pros who stay focused on integrating traditional and digital PR and taking a fresh approach to best practices are the ones who will stay relevant and continue to earn clients’ budgets.

What are the biggest trends in the industry today? How do they help you innovate?

Whether it’s live video streaming, visual storytelling or taking a data-driven approach to PR, there are endless innovations and new ways to approach PR.

Doesn’t it feel like a new tool is being introduced every day? It’s hard to keep up, but part of our job as PR pros is serving as a technology filter. So, while we don’t have to love every new tool or innovation, we do need to explore it enough so we can make educated recommendations to our clients.

That said, I think our biggest innovation asset is the trust we’ve earned from clients. We’re fortunate to work with people who want to push the envelope and try new things. When we come to them with an idea – whether it’s experimenting with Periscope or launching a creative influencer campaign (even when it combines spiders and personalized video!) – they’re very receptive. Knowing that we have clients who see us as trusted partners motivates us to stay creative and constantly recommend innovative ideas.

Can you tell us about the most innovative PR project you’ve worked on?

It’s hard to pick just one idea!

Most recently, we worked with a tech reporter at ABC to launch the first sponsored giveaway on Periscope from a “traditional” media outlet. One of our account managers regularly tunes in for the reporter’s daily #TechTrivia broadcast, and got picked as a winner last week.

Hilarity ensued (her “prize” was to co-write a song with him by commenting on his video stream with potential lyrics), but more importantly, so did a huge media opportunity: shortly after the show, the account manager followed up with the reporter via email and pitched the idea for a sports-themed trivia challenge, sponsored by one of our clients. He loved it, so we worked together to flesh out details and execute the broadcast. Pairing quick-thinking and a creative concept (with a relationship built on Periscope!) led to a huge win for our client.

Two more projects worth noting: An online contest for a gardening startup that was named by Huffington Post as one of the 10 Best Influencer Marketing Campaigns of 2013, and a social media campaign to drive viewership for a PBS documentary that reached 2 million people in just three weeks. Both are proof that you don’t need a big budget (or a ton of time) to drive big results, and that you’ll drive the most meaningful outcomes when you approach things like influencer marketing, content marketing and social media through a PR lens.

What are some lessons or best practices PR pros can take away from your most innovative campaign?

Plan smart. Implement smarter. This is actually one of Geben’s “House Rules”(our version of a mission/values statement). Essentially, once we define what success looks like for a specific project or client, we make sure the day-to-day activities sync up with those big-picture goals. Coming up with a creative concept is one thing, but the real value lies in being able to execute the idea in a way that drives meaningful outcomes for the client.

PR is a relationship-driven business. No matter how much the industry changes, PR will always be centered in the relationship business – whether we’re engaging media, customers, clients, employees or brand advocates.

If you’re not quick, you’re not relevant. This is a saying in crisis communication that also applies to PR and social media. To stay relevant and drive the best results, PR pros and agencies have to be built to be nimble and efficient, strategic and effective.

Want to see our other innovators? Click here!

About Brian Conlin

Brian Conlin is a content marketing manager for Cision. A former journalist, he enjoys researching and developing accessible content. When not writing, you will find him watching baseball and college basketball, sampling craft beer and enjoying Baltimore. Find him on Twitter @BrianConlin13.

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