#InnovateNow With Mercy Chikowore: The Power of Passion

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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.

Mercy Chikowore - 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 Mercy Chikowore.

Mercy is a public relations manager at Belle Communications, freelance writer and communications director for the DC chapter of ColorComm. With almost a decade of PR and marketing experience under her belt, Mercy has worked with nonprofit, entertainment and private sector clients. The Zimbabwe native received her bachelor’s in print journalism from Claflin University, and later received her master’s in communication from Johns Hopkins University.

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

How has PR changed over the last five years?

The field of public relations is more fast-paced and has continued to join forces with social media and visual elements. While I think effective PR definitely depends more on traditional relationships, people are looking for quicker and more innovative ways to connect.

Five years ago, when I was really getting my feet wet in PR, we relied on calling and emailing reporters. Now, we’re banking on our social media presence and engaging visual content to get and hold reporters’ attention. While I think there are several aspects that fall under the PR umbrella, you can’t fulfill your PR duties without having a good handle on social.

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

The use of social media has been, in my opinion, one of the biggest trends of the industry. It’s such a great way to connect not only with reporters but fellow PR professionals and new communities. One tweet can produce a story, and interacting with a reporter on Twitter or even Instagram can get you an ‘in.’

Social media serves as a real-time stream of thoughts and information that could make or break a story or relationship. It has given me insight about a journalist’s interests. What would’ve been a cold call or cold email becomes much warmer because I can refine my pitch through my social media research. I’ve also had reporters recognize my name from Twitter, which means familiarity is already established.

Full disclosure: I avoid e-stalking at all costs but I definitely do my homework.

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

One of the most innovative PR and social media projects I worked on was introducing Bitcoin Shop (at the time an e-commerce company for digital currency users) to the media scene back in summer 2013. Bitcoins were a trendy topic and a mysterious currency, and I was lucky enough to manage the PR and social media for the company since its launch.

Why was it innovative? I had to learn as much as I could about the currency and make it make sense to a national audience who didn’t know what a ‘Bitcoin’ was.

I focused on the human element of the company, which put a spotlight on the founders – two former NASA engineers – and their passion for Bitcoin. Once I started pitching, reporters latched onto the ‘2 Guys Started A Bitcoin Company’ angle, and the ‘2 Guys’ also started trending on Reddit and other social platforms.

I managed to get key placements in Business Insider, Bloomberg, CNBC, WIRED, The Daily Dot and more. Of course, I took to social media to further increase the company’s exposure, and managed to connect with digital currency reporters there. Soon enough, I was arranging interviews through Twitter DMs and sending out our key announcements through social media instead of other platforms.

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

The biggest lessons I’ve learned from the Bitcoin Shop campaign is to be passionate about the client and subject matter. Having a stake in what you’re pitching means you’ll always be ahead of the curve and can easily translate complex information into something easily digestible.

I also learned to be careful with who and what you compare your client to. A lot of journalists compared us to Amazon, which wasn’t inaccurate, but it opened us up to some unfavorable comparison and criticism from loyal Amazon customers.

And finally, even if you’re not necessarily related to a breaking news story, always have a comment or information to offer reporters. There are a lot of stories about Bitcoin auctions, hacks and new Bitcoin developments, and we make sure we always have a statement and opinion on hand. Our CEO is now one of the top Bitcoin and financial experts and often gets called upon, especially for last-minute broadcast interviews.

PR professionals can take advantage of any and every opportunity in a smart and creative way through pitching, social media and fun visual elements like video and infographics. Being creative and moving along with the times means reporters come to you and your client gets the exposure they deserve.

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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