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The new COVID challenge >> too many zoom meetings! Let’s hack the virtual meeting!

We held our 4th #PRSAMDWeeklyChat on Friday, May 1 where we “hacked” the virtual meeting. Led by Maryland Chapter administrator Peggy Hoffman, the chat delved into how we can alleviate some of the pain points of virtual meetings and shift them from dreaded to welcomed 

Listen below for the full chat or see recap for some of the top tips shared by all the participants. And for more tips, check out Peggy’s list at Virtual Meetings? Let’s Make Them Engaging! 

Tips for all participants:  

  • Use a virtual background such as a portable web around screen or virtual background (see Howfinity to learn how to add). Tip: use an image off a photo site such as Big Stock, IStock, etc., or have a professional do one for you.  
  • If not using a virtual background, know what is going on behind you. Be sure there is enough light but no glare. A light in front of you is recommended.  
  • The camera angle is key. Be sure to look into the camera, not at your screen.  
  • Raise your laptop up so you are not looking down.  
  • Put white piece of paper or foamcore below your chin to lighten the face (see 5 simple ways to improve your Skype calls for more).
  • Mute your mic until you want to participate. Also turn off email and calendar alerts. 

Tips for meeting planners:  

*Don’t have people just sit there … keep them engaged. 

  • Create a theme of the day. Be creative and make each day different. 
  • Have a powerful agenda. Review at top of meeting to stay on track. 
  • Use a slide deck only when you need it. Put it away when you don’t so you can see the participants.  
  • Use a virtual white board, i.e., Trello board, split screen (Zoom/Board) 
  • Split up into groups, i.e., Zoom Rooms. If no breakout options, use Google doc to collaborate in groups.  
  • Insert polls and fun slides into presentations. 
  • End early. Leave them all wanting more.

Getting and keeping participants engaged:  

  • Ask participants to change their names to something fun, i.e., superheroes, famous people.  
  • Ask people to do things, i.e., if someone has a great suggestion, ask them to post in chat.  
  • Use interactive buttons to keep participates engaged: Chat to share tips, comments; Reactions to insert Thumbs up/Thumbs Down, Clap Hands; Raise Hand to hold a vote.
  • Be human. Add fun items to the meetings such as wear or share fun items, i.e., Mickey Mouse ears, mugs ect.; have surprise guests, i.e., pets, family members; include a virtual tour of an animal farm via Goat-2-Meeting.
  • Allow participants to share as needed. Allowing people to share funny stories/ gripes/ tips for dealing has been really key at the beginning of internal meetings.
  • Encourage stretch breaks. 
  • Monitor to see if people are checking out. Be flexible. 

Additional tips on using Zoom:  

  • Zoom shortcut key: to Mute/Unmute microphone – hold down space bar when talking and release when not 
  • Know the difference between meetings (everyone is on video) vs. webinars (only moderator/presenters are on video).  
  • Copy chats after meeting using three ellipsis at bottom of chat.

Recap – Virtual Idea Swap – Coping with COVID-19

 “This is a time of service, not so much a time of sales.”

Dealing with the COVID-19 global crisis is bringing new challenges to how we work as well as how we guide our staff and clients through this crisis. And yet it’s also spurred creativity and thinking outside the norm as we balance it all. On April 6, we were joined by Laura Van Eperen, CEO, Van Eperen; Chris Stevens, Director of Communications, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future/Bloomberg School of Public Health; and Dave Curley, Senior Vice President, Sandy Hillman PR for the first of a series of virtual idea swaps.

Listen in below. And check out the recap for some of the highlights of what we discussed.

RECAP

Staying in communication with your audience:

  • Listen rather than promote.
  • Offer solutions to the problems your audience is facing. Communicate ways we can help one another.
  • Pay attention to accuracy. Don’t speculate. Always stick to what you know and realize it’s ok to say, “we don’t know yet.”
  • Use your best judgement. Be sensitive to what’s happening locally, nationally and globally.
  • Be conscious of what you are promoting, when you are promoting, and how it will be perceived.
  • Find moments of positivity.

*When pitching to the press to help get the proper message out, offer new or unique insights and/or details to journalists they may not be getting, i.e., what a local company/organization is doing that is having a meaningful impact.

 

Staff communications – Be true to your culture:

  • Give as much leeway to staff as possible. Respect the challenges of juggling working at home while dealing with unique family circumstances such as parents becoming teachers to school-age children, the lack of childcare, spacing issues, etc.
  • Continue your regular routine as much as possible. Schedule regular virtual staff meetings, host virtual happy hours, share docs via digital platform, etc. But … be sure not to “over-zoom”! Don’t have a meeting to have a meeting.
  • Encourage staff to support local businesses and/or participate in charitable activities when possible.

External and internal communications: How many emails are “too many”?

  • Be relevant and meaningful. Ask yourself if this something that will help you or someone you care about in this moment?
  • Make sure you have a strong message and a strong subject line.
  • Be appropriate. Be careful how you tie your message into this public health crisis.
  • Be mindful of timing of message. What is going on at that moment?
  • Look at different channels for distribution such as direct mail vs. email.
  • Consider segmenting your message to be sure the right message is going out to the right people.
  • Use soft messaging.
  • Be part of the positive message.

The chat was only the beginning of a long conversation that we’ll be having for weeks and months to come. To do our part, we’ll be holding weekly virtual meetings to gather and address a variety of topics. Have a question or suggestion to share? Send us an email.

Articles of interest:

 

In case you missed it, here are few comments shared by our participants on what their organizations are doing …

One of my clients is a law enforcement support organization, and we have been able to get the CEO on Baltimore TV talking about how officers in the Baltimore PD being quarantined with coronavirus is impacting public safety. We also have placed Op-Ed pieces on the same topic in The Sun and Chicago Tribune.

My company is deferring premium payments for our policyholders, many of whom are the small businesses which are laying off employees as a result of COVID-19. We are also providing information on the SBA loans to small businesses. Additionally, the company is also providing grants to several non-profit organizations which align with our business and has also increased the amount of money it will match for employees’ matching grants.

 My content strategy is changing virtually day to day, sometimes by the hour. I represent a veterinary hospital, so today we’ve been talking about the tiger in the Bronx Zoo that tested positive for coronavirus, and what that means for our household pets. That “tiger” news just broke yesterday afternoon. We didn’t see that one coming!

Right now, at our organization the National Association of Bond Lawyers, we are sending out targeted emails to members who have bars in states who have temporarily changed their CLE requirements. We are focusing the emails based on deadlines for CLE and doing it about a month out, so members are aware of what’s happening and created a webpage listing each state with updates and doing it on a daily basis.

Call for Award Judges! Can You Help?

We are looking for a few (or many) PR pros to serve as judges for the PRSA Southeastern Wisconsin Chapter’s Paragon Awards. Judging is expected to begin April 10 and last approximately three weeks.

As a judge, you will have the opportunity to review the entries and gain some insider knowledge. And, since you will be joining a team, judging provides an opportunity to connect with other Maryland Chapter members and to share ideas.

Are you an APR? You can get continuing education credits for judging.

What skills are required to be a judge? A firm understanding of effective public relations practice, and experience in the profession. Your time commitment can be as little as two to three hours to judge a complete category or more if you wish to judge additional categories.

Where does this take place? You will receive the entries electronically so you can judge from right from your office, home or wherever you are comfortable. If you’re part of a team, feel free to connect online via Skype, Zoom etc. Don’t have a team? Just let us know and we will do some match-making.

Sound interesting? Get more information and sign up via this short survey by Friday, April 3. If you have a team – your staff, department employees or a group of peers – just inform us via the survey and provide the key contact. If you do not have a team, we will find a partner for you.

Finally, we welcome as many judges as possible (the more judges, the less categories each team has to review) so feel free to recruit a colleague or two to be part of your team. Simply share this link and we will do the rest.

Questions? Give us a call at PRSA Maryland Chapter office at 301-725-2508 or email info@prsamd.org.

Is all trust lost? How to recover from a brand damaging crisis

Submitted by Jennifer Donahoe, PR & Social Media Account Director, Planit

On June 4, 2019, shocking and gruesome undercover video broke showing animal abuse at a dairy farm in Indiana where the popular milk brand Fairlife produces its milk.

Originally posted on social media, the video quickly went viral and national media and local media across every major market in the country covered the story. The words “horrifying,” “torture,” and “disturbing” became synonymous with the Fairlife brand.

The result? The brand’s perception was immediately damaged and public trust tanked, with customers banning the product, and chains such as Jewel-Osco, Casey’s Foods, Family Express and more pulled Fairlife milk from shelves. In response, not surprisingly, the “where to buy” section of Fairlife’s website was taken down.

As communicators, there’s a lot we can learn from this crisis. When Fairlife responded, how Fairlife responded, and most importantly, what Fairlife did in reaction to the crisis, will all be discussed on July 18 at PRSA Maryland’s conference session on How a Crisis Can Become an Opportunity.

You will learn:

  • How to prepare for a crisis
  • Rules of effective crisis response
  • What works – and what doesn’t work – in a crisis
  • Key messages to communicate, regardless of the crisis
  • The most important question to ask in a crisis
  • When to respond in a crisis

We’ll discuss all this and more, analyzing major recent crises to help you prepare for the foreseen – and unforeseen – so that your business or clients are ready no matter when or how a crisis strikes.

The reality is a crisis can happen at anytime to any company. If you’re ready to prepare and protect your client or brand, this session is for you.

Click here for more information on this session and more!

Turning Vision into Reality

Online registration is closed. Please register onsite.

We are almost halfway through 2019. How are those New Year’s resolutions coming along? Are you on your way to achieving your vision for the future?

Spring is the perfect time to give your professional and personal aspirations a boost. Join PRSA Maryland on Thursday, May 9, for a powerful, entertaining, interactive event designed to help  turn your vision into reality.

During this workshop, you will

  • Pick up three tools to help you create and achieve your vision
  • Gain greater clarity for all areas of your life
  • Discover how to increase your prosperity while staying in harmony with your highest values
  • Learn ways to tame your fears and negative self-talk to move with greater confidence toward your goals – and become a better person, employee or business owner!

With creative activities and laughter, Certified Life Mastery Consultants Theresa Wyatt and Nancy Pritchard will help you take the steps toward living the life you want.

Details:
Thursday, May 9
11:30 – Registration; Noon-1:30 – Program

Location:
Erickson Living Corporate Headquarters
Bill Gates Conference Room
5525 Research Park Drive, Catonsville

Just $25 for PRSA members and $45 for guests.
Fee includes lunch!

*no refunds after 5/3/19. Registrations are transferable

About our presenters:

Theresa Wyatt is passionate about helping people build their dreams.  She uses evocative coaching to help people achieve dreams in all areas of their lives. As a Certified Life Mastery Consultant, Theresa offers weekly programs and services to individuals and groups. Through vision workshops and presentations, Theresa increases participants’ awareness of their unique visions and some of the steps to help them move toward that vision with clarity, confidence and consistent results. If you’re ready to gain greater clarity in your personal vision, to be empowered with confidence, and to achieve positively amazing results, Theresa can help you bring your vision to life.

Nancy Pritchard (Pritchard Life Mastery Consulting) plans to spend the rest of her life following her passion, and she invites clients and workshop participants to do the same.  As a Certified Life Mastery Consultant, Nancy’s corporate mission is to ‘Launch 10,000 Visions.’ As a speaker and trainer in the Mid-Atlantic area, Nancy’s vision workshops help people to break through limitations and to achieve greater results than they’ve known before. If you’re looking to gain clarity, confidence and achieve your next level of success, Nancy can help to get you there.

Thank You to Our Chapter Sponsors

Thank You to Our Chapter Sponsors