Positive PR: 4 Tips For Better Brand Communication From Microsoft’s Kristina Libby Live



Kristina Libby, courtesy of @KristinaLibby 
Last month Sylvia Ng, VP of Growth and Analytics at ScribbleLive, sat down with Microsoft’s Kristina Libby at the 2015 
Digital Media Summit in Toronto.Kristina Libby is a self-described “serial entrepreneur, PR professional, and storyteller” with a diverse resume including non-profit work for USAID and experience in consumer and corporate PR. At Microsoft she runs the Consumer Media Relations business and enjoys working “at the cutting edge of communication and innovation.” At the Summit, Libby sat on the panel for PR and Disaster Management, and Sylvia caught up with her to discuss managing PR disasters, fostering communication between departments, and mining your company’s employees for great stories.

We’ve compiled some highlights from Sylvia’s conversation with Libby into a few tips to help you manage your brand in our rapidly evolving communication landscape.

1. Always Remain Positive

What advice do you have for businesses or brands trying to manage a PR disaster?

“My number one piece of advice,” explains Libby, “is if something happens at a company, it’s your job to still be nice.” Even if customers or clients are nagging at you or upset, it is important for the company to remain pleasant and positive. If you respond with force or a strong point of view “everything goes out of control” warns Libby. When brands start attacking people or get angry they only feed the fire while simultaneously isolating the very fans and customers they rely on. It is important to keep communication open with your community because you depend on them to build your brand and remain successful.

2. Communication Is Key

What is the role of software in PR and managing resources? What challenges are people in PR and Media Relations roles currently facing?

Though tools aren’t a major part of Libby’s job, they are necessary to keep the lines of communication open with her team and the customer base. You need to be in touch with your community, explains Libby, “so that you are aware of when a case [or crisis] is about to happen, to me that’s the place where the storm is.” Part of the nature of a crisis is that it’s unexpected or unplanned, and PR teams need to realize that sometimes things are out of your control. The best way to weather these storms is to keep the lines of communication open with your customers or fanbase.

One of the biggest challenges in PR today is keeping on top of the rapidly changing communication landscape. The means of communication are constantly changing as new apps and technology appear and fall out of favor at a dizzying rate. Keeping up with the community’s conversation around your brand can be tricky with so many different channels, devices, and platforms. Additionally, earned media poses a number of challenges for PR firms. Customers and journalists can freely discuss businesses, products, and brands outside of the channels directly controlled by a company’s PR and Marketing teams. How do brands or companies track the conversation generated by consumers and journalists? “I think another challenge is really around like what happens to print media,” explains Libby. “Does it go away? Does it change?” Libby draws on the example of publications like Lucky Magazine, which recently went completely digital. How will new forms of earned media affect the communication landscape and how can PR and Marketing teams monitor these media activities?

3. Change Up The Established Structures

What is the best way to get PR and Marketing together? What is the ideal team structure to facilitate this type of inter-departmental communication?

Libby is adamant that the established structures have to change in order for brands and companies to meet the challenges of the changing communication landscape. Typically, PR and Marketing aren’t connected, and don’t coordinate their efforts or share budgets. Companies are currently “siloed” says Libby, and “what you really want to do is bring those aspects [the two teams] together.

Libby’s goal is to bring these two departments into conversation. “I think its about communication,” says Libby, and the key is to open up a dialogue between the PR and Marketing team so that each department is aware of what the other is doing and what they’re interested in. The larger team should ask themselves; “have we pulled in social and digital channels so that we are building this Omnichannel experience for our customer rather than just all of us working on our own little thing?”

Collaboration between the two departments is necessary, explains Libby, because at the end of the day it’s all about the customer. You have to put the customer first and deliver the same consistent messaging no matter what. “If you look at a company like Amazon, right, they have done a very good job at this, they are all about the data.” Amazon looks at the customer experience and decides, “how do you move them from Point A to Point B, and Point C? How do you make the purchase easy? How do you bring them back?” Social media is about communication, so its a space where PR and marketing teams should overlap. You need people who will understand the relationship between each department and ultimately who will put the customer first.

4. Mine Your Company For Great Stories

Do you have any suggestions for people looking to get more people into the thought leadership role within a company?

“Act like a journalist,” suggests Libby.”Go out and find these people in your company that have cool stories and breed them into thought leaders. There are so many amazing people out there and we just don’t know about them because they are not the CMO or CEO of the company, right?” Libby recommends that PR and marketing teams find interesting people within the company “and help them understand [your] mission and grow them for the love of the business so that they have an expanding role and influence.

Acting like a reporter also requires a significant amount of communication and interdepartmental collaboration. “I work with a ton of people around the company to identify those people who are living these rich, full lives and we work with them,” explains Libby. You can tell stories about the CEO, but it’s also beneficial to bring in other contextual voices. By acting like an investigative reporter and opening the lines of communication between departments, Libby helps mine the company for engaging stories and brings her employees to the forefront of the brand’s communication with its customer and fanbase.

Whether she’s managing a PR disaster, coordinating with other departments, navigating the changing communication landscape, or mining the company for interesting stories, Kristina Libby relies on positive communication and collaboration to enhance her brand communication strategy.


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