Can Target Survive the Bad PR on the Transgender Bathroom Issue?

May 4th, 2016   •   2 comments   

Time and politics will tell if Target Corp. can survive the bad press they are getting and the stock decline on the recent controversial “transgender bathroom” policy—which in my opinion, they didn’t need to address.

If you are doing public relations and communications for brands like Target, you are likely trained to view all policy strategies from multiple views. I am wondering if Target really took the time to do this. If studies are correct, the “transgender” community is less than .004% of the population. Consider that statistic for a minute. read more

Amy Howell Keynote Speaker to the Missouri Bankers Association at the Women’s Banking Conference

April 24th, 2015   •   no comments   

If you don’t tell your story, somebody else will. This morning Amy Howell delivered a keynote speech “Promoting Your Brand Through Social Media And How Social Media Has Changed The Way We Do Business” to the Missouri Bankers Association at the Women’s Banking Conference. Amy Howell, founder and CEO of Howell Marketing Strategies, has been recognized for her social media expertise as well as her advocacy for women in business as co-author of Women in High Gear.IMG_9341

Giving insight into duel subjects, the power of social media for business as well as high gear women in business, Amy shared her personal experience from her firm’s activity for a multitude of clients. She was able to share what works and what doesn’t, as well as the secrets to building your brand online. In her presentation, she shared how social media has forever changed public relations and media and how traditional marketing and digital marketing must co-exist.

If you’re interested in having Amy speak at an upcoming event or conference, contact Howell Marketing at

Here are some photos Amy shared from her fun time speaking with group! #MBA #banking #ABA


Prepare for “Mobile-geddon”

April 20th, 2015   •   no comments   

In business, you have to stay on top of your game. Small things can sometimes make a big difference. For example, tomorrow, Tuesday, April 21st Google is making a change to its mobile search algorithm that will change the order in which websites are displayed when users search for something from a phone or tablet. This change will enable the algorithm to favor mobile-friendly websites and demote websites that to not cater to the mobile users.

As someone who regularly utilizes technology and social media and understands the importance of accessibility of information on your reputation, I encourage businesses to invest in making their websites mobile-friendly in order to keep your number of website visitors up. This is even more critical for smaller businesses that rely on localized searches. Businesses that have mobile-friendly websites will not only be favored through the update to Google’s search engine but also improve user experience. If a visitor is able to easily navigate your pages and the content is written mobile friendly, you increase the chance of converting visitors into customers.

I would encourage business owners to reach out to their current provider to discuss these changes. If you do not have a website/SEO provider that you are currently satisfied with, please contact us today and we’d be more than happy to help.

For more information on Google’s changes check on this article on Business Insider


50 Viral Experts on Twitter

March 27th, 2015   •   no comments   


Epic Presence, intelligent internet marketing company, has released their list of the 50 experts on twitter that best understand the process of making a message go viral on Twitter. I am excited to be included in these 50 individuals who have been named the go-to people whenever there is a piece of content or an idea that needs to reach thousands of targeted people in a hurry!

Check out the full list here!



Follow My Lead–Important Advice from a National Recruiter

October 30th, 2014   •   no comments   


Pictured left to right: Tammy Gilbert, Cindy Pruss, Amy Howell, Patti Clauss

This week I had the pleasure of meeting with Patti Clauss and her HR team, Tammy Gilbert & Cindy Pruss, about leadership, social media best practices and “high gear” thinking and doing that makes them an elite and effective hiring team. Patti is the Director of Global & Executive Talent Acquisition for brands Williams-Sonoma Inc., Pottery Barn and West Elm. She is also a woman in high gear and a great friend to those who know her.

During our team meeting we were discussing the importance of good communications and she said, “One strategy is to follow my lead. If I email you, email me back. If I call you, call me back. Don’t call me if I have already emailed you.” This struck a chord with me. I know it sounds basic but it is really great advice for job seekers and business people in general.

Another thing we discussed is the need for clear, concise communications–on the phone, in person, in an email, text, etc. Our texting days are likely an obstacle to some for learning better communication styles. Texts and emails do not replace face to face interaction. There is so much that is left out or missed in a text vs. a real life conversation. I doubt I’d have any clients if I had to capture attention through texting.

Whether you are job hunting or working in a job, remember to think about how those around you communicate. If your boss emails you, email back. If she calls you, call her back. If your business associate sends a text, text him back. Sometimes the exception to this rule for me is when I’m driving in my car and I can’t text but I can talk. Or, if I see an important email that has a long tail for response, I will pick up the phone and discuss the issues.

Do you think about how you communicate? What can you add to this list? Do you follow your client’s lead?

Top 9 Reasons to Blog

October 20th, 2014   •   no comments   

shutterstock_150721385Recently, I was giving a presentation about social media and online presence. Part of that presentation was built around blogging and some of the best reasons to blog.

First of all, just in case you are new to the game, let me define a blog. A blog is a web page (or blog platform such as WordPress) made up of short, frequently updated posts that are typically displayed in reverse chronological order (the most recent post appears first).
Blogs are a tool for communicating with customers or employees to share knowledge and expertise.

Here are my top 9 reasons why you should blog:

1. Get your name/business name out on the internet – SEO
2. Express your thoughts and opinions
3. Market/promote something
4. Establish yourself as an expert
5. Connect with people
6. Stay knowledgeable in you field
7. Tell YOUR story
8. Communicate tips and recommendations
9. Improve searchability (through RSS feeds)

What are your top reasons for blogging?

6 Ways Social Media Has Changed Public Relations

September 25th, 2014   •   no comments   

Thank you to Vocus and Jim Dougherty for allowing us to re-post this blog in which Amy Howell is quoted, “PR expert and author of Women in High Gear Amy Howell warns against thinking about them as separate entities:

‘Social media does not replace traditional media…. traditional media is still very important, when paired with social media, it’s even more powerful.”

6 Ways Social Media Has Changed Public Relations


On a visceral level, most people understand that social media has changed the public relations discipline significantly.

World - Social Media Changes PR Maybe you have been in the PR field long enough to remember the more straightforward, pre-digital discipline, maybe you’ve learned about PR in an academic setting, or maybe you’ve just been witness to this incredible change to the way that people consume content and interact. Regardless of your experience or how you specialize within the PR discipline, social has changed what you do. And like retroviruses and Gary Oldman characters, the only constant for social media is perpetual change.

One of my all-time favorite books on social media is Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies, by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. What I appreciate most about the book is how they approach social media technology, not to talk about specific platforms but to talk about the characteristics of the most prominent platforms from a user’s perspective. The value of this thinking is to tactically consider the social media agnostic of platform:

  • How can I listen best using social media?
  • How can I engage people best using social media?
  • How can I energize people best using social media?
  • How can I support people best using social media?

What I want to do in this piece is look at the broader characteristics of social media as an aspect of the PR discipline, and (in the same spirit as the Groundswell tactical questions) attempt to try to answer the question:

“How can I leverage this best to control my PR message?”

1. Full integration with PR

Social and PR Sitting in a Tree

This weekend, I spent an embarrassing amount of time watching (American) football. I didn’t watch it entirely on the television, though. I had my ESPN app open on my iPhone and I was following other games, paying special attention to the Twitter feeds. Ten years ago, I would have simply watched the game. As social is increasingly integrated into the ways that interact with people and with media, those behaviors must be take into account.

In other words, social media is an inextricable aspect of nearly everything, public relations included. PR expert and author of Women in High Gear Amy Howell warns against thinking about them as separate entities:

“Social media does not replace traditional media…. traditional media is still very important, when paired with social media, it’s even more powerful.”

The integration of traditional PR and social isn’t merely a philosophical discussion: nearly 65 percent of all PR departments are responsible for the social media presence of their companies.

How can I leverage this best to control my PR message? Keeping up to date on social media technologies and frequently measuring the effectiveness of digital and traditional tactics to communicate your message.

2. User co-creation of PR messages

PR and Social Media - Doctor

In the book Free: The Future of a Radical Price, Chris Anderson discusses the advantages of Microsoft’s Encarta over the crowd-sourced website Wikipedia:

  • Microsoft had comparatively limitless resources
  • Microsoft had nearly all of the market share (after effectively cutting printed encyclopedia companies out of the market)
  • Encarta was a qualitatively better product

Yet, Encarta was discontinued by Microsoft only eight years after Wikipedia was created. Despite all of the advantages that Encarta had over Wikipedia, Wikipedia persists as one of the most influential websites in the world because it leverages the resources of its users to create its content.

Facebook posts, Tweets, YouTube videos, Amazon reviews, Yelp reviews, blog posts and everything similar are co-created messages that you don’t have the capability to control (or at least it is quite limited). The key for PR professionals is to interject your point-of-view into this process. It is such an important aspect of PR that in the text book Public Relations Theory II, professors Carl H. Botan and Vincent Hazleton say this about co-created messaging:

“We are confident that co-creation – the ideas that publics are self-standing and often a self-directing force in public relations — will be at the core of developmental theory in the next decade or two.”

How can I leverage this best to control my PR message? Use social tools to proactively be accessible to your audience, and use advanced tools to monitor for user-created social messaging.

3. Perpetual vigilance

Eye - PR and Social Media

“If you’re 29th in the queue on a phone call, only you know that. It’s you and the person who’s keeping you on hold. But if you tweet, it’s public and it could be picked up, and I think companies are very aware of that,” – David Schneider in a BBC article on social complaints.

The quote above eloquently summarizes the shift in consumer power that social media has enabled. You may never know how many people will be influenced by my Facebook complaint, and that is the impetus for businesses to set a high-standard for their social care programs.

As PR expert Matthew Royce points out, public relations has increasingly become a two-way conversation:

“PR pros can no longer blast out information about their brand or client and expect to succeed. Consumers and journalists have come to expect that they won’t be ‘spammed’ and will be answered quickly and in a personal manner.”

How can I leverage this best to control my PR message? You must plan to monitor and respond to social complaints and questions in a reasonably fast amount of time (PR expert Matthew Schwartz suggests “nanoseconds,” while Lithium Technologies suggests you may have as much as an hour to respond).

Impossibly to monitor the traditional and social media? See how Vocus can help. Take a demo now!

4. Hyperlocalized PR messaging

Hyperlocal - Social Media and PR

Consider the advanced parameters that you can use when targeting an audience on Facebook:

  • Behavior
  • Interests
  • Education
  • Connections

All of this as well as being able to target to a zip code level, along with traditional parameters such as gender. Twitter and Google offer the same sort of targeting options depending upon the information that they have.

Before the mass-adoption of social media, such precise messaging was never possible to the degree that it is now. And it will get more precise in the future: a new wave of targeting options based upon your proximity to a particular business or location are on the horizon.

This level of precision allows for more sophistication and efficiency in PR campaigns.

How can I leverage this best to control my PR message? Leverage segmentation tools on social media platforms as a tactic within your PR plan.

5. Unprecedented journalist access and insights

Journalist Access - Social Media and PR

Just as social allows for sophisticated targeting of people, it also gives unprecedented insight into journalists.

“Social media (makes) it easier to find out more information about journalists.” – PRSA study on the impact of social media on media relations.

PR expert Mia Pearson says that the value of social media for media relations can be to understand the journalists specific beats, when their deadlines are, their personal and professional interests and to have informal conversations with them.

How can I leverage this best to control my PR message? Use social media to build relationships with key journalists (and bloggers) to help understand what they write about, when they need resources, and how they prefer to work with you.

6. The rise of citizen journalists

Citizen Journalist - Social Media and PR

In 2006, there were 3 million blogs in existence. In 2013, there were 152 million. In a longitudinal analysis of social and traditional media from 2006 to 2014, a group of researchers found a continuing decline year-over-year of the influence of traditional media sources:

“The internet’s rise in importance is even more pronounced among younger Americans with 71 percent of those aged 18-29 now citing the internet as a main news source. Additionally, these Pew studies report more and more people are receiving news via social media such as Facebook and this research also reports the number of Americans using tablets and mobile devices to receive news continues to rise.”

Social media’s role in the emergence of blogging is important as a source of distribution. Networks, such as Triberr, show the amplification potential for small-publishers to gain distribution almost exclusively through social channels.

How can I leverage this best to control my PR message? Do not overlook bloggers in your PR plans, especially consider targeting those with larger social distribution.

What I wanted to do in this piece is explore how social media impacts PR practice today and give some practical considerations for how practitioners can use these to their advantage. That said, if I wrote this six months ago or six months from today I wonder how different it might be?

Jim Dougherty is an expert on social media and technology who blogs at Leaders WestFor more marketing advice from Jim, click here.

Attention: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+, You’re Driving Us Crazy!

September 5th, 2014   •   no comments   

shutterstock_89747494I’m seeing a lot of chatter by social media power users in my timeline about how the top social media sites seem to be playing the chase-each-other-to-the-top game. It’s driving us crazy!

As the owner of a PR firm, a few items I help clients with are better SEO results, improvement with their social media presence, and their overall digital presence contained within their online stories. It is hard enough to keep up with the abundance of tools now available to accomplish this, much less the constant state of change that seems to be so common.

So for all the geek squads and developers out there, here’s what we want you to know:

1. We love you, we really do. You gave us new channels to peruse and our voices big stages to use for pleasure and business. However, you are driving your consumers nuts with all the changes you keep making.

2. Twitter, don’t go changing. Stop trying to be like Facebook! Twitter, we love your simplicity. It is your uniqueness that makes you the best for delivering news and sharing information. Keep on being YOU, Twitter!

3. Facebook, we can’t argue with your 1.3 billion users, but can we go back to some authenticity please? Let the popular posts stand on their own, and stop messing with our timelines!

4. LinkedIn, to you I say you must be very confused! We’ve accepted that you have two faces, mobile and desktop. But, when I updated my bio recently, you posted that I had a new job. It was actually a job I had 20 years ago. You and your confusion, LinkedIn, threw me into a time warp that was confusing to my contacts AND my clients! I had to answer lots of emails. One of my clients actually thought I was going out of business, because I had taken a new job! I even had my settings adjusted not to publish. Stop the birthday email prompts. Don’t try to be Facebook; we don’t want birthday wishes all over a business-networking site.

5. Google+, please decide what you are. You are big. We all get that. Thanks for stepping up your game big time. Please just settle on what you want to be, and stay there for a while. By the way readers, if you haven’t asked for reviews on Google+ for you business, you might want to do that. It’s new too!

6. Just stop trying to copy one another! We like you the way you were. I shouldn’t have to take extra time to study you and your ever-changing algorithms to enjoy you. Don’t make it difficult!

I realize many of the changes are driven by bottom line, and changes in one site drive the competition to think they have to change, too. I also know I’m not the only one feeling frustrated and dizzy by all of this.

So, we’re staying on the front lines to help clients with all of this, but hoping the next change will be a decision to forgo changing. A decision to not change into a totally different site than what we all fell in love with using. Happy sorting to all of you!

Twitter, Taunting, Teams, and Touting

August 26th, 2014   •   no comments   

shutterstock_130048844 Lisa Busby, Social Media Manager, Howell Marketing Strategies, LLC

Today’s letter of the day is “T.” Remember those days in preschool? It seems not so long ago that my oldest was learning his letters; now, he’s using those letters and more (Are they teaching emoji as a second language, yet?) to talk on Twitter. His presence on Twitter and reading his feed reminded me recently of a good basic Twitter rule for teens and all of us for that fact. Don’t taunt!

Good-natured ribbing and taunting happen on and off Twitter all of the time, especially when it comes to sports teams. Sometimes though, ribbing and taunting turn negative, and sportsmanship flies out the window. What is it about us that drives us to get so wrapped up with a particular team that we spend a good amount of energy talking about and defending that team? Part of it is to identify with a like-minded community.  I mean, most of the time we’re tweeting about a team, there’s not a single thing that we can do to change the outcome of the game. As much as we love our sports teams, we are not the players.  I’m all for rooting for a team, on Twitter or wherever, but be positive. Cheering for your team does not mean tearing down other teams. Competition is a great thing when it drives us positively.

Taunting, more often than not, turns up the heat and backfires since it can provide another incentive for the opposing team. When it comes to teams, remember that they are made up of real people. Don’t tweet something that you would never say face-to-face.

Teams can apply to business teams, as well. These are the types of teams that give you a much higher chance in changing the outcome of the game. Your business might have players from the sales team, the marketing team, or the customer service team who tweet. No matter what position you play, you can help these teammates. You probably have clients who have a presence on Twitter. That’s a whole different team with whom you can be positive with re-tweets, favorites, and replies. I suggest putting members of these different “teams” into Twitter lists in order to keep an eye out for opportunities to support your teams.

On a much broader field, you could consider all of your Twitter followers players on your team. While you should be looking for opportunities to support your teams, sometimes you need to call in certain players for some aid. Your followers possess different talents and abilities, play different positions, and vary in their influential strength.

That brings me to my final “T” word of the day – tout. Touting your team simply means praising, publicizing, and promoting them. (Sounds like a “P” day is coming soon.) Touting your team is much better than taunting another team.

Be positive with your tweets, and be an influential voice for your teams. Proverbs 16:24 says, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul…” I throw that in not to be preachy, but The Good Book is much wiser than I! So, build up your team players on Twitter. If members of your sales team tweet, re-tweet them. When your communications or marketing team links to a blog post on Twitter, tweet about your favorite part of the piece. Don’t forget to pass along the link in your tweet. In essence, be positive and spread tweet love!

Whoever your team is today, be intentional. Plan and look for ways to tout your team members. Touting tops taunting!

Follow Lisa on Twitter at @ooburr

Hands Across Memphis: A Church Coalition’s Direct Impact on Poverty in Our Community

August 14th, 2014   •   no comments   

gpcI’m going to make this brief and what sounds complicated, is really simple. I have an idea that was sparked after hearing Pastor Will Gray Jones preach a great sermon Sunday at Germantown Presbyterian Church. I cannot get it out of my mind. It has me thinking. Ideas are one thing. Action is another. Pastor Will asked during his sermon this question: “When is the last time you took the time to feed someone hungry? Help someone less fortunate? When have you visited a prison?” It has me thinking. I won’t go into the sermon points but the key theme was this: through service to others we will grow spiritually. My issue is this: how do we find those hungry and poor who actually have drive and want a better life? Sure, we could go downtown to the soup kitchen and volunteer, which is great. But we need to do more. How do we locate the single mom working 2 jobs to feed her children and get them educated who is not getting handouts? Where are those in our community who genuinely want a better life, but need that help out of the vicious cycle? There are many non-profits and plenty of resources in Memphis. The problem we have is that all of these non-profits are doing much of the same and there seems to be no “central command” to coordinate it. I’m not critical of the great work being done. I’m thinking about how we can leverage it more effectively. The Greater Memphis Chamber wants to help Memphis get on the road to getting out of poverty. Poverty is the core problem that affects education, healthcare and ultimately, economic development. Are you with me?

So here is my idea: Get pastors from all churches, all faiths, and all geographic locations around Memphis and form a “round table” type of coalition for addressing this. We could start with 20, we could start with 40. I don’t care but the KEY way this has to work: there is no political or financial agenda and no ONE pastor owns this. It’s the “Knights of the Round Table” type of problem solving group and no ONE person–no one church, synagogue, etc–owns this. No money needed. This group comes together–from all parts of town–to DISCUSS, IDENTIFY AND TAKE ON poverty-stricken families who want better. Is it initially 350 households? 5,000 households? I know from sitting in a meeting in City Hall that we know who these people are. We have demographic detail on where these families live. I will not say what prominent city official made this comment but he said, “Be careful, poverty is big business in Memphis.” If that is what a top city official thinks, the government will never be the answer and that is a terrible way to look at it, by the way. So how do we actually do something?

First, we form this church coalition. No money needed, just pastors from all religions around the table. Identify the need—specifically, who is out there that we can most likely help? These would ideally be the ones who are working and trying not to live on handouts. We can develop a “list” from city information and other non-profits doing great work. Identify the top non-profits in Memphis working on poverty and related issues. The resources are there. Each church then “adopts” as many households as it can. So when the church says, “OK, here is one home who needs food, clothes, help with mentoring, tutoring and after school activities,” that church then taps our non-profits to get a needs list. It’s coordinated and tracked. Progress is reported at this council. Enter the business community: They support the non-profits. We use the business community–and the Chamber–to identify Memphis poor who can achieve better. We employ mentoring programs. We hook these people into volunteers who will career train. We use the private sector connections to help people get better jobs. For example, if one single parent we met could gain better skills, perhaps someone in the business community could help that person find a better paying job. No money needed, just connecting the dots to help make a life-changing move for one family. This is a very targeted, specific way to help people but I think it could work.

If the churches could communicate with the business community AND the non-profits out there that all work so hard to help the poor, maybe we could get more people working more effectively. An additional benefit would be that if all the faith leaders were joined together in a worthwhile project, it could be a fantastic platform for helping with other community issues like crime.

This has been done in other cities. Mobile, Alabama for one. The key is to initially identify the top 25% of the poor population who truly want and need the help. Match congregations up with them, use resources already in place and involve the corporate community. So when my preacher asks what I’m doing to help, he can point to a specific list of needs for households in Memphis. When a church decides to take on a mission for the poor, why not make Memphis our mission? While it is fantastic to send youth groups overseas to help developing countries, we have grave needs right here in our own backyard. I think this could work!

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