PR Bracket Challenge—What are Your Picks?

In honor of March Madness, we decided to put together a little bracket challenge of our own. Instead of the typical office pool to see which of us has superior college basketball knowledge (aka luck), we designed a public relations bracket competition.

We’re asking our clients, fellow PR pros, friends and YOU to decide what PR services move forward in each of the two “Final Fours” below:

Bracket Challenge 2017 PR FocusBracket Challenge 2017 PR Partner

Join in on the fun and let us know your “picks” by: 

  • Emailing our Public Relations Specialist & Social Media Manager Katie Koeppel at
  • Or, sending us a tweet @BLMPRmke
  • Or, messaging us your predictions on LinkedIn
  • Or, simply commenting below!

We’ll be sharing the results on our blog and social media pages next week—stay tuned!

Client Spotlight: ThedaCare

Every once in a while we like to give a shout out to one of our clients and showcase our good work together. This month, we’re featuring ThedaCare, a longtime client who’s partnered with us on everything from strategic communications to competitive intelligence to government relations to publications – and more. Here’s a peek into the scope of our work, and depth of our connections at this seven hospital, 35 clinic health system.


Strategic Communications

When change is afoot, as it often is in the world of health care, ThedaCare has relied on our strategic consultation, careful planning and expert writing skills to help develop communication plans, draft messages and roll out tactics from relationship marketing meetings, internal- and external-facing materials, events, media coordination and more. Using simple and clear language in our messages and creative visuals, we’ve crafted campaigns that share quality care data, the complexities of the Affordable Care Act, opportunities for new physicians, insights for government officials and significant organizational change.

Competitive Intelligence

In the world of health care, understanding your competition is essential. Sometimes that understanding yields a business partnership opportunity, and sometimes, it prompts a competitive business strategy. As part of the ThedaCare annual strategic planning process, we’ve compiled profiles of all kinds of organizations to help ThedaCare understand market changes and their implications in the 14 counties the organization serves – and beyond. Our research has included everything from national chain pharmacies and drug stores that are moving into care delivery to workplace wellness expansion to other healthcare systems and providers.

Government Relations

As part of the ThedaCare GR team, we support identification and strategic response around various government policies and regulations that present opportunities or risk to any and every part of the organization. We focus on state-level matters, and collaborate with our federal-level team members to develop strategies that influence policymakers on behalf of ThedaCare.


TC Magazine Portfolio Image

With years of experience in managing the ThedaCare employee newsletter and the ThedaCare community magazine, we’ve not only told the ThedaCare story in many vibrant ways, we’ve also learned the organization from the inside out. Relationships delight us and define how we work, so it’s no surprise we appreciate every person we interview, everyone who submits content and every soul who shares the heartfelt significance of participating in the ThedaCare mission of improving the health of the communities the organization serves.

Our Sweet Spot

We excel at behind-the-scenes consultation, research and marketing communications support that reaches the more than 240,000 patients ThedaCare serves annually, the organization’s many partners, public officials, stakeholders and community members.

As ThedaCare continues to lead in implementing the health care of the future, we’re excited to walk alongside their team of passionate experts. Strategically supporting this special client, and helping execute around key initiatives and projects is a centerpiece of our work in health care. That kind of support isn’t limited to ThedaCare, though. It’s simply one great example of how we do business, all day, every day.

Creative Ways to Get in Front of Journalists

As newsrooms continue to shrink, it is important in our industry to stay in touch with the reporters.  Those that remain may have taken on new or additional beats. To help us tell our client stories, we try to maintain frequent touches with reporters. The old method of sending out press releases and media alerts and holding press conferences is not always the best option.

Here are some new ideas to stay in touch in order to get in front of journalists:

  • Research the reporter. Find out what beats he or she covers. This helps ensure you get your pitch into the hands of the reporter who covers that topic. Beats change, so be sure to keep current.
  • Follow the reporter on social media. Retweet or “like” posts.
  • Tailor your message to the specific reporter. After you have followed the reporter on Twitter or other forms of social media, and learned he or she struggles to find missing socks after laundry day, tie your pitch to that news. You could say something like, “We’ve provided all the information you need for a great story in the attached news release. Much easier than finding the missing socks.” The reporter will appreciate the connection and know that you have been following him or her on social media.
  • Personalize each email rather than sending a news release via a mass email service.
  • Utilize social news aggregators. Reporters scroll through platforms such as Reddit and Gawker to find out what’s trending. Post a link to get a reporter’s attention.

If you are still operating under the “old-school” realm, a face-to-face meeting never hurts. Invite the reporter to take his or her break and meet at a local coffee shop. In 30 minutes, you will be able to learn what topics are of interest and share some of the work you are doing.  Follow up with a thank you and continue to have frequent check-ins. By the way, there is nothing wrong with old school!

A little investigative work up front goes a long way to getting your information in the right hands (or inbox). Reporters appreciate the extra effort you take to provide something useable and your efforts will pay off with media coverage. If you would like help telling your story, contact us—it is what we do!

Easy on the Eyes

In our highly visual world, even PR people like us recognize that gray words in columns aren’t always the best way to communicate. (And we love words!) Increasingly, we’re telling client stories through various visual elements, and looking for creative ways to showcase key words and information.

Quality design that supports a brand look and feel is still the gold standard for all creative work, whether it’s print or digital. As we collaborate with our network of stellar graphic designers, and experiment ourselves with free online platforms like Wordle and Piktochart, we always aim for eye-appeal to draw interest and strategically connect key audiences with information and inspiration.

Here’s a peek at what our design partners have done recently, as well as a couple of Bottom Line-produced items. 

design collage

Is Your Website Missing Out On Mobile?

According to Mediative, over 6.8 billion people use mobile phones – that’s roughly 87 percent of the world’s population! We are at the tipping point where people actually spend more time on their phones than on desktops. KPCB mobile technology trends indicate adults spend 51 percent of their time using mobile media compared to desktop at 42 percent. What’s more, Google Research found that 72 percent of consumers want mobile-friendly websites.

Whether you’re B2B or B2C, the implications are clear – if you don’t have a responsive (mobile-friendly) website, you are missing out.

Responsive websites not only allow consumers to easily view your site on their phones, they also improve your mobile search ranking, which is typically different than your desktop search ranking!

Not sure if your website is responsive? Enter your URL into Google’s mobile-friendly test.

Google’s test may tell you whether or not your site is mobile-friendly, but it doesn’t give you a rating on how good, or bad, your website performs on mobile devices. Here are a few tips to make the most of a responsive website and ensure your customers enjoy using your website on their phones:

  • Test your website’s usability on mobile devices. Ask users how easy it is to use the website, if everything is readable, how long it takes to load, and how easy it is to navigate (find what they are looking for/accomplish a task).
  • When writing copy for your website, keep mobile usage in mind. Short, summarized content and bulleted lists work best for those using their phones on-the-go.
  • Many still feel nervous when buying products directly on their phones, even on a website they have used on their desktops before. Be sure to use transparent language to explain your mobile site is secure.
  • On your mobile website, work to include the same content, images, features and functionality as your standard website. People expect full functionality when using their phones.

Looking to update your website? Contact us. Here are a few examples of the responsive websites we’ve recently helped create or update: Mosaic Family Health, Mallery & Zimmerman, and Physician Compass.

Is It Time To Refresh Your Visual Brand?

Think of a brand refresh as a “makeover” that gives your organization the opportunity to change how it is perceived. Not in a chaotic, over-haul kind of way, but in a more fresh, current and visual way.

When is the right time to rebrand or refresh?

This can be a tricky question for some. Before making your decision, ask yourself:

  •  Is there or will there be a fundamental shift in your organization’s experience or service?
  •  Does your current brand look too out-of-date or stale?
  •  Do you feel you have lost touch with your target audience?
  •  Do you feel your organization needs a positive change to keep old consumers interested and your new prospects wanting more? 

If you answered yes to any of these questions, it may be time to refresh your organization’s brand.

Below are some key points to keep in mind when it’s time to give your brand a makeover:

  • Ensure your company image stays current and up to date
  • Integrate new services or tweak old ones to maximize the company’s potential
  • Infuse new energy into your business by expanding the reach to new customers
  • Change your logo and or color palette only if you feel it is not as strong as you’d like, but be wise in this decision – tweak, don’t over-haul
  • Look at your visual identity and messaging
  • Simplify – it can help ensure a brand’s new look will be more timeless

Refreshing your brand can be a fun, creative and insightful way to improve the overall positioning of your organization.

Just Because It’s Steak, Doesn’t Mean It Sizzles

I’m a meat and potatoes kind of girl. I don’t like to waste calories on fancy schmancy fillers like the bread basket, soup and relish tray when a petite filet and a baked potato (butter and sour cream, yes please) will fill me up. A good piece of steak creates its own sizzle. But sadly, the same does not apply to writing. The written word can be boring and needs something to capture, and keep, the reader’s attention.

There are two ways to describe sizzle. The first is through content. The second is with images.

The old expression, “All sizzle and no steak,” is often used in sales–tell what a product will do for you (the sizzle/benefit) not what it is (the steak/product). In other words, sell the benefits, not the features. For example, when choosing an airline to take me to my vacation destination, I have several airline choices. They have all the same features—three-across seating, complimentary beverage and peanuts or pretzels. What benefit sets them apart? My favorite offers all of the above, plus happy, friendly staff. That is the sizzle that helps take the hassle out of flying.

When describing your product or service, make a list of all the features, then put a benefit to it. It’s the benefits, the sizzle, which will make the sale. The same applies for writing. If you’re writing copy for a brochure, keep in mind your audience and describe the benefits. Let the reader imagine how much easier their life would be if they used your product or service.

When writing proposals to sell your services, include lots of sizzle. Let the purchaser know that you’ll take care of them by describing how what you provide helps them operate a bit easier. Keep your writing simple. Don’t clutter it with big words or lots of them. Simple is better, less is more.

Another way of looking at sizzle is what makes it flashy or fancy? You’ve written copy for a client brochure, but it lacks the sizzle. Work with a graphic designer to create an eye-catching look. Heavy copy doesn’t get read. Instead, use an infographic, chart or pictures to tell your story. People remember visuals.

Think of USA Today. There’s more sizzle and less steak in the popular newspaper. Today’s audiences are used to flash and sizzle. They’ve grown up with the latest gadgets and gizmos and tend to figure out how something works just by playing with it. Gone are the days of reading the owner’s manual first. Instead, cut to the chase and figure it out.

You’ve got all the steak in place. Just remember to bring on some sizzle to get your audience’s attention.

Matching the Message and the Design

A previous blog post talked about the importance of matching your messaging to the design when creating collateral pieces for your company or client.

We recently helped our client create a simple, yet effective hand out at community events. Gold Cross Ambulance, located in the Fox Valley, provides free demonstrations at community events showing people how to properly conduct hands-only CPR. In addition to talking about the importance of calling 911 and then starting hands-only CPR in the event of a cardiac arrest while waiting for first responders to show up, Gold Cross employees guide adults and children as they try it for themselves on the training mannequins.

Gold Cross CPR cardsAfter someone successfully demonstrates the proper hands-only CPR technique, Gold Cross gives them a wallet-sized card indicating that they learned hands-only CPR. The back of the card shows the chain of survival, which provides the necessary information needed in the event of an emergency.

The message for the card was one that was both fun and serious. We branded the card with the Gold Cross colors and logo. The card has been a bit hit with the folks that have learned hands-only CPR.


The Power of an Infographic

If you’re old enough to remember, you know how USA Today got its start—taking the news of the day and synthesizing it down to easy-to-read and understand shorter news stories. It was the beginning of the bulleted lists and color coded newspaper sections. That format has successfully continued for more than 25 years allowing readers to get a sense of what’s going on in the world by glancing at the news.

Today, we rely on multiple digital sources far more than print to get our news and information. We check the online newspaper version on our computers, read Facebook and check Twitter from our smartphones, and use tablets to keep up with LinkedIn. Whew. That’s a lot of information coming at you. No wonder we often say, “I remember seeing that somewhere….”

With the digital age came the invention of the infographic. Remember Wordle, the visual display of a variety of words in a graphic layout? The infographic has come a long way since Wordle, with the addition of pictures, graphics, avatars, multiple fonts and colors. The infographic is a visual representation of formatting data–that could be a page of boring numbers and statistics—in a visually pleasing way that creates instant understanding. Since most people tend to remember what they’ve seen, rather than what they’ve read, the infographic is the perfect tool to help your message stand out in an already noisy digital environment. The visual format helps makes your point easy to understand and remember.

An infographic can be used to show

  • Poll results
  • Customer survey results
  • Sales statistics
  • Comparative and contrasting data
  • How a process flows or a device works
  • The key components of a news story or trend
  • The structure of a business approach, model or industry

At Bottom Line, we’ve developed infographics for our clients to help them tell their unique stories. Avatars and colorful key statistics tell the story of the Affordable Care Act to readers of a large community magazine. A poster-sized, table-top display used by an emergency medical services provider quickly and easily shows the size, reach and expertise of the company to visitors at events. A detailed, but highly visual, description of a complex management system helps targeted audiences better understand the narrative description captured in a companion book. A simple, large infographic captures both the structure of a healthcare quality improvement organization, as well as its members’ key results. 

WCHQ InfographicV5

GCAS Infographic 11×17-1

All these infographics can be shared in multiple formats—digital, print, presentations, video and more. And, because we work with skilled graphic designers, we often repurpose key elements of an infographic use in social media and additional print and web placements.

While you can create your own infographics with many online programs, the more sophisticated your content and the greater the opportunities to repurpose elements of the final graphic, the more likely you are to find success and satisfaction with a professional designer.

Words are great, and we love them in our shop, and linking only the most powerful words with equally powerful graphics and images in a striking design is often the most compelling way to tell and see a story. Try it, and discover for yourself the power of an infographic.