Month: July 2013

The News Release Quandary: Three of the Most Asked Questions, Answered and Three Tips to Writing the Better Release

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Recently, our friend the news release and his/her kissing cousin – securing coverage – have been coming up in several conversations.

  • Should I be sending out a release once a week?
  • Is there a limit as to the amount of releases you should send out?
  • How do you write for a benign topic?

Before I take a stab at answering these questions, I’d like to take a quick step back to talk about what I view as my job.

I develop compelling stories for the appropriate audiences. I make my money – in part – by understanding what is news, what makes news and how to best present the news in a way that is going to provide the biggest bang for my client’s buck. Throughout my career, I’ve mentored individuals on getting to the point where they can confidently and accurately pitch a story and, in the same regard, explain why I particular idea is not appropriate to pitch.

The news release should be viewed as a communication tool. It is not just for breakfast anymore. As a matter of fact, it is used less by mainstream media and used more as a Search Engine Optimization vehicle.

Your business reporter at the Orange County Register, Austin Statesman, Oregonian, New York Times, LA Times, Chicago Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, etc. is not looking at the releases coming across their desk from PR Newswire, Business Wire, PR Web or others. Either are the producers at Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, Nightly Business Report, Extra, Good Day Dallas, etc. They are looking at wire stories from Associated Press and Reuters among others. They are looking on their Twitter feeds, following those individuals in those industries of interest to them.

For the overwhelming majority of instances, if the desire is to secure media coverage, you will need to reach out to reporters and producers directly. Sending out a release over the wire and waiting isn’t going to cut it.

Again, the release is a tool. As is a blog post, video or social post. Understand what you are wanting to accomplish and who you are wanting to reach. Develop the compelling message and determine the best vehicle.

Now, onto the questions:

  1. Should I be sending out a release once a week? Most likely no and you shouldn’t be thinking “just releases” when you are wanting to reach your real audience. Ask yourself – what is the story, who am I trying to reach and what is the best way of reaching them?
  1. Is there a limit as to the amount of releases you should send out? No, the true newsworthiness and the desired result of the communication should determine how many types of communications should be sent out (again, not just the release).
  1. How do you write for a benign topic? You don’t. Whether it is a release, blog, post or video, if it doesn’t resonate with someone, don’t do it.

When writing a news release (or any communication in which you are pitching), remember the following:

  1. Grammar counts. Don’t turn off the media or your real audience with improper usage.
  1. Write for your real audience, not your client. Shouldn’t be about making sure your client’s name is the first word in the release. Compelling story for the real story.
  1. Short and sweet. Use quotes sparingly and only when the quote moves the story forward.

As it relates to media relations, if/when you send out a release (or fact sheet, email, advisory, etc.) and reach out to a reporter or producer – – don’t ask if they’ve received the release. Pitch them the compelling story.

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Top Five Blogs You Missed Out On Because I Didn’t Include ‘Top, Most or Least’ in the Headline

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I’ve been doing the blog thing for several months now and I’m very happy with how it has been going. Cathartic. Good networking. Nice back and forth.

One of the aspects I’ve enjoyed, is diving down deep into the analysts behind the posts – – best days to post; relevant topics; countries viewing.

The highest viewed posts all had one thing in common:

Don’t think it is a love for the number five. Seems to be an affinity for lists. People love list. Letterman’s Top 10 List. Healthiest Cities. Best Movies. You get the idea.

As I reviewed other blogs appearing on LinkedIn, I saw many list-centric headlines receiving more comments and feedback than those blogs without.

But what about those blogs that did not use those aforementioned list-centric headlines? Where’s the love?

Okay without further ado, here is my list of Top Five (maybe there is something to the number five) Blogs That Didn’t Get the Attention They Should Have Received:

#5 – Controlling the Controllables (or the Time I was Confused for Olympic Gold Medalist, Michael Johnson….No, Really) – In a profession where we rely on third-parties to tell our messages, how can we best control those things that are within our grasp.

#4 – When it Comes to Covering the News, Who is the Boss? – Are the news outlets covering social media or is social media reporting on what is news.

#3 – The Evolution of the Placement: Taking “Crawl, Walk, Run” Up a Few Notches – Today, the savvy public relations professional doesn’t and shouldn’t solely rely on the media to reach his/her audience. Blogging, creating relevant videos, posting appropriate content socially, helps create a direct line to the people you want to reach.

#2 – When a Great Placement Isn’t: How and Why To Manage Expectations – When it comes to managing expectations, it comes down to two things: Understanding the media and understanding your client (and your client can be your boss/CEO if you are on the corporate side of things or, if you are on the agency side your client can be…your client).

#1 – The New Company Spokespeople are on Social Media Sites and Instant Chats; Should Execs Be Afraid? – Are the people who are talking to reporters and producers, responding to social media inquiries?  Should they?

How ‘Outstanding Citizenship with Suitable Academic Merit’ Can Translate to Leadership

ImageI think we all have that one outdated, old, ratty item we all still keep by our side. Maybe a worn out shirt or a baseball cap from a team gone by. For me, it is a dictionary I was awarded in sixth grade. Written on the inside cover is, “Presented to Andrew Shane for outstanding citizenship with suitable academic merit.”

Initially I really didn’t think much about the note. Made my way through junior and high school, attended Lehigh University and started my public relations career where I found myself managing, mentoring and leading.

It was probably my early twenties when I reached for the dictionary that was on a shelf at my parent’s house. Suitable academic merit? Really? Not that I have my sixth grade report card handy (maybe I should have kept it in the dictionary), but I’m pretty confident I was better than suitable.

Now, entrenched in my forties, I will take a look at the dictionary and smile. A July10th  Inc. article argues if you want to be an exceptional leader, warmth and approachability matter far more than competence. The reporter states, “Most leaders emphasize strength, competence, and credentials at work, but, according to a recent Harvard Business Review article, that’s exactly what you don’t want to do.

“The article authors, Amy J.C. Cuddy, a Harvard Business School professor, and Matthew Kohut and John Neffinger, who also wrote Compelling People: The Hidden Qualities That Make Us Influential, say employees react best to leaders who exude warmth, and authentically invest time and effort to connect with them.”

I’ve tried to live by this. From a purely philosophical standpoint, it is as simple as the Golden Rule. From a practical perspective, today’s work environment can be so volatile – – in the last seven years I’ve gone through two bankruptcies and five CEO changes – – you need a team willing to do what it takes to do the job right and that means providing them with honesty, openness and the means to get that job done.

So what does that mean? Leaders treat their employees with respect, explaining why, what they are doing is important. Leaders are as only as good as their team, meaning leaders need employees who will work with a sense of pride and urgency, doing so – when needed – during times other than 9-5.

For me, a variety of – what I view as – simple things help build a good team:

  • Flexible work hours. You bet – – family first.
  • Opportunities to shine. Wouldn’t have it any other way.
  • Team lunches on me. Love to eat.
  • No politics. Never with me.
  • Door always open to discuss anything and everything knowing it stays in my office. That is what I’m here for.
  • Have fun doing it. A little song, a little dance…you know the rest.

Obviously you don’t want to go overboard. There is a line between being a great boss and a pushover. And not every great boss is a leader.

Leaders for me are fair but firm. Want you to succeed and provide you with the tools to do so. Leaders are great listeners and are willing to share their successes and failures. Patient. Hold people accountable. Praise in public and provide “opportunities for growth” privately.

In other words, the successful leader should have enough “skins on the wall” at his/her craft, but must be able to empathize and really care about his/her employees… outstanding citizenship with suitable academic merit – – maybe my elementary school did have the right idea.

The Perils of Feeding the Beast

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The Paula Deen saga is the latest – but certainly not the last – instance of “celebrity done wrong” that brings with it the onslaught of communication experts, crisis counselors and image consultants offering their take on how to saunter back toward grace.

The advice is usually sound – – fess up to your mistake; make good with the offended group; be sincere, etc.

What you don’t typically hear from the pundits are two things: One, it isn’t surprising that Celebrity X slipped up and two, in many ways it is our own damn fault that the transgression is newsworthy.

Whether it is Paula Deen, the Kardashians or Paris Hilton before them, the Bachelor or Bachelorette, we live in a Reality TV world where we want to know what the Real Housewives think and what Duck Dynasty is doing away from the pond.

It will be interesting to see if Deen bounces back. Dropped sponsors. Lost book deal. Cancelled TV show. That said, we live in a forgiving society even more forgiving of certain transgressions when the offender has something to offer – perceived or otherwise – we find entertaining. It seems to be less about being contrite and more about surviving the social backlash while waiting for the next few news cycles to pass.

Is there anything we can do to prevent these outbursts from occurring and being covered?  Probably not.

From a celebrity standpoint, no amount of spokesperson training can change who you are and what you believe – – especially when your celebrity persona/brand is one that is outlandish and talking from the hip. One of the challenges celebrities and other high-profile/public eye individuals face is the: 15 second sound-bite/140 character/attention-span light society that we live in…actually, that is a double-edge sword.

On one hand, there certainly is a percentage of people who treat as gospel things heard second or third hand. On the other hand, there is also a percentage of individuals (with some overlap) who gravitate over to the latest shiny, new person.

From a consumer standpoint, as long as we elevate those looking for their 15 minutes onto a pedestal, we will always have rants, ignorant comments and questionable behavior making headlines. Until we are honest with ourselves and take the source for what it is worth, we will have TMZ, your local Contemporary Hit Radio station and even Matt Lauer and Today reporting on marginal news.

Many have said Paula didn’t mean anything by her comments and it was just – with apologies to Manny Ramirez – Paula being Paula. And that may very well be the case.

So the question remains: Are we good with Paula being Paula, Kim being Kim and Honey Boo Boo being Honey Boo Boo?