Month: August 2013

‘PR, Then and Now’ Analysis: Reporter Begot Blogger, Press Conference vs. Twitter, Media Kit or Content

Earlier this year an infographic created by InkHouse Media + Marketing examined the ever-evolving role of public relations. With your permission, I’d like to take the next few blogs to review some of the elements of the infographic.

Reporter Blogger

The media landscape has absolutely changed, as has how we get out our compelling messages to the appropriate audience. Frankly, it is overwhelming. The number of blogs is staggering, providing many opportunities and challenges.

My thoughts:

  • All bloggers are not created equally. Some will follow the “reporter’s handbook” while others…not so much.
  • In many ways, bloggers are much like newspaper columnists. His/her take on things. More opinions.
  • Whether pitching or responding, consider the reach and influence of the blogger. Frankly, very similar approach to a traditional reporter.

Press Twitter

Well, I’ve never been a fan of the staged press conference. That said, there are still instances where they makes sense. Reactionary, crisis situations where you want/need to answer a variety of questions. I believe what is trying to be illustrated here is, the days of a company having to “call a press conference” to get the message out are over. Today, companies should be interacting with their real audience regularly and, according to this, more and more are doing so.

Critical with these interactions is to not be over-the-top promoting your company. Similar to pitching a news story, most times we are part of the story – – not the entire story. In any social interaction, your real audience is fully-aware of who you are and don’t need/want the hard sale. The idea should be to position your company as an expert, someone your real audience likes and respects.

Kit Content

Along the same lines, this graphic illustrates the migration from press kits to the content I referenced above which, in addition to content on Twitter feeds, includes content on company blogs, Facebook pages, Pinterest pages, etc. All of which, again, are less promotional and more about how the company fits into their real audience’s “puzzle of life.”

We shouldn’t forgo the press kit. Thinking that media are going to go through a company’s content to find a story is a mistake. Part of our job is to act as a gatekeeper and content-editor of sorts and provide the media (here it comes) with the most compelling aspects that make a great story.

As PR professionals, we are now responsible (or should be) for both earned (traditional) and owned (social) media – – making sure those compelling messages are being delivered to the appropriate audience. And we use traditional and social media to do so.

Next week, more insights and perspectives off of the infographic.

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Media Relations Best Practices: 20 Points Guaranteed to Make You – Yes You – a Better Pitcher (or Closer)

Mariano - Enter Sandman

Many pitches are developed during a brainstorm where every possible idea should be thrown out to see if it sticks.  They say no idea is a bad idea in a brainstorm and that is true – – a seemingly marginal idea can spur a great thought. I would add a caveat to that though – – go into these meetings knowing who you’re real audience is and what media is important to them.

As ideas are being flushed out, consider:

  • Timing – Is your subject topical?  When are you planning on pitching this?  Are you competing with a holiday, anniversary or big news event?  Can it be tied into this event?  Have you built in enough time to develop it correctly? What are your target outlets deadlines/closing dates?
  • News peg – Why would a reporter want to cover your topic?  What makes your topic different, better, more appealing than similar topics?  What is the headline/sound bite you want the media to use?  Has this topic/angle been covered before?
  •  Call to action – What do you want the reader/viewer/listener to do? Who is your real audience and how do you want to interact with them?
  • Heart, Mind or Wallet – Does the story affect one or more of these?
  • Key messages – Start thinking about what they would be. Do they resonate? Think specific types of media.  Will your messages be told?  Can the story be told without your client?  If so, rethink your pitch/angle.

Each media has some different “rules of engagement” to be thought of:

For print/online:

  • Is your pitch long-lead or short-lead?  Is this best for national outlets?  Local?  Trade? Bloggers? What about verticals?
  • Do you have an interesting spokesperson?  Trends/issues/statistics to leverage?
  • What photos/artwork can you leverage?
  • Can you tell a story the client’s competitors can’t?
  • Is this a straight product pitch or do you have an interesting lifestyle angle?
  • Are you working with a reporter or columnist? Reporter is supposed to be “just the facts ma’am” while a columnist can pull in his/her perspective. Bloggers are columnists who may very well not follow the same rules as reporters.

For radio:

  • Is your story simple enough for radio?  The listeners are typically distracted in a car, so the reporters keep the items short and simple.
  • What format works best for your topic? News/Talk? Oldies? Does the morning show do interviews?
  • Are you going to be interviewed by a reporter or a personality? Personality can be more engaging, but more dangerous.
  • Does the format provide an opportunity for a client mention?

For TV:

  • For a talk show, can you provide an entire panel of spokespeople vs. a one-off product?
  • How long do their segments last?
  • What is important to them?  Localized, visual?
  • Is this a good kicker segment?
  • Is the pitch hard news or better suited for the noon news?

Until somewhat recently, this “earned media” was the sole sweet spot for the PR guru/professional/practioner (we really need to get a better name for ourselves). Those days are over.

The advent of owned media – – blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Google +, YouTube, Instagram, Vine, Pinterest, etc. – – has provided additional avenues for PR folks to distribute compelling messages to appropriate audiences. Much has written about the evolution of public relations; I will take the next few blogs to provide my thoughts.

Developing the Compelling Message for the Appropriate Audience: Part Two – Five Questions to Determine the Role of our Real Audience and the Media (They Are Different)

Waiter

Media relations. Proactive pitching. No denying – – I love it. Also no denying, many in our field go about it the wrong way. In my last blog we talked about the one question we should always ask as we develop the pitch:

  •  How will the pitch reinforce/support the company’s or person’s vision/mission or goal?

Doing so is going to act as a litmus test.  Making sure we are aligned with the overall company vision/mission/goal and serving as a way of managing expectations for those pitches missing the mark.

As we start thinking about developing the compelling pitch for the right audience, some may ask, “which do we address first – – the compelling pitch or the right audience?” Really think it is a chicken/egg situation. Many times we are looking at both at the same time.

No matter how we start, one element critical in determining and learning about our real audience may seem counter-intuitive. We must embrace the fact our real audience is not the media. We are using the media – and the inherit third party credibility – as a way of telling our story to our real audience.

We should be asking ourselves:

  • What is the story for my real audience?
  • What is most important to them?
  • How do we fit into the story/can the story be told without us?
  • What does the media need to tell that story?
  • How can I best work with the media in telling that story?

Ideally, by understanding the reading, watching and listening habits of our real audience, and understanding what is important to the different outlets and formats, we should be able to match our pitch to the right paper/blog/site, television news/talk show, and radio outlet. We should also be able to determine if the pitch is best suited locally, nationally, for the trades, etc.

This means, if we do our job right, we are equal parts reporter/producer and PR professional. We are working with the media in providing our mutual real audience with the right story.

For those who know me, know I’m fond of saying, “the goal should be that we find ourselves on the same side of the desk as the media.” Part of our job is to make covering the pitch as easy as possible for the media, meaning there may be times when we are offering aspects of the story that may not seem right to our client.

Wine for Table Seven

I was working with a publisher and two authors (both doctors) on a book about the health benefits of drinking wine. One of the chapters focused on the premise that if you were pregnant and routinely had a glass of red wine prior to being pregnant, there were no health risks associated with having a glass during your pregnancy (throughout the book, the doctors mentioned to always check with a physician before doing anything).  This was the chapter we decided to focus on in promoting the book.

Publisher and authors wanted to go after national television. To do so, we said, we would want to finish the story for our real audience who would want to know the other viewpoint. We explained, for a national segment, the press will want/need to get the other side of the story and if we could give them that side, all the better.

We asked the doctors what groups would have some strong feelings about their chapter. They mentioned an organization whose cause was Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) awareness and said they have had conversations with the organization’s spokeswoman.

To make a long blog short (too late), we reached out to the organization, provided their spokesperson with an advance copy of the chapter and got her to agree to make herself available for interviews.

Part of the results were segments on Larry King Live and Today.

Both producers used our people exclusively for their segments because we did their homework for them. Larry King was first and Today was the following morning (we had the better looking doctor do both interviews and flew him into the Today Show from DC while the woman did the Today interview via satellite – – whenever possible I’ve found it better to do interviews, especially controversial, in-person). We didn’t spokesperson train their person or give her insights we came across from talking to the producers, etc.

Suffice to say, the segments went very well. Publisher and authors were pleased, producers thanked us for helping with the segments and the opposing organization was happy to be included and felt they got their messages across.

Reality is, the fourth estate is strapped for time and resources. A good pitch including all sides of the story is going to be a tremendous help and can speed up the process of getting the story published/on the air.

In my next blog, we’ll talk about the specific questions to ask as you develop the pitch and breakdown things to consider outlet to outlet.

Developing the Compelling Message for the Appropriate Audience: Part One – The Question You Must Ask When Creating a Pitch

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Media relations can be one of the most rewarding aspects of marketing communications/public relations.  Seeing the total fruition of your work – from learning about your client and the media to developing a compelling story for the appropriate journalist to pitching that reporter, to seeing your client on-air/in-print, on the Internet – – should be a great feeling.

Working with the media does have an inherent set of obstacles.  Arguably, the biggest hurdle we face is that we are in an industry where many of our peers do not always work smart or strategically with reporters, editors and producers.

Whether it is sending out mass mailings, blindly calling an outlet without understanding what that outlet is all about, or e-mailing attachments to an inappropriate contact, some of our brethren have created an adversarial relationship with the media.

We must be sure that we do not demean or devalue what we do.  When we do things the right way – that is create and develop a compelling/great story and provide it to the appropriate audience – we become a tremendous asset to the media and our clients.

Let’s use the next few blogs to take a look at developing the compelling message for the appropriate audience, as it relates to the media.

Pitch development can occur many different ways. Group brainstorm. Someone approaches you and asks you to promote X. You see something that your client is doing you believe to be newsworthy. Many different scenarios. No matter the situation, as you are developing the pitch, you should be asking yourself the following:

  • How does the pitch reinforce/support the company’s or person’s vision/mission or goal?

To be clear, I’m not trying to make this harder than it is – contrary. By successfully illustrating how your pitch reinforces/supports the company’s or person’s vision/mission or goal, you are keeping yourself on the right track and helping to manage expectations.

For example, years ago I worked at an agency whose client was a wireless phone manufacturer. They were launching one of the first camera phones (told you it was years ago) “just in time” for the holidays.

One of the ideas we came up with – which we ended up running with – was to shoot b-roll of Santa Claus on his last vacation before the big holiday push, in Miami Beach taking pictures with his camera phone – – the coolest gift for the holiday season. Within the footage we had consumers commenting about the phone and we interviewed an analyst who talked about how and why the camera phone was going to be “the next big thing.”

We were confident the pitch supported the overall company goal of becoming a top five wireless phone maker in the U.S. because of the timeliness and quirkiness of the piece. We felt we had a complete story that would make its way onto local news affiliates across the country as a feel-good/kicker segment.

And since I’ve included this example this blog, I’m happy to say that the pitch was a huge success and with many stories like this, we were able to help the company achieve their goal of top five wireless phone maker within two years of launch (reached number two in 2004).

In my next blog, I’ll talk about the appropriate audience within the “compelling for appropriate” equation and I’ll provide some thoughts on how to develop that compelling pitch.