Category: Pitching

Managing My (Now) 8 PR Pet Peeves – – All I Need is Love

Beatles - All You Need Is Love

Earlier this year I wrote about my five PR Pet Peeves:

#5: Client or prospect says, “I want to hire someone that has a good Rolodex” insinuating that the relationship we have precludes the story we are pitching.

#4: Those who want to send the pitch out to everyone and see who picks it up.

#3: Let’s spin that. Put a positive spin on that. Go do some PR on that.

#2: There’s no such thing as bad PR.

#1: I didn’t say that. The reporter took what I said out of context.

Apparently, I have more peeves of the pet variety:

Sending out a news release without following up – The caveat here is if you are sending out a release over the wire (PR Newswire, Business Wire, PR Web, etc.) for the sole reason of getting ranked higher on Google searches. Go for it. May want to consider writing a blog instead, but have at it.

However, if you are thinking the Good Morning America producer, the education reporter at the Washington Post or the business editor at the Chicago Tribune are waiting to receive your release sent out over one of the PR newswire services, forget it. Not going to happen. Major media. In the United States.

If you are a publicly-held company reporting your earnings, yes, the business wire services (Reuters, Dow Jones, Bloomberg) may use parts of the release – including a quote – but for the average company sending out a release over the wire thinking that major media (and a live person at the major outlet) will see and use…Not the case.

Relying on the vehicle more than the message – Many people are enamored by the myriad of touchpoints available to reach their real audience. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of the book of face, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. Companies should be absolutely taking advantage of these different ways to get what they want out to the right people. Those not doing so are not only missing the boat, they are missing opportunities to increase revenues, better public perception, etc.

The challenge occurs when the proper care is not used in developing and crafting the key messages. Empty and/or inappropriate/irrelevant messages do no good whatsoever.

Throwing marketing, advertising and PR under the same umbrella – While we are all communication professionals we all take a different approach. You wouldn’t want a podiatrist to perform heart surgery (trouble would be afoot). Asking an advertising agency to write a release is not the best approach. Ideally, you’d want the three disciplines to work together…wait a second, what am I doing….

I love public relations. Why am I focusing on some of the challenges we face on a daily basis? Here are three of the many aspects of public relations that rock:

Creating the story – The full story. Taking what we need to get across and developing around it. Looking at the story a different way. Going out for a walk and having “it” come to you. Bouncing your idea off of a colleague. Getting it to the compelling stage.

The chase – Knowing “that outlet” is the right one to reach the real audience and doing whatever it takes to get a hold off the reporter/producer and making it happen. Finding answers to possible hurdles.

Seeing the fruition of my efforts – The day I don’t find myself getting up early to get a copy of USA Today, looking on with anticipation at the local 5pm news or waiting – not so patiently – for the story to load on my laptop is the day I’ll be hanging it up.

What are your “loves” with public relations? Whatever they are, hold onto and embrace them – – they will help you manage and deal with those pesky pet peeves.

The Good, the Bad and the Shades of Grey in Popular ‘PR, Then and Now’ Infographic

Last week I started blogging about elements of an infographic created by InkHouse Media + Marketing, examining the ever-evolving role of public relations. While much of the “that was then is now” approach is spot-on – – especially the last part – – it is important to note that we don’t live in a world of black and white. There are few absolutes, but many shades of grey.

Media Tour and Phone

At first blush this may seem like a no-brainer (some would a strength of mine). Not the case. For some reason, the analogy of a hand-written thank you note comes to mind. The note will most likely have more of an impact on the recipient. It is more thoughtful.

There are absolutely times when an in-person media tour is appropriate and necessary. When determining this, think about:

  • Who is the spokesperson? Is it a CEO who is charismatic who rarely has face-time with reporters?
  • What is the topic? Is the topic sensitive in nature that a face-to-face is appropriate? Are you introducing something – a product, solution, idea – that warrants more of a hands-on approach?
  • Can you piggy-back the media tour off of an existing trip? If you do, make sure your spokesperson makes the time specifically for media interviews.

The phone call has its place. When you are responding to something or are a part of a larger story. However, you must remember:

  • Call – whenever possible – from a landline. Marginal cell phone service is an unnecessary distraction. If you are using a cell phone, be in an area with good reception.
  • No speaker phone. The reporter should think you are 100 percent engaged in the interview.
  • Quiet area. Again, distractions are bad. Don’t do an interview while driving. Not smart or safe.
  • Have your notes/key messages in front of you. See driving bullet.

2nd Day 2nd Hour

Now more than ever, PR professionals need to be buttoned-up. Deadlines are real-time and “citizen reporters” are just 140 characters away. Crisis communication plans need to be fluid and reputation management 24 hours a day.

From a proactive media relations standpoint it remains the same as it always has – – what outlet is most appropriate/relevant for the compelling message or story. The outlet of choice may change but the idea of making sure you are getting the right message to the right outlet remains intact.

Impressions and Influence

In many ways, social media is the vehicle. The content used in social media will be the driver of influence and that content is going to consist of owned and earned media.

Owned media is the content you develop and post on your blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, etc. You are in total control of your messages and the messages should be more about your real audience seeing you as a trusted source of a particular field/industry, and less about hitting your real audience over the head with your latest product or solution.

Earned media is the use of the “fourth estate” – – news outlets that cover/mention you in an article or segment. Positive coverage carries the benefit of third-party credibility. “It isn’t me saying this is great, it is your trusted news source.” Whenever possible/appropriate, earned media can and should be used on your blogs, Facebook pages, etc.

Always

The infographic goes into other comparisons but the most important part about the evolution of PR is in the last part of the infographic. No matter how we – as PR professionals – get there, these elements (listed above) will ALWAYS be the most critical. We are the voice of reason, the conscience and the face of our clients. We are gatekeepers and problem-solvers. Time and technology aren’t going to change that.

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.