Category: Public Relations

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)

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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.

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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.

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.

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?

The Perils of Feeding the Beast

scary-beast

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?

Five Sure-Fire Ways to Better Measure Your PR Campaigns (Or How to Prove Value to Your Clients)

Ruler

I must apologize for being away for a little bit – – combination of life and writer’s block. That said, I’ve recommitted myself to my blog and I’m excited to get back on track. My goal is one blog a week.

I have several topics I want to discuss:

  •  Measuring media relations and public relations
  • Branding and PR – – developing and protecting your brand; and the relationship PR needs to have in sustaining a healthy brand
  • Social media – – not sure if everyone is sold on the role PR should have with social media

So, let’s start with measurement. I’ve been away from the agency scene for seven years and the ideas behind measurement have since evolved. Seven, 10 years ago aside from circulation, readership, listenership and viewership (as well as all the ships at sea) it was all about ad equivalency and public relations value. Ad equivalency was pretty straight forward.

The thinking being, how much it would cost you to place an ad with the given media for the placement. In other words, my client was part of a three-minute segment on the local news station. An ad on the local station cost X dollars for a :30 second spot, the ad value would be 6X. A quarter page ad cost X dollars in the local paper. We were part of a half page story. 2X.

Publicity Value factored in the third-party credibility of the story appearing in a trusted outlet as opposed to an ad. And this is where it got tricky. Depending on whom you would ask, the ad equivalency would be multiplied by two or 2.5 or three or – I had some “peers” say – 3.5.

Now back then, we would also factor in tonality and messaging when talking measurement, but the pervading thought was to provide the client with a dollar figure to reconcile the cost of the campaign.

For me, it seemed like the industry had an inferiority complex and was trying to rationalize existence. I had several issues with the thinking. For example, it seemed disingenuous to always include the full ad equivalency for a segment that wasn’t completely about us (or an article). We were affixing the same value to a front page story and a paragraph on page twelve. The same value for a lead segment versus part of a kicker. What were we doing if we were mentioned in a tease? Or if we didn’t get all of our messages across?

Looking at today’s landscape, one could see more challenges with measuring and determining the value of a placement. What do you do with an online story? Or a blog? How do you measure the value of a Facebook post? A retweet?

While this could be looked at as more opportunities for PR inferiority and insecurities, I truly believe this is the time for PR to shine and show our value. For the last seven years, I’ve been on the corporate side of the house and the best chance for anything PR to be viewed as valuable is when we have “a seat at the table” and are part of the process in determining the following with company executives:

  • What are the desired results of the campaign? Whether it is increased sales, brand awareness, positioning the company as a leader, issues management, etc., get it out and agreed upon ahead of time.
  • Embrace the story you are going to tell. Make sure you created the compelling messages for the appropriate audience. Will you attain your desired results with these messages? Is there a call to action? Is everyone on the same page?
  •  Agree on the messaging; what are the most important messages (“If I can only get one message in, it is X”), and make sure your spokesperson goes through good spokesperson training (I’d recommend having your main client contact and whatever executives you can, go through the training – – even if they aren’t your spokesperson. They will better understand the value of the placement).
    • Tier the placements. Is your real audience reading, listening and watching the outlets you are approaching? What is the home run placement and why? Single, double, triple (sorry, baseball season – – go Yankees). Not necessarily suggesting a pay for play schedule. Understanding and agreeing on what is important is vital. This is also an opportunity to manage expectations and, if applicable, talk Crawl, Walk and Run.
  • Discuss the marketing of  the placement. Is there a sales force that can use the segment? Do you have a Facebook, Twitter or other social page that the story can be posted on?  Are you able to monitor those who may post on their own or comment on the story (there are many services that do this)?
  • Is it appropriate to survey before and after a campaign? Best to do so for issues management or brand awareness.

Ad equivalency can still be used (I wouldn’t) but it doesn’t provide a complete picture and – in many ways – undermines the true value of public relations. Stay clear of publicity value. You’ll find yourself arguing why you are multiplying two or three instead of relishing in the greatness of a placement.

As an industry, we need to strive to get into the board room (real or virtual) and have the ear of management. Not doing so will doom us to being a communications afterthought.

Five Lessons For Us All – Leaders, Followers, Young and Not As Young

Young Andy

A few days ago I attended my nephew’s high school graduation. Really did seem like yesterday that my wife and I, along with my wife’s sister, brother and sister-in-law were watching the Mike Tyson/Evander Holyfield fight (can’t recall if it was the ear bite fight) and my two-year-old nephew was doing situps in diapers.

That was about the time I moved from New York to Dallas, and I started thinking about my career since the move – – opening and running a satellite office; the largest cross-country bike ride (at the time) in the U.S., benefiting the American Lung Association; agency-life; Breast Cancer Awareness Campaigns; State of the Air; Sydney and Salt Lake Olympics; Britney; the other Belushi; Michael Johnson (apparently my twin); World’s Largest Latte; Strategy for Answering Questions; COPD and CODP; Oprah; Christie; corporate-life; NYSE Opening Bell; spin; bankruptcy; emergence; internal; NASDAQ Opening Bell; social media; bankruptcy; emergence; merge, etc.

After the graduation, family and friends started talking to my nephew about the opportunities ahead for him. My nephew is a good young man. I’m confident he will grab whatever awaits him and will do his best. Funny thing, confidence, it is something that can make or break a career and is something I sometimes still struggle with today.

What would 45 year old (who am I kidding, soon to be 46 year old) Andy tell 1985 high school graduate Andy?

Dear Andy –

Man, you are thin. Keep that look. I know you are feeling overwhelmed. Leaving home for college is a stressful time. Fear of the unknown. On your own….hey, hang on, this letter is supposed to make you feel better, but I can tell it is just freaking you out even more.

Damn. Let me try this. Here is a picture of your family. Your wife… I know, right? Beautiful! And here is your son – – he’s 13 and your daughter , yes daughter – – she’s 10. Pretty awesome, right? Let me tell you a few things that will help you get to this “awesome” place:

  1. Breathe – Deep breaths. Enjoy everything that life has to offer you. Explore and embrace. Ask and learn.
  2. Stay true to yourself – No shortcuts. The key is to be able to look at yourself in the mirror every night and know that you were the best Andy you could be.
  3. Use “What if” wisely – I used to think, you never what to say “what if I did that” because you don’t want to have regrets or feel like you should’ve done something. While I absolutely still believe that, make sure you look at opportunities with a “what if” type of wonderment. The biggest challenges can be solved with that mentality.
  4. Don’t be afraid to fail – I can show you some of your grades and while it is obvious you will nail that, that’s not what I mean. Try new things; step outside your comfort zone and learn from your mistakes.
  5. Observe the Golden Rule – There is a reason why it’s called Golden, not silver or bronze. Live by it.

Couple of other things. Be passionate in whatever you do. Love and laugh hard.

Don’t let others define who you should be or what you should do. Apply these rules to everything you do in your life. Work…play…life.  When 65 year old Andy leaves  45 year old Andy a message, remember to open it. And lastly, when you are in France don’t leave your bags unwatched when you go to the newsstand to check the Yankees score.

Always remember, a little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants.

Fondly,

Andy