Tag: Andrew Shane

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?

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

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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

Not So Social: When the Customer is Wrong

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Funny thing about social media. Everyone has a voice. Can be a right voice. A left voice. A loud voice. A quiet voice. Can be part of the vocal minority or part of the crowd.

No matter your views, social media provides you and me with an open invitation to say what we feel, sometimes void of little things like facts, perspective or sound thinking.

Heck, companies not only have a presence socially, many openly ask for customers, clients, vendors, partners, etc., to “tell it like it is” – – well, at least tell it like they think it is.

And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that as long as we all understand the rules of engagement.

Four or five years ago, I started my current company’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Out of necessity, really. I had begun responding to inaccurate posts and blogs about my company and/or industry and used Twitter to search for those blogs in question (the thinking was, bloggers would use Twitter as a way to distribute their blogs). During this process, I came to the “brilliant” realization (I really do need to invent the sarcasm button on the keypad) that my company should be proactively getting our messages out to our real audience. Hence, our social pages were born.

Along with the proactive posts, came responding to client concerns. A beautiful thing that can prove beneficial to both the company and the client or customer.

You see, one of two things should happen. Either it is determined that the company did something wrong and it becomes a chance to make it right for the client/customer and a learning/teaching opportunity for the company. Or, you learn that the client/customer is not being 100 percent accurate/honest/fair with the claim and it really isn’t your fault.

No matter the instance, typical operating procedure has become to quickly acknowledge the customer/client complaint and to – just as quickly – take the conversation off of the social page and onto the corporate email, phone call, etc. That is, until a positive resolution is met and either the company or customer goes back online with the happy ending.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always happening. More and more I am seeing companies that are short on follow through and customers and clients who are long on reasonable. There are plenty examples of companies overpromising and under delivering to their customers and examples of “rogue” customers posting unfounded claims, making different social sites their playground for getting back at a company they believe wronged them.

So, what is a PR person to do? Here are a couple of thoughts:

Get the buy-in of the C-Suite by showing the power of social media. Capture all of the comments real-time and graph the trends. Are their certain areas that are consistently questioned? Are comments tied to a specific promotion? A specific department? Are you seeing similar complaints from other touchpoints?

Work with the right departments within the organization to get resolution. Social media cannot be a catalog of complaints where we just say, “sorry, we’ll try better.” We must be able to have a team in place that will be able to get answers. Why’d this happen? What are we going to do to make it better? What are we going to do to assure it doesn’t happen again?

Act as an advocate for the consumer but have your company’s back. Do what you can for the consumer, but make sure he/she is acting professionally and or civilized. Profanity, lewd behavior is unacceptable and should not be tolerated. Have that as part of your company description on your home page.

I’m not someone who believes that every social interaction should be kept for prosperity. If/when someone is anti-social, protect your brand and don’t give them a platform.  Being the loudest doesn’t make you right, and if someone becomes that out of control, cut bait.

The Golden Rule truly applies here. If your company has done something wrong, fess up to it, learn from it and move on. If a customer/client is being rude, profane and unreasonable, put a stop to it. It is more than okay to block them from your page if they are so over the top.

What examples do you have of a company doing right socially? Have you seen a customer go awry? Would you block someone? Let me know, please.