Five PR Beliefs Re-Affirmed

30 03 2010

At the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville last week, several of our long-held beliefs about trade show PR were re-affirmed. It’s good to know, despite all the dramatic changes in the media landscape, technology and communication tools, that some things haven’t changed:

1) Relationships are still the stock in trade of the PR business … and a good relationship can last a lifetime.  PR is, after all, a relationship business. If you haven’t invested in building authentic relationships with key reporters, you’re missing the point.

2) Solutions to problems still trump product specifications. Reporters don’t really want to know about your product features so much as they want to know how your product solves their readers/viewers problems.

3) Murphy’s law still applies to press events – if anything can go wrong, it will – at the worst possible time. It pays to be prepared for Mr. Murphy … just in case the sound system dies just as your CEO steps up to the microphone for his opening remarks.

4) If you build it right, they will come. Maximizing media attendance at your press event requires more than a simple invitation. A solid reputation helps, especially when your company is known for providing real news, access to key executives, insightful industry perspective and compelling images. It doesn’t hurt to hold your event in a setting that is interesting, comfortable or enjoyable.  If your event appeals to media on both rational (business) and emotional (personal) levels, you’ll draw the media crowds. It all starts with thinking about the media’s needs as you would your customers’ needs.

5) Media love a smorgasbord. Some reporters want only a quick story. Some want great visuals. Some want catchy sound bites. Others want access to key technical experts or executives for deep perspective. They’re all different, but one thing all reporters do have in common is that they are busier than ever – handling multi-media responsibilities and feeding the 24/7 online beast. So, PR folks who offer something for everyone – and make it quick and easy – will reap more coverage across a wide range of media outlets and platforms.

Speaking of smorgasbords, the Truck Writers of North America (www.twna.orgdenies that the phrase “No food, no booze, no ink for yous” – is its motto. 

But then again, a little Southern hospitality can’t hurt. So, pass the Jim Beam and the pulled pork sandwiches!

The Changing Media Environment: Challenge and Opportunity for PR

17 03 2010

(This post provided by guest blogger Jessica Killenberg, VP – Account Services, Bianchi Public Relations, Inc.)

The Public Relations Society of America – Detroit Chapter (PRSA-Detroit) recently presented “The Changing Media Environment: Challenge and Opportunity for PR,” where a panel of journalists from a diverse set of local media discussed the rollercoaster effects the economy has had on the shifting media landscape.

The following is a summary Q & A from panelists Rob Davidek, news director for WWJ-AM 950, Bill Shea, reporter for Crain’s Detroit Business, and Dan Zacharek, futures producer for WXYZ Channel 7:

Q: How has social media impacted traditional media?

A: Social media has impacted the amount of information “coming at” reporters. The flow of information is much more intense, so reporters are trying to learn as much as they can as fast as they can. According to Zacharek, the internet is a great resource but with it comes a great responsibility as well. They don’t want to miss anything.

Many reporters are now using social media tools like Facebook and Twitter to follow trends and issues and in some cases track down interview sources.

Q: Are media outlets using new criteria to select which stories they cover?

A: No. If it’s important, the media are still going to cover it. However, given the tsunami of information coming at the media, it’s more important than ever for PR folks to be thorough in their pitching, but also concise.

In addition, it’s important to think about your story visually. Media are not just looking to cover stories in words, but they also look at how the story can be repurposed for their websites.

Q: How do today’s overworked news staffers want to be pitched?

A: Although reporters are now being pitched via Facebook and other social media tools, e-mail and phone still seems to be the best way to approach a reporter. And, according to Davidek, for broadcast media, it’s even better to the e-mail the newsroom as well as an individual reporter.

Due to the nature of their work, of course, reporters can’t guarantee that they’ll get to all of their e-mails in a timely fashion. So covering the newsroom can help, enabling another potential set of eyes to filter what’s important and what’s not … and who’d be best to cover your story.

Q: How far is too far ahead to pitch?

A: According to Zacharek, you can never be too far out. Three to four weeks out with an e-mail and then perhaps a follow-up call the week before and also the day before is preferred. When it comes to radio and television, decisions are often made the day before or the day of, but having that advanced warning can help put your event in the forefront.

Q: What trends are you following / interested in covering?

A: In general, no topics are off-limits for these particular local reporters, but a few of current interest include: economic development; healthcare; HR issues / what’s going on locally in the workplace; new industry; new technologies; etc.

Q: How important are news releases?

A: Still very important! With today’s fast paced media environment, it’s more critical than ever to provide reporters with as much information as possible. It will help get your story out.

The media advisory – with the “who, what, when, where, why” format – especially for the broadcast types. In addition, try to provide info on what the compelling visuals will be and what executives / experts will be on hand to speak to the media. And when e-mailing a media advisory, include all supporting documents pasted in the body of the e-mail and not as an attachment.

Q: How important is the e-mail subject line in correspondence with reporters?

A: The subject line of your e-mail pitch or news release / media advisory is a “make it or break it” as these reporters may receive hundreds of e-mails a day. It must clearly convey the fact that the reporter needs to open it. Include what it’s about and when it’s taking place. Also, if there’s a local tie-in, include the city / area. Finally, think of your e-mail subject line  as you would a headline.

Q: What’s important in an online newsroom? Which elements do you find useful?

A: First, put media contact information on the front page of the online newsroom (and on your press release), not buried so deeply inside your website that it takes digging to find. Media’s biggest pet peeve: Online contact forms that make reporters submit a request for information. Reporters – working on deadline – simply don’t have time for that.

Podcasts are fine to include on the online newsroom as background / perspective, but know that ultimately most media outlets cannot re-run them. Reporters need access to your executives / experts to file their own stories. 

Other online newsroom recommendations offered: hi-res shots of executives; fact sheets; backgrounders; timelines; and other information that can help save a reporter time getting up to speed.

Bottom line: In today’s hectic media environment, reporters are busier than ever, so let’s help make it easier on them by providing thorough information, key experts to speak with and great visuals. In return, we’ll get the kind of coverage our clients / organizations need and want.

RFP Questions: Brilliant or Baloney?

10 03 2010

A few weeks ago, we asked agency folks from a number of LinkedIn PR, communications and marketing groups a simple question: “What’s the strangest / dumbest / most irrelevant question you’ve come across when reviewing an RFP (request for proposal)?”

Here were some of the more interesting responses:

  • If your agency were a dog, what kind of dog would it be and why?
  • If your firm was a beer, what kind of beer would it be and why?
  • If your agency was a member of the family, who would it be and why?

I guess if you stretch it a little, all of these questions show some … well, let’s call it creativity.

Because these questions are untraditional and unpredictable, maybe the client thinks they test the agency’s ability to handle the proverbial curve ball – and provide some special insight into the agency’s thought process.

But you just have to wonder … if the answers to the other 56 questions put forth in the RFP – which ask the agency to go into great detail about its approach, its financials, its people, its successes, its structure, its experience, its measurement tools, how it would structure the account team, its proposed creative ideas for this client, etc. – if all these answers don’t provide the insight the client needs for its decision … just how much clarity will the answer to this wacky question really add?

Is this offbeat question there to give us all a little chuckle … or to drive us crazy? What value does it really have?

There was one client question contributed by an agency executive, however, that was extremely insightful – not for the client, but for the agency.

The client asked: “How many days will you let our receivables go past due before ‘cutting us off?’”

As you would suspect, the agency contributor indicated he decided NOT to pursue this client. (Wise choice!)

It’s your turn to weigh in …

Agencies: What RFP questions have surprised, baffled or befuddled you?

Clients: What defining question would you like to include in your next RFP?

Building Your Business Blog

4 03 2010

There’s lots of advice out there in cyberspace for bloggers. Perhaps so much that it makes you feel like a mosquito in a nudist colony – you just don’t know where to start!

Sometimes it’s best to take a step back and simplify. Based on our experience over the past year or so with business-oriented blogs, here are a few basics that can help you get your business blog up and running successfully:

1) Define WHO and WHY – identify the target audience you want to engage and the purpose behind your blog. Who are you trying to reach and what are you trying to do? Are you blogging to build awareness, start conversations, gain customer insights for new products and services or network with industry peers? These definitions will help you focus on the topics you’ll cover, the questions you’ll pose and the way you’ll promote your blog.

Our blog, for example, is about public relations and social media, so we avoid posting my personal perspective on supermarket lines, rude waiters or Beyonce’s latest hit.

2) Gear the content for your audience’s needs, not your own – if your blog is pure sales pitch or self-promotion, you’ll turn your audience off. Consider your audience’s interests and needs, and cater to them – with insights, tips and topics that will help them in their daily professional (or personal) lives. And be sure to read the comments your readers post, respond to them and thank them for engaging.

Some of our most popular blog entries revolved around public relations tips, delved into social media topics or enabled readers to sound off about their pet peeves in PR.

3) Fill the pipeline – blogs are like newsletters. The first one is easy, but subsequent installments are tough. Make the commitment to stick with it. At the onset, develop a list of topics and an arsenal of at least five or six blog entries before you launch, so that you always have something ready to go. Have members of your team help you continuously grow the list with new topics or completed entries, seek out guest bloggers, and as you build a following, ask your audience for topics they’d like to see covered.

We often blog about questions we’re asked by clients, prospects or students … or about responses we receive in polling or surveying our colleagues in the PR/marketing world. 

4) Let your passion and expertise show – if you don’t truly know and enjoy the themes and topics you’re blogging about, it will show. Find someone in your company who is informed and inspired about the key topics, and enlist their help. Successful blogs are all about being human and authentic … and about connecting.

We try to let our love for the PR biz, our penchant to help others and our ability to laugh at ourselves show in our blog.

5) Persistently promote your blog – it’s going to take a while to build a following, so hang in there. It helps to promote your blog every way possible – with links on your website, company Facebook/LinkedIn page and Twitter feed, ads, sales literature, e-mail signatures, online discussion forums and links to related blogs.  Apply some basic search engine optimization with keywords and topic tag your blog post. Also, comment on other like-minded blogs in your category and include a link to your blog post when appropriate.

We’ve found that by promoting this way, we increased our number of monthly blog visitors by 25 times over the past year.

We still have a way to go, but the momentum is clearly there. It’s proving to be well worth all of our effort, and the same could be true for you.

For more tips on enhancing your blog, see this helpful article by Jeff Bulla:

What suggestions or questions do you have about starting a business blog?


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