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Forget the resolutions: 5 ways to get started on PR in 2017

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2017 is here. As the New Year begins, resolutions are being made. That includes resolutions for your small business.

But, what if you don’t believe in making resolutions? And even if you do, for some of us, they simply don’t work.

That’s OK. How about we just focus on getting it done this year? If you’ve been thinking about doing some public relations for your small business or startup, there are some simple ways to get the ball rolling.

Here are five ways you can make it happen for your small business when it comes to PR:

Continue reading Forget the resolutions: 5 ways to get started on PR in 2017

Doing PR over the holidays? What you need to know about timing

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The holidays are indeed upon us.

Though many may be in denial—Thanksgiving is NEXT week, people!—they are coming, and coming fast.

In talking with clients about their imminent public relations plans, timing over the holidays has to be taken into consideration. Not only might potential readers be tuned out to product announcements, but many reporters are also out of the office enjoying holiday time with their loved ones. And, adding yet another hurdle, one reporter I just spoke with mentioned that the holiday changes his newspaper’s production schedule.

As you might imagine, between your schedule, the reporter or publication’s schedule and potential readers’ or viewers’ schedules, it can be a challenge. So, if you have news you must pitch over the holidays, what’s a PR pro suggest you do? Continue reading Doing PR over the holidays? What you need to know about timing

PR Is No Picnic in the Summer — 5 Tips to Plan Your PR Efforts Around Vacations & Holidays

PR is no picnic in the summer (4)

Ah, summer…a time for getting outside to enjoy the warm, sunny days with picnics, margaritas and relaxing by the pool…but, what about your PR plans? Summer can be a challenging time if you have PR initiatives that need to move forward. With many reporters on vacation, your media outreach can take even longer than usual. And, of course, the 4th of July is right around the corner.

So, what does this mean for your public relations efforts? PR can be anything but a picnic during the summer months. Here are some tips to try to make the most of this season when it comes to PR:

  1. Planning is imperative: Trying to choose the best date for an announcement? Study the calendar. Avoid the major summer holidays, the 4th of July and Labor Day, as well as the days before and after. That is, unless your news has a tie-in to these holidays. If you’re making a tech-related announcement, for example, you’d certainly want to time it so it doesn’t coincide with the 4th to achieve maximum visibility. On the other hand, if your news involves a holiday-related trend, you’d want to pitch that a week or two before the holiday.
  2. Allow extra time: As we know reporters may very well be on vacation, it’s a good idea to build in some extra time on pitches during the summer months. For instance, if you usually pitch news a week before an announcement, allow two weeks. That way, if a journalist is out of the office, you’ll still have time to follow up.
  3. Avoid the dead zone: Per the point above, as the 4th of July and Labor Day each fall on Monday, you can expect the Friday before to be pretty quiet (you can almost hear the crickets chirp!). Some may even take off the Tuesday after to create an even longer weekend. And, once they return, their inboxes may be filled to the brim with pitches. You don’t want your pitch to get lost in that sea of email, so maybe wait another day or so before sending it.
  4. Think Christmas: Believe it or not, it’s not too early to think about the holidays. Gift guides for many print magazines are already in the works. If you have a product that fits in that category, you’ll want to start pitching those gift guides now. Be ready with a product description and high-resolution photos.
  5. Cover your time off: Lastly, if you’re in charge of working with the media for your company or client and are planning to take a vacation, have a plan in place should a reporter get in touch during that time. Ask someone to cover for you and be sure to have basic resources ready for them to use if a reporter needs anything. If you have a press area on your site, all of these materials should be posted there (that makes it easy for the reporter AND for anyone trying to cover for you).

And, be sure not to leave your clients in the lurch. Give them plenty of notice so you can complete any work they need done before you go. If you’re a consultant leaving for an extended period of time, e.g.               more than a week or two, consider asking someone to fill in for you. Perhaps you have a trusted consultant colleague who could be on call, should your clients need anything.

I hope these tips help you make the most of your summer PR initiatives. Now, time to get back to your sunbathing!

 

 

Entrepreneur features my latest, “6 tips for handling a failed media pitch”

My piece, “6 Tips for Handling a Failed Media Pitch,” which explains what to do if your media pitch falls flat, was featured Monday by Entrepreneur:

This significantly increases its reach. When Entrepreneur runs my pieces, I always see a jump in followers and activity. This underscores the value of creating great content!

Pitching Your Startup to Reporters? Here’s What to Avoid

Today, I wanted to share media pitching tips for startups and small businesses. Not from me but directly from a journalist.

This piece from PRNewser covers a TechCrunch editor’s suggestions for pitching. While some of this should be common sense to anyone who reaches out to reporters—c’mon, no email attachments is something that should be drilled into our heads by now–and, just forget the email inviting a journalist out for coffee–some of his other suggestions may not be so obvious. For example, he talks about startup founders trying to do their own PR:

“He is concerned, first and foremost, with startup founders and app-makers who try and fail to handle their own self-promotional duties; you may be shocked to learn that many do NOT double as well-trained PR professionals.”

Yes, while they may be strong in many areas, startup founders may not be the best at media relations. In fact, there are several reasons why entrepreneurs and small business owners may not want to do their own PR (see my piece, “6 Reasons Not to Do Your Own PR”).

Another point he makes is that it’s a mistake to assume that simply because a company or product exists, that warrants media coverage. Yes, gone are the days of simply saying, “We have a startup—therefore, cover us.” And, to echo his sentiment, I recently attended a panel on pitching your startup to the media, during which reporters explained you must go deeper if you expect them to be interested in your news.

I even agree to a point with his take on press releases—which he says are “dead.” While I wouldn’t go that far (see my piece on that, “Enough with the death of the press release already”), it’s true that you need to bring something more to the table, something beyond the press release. Simply sending a press release saying, “Please cover this,” doesn’t really cut it. We need to tell a story. Yes, press releases can play a role in this, but you need to actually explain WHY this should matter to reporters and their readers. Of course, YOU think your product or service is great—you created it! But why would a reporter and his or her readers care? For example, here’s some of the advice he gave when pitching a product. Think about:

“Was it created to solve a specific problem? What is that problem and how is it solved? Does the product fit with a separate trend piece? How so, and why should this particular outlet’s readers care?”

And, tell your story succinctly. Offer data and resources, while you’re at it, to make the reporter’s job even easier. After all, isn’t our job as PR pros making it easier for reporters to cover our clients? That means providing the information they have to pay attention to, the information that will make your pitch stand out in a sea of pitches.

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Do Reporters Prefer to Receive Pitches Via Email or Social Media?

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As those of us in PR know, reporters don’t always like to hear from us, preferring to gather story ideas and sources elsewhere. But, when we do contact them, they have preferences as to how we do it.

While social media has come into play when pitching journalists, according to this recent survey conducted by Cision, good ol’ email still wins out, coming in at the top of the list,. Yes, 81 percent of the reporters surveyed say they prefer to receive pitches via email (and without attachments, please!).

The surprising finding here isn’t about the email preference but about social media, which many seem to think is “destroying” journalism by “undermining traditional journalistic values.” 54 percent of U.S. journalists who responded agreed with that statement. And, although they increasingly use social media to find sources, promote their stories and monitor breaking news, they still prefer to receive pitches via email.

Perhaps even more surprising, the phone was preferred (30 percent) over social media (24 percent) as a way to hear from PR pros—now, that’s saying something when they would rather hear from us via phone than social media (many reporters detest phone calls).

So, even though email is far and away still the preferred way to contact reporters, the debate will continue as to the use of social media for pitching. Read more on that topic here.

 

How to Make Sure Your Next Public Relations Pitch Isn’t a “Turkey”!

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Yes, although it may be hard to believe, Thanksgiving is in just TWO days! With that theme in mind, how can you make sure your next Public Relations pitch isn’t a “turkey”? Here are some tips, some of which are based on a survey published by Marketing Land:

  • Pitch earlier in the day: 69% prefer to receive pitches in the morning. Although this makes sense, I can say from personal experience that I’ve received immediate responses from pitches sent at nearly all hours of the day (and even at night!). The truth is, if you have a strong pitch, you can send it ANY time and receive a response.

Continue reading How to Make Sure Your Next Public Relations Pitch Isn’t a “Turkey”!

7 Ways to Think Like a Reporter

PR and communications pros have a lot of complaints about reporters. Rest assured that reporters have just as many complaints about them, if not more.

How can PR pros and communicators bridge the gap and make the relationship more harmonious? Thinking like a reporter is a good start.

reporterHere are seven ways to do just that.

1. Make the news your first priority. When PR pros pitch reporters, are we thinking about the news value of our pitch? Or are we just focusing on our product, service or company? If you can tie your pitch into a trend or a bigger story that goes beyond the product, you’ll increase your chances of grabbing the reporter’s eye. Always ask yourself what makes your story newsworthy.

2. Consider their deadlines. Reporters have deadlines every day. So when a reporter calls, do you get right back in touch, or do you wait a couple of hours, or worse, a couple of days? Do you ask what the reporter’s deadline is? When a journalist requests something, you need to make that your highest priority. You also need to train clients to share that mentality.

3. Prepare to answer requests. Speaking of getting right back to reporters, try to have what they might need before you reach out. That would include customer references, images, logos, and answers to questions about finances. Whatever it might be, marshal your resources so you’re ready to go.

4. Paint the picture. It’s a good idea to offer a reporter resources right up front to make it easy for them to write a complete story. Connect the dots by supplying a customer, an image, or an infographic that will make it a no-brainer for them. They are strapped for time and resources more now than ever, so filling in the gaps for them right up front will be appreciated.

5. Bend over backward for them. Reporters sometimes receive hundreds of pitches in a given day. Occasionally, their decisions for whom to contact are fairly arbitrary. So why not go the extra mile to make sure your client is the one who gets the interview? Adopt a service-oriented approach, treating the reporter as you would a client. Do they need a particular piece of data? Track it down for them. If they request a high-resolution image? Have it ready to send.

6. Understand the business. Sometimes, stories get superseded by other, more pressing news. It just happens, even when you have a great rapport with a reporter. While this may be frustrating, especially to clients, it’s part of the biz. Be patient and understanding. There are times when this is beyond the reporter’s control, so you have to roll with it. Never complain or pester them if your story is pushed out. Patience always wins the day.

7. Remember that stuff happens. There are times when a reporter does an interview and expresses interest in a story, but then nothing happens. For whatever reason, the story just doesn’t run. These are the times when you have to remember that the job of PR is opening the door. Perhaps the reporter will revisit the story or contact you for a different story six months or even a year down the road. One of your priorities needs to be opening the door and establishing the relationship, whether or not the payoff is immediate.

(Originally published on Ragan’s PR Daily)

Media Pitches: To Pitch or Not To Pitch Via Social Media?

Vocus just published a study regarding pitching reporters via social media. They asked them via which social media platform they prefer to be contacted with story pitches. Although I suspect some would rather not be pitched at all (fodder for another blog post!), a large percentage (45%) responded that they don’t like receiving pitches via social media.

This comes as no surprise, in spite of the many volumes of articles you can find out there talking about how to pitch reporters via social media. So, how do reporters prefer to be pitched? The good old-fashioned email came out on top. For those of us who’ve been using this method with success for some time now, this article vindicates our approach. No changes are necessary.

For those who are primarily using social media to contact reporters, perhaps consider using that method as a backup. Of the social media platforms, Facebook came in on top, followed by Twitter. It certainly can be effective in some cases, so use it when it feels like the right way to go (i.e. when email isn’t working and the reporter looks to be active on social media). For example, I used Twitter recently to reach a reporter, simply sending a tweet to ask how she preferred to receive pitches as her email address was unpublished. She replied with her email. I then I sent her a pitch that way. However, in general, it’s tough enough to keep a pitch brief even in an email, let alone boil it down to 140 characters.

It never hurts to include social media in your media relations strategy, but focus most of your time and attention on email pitches. And to improve those, you can:

  • Focus on the subject line to grab attention
  • Make sure to spell check and proofread your email
  • Keep it short and include data, if applicable
  • Offer resources, such as customers or partners to speak with and visuals such as photos and video
  • If you don’t receive a response, follow up with another email perhaps a week or so later.

Bottom line: While social media has its place in media outreach, don’t rely it on for everything.