The Latest

Real-world PR lessons: Never give up!

Today’s post is based on living life in the PR trenches.

As a PR consultant, I often work with clients on media relations and frequently write about tips and tricks to help companies get ink. This post stems from two recent real-world experiences I had while pitching story ideas for small business clients. The takeaway is: never give up!! Tenacity wins the day when it comes to media outreach.

Here a couple of recent examples to illustrate:

1) I’ve been working on getting one of my clients into a major publication for over a year now. When I first reached out, the editor responded to the pitch and we sent a product sample. After going back and forth for about six months, the editor let us know that the product was tentatively slated for coverage in the Sept. issue. (WAHOO!)

Unfortunately, the editor went on leave, and we struggled to get an answer from anyone until she returned. When she did respond, she said the piece “took a different turn” and the product wasn’t going to be included. (BOO!) However, she did say, in what seemed like a very sincere email, that she would keep working on getting it in the magazine.

And that could be the end of the story. But no! At the end of last week, we got a call from the magazine to fact check a piece for November! And this is a MAJOR publication with a circulation of over 4.3 million readers! What a huge win for this small business that could turn into major sales, especially with the holidays approaching and this piece slated for the November issue.

Of course, I never relax until I actually see the published piece—but WOW! Sometimes, it does take time, but if you hang in there, it CAN happen.

2) I’ve been pitching a media outlet for various clients for some time without much in the way of a response (it’s notoriously tough to get a response from this particular program). However, in just the past month, I’ve placed TWO clients on this program! WIN! Both clients are small businesses (one is a nonprofit) who were looking for some publicity opportunities that would open doors for them.

Again, sometimes it takes time—and the right story/right pitch—to make headway, but it CAN be done. Now, this producer is much more likely to review pitches I send in the future, as well, which will help me open this door for even more clients.

These examples illustrate why PR can be a challenge–but it can also be extremely rewarding! I’m not sure who is more excited–my clients or me!

 

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.

 

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

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.

 

Michelle Garrett Ranks in Top 100 PR Influencers!

Blog_Cover_PR

When Onalytica published its list of top 100 PR influencers last week, I knew some of the folks who would probably make the list. Gini Dietrich, Beki Winchel and Mark Ragan are all well-known names, if you spend any time reading articles about PR. But, someone else also made the list–me!

Onalytica analyzed close to 700,000 tweets mentioning the following hashtags: #PR OR #DigitalPR OR #PublicRelations OR #CorporateCommunications OR #Corpcomm and identified the top 100 most influential individuals leading the discussion. See the entire list of top 100 PR influencers.

 

Do reporters _really_ think PR pros are liars?

Last week, I wrote a piece for Ragan’s PR Daily about the relationship between PR pros and reporters—while many see it as adversarial, I’ve often had a different experience, so I wrote about some ways to foster good relations with reporters:

“Can PR pros and reporters be friendly?” http://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/18779.aspx

Then, just after my piece was published, I saw this piece:

“Journalists still think PR pros are liars”: http://www.prdaily.com/mediarelations/Articles/18789.aspx

This was based on a study, “The D S Simon Media Influencers Report,” which claims a majority of reporters feel that a PR practitioner has lied to them. A majority. Hmmmm…. While this doesn’t come as a complete surprise, it seems somewhat hard to believe that the issue is this widespread. There’s commentary on the piece that says regardless of any study, PR pros understand this is the perception—and that sometimes, the perception is, in fact, reality, as PR folks will lie to save their jobs.

Maybe it’s me being naive, but PR practitioners should not—and do not need to—lie. Maybe those in corporate roles feel this pressure, but having been on that side of the fence prior to striking out on my own, I’ve never felt the need to lie to a reporter. After all, as my mother (and probably your mom!) always said, when we lie, they find out the truth anyway. If you work in a situation where you feel you need to lie to protect your job, perhaps it’s time to move on.

Being genuine and transparent in any situation is generally going to get your further, so if you approach media relations with the attitude of honestly wanting to help reporters share the story of your client or organization and giving them the resources to do that, that’s at the heart of it. Anything less, and you may be lumped in with the crowd of PR practitioners the media would prefer not to deal with.

 

 

Have a great Memorial Day weekend! But, wait to pitch your news…

Memorial Day weekend is upon us, marking not only a time to remember our veterans, but also the official start of summer! Woo hoo!

While I wish you all a relaxing LONG holiday weekend, I want to share a tip regarding issuing or pitching news next week. Avoid it. That is, if you can wait, it would be better to hold off until the week of June 1.

Many reporters (along with the rest of us) will be playing catch up when they return to the office Tuesday with a much fuller than normal inbox. And, it’s a short week that will have everyone feeling as though they’re behind anyway. So, my advice is to wait until things die down a little. If you can wait until June 2 or 3, you may be more likely to get a response.

Enjoy the three days off and see you next week!

 

13 things to include in a virtual press kit

What goes in a press kit?

As I often work with startups or small businesses doing PR from the ground up, from time to time I’m asked what goes in an online press kit or media room, as it’s sometimes called.

Do you have one? Do you even need one?

While hard copy press kits are optional (a word about that later), you should have a virtual press kit. Be sure to create a place for it on your site. Preferably, it has its own drop-down menu, but some companies choose to put it under “About,” which is fine, as long as a reporter can easily find it.

Here are some of the elements most often included:

  • Company profile/backgrounder/fact sheet: This document gives an overview of the company and what it does. The fact sheet can include year founded, executive team members, vertical markets, number of employees, and so on. The idea is to capture the key information “at a glance” to make it easy for reporters to grab what they need and to include answers to commonly asked questions.
  • Bios: Bios of the executive team should be part of the press kit. Include all C-suite executives. Keep them relatively brief, or include both a longer and shorter version.
  • Multimedia content: This is becoming increasingly important, as reporters want more visuals:
    • Photos: A professional head shot should accompany each bio and should be downloadable. You can also include photos of the team together, company headquarters and/or product photos, if desired. These should be high resolution (300 dpi is ideal for print).
    •  Screen shots: If you have an application or software product, it’s a good idea to make screen shots available.
    •  Logos: Include camera-ready logos in both color and black and white.
    •  Video: If you have any YouTube or other videos, you can link to those here, as well.
    • Infographics: If you have any that might be useful to media, you can post those here, too.
  •  Press releases: Of course, include any and all press releases that you’ve issued about your company, product or service. Include them in reverse chronological order.
  •  News stories: If any stories have appeared about your company, product or service, include those—again, in reverse chronological order.
  •  Press contact: Include a contact, in case they have questions or need something further. If you don’t have a designated PR person on staff, it should be someone who responds to email and phone calls promptly.
  •  Customer success stories or case studies: If you have them, it’s a good idea to make these available in your newsroom.
  •  Customer or third-party quotes: Again, if available, customer quotes can be a useful item for reporters. If you have partner, analyst or influencer quotes, make those available, as well.
  • Press references: Here, it might be best to say, “Available upon request.” This allows you to provide the best reference for the particular reporter. It also gives you the opportunity to let the customer know a reporter may contact them.
  • Links to social media profiles: If they’re not already included on every page of your site, include them here.
  • Awards garnered: Include any awards your product, company or executives have won.
  • Executive appearances, conferences, and tradeshow participation: List all appropriate public speaking appearances, tradeshow and conference participation, and other events in a separate calendar section. Remember to include any international events. Keep the older listings up for at least a few months after the events to show that you are in demand as experts in your field, but be sure to keep the list updated.
  • Sign up box: Provide the opportunity for them to sign up for your email list, as well, so they can receive your press releases or any other company news you may wish to send.

Also, a word about online vs. hard copy press kits. Hard copy press kits are no longer necessary, unless you’re attending a large industry conference and want to bring along a few to hand out to reporters you may be meeting with. Some conferences have a press room where you can leave materials for reporters to review. It may be better to leave a one-sheet or a press release versus an entire press kit. I don’t know of any reporter these days who wants to tote a bunch of press kits back to their office in their luggage, so chances are they could wind up in the trash.

And finally, here are a few examples of online press areas from companies in various industries that are well done:

Cisco has always been the “gold standard” of online press areas: http://newsroom.cisco.com/

Outrigger Resorts: http://news.outrigger.com/presskit/

Kaiser Permanente: http://share.kaiserpermanente.org/

Johnson Controls: http://www.johnsoncontrols.com/content/us/en/news.html

The Walt Disney Company: http://thewaltdisneycompany.com/disney-news

Here’s hoping this gets you rolling on creating your own online press kit!

 

Forget the resolutions: 5 ways to just do it in 2015 (PR, that is!)

January is over, the groundhog didn’t see his shadow (thank goodness!) and 2015 is well underway. The time for resolutions is over. And even if you made one, for some of us, resolutions 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 PR for your business, there are some simple ways to get the ball rolling. Here are five ways you can make it happen when it comes to PR:

  1. If you’ve been putting off that press release, now is the time to write it. You can get a lot of mileage from press releases because there are so many ways you can leverage them. Here are a few examples in my piece on Ragan’s PR Daily, 5 Ways to Make Use of a Press Release.
  2. Neglected to reach out to media? Not sure how to start? Tackle it head on by first deciding what type of media coverage would be most beneficial. Is it local coverage? Coverage in trade publications? Print or broadcast coverage? Then, put together a list. It doesn’t have to include hundreds of media outlets. Focus on five or 10 to start. Even selecting one target to pursue can be a beginning, then you can build from there.
  3. Try a contributed article. This is a great vehicle to build thought leadership. Get your expertise out there by sharing it with an audience who will appreciate it. And, these can also be repurposed in a number of ways (blog posts, social media, etc.). If you enjoy writing, you can do this on your own. If not—and if you don’t have a marketing or communications team–find someone in your company who likes to write. Or, hire someone to interview you and do the writing.
  4. Want to build your credibility as an expert in your field AND bring visibility to your business? Try speaking! If you’re just starting out, look for local opportunities to present at Chambers of Commerce, rotary groups and libraries. If you have the budget to travel to industry events like conferences, many of those accept speaking proposals. If you’re not comfortable flying solo, you can propose participating in a panel discussion with some of your industry peers.
  5. If you haven’t tried to garner any awards, now is the time. Awards are handed out by local publications and organizations, and then there are industry awards and even national awards programs. As always, where you start depends on who you’re trying to get in front of. Once you determine that, you can research appropriate awards programs, deadlines and fees and develop some baseline materials to use to submit to these programs.

These are a few ideas to get you started. There’s no time like NOW to get started on PR for your business! What are you waiting for?

 

For You! Free Resources to Help You Do Your Own PR

With the holidays upon us, I thought about what I could give readers as a gift this season. What better than a list of my favorite resources, many of them free, that I often use and tout in my PR talks. If you’re interested in doing your own PR and are on a budget, check these out before spending any money on pricier solutions.

Here’s hoping they help you achieve great results with your PR efforts in the coming year! Happy holidays to all!

1) Free press release distribution services: If you need to distribute a press release, you may want to consider using what we in the biz call a wire service. There are MANY free wire services out there, but the two I use—and find get good results—are PRlog and PR.com. I use both in tandem. Here’s why: PRLog allows the use of links and even video within the release at no additional cost. PR.com gets the release on the search engines.

One additional note: Reporters who’ve seen a client’s release on PRlog have contacted me directly, so they DO work! If you have no budget for pricier services, this is the way to go.

And, if you do have budget to spend, PRWeb usually offers a discount on your first release. Look online for a $50 off code. PR Newswire is also good, but another notch up the ladder as far as pricing.

2) If you’re looking for editorial opportunities, there are a number of free resources to help you:

The most popular is probably HARO (Help a Reporter Out). This is completely free—and it works!! I’ve gotten my clients (and myself) in stories through HARO.

Founded by branding/PR expert Peter Shankman, here’s a description: Everyone’s an expert at something. Sharing your expertise may land you that big media opportunity you’ve been looking for.

Here’s how it works: Reporters who are looking for sources for their stories post opportunities that are then sent out a few times each day via email to HARO subscribers. You can follow the instructions to submit yourself as a source. There’s a deadline, so pay attention to that when responding. It’s best to read these as soon as they hit your mailbox and reply as quickly as possible, as they do receive many, many responses in some cases.

Two others I don’t use as often, but they are free, are PitchRate and SourceBottle.

3) Related to #2, if you’re in need of editorial calendar opportunities, you can try using Cision’s free ed cal site, http://us.cision.com/edcals/edcals.asp.

You may also visit each publication’s site. Many list their editorial calendar online (sometimes it can be found under “Advertising” or “Media Kit”), so it’s possible to build your own calendar of opportunities that may be a fit for free. Paid services (e.g. Myedcals) are also available: http://www.mymediainfo.com/myedcals.html

4) For awards and speaking opportunities, try ITDatabase’s TechCalendar, a great free resource geared toward the IT industry. You can sign up here: http://itdatabase.com. http://itdatabase.us1.list-manage1.com/subscribe?u=e179f3d5fb981a768db456f5c&id=6a0dfa05f0

5) For research, use Google News or Bing News. Type in your company name or whatever search term you like and news stories will come up. I use these to track announcements made by my clients, as well as to do competitive research, all completely free!

For those on a budget—and so many smaller businesses are—these resources can definitely help get the job done. For more tricks, tips and helpful advice, keep following!