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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 Sometimes, stories get superseded by other, more pressing news.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)

Need to write a press release? Catch me on this webinar Friday, 9/19!

If you’ve ever struggled to write a press release–or wanted to write one but didn’t know where to start–this webinar’s for you!

Tune in Friday, Sept. 19 for this free webinar hosted by Teresa Cleveland of The Entrepreneur’s Toolbox to learn more about writing a press release you can then use to market your company, product or service in a variety of ways.

For more details or to register, visit: https://michellegarrett.com//theentrepreneurstoolbox.com/press-releases/

 

Content Marketing Isn’t New — And It’s Not for Everyone

This Entrepreneur compilation of experts discussing marketing trends to avoid is packed with advice from some industry luminaries, such as Peter Shankman and Jim Joseph. But the quote that caught my attention was this one from Ilise Benun of Marketing-Mentor.com:

“I’m peeved most lately by all the people treating ‘content marketing’ like it’s brand new. We’ve all been marketing ourselves with content forever! I’ve been publishing an email newsletter, doing speaking engagements and writing articles and books for more than 20 years with the goal of sharing useful information and positioning myself as an expert. It used to be called ‘marketing.’ Now it’s ‘content marketing’ and everyone thinks they have to do it. Not true! It’s not right for all businesses, and it’s a lot of work!”

Yes, content marketing is all the rage all of a sudden, but she’s so right that we’ve been doing this forever. In PR, we create content and try to get others to create it, as well. This all feeds content marketing. Every press release, every news article, every success story, every newsletter–it’s ALL content and it ALL emanates from the marketing/PR department.

The other point she makes is also important–let’s break it down into two parts. First, she says content marketing isn’t right for all businesses. True again. Should every company be spending time and money creating content? No, probably not. For some, there are wiser ways to spend the marketing dollars. And then, beyond that, she says, “….and it’s a lot of work!” Right! I think this can be glossed over at times. There are a lot of businesses who hear about content marketing and think, “Oh, yeah, that’s the ticket!” without realizing how much work it actually is. When you think about the hours it takes to create an article or write an e-book, for example, it’s extremely time consuming and requires someone with the right skillset to collect the information, write it, edit it and then issue it via the right channels. And then, will anyone respond? Will anyone read it and become a prospect or a buying customer? There’s no guarantee. For smaller businesses, it can be an overwhelming prospect. (In an upcoming post, I’ll provide some examples of content marketing that’s simple to do for small businesses.)

So, it’s good to remember that content marketing has been with us for a while now. You’re probably already doing it, whether you call it that or not. And while it’s great for some companies, it’s not for everyone. Take time to think and carefully examine your needs and goals—and your budget—before you hop on the content marketing bandwagon.

Without Media Relations, Is It Really PR?

This post by Geoff Livingston caught my eye this week:

PR Cannot Escape Media Relations. In this post, Livingston talks about the inescapable connection between PR and media outreach and how some in the PR profession struggle with this.

This struck such a chord with me, because I, too, came to a point in my PR career when I was really resistant to continue doing media relations. I struggled with this—I’d really rather just write, I told a few trusted  PR-savvy colleagues. “Well, then, is that still PR?” some of them replied.

So, I took some time to think. When I looked closer at the needs of my clients, I began to realize what an integral part of PR media relations is. What did my clients really want, in many cases? Media coverage. And why? Because media coverage:

  • Adds to a company’s credibility
  • Raises visibility
  • Paves the way for your sales force
  • Is shareable
  • May be repurposed
  • Feeds content marketing

When you think about all that media coverage can do for a company, it makes sense that businesses are looking to include media outreach in their PR efforts.

So, instead of distancing myself from media relations, instead I embraced it. And what have I found over the years since? This has become a differentiator for me. I don’t how many PR pros I’ve met who say, “Oh, I don’t really do media relations.” Then, how can you call yourself a PR practitioner, I would ask. As Livingston mentioned, “You can run, but you can’t hide” from media relations.

Further, I get the impression that some PR practitioners tend to look down at media relations—almost as if it’s something beneath them. This was what I encountered when I worked at an agency, as well. The “smile and dial” approach was often used, which is probably why people didn’t enjoy doing it. And, it would be assigned to the most junior person on the team…further demeaning it and its value to the client. If this is the most important thing to the client, why would you look down on it and assign to a junior team member? If it’s so important, as Livingston points out, wouldn’t you want to assign to someone who has some experience and even skill doing it?

“I believe a media relations pro or agency that can open those doors and facilitate that story breakthrough is even more valuable today than ever before,” writes Livingston. “Practicing public relations without media relations is much like playing the lottery. Assuming the media will stumble upon your business story may as well be a raffle, one that loses probability every year.”

As long as media relations provides value to clients, it will continue to be a vital part of PR. “PR pros who no longer want to offer media relations could position their service offering a little differently. They can clearly offer marketing communications services, or social media marketing or simply content,” Livingston continues. I like this line of reasoning. And they can leave the media relations to those of us who understand its value and truly embrace it.

 

Five Midyear Money-Saving Tips to Cut Your PR Costs

July marks the midpoint of the year, when many businesses assess budgets and begin forecasting expenditures for the remaining months as they start to plan for 2015. In the spirit of budgeting, today’s blog post focuses on tips to help you save money on your PR efforts.

You may not realize that there are free resources out there to take advantage of. Of course, there are some lower cost paid options, as well, if you have some budget but don’t want to break the bank.

Here are five categories of  helpful PR resources, many of them free, to assist you with your efforts:

1) For reporter queries: Here are three resources you can sign up for free that send out email daily with reporter queries (reporters looking for people to interview). Anyone may respond, as long as the guidelines are followed:

2) For awards and speaking opportunities: IT Memos: This service provides a complimentary subset of award and speaking opportunities geared toward the IT industry (the paid service provides even more opportunities): https://michellegarrett.com//itdatabase.com

3) For research: Take advantage of Google. Use it to research to see which reporters and publications are writing about your competitors and your industry. Also use it to research publications that might be a fit and then check editorial calendars for opportunities.

4) Press release services: Issue press releases free via these wire services. There are many, but these are the two I use most often:

And, if you have the budget, here are three services that charge to issue press releases:

5) For editorial calendar opportunities: To find editorial calendar opportunities, here’s a free resource:

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 are also available such as MyEdCals, https://michellegarrett.com//www.mymediainfo.com/myedcals.html.

 

Do Startups Need PR?

For startups, getting the word out can be a struggle. How do you cost effectively promote your product or service when you’re just starting out? Marketing funds may be the lowest priority. And, there’s always debate about whether startups really need PR.

In some schools of thought, it seems to depend on which part of the country you’re based in. For example, when I was in Silicon Valley, PR was one of the first considerations for fledgling startups…it seemed an integral part of buzz building and was factored into the plans and budget early on. But, when I returned to my roots in the Midwest, I found that not only was it not one of the top priorities—many startups and smaller businesses didn’t do ANY PR.

Why is this?

  • Part of the reason may be that VC funding here in the Midwest differs from that in the Valley. We don’t see startups based here raising the money that startups out there do. The dollars aren’t as free-flowing, which puts a crimp in marketing, which encompasses PR.
  • However, there also seems to be a mentality in the Midwest about PR that differs—it’s not seen as vital to spreading the word. Maybe it’s the lack of publications based here that cover startups. The Bay Area is filled with tech pubs that cover startup news. But now, there are many blogs that really seem to search for startups located outside the traditional areas. Now, we see more and more stories across the board covering startups based in the Midwest and in other parts of the country. 
  • And, there’s also that old Midwestern school of thought that tooting your own horn is something you shouldn’t do.

In any case, the Midwest seems to breed a culture of seeing PR as nice to have—not vital to making the company successful.

I’d suggest that startups outside the Bay Area reconsider the value of PR. What type of marketing provides more potential ROI? Not T-shirts to hand out at a trade show. Not a direct mail piece that goes directly in the recycling bin. PR provides value because it’s:

  • Credible: Because people trust articles versus ads when researching a purchase.
  • Leverageable: Leverage an article to close a deal or approach a potential customer, for example.
  • Repurposable: Take material from a press release to create a blog post or take quotes from a success story to post on your site; and of course, you can post any PR materials on your social media channels.

One of the key ways PR adds value is by creating buzz so that when you go in to sell your product or service, the prospect is more likely to have already heard of you. “Hey, didn’t I read an article about you? Was that your company I saw featured in that piece?” It adds to overall brand building. 

In short, PR provides some of the best bang for the marketing buck around, for any company or organization, startup or not. And that’s definitely something to toot your horn about!

PR for startups

Proof Positive That Reporters Actually DO Use Press Releases

These days, it’s not uncommon to read about the supposed death of the press release. Interesting how some seem to want to see it go away, as it’s still widely used by reporters to prepare stories, especially now when we see so many staff cuts and even witness entire publications folding.

But, Business Wire, a leading news wire service, just published a report stating that 89 percent of reporters had used a press release within the last week. Hmmm….something doesn’t add up here!

That’s a LARGE percentage, no matter how you slice it. For any naysayers out there, this should be yet another proof point that press releases still play an important role in our PR programs. (See more here on my thoughts on this topic, in this article published on Ragan’s PR Daily.) While there are certainly best practices that should be applied so that releases are actually providing value to reporters, if anyone tells you they’re not vital to an effective PR effort, they’re just plain wrong.

The report went on to say that 75 percent of reporters prefer graphics/infographics be included in a press release, while more than 70 percent like photos to be added. And, almost 80 percent say they turn to a company’s online newsroom when researching a company or organization. Many companies don’t even have an online newsroom–meaning it’s time to add one!

So, the bottom line is this: The press release is, in fact, alive and well, and absolutely has its place in today’s PR world. Don’t overlook this important tool in your marketing and PR arsenal!

Celebrating My Independence…Five Ways Starting My Own Business Changed My Life

Happy Independence Day!

To me, this holiday has a dual meaning. Yes, like many other Americans, I celebrate our country by attending a parade, having a picnic with my family and enjoying fireworks. But, this holiday is also a time to celebrate my independence as a businessperson.

More than 15 years ago, I “liberated” myself from the day-to-day grind of working for someone else…and started doing it MY way. When I launched my consulting practice, I believed I could:
• Find companies who needed my help
• Provide excellent counsel and execute to bring results
• Offer them services at a reasonable price
• And do it all on MY terms

What has this meant for me? Well, it’s changed my life in a number of ways:

• I now work on a schedule that fits not only my clients’ needs, but MY needs. Sometimes, that means getting up early, staying up late or working weekends. But it’s done on MY terms. I was doing this when I worked for someone else, but it no longer feels like a sacrifice, because it stems from my passion and commitment to my clients, to what I do and to making my business successful. It’s a completely different feeling when you’re so closely invested in the success (or failure) of not only your client’s businesses, but of your business.

• I also enjoy the collaboration with other independents. I love meeting and connecting with other consultants and then being able to offer my clients resources for the kinds of projects I don’t do (and no, I don’t try to do it all…there’s plenty of work to go around for all of us!).

• And, I believe I’m more productive on my own. Without the meetings, the commute and the office politics, I can actually get more done. I believe that doing the actual work to get results is more enjoyable—and really what serving clients is all about. I can work anytime, anywhere productively. The whole telecommuting movement is something I tried to get my bosses to agree to years ago…without much success. For some reason, they just didn’t believe that employees could work productively outside the office. After 15 years of working on my own from wherever I want, I beg to differ.

• Not to mention the wonderful clients I get to work with. I think I’m extremely lucky to get to work with smart, talented (did I mention very nice?!) people. It’s a pleasure to work with my clients because they truly trust me and are a joy to serve.

• Then, of course, there’s the personal pride I feel in helping my clients succeed. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of getting a media “hit” for a client or knowing they have new prospects or sales because of PR initiatives they undertook. It’s a true “high” that I still get whenever this happens.

So this 4th of July, I celebrate my freedom and the ability to do the work I love for clients I’m committed to serving. Happy Independence Day to all!

Does a Change of Season Signal a Time for a Change in Strategies?


plant
May roared by and we’re now into June and summer…not long ago, it felt as though the long winter would never end. As we change seasons, it’s a good time to assess what we’re doing to further our small businesses. I don’t know about you, but I feel as though I need to see my business through fresh eyes. This means taking a look at new and better ways to manage the time and effort we pour into our work. Are there some things that need tweaking? Could we be doing less of the things that don’t move us any closer to our goals while spending more time on initiatives that get us farther faster?

As we examine what we could do versus what we’re currently doing, let’s be sure to remember to let others know about all the great things happening at our places of business. One of the best ways to do this is to factor PR into the mix. If you’ve tried direct mail, advertising and other traditional marketing tactics but aren’t seeing the return on investment you’d hoped, why not give PR a try?

PR is so effective because of the credibility it brings your company for a nominal cost. Granted, it isn’t a “given” like buying an ad, but if you’re able to get a reporter to cover your story, that carries so much more credibility with potential customers. Why? Because it’s an impartial third party espousing your virtues, instead of you trying to tell people why your company, product or service is so great.

How do you get started? Plant seeds—that’s what PR is. You plant the “seeds” of a story in reporters’ minds and then nurture those “seeds” and hope for something to grow. It doesn’t always happen right away, but when it does, it’s so rewarding.

One of the main reasons I do what I do is that there’s no higher high for a media relations expert like me than getting a response from a reporter—it’s absolutely exhilarating to get them to take notice, especially in today’s noisy world. If your pitch stands out in the field of all the pitches they receive, it’s incredibly gratifying. And, if the story actually runs/appears, that’s even better!

It needn’t be an extensive campaign to yield results. Just start by looking at what you may have coming up that may be newsworthy. Then, consider some ways to share that news, perhaps through a press release, blog post, social media updates or customer success story. Many times, just one piece of news can be leveraged for multiple uses.

Start today to plant the seed that may grow into a story tomorrow.

My Holiday Gift—10 Ideas to Pump Up Your PR and Marketing Efforts in 2014

Today’s blog post is my holiday gift to you—here are 10 ideas to pump up your PR and marketing efforts in 2014:

1) Try a press release: If you’ve never issued a press release or if it’s been a while, find a reason to issue one in the new year. Press releases help search engine optimization (SEO) and can be used in a number of ways to help market your product, service or company.

2) Reach out to local publications in your area: If you haven’t reached out to your local media,  be sure to consider that in 2014. Most cities have a major daily paper, as well as smaller community newspapers and magazines that are specific to certain suburbs. You can also try local TV and radio, if your story lends itself to broadcast media.

3) Sponsor an event: Have you tried sponsoring any charitable events, perhaps in conjunction with the types of businesses you’re trying to attract as clients? If you attach the company to a benefit or charity, that could attract potential clients’ interest.

4) Try social media: There’s always social media—every smaller business probably needs to do more here. Start, if you’re not doing any, by choosing one or two platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ or Facebook, or beef up your efforts, if social media is already in your marketing mix.

5) Online news area: Add an online news area to your site, if you haven’t done so. This can be an area for press releases and news stories about your company. You can also add a downloadable “press kit” with more information on the company, team bios, photos, logos, product shots and other material. This makes it easy for reporters who may want to cover you to grab what they need. It’s always PR’s role to make their job easy!

6) Create case studies: Position yourself as an expert by creating case studies and/or white papers to distribute not only to the media, but to potential customers and other influencers in your industry. Content marketing continues to be all the rage, and this is perfect example of that.

7) Speak to increase credibility and visibility: Speaking engagements are a great way to attract the attention of potential clients and positions you as the expert. It’s important to select the appropriate venues, so do your research on local, regional and national trade shows and other industry events that accept speaker proposals.

8) And the award goes to: Awards programs are fairly easy to implement and can help attract attention to your product, service or company. If you win an award, it makes great marketing material! You can tout it on your site or issue a press release and forever after be known as the “award-winning” company! Think of Tom Hanks—“Two-time Academy Award winner” always precedes his name!

9) Reach out to vertical media: Don’t overlook media outreach to industry publications and/or bloggers, selecting those publications and blogs that your potential customers are reading.

10) Network like you mean it: Networking isn’t really in the PR category, but for referral-based businesses, this should be an obvious one. Be sure to dedicate the time to do it and select the events your potential clients attend. Get involved in an organization or two at a deeper level to really get to know people. I’ve seen how his pays off over time to keep business coming your way.

Just a few ideas to get you started…please feel free to comment with your own ideas or questions. Wishing you the best for the holidays and a successful and happy 2014!