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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.

Press Releases – Alive, Well and Working to Do Their Job Of Getting the News Out

“The press release is obsolete,” they said.  “It’s lived its useful life. It’s dead.”

I can’t recall how many times I’ve read about the death of the press release in the past year. Yet, I’ve always believed in press releases to help companies get the word out. And today, I have a client story to support the fact that press releases DO work!!

Here’s the story:

I work with a local entrepreneur who’s developed a patented product in the bedding category. We’ve been working together for a couple of years now, and I’ve watched the progression of the product and the company to where it is today.

We’ve selectively issued a few press releases throughout the course of our working relationship. About two months ago, we issued a release to announce they’d launched an ecommerce site. Up to this point in time, we’ve done mostly local media outreach, with plans to go more national/vertical in the coming months. So, just a few days ago, a leading _national_ publication proactively contacted me after finding the press release to request a sample be sent for consideration to be in an upcoming story. What?!?! Yes, it REALLY happened! And, to go one step further, the reporter contacted me via the press release service we used. And, it was a (gasp!) a FREE press release service!

This proves a few points that I often mention in the talks I give about PR:

1)      Press releases DO work to reach the media. Reporters like press releases because they’re written in a format they’re familiar with. Releases are written in inverted pyramid style, which is the way news stories are written. They contain the pertinent information reporters need to cover a story. In many cases, PR practitioners and reporters both attend journalism school, so this is a medium we both know and understand.

2)      You don’t have to spend money to issue a press release on a wire service. The free services get the word out, too, and get you on search engines to help your SEO (search engine optimization). Undoubtedly, the reporter at the national publication found our press release while doing research for a story she was putting together.

3)      While you should proactively reach out to the media you’re targeting (and yes, you should figure out who you want to target), just issuing the press release does get it out there and allows it to be found, should a reporter be searching.

4)      The above two points underscore the need to work in your keywords, so in the event a reporter is searching, he or she finds your press release.

Given, the product hasn’t yet appeared in the magazine (just imagine the celebration, if that happens!), but this is already a “win” in so many ways:

  • It’s a win for the client, whose product is being seen by a high-level press and may appear in an upcoming issue of a top magazine
  • It’s a win for me, because I worked with the client and wrote the press release
  • It’s a win for PR because look at the power of what it can do, and
  • It’s a win for our friend, the lowly press release, who some have too quickly deemed obsolete.

It’s OK, press release—we know you’re not dead. We believe in you and your power to help us get the news out!

 

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.

 

Leaner Times for Publications Mean More Opportunities for PR

With Time being the latest to make major cuts to its staff (see this story: Time Inc. Expected to Cut 500 Staffers, http://www.mediabistro.com/fishbowlny/time-inc-expected-to-cut-500-staffers_b202042), it seems that reporters need good PR resources more than ever.

That’s exactly how to view PR–not only are you working to promote your company, product or service, you want to be viewed as a resource to for reporters. You want to be there to help them with their stories. That’s the type of service-oriented approach and attitude PR practitioners should adopt. 

In these times when there are fewer and fewer reporters to put together stories, hopefully they will look to PR practitioners to help fill the gaps — and we’ll be ready to answer the call with the resources and information they need. 

In Honor of Halloween—Are Your PR Tactics Scary?

When it comes to PR, there are a myriad of approaches to media relations. Your approach can determine whether you get “treats,” in the form of coverage—or “tricks,” in the form of no response—or maybe simply, “no.”

So, in the spirit of helping you get some “treats,” here are some simple Dos and Don’ts when it comes to media outreach:

DO provide valuable content: That includes offering customer references and including numbers, as in time or money saved, in your pitch.

DON’T forget to respond promptly when a deadline is involved: I stress this to clients—media opportunities are a “drop everything” kind of situation. You can’t wait until next week to respond, if the reporter has given you a deadline of tomorrow at noon.

DO follow up: One contact isn’t going to cut it when it comes to reaching to the media.

DON’T be a pest: Reporters generally prefer email to phone calls, which is good to keep in mind before you pick up the phone. On the other hand, there are situations when it’s appropriate to make the call.

DO proof your pitch before sending: Nothing will take you down faster than failing to proof (and proof again!) before you send your pitch. If it’s filled with misspelled words, grammatical errors and the like, no reporter will take you seriously. (I know, this seems like PR 101, but it can’t be overstated!)

DON’T forget that the media will want to know who your competition is: I’ve worked with companies who believe they have no competition. Trust me, if you tell reporters this, they may laugh in your face! AND, they’ll lump in with other companies, anyway, so it’s best to just map it out for them if asked.

DO be service-oriented: Be sure to offer your company as a resource for any upcoming stories that may be a fit. Then, be sure to provide anything they request in a timely fashion. I always look at it as if the reporters are my clients, as well, and treat them that way.

DO be respectful of their time: Reporters are busy people. If you’re lucky enough to get their ear (or eye, when it’s email), try to keep it brief and get to the point. Don’t prattle on about everything under the sun.

DO remember to thank them for their time: Always remember that the reporter’s time is valuable and thank him or her for it. And, if they do publish an article, it doesn’t hurt to send a note thanking them again.

DON’T forget that this is about relationship-building: Media relations, like a lot of other situations in life, is about building relationships. This means over time. Get to know them, and allow them to get to know you. Providing them with valuable news and information will go a long way toward building a lasting relationship.

 

From a Reporter’s Perspective—What Are You Doing Wrong When It Comes to PR?

I came across a recent Inc. article in which reporter Minda Zetlin talks about what you might be doing wrong if you can’t get the media’s attention:

Can’t Get Good PR? 4 Things You’re Doing Wrong, 

http://www.inc.com/minda-zetlin/cant-get-good-press-heres-what-youre-doing-wrong.html

This piece resonated with me because a) this is what I help clients do every day and b) it has some great reminders for those trying to do PR themselves—or even for those who have help, but don’t seem to get why their PR person can’t get them ink.

Point 1: Assuming a journalist has the same agenda as you:

I often view the job of the PR pro to get the client the opportunity to speak with a reporter. Once the interview’s taken place, it’s out of our hands. It does happen sometimes that while the reporter seemed interested in the story at the time of the interview, their editor may not be as interested. It may be a timing issue—perhaps the space planned for the article was cut. There are many reasons, in fact, why an interview may not lead to an article. If it doesn’t, this isn’t the fault of the PR person (and sometimes, not the reporter).

Point 2: Lying to yourself about what is and isn’t newsworthy:

This is what I help clients determine. Many times, something the client thinks is very much headline material simply isn’t. In these cases, it’s better to wait to contact the reporter or issue the press release until something more newsworthy comes up. You don’t want to waste reporters’ precious time by pitching story ideas that cause them to yawn as they delete your email.

Point 3: Staying relentlessly “on message:”

Even I preach to clients to prepare their “nuggets” of key information before an interview, but she makes a valid point here. You have to be willing to branch off in other directions, if that’s where the interview goes. If the reporter wants your expert commentary on a topic related to, but not directly on, what your company does, it’s OK to comment and not try to constantly steer the conversation back to your key messages. As she mentions, she’s more likely to quote you if you provide more bits of useful information versus less.

Point 4: Not being available.

This one I could absolutely rant about! NEVER—and I do mean NEVER!—be too busy to speak with a reporter in a timely fashion. If you’re lucky enough to get their time, take it! Do whatever it takes to make yourself available. Keep in mind how busy reporters are, how many companies are competing for their limited time and mindshare and how much that real estate is worth in their piece. And, let’s not even talk about cancelling or not showing up….the cardinal sins of media relations.

Read Minda’s piece in Inc. for all her valuable tips on what not to do when it comes to PR.

Handling Media Opportunities: Media Training 101

Everyone knows that media attention is usually a GOOD thing! But, what do you do if you’re lucky enough to get a reporter interested in your story? The truth is that many companies might not know how to handle a media opportunity if they were fortunate enough to land one.

Relationships with reporters require the utmost care. Here are some tips to help you make the most of any media attention that comes your way:

1)      RSVP! At the top of the list is a prompt response. If a reporter contacts you proactively or in response to something you’ve contacted them about, drop everything to respond. Even if you don’t have all the answers to their questions, at least let them know you’ve received the message and are working on their requests. If you wait, the opportunity may disappear because they’ll have moved on to the next source on their list.

2)      Provide what they need: Make sure you’re ready BEFORE reaching out to media by having your images, logos, customer references and any other information they may request ready.  

3)      Prepare for the interview: Do a little research on the reporter. Take a look at what the reporter’s written to get a sense of his style. Read his bio, if you have access to it. Think about what questions he may ask and what answers you’ll give. It doesn’t hurt to prepare a Q&A document to refer to, especially if more than one person at your company is speaking with the media.

4)      Listen more than you talk: During the interview, you want to make sure you don’t talk too much. I’ve been on media calls with clients who, despite coaching to the contrary, seem to do ALL the talking! OOPS! Not a good move, if you want to build a relationship with the reporter. Let the reporter drive the discussion. DO answer their questions and work in your nuggets (see next point), but don’t overdo it.

5)      Work in your “nuggets”: What are the top three things you want this reporter to take away from your interview? If they remember nothing else, what three pieces of information about your business—or nuggets!—do you want them to write about? Weave those in throughout the interview, as much as it makes sense.

6)      Wrapping up: When you wrap up the interview, make sure to ask if the reporter needs anything else—images, customer references, etc.  See #2 above so you’re prepared to send these over immediately after the interview. Also during wrap up, you should ask when the article might appear. You can then follow up to get copies, if it’s a print publication.

7)      Follow up: If the reporter did need something, make sure to get them the requested information as soon as possible. If they contact you with questions following the interview, get right back to them with the answers (or reply to say you’re working on getting them the answers).

8)      Promote Your PR: When the article appears, blast it out via social media, post it on your site and make sure to let your audiences know it’s out there!

Follow these tips and you’ll be well on your way to building a relationship with the reporter so that next time he needs an expert source, he’ll call you first.

And if you need help, consider hiring a professional to handle media outreach, requests and responses. Even if you can’t do it yourself, you can make sure someone is there to handle media relations with the care it deserves.