Tag Archives: public relations

How Do You Explain PR to People?

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Unlike many professions, most members of the general public have no idea what public relations is or what PR pros do. You know what I mean. You’ve been met with the “I’m going to nod my head like I know what that is but my face will give away that I’m clueless” look before.

Doctors don’t have this problem. Nor do insurance salesmen. For that matter, even our brethren in the marketing mix don’t have this issue. Tell Joe Normal you’re in advertising and he knows exactly what you’re talking about.

Part of that is probably due to the fact that much of the work in PR lies behind the scenes. We pitch the stories, but journalists write them. We write the speeches, but executives deliver them. We plan the corporate social responsibility campaign, but the CEO accepts the accolades.

Our daily professional lives cover such a broad range of strategic initiatives and tactical activities that it can be hard to even know where to start when explaining PR to a non-marketing person. So what do you say when they ask, “What’s that?” I try to make it relevant for them by putting it in terms of what they experience. Something like:

“I help companies communicate with people – customers, employees, legislators. And with you! If you’ve read a story in a newspaper or on CNN.com on a new product, a PR pro shared that with the reporter and lined up the interviews. If you see a business leader delivering a speech, a PR pro probably wrote it. If you happen across a really cool event in Bryant Park, a PR pro likely played a major part in the idea behind it. We work with executives to figure out the smartest, most effective ways to engage with people, let them know what’s going on with the company, and get their thoughts and feedback.”

What about you? How do you explain PR to your Aunt Martha or the guy sitting next to you on the airplane in a few sentences?

*Image by Keven Law.

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Let’s Put the “Folk Wisdom” to Bed Already

clouds-kevin-dooley

I saw an interesting book on a coworker’s desk last week – The Art of War for Executives by Donald G. Krause, based on Sun Tzu’s classic text The Art of War. As I cracked it open yesterday and began reading it, a particular paragraph stood out to me and I found myself yelling “YES!” in my head.

“Sun Tzu warns us about relying on ‘folk wisdom.’ Folk wisdom is the body of unproven assumptions, unwarranted speculation, and generally accepted opinions that is present in any group of people. Great danger lies in not challenging folk wisdom. Reliable facts always precede successful actions.”

How much “folk wisdom” weighs us down daily, whether we’re talking about marketing, PR, social media or [insert your craft here], despite evidence that a new way may be better? One of the things I’ve said since the first post on this blog is that I want to use it regularly as a discussion starter to challenge the status quo and make sure we’re doing things because they are the best solutions, not simply because it’s the way we’ve always done them. Here are a few of the posts that have appeared here attempting to do just that.

I’m interested in your take. Do you notice any “folk wisdom” at work? Does it hold back your brand or the work you do for clients? Do you challenge the status quo even though it’s easier to go along with your boss or the crowd? What are ways we can challenge folk wisdom positively, constructively and effectively?

*Image by Kevin Dooley.

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10 Clues Your PR Pro is Worth the Dough

trail

One of last week’s posts – 10 Clues Your PR Pro is Nothing But Show – generated a lot of great comments that added even more clues to the list. So I thought we’d continue the fun by looking at the flip side and highlighting the things that set great PR pros apart from the rest of the pack.

Here are 10 clues that your PR pro is worth the dough. It doesn’t include the obvious opposites of the “nothing but show” clues, which means there are really 20 clues that your PR pro is worth the dough between these two posts. If you’re experiencing any of these from the folks on your internal team or from an outside agency, recognize their efforts and give them a hearty thanks.

1. They dive headfirst into your business and industry, and immerse themselves in learning every in and out within both.
2. They ask smart questions.
3. They are strong writers and great storytellers.
4. They proactively sync up with marketing, advertising, interactive and media planning to help create compelling, robust campaigns aimed at achieving your business goals.
5. They challenge you to step outside your comfort zones and try new things.
6. They know what they don’t know.
7. They are resourceful and create solutions to overcome challenges.
8. They listen as much as they talk.
9. They bring creative energy and a positive attitude to the table.
10. They own their mistakes, learn from them and put processes in place to minimize the chance those mistakes happen again.

What would you add to the list? What tips you off that the person across the table is worth his or her salt in this business?

*Image by Eric Ward.

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10 Clues Your PR Pro is Nothing But Show

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I’ve read several posts recently on distinguishing the smart social media marketing professionals from the wannabes. It’s great to have guides likes these in a space that is relatively new in the grand scheme of things.

The social media sphere isn’t the only place where this is needed, though. PR more generally has a long list of fine folks who help move the industry forward and, unfortunately, a long list of those who help move the industry a step backward.

So I’m passing along 10 clues that your PR pro may be nothing but show. If you’re experiencing any of these from someone on your internal team or from an outside consultant, it may be time to cut ties.

1. They never bring new ideas to the table.
2. Their answer for everything is “let’s put a press release on the newswire.”
3. They think every story idea you want them to pitch is brilliant.
4. They never push back or challenge you. They just take marching orders.
5. They wouldn’t know a measurable goal if it slapped them in the face – hard.
6. They only e-pitch reporters and their phones are collecting dust.
7. Their clever social media strategy starts and stops at “we should get a Facebook page.”
8. Their reason for being in the PR field is “I’m a people person.”
9. They define PR mistakenly by one of its tools (PR is bigger than media relations or events, like social media is bigger than blogs.)
10. They don’t ask you what your business goals are so they can work to align PR goals against them.

What did I miss? What clues you in that the person across the table is a sub-par PR professional?

*Image from Brian Snelson.

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Five Tips for Media Relations Success

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My last post – Relationships Don’t Matter MOST in Media Relations – sparked some spirited conversations last week. Most people who commented agreed. A few disagreed. One asked if I would share more about what I believe DOES matter most in media relations.

Here’s my take on that. It’s based on what has helped me hit media relations home runs so far in my career. These are the tips I’ve used to land a couple thousand great stories for my clients in places like Good Morning America, People magazine, The New York Times and The Today Show.

T-1. The Silver Platter – This is one of the two most important ingredients in media relations success. It involves going beyond developing a great story angle to pull together everything a reporter would need to tell the story. Dig up stats and trends to support your angle. Find a third-party expert willing to be interviewed on the topic and offer them up as part of the pitch. Make it hard for the reporter to say “no thanks.” Serve the story up on a silver platter.

T-1. Relevancy – Relevancy is the second of the two most important ingredients. The perfect pitch doesn’t matter to the wrong reporter. Don’t trust Cision or Vocus blindly. Before calling a reporter, look at the last five stories she’s written. What does she cover? Is your story relevant to her? Is it relevant to her readers?

3. Relationships – Relationships are very important. You build them by delivering on the first two tips above. Relationships get you returned phone calls, opened e-mails, incoming calls when a source is needed and, sometimes, allow you to mitigate or lessen potentially negative news. (Hey, I didn’t say relationships DON’T matter. I said they don’t matter MOST.)

4. Resourcefulness – Your ability to come through in the clutch will save stories from getting scrapped. I once worked with Good Morning America on a story that took a span of two months to pull off. It almost fell through three different times, but I kept sharing alternative ideas with the producers to keep it going. Don’t easily accept missed opportunities if you believe they are worthwhile. Hustle. Be creative. Be resourceful.

5. Guard the Gates – Protect the reporters you’ve built working relationships with during your career. Don’t hand off their contact info at the request of everyone in your department without first finding out what they are pitching. If it’s a poor pitch, tell them your contact wouldn’t be interested. If you must share the reporter’s info, insist that your colleague NOT use your name as a way into the conversation. Too many poor pitches that start with “David Mullen said I should give you a call” will quickly be bad for me.

What about you? What are your tips and tricks for generating more news coverage for your brand or your clients?

*Image by Rick Harrison.

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Relationships Don’t Matter Most in Media Relations

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It seems to me there are a lot of well meaning people singing the same chorus around the blog-o-sphere on the topic of media relations. Here’s the gist:

“PR people have to spend time building relationships with the people they pitch or will pitch – even if they don’t pitch them for months down the road. It’s all about relationships.”

That’s hogwash and I’ll tell you why.

Building relationships doesn’t scale for many PR folks on the agency side. Many PR pros work on multiple clients spanning vastly different industries. We target our media outreach to different beat reporters at different types of publications within different geographies. We’re pitching far too many reporters to develop meaningful relationships with each of them. It’s humanly impossible.

Lots of PR folks on the agency side work on project-based clients. That means the new tourism client he’s pitching right now to travel editors and publications won’t be around in six months. Is he supposed to keep chatting with the 200 reporters he just pitched for the past few months, if though he may never get another client in the travel industry?

Building relationships before having to pitch reporters doesn’t work for him either. How is he supposed to build relationships ahead of time with fashion and family reporters for the children’s clothing client he’ll get next year that he doesn’t even know about yet?

So what does matter most? Interesting, well-crafted pitches that are relevant to the reporter’s beat and her readers are what reign supreme. I’ve single-handedly landed a couple thousand stories for my clients in the last few years and the vast majority of the reporters I worked with didn’t know me from Adam the first time they got a phone call or an email from me. Create great pitches, make sure they’re relevant by reading the reporter’s last five articles and then share your news.

Don’t get me wrong. Relationships are important. You should pursue them when valuable and possible. But they do NOT matter most. That’s easy for people at niche agencies focusing on one industry and pitching the same reporters over and over to forget. It’s also easy for social media types to forget that the vast majority of reporters are NOT on Twitter and that even those who are may not want PR people engaging them there.

P.S. Thanks to Todd Defren for writing recently on blogger relations. He asked an interesting question on that post and the comment I left on it gave me the idea for this post.

UPDATE: If you’re one of the few people who have misread this post and think I’m saying that relationships don’t matter at all, then please read this for some clarification.

*Image by Mike Baird.

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What Advice Would You Share with These College Students?

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Next week I’m sitting down with a handful of PR students from Iowa State University who are currently taking an online writing/content management class. We’re going to chat about the ways social media has changed/is changing how brands market themselves and interact with consumers, as well as blogging basics.

Another topic of discussion will be tips on landing their first jobs and how to stand out and succeed early in their careers. I’d like your help with this portion. What advice would you share with these future professionals to help them succeed in PR, Marketing, Digital strategy and so on?

Here are three of the tips I’m going to pass along. They may be a bit evergreen, but some sage advice never changes.

Hustle – That’s the way to set yourself apart early on in your career. Of course, I’m assuming you’re smart and can carry a conversation. That goes without saying.

Lots of people meet expectations. Hustle will drive you to exceed them. Make one more pitch call. Think of one new idea for your client each month. Raise your hand to join the fun when new projects come in the door. Don’t be obnoxious, of course. There’s a balance. Find it and hustle!

Networking – Networking is the one of the important ways to both land a job and succeed in this business. When I was in college, networking was limited to people you could physically meet – in college, at local PRSA meetings, at career fairs, etc.

Today, networking is on steroids. It’s never been easier to meet and develop relationships with amazing professionals from across the country – and the globe – thanks to tools like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. There is no excuse not to be using them. These relationships are priceless when looking for a job. Even after you’re employed, continuing to engage with your connections gives you access to ongoing advice and points of view, which are beneficial throughout your career.

Internships – These have become a given, but I’m surprised that I still meet so many students who’ve had no internships or only one internship. Not only are internships a must, but more than one is a must. I’m not taking anything away from the classroom, but actual experience is where you really start learning the ins and outs of this business.

Actually, I think PR, advertising and digital communications are a bit like the types of careers folks had back in the colonial days – apprenticeships. A basic foundation learned in the classroom is important, but you’ve got to get your hands dirty to pick up the craft. Go get your hands dirty.

Your turn. What would you share with these bright, young minds? I’ll point them to this post and your advice while we’re chatting Tuesday.

*Image by Gusi Lu.

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Here’s Why PR Spam Won’t Stop Anytime Soon

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Journalists and bloggers share their disdain for PR spam regularly. Many PR pros write blog posts telling their colleagues why they should stop spamming reporters and offering tips. And, I might say, rightly so. But that’s not what this post is about. I want to talk about the reasons that PR spam is still going on strong, despite these constant pleas for it to stop.

I commented on a recent blog post on the subject from Beth Harte. (She’s brilliant, by the way. I highly recommend subscribing to her blog.) Yes, spamming reporters isn’t good. So why do so many PR folks still do it?

As I shared in the comment on Beth’s post, I believe the root of this industry black eye is three-fold. And until the first two change, PR spam isn’t going anywhere.

“Those” Clients – Many clients understand the value of building relationships with reporters. Many don’t. Many do, but don’t care because they have to justify the worth of their department to bosses who only want to see big impression numbers. So they put massive pressure on their agencies to “smile and dial” or e-blast. They want to see “call reports” and they’d better be long and chock full of details.

The bigger the client’s budget, the more leverage they have with their agency since most aren’t in a position to lose a big client. These clients don’t care about the long-term rewards of relationship building because they might not have a job at the end of the year if they haven’t produced impressive numbers.

“Those” Agency Account Leads – In many cases, the client lead on the agency-side isn’t standing up and saying “no” to the client. They’re worried the client will go elsewhere and no one wants to be responsible for losing a client. The truth is that telling your president that the client left because you wouldn’t blast client “news” to the far reaches won’t be met with “atta boys” most of the time. It’s unfortunate, but true. So, unless they see a true “ethical” dilemma, most aren’t willing to say “no.”

Another reason they don’t say “no” is because they aren’t the ones pitching reporters. They don’t have to hear the frustration on the other end of the phone or receive the reply emails. They call in their junior-level team members and hand out the commands. And, frankly, these agency folks don’t want to hear about taking time to research reporters and bloggers to target the pitch from the young guns. There’s no time for that. After all, the client wants a call report on your 400-person media list by Friday.

“Those” Young Pros – In these “stop spamming reporters” discussions, I see a lot of senior-level folks blaming junior-level account people as being the culprits of this. Pointing the finger at them is ridiculous. The only reason young pros get busted for it is because they’re the ones making the calls and clicking send on the emails.

Most of them aren’t willing to tell their supervisors “no.” They’ve only been working for a few months or years and they’re told “this is how we do it.” They’re scared of losing their jobs, so they do it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a junior-level pro share frustrations about a pitch their boss is making them do to a crazy number of media contacts because the client wants it.

I don’t agree with spamming reporters, of course. My point is that it won’t stop anytime soon because of these reasons, regardless of how many blog posts are written or how many seminars PRSA offers.

Why do you think so many PR pros still spam reporters? What do you think it will take to move the industry beyond it?

*Image by Peter Kaminski.

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