By Robert Wynne, Contributor
The failure of the old business model for journalism in the digital age has changed the media forever. With the emergence of free content online, subscriptions for print media have declined significantly, and advertising rates have fallen consistently for years.
Banner ads haven’t come close making up for those lost revenue streams, and hundreds of thousands of jobs are permanently gone from journalism. If you’re an entrepreneur or small business who cares about publicizing yourself or your business, you should care about this. A lot. It’s not just the journalism business that’s changed forever. Public relations will never be the same.
In the old days, if you had a great story to tell, the media would listen. With significantly fewer journalists employed and a lot more publicists contacting them, that’s rarely true. Now if you have a great story already written, the media might accept it. For free. Not on the front page, but often on a blog or another section. There are also paid versions to place your content on a media site. Many individuals and companies create their own blog where they promote their own content.
To dramatize the decline of journalism and the implications for public relations, author and SEO expert Andreas Ramos analyzed Google GOOGL +0.57% search terms from 2004-2016. In Graphic One, he charted the terms “newspapers” and “magazines.”
In Graphic Two, he charted interest in public relations as an industry, and the term “public relations.”
In the face of these trends, how do entrepreneurs, small businesses and individuals promote themselves? This is where Content Marketing comes in.
There’s a good definition on Quick Sprout: “It is a strategy of producing and publishing information that builds trust and authority among your ideal customers. It is a way to build relationships and community, so people feel loyal to you and your brand. It is a strategy for becoming recognized as a thought leader in your industry. It is a way to drive sales without traditional “hard sell” tactics.”
Here are some examples of content marketing: Target’s Bulls Eye View, Adobe’s CMO.com and Intel IQ.
The website WhatIs sums it up well: “Content marketing is the publication of material designed to promote a brand, usually through a more oblique and subtle approach than that of traditional push advertising. The essence of good content marketing is that it offers something the viewer wants, such as information or entertainment. Content marketing can take a lot of different forms, including YouTube videos, blog posts and articles. It shouldn’t really seem like marketing — in some cases, in fact, it should only be identifiable as marketing because the advertiser is identified as the content provider.”
Whether this trend is good, bad or neutral doesn’t matter; self-produced content, paid or free, is here to stay. As Ramos notes, “Traditional media relied on a near-monopoly control of a market by controlling the expensive reproduction process and chain of distribution. But digitization and the web have undermined that. Anyone can create a document or video now and share it with (in theory) over a billion people at zero cost. Advertisement placement in traditional media is expensive. By using digital media, you cut your reproduction and distribution costs to zero.”
This has serious ramifications for journalism, how we consume the news, and how businesses and individuals reach their audiences via traditional media (which is mostly digital), social media, and other forms of communications. Writer Jacob Silverman takes a dim view of content marketing in a widely-read article in The Baffler titled “The Rest is Advertising.”
“In case you haven’t heard, journalism is now in perpetual crisis, and conditions are increasingly surreal,” Silverman notes. “But for every crisis in every industry, a potential savior emerges. And in journalism, the latest candidate is sponsored content.”
“Also called native advertising, sponsored content borrows the look, the name recognition, and even the staff of its host publication to push brand messages on unsuspecting viewers. Forget old-fashioned banner ads, those most reviled of early Internet artifacts. This is vertically ‘integrated, barely disclaimed content marketing, and it’s here to solve journalism’s cash flow problem, or so we’re told. ’15 Reasons Your Next Vacation Needs to Be in SW Florida,’ went a recent BuzzFeed headline—just another listicle crying out for eyeballs on an overcrowded homepage, except this one had a tiny yellow sidebar to announce, in a sneaky whisper, “Promoted by the Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel.”
“As the breathless barkers who sell the stuff will tell you, sponsored content has something for everyone. Brands get their exposure, publishers get their bankroll, freelancer reporters get some work on the side, and readers get advertising that goes down exceptionally easy—if they even notice they’re seeing an ad at all.”
Silverman concludes content marketing can cheapen the media product, and if the publications lose credibility, the paid content alongside the journalism becomes less valuable. “The promise is that quality promotional content will sit cheek-by-jowl with traditional journalism, aping its style and leveraging its prestige without undermining its credibility.”
Stephane Fitch, managing editor of FitchInk and former Forbes bureau chief in Chicago and London, takes a more pragmatic view of the decline of the traditional media model and what it means for businesses and their public relations and marketing needs.
“What is happening to serious journalism now resembles what happened to poetry a century or two ago,” Fitch says. “Remember, the market for verse was quite lucrative for hundreds of years. Homer, Virgil, Pope, Shakespeare, Yeats and many other, lesser known bards practiced their craft full-time and earned a solid living. But by the early 1900s, the market was flooded and the audience had largely moved on to novels. Great poets like William Carlos Williams and Wallace Stevens had full-time careers in medicine and insurance, respectively. Robert Frost was an English teacher, as are many fine poets today. What’s important is that even though the business model for poetry collapsed, the art of poetry never did. There’s magnificent verse being written today for serious readers — by poets who are so committed that they do it almost for free and on their own time. And that’s a hopeful thing. I tell people who like to read and write serious journalism this almost daily. The best reporting will be increasingly done out of pure passion, mostly by brilliant people who’ve worked out other means by which to pay the rent.”
It’s tempting to say, “Content Marketing, meet the New Boss.” But look closely every time you read the news. You’ve already met him.
Robert Wynne owns a public relations agency in Manhattan Beach, CA. He is a former journalist who wrote for Newsweek and the L.A. Times.
By Robert Wynne, Contributor
We can measure the distance of the Milky Way. We can determine the size of an electron. But can we calculate the impact of public relations?
Maybe. Unlike physics or astronomy, it’s not an exact science. And if you thought the debate on gun control and the Second Amendment was contentious, welcome to public relations. Measurement matters because in a very competitive marketplace for clients, dollars, internal resources and respect, the industry wants to justify its contributions and impact.
Like charm, reputation or leadership, public relations can be a subjective science. You know when you see it or feel it, but people can’t always quantify every single sales lead, jump in revenue, rise in rankings, gain or loss of market share and link that to a single article in the Wall Street Journal, a fantastic speech at TED or Davos, Switzerland, or a series of Tweets.
There are three main opinions about metrics. The first comes from small agencies or individuals who claim they are the master alchemist. They are the ultimate expert, and only their equation is the truth. The second opinion, with possibly the most members, are followers of the Barcelona Principles, a document created by a large committee of well-meaning PR pros that establishes broad guidelines. The second group believes this is the Bible. The backbone of this theory are seven guidelines that are quite expansive. Narrowing down the inputs and outcomes for all or part of these principles into usable equations and statistics can be very complicated, and in some cases, expensive.
Here’s the 2015 update on the seven principles:
Goal Setting and Measurement are Fundamental to Communication and Public Relations
Measuring Communication Outcomes is Recommended Versus Only Measuring Outputs
The Effect on Organizational Performance Can and Should Be Measured Where PossibleMeasurement and Evaluation Require Both Qualitative and Quantitative Methods
AVEs are not the Value of Communication
Social Media Can and Should be Measured Consistently with Other Media Channels
Measurement and Evaluation Should be Transparent, Consistent and Valid
I’m in the third group. A few months ago I wrote an e-book for Meltwater, “Estimating the Real Value of Public Relations,” where I introduced a simple measurement that anyone can do for a single media placement. PR Dollar Value = Advertising Equivalency (AVE) x Multiplier of 5. This was based, in part, on a six-year study of 72,000 readers of the Los Angeles Times. The multi-million dollar research study, which surveyed 12,000 readers in seven different categories every week annually for six years, determined editorial content was much more valuable than advertisements in terms of awareness, recall and attitudinal impact. The multiplier comes from previous studies with multipliers ranging from 2.5 to 8.0 along with discussions from the author of the LA Times comprehensive project.
Besides that major research, and similar less comprehensive ones, there are three reasons to use AVE. User Experience, Buyer Experience, and The Real World. In a newspaper or magazine, or on the Internet, TV or radio, you cannot divorce the experience of ads and editorial. They are seen or watched or listened to side-by-side. To claim otherwise is simply not realistic. Second, each day businesses large and small decide how to spend their marketing budgets and resources: advertising, public relations, social media, billboards, events, etc. Its already being compared – every day. Third reason, reality. Advertising is a multi-billion business. Look at the Super Bowl. Google Ads. What do PR people want to compare editorial to smoke signals? Olive oil? The foam in their skinny mocha lattes?
Reasonable people can disagree. The adherents of the Barcelona Principles do not use AVE. That’s fine. Although we disagree on AVE, there’s a lot of good information – and good intentions – contained in The Barcelona Principles. They deserve serious scrutiny. The document comes from very smart people who want to increase the reputation of the PR industry.
To find out more, I spent interviewed the main author, David Rockland, Ketchum Partner, Immediate Past Chairman, the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication, via email. Here’s what Rockland had to say.
Robert Wynne: Can you measure PR?
David Rockland: Yes. You measure PR by answering one or more of the following questions: Outputs: Did you reach or engage your target audience with the messages or content you intended? Outcomes: As a result of reaching or engaging that audience, did they change in the sense of their awareness, comprehension, attitude, behavior and/or advocacy? Organizational Results: What were the effects on the organizations as a result of the changes in the audience, often measured in sales, market share, employee engagement, advocacy, donations, etc.
Wynne: If so, how can you measure PR using the Barcelona Principles?
Rockland: The Barcelona Principles provide the framework for communications measurement and are not specific tools or formulas. However, by applying them, you wind up with a solid measurement program for communications. Within each Principle, there are pretty specific directions in terms of how to write measureable goals and then the techniques you apply for each type of measurement, including what are the best ways to apply those techniques. The Principles reflect the fact that communications takes many different form, and the Principles guide you in terms of how to measure each form. However, I know many companies and other types of organizations from Southwest Airlines to Cleveland Clinic to the UK government, who use the Principles as the basis for their communications measurement.
Wynne: Is this expensive, do you need to hire a big PR agency, or can you do it yourself?
Rockland: It really depends on the communications program and its goals. Someone can use the Principles themselves to derive the approach. In many ways, it begins with coming up with good goals at the outset, and then the measurement program is pretty well delineated. Obviously, there are efficiencies in involving a firm or professional who does this kind of work a lot. However, that may not always be necessary. A reasonable consideration is to spend 3-7% of the total budget on the goal-setting and measurement, but make sure you are using the measurement to not only determine how you did, but also to better the communications effort moving forward in a predictable fashion.
Wynne: Were the principles created by a team of 200 people? In other words, was this a document created by consensus?
Rockland: The initial Principles in 2010 were created by around 25 people, edited by me and then voted into existence by around 250 people from around 35 countries at a conference in Barcelona. They were then adopted by many companies, associations, etc. In the 2015 update, I convened people from a broader array of organizations — government, academia, corporations, non-profit and trade/membership organizations — to get their input and perspective. In some cases, the various organizations solicited input from their members. So, in this latest iteration, there were probably as many as 200 people involved. However, at the end of the day, in 2010 and 2015, the Principles were written on my computer and do reflect my perspective on bringing together the viewpoints and experience of many people who are engaged in the communications profession in many different ways. Fortunately, when they were unveiled both times, everyone involved agreed with them and use them in their organizations.
And the discussion continues…..
Robert Wynne owns a public relations agency in Manhattan Beach, CA. He is a former journalist who wrote for Newsweek and the L.A. Times.
By Robert Wynne, Contributor
The public relations industry does a terrible job of public relations.
Very few people can explain what people in public relations really do. If you’re a cop, a construction worker or a cowboy, everybody knows your job function. (If you’re a cop, construction worker and a cowboy who hangs out with a guy dressed in leather, you’re in the Village People.)
As the owner of a boutique PR agency, I constantly have to explain that we don’t buy advertisements, we don’t order journalists to write stories for our clients, we don’t produce cute radio jingles, and we don’t hand out free samples at the mall. Yes, we try to promote our clients, our products or ourselves. But unlike advertisers, we persuade our external or internal audiences via unpaid or earned methods. Whether it’s the traditional media, social media or speaking engagements, we communicate with our audiences through trusted, not paid, sources.
To help the general public understand public relations and how to use these skills, and for those in the industry who need to explain their jobs to their grandparents, the occasional stranger, and friends, here are Five Things Everyone Should Know about Public Relations.
What is public relations?
PR is the Persuasion Business. You are trying to convince an audience, inside your building or town, and outside your usual sphere of influence, to promote your idea, purchase your product, support your position, or recognize your accomplishments. Here’s what the Public Relations Society of America PRSA agreed upon after a few thousand submissions: “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”
PR people are storytellers. They create narratives to advance their agenda. PR can be used to protect, enhance or build reputations through the media, social media, or self-produced communications. A good PR practitioner will analyze the organization, find the positive messages and translate those messages into positive stories. When the news is bad, they can formulate the best response and mitigate the damage.
The Princeton Review notes that: “A public relations specialist is an image shaper. Their job is to generate positive publicity for their client and enhance their reputation … They keep the public informed about the activity of government agencies, explain policy, and manage political campaigns. Public relations people working for a company may handle consumer relations, or the relationship between parts of the company such as the managers and employees, or different branch offices.”
Our tools include the following:
Write and distribute press releases
Write pitches (less formal than press releases) about a firm and send them directly to journalists
Create and execute special events designed for public outreach and media relations
Conduct market research on the firm or the firm’s messaging
Expansion of business contacts via personal networking or attendance and sponsoring at events
Writing and blogging for the web (internal or external sites)
Crisis public relations strategies
Social media promotions and responses to negative opinions online
2. How is public relations different than advertising?
It’s Unpaid vs. Paid. Earned vs. Purchased. Credible vs. skeptical. Public relations tastes great, advertising is less filling.
There’s an old saying: “Advertising is what you pay for, publicity is what you pray for.”
Advertising is paid media, public relations is earned media. This means you convince reporters or editors to write a positive story about you or your client, your candidate, brand or issue. It appears in the editorial section of the magazine, newspaper, TV station or website, rather than the “paid media” section where advertising messages appear. So your story has more credibility because it was independently verified by a trusted third party, rather than purchased. Here’s a good chart from a previous column:
Another huge difference is price. PR firms charge monthly retainers or can be hired for specific projects. Advertising can be very pricey.
A former client purchased one full-page ad in a weekly magazine that cost him $125,000. He expected a wave of phone calls, viral media and multiple conversations about the ad. He got zero. In contrast, getting quoted in the New York Times, Forbes and Reuters resulted in national speaking invitations, calls from new and existing clients, and solid credibility. Not everyone can afford $125,000, but advertising can be expensive when you figure the cost of the space or time plus the creative designs and production costs. And most advertisements need to be repeated several times before the consumer can be influenced.
Because it’s in their best interest to sell you more ads, advertising folks tell clients what you WANT to hear. “Baby you’re the best! You just need to pay for a few months more for billboards and TV spots!” Because PR people deal with crises, image enhancement and creation of long-term relationships where your story often must be accepted by others (the media) before you obtain recognition, PR people tell you what you NEED to hear.
3.What is news?
Before hiring a PR firm or starting your own campaign, it’s important to understand the nature of news. There are only two ways to make news: 1) Create a story or 2) Follow a story.
This is of vital importance to anyone who wants to understand, execute and exploit the power of public relations. Before answering your client or boss who orders you to “Get me on the front page of the New York Times!” Getting a story in a publication because you want it there, or your boss demands it, doesn’t matter. Remember, journalists, speakers, bloggers and other influencers are not stenographers. They will ask “What’s in it for Me and my audience?” In other words, pretend you are on the receiving end. Answer this: What’s the story? Why should I care? Why should I care NOW?
Here is more criteria to consider: Is it new? Is it unusual? Is there a human interest angle? Here are the two ways to make news.
Create A Story. This is the most common form of public relations. It involves storytelling and. Most of the time, firms looking to make the news want to promote something fresh: a new car, a new app, a new market, a new CEO or other significant hire, a new business plan, merger, winning an award, something of this nature. Other methods of making news include bylined articles written for an independent publication, Opinion-Editorials (not about you, about a controversial topic), social media (blog posts, tweets, photos, videos, etc.), content marketing on your website, and more.
Some firms create their own events or speak in front of prestigious groups. This can be great, but it can be time consuming and expensive, with no guarantees of coverage. Many colleges and universities create news with surveys and original research. Entrepreneurs and small businesses usually can’t afford this expense. It may be easier to conduct simple phone and email surveys of peers, clients and suppliers. A brief series of questions that result in new information that shed light on a certain issue might be newsworthy to the trade media.
Follow a Story. Opportunity Knocks. You answer. This is when you notice a story in the news, and respond. It could be a plunge in the stock market; a political scandal; the economic effects of droughts or snowstorms; the popularity of a new crop and what it means for farmers and grain prices, etc. For breaking news, journalists often need an expert to comment in real time via a phone interview, video-conference, live video interview, Tweet, email or IM. Reporters often contact their usual list of suspects, experts whom they know or trust. With some quick thinking, reaching out can lead to great new connections and media attention.
When the story isn’t immediate, businesses can insert themselves into a trend. These are usually feature stories, in contrast to news happening today. If more law firms are cutting deals on hourly prices in return for guaranteed monthly retainers, and your attorneys signed a big deal like this with a major client, that’s one instance of a trend.
4. Can social media replace traditional media?
There’s a growing perception that blog posts or Tweets, if enough people see them, are just as good as quotes in the New York Times. Don’t be fooled by the hype. Social media can augment PR efforts and serve as an amplifier. Greg Galant, the CEO of the website Muckrack that connects PR practitioners to journalists, offers advice on for digital outreach.
“Boring doesn’t work on social media,” Galant says. “The last thing you want to do is take a press release and post it to a social network. It’s much better to tailor your announcement in a human way for each social network your audience will care about. On Twitter, come up with an exciting way to say your announcement in 107 characters, remember you’ll need to save 23 characters for your link. Find a great image related to your announcement to include on your posts in Instagram and Pinterest. Make a 6 second video about you announcement for Vine. Even on social networks where you can posts a lot of text, like Facebook and Tumblr, don’t post a press release. Rewrite it without the jargon, stock quotes and meaningless phrases as though you’re telling a friend why your announcement matters.”
Bonus advice: punch up your prose, such as imagining your headline as a tweet.
The Princeton Review notes that Digital PR is about “developing strong relationships with all the players in your social graph. The techniques include SEO, content development, social media, online newsrooms, websites, blogs and online media coverage. Online Reputation Social media and consumer generated content can have a rapid effect on your reputation – both positive and negative.”
“Building relationships Digital PR makes use of social media platforms, networks and tools to interact with people online and build relationships. The social media part is the content and conversations on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and YouTube. The Digital PR part is the support functions needed to make those conversations relevant and effective – research, social audits, identifying influencers, developing and distributing the content.”
Author and digital media expert David Meerman Scott (“The New Rules of Marketing & PR”) preaches speed and relevance. Scott recommends these actions: “Blog your take on the news,” “Tweet it using an established hashtag,” “Send a real-time media alert,” “Hold a live or virtual news conference” and “Directly contact a journalist who might be interested.”
5. Can you measure PR?
But it’s not an exact science. There are many people and firms who have created many models, spreadsheets, and estimates. And let’s be clear. They are all estimates. Some are much better than others. This is easily the most emotionally charged subject in the PR industry.
Many professionals swear by the Barcelona Principles. These are seven voluntary guidelines established by professionals in the industry to measure the value of PR campaigns. The first principles were established in 2010 when practitioners from 33 countries met in Lisbon, Portugal. Just kidding, it was Barcelona. We will be examining this in more detail, including an interview with the author, in a future column. Measuring and judging and calculating the seven principles can be complicated, time consuming and costly, and this may involve hiring an outside firm, but it’s a noble effort and it’s worth further study. The principles were recently updated in 2015.
I don’t agree with their rejection of advertising equivalency for three reasons: user experience, buyer experience and the free market. User experience: Ads and editorial are seen at the same time, you cannot divorce one from the other. Buyer experience: businesses make the decision every day to spend their marketing funds on PR or advertising. It’s a choice grounded in reality. Free market: tens of billions of dollars are spent on TV, internet and print advertising every year. It’s a huge business that tries to communicate many of the same messages of PR, albeit in a different way.
But reasonable people can disagree. The Barcelona Principles, or anything else that bolsters the comprehension and value of the PR industry, is a good thing. Without efforts like these, nobody would know what we do. And if that happens, all of us might as well join a cover band for the Village People.
Robert Wynne owns a public relations agency in Manhattan Beach, CA. He is a former journalist who wrote for Newsweek and the L.A. Times.
By Robert Wynne, Contributor
Everyone starts a public relations plan with the best intentions. When PR fails, maybe the process isn’t the problem. Before hiring a PR firm or starting your own campaign, you must understand what is news. No exceptions. Without this knowledge, you are wasting your time. So here’s the secret: there are only two ways to make news:
1) Create a story
2) Follow a story.
If you are an entrepreneur, a PR professional working for a client, or an employee promoting your firm, there are only two methods. Of course, the two avenues are extremely wide. There are dozens of lanes taking you there. This is of vital importance to anyone who wants to understand, execute and exploit the power of public relations. Before answering your client or boss who orders you to “Get me on the front page of the New York Times!” it’s best to understand, or to explain, how PR and news work together.
First, What is News? That’s the key. Getting a story in a publication because you want it there, or your boss demands it, doesn’t matter. Remember, journalists, speakers, bloggers and other influencers are not stenographers. They will ask you “What’s in it for Me and my audience?” In other words, use my previous checklist and pretend you are on the receiving end. Answer this:
What’s the story? Why should I care? Why should I care NOW? In other words, What is News? The Media College website lists the criteria for news:
· Is it new?
· Is it unusual?
· Is it interesting or significant?
· Is it about people?
Marketing Profs list some additional filters: ”Timing. Significance. (“The number of people affected by the story….”) Proximity. “The number of people affected by the story is important.”) Prominence. (“Famous people get more coverage just because they are famous.”) Human Interest.” Now that we understand the nature of news, let’s explore two ways join the larger conversation.
1. Making the News. This is the most common form of public relations. It involves storytelling and when it’s successful, these stories are seasoned by context, impact and many other factors. Most of the time, companies looking to make the news want to promote something fresh: a new car, a new app, a new university building, a new CEO or other significant hire, a change of business plan, merger, winning a new award or getting a new order from a major customer, something of this nature. This is what clients and your boss typically want. Hey, we are growing and changing, we want everyone to know about it.
Other ways people attempt to make news include bylined articles written for an independent publication, Opinion-Editorials (not about you, but concerning a controversial topic), social media (blog posts, tweets, photos, videos, etc.), content marketing on your website and more. The great thing about social media is you don’t always need reporters as your filter. But let’s be honest. It’s a lot easier for Intel INTC +1.37%, Ford, Steph Curry, Taylor Swift, a politician or any well-known brand or a celebrity, to make the news. It’s much harder for unknowns. Even in a small group, a press release, some tweets and a few photos are like tiny rain drops falling into the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Anyone can post, and everyone does, billions of times a day.
Some firms make a splash by creating their own events or by speaking in front of a prestigious group. This can be great, but it can also be time consuming and expensive, with no guarantees of coverage. Many colleges and universities create news with surveys and original research. The UCLA Anderson Forecast is a great example of economic research conducted every quarter for Los Angeles, California and the nation which yields insight on current business trends. When released, the findings and conclusions make news around the nation in a variety of business media which reinforces the reputation of the university and school as a leader in business education. Most entrepreneurs and small businesses cannot afford such expensive and lengthy research in broad subjects. For those firms, it may be more feasible to conduct simpler phone and email surveys of peers, clients and suppliers. With enough insight and planning, a brief series of questions that result in new information that illuminate a certain issue might be newsworthy to the trade or local media.
2.Following the News. Opportunity Knocks. You answer. This is when you notice a story in the news, and respond. It could be a plunge in the stock market due to the selloff in China; new candidates for NFL coaching jobs; the economic effects of droughts or snowstorms; a terrorist attack; the popularity of quinoa and what it means for farmers and grain prices; overturning the Citizens United decision, etc.
For breaking news, most journalists need an expert to comment on a situation in real time via a phone interview, video-conference, live video interview, Tweet, email or IM, or other communication quickly. Reporters usually contact their usual list of suspects, experts whom they know or trust. With some quick thinking, these instances can lead to great new connections and media attention.
When the story isn’t immediate, entrepreneurs can insert themselves into a trend. These are usually feature stories, in contrast to news happening today. If more law firms are cutting deals on hourly prices in return for guaranteed monthly retainers, and your attorneys signed a big deal like this with a major client, that’s one instance of a trend.
The third way to follow the news is when it lands on your front door, with a thud. This is crisis PR. You’re in a crisis when you don’t make the news, the news makes you. Take Volkswagen. When they were accused fudging the results of their emissions numbers, they had to respond quickly to questions from media around the world. Constantly. For weeks.
So let’s see how it works, Making the News and Following the News. Here’s an example. Let’s say you own a company that specializes in fixing and maintaining World War II airplanes. I know, not the most exciting situation. Most people want to represent Apple AAPL +2.09% or Drake. Good luck. Now back to reality. Making the News. Remember the checklist: Is it new? Is it unusual? Is it interesting or significant? Is it about people?
Without a new plane for the public to view, (one that was flown by Elvis Presley or Charles Lindbergh), a new type of solar panel you invented to power planes of the future, or a mechanic who used to work for Elvis or Lindbergh, this one isn’t easy. In other words, welcome to PR. Otherwise, it’s a Story about Nothing, and “Seinfeld” has been off the air for a long time.
Good PR pros dig deep to find pearls in piles of mud. When in doubt, here are three tips for making news out of very little: Go Local. Milestones. Trades. Local media are always looking to promote local personalities and businesses, especially if there’s a human interest angle or other hook. Anniversaries or awards sometimes work, such as, “Forty years in business, what has changed in Kenosha, Wisconsin since you started?” The next best bet is to read the trade publications and create a profile story, such as the most unusual or significant collection of planes or a similar story. It’s a specific story for a narrow market, but that’s what trade publications are for.
Now let’s look at following the news. Here’s how to look for a trend. Let’s say you notice the Ryan Aeronautical ST3KR plane, also called the PT22, WII-era primary trainer used by the Air Force built in 1942, has suddenly gone up in value. Why? Maybe a group of collectors have emerged, maybe museums noticed there are fewer left. Bring these facts to the attention of a reporter, and/or write a blog post, and insert yourself into the story as an expert.
Sometimes, a story falls from the sky. When actor Harrison Ford crashes his ST3KR on a golf course in Venice, California near Santa Monica, you could have been listening to the radio. An opportunistic publicist or entrepreneur would call the media, give them information about the plane, when it was built, its safety record, how many are still in operation, and other data.
Make the News. Follow the News. This is public relations. Understanding the news will help you make the most of your time, and get your more recognition with journalists and in social media.
By Robert Wynne, Contributor
In the age of Independent Contractors, Short Term Employment and Instant Gratification, the relationships between public relations agencies and their employers can be more tenuous, and stressful, than ever.
The days of long martini lunches, 50-page strategy documents, group hugs and five-year contracts are far gone. But the needs of businesses to react quickly to crisis, create long-term strategy based on sound PR fundamentals in a changing media environment and competitive market for services, remains.
That’s why managing a public relations agency can be the most important step to building and maintaining a renowned public presence. The fundamentals of How to Hire A PR Agency have already been covered in a previous column regarding culture, experience, references and more.
And yes, it’s different for Advertising agencies and PR agencies. Ad agencies tell you what you want to hear – “Hey baby you’re great! You’re the best! Let’s spend another million on ads! This time they’re gonna work.” PR agencies are more important because tell you what you need to hear. “This is what the media wants to know, this is what gets you a positive story, this is what your competitors are doing, this is how you raise your profile.”
For businesses and entrepreneurs looking to hire an agency, here are 10 Tips from PR and marketing professionals on the best ways to manage your PR agency. This advice has been battle-tested by decades of experience from experts ranging from California to the Midwest to Europe and beyond. You should definitely attempt this at home.
DEFINE OBJECTIVES. “It may seem obvious, but you should have clear objectives before you work on a strategy with your PR firm,” says Brigitte Fournier of Noir Sur Blanc in France. “This includes not only what you wish to communicate but also to whom – define the target markets and/or countries in line with your company’s goals.” For example, what’s more important – trade, consumer, B2B, local, national or international media? Are you trying to attract more students to your college? In-state or out-of-state? More partners to join your law firm for an existing or a new practice group? Want to raise your traffic (and revenues) of an e-commerce website or local gourmet restaurant so you can raise funds to expand? Is there a new direction for your company you need to sell to your internal audience and customers first?
START WITH TRUST. “A trusting relationship builds over time,” says Jennifer Lane of Jennifer Lane Publicity in Chicago. “After my clients work with me and see the evolution of a successful PR campaign they are more trusting in me as their expert. Rely on me (as your publicist) to portray you (as my client) appropriately to media and make things happen – whether that be national press placements or a successful cause-related marketing campaign.”
OPEN THE BOOKS. Turn over all the information that’s needed to promote – or defend – the organization. PR agencies are your partners, not your foes. When starting the relationship, offer as many ideas as possible. Many times a client has offered the standard story ideas, often spoon fed by upper management as a “can’t miss” feature that’s about a new accounting software app. “Oh, by the way, we also have a dozen Saudi princes in management who found us via an ancient tunnel near the cafeteria lined by minerals only found on Saturn and filled with ancient dinosaur bones. But here’s another fun fact about that accounting app.” And don’t be shy introducing your senior executives, they can be a goldmine for your agency and for the media.
ONE CONTACT PERSON. “Define an informed representative at your company who is readily available to speak with your PR firm and who is both reactive and proactive in responding to press requests and generating ideas,” Fournier says. “Many companies underestimate the time needed to interact and exchange with their PR firm. Good external communication begins with good internal communication and that includes with your PR firm.”
CHOOSE TASKS. “Be thoughtful in how you divide and conquer,” says Tim Marklein, Founder & CEO, of Big Valley Marketing in Northern California. “Your agency shouldn’t necessarily do all the same things you do internally. Some functions are better managed externally, some are better managed internally, and others are best managed jointly. Work together to define an optimal workflow.” And here’s a bonus tip to stretch the PR dollar and maximize efficiency: “Minimize the RFP busy work and maximize the value-added interaction,” Marklein says.
THREE MONTHS. I always tell new and prospective clients, if we can’t get you good media coverage or set up some good story opportunities within 90 days, there are two options: we don’t have a newsworthy article (client’s fault) or the PR firm cannot communicate that narrative (agency’s fault) to the right contacts. Jumping the gun after two weeks and demanding to know why you aren’t on the front page of the New York Times doesn’t work. PR is a strategy for savvy businesses who are organized, patient and understand how the media works.
TEAMWORK IS KEY. The Cooler Insights website offers these two gems: “One reason why you hire PR professionals to do your pitching for you is precisely because you can’t/ won’t do it yourself. As far as possible, allow them to do their magic in cajoling, negotiating, bribing, wheeling and dealing with the media. Let them update you when the time is right, and refrain from harassing them ad nauseum. Which also brings me to the next point…Effective media relations is only possible when both client and agency reps work closely together. This means that there should be constant communication between both parties on what can be done, what cannot be done, as well as the latest updates or developments in a campaign. Vanishing into twilight zone and expecting your agency reps to spin a huge yarn ain’t gonna work.” Weekly or bi-weekly written reports are standard.
OFFER MORE CONTENT. The Can Impact blog by Debbie Meltzer recommends bulking up premium content. “Publishers are focusing more on press releases that integrate visuals, or video, and e-paper links, and the more impactful, the better,” Meltzer says.“A PR partner is not a magician who can wave a magic content wand. Nevertheless, a good PR partner will consult with you how to create and leverage powerful content without making you work full time on a production line … Do the heavy lifting when it comes to background content.”
“Editors and publishers need a steady supply of smart, impactful content,” said Marklein of Big Valley Marketing. “Market-savvy companies need a content engine (and partner) that can create, curate and syndicate compelling content across multiple channels. This goes way beyond news releases and data sheets — and should put visual storytelling front and center, anchored by a corporate blog and active social channels.”
FACT CHECK. Cooler Insights suggests clients should “Always insist on being the clearing house for all written or official communication materials like press releases and advisories, fact sheets, speeches, boilerplates, quotes and so on. Don’t expect your PR consultants to read your mind and absorb all the facts through yogic meditation.”
BE FLEXIBLE. Strategy and blueprints are great, but sometimes reality gets in the way. As Mike Tyson says, “Everyone’s got a plan until they get punched in the face.” Often, a client and agency working together can strategize and anticipate client reaction, media interest and internal barriers. Then external events arrive like a punch. Example: we spent three months planning to promote research and professor expertise for “The Year of Finance” for an Ivy League business school. A week later, the applications for their one-year Biochemistry MBA took a nosedive. The next day we put that on hold, drove to San Diego, interviewed current students and their employers and worked for two weeks straight to create a front page story in the San Diego Business Journal, articles in biochemistry trade journals and other media.
Of course, after following these 10 guidelines and creating a successful plan, there’s nothing wrong with knocking back a few martinis to celebrate.
By Robert Wynne, Contributor
Fighting back is usually a good idea. 99% of the time, publicly explaining your position if you or your client has been criticized, makes sense.
But sometimes, in a tiny majority, let’s say 1% of situations, a publicist needs to tell their client to be quiet. Such is the case for the wealthiest Americans. As you may have heard, the 1% have done quite well lately.
The Guardian notes that in the U.S., “over the last three decades, the wealth owned by the top 0.1% households increased from 7% to 22% even as the wealth of the bottom 90% of households declined.”
The Economic Policy Institute reports in the U.S., “Income growth has been lopsided since the recovery began in 2009, with the top 1 percent capturing an alarming share of economic growth … Lopsided income growth is also a long-term trend. Between 1979 and 2007, the top 1 percent took home well over half (53.9 percent) of the total increase in U.S. income. Over this period, the average income of the bottom 99 percent of U.S. taxpayers grew by 18.9 percent. Simultaneously, the average income of the top 1 percent grew over 10 times as much—by 200.5 percent.
Apparently that’s not enough. Some feel stung by protests such as Occupy Wall Street(which happened almost four years ago), a bestseller by economist by Thomas Picketty, “Capital in the 21st Century,” comments about income inequality by politicians, and a recent report by the Pew Research Center as reported in the New York Times. The Pew Research Center report notes “Some six-in-ten Americans in the Pew Research survey said they were bothered a lot by the feeling that “some wealthy people” and “some corporations” don’t pay their fair share” of taxes.
The 1% is fighting back. In the media.
So far, the results are not good.
The Guardian recently profiled therapists who specializes in counseling the 1%. “…And as they stroll through Manhattan, what issues are America’s 1% struggling with? There is guilt over being rich in the first place, he (Clay Cockrell) said. There is the feeling that they have to hide the fact that they are rich. And then there is the isolation – being in the 1%, it turns out, can be lonely. It seems F Scott Fitzgerald was right, the very rich “are different from you and me”. Especially in 2015.
“From the Bible to the Lannisters of Game of Thrones, it’s easy to argue that the rich have always been vilified, scorned and envied. But their counsellors argue things have only gotten worse since the financial crisis and the debate over income inequality that has been spurred on by movements like Occupy Wall Street and the Fight for $15 fair wage campaign.”
“The Occupy Wall Street movement was a good one and had some important things to say about income inequality, but it singled out the 1% and painted them globally as something negative. It’s an -ism,” said Jamie Traeger-Muney, a wealth psychologist and founder of the Wealth Legacy Group. “I am not necessarily comparing it to what people of color have to go through, but … it really is making value judgment about a particular group of people as a whole.”
The media, she said, is partly to blame for making the rich “feel like they need to hide or feel ashamed.”
This article attempting to obtain sympathy for the 1% follows earlier efforts. Take the case of Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein telling the Times of London, “We’re very important,” and claiming his company is “doing God’s work.” His comments were widely panned, but it wasn’t the most disparaged defense. Not even close.
In 2014, venture capitalist Thomas Perkins compared the criticisms of the 1% to persecution at the hands of the Nazis in a letter to the Wall Street Journal. ”I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its ‘one percent,’ namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the ‘rich,’” wrote Perkins.
The Koch Brothers, long the target of an investigative press, have experienced income growth for the past few years along with a resultant rise in their political influence. Last year they were the subject of an unflattering expose in Rolling Stone. Has anything happened as a result of that story (or other articles) in terms of regulations, lawsuits, loss of access to charitable boards, regulators, officials, politicians or candidates? I doubt it.
Some in the upper class still complain about victimhood, but what’s the point? There’s an old saying in Sales: When you’ve sold, quit selling. Or in this case, once you’ve won, quit whining.
Despite the missteps, the PR efforts to humanize the 1% may have worked a little, as some people admire the 1% as sages and rock stars. As Thomas Frank notes in his latest book, “Pity the Billionaire.” In an interview in Amazon, Frank said: “The book is about people trying to depict themselves as the victims of a situation where they are manifestly not victims: imagining that corporate enterprises are ground under the iron heel of an over-regulating government, that banks were forced to issue the loans that puffed up the real-estate bubble, that taxes are by definition onerous and thieving, that businesspeople are all, as a rule, hard-working, unassuming, and straight-shooting—and that they have risen up righteously in a great strike, like in Ayn Rand’s and John Boehner’s fantasy.”
Some have bought into the premise that Frank explains, while many others, as noted in the Pew Research poll do not.
But public opinion polls and PR campaigns are not necessary for the 1%. This is not the French Revolution. Occupy Wall Street is over. Most Americans will be fine with updates on the Kardashians, Caitlynn Jenner, the latest college football “controversy,” and the battle round on “The Voice.” I think Adam Levine’s team will definitely win this year. Now what were we talking about again?
By Robert Wynne, Contributor
You can find almost anything on the internet, for free, if you have enough time.
There are millions of pages on public relations alone. Many sites promise to write and place articles for clients for free (or a small charge). I would suggest avoiding them. Finding, nurturing and keeping media contacts, and learning how to craft pitches and compelling stories, isn’t free and doesn’t come cheap, nor should it.
Instead, we found 10 great public relations sites that provide original information and present valuable columns on PR. Many offer webinars, news on journalist hires and fires, tips on jobs, interviews with reporters and advice for PR professionals and students of all experience levels across many industries. Some ask for your contact information and try to sell you services such as media lists, media monitoring, social media, promotion, etc., so be aware of that. But still … going back to college from the comfort of your couch can be a good career refresher.
To sharpen your skills, network online, find cool events and keep up with the latest trends, here are the best PR blogs, newsletters and websites you can read or sign up for online. Think of them as continuing education at a fantastic price. Here are my Top 10 PR Blogs in alphabetical order:
(Photo credit should read JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
Style: Short, punchy writing and easy to navigate.
Boilerplate: “The Daily ‘Dog offers timely, insightful PR news and feature content that drives traffic and builds an online community of PR practitioners, agencies and service providers. The mission of the Daily ‘Dog editorial team is to bring together the best minds, practices and tools in PR …”
Sample article – “Earned Media is more essential than ever in today’s modern communications model.”
Fun feature – “Winning PR” column with self-reported success stories from agencies about how they promoted their clients that’s timely and full of practical advice.
Style: Colorful and very professional, the Cision blog is well organized with best practices, media updates, trends, news, influencers and other PR essentials. One of my Top Three Favorites.
Boilerplate: “Keep up with industry news and trends on Cision Blog.”
Sample article – “5 Ways to Tell a Brand Story with Instagram.”
Fun feature – “Top Lists” such as “Top 10 Staffers at InformationWeek.”
Style: Very important for those interested in the news and views from the big agencies, the site is very corporate.
Boilerplate: ”Charting the Future of Public Relations.”
Sample article – “Are In-House PR Leaders Using Twitter Enough?”
Fun feature – The Influence 100 of 2015, The 100 senior corporate communicators proﬁled in this book are senior counselors to some of the most powerful CEOs in the world.”
Style: This is all about the writing and the metrics, which is a good thing. Straight to the point with technical metrics that can be valuable.
Boilerplate: “Get the buzz on measurement and analysis through our leading PR blog.”
Sample article – “The PR and Social Media Cheat Sheet #195.”
Fun feature – None.
Style: Hip and trendy, this blog is where the cool kids go. Clean designs and full of case studies, lots of insight (webinars, e-books, reports) and well-written blog articles. One of my Top Three Favorites.
Boilerplate: “We believe that business strategy will be increasingly shaped by insights from the growing world of online data that lies outside of internal reporting systems.”
Sample article – “Back to Basics – 6 Social Media Mistakes Everyone is Making.”
Fun feature – Hit “insights” and click on any of the “Media Intelligence” or “Savvy …” articles and white papers for timely info.
Muck Rack Daily
Professional, accessible, easily scrollable, MRD combines news, insights, trends and job pitches as well as any site in covering the media and PR. One of my Top Three Favorites
Boilerplate: “A digest of journalism on Twitter, written by journalists, delivered to your inbox daily.”
Sample article – “News About the News” which delves into stories and commentary about the media such as Gawker’s decision to pull a controversial story and the t resignations of two editors.
Fun feature – #MuckedUp Posts, covering new and relevant issues while illuminating how media outlets are covering it.
Style: An easy-to-read, smartly written blog on reporters that can help any PR pro learn something important before pitching their favorite journalist.
Boilerplate: “Home of the world’s most influential journalists. When you must know what is NOT in their official bios – get their NewsBios.”
Sample article – “The Inside Scoop on the ALS Ice Bucket Challange and What PR People Can Learn from It.”
Fun feature – “Do You Know Me?” Some of the best tales in the news business never get told, because they are about the journalists themselves.
Style: Straightforward, factual, this is the online version of the magazine.
Boilerplate: Inside News of Public Relations and Marketing Communications
Sample article – “PR Trumps Diplomacy for US Companies in Cuba.”
Fun feature – “Top PR Firms” section where you can see the best or largest firms by city, region, and industry.
Ragan’s PR Daily
Very good industry articles, clean modern design, PR case studies and guidelines, Media Relations studies/tricks, and more.
Boilerplate: “PR Daily is a daily news site that delivers news, advice, and opinions on the public relations, marketing, social media, and media worlds.”
Sample article – “Why PR Needs Liberal Arts Majors.”
Fun feature – Online Crisis section with targeted articles on hacking, social media, scandals and other relevant topics.
Punchy writing, hard-hitting topics, not the usual self-serving industry blather.
Boilerplate: Professional Development for PR and Marketing Pros
Sample article – Five Social Media Automation Myths Busted
Fun feature – “Special Author Q&A.”
All these publications offer some great reads. Now if we only had the time to read them all….
By Robert Wynne, Contributor
Everyone wants positive public relations. But not everyone can afford a talented PR firm or consultant. For small businesses or individuals looking to raise their profiles, the choices include:
buying expensive advertisements and hoping someone notices
networking like crazy while trying to meet someone influential, rich or famous
posting their thoughts on Facebook or Twitter TWTR -1.64% all day
using public relations tactics.
The first two choices are great if you are flush with cash and time. Choice #3 is a complete waste of time. The last option is not the easiest choice, but it’s the most effective. When individuals or businesses get recognition from third-party experts in the media, most people find that more credible than ads. Before starting, let us define public relations. It’s the Persuasion Business. You are trying to convince the media, the public, your employees, your vendors or shareholders to change their opinion, reinforce their attitudes, write about or film your client, vote for your issue or candidate, or purchase your service or product.
Here are the attributes of public relations compared to advertising as we discussed in a previous column,
Here are the steps anyone can use to prepare for, and hopefully obtain, positive recognition in the outside world.
1. Get Organized
Before reaching reporters with professional story ideas, be optimistic. Assume they will eventually want more information. Be prepared. Here’s what you need:
Website. The design must be clean (no templates from 2006) and the information must be easy to find. Your website shows what you do and illustrates why you are the best, or the highest value, the most qualified, etc. Don’t make reporters fill out a form to reach you. Direct email, please. You are not the Sultan of Brunei, the next Nicki Minaj or a reality TV star.
Biography. This tells the world what you do, what are your credentials, and why you are an expert.
About Us. This information explains your firm in about 2-3 paragraphs.
Testimonials. It’s always nice to see good clients saying good things about you. A gmail, yahoo or aol email address says “I’m only here temporarily, renting space above a copy shop.” Everyone needs a professional email with the company name, no exceptions.
2. Understand Media
It’s easy to say “I want an article.” That would be like saying you want a house. What city? What size? Budget? When pitching yourself or your firm, you must understand the types of media.
Opinions-Editorials. This is for reinforcing or changing opinions on a political, social or economic subject like the minimum wage, same-sex marriage, a local election or a similar subject. Op-Eds are sent to the editorial department, which is often separate from the news section, so check the right place before sending. Get to the point, make a point, and have a strong opinion.
Breaking News. When a tornado hits, the FIFA scandal gets revealed, a merger gets announced or other stories happen, journalists need experts. This is when you reach a reporter on deadline, usually via email, and give them your expertise. You might get a small quote in a story, which is some benefit. The added benefit is making an important friend.
Trends. This is when you identify a movement or series of events, explain it, then you insert yourself as an expert or leader.
Feature. This is the platinum standard. This is when you pitch a single-source story about YOU. An example from a current client would be “small college attracts Saudi royalty” which ran in a major West Coast newspaper or a two-minute CNBC about a fashion client about the shortage of tailors. For this type of story, you must explain why your story is unusual, newsworthy and impactful. It can’t be “I need the PR or my business will die.” Think of something that will make the journalist say, “Wow, I didn’t know that. Tell me more.”
3. Understand Story
Before contacting reporters, you should know the answer to these questions the media will ask:
What’s the story?
Why should I care?
Why should I care now?
If a reporter tells you she likes your story idea but it’s an “evergreen,” that means there is no time hook. Your story could run the next day, next month, or never. Find an event, trend or statistic that makes you relevant today. And don’t forget “Robert’s Rule” – When in doubt, Go Local. Local papers, magazines, radio and TV stations are in business to serve local interests. If you are a Local story, say it loud and say it proud.
4. Meet reporters
One reason clients hire PR firms is because we know hundreds of reporters. I won’t lie, that’s a huge advantage. But if you don’t have the budget to hire a PR firm and have some time and energy, you can meet some key reporters. Follow them on Twitter and comment on their stories when appropriate. Send them emails with positive encouragement. Reporters get plenty of “Hey Dummy, I hated your story why didn’t you ask my opinion” emails and you can distinguish yourself by being positive. Once a dialogue is established, you can also be helpful by suggesting new story angles and offering yourself as an expert.
Attend local Public Relations Society of America PRSA, Toastmasters, Rotary Club, Kiwanis Club or any other group meetings in your town where journalists are speaking. Meeting them in person helps them remember you later when you contact them. The PRSA has monthly meetings with journalists you can attend without being a member. Go to their local websites and check the schedule. Another tactic: say hello to reporters at charity events.
5. Social Media
“Be Brief, not Boring” – texts and posts should be interesting, funny and relevant as Greg Galant from MuckRack explained in a previous column. Be newsworthy, write posts on breaking news and send it to the media. Don’t forget hashtags, many journalists search for subjects this way.
Don’t spend much time on Facebook. For PR purposes, it doesn’t help to be seen next to photos of cats and kids. Facebook is one of those, “it can’t hurt, but it probably won’t help” strategies. If something bad happens to yourself or your firm, don’t get angry with negative posts. Respond in a professional, calm manner. If you create video, make it very professional. Otherwise, don’t waste your time. Reporters use high-quality video all the time, especially Mashable, Buzzfeed, Gizmodo and the newer media.
Use Twitter. It’s still the #1 tool for PR. As we discussed in a previous column. For PR professionals and entrepreneurs, there are three main reasons to use Twitter:
Announcements: You want to tell the public something about you, your business or your client such as a new product, an award, an upcoming event, or introduction into a new market; or to keep your audience updated during a crisis or emergency.
Research: Find out what your competitors, clients, friends, media or influencers are tweeting about.
Networking: To meet new influencers, clients, friends, competitors or reporters and follow them and get them to follow you.
Public Relations isn’t easy. But if you follow some of these rules, break some others, and persevere while being helpful to reporters, you can raise your profile and make influential friends in the media and beyond.
By Robert Wynne, Contributor
Communications pros looking to promote their businesses, colleges or firms can utilize many strategies. Public relations is the most powerful and cost effective strategy because your ideas, firm, message or executive has been vetted by a third party and promoted, in theory, without a filter.
PR is third-party validation you cannot buy with any other form of communication. But PR doesn’t work for every CEO, product, university or law firm. Advertising, social media promotions and marketing, when done correctly, can be worth every dollar, and then some. But if you really want to make a dent in your checkbook, try “branding.” It’s just as effective as collecting a million dollars in tens, twenties and hundreds, placing them in a barrel, pouring lighter fluid on the cash, then lighting it on fire.
Geoffrey James from Inc. magazine offers a beautiful explanation of brands and branding. ”It’s a myth that having lots of brands and plenty of branding is good for business,” James says. “After a certain point, both brands and branding cease to be useful–and, in fact, can be positively toxic … A brand is the set of emotions that people associate with a corporate name or a product name. Brand is almost entirely the result of the customers’ experience with a product or series of products … Branding, by contrast, consists of marketing products and activities that attempt to create, reinforce, or change those emotions. These include new product names, logo designs, tag lines, brand-oriented advertising (as opposed to product ads), brand placement (like naming a stadium), and so forth.”
Some expensive initiatives make sense for multi-billion dollar conglomerates, companies looking to change product offerings or those in need of a new identity due to a crisis. But for most small businesses, colleges, academic departments, law firms or similar groups, it’s a huge waste of money.
Most “branding campaigns” consist of the following:
big presentation from a slick firm with video, music, flashing lights and smiling peppy salesmen
samples of old logos / websites / stationery for the Before photos
new branded materials for the After photos
“results” such as new customers, applications, partnerships
Here’s the process after the first meeting after a firm deposits the big check:
more meetings to discuss the “brand,” feelings about the brand, the aura of the brand, etc.
listening to cliches like “what are your customers really saying about you?”
looking at new color palettes – “what does that shade of blue say about you?”
looking at new websites and color schemes
Here’s what happens next:
lots of meetings where everyone votes on the color palette and logo
more meetings looking at websites
CEO, President or Dean listens to everyone, then chooses the logo and color scheme he or she likes best
Everyone agrees with the decision and goes back to their cubicles.
Here’s what you get:
New color scheme
Same old problems
I work mostly with universities, but also with law firms, small businesses, medium-sized firms and the occasional fashion or sports group. I cannot name a single new application, new customer, major donation or new client that happened as a direct result of a branding campaign. Not one. But I can recall, several times, being brought into meetings as the PR pro, both internally and externally, and being told, “We spent all this money and didn’t get a dam thing out of this! It’s up to you to get us some publicity.”
But I understand why people do it. Public relations can be messy. It can be complicated. Reporters are not stenographers, and the story, even when it’s extremely positive, will rarely turn out exactly the way the staff and management envision it. Branding campaigns, like advertising, allow groups to produce something and see exactly how it’s going to look on the web, on TV or a park bench.
John Crowe, a consultant for philanthropy and my former boss at USC’s Marshall School, has worked with dozens of universities, hospitals and nonprofits and witnessed many discussions on expensive branding.
Crowe always asks, “Why do you want a new look? A break from the past? Usually it’s a new university administrator, a new CEO, or some other leader who seeks to make his/her mark, But if the brand is “ a promise,” what is the new promise? New, bold branding is a break with the past — alumni, staff, students, customers, etc. The smart places will update their brand, but not make a radical change for fear of losing their following. For most of the time, there is not good reason to make such a bold change.”
Crowe advises groups to be wise with their funds. “Instead of branding, spend the money communicating. to stakeholders or constituents on the quality of the institution. And find new supporters along the way. People want quality, be they alumni , staff and faculty, parents, students and future students. Break down these groups and use the time and money to update them and empower them to carry the message. Whether raising donations, findings new students or keep alumni engaged.”
Social media marketing guru and fellow Forbes contributor Neal Rodriguez believes in branding, but not the typical, old-school expensive consultant-driven model. “Logos and color schemes simply comprise some of the superficial appearances of a branding campaign (it’s just your suit and tie),” said Rodriguez. “Your branding practices should aim to engage your target community in a way that positions your organization as a unique solution to your customer’s problems. Craigslist has one the simplest logo and colored websites on the planet, and it’s a multi-million dollar powerhouse.”
Public relations is usually more powerful and cost effective than branding, but it involves more work. Most groups would be better off paying a good PR firm $10,000 than tossing $1 million into an expensive branding campaign. Those who cannot deal with the risk of PR are probably better off with branding, but they should temper their expectations. Something shiny and new will emerge, but will anyone care?
By Robert Wynne, Contributor
Everyone knows the Internet has transformed the media. It altered the news delivery system, zapped our eyeballs with blinking lights and radiation, and ushered audiences from print to online to social media on the way to mobile. Without the Internet, we wouldn’t know the real-time movements of D-list reality stars (thanks a lot, TMZ) or see the opinions of our many friends, enemies and strangers via tweets, message boards, vines and posts.
Even prestigious, intelligent media like Forbes, the New Yorker, Popular Science, National Geographic and others with content written by professionals and edited by trained journalists have been altered forever. The 24-7 competitive media means the news is often faster, but not fact-checked nearly as much. Opinions and comments appear much more frequently and instantaneously.
Public relations, the art of influencing the masses through the media or communicating to internal or external audiences, had to evolve merely to survive. The big disruption has already taken place. These revolutions have been explained quite well by dozens of books and thousands of magazine articles online, and some in large type books for older folks. These are the five ways the Internet has changed public relations.
1. Conversations. The old top-down model, where publicists had to reach reporters to create a story in the media still exists, but it’s not exclusive. In theory, anyone can bypass journalists to address an audience. Posts from Leveon Bell of the Pittsburgh Steelers or actor Gwyneth Paltrow don’t need a megaphone. But since anyone can post and everyone does, most social media is useless. When stories do reach the mainstream press, social media serves as a great amplifier as many people share news and add comments.
2. Crisis Media. Now it’s online, faster, often more powerful — for good and bad — depending on your perspective. For product recalls or dangerous products, social media allows audiences to organize without filters. For the PR staff of Bill Cosby, the viral video of Hannibal Buress created waves of bad news that washed out Cosby’s reputation. PR pros must monitor social media platforms and respond to crises in seconds or minutes rather than hours.
3. Reaching and researching journalists. This is a real benefit to publicists, communications professionals and the general public. (Not so much for reporters.) It is much easier to find reporters, producers and editors via their own websites, search engines and paid services like Vocus VOCS +%, Cision, Meltwater and others.
4. More exciting press releases. In the Digital Age, text only press releases and pitches can still score if the copy is very well-written and relevant. Investors reading the latest financials, or employees learning about internal company news, need more steak than sizzle. However, in a crowded marketplace with less journalists and more publicists, often good video, photos and graphics enhance the pitch.
5. Easier Content Creation. The old Michelin genius idea to create a restaurant guide (content marketing) is much easier now on the web. Some digital “news” websites are fantastic and will enhance the brand, but many are written by committee and are boring, self-serving and lazy. Even with these seismic changes, technology can be overrated. If you are the only publicist or corporation on Twitter, Google or Instagram or Vine, that’s an insurmountably huge advantage. Congratulations Mr. Gates-Apple-Buffet-Branson, you win! But if everyone has the same tools, it’s a level playing field. That’s why books on “New” models of PR and marketing can be obsolete before they are printed. It’s not just the medium – it’s the message.
Unless you have “old school” talents like writing, charm, great contacts and/or incredibly interesting clients, tweeting from your Apple iPhone 6 while sipping lattes in Brooklyn to your buddies in Austin and West Hollywood while sending Instagrams and Vines are as substantial as the cinnamon spice floating on the soy foam.
Here are Five Ways the Internet Has Not Changed Public Relations.
1. You still need a Story. Cute cat videos and trendy porkpie hats are fabulous for getting attention. Post that stuff and you will get tons of likes but you won’t convince anyone about anything. Good publicists do two things extremely well – sift through all the story possibilities like a miner finding the platinum vein; then communicating the value of the gem in as few words as possible to the right audience.
2. You must be able to write. There are millions of blogs. If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it still make a sound? If you write a blog in the wilderness and no one reads it, does it make an impact? Badly written blogs and posts are as common as reality-TV stars, and just as worthless. Have a point. Get to the point.
3. You need contacts. Forget Twitter followers and FB friends. You need Influencers. Nine out of 10 times, that means reporters. Brad Pitt or Sheryl Sandberg isn’t wearing your clients’ jeans or sunglasses or representing your charity and taking photos with your client because you met them at a party and had a “good vibe.” Sometimes, a great story or great writing (see above) can net you a fantastic article in the media. But it never hurts to meet reporters in person at networking events. If a journalist gets 100-300 emails per day, what’s going to make her open yours?.
4. You still need a good client or cause. Every PR firm or internal PR professional loves their clients. Our clients are the best of the best, of course. But sometimes, a client may not have a compelling story or may be on the defensive, which makes your job much more difficult. (But that’s why crisis PR pays so well.)
5. People skills. Enthusiasm, kindness, respect, and knowing how to pitch and respond in a professional manner will never go out of style.
Here’s some breaking news. It’s time to think outside the box as we cross platform some thought leadership as we workshop our emotional intelligence into a next-generation digital strategy. Confused? You should be. These are some of the baloney B.S. terms pushed around by public relations professionals who like to seem well-informed.
For example, last year I went to a Public Relations Society of America luncheon at Dodger Stadium to network with my peers. “So what do you do, leverage platforms to engage in thought leadership with add-val?” I politely nodded and made my way to the buffet line for seconds. Here are just a few of the many useless terms in public relations that really don’t mean anything.
1. THOUGHT LEADERSHIP. Here’s a definition from one website: “Thought leadership definition tells us that the way of setting trends and bringing changes in a specific sector or industry through perception management of all key players is called thought leadership. It is usually not an individual but a group of think tank or creative people who through publications and media influence the norms and patterns of an industry or group”
Or how about this one: “It can be directed up as well as down or sideways, has nothing to do with position or managing people, is the basis of innovative change and is egalitarian because it can shift rapidly from one person to another.” In other words, “Let’s pontificate on nebulous concepts on company time for pie-in-the-sky strategies that will make a cool PowerPoint.”
2. DIGITAL STRATEGY – This is supposed to refer to PR tactics for the Internet – email, social media, texting, etc. But let’s say you are pitching Forbes, or the Wall Street Journal or even the “Kelly & Michael Show.” Most of the time, PR pitches start with email, that’s digital. And Forbes, formerly a print only publication, has been online for several years with a healthy audience. It may be more accurate to divide strategies into traditional and social media, as the rules for engaging audiences onTwitter TWTR +2.35%, Instagram and Facebook are different than via personal emails for pitches, mass emails for press releases, and the like. Digital Strategy as a stand-alone concept has no value — it’s all digital now.
3. STRATEGIC P.R. – This is a pompous concept that assumes the speaker has the Magic Tools to craftily reach the only audience that matters while avoiding all the others, saving you hundreds of hours of time and millions of dollars in wasted efforts. These crafty P.R. pros like to position themselves as highly-trained brain surgeons using sophisticated laser beams inside their state-of-the-art operating rooms. Strategic P.R. also assumes you have no common sense, like you are a fashion designer who wants to pitch Rock World Weekly at the national geological association annual meeting. When a PR firm offers you Strategic PR, ask them, “as opposed to what, non-strategic?”
4. THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX – If anyone offers this tired cliché as a description of their services, think outside this person and box up their firm up for shipping to Hackville.
5. WOW FACTOR – Really? Unless Kate Upton, Ryan Gosling or trained pandas are personally delivering your press release or pitch, most reporters won’t exclaim “Wow!” about your new hire, brand of sea salt caramel frozen yogurt, office chair, phone app or radial tire.
6. EXCLUSIVE! –In the 24-hour internet news cycle where competitors can instantly like to other sites, nothing stays exclusive for long. PR pros should also be wary of this as some reporters agree to run an exclusive then starts working on something else and holds your story. Now you’ve put all your eggs in one basket and come up empty. And here’s one I received for a Forbes column: “How would you like an exclusive interview with my boss on his many years in PR and his thoughts about mentoring young publicists?” Hard to resist.
Here are some more terms courtesy of Ayelet Noff, founder of the award-winning PR company, Blonde 2.0.
7. GROWTH HACKING. According to Wikipedia this is supposed to mean: a marketing technique developed by technology startups which uses creativity, analytical thinking and social metrics to sell products and gain exposure. Why it’s B.S. First of all, no one even knows what growth hacking means. It sounds like just another “hipstery” like ‘content ninja’ or ‘creative catalyst’. The truth is this is just a fancy way of saying you use new technology and an effective social media strategy. Hacking implies that you are somehow breaking into the system to achieve results that are otherwise impossible. It ignores the fact that no matter how brilliant a marketing strategy is, it can never make up for a product that delivers a bad experience.
8. FIRST-EVER. This is a term used to imply that something has never been done before. Why it’s B.S. This term is thrown around all too frequently without sufficient research to determine if it’s true. Usually it’s not.
There’s an old saying: ”Advertising is what you pay for, publicity is what you pray for.”
This is a great ice breaker for entrepreneurs and PR practitioners who need to explain public relations. It’s also a good starting point for the general public. While there are dozens of good articles on this topic most people – even professionals who should know better- still don’t know the difference between advertising and public relations.
As a marketing employee of an Asian-based sporting goods company recently wrote me, “We don’t need public relations right now, we are happy with our advertising agency in San Francisco.”
Advertising is paid media, public relations is earned media. This means you convince reporters or editors to write a positive story about you or your client, your candidate, brand or issue. It appears in the editorial section of the magazine, newspaper, TV station or website, rather than the “paid media” section where advertising messages appear. So your story has more credibility because it was independently verified by a trusted third party, rather than purchased.
“The idea is the believibility of an article versus an advertisement, says Michael Levine, a well- known publicist and author of the book, Guerilla P.R. “Depending on how you measure and monitor, an article it is between 10 times and 100 times more valuable than an advertisement.”
A recent study from 2014 by Nielsen commissioned by inPowered on the role of content in the consumer decision-making process concluded that PR is almost 90% more effective than advertising: “On average, expert content lifted familiarity 88 percent more than branded content…” but I think that’s low. With advertising, you tell people how great you are. With publicity, others sing your praises. Which do you think is more effective? Here’s a summary of the differences:
Most social media is a waste of time. It’s a great place to post photos of your cat, announce your opinion on politics or music, exercise your thumbs by clicking “Like” and “Follow,” and other harmless endeavors. Less nutritious than cotton candy and more repetitive than Candy Crush, social media can vacuum hours, if not days, out of your work week. But somewhere in the vast wasteland, after the nonsense ends and common sense begins, PR professionals and entrepreneurs can find useful tools for harnessing the web for good, not evil.
To discover these useful tools and more importantly, how to utilize them, I interviewed experts around the world and searched the web to find Six Winning Social Media Strategies for Public Relations. Why six instead of five? First rule of PR: always under-promise and over-deliver.
Rule One: Be Brief. Don’t be Boring. Greg Galant, the CEO of the websiteMuckrack that connects PR practitioners to journalists via free and paid resources, champions exciting and meaningful posts. “Boring doesn’t work on social media,” Galant says. “The last thing you want to do is simply take a press release and post it to a social network. It’s much better to tailor your announcement in a human way for each social network your audience will care about. On Twitter, come up with an exciting way to say your announcement in 107 characters, remember you’ll need to save 23 characters for your link. Find a great image related to your announcement to include on your posts in Instagram and Pinterest. Make a 6 second video about you announcement for Vine. Even on social networks where you can posts a lot of text, like Facebook and Tumblr, don’t post a press release. Rewrite it without the jargon, stock quotes and meaningless phrases (e.g. ‘we’re thrilled to announce, ‘best in class’) as though you’re telling a friend why your announcement matters.”
For more rules to punch up your prose, such as imagining your headline as a tweet, see a previous column on how to turbocharge your writing.
Jeet Banerjee, entrepreneur, speaker and author, swears by one service to promote his upcoming speeches. Keeping the info and meaningful is key. “I’ve found the greatest conversions/success through promoting on Instagram,” Banerjee says. “Since speeches are such a visual thing, by posting promo pictures or pictures after my event, I get the highest amount of conversions and responses. I have constantly used Instagram more as a running picture blog to showcase who I am and what exciting things I’m working on next. This is much easier on the eyes and far more appealing to the press.”
Rule Two. Be Newsworthy. Famed author and digital media expert David Meerman Scott (“The New Rules of Marketing & PR”) preaches the practices of speed and relevance. In the old days, pre-social media, when a news story broke, PR pros would send emails, faxes and make phone calls to their lists of reporters and announce their client is available to comment on the story right away. Today, Scott recommends what he calls “newsjacking,” http://www.newsjacking.com/ “the art and science of injecting your ideas into a breaking news story to reach buyers directly and generate tons of media coverage.” As an example, Scott mentions Hillary Clinton who posted a hilarious tweet during the Super Bowl which read, “It’s so much more fun to watch FOX when it’s someone else being blitzed and sacked. “Gotta love the humor and subtle ribbing of going after FOX News, known for its conservative political positions,” Scott said.
Scott recommends these actions: “Blog your take on the news,” “Tweet it using an established hashtag,” “Send a real-time media alert,” “Hold a live or virtual news conference” and “Directly contact a journalist who might be interested.”
Rule Three. Be Helpful. Ayelet Noff, the CEO of digital marketing company Blonde 2.0, makes friends with the media via social networking. Instead of contacting them via Facebook or Twitter with a note, “Have I got a great story for you!” designed to ban your PR efforts to purgatory and your email to the blocked address list, Noff preaches payoffs instead of pestering.
“A great way to get your story covered is to be on the giving end instead of the receiving end with press,” Noff says. “Too often we only try to ‘get a story’ from a reporter, instead of thinking what could be useful/helpful to this writer.” Noff works with a startup helps passengers get compensation from airlines when their flights are delayed or canceled.
“We continuously search for reporters who are going to be at major conferences (CES, SXSW, etc.) and are experiencing flight issues, and tweet them, letting them know about the service and how we can help them get compensated. By doing so, we are not only making the reporters aware of our service, but we also help them out at a time of real need.”
Rule Four. Avoid Facebook. There’s a PR person in Orange County whom I occasionally follow on Facebook. The posts include “I’m at the gym!” and “I’m going on a hike, feel the burn!” along with photos of friends at parties. This person seems to attract a lot of followers, but does it mean anything? Then it hit me. Facebook is a lot like Orange County: shallow, narcissistic, digitally and/or surgically enhanced, but mostly harmless. These posts might drive business for party planning or fashion or cosmetics, but for the rest of us who work in academia, engineering, science, legal or other industries, it’s best to avoid Facebook. Your posts and information should not be in the same newsfeed as wacky animals, political rants and vacation photos of sunburned partiers with bad tattoos. There are some exceptions, including community outreach, building groups and certain brand promotion, but there are more effective tools in the social media arsenal.
“Facebook Groups are an excellent way to manage membership relationships for a group or organization,” says Jeremy Porter. “If you’re just starting a group, or looking for a more cost-effective tool for managing communications to your members, posting an events calendar, or providing additional networking benefits for your members, Facebook Groups is an excellent option – and it falls in the ‘PR’ category.”
“The charge to “get it out on Facebook” isn’t a tactic I’d recommend,” notes Sarah Skerik. “Before one starts communicating via Facebook, it’s important to think first your audience. Chances are pretty good a large chunk of them are on Facebook. But why are they there, and how do they use Facebook? Do they tend to be eager and rampant networkers? Or are they more focused on friends and family? Are they active in groups? Enthusiastic game players? A little research into how your audience will help you develop more messages and strategies.”
The public relations industry is a lot like the American economy. The rich are getting richer, the middle class is shrinking, and the poor must find novel ways of getting by.
Public relations is quickly evolving as the industry barrels down a three-pronged fork in the road with three separate directions: Traditional PR, Advocacy PR and Social Media. To be fair, some big firms perform all three functions but increasingly, the practice of traditional PR has decreased while the big funds are being funneled towards advocacy and much of the daily activity and employment is flowing into social media.
The media business is changing, and so is PR. Fewer consumers are reading newspapers and magazines on paper each year as they consume their news online, sometimes via news websites of the mainstream media or commentary pages and/or blogging sites that didn’t exist until recently. The longtime media has been experienced digitally for a few years now, so books and columns that divide the PR functions into “online” and “offline” PR and marketing are simply out of date. The lines have blurred, all the content found in print is also available digitally. When discussing traditional, advocacy and social media functions, I’m talking about the practices and methods of performing public relations.
In this new media landscape, publicists have had to adjust to reach reporters, producers and bloggers at their new places of business, via their preferred methods of contact or in some cases, bypass the media and publish content on social media or on their own blogs. That’s the WHAT. Here’s the HOW and WHY, and the analysis of what these three paths mean for the industry and the public.
View the full article at Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertwynne/2014/12/09/the-future-of-public-relations-three-forks-in-the-road/
Doing your own public relations probably won’t land you in Forbes. But there are a few tricks.
As a public relations professional, part of my job is to convince business owners that, without my help, their companies will trudge along in anonymity, ceding marketing share to any rival with a fatter marketing budget and valuable relationships with the press.
All of which is true when it comes to sophisticated PR campaigns, such as making a splash with a new product launch or mollifying the masses after a recall or other embarrassing snafu. But if you’re looking to grab ink in local or trade publications, which can still make quite a difference to a small company’s top line, there are some things you can do on your own. Here are five tips for cash-strapped but creative do-it-yourselfers.
Advertising is vapid and press releases ignored. Shindigs work better.
Free beer: It’ll fill a frat party, but how about move your company’s merchandise?
In an age where press releases are seldom read and advertising is ignored (or at least viewed with skepticism), a buzz-building corporate event can be a worthwhile investment–and one that doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.
The best events not only enhance a brand and keep clients happy, they might even attract an ink-stained scribe or two.
You know you need to get the word out about your company. You also know that viral marketing alone won’t cut it. So you piece together a public relations strategy. Maybe you do it in-house, maybe you hire a PR outfit. Whatever road you choose, you want a decent return on that investment.
Advertising agencies claim you get more bang for the buck with them, but numerous studies (and common sense) have shown that articles in major media have more credibility than advertisements. “Buy My Product!” will always be a less convincing approach than getting established reporters or customers to tout a firm’s services in a magazine.
In the Age of Twitter, silence can mean guilt. As America prepares to celebrate the Super Bowl, there are several storylines proving that timely PR responses are critical to responding to crisis and managing reputations.
Most people think of the Super Bowl as a showcase for Advertising. While that’s true during the game, before the players take the field on Sunday, players, teams, leagues and cities will spend all week trying to define their own narratives – and spin.
A celebrity isn’t just a pretty face, a rocket arm or a heavenly voice. As a major country music star once told me: “I’m a corporation.”
Public figures—like small businesses—are living, breathing brands that need a carefully crafted public relations strategy to match. Here are some celebrity PR lessons you can apply right now.
Saving money and grinding the best deal can generate short term gains and long term pain. When businesses and non-profits consider the best mix of public relations and advertising, knowledge of what you get for what you pay can substantially increase your intended results.
My most vivid memory of someone paying for something they didn’t really need came from a financial services client in New Jersey. After requesting a fairly intricate proposal, the Jersey Guy said he found a better deal with another PR firm because they promised him press releases each week during a 6-month contract. “That’s 24 stories, guaranteed!” he boasted.
Here’s the real guarantee – those who don’t understand PR will waste time and money. Does a small firm in New Jersey have 24 different feature story ideas or news hooks? Or will their releases go into the Spam folder faster than you can see “Free Viagra?”
Twitter has passed the test; it’s a tool not a toy. Public relations pros who ignore the tons of LOLs, OMGs and mundane observations of celebrities and narcissists can mine real gold by following and contacting relevant media.
“I often use Twitter to direct mail journalists with story ideas,” says Steven Tally (@sciencewriter) Senior Strategiest for Marketing and Media for STEM at for Purdue University. “I only contact journalists with whom I have at least a Twitter relationship. I can’t say this works better than email, although I have been able to place a few stories this way. For me a bigger use is just to be aware of what journalists are interested in and to get to know them a bit better. For example, do they like to link to humorous articles and have fun?”
A service has emerged to help exploit Twitter’s platform more effectively. Muck Rack is a free platform that lets everyone see what journalists are tweeting. It promises to “watch the news come together in real time” by tracking journalists via Twitter and other social media. One day it could be the Mitt Romney bullying story at the top of the list. The next day it’s the support of gay marriage by President Obama or the death of Disco Queen Donna Summer. The free “Muck Rack Daily” is chock full of goodies from the popularity lists to chats on subjects like “Is Twitter the best platform for journalists to communicate with sources?” and the Most Active List of reporters.
For most people, especially the early adopters with thousands of followers who are tech savvy, the free service is a great tool. For some, the paid service at $99 per month is worth it. The paid feature, which doesn’t require a one-year commitment, provides a search function and the ability to create media lists and alerts. I tested the search function for a somewhat challenging subject, “commercial real estate,” and was impressed by the results, finding tweets that led to recent stories from the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, New YorkTimes, Dow Jones and Commercial Real Estate News. The search yielded more valuable information than Google News.
Laura Fitton, the Inbound Marketing Evangelist at HubSpot, is a paying member. “It lets me add to my Muck Rack media list when I see them tweeting about us” says the lead author of Twitter for Dummies. “If they reciprocate the follow, I ask their permission to email them. That way I’m never mailing cold pitches to journalists.” Fitton, who goes by @pistachio, says, “You can build a relationship organically through Twitter and Muck Rack Pro’s search tool and find what journalists are following your company and your competitors and your beat. Now you can go even deeper (such as) who are all the journalists on Twitter who have tweeted on marketing.”
Greg Galant, Cofounder of Muck Rack says “To a large degree the whole media relations business is that PR people create a massive list of 500 journalists and the same journalists get the same releases each time. So journalists tend to look at that (process) cynically.”
Galant (@Gregory) says his service was formed to use insights and opinions from social media to discover what the media is talking about and help publicists connect to those reporters. Started in 2009, Muck Rack lists more than 6,000 reporters from Twitter, Facebook, Google+,
Digg, Foursquare and others.
There’s a section for journalists to sign up, but not all of them do so. Courtney Boyd Myers, Features Editor of The Next Web, say “I think Muck Rack will be a valuable tool for me but until more PR people use it, it’s not that valuable. The idea is that it should be passive for the journalist. I should just sign up and then tweet about stories I need and then PR people get notified. But I’ve never had a PR person say ‘Oh hey! found out on Muck Rack that you were searching for education startups! Here are 3. (I’m) still waiting for that to happen.”
“The success of Muck Rack depends on the quality of the tweets from the journalists registered in the directory,” says Diane C. McDonald, Executive Director of Marketing and Social Media at Texas A&M University (@DianeCMcDonald.) “As long as the journalists adhere to a professional code of ethics while on social media, then Muck Rack will be a respectable aggregator for PR professionals. While we use a tool to track conversations happening on Twitter about Texas A&M, it is difficult to filter out the sources that are connected to reporting the news in traditional media.”
If you’ve got 10,000 followers on Twitter and a great relationship with the major media, Muck Rack free could be a nice addition to your toolkit. Others may consider the $99 monthly fee worth it to find journalists, see what they care about, and connect with them. Think of it like a powerful fuel additive. It won’t replace the media databases of Cision, Vocus or Meltwater, but it might speed up your PR engine and save you time.
Should You Post Press Releases In Social Media?
Everybody hates writing press releases. They’re usually dull, self-serving, full of insider speak, silly acronyms and when the news is really important, it leaks well in advance of the official document. Reporters hate reading them for the same reasons, and seriously, it’s hard to get excited about a new Vice President of Internal Communications at Burger World or the opening of another Stop-N-Lube in the greater Columbus, Ohio area.
But like annual physicals, new brake pads, and fresh vegetables, press releases are probably necessary. Unlike pitches, which are targeted to specific reporters and particular outlets, releases are mass communication intended for the largest possible audience. The basics were covered in a previous column here
They are often distributed via PR Newswire or Business Wire, companies that specialize in emailing to hundreds if not thousands of reporters along with algorithms that place the releases on sites like Yahoo Finance, important trade publications or other print and online sites. More importantly, these sites know how to code these documents so the information you release ends up search engines. In addition, many small businesses send releases to their own list of reporters, bloggers, friends, family and customers.
To gain additional traction, businesses and social media experts have posted releases on social media websites. Is it proper to announce new products on the same site where moms and dads post photos of the kids sitting on Santa’s lap? Does it turn customers off, or because it’s free and reaches a large audience, is it stupid not to promote yourself on these sites?
Because the game is so new the rules are still being written, I asked a wide range of experts to answer one question – “Should you post your press releases in Social Media?” The responses range from yes to no to maybe to sometimes to possibly, but only in certain situations. The answer depends on who you are and what you’re saying. Let the discussion begin.
Search for “self-help” titles on Amazon.com and you’ll come across 234,000 entries. The more help we seek, the more we seem to get—though much of it isn’t helpful.
Maybe the problem isn’t the message, but the messenger. With all respect to Dr. Laura and Dr. Phil, there are other seasoned experts with wisdom aplenty: those who served time in a cell.
We spoke with seven of them, including actors, sports stars and business owners who endured pain and humiliation in the spotlight. (Many others declined to participate.) Not all are role models by any stretch, but all learned more from their time behind bars than many shrinks and gurus could pass along in three lifetimes. As Greek playwright Aeschylus said: “Wisdom comes alone through suffering.”
Here’s some hard-won and at times hilarious perspective (if not redemption) from some high-profile inmates.
Make Your Bed
Beloved stoner comedian and film star Tommy Chong (of “Up in Smoke” and “Half Baked” fame) drew some surprisingly practical conclusions from his time in the joint.
In 2003 his Chong Glass/Nice Dreams firm—which sold drug paraphernalia, was financed by Chong and run by his son Paris—was snared in a sting operation. Instead of going to trial, Chong took a plea deal where he admitted distributing bongs and water pipes on the Internet. Despite his cooperation, Chong was sentenced to nine months in federal prison.
“The first thing prison does is dehumanize you,” Chong said. “It strips away any kind of identity or station in life. You become a number, you are dressed like everyone else. You lose your identity.”
Chong never finished high school, so he took the time in Taft Correctional Facility to study for his GED exam. (“George W. Bush did more for socialism than anyone in history,” says Chong. “Once you get in a federal prison, it’s mandated you have to go to school, and you get healthcare.”) Chong would fail the exam; algebra stumped him.
Chong, now 73, wrote a book about his experiences, The I Chong: Meditations from the Joint, and a documentary “a/k/a Tommy Chong” got good reviews in 2006. Chong reunited with his former comedy partner Richard “Cheech” Marin in 2008 and the pair still tour, using Chong’s prison experiences as fodder.
Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are great, but the basics of public relations remain. You still need coherent messages, valuable networks and great stories. Here are five must-haves for successful PR.
Write Well. All the tools in the world won’t help if nobody reads your tweets, posts, pitches or press releases. Josh Ochs, a social media guru in Los Angeles, says, “Great messaging is the key to everything on Facebook and twitter. The more time you spend perfecting your messaging in social media, the more you will make friends and make money.” He suggests creating all messaging in a tone that is “light, bright and polite.”
Bonus tip: when pitching a story, aim for the “Wow” factor. I just placed a nice feature about a litigation attorney who represents major banks in class action defense. It was a dull story until I mentioned her hobby, collecting Buddhas from around the world. Stress at work, Zen at home. Think about what makes your story or business unique to others. (Check out my previous story to illustrate good writing, “What High Profile Inmates Learned in Prison.”)
Network. Press the Flesh. Meet customers. Meet media. Meet friends. Check out your competition. No one exemplifies this better than Bob Gold, a public relations pro from Torrance, Calif. He speaks at or attends more than six major shows in his specialty, technology and cable TV, with appearances at the Consumer Electronics Show, Cable and Television Association for Marketing, the National Association of Broadcasters and more. At the Digital Hollywood event in May in Los Angeles, Gold created a super-panel of speakers including someone from Google, and lined up a prestigious moderator’s gig, increasing his profile in front of important business contacts.
Bonus tip: Drive editorial coverage before the events. Gold suggests obtaining the media list in advance and pitching reporters and setting up meetings before the show.
Learn the Tools. Eric Schwartzman, author and social networking expert, follows the latest research and learns quickly. A Gartner Research study found 80% of smart phone users are using purchasing decisions within a 10-20 mile radius of their location. Schwartzman suggests capitalizing on this by telling entpreneurs “You need to register your biz with Google Places, Bing Local, and Yahoo Local and you should also register with paid services like Universal Business Listings and LocalEze.” And don’t forget Yelp! Stay local, stay relevant and keep digitally connected with your market.
Bonus tip: If you’re going to plunge into Twitter and Facebook to reach customers, learn some strategies. Andreas Ramos, Director of Global Consulting at Acxiom, recommends only 2 books: “Social Media Marketing” by Liana Evans and “Inbound Marketing” by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah. “Quick reads, very relevant,” Ramos says.
Make Friends with Media. Always return calls, always help with reporters on deadline, even if you can’t be quoted, consider helping with background or “off-the-record” assistance. My clients who are quick and helpful in this manner always seem to get chosen for “Top 100 Attorneys” or “Best Business Schools” or earn feature stories in the future. Those that don’t help the media usually get left behind.
Pick up the phone. A great way to start a grassroots movement is via phone calls. Don’t assume your clients or the media looks at every email. Do you? Probably not. Josh Ochs provides a good example on how to fill seats for his social media boot camps. “We start with personal phone calls to our best customers and ask them to retweet or post our event on their Facebook wall. We follow up with a quick email to each individual customer with the exact messaging we want them to share. This quickly drives a small movement that is seen by thousands of people at the same time and is extremely effective.”
- “Anticipating, analyzing and interpreting public opinion, attitudes and issues that might impact, for good or ill, the operations and plans of the organization.
- Counseling management at all levels in the organization with regard to policy decisions, courses of action and communication, taking into account their public ramifications and the organization’s social or citizenship responsibilities.
- Researching, conducting and evaluating, on a continuing basis, programs of action and communication to achieve the informed public understanding necessary to the success of an organization’s aims. These may include marketing; financial; fund raising; employee, community or government relations; and other programs.
- Planning and implementing the organization’s efforts to influence or change public policy. Setting objectives, planning, budgeting, recruiting and training staff, developing facilities — in short, managing the resources needed to perform all of the above.”
- Write and distribute press releases
- Speech writing
- Write pitches (less formal than press releases) about a firm and send them directly to journalists
- Create and execute special events designed for public outreach and media relations
- Conduct market research on the firm or the firm’s messaging
- Expansion of business contacts via personal networking or attendance and sponsoring at events
- Copy writing and blogging for the web (internal or external sites)
- Crisis public relations strategies
- Social media promotions and responses to negative opinions online
My last column about the role and duties of public relations agencies generated more response, mostly positive but quite a few negative, than any other posting during the past five years.
The emotions ranged from the euphoric and the grateful – one professional called me from the East Coast minutes after the story appeared to say “Thank you! Now I can explain to my mom what I do for a living!” – to the (negative). One person was upset that I dared to criticize the advertising industry, while others complained that agencies do more than influence the media.
Part of the reason the column went viral is the lack of PR for the PR industry. In general, we don’t do a good job of telling the world what we do. Our industry groups do not promote PR as effectively as other trade associations.
Advertising can be explained relatively simply, it invades all our communications, and if you forget, there’s always “Mad Men.” PR, by its very nature, is more subtle (one reason why it’s more effective.) If someone from the New York Times, CNN, Forbes or a powerful group of influencers on social media advocates your cause or your product, the reporter or expert certainly isn’t going to tweet “I want to thank the PR firm for opening my eyes.”
Many readers wanted more detail on the roles of the PR agency. There were some excellent comments including this one from Davina Brewer, @3hats: “My concern is that (it) is media-centric, heavy on the ‘publicity’ aspect of PR; in today’s landscape, the media isn’t the only reputation gatekeeper. More than ever PR is integrated across many disciplines, often making the most the tools and tactics available to communicate a brand message. There are times a PR program will leverage paid tactics (ads, sponsored FB stories, etc.) alongside of branded, owned and earned media. There are times PR – including agencies – is tasked to handle other key stakeholders like investors and partners more internal to an organization’s goals, to say nothing of employees – often outside of traditional media channels. Only pointing out that yes, this shows SOME of what a PR agency does; but PR is about much more than just ‘editorial coverage.’”
To recap, here were the tactics of public relations agencies that were mentioned:
- Write and distribute press releases
- Speech writing
- Write pitches (less formal than press releases) about a firm and send them directly to journalists
- Create and execute special events designed for public outreach and media relations
- Conduct market research on the firm or the firm’s messaging
- Expansion of business contacts via personal networking or attendance and sponsoring at events
- Copy writing and blogging for the web (internal or external sites)
- Crisis public relations strategies
- Social media promotions and responses to negative opinions online
Yes, PR firms are changing. But for the majority of agencies, and the majority of PR pros, this is how we spend most of our time today: media relations, events, client research and social media. I know it’s popular to think we run digital campaigns across all platforms influencing the world on behalf of our clients on iPads while wearing Google Glasses as we sip organic energy drinks filled with anti-oxidants through a BP -free plastic straw, but that’s not the case.
Many of the writers obviously care about the profession and may be on the cutting edge of the modern PR agency. To reflect the new trends in PR, my next column will concentrate on how PR professionals employ Content Marketing and Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Some more of the kinder comments that took this column to task include:
“Hi Robert, this is a great overview. One thing I would add to the list is working with industry analysts. These analysts, such as Forrester and Gartner in the tech arena, are very important to the PR process. They act as commentators on the market for the media and provide their own commentary via other outlets such as blogs and Twitter. They are also a direct conduit to the customer. There are differences in working with analysts and press so it is important to ensure that the agency selected has experience,” said Suzanne Moran (@SuzanneM).
Marki Conway said, “Great post, Rob. One thing I would add to your list is digital content creation. Not just social media promotions on Facebook and Twitter, but advising and creating videos (with the hope of them going viral), creating digital newsletters, Pinterest campaigns, etc. I work in B2B tech PR and more and more our clients are asking us how we can leverage digital content.”
My colleague Greg Galant, who runs the popular website Muck Rack agrees that the PR industry needs better PR. “Public relations is not taken seriously as a function of business or as a profession. US companies spend $150 billion annually on advertising and only $5 billion on public relations, according to eMarketer and PRSA respectively. Advertising professionals make up to 75% more than their PR counterparts, as calculated from PayScale data. While virtually all MBA programs offer courses in advertising, the Associated Press reported only 20% offer a course in public relations. In popular culture ad execs are immortalized with powerful characters like Mad Men’s Don Draper who positions Kodak’s slide projector for success in part by singlehandedly christening it the “Carousel”, while PR execs are portrayed by characters like Sex and the City’s Samantha Jones who seem to do nothing but throw parties for a living. Yet anyone who pays attention to how decisions are influenced knows that public relations is tremendously important.”
One of the reasons so many TV programs and movies promote the fluff over substance is the entertainment industry is swimming in — you guessed it — entertainment publicists. In addition to pitching E!, Entertainment Tonight and People magazine, many of them really do throw parties for a living. But screenwriters and producers don’t interact with the majority of mainstream PR pros or know much about what we do, so our chances for a TV program are slim.
Too bad Don Draper and Roger Sterling can’t make our case. In the meantime, I’ll be downing martinis, smoking cigarettes and wearing a 60′s style slim cut suit with a skinny tie during the next client meeting. Now, if we could only film that and make it really interesting.
Originally published at: Forbes Magazine (click to view full article)
By Rob Wynne
Partner, Wynne Communications
Remember those commercials for pro basketball a few years ago when smiling, enthusiastic celebrities faced the camera and said, “NBA Action… it’s FAN-tastic!” Chevy Chase did one stating “NBA Action … it’s not bad.”
I feel the same way about Twitter. After reading the hype about the power of posting, keys to building lists, finding unique ways to contact journalists, tools to build Twitter cards, awesome chat groups, quadrupling your followers, posting six-second videos, cool GIFs and other tricks, it seemed Twitter Action would be nothing less than fantastic.
It’s not that as easy as advertised and in many cases, not always successful. Like a marriage or the last season of “Downton Abbey,” Twitter takes a lot of time and effort, and there’s some frustration involved…