Media Contacts

In the Office? Use August to Get These Five Things Done

Media Contacts - Aug 4, 2014

While the most popular month for vacation is July, August is almost as peppered with vacationers. That probably means that you have a lot of colleagues and clients who are using up their vacation days this month. Take advantage of this quiet(er) period to catch up on the first half of the year and get ahead of the second by doing these things:

Think about the holidays

Perhaps the last thing you want to think about in the steamy summer is the prospect of another polar vortex, but now is prime time to get your product into the pages of magazine holiday gift guides. Late summer is also excellent for developing public relations and marketing strategies for products that receive a big boost during the holidays, like books, sweets, travel, and anything that’s gift-worthy.

Even if it’s not quite time to pitch television shows, newspapers, or blogs about the holidays, use August to form new connections or nurture existing ones with contacts at media outlets you want to work with. Examine potential holiday trends and work out your strategy now so you’re ahead of the game when the season arrives in full swing.

Prepare for all the upcoming industry events

September through October are busy months for public relations and media relations industry events; in addition to the PRSA International Conference in mid-October, PRWeek’s Good Business, Better Business Conference is coming up in mid-September, as is Content Marketing World Conference; there are lots of digital marketing and social media summits in September, October, and November; the Global PR Summit in late October; and PRNews’s Social Media Measurement Conference in early October.

While these may seem like a long way off, it’s only about two months, so use this month to prioritize which events you want to attend by determining what your learning goals are. Getting a head start will also help you draw up a budget for the events and anyone else attending and get approval for that travel budget. Plus, registering early can help save on costs.

Make time for your intern

It’s nearly back to school season, and if you’ve been working with interns on even an intermittent basis, catch them before they head back to the classroom. There are a few reasons to connect more deeply with them now: they may be mentally checking out, there may be more they want to learn, they may have a lot of questions or just want some feedback.

Make sure your investment in hiring, training, and working with an intern pays off for both of you by ensuring they learn all they can. Don’t forget that interns make for an excellent pool of potential future recruits, and that they might have some interesting insights into a lot of the work your organization does.

Revisit your measurement and social media standards and procedures

Use whatever down time you have to do some constructive retooling or critical thinking about your organization’s measurement procedures and/or social media standards. Since the world of measurement changes yearly, examine what you’re measuring and evaluate whether you’re getting the information you need. There are lots of new resources to use to up your measurement game, so seize the opportunity to improve while you have the time.

Take a vacation

You’re probably tired hearing this from us, but take a vacation. Just a day or two off will do. Since August tends to be a quiet month in a lot of sectors, you’ll miss less if you’re out. Plus, taking time off from work and the digital world is really good for you.

Categories: Media Contacts

How to Give a Meaningful Brand Apology

Media Contacts - Jul 31, 2014

flickr user butupa under CC BY license

Apologies from brands and public figures are a thing now. Many have become so ubiquitous and trite that New York Times blog Dealbook even had an apology watch going on for a few months because the glut of apologies has such a hollow ring.

As most public relations and media relations professionals know, all apologies are not created equal; some are heartfelt and helpful, others lack effectiveness. Apologies – good ones – can be effective acknowledgements and the first step back into rebuilding what was lost of your brand. But a good apology is a fine line; apologizing repeatedly for minor things may seem meaningless and overdone, while an apology for something major (like a massive vehicle recall) can seem like it’s not enough if it doesn’t come with sincere regret and an action plan.

Tread carefully with social media apologies

Sometimes, you just have to apologize on social media, especially if the incident for which you’re apologizing happened on social media. But when it comes to customer service complaints on social media, don’t default to an apology, since a high percentage of tweets that are apologies can exacerbate the problem by sounding empty and unhelpful.

There are other ways to empathize and make it right. Did a customer lose his luggage on your airline? Instead of responding with, “We’re sorry,” try for “We don’t like when that happens, we’ll look into it immediately and respond ASAP.” The promise of action – not remorse – is more likely to make someone feel better and encourage confidence.

If you must apologize, do it well

Boilerplate apologies just don’t cut it, so if you decide an apology is called for, do it right. Your brand’s apology should communicate the three R’s:

  • Regret: acknowledge your regret that you caused harm or inconvenience. Tap into your empathy for the person or people to whom you’re apologizing; feeling empathy will make you more sincere.
  • Responsibility: your brand needs to take responsibility for its actions without blaming someone else or making excuses.
  • Remedy: arguably the most important aspect for brands, because when things go really wrong, people want to know that something will be done to make it right, whether it’s restitution, investigation, or expedited action.

It should be hard

If your brand is having trouble finding the words to apologize, or feels like it’s too hard to deliver the apology, that probably means it the right thing to do. Like other things in life, doing the right thing means sometimes choosing the hardest option.

Categories: Media Contacts

Mia Moo Fund: A Media Relations Dynasty

Media Contacts - Jul 28, 2014

L to R: U.S. Rep Trent Franks, Mia Robertson, Reed Robertson, Missy Robertson, Jase Robertson. Photo by Johna Burke

A couple of weeks ago I attended the press conference and media event with U.S. Rep Trent Franks and Mia Roberts and her parents (part of the Duck Dynasty family) for the Mia Moo Fund. My niece, who also attended, was born with a cleft lip and palate, so the Robertsons’ admirable charity and the congressman’s invitation for Mia to speak was particularly meaningful. Amidst all of the Duck Dynasty fanfare I was most impressed by the master spokespeople, Mia’s parents, Missy and Jase Robertson.

The Scene: Your beloved daughter was born with a cleft palate and wants to help other kids with the condition, so you help her start a foundation. A congressman born with the same condition helps raise awareness of the condition’s struggles and provides leadership support to the many children affected. Your daughter writes a speech for the event and you take your family to Washington, D.C. The media interviews begin and you are asked about abstinence before marriage and your family patriarch’s controversial remarks. This IS media relations.

Rosie Fox (front), U.S. Rep Franks, and the Robertson family. Photo by Johna Burke

While it’s always imperative to prep answers to easy questions before a media interview, this event reminded me about the importance and potential perils in lack of preparation on the really tough questions. Mia, Missy and Jase all have strong conviction for their subject matter and their passion resonates in every syllable. That kind of conviction isn’t as easy for the average spokesperson, so in lieu of family conviction and faith, make sure your spokesperson is mindful of these quick tips:

Relevant news topics: If anything is trending in the news even tangentially related to your industry make sure to address the affects to your organization’s mission.

Key messages: All messaging related to the topic and also key messages as they relate to other potential topics that could arise during an interview. Always have strong sound bites.

Importance of rapport: Being relaxed is the goal, but looking relaxed is essential. Body language on camera can indicate when a spokesperson isn’t prepared. While you can’t avoid the tough questions your spokesperson’s ability to build rapport will translate into a more confidence which translates to their ability to control the interview.

A stand-out moment from the interviews was when Mia was asked “What is the coolest part of having a new lip or new palate for you?” Eleven year old Mia responded “I don’t know” and the reporter followed up with “So, no comment. But you’re much happier now.”

No, she didn’t say “no comment,” she answered a bad question honestly. Based on her initial interviews I have no doubt Mia will be bridging and saving reporters from their own bad questions in no time.

The Mia Moo Fund tagline is “Every kid deserves a smile,” and this event gave a proud aunt and PR person a lot of reasons to smile too. Thank you.

Categories: Media Contacts

Mia Moo Fund: A Media Relations Dynasty

Media Contacts - Jul 28, 2014

L to R: U.S. Rep Trent Franks, Mia Robertson, Reed Robertson, Missy Robertson, Jase Robertson. Photo by Johna Burke

A couple of weeks ago I attended the press conference and media event with U.S. Rep Trent Franks and Mia Robertson and her parents (part of the Duck Dynasty family) for the Mia Moo Fund. My niece, who also attended, was born with a cleft lip and palate, so the Robertsons’ admirable charity and the congressman’s invitation for Mia to speak was particularly meaningful. Amidst all of the Duck Dynasty fanfare I was most impressed by the master spokespeople, Mia’s parents, Missy and Jase Robertson.

The Scene: Your beloved daughter was born with a cleft palate and wants to help other kids with the condition, so you help her start a foundation. A congressman born with the same condition helps raise awareness of the condition’s struggles and provides leadership support to the many children affected. Your daughter writes a speech for the event and you take your family to Washington, D.C. The media interviews begin and you are asked about abstinence before marriage and your family patriarch’s controversial remarks. This IS media relations.

Rosie Fox (front), U.S. Rep Franks, and the Robertson family. Photo by Johna Burke

While it’s always imperative to prep answers to easy questions before a media interview, this event reminded me about the importance and potential perils in lack of preparation on the really tough questions. Mia, Missy and Jase all have strong conviction for their subject matter and their passion resonates in every syllable. That kind of conviction isn’t as easy for the average spokesperson, so in lieu of family conviction and faith, make sure your spokesperson is mindful of these quick tips:

Relevant news topics: If anything is trending in the news even tangentially related to your industry make sure to address the affects to your organization’s mission.

Key messages: All messaging related to the topic and also key messages as they relate to other potential topics that could arise during an interview. Always have strong sound bites.

Importance of rapport: Being relaxed is the goal, but looking relaxed is essential. Body language on camera can indicate when a spokesperson isn’t prepared. While you can’t avoid the tough questions your spokesperson’s ability to build rapport will translate into a more confidence which translates to their ability to control the interview.

A stand-out moment from the interviews was when Mia was asked “What is the coolest part of having a new lip or new palate for you?” Eleven year old Mia responded “I don’t know” and the reporter followed up with “So, no comment. But you’re much happier now.”

No, she didn’t say “no comment,” she answered a bad question honestly. Based on her initial interviews I have no doubt Mia will be bridging and saving reporters from their own bad questions in no time.

The Mia Moo Fund tagline is “Every kid deserves a smile,” and this event gave a proud aunt and PR person a lot of reasons to smile too. Thank you.

Categories: Media Contacts

Branding and Marketing Lessons From Publishing a Book

Media Contacts - Jul 7, 2014

Image posted with permission from Lauren Skidmore

by Lauren Skidmore*

You’ve written a book. Great! But that’s only the start of publishing. Even if you do public relations or marketing as a day job, marketing your own debut book can feel like shouting into a void, especially when you don’t have a built-in audience from a large publisher to do half of the work for you. My debut novel was released a month ago, but the work that went into marketing it began long before that. Here are three quick tips on how to jump start getting that book into the hands of readers.

Create an Online Presence

People need to be able to find you. The general recommendations are to pick two or three social media platforms to do, and then do them well. An author website is a must, even if it’s just a simple landing page – you can always expand it later, and you’ll be glad when you’ve claimed your domain name early.

Facebook and Twitter are also strongly recommended, but it also depends on which platforms your target demographic use. With a young adult fantasy novel, I split most of my time between Twitter and Tumblr because that’s where many of my readers are (and it’s where I have the most fun). I also use a Facebook page and my blog for big announcements so readers can always quickly find out what’s new with me.

Build an Audience

When I pitched my novel to potential publishers, one of the things they wanted to know was how many followers I already had online. As a hobby, I had a Tumblr with over 4,000 followers at the time – that’s 4,000 potential readers right there! Publishers don’t like to take risks, and if they see you already have thousands of potential buyers, that’s one more mark in your favor. Again, pick the place that works best for you. It doesn’t really matter whether you do this through blogging, Twitter, or elsewhere, just get that follower count high.

You also want to hold on to your audience, and newsletters are great for that. People can sign up and get updates right in their inboxes. I suggest only sending these newsletters when you have big announcements, such as a book release or promotions, and definitely no more than once a month so you don’t spam your readers. MailChimp and Constant Contact are two popular tools for creating your own newsletters, and if you’re under 2,000 subscribers, MailChimp is free!

Brand Yourself

What will people associate with your name as an author? For non-fiction writers, you should establish yourself as some sort of authority or expert in your field. You can write guest blog posts or maintain your own blog, participate in social media or forum discussions, or whatever you can think of to put your name out there.

For fiction writers, it’s a little different, although doing any of the above certainly won’t hurt. You’ll want to define your genre, as well as what you’re bringing that’s new. For example, my novel was essentially pitched to publishers as a Cinderella retelling in which Cinderella has to rescue the prince.

Genre? Fairy Tale Retelling. What’s different? Role reversal. My target audience knows right away if this was something they’d be interested in, as well as what makes it different from every other retelling.

The good news about doing all this early is that the groundwork will already be done when your release date is here, and you can hit the ground running on your next novel.  Because in the end, the best thing you can do is keep writing and keep releasing new material. Your books will begin to advertise for you as they take up more shelf space and loyal readers return to see what else you have in store.

***

Lauren Skidmore is the Broadcast Keyperson at BurrellesLuce by day and writes by night. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in English Teaching and double minors in Teaching English as a Second Language and Japanese. After graduating, she lived and taught in Japan for a year before returning to the United States where she spends far too much time on computers and the internet. What is Hidden is her first novel.

Categories: Media Contacts

How the World Cup is like Media Relations

Media Contacts - Jun 30, 2014

flickr user warrenskl under CC BY license

Did you have to Google an explanation of how the US Soccer team lost last week and still advanced to the next round of the World Cup? I did. While I was delighted with the result – the home team advancing – it wasn’t initially clear how they had pulled off such a coup. Once I better understood the brackets, that all ”wins” are not created equal, all “goals” weigh very important and that someone else losing helps, it made sense. It’s actually quite similar to the media relations ecosystem and enforces the importance of having qualitative and quantitative elements to any analysis program.

Brackets: Each day there’s a lot of competition for quality editorial real estate. Depending on your industry or vertical market and what’s happening that day, there’s a built in demand for certain types of coverage and dominant ”players” will get a lot of attention. I’m sure we all feel like we are in our own ”Group of Death.”

Win: While you may get some coverage, a true ”win” is subjective. For many organizations certain qualitative elements – i.e. positive tone, appears in a key outlet, features key messages and builds your organization’s reputation – is required for a true win.

Goal: When building your brand, every story is a brick in the foundation. Not only for the obvious SEO, but also for learning and developing messages that support overarching business objectives.

Someone has to lose: No matter how amazing your story, event or issue, a breaking issue will take precedent. When everything goes perfectly and all of your interviews lined up go through without a hitch, it’s a good day, but some days you’re Portugal.

Almost any aspect of business can be placed into these same elements. The real takeaway is to always do your best and play to win. Even in the toughest groups those teams who are conditioned and wholly prepared for the elements along with the slings and arrows of circumstance will prevail. Always keep your eye on the goal and with your best players at peak performance you’ll increase your chances to score.

If you don’t make the goal initially, you’ll ideally develop your strength where needed or identify the weakness that gives you an advantage and succeed the next time. Manage expectations and have contingency plans. One real dire risk of only using quantitative metrics in media analysis is on any given day you could be Portugal (look equal to a former campaign or program) but the overall score does not reflect comparative ”results.”

Disclosure: I write this as a former coach. I coached the Sharks (my brother’s soccer team for five-year-olds) to a winning (6-2) season, so I know a thing or two about the game and what it takes to win.

 

Categories: Media Contacts

Media Contact Lists and the Perils of Reckless Pitching

Media Contacts - Jun 23, 2014

flickr user A DeVigal uner CC BY license

Media contact databases have long been considered a critical tool in the public relations pro’s arsenal. But such contact lists must be used with discretion, careful targeting, and common sense.

The purpose of a media contact list is to provide PR pros with contact information for relevant journalists, not to provide a recipient list for an impersonal press release blast. This may sound like Public Relations 101, but when journalists receive press releases that aren’t relevant to their beat, location, or publication, they get frustrated, and it gradually erodes the quality of relationships between public relations and journalism:

 

On mission to stop receiving stupid press releases that have nothing to do with my work. @BurrellesLuce is main culprit

— Dave Lieber, CSP (@DaveLieber) June 18, 2014

Media lists should be but one small component of our outreach efforts. Especially in 2014, when within minutes we can call up all the articles a journalist has written, take a look at his or her Twitter, and assess whether our information is of interest. Media lists cannot and should not be a substitute for meaningful, personalized connections.

Here are things you must consider for every journalist before sending them a pitch or press release:

  • Does this pitch pertain to their specific geographic area?
  • Does it pertain to the journalist’s specific reporting areas? i.e. an investigative reporter will have no use for the announcement of a new restaurant location opening
  • Does the publication run the types of story you are pitching?
  • Is this really newsworthy? Yes, it’s frustrating when clients demand coverage for something we know isn’t really news, but sending a journalist an irrelevant release just so you can tell the client you sent it will not help your case when you have something of true value in the future

It’s time to stop taking the short view of just sending a press release to say it was sent to X number of people. If it’s not relevant to most of those people, it’s not only the same as not sending it, it’s worse. Think of the long-term implications of repeatedly sending irrelevant press releases: it trains journalists to tune them out. It’s a classic Boy-Who-Cried-Wolf scenario: no one will listen when you finally have something valuable to say.

Though it might not seem like it, journalists and PR pros are fighting the same battle. We’re all fighting to do more work on less time in a saturated medium. So instead of using the challenge as an excuse, use it as a way to better relate to our journalist counterparts. It can only make it better for all of us.

Categories: Media Contacts

When Prepping for a Media Interview, Don’t Forget the Easy Questions

Media Contacts - Jun 5, 2014

When someone well-known puts their foot in their mouth, the media delights but the public relations pro cringes. The reps for Charlize Theron and Gwyneth Paltrow had very good reason to cringe this week when they both made ill-thought-out remarks about the nature of fame.

When SkyNews brought up her Google results, Theron replied, “I don’t [Google myself] – that’s my saving grace. When you start living in that world, and doing that, you start feeling raped.”

A few days prior, remarking on harsh online comments lobbed at her, Paltrow stated that such attention is “a very dehumanizing thing. It’s almost like how, in war, you go through this bloody, dehumanizing thing, and then something is defined out of it. My hope is as we get out of it, we’ll reach the next level of conscience.”

In case you needed us to point it out, fame is not like war or sexual assault. So why did they give these answers to what were certainly not hardball questions? Herein lies a very important public relations reminder: when you prep a client or spokesperson for a media interview, prep them on the hard questions and the easy questions.

No one is too good for prep

No matter how accomplished a person is at being interviewed, they’re never too good for practice. Jim Miller, formerly SVP at Dentsu Communications and current president at Momentum Communications Group, says that “the best value you can provide is to cover the basics: review anticipated questions, reinforce key messages” and get in a practice run. A good rule of thumb is one hour of prep for every minute of air time. If someone is interviewed frequently, prep them regularly to keep them sharp and prevent any lapses.

Consistency and Sincerity

Interviewees who get a lot of coverage are likely to be asked the same questions multiple times, and even if they’ve answered a question countless times, it could be the first time a particular audience hears the answer. In order for the audience to be compelled to care about the interviewee, he must be sincere and relatable. Sound bites, even for the repeat questions, are a great aid for avoiding feigned interest or any perceived defensiveness. Your subject needs to connect to the audience and if they get stumped on the “What are your plans for the holiday?” then the rest falls apart quickly.

Rephrase common questions

When you’re prepping, always reframe the same questions to ensure you don’t fall prey to reiterating a negatively asked question and fumbling your response to fit into how the question was asked. practice tailoring canned responses. For example, “Do you Google yourself?” and “How do you feel when you Google yourself?” or “What’s the most surprising thing you’ve seen when you’ve Googled yourself?” Using the same talking points with different delivery will keep your interviewees thinking.

Keep everyone up-to-date

Your client or spokesperson may be asked to comment on a topic that is related, even if tangentially. Make sure they know how to respond with a key message or are adequately trained to bridge back to the primary topic.

Assess what works, then build

The post-interview debrief is equally as important as the preparation. You can get the best assessment of “what we can do better next time” of “need to hit that issue harder” of “have more resources about X to demonstrate expertise on the matter.”

Storytelling is a very powerful tool in the media relations arsenal; unfortunately, when placed in the wrong hands can be lethal. Work with subjects to make sure the images they conjure are relevant and on target. What other tips do you have for prepping answers to the easy questions?

Categories: Media Contacts

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