Category Archives: Public Relations

Why Businesses Should Include A Public Relations Strategy In Their Plans

Less than one percent of small and medium size businesses have a public relations strategy. The challenge is that many businesses simply do not understand what public relations actually is and what it will do for them in terms of business growth and branding. Many business owners and executives equate public relations component with paid advertising. They do not recognize the difference and value of ongoing media coverage which puts them out as thought leaders in their industry that customers will seek out and which is the best way to enhance a business’ brand.

Small and medium size businesses looking to grow and position themselves as leaders should look to public relations and its value in supporting growth. A modest budget combined with an ongoing program will reap consistent rewards. To educate prospects who are not familiar with public relations, I compare public relations activities to mortgage payments. When you carry a mortgage, you make a monthly payment until you own the home. Public relations activities should build awareness and attract attention over time.  These efforts ultimately enhance a business’s reputation and standing in its market.

One of the biggest things businesses seek to determine is ROI for publicity efforts. Media placements, which include articles, story links and video news coverage, need to be utilized and pushed via social media, sent directly to prospects and integrated into sales packages to reinforce branding and enhance business development. Simply gaining media coverage without reusing it is where many businesses fail.

Many small business owners succumb to “shiny object syndrome.” They hear about new marketing tools, strategies and services, and want them even though they have no idea how these services actually work or if they will work. They gravitate to this while public relations and its tremendous value is not prioritized.

Businesses often fail to see how publicity helps generate interest, support salespeople, enhances SEO, creates high quality social media content and positions experts as leaders.

Finally, businesses need to know that publicity is an insurance policy for protecting their brand and reputation. A crisis situation can happen to any business at and given time. If a business crisis hits the media or online, failure to have the ability to respond or properly react could mean the demise of a business. Having a public relations and crisis communications strategy in place when a crisis hits protects brands, businesses, products and people.

As we head into the fall and many businesses think about their marketing pushes, they should also include public relations in their planning.


What’s Your Soundbite Strategy?

“We don’t have a strategy yet.”  Those six words may define the Obama presidency more than the Affordable Health Care Act, more than the economy or anything else the President has said or may do and say while in office.  That soundbite reinforced and may have cemented the public perception that has formed that his Administration is rudderless and lacks any strategy on a host of problems.  This was also a case study on how a soundbite or in this social media age, a tweet can define a brand, celebrity, CEO, or politician.

Soundbites and phrases defining a public persona or a brand is nothing new.  Often, a catchy phrase or soundbite cements the exalted image the public already has of the person or brand.  Abraham Lincoln is recalled for his “with malice towards none” phrase that reinforces the perception of strength with gentleness.  Franklin Delano Roosevelt is remembered for his “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” that led generations to consider him a fearless peacetime and wartime leader.  John F. Kennedy is fondly memorialized for his “Ich bin ein Berliner” that was a testament of his eloquence and fearlessness during the height of the Cold War.  And Ronald Reagan is immortalized with his “Mr. Gorbachev tear down this wall” that reinforced the image of his strength and the West’s triumph in the Cold War.  Even Donald Trump is forever fondly immortalized for his trademark “You’re fired” from the Apprentice.

Just as phrases can celebrate a person for good, they can cement a negative perception that never goes away.  Richard Nixon during the height of Watergate uttered the infamous “I am not a crook” that put in concrete the image of crookedness and sleaze that many had come to feel about Nixon.  Bill Clinton will always be remembered for his “I did not have sex with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.”  Or on the corporate side, there is Bank of America’s CEO Brian Moynihan defending a $5 fee on debit cards by saying, “we have a right to make a profit” that too many defined all that have come to dislike about the banking industry.

In this age of Twitter, a soundbite takes on an even greater meaning.  Not only can an ill-conceived remark reach the public via the media, it is carried to a larger audience through Twitter and other social media platforms.

Often as in the case of President Obama, comments are made without thinking of the long term consequences that the remark may have.  For brands, celebrities, and CEOs, just as with politicians this is important to remember.  Long after a crisis or event has passed the remark made will still be recalled by the public.  Regardless of years of good service, a poorly chosen remark will be remembered more than anything else.  That is why I always tell clients that words matter and think before saying anything because one remark may define you forever.

How To Tips: Reaching The Media At Trade Shows



Trade shows like Toy Fair and BookExpo are great places to meet buyers and also gain public exposure through media coverage.  News stories that come out of a trade show can make a company’s entire year.  Many smaller sized or new companies put most of their public relations and marketing budget into a major trade show.  Media coverage from a trade show can make or break a company.  For a new company or product, it can put them on the road of success.  Lack of coverage can often mean the end of a start-up company that was banking on media coverage and spent all of their public relations and marketing budget on the tradeshow. 

Here are six tips for trade shows to help you be successful in getting media coverage to make it worthwhile:

  1. Don’t cheap out. You’ve already spent tens of thousands (or millions) on your exhibit. Spend a few extra bucks and bring a public relations professional. Your sales team is there to meet buyers, partners and to sell, not handle media walk-bys, demos, interviews, social media posts and press room activities.
  2. Stick to your schedule. Reporters hate it when you decide to cancel or reschedule an interview at the last minute. They’ve already booked other appointments and you’ll risk losing the story. Don’t throw a hand grenade into a schedule that your PR team has spent weeks finalizing. Having a PR pro on-site will solve the inevitable sales meeting or customer drop-by conflicts that pop up. 
  3. BYO. Don’t rely on the show’s registered media list; qualify and build your own. Show media lists are notoriously out of date and often incomplete because many Tier 1 media simply don’t pre-register. They decide to attend last-minute. Advance media calls, confirmations the week of the show and reconfirmations during the show will ensure you connect with the right reporters. 
  4. Help media cut through the clutter. We’ve landed major national news stories by offering producers and reporters the opportunity to walk the show floor with a client who really ‘gets’ the category and can offer sound data, insights and opinions on what’s hot – and what’s not. Most trade shows are overwhelming, and the 24/7 news cycle makes them even more unmanageable for skinnied up editorial staffs.
  5. Brand the press room. If you’re spending a small fortune on an exhibit, why neglect the place where most media gather even if they skip your booth? There are 1001 smart and not always costly ideas for establishing a branded presence in a press room – from supplying a masseur to massage tired feet to sponsoring coffee breaks, note pads or back packs.
  6. Stock the press room. Don’t count on media to find you. Even if it’s just a humble jump drive, make sure your latest product info is available in the press room. No matter how old-fashioned it sounds – media still congregate in ‘their’ area to talk, post stories and get re-caffeinated, and they will scout out available materials. Even if they missed you on the show floor, there’s a good chance you can get your message in front of them.

Remember just as you plan every detail of your booth at a trade show, so should you plan your media strategy for the show.  Indeed the media coverage may at times be more important than how the booth looked.

PR For Effective Audience Targeting


In public relations, one of the first lessons we learn is that to deliver real results for our clients (and their bottom lines), we need to take ourselves out of the equation. The second lesson is how to convince our clients they have to do the same thing. Why? Because in most cases, neither we nor our client contacts are representative of the audience they need to reach.

It’s a challenging proposition. Business owners are rightfully very passionate about their companies. Having employees who are passionate about what they do and the organization for which they work is one of the greatest strengths they can have. But these same qualities can create a harmful environment when it comes to creating compelling communications and seeing a return from a public relations campaign.  The bottom line is that to be effective we must forget our preferences and think about those we are trying to reach.

 The good news is that effective communicators always keep the target audience at the top of their mind when crafting their work. Here are questions I always ask myself when evaluating whether a pitch, press release, or even a tweet is hitting its mark: 

  1. Who is the target audience?Yes, this seems obvious, but you can’t ask yourself this question enough. As busy as we are and as entrenched as we can get in getting the work done, stepping back from it and reminding ourselves of the real audience we need to reach has to be the first step each and every time. 
  2. Am I talking in language they will easily understand? I don’t mean English, Spanish or Russian. Rather, is there lingo or trade terminology that is more “inside baseball” that only industry insiders will understand rather than it is clear and compelling? There are no extra points for grammatically-complex sentences filled with technical jargon – unless your audience is well-versed in the intricacies of what you do and how you do it. For most businesses and organizations, those details are not germane to the desired action and may in fact cause your audience to tune out. Short, clear, crisp – and commonly-used – language is almost always the best option.  Wordy and technical responses turn off the audience most times and they switch to something else.  Nothing loses an audience than talking in terms they do not understand
  3. Are my personal preferences getting in the way? This is a tough one. As a customer yourself, you want to really like what you’re paying for. That’s understandable. But if you really like green, and you know from research that your audience simply loves orange, then orange is the way to go. The message must appeal to your audience first. You’ll learn to love orange…when it’s helping meet your business goals.
  4. What’s in it for them? People are busy. They are also inundated with marketing messages everywhere they turn. The only way to get their attention is to deliver a message that caters to their needs.

The bottom line is this: effective communications are those that work. To drive sales, change behavior or diffuse a crisis, messages must first reach their target. When we remember to take ourselves out of the equation – and see things from the perspective of our audience – we stand a greater chance of success.

A Public Relations Strategy For Big Food

The folks that brought you the tobacco lawsuits of the 1990s are back and they have found a new industry to target – food makers.  Over the past month publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and others have been reporting on lawsuits against food makers.  Also, we have seen stories pop up in the media alleging deceptive advertising by food makers (the food inside the package is not as tasty looking as the food on the package). Indeed the very lawyers who handled the tobacco lawsuits are behind these lawsuits.  One of the lawyers even admitted that they have been looking for a new industry to target.  This should not come as a surprise.  I remember working in Florida at the time, the late Governor Lawton Chiles had legislation passed to go after the tobacco industry.  The original legislation was worded so that any industry that the State of Florida wanted to go after could be subjected to a lawsuit.  The lawyers were very clear that they had the liquor and food industries in their sites.  The tobacco industry believed in a strategy of litigating until the lawsuits went away.  They were slow to counter the public relations war that was being waged against them.  Food makers would be wise not to repeat this mistake.  What should the food industry do?

First the food companies need to do training on crisis communications.  They need to prepare themselves for the lawsuits that are coming.  Chances are if they haven’t been served yet, they will be.  A crisis communications plan needs to be laid out from whom will be the public face of the company to talking points that will be laid out.  In this day of social media, companies need to include a social media component for their crisis communications plan.

Once the lawsuits are filed and the other side begins their public relations war – be charges of deceptive advertising to a charge that a certain food made someone obese, food companies need to go on a public relations offensive.  Lawyers will advise saying nothing but look at how well that advice played out for the tobacco companies.  They need to point out how they meet every requirement set by the federal government and state governments in the manufacture of their products.  They need to call out the lawsuits as frivolous and bring up the comments made by the lawyers that they are looking for industries to target.  Trial lawyers make great villains especially when they are on record saying they are targeting an industry to make money off of it.  They need to put the plaintiffs and their attorneys on trial in the media.  (Remember the outrage over the lawsuit against McDonalds where the lady spilt her hot coffee and sued not only McDonalds but the cup maker as well because there was no warning that coffee could be hot?) Finally in their rebuttals, they need to point out how these lawsuits are costing consumers because the price for food products are affected by the lawsuits and also outline the products that are being targeted and why consumers will be the losers. 

Next food companies must do an outreach and education program with other industries and companies.  It needs to be pointed out that today it is the food industry, tomorrow it will be another industry unless these lawsuits are stopped.  Bringing other industries and businesses into the battle helps with the public relations war because ultimately every industry from airlines to alcohol to even toy makers can be affected because the lawyers will target one of them next.  Working with other companies will allow for pressure to build on state legislatures and even the federal government in dealing with tort reform.  Short term, working with other industries will create pressure to keep state governments and the federal government from joining the lawsuits as they did the tobacco lawsuits.

In fighting lawsuits, the food industry is facing seasoned pros in both litigation and publicity.  These lawyers defeated the tobacco industry and won the public to their cause through savvy use of the media and publicity.  They are seeking now to do the same to food makers.  Food companies can avoid the fate of tobacco companies by not being caught sleeping and preparing for the upcoming public relations battle now.

The Difference Between Press Releases and Media Pitches

I am often asked how press releases differ from media pitches.  It seems everyone has heard of a press release and believes they need one for their public relations campaign.  But beyond that they are not sure what a press release does and how it differs with a media pitch.

A press release is an announcement of certain news – a product launch, book release, special event, or promotion.  It is written to receive media mention.  The headline needs to be written in a way that commands attention but isn’t seen as a sales gimmick.  The first paragraph of the press release is the most critical.  That paragraph should be the guts of the press release with the who, what, when, where, and why in it.  With cutbacks in the media it is usually the first paragraph that gets picked up if any of the press release is picked up.  After that first paragraph there should be a quote and some follow-up information included, as well as a link to the website from the business, non-profit, or author the press release is coming from.  More and more press releases are being used for a viral affect with social media and free online press websites available to post a press release.

A media pitch is written to get specific media coverage from a reporter.  It is written and geared in a story format.  It is often tied to a news story.  I recommend a two paragraph media pitch.  The first paragraph should list the issue or news story, as well as, critical questions that should be asked or addressed by the reporter.  The second paragraph should include your expertise in being able to address those questions, as well as, how you would answer the questions.  You want the pitch written concisely, with a good soundbite in your answer.  With media cutbacks, reporters and producers love pitches that are written as a news story that they can incorporate into their story and the interview with you.  Media pitches generate the hard media coverage and interviews that brands, authors, and celebrities crave in a public relations campaign.

Why You Should Hire A Public Relations Agency

One of the age old questions about public relations has always been, do I need an outside public relations service provider or can I do it in house or by myself?  This question has never become more meaningful than in this age of Google, the 24/7 news cycle, and social media.  The answer is yes for a variety of reasons.

The first reason that comes to mind is cost in money and time.  In business everything revolves around the bottom line.  In this alone it is smarter to retain a public relations agency.  Public relations is not just press releases, press conferences, and media appearances.  It also includes the social media aspect of maintaining a company’s blog, Twitter and Facebook page.   This would require several salaried people.  In terms of salary alone, you are losing out as with a retainer with a public relations agency you have a team of professionals on your account that handle each aspect of that public relations campaign.  For small and medium sized organizations the savings is even greater.  Not only are you saving money, you are saving time and remember time is money.  There are not enough hours in the day for a small or medium sized business to do everything that needs to be done.  And time away from your core business means lost opportunities.  In retaining a public relations agency, you have their team assigned to your account handling your social media, your media coverage, your branding, and your press releases while you do what you do best – run your business.

Just as you go to a doctor or a lawyer because of their expertise that is yet another reason to hire an outside public relations service provider.  Just as you are the expert in your field, the personnel at a public relations agency are the experts in their field.  They bring their expertise in writing, in social media, media relations, branding, and special events to the plate.  They know public relations.  They know how to position a client for the maximum exposure.  They have the contacts with the media.  They know which reporters will cover which topics and also how to package a story that the media wants.  Many people think of an interview in terms of sales, it isn’t.  If a reporter suspects someone is just trying to sell them something through their story it will never see the light of day.  An experiences public relations expert knows how to package a story so that it is newsworthy to the reporter while still being of marketing benefit to a client.

Public relations agencies know to think of all public relations contingencies including when disaster strikes a client and how to begin planning for any event.  Businesses always have a plan for when a crisis strikes in how to handle things except in the terms of publicity.  Working with an agency means a preliminary crisis communications plan has been developed beforehand that can then be altered to fit the crisis.  Agency personnel have the skills and experience to objectively evaluate your business, clearly assess its strengths and weaknesses, and figure out how to use them in crisis communications.

Public relations agencies are familiar with and use all of the public relations tools available to generate attention for their clients. These tools include pitches, press releases, media kits, media interviews, seminars, webinars, social media, ezines, and more.  Many people don’t know the difference between a media pitch and a press release.   A press release has a definite format and conventional style. It’s written in a journalistic tone and is on specific news be it a new hire, a new product launch, or any specific related news.   A media pitch, on the other hand, has the main objective of catching a reporter’s attention — enough to want to call you for an interview, product demonstration, or whatever call to action you’ve indicated. It has all the most important information, but not all the details. It isn’t a complete story. Rather it’s a teaser for a story.   A public relations agency knows the difference and how to use both to their client’s benefit.  Finally many unless they are with a public relations agency don’t understand the importance of a media kit.  A media kit includes information on a company, product or service, includes FAQ’s, bios of key company personnel, pictures that can be used in news stories, and a sampling of previous media coverage.  It is essential to any public relations campaign.  Unknown to many is the fact that if you don’t have a media kit, most of the major media won’t touch you.  The major media grades potential guests and interviews on a scale of 1 to 10 without a media kit, you don’t get beyond one.  A public relations agency knows how to develop and constantly maintain a media kit.

There are other reasons to work with an outside agency.  By bringing in someone from the outside you are bringing in someone who can be more objective and doesn’t have the emotional commitment and blinders that an owner or company employee has.  A public relations agency tends to be more creative in developing story ideas and teasers to induce the media and can think outside the corporate box.  An agency constantly monitors the news and often sees opportunities that others don’t.  For example our company represented a marriage counselor and when the Eliot Spitzer story broke, went into pitching mode to have our client discuss why powerful men cheat which resulted in coverage on CNN, HLN, and Oprah.  An agency knows how to make use of the news to a client’s benefit.

The answer to whether you need an outside public relations vendor is quite simple.  Yes.  An outside public relations agency saves money and time, they have the expertise, they know how to employ the tools needed for your public relations campaign to succeed and having them do the public relations allows you to do what you do best – your business.

Strategic Public Relations Plans are ESSENTIAL for Businesses

As Warren Buffet once said, “it can take 20 years to build a reputation and only five minutes to ruin it.”  This is a lesson that businesses learn over and over again.

Of course, everyone wants a good reputation. But how do you get one – and more importantly, maintain it? Companies often enlist the help of a public relations firm for a crisis plan or issue management. Others know they need to be ready for a “problem,” but don’t believe it’s “that much of a concern right now.” When companies talk about building their brands, they usually mean “good news marketing,” launching products/programs and supporting sales.  They never think of galvanizing their brand against disaster before a crisis hits home. It’s easy to get complacent. No one ever imagines, “today will be the day that that disaster hits.” When that day arrives, however, the strength of a company’s reputation is its best protection.

The closest thing to reputation protection that appears on a balance sheet is termed goodwill. Having a reservoir of goodwill can make all the difference and sustain a company through bad times.

Public relations is used every day to tell concrete stories that provide credibility and create a positive reputation. Step by step, reputation is built on goodwill that emanates from reliable products, excellent service, and sound business practices across the board – not from fluff.

Public relations strategies and tactics should be major elements in any plan to build positive relationships with the stakeholders who determine your organization’s success. While there are multiple key audiences including stockholders, boards of directors, regulators, legislators and other influencers, it’s worth mentioning several ideas for fostering quality reputations among three all-important groups.

 (1) Employees: Employees should be your biggest fans. If they don’t believe the talk, they won’t do the walk. Too often, internal communications are tagged on as an afterthought. Put employees front and center, involve them in your communications plans and company initiatives and make them your best ambassadors. They are your greatest testimonial.

(2) Media: It’s amazing how many corporate leaders have never met the reporters in person who cover their companies. Knowing reporters is the best way to build credibility in the good times and get a fair hearing during a crisis. It’s easy to do. Have a proactive media outreach program. Tell your good news stories; be an industry thought leader. Don’t have your first interaction with a reporter be when a crisis develops.

(3) Clients: Organizations need to fall in love with their clients; it’s that simple.  Engage them.   In today’s business world, clients want a constant engagement and interaction.  This means everything from easy-to-understand product information and engaging social media programs to excellent, around the clock customer service and valuable website tools.

 Toyota worked diligently to regain its reputation following the “gas pedal” crisis; Chances for recovery were strong based on its reputation prior to the crisis. Arguably, BP had a steeper road because it lacked much of the goodwill upon which to draw.


Top leadership needs to pay attention to inculcate the values, culture and programs for an organization to build and nurture its reputation. Indeed, it may be a CEO’s most important contribution.