Tag Archives: Media Relations

What Is A Media Pitch

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.

The Difference Between Public Relations and Advertising

One of the things many people ask about public relations is what is the difference between public relations and advertising.  It is a common question that is asked time and time again.  Yet the two should not be confused.  Here are the differences between advertising and public relations:

  1. Advertising is paid placement. The company pays for the advertisement that is seen in the print publication, heard on the radio, or appears on television. The public knows that the advertisement is paid for by the company.  Public relations on the other hand is free and is earned by being included in a story or interview.  It provides an implied third party endorsement of a company’s product or service by the media.
  2. Message control. With advertising, the company pays for the message, controls what, where and when it will appear.  In public relations, there is not the control over the message.  The reporter determines what if anything they will report on.  If a company knows how to make its message timely and compelling, the chances are that the reporter will cover it.
  3. Consumer Perception. With paid advertising, the customer knows that the provided the message with the intention of trying to sell them something—be it a service or a product. When someone reads a third-party article written about a company’s service or product (or sees/hears coverage on television or radio), the message is perceived as non-biased and an endorsement by the media.
  4. An advertisement lasts as long as the company pays for it to run.  After that the advertisement disappears.  With public relations, the story lasts forever thanks to the internet leaving a viral footprint that is discovered time and again.  One client appeared in a newspaper article in 2006 discussing online shopping and that article still appears as a top search engine item for the client.  A television appearance can last forever thanks to YouTube, the television outlet’s archives, and also the transcript of the show.
  5. Point of contact. With advertising a sales representative is the main point contact when fulfilling an advertising campaign. With public relations, the point of contact are reporters, editors, and producers.
  6. An advertisement will never appear on the front page of a newspaper or be the lead on the nightly news.  In public relations, a news story can be on the front page and be the lead story on the nightly news giving a company extra weight in the court of public perception.

Can the difference between advertising and public relations be confusing?  Yes.  But the key to remember is that both are essential for a successful marketing program.

How To Maximize Media Coverage At Toy Fair

In a matter of weeks, toy makers will descend upon New York City to unveil the hottest and latest toys at Toy Fair.  Toy Fair is the premier event for the toy industry.  Think of the Oscars, Grammys, Emmys combined with Fashion Week, and that is Toy Fair.  For many start-ups and even existing toy companies, Toy Fair is a make or break event.  Be discovered by the media at the trade show and the sky is the limit.  Be ignored and it is hard to recoup.

Why is this? Toy Fair is an opportunity for journalists to notice trends and get a sense of what is changing and new in the toy industry.  That allows reporters to form toy trend stories throughout the year and develop the ideas for television segments and print articles.   This is a way to get a toy in front of consumers and for many start-ups, a way to get the notice of investors (Shark Tank producers attend the show along with many financial analysts).

So how should you stand out to earn the coveted media attention?

Know what the media will be looking for and target your presentation for the specific media that you need to target.  What is the media looking for at Toy Fair?

  1. Toys that are cool (I know everyone thinks their toy is cool). Reporters are looking for good visual toys that will appeal to people instantly.  They are looking for groundbreaking toys.   They also want toys that are easy to demonstrate on camera and can be explained easily. Have a good, appealing, and strong elevator pitch between 30 seconds to a minute prepared.  Don’t overwhelm with technical details.
  2. Reporters like toys that are tied are tied into hot topics and trends.
    • Tech toys.
    • Entertainment tie-ins.
    • Lifestyle themes.
    • Social consciousness.
  3. Compelling business start-up stories (This really appeals to the financial press, analysts, and of course Shark Tank producers).
  4. Toys that are connected to a particular regional market.
  5. Toys that have a strong human interest appeal.

So knowing what the media is looking for, how do you attract them?

  1. Develop key talking points so you are prepared when the media stops by. Among these talking points should be:
  • Who you are.
  • What your company and toy does.
  • Why your toy stand out.
  • Important selling features.

 

  1. Getting the media to your booth:
    • Have the booth look professional.
    • Make sure that you have contacted the media who will be attending Toy Fair and invite them to your booth.
    • Host a special event at the booth just for journalists such a pre-show breakfast or lunch.
    • Have snacks available for reporters.

Toy Fair happens once a year but the impact of the show for a toy company can be felt throughout the year.  That is why for anyone exhibiting at Toy Fair, media coverage is not essential but a must in order to be successful.

 

 

Crisis Communications In The Age Of Trump

Small and medium sized businesses while knowing they need a public relations strategy often do not include a crisis communications plan in that strategy.  Many of these businesses believe crisis communications plans are only for major corporations and they will never face a crisis that needs a detailed response.  In this highly polarized political climate and social media driven world nothing could be more mistaken.

Recently I was called upon to help a medium sized engineering firm that was caught in the firestorm and fallout from the feud between Donald Trump and Congressman John Lewis.  We all remember Congressman Lewis, a Civil rights icon saying he would not attend Donald Trump’s inauguration as he did not see Trump as a “legitimate president” and Trump’s Twitter response.  Partisans on both sides jumped into the fray.  One who did so was a county commissioner in Gwinnett County, Georgia who posted on his personal Facebook page a post claiming that Congressman Lewis was a “racist pig” among other things.  Of course nothing goes unnoticed on social media and soon the traditional media was involved.  Most of the media was focused on the commissioner and his fellow commissioners as he was an elected official.  He also is a contract employee with an engineering firm.  There was no major viral footprint linking him to the company.  One industrious blogger however found the connection and began broadcasting the fact to his followers and the media.  This company has extensive contracts with local municipalities and is actually minority owned.  It was totally unprepared and unaware of the firestorm that was to erupt.

The first sign of trouble was when the company began receiving phone calls from the public demanding to know how they could employ such a person and threatening demonstrations outside of its office.  Soon their social media sites were under attack by people posting comments attacking the company for ever having employed such a person.  This was soon followed by media phone calls.  Employees knew something was happening but not sure what was happening nor what the company was doing.  The company had no basic crisis communications plan to deal with any of this and lost a news cycle.

Addressing this crisis was a top priority and one that any sized company should learn from.  Among the items instituted were:

  1. Determining a company spokesperson.
  2. Developing a social media response for the negative posts.
  3. Informing employees what was going on and how the company was responding, as well as how they should handle any inquiries they might receive and who to refer it too.
  4. Developing a social media policy for company employees (remember what employees post on their personal pages reflect upon the company and can become the basis of a crisis).
  5. Developing a formal response to media inquiries that included condemning the post and hand delivering an apology to Congressman Lewis.
  6. Informing clients and vendors of what was going on and how the company was responding.
  7. Announcing that the company was conducting another sensitivity class for all employees.

As quickly as the firestorm had erupted it died down.  In fact the company began earning praise by addressing the issue and issuing an apology.  While the story continued to dominate headlines, the company was no longer mentioned or a part of the narrative.

So yes, small and medium sized businesses, when you develop your public relations strategy, you need to include a basic crisis communications plan as part of that strategy.  In this day and age with social media and polarization, the chances of a crisis hitting a company regardless of size increases daily.  If a company ignores that, they do it at their own peril.

Keeping Your Brand Relevant With The Media

Today’s media world is 24/7, and reporters are hungry for breaking trends and stimulating story ideas. Pressure is high for brand communicators to create a steady stream of captivating stories.

A major challenge is that not all news is the breaking kind — and sometimes there’s a drought of fresh information altogether. What’s a brand to do?

Here are the tips to get the coverage you need:

  • Don’t depend on someone to hand you newsworthy information; find it. Identify trends that have press buzzing, and figure out how your brand can add an interesting perspective to the conversation.
  • Media coverage is cyclic. Flip through a lifestyle magazine in January and you’ll find some version of a “New Year’s Resolutions”, “Healthy Diet Tips” stories. April’s issue? “Springtime”. You can bank on the consistency of seasonal reporting and devise new hooks to sell existing content that will keep your brand relevant.
  • Give reporters a complete story idea with multiple points. Even consider referencing a competitor if it’ll strengthen your case (strategically, of course). Journalists don’t have time to take your news and find the missing pieces to make it a trend worth sharing. You have to do the work for them and reap the benefits.

Authors – Don’t Forget Your Book Title In Media Interviews

Authors know that a major television or radio interview can be critical to the success of their public relations campaign. A successful media appearance can translate to new followers on social media and more importantly sales. Yet a major mistake that many authors make when doing a television or radio interview is to neglect to mention the title of the book they are promoting. They expect the interviewer to mention the book title but omit to mention the title in their answers. Authors often refer to their book as ‘it’ or ‘the book’. That is a major mistake.

Authors should always work the title of their book into their answers.

Authors often ask why should they do that. The reasons are simple:

  1. Using a book’s title helps the audience recall it after the interview.
  2. Using the title sounds professional.
  3. Referring to the book as my book or it sounds impersonal and remember you are trying to establish a personal connection with the audiences.

Thousands upon thousands of books are being published annually. The purpose of a public relations campaign is to allow your book to stand out. A first step to achieve that is mentioning the title in your interviews. It truly makes a difference.

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.

Planned Parenthood in Crisis Mode

Planned Parenthood is in a crisis mode and attempting to launch a public relations counterattack after an undercover video surfaced that seems to indicate that the organization sells fetal tissue from abortions to researchers for a profit. Such action if true would be illegal.

The video was released by the Center for Medical Progress on Tuesday. It shows two undercover CMP activists posing as employees from a biotech company having lunch with Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood’s senior director of medical research, and discussing about which body parts are in demand. In the video, Nucatola is seen and heard discussing Planned Parenthood’s policy of donating fetal tissue to researchers. The activists ask Nucatola whether clinics charge for the organs, which she skirts around.

The language is graphic. “Yesterday was the first time she said people wanted lungs,” Nucatola says. “Some people want lower extremities, too, which, that’s simple. That’s easy. I don’t know what they’re doing with it, I guess if they want muscle.”

Nucatola discusses how they are able to get other organs without “crushing” them. “We’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m gonna basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.”

Conservative politicians rushed to condemn Planned Parenthood and demand a cutoff of federal funding and investigations into the organization. But even some in the medical and research community expressed deep reservations about Planned Parenthood and Nucatola. Planned Parenthood is denying it sells organs for profits and is attacking the Center for Medical Progress.

This whole lessons for those in public relations.

  1. In this day and age of smartphones nothing is ever off the record. Someone may be recording a client without the client knowing it and it that tape may appear on social media or in the media. In addition to Planned Parenthood, think Mitt Romney and Donald Sterling.
  2. Various issue advocacy groups on both sides of the aisle are sending undercover members to businesses and associations hoping to catch executives saying something embarrassing or awkward. This trend will continue.
  3. Social media and non-traditional news sites are becoming dumping grounds for stories that once they go viral, the traditional media picks up and reports with a vengeance since they felt they have been scooped and must make up for that lapse.
  4. A good defense is not always a good offense. Planned Parenthood’s response to this video has been more to attack the Center for Medical Progress and conservatives who are criticizing the group rather then to provide a detailed rebuttal and provide Nucatola to the media for questioning. The organization seems to be sidestepping the major issue raised in the video that is leading even supporters of abortion to question it.
  5. Emotional issues such as abortion need to be dealt with sensitivity. Planned Parenthood in its response has come across angry which doesn’t sit well with many people even some of its supporters. A more nuanced response addressing concerns people might have would have served the organization much better.

Social media, bloggers, and citizen activists drive the news in this 24/7 news cycle. Brands and organizations need to realize that and that they may be a target of this and the old rules of journalism don’t apply with these people. Failing to realize that may put you in the same boat Planned Parenthood is in currently.

Social Media Drives Narratives

Social media drives narratives. This cannot be stated enough. Yet despite the power of social media and brands realizing its importance, they forget about its power and potential to create a crisis. Very often their social media strategy does not reflect their tradition public relations strategy.

A case in point was celebrity chef, Paula Deen. A photograph of Deen dressed as Lucille Ball and her son, Bobby with a brown face supposedly as Desi Arnaz was tweeted on Deen’s Twitter account. This is occurred as as Deen has been waging a public relations campaign to rebuild her brand after accusations of racism in 2013 practically sank her brand. The public outcry was tremendous with Deen the focus of outrage and ridicule. It was later stated by Deen that the photograph was from several years ago and her social media manager who was responsible for the tweet had been dismissed. Yet the story received widespread media coverage.

Whether an innocent mistake or not, the damage has been done to Deen, reinforcing the image in many people’s minds that Deen is a racist and justifying to sponsors yet again why they were wise to sever ties with her. This as Deen has been going to great lengths to rebuild her image with a carefully orchestrated media and public relations campaign. With that one tweet all the work she had done was undone and its back to the drawing board for Deen.

Brands often forget that their social media strategy must correspond with their traditional media strategy. If it doesn’t that becomes a story.

Brands also forget the power of social media. The Deen photo was taken down yet it had been screen captured and re-tweeted thousands of times. Once something is posted on a social media site, it can be captured even if it is taken down. Nothing is ever permanently deleted from social media.

Social media also creates the news stories that the media cover. The Deen photo would never have received the coverage it did save for social media driving it. Very often the media doesn’t even consider something to be newsworthy until it explodes on social media. This is why every social media post needs to be handled with the care that a brand would handle a press release and needs constant monitoring. But it isn’t just Deen who forgot the power of social media. Both the recent Brian Williams’ story and Bill Cosby story were the result of social media. Veterans’ organization had tried contacting NBC and other media outlets for years about Williams’ fabrications and were ignored. Only when the story appeared on social media did it obtain coverage. Likewise the allegations by numerous women against Bill Cosby did not receive strong media coverage until they appeared on social media. In both cases the media went into a frenzy to compensate for not covering them originally feeling they had been scooped by social media.

Brands know the power of social media in reaching consumers and playing a role in their marketing efforts. What they must never underestimate is the power it has in driving narratives and causing a media firestorm. To do so is to do it at their peril.

PR Tips For Start-ups

Many start-ups know that they need public relations to get their message out but are unsure on how to do it. They know that distinctive brands, which are easier to identify and thus purchase, can be achieved many ways via traditional and social media. A single cover story in a key trade magazine, an executive profile on CNBC, or inclusion in The Wall Street Journal can generate sales. A sustained visibility campaign across all mediums (news, speaking opportunities, social, etc. ) builds a brand and is a game changer.

So knowing this what should do they do?

  1. Be a media expert. How many times do you see a competitor on the news talking about an issue that affects your industry and wondering how did they get there? The answer is quite simple, they pitched themselves to the reporter or producer as an expert in the field who can address issues in a story the reporter is working on. For example if you specialize in IT, pitching yourself to reporters on the recent computer glitch on Wall Street as well as offering suggestions on what you would do to solve the issue would be something that any reporter would be interested in. The key is to monitor the news and position yourself and your company as an expert in a story that is of concern.
  2. Understand media deadlines. Want to see your brand in a holiday gift guide? Then think about pitching media in September and not November. It helps to know the dates, times and potential results of an event before the reporter does. Members of the press tend to act on the fly for most breaking news stories, but plan well in advance for traditional, time-oriented content.
  3. Be a speaker. One of the best ways to promote a business and reach target audiences is through speaking engagements. A speech at a local organization such as Rotary or the Chamber of Commerce reaches potential customers, can sometimes obtain media coverage, and elevates your business.

Public relations doesn’t need to be expensive or time consuming. A well orchestrated public relations campaign can enhance your business and bring your customers to you.