Tag Archives: PR

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.

 

 

The Two Key Components of Successful PR For A Startup

Startups are emerging everyday.  A lasting impact of the Great Recession is the number of people starting companies on their own.  One of the key things that these new companies need is publicity.

Why?

  1. It gets the company’s name out to the public, creating brand awareness.
  2. It allows the company a chance to attract investors.

Yet despite knowing this many startups struggle over what they need to do to achieve publicity.  Sometimes they launch a publicity campaign before they are ready for prime time or other times they try to incorporate a variety of components in their publicity campaigns instead of concentrating on the two most important pieces of startup publicity – media relations and the company blog.

Media relations and the company’s blog are without a doubt, the most essential public relations pieces for any startup.  Without those two pieces nothing else matters, in terms of publicity.

Media relations is quite simply news stories featuring the startup and its founder.  It informs the world of the new company and the wonders that it can do.  Beyond that, a successful media relations campaign should position the founder of the company as the expert in the field the company specializes in.  The founder should be in all news stories dealing with his or her field and offering solutions to the problems that the media is discussing.  This implies a third party endorsement by the media.  Media relations must be ongoing to create a sense of awareness and repetition.  Media relations is the most efficient way to create public brand awareness and draw the attention of investors.

The company blog is the other critical public relations component for a startup.  Why?  First every blog post attracts traffic to the company’s website and also helps in search engine results.  Beyond that, just as with media relations, it sets the company up as an industry expert that helps in the long-term branding of the company.  Finally, it converts leads into customers.

Public relations is critical to the success of startups.  But knowing what to put the emphasis on in a publicity campaign can determine if the startup succeeds or fails.  Every start-up when executing its public relations campaign needs to emphasize media relations and the company blog.

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.

How To Tips: Reaching The Media At Trade Shows

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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

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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.

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.

SeaWorld Crisis Management: The Textbook Case of What NOT To Do

In today’s world a crisis plays out as much on social media, as it does through traditional media.  Brands and companies need a strategy for both.  Yet many never fully consider the social media aspect.  The ongoing crisis for SeaWorld is a case in point.  They have mishandled both their traditional and social media response with no end to the crisis in sight.

SeaWorld’s crisis began with the airing of the film, Blackfish on CNN.  Blackfish exposed practices at the aquatic park, including an exposé about whales in captivity and the orca-related death of trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010.  SeaWorld’s response to the film was to lash out at it before it actually aired by sending a critique to film critics.  Company executives had also refused to be interviewed for the film.  This was a wrong way to deal with the brewing crisis as it created more attention for the film. 

Next began the online protests in reaction to what the film depicted with Facebook pages being established calling for a boycott of the sea park until SeaWorld changed its policies.  Posters on SeaWorld’s Facebook page who expressed concern or disapproval of SeaWorld’s policies saw their posts deleted.  SeaWorld wouldn’t even address their concerns.  Rather as part of their crisis communications response they began highlighting the good work they have done for animal rescues (which was never disputed).  Consumers who saw their posts deleted were outraged causing further social media commentary of the story.  Social media allows corporations and brands to directly engage consumers during a crisis.  Allowing consumers to voice their opinion as long as it is civil allows consumers to be engaged and often helps level off anger.  Explaining a company’s position on social media is critical.  Ignoring the crisis and the consumer comments or in this case deleting them, keeps the flames going, as SeaWorld found out.

Consumers began contacting musical acts that were scheduled to perform SeaWorld’s “Bands, Brew & BBQ” series, one of the park’s biggest events.  Social media petitions began with one getting over 12,000 members urging the acts to cancel.  The musicians took notice.  Barenaked Ladies, Heart, Willie Nelson and others cancelled their scheduled appearances.  Singer Joan Jett asked the park to stop using her song “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” during its “Shamu Rocks”.  SeaWorld’s response was to criticize the musical acts, attack the people using social media to protest their policies and state that park attendance was being affected.  Yet they refused to engage consumers or deal with the issues raised in Blackfish through traditional media.

Next a California school class cancelled a field trip to SeaWorld because of concerns over the issues raised in Blackfish.  SeaWorld responded by saying this was an isolated incident and disparaging the class.  Students from across the country took to YouTube calling for SeaWorld to change its policies and again SeaWorld remained silent.

The latest blow has been an online poll that the Orlando Business Journal posted an online poll asking if reader’s if their opinion of SeaWorld had been affected by the controversy.  Fifty-four percent of voters who voted no, were traced back to a SeaWorld ip address (note don’t try to rig a newspaper poll and use your ip address, the paper may become suspicious).  The result more bad press and ongoing social media controversy.

SeaWorld is becoming the textbook case of what not to do in a crisis.  Social media as much as traditional media drives narratives.  Ignoring the consumer and not engaging them on social media doesn’t make the crisis go away, rather it keeps it alive.  Now more than ever, when developing a crisis communications plan, the social media element must be incorporated into the plan.