Archives for category: Media Relations

Not everything can be done via email or social media tools. It’s important to know how to professionally conduct a phone interview. I thought this article, “7 tips for giving a better phone interview” by Brad Phillips for Ragan’s PR Daily, gave some great tips. Read the article and take the time to watch the video at the end. It will crack you up.

Cheers, and have a great holiday!

Flackchick

A personal situation I encountered a few weeks ago prompted me to write this piece on ethics. A person I thought I knew very well and trusted turned out to be not-so trustworthy. To make matters worse, she thought that the personal relationship between me and the others she wasn’t being entirely honest with would negate the unethical and duplicitous things she was pulling in trying to secure new business. She was wrong.

As public relations professionals, we are faced with ethical situations all the time. The very often sensitive nature of the information we are privy to and the challenges we encounter in our organizations and agencies force us to make tough decisions. We often have to give the media and other target audiences information that will make them disappointed, angry or both, or give honest answers to tough questions that put our clients and/or organizations in a negative light. We often do this under duress, in the midst of a crisis and on the turn of a dime. We have little time to think and prepare our answers and the information we need to provide.  It is even harder when the emergency situation impacts people’s health and lives. “No comment” is never a good option and even less so when it involves highly sensitive and emotional situations.

New forms of media also put us in difficult situations. Blogs, message boards, Facebook, My Space, Twitter, give us immediate and powerful ways to communicate with our audiences – but it also allows us to use those tools to influence the perception of brands, companies, clients and organizations in misleading ways. Recently a large public relations firm was exposed for using interns to post positive reviews on its client’s apps on the Apple store.  Now, PRSA and IABC have explicit guidelines for ethics in our profession. And gaming an app rating system isn’t explicitly listed as a no-no within the ethics guidelines provided by these organizations, but…

The management that developed the client plans executing this “tactic” knew it wasn’t right. They knew it was dishonestly influencing people’s decisions to use or pay for and use an application and the “strategy” was flawed. They ignored their gut and pulled this stunt anyway, getting quick results for their clients and eventually being exposed, along with the clients, for being dishonest.

Step outside the pressure of getting a client, getting results, getting the media off your back, and think beyond the ethics guidelines of a PRSA or IABC (although they are a great start!): Does what I am about to do pass the gut test? Do I feel good about this? If what I am about to do was written out fully and posted in the company lunch room, on the organization’s website, my church bulletin or my child’s school newsletter, would I feel embarrassment?

We operate personally and professionally in a social and natural environment. We also expect people to be straight with us. We have to be in return. We are bound by duty as a result of this to be accountable to the environment we live and work in. Everything you do should pass the gut test.

And if that isn’t enough to convince you, read this!

In reading articles and blogs in the last few months, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend. Increasingly, I see people differentiating “social media” press releases and “traditional” press releases. Traditional press releases are releases as they have always been written – inverted pyramid, catchy title, AP Style, etc. Social media press releases are those that are search-engine friendly, with the same characteristics as a traditional release, only with keyword-rich content.

Egads! Why, in 2010, should there be two different types of releases written? Why aren’t they one in the same???

Public relations professionals should ditch this way of thinking completely and relearn how to write press releases. All press releases should have keyword-rich content and be optimized for search engines to pick them up quickly. SEO-friendly press releases are more likely to be found by those seeking information on a client/company/product or service, improves rankings online and in News search engines, drives traffic and increases link backs to a Web site, and will result in increased media opportunities. It gives a news release an edge over just sending it out on a newswire and/or shooting it to a dubious Cision-produced media list with a zillion contacts.

If you aren’t writing a press release using these steps, you need to hit “delete” and start over:

  • Research keywords for your target audience: the subject, product, industry and/or service.
  • Make sure these keywords are written into the first 250 words of your press release.
  • Ensure a keyword or two is included in the title.
  • Write keywords into the news release copy.
  • Include keywords in links back to your site

Optimized press releases are ranked by search engines such as Google and Yahoo! These sites are updated regularly with new content less than 30 days old, ensuring that people will come across the news release.

Take an additional step beyond sending the release out on a news wire and to a media list by submitting the release to an online press release service. Pandia.com provides a list here.

And lastly, as an industry, let’s stop comparing how things were done before the Web became such an integral way we live, work and play, and simply adopt methods that work with it and make it work for us. PR professionals need to act in the present and look proactively to the future to best serve our companies and clients.

Are you a public relations professional overwhelmed with work and need to delegate some pretty important tasks, such as pitching story ideas to the media? It’s okay to let interns and junior staff take a stab at media relations. Just make sure you train them to do it right. Check out the piece I wrote for the PR Newsonline.com blog, PR Insider: Developing Junior Staff Into Media Relations Experts.

I think this is good information for pitching across the board. In this short video, two AP editors TELL YOU what they want.

Can you and your client provide it to them?

Associated Press: How to Pitch a News Story

I retweeted a story yesterday about a public relations firm best known for sending out crap pitches for crap clients. Two of its press releases – sent out the same day by the same PR professional – ended up on Gawker.com. The editor of the piece, The Most Desperate Fake Celebrity Quotes Ever, named the firm, but fortunately NOT the person who sent the releases.

I started out feeling a bit sorry for the person who wrote those crap releases, sent them out, and ended up roasted on Gawker.com’s grill. I imagined this person to be young, too young to realize that they work for a hack public relations firm with a crap reputation not out of being completely incompetent at his/her job and having nowhere to go, but not knowing before that the firm they landed at had a crap reputation and had student loans to pay back. I know they are completely traumatized and it will have a lasting effect on how they interact with the media in the future.

Then again, maybe they absolutely knew what they were doing. I’m just trying to give them the benefit of the doubt.

I got a tweet back from a woman I follow that she thought the story was hilarious and it made her feel better about pitching (as these releases were as bad as they come) because she was scared to do it.

When I started out in PR, I HATED picking up the phone. I would get nervous, I would stammer, I would sweat visibly. I had a long script in front of me to keep from sounding stupid (ha!). I thought it might help to send e-mails, but I bungled those as well – too verbose, too many links, and ATTACHMENTS! I got placements by God’s grace and was competent in other aspects of my job, so I am still in public relations. But honestly it wasn’t until four years ago that one of the biggest jerks I know taught me how to pitch.

And I am going to share this jerk’s sage wisdom with you (even jerks have something to offer this world). Some of it is pretty basic, but all of it will help you pitch confidently. We’ll focus on print publications. See my January 14 post for tips on pitching local television media.

  • All editors are super-busy. Keep in mind especially now, with the current economy woes and the fact that media outlets EVERYWHERE have had to cut staff and other resources, that editors’ time is even more limited and the stress at their jobs is high.
  • You have clients. You know what they do and what they are trying to promote. Take the time, before you write anything for them, while the ink is drying on the contract they signed enlisting your services, to thoroughly research the publications they want to be in and publications you think they should be in, and find the correct editors. Yep. You got it. Make a media list by SCRATCH, without the help of any of those media outlet resource tools. Those can be helpful, but you can’t rely on them too much. They are good for identifying some media outlets you and your client may not know about, but regardless of what they say, they don’t update that information as often as they want you to believe.
  • Now you have your media list. Make it even more granular. Research the media outlet’s Web site and if necessary, give the editorial desk or editorial assistant (if they have one) – NOT THE ACTUAL EDITOR – a call and find out when the outlet’s content deadlines are, when they go to print, when they have their editorial meetings. If you find them particularly cool, ask them about your target editor and see if they can clue you in as to how they like to receive information.
  • Okay, it is Game Day and you have a press release you need to send out. Don’t just attach it to an e-mail and send it with a nice note asking the editor to run it. Set the release aside for a moment, grab a pen or open up Word, and think. What is REALLY interesting about that release? What stories do you imagine coming out of it? Are there other things going on in the world that relate to your release that could be stories? What stories has your target editor written lately that you could tie to your release? I bet you can come up with several ideas. Jot/type all of them down/out. These are your pitches.
  • Sometimes the release is crap. It’s not you and more than likely not even your client or their company; it is whatever the client contact is pressured to put out to the media, probably by someone who doesn’t understand what interests the media. But I bet there are interesting things or people at your client’s company that your target editor does care about. These are your pitches for the useless press release.
  • I like to start with e-mail pitches. A PRWeek/PR Newswire media survey done in 2009 confirmed that 80 percent of journalists prefer to receive pitches by e-mail. I jot my story ideas into the e-mail and copy and paste the release below it. I don’t do attachments and neither should you. Sometimes I don’t do Web site links either. I have received heat about this on message boards, but I have worked with media outlets whose systems stripped links from incoming e-mails. Crazy but true.
  • As for when to send the e-mail, don’t do it on a deadline day. I also avoid Fridays and days that land right before a major holiday such as Thanksgiving. Plan ahead or wait.
  • I wait a day or two before picking up the phone. If I am aware of deadlines, meeting schedules, etc., I work around those. No matter what, don’t call an editor on deadline. Be kind. Ask them if they are busy and if they have a minute to talk. They will more than likely growl “Sure!” Don’t go over that minute and don’t ask if they got the release. Pitch them your story idea. They will either say great, send me Web site links and the release (hold your tongue here) or no, not interested.
  • If the editor isn’t interested, move on, but don’t scratch them off your list. Thank them for their time and keep dialing. They may be interested in another story you have later. Or they may be interested in the story at a later date. I’ve had editors come back to pitches I sent to them A YEAR LATER.
  • If the editor is interested and asks for the release and other information, don’t tell them you already sent it. Just resend it, and don’t forward the e-mail from your sent box. Honestly, these people get hundreds of e-mails a day.

I hope these tips help you as much as they have helped me. As I said before, confidence is key, and you’ll be more confident pitching solid story ideas and with a strong plan to secure placements for your client.

Happy Pitching!