Category Archives: integrated communications

“B” is for Blog

Digital Media Strategist and Writer Nettie Hartsock and I have begun to do free monthly workshops on blogging for those who either do not have the slightest clue about where to start, or they’ve begin and now just don’t “get” the whole social networking thing or how to take their blog global. We are calling our series “B” is for Blog and we are really interested in empowering business owners to take control of this very powerful and ultimately cost effective suite of tools. We want to demystify the process, and make it simple and fun. So far, we’ve had an amazing response…  just incredible. I’m glad that entrepreneurs are getting out there and discovering what it’s like to be a part of a dynamic online community.

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THE Most Important Skill for a Publicist

Writing. Period. The End.

Just kidding… I have a bit more to say on the topic. Over the years I have counseled dozens of young people interested in pursuing a career in public relations or some form of marketing communications. The number one question I get asked is: “What is the most important skill I need to have in order to get a job?” My answer is always the same: “Can you write?”

Believe it or not, writing does not come naturally to most people. In fact, some people hate writing so much, they would rather do their neighbors’ tax returns than write an article even on an interesting topic. For me, I have always loved writing. I wrote my first “book” when I was nine years old. It was called “Albert the Blue Alligator” and I still have it– and it’s still pretty good.

I chose to attend Emerson College in Boston, MA because it is a communications school that puts great emphasis on one’s ability to communicate effectively. In fact, the school motto is ” Expression Necessary to Evolution.” So true.

So why does a PR person need to know how to write? Don’t they spend most of their time networking, hooking up with journalists, building their contacts lists, going to events and making phone calls? No. That’s some of what a publicist does, but that’s not the whole enchilada.

A lot of what happens includes developing messages, working with clients on how to communicate what it is they want to say, and writing a variety of written documents for both internal and external use. There are press releases, Q&As, talking points, media advisories, pitch letters, e-mail communications, etc. All of these activities require a person to be an outstanding writer.

Spending time honing your writing skills lets a potential employer or client know that you can get up to speed on new topics quickly; assimilate complex information and relate that to a general audience; understand a variety of audiences; and can create messages that speak authentically and accurately about your product or business. Being a good writer means you are a good strategist, researcher, and overall great communicator.

PR people have to understand and apply basic journalistic principles in writing press releases. This tells a journalist that she’s working with a pro– someone who understands the meat of a good story, not just someone interested in hawking a product, service or initiative.

Some great writers’ resources for PR people include:

The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr.

The Associated Press Stylebook

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Filed under integrated communications, journalism, marcom, marketing, marketing communications, media, media relations, Media Training, PR, PR for Non-Profits, PR for Small Biz, PR Resources, Press Releases, Public Relations, publicity

Pitching PR: Questions Potential Clients Ask Publicists

I had a very interesting meeting today with a potential new client. It’s the sort of a meeting that represents a typical “why should I hire you” scenario from a first-time author who has written a book published by a small press. First, let me just say that I really enjoyed meeting the author and her publisher. They were absolutely lovely. Though I concluded that I wouldn’t be a right fit because the subject matter of the book was a topic very emotionally intense, I found myself answering their questions in the most straightforward and honest ways I possibly could. In many ways, I have taken the demystification of PR to a whole new level.

The author very appropriately asked me what sort of expectations she should have within a three-month contract in terms of how many interviews I could land for her. I said, “Absolutely none.” Had she asked me that ten years ago, I would have scrambled for exactly the right answer. I probably would have said “At least two major hits” or something along those lines. I wouldn’t have been lying, I would just have been very confident in my abilities to deliver. And if I didn’t deliver, not only would I be disappointed with myself, I would have a very angry client on my hands. So here are some basic questions that many publicists get when being interviewed for a contract– and I’ll tell you what I would say. Take it or leave it.

1) Do you have active contacts at Oprah that you can call?

Yes and no. I have secured two clients on Oprah in years past, but there is no guarantee that I can pull that off again, and I would never promise that to anyone. What I can promise is that I bring nearly twenty years of experience in developing pitches and stories that capture the attention of producers. But even if your best friend is a  producer at a major network or show, they still have to push stories through production meetings, other producers and hosts.

2) Do I have to go to some other state to do interviews? I don’t have the time.

No. That’s a waste of time. If you’re trying to get on national television, focus on that. You can always do a satellite media tour from your home town which will transmit you around the country.

3) How many media “hits” are normal?

PR is not just about media hits. It’s about creating a strategy to meet your objectives. If your objective is to become an expert resource on a particular subject matter, then doing interviews is essential. If you want to sell widgets consistently quarter after quarter, PR is a small (but integral) part of a larger marketing plan. Be clear on why you need “hits.”

4) I don’t have much money, but I need a lot of help. How do you charge?

I used to charge by the hour, but I don’t do that anymore. A brilliant idea can appear and be executed in a matter of minutes and yield very signficant results. It would not be fair to charge for fifteen minutes of work. I do flat monthly fees depending on the scope of work.

5) How many clients have you gotten in national media outlets in the last six months?

It’s not a matter of “getting clients into” anything. There is a process which includes developing messaging, a pitch, and maybe a press release or other materials including b-roll, sidebars and other good content. Good publicists either have existing contacts in your specific industry, or they have the ability to quickly forge new relationships with targeted media. Then the pitch goes out, follow-up is conducted and then you go from there. I think the days of touting how brilliant a PR person is based solely on where clients end up is long gone. In many ways, media relations is honestly a crap shoot.

You’re really paying for world-class messaging, media savvy sensibilities, knowledge of your industry and the news industry, and execution. It’s called “earned” media for those very reasons. You may have an upper hand if your pal is an editor, but if the story is stale not even your closest pal can do much for you.

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Filed under integrated communications, journalism, marketing, marketing communications, media, media relations, Media Training, Oprah, PR, PR for Non-Profits, PR for Small Biz, PR Resources, Press Releases, Public Relations, publicity

What You Need to Launch a PR Program

I’ve been getting a lot of hits on this blog lately and I truly hope that some of what I’ve shared has helped my readers understand the PR field a little bit more. I am really passionate about helping people put their dreams and business objectives out there in ways that serve them well and produce desired results. The business of PR is not, by any stretch, an exact science. There is an entire measurement and analysis industry surrounding PR designed to help companies justify how they spend their PR budgets. Even within my community, there is much debate as to the accuracy and relevance of certain measurement techniques. (I’ll do a separate blog on that later)

But what do you have control over in the beginning– whether you are just launching a PR program or revamping an old one– is putting in place the basic physical elements of your program. It’s so important to have the necessary building blocks in place because doing this will help you present yourself and your organization with confidence, professionalism and strength. It will also help you shape important messages, and even influence the development of your quarterly marketing goals. At the very least it will greatly support those goals and help to make them happen. In that spirit, I’ve developed the “Before the Hoopla” Executive PR Tool Kit™.

I am so excited about this new offering. Basically, I’ve taken what I’ve learned from years of working with start-ups, entrepreneurs, corporations and individuals and put together a simple but powerful tool kit that can get any organization or person started on the right path. In some ways, it’s a blueprint. But mostly, it’s an intensely cost-effective alternative to hiring a PR agency or someone in-house. So here it is:

The “Before the Hoopla” Executive PR Tool Kit ™ is specifically designed to solidly position you and your business for PR success. This tool kit is educational, practical and results-based. It is also an entirely cost-effective way to begin or continue your communications investment. Individually, these services (with me or any other reputable publicist or agency) may be cost prohibitive for companies with strict marketing budgets. But as a complete system, it’s accessible.

 

“Before the Hoopla” Executive PR Tool Kit™

The “Before the Hoopla” Executive PR Tool Kit ™ is specifically designed to solidly position you and your business for PR success. This tool kit is educational, practical and results-based. It is also an entirely cost-effective way to begin or continue your communications investment.

  • PR 101 workshop: the basics of public relations (2 hour session)
  • Personalized communications training for your spokespeople (3 hour session)
  • Custom messaging session for your marketing team and spokespeople (3 hour session)
  • Top 25 journalists identified
  • Top 25 blogs identified
  • Development of online media room for your website including structure and content
  • Provide templates for internal and external PR documents
  • On demand PR consultation for one month (up to 5 hours)

Individual services also available. Please e-mail me at jennifer@hooplamedia.com for pricing.

Added optional services:

  • Photo shoot with preferred photographer for spokespeople and/or products
  • With partner Biz Buzz Video, production of 1-3 minute custom video for use on your website and in media outreach
  • With partner Biz Buzz Video, production of 5 minutes of company
    b-roll for use on your website and in media outreach
  • Serve as ongoing media contact for all media outreach 

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Should PR Replace Advertising If You’re On a Tight Budget?

The answer to that common small business question is a resounding N-O! In my humble opinion, one communications strategy should not be expected to pick up the slack for the rest of your outreach because of lack of money. The bottom line is that it’s easier to get the media interested in you if there is already at least a little awareness out there about your product or service. I recently consulted with a start-up consumer company that manfactures high-end kitchen accessories. They spent the first year of their business creating a media buying strategy in national consumer (some vertical) publications. Yes, it was very expensive. But in the end, they experienced a steady increase in sales over time. After several ad rotations in a variety of magazines, they were ready to turn to PR and say “bring it on home.” The good news for their publicist was that awareness had already been built with some of the magazines he was tasked to pitch story ideas to. But let’s be clear. Editorial and marketing departments are very much separated in the world of magazines and newspapers. I don’t believe you have more of a chance to get a “hit” if you advertise with a certain publication. However, if you’re company is rapidly growing and customer response is high due to effective media buying, you’re establishing important benchmarks that you can use to help pitch to publications with large circulations. Another advantage to advertising with major publications (if you can get over the sticker shock) is that you’re putting your product directly into the hands of decision-makers that do have some access to editorial. So don’t be surprised if your cool item does find its way to a writer or contributing editor who also a celebrity. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. The basic idea is that PR is an extremely effective tool which can work beautifully in conjunction with a fleshed-out marketing and advertising program.

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Filed under integrated communications, marketing, marketing communications, media, media relations, PR for Non-Profits, PR for Small Biz, PR Resources, Public Relations, publicity

Defining the Terms: The Differences Between PR, Marketing and Advertising

If you’re a small- to medium-sized business, I bet you’ve asked yourself, “What is the difference between PR, Marketing and Advertising, anyway?” The idea of integrated communications is simple: use a variety of communications methodologies which complement each other in order to meet business objectives. But if you’re not quite sure which direction to follow, here’s an elementary rundown of the differences between these main three areas of communications.

MARKETING
In businesses big and small, generally the marketing dept. is the dept. that allocates resources, a.k.a budget, to communications programs that will help sell products and services. PR and advertising programs almost always fall under the marketing umbrella. Other areas of marketing include promotions (contests and giveaways), events, trade shows, webinars, social media, sponsorships and more. When you think “marketing” think of any activity or process designed to help sell!

According to Dictionary.com, Marketing is defined as: The activities of a company associated with buying and selling a product or service. It includes advertising, selling and delivering products to people. People who work in marketing departments of companies try to get the attention of target audiences by using slogans, packaging design, celebrity endorsements and general media exposure. The four ‘Ps’ of marketing are product, place, price and promotion.

Investopedia Commentary

Many people believe that marketing is just about advertising or sales. However, marketing is everything a company does to acquire customers and maintain a relationship with them. Even the small tasks like writing thank-you letters, playing golf with a prospective client, returning calls promptly and meeting with a past client for coffee can be thought of as marketing. The ultimate goal of marketing is to match a company’s products and services to the people who need and want them, thereby ensure profitability

ADVERTISING
Advertising is bought media. Simply, ad agencies or depts. create ads and campaigns to sell products, ideas, services, candidates, etc. Media planners figure out (through extensive demographic research) where and when these ads should run– in print, on the radio or telvision, in the form of internet banner ads, billboards, flyers and more. Media buyers then purchase ad space in the right outlets in order to achieve the greatest success for a client.
Dictionary.com says that Advertising is:

1. the act or practice of calling public attention to one’s product, service, need, etc., esp. by paid announcements in newspapers and magazines, over radio or television, on billboards, etc.: to get more customers by advertising.
2. paid announcements; advertisements.
3. the profession of planning, designing, and writing advertisements.
PUBLIC RELATIONS
There are many areas of public relations including media relations and publicity, crisis management, public affairs and more. On the whole, public relations deals with earned media as opposed to media exposure that is bought through advertising. PR is about building positive relationships with the public primarily through exposure and coverage in the media, i.e. interviews in newspapers, on the radio on or a TV newscast. PR people work closely with marketing people in order to support publicity efforts for promotional events and any other activities that encourage participation from the public. For Fortune 500 companies, Corporate PR is an intregral part of the communications machine. One false statement, however, can send a company into automatic spin.
Dictionary.com says Public Relations is:
  1. (used with a sing. verb) The art or science of establishing and promoting a favorable relationship with the public.
  2. (used with a pl. verb) The methods and activities employed to establish and promote a favorable relationship with the public.
  3. (used with a sing. or pl. verb) The degree of success obtained in achieving a favorable relationship with the public.

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