Category Archives: PR Resources

Pitching Media: Consider the Logical Steps, But Go With Your Gut

diverging-paths-croppedPublicists are strategists. A primary component of their value is the ability to think and act strategically on behalf of clients. We take a lot of things into consideration when making our pitches to the media including:

  • Is the media outlet appropriate?
  • What is the size and scope of the audience?
  • Has someone or something else similar to this client recently been featured? Depending on the situation this might be a good thing, or a bad thing.
  • Is the client ready to be on  camera? Starting with local media could build confidence and experience.
  • Should we focus on TV, radio, print or new media outlets? All of the above, some of the above, etc.? If so, why or why not?
  • Is this the right time? Are we coming into seasonal challenges, or does the client have a stronger story happening a couple of months down the road? Are people overwhelmed with stories like these already?

So, these are typical strategic questions that most PR people will consider before pitching a client. But what about just plain, old-fashioned intuition? Does instinct and gut reactions figure into this? Absolutely. As in any business, sometimes you just need to go with what feels right. More often than not, your gut will tell you to dig someone’s name up from your media lists, or to consider a totally new show or outlet. It’s hard to explain to the client, sometimes, exactly why you’re pitching this show, instead of that. But more often than not, your intuition is guiding the pitching and only later will you realize that it all made perfect sense.

Even if the pitches don’t come through, you might walk away with a clearer understanding of how your pitch does or doesn’t resonate. This information is invaluable and will save you a lot of time and energy and certainly will influence the trajectory of your pitches.

But when they do come through, watch out! You’ve logically considered all of the viable options, but you succeeded in managing to cut through the noise (as well as the noise in your head) and your instincts were right. Maybe your client was dead set against radio because of one bad experience, but you urged them to do just this one show and voila! It was the best interview ever.

So do your homework, but also trust your intuition. Maintaining a balance will yield great results.

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Top Media Outlets

Just came across this great post on Brian Solis’ blog talking about the new “Top Media Outlets” complete with circulation numbers. What’s cool is that it includes top magazines, newspapers, blogs and more. Read about it….

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A New Beginning and a New Range of Services… PR, Writing and More

Call me a dreamer, but I really do think I can do everything I need to do and keep up with this blog… really. Why have I been so remiss? Well, my business is changing– has changed quite a but in the last few months. I’ve stopped offering certain services, and gone back to old favorites. Strangely, not so much because of supply and demand, but because of my own personal interests and direction. I figure, if I am passionate about what I am working on, I’ll do a great job. And I do.

One of the reason I was on a mini-hiatus from my blog (not my job, just my blog) is because I have been spending some very productive and happy time on the other side of the fence. I started a new media company called Soul Lab which is both a blog and an internet radio show. This is where I get to share my personal interests, talk to really fascinating people, and keep my journalistic muscles fit and lean. Like most PR people from my generation (30-40), we started out as journalism majors. In fact, there were no real formal degrees in PR when I went to Emerson College. I think I prefer that, because what you need to know about PR comes from being in expert in a field you believe in, and actuallt working as a journalist. So check out Soul Lab Blog and Soul Lab Radio if you are into everything from pop culture to spirituality, from parenting to art. You’ll dig it.

In the meantime, check out a handy new range of services:

  • Freelance writing for online/offline publications and blogs
  • Webinars and teleclasses for companies, groups and non-profits on a variety of subjects including PR, media relations, Web 2.0 strategies and more
  • Communications training via phone or 1:1: Preparing people for media interviews or presentations
  • Digital media strategy: Social media and networking to grow your business and online/offline PR
  • Professional Writing: Developing messages to deliver to audiences from 15 to 15,000; press materials
  • Screenplay Doctor: Reviewing your screenplay and writing coverage. I’ve read screenplays and provided coverage for development executives and other decision makers at Tri Star Pictures (Red Wagon Productions), Spelling Films International, Keystone Entertainment and Turner Pictures
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    Filed under blogging, journalism, marketing, media, media relations, Media Training, PR, PR for Non-Profits, PR for Small Biz, PR Resources, Press Releases, publicity, social media

    Not Just a Press Release

    I’m a big advocate for sending out additional media with press releases including images, a video, some audio, or whatever else you have on hand to pump up the content and interest. If you are an individual or CEO trying to boost your personal brand, it’s important to make sure that you have some decent video on hand for producers so they can get a sense of how you might appear on camera. Check out www.bizbuzzvideo.com for very affordable video production by a former CNN videographer with two Emmys under her belt. Oh, and make sure your headshots aren’t from 1991.

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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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    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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    Public Relations Budgets

    I get a lot of questions about how much a business should actually invest in public relations. Is it a percentage of your overall marketing budget? What’s the difference between hiring a PR person by contract instead of in-house? What are the different line items that I should consider when building a PR budget?

    In short, there is no specific answer. It depends on what your overall business goals are and how you envision PR supporting those goals. Are you trying to raise awareness, change public perception, drive business and raise profits? What’s your motivation?

    What I can tell you is that you do have three main options in securing talent, as well as a basic checklist of additional vendors which you may or may not need depending on who you hire.

    1) Independent contractor: Usually a senior person with many years of applied experience in a variety of settings. They can charge by the hour anywhere from $75 to up to $200 per hour. Or they can charge a flat project fee or monthly fee.

    2) In-house PR Person: This person is dedicated full-time to developing and executing a PR program. A mid-level PR person expects a salary range from $55K to $75K per year plus benefits. For Fortune 500 companies, salaries can be much higher.

    3) Agency: With an agency you generally pay a monthly fee and have a senior account executive overseeing your account with the support of junior PR people. They generally share strong media contacts within the entire company among many publicists. There are a number of reputable agencies which can be both locally based, or with a local office of a national or mult-national PR company. For mid-sized businesses, monthly retainers can range from $5K to $15K a month, depending on the scope of work.

    Agencies generally have access to many important PR vendors including media list building services, press release distribution companies, media tracking companies, etc. For a small to medium-sized businesses, you’ll need to set aside additional budget for the distribution of your releases through one of the following services:

    www.PRWeb.com

    www.PRNewswire.com

    www.Marketwire.com

    www.BusinessWire.com

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