User Friendly

2 03 2012

Here’s a tip on making your pitch or blog user friendly.




Getting Creative

1 03 2012

There are other ways to get news stories that promote good publicity for your company besides simply talking up your company. How about talking up your unique employees?


CEOs: Unusual hobbies, collections? Forbes wants you

12/28/2010 By  Leave a Comment

guitar collection on a wallThink beyond the office when you’re pitching stories about yourself or your company to journalists and bloggers.

If your CEO has an unusual hobby or collection, Kym McNicholas of Forbes wants to know about it. She’s an anchor/reporter for the Forbes Video Network and reports and produces mostly video business stories. She she also contributes to her blog and sometimes to the magazine.

“I love ‘unique’ entrepreneurial stories.  I especially enjoy writing about executives who excel outside the boardroom with special hobbies, sports, charity, or collections.”

For example, she wrote this blog post about Tom Georgens, head of NetApp, a Silicon Valley data storage firm, who competes in ham radio contests, in what’s called “Radio Sport.” It’s where amateur radio owners try to communicate with as many people around the world as they can in 48 hours.

She also wrote about Paul Pluschkell, the CEO of Spigit, a Silicon Valley idea management software firm, who coaches his Babe Ruth World Series winning baseball team, made up of 14-year-old and 15-year-old boys from Pleasanton, California – just east of Silicon Valley.  Between work, family and the softball team, Pluschkell is lucky to get 4 1/2 hours of sleep each night.

In my ebook, How to be a Kick-butt Publicity Hound, I include dozens of ideas on how people can generate publicity for themselves and their businesses. Check out the free sample chapter of publicity tips. If you don’t have an unusual collection, one of these ideas will click with you.

Pitching Advice

29 02 2012

When you are pitching stories to a reporter, it’s important to know not only who you are pitching to, but also what you are pitching and why you think it’s newsworthy. Sell them on the newsworthiness and you’re in.


Know your story and you’re halfway there

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I love PR (public relations)Image by DoktorSpinn via Flickr

Pitching can be challenging enough for any PR person, but if you don’t have your story down, you’d better have luck on your side.

Branding and positioning are core parts of any marketing campaign; they help tell the story. But, how often does a PR program incorporate the narrative or story around what is being pitched?

Here are a few things that make story telling a powerful media relations tool:

It’s a wrapper for your messages

We all know that good messaging is at the heart of an effective pitch, but what about going a step further and build a wrapper for those messages. Don’t just talk about what your product does, liven it up with interesting details. These could include how the product was developed, where it fits into the competitive landscape, anything unique or quirky, does it support or counter a trend, something interesting about the development process. Tell a story and your pitch becomes very interesting for those you’re trying to reach. The reporter will love you for it.

Look at the recent Old Spice social media campaign. Sure it was about shaving cream, but it really was so much more. It was compelling because it told a story – actually a few of them.

It can make a routine product stand out from the pack

I’ve been doing PR for financial firms for over 20 years and have worked on most of the industry’s products and services. One of the most routine, but necessary of products is the “college planning kit.”  The pitch materials are pretty much the same – press release, backgrounder, Q&A. Each year there is very little to distinguish one firm’s campaign from another. Then one year, dreading the sameness of the campaign, we did something different and told a story. It was a huge success.

The pitch was more than the product, after all everyone had one. Instead we focused on the issue of single parents savings for college. It was the first time that angle was used and reporters responded. The campaign went from sameness to uniqueness, all because we told a story about a routine product in a way that touched people beyond the mere facts.

Where do you find the story?

The angles are all around you. That single parent idea came from  a quick lunch with a colleague, a mom who was on her own in financing her son’s college education. Lightbulb.

My advice is to think like a reporter. The best will always think about what they’re covering in terms of something broader. A trend, how the competition is responding, testing it, looking at who is the user and what they think of it. Do the same think with your pitch; look at your product beyond its four corners and see whether it fits into a broader design. Build a story.

Try it out. You’ll have successful pitches and a lot more fun doing them.

Pitching Stories

28 02 2012

Usually MR people are the ones pitching the stories, but sometimes it is the “citizen journalists” who need a little help.


How to Pitch a Publicist

December 2, 2010 | Author 

I know, you are probably scratching your head right now. Well, the topic of pitching a publicist isn’t as silly as you might think.

Yes, that’s right, publicists get pitched too. Whether it’s for product reviews or hiring a blogger for a myriad of services (writing, conference sponsorship, and consultant opportunities) – it happens.

Bloggers and publicists – it seems we are all just trying to find a way to get along and work together. There is a lot of information out there on how to pitch bloggers, yet there’s not much material on pitching publicists or, what I refer to as “reverse pitching.”

Every day, more and more blogs are popping up and it’s making the blogging arena pretty competitive. Since I work with a lot of bloggers, I’m continually asked from a publicist standpoint on how I like being approached, or what do I look for in working with a blogger. Let me just put it out there that every company, brand and publicist looks for different things.

That being said, here are a few pointers to keep in mind when pitching a publicist. Surprisingly, these may sound familiar.

Be Honest

On occasion a blogger may feel she/he has to exaggerate blog stats. This is not a good idea. Publicists and companies use a number of measuring tools and will quickly discover if you are not being entirely truthful in your statistical roundup. If your blog is new, that’s okay, say so. If your blog has less than flattering stats, why not focus on the other things that you bring to table?

Showcase yourself…the right way

Yes numbers are important, but that’s not the whole enchilada. Influence can come from more than just blog numbers. Focus on your writing, your community reach – anything that might appeal to that specific company or project.  Clearly state the services you can offer. If you are looking to host a Twitter party, lay it all out there. Also, try linking to a few example posts within your e-mail.  I can’t stress this enough, spell correctly. If you can’t use proper spelling in an e-mail, a company will be less inclined to have you review their product or hire you for your services.

Be Patient & follow up

Yes, bloggers get a tremendous amount of e-mail. Want to hear a secret? So do publicists. Don’t be discouraged if it takes awhile for a company or PR person to get back to you. If you don’t receive a response, it’s okay to follow up. If you do hear back, and the answer isn’t quite what you were hoping for, be patient and don’t lose touch.

Develop a Relationship

Ever hear that saying: “It’s all about the relationship?” Well it goes both ways. I’m not a huge fan of receiving e-mails starting with “Dear PR Person,” or wacky version of my name. Make the introduction personal. Also, don’t give up hope. For example, when I speak with bloggers on a regular basis, I keep a file on all the other services that they offer (Twitter party hosting, writing, etc.), so that when the appropriate time and need arises, I have quick access to the info. Also, if one project isn’t right for a specific blogger, who is to say another project won’t be?

As a publicist, is there anything that you look for in working with bloggers?

Read more: How to Pitch a Publicist | PRBreakfastClub

Building a Friendly Relationship

27 02 2012

I believe it’s important for MR people to consider journalists their allies. Here are some tips to build that friendly relationship and have them view you the same way.


How To Build A Successful Media Relationship – Getting Back to Basics

by Erin Smith on 01/17/2011

The most essential part of our jobs as public relations professionals is building media relationships.  Without thriving relationships with the media, we cannot successfully secure media coverage for clients – whether in TV, print, radio or social media.

The key to success for PR pros is meaningful and frequent communication with your media contacts.  It’s not just about you and what you want – relationships are a two-way street.  Keep the communication open, and the relationship will be beneficial for both.

Below are a few basic tips to help you build relationships:

  • Build a well-thought-out media list – this is the basic and most important step in trying to secure coverage for your client or business.  There are great tools to help you build media lists.  Software such as Cision or Vocus have done most of the work for you and have compiled all the contact information for the reporters. However, it is very important to know each publication and understand what they write about.  For example, you may build a list to include all pharmaceutical publications, but some publications only cover manufacturing or clinical trials.  You wouldn’t want to send a press release on pharmacy filling equipment to either of those publications.
  • Know the reporter that you are contacting and what he or she has written about.  Make sure the person to whom you are pitching is the right person for your story – if you aren’t sure, just ask.  Oftentimes a reporter will pass you along to another reporter who would be interested.
  • Don’t try to sell your product or client to the reporter.  Instead, talk to him or her about a subject that might involve your client or product.  For example, if we wanted to promote a client’s architectural expertise, we might include them in a story angle about new home architectural designs for 2011.
  • Provide reporters with everything they might need to write the story.  Have all research and supporting documents ready to send to the reporter at a moment’s notice.  Don’t make the reporter wait for you to put something together.  By the time you get your research done, the opportunity might have passed.
  • When communicating with reporters, don’t expect them to write a story for you.  Instead, work on building a relationship with them.  When you are interested in asking someone on a date, you don’t just walk right up to the person and ask him or her out (Well, maybe you do, but I know this wouldn’t work to get me on a date!). Usually you find out a person’s name and what interests that individual. Do the same here.

One of the biggest downfalls for PR professionals in our industry is having the attitude that reporters need you to do their job. The truth is that PR professionals and reporters depend on each other to produce the best product for everyone.

Image Source: Stefan


24 02 2012

While watching the TODAY show this morning, there was a segment that really caught my attention. It was called Behind the Brand and basically focused on new promotions or things that companies are doing that are either hurting or helping their brand. As a MR person, I thought it was pretty huge that they had a segment like this on a talk show (which goes along with a post about how to get on a talk show that I posted earlier this week). I tried to find the video of the segment, but NBC doesn’t have the whole thing posted. Instead, I found this website which is kind of interesting. It takes a look at branding.




23 02 2012

Is any kind of publicity good publicity? I suppose that depends on who you ask. I once worked with a journalist who enjoyed the fact that he was hated by many readers because he said that got him more readers and attention than nothing at all. Here’s a look at a brand that had some bad publicity….but did it really hurt them?



Good News, Bad News

Published: October 29, 2010

When the Gap unveiled a new logo earlier this month, the reaction was swift, intense and very, very negative. In fact, some people detested the look so much it actually inspired them: somebody set up a Twitter account (@GapLogo) that purported to speak in the unpopular design’s voice, and someone else built a site called that made it easy to convert any short text into an imitation of the brand’s new style. The Gap tried to pivot off the negative buzz by asking the online hate mob for advice, in a sort of “crowd sourcing” gimmick, but that didn’t go over well, either. In just four days, the company capitulated and announced that it would not change its logo after all.

Reaction: Daniel Mihailescu/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images


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What’s the real impact of such a P.R. misstep? Marketing and business experts constantly warn about the dangers of ending up on the wrong side of public opinion, particularly in the age of social media, when gripes and mockery seem to explode overnight. Then again, there’s the old cliché that there’s no such thing as bad publicity — better that people are talking about your brand than not, period. Jonah Berger, a marketing professor at the Wharton School, was interested in these contradictory views and recently published research in which he and his colleagues Alan T. Sorensen and Scott J. Rasmussen (both of Stanford University) tried to determine which argument wins in the real world. “Can negative publicity actually have a positive effect?” they ask in the article published this month in the journal Marketing Science. “And if so, when?”

A crucial factor, they concluded, is how familiar a brand or product or other entity was before the negative publicity. Crunching data that cross-matched book sales against critics’ appraisals in The New York Times Book Review, they found that negative reviews of a new book by an “established” author hurt sales. “For books by relatively unknown (new) authors, however, negative publicity has the opposite effect,” increasing sales by 45 percent over their expected sales trajectory, they write. Evidently this boils down to increased awareness: the mere act of introducing something to a broader public — even by saying that it stinks — increases the chances that more members of that public will want it anyway.

Follow-up studies pointed out that as time passes, we may not remember the context in which we heard of something (a pan); we just know it’s familiar. (An anecdotal example Berger and his co-authors cite: a spike in people seeking information about Kazakhstan from after the release of “Borat,” a movie that mocked the place as backward and squalid.) It’s possible, then, that if Internet design snobs had risen up en masse to attack the new logo of a relatively obscure clothing store, it might have been a huge plus. Musing about real-world applications of their research, the study’s authors even suggest, for instance, that the makers of a small independent film “might want to allow, or even fan the flames of, negative publicity.” But obviously the Gap, with thousands of locations and a long history of high-profile advertising, is the epitome of a familiar brand — nobody who came across the logo brouhaha was hearing about the chain for the first time. The research would suggest that the company probably did the right thing by beating a quick retreat to silence the naysayers.

Then again, there’s a case to be made that the answer is not so simple. Nobody was actually criticizing Gap jeans or sweaters; they were just commenting on one aspect of its public image. Berger and his team have also collected data about negative attention to concepts “that are conceptually linked to a product” — for instance, bad press about a musician’s personal life that has no direct bearing on his or her music. He found that sales of Michael Jackson records rose during periods when the singer was “in the news for child-molestation charges” or dangling his baby over a balcony. Presumably no music shopper made a linear decision, opting to pick up some Michael Jackson records because of those allegations and incidents.

Perhaps the Gap debacle, too, is a situation in which a mere boost in awareness is useful: in an interview, Berger suggested that the news stories about the Gap logo change were not so much a conscious prompt as a kind of nonconscious “trigger in the environment.” (My favorite example of this is the curious rise of “Seinfeld” DVD sales after one of the stars, Michael Richards, was in the news for unleashing a racist tirade during a stand-up performance.) When it comes to bad news, Berger continued, it may be that “the more indirect it is, the more likely it could have a positive effect.”

Even amid the heckling, some speculated that the Gap’s logo makeover was in effect a publicity stunt, calculated to cause a fuss. That’s hard to believe (and the company denied it), but if Berger is right, then it’s not impossible that it could function that way just the same. If the Gap ends up selling a few extra pairs of jeans this month, it may just have its logo debacle to thank.