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Good business owners have certain expectations from their PR firms before entering into media relations partnerships. Afterall, that is why they contacted the firms in the first place. After considering their options, the businesses have decided on the final PR firms because they felt that they were the best suited for their goals and had the best potential for achieving them.
On the other side of the relationship, the firms also have certain expectations from the business client. While it is the firms’ responsibility to get coverage and meet the client’s expectations, the firms rely on the clients themselves to help them achieve the goals. In a way, it is perpetuating the old adage, “the best way to get help is to help yourself.” Below are certain areas where businesses can help their PR firms achieve their goals.
Although the most obvious, this aspect is one of the areas that can cause the most problems between a business and their PR firms. When outsourcing their PR, it can be easy for a business to “forget” about their PR firm as other issues come up on the agenda.
If the business has a good PR firm, their firm will be constantly trying to reach out to news media and journalists. This apparent period of inaction is the incubation period for the news stories the PR firm is trying to land their client. In time, several of the outlets will respond and will ask for the firm to follow up with more information. It is here where the communication between the firm and client is critical. If the business has gotten in the habit of taking longer to respond to the firm’s members, they run the risk of missing out on great opportunities for publicity.
Aside from missing out on opportunities, keeping up the communication is a good way to create new ones as well. The PR firm that is up to speed about what is going on with their client will not run the risk of pitching old news and will also have new content to share about their client.
The media loves numbers. Numbers are a great way to add substance to an idea or a point a business may be trying to make. Taking a step further, numbers that focus on overall industry patterns and observations as opposed to the business specifically, are of the most use to the PR firms. While some journalists may run pieces that read more like an ad than an actual story, most of the time journalists are looking for objective statistics to report.
If a business is able to provide these numbers for their firm, the firm’s chances of landing a piece of publicity increase. Once the media has shown interest in writing about the numbers, the firms can then introduce some of their client’s execs as opinion leaders on what the implications are for the industry as a whole. In this way, everyone wins: the PR firm has better content to offer to journalists, the journalists can create pieces that are relatively clean, and the client gets the publicity and establishes itself as industry leader in the subject.
In the case where the information a business is trying to publicize is more specific to the business itself, the PR firm knows that the media will be wanting reviews and opinions from customers outside the company. Every established business thinks their way of providing a service or creating a product is the best way to do it. This is perfectly fine; it is the confidence every successful business carries. However, to stand out from all the other businesses that think their own product is better, what the businesses really need is outside customer reviews.
A journalist is more likely to want to interview a third party than a spokesperson for the company. Readers, in general, tend to be more responsive to third party reviews as well. Businesses should not expect the articles their PR firms manages to land for them to have all the language the business would have liked there to be. In such a case, an advertisement would be just as useful as readers can easily distinguish a self-aggrandizing article.
4. The 30,000-foot view
In the event the PR firm manages to get an interview for one of the business members, the firm will try to prepare whoever is interviewing to make the most of the interview. The interview will center around a main theme or topic for which the PR firm pitched the business’ expertise. A good interviewee knows the balance between answering the journalist’s questions and placing his or her business in the answers.
If the person answering the questions focuses too much on getting the business name or point of view into the answers, the journalist may consider not including the quotes in his article. This means that when the journalist asks about trends and prognostications, the right answer includes a broad answer that is then further illustrated with data that can be more specific to the business itself. If the answers focus solely on what goes on in the business, the journalist may feel the answers are biased and, in the worst-case scenarios, arrogant.
Good communication habits between the businesses and their PR firms should be enough to avoid most of the common mistakes. This does not mean that there needs to be constant communication, but rather a set schedule where the firm is kept in the know and an avenue for quick action when the time comes. Doing so will enable the firm to meet the business’ expectations.
As PR pros it may be a little easier for us to get caught up in all the commercialism of Christmas. Even Charlie Brown, a well-meaning people-pleaser got carried away. Unavoidably, the holiday season accounts for a large part of the year’s revenue for many of the retailers and this is especially true if you consider the season to begin on Black Friday. As such, many companies put the pressure on their PR people to make their product the best-selling one of the year. We try, we’ll admit that much, but although we can bring the horse to water and showcase the product for the whole world to see, we cannot force it to drink. It is bad enough that the general populace is left with a bad taste in their mouth when they see the retailers as taking advantage of the one time in the year when people are encouraged to be selfless and give. Alas, c’est la vie, but we can at least say with a clean conscience that the retailers generally offer discounts during this time.
Christmas always brings out a PR “unicorn”, some product that inevitably becomes popular and sells out. Aside from bringing us the occasional viral video of shoppers fighting over a psychotic laughing Elmo or beanie babies, this fad always puzzles every marketer in how something like that could take the season by storm. Even with Michael Bublé, who only seems to come out every Christmas, we know what to expect and aren’t disappointed when it is the same year after year. Maybe it is a carefully crafted PR plan where a company creates a limited number of items and strategically positions them in locations to quickly sell out. Once sold out then a quick pitch to the media creates the illusion that it is popular and drives demand straight to the producer because, afterall, it is “sold out” and retailers don’t carry the product anymore. Or maybe I am just too cynical for all things marketing and these products do somehow have a je ne sais qua about them that induces buyers to get them. I am still suspicious, however, and can attest that I personally know no one who has purchased a Hatchimal this year.
In any case, Charlie Brown would be the one to stress out about getting the Hatchimal or Elmo. It is a problem of being too nice and trying to please everyone. Fortunately for him, he had a Linus to comfort him and remind him of what Christmas really started from and why. If you know a Charlie Brown, be their Linus and use those communication skills so valuable to our profession to help spread the message and to bring men good cheer.
Merry Christmas from all of us at INK!
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Here at INK we have a “No Soliciting” sign pasted onto our front door. It used to be on the window, but when workers came through to do some renovations, they ended up switching it to the door. Regardless, we have the sign and it is at eyes’ height so unless one is either very short or very tall, it is hard to miss. Today a gentleman came through and handed us some information on IT related business and after asking for one of our office member’s card, thanked us and scuttled away. He’ll probably call in at some point in the future to pique our interest in whatever product he was trying to sell. I assume it will be met with a quick “not interested” and maybe a comment about the no soliciting sign.
While pitching the client’s story, PR people work in a similar fashion except that instead of going door to door, they send emails or make calls (mainly send emails). Accordingly, every good PR person knows that pitching to a journalist who is well known to have a “no soliciting” sign is a waste of time and the best that could happen from that situation is if the journalist ignored it instead of subjecting it to public shame. At INK, our bread and butter is ensuring that the clients get the placements they are looking for and as such our whole existence revolves around sending the perfect pitch. It also helps when the client’s story is actually interesting.
We pride ourselves in having at least some aspects of creativity- afterall we have shown hints of brilliance in the past. The perfect pitch is something the journalist will find interesting and because of that the good PR person knows to flavor the story in a way the journalist will find tasteful. Often times the flavor is not quite consistent with what the client would like and it is difficult to explain to the client that the story they want is too concentrated for the outlet’s taste. I suppose PR people not only have to be good salespeople but also good chefs.
As a result, good communication is critical between the client and the PR team to even begin to create a well-pitched pitch. The client chooses what outlets they want placements in, and then INK goes ahead and crafts a story on the client that a journalist would find attractive. Even among industries that write about the same idea, the topics that the journalists will find worthy of their time will vary depending on their individual personalities. Usually the story will then also vary and as mentioned above, it can be hard to show the value or importance of modifying the message to a client who has one or two specific messages in mind.
Remember, we still keep the same message; we just modify it so that the journalist finds it more palatable. Consider how much pizza you have eaten in your entire life. That is the message. All the toppings are just different flavors. Undeniably, you probably prefer some type of pizza over another, but in the end… it’s just pizza. Journalists are like that and they won’t eat the metaphorical pizza unless it has the toppings they want. Thus, the perfect pitch.
In the end, however, just like the gentleman who came in and delivered his information, the end decision lies on who gets the pitch. In this scenario, it’s us, but for the pizza, it’s the journalist. Many times, it turns out that even if you do deliver the type of pizza the journalist loves to eat, they won’t bite- maybe due to some New Year’s diet resolution or maybe because they have a full plate already. A good PR person excels here as well. Rejection is normal, but the good PR person consistently sends out the perfect pitch, because even if the journalist may not be hungry for it today there is a good chance he or she may be hungry for it tomorrow.
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An old adage has warned us that you cannot trust everything that is on the internet. If anything, the current presidential election was proof that this “old” tip still holds true. We already know traditional news sites tend to be at least somewhat biased to one of the two ends of the political spectrum, but why would there be outright fake news?
The most common reason is money. The more views a certain piece of advertising gets, the more the advertiser has to pay the host. If the host can maximize its views with outrageous news stories, then it stands to reason some people would attempt to take advantage of the system. It has become the new yellow journalism.
Google and Facebook have both committed to trying to curve fake news by cutting ad revenue from news sources their algorithms consider fake. While this is a start, some people have complained about the algorithms saying they either do too much (allegedly targeting far-right or conservative pages) or not enough.
Aside from the motive to earn a quick dollar, other users create fake news sites quite simply to promote misinformation and “troll” the world. Arguably, there is very little to benefit from this approach other than twisted satisfaction, but it still happens.
Unfortunately, this leaves us with a situation in which the viewer has to make a judgment call on whether to believe the news or not. Granted some intellectual effort by the reader is a good thing, but the reader lacks access to all the facts and information with which he or she could make an educated decision. The readers depend on the news source for that and if the readers have to question their own facts, then how can one expect to make an educated decision?
The answer to the problem with fake news sites is far from being discovered. Issues plague the concept of having the search engines be the judges of right and wrong, true or false, and the implication for the information we receive. Yet, Google and Facebook have begun the effort by at least targeting those sites which are most explicitly fake (usually the quality of the page, the type of content, and the length of time the site has existed are good indicators). In the meantime, you, the reader, can help curve the rise of fake news sites by not clicking on or sharing false information to reduce the odds of the piece trending.
Technology marches down the passing of time evolving and progressing sometimes faster than others. In the past eight years, we have experienced one of the growth spurts of communication using this technology, and it is worth the time to look at how it has affected the role of our leaders in the government and how they have incorporated it into their campaign. This serves not only as a history lesson but also as a peek into how our future leaders may one day adapt to the nuances of technology.
Consider how President Obama was the first to use social media actively during his presidency. Granted, Facebook was founded in 2004 just four years before Obama’s election, but one could say he hit the ground running as he employed it in his first campaign and excelled using it during his second campaign. Not only has Obama been actively present in his social media channels but also his wife, Michelle Obama, has been active with her efforts. It comes as little surprise that the President would be so keen as to attain internet access for all the American people as it has been the medium for much of what he has done.
This approach has been done before several times. Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first to use avenues of public relations to target his followers successfully. He instituted the “fireside chats” to reach out to the American people at a time when the percentage of people with access to a radio increased from 40% in 1933 to 90% by the end of the decade. FDR was one of the most popular Presidents as he was elected to a total of four terms as President. The advent of television brought new opportunities, and Kennedy was the one to take advantage of that as well. The presidential debates leading up to his election were the first to be televised to a national audience. Kennedy’s youth and vitality won the affection of the people and their vote as he contrasted the pale older-looking Nixon. Many viewers, in fact, mentioned the difference between the two and polled Kennedy the winner of the debates notwithstanding the actual discussion on the issues.
Television, newspapers (online mostly) and radio (to a lesser degree) still play a major role in the way the American people see their leaders. The aptitude with which they use these mediums is usually a defining factor of their success. The goal then of these individuals is to single out the media consumed by their target audience and then “hit” it in an attempt to securely keep their constituents under their wing.
Humans are curious, and they love to consume new information; without getting too philosophical, it is what makes humans human. Humans also prefer hearing things that satisfy and agree with their pre-conceived notions on issues or look to people whom they idolize for these decisive factors. This extends to many things ranging from politics to consumerism. The age-old tactic of targeting the media these audiences consume is not dead. It is at the greatest it has ever been. As such, the successful politician will be the one who can best relate to his people and knows how to communicate as they do.