How to Explain PR to Your Father

 

How to Explain PR to Your Father

For those of you who have recently graduated from college and have had the good fortune of landing a job in a public relations agency, congratulations.  But now comes the hard part; trying to explain to your family and friends what you do for a living.

I remember many years ago when I landed my first job in a New York-based public relations agency and tried to describe over the phone to my Philadelphia parents exactly what it was that I was tasked to do.  Observing that my parents were still uncertain of my exact talent, I decided to bring my impressive portfolio of all earned media content (aka placements) and make a formal presentation to them in Philly.

At the time, one of my clients was Mannington flooring covering. Part of my job was to get editorial coverage of its flooring in top-targeted national magazines, and I had done an admirable job.  My portfolio was filled with placements from the likes of Better Homes and Gardens, Good Housekeeping, House Beautiful, Metropolitan Home, Woman’s Day, Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.

It took the better part of an hour, but I made a formal presentation to my parents explaining how I developed a media list and a pitch letter. I went on to describe the time-consuming process of engaging the editor in my idea and what it took to close the deal.  Then with pride, I took them through my bulging portfolio and explained the process involved in obtaining each and every glossy magazine article.

They smiled and nodded in what I assumed was recognition of the time consuming, long drawn out process and its results…the placement. I even went so far as to explain the difference between earned media and purchased media (advertising), and again they nodded in recognition of the perceived difference.

They seemed duly impressed and I was relieved that I had so admirably explained what I did for a living.

Then, a few weeks later, there arrived an envelope from my father containing the ripped out full page advertisement from Mannington floorcovering with a little hand-written note at the top, “Great job, darling.”

And my parents were not the only ones who were confused with what I did for a living. Throughout my life, whenever I was asked what I did for a living, and replied “public relations,” you could count on it that within a brief time, if the social situation allowed, the person would invariably turn and query, “Isn’t that like advertising?” To which I am now forced to reply, “Exactly.”  I surrender.

 

Tips for PR Pros: How to Pitch Journalists Via Social Media

 

Tips for PR Pros: How to Pitch Journalists Via Social Media

Social media offers an opportunity for public relations agencies to reach out to journalists in a more intimate space. But beware—not all channels offer appropriate outcomes.  There are right and wrong ways to use social media to query reporters, because you don’t want to come across as a stalker to a reporter. Remember that the social media sphere is a very personal shared space so be careful to follow these simple do’s and don’ts:

Don’t:

  1. Don’t pitch journalists through Facebook.
  • Facebook is a place for friends. Even though Facebook has become a place for business too, journalists consider Twitter a professional tool, not Facebook. Also, when you message someone you aren’t friends with on Facebook, it goes into their “other” folder, which often goes unchecked. Avoid posting on their wall or to pictures to get noticed– journalists want to maintain some privacy on their Facebook page.

 

  1. Don’t mass pitch reporters on Twitter
    • Remember, when your tweet can be seen by everyone. Don’t try to get noticed by a lot of reporters at once by pitching multiple accounts at once through tweeting. As soon as you pitch a journalist, they will likely click on your Twitter profile to learn more. If the reporter sees that the last several tweets are copied and pasted to different multiple people, they will lose interest quickly.

 

  1. Don’t contact another journalist to get his colleague’s information
    • It’s unprofessional to contact a reporter to get through to another one. Even though one reporter might have less followers than another, and it might be easier to see a @mention with that person, reporters are being pitched all the time—so they don’t need to be bothered with  a PR person trying to reach their colleague through them.

 

  1. Don’t follow up more than once
    • The point of pitching on social media is to keep it short and sweet. If you follow up more than once, reporters will automatically mark you as spam and you won’t be able to contact them in the future.

 

Do:

  1. Find out the reporter’s beat before you pitch them
    • It’s your job to do the research and theirs to determine your pitch’s relevance to the audience and publication. You can find this out by seeing what the reporter is tweeting or retweeting, and also by investigating their bio; it will usually say what topics they are interested in or what their beat is. You can also double check on such media directories as Cision.

 

  1. Use Twitter to pitch
    • Twitter forces PR pros to keep their pitches short and catchy. It is okay to pitch journalists through Twitter because they treat their accounts as an extension of their reporting, so they might be more willing to chat with you on Twitter about topics relating to their beats. When pitching reporters on Twitter, @mention the company you are working for and a link to some news–if they recognize the organization they maybe more likely to respond.

 

Remember to follow social media etiquette and you’ll do just fine.

5 PR Secrets I Learned From my Dog

 

5 PR Secrets I Learned From my Dog

Two years ago I rescued an eight year old black lab named Leo—and as the adage says, he rescued me right back.  He was a 65 pound anxious wrecking ball who, when briefly left alone, ate my desk chair and raided my walk-in closet bringing out and destroying all my stored paper products and laying waste a bag of potting soil and a toilet plunger. After the first few weeks, we were able to sort things out and develop a truce whereby I would help him get his mojo back and he would show me the wonders that are a dog.  Through him, I’ve learned the merits of unconditional love. I’ve also picked up a few important life lessons that can easily be applied to the workplace.  Here are five that apply to working better:

  1. Be loyal. Boy, when it comes to loyalty, Leo certainly scores high marks. But historically, there have been quite a storied dogs including Japan’s Hachiko, an Akita who is remembered for his remarkable loyalty to his owner which continued for many years after his owner’s death and Greyfriars Bobby, a Skye Terrier who supposedly spent 14 years guarding the grave of his owner.

In business, loyalty is a huge asset.  I have had both staffers and clients who have remained loyal to my company for many years, and as part of the equation, I find myself rewarding their loyalty.  For the staffer the rewards manifests itself in promotions and pay raises; for the client, in extraordinary personal time and results.

  1. Trust your instincts. On a very basic level, Leo has instinct that run like clockwork.  If I am not out of bed by my usual 7AM, he gently jumps up and nuzzles me at exactly 7:30 to get out of bed. He also reminds daily that it is time for his 4PM walk and Heavens forbid I am late for dinner, there is the nuzzle under my arm as I sit by my desk.

Just like Leo, trust your business instinct.  You’ll know if the client is asking too much, if the editor is really on a deadline, and if your colleague is drowning and needs some extra encouragement.

  1. Leo likes nothing more than the nearly empty jar of Skippy peanut butter as a treat. He holds it between his paws and uses him long snake-like tongue to patiently lick every remaining drop. The process takes him several minutes but by the time he finally relinquishes the jar, it is clean enough to be plunked into the recycle bin.

Perseverance is a quality that all good public relations people must acquire.  As with any PR agency, you have to have the ability to go after that new business lead, follow-up with that elusive journalists, pursue that client for input, or mentor that less experienced colleague.

  1. Be enthusiastic. Leo’s enthusiasm sometime just makes me laugh. He’ll run for the ball with such gusto as to run right passed it. And when eating, he gulps each meal as if it were his last. Not to mention when I return from a brief outing without him, his jumps for joy make me love him even more.

Now I am not asking you to love your client, but I’ll tell you that a client will surely love you if you show enthusiasm for her company, product, ad campaign, and even her children’s photos that are lined up on the desk.   For a client’s birthday I once sent a humongous helium balloon with a small bucket dangling beneath filled with champagne and chocolate kisses. Everyone in the company wanted to who his PR agency was.

  1. Go outside and play. Even though Leo spends most of his time curled under my desk on his comfy dog bed, at the end of our day we are both ready to go out and play.

I tell my colleagues that working in public relations is not like operating in a hospital. No one dies as a result of our profession. Therefore, take a minute or two, unplug from your computer and your cellphone and go out and play.  Have fun!

Why Cats Need Better Public Relations

 

Why Cats Need Better Public Relations

Cats are the most popular pet worldwide, outnumbering dogs three to one, yet dogs are given the label of man’s best friend.  How did this happen? I know from my own experience of being owned by several cats over the years, that they do have some characteristics that well, could use a good public relations professional.

  1. Bad reputation. For years cats have been portrayed as aloof, distant and unloving while simultaneously portraying dogs as loyal and heroic.  Having had both at the same time I can attest to the fact that my cats have been more like Tao, the loyal Siamese cat in The Incredible Journey while my dogs, instead of being Lassie, Ole Yeller or Air Bud were more like Beethoven, the lovable slobbering big-hearted giant.
  2. Image as villain. Movies and television have portrayed cats as villains in films like The Godfather, Austin Powers, and Inspector Gadget. And of course there was the movie Cats & Dogs where a secret war between cats and dogs for world dominance was depicted. Even Garfield is shown as conniving and mischievous.    Even documentaries on Animal Chanel and NatGeo depict cats as “little lions” ready to break out of their homes and go on the hunt killing small rodents and birds.  But really, whose fault is that? If humans would just understand that cats are really home-bodies, and just want to remain indoors and sleep all day, this would go a long way to help reposition their reputation as a heartless predator. Cats don’t save the day in the media; they are either the bad guys themselves or they are marginalized.
  3. Marginalization in the media. When not being depicted as a villain, cats are shown as a cheap form of entertainment on the Internet with the likes of Grumpy Cat, Keyboard Cat and Nyan Cat. Although statistics show that 15% of all Internet traffic is related to cat videos, most of them display cats as morons either falling off the back of sofa, chasing phantom red dots or falling into water-filled bathtubs—and even worse is how they are portrayed as bad spellers with poor grammar.
  4. Need for rebranding. What about the cat in Florida that is shown letting the alligators have it with a left jab? Here’s a brave lad who needs better public relation services. If you Google “dog chasing alligators” on You Tube you don’t see a darned thing. And when it comes to displaying affection, cats just do it differently. While a dog will slobber in your face, a cat is far more subtle in its gestures: tail up in the air and body rubbing against your leg.
  5. Image problem. Yup, cats have an image that warrants the attention of a full-service public relations agency.  The problem has stemmed from and has been perpetuated for years by the media, so it is via the media that a new image must be developed.
  6. A call to arms. I am calling out to all cat owners who are also public relations professionals to do their part in helping to stem the tide on the feline image.  Social media pages dedicated to your feline friends is indeed a start.
  7. For my part. I have heard the call to help the cat reputation and for my part have written and will soon be publishing a book entitled Slick: The Cat That Stole Christmas.  It will be available via Amazon in the fall. Forgive my commercial message but at least I have taken pen to paper, so to speak, in an attempt to help recraft the cat image.

 

PR Calendar for the Toy Industry

 

PR Calendar for the Toy Industry

As a public relations agency, we have been working on behalf of the toy industry for many years. Trying to get toy and game owners to understand the unnatural deadlines applied to us by the media is often a difficult and trying task.  Nothing is worse than when a toy company comes to us in the September asking for media exposure for their products in the nationally recognized media Holiday Gift Guides—efforts will be limited, at best.

To help toy and game companies plan their annual publicity calendar, we offer up the following guidelines:

 

JanuaryToy Fair—Now is the time if you are a toy company to begin planning in earnest for February’s Toy Fair. More than 1,000 reporters, editors, photographers and bloggers from Manhattan to Madrid are on‐site at the New York Toy Fair each year to report on hot new toys and the latest trends for kids. Thousands of articles and broadcast segments from around the globe feature content from Toy Fair.

 

January– International TableTop Day was founded three years ago as a way for the world to celebrate tabletop gaming together. Every April fans host thousands of events all over the world and every year, the event grows. TableTop Day 2015 was celebrated in 80 countries, over 7 continents, and had over 3,000 events in total. If you are a board game developer why not host an event in your area.  If so, then you’ll have to start your PR engines in January in order to get the ball rolling.

 

JanuaryToy Tests, Awards & Reviews—The  beginning of the year is a good time to start researching and planning for inclusion in the nationally recognized toy awards, reviews and tests that are conducted annually.  Go to each website and get the rules and deadlines and plan accordingly.  Getting recognition from industry peers goes a long way to establishing top-of-mind awareness for your company and its products. A few of the top venues include Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Award, Parents Choice Award, Good Housekeeping, Mom’s Choice and Dr. Toy, to name a few.

AprilHoliday Gift Guides–Start planning for the Christmas holidays.  Yes, that’s right.  The long lead national print media (monthly magazines) plan approximately 4—6 months in advance for each issue. Almost every media outlet nationwide develops its annual Holiday Gift Gifts—and by all means, you need to be included.  This means in order to be considered for inclusion in national magazines such as Family Circle, Good Housekeeping, and Woman’s Day, for example, you had better have your engines ready and your press materials sent out for consideration by these influential media outlets.

 

But all is not lost if you miss the long-lead deadline because national media also have websites that accept online content on a more timely basis.

 

July–Mommy Bloggers–For the most part, many of the mommy bloggers want not only free product, but also payment to “review” your toys. Payment may vary from $25–$100.  With this understanding, we introduce you to a one-stop New York-based enterprise geared to mommy bloggers. It is a very cost-effective way to be involved in an event whereby hundreds of mommy bloggers come together in one venue. The Agency has no connection to this venue and is not in a position to judge its effectiveness. http://sweetsuiteevent.com

 

September—December—Short-lead media—The short lead print media such as daily and weekly newspapers, weekly magazines, wire services, news syndicates, and broadcast have lead times that closely mirror real time, as do influential websites and bloggers. So if you are introducing a new product during the year or for consideration in the Holiday Gift Guides, now is the time to get your press materials out to the media.

 

Start your publicity engines early and follow your annual planning schedule closely.  This will lead to increased awareness and brand-building throughout the year.