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.

How to Generate PR During your Crowdfunding Campaign

 

How to Generate PR During your Crowdfunding Campaign

When you read the Kickstarter stats it can be depressing: the rate of success is only 38.13%–that means that 61.87% fail.  Why? With 228,894 launched projects in the past 12 months it’s really difficult to break through and gain visibility.  So what can you do to help generate a buzz and create top-of-mind awareness on Kickstarter?

Statistics show that those who hire a public relations agency are often more successful in establishing awareness and getting their products funded.  But if you can’t hire an agency, then become your own publicist.

  • If you build it they will come. Creating a launch-worthy product takes time and effort—and so does promoting it. If you build it they will come is untrue in the crowdsourcing world.  You have to take your information to the media and the influencers.  Working hard at creating a prelaunch buzz should be your goal from the minute you decide to go with a crowdsourcing campaign.
  • Develop a media kit. You have to make it easy for a reported to find and help you. Create a one-page press release on your project, a high-resolution photos, a list of what makes your project so compelling and unique and a screenshot of your campaign.
  • Develop your media lists. If too intimidating, you can hire a freelancer to find the blogs and writers related to your project. And don’t be intimidated about picking up the phone and calling your local newspapers, radio and TV stations and pitching your story; local media can be your best supporters.
  • Social media. Create a Facebook and Twitter pages as well as Instagram and  Explore some advertising on an outlet such as Facebook where, for just a few dollars a day, you can increase your visibility and promote your Kickstarter campaign.
  • Crowdsourcing PR sites. Here are 7 free tools to help generate a buzz before you launch a crowdfunding project:
    1. it. According to Wikipedia Thunderclap is a “crowdspeaking” platform that lets individuals and companies rally people together to spread a message. The site uses an “all-or-nothing” model similar to crowdfunding sites such Kickstarter, in that if the campaign does not meet its desired number of supporters in the given time frame, the organizer receives none of the donations.
    2. Pitchfuse. Using the service, you can post your up and coming Kickstarter or Indiegogo project and receive comments, collect email addresses, analyze pageviews, and accumulate followers. You can also notify your followers when you do launch.
    3. Working on the principal of “social currency,” this site taps into the collective influence of the crowd to gauge a project’s popularity. The more crowdcredits you acquire, the higher your ranking on this site and the more likely you are to become a trending project.
    4. This is where you post that press release that you created. After posting it on this site you can copy and paste it on your blog or website, and you can even attach it to your press release when you distribute to media outlets.
    5. This is where you post information on your pre-launch campaign—it’s a “coming soon” platform that helps you create awareness and gather supporters early on.
    6. You can create a pre-launch landing page where you can collect email addresses of potential backers.
    7. Here’s a quick and easy place to start your blogging efforts.  It’s a channel for reaching out to other bloggers, for explaining your campaign, for sharing your goals as well as your frustrations and lessons learned.

Good luck!

Tips for PR Pros on Pitching Journalists Via Social Media

 

Tips for PR Pros on Pitching Journalists Via Social Media

Social media offers an opportunity for PR 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. Here are a list of the Do’s and Don’ts for PR professionals of approaching reporters on social media.

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.

 

  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.

PR Tips: How to Prepare for a Media Interview

PR Tips: How to Prepare for a Media Interview

Proper preparation can help you make the most of a broadcast or print interviews.

Message Points: In preparing for a media interview, the first step is to develop communications objectives- two or three key points you wish to convey to your audience. You might want to discuss the benefits of your company , or other points directly related to your marketing objectives.

Rehearse. We can’t stress how important it is to rehearse responses to all possible questions. Simulate interview sessions with the help of a friend or a professional media trainer. Rehearse out loud. Vocalizing your responses will help to file the messages in your “mind’s ear.”

Preview your interviewer. If she is a TV news reporter, watch some of her broadcast interviews. If he is a newspaper reporter, read some of his articles so that you are comfortable with his interviews style.

Short Words – Simple Sentences. This creates an air of informality and the illusion of casual conversation between you and the reporter. A natural, informative quality also makes you more believable.

Learn how to “bridge.” When an interviewer asks a question that sidesteps your key points, regain control by bridging from the topic broached back to your key line of reasoning or point.

Avoid “Off the record.” The phrase “off the record” is an overused and misused tool not recommended for the average interviewees. Your interviewer will probably bristle if you offer information and then plead, “But this is ‘off the record.’ Say what you have to say in an authoritative manner and you will automatically convey a sense of expertise and knowledge about the topics.

Non-verbal cues. The spoken word is only a small part of the communications process. We all know that direct eye-to-eye contact connotes a sense of candor and honesty. That’s just one way in which non-verbal cues can work in your favor. In addition to the unspoken cues, you should also be aware of your voice and your body language. Be natural and as relaxed as you can be under the circumstances.

Have fun!

8 Skills They Don’t Teach You as a PR Major

You’ve learned a lot in college, including algebra, U.S. history and how to text under your desk. But once you leave your beloved alma mater behind, you may realize there are some very important life lessons that you never learned.

8 Skills They Don’t Teach You as a PR Major

If you want to avoid that terrifying task of entering the real world without many of the skills you need to succeed, take the time to learn these things, before graduation day rolls around.

  1. How to manage your money. So you land a job in a New York public relations agency straight out of college and the company provides you with the option to join its 401k plan.  Without a basic understanding of the stock market, which is almost never taught in school, you will be dead in the water.
  2. How to cook. Overprotective parents are not doing their children any favors. Upon graduation they not only don’t know how to slice a tomato, but have no understanding of how to buy groceries or prepare them.
  3. Home repairs. Another area where parents should take responsibility for initially putting that hammer and screwdriver in their kids’ hands and explaining the basics of how to hang a nail on the wall for a painting or remove a screw.
  4. Social skills. The best jobs require social skills, according to recent findings published in the New York Times.  As a kid in kindergarten you learned to play well with others. Then, as you moved along in school these skills were replaced by impersonal lecture-style teaching of hard skills, with less peer interaction. In such fields as public relations, the softer skills like client interaction and counseling, motivating colleagues and being a team player are emphasized.
  5. Leadership skills. A good leader’s job is to get work done through people. Skills like how to hire the best people, how to provide mentoring, and then how to get out of the way and let them do their job are skills that unfortunately are often left for on-the-job learning.
  6. How to sew. So, what do you do when you have to sew on a hanging button? Either befriend your local tailor or learn this valuable skill.
  7. How credit works. Just because you were able to secure a credit card doesn’t mean you should use it foolishly and mindlessly.  With some credit rates as right as 28%, it could take you years to pay off a $1,000 balance. So, don’t party hardy unless you can pay with cash.
  8. How to find a job. The very basics of how to go about researching and landing a job are skills that unfortunately are often self-taught.  Seek out professors and counselors as well as taking advantage of career centers for assistance in this vital area.

Five PR Leadership Skills I Learned From My Cat

 

Five PR Leadership Skills I Learned From My Cat

I’ve been living with cats for most of my adult life and let me tell you, they are the consummate leaders of the house and sometimes of my life.  The first year that Jonny, my current 14-year-old cat, lived with me I hardly knew he existed. He hid from me, played hard-to-get, and really, quite frankly, I thought that he hated me.  At one point I actually said to my sister, “OK I’ll keep him, give him free room and board, but we’ll never bond.”  Well, was I wrong. Fourteen years later he not only holds my heart in his tiny paws, but he has gone on to show me some interesting leadership skills that can be brought to bear on the public relations industry.

Be creative.  I always thought that the manufacturers of cat toys arguably were not cat owners. Why else would they develop some of the least exciting and sometime the largest play things ever?  Just leave it to a cat to find creativity in a small piece of rolled up silver foil, ribbon or a fallen paperclip. Great leaders find creativity in areas that the rest of us mortals may never explore as they go off to turn a problem over in their mind to come up with a creative solution.

Be observant.  Honestly, it fascinates me to see Jonny staring off into space caught up in what, trying to determine the scope of the universe, the distance between Earth and Mars, the square root of 16? Great leaders know how to observe others, to listen to other points of view, and to thereby help to advert conflict, solve marketing problems or to just bring new perspective into an old marketing plan.

Be engaging. Whereas dogs have an in-your-face style of engagement, cats are far more subtle.  They will quietly appear whenever you least expect them, bringing warmth and comfort.  A good leader does likewise, often in the form of a fresh approach, problem-solving guidance or just a warm word of encouragement, “Good job.”

Be an explorer.  Open a door, put down an empty carton, take out a shopping bag, and low and behold, faster than a speeding bullet your cat will be inside exploring the new space, and if you encourage him by putting in your fingers or a small toy, well, you’ve got the beginning of a brand new game.  Well, a great leader does the same. S/he opens new ways of thinking about old problems, brings new challenges into your thought process and helps you to expand your own creative process.

Don’t be judgmental.  A cat doesn’t judge you by your appearance, in fact, if you never put on makeup or shave that beard, your cat won’t care.  A good leader doesn’t judge someone for trying out new ideas or new strategies, doesn’t put someone down for not knowing the next step and never judges a book by its cover, so to speak.  Hiring someone who doesn’t seem to fit your traditional mold can often lead to new out-of-the-box thinking from someone who approaches their tasks with a fresh mind and a new perspective.

 

Defining PR for My Family

Defining PR for My Family

I got my first job in public relations after I married and moved to New York City.  After settling in, my parents invited my husband and I back to Philadelphia for a weekend trip.  Over dinner my proud parents queried, “What exactly is public relations?” something that I learned would become an ongoing query throughout my professional life.

I went on to describe the work I was doing on behalf of Mannington Floors, a manufacturer of hardwood, laminate and vinyl flooring, explaining how I developed media queries (a.k.a. pitch letters) that were sent to target media to try to interest them on developing an article (in print) or segment (in television) on the virtues of hardwood flooring.

I explained that it was my job to compile background information, and in some instances actually write up full length feature articles (content) for consideration by the media for use in their outlet.  My parents nodded knowingly, then asked for examples. The next time I came to visit I came prepared with my media placement book containing all of the articles that I provided to the media and the resultant free placements.

Although they found it a bit confusing to comprehend free media placements in lieu of payment, as in advertising, I thought for sure that after my one hour presentation that they would clearly understand the difference between public relations and advertising: Advertising is paid for and public relations is prayed for. 

The next week an envelope arrived at my office addressed from my father.  When I opened it, there inside was a full page Mannington Floors advertisement from the pages of Good Housekeeping with a little penned note from my father: Keep up the great work. Love Dad.

I realized then and there that this would indeed be a lifetime perception problem; trying to explain the difference between advertising and public relations.  So from then on, whenever I’m in a social situation with new people with whom I have little interest in either networking or engaging with, when queried as to my profession I quickly dismiss them by answering, “Advertising,” to which they usually acknowledge with a knowing nod of the head.  I know that when I answer with “Public relations,” if I wait long enough, the person will invariably turn to me with a puzzling look and query, “So, what exactly is public relations?” And sometimes I’m just not in the mood to try to clarify my profession.

How ironic that public relations, the one profession that helps to improve brand imaging for virtually everything, has failed in its attempts to elevate brand awareness of itself.

 

5 Key Skills for PR Professionals

 

5 Key Skills for PR Professionals

“Why do you want to go into public relations?” I queried.

“Because I’m good with people,” she responded.

I have lost count on the number of times I have heard this response from the uninformed person who acknowledges that she/he wants to pursue a career in public relations.   In order to succeed in the public relations industry, there are several basic skills that must be either honed or acquired. Here is a list of my top five:

Strong writing.  It always surprises me when a newbie is unaware of the need for good writing skills.  In fact, that’s probably the most important skill of all.  Employees have to be able to write to the media (via pitches and queries), write to the clients (status reports and updates) as well as their boss (weekly reports).  A well written media query will garner the attention that clients deserve.

Think like a reporter. I was fortunate to have gotten my first job as a news reporter, but most of those in public relations don’t have that opportunity.  It is a must to not only query the right media, but to read what they write so that you know how to approach them on relevant topics.  If the reporter covers the area of technology, you will surely be embarrassed if you contact her on behalf of your interior designer client.

Confident public speaking.  I can’t emphasize enough the need for students in marketing and public relations to take public speaking courses while in college.  This will prove to be invaluable the first time attending a new business meeting or facing down a client across a conference room.

Know your client’s industry.  I always tell my clients that “We work with you, not for you.” The important differential here is that we know his business as well as if we were actually on staff working for him.  Learn to research the industry whether it’s consumer products, finance or pharmaceuticals…and become an expert in that field.

The ability to just figure it out.  A new project, like learning how to upload a client’s blog to Facebook Instant Article, may seem daunting at first, but once done, will provide a new skill that can be brought on to other tasks.  Take the time to figure it out.  Remember, it’s not brain surgery, and no one will die if done incorrectly.  But if done right, a new skill is added to the resume.