Know When to Go—Exiting a PR Firm

 

Know When to Go—Exiting a PR Firm

There comes a time in every public relations staffer when all of the stars line up and it’s very obviously time to start the job search—while you are currently employed.  There are lots of reasons for taking that next step; these are just a few.

  1. Stay for a year. Unless the job is excruciating, the rule of thumb is to remain at a position for a full year.  Why?  It gives your time there validity. It shows that you decided to leave on your own terms instead of being asked to leave after a few months.
  2. Exception to the one year rule. If the position absolutely is intolerable, or worse yet, you just made the wrong public relations agency decision, get out of there sooner than later.  Why? Because a mistake of a few weeks/months can easily be erased from your resume—which means, not included at all.
  3. Your boss is a terror. The interesting thing that I have witnessed about newly minted bosses is that in most cases the company has put little if any effort into creating an environment whereby junior people are shown how to be a manager/boss.  In most cases, employees learn from example—they see how other managers manage and hopefully they extract the most outstanding leadership qualities.  But, that’s assuming that their bosses have great qualities that can be emulated. I’m all for leadership and managerial training.  If your company doesn’t provide training, look into courses at such institutions as Dale Carnegie.
  4. You’re not learning anything new. Yup, there may come a time when you feel like you are just running around in a hamster cage—doing the same tasks every day with seemingly no opportunities to learn new skills.  That may be a time to first talk to your supervisor and explain your situation.  If your request for growth opportunities is ignored, well, then that is definitely a sign to start updating your resume and posting it on
  5. You weren’t promoted. So you think the time has come for you to get a promotion—and it didn’t happen.  And even worse, someone who you think is your equal got the promotion.  What to do?
    1. Make a plan with your boss. A former employee of mine did just this.  She desperately wanted to be promoted to Account Supervisor. So, she made an appointment to meet with me to get me engaged in a plan to help her gain that promotion. We laid out a six-month plan and low and behold, she kind of had me between a rock and a hard place because at the end of the six months she had accomplished all that we laid out—and she received the promotion.
    2. You can just look elsewhere. But this is often a hard one because other public relations agencies usually require new hires to already be doing the work of that position.  There’s the conundrum.
  6. You made a big mistake. Now, how do I sensitively approach this one?  OK, first is that I need to explain what may be defined as a big mistake.
    1. An office affair. In most instances and in most agencies, this is a big no no, especially if your affair is with your boss.  There’s been a lot already written about this one so if you need it to be spelled out for you, go to
    2. You’ve been dishonest. This is another big no no.  This can include anything from taking money from the company by turning in falsified expense reports to searching for a new job on company time. For greater insight here’s an article from Small Business Chron.

 

How to Read a PR Client’s Mind

 

How to Read a PR Client’s Mind

How many times have you wished that you could indeed read your client’s mind? Or even better, read the mind of the prospective client?  I remember pitching a cruise ship line several years ago.  They had called me because I had the relevant experience just recently having launched a new ship.

After the preliminary niceties, it was decided that I would fly out to Seattle to meet with them to present our initial public relations program.  But first, I asked if they had a budget.  Their response was the dreaded “zero-based budget” which quite frankly means that although they probably do in fact have a budget, they don’t want to tell us because they have the misbelief that we possibly will bring the budget in for less, and then they will have “saved money.” How foolish.

So, to remove the suspense, I didn’t get the piece of business. Why? Because when the client went to the back page budget and saw the total, he screamed, “On my goodness, this is much higher than our budget.”  Now, if the potential client had only told me his budget number I would have been able to create the best public relations program at that budget number. But because I couldn’t read his mind, I came in too high and could never salvage the business.

So, what has this taught me? Here is some insight into what potential clients are thinking:

  1. Can I trust her? Remember, it’s the presenter, not the presentation that gets you hired. They want you to look them in the eye and make them believe that if they give you their business, that you can truly help to solve their problems, make them richer, sell more product, whatever.
  2. Will she be there when I need her? Back in the day, I remember a noted PR firm having mandated that their staff wear pagers even when they went to the bathroom.  Today, with everyone’s mania about not going anywhere without their cellphones, the need for a mandate has been eliminated.  Clients want to know that they can reach you anytime and anywhere.  Yup, I know, that can mean nights and weekends, but if your client has a sudden crises, like a cruise ship fire off the coast of Alaska, they want to make sure that their team is there for them.
  3. Will she be the monitor of my money? OK, so you developed a suggested budget but things happen during the implementation of a public relations program whereby you may need to spend additional monies. Don’t be an idiot and spend big money without getting client buy-in. I have never had a client tell me “no” I can’t spend that unanticipated money. I have only seen clients go ballistic when huge, unanticipated expenses come through.
  4. Will she make me look like a hero to my boss? Everyone has a boss, even the CEO who just may happen to report to his shareholders.  So, when you are hired it is your job to make him look good; to make his superiors believe that hiring a PR firm was a good and meaningful corporate spend.

6 Tips: How to Prepare for a PR Crisis

 

6 Tips: How to Prepare for a PR Crisis

A crisis can happen at any time. And most often it happens when you are least prepared.  And when it happens there is no such thing as a small crisis.  In today’s environment things can go wrong when least expected. Your CEO is accused of financial misconduct, your employee is accused of harassment, your product has a manufacturing glitch, your pharmaceutical has unforeseen side effects.  These, and more, can catch you off guard and make your life, and the life of your corporation, miserable.  The best laid plans are those that are penned in advance. Here are some recommendations from T.J. Sacks & Associates, a New York-based public relations agency with experience fighting the good fight for companies in a bad situation:

  1. Identify potential crisis situation(s) in advance. Identify your potential internal and external weaknesses. Start doing your research early to see where your weak links exist and how you might possibly shore them up ahead of an event.
  2. Do you have a crisis plan? If not, these are elements to be considered: Start researching and writing a crisis plan today.
    1. Identify your key response team.
      • Media train them early and often—ideally in front of video camera so they can get immediate feedback on their mock responses.
      • Have their contact information on hand for rapid access.
    2. Have written statements prepared for each potential weak area.
    3. Make sure that no one but the key response team members respond to any media calls.
      • Train your receptionists and phone people so they know whom to forward the calls to in case of a crisis.
    4. Alert staff as to whom are on the response team—explain that these are the only people authorized to speak to the media.
    5. Stage crisis readiness simulations.
  3. Key leadership role. Start preparing early to develop and fine-tune your corporate leadership. Make sure they are comfortable addressing the media and have them “practice” during off-crisis times, such as when they are releasing earnings or when a product’s sales is doing exceptionally well.
  4. Be prepared to respond to the immediacy of social media. Are you prepared to respond quickly to misinformation, accusations and distortions? Is your social team prepared or will they have to wait hours and days for “corporate” to sanction social outreach? Is your management aware of the potential damage that waiting on social media can inflict?
  5. Review and update your crisis plan annually. Once developed, and the team assembled, they should meet quarterly to review their “action plan”.
  6. Hire a public relations agency. I have been involved in a number of crisis situations reaching from an ineffective birth control device to a crises of confidence for an infant formula to poor quality manufacturing practices to improper corporate practices. In each case, we worked to develop a crisis plan, train the response team, prepare media responses and act quickly and effectively on behalf of our clients.

Although a crisis is seldom averted, it can be dealt with quickly and efficiently once all your ducks are lined up in a row, so to speak. Remember, be calm when all hell is breaking out, be straightforward when the hordes are pounding at your door and be truthful and quick to respond when the media call.  You reputation depends on your planning for the worst, and being grateful that it has passed.

9 PR Best Practices for Corporate Blogging

 

9 PR Best Practices for Corporate Blogging

Blogging can be a great opportunity for some organizations and brands to enter the social media world and thereby put their best foot forward on behalf of their company/product.  But before you jump head first into the blogosphere it is important to develop a strategy that helps present you in the best light while also grabbing the attention of your target audience.  Here are a few start-up tips:

  1. Grab their attention. Nowadays it seems that everyone has taken to the Internet with an opinion, 10 tips or guidelines. Make sure that you start off your blog with something that is relevant to your audience and will make them want to continue reading. You’ve only got a few sentences in which to grab their attention. Make it worth their while to stay.

 

  1. Use bullets or numbered lists. Everyone loves a list whether it is 10 tips, bullets or just visually pleasing in the layout.  You are competing for everyone’s time and attention spans are waning, so the setup of you blog is very important.

 

  1. Develop keywords.  For search engine optimization (SEO), your keywords matter especially in the title as well as the tips themselves.

 

  1. Use hyperlinks. In addition to using strong keywords, the use of hyperlinks aids tremendously in spreading your blog post throughout the Internet.

 

  1. Write about what you know. Everyone is an expert in his/her field so use this platform wisely. Learn how to teach others, how to arrange and present your thoughts in an organized fashion.

 

  1. Provide advice. Position yourself as the guru or specialist in your field. With experience comes knowledge and it is important to pass this knowledge along to others. Blogging offers a perfect outlet.

 

  1. Drive traffic. Blog through other social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook

 

  1. Watch your length. Blog posts are 250-600 words long according to the industry-accepted standard. The more frequently you post, the shorter your post should be.

 

  1. Keep the posting schedule consistent. I try to post regularly on my blog so that followers will look at the site as a go-to place for insights from the president of a New York public relations agency.

5 Ways to Ace a PR Presentation

 

5 Ways to Ace a PR Presentation

OK, so you’ve gotten the call—you’re one of the public relations agencies chosen to present your recommended public relations program to the perspective client. You’re passed the written portion of the “test” and now you’re on to the in-person review.

Preparing for the presentation is probably the most important part of the “test.” Remember: It’s the presenter, not the presentation.  So everything is riding on how the presentation goes.  So, with this in mind, here are five tips on how to prepare for this vital experience.

  1. Know the client. Yes, you are going there to present your recommendations, but you are also going there to make an impression.  How knowledgeable are you of the client’s company, brands, history, etc.?  How knowledgeable are you of any issues affecting the client? Their website if where you start but they are also looking to see what kind of research and industry investigation you did. What can you bring to the table?
  2. Know your audience. Are you presenting to the CEO, president, product managers, public relations people?  If they are bringing their “big guns,” then you have to do the same. Make sure you know who the participants will be ahead of the presentation.  You don’t want to embarrass yourself by not bringing your “A” team if the CEO is present.
  3. Case the space. Try to get entry into the presentation space ahead of time.  Set up the projector and screen, arrange the collateral materials, select agency and client seating, check the lighting and air, make sure you have bottles of water on hand and remove anything from the conference table that may be distracting.
  4. Think on your feet. I always tell my staff that there’s no such thing as a wrong answer—there’s only the non-answer. I encourage them to attempt a response and if it’s incorrect it’s my job is to jump in with the proper response seamlessly.  So, if my colleague attempt the response, I may jump in with, “Well, in some cases that may be effective, but in this particular instance perhaps this would work better…..” Presenting as a team can prove extremely effective in this instance.
  5. It isn’t over till it’s over. Follow-up is key in eliciting important feedback and determining where the decision-making process stands. If there are fence-sitters, they can sometimes be swayed through after-the-fact communications.

 

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.