The Value of PR in a New Product/Service Launch

The Value of PR in a New Product/Service Launch

If you are one of the lucky ones to have invented a new product or service, look or even better a new product category, the likelihood of it being successfully introduced to the general public without public relations and marketing support is highly unlikely. This proverbial: a horse won’t drink the water unless you take him to it, so to speak. So how do you accomplish this?

Well, first and foremost is the use of a public relations agency that will work with you to develop a brand strategy and a launch strategy.  Working with both the traditional media (print and broadcast) and the new media (social and websites), an agency experienced in new product and new service introductions will often initiate the following media tactics:

  1. Press Releases. There are certain basic PR tactics that should be done as a matter of course, when you are releasing a new product, starting a business or want to tell the public about any new business related development. Press releases are probably the best known PR technique of all.
  2. Media deskside briefings. In an instance where you have actually created a new product category (lucky you), the PR agency may set up a series of one-on-one meetings right at the media outlet’s office. More cost-efficient then a press conference, and obviously more intimate, the PR person can describe and actually demonstrate a new product.
  3. Product reviews. New product reviews by critical media and bloggers only help to elevate your product’s visibility among your target audiences. Public relations agencies may distribute product samples to targeted media for review. Good reviews may be posted on your product website as a badge of honor.
  4. Contests. Working with the media, your public relations agency may suggest implementing a consumer-based contest in a magazine or newspaper.  With this, the media will call upon their readership to actually participate in a contest, the prize being your product sample.
  5. Spokesperson. It is always wise to appoint either a client-based internal spokesperson as the media liaison, or, if not available, to seek out, train, and work with an external spokesperson, such as a celebrity, book author, etc. Often you can work out a deal that you will allow the book author to promote their book in return for promoting your new product—this way you can avoid having to pay for their time.
  6. Live events. Live events can include many different possibilities, from the conventional to the more outrageous guerrilla marketing tactics. Involvement in trade shows, charity events and publicity stunts are the kind of thinking out of the box tactics that a good public relations agency can suggest and implement on your behalf.

A well timed and clearly executed public relations program can go a long way to helping successfully introduce a new product, service, or business.  How else will you get those horses to drink the water?

How to Handle Nightmarish PR Clients

How to Handle Nightmarish PR Clients

Every agency has one—the nightmare client.  And if you don’t have them now, trust me, ambulance you will experience this at some point in your agency life.  If you have worked in the public relations business long enough you will certainly have horror stories of clients with bad habits and unrealistic campaign requests.

Yes, I have fired clients in the past—and it’s not something that I relish having to do.  But sometimes when you’ve taken enough Valium and pulled your hair out by the roots, it’s time to cut the cord and let them go. But not every horrible situation has to go that far.  Sometimes all you need is a little time and a lot of patience.

From my experience, here are five nightmarish client personalities—along with gracious solutions for dealing with them.

  1. The pedantic, passive aggressive. This one can be a real doozy.  They want to take forever to brief you on the business– taking days and sometimes weeks –causing major start-up delays on your part that may ultimately hinder results.  There will be major rewrites on the press background materials and the press kit sits not only in the client’s office, but often in “legal” for weeks.  Once I had a press kit sit in legal for nine months—yes, I could have had a baby in the time it took to approve the press kit.

In this case you’ve got to get to the decision-maker(s) and explain that time is money and offer to have a sit-down to get things moving.

  1. The frugal. This is the PR client who has already negotiated the budget down to the bare basics yet remembers all the goodies that the original proposal promised—and wants them included—for free.

In my experience, no client likes to hear the word “no,” but you’ve got to be firm.  Try negotiating an hourly fee for additional program elements.  Don’t let them get away with trying for freebies.

  1. The absentee. Sometimes worse than the client who hovers over your head, the absentee client is a danger. I once had a pharmaceutical company launch its product without us!  Yes, they actually forgot that they hired a PR agency—you can’t make this up.

In this case reach out to the client’s assistant, even if it is a secretary, and make your situation and needs known.  S/he can often be a lifesaver.

  1. The ignorant. This person’s lack of knowledge will not only hinder the implementation of your PR program but can hamper your results.  Though they may be a great business person when it comes to communications, it’s just not their expertise.

Manage this type of relationship by setting expectations and goals.  Let the person see some of your previous experience and results with similar clients so that he can be reassured that you know your stuff.  Assure this person that your job is to help him look good—that’s often worked for me.  So, with all due respect, please get out of my way and let me do my job.

  1. The hothead. The hothead often shows their stripes at a meeting when they are feeling uncomfortable and unprepared in front of their peers.

Take the time to email briefing documents in advance and review them prior to the meeting.  If this behavior continues, or they becomes abusive to you or your staff, well you need a one-on-one meeting in which you lay down the law, gently, but firmly.

9 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a PR Agency

9 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a PR Agency

A successful PR campaign can help grow your business and gain awareness of your company. When considering a PR agency to hire,   here are nine questions you should ask an agency to make sure they are the right fit for you.

  1. Have you worked on campaigns in my industry?

You will get the most out of an agency if they have experience with your sector of business. You can ask for references from previous clients and ask to see results from past campaigns. This can give you an idea of their industry capabilities.

 

  1. Who is my direct contact/team members?

You should know who you will be directly working with on your campaign. Ask who your contact person at the agency will be and who will be working with them. It is important to know your team and be comfortable with them so they know what you want and what you expect from them.

 

  1. Which media outlets are best for me?

It is important for PR agencies to know who their client’s target audience is, viagra and for an agency to have experience in traditional and new media. The agency you select knows the outlets that will reach your audience the best. This can range from traditional media placements, such as television and newspapers, to online promotions, such as social media outlets.

 

  1. How will your agency measure success?

Before hiring a PR agency, it is important to know how they measure success. The most common ways that agencies measure success with a client is through media placements, and social media analytics. Examples of social media analytics are page “likes”, content reach, and follower interactivity. Another thing to consider when choosing how a firm will measure success is an increase in traffic to your website or increase in sales after a PR campaign.

 

  1. Will you provide media coaching?

See what is being offered in terms of media coaching or training; this can be a valuable lesson to anyone who will be interviewed by the media. If the agency doesn’t handle media coaching directly, ask if they refer you to for an experienced media coach.

 

  1. Are you experienced on social media?

Social media is an important tool to reach many of your stakeholders. It is essential that you find an agency that is well versed in social media, and the social media trends. You can ask to see results from social media campaigns or promotions from previous clients to see if the agency has success promoting a company in your field.

 

  1. How will you communicate with me?

It is important that your PR agency communicates with you on a regular basis. Usually agencies will send a monthly status report detailing what they have done and where they have placed your business. However, it is still important for them to touch base with you on a regular basis in order to maintain a pulse on your campaign. You can ask how often you will be updated on campaigns for your company, and how often the staff will be available to you. You should also make yourself available to your PR agency, in case they need a quote or approval in a pinch.

 

  1. What type of contractual arrangement do you provide?

Most New York-based public relations agencies require a minimum contractual arrangement, such as six months, or, in the case of a specific project, time will be allocated against the project.

 

  1. What type of financial arrangements?

Most agencies work on a monthly retainer basis with time worked against the hours of the retainer.

5 Qualities of a Good PR Client

5 Qualities of a Good PR Client

A bad public relations agency client is like a really bad meal—miserable but not life-threatening.

Still, it’s good to avoid them as much as possible.  And the best way to do that is to know what qualities to look for in a good client/agency relationship. So I present these qualities for your review:

  1. Good clients have a realistic budget. Unless the new client has had a former relationship with a public relations agency, he is likely to be clueless about the cost of a public relations program.  But, hopefully, a good client will realize that he has to spend money in order to make it.  So, it is your job to help educate him as to how you work: What is your monthly retainer? How much do you allocate to fees vs. expenses? What is the average length of your contractual arrangement? Good clients take the time to be educated.
  2. Good clients are interested in working with someone they can trust.   When a client trusts you as a communicator they take your opinion seriously, especially if your opinion is contrary to theirs. No client likes to hear the word “no”.  But, after all, they have put their business in your hands and are depending on you to be the monitor of their brand image.
  3. Good clients are willing to accept advice. A good client is eager for advice, that’s why they hired a public relations agency to begin with.  They allow you to become a part of their marketing team—working with them and not necessarily for them.  I have had the good fortune of working with a number of good clients who have even sought my advice on matters from my opinion on their advertising campaigns to how they should appropriately congratulate their boss on his promotion.
  4. Good clients have a single point of contact. You’re on a deadline and you need that quick approval—who do you call—the client contact.  You don’t want to have to deal with several point people, when one will make your life so much more effective. Make certain that you get that point person, and then go on to earn their trust—they’ll be your client for life.
  5. Good clients participate in the process.  Now that you’ve got that point person, you want to make sure they remain involved and engaged in your public relations program– but not too much. An uninformed client is not a good client.  Assure them that part of your job is to make their job easier, and that you value their opinion.  A good client will review your monthly status reports and not merely file them—and if possible, you’ll develop monthly review meetings so that you keep the client informed.  An informed client is an advocate for your agency.

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.

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 product 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 Best Practices for Corporate Blogging

9 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, 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.

How to Explain PR to Your Father

Picture by Ryan McGuire
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.

 

Public Relations Agency ABCs

alphabet soup
Public Relations Agency ABCs

They say “It takes a whole village to raise a child.” Well,  it takes an entire bowl of alphabet soup to implement our role as public relations practitioners. Here’s a guide to your public relations agency ABCs:

A= Advertise, Advise, Agency, Amplify, Analytics
B= B2B, Blogger, Branding, Brochures, Bottom Line, Budget, Business Development
C= Cause-Related Marketing, Collateral Materials, Communications, Conferences, Consumer, Content, Core Values, Corporate Communications, Corporations, Curate, Counsel, Crises Management, Crowdfunding
D=Deliverables, Digital
E= Engagement, Earned Media, Education, Efficiency, Evidence-based, Events
F= Facebook, Feature Articles
G= Global, Gorilla Marketing, Granular
H= Hacker, Hands-on, Hazard Analysis, Head Hunter, Honesty, Humility
I= Integrated, Integrity
J=Job Description, Job Enrichment, Job Performance, Job Security, Joint Venture, Just in Time, Justification
K=Knowledge-based
L=Leverage, Literature
M= Market Entry, Marketing Plans, Marketing Research, Media, Media Tours, Media Training, Metrics, Messaging, Monetize, Multiplatform
N= Narrative, Negotiate, New Business, New Media, Newsletters, News Syndicates
O= Organic, Outbound, Outcomes
P= Performance, Pinterest, Platform, Positioning, Presentations, Press Releases, Product Launches, Program, Public Relations, Publicity
Q= Qualify, Qualitative, Quantitative, Question
R= Reddit, Reputation Management, Research, Resonate
S= Sell, Seminars, Services, Situation Analysis, Social Media, Solutions, Speaker’s Bureau, Spokespersons, Strategy, Surveys
T= Tactics, Traction, Trade Relations, Traditional Media, Transparency, Twitter
U= Uncontrollable Costs, Uncontrollable Factors, Underutilization, Unintended Consequences, Unique Opportunities, User Friendly, User ID
V=Value Proposition, Viral Marketing
W= Website, Wire Services, Workforce, Workplace, World Wide Web, Worst Case Scenario
X= XmR Chart
Y= Yahoo!, YTD (Year to Date)
Z= ZBB (Zero Based Budgeting), Zero Growth

Tips for the Replacement PR Intern

Hand holding a piece of paper with printed Internship on it.
Tips for the Replacement PR Intern

By: Dayna Sorrento

One of the hardest parts of leaving a current internship is making sure all of your ducks are in a row,  including the replacement intern. Picking out the “new you” is not easy,  especially when they have so much to learn.

Here are some tips you should leave for the replacement intern:

Make a good first impression. First impressions mean everything. Most people can get a good read on a person within minutes of meeting them. That is why starting off strong and on a high note is important. So, arrive to your internship early, show a strong work ethic, and just be yourself.

Soak it all up. Internships are a one-of-a-kind experience, so value each and every internship that comes in your path. Each one shapes you into the kind of worker you will become and adds another layer onto your resume. The purpose of internships is to learn, so try to do all the learning you can!

Learn from your superior. Your internship mentor or supervisor is there to help guide you throughout your internship experience. Use that person as a tool and a resource! They are established in the industry for quite some time, so they know what they are talking about. Learn from their mistakes, understand their successes, and even pick their brains on ideas and industry topics. Anything you can gain from your internship experience will be useful to you at some point.

Asking questions is valuable. Asking questions is a good thing, and is something your employer wants to be hearing from you. It shows you are interested and engaged in the tasks you are working on, and it displays your crave for learning.

Go the extra mile. Putting in extra time or effort really does go a long way, especially for your employer. If you are willing to stay an extra half hour, or do some extra research on a project, your employer will notice and appreciate it. What you give is what you will get in return.