• When I am waiting to get the new client to finally commit to signing on the dotted line
• While waiting to hear back from an editor or producer on whether our pitch idea is a “go”
• Whether the new terrific candidate I just interviewed will take the job offer
• And whether the delayed airplane will ever depart so that I can make it to my appointment
But life itself is often a theater of the absurd:
• When you’re waiting to be given that job offer
• When you’re waiting to get a call-back from that special guy/gal
• Whether your children will be accepted to college
• Whether they’ll grow up to be good people
• And, end the end, was it worth it all
A good public relations agency brings a lot to the table. It can increase sales, improve brand reputation, introduce new products or services and take care of your social media efforts, leaving you free to focus on other parts of the business.
But when this isn’t your area of expertise, how do you know if they’re performing well? Here’s some insight on what to look for when it’s time to pull the plug.
• Lack of enthusiasm. No, I don’t work for you but I certainly should work with you—and as such the agency should be able to show a high level of enthusiasm for your company—if not, it shouldn’t be in public relations. Every client wants to feel special, as they should, so the agency should be knowledgeable about their industry and be able to bring additional insight and excitement to the client.
• Poor writing skills. People skills aside, your agency account people had better be great thinkers and writers because that’s what the client needs. Clients in industries such as pharmaceuticals or finance are looking for specialized PR professionals who are capable of “translating” their jargon into English for the media and the end consumer.
• Poor strategy. Hopefully, shortly after you hired your PR agency it has researched and developed a public relations plan for the entire year. And hopefully, they are adhering to the plan, or perhaps even expanding upon it. But without a strategic plan, a good public relations program is doomed to failure. Look to the plan!
• Lack of accountability. From the get go your PR agency should have been sending you weekly and the monthly status reports and updates. These reports should show you what the agency has been doing on your behalf, what it has accomplished during that time period and what it plans to accomplish in the coming weeks. Without this accountability the client will feel lost—and a poorly informed client will eventually fire the agency.
• Poor communications. Before you fire your PR agency consider talking with the principal. It may not be time to fire the agency, but time to fire or switch your day-to-day account person—the same person who may not be overly enthusiastic about your business may also be a poor communicator. Sometimes a change in the point person can reap short-term and hopefully long-term benefits.
• Lack of initiative. You shouldn’t have to instruct your PR agency on what to do. Again, they should be following that plan/strategy that they set forth. Your PR agency should be coming up with new idea and telling you what they are doing—not the other way around.
• Not proactive. Your PR agency should be doing ongoing industry research and thinking up great content and creative angles—and then developing ways to amplify that content. If they keep asking you for ideas, then it’s probably not the right fit.
• Off-brand coverage. Going back to that strategic plan: It is important to make sure that your PR agency understands your brand and takes its positioning into account when developing a media outreach plan—both traditional and new media. You don’t want to suddenly see an article about your family-friendly brand in an inappropriate media outlet. That would give you cause to pause and reevaluate your agency commitment.
• No results. Bottom line: Did you get what you paid for—what the PR agency promised? If not, then it’s time to part company. Also, if the public relations agency is landing opportunities for you that do not compliment the brand, for example reaching the wrong audience or mentions that don’t address your expertise or product, then it’s time to fire them.
As a public relations agency, ed 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, cialis at best.
To help toy and game companies plan their annual publicity calendar, healing we offer up the following guidelines:
January—Toy 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.
January—Toy 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.
April—Holiday 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.
July—November—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.
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, sick 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, help 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 crowdfunding campaign.
• Develop a media kit. You have to make it easy for a reporter to find and help you. Create a one-page press release on your project, 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 Facebook and Twitter pages as well as Instagram and Tumblr. 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 campaign.
• Crowdsourcing PR sites. Here are 7 free tools to help generate a buzz before you launch a crowdfunding project:
1. ThunderClap.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 as 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. CF4ALL. 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. CrowdfundingPR. 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 it to media outlets.
5. Prefundia. 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. LaunchRock. You can create a pre-launch landing page where you can collect email addresses of potential backers.
7. WordPress. 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, your frustrations as well as lessons learned. Good luck!
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 of approaching reporters on social media.
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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
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.
2. 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.
Press releases are essential in any public relations strategy. They detail product launches, special events and other newsworthy activities that a company produces. Because media outlets are flooded with stories and pitches daily, it is imperative that you make yours stand out from the rest. Here are a few helpful tips to make your press release stand out, look professional, and attract reporters to your story.
Grab their attention with a strong e-mail subject
A strong subject on an email will peek the reporters’ interest, and lead them to read your release. Keep a subject 5-7 words highlighting the most important takeaway from the release.
Get right to the point
Assume that the reader won’t read more than the first paragraph. Get the message out quickly, every point should be addressed in the headline and first paragraph, with supportive information in the subsequent paragraphs.
Always use quotes when possible
Including quotes from your client makes them an authority in their profession. It is important to have a source to attribute the information to so what you are saying is validated by a trusted source. Quotes can also clarify any information that you have in the press release while attributing it to your client.
Check your grammar, then check it again!
Always proof your press releases; if there is any grammatical errors, this can turn a reporter off. It is unprofessional and looks sloppy for anyone who works in PR to have spelling or grammatical errors in their press releases. Remember, the only thing that we produce as a profession is words on paper: They should therefore inform and impress.
One Page is best
As with most good writing, shorter is usually better; limit yourself to one page. This will force you to condense your most significant information into a more readable document, which is something that journalists always appreciate.
Provide access to more information
Just because your press release is limited to one page doesn’t mean that you have to leave out information. Provide relevant links to your client’s website where prospective writers can learn more about their mission and what they’ve accomplished. Don’t make writers search on their own for more information; it is important to guide them as quickly as possible to your website, and keep their interest in your message.
Always provide your contact information
A common oversight that can render a press release ineffectual is a lack of contact information for reporters. Whether you or someone else at the company is the point of contact, don’t forget to include an email address and phone number on the release. Media people aren’t shy; if they have a question they will contact you.
My mother always told me “Don’t write something that you wouldn’t want on the front page of the New York Times.” It was true then and it still holds up today. In this age of social media, everyone has to think before they post, because what is said today could become viral tomorrow.
The newest celebrity to take heat for not thinking before tweeting is the new Daily Show host and comedian Trevor Noah. After it was announced that he would be taking Jon Stewart’s spot, Noah’s Twitter skeletons came out of the closet.
Old jokes that he tweeted were surfaced, and showed an unflattering side to the comedian. Noah tweeted sexist and anti-Semitic jokes that went as far back as 2011. If he was even thinking about being in the public eye, he should have thought twice before posting on his social media page. Luckily for Trevor Noah, numerous comedians, including Jon Stewart came to his defense. Even Comedy Central, the network that hosts TheDaily Show defended the comedian in a statement that read, “To judge him or his comedy on a handful of his jokes is unfair.”
While Trevor Noah is the latest celebrity to stir up controversy, he is definitely not alone. Singer Chris Brown is known to stir up controversy on Twitter. Brown is already a controversial figure to the public from his domestic dispute with singer and ex-girlfriend Rihanna in 2009, but his remarks on Twitter have everyone asking “What was he thinking?”
In the height of the Ebola crisis, Brown tweeted to his 13.7 million followers, “I don’t know… But I think this Ebola Epidemic is a form of population control.” Chris Brown received tons of backlash from his comments ridiculing the star saying that he knows nothing about the important medical issue, even one fan said “Why do morons have to be famous.” After 3 minutes of backlash, Brown himself tweeted that he should just shut up. Chris Brown needs to be more careful with his opinions because he is a public figure and has millions of followers. When in doubt, ask your publicist!
Twitter is the social media platform that holds more controversies because there are more ways to be involved with conversations than on Facebook. Twitter acts in real time, stories break, topics trend, and people join in a more organic conversation than on Facebook. It is easier to share information with more than just your followers, because hashtags (#) allow your content to be searched by anyone. Because of this, companies and celebrities alike need to be careful when joining in on trending topics.
In September 2014, in the middle of the Ray Rice domestic abuse scandal, DiGiorno Pizza unknowingly joined in on the domestic abuse trending topic #WhyIStayed, where domestic abuse victims were sharing why they stayed in the relationship. DiGiorno tweeted “#WhyIStayed You had pizza.” The company received tons of angry tweets saying that they were trying to make light of a serious issue. DiGiorno deleted the tweet, and sent several apologetic tweets to its followers.
The lesson to be learned is that no matter the size of the trending topic, context is key and celebrities and companies need to stay informed and pay attention. Not every conversation is meant for public consumption.
Sea World learned the lesson the hard way when it implemented a #AskSeaWorld Twitter campaign in an effort to rehabilitate its image following controversy from the 2013 release of Blackfish, the documentary that focuses on the captivity of Tilikum, an orca involved in the deaths of three individuals, and the consequences of keeping orcas in captivity, not to mention its alleged mistreatment of the animals.
Hundreds of posts from animal rights organizations such as PETA and Blue Planet Society, and the general public were asking questions like when would the park let its sea life go free, and when would it close its doors forever. This caused SeaWorld to pull many of the Twitter posts claiming that they were attacked by “trolls, bots and bullies.”
What were they thinking? How do you propose opening up your doors to a public that has already been critical of your practices? Those doors should have been closed and bolted secure not allowing for the opening of the floodgates. Did SeaWorld really think that the public would come out cheering for its side of the animal cruelty campaign? Yes, SeaWorld has a major rescue and rehabilitation program in place. But instead of rescue, rehabilitate and release, it chooses to keep much of the sea life in captivity under dire conditions.
Then, of course there is Bill Cosby. There is little to be said that has not already been said. But I can ask the same question: What was he thinking when he posted a picture of himself on Twitter and asked users to “meme” him at #CosbyMeme? Although the original goal was to generate lighthearted wholesome fun, like SeaWorld, the floodgates were opened calling out the allegations that Cosby raped numerous women over the past few decades.
Again, I have to ask: What were you thinking? According to the New York Post, the meme generator even started deleting words like “rape” and “sex” when they were used. But dedicated users still found clever ways around the obstacle. According to the New York Post, Cosby’s original tweet was deleted and the meme generator it linked to removed entirely.
Then, there was the Coca Cola Twitter debacle earlier this year when its automated social media campaign #MakeItHappy, transformed negative tweets into cartoon-like characters using ASCHII codes that were actually transformed quotes from Hitler’s hate manifesto, Mein Kampf. Tricked into quoting Hitler by Gawker staffers, Coke suspended its campaign. Again, what were they thinking? Going after negative tweets just opened up the door to bot attacks from the likes of Gawker and others. Why would Coke want to associate itself with negative tweets in the first place? Just like you can’t fix stupid, you can’t sweeten negative, not with all the Coke syrup in the world. As Taylor Swift says, “haters gonna hate.”
Like the adages “Do no harm” and “Be careful what you ask for,” marketers should remember this one: “Protect your brand.” It’s one thing if your brand is being attacked, you need to have a plan for jumping to its rescue. It’s quite another when marketers initiate a plan that backfires on the brand and creates a tsunami of its own.
A successful PR campaign can help to grow your business and gain awareness of your company. When considering a PR agency to hire, ask there are a few questions you want to ask to make sure they are a fit for you. Here is a list of 7 questions that you should ask before choosing a PR agency.
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, treat and to see results from past campaigns. This can give you an idea of their industry capabilities.
Who is my direct contact/team member?
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.
Which media outlets are best for me?
It is important for PR agencies to know who their client’s target audience are, 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 as well as social media outlets.
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. Social media analytics can be social media 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.
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.
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 gage if the agency has success promoting a company in your field.
How will you communicate with me?
It is important that your PR agency communicate 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.