5 PR Skills My Cat Taught Me

business-cat
5 PR Skills My Cat Taught Me

I’ve been living with cats for most of my adult life and let me tell you, they are the leaders of the house and sometimes of my life. The first year that Johnny, my current 13-year-old cat, lived with me, I hardly knew he existed. He hid from me, played hard-to-get, and, quite frankly, I thought 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. Thirteen years later he has gone on to show me some interesting public relations skills that can be used in the industry.
1. Be creative. I always thought the manufacturers of cat toys were not cat owners. Why else would they develop some of the least exciting toys ever? Just leave it to a cat to find creativity in a small piece of silver foil, ribbon, or fallen paperclip. Great leaders find creativity in areas that the rest of us mortals may never explore. They go off to turn a problem over and come up with a creative solution.
2. Be observant. It fascinates me to see Johnny staring off into space. There could be a multitude of reasons as to why he’s doing it. 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, listen to other points of view, and to, thereby, help avert conflict. They can help solve marketing problems or just bring new perspective into an old marketing plan.
3. 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 warm words of encouragement.
4. Be an explorer. Open a door or take out an empty shopping bag, and low and behold, faster than a speeding bullet, your cat will be inside exploring the new space. And if you use encouragement, you’ve got the beginning of a brand new game. A great PR leader does the same. They explore new ways of thinking about old problems, bring news challenges into your thought process, and help you to expand your own creative process.
5. Don’t be judgmental. A cat doesn’t judge you by your appearance. If you never put on makeup or shave your beard, your cat won’t care. A good leader doesn’t judge someone for trying out new ideas or new strategies, or for not knowing the next step. And they certainly never judges a book by its cover. Hiring someone who doesn’t seems to fit your traditional mold can often lead to new out-of-the-box thinking.

5 PR Tips My Dog Taught Me

106hThree 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, raided my walk-in closet, and brought out and destroyed all my stored paper products. 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 PR tips my dog taught me:

  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. As part of the equation, I find myself rewarding their loyalty. For the staffers, the rewards manifest themselves in promotions and pay raises; for the clients, it manifests in extraordinary personal time and results.

  1. Trust your instincts. On a very basic level, Leo has an instinct that runs like clockwork.  If I am not out of bed by my usual 7AM, he gently jumps up and nuzzles me at exactly 7:30. He also reminds me daily that it is time for his 4PM walk, or Heaven 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. Perseverance. 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 recycling bin.

Perseverance is a quality that all good public relations professionals must acquire.  As with any PR agency, you need 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 their company, product, ad campaign, and even 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 know who their 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 cellphone, and go out and play. Have fun!

6 Ways PR Helps Drive Sales

Sales figures
A well executed public relations program can build brand awareness and help develop/increase sales.

A well developed and well executed public relations program can do wonders in helping to develop and drive sales. Here are six ways:

  1.  Earn credibility. The big difference between public relations and advertising is that PR takes a lot more effort. It is often referred to in the marketing industry as “earned media.” Nielsen’s 2015 Trust in Advertising report shows that people trust earned media (i.e. editorial articles and posts) and owned content (i.e. social media) more than any other formats. The dynamic partnership between these two elements plays an important role in understanding and realizing sales growth.
  2. Generate interest. A successful new product or service launch for your target audience will help develop and stimulate interest. It will also serve as a platform for introducing your brand to new audiences. Successfully breaking through the enormous clutter of available information to the average consumer is overwhelming and sometimes confusing.  Working with the media to convey your brand’s message and values so that interest in piqued, is the job of a good public relations agency.
  3. Educate prospects. A well executed public relations program can not only help to educate consumers about your products and services, but it can also influence potential shareholders and business partners. The more they read, see, and hear about your brand, the more engaged and excited they will become.
  4. Create a buzz.  What makes a good public relations campaign is its ability to create buzz through both traditional and new media outreach–earned, owned, and purchased outlets. By connecting them all, a client soon realizes the value of a well integrated marketing plan.
  5. Door opener. OK, which would you find more credible: Receiving a link to a sales pdf or a recent news article?  This should be a no-brainer. The more newsworthy a company or brand is, the more likely an audience will find it more believable,important, and credible. That’s the power of public relations.
  6. Good content is recyclable. Good content, whether it be for a blog, social media site, or a press release, should be recycled and reused time and time again. After all, what are you paying a good PR agency for, if not to have them create content you can recycle?  It’s not only time efficient, but also cost efficient. It’s a way of getting more bang for your buck.

6 PR Tips That Help Build a Brand

Getting through the maze of sales tools
Here are some useful public relations tips for building brand and increasing sales.

Building your brand and maintaining its presence is a full-time job. Sometimes this job can be handled internally, but other times, the best solution can come from an external public relations agency.

Here are 6 PR tips that help build a brand:

  1. Public relations. As a demand-generation tool, nothing beats a well crafted and strategically implemented public relations program.  For developing credibility and garnering brand awareness, a PR campaign can hone messages, build brands, develop prospects and avert crises.  Talk to a public relations agency and learn what it has to offer.  Your brand will thank you…so will your bottom line.
  2. Social media outreach. Be careful not to discount millennials. Like it or not, they are the newest and most passionate group to jump onto the social media bandwagon. You can’t be late to dinner for this one. Your public relations agency can easily develop and maintain your social media pages, but so can your internal marketing department.  Bottom line is, make sure someone is minding the store.
  3. Blogging. Again, a good public relations agency can assist you in the development of your company blog. You should spend some time figuring out your point-of-view.  This will make it easier for you, your PR agency, or your marketing department to feel comfortable writing in your style and voice.
  4. Research. Before any outside agent can assist you with your branding, you better do your own initial research into your marketplace.  Who are your competitors? Pricing? Potential controversy, such as ingredients, pricing, sourcing? Know your audience and know it well. Consumers can be a fickle bunch.
  5. Reputation management. In the current climate, reputation matters more than some appreciate. Protecting, as well as enhancing, your reputation is important for your bottom line. Strong sales can be the result of strong leadership and an innovative sales department. But, it can also be the result of a strong reputation.  Make sure you take the time to not only create your reputation, but to learn to protect it.  One bad online review that goes unanswered can lead to a potential viral disaster and an end consumer confidence.
  6. Promotion. There is a fine line between enticing promotion and bombarding your customers with unwanted emails and promotional materials. Balance and timing is everything. Choose your targets and messages carefully. Realize that a well positioned promotional pieces or event, selectively placed and strategically developed, will do a lot for your brand sales and growth.

What My Mother Told Me Relates to Your PR Image

newspaper
What My Mother Told Me Relates to Your PR Image

I remember when I was a kid my mother telling me, pharmDon’t sign your name to anything that you wouldn’t be afraid of appearing one day on the front page of the New York Times.” How true these words of wisdom were.

Today, with the advent of the internet, it seems that everyone is obsessed with themselves—and others—from constant social media updates, including those ubiquitous snaps of what they’re eating, to selfies.  But heed the warning of my mother and beware of the following:

  • Photos–The next time you go to post photos of your awkward encounters, including drinking, carousing and canoodling, think about what mother said—and don’t do it.  It can come to haunt you in the future.  Today, employers often ask not only to view your social media sites, but also ask for passwords so they can take a closer look.  Don’t risk it.
  • Social sites—The same warning goes for sites like Facebook and Twitter where people often vent their hostilities towards people, places and things.  Mom would tell you to inhale, breathe slowly, and take a minute to rethink posting hostile posts.  Like those irreverent photos, they too have a life of their own.  And in the corporate world, where you may go to seek future employment, well, this just may be a hindrance. But, on the other hand, a little reverence may go a long way by posting comments/opinions/complaints on company social sites, such as their Facebook or Twitter, and often will engender a rapid response.
  • Emails—Need I say more than these two words: Hillary Clinton.  Be aware that emails too have a life of their own and a strange way of never disappearing. They are like that stray piece of dog hair that sticks to your clothing and try as you may, never gets pulled off.  That’s what happens to emails. After you write them, again, think about taking that extra breathe, inhale and then fully contemplate the possible ramifications of the content in your email appearing on the front page of the New York Times.   In another point of interest: Be aware of that reply all button, and try NOT to hit it, especially when replying on personal matters.  Everyone remembers at least once occasion when that button got them in trouble.

Using a Telephone in Public Relations

Using a Telephone in Public Relations

Remember when  Sex and the City Carrie Bradshaw’s boyfriend broke up with her via a Post-it note? And then my friend Naomi broke up with her boyfriend via email. Sometimes I like to imagine what would happen if the telephone was just invented.  I imagine writing the press release announcing the new product  introduction–it would go something like this:

New York, NY– Today, XYZ company announced the introduction of the telephone, a new technological advance in one-on-one personal communications whereby people can actually hear their party’s voice live, in real-time. This new, instantaneous communication device can take the place of email and text messages thereby virtually eliminating those nasty auto-correct messages.

“All you have to do is dial someone’s personal number and whoa la, a live voice answers the line,” announced Mike Jones, CEO of XYZ company.  “In the past, communication were sorely lacking that personal touch–that immediate interaction. Now, with the telephone, consumers can realize the satisfaction of knowing that what they are saying is not miscommunicated, which often occurs with email messages.”

“In the past, consumers had to use emojis on emails to ‘soften’ their conversation and make sure that the recipients of these electronic messages were not “offended” or” put off” by the words.   Now, with voice-to-voice communications, consumers can actually listen to and understand the emotions behind the spoken word,” noted Mr. Jones.

As for using the telephone in public relations–try it! It works wonders when you are trying to establish initial rapport with a potential client, a current client or a journalist.  No more guessing as to the emotion behind the message. No more challenges trying to decipher auto-corrected messages. The invisible wall and distance that occurs from texts and emails can be shattered with a simple, “Hello Tom, this is Temi.”

Finally, a new technological advance that puts the conversation in real-time.

7 Tips: How to Write a Strong Press Release

7 Tips: How to Write a Strong Press Release

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 daily stories and pitches, it is imperative that you make yours stand out from the rest. Here are seven tips to make your press release stand out, look professional, and attract reporters to your story.

  1. Grab their attention with a strong e-mail subject.

A strong subject in 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.

  1. Get right to the point.

Assume the reader will not 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.

  1. Always use quotes when possible.

Including quotes from your client makes them an authority in their profession. It is important to have your information validated by a trusted source.  Quotes can also clarify any information that you have in the press release while attributing it to your client.

  1. Check your grammar, then check it again!

Always proofread your press releases; any grammatical errors can turn a reporter off. It is unprofessional and 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.

  1. One Page is best.

As with most good writing, shorter is usually better. You should 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.

  1. 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 to keep their interest in your message.

  1. 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 are not shy; if they have a question they will contact you.

14 Things to Keep in Your Desk at a PR Agency

So there I was,  on my way to my public relations agency when suddenly the heavens opened up to a torrential rainstorm the likes of which is seldom seen in the Big Apple. And of course, your intrepid public relations executive was without her trusty umbrella.  Caught defenseless, there was little I could do but walk those four gigantic city blocks from the Seventh Avenue subway to my Park Avenue office.  And, to make matters worse, I not only wasn’t wearing a raincoat, but had donned a cotton dress that as I walked, absorbed more and more of the downpour, until I was literally soaked to my skin.

When I got to the office the first thought I had was to get out of my clothes and to somehow get the supersaturated garment dried.  Luckily for me, I kept exercise clothes in the office for my after work class which offered a quick solution to dying from pneumonia. I called the local dry cleaner located around the corner and asked if they could indeed “dry” my wet garment. When they said “no”, I was confused. Doesn’t a dry cleaner provide drying service? Well, obviously not.

So now, to add insult to injury, the phone rang and an important client wanted to drop by for an impromptu meeting. Oh my goodness, I couldn’t greet him in my exercise outfit.  At first, my assistant actually offered me the shirt off her back.  But, the day was saved by an intrepid intern who, in planning for a weekend getaway, had brought along her hair dryer.  Hanging my dress on the back of my door, within minutes it was dry enough for me to put it on and greet the client, not a minute too soon.

Well, I learned a lot from that incident, not the least being the importance of preparing an office emergency kit.  This is what I keep in my kit (obviously it’s skewed to a women’s emergency needs—and in no way meets the needs of a true disaster or emergency):

  1. Hair dryer—for the obvious hair and dry cleaning needs
  2. Sewing kit—whoops, catch that unraveling pants or dress hem
  3. Grooming items—toothbrush and paste, nail file and polish, brush, lotion, hairbrush, hair ties
  4. Vanity mirror
  5. Medicines—prescription and over-the-counter
  6. Energy bars—for that 3PM energy pick-me-up
  7. Safety pins
  8. Mini lint roller
  9. Tampons
  10. Breath mints
  11. Pain relievers
  12. A blazer—for that spur-of-the-moment meeting
  13. Black heels
  14. Sweater or pashmina—for when the air conditioning wars ensue

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.