PR Tips: How to Prepare for a Media Interview

PR Tips: How to Prepare for a Media Interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have fun!

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

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

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

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

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

Five PR Leadership Skills I Learned From My Cat

 

Five PR Leadership Skills I Learned From My Cat

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Defining PR for My Family

Defining PR for My Family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

5 Key Skills for PR Professionals

 

5 Key Skills for PR Professionals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 PR Agency Fails to Avoid

 

Congratulations, you just hired a new public relations agency and you’re looking forward to moving ahead with a long-lasting and mutually productive relationship.   If you’re not new to the PR agency alliance, then you’ve probably already suffered the slings and arrows of an agency fail.  But if this is your first time at bat, well then I would like to prepare you for what may lie ahead.

In order to enable the most successful partnership there are some pitfalls to avoid.

Unclear goals. Hopefully you have provided clear goals to the PR agency prior to its researching and writing a proposal, and hopefully it has translated those goals into a clear concise strategy with appropriate tactics.  After the hire, it’s important to review your goals with the agency so that appropriate tactics are set and implemented.  There is no point to letting the horse leave the gate if the directions aren’t clear.

Unrealistic budget.  The first question we ask a new client is, “Do you know what your budget is?”  Usually that’s when we see the client’s eyes glaze over as they reply, “I have no idea! That’s what I thought you were here for.”   Some experts recommend using a formula based on a percentage of gross revenue  or projected revenue. For newer companies we might suggest 12 to 20 percent of gross or projected revenue for marketing, from which a portion would be allocated to public relations. For established companies that have been in business for more than five years, the allocation might be between 6 and 12 percent of revenue. However, sometimes the resultant budget is a combination of what the client can afford and what the agency believes it will need to execute attainable results. In this case, I advise the brands not to be penny wise and pound foolish.

Inability to predict trouble before it happens.  Sometimes a good public relations agency has to function as a soothsayer, seeing into the future and anticipating small problems before they develop into big trouble. Start by looking for red flags like the client chronically being late in reviewing needed materials or an agency team member’s failure to report an early problem, and thereby nip it in the bud. Small failures like these, multiplied over time, can be a ticking time bomb.

Failure to properly staff.  On the brand side it is imperative that there is one direct agency report rather than layers. This will cut down on delays and also help to create that vital agency/client smooth working relationship. On the agency side, we have to be able to evaluate the brand’s needs and staff accordingly.  If the brand is social media intensive, we have to make sure that our staffing reflects this expertise. And if the brand is content driven, we must assure that staffers with writing skills are on the job.

No surprises.  Years ago I won the Best Foods® brand after their current agency surprised them with a $35,000 charge to charter a private plane in order to get their spokesperson to his destination in a timely manner.  The only problem with that was that the agency didn’t ask the client for approval ahead of time; they were immediately fired. Now mind you, that was a big whoops.  But even small ones can lead to not only distrust, but to disaster.

 

 

 

5 Things to Be Grateful for This Year

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5 Things to Be Grateful for This Year

Though things may have not turned out the way you had hoped, we all have something to be grateful for this year. We’re here to help you remember that life ain’t all bad. Here are five things we should all be grateful for in our professional and social lives:

1. Communication. Try to think back to the days of letter writing and long awaited responses. We know…it’s tough to remember. Though technology may frustrate us to the nth degree at times, we should all be thankful for being able to communicate through our cellphones, email, etc. What would 21st century business be like without the ability to quickly email clients or contact employees while on-the-go?

2. A support system. Your support system could range from an array of faces. Think family, friends, a mentor, or, heck, even your pets. Whenever we’re looking for a pep talk, or need someone to quickly proofread a resume, we can always count on our support system.

3. Jobs and hobbies. Gratitude should be given to the jobs and hobbies we have in our life. Whether your job is at a law firm, or your hobbies include volunteering at a local animal shelter, we all have something to look forward to during our week.

4. The little things. We all know the classic phrase: “It’s the little things in life that make us happy”. And, quite frankly, it truly is the little things that help remind us how grateful we are. Think back to free food at the office, or catching the subway at the last second. These are the things that go a long way.

5. Education. Something I know I take for granted sometimes is the education I have received. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve gone to a big, state school or got your degree online. The most important thing is to recognize how lucky you are to have received an education, which is seen as a luxury to many.

 

The Effect of the Election on a PR Agency Exec

OK, shop so I’m not the only one reeling from the never-ending, viagra 60mg caustic political environment that we call the presidential election 2016…or How I Lost My Mind, clinic Money, New Clients and Several Friends.

  • Losing my mind. Well, that’s an easy one. Between all the Trump lies, innuendos and threats as well as the Clinton on/off email allegations,  my eyes are blinking and my head spinning sufficiently enough that I actually was thinking of bringing in an exorcist. But hopefully, that won’t be necessary after tomorrow’s election results come in.
  • Losing my money. OK, so I play the stock market. I guess I shouldn’t use the word “play,” but that’s what I have been doing recently with some of the FANG (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google) And, thank you very much, I was doing quite well until the FBI opened its mouth and inserted its foot.  But, yesterday the FBI removed its foot…and today the stock market is up more than 300 points. Obviously, the stock market is not a fan of extreme change and enormous uncertainty.
  • Losing new clients. Well, I know you can’t lose a public relations agency client until after you get it. But, with the uncertainty of this election, I have had a couple of potential new clients shy away from contract signing, not wanting to commit until after the election.
  • Losing my friends. Yes, I am a liberal New Yorker and with that said, most of my friends and colleagues are Hillary supporters…except for Arthur. When I queried him several weeks ago about his presidential choice, he sheepishly said, “Trump.” When I queried him as to why, he responded, “We need a change.” OK, with that, the subject was closed, never to be brought up again. I have made it a point not to proselytize.

So, here’s to tomorrow. May the best woman win!

What My Mother Told Me Relates to Your PR Image

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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, buy 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, cialis NY (July 24, 2015) 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.