PR Basics Based on Principles will Never Change

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In this modern world where change seems to be ever-accelerating, it is very easy to be distracted by some new PR technique or fad. While it’s vital to keep up with the times, don’t allow yourself to be overly distracted by any practice that is not backed up by common sense communication principles.  Below is some timeless PR advice that meets that standard:

Everything I Know about PR, I Learned in Kindergarten

Trying to stay on top of changes and techniques in the world of public relations can be trying. When you stop and think about it, however, you probably learned everything you need to know even before you hit first grade.

My son Rowan on his first day of Kindergarten.

Be Honest

This is a lesson that sometimes comes back to bite PR pros when they’re not paying attention. Remembering not to lie or even stretch the truth, even a little, can help maintain your reputation and career in the industry.

Consider what happened to the team over at BP during the Gulf Oil Spill crisis. Not only did practically everything they attempted fail, the entire company has become a laughingstock. Do you think attempting to mislead the public as to what was really going on gave them a better shot at their next job interview?

writing press releases stress you out

Say You’re Sorry

If you knocked a classmate over during recess, the teacher made you apologize. Not only that, she explained why it was important: you have to take others’ feelings into consideration when something bad happens, even if it doesn’t happen to you.

How much do we forget this when a crisis happens to our company or business? Every time a scandal breaks out concerning Facebook, there’s never any formal apology or explanation from Zuckerberg and team. Just excuses and misdirection.

Accept responsibility for your actions. Most issues are forgivable if approached quickly and directly. The public will forgive and forget.

Use Your Imagination

Don’t always just stick to what you’re used to. If it’s not working, get creative! When you were in Kindergarten, didn’t the teacher always tell you to figure out a problem to try and approach it from a different angle?

If your current campaign is slouching, then figure out what does work instead of attacking the same way repeatedly. Hold a powwow with your team and try and come up with the most ridiculous ideas you can. You never know which one might end up working!

Be Quiet and Listen

There was always that one kid in class who did nothing but blab constantly. They were always getting their little stars taken away due to their flapping lips. Eventually, they finally learned to be quiet once in a while and listen to what other people were saying instead of going on constantly about themselves.

Be a Friend to Others

Sharing is important. While crayons won’t cut it at this level, you can certain turn a journalist on to a trend you’ve noticed or a possible story idea. You can also praise him or her for something they’ve recently written.  At its root, PR works because of connections and relationships. The more you foster these types of relationships, the more successful you will be when you pitch.

We need to remember these basic lessons in our industry. If public relations is all about the public (and, well, it is), part of our job is to shut up and revisit the basics once in a while. We think we know exactly what our customers want, but sometimes, we’re wrong. If we would shut our flapping lips and open our ears, we might learn something new!

7 Tips for a Better Pitch

Successful PR people know that pitching is a science. If you want reporters to give you the time of day, you have to know the best tactics for grabbing their attention and selling them on your story.

baseball_pitcherHere are 7 simple tips you can put to use today to improve your pitches.

1. Make it personal – If you want to capture the reporter’s attention, you need to go beyond simply copying and pasting your press release into an email. You need to personalize your pitch. Address the reporter by name, and show them you’ve read their past articles and admire their work. Even better, find a way to connect your story with their past work to show how perfect a fit it is for their publication.

2. Keep it brief – Reporters receive hundreds of pitches each week. Going through them all is time consuming, meaning you need to simplify your pitch as much as possible. Keep it short and to the point, and make sure the essence of your message comes across within just seconds. If possible, find a way to capture what your story is about in a single sentence.

3. Don’t send press releases as attachments – Sending your press release exclusively as an attachment is a bad idea for a few reasons. First, the file may not be compatible with the reporter’s word processor. Second, opening an attachment just takes too much time. And third, attachments could cause your email to get flagged as spam, leading to a low delivery rate. Instead, copy and paste the text of your press release into the body of the email.

4. Email at the right time of day – Knowing when to email is just as important as knowing what to email. Remember, reporters are constantly up against deadlines. That’s why it’s a good idea to send your email over early in the morning before the rush to meet the deadline hits. Of course, every reporter has his or her own preferences, so it’s always helpful to find out what their “best time” to be reached is.

5. Write an irresistible subject line – Your subject line is important for two main reasons: 1) It’s essential for grabbing the reporter’s attention and getting them to open your email and 2) It’s responsible for making certain your email doesn’t get flagged as spam. As it relates to the first point, you need to write compelling subject lines that don’t sound like advertisements or generic, boring stories. Write subject lines that you could see as headlines in the reporter’s publication.

To make sure your email doesn’t get flagged as spam, avoid excessive punctuation and USING ALL CAPS AS THIS LOOKS SPAMMY!!!

6. Link your pitch to a current event – Tying your story to a current event or an industry trend can make it much more appealing to reporters. This adds an extra newsworthy element to your story, increasing the odds it gets picked up.

7. Be prepared to answer questions – This seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised just how many times PR people aren’t properly prepared to field questions. Make sure you’re confident in the material before you initiate contact. Think of questions reporters might ask, and be prepared to give clear, concise answers.

Tips for Organizing Your Public Relations Strategy Online

As a reporter, I had a recurring nightmare that I was on deadline and working on a huge story, frantically trying to find the public relations person for the company I was writing about. I looked high and low on the company’s web site and could only locate the company’s main office number. I dug up old press releases online, but there was no public relations contact listed. This nightmare has been reality more than once for me.  These are some simple tips that can help companies not only utilize the web effectively, but also help garner some easy publicity.

1. Corporate Contact Information

It doesn’t matter if you’re Microsoft or if you’re Joe’s Lamp Emporium: Every company’s web site should have a public relations page that details corporate contact information. The page should include a mailing address, phone number, and email address. Retail outfits should always include directions, for both drivers and customers using mass transit, to locations. If you have more than one store or facility, include information for each location.

2. Background Information

Consumers and members of the media like to know who they are doing business with. Including a company history, whether it be a biography of your business or a timeline of important events, is useful. For small businesses, it’s always nice to know who started the company and why. Personalize your business by putting information about your founder or head honcho online. You’d be surprised at the publicity when word gets around that a University of Wisconsin graduate has opened a boutique in Atlanta. Give consumers and members of the media every reason to identify with your company and the personalities behind it.

3. The Public Relations Page

It is imperative that journalists have the contact information for your company’s public relations department. The public relations page should include names, phone numbers, and email addresses for all of your public relations contacts — even that happens to be you, the owner. Some companies have numerous public relations contacts who serve various purposes. Let it be known that if someone is seeking information on corporate issues they should contact Jane Doe. But if someone is seeking information about community issues they should contact John Doe (no relation to Jane, just a happy coincidence). This page should include links to any press releases your company has put out. Make sure to keep it updated. I’ve been to web sites that are wildly out-of-date and there is no excuse for that. Be sure to include recent press clippings and if you’re a small business, considering mentioning what media outlets have given you a little recent (and positive) publicity.

4. More on the Public Relations Page

Are you a member of your local Chamber of Commerce? A member of a regional tech organization or a lobbying group? Let the media know. If JunkTech’s web site tells me that the company is a member of the Greater Kenosha Regional Technological Society, I’m more likely to contact JunkTech and give them some publicity instead of waiting to make contacts with the Society itself. Promoting your alliances will pay off. Also be sure to include information about any charities that you work with or any events that you sponsor.

5. Be Clear

I am by no means a technology expert, but I do cover the technology sector. Sometimes I’ll be researching a company and after an hour I still don’t understand what they do. There’s nothing wrong with giving a layman’s explanation of what products or services your company offers. Someone may need your services but not understand how to tell someone what they’re looking for. Catchphrases, technical jargon, and buzz words went out with the dotcom bubble. Be simple, be clear. Tell the customer and the media what your company does.

The public relations information you provide online has two linked purposes when it comes to the media: Give journalists access to information they need and give them the information that may lead them to write about your company. The more information, the better. And the more information, the more likely it is you’ll get the good publicity you crave.

Six Ways to Extend Your Public Relations Budget

Improving your public relations strategy doesn’t have to be a time- or money-consuming affair. Taking on some easy tasks and implementing some simple ideas can lead directly to generating good publicity and improving your existing public relations efforts. Here are six tips to get the most out of your public relations budget.

1. Keep Your Press List Updated

Although I haven’t been a working journalist in several years, I still receive plenty of email pitches from public relations professionals. If I’m still on a press list, how accurate is the rest of that list? Various services offer access to continually updated media databases, and if you’re looking for a cheaper alternative, interns will surely love updating a press list by hand.

2. Join a Professional Networking Site

I have a hard enough time managing my social relationships, so I’ve stayed away from professional networking services. Recently, however, I’ve found myself on— one of many professional networking services — reconnecting with old business contacts, as well as old high school classmates who have moved onto jobs in my industry. Interestingly, I’ve seen a number of journalists using the service to solicit interview subjects and sources, including a reporter who does tech stories for the local NBC affiliate in New York City and a freelancer working on an article for Entrepreneur. I love these type of “low-hanging fruit” opportunities.

3. Tap Your Co-Workers for Public Relations Ideas

Being the only member of my company’s public relations “department” often means that I’m left to formulate and implement all public relations strategies. This is not an easy task, especially considering that public relations is one of my peripheral duties. My company’s principals offer up public relations ideas on occasion, however, and they have some very good instincts. Recently, I asked all of my co-workers to help out with some public relations ideas and to offer up some of their own. I was pleased with the response, and I was gratified to learn that everyone, from the salespeople to the tech guys, had some understanding of public relations. Interestingly, the best new public relations idea came from our part-time customer service representative. We’re working on putting it into action now.

4. Collaborate With Your Customers

Many of my company’s clients are hedge funds, which means they are prohibited from marketing. This makes it difficult to attract investors, particularly for new hedge funds. Knowing this, I recently contacted some of our clients to see if they would be interested in extending their public relations opportunities. The pitch was that these hedge funds could get some publicity in exchange for publicly acknowledging that they use our product. I’ve received some positive responses and some disinterested responses. (Hedge funds are notoriously press-shy. ) But I’ve also yet to receive any negative responses. My business may not be the best to implement this strategy, but there are plenty of opportunities where companies can work with their customers to engineer good publicity for both sides.

5. Clean Up Your Online Press Area

I’m still constantly amazed at the poorly managed online press areas that seem to satisfy many companies. A poorly constructed online press area will turn off many journalists, especially if finding contact information is difficult. My company is in the process of overhauling its web properties, and we’re working on improving is our online press area. Remember to include background information on your company and key executives, so that lazy journalists can grab boilerplate copy.

6. Hire Interns

Students are always on the prowl for internships. Interns can help you with tasks such as building media lists, but they can also infuse fresh perspectives and ideas into your company and public relations campaigns. And a good intern can eventually turn into a good employee. Please, if you hire interns, make sure that the experience is worth their time as well as yours. Interns are there to learn and they should be treated with respect and encouraged to ask questions.

Guerrilla PR for Powerfully Publicized Small Businesses

Ever call up one of the big PR firms and ask them to represent you only to back away slowly when the rate quote arrived? That’s because mega-giant PR firms are almost prohibitively expensive for the little guy. But guess what? They’re also almost always unnecessary.  In this day and age, any small company, no matter what their industry, can take their PR into their own hands, and you can, too.

child-army-uniformHere’s how you can conduct your company’s PR campaign for free or nearly free on the web and in the streets:

1.)   Establish Your Expertise in Unexpected Places – Sign up for free accounts on social media, create an account at niche discussion forms, or post a blog.  And when you get set up, don’t simply advertise your services. Interact with followers, find and answer questions about your area of expertise, share useful information you’ve found around the Internet, and hold passionate discussions with customers and potential customers. Your expertise will shine through, yours will become a familiar voice, and you will be remembered the next time someone needs a company like yours.

2.)   Sign up to Help a Reporter Out – Peter Shankman’s mailing list arrives in your inbox three times daily filled with requests from hopeful reporter for sources just like you.  Subscribe and answer every query that fits your area of expertise. Who knows? You just might end up in the New York Times.

3.)   Explore Your Own Jungle – Or, in this case, head out into your own neighborhood. Just like charity, publicity begins at home. A story that wouldn’t have a chance on the national news just might be a perfect fit for the local paper. And don’t forget local promotions. Sponsor a local event, raffle or contest and watch your good name become a household name in your community.

4.)   Team Up with Big Names – Does a magazine or blog dominate your field? Pitch a story or guest post. Your name linked with theirs gives you instant credibility. Hot new foodie boutique opening up down the street? Make sure they’re selling your locally produced hot sauce during the grand opening when reporters are sure to sniff around.

5.)   Plan a Publicity Stunt – Because of misuse, publicity stunts get a bad name, with many people confusing straightforward publicity stunts with “hoaxes” designed to pull the wool over the eyes of the public. But it helps to remember that old-fashioned publicity stunts might have consisted of something as silly as the town mayor volunteering to sit in a dunking booth. The “stunt” attracted attention simply for the novelty of getting to soak the mayor in water, and proceeds usually went to charity or the town coffers. For your own publicity stunt, you might create a wacky commercial and post it on YouTube, or put together a local scavenger hunt through your town to prove to the public that your apartment locator service can find all the hidden gems.

These are just a few of the cheap or free guerrilla tactics you can apply to your own PR. The more creative and tenacious you are, the better your return. Don’t be a name in a mega-giant PR firm’s portfolio. Be a tenacious, creative guerrilla PR pro.

Are You Getting the Maximum Mileage from Your Press Releases?

You spend a lot of time, energy, and maybe even money writing and distributing your press releases. It seems like kind of a shame (and a waste) to spend so many resources writing a press release only for you to send it out and forget all about it. Surely, you should be getting more from all your hard work, right?

Don’t let a good press release die a quick death. You can put your press releases to work for you and get more mileage out of them by repurposing them in a number of different ways.

Here are just a few of the simple things you can do to get more use from your press releases:

  • Rewrite them with a fresh angle—Sometimes, you have all the pieces for a good story right in your lap but you just have to tinker with how you arrange the pieces and present them. You should always be experimenting with different angles for your press releases, and you should be writing different versions of your press releases for different audiences.
  • Spin them into blog posts—Turn your blog into a news source for your customers and the media. Don’t just rely on press release distribution to get your news out. You can blog about it, too. Now, I don’t recommended just publishing your press releases on your blog as-is. Blogs tend to be more informal and conversational in nature, so rewrite that press release in a way that makes sense for the blogging medium.
  • Share them in your newsletters—If you have an email list that you send newsletters to, you should be turning your press releases into articles for your newsletter. You can either provide your newsletter readers with a basic summary of your press releases or spin them into unique articles aimed at that audience.
  • Publish them in your newsroom—I once said that “if you’re serious about getting media coverage for your company, one of the first things you should do is build a newsroom on your website.” I still stand by that statement. Your newsroom is a section on your website that has the specific purpose of acting as a resource for reporters who are covering your company. And one of the most important things to include in your online newsroom is your press releases.
  • Turn them into infographics—If your press releases share a lot of statistics or original findings, extract that information and share it in an infographic. Infographics have become very popular, in part because they allow you to share complex information in compelling, effective visual format.

3 Emails You Should Be Sending Right Now

Are you ignoring your email marketing campaigns? It’s time to cut that out and fire your keyboards back up. To get you started, here are three emails you should be sending out on a regular basis. They will help you establish authority, show you care, and generally just wow all your customers so they can’t wait to come back for more. 

E1. Quick Tips 

One way many PR and marketing people use email campaigns is to build authority. The more information and unique perspectives you offer to your customers, the more they’ll grow to trust what you say. When this happens, they’re more likely to not only listen to you but to recommend you to others.

Small tips that your customers can read quickly and move on with are a great way to build this authority. If you make them digestible enough it also gives them ample opportunity to share the tips with others on social media or through email.

Just make sure the tips make sense for your customers. Even need be you can tailor individual emails or even in groups – for example, if you have a group of suburban moms and a group of punk rock teenagers as customers, send one email full of tips for after-school activities and another on how to clean leather jackets. 

2. Follow-Ups

You like to think everything was smooth sailing after your customer bought your item, but that’s of course not always the case. While you undoubtedly have gone over all your products with a fine-toothed comb (including the comb itself), it’s still a good idea to make sure everything came out ok.

For one, the customer may be having a problem you never expected. The longer they go not actually using your product and instead going insane while cursing your name, the more likely they’re not going to come back for more. Head this off at the pass.

Another reason to follow-up is you can send them to your social media sites for more info. Let them know that’s where they’ll get the most up-to-date news on product updates and other company news. This helps gear these profiles toward netting even more sales. 

3. Build Relationship/Improve Service

Everybody likes a company that’s interested in maintaining a sense of pride when it comes to their level of service. So if you’re taking an active interest in how smoothly your business runs, customers will notice.

Send them an occasional note to see if there’s anything you can do for them. To really improve service, send out a survey and find out what area of your business you can fix for them. Make sure to also ask what the high points are so you know what areas to focus on.

This also builds a relationship between you and the customer. They know you’re there for them when they need you – and then some! This goes well with authority building as well, as you’ll appear to have total control of all aspects of your company.

Persistence: The Key to PR Success

I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve heard people say that press releases don’t work. They say that they gave it a try once and didn’t get any results. Once. They send out one press release, don’t get any bites, and write it off as an outdated, ineffective tactic.

I also have had my fair share of new clients and prospects who want to know what they can expect from their first press release. In their minds, they expect that a single press release will launch their company into the awareness of the mainstream and send profits through the roof. And when that doesn’t happen, they wonder why.

Chances are, a single press release isn’t going to do all that much for you. That’s just not how it usually works. Persistence is the key to success. You have to try multiple angles and hooks, and you have to continuously send out newsworthy press releases steadily over a period of time to get the attention of the media.

I call it the leaky faucet approach to PR. If you keep putting yourself out there by sending out newsworthy press releases, eventually, the media will take notice. Sooner or later, you’ll be in the right place at the right time. A reporter will be working on a story and need a person, product, or a company to use in a story. If you’re the right fit, they’ll remember you because you’ve made yourself known to them through a series of well-written, engaging press releases.

It’s not even about having breaking news to announce. From my experience, the types of press releases that have produced results are newsworthy press releases that test out different angles and approaches to engage the reporter and make them aware of who you are, what you do, etc.

My point is this — Don’t give up. Commit to a long-term press release distribution strategy in which you try new things and repeatedly engage reporters so that they stay aware of you and eventually think of you when you’re a good fit for a story they’re working on.

This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (, the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Download your free copy of the Beginner’s Guide to Writing Powerful Press Releases here:

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