How To Be Quoted In The Press: Nine PR Tips

One of the mysteries of media relations is the process whereby an interview becomes a feature story. Quality in, quality out, right? Not always. What goes in does not always come through in the final piece. And there are few things more frustrating than offering up your best insights, quotes, and experience, only to be cut out of the piece or damned with a minor mention.

As every PR professional knows, there is never a guarantee of being featured in what we call a “round-up.” Yet there are some guidelines that will maximize your chances of owning the story.

First, know the goals and direction of the interview. Is it for the reporter’s background or on the record? Even if it’s a background interview, it can still be a good use of time since journalists and bloggers tend to return to good sources.  If it’s for attribution, assume you aren’t the only one being interviewed.  Get your competitive juices flowing.

Be prompt. Sometimes even great interviews don’t make it into the story because they blow the editorial deadline. Make sure you know what that deadline is, and build in extra time.  Journalists and bloggers work in a very dynamic environment, so being included in a story can come down to being the first to return a reporter’s call.

Be accessible. Don’t speak in buzzwords, acronyms, or technical jargon unless it’s necessary, and explain key terms succinctly as you go.  If you’re being recorded for radio or TV, speak in brief sound bites and “headline” your responses by leading with the important information first, then adding details or supporting points.

Be contrarian.  If it comes naturally, that is.  If you feel 80 percent of the reporter’s sources will zig, consider a zag in your responses.  Carve out what makes you different and deliver your point of view in a bold and confident way.

Coin a phrase. Catch phrases and analogies, on the other hand, can break through and ensure a successful quote.  If you can be the first to call derivatives “financial weapons of mass destruction” (Warren Buffet) or dub a self-imposed Twitter crisis a “Twimmolation” (Time’s James Poniewozik) then you’ll probably own the pull-out quote.

Be colorful. As with the above, consider pop culture references or visual metaphors to make your point.  Instead of saying your product launch is successful, maybe say it’s a hit of “‘Lady Gaga’ proportions.”  A training program isn’t just the best, it’s the “Navy Seals Team 6” of the category.  A competitor’s mission isn’t merely difficult, it’s “changing tires while driving on two wheels.”  You get the idea.

Use statistics. A single, compelling statistic, piece of research, or factoid can make a big difference in an interview, because it adds credibility.  Pull out your big guns, but use them sparingly.

Go deeper. Spend an extra 10 minutes thinking a level beyond your most logical comment to a topical question or issue.  If you can be prepared to share the reasons behind a development, an emerging trend, or a prediction for the future, your quote will likely stand out.

Reference your own authority. Because your remarks are often subject to editing, it’s a good idea to reference your credentials occasionally and to mention your company at least once during the first three responses.  But don’t overdo it, or you will be cut.

A Summer’s Eve Debate: Why ‘Offensive’ Ads Can Be Good

Can men effectively market to women? Can whites sell to people of color?

Sure. Yet, some recent ad campaigns make you wonder. The latest is for Summer’s Eve cleansing wash, and it’s definitely a fresh take on the “feminine products” category. Each of the three ads features a woman’s hand that is meant to be a talking… uh, vajayjay. Each comes in her own, off-the-shelf ethnic flavor. Well, maybe just watch the videos here. The best part might be the tag line, “Hail to the V.”

No matter how you feel about the campaign, it’s sparked a response. The ads unleashed a shower of criticism, not only for being sexist in some eyes, but for perpetuating racial and ethnic stereotypes. The kindest coverage I’ve seen so far was Stephen Colbert’s send-up in which he concoted satirical ads for a similar product for men. (I can’t name the fictitious product here, but the tagline’s “Hail to the D.” Enough said.)

The commercials launched shortly after the recent California Milk Processor Board ads created to market milk to women for symptoms of PMS. “Everything I Do Is Wrong” landed Milk in hot water by playing on the stereotype of an irrational premenstrual female. The flood of negative comments on the social Web was so intense that the CMPB threw in the towel on the campaign last week.

Yet, campaigns like these strike a nerve for some very healthy reasons. They reflect back a great deal about our own values and hangups.  The advertising creative establishment is overwhelmingly male and Caucasian. People of color in power positions are concentrated in a handful of agencies that specialize in marketing to minorities. It’s a frustrating, chicken-and-egg challenge; the industry’s greatest minds have pondered, discussed, and blogged this issue. (And it’s not just advertising. Mainstream public relations is also a white, albeit predominantly female, industry.)

But the industry is once again buzzing about how stupid it is that more women and ethnic minorities aren’t in decision-making creative positions. This isn’t an easily solved problem, but the discussion can’t be allowed to recede. So, for this reason, and maybe this reason alone, I will applaud the Summer’s Eve ads. Empowering? I’m not sure. Offensive? That depends on who’s watching. Provocative? Yes, on so many levels.

Referring to his agency’s celebrated work on behalf of the California Milk Processor Board, GS&P’s Jeff Goodby told The New York Times that a similar PMS-themed campaign had been launched in 2005, to a far more muted reaction. “It’s a different world,” he says, summing up both the problem and the progress.

As a PR person, I don’t believe either campaign is a naked play for exposure, although I might be naive. I think they’re a needed reminder of how much has changed, and a sign that we still have a long way to go.

Harnessing The PR Power Of Twitter

Twitter has exploded into one of the most rapidly expanding social platforms in the world, with over 200 million users to date. In an industry where one wrong tweet can compromise a company’s image, how can you use Twitter as a force of “PR good” for your client?

We all know to monitor conversations about our clients, and have gotten into the habit of creating lists to track the people and companies we want to keep tabs on. Here are some tips for effectively enhancing your client’s Twitter presence:

Interact. There’s a big difference between engaging and tweeting, and it is as important for companies to participate in conversations as it is for them to share their own news. There are several ways to do this, and we all know the basics. Giving your sources credit and using hashtags are two easy ways to converse. As we were recently reminded, make sure you are using relevant hashtags at all times. If you’re having trouble finding a conversation to join, take advantage of Twitter’s new advanced search tool. Remember – it’s more about engagement (conversation) than mere presence.

Pitch. Reporters who are active on Twitter often use it to look for sources when they’re working on a big story in a short amount of time. Even if you haven’t established a connection with the reporter, don’t be afraid to tweet them offering your client up as an expert source. The best way to do this is through direct messaging. If you can’t send them a message on Twitter, send a quick email. I’ve secured several media interviews using this tactic simply by paying attention to the news list I keep and checking it often, and then responding as soon as possible. In the long run, reporters are going to see you as a reliable source that can help get them the information they need in a short amount of time.

Host a Twitter chat. Twitter chats are gaining popularity as people are increasingly joining the community. To effectively conduct a chat on Twitter, partner with someone who has a large presence across several platforms (especially Twitter). Pick a topic that your client and the partner can easily discuss, and establish a hashtag. After that, make sure you and the partner promote the conversation in advance so that people join in. One example of a great Twitter chat is #prstudchat. Originally started as a conversation for PR students on Twitter, it has now branched out into a networking group with its own page on LinkedIn.

Integrate! The fact that you’re on Twitter doesn’t mean your customers will know to look for you. Resources such as widgets and the tweet and follow buttons are easy ways to cross-promote your account, and can be customized to your needs. Include a follow button on your homepage and ‘about us’ page and anywhere else you promote your company. Tweet buttons and widgets are great for virtual newsrooms as well, as they show what your company is talking about (beside their own news).

These are just a few of our tips for managing a company’s Twitter presence. Share your own tips below!

Was The Murdoch’s "Humble Pie" Good PR?

As he prepared to face a day’s worth of questioning by British lawmakers about the News Corp. phone-hacking crisis, Rupert Murdoch was set to serve up a carefully crafted statement that began,”This is the most humble day of my life.”

But Murdoch was rushed into questioning and had to wait until later to try to work in the line about his newfound diffidence. It was by most accounts a fairly shaky performance, and the legal strategy seemed to trump the PR approach. Although he managed to drop the “humble” line twice, when Murdoch was asked if he felt responsible for the ethical breaches at his companies, his answer was “no.”

Then… the pie. Murdoch was nearly creamed by a plate-throwing protester, and in a video snippet that went viral in moments, was fiercely defended by his much younger wife, Wendi Deng, who instantly leaped up and smacked the attacker as the rest of the group watched in amazement.

Minutes after a brief recess during which the pie-hurler was arrested and Mr. Murdoch wiped clean of foam, the mood seemed to turn. Drama! All eyes were on Ms. Deng as she attacked the attacker – in a slo-mo, badly angled video that was played over and over like a surprise ninth-inning run in a tied-up ball game. Suddenly, Murdoch seemed old, frail, and oddly vulnerable.

AdAge critic Simon Dumenco called the interruption “a gift to the Murdochs.” Katie Couric praised Wendi Deng as a “tiger wife.” Twitter lit up with jokes and props for Ms.Deng’s “left hook.”

Some even thought it a brilliantly orchestrated set-up, planned in advance to turn opinion in Murdoch’s favor. Just days prior, PR-land was buzzing with the news that News Corp had beefed up its internal public relations and crisis management resources by bringing on Edelman to join Steve Rubenstein, son of famed New York PR man Howard Rubenstein, for damage control.

That first step – the hype over Edelman’s hire in the UK – wasn’t a strong start, actually. It came too late and gave the impression of a weak and panicky Murdoch team. And as the questioning began Tuesday, we were all set to watch the smackdown, analyze the crisis management strategy and dissect Murdoch’s prepared statement about his new, humble attitude.

Instead, a slapstick moment probably won the day for the Murdochs, at least in PR terms. I’m convinced it wasn’t planned; the attack was meant to be “just desserts.” But for a few hours, the humble pie was actually was a small slice of face-saving for Murdoch personally, but only against the backdrop of the News Corp. soap opera. That part’s just begun, and the PR reps will have their hands full, as no one’s likely to come out clean.

All Facebook "Likes" Are Not Created Equal

Even before Facebook popularized the “like” button, there’s been online discussion about the value of a single Facebook fan, or, now, a “like.” Some is pure speculation, while some is more research-based. Last year, social measurement firm Syncapse put the revenue potential of Facebook fans for certain brands at an impressive $136.38.

More recently, revenue optimization company ChompOn.com evaluated the “like” at only $8 by comparing the number of “likes” and the number of immediate sales of a “liked” product. Others, including Forrester analyst Augie Ray, posits that a “like” is worth exactly zero because it signals only potential, not necessarily realized action.

A loyal customer is a beautiful thing. A publicly loyal one, even more so. And they may even buy more products or services.  Valuable? Yes. Incrementally so? Hard to say.

We tend to lean with Forrester. There are lots of studies, but many seem to make their case based on an incorrect assumption. They imply a causal relationship between likes and customer action – build your Facebook following, and you can drive sales. But in many cases, the likers maybe simply be brand fans expressing their preference.

Then, too, a fan’s degree of influence is highly variable, and it may not even be tied to popularity or number of fans. There are many public figures whom I admire, but I may not agree with their posts about politics or even lipstick brands. My friend’s fiancee posts about the stock market, and even though he has only 60 Facebook friends, I’m impressed because I know him and his market expertise.

In broad strokes, Facebook likes are indisputable barometers of popularity. After all, Coca-Cola doesn’t have 32 million by accident. Most marketers know that buying fans from bogus services that deliver bots or spam rings is useless, or even damaging. But the influence of even “earned” fans will vary.

From a marketing perspective, here’s the main thing: All likes are not created equal. Yes, we may click to like a cause, a personality, or a product out of genuine commitment or connection. But there are many likes activated for research purposes, to enter a contest, or in response to a request from a friend or associate. Many, if not most, are long forgotten. And if it’s not in the immediate feed….well, out of stream, out of mind.

It’s what you do with the likes that makes the difference. An obvious point, perhaps, but one that we forget in the rush to measure, analyze, and monetize.

How To Dress For (PR) Success

In the New York PR world, being fashionable and dressing appropriately needn’t be mutually exclusive. In my experience you should treat your work wardrobe like a PR campaign: first, know your “target audience!”  Do you work for a very corporate company that demands formal dress or a funky downtown firm that appreciates the fashion-forward? Get to know the “feel” of the place, as well as any policies that affect dress: how do flip-flops fare on summer days? Can casual Friday mean jeans or just a more dress-down look?

Below are a few tips that I like to follow when getting ready for work in the PR world.

If you’re questioning it, don’t wear it
Is this skull and crossbones tie appropriate?  Is my dress too short?  If you might be thinking yes, then don’t even bother.  Some things you own can be “too interesting” for work or for your client.  Remember if it’s too big, too tight, or too shiny, it might just be TOO much.

Dress me up, Dress me down
Just as every office is different, every client is different.  In PR, one day you are meeting with buttoned up banker types requiring the requisite navy blue suit and the next day it’s the arty entrepreneur just screaming for the vintage Miu-Miu you got at the Brooklyn Flea!  Do some advance reconnaissance and scope out your client’s style. You don’t have to mimic it, but get in a comfort zone that will help put you more at ease at an in-person meeting.

Be True to Your Cool
Just because you’re wearing a suit and a tie for a client meeting doesn’t mean you have to look like the average “suit”.  Striped socks or pocket squares are a great way to add pop to the basics.  I love to add an interesting piece of jewelry or something else that helps define my style. It’s good to bring a little “you” to your outfit.  When you’re comfortable with your style, you will project confidence, and the best PR person is a confident one.

What are some of your tips to dress for success?

What We Can Learn From Horrible PR Bosses

Psycho. Maneater. Tool.

The descriptions of the bosses in the new summer movie got me thinking of those I’ve had in my long PR career. Google “horrible bosses” and you get no fewer than 19 million hits. Need to vent? Share your stories of chumps in charge on blogs like http://reallybadboss.com/ and now, of course, there’s the movie.

With apologies to They Might be Giants, everyone has been “the boss of someone.” And we’ve all probably been horrible at some aspect of it. But whether you’re currently the boss or the bossed, it’s helpful to remember what you’ve learned from terrible supervisors.

The worst bosses in public relations – as in any industry – contribute to low morale, distrust, absenteeism and loss of productivity. Recently Swedish researchers reported that workers saddled with managers who were inconsiderate, uncommunicative, and poor advocates were about 60 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack or other life-threatening cardiac condition!

So if you recognize yourself in any of the following descriptions, change now! If you recognize your boss, well, go see the movie and have yourself a laugh.

“The Idea Thief” – He pooh-poohs your ideas, often in front of others, and then steals and presents them as his own. This behavior not only undermines your self-esteem but erodes trust. A great boss demonstrates generosity of spirit and helps foster a healthy, collaborative work environment.

“The Overpromiser” – In PR, those who pitch ideas to the press are often said to be “in the trenches.”  If your boss was never there, chances are he will wildly overpromise a client when it comes to anticipated results. This is particularly egregious since it’s not only a disservice to what you do, but the risk of serious client disappointment is high. A good boss never promises until the execution team buys in.

“The Debbie Downer” – This leader is so insecure that she spends time gossiping about others and drawing you into a morass of negativity. Break free! Learn to steer all conversations back to client topics. It’s a lovely plus to be friendly with your boss, but sometimes it’s better and healthier to be all about the work.

“The Egomaniac” – Some say PR people should never get more publicity than their clients. Even if that’s an outdated belief, there’s something wrong with a boss whose worldview is that it’s all about him. Ego should never trump client interest.

“The Ferris Bueller” – Ever have a manager whose greatest talent was avoiding work? A senior exec here at Crenshaw likes to talk about one of her ex-bosses (at another firm we won’t mention) who decided to stop showing up at the office. The absent boss had her cover for her by firing up the boss’s PC, opening her mail and even brewing cups of tea placed strategically on her desk to give the impression she had just stepped out for a moment! The manager not only set a terrible example, but she involved her junior staff, always a morale-killer. A good boss is accountable and never asks someone to do her dirty work.

“The Sweatshop Owner” – You know the one. He hires mostly interns and churns through them.  He underbids (and overpromises) to win projects, so there’s never enough staff. He demands long, grueling hours, constant pitching, and is stingy on benefits. To the sweatshop owner, staff are interchangeable and expendable. The result, of course, is client churn, a vicious cycle of underfunded assignments and underwhelmed clients, and a poor reputation. If you have a boss like that, get out while you can.

Got your own history with a “horrible boss?” Tell us all about it here.

Recipe For A Twitter Fail: Was Entenmann’s #Guilty of Hashtag Hijacking?


Call it a half-baked attempt to be topical…or perhaps, just a mistake. As Twitter erupted following the surprise guilty verdict in the Casey Anthony murder trial, Entenmann’s adopted the rapidly trending #notguilty hashtag to tweet a whimsical update about “eating all the tasty treats you want.”

The tweet lasted only minutes. Someone realized the juxtaposition wasn’t appetizing, and it was swiftly deleted. Entenmann’s then posted an apology – actually, two apologies – for the tasteless tweet, explaining that it was purely unintentional.

That’s hard to swallow. But, hey, Twitter mistakes happen. (Just ask Anthony Weiner.) What takes my breath away, though clearly it shouldn’t, is how a minor mistake, quickly corrected, blew up faster than quick-rising dough.

TechCrunch posted a harsh item that was instantly picked up all over the place, and the thing was viral. Even mainstream media was snacking on the tasty tweet. It was widely compared to Kenneth Cole’s Twitter fail of last spring, albeit with a greater spirit of  indulgence. And the same fake Twitter account that posted bogus updates about Cole has popped up again as @EntenmannsPR, complete with truly nasty posts. (Tip for @Entenmann’s: Don’t dignify it by mentioning it by name in your stream, even to deny authorship.)

Three hours later, Entenmann’s social media agency, Likable, posted a lengthier mea culpa taking full responsibility for the mistake. Except for a self-serving reference to the founder’s pro bono work, it was textbook apology PR.

In my view, the whole thing is a storm in a coffee cup. (Am I the only one bothered as much by the tweet’s awkward syntax?) The harsh justice served up by the blogosphere hardly fits the ‘crime’ here.

But #CookieGate does point out the need for social media oversight. Twitter and similar social media  platforms may look like a piece of cake, but they’re not. Oversight by an experienced professional, a PR sensibility, and simple good judgment are essential ingredients of a social media plan.

Craft Beer Fight Over B-Word Rages, With Good Press On Tap

The Bitch is back.

That’s Flying Dog Brewery’s Raging Bitch Belgian-Style IPA. Now maybe the name should offend me, but it doesn’t. I don’t actually have a dog in this fight, but I do think it’s fitting that on Thursday, just in time for the July 4th weekend, the state of Michigan reversed a decision that had prevented Raging Bitch from being sold there.

For First Amendment nerds – or craft beer lovers – the reversal was actually due to a seemingly unrelated Supreme Court decision that limits the rights of states to restrict corporate speech. But the Flying Dog brewhaha started after it was denied a Michigan license on the grounds that the name and label was “detrimental to public health safety and welfare.”

Flying Dog, sensing a heady PR opportunity, filed suit. The result has been an outpouring of positive publicity, mostly from fans of the beer who couldn’t care less about the First Amendment but swear by its taste.

It might not be exactly what James Madison had in mind when he introduced the Bill of Rights articles covering freedom of expression, but, then again, Raging Bitch has a rich provenance. Its label was created by artist Ralph Steadman, best known for his work with gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson.

But any fear and loathing here is being channeled into PR and social media to get beer fans in a lather. And it’s worked. Even after the reversal, Flying Dog continued to press its case. Not one to quit while it’s ahead, the brewery posted a statement that makes it clear that principles are at stake…that, and maybe a story that has legs. “We originally filed suit in U.S. District Court on March 25 not only to overturn the Commission’s regulation banning Raging Bitch, but also to deem their ability to ban any beer label that they find offensive unconstitutional.”

Flying Dog was on pretty firm legal ground, and I don’t doubt that the suit was good business. But it was also great PR. One commenter pointed out that craft beer brands need to be extra crafty when it comes to marketing, considering what they’re up against. As he put it, “It takes work to get through all the noise, and this lawsuit thing worked!”

Declaration of PR Independence

“A press release should never be more than one page long.”
“The ad and editorial departments are completely separate.”
“Media contacts are too busy for ‘clever’ pitches, just the facts please.”

Above are just a few examples of long-held PR “truths” that shackle creative practitioners to outdated axioms and methods that just don’t get results.

This 4th of July, break free from suspect PR conventions and let your inner creative risk-taker burst through…or at least, in PR parlance, “pilot” a few new, independent ways to improve your prowess.

• If your news takes longer than a page to explain, but is engaging and compelling, so be it. What is a page anyway when you are reading it in the body of an email as opposed to an attachment? (which one should always avoid if possible, anyway)

• These days the ad and editorial departments of many traditional and online media outlets are more closely entwined than ever and the lines are very blurry. It is no longer “a dirty word” to leverage a client’s ad buy to create wonderful opportunities on the news/editorial side. Don’t be shy.

• A well-written email pitch to a media contact is great, but if your client’s product or service can be expressed via a creative mailer or hand-delivery, go for it. Then follow up…by phone! Sometimes, it is still the best way to forge a relationship and make results happen.

Any “PR independence” tips you’d like to share?