Becoming A Media Source

When it comes to client work, one of the things we always ask ourselves is, “How can we help our client shine?” This is especially true if the client is in a less-than-sexy industry. However, a PR pro’s dream is for the tables to flip and the media to approach us. It’s not that hard to achieve but does require your client to build and polish their “mediability”.

Be sure to keep the following tips in mind if you’re trying to position your client as a go-to media source.

Write in quotes, speak in sound bites: One of the smartest ways to ensure your client a spot on a journalist’s speed dial is by offering quotes that can easily be injected into a story, whether it’s about your client or a larger issue pertinent to their industry. The same can be said for broadcast media. Providing strong, clear sound bites during a broadcast interview will usually earn a spot in a segment and be considered for future pieces.

Create original content: Building on the above, work with your client to create original, useful content that informs and entertains. This can be as simple as maintaining a blog of industry musings, or guest-blogging to show your client’s opinion on relevant topics. A journalist doing research on industry trends may find it a treasure-trove of information.

Consider indirect industries: Your client’s work affects more than just their direct industry, so leverage your client’s fresh perspective to less-than-obvious sectors. For example, our client, Sleepy’s is currently advocating a change of Daylight Saving Time: Not only is this a sleep issue, but a health, safety and political issue. How many times have you seen a bed retailer on Politico?

Add their profile to ProfNet: ProfNet is an awesome tool that PR people use to connect their clients with journalists writing in a specific field, but why not be more proactive? Create an “expert” profile for your client and watch journalists flock to you for more information.

Bring on media training: For clients less familiar with the media, media training can be a very attractive option. Depending on how intense training needs to be, clients can be prepped by agency staff or a hired media trainer.

Don’t be afraid to carpe diem (or seize the opportunity): In a perfect world, every media request would come with ample time to prepare, analyze the journalist and outlet, and rehearse sample questions. However, the news is unpredictable and being flexible is a must. Some opportunities are presented in a very short window of time, so proving that your client can provide a quality interview on a moment’s notice will make them a go-to source for breaking news.
Build relationships: This is a no-brainer, as it’s the backbone of the PR industry, but it’s essential to create relationships with people. If you’re able to connect with a journalist and build a great rapport with them, they will not only be happy to share your client’s news, but look to you for story material in the future.
What other tips do you have that bring the media to you? Be sure to leave in the comments.

Can Working From Home Work? Marissa Mayer Doesn’t Think So.

Professional women talk about standing on the shoulders of those who came before, or walking in the footsteps of powerful mentors. So, when a role model steps off the usual path, it rankles. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer probably didn’t anticipate that her ban on working from home would strike such a nerve. (And if you’re wondering if things would be different if the edict had come from a man….well, that’s an interesting question.)

But Mayer’s not only not a man, she’s the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company, one of very few top-500 women CEOs, and one who happens to have given birth five months ago. So when the memo went out announcing the policy as being in the interest of  “collaboration and communication,” it launched a thousand water cooler conversations and countless blog posts. Couple that with Mayer’s recent claim that she wouldn’t call herself a feminist, and you have a recipe for a culture war.

But does the tempest over work/life balance really warrant all the outrage? From where I sit, the uproar is really more about class than gender politics, though there’s a little something for everyone here. (Working dads are offended at being left out of the brouhaha, as are childless workers and others.)

One reason for the backlash is that Mayer paid to have a nursery built next to her office so that she could be with her infant son, a perq that few working women enjoy. And the now-infamous work-at-home ban comes on the heels of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s  call-to-action for professional women to step up in the face of workplace challenges instead of stepping back.  The “leaning in” advocated by Sandberg has been belittled by some as a luxury afforded to a tiny club of uberprivileged women.

My own experience is that working at home can work, and like anything else, it has limits. But the controversy makes me wonder if flextime has been oversold or occasionally abused. Maybe the pendulum is swinging back because some businesses have gone too far in letting staff set their own hours, or they haven’t set the right goals or metrics.

So, what’s the secret to success for flexible worktime? I was pondering this in terms of my own experience when a sound bite from a WNYC radio commentary crystallized it for me. It was a conversation about the desirable qualities of a successful home-based staffer.

A sense of urgency.

There are many attributes that make up a superior professional, and most of them are the same for home-based workers. But this one is particularly important for staff who aren’t in the office every day.
Yahoo insiders say that this pressing sense of mission has been absent among many home-based workers at the company. I have no idea if that’s the case, but its importance rings true for me. It’s not the only quality, but as the owner of a professional service business, I’ve found that a healthy sense of urgency, coupled with a burning desire to do right for clients, is the X factor for most successful agency staff, whether they work at home, in the office, or anywhere in between.

Whether she likes it or not, Mayer’s every move is symbolic. And though some professional women feel betrayed by her move, let’s face it, we’re not walking in her Stuart Weitzmans. So, I say, go girl. Do what’s needed to turn the ship around, and the rest of us will cheer you on, then make our own decisions about what works for us.

Salutations And Signoffs

While it seems like just a simple hello or good-bye, email salutations say something about you and your company. And given that they constitute your first and last digital impression, they should not be taken for granted, dismissed or trivialized.

So what is the right way to begin or end a simple business correspondence in the digital age?

In the rush to move business along, don’t forget the greeting; you can come off as rude or brusque otherwise. And if you wouldn’t say, “Hey there” to your boss or client, don’t do it in your email. We like a simple “Hi, Mary,” or an old fashioned “Dear Jeff.” For a more professional approach to a group, “Good morning,” or “Greetings” can help strike the balance between too colloquial and too formal.

In my experience, there’s not usually a need to keep adding the greeting if you’re in an email conversation, but circumstances vary. In a negotiation or sensitive conversation where you’re trying to reach agreement, a formal greeting, or a “thank you for your response” may be appropriate for each and every exchange. Cultural norms matter here also. For example, we work with a Japan-based client, and our emails to them reflect a higher degree of formality than with other client partners.

Some people put a signoff in their email signature to save time. This is fine, yet it can be inappropriate to the circumstances (ever get an argumentative note with “Best wishes” embedded in the sig?) Generally, it’s safe to go with “Regards” or “Sincerely.” Although “Cheers” is trendy, and the phrase “XO” has emerged as an “ingenious adaptation to that pressure not to be too bossy, too assertive,” according to Marketplace, try to avoid sounding too casual or flip when closing an email. And, while unique, avoid signatures that are too whimsical, like, “After all is said and done, more is said than done” or “It’s been swell, but the swelling’s gone down.” (Yes, these are actual signoffs.)

Have any creative ways to tie up professional conversations? Then leave them in the comments sections below.