More Television Exposure for Our Client ZetrOZ

This tough guy — trainer to professional athletes and celebrities — uses our client’s cutting edge wearable ultrasound technology for pain relief, known as SAM. Developed by our client, ZetrOZ, the FDA-approved device is getting lots of (worthwhile) attention! Many thanks to Dave “Scooter” Honig, at his Port Washington studio, and physical therapist Kathy Maddalone, for the interviews, as well as Dr. Manny Alvarez of Fox News. Editor is bullish on Elon Musk’s SpaceX

“Space is a very unforgiving business,” editor Tariq Malik tells Stuart Varney on Fox Business in this segment we secured for our client Purch, the media company which owns Still, asked by Varney if he would be a space tourist one day, Malik said “safety assured, I would love to see Earth from space, I think that’d be great.”

Malik appeared on Varney & Co. on Feb. 12, the day after SpaceX launched its unmanned Falcon 9 rocket, transporting an observatory to a lookout point a million miles away.

Check out the segment below!

Our CEO On A-Rod in Daily News

A-Rod must’ve missed our previous post about how to make a home run of an apology. If he had, he might have known not to focus on himself more than the fans, or to come across as “defensive or self-pitying.” Our founder and CEO Dorothy Crenshaw was one of the communications experts discussing the A-Rod apology in this Daily News piece, and discusses the best ways to handle a public apology, when it’s necessary.

Check out the full story here!






Oscar Office Pool: And the winner is…


As PR trend spotters and pop culture prognosticators, of course we couldn’t resist participating in the Oscar office pool organized by our office neighbors and fellow silver screen-loving colleagues. It should come as no surprise the winner was our own Nick, whose PR repertoire includes working with one of the most successful big data crunchers in the ad-tech business. (Their predictions have never been wrong, according to Nick!) Check out our recent media placement on their Oscar prediction strategy in the LA Times here. Congratulations Nick! He won two tickets to the movies, naturally.

What PR People Should Know About Analyst Relations

Most B2B technology companies and the PR agencies who represent them understand the value of industry analysts as part of a strong PR program. Journalists often look to analysts to confirm trends, deliver insights, and add quotes and credibility to their profiles of key industries. Cultivating analyst relationships over the long term can result in positive coverage in the trade press, and many are influential with general business media as well. Some top tech companies actually consider analyst relations more important than media relations.
Yet AR is sometimes an afterthought for companies who can’t afford pricey subscriptions, or who are purely focused on earned media visibility.

That shouldn’t be the case. Even without a paid relationship with key analysts, a long-term commitment to analyst relations can pay off for any company in an important industry or an emerging category.

Analyst meetings require a level of preparation and planning similar to those with journalists, but they aren’t out for news. They’re more interested in depth of knowledge about an industry or niche, identifying trends, and placing an entire competitive set into context for their reports.
The good news is that most tech-industry analysts are eager to keep a high profile; they want to be quoted in the press and will sometimes return the favor if the information is useful or if it helps characterize trends within an industry or sector.

Every good PR person should know how to handle an analyst meeting.

Involve the analyst(s) early. It’s not always necessary to wait until just before a new product launch to arrange meetings with key analysts. For one thing, their schedules often book weeks or months in advance. More importantly, a good analyst relationship is a give and take. A top analyst can be a source of feedback on how you plan to position your offering as well as the competitive space overall.

Respect their expertise. The typical industry analyst is a true expert in your category, so expect a sophisticated understanding of the space, and don’t waste time with an industry overview. Even if you think your business is unique, assume the analyst is familiar.

Take the time to prepare for analyst meetings. A good PR consultant will research the individual analyst and his company for you, but it’s also important to prepare the content and think through answers to questions as you would for a journalist meeting. Make sure all internal experts are present for the call or meeting and that they know what to expect. Don’t run long, and make sure your presentation allows time for questions.

Share insight, not just input.  You’ll want to do a thorough job of briefing the analyst about a product or service update, but you can be an even more valuable resource by offering an informed perspective on industry trends and competitive moves. Some companies don’t like to admit they have competitors, or they’re afraid to offer opinions or intelligence on rivals, but, remember, most analysts are paid to cover entire industries, not a category of one.

Go niche. If meetings with the big guys like Forrester and Gartner can’t be scheduled right away, look at smaller analyst firms that have a hyperfocus in your area. They are often very influential and the depth of specialist expertise can make up for the lack of scale. Most B2B marketing technology categories, for example, are followed by at least one niched analyst who is enormously knowledgeable about the space. These individuals can influence customers, journalists, and even other analysts.

Try to meet in person. This isn’t always possible, but a real sit-down beats a phone or skype briefing. It’s easier to get into greater depth, and you have a stronger chance of building a long-term relationship. An industry conference is usually a great opportunity to schedule analyst meetings that would otherwise be over the phone.

Use visuals. Particularly if your analyst discussion deals in technical matters or explains a complex or emerging issue, make use of an uncluttered, well-designed deck to supplement the verbal briefing.

Stay in touch. It’s best to look at analyst relations as a long-term asset, and one that is mutually beneficial. Maintain the relationship by reaching out periodically with industry insights, important news, or observations about shifts or competitive moves. You can also ask for opinions and insights in return. A top analyst can be a terrific contact and a career-long resource.

A Public Relations Situation: One In An Occasional Series

We in the PR agency world consider ourselves fairly expert at handling delicate client situations. Here we will occasionally share some examples of how our team has successfully defused, or even leveraged, a potentially negative situation. This post considers the case of the fired journalist.

In recent weeks our team set up a couple of interviews that went well until the PR team members who “owned”each reporter relationship followed up to see about a pub date and, after a few communications, discovered the writers had been let go.

One journalist stayed in touch and though the story was now DOA, he did keep us up to date on his whereabouts. The other writer, despite our best efforts to get in touch, seemed to have vanished. We then reached out to the writer’s immediate superior, by email and phone, to ask what could be done to salvage the story.  Hearing nothing after a few days, we knew we had to employ other strategies.

We made the decision to go to the top, to the publisher of the paper. While it isn’t always wise to take your complaint straight to the top (once you get there, you can’t come back down!) We sided with consumer advocate, customer service expert and blogger, Chris Elliott, who notes that there are times when “a direct appeal to the CEO might make sense.”

We drafted a polite, factual accounting of the details and asked that our story be considered for publication since it had already been completed. We heard back in less than 24 hours. While the publisher was personally unable to resolve our situation, suddenly we did hear from the departed journo’s editor, apologizing for the entire incident. Although he was no longer able to run the story, he was conciliatory and very open to working together in the future.

Think you need to take your troubles to the top? Try these tips.

Try to maintain a relationship with your first contact.  Most people land on their feet eventually and appreciate staying in touch with someone they’ve successfully worked with before. Leapfrog only when you absolutely must.

Write vs. call. Gatekeepers will go out of their way to prevent your call from getting through and email has a permanent record.

Don’t let emotions get the best of you. No matter how angry you might be about a situation, remain calm and concise in your email, simply laying out the facts and asking for resolution.

Do ask for exactly what you want. If you don’t at least try, you’ll never know!

Thank all parties. Obviously.

Can PR Scale?

There’s an interesting question buried in Tom Foremski’s recent  broadside against the PR Council’s move to redefine what PR agencies do. The post is about the term “earned influence” to describe the work of the modern PR practitioner and move PR beyond “earned media” outcomes that some feel are outdated. (For the record, Foremski thinks it’s a useless and disingenuous term.)

But the other question is more provocative. It’s a fundamental challenge that he says limits our industry and could threaten the growth of the PR agency business overall, even as we enjoy the recovering economy and frothy environment for tech-based businesses.

How does PR scale?

“PR’s challenge is that it is an artisanal, hand-crafted service operating within a brave new digital media world that rewards scale. Ad agencies, SEO services, Facebook, Google, Twitter, know how to scale their promotional work through technology.

Where are PR’s scalable technologies of persuasion?”

The question is timely.  Foremski has previously blogged that, from a technology perspective, the PR operations stack is “mostly fizzle.” And it’s true that when it comes to the earned media piece of many PR programs, it really doesn’t scale very well at all. Most agencies spend half or more of revenues on staff salaries and benefits. PR at its core involves a labor-intensive and relatively low-tech set of skills that is largely dependent on judgment, experience, and relationships.

For our survival, we must go beyond earned media content, a/k/a publicity. This is in part why industry leaders like Lou Hoffman are calling for PR practitioners to incorporate SEO in our content creation practices, and why many agencies are adding deeper capabilities in media buying, digital content, and brand journalism (whether you like the term or not.)  PR work today may involve crowdsourcing ideas or content; creating apps or ads; or increasingly generating on-demand content based on same-day data analysis for instant distribution to take advantage of real-time marketing opportunities.

Some of these activities do scale. The analysis that informs strategy or evaluates results can grow exponentially, owned content production is somewhat scalable, and social sharing of earned media placements is routinely automated. But the core process of pitching journalists and working to get client stories published in credible media outlets is largely a one-to-one or one-to-few type of task. Sure, we can use software to plan media targets and email tools to send out pitches. We have great visual content creation tools, and social media amplification is routine for promoting earned media. But what we call a “placement” will always be the result of human ingenuity, relationships, and negotiation.

This may mean that PR category growth is limited, and that valuations even for the large multinational agencies will never reach those of comparable technology services firms. Core aspects of how we make our living may forever be more of an art than a science.

But even if Foremski is correct, the industry is far from doomed. And given its recent expansion and the opportunities to learn, grow, and take on new challenges that have opened to professionals over the past few years, I’d bet that most who make a living at PR agencies wouldn’t have it any other way.

5 Things You Should Never Ask Of A PR Agency

A successful partnership with a PR agency should fill needs and solve problems in creative, strategic and mutually beneficial ways, and a good PR firm will go the extra distance to please. There are times, however, when clients need to know what’s not appropriate to ask of their agency. So, how does a business know what’s off limits? With apologies to Stacey and Clinton, here are five examples of “What Not To Ask.”

Don’t ask your PR firm to perform (media) miracles. More than once a client has demanded that their PR agency commit to generating a certain number of national story placements, or to guarantee coverage in a specific outlet. If only it were that simple! Work with an agency partner to establish realistic media relations KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and appropriate story angles.

Don’t ask your agency to take on tasks better suited to others. At times PR agency staff are asked to run interference with unhappy customers, give the boss a hair or wardrobe makeover, or weigh in on a personal crisis. Now, some agencies can and do offer specialized services that go far beyond strategy and media relations, but if that’s not the case, or if the task is better suited to a personal assistant (or friend!), it’s best to collaborate with others. Agency teams are selling their talent and their time, and neither should be wasted.

Don’t ask your PR partner to arbitrarily lower their fees. Agencies plan and budget according to formulas that guarantee consistent service to clients. Sometimes a client has a good or unavoidable reason to ask for a fee reduction (lower than projected sales, changes in management, etc.) but in these cases, they should expect the service level and outcomes to change. Agencies are in business to make a profit, just as their client companies are.

Don’t ask your PR team to “borrow” someone else’s ideas. Presumably, you chose the agency based on their own merits, so let them develop the strategy and creative tactics. Just because a particular creative approach worked before doesn’t guarantee that it will catch fire for a second or third round.  On the other hand, if a client believes the agency is driven more by their own egos than the client needs, they should cut bait.

Don’t ask your agency to do anything immoral or insulting. This includes pulling your agency partner into competitive research that has morphed into “industrial espionage” or asking them to take the blame for a mistake that wasn’t theirs. It can also include being asked to share a hotel room with a person of the opposite sex in the name of cost-savings (yes, this actually happened!). Also, as we’ve all learned from the Brian Williams fiasco, lying or even obfuscating is never a good strategy. In the digital age, untruths are usually exposed, and the damage may be lasting.

Interested in knowing more? Let’s start from the beginning! Download our tipsheet, 9 Ways To Know You’ve Found The Right PR Firm, and start off on the right foot with your new PR partner.

Download Tipsheet

6 Things Great PR Campaigns Have In Common

When it comes to capturing the attention of journalists, influentials, and prospects, some PR campaigns have more impact than others. What makes the difference? There are countless factors, from the development of the initial strategy, through the details of planning and execution. Every campaign is distinct, of course, and there are no cookie-cutter solutions. But when I think about the difference between a blockbuster PR program and one that’s merely good, there are some commonalities.

Here are some of the criteria that fit a top-notch PR campaign, and that to some degree, most killer PR programs have in common.

It’s audience-focused.  Some brands are lucky enough to have a core following of very passionate customers. Although it’s run into some reputation snags recently, apparel brand Lululemon has built its business in part by wooing core yoga and fitness advocates. It runs a local-market influencer campaign that recruits in-city athletes, trainers, and fitness entrepreneurs to spread the yoga gospel and indirectly promote its brand.
For an art materials retailer client, we employ a similar strategy, leveraging relationships with local artists, art teachers, and even artsy families with kids at store events to reinforce the company’s ties with local communities, including media and bloggers.

It’s well timed. When it comes to the publicity piece of a campaign, timing can make all the difference. A solid but unexciting educational campaign we ran about a credit union’s advantages over banks was transformed when launched just before Valentine’s Day as a call to “break up with your bank.” For three years, we managed a “Director of Sleep” job search for a mattress brand that wanted to be linked to healthy slumber. The first time was back in 2011, when jobs were very scarce. A key factor in the campaign’s “dream” results was its launch in May, just as new college grads were flooding the worst job market in years. We’re convinced that different timing would have yielded poorer results.

It’s simple.  We PR professionals can sometimes overcomplicate our tactics. Something as basic and fun as sending Muppets cupcakes to prominent tweeters to promote the new Muppets movie is about as simple as social outreach gets, but it carried the movie campaign beautifully. Why? Because it was visual, appealing, and consistent with the whimsical Muppets brand. Who could resist tweeting about such a gift?

It puts an old idea in a new package.  It’s hard to dream up a completely new idea, but often, you don’t need to.  Consider what animal rescue group Social Tees and dating app Tinder did last when they teamed to promote puppy adoption. Instead of another familiar appeal to the public to adopt a pet, with the depressing statistics about animals in shelters, the available dogs were profiled on Tinder to “match” them with suitable owners. The campaign generated a litter of pun-filled stories and more than 2,500 matches in its first week.

It humanizes a brand or company.  Kleenex has tissues delivered to people posting on social media about the miseries of having a cold. Simple, audience-focused, and very sympathetic.  One of the best ways to make a company more human is to pull back the curtain on its workforce. IBM, for example, posts #throwbackthursday photos of its early leaders, a subtle but terrific way to remind us of its heritage. GE uses “Instawalks” to invite influencers into their facilities to share their experiences on Instagram, offering a look under the hood of one of America’s most iconic companies.

It’s entertaining. No surprise that some of the most enduring PR and content campaigns got there because they make people laugh. Mark Malkoff lives in an Ikea store for a week to show how inviting it is. GE scores again here with its #springbreakit video series that takes the “Will It Blend” meme to another level. Entertaining content is compulsively shareable, and that’s one of the best-known “secrets” of great PR.