Brewing Up Some Accolades For Excellence

Special shout-out to the Small Town Brewery team for helping secure six industry awards for the brewery and flagship brew, Not Your Father’s Root Beer which Crenshaw introduced in 2015. These include the Hot Brand Award and Industry Excellence Award from IMPACT Magazine, pictured here with Crenshaw’s Colleen O’Connor, a standout on the Small Town team. The brand was also awarded a Reader’s Choice Award from Cigars & Leisure, a Best New Product from MarketWatch, the Alcohol Players Award from Beverage World and Cheers Magazine’s Beer Growth Brand winner.

Since our Small Town engagement began, the team has also introduced Not Your Father’s Ginger Ale and Vanilla Cream and is planning on at least two more new product intros in 2017. Go team!

 

What PR Agencies Can Learn From Advertising Week

Thousands of public relations, advertising and marketing people gathered this week in and around Times Square for New York’s Advertising Week. They came to hear a wide range of speakers and panel guests share their insight and opinions on the current and future state of the advertising business.

As the lines between PR and advertising have blurred, the discussions during Advertising Week are increasingly relevant to public relations professionals. Here are some of the hottest topics covered by the most in-demand speakers.

Develop content for larger and more diverse audiences. Amy Carney, President of Ad Sales at Sony Pictures, stressed the importance of creating content for the right platforms. And it’s vital to understand the data that drives this consumption. “We can no longer say that we’re developing content for the United States,” she explained. “Instead, we need to create content that will be relevant and resonate with audiences around the world – we have to bring the right content to the right audiences.”

Digital is king. Nigel Morris: CEO, Americans and EMEA at Dentsu Aegis Network, spoke at length about how digital has become the dominant part of the economy. “Everything is now data driven, and everything you touch through digital creates data,” he told the engaged crowd. “The economy is turning into one that has the conditions of perfect competition, where consumers and products have equal power through equal knowledge.”

Content drives engagement. Randy Feer, President of Fox Networks Group, believes that the most important part to an advertising campaign is content. “More than anything else, content is what drives engagement,” Feer said to a packed house during an NFL panel at the historic Town Hall. “It’s up to both brands and media companies to find exciting ways to get consumers excited about ads in the same way they do every year on Super Bowl Sunday.”

Emphasize employee satisfaction. According to Carolyn Everson, VP of Global Marketing Solutions at Facebook, companies – including those in PR – should consider people their most important asset. “Managing work with personal time can be challenging, and companies with happier employees perform better,” she said in a panel about companies prioritizing recharging as a productivity tool. “Keeping employees fulfilled with their personal lives will help them do their jobs better.”

What are the PR ramifications here? We see the same overarching themes resonating in public relations: ever-evolving content needs, customer-driven communication and the undeniable importance of digital media. We particularly recognize the importance of Nigel Morris’ statement that “everything you touch through digital creates data.” PR teams that have become sophisticated in their use of data gleaned from digital work recognize its power for helping shape a company or brand image and drive media interest.

The more attention PR can pay to audiences – and create compelling content for them – the better positioned we are as an industry for the changes that keep coming our way in a digital universe.

What PR Can Learn From The 2016 Election

pr-2016election

 

Every presidential election is a showcase for public relations and political strategy, but the 2016 race has taken PR to a whole new level. There’s ongoing coverage about the candidates themselves, but then there’s the spin, counterspin, punditry, analysis, and back-and-forth around each campaign’s communications and media strategy.

The pace of the coverage and social media amplification is dizzying and even exhausting for close observers, but it’s also instructive. A public relations campaign for a product or brand isn’t all that different from a campaign to sell a president. Here’s what PR people can learn – so far – from the 2016 election campaigns.

Earned media beats paid advertising. As PR people we knew this, of course. But it’s particularly striking in the case of Donald Trump. Now, I’d argue that Trump’s pre-existing celebrity, coupled with the sheer number of GOP primary candidates, really propelled him during the early part of the race, but there’s no denying the estimated $2 billion in earned media coverage of his campaign helped keep him dominant. It’s a lesson that future candidates will be hard-pressed to implement, but they will certainly try.

Keep it simple.  One of the raps on Hillary Clinton is that she’s a wonk. She loves policy and tends to get lost in the details of her plans. She never tires of pointing voters to the exhaustive policy papers on her website, and that’s usually when she loses them, so Clinton has learned to simplify her message. Obama, too, did poorly when he showed his lawyerly side, but far better when sticking to soaring principles. A good PR campaign – like a stump speech or policy position – should be crafted in simple terms that capture their essence.

Connect on an emotional level. This, of course, is where Trump excels. Love it or hate it, he evokes a visceral response with his calls to action on immigration or slashing criticisms of traditional politics. President Obama, particularly in his first campaign, did a masterful job appealing to emotion with his “hope and change” message, and the First Lady showed her talent for eliciting strong feelings in her convention address. In a very similar way, the best storytellers in our business know that emotion sells, and the learn to connect with people through storytelling techniques that connect on that level.

Seize the bandwagon effect. It’s a widely known secret in PR and media circles that coverage begets coverage. Sometimes all you need to do is crack a key media outlet, and the rest will follow. Campaigns know this, so they jump on a new poll or an opponent’s careless remark to try to ride the media snowball as far as they can. This works for brand PR programs also, particularly if they start with stories in trade or niche media outlets and expand to larger and more general press.

Stay on message. The guy who perfected message discipline in politics may have been James Carville, with his, “It’s the economy, stupid” mantra during Bill Clinton’s first campaign in ’92. The candidate who did it best in 2015 and ’16 was Bernie Sanders. Even in one-on-one media interviews following a rally where he unloaded the full stump speech, he’d often answer in soundbites from that very speech. The message was nearly always light on executional details, but his focus on the “rigged economy” was a key reason for his success. Similarly, in a brand PR campaign, even the most stellar media feature or social post is wasted if it doesn’t convey the attributes that no other brand can claim.

Use the data. Politics pioneered the use of demographic and behavioral data to reach specific segments of the electorate because elections focus on winning over a very narrow slice of persuadable voters based on geography, age, race, and beliefs. Nowhere do we see this more than in swing state field operations, where a good campaign knows everything about its party’s members, as well as how to use data to reach volunteers, donors, and potential supporters. For many PR people, use of data science is not as natural as it is for our digital advertising counterparts, but the lines between the two are blurring. We’re learning to use data to influence our messaging, develop and market content, and even as news resources in the form of branded data bureaus.

Cultivate direct, unfiltered relationships with constituents.  Earned media is still important to breaking through in a crowded field, yet trust in major media outlets is at an all-time low. The candidates are right to engage both fans and foes on social media platforms, and social posts are often great media fodder; just look at Trump’s tweets! In the same way, every brand CEO should use their voice to build a relationship with customers, prospects, employees, and stakeholders. It cannot and does not replace earned media in most cases, but direct engagement through digital and social channels is a valuable dimension to any good PR campaign.

How To Add "Borrowed Interest" To Your PR Campaign

What makes a winning public relations program?

There are many factors, but one key to a strong program is what we used to call “borrowed interest.” PR works harder when teams build alliances with third parties to add credibility, news value, or social impact. We’ve been fortunate to have created several third-party collaborations with a goal of moving high-profile B2B and B2C PR campaigns from merely good to best-in-class.

To prepare for a successful third-party collaboration, look for partners who bring elements that either mesh with the existing positioning and program, or bring needed elements, like an appeal to an emerging audience segment, or a call-to-action.

Here are three great examples of partnerships that every PR team should consider if they’re interested in opportunities that will raise the bar and produce results.

An expert spokesperson. A new product launch can have a predictable trajectory. When done well at the outset, a good PR team can generate a burst of news stories that are product-specific. The next phase may include round-up or compilation stories secured by making a new market entry a part of a trend or seasonal effort. Yet after the first and second waves of coverage, the challenge is how to continue the momentum. Often a compelling spokesperson is just what’s needed to inject vitality and extend the life of a product campaign.

For example, once shopping app Retale had been in the marketplace for a few years, we engaged a personal finance expert to help drive visibility and humanize the Retale brand. Her charge was to present the app during seasonal broadcast appearances for back-to-school and Black Friday segments and interviews. One gratifying aspect of the partnership is that long after our financial contract ended, as a legitimate expert, she still mentions the app when appropriate.
A third-party expert may not be as glitzy as a Kardashian, but most offer excellent credibility for a fraction of a celebrity budget.

Retail and restaurant partnerships. Some of our most fruitful relationships have been with retail establishments – particularly restaurants. Recently we engaged a mixologist to develop recipes for a delicious craft beer in its second year on the market, adding some extra flavor and creative juice to the campaign. One exciting component of the collaboration was a Facebook Live event, which provided great exposure for both the beer and the restaurant.  We’ve developed good working relationships with chefs and restaurateurs so that most are willing to partner with us in a non-monetary way, happy to get the exposure our team can provide.

Social impact organization partnership. At some point in the evolution of a PR engagement, a CSR (corporate social responsibility) campaign may be an appropriate step. Savvy PR teams are always thinking of strategic collaborations that benefit both the company and an organization, but that aren’t a force fit. It’s important to develop and stick to specific criteria for any CSR program, as outlined in this recent post.

One of the most successful social impact partnerships – now a classic – is the one between Verizon Wireless and several domestic abuse prevention agencies. Verizon’s Hopeline program collects used phones and other devices to refurbish and supply them to survivors of domestic violence. We managed several awareness-raising initiatives on its behalf, with strong outcomes. Why? Because, like the best collaborations, this one united two very different organizations with a common goal. Each brought something very distinct to the partnership, and each committed for the long term.

Improve Your Public Relations Writing With These Tips

Writing is one of the most important parts of  a successful public relations campaign. To quote Malcolm Gladwell, “Good writing does not succeed or fail on the strength of its ability to persuade. It succeeds or fails on the strength of its ability to engage you, to make you think, to give you a glimpse into someone else’s head.”

People with the skills to write a wide range of content – from bylines and features to blog posts and pitches – are invaluable to their internal teams and business partners. Writing for public relations differs from other types like newspaper, magazine, essay or novel writing. The main purpose is to gain positive exposure, or get a message across to the public.

And no matter how well you write, there’s always room for improvement. Let’s take a look at some tips that can help you become a better public relations writer.

Open with a strong, compelling lead. When writing any type of PR copy, the first step should be coming up with an engaging lead that grabs the reader’s attention. A good lead will set up your copy in a way that doesn’t overwhelm a reader but offers just enough insight to make them want to continue. We strive for brevity, unlike this overly wordy version. So devote some time and attention to your lead and make sure you get it right – it can make or break your piece.

Read your copy aloud. You can spend hours editing and proofreading your copy but still manage to overlook grammar mistakes, run-on sentences and awkward phrases. While many public relations writers often skip this step, reading your copy out loud before submitting to your editor or client is a helpful way to catch any errors that you might have missed. Following this step will help you avoid gaffes like these.

Say more with less. Sometimes, PR bylines and articles come with strict word counts. That’s why writers often feel the need to add unnecessary words to their copy. Instead, try tightening up the copy to give it a clean, natural flow and make it easier to read. Some things to look for include empty phrases and words that don’t add any value to the piece, simpler ways to get your points across, and wordy sentences.

Immerse yourself in written content. The best writers are usually the ones who are obsessed with the written word and love to read. Reading content from other writers is a simple way to help you improve the way you write. Whether you prefer books, magazines, newspapers or any type of online content, any type of reading is a great way to expand your vocabulary and enhance your overall writing skills.

Eliminate passive voice. If you’ve ever submitted copy to an editor, you know that use of the “passive voice”  is one of their biggest pet peeves. Passive voice – “The Phillies were beaten by the Mets” conveys less than active voice – “The Mets beat the Phillies.” It’s good practice to use active voice throughout your copy to make it cleaner and less wordy.

Let your copy breathe. Reading the same thing over and over again can cause you to miss mistakes. Try stepping away from your copy for a few hours, or even a day, and coming back to it with a fresh mindset. This strategy can help you spot any extra words that don’t belong and allow you to trim and tighten up your copy.

Keep writing. The last tip to help better your PR writing is an obvious one, but it’s just as important as the others — practice. From driving a car to learning a sport to perfecting an instrument, the more you do something, the better you’ll be at it. No matter how much advice or feedback you get, repetition is the easiest and most efficient way to improve your copy.

PR Advice For CEOs Under Fire

When the stuff hits the fan, what’s an embattled CEO to do? It helps to hire a top PR firm, but even the best advice may not salvage a reputation. That’s the case for two chief executives who found themselves facing congressional investigations this week. What can PR and reputation experts take away from the resulting media coverage?

In a statement before his testimony in front of the Senate Banking Committee, Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf did what reputation experts generally counsel clients to do in the case of a breach of public trust. He apologized.

Stumpf expressed profound regret for the millions of fake accounts set up by Well Fargo staff to pad their sales figures. He said he accepted full responsibility for the situation. Pledging to prevent future fraud by alerting all customers to new accounts, Stumpf maintained that the Wells Fargo board “has the tools” to hold senior management accountable. All good, at least in theory. The “apology PR triad” includes a sincere mea culpa, acceptance of responsibility and a commitment to a fix.

ceo-crisis-wellsfargo

True Accountability Helps Defuse A Crisis

Yet Stump’s apology fell short. First, it was eclipsed by a fire-and-brimstone invective from Elizabeth Warren, who demanded his resignation and called for jail sentences for senior executives who cross ethical lines. Warren accused the CEO of pushing the blame “to your low-level employees who don’t have the money for a fancy PR firm to defend themselves.” Guess whose statement played in cable news primetime?

The second reason Stumpf faltered was the weak accountability conveyed in his testimony.  Thousands of Wells Fargo employees lost their jobs, but Stumpf and his senior executives have not been penalized. The mea culpa is hollow because there’s no real teeth to either the penalty (a $185 million fine, which is pocket change for Wells Fargo) or the promise of future oversight.

Finally, Stumpf’s main point – that there was no “orchestrated” fraud at the company – wasn’t very credible when 5300 people have been let go for creating fake accounts.

Even You’re Right, Optics Matter

The PR prescription for Mylan’s Heather Bresch was both more proactive and more innovative than that of Wells Fargo. After public outrage over Mylan’s steep price increases for its EpiPen, Bresch launched a counteroffensive.

She blamed the price increase on a “broken” healthcare system where middlemen all take a cut, and Mylan quickly offered rebates that would cut EpiPen’s price for the uninsured. As the pressure built, it even announced it will develop a generic version of EpiPen for less than half the cost of the current product.

Bresch’s explanation for the price rise wasn’t totally convincing, but it did offer cover in a year where soaring drug costs are a big problem. The aggressive steps to help customers get EpiPens at reduced prices were very appropriate moves for deflecting media attention and defusing public anger. In another year they might have worked to quell controversy and recover its reputation.

But this is election season. Bresch was called to testify before a House oversight committee, and she didn’t fare well. Congress itself suffers from a serious reputation problem, so the opportunity to be seen scolding a highly paid pharma CEO is irresistible. There’s also the Martin Shkreli factor.  The former CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals triggered public fury and became the poster boy for industry greed after Turing raised the price of an obscure drug 4000 percent. The pitchforks are out, and Mylan surely knew it.

Yet the company pushed for sales growth while continuing to raise prices. It lobbied for schools to be required to stock EpiPens, which looks suspect after reports that Bresch’s mother, as head of the National Association of State Boards of Education in 2012, led theh effort. And the tactic that might have been seen as brilliant – a proposal to have EpiPen included on the federal preventive drug list, eliminating the user co-pay – has also become controversial. Inclusion on the preventive list would eliminate cost pressure for consumers while letting Mylan keep the EpiPen at the current price or even raise it. In the current environment the optics are bad. Very, very bad.

At the hearing Bresch was even criticized for taking a private jet from Pennsylvania to the capital. While not exactly scandalous, the trip evoked the truly terrible optics of the CEOS of the top automakers who flew private planes to Washington to ask for a taxpayer bailout. It’s just another sign that small details can communicate corporate values, and the top executive needs to pay attention.

The scandals besetting Wells Fargo and Mylan are very different; one broke the rules, while the other was merely aggressive. In each case a company pushed conventional boundaries in a drive for growth and profits. Both were tone-deaf to public anger: Wells Fargo, in thinking its fix would be enough, and Mylan in maneuvering to keep its prices above market rates despite public concern.

The learning for communicators is a simple one: public perception counts. Optics matter. Corporations must consider the legal and ethical ramifications of their business practices, but also how those practices look to ordinary people and legislators. Those who don’t are likely to pay a steep price, even when they’re technically on the right side of the rules.

When PR Jumps On Breaking News (Brangelina Divorce Edition)

In the public relations industry, keeping up with the news is a must. This means hyper-vigilance to alerts about matters from the ultra-serious (terror arrests) to the news that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are divorcing. Obviously, any divorce is sad for the family, and this one is compounded by an avalanche of media coverage. Not since Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin’s “conscious uncoupling” has a marriage’s end been so magnified and dissected by media eager to cover it from every conceivable angle.

This is also where PR often comes in. Here, we’re referring to PR for products and services that are represented by subject-matter experts. No sooner had the news broken on pagesix of the New York Post, than reporter queries began hitting our inboxes. Clearly, journalists can gain by covering the story from every angle possible — it’s hot news. But what about legitimate experts? Do they have anything to gain by weighing in?

We took the subject up with some PR professionals and heard a variety of opinions from the representative for a divorce attorney (“the opportunity we’ve been waiting for”) to a family therapist (“too tawdry, too opportunistic and I hate ‘armchair’ prescribing”.) The bottom line is that subject-matter experts must decide for themselves if they want to join the chorus, and they should examine their motivations for doing so.

There are examples of previously unknown experts vaulted to stardom by being linked with a high-profile situation. Remember when Oprah Winfrey was sued by a group of Texas cattle producers? In the high-profile suit, Winfrey was accused of creating a “lynch mob mentality” among her audience with a show about the safety of beef. A local psychologist and jury consultant captured press interest with his opinions about the case, and years later that same guy commands a media empire of his own. He’s Dr. Phil, of course.

So while you contemplate the PR value of linking an expert to the demise of “Brangelina,” conventional PR wisdom asks that you pose the same questions you would while grappling with any potential story angle. Look to answer the following questions in the affirmative.

Will the story portray me (my company) in a positive light?
You don’t want to be seen as gloating over misfortune or to be taking sides. Any advice should be constructive and compassionate, or, at the very least, neutral.

Will the story appeal to/influence my target audience?
Sometimes it’s tempting to say yes to an interview in order to see your name come up in searches, but it’s best to consider your core customers and potential ones before you agree to invest the time in a media interview. The internet, after all, is forever.

Will the story enhance my reputation as an expert?
Who else is being interviewed for the story? Make sure you’re in good company, and don’t be pushed into saying anything you’re uncomfortable with or that constitutes an oversimplification of the situation.

Will the story bring new users to my product/service?
The answer may be no, which doesn’t necessarily mean you should turn down the interview. But weigh the likely positive outcome against the time and preparation needed to offer an articulate and well-differentiated appearance or commentary.
If the subject matter expert you represent (or happen to be) is truly well served by jumping on the Jolie-Pitt divorce story, there are plenty of angles to consider. Here’s a sampling of some story ideas different media are exploring.

Men’s Journal: “Dating Advice for Brad Pitt”

SheKnows:  “The Healthiest Way to Divorce Someone You Once Loved.”

Realtor.com: “How Will Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt Split Their Real Estate? “

EOnline: “Navigating the Public Divorce”

Yahoo News: “Effects of Divorce on Celebrity Children” 

And one of our favorites, thewritepractice.com, is penning a piece on the phenomenon of the “portmanteau,” a word formed from the blending of two words or names. You didn’t think of that, did you?

Farewell, Brangelina! We’ll miss it, but even in leaving it seems there’s no shortage of angles to explore, which, at the end of the day, is what all public relations people want.

Simple Tips For A Solid PR Strategy

At the beginning of any public relations engagement, the collaborators need to agree on goals for the campaign. It may be achieving a leadership position for a brand or helping differentiate vis a vis competitors. Sometimes the goals are very specific for a company that has just undergone a change of leadership or an acquisition. Whatever the particular scenario, knowing the goals is often the easy part. How you’re going to achieve them – the development of PR strategy –  is another story. Don’t despair. We’ve developed some simple steps to guide the process as painlessly as possible.

Understand PR’s role. PR works best when all parties understand what it is and isn’t, as we addressed previously.  PR can drive media interest and provide compelling thought leadership to help burnish an image, but it shouldn’t be thought of as a catch-all for any communications need. For example, if a not-for-profit is looking to a PR team to help communicate to potential donors and increase contributions, that type of “demand generation” may require a separate discipline altogether. Yet an obvious strategy here would be to increase overall awareness of the organization with the thought that the resulting “halo effect” would support greater donations.

Listen to your partners. The best way to begin is to allow your collaborators to talk through their needs. Often an entirely different strategy emerges just by taking the time to parse the details and see beyond the simple need to “sell more product” or “pre-empt the competition.” There can be subtlety and nuance that informs a much more effective strategy if you move past the obvious. In a recent campaign, our initial objective was to launch a new product and preempt competition, but as ownership issues emerged, it became clear that our strategy had to shift from simply getting the word out to reshaping the narrative altogether.

Look at past success. We’re not advocating lifting an “off-the-shelf” strategy verbatim to graft onto a new project. But it’s wise to allow past success to guide strategy development for a similar initiative. Experience, usually presented in case history form, is the strongest indicator of sound ideas and something PR teams should reference with confidence when relevant.

Integrate with other disciplines. For better or worse, PR strategy is often affected by overall business goals as well as an organization’s sales, marketing, social media and other practices. In the best case scenario, all groups are collaborating seamlessly and the PR strategy is borne from solid marketing planning. PR can benefit from increased activity on those fronts and vice versa. In the opposite case, PR is force-fit onto an ad or marketing campaign that offers very little “there” there. An online gift company developed a campaign to leverage its relationship with a prominent veteran’s organization. The company hatched an idea without consulting the PR team and the result was so lackluster that media didn’t respond and it was a wasted opportunity for all – clearly an avoidable outcome.

Don’t get too fancy. The acronym KISS (Keep it simple, stupid) is overused, but the sentiment stands. There is a tendency to dress up strategy with industry jargon or to overthink. This is unnecessary. Focused thinking with a dose of creativity, clarity of goals and roles, and easy collaboration will produce a workable strategy to achieve success – while keeping all players sane at the same time.

What B2C Can Learn From B2B PR

B2B public relations is widely perceived as the nerdy cousin to consumer PR’s popular girl. Some of this reputation is deserved; it’s true that B2C PR is often more glamorous and accessible than B2B. Promoting marketing automation software to corporate executives is very different from marketing luxury shoes or helping a whole-grain snack bar reach health-conscious women, for example.

Or is it? I’ve walked on both sides of the street, and believe each sector has something to learn from the other. Having already noted what B2B PR people can learn from their colleagues who run consumer brand accounts, I think the reverse is also true. Nerds, after all, have become cool.

Take a look at the shopping experience. Customer acquisition in B2B categories like enterprise software or corporate accounting can be a slow process, in part due to steepness of the customer education curve. Today, there’s plenty of information for every purchase we make. Data is everywhere you look, from reviews and ratings, to category research, analyst reports, user testimonials and social content.

The same trend is happening in consumer sectors, thanks to social media. Ecommerce has made buying easy, but the sheer amount of information – reviews, blog content, and earned media –  available for almost any product makes shopping more research-driven and time-consuming. From Yelp to editorial features, there are many rabbit holes to enter with the help of search and social sharing.

Any Good PR Program Starts With The Customer

A well-crafted strategic PR campaign can help in either case, but here’s what many B2B PR programs do that B2C programs can benefit from.

Use the data.

For many of our B2B clients we’ve perfected a data bureau component in our programs that offers mediaworthy facts and stats for use when the team doesn’t have a hard news announcement or a big story to share. Sometimes the data lives with the client in question, but often it can be produced through low-cost surveys about hot topics and trends that are particularly timely. A data bureau can also be a powerful PR tactic for a consumer brand who wants to drive additional customer engagement while creating news around its core expertise or the passions of its fans.

Connect to business culture.

The most effective consumer PR programs differentiate the brands they support. One unbeatable way to make that difference meaningful is to incorporate individual aspects of the brand narrative or history. We’ve seen this in the rise of the CEO celebrity figures like Richard Branson or even the late Steve Jobs, but it works for other brands that have a differentiated business culture as well, from a retailer with a distinct mission like REI, whose #optoutside campaign was so successful, to huge brands like Disney. The most compelling consumer PR programs leverage corporate culture, community commitment, and overall business practices.

Target beyond demographics.

It used to be that consumers were reachable through a huge monolithic channel called mass media. But those days are over, and today’s customer segmentation is far more data-driven and individualized. The prototypical buyer doesn’t really exist. Marketing — and, yes, PR strategies, must be grounded in an understanding of audience behavior, preferences, and friends. That simply means that any good consumer PR campaign should start with hardcore prospect data, and it needs to incorporate digital and social media in ways not previously possible for product marketers.

Support sky-high customer expectations.

Business customers have arguably had a more service-oriented and personal relationship with the brands that serve them, due to the typical sales rep structure and the cost and long-term nature of the engagement. But today buyers of consumer products have high expectations, too, and not just for product performance. They want excellent customer service, corporate transparency and responsibility, even cultural relevance. They don’t want to hear from brands too much – except when they do, and then, the want it quickly. A sound PR strategy is informed by what key customers and influencers are saying and how they experience a brand, and it should have the flexibility to ready to respond when needed to head off problems.

Borrow expertise.

The use of third-party experts or boldface personalities is a time-honored PR tactic, but there’s room for more than celebrities. We now borrow from B2B campaigns by tapping journalists, reviewers, analysts, and emerging social media stars for a fraction of the old-school appearance fees.

Or impart it.

A classic B2B PR technique is to make the customer smart. But this works just as well in many consumer categories, from skiing to gluten-free cooking. We promoted a relaunch of a classic IPA by educating beer drinkers on the history of American ales, and the time-honored recipes and brewing techniques that made the “new” beer possible.

A Local Journalist Answers Questions From A PR Agency

When putting together a media strategy for a new project, creative public relations teams know to look for ways to work with popular local or regional pubs. Of course, this works best when the company or organization is based in the area, but it doesn’t always have to be the case. If your story has resonance to residents of Westchester County, look to John Bruno Turiano, longtime senior editor of premiere regional publication, Westchester Magazine. John is very open to story ideas and the magazine covers a wide variety of topics spanning the area and the world. You just have to know how to communicate effectively. John was good enough to answer our “three questions from a PR agency” for this post.

What is one thing every PR person should know about pitching Westchester Magazine?

We are perennially swamped! Anything you can do to make your story idea as short and to the point as possible provides you a better opportunity for consideration. Westchester Magazine has a small, tight and busy core staff and a cadre of equally busy freelancers covering everything from restaurants and shopping to arts and entertainment and real estate. Because we move so fast and are always on deadline, we appreciate brief, super-focused pitches that tell us everything we need to know. Read the magazine, know the section and the editor and write your pitch like you were writing the story.

Any inside tips on forging/improving a relationship with a writer?

Although it should be part of PR 101, I would stress the importance of not trying to “sell” the writer on a client but instead giving us information (preferably with high-res photos) that will likely match/fit into our columns. The magazine also follows an editorial calendar and generally doesn’t deviate as so many residents rely on our popular annual issues including  “Fall Getaways” in the current edition as well as “Top Doctors” in November, Best Of in July, and many more. I’d also counsel PR pros to attend one or more of the various events the magazine sponsors to get to know the writers and editors who always attend. “These are real opportunities to get to know magazine staffers in a non-pitch environment and talk about other topics.” Finally, despite busy schedules, Westchester editors will have the occasional lunch or drinks and many longstanding relationships have been forged just that way.

What is the key to creating a subject line worthy of your attention?

Forget the flash; make it smart and quickly tell us what the press release or angle is about – and most importantly, why our readers will care. Even in the case of a story with a less-than-obvious tie to the area, if you can make a non-local story relevant to our readers, we will sit up and take notice.