Remedy Health President to Speak at TedX Talk

Jim Curtis to Speak at March 27 TedX: Looking Beyond

Crenshaw client Remedy Health Media’s President Jim Curtis will join an eclectic lineup of speakers, musicians, and Broadway actors in a TedX Talk on March 27, 2018. Only 130 tickets will be sold for the Triad Theater on the Upper West Side in New York City. Curtis will join the other distinguished guests in offering his perspective on the night’s theme: Looking Beyond.

Curtis revamped the standard at Remedy Health by telling emotionally charged stories infused with immersive multimedia content- inspiring people to live better. His approach helped elevate Remedy to a “Crain’s Fastest Growing Company” in NYC.

In his new book “The Stimulati Experience” (Rodale), Curtis uses his own inspirational story of overcoming 20 years of chronic pain to help others achieve health, happiness and purpose through mindset, all the while lowering inflammation in the mind and body.

Remedy Health Media’s mission is to empower patients and caregivers with the information and applications needed to efficiently navigate the healthcare landscape and as a result, to permit better health outcomes. Remedy is a leading digital health platform that provides content, tools and real stories in an emotionally engaging way to inspire millions of patients and caregivers to live healthier and more fulfilled lives.

 

 

9 Blogs To Make You PR-Smart

Want to boost your public relations acumen? One of the best ways is to stay on top of key PR industry blogs as well as more general sites that offer a fresh take on business, creativity, and content. Why limit yourself to PR blogs when there’s a whole world of interesting stuff that can offer important information as well as increase specific skill sets? Read on to start creating your own PR blogroll.

Blogs That Can Make You Smarter

Of course, the sectors that are relevant to the practice of public relations are unlimited, but for practical purposes we’ve divided our top selections into three categories.

Industry or Workplace Blogs

Holmes Report – Echo Chamber Podcast
The Holmes Report blog is written by the staff of the Holmes Report, which bills itself as “the authoritative voice of the global public relations industry.” The blog is a reliable source of macro PR information and industry trends. While we’re always interested in the report’s stories on PR innovation or the latest reporting on “fake news,” we really like the Report’s Echo Chamber podcast, which features guests from across the PR and marketing spectrum and tackles topics like the industry’s gender pay gap  or the latest on brand research and polling.

The Muse
The Muse addresses all aspects of work and career life. Not strictly PR, but that’s one of the reasons we like it. It covers everything from productivity and presentation tips to super practical nuts and bolts advice on email and correspondence. No matter where your company is in its relationship with employees, service providers or clients, The Muse has relevant content. And, one of the best things about The Muse? The site is always looking for contributors, making it a go-to for thought leadership pieces and guest blogging.

The Cision Blog
For a better understanding of the mechanics of PR, from creating media pitches that work to delivering a well-crafted results report, no one does it better than the Cision Blog. PR teams know Cision from its “day job” – offering PR and marketers media databases and analytic tools – and those functions position it well to cover best practices in easy-reading posts. Check out ones like this for fixing your influencer marketing or this post on advances in PR measurement.

Pop Culture/Creativity Blogs

The Wrike Blog
This blog is full of content to help teams be more creative. For starters, we like its suggestion for refocusing by visiting Donothingfor2minutes.com, which is pretty much exactly what it says, a timer to count you down while you stare at waves. After you’ve become very calm and want to get down to the business of ideation, learn to play a couple rounds of the Japanese word game Shiritori. It’s simple – think of a word that starts with the last letter of your opponent’s word and win by picking longer words and answering as fast as you can. This brain exercise is touted as “a foolproof way to come up with new solutions and original ideas.” Learn to play here.

Buzzfeed
Hmm, you might say, Buzzfeed? That compendium of millennial listicles and goofy articles like this one on dads and babies? Well, it turns out there’s much more to Buzzfeed. Staying on top of its “finger-on-the-pulse” pop culture pieces will make a better PR person out of you, and it might even provide some story angles on topics you might not have thought about.  Does your company have a stake in the current opioid crisis? Here’s a compelling examination of that hot-button issue that may offer inspiration. And if you’re brainstorming for story ideas on lighter fare, have a look at Buzzfeed’s famed LOL, WTF or OMG sections.

Boing Boing
The Boing Boing blog is an eclectic compilation of mostly weird and under-the-radar entertainment, political, sports and science stories usually illustrated with video. We recommend it simply for the pleasure of letting your mind wander while reading in the hopes that a great creative idea will strike. Start with this post titled “The Wheel of Feelings” and see if it doesn’t spark a story idea or at the very least, help with some interesting vocabulary choices.

Better Writing Blogs

Authentic Storytelling Project
This awesome blog is a how-to for brands looking to package and distribute the best stories from within their organizations. Its digestible posts help marketers with the fundamentals and the blog takes readers’ busy schedules into account with easy-to-implement advice. Posts run the gamut from writing advice like “How to Write Clickworthy – but Clickbaity – Content” to marketing your efforts with topics like “What’s the Difference Between Promotion and Distribution Strategies in Digital Marketing?” Finally, writer Christoph Trappe also includes a handy index of social media, content and storytelling terms that are very helpful for clients and agencies.

Smart Blogger
It may not be much to look at – a very simple site – but what Smart Blogger lacks in visual style it makes up for in very valuable information and “how-tos” on every aspect of blog writing. Start with the must-read compendium of “Blog Post 101” tips – How to Write a Blog Post – The Ultimate Guide and progress to posts on eliminating “flabby” writing and being a better editor. Company blogs are no longer a luxury, and this site can be a terrific resource for teams looking to start a new blog or improve an existing one.

Media Shift
How does Media Shift, a blog billed as  “telling stories of how the shifting media landscape is changing the way we get our news and information” help PR teams write better? The “shift” lies in the blog’s expert use of correspondents who explain how traditional media — newspapers, magazines, radio, TV,  even music and movies, are dealing with digital and working in a more mobile, networked world. These posts help PR writers come up with more relevant story angles and media pitches and craft them in a way that is more likely to gain journalist attention. A great example is this post on “engagement journalism.”  The in-depth post explains the concept: journalism that combines the power of community engagement with traditional news reporting. And it also features interviews with reporters to help readers gain a better understanding of how this kind of reporting impacts them. Smart PR people take note.

Who Were The PR Winners And Losers of 2017?

Yes, 2017 feels like a lifetime ago, given our breakneck news cycle, but there were plenty of public relations lessons over the year for big brands and business categories. Here’s a look at those who came out on top, and others who took a reputation beating last year.

The Winners

Amazon
2017 was like a charmed year for the digital commerce giant. Digital assistant Alexa won pop-culture status, its Prime expansion was successful, and it made a splashy bet on physical supermarkets. But the real PR coup was the reality-show-like sweepstakes to find a second headquarters. The HQ2 search generated a frenzy of positive media coverage as well as 238 proposals from individual North American cities, and it helped cement Amazon’s status as a desired corporate neighbor and employer.

NBC
After “Today” show star Matt Lauer was abruptly fired following allegations of sexual misconduct, it seemed that NBC would take a terrible blow to its reputation. But its swift action and skillful handling of the situation by the remaining on-air talent helped turn things around.  Savannah Guthrie and Hota Kotb announced Lauer’s sudden departure with grace and poignancy – in real time, on live television. That’s harder than it looked, and it was a solid win for the network and its flagship show, whose ratings are up significantly since the change.

Journalism
For the mainstream media, 2017 was a year of ups and downs. The MSM has been aggressively criticized by the president, and public trust in the press hovers at 41%, according to Gallup. Yet most national outlets posted gains in the ways that matter – ratings and readers. What’s more, trust in journalism has actually increased over 2016. After the election, most news organizations got busy reminding us why they’re needed with a renewed commitment to quality reporting. Cable news – which logically should have experienced a downturn after an election year  – reported a huge boost in viewership. Ditto the national newspapers; both The Washington Post and The New York Times broke subscription records. Best of all, journalism organizations like ProPublica and The Center For Public Integrity are enjoying unprecedented support.

Bitcoin
Cryptocurrency had a great year in 2017, breaking through the $10,000 price barrier and throwing off some of its shady reputation. Bitcoin in particular attracted the kind of media coverage that only enhanced its appeal, even when the coverage was skeptical, thanks to the sheer power of blockchain technology. Without a core of innovation, the bitcoin story would be just another fad. But blockchain is seen as “having the potential to reshape the global financial system and possibly other industries,” according to Bloomberg. Despite naysayers, it offered journalists and bloggers the perfect recipe of high-tech and high-risk.

#metoo
Who could have predicted the speed and ruthlessness of the #metoo movement? There’s a reason why Time magazine gained currency for itself and the movement by naming “the silence-breakers” as its Person of the Year. It swept the country like a virus, and, despite valid concerns about a backlash, the impact is far-reaching.

The Losers

Facebook
2017 also brought a reckoning of sorts for Facebook. Remember when Mark Zuckerberg was asked about reports that Russia had peddled “fake news” on its platform to influence the election? He called it a ”pretty crazy” idea. Within weeks, however, Facebook would own up to the fact that it sold more than $100,000 in ads to Russian accounts, and that foreign actors used its feed to spread false and divisive stories about candidates and issues. It’s not alone among social media companies, but the brand has suffered from its casual and misleading response to the situation. As The Verge put it, “Facebook’s inconsistent statements, its history of errors in reporting on its own ad platform, and its reluctance to share relevant data about Russian hacking have added to its credibility gap.”

Uber
Tired of hearing about Uber? That’s because 2017 brought a pile-up of hits to its reputation. In the first quarter alone it was accused of crossing a picket line after the first travel ban, mistreating drivers, and using a secret app to evade regulators. But the real wreck came when engineer Susan Fowler penned a scathing account of her year working there. Fowler wrote about a toxic culture riven by infighting, gender bias and relentless sexual harassment. Like a lit fuse, her post burned through the tech community and exploded into public consciousness. Yet as often happens, the crisis gave Uber the chance to turn the corner on its troubles by replacing founder and CEO Travis Kalanick. New CEO Dara Khosrowshahi was quickly beset with a fresh crisis, though, when news came out that Uber covered up a 2016 hack. Khosrowshahi’s blog post about the situation is a respectable first step in showing transparency, but he has a long way to go. Here’s hoping for smoother road in 2018.

United Airlines
As the world knows, UA hit turbulence with its disastrous handling of a passenger situation that was caught on video. As images of the bloodied man being dragged from his seat by airport police went viral, the airline made things worse with a series of legalistic and tone-deaf public responses. The cultural impact was huge, yet the United crisis also shows business resilience. Its stock price took a hit, and CEO Oscar Munoz was denied a promised promotion to Chairman. But as the outcry grew, United changed its tack. It launched a more authentic apology tour, quietly reached a settlement with the injured passenger, and pledged that nothing similar would ever happen on its planes. The stock price bounced back in short order. In fact, the more lasting impact will be felt in the form of greater customer-service consciousness across the major industry players.

Equifax
Unlike United’s experience, the reputation damage from Equifax’s massive privacy breach will haunt it for years. Not only was it negligent in maintaining security, but it waited months before telling customers that their information might be compromised. Although CEO Richard Smith eventually rose to the occasion with a well-crafted apology, it was too little, too late, and he was voted out by the Equifax board. Its stock price plunged 15% after the breach was announced, and the damage was compounded by the news that Equifax insiders sold shares before it was known. Equifax now faces greater regulatory scrutiny, more Congressional hearings, and a class-action suit by shareholders.

Hollywood
The irony of Harvey Weinstein’s fall from grace is that it was so long in coming, yet the collapse was breathtakingly swift. As the dominoes fell in entertainment, journalism, and politics, each company and industry had to grapple with who knew what, and when. The results were often ugly. But the good news is that the awareness of systemic sexual harassment and misbehavior has reached a tipping point, and the cultural and business changes will be profound and in many cases, permanent.

What PR Can Learn From The Oscar Nominees

This year’s best picture nominees offer glimpses into different lives and compelling stories, and they also offer up some lessons for public relations professionals. So, time spent watching movies this year can definitely be categorized as professional development, right?
Here’s a light look at what we can learn from the films that captured moviegoing audiences this past year.

PR Takeaways from top films.

Call Me By Your Name
Call Me By Your Name explores a coming-of-age story set in 1983, involving the relationship between the young teenage son of an archeologist and his visiting student. The two fall in love over the summer and explore this “friendship” against the beautiful backdrop of northern Italy. What’s notable about the film, for anyone who writes for a living, is its masterful use of language. The script runs the gamut of creative and powerful wordplay, including scholarly quotes from the poet Marguerite de Navarre and lots of German and French bons mots. As we have noted, the best way to improve writing is to read a variety of texts, from creative to journalistic. In this case, we add, and watch certain films.

Darkest Hour
Leadership is at the heart of The Darkest Hour‘s brilliant portrayal of Winston Churchill. Churchill was a remarkable and respected “once-in-a-lifetime” prime minister for Britain whose ability to make the tough calls during the dark days of the war angered some initially, but ultimately earned him an unmatched place in history. Above all, through speeches, radio addresses, and his writings, Churchill presaged the modern business or political leader bent on making his mark through strategic thought leadership. In addition to negotiating critical treaties and agreements, Churchill arguably left the world with more spectacular quotes than almost any other Brit save his compatriot William Shakespeare.

Dunkirk
Dunkirk tells the true story of the brave way everyday British citizens joined the armed forces to bring imperiled soldiers home during WWII. The film makes strong use of very personal stories, like that of the Mark Rylance character who took a small fishing boat and miraculously ferried home surviving soldiers.  Today’s most effective PR relies on emotional storytelling to make connections with consumers. While they won’t always be as dramatic as those in Dunkirk, even simple tales like that of Deshaun Watson, the rookie quarterback of the Houston Texans, can resonate.

Get Out
We like a lot about this first feature film from Jordan Peele. It’s notable as only the second horror film in years to be nominated for Best Picture. Then, too, Peele coined a new term for the genre that the scary- good film belong in – social thriller. But from a PR standpoint, we most appreciate how the film gave a terrific shoutout to beleaguered TSA agents everywhere and how the organization says it has benefited from the movie. Without spoiling anything, suffice to say, a brave (and very funny) TSA agent comes to the rescue of our protagonist. A perfect example of how third-party “earned media” can boost an image in a way advertising just can’t.

Lady Bird
Underneath its lovely dissection of a high school student’s relationships with her family, friends and teachers, Lady Bird is a story of reinvention. The lead character, Lady Bird, played with tremendous pathos and humor by nominee Saoirse Ronan, is bent on getting out of her humdrum hometown of Sacramento and shedding her small town persona to become more sophisticated. She changes her name and friends and rejects her parents’ advice, resulting in some sad consequences.  But it’s all a learning experience, as our heroine sets out to leave it behind for school in New York. As a PR practitioner, I couldn’t help but think about the times a client has sought to reinvent a personal or corporate brand. Bottom line, if it’s not authentic, it will probably fail.

Phantom Thread
This look into a quirky and somewhat dangerous relationship between a brilliant dress designer and the woman who becomes his muse has so much going for it. Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and starring Daniel Day-Lewis in what he claims will be his last film, the picture is visually beautiful, haunting and even funny. Those of us in PR will want to know how the designers of the late 50s period obtained and kept their wealthy clients. In the case of the Day-Lewis character, it seems to be a combination of face-to-face meetings at his opulent home/studio combined with intimate fashion shows. Most relevant to PR, the characters pride themselves on knowing their clients’ needs and offering over-the-top service and attention to detail. Witness the “all-nighter” the seamstress team engages in to repair a bridal gown – we’ve all been there (sort of).

The Post
This true story of the struggle of Ben Bradlee and Katherine Graham when deciding whether to publish the Pentagon Papers is of obvious interest to PR pros. It’s a study in relationships between reporters and sources and tells the story of how editors and publishers grapple with hugely consequential and ethically murky editorial decisions. In the era of Wikileaks and social media, the entire episode feels very quaint. There’s no doubt that today, the “Papers” would have found their way to the public much more quickly. But one thing that hasn’t changed? The role of the leaker/whistleblower in this pre-Watergate tale is relevant to our news cycle, as we witness in White House coverage on a constant basis.

The Shape of Water
In Guillermo Del Toro’s fantasy love story between a mute cleaner and an “amphibian man” at the height of the Cold War, sea creatures really get a bad rap. The government tortures the “asset” (as the creature is called), and you know a cruel death and vivisection are on the horizon. If only there had been a smart PR person in the room to create a “save the sea creature” campaign. This strategic CSR initiative could have done so much to improve the FBI’s creepy image during this time where sexism, racism and homophobia prevailed. It could be argued the institution could use some image-burnishing right now.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MO
The heroine of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MO has grown so frustrated with the local police department’s inability to solve her daughter’s murder that she embarks on a multi-media campaign to light a fire under law enforcement.  Best Actress nominee Frances McDormand’s character has a clear objective and some sensible strategies. She also uses questionable tactics, including those “three billboards” that call out the local police chief, local press statements, and public shaming. Despite the twisted and revenge-fueled PR campaign she mounts, we do applaud her resolve.

7 Reasons Why PR Matters More Than Ever

Public relations has many fans, from legendary figures like Steve Jobs, to the current occupant of the White House. Yet PR doesn’t always command the same respect as other disciplines, like advertising or direct-mail. It’s even still a bit mysterious to some. As Greg Galant of MuckRack once observed, the advertising business is linked with iconic characters like Don Draper of “Mad Men,” while public relations is more likely to evoke Samantha Jones.

Yet with the rise of social media and the profound digital disruption of advertising, PR has come into its own. Here’s why it’s more important than it’s ever been.

Earned coverage can’t be blocked

According to PageFair, use of ad blockers grew by 30 percent in 2016, accounting for 11 percent of web users and more than 600 million devices. I’m not one who think the trend is good for PR people who specialize in earned media placement, for obvious reasons. Ad blockers deprive digital publishers of much-needed revenue. But their use makes the earned and owned content generated by PR programs more indispensable and confers greater weight on strong editorial mentions.

PR coverage has credibility

In the age of “fake news,” credibility counts. The public is increasingly skeptical of our institutions, but despite the disruption of traditional media business, journalism still matters. In fact, a new study on public trust in media shows that while trust in media platforms where we seek news is down over last year, trust in journalism is actually on the rise. What’s more, a brand or personal reputation that is built through executive speeches, user reviews, bylined content, and earned media coverage will enjoy the credibility that comes from implied endorsement by authoritative sources. That beats self-promotion every time.

Earned media boosts SEO

The typical PR team’s role has expanded beyond generating earned media through articles or segments in established outlets, but earned coverage is still a centerpiece of many PR campaigns, and with good reason. Established publications that link to a brand will boost search listings due to the sheer power of their digital domains. And since Google decided to treat mentions as “implied links,” they work hard, too. Anyone who has managed a content marketing program understands that it can work in a more enduring way than digital advertising. High-quality, “evergreen” content can live for years, driving SEO ranking and attracting traffic for a minimal investment.

PR is about influence

This relates to the third-party endorsement factor but goes beyond the credibility of earned media. As Chris Graves of the PR Council explains, “We (in PR) understand the art and science of building relationships. Through these relationships, we earn the right to try to join conversations and maybe even change minds. We earn that right to influence others.” To me this refers to the applications of PR skills once used exclusively in media relations to social community management, influencer relations, and content marketing.

PR outcomes are measurable

Today, the outcomes of a PR program are more measurable than they’ve ever been, thanks to a concerted effort by the industry, but also to digital tools. Of course, metrics will always vary by program, but even with simple (and free) tools like Google trends and access to web analytics, we can pinpoint the impact of earned and owned content and social sharing with a fair degree of accuracy.

PR is about reputation

What is more valuable than a brand (or personal) reputation? PR is a powerful tool for building reputation over time, and that power has been greatly magnified by digital and social media. A glowing review (or unfortunate video interview) can blow up on social platforms in the time it takes to say, “call the PR firm.”

PR is scaleable…sort of

Something that has held PR back over the years has been its relative lack of scaleability;  because so much of what we do is time-intensive, you simply can’t expand a great PR campaign like email marketing or SEM. But many agencies have added capabilities in content marketing, digital content creation, and brand journalism that can amplify earned media or add to its impact through shareable content.  Automation has changed intelligence-gathering and data analysis, which often informs a PR program’s messaging and content.

7 PR Tips For Brands

Can public relations help consumers fall in love with a brand? The answer is a resounding “yes,” but it’s not always easy. There are specific steps marketers must take to achieve full customer engagement. With Valentine’s Day on the horizon and many looking for tips on love in their personal lives, we thought it a good time to look at how to do the same for the brands.

Make consumers love your brand.

Define your brand’s “type”

Just as interested singles put up a digital profile on dating sites, brands need to tell customers who they are and what they stand for in order to differentiate themselves from the competition. The best brands have distinct profiles distinguishable through messaging, graphic identity and even spokespeople – each meant to connect with a certain kind of consumer. The insurance industry is a perfect case for this differentiation, as a recent New York Times piece points out. One brand competes on price, one tugs at emotions, while another uses fear as a motivator. The one thing their advertising has in common is humor, though Geico is still the one to beat.

Let customers know you’re “on the market”

Anyone seriously on the lookout for love knows you must be proactive. The same goes for attracting customers to a brand. All the great branding exercises and investment mean very little if there’s no significant promotion going on. And this is where a smart, strategic PR campaign can add real lift.  For example, ad campaigns make news beyond the verticals when they do something radical (or annoying) such as adding a cache of Kardashians to Calvin Klein. Social media output can also lead to traditional media coverage, like this response by the New York Mets to a prom request from a local student. Finally, all the elements work hard in Dunkin Donuts’ annual free doughnut day — a classic PR-driven promotion that earns dozens of placements every year.

Have a real conversation
The next step in any dating scenario is likely a conversation. And today’s successful brands know that sparking a genuine dialogue is key to a lasting relationship. No one wants to date someone who does all the talking, nor do we want to buy from a brand that doesn’t listen! Smart PR complements brand conversations by encouraging comments to branded blog posts and byline articles. As well, we build dialogue into Twitter and Facebook client content by featuring contests and quick surveys designed to engender interest. IRL (in real life) events also bring brands together with their audiences to further “seal the deal.”

Make sure customers know you “hear them”

In the early stages of courtship, couples need to pay attention to what’s important to their significant other and agree to compromise to move a relationship along. The same goes for a brand courting a customer. No one knows this better than Facebook, which received negative backlash over reports of fake news and Russian intervention in the 2016 elections. It was announced last week that major changes would be coming to Facebook news feeds, with more emphasis on friend and family posts and less on articles and headlines. Initial response has been positive, and it looks like most users aren’t keen on breaking up with Facebook anytime soon.

Get them to “Say Yes to the Dress”

In relationship parlance, get them to commit to taking action! Brand marketers need to know what they are looking for in the customer relationship. Is it sparking downloads of a hot new app like Zig, luring visitors to the Downton Abbey exhibit or selling a lot of these very cool jackets ? Whatever commitment you seek, don’t be shy about it, and don’t limit the “ask” to just one platform. Scream it from the virtual rooftops of social media, traditional media, advertising, guerilla marketing and any other means deemed appropriate to get them to “say yes to the dress,” or whatever the product may be.

Deliver – and then some – on the commitment

Those in committed romantic relationships strive to delight their partners – as brands do with their customers. The goal is to go beyond expectations and overdeliver so no one is left heartbroken and alone. Smart brands are always thinking of innovative, yet authentic ways to stay relevant to existing customers and attract new ones. Sometimes PR can play a significant role. One of the best examples of this is the enduring and ever-changing story of Weight Watchers. The brand has waxed and waned since its founding in 1963, but mostly it has adapted well for new generations looking to manage weight and adopt a healthier lifestyle. And it has made news along the way. Today, with Oprah at the helm (does a brand need more than that?), it is as relevant, fresh and popular as ever. And we aren’t exaggerating even a little, as Weight Watchers expands its target audience, appointing DJ Khaled as a social media ambassador!

Finally, keep in mind, all the “brand love” in the world isn’t worth much if the efforts don’t translate to results. It pays to employ the most meaningful analytic tools to take the pulse of a campaign and ensure a healthy heartbeat.

Words That Will Drive PR Interest

In public relations, choosing the right words to pitch a story is as important as using the right fabric in fashion design. Words bring ideas to life and paint a picture for media and other audiences, whetting appetites to learn more. There are some tips to word choice that can make the difference in whether a journalist jumps on a pitch or hits the delete button.

For best PR results, choose words wisely

Let news currency guide you – within reason

In the last week of December, any PR strategist with a legitimate reason to use the word “complicit” in a pitch, may have been on to something. That week, Dictionary.com, in a widely publicized move, dubbed “complicit” its word of the year. Anytime there is a connection to a word or phrase having a moment on social media, we say, go for it. A great example of a smart use of a trending word includes t-shirt companies that jumped all over the curious Presidential mistyped tweet – “covfefe.” One caveat, however: it’s not advisable to force-fit a trendy word into a pitch just to try to pique interest. That is a backfire waiting to happen.

Use superlatives sparingly

We all know never to yell “fire!” in a crowded place. The same basic rule applies when pitching a media contact. Don’t go overboard on the superlatives. Not every announcement or pitch can include “the biggest,” “the most innovative,” or “the first,” and many (“groundbreaking”) are press release cliches that sound empty. Overpromising with such headlines are another way to incite media boredom…or even ire. Dig more deeply into the story to find nuggets of interest that aren’t reliant on such boasts. For example, Matthew Flamm, a New York-based journalist was moved to cover a company called Move Loot, not based on any remarkable claims, but because the approach was simple and easily understood. The most interesting and successful pitches tell a simple story, well-crafted, to the right contact.

Lose the jargon

We’ve have addressed the topic before; be ruthless in ridding your pitch of jargon and empty words. Buzzwords seem endemic to all industries, but technology may be the worst offender. (Check out this “tech jargon generator” for some great examples.) Using technobabble or businesspeak can be distracting to the reader and make the writer seem unnecessarily self-important and unapproachable. It’s much better to opt for straightforward explanations. However, if the product or service is just so technical that only a sentence like this will do — “If you neglect to parse MEAN stack, prepare to handle object-oriented analytics” – at least recognize the absurdity and offer to explain in plainer language.

Say what you mean and, yes, mean what you say

In other words, strive to avoid overpromising and underdelivering.  For example, many B2B tech clients are reluctant to divulge certain facts. Often, those are the facts journalists care most about, like financial data, for example. So, while a PR specialist needn’t announce to the writer that numbers will not be discussed (that’s a downer for sure), don’t string them along with hopeful “maybes” that don’t pan out. Instead, package what can be announced in a way that is positive and relevant and offer any other “pluses” like exclusive interviews with the CEO or sneak previews of a product. But first be sure you can deliver. If it’s in writing, you have to be able to stand behind it.

Let brevity be your byword

Short, punchy and to the point always beats long and wordy. This goes for business writing as well as media pitching. Here’s some great advice from Bryan Garner, author of The HBR Guide to Better Business Writing. “Don’t use three words when one would do,” says Blackburn. Read your writing through critical eyes, and make sure each word works toward your larger point. Cut every unnecessary word or sentence. There’s no need to say “general consensus of opinion,” for instance, when “consensus” will do. “The minute readers feel that a piece of writing is verbose they start tuning out,” he adds. Don’t let bloated writing be the death of your next good pitch.

Use past success as a guideline

We found this exercise to be useful. Review subject lines, story angles and other pitch lingo that has proven successful in the past and repurpose them where you can. We like the way this blog post makes the case for the word “frothy,” for example. A colleague swears by adding a question to any subject line, while others insist addressing a media contact by name in the subject line will help. We also like peppering in short, relevant nuggets like bold statistics.  We encourage you to conduct your own experiment and see what has worked best to generate interest.

Write like a writer

PR professionals generally understand Journalism 101 and are able to communicate with writers who are “on deadline” or reviewing a press release that is “embargoed.” This is industry shorthand (as opposed to jargon) that makes communication easier and less prone to misunderstanding. While knowledge of key journalism and production terms may not make your story more appealing, it will show your acumen. Not sure exactly what MOS stands for or what a “blind interview” is? Bone up here to make sure you’re in the know.

Are CEOs Ready To Embrace Social Activism?

For years, public relations and reputation experts have promoted CEO activism and corporate social responsibility, preaching its benefits and warning of limits and pitfalls. But for many corporate communicators, the position was lonely.

For some companies, the embrace of social change programming was little more than lip service — maybe a dignified corporate social responsibility report on environmental stewardship, or a donation-with-purchase campaign to benefit a nonprofit. Others waded into politically charged waters, but retreated when they hit the inevitable backlash.

But things are changing rapidly on the corporate activism front. As the Harvard Business Review has discovered, “PR firms are now building entire practices around CEO activism.” Imagine! But if you haven’t noticed the trend, you haven’t been paying attention.

BlackRock lays down a challenge

In the past three years, CEOs in sectors from technology to banking have spoken out on controversial or even divisive issues like immigration, marriage equality or climate change. And on Tuesday, the stakes for corporate activism grew. Laurence Fink, founder and CEO of powerful investment firm BlackRock, basically gave top business leaders their marching orders in a public letter. Every company must not only deliver on financial performance, wrote Fink, but “also show how it makes a positive contribution to society.” Fink essentially told corporate America that if it wants the support of BlackRock, the largest investor in the world at $6 trillion in assets, it must do well by doing good.

That kind of call to action is one thing coming from longtime activist corporate leaders like Seventh Generation’s David Bronner, or a renegade technology entrepreneur like Elon Musk. But when the hard-nosed leader of the largest investor in the world lays down the law on social activism to big business, corporate activism has gone mainstream.

What has tipped us over into this new era? An improving economic picture certainly helps. Corporations are likely to be risk-averse in a declining economy but gain confidence in a stronger and more competitive marketplace. More importantly, as we approach full employment, recruiting and retention become even greater business imperatives. With millennials in particular, a strong reputation is a key asset in the battle to attract top talent. And increasingly that means an authentic embrace of social activism.

The public looks to the private sector

Then, too, after a year of chaos and controversy under the Trump administration, more Americans are looking to the private sector for stability, leadership, and even positive social change. In the wake of the most significant corporate tax cut in decades, Fink reminds CEOs that “stakeholders are demanding that companies exercise leadership on a broader range of issues,” citing the impact of automation and resulting infrastructure and worker retraining needs.

Social media drives opinion

Finally, there’s the role of social media in shaping corporate brand reputation. What takes years to build can be undermined in a series of tweets, rumors spread like pernicious flu, and customers expect a level of engagement and participation from brands. As Aaron Chatterji and Michael Toffel write in “The New CEO Activists, “In the Twitter age, silence is more conspicuous – and more consequential.”

Now is the time for corporate communicators, PR partners, and the C-suite to collaborate on social programs that are brand-relevant, meaningful, and long-lived. As a starting point, here are some guidelines for developing campaigns around hot-button issues. For corporate leaders, the stakes will only get higher.

5 PR Mistakes And What To Learn From Them

An anonymous quote tells us, “A mistake should be your teacher, not your attacker,” and those in public relations would be wise to remember it when something goes awry.

As most PR people know, even the most meticulously planned programs are vulnerable to mistakes. Though the first instinct may be to panic and scramble, most missteps aren’t fatal, and many offer lessons for the next time.

Learn and benefit from PR missteps

Insufficient communication

Agency teams may think they’re in constant touch with clients as the emails fly back and forth, but that’s not enough. Yes, we’re all busy, but talking to clients should never fall of the list. It can result in uncertainty about next steps and a lack of clarity on plans and written materials. Worse, you can miss important red flags that may signal problems in the relationship or gaps in programming. Effective communications needs a mix of “rich” and “lean.” In-person, Skype or phone calls are considered “rich” channels of communication and are the most effective ways to hammer out complex ideas, solve problems or address larger strategic questions. “Lean” communications like emails or shared documents are best for routine updates and edits to materials. Although not every team will thrive with the same mix, it pays for teams to work together and experiment to develop the right communications blend.

Misguided media relations strategy

Some marketing teams have their own ideas for what will make news. And, just as often, these angles are non-starters – including those that are very commercial or self-serving – which are generally a journalist turn-off. An exception might include this example from Trader Joe’s.  But in most cases it’s important for brands to understand what will work with media and what won’t, and firms who don’t counsel clients accordingly fail on two counts – not delivering coverage for their clients and burning bridges with media. Agency teams should take the time to explain, based on personal experience and expertise, why a story will or won’t work and where possible, how to take a bland or unworkable pitch and improve it.

Lack of preparation for a media interview

Some CEOs and others in leadership positions shun the idea of media training. They may feel they know the messages inside out, or maybe they don’t want to lose spontaneity, or possibly they just don’t have time to prepare. But, failing to prep can be a miscalculation. Broadcast and online media are filled with examples of mediocre executive interviews, missed opportunities, and even a few disasters. PR professionals should work with client spokespersons to ensure against this in a non-intimidating way. Smart interview prep is designed to create greater fluency in delivering two or three top messages, and practice interviews, though they may feel awkward, typically benefit the entire team. What if the spokesperson or expert still refuses, and an unsatisfactory interview results? With a print interview, there are opportunities to reach out to a journalist and add or amend statements. With a live broadcast interview, all one can do is use it as a “teachable moment” for the team, offer constructive criticism and devise ways to improve for the next time.

Inadequate PR outcomes measurement

Today’s PR efforts should include sophisticated – but simple – measurement to determine a plan’s ability to help achieve business goals. Gone are the days when of simply supplying “inches and airtime.” Agencies who neglect to build in key metrics are doing clients – and their own team – a disservice.  The formula doesn’t have to be complicated; we have clients who focus on their own website analytics to gauge the power of earned media, while others rely on easily measurable metrics like share of media voice compared to competitors. Whatever the case, PR teams need to be able to merchandise their results to decision-makers to ensure the continuation of smart PR planning and healthy PR budgets. It all comes back to accurate tracking of progress toward key performance indicators or KPIs. Fortunately, there are many advanced PR measurement tools that offer customizable dashboards and even the ability to integrate data streams in order to customize outcomes measurement without breaking the budget.

Nonexistent or outdated crisis communications planning

It’s important to have a basic communications plan in case of an event that can impact reputation in a negative way. Even if efforts don’t thwart a reputation crisis, as illustrated here, a bare-bones plan will save time and anxiety if bad news breaks. When starting a new client engagement, we often ask about the organization’s crisis communications plans. This has produced unintentionally funny results, like the time a corporate communications manager unearthed a bound plan from 1997. Sadly, a recent Nasdaq Public Relations Services / PR News poll found that nearly half (48%) of the communicators surveyed lack a crisis plan. Take the case of the human error made by Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency. While the greater crisis – the threat incoming ballistic missile – was thankfully a false alarm, the reputation damage to the Hawaii EMA has only just begun.

6 Public Relations Tips For Brands In 2018

A recent study by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and the USC Center for Public Relations found that marketers plan to increase staffing and overall spending on public relations over the next five years. This is good news for clients and PR firms alike. But it’s also a challenge to all marketers to create and leverage communications opportunities to the best of their ability. Here’s a “cheat sheet” to help brands get a leg up on the PR universe this year.

How to maximize brand PR: a “cheat sheet”

Remember the investment goes beyond the PR budget

Often company execs become very enthusiastic about adding PR to its marketing mix but then find they haven’t the resources or the staffing to maximize outcomes. A PR program operates best when the client has tasked an internal manager for the work, and all parties agree on what the agency needs to succeed. This can include everything from timely and thorough information downloads on new products, marketing plans, and business goals, to the time commitment by senior executives for preparation and participation in briefings, quarterly meetings, and media interviews. PR is an investment of not just a portion of the marketing budget but a proportionate time commitment as well.

Polish the company story, but don’t lose authenticity

People may think PR is all gloss, but, in fact, it pays to keep things real. Not every brand has a tight, easily told story, and some have complicated, dull, or even questionable histories.  This is the year to overcome those issues and craft the company story that is most authentic and most simply told. Your brand story should have a beginning, middle and end like any good tale. It may include a problem to be solved and a “hero” of sorts – humans (like a founder, customers or employees), or possibly a differentiating technology. Most importantly, everyone in the company and on the PR team needs to buy into the story. Not everyone can have an origin story as compelling as Soul Cycle’s but we like this template as a starting point.

Allow the agency creative freedom

One of the greatest accomplishments of a PR partnership is when a client trusts a PR team enough to let them pitch story angles free from oversight and micromanaging. Some of our best opportunities have come because the team seized on a newsworthy moment that they knew a client could leverage and ran with it. Of course this kind of trust doesn’t happen overnight. It’s incumbent upon the agency to demonstrate sound thinking and earn results from the start of the relationship. Ultimately smart PR strategists get to know their clients so well that they can size up a media opportunity, pitch it with aplomb and seamlessly work to make it happen.

Know that not everything is news

Once a company has engaged a PR firm, some teams assume everything they do is worthy of press attention, kind of like this scene from the classic comedy about a self-absorbed millionaire, Arthur. But the last thing any brand wants to do is beat media over the head with non-news. A key component of stellar media relations is knowing what stories to pitch and to whom. PR agencies are there to help clients understand the difference between what may make an interesting blog or social media post, or inclusion in the company newsletter vs. genuine news for public consumption.

Value relationships, not just contacts or stories

Yes, PR is about relationships (it’s right there in the name), but the days of long editor lunches and cozy exclusives are largely gone. The bonds between media and PRs today are more transactional, and everyone is time-pressed and outcomes-oriented. But a top PR professional knows how to build relationships with journalists — typically by demonstrating the value of the sources and stories we can access. A smart client will count the new relationships created among the PR outcomes, even when they don’t turn into earned media coverage right away. In media relations, as in so many things, it’s important to take the long view.

Constantly merchandise positive PR results

The campaign is going well – positive press and analytics that prove people are responding. No laurel-resting here! Take charge of packaging results to share internally with the decision-makers who can approve the next round of PR funding. And, share externally on all social media platforms and other communications channels. An email newsletter or simple update to customers, prospects, potential business partners can be very effective. And, importantly, don’t forget to update the company press page. This is often the first click an interested party makes when visiting a site, and keeping it up to date is critical.

Keep up with trends and use them to your advantage

We recently prognosticated about PR trends, and one of the most important involves visual storytelling. It’s easier than ever to create video to complement an announcement or demonstrate a new product or service. Automation and other tech tools can make editing, posting, and tracking a breeze. At the same time, as traditional advertising spend decreases for many brands, creative use of  digital and mobile content is on the rise. Marketers are also expanding their influencer networks to amplify creative content and add an extra dimension to brand storytelling.