Dad’s Wisdom Makes Great PR Advice

For Mother’s Day 2018, we reported how mom’s wisdom makes great PR advice. Dads clamored for their say. Most of our fathers’ advice probably went in one ear and out the other — as a dad would say. As we approach Father’s Day, let’s stop and recognize how a dad’s sometimes patronizing, always wry nuggets of wisdom can be applied to the practice of public relations.

7 Dadisms that make great PR advice

“You’re not going out dressed like that.”

Dad was trying to say that you don’t want to attract the wrong kind of attention, and the same goes for brands. Even if the executive spokesperson — usually the CEO — is naturally charismatic and confident facing the media, she should never venture into the public eye without media prep. Only counsel, simulations, and practice can prepare an inexperienced spokesperson for possible adversarial, ignorant, or inexperienced reporters. For PR tips on successful media training, see our earlier post.

“Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about”

It’s not ER, it’s PR. If a prominent tech reporter paints your company in an unflattering light, sometimes there’s nothing the PR team can do to prevent the fire. While we all sweat it while it’s happening, there’s no crying in PR. Time moves fast, and a good PR agency will advise action in proper proportion to the damage, always with an eye on the long term image of the brand. For a deeper dive on dealing with a negative PR situation, see our earlier post.

“I’m not sleeping; I’m resting my eyes”

While dad was surely sleeping at your piano recital, the news never does. Brands cannot afford to ever be napping, especially when mentioned in a negative light – or in a full blown PR crisis. Much of the time, a company spokesperson needs to address a crisis, especially if at fault. But there are also times when it’s the best tactical move to reserve comment. See this earlier post for a PR guide to strategic silence.

“My house; my rules

One of the all-time dadisms isn’t so cut and dried when it comes to the PR agency-client relationships. It serves no one if the PR agency are “yes men,” bowing easily to a client’s ill-conceived idea. Being honest with a client in a difficult situation is not only mandatory, but the key to a trusting, transparent relationship. To learn how to tell a client they are wrong, see our earlier post.

“Don’t spend it all in one place”

Certainly, money was a touchy subject with dad; but imagine how charged the subject can be with clients and agencies. Companies naturally want to maximize PR activities for the budget, but sometimes the wish list will exceed their resources. In the agency-client world, PR pros sometimes have to remain steadfast about sticking to budget limitations, and will need to advise the client what tactics are expendable: which award entry to omit, what research survey can wait, or which release to not put out on the wire.  

“Nobody said life would be fair”

PR people cannot control the media. Sometimes, a journalist may write a story that contains minor inaccuracies (which are not necessarily the reporter’s fault) or misrepresentations — or inexplicably jump an embargo. Stuck in the middle of an unfair situation, the PR team must sometimes absorb the criticism for such issues while simultaneously struggling to correct errors. Either way, PR pros tend to develop a thick skin while enduring the ups and downs of the media relations game. Dad would say it’s “character building.” For tips on maintaining media relationships under pressure, see our earlier post.

“A little hard work never hurt anybody”

Wise words from the man of the house. If you’re considering a career in public relations, be prepared to juggle and hustle, and don’t expect a 9-to-5 existence. There is no unplugging or auto-pilot in PR; one must constantly work to perform for clients and build long-term, fruitful relationships with media. The news has never moved faster — nor has been more competitive than it is today. PR is hard work, but winning results can feel amazing.
Little did we know, father was a sound PR practitioner. We at Crenshaw wish all the dads out there a happy Father’s Day!  

PR Tips To Win The Fourth Quarter

Suddenly, it’s fall! That means the fourth quarter will be here in no time. Is your PR plan ready for the stretch run to the end of 2018? The summer always goes too fast, so it pays to jump in with both feet after Labor Day. The best PR teams take advantage of the calm before the storm to get their Q4 priorities in order.

PR tips for Q4

PR agencies, you’re running for re-election

Yes, we know the congressional midterms are looming, but there’s a different kind of “reelection” in the air when fall comes. Most companies plan budgets for the following year in Q4, which means they’re evaluating the current spend with an eye toward reallocation. So whether the PR is handled in-house or with an agency, it’s a good time to demonstrate its value. The PR team must continue to perform at a high level and generate measurable outcomes for the fourth quarter. That may mean flawless execution and robust reporting, but it can also mean it’s time to get creative with fresh thinking and add-ons for Q4 initiatives.

Get an early client check-in

A PR action plan needs direction, and if there’s been a summer lull, it ends now. Early September is an excellent time for a review to date, as part of a check-in meeting with the client (whether internal or external.) The idea is to compare notes on progress-to-date, Q4 goals, and priorities. It’s time to set the fourth quarter up for success with a strategic plan, because before we know it, the holidays will be here.

Nail down your holiday plans

The Thanksgiving to New Year’s period is make-or-break time for many brands. For some sectors, like consumer technology, Christmas actually starts in July, when media holiday gift guides are planned and retailers are finalizing plans for the giving season. September is the occasion to assess the company’s year-end needs and firm up all-important holiday plans that help make the year a business success. PR pros will be nailing down earned media priorities, creating seasonal story lines, and even end-of-year lists, recaps, and other content that can punctuate a successful PR season. For seasonal advice, check out these holiday pitching tips.

Dust off dormant contacts

When performing that year-to-date review, PR teams can also identify new opportunities in discarded ideas or even dormant media contacts. A visibility activity that failed to gain traction might be worth retooling for another push in fall. A slight tweak or a revamping could make a big difference. Maybe there are journalists or analysts with whom you have worked in the past, but have recently fallen off your radar. These solid contacts are well worth reviving, more likely than others to welcome a good story opportunity from a trusted source. We shouldn’t close the door on ideas and contacts that have potential to yield PR wins in the future.

Use it or lose it.

Are there extra monies on the spreadsheet for Q4? In most companies, managers don’t get credit for returning portions of the marketing or PR budget. Rather, they’re rewarded for blockbuster programs that help make the year. So it’s best to get creative and call on staff and partners to innovate with new initiatives that fill in the blanks among pre-planned tactics for the fourth quarter.

Get thought leaders mulling next year

The end of the year means recaps and 2019 forecasts that reinforce industry expertise or simply take advantage of holiday news holes. Now’s the time to enlist your best thought leaders to ponder the future and offer insights on the trends that will carry business into the next year. See this earlier post on eight tools for thought leadership.

Anatomy Of A Pitch: Winning Tech PR Tips

effective tech media pitch
In my last post we offered eight tips on maximizing public relations success for tech clients. Now, let’s take a look at the anatomy of an effective tech media pitch.

A great softball pitcher doesn’t simply close her eyes, rear back, and heave the ball towards the batter, hoping for the best. She chooses a pitch based on the game situation, the skill of the other team, and weather conditions.

A media pitch is not very different. Let’s examine the above example. {A couple of names have been changed to protect the excellent.}

The Grip

The Grip is the part that the media outlet can’t see. All the research, preparation, and consideration ensure that the correct story will be hand-pitched to the right media. If the grip isn’t right, the pitch will fall short. The first thing we notice is a fascinating, newsworthy story. In this case, the PR pro has targeted media contact Bruce, at a top business publication, with whom he has a trusted working relationship. He knows the types of stories Bruce needs; he looks for CEO features, technology trend stories, and colorful personality profiles offering business insights. Points for Mike’s respect of this journalist’s time by not pitching him blindly.

The Stare Down

The Stare Down is the first part of the pitch the journalist sees, so it can make or break it. It’s the subject line, and it must be direct, concise, and inviting. The journalist must see the essence of the story before opening the email. It should never be misleading. If the writer opens the pitch and sees that he’s been tricked, he’s not likely not open any pitches from this PR guy again. Mike knew his client had a programming unit originally headquartered in Crimea, and that business was disrupted when Russia annexed the area in 2014. It’s not a new story, yet the founder’s decision to relocate her employees but stay in Ukraine said a lot about her and the company. And it’s highly unusual. So he let it lead, with the inspired subject line, “Putin annexed half my startup!”

The Wind-Up

The Wind-Up begins the pitch with a tantalizing start. A compelling story introduces you to the characters, gives big picture context, and offers an example that sets up conflict or suspense. It also sprinkles in details that further underscore the client company’s credibility. If the story is told well, the reader will want to know what happens next. When Bruce read “overnight, her business was no longer legal,” he wanted to know what the CEO did to save her company. But notice that Mike doesn’t go too far in explaining the rest of the story. There’s no need to oversell here.

The Release

The Release serves up the satisfying resolution of the dramatic question. In this case Amy’s company succeeded in overcoming obstacles to thrive, achieve business goals and make a prestigious outlet’s “best of” list. Normally we wouldn’t mention another publication’s coverage or endorsement in a pitch to a journalist, but in this case Mike decides to include the Inc. magazine recognition because it adds credibility for Palladium as a hot startup. He’s appealing a little to Bruce’s “fear of missing out” on a rising star, and he’s really pitching a larger story about the link between the company’s commitment to its employees and its success. He has effectively supplied a story roadmap for the journalist.

The Follow-Through

In the Follow-Through, the PR pro does two important things: He makes the ask in a polite, straightforward manner. If Bruce doesn’t respond, Mike should wait about 24 hours before following up. Further, Mike needs only follow up once before moving on. This shows that he respects the demands of Bruce’s profession.

So there’s the anatomy of an effective tech media pitch for B2B companies. However, the PR pro’s job isn’t complete. A pitcher must be ready to field the ball after the batter connects. If the reporter wants to pursue the story and the PR contact responds in a plodding, uncertain manner, it will reflect poorly on the PR team and the client. When the reporters says he wants to do the interview and plans to write a story, it’s time to get on base —  arrange the interview and supply every element the outlet needs to make it home.

6 Ways To Leverage Your PR Wins

Whether you’re on the PR agency team or client side, a new business win or tremendous media placement is exciting. However, the work doesn’t end there – follow these tips to make the most of your successes!

Write a press release. This one’s a no-brainer. Share new business success with appropriate trade media, both within the PR industry and client’s industry, and boost your company’s SEO. Just keep it short and to the point, and dispense with the “empty” quote.

Blog about it. Share success with others and take it a step further by including a tipsheet that recaps the best practices that led to the win. This creates downloadable content for your site. Share the piece through all social channels to further recognition for your brand. If the win was a major media placement, share links as soon as possible on social media. Use applicable hashtags and tag others’ handles whenever possible to increase your reach.

Tell your story in a case study. Include this on your site and in all marketing materials, including your capabilities deck and relevant new business pitches. Focus on highlighting the factors contributing to the success, particularly if it’s applicable to other companies.

Use the news to reach out to potential new clients/customers. It’s a great “non-sales-y” reason to connect in a timely manner and gives you heightened credibility. You can use it as the opening intro for an email, or as a proof point of your capabilities, and even include a link to the case study. Just make sure you insert the win into your dialogue in a way that seems natural and humble.

Incorporate award logos when available. If the PR win is an award, include its official logo on your website in a prominent location (such as a sidebar or the home page). Consider a link to your press release or site announcement in your email signature.

Celebrate the news internally with staff and key stakeholders. Make them proud to be with your company! The more connected to the company they feel, the more likely they are to be loyal, motivated and passionate. A win for your brand is a win for everyone at the company.

PR Tips: What Not To Say To A Reporter

As any good PR agency will advise, media interviews are not: an interrogation, a game of ping-pong, or a commercial. A good media interview is actually a conversation, as well a chance to educate and an opportunity to tell a story. A great media interview is a usually a choreographed affair with the interviewee at ease, yet aware of potential pitfalls.
And there are pitfalls. Here are some examples of what not to say to a reporter.
“Could you just cut that part out?” This infamous comment by Bill Cosby during an AP interview only served to multiply Cosby’s problems. Requesting that a journalist “unhear” a response isn’t going to happen, and the request itself implies that that the interviewee has something to hide.
“No comment.” Duh. We’re still surprised when this happens, and happen it does. The immediate perception is one of guilt or obfuscation, and in the era of transparency and 24/7 media, it never bodes well. Two journalists working for the Center for Public Integrity have created a new blog devoted to these types of responses, “Couldn’t Be Reached,” which is a testimony to the persistence of stonewalling.
“This is ‘off the record’ or ‘not for attribution.'” Clearly there are occasions when a spokesperson may want to divulge information that suits a purpose, but is viable only as background, but it’s often risky. Unless a spokesperson is seasoned and savvy, we recommend avoiding the tricky navigation required to pull this off. The best interviews take place when the interviewee is most comfortable and unencumbered.

“We don’t give out that information.” Proprietary information or earnings numbers may be off-limits, but every corporate steward can divulge some data with advance preparation. No numbers question should come as a shock, and any media spokesperson should be armed with facts or other information that supports the story, even if it’s not the data requested. Without giving away precise growth stats year over year, use a percentage or trend information to answer the question without shutting down and frustrating the reporter.
“Did you hear the one about?…” Never get comfortable enough with a reporter to risk an even slightly off-color joke. Enough said.
“I have no idea.” Even the best preparation can’t guarantee softball questions, but there are better ways to handle the situation. We like, “interesting question, I’ll check and get back to you, but what I can tell you is….” This type of “bridging” response insults no one and provides the opportunity to formulate the best possible answer.
Want to know more? Download our tipsheet “The 6 Toughest Interview Questions & How To Handle Them