The Follow-Up Pitch: PR Tips On Getting It Noticed

As PR teams know, creating and distributing content is one thing; getting journalists to use it is another. The way we conduct media outreach is critical, especially with reporters receiving hundreds of pitches and press releases each day.

From relationships to cold outreach, the way a publicist reaches out to a reporter is key. One of the most effective ways to do so is through email. Gone are the days of calling reporters and pitching them over the phone; most prefer a simple email with relevant details. But how do you know when to follow up and how? Here are a few ways to successfully pitch and follow up with reporters.

What should a follow-up look like?

Keep the note short and to the point. Reply with the original pitch underneath the follow-up note. This way the reporter can see the full details of the original pitch. If possible, include a new data point or link the follow-up to something timely that broke in the news and is relevant to the topic at hand. This may make it more enticing for reporters. 

Timing is everything

Be aware of reporters’ schedules and deadlines. Send pitches and follow up emails in the morning between 9:00 and noon; that’s typically the sweet spot. An early note is more likely to be noticed and potentially turn into a media interview or feature. Avoid reaching out after 4:00 p.m. as reporters are wrapping up for the day and may miss it. 

Pitching earlier in the week (i.e. a Monday or Tuesday) also helps a pitch be noticed, and it can offer enough time to conduct any follow-up emails through the week, without sending too many too closely together. Research shows three in 10 journalists want two to three days to look over a pitch before someone follows up with them. So, space out any outreach. 

Also take time zones into consideration. Most media outlets are based in New York City but with the popularity of freelancing and working from home, journalists may be spread throughout the U.S. You check reporters’ social channels for their location. This will help determine the best time of day to reach out.

How many follow-ups?

The majority of journalists (59%) say following up once is enough. But based on the amount of feedback received or the time of day the first email was sent, you may need to send another follow-up just to be sure.

While a significant number of journalists are okay if you send a second note, avoid a third follow-up. Most journalists say they’re likely to block a PR person who follows up with them repeatedly.

Of course, if you already have an established relationship with a journalist, it’s probably okay to be a little more persistent – or simply ask what they prefer. They’ll appreciate your consideration of their time.

News cycle matters

Keep in mind that if you didn’t get much feedback on a pitch, there might be something occurring in the news cycle that takes priority. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t hear back the first time. 

Most reporters have very full inboxes and may be working on breaking news, so when they see the follow-up email they may never have even seen the original one. This is why a follow-up is important. It may spark the reporter’s interest and elicit a response.

Do the research

While you should research before reaching out to journalists, it is critical when following up. Check their previous coverage and make sure that reporter covers similar topics to the one you’re pitching. A little research will also help you personalize outreach and show the reporter you’re current on their work. Citing a previous article they wrote will help your email stand out. 

Other ways to follow up

Depending on the subject matter of the original pitch and its timeliness, you may want to go beyond email for outreach. When pitching something to broadcast journalists, start with an email. But call the news desks at each station first thing in the morning before the crews leave for field coverage. Briefly mentioning the announcement over the phone helps ensure it will be brought up in the news meeting and potentially covered as a story that day.

What about social platforms? Journalists will vary on preferences here, but if you know the reporter fairly well, it may be useful to DM them on Twitter. Or, if you don’t have the best email address or want to get a conversation going, it can be a good idea to reach out on social media – usually Twitter or even LinkedIn. Once you get a response going, you can then politely inquire about the pitch or ask for a better email address.

Overall, journalists are under deadline pressures, constantly dealing with overflowing inboxes, and regularly juggling several stories or pitches to their editors at once. Our role as media relations reps is to smoothly hand over information in an effective and timely way. Using simple but judicious follow-up lets us be more effective and productive.

A PR Spring Cleaning Checklist

Finally after a long winter (at least here in New York), the change in weather means it’s time for PR professionals to refresh their plans and get re-organized. Just like the tradition of ‘spring cleaning’ a home, PR teams should consider cleaning up daily tasks to start the new quarter and season on a fresh note. 

Media lists 

We all have “master” media lists for different verticals but as any good media master knows, journalists and reporters move around, frequently changing publications or beats. We have a Slack channel where we exclusively update our team on media moves, which is a good tactic for updating lists. Another great source is a journalist’s personal Twitter. They will often share announcements on job changes or even upcoming story needs. 

Check in with reporters

A big part of PR is having strong media relationships. It helps to have contact that you can pitch informally and know you will get a response – either a yes or a pass. But what about the ones with whom you want to form a deeper relationship? Shoot them a friendly email checking in and ask for an informal conversation. Chat about what they’re working on and how you can help. This can also put you on their watch list for a go to source for a quick comment.

Email inbox

Personally, I love newsletters as a way to start my day (check out this list of some of my favorites) but more is not always better. After being out of office for two days, I came back to an inbox that was almost 300 emails – half of them being newsletters. It took me longer than it should have to sift through the clutter to catch up on necessary messages. Think about what newsletters are most important and best for media opps. I ‘m also a big fan of folders for organizing and quick searching based on different email groups. Wouldn’t it be much better to come from some time off, or the weekend, with a clean and organized inbox?!     

Refresh PR plans

As the first quarter of year ends, so do Q1 PR plans. Pitches and announcements from last quarter are yesterday’s news and it’s time to plan for the next few months. Schedule separate planning meetings with executives to find out about upcoming announcements, initiatives, or speaking engagements. It will spark ideas for pitches and targets that PR can go out with throughout the quarter.  

Social media audit

Social media is a great tool for corporate and personal branding. Before scheduling that post on Twitter or Instagram, think about your goals and what message you want to convey. Do you want to gain more followers or increase engagement? These are all great questions to consider before creating social media goals for the next few months. There have been times when I go through people I follow on Twitter and curate who you are actually following. Interest change over time and people you once followed may not be relevant anymore. Another great clean up would be to polish that LinkedIn profile. In the business world, LinkedIn is the go-to place to present yourself. Take a new profile picture, update your job description – keep it up to date as possible!    

Desk organization

My WFH desk is a mess. I have papers, pens and old copies of Adweek lying there with no rhyme or reason to them. There is no reason for it; sometimes things just land there and stay until I get a spark of motivation to do a deep clean of my apartment. If you have a similar situation, consider inexpensive filing cabinets and folders. Waking up each morning and starting the day at a clean and organized desk will make you more productive. Vow to clear the desk before walking away from it at the end of the day and your future you will thank you. 

Set new goals

A new season brings a blank slate of possibilities. One great way to become a stronger PR pro is to set goals outside your comfort zone. Have you never tackled a PR plan on your own but want to get involved with this? Connect with your team and talk about ideas for getting stronger in your position. It shows you want to grow and gain skills that will help your career. If the goal seems intimidating, go for it! Going outside your usual lane is a good thing! 

Schedule that overdue PTO

With warmer days coming, we all have a bit of spring fever – longing for time away from the computer and emails. If you spent your winter cooped up inside, look at your calendar and plan some much-needed days off. It doesn’t have to be any extravagant trip (unless you want to) but get some fresh air and disconnect – you deserve it.  

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Happy spring cleaning! What are you cleaning up this spring? Let me know on Twitter @colleeno_pr

How To Build A Purpose-Driven Brand

In the years since “purpose-driven” brands have become hot among marketing and PR people, one thing has become clear – having a well communicated purpose is good for business. As Joanna Seddon of Presciant brand consultancy puts it, “Purpose-drive brands are more successful (than others) in every way.” An organization linked to a coherent purpose can make better products, offer better services and attract better employees. Her statement is backed by impressive research.

Seddon recently joined Craig Charney of Charney Research and Sarah Colamarino, former Vice President of Corporate Brand Equity and Partnerships at Johnson & Johnson, to discuss the hows and whys of successful purpose-driven marketing. At a webinar presented by the American Marketing Association New York, the three shared experience and insights on the relationship between brands and customers today.

Seddon noted that the 1980s were characterized by an emphasis on shareholder value. But when Jim Stengel and Marc Pritchard rose within the marketing ranks at Procter & Gamble, things began to change. Together with consultants like Joanna Seddon, they demonstrated how the fiscal benefits of true purpose-driven marketing to a team of financial executives with absolutely no background in marketing.

Here’s what marketers need to bear in mind when building and growing a purpose-driven brand.

Purpose is different from values

An organization’s values should act as the pillars that support its purpose, but that purpose itself is bigger and exerts more impact than principles like a commitment to DEI. As Colamarino explained, J&J’s purpose was changing the trajectory of health. For Google, it’s “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” These are often huge and in many ways challenging ambitions.

Purpose isn’t created in isolation

Sarah Colamarino pointed out the value of “co-creation” of corporate brand purpose during her J&J years. It cannot come down from the C-level without the buy-in of the rank and file, for example. She explained that a true brand purpose comes both from the bottom up and the top level of the organization and warned that recruitment, hiring, and HR policies must match a company’s values and dovetail with its purpose. Her challenge in owning J&J’s purpose mission was in integrating it across all company sectors, an enormous but richly rewarding goal.

A brand’s purpose depends on its customers

Know your customer. “KYC” is a critical tenet of purpose-driven marketing. As Craig Charney reminded us, when Nike chose to embrace former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick after he refused to stand for the national anthem, calls for boycotts followed. But after a drop in its stock price, Nike rebounded and blew through its earnings targets shortly afterward. This was because Nike’s core customers supported its stance. We see this time and again when it comes to potentially controversial brand positions. Brands who understand the values of their core customers are far more likely to weather a backlash to a stance that is unpopular among some.

Purpose is a strategic management tool

Purpose has its own business purpose. And nowhere is this more evident than in Pfizer’s quest to create a COVID-19 vaccine, as recounted in CEO Dr. Albert Bourla’s book Moonshot. Bourla shares that the most critical factor in Pfizer’s success was the sheer impossibility of the goal.

When you ask people to do something in eight years that normally takes 10, they will find it challenging, but they will think of solutions within the current process.

I didn’t ask people to do it in eight years. I asked them to do it in eight months…. I insisted that these targets were not negotiable. Saving as many lives as soon as possible was our priority. The team recognized this, went back to the drawing board and came back with a completely new way of working – and the results were simply phenomenal.

Harnessing the power of purpose

After her 14-year stint at J&J, Sarah Colamarino says, “I look at purpose as a powerful management tool.” But its strength isn’t limited to mega-brands. Joanna Seddon’s most memorable experience with the influence of corporate brand purpose isn’t about P&G or Coca-Cola, although their programs were impressive. It came when her team was engaged by MD Anderson Cancer Center, whose purpose is reflected in its tagline, “Making Cancer History”. The CEO was leaving late one evening and he fell into conversation with a janitor who was cleaning up after a long day. When the janitor mentioned that he’d been with the company for 10 years, the chief executive asked why he had stayed so long. “Because I know I’m doing my part in making cancer history,” was the response.

That’s the power of purpose.

7 PR Tips For Nailing A Media Interview

Your B2B PR strategy is working and the press is interested in knowing more about your expertise. Congrats! Wondering what to do between now and then? Here are a few tips on preparing for a media interview so you can absolutely nail it.

Remember your media training 

If you haven’t already undergone formal media prep, ask your PR team to set up a session when possible. For more on mastering your media training, check out this post. If you can’t fit in a whole session before the upcoming media interview, make sure you have a one sheet-with interview tips/tricks to review prior to meeting with the reporter. 

Study the briefing doc

Our clients agree that briefing docs make media interviews a breeze. What’s a briefing doc? Typically prepared by a PR team, it’s an overview of recommended messaging, the topic at hand, and the reporter leading the interview, including his or her last five stories. This document also acts as an easy access to the interview details–  meeting time, link to the meeting (or phone number), and even a photo of the reporter to help with prep. It should offer key messaging and quotes for consideration during the interview. We like our clients to use their own words, but for most of them, bullet points or suggested phrasing helps keep their thoughts in order and the interview on track.

Practice answering questions out loud

A briefing doc often includes a Q&A section with written-out responses to the questions the PR team anticipates. It’s smart to take the time to fully review and practice answering the questions aloud. Try standing in front of a mirror and reciting key points, as if you were explaining them to a friend or neighbor. It will feel awkward, but it’s very helpful. If the language isn’t comfortable, change it so that it flows naturally. Practicing with the PR-approved language goes a long way in building confidence and ensuring a smooth interview.

Match your  language to your audience

In technology PR, it can be challenging to explain technical issues or products to a general audience. Conversely, if you’re talking to a journalist from a sophisticated trade or tech outlet, you’ll need to communicate at the level of its audience. That’s why advance preparation is critical. For a less savvy audience of readers or viewers, take care to use accessible language and avoid acronyms or jargon unless you can explain it quickly and smoothly.

Prepare examples and analogies

One way to explain a technical product or avoid a long-winded explanation is to use an example. We work with many technology companies who partner with well-known brands, so one way to shortcut a lengthy response is to cite a positive outcome in a customer situation (e.g., “Warby Parker drove a 32% sales increase with our contextual technology.”) But of course, any customer mention must be approved in advance, and that approval might be time-consuming or impossible. Another excellent way to make an impact is to use an analogy. In adtech, for example, we might talk about a “clear box” as an antidote to the convoluted tech some call a “black box,” or we might use a “passport” analogy to explain the opportunity that Web3 offers for brands to market in the metaverse. Common analogies help audiences understand the relevance and impact of a company’s offering.  

Do your research

Even if you know the reporter, take the time to be up-to-date on their recent pieces. Be familiar with recent changes in your industry’s media landscape. Again, a good briefing doc will summarize (and link) the reporter’s most recent, relevant articles and include relevant background for the upcoming interview’s topic. Getting a sense for the journalist’s writing style and knowledge of your industry will help everyone align during the interview.

Beware lengthy tangents

Definitely take a little extra time to connect with the reporter during the call. Feel free to make small talk, compliment them on recent stories, or to ask about recent work. But avoid rambling about topics that haven’t been approved or discussed internally. The last thing you’d want is to give too much away that could jeopardize a future announcement. Or, worse, giving the reporter an opening to flip the sentiment of the upcoming coverage on its head. In short, stay on script without forgetting to be personable and helpful. Often, the PR rep will sit in on the meeting to help keep the conversation on track.

At the end of the day, the most important thing when preparing for an interview is to remember that you’re the expert. Share what you know and have fun doing it!

Best Practices For Starting A Killer PR Program

Any good PR agency team wants to get a new engagement up and running as quickly and as well as possible. A strong start on a PR program makes for a more lasting and fruitful relationship. Yet getting the ball rolling is easier said than done. The first 90 days of an engagement can be the most hectic time of an entire client-agency experience. There’s an endless list of priorities, from onboarding and immersion to setting expectations and navigating the processes within a new company or organization. There’s also lots of pressure to make things happen while you get smart.

With that in mind, here are a few best practices that we find to be helpful when it comes to launching a new PR program and a budding relationship.

Build an asset request list

To build an effective PR plan, agencies need any relevant – or potentially relevant – assets so they can quickly onboard and understand the nuances and factors at play. This includes material like past PR coverage, product spec sheets, blog posts, preferred talk tracks, conference and award wins, executive bios, and marketing calendars, just to name a few. The agency’s first step should be to create a consolidated list of deliverables to serve as a central reference point for clients to populate. The list will not only be an educational resource for the agency team, but it can spark thoughts about “out of the norm” assets that have been overlooked in the past.

Set workflow and communications processes right away

Each client is different and prefers to work in certain ways. Understanding how they work is essential for an agency to jumpstart a PR relationship and build trust. We like to sync with clients even before an engagement “officially” begins to hammer out how they like to work, preferred communication channels, ideal weekly call times, team roles and other specifics so everyone can hit the ground running on day one. This not only shows that we are keen to meet clients where they are, but that we also take process seriously.

Use the RFP process as research 

Though not every agency search involves a formal RFP (request for proposal), many do, and the document is generally an excellent guide to goals and priorities. Its style, tone, and length will reflect the organization’s culture, whether it’s highly detailed and jargon-y or light and breezy. And the search process itself, from initial conversations to building the presentation, offers opportunities for agencies to gain insight about a company, its sector, and idea of success. The early RFP discussions and research that goes into a winning proposal also yield good and valuable information that can inform an agency team’s strategies and communications style.

Do a deep dive

“Deep dive” onboarding sessions with product teams, comms teams and other internal client stakeholders provide the next-level specifics that help build detail and substance for the PR plan. We like to plan a full or half-day session that ideally brings together different client-side executives for briefings. These meetings are also the PR team’s initial opportunity to assess potential B2B spokesperson, define their “lanes,” and gauge how comfortable and effective they will be in a media interview or keynote situation. 

Be curious

You never know which bit of information will be helpful in driving PR results down the road. So, don’t be afraid to ask questions – especially open-ended ones. This is your chance to pose “stupid” questions because the relationship is new. The client-side team members are steeped in both the industry sector and their particular company’s operations and processes, so use the time to pull out their insights about the organization as well as their own SME (subject-matter expertise.) This will show a keen interest in understanding the finer points of a business but also a nose for each stakeholder’s areas of interest and proficiency. Moreover, it allows agency teams to expand their knowledge around particular categories that lead to creative pitch ideas.

Use your proposal as a guide

This one sounds obvious, of course, but it’s funny how often an initial proposal is put on a shelf after the agency team dives into the program. Unless the strategy or circumstances change, the proposal should be the basis for the PR plan. It’s also interesting to periodically review it as a kind of blueprint for expectations, deliverables, and story ideas. In certain fast-moving tech sectors original proposals can quickly become outdated, but we’ve occasionally flipped through a one or two-year-old deck and realized that there are some strong ideas buried inside it!  

Media Alert Or Press Release? PR Tips

In PR, we often draft, edit, and distribute press releases to announce news about our companies or clients. In ad tech PR, we might write releases that detail new hires, acquisitions, partnerships, or product launches. There’s no real limit to what we can write a release about, as long as it’s newsworthy. 

Yet, a press release isn’t the only way to share news, and it’s not always the best way. Sometimes we turn to media alerts instead. 

What’s the difference? And when do you draft a press release vs. a media alert? The short answer is: it depends. 

Press releases and media alerts follow the same basic structure. Each includes the “five Ws” of news (who, what, when, where, and why) and often the “H” of the news, which is the “how.” Where they differ is in the amount of detail, timeliness, and formatting.

Media Alerts

A media alert is far more abbreviated than a press release. Media alerts are used for announcing an event or  briefing – to invite media to attend, and they include only the most important details. Media alerts are a good tool to generate buzz around the event and encourage media and journalists to cover it. 

They’re typically one page and have bullet points and headers to break out the “who, what and where” of the announcement. Media alerts are clean and precise and quickly call attention to the facts. 

Instead of long, detailed paragraphs about the news, media alerts include bullet points with short sentences. It’s easy for reporters to quickly scan the alert and know exactly what the announcement is about, why it is important and determine if they are interested. 

Press Releases

Whereas media alerts are short and bulleted, press releases are more descriptive and flexible. In B2B PR, we draft press releases for new products, new hires, acquisitions or partnerships, or funding, for example. Press releases go into more depth than an alert and are usually written in an “inverted-pyramid” format, –  the most important information is at the top, with details and quotes following. 

Another difference between releases and alerts is that media alerts don’t typically include quotes, but press releases often feature a quote or two from representatives of the organizations involved. The quotes in a release should offer valuable information that adds to the story. In general, press releases are more informational and descriptive than media alerts.

Newsworthiness 

The importance of the announcement and its news value should be considered when deciding on a media alert or press release. If a company just announced a significant partnership, it may want to consider a press release. If an organization is holding a press conference, doing a product demonstration, or sponsoring a charity event, it may want to issue a media alert. 

Distribution 

Before distributing a media alert or press release, determine media and journalist targets. Since an alert is essentially an invitation to cover an announcement or event, you will consider how exclusive it is. Or, it may well be a local announcement, or a highly visual one, so plan accordingly. For example, a media alert can be sent to the local broadcast outlets, weekly magazines and daily newspapers. 

Press releases are typically distributed to a much wider audience because there is nothing to attend – you’re simply sharing news in hopes of gaining coverage. You’ll have a better chance of a West Coast journalist writing about the announcement based on a press release than if you send a media alert for a local New York City briefing, naturally. 

Timing

Timing is also important when deciding between a media alert and press release. Press releases aren’t typically tied to an event so the timing of the distribution is more flexible, though still tied to news. As a PR person, you determine the best day and time to send out the release, and sometimes the timing may change by a day or two. Media alerts, however, are very time-sensitive. Given that they are tied to events, they’re often distributed a few days before the event, and then again at the last minute as a reminder. 

Media alerts aren’t used as often as press releases but they can be just as effective for coverage results. It all hinges on the nature of your news and the desired audience for the story.

 

5 Ways To Tell If A PR Firm Is A Fit

PR is something nearly every organization needs. Yet many don’t know what makes an agency a ‘great’ fit. After all, all PR firms are not created equal. 

Some companies fall victim to the “big budget, big agency; small budget, small agency” myth. Regardless of whether an agency is big or small, it’s the account team is usually comprised of a few dedicated team members who will deliver on the company’s objectives. When partnering with a big agency, companies forget that it usually means a bigger overhead. Many larger agencies are also known for the “bait and switch” where senior leaders pitch and sell to the client but then the account is turned over to junior staff to execute on their own.

Bill Gates is quoted as saying that if he was down to his last dollar, he’d spend it on PR. While the quote may be apocryphal, it’s good advice. When a solid PR strategy is executed well, it delivers results, boosts credibility, and builds strong thought leaders within the organization.

So how do you determine whether an agency is the right fit for your needs? Let’s delve into five sure-tell signs that they are.

The agency understands your PR and business goals

To bring on a PR firm, there should be a clear synergy between the PR goals and what the agency can reasonably deliver. That’s pretty obvious, right? But, a good PR agency also knows that its goals and deliverables are just one piece of the puzzle. The organization’s goals make up the other piece. The right PR team should not only understand how PR works, but how it fits into the broader landscape of your business and how you map its success.

It offers solid strategy and alignment

The right PR agency should come up with a SMART PR strategy and ensure there is clear alignment to your goals. They should be able to deploy any of the communications tools at their disposal to get results. And, strong skill sets are essential. If your PR team can only handle traditional PR and you also need social media, for example, it doesn’t make sense to spread out your budget to different agencies – you need a one-stop-shop. You should see your PR agency as a long-term partner with a skilled team that consistently delivers for your organization.

It gets results

When kicking off a relationship with a PR agency, it’s essential to define success and how they plan to achieve it. A good barometer for success is looking at work the agency has done for previous clients, particularly those in your sector. By studying the agency’s portfolio and case histories, you can evaluate how well they will perform for your needs. Your agency should be delivering measurable results for you that align with your KPIs and ROI.

The agency is proactive and creative

Not all organizations have a regular cadence of news and press releases. It’s often up to the PR agency to come up with creative proactive ideas that will garner media interest – even when there’s no news to share with reporters. A good PR agency knows that they can take POVs from executives or other internal initiatives and develop creative angles to garner media attention. Your agency should consistently be driving innovative ideas that help your company stand out among competitors.

The firm challenges you

While good PR agencies bring new ideas and consistently energize the relationship, they shouldn’t just be ‘yes people.’ A good agency partner will challenge you with ideas and statements that may differ from conventional wisdom to help you achieve your objectives. A good partner will take you out of your comfort zone, set realistic expectations with you, and deliver results that wow you.

At Crenshaw Communications, we aim to consistently meet our clients’ needs and drive compelling results for them. With a stellar team of dedicated PR pros, we showcase our tenacity and commitment to clients with regular top-tier coverage and successful long-term client relationships.

Can PR Agencies Protect Their Ideas?

“You give away your best thinking on spec.” My husband once said that as he watched me sweat a high-stakes new biz proposal that hinged on The Big Idea. That observation bothered me for years, because it was true. But how does a PR or ad agency avoid it?

A recent Twitter dustup highlighted the dilemma. The CEO of crytocurrency exchange Coinbase tweeted about its wildly successful Super Bowl ad. You know the one…it featured a simple QR code floating about the screen, changing colors against a music track. The ad won raves within the industry and subsequently crashed the Coinbase website. The QR code thing was a great match for crypto enthusiasts, and the accompanying PR didn’t hurt.

CEO Brian Armstrong is proud of the ad’s success, naturally. He tweeted over the weekend about how it came to be, crediting his team with a bold departure from “traditional” Super Bowl spots. His final tweet concluded that “no agency could have done this ad.”

Coinbase CEO tries to weave a compelling story about how their own team came up with a Super Bowl ad that "broke the rules on marketing", is quickly revealed to just be

CEO called out on Twitter

Except according to Martin Agency CEO Kristen Cavallo, an agency did. Or, at least her team presented the idea to Coinbase in a pitch meeting back in August, which she helpfully notes in a tweet, complete with dates and deck page numbers. Awkward.

To make matters more interesting, Coinbase CMO Kate Rouch jumped into the feed with her own version of events. She explained that multiple agencies pitched a QR-code idea but that it was “inserting a QR code in a popular meme” that won the day, crediting Accenture Interactive with the work. This led some ad-watchers to conclude that after Accenture was engaged, they looked through old proposals and adapted Martin’s idea.

Creative minds can think alike

Every agency person has pitched to a prospective client, only to see their idea executed months later – by another firm. I’ve honestly thought there should be some kind of “Hall of Shame” site that embarrasses clients who steal ideas from spec pitches. It’s why lawyers advise agencies to copyright their proposals and trade groups urge them not to participate in spec creative presentations for free.

But the thing is, more than one agency group may pitch similar or even identical ideas in a competitive situation. In fact, it happens all the time. You can copyright a tagline, a creative execution, a storyboard or a script, maybe. But there’s simply no way to own an idea. This is particularly true in the PR business, where a presentation might rely on a great brand or media strategy, a clever angle or an unexpected juxtaposition of ideas rather than a graphic or copy line. Then, too, timing can be a huge factor. What seemed off-strategy in August can be brilliant by December. In public relations especially, the news cycle is critical.

Don’t give away your best thinking

That’s why in my experience most of the advice is sensible, but a bit beside the point. It’s tough to sit out all agency reviews on principle. And as much as I admire those classy companies who pay competing agencies for the creative that the company will then own, that doesn’t really solve the problem. You may get $5000 for the work, and that helps restore some of the billable time sucked away by spec pitches, but it’s cold comfort if someone else executes your idea.

It also strikes me that what really set off Kristen Cavallo was the Brian Armstrong’s dismissive attitude (“No ad agency would have done the ad”) when he actually used an agency for the execution and probably the idea, too. It was not only untrue, but smug and disrespectful.

So, what’s the answer? It helps to be selective about RFPs for big competitive searches, and most agencies are. And it might help to throw a copyright symbol on the last page of every proposal, as my supervisor at Edelman routinely did to try to deter idea theft. Most clients are fair-minded and want to make the process less painful for everyone; for ways they can help fix the broken RFP process, this post holds up pretty well.

But that observation – “you give away your best thinking on spec” still bothers me. Maybe the best antidote to losing your IP is to try to generate your best ideas for existing clients – you know, the guys who are already paying, with whom there already exists a relationship based on a certain level of trust, and yes, respect.

PR Tips For Staffing A Media Interview

As a PR agency team, we know that media interviews help build connections between a reporter and a client company. Even if the conversation doesn’t result in immediate coverage, showcasing expertise often yields future opportunities. In other words, as long as it’s a productive conversation, we’ve already scored a win. But how to ensure the interview goes well? 

The steps taken by the PR person before, during and after an interview play a large role in its success. And one of the most important parts is properly staffing the interview. Even seasoned PR pros often wonder if they need to be present at the meeting or on the call. If it’s just a casual call about retail trends with an executive for a major retail client, surely there’s no need to be on, right? 

Wrong. A hands-off attitude can work against you. And our clients expect assistance, even if it’s just handling details. But beyond the details, most successful PR people go further. Here are the steps PR reps should take while staffing an interview.

Kick off the conversation

It’s a good idea to join the call early. This way, if there are any problems with links or dial-ins, you can address them quickly. I like to make small talk after the first person joins the call to break the ice and make things comfortable. When both the reporter and spokesperson have both joined, the PR rep should make introductions and even provide a little background. If there’s no need for a preamble, I let the reporter take the lead. In some cases, I will reiterate the goal for the discussion to make sure everything is clear.

Pay attention during the interview

PR agency staff are often busy with  multiple clients, so getting other work out of the way while staffing an interview could seem tempting. Don’t do it. The most successful PR people use interviews as an opportunity to learn and gather new ideas. Even someone fluent in their client or colleague’s work can learn something new. Additionally, these interviews offer a great opening for proactive pitch angles based on insights from the conversation. Listening closely also helps ensure that any mistakes can be corrected quickly. If a spokesperson inadvertently gives a wrong fact or can’t recall a statistic, it can be supplied or amended in real time or shortly thereafter. 

Don’t be afraid to speak up

The vast majority of the interviews we staff go smoothly. However, there are times, whether due to a reporter going off-topic or an unprepared spokesperson, where the interview could stray into areas that don’t make sense. At these moments, a PR person should jump in and steer the conversation back on course. If, for example, a spokesperson releases information prematurely or is groping for examples to illustrate their points, it helps to correct the situation quickly. And if a spokesperson is consistently having trouble during interviews, it’s a sign they need better prep. On the very rare occasion that things go wildly out of control – say, a reporter seems to have parachuted into the wrong interview, or the spokesperson cannot answer relevant questions – it may be best to politely end the call with a promise to reschedule when things are clearer. See these tips for navigating more common interview obstacles. 

Closing out Interviews and follow-ups

As the interview nears the end, thank everyone for making the time. If there are follow-up action items, like more information or materials needed, of course, the PR person will own the coordination of it. After the interview, we like to follow up both with the reporter and spokesperson, thanking them again and in the reporter’s case, getting an idea of his next steps and the likelihood and timing of a story. It’s helpful to be clear with your questions, but not too pushy. Remember, a major goal of the interview is building a long-term relationship so the company and its spokesperson resources are top-of-mind for the reporter’s next big story. 

Give honest and informative feedback

This is arguably the most crucial step of the interview process. Honest feedback for the company spokesperson is helpful on multiple levels. First, it should highlight the spokesperson’s strengths and the positive aspects of his performance, reinforcing his confidence. But unless the interview is flawless, the feedback should include areas for improvement – delivered in a respectful way, of course. This is especially important with new spokespersons, as they might not even realize where they struggle or how a journalist interview should differ from a sales opportunity, for example. Consistent and honest feedback lead to overall improvement, and they make our lives easier. Candor also reminds the spokesperson that we share the same goals and helps build client relationships and better outcomes in the long run.

Staffing an interview can feel routine, stressful, easy and insightful all at the same time. Some interviews will go perfectly while others may spike your anxiety. We can’t have perfect control over an interview, but these simple steps will improve the odds of a successful conversation.

10 Phrases To Delete From Your PR Vocabulary

PR agency teams, especially those in tech PR, LOVE to speak in jargon. We have shorthand for nearly everything and sometimes forget that people outside our organization or industry might not know what we’re talking about. While those in PR are more than happy to explain what our unique vocabulary means, there are certain phrases that should be eliminated. Some don’t hold meaning anymore, while others are confusing or trite. Some were made up somewhere along the line to make us sound more interesting. Let’s take a look at a few phrases we should start phasing out of our vocabulary.

Exciting 

PR pros are accustomed to hype. We want to exceed expectations by getting the best media coverage possible. When sharing coverage, we often say ‘this is exciting’ when in reality the outcome was our goal. Instead of positioning every last piece of work as exciting, we’d be better off explaining why it’s credible, effective, or persuasive. The same holds true for the quotes we may write in press announcements. Instead of the CEO saying he’s ‘excited’ about the new deal or product, it’s better to describe what positive changes it will bring. When it comes to hyperbole, less can be more – credible, that is. 

Groundbreaking/unique/one-of-a-kind 

Similarly, in press releases, PR teams often highlight an offering as ‘unique’,‘one of a kind’, or ‘groundbreaking.’ If it is in a press release, of course we may feel pressure to position it as something the industry hasn’t seen before to gain more media attention. Yes, the news may be offering something unique to the company, but don’t position it as a reinvention of the wheel unless it is truly going to change the industry. 

Disruptive

For those of us working in tech PR, ‘disruptive’ is used frequently, which has made it an empty word. it has basically lost its meaning. Companies (and their PR teams) like to say their offering will disrupt and change the industry but in reality it may be a flashy term used to say ‘hey look at this!’ Avoid saying this if you can, as it holds very little meaning in the tech media world.

Bringing this to the top of your inbox 

PR pros juggle multiple tasks and will keep a running list of things to check in on. More than once have we started an email with ‘bringing this to the top of your inbox.’ Yet at times this can come off as impatient or pushy if only a few hours or a day have elapsed since it was sent. Worst of all, it increases the email clutter. It’s better to state a deadline attached to the request, highlight  the most important stats, and follow-up with any new or additional information.  

Think outside the box 

In PR we are taught to look at problems from different angles and think of every possible scenario. We are also looking for ‘breakthrough’ ideas for telling stories. Yet in my view the phrase is redundant. We work in an industry where everything is not black and white and we often must see all angles to a problem or story. We should always be thinking ‘outside the box’ to consider all perspectives on a given situation. 

We’re proud to announce…

How many press releases have you seen that start with these words? It seems a bit obvious. Of course you’re proud! To replace this phrase, tell us why the news is mediaworthy and what it will change.  

Let’s discuss this offline

We live online now. From virtual meetings to Zoom happy hours, the majority of the work is digital. But how many times have you said this in a meeting? A few years ago, maybe it meant something different but now it seems outdated. Simply say you will discuss this at a later date/time because the discussion will most likely be online.  

Leverage

Across the corporate world, this is probably the most overused phrase. What does it mean today? It’s usually used in a sentence like ‘how can we leverage that data?’ Leverage is so jargony at this point, swap it out for ‘use’, ‘capitalize on’, ‘take advantage of’, or even ‘harness’. 

New normal

I think if the last two years of work-from-home life has taught us anything, it’s that there is no such thing as normal. We are constantly adapting and shifting to change. The phrase ‘new normal’ is outdated in 2022. We have learned to take things as they come, so there’s really no ‘new normal.’ 

You are on mute

It is 2022 and the majority of us have been on Zoom daily to connect with executives, media and team members. At this point, everyone should know how to work the mute button! 

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What phrases do you think should be removed from a PR’s pro vocabulary? Let me know on Twitter @colleeno_pr