The NFL’s PR Dramas

Last week the NFL was able to muster more PR coverage than it generally does during the height of the playoffs.  Last season not only was Time Tebows’ jersey the number two selling jersey in the league (you’ll have to look up number one); his story captivated a good deal of the season media coverage.  Tebow was covered on nearly every media outlet.  YouTube was filled with videos of people throughout the globe hitting the famed one knee Tebow stance.  For many who had just a passing interest in the sport, Tebow not only was football, he eclipsed football.  He certainly was the main topic of conversation in Denver.  He was their quarterback and was bringing Denver back to its glory days.  Well, what a difference a few months makes.  Tebow is now a backup quarterback in New York and Broncos are Payton Manning’s team.

The Denver quarterback drama wasn’t that hard to figure out.  It would be difficult for a team to pass on one of football’s best quarterbacks for one who is learning the robes and has so many question marks.  The real drama was in San Francisco, where Alex Smith, who nearly took the 49ers to the Super Bowl, discovered that for several days he was in the same position that Tebow was.   Yes, he’s back with the Niners.  But considering how his team was flirting with Peyton Manning, it will be hard to go back to things as usual.  A three year, $24 million deal helps to ease the pain, but still, it can’t be easy to know that the powers that be were that close to letting him go.  True, Smith isn’t Manning, but last season much was made of how, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh backed Smith at every turn and stated that Smith was their quarterback for the long haul.  At least until a Peyton Manning shows up.  But Manning goes with Denver, Smith stays in San Francisco and who knows what anyone really feels.

The NFL certainly received more than enough media coverage during the Manning frenzy.  It was PR heaven for the league.  A perfect film scripted media relations blitz.  The same can’t be said for the other high profile NFL story that buzzed through the media.  The New Orleans story was more of a PR nightmare than a public relations dream.    On Friday, Saints coach, Sean Payton offered an apology.   In Payton’s first formal statement since the NFL announced his season-long suspension, he explained that he took “full responsibility” for the bounty scandal that led to unprecedented league sanctions against the New Orleans Saints.

Still there are also PR benefits to the Saints bounty story.  Although initially it can be seen as a media relations black eye, the league acted quickly and decisively.  The penalties handed down deliver a clear message that the NFL will not tolerate bounties. The severity of the penalties is unparalleled and media-wise that works in the NFL’s favor.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2012

“Petyon Manning Tim Tebow.” Photo. Fan IQ. 21 Mar. 2012. 26 Mar 2012. <http://www.faniq.com/blog/Peyton-Manning-and-now-Tim-Tebow-Blog-45962&gt;

The (Remarkably Successful) Marketing of Doom and Gloom

We are constantly fed heavy doses of doom, gloom and predictions of Armageddon.  It’s true that we have enormous issues and problems that we daily have to deal with on a personal, social and planetary level.  Wars, hunger, disease… I could come up with a pretty formidable list that would make the most optimistic among us cringe.  The media loves bad news because pain, horror, shock and drama sell.  As the old media adage goes: if it bleeds, it leads.

But does this perspective and outlook really define life as we know it.  Are we truly all going to hell in a hand basket with no upsides?

Let’s look a bit more deeply.  Since 1900, the life span has doubled.   Average per capita income worldwide has tripled. Technical developments in the field of medicine have offered new ways of viewing the body and its cells, greatly improving the ability to diagnosis.  Antibiotics were discovered; and new vaccines, drugs, and therapies developed.  Computerization of health and medical research has enhanced the study of disease and health hazards. New surgical techniques have been developed including transplants and keyhole surgery.

Programs of population-wide vaccinations resulted in the eradication of smallpox; elimination of polio in parts of the world and control of measles, rubella, tetanus, diphtheria, and other infectious diseases in the US and other parts of the world.

Safer workplaces have resulted in a reduction of approximately 40% in the rate of fatal occupational injuries.  There are countless other statistics that could be added to the list of how things have improved in such areas as technology, transportation, communication, agriculture.  Whereas we have a long way to go in the area of human rights, we’ve made amazing strides in the areas of women’s rights, children’s rights and minority rights.

We actually have quite a bit to be thankful for.  The trouble is we get lost in our own personal struggles and when it comes to the big picture, most PR, media relations and marketing campaigns focus on what we lack and what’s wrong in our lives.  

A look at political campaigns gives us a great window into how things work.  The majority of the messages are negative, divisive.

The sad fact is that stories based on fear, want and lack not only up TV ratings and magazine readerships, they also get us to buy, so that’s where most marketing dollars go.   If that’s primarily what we pay attention to then that becomes our focus. The negative becomes the prism through which we see our lives.  So, our job should be to broaden our focus.  Yes, there certainly is more than enough doom and gloom out there and there is a heck of a lot of work to be done and obstacles to overcome, but that’s simply one aspect of life.  If you only put the negative into the equation, that’s all you’re going to end up with.

So, I won’t end there; according to a recent article, since the start of the twentieth century infant mortality has decreased 90%, and maternal mortality has decreased 99%, and poverty has declined more in the last 50 years than it did in the previous 500 years. That is pretty cool stuff.  

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2012

Thomas Jr., Landon. “Trader head in hands.” Photo. The New York Times. 10 Aug. 2010. 28 Feb. 2012. <http://www.cnbc.com/id/38635990/Armageddon_Sells_Permabears_Now_Becoming_Cool&gt;

SnoShuu. “Be Grateful.” Photo. New Hampshire News. 18 Nov. 2010. 28 Feb. 2012. <http://www.nhpr.org/post/socrates-exchange-what-gratitude&gt;

PR Follow-up Etiquette

Once you’ve come up with your PR campaign strategy, developed your various media pitches, and created your target media list, it’s time to launch and contact the media.  Initially pick five or ten targeted media outlets to send your press release to.  Press releases are important; they are generally your initial contact with the media.  Make them short concise and compelling.  But sending or emailing releases out is just the start.  You don’t want to just sit and wait.  You want to be patient, yet proactive.
After you’ve sent out your releases, give the media a day or two to read them, but don’t make the mistake of waiting for weeks, hoping for a call.  You need to make follow-up calls after sending out your press release. Initially it’s often best to concentrate on your local media. The local press will usually be more open to your calls and pitches. Keep your follow-up calls brief (three to four minutes maximum) and be polite. Be upbeat and enthusiastic. Don’t spend your time explaining why yours is the best store or product in town, or why they will be missing the story of the century if they don’t use your idea – everyone tells them that. Never beg or berate the media. You’re calling to introduce yourself, make sure they have the information, and ask if they have any questions or need any other information. Don’t be pushy, but be assertive. Don’t sound intimidated. Be upbeat and polite. Listen to the editor’s or producer’s feedback. If the person on the other line can’t talk, acts hurried, or says no, remember that chances are you caught him or her right in the middle of a story deadline. Don’t push it. Politely ask when would be a good time to call back, say thank you and hang up. Then, make sure you call back.

If the person on the other line starts a dialogue or asks you questions, be open, keep the conversation going, but don’t try to do a sales job. You are not there to sell anything, but to be a resource. If you’re told there’s no interest in your story, don’t try to bulldoze him or her. An effective public relations campaign is about telling good stories. Find out if there are any stories they are currently working on that you could help out with. Find out what kind of stories that particular editor or segment producer usually works on.

Your initial follow-up call is to make sure that your information arrived and was seen by the right person, and to introduce yourself. Keep the call short, polite, and very much to the point. Be courteous and quickly get off the phone. Although it is almost impossible to be effective by simply sending out press releases, don’t call until you have given your release some time to do its job. But keep in mind; you are going to have to make follow-up calls.  Without them media placement is often a real crapshoot.  Nine times out of ten, you will call only to find out that no one saw your email or received your letter. If that is the case, during the conversation, give a quick thumbnail sketch of your release, ask if you can re-send it, and thank them for their time. Be polite and get off the phone quickly. And, don’t call back twenty minutes later to see if they are now free to talk. Be judicious in your calls. In time, you will cultivate a working relationship with some of the media and begin to develop your own, unique and effective follow-up etiquette.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2011

 

4 (more) Secrets to Developing the Perfect PR Pitch

You might have a great story, but if you don’t know how to present it, you’re not going to grab the media’s attention.  Remember what seems like a great story for you might not seem that way to the media.  Building a great pitch for a TV segment or magazine article takes some time, thought and creativity.  Have fun with this process.  Give it some time and you just might uncover some hidden gems that will launch your PR campaign.

Before you approach the media, study and review the press release or pitch you’re going to be using.  Again, simply because it looks good to you doesn’t mean it will resonate with the media.  Keep working on and refining your pitch with the focus on how it will meet the media’s needs.

1. Debunking a myth:

If there are certain preconceived ideas in your industry, or surrounding the topic you’ll be pitching, focus on those and pitch a story around how those myths or preconceived ideas are wrong.  For example, if you’re in the fitness industry, come up with some points that debunk some commonly held misconceptions about working out or losing weight.  Present yourself as the expert who can set the record straight and  educate the public.

2. Comment on a national issue:

If there is a story being covered in the media, or if there is a particular topic that is being discussed that you can comment on do so.  For example, if you are an attorney and there is a particular legal case that is in the news, or if there is an issue or topic that is being discussed that you can address, pitch yourself as an expert in the field who can clarify and explain the topic.  Perhaps take a side and explain why the other side is wrong.  Make sure to explain why you are the expert to address this topic.

3. Seasonal Stories

The media always covers season stories.  It has to.  Whether the story has to do with the Christmas holidays, or summer, these are stories that are covered every year.  Find a way to pitch yourself or your product as a part of one of those stories.  For example if you own a beauty salon, or a cosmetic company, you can pitch a “new look for the new year” New Years story.

4. Your journey.

Often the best and most compelling stories are those that tell the story of your journey.  We’ve worked with a wide range of clients from filmmakers to physicians, and in almost every case the story of how the client developed his or her business, created the product, or started the service, served us well.  The media and people in general gravitate towards human interest stories that show how someone overcame odds to achieve a dream.

Keep all of these approaches in mind when you’re putting together your list of stories to pitch to the media.  Remember this is not a one-size-fits-all type of campaign.  Shift your pitch to match the needs of the particular media you’re going to be contacting.  Let the media know why your story works for them.  Keep your pitch short and to the point.  Present your story as a news segment, not as a pitch.  These tips work, so be prepared.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2010

 

 

The Truth About Content Marketing

Content marketing has become a new buzzword.  It’s spawned its own cottage industry; there are content marketing courses, experts, books, etc.  According to Wikipedia,   “Content marketing subscribes to the notion that delivering high-quality, relevant and valuable information to prospects and customers drives profitable consumer action. Content marketing has benefits in terms of retaining reader attention and improving brand loyalty.”

That’s great and although I’m a big believer in content marketing, an important point to realize though is that content marketing existed well before this term was coined and well before the internet became such a dominate force.  At my firm our focus has always been on content, on valuable information that the public and the media can utilize.  Good public relations firms have been utilizing content marketing for decades.  The concept is not a new one. It’s only the spin that’s different.  Similarly, media relations experts have been building and developing brands  long before the term “branding” became such a catch all term.

The emphasis on the approach, style and content are really not new, what is new is the mode of distribution.  Social media, blogging, online marketing.. those outlets are relatively new.  Still, they are the channels of distributing and disseminating information, they are not the information itself.

The new mantra is that “on the net content is king”, but in reality content always was.  Whether writing a press release, a white paper, or an article or pitching a TV segment, developing a good story and creating strong content have always been the bottom line.  An effective PR campaign has always depended on strategic content development.

The shift is in the medium(s).  Now you can deliver content via the traditional press outlets of TV, magazines, newspapers and the radio, as well as via blogs, vlogs, social media, and email marketing.  Using this combined approach a company can grow a business, build a brand, and develop a strategic reputation-building approach.

But keep in mind that a standard pitch or sales laundry list does not qualify as effective content.  The job is to solve a problem, offer a solution, advocate a new idea, or reveal a new way to approach a problem. You want to be inspiring, thought provoking, and offer cutting edge approaches and effective solutions.  You can discuss what’s new and what’s next, but the bottom line is that your content is useful and speaks to your target market.  How can you make your customer’s lives easier, happier, more time effective, more cost effective? Offer anecdotal stories that illustrate these points.  In this case content means value.

So, yes content marketing on the internet is an extremely important marketing tool, although social media and blogging are relatively new mediums, the basics of creating impactful content that tells a good story and offers value to the reader is as basic as marketing itself.  Content has always been king.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2010

When “They” Become the Enemy: The Danger of Perception Creating Reality

How we frame a story often defines reality.  Every day, via the traditional media, blogs and social media, perception creates reality.  When it comes to marketing films or merchandise this can be amusing, interesting, entertaining and downright annoying, but when it comes to defining a people or a group, it becomes insidious and dangerous.

Generally during tough economic times, people look for reasons and, often, for scapegoats, but, too often, instead of searching for the real causes and explanations, people will search for quick fixes, for easy places to put their anger.

Life is always easier if problems are caused by “them”.  This need to define a group and then lay blame is a dangerous, knee-jerk reaction that all humans seem to share.  If we can pinpoint an enemy and blame them for our ills, life seems so much easier.  Everything makes sense; life becomes black and white.  We don’t have to mess with those irritating shades of gray.  More importantly we don’t have to look at the fact that we might be part of the problem.  America seems to be caught in this type of mindset.  From the furor over whether a Mosque should be built close to where the World Trade Centers stood, there are now calls over national TV for no more Mosques to be built anywhere in the U.S.  It is as though by limiting freedom of religion we strengthen our basic freedoms.  On another front, there are calls by others to nullify the 14th Amendment.  These types of approaches are attempts to define “them”, pinpoint the enemy and demonize all Muslims and illegal aliens.

According to section 1 of the 14th Amendment   “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States….”  That seems like a well thought out section.  There is wisdom there.  It has served us well since 1868.

Perhaps if we can pull away from the 24/7 non-stop spin cycle where rancor, and sensationalism is the order of the day, we can remember that each person is an individual and should be judged on his or her merits.  Perhaps away from the vitriol found in much of the media and blogs we can remember the basic tenants that this country was based on.  Another part of the 14the Amendment states: “nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”  That seems worth contemplating.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2010

The Dangers of the New Media Landscape

Much of the media is going through tough financial times.  The danger here, particularly when it comes to hard news and investigative reporting, is if real news continues to lose ground to sensationalism and entertainment.   Taking the lead of sensationalistic blogs and reality TV, the mainstream media seems to be responding with a “give the audience what they want” approach.  That might be well and good as a way to generate revenue, but news and true journalism has never been about giving people what they want.  Its primary objective was and is to educate, and inform.  Once we start replacing investigative journalism with celebrity scandals and reality TV train wrecks, we are in a very real sense giving away the keys to an informed public and a strong democracy.

The knee jerk reaction is understandable, because these are tough times for the media.  According to The State of the News Media (http://www.stateofthemedia.org), in 2009, newspapers, including online, saw ad revenue fall 26% during the year, which brings the total loss over the last three years to 41%.  Local television ad revenue fell 24% in the same time frame.  Radio dropped 18%. And ad pages dropped 19%, network TV 7% (and news alone probably more).  Online ad revenue over all fell about 5%, and revenue to news sites most likely also fared much worse.  Only cable news among the commercial news sectors did not suffer declining revenue last year.

Panicking media outlets are changing the rules of the game.  Of course it’s important to entertain.  It’s essential.  But offering entertainment 24/7 will result in a numbed and uninformed public.  Americans don’t want to be uninformed, but they don’t know what they don’t know.  Unless there is true quality journalism that is bringing stories of corruption and malfeasance to light, they will never know these stories exist.

We are replacing news with controversy and entertainment.  Learning that a sports star had a number of affairs is not news its sensationalism.  More outlets is not the answer if it only results in more of the same.    According to the Pew Research Center (http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1523/state-of-the-news-media-2010), their analysis of more than a million blogs and social media sites, finds that 80% of the links are to U.S. legacy media. The only old media sector with growing audience numbers is cable, a place where the lion’s share of resources is spent on opinionated hosts.

There are some encouraging and exciting things happening in the online media world, from former journalists creating specialty news sites and community sites, to citizen journalists covering neighborhoods, local blogs and social media.  In 2009, Twitter and other social media showed how they could disseminate information, as well as how they could mobilize people to act and react.  The collective power of these sites was able to evade the censors in Iran and communicate from Haiti after the devastating earthquake.

Still, that is no substitute for the traditional work of the mainstream media.  Media’s challenge now is to make a profit and deliver news.  But, it is not media’s challenge alone.  It is ours.  If, due to economic constraints the media fails to uncover stories of corruption both in government and the private sector, we become the biggest losers.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2010

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