PR Tip of the Day: Developing your PR Pitches & Story Ideas

pr tipsDeveloping your PR Pitches & Story Ideas: Once you’re ready to launch your public relations campaign and pitch your story to the media, you need to develop your pitches and story ideas.  Remember what the media is interested in is good stories.  Their job is not to sell your service or product but to tell compelling informative stories.  With that in mind, start off by creating a list of the various topics you can address.  You have a specialty; a topic or area that you’re expert in.  That’s your main area of expertise. But if you move a little right or left of center, chances are you can come up with a much wider list of topics you can discuss.  For example, if you’re a physician, you can discuss your specialty but you can also address the various ways that social media and the internet are changing the practice of medicine.  From your perspective that may not be your primary story, but it does deal with medicine, the culture at large and can help establish you as an expert.  Remember the bigger the media bull’s-eye, the greater your chances of PR success.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2013

The Surprising Benefits of PR

I’ve written several articles on how to launch a campaign and why PR should be a major part of your marketing plan, but what about why you should launch a public relations campaign.  What are the main upsides?  There are the obvious benefits that come from launching a successful PR campaign.

For example, via a strong media outreach you can:

  • Reach your target market
  • Gain the validation and legitimacy of being featured in the news
  • Establish yourself as an expert in your field
  • Land more customers
  • Sell more products
  • Build and establish your brand
  • Enhance your reputation

These are some of the primary benefits that come from launching a media relations campaign, but in the two decades I’ve run a PR agency, I’ve seen some surprising, unexpected benefits come from PR outreaches.  The following is a list of some of the more remarkable opportunities that have come to clients from their PR campaigns:

  • A client who was going to self publish a book received (and accepted) an offer from a major publisher
  • Another writer did self publish his book and then had it picked up by a major publisher
  • A client was able to secure national and international distribution for his product
  • A film producer landed a distribution deal for his film
  • An artist was offered work with a major film company
  • A medical expert was offered his own health show.
  • A client was offered a semi regular spot on a morning TV show
  • A client landed a national commercial.
  • A client was offered a regular role on a reality TV show
  • A singer was offered a record contract
  • An actress was offered a role in a major feature film.

These are just some of the benefits that have come to clients from their PR campaigns.  That’s not to say that every public relations campaign is going to result in similar opportunities, but one of the most exciting aspects of PR is that you never know.  Let’s say a campaign brings you more clients, establishes you in your field and helps build your business, that’s time and money well spent.   But, as the above list illustrates, once you start to establish yourself, your brand your products, your business, your service, your book, your art, your film, or whatever it is your promoting through the media, magic really can happen.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2012

 

A Novel Approach to Reading: In Defense of the Lowly Book

IPads and Nooks and Kindles have gotten more than their share of PR and media coverage.  There has been a press battle among them with press releases flying fast and furious.  And the media campaigns are working.  They’re selling.  These e-reader devices are fine for reading magazines.   I suppose they could be okay for reading some non-fiction books.  But when it comes to reading fiction, there I firmly draw the line.  It’s not so much that I’m a Ludite in this arena; it’s that as a reader you lose so much of the essential reading experience when you shift from a book to a shrunken computer.  There is a certain romance to reading novels that supersedes merely looking at and digesting words.

I’m an admitted novel junkie.  I cannot go to sleep without reading for at least half an hour.  And it has to be a novel.  Reading non fiction or current affairs as I lie in bed only serves to agitate me.  With a novel, I can blissfully drift towards Morpheus.

But I am getting ahead of myself.  Before I find myself lying in bed lost in strange and foreign lives and worlds, I need to choose the book.  Here too, I admit to being old school.  I actually go to bookstores.  Not only do I go, I do so with the same enthusiasm as a five year old goes to a toy store.  It’s an outing, an experience, an adventure.  I never know what I’ll find and seldom go with any particular book in mind.  I browse, pick up the various books, study the covers, and touch the pages, read some pages; it’s a totally sensual experience and not simply a visual one.  You touch books, feel them.  Books have a scent.  You can read them aloud and make it an experience that touches all of the senses.  Reading novels is not simply about the words, but about the experience of choosing, holding and being engulfed by a book.

If the focus is on how many volumes you can carry in a particular device and how quickly you can read a particular book, I’d say you’re losing a good deal of the joy.

There are people who like to figure out the most practical and least time consuming ways to eat; people who have shakes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  They get their nutrients, their calories, but, at least from my perspective, they’ve lost quite a bit in that bargain.

And that is not unlike what I fear we’re losing when it comes reading.  It’s meant to be a sensual experience.  The focus is not supposed to be on transferring information from a machine into your brain.   The physical book, with its specific size, layout, cover, graphics, font and paper, is all a part of the total experience.

I suppose it’s an experience that is losing ground, as e-books and various pads and devices flourish.  Oh, well, I hold on to my book mania.  Plus, at least on my end, I really don’t have much of a choice.  You see, I often fall asleep while I’m reading, drifting off as I’m lost in a novel.  And, there are times, when said book falls from my hands to the floor.  This isn’t a constant occurrence, but it’s happened often enough.  And my novels, being the sturdy troopers they are, take the plummeting and live on to fight another day.  They neither complain, nor do they break.    Now think of me lying in bed reading my IPad and having it tumble onto the floor.  Disaster!  Reading would become such an expensive pastime; I wouldn’t be able to afford it.  No, I’ll happily stay on the sidelines in this e-reader revolution and stick with the romance of my books.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2012

Tew, Sarah. “Kindle vs. Nook vs. iPad:…”  Photo. CNET. 05 12 May 2012. 21 May 2012. <http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-20009738-1/kindle-vs-nook-vs-ipad-which-e-book-reader-should-you-buy/>
Carr, Austin. “Twitter Stats Reveal How the iPad, Nook, and Kindle Stack Up.” Photo. Fast Company. 11 Jan 2011. 21 May 2012.  <http://www.fastcompany.com/1716018/how-the-ipad-kindle-and-nook-stack-up-on-twitter>

EXTRA! Buffett Buys Newspapers: Maybe Newspapers Aren’t Quite That Dead

Berkshire Hathaway, perhaps best know as Warren Buffett’s company announced a deal on Thursday to purchase 63 newspapers from Media General.  Berkshire will be purchasing more of MEG’s daily and weekly newspapers for $142 million in cash.  Buffet’s statements on May 5 seemed to be heading him away from the newspaper business, which he described as an industry that was “declining” and one with “Problems”.  He then went on to say that generally it was best to stay away from declining businesses and that that’s not where they make real money at Berkshire.

But Buffet obviously still thinks there’s value in newspapers.  I think the secret here is that the focus is mainly on local and regional papers, where people still find a good deal of their information.  That’s where traditional journalism can grow and thrive.  It’s almost like a return to the early days of newspapers where all news really was local.  The internet and the cable new stations pretty much have a lock on national stories.  That’s a hard place for newspapers to compete now at days, but local stories and information can still keep newspaper journalists buzzing.  The local newspapers will have to be creative to remain competitive, but the death of the newspaper might have been greatly exaggerated.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2012

Breast Feeding & the First Gay President: How Time & Newsweek Are Riding the Social Media Train

The news magazines controversy wars are going at full steam.  Time got out of the gate first with its May 21 cover, featuring a rather defiant and somewhat uncomfortable looking Jamie Lynne Grumet breastfeeding her three-year-old son, Aram.  In the photo, Aram is standing on a chair and feeding on her exposed left breast.  Not your everyday magazine cover.  But it wasn’t meant to be.  The image had more impact than the article, which accompanied the photo; which is exactly what Time intended.  The web erupted with praise and criticism; and the social media stir accomplished the decision, makers at Time, were hoping for. Celebrities jumped in; Alyssa Milano and model Joanna Krupa began to Tweet about it and the social media frenzy was off to the races.   It drove more readers to the site, where they had to pay to read the full articles.  The traditional media had a heyday with the cover which, in turn, caused an even bigger sensation on the various social media fronts

An article in the Los Angeles Times explained that Time’s editors ran the controversial photo and article to mark the 20th anniversary of Dr. Bill Sears’ book on the topic.  According to the article, the book helped “power the movement for moms to establish deeper, and more prolonged, physical bonds with their children.”  That is all true, but the purpose of the cover photo was to cause a sensation and drive sales

Not to be outdone Newsweek’s cover May 14th cover declares Obama “the first gay president,” with a story by writ

er Andrew Sullivan.  With Tina Brown at the helm, Newsweek has recently a number of controversial covers, but here the envelope is being pushed with a vengeance.   The cover, which shows President Obama with a rainbow halo above his head, comes days after Obama’s statement that he is personally in favor of gay marriage.

The article draws parallels between the isolation felt by many in the homosexual community and Obama’s struggle to fully discover and assert his racial identity.  But again, the image and the tag were less about the article and more about the marketing.

As with the Time breastfeeding cover, it is the Newsweek cover photo and tagline that will be remembered and that will cause a stir.  Here, the major news magazines, which have taken tremendous blows during the past few years, primarily because of the internet, are now utilizing the power of social media to sell magazines.

It’s an interesting irony and in a way marks a bit of a 180 turn.  The traditional media using the tremendous power of social media to market it wares.  This is indicative of how public relations, social media and the traditional media have in a sense all melded into one.  You can no longer separate one from the other and, if as a marketer you fail to see that – you lose.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2012

Martinson, Jane. “Are you mom enough?’ … Time magazine Photograph: AP”. Photo. The Guardian. 14 May 2012. 14 May 2012. < http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/the-womens-blog-with-jane-martinson/2012/may/14/breast-best-row-time-magazine?newsfeed=true>
Harrigan, Matt. “Newsweek cover calls Barack Obama ‘the first gay president’.” Photo. Syracuse.com. 14 May 2012. 14 May 2012. <http://www.syracuse.com/have-you-heard/index.ssf/2012/05/newsweek_cover_calls_barack_ob.html>

Alice Cooper, Pat Benatar PR- & You

I began in the media world as a freelance writer.  My focus was on music, primarily rock.  I learned how the PR and marketing machines worked, but also learned how working with their teams, rock acts formed their own brands and created their own legends.  For example, two of the rock stars I interviewed, Alice Cooper and Pat Benatar and Kate took very different paths and approaches, but both created an image and a brand that defined them, and made them quite a bit of money.

Alice (Vincent Damon Furnier) had perhaps the most fun of any rock star with his mage, paving the way for KISS and a plethora of shock rock bands.  The band was the house band at the Whiskey on the Sunset Strip and became the band to walk out on (something I had to admit to Alice that I had done myself).  As the image and act grew, he added guillotines, electric chairs, fake blood, boa constrictors, and baby dolls to his act, drawing on a number of  influences from horror films, and vaudeville acts, to the more theatrical Broadway musicals.  He pioneered an over-the-top, theatrical and uber violent brand of heavy metal created to shock and rock.  In person, Alice is a fun, funny amiable guy, who talks about his alter ego with a wink and a smile.

Not as over the top as Alice, Benatar created her own alter ego.  Initially Benatar’s focus was on classical and Broadway theatrical styles. Rock did not seem to be in the cards.  Inspired by Liza Millelli she quit her job as a bank teller and decided to give a singing career a stab.  Yet, Out of that Pat Benatar the rock sex goddess was born, which lead to two multi platinum albums and decades of success.  Again this was a case of creating a brand, an image and turning that brand into a career and an amazingly successful business.

You might think you have nothing in common with Alice Copper or Pat Benatar, but (surprise) you’re wrong.  Chances are you’re not launching a new rock act (then again maybe you are), but the basic gameplan of creating a brand and an image is the same whether you’re an entertainer, an entrepreneur, a physician, an attorney, a jeweler, or the owner of a new social media site.  You want to establish your brand.  You want to create that message, story and image that is specifically you and that separates you from the competition.  Your brand and story can be loud and carnival like or extremely subtle and sophisticated.  It depends on you and your company.   You’re image probably won’t have much to do with spandex, guillotines, or over the top make up.  Then again, if it does – use it!

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2012

 Ochs, Michael. “Alice Cooper.” Photo. Rolling Stone. 02 May 2012. <http://www.rollingstone.com/music/artists/alice-cooper>

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;

Square Hits a PR Grand Slam

What could be a better PR coup than having both the Republican and the Democrats using your device in the race for the White House?  Either way you win, even with the loser.  And that’s exactly what Square has accomplished.  One of the newest technologies to be adopted by the Obama and the Romney campaign is called Square, a mobile payment card reading device.  Members of both campaigns are being equipped with this device that enables the campaigns to accept donations on various devices including Androids, Iphone, Ipads, etc.

To quote a Square spokesperson: “Whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, running for president or local assembly, Square makes it easier than ever for candidates, organizations and volunteers to fundraise for their cause.”

Square makes fundraising easy which makes candidates and their teams happier.  Generally a campaign needed to solicit checks or cash.  There were always credit cards but the paperwork and tracking could be a fundraiser nightmare.

Square makes donating and receiving easy.  Donations are immodestly processed and the company sends receipts via SMS or email.  Political fundraisers can’t escape the reporting requirements and processing fees, but overall Square offers them a fundraising dream.

The special app for accepting Square payments for the Obama campaign will soon be available to the public and then the game is on. The Obama campaign reportedly raised $42 million in the last quarter of 2011.  As the campaign goes into full gear, that number is sure to rise, add the Republican race to that and Square is going to be seeing quite a bit of money flow through its system.

The capital Square will take in by working with both parties is significant, since the company is basically a start up.  But even more significant in the long run are the PR and marketing opportunities that are now afforded them.  Their media relations and publicity efforts are in full swing (or at least they should be).

Companies pay celebrities big bucks to endorse their products or services.  In this case Square’s clients are being afforded the biggest spotlight there is and some of that spotlight falls directly on Square.  Public relations, particularly media relations can benefit quite a bit with the help of celebrity names.  Think of designers or make up companies that tie their brands to those of specific celebrities.  If a celebrity uses a product and word hits the media, sales of that product generally soar.  Seldom is a company afforded the type of media exposure that Square can now command.   It will be interesting to see how they utilize this opportunity.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2012

Pinoytutorial. “Square app”. Photo. Techtorial. 25 May 2011. 03 Feb. 2012. <http://pinoytutorial.com/techtorial/square-pay-with-your-name-review-how-to-guide-and-tutorial/>

Flacy, Mike. “Obama Square App”. Photo. Digital Trends. 31 Jan 2012. 03 Feb. 2012. <http://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/will-mobile-campaign-donations-be-a-game-changer-for-politicians/>

Starbucks’ Spirited PR Gamble

A Big Mac along with a glass of chardonnay?  Who knows?  That could be on the way.  Starbucks is heading in that direction.  The chain will soon be selling beer and wine in select locations.  Four to six stores in the Southern California area will offer alcoholic beverages by the end of this year, as will some stores in Atlanta and Chicago

The chain began testing its new spirited approach in Seattle in 2010. Starbucks now offers beers for $5 and wines by the glass for $7 to $9 in five locations in that city and one in Portland, Oregon.

The questions are: what will this move do to the Starbucks brand? And how will customers have to change their habits in order for it to pay off?  Currently the chain makes most of its daily sales by 2 p.m., which explains the foray into the spirit business.  On the other hand around 75% of Starbucks customers are there for take out.  That won’t work in the beer and wine business.  These customers will have to say and enjoy their beverages in-house.  And what about the kids and teens that have made Starbucks one of their staples.  Will mom and dad be happy sending their kids to a beer and wine establishment?

If this were Europe, there would be no issue.  There families are used to going to pubs or cafes where coffee, food and spirits are sold.  But, the U.S. isn’t France or England and we generally have a different take on where liquor should and shouldn’t be served.  And what happens when a Starbucks barista has to 86 someone?  What will be the protocol for that?

Starbucks has built an amazing worldwide brand.  It has regularly changed its menu offering different types of drinks and food items, but a jump into the world of beer and wine is a big one.  Adding a new pastry, sandwich or fruit drink does not risk compromising the chain’s brand, but offering a happy hour where sprits flow freely will challenge the way many of its customers view the company.

Only time will tell if this gamble will pay off.  Because it directly impacts their brand recognition, it could either turn out to be a PR miscue or a public relations homerun.  Chances are it will land somewhere in the middle.  Since they are only experimenting with a handful of stores, if the publicity effect is extremely negative, they can quickly shut the program down.  But if the reaction is simply lukewarm, or only somewhat negative, they will most likely give the news stores a fair shot and launch a media relations campaign extolling the virtues of this new approach.  If it works, it could become a one stop shop for buying one’s stimulants in the morning and depressants in the evening.  The next big question could be, how are they going to get people to leave?

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2012

Sato, Kiichiro. “Starbucks’ alcohol menu being tested in a handful of shops in Seattle and one in Portland, Ore., includes Rogue Dead Guy Ale, a Pinot Noir from Oregon, a Prosecco from Italy and a Malbec from Argentina. Above, a Starbucks in Chicago. ” Photo. Los Angeles Times. 24, Jan. 2012. 25, Jan. 2012. <http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-starbucks-beer-20120124,0,5910879.story&gt;

An American Renaissance

In the 1950’s the Soviet Union told the U.S. that they would bury us and that history was on their side.  In the 1980s everyone was convinced that Japan was about to eclipse the Unites States as the world economic power.  Now we’re told to make way to China.  Some argue for what is described as a multipolar world with many dominant forces, but most are betting that the scenario will be one in which China supplants the U.S. as the primary power in the global economy.

The difference this time around is that most Americans seem to buy into this prediction.  Gloom and doom seem to be the order of the day.  Yes we’re going through rough times, but as someone I was speaking to who came here from Eastern Europe recently told me, “You people have no idea how good you have it.  You’re worried about the unemployment rate rising.  When I grew up, I didn’t have running water!”  It’s true that many of us are going through truly horrendous times, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s also true that Americans truly don’t know how good they have it.

The American spirit seems to have changed.  In the past when these greatly exaggerated reports about America’s demise surfaced, we would scoff at them, not in a complacent way; it was a response that made us work harder and become even more productive and resilient.  Now it seems that we simply shrug and give way to what we see as the inevitable.  Yes, there are strong and compelling arguments as to why China could overtake us by 2030, but a lot has to fall into place for that prediction to come true. China has an aging population, and who knows how stable the Chinese government will be a few years down the line.  But, what I’m talking about has nothing to do with China.  The issue isn’t whether China is eclipsing the U.S; it’s whether American’s are now willing to be eclipsed.  We never were before.  We were the dreamers who made dreams come true, we were the beacon to the world, the land of opportunity.  People from all corners of the globe have risked their lives to land on these shores.

Maybe it’s the political polarization that has caused this shift.  One section of America is so busy warring with another that we’ve truly become a house divided.  It’s as though we’re fighting the civil war again, but it’s not physical carnage this time, it’s spiritual and emotional carnage.  We have become so focused on fighting one another that we’ve forgotten the immense power of a unified American.

It’s up to us.  The politicians are locked in a 24/7 reelection strategy.  The system is set up so that no sooner does a politician get office than his or her focus is on how to stay there, as opposed to how to truly serve the country.  Yes, we need them to act wisely, but if we simply wait for them, we’re in trouble.  This is still America.  Not that long ago, during the boom of the 1990’s, we were growing at an amazing 2.7% per head.  We can do it again.

So what does all of this have to do with PR or with launching a public relations campaign?  A lot actually.  If collectively we shift the narrative from why the U.S. is on an unstoppable downward spiral, my bet is we can move forward.  If we change our perspective and focus on why America is once again going to thrive and on building, creating and growing a vibrant economy – we win!   It’s time for an American renaissance.  As a nation that’s been our staple.  We specialize in new starts, new beginnings.  Why stop now?

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2011

Controlling Your Media Image: Why Many Celebrities Fail

Generally those who have the most trouble trying to utilize the media are those that have no real idea how it works.  Simply because someone is a celebrity, or head of state, and has been continually highlighted in the media, doesn’t mean he or she truly understands the inner workings of the press.  Appearing in front of the camera day after day does not make one an expert in the process.  Those who have had the most media coverage are often the ones that have the most naive or delusional take on how the media actually works.  Often when celebrities run into a damage control situation (such as the Charlie Sheen fiasco) they believe they are the story, where generally it’s the train wreck that’s the real story.  They simply happen to be the ones driving that train.  They eventually end up trying to put out fire with gasoline and their media and image problems only continue to grow.

It used to be that newspapers, magazines, along with network and cable TV, defined and shaped the stories we read or watched.  We’re now in the world of citizen journalists and social media.  Twitter or Facbook not only distribute information, now they become stories in and of themselves.  For example, when Sarah Palin or Charlie Sheen posts a Tweet and you suddenly have a news story.  But, as we’ve all seen, they don’t necessarily control that story.  Tweets and posts take on a life of their own and can often backfire.

Whereas many have tried to utilize the media for their own ends and have failed, there are cases where individuals have been able to achieve their ends.  Howard Stern was certainly a master of utilizing the media.  Those that are most successful, like Stern, generally have a media outlet where they can actively control the message if it starts to run amok.  Glen Beck comes to mind.  He has a nightly forum where he can shape his message.  It’s much more difficult to control if you are outside of the media.  Yet we’ve all seen damage control scenarios where a celebrity or politician goes on the “right” shows to get his or her message across and then steps back.  That can work.  But it is getting more and more difficult now.  Interacting with the media isn’t something that should be taken lightly.  There are inherent dangers in carelessly playing the media game and being a celebrity or a “star”, does not immune you.  In fact the bull’s-eye on your back is all the bigger.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2011

 

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