PR: The Play

An office.  Two men are sitting at a table.  One is talking very animatedly.  The other is listening and occasionally taking notes.  

Client:  You don’t understand, this is a story that the media will pay you to pitch them.  Listen, I know PR.  I could probably teach you a few things.

PR Consultant:  I’m not quite sure about the way you want it presented.  I mean the fact that you can change people’s lives is great.  But we need to show the media how you do that.  We need to offer them transformational stories with a strong narrative.

Client:  Just tell them to read my book.

PR Consultant:  You can’t always count on them reading your book.  We need to give them short, concise easy to understand pitches that will offer them a good story.  We need to pitch a story that meets the media’s needs.

Client:  (Irritated) What do you mean they won’t read my book?  Do you know how long it took me to write that book?  Do you know how much time, effort, money, blood, sweat and tears went into creating that book? (Raising his voice)  And now you’re telling me they won’t read my book?

PR Consultant:   Some will, but our job is to get them to talk about your book, to get them to interest the public in buying and reading your book.

Client:  Well that’s your job.  Do it.  And besides, I’m telling you, it’s easy.  As soon as they hear about my book and read it they are all going to be begging me to go on the show or to do interviews with me.  I’m telling you.  This is basically shooting fish in a barrel.  You should be paying me.

PR Consultant:  Believe me no campaign is easy.  What we need are stories that grab the media’s attention.  The way we do that is by pitching them stories that will appeal to their readers, viewers or listeners.  We need to think backwards from their perspective.  Once we meet their needs, we’ll meet yours.

Client: (Starting to lose his patience) I’m telling you; just explain to them that I change lives.  There’s really no one else out there like me.  I can’t believe Oprah went off the air.  She would have begged to have me on

PR Consultant:   What we need are specifics.  We need specific stories that we can pitch to women’s magazines, news publications, talk shows, etc.  That’s what I wanted to go over today, specific stories on how what you do changed the lives of people you’ve worked with.  Their transformational stories are your best stories.  For example, when representing a physician, I’ll focus on patient stories, that way you can see the impact, the transformation and people relate to that.

Client:  You don’t get it, this isn’t about my clients: it’s about me!  I don’t see why you just don’t send them my book and then call them and get me on national TV.  You’re making this much more complicated than it needs to be.  I tell you once they read my book, it’s a done deal.  This is easy; I should have my own TV show by next season, right?

                                                                                                Lights Fade: End Act One

Yep, true story.  He wasn’t a bad guy, he simply didn’t understand the process or the media’s needs.  More importantly, he didn’t want to take the time to learn how the process works, educate himself and pitch towards his strengths.  What I needed were short, concise, transformational stories.  I needed to be able to show the media how he transformed people’s lives.  To him it was obvious.  It was all about him and it was all in his book.  But the story was not about him, it was about how he changed people’s lives.  His client’s stories were his best story.

As to having the media read the book, the trouble is that nine times out of ten the media’s not going to take the time to read it.  They’re going to look at the cover, read the back page and read a press release.  And you have to sell them on the story then and there.  It had a second act and a good ending.  We met again and were able to come up with some specific story ideas that grabbed the media’s interest and his PR campaign was a successful one.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2011

PR 2.0: Succeeding in the New Media World

When it comes to distribution and media outlets, PR has changed dramatically.  Mailing used to be the standard way of sending out information (actually it’s not a bad approach now a days, since everyone is getting so adept at hitting their keyboard delete button). But on the whole mailing in many ways has become archaic.  The number of media outlets and what defines a media outlet has also shifted.  Yet the basics of PR, which include defining your objectives, defining your stories, learning how to present your stories, defining your target market(s), and creating a media contact list that reaches your target market(s), remain the same.  Although the distribution channels have changed, and the internet has redefined who and what the media actually is, the public relations basics remain constant.

This truly is a situation where the more things change, the more they remain the same.  You still want to reach your prospective customers, you want to tell a compelling story, you want to give a call to action, and you want to demonstrate your value.  None of that has changed.  That is all as it always has been.  Yet, while the core basics remain the same, it’s true that just about everything else has changed. Mailing a release to editors and producers and making follow up calls is no longer the sole name of the game.  It is still a part of the process, but only a part, the media relations terrain is constantly evolving and the changes have made the process more intricate, not less.  Placing a press release on one of the paid wire services is not going to meet your public relations objectives.  Anyone can write what they consider to be a press release and send it out to a number of contacts and place it on a wire service.  The trouble is just about anyone does, so most of those releases remain totally ignored.  They might end up on some websites, but most of the time, little more than that will happen.

Many business owners think because there are the paid wires, blogs and social media sites that they can now effectively launch their own campaigns.  That sounds good in theory, but a do it yourself approach generally backfires.  Your best bet is to hire a company or a consultant who knows the terrain and can run your campaign for you.  In a sense this truly is the Wild West when it comes to PR.  There are those marketing experts who will tell you that they know exactly where PR is heading, but they’re all making educated guesses.  It’s a rapidly changing world.  Whereas social media and blogging have actually made traditional PR more important than ever, and as the internet and new communication devices evolve, the process of media relations itself is continually changing and evolving.

For example where you still want to pitch mainstream media in the traditional way, the following is an approach that would have been impossible only a few years ago.  Many high profile media outlets have added a box on their site that reports on various blog posts to the site.  One approach is to write a blog referencing a specific article from one of the magazines or newspapers that you’re interested in getting coverage in; then link your blog using a trackback link.  A trackback is a way of request notification when somebody links to one of your blog posts.  You can then submit it to Technorati.com.  Technorati will report it and the publication will link to you.  That was not a possibility a few years ago.   Whereas that can be valuable, and worth a shot, keep in mind it’s not the same as being interviewed by or featured in said publication.

In the world of PR 2.0, the internet has revolutionized how media and publicity campaigns are run.  The most effective PR approach is one that includes traditional public relations, blogging and social media.  The media world is no longer as clearly defined as it once was.  Social media sites and blogs have become as important as newspapers and TV outlets.  Make sure that you don’t confuse social media with online marketing.  Social media facilitates communications and conversations between people – it is not the practice of social marketing.

By understanding the new media world and combining your social media strategy and blogging with a traditional PR campaign you can create a powerful three-pronged 2.0  approach which results in more followers, more buzz, more customers and more business.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2011

Media Facts: You Think Editors Have Time to Read?

When launching a PR campaign, remember this is truly a case where less is more.  The less editors or producers have to read, the better the chances they’ll actually read it.  You want your information to be concise, to the point and interesting.  Even though you may be sending your release to a magazine editor, the ironic truth is that that editors have no time to read press releases.  He or she is busy trying to get stories assigned and produced or published.  If you send a four-or -five-page release, no matter how impeccable it looks or how perfect the grammar or form is – no one’s going to want, or have the time, to read it.

It all comes down to your story; is your pitch interesting, exciting?  Will it meet the media’s needs?  If not, don’t mail it, fax it, e-mail it or let it leave your office.  Start again.
Do your homework.  Put yourself in the media’s place and come up with a story idea that will grab their attention.

Your stories don’t have to always be different or unique, put you do need to present them in the right way.  For example, let’s say you own a hair salon, and it’s getting near the end of the year.  Write a “New Look For The New Year” release in which you outline how you can give clients a new, personalized look to start the New Year with a fresh start.  You might even want to invite the media to follow a client through the before and after process.  The media always needs holiday stories.  This way the media comes away with a visually interesting holiday story, and you come away with an effective piece which establishes you as an innovator in your field.

Remember, you’re not trying to reinvent the wheel or come up with a completely unique idea or pitch each time.  You are trying to come up with useable, interesting story ideas that meet the media’s needs; meet their needs and in turn, you’ll meet your’s.  They’ll end up with a compelling story and you’ll garner coverage for your business and establish yourself as an expert in your field.

Copyright  Anthony Mora 2010

The Six Greatest PR Myths Part 3 (5 & 6)

5) I TRIED PR; IT DIDIN’T WORK

Your best quotes were cut from your story. You didn’t like the way you looked. They forgot to mention where you’re located. They gave the story a negative slant – and you’re not going to stand for it! You’re going to call that editor or segment producer and give him or her a piece of your mind. Wonderful. There’s a word for what you’re about to do – suicide. Never, ever, ever call and complain because you didn’t like the way a story came out. If information, date, time, etc., was reported incorrectly, you can politely call to set the record straight, but if you weren’t given the amount of time you felt you warranted, if you weren’t made the star, if other people were given more prominence than you, or even if you ended up being cut out of the article or segment altogether – those are the breaks. Use whatever media coverage you do get to get a better piece next time. You’re going to run into these situations. I guarantee it. So come to terms with it now.

Realize that either you just didn’t quite fit the piece (this happens sometimes) or your quotes didn’t quite make it. Do some homework and give them a better interview next time. Make it a learning experience. But never, ever, call the media to complain that you weren’t given enough space or enough time. There will be promises made that won’t be kept. Stories will be killed (not used). Everything that you can imagine will happen. They’re all learning experiences, and you go into the game knowing that.  But also realize that if you stick to it, each step is a step closer to your ultimate goal.  That article that only had a one-sentence quote, can help garner you a larger piece, which can lead to a TV segment, etc.

6) THE GRAND SLAM

One of the primary reasons people become so angry and bitter with publicity is because of what I call the grand slam mentality. Too many people believe that the next TV interview or magazine article is going to be it. It’s going to change their lives. That one story will turn it all around. All of their problems will be over. Millions will pour in, they’ll be able to move to the Bahamas and retire. Well, it doesn’t happen that way. So, you’d best come back to earth with the rest of us. You are doing publicity, not playing the lottery. I have had clients who have called, furious that their appearance on a national talk show or in a national magazine did not result in thousands of calls. One particular client was especially disappointed when her national TV spot only resulted in a couple of hundred calls in two days. Personally I thought a couple hundred calls from one segment, was great. Even though those calls paid for my service many times over, they did not fulfill her grand slam expectations. It was not the super jackpot, overnight, life-altering event she had hoped for.

Then again, rare as they are, grand slams do happen. Keep in mind, there is the other side of the coin. Sometimes you hit a home run when you least expect it. Be prepared. There are times when what you think will be a small piece will turn into a major article or TV segment. So, even though you don’t spend your time dreaming of hitting a grand slam, you had better prepare for it if you hit one.

Not long ago I worked with a small, struggling company that barely made enough to stay afloat. We were able to place what turned out to be a seven-minute segment on their product on a national TV program. The segment was perfect. We couldn’t have done a better job of presenting the product in a positive light. Well, the piece struck a cord. It hit, and hit big. Calls poured in from all over the country. The demand was overwhelming, so much so that their phone lines blew. As far as we can figure, they received close to half a million calls in a little over a week. But they weren’t prepared. The company that handled their telemarketing was not equipped to handle the amount of calls that came in, the company itself did not have enough product in stock to fulfill the demand, their supplier had a slow turn-around time, and, unbeknownst to me, they had not secured a merchant account and were unable to accept credit card orders over the phone. Eventually they were able to secure a merchant account and fulfill some of the orders. Here was an incredible media success story that was not utilized. They were not prepared to capitalize on what could have been a grand slam.

The moral is, you never know how powerful your PR campaign can be unless you do it correctly, use the media that comes your way and give the campaign time to build.  Not every article or segment is going to be a grand slam.  Use that one quote, or that one sentence, or whatever you come away with, in your releases, and bios. Use what you can and keep moving forward.   That one quote can lead to a feature story, which can lead to a TV segment.  That one small quote can be the seed that grows into an amazing success story – yours!

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2010

 

The Six Greatest PR Myths Busted

Hey Everyone,

There is a lot here.  So today we’ll start with the first 2 greatest PR Myths:

1) I CAN’T USE NATIONAL MEDIA

2) I DON’T WANT TO BE IN THE MEDIA, I JUST WANT TO BE SUCCESSFUL

...check out the next few days posts to get the next 4:

3) I’M A NATURAL STAR.  THEY WILL BE BEATTING DOWN MY DOOR.

4) I’M NOT INTERESTING ENOUGH TO DO PR

5) I TRIED PR; IT DIDIN’T WORK

6) THE GRAND SLAM

Thanks!

Anthony

When it comes to public relations, often what appears to be the obvious decision is the wrong decision. What makes it especially difficult is that, (as you’ll learn once you decide to launch a campaign) everyone thinks that they know all there is to know about publicity. You will be given advice from your neighbors, co-workers, pastors, janitors, clients, patients, relatives – you name it.

I once worked as the editor for a magazine publisher who had a tendency to listen to, and take advice from, any and everyone he met. When he went to lunch, I used to pray that the elevator would be empty and that he’d go for drive-through fast food where no one would talk to him. If he spoke to a waitress, a salesperson, or a stranger in an elevator, he would invariably call me into his office and propose that we implement some revolutionary suggestions that he had been given. Never mind that nine times out of ten these changes were totally inappropriate, as far as he was concerned they were dynamic, new – revolutionary!

People love to give advice, whether they know what they’re talking about or not. Remember, these people who tell you exactly how you should run your business have nothing at stake, which is why they can afford to make such definitive and authoritative pronouncements.  So, when these know-it-alls give you advice, smile, listen, maybe even nod, but stay on course.

The following are a few of the PR myths that you don’t want to fall prey to.  There are more than I’m listing here, but the following is a list of the most common mistakes I watch people make, day, after day, after day, after…

1) I CAN’T USE NATIONAL MEDIA

We live in the information age. If you’re resourceful and inventive enough, you can come up with an interesting story, hook, or idea that will interest the national media. I know, you think that you could never garner national media – your story’s simply not exciting enough. But you’re wrong; you can interest the national media. No, you’re probably thinking, even if you could land some national stories, you have no possible use for national media, so what difference does it make? It would just be a waste of time and money for you. You’re based in a little town called Nowhereville, USA, so what good would a story that hits all fifty states do you?  It’s obvious I just don’t understand your needs.

Well, let’s see. As to your first point, that you don’t have a story that could interest the national media: Why not? Why couldn’t you generate national interest in your story? Remember everyone who is quoted in Time magazine, or interviewed on the Today show lives and works in some local town or city. Take a look at all of the possible angles available. What makes your story different, unique? Is there some trend or new breakthrough in your field that affects not only your particular business, but your profession as a whole? Are there other similar types of businesses or professionals that you can help weave into your story to give it a broader appeal? Study all of the possibilities. Give your story a wider, more national scope.

Regardless of the field you are in, you want to pitch your story in a way where you remove the local or regional barrier. You are pitching a story that will interest the nation as a whole. Brainstorm, come up with different ideas. You’ll find some, just give it time. Don’t ignore your local angles. Use them for your local media, but remember, you can and should transcend your city boundary lines. From my experience, I’ve found that it’s as easy or as hard (depending on how you want to look at it), to place national media, as it is to land local and regional press.

Now let’s look at why you’d want to garner national publicity, if you only have a local business. People aren’t going to fly in from around the country to use your plumbing service or buy insurance from you, or try the newest item on your menu, are they? Maybe, but probably not. So then, is national publicity a waste? Most people will probably tell you so. Most people will tell you to stay local, because that’s where your bread and butter is.

Granted, most people are going to want local media; that’s where they live, that’s where their business is based, that’s where they’re going to sell their products, get their clients to sell their service. So, why am I telling you to pitch the national press? Because, a national story will establish you as an expert in your field. You will be able to put your media credits in your releases and bios and, most importantly, national media can help drive your local media through the roof.

Let’s say that you land a thirty-second quote on CNN. Now what? You move as quickly as possible and let your local media outlets know that you were recently featured on CNN. You, small-town business person from Nowhereville, USA, were featured on the national news. Heck, that in itself is news. Believe me, nothing impresses the media more than media. Now you’re national news and you’re in a position to garner local news. National media feeds the local media. It takes some thought, work and persistence, but the rewards can be incredible.

If you initially don’t land any national interest, don’t let that deter or depress you. Keep at it, and remember, the process also works in reverse. Once you receive local publicity, you can use that as ammunition to approach the national media again. If local press is your main priority, that’s where your emphasis should be. But don’t overlook the national media. It can help establish you as an expert in your field and help you land major local stories.
2) I DON’T WANT TO BE IN THE MEDIA, I JUST WANT TO BE SUCCESSFUL

A lot of people have resistance to doing media. They don’t want to do interviews, they don’t want to be an “expert,” they just want their business to be successful. If you feel that way, ask yourself what you’re willing to do to be successful. Are you willing to utilize the most powerful marketing tool available? Are you willing to utilize the magic of the media, and give your business a real chance for success?

An incredible marketing tool is being offered to those who are willing to utilize it. Effective media placement isn’t about wanting to be a star or wanting to appear in the media – it’s about success. It’s about establishing yourself as an expert in your field and zooming beyond your competition. Publicity is a creative, effective, relatively inexpensive, and dynamic way to achieve success. You are not positioning yourself as a “star” or an entertainer, but as an expert in your field. You are establishing yourself as an invaluable resource for the media. You probably don’t like to pay the bills, or do the books, or shop for your best suppliers, but you do it because it’s part of doing business. It is a part of your bottom line. Media placement should also be an integral part of that equation. You do it because you want to be successful. Period.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2010

Working on the Media’s Timetable

Unlike advertising, direct marketing, online marketing or other types of promotion, when it comes to traditional public relations, keep in mind that the media works on its own schedule.  Short lead news-oriented media outlets such as newspapers, TV and radio plan much of their content around the news of the day.  Long lead publications that specialize in certain areas such as beauty, fitness or entertainment, are not as news-driven, but they too can change plans or direction at a moment’s notice.

That’s not always easy when you’re a business owner with your own busy schedule.  Your time is valuable. You have a business to run, clients to take care of, or products to sell.  It’s difficult to (and sometimes not possible) to drop whatever you’re doing to do an interview on the media’s time table.  But that is often the reality of dealing with the press and if you play it smart, it can pay off for you big time.  Although you will usually have time to plan and arrange your schedule to do an interview, that is not always going to be the case.  There are going to be times that the media wants to do an interview and wants to do it immediately, or wants to schedule it at a time that is inconvenient, or (the most annoying of all) reschedules it at the last minute, forcing you to, once again, change your plans.  First of all keep in mind, that producer or editor is not intentionally scheduling a time in order to make your life more difficult.  He or she is juggling a number of stories and working on several deadlines.  You wouldn’t believe the amount of times that an editor or producer has to switch from one story to another on a moment’s notice. A million things can come up, a fire, an international breaking story, a Presidential speech; any number of stories are going to preempt you.  This is just the nature of the business.  It happens all the time.  Keep in mind by working with them; you are positioning yourself and your business as the news.

But to do so you need to work with the media.  For example, don’t tell the producer of a national morning news show that they have to come to your office to shoot the segment and that you’re only available on Saturday between 1 and 3 p.m.   That’s a guaranteed recipe for never getting on that show.  Remember you meet your needs by meeting the media’s needs.

There may be times that you’re just not going to be able to accommodate their schedule. There are going to be some interviews that you’ll have to miss.  But only miss an interview if it’s completely unavoidable – the plague, an alien invasion – you get the picture.  You may be annoyed, and you may be angry, but if you can possibly arrange your schedule so that you can make the interview, do it.

Above all keep in mind that if an interview is changed, or if your segment is bumped, don’t take your anger or disappointment out on the interviewer or the producer.  That might make you feel better while you’re ranting and raving, but once that’s done, all you’ve accomplished is burning a valuable bridge.  Always keep your objective in mind. Your objective is to build your business, to create success through media exposure.  Never forget that only media reaches your target market and offers you the credibility of being featured as a news story.  No other form of marketing offers that type of validating exposure.  Your objective is to do those interviews, and use that media exposure to gain more coverage, not to alienate the press. Media begets media.  Every interview you do is helping to pave your way to greater success.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2010

For further information visit:
www.AnthonyMora.com

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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