Media Relations Tips

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Here's some ways to turn press releases into press coverage

I was at a holiday party this past weekend and had a chance to talk with some reporters and PR folks.  I asked each person what was the biggest problem businesses faced when trying to pitch stories.  I was shocked that nearly all of the reporters and PR professionals agreed that finding a compelling story was the one thing businesses had the most trouble doing.

It is always amazing to me that businesses can’t seem to figure out the stories that make them interesting.  In that vain, here are five areas of your business where you can find that great story that can turn your press releases into press coverage.

HIGHLIGHT YOUR GOOD DEEDS

There’s one thing that most, if not all, news people bristle at is the perception that all they’re interested in is bad news.  It’s just not true.  News folks are interested in stories that are not “normal.”  Those stories can be good or bad, just not typical.  Here’s how this can work for you.  Do you as a company raise millions of dollars for a good cause?  Do you give away free products to the disadvantaged?  If you do, you need get a press release out, stat.  You see, you’re not “normal.”  There are many businesses out there who don’t do charity so finding one that does is newsworthy.  Reporters love positive news stories just as much as bad news stories, and the fact that your company is so charitable is news.  Let them know.

“SUPER” EMPLOYEES

Support and highlight your employees who are doing something super

What do your employees do when their not working for you?  If you don’t know, you should find out.   Too many Support and highlight your employees who are doing something super businesses don’t think about how their employees non-work actions can affect them, but it can.  Learn about your employees and support them when they do extraordinary stuff.  It would be a shame if you had employees that went to the mountains every weekend to help disable kids learn how to ski and you didn’t help them and tell the media about it.

OFFICE CULTURE

Why do people like working for you?  Yes, it might be that you give them 20% more money than anyone else, but more likely it has something to do with your office culture.  Do you allow dogs?  Do you have flexible hours?  Do you have a swimming pool in the main lobby?  If you do, I bet a news organization would love to do a story on it.

GENUINE INNOVATION

This area is where most businesses try to get news coverage but fail.  The reason is that their products are not interesting.  Look, I understand that to a company that makes rugs, using a brand new type of thread is interesting, but to the rest of us its not.  If you are using thread, however, that makes your rugs last for 200 years, or makes sure that nothing will ever stain them, or it makes your rugs fly…THAT is genuine innovation.  If your company is doing something that makes the average person on the street go “wow,” that’s a reason to let the press know.  By the way, that should exclude about 98% of the things businesses are currently writing press releases about now.

Are you an expert? Let reporters know.

EXPERTISE

Are you an expert in your field?  Do you have people on your staff who are experts?  I mean real “other folks come to you asking for help” expert, then you should notify the press.  Reporters are always looking to stack their Rolodex with experts they can call at a moments notice to help them with a subject.  Even better, tie your expertise in with something that is happening in the news.  You’d be surprised how often reporters are looking for experts.  Writing that press release will let those reporters know that you are the expert they should call.

To be sure, the hard and fast rule about sending out press releases is “less is more.”  But by examining these five areas of your business, you might just find a great story which will help you succeed in turning your press releases into genuine news coverage.

*(If you’re interested in hiring me you can go here for more information.)

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Andrew Hudson just got back from Argentina and shot this video.

Not only is this fantastic video but it reinforces that lessons can be learned everywhere, we just need look.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOS8JGQ1gFU]

 

What is the lesson?  Nothing worth learning is gained easily, Grasshopper.

Read the rest of this entry »

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The player at the center of it all, Cam Newton

Cam Newton, for the non-sports enthusiast, is the starting quarterback for the Auburn Tigers football team.  He is the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy as the best football player of the year.  He is also facing allegations that he received money to attend Auburn University, a big no-no.  If it is proved he took money, any game he plays in will have to be forfeited.

 

Wednesday, a tweet went out quoting ESPN’s Ian Fitzsimmons saying that Newton would not be playing this week against Georgia.  Here’s what happened next, from Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

There was story and multiple messages on Twitter earlier Wednesday that referenced an ESPN Dallas report that Newton was on the verge of being suspended, possibly within “three to four hours.”

So what happens?  Legal sports books in Las Vegas, unsure about the validity of the information and seeing millions of dollars suddenly being bet on the underdog Georgia, were forced to stop taking bets on the game.  Costing those sports books even more millions.

One problem though,

In fact, the ESPN reporter, Ian Fitzsimmons, says he was misquoted, that all he said was a story like this can change in three or four hours.

Oops!

Here are three lessons you must learn from “The Cam Newton Effect.”

SOCIAL MEDIA IS A POWERFUL TOOL, BUT JUST A TOOL

Social media is a powerful tool, but just a tool

 

Social media is a tool that can be used to help or hurt your company.  Using social media effectively can help you spread good news about your company very quickly.  It can also spread bad or false news about your company very quickly. There was no fact checking on the Cam Newton allegations, but that didn’t matter.  Social media doesn’t know what’s true, or what you meant to say.  You, and you alone must take responsibility for making sure the right messages get publicized with social media.

 

If you have a plan, you won't need this

YOU MUST HAVE A SOCIAL MEDIA CRISIS PLAN

 

If something comes out on social media about your company that’s incorrect, or reflects poorly on you, there will be no time to figure out how to deal with it.  You literally have minutes. You must have a plan that you can implement right away to minimize any damage.  The elapsed time from the first Twitter about Cam Newton until Las Vegas was forced to stop taking bets was about four hours.  Four hours.  You have to be prepared with a social media crisis plan.

YOU MUST BE USING SOCIAL MEDIA TO LISTEN

If you are not monitoring social media right now to find out what is being said about you and your company, you could be letting bad information fester and grow like a cancer.   You wouldn’t let false information about your company be circulated at a dinner party you were attending, why would you ignore it online?  The damage that can happen to a company in just one day from bad online information could be titanic.  The best part is it’s really not that hard to monitor.  Here’s how.

Listen up...social media's talking about you

 

Additionally, I use Yoono on my browser.  It gives me a side browser that lets me see all my social media accounts in one stream.  It’s constantly running and updating while I’m online.  A pretty handy tool if you ask me.

“The Cam Newton Effect” illustrated how powerful social media has become.  But as Spider-man’s uncle said “with great power comes great responsibility.”   I hope these tips help you to understand just how important that responsibility is to your company.

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Creating video is easier than ever

It’s happened to every public relations professional.  You have a client with an awesome story and you want to publicize it.  Problem is, by the time you’ve described the story your press release is five pages long, way too long to send to any reporters.

Back to the drawing board you go.

Keeping the message simple can be difficult.  In fact, it’s probably the one thing that P.R. folk struggle with most.  But there is a solution, and that is to integrate multi-media into your P.R. efforts.

The saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”  So use those photos, that video, audio, and even some animation to simplify your message and make your P.R. efforts pop.

Here’s four areas of public relations where multi-media efforts can help you.

PRESS RELEASES

Now, back in the day, when press releases were sent via mail or fax, adding multi-media was a real chore that had very little chance of succeeding.  There was a lot of cost to make a tape or CD that looked professional, and there was a high probability that a reporter wouldn’t have the necessary tools handy, nor the patience, to see your production.  Chance are that video went straight to the trash.

Not anymore.

Embedding short video or audio clips, or adding photos to your press release is easy and can help a reporter to understand why your clients’ story is one they should follow up upon.  For a reporter, watching a one minute video clip that illustrates your message is way better then spending fifteen minutes reading your long winded release.

Another plus is that if they like your video or audio cuts, the reporter will have them immediately at their disposal to use as they see fit.

Helping a reporter save time on a story is always a good idea.

Audio is a tool that is often overlooked

SOCIAL MEDIA

Say my client is hosting a benefit.  A quick photo or a few seconds of video sent via social media sets a much clearer scene about the good works your client is doing over a text filled Tweet.  Adding multi-media allows your followers to feel more a part of that benefit than they otherwise would.  And having people identify with your client should make your client very happy.

MEDIA TRAINING

Perhaps one of the most necessary, yet least used parts of public relations is media training.  I bet there’s plenty of public relations people out there who wake to nightmares that start with a reporter with a camera asking your client’s CEO for an interview.

Get rid of those restless nights.

An hour or two of practice in front of a camera, or a microphone can make a world of difference.  Plus, you can give your client instant feedback about what they do well….and not so well in an interview.  Additionally, you can use multi-media to show your clients examples of how a good interview should look instead of explaining to them how it should look.  Using these tools will give your client a much clearer, and more concise idea of how to conduct themselves with the press.

INTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS

There once was a client who’s employees needed lots of daily information from headquarters.  The problem was that, the employees were getting so overloaded that they eventually checked out.  The client needed a solution.  What we did was to add multi-media to the messaging so that employees could choose how they got their information.   Employees were now free to choose their preferred method of getting information.  The result was a huge increase in the percentage of employees that were actively receiving the needed data.

It is not a bad idea to be creative either, particularly when your message is intricate and detailed.

Four Eyed Films faced this issue while trying to explain different environmental terms in their documentary “Cool It.”

Anyone can do animation these days

Their solution?  Animation.  The result is a entertaining, and easy to understand explanation of the concepts they were discussing.

The best part is that you don’t even need to be an artist to do animation anymore.  There are plenty of free animation programs out there that you could use that don’t require any artistic ability, and frankly, not that much time.  Think about having the ability to make your messages to your employees clearer and more interesting.  I imagine  it would definitely be worth whatever time you did spend to have your employees more engaged. Don’t you?

So think about adding multi-media to your public relations repertoire.  You’ll be surprised at how much it will help your messaging.  After all, if a picture is worth a thousand words, you might as well use it to your advantage.

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The best part of elections is that the next one's two years away.

Well, the votes are in…mostly.   And, while half the country is celebrating and the other half is consoling itself, it’s important to look at five non-political lessons that every public relations person should take from Campaign 2010

1.  NOTHING IS OFF THE RECORD, EVER.

There once was a time when a person could let loose with the odd swear, slur, or violent outburst and have it slip under the radar without anyone knowing.  Not anymore.  Smart phones, cheap video cameras, blogs, YouTube and Twitter have made everything we do susceptible to public scrutiny.  Think how many politicians are wishing they could get back that one unfortunate minute of their lives that got caught on tape.  Gone are the days of controlling the media.  It has become vitally important for public relations folks to control their clients instead.  If your not giving your clients media training you must start, today.  The best way not to get caught doing something stupid on camera is to not do something stupid at all.

2.  BLOGGERS ARE JUST AS IMPORTANT AS REPORTERS

Remember when reporters were kings and bloggers were just crazy nut jobs living in their parents’ basement?  Well that’s just not the case anymore.  A quick look at The Truth Laid Bear, a website which tracks blog traffic, will show you that the biggest blogs on the web are getting nearly two million hits a day.

Two million hits…..a day.

Heck, the 200th rated blog is getting over 75,000 hits a day.  You still think bloggers are crazy?  I can tell you that lots of politicians who are nursing their wounds today thought that.

Listen carefully, there is no “new media” or “old media.”  It’s all media, and you need to pitch to it.   It is far more likely that a person will take advice about a business from a blogger that they read daily than from a media entity they may only see occasionally.  Blogs are word of mouth on steroids.  If you’re not reaching out to the blogging community, you are doing your clients a disservice.

3.  ANYONE NOT USING SOCIAL MEDIA IS GETTING LEFT BEHIND

O.K. here’s a little test for you.  Look at all the people that you follow on your various social media sites who told you in the last week A) how they were going to vote; B) how you should vote; and C) that they did indeed vote in the 2010 election.  How many of them didn’t tell you anything about their voting preference four years ago?

Pretty amazing when you think about it.

Politicians who were able to take advantage of social media are headed to Washington, while those who didn’t are headed to their computers to learn how to take advantage.  Whether you like it or not, people are talking about your business with social media.  If you’re not listening and responding, your losing out on opportunities.  That’s just not good for any business in this current climate.

4.  PERSONAL TOUCHES STILL MATTER

Make no mistake.  Blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Flicker, Digg and Google are all very important.  But a handshake is just as important.  One politician who won as a huge underdog sent personal handwritten notes to every donor during his campaign.  Think that might have made a difference?  Public relations and social media are just like paint brushes and easels.  They are tools.  You have to use them to illustrate what makes your businesses identity.  The more you can reach out and touch people personally, the more likely they are to have a positive view of you.  Then they can use their social media to tell potential new customers how great you are.  Two networks telling their people about your awesome business is way better than just one network.

5.  KEEP YOUR POLITICAL THOUGHTS OFF YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA SITES

There is one thing from Campaign 2010 which has brought all Americans together, and that is that they hate the mudslinging and arguing that comes with every election.  They hate being told “you’re an idiot if you vote for Prop T1000,” or “only commies and fascists would vote for that candidate.”  Perhaps the best advice on this topic comes from Michael Jordan who, when asked why he didn’t get involved in political activism on behalf of the Democratic party said, “because Republicans buy sneakers too.”  That’s really good advice.  There’s no need to alienate half of your potential customers because you have some political itch to scratch.  Customers don’t care.  And the ones who disagree with you won’t argue, they’ll just go somewhere else.

So while none of us can agree on whether this election was a success or a disaster, I think we can all agree that their are things more important than elections.  So take these five non-political lessons to heart.  It won’t help your depression or dampen your enthusiasm in the wake of Campaign 2010, but they might just make your business more successful.

Hope this helps you out.

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You just did what?

As a former reporter and current public relations professional, there are situations that come up that just make me shake my head and wonder, “what were they thinking?’

This is one of those examples.  (Apparently it was taken down by Clear Channel, but you can see more here or here, and for a picture of the sent email go here.)

You see, KOA Radio is a large radio station here in Denver and every politician wants to be on their airwaves.  Needless to say, the reporters and hosts know their business and how to conduct an interview.  The last thing these professional reporters want is to have the P.R. people for a guest to suggest questions for them to ask, particularly when they are similar to these…

Q. In what ways are you a better choice for this seat?

Q. What do you bring to the Senate

Q. What is your greatest accomplishment?

Q. How’s life on the campaign trail?  Are you having fun?

Yikes!

So here is a bit of advice when preparing your client for an interview.

DON’T SEND QUESTIONS TO REPORTERS!!!!!

You see, the vast majority of reporters are professionals who really do take their business seriously.  Feeding a reporter questions does five things.

1.  Gives the reporter the impression that you think they aren’t good at their job, that you feel you have to help them, and that you have no respect for them.

2.  Gives the reporter the impression that your client is so stupid that they can’t even have a conversation without being given the answers ahead of time.

3.  Ensures, without a doubt, that the reporter will ask tougher questions then they normally would have.

4.  Ensures, without a doubt, that none of the questions you give them will be asked.

5.  Ensures, without a doubt, that you will be mocked publicly.

Here’a a better way to get ready for that interview.  Spend your time prepping your client.  Put the hardest questions you can think of to your client and then critique the answers.  This will do more to make sure your client looks good than trying to rig the interview.

So next time you have an interview planned, take my advice.  Save yourself from an epic public relations fail.  Prepare your client and not the reporter.   Believe me, you’ll thank me for it later.

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We’ve all been there.  The news is on and a story comes on related to our industry.  They bring on an “expert,” and as the interview proceeds you think to yourself, “I know as much about this topic as that guy.  How did he get to be an expert?”

Here’s a little secret.  Most experts don’t know any more than you.  They just understand how to get into a reporter’s Rolodex.  And when a story about their field pops up, guess who the reporter calls?

Truthfully, it’s not that hard to become the person news organizations go to when they need an “expert.”  By using social media, and a little inside info, you too can become an expert in your industry.

Here’s how you do it.

1.  BLOG ABOUT YOUR INDUSTRY

There are two things about the industry in which you work that automatically makes you “expert” material.  You had to have some level of interest in it, and you spend a vast amount of your week immersed in it.  You have opinions, experiences, and insights into your field that a vast majority of us don’t.  Take advantage of that knowledge, start a blog about your industry.  Most blog sites are free, (Hello WordPress) and it lets you put your ideas into print.

Write about any insights you have.  What problems in your industry need to be addressed.  What advice you can give to others.  By blogging about your experiences, your insights, and your suggestions about what could be improved in your field, you are illustrating your expertise.  Just make sure you keep it separate from any personal blogs you might have.

A tip:  A wise friend told me that you should be posting something to your blog at least once a week.  Heed her advice.

2.  ADVERTISE YOUR POSTS

You probably have a Twitter account, a LinkedIn account, and a Facebook account.  If you don’t you should get them. Use them to publicize your blogs.  Most blog sites have ways to automatically send stuff to multiple accounts.  By advertising your blog posts, your hitting different audiences, including reporters who are searching for information on stories about your field.

Make sure you use tags on your posts as well.  It will help your article get noticed (S.E.O. anyone)?  As you write and advertise your articles, your name is becoming associated with your industry and your credibility as an expert will increase.

3.  FOLLOW NEWS ORGANIZATIONS ON TWITTER

News organizations are very active with Twitter.    Use that to your advantage.  Follow your local news sources as well as national and international outlets.  Often, they will tweet about stories they’re following.  If a story deals with your industry reply to them.  Let them know you have expertise in that area and could help them if they need it.  They may use your information, but they will, most likely, start following you.  And those tweets you send later about those blog posts you write will be sent to those news outlets.

4.  KEEP UPDATED ON INDUSTRY NEWS

In order to be an expert in your industry, you have to keep current on all news related to your industry.  Use Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to follow organizations relevant to your industry.  You can also use Google Alerts and RSS feeds.  This information will not only give you ideas for further blog posts but will give you insights into what items might be of interest to the press.  Very useful when you think about it.

5.  MEET REPORTERS

You want to meet reporters so that they can put a face to an expert they may use in a future story.  Meeting with reporter can be a bit tricky, however, so here are some guidelines.

  • No stalking.  Ever.  I mean it.  Don’t.
  • Don’t call them at home.  That’s part of the whole “stalking” thing.
  • Don’t call or email too much.  Less is more.  If they need you they will call.
  • Keep any correspondence short.  No reporter is going to read a long email.
  • Be polite and never be mad if they don’t call you back.

Here’s some things you can do.

  • Join the local press club, or at least attend press club events.  This is a great way to get to know reporters in a relaxed setting.  You can get them your card and show them you are an articulate person who would make a great expert.  No hard selling.  Reporters hate that.
  • Follow Twitter accounts of reporters that cover your industry.  They will need more industry information than general reporters and will give you a better idea of what reporters think is newsworthy about your industry.
  • Take the news room some donuts.  Even if you just drop it off at security with your business card, food will make them happy and help them remember you.

As you can see, becoming an “expert” in your field is really more about being proactive.  Social media really can help make the process a lot easier so take advantage of it.    Finally, be patient.  A reporter isn’t going to call you tomorrow. But if you keep up with and blog about your industry, advertise your blog articles with social media, follow news outlets on Twitter, you might just be the expert all the news outlets are looking for.

Hope this helps you out.

 

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The rescue of the 33 miners from the Chilean mine has captivated the world.  Everyone I’ve talked to, every Twitter post I’ve read, and every news update I’ve heard has the same reaction.

“This is amazing.  Incredible.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  It’s a miracle.”

I echo all these sentiments, and what’s even more exciting to me is how Chile was able to turn this possible disaster into a resounding success story using excellent crisis management.

Here are some lessons that your business can learn from the handling of the Chilean Mine Saga.

1.  PLAN AHEAD

Obviously, a small business in Denver will never have to deal with trapped workers.  Or will it?  No one can foresee every possible bad scenario that might affect their business, but you can prepare for the most likely.  Obviously, one issue that a mine might have to deal with is a cave-in that might trap workers.  They don’t want it to happen, but better to be prepared.  With that in mind, the San Jose Mine was equipped with emergency shelters that were reinforced and stocked with emergency provisions.  The miners were in one of these areas when the collapse happened and were able to keep themselves alive with the emergency provisions until they could be found and other provisions could be sent to them.

You should take a look around and see what issues might affect your business.  Are you in a high rise?  Do you have employees that stay late?  Are children regularly in your business?  Recognizing where you business might be susceptible to a crisis and taking steps to prepare will help you deal, not only with the crisis for which you planned, but also for the one you may not have.

2.  TRAIN YOUR EMPLOYEES

One of the amazing aspects of the Chilean Mine Saga is how the miners were able to keep calm and collected while going through this ordeal.  Because the miners knew that there were  plans in place in the event of a collapse, they were much more likely to stay calm and work to stay alive.

Your employees should be aware of what you are doing to address crisis issues.  Knowing that you have a plan for a crisis reassures your employees that you have thought about crisis issues and gives them confidence to act when a crisis occurs.

3.  ASK FOR HELP

One thing, perhaps above all others, helped to save the lives of the Chilean miners and that was that the Chilean government asked for help.  Companies from all over the world were asked for help and they were able to come up with a rescue plan that saved the miners months sooner than originally thought.

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness.  If you run a restaurant, we expect you to know food not hazardous material clean up.  Thinking that if you keep things in house will only make things worse.  You might be able to keep on top of things in the short term, but chances are you’ll make a mistake.  Reaching out to others who have experience with the crisis you’re facing lets people know you’re interested in the public good, not just your public image.

4.  KEEP COMMUNICATIONS OPEN

When a crisis happens, people are going to want to know what’s going on.  In Chile, the families, the press, the Chilean President all needed to be updated on what was happening.   All parties were kept abreast of the efforts to find the miners right after the collapse.  When they were found alive, a camera was among the supplies sent down so that everyone could see the miners and be reassured that they were o.k.  This feed was also given to the media so they would have information as well.   Finally, the miners were kept up to date to ensure they knew they weren’t forgotten.

If you don’t let people know what’s happening, then people are forced to go to other sources to get information, and that’s never good.   You want to speaking for you.  When you don’t, people want to know what your covering up, and in most scandals the cover up is always worse (see Watergate).  If you don’t have an answer, say you don’t but when you get it you will let people know.  Then follow through.  People want information and honesty.  Give it to them.

5.  DON’T TAKE THE CREDIT, TAKE THE BLAME

The greatest part of the Chilean Miner rescue is that Chile understood that they couldn’t have done it alone and praised everyone else instead of themselves.  They praised the miners, the other countries that helped, and the citizens of Chile and around the world for their support.  By deflecting the praise, they spread the goodwill of the world to others and it was, in turn, given back to them.

A crisis comes with hard lessons and the main one is that there is always, always something you could have done to prevent the problem.  Fair or unfair you need to understand this.  You must take a hard look at yourself.  What could you have done differently?  What things need to be changed?  If you pat your own back, others will think “if your so great, why did the issue happen in the first place?”

6.  FIX THE PROBLEM

One of the issues that has been buried in the wake of the Chilean miner rescues is that the San Jose mine didn’t have a great safety record.  There had been other accidents and even deaths.  What the government of Chile did was to step in and work to fix the problems.  First they jailed the owners of the mine and ordered an inquisition into the mine’s safety procedures.  Additionally, the government said that the mine would be closed indefinitely until the safety issues are completely solved.

This bears repeating…there is always something you could have done to prevent a crisis.  If a client has a fatal heart attack in your business you will be asked why you didn’t take CPR.  Figure out anything you could have done better and fix the problem.  Give your staff CPR classes.  Put a portable external defibrillator in your office.  You don’t want to have the same crisis happen again because you didn’t take steps to remedy the situation.  Also, fixing the issue makes you better prepared for any type of crisis.

7.  BECOME THE EXPERT

The silver lining for the Chileans is that they are now the world experts on saving miners.  When another country has a mine collapse and miners need to be rescued, the miners, the rescuers, and anyone else associated with this rescue will be contacted for their “expertise.”

Face it, by having to deal with a certain crisis you are now an expert on it.  You have an obligation to pass on your knowledge to others so that when a similar issue arises they can handle it better than you.  One way to help your business is to embrace the expert title.  You can bet that when 9 miners were rescued from the Quecreek mine in Pennsylvania eight years ago none of them, or their rescuers thought they would be thought of as experts.  Yet here they are in 2010 on every news station being asked to comment on the rescue in Chile.

It is a rare opportunity that we can learn lessons from good news stories, but the rescue of the Chilean miners lets us do just that.  Without great crisis management, this story could have been told very differently.

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I got a question the other day that really made me think.

“So what makes you qualified to give advice on public relations?”

A great question.  Why should you heed my advice on public relations, or anything for that matter?

The short answer is you don’t have to do anything I suggest here at the P.R. by DeVol blog.  My musings here are but one opinion on how to handle certain P.R. situations.   But its certainly not the only way.  That’s what great about P.R. There’s more than one way to skin a cat.

But the question about what makes me qualified?  That’s a query I think needs answering.

What makes me qualified to give public relations advice?

Well thanks for asking.

There are several different disciplines that are encompassed by public relations, crisis communications, social media, and corporate communications are a few, but what all P.R. people are practicing is “image advocacy.

Basically a business hires public relations people to trumpet their strengths while correcting and minimizing any weaknesses or flaws.  It seems like an easy task, but the devil is in the details.

See, a P.R. person never knows what will cross their desk on any given day, so having  relevant and varied experience in your past is definitely a strength.  I think my experience is a plus.

One of the main jobs P.R. people have is to get their clients earned media in the press.  This could mean a story on the clients’ company, an interview on a news program, or a stint as an expert for a certain big news event.  To do this, you gotta know how the news business works.  With over fifteen years in the news business as a reporter/producer/talk show host, I know all the ins and outs of how news decisions work and what reporters are looking for when making news decisions.  Why?  Because I made those decisions all the time.  I saw all the terrible press releases and heard the terrible pitches.  I also know what worked and why.  Now wouldn’t that information be useful?  I bet it would.

Social Media is a phenomenon that has exploded in the last two years, but in reality social media has been around a lot longer.  How do I know?  Well, I’ve been involved in social media for nearly 10 years.  This includes work on several personal and group blogs.  Yep, I’m a blogger.  You name it in the social media world and I’ve done it.  In fact, not a lot of people were trumpeting the P.R. value of blogs back in 2007 the way I was.  But like dealing with reporters, there is a right way and a wrong way to work with bloggers.  And my experience as both a reporter, P.R. person, and blogger has allowed me some great insights and connections on how to use social media for public relations.  Would you like to know more?

“All this is great,” you say, “but what about any actual public relations experience?”  Glad you asked.  Not only have I owned  a boutique P.R. firm, I worked as the Communications Director for the Colorado Senate Republican Caucus.

I know, I can hear it now, “a Republican!  Yuck!”

Well, it is what it is, and before you dismiss me out of hand, take the politics out of it and think about this.

While there, I was responsible for introducing and expanding their social media efforts.  This meant creating and integrating  Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn platforms.  Platforms, the Caucus is still using, I might add.  Additionally, I got the Caucus multimedia savvy by using audio and video to help them with their messaging.  It’s amazing how much both sides of the aisle have taken my ideas and ran with them.  I was also the first one to put together a summit between the State Senators and local political bloggers in order to show both sides that they could help each other.  They have and they continue to do so.  Oh yeah, did I mention that I also did press releases, media training, and media relations daily?  Not too shabby.

Finally, I have to mention my education.  What, you thought that I got all my know how from the streets?

Heck no, I got a Master’s Degree in Public Relations from the University of Denver.  You need a public relations plan? What kind, I’ve written communications plans, crisis communications plans, international communications plans, and even internal social media platform plans.  I’ve implemented these plans for large companies you’ve heard of and for tiny ones which you never will, but without that master’s, I wouldn’t have known about any of this.

So here’s the sum up.  I started this blog because I realize that when it comes to public relations, my past experiences have given me the great gift of having hands on opportunities that other P.R. folks haven’t had.  In fact, I doubt there are many who can combine reporting experience, long time social media experience, real public relations experience, and a formal public relations education.  Instead of keeping the lessons I’ve learned a secret, however, I want to pass them on so that other people who work in P.R., or who need P.R. can use and improve upon all this stuff.

But hey, I’m a giver.

So read the P.R. by DeVol blog with this in mind.  I may not have all the answers when it comes to public relations, but more than likely I can put you on the right path to making your P.R. efforts better.

Happy reading.

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