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Having these 4 things ready before you contact a reporter will make you more successful

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You have a great idea for a story to pitch a reporter. You decide to call or email the reporter with your idea. He or she responds with interest. Good news, right? But, have you thought through what the reporter may request in addition to your pitch?

Having a strong pitch is, of course, vital to your PR effort. The trouble is, no matter how great the idea is, if you aren’t prepared to provide the elements to back up your story, it may never see the light of the day.

Reporters who do a thorough job will always look deeper and want more than your side of the story. This validates what you’re saying. Because part of PR is to make things as easy as possible for them, before you ever hit send on your pitch, you’ll want to be prepared with information to back up your story.

With that in mind, here’s a helpful guide for what you need to have ready when you contact a reporter:

Continue reading Having these 4 things ready before you contact a reporter will make you more successful

Forget the resolutions: 5 ways to get started on PR in 2017

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2017 is here. As the New Year begins, resolutions are being made. That includes resolutions for your small business.

But, what if you don’t believe in making resolutions? And even if you do, for some of us, they simply don’t work.

That’s OK. How about we just focus on getting it done this year? If you’ve been thinking about doing some public relations for your small business or startup, there are some simple ways to get the ball rolling.

Here are five ways you can make it happen for your small business when it comes to PR:

Continue reading Forget the resolutions: 5 ways to get started on PR in 2017

PR Is No Picnic in the Summer — 5 Tips to Plan Your PR Efforts Around Vacations & Holidays

PR is no picnic in the summer (4)

Ah, summer…a time for getting outside to enjoy the warm, sunny days with picnics, margaritas and relaxing by the pool…but, what about your PR plans? Summer can be a challenging time if you have PR initiatives that need to move forward. With many reporters on vacation, your media outreach can take even longer than usual. And, of course, the 4th of July is right around the corner.

So, what does this mean for your public relations efforts? PR can be anything but a picnic during the summer months. Here are some tips to try to make the most of this season when it comes to PR:

  1. Planning is imperative: Trying to choose the best date for an announcement? Study the calendar. Avoid the major summer holidays, the 4th of July and Labor Day, as well as the days before and after. That is, unless your news has a tie-in to these holidays. If you’re making a tech-related announcement, for example, you’d certainly want to time it so it doesn’t coincide with the 4th to achieve maximum visibility. On the other hand, if your news involves a holiday-related trend, you’d want to pitch that a week or two before the holiday.
  2. Allow extra time: As we know reporters may very well be on vacation, it’s a good idea to build in some extra time on pitches during the summer months. For instance, if you usually pitch news a week before an announcement, allow two weeks. That way, if a journalist is out of the office, you’ll still have time to follow up.
  3. Avoid the dead zone: Per the point above, as the 4th of July and Labor Day each fall on Monday, you can expect the Friday before to be pretty quiet (you can almost hear the crickets chirp!). Some may even take off the Tuesday after to create an even longer weekend. And, once they return, their inboxes may be filled to the brim with pitches. You don’t want your pitch to get lost in that sea of email, so maybe wait another day or so before sending it.
  4. Think Christmas: Believe it or not, it’s not too early to think about the holidays. Gift guides for many print magazines are already in the works. If you have a product that fits in that category, you’ll want to start pitching those gift guides now. Be ready with a product description and high-resolution photos.
  5. Cover your time off: Lastly, if you’re in charge of working with the media for your company or client and are planning to take a vacation, have a plan in place should a reporter get in touch during that time. Ask someone to cover for you and be sure to have basic resources ready for them to use if a reporter needs anything. If you have a press area on your site, all of these materials should be posted there (that makes it easy for the reporter AND for anyone trying to cover for you).

And, be sure not to leave your clients in the lurch. Give them plenty of notice so you can complete any work they need done before you go. If you’re a consultant leaving for an extended period of time, e.g.               more than a week or two, consider asking someone to fill in for you. Perhaps you have a trusted consultant colleague who could be on call, should your clients need anything.

I hope these tips help you make the most of your summer PR initiatives. Now, time to get back to your sunbathing!

 

 

For New PR Grads—Advice from an Editor

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I recently wrote a piece for Muck Rack, “7 Questions NOT to Ask a Reporter,” which garnered some of the best feedback I’ve ever received. An editor at an industry publication actually took the time to write me about how much he enjoyed the piece—and how every new public relations grad should read it.

With many new PR pros graduating this spring and entering the ranks of those who pitch the media, I thought I’d share his words of wisdom. Whether you’re new to the PR field or have been at it a while, you can always learn from the mistakes of others. Continue reading For New PR Grads—Advice from an Editor

Put on your “news hat” when reaching out to media

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I was meeting with a new client today to talk about what we might do regarding media outreach. They were interested in publicizing the anniversary of their business, which is perfectly worthy of a press release and some local media outreach.

Then, we started talking about other ideas and how we might tie those in to trends and topics that are currently hot. During that brainstorming session, we hit on a topic that has the potential to be a bigger story regarding industry trends and how the field is growing, etc. I got excited—and so did they—when we realized we’d tapped into a topic that goes beyond the fact that they’re celebrating an anniversary.

Sometimes, you have to put on your “news hat” when thinking about what the media might find appealing. Yes, there are always those stories that may be interesting from a local perspective, but uncovering topics that go beyond the local media to perhaps an even bigger audience can be a thrill.

Once you hit on a topic you think will capture a reporter’s attention, always consider:

  • What statistics might be beneficial to include
  • What images or video might be compelling
  • What third party sources might you provide

When you craft your email pitch, offer these additional resources to help round out the story. (Just be sure to have what you offer ready to provide, if they take you up on it.)

PR pros with a background in journalism are particularly skilled at uncovering these ideas. We’re trained to think like a reporter and tap into story ideas you may not have even thought of. So, take a cue from a journalist and what started as a routine effort may turn into something much bigger.

Entrepreneur features my latest, “6 tips for handling a failed media pitch”

My piece, “6 Tips for Handling a Failed Media Pitch,” which explains what to do if your media pitch falls flat, was featured Monday by Entrepreneur:

This significantly increases its reach. When Entrepreneur runs my pieces, I always see a jump in followers and activity. This underscores the value of creating great content!

Real-world PR lessons: Never give up!

Today’s post is based on living life in the PR trenches.

As a PR consultant, I often work with clients on media relations and frequently write about tips and tricks to help companies get ink. This post stems from two recent real-world experiences I had while pitching story ideas for small business clients. The takeaway is: never give up!! Tenacity wins the day when it comes to media outreach.

Here a couple of recent examples to illustrate:

1) I’ve been working on getting one of my clients into a major publication for over a year now. When I first reached out, the editor responded to the pitch and we sent a product sample. After going back and forth for about six months, the editor let us know that the product was tentatively slated for coverage in the Sept. issue. (WAHOO!)

Unfortunately, the editor went on leave, and we struggled to get an answer from anyone until she returned. When she did respond, she said the piece “took a different turn” and the product wasn’t going to be included. (BOO!) However, she did say, in what seemed like a very sincere email, that she would keep working on getting it in the magazine.

And that could be the end of the story. But no! At the end of last week, we got a call from the magazine to fact check a piece for November! And this is a MAJOR publication with a circulation of over 4.3 million readers! What a huge win for this small business that could turn into major sales, especially with the holidays approaching and this piece slated for the November issue.

Of course, I never relax until I actually see the published piece—but WOW! Sometimes, it does take time, but if you hang in there, it CAN happen.

2) I’ve been pitching a media outlet for various clients for some time without much in the way of a response (it’s notoriously tough to get a response from this particular program). However, in just the past month, I’ve placed TWO clients on this program! WIN! Both clients are small businesses (one is a nonprofit) who were looking for some publicity opportunities that would open doors for them.

Again, sometimes it takes time—and the right story/right pitch—to make headway, but it CAN be done. Now, this producer is much more likely to review pitches I send in the future, as well, which will help me open this door for even more clients.

These examples illustrate why PR can be a challenge–but it can also be extremely rewarding! I’m not sure who is more excited–my clients or me!

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Pitching Your Startup to Reporters? Here’s What to Avoid

Today, I wanted to share media pitching tips for startups and small businesses. Not from me but directly from a journalist.

This piece from PRNewser covers a TechCrunch editor’s suggestions for pitching. While some of this should be common sense to anyone who reaches out to reporters—c’mon, no email attachments is something that should be drilled into our heads by now–and, just forget the email inviting a journalist out for coffee–some of his other suggestions may not be so obvious. For example, he talks about startup founders trying to do their own PR:

“He is concerned, first and foremost, with startup founders and app-makers who try and fail to handle their own self-promotional duties; you may be shocked to learn that many do NOT double as well-trained PR professionals.”

Yes, while they may be strong in many areas, startup founders may not be the best at media relations. In fact, there are several reasons why entrepreneurs and small business owners may not want to do their own PR (see my piece, “6 Reasons Not to Do Your Own PR”).

Another point he makes is that it’s a mistake to assume that simply because a company or product exists, that warrants media coverage. Yes, gone are the days of simply saying, “We have a startup—therefore, cover us.” And, to echo his sentiment, I recently attended a panel on pitching your startup to the media, during which reporters explained you must go deeper if you expect them to be interested in your news.

I even agree to a point with his take on press releases—which he says are “dead.” While I wouldn’t go that far (see my piece on that, “Enough with the death of the press release already”), it’s true that you need to bring something more to the table, something beyond the press release. Simply sending a press release saying, “Please cover this,” doesn’t really cut it. We need to tell a story. Yes, press releases can play a role in this, but you need to actually explain WHY this should matter to reporters and their readers. Of course, YOU think your product or service is great—you created it! But why would a reporter and his or her readers care? For example, here’s some of the advice he gave when pitching a product. Think about:

“Was it created to solve a specific problem? What is that problem and how is it solved? Does the product fit with a separate trend piece? How so, and why should this particular outlet’s readers care?”

And, tell your story succinctly. Offer data and resources, while you’re at it, to make the reporter’s job even easier. After all, isn’t our job as PR pros making it easier for reporters to cover our clients? That means providing the information they have to pay attention to, the information that will make your pitch stand out in a sea of pitches.

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Do Reporters Prefer to Receive Pitches Via Email or Social Media?

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As those of us in PR know, reporters don’t always like to hear from us, preferring to gather story ideas and sources elsewhere. But, when we do contact them, they have preferences as to how we do it.

While social media has come into play when pitching journalists, according to this recent survey conducted by Cision, good ol’ email still wins out, coming in at the top of the list,. Yes, 81 percent of the reporters surveyed say they prefer to receive pitches via email (and without attachments, please!).

The surprising finding here isn’t about the email preference but about social media, which many seem to think is “destroying” journalism by “undermining traditional journalistic values.” 54 percent of U.S. journalists who responded agreed with that statement. And, although they increasingly use social media to find sources, promote their stories and monitor breaking news, they still prefer to receive pitches via email.

Perhaps even more surprising, the phone was preferred (30 percent) over social media (24 percent) as a way to hear from PR pros—now, that’s saying something when they would rather hear from us via phone than social media (many reporters detest phone calls).

So, even though email is far and away still the preferred way to contact reporters, the debate will continue as to the use of social media for pitching. Read more on that topic here.

 

13 things to include in a virtual press kit

What goes in a press kit?

As I often work with startups or small businesses doing PR from the ground up, from time to time I’m asked what goes in an online press kit or media room, as it’s sometimes called.

Do you have one? Do you even need one?

While hard copy press kits are optional (a word about that later), you should have a virtual press kit. Be sure to create a place for it on your site. Preferably, it has its own drop-down menu, but some companies choose to put it under “About,” which is fine, as long as a reporter can easily find it.

Here are some of the elements most often included:

  • Company profile/backgrounder/fact sheet: This document gives an overview of the company and what it does. The fact sheet can include year founded, executive team members, vertical markets, number of employees, and so on. The idea is to capture the key information “at a glance” to make it easy for reporters to grab what they need and to include answers to commonly asked questions.
  • Bios: Bios of the executive team should be part of the press kit. Include all C-suite executives. Keep them relatively brief, or include both a longer and shorter version.
  • Multimedia content: This is becoming increasingly important, as reporters want more visuals:
    • Photos: A professional head shot should accompany each bio and should be downloadable. You can also include photos of the team together, company headquarters and/or product photos, if desired. These should be high resolution (300 dpi is ideal for print).
    •  Screen shots: If you have an application or software product, it’s a good idea to make screen shots available.
    •  Logos: Include camera-ready logos in both color and black and white.
    •  Video: If you have any YouTube or other videos, you can link to those here, as well.
    • Infographics: If you have any that might be useful to media, you can post those here, too.
  •  Press releases: Of course, include any and all press releases that you’ve issued about your company, product or service. Include them in reverse chronological order.
  •  News stories: If any stories have appeared about your company, product or service, include those—again, in reverse chronological order.
  •  Press contact: Include a contact, in case they have questions or need something further. If you don’t have a designated PR person on staff, it should be someone who responds to email and phone calls promptly.
  •  Customer success stories or case studies: If you have them, it’s a good idea to make these available in your newsroom.
  •  Customer or third-party quotes: Again, if available, customer quotes can be a useful item for reporters. If you have partner, analyst or influencer quotes, make those available, as well.
  • Press references: Here, it might be best to say, “Available upon request.” This allows you to provide the best reference for the particular reporter. It also gives you the opportunity to let the customer know a reporter may contact them.
  • Links to social media profiles: If they’re not already included on every page of your site, include them here.
  • Awards garnered: Include any awards your product, company or executives have won.
  • Executive appearances, conferences, and tradeshow participation: List all appropriate public speaking appearances, tradeshow and conference participation, and other events in a separate calendar section. Remember to include any international events. Keep the older listings up for at least a few months after the events to show that you are in demand as experts in your field, but be sure to keep the list updated.
  • Sign up box: Provide the opportunity for them to sign up for your email list, as well, so they can receive your press releases or any other company news you may wish to send.

Also, a word about online vs. hard copy press kits. Hard copy press kits are no longer necessary, unless you’re attending a large industry conference and want to bring along a few to hand out to reporters you may be meeting with. Some conferences have a press room where you can leave materials for reporters to review. It may be better to leave a one-sheet or a press release versus an entire press kit. I don’t know of any reporter these days who wants to tote a bunch of press kits back to their office in their luggage, so chances are they could wind up in the trash.

And finally, here are a few examples of online press areas from companies in various industries that are well done:

Cisco has always been the “gold standard” of online press areas: http://newsroom.cisco.com/

Outrigger Resorts: http://news.outrigger.com/presskit/

Kaiser Permanente: http://share.kaiserpermanente.org/

Johnson Controls: http://www.johnsoncontrols.com/content/us/en/news.html

The Walt Disney Company: http://thewaltdisneycompany.com/disney-news

Here’s hoping this gets you rolling on creating your own online press kit!

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