Should PR and Media Pro’s Offer Opinions?

I was recently contacted by Jess Todd about a particular controversy that I couldn’t help but weigh in on. For the entire encounter you can read over his blog, but in a nutshell he was basically lambasted for offering his opinions on a topic that he happened to know something about, rather than go the standard PR route. Those of you in PR know what I’m talking about, something  happens, or will happen and you send a release, the reporters call and you hand them off to an “expert” of some sort, or occasionally just someone else. Well what Todd did was streamline the process by contacting the media directly and simply stating that ” “as a media consultant, I have thoughts and opinions on the story and am available for interview or quotes.”

A few media outlets took him up on his offer and called him. Others however…went off calling his methods into question, accusing him of dictating what they should print, that it was their job to go find the “news” yada yada yada.

So this brings up a very good question. Is there a more efficient way to do things, some of the time? I have never been one to say that just because we have new methods we have to use them exclusively. However there have been many times when I knew I could make the reporter’s job a hell of a lot easier if I simply contacted them first with ALL the info they would need, rather than require them to have to go on a fishing expedition that they most likely don’t have time for anyway. So many story ideas get dropped for this very reason. Tight deadlines and stiff competition for space/time means that the days of the reporter who does all his or her own pounding of the pavement are long gone. PR professionals are here to help…so let us help. So to get back to the particular situation, which was his commenting on the resignation of Rep. Anthony Weiner, he shot me an email saying he wanted my take on the situation and my response to him was this:

“I think you are actually right on the money. I used to work in-house PR sending out the standard releases and when reporters would call, it was always me putting them in touch with someone else, one more step for them to take, and not because I wasn’t qualified but because that was simply how things were done where I worked. We were PR people, and treated by management as having little value – just get the right people to the reporters. Well, having been in the media business myself, having worked as a social media consultant, I too have an opinion on many subjects. Am I always the best? No. Am I an expert at everything I like to talk about? No. But then I don’t claim to be either. I am simply someone with experience that knows a few things about what is going on in the world, especially if it has to do with social media, PR or wildlife conservation.”

Where is the best place for those of us who have become hybrids at what we do? Is there a time when being efficient becomes overstepping our bounds as PR and Media professionals? Professionally I find nothing wrong with what Todd did or the idea of offering our services straight out whether they be quotes, opinions, whatever help we can provide to reporters so that they can get their job done faster, better and with better quality. Isn’t that after all one of the core responsibilities of public relations?

I applaud Todd for staying on top of the newest methods of breaking through to media. In today’s lighting quick world, when a plane crash is faster tweeted than reported on the six-o-clock news, it is all too important that people like him, people like me even continue the all important work of media and social media research to make sure that the public is always well-informed.

Think I’m wrong? Right? Have your own opinion you’re just dying to share? I welcome your comments.

(image courtesy of PRtalknow.com)

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Using your Backstory to Shape your Online Persona

“Everyone is a storyteller”  –Michael Margolis

I recently had the privilege of listening to a webinar broadcast from SXSW 2011 (where I so wish I could be right now) by the author and master storyteller, Michael Margolis. Despite tuning in a little late, the first comment I caught really made me sit up and pay attention; and that was that as social media entrepreneurs we are all essentially storytellers, that our success or failure depends on our ability to relate our story to our audience.

As a trained journalist, Communications & Outreach Specialist, PR pro and freelance writer by trade this totally made sense to me. after all, isn’t it my job to relate to those who I am working with by finding the common ground, by sharing my story in the hopes that there will indeed be a shared empathetic connection?

I think his primary point was to use your “back-story” to shape your online persona, the parts of yourself that you put out there for others to either accept, judge or completely ignore. The idea that we can reinterpret a past event through new perspectives and may even learn something new just made total sense to me. After all, don’t we all live according to a certain revisionist history to a point anyway? Seems to me that as we look back on what made us who we are, we may even learn something new to add to the story.

So what’s your back-story? I’m thinking that I can totally be a superhero if I want to be. I did after all graduate early, make it through college with honors while a single parent (at least in the beginning) and then became known for my social media knowledge through rigorous self tutelage (thanks @blogbloketips, @socialmediatoday, @socialguide and @HollyHoffman for that!)

So maybe from now on I am going to work on developing my back-story. Interested? Well you don’t have to take my word for it. You can download the free e-book “Story Manifesto” or buy your very own copy from the Get Storied website.


So What’s your back-story and how do you use it to engage with your clients? I’d love to hear all about it!


Being Green in Theory v. Practice

the ridiculous-nous of a dollarI must say that I am so tired of getting pile after pile of JUNK mail from groups (that for the sake of this post shall remain nameless…well that and I happen to be a card-carrying member of a few of them) that claim to want to save the planet in some form or fashion, whether it’s dirty coal one day or drowned polar bears the next…they fill your mailbox with pleas for your hard-earned dollar but seem to ignore one of the most basic and vital resources known to mankind as a species…clean air…produced in part by the very trees (some of them OLD GROWTH) cut down so that they could mail out their solicitations, most of which will never even be read, much less recycled and will likely wind up in some landfill taking up even more space and causing even more problems for these groups to complain about creating a new impetus for them to send out a whole new round of solicitations about these “new” problems to an uninterested public!

Whew! What an opening rant…

Ok, now let’s get serious folks. Yes I may be a hard-core environmental fanatic, but I make mistakes, have my failings, am outright lazy once in a while.(I sadly admit that even I have thrown away recyclable items without a twinge of remorse when tired, in a hurry with screaming toddlers strapped to both hips….) But, for the most part, I am working to be a responsible citizen, not just of my community, or even my country, but of my planet. I try to instill in my children the basic moral principles that less is more, and that homemade is from the heart. We avoid the big box retailers when possible, rarely eat junk, recycle regularly, endure the dirty looks we STILL get as we haul our cloth bags, walk more than drive and bundle up rather than crank up the thermostat.

Despite all these efforts, they can’t seem to avoid the barrage of mail we receive on a near daily basis asking for our support (which means money) and the really slick and cool ones promise that if we respond in 30 days we get a lovely reproduction 1930’s explorers backpack! How cool is that??

Just make sure you read the fine print…(you know the one that tells you that in exchange for that awesome backpack, only 5 cents of your $30 donation will actually help save the imperiled penguins, drowning polar bears or whichever cause it happens to be this month.)

Now please don’t assume I am bashing the wonderful work done by such groups as the Natural Resources Defense Council, The Nature Conservancy or the World Wildlife Fund. As a contributing member I do receive an annual report each year with an informative breakdown of how their money is spent each fiscal year. I study those charts and graphs ( and I am NO math major) and think to myself that a better use of such a  large chunk of  the money dedicated to marketing (to gain new members, raise more dues, and other advertisements) could be better spent on actually reaching out to college advocacy groups (the ones that are not afraid yet to write their congressmen and women and march on Washington in protest), providing grants to grassroots groups making real changes in communities,  etc.

To me it just makes more sense to spend that large  ( and I do mean large….well it is certainly many times more than I and probably most of my entire  staff make in a single year, but then I am a state employee so I guess I am probably not the best example to go by)

So for those of you out there…what are your thoughts on this???  Even using 100% recycled paper, should these organizations cut back their marketing and PR funding and maybe divert that money elsewhere where it might do more good? Please leave your comments below and let me know the following:

  1. Should these organizations reallocate their funding  to include more grassroots/ college advocacy movement workshop/events?
  2. Do These groups spend too much on marketing/PR/postage/etc?
  3. Is adequate research being done to ensure quality ROI for money and time spent?

I look forward to your time and answers. and if you feel more comfortable sending a more in-depth but private response, please feel free to email me a personal response.

I look forward to putting together these answers and then crafting a very nice letter to the presidents and CEO’s of some of these organizations, many of which I have faithfully supported in excess for more than 20 years. I want to know just how MY money has really helped (if at all beyond padding his or her salary while I struggle to feed my family) and whether or not they are truly following their own green  advice in both practice as well as theory…..

Until we meet again…..

Brand Habits-Why I Buy Chapstick

A the weather cools I am reminded every day that I am one of those people that tend to have dry skin and dry lips.I have such sensitivity that even an hour without application can mean painful cracking. It also means that at any one time I usually have several chapsticks floating around, in purses, coat pockets, the glove-box etc. What does this have to do with brand habits, just this: I only buy Chapstick, not Blistex, Carmax or any other of the numerous brands on the market. I am a one brand lip balm girl and have been ever since I can remember.
Why do I buy chapstick? The short answer is probably because it was what my mom bought and what she bought for me as a child. As I grew to an adult I simply became set in my ways, automatically reaching for the chapstick over other brands, regardless of price or even availability…a longer explanation goes into how Chapstick markets them self-for the girl on the go, (anyone remember the Olympic medalist snow-skiing Picaboo Street ad: “I’m the chapstick type not a lipstick type”-well being the tomboy I am, that type of marketing has always appealed to me.
To me this is an excellent example of how a brand can identify an audience and then build upon that knowledge to develop a brand loyalty that will continue for over 20 years.
Although I have been forced and even (mildly ashamed to admit) to purchase other brands from time to time, I can honestly say that I will always come back to Chapstick, for its simplicity and laid-back style. My kids use it and as long as it sells we will be a Chapstick family. So if you want a quick study in brand habits and a few tips on building brand loyalty-check out Chapstick.

Disclaimer: this post was in no way endorsed or reimbursed by the Chapstick brand-it was simply my opinion.

Cheers and happy holidays!

Can Your Online Persona Strengthen Your Brand?

Not long ago I had a very interesting conversation via TweetChat with someone who is excellent at one thing, Branding.  We talked about how many of us bloggers have a unique online persona, one we share with the “world” as it may and one that may be different than our random everyday personality. Good or bad, it does happen and if you do it right, this may just  help you to succeed in the craziness of the online social media world.

From the feedback I received I realized that this idea is hardly new. Since the dawn of Hollywood and before, people have been using their public image to enhance their brand. I may not be a movie star, but many of the same techniques still apply. As a PR person, I learned many of these tricks and tips in school and thought I would now share them with you. So here is just a quick refresher on how to use your online identity (public persona) to help solidify your brand.

1. How important is a name? If you make a point to use your full name in all of your online interactions, that’s great…but remember that not everyone will agree and using your real name can inadvertently create enemies. As long as you remain thick skinned, this should be alright though. Another important thing to remember – if you use your name, all of your revelations whether they are professional or a rant against an insane boss are all linked to you. This can come back to bite you so if you choose to use your real name….be aware of the consequences that come with it. It is a good idea to go ahead and purchase your own domain while you’re at it. (oh and if you are curious…Google yourself and see what comes up – apparently I am an exotic dancer/stripper in Texas….who knew?)

2. According to Erik Qualman (@equalman) the author of the incredibly awesome book, “Socialnomics” , if you choose to develop your online brand based on a singular persona, (real or not) it is very important to have a singular image across all of your social media outlets. This may be a logo or even a picture. I really had no idea that one image could be that important, and then I felt silly since this is one of the first things hammered into your head in all advertising and marketing classes. We are a visual species, and more than remembering what is written, we will remember an image whether it is on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, FriendFeed or a blog. Therefore, pick an icon/image/photo that truly represents your brand and use it across the web. Soon, those who are interested in you and what you stand for will begin to read your online responses, or notice your “ads” simply because they see your icon, regardless if they are actually interested in the topic of the blog post or article.

3. No matter how “big” you become online, remember that you have a life…in the real world. When approached or contacted to speak, give presentations, be a guest-poster etc, remember that you are representing both your online persona (the person/brand the world is familiar with through your blog) and you as a person. If there is too much of a gap then your brand awareness could become tarnished. No one wants to feel they have been lied too or led on. While this may seem contradictory, one of the main things I have learned is that although I have deveoped a brand through my work online, I am still me and that is the person that I want people to respect.

Have thoughts? Has your personal brand ever interfered with your personal (off-line) life? Please feel free to share.

’till next time!

PR Tips: Public Relations on a (Very Tight) Budget

Today’s guest post comes from Ashley Wirthin, writer for Public Relations Blogger and marketing associate for H Media Group.

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Don't Let a Tight Budget Stop Your Campaign.

My senior year in college I worked for a non-profit as the event-coordinator intern, helping with an annual fundraiser. Even though the event was months to come when I began the internship, we seemed to always get behind in funds and deadlines.

While working, I learned a bit about PR, especially in relations to non-profits who seem to have an even smaller budget for advertising, PR, and marketing than your normal for-profit company. (The small company I work for now, which is comprised of 3 employees, seems to have a larger advertising budget.)

Here are a few things (some of which were free) I did to prepare and promote our event, and some things other local companies helped us to do through donations:

1.)   I requested the event to be added to event/community calendars. This involved contacting site admins, or simply adding the event myself. Most of these calendars allow you to submit your own information that will be moderated and added by the admin or editor. Others ask for an email with event information, but it all really depends. I simply searched in Google for event calendars for the local Portland area and added the event to most of what I found.

2.)   I posted the event information on my Facebook and MySpace accounts. (I wasn’t asked to, but I wanted to invite some of my friends, given they were able to attend the event.) This is a great way to get involvement and to rank in searches on the two social networking events, had someone searched for a similar event. Now, a year later, I would add Twitter and perhaps even LinkedIn to the mix and let my networks know about the event through those two vehicles as well.

3.)   We distributed and mailed a lot of flyers and postcards. On its own this is an expensive feat. However, we were lucky enough to get the printing donated by a local company in exchange for advertising. Collaborating and making a lot of calls and being persistent can help propel an already existing network of local companies and result in some donations of time or resources.

4.)   We printed flyers and posters and asked local companies (especially those that were sponsoring the event) to help out and place them in windows and on counters. We made sure to go local and throughout the Portland area.

5.)   With the help of a PR firm and PR specialists, we were able to get a radio spot with a local celebrity/personality and gave away tickets to the event. We also told local news about the event and a large TV news channel was present and recording at the event, even performing a few interviews. The PR firm also helped to get our stories in local papers and publications.

Along with these things, we sent out press releases (which can be done for free or at little cost, and can be handled internally), advertised (heavily) on our own website, and through other companies sponsoring, gained a lot of publicity and advertising on their sites when they would promote their sponsorship.  Some other things we could have done could have included creating a blog, held contests, or gotten in touch with bloggers who would have been interested in our event, both locally and topic related.

To further help your PR efforts, get involved in your community, network with local companies, and build up a professional set of contacts with which you can get in touch. Try not to get in contact with them only when you need something, but get in touch with them when you have something of value to offer. This can build a better relationship, and open the door for future collaborations.

Furthermore, make friends in the blogging world; having a good group of bloggers you are familiar with when you have a story to launch can be a great resource. Again, remember to offer something of value to them as well; they may be more prone to reciprocate in the future.

Like this? Check out Ashley’s blog now for more.

Ashley_Werthlin_14_AAshley Wirthlin is a Marketing Associate for H Media Group. She manages, edits, and writes at PublicRelationsBlogger daily. She is a recent marketing/management graduate of the University of Portland, and has experience working in marketing, non-profits, fundraising, and event coordination. PublicRelationsBlogger is an educational resource for anyone interested in the PR industry. Ashley plans to release a PR Certification program in early 2010.

Everyday Public Relations is Going Green!


WARNING: The following post contains some controversial opinions but is not meant to offend. These are simply my thoughts and ideas. Feel free to share your own, and all constructive criticism is welcome as always; but please no unsupported arguments or religious debates. Thanks.

A long time coming, Everyday Public Relations is making some changes. While still focused primarily on PR in our everyday lives, you may begin to notice that more and more posts have a conservation angle to them. You’ll see ideas and tips for those who practice “green” PR as well as helpful social media hints for those in the conservation world.

To better explain this change let me start by telling you that I have these two great passions in life. (I actually have more, but only two relate to my career directly.) I love PR & Communications and I love conservation work. I have been lucky so far in that I get to combine the two on a regular basis. Working for a conservation organization as a public affairs officer has really been the best job I’ve ever had.

I do not however come into the world of conservation as a blind idealist or a hopeless treehugger. My viewpoints on the subject may seem a little extreme, and are hard to define, but I will try, in an effort to help my readers understand the nature of some of my posts.

Here goes: The planet Earth is the greatest evolutionary miracle that man has ever known. “What about people?” you cry. We (humans) are but one species, a blink of an eye on a planet that has seen more change, more wonder than any other that we currently know about. Throughout the studies done to explore space, our final frontier, it has been determined that our home planet is the only one of its kind – and is that way because everything came together so perfectly, at just the right time. Practically the definition of a miracle.

Now whether you attribute this miracle to God, the Big Bang or some other theory is your opinion and not something I care to debate. I do not judge and do not care for those who do.

Humans will not be around forever. Sad, I suppose but true. Eventually the Earth will die, as everything that exists and has ever exists does. It is an unavoidable truth-the planet’s lifespan will one day conclude.

Now that we are all depressed thinking about the end of the world let me say this. The timing of that inevitable event depends largely on our treatment of this blue and green world we call home. This is what I want to change.

I love this planet, down to its smallest bugs. I’m fascinated by life. To that end I want to share the wonder I experience on a daily basis with as many people and future generations as I can. I want my kids, grandkids, great-grandkids and so forth to know the simple joy of a summer night listening to a chorus of frogs; the majestic imposing beauty of the Rocky Mountains; the frozen seemingly endless oceans of the south pole with so much life teeming underneath the ice; the intracacies of a mountain bog’s eco-system and the awe of a fire rushing across a prairie-renewing life from its ashy wake. I could go on, but I think you get the point.

There is not a ton of money in conservation work or what has been dubbed “green pr” by some. Often you work long hours for little pay, much of your efforts being difficult and thankless. If you don’t love it, or have some greater calling, you burn out fast. It is demanding and despite the growing green movement, often your audience is stubborn, set in their ways. money driven or simply indifferent, which is the worst of all.

So…that being said, and I know I’ve gone on a good while now, my blog is changing, I think for the better. I want to really reach out to those who are using their PR and communications skills for more than just to make a profit. If I can help those working for a better world via PR and social media then I have been successful. There will still be solid tips on using public relations, and social media in the new world of work, there will simply be the added component of using what I know to help others help the planet…for as long as it remains our home.

Hope you stick around and join the conservation. I look forward to your comments.