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)

Is the traditional press release dead?

Recently I had a conversation with my boss as we carpooled back to the office from Atlanta. The gist of the conversation revolved around my attempts to assuage my guilt at feeling that maybe I wasn’t fulfilling all of my technical job duties. Don’t get me wrong, I work my butt off, but as our budget continues to be slashed and more and more people find greener grass on the other side of the fence (at least I am hoping they are), my day-to-day duties have changed, evolved and increased into new and exciting (but exhausting) avenues.

For starters I am not writing 2-3 press releases every week anymore. When I mentioned this, my boss was quick to point out that even though I wasn’t writing out releases, I was still promoting content, probably more so than when I was submitting the standard releases. By utilizing our social media platforms I was reaching a larger audience in real-time – can’t get that kind of reach necessarily with an article in the local paper. Also more and more bloggers were picking up on things I was putting on Facebook and twitter – so in reality I was actually creating more buzz than ever before.

Also – many of the traditional media outlets are cutting their print editions more and more. Very little actually goes into those small rolled up bug squashers still hand delivered right to your door. Now days, people read their news online so the bulk of the news that is picked up, either by traditional release or by other means ends up online, not the traditional “front page”.

I actually spend a large part of my time researching new media outlets, demographics and social media (as a science of all things), rather than writing press releases. I still work in the field and have a blast documenting the work that first drew me to conservation in the first place, but now I am also learning how to market what I’m passionate about, so that maybe others will become as fiercely devoted to it as well.

So back to the title of this post. Is the traditional press release dead? Maybe not. There will probably always be the mom and pop grocer that sells bait, milk and hands out a weekly fishing report with info from a press release (probably verbatim). But in the grand scheme of things, most organizations have or will soon have to move beyond the comfort zone of what’s easy and step out into the scary world of new media.

“World of Mouth” – a clear example…. It always comes back around.

In my last post I mentioned Erik Qualman’s book “Socialnomics” – in chapter five he goes into detail about how more and more we care about what our networks have to say about products and services than what we hear from commercials, print ads and so forth.

However, we can’t completely discount great customer service when it happens – know why? Because a good review has the same opportunity to go viral as one simply spoken about at the water cooler.

Earlier this week, my division at work put in orders for out business planner refills for the 2010 year. I had decided the one I was using was really not suitable and really wanted to go with the super “Master Planner” 2-page per day organizer designed by Franklin Covey. So I get my order and it is only the pages, no binder….I was a little miffed, checked the catalog and sure enough, the product number only indicated the refill. So I thought, ok, no big deal, I will just look through the Staples catalog (my org is contracted with them) and find the planner. Let the frustration begin.

First I checked the catalog – no planner big enough…then I checked the website…no binder. At this point I was very, very frustrated and felt entirely PISSED off that a company would carry refill pages for a binder they did not carry. On a lark I went on the Franklin Covey web site and guess what….they DON’T carry one either!!!!! Can you believe it? Franklin Covey, a huge name in personal organizers sells an AWESOME refill but not a binder that it will fit in.

I called Staples and talked to a wonderful young woman who seemed as perplexed as I was. Guess what she did. First she did her own search, then she took down my info and promised to call back. I admit I was skeptical but let it go…until 15 minutes later she called back. She had scoured the web and found a binder that would fit my refill – on Daytimer.com…now that is awesome customer service.

Not only did she seem genuinely concerned, but in order to help me sat a satisfied customer she checked her competitors web sites to  help me find what I needed.

Maybe Staples and Franklin Covey as organizations messed up…but that woman provided excellent customer service, which speaks volumes about the organization she works for.

Thanks a million and thanks to Staples for hiring such great customer service reps.

So as an addendum, you can bet that although I was disappointed with the product availability, I was very happy with the service and would definitely recommend Staples to others.

Next time you are answering a question from a potential client or customer, when you know you have to give them “bad” news – consider the method of delivery and how else you might help them. It can mean the difference between someone having a bad experience and passing that on, or someone maybe not getting what they want, but passing on good word of mouth about how well they were treated-which ultimately is more important than a product or service anyway over the long run.

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.

moneyCrunch

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.

Are you over your JOB?

The economy is down, times are tough, we are all tightening our belts and trying to cut costs and hearing again and again that things will turn around…eventually…But what about those that can’t wait?

I came across a blog not too long ago called The Chief Happiness Officer. Although he is another part of the world, where things are much different (the world makes a little more sense if your Danish I suppose), he often makes a great point about having one life, so why be miserable? There are no do-overs. I admire his thinking.

Right now, there are those that are trapped in jobs where they are not necessarily treated fairly but have no choice but to hold one. Times are tough and walking away from a career affects more than your paycheck, especially if you have a family to consider.

On the other hand, how do you keep on making that commute and completing the mundane tasks assigned as everything you love, the reasons you went to work in the first place are slowly and deliberately stripped away leaving you exposed…and then they kick you once more for good measure and tell you to “play ball.”

I wrote once that there are people in the working world that can lift you up, and then there are those that absolutely suck the life force right out of you. For whatever reason the problems with the economy are hitting the former at a disproportionate rate. More and more of the individuals I admire are receiving the pink slip while the leeches that secretly latch on to your ideas and then suck them from you until they become fat off your accomplishments and fall back down to the ground only to be picked up by the next unsuspecting and passionate newbie continue to rise to the top, rewarded with corner offices and Emmy’s they didn’t earn and don’t deserve.

When do you put your foot down and say ENOUGH of this SHIT!

I asked in the beginning about the people that can’t wait for things to get better. Are you one of those that is tired of having your ideas stolen by ridiculous high-school-esque game-players while you continue to pound out 60 hour work weeks for the same low salary that can’t even feed your family, much less buy school supplies? If so, what do you do?

When times are tough, I have always found a way to muscle through and come out on the other side a stronger person for it. But now as my confidence is chipped away I fear that if I stay where I am I will become a “true company woman”, passionless and embittered, draining the next generation of do-gooders that come into the office, living off their energy like some sort of corporate vampire. I don’t want to be that person.

I want to hold on to my dreams not those of another.

To Be Continued…..

Karma for bloggers?

Girl twins with laptop computer.The Golden Rule Still Applies…

I have always been a big believer in karma, the golden rule, or whatever you choose to call it. Basically I try hard to put forth the same kind of energy that I hope to receive back from the world around me. I know this may sound idealistic, but hey that’s how I roll. I recently came across a similar viewpoint expressed very nicely on one of the blogs I follow,  The Urban Muse . Her post really made sense to me about how karma relays to the online blogosphere. I read several blogs regularly and I always try to pass on the tips and tricks that they so eloquently put forth. So therefore, in that vein, here are a few recent posts that I have come across that may help you in your quest to become a better blogger, writer and social media participant.

This is great stuff for helping your organization or blog to really develop your brand using social media.Here is an excerpt:

“In the Wild West of social media, over-protection would seem to be a natural response when faced with loss of control over the conversation, and indeed of the firm’s intellectual property, and yet this is almost certainly the wrong response.

Those brands that take the counter-intuitive path of celebrating their customers (even when they are infringing IP) and of sharing more of themselves (even if that means giving away more of their IP) will be the ones who will win.”

The next one, Understanding Social Media Guidelines for Employees – by Don Sears who writes at Careers, is probably one of the best short set of guidelines I have found for integrating social media into employee policy, which as we all are aware is moving to the forefront of many organization’s lists of concerns. He says:

“Protecting business and fighting negative perception are important to every company. The last thing they want or need is for employees to be out their in the social media sphere of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or anywhere else spouting false information, making their work life too transparent or arguing with other employees publicly.

Two companies taking social media seriously are Intel and IBM. Intel is taking it so seriously it apparently has created a department dedicated to the practices of smart social media, says ZDNet’s Jason Hiner.

From a human resources perspective, it’s a really wise move to have clear guidelines and policies, and for most employees, it’s good to know where your company stands on posting information–especially with issues of legality, copyright, company secrets and the like. I could very well see other companies borrowing from Intel’s and IBM’s social media guidelines.”

Well that is all I have for now. Hope you found this useful and if so, please pass it on, as in essence, that is how karma works. What goes around, comes around, the good, the bad and the ugly.