Posts Tagged ‘facts’

Ten Tips to Becoming a Better Editor (and Writer)

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014
Producing Peerless Prose

Producing Peerless Prose

Posted by Tom Gable

After slaving over a piece of peerless prose, many writers fall in love with their own work. You may have revised it a time or two and feel it is ready to launch, but you need to tackle the last important steps: editing and proofreading your work with diligence and precision. Both take some patience and a critical, distanced approach. With a little literary cosmetic surgery, you can make your work attractive to future readers.

How to Edit and Proofread – Professional Guidance

Editing and proofreading are both important to ensure clear and clean communications. If your news release, media pitch, blog post, website content, letter or email message has typos, misspellings, and bad punctuation or doesn’t flow well, your reader may perceive you as unprofessional, lazy or sloppy. Even simple typos such as misplaced apostrophes and commas can leave a bad impression and raise questions about your professional skills.

By editing and proofreading well, you will be able to ensure a level of quality control for all your communications and reinforce your growing professional image.

To set the stage, first let’s go over the difference between editing and proofreading. In Leah McClellan’s “25 editing tips for your writer’s toolbox,” she defines editing and proofreading with some examples of how they differ:

“Editing refers to structural changes (the big stuff) and rewriting sections of the manuscript, article, or blog post. Editing also focuses on changes at the chapter, section, and sentence level. Examining and correcting content, organization, style, and logic as well as grammar, spelling, punctuation, and more are all part of the editing process.”

McClellan adds: “Proofreading, on the other hand, is about little stuff that’s hard to see. Proofing does not include changes beyond spelling errors or typos, minor punctuation errors that don’t require text changes, spacing, format, numbering, or stylistic matters such as italics and underlining.”

McClellan recommends setting aside separate time blocks for both editing and proofreading in order to stay focused. Always allow time between writing and editing – and editing and proofing. You are guaranteed to catch and correct more items if you give yourself a breather and space out these activities. If you aren’t on a deadline, revisit the piece to edit the next day. If you are in a time crunch at least wait a few hours before you start editing. For proofreading, go ahead and review your piece yourself. Then, for important and more complex communications, have an eagle-eyed friend or colleague provide one more level of scrutiny and quality control. A fresh perspective and a second set of eyes (and brain!) will significantly reduce the chances for error.

Editing should always be done before proofreading. The proofreading stage is not the time for rewriting or rewording. If you find yourself doing these things, you are still editing. You may lose your focus and introduce new mistakes if you start editing when you are supposed to be proofing!

The following can serve as a handy checklist for improving your editing skills.

Follow these 10 tips to become a better editor:

  1. Eliminate unnecessary words; keep words and phrases concise. Use the fewest words possible to communicate your meaning. Avoid using adverbs, adjectives, and other modifiers. Strong verbs (simplify instead of make simple) and precise nouns (blouse instead of top with long sleeves) are better choices than lengthy descriptions.
  2. Stay on subject, don’t introduce off-topic items. Don’t go on tangents or rants, which will get you sidetracked. Make sure any statement you make adds value and ties back to your main point. If it doesn’t, cut it.
  3. Delete information that is not strictly needed, any extra paragraph or sentence that isn’t absolutely necessary. Get to the point. Don’t ramble. As covered in a fine piece in The Harvard Business Review on the art of writing, kill your darlings. Enough said!
  4. Set a word count limit and stick to it. Give yourself a goal on word count. Setting a guideline will help you stay focused on what’s important and only necessary to include in your piece. Writing shorter, more compelling copy takes time. As Blaine Pascal, French author and scientist, noted in the 17th Century (to be echoed by Winston Churchill three centuries later), “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.”
  5. Fact-check. Names, titles, locations, dates, numbers, references to other resources such as legal documents or regulations — any and all factual information – should be checked for accuracy. A quick Internet search can often find answers in minutes. When in doubt, consult a colleague.
  6. Don’t rely solely on grammar or spell check. Make sure you read for errors, too. The spell checker on Word and email catches the obvious typos and mistakes, but it overlooks context and won’t correct misspelled words that are, in fact, words (for examples, its, it’s; their, there, they’re; herd, heard; here, hear).
  7. Read it out loud to check flow. Go to a quiet place where you can concentrate and read your piece out loud. How does it flow? Do you trip up on any sections? If a sentence or paragraph reads awkwardly, you should reword or rework it.
  8. Consult a style manual routinely. A style guide or manual provides a set of standards for writers. Scan it; become familiar with it. It’s a great reference for grammar, style, and formatting and will come in handy in all your writing and editing. The preferred source: The Associated Press Stylebook, used by journalists, editors and broadcast producers (and most top PR professionals!).
  9. Take breaks. During earlier revisions, most writers develop a feeling for when they are at your creative or critical best. For editing, you need to be extra sharp. Never try to edit when you are tired or frustrated. Set the piece aside for a better time, when you are alert and reenergized. You will be more focused, with heightened editing skills.
  10. Lastly, request a colleague’s review before calling it final. Sometimes you just don’t see what others see. Ask a colleague or a friend to read your piece for feedback, proofread your document and pay close attention to anything you may have accidentally missed. An outsider’s review and seal of approval makes a big difference and will confirm your piece is ready for its recipient.

Now, you are ready to launch your fine work!

Sources:

  • “25 editing tips for your writer’s toolbox,” by Leah McClellan. From Ragan.com, July 5, 2013.
  • The Book on Writing: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Well, by Paula LaRocque. Grey and Guvner Press, 2003.
  • Eats, Shoots and Leaves – The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, by Lynne Truss, Gotham Books, 2003.
  • The Associated Press Stylebook, Perseus Publishing, 2013.

Five Platforms for Monitoring Digital and Social Media Trends

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014
Tracy Moehnke

Tracy Moehnke

By Tracy Moehnke

According to a recent study, 82 percent of marketing and public relations professionals have at least six applications open on their desktop at any time during the average work day. Sorting through the clutter to identify relevant trends and new channels for reaching your target audiences can be tedious, but it is a necessity for any public relations program.

Media relations, digital strategy and social engagement benefit from incorporating the newest trends and ideology into campaigns. Consistent monitoring of the digital and social landscape helps PR professionals develop approaches to exhibiting thought leadership that adds relevance to client programs and your agency and personal brands. At Gable PR, we’ve found the following free platforms to be among the best for tracking trends in the digital universe:

  • Think With Google searches for studies, trends and news by different industries, topics, products and platforms. Think With Google only uses credible sources to compile data on the newest trends. Have a client in the healthcare industry? Simply choose healthcare and scroll through studies like ‘how healthcare administrators make purchase decisions’ and ‘how hospital administrators research online.’ Incorporate this information into your campaign strategies; targeting audiences on their preferred platforms.
  • Twtrland is a one-stop-shop for discovering people and places. The platform facilitates search of Twitter users based on their characteristics. Twtrland then categorizes users as influencers, champions or casual users. You can use this platform to search by keywords or demographics relevant to your business and client. Find all the 30-year-old women in New York who follow your account through a simple search and sort by influence. Explore and reach target audiences easier than ever, reaching the opinion leaders that matter.
  • SocialMention searches the web for user generated content with keywords of your choice. It then classifies results by sentiment, strength, passion and reach. Filters can be selected to examine certain sources, users, hashtags and content type. SocialMention’s analytics provide comprehensive data that can be applied to digital media strategy by identifying what is hot on different platforms.
  • Topsy is a Twitter maven, boasting an archive of every tweet since 2006. The platform offers search options for videos, photos, links and influencers. Expand your searches by clicking on ‘show search tips,’ which provides a keyword box to assist the search process. Search for all of a specific user’s posts that include certain link sources, or use a topic to search for trending relevant content. Topsy also creates great visuals on a line graph by comparing the popularity of one to three keywords over a length of time.
  • Digg compiles trending news stories. The home page lists the most popular news stories by analyzing clicks, shares and comments. Digg also offers personalization through a Twitter sign-in process, allowing users to see trending stories from their feed. The platform is great for staying up-to-date with the ‘topic of the day,’ ranging from hard hitting news to pop culture events. Brands and businesses can use this to stay relevant with audiences.

Every monitoring platform will have its downfalls with certain industries. Spend time experimenting with various services to discover what is most applicable to your business or client. For ultimate success, checking in with your preferred platforms on a daily basis will keep your business relevant and up-to-date with your target audience’s chatter.

Five Fast Steps for Reversing a Social Media PR Crisis

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014
Your Audience Awaits

Your Audience Awaits

Posted by Tom Gable

Clients in three different industries were getting pilloried in social media for various customer service transgressions. The largest firm monitored conversations by the minute, day and night. A smaller organization monitored throughout the day. The smallest used news trackers and other alert services and viewed them randomly, with occasional forays during the day into the different social media outlets.

Experiences with all three clients and reviewing best practices from PRSA and others led to creating a simple five-step process as a starting point for responding. Of course, the complexity and severity of each complaint will drive additional creative and strategic approaches. The steps are thought-starters and assume a high degree of integrity and solid core values within the organization:

  1. Apologize as soon as possible. (“We are sorry to hear you have had a problem. We would like to help in any way we can.”) For timing, responding immediately is best; within an hour is fine; a few hours is okay; waiting a day doesn’t help the reputation and could lead to the negative cacophony building.
  2. Identify the specifics of the complaint if it is not covered in the social media or other posting. (“Can you please send the details to XYZ? [Give a person’s name and email address.] XYZ will take care of this as soon as possible.”)
  3. If the details of the complaint are on the social media site, along with negative comments from friends and followers, provide a partial answer online and also try to connect directly. (“Again, we’re sorry about your problem. For next steps, we would like to help you with A, B and C. Please contact XYZ who will work on this personally.”) This shows progress and a commitment to a solution.
  4. Take immediate action on solving the problem. Provide updates if needed. (“Quick update: we should have an answer in the next two hours.”)
  5. When the problem has been solved, post a quick summary of your success story. (“XYZ reports that your problem has been solved. We’re sorry you had this experience – a very rare occurrence for any ‘Company Name’ customer. We are using this to see how we can continue improving internally. If you have any other thoughts, please send them to XYZ, your personal contact here, and we will follow up. Thank you!”)

The language will vary according to the personality and culture of the company.

Gable PR worked with one fast-crowing financial services company where social media complaints began rising faster than historic trends. Most related to newer offices or acquisitions, which were still working to align with the company’s well-honed and personal approach to customer service. The company moved quickly through the social media steps outlined above. It solved most problems and gained new fans while showing off its great culture through social media. Gable PR also started increasing the number of positive news stories, blogs, Facebook posts and Twitter conversations and links to quality news coverage and testimonials, which helped better content to rise higher in online searches.

The negative noise on Facebook and Twitter soon faded to isolated whispers, fitting a phenomenon we covered here previously on the Half Life of a Tweet.

Similar approaches have worked for consumer companies big and small. Microsoft used an aggressive social media response program to turn around its image from being an insensitive monolith with no interest in helping the consumer. Microsoft bloggers and individuals on social media listened aggressively and responded to complaints in a human voice. With time, the company went from being one of the least admired companies in the country to rising on the most admired ranks, something every organization hopes to achieve.

Twitter and FB Flame Wars: Knocking Down the Big Ones in Crisis PR

Friday, January 31st, 2014
Crisis Counter Attack

Crisis Counter Attack

Posted by Tom Gable

When the flame wars break out on Facebook and Twitter, don’t you wish you could call in the air tankers and dump chemical retardants on the perpetrators?

We have had several recent crisis PR challenges at Gable PR where clients wanted to go to war. Being of a competitive nature, they envisioned blowing away the critics with nuclear twitter attacks from all angles. Keep the miscreants on the defensive. Show them the error of the ways. Prove that we are right.

Unfortunately, experience shows that dueling vitriol and aggression only perpetuate the madness. New critics jump aboard. The snarkiest and most clever attacks go viral, attracting new garrisons of hostile forces. Gable PR had one technology client who kept arguing against online critics for a week, only to see the ratio of bad comments to good rise faster than floodwaters during a tsunami. When he set ego aside and stopped debating, the tides of criticism receded rapidly. He moved the conversation into calmer waters with updates on popular programs and future plans.

A financial client came under the gun after a marketing person erred in posting a joke rather than a typical inspirational quote on the company’s digital billboard on a main city intersection.  The joke made fun of the traits of a certain breed of animal. A lover of the breed saw the billboard, took a photo and shared on the institution’s Facebook page, Twitter and several special interest websites. The photo went viral and critics chimed in from all over the country in the first 24 hours.

The client responded quickly, taking down the joke, issuing an apology and pledging funds to support a foundation related to the animal’s care. The institution then initiated a series of positive Facebook posts about community activities, awards programs, pending charitable events and other news that reinforced its long-time values of community service. Support came in from customers and the community. Within 72 hours, the negative had disappeared and all was good again in banker land.

You can fight most negative conflagrations with facts. Keep up a steady stream of positive information. Redirect the debate with new evidence and provide links to impartial outside sources and experts wherever possible. If you’ve erred, apologize as soon as possible, provide a plan to right the wrong and then carry out the plan, with regular reports of progress.

There are other nuances to consider. We blogged earlier about the half-life of a Tweet – the rapid decline in commentary when facts prevail and nasty exchanges stop – and responding immediately in what we classified as a social media “lightning round.”

Bottom line:

  • Don’t stoke the flames
  • Cut a fire break (apologize, provide a new direction)
  • Bring in the air tankers (bombard them with facts)
  • Congratulate yourself for knocking down a big one

Creating Great Content: Five PR Research Tips for Starting Right

Friday, January 10th, 2014
Digging Wide, Deep

Digging Wide, Deep

Posted by Paige Nordeen

One of the daily challenges and adventures for PR professionals is helping our clients break out of the clutter of competing messages. What are the anecdotes, case histories, cultural attributes and other credentials to help bring their stories to life? How do we create great content to show what may be different or compelling about each on a continuous basis?

We interact with media specialists with expertise in many areas, making it our duty to be prepared to speak and write intelligently on a wide range of topics. From representing a biotechnology company to promoting an up-and-coming chocolatier, PR pros are responsible for translating their client’s desired message to connect with different audiences, often in a short time frame. How does one effectively conquer this communications challenge? Research, research, research!

The process can be daunting. But if you approach it with a plan and then just chunk away, you will soon find yourself amassing potentially great content to use in your work. Here are five tips for building your own database of information for creating brilliant client content.

Use all Media Outlets and Channels

In addition to your favorite search engines, check out every available online channel. Track the company’s Twitter feed to look for potential interesting anecdotes, insights and links to intriguing facts. Delve deeper into their voice, vision and personality by following the client’s Facebook page or Google+ account. Check LinkedIn for details on the leadership team that go beyond what is found in a standard executive biography. Use the same approaches to learn more about a specific journalist before making the big pitch. Listen to the online conversations. Get a feeling for tone.

Add Facts from Credible Sources, Remove Jargon

In the PR world, we translate company and industry jargon into more precise and interesting language to connect with outside audiences. This isn’t always an easy task; especially when working with clients in complex fields such as the life sciences, technology and law. Searching for terms with Answers.com is a quick way to find more information and links to other resources. Lexis/Nexis and industry websites can provide exquisite detail and precise definitions if needed. Wikipedia can be a useful starting point as well by looking for additional resources in the footnotes. Also, keep in mind that Wikipedia should be considered a tertiary source of information and not to be cited.

Slice and Dice, Chunk Away

Chopping up a huge research task into smaller, individual categories will help keep you organized, on track and not let those daunting research projects get the best of you. Try dividing the main assignment into little research buckets, such as people, products and points of differentiation.  Be journalistic and research who, what, when, where and why. Pursue a chunk or two at a time.

Keep plugging away at the task at hand. Look at each topic as a separate task and you’ll avoid an information overload.

Take 5

A small break here and there will keep you focused and your eyes and mind fresh while you work your way through your research. Keep a few pieces of candy in another room; step away for a moment and have a little dose of sugar. Watching calories? Take a short walk around the office or an outside break to stretch those legs and the mind. Read something different. Alternate between different projects to stimulate the mind in different ways.

Fact Check

Make sure that whatever you deliver to your client and the media is stellar and error-free. PR professionals need to be diligent, obsessive fact-checkers. Don’t rely on automated spell-checkers or just reading documents on a computer screen.  Scrutinize a printed copy, update and then share with a colleague.  Anyone can miss little things, if they have been with a document too long. Outside eyes (and brains!) can help ensure that you have turned your research into clear, fact-filled and compelling content to delight the client, the media and the ultimate target audience.

Happy researching and best of success telling those exciting new client stories!

Are your pitches newsworthy or snooze-worthy?

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

By Anna Crowe

Lost-interest

When I first moved into the public relations profession from marketing, one of my biggest challenges (opportunities) was thinking like a journalist. This notion resonated everywhere I turned – from PR blogs and the Twittersphere, to media and colleagues. Having no experience as a reporter (nor a journalism degree), I was now asked to identify what made my clients compelling (people, products, services, technology), write the story in journalistic style (huh?!) without hype and then pitch with all my might in hopes of securing coverage. I needed to quickly perfect my storytelling skills and be able to continuously identify the news over the snooze.

Back in one of my first jobs, in auditing, I did my share of ‘investigative’ work but the resulting working papers weren’t exactly stories and although some of my findings may have been compelling, I never had to sell the information to anyone for promotional purposes. I just documented with my #2 red pencil and moved along to another financial statement.

Then, having spent nearly a decade in a traditional marketing environment, my brain was accustomed to jumping on the latest product development, bonus feature or upgrade as if it were breaking news. Although I was used to selling the ‘value,’ I was also accustomed to selling the features of my clients’ products and brands. Another brand attribute meant more bullet points on a sell sheet, ammunition for sales reps and potential enhancement to an existing marketing campaign.

Journalists (and readers) don’t care much for bullet points unless those bullet points can relay the benefits of a product or service and demonstrate that something had occurred or changed. The attribute may not be a factor in a compelling story but the life-changing nature of that added benefit can mean the world to a reader if properly conveyed. I quickly learned that the capability to sniff out the news is both a creative talent and a procedural skill.

If 80 percent of writing is reporting (and generating media interest and resulting coverage), we need to continuously be asking ourselves – what does the product or service do that people would care about? Does it solve a common or important problem? Does it improve health, appearance, love life or save time and money? Does it help one’s career, a business or investment? Is it informative, poignant, humorous, sexy, provocative or inspiring? Of course this takes us back to that critical ‘so what?’ question, which editors aren’t afraid to ask when pitched with a potential story.

Facts are essential – we can’t overhype or oversell the story. But unless we’re dealing with breaking news, facts are not always enough. What’s the story and is that story interesting, compelling and of interest to anyone other than the client, or snooze-worthy? Working hard to tell a good story will be much more likely to generate coverage. The snooze-worthy, superficial approach will likely go directly into the reporter’s trash folder, among all other underwhelming, inferior and misspelled or overcapitalized pitches. That’s my story, anyway.

 

See Anna’s post on Ragan’s PR Daily

 

From the Pinnacle to Pariah? Crisis PR and San Diego Mayor Bob Filner

Monday, July 15th, 2013
TV Apology

TV Apology

Posted by Tom Gable

Within a few days, San Diego Mayor Bob Filner had gone from the pinnacle of power to operating from a communications bunker, charged with many instances of sexual harassment and watching his power wane all around.

The story broke with KPBS where three of his key long-time supporters and fellow Democrats submitted letters asking for his resignation. The next day, his chief of staff resigned, followed by a steady stream of fellow Democrats piling on with calls for his resignation, as further documented by KPBS.

He issued an apology by means of a video (with no opportunity for Q&A), said he needed help, said he wasn’t resigning and characterized some of the problems as being changes in society. At age 70 and a veteran of politics, community service and a position of fighting for the underdog, Filner may have trouble making the case for somehow missing the women’s movement of the past few decades.

KOGO radio (AM 600) approached Gable PR on deadline Friday to talk about the key issues and what could be done from a crisis PR standpoint. Chris Merrill, talk show host, thought the video and CD approach was ludicrous. He asked for a fast analysis of what Filner had done and how it compared to standard approaches.

Gable PR has an essential crisis and risk communications check list. We have covered breaking crisis news many times, the most recently with President Obama and the IRS scrutiny of his political enemies.

The basic elements of facing the public when a crisis hits:

  1. Recognize the issue; admit to the transgression
  2. Apologize when necessary
  3. Provide a solution
  4. Set a vision for next steps and how the solution will be achieved
  5. Perform as promised

The first four steps are almost always done in public, where those presenting allow for questions. When organizations have issues with services and products, or even aberrant behavior by the leadership, image and reputation can be regained over time. The length of time is directly related to an organization’s accumulated goodwill, the magnitude of the crisis and the honest commitment the organization or individual makes to performing as promised. Those with the best reputations are given the benefit of the doubt in most cases.

Our previous blog on the Obama-IRS crisis offers links to many other resources as background for consideration. Organizations and individuals who have built up goodwill among many constituencies over the long term are more likely to recover than those with less goodwill (or more bad will) in the bank.

Can he recover? Can he change? Can he move reputation in a positive direction? Chip Merrill asked a great question: does he care?

Filner has a well-reported reputation for being a couple of different parts of the male anatomy in his dealings with people. He has been ecumenical, though, doling out the vitriol regardless of race, color, creed or national origin. Detractors from all stripes have provided testimony to his running government with unfettered arrogance, bullying and confrontational behavior. The alleged attacks on women, which may be made public soon, have created a new level of outrage and could bankrupt whatever remained in his goodwill bank.

(July 21 Update: UT San Diego offered Filner a crisis PR playbook, quoting Sitrick, Dezenhall, yours truly and others from throughout the country.)

 

Crisis PR: Fundamental Change First, then Pro-Active Reputation Management

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013
New Road Ahead?

New Road Ahead?

Posted by Tom Gable

NBC reported that the White House is facing a major PR crisis related to the IRS and other recent issues that have rocketed to the top of news coverage globally. As noted by many PR gurus over the years, this isn’t a PR problem. It is a management problem and deals with the fundamental values of any organization, its operating culture and ability to commit to change, then achieve it.

In crisis PR, the correct approach starts with introspection, critical analysis and long-range thinking. In the short term, recognize the problem, apologize if necessary, pledge to make changes to right the current wrong and prevent its occurring in the future, set a vision for where the changes will go, and then deliver on the promises.

We’ve covered many transgressions in the past two years that provide good lessons for any organization, individual or institution dealing with a management crisis. As referenced in an earlier blog on crisis PR, the concept is simple.

As management guru Peter Drucker noted decades ago: “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

The lessons come from TEPCO and the Fukushima Daiichi Plant in Japan, BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, Penn State and its molestation scandal, a surge in Toyota recalls, HP management and market turmoil and Tiger Woods, among others, with the classic case being Tylenol. Here are links to the previous posts, which carry a common theme based on the Drucker teachings and sage advice from crisis PR luminaries all over the globe that real values, mission, organizational culture drive crisis PR. Get it right internally, then tell the world.

PR University Panel: Six Easy (?) Steps for Writing Like a Journalist in PR

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

Wordsmith at work

Posted by Tom Gable

The PR University program on August 30 featured Jon Greer, training director of PRU, moderator; Jonathan Kranz, author of “Writing Copy for Dummies”; Don Bates, APR, PRSA Fellow, former journalist, agency CEO and currently professor at New York University; and yours truly, Tom Gable, APR, PRSA Fellow, CEO of Gable PR.

Greer set the stage by outlining the six steps to being a better writer and then led the panel through ideas PR professionals could use in using the tips in their practices:

One – Be an internal reporter

Two – Organize your material

Three – Start writing

Four – Continue adding useful information

Five – Review and revise

Six – Work with an editor

Greer asked the participants about what would be their biggest hurdles to becoming a better writer. Bates said each writer needs to be a strategic thinker – content needs to make something happen and build a bigger story. Gable said each story needs to be viewed as a building block in creating a bigger image and reputation for the long term, so facts and details are important. Kranz said the best writers go beyond just presenting information; they look for compelling core messages and themes that can resonate with the right audiences.

Kranz stressed the power of telling good stories, with a beginning, middle and an end. Is it about how your service works, your products and your people, how you solve problems, how your business began, how you overcame issues, what major customers are happy and anything related to trends that help you rise above the competition?

Desire, Danger and Drama

He framed each story as having three parts: desire, where someone wants something and there is a motivating element; danger, where there are obstacles, problems, risks and challenges; and drama, where the hero comes in with a magic sword to solve things.

For a company story, Gable said to start by looking at what exists (market, technology, service, industry trend, etc.), what are the problems that need to be solved, how do you differentiate the new approaches or discoveries, what will the team do to make it happen and what will ultimately be changed? Journalists are looking for cause-and-effect, plus anticipated results. If you can demonstrate what the company has done to evoke change, and tell it in a compelling way, you’re going to drive positive media relations. Also, look for what doesn’t exist. Is there a new story hook, trend or oversight your client can speak to?

Always be Collecting

Greer said to “always be collecting information.” This includes competitive information and industry trends as well. Sometimes outside stories can stimulate new ideas for promoting your own company in new ways and further differentiating against the competition.

Kranz counseled against having false drama. Journalists will see through it, he said. The panel stressed the importance of authentic counsel. Bates said to create a catalog of stories that  can be rolled out over time. His approach has been to interview key executives at the companies he has worked for. At Gable PR, teams use internal audits to delve into the heart and soul of a company. The team develops questions to be asked individually and confidentially of key client connections to delve into vision, mission, challenges, opportunities, history of the company, culture and anecdotes that can be used to demonstrate the successes of the company and its people. The process often finds stories that haven’t been told before.

The panel discussed how to work with difficult executives. In some cases, an executive will envision a story that really has no news value anywhere. PR firms and internal staffs need to provide authentic counsel. In some cases, they have to keep from falling on their own swords and be diplomatic. The panel suggested trying positive approaches such as saying “maybe there are other ideas we can use to build on this.”

Whenever in doubt, Gable said to drive clarity by asking two questions: “So what? Who cares?”

Bates said PR news copy should contain no jargon or hyperbole. Train your clients to think about action verbs and means of differentiating the company and its products with real facts. Gable said research with major media shows that the fact-based approach to public relations can be a clear differentiator and help build trust with the media.

Organize your material: what rises to the top, what’s important, what’s less important, what’s unimportant, do you have all the information you need? Greer said that most people will only read the lead paragraph so keep it short and simple.

Kranz said to consider the formats being written for – article, web, sidebar, feature, breaking news – and think about word count. What is the most important copy to include? What will get cut?

The panel urged writers to have copy reviewed by people not familiar with the client. Gable said his firm reviews copy internally and often works with freelancers who are former journalist to provide outside opinions.

The panel recommended setting aside complex stories for 24 hours. Kranz said to sleep on it, then read it aloud. Beyond words, he said get a feel for the rhythm. Does the copy flow?

Seven-Point Litmus Test

In closing, Gable shared the Gable PR seven-point litmus test for evaluating potential news stories or other messages:

1. Is it really newsworthy or of interest to anyone other than the company, the CEO’s family and a few of their friends?

2. How big is the impact: company, community, region, market niche or category, industry, technology or science breakthrough, nation, hemisphere, humanity?

3. Has the same or similar story already been told? (Quick research will answer the question.) 

4. Can the premise be supported by valid data, third party sources, case histories and ongoing proof of principle?

5. Does the company have credible “gurus,” who can bring the story to life and become valuable and trusted resources for the media?

6. Can the company be further differentiated by its people, technology, culture and personality? Or if you lined up the tag lines, boilerplates, key words and descriptive clauses for the top competitors in the space would they all look and sound alike?

7. Can the story be summarized in a compelling headline, Tweet or one or two-sentence sound bite or elevator pitch? 

This quick test can help focus your efforts to create a smart, compelling and interesting story or other communication that breaks through the clutter, connects with your targets and supports the long-term image and reputation of your client or organization. Failing the test can also be used as evidence to convince the client or boss to go in a new direction or risk alienating the media and beyond.

In summary, the panel agreed that strategic public relations programs supported by strong PR writing can make a difference in how an organization builds its reputation for the long term, or doesn’t.

Honing the Elevator Pitch for Analyst Presentations, Media Interviews and More

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

Make it Quick!

Posted by Tom Gable

Whether working with a Ph.D./M.D. who knows too much, a CEO who loves to spin long tales about his company and his successes or a startup or anyone else who is new to trying to connect with financial, media and other audiences, we’ve found a good starting point in the communications process is drafting a classic elevator pitch.

The challenge is writing short copy, especially for engineers and scientists who are used to citing published articles, case histories and other resources ad infinitum. The long approach is perfect for pitching peers and colleagues, less so for connecting with analysts, the media and non-industry audiences. Thus, the following was created by Gable PR as a starting point for honing a one- to two-minute pitch (also referred to as the cocktail party pitch) to grab the attention of your audience in the shortest amount of time and set the stage for next steps.

TAG LINE/SOUND BITE – The opener – an instant picture or quick summation of your positioning.  What you do, what you stand for, to what effect and why it’s important. One sentence is best.Practice with people who don’t know what you do and keep honing this one sentence (two at the most) until it rings like Shakespeare.

PROBLEM, SITUATION ANALYSIS – What exists – the pain or problem you solve?

DYNAMICS AND OPPORTUNITY – Quick historical overview of how it got to this point, how the challenge has been addressed, what is the sweet spot for your company or organization (keep it to three important points, no more!).

WHAT (solving the problem) – Your company (or organization) has been working X years to plan for and develop D, E and F to solve the problem, take advantage of the market opportunity and grow and succeed over the next Y years.

OVERVIEW FROM 30,000 FEET – We have done it: the macro view, the big picture of how your great concept all comes together and grows market share, sales, traffic, profits, benefits the community, whatever – the BIG PICTURE vision of future success rather than technical details and features.

SO WHAT (Benefits) – You will succeed because of the creative planning, results and ultimate value you deliver.  Create a mental picture of the benefits to science, patients, customers, the world. If there is a good case history, cite the proof of principle in a sentence or two. Do it in two sentences and you get a Pulitzer Prize (plus the desired result).

THE TEAM – The team includes executives with national credentials in A, B and C. It has a combined ZZ years in the industry, has built MM, helped YY other companies or institutions grow and knows the market and how to provide an expanding array of products and services to help it succeed (make it relevant to the big picture).

THE CLOSE (call to action on the elevator) – “We have the people, the plan and the commitment to succeed in a rapidly growing new market.  I can provide incredible detail that I believe will convince you to … (invest, interview, buy, etc.).  How about a follow up meeting?  Where would you like to meet?  What else can I provide?”

Ask questions that will take it to the next step!