Posts Tagged ‘media’

Boost the Brain: Take a Newspaper or Two to Breakfast, Magazines to Lunch

Sunday, February 1st, 2015
Creative Resources

Creative Resources

Posted by Tom Gable

Where do creative PR and other marketing, positioning and communicating ideas come from?

Experts recommend checking a broad range of media, including those you may not have encountered unless you go non-digital and take a newspaper or two to breakfast and a magazine or two to lunch.

In interviewing more than 20 applicants (ages 22 to 34) for jobs at Gable PR over a two-month period, I asked where they got their news. We were in a small conference room, with several different newspapers scattered on the table. All said online. One said she occasionally read the weekly business journal. I thumbed through a local daily and a weekly business journal with a couple of candidates just to see the reactions. None was aware of how the publications were organized but enjoyed following the flow of  the news, something not often experienced online.

It’s too easy to subscribe to different digital news trackers and feeds, click on a promising link when one arrives, check out the single story and then move on to another link to a different story. The process is efficient and valuable for following certain topics, people and organizations. The missing parts for anyone in communications: the joy of discovery of new topics and nonessential information that can broaden your base of knowledge, providing new stimulus for future creative thought.

As a former print journalist, I have always started the morning with newspapers, even in today’s digital era. I subscribe to two local daily newspapers (one regional metropolitan, one business and financial) and The Wall Street Journal. During the week, I get hard copies of the local weekly business journal, the Sunday New York Times, and a dozen magazines (news, business, science, wine, management). In reading the physical product, one sees how the editors ranked the importance of the news based on story and photo placements. You get a sense of the world as you move page to page. And this is where discovery occurs — finding odd little features or analytical pieces you might not have seen elsewhere, adding to your intellectual database. I find stories that I missed in scanning through the digital editions of several of these publications.

Stephen King, in is book On Writing, talked about where his ideas came from. “There is no idea dump, no story central, no island of buried bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky; two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.”

If we are coming up short on creative ideas for our clients during a brainstorming session, we’ll take a break for a day or two, assign further reading of the media covering our client, its competitors’ materials and general business media. We then ask each individual to come back with their top three ideas and compile the results for further brainstorming. The quality of the creative thought rises considerably as do the results for our clients, from positioning, to media stories, feature pitches, new product introduction ideas, conference speech topics, promotions and staging events for broadcast coverage, among other things.

For example, in helping position a new company and its software products for launch, the team read competitive coverage, marketing materials, trend stories in the industry and local news stories on some of the major customers in the space. They looked for what was there and also what wasn’t there — the ying and yang of creative thinking. The result: distinctive positioning for our client that became the foundation for a long-range strategic plan to help it break out of the competitive clutter and grow.

A little morning, midday and evening stimulus with a newspaper and magazine or two can go a long way.

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.

Proper PR Pitching Scores Coverage, Builds Respect, Relationships

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014
Bad Pitch!

Bad Pitch!

Posted by Katelyn O’Riordan

At Gable PR, our team works on clients in a diverse set of industries, ranging from technology and education to real estate and employment law. We pitch a plethora of subjects and stories: graduations and student successes, new devices and apps, residential real estate sales and renovations, new bills in employment law – you name it!

We pride ourselves on being skilled in targeting our approach to meet the specific needs and interests of the reporters and journalists that we are contacting. We work diligently on behalf of our clients, telling their stories using compelling information, statistics and facts that are relevant to our contacts and offering our clients as experts in their designated industries.

Journalists receive hundreds of emails per day, so it’s important to be concise while also detail-oriented. As a PR professional, nothing is more exciting than getting an immediate response to a pitch or news release. We obsessively check our email inboxes, whether sitting at our desks or scrolling through our phones at the gym or happy hour. When a member of the media responds instantaneously (which unfortunately happens less often than most of us would like), it’s like your parents letting you skip school when you’re seven years old to go to Disneyland. Pure elation.

I digress. When a member of the media responds positively, the aforementioned sentiment is experienced. A negative response from a reporter can leave a PR pro feeling defeated and anxious. Now we get to tell the client that said reporter isn’t interested in their story and a feature article isn’t in their future this time. Another bummer!

But with any response, we at least know that they saw our message and we can halt the follow-ups. To share results from some of our efforts, the Gable PR team has compiled a round-up of the nice and not-so-nice responses we’ve received from media:

Nice:

  • After pitching a client as an expert on sexual harassment in the workplace (surrounding a steadily unfolding scandal in the City of San Diego where the mayor, Bob Filner, was being forced to resign), a local daily newspaper columnist responded, “You are so good. We don’t do angle stories like this, however. But if your client wanted to send me a couple of paragraphs about this sexual harassment related issue, I could probably use it. Thank you for your creative, insightful thinking!”
  • A national trade publication reporter responds to a pitch on a client’s franchise rollout, “Thanks. We’re exploring some potential stories in coming months involving franchise services like your client’s. We’re going to hold onto this idea until then. Cheers.”
  • After following up with a local reporter on a client’s work with a local homeowner, “Thanks for following up! I’d lost track of the original email. This would be perfect for our homes section…this is right up my alley.”
  • A daily newspaper reporter reaches out (without us pitching him first) for expert commentary from one of our clients who gave great commentary for a previous story. “I know this is last minute, but would your client be able to comment on the effect of the Hobby Lobby decision on employers?”
  • When pitching a broadcast reporter on a tour of a local home renovated by a client with a unique business model (paying the upfront costs to fix those in disrepair to secure a higher sales price and be compensated after escrow closed): “I like this. Thanks for the note, let’s set this up.”

Not-so-nice:

  • When contacting a local broadcast assignment news desk editor in regards to a press conference, “Why are you calling me? Are you aware that the entire city is on fire?” Then, he hung up.
  • En route to meet a client for a broadcast segment at 5:30 a.m., the morning segment producer called to cancel due to “breaking news,” but after watching the morning show, the Gable PR team found there was no such thing.

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.

Ultimate Sequester PR Strategy: the White House as content creator, channel master

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Posted by Tom Gable

Case histories will be written and studied for years on how the Obama White House has found new tools and tactics for connecting at the local level, while marginalizing major national media.

As covered in Politico in a piece called “Obama the puppet master,” the Obama White House has developed its own content creation machine to feed all channels of communication with tightly crafted messages that build the Obama brand. It chooses the channels with surgical precision. Why interview with The New York Times beat reporter who knows the issues and risk facing tough questions, Politico notes, when one can dominate local media through strategically scheduled interviews with friendly anchormen and women who may not be up on the issues?  The cumulative effect can be bigger than scoring a national media hit, as covered in depth by Politico.

The orchestration of coverage of potential economic Armageddon from the automatic budget cuts scheduled for March 1 (called Sequester) is the latest and most complex example of a local-national strategy. From the Secretary of Transportation setting the stage with future delays at major airports because of fewer air traffic controllers, to interviews in local markets with data on the anticipated loss of jobs (e.g. underway Feb. 26 in military towns in Virginia), the PR efforts are carrying consistent messages carefully chosen to appeal to each audience. How does it work?

Politico and a follow up piece by the Poynter Organization (“The dangerous delusions of the White House press corps and the president”) provided details. To summarize the key elements of the Obama White House approach and one that can work for brands, organizations, political candidates, new product introductions, crisis PR and other PR campaigns:

  • Develop a comprehensive, cohesive message strategy with consistent themes and supporting evidence;
  • Be precise in targeting and masterful in scheduling and orchestrating the individual parts of the program;
  • Go for local issues, with local examples;
  • The White House (or any brand) becomes the ultimate publisher (print, broadcast, photography, video, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, YouTube and more);
  • Every appearance or event needs to support the brand, to include great photo opportunities with locals for driving local coverage;
  • Control the content and flow through all channels by picking the media carefully;
  • Stage events to focus on the big messages and memorable lines and don’t allow time at the end for random media questions that might delve into negative territory and take the candidate, CEO or other luminary off-message;
  • Go for easy wins at the local level, then build regionally;
  • Ignore the major media unless they are friendly;
  • Produce your own photography and video rather than allow media coverage (local outlets are always looking for free content);
  • Shun those who have produced or written anything that would be considered negative;
  • Pound away at key messages through major pieces with the friendly media and TV personalities and support with social barrages to hit every target relentlessly;
  • Use the classic “weekend document dump” to avoid negative coverage and “minimize attention to embarrassing or messy facts”;
  • And orchestrate all the elements to ramp up for strategically and with surgical precision for maximum impact at a pre-designated date, such as an election or the day before the so-called fiscal cliff.

The latter – strategic planning of all elements for total control – represents the biggest challenge. Many organizations, brands and individuals can master parts of integrated campaigns.  Few would have the budget, the talent, the discipline and the power even close to that of the Obama White House to succeed on all fronts.

The bottom line, according to Politico:

“With more technology, and fewer resources at many media companies, the balance of power between the White House and press has tipped unmistakably toward the government. This is an arguably dangerous development, and one that the Obama White House — fluent in digital media and no fan of the mainstream press — has exploited cleverly and ruthlessly.”

Hot Dog on a Stick: Sticking a Smile on a Gable PR Employee for 20 Years

Friday, February 8th, 2013

Fun Food

Posted by Katelyn O’Riordan

The red, white, blue and yellow colors light up the food court, beckoning mall visitors with the bright and inviting façade. The friendly employees clad in uniforms in company colors and matching chapeau catch my eye. I immediately picture them handing over a paper boat filled with a crispy, golden-brown treat – the iconic Southern California Hot Dog on a Stick, with a cup of fresh lemonade. It was one reward my mom would offer my brother and me for our patience after dragging us elementary school kids around to stores like Ann Taylor and Crate & Barrel.

To this day, every time I visit the Fashion Valley mall, near our office in San Diego, I visit my old friends at Hot Dog on a Stick and indulge in an ice-cold fresh lemonade. Memories of my childhood always come rushing back and now I have a greater understanding of the work and passion that go into each store location.

It wasn’t until working for Gable PR that I got the rare opportunity to learn about Hot Dog on a Stick’s brand and the company culture behind the menu items and colorful uniforms. Gable PR was retained to promote the company as it expanded nationally through franchising and a new drive-thru concept. Our research and working directly with their passionate team afforded me the chance to build on a fun family memory that has endured for years and continues to make me smile (proving that the Hotdoggers behind the counter really do live up to their mission, “to stick a smile on your face!”).

For me, a remarkable trait of working in public relations is you are given ongoing opportunities to learn about a company or brand that you may have only known superficially.  In preparing to launch a creative, strategic PR program, you discover a wealth of information: the company’s history, mission, vision, inner workings, team ethic, culture, history and personality.

Here are 10 interesting facts about Hot Dog on a Stick:

  • Hot Dog on a Stick started in 1946 next to the sandy beaches of Santa Monica, Calif., and was originally called Party Puffs. Founder Dave Barham changed its name to Hot Dog on a Stick in 1948, and the company has since flourished into 100 stores, spread throughout 12 states and three countries.
  • Employees have a vested interest in company success; Hot Dog on a Stick is actually a 100 percent employee owned company!
  • Hot Dog on a Stick’s leadership team has as an average tenure of more than 19 years with the company; several started as Hotdoggers and worked their way up.
  • Founder Dave Barham used to call the signature uniforms “red, white and blue, with a splash of lemonade!”
  • Past celeb Hotdoggers include actress Eva Mendez and singer Sara Bareilles.
  • Dave Barham created Hot Dog on a Stick’s “Party Batter” using his mom’s delicious cornbread recipe inspired from his childhood on his family’s Missouri farm.
  • The employee uniform has changed over the years from polka dots and berets, straw hats and knee-length shorts to the catchy striped uniform and hats worn today.
  • The lemonade is made fresh every two hours, and all menu items are made-to-order using fresh ingredients.
  • Hot Dog on a Stick has new growth initiatives that include franchising and opening more drive-thru restaurants away from the traditional malls.
  • If all the fresh lemons used in one year by Hot Dog on a Stick (more than 6 million) were laid end to end, they would reach from Los Angeles to Monterey!

The knowledge gained from research, interviews, writing, and ongoing involvement in new client activities gives the PR team priceless insights to help plan community events, drive media coverage of a new store, and land a print article or a broadcast segment for a company or brand that you believe in. The results bring a special joy and sense of accomplishment that I hadn’t found in other industries, putting another smile on my face!

PR Pros as Masters of the Communications Universe — Think Like a Publisher

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

Rolling out new tools

Posted by Tom Gable

How to develop social media programs for clients in different industries and professions but with the same need to connect with multiple audiences and build image, reputation and increased connections? After considerable research, brainstorming and analyzing potential strategies, we pulled together approaches taken from the pages of our favorite journalism books and publishing models.

The concept was presented at a PRSA Counselors Academy Spring Conference in 2011 to promote the PR profession as being the new “Masters of the Communications Universe.”  Unlike those in any other field, PR professionals have: proven histories of using strategic programs to build image and reputation; a robust arsenal of tools and tactics; the power to change perceptions and behaviors; the abilities to position new companies, markets and industries and reposition companies that have become stuck; disrupt a market; pre-empt the competition; manage a crisis; and so much more!

Ready to become a master of the communications universe? Here are the 13 lucky steps Gable PR uses as a starting point for developing programs:

 

  1. Set Program Goals and Objectives – These can be big ideas, such as supporting an organization’s annual business and marketing plans, or can get specific about increasing penetration in each communications channel, driving leads to the website, increasing stock volume and other metrics.
  2. Determine Your Target Audiences – This can include internal audiences, customers, future customers, the media, suppliers, regulators, elected officials, the community, government agencies and more. Whom do you need to reach? Where do they get their information? Whom do they trust? What do they need to know to begin developing a clear picture of what makes you rise above the crowd – the clear points of differentiation that are the essence of your brand and reputation?
  3. Develop a Position, Personality, Tone and Style – How to deliver quality content to impress and educate your target audiences? Think about your favorite publications. Will your different publications — electronic and otherwise — be similar to a trade journal, a general business publication (Business Week, Forbes), a more general all around publication or website (Time, Newsweek, Huffington Post, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, the Sunday magazines in daily newspapers), something feature-packed (Wired, Fast Company, Inc.)?  Your goal is to show a consistent personality, tone and style, whether for blogging, Tweeting or posting to Facebook. How do you want to be perceived? You want to come across as helpful, knowledgeable, trusted, dependable, reliable and, of course, human!  Be friendly and authentic; connect with your audiences, don’t talk down to them.
  4. Create an Editorial Calendar for the Year – Make a list of the topics you want to cover and then develop what the news media call an Editorial Calendar. Are you going to publish your blog weekly? How will you integrate Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+ and other channels into the plan? Assign a topic to each of the next 52 weeks. Once the calendar is established, have the discipline to publish accordingly. Then, if some important piece of news surfaces that you want to blog about, go ahead and share the breaking news and simply push the calendar back a week.
  5. Develop a Content Creation Plan to Make it Happen – Assign content development one to two months ahead of when the copy, video, infographic, photo album, news story, podcast, interview or whatever is set to run. You can use project management software to manage the process, or create your own means of tracking when an assignment is made and to whom, when the draft is due, editing date, final approval date and then run date.
  6. Have a Nose for News; Find Hot Topics to Cover – Subscribe to news trackers (Google, Yahoo, New York Times and most newspapers and magazines). Set up search terms in Twilert (a search engine for Twitter) to find interesting Tweets on key subjects and links to other resources. Identify your favorite news columnists, blogs, industry experts or others to follow and check them regularly. And if you ever feel you don’t have quality content but want to communicate according to your plan and schedule, blog about your “Best Sources.”  Write a short introduction about why you like the sites or people and provide links to four or five of your favorites. This can also lead to reciprocal linking and more followers.
  7. Provide Variety – Newspapers, magazines and news websites usually have sections, such as news, sports, entertainment, business and finance, home and garden, lifestyle and people news. Think about the potential topics you want to cover. You can cover one or more in each blog. Alternate topics to keep fresh.
  8. Invite Guest Columnists – Find outside experts, peers, customers, visionaries, thought leaders in the industry, fellow board members in trade associations and others to invite as guest columnists and bloggers. If your organization supports important local, regional or national causes, dedicate an issue to the topic, such as promoting the annual 10k race or other fundraiser for cancer research. Invite the head of the organization to contribute a short piece on the need and how the funds will be applied. Think of other ways of connecting to the community. Having these types of contributors builds credibility, helps search engines find you in new ways and increases the number of followers.
  9. Ask Questions, Do Quick Surveys – A favorite trick for engaging your readers is to ask questions and create short surveys they can answer online. It can take less than an hour to create a short survey using one of the free survey sites such as Survey Monkey or Zoomerang. The surveys can ask respondents to rank hot industry topics for the coming year, favorite news media in a particular niche and helpful hints from users of a company’s products or services. The surveys need to generate results that can be turned into a future news story, blog, post on Facebook and Google+ or topic for a speech.
  10. Have a Photo Contest – If appropriate to the company, organization, institution or cause, engage your followers (and add new ones!) by having regular contests to generate fresh content in appropriate categories. These can include nature, people, recreation, local attractions, street scenes and seasonal submissions (skiing, soccer, softball, spring flowers, cutest animals, ugliest dogs, raging rivers), most innovative use of your product and other helpful hints. Have prizes that tie back to the organization or a cause. Recruit two or three celebrity judges. Launch the contest and give it a deadline, such as three weeks to submit, then a week to judge before  announcing the winners. Post the best on Pinterest then Tweet the link and post on Facebook.
  11. Draw More Traffic to Your Blog and Website with Email, Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook – Whenever you post something new, let the world know with quick Tweets, emails and Facebook posts with a short description of your new blog content and a link. This will help build your numbers and also make it easier for people to find you when they are searching for trusted resources and respected brands in your category. To make it even easier for your targets to find your key messages, include hyperlinks to your blog, Twitter handle, Facebook page and LinkedIn profile in your email signature, Tweets, posts, news releases, comments on other sites and in the body of email correspondence.
  12. Be Responsive – And do so within the personality! Communicate within the core values you have established. Keep it high level and positive.
  13. Track Everything; Have Regular Creative Sessions to Keep Improving – Are you achieving program goals and objectives? If not, why not? Post a survey to ask for feedback from your target audiences on what they like or don’t like. Find out what works best and build on it. Be consistently creative and how you, as a publisher and master of the communications universe, can keep providing quality content that engages your readers and builds your reputation.

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Words of PR and other wisdom in more than 140 characters from Biz Stone

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

Biz Stone

Posted by Tom Gable

SAN FRANCISCO — Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, meandered around the huge stage, somewhat like a magician or comedian working the space for effect as he engaged the crowd attending the PRSA 2012 International Conference here Sunday.

Giant screens flanked the stage so the some thousand PR professionals in the audience, even at the back a football field away, could catch his words and see his Cheshire grin as he told a quick person history before delving into his talk within the conference theme of “The Future Starts Now.”

The man who helped create Blogger, Xanga and Odeo said he saw the opportunity for the democratization of social media. The start was slow for Twitter until an epiphany at the South by Southwest (SXSW) technology and entertainment extravaganza in Austin, Texas, five years ago. A favorite restaurant was packed so they tweeted about meeting at another spot. When they arrived, long lines snaked out the door and around the corner.

He showed a cartoon slide of a flock of birds. The metaphor: envision the individuals moving independently then coming together and moving to a single place, drawn by a single call, common interests and instincts.

Stone said we are only at the beginning of this phenomenon called social media. The world will soon drop the term social media as we search for new tools to paint deeper pictures of ourselves.

We will be creating more information networks. The challenge, he said, is that information isn’t knowledge. Listening and then responding are key to developing understanding of the world around us. Something has to be done with the information to advance to the next level, whether it’s in public relations, marketing, philanthropy or just connecting socially.

Stone said PR has an incredibly bright future based on its ability to listen, understand and tell stories. With social media and other tools, PR professionals can create content and go straight to the source rather than through traditional media. Tell the story of the people and companies you represent directly, he said. It’s all about the narrative of the story. Stories with validity have value and the power to engage your audience.

For a new idea, Stone said there is a compound impact to altruism.

“Philanthropy is the future of marketing,” he said. He hired a corporate social responsibility (CSR) manager when they had just 16 employees – before he hired a sales manager.

The core tenet of the business is how people can work together to create tools to make the world a better place.

He made three key points that resonated with people as evidenced by the blast of tweets from the session, post-session conversations and in remarks by other presenters who referenced the Stone talk:

  • To succeed spectacularly you need to be ready to fail spectacularly.
  • Opportunity can be manufactured. What circumstance can I prearrange and take advantage of?
  • Creativity is a renewable resource. 

The PRSA flock