Posts Tagged ‘media’

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

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.

Communications at the Speed of Light in Crisis PR

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

When Crisis Hits

Posted by Tom Gable

Situation: The Twittersphere and blogosphere are exploding with attacks on your company, client, CEO, technology, food quality, lousy customer service, bad earnings report, botched new product introduction, labor dispute, legal action, whatever. You jump into the feeding frenzy of the 20-second (or less) news cycle where the momentum of an attack goes ballistic. How to respond?

One option is to do nothing if the attacks are from the lunatic fringe or deal with a single aberration that runs counter to the reputation you’ve earned over time based on the quality of all that you do.  You may still want to deal with that incident according to established procedures, protocols and process to counter even the most ridiculous post.  The challenge is to avoid an instant, emotional response that escalates the exchange, especially if it’s a difficult or contentious subject.

Instead, get analytical.  If it’s in the Twittersphere, consider the half life of a Tweet, as covered here earlier and where the first option may be the best.  If it appears the flaming will continue, set goals for moving the conversation.  Be consistent in the tones, themes and values being portrayed.  Display cultural authenticity – what you stand for and the essential core values.  Proceed with a human voice (no legalese or corporate speak).

Prepare to track the conversations by the minute as the crisis or issue unfolds. Measure how the conversation moves.  We’ve adopted a simple method that is incredibly easy to record and track the flow: is the message (Tweet, comment, news story, whatever) positive, neutral or negative. The ultimate goal is to be trusted and believed. If starting in a deep hole (three to one against), set your goal to at least break even within a certain period of time and rise into positive territory immediately thereafter (Gable PR used this approach and means of measurement in a issues management campaign that won a PRSA Silver Anvil).

To help focus the effort, Gable PR developed a quick check list to start the conversation with our clients when disaster strikes (the key word is when, not if; be prepared).

  • Source of the communications, legitimacy
  • Issues being raised
  • Internal analysis of accuracy, validity, magnitude of the issues and conversation; duration, desired end-point
  • Analysis of potential impact on reputation of the brand, company, people, technology, etc.
  • Beyond communications, are internal changes needed to the organization, product, service, culture and core values?
  • If analysis indicates the fundamentals of the organization seemingly aren’t lined up with the outside audiences, how to move toward better alignment? (Don’t get hung up in ego. What needs to be done?  By whom?  Course corrections?  How to announce and take leadership?)
  • Launch issues management and Crisis PR plan if required, to include response strategy, core values, messaging, tools, tactics and timing (in some cases, you don’t have to respond immediately, especially when the attacks are emotional and personal)
  • Set goals for moving the conversation
  • Add resources to the Crisis PR team if needed, including outside experts
  • Respond in a sincere, human voice and work to build trust
  • Conduct minute-by-minute tracking, analysis of trending in tone, content
  • Adjust the response strategy and tactics as facts and circumstances indicate
  • Continue to evolve the internal culture and organization as needed
  • Celebrate success!

Seven Tips for Making Headlines Shine (and Getting Your PR Releases Read!)

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

Posted by Tom Gable

Headlines need to excite, entice and entertain. The best grab a reader’s attention in a short amount of space and lure him or her into a story. They create evocative thoughts and images. They summarize smartly and succinctly the meaning of what will follow. They don’t go on forever like an abstract for a research paper (you can’t bore people into reading your story!). Here are some quick tips for writing better headlines.

1. Read the Media You Are Trying to Reach! How Would They Write the Headline?
2. Think About Your Target Audiences and What’s Important to Them
3. What’s the News (breaking, feature, opinion)?
4. Get Creative. How Are You Going to Stand Out from the Crowd?
5. What General Approach to Take (fact-based, humorous, the ever-present pun, positioning and visionary, provocative, diplomatic)?
6. What Are the Most Important Facts and Impressions You Want to Leave with Your Audiences?
7. Be a Stickler for Style

• Brainstorm on key words and tags to use for search engine optimization
• Use a two-line headline and two-line subheadline wherever possible to make it easy for the reader and search engines to put it into context
• Have the client name in the first line wherever possible
• Use active verbs
• Have complete thoughts on each line
• Have logical line breaks and balanced lines, to mirror the standards set by the media; don’t just wrap text from line to line
• Be smart about punctuation (including commas, semicolons and dashes)
• Use the “So What, Who Cares?” test to see if you’ve got it right (or should start over)
• Read the headline and subheadline aloud and see if they flow, plus have the creative power to connect
• Edit, edit, edit!