Good Articles Come to Those Who Wait

waitingWhen I build my media lists, I always include monthly and industry magazines that are published around the clients area. Although at times it is much harder to get the attention of these highly targeted publications, I view the additional time to tailor a pitch worth it, for three reasons:

1. It allows the client to see how his/her product or service can be translated to ‘fit’ in front of different audiences (readership base) – giving them better appreciation for PR and messaging approach.

2. These publications often have a longer shelf life as well as ‘shareabilty’ due to their quality, targeted demographic and visual appeal – therefore more chances for client to be seen.

3. Because of longer lead times and editorial schedules, it’s always fun to call a client after you have finished up a contract to let them know that they have yet another interview/article.

This happened most recently for a client of mine who was approached by a widely read lifestyle publication out of Georgian Bay area, four months after her initial launch took place.

Why PR people like this:

  • Allowed me to deliver value to the client MONTHS after our partnership.
  • Keeps my services on the radar for further engagement
  • Great reminder for client to give a referal 😉

Managing a mini-crisis: Triple ‘A’ approach

Two recent events have brought my attention to Crisis Communications and the flurry of panic that ensues when one finds themselves or their company, the subject of negative attention.

Catalyst CC stands by our Triple ‘A’ approach (Accessibility, Action, Accountability) when coming under negative scrutiny and its effectiveness for CEOs, brands and even politicians.

The first, Hobby Lobby’s response to anti-Semitic remarks about its retail chain

The second, New Media Animation public employee “I Quit” video that went viral

In both cases, the owners of the company had two choices: Stay quiet, or take control of the impending backlash.  I think they both responded well by delivering timely, honest and open statements, neither hiding their viewpoint, but careful to respect any offended parties. They also offered solutions, follow-up or some form of next steps.

Here is the Triple ‘A’ approach dissected;

Accessible: Make yourself open and approachable – whether welcoming a personal platform to address individual questions, or delivering a message through a very public forum leaving room for comments and posts. Oh, and don’t wait a week – you’ve missed an opportunity to appear that you care, and people have already formed their opinion of you.

Action: Obvious solution: take immediate action and rectify the situation – HOLD up! This would have to be determined case by case. But be warned, once you publicly address an issue, the next question will likely be, ‘so what are you doing about that?’. Being genuine and letting people know that you are making moves to review or change a policy or procedure, can go a long way. At least it will bide you time to build a plan.

Accountability: The best way to keep people looking forward, not backwards, is to  reinforce any positive steps that your company has taken and share ‘the good’.  This may require a brief review of key messages – or it may require a complete re-brand (depending on the severity of the situation) Your PR rep can work on building a mini-campaign in order to further solidify your ‘best foot forward’ and some new strategies on how to keep people associating you with this image down the road.

To summarize: News travels quickly – Address it fast, and move onto brighter messages. Seems like common sense right?…

I should qualify this post by saying that not all news is good news, and you would be wise to discuss with your counsel before coming up with any appropriate response.

Next Steps: Too often, corporations work backwards and spend money on trying to rectify a situation rather than building worst case scenarios into their plan from the beginning. A one day crisis training seminar could prepare staff and management for mulitple scenarios and provide more confidence in dealing with media, customers or the public.

triple A

Invite your clients into the news cycle

News flows by the minute. As PR pros we are best when we are not resting on the media topics of the day, but on how our clients’ business can be added, regurgitated and restructured into the news of tomorrow.

But even if we are emailing the client daily with new ideas, articles for comment or trending stories, often the client does not realize how important their role is in this never ending news cycle.

Often we must train the client to understand the timeliness and importance of sharing their personal viewpoint and their take on a business, product, or event as the expert.

Here are a few ways of getting clients to realize their role as news curators:

Get it in writing. While drawing out the contract or proposal, devote a line around the media coverage section that lays out the responsibility on the client’s end in terms of response time, opinion sharing and your expectations.

Know the business. Encourage your client early on that while you are interested in their public perception, you need to work with them to have a firm grasp of their business – trends, profitability, goal sharing, other. This gives insight to possible and future trends and keeps one step ahead of the media.

Spoon feed. Sometimes when sharing an article or link with no explanation, clients will not know what to do with it or save for later. Pre-empt their response by leading with a few trigger words, ex: “This ___ could be detrimental to our industry because …. ” or “The impact of _____ on employees could mean …” or “The author may also want to consider ….. ”

Trust their words. While we pride ourselves for knowing how to write for media and key words for the right audience, sometimes….. the client just says it best. I have great respect for my clients who have been in their respective industries for years and often, will look for them to speak from their head and heart for just the right turn of phrase which could summarize a point beautifully.

Invite them into the club and make sure they know they are part of a team.
Happy hunting!

PR checklist – Are you ready to launch?

Using a client case study – I thought it was a perfect opportunity to share a snap shot of how to prep your business to enter the world of PR.

Client S, a new service-based website anxious to launch, had taken a year to build a site they were proud of. They hired copywriters a web designer and even put together an animated short video to accompany their marketing efforts. Now they were ready to ‘get the word out!’.

Hold up! (enter sound of screeching tires)… your PR team will require a few checked boxes before putting you, and your message, in the spotlight.

Here is how you can be sure that your PR team can hit the ground running:

#1 Have a logo and name we can work with

Check! This seems like a no brainer, but that quirky name that sounded good to you in the shower may be very hard to ‘sell’ on your behalf.  For client S, they lucked out on their web designer and would not require a complete rebrand or DO-over of their site or logo.  *Basics are covered; good logo, well functioning site, great name that works for news and marketing.

#2 Ensure your website verbiage hits the mark

Half Check – While the website functioned well and the copy was nicely written, it was a bit wordy, leaving the most important messages buried deep in the text. Catalyst CC pulled the most important messages up front, as well as some site re-architecture around services. *A key word search exercise would be helpful in ensuring your website copy is optimized for Search Engines.

#3 Know ALL of your target audiences…really…

Hold up! While client S’s target customer could be described by gender, age, income, etc. – this does not take into account the perspective or mindset of the customer when coming to their site. Catalyst CC completed a KEY MESSAGE exercise which broke their target audiences into three categories: USERS, DONORS and SPONSORS. Some overlap, some don’t. *The client depends on each audience for success, yet different messages will hit home in each category.

#4 Get ready for traffic

Check! Client S’s website has been tested, bio complete, social profiles updated and they are ready to launch. Be sure your website and social sites are synched and ready to receive a bump in traffic, hits, inquries, sharing, etc. *Also share key messages with staff or team members who may be feilding calls from customers or potential media!

#5 Are You Media Ready?

Hold up! While the client took it upon themselves to draft a ‘press release’, it read more like a blog post full of marketing speak. Catalyst CC crafted a timely, newsworthy, media release designed to get attention from news sites, reporters and journalists who are looking for topics around client’s industry/subject matter and expertise. *It was a bonus that client S also had a media-friendly spokesperson who could take additional media training courses if needed.

Working through these 5 steps beforehand or along side your new PR expert will ensure that you will enter the public spotlight with increased confidence and expert positioning.


Successful internal PR – Don’t underestimate your staff

This post could be summed up as follows: A successful promotional campaign is made up of:

One part savvy PR and marketing;
One part internal passion.

You may be wondering why I am posting about staff – well, for PR specialists, when building a campaign for a client, there is a heartbeat, a reason, a value proposition that we are usually trying to promote and none of it works if the entire organization isn’t living, breathing and BELIEVING what you are trying to sell.

As your PR specialists we do all that we can to create buzz on various networks, increase awareness online and draw new eyeballs to you – but once they cross the threshold, they need to be converted, become a fan!

One of the most important element to any communications or PR campaign is the client’s PASSION for the cause and their internal support engine to drive it home.

If you think about it – who really has the final say to drive your business forward or backwards? Who is the customers’ first and last point of contact?

At the end of the day, your managers, employees; they are the final link in this great big machine that you’ve created, built and showcased to the world. Your staff – the final piece of the puzzle and the last impression they have with the entire experience that is you.

Scary right? It doesn’t have to be.

Here are a few ways to be sure to align your staff with your PR and company goals:

Hire with Pride. Take a good look at the criteria you want associated with your brand, your product or service, if these people aren’t exuding it – maybe they are not a fit.
Role review. Is it always you that is leading the charge, trying to light fires, getting no support? – perhaps you should think about a management review or inventory of roles within – who would be best to take charge and best relate to staff to get them on board.
Include them. Share your list of key messages, hold a special meeting, introduce them to your PR team and tell them the new path you are taking. Some may feel they are on board, some may not … they may be a loss worth taking.
Bring them online. Create fun and creative campaigns that slowly start to get your staff on board and working with you on social media. This may take some time to feel natural, (it’s not always ‘cool’ to LIKE your place of work), but involving them in some creative strategies could make it easier for them to get involved with and most importantly, SHARE with others!

Summary: Give them a reason to be proud of where they work. Then they will gladly be your cheerleader; in public, on the web and elsewhere. They are your closest allies and sales force – USE them!

With great power comes great responsibility – Thanks Uncle Ben.

Rant of the day – Clients, let go of your baby!

Ok I have to have a little rant here to get off my chest. (…as I aspire to practice the art of non-harbouring … lol)

I love working with clients that have their subject matter down pat. They may even have their favourite key messages ready to go! But pleeease don’t assume that you know how to pitch to media, or tell me who you will decide to speak with.

If you have hired me to build that bridge, link you with the ‘subject matter of the day’ and get that third party endorsement, then please let me do my job.

It’s not always about who you know:

That reporter may have covered you or quoted you once upon a time, but the fact is, times have changed; Economy, markets, legislation, technology, whatever your subject matter – it has changed, or at least the circumstances around it move quickly, and if you’re relying on that ‘lunch’ you had a year ago to be the key to your next article, your are 1. Underestimating the amount of work that reporter has on their plate, and 2. Undervaluing the thought process (i.e. me!) that is behind making that subject matter FIT with that particular journalist, beat or news outlet’s agenda.

I’m not saying what we do is rocket science – it’s not – but there IS a method to our madness, and believe it or not, a right way and a wrong way to go about dealing with editors, reporters or publishers. And unfortunately they are not holding their breath for you to dazzle them with your latest insights –  They’ve seen it, covered it, they want something new.

I know – It’s hard to leave your baby in the hands of another to go out into the big mean world – but as PR professionals, we (should always) strive to hold it close, convey your passion and deliver a message you are proud of. We’re just simply better at it than you.

Rant over – thank you 🙂

Budget envy … but size doesn’t matter – right?

I love what I do and am quite content having a handful of diverse, intresting small to mid sized companies on whom I can focus and do exceptional work! …but I want bigger budgets.

There – I said it.

Do I sometimes wish upon a star for that ‘big’ fish client with cushy budgets like when I was a young go-getting PR freelancer? YES!

So am I bitter to see a larger, more successful PR firm on this year’s PROFIT list of the hottest growing companies…. NO!

In fact, I’m surprise, intruigued and INSPIRED and it gets me to thinking – yes, that could be me and YES I could be that CEO… if I had budgets that big.

Sigh – while this company is hiring chefs to host fancy dinners and inviting celebrities to their launch events, I’m happy to snag ‘Zippy the Clown’ from his recent Family Day gig for some extra PR punch. While she has clients that hand over a national survey and says ‘here you go! Get to work and have fun. yay!’  – I’m sifting through 5 year old statistics and client testimonials. 

Don’t get me wrong – I’m creative. I have to be!! I genuinely believe I’m better at my craft for having to work so hard for my clients.

Nor is this a dig on small business! The idea of actually helping companies, brainstorm for their first big ideas, to get them excited about their product all over again, to genuinely be happy to meet with clients and see something take shape from the ground up…. I would never change in a million years 🙂 It’s why I’ll always be an entrepreneur –

but I guess once in a while … it’s natural to have – big budget envy.

But hey, size doesn’t matter… it’s what you do with it – right?