Category Archives: Public Relations Tips
I’ve asked some of my favorite bloggers to guest blog and provide us with some of their favorite creative and affordable marketing tips.
In this post, Jay Morris takes a slightly different twist with advice on finding opportunities in adversity.
For most of my career as a public relations and marketing professional, I’ve worked for organizations with fairly small communications budgets. I’ve joked that if you can afford to give me a desk, a telephone and a computer, I can do my job. The truth is, some of the best PR and marketing is done on a shoestring.
Yes, sequestration, furloughs and the gloom of austerity have darkened our doors of late, and PR folks are once again dealing with tight budgets and cutbacks. But I ask you, when have PR and marketing departments ever been flush with money?
In good times and bad, the organizations I’ve worked for have tightened their belts, reorganized and right-sized in ways that have severely impacted PR and marketing. If you want to last in this business, you truly have to be a survivor. You have to be a PR ninja, a marketing guerrilla. You have to think strategically while executing nimbly.
So here are some lessons learned from the austerity trenches:
Let go of what isn’t working or worth doing. In the 1980s, I worked for a large D.C. trade association. We were told that $1 million had to be cut from the operating budget, a lot of money back then. But in hindsight, it wasn’t enough to force us to rethink our business model or make meaningful changes. Instead, we became contortionists in our attempt to maintain member services at a reduced cost. For example, a four-page, weekly newsletter I edited and mailed to 25,000 members was “cut” by going to eight pages every two weeks. Sure, we saved a bundle of money by chopping our mailings in half, but no thought was given to the threshold question of whether we needed to continue the newsletter, much less double its issue size.
About a decade later, I was at different trade association that was suffering from a precipitous decline in membership. The axe fell again, but this time it was severe and painful. Most of my colleagues in the PR department were let go. Only two of us survived. But in building a new department from the ashes of the old one, a funny thing happened: We scrapped what wasn’t working and only focused on the essentials. We had “permission” from management and our stakeholders to reinvent public relations, albeit at a reduced level. Some of our best work came out of this period.
Jim Collins has said for years that businesses need to simplify and concentrate on what they do best. Great business leaders know when to eliminate those things that aren’t working. Sometimes those decisions are painful, but they almost always result in greater success than sticking with the status quo. Collins wrote an article for USA Today a few years ago about his annual “stop doing” list. It’s a great read and will get you thinking about what you need to really focus on in your life and career.
Leverage the resources you have. One of the organizations I worked for was a federation of about 1,000 state and local associations. In creating a nationwide network of media relations and community outreach volunteers, we were able to accomplish much more than we ever could have done on our own—and at a fraction of the cost. Collaborative thinking, strong volunteer leadership and a unified purpose helped us forge cooperative alliances with our state and local affiliates.
We developed training materials, held workshops and provided numerous “best-practice” examples of good public relations. We also recognized outstanding PR and community service initiatives through a national awards program. The training and recognition ensured that our volunteers were singing from the same songbook. In fact, we wrote the songbook, so in that way we shaped the message all across the country!
Out of adversity comes opportunity. It’s a hard truth to accept, but setbacks can become crucibles for positive change and growth. Anything that disrupts your routine, forces you to reexamine your goals or makes you change course can be a good thing in the end. Early in my career, I was reorganized out of the PR department I loved and into the government relations department. At the time I was upset and fought the change. As it turns out, I had the opportunity to work for one of the best bosses I’ve ever had. In my new role, I learned the ways of Washington, spent time on Capitol Hill, wrote testimony and issue papers, and spoke to reporters about legislative and regulatory concerns. It was a great training ground for my later job as a public affairs director.
Believe in yourself. It often seems that everyone in an organization is a PR pro—except you. Accountants, attorneys, lobbyists and IT people are accorded expert status, but the lowly PR guy gets no respect. Everyone tells him how to do his job or fails to tell him what he needs to know to do his job. Once, when I was working day and night to execute a name and logo change for an organization, the head of IT came by to see me and sketched on a piece of scrap paper the logo that he felt was the perfect solution for us. While well intentioned, his visit reminded me that outsiders tend to view our work as easy or superfluous. This mentality, unfortunately, puts PR budgets and staff at higher risk for cuts. Some of this goes with the territory, but some of it can be prevented by believing in yourself and your capabilities, doing your homework and demonstrating that PR and marketing can make important contributions to the bottom line.
The one distinct advantage that PR and marketing people have (or should have) over everyone else is their creativity, their willingness to think outside the box. That’s huge, and it’s our saving grace when the meat cleaver of budget cuts falls unevenly or austerity comes knocking at our door.
Jay Morris is president of Jay Morris Communications LLC, an independent marketing and PR firm in Alexandria, Va. He blogs at wayward journey.com and tweets at @JayMorCom. He also serves on the boards of PRSA-NCC and the Independent Public Relations Alliance.
This 1 minute video shares public relations tips and describes the PR services offered by Fletcher Prince http://www.FletcherPrince.com. Fletcher Prince was listed among the Washington, DC area’s top 25 public relations firms by Washington Business Journal in 2012.
A Weber-Shandwick AE just pitched me a story for my blog for her agency’s major, global client (cell phone holiday promo).
Trouble is, I write for eight blogs, and I co-moderate a few more. So, which one is she targeting? I have an idea which one would be best, but does she?
I guess I ought to feel flattered for being pitched at all — but wherever she got my name, one thing is clear: she has never looked at my blog. Any of them.
Does this inspire me to write about her client? It does not. If I had been pitched with manners, I would have surely done it. As it is, I am not lacking for content for that particular blog, so if she can’t go to the trouble to customize her pitch, why should I expend the effort to benefit her and her client? After all, bloggers have egos; me more than most!
So now might be a good time to mention a few tips for pitching bloggers. You’d think these would be obvious — but evidently AEs at one of the most successful PR agencies in the WORLD don’t know these basics — so, a quick review.
Introduce yourself. Who are you, Miss Lady? I don’t know you! Just tell me who you are and what you do in the beginning of your pitch. An email signature is not enough. I am far more likely to help you if I feel I know who you are, and why you are writing to me. This impersonal stuff is a real turn-off.
Customize your email pitch. You should at least mention the title of my blog in your pitch. Come on! And it was a little too obvious you just cut-and-paste the text of your email, as the “Dear Mary” opening was in smaller and different style font from the body copy. Puh-leeze. That isn’t even trying. At least make it look like it’s customized to me! Otherwise, don’t even bother pasting my name.
Demonstrate that you have read at least one post on the blog. Is that too much to ask? After all, you want me to write one story. You should at least read one story. I think that’s fair. To successfully pitch a blogger, you should familiarize yourself with the kinds of stories he or she writes about, their audience, etc. When you don’t bother at all, you make me feel unimportant.
Convince the blogger this is a good idea, in other words: PITCH. For this story and this particular blog, this would have been a piece of cake. You could have even called me. Make it easy for me to write about your story. This happened to be an EXCELLENT fit for my blog, but it was pitched all wrong and the release was worse.
Blogs need visuals. You MUST make a photo available — and ideally, also a YouTube video. I don’t write a single blog post without a photo. This particular story linked to a press release with no images at all — and it’s an image-rich story. I could have used an image of the company logo, an image of the cell phone, and an image of the proposed activity, and included a YouTube video demo, as well. With these assets, I would have done all that. This pitch would have been a slam-dunk. Include images and YouTube video links in a multi-media release. It would have been well within the PR budget for this kind of client.
Say thank you. You don’t have to “thank me in advance” because you don’t know if I’m going to write about this or not. But you could close your email with thanks for considering it. Or reading your email. It would be an extra line but it might have closed the deal for you.
In a nutshell, effort counts, and courtesy goes a long way.
How have you successfully pitched bloggers? What are your tips?
- Pitching Bloggers vs. ‘Traditional’ Media: Four Things You Should Know (prnewsonline.com)
- 5 ways to fix a failed pitch to a blogger (prdaily.com)
- What Bloggers Are Saying About Your PR Pitch (distilled.net)
- Sharpen Your Blogger Relations Skills: How to Reach the 77% of Internet Users in the Blogosphere (crttbuzzbin.com)
- Modifying the Rules of PR to Reach Bloggers (contentmarketinginstitute.com)
- Tuesday Tips: Make Your Blogger Relationships Work Harder (crenshawcomm.com)
You see a LOT of definitions about public relations, and not just a few barbed quotes.
Merriam Webster defines it like this:
The business of inducing the public to have understanding for and goodwill toward a person, firm, or institution
That’s pretty good. I kind of like this quote, too — it’s a little negative, but then it’s not too far off, honestly:
Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations. — George Orwell
Then PR Newswire posed the question on Twitter … and created a presentation of the results. Check it out:
How do YOU define public relations?
Okay, you know I love the show “Scandal” right?
If you haven’t seen the ABC series that comes on Thursday nights, it’s about this incredible woman, Olivia Pope, who runs a crisis communications firm in Washington, DC while having a hot affair with the President of the United States, and yes, I live vicariously through every episode 🙂
But this is actually a really useful video, if we’re talking about your personal brand.
Okay, let’s get real, we’re talking about clothes. 🙂 But strong, beautiful, classy clothes. That’s a little bit PR. Most of all, it’s about taking away that DC stereotype of boring, conservative, navy and black clothes.
Wonder how much people make in public relations? Or if you’re being paid enough? According to Salary.com, the median annual base salary for a public relations professional in the DC area is…
- PR Specialist 1: $45,874
- PR Specialist 2: $56,771
- PR Specialist 3: $69,026
- PR Specialist 4: $84,264
- PR Manager: $94,869
- PR Director: $126,165
The PRSA says these are the kinds of salaries that are typical pay at DC area public relations agencies…
- Account Executive: $48,400
- Senior Account Executive: $59,600
- Account Supervisor: $74,400
- Vice President: $113,400
- Senior Vice President: $141,900
- Executive Vice President: $166,300
In corporate communications, average salaries…
- Specialist: $77,300
- Manager: $91,000
- Director: $137,100
- Senior Vice President: $174,500
- 12 must-read blogs for PR students (fletcher-prince.com)
- $10B PR industry is thriving, according to the Holmes Report (fletcher-prince.com)
- Study: PR manager is the seventh most ‘overrated’ job (prdaily.com)