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Fletcher Prince Public Relations Services

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.

Blogger relations 101 — lessons from a pitching fail

Face palm: most employees handling social media just aren't trained by their own companiesSigh. Now I know how those bloggers feel when they are pitched by PR agencies.  And it doesn’t feel good.

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?

How do you define public relations?

We work in public relations, right?  Well, try summing up what we do in a sentence or two! Now that’s a communication challenge.

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?

$10B PR industry is thriving, according to the Holmes Report

The Holmes Report has released its ranking of the top 250 public relations firms, worldwide, in order of fee income.  Here are some findings from the report.

Edelman, Weber-Shandwick and Fleishman Hillard are the top three public relations firms in the world.  All three are based in the U.S.  Edelman has more than 4,000 employees!

Nearly half of the firms on the list (45%) enjoyed double digit percentage growth in fees from 2010 to 2011.  Only 8% posted losses, and most were minor.  Five firms had triple digit percentage growth.  The PR firm with the greatest growth was Fortune PR in Indonesia with 314% growth.

Here’s what some DC-area headquartered PR firms raked in (ranking in parentheses)

  • APCO Worldwide (16)  $120,701,000
  • Levick Strategic Communications (99) $12,459,523
  • Widmeyer (118) $10,600,000
  • Spectrum Science (172) $5,800,000
  • Gibraltar Communications (182) $4,918,650

10 ways to say thank you to your public relations interns

Inviting your summer interns back for the company holiday party is another nice way to say thank you to your interns.

We still have a bit of summer left, but it won’t be long before your public relations interns are packing up and heading back to college, or moving on to their first jobs.

Hopefully, your company has given them real-life experiences, coaching, and the hourly pay they are entitled to for bringing value to your firm.  If you handled the internship well, the interns will leave with a favorable impression of your company and will go on to be brand ambassadors.  But did your intern go the extra mile?  Are you especially glad you hired her or him?

If so, before the internship ends, now is the time to think about the ways you can say thank you to your public relations interns, while giving them a good start on their public relations careers.  Here are some suggestions for ways to thank and help your interns before their internship ends.

1. Schedule a meeting with the intern, about a week or two before their last day.  Give them notice of it now, so they can prepare.  You can explain that at this meeting you will discuss and assess their work, provide advice, review their work samples, and hear how their internship experience went for them.  I asked my interns to write a brief summary of their internship experience before this meeting for me.   This helps the intern organize work samples for her or his portfolio, and gives you information to tackle their recommendation letter.

2. Write a LinkedIn recommendation.  Your recommendation may be the first one they receive, so it is especially meaningful.  It should be brief and honest, but specific.  Think of three projects the intern worked on, and their contribution.  Mention a few personal qualities that make this intern desirable as an employee.

3. Write a letter of recommendation.  A letter of recommendation you provide on company letterhead is important for a few reasons.  First of all, not every employer is on LinkedIn (gasp!).  Also, it’s helpful to have a paper copy of a recommendation for the intern’s portfolio, and the letterhead and signature lend authenticity.  In addition, if the intern goes on to another internship, some applications require at least one letter of recommendation.

4. Offer to review their updated portfolio and resume.  At this point, the intern should have work samples, a fair idea of their contributions to the firm, and a letter of recommendation (before their last day).  They can now update their resume with their internship experience.  Review their updated resume and portfolio with them and explain how to make the most of these assets in a job interview.

5.  Schedule a farewell meeting with a top executive.  Before the intern leaves, speak to your top executive about having a brief meeting with you and the intern.  The executive should be informed about the contributions the intern made before the meeting.  You should also coach the intern on basic business protocol before the meeting.  This is an opportunity for the top executive to thank the intern and impart any quick words of advice, and the chance for the intern to also say thank you and collect a memory for a lifetime.  Don’t forget to bring a camera!

6. Connect through social media.  If you haven’t had this discussion, now may be a good time to explain the business etiquette of social media.  For example, interns and supervisors do not usually connect on Facebook.  However, you can safely encourage the intern to connect with you on LinkedIn, and you can offer to review their LinkedIn profile and make recommendations.  You can also encourage your intern to “Like” the company Facebook Page, subscribe to the company YouTube Channel, and follow the company blog and Twitter account.

7. Take some photos.  I mentioned taking a photo with the chief executive but make sure you also snap a few pictures (with your camera or the intern’s) of them sitting at their desk, posed with employees in the office, in front of the building, at their farewell lunch, working on a project, and even of work samples.  Email them the digital files.  These photos really come in handy for updating social media profiles and for use in job interviews, and they will become a treasured memento for the interns.

8. Ask the intern to write an article about their internship experience for the company blog.  The summary they wrote for you (in tip #1) and the photos (in tip #7) will make for a meaningful blog post that will make the whole company feel good, and will encourage quality interns to apply for your next internship offering.

9. Write a brief thank you note (handwritten) on your personal stationery or a card.  Yes, you will have already written the letter of recommendation on company letterhead.  But that is directed to a future employer.  You should also thank the intern personally.  This is another item that will become a memento for the intern.  If you give the intern this note a week in advance (say, at the end of the day on the Friday before their last week), it may also prompt him or her to write a thank you note to you, which is great business etiquette training.

10. Provide a parting gift.  What you give the intern as a parting present depends on your budget, their contribution, and how many interns you have.  If you have a small budget, you might gift them with some company imprinted items you have on hand, or a business card case.  But if the intern was really outstanding, and your company has the budget, one especially significant gift is to give them their first professional membership.  Professional associations usually discount their membership fees for young professionals.  So, if you would like to do this, you can discuss the options with your intern, have them complete the membership application, and then issue a check to the organization for their first year of membership.  Some suggestions: Washington Women in Public Relations ($40 for college students, $85 for regular membership) or the Public Relations Society of America ($155 for applicants with two or less years of experience).

What ways have you found to thank your public relations interns?

When NOT to use an email in PR (and use a martini, instead)

Have you ever read a story about your industry that made you wince?  That prompted you to say, “What were they thinking?”

There’s been collective wincing going on in the PR community this morning in reaction to the story regarding an email exchange published by a blogger about communication between himself and a PR employee over a suggested proposal that may have benefited a client.  Turned out to be a pretty big client.

My amazement is regarding the email piece of it.  This isn’t the first time (and I’m sure it won’t be the last) that an email exchange generated from a PR agency has come back to bite them. This story reminded me of the 2008 government contracting controversy involving another PR firm where email exchanges were also published.

Email.  Seriously?  You put it in an email?

You know, there was a time, so I hear, that email didn’t exist 🙂 and the practice of public relations was still conducted, somehow.  Yes! It’s true!  Back in the day, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and flacks bought drinks for reporters, a story did not blow up in seconds — as it does now, with Twitter, blogs, online newspaper editions, and cable news.

Old school.  If you were a PR person who needed to — ah — cultivate someone — there were ways to do that. Not ways that I ever did, but I’ve heard rumors!

  • Journalists: drinks
  • Legislators: pretty women
  • Disc jockeys: oh, well, let’s not go there

BIG FAT DISCLAIMER!!! I’m NOT saying we should return to those bad old days (although it’s kind of fun to think about it).  I’m just saying, maybe rethink the email.  If you’re going to be devious, by golly, be devious.

I’m just saying, these are big clients.  Maybe these firms who do involve themselves in this type of activity should bring back the expense account and the art of — ah — courting — off line.

Because if you’re going to do something a little off-color, downright wrong, or potentially so hot it would embarrass your client, I would hazard that it would not be a swift move to document your intentions in an email, which could potentially get published and tweeted and blogged ad infinitum.

Take them out for a steak.  I mean, really.

Your PR Tool Kit

Have you ever wondered how your competitors are featured in news and feature articles in your local newspapers? Chances are, these companies have employed a public relations practitioner or public relations agency to craft and execute a strategic communications plan for them. Writing and placing a press release takes time, effort, and expertise, and the best course is to let a professional handle this work for you. However, if you would like to try your hand at writing a press release for your small business, here are the basic things you need to know to get started.Before You Write

  • Ask yourself, if this story was about another company, would it still be interesting to me? Would I want to read this?
  • Determine how this will support your brand image and key message. Think about which benefits you want to promote to your target customers.
  • Decide who will be your media contact. This should be a reliable professional who can talk expertly with the media on the topic of the press release.
  • Research the media and create a media file of contacts and information. Find out who wants to receive press releases, photographs, topics of interest, and deadlines and verify their contact information. Don’t rely on media directories for this information, as the information is often out-dated. Determine if a mailed press release is needed, or if e-mail contact is preferred. Some reporters prefer that you fill out an online form for calendar and event listings. You can find most of this information on the publication’s web site.
  • Be sure to put the content of your press release on your company blog. Also post the information (in HTML, not as a .pdf file) on the online newsroom of your company’s web site.

When To Send a Press Release

  • New hires and promotions (upper management or executive level only)
  • Customer promotions, giveaways, special events, contests.
  • New website, new customer benefits, services, features, or products
  • New office location.
  • Human interest story.
  • New business partnership.
  • Community service, donations.
  • Milestone achievements, sales rankings, awards.
  • Classes, seminars, and presentations, especially free workshops for the public.
  • Truly different business model, best practice, or offering.
  • Hot news topic, trend, or commentary.
  • Statistics, reports, research findings, etc.
  • Timely and useful tips for consumers, expert advice, seasonal advice.

Basic Information to Include

  • For Immediate Release
  • Media Contact: name, title, phone, email
  • Dateline: city, state, and date of the release
  • A headline — the title of the release (may be in all caps)
  • Lead paragraph: most important information–who, what, when, where, why
  • Body: important details, quotes
  • Boiler-plate: last paragraph is the company’s positioning statement, location, website address, etc.

Press Release Format

  • Be brief. Restrict your press release to one page, if possible.
  • If your press release is longer than one page, write -MORE- at the bottom of each additional page, and -END- at the bottom of the last page.
  • Number the pages, if more than one page.
  • Double-spaced, 1 inch margins.
  • Times Roman, 12 Pt.
  • Send them in the body of an e-mail or on your company’s letterhead.
  • Write in a clear, objective, and journalistic style, avoiding hype and promotional language.
  • Write -END- or # # # at the end of the press release.

Media Relations Tips

Don’t…

  • Send out dozens of press releases to several reporters and editors at each publication.
  • Expect the press release to be printed verbatim. A press release is not an advertisement.
  • Send attachments, such as photographs, to reporters via e-mail. Let them know that photographs are available, however.
  • Ask for a copy of the story if it comes out.
  • Ask a reporter if he/she received your e-mail message or press release.
  • Don’t say anything off the record. Assume anything you divulge will be published for all to see.
  • Call when reporters are on deadline (if the paper is publishing on Thursday, don’t call on Tuesday).
  • Send gifts of any kind to journalists.

Do…

  • Read the publications to get a feel for the tone and content of the stories.
  • Be friendly, professional, brief and polite whenever you speak with a journalist. Thank them for their time if you have a chance to speak with them, or compliment them on the story.
  • Follow up with a phone call or email to see if you can provide any more information or an interview, but only for important stories (not class listings, new hires, etc.).
  • Admit you don’t know the answer if you don’t but always offer to find out the answer and promise to get right back to the reporter. Always follow through on your promises.
  • Have a press breakfast, special event, or online news conference if your story is huge and truly warrants special attention.
  • Provide high quality graphics, photos, or charts, relevant statistics, or verifiable industry facts, with sources. Store these on your web page and let the reporters know they are available for downloading.
  • Keep clippings of stories and include copies of your clippings in your press kit.

Mary Fletcher Jones is the co-owner of Fletcher Prince Communications http://www.fletcherprince.com a Washington, DC area creative agency offering public relations and marketing services. She is a member of Washington Women in Public Relations, the National Capital Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, and the Independent PR Alliance.

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