Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Even the Comics are into RSS

From E-Media Tidbits on Poynter Online, there is a Website that has an RSS feed for comics!

Okay, this really does not have that much to do with public relations, but it does show that there is a business to aggregate information. So, if people are collecting comics for feeds, why hasn't someone taken up the banner for public relations?

It seems that this would take away the bitching from certain reporters about PR firms 'spamming' press releases, but the big issue to me is how do you get reporters to grab your press release feed? And, while I love the good folks at PR Newswire and Business Wire, it would be hard to believe that they would implement an RSS feed of their clients' press releases for free, not even as a value add. Maybe they can prove me wrong ... .

Monday, September 29, 2003

If I Can't See the World, Does it Disappear?

Well, it appears that that's what Ted Turner believes. In a recent interview, Ted posited that humanity will end in 50 years.

I think Ted is confusing not being alive in 50 years with humanity ending in 50 years. Just because Ted might no longer be around, does not mean that humanity will end. It's like a great philosophical debate - if Ted can't see it, does the world not exist?

Saturday, September 27, 2003

Lessons From The Tiger

As noted in an earlier posting, I have a lot of respect for The Tiger, who was my mentor at my first best job. I learned a ton from him, and while he was hard to work for, he was also great to work for. He gave a great speech to us one day about "great umbrage" at the team leaving early because he was out of town. Part of my job duties were to keep on the office manager to make sure we both had our daily 6-pack of Diet Coke.

The media and competitors called The Tiger "the man who would win an ass kicking contest with both arms and a leg tied behind his back." The Tiger knows how to work with the media, knows when to push, but also knows when to pull-back, which is a gift.

As noted, one of the things I learned from the Tiger was about responsibility and owning up to mistakes. His pet peeve was passing the buck, and it annoyed him to no-end to see other senior staff blame their junior staff for their mistakes. His philosophy was to accept responsibility, give praise away (letting the client know which junior person did the work) all because senior staff are paid the big bucks to get shit on, and that the junior people were learning and should never get blamed for things that should have been caught by the highers-up.

This all came rushing back to me when I was reading PR Week's roundtable, and couldn't really believe some of the comments. It was like the one thing the Tiger seemed to embody was rushing up at me - that senior people need to actualy BE senior level people, not people that were promoted because they served the time, or the client wanted senior people, or the dot-com hype and bullshit had them fast-tracked. The Tiger did fast-track our team, but it was ONLY because we had proven our abilities to him, and could be counted on. It seems that some senior level people are sad jokes of what senior people used to be.

And what happens is it becomes a a lose-lose situation for the clients. Senior people are afraid to hire rockstars, because they will outshine them. Some of the comments in the roundtable were that there are no good available people - are there no good people available, or are they trying to hire people of lesser quality that will not outshine them?

I had a similar discussion today with an amazing PR person that has had a long run at some of the top PR firms in the nation - we discussed that the current crop of senior people and media specialists can be traced back to when she was hiring junior staff and the writing tests were atrocious. The junior staff that were coming in couldn't write to save their lives, so they were shuffled into media specialists positions - um, why hire them at all, then? It reminds me of one of the people I worked with. FF couldn't write, and every yearly salary review had the same comment for him - take writing classes. He ignored them, so became pigeon-holed in his job as a media specialist (he was good, but not great at media relations) and his career stalled out at the agency.

Friday, September 26, 2003

Dinosaurz on My Mind

A company that I have been doing a hardcore pitch to just recently let go of their large international public relations firm, one of the top 5 agencies. It fits the model of the large agency = bait and switch + junior workers + no accountability + no coverage.

I first sent the worldwide public relations manager a pitch about how her two main competitors had two to three times the coverage. The pitch was in the vein that the large agency is a dinosaur - too big to be nimble - and that it was time to switch to a boutique.

While Company X continues to work with a national agency, which, in my opinion, has not been able to garner national or trade coverage that a company of Company X's caliber warrants, the industry is moving toward boutique agencies that provide greater service at a better price. Company X needs to work with a firm that understands that Company X is not just one story, but is about the services it provides for a large number of industries. While the occasional corporate profile is nice, Competitor A and Competitor B are getting more coverage, while Company X's agency has been content in providing the occasional article and pitch. According to a Factiva search (excluding press releases), for the past year Company X has been in 158 articles, compared to the 690 articles for Competitor A and the 312 articles for Competitor B.

Then I followed up with a nice letter about how her former agency blew a big story that had just been posted on C/Net about a competitor - with no mention of her company.

How can a worldwide PR firm not have a relationship with reporters at C/Net, so even if they are no longer the AOR, the reporter would still call Company X? Or, if they did have the relationship and were called for the story, why did they NOT pass it on to you?

Let’s discuss a POP! Public Relations / Company X relationship to get you the press you deserve.

Is there any wonder why companies are moving to smaller boutiques, that provide more for the money? Aren't people tired of paying for junior staff bumblings with no tactics or strategies, while being billed the $300+ by the many SVP and EVP staff members that pop in once in a while?

Thursday, September 25, 2003

More Fun with Press Rooms

Here I am, helping fe77.com with One Press, putting together the press release and it does RSS FEEDS.

Yes, you read that correctly - One Press automates RSS Feeds for news releases! Lemme repeat that - RSS feeds automatically for PR people (and we can admit this ... we aren't all that technologically saavy).

That's just cool. Now, I need to set up One Press for POP! Public Relations so I can feed my press releases!

The Fun of Press Rooms

Ben Silverman at PR Fuel and PR Studies have some interesting postings on press rooms.

Just wanted to add some of my own thoughts on press rooms...

I know PDF's are a great format to send out information, but why do press rooms use them for their press releases? From talking to reporters, I know some of them hate that they have to wait for Acrobat to open the document, when they want the information immediately.

Oh, and a client mention - check out fe77.com's One Press. Having been in-house, I know the pain it was to get the Web team to actually post press releases, and to help update the press center, and then add photos and then add logos so the press can just grab them ... and then get the engineers to just do it without being whiny pains.

One Press automates that shtuff, and let's the PR team post its own news and press releases, setting up a great and easy press site.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Bad Lies, Bad Cover-ups, Just Bad PR

More in the vein about PR firms and owning up to responsibility. A small bit of advice - if you are going to lie to the client, make it an unverifiable and believable lie. You'll understand why when you read this story.

After firing public relations firm number one, we hired public relations firm number two. We spent massive amounts of money to get television press, and received ... nothing.

I should have taken a clue when the first meeting with me, the CEO and the 'media specialist' was an hour of the 'media specialist' asking inane questions and not understanding the product. If she couldn't do simple research, she most likely couldn't pitch.

It gets better. I was working with a producer from a top-rated female-oriented show, hosted by someone I have a huge crush on. I had built a relationship with the producer, we understood each other, I had written a script and we were moving forward.

Then, I get a new boss who wanted me to hand off the relationship. It wasn't worth a fight, so I acquiesced and took a long-needed and deserved vacation.

I get a call at home - the producer had died. Um, I call the producer in a panic - she's still alive, still working the show - and to make it seem like I had a real reason, I wished her a Happy Hannukah.

To make it simple, the agency lied because they could not close the deal. So, instead of owning up, they told us the producer died.

And, does anyone wonder why the large agency is dying?

The Art of CYA, Blaming Down, and MediaMapping Blogs?!

Great, interesting post on Jeneane Sessum's Blog, Allied. Recently, there has been some blogging about PR and poorly thought through pitches to blogs, and the blurring lines between the two.

Well, for the kicker, it turns out that Media Map has the search capability for blogs! Jeneane searched MM for her blog, and found it. That's just funny as hell, and scary.

I posted my .02 to her comment section - lack of oversight by PR firms, etc. - and wanted to elaborate here from some personal experience.

When I was in-house, the firm I was using had a wonderful SNAFU with a reporter.

Without doing any research or without any knowledge , the junior person was put in charge of booking a media tour. He was working on the New York leg of the tour, and asked to book with a reporter who was not based in NYC, and had written about the company that week.

That's all fine and dandy, but here's a little lesson for senior PR people - oversee the tour schedule to make sure that your junior PR people have the right contacts, and to protect them (yes, as a supervisor, you should protect your people). Here's a little lesson for junior PR people - cover your ass and have your supervisor overlook your tour schedule.

And, that also means when you become senior staff, covering your ass does not mean blaming junior staff.

So, because of the one account executive's mistake, the firm gets blackballed by the reporter, the agency gets fired - mainly because the senior people at the firm would not take responsibility for the mistake, and did not return phone calls from me until the end of the following day - and I got to clean up and make nice to avert a potential crisis. Nothing is as fun and stress-free as a crisis! Woo hoo!

Something I learned from my mentor, the Tiger, was to always accept responsibility for mistakes and to pass on congratulations and praise to those you supervise. His reasoning was that he was paid the big bucks to get shit on, and that the junior people were learning and should never get blamed for things that should have been caught by the highers-up.

It's a philosophy I try to do my work by, and the way I try to run POP! Public Relations.

Friday, September 19, 2003

Media Around the World - We Aren't Bribable!

A friend of mine and I have been working together on projects, and she realized she needed to do a one-pager on media for clients based outside the United States. I think it's a great piece that really explains how the US media does differ from it's European and Asian counterparts.

I'm keeping it on hand to use for different POP! PR new business pitches to help educate clients on the media. Explaining the media to non-media people seems to be one of the more difficult things to explain - that just because you run an ad does not mean you get coverage, or that not all pitches mean coverage.

And, it's fitting that PR Week has an article today that talks about how the US media made the top 5 for the least bribable in the world, and wasn't far off from being tops. Go US! And, even more chest pouding for how great the US media is, the reason we didn't finish first if the freedom of press and the liberties the press has in the United States

Thanks Joey! You rock!

American-based journalists tend to be very fair and objective in their reporting, whether reviewing products or writing a feature article.

Most U.S. writers and editors are not easily swayed by outside influences; however, like most things, it depends on the publication and its target audience.

They do, however, like to develop and maintain good relationships with vendors, manufacturers, product managers and public relations teams. They appreciate communications people who know the market and can respect how they work. All journalists like receiving advance or breaking news ahead of their competitors.

Depending on the personality or the publication, editors/writers will be aggressive and probe into issues, particularly when they feel they are not being told the entire story, or have heard stories through the rumor mill. Though a lot of journalists cover a wide range of topics and issues, they do have specific subjects and beats they are interested in or write about with more passion.

All writers and editors ask that everyone be aware of their target audience, the “voice” of the publication and how they work. They appreciate it when senior executives are available to speak with them, discuss industry trends and paint an overall picture of the industry.

Many journalists at larger business and consumer-based publications are not allowed to accept gifts, trips or meals. Many newsroom policies do not allow for this type of practice, as it may “bias” the reporter/writer/editor. However, most trade publications and general consumer publications have writers/editors that will take meals and gifts, but with the understanding that it does not guarantee media coverage in the publication. Companies offer trips and gifts as a way to build relationships with the editorial staff.

There are a number of freelance writers that write for multiple publications in the consumer and trade space. These writers can take one topic and “sell” the story to various outlets. Freelance writers are also hired by publications to write, as in-house staff is, at times, limited. They cover everything from new products to feature stories, depending on the scope of the article and their background.

There are limitless number of publications in the U.S. market, covering a broad spectrum of topics and interests. From daily papers in major metropolitan cities (Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Chicago Tribune) and specialty magazines focusing on one topic (House Beautiful, Dog Fancy, Autograph Collector Magazine) to general consumer (men’s, women’s, youth, ethnic, gay/lesbian) and business publications (Newsweek, Time), there are editors and writers who cover just about everything. Industry analysts are also counted among the journalist group, as many research firm and their analysts write newsletters to their clients about the latest news, technologies and products. Journalists also turn to these analysts for industry insight.

U.S. journalists will cover stories wherever news breaks. Many of the larger publications have beat reporters that cover singular topics or regions. From press conferences to media tours, the writers and editors will take time to meet with companies and find out the latest information.

Joey rocks, doesn't she? BIG LOVE to Joey.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

NASCAR and POP! Public Relations

Funny blog story for the day ... I checked out my blog stats today, and someone came to my site through Google using the search terms: internships pr nascar.

Granted, I have done no public relations for NASCAR, although I wouldn't mind project work (if you're reading this NASCAR, check out my corporate site here).

Just an amusing anecdote for the day.

Saturday, September 13, 2003

Even Prisoner's Use Bacon's!

Funny article today about Bacon's, the company that has online and offline publications for media contacts. I use Bacon's Media Source, and will most likely also purchase MediaMap for POP! Public Relations.

Both are good in their own way.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

RSS Feeds for PR

Okay, so it's not exactly a week that has passed since my last posting ... it has been a day. But, after a day at work at POP! Public Relations, I decided to post more.

Some more things of interest, and answers to my posting below.

I found a great introduction to RSS and how to use them for public relations from PR Opinion. There's a great tutorial, some great information, and now I can try to set-up an RSS feed, and I think I will add that to my contact information on press releases. Should be interesting.

PR Opinion also has some great articles on choosing a PR firm and has a great link to an article from Robin Good on using blogs for effective PR.

Have to also thank my friend Ben Silverman for posting my blog in his newsletter, PR Fuel, today on my postings from yesterday.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Blogging for PR or PRing for Blogs

A lot has been happening the past few weeks for POP! Public Relations, and unfortunately it has been so hectic that I have not had time to post. I decided, though, that I need to make the time to post, particularly when there are some great issues out there about public relations, blogging and agencies versus boutiques.

First, I want to bring up a post from Jeneane Sessum on her blog. It's toward the middle, so scroll down past the Ketchum posting about the new Ketchum blog. Her posting on the large public relations conglomerate is interesting, as it is something that I have been hearing from other PR people, as well as in-house corporate communications people. With large agencies, firms tend to get lower-level flacks that cannot offer strategy or tactics. A lot of the agencies are looking for specialists -- media specialists, writers -- and ignoring the true, old school public relations professional (IMHO), the PR generalist. While I was interviewing with large agencies, before deciding to start POP! Public Relations to provide better service, true tactics and strategy, I was amazed at the shocked look when I would tell GMs or VPs that I considered myself a generalist, but that I could write, that I could pitch, and WOW, I had media relationships that were actually references that I could leave at the door. Okay, enough on that point ...

Next ... many blog postings, and articles have been written about PR people trying to use blogs to their clients' benefits. Now, I have no problem touting a client to a blog author that I think might be interested in them. But, if I do pitch a blog author, I will do it from my POP! Public Relations email address, not trying to hide who I am, or what I am trying to do. Yes, there are some clients that I have that have amazingly cool technology, and I think that others might be interested in the products and the company. You know that your industry is messing up, when it's the subject of two blog postings by Dan Gilmor of the San Jose Mercury News. Or, the posting on TechDirt that pulls back the curtain on some PR people that think it's smart PR to pretend to be a 'reader' and send in press releases hoping for coverage. It just hurts the industry and hurts the PR practioners that try to do right for their clients AND their reputation.

And ... RSS and public relations. Dan Gilmor of the San Jose Mercury News, wrote an interesting article on RSS and news feeds. What's RSS? Dunno, can't explain it, but he had a good point. Since email is getting swamped by spam and viruses, it might be time for PR people to think of another way to get the word out about clients. Read his whole article here ...

So, nice big posting to make up for not being on in a while. Like I wrote above, I'll be posting weekly, with hopefully some insightful comments or tales of starting my own firm.