Posts Tagged ‘public relations’

Managing PR in a Crisis: An exclusive panel discussion produced by AMA Boston

October 13, 2009

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“Two experienced divers die mysteriously in the tunnel from Boston to Deer Island. Archdiocese of Boston officials cover up an insidious scandal that spans decades of sexual abuse. U.S. forces invade Iraq while longtime American allies howl in protest.

Only well-prepared, quick-thinking PR experts with prolific backgrounds in crisis management could manage—and succeed—in defusing these controversies. Our distinguished panel of experts are looking forward to sharing their experiences addressing these and other crises through the application of proven PR tools and techniques.

While most businesses have an emergency plan to protect their staff and office systems in the event of a natural disaster, few have developed a communications plan to address public crises such as lawsuits, improper behavior by employees or product recalls. The power of the social web and 24/7 news coverage can amplify public perception and corporate crises can quickly spiral out of control. Today, more than ever, it is imperative for companies to be prepared.”

Sign up for this great opportunity to hear Tom Lee and other PR professionals discuss how to prepare for and manage PR in a crisis:  http://pr-crisis.eventbrite.com

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Sending your child to school for the first time

October 6, 2009

Recently, I was speaking to an industry group that hasn’t really done much with social media as a whole. It’s really not the group’s fault; this industry just happens to be heavily regulated when it comes to its communication to investors and end-users. But not surprisingly, as end-users have become increasingly active on these channels, the industry is now being dragged head first into social media and confusion seems to be fairly rampant.

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At the event, I fielded many questions about the concerns these people had about social media. As most of these questions revolved around strategy, and how to avoid any number of potential disasters, I couldn’t help but think how managing your company’s first social media campaign was just like sending your child off to their first day of school.

I know at first this may seem like a stretch but try to think of your “brand” as your first born child. As a marketer or public relations professional you protect it and you try to strengthen it with the right messaging, all in the hopes that your brand will grow to become something special. Of course, you are also nervous about sending it off to the public and losing complete control. It’s a scary world out there, and people can sometimes say things about your brand that it may not want to hear (like the first time your child comes home from school crying)!

Now, I am not the type of person to say that you have nothing to fear about social media. Running a social media campaign without a sound strategy is as foolish as sending your child off to school unprepared. The reality is though, that letting go of some of your control might be exactly what will strengthen your brand, as long as you take the necessary precautions, act intelligently, and monitor it closely.

By venturing into the social web with the right frame of mind and purpose, your brand will begin to learn things about itself that it may have not known before. By allowing your brand to be surrounded by open discourse and direct engagements with end-users, you will uncover new opportunities, and current brand reflections, that will only stand to benefit your marketing initiatives over time.

Remember, as your brand interacts with others, it has the ability to grow. Home schooling is rarely the best option.

What Reporters Should Know About “The Dark Side”

January 22, 2009

I read an interesting blog post yesterday entitled “What all PR people should know about journalists”, written by Rohit Bhargava on his Influential Marketing Blog. The post had been “re-tweeted” by someone I follow on Twitter. As a former journalist who came over to the PR “Dark Side” 12 years ago, I was naturally intrigued. Mr. Bhargava listed six lessons that he has learned that “most journalists know and many PR professionals are blissfully unaware of.”

The six lessons are as follows: 1) Your BS is obvious 2) Timing trumps all 3) Reputation matters 4) Features are not as important as an angle 5) Speed and contactability make the difference 6) Peer pitching works. The writer expounds on this list here: http://tinyurl.com/7s3vxj, but if you’re a successful publicist, Mr. Bhargava’s insights will fall into the “duh” category. If you are a PR professional and this list is eye-opening, then you are either right out of school (you get a pass) or you really suck at your job and it’s people like you that give us flaks a bad name… But I digress.

My reason for writing this post is not to knock Mr. Bhargava’s blog post – he writes a very successful and generally insightful blog – rather, I’m tired of always hearing about what reporters think about us “annoying” publicists and how WE can do a better job. It’s about time we PR professionals enlighten you journalists about what we think about you and how YOU can do a better job. As someone who has worked on both sides of the phone, I have some lessons that I have learned along the way that, to turn Mr. Bhargava’s statement around, “most PR professionals know and many journalists are blissfully unaware of.”

Here’s my Top Ten List of What Reporters Should Know About “The Dark Side” (in no particular order):

1. The “Dark Side” is not that dark. I know it’s hard for many reporters to believe, but for the most part, PR folks are not evil like Darth Vader. OK, so Lizzie Grubman didn’t do us publicists any favors when she ran down a crowd of people in the Hamptons with her Mercedes several years ago shouting “F**k you, white trash”. That was really more of a “class warfare” issue anyway. Regardless, I can name plenty of reporters that have given the Fourth Estate a bad name. Does Jayson Blair ring a bell? So, please cut us some slack. We don’t look down on you, so please don’t look down on us. We’re just doing our job.

2. We don’t think you’re stupid. Contrary to what you may think, we’re not out to dupe you. There are some reporters out there that I’ve encountered over the years that truly believe that every pitch they receive is a ruse. We understand that if we don’t have an existing relationship that you’ll need to be more thorough in vetting the pitch, but trying to pull one over on you is not in our best interest or the best interest of our clients. Our reputation in this business is all we have. If a publicist loses their credibility, then they’re all done. Most good publicists understand what’s newsworthy and won’t waste your time overselling a great story about our client’s “new coffee flavor” for instance! We’ll save that story for when you owe us one.

3. It’s a symbiotic relationship. Whether you want to admit it or not, you need us as much as we need you. If this wasn’t the case, there would be no need for query services like PR Newswire’s ProfNet or Peter Shankman’s HARO. You need sources and story ideas and we have them. What’s more, a good PR agency contact can be a direct conduit for multiple sources – one stop shopping!

4. Some day we may represent Bono or Bill Gates. OK, so we don’t always have the sexiest clients, but just as you may start out covering selectmen’s meetings for the Carlisle Mosquito and end up a columnist at The New York Times, we could some day represent a client you would desperately want to write about. Keep that in mind when you’re pooh-poohing our pitch about the new coffee shop that opened on Main Street.

5. We are just as busy as you are. You’re busy, we get it. So are we. Please don’t always act like you’re in the middle of breaking Watergate when we call. Just as you have editors riding you, we have clients that expect the cover of Time magazine. When we call, it’s usually just a quick follow up on something that we sent you. You can spare 60 seconds. Now, if we call you with a stupid question at 5:00 p.m. when we know that you are on deadline, please, feel free to blast us.

6. “I did not have sexual relations with that woman”. If our client is on the hot seat, we will unequivocally do everything we can, short of lying, to protect our client’s name and reputation. This is what they pay us for. At this point, all friendships between reporter and publicist must be suspended. We understand this and so should you. Getting the dirt and deciphering our “spin” is your problem. There is nothing unethical about putting a spin on the truth. Understand that we all carry the labels “Flak” & “Spinmeister” proudly. When the dust settles, we can be friends again.

7. You can’t always expect an exclusive. Just because we also gave the story to your cross-town rival, doesn’t mean we screwed you. While there are some stories that may deserve an exclusive for various reasons, most of the time it’s not a big deal if the other paper runs the same story on the same day. If you write for The Boston Globe, your readership isn’t reading the Boston Herald anyway. It’s safe to assume that if we don’t say ahead of time that we’re giving you an exclusive, then we’re not.

8. Please don’t call our clients directly. There’s a very good reason why our clients hire us, please don’t cut us out. We make our livelihood by publicizing CEOs and their companies. If they had the time and expertise to do this effectively, then they wouldn’t need us. When you go directly to our clients, it either really annoys them and we hear about it or they begin to wonder what they need us for – even though we’re the ones who initiated the relationship. Please call us if you want to talk to them.

9. Just because you didn’t think about it doesn’t make it a bad idea. PR professionals are a pretty creative bunch. One of the best methods of garnering press for our clients is to lump them into a larger trend piece. When we bring you an idea for a trend piece, please don’t turn your nose up at it. You can take credit for the idea. If you do decide to use it, just please include our client prominently in the story.

10. Don’t make us do your job. Please don’t send us interview questions for our clients to fill out the answers to. Some PR folks may disagree with me on this, but from my experience, this interview method creates more work for everyone involved and the answers to the questions are never as good as if the reporter spent 5 minutes on the phone asking the questions themselves.

Well, that’s my list. I’m sure that there will be plenty of people who read this who will disagree with some of my points. Conversely, I’m sure there will be others who feel I left out some critical insights. Either way, I welcome your feedback!

What is 451 Marketing?

November 10, 2008

I often get asked to force-fit our agency into predetermined labels. For instance, I was recently signing up for an event and was asked the question: “Are you an advertising agency, a public relations agency, an interactive agency, a social media agency, or a marketing agency?” I had to choose one, so I chose “marketing agency.”

The truth is, we have elements of all of these pre-existing terms and categories, but we are really much more than that. Further, the term “marketing agency” makes most people think of the stodgy traditional shops, which we are not. On one hand, our expertise can easily be categorized – lead generation through new media. But one might ask if that categorical description is something that people can mentally digest…quickly? After all, if we are going to label ourselves shouldn’t we do it in a way that is straightforward and potentially unique? Maybe we could go with – “Lead generation through the strategizing and execution of social media campaigns, traditional public relations, PR 2.0, search leveraged public relations, search engine optimization, mobile marketing, advertising, and branding and positioning”… I know, way to long.

How about, “451 Marketing, the agency that makes a lot of money in a short amount of time for their clients by using quantifiable techniques?” Getting closer, but still think people would probably want something a little more refined. We could try something that talks about our commitment to being at the forefront of our industry, describes our constant efforts to know more, apply more, and educate each other on the latest and greatest in new media. We need to create some way to convey how we bring better ROI’s for our clients compared to our competitors? Maybe, “451 Marketing, constantly working to be at the forefront of new media and delivering ROI’s like no one else?” Nah… not in love with it, still to long. I think we need something that captures it all in one succinct impactful statement.

Maybe something like… 451 Marketing, “The Leader in New Media CommunicationsTM“. I like it!

AJ Gerritson, Founding Partner at 451 Marketing

Welcome to Heat!

November 5, 2008

Welcome to Heat, the official blog of The Leader in New CommunicationsTM451 Marketing! If you are unfamiliar with us, I will fill you in:

Back in 2004, a couple of interactive marketing veterans named AJ Gerritson & Nick Lowe recognized a paradigm shift in the world of marketing, advertising & public relations. Rather than sit back and wait to see how it would all take shape, like most firms have done, they decided to get a jump on the competition. With a phone line and a couple of PCs, the two enterprising lads founded 451 Marketing – an agency that could offer companies a way to better connect and engage their customers through a combined new media and traditional communications approach that utilized both advertising and public relations. Turns out they were on to something. The agency has grown substantially since then – with an award-wining design team, cutting-edge new media specialists and *ahem* one talented and well connected public relations team – 451 Marketing has emerged as The Leader in New Media CommunicationsTM. We have created a targeted and fully-integrated communications approach that harnesses new technology to ensure that a client’s message breaks through the noise and is heard clearly by their customers. If you don’t believe me, ask our satisfied clients.

Where did the “451” in 451 Marketing come from you ask? No it’s not the address of their first office (would you really want to hire an agency that was that obvious?). And no, it’s not because when added together the numbers equal a Perfect 10 (although Nick is a big Sudoku fan). See, the number comes from the temperature at which paper burns – 451 degrees Fahrenheit! Advertising on paper is so 2003! It’s a good thing these guys recognized this, because they subsequently found that the brands they’ve created and communicated over the past four years have been so hot that they’re too hot for paper!

The 451 Marketing Heat blog will be a place for the new media junkies over here at 451 to muse, discuss and sometimes rant about the things that get us going! Please check in often, read what we have to say and feel free to tell us what you think, because the beauty of new media is that it’s interactive!

Cheers,

Tom Lee, Partner & Director of Public Relations