Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Starbucks Pulls Off Fabulous PR Stunt

Every Starbucks in the country closed for 3.5 hours last night for barrista training. This doesn't need to be a major media event but Starbucks turned it into one. And I'm impressed.

It was one of the lead stories on this morning's "Today Show" but I also heard about it on my local CBS affiliate's newscast last night. Clearly, the company's PR staff tackled this on a grassroots level as well as on a national level -- an opportunity that is often overlooked. Kudos to Dunkin Donuts and local coffee shops for taking advantage of this to get press for themselves, too, offering discounts and free coffee from 5:30 to 9 pm.

Great job, Starbucks PR department. This one looks like it has 2008 Silver Anvil winning potential. The applications will go out next January.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Secret Lives of Radio Talk Shows

Here's what I'm wondering about this afternoon: When the host of a taped satellite radio talk show asks people to call the network's tollfree number to talk about the day's subject, what happens when people do actually call when the show airs weeks later? It's taped, it's done, it's on the air. And yet, they're asking for callers.

OK, let's forget about what happens to those callers for a minute. Want to know how they get the callers who are on the show? They go looking for them using specific parameters and a number of resources. They want a good mix of "callers" with different viewpoints, experiences and perspectives.

I put "callers" in quotation marks because these individuals aren't calling in. They have been signed up to be guests on the show. A producer calls each, adding them to the queue of scheduled -- vs. random -- guests on hold.

Just so you know should you ever want to participate in a taped show.

But back to that original question: Somebody, please tell me, what do they do with the calls from people who don't know the show is taped and call that tollfree number so share their opinions?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Book Promotion Tips for Fiction Authors

The February issue of the free book publicity e-zine, Build Book Buzz, is now available. This month's issue includes tips for promoting fiction and an online interview opportunity. Get the issue now by subscribing at You'll also get the free special report, Beyond the Press Release: 10 Exciting Book Buzz Ideas That Will Take You to the Top.

3 Ways to Make Sure Your Web Site is Useless to Journalists

I've just completed another one of those writing assignments that reminded me that some organizations need help making their Web sites useful to the journalists they're courting for coverage of their events, activities or services.

With that in mind, here are three ways to make sure you keep people like me from giving you priceless free media exposure:
  1. Let your ad agency design your Web site. Ad agency-designed sites are often the worst sites when it comes to information-gathering. Sure, they're nice looking -- maybe even nice enough looking to win a design award. But they tend to have minimal content, what's there is hard to find and in teeny tiny type, and the information can't be copied and pasted into a Word file -- making it useless for those of us who need the info and don't have time to retype it (if we can find it...).
  2. Include a "Press Information" button that isn't active.
  3. Make sure there's no phone number -- anywhere -- that we can call for information when we don't find it.
What gets in your way when you're trying to do research using Web sites of smaller organizations? Tell me about it. Let's whine together.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Learn How to Become an Expert

Tomorrow, February 20, I will be talking about "How to Become an Expert" on The Profitability Channel. Tune in for tips and advice that will help you reap the business benefits that come with being known as an expert in your field.

To watch and listen (it's about 20 minutes), go to Join the channel (for a fee) or use a 48-hour guest pass by clicking on JOIN (it's the red button in the upper right) and using promo code Guest02. It's my understanding that the interview will be available for months.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

5 Tips for TV Talk Show Appearances

A good interviewee on TV is somebody whose voice and energy make you turn back to the program when you're distracted or doing something else when the TV is on, as I often am. I heard -- then saw -- one of these people yesterday on the Today Show. And I saw an equally bad one today.

The good spokesperson is Sloan Barnett, iVillage consumer editor.

The bad spokesperson is Amanda Brooks, a contributing editor for Men's Vogue. In her Today Show interview (at the link, select "Sexy sleepwear for guys" in the video section), she speaks in a monotone I found hard to listen to (not that it mattered considering the segment included seriously distracting visuals).

To be a Barnett and not a Brooks, keep these five tips in mind when you're doing a TV interview:
  • Project more energy than you usually would because the cameras are draining. It might feel strange, but it looks natural (in the same way that the clownish TV makeup looks extreme in person but appropriate when seen through your TV set).

  • Sit up straight in your chair -- don't lean back no matter how comfortable it is and how desperately you need to feel comfortable in front of the cameras. If you get too comfortable, you will appear flat -- and flat makes viewers change channels.

  • Use your hands when you talk. You do this in real life, so do it in an interview, too.

  • Talk to the interviewer, not the camera. You're having a conversation with the host, not the viewer.

  • Wear what's appropriate for the situation, but what makes you feel confident, too. If you feel like you look great, you'll have more confidence and energy.
Got TV interview tips that work for you? Please share them here!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Beat Goes On

You don't have to be a PR pro to have great publicity ideas.

When Syracuse University's campus station, Z89, changed its format recently, student program manager Romina Llona knew she had to do something different to get call attention to the news. She created a two-day build-up linked to its new slogan, "The Beat of Syracuse." On Day 1, the station played Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” all day. Day 2 brought the never-ending thump of a heartbeat.

People noticed -- maybe a little too much. One listener called 911, fearing the station had been taken over by some kind of evil-doer. The media noticed too -- the local ABC affiliate and the city's daily newspaper gave the story some exposure.

Llona's not a PR major at the school, but I hope she adds this little adventure to her resume. Her creativity and willingness to take a few risks will impress the right employer.

Monday, February 4, 2008

4 Ways Local Ad Agencies Can Generate Buzz with Another Firm's Super Bowl Ads

Here's a message for ad agencies lacking commercials airing during the Super Bowl: Plan to take advantage of the hype next year. Here are just a few things you can do in your local market around Super Bowl XLIII to position your firm's leaders as the community's creative gurus:
  • Blog about the commercials as they're airing; make sure you alert the media that you'll be doing this. Invite reporters to interview you while you're blogging.
  • Assemble a panel of average people -- not ad agency types -- to rate and comment on the commercials as they air. Invite TV stations to interview panelists, etc.
  • Send a press release with your predictions of the "winners" just days before the big event. Make yourself available for media interviews the morning after the game to comment on your predictions and the actual outcome.
  • Write a Super Bowl Sunday op-ed about what the commercials reveal about our society.
Make a note in your calendar to take advantage of this next year. And tell us what you did with the 2008 Super Bowl ads to position your business as the local advertising thought leader.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Green is the New Black

Do you run a business or nonprofit that helps improve the environment? Are you an expert on "green" topics? If you are, and you're not doing media interviews on a regular basis, you're missing lots of opportunities to further your cause or promote your business, product, or service.

When it comes to publicity opportunities, green is definitely the new black.

I subscribe to a service that helps journalists find sources for articles or broadcast segments. It's called ProfNet, and this week has brought subscribers a lot of queries on green topics -- I saw four just this afternoon alone. You have to be a PR practitioner to receive all of the journalist queries that get sent out to paid subscribers every day, but others can receive highly-specialized "feeds," as they're called, through a Profnet reseller called PRLeads. With PRLeads, you specify your area of expertise -- in this case -- "green." You will then receive only those queries that match your expertise.

PRLeads costs $99 per month, which is substantially less than a ProfNet subscription. It's not for everyone, but I do recommend it for people who are good resources for the topics I see over and over in the ProfNet queries. The key to success with the service, though, is being in a position to comment on a topic or subject that gets a steady stream of inquiries. If your expertise is esoteric, it's probably not a good publicity tool for you.

And, of course, once you receive the queries from journalists looking for sources, you have to respond in a way that tells the reporter that you're just the person to talk to. But I'll address how to do that another time.

Have you had success as a PRLeads subscriber? Tell us about it here.