Monday, November 30, 2009

Is Your Special Event Relevant to What You Do?

When I saw the headline on the three-sentence news brief in the daily newspaper -- "Museum hosts wing contest" -- I expected to read about an event at the 1941 Historical Aircraft Group Museum, sponsor of the area's annual high-profile airshow.

Nope. The news item announced a Buffalo-style chicken wing competition at a county historical society museum. Huh? What does this museum in Lyons, N.Y. (a community probably best known as the hometown of Jim Boeheim, the Syracuse University men's basketball coach) have to do with chicken wings?


I'd be less confused, of course, if the organization hosting the chicken wing contest was based in Buffalo, N.Y., home of the Anchor Bar, where chicken wings were first served to patrons. Or at an airplane museum. (But maybe not at a bird sanctuary . . . .)

Special events can do a lot to raise awareness or funds, but they need to be relevant to your purpose or mission so that they help connect your nonprofit or business with the messages you're working hard to communicate. So a costume museum might host a fashion show, an art museum could sponsor a student art contest, and a flour museum (yes, they exist) can consider a baking event.

Before approving your next event, whether you run a museum or a hair salon, ask yourself: What does this have to do with what I want people to know about this organization? It could make the difference between an event that makes a difference and one that just makes a dent.

What's the most relevant special event you've seen?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Current Issue of Build Book Buzz Explains How to Find Journalists on Twitter

The November 25, 2009 issue of Build Book Buzz, the free e-newsletter for authors, explains how (and why) to find journalists on Twitter. Subscribe to the free bi-weekly newsletter at before December 9, 2009 and you'll receive the current issue with the Twitter information via e-mail.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Don't Let Everyone Else Hog the Swine Flu Spotlight

The only good news coming out of the H1N1/swine flu situation is that some small businesses and nonprofit groups have been able to use the ongoing news story to bring attention to their organizations.

Take churches, for example. The Wall Street Journal ran a story on how those offering communion have to approach that ritual differently now that so many in congregations worry about being exposed to the disease through practices that were considered safe and acceptable before. Small businesses are gaining exposure in their local media by talking about how fear of spreading the disease is changing everything from the trinkets they hand out at trade shows to the number of in-person meetings they require, as this article, "Companies limit personal contact," illustrates.

What is your organization doing because of concerns about the spread of the swine flu? Have you made internal changes, conducted educational seminars, provided shots to employees, or do you provide support services to those giving or receiving the shots? The hospital lobby I visited recently replaced its usual wrapped hard candy with complimentary bottles of hand disinfectant at the registration desk, for example.

If you've made changes or provide support to those working to keep the public healthy, contact your local media and let them know what you're going. Better yet, find out what a few other organizations in your area are doing, too, and present the story to reporters with a full package of interview sources. Here's who to contact locally:
  • Daily newspapers: Small business reporter, health reporter
  • Weekly newspaper: The reporter covering your community
  • TV stations: Assignment editor or health reporter
Do it, and do it now. Perhaps your example will encourage others in your community to make the same changes to help prevent the spread of the disease among employees, customers, and others.

What have you seen about how companies are coping in your local media?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Is One-one-One Contact with a Journalist Ever Appropriate?

While listening in on a Webinar this week about how to use online press releases, I was surprised to hear one of the two speakers say that there's no place for one-on-one contact with journalists when trying to get publicity. Instead, this author of a book on using press releases online said if you've got news, it belongs in a news release sent to as many media outlets as possible.

I realize that the event was sponsored by online press release distribution company PRWeb International, but, um, this answer is just plain wrong. Fortunately, the other speaker on the Webinar, a publicist, did a little backpeddling on behalf of the author (who is not a publicist), noting that there are times when you have a story that's perfect for just one media outlet and when that happens, you focus on that outlet.

With that as the backdrop, here are four more situations when it's appropriate to contact a journalist individually:
  1. You have identified the six to 10 journalists who have the power to influence your success and you want to begin establishing a relationship with each one of them individually. Start the conversation. Relationships matter -- work on them.
  2. You want to pitch a story, not news. They're not necessarily the same thing. "Stories" don't always lend themselves to many, many media outlets.
  3. You're handcrafting a small media list to manage in-house and want to confirm a journalist's area of interest, responsibilities, or preferences for how or when to receive news and information from you. This is particularly relevant when you're seeking local, not national, publicity or when you're in a specific niche targeting a small number of trade publications or blogs.
  4. You have uncovered information that will help the journalist do his job better. Maybe it's an article from a national publication that you think the daily newspaper newspaper reporter on your "most important media" list will want to turn into a local story. It could be the opposite -- there's a feature in your local paper that's relevant to the work of an editor or writer at a national magazine that you'd like to have on your side.
Mass distribution of press releases might have a place in your publicity plan, but if you rely completely on that tactic and do nothing else to develop media exposure, you'll miss many opportunities to make headlines with your business, cause, product, or service. Those opportunities often come as the result of carefully and patiently cultivated relationships with journalists -- relationships that develop through one-on-one contact.

When you have contacted a single reporter directly and received publicity as a result?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

PR Firm Seeks Executive Vice President

The folks at Cone, a public relations firm in Boston, have asked me to share news of an opening for executive vice president of cause branding. Cone has a long-standing reputation for leadership in cause marketing, so anyone qualified for the position probably knows about the company already.

Here's a link to the job posting, but I have to warn you that it doesn't meet my expectations for prose written by professional communicators. There's all that random capitalization of phrases such as "corporate responsibility" and "executive leadership team" that is usually generated by those who don't write for a living and who have spent so much time in the corporate "space" (ha-ha) that they don't realize that members of the "Knowledge Leadership team" are just people like you and me. It also uses depressing buzz words and phrases like "impactful" and "market facing."

It gives the impression that this shop is more corporate than creative, so keep that in mind as you mull over whether this is a good fit for you. (Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, the job description was probably written by the HR guy but this is the face the company is putting out there to job-seekers, so I have to think that it's an "approved" face.)

But let's put aside my discomfort with writing that isn't straightforward or uses that kind of incorrect random capitalization found on the advertising side of the business. This is a great job for somebody who wants to help corporations become better citizens. To do that, you sometimes need to fit into the corporate environment. My point here is that I wouldn't expect a creative agency to be as corporate as the client.

With that in mind, I am now officially applying for the job of editing the agency's recruiting materials so they better reflect the company's ability to communicate effectively and clearly with all of its audiences. Cone: You know where to find me.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Avoid These Common Online Press Room Mistakes

Does your company have an online press room -- a repository of news and background information -- for the media on your Web site? If you're looking for media exposure, you have to be (a) found online and (b) offer appropriate information to journalists. They aren't looking for sales literature and hype. They're seeking news, facts, details, background information, and graphics.

Here are the most common online press room mistakes and how you can prevent them on your Web site so that you maximize its value and impact:
  • There is no online press room. Every business that isn't trying to dodge the media needs one.
  • Press materials are available only in PDF format. You want journalists to copy and paste your press releases, fact sheets, backgrounders, executive bios, etc. As soon as you make them available only as PDF files, you've seriously inhibited this process. And anytime you make it harder, you risk losing the media opportunity because none of us wants to work any harder than we have to. Don't put up roadblocks and force us to give exposure to your competitors instead. Make all of your press materials available in a format that lets people copy and paste easily.
  • Press releases aren't dated. I've found some news on your site -- but is it really news? Did you post the press release last week, last month, or last year? I can't use it if I don't know when you released it.
  • There is no media contact listed. Let's say an Oprah producer discovers your Web site and wants to talk to your CEO about appearing in a segment related to your business, but you have no media contact listed and the only contact information on your site at all is a generic fill-in-the-blanks Web inquiry form. No names, no phone numbers, no e-mail addresses, and no media contact name and information. Do you think you might miss out on that opportunity to appear on Oprah? Possibly.
  • There are no media graphics. Include photos in your press room -- executive head shots, product shots, application photos, your logo, etc. -- and include both high- and low-resolution versions.

Large companies usually do it the right way; visit the Xerox newsroom to see an effective example.

What's the best online press room you've seen? I'd like to compile a list of good examples.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Sarah Palin's BOGO Book Tour

No matter how you feel about Sarah Palin, you have to admit that the book tour schedule for her Going Rogue: An American Life is pretty darn clever.

Palin's publisher is skipping big cities like Seattle, San Francisco, Philadephia, and Los Angeles. Shucks. The durn liberals in those places can't properly appreciate a gal like Mrs. Palin. She's reaching out to "just folks" like me in the smaller cities of Middle America: Noblesville, Ind. Washington, Pa., Grand Rapids, Mich. Even my town, Rochester, N.Y., is on the schedule. Excited locals will greet the former candidate at a Borders on the less upscale side of the city on November 21. (You can bet that selecting that Borders over a Barnes & Noble and another Borders in the county's two most upscale suburbs was a strategic move.)

Her appearance here is guaranteed to generate a media frenzy -- and isn't that what you want at a book signing? Really, it's sheer genius. The TV stations will be hyping it for a few days before the appearance -- "A national celebrity visits Rochester tomorrow! We'll tell you who tonight at 11." -- and the newspaper will turn to politicians and pundits who will comment on whether this book signing campaign is a hint of what's to come in the next presidential election. Or maybe the daily will send a photog to snap pictures of members of Moose for a Safe America picketing outside Borders during Palin's appearance.

It will be a big whoop-dee-doo event here in conservative Western New York and it will not only sell books, it will help Palin connect with the Americans she hopes will elect her to national office -- a politician's equivalent of a BOGO (buy one, get one free).

I admire what her marketing team is doing here. This tour strategy guarantees far more media exposure for both Palin's politics and her book than her team could have generated among the jaded media outlets in big cities. It will be topped off by lots of national media news coverage because her appearances in these lesser-known and harder-to-reach markets is newsworthy for the big dogs, too.

It looks like this time, at least, Sarah Palin is listening to her advisors.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Now on the Spin Cycle: Rick Warren's "Purpose Driven Connection"

Associated Press is reporting today that Pastor Rick Warren's Saddleback Church is taking over a joint venture between Warren and Reader's Digest because the multimedia project, the "Purpose Driven Connection," has collapsed. The project included a print magazine of the same name sold by subscription; the print edition will fold after its last issue prints this month and the magazine will be available on the project's Web site at no charge.

Warren's explanation for this made me laugh out loud: "The positive response from readers was so overwhelming we didn't want the content to be limited only to Americans who could afford a subscription to a magazine," Warren said.

The translation for people who don't speak PR?

"We didn't get enough subscribers to sustain what is essentially an ego-driven publication, but because of that ego, we can't admit failure. The logical response is to put the publication online to save face," Warren said.

I understand the need to spin a negative situation so it looks like a positive one. I'll even admit that I spent too much time on the spin cycle. But this one is just too . . . well . . . too spun. How about a little more honesty, a tad more authenticity, in the positioning? Why not just say, "We launched this magazine during the worst period in this country's economic history in decades, but we're not ready to give up. We're taking it online to regroup," Warren said. "This approach will also allow us to reach more people with our uplifting messages, which is never a bad thing."

What's the best PR spin you've seen lately?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Social Networking for Authors -- It's Practically Magical!

I've always been interested in Erie Canal lore (and not just because I live across the street from the canal in the lovely village pictured here in a photo by "lilhoosrgrl"), so I was pretty happy when Deborah Williams, the author of The Erie Canal: Exploring New York's Great Canals, registered for my book publicity course. I knew I'd enjoy guiding her through the process.

Because the course includes content on author Web sites, Deborah sent me the link for her new Web site this morning. It was something of a "ta-da!" message. Once on her site, I went straight to the "Canal Music" page because I am still a 3rd grader at heart. You don't grow up in New York State without singing "low bridge, everybody down!" more times than you'll ever remember and more loudly than you ever should.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I tweeted about this page this morning, saying the music made me smile. And my tweet was seen by a journalist, who contacted Williams with some questions, and then wrote this piece showcasing the new Erie Canal book.

Why, it's practically magical!

If you want to learn more about how to get these types of "magical" outcomes by using social networking sites and tools effectively for book promotion and publicity, check out the teleseminar I'm hosting on November 11, 2oo9, "Boost Your Book Sales with Social Networking." You'll get lots of practical tips and advice from my guest, Dana Lynn Smith, author of the e-book, The Savvy Book Marketer's Guide to Successful Social Marketing.

I promise it will be well worth the small price of admission.