Saturday, November 19, 2011

Why You Need a Year-End Press Release—Now


Whatever your business is, it’s time to start working on a year-end press release to be distributed in mid- to late December.

Think you don’t have anything to say? Think again.

Newspapers, radio and television stations, and bloggers are all doing stories on the economy in late December and early January. Experts with views on national and global outlooks are plentiful. Experts on the economy in your community or your industry tend to be few and far between. They aren’t listed in the telephone directory – or almost any other directory – either, making it hard for reporters to identify them.

You are, however, an expert on how your business is doing. Here are just a few ideas to get you thinking about possible press releases:

  • · Do you sell office supplies? How has the past year year been, and what are you expecting for next year? You have valid personal observations on what you are seeing in your business.
  • · Do you repair appliances or cars or just about anything else? Are more people keeping their older appliances longer? Or are more people likely to buy a new appliance rather than make major repairs?
  • · Are you a medical professional? Are your patients having to make larger out-of-pocket payments as their employers cut back on health insurance? Are you seeing more patients who no longer have group policies? How is this impacting you – and them?
  • · What products and services to you offer? Which ones are showing sales increases and why?

In other words, if you are in business and you have customers, you are doing something of interest to the community. It’s a good time to share your story.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

PR tips for businesses, both large and small

Sometimes other people say it so well there's no need to try to improve.

PRWEb recently had a good blog post on how the Internet and electronic delivery can give small businesses the same ability as large ones to reach major audiences. Among the comments: "Remember, sending a press release online to any size audience means that a company of ten can exert as much influence as a company of 10 thousand." You can read the complete article here.

And whether your organizations is large or small, it's all too easy to send mixed messages because different people express key points differently. Read Forbes on why organizations need a chief content officer.

Friday, November 4, 2011

More People Watch My Drunk Kitchen than CNN

Did you know that a YouTube video called My Drunk Kitchen has more viewers than CNN?

I didn’t until I attended a webinar given by consultant Katie Paine and sponsored by Business Wire.

So what is the message in this? I find two.

First, people are self-selecting the media they want to see, and they’re doing it online. If you are relying only on traditional media, you aren’t reaching enough people.

Second, most content is boring. People want entertainment or facts they can use immediately.

You may not have a story that is as entertaining as My Drunk Kitchen. But in this day of rapidly expanding websites and busy schedules, you need to be sure that your story is available whenever people are ready to read it. And most people are going to look for the facts they want on Google. A good public relations program will stress both traditional and online media.

P.S. For what it's worth, I watched part of an episode of My Drunk Kitchen. So far I prefer CNN.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Why Everybody — Even with Older Clients — Should Care About Social Media

No matter what the age is of your audience, social media is critical as the number of traditional media operations declines.

I heard this point emphasized by Oliver Theil, director of public relations, San Francisco Symphony, at a recent meeting of the Public Relations Round Table of San Francisco, and I couldn’t agree more. They apply to almost every business or organization.

Among the relevant points that Theil made are these:
• The number of traditional media outlets is diminishing.
• Those that exist all have suffered from staff cutbacks in recent years, diminishing the opportunity for coverage.
• Because of this, it is important for the symphony to engage its community of 104 musicians, 1,500 volunteers, subscribers and other friends to tell its story. “We need to give them the content to help us.” Another quote from Oliver: “It is critical to deal with our patrons directly.”
• Word-of-mouth recommendations in social media from symphony supporters are more persuasive than recommendations from the media.
• The community of friends, i.e., social media subscribers, is not primarily interested in factual information such as upcoming programs. Instead they want tidbits giving them a personal connection with performers, such as an interview with a violin player or a YouTube interview with a visiting artist as he arrives to rehearse. These are the things that people share with their friends.

It’s good advice for everyone.

Disclosure note: I’m proud to say that I’m a former board member of the Round Table, founded in 1939 for senior-level public relations practitioners.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Why Write a Press Release When Reporters Will Be There?

Why write a press release when you know reporters will be at an event, anyway?

That’s question I often hear. The answer is this: It can be even more important to have a written press release when you know reporters will be present.

It’s very hard for a reporter (or anyone else) to listen to a speech, much less a panel discussion or question-and-answer session with multiple speakers, and take notes with 100 percent accuracy.

If you put the important facts in writing, you know the reporter will have an accurate record of any numbers and your most important comments. If the reporter is called away to another breaking story before it’s your turn to speak, the reporter will at least know what you had to say.

Issuing a press release, of course, in no way obligates a reporter to use it. The media gets to decide what is published and what is left out.

Good reporters want to get the facts right. A well-written press release makes it easy for them to do so. The easier you make it for a reporter to cover you accurately, the more likely it is to happen.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Why Google is the new front page

I came across that statement in a communication from PR Web, an electronic press release distribution service. It’s absolutely true, even if PR Web does have a vested interest in Internet postings.

A front-page story in the newspaper or a good story on the evening television news obviously is still valuable today. But the first page of Google results is probably more valuable over the months ahead.

The front-page story is gone tomorrow. Google, in contrast, is like the yellow pages. It’s there when people need the information, whether it’s right now or a year from now.

If you aren’t distributing your press releases electronically (and optimizing them for search engines as well), you’re not taking full advantage of today’s technology.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Pro Bono Public Relations for Nonprofits: 7 Questions Agencies Ask (Part 2)

These are some of the questions a public relations agency will consider in accepting a pro bono client. Other questions were in last week’s blog.

5. Do the nonprofit respect my skills? For example, if I tell them that I need specific information for a press release or to pitch a story, will they believe me? Placing stories is not a matter of calling up a reporter and saying, “I have a good story; come on over tomorrow at 3.” A reporter or editor needs facts. No PR firm wants to issue press releases that don’t meet professional standards, even for a very deserving charity. Questions from people trying to understand the process and suggestions are always welcome. But when a nonprofit seeks my help and then declines to follow my advice, it’s time for a change. A city council member I know said it best: “There are all sorts of people who want my advice for free. Why should I keep meeting with people who never take it?”

6. Does the nonprofit have a staff member or volunteer who will coordinate requests for services and approvals and mediate between different opinions on what the press release should say and what press releases are needed? This is a necessity to keep costs under control (for paying clients, too).

7. Are the nonprofit’s board members and major donors likely to refer paying clients to me? If they develop a larger budget, are they going to start paying me or will they give the account to the vice president’s brother, who was too busy to do it pro bono? The first question should never be the main criteria, but referrals of paying clients definitely help cement a relationship. And my firm and many of my colleagues can tell stories of times that we’ve been competent enough to do the work when a nonprofit that needed free help, but not competent enough once they developed a budget.

You may be surprised that I have not focused on whether the agency supports the cause. That’s a given, but I’ve rarely met a charity I didn’t like. The more important question usually becomes where donated time can do the most good, and the working relationship is often the biggest factor in determining that.

Finally, the question is whether the agency can afford the time. Almost all public relations agencies, including mine, believe in donating some professional help. But there is a cost. We all know that if we go overboard on pro bono work, we’re likely to end up with an unsuccessful business and the ability to help no one. So please remember that if you ask for help, you are almost always asking for a four- or five-figure donation – and treat the prospective donor accordingly.