No Shortcuts to PR Glory, Then or Now

By Julie Wright—President and Founder

Twitter: @JulieWright


How PR Worked Before the Internet…

I started out in PR before the Internet or email. It was the era of fax machines, the Yellow Pages and 400-page media directories that you combed through to research and build your media lists. There were few shortcuts on the way to mastering your PR skills, but in some ways, all of today’s technology and automation tools might actually be shortchanging entry-level PR people and getting in the way of developing PR fundamentals.

Back in the day, once you had your list built, you then had to call each reporter until they picked up the phone and then use your verbal skills to hold their attention more than eight seconds to pitch your story. Those calls helped you develop a thick skin, fast. That real-time feedback taught you which approaches worked or didn’t.

Unfortunately, in today’s email environment, you’ll never really know what they loved or hated about your pitch. (Unless you follow @smugjourno or @DearPR to monitor Tweets from journalists losing their s*** after being addressed with the wrong name for the 10th time in one day, sent another off-topic pitch, distastefully news-jacked or sent a 120 mb attachment.)

In the pre-email era, entry-level PR pros had to work the phones but that process made us better, faster.

We had another tool beside the phone. It was called the fax machine. Part of paying your dues was standing over one feeding it hard-copy press releases with your fingers crossed, hoping to hear the modem answer. (If you don’t know what a modem sounds like, it’s kinda like a DubStep drop.) That sound let you know that your brilliant press release was transmitting.

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If you were sending a fax to a busy newsroom, you could often expect repeated busy signals and multiple attempts to get your press release through. Faxes could only be sent one at a time. You could punch in several fax numbers, but they’d be delivered sequentially and not simultaneously.

Think about that, for a moment.

You, literally—and I mean literally–experienced the sensation of your pitch colliding and competing for bandwidth with other pitches. The idea that your pitch was one of hundreds being sent to an outlet or reporter was not just a concept. It was something you actually heard and saw.

Anyhow, damn. Those days could be a real grind. Some labor-intensive, inglorious work. Like walking uphill both ways to and from school. But it was just what you had to do so you did it.

So, here’s my point: While the tools may have changed, I honestly do not think that the fundamentals have.

PR still requires an awful lot of legwork to do right and over the past quarter century, I have found that there is no substitute for that hard work—particularly as you are starting out. Generating a Twitter following, mastering Facebook’s algorithm, researching blogs for your thought leadership project—it’s a different grind, but to succeed you’ve got to do the work.

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The practices I learned in the early 90s as an entry-level Gen Xer gave me sound fundamentals. It was a methodical process—detailed, diligent and it kept you close to your media contacts. You worked hard to find each contact and cultivate it. You knew the value of each contact and sent your pitches out into the world with each recipient in mind.

If I wanted to target my client for a radio interview, I had to listen to that radio show. If I wanted a trade or consumer magazine to feature my client’s project, I had to read the magazine. There was no website to consult or Google to search.

You had to be dialed into your media list, totally aware of who each contact was and why the hell they’d want to do a story on your news. I think this is one of those basics that has been lost in the race to automate our work, and it is the bane of the remaining working journalists who are inundated with off-topic email pitches. It’s also the bane of PR professionals who know that it takes time to do this job right but get pressure from clients who think PR is just distributing press releases to massive lists.

What Can You Do Today for Maximum Career Growth & Success?

What would happen to your pitching skills and PR instincts if you adopted these old school practices. What if you voraciously consumed the very same media you were expected to earn coverage in? What if you approached every single media contact on your media list like a wedding guest—knowing their background, your relationship to them, whether they’d want the ribeye or the vegetarian option and who they’d want to sit with?

I tell you what. You’d be successful. You’d be a rock star.

In today’s environment of cheap, plentiful and immediate information, taking pains to research and document each entry in your media list probably makes you feel like you’re doing it wrong.

Stifle that impulse. Take the time. If you have a passion for communications and telling great stories, then focus on your fundamentals. Do what might feel like drudgery. It’s called paying your dues. We all did it. If we wanted it, then we did it.

So if that’s you, don’t miss the opportunity to shine because it looks like hard work.

Put that extra care and attention into your work. Invest extra time in your day for attending a webinar to build your knowledge. Spend a little extra time every day reading up on your industry and talking to the more experienced people on your team about what you’re learning to get their take and advice.

And for god’s sake, show up. Network with journalists, other PR professionals, peers and business leaders. Volunteer on a committee so you can practice your leadership skills outside of the office to get more confident contributing during team and client meetings.

It may sound old-timey but work hard, pay your dues, take chances with your new knowledge and you will get noticed and rise quickly. I assure you, don’t be afraid to do these things for you will have one of the most exhilarating and rewarding careers imaginable.

3 PR & Marketing Tactics to Dump in 2017

By Julie Wright—President and Founder

Twitter: @JulieWright


Out with the old. In with the new! What stale PR and marketing tactics will you shed in 2017?

I’ve got a few on my naughty list this holiday season. They’re activities that perhaps at one time were strategic but now are automatic things PR and marketing professionals are doing without really thinking. Isn’t it time to leave these three things behind?

  1. Your Press Releases No One Reads

Away documents Free PhotoIt’s well past time to ditch the traditional press release.

If you want media coverage, then spend your energy and budget on developing your brand’s story and pitching it to a carefully cultivated list of media targets.

Just as advertising is the price you pay for being unremarkable, press releases are what you do when you don’t have a real PR strategy.

They’re a PR crutch and are often abused by people who think press releases are public relations.

In 2017, empower your agency or PR department to generate media coverage with creative ideas and storytelling. Focus on your communications goals and then determine if press releases are really going to help you achieve them. If not, get creative and strategic with the tactics that will actually impact your communications and business goals.

While they may not generate media coverage, you can be strategic in your use of press releases.  Use them to raise online visibility for your brand or key content to spur discovery through keyword analysis and search engine-optimized content, and to share exceptional visual content such as great photos, videos and graphics.

Just don’t continue putting them out as a proxy for a real PR strategy.

  1. Your Facebook Page that No One Sees

Facebook social media Free Vector How much time does your team spend drafting and posting content to Facebook? Now how many likes or comments does that content get you? How much traffic to your website? How much brand engagement and equity is all this effort producing?

Be honest with yourself. Is it worth it? What would happen to your business if you dumped your Facebook page? Or your Twitter account, for that matter?

If you’re doing it right, hopefully the answer would be “quite a lot.” Website visits would fall, event attendance dip and top of mind awareness would suffer.

If you can’t answer that question satisfactorily, take a hard look at what you’ve been doing and ask yourself why? Do you know what impact you want this activity to have on your business?

Now flip things around and pretend that Facebook was your only channel for reaching your audience. How would you approach it differently? Would you do more research and target better? Would you dedicate more budget to advertising? Would you study what type of content performs best?

So develop a plan in 2017 to do social media right. Or stop doing it.

Set goals for your social media activity that will support the impact you want to see for your business and then produce the content, schedule, promotion and targeting that will reach them.

  1. The Content You Spend More Time Marketing than Your Actual Product or Service

I get the concept behind content marketing. Provide people with helpful, well-packaged information that draws them in and predisposes them to like, trust and value your business so they’ll consider doing business with you.

Time and money Free Vector Do this on a massive scale and you’ll have a lead generation machine, the theory goes. With every blog post or white paper, an email has been captured so that the prospect can be continuously marketed with more friendly, helpful emails, blog posts and white papers.

That said, it’s a shit-ton of work to do this right. And if you’re the prospect, you could now have five or 10 companies trying to move you through their content marketing funnel. Your email inbox will implode!

So how much of your marketing department’s time or agency budget do you want to spend generating and marketing helpful blog posts, infographics, videos, white papers and case studies, and how much do you want to spend actually marketing your product or service to your target buyers?

I may be out of fashion here, but content marketing has to have jumped the shark a few years ago.

“With over 90% of B2B marketers cranking out ‘content,’ prospective buyers are inundated with information.”

How many buyers will be saying to themselves in 2017, “Boy, if only I could find more content?” I’m skeptical. Content is important but it is not the end in and of itself. It’s the means to an end. So in 2017 stop slaving away at the content game and make sure it’s serving your needs and not vice versa.

What tactics will you be dumping in 2017? Let us know with a comment or tweet!

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Trends Come and Go, But These 5 PR Tips Are Forever

By Aisha Belagam—Jr. Communications Strategist

Twitter: @AishaBelaPR


As we get closer to 2017, amidst a flurry of new trends, it is important to remember that the traditional fundamentals of public relations are timeless and the backbone of any campaign, be it 1977 or 2017.

Here are five forever PR techniques that I always return to, no matter what platform, reporter, or message I’m working with:

1) Write well, not good
The digital age has certainly increased the demands placed on public relations professionals. As the role has evolved into a management discipline, strategy and critical thinking drive executions. However, no matter how you slice it, writing continues to be the fundamental skill one must possess to thrive in the industry. Strong writing skills are consistently the top-rated PR skill in multitudes of surveys, including this recent one from Gould and Partners.Typewriter illustration vector Free Vector

Advanced writing skills are more important than ever in today’s changing landscape, where everything is instant. Journalists and PR professionals are dealing with 24/7 deadline pressures, while citizen journalists are simultaneously posting stories, videos, rumors, and statements that can permanently damage reputations. With heightened expectations and less time for give-and-take between journalists and publicists, it is vital that a PR professional can write well and deliver content that can be published as is, if needed.

It’s no wonder why so many PR pros, including myself, have journalism degrees.

2) Do your homework
Want to gain credibility and be taken seriously by reporters? Do your research. Distribution is easy if you spend your time wisely. Rather than blindly pitching hundreds of reporters and publications, spend your time developing a highly-targeted media list with unique angles to work with. You are more likely to spark interest this way. What has the reporter written about lately? How does it relate to your client’s story? Connect the dots and show the reporter why your story is relevant. Remember what runs through the reporter’s mind: WIFM (What’s In It For Me).

3) Put the relations back into public relations
Alluding to my last point, PR/journalist relationships still rest on the rudiments. Good chemistry trumps a random, well-crafted pitch. There is no substitution for real, emotional connection, regardless of how strategic and seamless your pitch is. Behind the screens, we are all humans. Build trust, rapport and friendships with media members and make life easier for both sides. Sure, no one has time for frequent business lunches anymore. Leverage the tools of today to balance it out. A Facebook comment, Instagram like or casual chitchat over the phone can help build that relationship.

“That Facebook video of your son taking his first steps was precious, William. Did he end up making it to the chair with some practice?”

4) Man bites dogyorkshire Free Photo
That sure got your attention. You never read about the dog that bit the man. Or about the plane that did not crash. Alfred Harmsworth’s (1865-1922) words hold true to this day. Be unusual. Make your story different. Offer a unique angle.

Why? Because as New York Sun editor John B. Bogart so eloquently said, “When a dog bites a man, that is not news, because it happens so often. But if a man bites a dog, that is news.”

5) Do the right thing
Public relations professionals face many unique and challenging ethical issues. Simultaneously, protecting integrity and public trust continue to be crucial to the profession’s role and reputation. That’s why it is vital to refer to the PRSA Code of Professional Ethics. Ethics make or break careers. The power of doing the right thing is illimitable.

It’s why I’m a part of (W)right On Communications. We provide award-winning, full-spectrum communications to billion-dollar companies and small businesses alike because we live by these timeless tips as we embrace the ever-changing landscape.

What matters most to you? Let us know in the comments. Or of course, tweet, tweet!

Agency Life: What I’ve Learned About PR in my First Year

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By Kara DeMent, Communications Coordinator


This month marks my first year at (W)right On Communications and my first “full” year (technically) at a PR agency, and boy have I learned a lot.

Like most new professionals, what I thought PR was in college is nothing like what it is in real life. There’s way more to it than campaigns and PR plans, like growing relationships with your clients and understanding their goals and objectives; knowing the media inside and out; staying on top of trends—the list goes on and on. Naturally, I’ve learned more than a thing or two about PR over the past year, but here are what I consider to be the three most important lessons learned:

life delivery sponge1. Be a sponge

Absorb information, take notes and ask questions. Every meeting, workshop or phone call is an opportunity to learn from your peers and clients. At WOC we’re expected to engage wholeheartedly in office discussions and we inspire one another to get out and join a workshop, webinar or become a member of a professional organization. This helps broaden our knowledge of PR and the industries we’re passionate about.

2. Finding the right media contact is cake

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Wrong. At WOC we’re always pitching our client’s accomplishments, but in order to secure that TV interview or front page story, you have to get it in front of the right person. Do your research for the right media contact—learn about the journalist you’re pitching, know their past writing history and show that you’re paying attention to what they’re covering.

3. Become an expert in the practice areas

This is something you learn quickly working at a PR agency. At WOC, we learn what our client partners’ expectations are, their main objectives and the best way to support them – what’s specific to the client. But we also learn the ins and outs of their industry and how we can help best achieve their goals. What works for a hospitality client might not work for an energy and tech client. At WOC we’re all about getting stuff done and achieving wins for our clients and that’s accomplished by fully immersing ourselves in the industries we support.

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Although I’m still fresh in my PR career, I’m continually learning something new every day at (W)right On, and one thing I can take away from what I learned in college and through sports communications internships is how to learn and research, and you can see from my top three list—it’s all about continuing to learn and grow in the industry.

 

If you’re looking to explore the PR industry or need expert advice, call or email our team of PR pros. We’d be happy to speak at your next meeting or work seminar, (858) 755-5411 or info@wrightoncomm.com.

How to Write Winning Award Nominations

By Chance Shay, Senior Communications Strategist


“You play to win the game.” As a sports enthusiast, this is one of my favorite quotes. When it comes to organized sports, if you’re not playing to win then what’s the point? The same thing goes for submitting award nominations. To make sure you’re helping your organization get the recognition (and buzz) it deserves, here are the four key elements to writing award nominations that win.

1. Focus on the category: There are a ton of award categories, which means your award nomination needs to emphasize how your product/service/organization is outstanding in that specific area. If the award category is about innovation, focus on how your widget solves a problem in a new way or how it created a new class of products. Many organizations make the mistake of writing award nominations that explain how fantastic their product is in a breadth of ways. Instead, focus on how fantastic the product is as it pertains to the one category. This will help reduce wordiness of a nomination, better hold judges’ attention and gives them everything they need to know to evaluate your product without having to dig through the nomination for it.

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2. Write for the criteria: All sound awards programs lay out criteria against which nominations will be judged. Use those criteria as an outline for your nomination. Make sure you clearly and succinctly address each aspect of the criteria within the context of the larger category. If pricing isn’t part of the criteria and your widget doesn’t have a price point benefit, don’t distract from what’s remarkable about the widget by mentioning its price. Also, don’t get lost talking about the widget’s features. Instead, discuss features in terms of the benefit they provide- feature A makes the product more reliable, feature B allows it to solve the problem faster, feature C relieves a pain point that’s a barrier to entry for a wider audience. Judges don’t care as much about what the widget is as they do about what it achieves.

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3. Use figures: Anyone can add superfluous adjectives to an award nomination to make it seem more impressive than it really is, but numbers don’t lie. Include data on how successful the product launch was, figures on the number of times it solves a problem, or show metrics that illustrate the benefit of the widget. If the figures included in your nomination are bigger and better than that of competing nominations, it doesn’t matter how much a competitor embellished on their nomination description. Use stats to your advantage.

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4. Make a good first impression: Set the tone for which your nomination will be judged with an opening statement that clearly conveys why your organization deserves to win the award. Assume the judge will only read the first sentence of your nomination. What MUST they know and understand about the widget? Build your opening statement around that and be sure to showcase the passion your organization has for what the widget achieves.

Write Winning Award Nominations
Bonus tip: Incorporate visuals! Depending on the award program size. Judges may have to sift through hundreds of nominations and can get cross-eyed looking at block of text after block of text. Use visuals- from infographics to product marketing photos- to show them how awesome the widget is, rather than just tell them. For nominations that don’t allow you to upload and send visual files, incorporate links to online-hosted visuals within the nomination text itself. Sure, not all judges are guaranteed to click the links to see the visuals, but it will give your nomination the edge for those that do.

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The point of submitting an award nomination isn’t to say you’ve nominated your organization for an award. The point is to win the award, tell your audience about why you won the award, differentiate your organization from competitors and boost sales or fundraising. By following these four (or five) tips, your nominations will be better positioned to help you win, and that’s what it’s all about.

Need a little help winning attention or awards for your organization? We are all about achieving wins for our clients. Let us know what a win looks like for you, and we’ll let you know how we can get you there. Email cshay@wrightoncomm.com to start the discussion today.

Write Your PR for Robots AND Humans

By Kat Beaulieu, Communications Strategist


Whether you call it a press, news or media release or a press statement, it’s all the same thing—it’s the communication piece aimed at hooking the media onto your story. Far from being a relic relegated to our past, the press release lives on as an important tool in a PR professional’s toolkit. But in this age of media overload, getting your press release noticed is no simple feat. Plus, nowadays it’s equally important to ensure your press release appeals to robots and humans alike.

Read on for some best practices for ensuring your press release is seen by robots and humans and not getting lost in the shuffle.

The Writing Phase

Writing a press release for robots

Start writing your press release with an audience in mind. In this case, let’s begin with our robot audience. When I say ‘robots,’ I’m not talking about The Terminator, or Autobots & Decepticons, or cute heartstring-pulling characters like WALL-E. I’m talking about those web-crawling spiders that do all the grunt work of indexing the internet so that when we do a Google search on “press release,” it only takes 0.84 seconds to return 272,000,000 results (take THAT, human!)

Writing a press release for robots, or more specifically, writing an SEO optimized press release, follows certain protocols which are largely determined by the current algorithms of the top search engines you want to place prominently on. Basically you need to follow the same rules for your press release as you would for a web page. Fundamentally, this comes down to:

1. figuring out your key search terms

2. making sure those terms are peppered as naturally as possible throughout your press release.

Robots don’t care about varying your language to keep things interesting, using creative, emotional hooks to encourage them to read more, or even grammar and typos (unless they’re your key search terms, of course.) The robots will read to the end of your release no matter what and then efficiently and mathematically rank your press release among the 272,000,000 other ones out there.

Writing a press release for humans

Humans, on the other hand, care about all of those things. If there’s nothing compelling about your headline, they won’t bother reading more. If the release reads like a boring SEO-peppered document with no WIIFM (what’s in it for me, or my audience), they won’t bother remembering it. And if your release has grammatical mistakes or typos, it will also upset most humans in editor, journalist (and many) blogger roles and they’ll stop reading it. So after investing time creating an SEO optimized press release, edit it for human consumption. This means spending the time to:

1. Create a catchy headline for your press release that piques a human’s curiosity

2. Elaborate on the press release headline with supporting detail in the sub-head

3. Embed WIIFM detail throughout the body of the press release, preferably with an emotional connection—make it instantly clear why this topic is relevant, interesting, funny, sad, irritating, inspiring, joyful and most importantly, worth sharing. Give it the Facebook share test—is the info cool enough that you’d share it on Facebook given the right audience?

4. Include a good and relevant photo that supports the story. A picture says a thousand words, and this is so much more important in today’s highly-visual media arena. Plus, providing a low-res image in your initial press release provides an excellent opportunity for you to accompany the release with a personalized note to get in touch with you for a hi-res version.

5. Proofread. Robots don’t care about typos. Humans do.

The Distribution Phase

Distributing a press release to robots

Sending your press release over a paid wire service is an almost guaranteed way of capturing the attention of the robots. In fact, paid wire services serve little other purpose. In addition to sending your press release out over the wire, you can help contextualize it by supporting it through owned media channels (like a corporate website and social media). This is another place where your good and relevant photo will come in handy as you tweet and post teasers from your press release to followers.

While you might not see any immediate results, getting the robots to index your press release will pay off in the long term. It’s called seeding the internet—consider it like good press insurance. You want lots of good stories indexed by the robots so that the good outweighs the bad. This way, when something “bad” hits the media, the search results present some of the good along with the bad.

Distributing a press release to humans

As you’re probably already aware, humans are a lot more high-maintenance than robots and as such, require more time investment. To get humans to notice your press release, it helps to keep some uniquely human behaviors in mind, like:

  • Humans are social. Fact: humans are more likely to respond to humans they already know. It’s not fair, but it’s true. An editor will more likely read an email and respond to a voicemail from someone they know and trust. Build those relationships.
  • Humans have expectations. Humans expect you to do your homework. Do your research and find out which editors specialize in the topic of your news release. If it’s not that person’s specialization, they probably won’t care about your press release. This is where an up-to-date media list and your WIIFM copy is crucial.
  • Humans have a short attention span and can forget things. Unlike a robot, who will systematically comb through each and every press release in an orderly fashion, a human will likely skim through until something catches their interest. This is where your short catchy headline is golden, and where a heads-up or follow-up call can make all the difference.
  • Humans are lazier than robots. Avoid relying on attachments that humans have to double-click to open. Put the press release and image in the body of the email where possible.

So should I write a press release for a robot or a human?

The answer is that a really good press release that gets noticed is written for both. You can start with a skeleton press release that hits all the SEO sweet spots, and then flesh it out with the strong emotional meat that hits the humans in the feelies.

Need help with your press release? Fortunately we have a full team of humans who specialize in writing captivating press releases that appeal to both robots and humans. Get in touch and we’ll respond in a humanistic way that’s refreshingly un-robotic.