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

Tasty chocolate and cream cake Free Photo

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.

Make My Social Media Post Go Viral

By Kat Beaulieu, Communications Strategist


“Make my social media post go viral”

It’s what every client wants and the gold standard for measuring social media success. Plus, who wouldn’t want to be the genius behind a post that goes viral?

And yet, it is an elusive goal that faces many challenges, not the least of which is that most clients tend to want to promote their products and services, which is in stark contrast to a site like ViralNova, whose whole raison d’être is to produce “the latest interesting, hilarious, and mind-blowing stories on the Web.” Additionally, many clients are risk adverse, so what is interesting, hilarious or mind-blowing to social media consumers can be terrifying to clients.

Nonetheless, it is important to at least sustain high levels of interaction with your content and to aspire to make hitting the viral jackpot a regular mission. In the metrics-driven business of PR and marketing, raising your clients’ numbers in social media likes, engagement and “People talking about this” will rely on your ability to generate engaging content. Even if none of your posts go truly viral, getting some reaction will be critical to maintaining and growing your social media page’s engagement.

Since most of us have clients who are not ViralNova, I humbly present a formula for generating engaging social media content that fits you, or specifically: FITC U

The FITC U formula can help you create content that is relevant to your client or brand and also hits on something that is:

  • Funny
  • Intelligence massager
  • Truth
  • Cute
  • Unbelievable

To elaborate:

  • Funny: Most people share posts online that are humorous. Reinterpret your product or service in an unexpected or humorous way. Sell socks? Use a sock monkey puppet. Sell stocks? Create a faux investor report about an impending IPO for zombie repellent. Be creative, but know your audience and what will resonate with them.
  • Zodiac Pool Systems combined humor and popular culture in this relevant, funny meme.
  • Intelligence massager: You’ve seen these—“75% of people will get this wrong!” People love to let their friends know how smart they are. Create a simple puzzle or quiz that begs people to answer. By answering, they’re engaging and their engagement will get shared on friends’ feeds. Tie your quiz in with #TriviaTuesday for added visibility.
  • The Weather Channel cleverly tied in the names of winter storms with this quiz.
  • Truth: this follows similar psychology to the ‘Intelligence massager’ in terms of tapping into people wanting to share their wisdom, but instead of being formatted as a puzzle or quiz, it is a statement or set of statements. I use the term “truth” here to imply more of a personal truth than a factual one. Think of celebrity quotes or meme-friendly statements like “Not all those who wander are lost” and “Successful people forgive others.”
  • Cute: babies, puppies and kittens, plus goats in pajamas. Need I say more? #caturday #sundog
  • Tri-City Hospital Foundation’s video of Leo the dog driving an electric car was a hit.
  • Unbelievable: Think of incredible, mind-blowing things that will prompt people to use the “wow” emoji, like “A ball of glass will bounce higher than a ball of rubber” or “In 616, King Rædwald of East Anglia is conquering Northumbria (Northern England) at the Battle of the River Idle while The General Grant tree is born in Kings Canyon National Park.” Incredible photos work too.

What’s the secret to building a viral social media post? Make your post hit three or more of the formula’s elements.

And remember, if you’re having trouble creating content that FITC U, you can always switch things up a little, in which case you may end up deciding to FUC IT.

Need help killing it with social media that FITC U? Don’t give up, reach out, we can help.

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.

Pokèmon GO and PR: Both Take Lots of Balls

By Julie Wright, President & Founder, (W)right On Communications, Inc. and Level 17 Pokémon GO Trainer


Pokémon GO has swept the world and I have not been immune. These days, I’m either hustling for my client partners or capturing Pokémon and increasing my experience points (XP). As I move up to each new level in Pokémon GO or capture another rare or high combat power (CP) critter, I can’t escape the feeling that being a Pokémon trainer is a lot like being a publicist.

1. Trainers are always hatching eggs while PR pros are always hatching ideas

As a Pokémon GO trainer, you should always be incubating at least two or three eggs, which will hatch into new Pokémon. You basically place a 2-km, 5-km or 10-km egg in an incubator and while you’re in hot pursuit of Pokémon, the app records your walking distance notifying you when your eggs are ready to hatch into a new Pokémon for your collection.

This is no different from a publicist’s continual pursuit of new ideas and angles to pitch. While you’re driving, in the shower or waiting for Pokémon GO’s servers to come back online (right?!), a good publicist is always thinking of new ideas for how to win exposure for their clients or brand.

2. Always on the hunt

alwaysonthehunt

The Pokémon hunter has to be equipped with the tools to do the job (like Pokéballs, raspberries, lures, incense and stuff). Then they go out to target-rich environments—like malls, parks, points of interest and, yes, cemeteries–looking for Pokéstops with active lures and seeking out the highest CP Pokémon they can capture.

The publicist is armed with tools too—like their media database, reading and research, relationships and storytelling skills–as they hunt out the highest value media hit they can. While the Pokémon trainer covets a Snorlax or Dragonite in their Pokédex, the publicist wants that Wall Street Journal or Today Show in their clippings report.

3. Luck (kind of) plays a part

In Pokémon GO, players get a lucky egg. It’s one that you can activate and during the next 30 minutes receive twice the XP when you evolve your Pokémon or capture one. Really, a player should hold off evolving anything until a lucky egg is activated. Lucky egg is a bit of a misnomer because there’s really no luck involved—just common sense and a game plan. Well, a good publicist knows that there really is no such thing as luck in this business. Luck is just what happens when opportunity meets preparation. When you’ve got your messaging, materials and spokesperson all lined up and then you bump into the right opportunity at the right time, that’s not luck. That’s just how it’s supposed to work when you’ve done your job.

While the clock on the lucky egg is continually winding down, the publicist’s window of opportunity is always closing. Being lucky just means being ready.

4. Increasing your XP through street smarts

Pokémon GO has no user guide or playbook. If you want to advance in the game, you’ve got to figure it out for yourself. Use your street smarts, be resourceful by researching what other players have learned and grow your skills and ranking through experience. Basically, the more Pokéballs you toss out there, the better you’re going to get. Eventually, as your tosses get better and better, you’ll earn extra XP for Nice, Great and Excellent tosses. Curve balls will also get you more points and typically are better at catching rare and high CP Pokémon.

The publicist isn’t getting scored like this, but if you’re a PR pro, you’ll recognize immediately how similar the augmented reality game is to the real-world principles that apply to your professional growth. You can only learn to pitch media by doing it. You can only get better at it by doing more of it. When your pitches get good, you start scoring higher hits. (Hmm. Maybe publicists should develop “Experience Points” just like Pokémon GO to measure their expertise. Anyone?) And if you can master that curve ball – a perfect man bites dog, counter-intuitive pitch with a compelling story arc – then you’re at the top of your game.

5. Do the legwork!

Dothelegwork

Another feature of the game is that you must walk. A lot. You will find more Pokémon when you’re on the move. In addition, walking is how you incubate your eggs. Two, five and 10 kilometer walks are required to hatch new Pokémon or tools. So too does legwork define success in PR. You’ve got to seek out information on your media targets – what kinds of stories do they do, what have they covered lately, how is your client or brand’s story of interest to them and their audience, and most importantly, what’s their contact info?

If you haven’t played Pokémon GO, it’s probably hard to understand some of these comparisons.

It can be the same way with non-PR people who don’t get the legwork part. They think publicists write press releases and then just push a magic button to blast them off to an enormous list of media who are hungry to read and parse their every word. (And because of this, they’re often surprised that the results they seek will take many hours and an accompanying budget to produce.) But, here’s the thing, if you don’t do the legwork as a publicist, you’ll piss off journalists and be ineffective. Really, the entire raison d’etre of the @SmugJourno Twitter feed and Bad Pitch Blog could be attributed to the short-cutters in our field who can’t be bothered to put in the legwork.

So, my PR friends, I urge you to get out there and hatch ideas like Pokémon eggs, catch those high CP media hits while building up your XP, be prepared to get lucky and put in the legwork to do it right and make our profession look its best!

And, two more pieces of advice. First, don’t forget to restore yourself. Be sure to visit the gym so you’re ready for battle (in Pokémon GO and in real life) and make time to hit up whatever bar, or Pokéstop, stocks your preferred potion. And, second, don’t forget that both PR and Pokémon GO reward those who put their balls out there.

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Five Simple Ways to Host a Successful Media Trip

Five Simple Ways to Host a Successful Media Trip

By Erica Schlesinger, Communications Strategist

For our hospitality PR client partners, a key component to a successful media relations strategy is planning press visits. Sometimes, this involves setting up an individual journalist with a hotel stay, activities and meals on their own, but often, we will plan a group press trip. Also called a familiarization, or “fam” trip, these team endeavors are a great way to form personal relationships with members of the media while also securing multiple features for client partners. I have personally planned and attended more than 10 press trips, so I like to think I know a thing or two about making them smooth and successful!

Check out my top five tips for pulling off a great getaway:

  1. Plan ahead – As much as possible, start narrowing down dates, general trajectory of the trip, how many people to host and target audiences about four or five (or even six for a longer trip) months in advance. Many sought-after travel journalists have trips lined up back-to-back, so getting on their calendars is much more likely when you give them the chance to plan ahead. It may seem like overkill, but you’ll have a clear picture of who can make it – and who can’t – with enough time to fill your trip and stay organized… without having a last-minute panic attack.
  2. Be flexible – Schedules change, people run late and guests can develop newfound food allergies or fears of heights when you had a meticulous tasting menu and zipline excursion planned. There is no such thing as a perfect fam trip – when you’re balancing five to seven writers, their guests, their requests, different onsite teams working together and robust itineraries, something is bound to change (and often last-minute and on-the-go). It may not always be convenient or ideal, but tackle it as you would any professional issue: take a breath, use your head, ask for help as needed and take it from there. You’ll soon have it handled. I’ve had writers have overnight flight delays or at-home emergencies, change preferences on a completed itinerary, show up with an unexpected guest and much more. At the end of the day, you’re there to make sure they arrive safely, have a good experience and leave happy – and want to work with you again and say nice things about your clients as a result. Another tip – be transparent with your client partner and inform them of any issues that may impact their teams, but if they don’t need to get involved, don’t bring them into the mix.
  3. Be a control freak – Staying organized is critical for a successful fam trip. You need to make sure a lot of details are sorted and effectively communicated to all involved parties, travel arrangements are made, itineraries are approved, rooms are booked – you get the idea. At WOC, we have a few things that always make their way into our fam trip planning rotation:
    • Bio sheet – Ask each press trip attendee for a photo, brief bio, what their story will be about and the reach of their outlet, then compile into a single document to share with stakeholders. It gives a snapshot of who they’ll be meeting so they can prepare to chat with them, address any special preferences and get an idea of what sort of result they can expect from their time and money.
    • Google Docs/Google Drive – AKA your press trip BFF. Load any spreadsheets, bio sheets, itineraries and other documents up, add approved editors and watch edits appear in real time… without having 50 back-and-forth emails. Isn’t that nice?
    • Preference sheet/head count sheet – This is like a press trip “master document.” Here, we will have all key information any given member of our team or our clients’ team may need at any time to plan the trip. Excel is a great platform to build this in, then – you guessed it – load it into Google Drive. At the very least, this should include all contact info for each attendee, information on their preferences and any health or dietary needs, their guest, their meal selections and their activity preferences. For the latter two, build a “total count” row into the bottom of the sheet – this makes interfacing with activity partners and building BEOs a much easier process.
    • Itinerary – Also like the Press Trip Bible. This is a very detailed timeline covering everything attendees can expect from their trip, right down to notes about driving times if they’re arriving separately and check-in tips for spa appointments. It will keep you, your team and your guests on track from day one to waving goodbye. We WOC-ers like to add each element of the itinerary into our smartphone calendars with a 30-minute warning so we can always be one step ahead.
  4. Be a social butterfly – As a PR pro, you are on a fam trip to represent your client partner, guide the trip and act as a go-to source for information, but in reality, you’re the chief entertainer, too. You will be the person these folks will see the most over two, three, sometimes six or seven days, and it is your job to make sure they all feel welcome and are having fun. When everyone arrives, get them all introduced to one another (including their guests) – and you should not have to refer to any notes for names or what outlet they’re from! During the first meet-and-greet with key members of your client partner’s team, introduce both parties with full names and titles. While at meals or driving in a group, make an effort to mix and mingle with different people. Sometimes, some attendees are much harder to connect with than others – resist the urge to stick with Chatty Cathy the whole trip through. It may be Silent Sue who has the most questions, is the most uncomfortable around groups or just needs some encouragement to open up.
  5. Be a human clock – Real talk… media attendees are rarely keeping track of the time and itinerary while on press trips. Which is fine, since they’re there for the experience. PR pros, however, need to be on schedule at all times. During activities, keep an eye on the time and give updates (“Hey, guys, we have about 20 more minutes in this location. Is there anything else you need to see or photograph before we prepare to move on?”) – this can even mean politely urging a tour guide along, or pulling a chef aside in advance of a big meal to remind him or her of your after-dinner itinerary. If sending people off on free time before another set of activities, and during the last get-together of the evening, remind people of the time and location of their next scheduled stop. It might seem like a lot of “hovering,” but you’ll be surprised how quickly people forget when dinner is or where they need to check it for their morning horseback ride after a full day.

Putting together a winning press trip takes much more than following a few guidelines, but these are a great place to start. Hospitality PR pros, what other tips would you share after running trips of your own?

To learn more about (W)right On’s hospitality PR team, results and capabilities, check out WrightOnComm.com/Hospitality.