What Makes PR Nearly as Stressful as the Battlefield?


What’s nearly as scary as battling a wall of flames, navigating your way around IEDs in a warzone or crash-landing a plane on the Hudson River?

Apparently, it’s being grilled by an irate newspaper editor, explaining to a client why their competitor is on the front page and not them or organizing a press conference where no one shows up.

After soldiers, generals, firefighters, airline pilots and event coordinators; PR executives have one of the most stressful jobs.

That’s according to the rankings of the most stressful jobs released by CareerCast. (See list below.)

CareerCast says: “Jobs such as public relations executive, newspaper reporter and event coordinator are among the most stressful because of tight deadlines and scrutiny in the public eye.”

I would like to put my own explanation forward. You can control many things in this world–your physical fitness if you’re a firefighter, your altitude and heading if you’re a pilot, your own expectations if you’re doing just about any kind of task–but you cannot control other people.

All you can do is influence them.

Will the reporter accept your pitch? Will the Facebook fans engage with your promotion? Will the assignment editor send a camera? That’s just the media side of the equation.

Will the client approve the release in sufficient time for you to pitch their news? Will he or she deliver the messaging during the interview? Will they keep their cool when they get a tough question?

Will the big, creative idea you talked your boss into meet expectations? Can you manage the crisis and get the facts out before it blows up into a media or social media sh*tstorm? (Editor’s note: That’s industry jargon, which I normally advise clients to avoid. ;-))

You can do a lot to ensure successful outcomes – develop tough questions and practice them in advance with your client, draft messaging and make sure your client reviews it, set a project timeline that incorporates client reviews and revisions, build strong media relationships and a reputation for accuracy and responsiveness, have a monitoring program that alerts you in real-time when bad news hits, etc.

But it’s up to other people to make the final choice, adopt the desired behavior or change their mindset.

The stressed out PR executive is basically walking through a minefield of human relationships, watching for that spark of backlash that becomes an inferno or that updraft that has them soaring high one minute and then a wind sheer bringing them crashing down the next.

So, how does a good PR exec stay cool? They seek to control the only thing they truly can, and that is themselves. Develop sound strategies and a plan for implementation, get buy-in from the plan’s closest stakeholders and then work the plan. A healthy dose of paranoia will also help – expect the best but always prepare for the worst-case scenario.

The right attitude becomes your ‘flak’ jacket. You get used to understanding what you can control and what you cannot while always being upfront and clear about that in your dealings with news media and clients. You also look at lists like the top 10 least stressful jobs and say to yourself, “No thanks. Where’s the challenge and creativity in that?”

Here’s their full top 10:

1. Enlisted military personnel (84.72 stress score)
2. Military general (65.54)
3. Firefighter (60.45)
4. Airline pilot (60.28)
5. Event coordinator (49.93)
6. Public relations executive (48.52)
7. Corporate executive (47.46)
8. Newspaper reporter (46.75)
9. Police officer (46.66)
10. Taxi driver (46.18)

The Perfect Press Release, 2014 Edition

I Heart PR

I have a New Year’s resolution for business owners: Embrace the changing role of the press release and how it affects your company’s bottom line. Rethink the perfect press release.

Gone are the days where press releases were a one-and-done pass to securing media coverage – with new channels popping up every day and more businesses competing to be heard amidst the noise of their respective industries, it’s rare that a journalist reads a release and writes a story as a direct result of a traditional wire distribution service alone. But despite their changing role, press releases can still be an important part of making sure your story gets the attention it deserves – they’re just evolving a bit. Here are five essential components any modern press release must have to make it through today’s media storm:

1. Keywords are key: I always tell clients that nowadays, the main benefit of sending a press release over the wires is for SEO ranking. However, that one benefit is crucial for businesses and makes the effort entirely worth it. It’s the right keywords that will set your brand’s page or news above the rest and lead customers to you instead of your competitors. Google and other search engines index new content based on the quality of keywords contained, so take the time to do some research on what people are searching for in relation to your press release. Google AdWords  has a great keyword tool that is simple to use.

Note: Wire services can still be great and offer lots of benefits (including SEO help), but as they can get quite pricey, we recommend picking and choosing which releases you pay to distribute vs. which you do through free wires.

2. Make it newsworthy. Although search engine visibility is a paramount goal, the perfect press release must contain content that is interesting and truly newsworthy. We’re all biased toward our own businesses’ interests – it’s human nature – but take the time to think about what other people will care about outside of your office. Did you hire an experienced, Fortune 500-level CEO who will be implementing a whole new customer service program? Go for the press release and broad distribution. Did an associate VP get promoted? Post the press release to your website.

3. Location, location, location: Even if they’re interested in your story, most journalists are extremely busy and will not take the time to read your entire press release, whether it’s included in a pitch or they stumble upon it through web search. That being said, think strategically about how you’re placing information. Have an important main point and call to action (CTA)? Place it in the first or second paragraph – think a 30-second read at the most – and the last. This is where people are most likely to look for a summation of key content. That way, even a glance can catch a journalist’s eye and leave them wanting more.

4. The eyes have it: Photos, infographics, and video are increasingly important additions to any modern press release. New media in general is catering to a visually-driven consumer, and placing visual storytelling aids in your release is basically guaranteed to amplify your views. According to PR Newswire, a press release with even one photo will get 14% more reads than a text-only release. A release with a video and no photos will get 20% more views than text-only, while a release with both a photo and a video will garner 48% higher consumption. If you really want to maximize the power of visuals, interactive components like infographics and charts will skyrocket you to 77% more views when combined with a photo and a video. If you really want to get creative, make your whole press release an infographic. These are hugely popular and very impactful, and a graphic designer can easily whip one up to stay on budget.

5. Check yourself: Even if your press release covers the most groundbreaking, compelling news of the decade, readers – especially journalists – won’t take you seriously if it’s not well-written. Keeping your punctuation, grammar, and clarity on point will help you better hold consumers’ interest and respect your brand; prompting them to want to learn more and, with any luck, further engage. A poorly written release will leave readers assuming you and your company are unprofessional and will take the same care with delivering a service or product as you did with your writing. At the very least, have a trusted coworker who understands editing proof your work. However, working with a PR firm will guarantee your press release is not only written well, but contains messaging primed for connectivity.

6. Make a connection: Another thing that a successful press release should have is well-thought anchor links. The words you choose to anchor link can make a definitive impact on your press release’s search engine ranking, as well as its general “clickability.” For example, say your release is discussing your coffee shop’s award-winning lattes. For your intents and purposes, you’d be much better off using “best lattes in San Diego” to link to the award site or your company website over something like “award.” When people search for “best lattes in San Diego” in Google, your site and release will be associated with that term.

Press releases aren’t the only thing that can make a business successful on the web and in the press, but when combined with a careful strategy and solid media relationships, they can be a fantastic tool when leveraged properly for today’s consumer. To learn more about how the perfect press release and other PR and communications services can help your business stand above the rest, visit www.wrightoncomm.com.

Top Marketing and Communications Trends for 2014: Part Two


Screen Shot 2013-12-19 at 9.16.07 AM

Curious about what new marketing and communication trends 2014 will bring? In part one of this post, we identified three key trends for the New Year: social media becoming pay-for-play, branded journalism, and wearable technology and the Internet of Things. Today, we’ll discuss three more trends.

Collaborative economy:  Crowd sourcing, crowd funding, crowd storming: Fab, AirBnB, Uber, TaskRabbit. These are all examples of the collaborative economy. Recent advances in technology like mobile, social, 3D printers and the Internet of Things are empowering people and businesses to share existing resources with each other rather than buy anew or reinvent the wheel. It’s a simple, but revolutionary concept. The collaborative economy was a huge trend in 2013, but is likely to grow in 2014 and marketers should challenge themselves to think about how they can leverage it. ‘My Starbucks Idea’ is a good example of how a brand creatively harnessed the power of crowdsourcing, not only for marketing, but to innovate their business.

Anticipatory computing – This is the act of serving up information a person wants before they even know to ask for it. Mobile users have been checking into their locations, listening to music on their phones, and updating ical events for years. Now, companies like Foursquare and Circle are using the data from these mobile interactions to tailor suggestions specific to the user, which effectively means that your smartphone could dictate your preferences and purchases.

For example, Foursquare is rolling out push notification recommendations to help users find what’s happening in their area. People who opt-in to the push notifications will get suggestions on where to eat or what to do in their neighborhoods. I predict that this idea will proliferate in 2014, and will have a significant impact on advertising and marketing.

Super fans as marketers: The idea of engaging an audience that is already passionate about your brand isn’t new, but social media makes ‘super fans’ even more valuable. It’s easier than ever before to find and reach super fans, and they have a menagerie of tools at their fingertips to evangelize their brand affinities.

A recent Mashable article stated that a Facebook friend is now worth about $174, which 28% higher than 2012, and that figure is expected to increase. Online friends are clearly valuable, but if recommendations from Facebook friends are worth almost $200, what’s the value of a recommendation from a real-live friend? Super fans can be a brand’s secret weapon, not only because of their power online, but also offline.

As we progress through the age of the ‘super fan,’ marketers will enlist these ‘assets’ to market and sell for them, both online and in-person. Here’s an example: Pepsi rewarded selected Beyoncé fans who created videos based on the singer’s latest commercial with the chance to appear in a video made with her choreographer, as well as a trip to her concert in Brooklyn. Smart.

What do you think will be the major marketing trends in 2014? Tell us in the comments.

Five Questions to Ask When Hiring a PR Firm


Good communications can make the difference between winning and losing. It can elevate small companies to the national stage. It can help businesses keep their noses clean in front of investors and the public. It can generate sales, leaving the competition in the dust. Clearly, it’s important, but many companies don’t have the internal resources to do it on their own.

That begs the question: How do you find a PR firm that can help you achieve your unique business goals in the most cost-effective way? Choosing a PR firm can be like trying to find a needle in a haystack. There are so many firms out there: how do you know what to look for? Here are five questions that can help:

  1. What is the spectrum of services you provide? Many PR agencies do little more than media pitching, but public relations is so much more than just getting your company’s name in print. Last year, Arik Hanson wrote about the skills that the PR pro of the future should possess, and I argue that many of these skills are necessary today. When hiring PR experts, look for a full-spectrum communications agency. Seek a firm who knows digital PR, video, multimedia, graphics, social media, employee outreach, and crisis communications. A firm with well-rounded capabilities can promote your company more effectively than a simple media relations shop. Remember: the goal is to make your cash register ring. If the firms you interview don’t know how to integrate media relations into a larger communications strategy, move on to the next. And that’s a good segue into the next question you should ask…
  2. How do you evaluate results? Again, you shouldn’t seek an agency with short-sighted measurement goals. Media impressions and advertising equivalency alone do not move the needle on ROI. Those aren’t results; they’re metrics. You should only work with agencies that can tell the difference.
  3. How do you stay on top of trends? I recently blogged about the importance of being a ‘know-it-all’ (in the least annoying way, of course!). Agencies who have a clear pulse on emerging industry trends are flexible and adaptable. It’s likely that they’ll be more creative in their approach. Agencies that aren’t on the cutting-edge of new best practices or technology are more likely to stick with a traditional approach, which is becoming less-and-less effective. Your PR agency should be a team of trend-spotters. Rely on them to proactively identify ways for your company to leverage new trends. Remember you’re paying them to be on the lookout for new ideas and opportunities to benefit your organization.
  4. Can you provide a case study of one of your successful campaigns? This is your opportunity to hear how the agency defines results. It is crucial that your expectation of good results is in line with the agency’s. Also, this gives you the opportunity to see what kind of clients are on the agency’s roster. You’ll want to pay attention to whether they’ve worked with established brands, and if they have experience working with clients in your industry.
  5. Is there anything else you can help us with? To circle back to question #1, you should seek to hire a full-spectrum communications agency. You may be looking for help with media relations, but perhaps the agency can also help you produce video, develop graphics, write grants, execute events, write a crisis communication plan, or help manage your social media accounts. Your organization would surely find it more efficient to work with one partner to manage these disparate needs.

Here are a few other things to consider:

  • Seek a true communications partner, not just a vendor. When clients treat their PR agencies like vendors, it stifles results and can harm the relationship. Think of your communications consultant as an extension of your team. The team needs to know your industry and the details of your business in order to do their best, most creative work. Be willing to invest in the relationship and help them stay informed on what your company is doing.
  • Pay for strategy, not tactics. Companies who look for a PR firm to fill a tactical need are missing out. If you’re already paying a company to write press releases or create videos, why not leverage their creative, strategic thinking. We love to make you look good in front of your boss. Why not take advantage of additional brainpower to come up with strategies that support your company’s overall business goals?
  • You can’t be absent from the process. Companies hire PR firms to develop campaigns and provide strategic counsel. But firms also help ease a resource burden – to take over work that the internal team is too busy to do. Even though things might get busy, you still need to be involved. You can’t remove yourself completely from the process. Whether we need you to serve as a spokesperson, provide approval, keep us in the loop with what’s happening at your company, or to bounce an idea around, the results are always better when everyone participates.