Three Media Relations Misperceptions

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons

After well over a decade working as a journalist, I am now approaching my third year in public relations. Even during that relatively short time period, the media landscape has changed dramatically. Breaking news is now a commodity, as stories zip around faster, thanks to the Internet and social media. Still, I’ve noticed that many traditional impressions of the media and media relations haven’t changed a bit. Here are three common misperceptions I’ve encountered:

1)      It’s Who You Know 

Not Really. Some PR professionals namedrop and brag about their media connections, but in reality, you don’t need contacts, you just need a good story. That’s not to say having strong relationships with journalists doesn’t come with benefits, however. A media relations pro whom reporters trust and respect, can always pick up the phone and at least get a hearing. Having friends in the media can also be invaluable when it comes to getting feedback on story ideas, which can ultimately help shape a pitch that yields results.

2)      Make it “Pitch Perfect”

A mistake in your email? (gasp!) When I first started in PR, I was trained to triple check every message before hitting send to ensure there were no typos or grammatical errors. That’s certainly an important practice when it comes to interacting with clients. But the media? Not so much.  Case in point: below is an email I received from a reporter at the Wall Street Journal:

“Ok sure thatd be great thanks Andrea”

And another example, this one from a journalist at the New York Times:

“ok, thanks, i’ll do a people item for a future roundup”

Media relations isn’t a black tie affair.  It’s not even semi-formal.  At best, it might be business casual. What it’s really all about is being real and personable. The more authentic and conversational you are, the more likely you are to be successful.  If you’ve ever interacted with reporters, you know they would never disregard a story because you messed up your spacing, used the wrong font, or had a typo or misspelling.

3)      Print is King

I can’t tell you how many “clip craving clients” I’ve heard sigh with disappointment when they learn their story “didn’t make print.”  We can debate the advantages of print, but in my view Web wins hands down almost every time. According to the Pew Research Center’s statistics on print vs. online media, more than half of Americans receive their news from digital sources, and the number of people relying on social media exclusively for their news has doubled in the past two years. In addition, the majority of online outlets now have higher circulations then most traditional print publications.

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons

In the interest of full disclosure, I must say I remain a huge fan of print. There’s just something about the sound of rifling through the pages of newspapers. But when it comes to publicity, we should stop worrying about getting ink on our fingertips and start focusing more on what is really going to deliver results: page views, likes and shares online.

What changes have you seen in the media landscape? Do you have any stories to share or misperceptions that you’ve seen?

Andrea LePain is VP, Media Relations at Greenough. Follow her on Twitter: @alepain 

Financial Advisers: Why You Should Get Into The PR Mix

At any age, a working man or woman wants to save money, which is why so many of us grind out 9-5 jobs, right? Unfortunately, many workers cannot effectively manage or save their money, which explains why Suze Orman rose to prominence, providing simple financial advice to millions.

The simplicity of Suze’s advice makes her successful, since her guidance is expressed in layman’s terms. Suze’s financial directives are clear, and the “to-do’s” are obvious, which allows individuals to make decisive choices about their own personal finances. What’s more, Suze built a powerful brand on something basic: financial advice. It’s the type of advice every American needs. Why isn’t every financial adviser like Suze? Why not invest in strategic, brand-building PR?

It’s unfortunate that so many financial advisers sit on the sidelines, while their competitors lure customers who might otherwise be their customers – if only these “sidelined advisers” chose to connect with the right reporters. So many reporters are dedicated to reporting on personal finance. In fact, they’re so hungry for ideas and sources, editors at the Wall Street Journal Wealth Manager blog can’t find enough qualified advisers to write a 500-700 word blog for their site.

It begs the question: if you are a financial adviser or banker, why sit on the sidelines of financial planning, while others are so easily building their brand with advice that everyone needs. Suze Orman did it. What’s holding you back?

Aaron Kellogg is an Account Supervisor at Greenough. Follow him on Twitter: @KelloggAaron

Where Did You Get Your News Yesterday?

In the battle between traditional and digital media, the facts don’t lie. Newsweek moved to an all digital format.The Boston Phoenix shut down permanently. And percentage of people reading a daily newspaper fell 18% from 2002 to 2012. It would appear digital is winning the war. Yet, more often than not, clients ask me “is this article for the print edition?” and then seem disappointed when I mention that it will only be online.

But digital has many advantages:

  • Targeted Audience – RSS feeds from a select group of media outlets can yield more high-quality, focused content than traditional print newspapers – putting your company news in front of the eyeballs that matter to you most.
  • Faster Delivery – traditional media only arrives on your doorstep once a day or once a month, depending on the publication.  Digital outlets have the ability to update stories in real time and only take seconds to deliver the news via email alerts.
  • Younger Demographics – to date there are more than 113.9 million mobile internet users and many news outlets (including Boston.com) that optimize their mobile news content to reach highly desired millennials.

Now, this is not to say that companies should focus solely on digital media. Traditional print and broadcast outlets still have enormous value. During the recent Boston Marathon attack, people turned to their local broadcast affiliates for live reports.  Marginal news viewers came out of the woodwork and flocked to Boston’s legacy station, WCVB Channel 5.  Even though all stations were running constant live coverage within 10 minutes of the tragedy, WCVB captured an 11.3 rating (35 share) – more than double its competitors.

The battle between traditional and digital media may never be over, and the solution is clear. A well-rounded public relations strategy, including print magazines/newspapers, broadcast outlets and digital media is always best. Focus on trusted outlets rather than the method of distribution. After all, the numbers don’t lie – a “post” on the New York Times Bits blog can reach as many – if not more – of your target audience as a print story in the paper’s Sunday tech section.

Christine Williamson is a senior consultant at Greenough. Follow her on Twitter @ChristineDBW

It’s Halloween and ‘Tis the Season for…Infographics?

Infographics are a fun, creative way to visually present information and data that is complex and/or lengthy. They appeal to today’s Internet users who demand information at their fingertips, but also tend to have a very short attention span. If executed correctly, infographics have the potential to help companies break through the clutter and get their messages front and center. They are also much more likely to be shared via social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook, etc., compared to traditional articles. Below is a roundup of a few of our favorite Halloween infographics.
This first one covers a wide range of fun topics.  It’s incredible to see how much spending for the holiday has increased over the years, and we love the section that analyzes social media costume inquiries. Take a look:

(Source: http://dailyinfographic.com/halloween-freakynomics-infographic)

By the way, if you’re dressing your pet up, like this infographic predicts, be sure to enter our client Arbella’s photo contest!

This next one is great for the green tips it gives.  We love the idea of DIY costumes or holding a costume swap with your friends after the holiday to reduce waste. Check it out:

halloween-recycled-infographic

halloween-recycled-infographic

(Source: http://www.mnn.com/food/healthy-eating/blogs/halloween-what-if-we-recycled-infographic)

While the zombie profiles of these social media users are humorous, there may actually be some good underlying social usage tips in this infographic:

Social-Media-Zombie-Apocalypse-Infographic

Social-Media-Zombie-Apocalypse-Infographic

(Source: http://socialtimes.com/social-media-zombie_b108631)

If you haven’t explored the possibility of using infographics to strengthen your marketing initiatives, it may be time. Have a very happy and safe Halloween!

Lucy Muscarella is a Consultant at Greenough. Follow her on Twitter: @lucymuscarella

The Key Storyline You Should Be Pitching, But May Not Be

If you haven’t seen the show “Suits,” you should. It’s phenomenal.
The show tracks the tribulations of 20-something, whiz-kid attorney Mike Ross (Patrick Adams), a college dropout, whose encyclopedic knowledge of the legal system lands him a job at fictional Manhattan law firm Pearson Hardman.

Photo: Flickr: Creative Commons 2012

Photo: Flickr: Creative Commons 2012

Sure, the situation is unrealistic, since no top-flight New York law firm would – ever – hire an associate without a college degree, let alone J.D. But, Mike’s boss, firm partner Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht), realizes just how talented his protégé is. And, for that reason, Harvey risks being disbarred to hire Mike, a risk few – if any – lawyers would take.

The best part of “Suits” is that it capitalizes on our fascination for whiz kids and talented 20-somethings. Why does Gen Y (or even those their junior) catch our attention so steadfastly? To venture a guess, we all love savvy-yet-sharp, thoughtful-yet-provocative, young, hard-working individuals. They’re hard to recruit and even harder to retain.

Our fascination with these individuals partially explains why so many top-tier publications maintain a staff of careers reporters. The likes of Fast Company, TheWall Street Journal, and TheNew York Times are teeming with writers whose sole focus is to author stories about talent acquisition and retention. And, while a real-life company’s recruiting story may not be drama-ridden like “Suits,” in many cases these reporters are chomping at the bit for career-related anecdotes.

With that in mind, the careers section is a “must get” for companies that want national attention. These stories are a double whammy, of sorts, since a well-written careers article profiles a firm’s core competency and highlights the company’s strategy around corporate culture, which helps with recruiting.

What’s more, whole companies build their entire brand identity around being hip with employees. Google and Apple are just two of the many; yet so few others realize the value in showcasing the “bennies” they give to recruits and employees.

In the end, readers want to be wowed by creative hires, their ideas and the people who hired them to begin with. Just like any pitch, engaging successfully with  careers reporters hinges on creative elements, like showcasing individuals who’ve quickly climbed company ranks, exceeded expectations or been drawn to a company’s unusual benefits package.

But be careful. Even though the dubious undertones of “Suits” need not be present to attract a reporter’s attention, some reporters will nonetheless pry for inherent drama in the workplace.

But, if well-managed, there’s really little risk. And most companies have a good HR story to tell; a story that could play a key role in the company’s growth, reputation and visibility.

Aaron Kellogg is a Senior Media Consultant at Greenough. Follow him on Twitter: @KelloggAaron

IBM Aces the US Open Once Again

Photo-Flickr-Creative-Commons

Photo-Flickr-Creative-Commons

In my mind, the two best weeks of tennis every year happen at the US Open.  As a big tennis player and fan, there’s nothing better than watching the top players in the world sprint, lunge and sweat all over the courts at Flushing Meadow in New York City. This year, the two best weeks of tennis got bumped up from 4.5 to a 5.0, thanks to long-time United States Tennis Association (USTA) partner, IBM and the company’s innovative use of mobile, big data and predictive analytics.

For the past 22 years, IBM has been providing the Open with the technology to provide scoring and statistics. Last year, they released “Keys to the Match,” which analyzed over 39 million separate data points to come up with insights on how players needed to perform in order to win. The iPhone app with live streaming capabilities was launched in 2009, and the first iPad app followed a year later.

This year, IBM added new features to the web, iPhone and iPad apps, such as a live radio broadcast of the matches, so you can listen to how your favorites are doing even if you can’t watch them.  On the iPhone app, you can also sign up for alerts for up to five different players, so you’ll know if Roddick is about to close out his career a bit early. Plus, scores, stats and insights for each match are right at your fingertips.

The iPad app has feeds specific to all 17 courts in the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. What’s cool about this is that it means you can keep up with every single match going on at any given time, so you won’t have to choose between watching Sharapova or Djokovic. The iPad app also has a unique social dashboard with stats and data, which stays open at all times. All of this is dubbed the “SlamTracker” technology, and incorporates SPSS technology, the predictive analytics behind “Keys to the Match.”

The concept IBM is employing is not a new one, but it’s how the company is incorporating technologies that makes it so innovative. For scoring and data, IBM is using WebSphere MQ, a foundation message-based middleware scoring system. This is also a super speedy technology (yes, it’s faster than Serena’s serve), which is why the stats can be delivered almost instantaneously. For the overall app architecture and appearance, IBM is relying on its WebSphere technologies. This is a great example of repurposing technologies in a creative and timely way.

Are you using any of the apps to enhance your US Open experience? If so, tell us how you like them!

Now if only they made an app for improving backhands…

Gaby Berkman is a Consultant at Greenough. Follow her on Twitter: @Gabyberk