Throughout the semester our class was asked to collect "best practices" in the industry from interviews we conducted, speakers we heard and sites/blogs we visited. These 5 "best practices" appeared time and again…
#1 Develop a strong relationship with the media…be relevant.
Know which writers would have interest in your story, make it newsworthy and write your release like a journalist. Be thorough and accurate with your coverage and take the time to investigate your best contacts instead of sending blankets of releases. Follow-up calls and knowledge of a writer’s past work can also get your foot in the door.
As one of our class speakers and award-winning blogger Scott Baradell said, “If I receive your release in my inbox twice -- or, say, 11 times -- I question how carefully I've been targeted as a recipient. If you don't even bother to put my name on the correspondence, I know I haven't been targeted at all. Delete, delete.”
His site, http://www.ideagrove.com/blog/, gives other important tips for PR pros and amateurs alike.
#2 Get BUZZ…not INK.
I interviewed the Director of Corporate Communications at Cadbury Schweppes Americas Beverages, Greg Artkop. He advised, “If there’s one thing that I would encourage anybody to do in this business, it’s to think different about what you’re doing…you want to be the news, you don’t want to make news.” He added, “It’s not wacky, it’s wow” that you aim for.
This does not necessarily mean coming up with goofy gimmicks. Let the story tell itself. If it’s newsworthy, people will want it and you won’t have to sell it. The obstacle is creating buzz and getting people talking, and often that means simply targeting the right media.
Recently, Artkop and his team took Dr Pepper’s HUNT FOR MORE contest to Jimmy Kimmel Live and did an in-studio hunt, with a $23,000 prize for the winner. Artkop pursued this show because it reached Dr Pepper’s target demographic. Instead of only sending press releases to local newspapers and magazines, this one hit reached two million viewers, and Jimmy Kimmel Live ran an advertisement during the show and had coverage on its website for several days.
That’s how you go beyond wacky to get the big hit for your product or client. Artkop stresses, “Success comes in different sizes.” Public relations practitioners must “be realistic about what [they] want to accomplish,” he said.
#3 Stay current…follow trends.
In addition to staying current with media contacts, it is crucial to read the paper, check online sources, track your client's image and investigate the competition. Artkop explained the importance of reading everything. “If you can understand what’s going on in the media you will be able to take advantage of it," he said.
#4 Protect your rep.
With hundreds of press releases hitting media desks everyday, accuracy and credibility are paramount. By using “bait and switch” tactics or exaggerating how newsworthy your pitch is, you will quickly lose the respect of media and any possibility of getting your information in print.
PR is often synonymous with spin, and to earn the respect of your publics, media and other contacts, it is crucial to be objective, newsworthy and let the stories speak for themselves. Especially in cities like Dallas with so many other PR professionals, earning a bad reputation could end your career. Protect your reputation by working with integrity, as it will preserve your contacts and keep you in business.
#5 Learn how to use and assess blogs…have a crisis plan.
The marketplace is becoming more digital each day, and blogs are a new powerful medium for expression. While blogs can be used as a tool to promote a product or craft an image to the public, they can also be used to attack your latest ideas or executives.
Blogs can be used to your advantage to gauge public opinion about your client and your competitors and receive direct feedback from your consumers. Good practices for crisis communications are essential in the blogosphere too, however. When you receive bad ink on a blog, you are able to respond to that bloggers’ concerns in a public place for others to see, possibly winning over the disgruntled blogger and that blog’s viewers with a timely, thoughtful response.
With readers receiving information from radio, television, newspapers, magazines and the Internet, learning ways to craft a positive image and combat bad ink in each medium are essential or your client will suffer.
This reveals the need for readily-available crisis strategies. As noted in an earlier blog, Levick Strategic Communications provides important tips for PR professionals dealing with crises, http://www.levick.com/expertise/out/attack.php.
This is the last official blog for the semester…meant to culminate a semester of researching and interviewing. These practices are important for amateurs and pros alike, and by keeping up with these 5, PR success should hopefully ensue!