7 Deadly Sins of Media Relations

Media relations can be so fun and rewarding, and also daunting. To gain successful buzz, you have to avoid the pitfalls–the seven deadly sins of media relations. Have you ever sent out a press release promoting an exciting and important event with high hopes of extensive coverage? Did you imagine a pre-event story, a reporter committing to attend and cover it, broadcast coverage, and a feature on a blog or two? Of course it’s possible to garner all that coverage, but that doesn’t happen all the time. If that did not happen, were you horribly demoralized and ready to quit? Then you probably need to re-evaluate your habits and expectations and make sure the substance of your pitch is as meaty as you think it is. The Good Book lists the seven deadly sins as the unflattering, nasty qualities: pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth. Rather than a new list, I have taken each sin and shown how it applies to media relations. Pride Maybe your press release had too much bragging. It’s great that you are proud of your organization or company and the upcoming event, but bragging is not a news story, it’s an advertisement. If you are truly and verifiably the first, only, largest, then state that with the facts that support that claim. If you are using descriptive words that are muddy and subjective (cutting edge, breakthrough, crowd-pleaser, favorite), you have some editing to do. Greed Of course you want all the stories and the buzz to be about you at all times—and so does your boss/client! Expecting a disproportionate amount of earned media to be about you and your business is greedy. These are news sources and if you are not announcing something that changes life on this planet, then it is extremely unrealistic to expect that much attention from media you don’t control yourself (your website, social media content). This attitude, which often leads to issuing useless, flat press releases too frequently, is a turn off to reporters and editors. Lust Lust is basically an intense desire for something. In media relations, lust leads you to measuring success by the number of news clippings instead of measuring by the objective of the event. Let me assure you, the coverage of your event is not as important as the outcomes of the event. Don’t worry that you don’t have a media entry...
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When Profiling Gets Out of Hand (I’m talking Twitter)

  When I first created an account on Twitter most of my docket was freelance writing so I used my name, my byline, as my Twitter handle: @LeslieAMSmith. Using simply your name allows a lot of latitude as far as your brand is concerned. I could post about most any topic and it was fine. As my business ticked back toward marketing and public relations, I started posting more about those things. I could see followers increase when I posted about certain topics (#leadership, #entrepreneurship, #business, #consultant). I also attracted followers when I used hashtags with much different descriptors (#humor #comedy #creative #arts), but whenever I did, the followers of the other tweets went away. Juggling Personalities Recently, I separated the two and put the PR and marketing squarely with a new identity: @McCormickLA_PR (my company name). Feel free to follow me on one side or the other, or both. Of course, as soon as I created @McCormickLA_PR I noticed individual PR consultants going by their names alone and experienced some dissonance. I also have inadvertently shared things on the thread I didn’t mean to simply because I was logged in to the wrong one. It’s no big deal, really, but that is one of the reasons I had kept to just one place for Tweets—personal and business. I limited some of the snark, though, knowing that clients and potential clients might be following me and be surprised by my sarcasm or turned off. However, so far, it’s more good than bad by splitting my interests. I’ve also started to read more people’s profiles with a critical eye. Tips for your Twitter Profile If you are trying too hard to fit in everything that might make someone inclined to follow you, it might just be too much. I recently saw a person’s profile include his business interests, and “preemie issues.” I read it twice to know if he was calling premature start-up businesses “preemies” or if he meant babies. He meant babies. Sure, those are things that he’s interested in a 360º view of his personality. But I don’t want to follow him if that’s what he posts about. I can’t relate and therefore that one incongruent fact stands out more than anything. I love knitting and crocheting and therefore follow people who are experts in those crafts, but I don’t list that in my profile because I don’t post about...
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Community Relations–An Important Part of Any Campaign

In the realm of public relations, my specialty is community relations. That is puzzling to some people because it sounds so generic, like a synonym of public relations. It’s not, of course, it’s actually very specific and is why I am often recruited to work on much larger campaigns where community relations is one portion. Typical Community Relations Activities Defined by being out in the community, falling in this category is participation in public expos, fairs, and other general events, but it also includes contests, drives and collections, appearances by a mascot, setting a world record, and more. You can invite other organizations to collaborate with these endeavors which helps spread your message even quicker. Different Than Cause Marketing Cause marketing fits under the umbrella of community relations. Cause marketing is when your company holds a community service event that raises money for, or awareness of, a cause beyond your own. A good example of this is shown by the many companies that take part in this kind of effort in October for breast cancer awareness (represented by pink ribbons)—even as far-reaching as high school football teams wearing pink socks emulating the NFL players. Companies might pair the awareness campaign by also making a donation to a charity that supports that cause. The cause you choose to support needs to align with your core values and be in line with your brand. Benefits of Community Relations Community relations is the most personal and sociable part of public relations. It is the aspect that puts a company closest to its customers and constituents. You can shake hands, answer questions (even ones that people don’t want to put in print), and smile. It creates goodwill and transparency. You can articulate complex concepts and engage in dialogue more so than in social media posts and explain things better than you can in website FAQs, interacting more personally than on a Skype call. In this digital world, it’s important for companies to incorporate a community relations component to show that the company is run by real people, not just a man behind a curtain. As one strategy of a larger plan, community relations activities are supported with social media and other traditional public relations activities to create robust and full campaigns. Community relations might be the component your marketing plan is missing.   Community Relations at a Glance … • Involves the greater community...
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Free! Marketing Assessment Tool

Do you yawn when someone mentions marketing assessment? Too many people do. Before you start a re-branding process or revamping your marketing plan, you need to assess your promotional efforts. Print this Marketing Assessment Tool and fill it out. It will help you weigh your resources and see whether your promotional efforts are effective or failing. assessmenttool_mccormickla Do you have a call to action clearly stated at all events and in every message? It’s okay if the call to action is READ THIS. One of your objectives might be to increase awareness and measuring how many people actually read the information you are producing will help you evaluate if you are meeting that objective. Take it a step further and choose which item is most successful. How did you measure success? Bill and Ted might not measure things the same way. That’s okay as long as they are measuring against their objectives. Start now and let me know how it goes! Leslie A.M. Smith is a public relations consultant in Long Beach, CA. She founded McCormick L.A. in 1994 specializing in community...
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Your Receptionist and Message Management

  “May I help you?” – More than you know.  Following up on my last blog post about the importance that human resources plays in public relations, I’m going to pick on one role that is often staffed by a person who is not thoroughly trained––the receptionist. Your receptionist might be the weak link in your message management protocol. Last week I was doing a little research for a client. I wanted to find out which companies in a particular industry (I won’t divulge which one) subscribed to a certain program. If given the choice by an automated phone system, I chose to speak to the “operator.” The operators were 100% female and most frequently were in a work space with other people to whom they could, and often did, relay my questions and then recite the answers to me. I went to the operator/receptionist person because I wanted to know whether everyone in the organization was aware of this program if they did have it. The experience uncovered a few things I think would be helpful to all businesses. Below is a list of what I noticed, my opinion of why that is good or bad, and some tips to remedy the problem. The operators who knew the most, did in fact subscribe to the program I was calling about. They had the program implemented throughout. This is excellent! This is a program that everyone in the organization should be proud of and the companies that have the program had engaged the receptionist (a frontline employee) as an ambassador. TIP: Follow suit! Transform everyone in and around your organization/company into a brand ambassador. The janitor, the delivery person, and all of your periphery resources/consultants. I didn’t say who I was and 90% of the time they didn’t ask. Although there was nothing confidential about the questions I was asking, it is important to know to whom you are telling information. They seemed to presume I was already a client of theirs, but I am not. One asked if I was a client and I said that I was a consultant. True but vague. She did not press further. One person was on the ball, asked who I was, from what company, and transferred me to the executive she thought could answer my question best. I left a message for that person—no call back a week later. (Stick a pin...
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