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Media Acquisitions Continue Apace As Nikkei Snaps Up Financial Times
by J. Bonasia

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Photo credit: Getty Images

News of the Japanese powerhouse Nikkei Inc. acquiring the Financial Times of London for $1.3 billion rocked the media landscape on July 23.

Pearson PLC, the parent company of the FT Group that controls the Financial Times, will sell the venerable newspaper to Nikkei, Japan’s largest financial news group. In addition to publishing Nihon Keizai Shimbun, the world’s top business daily with 3 million subscribers, the company also controls dozens of affiliated businesses that span broadcast outlets, database services, events, and the Nikkei stock market index.

Industry observers have characterized the FT deal as yet another example of rapid consolidation as traditional media properties struggle to overcome plummeting ad revenues. Some critics have raised concerns about the FT – Europe’s leading broadsheet for financial markets – for being sold to a non-Western entity. Others have compared this transaction to the $5.16 billion purchase of Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. in 2007; or when Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post from the Graham family for $250 million in 2013.

By now it’s clear that big media companies will continue to swallow smaller ones in an effort to bulk up against the juggernauts of Internet advertising, Google and Facebook. In this context, the East-West pairing of Nikkei and the FT makes strategic sense for both parties.

Nikkei will get a significant foothold in European financial markets, which should broaden its reach and complement its existing business with the prestigious FT brand. For Pearson, selling the FT will allow the company to focus on its core education unit that publishes textbooks, online learning games, reference materials and standardized tests. Pearson also announced plans to sell its 50% stake in the Economist Group, publisher of The Economist magazine, although that transaction has not yet been approved.

The Financial Times was established in 1888 as a four-page newspaper. Last year, it reported an adjusted operating profit of $37 million. Nikkei was founded in 1876, and last year it reported earnings of $82 million.

Those of us in the PR field have to wonder if this deal signals a gradual shift of the media fulcrum toward Asia, and if so, how that shift might impact the media ecosystems based in New York and London. Only time will tell if this marriage of the FT and Nikkei is a global match made in heaven, or a desperate attempt by two aging media brands to stay relevant in the 21st century.

The Tech Team Opens Up at PRSA Event
by J. Bonasia

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The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) recently sponsored a lively roundtable talk with the tech editorial team of Highwire PR hosted the packed lunchtime event at their offices in downtown San Francisco.

Fortune Senior Editor-at-Large Adam Lashinsky outlined the three main planks of the Fortune franchise, including the 86-year-old print magazine, the newly revamped news website, and Fortune’s Live Media events including the well-known Fortune Brainstorm Tech show.

Photo credit: Highwire PR

Left to right: Highwire PR Principal Kathleen Gratehouse, Fortune Editor Adam Lashinsky, Katie Fehrenbacher, Michal Lev-Ram, and Jonathan Vanian of Fortune. (Photo credit: Highwire PR)

Lashinsky was excited about Fortune recently hiring several veteran tech writers from the now-defunct Gigaom website, bringing them “into the Fortune fold” to beef up enterprise coverage. Katie Fehrenbacher and Jonathan Vanian both came over from Gigaom, which is now in the process of being acquired by Knowingly, a startup that plans to re-launch the tech news site in August.

Fehrenbacher explained that her coverage area at Fortune focuses on energy and water resource issues, including solar power and electric cars. Lately she has been “obsessed” with battery technologies. Fehrenbacher advised the room full of PR execs to craft their pitches to her based on her recent coverage. “Find out what excites me, and hopefully your client fits into that area,” she said.

Vanian covers enterprise tech for Fortune, including data centers and network infrastructure. He said he spends most days tracking Twitter for story tips and news leads. Varian also enjoys studying the federal financial disclosures of public companies.

Fortune Senior Writer Michal Lev-Ram described her dual roles as a telecom reporter and co-chair of Brainstorm Tech and Fortune’s Most Powerful Women: Next Gen conferences.

Gute blogger J. Bonasia is one of many Bay Area PR execs who crowded into the basement of Highwire PR for a Q&A with the Fortune staff in San Francisco on May 21, 2015. (Photo credit: Highwire PR)

Gute blogger J. Bonasia is one of many Bay Area PR execs who crowded into the basement of Highwire PR for a Q&A with the Fortune staff in San Francisco on May 21, 2015. (Photo credit: Highwire PR)

When asked about story interests and pet peeves, Lashinsky expressed his growing distaste for the sheer amount of startup funding stories out there today. “I think a lot of these stories on our competitors’ sites really suck,” he said bluntly. Another concern for Lashinsky involves news embargoes: “I think they produce bad journalism and I have ample evidence of doing better stories that come out two to three days after the embargo.”

Lashinsky explained Fortune’s overarching theme for tech coverage from the viewpoint of Fortune Editor Alan Murray: “He believes all business leaders need to understand the underlying technology, no matter what business they’re in, so technology coverage becomes central to the coverage of the business overall.”

In assessing the current state of tech journalism, Lashinsky noted that the industry remains in flux because online media “still hasn’t found a business model that works.”

“There is an existential battle between content on one hand and journalism on the other, and we do journalism” at Fortune, he said.

Lashinsky wrapped up by saying the best way for PR pros to develop a relationship with Fortune is to deliver acclaimed sources who are hard to get for interviews. No surprise there, but for lots of PR agencies that work with small and midsize client firms, such a “get” remains an ongoing challenge.

Social Media Tips for PR Professionals
by Keya Balar

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Photo credit: Islam21C

Businesses are increasingly interested in using social media to promote their brands and connect with customers. Below are four tips for PR pros who are using social media for their clients.

1. Understand your client’s goals and current reputation
Before starting a social media program for your client, you both should be on the same page and know what the goals of the social media program will be. One of your clients may want to work on promoting their brand through social media, while another client may want to connect and interact with customers. One client may want to start fresh with an entirely new social media strategy, while another may want to perfect their current strategy. Along with knowing what your client’s goals are, you should also know your client’s current reputation on social media. Sometimes company employees can create a reputation for themselves on their personal accounts, while still maintaining an association with their employer. Employees should make sure their social media accounts are representative of their employer’s values, especially if the accounts are publicly viewable. Employees have been fired because they posted controversial or offensive content on their personal social media accounts. Earlier this year, Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign office hired Ethan Czahor as their CTO. Reporters uncovered dozens of offensive tweets posted by Czahor in 2009, and he was forced to resign 36 hours later.

2. Engage with your audience
Social media platforms allow for some promotional language, but followers don’t want ads thrown at them. Businesses can enhance their brand and image by making thoughtful, newsworthy posts, and interacting with followers. Instead of treating social media like a one-way ad platform, PR pros can engage with their client’s followers in a meaningful way by starting or contributing to conversations. Firefox uses their twitter account to reply to every tweet that mentions them, and to respond to users’ tech problems with helpful solutions. By engaging with the audience, you can learn more about them, and understand what they like or don’t like about your client’s brand.

3. Don’t ignore critics
Companies are too often under the impression that they can wipe away negative comments from consumers on all of their social media pages without any backlash. Instead, suppressing negative comments just fuels the fire. A recent example of a poorly thought-out social media campaign is Sea World’s attempt to engage with critics. Sea World had been battling negative press after the 2013 documentary Blackfish condemned the company’s captivity of orcas. In March, SeaWorld launched a social media campaign on Twitter with the open hashtag #AskSeaWorld, and invited people to ask questions about the company’s treatment of animals. Critics predictably asked Sea World questions about their mistreatment of animals, but instead of responding with truthful answers, Sea World chose to call critics trolls. Aside from the fact that a company as controversial as Sea World would have been better off taking questions in a more controlled environment, the company should have actually answered the questions it was asked. By calling critics trolls and refusing to answer their questions, Sea World created a more negative image for themselves. Don’t ignore your client’s critics when you’ve offered to engage with them.

4. Be brief
People hate reading walls of texts. Although people won’t admit it, they’ll skip over social media posts that are too long to read. On social media, messages should get straight to the point. This can be done by avoiding formal language, and speaking to your audience in the same way you’d speak to a friend. However, long posts that are compelling can also draw people in. The Humans of New York Facebook page does a great job at engaging followers by posting long, compelling stories.

In the Aftermath of Controversy, Change the Narrative
by Danielle Giaccio

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Photo credit: US Magazine

When you are a person in the spotlight, whether it is a celebrity, a major CEO, politician, etc., there is always a chance that what you say can be perceived many different ways from many different people. If you say something that is considered to be questionable, you are going to be open to scrutiny in the public and media as well. Even if the comment was made in jest or as a joke, they can have an effect on your public image.

Being in the public eye, this kind of scrutiny is expected. As a PR professional representing those in the limelight, it is important to have a strategy as how to best acknowledge the comments and how to best change the narrative. In some cases, there is no need to address a careless statement made, but in most cases, there is a need to do so – and how you go about it is key to how the person will be perceived in the media and public eye.

Veteran E! News journalist Giuliana Rancic recently came under fire for her controversial remarks about Disney star Zendaya’s hair during a taping of E!’s “Fashion Police.” In the aftermath of those remarks, Giuliana was met with a lot of harsh criticism, and what followed was a lesson in PR that is often the case in these high-profile celebrity cases. Giuliana stayed silent on the matter. She did make a public apology to the Disney star but did not elaborate on it further. Despite the unraveling of “Fashion Police” since the incident, the public did not hear much from her about the matter.

That all changed when her new book Going Off Script was coming out. Giuliana has been making the media rounds to promote her new book and to give her side of the story. She now has her moment to defend herself and change the narrative or ‘spin’ the story to her advantage. And, she is doing just that.

She is expressing regret and also making people think twice about rushing to judgment by changing the narrative of the original story told. She made several references to the fact that she was not being racist, rather referencing a “bohemian chic” look. She also stated that the editing of the show made it look worse then what it actually was. It’s all about context and, in this case, she is showing that the remarks were made in context but shown a different way.

She is being very smart about this for a number of reasons. Number one, she is showing the public that she is remorseful, which is what people want to see. But, in the same sense, she is showing people that they may have rushed to judgment and is showing a different side of the story. Essentially, she is spinning the story to her advantage. Time will tell whether or not her career will survive this, but if it does, it will be a good lesson in PR. When controversy hits, own up to it, and when the time is right, clarify your point of view to change the narrative of the story to your advantage.

Lavanya DJ Celebrates 10 Years at Gutenberg Communications
by Jordan Hubert

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Congratulations to Gutenberg’s own Lavanya DJ for reaching the 10-year milestone at the company!

Enjoy the video we compiled with testimonials from fellow Gutes reflecting on Lavanya’s great work over the last 10 years. Here’s to 10 more!

lavanya-gute 10 yrs

How the Inventor of Instant Replay Changed American Culture Forever
by J. Bonasia

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Photo credit: NHPR

The great television impresario Tony Verna passed away this month from leukemia at age 81 in Palm Desert, Calif., after producing many of the biggest televised events in American history.

Verna’s five decades in the TV business included directing five Super Bowls, two Olympic Games, 12 Kentucky Derbies, the famed Live Aid global concert in 1985, Pope John Paul’s TV special, and numerous NBA Championships and Stanley Cup Finals.

Despite these landmark achievements, history will remember Verna as the inventor of TV’s instant replay. By launching this rather innocuous advance, Tony Verna arguably helped change the face of American culture forever.

Verna was a young CBS sports producer assigned to cover the annual Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia on Dec. 7, 1963. He had developed a new production trick that he wanted to try out on viewers during the big rivalry, which featured star quarterback Roger Staubach playing for Navy.

Verna’s breakthrough technology initially ran into technical problems. When he tried airing replays several times in the game’s first half, the designated tape would only show prior clips from “I Love Lucy” or soap commercials. Finally, Verna was able to make the tape loop work correctly, and our world has never been the same since.

Sadly, no video record of that special game exists today. Verna’s broadcast showed the world’s first instant replay of Army quarterback Rollie Stichweh crossing into the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Fans were shocked when they saw his teammates celebrating, only to watch Stichweh make the exact same play just moments later.

Phone lines quickly lit up at the local CBS stations. Confused viewers were trying to understand what had just happened. Announcer Lindsey Nelson had to explain that Army had not scored a second touchdown. Rather, home viewers had just witnessed a historic “immediate video replay” of the TD, as it was called.

“This is not live,” Nelson exclaimed. “Ladies and gentlemen, Army did not score again!”

Granted, sports fans should be forever grateful for the ability to analyze important plays in excruciating detail, watching the action loop over and over again in super slow-motion. But, in many ways, instant replays introduced an era of technical cynicism to our sports coverage, and to U.S. culture more broadly.

First, consider the meaning of the term itself: instant replay. “Instant” implies an urge for instant gratification, of knowing the precise outcome right away. “Replay” implies the ability to do things over, to witness events repeatedly and relive critical moments again and again.

As Verna’s invention started taking hold in society, America endured the Civil Rights Movement, several brutal political assassinations, the Vietnam War, and the Watergate scandal which culminated in the only resignation of a U.S. president – by Richard Nixon, a diehard football fan no less. This was the dawn of the modern era when America arguably lost its innocence, and the instant replay was just one small thread woven into this much larger national tapestry.

Of course, the instant replay has greatly improved our sense of fair play by reversing bad referee calls, and exposing players who actually stepped out of bounds. On the other hand, the replay technology has prompted untold delays for sports fans while officials “go to the replay booth to check the tape.”

The replay has become so ingrained that we reflexively accept this slowdown of action, which in turn fuels doubts about every single call made on the field, depending on which team the fans are rooting for. Nobody believes in the umps or refs anymore, because all humans are fallible. In some very real sense, the instant replay has reinforced our faith in technology at the expense of human trust.

Now replay cameras crowd our baseball outfields to show when any hit lands foul, and they surround our basketball courts to show who got fouled. Over time, our expanding doubts and fears have introduced replay cameras into every stadium, along with every shopping center, office, bank, store, housing complex and street corner in the United States.

In the wake of recent violent police altercations, virtually everything we do now gets filmed for replay, even down to police officers carrying cameras on their helmets to capture footage of all public interactions. If we can’t trust our refs, how can we possibly trust our cops armed with guns? And so it goes.

In short, we have become an instant replay society so consumed by our capacity to double-check errors that we have forsaken the ability to quickly forgive mistakes and move on. It’s much more fun to fixate on the instant replays and scream at the on-screen blunders in high-definition over and over again. Come to think of it, that’s probably appropriate because it’s what Tony Verna would have wanted all along.

Making Your Voice Stand Out in a Technology-Mobile-Security First World
by JoAnn Yamani

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Photo credit: TaaraGo

“Is NOTHING sacred anymore?!?,” exalted a fellow shopper standing in an exorbitantly long line at a crowded mall less than a week before Christmas. With everyone’s personal lives on display through LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, the answer to that simple (and, most likely, rhetorical question) is “No.” Yet, we still live in a reality of our own creation that we define our own privacy and have more than a modicum of control over our lives (be it digital, analog, or paper).

On Christmas Day, the Wall Street Journal reported that the National Security Agency was asked to provide additional details about its supposed snooping in regular peoples’ lives. To those of us not living under a rock, this came as no real surprise. To those of us in the public relations industry, it was par for the course.

The upside about all of this data about random people (and the tangential reality that nothing is sacred anymore) is that it’s hard to stand out. We find this equally true in the technology-ridden world of Silicon Valley where the latest and greatest technology is, quite often, muffled by the big voices of the Fortune 20.

Hear (pun intended) are some tips for making your smallish voice stand out above the din:

  1. Make friends with others

For every New York Times or Wall Street Journal, there is a great industry-focused publication that, like you, knows there are other players in the same field. Introduce yourself. Explain your market differentiation. These are important building blocks toward more business-focused pieces.


  1. Befriend a big kid

Reporters with the larger publications are smart, too. They know that more interesting stories can be told with an understanding of the overall industry landscape. Mine the fields and find them. Work around their schedule. Find your relevancy to their coverage and see if there is interest in a different perspective.


  1. Learn to take “No” (not this time) for an answer

Okay, so we’re all busy. Maybe some other company is getting funding from Khosla. Maybe Microsoft is next behind Sony in the hack-attack. But, establish an ongoing dialogue so your company remains top-of-mind.


  1. Know your point-of-view before the opportunity strikes

Having pre-planned responses to malware attacks, advertising maelstroms and whatever craziness happens is a strategic maneuver for you and your marketing team to block and tackle immediately, before the need to huddle even arises.

Happy Holidays from The Gutes!
by Jordan Hubert

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2014 has been a great year at Gutenberg! To say thank you for all of the support we received in the past year from our clients, colleagues and friends, we held a terrific holiday party in their honor at our new office in Campbell!

Thanks to all who attended last night’s party (some pictures below and the full album here). We wish you all a happy and healthy new year!






Holiday Shopping Goes Mobile: Lessons for Marketers and Companies amidst the Shift in Shopping Patterns
by Jen Kindred

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Photo credit: Sense Networks

Photo credit: Sense Networks

Ah, December… a time for reflections and predictions. Marketing and PR professionals are especially fond of this annual season of round-ups and forecasts. It gives us a chance to take a step back and think about what we’ve learned, to note patterns and emerging trends, to take a deep breath and prepare for the rush of work that will land on our laptops in January. Here in Silicon Valley, the holiday season has us thinking a lot about mobile technology, among other important topics. How has the rapid expansion of the smartphone universe impacted holiday shopping, consumer behavior and family traditions?

Recent news reports about the health of the holiday economy are less than clear; by some reports, retail spending fell 11% on Thanksgiving weekend. We’re still in the first half of December, so the comprehensive picture of retail results remains to be seen, but one thing is clear: mobile is a big game changer. According to MediaPost and IBM, online traffic from mobile devices on Thanksgiving Day was stronger than traditional PCs for the first time, accounting for 52% of all online traffic. Best Buy experienced such an unexpected surge of mobile traffic, their web site crashed.

Black Friday shopping—complete with crowds, bad weather, and parking lot hassles—has lost some of its luster now that similar discounts can be found online before, during, and after Thanksgiving. Some of us, after all, are old enough to remember when Turkey Day was more about family than the frenzied pursuit of doorbuster deals. Perhaps the convenience of shopping from our phones, tablets, and laptops in the comfort of our own homes is helping us reclaim some of the true spirit of the holidays. Indeed, teens and Millennials appear to be one of the most lucrative targets for in-store Black Friday sales; American Eagle, Old Navy, and Victoria’s Secret had a banner weekend.

As with any major paradigm shift, the remarkable changes we’ve seen in consumer behavior over the last few years have far-reaching implications, some of which we are only beginning to understand. When we step back from retail numbers to take in a bigger picture, we see that mobile devices are impacting much more than just shopping trends. In recent years, increasingly dire weather conditions have impacted the shopping season; many retailers started promotions earlier this year to hedge against this risk.

The ongoing debate about the disappearance of the middle class and the struggles of the working class appears to have also had a sobering effect on many Americans’ spending habits. While the overall economy shows promising signs of recovery—lower gas prices, improved jobs numbers, the best consumer sentiment stats in seven years—retailers may have been too optimistic about how this good news would hit their bottom line this season. After many years of economic struggle, many Americans are using the extra room in their household budget to pay down debt, save for retirement, and donate to charitable causes, knowing that tough times may still lie ahead. (For more on this, see IBD’s article about the Principal Financial Well-Being Index.)

According to Entrepreneur, the number of ads and promotions the average consumer sees during the holiday season is equivalent to standing in the middle of Times Square for 10 weeks. Yikes…how much of that can possibly be sinking in, especially in the middle of a dramatic news cycle? Obviously, in the face of advertising overload, the smarter and more personalized the marketing, the better chance it has of reaching its intended audience and converting to an actual purchase.

Mobile is the most obvious choice for delivering more intelligent, customized promotions to targeted consumers. It will be interesting to see how advertising, marketing and PR professionals use the data generated by this holiday season to analyze consumer trends and tailor their approach. And it will be even more fascinating to see how emerging technologies like wearables (Apple Watch), mobile payment systems, 3D printing, and smart, connected products (IoT) converge to transform our buying and consumption habits in ways we have yet to imagine—not to mention how these habits will be influenced by economic, political, and social developments. Looking back and looking ahead, one thing’s for sure: If you’re on the high-tech beat, 2015 will be a busy year!

What do you think? Is mobile changing the way we shop for and celebrate the holidays? Which retailers were able to break through the noise and make you pay attention this year?

Putting Your Client Front and Center When a News Cycle Hits
by John Kreuzer

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Those of us who have chosen a career path in the PR industry have become very familiar with the 24 hour news cycle which refers to the 24-hour reporting of news, associated with the fast-paced lifestyle of today’s connected society.

The enormous amount of news resources available has increased competition for audience and advertiser attention, prompting media outlets to deliver the latest news in the most captivating manner in order to remain ahead of competitors. This includes television, radio, print, online, and now mobile apps which have been designed for news.

But with today’s 24 hour news cycle, how can you, as a PR professional, keep your client front and center when a news cycle hits? That seems to be the $1,000,000 question these days. Here are a few simple things that PR professionals can do on a daily basis to better prepare ourselves to insert clients into a breaking news cycle:

1. Make a List and Check it Twice

First and foremost, as a PR agency, it is our responsibility to keep our top-tier business and industry media lists up-to-date at all times. With a 24 hour news cycle, this is of the utmost importance these days. You never know when the next big news story is going to break, and you don’t want to spend the bulk of your time trying to figure out who you should be contacting. These lists need to be updated regularly or you’ll risk missing out on a potentially great opportunity for client coverage.

2. Television and Print and Online…Oh My!

With potential media hits on television, in print and online, you need to know what is going on in the news at all times. Not only should you start each day reviewing breaking and trending news stories, you should keep one eye on the news throughout the day. As PR professionals, we should always be looking for opportunities to inject our clients into the conversations that are taking place. New stories break throughout the day, and if you can identify breaking news that provides your clients with opportunities for coverage, you’ll continue to score points.

3. There’s a Newsjacking in Progress

A term that you’ll hear frequently at PR agencies looking to successfully insert their client into the news cycle is “newsjacking”. Newsjacking is a strategy that I’m sure we’ve all used which entails the promotion of a client through breaking news. If done creatively and successfully, newsjacking provides an opportunity to launch your client into the national spotlight. The challenge that we as PR professionals have is making our pitch stand out among competing companies as the breaking news story grows. As a PR professional, you need to be thinking ahead. Have a few pre-packaged pitches put aside on a few different topics so when a news cycle is developing, you can have your subject matter expert ready to chime in with valuable perspective.

4. Don’t Forget to Follow Up

Just because a news cycle ends, doesn’t mean that your work as a PR professional is over. After a specific story dies down, don’t be afraid to follow up with the journalists that you’ve been working with. See if there is an opportunity for a follow up story. Offer up a company profile, an executive Q&A or an in-depth examination of a product or service. It doesn’t hurt to just check in with the journalist on what trends are on their radar. You never know where your next opportunity may lie. You’ve helped them once, why not go back for seconds?

5. Reading, Willing and Able

Sometimes, locking down a source during a breaking news cycle can be nearly impossible. As PR professionals, we need to know who can speak on what topic and when they are available. Sounds tough, right? Well, it doesn’t have to be. For each of your clients, you should have at least three to four designated spokespeople who have been media trained in case your top choice is unavailable. At the same time, you should be sure that you have their headshots and corporate biographies ahead of time in case they are requested by a journalist on a moment’s notice. If you know that a heavy news week is coming, or already in progress, proactively reach out for their availability ahead of time. You’ll be happy you did this.

6. Respond to HARO’s and ProfNet’s

Finally, there are a lot of resources out there that have been created to benefit the PR industry. Two of my favorites are ProfNet and Help a Reporter Out (HARO), both of which are great resources for finding out what journalists are working on, especially during a news cycle. I can say from personal experience that I’ve had great success using both services. Not only do ProfNet and HARO provide great opportunities to land an interview with a specific journalist, sometimes an inquiry can lead you to a news cycle that has either just broken, or is about to break. In a way, they can alert you to a specific story that you might not have been aware of before.



Did I miss anything? Do you have any other key tips? How have YOU inserted your client into a breaking news cycle? Feel free to leave your thoughts and comments below.

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