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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.

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.

Weaponizing Earned Media for Maximum Impact
by Kasey Backherms

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Earned media – the product, trend and thought leadership placements we work very hard to deliver for our portfolio of clients – is an excellent validation of your product and company strategy. It’s also a valuable component to your content marketing strategy, one that can help deliver sales results, in addition to quality traffic and awareness.
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Five Tips for Daily PR Success…and Keeping Your Client Happy
by John Kreuzer

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Landing that “Big Fish” client is great, but what do you need to do to keep their business over the long haul? Simple: Keep them happy!

Keeping a client happy is our number one goal in PR. Not only will having a happy client potentially lead to more revenue for your firm, it also leads to a sense of accomplishment and a more positive atmosphere in the office. There’s nothing wrong with that, right?

So how do you go about keeping your client happy? Well, it’s not something that can be done by doing minimal work. Keeping a client happy takes hard work, dedication and the willingness to go above and beyond expectations every day.

There are a few simple things that we can all do on a daily basis to keep our clients happy. This includes:

  • Provide counsel that portrays confidence and brings added value
  • Set realistic goals and expectations
  • Deliver what you say you’re going to do on deadline

But from my experience, above all else, a client’s happiness comes from seeing their company portrayed positively in the media. You can write the greatest PR plan, create the perfect speaking abstract, or develop the most complete awards calendar…but this isn’t what matters in the grand scheme of things. Results matter, and results in the form of positive coverage (whether it’s in print, online, on TV or any other form of media) is job #1 for us as PR professionals.

Each and every day I come into the office I have a game plan. While things may change, the end goal is the same: POSITIVE COVERAGE! So how do you go about making this a reality?

Here are a few daily tips that I always keep in mind to ensure I’m providing my clients with the best opportunities for positive, feature coverage:

A Nose for News…

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 all day long and if you can constantly identify breaking news that provides your clients with opportunities, you’ll continue to score PR wins.

Just the Facts Ma’am…

If you’re going to be successful in any job, you need to have a game plan. In PR, it’s no different. You need to know your facts, know your audience and support your client’s message. When the media asks questions, be prepared to accurately use examples, facts, statistics, quotes, analogies, personal experience and images to help illustrate and emphasize your key messages.

Content…Content…Content…

As PR professionals, it is our job to re-work, reuse, and repurpose our clients’ content in new ways to give it fresh life wherever we plan to use it. Today, content is king and you can’t hide behind the excuse that it’s a slow news day. Keep contributed articles, industry perspective and even infographics at your disposal and use them as a way to continuously share insights with the media. Don’t forget that you can also use it by reaching out directly to your targeted audience via your clients’ social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc…

Hit ‘Em Up…

With today’s 24/7 news cycle, PR professionals need to hit up their clients constantly with new ideas, trending stories and potential opportunities to comment on any story that impacts their viewpoint, business or product. By doing so, we can train our clients to realize that news flows minute by minute and there’s always an opportunity to obtain coverage, provide perspective, or add value to the conversation.

Let’s Do Lunch…

Is your client traveling? Are they somewhere where they could meet in-person for coffee or lunch with a journalist or two? This should be a “no-brainer”, but sometimes we overlook the simplest of things. Access and availability of your client can bring added interest from the media. Be sure that you are always synchronizing your proactive media outreach with your client’s travel schedule. By using availability as a reason for an in-person meeting, and securing interviews and potentially on-air television appearances, you’re building stronger relationships.

Did I miss anything? Do you have any other key tips that we should be using on a daily basis? Feel free to leave your thoughts and comments below.

3 Ways to Maximize Impact with Space
by Max Liberty-Point

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As a designer, I’m constantly figuring out how to use space.  Sometimes I’m restricted to a tiny area, other times the workable space is limitless.  Whatever the circumstance, there is a challenge to using a space correctly and doing so allows for maximum impact in any medium.  And let’s not discriminate; even non-designers deal with space in their word documents and PowerPoints, so I want to offer three tips for anyone interested in capitalizing on composition:

1. The Golden Rule Ratio

There is actually a remarkable spacing rule found right in nature.  It’s called the “Golden Ratio” and it can be traced onto everything from plants to seashells to the galaxy to our own DNA.  Expressed numerically, the ratio is 1:1.618 and when some of man’s most famous works are measured, this ratio is evident.

An example of a way you can apply the Golden Ratio is to achieve ultimate readability through textual line spacing.   If a body of text is using a font size of 16pt, multiply that by 1.618 and you have your optimal line height, 25.888 or 26pt.

2. Less is More

The use of empty space, or “white space” as it’s called in the design world, is often unnoticed to the average viewer.  And though it might seem like a result of not using all the space provided, white space actually allows for a more impactful message.  When used correctly, white space can add emphasis to a subject, it can balance a layout, it can improve readability, and it can express sophistication and elegance. Take a look at Apple.com’s landing page and notice the aforementioned characteristics.

Try using white space in your next PowerPoint presentation to stress a point or to add emphasis to a subject.


3. Negative Can Be Positive

A technique that has always had a profound effect on me when I see it is the deliberate use of negative space.  Negative space, in design, is the space around the main subject of the visual.  Using this space effectively can send a clever message while still remaining visually simple and easy on the eyes.  Also, the viewer can feel a sense of accomplishment for noticing the use of negative space, which adds a positive association to your business or publication.  See if you can spot the use of negative space in these example logos.

While this technique takes some artistic skill, consider it when conceptualizing a logo or your next advertisement. Those who notice will be delightfully surprised. If you can’t achieve this effect on your own, perhaps you can hire someone who can.

Product Pitches: Three Steps to Success
by Kasey Backherms

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One of the most difficult tasks for a PR professional handling a technology company’s communication program is garnering interest around a product update announcement. In the eyes of your client, it is one of the most important types of coverage they will receive because of the immediate value it creates for the sales team.  However, there is often a disconnect between the value a client receives from the coverage, and the real “news value” to a reporter.

Given the nature of the announcement, skeptical reporters will ignore your pitch altogether, or respond to tell you they don’t cover product news.  However, some will follow up with a series of fairly predictable questions.  Your success with the announcement will hinge on how well you are prepared to respond.

Keep in mind, there is a time element working against you.  If you don’t respond to reporters rapidly, the window of opportunity closes. In dealing with this scenario time and time again, here are three sure fire questions that you can expect from reporters and editors, and how you can be ready to ensure that your client is getting the editorial exposure they deserve.

Do they have a customer reference?

Reporters are trying to create something of interest to their readers, so many times they will ask for customer case studies or will want to talk to a customer directly in order to tell more of a “real life” story.  While many customers are not always available or reluctant to disclose their use of a product, some will see it as an opportunity for positive exposure.  Be ready for this question, and have the details at the ready when a reporter asks.  It will strike further interest, and will most likely lead to editorial coverage.

Can I see the press release?

When pitching the media prior to the announcement date under embargo, it is critical to have a working draft or final draft of the product announcement at the ready. Many time reporters will only ask for the release to preview and draft their stories on this without even taking a briefing. Once you have gained partial interest from them by asking for an embargoed release, stalling on it like shooting yourself in the foot.

Do you have any photos or screenshots?

Visual aids are always a plus to have as additional information that can be quickly sent to reporters and editors. Many times in drafting their stories around the product announcement, reporters will ask for screenshots of the product dashboard and even headshots of executives that are being quoted in the piece. Having these resources at the ready before a dialogue begins with the media can make a dramatic difference for the better the quality of the editorial coverage.

Pin It: How to Effectively Use Pinterest for PR
by Veronica Olah

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Social media is everywhere these days, whether we see a company’s social media advertising on billboards, magazines or websites, we can’t seem to miss the logos for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest on the bottom . It’s become the norm to be asked to subscribe to blogs, become fans, friends, follow, share, and connect in a limitless number of ways.

While Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are obvious social networking sites for your company to connect with the media, customers, users, etc. — you should also consider Pinterest, which has become one of the hottest trends in social media.

So, what is Pinterest? Pinterest is a virtual pinboard that lets you organize and share all things you find on the web, whether it be business related or for personal use. People use pinboards to plan, discover, find and inspire. Users can simply create a board and start ‘pinning’, ‘repin’, and ‘like’ from your followers.

More and more businesses are beginning to use Pinterest as a marketing tool to connect with users and spread the word. Here are a few suggestions on how you can use Pinterest as a PR tool:

Think Visual and Engage with Customers

With Pinterest you must think visual – focus on pinning items that will help you create exposure for the stories you are trying to communicate. While you’re pinning items to your boards, engage with your customers to share interesting items and have them repin from your boards to increase exposure.

Pin What’s Happening In Your Industry

Try and find some interesting visual elements that can illustrate trends in your industry. A great example of his would be pinning infographics from your company and/or industry related graphics. If the company is attending any trade shows or conferences, be sure to document it by taking pictures/videos and pinning them during and after the event. For example, one of your boards can be called “SXSW” and you can pin images and videos about you and your company, as well as include others you interact with at the show.

Pinterest Is Not Just For Pictures

Surprisingly enough, you can pin videos as well as pictures. This is a great way to convey your company’s story, address industry related issues, share tips and tricks, interviews with the media, conferences the company is attending, etc. These videos (as well as pictures) can link back to your company’s website to drive traffic.

Those are just a few tips that I’ve found from my personal interactions with Pinterest. Is your company on Pinterest?



Why Twitter Is Your Best Shot with Reporters
by Kasey Backherms

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Screened phone calls and unanswered emails are a commonality for us PR pros representing less renowned companies. The good news is that there is much more effective way to reach reporters nowadays. Twitter might not be sexy, but it can be a loyal friend when it comes to making connections with reporters.

More often than not you see many writers, editors and even industry analysts as daily contributors to their personal twitter handles. Regularly you see them pushing their posted stories out via tweets and patting each other on the back for solid reporting. This is an avenue for you as a PR pro to strike while the iron is hot. Take the time to comment on their story, or recommend related content for them to check out. You don’t necessarily need to pitch them your client right off the bat, but engage with that person personally, and see what happens. A good start is to take the initiative to tweet their posted stories to your followers and facilitate spreading the words that they wrote. Don’t be surprised if you get a retweet, or an @mention saying thanks. Now they have a face and a personality to go along with the drag of going through countless pitches. When you pitch them again, mention the twitter interaction as the road to initiate a conversation. After getting some interaction going, send them an informal tweet inviting them to talk or to take a look at client news.

In my experience, there is surprising response and often a very different tone coming from the other end. Many times it has been the spark that was needed to stir up a conversation that ended up becoming a successful working relationship. This can be just another addition to the PR toolkit, that in conjuction with creative email pitches and selective telephone follow up, can be the difference between getting that coverage for your client or not.

Seven Steps to a Better Public Relations Career
by John Kreuzer

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Building relationships with the media is the essence of great public relations professionals. Positive coverage can help put your clients on the map and it is our job to make this happen.

But before you dive into the ever-changing world of media relations, you need to understand that producing positive client coverage isn’t about blasting press releases, impersonal emails or untargeted pitches to every journalist you can find. There must be a “method to your madness” in order to be successful in your PR career.

Most journalists will tell you that there is nothing more frustrating than PR professionals flooding their inboxes with irrelevant pitches.  To avoid this, make sure that you aren’t repeatedly spamming them with information they can’t use. Instead, become a reference that they can come to for help with a story whenever they need it.

Here are a few suggestions for working with journalists that I have learned over the years that can help you to succeed with the media moving forward and become a better PR pro:

Understand the Publication

Nothing can be more irritating to a journalist than receiving off-base pitches while they are under the pressure of meeting a deadline. Take the extra time needed to become familiar with the outlets and stories that the journalist covers to ensure that your client is relevant. Fully understanding who and what they cover will go a long way towards building a lasting relationship.

Always Personalize Your Pitches

No one enjoys impersonal communication. Read up on what the journalist has recently covered and incorporate this into your pitch or general follow up. Keeping a pitch personal will let the journalist know that you understand their coverage area. Also, every interaction doesn’t have to be a pitch. Sometimes checking in with a journalist every couple of weeks to let them know that they recently wrote an interesting article can be very beneficial to building a long-term relationship.

Keep Pitches (and Subject Lines) Short

Not only do you need to personalize each of your pitches, you should also be sure to keep them short and to the point. This starts with your subject line. You have the body of the email to secure their interest, but you need a good subject line to grab their attention. For example, you can put a sample headline in bold at the top of the email (or in the subject line) and put all of the important details in bullet format up front. You’ll save the journalist time by putting the boring stuff later on, or skipping it entirely. If they’re interested, they will get down to the nuts and bolts in their follow up with you.

Simple is Good

When sending a pitch via email, try to use standard, basic fonts (such as Arial or Calibri) in all of your emails. Always keep the font sizes consistent, using sizes 10 or 11, and keep the text in black. Journalists don’t want to receive pitches in fluorescent colors that takes up the entire page because you bolded, enlarged or highlighted all of the content. Keep it simple. Journalists will appreciate it!

Never Bait and Switch

When pitching the media, always be sure you can deliver on what you promise. Nothing can ruin a relationship with a journalist faster than failing to meet their expectations by promising an interview with the CEO and then not having them available. The same goes for story pitching. If a journalist goes into an interview expecting to talk about the future of mobile technology, and you decide to talk about the best restaurants in the Bay Area, chances are the journalist won’t respond to your next email, or pick up the phone next time you call.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Whenever possible, be sure to include photos and/or video in follow up. This will help to paint a picture so the reporter can see the story more quickly. Try not to send high resolution photos unless requested, as they will clog up the inbox of the journalist. Sending a follow up email with pictures or video might be the added content you need to get your client covered.

Always Say Thank You

Saying thank you can go a long way in building a strong relationship with a journalist. But keep in mind that this doesn’t have to be a rambling letter. It could just be a sentence or two that lets the journalist know that you appreciate the time and effort they put into the article. This simple act of gratitude can be the difference between securing continued coverage or not.

Those are just a few recommendations that I have from my personal interactions with the media. What tips work for you?

Don’t Let Hackers ‘Onionize’ Your Messages: Know How to Control your Social Accounts
by Tim Polakowski

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In the event you have missed it, some very large brands have had their corporate messages re-interpreted by an always aware and always vigilant source – Hackers.

At first this appeared to be a headline from “The Onion” –  “Burger King Just got sold to McDonalds because the whopper flopped.”  This was followed quickly by “Just Empty Every Pocket sold to Cadillac” within a day. While we all know that many brands are using Twitter to make major announcements – and we even advise our clients to sometimes use this methodology – these two headlines tend to raise an eyebrow.

In reality, what we have here is hackers flexing their muscles and reminding us just how important passwords are, and all of the policies companies establish to govern the use of social media.  While we could look at this as an opportunity to say thank you for the free publicity and create some clever #lines and capitalize on their humor, my suggestion is that we closely examine our social media accounts and who has access to them, as we increasingly stake our corporate reputation on them.

The ever clever and never to do saying KISS or Keep it Simple, Stupid in the case of passwords on empowers those who seek to influence the our messages, gain free publicity at our expense and always watch for ways to inflict the KISS of cyber death on as many as possible.

With the annual RSA conference upon us, we as Public Relations, Media Relations, and Social Media representatives of brands large and small need to take action and ensure we understand, acknowledge and respect the responsibility we have to ensure that the access to our clients social media channels remains secure.  Otherwise, we risk facing the reality that hackers will out do the infamous “Onion” with headlines and messages on our behalf.

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