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The Value of “Getting” PR
by Mike Gallo

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There’s an interesting article this week in VentureBeat, entitled Why PR is your best marketing weapon — and how to use it.  It’s worth a read.

It outlines what happened to a 1990s tech startup called Seer Technologies when it took an overly cautious approach to PR.  Here are some key points from the article, which highlight some very common misperceptions about PR.

  • We assumed that business success would automatically translate into recognition.  And we were overly cautious about what we said in public—so that we were “known for the right things”.
  • We turned down many interview requests, and carefully scripted our answers to the ones we did accept.
  • The result was predictable: Over a period of six years, our company was featured in 20 to 30 articles in total.  And these were mostly in small trade publications or the local press.

Sound familiar?  Unfortunately, this is how so many companies today still manage the PR function.

Let’s consider what happens when a company takes the opposite approach.  The author then compares this cautious approach to what happened when he made the strategic decision when promoting his 1997 start-up, Relativity Technologies, to embrace PR.  He would “talk about whatever the media was interested in,” rather than just the company’s own product.

Here’s what happened.

  • We would have a policy of being accessible to and totally open with the media, customers, and investors.
  • We decided that Relativity’s best buzz generator would be our staff of Russian programmers, who had formerly performed top-secret coding for the Russian military and intelligence.
  • We began selling ourselves as an exciting company with a James Bond edge.

As you might imagine, the results were outstanding – top tier business press, appearances on major TV networks, a flood of enquiries from potential customers, employees, and so on.   This underscores the value of good PR, and is shows what’s possible when management really “gets” it.

So, as PR practitioners, it may be important to focus on the mechanics of a PR program, i.e. goal setting, metrics, milestones, announcements, etc.  However, it should also be our responsibility to educate clients on some of the intangible qualities of PR, and what we need from them to make a program work.  Although we – as PR practitioners – may instinctively know what’s going to “work” with the media, our clients do not necessarily have that experience and knowledge base, and we shouldn’t assume that they do.

This VentureBeat article provides a great comparison of how a willingness to prioritize PR from a strategic level, be creative, take risks and join the broader business conversation will pay dividends over the long run.  Taking a more narrow approach will be far less valuable, and will translate into fewer meaningful results.

Check out two of our recent case studies, here and here, which highlight some creative approaches to PR that we developed with our clients, and see what we were able to achieve on their behalf.

Do you (or your clients) really “get” PR, or are you just going through the motions?

The Power of PR: Spinning an Embarrassing Moment into a Career Changer
by Andria Barrera

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On last week’s Miss USA pageant, Miss Connecticut Erin Brady took home the crown. However, America and the media are recognizing third place winner Marissa Powell, Miss Utah, just as much if not more than Ms. Brady. After being tormented on numerous news website, YouTube and becoming an overnight internet sensation, it seems that Miss Utah is having the last laugh as she circulates all the big named television and radio shows.

There is no doubt she is gorgeous and the camera loves her, but that wasn’t enough to overshadow her epic mishap on a significant pageant question that may or may not have cost her the crown on Sunday night. When asked about gender wage inequality, Powell stumbled on her words and her response made absolutely no sense. But, overnight it seems her PR people have worked their magic, turning an embarrassing situation into a career changing milestone. This is a good example of the power of public relations.

Ms. Powell’s P.R. team has capitalized on her 15 minutes of fame, turning an embarrassing situation into a positive and possibly a career changing opportunity. Hitting an extensive media tour, which is normally reserved just for the winner of Miss USA, Powell has been seen on all the big named shows: “Today Show,” “Inside Edition,” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” Not to mention she has also called into radio interviews to increase her publicity.

This is just the beginning for Ms. Powell, her team has recognized the opportunity this attention has handed her and has spun a negative into a positive. With the increase in publicity comes popularity,  and who knows where she’ll go from here.  My bet is reality show offers will start rolling in, endorsement deals with make-up companies, and maybe even broadcasting gigs. This is not to mention the positive influence she can be on those who are bullied, as she was criticized and taunted significantly post-pageant and has come out on top. A lesson many young girls and boys can learn from. Now that her P.R. team has played this perfectly, her future opportunities are endless when they might have looked doomed on Sunday night.

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.

Is There Any Value in LinkedIn Endorsements?
by John Kreuzer


Last September, LinkedIn rolled out Endorsements, a convenient way to endorse your connections’ skills with just one click. As we typically see when new features are released, the feedback hasn’t been the greatest:

“LinkedIn is trying to be more like Facebook, and this is their ‘like.’

“They’re watered-down recommendations.”

“They don’t serve any useful purpose.”

If you haven’t been kept up to date, here’s the 411 on LinkedIn Endorsements. Endorsements let your LinkedIn connections vote up your skills and areas of expertise. Your skills are then ranked and re-ranked based on how many people have endorsed them, with their profile pictures appearing next to each skill. Your connections can also add new skills to your profile that they’d like to endorse.

According to LinkedIn’s Help Center:

Skill endorsements are a great way to recognize your first-degree connections’ skills and expertise with one click. They also let your connections validate the strengths found on your own profile. Skill endorsements are a simple and effective way of building your professional brand and engaging your network.

When you’re a first-degree connection of somebody and go to their LinkedIn profile page, you are presented with a list of five skills from that person’s profile and asked if they have these certain skills. You then have the ability to endorse any or all of these skills in the box. Since Endorsements involve just a single mouse-click, I can quickly endorse 50 people in just 5 minutes, without even breaking a sweat. And guess what…the person I just endorsed will receive an email that I’ve endorsed them. Maybe now they might return the favor. Why not? It’s so easy!

I’ll admit that endorsing others is an easy way to recognize colleagues for the skills I’ve seen them demonstrate. It helps contribute to the strength of their profile, and increases the probability they’ll be discovered for opportunities related to their skills. It also helps keep strong connections with the people in my network. I’ve found that after I’ve endorsed a former colleague, it’s been much easier for me to reach out to them because I’ve recently been in touch.

With that being said, I still believe that LinkedIn endorsements don’t provide as much value as they could. I find Endorsements to be more of a “recommendation lite” than anything else. If you want to recommend somebody for their work and/or skills, you should take the time to write one. Sure, it’s not one-click, but your recommendation will be more powerful, meaningful and beneficial to your connection.

At first, I was an active participant in endorsing my connections for skills that I thought they had. I didn’t spend a lot of time actually putting thought into the endorsements I was making. If they said they were good at a certain skill, obviously they were good at it, right? Moving forward, I am not going to endorse any skill that I haven’t had the opportunity to actually see someone demonstrate firsthand. I should have been doing this all along, but like others, I just got lazy. I’m not sure everyone will use the same level of care that I do, but I hope that users will actually spend a little time before they just click their mouse to automatically endorse a connection.

If you’re one of those LinkedIn users who are looking to turn off Endorsements, Kristin Burnham at CIO has a great article which provides step-by-step instructions. Check it out!

Have you found the LinkedIn Endorsements to be helpful or do you think they are of little value? Any and all comments are welcome.

Controlling the Media Message: The Angelina Effect
by Danielle Giaccio

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This past week, the world was shocked to find out that one of the entertainment world’s most popular and sexiest woman, Angelina Jolie, had undergone a double mastectomy. When people think of Angelina, they can’t help but think of her “killer body” but also, they think of a woman who has made it a point to do good in this world and use her celebrity status to do that. Angelina did something a lot of celebrities choose to do in a world where one tweet can lead to a full blown scandal if not perceived correctly by the general public – she got in front of the message.

Angelina JolieAngelina chose to write an op-ed in the New York Times, on “My Medical Choice” to own the story and control her message, rather than having the media control the message for her. Often times when a celebrity gets in front of something, such as a scandal or big public announcement, it is easier to control the message they want to get out there. Rather than having some hospital worker leak a story and have it on the front page of Star Magazine, she chose to bravely tell her story and get the message out there that she is strong, in better health, and is telling story directly, rather than have someone else speculate on the facts.

In PR, whether dealing with a person or a business, it is important for PR professionals to advise clients on the best way to control the media message. Angelina’s PR team clearly went the right route by putting Angelina “front and center” to own her decision and spin it in a way that’s positive and inspiring to others.

Angelina’s PR team also did the right thing by putting her in a light that made her seem like every other woman. They made her more relatable than she’s ever been.  The general public has a tendency to view celebrities as “superhuman,” so Angelina’s decision to publicize her story in a personal way made her struggle the same as any woman in Minnesota, or Alabama, or New York. She became a voice for all women struggling to make the same decision and she used her celebrity stature to not only control what the media would say, but to also use her voice to help others.

Angelina’s message was simple; this happened to me, I am strong, and I am going to use my voice to tell other woman in similar situations that there are other options. Her words struck a chord with many breast cancer survivors and victims and definitely brought a bigger conversation to light as women can see this is a viable option if you are someone who carries that gene.

At Gutenberg, we are proud to represent HERS Breast Cancer Foundation, an organization aimed at supporting all women healing from breast cancer by providing post-surgical products and services regardless of financial status.

We have had the pleasure of working with women who are survivors of this disease and who work tirelessly to promote awareness and help women in need of treatment or care options. We all owe a great gratitude to Angelina for not only bringing the conversation to the forefront, but also for controlling the message and letting people know that her struggle is one of many and that it does get better.

Missing the Mark with a New Mark
by Max Liberty-Point

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According to my court appointed therapist, struggling with self-image can lead to a slew of psychological health problems.  So get the straight jackets ready for J.C. Penney and Gap, two retail clothing companies that haven’t always been happy with what they see in the mirror.  In the last few years, both companies have blatantly failed at reinventing their brand, and in the process, their logos.

While rebranding and logo redesign can be an effective way to cleanse a company’s image and deploy new business strategies, it leads to negative outcomes when executed poorly.  And although a logo is only part of the rebranding process, it’s an important part.  Often times it’s the first interaction customers have with a company and should be aimed to introduce the objectives of the brand.  The real risk comes when rebranding an established company.  If an established company changes a logo they have used for more than 20 years, it better be perfection.

Gap, Inc. showed adverse behavior in 2010 when they launched a trendy new logo to accompany their newly renovated retail stores.  The plain black Helvetica type accented by a small blue gradient square looked more like an acquisition by American Apparel than a makeover for the Gap brand.  Within a week, the company came to its senses and returned to the iconic navy blue logo that had identified them since 1986.  In this case, Gap, Inc. made a swift recovery by backpedaling, but it was a good move.  And thanks to rapid action they were able to shift their efforts back to where it was needed—the impossible task of making khakis cool.

J.C. Penney’s behavior has been more detrimental than Gap’s.  In 2011, they redesigned their logo to the 3 lowercase letters “jcp” inside of a red square and said they would offer exclusive new clothing lines.  Nothing about the color or the lowercase logotype supported their desired image of exclusivity and sales went down.  Rebranding again in 2012, they shoved “jcp” into a blue square and crammed that into the top left of a red box.  The company explained that the faint allusion toward the U.S. flag was to fortify their image as an all-American brand, but it seems more like a cover up of their overseas manufacturers.  And the square does reiterate their new “fair and square” core value, but the “jcp” in the corner throws the balance of the logo off and makes the letters quite small in comparison.  jcp hopes their radical new business plan will solve their incessant shortcomings, but only time will tell.

Rebranding is not to be taken lightly, especially by established companies.  And logo design deserves just as much attention as new business plans and marketing schemes. In the case of Gap, their quest to outdo an already iconic logo fell very short and the public let them know quickly.  And jcp’s annual makeover has only lead to confusion and lower earnings.  When undergoing a company rebrand, make sure all your materials are aligned properly and a consistent message is perceptible across all of your content.

When Public Scrutiny Requires Crisis Communications
by Andria Barrera

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It’s a type of public relations that any public relations professional can come across. Some firms focus specifically on this tough topic. Other firms have specialists. Some hate it and others love the challenge. Regularly referred to as Crisis Communications, enterprises, small businesses, celebrities and consumer brands can all be affected by a crisis and are smart to prepare a plan in case of an emergency.

Crisis communications is defined as a sub-specialty of public relations.  It is designed to protect and defend an individual, company, or organization that’s facing public challenge to its reputation. Some recognizable crisis communications at its finest include: Richard Branson’s Virgin, Chick-fil-A, Bill Clinton, Chris Brown after his altercation with Rihanna, and even motorcycle guru Jesse James after his affair while married to Sandra Bullock.

After the online release of a couple offensive ads for the Ford Figo hatchback, Ford Motors has become the latest victim of scrutiny, media backlash, and in immediate need for crisis communications. The advertisements showed former Italian Prime Minister flashing a peace sign in the front of the vehicle with three women bound and gagged in the rear. Another ad portrayed characters of the Kardashian sisters bound and tied up in the back of the car, while a Paris Hilton look-a-like drove the car with the tagline: “Leave your worries behind with Figo’s extra-large boot.”

Ford FigoAlthough, the advertisers who created these ads have been relieved of their jobs, the damage has been done. The public has voiced its opinion and Ford is hearing comments such as: “I will never buy a Ford” and “I will try to never sit in a Ford again.” After all the hard work the automotive industry in the United States has done to keep strong during the recession, from a PR perspective the goal would be to quickly repair Ford’s image and prevent this from setting the company back. Immediately, a carefully drafted public apology on the matter was released by Ford on Monday – the first step of a crisis communication plan. The advertising agency responsible for the ads released an explanation, saying the “distasteful” posters were never intended for paid publication and were not requested by Ford. Regardless if they were requested or not, it did force Ford to speak up and ensure they are taking this seriously and will make sure nothing like this ever happens again.

Issues with public images can occur anytime, whether a crisis is predicted and prepared for, or comes out of the blue – such as with Ford Motors. In either case, an effective crisis communications plan is critical for your public relations team to prepare. You never know when it might need to be applied.

During challenging times, you need a communications team that thinks on its feet and offers viable solutions. The key is to move quickly and get underneath the issues, develop scenarios and contingency plans, and undertake actions to mitigate the fallout from crises.  Do you have a plan in place?

Media’s Shifting Gaze
by Stefanie Cannon

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The lines between editorial and advertorial are becoming increasingly blurry with Fortune’s recent announcement of its “Trusted Original Content” model. As Media Bistro reports, “[The project] will involve the magazine’s editorial teams creating Fortune-branded articles and video/other media content for marketers and PR pros to distribute on their own channels. So these pieces will bear the Fortune name and be written by real journalists, but they won’t qualify as native advertising…”

It’s evident that media outlets are looking for unique ways to make up for lost ad revenue, but at what cost to objectivity and quality content? According to the recently released State of the Media Annual Report by Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, nearly one-third of consumers have abandoned a news outlet because it no longer gave them what they had counted on, either with fewer or less complete stories.

Interestingly, the report notes that CNN, the cable channel that has branded itself around deep reporting, produced story packages were cut nearly in half from 2007 to 2012. Across the three cable channels, coverage of live events during the day, which often require a crew and correspondent, fell 30% from 2007 to 2012 while interview segments, which tend to take fewer resources and can be scheduled in advance, were up 31%.

More recently, CNN faced criticism from other journalists for its cover skewed coverage of the Steubenville verdict.

The Pew Research report noted that the news industry as whole is more “undermanned” and “unprepared” to uncover stories, dig deep into emerging ones or to question information put into its hands.

Media is bound to have an occasional hiccup when it comes to news coverage. However, when outlets are implementing unique business models to drive ad revenue and words like “trust” are added to emphasize legitimacy, it might begin to make the consumer question the quality of content.

Without consumer trust in the way stories are reported, what will media outlets have left?

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.

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