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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.

The Rubio Effect
by Danielle Giaccio

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On a night when Marco Rubio was poised deliver the GOP rebuttal to the President’s State of the Union address, something happened that the PR team at Poland Spring must have (or should have) jumped on.  If you missed it, Rubio leaned over, mid-speech, and sipped a mini bottle of Poland Spring water.

The media has been relentless in mocking Rubio for his gaffe and an influx of “memes” has been created since then. As a PR professional, we must learn to not only monitor but jump ahead of the curve and create compelling and memorable campaigns around both planned and unplanned events. In my opinion, Poland Spring lost a huge opportunity by not jumping on the bandwagon and creating something memorable from it.

No one is thinking about what he said, rather the news has been linked to his refreshing gulp of Poland Spring than to his actual speech. Poland Spring first and foremost should have exploded on social media as soon as it happened. Their Twitter feed was silent during and after it happened, which was a mistake. They should have started trending something along the lines of #RubioThirstQuencher or #DryMouthRubio something along those lines. They then could have made an announcement offering Marco Rubio a lifetime supply of their mini water bottles so he will never get parched, mid-speech, again.

Instead of hiding his head in shame, Reclaim America, Rubio’s political action committee, began selling a reusable “Rubio” water bottle after his awkward moment of thirst. Anyone who donates $25 or more gets one and the PAC website reads “Send the liberal detractors a message that not only does Marco Rubio inspire you… he hydrates you too.” This was great thinking on the part of the PR team. Rather than hiding from the moment, they are embracing it by not only capitalizing on the moment, but enticing people to donate to the Florida senator with a fun play on words to make up for the momentary thirst quench.

Poland Spring could learn a few things from Reclaim America. They were able to capitalize on something that was trending and made it work to their advantage. That is a large part of what PR people need to and should be doing when it concerns their clients. This is especially true in social media. Poland Spring’s PR team lost an opportunity to expand their already huge brand by poking fun at Rubio, whether it was via social media or a press release.  Whether or not Rubio plans on running for President in 2016 remains to be seen but one thing is for sure, he will live in infamy for his reach to that mini Poland Spring bottle.  And Poland Spring will be kicking themselves as this takes on a life of its own, without the help of their PR team.

So what should Poland Spring have done? For starters,  monitor relevant coverage in real time. They should have jumped on that as soon as Wolf Blitzer went “uh-oh” when he took a sip. They also need a heavy dose of social media training and should think more about how social media can amplify their message. If they were active on social media during and after this happened, they could have used it as an opportunity for clever brand exposure.  Social channels act in real time.  Its not worth tweeting about three days later. # yesterdaysnews

As PR people, we need to constantly think about how our placements or other media attention can start a new conversation in social media, and that conversation can (and does) take on a life of its own.  Think about how this one event could have impacted sales of the Poland Spring mini, if Poland Spring acted quickly.

How Big Bird Became the Snuffleupagas In the (Debate) Room
by Hugh Burnham

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While as a PR firm, we remain bi-partisan and impartial to parties and candidates, there are some real media lessons to take away from Wednesday’s Presidential Debate.

Both candidates have made their fair share of blunders in the campaign, but this week brought some new fodder for the American media.

Mitt Romney told the audience (and it was a sizeable audience) that he would cut funding for PBS and in particular, he called out Big Bird, or, as Snuffleupagas, his imaginary friend calls him, just: Bird.)

Romney’s pledge to cut a government subsidy to PBS, the public television network that has aired Sesame Street since 1970, combined with a throwaway reference to the show’s beloved Big Bird, inadvertently produced a top-trending hashtag, dozens of fake Twitter accounts, and the internet’s new favorite meme.

Here’s what Romney actually said:

“I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS. [...] I like PBS. I love Big Bird. I actually like you [moderator and PBS employee Jim Lehrer] too. But I’m not going to [...] keep on spending money on things, to borrow money from China to pay for it.”

Within minutes of his remarks, #BigBird was one of the fastest rising trends on Twitter. According to the Associated Press, at one point the site registered 17,000 tweets per minute mentioning our fine feathered friend.

The lesson is: In today’s hyper digital environment, it’s critical to consider how your remarks will play out on the broader stage.  What you say will be interpreted by more than just the people in the room, or by the traditional media covering it.  Sound bites, ideas, images take on a life of their own when tweeted, re-tweeted, posted to Facebook, blogged about, and so on.

One thing is clear – if you want to keep something from going viral, go easy on Big Bird.


Why A Consonant Matters
by Hugh Burnham

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Many outlets covering the passing of astronaut Neil Armstrong have noted that he was actually misquoted in his first words from the lunar landing: “That’s one small step for ‘man’, one giant leap for mankind.” Armstrong himself maintained that he actually said …one small step for ‘a man’, rather than just ‘man.’  But why does it matter? And what does it have to do with public relations?

The ‘a’ changes everything, in that it denotes a step for a man, rather than ‘man’, which would be the same as mankind.   We probably never really thought of it that way, but it’s a big difference.

We always counsel our spokespeople to communicate in pithy, quotable phrases, that are both succinct and memorable.   Oftentimes, we anticipate interview questions and how to answer them. Neil Armstrong was a great American. In the end, the fact that his ‘a’ was inaudible on the tapes never hurt his legacy, because the message he delivered was powerful, memorable and quotable, and will survive in the history books forever.

Had Armstrong told people, “Oh, that’s not what I expected,” as he took his first steps, or “Wow, this is strange,” he likely would not be as enduring a figure as he is now.    At least I doubt that the President would be ordering flags to be flown at half staff for his funeral.  So remember, if you want to make an impression, choose a phrase that captures the moment with some flair and drama. Neil Armstrong sure did.




Penn State: Frozen Like A Statue
by Hugh Burnham

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Penn State has been digging itself out of one of the largest messes a university has ever found itself in, since the board of directors discovered that a cover up had been going on in the Sandusky child molestation case.

Although the University took decisive action and communicated effectively in some instances, it has been remarkably deficient and unwilling to put responsibility on the beloved former Head Coach of its Nittany Lions, Joe Paterno.

The recently released Freeh report once again brought JoePa into the spotlight and for all the wrong reasons.  It seems that Joe Paterno willfully dissuaded President Graham Spanier and athletic director Tim Curley from reporting Sandusky’s pedophilia to the authorities and they went along with the revered football Coach’s demands.

In light of the report, many people expected the University to remove the statue of JoePa from the Campus.

The University, however has resisted those calls, in blatant disrespect to the victims of Sandusky’s crimes.  No matter how many supporters Paterno has in the University and the Community, it has become glaringly obvious that the statue is now a monument to a man who helped cover up heinous crimes.

This morning, in another example of poor communication, Penn State contradicted reports that the statue would be taken down, insisting instead that no decision had been made.

When a crisis strikes, there needs to be a full plan to deal with the aftermath.  While it would be painful to take down the statue of a man who was so revered and created such a great football program, it would also send a message that the University was very, very wrong in the way that it handled this crisis, and that Paterno himself made very bad mistakes.  However, accepting responsibility for a situation is the first step in rebuilding a positive reputation.

Otherwise, the pressure will grow on the University until it buckles to public opinion that the statue must be removed and someone else will decide for Penn State what is right and wrong.   Handling a crisis requires a full understanding of the likely outcomes and a deep sense of what is morally right.  Paterno was so beloved for so long that it may seem like heresy to the board to remove his statue.   But it is the only way to break cleanly from the past.  Sooner or later, the statue will be gone.  The University has a short window of opportunity to accept responsibility for its role in this scandal, and start to act in a way that rebuilds trust and its improved its reputation over the long-term.

FaceBook or FaceCrack?
by Liana Hawes

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Last week we waited with baited breath for the Facebook public offering to arrive. It was one of the worst weeks I’ve ever experienced for pitching technology journalists as editorial staffs (or what’s left of them) were consumed with covering the IPO.

A prominent technology journalist summed it up best after I tried booking a CEO interview around my client’s new product launch, “Could you have picked a worse time to put your announcement out?” Full disclosure – We are getting good feedback on our supply chain management and information security outreach!

Now that Facebook is public, the media is focused on why the IPO flopped. As FaceBook’s IPO Struggles Fingers Start Pointing; Facebok Falls Again in Third Day of Trading; Facebook Flop; Facebook Fizzle; Apple Shines Facebook Falls; Facebook Stock Slide Deepens; Facebook Does Another Faceplant Where Are Facebook’s Friends (my personal favorite; Who’s To Blame for Botched Facebook IPO. I could go on….

In the past week, fingers pointed to the Morgan Stanley banker who reduced his revenue forecast – during the FB Roadshow. Could he have picked a worse time to do that? Could Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Chan have picked a better time to marry and deflect media attention away from the IPO?

Look, I don’t have anything against Facebook. I use it frequently. In fact, when one of my friends recently asked me what Facebook actually does for the U.S. economy, I pointed him to Jenna Wortham’s article in the NY Times Bits Blog entitled “Are We Addicted to Facebook? It’s Complicated,” which gives a psychologist’s view about what keeps Facebookers hooked (cracked out) on the service, and the impact it has already made on how we communicate.

Regardless, the IPO was overhyped to the point where it consumed news rooms and journalists for weeks. Now that the IPO has landed, maybe it won’t require so many technology journalists to screw in a light bulb. Now, maybe we can all turn our attention back to all of the other new products, services, innovations and entrepreneurs that are also making the tech economy tick.

What to do in the face of adversity? As PR people, we are constantly challenged with telling our clients’ stories even as more topical news and events make headlines.

Here are some tips to ensure success, even when newsrooms appear to be consumed with other stories:

• Broaden The Scope: There are literally hundreds of blogs to target, each with a very specific focus and audience reach. These writers are less likely to be consumed with national headlines, and may show a genuine interest in a specific industry topic or product launch.

• Shift Release Date: If it’s not time sensitive, delay the launch entirely. When everyone is tired of covering Facebook, they will be eager to hear some new stories.

• Try, Try Again: Just because the FaceBook IPO consumed the press one week, doesn’t mean my news won’t be of interest the next. Return in a week or so when plates are less full and go back at it again with a different angle. Maybe the announcement has come and gone, it could be the perfect time for a look at your story, and re-think the pitch.

Taking Your Relationship to the Next Level
by Susie Hayne

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Pitching a new media contact is a lot like an awkward first date. You don’t know enough about the other person to know what buttons not to push or what will score you major points. Just like when trying to start a relationship with a new reporter you may not know that they are more likely to give you a briefing if you start by only asking for 10 minutes, that they only want product information when you have an available customer or that they are just plain difficult (or delightful!) to work with.

Now Pitching Notes, a newly launched site geared at PR pros, gives us the chance to share our experience with reporters, both good and bad, and even rate them using a Yelp-style star system. Best of all – it’s free.

I know I get excited when I Yelp something and find out it has 900 reviews and a 4.5 rating. It fosters the anticipation that I am about to have a great experience. So I am all for a site that lets us share our journalist interactions with each other. If I know that a bunch of my peers have worked with Joe Reporter, and that he really likes short pitches, hates to be contacted on Tuesday mornings and is most responsive to email on Wednesday afternoons that only helps me create a custom, targeted pitch to maximize the potential of establishing a long, mutually beneficial relationship.

At Gutenberg we already leverage each other’s knowledge of media personality quirks, but the concept of having a site where all PR professionals can share their experiences is exciting. Like any site that relies on user’s feedback, it will take Pitching Notes a while to build up its database of reviewed reporters and become a reliable go-to resource, but as the site gains traction it will be a complementary addition to the big database tools like Cision and Vocus.

Are the Denver Broncos and New York Jets PR Ticking Time Bombs?
by John Kreuzer

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You may have heard the news: Peyton Manning, who missed the 2011 season with a neck injury that many thought could threaten his career, has signed a contract with the Denver Broncos to be the team’s next starting quarterback. This is great news for Broncos fans everywhere because they haven’t had a popular starting quarterback since the John Elway days, right? Wrong…

After taking over a struggling 1-4 team, quarterback Tim Tebow led the Broncos to victory after victory last season, struggling for the first three quarters before “Tebow Time” took over late in the game. With an offense that quickly transformed into an option attack, and a defense that kept every game close, the Broncos eventually won the AFC West title. Tebow was also a major reason the team won their first playoff game in electrifying fashion against the Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime.

The signing of Manning has caused some dissatisfaction in Denver and throughout Bronco Nation. The so-called “Tebowmaniacs” are demoralized at the loss of their savior and Tebow himself can’t be too happy with his sudden departure from the team that he resurrected last season, although you would never know by speaking with him. Even after signing one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, Elway (now an executive with the team) has left a fan base divided, and this isn’t likely to change any time soon.

While Manning has the potential to lead the team back to the playoffs this season, one has to wonder how much of an injury risk he remains. Should something happen to the new face of the franchise, could we be looking at a potential PR nightmare in Denver?

Tick…tick…tick…

And what about Tebow’s new team. On paper, the New York Jets acquisition of the quarterback would appear to be a slam dunk for their fans. Already one of the most popular athletes in the world, Tebow brings his marketability and football skills to the center of the media universe. This situation has the potential to put him in LeBron James territory when it comes to his marketing value. But what does his acquisition do to the chemistry of the team? If he becomes the starting quarterback, will Tebow have the leeway to struggle as he originally did in Denver, while playing in the #1 television market in the country?

Tick…tick…tick…

Right now, the Jets now have the equivalent of two starting quarterbacks in Tebow and Mark Sanchez. The team just signed Sanchez to a three-year contract extension last week, a move that was met with a mixed reaction from Jets fans that have waited since 1969 for a return trip to the Super Bowl. Sanchez is 27-20 as a starter in the regular season and has a 4-2 record in the playoffs. Like Tebow, he’s led multiple game-winning drives and who can forget that he’s defeated Tom Brady and the New England Patriots three times over the past three seasons (something no other quarterback in the league has done). Will diehard Jets (and Sanchez) fans revolt if the coaching staff hands the ball over to Tebow as the starting quarterback in 2012?

Tick…tick…tick…

Whether its comments by Coach Rex Ryan, or issues involving players and/or fans, the Jets always seem to be in need of a PR makeover. Now, Tebowmania is about to sweep New York and one has to wonder what that means for the city. The team has always needed a “good guy” who can lead the team back to its glory days. Will the arrival of Tebow be the new incarnation of “Linsanity” that Jeremy Lin brought to the New York Knicks? Or are we looking at a quarterback controversy that will bring on a PR nightmare in New York?

Tick…tick…tick…

From a public relations standpoint, both the Broncos and Jets will be interesting to watch this season. You have to wonder what happens to the Broncos if Manning gets hurt. How quickly will the backlash come from the fans? How soon will you hear the “I told you so’s” from local sports writers? How will the Broncos be able to save face?

Tick…tick…tick…

And what about the quarterback situation in New York? Will Tebow be the starting quarterback? What about Sanchez? If Sanchez starts the season as the team’s quarterback, and struggles, will the coaching staff be forced to make an immediate change? What if he plays well? Will fans still demand increased playing time for Tebow?

Tick…tick…tick…

Both camps are walking on thin ice right now with fans due to their recent moves. As with any trade, the sky’s the limit for the potential. Who knows? The signing of Manning and trade of Tebow could end up being great for both franchises. But, if something goes wrong, you could easily be looking at a major PR nightmare in both cities.

Tick…tick…tick…BOOM!

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