Archive for the ‘public relations’ Category

Important News for PR Writers

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Heads up to all those who write press releases and other content for the web!

Google is changing its search criteria again. But there is good news!

If you are already producing strong, well-written and well-structured news releases, the new criteria will not hurt your communication efforts online. In fact, it might actually end up helping — but only if you’re doing things right to begin with. Here’s a helpful article that explains further, with some useful graphics as well.

Field of Magic: Behind the PR Media Relations Curtain

Sunday, October 4th, 2009

If you’ve seen the ever-fantastic “Field of Dreams” movie, I do not have to remind you of the ghostly whisper, “If you build it, they will come.” You thought about it the second I mentioned the movie, didn’t you?

Well, unfortunately, that same immediate reaction is tied to press releases in public relations — “If you send it, they will come.” Oh! If only that were true!!!

There is so much that goes into a good media relations program — things clients and executives never see. Too often, people think that if it’s a well-written news release and their quotes are strong, of course they’ll be on the front  page! But nothing could be farther from the truth. A great release is just the beginning.

One of the first factors that can make a difference in placing a story is service. We walk a fine line in PR. We want our client or employer to come out on top — they are experts, they have great things going on, etc. But, we also have a service role to fulfill for reporters. We have to give them accurate, objective and newsworthy information. If the release or “news” is too self-serving, vague or incorrect, it is actually harmful to send it out. It hurts our indvidual credibility as well as that of our client, and it decreases the chances of getting coverage ever again from anyone who wasted their time reading our non-news release. Not good.

So, good service — recognizing real news and packaging it appropriately — comprises one of the first steps in a successful media pitch.

I will never forget the time, in my first PR job, where I was asked to send a news release out about a bake sale. This was before the gift of social media. E-mail was just taking off, and there was no web site to speak of. In fact, the whole web site topic was confusing and mysterious. So, back in those days, it was challenging to let people know what was going on. And, since this was a non-profit organization, there was always something going on, but I really did not think we should “waste” a pitch on a bake sale.

I already felt compromised, sending out press releases over borderline events and topics under the organization’s belief that any positive attention would help cut through the competitive non-profit contest for funds. They were probably right, in theory, but I really fought the bake sale news release to the point of fuming. “It’s not news!” I said, until I was blue in the face.

In all honesty, I don’t remember if I won or lost the fight, but I still know that I was right, and this is a small example of an epic battle many have fought in PR. If it’s not news, you cannot “spin” it into anything else. It will fall flat and go nowhere. That’s one guarantee we can make in the realm of media pitching.

I have more to share on this topic, for sure, including other reasons why a great news release might fall flat — even when there’s a newsworthy story to tell. Heck — just a few weeks ago I had a TV news camera at an event, client interviews, the works … and it never ran. Of course, those of us in PR can all relate to a story like that — or the news conference/event where no on comes (I hate that one) — but explaining this to others is difficult, so stay tuned as we continue to lift the PR “Wizard of Oz” curtain a little higher next time.

Heidelberg PR & Tampa Jumpstart say THANK YOU!

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

In public relations, sometimes it’s difficult to show appreciation, but thanks to blogs and tweets and other related things, it’s easier now to thank reporters and editors who have shown interest in story ideas you’ve shared.

I want to thank a few people who have shown great support for our Tampa Bay Small Business Jumpstart program by working on stories to promote our contest and our winner, Wesley Chapel resident, Mike Mayo. This before and after coverage has been very helpful to our TJS team, as well as to our winner, so big THANKS to

Tom Curran, Fox 13
Fred Shrum, Tampa Business Examiner (see his article!)
Editorial team, Tampa Bay Business Journal

There have been others who have taken interest in our story, as well, and we have not forgotten about you either. Thank you for playing a part in sharing some good news with the community, and for letting people know that our award package was available. We also appreciate the reporting on our winner as he launches his new pet photography business, Golden Vision Photography. This has been a community service program from the start, and the support of the local media has helped us realize our vision.

Incidentally, today is the first photo shoot of the mobile photography studio, and the privilege goes to Susan Thurston at TBT, who has been beyond patient in covering this story. Thank you, Susan, for waiting it out. I know your story will be really timely even though it seems like we’ve been batting this around for months.

And, finally, thanks to my new commitment to my business coach, Barb Kyes at ActionCOACH, I will probably be chatting your ear off here at least once a week. Stay tuned!

Interesting insights at USF

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

OK — admittedly, there is a repressed nerd lurking within.

I spent a really invigorating hour today with 6 young ladies who are majoring in PR at the USF School of Mass Communication. For their Advanced PR class, they had to conduct research and prepare a strategic communication plan for the USF College of Arts School of Music, and I was there as a visiting practitioner to give my two cents on their plan.

I think I’ve done this three times now, and I love it every time — especially when I am just there to give input and help with ideas without being the one to have to actually grade the assignment. In fact, I am getting ready to go on our annual trip to Sanibel Island with the family, and I was just telling my colleague how I used to have to schlep along a bunch of project notebooks, final writing projects, and all sorts of grading that really made sitting on the beach difficult. I often wondered what the students thought when their assignments came back gritty and smelling like Hawaiian Tropic.

But anyhow, a few interesting things came out of my time with these gals. First, I was struck by the prevalence of social media recommendations in the tactical section of their plan. It’s right on target, in my opinion, to include Twitter, FaceBook and blogging as communication tools — but what got me was the fact that four years ago these elements were nowhere to be found in student communication plans. Girls, you’re on the right track.

When we first sat down, I went on just a wee bit about Heidelberg PR and my past experience so they could have some perspective and use the knowledge in the future if I can help them out somehow. Then I asked them to tell me a little about themselves. And get this — out of six PR majors, only one of them seemed to have a strong interest in working in the field after graduation!! Hmm … is this a new reality? A developing trend? Or just coincidence?

PR might be the fall-back field for a future physical therapist, an event planner, a comedian, and three undecided gals who already have full-time college-type jobs. And the thing is, from my limited impression, they could all probably be great practitioners.

I am very curious about this. Is something happening to erode our field at the entry-level, or is it just a reality of our economy right now? Are there “no jobs” or are today’s students finding no value in their degree? Are they in the major because they thought it would be an easy way to simply earn any old degree so they can move on to other things?

Another sign of the times … the grad program no longer offers a “public relations” track. It’s now called “Strategic Communication.” This change happened awhile ago, so I’m told, and I’m not opposed the name because it is fitting to the higher levels of our practice. But some would argue that we must protect the body of knowledge called “public relations,” and they worry about the “encroachment” of other fields into the PR arena. The whole concept of integrated marketing communications threw a shockwave through many academic purists, but if you want to be relevant as an educational program, you have to at least acknowledge what is happening in the workplace.

Anyone who thinks a coordinated, wholistic communications plan is a bad idea is not living in reality. Yes, there are different elements and approaches to communications, but there are different sections in an orchestra too — and the power of combined, overlayed or staggered communications all containing the same message points is undeniable. This is strategic communications, but PR and marketing each operating in a vacuum is definitely NOT.

Of course the concern is that marketing will consume PR out in the “real world,” and that’s probably a valid concern simply because marketing departments tend to be bigger and they, in theory, are tied directly to the bottom line company results which gives the illusion of more influence and importance. Consequently, they get bigger budgets to play with. Afterall, why does PR need any money when what they do is “free?” Yes … the debate goes on, and trust me, obtaining earned media coverage is really the only “free” thing about practicing public relations if you are doing it right.

The PR body of theory, though, will advocate for the opposite results. If any discipline is going to dominate, marketing should yield to PR since PR’s concerns encompass all audiences and marketing really only concerns itself with one audience — the customer. How about you guys come over here and play in our sandbox for a while — and bring your budget while you’re at it!

Unfortunately, in the end, valuable things like relationship building, environmental scanning and issues management are hard to measure, so it’s much easier for the rest of the professional working world to simply measure PR success on something they understand — media coverage. What a shame, what a shame … but I digress.

Thank you, Dr. Kelly Werder, for inviting me to assist you this morning, and good luck to all of your students as they approach the end of their PR studies.

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

Networking Event Reviews
February and March, 2009

OK, let’s face it. Heidelberg PR is not immune to the economic downswing. So, before things get too ugly, I decided to get proactive.

First, I added a new service offering to my business – a seminar series that kicks off in a month with “Mastering Public Relations.” I’ve made a lot of progress tapping my professional network to help promote the event, and actually issued the very first Heidelberg PR company news release to the media today. Even though I have done it countless times for clients, it felt odd doing it for my own firm.

Anyhow, that is moving along nicely, including planning for the next two topics: “Successful PR Writing” and “Strategic PR Campaigns.”

Next up, I went a little wild making sure people can find me online. I added the blog, and my web site, is undergoing some optimization upgrades. I twitter and tweet, I’m “linked in” and you can see my smiling mug on Facebook. I signed up for numerous directories to make sure I’m included with all the other local firms when someone goes searching, and I registered for some industry-specific services to strengthen my consulting services. Can I do more here? Oh yes, and I will.

This has all been pretty fun – pursuing a new venture, playing online – but I expected the real fun to be in the networking events I’ve attended thus far. Of course, I treasure my lunches with my colleagues, clients and friends, but I’m talking about events that I’ve either attended with the goal of staying connected with people, or the ones where I went hoping that I’d plant some seeds for future business. So far, it’s a mixed bag.

Now, networking is one of those words that gets loosely thrown around these days, and it can mean just about anything involving a group of people getting together to talk under nearly any circumstances.

Here’s a sampling from my calendar in the last two months. Things that seem purely social can be deceptively productive, and things that should be productive can be total busts, as I have recently experienced. So, before you decide to go “network,” consider your objectives, weigh the results, and determine if you’re going to spend your precious and limited time productively.

Leigh Steinberg Super Bowl Party

My Objectives – support a client partner, support a friend, socialize with other friends, and meet new people

Results – 3 out of 4 objectives met – did not make any significant new contacts even though I worked the media check-in table and interfaced with the Steinberg PR folks for 3 hours and mingled at the party for another 2 hours.

Productive Use of Time Ranking, 1 low, 5 high
Professionally: 3.5 – but only because of my previous relationship with the zoo, who hosted the event
Personally: 5 — Had a great time!

Julie & Jim Heidelberg on the “green” carpet at the Leigh Steinberg party

Susan G. Komen “Pink Tie” Gala

My Objectives – Socialize with PR contacts and friends, meet new people

Results – Once again, quite happy with my ability to socialize with people I know, but the only new person I met was the live auction woman who zipped over at high speed to whisk my credit card out of my hand when I got carried away bidding on a Bahamas trip. Note to all event planners – play emotional video and have personal testimonial immediately prior to live auction. Talk about priming the pump … congrats to those folks on a very nice event, too.

Productive Use of Time Ranking, 1 low, 5 high
Professionally: 5 – no, I did not meet any new people, but I did have some great follow up with both of the PR contacts I sat with. They are both friends and we share resources, ideas and referrals.
Personally: 5 Had a great time again!

PR Pals – Margie Martin, Julie Heidelberg, Cindy Sharpe

PRSA Networking Mixer
My Objectives – Reconnect with PR contacts and friends, meet new people

Results – Sensing a theme here – did well reconnecting with the few folks that I knew from past years serving in the chapter but failed again to connect with anyone new. There were lots of new faces, but the group seemed to hang in clusters with little attempt to blend us all together.

Productive Use of Time Ranking, 1 low, 5 high
Professionally: 3.5 – Once again, the follow up saved me. Unexpectedly, one of my former contacts whom I chatted with that night reached out to me and invited me into his networking group of seasoned PR folks who meet monthly. I had attended a time or two, years ago, but I look forward to checking in out again in May.
Personally: 2 – I enjoyed catching up with those I did talk with, but I didn’t feel quite up for the event that night (had to drive 45 minutes to get there) and I had a hard time making myself get out of the car.

Network of Executive Women Regional Meeting

My Objectives – Support a client, meet new people

Results – Finally!! A breakthrough! While the first two events I listed had some blend of professional relevance and personal enjoyment, I was feeling bummed after the PRSA event where I had high expectations for mingling and outreach. However, I left the NEW event feeling uplifted on a personal and professional level. This is a group of exceptional women from leading local consumer product companies and I really value the opportunity to interact with them. I submitted my membership application at the event, and I thoroughly enjoyed the program. Plus, I met some new people who I certainly hope to talk to again at future NEW events. These are long term possibilities for business cultivation, but I felt I made some headway in initiating a few relationships.

Productive Use of Time Ranking, 1 low, 5 high
Professionally: 4.5 – Made contact with my client, and met new people
Personally: 5 – The speaker, Jan Hill, was fabulous and thought-provoking.

Leadership Hillsborough Alumni Hayride

My Objectives – Reconnect with LH contacts and friends; and, as always, meet new people

Results – Hmmm … there were about 10 or 15 productive minutes where I chatted with some like-minded folks on some relevant public relations topics. There were not very many people there whom I did not already know, so meeting new people was a bit limited. Plus, it’s a very social kind of event, but you never know what might happen.

Productive Use of Time Ranking, 1 low, 5 high
Professionally: 3.5 – the current board chair attended and I had previously asked her to help me promote my seminar to the LH alumni and current class members. She sent out my marketing materials after the event, so it was good to see her and catch up in person. I greatly appreciate her help.
Personally: 5 – I don’t know what to say, except that this is my kind of event. Had a really fun time.

Women’s Networking Event (that’s the official name but they are looking for a new one)

My Objectives – Support a client and business contact, meet new people

Results – As I knew it would be, this was an official networking event. There was ample mingling time, and then we all had our three minutes to give our branding speech and distribute marketing materials, business cards, etc.

Productive Use of Time Ranking, 1 low, 5 high
Professionally: 5 – got to learn about some really unusual businesses as well as share my own firm’s highlights. Also arranged for some follow up with a few people and left with a contact list. All in attendance were encouraged to openly communicate and market to each other.
Personally: 5 – I left satisfied with what occurred and I plan to attend again in May.

Upcoming events:
Tampa Bay Business Journal Mixer
BNI – 3 meetings as a guest