Friday, August 29, 2008

Media Free-For-All Presents Opportunity

Some thoughts spring to mind on the heels of the Democratic National Convention, where bloggers played an increasingly influential role.

In 2000, when I began working a four-year stretch as a freelance reporter for Time magazine's Chicago bureau, I was amused by the speed with which sources returned my calls.

If I had called those same people less than a year earlier, toward the end of my eight-year stint at a relatively small daily newspaper (see my newspaper photo, circa 1998), the response rate would not have been nearly the same.

Back then, sources could pretty well gauge the reach and clout of a given media outlet and respond--or not--accordingly. Nowadays, as communication channels have expanded exponentially, the landscape has changed. Today's media titan may well be on the outs tomorrow, and vice versa.

This presents a major opportunity for any professional communicator, whether they wear the hat of blogger, journalist, publicist or beyond, to jump into the fray and distinguish themselves as a first-class story-teller.

That is something that will never go out of vogue--the ability to tell stories in a clear, engaging way that informs and/or entertains your audience.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

She Ought To Be In (More) Pictures...

One of my favorite people, Gloria Onischuk, was featured in today's Oak Leaves.

With a story bearing the headline, "Local B & B's doors open to filmmakers," reporter Patrick Butler did a solid piece on Gloria's work over the years with Chicago-area film crews, commercial crews and other visual arts projects.

I'm so happy for Gloria. She's a certifiable hoot who is as generous and kind as she is funny. In April, I began creating an online presence for her at The site has eight videos that are akin to an audition for Gloria, and her beautiful Oak Park home, for anyone seeking a production location.

In addition to developing material for the media, I've done direct outreach to location managers and other decision-makers. It's meant getting back in touch with folks I've been acquainted with over the years: my wife worked for more than 15 years on Chicago-based TV shows and movies, and her sister was a location manager, among other positions, for nearly 20 years locally.

Having Gloria as a client is a family affair in another way: I have done extensive PR for her daughter, Pamela Polvere. She's a top kitchen and bath designer who resides in Oak Park, has a studio in Elmwood Park and serves clients throughout the region.

Pam's online at and you can see a case study of my work with her on the Inside Edge PR website.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

XS Gold Product Launch: Art of the Tease

On the look-out for an insightful overview of XS Gold: Energy Plus?

Then go here.

How do you announce a new product launch?

A. Through a fun--and maybe even funky--video.
B. Through a thoughtfully written news release.
C. What's this either/or business? Create both a video and a written news release.

The answer, of course, is plain to C.

XS Energy Drinks has begun handling the visual part of that equation to tease the debut of its latest drink variety, XS Gold.

So check out this video clip, which, like any self-respecting world-class miler, checks in with a sub-four-minute time:

Monday, August 25, 2008

Anatomy of A LinkedIn Recommendation

In a recent Inside Edge PR post, I outlined my philosophy of why I write recommendations for as many of my LinkedIn contacts as possible.

In this post, I share some of the how.

My approach to writing recommendations:

1. I do it whenever I feel I have enough knowledge and interaction with someone to write an endorsement with conviction and authenticity.

2. Periodically, I review the list to see if there is anyone whom I've not yet recommended but whose horn I could toot without thinking twice.

3. I try to do it in batches, getting myself in a recommendation-writing mode.

4. I try to provide enough detail that will be useful to both the person I'm writing about as well as those who are seeking to learn more about them.

5. I try, sometimes less successfully than others, to avoid cliches, fawning praise, and long-winded opuses.

6. Where and when appropriate, I like to interject some humor.

7. Here's a new step: I just began to offer to put my words in writing, on my company letterhead, if someone wants it. I also ask if there's anything they'd like me to revise, or add, that may be of particular help (as long as I believe in the change).

8. I do it without asking for a recommendation in return. If someone decides to reciprocate, I appreciate it. But this isn't about obligating others to gush about how wonderful I am.

For a look at the recommendations I've made on LinkedIn, go here.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Barack Blunders By Biden His Time

What was Barack Obama doing on Friday night? Was he simply Biden his time before pressing "send" on the Text Message Heard 'Round the World?

Sorry, couldn't resist the wordplay with Sen. Joe Biden's presumptive vice-presidential nomination.

Cyber-memo to Barack's handlers: next time you pull a text-stunt, have the common sense to actually pull it off! Millions of non-text subscribers already had the news before you bothered to alert the non-press.

Besides, providing a 3 p.m. alert on Friday would have been so much better, in so many ways, than the 3 a.m. Saturday wake-up call. It would have created a buzz that lasted from the end of the workweek all the way into everyone's early-weekend activities.

While I noted in a recent post that Mary Schmich of the Chicago Tribune said she was "using" Obama, that wee-hour notification was nothing short of abuse!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

My Recommended LinkedIn Route

At this writing, I have 94 connections on LinkedIn, the professional online networking site.

But the figure that I'm more focused on is 35.

That's the number of my connections for whom I've written recommendations. In my observation, most folks have a recommendation rate of less than 10 percent, some recommend maybe 1 out of 100 contacts, and still others have monumental lists of people, into the hundreds, with nary a recommendation in sight.

What makes those lists any better than a glorified address book?

Over the past two years, I've decided to take a markedly different approach and emphasize quality over quantity in my LinkedIn world. My reasoning is simple: I want to share honest praise about people whom I respect and value. After all, that's often why I want to Link-In with them in the first place.

There are some potential benefits in the process.

First, because recommendations are relatively scarce, they stand out and visitors are more apt to read them and click on the recommender's name to learn more about his or her background.

Second, as a writer, recommendations are an opportunity to showcase my ability to communicate. And, it shouldn't be overlooked, you need not be a writer for that skill to be deemed a relevant professional asset.

By the way, here's the door to my LinkedIn profile.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Trib's Text-ellent Obama VP Column

Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich today shares an on-target, tongue-in-cheek perspective of Barack Obama's VP-announcement-by-texting maneuver.

Her hilarious, and honest, headline: "Barack's using me, but I'm in it for the text"

Unlike Mary, as I noted in a post last week, I've opted to get that news flash at some point shortly after the Text Read 'Round The World.

We live in a different era than, say, the one in which Jimmy Carter selected Walter Mondale as his vice president. That pick certainly came with about 1/1,000,000th the anticipation of Obama's running-mate.

In related non-news, John McCain has not yet picked his VP, either.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

$100K Mistake Gets Wallet-Popped!

The Udelsons' garage saga in Riverside, Illinois made it onto WalletPop today, with a piece by Geoff Williams.

Bearing the headline "You CAN Fight City Hall...with the right blog," the post offers praise to the online advocacy approach.

Williams begins the post with these words:

"It's always interesting to see how people use the internet in creative ways for their own benefit. The latest in the hey, why didn't I think of that category may be a web site in which a married couple calls out their government officials on the carpet and lets everyone know how they've been doing, or not doing, their jobs."

Monday, August 11, 2008

Barack Obama's PR Machine At It Again

Breathlessly, Barack Obama's PR machine is offering to let Joe and Josephine Lunchbucket be the first to know of Obama's VP choice. In a recent e-mail to supporters, David Plouffe, his campaign manager, wrote:

"You are the ones who built this campaign, and Barack wants you to be the first to know who will join him in leading our movement for change.

So, if you haven't signed up to receive an email or a text message, sign up now. Or you can text VP to 62262 from your mobile phone.

Make sure to forward this message to your friends and let them know about this special opportunity."

It's yet another sign that Obama's campaign is seeking to break new ground this political season by leveraging all the media options at their disposal. Call me jaded, but I think I'll just wait those extra 52 seconds to get word from a 'second-hand source,' such as the Associated Press.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Peter Shankman, One HARO-ic PR Force

A quick public service/public relations service message today:

If you are in the PR business--or even if you're not--you should know about Peter Shankman.

You may recall a previous post in which I credited Shankman with inspiring my idea for the U.S. Department of XS Energy.

This year, in particular, Shankman has shown why he is a creative force to be reckoned with. Perhaps his biggest endeavor has been extending his reach with Help A Reporter Out, or HARO, a service that matches journalists with sources and has ProfNet quaking in its stale boots.

I recently wrote a review of Shankman's book, Can We Do That?! Outrageous PR Stunts That Work--And Why Your Company Needs Them.

Go here to check it out.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Paris Hilton: Late To the XS Energy Party

Less than a month after the Chicago Sun-Times featured XS Energy Drink's proposal to create the U.S. Department of XS Energy, the Chicago Tribune is getting in on the tongue-in-cheek act.
In an editorial headlined "A Cabinet job for Paris?" in today's edition, the Trib discusses Paris Hilton's mocking video response to John McCain's ad lumping Barack Obama into the Paris-Britney Spears celeb column.

The editorial concludes, "So, how about Paris Hilton for U.S. secretary of energy? She's tanned, she's rested, she's totally ready. And for the first time, we'd have an energy secretary every American could name."

With all due respect to Ms. Hilton, and the Trib's editorial board, I feel obliged to issue this reminder: David Vanderveen, the proposed secretary of the U.S. Department of XS Energy was tanned, rested and totally ready a full month ago.

Compare the competing videos here:

XS Energy

Paris Hilton

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Hangin' Out With Helen

Yesterday, during a lull in Helen Karakoudas' deadline-packed day as managing editor of Wednesday Journal, Inc., I spent a few hours interviewing her for a story in Medill magazine.

Hers is a remarkable journalism journey. A highly coveted editor coming out of college 25 years ago, Helen worked for two years at the Charlotte Observer.

With a marriage in the offing, she left there in July 1985 and moved to Massachusetts, where she figured she'd find another editing job and continue along her career path. It wasn't until 18 years later, however, that re-entered the field when The Dallas Morning News had the wisdom to hire her.

To learn more, you'll have to read my profile, still in draft mode and coming out in the fall.

I first met Helen in March 2003, when she attended the American Copy Editors Society (ACES) conference in Chicago. She sat in on my session on numeracy (Go Figure: Making Numbers Count), introduced herself and, one way or another--I forget if she offered or if I asked--began voluntarily editing my Go Figure column to whip it into markedly better shape before I sent it to state press associatons across the country.

Helen, by far, is the most skillful, insightful and inspired editor I've ever had in my career. No word, punctuaction mark, sentence structure, transitional phrase--or any other element--is too trivial for her to cross-examine, re-work, or otherwise upgrade. Of this I am certain: Helen would have a field day with that last sentence. And this one.

It was no surprise to me, then, that the Morning News brought her aboard shortly after we met. In February, to my delight, she came to my neck of the woods by becoming m.e. of the Wednesday Journal, Inc., which produces nine weekly papers. She now oversees a staff of 15 full-timers and about 20 freelancers.

The one drawback to my writing about Helen for the alumni magazine: journalistic ethics prevent her from editing the piece!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Jilted By a Journalist? Get Over It!

Three weeks ago, I tipped off The Daily Chronicle in DeKalb, Ill. to what I feel is a compelling story: a 55-year-old woman named Joanne Schutt is enjoying greater mobility, thanks to a technological advance known as the WalkAide.

As an associate of Plunkett & Associates, I made the pitch on behalf of Scheck & Siress, an orthotic and prosthetic company that has been instrumental in helping Joanne (pictured here on this post) by fitting her with the WalkAide and providing follow-up care, largely through the efforts of prosthetist Dan Hasso.

I contacted The Daily Chronicle because Joanne resides in Sycamore, on the edge of their circulation area. An editor agreed that the story had merit, assigned a reporter to the story, and I connected her with Joanne. The result: this piece on Sunday, Aug. 3.

If you check it out, you'll see that there's nary a mention of Scheck & Siress, or Dan Hasso, in the story.

At this point, I can make one of two choices:

1. Get upset with the newspaper (aka The Short-Term, It's All Personal Entitlement Attitude).

After all, I'm the one that passed along the idea in the first place, set up the interview with Joanne, and made my client's connection to her progress abundantly clear. Where's mine?

2. Get over it--and get another story suggestion to the paper, whether for the same client, another one or no client at all. In short, I can strive to be a helpful resource once again. (aka The Long-Term, It's All Professional Attitude).

After all, the newspaper has 364 other editions annually, numerous other sections, with endless opportunities to pursue stories that I pitch.

My next move is simple: #2.

Besides, through its website and other communications, Scheck & Siress can still communicate its role in helping Joanne as it refers to The Daily Chronicle story.

And I suppose that's partly what this blog post is about. Same with this video of Dan Hasso talking about the impact that WalkAide has had on Joanne:

Monday, August 4, 2008

August: The Dog Days of Publicity

Quick note today: one of my clients, Downtown Oak Park, received nice coverage of the mass dog wedding slated for Oct. 4, in Neighbors magazine. The monthly publication gave the event front-page treatment, with a full-page story inside derived from the news release I developed in June.

For more detail, go here.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Repeat After Me: Less. Is. More.

More and more lately, I've found myself saying a simple phrase, over and over again.

"Less is more. Less is more. Less is more."

That's why I try--all too often in vain--to keep my blog posts brief. To edit text, in whatever context, so that it gets closer to its absolute essence. And why, recently, I asked my web designer, Sherri Lasko to take a gander at a colleague's website and offer feedback on what I perceived to be an all-too-cluttery design.

Her remarks were too insightful for me to relegate them solely to my e-mail "in" box. So, with Sherri's permission, I share some relevant excerpts here:

"...if the design doesn’t make sense with the flow of copy, neither will the reader’s eye. White space & organizational rules exist to prioritize & thus help the reader visually sort and quickly find what they need. This page is kind of the equivalent of a restaurant menu that isn’t separated into categories.

One should always think of their marketing (video and print) with the underlying rule:
You have 3 seconds to visually convey your message – what’s the most important thing someone should remember?

As I see it, there are 3 headlines (or headline areas) – NONE of which have the person’s name or business. THAT is the first thing you want people to see when they land on your page.

If you really MUST have that much copy at the head of your web page, the menu needs to be pulled to the side --- otherwise it’s lost.

Bottom line: one needs to respect the reader’s time and make it as clear, easy & quick as possible to find the info they are interested in. Readers are much more likely to click once or twice in a clear menu, than to scroll through lines of copy & elements that aren’t relevant to what they’re looking for..."

More or less, what Sherri is sharing so eloquently: less is more.