Wednesday, February 25, 2009

PR Focus: Picture this....and this...and this

For more than a year, I have helped McAdam Landscaping share stories about the breadth, depth and quality of its work with the Chicago-area media, as well as nationally.

Increasingly, a pivotal part of that story can be told via photographs, such as ones that are included in this post.

The photos were among those that led to McAdam's receiving an award for commercial maintenance from the Illinois Landscape Contractors Association.

Media outlets provide simple tools for posting multiple photographs to complement written content, and it's an avenue that companies and organizations ought to capitalize on more often.

North Shore magazine, for example, is interested in printing a few photographs from a charity fundraiser that was held in January at Five Seasons Sports Club in Northbrook, another Inside Edge PR client.

At sites like, there are "photo gallery" features that enable anyone to post a variety of photographs that showcase any given story.

You can see samples of some recent Inside Edge PR photo postings here and here.

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Mega-Fun News Release On Biz Program

As anyone who knows me well can attest, my life the past three months has often revolved around coordinating the Shop the Village program that debuted in Oak Park.

Today marks a high point of the campaign, which has been focused on stimulating commerce among more than 100 participating merchants from across the community. On Sunday afternoon, an Oak Park couple discovered that they are holding the Mega-Gift ticket, worth more than $4,000 in gifts, services and other prizes.

The couple, Paul and Polly Grimes, e-mailed me shortly thereafter and we coordinated a meeting today, where I confirmed they had the winning ticket and passed along all the prizes.

The Grimeses shared a delightful story that thrust me gladly back into the role of reporter as I interviewed them to develop a news release that I issued this afternoon to the local media.

At, you can read the Inside Edge PR news release about the Grimeses' story.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Amid Steroid Era, Aaron's Legacy Shines

The other day, I saw a fantastic cartoon by Mike Luckovich of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

It shows a huge Hank Aaron, the all-time baseball great, towering over the likes of steroid-taking cheaters Barry Bonds (technically, but scandalously, the all-time home run king), Alex "A-Fraud" Rodriguez, Mark McGwire and Roger Clemens.

As you can see by clicking on the image above, the quote bubble coming from Rodriguez reads: "How come when WE take steroids, HE gets bigger?"

It's quite a different scenario than 1998.

That is the year McGwire and Sammy Sosa captivated baseball fans with their single-season home run record chase. At the time, I was a reporter for The Courier News in Elgin, Ill., and wrote a column called "By the Numbers."

It was all the excuse I needed to research 80 years of baseball's most fearsome sluggers' statistics, to see how McGwire, Sosa and others stacked up against history.

Along the way, I invented the Home Run Power Ratio, a home run inflation index that enables relevant comparisons between players from various generations by objectively gauging how they fared against their peers.

I wrote various pieces on the HRPR, including one for a grand baseball publication called The Elysian Fields Quarterly.

Then, at the end of the 1999 season, Sports Illustrated, published
a brief piece, "Home Run Standouts," on the HRPR.

Alas, the numbers don't seem so objective any longer, as revelations about steroid use continue to dog some of the game's biggest names.

The latest is Rodriguez, the heir apparent to the career home run record. Long known as "A-Rod," he will forevermore have to live with the "A-Fraud" label.

And in terms of legacy and reputation, that's one development impossible to fully measure.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

My Two Cents on Humor's Pivotal PR Role

Last Friday, when I let newspaper editor Helen Karakoudas know that I had a "timely and hilarious" news release coming her way, she immediately gravitated to the "hilarious" half of that promise.

"Now you've got my interest," said Karakoudas, managing editor of Wednesday Journal, Inc.

I was referring to my effort on behalf of Charo's Hair Design and Day Spa, involving former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his wellspring of hair.

Karakoudas posted the story on the paper's web site a few hours later, and the media ball had begun rolling.

Communicating with a sense of humor, clearly, is an immense aid, no matter who you are and no matter what your professional (or amateur) pursuit.

When I was a newspaper reporter, having a sense of humor was an indispensable part of how I built rapport with people, either one-time interviewees or long-term sources.

Did they always appreciate my humor? I strongly doubt it. But at least I tried, and it's something that I continually strive to weave in to my everyday interactions as I meet a steady stream of new people, from prospective clients to folks riding the elevator with me to dealings with the cashier at Trader Joe's.

In my experience, the key is authenticity--to work with whatever humor God gave you, and not try too hard. In sports, this is called "letting the game come to you." In day-to-day life, it springs forth from being an active, attentive listener--not constantly thinking of what I will say next--and identifying the lighter side of things.

On the sense-of-humor front, publicist Wayne Pollard wrote an essay that appeared in today's Bulldog Reporter. And guess what? Not only does it contain excellent content, but it's quite funny, too.

I highly recommend you read Pollard's piece, "Tough Times Call for Laughter: Obama and Reagan Got It—Why Doesn't PR?"

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Client Sets Sights--And Shears--On Blago

Public relations can get you into some hairy situations, but in the case of a new Inside Edge PR client, Theresa Charo, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

She has set her sights--and her shears--on former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, and it's triggered an immediate media reaction. More on that momentarily, but first, a recap about Blago:

Perhaps even more than his troubles with federal investigators, he is noted by Americans for his over-healthy crop of hair. For more than two months, his mop-top has been the butt of jokes, digs, jibes and snipes.

Seemingly unfazed and certainly unbowed, Blago has stared down his critics, all the while peering from beneath the thick, dark tresses that conceal his forehead as he declares his innocence.

So it was only a matter of time before someone tapped into widespread public sentiment that the ex-public official could benefit from a haircut--and possibly even a complete Kojak (for youngsters unfamiliar with the term, that's the 1970s TV series starring bald actor Telly Savalas).

With that in mind, you can read an Inside Edge PR news release about Charo, owner of Charo's Hair Design & Day Spa in Elmwood Park, Ill. The story, which received more than 1,000 views at in less than 36 hours this weekend, relates how Charo has extended an offer to cut not only Blagojevich's hair, but also his wife Patti's and their two daughters' hair.

As the Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest noted on Friday afternoon, Charo has even pledged to donate $1,000 if Blago agrees to go Bald-o.

C'mon, admit it, you'd kick in a few bucks if it meant seeing his hair scattered on a salon floor, right?

To see Ms. Charo elaborating on her offer, visit a link to the letter she sent Blagojevich on Friday and/or click on the video below:

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Shop the Village's Mega-Gift Moment

It's been quite a three-month journey with Oak Park's "Shop the Village" and it's coming close to an end.

Last night was the Mega-Gift Drawing, with one ticket out of the estimated 83,000 tickets (about $2.1 million worth of shopping) generated by the program worth $4,000 in prizes from each of the more than 100 participating businesses.

Time will tell who holds the valuable ticket, as I noted on the Shop the Village website and as was reported by the Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest, a huge ally in our program.

A lesson re-learned last night: it's never too late to ask for help.

About 10 minutes before the festivities were to begin, I asked an employee of Park National Bank, the event host, if they had a drawing drum so we could use something appropriately classy instead of the motley gray bucket into which I'd crammed the 83,000 tickets.

A few minutes later, after a search of the basement, she hauled up the drawing drum that we used. Of course, as the photo shows, we had a heck of a time squeezing all the tickets through the small, square gate.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Timely PR: A `Real Estate Reality Check'

It's hardly news to report that real estate values have declined lately.

But if you find a local, specific angle on that general state of affairs, and back it up with some reliable statistics, it can become news to your target audience.

And better still, because you are taking the lead in disseminating the hard data, you automatically position yourself as being at the forefront of transparent communication about this sensitive issue.

And that can't be too bad for business at a time when trust is such a precious commodity. These ruminations date back to a month ago, when one of my newer clients, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Gloor Realty, told me it was about to issue its second postcard in a new series called "real estate reality check."

The firm's president, Richard C. Gloor, asked that I proofread the new piece, which I was happy to do. But I also strongly recommended that we go even further and develop a news release highlighting what his firm is doing.

The result was a news release that struck a chord with Bill Cunniff of the Chicago Sun-Times, who wrote a piece, based on the "reality check." The Sun-Times real estate piece appeared in the Sunday, Feb. 8 edition.

To read the full news release, visit, which lays out what Gloor is doing "to champion candid communication" about the real-estate market. (I couldn't resist the alliterative temptation.)

I also created a blog, Oak Park-River Forest-Forest Park Real Estate, so that anyone can review the raw data that is behind content in the release--an essential element when striving to communicate transparently.

Friday, February 6, 2009

WSL Profiles Five Seasons Sports Club Duo

One of my clients, Five Seasons Sports Club in Burr Ridge, received prominent mention in the current issue of West Suburban Living Magazine, a classy publication that focuses on, well, the western suburbs of Chicago.

It came about in November, when managing editor Brittany Ashcroft asked if I had any candidates for a profile on individuals who "use more unique exercises and routines to stay fit." Through nominations provided by Dawn Hanson, the club's fitness director at the time, I hooked up the magazine with John Monacella and Lisa Scafido.

They are featured early on in the piece by Laura Otto, which you can read by clicking on the images below.

Reprinted with permission. West Suburban Living Magazine Jan./Feb. 2009.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Obama's FOIA Move Holds Key PR Lesson

Though he may well have been driven by even loftier motives, shortly after taking office two weeks ago, President Barack Obama made a decision that, from a public-relations standpoint, was most astute.

To read my piece, "Obama's FOIA Move Holds Key PR Lesson: Open the Front Door," check out the essay at

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Myths To Combat Along The PR Journey

On Monday, through the Small Business Networking Event held at the Oak Park (Ill.) Public Library, I will be sharing public-relations tips with business owners, entrepreneurs and those seeking to launch enterprises of various kinds.

Among the points I will convey are four myths that can sidetrack individuals and organizations from attaining genuine PR success.

Here's one: It’s all about the press release.

Reality: First of all, the proper term is “news release,” since the press is only one of the targets, anyway. In addition, the news release is simply one part—often, but not always, an integral part—of a multi-pronged approach to increasing your target market’s awareness.

Other vital elements to get your message across:

*Creating a professional, dynamic website that clearly communicates what makes your product or service superior to and distinctive from your competitors;

*Understanding what the various media need in a story and then going all-out to fulfill those cravings with timely, localized, visually compelling material.

*Identifying Internet venues where you can connect directly with your audience, such as contributing to a blog, creating a blog of your own, or posting a video on sites like YouTube.

There are numerous other myths and misunderstandings about PR, including:

*If your publicist has strong media connections, then don’t worry about having a great news hook.

*The publicist’s top goal should be media placement—getting as many stories told through the media as possible.

*PR is a contact sport—the key is to flood as many media outlets with your story, then cross your fingers that some will be interested.

For more specifics about the nature of those myths, you can find, on the Resources page of the Inside Edge PR website, PR Success Tips: 4 Myths To Combat Along The Way.