Thursday, October 29, 2009

`People Are More Interesting Than Things'

"People are more important than things."

My wife and I issue that truth to our children all the time--especially when they argue over who should be able to play with this block or read that book.

In the PR world, there is this variation: "People are more interesting than things."

In short, individuals are far more newsworthy than incidents. And events are much more likely to attract media coverage when you highlight people involved in the event.

Anyone can convey the time, location and other basics of an event. But it takes diligent effort to craft a compelling story linked to that event. This comes to mind on the heels of my current work on behalf of Five Seasons Family Sports Club in Northbrook, where on Sunday, Nov. 15 there will be an indoor triathlon in support of a bone marrow registry drive.

A key figure in the effort is Jim Kepka, a Glenview man who received a bone marrow transplant three years ago (that's him pictured, during the transplant). He and his wife, Angela Russian, are triathletes as well as founders of an organization dedicated to helping others receive the same life-saving gift that Jim got around Christmas 2006.

You can see the story here at

Monday, October 26, 2009

Showing, Not Just Telling, At Business Expo

Last week, I was an exhibitor at "A Passport to Success," the business-to-business Expo sponsored by the Elmhurst Chamber of Commerce & Industry and three other chamber organizations (Bensenville, Villa Park and Addison.)

At the same time, as the event's publicist, I took close to 100 photographs and about 20 videos.

You can see some of the fruits of my video labor at what I call my "miscellaneous" YouTube channel, not to be confused with my Inside Edge PR channel or any of the other dozen channels that I have created and maintained for clients and others.

I also posted a release, drawn almost entirely from an Elmhurst Chamber write-up, at and, on the same Tribune-owned site, created a photo gallery of the Expo.

Additional links can be found on the home page of the Elmhurst Chamber of Commerce & Industry website.

Serving as the event publicist was a fantastic way to meet people and to adhere to one of my mantras: "Show, don't tell."

In short, I was able to introduce myself as a publicist even as I was in the midst of acting as one. It sure beats relying solely on my business card, brochure and a firm handshake (though those are no doubt helpful, too).

I am hardly unique: it's precisely what was done by many others who demonstrated their service and products.

They included stellar restaurant exhibitors (like Bob Tercall of Two Chefs in Bensenville, pictured) that provided food samples as well as my new favorite massage therapist, Anne Lucas of Pure Harmony Massage (also pictured), who let her hands do the talking via chair massages.

Kudos to all the chambers and participants for fostering such a dynamic networking environment. The ones that did at least as much showing as telling will surely be reaping the most benefit.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

E-Mail Interviews Can Aid Shoestring PR Budget

As a reporter, I rarely used e-mail to conduct interviews.

Among other drawbacks, it eliminated the opportunity to elicit insights that would take the interaction in an unanticipated and even more interesting direction. And in potentially adversarial conversations, it prevented me from catching a slippery source off-guard with a tough question or observing their body language and tone of voice.

But as a publicist, e-mail can be a tremendous ally, especially when working with clients on a limited budget. As a means to gather basic background information that helps put flesh on the bones of a news release, an e-mail exchange can be tremendously effective

Instead of taking upwards of a half-hour or more to extract that information, I can take five or 10 minutes to toss some queries at an individual and let them provide written responses.

The utility of this approach hinges largely on the client's ability to offer detailed answers in a timely manner. If they don't give enough detail--and don't do it quickly enough to meet some looming deadlines to ensure the timeliness of a release--then trying the e-mail shortcut can backfire and result in an even longer, costly process.

A recent scenario in which this avenue worked very well: a news release I crafted for Brian and Jun Benakos (pictured), owners of George's CARSTAR in Chicago.

You can see the release here at

Monday, October 12, 2009

Anything Can Go Viral: `Reporter Turns Ghetto'

PR 101 Tip: act as if everything you say, write, e-mail, broadcast, or otherwise communicate holds the potential to be transmitted worldwide.

Check out this YouTube clip, entitled "Reporter turns ghetto in 3 seconds," that illustrates the point, in hilarious fashion, 4.6 million times over:

Friday, October 2, 2009

A Post-Script to Chicago's Unsuccessful 2016 Olympic Bid

Whether they supported the 2016 Olympic bid or not, Chicagoans are in a state of shock that the city failed to make it out of the 1st round today, let alone did not emerge with the site selection.

And now comes the Friday-afternoon quarterbacking. Among the questions already being raised: Is it possible that Chicago "overdid" the PR push that included President Obama's reversal and decision to speak in Copenhagen?

The International Olympic Committee's 100-odd members vote in private, so we may never know the rationale fully. But I reject any notion that the U.S., embodied by Chicago leadership, tried "too hard."

That's akin to saying a sprinter who finished 4th in the Olympics, just shy of the Bronze, tried too hard. If anything, it was a matter of poor execution.

Next time--if there is a next time for Chicago--they should make sure that the focus is on what's in it for the international community more than how it would benefit Chicago.

As I stress to my PR clients, the key to successful media outreach is focusing on giving reporters, editors and producers what they need. Once you do that, then you will get what you want.