Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Power of Getting it On Video: From Youth Hoops to Your Next Public Relations Campaign

Did I mention that my son is a budding basketball star?

Well, to put it more modestly, he tallied his first points in a competitive basketball game earlier this month. To be more precise, I could tell you how he gained control of an up-for-grabs pass (very common among 7- and 8-year-old hoopsters), positioned his body to protect it from a defender, set his feet, eyed the rim and then launched a 12-footer from his right hip.

The ball caromed off the backboard and swished perfectly through the hoop.

Yes, I could recite all of those details--and provide further embellishment. Or I could simply direct you to click on the video below (less than 30 seconds).

Which is more compelling? More apt to catch your attention and create a more lasting impression?

As much as I'd like to think that my writing is poetic and powerful, in certain instances, like this one, it's no match for video.

As I noted in the first Tips From the Inside Edge post nearly three years ago, video is a powerful public relations ally for a number of reasons. Here are three:

1. They tell the story directly to the world, without needing any intermediary's approval or being subject to any intermediary's mistakes of omission or commission.

2. They offer the media a more compelling story suggestion, and can tip them across that intangible line, from somewhat interested to very interested, which means all the difference between taking a pass on the story to passing along the story idea to the assignment producer or editor.

3. If the media pursue the story, it provides them with a resource to share with their audience, further expanding your reach via both traditional (media) and non-traditional (user-generated websites) means.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

What To Do When Oprah (Or Anyone Else) Calls

More than 90 percent of my clients say Oprah's name when discussing their PR goals. Typically, the words "want" and "get on" are in close proximity to the wildly successful talk show host's name.

While Oprah's talk show is nearing the end, shows like hers are an enduring part of the media landscape.

Susan Harrow is a top publicist (http://www.prsecrets.com/) who provides a wealth of practical insight on how to get on shows like Oprah. Unlike some teleseminar speakers, who drone on about how you can attend a two-day conference for some sum of money to learn the real scoop on Subject XYZ, a classy, professional Harrow teleseminar that I tuned into a few years ago was loaded with practical insights.

One subject that she covered was what to do when you get the call from a producer showing interest in you as a potential guest. (It likely is not enough to have a great guest idea--you've got to show that you are well prepared as well!)

Here are some of my notes:

1. Before you speak to the producer, ask: "What angle are you thinking about here, and how do you see the show unfolding?" (You are asking for their needs.)

2. During the conversation (any conversation, but especially high-stakes ones), ask, “Am I on the right track, is this what you're looking for?” (Remember, it is not a monologue, but a dialogue).

3. At the end of the call, go for the close: "Do you think I'm the right guest for this show?"

4. If you are not a fit, ask, "How else can I help?" or "What are you looking for?" (Be a team player---it nurtures a relationship long-term.)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Reflections of 1991: A Valentine's Greeting to My Former Colleagues at The Courier-News

From the front page of the Feb. 15, 1991 edition of The Courier-News in Elgin, Ill.
This past Sunday was the 20th anniversary of my start with The Courier-News of Elgin, Ill.

When Mike Bailey hired a 22-year-old guy who had trouble navigating his way to the newsroom all the way from Chicago, it was for an eight-week period to fill in for a reporter on maternity leave.

As it turned out, the reporter decided to stay home with her baby, and Bailey decided that I could stick around longer.

It set into motion an eight-year period in my career that I appreciate more with each passing year.

Before moving on in March 1999, I had the good fortune of working alongside dedicated professionals, of having the chance to do wide-ranging, important work, and of learning a ton all along the way.

One of my first assignments, during Week 2 at the newspaper, was a feature story on Valentine's Day 1991 about 25 couples who chose that romantic day to get married at the Kane County Courthouse in Geneva. (You can click on the image above to read more.)

The last few years, I've kept the piece on my office wall, with the idea that it would be fascinating to catch up with a few of those couples today, see how they're doing--and whether they remain married.

A few weeks ago, I suggested such a follow-up to my former colleagues. No reply yet, and I understand if they don't have a chance to pursue it. Resources are so limited and personnel so stretched today in the newsroom.

Thanks largely to social media, many of us have stayed in touch. Two months ago, when the paper's office at 300 Lake St. closed after more than a half-century (though the paper continues on), we had a mini-reunion.

Being the PR guy now, I shot photos as well as videos that you can find on one of my YouTube channels.

So, if nothing else, I suppose this post is my Valentine's greeting to all of those who played such an instrumental part in my years at The Courier-News--the few who remain and the many who have gone on to other endeavors.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

When Pitching the Media, Keep it Brief

Unless you've been on the receiving end of a story pitch, you likely don't appreciate the urgency of being succinct in those interactions.

Having been on the receiving end of such pitches for about 20 years, I can assure you that the goal ought NEVER be selling the reporter, editor or producer on a story--that's asking too much, too soon.

When I reach their voicemails (the usual scenario, as most don't pick up the phone), I leave a brief message with the gist of my call and a heads-up that I’m about to e-mail more detailed information.

Those e-mails all lead with the phrase “Following up from the voice mail I just left for you…”

When reaching an individual directly, my first goal is to pledge brevity. How I typically start: “Are you on deadline, or is this a good time to talk for 30 seconds?”

Such a courtesy signals that I know their world—and I am not about to waste their time. Saying “30 seconds” is intentional—when people trot out “Do you have a minute?” they usually don’t mean 60 seconds, but upwards of 10 minutes.

Now, if someone starts to engage you and you stay on the phone longer, that's great. But it has to be their call.

Your objective in calling is not to “close a sale” as they cheerily promise to crank out a story. Rather than closing anything, you want them to open up.

Warm ‘em up to the idea that the e-mail you're about to send is worth serious consideration, instead of the reflexive tap of the DELETE key.