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Archive for the ‘Public Relations’ Category

Write-me-a-letter

By Linda Cronin

I’ve had this conversation with a few people lately, so I thought it was time to expose everyone to the world of editing.

When I edit anything — ad copy, press release, bylines, articles, etc. — there are two ways I edit. The amount of time I have dictates which way I edit.

Method 1: Grammar and punctuation

The first time I look over anything I go through word for word and edit for grammar and punctuation. I have to do this first or I can’t really even concentrate on what the words are saying. I don’t want to be caught up in the misspelled words, misplaced commas and wrongly used semicolons.  When people ask me to do a quick read, this is typically what they get. It is down and dirty and just gets the basics done.

Method 2: Content

When I am given the time, I then reread the writing for its content. This is when I can tell if thoughts are conveyed well, if the introduction ties to the main point and if a conclusion wraps everything together. For RFP reviews, this is when I can add my own ideas or challenge the ones presented.

So, when I am editing, I always try to find out what my colleague / client needs. Do they need method 1, 2 or both? People usually don’t take offense to method 1, but 2 is where you can easily start ruffling some feathers. However, I believe it is important for every writing to be analyzed in both ways. This allows for clean, strong copy to be presented, which is ultimately good for you and for your client.

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As newspapers close their doors and magazines cease circulation, more and more journalists are stepping over to what many of them once considered the “dark side.” PR agencies are now populated with former journalists who bring their newsroom experience to the PR industry.

My concern with this is everyone seems to assume that every journalist is a good fit for PR. This isn’t true. Just because you’ve been on the receiving end of a pitch doesn’t mean you can make one.

Journalists are also used to telling everything. They dig for the secrets and bring them to the forefront. Many times in PR there are certain items that aren’t fit to publish or are said in confidence. This is a hard lesson for many journalists to learn. Sometimes the good (getting published) doesn’t out way the bad (secret revealed).

Also, there is a whole other side to PR than just pitching the media. Client services play a huge role in being a successful PR professional. Are you able to be an expert for your client? Can you handle managing a budget? Can you prepare a yearlong plan of strategies that will reach the client’s target audience? Do you know how to speak to the client when those strategies fail? Are you able to say no when the client’s idea just isn’t right? These are items you aren’t born with and definitely don’t learn while being a journalist. They are ones every PR professional must learn and that takes time. 

I’m not trying to say never hire a former journalist. I work with ones who bring fantastic insight and strong ideas to the table. I’m just asking the entire industry to pause and think about this a little more before every laid-off journalist jumps into agency life.

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Chris Brogan’s post last week “Take Charge of Your Career” made me start thinking about my own career. What can I do to help me grow as a professional? Here are a few things I’ve come up with. 

1. Mentor. By mentoring others I can learn so much more about myself and my career. Last week we had a job shadower in our office, and it was great to see someone so anxious to learn. That enthusiasm is contagious and something I need — something we all need.

2. Be mentored. I am not done learning. There are so many areas where I need help and need to grow. By asking for help and learning from others I will become a better asset to my company and to my clients. It is important to never stop learning and to always think you can learn more. 

3. Reach out to others. My whole purpose behind this blog  and my Twitter account is to interact with people I may otherwise not have met. I want people to provide me with insight into what is working in their careers. I want them to challenge my thinking.

4. Read. I only wish there was more time in the day to read all the great things people are writing. I subscribe to a number of RSS feeds and e-mail subscriptions, but even with that I don’t always have enough time to read everything. However, I am trying to prioritize my workday to ensure I can gain value from all the great suggestions out there. 

What else do you suggest? How can I grow? What have you found successful in your career?

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  I’m waiting to see someone take the senior community by storm by creating a social media campaign that really reaches the older demographic. Yes, seniors are not known to be bloggers and rank the lowest in social media engagement studies. However, the demographic is growing.

If you think about it, there are many benefits to targeting seniors through this method. For one, seniors have the time. Many seniors are looking for someone or something to fill their post-retirement time. Engaging them in social media is the perfect thing to give them something to do and also help them feel connected to the mainstream population. 

Secondly, seniors are a growing demographic. This means it is an important audience to reach because of its buying power. Thus if you can make social media work for you, it can turn into a huge boom for your product.

 But while seniors are becoming more computer literate expecting them to  jump online and start blogging or adding you as a friend on Facebook is unrealistic. You have to create an avenue that seniors can understand and don’t feel overwhelmed by.

Then you have to introduce them to this avenue through channels they are already used to. Utilize their affinity to share their stories to help them connect. Have instructions. Make the page / site senior friendly. And know that whatever you create for seniors will not also reach teenagers. These are two different audiences and need to be approached in different ways.

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We’re only three weeks into 2009, and I can already see the big pitfall facing PR professionals (and in some way all businesses) this year — social media. I know what you’re thinking. Social media has been listed on almost every list as the trend of 2009. But that is the problem. 

For every new client coming this year, it seems like the natural reaction is they need a social media campaign. It isn’t true. Social media doesn’t work for every client. It isn’t the end all be all of PR strategy. It is really important that we, as PR professionals, take a step back and really think about the why. 

The strategy of a social media campaign is just as important as the strategy behind the entire PR campaign. You have to think about your target audience and how they can be reached. Certain demographics are on Twitter. Different ones are on Facebook. Way different ones are on MySpace. Suddenly jumping into everything social media with a Twitter account, Facebook page, blog, LinkedIn account, YouTube channel and Flickr page isn’t the way to go.

A social media campaign shouldn’t be done just for the sake of doing one. That’s the pitfall. So as you are planning for new clients and old, be sure you equip them with the right tactics to achieve their goals.

What do you think? What are the other pitfalls facing PR professionals this year?

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RSS feeds are the primary way I read blogs. And what I’ve noticed is the lack of power in the first paragraph of posts. You see, many feeders only run the first paragraph, thus if you don’t make your point up front, your reader is going to miss out on all the great things you have to say later. This will address how you can improve that opening paragraph. 

It is one of the golden rules of journalism … you have to captivate your audience with the lead paragraph. If not, they’ll move on to something else. This still holds true for blog posts. You must captivate your reader with the first paragraph or they may never make it to the second.

There are two key elements to starting your post off right.

1. State the problem. Something obviously spurred you to write the post. Refer to it here. 

2. State how the solution will be presented. Is this a list? Just ramblings of your idea? Do you have eight solutions to talk about. Make sure the reader knows what they’re going to get.

No blogger can rely on his / her reputation to ensure people will read the whole post. People are busy. Make sure you give them what they want up front, so they can choose whether they want to continue reading.

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A crisis situation is never fun. When you get that call you feel it in the pit of your stomach. However, as a PR professional, that is what I am here for. To get my clients through the good times and bad.

I’m not going to go into details about the situation I faced last week that sparked this post because part of handling a crisis is helping it dies down quickly. So instead, here are a few tips I have learned on how to work a crisis situation:

1. Get the right team members involved. Crisis situations are not the time to go at things alone. In my situation last week, I was brought in because I had the best knowledge of the client. We brought in two team members who are former journalists who helped monitor coverage, we brought in our agency’s leadership team to provide their wealth of knowledge and  brought in our public affairs specialist to handle the spokesperson duties that the situation required. Everyone has strengths. Use them. A team effort will help things be solved correctly and speedily to the client’s benefit. 

2. Don’t be afraid to offer advice. Even though we are supposed to be the expert, in many situations PR professionals still wait around for directions from the client. That is not what we are here for. It is important to take control of the situation, provide a plan of what needs to happen and then make it happen. Don’t sit on the sidelines. Your client is looking for leadership, so take the reins and get things done.

3. Learn at the end of the day. There are few, possibly never, times at the end of the day when we can say everything went right. Each day is a learning opportunity and so is each crisis situation. You must pause and talk about what went right, what went wrong and what you can do next time around. Was the response quick enough? Was the media coverage controlled? Is your client happy?

4. Follow-up with client. It is very important for you to learn what you could do better, but it  is also important to help your client improve. While we would all like to think that crisis situations are isolated incidents, it is not the case. Meet with your client and talk through what both sides can do to make the situation go smoother next time. Is a crisis communications plan needed? How about media training? Maybe your contact info needs to be spread to more people to help ensure a speedy response when a crisis happens. 

What was your best crisis communication situation? Do you have a plan that is passed out to all of your clients? Who do you bring in when a crisis happens?

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