Archive for the ‘EZG’ Category

Thank Goodness for Public Relations

August 6, 2015

Hand to God

Even if you’re not a Broadway fan, there is some news that PR pros need to talk about.  If you haven’t heard, a desperate phone-out-of-battery audience member at a performance of the Broadway Play, Hand to God jumped on stage with his charger in hand.  The anxious theater goer was scanning the theater ready to plug his phone into a visible outlet. Before he could realize that the outlet was fake and simply a part of the set, security intervened and led him back to his seat as to not disrupt the rest of the audience.  Sounds like no big deal right? However, the entire incident only lasted seconds, but the reaction lasted weeks.

The audience member not only delayed the play and interrupted the entire performance, but he also added to the never-ending observation of how attached people are to their phones. Because of this, people were eager to tweet, post and share their opinion about society’s dependence on technology, causing a reaction from Hand to God’s publicity team.

As in any unexpected situation, the reactions go viral immediately- especially in a world where social media runs untamed. The need for thoughtful PR has increased as silly incidents like this one have become more frequent and more viral. The lesson for brands is that they can’t always control the incidents that will spark chatter on social media, but they can control their reactions- especially by using PR.

What’s more, it is exciting to see the story lines and headlines that can result from an unexpected situation. For example, this incident drew attention to the play’s craftsmanship of the set design (due to the realistic outlet). That discussion was a great way to lead to positive attention from the media.

With their own initiatives, the play’s publicity team were able to control the reactions that yielded the most results. They created a hashtag, #Chargergate, created their own video, and even forgave the audience member when he came forward and apologized on camera– right in front of the theater itself. They took advantage of this interruption, and turned it into a full-fledged PR campaign.  And to boot, the buzz encouraged people to ask how they could buy tickets to see the show!

As a PR Account Coordinator, it was interesting to me to watch this event unfold and watch the conversations in the media develop.  I believe that PR pros can make a reactive campaign that works by controlling the conversation on social media  and using the attention to reach overall marketing goals. I give Hand to God’s PR team a standing ovation- they did everything right, and used great responsive PR techniques to boost their brand.

Apple Watch: PR Blunder or PR Perfection?

May 14, 2015

Two words can instantly spark a heated debate: Apple Watch. The device has created two schools of thought- it sucks, or it’s genius. Try to find someone on the fence and you’ll be sorely disappointed. For Apple “fanboys” like me, there’s no doubt it’s a cool device – well-designed, fills a niche no other technology I have does, and above and beyond any other wearable on the market. To everyone else it’s “Why do I need it?” “Why would I spend $800 to not look at my phone as much as I do now?” or “They’re just dumb.” Debate aside, one thing seems to escape everyone talking about it. If you’re debating the watch, Apple’s unmatched PR machine is working.

Does anyone need a smartwatch?
Apple Watch is a hard sell. It has incredible capabilities but do mainstream consumers think they need them? Probably not, but they may want them eventually and Apple has the clout to make that happen. Before Apple Watch, smartwatches were clunky, fairly ugly and nearly all were marketed to the same audience as Casio’s calculator watches from the 80s. They had no mainstream appeal and even less functionality.

On the other hand, Apple has an ecosystem of more than 3,500 apps for Apple Watch alone and 1.2 million on iOS. Developers will innovate new apps specifically for Apple Watch, leading to more coverage of the watch, more interest and more debate as the device’s appeal continues to grow.

Apple is making smartwatches cool.
Apple’s already won the battle in making a smartwatch cooler than they’ve ever been. But is that enough for a device with a price tag ranging from $349 to more than $14,000? Apple’s betting on fashion-aware celebrities and consumers to adopt the watch. And shortly before launch it was already around the wrists of Beyonce, Pharell, Drake, Sam Smith, Katy Perry and Chanel creative director Karl Lagerfeld. Meanwhile the Apple PR team made no small effort to make sure the watch was reviewed by fashion magazines from GQ to Vogue and the most influential watch experts in the world, making the device known as more than just a “mini-computer.”

In order for Apple Watch to be successful it needs to be seen as cool, fashionable, desired, capable and most importantly worth your money. For an item nobody truly needs, Apple’s already proven that they’re able to make people want it. In the end, that’s all that matters. The reviews have been positive (with a caveat here or there), the thousands of articles keep on coming, the debate wages on, yet the bottom line remains – Apple has already sold 3.2 million watches in just over a month.

The Apple Watch is already set to outpace the iPhone in first-year sales. It looks like their PR team is succeeding where others have failed, again.

 

How your pitch can make noise- even amongst jingle bells

December 11, 2014
By Kevin Dooley

Photo: Kevin Dooley

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, or at least that’s what every holiday song leads us to believe. But in PR, the holidays can be a difficult time of the year to capture the media’s attention. Getting a reporter to bite is never an easy task, but this time of year, normal pitching challenges are on overdrive due to the magnitude of holiday angle pitches they must receive.

Contrary to popular belief, reporters do have a life when they’re not on the clock. They visit their families during the holidays, they take vacations, and they may even write “light and fluffy” stories to maintain their beats. And while a PR professional (like you) may have found the perfect reporter for your story, there’s no guarantees that they’re available and willing to take your call or email. At EZG, we like to continue our follow up longer than we normally would to ensure we’re covering our bases.

To stay relevant, and increase your chances of having your pitch be received, the material you send should be short and simple. The end of the year proves to be a time when reporters are rushed, or regularly unavailable, so make your pitch count. Media will not dig through your pitch to find the main points. Present the most newsworthy information at the forefront instead of bogging down an email pitch with flowery language and unnecessary detail.

Additionally, remember that a holiday hook isn’t a guarantee for a press placement. If you are using the holidays as the hook, just remember you’re not alone. Reporters, especially retail and consumer reporters, must receive hundreds of holiday angle pitches a day. Make sure that what you are pitching is actually relevant to the holidays; reporters want stories that fit in with the theme of the holiday season.

No matter what time of year, it’s always a challenge for PR folks to determine what the media is looking for. However, it’s important to embrace the holiday season with finesse, creativity and brevity. With a compelling angle, whether it ties into the holidays or not, your story has a chance of being covered. With a little hard work, the holidays can truly become a wonderland for pitches.

If a blog is written in the blogosphere and no one is around to read it- does it still make a sound?

October 15, 2014
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Photo: Sebastien Wiertz

When I started my own book review blog in 2010, I thought it would be easy to attract readers.  But I quickly learned how wrong my assumption was.  Because the blogosphere is a crowded space, writing great content does not guarantee readers will follow.  After learning this lesson, I had to find ways to push out my content so readers would find it, and then become loyal followers.

Readers of this blog might be wondering, with the plethora of blogs out there how do  writers ensure their content stands out from the crowd?   Without readership- many blog messages can get lost in the shuffle and writers lose the opportunity to showcase their work and get their thoughts/opinions/expertise out to target audiences.

Bottom line- a writer can have a great blog with top-quality content, but without readers the blog’s existence is pointless.  This is why blog promotion is so important. At EZG, we’re constantly coaching our clients to promote their blogs since there is good, quality material in them.

For our readers, we’ve provided three easy tips for gaining blog readership:

  1. Make the blog easy to find

This tip may sound like common sense, but it’s surprising how many websites have a hidden blog tab or link. If site visitors are required to search the site to find the blog content, they will usually not continue the search.  By placing the blog front and center on the homepage, the content maintains visibility by being just a simple click away.

  1. Utilize social networks

A blog lives (and gains popularity) on the internet- and what better way to ensure your blog gets the eyeballs you crave? By spreading it on social networks.  When bloggers tap into their social networks, they’re ensuring hundreds (to thousands) of readers are exposed to the link.

We advise bloggers to share the links to their blogs multiple times a day to reach those who may be surfing the social sites at different times.

Bonus tip* Hashtags and @mentions are great tools for potential readers to find and share blog posts and increase the likeliness the blog link is found by readers. Twitter and Facebook are great places to find communities of other bloggers who are ready and willing to share good content!

  1. Reach out to other bloggers

Does your client (or you) follow a popular blog that covers similar subject areas?  We advise our bloggers to reach out and say hello to the other writer! For bloggers, it’s important to expand the reach of the blog by inquiring to other writers if there is an opportunity for cross promotion or guest blogging.  Bloggers, much like journalists, need content and will often welcome guest posts with open arms.  The blogger will also help promote your guest post through their various networks which expands the reach and credibility of the blog.

As a blogger myself, I have found these tips to be extremely helpful in attracting readers. The blogosphere is crowded, but with a little bit of work you can drive traffic to your blog and attract readers who trust your insights and opinions.

10 Public Relations Mistakes You Should Avoid

July 17, 2014

Let’s face it: even the most seasoned PR professionals make mistakes sometimes.  But the good news is, now you don’t have to be one of them!  The PR team at EZG compiled a list of our top 10 mistakes to avoid in PR so that you can begin your PR efforts with know-how and guidance. 

Mistakes1_july blog post

1. Setting unrealistic expectations
PR can be tough and achieving success can’t be boiled down to an exact technique.  As a PR pro, it can be difficult to predict what will “stick” with reporters and producers, so we must always keep in mind that just because a reporter said ‘no’ to a pitch at one time, it doesn’t mean they will scratch your source/story idea off their list forever. Sometimes it takes some time to see a story idea unfold, and keeping your (and your client’s) expectations realistic will keep your stress level down and make your wins that much sweeter.

2.  Adopting the one-size-fits all approach
Every PR client is different and requires an approach suited for their needs — techniques that might work for some won’t work for others.  By making sure you’re nimble and adaptable in an ever-changing media environment, you can ensure you’re making the right (and tailored) recommendations for your clients.  While some might benefit from receiving regular press release distributions, others will need a more social approach.  By expanding your services, you’re more likely to meet the needs of diverse clientele.

3. Creating a cluttered brand
Quality trumps quantity- always. When it comes to social media, everyone feels the need to take their brand online. If a client is going to be active on social media, make sure you come up with a strategy to produce engaging content that is relevant to their brand. It’s better to have fewer posts that follow a set strategy than a flurry of off-message noise.

4. Choosing the wrong medium for your message.
It’s essential to find the right medium for your message. Not everything your client or brand does warrants a news release. Not all information is created newsworthy. You need to think about what channel could be the right outlet for your message before anything else. Maybe a piece of company news would be more effective on social media than in a news release. Fully understanding different outlets available to you will ensure your message gets the attention it deserves.

5. Misleading a reporter. Or a client. Or anyone.
When your goal is to put two professionals together to get value out of an exchange of information, you better make sure they’re both clear on what they’re getting.  Blurring the lines that define that transaction with either party usually leads to a bad experience – and in the end, you’ll make the client, the reporter, and yourself look bad. Resist the temptation to over promise and instead just tell it like it is.

6. Skipping the research.
You can’t pitch what you don’t understand.  The deeper your knowledge of a subject, the more confident you’ll be engaging with reporters on a higher level about the substance.  And most importantly, you’ll be able to bring them real value and separate yourself from the many PR people that “smile and dial” their way through a list.

7.  Missing an opportunity to create news
When there is no news, create it. This philosophy is especially true for clients who want to create buzz by hosting events. Many PR pros miss opportunities when they do not encourage clients to market their buzz-worthy events to the media. Newer companies and start-ups tend to host events as a way to attract new customers, but promoting the event to reporters and producers can come as an afterthought.  PR pros should schedule meet and greets, press previews, and table-side interviews with notable event attendees to ensure coverage.

8.  Sounding like a broken record.
Most PR professionals fail to keep a record, and can sound repetitive with their pitching. At any given time, you should have a good idea of the reporters who “like” or follow a client’s page on social media. If they’re interested on social, they’ll probably be interested in targeted pitches.  While it’s unnecessary to track a single reporter daily, keeping track of who you have talked to and when you’d like to reach back out is a good idea.  Doing so will help you set meaningful goals for your PR efforts in the future, and determine what works and what doesn’t work.

9. Not answering journalists’ questions

If you attract attention from major media outlets, you can expect journalists to ask questions. If you’re pitching the story, you should be an expert on the subject matter (see #6) and ready to answer any questions the journalists have about your client or story idea.  How well you answer their questions can make the difference between publication and a missed opportunity. The PR professional must prepare for potential questions, and have answers ready just in case.

10. Avoiding the follow-up

Much of PR’s magic lives in a good follow-up. No one likes to be viewed as pushy or annoying, but more often than not, a writer or producer’s interest is gained after following up with a phone call or email. Our job is to support journalists by making their jobs easy- so we must always keep in touch with the right information. Not following up can almost guarantee your story will slip through the cracks. Trying different angles are carrying on a conversation with a reporter usually unlocks a relationship that can stand the test of time.

What mistake do you try to avoid in Public Relations?

 

 

Trust me, I’m in Advertising: Why businesses should trust their advertisers to make smart decisions

April 17, 2014

In 2009, I made the gutsy decision to go skydiving. I was on the heels of finishing my college career, and was at a turning point in my life.  This turning point caused me to feel daring and invincible, so I did research on skydiving and found a place way out in No-Wheres-Ville Connecticut. When I arrived, the only description I was given about the experience was:

  1. I would watch a 15 minute safety video
  2. I would meet the instructor who would be strapped to me during the tandem-style skydive- that was it.

I watched a 15 minute video on the dangers of skydiving and then I met Bernardo –my skydiving professional. I had known Bernardo for about 3 minutes, barely understood his small talk about what the gorgeous weather (due to his thick accent), and was already being strapped to him in the bed of a pick-up truck on the way to a plane- mind you this is a plane that appeared to be one of the first airplanes ever designed.  After a nerve wracking 20 minute ride in the sky, Bernardo and I jumped through the clouds at 12,000 feet! We free fell for 60 seconds and then parachuted back down to the ground. It was not until the jump was over and the exhilaration had scaled back, that I realized that I had just put my life in Bernardo’s hands.  Bernardo, the man I had just met, was given all my trust to ensure I would make it through my skydiving experience in one piece.

Skydiving Pics

You might be wondering what my anecdote has to do with advertising.  Skydiving, much like advertising, involves a lot of trust, patience, and advice. Recently, a client emailed EZG’s Advertising Director and me asking our opinion on a third party lead generator site.  He began his email by writing I know this really isn’t your job but I’d like your advice. My first thought after reading that line was, of course it’s my job, let me do some research on this site and provide a recommendation. Secondly, I thought about how our client had just given us a huge compliment. He was basically saying that even though this particular website did not provide traditional media tactics, he trusted the EZG advertising team’s knowledge and judgment enough to help him make a decision on whether or not to incorporate this specific strategy into his business plan.

Examples like this one demonstrate the reason trust is so important in advertising.  It’s because businesses have never been more empowered and equipped to know exactly what is going in their companies than they are today. Because data is readily available, a business owner can easily determine the number of visitors to their company’s website, how long the visitors have stayed, and what they are looking for on the site.   Transparency is great because it allows businesses to track the activity to their company’s webpages, but sometimes traditional advertising does not yield the same concrete data.

Sometimes this makes us feel like we’re not trusted but then other times, when we receive emails like the one described; we know our guidance is respected. My advice to business owners who are crunching numbers trying to figure out their ROI on every advertising initiative is, trust your agency. A credible agency will have a customized strategy to fit your business and are cognizant of running your budget in a way that meets your business’ objectives.  Most importantly, they will brainstorm and strategize ways to make your company stand out ahead of competitors.

Your advertising agency should not be seen as an extension of your own business but rather as expert consultants who are helping to raise your brand’s awareness amongst target audiences. Just like when Bernardo and I were strapped together- the relationship between the advertising team and the client is symbiotic. We’re on the same team, have the same interest at heart and are working toward the same goals. And if you currently feel like your agency has you jumping into unknown territories without a parachute, you may want to contact us, I think we can help.

Once Upon A Time…You Hired a PR Firm

April 4, 2014

Why stories are made great by the publicists who tell them.

flickr/derekGavey

flickr/derekGavey


“We’re all stories in the end. Just make it a good one.” The quote from Doctor Who may seem like it has nothing to do with the public relations field, but I find its meaning relevant to what we do every day at EZG.

Our job, after all, is about finding and telling stories that capture our clients’ expertise. With news and commentary
travelling at light speed every day, we have to actively leverage the news and making sure our clients are hitting the right headlines. We know their stories, their goals, and their expertise, but the real science of PR comes down to knowing what’s going on in their industry at large.

To do this, we keep our eyes peeled with tactics such as:
• Monitoring headlines to cruise the issues that reporters are covering
• Monitoring hashtags to find the conversation starters on social media
• Monitor media and marketing trends to ensure we’re using the right combination of tools to fit our clients’ needs.

Without tracking the pulse of the industry, we can’t give our clients’ stories context – and no story works in a vacuum. Bottom line: we have to think like journalists if we want to succeed. So we work to connect ideas with a timely event or popular trend in the news, always keeping in mind the real value reporters and their readers will gain from a story idea.

But the media has many sides to it, now — don’t forget to be social! Active chatter on social pages is part of the equation, and in many ways follows the same guidelines for understanding the context of a story. Whenever I draft posts for social media, I always think about how a post relates to who our client is and their social media goals. But we must also always remember why. Why are we choosing to post particular photos? Why are we choosing to use specific hashtags? Why are our client’s pages following certain individuals or groups? Understanding the why is what gets us to not only be a part of the conversation,but to be conversation starters.

What’s in a Hashtag? Entire strategies!

February 27, 2014

Hashtag

Pound sign, number sign, hashtag; whatever you want to call it, this little symbol has impacted the marketing sphere for all who work in the communications industry. It’s hard to remember a time when hashtags weren’t part of marketing campaigns because they play such a significant role when building a strategy. In fact, in some cases the hashtag is the strategy.

Since hashtags are supported on multiple social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, and Pinterest) marketers realize using hashtags can be advantageous for bigger picture gains. Hashtags can be used to reach target audiences in a fun, engaging and social way that other forms of marketing materials can’t. By using hashtags, brands can create a quick connection to a large group, and if brands are really smart, they’ll connect the hashtag with a feeling. Creating an emotional connection enables the hashtag to leverage a positive brand image for an organization or individual. For example, Honda aired its touchy-feely #HugFest campaign (starring Bruce Willis) during the Super Bowl. Honda purposely did not mention their brand within the hashtag, in order to generalize it and position it to a larger group. Honda then went the extra mile and supported the #Hugfest social media campaign by launching a series of YouTube videos. Doing so caused the #HugFest hashtag to take off like a Civic Coupe on a race track. Marketers at Honda clearly know that everybody can use a hug now and then, and were wise to correlate a “warm and fuzzy” feeling with the famous auto maker.

Additionally, hashtags can be used as a fierce weapon to differentiate brands from competitors. For example, Yoplait Greek Yogurt flipped their lid and created a duel with competition brand, Chobani (the Greek yogurt giant). After realizing they would rather win the “who’s better” battle fair and square (instead of swooning shoppers with studly John Stamos) Yoplait formed the hashtag #TasteOff as a way to motivate customer feedback. A risky move that even Uncle Jesse couldn’t combat.

Yoplait invited real consumers to go spoon to spoon and vote in the #TasteOff on Twitter. Ladies and ‘gents, Yoplait won the brand battle right then and there. At EZG, we can stand behind a hashtag campaign that inspires direct engagement with consumers and promotes real brand loyalty across social media. Consumers want to be involved; they want to be spoken to and know when they’re being sold. Through a simple hashtag, Yoplait kicked off the conversation that inspired brand loyalty amongst consumers, a tasty move indeed.

At EZG we participate in hashtag specific campaigns on behalf of our clients. We conduct industry research and survey the conversations taking place on social media in order to be active social listeners. When monitoring hashtags, we filter out the noise and find the windows of hashtag opportunity where our clients can promote their brand, position the brand ahead of competitors, or just simply engage with an existing audience. Whether it is a brand specific campaign using a designated hashtag, or a hashtag that is used during an event, we understand the power that hashtags have and we love it.

What are some of your favorite hashtag campaigns? Comment and let us know which brands you think use hashtags effectively or tweet us @ebben_zall.

3 Key Elements for a Successful PR Campaign

November 25, 2013

The Marist College (my Alma Mater) PRSSA chapter recently entered the Bateman Case Study Competition and asked me to serve as a Professional Adviser.  The competition tests students’ skills, knowledge and creativity when it comes to public relations.  Students are required to produce a full-fledged PR campaign for an innovative personal payment system—which is an exciting and cutting-edge opportunity for any young person ready to embark on a career in PR.

Based on my experience, successful campaigns exceed client expectations, deliver results, and reach intended goals.  As the Professional Adviser, the students have already come to me with several questions and I’d like to pass along the tips I shared with them:

  1. Ask Yourself: Who is the client? When you begin to work on a new project or campaign, due diligence is key. With any project in public relations, research is the foundation for success, so it is important to take the time to become immersed into researching the client’s history, industry and products/services.  This will help you to understand who they are and how to create an appropriate campaign. To take this step a bit further, getting to know the client’s competitors will shed light on industry trends as a whole.
  2. Manage Goals and Expectations: Asking the client what their goals and expectations are is vital to understanding their overall needs. This is where you set the bar for realistic outcomes and identify your professional limits. Be as specific as you can when sketching out goals, and ensure that there are no questions left unanswered or ambiguity. Additionally, it is wise to establish deadlines in order to stay on track and make the client feel at ease with the strategy.
  3. Strategize: Last but certainly not least, creating and implementing a detailed strategy will effectively lead you toward the goal-line.  Strategizing will help you to identify which media platforms and outlets you will use in order to get your client’s message in front of their target audience. You can’t expect to hit your marks and gain media attention unless an effective strategy is in place. In PR, the term “toolkit” is used often–and for good reason! Our team at EZG has various skills and we provide customized PR plans for each client based on which tactics will be most valuable for their brand.  It is important to remember that there isn’t a one size fits all strategy for PR; each campaign is unique.

Developing a creative PR campaign is a project within a project. And although each client’s goals are different, I can guarantee that the above tips will apply to every engagement. You can always count on research and strategic initiatives to guide you in the right direction.

What other steps do you think are important to take when developing a PR campaign? Let us know @ebben_zall.


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