Archive for the ‘public relations’ 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.

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No Matter How Corrupt FIFA Is, It Is Here To Stay

June 16, 2015
Flickr / Steven Depolo

Flickr / Steven Depolo

It’s been a bad couple of weeks for FIFA. The world’s governing body of soccer has been the subject of numerous headlines, not for the Women’s World Cup currently taking place, but for a large-scale corruption scandal.

It all started on May 26, when several top FIFA officials were arrested on corruption charges. A little over a week later, the long-standing President of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, resigned. And to add fuel to the fire, FIFA recently fired its communications director after making a public joke about the organization’s legal troubles.

There’s no denying FIFA’s reputation is in shambles. The media is laser focused on scrutinizing the organization’s actions and missteps. But despite all the negative media, the criminal investigation, and widespread corruption, FIFA is still as powerful as ever. Do soccer fans even care about the FIFA scandals?

Sports organizations are hit with scandals all the time, yet the sports stay as popular as ever. Take the NFL for example. Last year, the NFL was thrown under the bus for its handling of issues concerning domestic violence. The NFL’s reputation took a hit, but did the sports suffer as a result? No. Fans continued to support their favorite teams and brands continued to spend millions of dollars in advertisement with the NFL.

When it comes to sports, fans care more about the game than the organization behind it. As a sports fan myself, I’ve seen some of my favorite sports get hit with scandals that dealt a blow to the organization’s reputation. Did the scandal stop me from watching the games? No way. As a fan, you’re part of a community that has one unifying factor: the love of the game. My loyalty is with my team, and almost nothing can shake that.

No matter how corrupt FIFA is, in the end, it is going to be fine. Soccer fans aren’t going to just turn their back on the sport that they love. For many countries, especially outside the United States, soccer is about more than just a game, it’s a religion. The team you root for is part of your identity and fans aren’t going to abandon the sport that’s so integral to their community and culture.

As long as soccer is still soccer, fans will continue to watch FIFA’s games. They will continue to attend the World Cup and brands will continue to shell out millions of dollars in advertisements. No matter how corrupt FIFA turns out to be, as long as soccer remains a powerhouse sport, FIFA will be a powerhouse as well.

John Oliver tackled this love/hate relationship with FIFA perfectly last year before the World Cup. As he says, no matter how appalling FIFA may be as an organization, a fan’s love for the sport outweighs everything else.

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.

 

Twitter’s CFO to marketers: I can do that!

May 7, 2015

Newsflash: finance and marketing do not always get along.  Some may even say the disciplines share a unique symbiotic rivalry; they support one another, yet constantly battle over how to define the value of marketing.

Twitter — itself a literal symbol of marketing in the digital era — found a novel way to end that discussion by allowing its CFO to take over the marketing discipline.  The move to appoint Anthony Noto came after months of failed attempts at finding the right CMO  for the company.  So, in a nutshell, it’s just marketing!  Give it to finance!  Even though (or perhaps because) we’re losing money!

…uh…oh…

Stranger things have worked, and maybe this will end up being more about “taking control of marketing spend.”  Or maybe the surprise ending is that Noto is the rare investment banker-turned-CFO who has keen marketing insight coursing through his veins.  But for the time being, this is playing out at the pinnacle of irony, as we see a flood of media coverage about how the floundering financial officer thinks he can do this marketing thing better.

It’s not going to get less weird anytime soon.  The Verge notes that “Noto’s first task may be figuring out how to market himself a little better at the office. [A] source told The Verge, “Twitter employees [are] asking why Noto gets $70 million, but the company can’t afford to give raises, or bring salaries closer to market rates.” Although engineers make around market rate, the source said, non-technical employees do not.”

This saga has everything the modern system is geared to despise – and everything that Twitter is famous for blasting out over the cyberwhatever.  Bloated executive pay, nosediving stock, executive hubris, belittled worker bees…

What’s missing (for starters)?  A good strategy.  A strong message. A vision. Really, anything that investors or advocates can get behind.

While that may come soon, it’s already too late to leverage the first wave of media exposure following the announcement.  I bet a sharp marketing guy could have handled that.  Ahem.

Finally, in honor of Noto’s presumably irrepressible spirit and ambition:

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.

Perfect PR? A standing O and slow clap for CVS Health

September 4, 2014

We love to talk about public relations and branding missteps. What’s more fun than shuddering at Market Basket’s month-long debacle, or how the media wages war on itself over racial issues?

Thoughtful, well-executed PR isn’t as sensational, but it sure does paint a prettier picture. And CVS just dropped the mic with its name change to CVS Health.

I know, I know – Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper aren’t exactly fighting over who’ll play the lead role in the explosive blockbuster detailing the subtle CVS rebrand. To watch the ginormous brand successfully shift its model without stepping on a single PR eggshell, however, brings a tear to the eye.

The real PR execution came to light months ago, when the Company announced it would stop selling tobacco. The move was reflective of a gradual shift away from the convenience store model and closer to preventive health. As EZG client Reynders, McVeigh pointed out in this Barron’s article, CVS is “in a prime position to benefit from the ongoing revolution in American healthcare.”

The Company is aiming to become the leader in consumer-facing preventive healthcare, which is a far cry from the foundational goals inherent in the name (Consumer Value Stores).  Such a wholesale shift could have inspired a public relations backlash from both media and the Street – unless it was handled with:

  1. incredible foresight,
  2. careful alignment with corporate goals,
  3. buy-in at every level of the organization,
  4. patience, and
  5. a message that featured restraint and sensitivity to an enormous global audience.

It seems that CVS was equal to the task.  The Company went loud with its plans early in 2014 with the tobacco draw down. It was the perfect segue into the big picture, as CEO Larry Merlo noted in The New York Times that “we have about 26,000 pharmacists and nurse practitioners helping patients manage chronic problems like high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart disease, all of which are linked to smoking…We came to the decision that cigarettes and providing health care just don’t go together in the same setting.”

Did you hear that in the back, there?  It’s not about cigarettes, people.  It’s about HELPING PATIENTS MANAGE CHRONIC PROBLEMS.

Fast forward to September 2014. After absorbing the reaction to its tobacco move, CVS announced  simultaneously that it would accelerate the removal of tobacco from its stores and change its name to CVS Health.

There are a dozen ways these steps could have been mismanaged. CVS could have make smoking the issue, creating an air of judgment and a forum for debate – instead it made it clear that tobacco simply conflicted with its focus on health. Executives could have led with the name change, then eliminated tobacco – instead it made a powerful connection with consumers before changing the brand.

The way it was played out, this brand and strategy shift couldn’t seem more natural. That’s just great branding, PR, and corporate strategy working together. Well played.

As the late, great, George Peppard would say (yes, fully recognize the irony of George’s trademark cigar here):

The Ice Bucket Challenge – Why It’s the Coolest Social Campaign Right Now

August 22, 2014

Like many of you, my Facebook newsfeed is crawling with videos of friends and acquaintances pouring ice water on their heads- there are so many of these videos that they’re impossible to ignore. In a matter of days, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge went viral, with everyone from celebrities to politicians being nominated to take the challenge.

If you haven’t heard about it yet, allow me to explain; a person is challenged by a friend, family member, co-worker, etc., to pour a bucket of ice water over his/her head as a way to help raise awareness for the deadly disease ALS. If they don’t, they must donate $100 to help fund ALS research. From there, the person challenges a few friends (usually on social media) to take the challenge or donate within 24 hours.

Some people who made a video may not realize the Ice Bucket Challenge was not always connected to ALS. The idea was the same, but people could donate to any charity of their choice. When Pete Frates, a former Boston College baseball player who has been living with ALS since 2009, and his family got involved, the challenge took on a life of its own. Frates’ father’s video tied the Ice Bucket Challenge to #StrikeOutALS, an on-going campaign for ALS.

#StrikeOutALS in correlation with the Ice Bucket Challenge has created a way for people to unite- through one cause- and through one challenge. Today, people are accepting the challenge as a way to raise awareness for a horrible disease rather than just donating to a charity of their choice. This campaign has purpose, and it’s working.

The challenge has gone viral for three reasons:

  1. There is a clear call to action
  2. There is a sense of urgency (24 hours to respond)
  3. Connectivity through hashtags

These three elements will ensure that the campaign will have a relatively long shelf life and is sure to bring attention to ALS. . While there are naysayers who believe the Ice Bucket Challenge hasn’t really accomplished much, the ALS Association has received over $53.3 million in donations between through August 22. Just as important- people are talking. People are talking about ALS about what it’s like to live with ALS, , and coming forward with their own tales. I can’t help but watch my friends and my favorite celebrities pour freezing water over their heads and know that it’s going to help people like Pete Frates and Anthony Carbajal.

To watch Anthony’s hilarious, yet heartbreaking video click here:

Have you participated in the #ALSIceBucketChallenge? What are your favorite #IceBucketChallenge videos?

What do reporters really want from an online press room?

August 8, 2014

In PR, we are always looking for attention- attention from our clients, attention from the media and sometimes we’re looking for simple recognition for a job well done.

To achieve the attention we so desperately crave, we develop newsworthy pitches, make valiant attempts to create viral videos and secure media opportunities that position our clients as thought leaders in their respective industries.

And with all the materials we create to attract the interest from target audiences, it would be downright foolish for us to keep those juicy pieces of content hidden behind an email inbox or a private YouTube channel. In the vast online ocean, web surfers are looking for information that is useful, informative and engaging. This is why content is still King (Neptune, if you will), but it easily drowns if it isn’t noticeable.

There’s that attention we seek again- and usually, want the content to be noticed by reporters and producers. However, reporters are no different than every day online readers- they’re looking for the most relevant information, and in a timely manner. According to a recent article in Forbes; “Online readers are a different breed and notoriously fickle. Their attention spans are short. Their modes of access to information are varied. And they are looking for real-time sound bites, not a newspaper article continued on page A17.”

As PR pros, it’s our job to appeal to this need, and we frequently recommend our clients host an interactive press/content hub on their company websites. The online press room, if used properly, can be a valuable tool used to engage new audiences. However, a press room cannot be created blindly; there are a few must-haves to consider before launching the page.
3 Things Your Online Press Room Must Have:

online-news-icon-2b
High Resolution Images: It’s no secret people are sharing stories through images these days (as noted by the popularity of Pinterest), so it’s important to ensure imagery (like head shots, infographics and event photos) are ready to be published as they are. If a journalist has to wait for a publicist to send a “web ready” file, they’ll probably move on.
Important Background Information: Reporters like to vet their sources, and if a PR pro has just sent a pitch, chances are the reporter is usually fact checking to make sure the source is reliable. It’s simple; include important information (like fact sheets, past press releases, and updated bios) in your press room so reporters know they’re dealing with a reputable industry leader.
•“Snackable” Content: Make sure your content is displayed in way that’s easily navigated and includes a quick description prompting readers to click through. It’s a content jungle out there- and to make sure your client’s content is digested by reporters and potential clients, you have to be smart. Set up the videos, articles and whitepapers so that their added value is communicated clearly and gets to the point immediately.

When building an online press room, it’s important to remember that all organizations are seeking traffic to their websites. The bottom line PR professionals must consider is, we should always be pleasing reporters by having a press page that is simplistic and efficient.

PR friends, have you seen an online press room that you’ve admired? Let us know @ebben_zall

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?

 

 


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