Archive for the ‘traditional media’ Category

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.


Thought leadership and paid placement? Meh.

March 11, 2014

Professional services marketing is a strange animal.  It’s one of the few disciplines that calls for a constantly evolving understanding of client subject matter: you don’t just get to know a client’s brand, you get to know the issues that drive their success.  Investment firms don’t grow long term because they have a cool logo or run a Superbowl ad; they grow because their clients trust them.  Law firms, CPA firms, consulting firms all share that common thread.  They sell because they’re smart (and some of them are even wicked smaht).

That opens the door to a few of my favorite things…to be good at what we do, we need to study the areas in which our clients play (academic), we need to identify trends (marketing savvy), and we need to be able to articulate the connection between those themes and their brand (storytelling).

Academics+marketing+storytelling=fun.  Oh yes.  You want me at your party on Saturday night, believe me.

I’m taken aback this year, though, seeing an aggressive mash-up of this thought leadership approach and paid placement, which undermines the credibility of clients and the media in one fell swoop.  Paid content has always been a part of the game, but in 2014 it has exploded to new levels of visibility.  The media’s need for content and revenue is outweighing its need to publish objective insight, while providers are pouncing on an opportunity that will eventually erode faith in the depth of their knowledge.

The WSJ has entire online sections with content sponsored and provided by Deloitte (CIO and CFO Journals).  Forbes calls their paid content “BrandVoice,” and the New York Times is following suit with a native advertising platform.

I dig into this a bit in PRNews’ PR Insider (Hey Pay-Play, Get Off My Lawn), and will echo the sentiment here: this is not good.  Brand journalism has a place and can be extremely successful, but intelligent buyers of professional services will quickly grow skeptical of the information they find in these sections.  If it’s paid placement, how accurate is it?  Where is the third party credibility?

I unfortunately predict great traction for the paid content trend in 2014.  But then it will crash, shifting back to true thought leadership.  And I’m wicked smaht, so place your bets now…

Ebben Zall Group’s 2014 Marketing Predictions

January 15, 2014

crystal ball2013 was a year with changes that rocked the world of marketing (figuratively and literally, thank you Miley Cyrus and Buzzfeed). From Google’s hummingbird algorithm to Instagram offering advertisements to Twitter going public, media shifted and evolved at an accelerated rate.

At EZG we try to stay nimble and ahead of the curve when it comes to trends and industry milestones, and over the past month or so we’ve focused on setting goals for ourselves and our clients.

Out of that effort, the team raised a few marketing predictions for 2014.  We know 2013 took marketers on a wild ride, and we can’t wait to see what’s in store for the year ahead!

EZG’s 2014 Marketing Predictions:

  • The value of content will become increasingly clear – and the role of paid media increasingly blurry.  On the social media front, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others will continue to move towards showcasing certain content and sharing user information in an effort to monetize.  Meanwhile, industry news and opinion websites will try to differentiate and draw traffic by competing for viewpoints from thought leaders who have significant networks through which they can share.
  • Ad spend will increase significantly across the world in 2014 from this past year due to public events set up to receive global attention. With the Winter Olympics in Russia, the World Cup in Brazil, and the mid-term elections in the U.S., there are multiple platforms with extremely high viewership that are great opportunities for advertisers to brand their clients’ brands.
  • Short videos will continue to grow in popularity. Whether they are used to show a clients’ expertise, for pitching purposes, or for fun mash-ups that display a firm’s personal side, videos will be included in more campaigns in 2014.
  • Advertisements and social media posts that gain popularity will become more image focused. It’s important that ads are visually digested and that text is kept to a minimum.
  • Interactive advertisements will gain popularity in 2014, and they will need to be more creative than ever. Whether it’s a crawler across your screen or a game that must be played before it will disappear, ads will increasingly become interactive and engaging across multiple platforms.
  • Content strategy is king: With the amount of content floating around the internet and on social media platforms, marketers must (as always) be strategic with their publishing initiatives.  Content publishers, content context and content timeliness will be absolutely vital for the success of brands in 2014 — more so than ever before.

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.

Why REAL Public Relations pros get smarter every day

September 13, 2013

the thinker

When I go to visit my dentist, I faithfully expect that she knows everything there is to know about teeth, gums, and tongues.  When it comes to dental expertise she is the master of her domain and the only person I will go see when I need a filling.   Many professions are governed exactly the same way—the professional is required to become an expert solely in her body of work. When working in public relations, we are required to become experts in our body of work, and the body of work of the firms we’re representing.

We already know that our skill set must be sharpened when it comes to writing, pitching and general communications. But there are hidden areas of expertise that seasoned PR pros are expected to master in order to become highly effective.

These hidden areas of expertise are uncovered every time we gain a new client or new project, which is always an exciting moment.   Because we are taking on responsibility for our clients’ brand recognition, we are understandably expected to know what we’re talking about.

For example, if we are representing the publicity needs of my dentist, we will definitely be required to know why sedation dentistry (what’s that?!) is newsworthy and how her practice is connected.  Simply put, in order for us to be effective, we have to speak the languages that our clients speak.  The nature of agency life requires us to be eternally equipped with background information that is relatable to our clients’ value propositions.  Becoming adept to deepening several knowledge pools at once takes research, dedication, and trend monitoring.  By working in PR, our brains are figuratively split in half.  One half is dedicated to being nimble communicators and the other half is designed to process material from legal, financial, healthcare, and/or technology firms.

This is why I believe working in PR makes us versatile, smart, and mentally agile.  How else could we uphold our obligation if we didn’t do the following:

1.     PR Pros MUST act as ambassadors:  Our clients trust us to act as ambassadors for their larger, strategic goals.  If we can’t understand who their potential “buyers” are and how to appeal to them, then we can’t do our job.  In order to be effective we are often called upon to step-in to create larger marketing plans designed to attract new business for our clients.

2.     PR Pros MUST stay abreast of relevant material:  College professors typically don’t tell PR students that continuous learning is part of the job. Can you hear me screaming: “Research!”   How can we complete task #1 if we don’t have solid, factual, information to rely on? In order for us to put the larger conceptual goals of our clients in the context of the marketplace, we need to stay current on industry trends and breaking news. The only way to do this is to research topics and trends on a regular basis and dive head-first into the material.

3.     PR Pros MUST ask the right questions: Another large part of our job is to make sure that our clients’ stories are told through influential channels that reach their target audiences.  When we take the time to interview our clients, as reporters do, we learn more about their businesses and the newsworthiness of their stories.  We are then able to appeal to publishers and producers and explain why our clients are bigger, and better than their competitors.

Public relations is a dynamic field that evolves on a monthly basis.  It’s not an easy gig, but I will tell you one thing— it continuously encourages character growth and personal victories.  Simply put, by working in PR, I am a better (and more knowledgeable) person.

Staying on top of the media mix

September 6, 2013

When it comes to PR, advertising, social media, and marketing, it’s all blending together. Many times, these disciplines cross over one another as the digital influence continues to grow and becomes intertwined with other tactics. The different spheres are no longer their own element. Social isn’t just a Twitter account, and ads are not just aimed at people watching TV; every piece is being integrated. As everything meshes the goal is still the same – to influence the audience with your message. So why not become a fluid brand and spread your message across all channels? Two brands that really come to mind when thinking about integrated campaigns are Honda and VitaminWater.

Even if you tried, you couldn’t escape Honda’s Summer Clearance campaign, it was everywhere. Whether you were watching TV, on Twitter or Vine, or listening to the radio, Honda utilized all of these outlets to fuel their annual Summer Clearance event. They advised consumers to use the hashtag, “#WantNewcar” to express why they want a new Honda and they could win one. Honda’s commercials then also featured some of these tweets. This campaign enabled Honda to do a very important thing: engage with the consumer and reward them for it.

honda pic

The sport drinks arena is a competitive one, so VitaminWater came up with a campaign to differentiate themselves from the others. Like Honda, they implemented a hashtag (#MakeBoringBrilliant) and used it not only on Twitter but across their ads as well. They got their audience talking about their brand, and engaged with their consumers.

vita water pic

These are the case studies that jump out at us, because from social media management to traditional PR efforts, advertising and creative design, EZG handles a continuous mix of tactics to build the best strategies for clients. The best part about it? We get to keep an eye on the ever-changing landscape, and look for ways to take campaigns to the next level – with kudos to campaigns like Honda’s by RPA and VitaminWater’s by CP&B.  If you’ve seen campaigns that put brands in the best light by integrating their message across different channels, please share!

Boosting brand with video production

August 15, 2013

Public relations – and marketing in general — never seemed boring to me.  Even in the early days when I was faxing letters to the New York Times (yes, faxing), the ability to convey a story through channels that reached such a wide range of audiences was a fascinating exercise.

Today, the core of that buzz is the same.  It’s about the story.  And yet the channels available to us have expanded tenfold (stay tuned for more on this from EZG TV).

Video production is a great example that we’re seeing more of every week.  A medium that used to be reserved for big budget clients looking to mass-market has now become a tool we can use on a variety of levels.  I dug into this a little in PRNews, examining when it’s appropriate to use film clips in-house and when it makes sense to seek out a production house.

That’s a valid discussion, as we use deploy video for quick Facebook clips, YouTube channels, multimedia press kits, corporate branding exercises, and of course B-roll and commercials for more traditional broadcast placement.  We have longstanding relationships with production professionals who can do a far better job than we can of creating sophisticated, crisp content that will play well with more discerning audiences.  Those studios are expensive, but they play a key role in maintaining client brands in some circumstances.

Hemenway & Barnes, investigated these options earlier this year.  H&B is the oldest law firm in Boston (celebrating its 150th year in 2013), an EZG client, and was looking for a way to convey its traditional values through a modern vehicle.  When it came to developing a video overview of the firm’s history, a high end production house – in this case, Moody Street Pictures – was absolutely appropriate for the job.  Our internal team could certainly have filmed interviews and spliced together clips that conveyed H&B’s character, but to capture a culture that has persevered for centuries it was more powerful to invest in a higher end product.

The resulting video series has generated outstanding awareness of the firm and stayed true to its traditional values.  For H&B, it speaks well to the firm’s client base and influencers; for EZG, it becomes another effective storytelling device as we interact with the media.  A lower-budget effort would have cheapened the look and feel, and in this case the brand itself.

We know more video is on the horizon, and likely more innovative channels through which to distribute it.  PR continues to bring the ultimate media mix to the table, keeping us engaged at every corner.

Bringing interaction with real HUMANS into social media

July 19, 2013

Social media is awesome. I live, love, and breathe my social networks, and if you’re reading this post you probably do too. New apps and social networking sites continue to pop up daily (example: #RoyalBabyApp), and to keep up, our eyes and ears become glued to our devices. We take “selfies”, check emails, create short videos on Vine, and filter photos on Instagram.  Let’s be honest, we’re all hooked.

In the age of social media communication, news is traveling at light-speed.   As social media users, we all live this experience every single day. YouTube videos go viral and are passed around to co-workers and friends; a cute note written by a child is plastered across Twitter, and sporting event highlights are replayed over and over again.  So it’s shocking to think that until recently, a Facebook page had fallen under my radar.  There is a community page on Facebook that I wish I had been aware of all along, because of its emphasis on the human spirit. Simply put, I think this page is the bee’s knees.

Humans of New York (HONY) was started by a man named Brandon in the summer of 2010 with the idea that he could construct a photographic census of NYC’s inhabitants. With every photo, Brandon interviews the person (or persons) in the photo and includes a few blurbs from their chat as a caption to the photo.  Over the course of his journey, HONY has become a sensation on Facebook. With close to a million “likes”, the page is verified, and followers comment, like, and share every post. HONY doesn’t give out prizes, they’re not a consumer brand giant, and it is not a celebrity news page–so what makes photographing people in NYC so captivating?

I believe that HONY’s popularity is due to the fact that it combines social media with a personable touch.  In the infinite sea of social media profiles, all users are looking for something that provides a personal connection and HONY is that something.  From NYC’s smallest members, to the oldest, wisest, and most unique, HONY showcases it all.  HONY displays real life situations through its photos, and because of this, followers can relate to their own experiences through the stories.  Followers of the page share their thoughts and thank Brandon for the photos because they serve as a way to stir up conversation and provide insight on the human experience.  Here are a few of those photos taken from the HONY Facebook page:

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As a PR and social media maven, I want to take a step back and analyze HONY from a personal point of view. I’d say that HONY is doing an amazing job of:

  1. Fulfilling their goal/mission
  2. Engaging and connecting with their audience
  3. Creating and spreading important and profound messages

All brands attempt to relate to their targets, and establish a trust in their audience. With a book drop scheduled for October, I’d say that HONY has not only captured the hearts of its digital friends, but those traditional print minds as well.

Are you using the social media cycle?

July 8, 2013

3 Additional Tips for PR Success: A blog post collaboration authored by EZG’s PR Squad

On EZG TV, we recently discussed the basics of how social media and public relations practices fit together. Traditional media and approaches to PR remain crucial to shaping a story, but social media outlets provide us with an additional toolset.  Traditional media is a great “one to many” channel, and by working with journalists and other influencers we can help bring a story to life online, in print, and in broadcast media.

Social media gives another dimension to the story.  It allows companies to directly engage with audiences, provides an outlet to monitor conversations and trends, and serves as a forum to add expertise and unique experiences. This engagement with our audience allows us to connect with them on a more personal level; in a nutshell, companies are no longer just a brand, they have a personality!

To hear more of our tips on social media, please check out our EZG TV video.  As a bonus, we are sharing 3 additional tips that take social media plans to the next level:

  1. Don’t forget about creating original content

Original content is key to an influential social media presence. In order to attract attention and maintain your audience, you must come up with unique content that highlights your expertise. For example, each week we publish an EZG Tip of the Week on Facebook and Twitter as a piece of original content. We take our advertising, PR, and media relations expertise and create our own ways to share that information with our audience on social media.  We advise clients to do the same – what better way to communicate your original expertise than by sharing it to your audience of influencers?

  1. Respond and Engage

We touched on this a bit in our video, but social media is the go-to platform for responding and engaging with your target audience.   Social media allows consumer brands to respond to comments, reviews, or posts in a timely manner, opening the door to customer interaction. When something positive or negative appears on your Facebook page, for example, companies can reach out directly to the poster and respond to the situation quickly and appropriately.

Additionally, our clients ask us how we can be proactive as opposed to reactive.  Our answer is: ask questions!

People love to be asked a question because it makes them feel as though someone is listening.  This kind of brand engagement was big with consumers when Lay’s launched its “Do Us A Flavor” campaign, for which fans were asked to vote on a new potato chip flavor. The winning flavor would be Lay’s latest chip to hit the shelves. Bonus Tip: By asking your audience questions, not only are you demonstrating that you value their thoughts, but it also allows the brands to tap into the wants and needs of their audience.

  1. Pick Appropriate Channels

There are multiple sites that you can utilize on social media, but it is important to pick the right channels for your brand and message. Most consumer brands take advantage of a wide variety of channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Vine. A consumer brand can utilize almost any social media site, but the content on each site should vary. For example, photo sites should share posts that inspire desire, Twitter posts should be designed to spark a conversation, and Facebook posts should be full of relevant information.

Professional brands must also choose appropriate channels for social media. Unlike consumer brands, it is not always appropriate for a professional brand to be on all forms of social media. LinkedIn, Twitter and a corporate blog are much more appropriate and influential channels for professional brands.  When crafting original content on a corporate blog, professional brands should utilize “share” tools as a way to engage with their followers.

These 3 tips – as well as the points we discuss on EZG TV – are all important elements to consider when making the most of your social media presence. When you use each feature properly you will see the benefits of social media content: the right channel that communicates your original content will help engage audiences, and effectively bring more traffic back to your website…it’s the social media cycle!

Speaking of original content, we are always interested in your thoughts; do you have any tips for creating posts on social media?  Let us know @ebben_Zall

Humility, Not Winning, Will Take Care of Everything

April 3, 2013

It was over three years ago when Tiger Woods, the number one player in the world, considered by many as the greatest who has ever played the game of golf, and a role model, fell from grace through a series of self-inflicted, personal indiscretions.

There he was, in December 2009, the great and powerful Eldrick Woods, one of the most recognized people on earth according to many well respected consumer surveys, on the “world’s” stage, with his mother, Kultida, in tow, tearful, requesting forgiveness, looking ashamed and embarrassed, bearing his soul about his personal failings.  The universe watched as Tiger fell precipitously from global sports icon to universal pariah in a blink of a lie.  I now wonder why Red Bull, with its penchant for sponsoring falling objects didn’t sign up with Tiger right there and then as Woods’ descent, like “Felix the Spaceman,” was truly supersonic.  Even Nike, Tiger’s largest and most loyal endorsement partner, a brand that never shies away from controversy but instead embraces it, was nowhere to be found on that day as Tiger was “swoosh less” at the microphone.

The apology tour had begun.  Tiger Woods apologized, repeatedly, for days, weeks, and months.  He asked the world for privacy and patience.  He asked the globe for forgiveness. He asked the universe for a second chance; however, people all over still had questions.  Were we willing to hear him out, accept his apology, and grant him a second chance?  Would we ever be able to watch Tiger play golf again without thinking about the personal fiasco he created?  I believe the world responded with one giant…“let’s wait and see.”  So, we did.

We waited to see if he would take care of Elin Nordegren, and he did.  Who knows if one can ever overcome what she’s gone through, but $750 million seems to be a good place to start to soften the agony that she’s been put through.  Their relationship today, from the outside looking in, seems to be cordial.  We waited to see if he’d take care of his kids, daughter Sam and son Charlie, and it appears that he has.  But even the intensely private Woods won’t be able to keep Sam and Charlie away from “Googling” the events of 2009 and viewing the millions of stories that have been written as a result.

And finally, after three years of reputation rehab, the world watched to see if he’d take care of his golf game.  It appears that he has.  He’s back on top, returning to the number one spot n the world, with three tour wins this year, and six titles in the last six months.  The clutch putts are falling once again, the fist pumps and big smiles have returned, the red Sunday swoosh is all ablaze, and ugly memories of the past have faded to the background.  Finally, Tiger has climbed back to the top of the Matterhorn.  Even skiing superstar Lindsay Vonn is alongside to help him with this summit, as he chases his elusive 15th major.

But what do we get in return for holding up our end of the bargain by giving Tiger a second chance?  After all of this – after his warp speed trip from the top of the world, to the abyss, and now back?  What do we get from this man and his most loyal “be swooshed” bedfellow in Nike?  We get:

Tiger Woods

Now I know I’m falling into the trap that Nike has set for me – guilty as charged.  They’ve trapped me into talking, blogging and tweeting about their “risky and controversial” new ad campaign with Mr. Woods.  I’m jumping all the way in.  So as I do, I have to ask, on behalf of all everyone who has reentered into a contract with Tiger after he so repeatedly asked for our patience, forgiveness, and time three years ago.

“Does it, Tiger?  Does it really?  Does winning take care of everything?”  I ask Tiger directly – not his representatives at Excel Sports Marketing, and not Nike.  I want to hear it straight from Tiger’s lips.  Obviously this is a direct quote.  “Tiger…the world wants to know if you actually believe that winning truly takes care of everything?”  Will someone at the Golf Channel please step up and ask this same question?  Maybe you have should have run this quote by Elin, Charlie or Sam.  I wonder what they think about this ad?  What about your Mom, Tiger?  What does she think about this new campaign?  Finally, what about us, Tiger?  I guess we didn’t “wait and see” long enough.

Nike and Tiger have blown this one.  The first rule in advertising and public relations is to know your audience.  In this case, the audience happens to be a little group of people who make up the world!  Hello…knock…knock!  Is anyone home?  Why are billions of potential Nike customers now being reminded that three years ago we really didn’t like you?  The second rule in advertising is never to bring up the elephant in the room once it has left.  Why conjure up the ghost of scandals past and remind the consumer the full circle Tiger has drawn.  The third rule is to follow the first two rules.

If Tiger and Nike were represented by Ebben Zall Group, we would have recommended a strategy of humility and gratefulness in his current Nike campaign, speaking especially to people (like myself) who have indeed given him the compassion, patience, and apology acceptance that he so tearfully asked for just three years ago.  We would’ve advocated for self-effacement and modesty, not swagger and cockiness, from Tiger (and for him to partake in a history lesson too).

But instead, we’re in search for that same contrite Tiger Woods who now seems to be missing in action, literally, until he saunters up Magnolia Drive next week.  Where is that person who was so humbled by his mistakes?  My guess is that he’s been there all along.  In the meantime, I believe Woods, as a result of this advertising decision or lack thereof, has unfortunately stunted the growth of his recovering brand, and at the same time, diminished whatever reservoir of compassion that he had recovered in my eyes and the eyes of a few billion of my friends.

So no, Tiger, we don’t agree.  Winning doesn’t take care of everything.  Humility does.  We can only hope that someday we’ll see some from you.

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