Posts Tagged ‘PR’

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.

Once Upon A Time…You Hired a PR Firm

April 4, 2014

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



“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


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.

Brand Journalism: What is it and why is it great for brands?

January 31, 2014

Over the last decade, marketers, advertisers, social media experts and website administrators have been required to be nimble, flexible and transformative communicators– especially since the media landscape has evolved into an entirely new and interconnected animal. The result?  The art of storytelling is alive and well, but the way we tell the stories is changing at every turn.

That’s why the skill-set of journalists and storytellers remains incredibly valuable, even as the media world has dramatically changed around them.  And with any evolution comes the birth of something new, interesting, and genetically superior (bear with me on this evolution metaphor).
Enter: brand journalism.  It has arrived, and is a valuable approach PR folks can use to their advantage.

Simply put, brand journalism is a strategy employed by companies to create interesting content that educates, motivates or sparks interest amongst a target audience by reporting relevant and useful information. Brand journalists can examine a brand, read between the lines, decipher a story, and create interesting content that connects the audience with the brand by giving readers new information.  It’s advantageous for brands to hire a journalist or media firm that specializes in storytelling because executing relevant information is hard-wired in their DNA strands (For proof of that, check out EZG’s white paper that uncovers how we build brands based on expertise).

When consumer brands execute a brand journalism strategy, the brand journalist is typically required to dig deep beneath the surface of the organization’s brand proposition and cultivate meaningful stories.  For example, a major cereal corporation has had success with their marketing and advertising efforts and the results have been plentiful, but now the organization wants to embark on a brand journalism campaign to add an extra layer of depth. To do this, the same cereal company publishes content to their website or to a 3rd party news outlet that explains to consumers: how to use the cereal in new recipes, why the product is superior to others (using proven examples and facts) and what the employees, founders, and researchers are actively doing to improve the product.  The difference between brand journalism and other forms of marketing is answering the, who, what, where, when and why on behalf of a brand.
So why might brands want to hire a storyteller to ignite a brand journalism effort? Here are a few answers to that question:

  1. Brand Journalists understand the story and why the brand is distinctive.
  2. Brand Journalists write in a way that adds depth to the brand.
  3. Brand Journalists think like an audience member, and are ready to communicate the importance of the message with sophistication and clarity.
  4. Brand Journalists stand at the intersection of where technology meets traditional news reporting.

Of course, as PR professionals we already have a genetic predisposition to support any effort that combines branding and news reporting, but ultimately we have seen proof of brand journalism’s popularity on a few news outlets. For example, news outlets like Forbes, Inc., and The WSJ have altered the way their information is displayed from reporter-centric to expert-centric.  This is a pretty significant indicator that brand journalism has a bright future ahead, as companies and thought leaders will benefit from a beautifully crafted message written by the storytellers who can make a difference.

After all, it’s survival of the noticed right?

Example of brand journalism: Forbes’ BrandVoice Channel:

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.

What I have learned about using video in public relations: 3 Valuable Takeaways

October 21, 2013

As an intern at EZG, I have seen several video projects begin with a simple idea and transform into a valuable part of marketing campaigns.  Part of my responsibilities at EZG include helping out with a variety of traditional and new media initiatives for the PR team, but I’m most interested in the video production process and how it fits into the client strategy.  What I have learned so far is that producing informative marketing video requires a great deal of creativity and legwork—but the results are worth it.

As more digital channels become available to for us to utilize in public relations, we have seen the demand for viral content increase.  Just look at the way we share news today, often through popular sites like Newsy.   I have personally seen the demand for videos rise during my internship time at EZG—which is a good indicator of things to come.

At the end of August, EZG posted about the benefits of using video to help boost a client’s brand.  Today, I want to take an opportunity to share a few tips that I have learned from my leaders and mentors while editing PR videos here at EZG.

  • Shoot more video than you need: This tip seems like common sense, but I have found myself in the position of needing more footage when I have assumed that there was enough. It is always better to have too much footage than not enough.  For example, filming fifteen minutes of footage for a two-minute video usually provides enough usable content in the end. It is always better to get too much content during the original filming of the video than to have to go back and re-shoot more footage later; it can be very difficult to re-create a scene.
  • Tell a story: Like everything we do in PR, video is another tool that helps us tell a story.  Without a clearly defined message within the video, the story will get lost and inevitably the work will lose value.  To stay away from this misstep, I always try to connect the edited clips in a way that the story is told fluidly.  Our videos are not scripted, so we often end up with a wandering narrative until the source clearly defines their main points. It can take people awhile to get to the point, but it’s the video editor’s job to hear through the words and amplify the most interesting points in an easy to understand story.
  • Use the correct tone for the video:  Our EZ|TV videos are designed to show our personality, and we think that’s great—but not every video will have the same feel.  When creating videos for our clients, I have to remain mindful of their branding messages to maintain consistency with their other marketing materials. Design, music and font choices are all part of distinguishing the client’s brand in the video, and are used as an accent to highlight the expert content that is communicated to the audience.

It is important for videos to be professional, engaging and creative in order to appeal to target audiences and inspire viral pick up.   In the public relations field, we are constantly required to attract attention to messages that reflect our clients’ brands.  Simply put, the videos that we produce are not just footage of talking heads, they are multimedia vehicles meant to teach, inspire, and motivate.

If you’re interested in learning more about video used in PR campaigns please check out these articles:

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.

A Newcomer’s Take On What it Means To Be #BostonStrong

April 23, 2013

There are many things that a person can accomplish within 90 days, like: lose weight, train for a race, finish a semester, or see the seasons change.  Ninety days, however, does not seem like an adequate amount of time to comprehend and understand what it means to be a part of Boston, MA.  It just does not seem plausible that a transplant would be able to truly absorb the culture of his or her new home town in a measly 90-day time span, right? After this week, I would argue that it is.

I have lived in Boston for 90 days—and if there were ever a time for a newcomer to witness the true colors of Boston, its people and its essence, it’s now. 

As someone who was raised in Cleveland and lived in Chicago for 7 years, this is truly my first time experiencing life on the East Coast.   There are many attractive things about Boston to me– from the waterfront, to the sports teams and the strong ties that Boston has to America’s infancy. Yet, one of the most attractive things to me, for professional reasons, is the city’s close proximity to the finest news sources that our country has to offer.  Boston is truly a great place for a Midwestern PR gal to plant some roots.

  While it has just been a short time since those seeds have been planted and began to sprout, it is the character of the city that was revealed in the past week has really shown me what it means to be a Bostonian.  Some argue that cities are living entities that have personalities and characteristics making them each unique.  With that argument in mind– If I could create a marketing tagline to describe what Boston has uniquely demonstrated, it would be: Boston: United as one, divided by none.

As a PR professional, most of the day is spent searching for a story, searching for creative ideas, and always searching for positivity in clients’ messages.   This past week however, it was a challenge to stay positive. As for creativity, it was stifled underneath sadness and confusion—and the story? Well, there was only one story that we could all focus on.

Through it all, reporters were communicating through social media directly to athletes, families, and law enforcement in an effort to spread the word. All of the retweets, and Instagram photos and Facebook posts were done with the pursuit of justice at the forefront.  It was Boston’s united front and open communication that ensured that the goal would be accomplished.

For a person new to Boston, hearing the phrase “Boston Strong” might not mean anything unless this past week was lived and witness first-hand.  “Outsiders” always imagine certain criteria when thinking of Boston, whether it is lobsters, or the accents, or Neil Diamond’s ‘Sweet Caroline’.  But clearly this is a city that has far more depth than the stereotypes offer. For me, the only thing that comes to mind when thinking about being a Bostonian—is pride.

As for my former hometown of Chicago—bravo to you! The media really focused on what was important through all of this— communicating that Americans will not be separated in times of need. The writers at the Chicago Tribune used the power of the press to demonstrate solidarity. Thank you sweet Chicago. So this week and every week at EZG, we will continue to find the positivity, keep our creativity sparked, and move forward, just as our town of Boston has.


Extreme Makeover: Public Relations Edition

November 30, 2011

Why are we here?

The Public Relations Society of America is making over its own definition of “public relations.” Its 1982 version still stands as the official wording, even with a few past attempts to update the look and feel of the profession: “Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.”  Yikes.

A call for entries from both industry pros and the public has been issued and submissions are being accepted via blog online form (deadline is Friday, December 2).

The results from most PR pros may stand to be the least shocking. After all, we love to manage the message, don’t we?  In our industry, we’re constantly tasked with defining ourselves and our clients, drawing on terms from day-to-day routines and global context. Expect to see familiar friends like “communicate”, “messaging”, “audience”, “media”, “effective”, “convey”.

Most curious, however, may be what non-PR audiences think of us.  Based on an outsider’s view, what is public relations and who are we as its representatives? If opinions are based on fictional depictions from  films and TV, expect terms that either flatter us as savvy trend-setters (“social”, “eloquent”, “notoriety”), or depict us as swaggering spin doctors (“schmooze”, “smear”, “pester”). Or suggestions might illustrate once again that a sizable audience actually has no idea what we do, supporting the notion that the definition of “Public Relations” has been ambiguous for far too long.

The results of the online form will appear in a “word cloud” on the PRSA’s PR Definition blog. While we’ll have fun guessing who submitted what, we may also get served a slice of humble pie.  Feel free to chime in: what IS public relations?

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