Posts Tagged ‘media’

February Celebrations = Publicity Opportunities

January 9, 2014 by Kay Paumier

Everyone knows Valentine’s Day and Presidents’ Day are in February.

But did you know that we also celebrate bubble gum, laughter and sword swallowers that month?

These—and other less-quirky anniversaries and celebrations—can give you the opportunity to promote your company, your product or your service.

Here are some other anniversaries and celebrations coming up in February. How can you use these to market yourself more effectively?

Seven Common PR Mistakes and How to Avoid Them (Part 2)

December 19, 2013 by Kay Paumier

In my last post, I discussed three common PR mistakes:

  • Having unrealistic expectations of PR
  • Ignoring the advice of PR counsel
  • “Believing your news releases.”

Here are four more mistakes.

Keeping PR on the “back-burner”

Most companies know they have to “do PR,” but often don’t allocate the time or money needed to do the job effectively.

Studies have shown that companies with a larger “share of discussion” than their competition become more successful. The discussion, the publicity often comes first. The success follows. So most companies really can’t afford to ignore PR or to relegate it to an untrained person.

The success of your company may require that PR be on the front burner. If it is not there now, move it there today.

Refusing to be media trained

Anyone who will interview with the media needs to be media trained.

Practicing some basic techniques and doing some mock interviews can make a world of difference. Oftentimes an outsider can help this process along.

Even veteran spokespeople sometimes have problems. Towards the end of his term, former President George W. Bush was asked what his greatest mistake was. He said he couldn’t think of anything, a response that struck many people as arrogant.

Soon afterwards he was asked the same question again and had a response. The second time was a charm, but many people only remember that first “nonresponse.”


Being erratic in PR activities

As a consultant, I have seen companies almost kill themselves to publicize a new product, only to “collapse” once the launch was over. These companies didn’t leverage the momentum they had generated to build an ongoing, sustained publicity program.

The result? A few months later, the company had to “re-introduce” itself when it had another product to announce. The company was repeatedly in start-up mode and remained in second place in its marketplace.

The moral of the story: avoid “stop-and-go” PR.

Being too narrow in your publicity activities

For many people, the publicity campaign means sending out the occasional news release.

That generally is not enough.

It’s true that PR people write news releases, but they do much more to generate publicity – everything from articles and product reviews to webinars and other presentations.

I formally analyzed publicity for a new client and its main competitor. My client had done a good job with its announcements. Its competitor got less coverage for its news, but maintained its visibility through contributed articles, product reviews, speaking engagements and other means. The result: the second company was perceived as the industry leader; my new client an “also-ran.”

Don’t limit yourself to barebones PR. Expand the scope of your program.


So there they are: seven common mistakes. Fortunately, it is relatively easy to avoid these errors. In so doing, you will definitely improve your PR program and probably help your company be more successful.

Seven Common PR Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

December 12, 2013 by Kay Paumier

Many organizations make some basic public relations mistakes, which can dramatically affect their visibility and credibility.

Here are seven common errors, with advice on how to avoid them.

Having unrealistic expectations of PR

Too many people think that they will become famous overnight if they hire a PR firm. Or that publicity will automatically generate sales or raise their stock price.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t automatically work that way.

Marketers tell us that people go through at least four stages in deciding to buy a product or support a cause: awareness, interest, desire and action.

PR is most important in the first two stages, helping generate the awareness and interest that is essential for any action. However, PR becomes less influential the closer people get to taking action.

Understanding this basic concept is essential. PR is important, but it will not change things overnight, make up for a poor product or service, or sell your product or service by itself.

Ignoring the advice of PR counsel

In a great scene in the TV series West Wing, Jed Bartlet was going into a potentially volatile press conference. C.J. Cregg, his press secretary, advised him to call on a particular reporter first and, if at all possible, to avoid another reporter.

What did Bartlet do? He totally ignored Cregg’s sage advice and called on the “forbidden” reporter immediately.

Since it was a TV show, everything worked out fine. But this is not always the case.

Unfortunately, too many companies are like Bartlet and ignore the advice of their PR consultants. Like other professionals, good PR people have a particular way of looking at the world. They have developed skills and talents, have a radar for good stories and potential landmines, and can bring a great deal to the table.

Ask for, and respect, their opinions. You’ll be better off for it.

“Believing your news releases”

This is also called the “parental-fixation” syndrome, when you become so focused on your company, product or service that you forget a bigger world exists out there.

This syndrome manifests itself in assuming that everyone will be interested in your news, no matter how mundane. This fixation also shows up when you treat reporters as if their sole purpose is to tell your story.

In reality, most of the time the media will be only slightly (if at all) interested in your news.

However, reporters are often working on overview and trends articles, or are looking for an unusual twist, a human-interest angle or the “next big thing.” These reporters need people to give them ideas, provide information and explain the big picture.

Be that person, that resource, and you will reap the reward of ongoing coverage. Oh, and kill that news release about version 3.003 of your product.

There they are: three of seven common PR mistakes. I’ll cover the others in my next post.

Publicity Opportunities in January

December 5, 2013 by Kay Paumier

January is the start of the new year, and what better time to “get organized.” That’s probably why January is Get Organized Month.

Like most anniversaries, this provides some great publicity opportunities. For example:

  • Professional organizers can provide tips on how people can reduce clutter, streamline processes, and in general get better control of their lives.
  • Manager of office products stores could promote products that help people organize.
  • And counselors and coaches could discuss the effect that good organization has on people’s emotional well-being and career success.

Got the idea? Here are some other events that provide opportunities for publicity in January:


Marketing a Service Business (Part 4)

November 14, 2013 by Kay Paumier

My previous posts discussed some online ways to market a service business, as well as some tips for dealing with mainstream media. Here are some more ideas.

Develop visuals that tell a story.

Magazines, newspapers and websites all need good visuals: photos, graphics and video. Editors need visuals to draw attention to the text, break up the page visually, and help tell the story. The editors get a lot of written material, but relatively few good photographs or illustrations.

Start a file of photographs and illustrations that catch your eye and tell a story. They may spark ideas when you need some inspiration.

For example, a pharmaceutical firm developed a board-game-like diagram that clearly illustrated the FDA approval cycle for new drugs. I still remember that illustration even though I saw it more than a decade ago.

Create news.

You may not routinely have news, but you can “create” it. So hold a contest. Take a survey. Celebrate an anniversary.

Depending on the type of news you create, you may have several publicity opportunities:

  • Announcing the contest, event and the like.
  • Reminding people of the deadline or event date.
  • Announcing the results and winners.
  • Inviting the media to the event.
  • Providing pictures to the media.


I hope by now you see that, although success is not automatic, there are many ways to market a service.

But remember, one of the best marketing activities is also the most fun: networking. Be active in one or two professional organizations. Help others out in their businesses. Participate in projects big and small. No matter how digital the world gets, we still like the “personal touch.”

A caveat: My rule of thumb is to do three marketing activities. Choose the ones that make the most sense for you; do them well and do them consistently. Doing no marketing risks having your business dry up. Trying to do too much can be distracting, time-consuming and even counter-productive.

If you’re not doing any marketing now, start small. Pick one activity and master it. Then add another activity and then another.

Let me know your results. I’d love to hear from you.

Publicity Opportunities in December

November 7, 2013 by Kay Paumier

December is so focused on the holidays, it’s easy to forget there are other celebrations as well.

For example, did you know that December 15 is Cat Herders Day

Before you laugh, think of how organizations could use that day to publicize their business or service.

  •          For example, pet stores, animal-rescue operations and vets could use it to promote the idea of adopting a feline friend.
  •          An organizational consultant could discuss “effective ways to herd the cats in your life.”
  •          Ministers, coaches, and counselors could use the day as a discussion of what it is like to be “tasked with the impossible” and to “manage the unmanageable.”

Got the idea? Here are some other anniversaries coming in December.

Marketing a Service Business (Part 3)

October 31, 2013 by Kay Paumier

In my past two posts, I outlined some ways service businesses could market themselves online. Here are some ways to get the attention of mainstream media.

Track media activity.

One of the best ways to get publicity in mainstream media is to track what the reporters are working on and what they need…and give it to them.

Fortunately, that is easy with HARO (Help a Reporter Out). This free service emails notices about what topics reporters are researching, and what kind of information or sources they need.

It’s a great service. The challenge is that it is very popular. So when you find that someone needs some information you can provide, reply quickly. Outline the information and tell the reporters a little bit about yourself. (You want them to understand you are a good resource.)

I have successfully arranged media interviews and generated publicity for clients through the HARO inquiries. A colleague was even mentioned in The Wall Street Journal, thanks to the service. So it’s definitely worth the effort.

Develop story ideas.

Developing story ideas can be an effective way to ingratiate yourself with the editors. Reporters and editors are typically overworked and underpaid. They appreciate it when someone does some of their work for them.

Develop a few ideas so that if the editor doesn’t like the first one, you can suggest another story. “How to’s” are often good, as are stories about trends, personalities and any unusual aspect of your product or service.

What do you do once you have these ideas? For one thing, you can just contact the editor of a publication or website and discuss it with him or her. That’s a little tricky, but can work.

Or you could suggest it as an angle for an editorial calendar topic.

Track editorial calendars.

An editorial calendar is a schedule of the topics publications (and some websites) plan to cover over a period of time. You can often find this information on the publication’s website, usually in the advertising or media kit section.

Two caveats. Editorial calendars change frequently. Topics get deleted, moved or changed. Also, often the editorial calendar just lists topics (e.g., “widgets”), not story angles (e.g., “the growing importance of widgets in medical imaging”).

However, when you find something that “fits” (or might fit) your company, contact the reporter. Find out if he or she has a specific angle in mind. If not, suggest something. (That’s one reason you developed all those stories ideas.) If the publication takes contributed articles, volunteer to write it. Otherwise, offer to be a source of information for the article.

I have successfully maintained PR programs for clients based almost exclusively on “working” the editorial calendars. You can do the same.

I’ll cover some more suggestions for dealing with the mainstream media in my next post.

Contacting the Media? Increase Your Chances the Email Will be Read

October 10, 2013 by

 A reporter’s job is not an easy one. There are fewer of them than even a few years ago, and they are faced with multiple deadlines, with writing for both print and online, and with trying to become an expert (or at least proficient) in dozens of subjects.

Unfortunately, this also means it is becoming increasingly difficult to connect with reporters. Here are some techniques for getting attention.

Pitch the right person. It amazes me that, with so much information online, reporters still say PR people target the wrong people. Check the publication’s beat lists, which is often on their websites. Or do a database search on the publication or reporter.

Make your email subject line work for you. To avoid the dreaded “delete” key, include important keywords in your subject line. Even better, refer to past articles or coverage. A simple, “about your story on….” Can dramatically increase the chances that your email will be read.

Face it, if your subject line isn’t good enough, chances are good your pitch will not be read at all.  

Pitch people over products.  Show the product or service in action, helping make businesses more productive and profitable, helping doctors save lives, helping teachers educate the next generation.

Or craft a story around the product’s development. What were the problems? The challenges? The obstacles? Who was involved? Whose idea was the product?

Give reporters a plot and you’ll increase the chances they’ll “bite” on your story idea.

Begin with WIIFM. Answer the question “what’s in it for me?” in the first paragraph of the pitch. Provide the facts—the who, what, where, when—at the very beginning.

Go heavy on data. Reporters love statistics. Give them timely information from reputable sources. Bullet them in your email or pitch. That will help establish you as a source.

Avoid attachments. They will probably get stripped out anyway. Instead provide links for the reporters to get the information off your website.

Have a good online news room. Increasingly reporters rely on the online news room for their research. Make sure yours is complete, easy to search and accessible. Include high-quality, downloadable visuals.

Follow this advice and you’ll increase your odds that you’ll get the reporter’s attention…and that your story will be told.

More Tips for Handling Media Interviews

June 13, 2013 by

Here are two more techniques for handling media interviews.

Lead the reporter on.

Simply add a phrase at the end of a response, leading the reporter to the next, obvious question. For example:

“That’s not all.”

“Here’s how this might play out.”

“There is much more to this story.”

The reporter typically will ask for more information. “Tell me more.” “Can you give an example?” And then you’re on your way, presenting your messages.

 Redirect the question.

 Here you start with a verbal stop to shield yourself from an unwanted question. Examples of verbal stops are:


“In fact…”

“In reality….”

Then make your point, possibly explaining why you can’t answer the original question.

No technique works all the time, but these techniques can help you through a challenging interview and raise your chances for success.

 Some material for this article came from the article “Sneak Peeks and Deflections: How they Can Raise Your Spokespeople’s Performance,” by Ed Barks (Public Relations Tactics, November 2012).

Product Reviews I Have Known

May 9, 2013 by Kay Paumier

I have watched, with interest, as Tesla has defended itself against a negative product review in The New York Times.

Until recently, this could have been disastrous, but Musk took to Twitter. Of course, he had an advantage. The car’s data-monitoring system indicated the reviewer undercharged the battery, didn’t set the cruise control to 54 m.p.h. to save energy as he had claimed, and cranked up the heat as the charge faded.

Only time will tell whether consumers believe Musk’s tweets (and the tweets of other Tesla fans) more than they believe the photo of the Tesla being loaded into a flatbed.

The episode reminded me of experiences I’ve had with product reviews over the years. These reviews happened before sites like Amazon became powerhouse review resources, and before online social networking gave companies a real chance to fight back.

They happened when we had few options to fight a poor review. Sure, we could (and did) complain to the reviewer, refuse to participate in future reviews, explain our side of the story to our customers and business partners, and pitch other reviews to other publications. But in those days, we couldn’t take our case directly to the public as Musk has done with the Tesla review.

Here are some stories.

In one case, my client fired the technical contact we had given the publication, but let him stay on the job for two weeks. (An interesting concept, indeed.) In that timeframe, the reviewer called and the tech contact trashed the product. The reviewer believed him. The resulting review said that my client’s technology product was good as a door stop, little else. And our subsequent contacts with the editor got us nowhere.

Then there was the competitive review when the AT&T business phone got an “A” and all the competing phones (including my client’s) got “C’s.” The phones were very similar; we thought they were all “B’s.” Then we learned that the reviewer (a freelancer the magazine had hired for the review) was an award-winning reseller for AT&T. We notified the magazine, saying that we did not feel the review was fair because the reviewer had a vested interest. (The magazine ignored us.) We – and all the other companies in the first review – refused to participate in other reviews in that publication. But a new company did and the result was the same: an “A” for AT&T and a “C” for the other product. (Note: this is not to disparage AT&T which, in all likelihood, did not know about the subterfuge.)

Another time a competitor contacted a reporter, pretending to be “just an interested end-user.” The competitor said he had tested several products, and gave his “test” results to the reporter. The gullible reporter printed the information only to learn that the “interested end-user” had a vested interest indeed, and that the highest ranking product came from his company. The editor was duly embarrassed, and I doubt that the offending company ever got coverage in that magazine again. (My client’s product was not included in the “test,” so experienced neither a positive or negative impact from the episode.)

And a final example. We were promoting a home-networking product that was designed for the latest computer hardware and software. For some inexplicable reason, the reviewer decided to cobble together a network from used computer parts and outdated products for his test bed. Not surprisingly, my client’s product–and all the products in the review–got poor marks because they were all geared for up-to-date technology, not left-overs from previous years. The products made these perfectly clear in their user manuals. Again, we contacted the magazine to explain the discrepancy and ask for a new review, to no avail.  

Today, I often check reviews before making a purchase, especially a technology product. I know how flawed the system can be, and yet it still helps to see what people think about a product. And some sites, such as CNET, and Consumers’ Reports, have good reputations for objectivity.

I am glad they have. And I am happy I now can respond if the review is totally off base.

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