PR Pros: Choosing Clients’ Causes Carefully

By: Toni L. Rousell                   Original Post can be found here

Your advice is not only valued, as a hired PR professional, wise counsel is required.

So, how do you help your clients choose the causes they support? Being driven by emotions or going with what’s popular, is sure to be a recipe for disaster.

Discouraging clients from seeking alliance with causes they really have no sincere desire to support, or no real understanding of, should be number one priority.  It can be hard to steer them in a more beneficial direction, avoiding self-destruction of their brand, but it’s responsible and necessary.  They’ll thank you later and you’ll sleep better at night.  Throwing support to a cause they don’t truly believe in, will only lead to their support waning, which will consequently reduce the value of their endorsements as they appear “flaky”, or even unstable, in the public-eye.

Local vs. National

It can seem convenient to offer support to the largest, most visible organization when it comes to “giving-back”, but could a local organization, requiring more hands on support, be more beneficial to your client’s long-term philanthropic goals and public image?  Analyzing the organization’s mission, do results support that mission?

Local organizations will allow for your client to see the lives their efforts effect. They will be able to look directly into the eyes of those benefiting from their donations and volunteering, and will also be more likely to give to those in their hometowns who directly affected their success, which makes for excellent public relations.  This encourages a more faithful, less “fair-weather”, connection.

Alternatively, national organizations offer the opportunity for clients to give-back to multiple communities at once.  If your client lives or their primary business is based outside of their hometown, this choice would allow them to give-back to their hometown community, as well as to the new community that has embraced them. There should be no lack of effort on the client’s part to make their presence known, even when the cameras are off or not around.  A national organization will also be more likely to have consistent PR representation, affording a better grasp on public support of the cause and offering more flexible events your client can join.

Making the Commitment 

Sometimes a client desires to support organizations with a focus that may require a little extra effort for educating the public or validating the connection. Is the client truly committed? This is where your client’s genuine beliefs will come into play. The work required will expose the true intent: is it pub or love?

One example of true commitment is that of Actress Ciera Payton. Being raised, until the age of 13, by her grandmother and drug addicted (now incarcerated) father, Ms. Payton wanted to align her brand with organizations that would allow her to connect with youth growing up in an environment similar to herself: children of incarcerated parents.

But how understood is this cause?

Most children of incarcerated parents are misunderstood and, in many cases, ignored.  Many can site statistics, and some can actually admit they’ve become a statistic, but Ms. Payton’s focus is clear: share the fact that she has overcome the statistics.

By welcoming audiences in, sharing some of her most painful moments growing up in a life-threatening environment, Ms. Payton reaches those who can relate, finding those in need. She credits the Arts for saving her life, and not only commits funding, but diligently focuses on giving-back to youth facing the same battles she’s faced by mentoring.  She has chosen a mix of both local and national organizations to support, allowing her to give back to her hometown of New Orleans as well as her new home of Los Angeles.

Maya Angelou quote (pic)

PR and Publicity vs “Puff and Fluff”

While announcing the partnership, be honest with the public.  Don’t puff up your client to be more than what they are or try to fluff up their support to be more than what it is.  Instead, once the choice has been made, be sure to connect with those who genuinely share in the cause.  Reach out to those who are long-term supporters, whether celebrity or not. This will not only increase the support base for the cause, but will also strengthen your client’s alliance.  Joining forces and sharing ideas for creative support, increases public awareness and makes the difference between superficial “puff and fluff” and careful PR and publicity.

Remember, it’s the man who has more that gives more and philanthropic efforts are what keeps many in need going and feeling encouraged.  Giving back for the cameras is bound to be exposed and never worth the backlash.

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Tips for PR pros planning a 2014 editorial calendar

By Carrie Morgan  This post can originally be found here

If you’re the kind of uber-efficient PR pro who organizes Outlook into client-specific folders, keeps client folders for years after they’ve evaporated, and alphabetizes books and CDs, this post is for you.

If you’re a new PR professional still learning the ropes, this might help.

It’s October. If you aren’t thinking about 2014 editorial calendars, it’s time to shift into gear.

I’m talking not about creating editorial calendars for your blog or social content, but about the traditional PR tactic of using editorial calendars created by magazines, trade publications, and other media for securing placement opportunities. Newspapers and broadcast media generally don’t provide editorial calendars.

Editorial calendar searches are a basic PR skill, but one that way too many pros gloss over, only do annually, or forget entirely. That’s a mistake, given how aligning your pitches to an editorial calendar bumps your success rate way up.

It’s time to kick off the process for next year. If you wait much longer, it will be too late to pitch January/February issues. You don’t want a client calling to ask, “Why am I not in this issue? It’s a perfect fit for what we do.”

For newbies

Magazines and many other media outlets, as well as the larger blogs, publish an annual calendar of upcoming articles or topics they’ll be covering. It’s a smorgasbord of opportunity and a foundational public relations skill. It’s also an opportunity for you to let your PR skills shine, because most agencies and PR pros don’t spend enough time with them to gain maximum benefit.

1. If a team is handling the client, ask whether editorial calendars have been collected, and what agency or department procedures typically are for handling this part of PR. You don’t want to re-invent the wheel if someone is already on top of it, but you do want to show everyone that you are getting the foundation in place for fantastic results, that you are covering the basics.

2. Assuming you’ve already built your client media list and/or a list of publications you’ll be targeting, check their website first to see if it is available for download, then contact every outlet on that list and ask for a media kit. Generally this includes the editorial calendar, demographic information about readership, ad sizes and specs, and ad due dates. Why is this better than asking for just the editorial calendar? Because the ad due dates tell you when the publication goes to press. It helps you plan the timing of your pitch so it isn’t too late to be considered.

3. Keep a spreadsheet so you can easily track whom you’ve spoken with, which ones you have, and which ones you are still waiting on. It also gives you a tickler file to get started on the next year.

4. Print out the editorial calendars, put them in a clearly labeled folder and keep it on your desk. Plan on referring to it often. Tuck a copy of your spreadsheet in the folder, too.

5. If you don’t already have a relationship going, contact each publication individually to discuss their print schedule. When do they typically close out their issue? How far in advance should you pitch them? What is too late? Do they prefer to be pitched via email, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or phone? Do they have special issues with different print schedules? If it’s a blog or e-zine and not a print publication, look at their website to see if they prefer post submissions that are ready to publish. (It’s usually an obvious page.) Note all this information on your spreadsheet.

Next steps for advanced PR pros and newbies alike

6. Spend time going over each editorial calendar and writing down story ideas to pitch. Match the ideas to the issue, and then schedule each individual pitch in Outlook. Don’t assume you’ll remember; schedule it as an appointment using the timing determined in No. 4.

7. You’re not an Outlook user, or you want a secondary tool to be sure important dates don’t slip your mind? Create your own calendar that flags specific dates and publications you should pitch, and look at it every Monday so you know what’s coming up in the next week or two.  Print it out and pop it in that folder with the printed editorial calendars; make it a habit to review it frequently.

8. Every time an Outlook alert goes off and it is time to pitch a specific issue of a publication, glance over the entire folder anew to see what opportunities you have for that month. This might seem too often, but it helps you get intimately familiar with these magazines and their upcoming topics. It also helps inspire creativity, because you’ll notice something new or gain fresh inspiration with every review. Many pros look at their editorial calendars once or twice a year, which isn’t nearly often enough. It also forces you to plan far in advance.

9. If you supervise a team, sit down and review the editorial calendars together. Brainstorm or review their story ideas that the editorial calendar stimulates, then don’t forget to look at the actual pitches. It seems like far too many agencies don’t supervise the team or work with them to improve their tactics—an epic failure for everyone involved. Pitches and the processes we all use are not a big secret; they should be continually improved and fine-tuned for optimal results. Don’t hesitate to get involved.

 

10. Start collecting next year’s editorial calendars in early fall. This helps you to avoid missing out on great opportunities early in the year simply because your timing is off and you start too late. Magazines, trade publications, large blogs, and e-zines—round ’em up and get those opportunities scheduled.

Time to share. What tactics do you use for editorial calendar searches? Any fabulous tips?

Carrie Morgan is a 20-plus year public relations veteran based in Phoenix, specializing in digital PR. A version of this story first appeared on the Rock The Status Quo blog.

15 tips for a successful PR career

By Dave Fleet – Post can be found here

 

 

 

 

One of the things I enjoy most nowadays is having the opportunity to speak to the future leaders of the PR profession when they’re starting out. I often get asked: “What tips would you offer to get ahead in this field?”

 

Now that summer is upon us and students are turning their minds to life after school, I thought it might be timely to offer some advice here.

Here are 15 top tips for success in a public relations career. Funnily enough, I’d give the same advice to someone 10 years into their career, like me:

1. Be a sponge.

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it made the PR pro. Whether you’re just starting out or if you’ve been in the business for years, it’s incumbent upon you to constantly learn in order to stay on top of our industry. Never stop being curious.

 

2. Stay on top of the news.

Make time to stay on top of current events. Read a newspaper (online or offline). Set up news alerts for your company and/or your clients. Listen to the radio or to podcasts about industry news. Watch the news in the morning. Whatever approach you choose, it will make you more interesting and it will make you better at your job. Consider it an investment.

3. Focus on details.

Nothing hurts the credibility of a pitch, a proposal, or a program like sloppy mistakes. Meanwhile, people who become known for outrageous attention to detail become go-to people in a team. Be that person. Read and re-read your work. Be your own devil’s advocate in order to think things through and make sure you’ve covered all the angles. Double-check your calculations. Question your assumptions.

4. Learn to juggle.

This one applies especially to agency folks, but it goes across the board. Learn how to prioritize, how to focus when you need to, and how to manage your time. Life in PR is a juggling act, and you need to know how to manage your workload and the expectations of your clients—however you define them.

5. Learn to write.

Take the time to learn how to write well. Practice. Learn from others. Take a course if you need to. (I recommend the eight-step editing course by the Editors’ Association of Canada, but there are many others.)

Crucial for many new graduates, you may need to unlearn what your professors taught you in university. Short paragraphs, short sentences, and clear language help you to convey your point much more easily than the opposite.

Oh, and if you could put “by zombies” at the end of a phrase, it’s passive. Keep your voice active.

6. Embrace numbers.

Measurement has been a weak point in the PR profession for a long time. Nowadays, companies demand more. This is especially the case for social media and paid media programs. The days of output-focused measurement are numbered, and outcome-focused measurement is on the rise. You don’t need to be an expert in dissecting website traffic (especially if you have a measurement team supporting you), but you should know the basics and know how to coach clients and people within your organization on how to approach measurement effectively.

7. Measure through the life cycle.

Measurement is so much more than reporting, and companies are demanding more from PR measurement nowadays. Know how to take full advantage of the potential that measurement holds throughout a program:

  • Inform your objectives (setting realistic goals, fueled by insights from past programs);
  • Fuel your planning (again, with insights from past work);
  • Identify and help to address issues mid-flight;
  • Measure results and generate new insights to fuel future work.

[Check out more on this in my recent presentation on Social Media at Scale that I gave at PodCamp Toronto.]

8. Provide solutions.

Tough challenges are a fact of life in the PR industry, where the role of communications is often to help to change behavior or perception. That’s difficult. Few things will endear you to your boss more than this: Become the person who comes forward with solutions alongside their problems. It doesn’t have to be the solution they choose (that helps, though), but the fact that you’re thinking it through and considering solutions demonstrates the kind of mindset that managers adore.

9. Learn to stay level-headed.

PR pros frequently have to deal with difficult situations, many of which can’t be predicted. These are moments where you can distinguish yourself and improve your reputation, or the reverse. Be one of those people who keep a cool head. Stay calm, and focus on solutions (per the earlier point). Remember: frantic doesn’t mean effective.

10. Know what you don’t know.

Self-awareness is a valuable trait, regardless of where you are in your career. Be humble enough to know when you’re out of your depth, and to learn from those who have experience in areas you don’t. Make sure that when you find yourself in that situation you don’t sit paralyzed until it’s too late for anyone to help you.

Bonus points for thinking things through ahead of time and coming prepared with a suggestion: “I’m not sure of the best approach here… here’s what I’m thinking… what do you think?”

11. Learn the difference between objectives, strategy, and tactics.

Nothing makes me cringe more than seeing people confuse objectives, strategy, and tactics with each other.

Simply put:

  • Objectives are what you need to accomplish. They should relate to business goals.
  • Strategies are how you plan to accomplish them. They should drive toward the objectives.
  • Tactics are the actions you take. They should funnel up to the strategy.

Learn it. Preach it.

[Read more on how to set better objectives or download my ebook on communications planning for more pointers.]

12. Become a trusted advisor.

Whether you’re dealing with executives in your company, or with clients at other firms, strive to become a trusted advisor to them. Go beyond what you “have” to do and become a partner. Flag opportunities and threats. Offer strategic opinions. Learn to empathize with them. Have difficult conversations when you need to. Push them to take the right approach (but know when to accept their decision).

Don’t just take orders.

13. Learn from your mistakes.

Accept that you’ll make mistakes. We all make them, and they’re a key piece of how we learn and improve. If you don’t make mistakes, then you’re not trying hard enough or not trying enough things. The key is to make them at the right time, in the right setting, and to learn from them. Conversely, people who constantly shirk responsibility for mistakes, or make excuses, will never learn.

Some of my most valuable lessons, and most beneficial experiences, have come from making mistakes. They weren’t pleasant at the time, but I learned from them and I’m better for it. What’s important is owning them and figuring out what to do differently next time.

14. Think outside your bubble.

It’s easy to get caught up in your day-to-day routine. Instead, look around and proactively identify ways to expand your expertise. That could be by finding new ways to get better at tasks, or by getting involved in a project that stretches you, or by learning more about a relevant field.

15. Understand converged media.

This point began life as “understand social media,” but nowadays it’s broader than that. Start with understanding social media-monitor and participate in relevant conversations; think about how your programs might play out in social channels, and so on. Social media is just the beginning now, though. The key nowadays is understanding how earned, owned, and paid media play together. You don’t need to be an expert in all of them, but you do need to understand how to leverage them.

There you have it-15 tips for success in PR. What would you add to the list?

A version of this article originally appeared on DaveFleet.com.

Should PR pros get accredited?

By Matt Wilson| This post can be found here

 

Of the Public Relations Society of America’s 21,000-plus members, only about 3,800, or 18 percent, hold the organization’s Accredited in Public Relations (APR) certification. The number of professionals seeking the accreditation is on the decline, too, according to PRWeek.

That’s likely why the PRSA is re-examining the APR. In a Monday night email to members, Mickey G. Nall, chairman and CEO of PRSA for 2013, announced plans to work with a consulting firm and the Universal Accreditation Board to “enhance the profile and prestige of the APR credential” for the 50th anniversary of the credential next year.

“Rest assured, abandoning accreditation is not an option that PRSA is considering,” he added.

Yet plenty of PR pros have clearly decided accreditation isn’t something they need. To find out why—and whether they’re mistaken in that assumption—PR Daily talked to a handful of accredited and non-accredited PR professionals.

The reasons why 

Brian Lee, president of Revelation PR, Advertising and Social Media, says he got his APR credential in 2011 for a very simple reason: It “helps distinguish the contenders from the pretenders, to put it bluntly.”

“You can only earn the designation after you have proven mastery of areas such as research, ethics, media relations, crisis communications, and management,” he says.

Bad apples, such as the PR firm that helped Facebook plant negative news about Google back in 2011, can give the PR field a bad name, Lee adds. Accreditation can help separate those bad apples from the bunch.

“I’m hopeful that no APR-trained practitioner would ever agree to do something that unscrupulous, and that’s reason alone for the need for more accredited PR professionals,” he says.

Crystal Smith, director of integrated media for public relations at Strategic Communications and president of the Central New York chapter of PRSA, says it’s tough to explain to people outside the PR industry what PR professionals actually do.

“I relate the APR to a CPA for accountants,” she says. “You don’t need a CPA to do business as an accountant. But if a business or consumer has a choice, they’ll pick the CPA—especially for their more serious and significant accounting needs.”

Philip Chang, partner at the PR firm Carbon, says firms benefit from managers having APR credentials, as a shorthand way to prove the company means business and cares about PR and its history.

The reasons why not 

Chang says he can see the other side of the coin, though. To the untrained eye, one certification—APR—isn’t all that different from any other, such as the Business Marketing Association’s Certified Business Communicator credential.

“Where there are competing organizations, there are competing credentials and consequently, it diminishes the value of the credential,” he says.

Jenni Gritti of branding firm Wyatt Brand says she had every intention of gaining accreditation after graduating from college in 2009, but it’s become less and less important to her over time.

“APR at the end of my name doesn’t make anyone open my emails any faster, get back to me any quicker, or approach me with ideas and business any sooner,” she says. “My hard work makes a name for itself, and I personally don’t need the three letters at the end of my name to prove it.”

[RELATED: Hear how top companies adapted to the digital PR industry changes at this August event.

Josh Cline, president and CEO of The Cline Group, seems to confirm Gritti’s suspicions.

“I find no need for anyone to be accredited,” he says. “Anyone can pass a test, but work experience, accomplishments and understanding how PR is only a subset of marketing and marketing needs to map to business objectives.”

Is it worth it? 

PRSA hasn’t explicitly tied APR to higher earnings for professionals, though the organization has done surveys that found the accreditation has been beneficial to those that have earned it. Most, 91 percent, view their APR as a source of pride, and large majorities have used theirs to develop professional skills (78 percent) and resolve ethical dilemmas (58 percent).

Even so, Bob Birge, director of marketing at Blue Pillar, says accreditation seems to have simply gotten buried under other priorities in the past decade or so.

“Those in hiring positions often are looking for the best people available, with the right background and at the right price,” he says. “Whether or not APR appears after their name is somewhat irrelevant.”

Smith, who earned her APR as soon as she was eligible—which is after one gains five years of experience—says the roadblock she sees most PR pros encounter is the cost involved in becoming accredited. An application fee, an online course fee, and the cost of textbooks are all part of the deal.

For that reason, she’s starting a scholarship program for professionals in Central New York.

What do you think, PR pros? Is there significant value in having APR after your name?

Matt Wilson is a staff writer for Ragan.com.

Build on Every Media Hit – From Ronn Torossian’s PR Book For Immediate Release

 

A book excerpt from Ronn Torossian, CEO of 5WPRbest selling PR book – “For Immediate Release”

 

Never Enough: Build on Every Media HitWhen we secure features in media, it’s just the beginning of the value of a media hit. Articles are often more valuable after they are published than when they first come out.  Some tips on making that media mention last:

 

• Create a PR book. Get yourself a few three-ring binders and place your brand’s name and logo on the cover. Fill it with copies of media mentions and articles. Place a binder on your desk, in your reception area, and give one to your C-suite executives and sales managers.

• Frame reprints and line your walls with them.

• Take excerpts from the media and utilize them in marketing materials and advertising (“According to XYZ News outlet, CEO John Doe is a leading strategic thinker . . . ”).

• Post articles on your company website and Intranet for both Web visitors and employees to see. (And, of course, link articles properly for SEO building, use the material on social media, and so on.)

• Send article mentions to a robust e-mail list of past and present customers and constituents, opinion leaders, bankers, investors, key vendors and clients, political leaders, and media contacts.

• Use media mentions to recruit.

I am proud that my Public Relations Agency, 5WPRis one of the few to be open during Xmas and New Years – and whenever anyone asks me why its a fairly simple answer – Do newspapers still publish, and TV still do stories ? As long as the answer is yes, then we too will be open

10 Must-Read Public Relations And Marketing Books

 This post is by:Ronn Torossian, 5WPR
Owning 1 of the 25 largest US PR Firms, I am regularly asked about the best  Public Relations books and as such, in no particular order wanted to offer my  thoughts of the Top 10 PR books, and marketing  books. This list is quite subjective, and one which is meant as a guidepost for  those wanting to become the best in the industry – hence rather than reading  books strictly about PR, related books are on the PR must read list.In no particular order:

  • “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie: This book has  been called the Public Relations bible – Having sold over 15 million copies  since 1st being published in 1937 as Carnegie states in the book “success is due 15 percent to professional knowledge and 85 percent to “the  ability to express ideas, to assume leadership, and to arouse enthusiasm among  people.” It’s a classic and a great one.
  • “The Tipping Point: How Little Things  Can Make a Big Difference” by Malcolm  Gladwell: An enjoyable, great read which tells us how “Ideas and  products and messages and behaviors spread like viruses do.” Understanding the  power of audiences and to whom, and how to communicate is a core necessary value for  all in PR & marketing.
  • “Crystallizing Public Opinion” by Edward L. Bernays: The first book by the  man considered to be the father of public relations, Bernays combined crowd  psychology with the psychoanalytical ideas of his uncle, Sigmund Freud, to  become the first thinker to explain how PR could thrive by managing public  opinion. Amazing how true that even today his book rings true, including the  statement:  “Perhaps the most significant social, political, and industrial  fact about the present century is the increased attention which is paid to  public opinion.”
  • “Thank You for Smoking” by Christopher Buckley: While the movie wasn’t  great, the novel most certainly is.  The book features a Big Tobacco  representative who does a great job of defending not only tobacco companies but  also those who partake in the dangerous habit of using their products. Good  read.
  • “Confessions of an Advertising Man” by advertising legend David Ogilvy – There are similarities between advertising and PR and understanding marketing  and advertising from 1 of the greatest advertisers ever is necessary reading for  all in PR.  It’s a well written clean book which breaks out his concepts  tactics, and techniques and are a must-read for anyone in business – and  particularly marketing and PR.
  • ”It’s Not the Big That Eat the Small…It’s the Fast That Eat the Slow: How  to Use Speed as a Competitive Tool in Business” by Jason Jennings and Laurence  Haughton. Media moves very fast, and as a 2011 survey indicated, being a Public  Relations pro is the 2nd most stressful job in America. Moving fast  is core to the PR business and necessary to thrive.
  • “Reputation Rules: Strategies for Building Your Company’s Most Valuable Asset” by  Daniel Diermeier: This professor from the Kellogg School of Management tells us  how “In our lightning-fast digital age, a company can face humiliation and  possibly even ruin within seconds of a negative tweet or blog post.” Fascinating  examination of understanding the importance of reputation.
  • “Spin: How to Turn the Power of the Press to Your Advantage” by Michael S.  Sitrick – Written by the founder of a major crisis PR  firm, the book is an insider’s guide into the world of crisis  communications.  It’s a crisis PR handbook.
  • “Game change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the race of a  lifetime” by John Heilemann, Mark Halperin: “This shit would be really  interesting if we weren’t in the middle of it.”—Barack Obama, September 2008. A  fascinating insiders take pulling back the curtain – and media insight on the  fascinating presidential campaign which saw Obama’s rise to be the most powerful  man in the world.
  • “For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with  Game-Changing Public Relations” by Ronn Torossian:  Naturally, my PR book is a must read – it’s also the 1st book  by the owner of a top 25 PR Agency. The book details how valuable  public relations is – how public relations can define brands; help companies and  individuals court the press or avoid it; grow business; resolve crises quickly;  improve search results on Google  and so many other things.  Effective PR makes such a difference – and I  have many case studies and great stories to illustrate it.  Buy this book  at: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/for-immediate-release-ronn-torossian/1102047620

So, there you have it – 10 must read Public  Relations books. Now you have the required PR reading list.

Please follow War  Room on Twitter and Facebook.               Follow Ronn Torossian on Twitter.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/must-read-public-relations-books–the-required-reading-list-of-pr-books-and-marketing-books-2011-9#ixzz1gpT1xmXF