16 networking mistakes that can derail your career

By Jim Dryburgh This post can be found here

Networking is a skill that can help you develop long‐lasting business and social relationships.As with most skills, you can network well or poorly—perhaps to the detriment of your career.Here are the 16 most common networking mistakes to avoid:1. You think you don’t know anyone.

You are connected to more people than you realize.

Take 10 minutes and write a list of past and current work colleagues, industry contacts, friends, family and acquaintances. You will likely be surprised by how many people you know. Store these names in a file and add new people as you meet them.

Once a month, go through your list. Call at least one person, and email three. The key is to stay in touch. Find out what’s new with people personally or professionally, react to news in your industry or set up a lunch. Put a note in your files to remind yourself what you talked about.

Now check out some social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, which are powerful ways to expand your network. If you have a blog or website, check out who’s been corresponding with you lately.

Continuously reach out to new people and you’ll see networking possibilities grow.

2. You wait for a reason to network.

A network is a social and business resource that you must cultivate and nurture.

Your network supports and sustains you in good times, but is the key to your survival in bad times. Too often people start networking only after they need something. Imagine a friend or relative who only calls when he needs money. Do you take his call? Do you look forward to hearing from him?

Effective networking means creating contacts and relationships now. Dig your well before you’re thirsty, as Harvey Mackay says.

3. You fail to create a networking script.

Avoid fumbling and stammering for the right words by practicing what you’re going to say about yourself, your job or another topic of interest.

Practice it. Practice smiling as you say it so people get a sense of excitement and energy about you. Then think about questions that might come up and how you’ll respond.

Whether you call someone or talk in person, consider what you want and what you can realistically expect from the person. Think about the purpose of your conversation—is it to find out information or seek other contacts? Being clear about what you want will be a more effective use of everyone’s time, and will create a better impression than a rambling speech. Be aware that the person may not be in a position to do much; be gracious if all he can offer are ideas, advice or experience.

Requesting a job isn’t appropriate at this stage, and may result in you losing the contact. For networking emails, be personable and upbeat, but make sure your tone is appropriate to the person you are contacting. For example, don’t go into networking mode if you are just reaching out to an old friend.

[RELATED: Ragan’s new distance-learning site houses the most comprehensive video training library for corporate communicators.]

4. You’re unprepared.

Thinking you know what you want is not the same as knowing it.

Treat networking the same way you would an appearance at Carnegie Hall. Practice your pitch as well as your answers to questions that might arise.

Knowing what you want to get out of a conversation will make the best use of everyone’s time. Do you want a new job? Sales contacts? Information about a competitor?

If you don’t know what you’re after, you’ll either embarrass yourself or walk away having accomplished nothing.

Do your homework and plan ahead to avoid arriving unprepared. If you’re meeting with someone or attending an event, know why you are going and the types of people who will be there. Research specific contacts who may be there and prepare some conversation topics ahead of time.

5. You talk about yourself too much.

When networking, listen to what everyone else is saying. People help by offering advice; they’re not interested in hearing how much you already know.

While a big part of networking is marketing yourself, it’s important to know where to draw the line. Give others some room to get a word in. Prompt them to tell you a little about themselves. This way, not only will they feel like they are part of the conversation, but you’ll learn a little about them. The more you know about them, the more you’ll know what they can do for you, and-brace yourself-what you can do for them.

6. You monopolize someone’s time.

At a networking event, everyone wants to mingle and meet different people. Although making a connection with someone and getting into an interesting discussion can be a great experience, you should keep conversations at networking events short and sweet.

If you’re networking over the phone or by email, remember that the person you’re speaking with has a life beyond you and your needs and interests. A good rule of thumb is that if the person is carrying less than half of the conversation, it’s time to move on.

7. You lack etiquette.

Etiquette can extend from table manners to punctuality to your approach to social networking. If you think people don’t notice, you’re wrong. Committing this blunder is self-destructive, so mind your manners!

There are a number of things that violate networking etiquette:

  • Showing up late.
  • Interrupting people when they are talking.
  • Talking for an extended period of time about yourself.
  • Not asking other people who they are and what they do.
  • Barging into a group when it is clear they don’t want to be disturbed.
  • Blatantly looking for the next person to talk to.
  • Drinking too much.
  • Talking with your mouth full.
  • Not keeping your emails and your social media profiles professional.
  • Sharing a person’s contact information without his permission. (This is a huge no-no that will quickly land you a top spot on the blacklist. Always check with people first, even if you’re doing them a favor.)

8. You forget to bring business cards.

In one of his books, Jeffrey Gitomer argues that the main purpose of a business card is to get the other person’s card. When you hand people a card, they usually want to do the same. The key is to get their cards so you can respond after the meeting with a note that connects you and the conversation you had.

Always carry business cards with you—especially if you’re attending a networking event. It’s unprofessional to give out your contact information on a scrap piece of paper or napkin. Doing so may discourage a contact from getting in touch with you in the future.

9. You have an unprofessional email address.

Your friends may know you as “Daddys1Girl,” “HotStud4U,” “Cougarlady” or “RumAndCoke47,” but when you’re building a network, use a serious email address—preferably one with your real name. And when you use this email address, make sure you have a complete signature at the bottom.

Make it easy for people to remember and contact you later. Your email, LinkedIn profile and standard messaging are key parts of your brand. Consider getting a website and using your email as the address. You can do this for the cost of one business book, and it’s another way to expand your brand.

10. You forget you only have one chance to make a first impression.

Dress sharply when you attend an event. Give firm handshakes, stand up straight, make good eye contact, repeat names back to the owners and show respect to everyone in the room. Never say anything negative about any person, event, company or organization, regardless of your personal views.

Remember that a networking event can be like a first interview for your next job, but no one will help you get your foot in the door if you put forth an unprofessional or negative attitude.

11. You don’t know how to work a room.

Men and women with contacts and power meet many people, but they only remember those who stand out from the crowd.

If you “just aren’t very social” or if networking “just isn’t in your personality,” then be someone else for the networking event. Be assertive and act like a leader you admire. How would your hero handle this situation? Communicate self‐assurance and confidence. Don’t let your introverted preferences get in the way of building the network or career you want.

The good news is you can learn how to network. The news you probably don’t want to hear is that in today’s communication‐driven world, just about everybody has to do it. There’s no sense trying to avoid it.

12. You don’t ask follow-up questions.

If you’re networking for a job opportunity and someone says, “I wish I could help you, but I don’t know of any openings right now,” take a minute or two to ask some follow-up questions:

  • What’s the outlook for the future?
  • Do you know anyone else in the industry who might have something?
  • Do you have any thoughts on what my next step should be?
  • Who would you contact if you were in my shoes?

Follow‐up questions show interest and may help the person you’re networking with come up with ideas he might otherwise have overlooked.

13. You lie.

Would you ever recommend someone who you knew stretched the truth?

A wise man once said, “Always tell the truth. That way you won’t ever have to remember what you said.”

It’s tempting to say, “So‐and‐so gave me your name and told me to call.” It might even get you a meeting. But eventually such‐and‐such will learn so-and‐so did not tell you to call, and you’ll have burned not one, but two, bridges.

Building relationships is all about building trust. If you don’t trust someone, you’ll hesitate to contact him when it’s time to make an important business decision. You don’t want someone to hesitate about you.

14. You don’t follow u p.

You’ve gone through all the trouble to make a contact, so why let it go to waste?

You need to follow up after every meeting or job interview to reiterate your interest and ensure you remain at the front of the person’s mind.

Remember, people are busy, and you probably aren’t their top priority. But they are your top priority. Make sure they know it.

Always thank a contact for her time and advice via a handwritten note or follow‐up email or call. Let your contact know whether her suggestions panned out. You may think your networking is over, but your paths may cross again.

Don’t be afraid to get back in touch with someone. Send her an article or notice of an event that might interest her. Keep in touch through social media or drop her an occasional email telling her how you are.

What goes around comes around. Follow up with contacts who helped you. Keep them up‐to‐date about the company you are now working for or whether the information or leads they provided you were helpful.

This will help you to maintain people as contacts in your network, and allow you to return the favor when they’re in need.

15. You don’t tie up loose ends.

Too often when people in your network help you and give you the opening you need to achieve your goal, you think “It’s finally over.”

Not quite.

After any business meeting, you should document what actions people committed to—particularly you. In most cases, sending a note regarding your commitments will make you look professional and competent. You will probably need those people again in the future.

Write the person a thank‐you note for her help, and let her know what you ended up doing. Don’t just do this for the person or people who helped you find a job or a client. Do it for everyone who offered to, as well.

16. You don’t pay it forward.

Networking is a two-way street.

If you reach out to your contacts every time you need a something—a job, sales lead or favor—without ever giving back, people will stop being so willing to help. A good networker is ready and willing to help their contacts whenever they can.

Did you meet someone who would be a great contact for your colleague? Introduce them! Do you know of a job lead that might be perfect for your contact’s unemployed son? Hook him up!

If people see you as a resource, they’ll be more inclined to nurture and maintain the mutually beneficial relationship.

If you know what not to do, you can network with purpose, add value to your network and become outstanding at the art of networking.

Jim Dryburgh is president and founder of The Balanced WorkLife Company. A version of this article originally appeared on Careertopia.

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HOW TO WRITE SO EDITORS DON’T HATE YOU

 

This post can be found here

As a writer, it pains me to say that I don’t always know exactly what people will gravitate to and read, instead, I try and identify the type of story a publication would choose to print, or not. While editing yesterday evening,  my frustration became so intense that I recalled  a post from Women in PR, “PR Pro habits Journalists Despise”,  which prompted me to write this piece. The WIPR post stems from Katie Burke’s “S%*t PR People Do That Journalists Hate”.

Now, I’m no Katie Burke, but as a young editor, I feel compelled to express the s%*t writers do that makes me hate them.

1. Write with purpose.
There is nothing worse than being handed an article with all the meat but no veggies or complex carbs. We’re hungry for compelling material, so make a healthy balanced meal out of it. Create a general outline of your story, then decide on its purpose.  If you are having a hard time populating your outline, that could be an indication to either, choose a new angle or trash the story.

2. Ditch the question marks.
Only ask a question when it is a legitimate one.
How would that make you feel? Could this path be for you? You as a writer should write to make me feel, however that I should or convince me that path is my destiny. Stop the “what if?” madness and give us all something to chew on.

3. It’s all about me.
If you are writing a narrative, by all means, recount your journey and experiences, but if your article is supposed to be about herbalism or the history of pancakes—which is quite interesting if I may add—don’t make it about you. It seems it takes an eternity to turn those egomaniacal comments into quotes or supporting facts. I don’t know about you, but who wants to take an eternity on anything.

4. Going comma crazy.
Gone are the days of commas and semi-colons. When appropriate,  connect long thoughts, with a long dash. The article will appear more neat overall.

5. Pay attention.
Review the general writing style of the publication you are submitting to. If the articles don’t contain bullet point lists, first person narrative or funky fonts,  don’t bother sending your story over in poor shape. Great writers have the supreme ability to adapt, don’t be afraid to show off.

6. The guessing game.
Don’t write as if you were talking. Your ideas should be communicated clear and concise, so they won’t be misinterpreted. Also, avoid the use of seemingly common phrases—no one wants to Google every quirky thing you have to say, to determine if it’s tasteful.

7. Act like a writer, think like an editor.
Friendly and accessible writers, that are understanding and genuinely open to improve, get first priority in my book. These writers win you over with their persistence, charisma and of course, precise writing style. Before you have the chance to ask, they already have the answer—be it a quote, supporting graphic or the occasional reminder that any piece they submit comes with a “no piss off” guarantee.

Writers and editors, what are some other things that drive you crazy? How can we fix them?

7 underrated skills every PR newbie needs

By Jessica Malnik| This post can be found here

 

In an ideal world, nascent PR pros and neophyte journalists should know how to do a variety of things before they walk across the stage and get their diplomas.

 

There’s no need to be an expert in everything, but it helps to have some familiarity with a variety of tasks and programs. As someone who’s been in the workforce for a few years now, I offer seven underrated skills that all aspiring PR pros and journalists should have:

1. Basic HTML knowledge

By this, I mean basic. There’s no need for PR pros to know how to code websites, although it could be helpful. There is a need to know to how to post a blog post using WordPress, Blogger, or Posterous. Knowing simple HTML commands for headlines, body copy, bold, italic, and bullet points is HTML 101.

 

2. Video editing

This can be daunting to learn. I’m not saying everyone should be fluent in Final Cut Pro or Avid, but there is no reason that a marketer or PR pro should not have some familiarity with iMovie, Animoto, or Jaycut. These are simple programs that enable you to upload and edit videos, often in minutes.

3. Excel

Creating simple spreadsheets and tasks in Excel can be difficult for newbies. Though it may be a tough program to learn, there’s no excuse to do so. You will use it more than you think.

4. Proper grammar

Writing well is a staple of just about any career. Good grammar and spelling are at its root. Channel the advice of your middle school English teacher whenever you construct a sentence, paragraph, white paper, presentation, or blog post. Good grammar matters.

5. Basic math

Whether you’re analyzing statistics, comparing percentages, or helping prepare a budget, simple math skills come in handy more often than you might think.

6. SEO

Understanding how SEO affects your site’s search rankings is important. At the very least, you should know to craft an SEO-friendly headline and keywords for site content. Any added knowledge is gravy. For additional SEO resources, check out SEOMoz blog, a phenomenal resource.

7. Social media familiarity

It’s mind blowing how many marketers and PR pros handle “social media tasks” professionally when they have no or little experience using those platforms. You don’t have to be super active on Facebook, Twitter, G+, etc., but you should at least be on the sites and know how to use them.

 

What other skills should marketers and PR pros have? Please leave them in the comments section below.

Jessica Malnik is a PR/marketing coordinator, social media specialist, videographer, and an avid Gen Y blogger. A version of this article originally appeared on her blog.

Lies Samantha Jones Told Me

This post can originally be found here

I have a bone to pick with Samantha Jones of Samantha Jones PR.

If we’re to believe this conniving liar [which, sadly, a lot of wide-eyed young publicists and publicists-to-be do], publicists are nothing more than glorified socialites, flitting from red carpet appearances to restaurant openings to the front row of New York Fashion Week.

This is why Samantha Jones is a liar:

Publicists do not get to have this much fun.

Samantha Jones Miley Cyrus

Public relations executives function almost entirely behind the scenes. If you think you’ll get to actually enjoy events you put together, you’ve got another thing coming. A publicist will be found in the background of a photo of an event, likely frantically trying to network with all the key media attendees in the room or scowling at a waiter for not being attentive enough to guests. Remember that time Samantha left her own restaurant opening event before it was over? Yeah. Not so much.

What the hell is with her schedule?

Film title: Sex and the City: The Movie

This is an overall problem with the Sex & the City story lines, but you will not find a publicist who has as much free time as Samantha. Lunch is eaten at your desk. Sometimes dinner, too. Sometimes on weekends.

About all that money…

Samantha Jones Money

Seriously, WHERE does this bitch get all her cash? Granted, an owner of a successful PR firm can make a lot of dough, she apparently has no employees, intermittent [and not that well-known] clients and doesn’t work realistic PR hours. Not exactly the recipe for her success.

This office [overlooking Times Square]:

Samantha Jones Office 1Nope. Just nope.

But, whatever. Work hard, play hard. You can pretend you’re this fabulous.

Samantha Jones gif

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.

13 Books Every PR Pro Should Rread

By Brad Phillips-  This post can be found here

 

 

 

I’ve read dozens of books that focus on media training, crisis management, body language, and public speaking. Many are quite good; a few have become favorites.

Below are some of my all-time favorites. This isn’t a comprehensive list, as there are surely great books I haven’t gotten around to reading yet. So if you have favorites that are not on this list, please leave them in the comments section below.

Public speaking

You Are The Message” by Roger Ailes: A true classic chock full of smart thinking and “ah-ha!” moments. Before Roger Ailes was hired to run Fox News Channel, he was a high-profile communications consultant. (He coached Ronald Reagan in 1984 before the second presidential debate that cemented his re-election.) If you want to learn how to be a more effective public speaker, this is a perfect place to begin. This book was originally released in 1989, but it’s still as fresh and relevant as anything being published today (with the exception of a few pages that offer a rather outdated view of women in the workplace).

Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery” by Garr Reynolds: Many communications consultants advise their clients not to use PowerPoint. I disagree with that absolutist stance, because the problem isn’t the tool, but the use of that tool. Garr Reynolds gets that, and strikes the perfect balance by offering a visually stunning guide that helps presenters design minimalistic PowerPoint slides that enhance presentations and reinforce verbal points. It’s no exaggeration to say that this book changed the definition of “best practices” for presentations that use PowerPoint.

Presenting to Win: The Art of Telling Your Story” by Jerry Weissman: This classic offers a detailed, almost technical, guide to public speaking. This is the type of book you’ll want to highlight and come back to before every speech you deliver. Although you should read it cover to cover, you’ll eventually get more out of it as a must-have reference title. Mr. Weissman’s examples come almost exclusively from the world of high-tech IPO road shows, but anyone in any sector can learn just as much as his tech clients.

Confessions of a Public Speaker” by Scott Berkun: This book isn’t a public speaking book, at least not in the traditional sense. It’s not particularly granular or tactical—you won’t find much here about proper posture, slide design, or ways to begin a speech, for example. Instead, this book focuses on some of the bigger issues speakers get wrong, such as failing to maintain the audience’s attention, work a tough room, or manage their own fear. Oh, and it’s the funniest book about public speaking I’ve ever read. (Read my full review here.)

Body language

What Every BODY Is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Speed-Reading People” by Joe Navarro: Reading body language is notoriously difficult. Sure, some “tells” are more certain than others, but even rather obvious tells usually require other, complementary tells—known as clusters—in order to accurately assess their meaning. That’s why I so thoroughly enjoyed this book, which is filled with all of the responsible caveats but is still an easy read full of fascinating tidbits. Navarro rests his conclusions on the most recent science, but impressively avoids the pitfall of weighing down the book with dense prose. (Read my full review here, and five body language tips from Navarro’s bookhere.)

The Definitive Book of Body Language” by Barbara and Allan Pease: A terrific starter’s guide to body language that covers all of the basics—gestures, eye contact, and deceit signals—and some unexpected material, including the hidden meaning of certain seating arrangements, physical space, and courtship displays. An easy-to-read and highly accessible book.

Crisis management 

Masters of Disaster: The Ten Commandments of Damage Control” by Christopher Lehane, Mark Fabiani, and Bill Guttentag: Preparing in advance for crisis is more important today than ever before. This book helps readers do that by detailing “Ten Commandments” of damage control, the purpose of which are to help restore trust to companies in crisis. But the greatest strength of this book lies in its case studies. The authors went into great detail on numerous recent scandals—ranging from those affecting Toyota, British Petroleum, Penn State University, Tiger Woods, baseball’s steroid users, and a few politicians. (Read my full review here, and an excerpt here.)

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

Damage Control: The Essential Lessons of Crisis Management” by Eric Dezenhall and John Weber: This book got a lot of attention upon its original release, as it gleefully tore much of the prevailing crisis communications “wisdom” to shreds. Among other memorable moments, the authors discuss why “getting all of the information out early” is often impossible, why sometimes companies have to do reporters’ jobs for them, and why the oft-cited Tylenol “best practices” crisis response is badly outdated. If you like hearing a smartly argued counterargument, this book’s for you.

The Four Stages of Highly Effective Crisis Management: How to Manage the Media In the Digital Age” by Jane Jordan-Meier: Jane’s straightforward prose, expert sourcing, relevant data, and instructive case studies make this detailed book an easy read. Her international perspective (she cites cases in Australia, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Canada, and the United States) makes clear just how universal these crisis communications truths are. (You can read excerpts here.)

Media training 

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die” by Chip and Dan Heath: The Heath Brothers practice what they preach. Two years after reading their book (for the first time), I still remember many of the anecdotes they shared; those case studies make their underlying and more substantive points even stickier. Their SUCCESs formula is an easily-remembered way to create more effective messages. This is not a “media training book,” but I’ve included it in this section since much of their advice can be applied brilliantly to your media interactions.

The Sound Bite Workbook” by Marcia Yudkin: In her short workbook, Marcia Yudkin offers some terrific advice to help spokespersons create the all elusive “sound bite.” You can use it to create captivating quotes for the media, presentations, website taglines, and marketing messages. This book is only available for the Kindle—and at $2.99, it’s a steal.

Your Public Best: The Complete Guide to Making Successful Public Appearances in the Meeting Room, on the Platform, and on TV” by Lillian Brown: This book, which was updated in 2002, is a bit outdated. Its strongest section—about clothing, makeup, and hair—predates the era of HDTV. So why am I recommending this book anyway? Because Brown’s section on how to dress, apply makeup, and wear your hair is still the strongest on the market. If you plan on making television appearances (or serve someone who will), buy this book and read the first 60 pages. (You can preview some of Ms. Brown’s work here.)

The Media Training Bible: 101 Things You Absolutely, Positively Need to Know Before Your Next Interview” by Brad Phillips: OK, this is my book. I’m not going to review it myself, because I have an obvious conflict of interest. The book is organized as 101 two-page lessons and covers message development, media interviewing, body language and attire, and crisis communications. I hope you’ll consider adding it to your book collection. (You can read independent reviews here and find free sample lessons here.)

Brad Phillips is the president of Phillips Media Relations, which specializes in media and presentation training. He tweets @MrMediaTraining and blogs at Mr. Media Training, where a version of this story first appeared.

A Hollywood Publicist’s Six Tips for How to Build a Lasting Movie Star

Talent is God-given, and demands humility; fame is Man-given, and demands gratitude — especially to a publicist. For 40 years, Susan Patricola has seen Hollywood fame both flow and ebb. As press agent to current stars like Joaquin Phoenix and Jeremy Renner, she is especially qualified to assess what puts (and keeps) you on the right lists — like our roundup of the 100 Most Valuable Stars, for example. Vulture recently caught up with Patricola at the Beverly Hills Four Seasons, where she offered up a few insights from her decades in the red-carpeted trenches. She may not pick her clients’ roles, but her advice on how they should act when off the set is just as important to figuring out how to make it to the A-list — and not fall off.

1. Train them to keep an eye on their mouths.
The first step for up and comers is media training. Without it, they should not be allowed anywhere near a reporter, because, as Patricola insists, today, “nothing is off the record.” If a publicist has done their job well, there will come a point when everyone is hanging onto every word that the client says. And that’s when you really have to be careful. “For Jeremy Renner, when The Hurt Locker came out, we were at every award show,” says Patricola. “And at one, he was having a private conversation, but someone overheard it and printed it. You have to be aware.”

2. Know the TV talk show landscape.
Generally speaking, which morning talk show you see a star on has less to do with the star and more to do with the movie they are plugging. For example, ABC’s Good Morning America “gets the lighter movies, and the comedies,” while NBC’s Today “has some weight behind it” and goes for more serious, dramatic films. Late-night talk shows, of course, have distinct demographics: Kimmel is more popular with young men 18 to 34 (which is likely why you see Ben Stiller hyping his bawdy comedy The Watch there); Leno does better in the middle parts of the country; Letterman is more popular on the coasts, etc. But which ones her clients appear on, Patricola says, has as much to do with personal chemistry between guest and host as the targeted audience. If you have a client new to the circuit, take stock of their conversational strengths and weaknesses and try to match them with a host who might best play off of them, or vice versa. This ineffable quality matters so much, Patricola says, because the late-night couches “often insist on exclusivities” — that is, doing Late Show With David Letterman means your client likely won’t be doing The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, and also won’t get a second chance elsewhere if they tank their first appearance.

3. Strike surgically, don’t carpet-bomb.
The mistake many publicists make with new movie stars, Patricola says, is trying to get as wide a reach as possible, mistaking breadth for depth. Take a gorgeous, waifish actress in her early twenties with just a few movies under her belt: “We could put you on the cover of Shape magazine in a bathing suit, but that would be a terrible idea, because while it would get more impressions, they would be the wrong impressions. There’s a big difference between being photographed on the beach in Santa Monica for Self, and getting Mario Testino to shoot you on the French Riviera for Vogue.

4. Don’t always be afraid of tough questions.
The knee-jerk rule of publicity is that you should never let a journalist ask a client too many probing questions. But even though the reflexive approach for some publicists is to steer toward puff pieces, you should not be afraid of in-depth coverage. With big enough stars, “Their joy lies in the work; they don’t want to talk about making their last movie,” Patricola explains. “So that leaves their personal life, which they don’t want to talk about either, and the ideas that the movies are about, which they do.” Say yes less frequently, and reserve those yeses for places that will also devote column inches to exploring the ideas the celebrity wants to address — The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair. There, the star can muse on the things they want to while gaining the imprimatur that comes with the publication.

If your star is a little quirkier, this approach can also work well … with the right person. Know your star. If they can handle an in-depth piece, let them go for it. In 2005, Patricola agreed to let Phoenix be interviewed by the notoriouslyprobing Lynn Hirschberg for the New York Times leading up to Walk the Line.Addiction, recovery, and deeply held personal religious beliefs are all commonly avoided in polite conversation and celebrity profiles — which is why they made for a riveting read in the penetrating (and glowing) interview that resulted. “After I put Joaquin with Lynn Hirschberg for that New York Times profile, [his William Morris Endeavor agent] Patrick Whitesell said to me, ‘You’re either a genius, or insane.’ But I knew Lynn, and I knew Joaquin, and I knew they’d get along great.”

5. When an actor can’t follow the rules, adjust the rules.
Some actors, no matter how much media training they receive, are simply intractably bad interviews. In that case, Patricola pairs them with publications with which they can’t fail, often because the interview isn’t really about them. “You put them with someone who’s not going to skewer them, like InStylemagazine,” she says, adding, with mock enthusiasm, “‘Show us what’s in your closet!’”

And what about an actor who can’t stay out of the clubs and is constantly popping up in unseemly paparazzi photos? “I never say, ‘You can’t party anymore,’ but I have told clients that there are certain places and events where they just can’t go. You have to find your space within fame,” she says.

6. Tell your star to be a star.
“Clients sometimes don’t want to look the part of a movie star, but if you want to be a movie star, you have to care about appearances. You can look good, or not. That’s truly your choice. But do we want an actor who looks like he hasn’t taken a bath? Why should people care about you if you don’t care? Look like you care.”

Even more important? Don’t speak ill about the downsides of fame. Yes, celebrity comes with its downsides — being unable to go out for groceries or dinner without being hounded by paparazzi — but dedicated fans can’t relate to that, and never will. All they see is someone glamorous and wealthy, and there’s a form of aspirational adulation there that you shouldn’t try to quash, no matter how well-intentioned you may be in trying to show people we’re all the same. “People want to revere their stars,” says Patricola. “I tell clients, ‘They don’t want your money, but they do want to revere you for a certain amount of time; let them. They can’t do it if you’re whining all the time.’”

9 Things Every Publicist Does (Differently) That You Should Do, Too!

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People will ask me all the time, “Why do I need a publicist?” If you have to ask the question, chances are you probably need one. Why? Because there are too many stories, too many angles, and too many opportunities you might miss by not knowing the rules of the game, so to speak. Authors, speakers, small business owners (turned authors) often launch headlong into their marketing campaign with little or no regard for the steps and the process of getting media. Some authors stumble into success after success, and that’s great, but it’s often not the norm. Why? Because in our zeal to tell the world about our story, we often stumble over our own efforts. We send pitches that are too long, or send them to the wrong person. Or we get a media person on the phone and fumble our elevator pitch. All of these things can rob authors of the chance to get some coverage for their book .

Over the years, a lot has changed in publicity. Players have come and gone, pitching windows have narrowed, and with so many stories vying for airtime, your 15 minutes of fame often seems like 15 seconds. To be successful, not just once but continually, you need to understand how publicity people view each facet of their job (and the pitch) and how they garner the media they do. Generally it’s not one thing, it’s a collection of tasks publicity people do over and over that gets them traction on a story.

Let’s look at some of the things we do on an ongoing basis and how you might be able to apply them to your own marketing efforts:

    1. Think like a journalist: This is probably the most important and the most difficult. When I say “think like a journalist” what I mean is thinking objectively and not thinking about yourself, your book, or your pitch because those don’t matter. The only thing a journalist cares about is “Will this interest my readers.” If you can work using that objectivity, you’ll gain greater access to media, both online and off, than you could have ever imagined.
    1. Know the rules: When I say rules, I mean not just the rules of your industry but the rules of pitching. When to pitch, who to pitch, how to pitch. A good publicist knows this, updates her information constantly (because media changes, moves, etc.) and lives and dies by these rules. Why? Get a reporter angry and you’ll see what I mean. Turn in a story late and see how much media coverage you end up getting. A lot of authors think they are special and different, and the rules don’t apply to them. Yes, you are special and different and yes, the rules still apply to you.
    1. Read outside of your market: They say that, eventually, everything ties into everything. This may or may not be true for all industries, but when it comes to promotion you’d be surprised how much a ripple over there can affect what you’re doing here. Reading outside of your market, mostly related to changes affecting other markets, serves a couple of purposes. First, the importance of creativity when you’re pitching can’t be overstated and sometimes to be creative, you have to look through your world using a different lens. By digging into and outside of your market, you’ll be able to gain access to information that could affect your message long-term, or perhaps give your brain enough juice and insight to bring a new set of ideas that will create some great pitches.
    1. Google Alerts: You can’t possibly follow every thread of discussion around your topic, or know where and when it’s being covered, but you do need to stay up on all of it; that’s where Google Alerts comes in. Yes, there are more elaborate tracking services, but Google Alerts is a great way to know when and where your topic is being featured. Also important, you’ll see who’s getting quoted and which media is covering your industry.
    1. Understand the importance of local media: Many times clients want to overlook local media. It’s not as glamourous or as big as national media. Well, that may be true but there’s gold in your back yard. We love local campaigns and local media loves their regional “celebrities.” If you haven’t done a local outreach you should. Additionally, network with local media by going to media events like Press Clubs (which anyone can register for). You never know where this will lead you, and you never know where your local contact may wind up on the media food chain. Years ago I worked with a producer for a local (small) Los Angeles station. We stayed in touch over the years and now she’s one of the head producers at CNN.
    1. Local vs. National: And speaking of local publicity — local media loves a local angle on a national story. If you can hook your book into something that’s going on nationally, then I suggest you pitch it to your local market. Good publicity people are always on the look-out for regional tie-ins, they make for great media!
    1. Media leads: I subscribe to several media leads services and I scan them, not just for existing clients, but to note trends nationally. Doing a quick scan of leads is a fantastic way to see what’s piquing the media interest. As you start doing that, you will also find that you’re responding to more and more stories because you’re starting to see tie-ins that you may not have seen previously (which is helped along by #3).
    1. Realize the importance of a subject line: I know that the topic of subject lines in email pitching has been covered (a lot), but I can’t state enough how important it is or how much time a good publicist can spend agonizing over it. Don’t just willy-nilly point and click your way through your media pitching — subject lines are extremely significant, and most publicity people I know spend a lot of time crafting, redrafting, editing and tweaking them. You should, too.
    1. It’s all about relationships: Once you start getting media, remember that staying in touch with the person who interviewed you is important. Find them on LinkedIn, thank them for the story they did on you (I still send hand-written thank you notes) and then stay in touch a few times a year. Perhaps you can comment on a story they did or send them a quick update or a copy of your latest book. If you can become a reliable media source for someone, you’ll likely always be in their rolodex even when they move on. Just like the example I gave above, media can move, and if you’re lucky, your information will keep moving with them.

Being a publicist is more than just knowing how to craft a snazzy email, it’s a process and an ongoing effort. If done right, you can really pull in a lot of great mentions, features and even reviews. Building media relationships takes a while, and there are no shortcuts, but if done effectively, these relationships can grow and flourish throughout your career. And remember: Media loves media. The more you get, the more you’ll get. Know the rules, honor the rules and perhaps if you’re lucky, the media will beat a path to your door.

How To Respond To HARO/ProfNet Queries Without Pissing Writers Off

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Think your peach defuzzer is the greatest product in the known universe, or rep a doctor who’s on the road to curing a formerly incurable disease? Then you’re probably signed up as an expert source on services like Help a Reporter (HARO)and ProfNet.

I use these services as just one of many tools in my arsenal to find expert and “real life” sources, but often I end up frustrated — and without usable sources. To be fair, sometimes my requests are kind of crazy — like I’m looking for a Hispanic woman in her 40s who lives in the Midwest and drives a Suburban. But many times, it’s the people who respond to queries that make a writer want to drive flaming daggers into her eyes.

Don’t get me wrong — I love and appreciate these services. They’re free to journalists, and I often find good sources through them, like the beautiful bridal entrepreneur-slash-cage fighter I ended up profiling for Fortune Small Business and later for Inc. But the successes are tempered by avalanches of off-point e-mails from PR reps and expert sources.

If you use these services as a PR rep or a source, here are some tips for boosting your chances of a reply when you respond to a writer’s query. (Yes, writers, these requests confusingly are called queries.) I’ll use some examples from recent queries I sent in.

1. Read the Freakin’ Query!

Lat week I sent out the following query:

Are We Detoxing Too Much?
I’m looking for experts such as MDs who can discuss whether the detoxing trend is going too far, in terms of detoxing our homes, our bodies, and our food. Magazines and books are telling us to purge everything from house dust to bleach to non-organic foods, and more and more people are going on fasts and detox diets. How do you know if you’re going too far? And how much do we REALLY need to detox? I do not need to hear from vendors about detoxing products.

You get it, right? I’m looking for information on the negative side of detoxing — how much is too much and how to know if you’ve gone too far. And yet, almost 100% of the responses I received were from medical professionals who offered to talk about why we need to go on detox diets and how to do it. It’s like they scanned the query, saw the word “detox,” and blasted off an e-mail about the wonders of detoxing. If you can’t (or won’t) read, how can we trust you as an expert?

So please…READ the query!

2. Sell Yourself

Every once in a while I get a response that says something like, “I can help you with your article. Call me.” Yeah, I’ll get right on that. Please, tell me who you are and what makes you an expert in the topic I queried.

3. Remember That Our Job Is Not to Sell Your Product

Of course, people who respond to writer queries have something to sell, whether it’s a product, a viewpoint, or something else. But you need to use some smarts to determine when it’s right to make a blatant product pitch. For example, here’s a query I sent out yesterday:

For a national health magazine, I’m looking for beauty news that’s NOT product-specific and that is backed by studies. For example, I don’t care that Jane’s Sun Kissed Skin Lotion was proven to prevent wrinkles, but I do care that a recent study published in the Journal of Dermatology concluded that the antioxidants in pistachios were proven to whiten teeth. Please, no product pitches.

I’m guessing you noticed that I did not want product-specific pitches. I mean, I made it pretty clear, right? So why do I get replies from people telling me, for example, that the FatBlaster Brand Laser Machine has been proven to reduce the look of cellulite? I guess the reps think, “Well, it can’t hurt to send it along anyway.” But guess what? Itcan hurt, because I’ll be sending very negative vibes your way, and I will remember you when you contact me again.

4. Don’t Add Us to Lists Unless We Ask You To

I can’t even count how many PR reps add my address to their press lists after harvesting it from a HARO or ProfNet query. I know this because I have a special e-mail address that I use only for queries on these services, so when I start getting press releases at that address, I know how I ended up on the list. Many people see I’m a writer — what type? who cares? — and decide that maybe I’d like to write about their clients who run a cracker factory in Boise. But even if a PR rep groks my specialties, I don’t want to be added to press lists unless I ask for it. Just because I wrote about safe web surfing in 2001 doesn’t mean that I want to receive press releases on that topic for the rest of my days. I get enough e-mail as it is.

Now HARO has a special feature that hides your e-mail address on your queries so this is less of an issue, but as soon as you respond to a PR rep they have your e-mail address and can add it to their press lists, so the problem hasn’t been completely eradicated.

5. Make Sure Your Client Is Available

It sucks when a PR rep responds to a HARO or ProfNet request with what sounds like the perfect source, but when you try to set up the interview the source goes AWOL. Check with your source to make sure he’s interested in doing the interview before you respond to a query.