The difference between a Publicist and a PR Professional

I had a call the other day with a leader in an emerging industry, one set to legalize in a few months 🙂 and she asked me an excellent question as we went over the ins and outs of building her thought leadership campaign: what is the difference between a PR Professional and a Publicist?

Perhaps, surprisingly we don’t get this question very often. Usually it’s more along the lines of “what is PR?” “How is it different from advertising?” “Why is this not newsworthy?” My response to her was brief: a publicist works with someone who already has a achieved some notoriety whether it’s Doug the Pug or a celebrity. Unlike PR Pros representing brands or thought leaders, a publicist isn’t normally tasked with stalking media to make their pitch, they are more in the business of shielding their famous client from being stalked by very interested media. They are in the business of killing stories; giving their clients the heads up if a negative story is set to break or if someone from their past is writing a tell-all book. Potentially, if the celebrity happens to be outspoken, opinionated, intoxicated (you get the picture) Publicists get to do a lot of media training and crisis management as well.
While I’ve never actually worked as a publicist in my prestigious and storied career, I have worked alongside them on behalf of brands; even more so now with the rise of the influencer. One of my first opportunities to work with a publicist occurred back in 2008. I had a client whom manufactured longboards and made a stick to ‘land paddle’ with (think SUP but on pavement). They wanted a super fit celebrity to basically validate the new sport category they created. So, I called Matthew Mcconaughey’s publicist. Just googled her and called her right up. I explained a little about the the sport – it helped that SUP was really starting to take off – and she casually said “yeah, sure, send it over to me and I’ll make sure he gets it.” Fast forward a couple days and sure enough there was Matthew Mcconaughey on TMZ land paddling shirtless. Then all the celebrity focused weeklies and online blogs followed suit! I still feel pure love for that publicist.
In the future I wouldn’t be surprised if the lines between the two professions didn’t blur as our Instagram Famous society makes celebrities out of cats with eyebrows and the adorable little Evan from EvanTube (um, 3 billion channels views?! – I bet this kid not only has a publicist but is also hit up by PR Pros daily)

Social Enterprise Public Relations: How To Get Noticed By Busy Media & Measure ROI

I had the privilege of writing the following post for REDFworkshop:

Building PR momentum in a way that is both effective and manageable should be at the top of every social enterprise’s sales and marketing agenda. Not only is editorial coverage free, it also lends unmatched credibility to a brand’s cause while activating its target audience(s).

Keep in mind top tier media and national bloggers get thousands of emails a day (not an exaggeration!) They often have tight deadlines and don’t respond to the first pitch. The good news is that reporters are always looking for a great story to share; one which will resonate with their audience and editors alike. Read below for tips on how to stand out from your competitors and maximize earned media with a small team and budget.

Pitch writing and a ‘call to action

When it comes to “pitching” reporters, your story is your biggest asset. Given your combined social/consumer mission, you are already way more interesting than a typical product. When introducing your social enterprise to a reporter via email, start with a couple sentences describing what the enterprise does and who it serves. Consider the introduction your 15 second elevator pitch. Expand in the second paragraph with examples of problems you solve and highlight the quality of product/service which makes up your business model. If applicable, bullet a few data points/statistics which highlight the growth trends of your enterprise, program successes and number of people served. Wrap up your pitch with a call to action. This is the most important part, don’t be afraid to ask for a profile, quick call or a product review. That is, after all, why you’re reaching out. Remember – attention spans are short and reporters are usually on deadline, so keep it short, snappy, and compelling.

Know who to pitch

While our firm uses an extensive (and expensive) media database called Cision, your team can easily build a media list for free. Start by determining the 25 – 50 or so outlets you think best reach your target audience, and then go to each site and find the writer that seems to be the best fit for your product/service. If you can’t find his/her email, connect with the writer on LinkedIn or tweet @ their handle.

It’s also becoming more common mainstream media outlets to have dedicated social good columns with multiple writers: Forbes has several columnists focused in the social impact space including Devin Thorpe, MeiMei Fox and Vanessa McGrady. Same goes for Mashable, Fast Company Co.Exist, New York Times’ Prototype column and countless others. This approach takes more time but also allows you to read and reference some of the articles each contact is turning out.

Eventually, your marketing team may want to expand their media searches in a more time effective manner. I’ve rounded up a few inexpensive media databases which allow you to access the contact information for journalists interested in covering stories like the ones about your business.

  • Journalisted: a non-profit run by the Media Standards Trust, a registered charity set up to foster high standards in news on behalf of the public, and funded by donations from charitable foundations.
  • WooPitch: allows you to identify media, build and export media list and search contact details using a scaled pricing model ranging from free to $299/month.
  • ANewsTip: allows you to search for relevant media contacts by what they have written or tweeted. Pricing ranges from free to $149/month

Have a plan

Every PR firm will develop a strategy for their clients which details who they are planning to pitch and when. The firm will take into considerations time of year, holidays, client news, milestones or new product launches and break down week-to-week action items the team will execute against. Your team should do the same thing then share the plan with other facets of the business such as the social media manager and sales team.

When fleshing out your PR plan, take into consideration media timelines and editorial calendars. For example, if you manufacture consumer products and one of your goals is to be included in as many gift guides as possible, you’ll want to be aware that national print magazines work at least 6-9 months out so you’ll want to first contact the outlets’ gift guide editor in May or June. Then your team should plan to target online outlets starting October for digital gift guide inclusions.

More tricks of the trade

  • Include searchable keywords within your email pitch: often writers file story ideas while tackling their current deadlines. Many times they may not remember the name of the company but will instead search their inboxes by using keywords such as “social entrepreneur” or “LGBTQ youth”.
  • Monitor those unconventional holidays. There are national Bean day, national Mutt day and a slew of other holidays you can use to brainstorm a newsworthy initiative.
  • HARO: an acronym for Help A Reporter Out, HARO is a tool all PR firms use to receive thrice daily newsletters full of reporters and writers looking for products and sources for their articles.
  • Offer samples when possible. Many journalists require a sample to review before endorsing a product to their readers. If you offer a service, be able to put the journalist in touch with a customer or source who uses your service.
  • Assets: before sending your pitch, be sure to have the following on hand to help streamline the process:
    • High and low resolution images (product on a white background and lifestyle images)
    • High and low resolution logo
    • one-pager which includes mission, background, quick program stats
    • CEO bio and high resolution head shot
    • if budget allows have a 30 second and 60 second video as an option to include in a post or as b-roll for a segment opportunity
  • Don just blast a press release to everyone. There’s a time and a place for a press release (which could itself be another article). As mentioned before, you’re dealing with people who receive thousands of emails per day and don’t have time to read a whole press release. They want a concise, targeted pitch which immediately shows its appeal to their readership.

Measuring ROI

First and foremost, make sure you have a Google Analytics account. Google Analytics shows who’s coming to your website and what they’re doing once they get there. The potential to use Google Analytics to measure goal conversions should be a cornerstone of any business with an online presence. When building out your Google Analytics account, you should be defining all of your goals: product sales, clicks on the About us page, donations, etc… A goal conversion assesses the impact each site visitor makes on those high-value actions. PR pros looks for the traffic spikes on days our client’s articles go live as well as at the source of the traffic. Sometimes it’s interesting to note that a smaller blogger with a highly engaged audience drives more traffic and sales than an outlet with millions of monthly readers. It’s also interesting to use Google Analytics to note which pages on your site are most popular and which aren’t’t adding value. We encourage our clients to tell us which links to their site they see value in sharing with media. For example, in a product review it makes sense to share the shop now page rather than the homepage. I could write 10 more articles on ways data can streamline and strengthen the PR process but this should suffice as a jumping off point. For more on PR ROI check out these additional creative and simple tips.

Lastly, for those of you looking to hire a PR firm or an in-house media relations specialist, start by checking out these intuitive questions put to us by the Marketing team at New Moms/Bright Endeavors. These questions should not only help you understand the process, but they can be used as a navigational tool when deciding which firm is best for your social enterprise.

Happy pitching!

3 Simple Tips for (Creatively) Measuring PR ROI

 

Whenever I see a headline offering to help measure PR ROI for clients, I get really excited and hope to learn something useful on such an elusive topic. To be able to quantify the work we do for clients in a real way would be extremely rewarding to the media relations discipline at large.

In the past, firm data has been largely absent with many PR pros showing clients what an ad buy (or Advertising Value Equivalent) would cost in the same outlet the client’s brand was featured in. While showing clients how expensive advertising in top tier media is (vs. paying a PR firm a monthly retainer to get inclusion for free in multiple outlets) indeed eye-opening, it’s not the same as showing how many eyes see the August issue of say, Shape Magazine, or the viewership of a specifc segment on Good Morning America. Comparing PR to the cost of advertising also isn’t an indicator of sales potential. If a brand’s $20,000 bicycle gets a mention in Shape Magazine and the ad value of the mention is $336,700*, it’s a pointless effort if the price range is out of reach for Shape’s readership.

So have we made strides in measuring PR ROI? Unfortunately where posts on measurement are concerned, the headline usually ends up being the most interesting part of – I’ll be honest – the fluff piece that follows. By fluff piece I mean the article is vague stating tips such as ‘you should measure coverage impact on a brand’ without sharing insights on how to do it. At Remark, we try and take an imperfect science and simplify the process of quantifying our media and social reach on behalf of our client’s brands. Below are three specific ways Remark measures ROI:

  • Media Relations: In addition to overall unique monthly views (UMV) across an outlet, increasingly bloggers and digital media sites will often have number of reads, reach or shares on each article. When we receive coverage, It’s always interesting to take the number of reads from a specific post and compare to our clients’ resulting Google Analytics report to show how much traffic each piece drives to their site. From here PR pro’s can easily calculate the conversion rate from the number of shares or reads the article has garnered overall, coupled with it’s outlet’s listed monthly reach and finally compared to a brand’s site traction per outlet. We recommend cherrypicking a few media hits weekly to see which hits are driving the most traffic. Then figure out if the spikes in traffic are also correlating into spikes in sales and/or customer acquisition through app downloads. Interestingly, many of our clients report spikes similar to national coverage resulting from posts by smaller outlets with hyper-engaged audiences. Here the writer has devoted time testing the product or service, taking his or her own photography and videos to accompany the post and sometimes even introduces a use case for the product our client had never considered before. Not only does Remark often recycle these blogger insights into new pitches, we also tend to treat these folks like ambassadors, offering first looks at upcoming launches and news.
  • Media Contests: Ah. The popular sister to any media review. If our client can spare product, we encourage giveaways as often as possible to pump up excitement and interaction from their target audience. After the contest ends, many bloggers will send over a recap of total engagement but you can also see how many entries a contest garnered and check out the comment thread by revisiting the post once the contest wraps. For example, one of our Consumer Product clients makes snacks for school-aged kids and is very generous about participating in blogger run contests. For the price of between $25 – $50 worth of snack prizes we can easily accumulate upwards of one thousand participants, each of whom increase their chances of winning by tweeting, pinning, sharing on FB, Google+, Instagram and commenting on the thread below the post… you get the point. During the contest’s run we ask the brand’s social team to track each channel and let us know if they also see a spike in followers and fans and overall activity on those platforms.
  • Survey through Social Media: Just ask! We encourage established clients to put their social networks to work and a great first step is simply asking their fans and followers how they found out about the product/service/company. If the client can incentivize the audience by randomly rewarding a couple respondents with said product/service, there’s an even better chance at increasing feedback and engagement. And what better way to focus PR efforts than in the very places our clients gain the majority of customers. Going deeper into surveying an engaged audience, we encourage our clients to take quarterly polls of their fans, asking questions which help with say, R&D, and then we take the responses and turn them into infographics to share with media or brand studies to share with buyers. Using our snack client again as an example, we may ask their 30,000 Facebook fans how they ensure kids eat healthy while at school or how they pick snacks to include in lunch boxes. Then we distill the responses down into the top five or so categories and post these in infographic form back to our channels and provide them to the media as assets. The sales team can use these while calling on purchasers at supermarkets.

These are just a few examples on how we simplify a complicated and debated and surprisingly creative topic. Our team is constantly on the search for new best practice insights, so please, share your PR measurement strategies and exciting new technologies we may not have heard of. We look forward to being inspired.
*reference is from CisionPoint media database

If it doesn’t spread, it’s dead: 3 smart strategies to replace ‘Going Viral’

When I first started practicing PR over a decade ago going viral meant, in the mind of almost every client, getting their product on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Then in 2011 Oprah went off air ending her reign as queen of daytime Talk. I barely had time to breathe a sigh of relief – maybe clients will want to diversify their media goals now! – before affordable digital cameras made it possible for the masses to take a stab at creating videos with the sole purpose of going viral. The more brands saw these speedily produced videos gaining views, the more they wanted to replicate that success. “Can you get us on Oprah?” was replaced by “Can you make sure our  {corporate ad} video gets five million views minimum? We want to go viral!” (for those of you out there doubting the stressfulness of working in PR, imagine trying to force a pair of shoelaces go viral.)

There are some in the industry who argue virality is passive — a virus spreads or infects by its own means, whereas content people choose to pass on is an active choice. As interesting as this concept is, the point I want to make is there are better ways to talk about earning extensive media reach. I’ve outlined my top three tactics below:

Porous-Platform Storytelling – a phrase created by Remark to emphasize the value of  structuring social media campaigns so that each medium does what it does best; for example, a cookbook recipe might be introduced on Youtube as a how-to video, expanded through Instagram as a series of visual steps, pinned as a board on Pinterest linking to the cookbook shopping cart, and then on Facebook as video with an expanded description. Each social stream needs to be self-contained so you don’t need to have seen the Youtube video to enjoy the images, and vice versa. Any given platform is a point of entry into the cookbook as a whole.

Spreadability – This idea comes from the book Spreadable Media Co-authored by Henry Jenkins. Now that the power of sharing has caught up to the power of content, spreadability, or the ease in which news moves across media landscapes, should be given as much thought as content creation itself. Spreadability focuses on driving robust engagement across platforms through empowering consumers to share the gift of content subjectively.

Consistency and relevancy – good old-fashioned consistency and relevancy are crucial to building consumer trust in a brand’s message. This strategy is so simple we often forget it’s importance. Post as often as makes sense for the brand and share content that makes sense for its audience and social platform. Once a post or two resonates, consumers will often become repeat customers; that is, they’ll begin seeking out relevant content posted by the company, interacting with the content and sharing it.

Next time a client requests you or your firm to make sure their video, image or campaign goes viral, try using the three tactics to frame your response and strategy.

The Part PR Plays in a Brand’s Marketing Funnel

Marketing FunnelMost companies already know PR is the first step to ‘getting found’ and pushing leads into a brand’s Marketing Funnel. However PR also trickles down into every layer within the funnel. Earned media is often shared across a brand’s social channels along with PR provoked user generated content to create a constant stream of robust social activity. Follow up PR often spurs testimonials from media and consumers which can be used in a brand’s digital ads as well as in new pitch angles when reaching out to relevant media.

The cycle never ends. Even after leads are converted into sales, a good PR team will then mine for a brand’s genuine advocates – whether they are consumer or business use cases – dropping the resulting case studies, success stories, surveys and testimonials back into the top of the funnel so a brand can engage new prospects while continuing to build brand credibility.

Owning the Media Mix: Benefits of Coverage on (relatively) Small Blogs

Mediasign

Clients often ask how our team determines which bloggers we work with on their behalf and the difference in quality of coverage offered by ‘top tier’ national outlets vs. bloggers with smaller audiences. For the purposes of this post, I’ll use Baby Gourmet, our organic baby food and consumer goods client based in Canada, as a case study.

The first criteria for determining any media outreach is target audience. For Baby Gourmet we focus on a media mix of bloggers, news sites, broadcast, magazines and trade verticals with primarily Canadian readerships interested in parenting, baby + toddler, organic foods and recipes.

The media mix is important because while coverage in national magazines and news sites can be great for a brand’s bottom line and as a tool for the sales team, bloggers with smaller but passionate audiences are sometimes more influential to their readerships. For one thing smaller bloggers tend to write extensive posts with a lot of site link backs and original photography while many times national media coverage may include Baby Gourmet combos in a roundup with competitor brands or simply feature a stock photo with a couple lines of description in the ‘Healthy Snacks’ section of its monthly issue. It’s rare for one brand to get a full spread in a national magazine or make the first page of the paper without either controversy or a really well-known C-team or entrepreneur driving the coverage.

The media mix is also a great way to ensure consistent coverage and therefore good brand SEO, which is helpful as more people tend to do quick online searches before trying a new product or service. For Baby Gourmet, it’s important to have endorsements from the bloggers consumers consider ‘real moms’ especially when deciding between a brand for their baby. More frequently these decisions are made with a quick Google search from the grocery aisle.

Bloggers are also a great resource for beefing up a brand’s social media following. In Baby Gourmet’s case, some mom blog giveaways have resulted in thousands of reader entries, weeks of constant post re-tweets, and augmented the brand fan base on twitter, Insta, Facebook. All this great social buzz for the price of a case of baby food pouches! I encourage any consumer goods brand to try and be generous with product if possible.

It is in a bloggers best business interest to heavily promote brands and contests for their readers, not only to attract new readers and brands but also to increase the Klout of their outlet by constantly re-engaging loyal readers.

While the goal of this post is to highlight why it’s important to maintain a rolling media mix and the benefit of engaging smaller bloggers, it mainly focused on a product PR campaign. There is so much more that goes into a hard-hitting media mix. Sticking with the Baby Gourmet campaign example, we also pitch the company founders for profile pieces and submit their expert bylines in pertinent outlets. We execute timely campaigns such as Healthy Halloween and 10 Years in Business milestones. We research and reach out with trends in feeding baby and recipe ideas. We set up face-to-face press meetings around new product launches and at trade shows. We track, nominate and submit for awards and pitch speaking engagement opportunities.

I’m interested to hear thoughts on the PR side as to what makes a good media mix and the media side about potential to increase brand awareness by working with bloggers. Thanks for reading!

What you should know when considering a career in PR: it’s not (just) a refuge for the mathematically challenged

I recently began looking for an entry level PR person to help me with my client load. I preferred this person to have the equivalent of intern experience; in other words, they must be able to navigate Cision and build clean target media lists, but client relations experience wasn’t a must.

My search got me thinking, as I realized that response quantity far, far exceeded quality (the irony that this is the biggest complaint media have about PR people when shuffling through pitches is not lost on me, rather I see how this relationship of lack of quality is perpetuated throughout ones PR career) that it’s freaking tough to find someone equipped with the basic building blocks to be a rock star in this field.

In the end, I hired the one candidate that had not only bothered to research my company and myself extensively, but even more importantly, she could write! She captivated me immediately with her pitch for candidacy, and dying art that it is, I was sold on her penmanship.

I will never hire someone who isn’t an excellent writer because that person will not be successful pitching and they won’t be successful in written communications to their clients or their team. To be successful enough to climb the ladder at an agency and carve out a career in PR, most need to first hurdle the barriers of the below five subjects.

1. PR is not a passive career. Media are inundated with hundreds if not thousands of on-and-off messages daily. People looking to be successful in PR can’t expect to passively represent a company or product line and have media come to them. It doesn’t work like that. You could pitch the Today Show on a travel pillow on Wednesday and watch a segment on travel pillows air on Friday without your client’s product included. This happens all the time, even to those of us known to media as representing clients in the travel product industry for 10 years. To be successful, you need to be tenacious and follow up and try new angles. You need to pitch Today Show producers and then, if you don’t get a response, pitch Today Show contributors. Remember, most PR Managers are too busy to micro-manage a passive PR Coordinator and when they soon tire of milking you for results, they will fire you.

2. Organization is key. You need to be organized to the extreme. Starting out, a PR Coordinator is the person who will be pitching daily on an account. You will need to remember who you’ve already pitched, who is interested in your news, who responded negatively, who changed outlets or moved to a new beat. You need to have a ‘home run’ list of top outlets your client would like to see their news in and remember who you’ve pitched at those. You will need to try multiple beats at these outlets with multiple pitch angles fitting these beats. You need to give adequate time – but not too much – between follow ups. You will need to walk the line between persistence and annoyance. It’s a fine line and not everyone can balance it with the poise required.

3. You need to be a good writer. The very people you are pitching ARE WRITERS. They are busy writers on deadline who are constantly inundated with pitches. If you can get to the point concisely while clearly making a case as to why their audience would care, you break through the clutter. Many PR people complain about getting no response from media, no feedback. If you take the time to write a great pitch, chances of getting feedback are greater.

4. It’s as much Client Relations as it is Media Relations and they are not the same thing, not even remotely. First you have to understand, there is no media relations without clients to pitch. PR people need to be taught to listen to – and manage – clients’ expectations while also delivering them the results they expect from hiring a PR agency. You will need to discuss at length why audiences will care about their product/service, determine who the competitors are, where they fit in their market and pinpoint their market differentiators. I like to interview clients as if I were a member of the press to get this information. If you feel as though something is not newsworthy, tell your client that. At the end of the day, you are the expert and should be offering your guidance whether it is taken or not.
Next you have to repurpose all the gathered client information, and break it down into relevant, easily digestible bits for the media. Then refer back to points # 2 and # 3.

5. It ain’t easy. I’m not sure if this is just my subjective point of view, but I feel like a lot of people get into PR because it’s supposed to be glamourous or an easy career alternative for those math and science challenged souls. There’s a reason why this job is constantly placed at the top of Most Stressful Job lists. We have no control over final outcome of a segment or story. PR is often a juggling act of accounts which place you as a middle man between clients and the media (at times you’re taking flak from both ends simultaneously). You may work for 20 hours straight one day for an opportunity canceled last minute by your client or the media. Or you may work 20 hours straight one day and never receive so much as a nod of acknowledgement for getting your client on The Ellen Show. You’re on call 24/7 dealing with politics and egos. Try telling a client a reporter called his/her ‘baby ugly’ in a national headline. Then explain to your boss why said client fired you. The list goes on. And on.

I’ll finish by saying, the beauty of a career in PR – aside from the rewarding experience building friendships with media and clients, garnering great media coverage and watching a company grow in part because of your efforts – is getting to a place in your career where you can mentor a newbie PR Coordinator and watch them grow into a successful, tenacious, organized, writer beloved by clients and media alike.