What OBL taught us about the NEEDS of our FEEDS

Like many people, I was monitoring the news Sunday night starting around 7:15
Pacific (when MSNBC cut in to normal programming to announce a surprise,
mystery announcement from President Obama). And with one eye on the cable news networks, my other eye was watching Twitter. It seemed as though 95% of users were talking about WHAT this mystery address could be about.  Then word began to leak that it was about Bin Laden’s death.  At that point, and for the rest of the night 99.9% of the users on my feeds were talking about that. As for that other .1% …..

  • Bin Laden’s dead!
  • AP confirms: stealth military action ends indeath of Osama.
  • Obama to address nation in mere moments, watch live stream here.
  • 5 great social networking tools for increasing your followers.
  • CIA operation ends in Bin Laden’s death.

See what I mean? Sing it with me …. “One of these things is NOT LIKE THE OTHER.”

It’s a case of auto-tweeting gone wrong. Or maybe not “Wrong” but certainly not “right.” Some well-versed tweeters caught on and started warning people to turn off and reschedule their auto-send tweets. Not only were they getting lost in the fray, but the ones that DID register looked horribly out of place.

To be fair, it’s unlikely that ANYONE expected news to break Sunday night, especially news of this magnitude. And I doubt that when the news DID break,
that many people thought “oh hell!  I have to reschedule my 8:05 tweet!”

One of the great tools of social networking, is the ability to auto-post material.
Like Ron Popeil says, “Just Set It and Forget It.” But I see a lot of people becoming too reliant on those auto-set tools. ALL of their social media interactions are automated. Tweets are preloaded in batches and timed to send. Blog posts send auto updates to Twitter and Facebook.

Your feeds have needs and I think people tend to forget that. Each feed (facebook,
twitter, blog, youtube, etc.) has to be treated differently. Take a step back from last night and the potential risks of auto-posting:

  • If you auto post tweets to Facebook, Facebook may clump all of those posts together and only show one of your messages.
  • If you have your blog send a message via twitter that you’ve just posted something, you may only get half the title followed by a bitly link.
  • If you schedule a tweet, you run the risk of it getting lost in an avalanche of other news.

So what do you need to do to make sure you are staying efficient but ALSO serving
the needs of your feeds?

  1. Set a reminder. When you schedule a post to auto-upload, set a reminder on your phone a couple minutes before. If you can, jump online when the reminder goes off and check out the landscape (a quick flip through your Twitter stream will be fine). Is your stuff posting in the midst of a surprise news avalanche?  If so, reset your timers to post later in the day.
  2. Don’t auto-post everything. Pre-write a blog post like you normally would and set an appointment on your calendar for when you want it to go live instead of setting your blog to auto-post it. Brick out the time as “busy” so no one will disturb you. Instead of relying on all of your auto-load features, post your blog and then send a specific tweet and facebook post. Show that you are investing time in your feeds.

Some great biz advice (if I do say so myself)

Wanted to draw everyone’s attention to my Guest Blog Post over at the Waggener Edstrom careers blog.

For those who haven’t heard the news, I recently moved full time to the PR side of things from my position in broadcasting. While TRR (TheReadeRundown) is devoted to the world of Media Relations (covering all sides) I think there are some relevant notes in this post for ANY business.

WaggEd has taken some amazing steps to welcome me to the team and ensure my success that pretty much any company COULD emulate.  Sad thing is, few actually do.

There’s a fine line between aggressive and lying

Few things get a reporter or editor more upset than lying.

Lying in an interview.  Lying about the hook of a pitch.  Lying about who is available for an interview.  Lying is not good.

And sometimes being aggressive crosses the subtle line into lying.  It’s a line you HAVE to be mindful of.

 

Consider this real life example from my files a few months ago:

A PR rep contacts me with a story idea that’s a month out.  I clearly explain that we cannot book  the story until the week of  (it’s a feature-y piece) and suggest that we touch base at that time.  I’m very clear that nothing is definite.

This PR rep calls back a week early, gets a DIFFERENT reporter on the phone and says quite aggressively (I should know, I was sitting next to them when the call came in):

“Colby wanted to book this interview.  When can we set it up?”

 

Was I interested in the interview?  Yup.  Would we probably have covered it?  Yup?

But calling the newsroom and putting words in a reporter or editor’s mouth is not wise.

It may not seem like a big deal … after all, I did say we were interested …. but I also said I wasn’t sure we could fit it in …. consider this:

What if we were hit by a major breaking story or a massive exclusive that needed the full attention of the newsroom?  Now imagine that in the midst of this, our news director sees one of our reporters doing a fluffy interview “that I told him to get.”  Sure we can straighten things out, but not before a frustrating series of conversations with the ND and the reporter.

Also, keep in mind that reporters do not want to bungle a relationship with a PR rep.  If they believe someone else in the newsroom set up an interview, or wanted to set up the interview, they’re going to move forward.

 

Can you guess whether that story made air on our station?

A better alternative would have been:

 

“Hi, this is Trudy from Such and Such Firm.  Colby and I spoke a while back about this interview.  Time is coming up fast and our schedule is booking up fast.  What’s the best way to get in touch with him to check our calendars?”

 

Just like a REPORTER can kill a connection to a PR source by misprinting a single word (leaving out “allegedly” anyone?) it is imperative that the PR side can walk that fine line between aggressive . . . and OVERLY aggressive.

Do not be passive

Who here has felt intimidated calling a news room?  Show of hands.  OK, close to everyone.  And it makes sense.  Newsrooms are loud, fast-paced, pressure-filled, deadline-focused machines.  It’s easy to call with a pitch, only to reach a strung-out reporter facing a daunting deadline who just doesn’t have time to talk.

 

It can feel personal.  It can feel like you are wasting your time and theirs.

 

But it isn’t.  And you aren’t.
Fact is, if you have taken the time to meet with the client, craft a press release, edit that press release and are now directly calling newsrooms . . . the story HAS to be worthwhile.  (and if it isn’t, you should not have wasted all that time).

 

What’s unfortunate is that this process seems to make PR reps more and more passive as it goes.  This is an actual interaction (over several days) that I’ve had with a PR rep.

 

Step One:  Rep confidently calls, she’s familiar with the station but needs my help determining the best person to field her pitch.  She’s concise, on point, and energetic.

 

Step Two:  She sends the press release with a customized e-mail, but it’s more formal.  No discussion of when and how to follow-up.  Simply “Hi, we talked about this story, here’s the material.  K Bye.”

 

NOTE:  Remember, reporters get hundreds of pitches a day.  It behooves the PR Rep in this case to make a point of when and how to follow up.

 

Step Three:  Her follow up e-mail is VERY passive.  It uses phrases like “if you might consider covering.”  If YOU aren’t excited and passionate about the story, why should the reporter be?

 

Do not take the stance that the reporter is doing you some huge favor by covering your story.  You are offering the news room great content, right?  And you’re offering it up in a very turnkey manner which makes their life more easy, right?  Then be FIRM about it.  Stand your ground and keep swinging. You get three strikes at the plate before you’re out.  It may take the third swing before you knock it out of the park.  If you start half-swinging, a homerun may turn into a foul-out or a single (sorry, for the random baseball metaphor . . . .that was mostly for my dad).

 

No need to be a junk yard attack dog, but remember that CONFIDENCE is a key to getting through all those other crappy stories and getting yours on the air or in print.

Reporters know what telemarketing sounds like

Occasionally, PR people have to cold call on stories.  It’s part of the biz.  Pick up the phone, dial newsrooms and try to get through to the news “decision maker” for coverage.  It’s a tough gig.  Trust me, I’ve worked sales.  I know about cold calling.

But if there is one piece of advice I can offer it would be this:  before you pick up the phone, open your internet browser.

Which scenario do you think is more likely to land coverage?

(1)  “Hi, I’m Trudy from ABC Marketing.  Who there is in charge of booking stories?”

or

(2) “Hi, it’s Trudy from ABC Marketing.  I’ve got an expert that would make for a great interview with John and Joe next week.  Am I correct that Carly does the booking?  When would be the best time to catch her for two minutes so I can share the details?”

The unique thing about the PR-Media relationship is both sides take turns being the client.  Sometimes reporters need help from PR reps getting an interview.  Sometimes PR reps need the Media’s help getting a story on the air.  In this instant, the media is your potential client.

Almost every media outlet these days has a website with some info on their programming and staff.  Use that to your advantage. Take a couple minutes before picking up the phone and figure out if they have any shows / columns / spaces that look like they would be a good fit for your pitch.  Also, see if you can identify an editor or news manager.  That is the person you want to ask for first.

Follow-Up: You’re Doing It Right (Grady Britton Edition)

Wanted to give some kudos to the team at Grady Britton this morning.  Most specifically, Lindsay Yale.

When it comes to press coverage, I am constantly preaching the need to:

1. Stand out from the crowd

2. Be proactive

3. Be timely

(not exactly in that order)

Take yesterday.  I had more than 100 pitches in my inbox already and it was not even noon.  As a PR rep, your job is to help me sift through the fluff and figure out why I should cover your story and how I can do just that.

Enter Lindsay.

Yale and I have spoken in the past so rather than sending me a standard release, she shot me a two line e-mail asking when I had time to speak with her about a couple of story ideas.  (Note: this not only makes the reporter feel important, it also shows that you believe your story is important enough to warrant the extra attention).

When we got on the phone that afternoon, Yale is concise and to the point.  She’s confident in her delivery which tells me she believes the story is worth my time and important to our listeners (Note: wishy washy “if you think you might have time” pitches come across as weak.  BELIEVE in what you are selling).

She’s offering a medical pitch that ties into Colon Cancer Awareness Month.  She’s got multiple angles that we could pursue for the story and experts available to talk about each one.  She’s also flexible on timing.  Needless to say, we did the story.

(Author’s Note:  During the conversation, she also slips in a mention for another story in the works which she can follow up on later …. talk about forwarding one story into the next).

Lindsay clearly understands the needs of a reporter, how to get their attention and how to maximize coverage opportunities.

The question now becomes …. what practices do you see here that you are not currently using but COULD start using TODAY?

It’s like a handshake . . .

When I was growing up, one of the first lessons my dad taught me was very simple.  When you meet someone new … stick out your hand …. look them right in the baby blues …. and speak clearly.

 

The message, of course, is that first impressions matter and you want your first impression to be one of confidence, professionalism and manners.  People will not be as drawn to you or interested in working with you if you stare at the floor, mumble or offer a dead-fish handshake.

 

With that in mind, think of every press pitch you send as a handshake.  Sending press releases or making pitches by phone (or on social networking platforms, etc) is the first step in the business of getting news coverage.  (step two is securing the interview, step three conducting the interview, four getting it on the air, etc.)  Your job is to present that confident, professional demeanor that makes a news organization (be it a radio reporter, a print editor, a blogger) WANT to work with you.

 

DO:

Have confidence that your story is news worthy

Be concise and get to the point

Be knowledgeable and prepared to answer any initial questions

Choose your words carefully (overuse phrases like ALERT, URGENT, BREAKING NEWS and you could wind up in the spam filter)

DO NOT:

Be passive (“If you have a few minutes I thought this is a story you might consider  . . . ”  It’s a good story!  Act like it!)

Worry about being a bother.  If you call at a bad time or an e-mail isn’t returned, don’t be afraid to ask for a better time to follow up.

Be aware of the cycle

Few things are as disappointing as setting up a huge media event, only to be skipped over by a major breaking story.

Yesterday, today and likely tomorrow the Portland media will be focused on snow coverage.  Pressers with the Mayor, ODOT, PBOT and so forth will take priority over any and all stories.  Yes, reporters will try to cover everything else, but we’re talking about what is top priority here.

The take away for PR reps  is to always be aware of what else is going on when you have a press event booked and be proactive and flexible to maximize your exposure.

What other media happenings might pull a reporter from your event?

How proactive are you with follow-up after a story?  Do you call the different shops to offer a secondary interview if they could not get a reporter to your scheduled event?  Do you look ahead when booking your event to make sure it doesn’t conflict with a major breaking story?  (I always chuckle at the group who books their big presser on an election day).

Did you seize the opportunity for coverage today?

Today is President’s Day.  Holiday’s are difficult in news because we still have to fill a full news cycle, yet most of our sources (city, state govt, local biz, etc.) are closed.

That said, holidays can be a great opportunity for you to grab some exposure and make friends with a reporters and editors at the same time.  The trick is to plan ahead and make sure you have a story that is available on the day a holiday is observed.

Take a moment RIGHT NOW and open your calendar. Take a highlighter and mark every holiday in the next year.  Those should be target pitch days for your group.

Have a story on Arbor Day, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, etc.  Make it timely, make it interesting, make it engaging.

Send a media release out the week before for the futures file and follow up on the day of offering the story.

Most importantly, include the best ways to contact you ON THAT DAY. Even if you are out of the office, be available to coordinate interviews if need be.

 

As an additional tip, holidays can be a great time to make contacts with newsroom.  Make a point to call around to a few and introduce yourself.

 

 

Press Release Rule – You are competing with crime

Realize that every press release you write, every story you pitch, every idea you throw at reporters is competing DIRECTLY with crime.

The gang shooting that left one dead
The apartment fire that left four families homeless
The business that announced a major expansion
The scandal dogging city hall
The search for a missing hiker

These are all common stories that can populate a newscast TOGETHER. Your story has to be interesting enough that it can stand alongside that content if you want to get it into a newscast.

When you sit down to write your next press release, ask yourself….

What is REALLY interesting here?
What would grab the average person’s interest here?

Make sure that nugget is made clear in plain simple English.

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