Category Archives: media relations

Virtual Events – New Opportunity for Public Relations

badgesNote: This has been cross-posted on my company’s blog. Furthermore, my company offers virtual events solutions.

Over the past year, virtual events (e.g. virtual conference, virtual tradeshow, etc.) have gained in popularity due to the economic recession and budget restrictions. As more conferences consider a virtual companion to a physical conference or even going virtual all together, this represents a new arena for public relations professionals:

  • No longer can you stand outside the press room and grab journalists for an impromptu interview
  • You don’t have to walk or run a mile to get from one meeting to another with your client close behind
  • What? – no late night cocktails with the reporter listening to a band from the 80’s?

How Public Relations Can Take Advantage of a Virtual Event

All kidding aside, I think this is something that will become more commonplace. Here are my recommendations the next time your client attends an event with a virtual component:

  •  Staff the Booth: In a virtual world, there are no limitations on the number of booth staff. Your team can now staff a virtual booth alongside your customer. You will get to read what customers and prospects are seeking, which will make you more informed about your customer’s business. When a media or analyst comes to the booth, you would be the go-to person.
  • Include Media-Ready Content in the Booth: Depending on the virtual event, the client will have 3-5 tabs for content. Recommend that one tab includes information that would be valuable to press and analysts, such as fact sheets, company backgrounder, link to the corporate blog, link to your online newsroom, and other resources.
  • Participate in the Networking Lounge and Auditorium Chats: Most of the participants are in these two locations. Participate in these discussions as reporters may be asking questions of attendees, seeking resources, or participating in a subject-matter discussion. If the topic discusses your company or product, consider inviting the reporter to a private chat or to come by the booth to learn more. As everything, just make sure to be relevant to the reporter.  
  • Hold a “Virtual Press Conference” in Your Booth: Like a physical event, you can schedule time to have a “virtual press conference” for an announcement and Q&A with your executives. The benefit is that you can potentially drive more participants as there are not travel requirements. The Q&A would take place via the group chat, recognizing that this is visible to everyone.  And remember, this takes the same amount of preparation as a normal press conference!
  • Invite Press/Analyst to the Virtual Event: Virtual conference and tradeshows are fairly uncommon. If this is one of the first events in your industry, then press and analysts may be curious to learn more. Take this opportunity to invite them to the virtual event and discuss why your company is participating in the virtual trade show. Just be aware that registration is required to attend. Since most of this is free, consider setting up email aliases, e.g. reportername@yourcompany.com, to manage reminders directly with the reporter. Otherwise, have the reporter sign up directly.

Conclusions

In the end, a virtual conference or trade show represents an opportunity for public relations. I’ve heard of a few instances where press and analysts have been invited to invitation-only events online, I do anticipate this to increase as larger, more public conferences consider virtual components. When this happens, will you be prepared?

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PR Ethics – How far would you take it?

Ethics by Josephgilbert.org via Flickr

Ethics by Josephgilbert.org via Flickr

My husband likes to say that everything we do for public relations is basically bull crap. I always argue with him that public relations fills an important role in how company’s present themselves to the public. It never seems to work because his point is that companies are just lying to consumers and the public to sell more stuff. When he points to how oil, car, pharmaceutical, etc. companies market themselves, it’s sometimes hard to argue. In fact, he’ll even point to an instance when a spokesperson blatantly lied to better position his or her company.

 

I admit, he does have a point. As public relations professionals, what is our ethical obligation to our clients, and ourselves, if we know that a client is pushing the edge of truth? At what point does “messaging” become “lying”? And do private companies “get away” with more than public ones?

 

And what if you see a competitor blatantly lying or contradicting previously stated comments, do you have an ethical obligation to point this out to a reporter?

 

From my perspective, we as an industry have a bad rap for being flacks precisely because there are some PR practitioners out there who are willing to push the edge alongside with their clients. One “small” lie can quickly avalanche into new products and features to stay top of mind with reporters, but do your customers a disservice when those features aren’t “technically” available for weeks or months.

 

But I also have to remind myself that sometimes the clients insist that we go to market with a message that we know in our bones is inaccurate or obfuscating the truth, then what is our ethical obligation? For me, it comes down to my personal ethics. I think we have an obligation to provide our recommendation and if the “lie” is so egregious, to excuse ourselves from that campaign or account entirely or even resign from the company.

 

What do you think?

My Guest Stint on Media Bullseye Podcast

mediabullseye1This morning, I was a guest on the Media Bullseye Podcast. Thanks to Jenny and Chip for having me this morning. We discussed the role of social media for finding me my job, what is true authority, and the decline of the print media industry. Listen to the podcast.

 

 

All content copyright Cece Salomon-Lee, Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, with the attribution: By Cece Salomon-Lee, PR Meets Marketing, and a link to the post.

A Hidden Rule of PR – If you don’t ask, how do you know you won’t get it?

Since my first PR job with Ogilvy & Mather PR Taiwan, I’ve discovered this “hidden rule” the hard way. When you’re just starting out, you’re taught to do what you can to please the journalist – and now extending to bloggers. Most practitioners start by asking what the journalist wants but now asking questions that you want to ask on behalf of your client or company.

I understand not wanting to anger a reporter, but if you don’t ask the question, then how do you know? We assume that we’ll be bothering the reporter/blogger but you never know what the answer will be if you don’t ask.

So here are some questions that you should ask:

What’s the timing for the story?

People err on thinking that because you’ve just hung up the phone with a journalist that you have to immediately work on what the reporter is seeking. Agency folks – for your client’s sanity, determine what the time line is. This way, if the reporter needs it in a week, you can build cushion with your client. I used to say I needed something in 3 days because I KNEW it would take my client 5 days to turnaround.

This also sets expectations with the reporter. Otherwise, the reporter may want it tomorrow and you’ll never know.

What is the angle for the story?

I know, I know. This should be apparent from the conversation, editorial opportunity or email pitch. But you should reconfirm as the reporter may have a specific angle that she’s seeking to write about. It’s your job to pull this out if possible.

Do you have specific questions in mind that you would like to ask?

Most briefing sheets include a section where we, as practitioners write questions that we believe that the reporter will ask based on the conversation or previous articles. Why not just ask and see if the reporter is willing to give you a few questions. Better yet…

Provide some sample questions

I file this as being a “helpful” PR person. I include a couple of questions to better identify the focus of the interview. However, you have to be careful about this. While the previous question asks the reporter for her questions, this one inserts your positioning into the process.

I will pose some questions if you’re doing an email Q&A or if there is limited time for the phone interview. This way, the questions help to maximize everyone’s time.

Offer to provide screenshots

As they say, a photo says a 1000 words. Screenshots help to visually augment the story, while reinforcing your company’s visual brand. Regardless of the story, I always ask about providing screenshots. More often than not, the publication will use the screenshot. And if several competitors are interviewed, this helps to visually position your company as the “thought leader” in that space.

Conclusion: Being Polite Won’t Get You Anywhere

Let’s be clear, I’m not advocating rude or clueless practitioners. I’m just recommending that you don’t be afraid to ask questions. Each situation will dictate the type of questions you can and should ask.

What other questions did I miss?

All content copyright Cece Salomon-Lee, Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, with the attribution: By Cece Salomon-Lee, PR Meets Marketing, and a link to the post.

Sarah Palin and Media Training 201!

Vice Presidential Debate

Vice Presidential Debate

Disclosure, while I lean toward Democrats/Independent, this post purely provides insight on Palin’s performance, not the content.

 

Last week, I wrote about the one-on-one interviews Sarah Palin had conducted. I highlighted her weaknesses and provided some media recommendations before the vice presidential debate. Her interviews singlehandedly increased the attention that the VP debate would receive.

 

How Did She Do?

While I watched the debate to educate myself about the candidates, I kept in mind the weaknesses I highlighted previously. To summarize:

– She responded with canned messages to EVERY question
– She allowed herself to be cornered on questions which led to
– Her answering questions she shouldn’t had
– She was
visibly uncomfortable with the speed and style of questions

Based on this, here is where she improved:

 

Visible Presence: I think this format played to Palin’s strengths. She demonstrated confidence and charisma that electrified Republicans, and took Democrats off guard, at the RNC. Palin seemed more comfortable as she could focus on the audience, not just an interviewer.

 

Bridging Responses: The other benefit was the debate format. It seemed that each veep candidate had notes behind his/her podium, which can be reassuring to a person. Furthermore, the 5 minute limit on each question prevented the moderator from digging into each person’s response.

 

While Palin was considerably better with her responses, I think she can improve on how to bridge her responses. In fact, she overtly stated that she would not answer questions that she felt the media wanted, but rather the viewer. Not great, but from a communications perspective, she did what we always counsel – respond to the question that you want asked, not the one that was asked.

 

Preparation: I give Palin 4 gold stars. She was clearly MORE prepared than her interviews. She had 3-4 key points that she highlighted throughout the debate. I only detected 2-3 questions when she seemed to struggle, but she recovered quickly.

 

 

Conclusions

With political pundits and prospective voters watching her closely, Palin did a great job to nullify the concerns that her interviews had raised. I recognize that the expectations may not have been high to begin with but you can’t deny that she provided a great performance.

 

She does have room for improvement regarding how to bridge her response with the question asked. Future interviews won’t be like the debate. But in just one and half hours, she definitely responded to her skeptics.

 

Do you think this debate is enough? Or are the doubts still around?

 

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Sarah Palin – Media Training 101!

Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin

Oh my gosh. While I’ve voted mainly Democrat, this post isn’t about the politics of the election. Rather, did you SEE and HEAR those interviews with Katie Couric and Charles Gibson.

Considering that Palin has been out of the public since being announced as the VP pick, I assumed that she’s been undergoing intense media training. There is a huge interest in her that her initial interviews will be a pivotal point in her candidacy. Each response will be reviewed and dissected heavily.

In reviewing the interviews on YouTube, I wonder if her media trainers underestimated the level and depth of questions that she was going to be asked. From her general background and political record to energy and foreign policy, it seemed that Palin was only able to give canned responses.

Now don’t get me wrong. One aspect of media training is how to handle tough questions, respond yet smoothly transition to the message that you want to communicate. Bill Clinton was the maestro at this. Very smooth. Very articulate. And was able to shift the conversation.

The Palin interviews demonstrated her weaknesses
– She responded with canned messages to EVERY question
– She allowed herself to be cornered on questions which led to
– Her answering questions she shouldn’t had
– She was visibly uncomfortable with the speed and style of questions

What’s the net net?

For a woman with so much charisma, it’s confusing that she is unable to match that charisma as a public speaker and interviewee. Eventually, charisma will only take her so far unless she can back it up with substance. It will be interesting to see what progress is made before the VP debates on Friday Thursday.

If I were on her team, the points I would work with her on are:

Visible presence: when Sarah is easy going and relaxed, she can be persuasive with her viewpoint. She will need to keep this cool when pushed for details and better understanding of her views beyond “high-level” sound bites

Bridging Responses: bridging is how to take a question and smoothly transition it to the topic you want to discuss. Again, Clinton was great at this. For example, when asked about foreign policy, a bridge would be:

 – addressing the question: “Foreign policy impacts our country”

 – the bridge: “as we’ve seen this become intertwined with”

 – move to your topic: “our energy and security policies. As the governer of Alaska”

– and respond: “we understand how to protect our energy supplies” blah blah blah

Prepare, prepare, prepare: In the end, it comes down to preparation. Palin’s team NEEDS to ANTICIPATE all questions. They can’t assume that charisma and surpise at her nomination will carry to the end. This requires intense preparation and on-camera rehearsal. Most importantly, they need to replicate the Gibson and Couric interviews. Get her comfortable with uncomfortable situations and questions.  

Conclusions

Overall, Palin needs to overcome her weaknesses before her debate with Biden. The country is watching her and this will be a critical point not only in her public career, but also the direction of the campaign. If she can harness the charisma while competently communicating her experiences, the election will only become more interesting.

What do you think?

 

All content copyright Cece Salomon-Lee, Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, with the attribution: By Cece Salomon-Lee, PR Meets Marketing, and a link to the post.

Brave New World of Media Pitching: LinkedIn

In late April, I wanted to start exploring different ways that we can now pitch media. Besides my page about how to pitch bloggers, I looked into the new way of pitching via Twitter in my post titled,”Brave New World of Media Pitching: Twitter.”  

Social networking is a new avenue for public relations professionals. From my perspective, LinkedIn has some interesting opportunities. Here’s my look at LinkedIn in the brave new world of media pitching:

Make Connections: LinkedIn’s core purpose is to make connections – either with people you know or people you want to know. If you’re seeking to connect with a journalist, you can request a “linkedin” connection to make an introduction. Rather than send a blind pitch to a reporter, what’s better than a friend making the pitch on your behalf?

Research Media: I was recently searching for a reporter to create a briefing sheet and found the reporter’s LinkedIn page. Doh! I can’t believe I didn’t consider this in the past. LinkedIn is rich with information about a person’s background. Leverage LinkedIn to research reporters – where did they work in the past, titles, and other pertinent information. This provides incredible insight before you pitch the reporter as well as to prep your spokespeople.

LinkedIn AnswersLinkedIn Answers provides an opportunty for PR to participate in or start a conversation on relevant topics. Certain topics can also show up high on a Google search, which helps if a reporter is searching on a specific topic. In the end, you never know how a reporter gets her inspiration for a story and if she needs sources.

What other ways are you using LinkedIn for media outreach?

UPDATE: Just saw this post by Lewis Green of BizSolutionsPlus regarding value of LinkedIn.

Other posts in the “Brave New World of Media Pitching” series:

Brave New World of Media Pitching: Twitter

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All content copyright Cece Salomon-Lee, Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, with the attribution: By Cece Salomon-Lee, PR Meets Marketing, and a link to the post.