Greater Fort Lauderdale PRSA Sunshine Conference 2013 Making Waves: PR in a Sea of Change

August 19, 2013
by Julia Sotelo, Client Services Representative, Business Wire/Miami
and Janice Essick, Regional Manager, Business Wire/Miami

Business Wire was recently a top sponsor of this informative annual event held Friday, August 2nd at Fort Lauderdale Beach’s beautiful W hotel; and the opening speaker, Ron Magill, Communications Director of ZooMiami, did not disappoint. He gave an incredible and moving presentation regarding his experiences over his 30 year career with the Zoo. The highlights from his presentation are numerous, but here is an abridged list of what he thinks has made District_Logohim so successful in PR:

  • Believe in what you’re doing.
  • It’s all about relationships you have.
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously.
  • Appeal to your audience; don’t be afraid to take risks.
  • When negative things happen, be proactive as soon as possible – do not wait.
  • Partnerships.

Choosing which breakout session to attend was not easy, but selecting “Visual Storytelling and the New Reality of Content Marketing,” presented by speaker Mike Bako, Marketing Manager and Broadcast Journalist of DS Simon, was very interesting and some takeaways are shared below:

  • 95% of TV stations are using outside video.
  • Media points are using social media networks more and more to find leads on content to cover:
    • 85% of TV stations
    • 76% of radio stations
    • 74% of magazines
  • Creating branded, expert-specific videos is an extremely good idea in today’s market.
  • YouTube is an extremely important tool for media; now it’s not just for sharing funny cat videos or someone falling off a skateboard.
  • Examples of using the right spokesperson for your brand, even when it’s an unlikely connection:
    • Deion Branch (professional football player) for Lactaid
    • Newscaster and his son for Legoland USA
    • Mommy blogger for Nintendo
  • Video use on Instagram and Vine for companies to create Brand Recognition:
    • Lowe’s is a brand who has been able to successfully use Vine.
    • Brands are trying to leverage the new apps targeting teens because in a few years they will have the buying power.
  • Video can also be used for internal communications  as well.

Lainey Garcia, Manager of External Communications for McDonald’s Corporation, spoke on “How McDonald’s Approaches Social Media in a Changing PR Climate.” She opened the session with a great story about a tweet sent out by “Millennial Mom” regarding her very unhappy 8-year old son who received the girl’s toy in his happy meal instead of the boy’s toy. The McDonald’s Twitter Team immediately saw this tweet and contacted the mom, rectifying the error by sending the correct toy. This particular mom was a very well-known mommy blogger; had this not been seen and dealt with swiftly, Lainey suggests the consequences of not reacting quickly could have included the viral effect from the Millennial Mom’s social network.  Here are some other helpful tips from this session:

  • Food is the single most talked about item on social media.
  • Using another brand to capture positive social media exposure that will be shared with thousands to millions of followers – illustrated by the Mindy Kaling birthday situation:
    •  Mindy tweeted a picture to McDonald’s of a birthday gift she received from Wendy’s.
    •  The McDonald’s Twitter team saw the tweet, quickly researched what Mindy liked and had a package of gourmet cupcakes sent to her.
    • The Twitter team was able to initiate and execute all of this within 7 hours of seeing the tweet.
    • Mindy followed up with a tweet saying: “Best day-after-birthday ever. Nice move McDonalds.  WE’RE lovin’ it.”

The keynote speaker, Mickey Nall, Chairman and CEO of PRSA, gave some great insights on working with millennials and gave us an overview of the changes and progression within the PR industry:

  • Working with Millennials – 4 Big Opportunities
  1. Focus on Reputation
    1. We are brand ambassadors; that is why it is important to work for a company that you admire and has a good CSR effort.
    2. Reputation matters – we own the reputation (not the brand).
  2. Create your own Content
    1. Content is really just another word for writing.
    2. Call it a media release, NOT a press release.
  3. Become a Story Teller
    1. The ‘Showing’ and ‘Telling’ in creating effective narratives.
    2. Get to the heart of the story.
    3. Make the abstract concrete so the audience gets it.
    4. Graphics are more effective to deliver a message.
  4. Employees Become Advocates
    1. Best Buy is a brand that strongly encourages its employees to tweet during their work day.

Laura Stephens, Public Relations Specialist, and Joshua Glanzer, Director of Public Relations for Lynn University, discussed during the final general session their hosting of a Presidential Debate.   Some highlights include the following:

  • Two part strategy for hosting a Presidential Debate
  • PR campaign (1 year)
    • Never assume or say it’s just two candidates.
    • Lynn made t-shirts that had the slogan “We’ve never heard of you either,” poking fun at the fact that most people hadn’t heard of the very small private university.
  • Managing the event (4-5 days)
    • Valuable experience for the university’s international students (Lynn is ranked as #4 for international students) because it provided a front row seat to American democracy at work.
    • Google provided an online street view when they were coordinating where stages were going to be built for big name TV stations like CNN.
    • Over 4,000 journalists attended the event.
    • Google “Hangouts” were held and Google promoted them for the University.
    • A social media lounge was created and the 15 student story teller volunteers went there and shared their stories via their personally preferred platforms.
    • Twitter and Google came to hang out in the lounge as well.
  • Total Cost $4.9 million (actual capital outlay was $2.7 million) = $63 million in ad equivalency.
  • Over 33,000 news stories were written:
    • Facebook impressions jumped from 86,579 to over 934,000.
    • Lynn became a trending topic, which isn’t something that can ever be paid for.
  • Key Takeaways:
    • Set realistic goals.
    • Focus and simplify.
    • Always tell your story.

Opening the second day at the conference was Virgil Scudder, President of Virgil Scudder & Associates, a 35+ year PR expert:  Lessons from the Trenches

Virgil Scudder Book Signing PRSA FL 2013_1

Key points to remember:

  • “Communication is not what you say or know, it’s what the other side takes away.”
  • 4 C’s = clear, concise, credible, confident.
  • Never use a big word when a small one will do.
  • Create positive interview capabilities.
  • Draft a checklist for what might be needed to handle an immediate crisis.
  • Have and share ideas.
  • Be nice, humble and a good listener.
  • Share credit and accept blame.
  • Outwork your competitor.

Listening to the last speakers of the conference was insightful and entertaining, while delivering two unique perspectives on reaching a Latin American audience with extremely different budgets:

Bea Garcia, Director of Media Relations, Deutsche Post /DHL

DHL handles all international transport except domestic here in the U.S.?  Their corporate communications strategy between a 3-person team consists of the following:

  • Sharing Globally; Adapted Regionally; Executed Locally
  • Partnering with SMEs (small/medium enterprises) to reach Latin American market, she grants one-on-one interviews with their CEO and shares studies of success stories with SMEs that use DHL in those markets.

Miguel Angel Oliva, VP for Public Relations & Corporate Affairs/HBO Latin America

Miguel talks about his unlimited budget and independence of marketing department to report directly to President and talks about his goal of achieving “critically acclaimed” using his PR / corporate communications strategy.  Large press tours using Latin American venues and sharing a slide show of the 2011 – 43 press tours.  77 tours in 2012, 83 expected in 2013 assist in achieving their corporate communications annual initiatives.

It was another informative PRSA Sunshine District conference that we are proud to support!


Business Wire Phoenix and Keith Yaskin Show How to Tell Your Story with Video

March 7, 2013
by Billy Russell, Client Services Representative, Business Wire/Phoenix

At Business Wire’s February 27 workshop, “How to Dynamically Tell Your Company’s Story With Video,” Keith Yaskin, who moderated the event, had an opportunity to provide his own insight into the creative process of crafting a video to tell a company’s story.

Three teams were each assigned to produce a video for a specific company Keith had outlined, and were asked how they would tell their story and what visuals would be highlighted. Two teams were given the task of creating a video for a mining company in order to boost its image to gain public support for a land swap.  One team was given a small, local dentist’s office who specialized in kids’ dentistry.  Both industries may have a difficult time portraying a positive image for different reasons:  Mining companies can receive public backlash for environmental reasons, and a dentist’s office is a classic phobia for many people.  So, how to tackle these issues?

According to Keith, there is absolutely no ONE right way to tell a story.  There may be ten, twenty, a hundred different ways to tell a story, all of which can be equally effective.  The two teams provided with the task of the mining company had different ideas, ranging from who to interview, to where to shoot the interview.  Should it be outside on a sunny day?  Who would be interviewed?  The town’s mayor?  An environmentalist professional?  Everyone had their own ideas, none of them wrong, but all greatly different in achieving the goals.

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Event photos by Billy Russell, Business Wire

Keith then shared a video he had personally produced for a mining company in the same situation. His was shot almost entirely within the mine, about 70% of it being with the workers and interviewing them, and 30% within the town.  He explained to the workshop attendees that he wanted to highlight the hard work that the employees handle within the mine in order to boost the company’s public image.  When it comes to interviews, he told us, he much preferred working with non-actors in order to get a more naturalistic demeanor from them.  With actors, he said, sometimes they come off TOO good, too polished and confident.  He told the groups that he preferred the reactions and statements of everyday people as their conversations come across more warmly.

The second team was asked to create a video for a pediatric dentist’s office to portray the professional positively and warmly; themes were discussed on what would be covered and who would be interviewed.  Some ideas were to interview the child coming to visit and asking how they liked coming to the dentist’s office, making sure to get great, big smiles on camera to highlight his/her happiness with the visit and the professional work on their teeth.  Other members of the team thought it would be a good idea to spend some time talking about the equipment used, to show how state-of-the-art their techniques for dentistry are, to ease potential clients’ minds about what to expect.

After the discussion, Keith shared another video he had produced to demonstrate how he handled the same task.  He allowed the dentist to speak freely about how he comforts his clients coming in for checkups and building rapport with them.  Keith noted one of his techniques to filming is to, after an interview is conducted, have the dentist continue to wear his microphone and to shoot video of him going about his business so that he can get some off-the-cuff moments and the children visiting his office that looks and feel entirely real and unrehearsed.

The workshop closed with a Q&A session where our attendees had a chance to clarify any questions that they had about the creative process and how to work within reasonable budgetary restrictions.


Trends in Today’s Newsrooms: Business Wire Media Luncheon Recap

January 8, 2013
by Cindy Cantu, Client Services Representative, Business Wire/Houston
Houston Bureau Chief Richard Stubbe of Bloomberg News and Managing Editor Greg Barr of the Houston Business Journal give tips on pitching stories to the media.

Houston Bureau Chief Richard Stubbe of Bloomberg News and Managing Editor Greg Barr of the Houston Business Journal give tips on pitching stories to the media.

Learning how to attract media coverage was one of the many topics discussed during the Business Wire Media Luncheon: Trends in Today’s Newsrooms, hosted by Business Wire Houston on Dec. 12. Clients had the opportunity to hear perspectives from two of Houston’s top media professionals: Houston Bureau Chief Richard Stubbe of Bloomberg News and Managing Editor Greg Barr of the Houston Business Journal.

There is no secret formula for attracting media coverage, but both panelists agreed there are things businesses should do when pitching stories. First, the communication should be from a top level executive, preferably the CEO, and personalized, not an obvious email blast to numerous media outlets. Second, include as much vital information as possible, so the story can be directed to the appropriate reporter. Finally, if the pitch is regarding a personnel change, always include a high-resolution photo with the actual story. Stories without photos are generally not even considered.

Barr said the public can even upload profiles and photos on their own via the HBJ website, http://www.bizjournals.com/houston/. The profiles and photos go through an approval process, before being posted to the site in the “People On The Move” section.

An obvious email blast is a pet peeve for both Barr and Stubbe. They would much rather receive pitches for an exclusive story, instead of a pitch that is sent to multiple media outlets.

Some news is automatic for the Houston Business Journal. Barr said the publication compiles a comprehensive list of the Top 25 Houston-based public companies each quarter. Other companies are reviewed, but their inclusion in the publication is not automatic. They also report on stock swings and mergers/acquisitions, if they meet certain criteria.

Covering earnings releases is not what it used to be for Bloomberg News, according to Stubbe. He said there is not as much separate reporting on earnings releases anymore because people tend to read the “actual” earnings release instead of Bloomberg’s related article.

In this technology-driven world, the panelists were asked what their publications were doing to keep up with social media. Stubbe said Bloomberg News was still finding its way with social media, but recognized its importance. Barr joked that his perspective on Twitter is to “just follow Ashton Kutcher and go from there.” In reality, he said, his staff utilizes all social media options, including Facebook and Twitter. In fact, HBJ stories are instantly tweeted, he added.

Business Wire Houston would like to thank both Richard Stubbe of Bloomberg News and Greg Barr of the Houston Business Journal for serving as panelists, and the BW clients who attended the event.

Richard Stubbe of Bloomberg News and Greg Barr of the Houston Business Journal answer questions from the audience

Greg Barr of the Houston Business Journal and Richard Stubbe of Bloomberg News

Attendees of Business Wire Houston's luncheon listen as Greg Barr and Richard Stubbe discuss tips on pitching to the media.

Attendees of Business Wire Houston’s luncheon listen as Greg Barr and Richard Stubbe discuss tips on pitching to the media.


Three Tips on Staying Relevant during the Holiday Slowdown

December 20, 2012
by Alexander Howard, Editor, Business Wire/Nashville

The holidays can be a slow time for PR departments. Vacations have begun in earnest, and marketing pushes can seem futile while potential customers are busy visiting relatives. But the holidays can be a prime time for companies to stay relevant with a few simple tips:

‘Tis the Season

Tie your message into the spirit of the season. Journalists are more open to timely stories, so concern yourself with releases that spread holiday cheer, forecast the year ahead or review the year past. Tools like Google Trends can help you get a jump on popular search terms. Keep in mind that the lead time for end-of-year feature stories can be fairly long, so know your target media’s editorial calendar, too.

Go Social

Reach out—the holidays are about getting together with friends and family. Major companies use the holidays as a time to bolster their social media presence. Twitter and Facebook are commonly cited by journalists as prime sources for stories.

Consider the Calendar

Heed the holidays. Generally, the advice is that earlier in the week is better, but the holidays can shake up schedules and reorganize routines. US markets (and many others) are closed for Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, which both fall on Tuesdays, so market-moving information might be best embargoed for later.

Maintaining your media strategy throughout the holidays will ensure that business will wax well into the new year.

Does your company have a unique PR strategy or messaging tips for the holidays? Let us know in the comments!


Marketing vs. PR Writing – What’s the Difference?

January 18, 2012

… in this social media world we live in, the line between marketing and public relations writing is or ought to be blurred and that’s a good thing.

Hyperbole-filled marketing prose will quite likely be dismissed by target audiences just as verbose public relations copy. Through social media, our customers help keep savvy marketers grounded and more authentic, as journalists have done in their engagements with public relations practitioners for years. To say there is a line between marketing and public relations writing, then, misses the point of the current world of communications.

Press releases are used to engage consumers. Journalists go to customers and corporate websites to gather reporting information. So, your communications practitioners should all be singing from the same song sheet, so to speak…

What’s your take?


PRSAIcon 2011 Recap: Eight Key Takeaways, From Storytelling to Link Tracking

October 19, 2011

by Amy Yen, Marketing Specialist, Business Wire Los Angeles

Business Wire at PRSAIcon 2011This week, Business Wire was once again a proud sponsor and exhibitor at the 2011 PRSA International Conference, aka #PRSAIcon. Our conference team had a great time meeting so many of our amazing clients in person and learning the latest about the always changing PR industry. We tweeted updates on our @businesswire feed throughout the conference of interesting lessons from many of the keynotes and sessions. Here are eight key takeaways:

  1. PR is about storytelling. It was only appropriate in Orlando, home to the most magical place on earth, that the unofficial theme of the conference was storytelling. Opening keynote speaker Soledad O’Brien of CNN talked about storytelling being more than a statistic. You have to find the character behind the statistic & tell the story with their passion. The closing keynote speaker, Joe Rohde from Disney, talked about compelling stories coming from the interruptions in expected patterns. “We don’t have time for things we think we already know.”
  2. Video and visuals make for compelling storytelling. YouTube is the number two search engine in the world behind Google. Video makes for great content and is not as expensive as it’s perceived to be. (After all, every phone is a camera.) It’s also a good idea to get your executives on video talking about your brand . . . it helps qualify them as spokespeople for journalists.
  3. Customer service is the new black. Like it or not, part of PR is now customer service. In fact, thanks to social media, PR people are often the first to hear about the problems. There is still a level of awe right now if you just reply when your customers try to talk to you.
  4. Media training is not just a C-suite sport anymore. Keynote speaker Chris Brogan talked about how everyone is on some kind of media these days, so everyone should be trained. Soledad O’Brien discussed media training from a journalist’s perspective, saying passion and emotion can’t be trained. Ultimately, what people relate to is the authenticity and passion behind the messaging points.
  5. You can’t ignore Google+. Chris Brogan pointed out that you have to care about Google+, if only because it’s the only social network currently being indexed on the top two search engines in the world. Every PR professional should at least be conversational about it. Additionally, Google+ profiles can help with personal online presence since it ranks so highly on Google. Optimize your title and introduction and include links to all your other sites and networks, as those appear in your search results.
  6. Empower your employees on social media. If you’re terrified to give control to others in your organization, you will not be successful in social media. Train them and have a social media policy so you can be. Your policy should be short and understandable without legal assistance and should be in every new hire’s packet when they start.
  7. If it can be searched for, it can be optimized. Keyword optimize your blog posts, landing pages, press releases, online newsrooms, multimedia and social content. In press releases, optimize in the headline and subhead, include links and a call-to-action. For photos and other multimedia, optimize the file name of the file you are uploading, include alt text and captions.
  8. We are all fighting for budgets. PR should get credit for the leads it generates. Set goals before your campaign so you can track conversions with tools like Google Analytics. Track traffic with tools like Google URL builder, which tags your URLs so you know where your link clicks are coming from (press release versus AdWords versus Facebook ads, etc).

At the conference, we also announced our new partnership with Critical Mention, which will provide clients with access to Critical Mention’s real-time television and radio monitoring platform. As an introductory promotion, Business Wire clients who subscribe with Critical Mention for 2012 will receive the remainder of 2011 at no charge.

We’d also like to congratulate Elizabeth Rowland at Strat-igence, who was the winner of our iPad Giveaway. And thanks again to PRSA, the speakers and all the attendees for a great conference!


Beyond Email and Phone: Tips for Using Form Fields, LinkedIn, Facebook for Pitching Tech Writers

August 16, 2011

 By Travis Van, Founder, ITDatabase

In the late 90’s, tech PR pros pitched almost exclusively via email and phone. We considered it a big win that the fax was finally phased out as a media relations tool.

Today, tech PR pros still conduct the majority of pitches via email, but phone “follow-up” is in danger of following the fax. Most tech writers these days are bloggers, and most intentionally withhold their phone numbers because they’re not interested in fielding calls. Even tech trades– who formerly supplied direct phone numbers to their writer roster–have a staff of mercenaries who are always in flux. Mastheads are tiny or nonexistent. Where individual phone numbers were once publicly available, today they must be earned through establishing relationships that usually begins with email. Strike out on your outreach to a writer, and you may blow your chance to connect by phone. Chalk it up to years of pushy calls from PR pros.

Increasingly, writers have no public email address but may be contacted exclusively via Twitter, or a form field, or a LinkedIn profile. How do PR pros utilize these various contact methods?

Yesterday I pinged a former tech PR colleague who I respect. He’s done countless outreach over the last 10 years for tons of tech PR startup launches and product announcements. He shared a few insights about his experiences with the spectrum of contact methods that he uses on a daily basis.

Email

“Subject lines need to be short and attention-grabbing. The entire pitch should be no more than one-two short paragraphs, and it’s much better to provide links to more info than paste them into the release. Excessively long pitches will not get read. I find it most effective to reference something that the author has written before and to create a hook that makes them feel that I am respectful of what they are trying to bring to the table for their unique audience, and not just trying to cram some announcement down their throat.”

LinkedIn

“LinkedIn keeps getting better. So many tech authors are on it and actively maintaining their resume there. Sometimes I’ve used InMail to contact those whose email I can’t find elsewhere. It was unclear to me in the beginning whether this was acceptable, or would rub them the wrong way. But I have yet to have anyone complain about it, and it’s worked a number of times.”

Twitter

“There’s a perception that tech PR pros are actively pitching via Twitter Direct Messages. I have not met a single PR pro who is actually doing this as their primary outreach method. First of all, you can’t direct message someone on Twitter unless you are mutual followers (unless you use a work-around, which is not advised). For most of the tech authors that follow me back on Twitter, I usually have their email address and pitch them that way. The best value I get out of Twitter is being able to follow what those tech contacts are saying, reweet their posts to show them we are actively following their content, and to detect when they are jumping into new subject matter.”

Form Fields

“Many PR pros suspect that form field submissions don’t get answered, that their submissions disappear into the ether. But I’ve had equal success with form fields as with email addresses. And when you get a response, you have their email address.”

Facebook

“I still don’t consider Facebook to be a serious tool for media outreach. What, I’m going to friend a writer on Facebook, then contact them that way? I’ve had some great client efforts where a lot of target customers ‘liked’ us and the effort really helped us with audience building. But Facebook never really comes into play in my outreach to actual tech writers.”

Comments

“There are a ton of tech PR pros writing drippy, insincere comments to kowtow to tech authors. I don’t believe that sycophancy is an effective media relations weapon. What has worked for me in the past is if I detect an article that is just dead on with a client’s focus and they have something provocative, I’ll encourage the client to comment with either something inflammatory or a sidebar that genuinely advances the discussion. Sometimes that comment will lead to a connection with the author, or be something that I can reference in a future correspondence to the author.”

Phone

“This is my ultimate goal. My best relationships are writers I can call and give a quick verbal pitch. For others that don’t respond to my email pitch, I will sometimes call them as well. It’s a bit uncomfortable to try to break through to an author via phone, but it’s amazing how many other PR pros you leapfrog, because they were too timid to call.”

Whatever your personal successes / failures with each of these contact methods, keep in mind that the further in advance of your announcement that you recognize available contact options, the more opportunity you have to figure out your best angle. The idea that you’re flying blind unless you know a writer’s “pitching preferences” is a strawman by media directory services trying to sell you their interpretations. Contact preferences are obviously the contact info supplied publicly, and preferred pitches are those that tie directly to what writers are actually writing about and what’s relevant to their readership. There are more breadcrumbs than ever to learn about your targets before engaging them.

Travis Van is the founder of ITDatabase.com, an online media database of technology journalists and Business Wire partner company.

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