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Public Relations Secrets to Make You Cry
Remember Monty Python's "And Now for Something Completely Different"? Well, it's time for a change of pace. You're in an online business, right? (Great deductive abilities, Sherlock.) But maybe you're also in the business of promoting yourself through those lovely media entities called press releases (generally dreary little things, don't you think?). So don't overlook the great value of surprising Broca. In fact, take Broca public … relations; add a little zest to the life of a journalist, potential investors and your media image, and get yourself noticed.
Okay, I'm a little outside my purview here, so I'm going to let the very clever Dean Rotbart, founder and executive editor of The TJFR Group, do the actual stepping. Mr. Rotbart is a former Pulitzer Prize nominated Wall Street Journal investigative reporter, columnist and news editor. You're reading his words, but he certainly speaks my language. Have some fun!
Newsroom Confidential: Forget the Singing Onions
Use your PR agency for everything and anything BUT contacting and responding
to journalists. Survey's I've taken of journalists show that nearly 6 out of
every 10 reporters say they consider PR people more of a nuisance than a help.
That means that before journalists even consider your message, a majority of
them are discounting it because of your choice of messenger. My advice: make a
real, flesh and blood employee of your company the media contact person. It
probably shouldn't even be a full-time job, but a shared or rotated
responsibility. Journalists know the difference between someone paid to be a
mouthpiece and someone who actually walks the talk.
Reinvent the news release. Not in a gimmicky way. But so a journalist reading
it knows it's from your company, even if the name of the company is blocked out.
People recognize a difference between Coke and Pepsi, Burger King and McDonalds.
Why can't they distinguish between news releases from the same four
If anyone calls to pitch a journalist by phone, let it be the CEO or the
owner of your company. "Hi, Jerry, this is Steve Case, I'm chairman of AOL Time
Warner, and I have a story idea for you." Talk about surprising Broca! Most
journalists will probably respond initially by asking, "Who is this really?"
That is a good question if you are hoping to keep the journalist's attention.
Try telling the truth. Not the homogenized, sanitized, corporatized,
blatherized truth. But the common sense truth. If you are unfamiliar with how
that sounds, here are some handy phrases you might practice: "I don't know." "We
goofed." "We got lucky." "We fired the son of a bitch." "I'd be wary of
investing in our company right now." "No, the market is smarter than you think."
"We hate the competition." And, perhaps most importantly, "But it's my job to
tell you this rubbish."
When a journalist calls, take his/her call. Don't run interference, don't
delegate the call to your PR department or outside PR agency. Don't duck the
call. I know the former head of a Fortune 10 company who used to always
interrupt whatever he was doing to take a call from me, a reporter. Sometime, he
would simply say, "I can't talk right now, can I call you back?" But he always,
always took my call immediately. It's been nearly 20 years, but he still stands
out among all the Fortune 500 CEOs who I ever met.
Most important, keep your mouth tightly shut. While PR newswires get rich
running verbose news releases from their clients, journalists just get nauseous.
Every time you appoint a new vice president of bureaucracy or pass gas at an
analysts' meeting, you needn't tell the press about it. Use some discretion for
heaven's sake! Perhaps if you didn't speak when you had nothing worthwhile to
say, the media would sit up and take notice when you do have something
newsworthy on your mind.
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