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By Roxanne Ducas
Director of Communications
Producing effective communications is the primary focus of public relations professionals, who need to ensure that key messages are delivered accurately and in a format that is easily understood by target audiences.
Effective communication helps us better understand a person or situation and enables us to resolve differences, build trust and respect, and create environments where creative ideas can flourish. As simple as communication seems, much of what we try to communicate to others—and what others try to communicate to us—gets misinterpreted, which can cause conflict and frustration in the workplace.
By getting to know your audience, you can better connect with your internal colleagues and external clients, both face-to-face and electronically.
- Internal verbal communications: Internal communications may be less formal than the communications you have with clients or people external to your organization. However, you must still pay attention to relevancy. You may communicate verbally with colleagues when you are face-to-face or on the phone, while giving instructions, asking or answering questions, negotiating and solving conflicts, delivering presentations, and even when leaving voicemails.
- External verbal communications: Over time, you may get to know your clients very well and build a special rapport with them. However, it is best to remember that all client relationships should remain professional, communicating using a tone and language that is suitable for the workplace and ensuring written outputs conform to an accepted business framework. Effective communication in this context involves using memos, agendas and meeting summaries as vehicles to establish productive dialogue.
- Email etiquette: In today’s world, most workplace communication takes place via email, whether with internal colleagues, clients or media contacts, and it pays to know and observe the basics rules of email etiquette. We all suffer from email overload, so bear in mind that yours is always going to be in a queue alongside others and will be read within the context of time pressure. Keep salutations brief, using an effective subject line and bullet points or breaks to separate your subject matter into manageable sections.
- Telephone etiquette: In the public relations world, telephone work is your principal source of communication. A professional telephone manner is paramount to the way in which you are perceived. As a general rule, it pays to observe the courtesies you would expect yourself, so try not to be too casual. Preparation is important, since you often only have one chance to sell a pitch or develop a new contact. Journalists can be especially unforgiving towards PR practitioners who contact them on the phone and are then unable to follow through with a coherent story pitch. You often only get one chance, so rehearse the conversation in your head before going live.
By Andrea Landau
One of the first basic lessons you quickly learn when beginning a career in public relations is that reporters are extremely busy people. They are constantly trying to meet deadlines, coordinate interviews and stay on top of breaking news.
From the point of view of a public relations practitioner, it is important to communicate with journalists in a strategic way to ensure you are providing them with useful information in an efficient manner.
Once you have a well-crafted pitch and a targeted media list, it’s time to think about the next step before you hit send on your email: the subject line.
While I have never seen the email inbox of a reporter, I can only assume it is constantly full. The first part of a pitch that any reporter will see is your subject line, so what will make them take the time to open the email and keep reading versus hitting delete? Below are my tips for writing an effective subject line:
- Keep it concise: Find a way to incorporate your message into as few words as possible. You want the reporter to be able to determine their interest in your pitch before having to read the rest of your email.
- Model your subject line after a headline: Ask yourself, “If a reporter were to write a piece on my client, what would their headline be?” As readers of the news, we know that headlines are enticing, and your subject line should do the same for the journalist you are pitching.
- Avoid spam words: Do you ever find yourself deleting emails you assume are spam before reading them? Chances are, journalists are doing the same. Avoid words that make your email come across as spam so that it won’t get deleted as quickly as it was received.
- Make it relevant: If your pitch relates to breaking news or a recent trend taking the world by storm, include that in your subject line. You have already compiled a targeted media list of journalists who you know cover the topic, so now is your chance to make it known that you have information relevant to their coverage.
Chances are you have put a lot of thought and hard work into crafting the perfect pitch. It would be a disservice to both yourself and your client to let it get lost in the sea of a journalist’s inbox. By following the tips above, you can write an effective subject line that entices any journalist to keep reading.
By Lauren Tran, Senior Writer, Associate Vice President
During my time in the communications industry, I have found that the vast majority of public relations practitioners will identify their verbal skills as trumping their written abilities. This comes as no surprise, since these professionals spend most of their time developing relationships with the media over the phone, in-person at briefing sessions and during interviews with their clients.
Writing is still a vital skill that should not be overlooked. PR professionals should continue to refine and perfect their writing abilities, as we now have even fewer words to use to ensure our clients’ messages stand out and accurately reflects their brands.
My suggestions for improving your writing skills include the following:
Identify and articulate the true essence of the brand
When working with a client on a regular basis, you may need to step outside the brand to ensure you are identifying the most compelling media message that will guarantee that your client’s narrative and call to action is easily understood.
When creating a new press release or email pitch, remember that your audience will likely only read a couple of sentences to decide if they are interested. Do not discredit the importance of the headline and the first three sentences, and make sure your message is clearly stated at the top. Of course, you can also connect your message or offering to current events and trends to keep it topical and immediate.
Keep it concise
Maintain your reader’s interest by ensuring your messaging is concise and easy to understand. Don’t make them search through your email to learn who the client is, what they are announcing and, most importantly, why this is relevant for their audience.
Additionally, make sure your writing is not repetitive or long-winded by avoiding clichéd phrases, dry details and very technical language.
Don’t rely on spell check
While most practitioners have multiple clients with a constantly evolving set of deadlines, it is crucial to take the time to proofread all of your written materials. With the ability to check spelling and grammar instantly online, there is no excuse for typos in an email, press release or client document sent to a journalist.
Take a few minutes to review your written work before sending. Try printing out your document or even reading it out loud. You can also find a trusted coworker who can review your work and let you know if any language seems out of place or unclear.
Producing excellent writing takes practice and time, but making an effort to create compelling leads, concise language and error-free documents may be the difference between losing the interest of a media contact and developing a new long-term relationship.
By Donna Fontana
Managing Director, Rubenstein Public Relations
The field of public relations encompasses more than navigating the dialogue between clients and the media. It is a complex, detail-oriented communications discipline that builds relationships and reputation, resulting in a measurable impact on the achievement of strategic goals.
Providing meaningful client service in a service-based business that’s filled with intangibles requires dedication and a commitment to excellence to ensure a client never has to wonder, “What is my PR agency actually doing for my brand?”
Consistent structure is essential, using procedure and document templates as the building blocks of effective service. Phone calls and meetings are somewhat fluid, so creating productive agendas, recaps, and weekly/monthly reports helps provide clients with assurance that the agency is effectively and consistently moving towards completing key tasks that will ultimately achieve business objectives and goals.
Three things that are imperative in a successful client/agency relationship are: Values, Trustworthiness and Clear Communication.
Relationships are about understanding one another’s core values, and in turn, these values stand at the very core of decision-making.
According to a study by Barrett Values, which researched more than 2,000 private and public organizations over 10 years in more than 60 countries, value-driven organizations are the most successful because they adhere to a very simple algorithm:
- Values and behaviors drive culture.
- Culture drives employee fulfillment.
- Employee fulfillment drives customer satisfaction.
- Customer satisfaction drives shareholder value.
Clients want a PR agency that takes a genuine interest in them, so make sure you clearly understand the values that drive the brand and/or client and ensure you guide them towards achieving their goals while aligning with their values.
By understanding how your role aligns with their day-to-day activities and accomplishments, you will strengthen the relationship and trust factor.
Have you ever played the “trust fall” game, where you tip backwards and hope the person assigned to catch you actually follows through so that you don’t hit the ground? A PR agency is like the catcher and the client is the one falling backwards, trusting that you will catch them before they tumble over. Clients need to believe you are going to provide a safety net and come through for them at all times.
This trust is ultimately about integrity and transparency in your activities, which is just as vital as tangible results because clients will sense if you are just telling them what you think they want to hear. Honest feedback as to why something succeeds or fails is important so that clients trust that you have their best interests in mind. After all, trust is the most important aspect of any relationship.
Regular status updates and consistent communication has always been a necessary component in establishing strong partnerships with your clients, and it is also critical that you are engaged on their behalf on any relevant communication via social media that may have an impact on their brand, their service or their company.
Applying the trifecta of Values, Trustworthiness and Clear Communication will help cultivate a dynamic relationship with clients that support a long-term business relationship. By incorporating a disciplined approach into your practice that includes message development, strategic planning and media relations outreach, while maintaining sight of a company’s value proposition and branding goals, your agency will be synonymous with high-visibility coverage and meaningful client service.
By Shay Pantano
Vice President & Group Head, Health & Wellness and Beauty
Broadcast media is a powerful tool in moving the needle for many brands. Having an expert or a product featured on a national show often results in an increase in sales and awareness. Unlike traditional ads (commercials), the viewer is connected to on-air experts and products they see on their favorite programs due in part to the trust the viewer already has with the show. There is an unspoken endorsement, and as seen with the Oprah Effect, this can turn an unfamiliar brand or expert into a household name overnight.
As great as this sounds, the unfortunate reality is that a national broadcast placement is also one of the most challenging types of media to secure.
So how does a PR professional secure broadcast coverage for their client? Below are tips on how to successfully navigate this process.
Watch the Show
This should be obvious, but there are countless stories from producers about PR practitioners who pitch off-topic segment ideas, or even include hosts from other shows in their pitch. A producer from “Good Morning America” once shared with me how a PR representative pitched a segment for Al Roker to interview their expert. The producer never opened an email from that person again.
The top strategy for securing any media is to know the outlet being pitched and the demographic of the audience. Pitching in the voice and format of the show increases the chances of securing the placement. Sending a one-size-fits-all pitch to any outlet lessens the likelihood of securing the placement. Also, know the type of guests that are frequently on the show and the layout of the segments in which they appear. If the show typically includes a demo for the guest, incorporate a demo in your pitch. If guests are usually in a panel discussion with opposing views, then mention the side of the argument the expert will take.
Writing the Pitch
Before your fingers hit the keyboard, ask yourself, “Is this new?” Television producers are always looking for new content that has not already appeared on the show (or a competitor’s show).
Keep your pitch short and to the point. Producers are busy people and long pitches that take sentences to get to the point are not the way to grab their attention. Think in terms of a problem and solution and say it in the first sentence or two. Also mention who the on-air talent would be for the segment.
An example would be: Looking to lose weight, but don’t want to cut out cocktails? Dr. Jose Cuervo is available for an in-studio interview to explain how tequila promotes weight loss by 78% compared to those who don’t drink any alcoholic beverages while dieting. In addition, Dr. Cuervo will demonstrate how to make fat-burning tequila cocktails that offer a daily dose of vitamins while melting away the fat.
These couple of sentences tell the producer exactly what the segment is about, who the expert is and that there is a demonstration component if needed. Any information after this would include the visuals and any testimonials that are willing to go on-air.
One thing to note is that length matters. If the show pitched typically includes 3-4 minute segments, don’t pitch a 30 minute feature. If the interviews tend to be in multiple parts, include what the second part of the segment would entail.
Know When to Pitch
The main job of many producers is to bring up-to-the-minute news. This means that pitching a major news outlet about your new product just as Godzilla storms downtown Tokyo is a really bad idea. If the show is airing live, don’t pitch at that time. No one likes to be interrupted at work during critical times, and that includes producers. Also, steer clear of pitching during odd hours; sending a pitch at 3am on a Sunday doesn’t mean the producer is more likely to respond.
However, if a producer reaches out, respond as quickly as possible. Television moves fast and even an hour can mean the difference between booking the segment or losing it.
Pitching an Expert
Producers want experts that have tons of energy, are knowledgeable in their field and can be in-studio. Most shows don’t like to satellite in an expert, but if there is a breaking news story, some shows would rather use a satellite feed than not have an expert.
When pitching an expert, it is imperative to include a link to past segments, as well as a headshot. Producers want to make sure the expert has on-camera experience, is mediagenic and doesn’t have a thick accent.
For experts without on-air experience, it is wise to secure an appearance on a local outlet prior to trying for a national show. In some cases, producers will book without prior on-air experience, but past broadcast experience increases your odds. You can also have your client create a few YouTube videos that look professional and mimic a live segment.
Remember that television is visual and although the expert doesn’t have to be a beauty queen, they should be attractive. This may mean counseling a client to change their hair, glasses or even purchase new clothes.
Producers like segments that have visuals. Unless it is an expert weighing in on a news story that already has footage, include any assets that will make the segment more than just a talking head. B-roll, props, graphics and even testimonials can help round out a segment. Telling a producer exactly what assets are available also takes work off their plate and helps to build the relationship.
Tap Into the Show’s On-Air Talent
For brands that are product driven, it is a good idea to become familiar with the regular talent that appears on the shows and pitch them directly. Many have recurring spots and although they aren’t part of the show, they often have regularly scheduled appearances. But be careful – some experts charge a fee for promoting a product on air. And remember that even if the expert says they will include your product in the segment, a producer can always (and often do) pull a product out.
Another way to get a product on air is offer a giveaway to the audience. Oprah made this famous and many other shows followed suit. This can be pricey for a client, so make sure to get specifics in advance. For example, “Ellen” has an audience of 400 and asks for another 25 products for an online giveaway, which might be more than the client can handle. However, the best part of an audience giveaway is that most shows will guarantee that your messaging is delivered.
The above tips are strategies to help secure a national broadcast segment, but remember that anything can happen. Even if everything is done correctly and the segment is secured, the news cycle may have other plans. Breaking news can interrupt any show at any time. Always communicate to clients that the segment is scheduled to air at a specific time, barring any breaking news or station interruptions. That simple statement could save headaches as the client is fully prepared for the uncertainty of live television.
But having a solid pitch, offering a great expert and delivering what was promised are the fundamentals to building a relationship with any producer and securing high-profile national broadcast coverage.
By Stevie Benanty
Rubenstein Public Relations Social Media Specialist
As a social media specialist, I receive questions every day on how to begin the social media process. Brands either want to amplify their existing social media presence or they need to start from scratch. With a revolving door of platforms being introduced and falling off the radar, it is important to know how to choose the sites that are right for your brand.
Here is a guide on the top social media platforms and their uses:
Facebook: At this point, almost everyone is familiar with Facebook as a way to post status updates and follow the virtual lives of our friends. But Facebook for businesses is so much more. Brands can use Facebook pages to easily interact with their audiences, share new deals, create contests to reward their followers, get feedback on products and share updates on how the business is doing. Once you decide to create a Facebook page, designate your brand’s name as the URL and choose what type of business you are (Local Business, Product, Company, Public Figure, etc.). Always fill out your page with as much information as possible: brand logo or photo, cover photo, website, external links (perhaps to other social media platforms) and a few lines on what the brand is about. As with all social media platforms, consistent posting is key, and it is recommended to post on Facebook five to 10 times per week.
Twitter: Twitter is often the first place people go to for their news and is one of the easiest ways for businesses to engage with their audience. I recommend that every brand signs up for Twitter, similar to how I described creating a Facebook page. Again, it is important to ensure your profile is fully developed and matches any other social media profiles you have. Twitter is the place to send out Tweets – 140 character or less messages – to your audience. I recommend posting five times per day using a mix of unique content about your brand, as well as reposting other relevant content, such as breaking news from reputable sources, in order to be positioned as a knowledgeable source in your field. You can also reply, retweet or favorite tweets as another form of engagement and conversation, which is particularly helpful for customer service. Hashtags, a word or phrase preceded by a hash (#) to identify messages on a specific topic, are also a vital part of connecting on Twitter. You can click on a hashtag to see all of the tweets that mention it in real time — even from people you don’t follow. We use #RPR to track all things related to Rubenstein Public Relations.
Instagram: Instagram is a social sharing platform devoted entirely to posting photos and 15 second videos. It is quickly becoming a top platform for brands that rely heavily on visuals, such as restaurants, clothing retailers and travel blogs, as well as ordinary people who want to share snapshots of their daily life. Brands often use Instagram to create contests, announce sales and launch new products. The platform also has a popular hashtag every day of the week, such as #MusicMondays to share a song or playlist or #ThrowBackThursday to show old photos.
LinkedIn: LinkedIn is the social platform for the business world. Build out your brand profile the way you would with any other site and make sure your biographical materials match those of your website. Also be sure to include a logo, website and contact information. Experts recommend sharing updates once per weekday that are focused on brand-related news, such as company press, staff announcements and product developments. This is not the outlet to be posting articles from around the web. LinkedIn is also the best platform to post ads for open job positions.
Pinterest: Pinterest, like Instagram, is another completely visual social media platform. Here, users “pin” photos from around the web to their boards, which are virtual mood or inspiration boards. It is a great tool for users to get a feel for what your brand is all about. You can create pinboards that relate to your own brand or product, as well as what you admire as a brand. Retailers have recently been using Pinterest to pin images from all over the web with links to buy products.
Google+: Google+ hasn’t reached the popularity of some of the other major platforms, but it is still a valuable tool. Google+ has the ability to layer with Gmail, calendars, YouTube and more, connecting all of the dots to your brand. Experts recommend posting one to five times per day with brand news, articles that pertain to your business, photographs, videos and more. You can also use Google+ to grow your base by including your audience in your “circle,” or your network.
YouTube: If your brand uses video content, you can claim your own YouTube channel with your brand’s URL and upload original visual content to promote on your page. Brands have used YouTube to upload their music videos and TV episodes, while beauty and wellness experts use the space to share tutorials. In short, as long as you own the content, you can upload the video to YouTube, as well as use tags so users can easily search for your videos. Make sure to brand your page the same way you would on your other sites and link out to all of your other social platforms.
These platforms are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to social media. Figuring out which sites will work best for your brand is the first step, followed by consistently sharing updates and content. Users will automatically follow or return to your social feeds if they know they can expect strong content. Social media is quickly becoming a crucial component of any business and marketing plan, so don’t miss out on this important strategy for connecting with your key audiences.
By Jason Ledder
Media Department Group Head
As a public relations expert with 15 years of experience, I have seen media relations strategies executed extraordinarily well by my peers, but at times I have also seen many professionals pitching in an unstructured, haphazard way, pushing too hard and doing anything to simply get a hit. If this sounds familiar, take the time to think about adding value to your pitches and framing them in a more meaningful way.
If you get a quick hit to satisfy a client today but burn a bridge by being pushy or rude, where is the value? A strong media relations professional can build lifelong relationships with their contacts. By demonstrating real value to journalists and becoming a trusted source, you will develop truly strong relationships that will be the best tool in your professional arsenal, and ultimately help you consistently deliver exceptional media coverage for your clients.
So how do you do it? Well, do you like getting phone calls at dinner from someone trying to sell you a subscription, or your alma mater contacting you for donations while you are still paying off your student loans? Probably not. The key to building a long-lasting relationship is understanding and respecting what your contacts are going through, personally and professionally. With the changing pace of the news cycle, skeleton staffs and razor thin budgets, the media is under more pressure than ever to deliver timely content.
I always encourage my team to think about several things before they begin a pitch:
– Do we have a real story to tell?
– Will this call or email make the reporter’s life easier or harder?
– When do they put the publication or show to bed, and will they be on a deadline?
– Are we providing them with a complete story – one that their readers or viewers will value – or shamelessly pitching a product or service?
– Why does their audience care about your client, product or service?
Yesterday I had the opportunity to hold a series of informal media meetings, my favorite tactic for catching up with my closer friends in the media. Together with a colleague, we knew which pitches and stories we needed to sell, but because of our previously developed, meaningful relationships, we didn’t go in with a formalized agenda. Instead, over a cup of coffee, we caught up on their personal lives, listened to them vent about their workloads and discussed our clients’ industries from a broader perspective. From there, we collectively found ways to insert our clients into the journalists’ coverage.
As a result, the stories will be larger, more influential trend pieces, and in the end, our clients will win. We didn’t over sell. We didn’t over promise. And we did what we said we would: we got them the information they wanted, when they wanted it and how they wanted it.
Nobody likes pushy salespeople. Instead, separate yourself from the pack by delivering value-packed, noteworthy pitches that demonstrate your expertise in the industry and understanding of what the media wants.