Being sales fit: release your inner PR star

Most people equate public relations (PR) with celebrities, government campaigns, sports stars or the CEO of their organisation. PR conjures up images of camera crews, photographers and journalists all chasing the next big story. However, PR is more than media relations; it’s about effective communications and how we engage with our audiences. For those who need to sell in their roles, this is a core skill. Here are three simple PR tactics you can implement today to help boost your sales efforts.

1. Is your online reputation up to scratch?

Our prospects, clients, partners and new contacts all make assumptions based on our online profiles. Decisions are made based on what we share with the world. I recommend you regularly review your own online profile. How’s your profile looking? If you Google yourself, what are the results? If you’re on LinkedIn, take some time to request recommendations, connect with everyone you meet and use LinkedIn to really engage with people. Don’t send blanket invitations without personal notes…ever. Look at what messages you are sending on Twitter, Google Plus, Facebook. Check your privacy settings and make sure the information you send to the world is clearly positioning you in the best light with your key skills front and centre. These days our online profile is our CV and it needs to be constantly up to scratch.

2. Ring people and have a laugh 

In the business world we often forget to laugh. In his book “Success takes character”, Neil Jenman states:

“Successful people enjoy a good laugh. They love to have fun. They love to tell funny stories…

Face-to-face communication or at least verbal communication bonds us in a way that email simply doesn’t. The more you can talk to people, the better your connections, results and your reputation. It’s not just about closing a sale. Make a phone call each day simply to “check-in” with someone and genuinely see how he or she is going or to share an idea or connect him or her with someone you know they will benefit from knowing. They will remember the gesture and it all goes toward building a memorable and positive reputation.

Neil Jenman also says that if you’re not having several hearty laughs each day, many of them at your own expense, you’re probably not much of a success.

“A child laughs an average of 400 times per day. By the time they are adults, those formally happy children are now laughing a mere 15 times per day. How tragic.” – Neil Jenman

3. Meet new people, make new friends 

I am not talking about swapping business cards and going out to “network”. I’m talking about simply meeting new people. Whether it is during work hours or at a social gathering on a Saturday night. Each time you meet someone new is an opportunity to leave an impression. It may result in a sale or a partnership. You may share creative ideas or learn something new. You never know when that quick business card swap could be something more. Have a conversation with new people. Ask questions and if you can help them with something, help them! Share your contacts and ideas, it will result in an opportunity down the track and again you’ve been helpful – they’ll remember you and probably recommend you.

Scene 1, Take 1, ACTION: Quick tips for creating video

Video

Video is becoming more popular as news media, bloggers and companies respond to the preferred communication delivery preferences of their audiences.

While there are mixed reviews about audiences’ preference for video compared with straight shooting copy, the fact remains adopting video as part of your communications mix means you’re providing options to your audience and letting them chose what they prefer.

This week we saw a cringe worthy video prepared by a PR person that put their client and unfortunately, our industry to shame. So, here are our top tips for preparing to use video:

  1. You can use your Smart Phone (a camera will always be better and easier) to film your video and host it on your website or other communication channels but make sure it is clear! What’s the point in giving your audience a fuzzy video? It looks like you don’t care and furthermore, it’s uncomfortable to watch. Your message it obscured because your audience is trying too hard to see your speaker rather than listen to what he or she is saying.
  2. Don’t shake the camera. Period.
  3. Don’t read direct from a script. You may use a script or prompts, but make sure it sounds as though you’re simply speaking to your audience as you would if you were having a conversation. A trick we often use is to have someone “interview” the subject on camera. The interviewer can sit behind the scenes and ask questions, effectively having a conversation with the on-screen subject. The questioner can later be edited out. Interestingly, this is how celebrity chef Jamie Oliver started out on television.
  4. What is behind you? Have a think about what image you wish to portray. The way you’re dressed, what’s behind you and around you is very important. Julia Gillard”s Press Secretary takes great care in what is placed behind her during a video message and while you might not need to use specific objects, at least make sure it’s tidy!
  5. Practice. Film. Review. Test. Practice. Film. Review. Test. Repeat…and when it’s right, publish.

Love to hear your tips or horror stories! Feel free to post them here.

Avoid the breakup – 7 tips for picking the right PR firm

Finding the right PR partner can be fickle. Like finding the right person to date; you know when it’s a perfect fit but it can take sometime before you realise it could go horribly wrong.

Many businesses feel they’ve been burnt by PR people and agencies so their solution is to completely avoid PR, attempt DIY PR with mixed results or get back in the game and shop for a new PR relationship that (fingers crossed) won’t let them down. Like any relationship however, it’s best to start with honesty – on both sides.

For too long PR practitioners have been the smooth talking, leather jacket wearing rebel boyfriend your parents warn you about. They promise the world and just end up disappointing you.

It’s time for this mentality and behavior to change. Very rarely do I meet a business owner who hasn’t had a negative or disappointing experience. While there are many talented, hard working, creative and well-connected PR people out there willing and ready to work hard for your dollars, the fact remains that without good communication at the outset, the expectations from both sides can be ill-represented and the relationship will fail.

Here are five tips to help you pinpoint Mr. or Miss Right.

1. Play the field

It’s a good idea to speak to at least three consultants as a minimum. However, make sure you give all three the same brief so you can compare apples with apples. This is also fair for the agencies or consultant you are speaking to. Ask people you know for recommendations, look at companies that have PR receiving coverage that might work for you, check out Twitter or your industry’s trade news -there is sure to be a PR firm specialising in your sector but don’t disregard those who don’t -they may bring a fresh approach.

Also, don’t take the ideas on one agency and then opt to implement all their ideas yourself or give their ideas to another agency – it’s bad form, unfair, costs the agency time and money to give you ideas for free and happens way too often.

2. Tell ‘em what you want

There’s a line between dictating how you want your PR campaign to be implemented and leaving it up to the PR pro. I think there should be a balance. You should know your business objectives and your communication objectives before you start talking to people. If you can’t define these objectives, your expectations will not align with those your PR partner. If you’re not sure what your objectives are, meet with your team and work it out. There’s no point embarking on PR and/or marketing without knowing your business objectives. Brainstorm this and you will be all the wiser. Any good PR consultant should be able to develop your communications objectives based on your business objectives.

3. Know your worth…and theirs

I never expect my clients to share their budget with me when we’re in the “dating” phase but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a clear idea what you want.  Like any relationship, know what you are willing to invest before you get started. You don’t necessarily need to share it at first but it’s good to know what you can devote to PR and then the issue of cost can be removed from the equation.

4. Here’s the deal…the real one

You might not know it but PR people love it when you tell them your real situation. If you can blurt out your real problem, most will fall over themselves trying to resolve the issue and create opportunities around your ideas and issues. Don’t be shy and don’t pretend, remember the right person is there to actually help you.

Remember: your potential PR partner is not a journalist. They will be working for you. Don’t treat the briefing stage as a media interview. Tell the truth so the PR personal can really help solve your problems.

5.    Avoid the fast, smooth talker

I don’t care who you are, anyone that talks fast and too much during the proposal/ briefing stage is not listening and won’t deliver what you need let alone what you want. It’s one thing to get excited about an idea and another to fail to ask questions and listen. So if the PR people you are taking to are fast talking about their other clients’ results and their high profile journalistic contacts without asking you constructive questions forget it. It’s not going to work…unless you want to throw your money away.

6.    Do you read? You know…books and newspapers and stuff?

Anyone can pitch a story to a journalist and be published – you don’t need to have a relationship. Yes it does help to be well connected and know someone but any self respecting journalist or editor will respond to a good story whether they know you or not.

So…ask your potential PR firm what they read.

BRW’s Leo d’Angelo Fisher suggested this one and I think it is a brilliant question. If they can answer you straight away this is a good sign and if they stumble it’s an even better indication of what they’re really about…your dollars most likely.

Your want your PR firm to be reading. It’s ok if they don’t yet read your industry’s news or your favorite newspaper. If they can demonstrate that news is an important part of their day, this is what matters.

Hint: If you have a chance to meet the junior in the agency ask them too. They’ll most likely be doing most of your pitching so it’s great to have a guide on how they present themselves. While you’re at it, ask your agency to break down the roles of who will be working on what components of your campaign.

7.  Let’s stick together…

Your time might be limited but the more material, information and new content you can provide to your PR partner the better your results will be. Try and discover a process with your PR partner to make the relationship information sharing as seamless as possible to alleviate the need for you to chase them and vice versa. You’re in it together and if done right you’ll avoid a heartbreaking fling and develop a mutually beneficial, long lasting relationship.

How to plan a successful PR launch

You’ve started a new business venture, dreamed up a new product or service, built a partnership or engaged a Brand Ambassador. You’re now bursting at the seams, ready to tell the world about it. If you get your PR launch right, it’s highly likely they will.

PR Launch: 5 key principles

So how does one plan a successful PR launch? The answer is simple. I put it down to five key principles:

  1. Planning
  2. Ideas
  3. Timing
  4. Attention to detail
  5. Adaptability

But before you delve in to these five principles, look at what you are launching…

It must be compelling or motivating for a larger group. Your launch needs to communicate that your product or service is meeting market demand.

If it’s a business venture or a product or service, here are some questions to consider:

  • Is your product or service innovative?
  • When is the best time considering outside factors such as key events, sector events and media interest?
  • Is your concept compelling or will you need to formulate ideas to make it more interesting to a wider audience?

Ponder your answers to these and even if you answer yes I would still sit down with your key people and brainstorm ideas.

Difference between product launch and PR launch

Many business owners confuse product launches with marketing or PR launches. They aren’t the same.

You can launch a product in the market well before you conduct a PR launch and vice versa. Apple is renowned for using the PR machine before they launch a product and boy does it work. Queues of people clamber to purchase the latest Apple products because they know its coming. Demand has established before the product is even launched to market. However, this option often carries more risk. If the product doesn’t live up to its expectations, you’re done for and the negative press will outweigh your positive promotion efforts.

On the flipside, many companies launch their product and their PR at the same time. They make sure the product is ready for the market, tested and available for sale before they launch. This is probably the safest option. The Harvard Business Review published a post a year ago explaining why many product launches fail, it’s a worthy read if this is your game.

So now you need to decide go back to your original questions and ask yourself more about timing? Perform a SWOT Analysis to assess potential risks if you plan to launch PR prior to the product.

Planning

OK so you’re ready to start planning, here are some tips to help you through this phase:

  • Identify a clear budget taking into account the following:
    • PR outsourcing if that’s the way you want to go.
    • Venue
    • Hospitality (wait staff, food and drink, etc.)
    • Product giveaways and other marketing collateral
    • Speakers, celebrities and any paid endorsements
    • Graphic design and invitations
    • Staff
  • Define your purpose for the launch and your target audience: the more detailed you can be here the better. You can’t be everything to everyone…well unless you’re Apple. Make sure it’s not just about you. Stating, “Come to our great product launch” is simply not enough. As with any communication, fulfill your audience’s need and make it about them. Consider why your audience will want to come and consider whether you need an audience at all – you may just need media.
  • Hold a brainstorm session with your key team to discuss timing, locations and themes – no holes barred.
  • Perform a reccy. Make sure you visit the locations you’re considering and think about size, accessibility for your attendees and the media. Ask for costs and availability to check if it works for your timing.
  • Do some research and do your best to find out what else is planned for the same date. One way to do this is even ring a journalist you plan to invite and ask them. If something huge is happening for your target media and audience give some thought to changing your date. I have worked with brands before that have refused to do this despite my pleading and have of course significantly reduced their media and audience exposure.
  • Prepare an invite list.
  • Book your venue.
  • Make sure all your marketing communications activities are pre-prepared and ready. For example, if you are launching have the website completed and ready to go live, etc.
  • Any influential people coming? It would be good if they were. Think about whom you can invite that is recognised and admired by the media and you’re audience. Brand Ambassadors or guest speakers are very helpful.

Ideas

Ideas are key to the success of your event. In your initial brainstorm, think outside the square and think big. List all your ideas associated with:

–       How to get attention

–       How to interest media

–       Think about what’s worked here and overseas

Get your team together and brainstorm!

Timing

Timing goes with adaptability. Please, if you discover another event is happening on the same date as yours, give thought to moving your event. Don’t let all your hard work be undone because you refuse to be adaptable.

Timing is key to making sure you have the attention of your media and attendees. Make your event relevant. Consider linking your launch to a need or point of interest currently running in the media.

Attention to detail

If you are not a person good with detail, assign these tasks to someone else. It’s the small things that can easily undo an event and make it fall apart. Small considerations such as printing your media release to hand out at the event to media or booking your own photographer to take photos for your own, post-event marketing are crucial. Make a list and conquer and divide.

Adaptability

You’ve completed your plan, assigned responsibilities and everything’s ticked off the list. On the day, if unexpected requests are made or things don’t go as planned, run with it. There’s no point sticking to your guns and failing to be adaptable. Put on your poker face and make quick, smart decisions and you should be able to keep the show on track and fix any problems that arise.

Planning and delivering a successful PR launch is an achievement but getting it right boils down to hard work. If you don’t have time to do it all yourself or you’re out of your comfort zone consider outsourcing some of the work.

But, if you’re up for the challenge, give yourself time for research and give it a good go! Best of luck.

How to write a media pitch and have your story published

You’ve decided to write a media pitch rather than send a media release, likely to be a wise choice.Here are some tips for writing a winning media pitch to have a story published.

What’s your story?

Start by defining your story and angles. If you are planning to pitch a product, forget it. You need to tell the story behind the product. To turn your product or service offering in to a story ask yourself the following questions:

  • who does the product/service benefit and why?
  • how is your product/service influencing what’s happening in the world today?\
  • is your product/service relevant to what’s currently in the news and does it provide a new angle?
  • what makes your product/service innovative?
  • is there anything particularly interesting or newsworthy about the people behind the product or service?
  • when and where can your product/service be used?
There’s no point sending product or service information to journalists, expecting them to transform it into newsworthy material. They are not advertisers. Many people make the mistake of telling journalists how wonderful their product or service is without explaining why it’s of public interest. What journalists really want (and need) to know is:
  • why is your story of interest to their readership?
  • what is newsworthy and timely about your story?

If you can’t answer these questions, you don’t have a worthy pitch.

Do your homework

Now you need to read. Read publications that you think would fit your story and read them regularly. Do your homework on journalists too. Select those most relevant to your pitch and research their previous stories, their interests and their views. Google them, follow them on Twitter and read their blogs. You must make your pitch interesting for them, not just for you.

Here are some questions to ask yourself during this process:

  • What types of stories does this publication print?
  • Who are the key journalists that fit my story?
  • What is of interest to them?
  • How large should the story be?
  • Do they accept and publish Opinion Editorials from external sources?
  • What style of language do they use?
  • Who are the readers of this publication?
  • Can my story be related to a current newsworthy story and provide a new angle?

Now write down your list of publications and journalists that fit your story. Next to each, write down potential angles of interest. You’ll likely find multiple angles exist and you can target a number of publication sectors.

For example, if you’re a technology start-up you could target business publications and technology writers. If your technology start-up relates to another industry such as health, you may be able to target health, business and technology writers.

Who can talk about you?

Do you have any third-party endorsers or case studies that will strengthen your story? It’s one thing for you to talk about something you’re doing but it’s another if someone can provide a supporting argument or perspective.

Next to your list of angles, write down who might be a good source of supplementary information or statistics. Alternatively select those able to serve as a case study example to illustrate your point. Make contact with these sources and check they are happy to be involved.

Writing the story yourself

Your pitch could be an idea for a story or it could be a written story authored by you. If you wish to submit a written story firstly make sure the publication(s) you are pitching it to accept content from external sources.

Write your story and then prepare an pitch to explain the angle and purpose. Submit the pitch before you submit the entire written piece. Remember you shouldn’t submit the same, exact written editorial to more than one journalist.

5 tips for the media pitch email

Here are five rules for the email pitch.

  1. Keep it short. Send your pitch in the body of the email and keep it between 2-3 paragraphs. Don’t talk about yourself. As with a media release, keep the lead at the top and use a couple of paragraphs to provide your angle.
  2. Make it personable. Add a personal note – a sentence – should be included in your email. Make sure your personal note answers the question: “Why would this be of interest to this journalist?”
  3. Don’t send large attachments. You will infuriate the journalists by filling their inbox with large files. It’s best to provide a link or when closing your pitch, offer more information.
  4. Mention your sources. If you have earmarked case studies (third-party endorsers) for your story, mention this. Tell the journalist you have people lined up to provide comment. This is appealing because they don’t have to go and hunt them down themselves.
  5. Write a compelling subject line. Spend some time on your subject line to make it interesting. Remember the two key questions journalists will be asking: “why is your story of interest to their readers?” and “what is newsworthy and timely about it?” Write the pitch, edit it and send it someone to proof. Make sure there are no grammatical or spelling errors – journalists hate that.

Following up your pitch

Don’t sit back and expect a response straight away. Your pitch has been sent and is sitting in their Inbox with a hundred others. Give them a day or two and call them to politely enquire whether it was of interest. Don’t call them every day for a month.

Start the call by asking if they have time to chat and if not, make a time to ring back. If they decline your pitch ask them if you can help them with any other future stories or…after asking them if they have time to chat ask them if they can give you feedback on your pitch.

If they accept your pitch you’ve done well. Make sure you provide them with all the information they need to write their story by their deadlines. See etiquette tips for dealing with journalists. Keep in touch with the journalist by offering to send future story ideas and ask what they would prefer to receive.

Good luck with your pitch, we hope this information helps and would love to hear how you went! Email us at info@theorycrew.com.au.

5 Etiquette tips for dealing with journalists

Journalists are a fickle bunch. There are the old guys who’ve been in the game for years. These guys know their stuff and they waste no time letting you know it. There are the young guns with big talent and big ambitions to match. Then there is “fluff” journalism…(actually these guys are usually great to deal with). In my experience, every journalist (with the exception of two or three) is intelligent, inquisitive, responsive and willing to listen.

In any case, there are unspoken and unwritten rules that govern our interaction with journalists. The following tips should serve as a guide for your future dealings. By no means does this list mean you’ll definitely have your story printed  (that’s a whole other blog post).

These tips should help you build a relationship with a journalist or at least avoid infuriating them so they never accept your calls.

Tip #1: Play detective or CIA agent

I have to admit I am guilty of not always researching a journalist before I call them. It’s usually been because I’m in a hurry, I know the story will suit them or I was simply ordered to ring a particular journalist. No matter the reason, I will never do it again.

I don’t care how busy you are, researching the person you’re about to make contact with gives you so much insight in to how to structure your pitch and their style of writing. It also gives you fodder for small talk. Like a recent article they wrote? Tell them so. Don’t gush, give your point of view and have a human conversation.

Tip #2: Ask them if it’s a good time to chat

I know you’re busy, but so are they. Unless your story is truly “earth shattering”, it can wait. Journalists work in an incredibly busy environment. They have non-negotiable deadlines.

You may think you are helping them out and perhaps you are, but it’s also likely they’re on a tight deadline and won’t give you the attention you deserve.

All you need to do when they pick up the phone is ask the question “Is this a good time to chat?” You may receive a yes and you may receive a no. You may receive a very sharp no. At least you’ve asked. It’s polite and they will appreciate it.

Tip #3: Know your stuff

You’ve practiced your pitch, delivered it and secured interest. The journalist then asks you… a question…one you weren’t expecting.

Instead of “ah, um, ah” make sure you have all the information at your fingertips before you are on the phone. If you don’t have an answer tell them it’s a good question and you will find out the answer. If you offer this, go and find out the answer and provide it to them in a timely manner. Don’t leave them hanging.

Tip #4: Read their publication

Don’t ever ask a journalist to send you a copy of a story. Seriously. It’s bad form. If they offer that’s fine, but don’t ask for it. Buy it.

Tip #5: Meet their deadline, not yours

If you receive an enquiry or a question and promise to find an answer for a journalist do not leave it for days. Get back to them that same day. Better yet, ask them when they need it by and make sure you meet the deadline. The more you can meet their requirements, the greater your chances of having your story published and the greater your chances of them actually working with you again in the future.

Of course working with journalists is a two-way street and there is room for a bit of “give and take”. These simple etiquette tips will help you establish an on going rapport and build a working relationship that’s mutually beneficial.

Have a question about dealing with journalists not on this list? Email Mother of all PR and we will answer it for you: info@theorycrew.com.au

9 Reasons not to send a media release

“We need to get a media release out straight away…”

I hear this and groan. In the entire time I’ve worked in public relations and communications  I think this statement was warranted on few occasions. The most memorable being a state-wide natural disaster, a Royal visit, a new scientific development, a political event and a not-for-profit fundraiser.

So now you’ve written one. You’re about to hit “send” and your carefully crafted media release, approved by your boss will ping out to journalists far and wide.

Here are nine reasons to hit delete instead.

  1. You have no real news to announce just a story idea. The purpose of a media release is to announce something newsworthy. A media release should not be sent to hundreds of busy journalists if you have nothing newsworthy to announce. You will make a busy journalist an infuriated and busy journalist.
  2. You can’t write and you don’t know how to structure a media release. If you haven’t written a media release before it doesn’t mean you can’t write a good one. My advice is to seek advice and feedback. Write and rewrite and edit and then have someone else proof read it for you. Research how to write a good media release and structure it properly.
  3. You have a great idea for a story and a journalist in mind. Why not target specific journalists and make individual pitches? This way, you’ll develop meaningful rapport with key journalists genuinely interested in what you have to say. If you have a story idea research your journalists and publications. Select those that would respond well to the story you have in mind and email a concise pitch with a clear angle.
  4. You’ve been given feedback from journalists that your media release sucks. If a journo tells you your release sucks and you really don’t know why, ask them. Learn from your mistakes and thank them for the feedback. Do your homework and practice writing to make sure your next shot is a winner. Don’t ignore the feedback and stick to what you’re doing and send another just the same.
  5. Your release is over a page. You’ve said too much. Journalists have to scan media releases on a daily basis and don’t want (or need) to wade through rubbish. Stick to the point and don’t bury the lead. Stick to one page.
  6. Your media release is an advertisement – ‘nuf said. If you want to advertise, pay for it.
  7. You are embellishing or exaggerating facts to make them sound better than they actually are. If you need to embellish then your story isn’t newsworthy. Journalists have seen it all. Words such as “fantastic”, “best” and “world leading” should be avoided. Stick to the facts.
  8. You haven’t proof read your content. Proof your content.
  9. You are bagging your competitors. I’m a firm believer that this type of press release should be left for the pollies. Although it may make your media release newsworthy, if you wish to remain credible and for your organisation to be remembered for what it is good at, stick to your own news not that of others. There are other ways to give journalists’ information about your competitors if that’s what you want to do, you don’t have to announce it to the world.

Want more media release writing tips or have a tenth tip to add? Email info@theorycrew.com.au, we’d love to hear from you.