Reporting vs. Writing

A friend once told me there are two types of journalists: those who care about the story, and those who­­­ care about the writing. Very rarely do the two overlap.

In journalism school, I cared only about the story. I assumed editors would always fix my writing, but the story could make me famous. Too often, to break the story as soon as possible, I left eloquence by the wayside.

After working at a newspaper for two years, I realized journalism schools are pumping out people by the hundreds, who care only about the story. I read stories where the reporter didn’t know the difference (or just didn’t care) between the words were and we’re,, affect and effect, ex. and i.e., and so on.

I find it hard to imagine that John Updike or Gay Talese ever made such grave errors.

Recently, I made the switch to PR and it hasn’t been easy. I am now the pitcher instead of the catcher. While there always will be a great divide between journalism and PR, I think both sides can agree on the importance of story telling.

The main similarity I discovered in both PR and journalism is presentation is everything, whether it’s a story or a pitch. A respectable article loses credibility if a top source is spelled wrong or if it contains multiple verb tenses in the same sentence.

Whether or not either side acknowledges it, PR and journalism have a symbiotic relationship. PR professionals hope to coax a story while journalists try to write a fair one. Writers in both fields strive for the perfect balance of story and style.

Both industries look at the other’s job as easier. But, done well, neither is...read the full article here.

It’s not what you know…or is it?

What is media relations really? Is it maintaining strong relationships with local, regional and even national media contacts? Or is it scouring the newspapers, magazines, Internet sites, TV stations, radio stations and all the other outlets out there, until you find a reporter?

To answer that, let me take you back to Auburn University, in Rick Smith’s Mass Communications class. Rick said, “It’s not what you know. It’s who you know. Now, I, and your other professors will teach you the ‘what,’ but it’s up to you to find the who.”

As PR pros, it is our job to know to whom we are pitching our ideas. Schroder PR prides itself on having strong media contacts. I have met reporters and editors through the firm, my colleagues, through clubs and organizations in which I am involved and even Twitter! I also utilize our subscription to the database of thousands of reporters to find which beats reporters cover and how they liked to be contacted.

Part of the ‘what’ is knowing what the ‘who’ is writing. As Bailee wrote in “Reader of the News,” we are constantly reading publications, websites and any other news sources out there to keep updated with reporters’ works.

Another part of the ‘what’ that I’ve learned at SPR is having a complete story and messaging. We know what is and is not interesting, and so do reporters. Don’t pitch reporters with untimely or boring subjects!

So, does Schroder PR get hired for media relations based solely on our relationships with reporters? No. Do we get hired because we subscribe to every eNewsletter and paper, and read/watch/listen to as many outlets as we can? I don’t think so. I think we understand that media relations is, simply put, not only about who, but also about what you know.…read the full article here.

Visiting PR clients in person should be an easy task, but sometimes it takes that old Southern charm

Common sense would tell you that clients who hire you as their PR consultant would want to meet with you face-to-face on a regular basis, but we’ve learned that isn’t always the case. Sometimes you just have to knock on their doors – several times – and take food.

We have had clients who were just too busy to meet. One hired us to launch several campaigns and paid us for months before they were able to meet with us. We were handcuffed, not able get started until they provided us needed information, in person.

“Food,” I told my PR team in the huddle. “We must take them food.”

So we got up early the next morning and went by our neighborhood Einstein’s Bagels and ordered a dozen bagels, cream cheese and coffee and charmed our way into the office of the marketing contact who had proven especially elusive.

For other clients who were equally reluctant to meet, we offered an upgraded version of that same strategy. These two clients were always too busy to meet, continually refusing our requests to go out for coffee or to join us at a weekend Falcons football.

We ordered lunch and blackberry cobbler for several dozen employees who were working away inside my clients’ offices. We gave the clients one day’s warning and showed up early, filling their buildings with irresistible aromas. Finally, the handful of executives whom we had specifically targeted drifted in and sat down with us for nearly 45 minutes, talking about how we could get things back on track.

Nevertheless, at one of the clients, the president never did actually sit down with us or eat our lunch, though he did stand nearby and chatted amiably with us until he was called away for a phone call. As the rest of us enjoyed our blackberry cobbler, I told the marketing executive I’d prepare a plate for the president and take it to his office, but she warned me not to bother.

“He doesn’t eat,” she said. “He just works.”

And on that day, at least, he also met – with us…read the full article here.

Why that journalist isn’t responding to you

Yes or no. Why don’t they just respond to me?

That’s one of the top complaints PR people have about journalists and it’s no wonder. We all hate to be ignored. Why can’t they just send an email telling you whether they are interested or not. It just takes a few seconds, right?

A lot of journalists, me included, receive more than 300 emails a day. Another thing to remember is that most journalists are working with constant deadlines. They have to remain focused on meeting those deadlines. And that can mean less time to respond to pitches such as yours.

This was a hard reality for me to swallow. I was raised as a well-mannered Southern girl who promptly writes thank-you notes following every occasion. I initially tried to respond to everyone who emailed me. Then I realized I could either take the polite route or I could take the professional route and actually get my work done.

So what can you do about it?

  • Do your homework before you send out a pitch. If you are targeting a few journalists in particular, spend a few minutes checking out their publications and what types of articles they write.
  • Don’t take it personally. If a journalist is not responding, chances are good that he or she is just not that into your pitch. It’s not personal.
  • Follow up, but only to a point. How you should follow up varies by each journalist. I don’t mind a follow-up email asking me if got their press release or the occasional phone call. But a lot of journalists would rather pick up a hissing rattlesnake than answer a follow-up phone call and they will more often than not respond poorly.

I wish I had a magic solution. Journalists and PR folk may often have an uneasy alliance. But we need each other to do our jobs.…read the full article here.

Social media gaining on search engines

How did you find this blog?

An analytics report for this site will show you were most likely brought here by Google, Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

A recent post by Buzz Feed titled “Where did all the search traffic go?” explores changes in website traffic. BuzzFeed tracked traffic referrals to more than 200 publishers in their network that include more than 300 million people globally. They found that traffic from Google dropped more than 30 percent from August 2012 through March 2013 and search engines in general dropped by 20 percent in the same period.BuzzFeed's graph illustrating traffic sources

While search-engine-directed traffic decreased, site traffic did not. Traffic from all social media channels combined grew by 25 percent for the site. In March 2013, BuzzFeed found that Facebook sent 1.5 times more traffic than Google – the largest increase they have ever seen.

Increased social traffic proves the influence social platforms can have on users and implies that users’ online experience can be directed from friends and connections on social media as much as it can from highly intelligent Google robots.

As BuzzFeed put it, “We aren’t hunting for content as much as we are foraging from what’s right in front of us.” Whereas people may have once been led to food blogs by searching for a recipe and ingredients online, they are now led by their friend’s Facebook post, Pinterest board, or tweet. Similarly, you were most likely directed to this blog from Facebook, Twitter, or an email than from typing in “public relations blog” as a Google search term.

That’s not to say you wouldn’t have found this blog if you typed that in – but in the world of social, people may be taking less time to type in search terms and decide to read what’s sent to their inbox or included in their newsfeed.…read the full article here.

Some people may run from investigative reporters…but I think they’re nice.

At a recent event, I had the opportunity to speak with Fox 5 I-Team Investigative Reporter Randy Travis. You may have seen his stories on the air – a lot resulting in doors being slammed in his face or people running from him.  Personally, I enjoyed our conversation. He even gave crisis communications advice, which happened to be the same advice we give to our clients!

Crisis communications is needed in each industry. Unfortunately, preparing for a crisis isn’t on the top of the to-do-list, usually until you’re smack dab in the middle of it. When the news crew comes to ask questions, no one is prepared and people’s first instinct is to run away or say the dreaded, “No comment.”

If you thought reporters liked having clips of persons-of-interest driving off in their Mercedes or running into dark rooms and slamming the doors … well they do. However, they also want to hear your side of the story and, when they do hear a well-planned, logical response, often present a much more balanced story, if they air the story at all.

At Schroder PR, we offer Crisis Communications Support for our clients. We train them to be prepared for reporters, negative social media attention and even internally, with employees and other stakeholders. We’ve handled all kinds of crises, for existing and new clients, and while we can support you in most stages of the crisis, it is in your best interest to be proactive.

If you’d like more information about how you can start being proactive with crisis management, or just to hear the advice that Randy Travis thought was so excellent and fitting, give us a call.…read the full article here.

Social media proves it not only connects but also can be a matter of life and death

If you’ve watched TV news in the past week, you saw the constant coverage of the devastating Boston bombings as well as the tireless pursuit of the bombing suspects. If you were on social media this past week, you saw the same thing – but at a faster pace. Following the bombing, more than 500,000 tweets with the hashtag #BostonMarathon were collected by a research group from Syracuse University.

This saturated, unfiltered coverage eventually led to as much, if not more harm than good. Social media users made false accusations after examining photos and made up false headlines to try to take the lead in reporting. Suddenly, the medium that served as a watchdog, alerting the country of tragedy, became an unpredictably wild dog in the overall story.

The impact of social media isn’t new or surprising to PR practitioners. So it is still somewhat surprising – although very welcomed – when clients ask us why it’s important to be on social media.

In future social media presentations, I’ll remember to refer to this past week to demonstrate the impact social media channels can have. It was an example of not only how powerfully social media can engage others but also how quickly the unfiltered medium can take a turn for the worse. As we tell our clients, social media needs to be managed and we are able to train our clients on the importance of a successful crisis plan.

While many are still skeptical of the importance of social media in our lives, it is irrefutable that social media played a major part in our nation’s coverage of last week’s terrorist attack. That proves to me that the same channel of communication that drives traffic to business blogs such as this one, is also giving people vital information that could be a matter of life and death.…read the full article here.

In PR, we are always looking for the next big thing. After the past few weeks, I’m convinced you’re looking at it.

Public Relations professionals are ever diligent about placing their clients in forums that best present their offering to a potential customer audience. We especially appreciate a platform that allows us to control our clients’ message. While social media gets a lot of the attention these days, the best PR work is usually seen in a longer form such as blogs, essays, white papers, columns, op-eds and now Thought Leadership.

Though Leadership is sponsored content columns presented on the right side of SaportaReport’s Weekly Update and on each page of its website. It’s a relatively new concept that positions brands and clients alongside entries from respected journalists.

Last week, I received a call from a prospective client who had been considering hiring a PR firm for years, but had never made the move. When he opened up the SaportaReport Weekly Update and read the journalism columns, his eyes wandered over to our PR column. He clicked through, read through several past weekly entries, picked up his phone and called me to invite me in to talk later that same afternoon. We had a very productive meeting and he’s now considering a proposal to engage us on an annual basis. All because of our Thought Leadership column.

If you are a PR firm and seek to ensure your clients are taking advantage of new opportunities, I strongly recommend you to present this new emerging platform. Not only do your clients get to share an audience of 14,000+ recipients of the Weekly Update and 50,000 unique visitors to the SaportaReport website – they can “own” a topic exclusively.

As SaportaReport grows in stature and influence, your clients’ opportunities will as well. So take the lead and explore this new medium for your clients. Secure their topic before a competitor does. I believe you’ll agree, it’s the next big thing….read the full article here.

We are into interviewing season, but much of our intelligence is gathered before we ask the first question.

Although we interview qualified candidates for our PR firm year-round, our email inboxes get especially full this time of year as another class of public relations students approach graduation time.

Just looking at the documents a candidate initially sends us completes much of our intelligence work on prospective teammates. When a résumé comes in by email, our fingers linger above the delete button, ready to press it should we find any of these items in the included documents:

  • Bad document name: If the résumé document itself is named “PR version,” then we know you aren’t focused on our industry, but instead are casting a wide net.
  • Signs of mass email distribution: If the email or letter is addressed to “Hiring Manager” or “HR Department” or “To Whom it May Concern,” then we know the candidate never researched our company before pressing “send.” So we press delete.
  • Verbosity: if a student in college can’t condense his or her brief history into one page, then we know they won’t meet our firm’s mission to develop “Clear Messages in a Cluttered World.”
  • Self-centeredness: If their introductory narrative is all about what a job at our firm can do for the applicant and his or her career, then we figure another firm can accommodate their needs.
  • No work history: you don’t have to have internships with other PR firms, but having no work history at all is a sign we’ll have to train you on a lot of basics. We once had to advise a young employee of the value of showering before coming to work!

So that’s just a list of what we can discern from looking at the résumés. You can imagine what we find when we type a candidate’s name into Google! We’ll save that for another posting.…read the full article here.

One of my favorite holidays: National Grammar Day

March 4th was National Grammar Day – did you not celebrate? The day serves as not only a celebration of language, but also as a day to raise awareness of what it means to write and speak well. At Schroder PR, we take an AP style quiz before our staff meetings twice a month, so I’ll use some feedback from those to begin.

Firstly, adverbs have to be one of the most wrongly used parts of speech. For example, bad versus badly is surprisingly confusing. Sometimes I want to use “badly” because I think I need an adverb in my sentences, when I should simply be using, “bad.” For example, “I feel badly about that.” That sentence could be interpreted as meaning your sense of touch is bad. So, remember: when you’re sick, you feel bad. When you’re remorseful, you feel bad about it.

Who and whom are another example of words that are habitually interchanged, but it’s actually a fairly easy rule to remember. “Who” refers to the subject of a sentence, and “whom” refers to the object of a sentence. If you can answer the question with him, use whom. If you can answer the questions with he, use who.

Let’s try it. (Who/Whom) will we listen to tonight? We will listen to him. In this example, “Whom” is appropriate. (Who/Whom) will accept the delivery? He will accept the delivery. In this example, “Who” is appropriate.

Another mistake that I didn’t realize was so common until I was asked about it last week – using apostrophes in inappropriate places. I’ve noticed that people love apostrophes. Have you ever seen this: “90’s?” Why would the ‘90s be possessive? You should either write it as “the 1990s,” or “the ‘90s.” Apostrophes indicate possession or are used in contractions, but they do not denote plurality.

Hope you all had a wonderful National Grammar Day! I can’t wait until next year! In the meantime, please share your list of annoying grammatical errors you see regularly…read the full article here.