RISMEDIA, Dec. 3, 2008-“Advertising is saying nice things about yourself, public relations is getting others to say nice things about you.” Despite numerous lofty definitions of PR, that succinct characterization by veteran Boston ad man Jon Goward, says it best.
“And in tough economic times-when ad budgets get thin-public relations has to work harder,” says public relations authority Dick Pirozzolo, adding, “A well-planned and executed public relations strategy will maintain brand awareness during a down cycle; maintain market share, establish your company’s ability to manage in both tough times and good, and generate qualified sales leads.” His Wellesley, Massachusetts firm, Pirozzolo Company Public Relations, has been helping manufacturers, professionals and governments reach the media and influence decisions makers for nearly three decades.
Pirozzolo’s commercial and residential real estate experience includes hospitality and retail developers, agribusiness and homebuilding. He has promoted hotel and residential development in the US, Japan and Qatar and written four books on home design and construction.
His firm works with government and non-government organizations in the US, Japan, China, Vietnam, Great Britain, Israel and Kazakhstan. “No matter where they are in the world, organizations commit the same seven PR sins – sins that hurt their brand by reducing its value and favorable awareness. Here they are, along with what managers can do to ban the seven PR sins from their marketing communication,” says Pirozzolo.
Too many CEOs and entrepreneurs simply expect The Wall Street Journal, to cover their story. These folks do not want to build relationships, they expect to use relationships.
“I once represented an unassuming institutional investment advisor specializing in farmland who went way out of his way to talk to a reporter from the Cody, Wyoming Enterprise . Her small paper has zero influence on major money managers. But she soon got a better job – at The Wall Street Journal and the next time she wrote about farmland investment for wealthy investors, she called him and quoted my client,” says Pirozzolo.
Don’t let arrogance or its sibling Ego get in the way of effective public relations.
2. Hiring people for “contacts.”
“I’ve been a PR professional for decades and have developed relationships – e.g. contacts – with editors around the world. But I never hire PR professionals because of their contacts. I look instead for people with a proven ability to put people together for their mutual benefit – people who seldom ask for favors,” says Pirozzolo, adding, “When our firm promoted Vietnam as a good place to do business, I had contacts at the White House and US Senate, I’d be deluding myself to think it was my charm. I simply had a client with a timely message – and knew how to get some of the most influential people in the US interested.”
Tip – if your company is struggling during this economy, don’t try to get contacts at a media outlet to do a puff piece. “Try instead for a thoughtful article on strategies your management is using to weather the economic storm and prepare for the future,” notes Pirozzolo.
3. Lazy media lists.
Internet media database services contribute to the overflow of poorly targeted releases. They turn off reporters and editors for the times you have real news to deliver. Cut down lists and research what each reporter covers by reviewing previous articles. “Then make relevant article suggestions that show editors you know their work and read their publication,” says Pirozzolo.
4. Quantifying PR by release-per-month.
Businesses increasingly want to quantify PR, often by press releases-per-month. To meet this demand, businesses stretch to come up with new angles on old news. There is a crude but true adage to describe PR — “Doing good and getting credit for it!” Too many clients forget they actually have to do something newsworthy – or at least different from the competition – to get coverage. Measure awareness, perceptions and qualified inquiries about your company, not the number of times a warmed over press release goes out.
5. Releases that look like Journalism 101 assignments.
Don’t send out releases that look like you just took Journalism 101. News writing styles have changed. News writing is now more expository with fewer direct quotes. Eliminate silly quotations such as, “We are excited, (delighted) to have Bill onboard,” says Bigly Big, CEO, in announcing the new vice president.
Eliminate, “For immediate release” in favor of information that matters to the editor, such as: “Economic Downturn Sales Tactics,” “Pittsfield, MA Impact”, or “Attention Sports Editors.”
Don’t expect a modern PR person or firm to pitch stories by phone all the time or plant stories over a Scotch with Lou Grant – the archetypal editor played by Ed Asner. Today’s reality – send well-written pitches tailored to specific interests.
To win editorial attention in the Internet age and avoid the spam filter get the news in the subject line of e-mails, preferably in the first four words, and eliminate unusual punctuation or capitalization.
The times to phone editors is when you have a newsworthy event, celebrity appearance or news conferences – especially TV news assignment editors! And, TV assignment editors love to get event releases by fax not e-mail!
6. Not reading the newspapers – including those you hate.
Read newspapers and watch network and cable news. If you love Fox, then watch MSNBC for a fresh perspective and vice versa. Ask yourself, “Where could my company fit into that story?”
“We represented WhiteSmoke, a turbocharged spellchecker and grammar checker software. When the National Spelling Bee came up, we created a spelling bee for adults ala “Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader.” Lots of coverage!” says Pirozzolo.
Pirozzolo adds, “Don’t forget humor. A Washington Post columnist did a syndicated story on our WhiteSmoke’s CEO who could see that her company had a funny side too.”
7. Ignoring the future.
The value of YouTube as a public relations vehicle was not instantly apparent. Savvy communicators, however, quickly recognized the benefits of delivering video to potential customers that did not require costly production. A defense contractor we know is taking advantage of impromptu YouTube video shot by soldiers in Iraq. The video highlights a product that keeps them safer. The manufacturer makes sure Pentagon procurement officials see the videos. Likewise, a home manufacturer welcomes customers to send in video and images of their new homes, which the company posts on YouTube, for lively cost effective endorsement.
Moreover, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Skype, IM, Texting, Blogs and the next Web phenomena may not pave a direct path to your market right now. No matter. Play around with them. Get comfortable with Twitter. Your customer base may not Twitter now, but soon Twitter will be as natural to your next wave of customers as breathing.
Eliminate these PR sins and reap the rewards of relationships that work for you no matter what the economy does.
Dick Pirozzolo is an international public relations authority who founded Pirozzolo Company Public Relations in 1981. In addition to serving public relations clients, Dick and his colleagues offer seminars on effective public relations for busy managers. He is an accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America and a member of the PRSA Counselors Academy.