Encouraging to see that Sir Richard Branson is still enamoured with the positive use of PR, following the publication this week of a stunning complaint letter received at Virgin Atlantic.

The customer’s letter, which is amazing, has been pushed out across various networks by Branson’s Director of Corporate Communications Paul Charles – who also made no secret of the fact that Branson had also personally called the aggrieved traveller to discuss the quality drop in cuisine experienced on his flight to Heathrow from Mumbai.

The complaint letter has been listed as one of the best customer complaint letters ever written – but, of course, in light of the humour and intelligence used by the author, this sits comfortably with the Virgin Brand.

It’s a great piece of PR from the Branson team, and clearly highlights that even a negative experience can be utilised with a bit of clarity and forward-thinking to add further exposure to a winning global Brand. No coincidence, perhaps, that the complaint letter was issued across the Internet around the time our television screens are pushing the current Virgin Atlantic 25 Years’ 80s-Retro Ad Campaign.

To be fair, Branson has always had his eye on the publicity machine, and this latest exercise highlights that he still keeps the PR rolling. Hell, he’s even blogging now too.

If a global Brand such as Virgin see the value in viral PR techniques, alongside blogging – what’s stopping you?

Talking of online PR…

January 28, 2009

…Take a look at these guys and what they’re up to. Great stuff.

As more traditional PR providers continue to jump on the Web wagon and bleat out phrases like ‘integrated communications strategies’ and ‘maximising online opportunities’ the team at WhiteLabelWorld.com have been delivering contemporary online PR strategies for some big brands across the UK for a while, it appears.

If I had to place a monthly PR Retainer with a traditional PR Agency or these guys, as a client looking for modern exposure in a subtle and effective mix of online and offline combinations, I’d put my cash with the contemporaries.

On a day where we see magazine giant Future Publishing declaring a 25 % increase in their online advertising revenues, it is clear that more and more consumers and stakeholders are logging on – to source News, Features, coverage opportunities and industry commentators. Only the foolhardy will rely on print PR alone this year.

If you think that your PR retainer is effective in the hands of a traditional PR Agency, think again.

One of the main things which seems apparent when examining the impact of the Web on PR is, to me, the sheer speed at which comment, opinions, facts, News, blogs, and the general flow of information, seems to pass through the online portals. Only the smartest businesses are keeping up.

As has been discussed here, the days of submitting to print Media under highly-measureable deadline structures for PR Campaigns is long gone. Today’s media consumers demand 24/7 updates, News feeds, inputs and comment portals for their opinions to be heard, seen, registered. An absolute minefield for the uninitiated.

Just as the changing nature of online journalism has been discussed today in the Media Guardian in an excellent article by Jeff Jarvis, so the PR debate seems to run and run. As more and more potential consumers/audiences/buyers go online and get involved in the general creation of content, News, Features and opnions, so this changes the Media and PR landscape, and alters the accepted rules of PR engagement.

Many traditional PR providers have fought the battle to understand Online PR by simply refusing to get involved in it. No submissions to online Editors. No monitoring of Web news. No establishing of client blogs for their benefit.

And why don’t these PRs bother? They seem to refuse to monitor, measure and then report to Clients on the huge, huge…let me say it again…HUGE benefits…of building and maintaining an online presence through PR submissions, blogs and the like. With such massive migration of consumers and advertisers to the Web, what kind of contemporary PR Campaign does not include this into the roll-out for PR delivery?

The media and PR landscape is changing whether or not we like it. Responding rather than reacting is bound to bring more positive outcomes for Clients and business owners delivering their own online PR and blogging Campaigns during 2009.  But the pace is so fast and chaotic. Should you bother trying?

Perhaps a more pertinent question is Can you afford NOT to get involved?

This is a particularly pertinent subject at the moment, given the combination of increasing sources of knowledge, expertise and information online (via news feeds, blogs and the like) and the ongoing economic situation – both of which are adding impetus to the dilemma facing many small business owners in the UK.

Do you deliver your own PR, or outsource it to the experts? As the ‘guru’ in your commercial field, pitching to the Media is never going to be an easy proposition, unless you’ve received training and are comfortable and confident. Also, it is worth remembering that as a business owner, you are competing with more and more information overload, from a burgeoning number of sources for the media and your potential customers to engage with and be attracted to.

Differentiators such as special offers, expertise, experience mean very little in our rapid-paced, on-demand World.

Not all journalists of course are au fait with online techniques, as a recent information post from www.journalism.co.uk highlights, giving the media hints and tips on techniques they need to learn to stay ahead of the curve on sourcing and uncovering information today. Great post.

It comes down to basics: do you have three things. 1. Time 2. Confidence 3. Something worthwhile to say

There are plenty of blogs out there, but there aren’t that many good blogs. I mean REALLY good blogs, which add value, generate fresh debate, create new avenues of commercial activity, demonstrate solid knowledge and all wrapped up in an inclusive, insightful and informative manner.

As the media arena focuses more on more on the voices of a limited number of editorial experts, as succinctly pointed out on the excellent Smallbizpod site from Alex Bellinger, it is going to be more important to understand the rules of engagement in the media relations game. If you fail once, you fail forever with that journalist. Tough stakes indeed.

Or, of course, you can pay for a PR Agency or PR Consultant to manage the media for you. To create and distribute your content for you. To act as your official Press Office on your behalf. This takes effort, faith, perseverence and above all, the ability to step back from your business and let a media expert inside to tear it apart for News and Features. Are you able to let go of control to that extent? If not, you may be forced to do your own PR.

Personally, I believe that both routes are excellent – dependent on the requirements of the individual or business. Good PR is not necessarily delivered by the biggest corporate PR firm on the block, neither is it always the domain of the ego-obsessed entrepreneur who tries to run it all himself until the business fails and he drops from a heart attack.

Make the choices based on the above criteria – and expect to be challenged along the way of either path to PR success.

Oh – and to finish on – if you’re looking for the first and last word in UK entrepreneurship advice – check this. There are lots of individuals and companies offering ‘advice’ to British entrepreneurs and adding no value whatsoever. Simply check out the great content and collaborations from the Smallbizpod team. Happy reading.

Well, after an historic day in the States yesterday, many PR professionals will be wondering how they can capitalise on some of the online and offline methods used by Obama’s PR team to organise and deliver such incredible results in the build-up, execution and winning of his Presidential victory. Not to mention how to galvanise this initial global support.

Good news – here are some of the inside PR methods used by the new US President’s PR team. Enjoy!

Blogging to build profits

January 19, 2009

As you already know from previous posts, I am a huge advocate of the power of blogging for beneficial PR impact – and this fabulous story today further highlights that blogging can do so much more than simply raising profile and reputation online for an individual or their business. In PR terms, blogging can actually positively improve the bottom line.

And here’s how. Superb editorial from the Times.

Here are some hints and tips to remember when dealing with the Press. A gift to you to inspire effective PR activity!

Media Relations 101


THE BASICS

1: Find the unique, interesting and different elements of your business.

2: Ensure you can prove any statements you make with cold, hard facts.

3: Research every publication – do not send blanket emails or editorial.

4: Remember that you need to earn a journalist’s trust and respect over time.

5: Make your press releases lively, fact-filled and relevant – not PR spin.

6: Utilise your knowledge and present your editorial with personality.

7: Do not ever mention you advertise with a publication to a journalist.

8: Remember that all News is people-based. Bring them out of your business.

9: Do not try to be controversial for the sake of it. Journalists get bored easily.

10: To hold attention, all you need to be is relevant, timely and interesting.

11: Request a Forward Features list on first contact, as and where relevant.

12: Never question a journalist’s editorial judgement. It’s their domain.

13: Remember that ‘off the record’ is usually an area of immense danger.

14: Only target relevant publications for your products or services. No spam.

15: Appreciate that the journalist is not there to serve you – other way round.

16: Do not be chatty, gossipy or unprofessional. Stay focussed and brief.

17: If you can offer fresh, new, exciting content regularly – perfect contact.

18: Track the career moves of journalists you know – build a media database.

19: Realise that most publications have online versions and online journalists.

20: Monitor target media yourself and build up a published Press portfolio.

PRESS RELEASES

21: Never make a press release more than two sides long – brevity counts.

22: Write the headline last – it should flow once the press release is complete.

23: Make sure you have one item of News only, not a series of items.

24: Utilise one key individual for your business as the quoted person.

25: Do not try to be funny, witty, smart or sarcastic – present the facts only.

26: Only use statistics if you can back them up with attributed sources.

27: Do not knock down your competitors – it’s unprintable and unprofessional.

28: Piggy-backing on a current News issue is great – if you add editorial value.

29: Ensure you supply at least one high-resolution image at 300dpi.

30: Make sure any pictures are taken professionally, not by an amateur.

31: Remember who the editor is presenting the story to – be relevant to them.

32: Never ring a journalist to ask why a press release was not published.

33: If your editorial is included, add value by presenting a Feature around it.

34: Utilise knowledge and expertise – only add opinion if totally essential.

35: Avoid PR jargon such as ‘ground-breaking’ and ‘industry-leading’ phrases.

36: A press release is like a perfectly-formed circle – end it where you start.

37: Understand the editorial structure of the publication before you write.

38: The first paragraph needs to tell the entire News item, and succinctly.

39: Be positive, upbeat and engaging in your editorial, but forget the PR spin.

40: Do not re-send the same press release. Send it once and media monitor.

DEADLINES

41: Always ask a journalist if they are on deadline. Always. Every time.

42: Understand that a journalist is busy, stressed, bombarded – help them.

43: If a journalist needs information, provide it without question or delay.

44: Do not miss a deadline given by a journalist. You get one chance at this.

45: Make your conversations to the point – ideally, only ring with one point.

46: Appreciate that you are not the Editor’s best friend, and never will be.

47: Understand that the paramount thing on a journalist’s mind is deadlines.

48: Make yourself available to give comments on deadline when needed.

49: Be consistent, reliable and a ‘safe pair of hands’ for a ‘rent-a-quote’ item.

50: Understand the publication’s deadline and editorial production structure.

51: News changes rapidly – do not be upset if a deadline removes your story.

52: Understand different deadline structures for magazines and newspapers.

53: The pace of News-gathering is increased when you deal with online Press.

54: Include a blog hyperlink with all emails – it gives more content on deadline.

55: Provide content, features, comment in one accessible place for a journalist.

56: Ensure your website has a Press area with editorial and images included.

57: Remain professional and polite when dealing with journalists on deadline.

58: If a journalist is on deadline, ask when is a good time to contact them.

59: Every journalist respects their deadlines, and so must you to gain ground.

60: Journalists will usually be more stressed and less receptive on deadline.

TALKING TO THE PRESS

61: Research the name and title of any journalist you intend to speak to.

62: Practice the conversation before you pick up the phone.

63: Never ring a journalist on deadline.

64: Always ask a journalist if they are able to speak before you continue.

65: Demonstrate you read the publication – identify different editorial sections.

66: Offer an exclusive wherever possible to the journalist.

67: Never mention competing publications, it usually winds an Editor up.

68: Ring a journalist to brief them of a relevant issue you can comment on.

69: Do not contact a journalist to see if they have received a press release.

70: If a journalist requires additional information, provide it within the hour.

71: When contacting a publication, be polite to everyone. People talk.

72: Demonstrate your expertise when possible, but do not ramble on.

73: Never interrupt a journalist – let them tell you what they want and when.

74: Add editorial value to the publication with every interaction you have.

75: Brief a journalist before you send a press release – by phone and quickly.

76: Do not invite a journalist out to lunch unless you add real editorial value.

77: Only present yourself as an expert or industry guru if you can back it up.

78: Be passionate about your business – talk to the Press from the heart.

79: Do not try to use the Press as a mouthpiece to gain column inches. Ever.

80: Work with a journalist, become a trusted source of information and ideas.

THE ESSENTIALS

81: Do not offer an exclusive to more than one journalist. Common sense.

82: Follow your target publications religiously and identify opportunities.

83: Realise that media relations is straightforward, and not a Dark Art.

84: Being in regular contact with a journalist will never guarantee publication.

85: The media landscape is changing – be aware of editorial nuances.

86: Be confident, calm and collected in your dealings with the Press.

87: Understand that successful media relations is not about PR spin.

88: If you ever lie, or mis-represent, to a journalist – say goodbye for ever.

89: Journalists are busy most of the time – but they are still human beings.

90: Have an awareness of the political leanings of a publication. It matters.

91: Do what you say you will, on time, and as agreed with a journalist.

92: If asked to provide editorial, keep to the word count requested. Always.

93: Journalists know what they want and need – do not second guess them.

94: Never mention that you used to be a journalist. It is totally irrelevant.

95: You might think you can outsmart a journalist. Wrong – it’s their rules.

96: PR schmoozing holds an increasingly useless impact to the Media.

97: Sending flowers, free gifts and the like rarely influences publication.

98: Do not be nervous or stuttery – present the facts and the angle. Simply.

99: Always back up your information with reputable sources and facts.

100: Remember that your News is useful, but not invaluable, to the Press.

RULE NUMBER 101: Never, ever, break Rules 1-100.

Will be available as a free download in due course. Happy media relations!

Effective and sustained PR will deliver up to a point.

I am sure you already appreciate this, if you’re utilising a number of channels to promote and pursue good contacts, leads, public relations and media exposure for your business, products and services.

It is a sign of extreme optimism and/or commercial naivety, however, to expect PR to deliver ALL the leads and new client contact for a business. Saying that, we had a Client who sold out of a product utilising only the media relations activities we were conducting for them. But this kind of PR success is very, very rare indeed, of course.

This point is highlighted excellently here by Jeremy Dent, with a great tick-list of avenues to utilise and engage with: a thorough, rounded, and balanced series of PR & Marketing tools and techniques will always bring better results, contacts, new clients, media inquiries etc than a single point-of-contact approach to good Comms out there in 2009.

Thanks for the post Jez – it’s a cracker.

Fantastic link here on how an individual set up, launched and inputted a blog for no more than one hour per day – and found it went to the Top 100 in the world within 12 months. Powerful example of online exposure and no doubt a massive testimony to the impact and commercial power of getting an online PR presence and building it consistently over time.

Wonderful stuff, and I am a huge advocate of this kind of content-based publicity method for generating ongoing exposure for a business or individual. Well done indeed to blogger Leo Babauta of  Zen Habits, who has so clearly demonstrated that the Power of Less approach can work incredibly well.

And adding further credence to my long-held belief that all truly effective PR is simple, straightforward and not rocket science.

I caught this story just before Christmas, and have re-visited it for further analysis. It’s a cracker.

Hugely-interesting that the Government has ramped up its spend on PR and in particular on media monitoring, as Gordon Brown continues to seemingly (stresses the word seemingly here) struggle through mini-crisis after mini-crisis…and that doesn’t even start to examine the official responses in recent weeks/months concerning the ongoing global and national Recession.

Of crucial importance in the Guardian report, for me, was the following extract:

‘…Jeremy Hunt, the Conservative shadow culture secretary, said: “This is a colossal waste of money, and taxpayers will be furious that when everyone else is tightening their belts the last thing to get cut is the government’s own PR.”…’

Which demonstrates that during tough economic times, the need for improved PR and Comms activities actually increases. Many make the mistake of thinking PR is essentially about spinning positive messages in good times, when, of course, the real impact of effective PR is most seen and demonstrated during times of crisis and media management around difficult issues which may cause loss of stakeholder faith in an organisation.

So, before you consider cutting your PR and Marketing budget to save on the bottom line…can you really afford to?