Fake blog alert!

February 27, 2009

They say that imitation is the best form of flattery, but we have to alert our readers to a fake KickStart Comms blog.

It appears that there is a mysterious fake blogger out there, with the URL http://www.kickstartcomms.com, attempting to copy our web space…surely they have better things to do with their time?!

The expert PR advice and dynamic editorial counsel you’d expect from KickStart Comms will only ever be available from this place! We’ll be giving you more nuggets on effective PR, editorial consultancy, blogging and marketing  – including some high-profile guest bloggers – in coming weeks, so stay tuned.

Interesting proposition around personal branding and blogging here today.

According to Hans Kullin, personal and business blogs are essential in shaping, defining and maintaining a positive brand online – failure to do so, he warns, will result in online perception being moulded about your business by others. Which is good if they are satisfied clients, but it still needs your factually-correct and objective inputs.

And a blog, of course, is one of the best places to promote yourself and your business – brand ‘you’ in effect.

Google remains a primary source of online information, as we know, for millions daily: and your reputation, online status, product offerings, and added-value services need to be found there. Obviously.

SEO and keyword optimisation has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, and is now a part of any online PR exercise, whether that be website copy, online press release distribution or blog posts.

A failure to ignore the importance of writing a personal blog or business blog to maintain and improve your online PR standing is tantamount to thinking that a website is just a shop window. Hello?! Wake up!

For example: this blog is more about the ethics and ethos of delivery behind KickStart Comms. It gives an overview of the things that interest us, with some great client feedback and testimonials, and a bit of humour.

Not, having seen this, it might help a potential client to work with us. It might not.

That aside, try typing into Google a few keywords around key phrases for your business and see what appears – are you all over the first page or not? Are your competitors? Is your online PR and blogging strategy working?

It’s an interesting question as the Jade Goody media debacle continues. Great overview here from Jon Slattery.

An emotive area around the Goody PR issue recently, of course, as it can be argued that she is merely going to any lengths to protect an uncertain future for her family. The media machine, in light of a terminal illness, is naturally lapping up the morsels fed to it by the Clifford PR team as a subject of immediate human interest.

Are you willing to go to any lengths for your PR? What messages are you sending out there and why?

I have seen individuals being deliberately contraversial, over-the-top, pushing accepted boundaries and generally trying to be ‘outrageous’ with a small ‘o’ in the past, in the vein (and vain) attempts at clawing out additional column inches in the Press.

Individuals and businesses which try to hi-jack media attention through dubious/contraversial/self-focused means rarely succeed in adding any value longer-term to the media, and largely result in delivering a less-than-positive view of their commercial concerns in the process.

It’s all about maintaining editorial integrity and bringing a positive experience to your target Press. This usually comes from positive people-based stories: whether the Goody affair will be classified in this category remains, at this juncture, to be seen. Coming weeks and mass media coverage will tell of course.

Personally, I am with Slattery all the way.

…if you’re not sure, get yourself here – a wonderful resource, packed with media relations hints & tips, and likely to make a few PRs break into cold sweats.

The site, called journchat, highlights ongoing comments and chat between journos, bloggers and PRs.

It’s full of pointers, dos and donts, best practice for PRs, additional ways to buzz the Press, what to say to an Editor, how to build media relationships, and much, much more. Love it.

If a few more PRs could read and digest the advice, hints and tips given there, many Editors in the UK would breath a sigh of relief I’m sure.It demonstrates just how much many PRs need to learn under Press scrutiny.

That aside, the dialogue-based layout and headings all make for easy and interesting reading for media types.

The point of this post is not to slate or put down other PR providers and Agencies – far from it. Simply to pass on some of the insider tips which are utilised by PR professionals for your advantage when dealing with the Press.

1. Contacts: this is where PRs will utilise insider knowledge to bag clients, but don’t be fooled. The Press only allow contact from a PR Agency which will assist their publications and readerships. Unsolicited, poorly-constructed PR Campaigns will always fail, whether delivered by a business director inexperienced in media relations or a PR Account Executive who’s been badly briefed by their Account Director. It is irrelevant if the Account Director has liased with the journalist numerous times in the past – poor PR is hardly ever accepted by the Press, and the pitch will drop into the rejected pile.

Don’t be fooled by PR Agencies who go into great lengths to impress clients with their extensive and close-knit databases of media contacts: the truth is, media databases can be bought from companies such as Mediadisk – expensive, but utilised by many medium and larger PR Agencies. The client always foots the bill, of course, but the Agency does not have close Press contacts. They are just tapping into a database.

2. PR results take time: I heard a story recently from a business contact who had a colleague who was told by a PR Agency that they shouldn’t expect any media relations results for the first six months of a Campaign, as the Agency were ‘bedding in’ the client with the target Press. Awful, awful, awful. And quite simply not true.

If the story is strong enough, the press release has been collated and formatted then issued in the preferred way for the media contact, within their deadline schedule, and it is clearly relevant to the readership, with a solid image, there is no reason why publication shouldn’t happen: we had a client who had a press release published within 24 hours of issuing to the target media, and another client who sold out of a product promoted in an editorial piece within 48 hours of it being published by the Press – if the media relations is conducted with the Media in mind, the ‘bedding in’ line is totally irrelevant.

3. Account Management is always carried out by the person you report to: clients can often find that they are wooed, impressed and generally won over by senior PRs at director level in business pitches, who are there quite simply to pull in clients. The clients then find their Account is managed and run by PR members in the Agency without the high-level of experience, and who do not have the same experience and skill set of the senior guys who won the business in the first place.

The Agency, of course, are winning because they now deliver profitable PR work from cheaper Team members whilst the pitch-winners go out and do their thing with new clients into the grinder.

Cynical? Perhaps, but don’t forget a PR Agency is a business concern looking to make a profit. Often, a small or boutique PR Agency will provide better Account Management delivery, as the high-level Team members are also conducting the lower-lever duties, such as press release production and media relations.

A rule of thumb is this: ascertain who is doing your Account work for your business from the start and make them accountable. Simple really.

4. PR will make your phones ring off the hook with sales enquiries: There is a misconception, particularly in the SME sector, that PR will make inquiries flood into your business: that is usually not the case. Placing these kind of expectations on PR will lead to disappointment.

PR is all about visibility, credibility and reputation/brand-building, which helps inquiries and sales to happen. So, if you get a PR Provider making empty promises around PR delivering hundreds of calls from coverage – walk away! It’s an astonishingly-clear example of Blah Blah Blah.

Great PR focuses on making you seen, heard and talked about: the rest is up to your Marketing. A PR Provider that gets consistent and significant coverage for a client is usually actually delivering well, working hard and talking to the Press, following up, tweaking and re-submitting PR material to keep the Editors’ interested and asking for more.

So, before you ring PR Providers, do us all a favour: review your marketing mix and make sure it is in place and able to deal with good PR delivery. Sales will come from PR if you ensure the right overall mix of buying messages are in place and out there. PR will help the process.

Saying that, we had a PLC client in the health supplements sector who sold out of a product within 48 hours last year after gaining a page-profile in a daily newspaper: the journalist’s mother is still using the product, and the newsroom was inundated with calls at the time. If only every Press Release could achieve that result – you can never guess what readerships will do.

5. Public Holidays are a bad time to conduct PR Campaigns: Absolutely NOT! Think about it…As an SME business owner, hitting the Christmas holidays, for example, you may be looking to submit a piece of news or a snappy picture story into selected Media and industry magazines.

The larger PR Agencies, servicing the corporate competition in your sector are winding down, whilst many ease off on media relations activities during these perceived ‘quiet spells’ – often referred to by journalists as The Silly Season, when news sources are far, far slower than normal. A good journalist is always on the look-out for a good story. A perfect time for you to get publication – if you’re on the ball.

Christmas, Summer, Easter: all these are great times to submit PR material for additional publication and awareness building of your commercial concern – as long as you submit effectively and in a timely fashion. Again, think about it…Business owners, employees, customers and potential customers are on holiday – but they have more time on their hands to relax, wind-down, catch-up on publications they are usually way to busy to read and digest fully.

Their concentration levels are good, they are receptive. So, if you really, really, really have to engage in trying to do your own PR, look at the holiday times to engage.

6. PR is best carried out by professional Agencies only: 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.

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

As the media arena focuses more on more on the voices of a limited number of editorial experts, 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.

After the most Romantic weekend of the year comes to a close, a great article by Guardian Economics Editor Larry Elliot today, highlighting the merits of taking a more creative approach to the ongoing Recession in finding ways to cope, manage and thrive amidst widespread financial stagnation.

Strikes me that this can also benefit your business’s PR and Comms efforts too. And here’s how.

Elliot talks about ‘passion’ and ‘dispensing with rationality’ in his fascinating article, and from a PR perspective this raises endless possibilities for the small business owner looking to convey key positive messages during a downturn.

Here’s a  few suggestions:

1. Delivering positive, upbeat, inspiring press releases and News stories to your target media

2. Launch an unusual competition, with highly-publicised results and Winner awards

3. Submit the results of a different, innovative Survey to online News sites

4. Ask your customers what 1 free thing they would like to receive from your business in March (within reason) then publicise it

5. Organise a press day and hire a press photographer to record the event – then submit the images and News to trade magazines, online News feeds, business contacts blogs and the media’s inboxes for their usage

6. Ask your employees to give 1 creative improvement idea into the business: the best 1 wins a weekend away for 2

See? Getting creative need not be painful or time-consuming: it’s about taking 30 minutes away from your business – ideally out of your business – and creating some unusual, interesting and exciting ideas and strategies to excite your customers, your media. And yourself.

When PR stunts turn bad…

February 12, 2009

A corker on the pros and cons of PR Stunts today, thanks largely to the fabulous story here about the alleged changing of name by Deed Poll, of larger-than-life wife of Neil Hamilton, the fearsome Christine Hamilton.

As a PR stunt, Hamilton has changed her name to Mrs British Battleaxe.

Apparently, it has been an exercise in promoting the services of the Legal Deed Service and Hamilton will obviously be collecting a hefty cheque for her action-based action for them. The whole PR stunt is broadcast by Hamilton on YouTube for the ‘delights’ of any audience willing to view it.

Ok, so in terms of PR stunts, it has worked – Hamilton and the story have made widespread News coverage and the column inches will undoubtedly be demonstrated with pride by the PR Team working on behalf of the Legal Deed Service. But it does raise a wider question around the subject of PR, stunts, and where to draw the line.

It’s all centred around the prospective audience – whether that is a business or consumer audience: this dictates and controls the tone, style, delivery and messaging behind the PR stunt. And it determines the relative success or otherwise of any stunt planned.

PR stunts are usually, by their very ealborate nature, quite expensive, short-lived, and success is based either on something totally incredible visually, as is highlighted and explained in greater detail here for PR novices.

If you have budget and a viable audience to receive a PR stunt, think carefully before proceeding: the effects of a poorly-executed and ill-advised stunt can bite your behind, for years to come – as demonstrated here.

As for Christine Hamilton – somebody speak to her Agent. Quickly.

For a truly inspired PR stunt, one of the best examples is this one – have a peek.

Unfortunate news today that stunning British blogging firm Shiny Media is shedding editorial/blogger positions in the company, as a Recession-forced company re-structure sees the loss of editorial staffers and indeed one of the original co-founders Katie Lee, who departs to try other ventures.

A sad day for the British blogosphere today – and for those involved in digital media in the UK. These beacons of blogging and online editorial have been leading the way, albeit through a very similar business model to Nick Denton’s hugely-successful American Gawker platform.

At least they have the guts to get into the British economy and stake their claim as online editorial and marketing Champions, to the point where the Shiny Media team secured multi-million Pound investment funding in 2007.

Shiny Media co-founder Chris Price is incredibly generous and forth-giving in his praise of the departing Lee, and rightly so. In fact, he remains somewhat positive and upbeat, stating on the Company’s news pages:

“Shiny is a British new media success story. We have built a stable of great media brands that between them attract over three million readers each month. Times maybe tough now, but we are confident that this move, though painful in the short term, will leave us well placed to thrive and prosper in the future.”

Having already seen British blogging enterprises fail in the last 12 months due to a lack of advertising interest and not enough quality editorial input, it will be interesting to watch the UK’s blogging sector – this has profound potential impacts on those involved in digital PR, online media and marketing via the Web.

There are a few basic ingredients to ensuring that you find the Killer Elements for effective PR in your business – and quickly.

Great PR is based around a few simple, effective and repeatable Principles. Think of it as a Winning Formula – and stick to it. There is no need to re-invent the wheel. These Killer Elements include:

1. PEOPLE: Which people in your business – and this includes client case studies and suppliers – are of potential interest to the Media? Think of the following when deciding which people are relevant: ensure you can position them as different, unusual or unique to the Press. Good people PR often focuses on positive alliances.

2. PLACES: Are there any interesting or unusual places or locations which you can utilise to your advantage for positive PR? For example, we had a Client using a health product in 2005 which was, at the time, only harvested on ONE mountain-side in South America: it was not available anywhere else on the Planet. This proved irresistible to the Press we mediated with on behalf of the Client.

3. PLACEMENT: The positioning of your PR is of crucial importance – you must remember placement at all times. What do we mean by this? For example, if you are talking to a News Editor on a daily newspaper, they are looking for the most powerful, punchy, relevant and ‘now’ angles. A Features Editor on a Womens’ Glossy will be more interested in people stories (still with timeliness and news-relevance) but focused on ‘softer’ subjects, such as Friendship, overcoming illness, incredible People stories, and the like. Ensure you place your PR pitch to the Press appropriately.

4. PRODUCTS: There is always a place for products and services for relevant Media, and these can often give you easier Media Wins. Do you have, for example, an unusual or interesting service or product on offer? Something which nobody else in your market is selling? Or do your products & services produce incredible results? Leverage this, and use it to buzz the appropriate Press at every opportunity.

5. PICTURES: images are vitally important to the potential success of any PR Campaign: think of different, interesting and unusual picture stories you have seen recently in the Press – and this could include daily newspapers, magazines etc. Many picture stories are included and given column inches by the Press not necessarily on the inherent News value in the content, but on the strikingly-strong image which is attached with the content. Do you have any picture-story opportunities in your business waiting to be exploited? Think long, hard and creatively here!

6. PURPOSE: although this may seem slightly abstract at first, consider this – what is the actual purpose of your business? What is the driving force behind your commercial concern? The answers to this question often uncover useful, interesting and news-worthy elements to package for the Press. Many people set up businesses because they feel passionate about the services and products they deliver – tap into this passion, put it into words and deliver it to the Media! The Press gravitate towards passionate, powerful news.

But – and this is important – there are many, many businesses looking for high-value coverage and editorial space, so your inputs need to be well-researched, timely, relevant and delivered in a package which will suit the Media.

You will also need to remain objective and step outside of your business: it is crucially important to stay focused on what is of interest to the Media and their readerships NOT what interests you and how your business can benefit from column inches.

There comes a time, as with all things, when quitting your PR is the right thing to do.

Quitters can win, and as discussed in Seth Godin‘s excellent book The Dip: winners in business quit, they quit often, they quit quickly, and move onto the next challenge without remorse, fear or guilt. Superb reading for a fear-based, economically-receeding climate in which conducting public relations activities can be tricky in the extreme.

I am a huge believer in not pursuing public relations activities if a journalist or Press contact is not receptive – simply move onto the next target Media and start up a fresh Pitch.

To be fair, if the story is strong enough, well prepared, within deadline restraints and provided with great images, there is no reason why a public relations push for a client should be met with abject rejection from the Press.

Sometimes, of course, you can just catch a journo on a bad day – hey, we all have them.

So – know when to quit. Quitting on a poor Press contact (at least, quitting on that particular Pitch) can free you up to be creative, positive and enthused with another Media contact. And maybe to achieve PR success with that publication.

Never say never, but know when to quit. If you pester a Press contact, the relationship is pretty much over for ever. You get one chance and one chance only in PR terms, so use it wisely.