There comes a time for every company and every PR professional, where a story has published and we don't like how it has turned out. Sometimes, the reporter decides to take the story in a completely different direction than originally discussed and it may not put the business or its leaders in the best light. Other times, the story is just downright inaccurate. And then there are times when it is just a difference of opinion.
PR professionals spend a lot of time combing through these stories, ensuring their accuracy. We have absolutely no problem reaching out to a journalist to correct errors in their reporting. And most reporters appreciate it when we flag these errors so that they give their readers the most accurate perspective possible.
But we also try to be mindful of these reporters' time when we reach out for corrections, only flagging actual factual inaccuracies. If it is a difference of opinion or issues with wording, more likely than not, it isn't worth pushing a reporter for changes. Why? Because 9 times out of 10, they won't make the changes and, even worse, they will just get irritated. That irritation could possibly cost the PR pro their relationship with the reporter, and the company future stories as well.
It just isn't worth it.
We all want stories about our businesses to be positive, but we also need to be realistic. If you are looking for your company message and narrative to be published word for word, you aren't looking for PR, you are looking for advertising. And there's a difference.
You have a PR team!
Whether you've hired a full-time in-house PR person, a part-time contractor or an agency, you and the business have committed to a PR program. This is a great first step. But the work doesn't stop there.
A responsible leadership team will not simply hire a PR person or team, walk away and assume that press coverage will start appearing overnight.
While there are no guarantees in PR, there are certainly steps that you can take to ensure you are getting the most out of your team.
While press hits and social media tend to dominate the conversation when it comes to communications programs, there are still a few more traditional elements that always seem to fall by the wayside.
Two of these are unsexy, foundational pieces to the PR puzzle, particularly when the business lacks news: speaking and awards.
Speaking opportunities allow company leaders to serve as thought leaders amongst their peers at industry events. These events happen year-round. It is important for the PR and marketing organizations to coordinate efforts around events in order to maximize opportunities where the business is already invested (e.g. sponsorships). While some speaking opportunities remain earned -- through submissions, abstracts and networking -- many are becoming pay-for-play scenarios (read: sponsorship is required for a speaking slot). Keep this in mind as you pull together budgets and plans for the year.
It is also important to keep in mind that once an executive has been selected to speak, the work isn't over. In fact, it has just begun. There will be prep sessions, calls to coordinate with your moderator and fellow panelists if it is a panel, presentation development, and practice, practice, practice, particularly if you are doing a keynote or solo talk.
Awards opportunities, like speaking, happen throughout the year. Given there are fees typically attached to each submission, it is important to understand budget allotment for the year as well as priorities. What honors mean the most to you, your customers and your partners? Are they industry-specific, product-based or leadership-focused?
Both speaking and awards programs take time and creativity to create but also need longer lead times to complete and secure. Most speaking opportunities have a 6-9 month lead time, for example. Keep this in mind as you incorporate these elements into your PR program.
Newsroom staffs have continued to dwindle over the last few years while the demand for breaking news and 'round the clock coverage has skyrocketed. This has put tremendous stress on the remaining reporters and their editors, who have to weed through hundreds and possibly thousands of pitches and news announcements on a daily basis. They have to determine what is critical to cover immediately, what stories are interested but can wait, and those they just don't have the time or interest in. Reporters now typically have to submit a few and sometimes dozens of stories daily. They aren't able to truly deep-dive into many stories or passion projects.
To help relieve this pressure from their staffs, editors started opening up contributor networks, giving outside, non-staff experts the opportunity to share their perspective on timely topics, while helping add more content to their sites.
This was well-received for quite some time, what seemed to be a win-win for media and brands alike. Media got the supply of content needed to fill the demand requested by readers, while thought leaders, executives and brands were able to share their specific perspectives on the news of the day.
But recently there has been some backlash. Media outlets like TechCrunch have rescinded their contributed network offers, citing the amount of articles they receive that they "strongly suspected where ghost-written by PR or really had no business being given the platform."
While I'm not a fan of blaming the entire quality issue on PR, I understand the delicate balance outlets are trying to achieve. As a result, these outlets and probably many more will overcorrect and severely limit or completely eliminate their contributed content programs. In turn, businesses and their leaders will need to find different and some possibly new avenues to consider as part of their PR and thought leadership programs.
No need for much concern though. There are more platforms than ever before for people to publish and share their viewpoints beyond traditional media outlets and blogs -- LinkedIn, Medium, to name a few.
Some may few these platforms as the "easy way" to get content published and out into the public sphere, believing that this isn't "real coverage". True. Media coverage in traditional outlets will now mostly pertain to news.
But if you are wanting to focus on thought leadership, publishing on these alternative platforms and having a well executed socialization plan in place can make your readership and impact as strong as a what you may have hoped to achieved with a previous guest post on a traditional blog.
This is a big, loaded question that gets asked quite regularly.
Because it is important.
We've approached this question from a variety of angles here on the ROAMings blog and our founder will be discussing it in further detail during the "PR Secrets Revealed" online summit, starting today.
So now we are going to take the question on directly: Are you ready for PR?
The answer is going to vary from business to business and is going to be dependent on a multitude of factors. But in order to truly understand if your business -- and more importantly you and your leadership -- are ready for PR, you need to be able to answer some questions openly and honestly and make sure you are all on the same page with the answers.
The benefit to this exercise, whether or not you proceed with a PR program, is that it gets the team thinking like one unit and asking questions that you are probably either too busy or afraid to ask one another. But once they are out in the open, the picture starts getting much clearer on what is needed to be successful overall, not just with a PR program.
Understanding your goals and objectives is the next step. What are you trying to accomplish with a PR program? What existing initiatives do you have in place that PR can help enhance? (remember: PR shouldn't be the only tool in your toolbox to meet business objectives.)
Scope and budget are also a factor. Whether you choose to hire in-house, an agency or a contractor, you will need to understand what the job will entail and how much money you are willing and able to spend. Look at your product roadmap to see what news you will have coming and whether it warrants a full-time PR program or one-off projects. For budget, understand that PR programs are an investment, but they shouldn't dominate your overall operating expenses.
So are you ready for PR?
That is for you and your team to ultimately decide.
The answer can be no and there is nothing wrong with that. Just make sure you are absolutely ready when you jump off the line and start sprinting. It will be quite the journey.
Over the last few months, there have been many incriminating stories about Uber, and over the last 48 hours, United has been dealing with its own crisis. But the most recent stories about how these two companies are facing "PR disasters" are inaccurate and honestly quite insulting to the comms teams that do battle on the front lines for these companies on a daily basis.
Kara Swisher at Recode recently took to PR's defense when it came to Uber, Yahoo and others:
"Now, tech has not gotten quite that bad. But it does need to stop blaming PR for bad management and perhaps focus on the actual thing instead of how the thing looks."
This is relevant to United and a variety of other companies that have been facing public backlash recently as well. In fact, we covered it here many moons ago: PR shouldn't be your fall guy.
PR can be a tremendous resource and supporter in both prosperous and disastrous times for a company. But there is also only so much PR can do once actions have been taken from the business. Just like you pay your legal team for their guidance on specific situations, you pay your communications team for their expertise too. If you aren't going to listen and use it, why are they even there?
Don't make it worse by not only ignoring their guidance, but then throwing them under the bus for the mistakes made by the business. That's the immature and easy way out.
Accept the fault, learn from the situation and move on. You'll be a better and stronger company -- and leader -- for it in the future.
Now that we are more than 3 full months into the new year, we have a bit of an idea of where things might be heading (or do we?) for the remainder of the year. So we've ask some of our ROAM Communications network partners and fellow PR professionals:
"What Are Going To Be The Biggest Trends Or News Cycles In 2017?"
Here's what they had to say:
"Heavy issues related to climate change, war, immigration, human rights and security are going to dominate headlines. Beyond the obvious politics, I think people are going to want to read about and write about human interest stories. And there will be some escapism into the arts, film, literature, history. If those of us in tech are lucky and diligent, there will be news cycles around technological and scientific breakthroughs in areas like health, transportation, agriculture and sustainable global development. If I get my wish, then 2017 will be the year that "blue tech" comes to the fore: the smarter collection of, distribution of and even power-generation from water. I think of water as the new oil."
"The biggest trend in 2017 is uncertainty mixed with distrust. The channels we use to communicate are considered suspect and people now see "alternative facts' in every communication. No trust? No conversation."
"Biggest PR trend will be the rise of Independents becoming a power workforce within PR and marketing-at-large. PR, and news in general, is quickly snowballing to a type of crisis -- authenticity of communication and media are being called into question. As much as big tech giants preach about diversity, our media platforms will continue to be confirmation bias cocoons. There will be a lot of very bad attempts at reaching across the aisle when what we really need to do is go back to basics -- in person and common discourse."
From deciding whether to choose a PR agency, in-house person or contractor to approaching PR from the right perspective, start-ups have what can sometimes be viewed as a daunting task when determining their PR strategy. That includes knowing when PR isn't the right answer.
This is why we are excited to have our founder Kat Eller Murray speaking as part of the upcoming "PR Secrets Revealed: Go From Sidelines To Headline & Win A Global Audience" Summit. Kat will join host Heather Burgett for a conversation about what start-ups and entrepreneurs need to ask themselves before committing to a PR program -- and what to do to build it.
The free online series, which brings 20+ top PR experts together to share actionable tips, tools and tactics for entrepreneurs, will run April 17 - May 7, 2017.
Other topics that will be covered during the Summit include:
Make sure to join us by RSVPing here.
Today's post comes from ROAM Communications network partner, Dave Yewman. He is co-founder of Elevator Speech and owner of DASH Consulting and a master media trainer.
Most speakers develop their presentations backwards.
How? They start with slides.
It's not a fatal flaw and it's easily fixed, by starting with the "talk track" -- the words you're going to say.
Presentations or speeches are typically delivered by someone standing up and saying words, right? But most presenters don't stand up and say words when they're practicing. Instead they enter a vast presentation wasteland. They obsess about their slides -- what bullet points make sense, what fonts work, do I have the latest images, can I find good clip art? Then speakers go over and over slides, rationalizing that they already know the material, they're experienced and prominent in their industry.
Then they stand up to speak on the big day with no a second of out loud practice under their belts. And things quickly go south.
No wonder public speaking is statistically the top fear most of us have.
It's time to break the cycle, but it requires a different approach. Three steps:
What happens when you go through this process is you get a sense of what works and what doesn't verbally. If you can't make something work when you're standing up and saying it, then you can change it or cut it -- something you don't find out by adding yet another bullet point to your slide deck.
After you've stood and delivered your speech, or at least the opening 5 minutes, then -- and only then -- do you reach for the laptop and start building slides. But remember this mantra: one thing/one slide. Don't write a short novel on the screen. Use high resolution photos or 90-point numbers or short quotes. Have your talk track drive the presentation. You should control the PowerPoint; the PowerPoint shouldn't control you.
To be clear, this is more work for you. But it's much better for your audience. Because you'll have practiced and refined that presentation so much so that when audience members walk out they can actually remember what you said.
In many ways, following this approach is like being an actor learning lines. British actor Michael Caine was interviewed a few years back and told CBS "I rehearse on my own, and by the time I've come onto a set I have said the line to myself a minimum of 1,000 times."
Yeah, 1,000 times. No wonder it looks so easy and effortless. But it's not, and frankly nothing worthwhile that looks easy really is. Graceful actors, athletes and speakers all practice like crazy -- it just happens behind closed doors and we see only the final draft.
PowerPoint slides aren't inherently evil. They're a tool. But when you're getting ready to present, put them to one side until you've hammered out what you're going to say. In doing so you'll be among the best speakers your audience hears on that, or any other, day.
Let everyone else continue to do it backwards. You do it right.
About Dave Yewman
A friend of Dave’s 11-year-old son Aaron asked, “What does your Dad do?” Aaron thought for a minute, then said, “He teaches people how not to say ‘um.'” That’s a pretty good elevator speech for a presentation coach. Dave likes to think there’s a bit more to presentation coaching than that — but it’s a great place to start. In the past 10+ years Dave’s coached CEOs, professional athletes, tech startup founders, engineers, creative designers and pretty much everyone in between.
Dave Yewman is a strategic communications expert with more than 15 years of experience. A former newspaper reporter and columnist, he speaks regularly to groups about how to use clear, concise, compelling language as a strategic weapon when dealing with reporters, employees, sales prospects, shareholders, and consumers.
Dave lives near Portland, Oregon.
Learn more about Dave and ElevatorSpeech at www.elevatorspeech.com.
There's an old saying that many still take to heart: "There's no such thing as bad press."
This saying has been coming into play and been hotly debated quite regularly in recent months. Some would argue that at least people are talking about you and your company so you can remain relevant. That may be true -- for the next 15 minutes -- until some other shiny object gets your audience's attention. But then what do you do? Do you escalate the negative just to remain relevant?
This is a slippery slope and one that isn't sustainable, especially if you are running a business -- with employees, customers and investors watching.
Rather than take whatever press you think you can get, work with your communications team to develop strong messages and story angles that can help position the company in the light you desire. Decline to comment or participate in stories that you aren't comfortable with or work with your team to respond appropriately and provide the reporter with additional information that can help support your viewpoints.
Some negative stories may happen whether you like it or not. That's the beauty of journalism. But look for ways to change the narrative and tell your story on your time and in your own way.
Welcome to ROAMings, a compilation of thoughts and musings about the PR and media industries. This is an opportunity to discuss the “here and now” of the industry, interesting events or case studies, pivotal moments that affect how we approach PR, etc. It isn’t about brand loyalties or preferences -- and we will not be publishing self-promotional materials or talk about our clients in this setting -- but how those brands, individuals and events are leveraging (or in some cases abandoning) PR.