Recently, Metis Co-Founder Cathy Caldeira was quoted in a Fox Business profile with fellow Co-Founder Courtney Hurst. “If your worst thing is that you’re too aggressive,” said Cathy, “then that’s not a bad thing.” As any entrepreneur working in a competitive industry can tell you, the sentiment is hard to argue.
In the nonstop world of public relations, each day is a battle for the attention of others: your target audience, the reporters on whom you rely to reach that audience, even at times your own team, who have plenty of other pressing issues about which to worry. Your goal is to spread word of your team’s accomplishments, but given the finite nature of attention, it’s a constant contest to engage others and relay your message as effectively as possible.
To that end, aggression becomes practically indispensable, particularly when you’re trying to reach a reporter whose phone hasn’t stopped ringing since 1998, or a journalist who receives hundreds of emails a day. If you’re not willing to be persistent, and yes, even aggressive when you know you have the right story at the right time, you stand a poor chance of having your voice heard among the din.
Of course, as with anything, moderation is essential. There’s an important distinction between persistence and harassment, for example, but ultimately it comes down to knowing your audience and being confident in your ability to balance determination with tact and courtesy. Cathy advises Fox Business readers to trust their guts. In public relations, aggression is confidence, believing enough in yourself and the story to know that when you do capture your target’s attention, he’ll want to listen.
Want to learn more about building your PR fundamentals? Check out these tips for PR success.
You had a brilliant idea. You ran with it, and you started a company. Now, you need people to pay attention to it. Garnering good press is imperative to the success of a startup; if you follow the tips below, you just might get some.
1) Don’t draw attention until you’re ready for it. Before you put your company’s name out to the media, make sure your website is functional, engaging and user-friendly. The same goes for all social media channels. You only get one first impression.
2) Know your message. Before you pick up the phone and start pitching, try explaining your startup in one sentence. Can’t do it? Sit down and carefully craft a brief, memorable, value-driven message. Then ask yourself if your grandmother would understand it. If the answer is yes, you’re good to go.
3) Identify your influencer audience. Pinpoint the publications that reach your target audience and might be interested in your company. Then, do some research and figure out which reporters at those publications cover topics related to your company.
4) Connect with journalists on Twitter. Once you know which reporters you should target, you’ll want to dig up their contact info and get to pitching. In addition, see if they have a presence on Twitter; if so, follow them from your startup’s account (which should be ready for an audience, as noted in #1). Following journalists will not only help you get an idea of what interests them, but it might draw their attention to your company, as well.
5) Keep in touch with contacts. Maintain a record of the journalists with whom you speak, and stay in touch with them. If you consistently follow up, they’ll be more likely to write about you in the future. Don’t toss the names of folks who said “no;” just because they didn’t want to write about you the first time doesn’t mean they never will.
When a company makes a mistake today, no matter how minor, news spreads quickly thanks to social media. This is why brands must listen to social media conversations and prevent small mishaps from blowing up into big deals.
Recently, two Dunkin Donuts employees were arguing about my drink order, shouting at each other before handing me an unidentifiable beverage. I took to Twitter to share my frustration over this lousy start to my morning, and hours later, Dunkin Donuts direct messaged me, apologizing and asking that I contact its customer care line. That evening, I received a voicemail from the store manager with another apology and an offer to replace my drink. The next time I went into that Dunkin Donuts, the employees took me aside to apologize. Because the company cared enough to try to make it up to me, I am still a frequent customer.
However, when another restaurant made a potentially deadly mistake with my lunch order, a call to the restaurant did not produce the response I was seeking. One Takeout Friday— a weekly gathering of the Metis team — we ordered salads and sandwiches. One bite into what was labeled as a chicken pesto panini let me know my order was wrong. The sandwich contained apples, to which I am seriously allergic. When we called the restaurant manager about the mistake, he rushed us off the phone. There was no apology for the error, aside from a half-hearted “sorry” from the delivery guy who brought me a new sandwich. So I tweeted my disappointment and got a response four days later. The vice president of marketing called me to express his regret and sent me a $10 gift card to keep my business.
Smart companies use social media as a customer service portal. Minor grievances can become major offenses when spread to the masses, so companies must participate in the conversation, own up to issues and correct them quickly. Luckily, because both restaurants listened and eventually convinced me they cared about my business, I won’t need to go to the extreme of recording a YouTube video, like Dave Carroll did when United Airlines broke his guitar.
How have you used Twitter for customer service?
Image courtesy of SlashGear.
We have all read the 2013 prediction pieces on what the future is for the data center. Data center infrastructure management (DCIM), software-defined networks (SDN), impact of big data, the cloud – these have all been bandied about for several years, and each new year brings on a rash of people stating, “This is the year of [insert data center term]!” In reality, the market is slower to adopt these technologies regardless of the touted benefits of cost savings and efficiency. Having worked in PR with data center companies for a number of years, I have seen many terms - like cloud – get introduced and overused before the technology becomes pervasive.
Don’t get me wrong; we have to be forward-thinking in this industry. Thought leaders and company executives must drive innovative concepts and product development that leads to efficient and green data centers that can handle all data and the growing demand for compute power. These individuals must provide big ideas to the market, but they also need to set realistic expectations about the time and effort it takes to implement new technologies or concepts within IT infrastructures – especially for large enterprises.
However, the theme for this year is that IT administrators want to consolidate infrastructures and increase efficiency across the data center, as outlined in Data Center Journal and Data Center Knowledge articles. There is a greater need today to do more with less, and it rings true in the data center, which is the hub of the company. Data centers must be efficient, 24/7 centers that drive business forward, and that market need should be reflected in the industry's PR efforts.
What are your company’s data center plans? Do you plan to consolidate servers and storage with virtualization? Implement cloud-based services to bring employees services quickly and increase efficiency?
Jeffrey Bussgang’s “Mastering the VC Game” offers a plethora of advice when it comes to interacting with entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. But first, in order to master the game, one must examine the psyche of an entrepreneur, as it is profoundly different from that of the average businessperson.
We develop and execute PR strategy for serial entrepreneurs, so delving into the psyche of an entrepreneur was a journey I was ready and willing to take. Most importantly, Bussgang points out the “entrepreneurial itch” to change and improve the world. More specifically, Bussgang calls out the following classic characteristics of entrepreneurs:
1. Visionary optimism
Entrepreneurs tend to believe that their visions can and will make the world a better place. If entrepreneurs do not exhibit this type of optimism and do not believe in their visions or ideas, who will? This optimism leads to the next characteristic: confidence.
2. Confidence in oneself that inspires confidence from others
Entrepreneurs must not only be self-confident; they also need to evoke confidence in others. In many cases, entrepreneurs need to make others feel confident in an idea or product that may have little to no basis, because it does not yet exist and there is no proof that when it does exist it will succeed. This contagious confidence leads to the next characteristic: passion.
3. Strong passion
Due to the fact that entrepreneurs are often selling visions or products that are not yet tested or created, they must remain passionate about what they are doing. No matter the odds or the obstacles, entrepreneurs exhibit steadfast passion. That passion leads us to the next characteristic: a desire to better the world.
4. Desire so strong to change the game, that it changes the world
Many entrepreneurs are in the game to disrupt their industries and shake up the status quo. And often, in doing so, entrepreneurs want to better the way things operate in the world and fundamentally change it.
Armed with this insight, we can better serve our entrepreneurial clients. We capitalize on their passion and confidence and exude that same conviction when we share their stories with the media.
What common characteristics do you think make up an entrepreneur?
“You know what I need? I need you not to call me. I’m just too busy. Email me.” (CLICK) This sums up a recent phone experience I had with a novice reporter I was calling on behalf of a client. She was so eager to schedule an initial conversation with my client, and then, in follow up, treated me with no respect. The fact is, reporters are being bombarded by deadlines, multiple stories per day, phone calls, social media inquiries and emails, and they don’t have the bandwidth to always build phone-based relationships with PR reps – a connection that once dominated the industry. But, in all actuality, should they make the time for the value that the PR profession delivers to them daily?
The best stories that I’ve placed for clients at target publications have been with reporters with whom I formed phone relationships. However, the decreases in advertising spend and the demand for instant news have changed the journalism landscape forever. Some journalism graduates are now landing online reporting jobs through internships, and tenured reporters are finding themselves underpaid, overworked and flocking to the “dark side” by connecting with the marketing and public relations professionals who once pitched them daily. Look at the most recent and shocking moves from long-time reporters at Forbes and the Boston Business Journal, Dan Lyons, Eric Savitz and Lisa Vanderpool.
But, hey, you, reporter newbie: remember what your predecessors have built, the relationships that helped them, and the breaking news and trend stories that they wrote and you loved reading. Remember that email and social media did not always exist, and reporters were forced to get to know PR reps and form relationships over random topics like the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry. They relied on PR professionals hundreds of times in their careers to help them craft stories and provide perspective, deliver last-minute photos, and gain expert sources or quote approvals. We understand your workload and the demands on you– we’re feeling it too. NOW, more than ever, is the time to connect with smart PR representatives who can help you.
So, pick up the phone. Your next call might be a killer story (and a person who could get you your next job).
When do you reach for the phone ahead of email, IM or text?
I have always been a strong proponent of the real-life applications of board and card games. They provide a chance for us to test out our competitive drive and quick decision-making skills, usually without the pressure of potentially bringing your career crashing down (I’m looking at you, professional poker players), and sometimes even boosting your career.
At an office game night last week, after many rounds of Taboo, Pit and Apples to Apples, I couldn’t help but notice the striking similarities between the skill set required for success with these games and the skill set required for a successful PR professiona:
- Perseverance – In Taboo, you need to describe the word on the card without using any of the commonly associated words listed below it. It is a difficult challenge, but very doable for those who demonstrate a little determination. If your first attempt doesn’t quite work, you find a new way to go after what you want.
- Creativity – In Apples to Apples, each player chooses a noun from her seven cards to be associated with the adjective in the center. The connections are usually far from obvious, but often the winning pair is the most outrageous. This goes to show that thinking out of the box can get you the results that traditional methods don’t always achieve.
- Confidence – In Pit, there is essentially a free-for-all of card trading not unlike the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. If you timidly hold out two cards and simply wait for someone to take them, you will be waiting an embarrassingly long time. Boldly throw them on the table and speak with the tone of someone who knows beyond any doubt that the cards are valuable and desirable, and suddenly the offers will come pouring in. Or at least someone will take those two off your hands.
With these parallels in mind, maybe we should all be taking a little more time for game nights. After all, can’t you mark it on the calendar as “training?”
Which games do you think have career-building benefits?
Cosmyk shares some other lies journalists hear from so-called PR pros.
As a PR professional, I spend much of my day trying to get the attention of journalists. Calling them, e-mailing them, tweeting them, hoping to get an answer as to whether they’d be interested in covering my client. When work is finished for the day, my interaction with journalists is not over. I come home to one.
My best-friend-turned-roommate works in the editorial department of one of the world’s biggest magazines, and she constantly finds herself on the receiving end of PR pitches. One evening, I asked her what PR folks do that drives her crazy. Here are the four biggest pitching don’ts from a journalist:
- Don’t lie. Do not say you know someone if it’s not true. Do not falsely claim to have spoken to someone before. Do not say you’re someone you are not. In all cases, journalists will find out, and you will be shamed.
- Don’t overstate a referral. If someone has passed you along to his colleague, it’s fine to say, “X gave me your contact information.” But don’t make the interaction sound like something more than it was by saying, “Your colleague, X, said you could cover this product.” Your contact won’t appreciate being backed into a corner under false pretenses. Your deceit will be exposed when he asks the person to whom you’re referring – who probably sits two desks away – how the conversation really went.
- Don’t pitch without knowing to whom you’re pitching. Know your target audience, and know what kind of audience the publication has. If you pitch something totally irrelevant to a reporter, you’ve wasted your time and hers.
- Do be persistent, but know when to call it a day. Publishing is a busy, fast-paced industry where things tend to fall off the radar, so it’s okay to remind a journalist to get back to you. Be wary, however, of the line between assertive and annoying. My roommate said, “We don’t take pitches from annoying people, people who haven’t researched who they are pitching, or people who just constantly crank out pitches without actually thinking of good matches.” In other words, it’s quality, not quantity.
What techniques do you use for successful pitching?
How did you find out about the Boston Marathon bombings? If it was through social media, you’re part of the 25 percent of Americans who turned to social media for breaking news. Sites like Facebook and Twitter provided information about the attack right away; but how reliable is instantaneous, non-professional reporting?
Here’s a look at this week’s coverage of the best and worst use of social media during the Boston Marathon tragedy:
Brands: take note
Written from a PR perspective, this article features examples of tweets that exemplify what brands should and shouldn’t do during a crisis. Learn from Epicurious’ insensitive mistake, and follow Nike’s inspiring example.
Imagine seeing your face identified as a suspect. Because of the rapid speed of social media, photos and stories about alleged suspects (i.e., this mysterious man) flooded timelines and newsfeeds all over the country, and innocent people were questioned and accused.
The rise of the Internet detective
Hoards of people raced to Reddit to join a collaborative effort to find the suspects. Innocent people were named, bystanders were accused, and it was all one big mess. Reddit apologized, and a group of users collaborated yet again to send first responders and victims free pizza.
If only you could edit tweets
Incorrect information spreads just as fast as facts on social media. By retweeting one wrong piece of information, hundreds more people see it and accept it as fact. Deleting the tweet can prove ineffective, as people will have no explanation of the motive for deleting it. That’s why this author argues that Twitter needs an edit button for times of crisis.
Help support our beautiful city and all those affected by this tragedy by donating to The One Fund.
It’s Saturday morning, otherwise known as your time to catch up on life. For you busy folks who need your weekend dose of technology news, you’re in luck. We’ve recapped our favorite stories from the past week’s newspapers, news sites and social media channels for your leisurely Saturday morning read. Sip your coffee and enjoy.
1) How Your To-Do List Can Boost Your Bottom Line – In this guest blog on Entrepreneur, Victor Cheng, author and co-founder of Entrepreneur-to-CEO Mastermind, provides six tips to help entrepreneurs determine how to focus on what’s most important to their businesses to improve the bottom line and work less. He pulls inspiration from Steve Jobs’ quote, “Focus isn’t deciding what to do; its deciding what not to do.”
2) 3D printing startup Shapeways raises $30M led by Andreessen Horowitz – This recent and rather impressive investment from Andreessen Horowitz validates the idea that the 3D printing trend is the real deal. Shapeways moved the company from the Netherlands to New York City recently and is printing more than 100,000 products a month for designers.
3) Startup Watch: 5 to Follow – As part of an ongoing series, the Boston Business Journal highlights five New England-based startups that the tech industry needs to recognize. Big surprise: another 3-D printing company is listed.
4) Networking At Incubators, Accelerators And Co-working Spaces – Forbes reporter Karsten Strauss details how co-working, incubators and accelerators serve as valuable resources for networking with service providers and business advisors, but notes that many startups fail to reap the benefits of these opportunities.
What are your favorite news stories from the week?