Thou Shalt Follow These 10 PR Commandments

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A commandment is defined as a divine rule. If you want to be a devout public relations professional, follow these 10 PR commandments in 2020.

Thou shalt spell check PR materials. Let pitch notes, press releases, client reports, blog stories, speeches, video scripts and so on sit overnight. Proofread it again in the morning or have someone else look at it. Sometimes editors will share an error-filled pitch or press release over social media to showcase poor communication that they have received.

Thou shalt keep thy PR message brief. Pitches more than 250 words might be hard for a top tier writer to comprehend. Some writers receive 400+ email pitches a day. Get to your point concisely.

Thou shalt surprise thy journalist. When you write a press release, ask yourself, did you include something new, interesting or surprising? Did you explain how it would improve someone’s life or improve a business process?

Thou shalt have a PR coverage goal. When you set out to garner attention for a company, concept or product, set a success bar. How much attention is considered successful? For example, your goal could be one feature print story, two TV news spots and five million impressions.  A tool like Meltwater could help.

Thou shalt not annoy an editor with too much follow up. Too many follow up messages might get you blacklisted by a writer. Use logic when following up. Instead of asking, did you receive the pitch note, ask something else like, are you back from holiday? Or, how was the trade show?

Thou shalt not abuse a mobile phone number. When a writer gives you their mobile phone number, don’t call it unless the situation is urgent. Typically people now can receive an email or direct social media message pretty quickly.

Thou shalt read a recent story by the writer before pitching. Read a recent story by the journalist before reaching out. If you don’t see any stories published in the past couple of years, they may not be worth your time. Maybe they took a job in PR, which is common these days. The exception is someone who edits but doesn’t have bylines. But lately it seems that editors publish as well.

Thou shalt not pitch via public Twitter profile. Journalists like scoops. They are not likely to discuss a solid story idea over their Twitter account for the competition to see. Some read direct messages but to send them a message they have to be following you. So it helps to have a quality Twitter profile and messages.

Thou shalt listen to what the writer wants. If a writer wants to only talk to customers and not the CEO, don’t keep offering interviews with the CEO.

Thou shalt say, “no” and add “try this instead.” When the lead marketing executive demands that you issue a press release on a drab, me-too, follow-on product, don’t be a yes man or woman. Offer a better idea like production of a video featuring a happy customer of the first product. Or write a pitch featuring a happy customer and success story: offer the customer as an interview source to a favorite writer. Mention the new product briefly as an aside.

Save the in-depth new product description for direct communications with customers and prospects and/or the right social media channels.

Boy praying photo:  Shutterstock

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Michelle McIntyre, an award-winning IBM vet and blogger is the president of Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC, a tech PR consulting firm in the Silicon Valley. McIntyre has served on several  nonprofit boards and was named VLAB Volunteer of the Year in 2017 for her marketing and blogging efforts. @FromMichelle on Twitter

 

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Succeed In 2020 With These 9 PR Tips

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To succeed in public relations and marketing communications you must stay on top of the trends. Here are 9 timely tips from the experts designed to help startup founders be successful in 2020. They cover keeping it personal, conveying timely messages, using visuals that pop, how to stick with a writing goal, the importance of content marketing and  teaming with other PR professionals.

Here are my favorite PR tips for 2020 and the expert associated with each:

1) Use easy-to-understand visuals that pop when storytelling.

Who’s the expert? @LouHoffman of @Daily Brew aka #IshmaelsCorner blog

The first tip comes from Lou Hoffman, head of Hoffman Communications. Hoffman loves incorporating visuals when conveying a message. More specifically he advises, “Dress up the company timeline as a storytelling vehicle.” And do this in an easy to understand attractive way. I particularly liked his advice to not make infographics too busy or overly complicated. A company timeline could become a bear image if not managed right, for example, don’t make someone tilt their head sideways to read a timeline. Hoffman has done a decent job establishing his agency as a top one in the Silicon Valley with a very strong presence globally especially in Asia. He’s also a really good speaker.

2) Be timely in your PR messages. 

Who’s the expert? Melissa DiMercurio @StantonComm

This tip comes (indirectly) from Stanton Communications a PR firm serving corporations, industry associations and not for profits globally. As I was looking up hot PR trends online I came across a super timely December blog post by Melissa DiMercurio on the Stanton website with the headline, “Iced Holiday Beverage, Peloton Backlash, Baby Yoda and More.” I was impressed they just blogged about very current image related news hitting all of the key words and saying intelligent things. A lot of time people blog about something more evergreen or out of date. They were quick and smart enough to write something that was timely that day and get it published fast. Nice.

3) Add a human element to your PR campaign.

Who’s the expert? @Jalila as quoted in @AdAge

Jalila Levesque of a company called FF said in a recent blog post, “In a world that’s becoming increasingly ruled by algorithms and robots, PR strategy must be driven by emotion and have that human element to be more meaningful and lead to a growing focus on expert, local and enthusiastic micro-influencers, instead of macro-influencers.”

Yes, we keep hearing that PR needs to focus on analyzing results using digital tools and incorporate more AI, yadda yadda yadda and so on. But behind all the digital activity that might include Meltwater, Sprout, Cision or Hootsuite tools, keep the human touch alive.

4) Share knowledge with other PR professionals.

Who’s the expert? Hailey Johnson of @ThreeSixtyEight

Hailey Johnson recently said in a 2020 AdAge trends article, “PR professionals and marketers working together and sharing knowledge is the new trend.” She adds that if a PR pro has a specific capability you don’t have, hire them to help.

I agree. I reviewed all of the ways I got new business since I became a consultant: surprisingly a significant portion came through key PR contacts either via referral or through directly hiring me for a project. Stay in touch with your PR friends by joining @PRSA or inviting people to lunch. It’s also fun hanging around your PR peers.

5) See PR as part of the big marketing campaign.

Who’s the expert? Vicki Ho, Movement Strategy 

Vicki Ho of Movement Strategy a “social-led creative agency” said recently in an AdAge 2020 trends story, “One of the most important trends I’m seeing within public relations on the agency side is the value the industry is placing on our strategic role within a larger marketing campaign, rather than just being valued for the end results.” Her firm has done campaigns for Party City, Netflix, Under Armor and others. I’ll add, think about how you fit into the whole picture and create ideas from that perspective.

6) Use a thesaurus when writing.

Who’s the expert? Laura Hale Brockway via a Ragan @PRDaily quote

Laura Hale Brockway likes to write about writing. In mathematical terms she’s like writing squared. Her recently story caught my eye that listed 50 alternatives to the word “excited.” This is a great headline because marketing and PR people use “excited” as a default in press release quotes, e.g. “Our two awesome companies are excited about collaborating on this project.” Ugh. Don’t do this.

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Hale Brockway says, “A thesaurus can come in handy when crafting a press release, especially when using the same old words. Here is a list to help strengthen your pitching vocabulary.” I agree. Shoot down those overused starting-to-sound-meaningless words in favor of more expressive writing like “eager,” “thrilled” or “animated.” This takes risk so my other advice is to be brave.

7) Content marketing will be the queen bee of 2020.

Who’s the expert? Michelle McIntyre MMC PR @FromMichelle

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Content marketing is going to be the queen bee in 2020. It’s the top way to garner attention for your business. Here are some ideas about how to do it. Blog about advice related to your industry.  Blog about trends in software as a service, AI, quantum computing, future of work, collaboration, printer security, or whatever problem your company helps solve.

The problem is wanna-be bloggers have trouble with headlines and deadlines. Headlines are what you are going to write about. A PR expert can advise you on that. But, how do you achieve deadline goals? We all know it’s smart to write on a regular basis like six or 12 times per year. Simply set up a reward or hammer system. If you write six blog stories over six months reward yourself with a monthly subscription to a new streaming video channel like Hallmark or Hulu.

A hammer is more of a self-punishment. Laura Hale Brockway advises how to achieve writing deadlines via hammers in her Impertinent Remarks blog. She said if you don’t make your writing deadline get creative, for example, force yourself to donate to a political campaign you are against. That’s innovative for sure but on this end I will stick to rewards.

8) Become a thought leader in your industry on something specific.

Who’s the expert? @WendyMarx, Author and President of Marx Communications

Wendy Marx says be a thought leader on something specific in your industry to garner attention. She elaborates in a LinkedIn story, “At first, many people make the mistake of claiming expertise in everything. But realistically, it’s just not possible. Especially in the beginning, it’s important to focus on one main area.”

She’s right. From a PR standpoint if you stand for everything and are all over the place no one knows why they should buy your product, hire you or interview you for a feature story. Tell a prospect, “I offer a freemium consumer app that tells you the least expensive parking space available now in San Francisco” instead of “I make busy people’s lives easier.”

9) Public relations are personal relations.

Who’s the expert? Warren H. Cohn, @WarCo1 of @herald_PR via @Forbes Council

Warren H. Cohn who started a couple of communications firms elaborates on keeping communications personal in a recent Forbes Council post: “For PR specialists to thrive, they must research their target audience and deliver personal messages.”

He’s right. Spray and pray PR pitches often fail. In a world where everyone depends on technology to communicate, break down digital walls to keep business personal, and your results will reflect your efforts.”  As a side note, even though Forbes Council stories are paid content, some of the advice is quite good.

I agree with this especially in this age of “automate everything.” Yes, I believe in digital transformation and incorporating tools like artificial intelligence, but not at the expense of developing relationships with people.

In summary, some of the PR trends to utilize for success in 2020 include visual storytelling, hyper personalizing, more content marketing, seeing PR as part of the big picture and being specific in your thought leadership message.

What trends do you see?

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About the author: Michelle McIntyre is founder of Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC, a seven year old Silicon Valley public relations consulting firm. An IBM PR vet, she holds 11 awards for outstanding results. @fromMichelle on Twitter

Photo credits:

2020 Road image: Shutterstock

Thesaurus image: Canva

Michelle McIntyre image: Michelle McIntyre

 

 

 

Two PR Trends Percolating Right Now; PR Industry Growth Holds Steady at 5%

In case you missed it The Holmes Report reported in April that public relations industry growth held steady at about 5%. Here’s an excerpt from their story on this followed by two warm PR trends I see driving demand.

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“The research reveals that the Top 250 PR firms reported fee income of around $12.3bn in 2018, compared to $11.7bn for last year’s Top 250 ranking. That growth was underpinned by a rebound from the world’s Top 10 PR firms, which improved their toplines by 4.9% on a constant currency basis, compared to +3.3% in 2017, led by strong performances from BlueFocus (up 10.8% in constant currency terms), Brunswick (+7.7%), Ogilvy (+9.6%), FleishmanHillard (+6%) and Weber Shandwick (+5%).” (The Holmes Report, April 29, 2019)

That’s steady growth. But not remarkable.

Taking the what-is-happening-in-PR conversation further, here are two warm PR developments driving this growth. I’ll explain: either CMOs are hiring agencies and consultants to run campaigns focusing on these things, or the agency folks are recommending them to clients. I say “warm” not “hot” because these trends have been percolating for a while now.

Two warm PR trends right now:

  • THE RISE OF THE MICRO-INFLUENCER: PR professionals and their marketing counterparts are more aware of and paying more quality attention to those social media folks who have tens of thousands of followers. Companies like Tom’s of Maine and Banana Republic have especially been paying attention to this new frontier of marketing according to PR Daily. I like this definition from PR Daily:

Micro-influencers have more followers than most people—typically in the 1,000 to 100,000 range—but fewer than celebrities and established luminaries in fashion, entertainment or sports. They tend to have a very engaged, loyal fanbase in niche B2B or consumer categories, and they are affordable even for small organizations. Superstars might have more reach, but they have less time to engage with fans.  -(PR Daily, The Rise of Micro-Influencer Marketing, 2017)

  • GENDER EQUALITY AS A KEY FOCUS: With the Me Too movement being so prominent in most of our business lives — every day and sometimes hourly it seems — it’s not surprising that communications campaigns focus on treating women with respect. There are many aspects to this: paying them what men make, hiring more women and putting more on an executive board.

Here’s an example: Intel constantly mentions its focus on the importance of hiring more women. I see press articles quoting them saying this, for example, “Intel’s New Diversity Chief On the Secrets to Hiring and Retaining,” (San Jose Mercury News, Nov. 29, 2018) and friends have told me that Intel hiring managers have told them this.

In fact one male friend told me, “I talked to Intel about working there but the hiring guy said, unless you are a female, forget it. You won’t get hired.” Well that’s a little extreme and I’m not sure those were the words verbatim but as a women I’m generally okay with the idea. By the way, my friend got a job with an Intel competitor.

I do hope Intel actually did hire more women. I haven’t looked up their actual progress in that respect. I did read that they made huge progress in gender pay equality.

As an aside and while keeping with the theme of respecting women, oddly the PR industry still has a long way to go in pay equality. A 2016 PRWeek survey says that a male executive makes $125,000 while a female makes $45,000 less at $80,000. To quote Austin Powers, “Crikey!”

Oh and if it’s a PR pro in the Silicon Valley or San Francisco Bay Area, expect all of those numbers to be a lot higher. Everything costs more here and usually people get paid accordingly. To me $80,000 is more of a junior PR person’s salary. Managers and directors in the Bay Area should be paid over $120,000. Nonprofit publicists make a lot less of course; some work pro bono.

There are many other PR industry developments that go along with this steady growth reported by the fine folks at The Holmes Report. I will be writing about those in coming weeks.

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Michelle McIntyre is the president of MMC PR, a 6-year old Silicon Valley PR consulting firm. She’s an IBM vet with more than 10 awards for outstanding PR results, most in B2B tech, and a closetful more for community service. She’s considered a #collaboration and #futureofwork micro-influencer; as part of this she blogs for the Microsoft website from time to time. Follow her at @FromMichelle

The Holmes Report on the growth of the PR industry story, April 2019, is here.

PRWeek 2016 salary survey is here.

Photo credit: Shutterstock