Posts Tagged ‘pr’

PR Best Practices for Social Media at SXSWi

August 12, 2010

Each March thousands of web and digital strategists, social media “experts”, flacks (like me!), media, and many from other professions flock to Austin, TX for the South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) conference. I attended the event last year and learned a lot.  It was a fun, overwhelming, stimulating, engaging and highly educational experience.

Upon returning home from the event, I started to think about how I might contribute to one of the sessions.  Well, with the help of some friends – I figured it out!

In March 2011 for SXSWi I hope to be part of a four-person panel with Sarah Evans, Ryan Osborn, and Jason Kintzler.  The title of the proposed panel is: Spin Doctors: PR Best Practices for Social Media.

The process to have your panel chosen to be part of the event is three-fold. And is weighted as follows:

30%            Staff Choice

30%            Crowdsource – via PanelPicker

40%            Advisory Board

To vote, log onto the PanelPicker site and register.  Registration is free and is only a few steps.  After you have confirmed your registration, please consider giving our panel a “This idea rocks”-thumbs up.  You do not have to attend the event to vote.

Thanks for your consideration.


Welcome, Interns…

April 19, 2010

It’s quite amusing to me that there is such a sudden outcry and debate over the fairness and legality of internships. Point blank: if I (and many others) didn’t have the opportunity to intern, there would probably be no Iza the PR Gal… it would be more like Iza the cook, or Iza the electrician (I was an “apprentice” with my dad throughout breaks in college), or even Iza the lifeguard going on almost a decade.  Ahem…

Although I loved and respected waitressing, lifeguarding and working alongside my father because I learned in all of these instances, I can wholeheartedly now admit that those things seem uncanny in my path of life.  The most important point however, is that I would never be able to realize this unless the businesses that took me in as an intern took the chance of teaching me the ways of their businesses.

So think about this: A professor makes a profit because you pay them to teach you. Why then, does a business owner suddenly have to pay an intern (aka student—all the same) when they are completely inexperienced and sometimes tough to deal with?

Not to sound like a broken record, but everyone has struggled in this tough economy and if many small businesses had to pay cash to inexperienced interns and dedicate their valuable, productive time—I believe that they would simply decide to not even deal with internship programs and this would be a disservice to the future workforce.

Bureaucracy has gotten in the way of the basic point of internships: to learn if a certain field of work is compatible with a student’s future ambitions. Even if you are a college graduate with a degree, it’s not like a business owner forced you to take the internship, you chose that path to learn. The piece below is taken from the Employment and Training Administration Advisory System from the U.S. department of Labor, included in the New York Times article, The Unpaid Intern, Legal or Not by Steven Greenhouse.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) has developed the six factors below to evaluate whether a worker is a trainee or an employee for purposes of the FLSA:

1. The training, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to what would be given in a vocational school or academic educational instruction;
2. The training is for the benefit of the trainees;
3. The trainees do not displace regular employees, but work under their close observation;
4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainees, and on occasion the employer’s operations may actually be impeded;
5. The trainees are not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the training period; and
6. The employer and the trainees understand that the trainees are not entitled to wages for the time spent in training.

As stated in the article (I’m also not denying that some employers might take advantage of interns as a supplement to hiring a full staff, because I have heard horror stories from friends along the way), these six factors seem hard to misinterpret by the average person.

I believe that unpaid internships are completely fair, and students need to be prepared to sacrifice their few months and, simply, suck it up. Apprenticeships, internships, whatever you want to call it, have been around since the beginning of time. You signed up for it! As for employers, don’t make your interns get you coffee or clean your bathrooms because if you do—I can positively say: FAIL.

I’d love to know: What do you think of internships? Did you have a bad or good experience? What could have made it better?

Are Embargoed Releases Dead?

March 17, 2010

Note: My first draft of this blog basically listed reasons why I think that the embargoed press release is dead.  After passing the draft around to get some opinions and edits, I was starting to hear, “Nicole, this is great, but I don’t really agree with you.”  So, here I sit with the second go at the entry… and I hope that it sparks some lively discussion from both sides!

When I first started my career in public relations embargoed releases were something that we discussed with clients and within our agency on, at least, a weekly basis.  In my first year of agency life I distributed five embargoed releases on behalf of clients with “breaking” news for next week.

Looking at public relations and the media today, are embargoed releases even necessary?  I think that they are less important than before, and here’s why:

  • Technology. In the mid 90’s email was just coming on line. Agencies used to fax or mail press releases to media outlets.  Publicists used to have to work the phones (gasp!) to pitch media, who were always on deadline and would be anxious to get you off the phone. Setting up a story and sources used to take hours (if you were lucky) and lots of coordination. In today’s world, use of email and mobile applications have sped this process up.  Most of my media contacts appreciate a well-written, concise pitch via email – NOT a traditional press release.  Response to the email can take time, but if your news is time sensitive (read: breaking news) you can reach the media quickly.  A call to the assignment desk if necessary, with a follow-up email if they have requested more information is easily done.
  • Social Media. Sure, it is great if you can get a network evening news program to break your client’s story – but if you are not getting the traction you need, you can break the news yourself via social media.  Stowe Boyd made the “twit pitch” popular. PitchEngine, made an easy platform for creation and distribution of social media releases (SMRs).  These are just two of the many examples of how you can get the message out to traditional and non-traditional press… and go direct to consumer.

Bottom line is getting the story out in a “controlled” way – avoiding information leaks before your client is ready for the news to break.  I have had experiences with a major news network jumping the gun by 20 hours and pushing my story out – Hooray! I got the press for the client, but we were just not ready yet.

So, what do you think? Are embargoed releases still an important way of how we do public relations today? Why or why not?

The Art of the Press Conference

February 26, 2010

Over the past two weeks there have been several press conferences that have drawn national, and in some cases international, attention.  Though there seem to be fewer press conferences called by companies than when I first started in PR, they still do exist.

Typically sensationalized or tragic news bring in larger audiences for media – so with that comes more questions and interest from media outlets to the parties involved.  The easiest way to disseminate information to the press? Gather them in one spot and talk to them.

In most cases, the talking heads of companies have been formally coached by their publicists to stay on message, communicate the prepared remarks clearly, and manage the questions/audience. For those who do not have to speak publicly or at press conferences often, this can be daunting.

I watched the SeaWorld press conference today with great interest.  Here is a really unfortunate situation that happened and now a well-respected company has to jump into crisis pr mode.  At the top of the conference, the press is told what the flow will be, how to obtain the written information and who will be available for one-to-one interviews post event.

And then Dan Brown, CEO of SeaWorld began to speak.  He made a brief statement and read prepared remarks from the victim’s family, and then opened it up to questions. Questions from the press ranged from soft balls (when would various attractions re-open?), to very pointed questions that were asked repeatedly in a variety of ways (is this same whale has apparently killed three other people?). Brown managed the questions well.  He answered each question, and for those that he was unable to discuss he stated that he would not comment on until after an investigation was complete.  His message was consistent and clear.

Of course, there are others in the media and the general public that think this event was a disaster.  But, purely from a pr perspective, it was a success: 1.  SeaWorld communicated their message clearly and, 2.  They have now set the stage for communicating out their findings after the investigation.

Kudos to SeaWorld and their PR team for handling a tough situation with grace and professionalism.

The “…ations” of Our Business

March 27, 2009

When did the occupation of public relations become so confusing to people?  When I graduated from college, I received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication.  My studies were concentrated in public relations.  I understood this to mean that my job would be to communicate a business’ message to the public: directly, through the media, and if needed and depending on the company I worked for, lobbying.

Today, there seems to be some question as to what this practice entails.  Is it just effective writing? Is it a robust database to help your clients get traction in the media? Is it throwing a press release on the wire? Is it lobbying a bill on the Hill? Is it working with investors of a business to get the company’s messaging across? Is it social media?

The truth is, effective PR firms and people know how to do all of that, and in most cases, do much of it well.   The business of public relATIONS is all about communicATION. And in today’s world that means communication to many types of people across multiple channels.  The multiple channel piece of the equation is key.

From bloggers to national broadcast television placements, it is all important and beneficial. In fact, some of the smaller, less “glamorous” placements can do more for your bottom line.   Consider the reach an outlet has AND how respected they are.  A very targeted blog about a specific subject may get your client more traction than a mainstream newspaper placement.  Think podcasters are important to target? You bet! Leave no stone unturned and achieve better results.

Bottom line: relate and communicate information effectively across all channels. That is what today’s PR is all about.

Hello, I work in PR.

November 20, 2008

You have to be able to not take yourself too seriously. This is one of my favorite PR clips; I’m sure you have seen it.

Don’t Push Me!

August 6, 2008

There has been a lot of discussion about how to distribute company press releases now and there has been much debate.  In fact, there are even blogs written about bad pitches and pr firms that have mis-stepped.  Hey, it happens from time to time.

So what is the best way to get your message and news out there?  Do you push it through mass distribution of a press release or do you go the pull method – pitching your story to each and every media outlet on your list?  Well, I think a bit of both.

Times are changing and the way we used to kick it old school and do mass blast faxing to media outlets is gone.  But you should kick it old school and K.I.S.S – send short pitches to targeted media – but only after you have done your homework on said journalist.  Have you heard of the Twitter pitch?  Basically it is pitching your story in 160 characters or less.  If the journalist bites, then send them the press release.

“But, Nicole, that will take a long time for that kind of initiative!”

Yes, it probably will, but your results will be worth it.

Looking forward to seeing you in print,


Save My Manolos!

June 2, 2008

I went to pick up some shoes that I had repaired this weekend at the cobbler.  While I was chatting with the business owner, we started to discuss how the art of shoemaking and shoe repair is dying. 

Crap!  Who is going to put new plastic tips on the heels of my favorite pair of C. Labels or put one of those sole strengtheners on the bottom of my Manolo Blahnik’s? (For the record – I have no idea what the technical terms for these things are that save my shoes – just that they do!)

Driving away from the shop, I got to thinking.   Who is in charge of PR for the cobblers of the United States?  Clearly there is one big missed opportunity here!  With the box-office smash hit “Sex in the City” just out this past weekend where the characters are known for their expensive and fabulous footwear as well as the continued concern about rising gas prices and recession, timing could not be more perfect!

There is in fact, an association for cobblers and shoemakers called the Shoe Service Institute of America.  Not an easy group to find; they do not appear easily in a Google search of cobbler associations in the United States.  This is a public call to all shoemakers and cobblers associations… please invest in some PR!!  Strike now – the iron is hot!!

My goal is perhaps self-serving.  One, I get to write about what I know – PR.  And two, maybe a little pr push will help more people enter into this noble and worthwhile trade as a demand will be created for the service.  On a socially responsible front, we change out our shoes too often, hopefully donating them to charity… but chances are too many shoes that still have sole get tossed. 

At PMG, this is what we call being opportunistic.  If you are indeed a member of the Shoe Service Institute of America, give me a call, I will strike you a hell of a deal!

Think you have a story that could help boost your bottom line?  Flush it out and call your media friends… you might just find your company on the front page of the paper!

Well heeled,

Nicole Ravlin