Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Egads! A Reporter!

I hear this all the time: "I can't do my own public relations because I don't know how to deal with the media." Okay, DING! I have to admit that I love this admission, because it usually leads to a new client. However, I also coach folks that it has nothing to do with fear of the media...rather, it's fear of venturing into unchartered waters.

After spending much time in media centers with NASCAR, as well as being a J-school grad and writing myself - basically being on both side of this untidy fence - I can say that most journalists do find it funny that people are afraid of them. Wherever it started, in the McCarthyist 50s where opinions were suppressed; or by the Oprah-generation, who thinks everything is worthy of making her show....who knows.

But I will get out a shocking newsflash: they are nice people. They get up and put on their pants, one leg at a time, much like the rest of us; take their kids to school or play with grandkids; have stress, deadlines and stumbling blocks (hey, we all have bosses); and they pay bills.

Basically, they are human. Human with human stories, regular day jobs, and similar gripes. They don't want special treatment, gift boxes with press kits in the middle, or a cooing phone call on how wonderful they are at what they do (hint: they just might be investigative enough to see through it). Ha!

What they ARE interested in: talking to you, if you've got a concise, relevant, timely and newsworthy story. Being human, as they are - they like to write for their audiences. And they know you are afraid of them - and that leads to a little schoolyard-like ostracism. At the end of the day, they just want to write their column (or tape their story), have a great conversation, learn something, and then turn the lights off and go home. Just like you.

Top 5 Ways to Build Media Relationships to Promote Your Business

1) Remember that "they just want to be friends?" I'll repeat. They just want to be friends. When you show your fear or discomfort, they smell it. These are busy people who have deadlines, people calling with insane story ideas, and editors wanting more "retweets" each story. If you can stay calm, make them laugh, and inform them about something new, they will appreciate the new friendship.

2) Spend your time building relationships rather than the newest, greatest online press kits. Journalists don't have time to go through long press kits, cool videos or the latest and greatest social wunderkind you've put together for yourself or your client. Yes, they like info and facts - but they'd rather talk to you about it than have the bells and whistles. When you pick up the phone and start a conversation, it shows transparency - and that you're willing to devote more than just a mass email with a lot of "BCC'ed" people on it, to your topic.

3) Keep it short, shorty. We've all heard the term, "just the facts, Ma'am." Holds true for policework and PR - get your passion across in the big 5. Who, what, where, when, why...jazzed up with your reason for newsworthiness (see #5). It's just that simple - the major whizbang details can be on the followup.

4) Keep the word "used" in Used Cars - not PR. Journalists don't like being put on the hook - don't bait them and use them for a story. It's the best way to get printed once and once only by that contact. Media still use "sources" - and if you become a source, sometimes they'll come to you for ideas.

5) Ever notice the word "new" is in news? Journalists love to be the first, to see the latest and greatest, and to break the story. If you have a landscaping company that has water-free grass...hey, that's pretty interesting. But if it's just sod season, and you're laying grass - that's just another thing we all do as part of the calendar. Find the "only" statement about your company - a first, an only, a "cool" - and hawk it.

I'd add a sixth to this, but it would defeat the purpose of a "Top 5"...never give up. If an editor doesn't want your story today, it doesn't mean that it might not be usable to them later on (or another topic in your sphere of influence). Goes back to that building relationships point - if you establish a dialogue and drop them useful info from time to time, they'll remember you down the road.

Bottom line - don't expect the front page! PR isn't easy - that's why there are people who do it full-time. However, it's something you can hone and practice over time. The more you do it, the better you are!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love for PR

So I haven't seen the movie Eat, Pray, Love. I'm sure it's amazing, inspirational and with a message that will touch a lot of people who need a touchstone right now. What I do know, is that I've been on a bit of an EPL journey myself over the last year.

It has been a great experience - travel, new opportunities, starting a business, prioritizing time for family & friends, being a better mom, and finding joy in the present. My only rule to myself is to say "yes" to everything (well, okay, not EVERYTHING - I don't get to eat my kitchen in the morning). When I say everything, I mean any opportunity that in my "previous life" I might have hesitated, or found an excuse, or said "no" to out of fear. I also renounce anything in both my business and personal life that doesn't serve my best interests - people, events, habits or ideals that are negative or "energy-draining."

How has that served over the past year? Well, I ran a marathon. Wrote a book, became a speaker & became a columnist for two large pubs. Went to England, Canada & South Africa. Became Girl Friday & found the best clients ever. Became a yoga instructor & started to understand that yes, the light within me is within others & needs to be shared - volunteering in a women's prison, teaching to runners, teaching to anyone. Just sharing. I also walked my daughter home from kindergarten, reconnected with friends, and made hundreds of new ones. Time is precious, and it's the biggest gift you can give.

My daily life is public relations. I've always loved to "sell for free" - and when others pushed me to try sales, I knew it wasn't in my nature. It's passion, and it's personal. If I believe in a cause, watch out - it's like a steam engine. So PR is my lifeblood - a way to touch others with a message. I don't take on clients who have ulterior motives, or who are in business for the wrong reasons, or who don't have a story (although, I can bring out a story in just about anyone!)

People ask me sometimes, especially in racing (one industry where I have clients), what's the 'secret' to good PR and clients? I'd have to say it's the mentality of the message in 'Eat, Pray, Love." So without further adieu...

Top 5 Ways to Bring Eat, Pray, Love to Your Business through PR

1) Treat your clients, or customers, or employees - like you would your family. Would you forget your husband's birthday? Or not call your parents on a holiday to wish them a happy day? Simple rule, everyone needs to be remembered.

2) Being a human means becoming a human being. Wha? Yep, you need to be conscious, not walking around with the outside world a blur. How can you be good in business, if you can't feel what's in your heart, buzzing through your veins, beating, breathing in and out - every day?

3) Your client's goal is like your wedding. It has to be the most special, prized, amazing thing to finally become realized - after months of planning, thought, precious detail. Help them execute it, and find their wildest dreams come true. How can you not celebrate even the smallest achievements, when even the smallest achievements & milestones are important?

4) Take 30 minutes, every day, and devote it to your personal fulfillment & dreams. Whether you meditate, pray, find stillness or sit on a front porch in silence - it will make you recharged & on point for your clients, your business, your employees, your family. If you can't learn to be 'at home' in your own body, it's hard to ever 'come home' to anyone else or 'leave home' to serve others.

5) Great lead in to my last tip - serve others. Yes, if that means go volunteer, rock the world - go out there! But in a simpler term, treat everyone as if it's serving others. If you're in business just to make money, or buy a massive house, or own a pro NFL team, etc - that's great, but someday, it's going to crash around you in lack of personal fulfillment. When you build your business by asking, "how can I serve you? Where can I help?", you're on your way to satisfaction in what you do. At that point, it doesn't matter your title, your job, your place on this earth - you're just happy in the giving.

So what are you waiting for? I guess this means I need to put 'Eat, Pray, Love' on my date night list with my husband...but again, EPL every day. Then you can live it. :)