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The Flack – Flatiron Communications LLC https://flatironcomm.com Public Relations, Digital Strategy and Content Marketing Fri, 12 Jan 2018 17:16:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.2 79721439 Pitch Imperfect: PR’s Lost Art https://flatironcomm.com/pitch-imperfect-prs-lost-art/ https://flatironcomm.com/pitch-imperfect-prs-lost-art/#respond Thu, 11 Jan 2018 18:44:09 +0000 https://flatironcomm.com/?p=6099 In previous end-of-the-year assessments of the state of the public relations biz, I’ve tackled the following trends and developments: 2015: The need for PR pros to consider paid digital marketing schemes to advance their client’s communications objectives, i.e., “we no longer can rely solely on the benevolence of journalists to tell their stories (“New Media […]

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In previous end-of-the-year assessments of the state of the public relations biz, I’ve tackled the following trends and developments:

2015: The need for PR pros to consider paid digital marketing schemes to advance their client’s communications objectives, i.e., “we no longer can rely solely on the benevolence of journalists to tell their stories (“New Media & The PR Pro: A Look Ahead”)

2016: The growth in the use of social influencers as trusted “third-parties” to create awareness and action (“Content Marketing is So Last Year”)

2017: Can the ethical breakdown of political PR with its purposefully spread false narratives poison other industry sectors? (“When PR Turned to the Dark Side”)

For 2018, I thought we’d get back to basics even as the PR profession is overwrought with more communications tools and disciplines than I could have imagined when climbing into the trenches decades ago. They now include the use of sophisticated consumer data sets to inform messaging and media channels, tapping social influencers to drive brand esteem and consumer behavior, and even getting into bed with the Facebook-Google advertising duopoly to deliver impressions, engagement and conversion.

While these new digital marketing disciplines beckon, we as a profession must acknowledge that our goals have essentially remained unchanged from those early days, especially with regard to securing editorial media coverage. Today’s PR pro is still charged with building a positive client-branded presence in the “media” — one that hopefully produces measurable business results such as an increase in sales, stock price, reputation, support for an issue, etc.

Whatever else they say they do, nearly every PR firm I know today — from the coolest-sounding digital boutiques to the global agencies owned by Omnicom, IPG and WPP – places a premium on generating news and feature stories for their clients. I’d even venture to say that the majority of their clients still measure their agencies’ value by the number and quality of these media “hits” and the audience impressions (and ad equivalencies!) they produce. On the social side of the media equation, sharing, likes, and engagement – not business results attributable to a specific campaign – still serve as success metrics for many.

I’m not complaining. I maintain that even as people derive their news and information from a hyper-fragmented media ecosystem, a prominent story in an influential news outlet like the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Bloomberg News, the Washington Post or Fortune or on NBC Today, The AP, CNN or PBS “NewsHour” still has a greater capacity to move the needle than any paid social media post, podcast episode, digital advertisement, YouTube clip, or (real or fake) news item crossing one’s Facebook feed.

And while we saw many digitally native news orgs struggle to find their financial footing in 2017 including Mashable, NowThis (Group Nine), Buzzfeed and HuffPost, all draw millions of eyeballs, considerably more than many of their legacy media counterparts.

More significantly, a plethora of digital news outlets such as ProPublica, Axios, Buzzfeed, the Daily Beast, and The Information have risen to the ranks of The New York Times, The AP, NPR, the Washington Post and Bloomberg to produce some of the highest quality journalism we’re seeing today — breaking stories that frequently set the national news agenda (however ephemeral that agenda has become).

Looking through the lens of the modern PR professional — of which there are six for every one on-staff news reporter or producer in the U.S. — the odds of successfully engaging a journalist to cover one’s client are minuscule indeed. I don’t have hard statistics or success rates, but anecdotally as president of the Publicity Club of New York, I’d be surprised if one in one hundred PR-driven story pitches actually results in a story.

It’s not just the 6:1 ratio of PR people to journalists that has led to these abysmally low engagement rates. The quality of the pitch itself has degraded over the last few years. The vast majority of story ideas foisted upon journalists are poorly conceived, articulated and targeted. I see this first-hand as a sometimes journalist who personally receives too many superfluous if not inane story suggestions.

I often wonder who’s mentoring the junior ranks in the agency world. Have young PR pros grown overly reliant on automated media list-building software, skipping the vital reporter research before they hit the send button? Do they recognize the difference between a message and an actual news hook? Do they have the temerity to challenge their clients’ sometimes unrealistic editorial expectations?

For those plying the lost art of media relations (i.e., most of you?), I thought it would be helpful to share ten common mistakes I’ve observed over the years:

  1. Mis-targeting – There’s no excuse for putting a story suggestion in the inbox of a journalist who has never covered, nor would ever consider covering the proposed topic. Tools now exist that can help avoid this common mistake, including MuckRack and Cision. Furthermore, if you use a service to send out group emails, know that many such services do not adequately mask the fact that the recipient is one among many. This is a definite turn-off for journalists.
  2. Awful Subject Line – Since the subject line of an email will often determine whether the overture is opened or ignored, it is imperative to cogently capture the story idea. Worst example: “A Good Story for You;” Better example: “XXX Acquires YYY.” Superlatives in the subject line are a big plus, but avoid hyperbole. If it doesn’t work, do a little A/B testing and re-send with a different subject.
  3. Promotion-Minded – Nearly every journalist I know bristles at the notion that he or she is serving as a cog in a marketing campaign. Their job is not to help companies sell more products or advance their messaging agenda. Stick to the essence of the news.
  4. No News Is No News – A cursory look at the myriad news releases that cross Business Wire or PR Newswire on any given day makes one wonder why their purveyors wasted time creating them in the first place. Sure, publicly traded companies are required to announce news that may be material to their stakeholders, but as PR counselors, we’re charged with honestly advising our clients on what makes and what doesn’t make a story.
  5. Being Oblivious – Not only is it imperative to research the journalist before dashing off a story pitch, but it is equally important to have a thorough familiarity with the story’s context and any trends or developments that contribute to or take away from its newsworthiness. Need I mention NOT to pitch a local TV news outlet a story on the day a mass shooting occurs in its hometown?
  6. Leadtime – Unless it’s Amazon acquiring Whole Foods or Spotify filing for an IPO, it is imperative to give a reporter some latitude to properly consider a proposed idea. It’s a fool’s errand to think that a reporter is going to suddenly pivot to your client’s “news” with just 24-48 hours’ notice. Two to three weeks is better. Also, Most honor embargoes, but don’t send an embargoed news release without prior agreement from the journalist to take a look.
  7. English – It never ceases to amaze me to see common grammatical mistakes in the story pitches I receive. Today there are tools to help avert such faux pas including Grammarly, which flags such mistakes, or an email client that gives itchy senders a 10-20 second window to pull back the email after hitting the send button.
  8. Cut to the Chase – Yes. Journalists are a beleaguered bunch. They do not have time to read through paragraphs upon paragraphs of your seemingly well-crafted prose. If you can’t capture the story’s essence in two or three sentences, then it’s probably not worth pitching.
  9. Get Social – Nearly every journalist I know is active in social media, especially on Twitter. No, do not pitch them story ideas via these channels, but rather, follow those whose beats correspond to your clients’ industries and periodically retweet their more inspiring output…in a non-stalking manner. (They’ll notice you.)
  10. Facetime – Sure, a journalist will probably see your name if you RT or like what he or she has tweeted. Still, there’s nothing like an in-person meet-up to make a more lasting impression. Media conferences, PR industry events and, of course, actual interviews or pressers offer opportunities for quality face-time.

I’ve seen a number of industry stories and blog posts lately from PR pundits who insist that media relations as a core PR competency is over. My experience working with journalists and presiding over many PCNY-hosted media panels tells me differently. (Just listen to what these journalists tell the audience of PR pros during one of our PCNY media panels.)

Sure, it’s harder than ever to capture journalists’ increasingly shorter attention spans. And yes, there are days when you begin to wonder whether it’s all for naught. Honestly, I’d be in Bellevue if I took to heart all the rejection and unanswered story pitches I’ve sent over the years. (I’m not, btw.)

Yet, if you do your homework and thoughtfully engage the reporter like a human being (not a bot), you’ll eventually connect. That said: do not neglect the other tools we have in our digital toolbox for building a media footprint for your clients – earned, owned or hybrids thereof.

Best of luck in 2018, because it often comes down to just that.

 

 

Global PR agency veteran Peter Himler is founding principal of Flatiron Communications LLC, a NYC-based PR and digital media consultancy that helps established and emerging companies capitalize on the latest PR techniques and digital media strategies to advance their business goals. He can often be found on Twitter at @peterhimler

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What These Media Business Insiders Said https://flatironcomm.com/media-business-insiders-said/ https://flatironcomm.com/media-business-insiders-said/#comments Sat, 09 Dec 2017 02:56:23 +0000 https://flatironcomm.com/?p=6040 In 6 years at @mashable, I have covered some stuff. Here’s some of the evidence. #artifacts pic.twitter.com/jbadCOzxgE — Lance Ulanoff (@LanceUlanoff) December 6, 2017 Unlike Lance Ulanoff, Mashable’s intrepid, yet soon-to-be missed chief correspondent, editor-at-large, and industry conference impresario, I tend to be more solicitous (and less ubiquitous) when it comes to the tech and media […]

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In 6 years at @mashable, I have covered some stuff. Here’s some of the evidence. #artifacts pic.twitter.com/jbadCOzxgE

— Lance Ulanoff (@LanceUlanoff) December 6, 2017

Unlike Lance Ulanoff, Mashable’s intrepid, yet soon-to-be missed chief correspondent, editor-at-large, and industry conference impresario, I tend to be more solicitous (and less ubiquitous) when it comes to the tech and media confabs I attend in any given year.

My past visits to South by Southwest offered a cornucopia of compelling content, but the multi-week extravaganza clearly became too much to consume, even with advance planning. I just returned from my third visit to the Web Summit – the first in Dublin, the last two in Lisbon. This year’s sold-out three-day event really shined, though meticulous scheduling is also required. I’m now even considering attending Web Summit’s smaller sibling conference, Collision, slated for April 29-May 3 in the Big Easy.

Business Insider’s Ignition: Future of Media is one gathering of media and tech’s movers & shakers that never ceases to disappoint. It also happens to coalesce right here in my hometown of NYC. BI founder Henry Blodget’s programming folks really have a knack for attracting an impressive range of industry C-suiters who never fail to deliver a promise to disrupt our world.

Client commitments limited my attendance this year to Day One, but I still emerged with many redeeming pearls of wisdom. Following are some of the more notable quotables I was able to transcribe to Twitter.

Selects from Henry’s annual rite of passage on 14 Things You’ll Want to Know About the Future of Media:

Then there was Snapchat’s VP of Content Nick Belluk using Ignition’s platform to unveil (not for the first time) the $SNAP’s new interface:

CNBC’s Julia Boorstin took to the stage alongside Verizon’s (soon-to-depart) EVP/President of Global Media Marni Walden:

Shortly thereafter, BI’s ad reporter Tanya Dua had some face time with GE’s CMO Linda Boff:

Henry took it upon himself to depose 21st Century Fox co-chairman Lachlan Murdoch and depose he did:

Henry then had a chance to spar with Facebook’s VP of Partnerships Dan Rose:

One of the more riveting and timely interviews came when BI U.S. editor-in-chief Alyson Shontell joined Megyn Kelly on stage:

 

 

CNBC’s Julia Boorstin returned to chat up GroupNineMedia’s Ben Lerer and one of its major investor Discovery CEO David Zaslav.

Finally, I stuck around to hear my old pal Richard Plepler opine on all things HBO, Game of Thrones, and a little AT&T/Time-Warner peppered in for good measure.

All in all, a most worthwhile endeavor. (And who knew Twitter was such a good note-taking platform?)

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Making a Name for Your Startup https://flatironcomm.com/making-name-startup/ https://flatironcomm.com/making-name-startup/#respond Fri, 24 Nov 2017 14:52:23 +0000 https://flatironcomm.com/?p=6020 For those of you with whom I’m connected on LinkedIn, you probably noticed I recently returned from the Web Summit in Lisbon. It was my third year in attendance. Before I get into what I was doing there, you should know how big the Web Summit has become. First, I’d venture to say that it […]

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For those of you with whom I’m connected on LinkedIn, you probably noticed I recently returned from the Web Summit in Lisbon. It was my third year in attendance.

Before I get into what I was doing there, you should know how big the Web Summit has become. First, I’d venture to say that it rivals South by Southwest in its size and breadth of content offerings, albeit over three days versus three weeks. Second, and this is telling, tickets to this year’s event sold out. Here are some key stats:

  • 59,115 people from 170 countries joined us in Lisbon for Web Summit.
  • Nearly half of our registered attendees in Lisbon this week were female.
  • 35.4% of our speakers were female.
  • Our Women in Tech initiative has meant that the female to male ratio of attendees was 42% to 58%.
  • 2,600 of the world’s leading media came to tell the stories coming out of Web Summit.
  • There was enough fibre cable used to run to the peak of Mount Everest eight times (80,000 km).
  • Over 205,000 recyclable paper cups used throughout the event.
  • 6,500 sqm of Marquee.
  • Centre Stage was made up of 314 water tanks,140k lumens of projection and 30,000 watts of sound.
  • Centre Stage was reinforced to hold 3 tonnes of cars.
  • 2.2 million wifi sessions accumulated over the duration of the event.
  • 45 terabytes of traffic over the duration of the event.
  • Over 2,100 startups from across the globe attended the event.
  • 1,400 of the world’s most influential tech investors from the world’s leading funds joined us.
  • 1,200 world-class speakers.
  • 2,600 of the world’s leading media came to tell the stories coming out of Web Summit
  • Thanks to Feedzai, and the European Space Agency, astronaut Paolo Nespoli sent a special message from Space to Web Summit attendees.

While in Lisbon, I had the good fortune to join some founders and thought leaders on stage to talk respectively about how startups can scale users and how they can create greater awareness for their products and services. Here are the video clips from each of those sessions. (RT: 19 minutes or so)

You’ve got the product, here’s how you tell the world

You’ve successfully designed the next product that’s going to define your industry and revolutionise everything. The only problem is that nobody knows about you. How do you become the next big thing?

Saffron Brand Consultants‘ Jacob Benbunan, R/GA‘s Nick Coronges & Flatiron Communications’ Peter Himler:

Never too big to scale: Scaling new users

You’ve got a great user base. Now you’re ready for the big time. How do you attract the next million users?

Away’s Jen Rubio, SafeCharge’s David Avgi & Vivaldi’s Jon von Tetzchner discuss in conversation with Flatiron Communications LLC’s Peter Himler at #WebSummit 2017.

If you get a chance, take a watch and weigh in.

 

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Fake News & The PR Professional https://flatironcomm.com/fake-news-pr-professional/ https://flatironcomm.com/fake-news-pr-professional/#comments Mon, 04 Sep 2017 12:59:53 +0000 https://flatironcomm.com/?p=5994 IABC New York recently convened a panel exploring the subject of fake news and, specifically, its relevance (and danger) to the public relations professional. Joining the session, held at Fleishman-Hillard’s NYC offices, were: FH executive and former New York Times veteran editor Tim Race,  Brett Lofgren, President, North America and Global CRO of NewsWhip and PR industry […]

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IABC New York recently convened a panel exploring the subject of fake news and, specifically, its relevance (and danger) to the public relations professional. Joining the session, held at Fleishman-Hillard’s NYC offices, were: FH executive and former New York Times veteran editor Tim Race,  Brett Lofgren, President, North America and Global CRO of NewsWhip and PR industry veteran Peter Himler, founding principal of Flatiron Communications. It was moderated by New York IABC chief Andrew Tingley.

The write-up is posted here.

One point Himler made that wasn’t reflected in the report is that the term “fake news” is not so easily defined. When a company forms an opaque advocacy group or pays a “think tank” to create and disseminate specious content to advance its goals, is that considered “fake news?” (Think ExxonMobil and climate change.)

This has evolved to today when state actors, including sadly, this Administration, actually create and disseminate knowingly false stories to prevail upon the court of public opinion. What’s preventing companies from doing the same thing to stifle a competitor: shareholders, consumers, employees? Maybe. (Consider Uber’s bare-knuckled tactics.)

Fake food for thought.

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A Glimmer of Hope for Journalism? https://flatironcomm.com/a-glimmer-of-hope-for-journalism/ https://flatironcomm.com/a-glimmer-of-hope-for-journalism/#respond Tue, 22 Aug 2017 18:00:26 +0000 http://flatironcomm.com/?p=5963   A Harvard University analysis of The New York Times and other so-called paradigms of journalism showed some serious dereliction of duty during the 2016 Presidential campaign. The Washington Post‘s astute media chronicler and former New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan observed: During the 2016 presidential campaign, the national news media’s misguided sense of […]

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Source: Media Tenor. The “fitness” category includes news reports on candidates’ policy positions, personal qualities, leadership abilities, ethical standards, and the like. Excludes reports that were neutral in tone.

 

A Harvard University analysis of The New York Times and other so-called paradigms of journalism showed some serious dereliction of duty during the 2016 Presidential campaign. The Washington Post‘s astute media chronicler and former New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan observed:

During the 2016 presidential campaign, the national news media’s misguided sense of fairness helped equate the serious flaws of Hillary Clinton with the disqualifying evils of Donald Trump.

“But her emails . . .” goes the ironic line that aptly summarizes too much of the media’s coverage of the candidates. In short: Clinton’s misuse of a private email server was inflated to keep up with Trump’s racism, sexism and unbalanced narcissism — all in the name of seeming evenhanded.

And who’ll ever forget how Trump-kingmaker Jeff Zucker exploited the Trump campaign circus to ratchet up CNN’s audience with little regard for his news organization’s reputation as…a news organization?

In fact, one of the stronger memes emerging from the last election pins a portion of Mr. Trump’s success on the inability (or unwillingness) of mainstream journalists to forcefully challenge the contrived (i.e., fake) talking points emanating from the lips of myriad GOP surrogates who filled the screens and social streams of the American electorate.

A morning at the gym didn’t go by without giving me agida watching a sleepy Chris Cuomo or Alisyn Camerota handing over their airwaves to a blathering Kellyanne Conway to spew unchecked falsehoods ionto CNN’s viewers’ screens.

We now find ourselves nearly a year after peak Trump campaign rhetoric. While the damage is done, we’re finally seeing some promising signs of mainstream journalists fulfilling their chosen vocation’s duty as a check to the spread of misinformation. In the last two weeks alone, media watchers applauded (and shared) instances of TV news hosts exerting their authority.

Here’s MSNBC’s Ari Melber calmly, but forcefully denying a Trump surrogate the ability to deliver a dubious set of facts:

And then there were Wall Street-savvy Ali Veshi and Stephanie Ruhl sticking it to another Trump surrogate on economic issues (also on MSNBC):

In fact, some of the best, i.e., well-researched and reported journalism on cable news today can be attributed to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and CNN’s Brian Stelter. Maddow and her news network are being rewarded with an astounding growth in viewers, e.g., the #1-rated show on cable for the coveted 25-54-year-old demo. While Brian Stelter is fearless in calling out bullshit:

Quality journalism surely abounds in today’s news ecosystem. Who didn’t watch Vice on HBO’s riveting report on the Nazi march in Charlottesville? Or just today, Pro Publica’s expose on neophyte Ben Carson’s dismantling of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Even Jake Tapper is stepping up his game.

Nonetheless, we are only at the incipient stages of a movement to repair the damage to a once-noble profession. All self-respecting journalists must take extra pains to do their homework to assiduously and credibly call out the forces that are aligned to denigrate journalism and misinform the public. Today’s media consumer has myriad choices for their news and information. Hopefully, we’ll see a majority of those sources consumed and driven by truth-telling.

Today’s media consumer has myriad choices for his or her news and information. Hopefully, we’ll see a majority of those sources consumed and driven by truth-telling.

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Cool Tools for the Curious PR Pro https://flatironcomm.com/cool-tools-pr-trade/ https://flatironcomm.com/cool-tools-pr-trade/#comments Tue, 02 May 2017 15:02:10 +0000 http://flatironcomm.com/?p=5924 One of the daily email newsletters to which I subscribe is Product Hunt, founder by Ryan Hoover. This carefully distilled selection of serendipitous new gadgets, apps, podcasts, and productivity tools rarely ceases to surprise me. Invariably, they make my professional life easier and home life more enjoyable.  Product Hunt eliminates the frustration we all have felt […]

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One of the daily email newsletters to which I subscribe is Product Hunt, founder by Ryan Hoover. This carefully distilled selection of serendipitous new gadgets, apps, podcasts, and productivity tools rarely ceases to surprise me. Invariably, they make my professional life easier and home life more enjoyable.  Product Hunt eliminates the frustration we all have felt slogging through the myriad offerings of the App Store or Google Play.

Enterprising PR professionals — a phrase I hope is not an oxymoron — might take a page from Product Hunt by considering all the new apps and desktop tools available to them today. And trust me, there are plenty.  Many simply didn’t exist five years ago, while others have evolved since the days of barely searchable media databases whose thin content ultimately gave PR pros their reputation as spam artists. This is less true today when many tools in the “earned media” space have become indispensable for my client work.  I thought I’d list a handful of those on which I’ve come to depend:

MuckRack: Some years ago, I co-developed an app called MatchPoint, which surfaced the names of reporters to “pitch” based on their body of work versus their job titles or reporting beats alone. Today, the smart folks at Sawhorse Media, an early partner of Twitter’s with access to its real-time firehose, built a platform for both PR pros and reporters that made finding just the right journalist for one’s story idea easy and intuitive.

Other than entertainers and politicians, journalists have embraced Twitter more than any other profession. MuckRack allows its premium users to search its journalist-only database by keyword, beat, Twitter bio, location, and media outlet. It’s great for building better-targeted media lists, and also provides journalists’ email addresses, their most recent coverage and tweets, and links to their social media profiles. The platform also lets you build/store lists and disseminate pitches.

Cision: I’ve lost count of all the PR industry vendors Cision has gobbled up in recent years. Gorkana, Vocus, HARO, and PR Newswire are four that readily come to mind. Those alone make Cision a formidable competitor in the PR services sector. Its database of reporters and influencers is unrivaled in its comprehensiveness. That said, the user-interface of its Vocus-born platform still leaves room for improvement. It’s not naturally intuitive. There are still too many clicks needed to get from point A to point B. And I still can’t figure out the utility offered by the search bar at the top.

Nonetheless, Cision offers a one-stop purveyor of PR tools and services — from media targeting to monitoring to analytics to press release distribution — that would be hard to find from any other stand-alone vendor. And again, once you’ve become adept at searching Cision’s voluminous database, you’ll surface quite a few more journalists than you knew existed. The service is not inexpensive, but indy practitioners have been known to share subscriptions. Bigger agencies and corp comms’ departments (with deeper-pocketed clients) have the budgets.

ToutApp: Long gone are the days when a PR professional blasted out a “pitch” letter to a reporter and sat back wondering whether he or she ever opened it, let alone considered its editorial merit. “I’m calling to follow-up” is a no-no.  The smarter PR set uses this platform or others like it that capture engagement to different degrees. Between the CRM solutions from GMail, Mailchimp, Meltwater, and SalesForce, PR types have many choices for their email marketing software.

ToutApp allows me to do to send individually tailored emails to dozens of reporters with a keystroke and then registers whether the recipient opened the email and clicked on any of the links. The reporter sees only my name in the From section, and he or she looks to be the sole recipient (with the proper pre-programmed salutation). The read receipt works via a single pixel in the body of the email and a special address for links. The platform also allows you to store your lists and keeps track of the number of engagements for each recipient. It doesn’t allow you currently to export those lists as an XLS or CSV file, but it does allow you to import media lists as CSV files.

Grammarly: Poor grammar in communications can be a death knell for PR professionals. Just this week New York Times opinion columnist Charles Blow offered his harsh assessment of our President’s ability to turn a phrase or rather, his lack thereof:

“It is a jumble of incomplete thoughts stitched together with arrogance and ignorance.”

Consider the reception you’ll get from a journalist who opens your “pitch” letter fraught with grammatical mistakes. Grammarly flags these issues in your digital output before you hit the send button. From misspellings to passive sentences to the lack of Oxford commas, this nifty free Chrome extension has saved me from potential humiliation on too many occasions.

If you’re not sure where your writing stacks up, try this 25-question quiz. One drawback: if you’re drafting an email in rich text format (vs plain text format), any after-the-fact editing can play havoc with the email’s formatting, at least in Gmail.

GetEmail.io: About six months ago, I received a cold email touting another app/Chrome extension. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, given the myriad promotional come-ons that cross my inbox on any given day. Just as most journalists have a Twitter presence, nearly every business person I know has a LinkedIn profile. Pretty soon, I needed to find a new business prospect’s email, and I remembered this tool, which purportedly “uses big data and machine learning algorithms to find the email address of any professional in any company in one second.”

The extension allows me to search 50 email addresses/month, at no charge, outside of my first-level friends. If you’re looking to leverage LinkedIn for a massive CRM play, you’re best to subscribe. GetEmail.io leverages LinkedIn’s API to find anyone’s email with a reasonable degree of certainty.

One Tab: Is your browser sluggish due to too many open tabs? Here’s a Chrome (and Firefox) extension that frees up “95%” of your RAM to allow users to work more productively even with numerous tabs open.  OneTab collapses all your browser’s open tabs into a single tab, that looks like a drop-down menu when open.  You can pull any tabs back into the main browser, or delete all with a single click. The net effect is much quicker page load times, and when you’re on deadline, that can add up. FWIW: this tool came to me via Product Hunt.

Twitter: If journalist engagement is a core deliverable for PR pros and most journalists are active on this real-time news and social sharing platform, it behooves me to find those toiling in our industry without a Twitter presence. First, a search on a journalist’s Twitter feed will let you now whether he or she happens to be away or had a death in the family. For the annual CES Show in Vegas, for example, it is not unusual for certain tech reporters using Twitter to forewarn publicists about spamming them. Let’s just say you don’t want to be the one to violate their request.

Secondly, many reporters tweet links to their latest stories, sometimes before their new org even posts them. If the story strikes a resonant chord for you, giving the reporter a like or retweet is a nice gesture. It also puts your name before that reporter for the next time you’re emailing him or her with a story idea. Name recognition in one’s inbox is a big plus when one considers the 6:1 ratio of PR people to reporters these days.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the beauty of Twitter lies in whom you follow as opposed to the dopamine bump you might get from a like or a retweet. More specifically, using Tweetdeck, you can set up different feeds to follow based on the industry in which your client resides. From retail to health to beauty/fashion, finding and following the journalists and thought leaders in these areas will help you keep your finger on the pulse of what keeps your clients up at night. Hootsuite offers this function (and more).

GE.TT – File sharing made easy. Sure, most business people prefer Dropbox, and it does the trick when you want to share large files unfettered by size-limiting firewalls of reporters or others. But some years ago, I discovered a simple file-sharing service called Gett, not to be confused with the ride-sharing service of the same name. It’s intuitive user interface and 2GB of free storage serves my needs rather well.  That said, I also have a Dropbox account, but that’s for some of my larger clients with a multitude of media assets, video especially.

The above tools have as their focus professionals plying the art of media relations.  For influencer marketing, there are fledgling firms with names like Tribe, BuzzSumo or Insightpool, which match A, B, and C-list social media influencers from their massive databases with companies seeking to reach their audiences (at varying costs) with branded content.  Then there are content marketing firms started by veteran journalists looking to brands and corporations to help extend their messaging through storytelling, i.e., “sponsored content” and “native advertising.”

One last piece of advice: do not solely rely on these tools to do your work, especially in the earned media space. A human touch is vital for success — from extra research to identify the exact right journalist to engage, to the language and tone used to do so.  Best of luck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Podcasts for PR Peeps https://flatironcomm.com/podcasts-pr-peeps/ https://flatironcomm.com/podcasts-pr-peeps/#respond Thu, 06 Apr 2017 16:08:42 +0000 http://flatironcomm.com/?p=5904 It’s no secret that podcasting, once left for dead, has a new lease on life now that our mobile devices serve as the primary vehicles through which we acquire news and information. One NYU student writer recently extolled the podcast as “the future of journalism.” The buzzworthy “Missing Richard Simmons,” Buzzfeed’s “Another Round,” and the #1-rated “S-Town” […]

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It’s no secret that podcasting, once left for dead, has a new lease on life now that our mobile devices serve as the primary vehicles through which we acquire news and information. One NYU student writer recently extolled the podcast as “the future of journalism.”

The buzzworthy “Missing Richard Simmons,” Buzzfeed’s “Another Round,” and the #1-rated “S-Town” podcasts surely make for good listening, but for media and tech-obsessed PR pros looking to broaden their horizons, a spate of offerings has emerged. Here are a few worth taking for a stream:

CNN “Reliable Sources” with Brian Stelter

NPR’s media correspondent David Folkenflik

The Riff” with David Tisch and Andy Weissman

Tech Investors Dave Tisch and Andy Weissman

 

 

 

 

 

Newsfeed with @BuzzfeedBen

Buzzfeed’s EIC Ben Smith

NPR’s “On the Media” Podcast

Co-hosts Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Immediate Release with Shel Holtz

 

 

 

 

 

PR Week Review Podcast

 

 

 

 

 

MediaShift Podcast

 

 

 

Suffice to say, there are podcasts that will sate just about any interest.  A recent New York Times piece captured a few noteworthy ones, along with the new-found or revived celebrity status of their hosts. Or you might even join The Times’s new “Podcast Club.”  Happy listening.

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2016: When PR Turned to the Dark Side https://flatironcomm.com/2016-when-pr-turned-to-the-dark-side/ https://flatironcomm.com/2016-when-pr-turned-to-the-dark-side/#respond Thu, 12 Jan 2017 13:49:05 +0000 http://flatironcomm.com/?p=5872 2016 was the year when the currents that have slowly eroded the tenuous relationship between journalists and PR pros coalesced to create an existential crisis that may not be easily remedied. Yesterday’s Trump presser was the first salvo in what will surely be a contentious period for news organizations hoping to ferret out the truth. […]

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2016 was the year when the currents that have slowly eroded the tenuous relationship between journalists and PR pros coalesced to create an existential crisis that may not be easily remedied. Yesterday’s Trump presser was the first salvo in what will surely be a contentious period for news organizations hoping to ferret out the truth.

What’s more, the exploitation of new communications tools and dynamics by less-than-scrupulous actors has dire implications for an already beleaguered public relations industry as a whole.

In 2005, I started a PR-focused “weblog” that sought to make transparent an industry whose machinations could clearly benefit from more sunlight. (Think astroturfing, stealth-funded/buoyant-sounding advocacy groups, and purveyors of fake news.) Yet, looking back at my 1000+ posts, I found myself repeatedly coming back to several themes:

  • How media fragmentation has diluted the influence of quality news organizations, and with it, the loss of their historic role as checks to power and exposers of wrongdoing for the public good.
  • How organizations, corporations, and individuals can now bypass the journalistic filter to take their “owned” messages directly to the public, which, in turn, amplifies them in social media without regard for factual veracity, or worse, with the knowledge that what they’re sharing is purposely misleading.
  • How the use of histrionics, e.g., outrageous statements and behavior, has successfully captured the attention of media organizations driven by a need to monetize clicks and eyeballs for their very existence — histrionics that usurp and often create the national news agenda.

By now you’re thinking I’m overly obsessed with the recent election and how the GOP and its candidate built a massive messaging mechanism that stymied the fourth estate. I mean did it even matter that nearly every newspaper in the country published full-throated condemnations of Mr. Trump?

What concerns me most is how Mr. Trump and his operatives rewrote the rules of discourse and disclosure and that this insidious new PR paradigm may apply to other government sectors, as well as to business, entertainment, academia, science, medicine, etc.. It provides communications strategists a roadmap for the manipulation of a pliable public that historically has placed its trust in quality journalism but no longer does.

This new communications paradigm has gone beyond identifying sympathetic reporters who’ll parrot their messages. It has transcended the training of spokespersons to bridge away from reporters’ prickly questions. It prefers live TV interviews (vs. taped then edited), which permit a skilled surrogate to deliver unfiltered (and mostly unchallenged) talking points directly to unwitting audiences.

These new communications operatives simply fabricate a narrative, plant it with a few influential, like-minded outlets and watch it propagate. Worse, these concocted narratives need only be tweeted from a bully pulpit to make their mark. What’s changed is that truth is an afterthought. Winning is all that matters. The rules no longer apply in this alt communications universe.

When I consider the overt lies and tactical deception that spewed from the mouths of Mr. Trump’s surrogates Miller, Spicer, Conway and Lewandowski (clockwise from top left), I’m reminded that the PR industry’s trade association (PRSA) publishes a code of conduct that governs such things—a set of guidelines to which these consiglieres clearly paid little heed. It reads:

From the Public Relations Society of America

Would Burson-Marsteller’s eponymous founder Harold Burson, Ketchum CEO Rob Flaherty or Weber-Shandwick CEO Andy Polansky condone the violation of these tenets to advance a client’s interests? I think not.

What lies ahead is anyone’s guess, but it’s pretty clear to me, as a long-time PR pro and observer of the industry: the incoming administration intends to normalize the art of obfuscation and opacity so that its aggressive, non-mandated political agenda goes unchallenged. It’ll start with Mr. Trump’s cabinet picks.

Here’s their likely game plan:

  • Continue to have Mr. Trump set his 18 million followers’ tongues-a-wagging by posting incendiary messages via his favorite real-time social media platform, Twitter, and also use his bully media pulpit to distract from unwanted setbacks or impending negative news.
  • Deploy rabid, media-trained surrogates, armed with unwavering narratives, to live TV and like-minded media outlets.
  • Facilitate the amplification of politically aligned “news” by social media influencers — without regard to the news source. When the story’s veracity is challenged, double down.
  • Keep the inarticulate and unprepared Mr. Trump away from bona fide journalists and instead use his silver-tongued surrogates wherever and whenever necessary to advance his policy positions. Use access as a carrot, and insist on off-the-record when possible.

Linked below are some of my previous posts that offered a glimpse into the perilous state in which the industry now finds itself. It’s not just about Mr. Trump, his advisors, or the GOP. It’s about the pernicious degradation of democratic discourse in a nation that is in real danger of becoming another Russia, Turkey or Iran.

I haven’t seen much from PRSA on Team Trump’s disregard for the ethical guidelines that have buoyed the PR profession’s reputation all these years. I’m hopeful that it will eventually step up to call out what clearly is a violation of its TOS…if only for the sake of those who earnestly eek out a living practicing PR in the private, public and not-for-profit sectors.

The Writings on The Wall:

Fake News & Its Threat to Democracy (November 2016)

The Unsinkable Kellyanne Conway (September 2016)

Trump: The Art of The Lie (June 2016)

When Journalism Fails to Deliver (May 2016)

Content Marketing Is So Last Year (January 2016)

Full Frontal Media: Kylie vs. Kim (December 2015)

The Shifting Tides of Media & Journalism (July 2015)

Trump, Cyrus & Swift: Contrasting Characters (June 2015)

JayZ’s Media Orchestration (May 2015)

Russia Hacking the News (March 2015)

State-Run Media…In Indiana (January 2015)

A Fourth Estate No More (August 2014)

Look What Mark Cuban Started (June 2014)

Russia’s Media Trolls (May 2014)

Miley Cyrus’s Twerky PR Ploy (August 2013)

Media Walls Crumble: Brands Benefit (November 2012)

Leaders Who Lie (August 2008)

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Fake News and Its Threat to Democracy https://flatironcomm.com/fake-news-and-its-threat-to-democracy/ https://flatironcomm.com/fake-news-and-its-threat-to-democracy/#comments Thu, 17 Nov 2016 02:02:10 +0000 http://flatironcomm.com/?p=5859 My first social media post of the day happened on Facebook and involved Twitter. It cited USA Today’s story on Twitter’s audacious decision to ban from its platform hundreds of offensive “alt right” accounts. My morning gripe had less to do with Twitter’s sudden cleanse of hate-spreaders on its platform and more about the absence […]

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My first social media post of the day happened on Facebook and involved Twitter. It cited USA Today’s story on Twitter’s audacious decision to ban from its platform hundreds of offensive “alt right” accounts.

My morning gripe had less to do with Twitter’s sudden cleanse of hate-spreaders on its platform and more about the absence of a substantive comment backing up a decision that would certainly play havoc among the First Amendment set. Someone commented that the less said the better, i.e., actions speak louder than words. Does Twitter even a a PR chief at the moment?

In June, in a piece I penned titled “Trump: The Art of the Lie,” I decried the mass manipulation of the news media by nation-states like Russia and China, and the potential threat to the U.S. posed by the purposeful creation and spread of disinformation. When a government like Turkey, Russia, Iran or China shutters (or murders) the journalism professional, or worse, activates legions of propagandists

to spread falsehoods on social media, civilization itself suffers.

One of the big post-elections memes — of many — revolves around how false news flourishes on Facebook and Twitter where some 44% of Americans now gets their news and information. What’s worse, the fake news that aligns with the reader’s own POV spreads faster and resonates louder than factual, well-sourced reporting.

A BuzzFeed News analysis found that top fake election news stories generated more total engagement on Facebook than top election stories from 19 major news outlets combined.

In the hangover following November 8, we find ourself very worried about a U.S. President-elect who eludes the White House press corps, ends media access, and appoints as his chief strategist and potential national security consigliere, respectively — two publishers presiding over dubious journalistic enterprises. The former no doubt will be tasked to ratchet up a Trump-controlled disinformation apparatus, taking a page from Russia and China.

I was pleased to see the significant surge in subs to The New York Times and the Washington Post, two of the remaining journalistic enterprises who can still check truth to power even as Mr. Trump tries to marginalize them.

In a piece on BackChannel today, Jessi Hempel caught up with Brooke Binkowski, founder and truth-seeking evangelist behind Snopes. Ms. Binkowski doesn’t lay the blame for the proliferation of false news at the feed of Facebook, but rather on news orgs whose diminished reporting resources have compromised the quality of their product.

“It’s not social media that’s the problem,” she says emphatically. “People are looking for somebody to pick on. The alt-rights have been empowered and that’s not going to go away anytime soon. But they also have always been around.”

Hempel writes:

“The problem, Binkowski believes, is that the public has lost faith in the media broadly — therefore no media outlet is considered credible any longer. The reasons are familiar: as the business of news has grown tougher, many outlets have been stripped of the resources they need for journalists to do their jobs correctly.”

More specifically, Binkowski says:

“When you’re on your fifth story of the day and there’s no editor because the editor’s been fired and there’s no fact checker so you have to Google it yourself and you don’t have access to any academic journals or anything like that, you will screw stories up.”

Faulty journalism is one thing, but the purposeful dissemination of false information for one’s own aggrandizement is an entirely and even more pernicious problem. Facebook mostly, and Twitter to a lesser degree must end the use of their channels to spread false or malicious news. Certainly the Framers did not envision an era when such a phenomenon could undermine the very foundation on which our nation was built.

On the surface, such a move will appear to many free speech zealots (and a few anarchists) as flying in the face of the First Amendment. In reality, a firm stance from these American-born media channels is what will prevent our nation devolving into Russia and China where quasi-government trolls have grabbed the reins that control the veracity of information to gain or retain power. An informed citizenry is a hallmark of democracy.

Finally, this headline late today from HuffPost:

Barack Obama: Fake News On Facebook Hurts Democracy

Especially when the President-elect himself is the Chief Fabricator:

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Periscope Is (A)Live https://flatironcomm.com/periscope-is-alive/ https://flatironcomm.com/periscope-is-alive/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 20:36:56 +0000 http://flatironcomm.com/?p=5824 Just as it appeared that Facebook Live would do to Periscope what Periscope did to Meerkat, the Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives breathed new life into the fledgling, real-time video-streaming app owned by Twitter (Nasdaq: TWTR). Here’s the lede from ABC News: The Democratic sit-in over gun control last night almost fell into […]

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Just as it appeared that Facebook Live would do to Periscope what Periscope did to Meerkat, the Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives breathed new life into the fledgling, real-time video-streaming app owned by Twitter (Nasdaq: TWTR). Here’s the lede from ABC News:

The Democratic sit-in over gun control last night almost fell into a broadcasting black hole until tech savvy representatives took out their smartphones and began broadcasting on Periscope.  The live-streaming service, which was launched by Twitter 15 months ago, proved to be an invaluable tool for Democratic lawmakers who converged on the House floor after House Speaker Paul Ryan adjourned the session.

Those House Dems may also have inadvertently delivered to C-Span a new lease on life with a huge audience boost, albeit not one of the network’s making. CNN’s Brian Stelter noted in his piece titled: “C-SPAN moves into spotlight with Democrats’ protest: ‘This is our story'”

“The normally low-profile cable network is enjoying a surge of attention for its coverage.”

The dryest of dry cable channels acquiesced to GOP House leadership and cut off its cameras once the Democrats commandeered the room.

It then chose to carry the amateur Periscope feed from the hand-held mobile phone of Congressman Scott Peters’ (D.-CA).

The Verge’s Tom Connors observed:

“As a video editor, I was curious to see how C-SPAN would integrate Periscope and Facebook Live into their broadcast. It was a disaster — and I was hooked. As broadcast video goes, it was some of the worst I’d ever seen…And the fact that it was messy made it all the more exciting.”

Maybe C-Span should look to UGC more often to boost its languishing viewership (and perhaps save production costs in the process)?  Take note of the auspicious buzz on the new, live-streaming business news site CheddarTV, founded by former Buzzfeed president Jon Steinberg.

Yet today, the political cognoscenti are all a-Twitter over how the sleepy Democrats finally woke up and smelled the Republicans’ rancid roses, while the tech pundits wondered whether this is the catalyst to reinvigorate Periscope in the face of much deeper-pocketed competition from start-up and techonomy-killing monopoly Facebook.

Facebook is so pumped about deflating Periscope’s prospects, it is paying not just celebrities, but a bunch of big media brands for using the streaming platform to host their editorial output. Not only that, but Facebook users (like me) must opt out to avoid the noise in my newstream every time someone I follow (and some I don’t) decides to self-indulge. Not too swift, Facebook.

As good as yesterday’s Congressional sit-in was for elevating brand Periscope, Facebook Live was hardly absent from the boffo news event. It played a co-starring role in the political production.

Competition is good. Let’s hope that Jack & co. keep the heat on (and maybe take a page from Mark Zuckerberg’s PR playbook):

One last thought: in the news coverage of the sit-in, it was disheartening to see the medium overshadow the message (of gun control) to some degree. Maybe the medium is the message?

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