The Matchbox.

Sep. 02

Back to School and the Post-Labor Day Push to 2015

As Facebook news feeds move from family beach pictures and ice bucket challenges to back-to-school snapshots (guilty on all accounts), the change in seasons and tempo is upon us. The post-Labor Day push into the final quarter of 2014 is here – where did the year go? If you haven’t already planned your September and Q4 media relations calendar, here are a few items to consider for your to-do list this week.

Map out your news calendar: Marketers and PR pros should sync up to plan for the rest of the 2014 announcements and PR pitches. Pay attention to holidays and known news announcements to either avoid or leverage as appropriate. For example, while Apple’s planned Sept. 9 announcement (presumably for the iPhone 6 and some wearables) may not have a heavy impact on the HR space, the news will likely keep mobile, advertising and consumer reporters busy for a few days.

Got conferences? Yes, a lot of them! – Name the industry and I can almost guarantee that there is a significant industry conference taking place in late September or October. Conferences are a great place to meet key reporters and industry thought leaders and brief them with news and end-of-year trends. Briefing schedules fill up fast so reach out now.

Holiday shopping isn’t far off: If your company has any alignment with the retail world, then your holiday shopping PR strategy should be well underway. Halloween decorations are already in the stores and that means the Black Friday and holiday shopping stories aren’t far behind. Find your angle and pick a date to start making connections.

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Aug. 07

The PR Pay-for-Play vs Retainer Model

Over the years, we’ve received questions from potential clients about our business model and the value of a retainer relationship – often coming from companies with either limited dealings or previous negative experiences with PR agencies. Recently though, these questions are originating from direct experience with a newer agency model – the pay-for-play or placement agency – where the client pays only if the agency scores a placement in a priority publication, often on a tiered basis depending on the priority of the publication.

The challenge with the placement model in the B2B world is that there often is a limited investment on the agency’s part in getting to know their client’s business – what makes them unique, the nuances and types of problems they are they solving for their clients, who the real buyers are, their take on industry issues and mostly importantly, market trends. These are all critical components in what makes up a strong and successful PR program. Because without them, yes, you can target publications all day long and get some media placements, but they are likely the wrong publications and the wrong messages for creating sustainable and targeted marketplace visibility. For limited, short-term engagements, sometimes the pay-for-placement model can be appealing, but beware if you are looking for long-term visibility and consistently on-point value messaging that resonates with your buyers.

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Jul. 16

The $9/Month PR Strategy

Yesterday, TechCrunch brought a new email database company, Pressfarm, some unwarranted attention. While the spotlight might be undeserved for the company, which supplies tech-focused reporter emails to users for $9/month, the tongue and cheek article from TechCrunch reporter Romain Dillet makes several good points about reaching out to media in an effective and appropriate manner.

If our job were as easy as collecting 200 email addresses, everyone would be a PR expert. However, an email address will only get you so far. That seems obvious, but spammy email pitches continue to run rampant. This hurts the PR profession, along with us pros that attempt to cut through the clutter with thoughtful story ideas and well-crafted pitches. Why this method of madness continues isn’t clear, as results surely do not line up with the effort.

Effective media relations entails much more. From tracking trends to understanding reporters’ interest and writing styles to timing, PR professionals need to be smart and agile to gain ink for their company or clients. Some reporters might prefer short, straightforward pitches; others require a meatier story idea. What is clear is that journalists do not want to receive mass pitches unrelated to their areas of interest that were also sent to the other 213 reporters in the Pressfarm database.

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Jun. 05

Are You A…Twammer?

Marketing and PR pros alike are constantly on the lookout for new, innovative ways to connect with their respective audiences—whether customers, prospects, partners or media. And while social media has proven to be yet another effective channel for business or media outreach, there is a fine line in using it respectfully. Because let’s face it, no one wants to be labeled a LinkedIn stalker or a “Twammer”—one who tweets spam messages at  rapid fire pace to many Twitter handles with a duplicate message.

To avoid fallout from these types of uncomfortable, over-usage social media scenarios, following are a few tried-and-true tips for staying within bounds for business outreach on social platforms.

1) Carefully Gauge Public Tweets – Using public tweets to retweet or to participate in dialogue on a relevant topic is fine, but tweeting the same pitch to a host of people one after another becomes obnoxious and shows your lack of professional courtesy. They will likely respond by tuning you out—and your credibility will certainly take a hit. Be sure to use the Direct Message option if your message only pertains to the person you’d like to contact.

2) Only Connect with Connections via LinkedIn – I cannot tell you how many LinkedIn connection requests I’ve received from people whom I’ve never met. It’s fine if a contact wants to introduce a mutual connection for networking purposes or you decide to connect with someone you just met at a conference, but the out-of-the-blue LinkedIn request is a definite no-no. Who knows how an unknown person will choose to exploit your network?

3) Avoid Facebook Fatigue – Facebook provides an opportunity to showcase both personal and professional posts, and there are appropriate times to repurpose select items from a business page on personal pages as well. However, avoid posting too many items at once as they will clog up readers’ newsfeeds and may result in an “unlike”.

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May. 12

What Is Mom’s Job?

With three little kids, I receive the most awesome handmade Mothers Day gifts – artwork and creations that I will forever cherish. This year, my sons (both 5) filled out a questionnaire about me at school. Question #3 reads, “What is Mom’s job?” One of my sons says, “to do the dishes,” and the other says, “telephoning and Interneting.” While both are very true, it brings to mind the misconceptions about a job in PR. My own mom, I think, finally understands what I do, but with terms like spin doctor, shows like Scandal (yea, I’m a fan) and the commoditization of content development, PR often gets a bad rap.

Here’s the beauty of a job in PR.
1. PR is showcasing expertise and knowledge.
2. PR is connecting journalists with valuable media resources.
3. PR is sharing the impact unique products/services can have.
4. PR is challenging the status quo.
5. PR is leveraging thought leadership across media channels.

Hope all the moms out there (in PR or not) had a relaxing, fun day hanging with those who made them a mom – the best job of all. ☺

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Apr. 22

Not Just Cute Cats, BuzzFeed Reaches Notable Growth

Simply stated, BuzzFeed’s success is impressive. The addictive news site has connected with a fast-growing global audience with breaking news and feature posts ranging from quirky to cute.

Why the fast success? BuzzFeed’s content is broad, yet article topics are very specific, speaking directly to groups of people, e.g., 26 Things Only Perpetually Tired People Will Understand, 23 Words Teenagers Love to Use And What They Really Mean. And, we can’t leave out 30 Reasons You Know You Work in PR.

Headlines are provocative, lists are relatable, the use of animated GIFS is hilarious and all of the above catch on like wildfire via social media. In fact, Facebook referrals represent the site’s biggest source of traffic, e.g., articles, polls, videos. From an advertising standpoint, BuzzFeed’s sweet spot is sponsored content that mimics the viral content usually published on the site.

In Nov. 2013, BuzzFeed reached 130 million unique global visitors and founder Jonah Peretti announced a number of growth initiatives, including an aggressive plan to hire more journalists focused on breaking and investigative news coverage. It is a big undertaking, can one media company communicate breaking news and quirky viral content well, satisfying a wide scope of readers?

Regardless of the answer, BuzzFeed’s content is highly consumable and shareable and a good reminder to all PR professionals to keep their writing pithy and relatable. Whether a press release or a contributed article, getting to the point quickly and summarizing content via video or images boosts reader engagement and social sharing helping a company achieve greater visibility and external communications goals.


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Apr. 01

It’s Official – PR is Dead

Yes, it’s sad but true. Public relations is a dying industry so PR pros and the powers that be have decided to pack it in. Here are the top five reasons: 

1) Awesome Content Everywhere – So much of the corporate-produced content today is extremely well-thought-out and insightful, who needs a good messaging partner that is strategic, professional and in-the-know on what resonates with specific audiences. 

2) Newswire Distribution Rules – Everybody knows if you put out a release on any of the major newswire services, you automatically get a pick up by the Wall Street Journal. Sure it’s a press release posting, but it’s the WSJ for goodness sakes. No need to build solid connections with journalists that are strongly tuned in to your industry that continue to tap you for shared expertise.

3) Rock Star Spokespersons – It must be reality TV or the rise of social media but today’s company spokespersons are flawless. They never make off the record comments on-the-record or reveal a Fortune 1000 client without permission. 

4) Strategy, Schmatagy – To hell with the strategy, companies need results yesterday. A few placements today and then a go-dark approach is far better than a long-term program chockfull of creative media relations ideas that will help reach your prospective customers. 

5) Nobody’s a Fool – Go find one journalist that relies on a PR pro today, I dare you!


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Mar. 04

Conferences Can Reinforce Cooperative Spirit

I attended Street Fight’s Local Data Summit here in Denver last week and was impressed by the significant amount of idea sharing among competitors for the betterment of the location-based advertising and mobile industry. While there was strong thought leadership from keynoters as well as the usual PPTs outlining products and services, an unspoken benefit of any successfully executed conference is when industry leaders come together to genuinely discuss their thoughts and ideas rather than trying to knock each other off the podium. I witnessed it.

It was refreshing to see this real-time cooperative perspective among industry competitors as sound bytes captured in articles can sometimes skew commentary to come across more biting. Even when moderators tried to shake things up with controversial questions, most of the speakers were of the mindset that they were there to help bring their unique viewpoints to each other in the hopes that those truly invested in their industry will succeed.

One of the reasons this observation hit me is because it is a key component of best in class PR as well. Those who focus their PR and thought leadership efforts around addressing customer pain points and improving their industries as a whole generally rise organically to the top of the competitor list. They don’t take public or private pot shots and instead focus on what they are doing to help customers and partners. The philosophy works because most people would rather see innovation and ideas rather than listen to defensive posturing. I look forward to attending more conferences with this cooperative dynamic that helps move industries forward as a whole much more rapidly.


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Feb. 12

Conversation Hearts Spell Better Relationships Between PR Execs and Journalists

In many ways, public relations is all about relationship building. As Valentine’s Day approaches, let’s look at the ways we can sweeten our connections with journalists and make our outreach more lovable through the use of conversation hearts.

Respect Me
Like any relationship, the rapport between reporters and PR professionals is built on respect. This means taking note of and respecting deadlines, preferred methods of contact and writing styles prior to connecting.

Sweet Talk
Charming conversation can help bring a story pitch to life, but get to the heart of the matter with reporters by being concise and direct about what you are offering, e.g., an expert resource, exclusive news, a feature story idea.

Top Dog
This might seem like a given, but know your material. When pitching, it is imperative to be highly familiar with the subject area, so you can field reporter questions accurately and quickly.

Call Me
If reporters are amenable to receiving phone follow-ups, connect briefly with a call but do not pester.

Tweet Me
Follow reporters on Twitter, so that you can track areas of interest, recent articles and then engage with them better via phone and email.

Cheer Me On
When a story publishes, be supportive by sending the reporter an email or tweet to acknowledge the article and thank them for including you or your client as a resource.

My Pal
Continue to foster reporter relationships by letting them know when you or your client can be an expert source for a particular topic. Reporters can keep this detail on file and connect with you when the time is right.

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Feb. 07

Buzzword Alert: What Content Marketing Means to PR

Content marketing is one of the latest buzzwords to come up in every new business and planning conversation we have. And while the principles of content marketing – creating, distributing and sharing content that speaks to target customers without an overt sales pitch – are legit, they aren’t new to PR. Non-sales, educational, trend and thought leadership materials have always been crucial to successful PR. Byline articles, case studies, blogs, infographics, news releases, newsletters – all core PR elements – are also effective content marketing vehicles.

What has changed is the seemingly endless opportunities to publish, readdress and share that content. Whether a case study becomes the basis for a news release and speaking opportunity or a news release leads to a byline article and blog post, a single content topic can be leveraged across a  variety of marketing and PR elements.

In addition to the corporate need, there is a very real media need for content. Online news organizations are consistently increasing the amount of content they publish and many also serve as news aggregators. Some re-publish corporate blog posts – in addition to accepting contributed articles and producing their own news – to help meet readers’ appetite for more content.

So, yes, collaborate with your PR team about content marketing but also get involved in developing the content strategy. Planning which topics to address when and how best to share are crucial pieces to getting the most visibility and mileage out of your content. Also, foster transparency across your marketing and PR team – including vendors – to ensure that the content topics are relevant to both the needs of the business and the customer and that the content developed can be shared and published across multiple marketing domains.

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