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Archive for the ‘Public Relations’ Category

Life happens while you are making other plans: The city of Dublin, Calif., has a problem and rebranding seems to be the only solution.

Dublin is building a water park in the middle of the worst drought in California’s modern history. The project was developed more than 10 years ago when water was flowing. Now, water wasters are the desperadoes. The water park under construction will take 480,000 gallons to fill.

So what do you do with a progressive city project that is expected to help rejuvenate a sinking town? You reposition, rebrand and develop a strong talking point regimen.

  • The water park is now called a “family aquatics center.”
  • City offices talk about total water usage household decreases for the town.
  • School swim instructors are talking about teaching children to swim.

I’m not in favor of wasting water, and I don’t know if Dublin did the right thing, but bad things do happen to major projects. Some you can anticipate and prepare for from a messaging standpoint. Others are the result of bad planning, some are bad forecasting and some just have bad luck. A crisis plan can help, because repositioning and rebranding may be your only hope to keep the project going in new environments.

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Native advertising makes me laugh: If you want something to sound like it is new, give it a new name. Here’s how Wikipedia defines it: Native advertising is a form of online advertising that matches the form and function of the platform on which it appears. For example, an article written by an advertiser to promote their product, but using the same form as an article written by the editorial staff.iStock_000061425074_Medium

For us in public relations, we’ve been doing that for 35 years. One of my first press releases as a writer for University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics was placed on the Quad-City Times’ front page (under a reporter’s byline, but it was my article, word for word).

Now some think that native advertising is the downfall of PR. I’d say, native advertising is what PR is all about. The problem is not that PR is changing, the problem is that the media is changing. We may not worry so much about securing media coverage through traditional media when we can use the cumulative media power of citizen journalists through Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.

So PR may look different going forward, but the key attributes of a strong practitioner will be the same:

  • Deep understanding of target audience
  • Strong writing skills
  • Ability to simplify complex communications problems
  • Ability to see the forest and how each tree builds it
  • Technology savvy
  • Understanding of how design impacts brand and messaging
  • Ability to turn data into a visual story

Call it what you like, native advertising or public relations, the new digital landscape is changing the roles, but not the underlying fundamentals of messaging and brand.

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I’m not really sure where I stand on the sea animals at SeaWorld, but what I do appreciate is strong PR effort in the face of adversity. If you have not followed the press, PETA and a documentary called  Blackfish are critical of the theme park’s treatment of killer whales. sea world 1 sea world 3 sea world 5

SeaWorld has now fired back with a very convincing campaign that names names and directly attacks the “facts.” SeaWorld is using television ads, web videos and YouTube videos. SeaWorld also ran full-page letters in national newspapers talking about the “truth.”

The videos are powerful and very well conceived. The first ads feature SeaWorld’s veterinarian as the spokesperson. Even if you don’t agree with SeaWorld, you have to appreciate the PR skill and the messaging care. If they treat their animals as well as they do public relations, then they are doing a good job.

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If you watch the Sunday morning news shows, you see some of the best in the business for interviews.178395708

One simple lesson that few know, is that the interview with a person from the press is not a conversation with a reporter. A conversation would mean that it is a two-way dance with each moving together. Since you have no control of the final outcome, it is really a one-way street that may mean trouble for your company or organization. If you get caught up in the conversation, you could walk into information you didn’t want to share—and it is all recorded.

A couple of things to remember about interviews:

  • Answer the question you want to answer, not reporters’ questions.
  • Tell the truth, but answer the question you want to answer.
  • Repeat, repeat, repeat. You want to make sure your key comments make the story. The best way is to repeat key concepts enough that your key concept has to be used.
  • Don’t explain. Long-winded responses are not used. Keep the background or deep background to yourself.
  • Jokes work in conversation, but not in the press.
  • Use short answers.
  • Be ready to wrap up the interview with a statement that says what you really want to say. Since it is the last part of the interview, it has a greater chance of being used.

The other difference between a conversation and an interview is that you should practice prior to your interview. Most conversations don’t need a lot of practice.

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powerful_press_releaseSome think press releases are dead. Yet with this new age of content marketing, the press release is finding new life.

In the Pew’s latest State of the News Media report, press releases were found to be the most-trusted source of company-generated news. Press releases (33%) outranked CEO articles (16%), and blog posts by CEOs (4%). However, 45% of people said they don’t trust any company-generated news, so we have more work to do.

It was revealed that most Americans now get some news through a digital platform. Sharing of news obviously was done through email and social media. And when people look for news, they turn to: 1) television (73%); 2) news websites such as CNN (52%); 3) print magazines and newspapers (36%); 4) radio (25%); and 5) social media (23%).

How we define “news” is also revealing. Most share “breaking news,” but we also share humorous events, how-to articles, tips from experts and cute animal photos. Now you know why the last story of most newscasts is a squirrel skiing or baby lions at a zoo.

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Public relations is changing. And PR is becoming more critical as content creation and curation become the norm.  There was a time when all PR  meant was to schedule events and have your story picked up and branded by the news media. Now it is still important to be placed on media sites online, but there are many other means to get your story into the hands of your public, and in a branded way that might carry more weight.

470289423An article shared by a friend might be viewed more deeply or with more credibility than the same story in the newspaper. Many organizations are now buying, renting and developing content. They are not satisfied with allowing the news media to tell their brand stories.  A television news director recently told me that he used to get press releases from hospitals nearly every day; now he rarely gets a press release.

Even though there is room for corporate PR journalists these days, two values should be adopted from the traditional newsroom:

  1. You must start with the reader and write from their interest level
  2. You must adopt the newsroom time sensitivity

When the Oreo people were standing by when the Super Bowl went dark in 2013, the tweets made for record results in social.

You need to monitor the keywords on Twitter, watch what is trending on TV, and see what live events are coming up. With traditional PR, we would wait for a national event to unfold and then fold our clients into the local story.  Now you need to be ready to respond on YouTube, Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr.

The social PR news cycle is 24 hours, 7 days a week.  And that has really changed for us all.

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You may have heard about the alleged payments Oklahoma State football players received. Once SI broke the story, the media machine spread it like manure on an Iowa farm field.t bone pickens

Yet one alum, T. Boone Pickens, was not happy with the story and launched his own effort. He issued a video statement in response to the SI article. The video statement was released through PR Newswire and other sources.

Sure, T. Boone Pickens has given more than $550 million to OSU for athletics and academics, but these days you don’t need to be a billionaire to launch this kind of PR effort. However, T. Boone didn’t not go amateur hour.  He had good lighting, a well-crafted script, a teleprompter and maybe a touch of makeup.  And he directly called out SI’s reporting of Oklahoma State University as “disappointing.”

I hear people complain about reporting all the time, but now you have the opportunity to set the record straight—or at least bend it a bit more toward your point of view.

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