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Talk to me

Posted: March 8, 2012 - 5:00 PM ET - by Elisabeth

I recently spoke to a group of entrepreneurs about media relations … I’ve had the benefit of working with great media trainers over the years. They can spend an entire day helping individuals and companies develop compelling messages and master the nuances of delivering those messages to busy journalists.

How could I boil it down to a lunchtime session?

I thought about all the advice I had been given over the years and all the advice delivered to my clients and colleagues. The single best piece of advice … the thing I think of when the lights or the tape recorder are switched on … is this:

A media interview is not a conversation.

You’re not there to have a friendly chat. You’re there to deliver key messages about your company, product or service through the media. Know your key messages. Repeat them. Reinforce them with stories and statistics. … and then stop talking.

If you forget all the rest of the pointers on what to say, where to look, what to wear, or who’s on first, remember that!


The opposite of halo

Posted: May 19, 2011 - 10:56 PM ET - by Elisabeth

If we’re judged by the company we keep, we’re proud to have our colleague Abbe Kalina sharing her thoughts on endorsements on AIRtime this week.


Our society is ultra focused on celebrities. We look to them for direction on just about everything, from water to clothing and cars, to tell us what we need and shouldn’t live without.

Who hasn’t bought shoes that LeBron James says are great for shooting hoops or skin care products because they promise to make us look every bit as fresh as Katy Perry?

Advertisers count on this popularity and leverage it to sell products. The theory goes that there is a halo effect and that the positive thoughts and feelings that consumers have towards a celebrity will be transferred to the product they are backing.

This is great for celebrities. They typically get paid handsomely, and their participation serves as a means to keep them relevant and in the public eye. However, not all endorsements are created equally.

We’re all too familiar with the stories of celebrities who have “let down” a brand from Tiger Woods embarrassment of Nike to Cybil Shepherd’s admission that she didn’t eat meat as a spokesperson for The Beef Industry Council. Yet it’s interesting to note the opposite of the halo effect: pairing a popular celebrity with the wrong product endorsement can result in a decline in their star power.

Recently, a study profiled in The Harvard Business Review and conducted at the Florida Institute of Technology shows that for currently popular celebrities, being affiliated with a poorly perceived brand can negatively impact how attractive and trustworthy their adoring fans believe them to be.  And in their line of work, that’s major.

It’s a useful lesson for the reality stars and wanna-be influencers of tomorrow: we are judged by the company we keep. In regular life, we may have an opportunity to prove ourselves beyond associations and have the negative connotations from a poor association fall away. This may be the only luxury not afforded to celebrities.

In order to bounce back from a poor endorsement deal, even – perhaps especially – “celebrities” with less than world-class athleticism or movie star magnetism will have to work twice as hard to overcome any negative associations. People may not get to know them as a person, and the negative associations just end up getting wrapped into their public persona, which could possibly stay with them for the remainder of their careers.


Does size matter?

Posted: February 4, 2011 - 2:41 PM ET - by Elisabeth

I’m following a recommendation from communications experts to draw you in with a provocative title. Read on … I promise there’s good advice – and an answer – waiting.

Sometimes when we ask a client how he or she would define the success of a communications initiative, we hear “coverage on the front page of The Wall Street Journal …

or on Oprah …

or 5,000 facebook fans …

or 1,000,000 Twitter followers …”

Yet, often, that’s not really where their audience is. National outlets, prominent media personalities and big audience numbers aren’t always the best use of time, money or your communications team.

The power of technology and a rapidly growing number of online outlets give businesses nearly unlimited opportunities to connect with people most interested in hearing from and interacting with them. … and as entrepreneurial guru Barry Moltz says, “We actually can’t sell anything to anyone; we just need to be there when people are ready to buy.”

One of the most important steps in planning marketing communications to support your product, service or entity is to define your audience:

  • Is there a demographic that has the greatest need to apply your invention to their situation – for example, work-from-home dads as opposed to all employed men?
  • Is there a group that has an immediate demand for the goods or services you can provide – nursing mothers as opposed to all women with children?
  • Is there actually a smaller group of specialists who are likely to be the biggest adopters of your product or information – oncology nurses as opposed to all registered nurses?
  • Is there a special interest group that may embrace your offering – Mac users rather than anyone with a computer?

The next critical step is to figure out how to reach them efficiently and compellingly:

  • Entrepreneurs may in fact be readers of The Wall Street Journal, but they may also subscribe to Crain’s business publications in their cities or to industry newsletters or blogs for relevant information.
  • Nursing mothers may watch Oprah, but they also receive and review follow-up correspondence from their ob/gyns and hospitals or birthing centers to get information from experts they trust.
  • Oncology nurses may in fact be facebook users, but perhaps they look to professional web sites and other online outlets for continuing medical education, career advancement and practice knowledge.
  • … and Mac users … well, okay, they seem to be a pretty pervasive group.

Trade publications, newsletters, and blogs don’t always have big circulation numbers, but they may reach exactly who’s buying what you’re selling. Not everyone needs facebook fans or a Twitter following; it may feel exciting and current, but it’s not always the right context.

With all the information the internet provides on what people are reading, doing, buying and recommending, you can tailor your communications to reach them efficiently and speak to them compellingly. With a targeted approach you can do that in a place where, and at a time when, they are acutely aware of their need.

So yes, size does matter. … but it’s the size of your impact, not your audience.


Who needs 10 tips for using social media when you can do it with three?

Posted: January 6, 2011 - 1:38 PM ET - by Elisabeth

Still wondering how social media can have an impact for your business?

Whether you’re a small business owner struggling to manage communication channels or a public relations professional in … say … healthcare, trying to navigate the maze of media options in a highly regulated industry, you can benefit immediately from social media using a tried and true tactic.

What do you need to do?

Watch, look and listen.

Paying attention to online commentary about your industry, company, product or service is the fastest way to gather valuable information that will help you develop more effective messages and establish a dialogue for delivering those messages.  The wide variety of channels and resources – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs and other outlets – even allows you to home in on discussions among the key decision makers and influencers who affect your business and industry.  In addition to inviting commentary on your own tweets and status updates, there are some easy steps you can take:

  1. Monitor your customers and your competitors online, using Google Alerts and/or TweetAlarms.
  2. On Twitter, watch who follows or comments on industry-related Tweetchats, specific hashtags or key issues of interest and follow them.
  3. Follow or “like” third-party group Facebook pages and review their posts and comment accordingly.

While traditional search engines and news aggregators like Alltop are great resources, social media offers easily accessible and instantaneous information.  Even if you’re not ready to establish your online presence through public posts, the ability to gather information can enhance the communication you do have with key stakeholders.

    … and all you have to do is watch, look and listen.


    Long live local news

    Posted: December 24, 2010 - 12:52 PM ET - by Ritz

    This week we give AIRtime to colleague Carrie Sessine.

    Long live local news

    I’ve always loved local news … the daily newspaper that was delivered in the afternoon (as it was then), the weekly community paper (that I delivered for 2¢ a paper) and the broadcast news at 5. By reading and paying attention to the news I felt part of the community and in the know about what was happening in the world.

    But for some time I’ve wondered about the value of local news both as a consumer and a public relations professional. Typically, the 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. news broadcasts are “old news” with the availability of “Breaking News” alerts from newspapers; updates through Facebook and Twitter; and full, updated news stories placed on websites 24/7. So, how many people are really watching the TV news? Do people read the paper cover-to-cover anymore? Who reads other sections of a newspaper website in addition to the online article they accessed?

    Two recent items made me pause to re-evaluate the value of local news. The first was a survey by Hearst Television Inc. which found that local TV news serves as a major part of people’s daily routine. This I found notable given all the other “news getting” tools available to viewers/readers. The second was a white paper titled, “Rethinking Public Media”.

    Local news outlets, like Patch.com and others, provide value beyond simply reporting the news; these outlets help build and strengthen the communities they serve. While neighbors check out news and pictures of the high school’s Nutcracker performance or the activities by the Chamber of Commerce, they also learn about the lighting of the National Christmas tree and what the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” means to current and veteran service members.

    Looking at this through the public relations lens, local news provides opportunities, and I don’t mean advertising. For a small, medium or large-sized business in a community, these local outlets offer heightened awareness of a person, product or service and position the company as a resource – all through a credible, trusted news outlet. For example, the director of a local, well-known art center is writing a weekly column about art benefits and activities for her online community outlet; this enhances the position of her business and directly reaches potential new students.

    As I look to 2011 and opportunities for clients, outreach to engage local media is a must-do item.

    … And tonight, like many of you, I will be checking the news – likely TV – to watch Santa’s path for my kiddos … unless my children have downloaded an app for that on my iPhone by then … Merry Christmas!


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