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Action, Interaction and Reaction from the Ritz team

Is your press release DOA?

Posted: June 30, 2011 - 7:30 PM ET - by Elisabeth

More than a few communications professionals are ready to write eulogies for the press release. Until we hear from journalists we work with that they no longer want information in this format, my team and I aren’t ready to write off releases. However, there are a number of alternatives to traditionally formatted press releases.

With careful consideration of the message and the audience, we have had success with these tools … and we thought you might too:

The social media release now rivals traditional press releases in distribution. Using links and embeddable audio, video and photos, this format provides an interactive experience for reporters, bloggers, and even the general public to get the information they want.

“Old fashioned” emails and phone calls are still an effective tool. In fact, in most cases, nothing beats demonstrating your personal knowledge of a reporter’s interests and how your information is relevant.

Blog posts can deliver important information – if the audience you are trying to inform is following your blog. You can generate more attention by announcing new or significant blog posts on Twitter, Facebook and Linked In updates. Other electronic communications, like newsletters and magazine formats, also can be used to deliver information as long as your audience can opt-in rather than receive unsolicited information.

Facebook pages have become an increasingly popular tool for providing updates and information to a self-selected audience. With options to incorporate links, photos and video, the newsfeed has proven valuable in for driving traffic to organizations’ web sites, blogs and YouTube channels.

An increasing number of journalists – as well as organizations and entities from Fortune 500 companies to sports teams to celebrities – use Twitter to “speak” directly to their audience. If you can deliver the news succinctly or link to a web site, video or another source of information, you can use Twitter for anything from a basic tweet to today’s version of a desk-side briefing, the tweetchat.

Video posted on YouTube or hosted on a web site allows you to make your own personalized announcement and can be promoted with links from Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and blogs. In addition, as major news outlets continue to offer online content; many also are including multi-media elements in their stories.

Today our clients’ audiences are much broader than just traditional journalists, and social media has provided unique opportunities to deliver information to these varied stakeholders. We can engage them and make our messages and information come alive with a variety of tools … no more DOA stacks of paper.

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The seven deadly sins of telephone etiquette

Posted: June 16, 2011 - 11:25 PM ET - by Elisabeth

Jerry Seinfeld knew how to get rid of telemarketers …

It’s funny because it’s true!

I know. I had a summer job in high school working for a telephone research company. I was the woman calling you up during dinner to find out if you liked that detergent 1) very much, 2) somewhat, or 3) not at all. It was an awful job … and I heard some of the rudest things I’ve ever heard on the phone!

These days the rudest things I hear on the phone have more to do with how people behave than what they say …

A few recent phone calls and teleconferences made me think about telephone etiquette (maybe I’m paying for my summer job sins), so I created a short and not-so-sweet list of dialing do’s and don’t’s.

Nobody wants to hear you:

  • Eating … The sound of your chewing, sucking or slurping is gross. Call me when you’re done.
  • On a speaker phone … You sound like you’re shouting at me. Pick up the receiver and let’s just chat in normal tones. That’s the beauty of the telephone.
  • Sick … I really do sympathize with getting sick. I’m from Chicago and it’s winter here for about 360 days of the year. But, you have a mute button for your extended bouts of sneezing, coughing and especially blowing.
  • Multitasking … Okay, I know this one too well; I’m guilty of it. I recognize the extended pause when an email has caught your eye and you’ve stopped mid-conversation to read. I know you’re stammering because you have no idea what I‘ve just asked you.
  • Talking “on the go” … I don’t really need to know what you order at the Starbucks drive thru, your latest banking transactions, or that you want two of whatever you’re buying in blue. So take care of business and then call me back and we’ll take care of business.
  • Put them on hold … If you do that to me I might just call you back and ask you to hold while I make a withdrawal and order Starbucks and two blue ones.
  • Somewhere really noisy … We don’t need to hear all the airport announcements, feedback, etc. Again, there’s that oh-so-effective mute button. Use it.

My tongue-in-cheek list may not really be the seven deadly sins of telephone calls, but they are the “we really know better than to’s …” that anyone who conducts business by phone might want to keep in mind.

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From doubt to determination

Posted: June 2, 2011 - 5:32 PM ET - by Elisabeth

The other day Joe Biden asked me, “Why do we doubt our capacity?”

Well, not just me …

but it’s a question I can relate to.

Entrepreneurs know doubt … and how to plow right through it to whatever is on the other side: anything in the spectrum from triumph to disaster. Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I’m pretty open about voicing my doubts. I guess it’s how I avoid letting them turn into fear; it’s my version of peeking under the bed to face what scares me.

What never ceases to amaze me is the amount of support and reassurance I find once I do voice my doubts. Friends and colleagues get it; everyone feels vulnerable and apprehensive sometimes. Speaking up gives me an opportunity to find answers and reassurance.

Despite what you might be thinking, Joe wasn’t asking because of his doubts. While the Vice President’s every gaffe has been highlighted by the media, you wouldn’t have known it from his confident delivery of an impressively articulate and heartfelt speech. He addressed a group gathered at the One Mind for Research forum in Boston on the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s famous “moonshot” speech. Biden compared the national urgency of landing a man on the moon to our current need to advance our understanding of cognitive and brain disorders. His words about the vision, leadership and resolve required to do so were stirring.

Members of the audience certainly knew doubt and fear – men and women who face mental illness and the uncertainty of treatment, physicians and scientists who work to weigh the risks and benefits of  treatments, and soldiers who struggle to readjust to the life of freedom they have provided for the rest of us. These scientists, patient advocates and politicians shared their knowledge in an effort to abolish the stigma of illnesses which marginalize men and women, to unravel the workings of the body’s most complex organ, and to support servicemen and women who return from war with unseen wounds.

The collective dedication to finding answers overwhelmed everyone’s doubts.

I admit well-crafted political rhetoric makes me want to find the nearest flag and wave it, but after the stories of personal triumphs and scientific breakthroughs, Biden’s talk of promises, potential and possibilities made me forget my doubts and remember why I really love what we do at Ritz Communications. We communicate critical health information to people who need it.

I can’t count the number of business seminars I’ve sat through thinking about the company’s mission and vision and “big audacious hairy goals,” but the commitment and enthusiasm at the forum was like a great big reminder waving right in front of me. We communicate critical health information to people who need it – to patients looking for a diagnosis or treatment, to doctors looking for medical data and advancements, to caregivers looking for information and support. We don’t even have to do the hard part with scientific equations and lab rats. We get to use language and communications tools that change and improve daily. We get to make people’s lives better every day that we work hard enough … every day that we contribute to a cause larger than ourselves.

I’ve heard over and over again as I’ve built the agency, “don’t get so caught up working in the business that you don’t have time to work on the business.” Yet all it took was a couple of days of diving back in to remind me what all of the doubting is for … and no-doubt worth.

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