Posts filed under ‘Writing’

From How PR is Getting Better.

I write about things I think are important in public relations, and sometimes that means commenting on bad moves by my colleagues. I get tired, however, of the wholesale and unsupported criticism of public relations. Beth Monoghan wrote a great piece about how public relations is improving. It appeared in her blog ( and in PR Daily.  Thanks, Beth, for giving me permission to republish this. It’s definitely worth a read. 

In the early days of my PR career, I stood in the mailroom with a stack of a hundred or so cover letters sending out blast faxes to newsrooms as our press releases crossed Business Wire.

That same period saw me making late-night runs to Logan Airport, where the very last FedEx pickup happened around midnight as I rushed to get five boxes of press kits—which we’d been stuffing that evening—to Las Vegas in time for the opening of NetWorld + Interop the next day.

Inevitably, we’d outsource the press kits, receive them in the late afternoon, and discover all too late that a page was missing, so we’d take them all apart and redo them ourselves.

I can’t remember the last physical press kit I’ve seen or the last fax I’ve sent to a reporter. Today, our addiction to email and social networks has fundamentally changed the way in which PR professionals connect with reporters.

We used to call pitching “smiling and dialing” when I was just out of college, but caller ID put a quick end to stalker-style PR. And that is a good thing. It means that relationships, research, and quality content matter now more than ever.

Though many can argue the inherent lack of wisdom in 140 characters, the need to cut through that din with thoughtful, compelling, and divergent points of view makes public relations a more exciting profession. We have to be more creative and know our facts like never before. So, without further ado, here is my list of the six ways in which I believe PR has changed for the better:

1. Blast emails are going the way of blast faxes.

No one has ever liked bulk mail. I remember building long lists of reporters’ email addresses so we could send out our press releases when they crossed the wire. Inevitably, the mail merge wouldn’t work and Jane would receive a message that began, “Hello, Frank.” Thankfully, this is (almost) a thing of the past. We don’t allow blast emails at InkHouse. They don’t work. Personal emails related to a reporter’s area of interest have always been the best route, and today it’s the only route.

2. Quality content matters.

We used to struggle for the press to tell our clients’ stories in the words we’d like them to use. Today, the opportunity for quality content is practically endless. Companies have vast opportunities to seed, syndicate, and curate their own points of view and position themselves as thought leaders. However, the only way to do this is to have something interesting to say that is truly different. It’s not enough to agree with your peers.

3. New channels.

Between press releases we used to rely on trend stories, customer case studies, speaking engagements, and awards to maintain momentum and buzz for our clients. These tools are still important, but social media and blogging open up new channels every day. There might be a community just for cloud-based customer service that is eager for content. You may have a blog post on mobile travel technology for executives that Forbes wants to publish. Or maybe your point of view on the Groupon IPO is so unique that you are lighting up Twitter and the LinkedIn Groups about daily deal sites. Opportunities are out there, and they can drive real engagement, conversations, and even traffic. Good PR people know how to find them and how to engage in them.

4. Relationships matter more.

Media relations has always been about relationships. I have always believed that PR professionals should treat journalists as clients—we should help source information and experts even when it does not benefit our own companies or our clients. Social media has made relationships easier, which is the good news. However, you have to participate to be in those conversations. Yes, Twitter does matter for PR professionals! It’s a different kind of relationship, but suddenly PR people have instant access to real-time information about reporters’ stories, opinions, and deadlines. If we pay attention, there are volumes of useful information. The trick is organizing the onslaught into something easily perusable; I highly recommend Twitter lists organized into TweetDeck columns!

5. PR drives SEO.

It’s no secret that reporters aren’t using the wire services as news sources. In a recent conversation, Jon Swartz of USA Today said that he hasn’t looked at Business Wire or PR Newswire in more than five years. However, the wires do provide an important source of search engine optimization juice. Of course, this assumes that you are maximizing your keywords terms in your press releases, but if you are you can do your company or client a great favor and drive some traffic.

6. We can measure results.

I remember the days when we provided reports on circulations, which we multiplied by two-and-a-half to get impressions. We were mirroring advertising measurement models, and we knew that it wasn’t an appropriate comparison back then, but it was all we had. Today, there are lots of ways to measure PR success: Klout scores, Technorati Authority rankings, engagement through social channels (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), name your favorite new social measurement tool. My favorite tool is Google Analytics and its handy annotation feature. We can show how PR achievements—press clips, blog posts, conferences, keynotes, Twitter chats, you etc.—drive traffic. We can also see which PR activities are driving traffic through the top referral sites.

Beth Monaghan is a principal and co-founder of InkHouse Media + Marketing. A version of this story originally appeared on the InkHouse blog.



June 30, 2011 at 2:07 pm

Will charging to read the news change how we pitch story ideas?

More and more newspapers are considering bolstering their financials by charging readers for content, according to an article posted last week in American Journalism Review.  The article discusses the dilemma from a publisher’s point of view, but I can’t help wondering what it means for those of us working with reporters and editors to tell our clients’ stories.

 Reporter Cary Spivak, of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, says some papers are charging for all of their content, others are using a meter system and others charge for special stories. Spivak also says some of their content will continue to be available without charge.

How will this change the way a reporter or editor evaluates information we give them? Will publications skew their news coverage by making available more stories that people will pay for, rather than stories that have important political and social impact? Will they ignore stories that might not be as exciting or that don’t sell as well as others?  Will they look for spokesperson stars (“spokestars”?) instead of quotable, knowledgeable people?

If any of these answers are affirmative, it could mean we will have to change how we develop and pitch story ideas. Perhaps we will have to put reputation and point of view in the backseat behind sellability.  Or maybe we will have to pick our spokespeople based on star-ability rather than credibility. 

This is a scenario that could have grave consequences for our profession and our democracy. Of course, if we’re doing our jobs well now, our spokespeople are knowledge and well-spoken and, if we’re lucky, approaching spokestar quality. The stories we’re pitching should be developed to not only present our point of view and bolster our clients’ reputations, but to be exciting, full of information and something that should help a reporter tell a story others will want to read, even if they have to pay for it.

But the idea of stories being judged on their ability to get people to open their wallets instead of their minds gives me pause. What do you think?

February 27, 2011 at 5:10 pm 4 comments

I think I’ll just headlinize right here

From the Language Studies Dept: There’s a special place in the hereafter for those who deliberately and with malice aforethought murderize the English language. I don’t mean someone who splits an infinitive or fails to have parallel subject and predicate. I mean someone who speechifies crazily to falsely impressivate or to shroud the truth. I don’t expect clergy to engage in such behavior, but then, again, why not?  

Such was the case at a terrific concert (concertation?) put on last month by six cantors and a highly accomplished accompanist. While the music was beautiful, I was distressed to read that the New Jersey Cantors Concert Ensemble (ready?) “concertizes to promote education.”  Concertizes? We should educationize the members about the English language.

When are people going to stop thinking that using “ize” sophisticateizes words? These attempts to make language more flowery or important (importantize?) are not that unusual. A writer’s attempt to sound smart and sophisticated usually winds up obfuscating or completely changing the meaning of a sentence and, perhaps, a document.

What are the craziest words you’ve seen lately?

June 29, 2010 at 12:23 am

This thought might give you some paws: What do people compare you to?

Hamlet, always loyal and loving, is never far from us.

We spent Sunday afternoon at a cat show and I came away with two thoughts. 

The show was our first TICA cat show, and we kept running into breeds we hadn’t seen at CFA cat shows. My first thought was that we were pretty impressed with Bengals,   Cymric and Toyger, some of the breeds we hadn’t seen before and that you don’t see at CFA shows.  As beautiful as those cats were, Hamlet, our beautiful Norwegian Forest Cat, still takes best of breed, show and everything else in our book, even if he “non-show quality.” 

The second thing that impressed me — negatively — is how many breeders and alleged experts extolled the virtues of their cats and their breeds and summarized those traits by saying their cats were “just like a dog.”  

 I don’t think Hamlet would take kindly to being compared to a dog. And for those trying to impress me with their breeds, I say this: If I wanted a dog, I wouldn’t be at a cat show. 

 It makes me think about how we compare our brands. It also makes me wonder what people use to describe the brand that I represent.

I can’t control what others say, but I can certainly make sure that I don’t distract from my message with a distracting metaphor. It’s bad enough to say a product is the “Rolls Royce” or the “Cadillac” (for this post, should I spell it Cat-illac?) of its category. Used in writing, these expressions are trite, and I can imagine some customer thinking, “If I wanted a car, I’d go to the car dealer.” 

Granted, Rolls Royce and Cattie (I couldn’t resist) have earned their spot in our lexicon to mean best of breed. But I can’t help but feel that if we really want to extol the virtues of the products we are writing about and elicit the appropriate emotional response, we’ll take a little extra time, invest a little extra thought and choose to say what we mean without resorting to clichés or  muddy, disconcerting comparisons.

 While failing to do so certainly wouldn’t be a cat-astrophy, it’s in the cat-alog of things I hope to do better this year!

January 11, 2010 at 1:08 am 2 comments



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