Nine Tips for a Happy Union Between PR Agency & Client

When PR agencies experience “revolving door” client relationships, there are several reasons that go beyond quality of service. With all things being equal that the agency is doing a good job, ill will can still sprout and grow quickly, if service executives aren’t paying attention. Here are a few tips that will preserve client goodwill and ensure enduring relationships:

  1. Call the client at least once a week or more frequently. There is no substitute for face time. One PR colleague took on a new partner and learned the hard way that she was averse to talking with clients, despite his insistence of a weekly call. The partnership didn’t last.
  2. If your policy is not to issue a formal monthly or bi-monthly written PR activity report, call the client frequently with updates. Staying in touch is critical, and there’s no substitute for the PR professional’s voice. Video conferencing saves money and still gives you face time.
  3. Honor your promises to clients; we learned the hard way when we accepted a project, and extenuating circumstances, or so we thought, short-circuited our timeline and we were late with the deliverables.
  4. Create a PR plan and timeline that shows your client exactly what you’ll be doing. Have the client buy into the plan, and once it’s the way you both want it, both of you should sign it. Granted, it’s only a framework, subject to change as opportunities dictate, but it clearly delineates what activities you’ll provide, what is outside the scope of what you’re hired to do, and cost.
  5. When you pitch a new account, avoid word-bloat in the proposal. The number of words doesn’t substitute for “meat and potatoes,” including creativity, strategy, and demonstrable capabilities that make you a stand-out and better for the job than your competitors. Use action verbs, good descriptive language, and above all, create a picture for the prospective client that “shows, not tells.”
  6. Don’t be afraid to disagree with your client on media relations or other aspects of the public relations process. Your client is paying for your expertise. Still, there’s a point at which you don’t argue, and, unless your client is asking something that’s unethical, unprofessional, or illegal, accept it and move on.
  7. Keep time sheets, in case your clients have questions about how you’ve spent the PR activity time they’ve bought from you. This serves another purpose: if you’re putting in hours that eclipse the PR fee and eroding your profit, then you’ll have a case for going back to ask for more fee. The other alternative, especially if you’re on a retainer, is to explain that you must draw back on services and will be glad to roll them over until the following month.
  8. Be aware that in this day of tight budgets and bottom line mentality, many clients don’t like charges for expenses, preferring that they’re charged one fee that includes expenses. This is particularly prevalent in the travel and tourism industry, right now, and it’s often a hardship for the agency.
  9. Created a plan for quantifying the impact of your PR programsMeasure Your Successes. Your clients are interested in results, and by setting benchmarks and goals, you show them return on investment.

 

Communication is Fragile and Open to Misinterpretation

Have you ever had someone email you in monosyllables, giving instructions on a complex issue, only to leave you scratching your head, trying to extrapolate what they mean? Well, it happens all the time, and it’s the surest way to ensure mistakes in translating and acting on instructions in your communication.

Email and messaging apps are used constantly by today’s communicators, because they have their own vernacular, truncating text and allowing a time-deficient writer to hurry through a message and get it to the reader. Great, you say, but it’s not.

Unless you’re an attorney, whose written language is excruciatingly precise, you could be guilty of delivering puzzling, incomplete messages. Unfortunately, you can’t assume that your reader knows what you’re talking about, based upon past discussion of the subject. Information must be within context of what you’re delivering right now, with relevant background and related facts.

Believe it or not, there are simple shortcuts to writing lucid, clear messages that can be created and delivered quickly. Mind Tools – (Twitter – @mind_tools) offers “The 7 C’s of Communication”, which we synopsize here, as a great way to put out clear messages:

  1. Take a minute to organize your thoughts before you start typing or dictating. Be clear in what you intend to write, putting one clear idea into each sentence.
  2. Be concise – stay on point, and stay brief, using short sentences. Your audience doesn’t want to read six sentences, with a lot of filler words, when the point could be made in one sentence.
  3. Support your message with concrete details relevant to the topic. Confusion can reign when the writer gets caught up in superfluous words that are unnecessary for clarity.
  4. Correct grammar and punctuation is critical. Read the message a couple of times before you send it, looking for grammatical errors, including syntax and spelling. Being perceived at literate lends credibility to your message.
  5. A clear communication must be coherent, with a logical order of ideas and thoughts that reinforce the topic.
  6. A complete message provides your reader with all of the tools necessary to be informed and to take action, as necessary. Ask yourself whether your message has a “call to action” as well as relevant information, including names, places, dates, times and such.
  7. Courtesy is an essential component of effective messages, because words can sometimes be taken the wrong way. If you’re uncertain whether to use a particular word, characterization, description, or sentence structure that could trigger the wrong response, rethink it. That’s the beauty of the English language; there are so many clear ways to relate your message, accurately.

Press Release 101 Redux

Brevity in press release-writing has been stated, written, brayed about, beaten into PR neophytes, and taught in college PR classes, exhaustively.  Why, then, are PR people are still sending multiple-page press releases that end up in an editor’s round file, because they’re too lengthy to read, they don’t get to the point in the first three sentences, and the facts are hidden in the fourth paragraph? Moreover, we’re seeing a blurring of lines between promotional and advertising copy that is referred to as a “press release.”  Promotional copy is integral in the marketing process, but it should not be confused with publicity writing. This blog shows some interesting distinctions between ad and publicity writing.

Editors and media staff writers have more to think about nowadays than recycling paper that doesn’t fit their editorial needs. Those hanging on to their jobs are assuming more editorial duties as newsrooms continue to shrink. We as PR professionals can help by creating press releases that fit the standard and by writing promotional copy that is clearly targeted toward the promotion of goods or services.

Publicity writers can ensure that their press release enjoys the best chance of getting used, not to mention that they will save editors a lot of grief:

–Keep releases to one page, at least 1.5 inch linear spacing, with at least .75-inch margins.
–Editors sometimes lift factual copy from a press release, so it’s unwise to send them pdf’s of press releases.
–It’s risky to embed jpegs into a Word document, then copy the text and images into the body of an email. Some recipients receive it garbled, featuring lots of weird code.
–Instead of a multiple-page press release, use one or two back-links that go to a landing page about the service or product mentioned in the press release.
–Note at the top of the release that good images and more background on the product or service is available at… then give the website site or email through which the reader can get more. information.

Thank-You Notes Never Out of Style

Gifts are a funny thing. We receive one, thank the person sitting across from us who just gave it, and that’s it; we’ve done our duty in acknowledging the kindness. Oh, really? I don’t think so. The dearth of written “thank you” cards that are stamped and mailed is a symptom of a host of changes in communications triggered by time constraints, and growth of social media-speak. It can also demonstrate how people feel about the giver and whether it’s worth the trouble of sending a written thank-you note. The giver could be a friend, father, aunt, sister, mother, or brother that the recipient likes, and, certainly, the monetary value of the gift is a benchmark of how important the recipient is to the giver. Unbelievable, then, that many who receive an important gift don’t think about writing and mailing a thank-you card.

I have a theory about this; maybe, it’s because most people have no idea the level of surprise and delight that a giver feels when he or she receives a thank-you note – perhaps because it’s so rare. Hallmark Cards has a cool guide – that makes it easy to get a card done in record time. Even if it’s an email, a written missive emotionally indebts the giver to the recipient.

Publicity Ideas Score Big with Celebrations and Commemorations

Publicists scratching their heads for story ideas need look no further than the commemorative events occurring just about every week in the United States. They’re the perfect occasion around which to build events for a product, service, grand opening, book debut, new attraction, celebrity, award program, or any other commemoration in which publicity is a component.

National Tourism Week will be celebrated May 2-10, 2015, and it’s a great forum for staging events that highlight a client hotel, resort, destination, or travel-related product or service. Build a promotion around the Week, and you’ll be able to ride the wave of national publicity that the U.S. Travel Association generates.

Commemorative dates that celebrate food, such as National Chocolate Mousse Day, Coffee Cake Day, Tater Day and National Grilled Cheese Month provide a host of ideas for themed events that are ideal for drawing attention to a new restaurant, cookbook, or chef through traditional media outlets, or social media. The week after Easter is Egg Salad Week perfect for restaurants and chefs to celebrate the incredible, edible egg™. May is National Salad Month, a perfect vehicle for produce growers and food services.

 A list of monthly food celebrations and holidays can be found at Holidays and Observances.

Here’s a quirky idea for a social media contest: May 12 is Limerick Day, celebrating Edward Lear’s 1846 opus, a Book of Nonsense. Ogden Nash had it right when he wrote his limerick “Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker,” and Isaac Asimov, the naughty master of science fiction, kicked it up notch with “Lecherous Limericks.” If you’re a restaurant publicist create a Facebook or Instagram contest for the best Limerick, and award the winner with a prize suited to the event, product or cause you are promoting.

Believe it or not, there’s a National Bathroom Reading Month celebrated in June. If you represent an author, school or bookstore, slate a book signing at your client hotel or restaurant, and partner with local media to help promote your special event. According to the Huffington Post, while cavemen were relegated to counting rocks to pass the time in the loo, modern man is blessed with a plethora of books designed to keep us amused. Barnes & Noble has them all.

PR is Dead? That’s News to Us

In a recent article in O’Dwyers Communications & New Media magazine, a review appeared about Robert Phillips’ book, Trust Me, PR is Dead. While I think that the terms “PR” and “public relations” should be retired, because few people, even those who are buying the service, understand what it means, it does characterize the channels of communications that many of us successfully practice and whose results we are able to quantify for clients.

Mr. Phillips’ claim that PR is dead isn’t factually correct, because most practitioners know that PR has, instead, undergone a most-welcome evolution. Publicists, for example, have more new media in which to place their messages than ever before. New-media stories can be just as, or more influential than what turns up in magazines, newspapers, print and on electronic media. In the realm of travel publicity, for instance, over 50 percent of today’s travelers book their travel online, which provides payoffs to the publicist placing stories on influential websites and blogs. It serves to demonstrate that travel stories appearing online do generate measurable results.

It was a pleasure to see a rejoinder to Phillips’ claim that PR is dead, by Kathy Cripps, president of the PR Council, who writes: “Whether a firm is helping clients to create dialogue in social communities, engendering trust with their audiences, or moving people to action, it’s PR and it’s never been more relevant.”

6 Tips for Managing PR Activity Time for Profitability and Efficiency

efficiency-profitabilitySmall PR agencies, particularly, are given to servicing their clients until the job is done. The operative words, here, are keeping clients happy, and keeping clients, period.

We love our clients and many become friends, because small agencies work hard at preserving the relationship, with frequent personal and phone meetings, and intense servicing that often goes way beyond the retainer or project fee. Let’s face it, almost everyone works at a paid job to earn a living, and if you’re in business for yourself, you’re mindful of ensuring that client service and overhead do not eclipse a reasonable profit.

Here are a few ways to maintain client goodwill, and save precious time AND your sanity:

  • When you’re pitching the business, be kind to yourself and don’t make promises to the prospective client that you can’t keep. Though you are presenting to make the best impression and to get the business, be clear on what you can provide for the fee you’ve presented.
  • As soon as you win the business, discuss with your client all aspects of what you’ll be handling, then create the PR plan. Invite your client to “buy in” to the program by asking him or her to sign it after all parties agree to the terms. This can even be part of the letter of agreement. Within that plan, reiterate the number of hours you will spend on the account for the range of activities. In our experience, it’s prudent to cover deadlines. For example, how much time will you need to execute each project?
  • Cash flow is king; if you bill your client monthly, bill the 15th of the present month for next month’s fee; include expenses for the previous month. If you can help it, don’t mark anything up, unless you get the client’s permission.
  • Monitor your time, carefully. If you’re charging a retainer for 20 hours per month and you’re experiencing a lot of client pop-ups, such as requests for unplanned-for press releases, let your client know that there may be a surcharge. Better yet, remind him or her that you’ll need to schedule the release into your business calendar, and for that, you’ll need lead time.
  • If you are serving a board of directors, chamber of commerce, travel destination, or a client with multiple constituents, identity early in the relationship who your contact is. Rely on that person to provide you with the material and information you need. They are in the best position to resource everything you require. It’s a huge time-saver.
  • Don’t try to figure everything out yourself. If you need office help, virtual assistants are invaluable, and you don’t have to payroll them. We’ve worked with Christine Buffaloe at Serenity Virtual Assistant Services for some years, and she’s peerless. If you need to advance your education on social media, request to be added to Michael Stelzner’s newsletter list; in our estimation, he’s the best. Joan Stewart , AKA The Publicity Hound, is an original thinker and publicity maven who offers some of the best publicity advice to both seasoned professionals and PR newcomers.

Ten Hooks to Resuscitate the Press Release

Ten HooksThe press release is still alive, but it needs resuscitation. Here’s why: sometimes we forget how little time media have to read our press releases, which is the reason we know to produce only a one-page document, double-spaced. It’s easy to forget, though, especially when a client wants to see scores of facts packed in to a release. Then, it often evolves into a two to three pager, single spaced.

Here are 10 hooks, reminders, if you will, for besting other releases that hit an editor’s desk, and ensuring your news gets read:

  1. Plan the news hook before you ever start writing. You can help shape your hook by using trends that support your subject, and other topical news angles as tie-in’s.
  2. Set your margins at least an inch on both sides of the page and double-space.
  3. Put a date at the top under your contact material, NOT in the dateline. This may seem counter intuitative, but protocol-wise, it’s only the purview of the news media to feature the date in the dateline. One Associated Press Stylebook of the best resources for checking such rules is the .
  4. You only have 10 seconds to get the attention of a busy editor or blogger, so title the release as a veteran traditional media writer would; use a headline that grabs attention. Use caps and lowercase, not all caps, because most of us are distributing releases by email.
  5. Open your release with a sentence that makes the reader want to continue. If you’ve drafted your story and it’s ho-hum, look farther down the first paragraph; you may have buried the perfect lead.
  6. Humor, poignancy, pathos (not melodrama), expressions of generosity, and tie-ins to current events can be components of a first paragraph that takes the reader to where you want him or her to go.
  7. This may seem a no-brainer, but publicity writers sometimes forget to put the most important information in the first paragraph and supporting facts, thereafter.
  8. Media love an articulate writer. Instead of flamboyant words, adjectives and superlatives, try using evocative, descriptive language. After all, you’re “painting” a picture for the reader; it’s a form of “show” don’t “tell.”
  9. Don’t feature a protracted “boiler plate” at the end of your release. People who represent hotels, destination, and resorts, often add these and they simply take up precious news space. A few lines will do.
  10. Write an interesting release with the who, what, when, where and why on one page by using spare prose with hard-hitting action nouns and well-chosen words. Use “active voice” only and no passive sentences.

Redondo Beach, Not Just a Pretty Place

Redondo Beach has just debuted two snappy new videos that capture the energy, excitement, and fabulous events and recreation in Redondo Beach, California. Have a look at this Lobster Festival video. It’s got verve! The Annual Lobster Festival held each September is a smorgasbord of delectable food, some decadent, and all delicious, from succulent lobster, to grilled sausage and lobster Mac ’n Cheese. Everybody gets into the act, with great stage entertainment, booths selling jewelry, hats, and other must-haves, and dishes heaped with corn, rolls, drawn butter, and lobster. Visitors can buy healthy servings of local restaurants’ signature dishes from the food booths before calling it a day.

Next, and just as much fun, is the video about Redondo Beach that offers every reason to visit and spend two or 10 days. It demonstrates that visitors never run out of fun things to do — water sports, recreation, and great dining and shopping. It’s a place where things are happening. Draft beer is an emerging art in Redondo Beach, and Friday’s Farmers Market features a host of fresh fruits, vegetables and prepared foods distinctive to California. The beach and pier supply a never-ending source of activity – from almost any restaurant, the ocean view is sweeping. The Voyager Nature Cruises offer a look at the stunning marine life all around us, and the 27 mile–long scenic strand along the ocean is perfect for beach cruisers, skating, or walking.

Celebrate Halloween With Scary Fun and Pumpkin-Doings at Ventura Harbor Village

greatpumpkinThe Great Pumpkin Family Outing

Through October 2013
Visitors can pick a pumpkin from the McGrath pumpkin patches on Olivas Park Drive, just down the road from Ventura Harbor Village that could be the start of a tradition for family fun that takes in classic arcade games, merry-go-round, waffle cone ice cream, seaside treats including pumpkin lattes and hot cider, and Harbor-side eats! Capture and share a pumpkin photo taken in the Harbor Village or Harbor beaches, and post to Facebook/Ventura Harbor –  – to be entered to win a Whale Watching Family 4-pack of tickets with Islands Packers.

HOWL-O-WEEN – Ventura Harbor Village Costume Pet Contestpetcontest

Saturday, October 26, 2013, NOON
Costumed pets gather at pet-friendly Ventura Harbor Village for a fun and fluffy HOWL-O-WEEN Pet Costume Contest. Prizes for Spookiest, Sea-Worthy, Creative/Original, Best in Show, and more! Every pet gets a “treat”, owners can enjoy pet-friendly dining patios, boat rentals, and waterfront hotel stays.

 

howlingThrill the World Halloween Zombie Dance – Ventura Harbor Village Main Lawn

Saturday, October 26, 2013, 2 pm
Zombies roam Ventura Harbor Village as they prepare to perform the classic Michael Jackson “Thriller” simultaneously around the globe for the world record! Visitors can sign up to participate as a dancer or come to the Harbor and watch zombies by the sea! Proceeds from participants and or dance instruction benefit select charity.