This public relations how-to article explains how to push the limits of news.
In the rush to get out that next news release, blog post or tweet it’s easy to ignore the fundamentals of journalism.
That’s okay, but only if all you want are PRNewswire mentions, web content and, hopefully, some inbound links.
But if you aspire to Next Level PR—the kind of public relations that generates exposure in A-List traditional and online media, establishes your CEO as a thought leader, influences stakeholders, builds brand equity and generates qualified leads, then you must push the parameters of journalistic fundamentals to their limits.
MediaCollege.com lists the five basics of a news story to which Pirozzolo Company has added an additional five to help you get your client to Next Level PR.
Let’s consider each one and how they can turn a ho-hum public relations campaign into a news-making powerhouse.
Timing – people want to know what’s happening now as in “what’s new?”
As Media College states, “A story with only average interest needs to be told quickly.”
However, the enemy of corporate public relations timeliness is a multi-level review requirement for every routine release, tweet and blog post. It is far better to establish corporate guidelines for news releases as well as Social Media behavior, than having to review every bit of external communication. Sure mistakes will be made, but for the most part they can be corrected. Overall the campaign will be more effective if the C-Suite empowers employees serve as ambassadors of the brand and communicate with the best interests of their organization in mind.
Significance – A plane falls from the sky and everyone is killed; now that’s news. If everyone walks away, as they did in Miracle on the Hudson, that’s really big news. Walk away from a car crash in the Vons parking lot and it’s a snore.
Significance. though is in the eye of the beholder. Let’s say you’re promoting a new app. Think about who the product matters to and focus on its significance for that audience. Too many news releases tout new technology as a state-of-the-art world-changer and a disrupter. Overreaching is counter productive, reduces creditability and will turn off editors and your target market.
Likewise, don’t think about significance only in terms of the market and investors. How does the new product impact employees and their families, does the new technology make the company a more progressive employer and thus more attractive to job seekers, does it open up opportunities for speaking engagements, how does the new product square with the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility culture and goals?
In the case of American Polyfilm's grand opening of its new manufacturing facility in Branford, Connecticut we capitalized on the national effort to encourage "Made in America" and hit all the notes in terms of significance to the local community, market reliability, and underscored the company's commitment to being a good corporate citizen, thus epitomizing the future of American manufacturing. CEO Victor Cassella underscored the importance of government-business cooperation in his remarks at the event.
Cassella told well-wishers, “We have received ongoing support from the U.S. Small Business Administration, and Community Investment Corporation as well as The Guilford Savings Bank.
"The cooperation we experienced between our business and government agencies, clearly demonstrates the role government can play by encouraging forward-looking, energy-efficient, clean industries that support well paying jobs to locate and expand in the U.S.”
Proximity – Proximity isn’t only geographic. Media College advises that proximity can also describe a cultural, historical or social bond. Australians care about events in Singapore, because of its geographic proximity and the UK because of its cultural and historical proximity. Similarly, an event occurring in Israel will have more of an impact on Americans than one in Iceland.
Prominence – Pirozzolo Company has represented clients that are international household names. We have also established our clients’ prominence within geographic proximity or a community of interest such as the financial services, foreign exchange, cybersecurity, or medical electronics sectors.
Human Interest – Human interest stories, says Media College, “… often disregard the rules of newsworthiness; for example, they don't date as quickly, they need not effect a large number of people, and it may not matter where the story takes
For example, when Boston business leader Jeffrey Ornstein, CEO of J/Brice Design, was about to lose a valued employee whose visa had run out, he launched not only a legal battle, but retained Pirozzolo Company to fight her case in the court of public opinion. Ornstein won and the employee, a talented young designer, remained working in the US, thanks in-part to a number of media outlets that underscored her value to the American economy including Wicked Local.
In addition, to these news fundamentals, consider Pirozzolo Company’s Next Level PR Basics: Controversy, Humor, Story, Consistency and Simplicity.
Controversy – More than anything, the media love controversy, something the President of the United States has mastered to control nearly every news cycle.
We constantly scan the media for current events and issues. More recently we capitalized on the controversy involving Russia hacking our elections and tied it to the Republican National Convention to generate coverage for Stealthcare, a cybersecurity consulting company. The firm's CEO appeared on CBS-TV Cleveland and other national business and professional media outlets where he commented on the foreign involvement.
Humor – There are times when funny will get you a lot more positive exposure than deadpan.
Washington Post humorist and syndicated columnist Gene Weingarten once interviewed our client Hilla Ovil-Brenner, founder of WhiteSmoke, a turbocharged writing engine that includes advanced editing and spellchecking.
Columnist Weingarten quipped that Ovil-Brenner probably didn’t like it when people learned to spell because it would hurt her business.
She quipped back, “If I sold plus-size fashions, that would not mean I want women to be fat, it means I want them to feel good, look good and be successful in their lives. Just like WhiteSmoke helps people with become more successful communicators….”
The WhiteSmoke-Weingarten interview was hilarious and got picked up by newspapers nationwide. Product sales soared.
Story – Too often organizations forget that their CEO is a real life person whose heart, skills, challenges, obstacles and conflicts make for far more interesting reading than canned quotes about how, “Delighted we are to announce Rebecca as the new VP engineering at Techno Pants Corp.”
Stop sanitizing CEOs. Let them be human, let them talk about how they resolve conflicts with the board of directors, investors or the government and include information about their personal relationships and activities. Make them come alive. We love knowing about Ben and Jerry, Jobs and Wosniak, Bill and Melinda and Richard Branson because we see them as real people with exciting, committed lives. Few people know anything about the CEO of Dell or American Airlines and their PR suffers.
Consistency – While representing institutional investment managers, a journalist once mused, “How come 75% of all money managers are in the top quartile when it comes to their performance releases?” That’s because the poor performers hide in the weeds when their numbers are down and emerge only when their numbers are up.
Want to win the respect of journalists, build credibility and generate positive press over the long haul? Be accessible when the news is bad. Get it out, get it done and move on. When it’s time to deliver good news, you will be far more credible and will have a trusting relationship with the editors and reporters. They will credit your for your candor and their coverage will be more positive and prominent when the news is good.
Simplicity – Keep it simple. How many times do we use jargon like OEM, FX or Q4 without thinking that the journalist who makes the first cut on a news release might be new to manufacturing or finance to say nothing of the reader. Journalism critics note that The Wall Street Journal, whose readers are supposed to be mostly business types, does better job of explaining business and financial terms than a The New York Times, whose readership is more general.
Kim Wallace of the market research firm Wallace & Washburn in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and author of “Why People Don’t Buy Things,” puts it this way: “Liken new concepts to what we already know. If you want to reach customers who had never seen snow tires before and need to explain their benefit say: They are like snowshoes for your car. Everyone will understand the concept instantly."
Try to incorporate these news-making criteria into your next public relations foray—if you want to establishes your company’s CEO as an influencer, maximizes awareness and build brand equity.
That’s Next Level PR!
Dick Pirozzolo is Managing Director of Pirozzolo Company Public Relations in Boston, whose PR campaigns have helped startups become publicly traded companies or be acquired by major public corporations. Dick lives in Wellesley, Massachusetts.