June 29, 2008

Finding the Right Words

Posted in A walk on the "dark side", Who was the advertising genius... tagged , at 3:56 pm by R

In public relations, we function as writers a good deal of the time. As such, it should be expected that we will each encounter that dreaded phenomenon — writer’s block.

Struggling to find just the right word to describe a client’s product, mission or service is laborious but critical. I have, for example, a client who has recently released a new beverage which is quite good. The first ingredient on the list is tea, but the company wants to be known for more than that. They want this to be referred to as something that hearkens the nature of it’s name.

It’s called Revolution 3D. It’s super fruit juices (blueberry, pomegranate, mango, green apple) vitamins (B & C) and white tea. I’m not saying this because anyone has asked me to…this stuff is really good. So good in fact that I have to tell my self “no you can’t have ANOTHER can today.” It’s all too easy to zip to the break room and crack another open (those pomegranates go fast!)

The conundrum is this: Although 1/3 tea, it’s not an iced tea; though 1/3 fruit it’s not a juice; though 1/3 vitamins it’s not a vitamin enhanced water. So what exactly is it?

  • Multi-dimensional beverage — yes
  • Active lifestyle beverage — yes
  • Something more than this in description for potential buyers and media — yes

To find the exact words that convey what this new-to-market product is requires real genius that I’m not delivering on today.

Let’s try a few on for size here. (Bear with me please):

  • Revolution 3D: The drink with a certain je n’ais se quois.
  • Revolution 3D: Un-tea-licious
  • Revolution 3D: A whole new dimension of refreshment
  • Revolution 3D: Makes other drinks quiver in their 2D boots?

Like I said, I’m just not dead on today. Someone go grab a few cans and help a sister out! It’s available only in Arizona right now (because the company empathizes with the triple digit temperatures and decided we needed something refreshing and very cold immediately). So if you are in Arizona, run to an AJ’s, grab one and give me a suitable definition to share with future sippers and media.

~Robyn

June 27, 2008

Working with Rockstars…

Posted in A walk on the "dark side", Personally... tagged at 4:24 pm by R

No, not the real kind. I’m talking about the kind of people who swoop in to save the day, pull your hide from the fire and in general are life savers who don’t ask for much other than an experience. That’s right, I’m talking about rockstar interns.

I happen to have three FANTASTIC interns this summer, all of whom will make phenomenal PR practitioners one day because they like to get their hands dirty. They dial for dollars with enthusiasm, build bang up, well researched media lists, shift through mounds of articles to find the prize statistic and they do it with a smile.

I had a massive project with a deadline of oh, nano seconds. Jessie, Caitlin and Lauren all threw themselves at it and as of 4:30 on a Friday, they had helped me see it through to completion.

I am so grateful to these women who hear me rant and don’t get scared, crack jokes just when everyone needs it and come in with the winning attitude that will make them outstanding professionals in this field one day.

Ladies, here’s to you and rockstar interns everywhere. Remember, when it feels like bitch work, it probably is, but some one is very grateful to you for doing it well. Today, that person is me.

Starbucks on me Monday!

~Robyn

June 26, 2008

A Good Story

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:59 am by SD

I love a good story. In fact, I could listen to stories all day long. But, you know what is even better than listening to a story – telling a good story. Thus, the reason I am in the business of PR. I help tell my clients stories on a daily basis so before I start spouting off my thoughts here on this blog, let me share my story.

I’m a twenty something PR “pro” (I use the term loosely) working for an integrated  PR/Advertising/Branding/Marketing agency in Denver. I’m lucky to work with a team of talented and smart individuals and I have truly interesting clients with great stories to tell. I focus heavily on community relations, media relations and expert positioning with a little public affairs and event planning sprinkled in there. All in all, I would say I have a pretty good gig going for me.

If you had asked me when I was 10 what I wanted to be when I grew up, I definitely would not have said PR. Honestly, I had no idea what PR was until I showed up to my Intro to PR class my sophomore year of college and from then on it was love at first sight. Well, maybe not love, but it was a good fit for me!  A million press releases, PR plans, public speaking classes, several internships and a move from the Northwest to Denver later, I was in my first full-time PR gig for a small firm here in Denver. I spent a few years during consumer electronics PR and public affairs and then I landed at my current position. Now I focus on PR in the energy and professional services sectors.

My limited free time (PR is so not a 9-5) is spent enjoying the 300+ days of Colorado sunshine with my husband and dog, running, trying new restaurants, scoping out the latest fashions, cooking, catching up with friends or traveling. You’ll often find me with my nose in a book, the newspaper, a magazine or anything else I can get my hands on. I’m an active member of the Junior League and PRSA.

Whew. . . there you have it, my abbreviated story.

June 24, 2008

When There Is No News…

Posted in A walk on the "dark side" tagged at 7:52 am by R

More than once a client has said to me, “So I’m having a party…” or “I just made a fifty dollar donation to…” and they think that it’s news. (Insert full-body shudder here.)

It’s then my sad duty to tell them — in the nicest way possible — no respectable member of the media gives a crap about a get together or a donation that isn’t followed by a significant amount of zeroes. It’s then my duty to say something constructive like, “But let’s think of some other unique ways we can get your company’s name in the news.”

And just how do you find ways to do that? I’ve come up with a few tricks I’m willing to share.

  1. Read, read, read: Get your nose in every paper, magazine, industry newsletter, mainstream website and celebrity blog you can find. (Yes, seriously celebrity blogs. I’ve had at least two ideas from a certain Mr. Hilton’s blog generate fantastic stories.) Brilliant ideas show up in unlikely places. It’s up to you as a PR practitioner to scavenge for opportunities to plug your clients into the news and create valuable media angles.
  2. Get Creative: Is there a current event with an angle that’s been untapped? What questions are you asking as you read articles about a client’s industry? Does your client have the answer? Go beyond the face value of an article. Did a quote or a certain line trigger a new idea or perhaps not address something your client is an expert on? Asking these questions and providing your feedback about a story gives you an opportunity to create a relationship with the reporter based on their work and it will get them to rethink their latest creation in terms of your client. Bingo!
  3. Get to know the employees and customers: The behind the scenes people are the ones who give a brand character. TELL THOSE STORIES! Does the CFO do some amazing work with a charity? Did the executive assistant just finish her first marathon? Has the building operations manager overcome something extraordinary? Are there a group of employees who stand out (all female execs, three brothers, mother-daughter, father-son, twins)? Has a particular customer appealed to the team internally? Chances are if that story resonates internally, it’s likely to touch other important audiences.
  4. Get behind an issue: It’s an election year. Now is a great time to stand for something. Every city and region has its own important issues and it’s vital for you to know what they are and how your client(s) can appeal to audiences who have a strong steak in the topics that are emerging in this election. Is it green? Is it economy? Is it immigration? (Actually, maybe don’t go there.) The point is stand for something, even if it’s just as simple as VOTE. (That may actually be the most important issue of all 😉 )
  5. Be Controversial (if you dare): This is not for everyone. Many clients just aren’t prepared to play the part of instigator. This point goes hand-in-hand with #4. You have to stand strongly for something and insert yourself into a current event. It’s playing devil’s advocate in the public eye. If your client has a strong stance, a bold spokes person and their brand has a thick skin, this can be a great way to get publicity. But PR pro beware, this has potential to backfire, so play your cards VERY carefully.

Next time you are faced with a truly frightening PR suggestion, breathe, and look around you, there are story ideas seeping out of every page (web and print). Use what’s in the media to create an advantage in the media.

~Robyn

June 23, 2008

Flack, Hack and Talking Smack

Posted in A walk on the "dark side", Spin tagged , at 3:16 pm by R

Yes, yes, the title of this Public Relations-based blog does include the term “flack.” As addressed in the inaugural post, it’s meant to be a play on words, not embracing the nature of this somewhat abrasive PR slang.

Gil Schwartz (more commonly known by his pen name Stanley Bing) addressed this topic eloquently in his opinion piece on CBS Sunday Morning (Mom, thanks for the call. I would never watch this show if it weren’t for you tipping me off to segments of interest). Schwartz submitted a rebuttal to CBS reporter and legal analyst Andrew Choen’s sharp criticism of the Public Relations industry following the debut of former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan’s book.

Cohen says:

Show me a PR person who is accurate and truthful and I’ll show you a PR person who is unemployed.

Well color me offended! I’m accurate and honest AND I have a job…so there!

Schwartz, who is also CBS’ Executive Vice President for Communications, agrees with me. And he does an excellent job of telling Mr. Cohen why he is quite wrong and telling viewers why public relations is, indeed, vital to the news they rely on.

Schwartz says:

PR people aren’t even on the list (of Top Five Professions Rife with Liars). Because in general, we only lie when we are lied to by our clients.

It takes truth and accuracy from all parties involved to create outstanding public relations efforts, to build impeccable brands and to produce brilliant journalism. When one piece of this triangle of relationships doesn’t up hold those principles…well the whole thing goes to bits.

And as scathing as Cohen’s remarks were, I think Mr. Schwartz quite shut down the flimsy argument with the fine art of his profession. The finest point of which is this:

PR and journalism are two sides of the same profession. So play nice, huh!

Amen Mr. Schwartz. Amen.

~Robyn

June 20, 2008

A (Baby) Bump in the Road

Posted in In the news, Uncategorized tagged , at 7:16 pm by R

I saw the most disturbing thing ever on the Today Show this morning. A whole slew of high school sophomores at Glouster High School in Glouster, Mass. DELIBERATELY got pregnant. None of them is older than 16.

The Today Show segment featured comments from the Time Magazine writer who broke the story, the lovely & talented Kathleen Kingsbury. She noted that some of the girls wanted the unconditional love and security of being something, someone…a mother.

But I wonder if the influence isn’t compounded by the decreasing availability of jobs in the city of Glouster or even past a desire for immense love. Could the media play a role in this?

By no means am I asserting that the media is solely responsible for the decisions of these young ladies. Nor am I saying that new mother Jamie Lynn Spears recent, public pregnancy is why, for the first time in years, there’s been a rise in teen pregnancy. But there is something to be said about the pervasive coverage of pregnant celebrities. It’s become this weird status thing.

If you stand in line at a grocery store, chances are you’ve seen a pregnant celebrity lately. I’ll list a few (because, I can’t tell a lie, I get US Weekly, People AND OK magazine delivered to my house – a bit shameful but true): Nicole Kidman, Angelia Jolie, Ashlee Simpson and, of course, Jamie Lynn Spears.

Jamie Lynn’s pregnancy is the one that really sticks out for me with respect to this Glouster situation. She is a 17 year old girl. She’s the one these girls in Glouster can relate to. But can they really? Uhhh…NO. They aren’t TV stars from a family who can offer every advantage and support a new baby too. I certainly don’t know what their individual circumstances are, but my guess is none of them is independently a millionaire.

When Jamie Lynn’s pregnancy was announced on the cover of OK Magazine, people asked what kind of consequence her situation might have on young girls who look up to her. Well, I think we know now. But someone has been telling that story all along. (Read: Someone has been sugarcoating this all along and now teenage women are CHOOSING teenage pregnancy because it seems acceptable, even cool.)

The most ironic (and maybe even appropriate) twist to this story is, the day the Time story made its debut, so did Jamie Lynn’s baby. A girl. Maddie Briann.

As publicists and marketers we are supposed influence teen girls want a certain pair of jeans or some celebrity’s new fragrance, not to make life decisions that will effect their existence. The third party editorial endorsement (simply by being included in pages of popular culture magazines) is strong medicine.

Let’s make eating healthy, exercising regularly, loving your body, being green, serving your community, loving yourself the status symbols. Why aren’t we lavishing praise and adoration on people and celebrities who achieve these things in balance?

As much as I’m guilty of digesting the information in celebrity gossip magazines, guessing if people are sporting baby bumps, commenting on weight loss, weight gain, questionable red carpet outfits, etc., I like to believe that as a part of the media process I can help lift up the content; help lift up the readership through content with substance.

I hope it all works out for these girls and for the youngest Spears…I take that back, the SECOND youngest Spears.

June 19, 2008

The Power of Nice

Posted in Uncategorized, Who was the advertising genius... tagged at 8:10 pm by R

Linda Kaplan Thaler, advertising maverick and author of the book “The Power of Nice” is a genius.

Not only has the woman built a billion dollar ad agency from the ground up and continues to win Cleo after Cleo, but she’s hit upon, what I believe, is the real key to success in today’s business climate, especially as a young female professional.

Anything negative that you do can go anywhere, thanks to cyberspace and active online social networks. Why risk it, especially when kindness is so clutch!

I’ve dealt with people who use nasty as a tactic to get their point across. I’ll shoot them down everytime with a smile and sweet words. Guess what, they ALWAYS back down. They come down to my level, a kind one. Once you are on an even emotional playing field, that’s when great things happen. That’s when things get done.

I saw Linda on Donny Deutch’s Big Idea this evening. They were discussing power and I happen to agree that nice is the best way to be get what you want and be the most effective. That being said, I think they missed just why nice works so dang well. When someone gets angry, they give their power to their emotions. To get things done you have to keep your power.

Success and power, require that you stay in control. Deflecting a client’s snippiness and addressing them with kindness shows them that you have the power in the situation…and you are a gracious enough person to share it.

In as much as my job is to manage public images in the media and among key stakeholders, it’s also to be a powerful female communicator who shows clients how to be nice, powerful people. Emphasis on nice.

June 18, 2008

Heaven. Heaven. Heaven…Russert By a Landslide

Posted in Political Punditry tagged , at 8:29 am by R

Today’s post title comes from a white board laid outside the Washington D.C. Bureau of NBC News in honor and rememberance of a remarkable newsman and stellar human being, Mr. Tim Russert.

If you’ll recall, this is actually a play on one of the most iconic statements made in politics during the 2000 election. When asked what Tim Russert thought the close race between George W. Bush and Al Gore came down to on that election night, he wrote this:

Florida

Florida

Florida…

Bush by a landslide.

Just as Tim Russert was spot on about the 2000 election, so was the witty individual who laid that white board down on the side walk. It brought hot tears to my eyes and a little smile to my face too.

I have been a long time admirer of Tim Russert. He was the reason I wanted to be in broadcast journalism. He was the reason I was fascinated with politics. When he took the helm at Meet The Press, my parents and I watched every Sunday. His purpose was to inform the viewers. I loved that about him!

That principle was never more evident that during the 2008 primaries. You had to love his enthusiasim! The excitement Tim Russert had for this round of politics was palpable through any TV set. He could feel that we were all participating in history.

Upon news of Tim’s passing last Friday, I cried. Publicly. At a Jewish deli around the corner from my office. (Which has a great bagle and lox, by the way.) Tim Russert was an inspiration to me. I never ended up in broadcast journalism, but I’m a political junkie and a great admirer of the news.

The thing that makes me sure that the title to this post is the truth is the fact that, in addition to being a fantastic reporter, Tim Russert was a phenomenal human being. And his Jesuit background only adds to his greatness in my own very humble opinion.

All I know is this: It’s gonna be one heck of an election if God feels like He needs Tim Russert by His side to  sort this one out.

Here’s to you Mr. Russert.

~Robyn

June 17, 2008

Background.

Posted in Personally... at 11:35 am by seattleprgirl

Whenever I’m tasked with developing key messages for clients around a new announcement or product I begin by looking at how they got there. Background is one of the most important parts of PR (and my day to day life) because how can you understand something without knowing the background on where it came from?

Thus, me.

I started my PR career directly following my graduation from Gonzaga University. In the summer of 2005 I moved to my dream city…San Francisco…where I immediately began working for an international tech PR firm. My background grew into tech through experience, I certainly didn’t think this would be the field of PR I’d chose to work in but I found that I liked it. There is something truly satisfying about translating something very tech focused, engineering slang if you will, and making it tangible for general consumers. By general I mean early adopters, but still, I tend to think that new technology is very exciting.

My most recent move came at the beginning of this year, when I transferred from San Francisco to Seattle. Seattle is my hometown and I’m really excited to be back. I joined a new PR agency when I moved, Hill & Knowlton, and I’m excited to help build the Northwest tech PR practice for the agency. Beyond my love for PR, I am a runner, wine connoisseur and ZAG basketball fan. I’m also planning my wedding, which as a type A planner in my day job, transitions nicely into wedding planning.

And that’s the background on me.

Same old thing all over again

Posted in Spin tagged , at 8:33 am by R

I keep the Today Show on while I get ready in the mornings. Today, Billy Ray Cyrus was on talking about “Nashville Star.” At least he spoke about “Nashville Star” for about thirty seconds. The conversation promptly turned to the Vanity Fair photo shoot and the controversial photos of his daughter Miley.

Call me crazy, but I thought we addressed this in April?

My question is: who suggested that Meridith Viera ask poignant questions about Billy Ray’s presence on set?

If the controversy has all but gone away, why go back? It’s not as though the public is still demanding answers about how a father could have let his fifteen-year-old daughter be photographed provocatively. Six weeks ago — yes. Now — not so much.

When I media train clients, I teach them to keep their power in an interview. I try to give people skill to keep the interview on their terms and get across their messages. Mr. Cyrus could have quickly and easily addressed the question by saying something like:

“That was a learning experience for us as a family. We have learned some important lessons and moved on to more exciting and important things like our new Hannah Montana Movie.”

And poof, you’ve addressed and redirected in two sentences.

Billy Ray, I’m here if you need me.

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