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  • Tag Archive: PR advice

    1. PR Data Insights: How to Benchmark Engagement

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      PR’s access to data has grown exponentially in the past few years, however one of the most frustrating aspects about measuring PR is the lack of industry benchmarks available.

      It’s challenging to set measurement goals without an understanding of how others in your field are faring. In fact, PR may be the last business function to have clarity around how to gauge its performance from an industry-wide perspective.

      This year, AirPR aims to change that by providing clear industry benchmarks for important metrics, like InteractionsThe whole goal of PR is to reach and activate your target audiences, so keeping tabs on changing interaction rates specifically is a must.

      To find PR’s Target Interaction Rate, which is 1.8%, we plotted the distribution of nearly 400 event and goal interaction percentages across our entire customer base, including AirPR’s own site data.

      What are events and goals, anyways?

      Events and goals are designated engagement points your website tracks by way of your analytics provider (typically Adobe Analytics or Google Analytics). Examples include demo requests, content or asset downloads, or video plays.

      This target rate of 1.8% is meant to help you better understand if the aggregate performance of your PR-driven interactions is falling above, below, or on par with the rest of your industry cohorts.

      But that’s just one way to gauge success. Another valuable way to understand performance is to zero in on the specific types of interactions that matter to your brand. While specific interactions differ from business to business, there are general categories we can delve into.

      These include events and goals tied to:

      1. Product Exploration

      Knowing which offerings potential customers are exploring can help you understand what’s of most interest or which value propositions are resonating. AirPR customers have a myriad of ways to track general product exploration.

      Two examples of events and goals that fall into the product-exploration interaction bucket are navigating from a homepage directly to a product page, or a product pricing page view. When we isolated all the events and goals tied to any type of product exploration, the average interaction rate was 2.3%.

      2. Increasing Time on Site

      Getting a potential customer to your website is only half the battle. Keeping them there long enough to explore, understand, and consider your product or service is the other half. There are many ways to increase the amount of time a visitor spends on your website.

      Two examples of events and goals that fall into the increase time-on-site bucket are when a video is played to completion or a live chat function is activated. When we isolated all the events and goals tied to increasing a visitor’s time on site, the average interaction rate was 4.7%.

      3. Product Purchase or Sign Up

      Converting a site visitor to a customer (or trial customer) is the ultimate end goal. And while not all businesses provide the explicit ability for product purchase or sign up, here are two examples of events and goals that fall into this interaction bucket: a trial download/sign up, or an order confirmation. When we isolated all the events and goals tied to product purchase or sign up, the average interaction rate was 0.8%.


      What’s most intriguing, IMHO, is to see how these average rates differ. Product exploration and increasing time on site have much higher average rates than actions that require a deeper commitment, like purchase or sign up.

      It’s also important to note that these average interaction rates are going to look different than in marketing or advertising where conversion paths are far more linear.

      PR-driven visitors might trigger different engagement points based on the content that drove them to your site in the first place. The actions taken by visitors reading a blog post could look very different than the actions taken by visitors driven by earned media.

      In the end, we hope visibility to these categories assists you in setting attainable, realistic targets for incremental growth and provides you a better understanding of the power of PR.

      Got questions about your overall interaction rate? Want to tap into this data point? Reach out to usAnd be sure to stay tuned, because we’ve got more PR benchmarks and data points to share.

       

    2. PR Advice From a Serial Journalist

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      Pitching journalists is a little like meeting with a hiring manager for a job you really want. Before you reach out or meet with them, you spend time researching the interests of someone you never met so you can better anticipate what will appeal to them.

      But wouldn’t it be nice to get inside the head of a journalist so you can discover what motivates them to respond to your pitches? More often than not, whether they reply is one part quality of pitch, one part chance i.e., if their editor has been craving more of a certain type of article and you’ve hit the nail on the head.

      The second best thing to being a fly on the wall in a journalist’s office is getting an intimate understanding of what excites them, which is why I sat down with serial journalist and media entrepreneur Lorraine Sanders.

      You may recognize her from The San Francisco Chronicle, Women’s Wear Daily, and a number of other publications for which she’s written about FEST, a term Sanders coined for her coverage of fashion, entrepreneurship, sustainability, and technology.

      Sanders’ most recent foray in the media takes shape as a podcast and media consultancy: Spirit of 608. Now that the podcast is more than a year strong, she sees the media landscape from seemingly every direction: print, digital, broadcast, and (the flipside) PR. She also recently launched PressDope, an interactive, community-driven alternative to working with agencies that’s catered to the specific needs of FEST companies.

      Here, Sanders shares a bit about how her background as a journalist informs her work as a media entrepreneur, what brands can do to cultivate meaningful thought leadership, and a few things PR pros can do today to make her life as a journalist easier.

      Rebekah Iliff: As a content-producing machine, which platforms do you feel are most effective for building a client’s reputation as a subject matter expert?

      Lorraine Sanders: That definitely depends on the client and brand’s goals. But in every conversation I have about platforms and strategy, it always comes back to this: ultimately, the source of the original content, whether it’s posts on Medium or doing the speaking circuit, has to be comfortable and “into” the process. It’s all well and good to tell someone she’s got to write a guest contributor post for a major website once a week, but if she doesn’t actually connect with the process of doing that, it’s like pulling teeth for everyone involved.

      As long as you’re picking a method and working on a consistent basis to become a real part of conversations that affect your industry, that’s far more effective than choosing a certain platform because it’s the hot place to be for the moment.

      RI: Our data show that when a company is educating the market, showcasing customers, and ultimately being a helpful resource, the effectiveness of their content/PR increases exponentially. What’s one tip you have for helping a company cultivate a reputation of meaningful thought leadership?

      LS: My best advice for brands is to be thoughtful, strategic, and targeted in what you produce. At a time when so many brands feel pressure to sell AND be content machines, it’s important to remember that it’s pretty unusual to be everywhere and do a really good job of it.

      I am a big believer in the power of strategic collaboration through creative events and cross-marketing efforts. If you’re a mission-based brand, pooling efforts with other likeminded companies is a great way to introduce yourself to the exact audiences you want to reach. Often it’s much more interesting to journalists than whatever piece of news you happen to be touting at the moment because it signals something bigger than your company’s agenda is afoot.

      RI: As a journalist, media strategist, and podcast producer at the intersection of fashion, entrepreneurship, sustainability, and tech, what is it about this hybrid space that excites you most?

      LS: There are two primary reasons this space excites me. First, the intersection of fashion, entrepreneurship, sustainability and tech has the power to change the fashion industry for the better, and ultimately make fashion and apparel producers better global citizens.

      After more than a decade writing about the fashion industry, it’s abundantly clear to me that change is needed in all areas from workers’ rights to environmental safety. Luckily, technology is revealing better methods of production and is making the ability to grow new brands not only feasible, but also attractive to independent entrepreneurs.

      That brings me to the second thing I am really excited about: increasing entrepreneurship opportunities for women. It has never been easier to start a business and build a customer base around niche, creative products. That is extremely exciting and uplifting because of what it means for those who produce most of the world’s textiles and for women who deserve economic opportunity outside of the traditional corporate model.

      RI: I love that you say you can’t live without the chance to hear and tell other people’s stories. How does storytelling fit into your workflow and can you give us an example of a recent brand story that blew you away?

      LS: Pretty much every guest of the Spirit of 608 podcast has a brand story that fascinated me, and I try to bring entrepreneurs’ stories into what I do because, honestly, there’s always a good anecdote when a person has gone down the risky road of creating his or her own company.

      I spoke with Olatorera Oniru, a female founder building a Nigeria-based ecommerce company that’s been called the Amazon of Africa. Her story is pretty incredible in and of itself, but it’s also eye-opening in terms of what entrepreneurship and technology could mean in many emerging and developing economies. I literally had chills after we spoke.

      RI: Put your journalist hat on. What are a few things great PR pros do that make your life easier and your stories better?

      LS: The best PR professionals I know have these things in common: they only contact me when they are convinced a story is right for me; they are aware of what I have written recently; and once we are working together, they are responsive and trust me to do my job i.e., they aren’t breathing heavily on the other side of the call I’m supposed to be having with just the source.

      A version of this post appeared on Bulldog Reporter.

    3. Debunking PR Myths One Little Lie at a Time

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      Let me let you in on a little secret… Sometimes when we post here on the AirPR Blog, it’s a test! Over the summer, I published three LinkedIn Pulse articles, a series focused on busting the myths even the most data-driven PR professionals tell themselves.

      As an experiment, we republished those articles with new titles and imagery here on the AirPR Blog. We found that the series garnered more likes and shares on LinkedIn Pulse. Does that mean that we won’t share this type of content on our blog anymore? Hardly!

      While the articles provoked more engagement on LinkedIn (what read at surface level as the “real” success), being able to compare the data we gathered from publishing the articles on two different platforms allowed us to develop a range of new insights to fold into our evolving content strategy.

      The point is that just because you perceive the outcome of one PR move as less impactful for your business than another doesn’t mean that the less impactful of the two wasn’t worth doing, a theory I echo in the first piece in the myth busting series.

      So in an effort of “rewiring” our mentality about PR, let’s review those pesky myths.

      PR Myth 1: It’s not okay to fail.

      IMHO, trying new things and being okay with if they fail is a valiant commitment to learning. Think about marketers! They basically live and die by testing. If they go up to bat and strike out, there’s no pouting. They’ve already moved on to the next experiment by lunch time. What if PR professionals were this scientific? [Read the full post here.]

      Scientific Method of PR

      PR Myth 2: Once the story publishes, your work is done.

      Far from it, my friends. Once you land or publish a piece of content, your work doesn’t stop there; some of the strongest signals lie within the responses to that content. Furthermore, there are a million ways to extend the shelf life of your content beyond what a reporter writes. [More on that here.]

      PR Myth 3: More is better!

      Just like with hot sauce, more is not better when it comes to PR measurement. The bottom line is that it’s no longer good enough to report on impressions, headline views, and AVEs. While these metrics are well and good activity-based metrics, they do nothing to help PR people understand what’s working or what to do next. [Let’s discuss… ]

      Are we missing a PR myth? Tweet it to us @AirPR. We will be first in line to debunk!

       

    4. Fighting Back Against Passive PR Pitches

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      One of the downsides to being a content creating machine is that, inevitably, you will be added to every media database on the planet. Subsequently, you will be pitched everything from Smucker’s new line of technologically-enhanced jams to book releases from a no-name author living in a town you’ve never heard of either.

      It’s rough stuff – this new content world we live in where journalists are confused for brand bloggers and contributing writers are mistaken for news anchors.

      I get it: one has to actually use critical thinking and deductive reasoning skills to figure out what’s what.

      After having an in-depth discussion with one of my fave PR industry folks, Johna Burke (EVP, Burrelles Luce) about this issue at last week’s PR Summit, we concluded that most of the off-beat pitches we get in our inboxes are a direct result of one thing: laziness.

      The day after our lil’ chat, I received yet ANOTHER pitch from a PR pro who had clearly never read one thing I’d ever written, and sent me a 15 paragraph email basically filled with jargon type junk. So I thought: “Ok, I’m going to put on my big girl panties and use this as an opportunity to reach out and give her a chance to redeem herself.”

      Let’s call her “Sugar”. Here is what I wrote back – and has subsequently become my standard response to pitches that don’t nail it. I hope you enjoy:

      REBEKAH’S ROUTINE REPLY TO PASSIVE PR PITCHES

      Hi Sugar –

      What’s the story here? What are you suggesting? I need more meat. I promise that if you can get a journalist/writer 75% of data and information needed to write a compelling story, the probability of getting your story published will increase exponentially, like a million percent.

      Because I’m truly dedicated to PR industry education and innovation, one of my current life goals is now to help folks like you be successful…because I think the more compelling stories we tell, the better off we’ll be.

      Here’s the pitch I would actually read and digest:

      Hi Rebekah,

      I see you write a lot about how important it is for PR and marketing to really engage and reach customers in meaningful ways. I’ve read <XX story> and <XX story> of yours. And wow, you really struck a chord.

      I think one of my clients <INSERT NAME> may be able to forward your narrative with the following specific advice, which means your audience will read what you have written and your content will get spread even further. It’s a win/win.

      Here are 5 things/principles she lives by and the data to support it:

      #1 – X (insert the tip, data to support and possibly a quote)

      #2 – X (ibid)

      #3 – X (ibid)

      #4 – X (ibid)

      #5 – X (ibid) 

      What else can I do to make your very busy and stressful life easier? Coffee? Alcohol? Flowers? More story details? Help me help me you.

      Love,

      Sugar

      See how easy that was, Sugar? In case you don’t have them, here are the links to my author pages at Inc.EntrepreneurMashable.

      If you read through, you’ll get how I write and how to construct stories that may interest me. I’d say this likely applies to anyone who is a contributing writer at a brand. We can turn solid facts/advice into interviews like this…and voila, you’ve done our job for us. Get me there…

      Double win if you can connect me with CMOs and CEOs from brands and companies companies that have thoughts and insights on PR Measurement.

      Sincerely,

      Rebekah

      The best part about all this? I’m not the only one seeking to ban the banality from my inbox. Take a look at the amazingness that ensued following one writer’s decision to respond to every PR pitch with “I love you.” (Special thanks to Greg Galant for sending us this story!)

      And this is just the beginning, peeps. Please join me on my crusade to educate and cajole lazy PR pros into stepping up their game by taking my routine reply and making it your own. The inbox madness must stop.

      Got another great response for lackluster pitches? Please be sure to share in the comments below!

    5. To seem less elusive, PR changes name to Tom

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      Tom McLeod is the personification of PR.

      In other words, if PR were encapsulated in a human being, Tom would be that person. Instead of a crotchety, aging man, unsure as to his ultimate fate (Are we dying? Why is no one responding to my press release dammit!), PR would walk right up to you, ask you how you take your FroYo, tell you you’re pretty and smart and do ya wanna jump on a quick flight to Jersey to meet his mom.

      Instantly making you feel like you’re the most valued, engaged, related-to individual on the planet. THE PLANET.

      But Tom missed his calling as a PR superhero and instead decided to do the only thing more insane than attempting to get people to communicate adeptly for a living; he became an entrepreneur.

      When Tom’s not bopping around the U.S. doing entrepreneurial-slash-changing-the-world type activities, he’s knee deep in startuplandia working on a variety of mobile-related endeavors. These details are less important. What’s more important is his experience and understanding of how startups can use the PR engine to ramp up business, gain customer insights, and more.

      So, from PR himself…

      How important is PR in terms of emerging startups and the need to gain mindshare and market share, often quickly?

      Tom McLeod: I don’t know how important a massive PR campaign is. It’s certainly important to have a lot of the facets of PR handled early on in the “game”. Clear talking points, corporate messaging, and the ability to explain your business to others and not sound like a gushing parent. Having a strong plan for where your end user is going to be and getting your business in front of those eyes should be paramount. I come from a niche web/mobile application space. When we want PR, we identify key opinion leaders that influence our target market and try to get placements and unique stories to them via the appropriate channels. This has shown to be the most efficient (cost + effective) way to get our messaging out during a launch.

      When you launched Crosswa.lk, what was the #1 result you saw from PR efforts?

      TM: Feedback.The people who get in early with your product are the most important folks you get. With that in mind, you don’t have to get 75,000 users on your first day, you just need to make sure really reach out and engage with your first 1000 users. They are going to be the zealots that spread your messaging to the next user. They are also most likely early adopters and have been a part of these kinds of things in the past, you can learn a lot from their feedback. As long as you don’t let it overwhelm you, it can be a great way to determine the path that that your business should take moving forward.

      PR is more than just sending out a stupid press release. In fact, having a founder going out to events, constantly talking to people, making a positive impression on key constituents, etc. is all part of the PR dance. That being said, what do you think of when you think of PR?

      TM: I think me and everyone else on the planet thinks of press releases. However, I think the most important part of PR is acting as a sounding board and a moment of pause before you take your brand to the media. A lot of times just knowing that there is a “last mile” buffer between you and the mass population gives you a leg up on clarity of thought.

      What would qualify a “soon to launch startup” to do their own PR? Do you think it’s a good idea? What did you do? What are possible pitfalls? So many questions!

      TM: I think if you’re a well-established founder, have been through a launch before, have a ton of media connections, and are a capable writer then you could probably give it a go…at least in terms of getting some early hype.

      I didn’t do this with Crosswa.lk because we needed a more robust rollout, but I’ve done small PR campaigns on my own for specific products that I felt I had a good handle on, from a messaging standpoint.  Something to beware of though: it’s hard to self-manage, self-regulate when you do PR without an objective person (PR pro, agency, etc.) keeping you on track. It’s easy to alter your message depending on your audience, to make them feel at easy, comfortable, and to persuade them as to your “cause” – this is the natural tendency of an entrepreneur. But when providing informative details about your business it’s important to be consistent in tone and language.

      5. Techcrunch, in less than 15 words is?

      TM: Not quite what it once was, but growing in a good direction.

      6. Favorite tech journalist or writer? Why?

      TM: I’m a big fan of Rafe Needleman. He’s been around awhile, used to do all the tech stuff for CNET. He works over at Evernote now, but has always been super available and communicative with me, even with just some early on cold email exchanges. Rafe has a great feel for how your product fits in the landscape, and is always willing to share other things he’s seen.

      7. Ack! Enough of the serious… 3 things you do for fun besides harass me about being old and boring?

      TM: I play a lot of basketball. I like to play during lunch and then head back to the office feeling pretty good. Unless I lose at lunch ball…in which case I head back to the office and stop for a FroYo along the way. That makes everything better. I make mixes and share them with friends, family, and business peers. It’s a great way to keep up on a life long passion (I’m an Audio Engineer by trade) as well as connect with people I don’t see regularly. Lastly, I fancy myself some kind of Boogie Boarding all star, I keep one in my trunk at all times along with a wet suit. I like to think that there is always going to be that one moment where I’m near a beach with 90 minutes of free time. Not surprisingly, this has happened exactly 2 times in the last 16 months. Worth it.

      Tom McLeodAbout Tom McLeod

      Tom McLeod is President and Co-Founder of Imaginary Feet, a web and mobile app idea factory. At Imaginary Feet, Tom oversees the direction of the company and its successful applications and services for work and play. Tom has spearheaded efforts to successfully launch 10 iPhone apps into the U.S. market, including the multimillion-user Frametastic and it’s newly released sister app, Collagetastic.

      He currently serves on the boards of Mama Hope and Fuck Cancer and was recently named to Dell’s #Inspire 100 list of leading influencers in entrepreneurship, philanthropy, education and technology. Tom graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Audio Technology and a minor in Computer Science from American University. His many interests include classic films, building computers, basketball and making mixtapes for his daily commute.

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      Follow Tom on Twitter: @tmcleod3

    6. MDV’s Pamela Mahoney on how to avoid PR sabotage

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      This week we kick off a series of guest posts from some of the PR industry’s top pros. Some have corporate communications backgrounds and are now working in-house for VCs, major brands or Fortune 500 companies, while others have built and grown their own firms.

      First up: Pamela Mahoney, who currently spearheads PR and communications for Silicon Valley-based Mohr Davidow Ventures (MDV).

      Her professional experience spans from high-growth startups to leading technology, auto and industrial companies including Sun Microsystems, Novell, Chrysler Corporation, and the Dow Chemical Company. She’s a co-founder of BlueChair Group, Inc., and has spent the past 12 years applying her marketing, corporate communications and media relations experience to her work with MDV and its early stage companies.

      Enjoy!

      Universally speaking, quality begets quantity

      Pamela Mahoney headshotBy: Pamela Mahoney

      Last week I had a chance to meet with the PR Director of a Moscow-based venture firm after mutual colleagues made the introduction. She was stateside to help promote a few of her firm’s companies with headquarters in the U.S.  Over coffee on Sand Hill Road, we compared notes, culturally and otherwise, about the nature of communication strategy and public relations in today’s media environment.

      We agreed that regardless of the country from which entrepreneurs and their investors hail, they share a love affair with the buzz factor made possible by the latest communications platforms (blogs, Twitter, social sites, etc.) as well as media outlets, and usually want to engage all of them simultaneously.

      The upside, when startups are staffed by or engage savvy PR counsel, is the ability to create and maintain a meaningful dialogue with industry influencers, customers, and partners. The downside, when left to their own devices, is that startups often focus more on the medium than the message. They mistakenly see quantity of output (whether social media press releases, Tweets, blogs and the like) over quality of message. This is usually coupled with a lack of clear business communications objectives and strategy and a differentiated, thoughtful point of view.

      Should startups opt for DIY PR?

      My new Russian colleague told the story of a five-person technical startup that decided a blog was a must have on their website. When it became clear the team was spending a disproportionate amount of time trying to pump out blog posts, and Tweet to an audience of their immediate friends and colleagues rather than apply their talents to developing their product, she stepped in to counsel them about how to prioritize and refocus their communications efforts.

      Seems this is a universal startup bug, I told her. We agreed that while we live in an era of do-it-yourself PR, that doesn’t necessarily mean everyone excels at it. Think of it this way, there are lots of do-it-yourself home projects, too. With inexpensive materials and videos on YouTube, we think we’ll be able to save time and money and plunge in, but after multiple trips to the store to find the one tool we’re missing or to patch up a new problem we inadvertently created  it dawns on us we lack the necessary skill to bring it all together.  That’s usually when we see the wisdom of hiring a dedicated expert.

      Focus on the narrative

      We also agreed that in addition to a great product, there is still nothing more important than a good story, a narrative relevant to a particular audience and smart timing and execution. Successful communications strategies start with a well-conceived plan and comprehensive story development bolstered by substantive ideas that can be rolled out and reinforced with proof points and industry data – all with the audience in mind. That’s when it’s possible to develop a compelling pitch.

      The world over startups fall in love with their own story – and fail to realize that when it comes to pitching industry influencers, media for example, the emphasis should be on what’s behind the idea that led to the company or product and why it matters to anyone else. What makes the startup source a credible one? Media have no interest in repurposing a me-too story line or carving out space to write about an iterative application or product feature. They want to hear about a significant new insight, uncover a compelling trend and talk to experts who have an interest in forming a long-term source relationship, not a drive-by pitch. The narrative becomes the basis for building a strong market presence.

      News in a vacuum isn’t newsworthy

      Would you want to be bombarded with a bunch of emails, texts or Tweets filled with empty “news” releases?  I think not. “Buzz” doesn’t happen overnight. The example I used to give to CEOs and VCs eager to build company name recognition, along with sales and revenue, is to imagine walking through an airport and scanning a magazine rack on the way to your flight. (I’ve since updated that to imagine staring at your tablet as your plane is delayed looking for something interesting to read.) What’s the type of headline or reporting you gravitate to most? What makes it a compelling read, or a link you’d want to click through to learn more? What made it believable?  To use a “tech favorite” term, reverse engineer the process. Start with the end story, tweet, or blog post, and work back to how the story came to be.

      Outside traditional media influencers, there’s great value in going where your audience lives. Before launching your own blog or online community, add a team member or engage a PR pro who can advise you and help identify and prioritize news outlets, events, websites, forums, and existing communities where everyone is already congregating. Engage in the conversation. Give them a reason to follow you.

      The future of PR looks a lot like the past, my new Russian friend and I agreed. While the communication platforms and tools continue to evolve, the basic principles remain the same the world over.

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      Follow Pamela on Twitter: @PamelaJMahoney

      Learn more about MDV: http://www.mdv.com/

    7. Entrepreneur Media’s Kara Ohngren talks startups, PR, and journalism

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      In the words of my dear friend and founder of Astrsk PR, Elliot Tomaeno: “This is the future, and we’re living in it. So deal with it.”

      This was his [indignant yet charming] response to a discussion we recently had as to how technology has changed the communications landscape, for better or worse. PR pros, companies, and journalists alike have their roles to play in this rapidly moving, information overloaded, content rich world.

      Entrepreneurs, on the one hand, must understand how technology can either catapult or kill their business – faster than ever. On the other hand, PR pros are required to make rapid changes so that emerging communications tactics and modes, driven by technology, not beat them at their own game and render them obsolete.

      But journalists, oh journalists, they sit squarely in the middle. They have the power to facilitate or fan the flame of “catapult” or “kill”; likewise, they [often] make the rules around which technological communications advancements will be embraced, and which will die a slow miserable death.

      Case and point: telephones. I’m sorry, no, phones. Actually, what I mean is smartphones, and more specifically iPhones.

      These devices are not to be used for calling a journalist. Don’t do it, unless of course you know them relatively well. Even then, it’s a dicey proposition. “I prefer text or email” is a common battle cry.

      Don’t Facebook them. Don’t Tweet them pitches. God no. Only Connect with them on LinkedIn if you’ve shared a handshake, a mutual event, or a conversation. Email them, but make it personal. But not too personal because then you seem fake-ish. And no one likes a fake. Especially a fake who’s acting like a fake. It’s like journalist “Inception.”

      Jesus Christ it’s like trying to get a UN treaty passed just to get to them.

      But I get it, I do. These folks have a unique job. They must field (on a daily basis) thousands of pieces of information coming at them from every possible angle; then, in the midst of the “info chaos”, find the creative space to think about all these things and string them together into one linear piece of digestible content. That’s a lot of pressure, and it takes an extreme amount of discernment.

      The best ones are hard to get to by design. We must respect that. But the best ones are also passionate about the stories and the people they put on display for the world to see. Because when a journalist tells a story in a compelling, thought-provoking way the outcome far exceeds any dumb sales or advertising tactic aimed at a customer.

      Enter: Kara Ohngren, Entrepreneur Media. She’s been an amazing advocate for startups over the past several years and is one of the best. My personal appreciation to her runs deep…and I am grateful for journalists like her because they are an integral part of the public discourse in our startup-crazy, tech-saturated world.

      What excites you about covering startups and the entrepreneurs who build them?

      Kara Ohngren: Startups are the future. Never has there been a more exciting time to be an entrepreneur. There are so many resources and tools available to help people launch and grow businesses and a real culture has emerged around the startup scene. It’s thrilling to write about people who refuse to take the conventional career path, but rather insist on embarking on their own to create something innovative. I never get tired of hearing about entrepreneur’s unrelenting passion and persistence to make their dreams come true!

      Who are some of the most interesting entrepreneurs/companies you’ve covered over the past year?

      KO: I’ve had the privilege of covering some really cool up and coming startups this past year. Everyone has a unique story, but a few that stick out in my mind are:

      SpiritHoods – A Los Angeles-based faux-fur accessories maker inspired by festival culture and endangered species.

      Social Toaster  an online marketing service that snagged $2 million in funding by sticking close to home.

      Modify Watches –  a hip young startup that’s bringing back the wristwatch and making it relevant in the tech age with interchangeable styles and quirky designs.

      Krochet Kids International – an Orange County, Calif.-based social venture that teaches crocheting to women in the developing world — and then helps them sell their wares in the U.S. (more…)

    8. PR myths and future models, Peter Himler gets cheeky

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      He got his start in entertainment PR, and then migrated to the global agency world as the youngest VP at Hill & Knowlton. He then spent six years as Media Director of Cohn & Wolfe, followed by over a decade as EVP at Burson-Marstellar and a stint as Chief Media Officer at Edelman. Today, Peter Himler is the founder and principal of Flatiron Communications LLC, and one might say he’s learned a thing or two about PR along the way.

      “A thing or two” being an obvious, flippant term because the depth of knowledge and insight he holds is [quite possibly] indescribable. His ability to understand and embrace the precepts upon which the PR industry was built while simultaneously accepting its rampant change is refreshing if not vital.

      Mr. Himler’s voice is an important one for challenging the PR status quo, and his quest to understand what we were up to (within days of our launch) was simultaneously flattering and frighteningly adept.

      We caught up with him over brunch a few weeks ago in New York at what I gathered to be his customary booth at Balthazar in New York’s trendy Soho neighborhood.

      This man does not play.

      You’ve gotten coverage for clients in virtually every outlet from the New York Times, Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal to TechCrunch, Mashable and PandoDaily. Can you talk a little bit about the types of “stories” those outlets generally publish.

      Peter Himler: It’s hard to compare these media outlets. They’re so editorially distinct. Each covers a wide array of people, topics, industries, companies and organizations, except perhaps for TechCrunch, which has maintained a pretty singular focus since its founding. However, within their respective technology news holes, any rumblings from one of the following companies usually gain traction: Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Microsoft, Samsung, and Netflix (we should all be so lucky to work at one).

      Types of stories include: material news (affecting stock price), new products or services, M&A, litigation, outspoken executives, remarkable growth, strategic partnerships, etc.

      How do you tell a client their product is not right for a specific publication they have deemed important? In other words: how do you let them down gently?

      PH: Much of what we do is timing and luck. Given the expanded amount of editorial real estate a digital news outlet can offer, I’d be hard-pressed to rule out something outright. Of course, if the publication just did a major feature on my client’s industry or if the publication’s primary competitor recently profiled my client, these would be non-starters.

      One question I ask myself: “are you embarrassed to pitch the story or not?”  (Does the story fit into the publication’s editorial DNA?) Remember, you’ve got to be in it to win it. The timing may be in your favor. (more…)

    9. PR Entrepreneur Sabrina Horn dishes on the future of PR

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      A few weeks after our October 2012 launch, Sharam (AirPR’s CEO) received a LinkedIn message from someone at HORN requesting a meet and greet with [the one and only] Sabrina Horn.

      He showed me the email and we were both a bit skeptical.

      I immediately pinged a friend who had launched her career under the wing of Ms. Horn a decade before. She is now an “entertainment + tech” PR pro living in L.A. and repping some of today’s biggest celebs alongside their startups of interest. Having built her reputation on being an exacting, straight shooter practically incapable of your run-of-the-mill PR bullshit, we knew she would give us an accurate assessment.

      “Is she nice?”

      “Should we be scared?”

      “We know she’s smart but is this a clandestine operation issued by none other than the Public Relations Society of America?”

      After being reassured that (despite her tough business exterior) Ms. Horn was known historically as a good listener, extremely intuitive, nice in a particular way that leaves room for good folks and weeds out the bad, and constantly looking for ways to innovate in the PR space, we were sold.

      Here is our happy ending: she was better than great, more open than we had expected, and has become an important ally in our quest to build a platform that serves the PR industry in unique and compelling ways.

      So Sabrina, ah-hem, Ms. Horn, we thank you…for being a true PR innovator and entrepreneur. Where others could have thrown in the towel you kept pushing, changing, growing, and ultimately building a company that has been a true leader in the technology and PR industries.

      Now for the goods…


      You’ve built a thriving PR firm over the past twenty years, what are the top three things you believe have enabled your success?

      Sabrina Horn:

      1. I listen carefully to what my employees tell me, as I often find out the real crux of an issue by talking to my employees… things get lost in translation. You can’t be a CEO that doesn’t get into the trenches.
      2. Ask smart questions, especially the question “Why?” People often get excited about things they are passionate about. What may seem “obvious” to them may just not be feasible. Clients think they want X, when what they really need is Y. Our job is to counsel people about their options or give them options when they didn’t have any. The only way to provide that counsel is to dig, get them to tell you more and figure out what the end goal really should be.
      3. Trust my instincts. If something smells fishy or just doesn’t feel right, you have to trust your gut and follow your instincts.


      What makes a client difficult to work with? (Characteristics, expectations, etc.)

      SH: Very high expectations based on an uninformed or misinformed view of a situation; fear of losing power resulting in a command and control relationship; anda dysfunctional highly political organization that squashes creativity.


      In your opinion, what are the key components to maintaining healthy PR/Client relationships?

      SH: I tend to see this as four-pronged:

      1. Honest and open and frequent communication about what is working and what is not.
      2. A relationship that is based on trust and professional friendship where each has the others’ back.
      3. Free and open access to information about the client’s offerings, access to executives.
      4. Healthy appreciation for the agency model.


      What is the biggest misconception about PR?

      SH: The biggest misconception about PR is that it is a tactical press machine designed to solely “get ink”. PR is one of the most underrated and powerful tools inside a company and is exceptionally strategic and valuable when given the opportunity and provided by likeminded people.

      (more…)