How to Build Strong Media Relations

Every good public relations professional recognizes the importance of fostering relationships with bloggers and reporters who cover your organization. Developing these relationships takes hard work and mutual understanding. Below are some key tips and suggestions inspired by Carol Howard and Wilma Mathews authors of the best selling book, On Deadline: Managing Media Relations.

Understand the Industry


A journalist’s life is often dictated by fast deadlines. In the 24hr news cycle there are publication schedules that must be met. Deadlines are set by editors for both print and online formats. These deadlines must be met on schedule. To assist journalists, you must be able to meet their deadlines. Meeting deadlines often means responding within the same day, sometimes within a few hours. For example, there are many same day requests that appear on the publicity tool, Help a Reporter Out (HARO).

Part of understanding the industry is learning the deadlines for media outlets who routinely cover your clients. If you are pitching to a new media contact, a help desk worker will be more than happy to tell you the deadlines for specific beats and editions. After learning the deadlines, make sure to record your findings and keep an updated file with this information. Although you can rely on paid services such as CisionPoint, having an offline local file will guarantee quick access and ensure you never miss a deadline again.

Start with the Media Release


Beyond deadlines, many PR novices think a media release is the only tactic necessary to secure media coverage and foster good relationships. Start thinking of a media release as an invitation. It invites the journalist to conduct follow-up research about the topic, contact third-parties, ask you questions and then rewrite the media release to meet the demands of an editor.

After submitting your media release don’t be afraid to follow-up with the journalist. If you submitted your materials before a deadline and haven’t heard back send an email. Keep the email brief and to the point. If you do not receive an immediate response, it doesn’t mean the journalist isn’t interested. Believe it or not they are working on more than just your story.

It takes time to develop a story, even from a well written media release. Knowing deadlines and timing the distribution of media releases will go a long way in helping foster those media relationships.

Be Accessible, Be Informed


Communication is key in public relations. You should not hesitate to give journalists your mobile number. Encourage journalists to call, and anticipate follow-up conversations.

“When I get a pitch about a new product, I will check to see if it’s available locally. If I can’t find out the info from the website, I’ll respond with that question (or with other questions about the product) and about half the time, the email goes unanswered,” said Lesley Lassiter, blogger for

If you are working with on a team project, remind your fellow colleagues that media outlets will often call to request more information. Ensure that everyone is on the same page by providing talking points, lists of anticipated questions, and agreed upon points of contact.

Prepare for the Aftermath


A final consideration involves how to handle errors in a published story. Although it is human nature to play the blame game, firing off a letter to the editor can quickly destroy even the most steadfast relationship with a journalist. Before you contact the party responsible (never jump rank and start with the Editor in Chief), make sure you evaluative the severity of the error. If the error is minor it will probably be overlooked by the majority of consumers. If the error does require correcting, it is your job to courteously inform the reporter and explain problem.

A quick email or call to the reporter clearly stating the error(s) and correction(s), can in most cases fix the problem. On rare occasions you might have to write a letter to an editor or ask for a printed correction. These occasions are subjective and require a thorough analysis of the situation.

No media event or press kit can replace years of work in developing good media relations. With a bit of hard work and dedication you can apply these helpful tips and be on your way in improving communication with your own media contacts. If you can think of another helpful suggestion please comment below.


TRUSTe Survey Reveals Online Privacy Issue: Are You Protecting Your Clients?

Privacy appears to be at the forefront of public opinion as TRUSTe released their annual Consumer Confidence Index. 92% of the people surveyed listed privacy as a major concern when browsing the Internet. This is a 42% increase from 2014. Individuals surveyed considered online privacy more important than national security.

With almost daily news reports surrounding hacking and the latest security breach at the Anthem insurance company, it is no surprise that this issue is a hot topic. The survey further pointed out that consumers were most concerned about the collection and sharing of personal data. This concern has experts concerned about negative affects on consumer behavior.

Modifying Behavior

The loss of trust between a corporation and the public was also highlighted in the survey.

“Americans who are concerned about their privacy have modified their online behavior in the last year meaning less data, fewer clicks and lost sales.” said Chris Babel, CEO of TRUSTe.

When consumers modify their behavior, they interact less with online media and are less likely to make purchases or products and services.

Building Trust

Although the TRUSTe report highlights an increase in public concern over the issue of privacy, this issue is not new. Most corporations have watched from the sidelines as hackers continue to carry out more elaborate attacks. They live in a state of denial. This denial is dangerous to corporate and the consumer. Instead of sitting on the sidelines it is time for corporations to be proactive in taking steps to protect online data. Waiting for government intervention and new FCC guidelines will not be sufficient in solving the problem.

Understanding Transparency

The growing concern about privacy should be noted for public relations professionals. Protecting privacy is often part of our jobs. We should care about both our clients and the public. Ensuring transparency is one of the ways we can address the public’s concern about personal data collection. Transparency is implied by several of the PRSA professional values and provisions of the Code of Ethics. Periodically informing the public about how an organization uses personal data can help calm concerns about privacy and in turn strengthen our relations and foster good will.

Taking Action

Where should a corporation begin? Measuring consumer knowledge of security practices is a good place to start. The TRUSTe survey revealed the following information about consumers:

  • 57 percent have not clicked on an online ad
  • 51 percent withheld some personal information they were asked for
  • 35 percent have not downloaded an app/product
  • 25 percent stopped an online transaction before completing it
  • 9 percent deleted an online account

The results suggest that consumers have a basic, but limited knowledge of security practices. Although they may engage is some basic security measures (i.e., deleting cookies), it is hard to determine the frequency of these practices. Your consumers might have different practices.PR professionals collect this information and then assist in providing basic and advanced information about online security and best practices.

Regardless of the industry, basic security practices, such as the ones suggested on the TRUSTe website can provide a great resource for developing internal communication policies.

Does your organization encourage any security practices? Are your customers concerned about the safety of their data? Leave a comment below.

piggy bank

The Year of the Public Relations Professional

If your thinking about a career change and have a passion for communication, it’s a great time to look at public relations. Earlier this month the U.S. News and World Report released its Best Jobs Report. The annual report highlights the best jobs and industries every year.

The Good

Public relations has historically been resistant to economic troubles. In the creative category, the U.S. News and World Report notes that the Public Relations Specialist holds the number one position as the best creative job of 2015. In terms of salary, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported a median annual wage of $54,940 in 2013. This is a modest 1.42% growth from 2012. To put this figure in perspective the median annual wage was 52,090 in 2010.

New college graduates also have something to celebrate. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) reports that graduates can see a higher starting salary of approximately $48,253 this year. This is a 10.1% increase from the previous year.

Beyond salary the profession as a whole continues to have solid growth. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts 27,400 new job openings before 2022. The highest concentration of new jobs will be in primarily metropolitan regions including  New York, California, Texas, the District of Columbia and Pennsylvania

“The U.S. job market is turning a corner as caution gives way to confidence,” said Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder. “Hiring in 2014 has been broad-based, including encouraging activity among small businesses and hard-hit sectors like manufacturing and construction. The amount of companies planning to hire in 2015 is up 12 percentage points over last year, setting the stage for a more competitive environment for recruiters that may lend itself to some movement in wages.” This positive outlook should be encouraging to job seekers and communication professionals looking for a new job.

The Bad

Just like every profession there are some exceptions and caveats. Salaries in public relations can vary considerably by industry. Although every industry needs public relations professionals, some industries offer higher annual wages. You might consider looking at the following industries:

  • Utilities $68,820
  • Manufacturing $66,100
  • Transportation and Warehousing $65,550
  • Mining $64,230
  • Management of Companies and Enterprises  $62,060

The Future

What is exciting is that every single industry needs public relations professionals. The data is clear and it should encourage current practitioners and individuals thinking about a career change.

Taking a photo with a smartphone

4 Tips for Taking Better Mobile Photos

The ubiquitous smartphone means always having a camera in your pocket. Learning how to use the camera properly can assist public relations professionals in capturing some quality photographs without having to buy professional level equipment.

Here are some basic photography tips that will help you break out of the “point and shoot” mind frame.

1.  Understand photography principles

Buying the latest smartphone and accessories does not guarantee you a great photo. Photography is both an art and a science that requires knowledge and know-how. Take time to read-up on the following photography principles:

  • Rule of thirds
  • Leading lines
  • Symmetry and patterns
  • Framing
  • Viewpoint/Depth

Understanding how to apply these principles will help you take better mobile photos and allow you to grow as a photographer.

2.Look at your lighting

One major weakness of the smartphone or tablet is the inability to capture images in low light environments. To compensate for this problem you will want to put as much light as you can on the subject. This might require relocating the subject or the smartphone to another place.

Although smartphones and tablet’s have LED flashes, this type of flash can be very intense and over expose areas of your composition.

 3. Use the right apps

Use the right tool for the right job. Native photo apps have advanced in features over the years, but are still geared towards the point-and-shoot crowd. Third party app designers are more focused on developing apps for serious photography buffs and professionals. Here are three apps have been named the Best 2014 Photo Apps by Lifehacker and

  • ProCamera 8. $2.99 This is a DSLR emulator that allows you to take control of shutter speed, ISO,white balance and even exposure.

  • Camera+ $2.99. Is easy to use, offers a number of features, and allows you to set the exposure and focus separately. The app also includes a nice grid overlay to help you apply the rule of thirds.
  • Adobe Photoshop Touch $4.99. You can use this app to quickly edit your photos on the fly. Although this is a great app, it contains too many features to list and does have a bit of a learning curve.

Keep in mind no app is going to replace a professional level DSLR and Photoshop, but these apps will help you control the quality of those mobile captures.

4. Invest in simple accessories

A simple smartphone camera can only take you so far in the photography world. If you consistently rely on mobile photos for your multimedia needs, a small investment can significantly improve your quality. A one time investment of $200.00 can help the quality of your photos.

Do you have a smartphone photography tip to share? Let me know in the comments below.



Google Stops Mining Education Data and Moves Toward Transparency

Today Google announced that it will no longer scan Gmail or use mined data from its Apps for Education in targeted advertising. This decision comes after the policy was recently challenged in a 2013 California court case. Students and other users claimed the email scanning policy violated wiretap laws.

Bram Bout, Google’s Education Sales Director, said that the company will no longer scan Gmail in Apps for Education or collect the data for targeted advertising. This is an excellent move for Google and increases the company’s transparency.

Although Google has noted that its scanning is completely automated, critics still insist that user profile data might be attractive to the government and other malicious groups pending security breaches.

Beyond the critics, it is useful to consider why Google is making this move. Are users concerned about privacy or trust? The SXSW conference noted that privacy will be a major trend this year

Millennials are very open in sharing and communicating with trusted brands. A recent survey by the USC Annenberg Center of Digital Future and Bovitz Inc. suggests that Millennials are completely confused about the concept of privacy. 70% reported that no one should have access to their online data. However, 56% are willing to share their data for reimbursement.

I suspect that Google wants to avoid the “big data” label and distance itself from other organizations (i.e., the NSA) that have been secretly collecting data. It’s no longer a matter of collecting data, but a mater of trust. Do you trust Google?



World Vision

World Vision: A PR Blunder

World Vision, a popular Christian charity organization, has announced today that it will reverse its decision to hire individuals who are in same sex unions. The decision comes barely two-days after the organization received a myriad of complaints according to the Associated Press.  Despite its best intentions World Vision created a communication crisis.

In examining the response to the complaints, it appears as though the organization employed a vocal commiseration strategy. This strategy included  releasing an apology letter from the World Vision U.S. board of directors. The letter addressed that the board regretted its decision, acknowledged it made a mistake, and asked for forgiveness.

This strategy does have its advantages, admitting regret and issuing an apology can help temper “public hostility”.  In a crisis management situation, the goal of any response is to repair the organization’s image and reputation.

However, simply issuing an apology does not automatically repair the damage. It is often not possible to completely repair an organization’s image with all its publics or stakeholders. World Vision will have to identify all the relevant publics and decide which publics are the most important.

Additionally, World Vision will have to decide if they will pursue any corrective action. This action might be implementing policy that will prevent this situation from occurring in the future. Corrective action reinforces the organizations commitment to its values and mission.

It remains unclear as to why an organization with such a large evangelical public would establish such a controversial policy. This calls into question the organization’s familiarity with its publics. Public relations is built around establishing and maintaining positive relations. Perhaps World Vision will remember this fundamental principle in the future.



Is Confide a Snapchat for Professionals?

We love the idea of privacy. In the era of big data it is comforting to believe that there is a communication channel that will allow us to securely send and receive sensitive data. This idea has fueled a number of developers to create mobile apps that promise anonymity.

Readers are well associated with with the popular picture sharing app, Snapchat. Snapchat is a mobile app that allows users to share photos or short videos. After the picture or video has been received it automatically self-destructs in a matter of seconds.

While Snapchat has been a huge hit in among teenagers and young adults, a new startup, Confide, is creating a “Snapchat” for professionals.

Confide differs from Snapchat as it allows users to send text messages. In addition, it applies end-to-end encryption and promises that messages are never stored on their servers.

Although this is an intriguing product, lets examine why Confide and other “anonymous” apps are far from secure or anonymous.

Confide’s Security Features

Confide offers several “unique” security features to deter receivers from taking screen shots. It sends an alert to both parties if someone attempts a screen shot and each line of text is concealed until you swipe your finger over the line. Although these are interesting features, an alert might not be received if you do not have a cellphone signal.

In addition, the swipe feature does not keep someone from recording the message with another device. Users can feel slightly securer knowing that the company uses end-to-end encryption, however given enough time any encryption scheme can be broken. Recent reports by cryptography experts also suggest that ‘end-to-end encryption’ is quickly becoming a pointless security feature.

The Promise of Anonymity

Hopefully, the above rundown has given you a slight pause about using an encryption app. I would like to take a moment to review the general myth behind these types of apps. These apps promise you a sense of privacy and anonymity. I think these myths are believed due to a general lack of knowledge about how technology and the Internet works.

The idea of anonymity goes against a primary rule of using the Internet. Everything you post or send online is public. When you send something through the Internet it goes through a number of servers and locations. Copies are created and information is saved. Even if the private sector is not storing your data  you have no idea which governmental agencies are saving your data for future analysis.

Who’s Collecting Information?

Remember the saying “There’s no such thing as a free lunch?”. Nothing is free, a business has to make money, if not the business goes bankrupt. Frequently companies that offer “free services” are gathering and selling your personal data to other companies and third parties. Have you ever actually read an app’s Terms of Service or Privacy Policy?

Once again I question whether the general public realizes an exchange is taking place. You are buying the “free app” with your personal information. For example, a very popular Android flashlight app is under investigation by the FTC for transmitting users’ precise location and device identifier to other companies.

What this means for PR

The idea that technology (specifically the Internet) provides a secure and private means of transmitting confidential information is a myth. As public relations professionals we should realize the potential damages and ethical issues surrounding the use of these types of “anonymous” communication apps.

We should undertake an advocacy role in explaining the weaknesses of these apps to our various stakeholders and administrators. In fact, like social media, it might be necessary to address these types of technologies in our digital communication policies. Do you use an encryption app? If so I would like to hear your comments and thoughts on this topic.

Google Apple

Google and Apple: The No Comment Defense

It is no secret that Google and Apple have historically established unethically sound agreements not to poach each other’s employees. Back in 2010 theses agreements even garnered attention from the U.S. Department of Justice.

The incident, however appears to be more extensive. Pando’s Mark Ames has released a new batch of emails from a number of high-ranking Google and Apple administrators. The emails suggest that a number companies (including Google, Apple, Intel, Dell, Microsoft, and Oracle) were attempting to fix employment in the technology industry.

There is little doubt that this story will gain significant media attention in the weeks to follow. However, Pando states that a number of companies highlighted in the article (AMD, AOL, Cingular/AT&T, Dell, Microsoft, Google, Apple, etc.) either declined to comment on the story or have not responded to inquires.

This lack of response offers an unfortunate opportunity to discuss the negative impact of offering “no comment” in a crisis situation.

“No Comment”

Undoubtedly this is a major crisis communication situation. I am sure that all the organizations involved are evaluating the most effective response, but the story explicitly identified those organizations that did and did not comment. By simply identifying these organizations the story is indirectly stating which organizations are more open to the media and the public.

Declining to comment or stating “no comment” is rarely a good strategy in a crisis situation. However, it is commonly the result of diverging perspectives between legal council and public relations. Public relation practitioners in an advisory role often recommend early and open responses to a crisis situation.

If an organization does undertake the “no comment” defense, it is frequently perceived as hiding something. It damages an organization’s reputation and alienates both the media and the public.

Strategic Silence

On the other hand, an organization can decide to undertake “strategic silence”. Engaging in strategic silence can often decrease the life span of a crisis and/or provide the organization with extra time to construct an appropriate response.

A strategic silence relies heavily on the assumption that the media and stakeholders perceive the silence as positive. If facts are unknown or the safety of individuals is at risk the public may be more willing to accept the silence. For example, a number of organizations are adopting the strategic silence strategy with the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 crisis.

The organization will also have to rely on its social capital and reputation to orchestra this strategy. A good public image, positive reputation and excellent media relations will greatly asset an organization in instigating a strategic silence strategy.

Finally, a strategic silence does not mean no communication (i.e., no comment). Instead the organization needs to issue a public statement as to why it will address the issue publicly in the future.

Things to Come

It will be interesting to see how this situation unfolds in the weeks to come. The companies who initially issued a “no comment” defense may quickly adopt the strategic silence strategy and issue a follow-up response.



Atmospheir: Your New Address Book

The Address Book 1.0

Everyone uses an address book. It’s a valuable cache of essential contact information that helps us connect to our family, friends, and colleagues. While we rely on address books everyday, our standard Web 1.0 address book apps (think Apple Address Book and Microsoft Outlook) are bulky, and unintuitive.

The primary downside to these address books? You must manually enter and update information for each contact. What happens when a contact changes phone numbers, Facebook profiles, or Twitter names? You are left with no option but to engage in time-consuming Internet searches. What is the Solution?

Atmospheir: The Smart Address Book

Enter the smart address book. Smart address books have the potential of changing the way we manage our personal and professional relationships. These address books are designed with the Web. 3.0 in mind and have the ability to “pull” in information from a number of different media platforms, including social network sites, automatically updating information about your contacts.

A number of apps (Smartr Contacts, and Addappt) have attempted to integrate social media and standard contact information, however, none have captured the public’s attention and have seen wide spread adoption.

A new app, Atmospheir, may completely break through this adoption barrier. Atmospheir is essentially a smart address book with a focus on relationship management through social media. “…it is the first application that aims to address all stages of the contact management life cycle: creation, storage, expansion and retention,” said CEO Matt Crumrine,

Atmospheir has several interesting features that meet the needs of Web 3.0 users including perpetual updates, varying access modes, privacy and location specific tools. These tools make your current address book look like a rolodex.

New Tech, New Issues

While the primary advantage of smart address books is the ability to receive perpetual updates and connect all your media platforms, it is also the downside. A major element of relationship management is the ability to control the flow of information. For example, you might want to share your Facebook profile with friends, but do not want potential employers to have access. The winner of the smart address book wars will be the app that can balance the privacy vs. access issue.

With the advantages offered by smart address books it might be time for those Web 1.0 address books to rest in peace. Will Atmospheir be the winner? Only time will tell.


Smaug: Air New Zealand’s Creative Pseudo-Event

Monday, Air New Zealand landed a Boeing  777-300 aircraft with 54-meter (177-foot) images of the dragon from Peter Jackson’s Hobbit Trilogy. This event was an excellent example of a public relations pseudo-event.

The event revolved around revealing the image of the new Hobbit dragon, Smaug. This is the first time that fans had the opportunity to see Peter Jackson’s interpretation of the dragon from J.R.R. Tolkien’s book, The Hobbit. Trailers for the movie only revealed the dragon’s eye, leaving the rest to the imagination.

The company behind the event, Admark, teamed up with Air New Zealand to install the decal on a Boeing 777-300 aircraft. Representatives from the airlines noted that the image will remain on the airplane until the third movie premiers in 2014.

Is the image a simple “flying billboard”? No, it’s a pseudo-event, a pre-planned event to capture public/media attention. Daniel Boorstin in his book The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America defines a pseudo-event as: (1) not spontaneous, it has been planned in advance (2) constructed for the purpose of fostering media attention (3) not dependent on real events or a situation (4) is a self-fulfilling prophecy (if the event is designed to be positive, it will be perceived as positive).

Does the Air New Zealand’s event fit Boorstin’s definition? Absolutely. The event was planned, well in advance, designed to capture public attention, based on a fictional work, and it established a self-fulfilling prophecy, to complete the story gap left by the trailer, revealing the Smaug’s eye.

Boorstin (2012) also notes that the public thinks in images more than ideals. The image of a flying dragon in the book or on film is abstract, fictional, and obscure. However the image created larger than life on a Boeing 777-300 is concrete, believable, and vivid. The event also helps blend the fictional and real world, transferring a Middle Earth quality to the airline.

In the past the tourism board of New Zealand has capitalized on the film series and launched a public relations campaign, New Zealand – Home of Middle Earth. This pseudo-event fits well into this campaign. If you are planning on traveling to New Zealand, home of Middle Earth, why not fly on a dragon?

Was the pseudo-event successful? A quick news search revealed over 200 print news and over 500 online news mentions. Concerning social media just examine Air New Zealand’s USA Facebook page, they have prominently featured the event and the posts have received numerous “Likes”, comments and shares.

When planning pseudo-events, you must think creatively and larger than life. What is more creative than a flying dragon?