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.

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.



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?


Is It A Strategy Or Tactic ?

A topic that commonly confuses public relations students and sometimes clients is the difference between strategy and tactics. Confusing these concepts can lead to major misunderstandings between team members and other stakeholders. There are many ways to explain the concepts, and I will give you a breakdown of the differences.

What is a Strategy?

Simply stated a strategy is an overall plan of action to achieve a particular goal or objective. Think of strategy as the “what” element of the equation. Paul Smith, author of Great Answers to Tough Marketing Questions, suggests that a strategy “…summarizes how to achieve objectives in general terms – the big picture”. It’s not the same as goals or objectives. Strategy is built on a number of factors including research and theory.

For example, environmental scanning is a strategy to acquire information from the external environment to use in issues management and crisis communication.

What is Tactic?

On the other hand, a tactic is a specific procedure, method, or activity for implementing a strategy.  If strategy is the “Big Picture” then tactics can be considered the smaller details. In a sense tactics are the ability and available resources to accomplish the strategy. Tactics should only be planned after a strategy is created. Keep in mind a tactic is not an outcome. A PR professional does not write a media release simply to write a media release, instead the media release is one specific tactic (activity) to help achieve the big picture.

A tactic in implementing environmental scanning would be to set-up a keyword alert system to inform PR professionals about potential issues and threats.

Why the Confusion?

In PR education, students are often overly focused on the tactics because they are the most visual part of a public relations campaign and students can easily relate to real world examples. In the same line of thinking clients are often more focused on tactics because they are thinking in turns of public perception. On another level creating strategy requires a considerable amount of critical thinking, as a strategy is abstract compared to concrete tactics.

There are two great ways to help solidify the differences between strategy and tactics. First, analyze great public relations campaigns, such as PRSA Silver Anvil Award winners. Copies of the winning campaigns can be found on the PRSA website and are available for PRSA and PRSSA member to download. Secondly, find a PR situation (opportunity or problem) in the media and develop a series of strategies and tactics to resolve the situation.

Or course this may involve a little time and critical thinking, but the knowledge you will gain is well worth the effort.

Google Hummingbird

PR is Not SEO

Google has recently changed the game regarding search engine optimization (SEO). On Thursday Google announced that it was upgrading its search engine algorithm, codenamed Hummingbird. This new update has followed in the wake of other structural updates including Panda and Penguin.

These updates have creating significant buzz on the Internet, specifically among advertisers and marketing professionals. The concern revolves around the effectiveness of previously established SEO techniques (i.e., link optimization). PR professionals have also raised concerns due to the changes
regarding press releases.

Debate about these new changes and the effectiveness of PR tactics such as media releases will no doubt continue for years to come. However, theses new rules provide an opportunity to remind our clients and management that while SEO does play an important part in the technical side of PR, there is indeed more to PR than improving your search engine rankings.

More than Just Press Releases

Does your C-Suite understand the strategic role of PR? Google’s media announcements, provides a chance to inform those departments about both the technical and strategic roles of public relations.

Although the most recent 2012 GAP Study noted that 60% of companies PR/COM report directly to the C-Suite (CEO, CCO, etc.), it is important to evaluate the C-Suite’s knowledge of PR and when necessary help change perceptions.

In communicating with the C-Suite it is also helpful to highlight the limitations of specific tactics. For example, online media releases will continue to be affected by changing policy and search engine updates, however, high quality content and strategic placement of resources will continue to have a strong place in effective campaigns.

Timing is everything

In PR timing is crucial. If Google’s announcements are creating buzz at your company  it may be a great chance to increase awareness about the strategic role of public relations. The technical side of PR will always be directly influenced by changes in technology, however it is the strategic side that will navigate these changes and ensure that your company will reap the benefits.

Belfast Press Kit

The Belfast Press Kit Disaster: A Cautionary Tale

Film critics were both shocked and disgusted after receiving press kits for the upcoming movie, A Belfast Story. The story, reported by the Daily Mail, noted that the press kits contained questionable items such as balaclavas, duck tape, nails, and sensational news clippings.

Press Kits

Used properly press kits (PKs) are a great way to break through the media clutter. They essentially assist the media in understanding a story. Typically, PKs consist of press releases, biographies, pictures, and reviews. More creative PKs often feature branded “swag” to help peak the media’s interest.

Michael Levine author of Guerrilla P.R. 2.0 recommends that excellent press kits embrace two key elements: (1) tell a good story and (2) incorporate some form of originality. In examining the Belfast Story’s press kit, how did the creator’s miss the mark?

Know Your Public

Instead of creating interest in the film, the press kit did not take into consideration the history of Belfast. Did the press kit tell a story? Yes. Was it original? Perhaps. However, the message of the press kit was ambiguous and the key publics interpreted the contents as offensive.

In compiling any press kit you must know you publics and your story must be crystal clear. Remember that press kits help clarify your story, not cause confusion or increase ambiguity. The elements of the press kit should be carefully selected and have no negative connotations. In considering the Belfast Movie’s press kit two elements, the balaclava and nails are often associated with crime and terrorism. Criminals often use masks or balaclava’s to hide their identity. Nails, while innocent by themselves undertake new meaning when combined with the other elements of the press kit.

PR professionals must always consider Audience Theory. In essence the audience (i.e., publics) ultimately impose meaning on the media. The creators of A Belfast Story had a very specific and positive story contained within the press kit; however, the publics and movie critics had their own interpretation of the story.