Sunday, June 14, 2009


New site - I've moved

Please note that I've moved my blog to Feel free to browse some older posts, and then head over to the new and improved sight. Thanks!

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I've moved

Please note that I've moved to You're welcome to browse some older posts, but my newest and brightest thoughts are over at the new site. I hope you'll join me!

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Saturday, June 13, 2009


Did you do your research

So you just came with a great idea for your company. You just landed a new client and are anxiously awaiting to jump right in. Create a Facebook page, sign up for Twitter, maybe even start a blog. You start crafting the press release, you start contacting the media. Easy there, let’s pull back on the reigns a bit.

A common theme that I’ve come across in meetings and when talking with new clients is they all are thinking big picture. That’s fine, it’s good to think long-term. But all too often we come up with an idea and jump right in before we have a clear plan. I appreciate the passion and excitement, however, before diving in, it’s crucial that you sit down and do your research.

Why research matters:
- Know your client – Know what your client has done in the past, know your client’s plan for the future. How will your work or campaign meet each of these? Along with knowing your client, know the competition. Has your idea been done before? Maybe Competitor X ran a similar campaign that didn’t generate any results, so why will yours work? Be ready to give concrete answers on the to explain your rationale.
- Know your audience – One of the first things you need to know when promoting a product or service is who your market is. This is PR 101 - going after the wrong market will only waste your client’s time and money and make you look incompetent. Market research involves more than demographics – you have to understand the behavior, lifestyle and preferences of your audience. Knowing your target market will help you determine what your message is and how to design it in a way that your audience can understand and appreciate.
- Know why we should care - Why will the media care about this? Is there demand for this product or service? This combines the two reasons above - has it been done, if so, why are you doing it again?

Research is the nuts and bolts of any campaign. In sports, before a game you come up with a game plan. In PR, research is our game plan.

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009


PR & tennis: Advantage, you

There’s a million analogies out there. We’ve heard social media and PR compared to everything. So...I’m going to add to that list! This came to me at an odd time, but I thought to myself - PR is a lot like tennis. Before you scoff at this comparison, let me explain a little.

Tennis is a game that requires touch. It’s about positioning yourself and putting yourself in the right spot. Novice tennis players tend to come in and think it’s about hitting the ball hard, and as a result, often hit the ball long. The more you play, the more you realize it’s not about hitting the ball the hardest - it’s about putting top spin on the ball and hitting at angles.

PR is the same. It’s not about jumping right into things. It’s not about having a big budget and going for the home run. Successful PR pros realize that it’s often the little things that find the most success. A lot of folks come into PR and all they want to do is work on the biggest brand and come up with cute and comical campaigns. PR is about doing the small things to make your brand successful. It’s about coming up with unique angles to pitch, it’s about humanizing your product and interacting with your community.

Tennis is a game of thinking one shot ahead. Good tennis players aren’t thinking about the current shot - they’re thinking 2 or 3 shots ahead. They study their opponent, make him or her work, and it’s the third or fourth shot that scores the point.

PR isn’t about what you’re doing right now. PR is about what you’re going to be doing a week from now, a month from now, next year. Strategic planning requires the ability to understand how your current efforts are going to compliment your future efforts. Results aren’t going to be immediate, so be patient and persistent.

It’s not necessarily easier to play doubles.
Just because there are two players on one team, it’s not necessarily easier. Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi are two of the best tennis players to ever swing the racket, but that doesn’t mean they’d be a great team. A successful doubles team requires communication and the understanding of each others skills.

An effective PR team requires different skill sets. One person may be good at media relations, one may be good at copywriting. If your team is full of people who are only good at one part of PR, you aren’t going to be an effective team. PR also requires the ability to communicate. Like tennis, if both players are scrambling to each shot, eventually you’re going to run into each other. Assign tasks and hold each team member accountable for their assigned duty. No one wants to work with someone who thinks they need to hit every shot. At the same time, not everyone is meant to be part of a team and some work better by themselves. It doesn’t make that person a better or worse PR person. Know and understand what your talents.

Tennis is often an overlooked sport.
Let’s be honest, you don’t see a lot of kids wanting to become professional tennis players. You don’t get a pickup game of tennis going with your buddies. You don’t spend a Friday night attending your local high school tennis match. You’re not dropping $300 on tickets to a tennis match - unless it’s a major tournament.

Businesses often overlook the importance of having a talented PR staff. Our budgets are usually the first to get cut - although that trend is starting to reverse itself. How many times have you been the last to find out about something critical to your company? Like tennis, the general public (those who don’t play) have a big misconception about PR. They don’t understand its value until a crises occurs.

Like tennis, PR will never be the glamour profession that young kids dream of studying and practicing. But that’s alright. PR isn’t rocket science, but it’s a profession that’s vital to a company’s success. Tennis may never be a mainstream sport (at least in the United States). Again, that’s alright. Just remember, PR isn’t about hitting the ball the hardest. It’s about starting and maintaining a steady volley with your audience.


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Friday, June 5, 2009


Random ramblings

I got this idea from Peter King's Monday Quarterback. It's a bunch of short blurbs about a number of different topics I've been thinking about this week. Enjoy!

I get it, we all want to come up with the next “big idea” that catapults our brand into the mainstream media. We want to come up with the next Wii campaign (in my opinion, the best PR campaign in recent years). Focusing on the next “big idea” is great and all, but very few “big ideas” generate results that warrant all the time and focus that’s being spent. Instead, spend more time focusing on those “little ideas.” After all, it’s the little things that often separate a good campaign from a great campaign.

Mainstream media isn’t for everyone. Getting national coverage for your client may make you and your client feel great, but it may not get the results you’re ultimately looking for. I spoke with the owner of a local PR firm in Minneapolis who had a client who’s sole mission what to get on Oprah. He told this client that there was absolutely no chance of getting coverage on Oprah. The client refused to except this reality; and as a result, the firm dropped the client. If a client doesn’t think their product is the greatest thing since sliced bread, I question their motive. However, as a PR professional, it’s your job to educate the client on the proper channels and set realistic goals.

Most absurd article/statement I read this week - Listen, I’m not taking anything away from these people. They’re extremely talented and are doing great things. But comparing them to Bill Gates and Michael Dell is absurd. Gates & Dell created an industry. These folks are creating products/services to break into an already established industry. Great to give recognition, but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.

Why isn’t the NHL promoting their stars? I’m not that big of an NHL fan, but I’ll catch game every now and then. Minnesota is the State of Hockey. Going to a Wild game at the Xcel is an absolute blast - fan or no fan. But ratings are down for the NHL. The days of Gretzky and Lemieux are gone. Why isn’t Sidney Crosby a household name yet? My mother knows Tom Brady. She knows Kobe Bryant. She knows Alex Rodriquez. But I guarantee you, she couldn’t name a single NHL player. We had all this hype when Crosby was coming into the league, but the buzz and hoopla has all but vanished.

If you run a non-profit or work for a non-profit and aren’t engaging in social media - or at least in discussions to start - you are missing out. It would take a while for me to think of a non-profit that wouldn’t benefit from social media. Having a strong online presence can make it easier for you to spread your message, recruit volunteers, raise donations and ultimately advance your mission. It’s alright to be hesitant. It’s natural to have concerns. But have an open mind - I promise it’ll work out.

There we have it. Short and sweet. What are some top-of-the-mind stories/thoughts you have going on? Any current events or topics that have gotten you thinking?

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Top 5 YouTube Videos - #1

Top 5 YouTube Videos - #1 Leroy Jenkins

My personal favorite YouTube video. Over 11 million views, part of a question on Jeopardy and was even mentioned on Howard Stern. Classic YouTube video where World of Warcraft player Leroy Jenkins spoils the fun for his guild!

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Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Do you rely too much on social media

Let’s do a hypothetical “what if” for a second. What if social media went away, say tomorrow? Would you be able to sustain your client’s PR efforts? Would you suddenly find yourself void of any big ideas?

The reason I ask this is because social media is all the rage right now. I’m just as guilty as anyone of buying into the hype. I love social media - it’s the first thing I do in the morning. It’s also the last thing I do before going to bed. I love the ability to connect and learn from the many brilliant folks out there. However, if social media failed to exist tomorrow, what impact would it have on your work?

Are we forgetting the basics of public relations? I love the enthusiasm that social media has created. It’s great to see what social media is doing to the communications landscape. But we owe it to our clients, to our employers and most importantly, to our profession to be well-balanced. I understand that social media is the new trend and the way the communication field is going. However, if we focus solely on social media, we’ll be doing an injustice to ourselves by forgetting the core of what makes a successful PR professional.

I agree that it’s important for PR folks to get familiar with social media. Will everyone use it? No, just as it’s not for every business, it’s not for every PR person. There are a lot of other tools that PR folks should be focusing on during these leans times that I think are getting swept under the rug.

Basic HTML and SEO are two things that I personally need to learn more about. What about pitching? It’s a skill that is often taken for granted, yet is something that successful PR folks master. What about research? My opinion - it’s the most essential skill a PR pro needs to learn and practice. Social media is simply one part of PR. It’s like media relations, internal communications, community relations - one piece of a bigger puzzle.

Would you still be able to build relationships if a computer wasn’t in front of you? How would you network if the Internet wasn’t around? Could you still pick up a piece of paper and interview a client? Could you make your brand stand out without the glitz and glamour?

Listen, I’m all for integration of social media. I’m constantly trying to learn more each day. It’s a great tool for me to connect. Let’s enjoy the technology, but like the saying goes - don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

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