Pitching on Friday ShareDay


Mariano Rivera

As PR people, we’re all just a bunch of pitchers.

Not like the great Mariano Rivera, or (watch me date myself here) Goose Gossage or Ron Guidry. (Anyone remember Luis Tiant for the win?)

We are storytellers, not only for our clients, but for ourselves. To be successful, we need to relay information in a condensed and entertaining way, so as to provoke the “tell me more!” reaction in the reporters, editors and producers we are pitching, giving them the tools to do the same for their readers, listeners and viewers.

We also all know that there are some basic rules about PR pitching: Never lie, or even stretch the truth; lead with the most interesting facts; have a story with a beginning, middle and end. And make every pitch actionable.

There’s also the rule about not pitching on a Friday, for various reasons. I’ve been guilty of practicing this myself, but this article – presented for this installment of Friday ShareDay – from PR News Online relays some valid reasons to jettison the “don’t pitch on Friday” rule.

Happy Weekend!

Creativity is King, but Planning is the Queen


LEGO

LEGOs are awesome.

My son has just made the jump from the Duplo sets to what he calls “little LEGOs” and I have been sucked in as well.

With a pile of multicolored bricks of every shape and size strewn across his playroom, we begin shaping creations only limited by our imaginations.

But as the constructs become more complicated, daddy realizes the most amazing builds need to be guided: with a plan.

Same goes in the business world. You can’t possibly accomplish something without thinking it through and devising a plan first.

So here’s what building LEGOs has taught me:

1. Understand what you want to accomplish. What are you trying to create and why? What should the finished product look like and how much room do you want/need to leave for spontaneous creativity? In my world, balancing planning and unforseen opportunities for creativity is a good mix.

2. Have the raw materials and the time you need to do the job. Do you have what you need to make your vision come to life? Can you create what you need to in the time allotted? Do you need to make changes based on either of these criteria, and will the changes negatively affect the final product?

3. Sketch out the final product and the steps needed to get there. Before you put the roof on the house (or the satellite dish on the moon base) you need walls, doors and windows in place first. Those walls need to be strong enough to support what’s being piled on top of it, and they need to stand up straight.

4. Execute with joy. Get to doin’ and make your thing. Keep moving ahead; don’t get stuck on a detail or you will never get to the end. Quality check every step. Have fun as you go, otherwise you will rush to the end and make mistakes along the way.

5. Share and make them happy. There’s nothing more satisfying than giving your creation to your little construction buddy for him to play with. Similarly, deliver the fruits of your labor to your client. Savor the smile.

How do you balance creativity and planning?

(P.S. Why is Planning not the King? Because everyone knows the Queen is the one who is really in charge.)

Damn, I Wish I Had Said That


PR Disaster

So much of what we do as PR people isn’t about message – it’s about good advice.

And good counsel shouldn’t be relegated to press releases and placements. We need to help people think through challenges and problems and help them find their way to their goals.

When clients make bad decisions – and worse, when they make those bad decisions because we didn’t help them make a better one – is when the ground falls out from under them. And from you. And pulling things back together can be very, very messy.

So for Friday ShareDay, here’s a great article – that frankly, I wish I had written myself – about “When PR overshadows the problem” by Phil Rosenthal.

Happy Weekend!

Be The Ball


Be The Ball

Every red-blooded American man’s favorite comedic movie (or darn near close) must be Caddyshack.

Among all the classic scenes is the one where Ty Webb instructs a young Danny Noonan to concentrate and just “be the ball” in an effort to help him become a better golfer.

The results were more comedic than impressive, but the lesson is a good one, no matter how far Danny’s chip shot landed from the pin. (“Right in the lumber yard.”)

And it came to mind as I crashed a project this week: a speech for a client that needed a top-to-bottom rewrite in just hours.

I was able to pull it off, to the client’s great delight, because I allowed myself to “be the ball.” I knew this person, cold: his logic, his voice and his factual information, to the point where I felt as though I was writing for myself. I put myself in the room, at the podium, speaking to the group of people he will address. I turned off all external inputs – save for spellcheck – and just wrote what needed to be said.

He was so happy he even allowed me to take a second pass at it this morning, and the results are.. well.. we’ll see tonight when he’s at the mic reading the words I wrote for him. But I think it’s gonna be just fine.

What are your best ways to write?

Action Begets Action


ACT

I recently conducted a media training session with a client.

After taking her through the one hour tutorial, we branched out into other topics, and landed on her question to me about how often her group should send out news releases. They’re a grassroots organization dealing with a current political issue and looking for lots of attention to drive their agenda. We’ve already helped them be successful, and they are looking to build on it.

We had a spirited conversation, and it led me to codify a few key ideas:

1. Make your communications actionable. Everything you send should say “here’s our thing, and here’s what you can do with it.” Whether a news release, a pitch letter or an e-blast to your subscribers, always have an actionable embedded in the communication. Otherwise it’s destined for the trash.

2. Don’t do quotas. While you want to make your communications frequent enough to keep you and your group in the front of people’s minds, don’t set up an artificial threshold that compels you to send useless information. It will dilute your message and your credibility.

3. Drive the cattle back to the ranch. Whenver you communicate, include links to information and other sites that are helpful and that expand on your message. Sending people to your Facebook page will get them to your community where they can interact and share. Linking to your YouTube channel will get them clicking on your video content where they will learn more about you. Send people to places they will get fast, useful and (here’s the trick) entertaining information that they will want to consume.

4. Act, yourself! Don’t be shy about following up with people if you’ve asked them for a response and they havent given you one. And when people respond on your blog or Facebook, acknowledge them somehow, even if it’s with a “Yes! Thanks for commenting!” or favoriting their tweet. Engage with them and retain their interest and spur future activity.

5. Build your tribe. This is the whole point of communication. Collect email addresses, Facebook likes and twitter followers. Get people to carry your water (ie, your message), and contribute to what you are doing. Expanding your footprint will also make you more credible with media when you go to interact with them.

What are your thoughts for how and how often to communicate?

Pick Three Things (And Stick With ‘Em)


Pick Three Things

“Pick three ideas and convey them frequently.”

It’s advice we give to clients in the PR world, especially when we train them to speak with media or engage with public audiences of any kind.

Our strange cultural fascination with the number “3” aside, there is wisdom in the root of this concept. Studies show the human brain can’t retain more than three bits of information at a time, at least not in a meaningful way. And even though you can train your brain to do more, the truth is, most people don’t.

Just as the parable advises on how to eat an elephant, we should not endeavor to jump to the final step from the first. Nor should we try to accomplish everything simultaneously. At best, we will fail. At worst, we will implode.

Three things. Pick ’em and stick with ’em. Only once they are done (one way or another) should you decide to move on.

No Surprises


surprise

Surprises are bad.

No, I’m not talking about surprise birthday parties, or a 50% off sale at your favorite store.

I mean business surprises. The things that sneak up on you and throw you off your game, sucking time and energy out of your day that should be spent on accomplishing the things you and your team have planned and committed to. And they are – for the most part – completely avoidable.

Surprises happen because of a lack of communication. In the case of a surprise party, that is intentional.

But in the work environment, people who are supposed to be collaborating can often surprise each other, and sometimes with disastrous results.

Not communicating leaves other people standing around waiting, or getting caught flat-footed when you need to call on them for assistance and support.

Team members can stumble to get up to speed, casting aside other projects because yours is “on fire” and needs immediate attention. Obviously, that’s not the path to success. And it can even make happy clients, well, not happy.

Like I said, it’s completely avoidable.

Institute a “no surprises” policy on your team.

Overexposed


Overexposed

There’s such a thing as doing too much. And we know it when we see it.

We live in a hectic world, always running somewhere: running to catch a flight, running home to have dinner, running to meet a client or a deadline.

So much of our life can be spent running. Chasing something. Sometimes we don’t even know after what.

We need to slow down.

Not “take a vacation” slow down (although right now on this flight home from San Antonio, a vacation sounds awfully good), I mean slow down in our every day lives.

Moving too fast is an invitation for stupid mistakes. It drains the meaningful out of what we do, and inflates the trivial. It makes mediocrity feel like a win.

We’re not supposed to spend our lives putting out fires and fixing mistakes. We’re supposed to avoid the matches in the first place so we never even have to call the fire department.

Some people, some organizations – especially in the public relations world – seem like they are always out there, all the time, hogging the spotlight and yelling above the din. Lesser people would be tempted to match their frequency in a quest for our own feeling of connection and satisfaction. To do as much as they are. We would be wrong.

Fewer, smarter, better campaigns are always preferable to the run-and-gun school of public relations. The news cycle is what it is. And there’s always another one coming.

You’ll get your turn at bat. Make sure you can see the pitch when it comes.

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone


Comfort Zone

On a recent field trip with a client, I decided to try something new.

What it was doesn’t matter. I got an idea, something I had never done before, but was fairly certain I could pull off. I did my homework on the technical aspects of what I needed to accomplish. I recruited a collaborator to help me test the idea. And then I went for it.

I could have very easily fallen on my face.

And although the experiment wasn’t a fire-breathing, twitter-trending-topic success, what I set out to test did, in fact, work. And the feedback I got in the process (from myself and from others) will let me do that thing even better the next time.

I was out of my comfort zone. And it felt good.

It’s easy for us to not do something new; to repeat the same winning formula over and over, tweaked for the details, in order to keep racking up wins. After all, if you weren’t so good at that thing you can do (in your sleep, by now, I am sure), people wouldn’t be hiring you, right? So why mess with something that is working?

Because that’s not what we do.

As PR people, we need to always be looking for the new. The different. The unusual. The unique.

The stagnant dies. The boundary-pushers not only survive, but thrive. We create new paradigms and new ways of seeing the world. We advance the narrative and turn the insane into the achievable.

Don’t settle for the same-old ho-hum. Get out of your comfort zone. I’m certainly glad I did.

Eliminate the Noise


Noise

Anything that distracts us from our goals can be defined as noise.

It’s all around us, mostly in the form of messages designed to get us to take action, and usually to spend money. It’s siren song lures us into big box stores with promises of zero-percent financing; into restaurants for two-for-one, bottomless drinks and dinners; and into all manner of other entertainment, experiential and consumption opportunities.

But if those opportunities don’t align with our goals, the are distractions. They sap our attention, energy and resources. By that definition, they must be eliminated.

This is not an anti-marketing message; rather, this is a pro-YOU message.

It’s your job to figure out what is noise, for you, your organization and your goals. You need to filter the noise from the essential. One man’s noise can be another man’s nirvana.

It can be daunting, and perhaps not fun. Asking – actually telling – other people that their best and sincerest efforts are not welcome.

But it’s either them or you. You can’t apologize for doing what you do.