National Business Media, PR And Newtonian Theory

Sir-Isaac-Newton.jpgIf you’ve kept abreast of news about national business media of late, you’d know a few are on the auction block while others are undergoing close scrutiny about revenue and future performance. Still more venerable brands are splitting partnerships.

What does this have to do with media relations, the arm of the public relations discipline oriented to earned media – getting stories to appear in news outlets based on the strength of clients’ news?
It is turning the entire media chain on its head; let’s take a closer look:

  • National media need owners with deep pockets.
  • Business leaders in the executive suite are leaving in droves.
  • Journalists writing for the publication know their necks are on the chopping block, too.
  • Editors are trying for business as usual, while crooking the head over the shoulder to see what’s coming.
  • Media relations experts who have built strong relationships with these business reporters now find these relationships drying up with uncertainty and the inability to say “maybe” to a national news story.
  • Clients who shell out oodles of retainer fees to agencies that promise results by way of earned media now may be seeing less positive confirmed responses about media relations projects.

I bet you didn’t know that Newtonian theory applied to national business media and PR did you? For every action there is an equal or opposite reaction.

So, what’s a guy to do? I’m just going to come clean and say, “Run, and take cover!”

Forbes is for sale. Fortune is splitting from CNNMoney.com due to a Time Warner divestiture, and Bloomberg Businessweek is under review in spite of its new found success being owned by Bloomberg Media. Time, Inc. is seeking new ways to improve its bottom line while Money magazine is also part of the split from CNNMoney.

Why The Shift in National Business Magazines?

The reason is quite simple; digital. Advertisers are truly hungry for more reach for the dollar, and the way to make this happen is by making websites work on higher digital scale than in the past.
Everyone knows how critical advertising revenue has been for journalism. It’s the elephant in the room. With native advertising now playing strong, business media executives are becoming hot commodities for this expertise so magazines can strengthen revenue.

Online publications designed for smart devices create opportunities for media to build new ad streams, too. If these, sometimes archaically thinking executives don’t get on board with digital and online publishing, then opportunities are weak to maintain a healthy bottom line.

As a public relations marketer,
I subscribe to about 25 different news outlets and other magazines monthly. The majority come via hard copy to my door because the deals I get are too good to pass up; something like $10 for the year with a gift subscription. Sadly, I’ve seen the ‘zines I rely on get thinner and thinner and then consolidate with sister publications. So, this shift in media is not just happening with the national business press; it’s happening in the verticals, too.

Media Relations Professionals

What this means for we who pitch media is the need to absolutely be on the money with stories reporters can’t refuse. Have you ever seen HARO lists of the queries reporters are seeking to write stories? They’re so bizarre and unconventional I’ve nearly stopped scanning for pitching opportunities.

It’s no wonder journalists are complaining every more forcefully about we who pitch stories. If you’re being paid by a client to pitch a story regardless of whether there’s news value, then please push back on the client and take a look at other ways to get that story some air time.

It will save your reputation; trust me. Meanwhile, media relations and public relations professionals need to get more creative and identify outlets, content marketing strategies, and other communication vehicles to share client news.

Because we come from a creative profession, this shouldn’t be too hard to do. I would look to content marketing and digital marketing as an opportunity to get some creative legs on client stories; it’s the next big thing in PR.

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How To Message Map E-Book Debut

Message-Mapping-Book.jpgWhat is a message map?

In Jayme Soulati’s (that’s me) new e-book, Message Mapping: How to Sizzle External Communication with a #RockHot Tool for Leaders, I explain the concept of message mapping and why any company small, solo, mid-sized, or large needs this tool.

The e-book, available only at http://MessageMapping.co, also provides a step-by-step example of a message mapping exercise for a fictitious company. Readers are walked through the exercise to create messages that form the foundation of external communication.

Message maps are born in the media relations field within the profession of public relations. I have been doing message maps for 20 years for a broad brush of companies in all shapes and sizes with expertise from Chicago’s agencies.

Those people who work in the crisis communications field also use message maps to ensure that spokespeople are on message and less apt to stray from the approved messaging platform.

In this era of social media, companies may be in the spotlight of journalists less. This doesn’t mean preparation is not required or necessary; to the contrary. Spokespeople need to be ultra prepared today to ensure they can answer questions from many different channels. Having a message map is the first step in ensuring that comfort.

My book teaches marketers, public relations executives, business owners, and more how to work with a facilitator, the steps in the process, how messages are developed, and finally the step-by-step process to making a message map come alive.

Buy my e-book now, right here.

It’s a tool every company needs for copywriting, social media, media relations, website development, internal communications, and more.

Big Thanks

A team was instrumental in bringing this book to market. Without the help and expertise of Scott Quillin of New England Multimedia; Glen Moyes of Glen Moyes Design; and, Jenn Whinnem, this book would still be a seedling. My heartfelt thanks.

Two Books

Within six months, I have authored two books.

The first, “Writing with Verve on the Blogging Journey,” available as an e-book or softcover via Amazon or Greyden Press, is a three-year collection of blog posts about blogging. It was a book that needed to be published first, and it showed the steps through the world of self-publishing.

Message Mapping: How to Sizzle External Communications with a #RockHot Tool for Leaders, is not available via Amazon or a publisher’s store. It is only available on http://MessageMapping.co in an e-commerce setting.

Once I understand more about this journey in the online world of e-commerce, I will have more learnings to share with you. For today, I’m so happy to launch my second book in 2013, and I’m hopeful it will be a hit for the business world.

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Anatomy Of Feel-Good PR Stories

desert-tortoise.jpg

advocacy.britannica.com

The single-best place to find the single-best headlines in addition to feel-good PR stories is the bottom feature story on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.

Within these pieces are sensational and zany stories about topics you can’t imagine. Today’s story is one of the best feel-good features I’ve seen there in awhile as it melds the rough and tough U.S. Marine Corps with the desert tortoise.

Yes, our nation’s military dual as conservationists. Hard to believe, eh?

The Story

On a training exercise in the deserts of California, in Twentynine Palms to be exact, the troops were charging a hill and shooting at targets until one of the softer-hearted screamed “tortoise alert!” (Those last four words are speculation.)

The exercise ceased and the turtle doctor was called to the scene; he’s part of “a little-known army of biologists and other scientists who manage the Mojave desert tortoise and about 420 other threatened and endangered species on about 28 million acres of federally managed military land.”

When the tortoises are scared, they pee themselves. I’m only telling you that so I can use this word I’ve never seen from the story…”an unplanned micturition can cause dehydration and even death.” (The best explanation for that is the turtle wets the bed, and BTW? My spell check did not like that word.)

So, the biologist shows the Marines how to soak the reptiles in water until they drink enough to carry on. Apparently, these desert dwellers don’t need a drink for about two years, and when they dribble from fear, their supply of water is exhausted.

Elements of a Good PR Story

Let’s look at why this story works for national news:

  • Endangered species protected on federal reserves
  • A team of biologists functioning within the military under a bit of secret cover
  • The Marine Corps doing drills in the Mojave desert
  • The Marine Corp as conservationists; ceasing all ops until the tortoise families are safely moved to distances away from training sites.
  • Background about the reptile and its habits (the water factoids)

And, that really good headline tops it off, “The Few, the Proud, the Tortoises: Marines Protect Endangered Species; An Army of Biologists Are on Nature Patrol at Military Bases; ‘Walking Ravioli’

Your Good PR Story

Considering trying for national news with a good media relations professional? Here are some elements you can’t be without:

  • Hard news with a soft news twist
  • Current events angle; news that ties in with world affairs
  • Data: could be new research, patterns of behavior
  • Third-party Spokesperson: academic, scientist or other expert to vouch for the data
  • Consumer: Person who receives the service, uses the product with a good story
  • Company executive: Someone with the Message Map in hand who can present the company in proper light

The final item on your list is to have a professional pitch this to national media. It will be a huge challenge if you try to do it yourself.

By Jayme Soulati

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CCP Games’ Eve Online And A Media Relations Win

EVE Online logo

EVE Online logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Virtual gaming is nothing I’m familiar about, but how executives of CCP Games tell their story, share messages and a mission statement are. On the eve of Eve Online’s debut of DUST 514, the CCP Games media relations team scored a huge win.

This article in Bloomberg BusinessWeek showcases why and how the company is a phenom in the gaming community. Instead of getting excited about Eve Online, something that’s alien to me, I instead took a look at its similarities with social media. Virtual gamers addicted to Eve, an Icelandic space game, formation of funky friendships online…still in the dark?

This article from BusinessWeek will shed some light on the subject, and it’s a must read.
Galactic Crack, Why Eve Online, a Computer Game From Iceland Has the Most Fanatical Bunch of Fee-Paying Players In The Universe.

You might read it for any of the following factors:

  • Gamers who live life to play games in a virtual world without governments or rules adopt online personalities often stronger than in real life.
  • Spaceships are built and asteroids are mined for minerals to build the ships. In Russia, tycoons hire kids in real life to virtually mine the asteroids for arbitrage and ship building.
  • A counsel of gamers is selected to meet in person every six months in Iceland with CCP Games, the founders of Eve, to discuss how the game should evolve.
  • Serious relationships are formed in the game. When one of the gamers died in the Benghazi attack on the U.S Embassy and shared his last message with the world whilst playing Eve, thousands of people in the Eve community united and flew their ships to the same quadrant and spelled RIP VILE RAT like space candles.
  • The community raised $127,000 for Sean Smith’s family.

Inside Media Relations

In the midst of this 5-page, single-spaced story in BusinessWeek, the public relations factors are also impressive:

  • The co-founders shared the company mission statement, “To make virtual worlds more meaningful than real life,” and proceeded to give the reporter full opportunity to showcase the culture of CCP that knows its success is due to the 500,000 gamers (more than the population of Iceland) who subscribe.
  • The company has hired a real economist to monitor economic activity of Eve, and numerous economic studies by academics have been undertaken about the world of Eve online.
  •  The company feeds its employees (because food is expensive in Iceland) and families of employees come to eat at the company, too.
  •  The interactivity by the company with the elite Eve counsel occurs over three intense days. The gamers have a voice, and they influence how Eve evolves.
  •  Providing access to customers/game players to media for such an in-depth story is highly unusual for most companies; yet, the story is told primarily from the customer/player perspective.

 

Thoughts About Media Relations

Earning a story the likes of this one is practically a once-in-a-lifetime experience. All the factors for national media relations and the stories media love have to be in place.

Factors for National Publicity

1.    A large corporation with global reach
2.    Oodles of fanatical customers (yes, half-million would be good)
3.    A product like an online game that makes grown men stay up all night and vacation in Iceland in the dead of winter in the dark.
4.    A youthful executive team interested in giving back and opening the doors wide to showcase company secrets.
5.    Customers who do nothing but laud the product

To even begin to get to that point once factors are all secure, you need a Message Map. (I haven’t done a plug in awhile, get ready.)





Message Mapping by Jayme Soulati is a service many types of companies need to launch, re-launch, and re-energize.

I applaud the PR team that earned the story in BusinessWeek for CCP Games. I was so inspired when I read it that I had to write about it when I’m not even a gamer and probably never will be.

Social media is enough of a game for me; yet, I see the similarities between virtual gaming and social media engagement. It’s like playing roulette; the wheel never lands on the same place twice.

What do you think about games, social media, and media relations? Got any stories about your wins you can share?




Storytelling And The Media Relations Pitch Revisited

storytellingThe December 2012 issue of Vogue is an unlikely source to prompt a blog post about storytelling and media relations, but if you read ahead, you’ll see what I’m talking about. Arwa Damon – the 35-year-old Syrian-American CNN reporter who broke the story about finding the personal diary of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens in the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and who has covered every aspect of Iraq and all theaters of war in the Middle East since she was 25 years old – provided a glimpse to public relations practitioners about what makes a story her story.The coolest thing about this example is that Damon had no clue she was acting like a PR professional when she had to pitch her story to superiors and convince them of its importance.  Let me back pedal for you with this quote:

“Arwa Damon’s fearless reporting from the Middle East has made her a star at CNN. What she uncovered in Libya sparked a national furor.

And in 2007, Damon pushed to do a segment on a five-year-old Iraqi boy who had been badly burned in a raid. It was a small story, but the piece led to an enormous outpouring of support from viewers. Ultimately, CNN allowed Damon to find the boy medical care in the states and then to follow the story for four years.

Permitting such a level of engagement between a reporter, a subject, and her audience was something of a first for the network, and it made Damon a popular figure, both inside CNN headquarters and out,” Vogue, December 2012.

Think about this for a minute; I’ll ponder with you:

  • A millennial reporter who jets around the world into dangerous settings to do her job finds a 5-year-old injured in wartime.
  • She wants to do this story in the worst way and begs her superiors to make it happen. They acquiesce.
  • The reporter also begs to locate medical care and then reports on happenings for four years!

What would make a producer say yes to a story about an Iraqi toddler when U.S. troops are getting maimed and dying every day? It had to be how she presented the story, her conviction about drawing attention to babies and children as victims of war, and her passion to use her position to affect an outcry of support. Don’t forget this small fact – CNN had never done a story of this nature where the reporters became a seamless part of story for four years (not to mention earning the child free U.S. medical care).

What do you think? Are you tracking with me about how Damon had to put on the hat of a PR professional (although she didn’t know it) and pitch the heck out of that story until her producers said, “OK already!”

The clue for we in PR is this: each time we pitch a reporter, that gatekeeper has to – in turn – pitch it to editors or producers. It’s more challenging than ever for media relations professionals to sell news in one pitch.

Elements of A Successful Pitch

Anyone reading this is likely to be extremely knowledgeable about elements of a solid national or global story, but let’s recap for those who may not be:

  • Mass audience appeal. A story about children and especially 5 year olds is going to tug at all heart strings without language barrier.
  • Medical attention. When someone is injured as a result of war, that’s a natural story hook or news angle.
  • Consumers or victims of war. National stories always require a consumer/people angle. Have you ever pitched national network TV? The consumer angle is an absolute.
  • Call to action. We’re not sure about the call to action in Damon’s story; however, when the article suggests an “enormous outpouring of support from viewers,” we know how much ratings are driven by consumer sentiment and stories like these. While call to action is more of a marketing tactic, media relations professionals need to think about what the outcome of a story should be. How do you want the story to be regarded? Can you push for someone to open a wallet and donate funds to something? That inadvertent influence of earned media becomes so critical at the end of the day.
  • Data/Statistics/Big Data. This story in Vogue didn’t include statistics; however, we are fully aware of the importance of empirical evidence to support a story’s proof points.

Storytelling

I remember after Hurricane Katrina when Anderson Cooper launched a story segment called, “Keeping Them Honest” on CNN. He and his team returned to New Orleans to follow-up on officials’ plans to ensure the re-build was happening as it should. Each time I caught that segment, I said “good for you, Anderson,” as he provided everyone with a bird’s eye vantage about post-crisis Katrina.

While marketers need to be the consummate storytellers, media relations professionals need to craft the story with all the elements and more prior to pitching it anywhere. Put all the elements on the table, and if anything is missing, then hit the drawing board and dog the details. Imagine the tough sell Arwa Damon had to make to her producers to become personally involved in a story they didn’t even want to produce. All you need to do is let her be your inspiration.

This post originally appeared on the Cision Blog December 3, 2012.

By Jayme Soulati

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