IKEA Media Relations And Messaging On A Slow News Day

ALT="Media Relations And Messaging, IKEA, Soulati Media, Jayme Soulati"This story is about my roots in media relations and messaging. In particular, it’s about IKEA media relations and messaging!

I read the Wall Street Journal paper edition every day. If I can’t get to it in the morning, I’ll scan the headlines. That’s what happened recently — I was on the phone with mom and exclaimed, “You gotta be freaking kidding me.’IKEA Adds Veggie Balls to Menu.'”

It was right there under ‘Business News’ with a full-color image larger than life (about 8 x 10 in inches) with a story right below. I am agog; here’s why.

Media Relations And Messaging

I hail from Chicago’s PR agencies in core media relations as a former purist, publicist, and public relations-only professional. Every day in my Chicago agency days I did media relations and messaging. To those not in the know, that means publicity and story pitching to journalists who hated that word — ‘publicist.’ I sat on the phones for eight hours daily as a captive AE pitching media. I know a slow news day when I see one.

Today, I’m no longer practicing like that on a daily basis; alas, public relations has changed. The messaging and media relations I do is oriented to message mapping and finding the news hook to do media relations the digital way. But, that’s all for another day.

IKEA Got Lucky

Now, I don’t discount the fact that IKEA is a multinational brand and largest furniture maker in the world consumers love. I don’t discount either its likely phenomenal media relations team who also likely consists of young publicists pitching media. Despite the company’s privately held status, the Wall Street Journal would be remiss not to cover the company’s goings on.

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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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Startups Should Hire PR Early

What-is-the-plan.jpgDuring the earliest stages of a startup, there are many discussions and decisions about how a business will launch and with which bells and whistles to go to market. Marketing needs to be involved in these earliest stages; does public relations?

The very lawyerly answer is, it depends.

When you work with a hybrid public relations professional who brings 30 years of experience to a team, then public relations influences a startup’s business strategy. There is even counsel delivered by public relations that can influence business model. This expertise comes from years of innate knowledge acquired from representing clients across industries.

A public relations professional is a startup’s single-most critical member of the team, especially during pre-launch.


While marketing morphs the business, public relations stands in the wings absorbing the dynamics of company culture and adding expertise from the outside looking in. While executives are safely spinning their business model, public relations contributes external perspective from the vantage point of a variety of stakeholders.

  • What will media ask; what will executives say?
  • What would investors and boards of advisors want set up at the start point?
  • Will consumers be able to understand why this company matters?

Startups Spend Time Inside

The formation of a company requires intense focus on the inside of a company. There’s so much more that happens beyond writing a mission statement or determining company values, structure and model.

What’s likely most confusing is the fact that public relations, in the presence of marketing, will not influence the inside of a company as much as it will influence how the company is positioned for external consumption.

Please read that again.

Therein lies the major differentiator among marketing and public relations – we who do the latter will always be listening for the language we need from marketing to describe and position a company for audiences who reside outside the company.

Throughout my career, I have influenced the business model of a startup. Because I bring such a breadth of experience across industries, it’s comfortable for me to share insights based on three decades of influencing results and driving measurable campaigns.

Ultimately, the best team for a startup is one where marketing and PR work hand in hand so all the expertise is conjoined with the same goal. Usually, that’s rare as the startup budget cannot afford a seasoned or deep team with these key players.

Would I to choose which professional to hire at the outset, it would be public relations – a seasoned, hybrid professional who has continually innovated and morphed alongside industry and technology.

PR And Marketing

Public relations is blending more with marketing than ever before; that’s nothing new, it’s been happening for years, yet now everyone is finally labeling what’s happening. Although the disciplines of marketing and public relations are blurring, there is still a major gap in understanding of how public relations delivers.

The logical progression for a startup is to hire marketing to morph its insides with branding, mission, vision, values, etc. When done, public relations enters from the wings during pre-launch. The positioning begins.

  • Public relations rolls in with a message mapping process.
  • Executives are trained to deliver strong messages to external audiences.
  • The business model is tested with all the key audiences in mind.
  • A strategy unfolds to announce the company’s existence with the differentiators in place.
  • A media relations strategy is launched to announce to the market this company exists and is serious about earning a spot in the vertical market.
  • Social media and blogs are launched to continuously push content.
  • Public relations and marketing blend and work cohesively to execute strategy.

No Budget? Hire PR

What if a startup is working on a shoestring budget? There are seasoned public relations professionals who can bootstrap alongside a startup.

When a startup needs communications and marketing counsel, a public relations professional is the best hire at the outset. Someone who knows enough about technology, business, messaging, strategy, positioning, marketing blend, and much more.

Having the ability to write professionally is critical; adding someone to the team who is a professional blogger and media relations professional is smart for a startup.

To understand more about why PR is a better hire for startups than marketing,

contact Jayme Soulati at jayme at Soulati dot com. The hands-on experience is there.

You may dial 937-312-1363, as well.

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How To Select News Release Distribution Services

news-release.jpgNews releases are distributed in a variety of ways:

  • One-to-one media relations from public relations professionals to media
  • A distribution via a media list developed via Cision, Vocus or other media databases
  • An online only news release distribution service e.g. PR Web
  • A traditional wire like PR Newswire, BusinessWire or Marketwired which also blend and distribute with online outlets

There are resellers of these services that may have a limited distribution or fewer bells and whistles. What’s often a feature for companies watching the bottom line of out-of-pocket expenses is price. Resellers come in less than the primary suppliers; which features are sacrificed for price? It’s hard to know.

In fact, it’s hard to know the best recommendation any more for clients and companies. Recently, I was asked my professional opinion on the difference between the online only news release distribution service compared to the more traditional wire.

I’m going to try to provide thoughts via an in-depth analysis of metrics from a very recent distribution for a client. Keep reading to hear my thoughts and do add yours, too?

Online News Release

Prior to Google switching up news release optimization and requiring no-follow links for online news dissemination, there was a creeping practice of “SEO PR” where some professionals were optimizing public relations content for search marketing benefit.

Back in the day about three years ago, results for online news releases were fabulously successful and companies realized high traffic to websites as a result. Today, times are a bit rougher; there are hundreds of news releases issued every single day from a variety of platforms and channels.

The suite of outlets picking up news releases via online only distribution is impressive, but when you look closely at the outlets, they may not be the best places for the news, especially if the news is a niche topic for a business-to-business audience.

Metrics for Online News Release Distribution  via PRWeb (Actual)

  • 57,489 impressions from a feed or web page
  • 1,096 reads — number who loaded a full version
  • 49 interactions — clicks, download, forward, website interaction
  • 109 online pick up

When you examine the outlets that picked up the news from the traditional wire, they are more popular news sites with a slew of broadcast TV websites, daily papers and business journals.

Metrics for PR Newswire Distribution (Actual via eReleases reseller)

(eReleases report says it distributes news to 5,900 websites and traditional news rooms with 1.5 million views of news releases; PR Newswire says it distributes to 200,000 media and 8,000 websites.)


When you look at the data only, the online distribution service wins  by a long shot; but, are numbers always accurate? No, you need the interpretation, and that’s what we’re trying to do here; but, there’s a missing link.

Website Analytics Required

When a company is putting news on both the online only and traditional wire service (with some online outlets, too), the best idea is to do a split test with a link on one of the services or a different quote and a different link or quote on the other distribution service.

Also, understanding traffic to web pages via Google analytics or Clicky is helpful and rounds out the picture. Without incorporating these data into the full analysis, it would be hard to determine which distribution service is better.


  • PRWeb has five levels of pricing from $99 to $499 depending on whether the news is a multi-media news release with images and video or merely an extremely basic version.
  • PR Newswire is a membership service and members receive pricing accordingly. This service, however, is the absolute top of the line with all the real and required services publicly traded global companies need…and more.
  • eReleases is a reseller of PR Newswire and they do a great job. They have tiered pricing, too, with a “personal publicist” service.  I use them often for news distribution on the PR Newswire. The difference is you don’t get everything PRNewswire offers, and the price reflects that.
  • Marketwired phoned me yesterday to inform me more about its 10 vertical distributions with emphasis on the Associated Press

What Is The News

To make a determination about which service to use, professionals have to analyze the news. Here’s what I’m talking about:

  • Is the news national, breaking news?
  • Is there a time element to the news?
  • Is it specialty niche news that appeals to a specific segment?
  • Is it for trade media in vertical markets?
  • Is it business-to-business news or consumers with wide appeal?
  • Is it regional news to a smaller audience?
  • Does the news tie in with a seasonal event, current event, or trend?
  • Is it oriented to research supported by evidence, proof points or data?
  • Is the news investor related for a publicly traded company?
  • Is the company a startup, corporation or non-profit?
  • Is the news global? Should you launch simultaneously on several continents?

Knowing whether the news is important enough to warrant national distribution is the responsibility of the media relations professional. Media relations professionals will also know when to use online distribution only, wire service only, or both.

Best Analysis

So, with all of the above which doesn’t clearly or definitively point to one over the other, the best analysis is frequency. In order to understand which distribution service may provide best results, then consider this:

  • Get five news releases out the door using both services
  • Ensure the news is valuable and more hard hitting
  • Analyze results from reports and compare data side by side
  • Incorporate news content into that analysis, too

In My Professional Opinion…Taking into consideration all of the factors above, here is my professional opinion about which service provides better opportunity.

The answer is very lawyerly — it depends.

1. Look at the quality of the news
2. Determine who should get the news
3. What is the objective — traffic, views, clicks, earned media
4. Incorporate analytics from start to finish
5. Distribute five to seven news releases and do a comparative analysis
6. Review the metrics and conduct your analysis

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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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