Wednesday, March 15, 2017

PR FAQ: Why won’t the media cover my story?


By: Susan Finco, President, Leonard & Finco Public Relations

No matter what industry you’re in, you’re bound to get some frequently asked questions about what you do. In our business, it’s inevitable that someone will ask: Why won’t the news media cover my story? Why? Here my top five answers (which often start out as questions):
  1. Does your pitch or release contain the necessary information, including the obvious who, what, where, when and why? If a reporter wants more information but can’t contact you, they’ll move on to something else. (Hint: If it’s a weekend or evening, include your cell phone number.)
  2. Have you personalized the pitch or release for the type of media or reporter you are contacting? Radio doesn’t care if there are great visuals, but if you’re pitching something to TV, you better have a strong visual component. Don’t pitch a feature story about education to a business reporter. Know who you’re pitching before you contact them. A little research goes a long way.
  3. Is there a reason for them to care? Why will their readers, viewers or listeners care about your story or the expertise you’re offering?  Give them a reason to care and you increase your chances of getting coverage.
  4. It sounds like you’re selling something. Trying to get the news media to cover your story when all you’re doing is trying to sell something (and it’s obvious, believe me) is a sure fire way to have them ignore you. Sell your expertise, not a product or promotion.
  5. What else is going on at that time? There may be a major news story they are following/covering that day or week. Sometimes, even the best stories are passed up because there’s something else going on. It happens.

I’m sure there are other answers to the question “Why won’t the media cover my story,” and I would love to hear your thoughts about it. What has your experience been with pitching the media? If you’re a reporter, what is likely to get tossed without you thinking twice?

Friday, March 3, 2017

Are your videos shining on different social media platforms?


By: Scott Stein, VP of Client Services, Leonard & Finco Public Relations

We all seem to be attracted to shiny things. There have even been studies of why people gravitate toward shiny objects. In today’s social media world, one could argue that those shiny things take the form of photos and videos on the platforms that we follow. Without a visual element, we are much more likely to ignore the post.

As a PR firm, we certainly encourage the use of visuals on social media. But just like text should be posted on social media with a plan and a purpose, so should your visuals. As Alex York pointed out in a recent piece on SocialMediaExaminer.com, it’s important to have the right video for each social media platform.

Planning a video for Facebook? Be sure to include captions. Facebook users most often watch video without sound, particularly if they are out and about in public or even sitting at their work desk. Always be sure the text you use is readable by creating contrast from the background. Light background=dark text and vice versa.

Don’t ignore live video on Facebook. It’s a new, but powerful tool. Consider content, timing and promotion before going live.

Twitter has now jumped into live videos. Since a reported 90 percent of Twitter users view videos on their mobile devices, it’s crucial that any video content (whether live or not) be mobile friendly.

With Instagram, there’s a one minute limit on videos that you post to your feed. With Instagram Stories, you have the option of streaming live video or posting a 10-send clip; both will disappear from your story after 24 hours. Whether you’re posting to your feed or your story, you’ll have to keep your videos short and engaging.

There’s no arguing that visuals make a big difference in whether people will notice and respond to your social media posts. When it comes to video, just be sure your video fits the platform you’re using. 

Do you use video with your social media efforts? Do you tailor your video to the platform that it’s on?

Friday, February 24, 2017

Back to Basics: does your website include this information?


By: Allison Barnes, Account Assistant, Leonard & Finco Public Relations

Websites can be frustrating in so many ways. Links that don’t work, out of date information, and impatiently waiting for content to load due to buffering. But one website pet peeve of mine is the lack of information some websites provide to viewers. Why have a website if it’s not up to date or does not show potential customers how to reach you or what your business stands for? Here are the basics I think every website should include: 
  • Contact information - A business website should make it clear where the business is located, mailing address or the best way to contact the company. Most websites include this information either on the top or bottom of a page or on a separate “Contact” page. Items like employees’ names, title, phone number and email address should also be easy to locate. For large businesses with hundreds of employees, don’t list every employee, but be sure to include key contacts, such as the President/CEO, department heads, and customer service reps. All contact information should be updated as soon as any of this information is changed.                            
  • Links to social media - If your business is on any social media platform, a link or username for each platform should be available for website visitors to find. Setting up social media accounts takes time, so show off your hard work! Social media accounts should also include up-to-date contact information like the company address, website url, phone number and a general email address for inquires, and general information about your business. Think of your social media page as a small website, explaining what your company does and how it got started. Get visitors interested in your business, so they want to learn more about it, your products or services.
  • Accurate information - Your business spends a lot of time perfecting your services, products and brand, so keep up with it by providing accurate information, such as products available, current job openings and event calendars. Don’t disappoint visitors with inaccurate information about who you are, a product that is no longer manufactured or a job posting that has been filled.
Provide visitors with the information they want and need to know about your business. They will appreciate your honesty and will hopefully make a purchase. What would you add to websites that typically isn’t included? I would love to hear from you!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Great marketing strategy or just plain wrong? - You be the judge


By: Cole Buergi, Leonard & Finco Public Relations

With the myriad of news stories and Facebook posts that have gone overboard on both sides of the political aisle in the past year, few things in the news or on social media surprise me anymore. That is, until yesterday when the USA Today ran a story that, for Valentine’s Day, Burger King locations in Israel are offering an adult meal, complete with a sex toy.

No, this is not fake news: http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/nation-now/2017/02/14/burger-king-giving-away-sex-toys-adult-meals-valentines-day/97885854/. The adult meal comes with one of three items, a feather duster, head massager or blindfold.

Now I don’t speak for everyone, but I have to believe that most people are thinking, “Really, who would come up such an idea? And, more importantly, why?”

If the idea was to get an attention-grabbing headline, well I would say mission accomplished. If it was for any other reason, then my response is eww! Imagine coming home to your significant other and saying, “Hi love, you’ll never guess what I got at Burger King.” Nothing in my mind could be less romantic. Not to mention your new blindfold smells like a Whopper or French fry grease. Add in that Burger King caters to all age groups and now parents will have to explain why there is a special meal package on the menu for adults only.

What are your thoughts? Is utilizing the “shock effect” the only way to get people’s attention in today’s extremely cluttered information world? Has Burger King entered an area of inappropriate marketing?

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Communication lessons learned from a bold Super Bowl ad


By: Noelle Cutler, Account Assistant, Leonard & Finco Public Relations
 
Every year, over a hundred million viewers tune in to the Super Bowl. And every year, advertisers pay millions to grab the attention of those viewers; inevitably some commercials try bolder techniques than others in order to accomplish that. This year, one advertisement that garnered a lion’s share of attention was 84 Lumber and their story of a Mexican mother and daughter on a journey to emigrate to America. The storyline was a bold choice given the current political and national debate over immigration. This bold communication choice certainly attracted attention and got people talking. If you’re considering going bold in your own communication efforts, consider these three major caveats we learned from the results of 84 Lumber’s commercial. 

  1. Be bold…but only if you’re ready for backlash. A spokesperson for the ad agency that created the commercial said that about half of the feedback was positive and the other half was critical. The company was actually expecting that level of criticism, but were willing to accept that because they thought the issue was important enough. It’s also important to note that the company sells building supplies to mom-and-pop and midsize local contractors, and many of them are first generation immigrants to the United States. So, perhaps they were willing to deal with criticism from half of the viewers if the other half who reacted positively were actual potential customers. In your communications, always understand that the bolder and riskier you are, while you may gain very loyal customers, you’re also likely to alienate the people on the other side of the spectrum. 
  2. Be bold…but only if you’re prepared for the volume of feedback. Within minutes of the commercial airing, there were 600,000 hits to 84 Lumber’s website. A total of six million people tried to watch the full length commercial available exclusively on their website in the first hour after it aired. Their overwhelmed website crashed, leaving visitors (and potential customers) in the dust. They weren’t ready to handle the volume of people who were interested in their commercial. With bold communication choices, not only do you have to be ready to handle the nature of the feedback, you also have to be ready to handle the amount of feedback. 
  3. Be bold…but only if it doesn’t take away from your business. While the commercial itself was a memorable one, how many of the viewers remembered the company’s name? How many of those viewers remembered them in a positive light? And then how many of those viewers would actually buy their product or use their service? People were talking about the commercial, but the political message overshadowed their actual “product.” It’s worth noting that being bold can simultaneously draw attention towards your brand but away from your actual product.

Whether you watch the Super Bowl for the winning team or the winning commercials, there’s a lot to be gleaned from this year’s slew of advertisements. Consider these lessons from 84 Lumber before you risk being bold in your communication efforts.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

How tiny things can create a BIG problems

By: Susan Finco, President, Leonard & Finco Public Relations

In the PR business, we’re always talking about the need to get things done fast and right. And we talk a lot about proofreading and how it shouldn’t go out the window just because you’re in a hurry. But, when you proofread, it really has to be for more than just spelling and grammar. Oh sure, those are very important things, but there are two other items you should remember when proofreading:
  1. What’s the content like? Does what you’ve written make sense? If it doesn’t make sense to you or to the person you have reviewing the piece, then it’s not going to make sense to your target audience. Generally, confusion reigns when someone is intent on using too much corporate speak or technical jargon. Plain talk. Plain English. Works every time.
  2. Are dates, addresses, phone and emails correct? Those tiny things can cause BIG problems.  Do you really want someone who won a contest to be calling Joe’s Bar and Grill instead of your business? It creates a problem for your customer and for Joe’s! And you certainly don’t want someone showing up at an open house two weeks before it is being held.
Let’s face it; we’re all in a rush these days. But don’t let the rush to get something out the door turn into a problem that’s going to take up even more of your time.

Are there any other proofreading tips you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Writing is like exercising...getting started is often the hardest part!


By: Steve Scaffidi, Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations

Whether you write for a living, or do it for fun, the act of writing can be challenging sometimes, or even occasionally maddening. We've all written something. A letter, a blog, a thesis perhaps? A collective grouping of words on paper or a computer screen. But often, the words don't flow out of your mind so easily, and the impetus to start can literally stop you dead in your creative tracks.  Where to begin?

To build off the exercise analogy, getting started can be the hardest part. Most people stare at the paper or screen for a while, looking for an idea or nugget of creativity to launch them into their project. Cleverness can work, but only if you're clever. Humor is also a good thing, but not everybody's funny. If you don't write often, just like anything else, the process will be tougher. You don't run a marathon without preparation, good shoes and nutrition, and most importantly, putting in the miles. The same thing goes for writing. To borrow a concept from writer Malcolm Gladwell’s book, The Outliers, the more you do something the better you'll be at it. He gave it a name, the 10,000 hour rule, referring to the amount of practice time it takes to be really great at something. Writing follows that same logic.

The more you write, the easier the concepts, structure and the rules of writing will be. So yes, we've all stared at the blank page, but writing involves moving past that, and that often begins with a good idea. What are you trying to say? Is it relevant, newsworthy, interesting? Interest is often generated by a commonly shared belief, or story, that speaks to the reader. If you're writing about an event, was it something you experienced directly, and how did it affect you? Were other people impacted the same way? If the answer is yes, then that story would make for an interesting read. By sharing the experience, with real life feelings and emotions, you've conveyed something that goes beyond the words. So if you're stuck on a writing project, start by writing down something you saw and how it affected you.

Once you've started, you need to build a structure to support the paragraphs you write. Make it simple. Think about a beginning, middle, and end. Introduce the subject with a great beginning paragraph telling the reader why they're here. The middle is the story. Tell it in the best way you can, in the most interesting way. Finally, the end is just that. Wrap it up, but reinforce the value of the words you've written, and sum it all up using one of those concepts I introduced earlier. A funny line, clever play on words, or an emotional tug on the heartstrings of the reader. Make it worth their while.

Nothing about writing well is easy. But the effort is worth it when you've created something that another human being reads, and upon reading the last word, slowly nods their head in agreement. It doesn't have to be Shakespeare or Hemmingway, it just has to be worth reading.