Simplifying Public Relations

The Salvation Army Knows How to Relate On All Fronts - That's Good PR. Flickr credit: Tojosan

Yesterday I was interviewed by at third-year college student for an assignment in one of her public relations classes.  I do about a dozen of these a year for various students and I love how each one is always different. This particular student wanted me to define what public relations is…and so I threw it back in her court to answer first. She gave a very intelligent long answer about like its caring for a brand and communicating messages effectively through the use of journalists. But I told her my answer was in the title. Public Relations is just that. Public – Relations.

KEEP PR SIMPLE

It’s all about how you relate to the public, the media, colleagues, companies…public relations is about relating in any form or fashion.  It’s really that simple.

Public relations professionals are only as good as their contacts and as good as their strategies for spreading a message.  And that’s why social media is the perfect complement to public relations. Success on that platform deals with how well a person can provide engaging content.

Sometimes when looking for an answer, its right in front of your face. PR people often forget that at the end of day that it is how well we are able to communicate to others how they should write about whatever we are representing.  Therefore, for anyone starting out in the PR field or for those who are responsible for that area in their job, they should heed these simple suggestions.

TIPS FOR PR SUCCESS

(1). Don’t ever assume people will write about your product. Great content will get covered if its story is told interestingly for coverage.

(2.) A press release on its own is never a good strategy for pick up. Distributing press releases over a wire will not garner top-notch results, because you need to send it to a targeted list of people whom you know that cover that sort of product. It’s a left-right punch.

(3.) Relationships are the key to any business. Therefore, build up your followers and fans so that when you need some help in starting a movement, you have a terrific base to start from and grow upon. Keep meeting people online and in person – every connection made does present some opportunity.

Yep, it’s that simple. If you know how to relate to others, then you are on your way being a success in public relations. That’s my PR tip for the day.

Cindy Keeps It Simple

Cindy Ronzoni is a public relations veteran who has been building media relationships her entire career. She often speaks to college students and provides seminars to train small business professionals. In all her efforts, she exhorts simplicity in all that she does.

 

How Not Improving Can Help Your Business

Why Mess With a Greatness

Did you happen to catch today’s Wall Street Journal front page feature on paper clips? Yes, I just wrote paper clips.

At first I thought this was an odd, boring choice for a story selection, and I pondered why this premier publication would devote prime real estate to such an ordinary product.  It didn’t take me long, a couple of sentences, to get its point.  I learned that a paper clip is rare because it has withstood its classic design for over 100 years. How many things can you say that about?

This thought led me to further thought about whether we should keep certain things that work well alone and stop slapping “new improved” stickers on just about everything that gets sold or consumed.

DOES EVERYTHING HAVE TO BE NEW AND IMPROVED?

I mean we’ve all heard this statement before, if it ain’t broken don’t fix it.

I don’t like that statement – but, in this case it certainly applies. Paper clips are still as relevant today as they were the day they were introduced into the marketplace in 1903. Sure, you can add colors to them or designs or coat them in plastic. But at the end of the day is there any better tool to fix papers without leaving a mark, to un-clog glue bottles or clean under your finger nails in a pinch?

With that being said, are there things about your business or the work that you do that you shouldn’t improve upon because they work well?

A CLASSIC BUSINESS PLAN

Here’s what I would say about my PR business. No matter what new whiz-bang social media tool that comes out, I don’t want to lose personal connection and phone calls. My business success lies in having connections with real people, journalists, and I’ve built up those relationships through the years by having conversations with them over the phone or in-person. That’s really my business secret, my paper clip, if you will and one that I hope to never change.

 

Cindy Ronzoni Authors Informational Brief on The Social Aspects of Communication

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE    Contact: Steve Jones
July 27, 2011
(202) 222-2373 sjones@cablecommunicators.org

ACC Releases Informational Brief “The Social Aspects of Communication”
An Overview of Social Media Practices in Corporate Public Relations for Cable

Washington, D.C. – Today, the Association of Cable Communicators (ACC) released the July 2011 issue of ACCbriefs, “The Social Aspects of Communication” and posted the paper on the association’s Web site. The thrust of the publication is to provide a current overview of Social Media tools and techniques cable communicators are utilizing to enhance their overall communication effectiveness and meet their business objectives.

“The value of the July issue is that it lays out specific examples regarding how both cable operators and programming networks are utilizing the power of these social media tools,” said Steve Jones, executive director of ACC. “It goes on to site how these new technologies are used for customer engagement, media relations, issuing official statements, and responding to the always-on news cycle.”

The paper is authored by Cindy Ronzoni, founder and CEO of Social Spread Media, a digital public relations agency specializing in social and traditional media. She has over 20 years of public relations and corporate communications experience with senior positions at Fox Entertainment, Fox Cable, Game Show Network and Lifetime Networks.

The brief is available online at http://www.cablecommunicators.org/resources_briefs.php and is being distributed to ACC members via e-mail. ACCbriefs provide clarity on complex industry and communications issues and are designed for communications, public affairs, government relations, executive office and other staff members who need a clear, concise, subject-oriented guide from the cable perspective on industry topics.

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The Association of Cable Communicators (ACC) is the only national, professional organization specifically addressing the issues, needs and interests of the cable industry’s communications and public affairs professionals. The association’s mission is to develop and promote cable communications excellence through professional development to help achieve industry and corporate goals. ACC works to enhance each member’s status and influence through skill building and professional development. For more information on ACC, go to www.cablecommunicators.org.

PR TIP: TAKE A STANCE TO HAVE YOUR VOICE HEARD

Gray is Never a Safe Area Nor A Marketing Choice

One thing you are never going to hear from a medical doctor is that you’re half-pregnant. A woman is either pregnant or not. There are no other alternatives. It’s black or white, not gray. But, this doesn’t mean you can’t be half-pregnant in regards to business and/or marketing. In fact, in my humble opinion, I feel this diagnosis of late is in epidemic proportions.

How I define half-pregnancy in marketing and business is as such: “Trying to offend anyone or anything by choosing a side, even when a side is presented.” Again, this my definition and is not official.

GO AHEAD AND TAKE A SIDE

Half-pregnancy is a common practice in politics. Politicians are always trying to walk a fine line to please all parties. They are very careful when they make “stands” on issues and subjects that they try to make sure that both political parties will agree to some or all of the parts.

It’s this ‘not wanting’ to offend that impregnates the situation. And, that tightrope places that “said” person or thing in the vast and valueless wasteland of the dreaded “gray area.” Whenever you set out to become like Switzerland (slang meaning – not making waves or taking any sides… being neutral), then you are setting yourself up to not gain attention. Its similar to this saying – ‘When a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make noise?’

Taking a stance, side and position is important in making noise. Politicians want to be remembered and not forgotten because their words lacked opinion or substance.  But in this day and age of transparency (being authentic), it’s very easy for people to find out information. If you want to hold the line that you don’t have a particular agenda, they can find out in a matter of seconds if that’s indeed true.

Hello, I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up! Does anyone hear me?- Flickr Credit: Sage

To make this point a bit clearer, let’s look at this hypothetical situation.  Jane Doe is running for State Governor and she says as a female she believes that women should have the right to choose what happens to their own bodies and that birth begins at the moment of conception. She is referring to both the pro-life and pro-choice abortion movements with her professed beliefs.  But, she has regularly attended pro-life rallies and fundraisers as a part of her Catholic parish, as such it would be easy to figure out she leans more toward that cause. Which to me is fine. I am trying to make the point here that is fine to take sides, in fact its beneficial. Be who you are and make stances. Otherwise, the noise you make maybe only heard by you and that’s not a good PR move.

LEARNING THE HARD WAY

I found this out myself.  Here’s what happened to me. When I entered college I wanted to pursue a career as as sportscaster (don’t laugh too hard). With that, I was able to finagle being the guest on a local radio sports show.  It was my first foray into media and I was nervous, yet excited about the opportunity.  Five minutes into the interview he asked me my opinion about who would win the “freeway series,” between The Los Angeles Dodgers and then the California Angels.  I said something to the effect like “both teams seemed to performed strongly in pre-season” – I was in Switzerland, I gave a valueless “gray answer” and boy I got ripped when we went to the next commercial. The local sportscaster told me if I wanted a future in the business, I needed to have an ‘opinion’ on everything and I had to boldly state it. Otherwise, I would never make it. I needed to take a stance; he was right and that thought has stuck with me ever since.

I also often use this statement that I overheard somewhere…”when throwing a dinner party, it’s best to invite guests of differing opinions. Otherwise, it would make for one boring and long dinner discussion if we all agreed on the same subjects.” I so agree. We all can learn from each other.

So I’m taking a stance against the gray area and half-pregnancy and hope that you will call me out if you see me falling into this common practice. Is this something you have experienced too? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

Fishing is a lot like PR

A big catch always makes your Day in PR.

While watching Discovery’s “Deadliest Catch” it dawned on me how fishing for king crab is a lot like pitching for media coverage. The similarities are astounding so much so–that I’m wondering now if I should start calling myself a fisher-person instead of a publicist. I’m not talking about sport fishing here. I’m talking about those individuals whose livelihood is bringing in big catches. Like us publicists, we receive our earnings too by the success of our takes.

THIS IS NOT ANOTHER FISH STORY

Think this is a laughing matter (wink, wink), just take a look at these occupational comparisons.

  • Fishermen use charts to find fish; publicists use media plans
  • Fishermen often go off of instinct to find fish; so do publicists as to who might like the story.
  • Fishermen need the right bait to catch particular fish; publicist must make sure that their pitch is news-worthy and right for that publication.
  • Fishermen can go through spurts without big hauls; the same is true for publicists.
  • Sometimes fisherman must play a waiting game for the fish to surface; ditto in the publicity realm.
  • Fisherman have to release smaller fish at times: publicists sometimes have to do they same in order to gain a keeper-a larger hit.

I could go on and on with the comparisons, and I did! Just take a look at this tongue in cheek PR fishing video below that I filmed last night.  (Note to self: Don’t ever use a magnet when fishing out of a metal pail. Boy that was dumb! lol)

Also, I must warn you – if you are ever trying to reach me and I’d don’t answer – now you’ll know why. I’ve gone PR fishing!

[youtube width="640" height="360"]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SUOEsviVeLM[/youtube]


I couldn't resist including this photo of me when I hiked Beverly Hills' Franklin Canyon Park. Behind me is the shooting location for the opening of "The Andy Griffith Show."

 

Current TV’S Olbermann Hire is a Game-Changer

Current TV hits a home run with Olbermann.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Current TV will become more successful with the hire of left-wing political journalist Keith Olbermann. This type of business move, bringing a large brand or entity to a smaller one, is a tried and true formula that has worked for a number of similar situations and companies.

BIG FISH IN SMALL POND WORKS

Television and cable networks have employed this philosophy numerous times to raise ratings and profiles and to gain subscribers. That’s why NBC invests in the Olympics. CBS, FOX and ESPN the NFLABC and the Academy Awards.  NBC with the Golden Globes.  Exclusive events such as these always draw massive crowds (i.e., Super Bowl 45 broke ratings records as the most-watched television program of all time, averaging 111 million viewers on the Fox network..)

The above are franchises, but this also applies to people with big profiles and followings.  CBS News lured Katie Couric to its network.  TBS nabbed Conan O’Brien.  And now Keith Olbermann switches to Current TV.  These transaction occurred for the same reason – to increase subscribers and ratings. This exchange also is reminiscent of when Howard Stern jumped from traditional radio to satellite.  Sometimes this big-to-small ploy does not work.  But, in this case, it makes total sense.  It’s like putting a lemon in water. One enhances the taste of the other.  Whereas, while Olbermann was at MSNBC, his views and MSNBC’s views became more like oil and water.  The two just separate.

PREDICTIONS

Will Olbermann bring more viewers to Current TV? Yes.

Will the audience stay with him? Yes and No. It all depends on the quality of the content.

Will Olbermann have more freedom to express his views? Definitely yes.

Will Current TV provide Olbermann with a platform to express his big ideas without corporate pressure? Yes.

Olbermann will make Current TV exciting and as such, this move is a real game changer that the network desperately needed.

This was a great strategic business move by both parties.

I can hardly wait until the Spring.

Resigned to Fridays

Last week’s resignation by MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann reminded me of a little unknown PR fact.  If one was going to trace historical events they would find out that most senior level resignations occur on Friday afternoons at 4PM. That’s right. I can’t tell you how many of my Fridays were suddenly spoiled by having a resignation to quickly handle as I was packing up for the weekend.  Why Fridays at 4?

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

THE COMPANY USUALLY WINS THE PR BATTLE

Since I was feeling like I was home free to start enjoying the weekend, corporate lawyers also feel that most media types are feeling the same and might not notice the news.  In fact, even though, a mutual press release was ready to put on a wire – I was always instructed not to send it out unless a reporter called to confirm the story.  For you see,  company’s always want to down-play resignations, while the resigned wants the largest play possible in the media. (The resigned wants other employers to see that he is now ready to be hired.)  As you can see it’s a Catch-22 sort of thing.  And who often wins when its the company vs. an employee? That’s right. The company.

Here’s how a typical resignation scenario plays out….

  • Thursday night…Company lawyers and Senior Executive meet to discuss terms of the resignation.
  • Friday morning – Company lawyers inform the head of corporate communications to draft a release with the pertinent information
  • Friday Noon – All parties look over a draft of the release; revise and edit.
  • Friday at 4 – The executive resigning leaves the premises.
  • Friday at 5 PM – A company wide email is sent to all employees.

From that moment on, the head of corporate communications keeps a phone and email vigil waiting for the news to break.  Either a company employee will forward the company wide-email or the person resigning leaks the news to the press.

FRIDAYS AREN’T ALWAYS WHAT THEY ARE CRACKED UP TO BE

Once the media contacts the company, the approved press release is distributed with the caveat that there will be no further comments made by either side.  However, sometimes, when the PR folks are playing nice, they will forward requests to the outgoing staff member.

Think this Friday thing is a bit nuts? Well, if you look back to one of our country’s most famous resignations – that of Former President Richard Nixon – he resigned on August 9, 1974 - a FRIDAY!

A Resignation of Few Words - Richard Nixon's

Need I say more? What days do most catastrophes happen? Mondays!

Be good to yourself.

Cindy

PR TIP – BUSINESS ALIGNMENTS

Are Your Ducks in a Row?

CHOOSING FRIENDS, EMPLOYEES AND PARTNERS CAN BE TRICKY IN BUSINESS

With Halloween almost upon us, I was thinking about one of the trickiest business maneuvers a person can make is navigating the waters of whom should be entrusted as Board members, employees, backers and advisers.  Basically, who are you in alignment. In the last week, I’ve seen several examples of potential partnerships that could pose serious crises for companies who were not diligent with their associations.

Why I am making this one of my PR Tips? I am due to the fact that as a corporate communications executive my job is to make sure that the brand of the respective company has integrity at all times. However, I am well aware that problems do occur naturally when you manage a business. For instance,  an employee who is terminated can decide to file a lawsuit or someone does write a scathing review that must be defended or a troll harasses your Facebook wall. Occurrences like these are business as usual.

As PR executives, our jobs are to stop potential problems from ever happening.

REAL-LIFE EXPERIENCES

Here are three real examples of potential bad alignments that I heard about recently to help you realize how these issues can seem to be benign on the surface.

CASTING-A promoter created an event where he needed to hire a cast of actors to man kiosks across a major metropolitan city. The cast was charged with demonstrating a product and interacting with the community.  One actress who was being considered had recently posed for a publication that featured women undressed.  She was proud of that article and posted that information on her Facebook page.  Needless to say, she did not get the job because as you know, the brand that she would have represented could never be aligned with that publication even though her involvement may appear to be removed by several layers.  The event promoter did a great job of keeping the brand solid and researching the actors.

Sometimes the Money Isn't Worth It

INVESTORS – I recently met a new young entrepreneur who was telling me he has a potential financial backer that he was excited about. He really needed money to ramp up his efforts, however, the financier had a sketchy background that included adult industry involvement. The entrepreneur was building a site that featured fashion. I had to remind him that although the money would be great…he had to weigh whether or not is was worth being aligned with the backer due his background. He had to decide if his consumer base might be offended if they knew this fact about the backer.

ONLINE REPUTATION – I recently heard that a friend’s daughter was not hired for a particular position at a department store due to photos that she posted on Facebook when she was in high school.  Again, other instance where something so slight, could pose problems if not today then in the future.

As I learned from Scott Stratten, author of UnMarketing, everything we do is marketing. We are constantly marketing ourselves, no matter what we are saying online or in person. Therefore, filter who you are online and monitor your company’s affiliations.  Also, thoroughly suss out your vendors and employees.

And as Chris Brogan, author of Trust Agents, pointed out – Be the best you always.

In summary, any extra research that you invest in will not only keep you away from potential crises, it will help you stay respected in your industry and community as well as among your peers.

I’d love to hear your thoughts?

Can Dubuc Make Lifetime More Relevant? It Will Be History in the Making.

Can Nancy Dubuc make 'History' At Lifetime

Today, Lifetime Networks announced that Nancy Dubuc has been named President and General Manager of Lifetime Television. She succeeds Andrea Wong, who recently departed the company.  (In full disclosure, I was employed by Lifetime in its corporate communications department from Jan. 09 to Nov. 09, however, my position became redundant due to AETN’s acquisition late last year.)  The announcement of Dubuc today in the LA Times by Joe Flint, wasn’t really a surprise to those in the industry for her name has been speculated in the press since Wong announced her plans.

I liked my time at Lifetime, but I often scratched my head a bit about the network’s choice of programming.  The network labels itself – a network for women – but, I’m a woman and I never watched it until they acquired Project Runway.  I know that I am an anomaly for I am single business woman, however, many of my friends are married with children and I hear what they say.  You see, most of the women that I hang around have big concerns about marriage, parenting and finances, especially during this economy. But, I never saw that resonate on-air.  We were charged with promoting “women in peril” programming, because, sadly to say – that’s what got the higher ratings. And ratings are the heroine (drug of choice) at every network. I don’t know what drives women in mass amounts to tune into stories about murder, mayhem and betrayal. I will never figure that out!

Lifetime May Get Some Changes

But with every The Capture of the Green River Killer and Natalee Holloway, the Network did try and provide a more contemporary view of womanhood with the likes of Army Wives and the new comedy Sherri. Also, Drop Dead Diva, a popular comedic drama, attempts to tackle self-worth and self-esteem issues weekly – so the network does try. But, it really needs to do more.

With Dubac, I hope comes a breath of fresh air in ideas and none too soon.  The Lifetime viewers are on life-support at the moment  and with added competition coming from OWN next year–they should “energize” their brand as soon as possible. And I believe she has the chops to do it.  Her scorecard proves that she can invigorate oldish brands as she re-invented the stodgy History Channel.  So, if I was a betting woman, I’d put money down that she will turn this network around – well all their networks around (Lifetime, Lifetime Movie Channel and Lifetime Real Women).

Lifetime Hit A Home Run With Drop Dead Diva

So in case she doesn’t have a clear game plan already, I’d like to present a few suggestions for topical programming.

Idea #1 – Instead of supporting breast cancer year-long on the mylifetime.com website – why not produce a reality show following those going through breast cancer in real life.  I know that breast cancer doesn’t only effect those with it, but the family hurts as well, especially the husbands. It would be fantastic to depict those issues in a supportive series.

Idea #2 – Pick up where Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution left off – America banded around this Brit to ensure that the children of tomorrow stand a chance to live healthy long lives by eating right.  Find another chef and take off after another fatty town and school district.  Made a difference in others lives.

Idea #3 – Go inside troubled homes and bring in a counselor to help them deal with non-communicative husbands and/or stubborn kids.  Produce a show that provides practical tips to running your home without losing your mind. And I’m not talking Wife Swap here, something more real.

Idea #4 – Give the top Mommy bloggers their own show. Heck, I’d watch it.  They could point out great discounts on the web and sweepstakes to die for.  Also, they could highlight great non-profit efforts.

Idea #5 – Women entrepreneurs – I have been meeting some dynamic women executives who are running incredible companies that they have started up.  I’d like to see women portrayed positively in the workplace as opposed to the stereotype we’re most presented with…let’s showcase these gals!

That’s just a few of my thoughts and I’ve got a bunch more…but, I’ll leave it at that.   I am excited about Dubuc’s appointment and I wish her tremendous success.  She now has inherited a wonderful opportunity to influence millions of women – please don’t let us down.

Best,

Cindy

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