Keep Your Journalists User Friendly

As we PR typed always tell our clients, it's all about relationships. Particularly our relationships with journalists, which after all, are what most clients believe they are paying for.

Although our connections with journalists are crucial, journalists are not our friends. We use them just as they use us. This was reinforced at a recent Denver workshop hosted by former Rocky Mountain News reporters Rachel Brand and Janet Forgrieve. They emphasized that journalists and PR pros have mutually beneficial relationships that need to be kept professional and maintained through constant contact. They suggested cultivating a few relationships with journalists who cover beats relevant to your clients. You can count on them to listen and they can count on you for a good story. Simple, right? Wrong.
As newspapers continue shrinking, it is hard to tell who covers what anymore. Cutbacks sever our connections and journalists are no longer just reporters. Now they need to be videographers and editors too, and they often cover topics they don't know much about. They are under more pressure so they have less time to schmooze. Pressure makes it harder to start, build and maintain relationships. So what can we do about it? Here are a few tips from Brand and Forgrieve.
  • Meet and greet. Set up time for coffee to talk about your clients and their upcoming stories. Offer to be a reliable resource.
  • Read their articles. Let them know you are truly interested in what they write. Remember who you are contacting. Don't send the wrong pitch to the wrong journalist.
  1. Be your own journalist. Are you sure that what you are pitching is really newsworthy? Is it indicative of a new trend?
  2. Be prepared. Do you have the information they need? Can you provide video for websites? Saving a journalist some steps will go a long way in building your relationship
  3. Don't be a pest. Follow up with a call and another email, and then stop. If they are interested, you will hear from them.Don't burn bridges. There are lots of other PR folks out there they can turn to for stories.
Our reputations are our business. Damage them and we won't be in business long. If your gut tells you that the client wants you to do something that you know is not right, then go with your instinct. Long after you are done with the client you will still need the relationship with the journalist. Even if they are just using us, we still need them to be user friendly.

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That's Mine and You Can't Have It

To protect or not to protect, that is the question. Hasbro, the maker of the popular word game Scrabble, answered that question definitively when it slapped a lawsuit on the Agarwalla brothers from India. The suit accused the brothers of pirating Hasbro's intellectual property when they created Scrabulous, a popular game application that's attracted half a million users on Facebook.

Scrabulous was one of Facebook's most popular applications, attracting more than 500,00 users a day. It was also an obvious rip off.

Nevertheless, the blogosphere has been up in arms about what many perceive to be a bad PR move by Hasbro. Shouldn't they be thanking the brothers for generating so much fuss abut Scrabble? The company reportedly made a huge offer for the software but the Agarwalla brothers turned it down, confident they could get more money. So was this a good business decision or bad PR for a big company to pick on two punks from Calcutta? It is better business for Hasbro to protect its intellectual property or to look at it as free advertising that builds its brand?

Trademark and copyright infringement is serious business. It is also illegal. That's because there is great value in intellectual property. Many of today's most iconic brands, from Microsoft and Apple to Coke and Starbuck's, owe more of their worth to intangible assets like intellectual property than they do to fixed assets like property and equipment. If you don't protect your brand, it's like leaving the keys in the door when you leave home. Everyone and his brother can just help themselves.

Maybe it was all fun and games at first, and these guys were just benevolent, open source Robin Hoods who wanted to improve something you own and then give it away for free. But at some point greed took over and it became a case of theft for profit, clear and simple.

So Hasbro weighed the bad PR it might get from some bloggers against the bad PR it might get from its stakeholders by giving away the Scrabble brand. And it made a business decision. It decided to launch its own Scrabble application on Facebook. Facebook users now have the option to play Hasbro Scrabble application or simply go directly to the Scrabulous website.

So for the two brothers from India, the game comes down to this. What's a four-letter word for bummer?

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Back to the Future?

According to Hollywood time, we are already well past the fictional movie future we thought we would find by now. Here we are and there are no flying De Loreans, no time traveling, and no space odyssey. Not even any cranky robots to keep us amused.

We are, however, in the midst of a new era of communicating. Web 2.0, or New Media, allows us to communicate and interact in ways that seemed impossible ten years ago. Now we know the instant that something important happens in our world, and within seconds we can participate in a group conversation about how that event impacts our lives.

Another giant step for man is the ability to download coupons right to our phone. Mobile marketing is a great way to reach a young target audience that is comfortable accessing everything it needs on the mobile phone in their pocket. McDonald's and Dunkin Donuts have some great examples of using SMS technology to connect with customers.

At the recent New Media Summit hosted by Metzger Associates in Boulder, Colorado, there was a lot of talk about mobile marketing and social networking applications such as Twitter and Facebook. These social marketing channels make it easier to exchange information and deliver relevant messages to highly targeted audiences.

Twitter is called microblogging because you can post comments like a blog, but the posts have a 140-character limit. You can quickly build networks by tweeting people that follow you, or you can follow influential users yourself. It seems like everyone is using Facebook. Italy has a page and so does BMW, which launches a contest where Facebook users graffiti cars to win a model BWM painted by famous artists like Andy Warhol. Facebook is a great way to build corporate or personal brands and interact with potential clients and customers.

Pushkin Public Relations encourages our clients to realize that the future is now. Learn how Web 2.0 strategies can fit into your overall communications programs. Understand that his is how a new generation of stakeholders and employees is communicating.

We may not have flying cars but we are in a very exciting time when it comes to how we communicate. The world is truly at our fingertips.

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Practice Makes Perfect

When I was a working musician, I always looked for opportunities to soak up a lesson or some words of wisdom from musicians whose talent just blew me away. It did not take me long to figure out that the one thing that separates the good musicians from the great ones is that great musicians never stop practicing. They know that they can always get better and that there is always something they can learn. They know that the day they stop being creative is the day some young hotshot passes them by.

Now that I own a Denver, Colorado public relations firm, I know that the same rule applies for PR pros. If you ever get to that point where you think you are smart enough, that is the time to get out of the business. There is always something you can learn to help you provide better service to your clients.

These days technology is changing so fast that it is hard to keep up. It is not just learning how to use new media tools like social marketing, SEO, podcasts or blogs. It is researching which tools are most relevant for your clients and learning how to use them to communicate in a relevant way to the audiences you are trying to reach.

Whether it is new media, old media, business basics or economic fundamentals, the best way to keep learning is to surround yourself with people who know something that you do not. We can all use a mentor. That person could be someone with more experience or an intern who looks at the world with a fresh perspective that opens your eyes. It could be someone in your immediate network or someone you meet by joining a new social or business networking community. It could even be the person you are mentoring yourself, who just might be able to teach you as much as you are trying to teach them.

Now some people do not like to practice, they just want to play the game. Remember when basketball star Allen Iverson famously defended himself after he was fined for missing practice?
Practice? We are talking about practice?
But basically, it boils down to this. No matter what business you are in, there is always something to learn. And whenever you think you know it all you are about to learn a valuable lesson. The rest is just practice.

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Taking Your Seat at the History Table

Denver is putting on its dancing shoes and gearing up for the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Unless you have been living under a rock you know that it is coming to the Pepsi Center in August. And now that the DNC has announced that Senator Obama will deliver his acceptance speech to a crowd of 75,000 strong at INVESCO Field at Mile High, Denver PR firms are definitely stressing out. We all have our hands full figuring out how we can get our clients and ourselves a seat at the history table!

Along with the obvious historical implications of the Obama presidential campaign, this convention will make history in another very important way: the role that new media will play in instantly delivering the up-to-the-minute news on every speech, meeting, meal, deal and party taking place in every corner of town. Thanks to Twitter, Facebook and Digg, we can expect constant updates on what is going on and who is saying what, right down to what they had for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And with the help of laptops and mobile phones, we can expect every gaff and screw-up to be uploaded to YouTube within seconds.

To leverage all the capabilities that this new technology provides for those of us savvy enough to grok it, a new media Big Tent is going up:

Hosted by Daily Kos and sponsored by Google, this is a 9,000 square-foot, two-story showcase for bloggers and new media journalists complete with a stage for political discussions and a kiosk to make You Tube videos. A lounge will provide workspace, WiFi and refreshments, and the public can come to mingle with influential bloggers, journalists and community leaders. It sounds like heaven for people who get their news from the Internet and blogosphere rather than TV, newspapers and radio.

The most historic thing about all this is not really the technology. It is how the technology will be used to give even the little guy a voice. Under the Big Tent, the public can listen in on experts debating every hot topic and participate in the conversation through social marketing networks that actually make democracy democratic. For the first time in a long time, people can feel that their opinions matter and that their voices will be heard. Imagine the possibilities.

Denver public relations pros would be wise to consider how their companies or clients can participate in this truly American conversation. Even if they have nothing to say, they can still listen. Even if they can not sing, they can still dance to the music.

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Diving In

The other day I took my puppy swimming for the first time. She's a lab so she dove right in, followed my other lab and pretty soon she was swimming. Nothing to it. She was having a blast with the other dogs like she'd been doing it all her life.

That's how I feel about blogging. This is my first blog entry and even though I have no idea what I am doing, I figured the best way to get started was to just dive in. Now I'm blogging.

I think for most businesses and entrepreneurs, that's the best way to deal with these uncertain economic times. Even if it makes you nervous, the worst thing you can do is to sit on the sidelines watching all the other dogs swim. Take a risk and dive in, it will make you feel better.

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