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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