The work of PR professionals is changing dramatically, driven by rapid changes in how audiences (publics) are changing their media consumption. This presentation from Pew Research does an excellent job in explaining just what these changes look like, and provides a road map for intelligent PR practitioners to adjust how they approach the strategic communications:
Posts Tagged ‘media relations’
It may look like any other Starbucks in the United States. People are speaking English and you can order a five shot venti Americano. But if you look closer, something is askew. The woman with a latte in the corner isn’t reading Vogue, she’s reading Flare. The tattooed guy plugged into his iPod isn’t reading Rolling Stone, he’s reading Chart. And the nerdy looking guy? Is that PC Magazine he’s reading? No, it’s Monitor.
Have you stepped into some kind of Bizzaro World? Well, if you take a little closer look, you’ll see everyone has backpacks and every backpack has a red maple leaf. No, this isn’t Bizarro World, it’s Canada. And it’s important for Americans in public relations to understand that, at least in print media, your news stops at the border. Despite the American perception of Canada being a lot like the U.S., it is its own entirely distinct media market.
Before I get to the PR stuff, let me first offer a couple historical and political notes for background. Going back as far as the mid-1960s, the Canadian government has included in its policy for cultural protectionism – that is, a policy to keep Canada Canadian – regulations that made it difficult or at least expensive (tariffs) to bring foreign content into Canada. This policy helped the Canadian magazine market flourish while keeping many American publications out of Canada. Although this was good for Canadian publications, it’s debatable whether the policy was actually good across the board for the Canadian people.
For example, having just won the gold medal in the ‘96 Olympics for the 100 meter dash, Canadian runner Donovan Bailey was beaten out by U.S. runner Michael Johnson for the Associated Press’ “Athlete of the Year” title as he was shut out from balloting due to foreign news being stopped at the Canadian border.
Not too long after, lawsuits filed by U.S. media companies based on NAFTA and the WTO overturned much of Canada’s cultural protectionism policies with respect to publications. An influx of U.S. and other foreign publications, with advertising and content specific to the Canadian marketplace, were making their way to Canadian newsstands. Previously these “split run” publications – one run for the U.S. and a second run for Canada – had been taxed out of existence as part of Canada’s cultural protectionism. Today that’s no longer the case and you can find Time Magazine and Newsweek on the same newsstand as Macleans.
As the lawsuits loomed, there was panic from the Canadian Magazine Publishers Association (now known as Magazines Canada). In a 1997 article in Macleans, the association’s president, Catherine Keachie said, “What does Canada lose? Canadian writing and a Canadian point of view. Should the government choose not to defend this policy, there’s no question it will be a kind of death blow to the Canadian magazine industry.”
Well, despite the fact that U.S. publishers prevailed and the laws were changed, no death blow was dealt to either the magazine industry or Canadian culture. Canadian publications are still the favorite choice of Canadian readers.
Therefore it’s critical for U.S.-based PR practitioners to understand the differences in the media market. It’s not unimportant. Toronto (which is not the capitol) ranks right behind New York, Los Angeles and Chicago to be the fourth largest urban area in the English-speaking part of North America, and Calgary is North America’s fastest growing city. While Canadians love what’s home-grown, their proclivities are not so entirely different that they shun products from south of the border. Stated another way, Canadians love Lick’s and Harveys, but there are still lines inside McDonald’s Canada (where you’ll find poutine). That means that if you’re representing a U.S.-made product or service, you can find a market for it in Canada.
They key is to understand how to approach the Canadian media marketplace. Here are some tips:
Know Something About Canada
You probably don’t need to know that British colonies became the Dominion of Canada in 1867 or that Sir John MacDonald was the first Canadian prime minister. But you will be well served to know when Canada’s national holidays occur, that Canada uses the metric system, Canadians refer to their dollar as the Loonie (because the dollar coin has a loon on it), that the country is bilingual with English and French as official languages, and that its use of English is different from both the U.S. and the U.K. (Incorrect: my favorite theater is on the border with America; correct: my favourite theatre is on the American boundary. Microsoft Word has a Canadian dictionary built in to help you spell check).
Learn the Canadian Publications
A good place to start is the list of Canadian publications to which Businesswire, PR Newswire and Marketwire send press releases. You can find Canadian media contacts in Vocus and other media directory services as well.
Find the Canadian Angle
Canadian editors are more than willing to write about American stuff, but – no surprise – they need to make it relevant to their readers. If you can include some Canadiana in your pitch, you’ll be off to a good start. Do you have any Canadian customers? Are any spokespeople from Canada? Does the company have a physical Canadian presence? Try to make your pitch to Canadian press as Canadian as possible. Without a Canadian angle, your news could be a hard sell.
Look at a Map
Canada is North America’s largest land mass, but that’s not why you should look at a map. It’s because news that is interesting in Western Canada may not be of interest in Eastern Canada. Just as a story that’s interesting to New Yorkers may not have the same caché in Pocatello, a story that plays well in Montreal may not find an audience in Saskatoon (look at a map).
Perhaps the biggest key to working with Canadian reporters, editors and bloggers is not to take for granted that news important in the U.S. will likewise be important in Canada, just as news from outside the U.S. may not be important here. By spending a little time understanding the market, the media and the culture of Canada, your PR efforts north of the border can pay big dividends. And if you’re lucky enough to go on a press tour in Canada (likely Toronto and Montreal), don’t pass up having poutine. Good luck with your PR in Canada.
If you’re in the PR profession you may have seen the wiki recently created by Lifehacker’s Gina Trapani where she calls out and blacklists PR agencies that have “spammed” her.
Her wiki lists some big names in PR she says have continually sent pitches to her personal email address to which she specifically requested that no pitches be sent.
Like the list made last year by Wired editor, Chris Anderson, Trapani has added repeat offenders to an email blacklist that gets delivered directly to a spam folder.
And once again, the entire PR industry is being painted with broad brush strokes and labeled as “spammers” intent on making editors and bloggers lives miserable.
Happily, MoPR is absent from both Trapani’s and Anderson’s blacklists. We like to think it’s because we have tremendous regard for bloggers, whether they are journalists by profession, corporate CEOs or anyone else with enthusiasm and a brain who takes the time to write something meaningful.
We’re bloggers ourselves and have also been pitched by PR practitioners, and as such we’ve learned that working with bloggers takes some extra care and feeding that is a bit different than more traditional, news-oriented media.
As more businesses and PR agencies recognize the importance of social media and blogs in reaching their audiences, we are likewise noticing online anti-PR chatter getting louder while more blacklists keep cropping up. While it may be true that many PR pros need to sharpen their skills when dealing with bloggers, we also want to urge some practical thinking for these frustrated bloggers.
Believe it or not, bloggers, PR people play a vital role in the information value chain. Virtually everything being reported today in mainstream press, trade press or blogs – particularly in the tech world – was handled first by someone in public relations. Even though they may be biased toward the clients they represent, responsible PR people are deeply entrenched in the markets, technology and trends affecting their clients. Once you decide to work with the people in PR, you’ll quickly understand how valuable a resource they can be for you. And no, I’m not kidding.
Most bloggers are not Chris Anderson, who has assistants, a staff of researchers and another staff of writers who can provide him the information he needs, when he needs it, so he can write on the topic he wants to cover.
Most bloggers we work with are individuals (or small teams) who do everything on their own and are passionate about what they write. It’s simply not possible for the individual blogger to know everything about a market, a trend, a technology or anything else. PR people are devoted to providing that information to people who will write about their clients.
If you need a market stat, an interview, an analyst reference, a customer, a picture, a copy of a white paper, who better to turn to than someone in PR? Good PR people will know that providing market and trend information on background, even when their clients aren’t mentioned, is also good practice.
Many bloggers are experts in the subject they cover. Likewise, PR people need to be experts in the subjects they represent. And, chances are if you have been pitched by MoPR, then we’re reading your blog. Not just to ensure you’re a good fit, but to learn from it for our own education. It’s a two-way street.
On that note, we’d like to offer some tips to bloggers on getting the most from their interactions with people in PR. Here are some ideas to get a conversation going:
Include an “about us” page.
A quick paragraph describing what your blog’s mission is and what your content is about can help you in preventing needless pitches that waste your time. Experienced PR pros won’t take the “about us” at as a standalone descriptor of the blog, but will also read posts before pitching to ensure that whatever information we have to share is in fact a good fit. But not all pitches come from experienced PR pros, so the more information you can provide in your “about us” page, the better your interaction will be from the outset.
Let us know how you want to be pitched.
Hate press releases? We won’t send them. Would you rather be contacted with a 140-character Tweet? We can do that. Prefer getting news through an online submission form? Tell us. We don’t want to send you useless information any more then you want to receive it. Coming right out and sharing your preferences with us makes your job easier as well as ours.
Make it easy to contact you and list your name.
When we want to send a note to a blogger we always prefer to address them by their real name verses, “admin” or “editor.” But unless we are already a close friend of yours, we probably aren’t going to know your name unless you tell us. We want to build a mutually beneficial relationship with you, and sending that first introduction email to admin@ or editor@ isn’t a good start for either of us.
Fellow Oregonian, Marshall Kirkpatrick on ReadWriteWeb had a great post last week examining the “Five Tools Everyone Working Online Should Have.” His No. 5 is “A Blog With Your Name and Contact Info.” In support of his opinion that everyone working online should have a blog of some sort attached to their name along with contact info, Kirkpatrick writes:
I put my phone number on my personal blog, and I write for the 11th most linked to blog on the web. I get maybe three unwanted phone calls a week as a result. That means that just about anyone else should be able to put their phone number and IM on their blogs as well. It’s so convenient to be able to get a hold of people in a hurry. When an opportunity arises, do you want to be easy to reach or do you want that opportunity to be taken by someone else who is? Undoubtedly this is a calculation that’s clearer for people less subject to harassment based on gender or race, but except in complicating circumstances your personal contact info should be available online if at all possible. Bad things are unlikely to happen.
We couldn’t agree more.
Want us to stop pitching you? Tell us. Go ahead. We can take it.
The last thing we want to do is waste our time and yours. Good PR practitioners are tenacious, and silence merely invites us to try and contact you again. A simple “no thanks” works wonders. But you know what works even better? Dialog, which leads to the next idea:
Start a dialog with PR people.
Even when you aren’t interested in what a PR agency is offering at the moment, it can often net you some other content that will be of interest. If we send you something that isn’t your cup of tea, consider taking a moment to let us know what would make it relevant to you. Sound far too time consuming? Well, we ask that you consider that PR agencies represent many clients and thus have new news on a pretty regular basis. If you take just a few moments to let us know why something isn’t a fit for you, or to tell us what you would be interested in hearing about or story ideas that are top of mind, we can rally to support your requests. Remember, we want to help you. From our personal experience blogging we’ve had a lot of success redirecting off-target pitches to get information we did find of interest.
Put all this information in one post or create a specific page for it. Many print publications have specific pages with instructions on how to send press materials. Once we read a blog to see if there’s a fit, it would work wonders if all this information, even a checklist, was in place to follow. Again, this might take some upfront time on your part, but will end-up protecting you from the “spam” and misguided pitches, and hopefully result in more on-target, relevant info, delivered according to your personal preferences.
You will always get pitched.
If you are getting pitched, it’s because your blog is easily found and has content that’s worth reading. Take it for the complement it is. Unfortunately, you will continue to get pitches not related to your core audience and topic. The better agencies and the PR people who understand your blog and your interests will rise to the top. Build relationships with them and they will offer value for a long time to come.
In her latest update on the prspammer wiki, Gina Trapani says:
I’m very happy to see this conversation happening. Thanks to everyone who has written about this issue. I look forward to the conversation effecting change.
So do we, Gina.