Ad Agencies: Write Your Own Story at CNN’s iReport

Pitching national news media can be challenging, frustrating and time consuming. Identifying and getting to the right reporter or assignment editor is tough enough, but even with a good, well-targeted story there’s still a lot of competition.

Now, you can take things into your own hands at CNN through iReport, which offers opportunities to write your own story and possibly get television network coverage.

“Welcome to iReport, where people take part in the news with CNN. Your voice, together with other iReporters, helps shape how and what CNN covers everyday,” is the way viewers are greeting upon arriving at the website.

The Assignment Desk section tells you what sources CNN is seeking at a given time, although your story can be about something entirely different.

Still, it helps to know what the network is interested in hearing about at a given time, and you at least can take some comfort in knowing the site is being monitored by people who report the news.

There also are some helpful tips about the ingredients of a good story, as well as advice about photos, videos and recording the sound of your story.

If CNN runs a story you submitted through iReport, I’d enjoy hearing about it.

Don Beehler provides public relations consulting services to small- and medium-sized advertising agencies and businesses.

How Ad Agencies Can Help Reporters Discover Their Clients

About three months ago, I started handling PR for a Chicago hedge-fund firm called Steel Vine Investments.

Spencer Patton, the firm’s founder and chief investment officer, had already forged a relationship with Dow Jones, and he was regularly quoted by DJ reporters on various movements in the commodities market.

One of those stories was picked up by The Wall Street Journal, so he had a good start before I began working with him.

I built on this initial coverage by sending introductory e-mails about Steel Vine to a variety of financial media, which resulted in several additional interviews.  We also created a free weekly newsletter that provides expert insights into the commodities market, and announced the newsletter through a PR Web-distributed news release.

A couple days ago, Spencer was contacted by a business writer for Associated Press, who found him after doing an Internet search for a commodities source.

He subsequently was quoted in the AP story, which received extensive online pick up from major media such as ABC News, BusinessWeek, CBS News, CNBC, Forbes, MSN and Yahoo Finance, as well as newspapers throughout the nation.

I’m fortunate to have a client who “gets it” when it comes to the value of PR and is a gifted communicator who really knows his stuff.  It also doesn’t hurt that his fund has had seven months of consecutive gains and outperformed the S&P 500 by 22.56%.

But more than anything else, this is a textbook example how publicity begets publicity.

Ad agencies that know the secret of using publicity to build their clients’ reputations, and understand how to make them “discoverable” as experts in their fields, will find it much easier to retain these clients long term.

Clients who are responsive, articulate and competent will find reporters coming back to them for future stories.  They also may hear from reporters who learn about them not through a PR pitch but from other media sources.

The result is a stream of ongoing publicity – and a happy client. 

Don Beehler provides public relations consulting services to small- and medium-sized advertising agencies and businesses.

Dealing with Ad Agency Critics

It is not the critic that counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly, who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds.” – Theodore Roosevelt

A corporate PR executive who worked for a controversial company once suggested dividing one’s critics into two groups:  the reasonable and the unreasonable.

The reasonable critics are people who have legitimate concerns and put forth constructive criticism in an effort to bring about improvement.  These are people an organization can and should work with whenever possible.  Sometimes, reasonable critics can even be won over to become allies.

The unreasonable critics, on the other hand, are never going to be happy, no matter what you do.  They will be suspicious of your motives if you try to work with them, and any action you take will be found to be deficient in some way.  You can waste a lot of time and energy dealing with unreasonable critics, and at the end of the day nothing will have changed.  They’ll still hate your client or cause, so the best thing to do is simply ignore them.

 Plus, by trying to work with these folks, you risk giving them more credibility than they deserve and raising their profile. 

These days, advocacy groups and bloggers can put major companies in a spin.  If one of your agency’s clients is under attack, start by evaluating which category the critic falls into before taking action.  You may find not responding to the criticism is the best course of action.

Don Beehler provides public relations consulting services to small- and medium-sized advertising agencies and businesses.

Agency News Releases Do Get Published Verbatim

Several years ago, a well-known New Jersey PR executive wrote the following in a national public relations trade publication:  “Virtually never, however, are releases reprinted verbatim by any responsible publication.  It’s just not done, and I defy anyone to show me where this has happened.”

 Not one to let a challenge like that pass, I sent a few samples of news releases I sent out that were printed verbatim in newspapers.  The releases represented several industries, and as I noted in my cover letter, I have notebooks stuffed full of similar articles.  I also noted that there wasn’t a geographical bias, either, as the samples I sent covered papers from California to New York.

 I never heard back from the executive, nor to my knowledge did he ever acknowledge publicly that someone had proven his assertion wrong.

 As newsrooms shed jobs and try to keep up with less staff, it’s still true today that a well-written news release can easily be reprinted entirely, or with very minor edits, in consumer and trade publications.

 While this wouldn’t fly at The New YorkTimes, smaller papers tend to lack the resources to do as much original reporting as they might like, and they seem to appreciate a well written, newsworthy release from a trusted source.

 This does not mean, as some have suggested, that journalism is in a state of decline, or that such newspapers are irresponsible.

 Over the years, I’ve worked to develop good relationships with editors and reporters where my clients have operations, as do all good PR executives.  I believe we are viewed by many media outlets as extra sets of arms and legs that bring valuable news items to the table.

 As long as advertising agencies get their facts straight, focus on relevant topics and not try to pass off advertising disguised as “news,” they can provide an important service to these papers—and help their clients look good in the process.

 Normally my objective with a news release is to generate enough interest among reporters so that they will want to schedule an interview and do their own stories.  But, when staff limitations prohibit that, I’ll gladly take a reprint of my release any day.

Don Beehler provides public relations consulting services to small- and medium-sized advertising agencies and businesses.

Ad Agency Stories Can Bring More Clients

Schatzie Brunner spent nearly a decade at Turner Broadcasting as talent coordination for “Larry King Live” and as a CNN news anchor.  Today, she does individual and group communication coaching.  In a recent article she gave some good advice:

 “We have all heard about needing a 30-second commercial or elevator speech that encapsulates all the important things about your product, service or talent.  But what you might not have at your fingertips is what I call a working inventory of stories and analogies with which to impress clients.

 Schatzie contends that if you’re asked what you do for a living and say, “I’m an accountant,” the conversation doesn’t have anywhere to go from there.  But, if you say “I save people money” or “I help clients grow their money,” you naturally invite interest and provide a way to keep the conversation going.

 If you tell interesting stories that are not about you, but the results you’ve accomplished for your company or client, “you have staked a claim to an advantage over your competitors,” she says.

Schatzie counsels businessmen and women to “Live 2009 with an inventory of responses that allow you to never miss an opportunity to engage someone else or have that person engage you.  It can pay off with new business contacts and more success.”

Good advice for small and mid-sized ad agencies that want to grow in the new year.

Don Beehler provides public relations consulting services to small- and medium-sized advertising agencies and businesses.

Understanding the News Media for Your Agency’s Publicity

 

Every week reporters across the nation must fill up many thousands of pages in publications and fill countless hours of radio and TV air time.  As a result, they’re constantly searching for information.  At the same time, reporters are besieged daily by individuals and organizations seeking publicity for themselves or their causes.

What do they want, and how can you get their attention?

Reporters are looking for high impact stories that will capture attention.  They are very sensitive–and averse–to attempts to disguise advertising as news.  When pitching a story about your agency or one of your clients, the most important things you can tell a reporter about your story are who will care about it and why.

Before you make a pitch, always try to put yourself in the editor’s or news director’s shoes and ask:  “Would this story be interesting to my audience?”

Don Beehler provides public relations consulting services to small- and medium-sized advertising agencies and businesses.