WSJ Asks “How Much Is Free Publicity Worth?”

Trying to assign a value to publicity is a little bit like trying to nail jell-o to a wall. Still, clients want to have some idea of the return they’re getting for money spent to generate publicity, so over the years there have been a number of attempts to rate an article or broadcast interview on various factors and come up with a dollar value.

Carl Bialik, “The Numbers Guy” for The Wall Street Journal, raises this long-debated question again in his column, citing news media coverage of various events and asking what this coverage is really worth.

It’s a fair question, but one that’s very difficult to answer.

Max Markson, a publicist in Australia, gave it shot. According to Mr. Bialik, when a reporter asked him the value of a particular photo that received worldwide coverage, Mr. Markson replied it was worth $10.5 million.

He later admitted that he “pulled the figure out of the air” because the reporter was on deadline. And we wonder why people sometimes question PR’s credibility . . .

Rather than pulling numbers out of the air that have no apparent basis in reality, Ketchum Public Relations has a one-page “scorecard” to help simplify the media measurement process. As I previously mentioned awhile back in my blog, the Ketchum scorecard is a grid that rates coverage on a point scale based on the following:

  • Prominence of client mentioned
  • Prominence of position
  • Source of item (i.e. did it come from the company’s PR efforts or elsewhere)
  • Quality of primary messages
  • Quality of secondary messages
  • Format of presentation (a feature story with photos vs. a mention of the company)
  • Exposure index (how much exposure a story gets in a given media vehicle)
  • Favorability index
  • Audience reach

Of course, the Ketchum scorecard isn’t the only method of measuring publicity, nor is it a perfect system. But you can be sure it’s a whole lot better than Mr. Markson’s method.

I don’t know how much the photo Mr. Markson valued at $10.5 million is really worth, but I do know the value of credibility and integrity: priceless.

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


Media Survey Provides Insights for Ad Agencies

Journalists are broadening the ways they interact with PR professionals and other sources, and much of this interaction is coming through social media, according to the PRWeek/PR Newswire 2010 Media Survey.

The survey was conducted online, with 1,568 traditional and non-traditional media representatives and 1,670 PR practitioners completing it.

I found it particular interesting, though not surprisingly, that it is becoming more common for journalists to establish relationships with sources online.

The more traditional ways of pitching, while not dead, are certainly declining, and ad agencies need to adapt to new methods of reaching influential reporters.

Other noteworthy findings pertaining to social media include:

• 43% of journalists have been pitched through social networks, compared to 31% in 2009.

• 62% of PR professionals follow individual journalists and media outlets via social networks.

• 59% of traditional journalists are the author of a blog, whether personal or professional, and 31% are writing a blog for their traditional outlet, an increase from 28% in 2009.

• 44% of PR pros are choosing to circumvent traditional journalists for certain stories — 17% of respondents are pitching to traditional media outlets with less frequency; 66% are targeting bloggers more than before; and 45% are going directly to consumers more often.

• Journalists are also using blogs in their research, with 45% saying they’ve quoted a blog in an article. However, when researching a specific company, 90% of journalists are still acquiring information through the company’s Web site; 24% are using general blogs, and 23% are going to the company’s blog to get information on that specific business.

• While 34% of journalists say they use company blogs for general story research, 51% report they do not find company blogs useful, “pointing to a possible disconnect in how businesses are presenting information.”

• 43% of PR practitioners report using social networks to pitch the media, with 76% using Twitter and 49% using Facebook.

• 61% of journalists that have been pitched via social network have received pitches via Facebook, while 44% have received Twitter pitches. (Only 18% of journalists were getting Twitter pitches a year ago.)

• 84% of journalists consider e-mail the best way to receive story pitches; only 4% report the phone to be the best way to do so.

• 57% of journalists anticipate a decline in print circulation with an increased focus on the Web.

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

Ad Agency Tip for E-mail Media Pitches

This item caught my eye in a recent edition of Publicity Hound: “When you e-mail a pitch or press release to the media, you have one or two seconds to catch their attention with your subject line. Publicist Michelle Tennant, of Wasabi Publicity, sometimes flags the media by using these phrases in her subject line, just before the actual headline:



–Media alert:


Apparently her approach works well, as Michelle is said to have an outstanding track record of scoring major media hits in top-tier media outlets.

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

New Rules of Press Release Distribution for Ad Agencies

BurrellesLuce, a company that helps communication professionals maximize their media relations results through a full range of planning, monitoring, and measurement services, provides useful insight into how the rules have changed when it comes to distributing press/news releases:

It used to be that public relations professionals would send out a press release to a few journalists who might be interested in what they had to say or who shared a similar beat. If they were lucky, PR would be rewarded for the effort with a fairly nice write-up on behalf of their company. Conversely, PR might send a release out over one of the paid premium wire services, and hope that the release got some pickup.

The same might be said when blogging first came on the scene. Today, things aren’t so straightforward. Ever-quickening technological advances mean more outlets to pitch and more opportunity for you to directly reach your target audience.

The old rules still apply
Before sending your press release you’ll want to research your target journalists and bloggers and ensure that your audience frequents the media you are about to pitch. From there you can begin to weave in some tried-and-true best practices to help make your announcement more effective.

1. Define your media focus – try to limit your pitches to only those outlets that directly serve your target audience. Do your research and then focus on those outlets that are most likely to provide opportunity. Resist the urge to send untargeted emails.

2. Review your outreach tactics – pitch journalists and bloggers in a format that will resonate. (Believe it or not, some journalists still prefer fax over email.) There’s no use wasting your efforts on a great pitch that never makes it into the hands of the journalist or blogger.

3. Send a release whenever there is something to announce – you’ll want to keep your audience aware of what’s going on with your organization. But beware: Sending too many “irrelevant” releases can potentially cause your audience to take you less seriously.

Best practices for reaching today’s audience
The rise of online media requires that many public relations professionals consider how they distribute their news. Here are some new rules for sending releases to an increasingly tech-savvy audience.

Tailor your release so that it directly relates to your target audience or constituents, rather than the journalist or blogger who may pick up the story. The Internet is rich with consumer- driven media. As such, your audience is more likely to receive the information directly rather than through a third party, such as a journalist.

Create announcements according to specific segments such as: blogger, journalist, target audience. Sure it might be a little more work, but at least you’ll appeal to each group based on their preferences.

Optimize your press release for SEO. With more content online, you’ll want your press release top of mind and at the top of the search stack.

Craft a multi-media release. Including pictures, video, and text can make your release more appealing to an online audience and give the journalist or blogger a more compelling reason to write about you or your company.

Design a separate social media or “web 2.0” release. You may even want to take it up a notch by using a unique template, reminiscent of a web page or blog. Whatever you decide, be sure to include “share this” buttons. This will help encourage redistribution.

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

Internet Helps Ad Agencies Put the Public Back in Public Relations

A growing trend in public relations, particularly when trying to sell something, is to do shorter online news releases on a frequent basis. For example, instead of announcing three new services, a company will do a separate release about each new service. This gives the company multiple opportunities for exposure, similar to the way an ad is run over and over again to produce better top-of-mind awareness.

The Internet has made it possible to reach customers and prospects directly. Ad agencies that include various forms of Web content in addition to traditional media relations initiatives will improve their results by connecting directly with important audiences and keeping conversations going with them.

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

Press Release Grader Helps Ad Agencies Make the Grade with Releases

Press Releases Grader is a free service that evaluates releases and assigns a score to each one based on a number of factors determined by public relations experts. It checks everything from language and content to links and search engine optimization.

Ad agencies will find Press Release Grader a convenient way to do a quick check of a release before distributing it on behalf of a client or for the agency itself.

To try Press Release Grader, visit

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


Ad Agencies Should Never Deny the Obvious

Early in my PR career, one of my mentors made that simply yet profound statement.  It sounds, well, obvious, not to deny the obvious.  Yet, how many times have you seen or heard someone caught in the act of wrongdoing and then turn around and deny it?

 One of my favorite examples, which I use in my media training seminars, is an AP photo of Padres pitcher Chris Young taking a swing at the Cubs’ Derrick Lee.  With his fist just inches away from the Lee’s face, the caption ends with “Young says he wasn’t trying to hit Lee.”

There’s a saying that credibility is gained in inches but lost in miles.

 Whether dealing with your client or a reporter, honesty is the best policy.  Tell the truth—but don’t necessarily tell everything you know.  In other words, don’t answer questions that aren’t being asked.  Some people use a media interview to confess all sorts of things best left unsaid.  Barbara Walters has built her career around extracting embarrassing information.

But, if you get caught in a photo about to punch someone’s lights out or something equally obvious, don’t deny it.  Instead, acknowledge that you were really upset and acted inappropriately, and then apologize without making excuses.  You and your agency will regain some lost respect and the matter will go away much more quickly.

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


Directing Your Agency’s PR Pitch

When it comes to pitching a story idea, getting to the right person is half the battle.

Whether you’re dealing with your local paper or The Wall Street Journal, it’s important to take the time to find out which person covers the particular area you are interested in targeting.  Sending media materials to “Editor” or “Producer” isn’t good protocol and probably won’t get you very far.

For TV stations, the assignment editor or news director are good people to contact.  For radio stations, contact the program manager or news director.  TV and radio stations with programs often have a specific person designed as a guest contact for programs; otherwise, go directly to the producer.


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



Is Your Ad Agency’s Story Newsworthy?


Whether you’re representing a client or your own agency, good relationships with reporters will help you communicate with important audiences and tell your side of the story in a cost-effective manner.

If you want to know which stories a reporter is interested in covering, ask him/her—just make sure the reporter isn’t on deadline.  I’ve found reporters with industry trade publications to be especially helpful in sharing topics of interest to them.  Of course, it helps to research the particular media outlet you’re pitching, and make sure you understand its audience and focus, before speaking with a reporter or editor.

Researching a reporter’s past stories on the Internet is another way to learn about his or her interests, writing style and possibly even certain biases.

Having that information helps you craft a targeted pitch so that you don’t waste your time—or the reporter’s time.

For consumer media, a local story that ties in with a national issue or trend is particularly appealing.

Here are some of the factors news media use to determine the value of news:

  • Consequence to readers/viewers
  • Prominence of individual/organization
  • Proximity to the area served
  • Conflict
  • Controversy
  • Timeliness
  • Human interest
  • Consumer trends
  • Novelty or unusualness of the story

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


Ad Agencies Top 20 Topics for Publicity

Agencies often get so busy marketing their clients that they fail to market themselves.  Publicity is a great way to get your name out in the marketplace, whether its local consumer media, industry publications.  Not only is publicity free, but it also has much more credibility than advertising.

Agency executives sometimes overlook the breath of opportunities that are available to them.  Here are my “Top 20 Topics” to consider:

  1. Agency awards
  2. New clients
  3. New employees
  4. Employee promotions
  5. Human interest stories about employees
  6. Community involvement
  7. Client promotional success stories
  8. Introducing a new service your agency is providing
  9. Services or commentary that address newsworthy topics/trends
  10. Appointments to boards
  11. Publications (articles, books, etc.)
  12. New offices/geographical expansion
  13. Mergers/strategic alliances
  14. Trends, projections, forecasts
  15. Speeches
  16. Sponsorships
  17. Mentoring programs
  18. Pro bono work
  19. Guest columns
  20. Case studies that could become feature stories

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