Michelle Sullivan Communications

The Bad Pitch – are you guilty of any of these sins?

This blog post by Nick Balkin is worth a visit by anyone who does media relations. Hopefully, you’ll breathe a sigh of relief because you’re not guilty of any of these sins, but, alone in your office or cubicle, take a close look, do a bit of soul-searching, and treat yourself to a good self-flagellation session if you are. Or, like the guy in the DaVinci Code book, wear a cilice. Do something. Anything. Seriously.

PR People: Stop Being Bad at Stuff and Read This

This entry by Nick Balkin, guest poster.
Face it: you went into PR because you wanted to be a superstar. Unfortunately, sometimes you have to work hard to build your name and reputation before you score those VIP passes. Lucky for you, I’ve learned some extremely helpful tips and tricks to navigate the murky waters of being totally awesome, and today only, I’m going to share them with you.

(read Balkin’s tips here – and yes, in case you didn’t recognize it, that’s dripping sarcasm oozing from your screen)

Take my advice: when a journalist or blogger vents, listen.

Aurelie Alaume is completely right. The capacity to listen is definitely an important quality for any PR practitioner to master. Luckily for us, never has listening been easier than in the age of social media. So let’s get into the habit of it. When someone vents about us and our industry, let’s pay attention.

The following blogs are in my Google reader and, presuming you’re a media relations practitioner interested in being effective and successful, should be in yours as well:

Pro PR Tips – this blog by tech and business journalist Rafe Needleman (currently editor at CNET) is a list of very practical short and sweet words of wisdom to PR types. Needleman’s project started on Twitter before moving to the blog and even to an online book format.  Listen to Sam Whitmore’s interview with Rafe here.

Dear PR Flack: rants about bad PR pitches by bloggers. Maybe if we all follow their advice and pleas for better practices, they’ll change the name of their blog and start writing about sunflowers and puppy dogs (we can only dream). Trust me, it will be painful to read through these blog posts, particularly if you’re guilty of having done something similar or if you care anything at all about our industry’s reputation. Some blog post titles that stick out like a sore thumb (literally) include ‘Amateur’ does not mean ‘gullible sucker’ and How’s the glass house? I have to say, this one personally resonates with me (you know who you are). For those of you who are as masochistic as I am, the Dear PR Flack’s pleasure-pain experience continues on Twitter.

The Bad Pitch Blog: the grandfather of blogs in this category. Founders Richard Laermer and Kevin Dugan have been ranting about bad pitches and demanding that PR elevates itself to new levels since January 2006. Hat tip to the masters of the form. Sign up for Wednesday’s « Bad Pitch Night School (during the day) » teleseminar here.

Of course, not everyone appreciates the feedback. Let’s play a little game. See if you can spot what’s wrong with this blog post about Dear PR Flack and how it can explain why feathers were ruffled. Deservedly so.

These blogs and Twitter feeds all represent generosity at its best. Free advice from the people you’re trying to reach to help you do your job better. Take my advice. Pay attention.

It’s come to this: Article of the day – 10 reasons to hire a journalist

This is not the kind of blog post I want to read. Apparently, it has come to this.

10 reasons to hire a journalist by Jill Geisler

While I agree with the points raised, I’d prefer to keep my fingers crossed that not to many Canadian journalists need to present these arguments at job interviews anytime soon.

PodCamp Toronto: Session 2 – Inside PR

Dave Jones and Terry Fallis are recording an Inside PR episode with Martin Waxman at PodCamp Toronto – and I’m live blogging it, so this blog post may be a more stream-of-consciousness than usual. 

Q1: What balance between traditional and rich media do you see and how do you see it evolving?

Terry: Mainstream media relations is harder and harder to generate. Fewer reporters chasing more stories. It’s harder now to get earned media challenge than it has ever been. What better time then for a new media channel to emerge? We’re still figuring out how to use it. Organisations ought to be dipping their toe in the social media waters. Companies need to find their authentic voice. Social media is a real opportunity.

Dave: It’s not a recipe I would prescribe. The strategy will drive the tactics. Be fairly agnostic with how you communicate, but use the tactics that fit best. Doesn’t mean you can’t take a risk and try a few things in the space. You definitely can’t ignore what’s happening in the social media space.

Martin: It depends. Are you going out to trade only? Are you going out for something bigger? Monitoring is the first place to start. You want to know what is being said. What is exciting is how the groundswell can be community driven (ex: Twestival). There is starting to be a big crossover between traditional and social media.

Q2: Blogger relations – where is it heading?

Martin: In the traditional model, PR people had relationships with journalists. Things have since changed. The PR industry became broadcasters, sending press releases to hundreds and hundreds of journalists. Social media is hopefully getting all communicators back to the basics. Hopefully that will be good for the reputation of the industry.

Terry: I like what’s happening in the social media space in that its transparency and authenticity is influencing how we do traditional media relations. The pitch needs to be more customized. The investment in time is more important.

Q3: How do you find companies are embracing social media? How do we deal with approvals (legal etc)?

Dave: The world has changed from the days of being able to respond in days vs minutes. The success that I’ve seen happen is when there’s some senior buy-in. In that case, they can push the mandate through. A lot of companies get religion in social media when they have a problem and realize they need to be better prepared to handle social media.

Martin: The point about PR approval is a really good one. Organizations need to protect themselves. They have liability issues. The legal department is the gatekeeper, while we’re trying to have authentic and transparent conversations.

Terry: You can win in the court of law, but lose in the court of public opinion. Clients are astonished to find critical Tweets. PR professionals can deal with them quickly and turn opinion around. Need parameters to respond and engage in the conversation.

Q: Is the social media press release dead?

Dave: I’m a bit of a crank on this one. I’ve always looked at a social media press release not as an evolution or bright light, but as an online electronic press kit. We used to send them out on CDs. It is a place to put multimedia content around a client’s traditional static text press release. It is just content. Used as a blogger relations headquarters. Is an easy place to point people to get content. You’re much better using these sorts of things as things that live and breathe as opposed to one-off press releases. Configure it so you can add to the future as new content emerges.

Terry: I would add that in the social media press release, they started to put quotations as a separate part of the press release.

Martin: I don’t think the news release is dead. The social media news release is the same thing, just with better and added functionality.

Q: Reputation and PR companies. Is it time that PR had a regulatory body?

Martin: I’m a CPRS accreditation coach, so I’m a big proponent of accreditation. It will hopefully give the industry more professionalism.

Q: Future of print media

Dave: I think the economic model for media has changed. That is what’s killing them. The need for news isn’t changing. The financial situation around print media, the costs of production, delivery, of writers, is a problem. Much as it is in the music industry. It’s not news and the need for news that will change. Consumer generated news won’t replace professional journalism, but professional journalism will change significiantly.


Pour l’amour du quotidien: comment « vieillir cool »

La presse imprimée a pris un coup de vieux ces derniers temps. Le jeunôt qu’est l’Internet bouscule la grande dame et semble prendre toute la place, tout à fait comme ces garçons dans la vingtaine qui s’obstinent à embarquer dans le metro avant tout le monde. Vous les connaissez. Ceux qui se précipitent vers les sièges libres, et qu’on voit, bien installés, le nez dans un bouquin ou écoutant leurs iPod les yeux fermés afin d’éviter de croiser le regard des têtes grises. Ces gens ‘d’un certain âge’ qui doivent alors maintenir l’équilibre avec difficulté debout dans le wagon en mouvement, les pieds enflés, les veines varicosées et les mains plissées accrochées au poteau en métal comme si leur survie en dépendait.

Si je fais la comparaison, c’est que nous sommes jeudi soir et je viens de terminer ma lecture du ‘Grand dossier week-end’ de La Presse, publié samedi dernier. À lire l’entrevue Serge Bouchard d’Émilie Côté, je serais parmi les rares personnes à trouver les vieux beaux. Mais tellement beaux que j’en viens parfois les larmes aux yeux à les observer. L’anthropologue maintient plutôt que :

Nous sommes à l’époque où nous nions la durée et l’usure. Nous avons acquis un discours fableux qui dit: aujourd’hui nous ne sommes plus vieux, ça n’existe plus. Et si on devient vieux, c’est notre faute (…) Nous n’avons pas de philosophie cohérente face au temps qui passe.

J’ai acheté La Presse samedi dernier justement pour pouvoir parcourir ce dossier. Le 5 janvier, en conversation avec un journaliste, j’avais appris qu’un cahier spécial sur la vieillesse se préparait à la salle de rédaction de La Presse. Dossier qui a enfin été publié le 31. Les journalistes qui y ont collaboré ont eu, donc, environ quatre semaines pour s’enligner, sinon plus. Pour dénicher leur sujet. Pour rencontrer les spécialistes. Foglia a disposé de quatre semaines pour concevoir ses tournures de phrases parfaites.

Je maintiens, jusqu’à preuve du contraire, que l’avenir de la presse imprimée passera par la production de cahiers de ce genre. D’articles étoffés. De reportages approfondis. De cahiers qu’on prendra le loisir de lire, contrairement aux nouvelles qui doivent être consommées rapidement et qui font en sorte que nous sommes de plus en plus nombreux à nous tourner vers l’Internet comme source première d’information, plutôt que d’attendre que le jeune voisin nous livre le journal le lendemain matin.

On ne parle pas ici de ‘breaking news’. Voilà pourquoi je peux me permettre de laisser trainer La Presse sur ma table de salle à manger. De feuilleter mon journal de temps en temps, selon mes disponibilités et mes envies. De lire un article ici, un article là. Ma copie de samedi dernier m’a suivi jusqu’à la baignoire. Essayez donc de trainer votre laptop dans votre bain.

Lundi, cette copie de La Presse se retrouvera très probablement au trottoir, dans mon bac vert. Je sais que la série d’articles signée Émilie Côté et les chroniques de Foglia et de Rima Elkouri pourront toujours être consultées sur Internet, dans les archives de Cyberpresse, un certain temps au moins.

Si la rentabilité d’un journal passe principalement par l’achat d’espace publicitaire, les quotidiens ont peut-être moins à craindre qu’on croit. Tandis qu’autrefois la pub de Nissan à la page A4 et l’avis important de la part de Bell à la page A6 passaient quelques heures seulement à portée de vue avant de passer au bac, elles passent maintenant près d’une semaine sous mes yeux. Une durée de vie plus intéressante. Une valeur qui mérite d’être récompensée? Peut-être. Seule la loi du marché en décidera.

J’avoue que je suis une sentimentale, pas comme les autres. Qui trouve les vieux d’une beauté incroyable. J’aime leurs rides, leurs cheveux blancs, la peau de leurs mains tachée et presque transparente. J’aime leurs histoires. J’aime leur vécu.

Pour l’amour des grands quotidiens, j’aimerais bien pouvoir trouver la solution parfaite qui les permettrait de ‘vieillir cool’.