Category Archives: blog post

Saying “Thank You”

How hard is it for a PR person to say thank you when someone does something that benefits you? Not that hard! Just do it.

When your client gets coverage, say thank you to the media person who provided the coverage and to the person who set up the coverage. When you get a new client, say thanks to the person who referred you. When a fellow PR pro shares contact info or a useful tip, say thanks.

HOW you say thank you can make your gratitude more meaningful and more memorable. The quickest and simplest way is with a phone call or an email. The call is a bit more personal and allows you to express your feelings more clearly (because there’s tone and inflection in a call/voicemail message that is not present in an email).

A handwritten thank you note, sent via snail mail, makes a HUGE impression. And it’s easy to do. (Okay, sometimes it’s hard for me to find cards that I like. Most of the thank you cards I see are a bit too feminine to represent me.) You simply write a few brief sentences: Offer thanks for the good act this person has done, share your appreciation for the person’s work and wish him/her continued good fortune. Sign it, stamp it, put it in the box—done. Do it yourself—don’t hand this off to your assistant or intern.

WHEN you say thank you is also important. The sooner you send the card (or make that call), the greater an impact your thank you will have. Within a day or two is best, within a week is acceptable. Don’t put it off. Go buy a box or two of thank you cards and stamps today so you’ll have them when needed.

Is it okay to say thanks via Twitter or Facebook? If you want to share your thank you with the world, it may be okay. But you may want to keep this personal communication private. (Saying thanks to your clients’ followers and fans for posts and tweets is a completely different matter. That, too, is a thank you that should be delivered by a community manager in a timely manner.)

Saying thank you is something you have been taught since childhood. It may take a moment or two of your valuable time, but the long-term effects can be significant. And, to you, for reading this post, I say, “thank you.”





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Proofread, Proofread, Proofread

An item ran in the Wall Street Journal this week, lamenting the fact that college students are sometimes misinformed regarding the spellings of certain words and phrases. A glaring example was a student’s reference to a “mister meaner,” instead of a misdemeanor. I’ve seen similar “creativity” on Twitter and Facebook posts.

When I was younger, it bothered me when I would see writing by intelligent people that confused words that sounded alike. Homonyms like “there, their and they’re” did not mystify me. I always got them right—why couldn’t others? I would generally attribute these mistakes to laziness.

As I became older and the majority of my writing switched from pen to keyboard, I was horrified to notice that I was occasionally making such errors. How could I be so careless that I would type, say, “hear” instead of “here?” Was it because I was into a groove and the words were flowing so fast from my brain to my fingers that I barely had time to think? Sometimes, yes.

Today, even when I am totally sober and fully conscious, it happens. I have been saved many times by spell check, but when the wrong word is spelled correctly and fits grammatically, spell check does not help.

This is why proofreading is so vital. It often occurs that I will note an error on the third or fourth read-through. When time permits, it’s good to reread something the next day, when your brain is fresh and you can observe your work a bit more objectively. Email a copy to a friend or family member and ask her or him to read your work and tell you of any mistakes.

You have probably noticed more and more misspellings and bad grammar in print, in online postings and on TV graphics in recent years. Could this be a result of creative spellings in text messages and emails? Or have personnel cutbacks in media caused less qualified individuals to be manning the keyboards? Whatever the cause, it is a disturbing trend.

One on hand, I try to be forgiving. I am not perfect. I make mistakes. But, on the other hand, major communications agencies (including media outlets, PR firms and marketing companies) should be held to high standards. If you want your work to be considered professional grade, proofread. Then, proofread again before posting or hitting “send.”

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Implied Endorsements

Is a media placement an implied endorsement? Yes and no.

If the reporter/interviewer gushes and mentions how wonderful the product, service, person or organization is—well, yes, that is an implied endorsement. Maybe, more than implied.

If the article, blog post or broadcast segment is more or less objective, offering information about your client, that’s still an implied endorsement. The coverage indicates that your client is worthy of coverage and that the product, service or event you’re pitching is something that readers, viewers or listeners may want to know about.

Even an “advertorial” placement, as seen in certain print publications, can connote an endorsement by the publication. Although the reader is likely to recognize the advertorial as paid content, its location in the layout indicates that it is editorial content.

How can you know whether editorial coverage will lean favorable, unfavorable or middle-of-the-road? Unless the reporter/interviewer is a close friend or family member, you cannot.

Presuming the media member is not friend/family, it is vital to provide the major message points to all who will encounter the media person. It is also important to make sure the media person has the basic facts. By directing the media member to a page on your website (be it a “press/media/newsroom” page or a simple FAQ page), you can be sure that the media person has access to the most important information. In some cases, it may be better to email an attached fact sheet with the facts that are significant.

It may or may not be true that Henry Ford actually said, “I don’t care what they say about me as long as they spell my name right.” There may be some, other than reality TV cast members, who feel that way in 2012.

But, in most cases when we seek out media coverage, we want that implied endorsement. We want to build name recognition, but we also want to grow positive perception. We want the love from that media outlet that a 30-second spot or quarter-page print ad just cannot deliver.

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5 Lessons From Nora Ephron

I was saddened to hear of Nora Ephron’s passing last week. She is a woman who entertained me greatly with her writing and her directing.

All of us who write, whether our writing is a media release, a technical manual, a news story or even a simple email, can learn from reading articles, essays, books and screenplays written by Nora Ephron.

Among the lessons we can take from the work of Nora Ephron:

  1. Brevity is a good thing. She said she learned to “write short” while working as a New York Daily News reporter. Her magazine articles and essays are always clear and concise. While they are often more observation/opinion than actual reporting, her training in the basics of newspaper writing served her well throughout her life.
  2. Be honest. Her writing about the increasing number of deaths of friends and associates that occurred after they (and she) turned 60 was almost painful to read. Her lists of “What I’ll Miss” and “What I Won’t Miss” (about her life) at the end of her last book will elicit both chuckles and tears.
  3. Stay in touch with real people. Nora Ephron was raised in Beverly Hills, attended Wellesley College, then lived in NY (with a brief time in DC). She was a woman who enjoyed great professional success and wealth. Yet, in her writing and in her movies, she presented stories and characters that real people across the world could relate to and identify with.
  4. Keep working. Ephron wrote and directed her 2009 film “Julie and Julia” after she had begun treatment for leukemia. She wrote original material to go with previously published material for her 2010 book I Remember Nothing (and did numerous interviews to promote the book in ’10 and ’11).
  5. Maintain your sense of humor. Nora Ephron made me laugh many times and will continue to make me laugh when I watch certain of her movies again and reread her essays and articles. She is now and will continue to be quotable. Note how many collections of her quotes have appeared online in the days since her passing.

As we think about Nora Ephron’s writing style, her honesty, her work ethic and her sense of humor, it’s easy to look at her career success with admiration and envy and think (to quote one of her best lines), “I’ll have what she’s having!”

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7 Reasons To Embrace Criticism

Ever been having a happy, productive day that is jarred when someone tells you something you did was lacking? It can mess things up. Bring you down.

Most of us want praise, not criticism. We only want to hear, “Great job!” or “That was awesome.” We do not want to hear, “Can you make it longer or funnier or brighter, etc.?” or “That is not what we want. It just isn’t good enough.”

But criticism can be a good thing. Here are 7 important reasons why we should embrace criticism, even if it does lean to the negative side.

  1. It can help you keep your job. When your boss or a client tells you that you are not producing what is wanted, they are giving you the opportunity to produce what is wanted. (Rather than dismissing you.)
  2. It provides a different viewpoint. You, by definition, cannot be objective about your work. You own it. You like it. You defend it. But that other person’s appraisal of your work comes without your built-in prejudices.
  3. It gives your work meaning. Even if you are told that your work is sub-par, at least your critic thinks your work is worth paying attention to.
  4. It gives you an edge. If you pound out the same thing day after day with no positive or negative feedback, your focus goes away. You don’t concentrate on doing your best because, apparently, it doesn’t matter.
  5. It can give you clues about your long-term situation with your employer or client. If the negative feedback continues unabated, this is a clear message that it may be time to look for another job.
  6. Within most critiques that point out what’s wrong, there is sometimes a mention of what’s right. Slight though it may be, this positive beacon within a fog of negativity may be strong enough to provide a small amount of encouragement.
  7. It provides something to think about. Criticism can be, and often is, ignored. A better way to handle criticism is to process it. Determine whether the criticism is valid. Careful consideration of criticism over time (minutes, hours, days) can allow you to analyze exactly what was said. Sometimes you may find deeper, less obvious, messages.

Use criticism to your advantage. Let it make you a better worker and a better person.

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Ownership of Ideas

Has this ever happened to you? You share an idea with your boss. After a nod of acknowledgement, the idea is tabled or, presumably, forgotten. Then, months or years later, the idea reemerges. This time the idea is presented by the boss as “something I came up with this weekend” or “an idea the guys at our Dallas office passed along.”

You say to the boss, “Wait, I came up with that same idea last summer!” The boss says, “Really? I don’t remember.”

This is how things work some times. You may have been ahead of the curve. The boss may feel more comfortable with input from his bosses than from his employees. Something he read or heard may have made the idea more appealing now than your presentation did a while back.

If it’s a good idea that will generate a positive result for the organization, be happy that it is being adopted, even if you do not receive proper credit. At the least, use this to boost your own self-esteem, which is important to production and growth in your job.

If you work as an independent contractor, you have to be careful about sharing ideas. When making a proposal to prospect, the ideas you offer should be vague and general. Your ideas should focus more on objectives and goals than on strategies and tactics.

If you offer a free “big idea” or two, you run the risk of having your idea used without credit or financial reward. The prospect can always say, “Oh yeah, we came up with that same idea last year.” (I still believe that one of David Letterman’s trademark 80’s bits was the result of materials I submitted to his head writer in 1983 while I was working in radio in Philadelphia. Could I have ever proved this? No.)

If you are an idea generator, keep ‘em coming! Is there a different way to achieve a particular positive outcome? New thoughts on solving problems are always welcome. Just be careful about where and to whom you pass along your best ideas.


Traditional Media: Not Quite Dead

Look, I enjoy the internet, mobile apps, social media, blogging, texting, email, etc. as much as the next guy. Actually, in most cases, more than the next guy. I watch TV shows on Hulu, listen to music on Spotify, get much of my news from the web.

But I am tired of hearing people—especially bright people in PR and marketing—say that traditional media are dead. They are not. Certain outlets may not be healthy, but TV, radio and print are still reaching millions of people daily.

I recall a presentation earlier this year in St. Louis about the power of Twitter to engage and motivate people. The presenter made the point that his agency’s campaign was so successful on Twitter that it got his cause coverage on radio and in the newspaper. In other words, one of his milestones for social media success was obtaining some love from traditional media.

When you’re stuck in rush hour traffic, a mobile app may give you the reason why. But if you want trustworthy local traffic info, you will likely dial up a local terrestrial radio station.

Google spent $213 million on TV, newspaper and magazine ads in 2011.

On my Twitter timeline, I see numerous tweets everyday about content in newspapers, on television and on radio. Maybe that’s just an indication of who I follow, but it points out that a decent amount of the content on social media is about traditional media.

Newspapers still reach a significant number of readers. If you had a choice of getting a feature story in your local metropolitan daily paper or on the most popular local blog, which would you choose?

Television still reaches huge numbers of viewers. Would you rather have coverage on a morning TV news show or would you rather post your Youtube video to your Facebook page?

Radio still has tons of listeners. Would you rather your event get a mention from a top morning drive radio show or would you prefer it get listed on Yelp or a similar website?

You may or may not favor traditional media outlets, but don’t discount their reach and their power.

Sidebar note: Always, ALWAYS, remember that the word “media” is plural.

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