Public Relations

The New Rules of Marketing & PR is a book worth reading. It’s by David Meerman Scott…you can check out his blog here.

I was reminded of David’s work in a blog post by my friends at Beaupre. As communicators, we have this great opportunity to speak with people … news releases aren’t read just by the media anymore. On a global level, people are using search engines like Google to find the information they want and need. And – when they are searching online, it’s our job to give them what they need. Visuals – images, video, links to other information and — no more industry jargon. It’s a great time to be in this job — we get to have open, real, authentic conversations with real people. It’s exciting. And I can see how it can be scary, too. Change usually is. Do yourself a favour, buy the New Rules of Marketing & PR and read it … it will open your mind to a whole new way of doing business.

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Sometimes it is the simplest actions that are ignored or forgotten. This week alone I have counted 22 emails that have come in to me from colleagues, clients and potential suppliers that have not had contact information on them.

Not only does this create a challenge in getting back to the person in anyway other than email (not always the best or most reliable form of communication), it is also a lost opportunity. Let’s talk about the contact information first – anything you do to make it harder for someone to contact you is a bad thing.

I can remember in my career as a reporter – when I would receive media kits delivered by courier, receive faxes and emails …with no obvious contact information on them. This wasn’t a rare occurrence, it happened on a regular basis. Even if the story was a great one, it was a challenge to find that person – and if two great story pitches came in at the same time and one had contact info and one didn’t – guess who I called…

And – as for the lost opportunity I mentioned above – all it would take to give your business, company or project a little boost would be a short tag line above or below your contact info. For example: We’ve just launched our new blog, check it out at

Communication doesn’t always have to be complex and complicated. But you do have to remember to do it.

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I recently chatted with my friend and colleague Ken McQueen. Ken is the Bureau Chief for Vancouver for Maclean’s Magazine. He covers the West Coast of Canada and the U.S. for the magazine and is one of the best journalists around.

I asked Ken to tell me what he wants to receive from someone who wants to have Maclean’s cover their company’s story.

Here is what Ken told said:

“A good pitch is aimed at Maclean’s (link), not a generic pitch to all media. It is a story of national interest, or a story that is nationally interesting. And it arrives, miraculously, on a day, and in a week, when I have time to write it and the editors have an interest in slapping it into the magazine. This is a rare, but not impossible, confluence of events.

Somewhere in PR school they must teach that it is a good idea to follow up an email pitch with a phone call. Wrong. It is a bad idea unless there is something exceptional to add. I don’t know how many dozen pitches I get over the course of a week. If everyone includes a phone call I get no work done.

A general all-points pitch is dead on arrival. And a pitch that I think is going just to me, and ends up in the next day’s dailies, is a very, very, very bad idea. I need things exclusively, and well in advance if I’m going to hold my editors’ interest.

I honour embargoes. I appreciate tips and will sit on a story until a mutually agreeable date. I work for a news magazine, I don’t write advertising copy.”

This is great information – straight from a well-respected journalist. Read, watch or listen to the media organization you want to tell your story to … think about whether it is right for that organization. Then think about it again. Don’t pitch to everyone – choose who your target is and do your homework. Find out what they cover, find out what grabs their attention. Remember that the journalist you pitch has to find your story compelling enough to take it to the story meeting and pitch it to their editor or producer, give them the ammunition to do that.

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Work and Life on the Sunshine Coast…it’s as good as you would think! (Maybe even better.)

When anyone learns that AHA’s head office is on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast, they either grin and give us a smart aleck remark like, ”Oh, and I’m sure you do a lot of work on the beach and the trails out there…” or they say it’s their dream to be able to live somewhere like this without sacrificing their career ambitions.

For those who grin and think we might be putting something over on the tax man, we really DO work out here – our office is 1,000 sq feet with a brainstorming area, televisions tuned into the news, a production office and four full-time staffers. (We also have some incredible contractors and strategic partners who work out of their home offices or business offices.) But – it’s also a pretty amazing place to work and live. We are surrounded by beaches (Sechelt means land between two waters) and we have a view of Porpoise Bay from our office – and access to some of the best nature trails around.

We also have an office in Vancouver, but we made a conscious decision to locate our production studio and head office on the Sunshine Coast. There are several reasons: quality of life; room for the dogs to run; and the ability to offer our clients the opportunity to get out of their office and meet here to brainstorm, media train, and for other business-related activities that need space.

We even have an “after work” fun space called The Naked Cowboy Bar & Grill named after the Naked Cowboy in New York City – who is one of the best entrepreneur PR success stories I have ever seen. The Naked Cowboy has a pool table, foosball, darts…it’s a little beach bar crossed with a Texas Honky Tonk. Clients love to go and spend an hour in there, have a cold drink and hang out after an intense afternoon of media training or messaging development.

Our office is not far from downtown Vancouver, but because we take a ferry to the city, perception is that we are far, far away. We’re not!! The ferry only takes 40 minutes – and we work on the ferry. From the Horseshoe Bay terminal, depending on traffic, we can be downtown in 20 minutes. Not a very big deal for us – and we are in Vancouver several times a week or more, depending on client needs.

With our Sunshine Coast and Vancouver offices, we have the best of all worlds. We have access to a great city with lots of culture, a large business population combined with the more rural beauty of the Sunshine Coast and the space to grow our business.

And, these days our clients are all over North America and the world so that where we are really doesn’t matter. Technology allows us constant contact – emails, Instant Messenger, telephone, online video and online conferencing allows us to feel like we are in the same room even when we are thousands of miles apart. And for those times that we need to be in the same room, we are only a drive or a plane ride away. The world is a big, wonderful, expansive place – but our ability to connect makes it seem like we are all right next door to each other.

I wonder how many others are making a choice similar to ours – molding their lifestyle and business together, instead of having one or the other. Have you? How has technology freed you to do business from where you choose? Or do you think that to be successful you need to be in the heart of a large city? Let us know what you are thinking – we’d love to hear from you. Even if you’re the taxman – because we really are working out here. Ask our clients!!

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Blogs and other social media have created an incredible opportunity to communicate. They have also opened up the curtain and let us see the little man at the controls. (If you didn’t get The Wizard of Oz reference, my apologies.)

One of my favourite blogs is the bad pitch blog by PR gurus Kevin Dugan and Richard Laermer – this blog has a long list of smart, lively and witty contributors. Here, bad news releases and pitches are put under the microscope.

This blog has great information if you want to see what mistakes can be made – before you make them. They also showcase good pitches. The good pitch badge of honour award is named the “Glinda”, (after the good witch of the East in
The Wizard of Oz).

This blog covers an important topic in PR – the pitch. It is such an important part of reaching out to the media. Check this out and find out what works and what doesn’t.

There are a lot of people contacting the media that don’t even get the reporter’s name or their beat right.

Before you contact the media, make sure you have something to say, that you are saying it to the right person and that you are putting it in front of them at the right time and in the right way.

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