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Take and use my press release, please

This week I read about an exchange that made me giggle and cringe in span of about six seconds.

PRNewser featured a story that Jim Romenesko uncovered. Evidently, a PR/marketing person emailed Marilyn Young, an editor at the Jacksonville Daily Record to request credit for content in a story that resembled the press release sent by the agency.

According to the screenshot from Young’s Facebook page via PRNewser, the person currently giving our industry a black eye wrote, “But when you publish our work with your name that is plagiarism.”

Let’s just pause right there.

Isn’t providing helpful content and information to journalists at the very core of what we do?  I for one get really excited when I see copy lifted directly (or tweaked very slightly) from a pitch or press release in a story.  Our job is to get the messaging and language on target. We strive for journalistic style, and if our exact copy makes the cut it means we nailed it. Sometimes the way it’s written is the way it should stay.

PR isn’t an industry for those who want credit for every little line of text they had a hand in placing. I remember being in the grocery store several months after I started dating my boyfriend. He couldn’t grasp why I was so thrilled to see the December issue of Family Circle. I had been waiting six months for a placement that was the result of an in-person briefing with an editor. He immediately asked where my name was on the page. *Head desk* Some people just don’t understand the nature of our industry and that is perfectly acceptable.

But please, if you are playing for our team, learn how to play the game.

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Posted June 26th, 2014 in best practices, communication, media relations, public relations industry | No Comments »

Building Relationships with the Next Generation of Journalists

Working for a PR agency means my cell phone number is widely available. It’s in my email signature. It’s published on news releases that cross the wire and are uploaded to clients’ online pressrooms. While it is great resource for reporters, it also means I get my fair share of random requests, like the few times people called me because they wanted to enroll their child in school. Or the time a woman called, desperate to know if I received her husband’s job application for a trucking position.

Recently, when my phone rang after hours, I fully expected a question that I could not answer. To my surprise, the call was from the executive news editor of a high school newspaper. He was anxious to connect with my client who had administered a playground contest. An essay nominating St. Norbert School in Northbrook, Illinois, highlighted Kyle Caraher, a 17-year-old varsity football player who lost his life in a car accident in the summer of 2012. The touching essay was selected as one of two winners. The editor on the phone was from the Torch, the student-run newspaper of Glenbrook North High School, where Caraher had been a student.

He wanted to schedule an interview to learn more about the contest and why the essay nominating St. Norbert School (where Caraher attended elementary school) was selected as a winner. Knowing my client spokesperson’s time was tight, I asked if he could send me questions via email. The editor said if that was the only option, he could, but that he would prefer to conduct a phone interview. He mentioned his faculty advisors look down on email interviews and they are to be avoided if at all possible.

In that moment I realized it was important to facilitate a phone interview.

So often PR people, reporters and spokespeople are short on time. Is an interview conducted via email the most ideal? No, but it gets the information where it needs to go. But this high school newspaper editor is likely part of the next generation of journalists we’ll be working with – helping him hone his interview skills is important and something I’m happy my client was able to facilitate. Though I’m not convinced we’re going to see more journalists requesting phone interviews vs. email because their resources are squeezed more than ever.It was important for me to show him a PR professional was his ally. After all, he even offered Saturday availability for the interview. If he was willing to go above and beyond for his paper, wasn’t it our job to help?

The editor conducted a thorough interview with my client and we probably weren’t on the phone for much longer than 15-20 minutes. He sent follow-up questions and was responsive all communications. He was a pleasure to work with and his final article was some of the most in-depth coverage the project received.

At RoseComm, we strive to generate results that move the needle for our clients’ businesses. So why was a high school newspaper worth our client’s time? A few reasons: the contest covered was voted on by the public – likely including teachers and students from Glenbrook North High – so showing appreciation for their participation was important. Additionally, parents and school administrators are key audiences for my client.

You can read the young journalist’s work here: Caraher’s dream plays into reality at St. Norbert’s.

 

 

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Posted June 6th, 2014 in client news, communication, interesting experiences, media relations | No Comments »

Are wearable tech products for kids?

My first grader is an official member of the quantified self movement. Her elementary school randomly selected children to wear activity-tracking watches to assess the outcomes of their physical education program. This is her week.

Measuring fitness biometrics is a topic we know a lot about through our work with Valencell. The company’s PerformTek sensor seamlessly integrates into wearable devices, such as audio earbuds, armbands and wristbands, and connects with smartphone apps people already are using while exercising. It measures more real-time biometric and physiological data than any other fitness monitor with a high degree of accuracy and consistency. It’s currently available through iriverON earbuds as well as Scosche Rhythm armbands, and is coming soon to products from LG, Blaupunkt and others.

There’s plenty of research that suggests these wearable devices motivate adults to live more active lifestyles. I was curious to see how a data-driven awareness of her activity might change my daughter’s behavior.

I came home from work the day she received the watch and she almost knocked me over at the door to show it to me. It’s a Polar product and appears to be measuring activity time through an accelerometer. On the first day, she logged just over an hour and a half of activity. Thanks in part to the NFL’s Play 60 campaign, most parents know children need 60 minutes of activity a day.

Yesterday was day two with the device and she was past her previous day’s time when we sat down to do her homework after dinner. She was determined to hit the two-hour mark before bed. So we did jumping jacks together as she practiced her spelling words for the week. She still had seven minutes to go. After she brushed her teeth, she did karate moves all around her bedroom while I read to her. She got in bed and spent the last few minutes throwing punches until she hit 2:00. The sense of accomplishment created a little more excitement (and sweat) than a 6-year old needs before bed, but it was great to see her celebrate the milestone.

The jury’s still out on whether the enthusiasm will continue. And the line between a healthy awareness and unhealthy obsession may be a thin one I need to watch. But the early results are interesting and encouraging.

Do you think kids are a target market for wearable fitness technology?

 

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Posted March 12th, 2014 in client news, interesting experiences | No Comments »

Is it too late to retweet Ellen’s selfie?

I have to confess: I wasn’t looking at Twitter during the Oscars. But my husband was and he let me know when the Ellen selfie campaign was building. I instantly made a decision not to participate in the retweet frenzy. I liked that Barack Obama’s “Four more years” tweet held the distinction as the most retweeted tweet. People were genuinely excited that he was re-elected. They didn’t retweet because the POTUS told them to.

Last night I learned Ellen’s effort to get the most retweets on her selfie was actually a brand placement for Samsung, as she was using the company’s phone to take the picture. You might think that fact would make me more resolute about not changing my Twitter behavior simply because a celebrity told me to. On the contrary, I kind of regret not following her instructions like a lemming.

We spend a lot of time at RoseComm talking about how some consumers wear their resistance to advertising like a badge of honor. But we also live in a world where we expect great content for cheap or even free. We worry about how those factors are affecting the quality of both journalism and entertainment.

So if I’d known Ellen’s stunt was in support of a brand that helped put the Oscars on television, I would have been way more likely to retweet it. I believe it’s time to reward the brands who are trying to find clever and authentic ways to engage us without crossing any editorial lines.

Did you retweet Ellen’s selfie? Does Samsung’s involvement change your view on her stunt?

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Posted March 5th, 2014 in social networking | No Comments »

Super Bowl: GoldieBlox For The Win

Confession: I’m not a football fan. I can’t even focus on the ultimate football game – the Super Bowl – long enough to figure out who’s playing, (I can’t decide if I’m embarrassed or proud of this fact,) but I do recognize that this puts me in the minority in America. Sunday’s game is a huge deal and I’m not just talking about what happens on the field, because clearly, I don’t know. It’s a giant marketing bonanza. Our Super Bowl ad appetites are already being whet with a yogurt-fueled “Full House” reunion, unlikely animal friendships and finding out if Anna Kendrick is “beer commercial hot.”

I was thrilled to learn that GoldieBlox, the upstart toy company that created the viral video that caused a ruckus with the Beastie Boys, won a 30-second spot in the game. Intuit funded a contest designed to award one small business this amazingly high value prize and GoldieBlox won based on fans’ votes.

I think it’s outrageously awesome that a small business with a mission of inspiring girls to become engineers is going to get airtime during the biggest sporting event of the year. I thought GoldieBlox might be out of the running due to the legal and communications issues around their initial commercial, but they managed the challenge deftly and in true American dream-style they’ve overcome the odds and won the day. It makes their already compelling narrative even more dramatic and riveting. They’ll be unveiling a new ad during the game’s third quarter. I can’t wait to see it. I guess that means I’ll actually be watching this year. Rah!!

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Posted January 31st, 2014 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

2013 review: Five lessons from the best PR campaigns

We like a list as much as the next communications firm. Earlier this month, we asked our team to share their favorite PR campaigns of 2013.

Several rose to the top as clear winners: Make A Wish Foundation and Batkid; Oreo’s response to the Big Game Blackout; Lowe’s Fix in Six Vine Videos; Amazon’s Drone Project; Volvo Trucks and the Van Damme stunt; WestJet’s Christmas Miracle; Dove Real Beauty Sketches; and, Starbucks Tweet a Coffee.

The famous tweet

So we started to think about the best practices these campaigns have in common. To follow is what we found. Good campaigns:

  1. Personalize or humanize the brand. This allows individuals to see themselves in the marketing.
  2. Use emotion or empowerment. We can’t get enough of the ordinary turned extraordinary.
  3. Celebrate the first to the party. Innovation still drives news values.
  4. Strike a balance between brand objectives and usefulness. You can’t have one without the other.
  5. Make it easy for people to contribute to the narrative. As I often tell my three year old, sharing is caring.

What were your favorite campaigns of 2013?

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Posted January 29th, 2014 in best practices, celebrity spokespeople, non-profit public relations, social networking, word of mouth | No Comments »

Twitter handle helps clear trademark hurdle

Earlier this week, my company announced a name change from Rose Communications to RoseComm®. Our reasons for changing were many, but the main driver was the fact that we’d uncovered several other Rose Communications since we launched our business a decade ago. At the time, they didn’t come up in our basic search for similar names. And they were creating confusion when people referred others to us.

Many of our clients and partners naturally started calling us RoseComm early in our existence. It makes sense — not only is it our domain name, but people naturally like to use nicknames. After much deliberation, we decided to make our nickname our official name.

But I didn’t want to invest in yet another name without filing for protection with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. With the advice of a good friend who happens to be a trademark attorney, I applied for a trademark myself using LegalZoom.

It was a long (about a year!), but interesting process. The total cost was $734 ($325 of which is a government fee). I agreed to pay extra for a comprehensive trademark search, which returned anything remotely close to RoseComm. This helps you better understand your chances for success, as the government won’t register a trademark that is not unique in its category. I wasn’t concerned by any of the results, so I decided to continue with the application process.

Once the government approves your application, they publish it for public comments. No one contested RoseComm, so we were just about in the clear. The final hurdle is providing a statement of use — i.e. proof you’ve used the trademark in the marketplace. I submitted a piece of collateral we created for TEDxHoboken, but it was rejected because RoseComm was included in text as opposed to standing on its own. Once you submit a statement of use, you cannot change the date of first use. This left me with a dilemma because we had not used RoseComm much while we waited for approval of our trademark. Then I thought about my Twitter handle, which has always been @rosecomm.

I asked the government attorney if they would consider a Twitter handle as proof of use. She was intrigued and said they’ve never been asked that before. After checking with her supervisor, she let me know that a copy of my Twitter page would satisfy their statement of use requirement.

I don’t know if we were truly the first to ask, but this seemed an experience worth sharing for others who are on the path to trademark protection. Now we need to get to work on our website redesign.

 

 

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Posted January 16th, 2014 in best practices, social networking | No Comments »

Lights, camera…oh, never mind

When action movie director Michael Bay stepped onstage at this year’s CES, who knew he would divert the spotlight from the tech products being showcased – including the Samsung television he was supposed to plug – onto him. The publicity generated by his very brief appearance was not the type anyone would want.

Undoubtedly everyone has heard by now how it played out. Within moments of taking the stage, Bay appeared nervous and at a loss for words. After fumbling awkwardly and blaming faulty teleprompters, he apologized and quickly walked off. How ironic is it that technology failed him at CES of all places, and while he was promoting a new high tech product?

Looking at this through a PR lens, I’m fascinated by the fact that he relied solely on teleprompters in the first place. It’s interesting to me that a successful Hollywood director wouldn’t have prepared better beforehand.

My guess is that he didn’t take this too seriously. He was paid to make an appearance to promote a new product and probably told there would be teleprompters and a guy there to guide the presentation. While it’s easy to fault the PR people behind the scenes, it may be that he simply refused any prep or rehearsal. Realizing after the fact, as Bay did, that “live shows aren’t my thing” is too little, too late.

In helping our clients prepare for speaking opportunities and interviews, we emphasize having “islands of safety” – knowing your key messages cold no matter what is thrown at you. We frequently have executives tell us they don’t need any training because they know their business inside and out. But once we put them on the spot in a few mock interviews, they realize how much they need it.

The value of spokesperson prep is obvious to anyone who watched Bay flailing about at CES, desperately searching for islands of safety that just weren’t there.

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Posted January 13th, 2014 in celebrity spokespeople, Uncategorized | No Comments »

How the Viral Videos Stole Christmas


For the last post of 2013 I want to write about what’s caught my eye recently. Over the past week or so I’ve been struck by the creativity of a handful of Christmas-themed videos, including Xmas Jammies and WestJet’s Christmas Miracle. What they have in common is a light touch commercially-speaking and a great, well-executed idea.

In Xmas Jammies the Holderness family delivers their year-end update via a rap set to the beat of Will Smith’s “Miami.” Decked out in matching red-and-green pajamas they dance to their hilarious lyrics – poking fun at themselves and celebrating their year’s successes. Ultimately, the piece is aiming to be more than a Christmas card shared amongst friends and family, since towards the end it promotes the couple’s new video development and marketing business. At 12 million views and counting – plus tons of press coverage – from “Good Morning America” to Mashable, I’d say they’ve achieved their goal and then some.

WestJet’s Christmas Miracle — which now has 32 million views – captures passengers’ surprise and delight in a compelling way. More than 200 passengers on two of the airlines flights got to talk to Santa Claus before boarding. The video shows WestJet elves (employees and volunteers) feverishly fulfilling the customers’ holiday requests at area malls and stores while the planes head to their destinations. When the passengers arrive at baggage claim they’re surprised – and in some cases moved to tears – to find the gifts they’d requested waiting. WestJet said that if the video got over 200,000 views it would donate free flights to a family in need, so the company’s now working with Ronald McDonald House Charities Canada to identify and donate to that family. With a well-coordinated Christmas campaign WestJet manages to transform the potentially harrowing and almost always annoying experience of traveling during the chaotic holiday season into an opportunity to tell their passengers – and the rest of the world – that it’s all about wish fulfillment.

No doubt both of these videos took planning, creativity and a willingness to be authentic. They’re reminders of what a powerful narrative tool video can be. It’s important to what we do and I imagine it will be even more so in 2014 and beyond.

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Posted December 24th, 2013 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

The changing nature of PR and the importance of partners

We’re in the throes of redesigning our website and rethinking how we talk about ourselves. The easy answer to, “What’s RoseComm?” is “We’re a PR firm.” But it’s no longer the right answer.

When I talk about what we do for our clients, people often tell me we’re selling ourselves short. Sure, public relations is our heritage and our core competency. And we’ve been focused on social media since we launched our first Facebook effort back in 2007. But what we’re really doing goes beyond what most people think of when they hear “public relations.” We’re helping our clients capture their brand stories and driving the development of content for use across many channels.

An example of such a client is Lucite International, makers of the 75+ year old acrylic material used by well known designers, such as Alexis Bittar and Aaron R. Thomas. Our original assignment was a project to create a 75th anniversary celebration in New York. From there, we took on social media. Now we support most of their marketing program, from e-newsletters and trade show strategy to video production and even advertising creative. Oh, and we also run their social media pages and traditional media relations efforts.

We engage with outside partners if our clients need a service we don’t offer in-house, such as design, traditional media planning/buying, video production, etc. Our main partner on Lucite is Visionmark Communications, a firm that introduced us to one of our longest standing clients, Apex Tool Group, back in 2006. Together we deliver the offering of a full-service agency to a half dozen clients. We also partnered with a production company to create a video that showcases the winner of Lucite International’s 2013 JUST IMAGINE Awards.

The focus of our agency is expanding because the nature of communication is changing. In some cases we’re working with outside gatekeepers, such as journalists and bloggers; in others, we’re communicating directly with the target audience. The fundamentals of public relations — credibility, two-way conversation, substance — are now the fundamentals of every marketing communications discipline. Brands that share meaningful, entertaining content will rise to the top. And we’re here to help clients uncover and share those stories.

 

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Posted December 18th, 2013 in best practices | No Comments »