How to Redefine the Narrative

By: Mark Macias

It’s time for an advanced lesson in public relations.

In journalism and PR, the story narrative is crucial to success. Without a strong narrative, there will never be a media placement, regardless of how many contacts you have in the media.

During my years as a news producer with NBC and CBS, there were many times I pursued a story only to discover that the story I thought I was pursuing, changed. When this happened, we had two options – kill the story or salvage it.

In the early stages, like in your initial pitch to a reporter, it is very easy to kill the story, but when money has already been invested in a story, you learn how to salvage it.

As an Executive Producer with WNBC, I oversaw a very large production budget that funded the Special Projects unit. There were many times when I approved a story idea and we invested money into the story, only to discover half-way through the story that it wasn’t there.

This was when we had to put on our creative hats and think of ways to salvage the story – also known as redefining the narrative.

I recently had to “salvage” a story with a real estate client when I was asked to publicize a residential property that was on the market for $48 million dollars.

I originally assumed this high-end property would have gold fixtures and marble floors, but when I visited the property, I saw it was really a fixer-upper. I knew I couldn’t position this story as a voyeuristic view into the wealthy lifestyle, like I had originally planned. So I redefined the narrative.

The new story became, “take a look at a $48 million fixer-upper.” Then, I redefined my media pitch into what I originally thought: “You would think this property comes with gold fixtures and marble floors, but you won’t see any of that in this property. Only in New York can you buy a $48 million fixer-upper.”

The new narrative was such a hit that we had the New York Post and New York Daily News asking for an exclusive on the story. We went with the larger newspaper.

Here’s how to apply it to your business.

Next time you can’t get traction with a story, try redefining the narrative. Sometimes, the real story is better than the original story. And here’s the story we got on that  $48 million fixer-upper.

Mark Macias is a former Executive Producer with WNBC and Senior Producer with WCBS. He’s also the author of the communications book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media. Macias now consults small and large businesses on how to get publicity. You can read more on his firm at MaciasPR or MarketYourFund.com

 

 

PR Case Study on Credibility

By Mark Macias

It was all over the news. Amazon would soon start delivering products using drones to deliver products. Even established news organizations, like 60 Minutes, reported on it.

Don’t believe the hype or near-term predictions. It was all part of a flawless PR plan executed perfectly by Amazon.

The drone story wasn’t about reinventing the delivery system for Amazon. It was about Amazon creating a strong, intriguing narrative and backing it up with substance.

This makes for a great case study on credibility that you can apply to your own business. But first, a quick personal story.

Jeff Bezos understands the media intuitively, and I first learned that back in 1999 when I was a producer with NBC in Miami. I pitched a profile story on the young, unknown entrepreneur from Miami Palmetto High School. At the time, Bezos was beginning to shake up Wall Street with strong predictions on his company would revolutionize retail.

His hype worked and the stock skyrocketed.

It’s no different with PR. A strong statement usually gets covered but it first needs to have credibility.

Lesson One: Establish Credibility with PR

Every media campaign needs a credible narrative because without credibility, the media won’t cover your story. If you’re a portfolio manager for a hedge fund and you want to get on CNBC, you better have an established record. Likewise, if you’re running for City Council, you need a plan that is believable and possible or the local reporters won’t write about you.

Amazon has proven itself over the years so credibility has already been established. Did you know earlier this summer, Dominoes Pizza unveiled the same “drone delivery” platform? But guess what – you probably didn’t hear about it because Dominoes Pizza doesn’t have the credible track record of Amazon. If you’re going to make a bold claim, make sure you have the operations or history to back it up.

Lesson Two: Build Suspense

60 Minutes rarely buys into hype. They don’t need to create hype because it is an established program with the best journalists. But in the case with Amazon, if you watch the segment (click here to watch video) you will see how Amazon was able to build suspense for the drone unveiling. 60 Minutes opened their show with that unveiling to bring in viewers – proof that suspense works.

Lesson Three: Identify a Gimmick that Reinforces Your Services

The drone delivery unveiling was a brilliant strategic media move for Amazon because it reinforces its delivery service. But this isn’t about drones and Amazon changing the way books and clothes are delivered to our homes. This isn’t about customer service or delivery becoming more efficient. This was about an idea that every consumer wants to believe. It’s a page from the Jetsons.

This doesn’t mean you should create a gimmick that is not true. At its root, I’m sure Amazon and Jeff Bezos believe drones do have an opportunity to change the way products are delivered. Your gimmick should inspire but have a root of reality.

Mark Macias is a former Executive Producer with WNBC and Senior Producer with WCBS. He’s also the author of the communications book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media. Macias now consults small and large businesses on how to get publicity. You can read more on his firm at MaciasPR or MarketYourFund.com

Press Releases – Worth the Money?

By Mark Macias

Clients are always asking me what I think of press releases on the PR newswires.

“Will they help us get publicity with reporters,” they ask.

Even a spokesperson with a New York City agency asked me what I thought of PR newswires. She said her agency approved funding for press releases with the PR newswires.

I used to work with her at CBS, so I threw the question right back at her.

“Did you ever once go to the PR newswires to look for a story when you were at CBS?”

Press Releases – When do they Work and Not Work

But press releases can be extremely helpful depending on your media need and strategy.

The various PR newswires are helpful when your business is trying to get something on the record – like a milestone. If your business is growing faster than the competition, you want to announce it to the world and PR newswires are a great place for these.

But press releases on the PR newswires should never be confused as a media strategy.

Notice the emphasis is on “PR newswires” and not “newswires.”

How PR Newswires Differ

There is a big difference the “newswires,” like the Associated Press, Bloomberg or Thomson Reuters, and the “PR newswires.”

The newswires are actually read by assignment editors, producers and reporters. It’s not easy getting media announcements in the newswires because the news threshold is even higher, but if you can get it picked up by a newswire, other news organizations may run with your story.

Paid press releases with the PR newswires can be an element of a larger media strategy, but before you spend the extra money, ask yourself these questions:

Am I trying to get publicity with journalists? If you are, you will be better pitching the story individually to reporters.

Do I want to get something on the record? If your company has achieved a major milestone, signed a major client, hit an impressive sales number, etc – a press release on the PR newswires is a great means to distribute that message.

Do I need exposure for my new website? A paid press release can help with SEO because the backlinks will potentially help you with search engine ranking.

You can read longer, in-depth stories on these topics at www.prhelp.co.

Mark Macias is a former Executive Producer with WNBC and Senior Producer with WCBS. He’s also the author of the communications book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media. Macias now consults small and large businesses on how to get publicity. You can read more on his firm at MaciasPR or MarketYourFund.com

Cat and Mouse – Related to PR

By Mark Macias

Why does the cat always catch the mouse? When you think of how agile and quick a mouse can be, he should always be able to outmaneuver the cat. Yet, nearly every time, the cat will always catch the mouse.

That’s not just a fun question. It’s actually a way of thinking that applies to public relations.

First off, I don’t claim to be an expert on mice or cats. I have never owned a cat and I hate mice, so I am not skilled at analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of mice and cats. But as a person who lives in Manhattan, -and every New Yorker will tell you – “if you have mice, get a cat and the problem will go away.”

There must be some strategy behind a cat’s approach. There is and here is how it applies to public relations and business.

What Cats and Mice Teach us about Public Relations

A cat traditionally studies its prey before it attacks. It tries to understand the mouse’s movements and agility in advance. The cat is more patient. It takes his time approaching the mouse, waiting for the right moment to pounce while the mouse is busy sniffing the ground.

Now let’s take a closer look at the mouse. I’ve watched mice move on the streets of Manhattan and I will never understand why he loses to the cat. The mouse is faster and more agile and should run circles around the puffy paw.

Trust me, I couldn’t catch a mouse on the streets but I guarantee you I could catch a cat if I needed to. The mouse – on the surface – has every natural talent to win the household game, but it doesn’t because he is afraid.

In the world of PR, you should study and understand the journalists you want to pitch because you only get one chance. If you fire off that story idea before it is completely developed, you risk losing an opportunity for coverage.

Many clients want to see results quickly, and as a business owner, I understand. I want to see a high rate of return as well on my investments. But if the execution of the strategy is rushed and sloppy, you risk losing out on solid media placements.

Fear of Failure Destroys PR Campaigns

Fear is another failing item that can’t be associated with public relations. A creative media strategy requires confidence in an idea and strength with the execution. You can’t be afraid of creative ideas when pitching reporters. Sure, I’ve come up with some crazy publicity stunts and not all of them worked. But a good majority did. If I was afraid of failure, I would have missed out on the home runs. The same applies to your business. You can’t be afraid like that little mouse.

Finally, the mouse fails because he doesn’t think. If you have observed any mouse in a kitchen after turning on the light, they don’t react to change well. Their bodies scramble without direction. It’s like they are immobilized by the sudden change in environment. As a publicist, you need to be able to adapt quickly to change. If you are getting multiple rejections from reporters than it is highly likely your strategy or media pitch is off and needs to adapt to the moment.

If you’re trying to succeed with media placements, you really do need to think like the cat but move like the mouse. If an idea doesn’t seem to be catching on, listen to the feedback of reporters. Are you missing an element with your idea? Does the reporter need more evidence to support the story? Be nimble and respond to their questions. Be like the mouse – fast, agile and quick to respond.

In the cartoon, Tom & Jerry, the mouse always won because he out-thought the big, slow cat. Of course, that is the land of fiction, but since the Tom & Jerry narrative was created by a real person, I can now understand why little Jerry won every time the two battled wits. The publicist or business that out-thinks the competition, usually wins.

Mark Macias is a former Executive Producer with WNBC and Senior Producer with WCBS. He’s also the author of the communications book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media. Macias now consults small and large businesses on how to get publicity. You can read more on his firm at MaciasPR or MarketYourFund.com

 

Who are the Best PR Firms

By Mark Macias

How can you find the best public relations firm for your business? What traits make for a great publicist?

I worked with a ton of publicists throughout my journalism career with NBC and CBS. Now, as the owner of a PR firm, I speak with business owners, entrepreneurs and large companies about their publicity needs. One of the major trends I’ve discerned is most people ask the wrong questions when it comes to finding the right PR firm.

If I were to hire a publicist, here are the questions I would want my publicist or PR firm to answer.

Can you give me a publicity strategy for my business?

You question reveals how the publicist thinks on his feet. A great publicist will have his or her own ideas. He will be able to explain a strategy off the top of his head because he understands how the media works and what will get traction.

How do you see my industry?

This question reveals how well the publicist understands your business. This is a valuable revelation because every publicity campaign will need to identify the unique angle that makes your business different from the competitors. If the publicist doesn’t understand why your business is different from your competitors, he will be at a great disadvantage when it comes to pitching the media stories.

Tell me about your clients and media placements you have secured?

A diverse portfolio suggests that your PR firm knows how to identify a solid news story. It takes a special talent to secure media placements in various industries and if your publicist can demonstrate that with his or her portfolio, you are likely getting an experienced publicist who will perform at the highest level.

Many business owners like to work with a PR firm that specializes in their industry. This can sometimes work against you in the world of PR because ideas quickly become stale. If a publicist has spent a lifetime solely in fashion or tech, they risk becoming complacent with their thinking or creativity.

Will I be working directly with you?

You should meet with the publicist or account executive who will be selling your story to reporters. Does he or she accurately represent your business? Whether it’s fair or not, journalists will associate your product or brand with how well your publicist presents it.

What if we don’t get along? What if I want out of the contract because you can’t deliver results?

Every PR firm hates these questions, but it’s a valid point to raise during your initial discussions. If you’re working with a publicist and the chemistry is bad or he/she doesn’t get along with you, you should be able to get a new person or get out of your account. It’s okay to have a difference of opinion with strategy, but it’s another challenge when you just don’t get along with the person. Make sure you get insurance in case this happens to you.

How long before we get to see results?

This answer can vary by the complexity of your campaign, but the PR firm should be able to give some guidance over a time frame.

What is your media experience?

Experience matters when it comes to figuring out how to frame a story or pitch it to the media. If I were hiring a publicist for my future business, I would ask him or her to sell me on their experience. This will also give you an idea of how well your publicist can sell your stories to the media.

You can read longer versions of these articles at www.prhelp.co.

Mark Macias is a former Executive Producer with WNBC and Senior Producer with WCBS. He’s also the author of the communications book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media. Macias now consults small and large businesses on how to get publicity. You can read more on his firm at MaciasPR or MarketYourFund.com