Questions to Ask BEFORE you Hire a PR Firm

By Mark Macias

It’s not easy finding the right service provider for any industry, but in public relations, it can be even more misleading since anyone can call himself a publicist.

So is there a way to weave out the quality from the quantity? And how can you quantitatively measure the value and success of a PR firm?

As a former Executive Producer with NBC in New York,  I was pitched stories on a daily basis from publicists, reporters and producers. And as a Senior Producer with CBS, I pitched stories everyday to a tough audience of skeptical journalists.

Now, as the owner of a PR firm, I see the other side.

In my weekly routine, I converse with all kinds of potential PR clients from various industries – finance, tech, service sector, nonprofits. Some of these potential clients are budding entrepreneurs, while others are established CEOs of major organizations.

Regardless of the potential client, I am discovering most business owners ask the wrong questions when it comes to identifying the best PR firm for their needs.

If I were to hire a PR firm, here are the questions I would want my publicist to answer before I hired him or her. I’m basing this on my media career and my insider knowledge of publicity.

Can you give me a publicity strategy for my product?

This is a crucial question. You want to see how the publicist thinks on his feet. I’ve asked this question to seasoned publicists for fun to get into their heads. Most of them say, I would need to research it. I believe a great publicist will have his own ideas and be able to identify it based on his experience without researching what others did.

How do you see my brand?

This question reveals how well the publicist understands your product, platform or service. Make the publicist or PR team explain how they see your product or service. It’s okay if they don’t understand everything at once. I’ve worked with high-tech platforms that took me time to grasp. This is where the publicist should ask questions to get into your product. From this, you will see how well he or she grasps your business.

Tell me about your clients and the media placements you have gotten for them?

Media placements mean everything in the world of PR. I have gotten my clients big stories in the New York Times, New York Post, Good Morning America, CNN en Español, Fox News, Cosmo, TechCrunch, Entrepreneur Magazine -you get the idea. A diverse portfolio suggests this publicist knows how to identify a narrative, regardless of industry, which is not an easy task. Equally important, make sure the media placements this PR firm has secured are in the same arena of your targeted news outlets.

Will I be working directly with you?

Most of the large PR firms in New York will send their best sellers to get your business, but after they win your account, they will pawn off the work to a 22-year-old college grad. How do I know? Because at NBC and CBS, I used to get emails and phone calls from publicists who were fresh out of college while their bosses tried to win my love with after-work events. Make sure you know who is developing the strategy and representing your company to journalists.

What if we don’t get along?

This is a great question because relationships matter in business. If you’re working with a publicist and the chemistry is off, you should be able to get a new person on the account. It’s normal to have differences over strategy. I’ve clashed with some clients because they wanted it done their way, but after I explained my strategy and after we delivered strong results, most of them deferred to my expertise when it came to the media.

How long before we get to see your results?

I’m not giving away my answers to this question, but you should ask it.

What is your media experience?

Experience matters when it comes to anything in life, but it especially matters with the media. Just because your publicist knows how to sell, don’t assume he or she knows how to sell a story to the media. This is a craft and skill that involves a strong understanding of editorial. I would want to hear more about this PR team’s editorial experience within the media. And I’m not talking about, “oh, I’ve worked with this person on stories.” Working with a producer on a story is not the same work as actually producing the story.

Why are you different from everyone else?

Force this publicist to sell him or herself. They are going to be selling you for a living, so you better make sure this publicist knows how to sell himself.

Mark Macias is a former Executive Producer with WNBC, Senior Producer with WCBS and Special Projects Producer with NBC. 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.

Media Strategy – Insider POV

Hockey & PR Strategies

By Mark Macias

A great hockey strategy is similar to a great media strategy, and it most aptly applies to a phrase made famous by Wayne Gretzky.

“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”

Wayne Gretzky outperformed others by always understanding where the hockey puck was going before it was even hit. This intuition and feel for the puck gave him an advantage because he didn’t need to pivot. The puck pivoted to him.

It’s a similar strategy and approach that also applies to publicity campaigns.

During my time as an Executive Producer with NBC and Senior Producer with CBS in New York, I would always hear a familiar phrase in the morning news meeting.

“That’s old news.”

No reporter or TV producer wants to pitch a story that is old news, which is why when you are conceptualizing a media strategy, you should look first to the trajectory of the news cycle. What is the news covering now, or even better yet – what will they cover tomorrow?

You can always look to today’s news for guidance, but the exceptional media strategist will always be thinking of tomorrow because he knows tomorrow’s story will actually be read today.

Think about that for that a moment……..

Mark Macias is a former Executive Producer with WNBC, Senior Producer with WCBS and Special Projects Producer with NBC. 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.

Finding the Narrative – Narrow the Story

Macias PR Tip 23

by Mark Macias

Anyone who has ever played catch with a dog knows that he can only catch one ball at a time. There’s a lesson in the above photo that also applies to public relations.

During my time as an Executive Producer with NBC in New York, publicists always pitched me stories that contained several angles. I’m sure some of the more experienced publicists thought they had a better chance for coverage by giving all of their ideas at once. With the more inexperienced publicists, it just sounded like an unorganized and poorly thought-out pitch.

Narrow Down Your Pitch for More Success

You will have more success with media placements if you focus your story down to one angle before you reach out to reporters.

Look at it like this: the average taped segment on local TV is roughly 70 to 80 seconds. That’s not a lot of time to tell a story to viewers once you include a character and expert. Likewise, most influential bloggers and online news sites are also dropping their story length to 600 words.

That’s not enough time or space to include a narrative with multiple story lines.

So remember the next time you are trying to get media placements – make sure you are focusing the pitch down to one message. If you try to tell more than one story at a time, the message will get lost. And if the message gets lost, you end up losing your chance at publicity.

 

Mark Cuban: “Startups Should Never Hire a PR Firm”

By Mark Macias

A friend just forwarded me a Business Insider article where Mark Cuban – the brash owner of the Dallas Mavericks and star of the reality TV show Shark Tank – discussed PR for startups and advised that they “Never hire a PR Firm.”

In his business book, How to Win at the Sport of Business, Cuban also elaborated on why many companies shouldn’t hire PR firms.

I sent Mark Cuban an email after reading his book – and he actually responded. Rather than elaborating, take a look at my email to him and how he responded. It will change your view on PR firms for startups.

Continue reading “Mark Cuban: “Startups Should Never Hire a PR Firm””

PR for Start-ups

By Mark Macias

The number of start-ups launching in 2015 will continue to grow as the economy expands, which means publicity for your start-up will get more difficult.

If you’re trying to get your start-up on the news, you first need to identify a strong narrative. I’ve written other articles that give guidelines on how to identify and find the story angle needed for coverage, which you can read in Consistent Coverage. I recommend you read those articles before submitting your story to reporters so you can increase your chances for coverage.

Now that you have identified the story angle, here are some websites geared towards start-ups. You still need to reach out to the reporters, but it will help with your initial media research. Links to the websites and their company mission (in their own words from their site) are below:

TechCrunch

www.TechCrunch.com/

“TechCrunch is a leading technology media property, dedicated to obsessively profiling startups, reviewing new Internet products, and breaking tech news. Founded in June 2005, TechCrunch and its network of websites now reach over 12 million unique visitors and draw more than 37 million page views per month. The TechCrunch community includes more than 2 million friends and followers on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google and other social media.”

Mashable

www.mashable.com/submit/

“Founded in 2005, Mashable is the top source for news in social and digital media, technology and web culture. With more than 40 million monthly pageviews, Mashable is the most prolific news site reporting breaking web news, providing analysis of trends, reviewing new websites and services, and offering social media resources and guides. Mashable’s audience includes early adopters, social media enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, influencers, brands and corporations, marketing, PR and advertising agencies, Web 2.0 aficionados and technology journalists. Mashable is also popular with bloggers as well as Twitter and Facebook users — an increasingly influential demographic.”

StartupBooster

www.startupbooster.com/submit-site/

“This blog is dedicated to helping young entrepreneurs learn the basic techniques necessary to succeed with their online ventures, share their experiences with others and promote their new startups.”

KillerStartups

http://www.killerstartups.com/submit-startup/

“KillerStartups is dedicated to sharing more than just the hottest new startups. We want to share the stories of the PEOPLE behind the successful companies and their advice for other internet entrepreneurs. Want to share your story with our readers and promote your website?
Fill out our online submission form and tell us about what you’ve got goin’ on.”

StartupWizz

http://www.startupwizz.com/submit-a-startup/

“It was founded in 2009 as a place for entrepreneurs and investors to stay informed about startups on the web. Our goal is to find some of the most disruptive, niche and interesting startups that our peers and investors want to know about.”

Squidoo

http://www.squidoo.com/sumbit-startup

“StartUpLift helps promising startups get featured and receive insightful feedback. People come to the site to learn about new startups and to engage in stimulating conversation. There is no charge simply to feature your startup. However, in the spirit of keeping feedback ecosystem alive, StartUpLift does ask that you provide feedback to at least one of the startups featured on our site before submitting yours.”

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.

 

Get My Story on the News

By Mark Macias

I recently got a Linkedin email that had a catchy headline on the surface, but lacked truth when you looked deeper.

“Publicity is the most under used method to get attention, yet the media is starving for stories.”

I think the Linkedin spammer might have had a better “PR” argument if he said the media is looking for great ideas. “Starving for stories” implies there is a shortage of story pitches hitting reporters and producers and that is not the case.

As an Executive Producer with WNBC, I approved story ideas from publicists, reporters and producers. When I would log into my email at NBC and CBS every morning, I would easily have 300 new emails that were sent overnight from publicists trying to get their clients on the news.

More than 90 percent of those emails didn’t identify a solid news angle and were treated as spam. Those publicists couldn’t find the story narrative even if they had a journalist sitting next to them. And that wasn’t just based on my media experience in New York. During my time as a news producer in Phoenix and Miami, the publicists were actually even more inexperienced.

The media wants to cover stories that have a compelling narrative, stories that impact the public, stories that uncover wrongs or inspire people to do right. Yes – not all news is bad. There is a home for inspiring stories and in TV, we usually call it the kicker.

The news industry is competitive, and it’s not easy to get a solid news story placed unless you have those compelling elements. Here’s more proof of that with numbers. A 30-minute newscast is actually 22 minutes after commercials. Add in sports and weather, and you have a heck of a lot of people trying to get their product inside of 12 minutes of air time.

So the next time you start thinking of hiring a PR firm, make sure you research the publicist or PR firm. If they start throwing out statements like the media is starving for stories – be leery.

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

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