Media Training – The TV Interview

By Mark Macias

You’re prepared for the job interview, but are you ready for the TV interview?

I recently interviewed a high-level executive with a major tech company. It was for a story that would run on the web.

Minutes before he sat in front of the camera, the corporate communications woman handed him a briefing document for the interview.

As the producer, I stayed quiet and listened.

This was a friendly interview and the questions were all softballs, yet this executive made the same mistakes that I continually saw throughout my TV career.

The executive tried to read from a script when he should have been speaking from the heart and mind.

Media Training 101

If you do any TV interview, throw out the script.

Don’t try to memorize sentences because you will forget no matter how much Gingko is in your system.

And if you’re preparing a briefing document for a client, don’t write out long or even short sentences. In fact, don’t write out any sentences. Instead, communicate the thoughts that should be expressed in the interview. Those bullet-points will force your client to understand the issues rather than memorizing sentences.

Media Training 201: Understand the Topic 

In the case with that C-level executive, I was shocked because he knew the content, but his communications person was unfortunately confusing him with sentences that were from her heart and mind – not his.

After 10-minutes of watching this executive stumble over simple words, I asked the cameraman to stop rolling and politely asked the executive to throw his briefing document in the trash.

I reminded him that he knew this topic. He needed to tell me what he knew – not what someone else thought he knew.

Less than 2-minutes after the camera started rolling again, he gave us the best sound any producer or viewer would want to hear because he spoke from his heart, not from memory.

Media Training 301: Speak from the Heart – Not from Memory

If you know the topic intimately and speak from the heart, you won’t mess up when you are under pressure.

It’s when we fight the nervous energy that our anxiety becomes more pronounced and we forget what we are supposed to say. So embrace that emotional energy and remind yourself that the best communicators always communicate on a level where others can feel it. If you feel it, your audience will feel it if channeled in the proper way.

That’s something you won’t get from a script written by another person.

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.

Find Your PR Gimmick for Publicity

By Mark Macias

Everyone needs a gimmick when it comes to PR and it’s no different than living in New York City.

As any New Yorker will tell you, if you want to stand out at a cocktail party, you need material to push you above the crowd. Some call that personality; others call it charisma. I like to call it a gimmick.

It’s no different when branding a product, business, or service with the media. You need to discover what your gimmick is if you want the media to take notice.

Now before the critics start breaking down that statement with comments like, “That is shallow,” or “Execution beats style,” –  I agree with you.

But let’s take off that analytical cap for a sec and discuss this idea not in black and white terms, but in gray terms – which is where publicity lives.

Many entrepreneurs rightly assume that “gimmick” implies a form of forgery or scheme of deception. Think of it as a way to distinguish your business from the crowd.

There are hundreds of public relations firms in the U.S., so my PR firm, Macias PR, needs to stand out from the packed field.

What’s my gimmick?

I am a former journalist who understands intuitively and intimately how the media works. I’ve been inside (and run) those morning news meetings where stories are approved and killed.

I know what it takes to get a story on the news.

That is what separates me from other publicists.

It’s no different for your business. If you can’t identify your gimmick, then you are in trouble, because consumers have no reason to buy your product.

What was President Obama’s “gimmick” when he ran against Sen. John McCain? Barack Obama was the man with hope. I’m sure Mr. Obama believed it, but that was, in essence, a gimmick.

So if you are starting a business (and it doesn’t matter what you are selling), you’d better discover your gimmick before the doors are opened. If you need to brainstorm on a future gimmick, ask yourself what you can do to stand out from the crowd. Sure, it’s a simple question, but most lawyers, accountants, and medical doctors don’t acknowledge that question on day one.

Perhaps that is because they are choosing to use their left brain over their right brain.

Now that I think about it, these are probably the same people who are arguing that a “gimmick” is shallow and will never work.

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.

 

Get my Story on the News

By Mark Macias

It was one of the most popular questions I heard when I was an Executive Producer with NBC.

“How can I get my business on the news?”

There is no magic formula to getting your service or product on the news, but there are guidelines that will increase your chances.

You can increase your chances for coverage by identifying what is different, new or unique about your business. It sounds simple but a lot of people forget that news is based on the root “new.”

If you don’t have that “new” component, your story is at a disadvantage. You might be able to find a new angle by asking pointed questions:

Is your business contributing to the local community in a unique way we might not expect?

Are you about to accomplish a feat where others have failed?

What is different between you and competitors?

Focus and Clarify your Pitch

The more you can clarify and focus your pitch, the better odds you have of getting your business on the news.

Finding a unique angle is not as difficult as it may sound. You just need to open your mind to timely events that impact and influence sales of your product or service. If you own a fashion or jewelry store, try to link your product to high-profile events like the Academy Awards or the Grammy Awards. If your business is geared towards a niche audience, like traveling business executives, scan the headlines for possible tie-ins to current events.

Biggest Mistakes Most Publicists Make

Not properly defining the story is one of the biggest mistakes most publicists make. Your success on pitching depends greatly on how well you define that story because in many cases, you may only get one shot at pitching your story idea. You can focus your story by understanding and applying the five W’s (Who, What, When, Where, Why and How).

Who is this story about?

What is this story about?

Where is this story taking place?

When does your story take place?

Why should anyone care about your story?

How is your story, business, service or product changing lives?

The more you learn and understand the definition of “newsworthy,” the better chance you have of getting your story on the news. And once you successfully make that placement, you are better able to shape the message with the media.

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.

Publicity on a Limited Budget

By Mark Macias

It is possible to run an effective publicity campaign on a limited budget. The PR firms Edelman or Rubenstein might bring your company reassurance with their large staff and beautiful buildings, there are affordable alternatives that can deliver the same results.

Potential clients always ask me how much we charge for a PR campaign. I like to use the accountant example. You and I may use the same accountant but our costs are likely going to be different based on our needs. It’s the same with public relations.

Your needs actually influence the scope of the media campaign. Do you want a local or national publicity campaign? Is it B2B or B2C? Are you in a niche field or does your narrative have a broad appeal? All of these questions factor into the complexity and cost of a media campaign.

But if you’re a small start-up or nonprofit, you can run an effective PR campaign by narrowing down your targeted news outlets. My PR agency has been running a social media campaign for a small East Village restaurant for several years, which was much different than the state-wide US Senate campaign we ran for another client.

Every client wants national exposure, but if you want to run a cost-effective PR campaign on a limited budget, you need to prioritize. In the world of PR, time equals money.

So don’t assume just because you have a small budget that you don’t have a PR budget. If you can afford Facebook ads, you can probably afford a targeted publicity campaign that reaches reporters.

The global PR firms might shy away from your small budget, but if your expectations are in check, you can use the media to reach customers.

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.

 

 

How to Measure PR ROI

By Mark Macias

Measuring the ROI from a marketing or ad buy is fairly straight-forward, but PR has variables that can make it more difficult to asses the direct impact on the bottom line. But contrary to what most entrepreneurs believe about Public Relations being nebulous, it is possible to measure its effectiveness.

Here are six different methods to help you measure the ROI of any PR campaign:

ROI of Media Placements

In addition to the number of media placements secured by your PR firm, you should look closely at the internal distribution numbers and demographics reached from your media outreach. Many news organizations publish these numbers on their advertising pages, giving you insight into how many or what type of consumers you are reaching. This assessment can give you a measurable look at the number of consumers your PR campaign is reaching. If you look closely at the demographics, you can also determine if you are reaching the right consumer or businesses.

ROI of Credibility

Public Relations is especially effective and measurable when it comes to increasing your credibility in the service sector industries. Consumers want to know that your service has been vetted and is reliable. If you’re a hedge fund portfolio manager, potential investors will assume you are a better money manager if you’re an expert on CNBC or in the WSJ. You’re less likely to be a scam artist if the media is talking about you. This increased credibility will improve your profile with potential clients and lead to more sales.

PR ROI with Sales

It’s very difficult for a PR firm to assess the ROI from sales if the client doesn’t share internal information, however every business owner should be able to identify where their clients are coming from. A better way to keep track of PR ROI is to create a special website link for the media campaign. If customers are typing in this direct link with any search engines, you know your PR campaign is gaining traction. Analytics and Webmaster can also tell you which websites are sending you traffic.

ROI for Search Engine Rankings

Nearly every PR story helps with your website ranking because the search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing) identify these websites as quality links. In other words, Google believes if the New York Times links to your website, you business must have value.

Here’s another way PR can help your website get a higher ranking with the search engines.

Smaller blogs frequently run stories or snippets from the larger media outlets. If you are able to get a large story in a major newspaper, there is a good chance that you can get other, smaller websites to also do a story promoting your business, which can help your SEO with the additional links.

ROI from Analytics

In October 2013, Google changed its analytics data, making it more difficult to determine key words that are sending traffic to your website. The good news is you can still measure the ROI from PR using Google Analytics. Unfortunately, a successful PR strategy gets your company into the conversation, so analytics can’t measure this aspect of PR, but if more people are finding your website using specific keywords for your company, you can safely assume the PR campaign is converting on its ROI. You can also use Google Webmaster to see more details on how the search engine queries to see if these news articles are also driving traffic to your site.

ROI of Social Media Influence

A successful PR campaign that uses video can become another way to measure the ROI of PR. It might be difficult to measure the exact ROI from these videos but you can measure the reach by video views. Marketing research also shows a video on your website can increase sales up to two-fold, not to mention the added SEO value it brings with search engines.

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

How PR Helps with SEO

By Mark Macias

If you type “PR Help” in Google, you will see a link to public relations site on the first page, called PR Help.  That high profile search engine ranking didn’t happen by accident and it didn’t arrive solely because of the website name.

It was a choreographed PR strategy that took a little less than 3-months to achieve.

There are many strategies that can help push your website ranking with the search engines: key word optimization, Internet marketing, promoting your website through back links – but one of the most cost-effective ways to increase your search ranking is via public relations.

It is called Search Engine Optimization or SEO for short.

How can PR my search engine ranking?

If you want potential clients or customers to find your website via search engines, consider looking to public relations as an alternative.

Unlike online ads, which expire with your budget, with public relations, your news stories keep working long after your media campaign is over, especially if you can convince the news outlet to post a link to your website.

All of the search engines will rightfully believe your company has more valuable information if a prominent news organization, like the New York Times, posts a website link to your website. That in turn, will raise your profile and ranking with the search engines.

Here’s another way PR can help your website get a higher ranking with the search engines.

Smaller blogs frequently run stories or snippets from the larger media outlets. If a major newspaper runs a story on your company, there is a good chance smaller websites will want to run the story, which helps your SEO.

So before you devote that marketing budget to Facebook ads, take a minute to research the ROI of PR.

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

 

Most Common Publicist Mistakes

By Mark Macias

I was going through my emails this morning and found an old story I wrote while I was a Senior Producer with CBS in New York.

A global PR agency had asked me to write an article for their employee newsletter, giving their publicists some tips on how to write a better media pitch. I reread the story and decided to repost this for business owners and entrepreneurs trying to get their stories told on the news.

Common Mistakes Made by Publicists

Every morning when I log onto my computer, I have about 100 new emails from publicists trying to get their client on the next local newscast. I want to read every email closely, but in an era of shorter staffing and larger workloads it is physically impossible to read every single pitch word-for-word. Unfortunately, I know I may be missing some good story ideas, which is bad for everyone. Viewers won’t get to see the next great product and I won’t get to pitch the next great idea.

This is why it is so important to clarify and focus your pitch off before you hit send. Publicists have only seconds to make a lasting impression with the media, and if your email doesn’t catch the eye, there is zero chance of getting on the newscast.

There is no official “right” or “wrong” way to draft a press release but there are definitely “dos” and “don’ts” that will either increase or decrease your chances of getting a reporter’s attention. Here are a few of the biggest mistakes I see publicists make with their press releases time and time again.

Publicists try to cram everything into one press release.

A press release has a purpose. It is to alert the media to your story idea, not a time to make the hard sell. Your press release should not encompass every single fact and angle for the story and it should never be more than one page. (Think white is good). The release is merely the first step towards getting you on the newscast or in the local papers. Many publicists make the mistake of trying to cram everything into one page, causing the release to lose focus or clarity. Instead, write your release so it sounds more intriguing. Look for interesting angles, ways to tease your story and pique the reporter or producer’s interest. If the journalist finds your story interesting, trust me, he or she will follow-up with you and ask you about the facts you left out of the initial release.

Publicists pitch evergreen story ideas.

It’s hard to fathom how so many people pitching the media forget the basics of news. People watch the news and read the newspapers because they want to find out what is “new” that day. It’s a simple formula: news is new minus the S, yet surprisingly many publicists seem to forget this in their pitches.

This is why you should never send a news release that sounds like it could have been written a year ago. I frequently get the same email pitches from publicists that they pitched me several months earlier. They probably assumed I wouldn’t remember it or perhaps they think I didn’t read their release the first time. No, I didn’t pitch their story the first time because it wasn’t new.

Laser hair removal is not new no matter how you try to spin it. However, the fiscal stimulus plan is new and a good publicist will find a way to link their salon to the new fiscal stimulus plan. In late February, I read an article about a salon in Springfield, Illinois that was offering its own stimulus plan for people who lost their job. The reporter wrote about how the salon was offering free haircuts to people who were about to go in for a job interview. They only had to tell the receptionist that they were in for the “stimulus haircut.” The article also profiled the salon’s new royalty rewards program, which essentially offered 25 percent off a haircut over the course of the program. This article was a great public relations coup that raised the salon’s profile in the community. And, it was a timely piece of work that could travel anywhere (in other words copied by other publicists in other cities). Finding a timely article isn’t as difficult as it sounds. It’s actually quite easy once you learn how to learn to follow the news cycle.

Publicists don’t personalize their pitch.

It’s okay to pitch the same story idea to different news outlets, in fact, I encourage it. You never want to limit your success to one person, and the more people who read your news release, the better chance you have of getting it read. However, I am not a fan of massive email blasts. It’s just another form of spam and it usually ends up getting automatically filtered into my outlook junk mail box without me even knowing it.

You don’t have to rewrite the release, but you should add a one-liner at the top of the email, telling the producer or reporter why this is a good story idea for him or her. Also, take the time to research the right reporter or producer. If you’re pitching a consumer story idea or anything that involves money, send it to the consumer reporter or producer. If you’re pitching a story on a restaurant, pitch it to the food critic or the lifestyle reporter. To me, that’s common sense, but surprisingly I frequently get pitches for sports and entertainment.

As a special projects producer, I suspect my profile in the various media databases details my broad background in consumer, entertainment, medical, lifestyle, investigative, etc. I still always forward good story ideas to the proper person, but a publicist could increase his chances for success by pitching the consumer idea directly to the consumer producer. Finding the right person is not that time consuming and you don’t even need to be subscribed to expensive database lists. Sometimes it’s as simple as looking at the company’s website or calling the news desk and asking for a name.

I understand how difficult it is to get the media’s attention. I’ve called some of my own friends in the media and I don’t even get a call back. It’s nothing personal. If you call a reporter or producer and they ask you to email them a press release or they don’t return a voicemail, it’s probably because they want you to focus the idea rather than ramble on about why you have just discovered the next great idea.

I do believe there is a home for every story idea and it’s just a matter of discovering where that outlet is. So don’t get discouraged if no one is biting on your story idea. Perhaps, you need to go back to the drawing board and find a more timely angle. Or maybe, you need to reformat that press release so it doesn’t look so cluttered. By following the above rules, you may not get on the news that day, but you will definitely improve your chances of getting your product, service, business or client on the news.

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

 

 

Use PR to Drive Holiday Sales

MaciasPR has just published a holiday guidebook for businesses trying to increase their holiday sales, titled: Publicity During the Holiday Season: How to Use PR to Increase Holiday Sales.

The PR guidebook written by media insider, Mark Macias, reveals tactics he learned during his career as a journalist, writer, producer and Executive Producer with the news organizations NBC, CBS, KTVK, King World Productions and the Arizona Republic.

Consumers can download the PR guidebook for free by clicking here.

The guidebook, Publicity during the Holiday Season, identifies 5-tactics business owners should apply when trying to get the media to cover their business. The guidebook elaborates on the following tactics:

Identify your Story Narrative

A good story idea will drive coverage in any market. Many business owners have a misconception that who you know is better than what you know. This section of the guidebook explains why a creative idea is more valuable than a reporter contact in the world of journalism and PR. The guidebook also gives business owners tips on how to identify a timely narrative for the holiday season.

Pitch the Ignored Reporters

Every newsroom has reporters or writers who never get the plush assignments. These may be journalists working weekends or the overnight shifts. In many situations, these are the best reporters to pitch since they have the most to gain from your good idea. This section of the guidebook explains how to come up with unconventional pitches for these reporters.

Identify your Holiday Gimmick

If you want to stand out at a holiday party, revelers need something to push you above the crowd. It’s no different with the media during the busy holiday season. This section of the guidebook teaches entrepreneurs and business owners how to identify a gimmick for coverage.

Establish Credibility with the Media

This section of the guidebook explains how business owners can position themselves as “experts” in their industry, leading to potential publicity. But before a business owner tries to position himself as an expert, he or she must first establish credibility in the community. This section reveals how business owners can establish credibility.

Preparing for the Interview

If the first four tactics are executed properly, the chances are higher that a reporter will be interested in your holiday story. But now what? Is your business prepared for the media coverage? This section of the guidebook explains how to prepare for the reporter interview.

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

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