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””

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

 

 

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