PR Mistakes when Speaking with Journalists

By Mark Macias

I had a conversation last night with a former colleague at CBS. We started talking about life in journalism vs life in PR when our conversation steered towards the biggest PR mistakes publicists make when speaking with journalists.

Clients frequently ask me to make these mistakes, but I try to explain to them why this approach will hurt us. These mistakes might seem rational to you, but lots of times, logic has nothing to do with journalism.

Regardless of whether you are trying to get publicity for a tech startup, mobile app or established business, here are 4-tips that your publicist should never make when speaking with reporters.

Biggest PR Mistakes that Rookie Publicists Make

1) They ask you to hangout – As an Executive Producer with NBC and Senior Producer with CBS in New York, publicists were always asking me out for drinks. While it’s a nice gesture, do you really want to hang out with someone you don’t know? A better approach is to organize an event at a place where they normally can’t get into and explain why it’s in their best interest to meet. Last year, a client from Canada was in New York for a TV appearance. I invited a few targeted reporters to the ultra private Soho House to meet this client and discuss some of the trends in that industry. I knew these reporters all wanted to experience the Soho House, but they couldn’t get in. This was our Ace card. We ended up getting some long face time and story pitches to influential reporters with several major NYC newspapers and online publications.

2) They call your phone – In smaller markets, this is more acceptable, but in the larger markets – no publicist should cold call a reporter. They hate it. So how do you get them on the phone and pitch your story? Here’s my approach. Send them a quick email. Tease them with the story, and ask them if you can set up a quick call with them over the phone. If you are effective with your tease, every smart and visionary reporter will bite.

3) When is the story running? – I understand why every client wants to know this but the inside scoop is usually the reporter doesn’t know. It’s up to the Executive Producer (in TV) or editor (in print) to decide when it runs. And just because it is scheduled to run, that doesn’t mean it will run. Sometimes, stories are delayed for editorial, timing or pure space reasons. Instead of nagging the reporter, keep a close eye on when their stories run. If you don’t see them in the paper, or on TV, shoot them a short email and ask them if they have any idea when the story will run. It gives them a safe out to say – “I don’t know yet.” And if they do have an idea, they will tell you.

4) Can we see the story in advance? – This is one of the quickest ways to alienate reporters. Journalists are very independent people, and you never want to give the appearance that you are bossing them around, or driving their coverage. As a former journalist – and now owner of a PR firm – I sometimes go into my leadership role. But I can’t do that with reporters – and neither can you. It’s their job. Not your job, so don’t try to lead their coverage.

Macias PR was named the 2015 top “PR Consultant Firm of the Year – USA” by Finance Monthly. The firm was founded by Mark Macias – a former Executive Producer with NBC and Senior Producer with CBS in New York. Macias is a weekly contributor with CNBC.com and author of the communications book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media, which has been featured in the NY Times, Fox Business, NY Post and others. Macias PR has run media campaigns for tech startups, financial groups, service providers, nonprofits and politicians.

 

Changing your Media Image – Case Study

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By Mark Macias

It’s never good to mix politics and business, but CNBC recently asked me what kind of advice I would give Hillary Clinton now that her trust numbers are plummeting in the polls.

This is a situation that could apply to any business – not just in politics. Once the public starts to distrust a product or service, it gets much harder to influence consumers via the media. So what should you do if your business starts to receive more negative complaints from clients? Get in front of the negative news and focus on improving that situation before it gets worse. Here’s some advice I gave CNBC involving Hillary Clinton and her dropping poll numbers.

 

UnGoogle Yourself – Push Negative News off the Web

By Mark Macias

It’s easy to Google yourself, but it’s much harder to UnGoogle yourself.

What can you do when the search engines start information that is unflattering – or worse – not true? Is it possible to get it removed?

A few years ago, I was approached by an established financial consultant who discovered Google was leading people to a false article that falsely accused him of ethical violations. These types of allegations can destroy any person’s business but in the financial industry, it can close your practice overnight.

For months, the financial consultant hired an attorney who tried unsuccessfully to get the article pulled down.

Then, he reached out to MaciasPR.

UnGoogle Yourself

This form of crisis communications will only grow in the future as more bloggers and news organizations post articles on the Internet. It will also become more rampant as younger and more inexperienced journalists are hired by the larger news organizations.

If you find a negative news story appearing on the web, there are several steps you can take to get the material removed from the Internet.

Contrary to the popular saying, “the Internet is written in ink,” it is possible to change the story if you apply some proven crisis communications strategies. Here are some of the strategies I learned during my career as an Investigative Producer with NBC, CBS and American Journal that will help you in these situations.

Understand the Difference between Libelous, Slander and Opinion

If a blogger writes that you smell, you can’t take legal action to bring down a story, but if he writes a factually inaccurate article that accuses you of wrongdoing and harms your business, you do have a legal right to bring down story. And you don’t always need an attorney for this. Sometimes a strongly worded letter that outlines the bullet points from above is enough to get the publisher’s attention.

You need to complain to the people who control the money. Your letter to these power brokers needs to state why this article is inaccurate and most important, how the article has financially harmed your business. If you can’t show any financial duress from the article, you won’t succeed in the court of law or with the publisher.

Go after the Power Brokers

When a negative story is published, most people, like the financial consultant, contact the writer to complain, but that’s like complaining to the sales clerk when the cashier gives you the wrong change.

We were able to get that negative story pulled down on the financial consultant because we went after the power brokers – the parent company of the company and explained how their story was inaccurate. No publisher will pull down a negative story that is accurate, but if you can prove that the story in inaccurate or libelous, you will succeed in getting it corrected.

Push the Article off the first Google Page with New Content.

Another strategy you can take to bury a negative article is through new content. That means write more content on that same topic that will ultimately lower the ranking of the negative news story. If the article is false and inaccurate, don’t be afraid to fight back. Just make sure you’re not picking a fight over someone’s opinion because luckily the First Amendment still protects us from that. Want to learn more? Click here to watch a TV news story where Mark Macias gives CBS in Phoenix advice on how to UnGoogle yourself.

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.

 

Your Image with Crisis PR

By Mark Macias

It’s not what you say, but you do that is remembered by others, yet surprisingly few people remember this during a crisis situation.

Sociology studies show body language makes up 55 percent of our communications and when it’s replayed on TV, it becomes even more pronounced.

The former Governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, seemed to forget this during his crisis that forced him out of office.

For those who don’t remember, he was accused of trying to sell President Barack Obama’s old US Senate seat.

But the crisis visual got worse when the cameras were rolling and decided to go for a job, knowing full-well that the media wanted to ask him questions.

He put on his running shoes, left his home, and a throng of reporters pursued him while he ran away from them. He apparently didn’t think ahead into what this image would say to viewers watching the news.

Television needs a visual to support the story, otherwise it’s just radio.

TV reporters always new video to advance the day’s story.

Blagojevich gave reporters their new visual that kept him in the news cycle. In addition, he gave TV reporters video they could write to.

If you are ever ambushed by a reporter, don’t run from the camera or put your hand in front of it. That will only make you look guilty.

Instead, be polite the reporter and explain why you will speak with the reporter if he or she takes the time to call your office.

As a former investigative producer with American Journal, CBS and NBC, I can tell you reporters love the ambush interview because it makes for great TV. Viewers stay tuned when they see a clip showing a person running from the camera – and believe it or not, they like it when you push their camera away.

So next time you are in a crisis mode, don’t let your image take a back seat to kindness. The camera will thank you for it.

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 Break Bad News to Others (or the Media)

By Mark Macias

You probably don’t realize it, but crisis communications skills are used almost every day in your personal life.

Why were you late to dinner?

What do you think of the new young hire?

Did you follow-up with the potential client?

All of these questions have double-blades that can get you into trouble.

Crisis Communications Advice for Business Owners

Here are a few principals you can apply from my crisis communications book – Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media. These are tactics I learned from my media career as an investigative producer when everyone on the other side of the camera was the villain.

Be Transparent

If you project any vibe that you are hiding something, clients will run from you and the media will run to you.

The best investigative stories have conflict and when reporters discover a subject lied in their interview, they have instant conflict for the story.

As a journalist, my radar flashed red lights when I noticed the interviewed subject was avoiding my questions. Be direct with your response. Don’t mince words when asked direct questions or reporters (or anyone else) will become suspicious.

Stay Ahead of the News

It is much easier to put out a fire before it starts and it’s no different with the media.

You can better manage negative news when you are in control of the message.

I’ve run several crises campaigns for nonprofits and politicians where their lawyers were closely involved with the media strategy. Of course, their attorneys wanted them to say “no comment” for legal purposes, and I understand why. But in the court of public opinion, this approach doesn’t work.

When it comes to journalism, you give reporters cart-blanch to write any story if you refuse to comment. Don’t make it easy for them.

Don’t Lie

You get caught lying and all credibility is lost. It might seem easier to lie your way out of the problem when you think no one will know, but trust me, that is myopic. And if you’re dealing with a seasoned investigative journalist who has prepared for your interview, you are in more danger by lying when the cameras are rolling.

Just ask former Congressman Anthony Weiner about that. If you forgot about that lie, it’s on YouTube and will likely be there for eternity. (Here’s an article I wrote on why I suspected he was lying before he confessed. Hint: he forgot.) Yet another reason to tell the truth. You won’t forget what you said years down the road when your story is emblazoned on the Internet.

Macias PR was named the 2016 “Financial PR Firm of the Year – USA” and the 2015 “PR Consultant Firm of the Year – USA” by Finance Monthly. We have launched and led media campaigns for clients in healthcare, finance, tech and the nonprofit sectors. The founder of Macias PR – Mark Macias – is a former Executive Producer with NBC and Senior Producer with CBS in New York. He is also a PR contributor with CNBC, providing media analysis, insight and crisis advice on timely business topics.

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.

 

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.

 

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.