How the Importance of the Flack-Hack Relationship Has Shifted – Or Not?

Through the years, the relationship between PR pros and the media has had some significant changes. Gone are the days of the “three martini lunch” to sell a story idea. Today, journalists and PR people are working off a newly established set of ethics. Both have a common goal of sharing interesting content – which can sometimes lead to tension. Generally, there is a push and pull between the two entities that ideally results in the placement of well-developed content. Although there have been many ups and downs over time, there’s one thing that continues to hold true – the relationship between PR professionals and journalists is a crucial component to success and remains important.

The Numbers

With ongoing staff cuts and complete eliminations of newspapers around the country, there are by far fewer journalists employed by traditional media companies when compared to five, 10 and even 15 years ago. With staff cuts, the ratio of PR professionals to journalists has significantly changed.  To put things into perspective, fewer journalists mean that there are fewer opportunities to share story ideas. The competition to get articles placed continues to be fierce, growing as more newspapers fold.

On the other hand, reduced staffs can be beneficial for PR people. Journalists are crunched for time and are more likely to use PR-suggested copy or story ideas to fill content for the 24-hour news cycle. Even though this is true, PR pros must still establish a good relationship with the media. When a better relationship is built, the chances of an email ending up in the Trash or Spam box go down significantly.

The Lines of Communication

Traditionally, the best way to contact someone, including reporters, used to be picking up the phone and making a call. Today, most interactions between PR people and the media occur through email. Even though PR pros can share pitches via Twitter they should think twice. According to the Vocus State of the Media Report 2014, “the majority of journalists still don’t care to be pitched by social media and an overwhelming 90.7 percent of respondents chose email as their preferred method of contact.”MCC-Blog-PreferredMethodGraph

Continue reading

Paid Versus Earned Media: No Competition, Marketers Need Both

For many years I have heard the phrase “free media coverage.” While I’m all about getting coverage for clients, nothing in business is free. There are two ways to get your name in front of your audience – you earn it or you buy it.

Smart marketers do both.

Earned media is any form of coverage or content about your company generated by a third party through their own volition. That includes broadcast news reports or features, blog posts, magazine articles, Web news stories and bylined online or print articles, to name a few.

Earned Media - Bylined Article

Everyone wants earned media but few really understand what it takes to get it. Earned media involves pitching the right people, creating and presenting your story in many different and compelling ways. Even still, coverage is not guaranteed on any given day. If it is so hard, why do it? Because it is so tough to get, it carries a lot of weight with prospective customers and gives your company, product or service credibility. And often, credibility is a fast route to a sale.

Continue reading

How Will Your Brand be Viewed 10 Years from Now? Controlling your Brand Perception in the Age of Social Media

Social media has profoundly changed the way people communicate with one another and is changing how brands engage with their audiences. What were once thought of as outlets for tech trendsetters are now mainstream marketing vehicles used by brands to connect directly with their customers.

Photo by Jason Howie, CC-BY-2.0

According to a recent Nielsen report, consumers are spending more time than ever using social media, and that consumption plays an important role as marketers build their brands and connect with their audiences more directly. It plays a significant role in how consumers find out about and share information about brands and products. In fact, 60 percent of consumers researching products through multiple online sources learned about a specific brand or retailer through social networking sites. Overall, consumer-generated reviews and product ratings are the most preferred sources of product information among social media users.

Research shows that social media is increasingly a platform consumers use to express their loyalty to their favorite brands and products, and many seek to reap benefits from brands for helping promote their products. Among those who share their brand experiences through social media, at least 41 percent share their experiences publically on social channels to receive discounts. Social Media also plays a key role in protecting brands: 58 percent of social media users say they write product reviews to protect others from bad experiences, and nearly 1 in 4 say they share their negative experiences to “punish companies.” Many customers also use social media to engage with brands on a customer service level, with 42 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds acknowledging that they expect customer support within 12 hours of a complaint.On the flip side, another trend is the interest of consumers to act as ambassadors and advocates for brands through social media. A majority of active social networkers (53%) follow brands. These brands are increasingly recruiting their fans and followers to spread word-of-mouth recommendations about their products and services, and among consumers who write product reviews online, a majority say they share their experiences to “give recognition for a job well done” by the company. Continue reading

Live, Laugh, Love…Even in Marketing

“Once you get people laughing, they’re listening and you can tell them almost anything.” — Herbert Gardner, American play writer

Photo by Lynda Sanchez, CC-BY-2.0

Consumers are begging to be entertained. Too often, companies forget to connect consumers with their brands through the simple use of entertainment — especially humor. Many fear that using humor in advertising or public relations will stray the customer too far away from the product. But in fact, humor can serve to obtain the audience’s attention, appeal to their emotions and humanize the brand, increasing the likelihood of consumers remembering and sharing the brand’s content or purchasing its product or services. Here are a few great examples:

Who can forget one of the best M&M and Super Bowl commercials of 2012? Yes, that’s right— the “Sexy and I Know It” advertisement. The company utilized the awkward, yet funny situation of being “naked” to promote their new, brown-shelled chocolate M&M. The company also utilized an existing character and his naïve personality to further promote the brand and connect with the audience. The company created a purpose for the humor and established it throughout the entire piece making it both memorable and shareable for all audience members.

Continue reading

Skee-ball® Your Way into Social Media Success

In Skee-ball®, it’s not always about how fast you throw the ball, but the strategic direction you steer it in to earn the highest score at the top.

Beginning in 2010, we partnered with Chuck E. Cheese’s to establish a presence on social media platforms and build relationships with brand fans, moms, dads and families. Our hard work and dedication increased awareness of brand values amongst parents and helped change their misperceptions. As a result, Chuck E. Cheese’s has endeared itself to a new generation of moms as well as become recognized by industry peers and competitors as a leading example in the social media space.

Many people wonder… “How did you do it?” or “Can you quantify the results?” Well, here it is…down to the very last throw! The following infographic depicts our successful efforts in establishing and developing social media and blogger relationships for Chuck E. Cheese’s with their brand fans.

Continue reading

Thought Leadership 101: How to Become a Thought Leader in Your Industry

It seems like there are certain influential individuals that we encounter throughout life who tend to stand out. For me, looking back it was like they all had something in common. They weren’t just smart people, they were wise. They not only knew their industry inside and out, but they also had insight and new ideas that left an impression on those they encountered. And in retrospect, they could easily be named thought leaders.

According to Wikipedia, a thought leader is “a person or an entity that is recognized by peers for having progressive and innovative ideas.” Thought leadership isn’t just another name for content marketing. Thought leadership is strategic and brings big ideas and new insights to the table.

So why should you care about thought leadership? Although the term thought leader has gained a certain buzz around it, there are merits to the title that are worth noting that typically result in business success for the individuals described this way. The challenge of becoming a thought leader can seem like a daunting task, but there are some tactical moves you can make to become a thought leader in your industry.

Continue reading

How to Collaborate for Improved Search Results

As an integrated marketing communications agency, M/C/C has several different teams – Strategy, Public Relations (PR), Social, Advertising, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Creative – all working to increase our clients’ presences in their industries. While each group may have their own approach, collaboration among these teams is critical to succeeding in today’s marketing landscape. Take for instance PR and SEO.

Back in the day, SEO specialists were considered code monkeys. They spent their time on client websites stuffing keywords and surfing the net looking for anywhere and everywhere to post a client’s content or links. Then came Google’s Penguin and Panda updates. At the highest level, Google implemented these algorithm changes to prevent spammy content from influencing its search results. So with that, gone were the days of thinking about SEO based solely on quantity of keywords or links.

Enter public relations. Receiving media coverage through a third-party plays a significant role in enhancing a company’s image and having links from those credible sources can have quite an impact on your search rankings. Would you rather have 10 links from sites like the New York Times or 2,500 links from a no-purpose website? Google places more importance on a few high-quality editorial links than thousands of low-quality links because they are more difficult to obtain. By having these sites promote your company and share your website’s information, the value of your website will increase, ultimately leading to improved search results.

Continue reading

A Public Relations Case Study: Chuck E. Cheese’s Goes Gluten-Free

For some, gluten-free is more than a fad diet. For a brand whose premise revolves around the notion of providing wholesome experiences the whole family can enjoy, going gluten-free is about including millions of families and children around the country in the food and fun experience, like other kids, without the feeling of being different.

It was only fitting that the idea of expanding its food options to accommodate children who have to follow such a strict diet was one that Chuck E. Cheese’s did not approach without serious thought. This would have to be done the right way or not at all.


Chuck E. Cheese’s Perfects the Product

While the problems and concerns surrounding dining out with gluten allergies aren’t new to those who deal with them on a daily basis, the ability to communicate those needs to Chuck E. Cheese’s Vice President of Research and Development, Joe Elliot, grew exponentially through easy access to Chuck E. Cheese’s corporate offices on the Web through site contact forms and the Chuck E-Club email program.

That’s when the company began considering what its options for a gluten-free pizza might be. It would be three years later, when Elliot was at the International Pizza Expo chatting with Mike Conte, founder of Conte’s Pasta Company and manufacturer of a fully-sauced, gluten-free cheese pizza, that the idea would begin baking. Conte’s Pasta Company’s booth in the expo hall was located next to another booth manned by Policarta, an Italian company best known for making “brown-and-serve” bags used in the restaurant gourmet bread industry.

Conte took some bags from Policarta and began to experiment in the test kitchen at his dedicated gluten-free facility in New Jersey, all the while working with Elliot to test the most promising prototypes at the Chuck E. Cheese’s nearby. The collaborators finally created a viable product and process for introducing certified gluten-free options to Chuck E. Cheese’s stores.

The Bake-in-Bag® pizza available at Chuck E. Cheese’s remains sealed while cooked and delivered, until it is opened and served with a sealed personal pizza cutter at families’ tables by the adult in charge. Under the same gluten-free procedure, chocolate fudge cupcakes from GIG-certified Fabe’s All Natural Bakery remain in pre-sealed, single-serve packaging until opened and served at the table.

Continue reading

An Inside Look at Ethics: Where the PR, Ad and Marketing Industries Stand

The marketing, advertising and public relations industries are buzzing…Buzzing about ethical business practices. As companies and organizations continue to fall prey to the public opinion’s, PR professionals and marketers are faced with the task of building the public’s trust in their brand. This task is becoming increasingly difficult, but not impossible, because of a few bad apples who have practiced false advertising, shady PR and gotcha marketing. So, this month, I’m taking a look at the three industries’ ethics standards.

Continue reading

Mad Girls: Why Women Are Taking Over The PR Business

Advertising Age published an article this week titled, “What Would Don Draper’s Salary Be If He Worked in an Agency Today?” Naturally, anything “Mad Men” catches my attention, but I was curious about what the writer had to say in regards to Peggy Olsen. Surely, they hadn’t left her out of the article. They didn’t! But this isn’t the first time Olsen’s earned the limelight. After her departure from Sterling. Cooper. Draper. Pryce. Many writers commented on how much Olsen would bring home in modern-day America. On the flip-side, the plot also sparked a lot of conversation about women in the workplace in the 1960s. During Olsen’s time, female “mad men” were few and far between, and for reasons that I don’t want to cover, things have changed. As opposed to the 1970s era when 27 percent of practitioners were women, today women make up 70 percent of the jobs in the PR industry, holding top spots at agencies around the world, working on campaigns for Fortune 500 companies and making branding decisions in all types of industries. So what happens when the Peggy Olsens aren’t such a rarity anymore? Do the Don Drapers move over slowly and peacefully, without major change in the industry? Doubtful, and here’s why.

  1. We know that women hold the buying power in America. In fact, recent reports indicate that women are major influencers in everything from the automobile industry—making as much as 78 percent of the auto choices in the family—to household products.  So who better to cater to a woman than a woman? Seems sort of obvious to me.
  2. Men are feeling the pressure. Since females hold the buying power, male executives are incorporating females into their marketing strategies more often because the market demands it, and so do the clients. Take, for example, mom bloggers: they review a product on their blogs, and if they give it a gold star, all of their readers and blogger friends now have a highly-trusted endorsement for a particular product. A few years ago no one would have considered that mom bloggers would play such a large role in the marketing industry. But I’m sure glad they do—because mom always knows best! No offense, Dad.
  3. In an attempt to tread lightly on this issue, I’m going to dip my toe into this pool lightly. If you disagree be sure to comment or send me an email. In America today, more women are going to college than ever before, and they’re using their degrees in the business world. As women are becoming more educated, they’re encouraged to enter more corporate jobs. PR is a great starting point. It’s a great combination of creative work, people-person skills and multi-tasking.

So, as women continue to dominate the PR industry, the Don Drapers and Pete Campbells may become less prevalent, but let’s not forget that they too bring great ideas to the table. Mad girls may be the future of the PR business, but let’s play nicely girls, the men are still around…