What a 3rd grade teacher can teach us about getting free media coverage

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In many ways, Stephen Flemming is your quintessential elementary school teacher. He knew since he was a child that he wanted to educate children. But teaching the youth of Philadelphia isn’t the only thing this teacher excels in.

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You see, Flemming is not just an educator, he’s also a media magnet. Being a teacher inside the Philadelphia School District, he has first-hand knowledge about the district’s drama that us Philly folks see in the news every other day. What’s more, this third grade teacher has strong opinions about the condition of the district and what it means for Philly’s children. So, he takes to Twitter, his blog, and public forums to sound off.

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The result is that news media flock to him. Below is a Q&A with Mr. Flemming on how to get free media attention.

Q: How did u start getting noticed by reporters?

A: Around 2010 I began submitting my opinions to the Philadelphia Daily News’s daily views and opinions section. I wanted to express how I felt in response to a political figure speaking negatively about public school teachers. The person’s comments bothered me so badly, it came through loud and clear in my submission and the paper published it.
Tip #1: Have something worthwhile to say!

Q: Why do you think they continue to come to you?

A: I think the news media continues to come to me for a couple reasons. As a teacher for the Philadelphia School District, I’m on the “inside.” But on top of that, I’m not afraid to talk and give my name. This is a big deal with reporters. People are reluctant to give their names for fear of losing their jobs or the potential scrutiny that may come as a result. But journalists won’t pursue stories with sources who don’t want to talk.
Tip #2: Closed mouths don’t get press!

Q: What role does social play in your ability to get media coverage?

A: I use Twitter and my blog to unleash my thoughts on what’s happening inside the Philadelphia public school system. A key piece of advice is to use trending hashtags that are associated with your topic. In my case, it’s #phled. Hashtags have faithful followers (many of whom are reporters) who will read, react, and retweet. As far as my personal account goes, there are quite a few reporters who follow me on Twitter and most of my interview requests come through DMs. I don’t know of any journalists who subscribe to my blog, but some will tweet my posts so I do know they’re reading and following.
Tip #3: Use social media to show your thought leadership

Q: What’s your “hook”?

A: When I post something on social media, I don’t think about it. I just speak the truth. Reporters are looking for “real” and I think the public wants it just like that as well. I speak from experience and I never talk on behalf of other teachers; just myself. Also, I have no shame in calling Philadelphia’s public school district out on Twitter. Keep it real, tack on a hashtag at the end, and you’re sure to get someone’s attention.
Tip #4: Keep it real

Mr. Flemming’s four tips work. See for yourself. Here are just some of his media mentions from 2015.

Billy Penn – Sixteen Young Teachers and Leaders Shaping Education in Philly
Technical.ly Philly – How Schools Across the Philadelphia School District are Building a Tech Culture
Philly.com – Teachers Express Anger at SRC Decision to Impose Contract Terms
Philadelphia Metro – Street Talk: The Reality of Budget Cuts in City Schools
NBC 10 – Judge Grants Injunction for Philly Teachers

A version of this blog post originally appeared on The PR Maverick blog. To view it, click here.

Andrea Carter is a Public Relations Specialist at AWeber and a freelance PR consultant. Visit her website, The PR Maverick, and follow her on Twitter @SheLuvsPR.

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4 Musts for Any Agency Offering Social Media

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Lots of small and medium sized businesses are spending a lot of time on social media because they understand its potential. They typically fall into three categories: doing well at it and content to keep it going, doing well at it but ready to outsource it, and don’t know what they’re doing and want real help.

In many cases, it may make sense for these people to outsource their social media needs to the same agencies handling their public relations and other marketing needs. As a PR professional, you already know what’s going on within the client’s business, what their overall goals are, and how to get them in front of their ideal audience.

I’ve seen PR agencies and marketing agencies do some things right and some things wrong when providing social media services to clients. I’m here to share my insights so you can add social media to your service offerings without the risk of failing your client or spending all of your time on social.

Know what’s on the menu.
Before you offer social media services to your clients, you should know the different ways that you can “slice” social media. Some clients might want full social media management that covers content creation, audience engagement, inbox monitoring/customer service and ad buys. But you may choose not to offer the whole enchilada. You may decide it only makes sense to provide prewritten social media posts that the client can schedule to accompany a public relations campaign you’re managing more fully for them.

If you break it down, you can offer clients:

Content calendar: This can mean different things to different people, so be sure to define it for within your own agency and be clear about its meaning to clients. It might mean a simple list of weekly themes they should follow, a yearly calendar that outlines several campaigns, or a day-by-day list of pre-written tweets, posts and updates.

Scheduling: This is simply the scheduling of social media posts to be sent at a predetermined time from within a tool such as Hootsuite. If the client insists on approving the prewritten content each week, you may want the client to handle scheduling so that any delays in approval do not affect your ability to schedule the updates to go out on time.

Engagement/Audience growth: This is the daily maintenance of the client’s platforms and real-time interaction with audiences. This includes following those who follow the client’s competitors to grow their own following and reposting and liking content from other users to get their attention. Related to this is customer service or inbox monitoring wherein you keep an eye on the social media messaging inboxes to keep track of any concerns customers have with your client’s business. You might answer these customer concerns if you’re equipped to do so or to quickly notify the client of messages that require their attention.

Ad buys: Do you want responsibility to creating ad campaigns to reach new followers, drive traffic to the client’s website, or boost posts on Facebook? How about sponsoring tweets on Twitter or posts on Instagram? This might include the creation of graphics that won’t get rejected by Facebook and reporting the results to the client.

Reporting: Whatever social media services you offer, you’ll want a system for reporting analytics so they can track progress on social media. Social media managers do reporting in different ways. Hootsuite has built-in analytics tools, Facebook has pretty advanced analytics in its Page management system, and even Twitter lets you track the reach of your tweets. There are plenty of others tools you can use. Some clients will only care about their number of followers going up while others will want to know what messages are outperforming others.

Get an ally in the client’s office.
Inevitably, there will be “fires.” You’ve seen it time and again with media placements and other PR elements: the client’s name was misspelled or there was a word missing from their quote and they want you to fix it RIGHT NOW! Well, it happens with social media too. The client might notice a word misspelled or a missing period and want the tweet or post edited or deleted right this very second. Now, you’re busy. While PR pros pride themselves on being well-caffeinated and quick to respond, it just isn’t always possible. The best thing to do to prevent client frustrations in this situation is to ask them up front to appoint someone on their own team that you can train to be responsive in an “emergency.” Then teach them the basics of editing or deleting. You might even make it super clear by giving them a handy tipsheet they can keep nearby that tells them if a post on a platform is able to be edited or must be deleted, etc.

Keep PR & social media on the same page.
If you can’t have the account executive that’s already handling the client’s PR do their social media (some of your account execs won’t be comfortable in that role or have the bandwidth to take it on), make sure that the person managing their social media has really easy access to the account exec handling PR. This is especially important when your clients have had your agency handle their PR for a long time and are just now handing over social media. Your account exec likely already knows what’s going on inside the client’s company or knows how to get that info out of the client. The person in charge of their social media needs that information too. While social media can consist largely of news aggregation and other forms of content that aren’t breaking news about the company, their social media will feel naked without such updates from within the company.

Feel free to give the client homework.
Don’t feel like because you’re taking money from the client to manage their social media that it should be entirely off their plate(s). You might ask that clients email you articles you can share from their feeds, share updates from the company page to their personal pages, or upload images in real-time from major events they’re participating in (or texting those images to you so you can upload them).

There’s a lot to consider when you’re thinking of or starting to offer social media services to clients. This really is just a brief list of the things I’ve seen other agencies mess up.

Rosella LaFevre is a marketing consultant helping solo entrepreneurs, small businesses and C-level executives with marketing strategy, public relations/thought leadership and social media. She’s also a business and marketing coach helping entrepreneurs do more good and make more money. If you want an outsider to consult on your agency’s approach to social media for clients, schedule a consultation here.

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Ready. Set. Collaborate – Five Ways PR is a Team Sport

Word PR.Working in public relations is as exhilarating as it is demanding. I can say with assurance that no two days are alike and that a career in this field promises to keep you on your toes at every turn. Most would agree that PR is for those who prefer to create their own destinies, blaze their own trails. There’s plenty of opportunity for this in our field, and that’s why we love it, right?

Sure, but as much as PR allows us the creative freedom to come up with ideas that’ll knock the socks off of our key audiences, PR is very much a team sport. Here are the top five ways.

Teaming up with customer service
In nearly all organizations, there is a segment of the team dedicated to one audience and one audience only: the customer. Since, ultimately, it’s the job of the PR person to attract more of them, you better believe that the customer service team is a key player in the success of the PR team. No need to be a mind reader when your fellow team members are talking to the customers day in and day out; getting to know their needs, their wants, their pain points and so much more. So what do you do? Turn that information into fuel for awesome PR campaigns and strategies.

Collaborating with designers
Once you’re ready to implement a campaign idea, it’s likely that you’ll want some creative assets to go along with it. In the visual storytelling age in which we now find ourselves, having a talented graphic designer on your side is priceless. Whether it’s creating an image to add to your press release or turning facts and figures into a beautiful infographic that can be shared across the web, a graphic designer can add tremendous value to the success of a PR team.

Tapping the stats guy (or gal)
Speaking of stats, nowadays we have more and more companies with a dedicated team member (or an entire team) who simply does data all day long. This is great news for the PR team because we all know journalists love data. Everything from customer trends and company growth to website traffic and Google Analytics; the data guys and gals are on it. Another reason you want to stick by the data miners is to help show and tell the value of PR and how it’s impacting the bottom line. For more on this subject, check out the previous blog post Communicating the Value of PR: Stop Dodging, Start Measuring.

Working with in-house experts
As PR people, we’re usually fielding media requests and coordinating interviews for others. Whether you’re on an in-house PR team or on the agency side, collaboration with your internal experts and thought leaders is a must. Successful teamwork requires more than just setting up time with reporters. It means collaborating on story ideas and PR opportunities that match the person’s expertise and that align with the organization’s goals and key messages.

Cooperating with journalists
Finally, we sync up with journalists to bring value to our respective audiences. Media pitching an idea and working with a reporter to bring a story to life requires input that meets the needs of both sides. On the one hand, reporters have a story to tell. On the other, PR pros have key messages to deliver to their target audiences. The happy medium is a story that adds value and brings something new to the audience.

What are some of the other ways you see PR as being a team sport? Would love to read about them in the comments section!

Andrea Carter is a Public Relations Specialist at AWeber, a certified news junkie and an aspiring world traveler. Check out Andrea’s back story here then follow her on Twitter @SheLuvsPR and connect on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/carterandrea/.

Setting the Record Straight: How to Pitch Denise Nakano

nakano2Whether she is broadcasting from a breaking news scene or anchoring from the studio, viewers of NBC10 News are familiar with Denise Nakano.

Nakano joined NBC10 as a weekend morning anchor in 2003. Twelve years later, she is now one of the Philadelphia-markets most established broadcast journalists. She reports during the week and anchors NBC10 News on weekend evenings.

Prior to joining NBC10, Nakano was a general assignment reporter and substitute anchor at KCPQ in Seattle, Washington.

Recently, Nakano spoke to the Philadelphia Public Relations Association’s Adam Dvorin on her likes and dislikes when working with public relations people.

Have an idea? E-mail Nakano at denise.nakano@nbcuni.com or tweet her at @DeniseNakanoTV.

“The best story idea I ever received from a PR person is one that didn’t come to me through a mass email, but one where we worked together to tell a story.”

Question: What is the biggest thing you look at when considering a story idea?

Answer: Viewer impact is critical to any story we cover. I look to how many people the story will affect, why people should care, and how the viewer would benefit.

In many ways, we are the deliverers of a product. The more people can relate to a news story and benefit from it, the better job we’re doing.

Q: When you open your e-mail to look at a story pitch, how much time do you spend looking at it?

A: The first thing I look at is… does this appear to be a mass email or is it directly addressed to me. I don’t give it a second glance if I feel as if I’m on a long list getting the same pitch.  Even then, email story pitches rarely catch my eye.

Q: Would you consider a story idea from Twitter?  Facebook?  Phone only?

A; I find that I’ve considered more story ideas from Twitter than any of the above. Got a good story pitch? DM me!

Q. What would you advise a PR person avoid doing when pitching you?

A: I’d advise a PR person to avoid sending multiple pitches about the same client, over and over. For example, I frequently get emails about education related stories, but it always involves the same school.  Those go straight to the delete file.

Q. What are the best and worst times to reach out to you?

A: Best time to reach out is anytime by email. Or if the story is breaking, or involves a scoop, contact anytime! Worst time is during a reporter’s “crunch time”. It differs depending on a reporter’s shift, but you won’t get a favorable response reaching out when a reporter is on deadline.

Q: What is the best story idea you ever received from a PR person?

A: One that didn’t come to me through a mass email, but one where we worked together to tell a story.

Q: What other advice would you offer to PR pros?

A: Establish personal relationships with reporters and know each one will want something unique… an element that sets their story apart from the rest.

This post was written by Adam Dvorin. Adam is Media Director of Winning Strategies, a New Jersey-based communications firm.  He is a Membership Co-Chair of Philadelphia Public Relations Association.  He can be reached at @adamdvorin on Twitter.

Breaking the (News) Cycle

newsIn 2013, the nation sat on the edge of their seats as an image of a man with a backpack was blasted across nearly every television news station in the country. The image went viral on social media and via major media outlets, who pegged this man as a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing before issuing a retraction.

That wasn’t the only mistake involving a high-stakes story: media outlets have found themselves at the center of controversy after incorrect reports involving the shooting of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona in 2011, the Supreme Court health care ruling in 2012, and even the recent arrest of real-estate heir Robert Durst, who was mistakenly identified as former Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst. As long as there has been news to report, there have been mistakes.

With the media market becoming increasingly competitive, is the pressure to be the first to break a story leading to impulsive reporting – and can we really blame them for trying?

If You’re Not First, Are You Last?
From the score of the game to the weather report to the latest updates on a big story, people rely on the media to provide them with news as it happens. With each network constantly watching one another, the pressure is on for news organizations to be the first to break a story, making it increasingly difficult for news outlets to determine how long they should wait before releasing information.

According to one producer at a local major network affiliate, the pressure to be first may be a bit shortsighted. “Think about the high-profile local and national stories that have broken in the past few years, from the DNC coming to Philadelphia to the Boston Marathon bombings to 5, 10, 20 years back. People most likely won’t remember which news outlets broke the story, but they will remember which ones got it wrong,” he says, adding that while there is definitely pressure to break the story, the real pressure is to make sure you have credible sources to reinforce your facts.

A Catch-22 in a Changing Media Landscape
The public used to get their news by picking up the morning paper or tuning into the nightly news. Now, we’re surrounded by breaking stories, everywhere we turn. Print publications have gone digital, broadcast outlets are increasing the frequency of their newscasts, and social media has exploded with journalists of every medium turning to Twitter to report from the field.

According to the producer interviewed for this post, it’s much more difficult to latch onto an exclusive story today than it was in years past, and that’s where the pressure comes in – if you’re not reporting the news the fastest, you’re not perceived as a leader. But, if you hastily report something erroneously, it chips away at the credibility of your news organization.

Crowdsourced Investigations
For every well-researched piece, there will undoubtedly be a version from Joe Smith who turned to Twitter to report his firsthand account. A few retweets later, and the facts have become clouded and the rumor mill has officially begun.

In fact, the opening paragraph of this blog post refers to an image discovered by Reddit users that went viral.

With social media fueling crowdsourced investigations, it can be difficult to discern the facts from what’s trending. According to the network TV producer, “Things happen first on Twitter – before a story is reported on TV, online or anywhere else, someone has tweeted about it,” he says. “That’s both good and bad.” While he notes the importance of sharing breaking news as it happens, he stresses that news organizations have a responsibility to vet their sources before reporting updates.

“The same policies that we abide by in the newsroom have to apply on social media. As journalists, we must adhere to rules and policies so the information you’re putting out there is accurate,” he says.

For example, imagine the same Twitter-happy Joe Smith posts a fictional update about a breaking news story. In researching the story and potential sources, a reporter from an accredited print, broadcast or online news organization hits retweet using his or her professional account. Suddenly, Joe Smith’s post may be considered credible by the Twitterverse – even though the reporter did not post it directly, it’s still loosely attributed to the reporter and his or her organization.

The Takeaway
Errors are possible in any line of work. With each mistake comes an opportunity to remind ourselves of best practices so that we and our friends reporting from the front lines of the media can continue working together to provide the public with timely, accurate and pertinent information. Here are some reminders for PR professionals:

  • Think before you jump on the hashtag bandwagon. Just because a trending hashtag seems like the perfect fit to promote your brand, proceed with caution. Do some research first, or you may end up digging yourself into a social media hole that’s difficult to escape.
  • Consider the source. Just like our journalism-minded colleagues, PR pros must take into account the credibility of a source before pitching it. Rely on reputable websites, accredited organizations and subject matter experts to build your case as to why your story is newsworthy.
  • Be mindful of your own professional responsibilities. You owe it to yourself and the journalists with whom you work to provide accurate information in a timely manner. Don’t rush to give a reporter a quote or to confirm or deny something in a crisis situation. In the breaking news arena, honesty really is the best policy. Get the facts as quickly as you can, confirm those facts, and then comment.
  • Proof your work. With shrinking newsrooms, print and digital outlets often rely on news releases to bolster their editorial content. Make overworked editors’ jobs easier by proofing your release, checking your facts and including the most up-to-date and accurate information possible before hitting ‘send.’
  • Own up to your mistakes. Regardless of how hard we try – how many sources we use, how many times a journalist fact-checks a story, how many steps we take to ensure the information we’re putting out there is accurate – mistakes are bound to happen. The real takeaway is that we must be held accountable for our actions, even if that means falling on our proverbial swords. The main goal is to communicate with the public and provide them with the best information we have available, so when our efforts fall short, we should acknowledge our missteps and commit to doing it better next time.

Have you committed any media blunders? What have you learned from your experiences?

Jen Micklow is a senior account executive at Thomas/Boyd Communications, a leading woman-owned public relations firm specializing in strategic communications for clients of all sizes in a variety of industries. When she’s not communicating clients’ key messages to tailored audiences, securing media placements or writing carefully crafted content, Jen can be found hunting down a big sale or cozying up with a good book. Connect with Jen on LinkedIn, like Thomas/Boyd on Facebook or follow the company on Twitter @thomasboydpr.