Last weekend saw Europe’s largest free ticketed music event take place – Radio 1’s Big Weekend in Carlisle. Alas, I wasn’t lucky enough to be there, but curiosity got the better of me and I couldn’t help but check out online some of Sunday’s headline performance from Lady Gaga.
She is one of the most outlandish mainstream performers the world has seen in a long time – yet the public love her.
Some clients can be afraid of anything which is too ‘out there’. But, whatever your opinion of her, perhaps Lady Gaga is proof that people are a lot more open than we think.
So, with that in mind, here are five things PR pros can learn from her:
1). Be inventive
Lady Gaga appeared on stage in a coffin, wearing a PVC cat suit and a plastic baby bump. Odd, yes. (Although perhaps not a patch on some of her other outfits – meat dress anyone?!). Her approach is certainly creative. And creativity and innovation is something which in PR we should have in abundance. We should be able to come up with inventive, innovative, yet viable, ideas for clients at the drop of a hat. Take the time to regularly brainstorm with your team – come up with ideas which aren’t restrained by budgets or client briefs. Even if you don’t use the ideas they are still useful for keeping that ‘creative on-switch’ working, as well as providing a bank of material when your campaign needs a vital dose of ‘oomph’.
2). Don’t go too far – unless you can handle the repercussions
Usually shrouded by glowing reviews, Lady Gaga’s ‘Alejandro’ video has caused outrage in some circles, with MTV asking ‘Has she gone too far?’ The controversial video features sexual and religious imagery which is a bit too much for some people’s taste. Although creativity is important – it is also important to remember that it’s subjective. Think about your audience – will they find it amusing, exciting or insulting?
3). Support what you believe in
Lady Gaga is mostly seen in the press for her weird and wacky dress sense, and for hit single after hit single – but she’s also been in and out of the papers for her charity work. Charity partnerships are a great way for any brand to raise awareness of itself, get in the public eye, and build compassion. Lady Gaga’s charity work includes quitting Facebook for the Keep a Child Alive charity, designing a charity bracelet for the Japanese earthquake appeal, and performing at a benefit concert for the Robin Hood Foundation.
4). Be current
Splashed across the press after her appearance last weekend was Lady Gaga’s homage to the royal couple, Kate and William. The singer dedicated a cover of Nat King Cole’s classic jazz tune, Orange Coloured Sky to the couple and admitted that she wished she’d been part of their big day. Linking into the news agenda and ‘piggy-backing’ onto the hype surrounding current affairs is a great way to gain more coverage for your clients, and something all good PR pros should be able to do.
5). Always exceed expectations
Lady Gaga was half an hour late to the stage – leaving many fans wondering where the loyalty was. Always strive your utmost to meet client expectations – and where possible exceed them. This should be across all aspects of your campaigns; great ideas and amazing content count for nothing if you’re always late or never keep promises.
Earlier this month I attended a free photography workshop hosted by TNR Communications, part of the Press Association.
The workshop set out to “give a real insight into how to get national picture desks to run your PR photographs.”
I’d highly recommend the workshop – it was a great insight into one of the UK’s busiest news and picture agencies – and they illustrated the presentation with some really strong picture examples, as well as offering valuable insight into the day-to-day workings of a picture desk.
Here are some top tips from the day, to help make sure you get that perfect press shot – and the coverage it deserves:
1). Track record is important
Make sure that the photographer you use has a strong track record in securing national coverage for their photos – even if you have to pay more for it. They should have an intuitive eye and know what a national paper is looking for and how to get it. They should also know how to distribute photos – if you have no connections it can be hard to get your photo seen by the right people. Make sure they also offer solid insight and knowledge into the best times to send photos and the best resolution, file size and photo captions.
2). Know what picture editors want
When pitching photo stories, picture editors are your audience not newsrooms – you need to understand them. You need to know what they’re looking for and how they operate. Avoid clichéd photos (smiling business men holding big cheques are most definitely a no-no!) And remember that news is about people – the photos needs to reflect this.
3). Be more creative
Picture editors at national newspapers are inundated with photos – over 20,000 per day, and this is climbing everyday thanks to the rise in digital photography and citizen journalism. For a PR story to gain coverage this way it needs to be imaginative and eye-catching. Think of the wider story, and come up with creative ways of capturing it. If the story allows it try and be fun and humorous. And remember – a picture editor only sees thumbnails on screen – and hundreds of them at that. Your photo needs to be pretty special to stand out.
4). Try and sum up the story
An ideal photo for national press will sum up the story in one go. Even if you need to stage a shot which does this, then it could well be worth it. Often, strong photos aren’t run with a full story – just a photo caption. Make sure that your picture tells the story you want it to.
5). Manage branding
From a PR’s perspective getting branding into a photograph in the nationals is the holy grail of success. From a picture editors perspective it’s a nightmare. Try and find a happy medium – you can get away with branding but only if it looks natural within the setting of the photo. Don’t go overboard, and don’t try and make your branding the focus. Doing that will simply result in your photo not being used – or your branding being cut out.
6). Planning is vital
If you are planning a photoshoot or a photocall you must plan before hand. If it’s in a public place visit the site first; how busy is it? Is it too crowded? Can you get the right angles? Think about the environment and the background. What will be in your frame? If possible take your photographer with you – if not, take a digital camera and take a few snaps. You want your photoshoot to be done as quickly and efficiently as possible so planning is vital. You don’t want people hanging around on the day while you look for the perfect spot, or try to avoid the crowds.
7). Be aware of the news agenda
Pay close attention to the news agenda and time your photos well. Royal weddings, holidays, Wimbledon, hottest day of the year – all of these things can offer you hooks to get that perfect photo. BUT, it’s also worth sometimes going against the news agenda. For example election time, when picture editors are bombarded with man-in-suit after man-it-suit, it could well be worth doing something dramatically different to offer some light refreshment.
8). Move quickly
Once your photo has been taken get it re-sized, captioned and sent ASAP. But make sure that you pay attention to timings. Don’t send it on a Friday, and avoid afternoons if possible. The best time is around 10am in the morning. It’s also worth trying a Sunday morning – papers are often lacking content for Monday’s paper.
For some examples of great press photos check out TNR’s gallery.
Photo by graur razvan ionut
A client has an event coming up and you’ve been tasked with publicising it.
What’s your approach?
- A brief paragraph outlining the event sent to a few key journalists for their diary pages?
- A press release with event details and a quote from your client sent to every journalist in a 100 mile radius?
- OR a full-page feature in the relevant section of a publication which is in the event’s immediate catchment area?
It doesn’t take a genius to work out what the best option is. And the good thing is – if you’re holding an event, then you most likely already have ample material to make a feature happen.
After all, if you’re planning on keeping people’s attention for an afternoon, or even a full day, then your topic must be fairly interesting!
So, how can you make this approach work for you?
You already have your topic:
If you’re holding an event, then you already have your content. If it’s an advice seminar then draft a feature which tackles the main issues, and then offer hints and tips on how to overcome obstacles. If it’s a debate then it’s even better – do a pro and con piece with first person pieces from each spokesperson.
A client recently sponsored a debate on a controversial rural business funding programme. The area’s main newspaper was approached and a full-page ‘for’ and ‘against’ article appeared. It featured arguments from the key-note speakers along with a quote from the client, and event details. This was pitched to the rural section editor.
Make it even more local:
News is about people – and a feature is even more likely to be commissioned if you can show real life local examples.
A client was offering a free event, in two different locations, on the benefits of working from home. By finding a relevant case study of home-based businesses in each area and using them to illustrate the topics which would be covered in the event, two features were secured – one in each target area. This was pitched direct to the business editors.
Don’t be biased:
Perhaps the topic is there but your client can’t add enough weight to make it stand as a topic on its own? Involve third parties. Not only does this give the journalist a better and less biased article, but it also gives you an opportunity to hunt out a potential new business lead.
A firm of solicitors was offering free advice clinics to families whose child was suffering from a health condition. By partnering with the condition’s main national charity and including a case study of a real local family who had been affected, a double page feature was secured in the paper in the solicitor’s key catchment area. By pitching it properly to the journalist, a legal fact box was included complete with clinic details, website and phone number. This was pitched to the health and lifestyle editor.
To some extent the event is what makes the piece newsworthy, but this can sometimes be a tenuous link, even with case studies and advice. What statistics can you find which back up your points? Make sure they’re from a reputable source and as localised as possible. Contact local industry bodies if necessary.
Choose your publication and section:
Where is the event being held, and how much of a pull will it really have? In my view, most events, unless they are huge industry affairs only pull in delegates from a 20 mile radius of the venue. Target the publication with the biggest and most relevant circulation – and preferably one with a strong online presence. Make sure you know the publication – if it’s a business event approach the business editor, a health story approach the health editor etc.
Pitch it properly:
This isn’t a hit send on an email and keep your fingers crossed job. Phone the editor responsible for the section you feel the story is most suitable for and explain who you are and what the feature will include – explain that it will be an exclusive for them and that it will be completely localised.
If they’re interested, explain the structure you’d like the article to take – do they have any concerns or suggestions on this? How many words would they like? What date can they publish and when would they like the copy? What about photos? You can hopefully provide some but are they happy to take one of the case study if necessary?
After the conversation, if they’ve said yes to the feature, send a synopsis outlining the agreed publication date, the deadline date, the word count, who will be providing the photography and also detailing, in bullet points, what will be included and the structure it will take. Make sure you follow this when it comes to drafting the article so you give the journalist exactly what was agreed.
Deliver it on time:
You’ve already shown that you understand what their readers want. Don’t undo all of that hard work by not delivering it on time. Do whatever it takes to get what you’ve promised to the journalist on time.
You’ve delivered the copy on time, the feature has appeared, you’ve got a fantastic piece of coverage for your client, and hopefully the publication has replicated it online to.
Next up – say thank you!
A quick, one line email to the journalist to say thanks will go a long way. Not only have you shown the ability to really deliver targeted content suitable to their readers, but manners too!
Hopefully, by following these steps you’ll not only get some great results for your clients, but also build strong relationships with journalists and demonstrate that you are a trusted and reliable source.
What do you think – have you tried this approach? How has it worked for you?
I was having a chat with a business owner over the weekend, who has just taken on a freelance PR to do some ad hoc work for his company.
He said it was all going well, but why did ‘us PR and marketing lot’ have to use so much jargon?
And it’s true.
There are far too many people in this industry (and most others) who talk in riddles – what’s wrong with just saying what we mean?
Here’s a few of the best PR clichés – and what I think they really mean.
If you’ve got any to add let me know.
1. Smoke and mirrors
It’s not quite the truth but we’ll make the journalist think it is.
2. Take a view
We’re busy and don’t have time to talk to you right now. Either that or we simply don’t know the answer.
3. Pull out all the stops
We’ll work extra hard, or at least try to.
4. Thinking outside the box
We’ll try and be original. This one makes me laugh though – if we weren’t original, we wouldn’t be very good at our job now would we?
5. Moving forward
There’s no need for this one – ever. We just mean ‘in the future’, and half the time even that isn’t needed.
6. Touch base
We’re calling to say hello and to show you that we are still working hard for you, even though press coverage might not be as high as it was in previous months.
7. Hit the ground running
We’ll start straight away. Again, it’s pretty pointless – I don’t think we’d have clients for very long if we didn’t.
8. On the same page
We’re thinking the same thing as you, or vice versa.
Let’s face it – a lot of business news can be pretty boring.
So what? There’s been a new acquisition, or a new board member, or an increase in turnover.
You need something to make your story stand out – and a decent photograph could be just the ticket. By commissioning a bespoke photoshoot for your story you could end up doubling your coverage.
Here are some hints to help make it work for you:
1). Use the photo wisely
Not every story needs a professional photograph – whatever shots you have to hand may be enough, or indeed no photo at all. But there are times when a photo is the story. Think about your story visually – the story itself might not be that strong, but a photo could make it get snapped up by journalists. If you can persuade your client to spend that little bit extra (time and money) on a photoshoot it can really make a difference.
2). Be clever with your client
Some stories might not be directly linked to your client, but a photo can make sure they get a mention. For example, I recently did a press release on a law firm who helped a woman – who was the first person in the UK to use thermal imaging on pets – with the t’s and c’s on her website. The story was the woman, not the law firm – but by organising a photoshoot with her and the solicitor (not to mention a very cute Huskie dog), it was guaranteed that the law firm would get a mention in any coverage. And they did – the picture came out great and the story was used in every major business publication in the south west and numerous national veterinary titles.
3). Have respect for the photographer
We have an idea in our head of the sort of shots we need from a shoot, and a decent photographer should be able to get these. But, in the same way we work as consultants to our clients, photographers work as consultants to us. If they have an idea, or think that your idea wont work, discuss it and work through it together – use their expertise to get the best results.
4). Brief your client
A lot of people make the mistake of thinking a photoshoot is a few quick snaps on a digital camera. If you haven’t briefed your client fully and then a bossy (they’re usually the best) photographer turns up with flashes, backdrops and props, barking at them to smile more, then it can be a recipe for disaster. Even if it’s a simple head shot you’re after, ask your client to clear an hour in their diary and remind them to dress smartly (you may think this will be obvious – but trust me, it isn’t to everyone!)
5). Ask the newsdesk
Worried you might shell out £150 (approx $230) for a photoshoot and then the story still won’t get picked up? Call the newsdesk at the publication you’d most like to get coverage in and ask if it would be of interest if you provided professional photographs. It’s even worth asking if they would like to take photos themselves. What with all the redundancies in the past year or so it’s not as likely as it once, was but I’ve still hit gold a few times with this approach – especially in regional newspapers.
6). Do you even need a press release?
Perhaps you don’t even need to bother writing a story to go along with images. Great exposure can be got through an image alone. Without sounding too corny ‘a picture speaks a thousand words’ and all that. Send pictures with a simple photo caption and short paragraph outlining the story – this works especially well for the ‘social’ pages in magazines.
7). It’s not just for press
Don’t think of the photo as a one hit wonder. It can be used on websites, uploaded onto social media sites, in marketing collateral and even potentially in future press material. It’s always worth checking the terms with your photographer though to make sure you have exclusive and unfettered usage.
8). Please! No more head and shoulders!
If I see one more ‘man in a suit’ staring back and me from the business pages I think I might scream. Of course these shots are sometimes necessary but try and make them a bit more exciting – if you have funky artwork in your office try and pose in front of that. Perhaps you work in stunning scenery, or on the waterfront? Get outside and have your photo taken. Anything apart from that stark white background.
There has been a lot of talk in blogs and on Twitter today about two particular work experience job adverts, both within the journalism industry.
Work experience? In journlaism? But that’s nothing new right? But the reason the backlash has been high is because they are both for freelancers.
One of the adverts under scrutiny is for a work experience person (or ‘workie’ as they are affectionately know in the industry) to help source real life features.
Before getting my first job in journalism (selling real life features very similar to those mentioned in the advert) I would have jumped at the chance for a work experience placement like that.
The only line I have a problem with is ‘Previous experience within the Real life sector is preferred but not essential.’
Really? An experience intern? Surely that is one of the worst contradictions.
But I still would have done it.
Journalism, more so than any other profession, seems to rely incredibly heavily on work experience. It’s no good having your NCTJs or a journalism degree if you haven’t got a cuttings book full of clippings to back it up.
I’ve done my fair share; four weeks at Cosmopolitan magazine, four weeks at a local Southampton paper, two weeks at a paper in Bournemouth and two weeks at BBC Southern Counties Radio, not to mention countless student papers, websites and hospital and community radio stations.
PR seems incredibly similar – my colleague worked for over six months, completely unpaid for numerous agencies before landing a paid position.
But we both agree.
It sucks, but it’s worth it.
The media is an incredibly competitive industry and to succeed you need to make sure that you’re willing to do whatever it takes – which includes working for free and, excuse the cliché but its true, learning to make a bloody good cup of tea.
Sounds great right?
Especially considering they are retailing at a massive £499 in normal stores – most of which are already sold out.
The site had just 200 of the handsets on sale, but when the deal opened at 9.30am this morning 5 million users attempted to log in to get their hands on the cut price phone.
Subsequently the site crashed – resulting in problem number one.
This lead to an outburst on Twitter, with many consumers assuming the deal was fake – becoming problem number two.
But, as Real Business reports it’s not the deal, or either of those problems that is under scrutiny – it’s the way in which the site went about advertising the deal in the first place.
Consumers’ main gripe is that they had to pre-register their interest for the iPhone 4 by signing up to Groupola’s daily alerts. This is the main problem. If Groupola had just held it as a regular daily deal (where you don’t have to pre-register for Groupola’s marketing emails), I’m fairly confident the backlash would have been less strong. Don’t forget that Groupola claims to have received over five million hits this morning – so that’s a lot of people signing up to Groupola’s daily email alerts.
Fair point I suppose (though if the site hadn’t frozen would the backlash have happened at all?)
To be honest I feel a bit bad for Groupola – it was a great deal, but one where supply would always be far outweighed by demand. But they were very honest with the terms – there would be a limited amount available and to have a chance you had to sign up to the email alerts.
A two minute online form and a daily email (which you can unsubscribe from easily) seems to me a very small price to pay for the chance to win, and I’m sure the 200 lucky winners aren’t complaining.
But it does create an interesting question.
When does a good marketing ploy become bad customer service?
MPs are to be asked to agree to an earlier sitting of the House of Commons next Tuesday, so the emergency Budget can be held at the earlier time of 12.30pm, according to the BBC.
This is great news for business PRs and journalists alike.
I moved to the B2B team from consumer about three months ago and was lucky (!) enough to experience my first taste of budget day fairly quickly after starting.
Usually the budget is announced at 3.30pm and having to juggle numerous clients and get their comments together in time for close of play can be a nightmare.
This move to 12.30pm should be a huge relief for both PR’s and business journalists in the region – giving more time to source good quotes, case studies and reactions.
The only thing left to find out is are the reactions from businesses in the region going to be good or bad?
With previous threats of ‘painful cuts’ from the new coalition government , and George Osborne set to announce additional public spending cuts or tax increases of £34bn a year, I have a feeling it might be the latter.