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Preview: Barnett on PR

Barnett on PR



Occasional insights on public relations and marketing communications - and how to make them more effective - from a 35-plus-year PR/Marcom pro and owner of Barnett Marketing Communications (http://www.barnettmarcom.com).



Updated: 2015-12-01T11:21:44.504-07:00

 



PR News and the History of Modern, Professional Public Relations

2014-11-04T03:29:41.725-07:00

Introduction: As a PR News Editorial Advisory Board Member, I was recently asked to write a brief testimonial on what PR News means to me as a long-time professional in the PR field.  The following is what I wrote to them, reflecting not only on PR News but on the upcoming Centennial of the professional practice of media public relations in America.***I find PR News to be an excellent source of relevant, useful and actionable information on the fast-trending state of the art in professional public and media relations.  Social networking, the Internet and other transformative changes have altered the face of PR beyond the easy recognition of my PR professors from 40 years ago.  As I strive to remain both current and relevant in this “brave new world” of 21st Century public relations, I find my weekly “fix” of PR News is an invaluable resource for me.It is often hard to remember that PR – often joked about as being “the second oldest profession" – actually had its modern birth during the First World War, when several pioneers helped the Wilson Administration prepare a peace-loving and isolationist nation that had not been directly attacked for its role in saving democracy in what was then the “civilized world.”  A quarter-century later, our profession took several great leaps forward as masters of PR – including Churchill, Goebbels, Stalin and FDR – all used the fast-evolving tools of public and media relations, as defined by and constrained by their own totalitarian or democratic nations – to bend reality to suit their needs, to motivate their nations to aggression or defense.  This battle for the hearts and minds of the world continued for another 45 years until the end of the Cold War.  Perhaps not so ironically, this Cold War was brought to a successful conclusion in no small part by the “Great Communicator” and master of mass communications public relations, President Reagan, who used PR techniques to push the Soviet Union into a "coffin corner" from which it could not emerge.Along the way, in the civilian and business world, public relations morphed from a radical new (and to some, suspect) adjunct to more conventional business communications into a C-level profession.  There, modern PR pros have helped to guide corporations and non-profits as they shaped their own realities, trying to put a credible “best foot forward” in pursuit of their legitimate business or charitable goals.  And the people who handled PR for clients and employers also morphed, from ex-journalists looking for better pay (if not a more exciting life) into well-trained PR professionals who sought ways of learning, exercising and demonstrating their professionalism.And it was into this world that PR News was born and came to its own level of maturity, as the preeminent trade newspaper and journal of those in the public relations profession who took their profession seriously.  This essential source of news and information has helped to guide a generation of PR pros through the most tumultuous transformation of their profession since Ivy Lee and Edward Bernays pioneered the practice of professional public relations a century ago.  At no time since the era when those founders shaped the practice, ethics and professionalism of modern PR has our profession or trade changed so dramatically.  From the manual typewriter and the hand-delivered (or mailed) press release to digital press release placement services, from the hot-lead Linotype to the hot-electron E-zine, my generation of PR pros has weathered a great many changes.  Much of my own success in making this transition is due to the writers, editors and publishers of PR News, who each week keep me updated with insights on trends – and help me discern the difference between real transformation and hit-and-run fads that will disappear as quickly as they arrived.This testimonial is a bit longer than I’d planned, but the more I thought about what PR News means to me, the more I realized that I had to put it [...]



Pitching the media in the electronic age

2010-04-10T19:46:28.377-07:00

Ned Barnett© 2010IntroductionAs a senior PR exec for one of the most dynamic high-tech PR agencies on the Left Coast, I spend a great deal of time educating clients (and often, their clients) on what PR really is and how to go about getting press coverage. I’d like to distill those ideas – honed over a professional PR career of 38 years – and present them to you in a fashion you can quickly and easily use. I’m going to start by answering a few of the more commonly asked questions (or more likely, those important questions non-PR professionals are afraid to ask – but should). Then I’m going to offer you a crash course in the very essential basics in pitching and submitting a business news story.But before you do anything, go look at – and really read – a business newspaper or magazine in which you’d like to have your company written about. Read – really read – the news items, articles and features. Then take a step back, away from self-interest, from ego and from your normally unshakable faith in your company – and ask yourself this:“If my news item, article or feature idea was about any other company (a competitor or some company completely out of your market space), would it be newsworthy enough, or compelling enough to be published in my target newspaper or magazine?”If the answer is honesty “yes” – great – you’re on your way to success. If the answer is honestly “no” – that’s great, too. Because you’ve not only passed the honesty test (essential for those who do their own PR), but because you’ve begun to see what “real” news is – and with that understanding, you’re ready to seek it out in your own company.Preparing the “Perfect” PitchOK – you’ve found the story. You’ve lined up a positive quote from one of your own clients – and maybe (if you’re playing in the big leagues) a favorable comment from a professional business analyst. You have the facts, the figures and the human interest that transforms facts into stories and news. Now what?Now you go down this five-item checklist and prepare yourself for success.a. "Perfect pitch" - the note you need to strike in the pitchWhen you pitch a story, you’re selling an idea – an idea about you and your company. You’re selling it to a jaded individual who’s been there and seen that – but you’re also selling it to an individual who NEEDS story ideas and leads. Not yours – he or she is flooded with leads and ideas – but still, the self-interested reporter or editor is always looking for the next good story. Your job is to tell that story briefly and compellingly – just as if you were trying to hook a prospect during a 30-second elevator ride. To do that, you need a “perfect pitch” – a brief, compelling and well-told story that will link your publicity needs with the reporter’s rational self-interest. If you sell or have sold, if you know how to quickly grab the interest of a prospect, you already have the basic skills of pitching. Now, put your real news into a context the reporter will quickly grasp and you’re ready to go.b. Shotgun vs. Deer rifle - focusing in on the right mediaYou may not be a hunter (I’m not). You may not have ever even held a firearm. But you know – thanks to the media – the difference between a shotgun and a deer rifle. One, the deer rifle, sends a carefully-aimed shot for a long distance – if your aim is true, you hit your target. The other, useful at short range, sends a large number of shot – like a handful of gravel – out at a target. Because of the number of shot, if the range is close and the aim is reasonably accurate (not precise – why bother) you’re bound to hit something. Both approaches have impact – but which is right for your story?Shotgun releases – those sent out over Businesswire or PRNewswire (http://www.businesswire.com and http://www.prnewswire.com ) – reach thousands of reporters and wind up on thousands of online databases where they can be found. To work with a sho[...]



It's a Numbers Game (and what a game!)

2010-03-30T16:59:10.954-07:00

The factoids in that YouTube video (see link below), which were presented to the Board of Sony in 2008, include:

To be 1 in a million in China means there are 1,300 people in China just like you.

China is the #1 English-speaking country in the world

Top 25% (by IQ) in India is a group larger than the entire US population

There are more honors kids in India than kids in US

The top-10 in-demand jobs today did not exist in 2004

We are currently preparing students for jobs that do not yet exist, using technology that has not yet been invented in order to solve problems that (today) we don’t even know are problems

Today’s students will have 10 to 14 jobs by age 38

1 in 4 employees today have been with their employer less than a year – half have been with their employer less than 5 years

1 in 8 US couples who were married in 2008 met online

There were (in 2008) 200 million users on MySpace

If MySpace was a country, it would be the world’s 5th largest (between Indonesia and Brazil)

#1 Broadband-use (per capita) country in world is Bermuda – US is #19 and Japan is #22

In 2008, there were 31 billion searches on Google every month – in 2006, that number was 2.7 billion (where did people go before Google to find information?)

First text message was sent in 1992 – in 2008, on every day in 2008, there were more text messages sent than there are people alive on earth (roughly 6 billion)

Technology is penetrating the population at a greater rate than ever before. To reach 50 million in a market audience:

Radio took 38 years
TV took 13 years
Internet took 04 years
iPod took 03 years
Facebook took 02 years

In 1984 there were 1 thousand Internet devices
In 1992 there were 1 million Internet devices
In 2008, there were 1 billion internet devices

Today there are 540,000 words in the English language
In Shakespeare’s time, there were just 100,000 words in English

One week’s worth of the New York Times contains more information than an 18th Century human would encounter in his entire life

4 extabytes of unique information (that’s 4x1019th) will be generated this year. That is more than all the unique bytes of information generated in the previous 5,000 years.

New technology information is doubling every 2 years – so for Tech students, half of what they learn in year-one will be outdated by year-three

NTT Japan has developed a new fiber optic cable that can push 14 Trillion bits/second – that’s 2,660 CDs or 210 million phone calls/second

This cable capacity is tripling every six months and will do so for the next 20 years

By 2013, a supercomputer will be built that will have more computational ability than the human brain.

By 2049, a single computer selling for about $1,000 will exceed the current combined computational ability of the entire human species (about 6 billion brains)

Every five minutes in 2008:

67 US babies are born
274 Chinese babies are born
395 Indian babies are born
694,000 songs are illegally downloaded

As fascinating as these facts are, they are two years out of date, and about as relevant as the newspaper headlines in Milwaukee on January 24, 1922. Still, they indicate the direction we’re all going.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cL9Wu2kWwSY



Bad Product Review - RushPRNews

2009-11-18T11:02:22.296-07:00

Ned Barnett - (c) 2009 I placed a release last night with RushPRNews, hoping to find a lower-cost way of getting IR-related news out (in compliance with SEC regs). My results were so disappointing that I had to re-release it on BusinessWire (which got immediate results).Concerned that I wasn’t seeing the release anywhere (neither was my client) I spoke to their head honcho, Anne Howard, and found out this:A posting on RushPRNews’ website (http://www.rushprnews.com), because it gets searched (if you do a Google News search), counts. Ditto for Yahoo News, MSN News, etc. In short, it’s not republished on their site – but if you go to Google search (or Yahoo search, or MSN search), you’ll find it. That is considered "placement" on MSN News, Yahoo! News and other sites.If you read the fine print - and do so while already understanding what they’re really saying - then you’ll see that this is all they’re promising:“Online Publishing: Google News, MSN News, Yahoo! News, Twitter, Technoratti, Zimbio, RPRN Front Page, RPRN Media Network, & more”However, if you don’t have that going-in understanding, you might be justified in thinking (or assuming - always dangerous) that your release would be republished on MSN and Yahoo the way it is when BizWire or PRNewswire releases it. Having seen how little is actually covered by this release (online), I don’t know if this RushPRNews placement qualifies for SEC RegFD compliance, but I kind of doubt it.If you look at their name, RushPRNews, you might be forgiven for thinking that this service is fast – you know, as in “Rush.” In that, you’d be mistaken. Again, if you read the fine print carefully, you’ll see that they allow themselves 24 hours to place your release (I bought a statewide distribution in Florida, as well as the Basic package of online publishing) – and they take this seriously. I assumed (again) that this is just to protect them against a tech-glitch, but again I was wrong. In this day of instant Internet and email distribution, I’m not sure why they take 24 hours, but they do. So I kissed $80 down the drain, and the results are so bad that I’m not going to bill my client. I’m eating that $80. Fortunately, I just won MegaBucks, so I can afford to piss away $80. If you can afford to piss away money on press coverage, be sure to check out RushPRNews. Ask for Anne Howard, and be sure to tell her that a satisfied one-time-only client sent you.Notice: No animals were injured during the placing of this client press release. Which is more than I can say for my bank account.Barnett and Toor on PR consists of a series of articles and insights by two senior PR professionals - Ned Barnett of Barnett Marketing Communications and Daryl Toor, CEO of Attention Group.[...]



A PR Challenge of Historical Proportions - Rehabilitating General-and-President Grant's Image

2009-07-31T13:57:50.820-07:00

By Ned Barnett (C) 2009Recently, I got into two unconnected discussions about Ulysses S. Grant, the first Lieutenant General in the US Army after George Washington, and the 18th President of the United States - and I've concluded that Grant has an image problem - a PR challenge for the ages. First, I'll give a lot of background (if you don't have the background, you won't be able to think about solutions), then I'll ask you to consider how Grant's image could be rehabilitated through PR.***As a General, many 20th and 21st century historians consider Grant a "butcher" for the way he won the Civil War, though the facts don't bear this out. As a President, Grant has often been considered both ineffectual as a leader and an amiable dupe of a group of corrupt men who stole the country blind while Grant presided in serene ignorance of their perfidy. Again, however, the facts don't bear this out.Both of these charges were, in my opinion, politically motivated during Grant's lifetime for short-term political advantage by those who would attack his presidency, or by Confederates "smarting" over the way this uncouth commoner could have consistently whipped that epitome of the aristocratic Southern Gentleman, Robert E. Lee. More later on how and why latter-day historians came to the same unsubstantiated conclusions.In the bloodiest war in US history, General Grant was remarkably economical of his soldiers' lives, and he felt their loss keenly (he was also "economical" of his enemies' lives - eager to end the war before more Americans from either side had to die). Grant fought but one battle where loss of life was excessive and preventable, and he never forgot that horror - or those bitter lessons - of Cold Harbor. Still, fewer soldiers died at Cold Harbor than died in Lee's last throw of the dice at Gettysburg (Pickett's Charge) or at Lee's own successful charge on Malvern Hill during the Peninsula (Seven Days) campaign. And of course, Lee presided over Antietam (or, to the South, the battle of Sharpsburg) - the bloodiest one day in American History. Both of these great men felt their losses deeply, but in the cauldron of war, it was inevitable that each would have made mistakes that cost mens' lives. It is instructive that while Lee had relatively few of those awful days - Grant had only one day of disastrous casualties. Yet it is Lee who is remembered for the care in which he husbanded his troops - perhaps because he was more public with his feelings - while the more stoic but no less feeling Grant is unjustly smeared with the title "Butcher."Lincoln, who deeply felt each American death (North and South), respected Grant as he respected no other man - and Lincoln was personally unable to support any man who was a "butcher." Once, when Grant's opponents in the war department snivelingly came to Lincoln claiming that Grant was a drunk (a calumny based on a bout of depression Grant experienced in the mid-1850s while he was in California in Army service, forced to be separated for years from his wife and children), Lincoln said, in effect, "What brand does he drink? I want to send a case to every one of my Generals." While Grant was leading the Union Army during the last two years of the war, Lincoln was - along with Grant's home-town Congressman and friend, Elihu Washburn - Grant's strongest advocate. Lincoln was shrewd judge of character - he defended those, like Grant, who had the highest personal integrity, coupled with military effectiveness. And that support from Lincoln says more than anything else about Grant the man, and about Grant the General.As a peacemaker, there was no-one more generous than Grant. For example, when Lee surrendered, Grant immediately ordered that Lee's men be fed from the Union's own stock of rations (not the typical action of a bloodthirsty conqueror). Further, out of respect, he ordered that Confederate officers - rather than going to prison for treason and rebellion - could keep their s[...]



What if you gave a Revolution and Nobody Came? ... Social Networking Revolution (that Nobody Noticed)

2008-12-30T13:47:22.995-07:00

By Ned Barnett, APRBarnett Marketing Communicationsned@barnettmarcom.comThere's been a revolution going on in social media - right under our very eyes - but to see it, you have to go to www.compete.com and plug in “myspace.com” and “facebook.com” - then hit the button for analytics. Then choose the Unique Visitors under the Visitors tab (http://siteanalytics.compete.com/myspace.com+facebook.com/?metric=uv) and Average Stay (monthly) under the Engagement tab (http://siteanalytics.compete.com/myspace.com+facebook.com/?metric=uv). You’ll see the charts that this blog is based on.Why should you do this? It’s simple. There has been a dramatic – almost cosmic – shift in market share and online activity between these two leading social media sites – the most dramatic part of this trend occurred over the summer (I began tracking this in September, but wanted to wait until now to see if it held up).The market leader in unique visitors remains MySpace – but they have lost 14.4 percent of their unique visitors compared to same month last year; at the same time, Facebook gained on them to the tune of 69.5 percent growth. At the start of the 12-month period ending in November, MySpace fell from around 66 million unique visitors to around 56.5 million UVs (that’s the 14,4 percent loss), while Facebook grow from just shy of 30 million UVs up to 49.5 million UVs (that’s the 69.5 percent growth).However, as impressive as that is, I don’t think it’s the biggest news here. For that, look at the second chart. While Facebook went up in average length of stay by 12.5 percent over the past 12 months, MySpace nose-dived – their average length of stay fell 59 percent – almost all of it in the summer months (from June to August). I thought MySpace might have rebounded after the summer ended, but after the school year started up in September, the MySpace length-of-stay flatlined. At the start of the year (November 07) the average visit to MySpace ran for a fraction under 25 minutes per session; in November ’08, it was down to 9:59 minutes. That’s HUGE. Facebook started the year at about 14:45 and ended the year at 15:56 – a small growth, but dramatic when compared to its leading competitor.What does this mean? To me, it says two things about MySpace, neither one of which is likely to make Rupert Murdoch happy. But it then says one more thing, not quite so obvious, that’s even worse news.First, and obviously, fewer people are using MySpace – never a good thing, but when you’ve still got 56.5 million unique visitors per month, it’s not the end of the world. HOWEVER, their average length-of-stay at MySpace has crashed, and not recovered. The worse news – by far – is what the reduction in length of stay means. In two months, a huge number of people spontaneously switched their social networking allegiance from MySpace to somewhere else. Not Facebook – it didn’t spike upwards as MySpace fell – but somewhere. Digging deeper, I believe this means that people who once “lived” on MySpace – who did the bulk of their social networking there – are now just dropping in to check their mail, before going somewhere else to network. Literally overnight, MySpace went from being the predominant social media site to a legacy site – like an old land-line phone that you keep in service, just to check for occasional messages, while you do all your phoning on your new I-Phone or Blackberry Flip. In two months, MySpace went from where it’s happening to has-been. Obviously, the folks who own and run MySpace know this has happened. But just as obviously, they haven’t figured out how to reverse the trend. Three months after bottoming out, MySpace is still flat-lined at under 10 minutes per visit. In short, a revolution has taken place. The King is dead (but doesn’t appear to know that yet). Who will be crowned the next king? Maybe Facebook, but p[...]



Becoming an Expert Witness

2008-10-22T13:24:01.125-07:00

Ned Barnett (C) 2008


Note: In another format, this blog column was originally written to a colleague - a crisis management expert - who asked how to become an "expert witness" in courtroom settings. I answered his question, but also expanded that to look (briefly) at how to become an expert on cable news programs and networks.

***

I've been an expert witness in two cases - one about 'fair compensation' for a PR agency in Nevada whose former client wanted to stiff, and one on a liquor-company billboard ad campaign in Ohio (the issue: were the ads targeting minors?). In the first case, I got in because I knew the attorney for one side of the dispute, and offered my services. In the other, I heard about this through my "network" and contacted the folks who were trying to find expert witnesses for the case.

If you want to do this - and if you've got the qualifications, you should, as it's both fun and lucrative - I suggest pursuing several avenues:

1. Find companies facing the kind of crisis that touches your areas of expertise - contact their in-house legal team and offer your services. Then, ask them who's their lead hired-gun outside counsel, and pitch them, too. Don't wait for the lawsuit to hit - if there's a crisis, you know (and they know) that the suits are coming. Act fast and get in on the ground floor.

2. Do the same for companies which, by their very nature, are likely to be caught up in litigation crises - get their in-house legal departments to put you on their expert-witness rolodex.

3. Find companies that provide outside expert witnesses to attorneys (they're out there - just google them) and get on their rolodexes, too.

4. Write "expert witness" columns for legal publications, including online legal publications that are frequently hungry for new ideas and outside opinions (i.e., they need content).

In general, selecting expert witnesses is done on a case-by-case basis, so work it that way - but it doesn't hurt to be on their rolodex in advance.

Another thing you can try:

Pitch the cable news networks - you can become an "expert witness" for them as they cover crises. Go after the show producers, and let them known your areas of expertise - then get on their rolodexes. But don't trust only that - when you find an issue where you could add value, pitch them again (people change jobs, they forget their rolodexes, etc.) - in other words, lay the groundwork then position yourself as top-of-mind for when they need you. At first, you'll be doing this for promotion value alone - but if you become an insider, you'll be put under contract and paid for what you do.

There's a book by a retired USAF General who gives some inside insights into this process: Perry M. Smith, USAF (Retired) - "How CNN Fought the War: A View from the Inside." Perry was one of CNN's hired-gun experts during the first Gulf War, and his book provides a fascinating inside look at the way that the cable news business works. He's very candid about his contrats, his compensation, how he worked (how they worked him), etc. Strongly recommended. Amazon has copies from $70 (collectors copy) to $0.01.




China's Olympic PR Meltdown (and What They Could Do About It)

2008-04-08T15:50:28.384-07:00

By Ned Barnett (c) 2008 IntroductionChina - more specifically the PRC - has to date implemented an incredibly flawed PR campaign. At fault are the PRC government, it’s “Olympic committee,” and whatever PR consultants have advised the country on how to turn opinion in the West. This has led the PRC to conduct such a remarkably inept PR campaign against those who support Tibet and in favor of those (primarily the PRC) who want the Olympics to proceed as business-as-usual. Bottom line: when it comes to Western-style Public Relations, the People’s Republic of China has stumbled badly while handling the ongoing Tibet/Torch PR crisis, and things will only get worse as the Olympics gets closer.In response to several requests for me to address this issue (since I did a bit of consulting with the PRC more than a decade ago, and since I often deal with crisis-management PR), I put together an in-depth analysis of what China is doing wrong with their counter-productive PR efforts related to Tibet/Torch and Tibet/Olympics. There are several business interests - as well as the more obvious political and PR issues - at stake: 1. China’s own hopes that the Olympics will build new and long-term business relationships with the West 2. China’s need to turn a profit on the Olympics itself 3. Many corporations which sponsor the Olympics must be ready to shoot themselves over China’s ongoing inept handling of world outrage over Tibet – an outrage that will only get worse as it comes out that: a. China is expelling Christian missionaries as a conscious effort (Operation Typhoon Five) to avoid problems at the Olympics – this could become a media firestorm if the right “face” can be put on a missionary who’s been expelled b. China is unable to clean up the air in Beijing (which has caused some long-distance runners to already drop out) c. Far from “Choice,” China continues to mandate forced abortions for women whose “crime” is to have already had another child – even if that child subsequently died – and this policy extends to partial birth abortions – while many women advocate for personal choice in abortion issues, few if any in the West will look favorably at forced/mandated abortions – and this could become another media firestorm d. China remains unable to provide western-style hospitality for its Olympic visitors (including the media) – at issue are such basics as clean air, clean water and healthy food, as well as expected amenities such as a robust tourism infrastructure on a Western scale and to Western standards … hotels, taxis, public transit, etc. Because they are the world’s 800-pound gorilla, China is used to being treated deferentially by the media and world leaders, and isn’t ready for widespread condemnation by liberal activists and the liberal media who’ve often been the PRC’s champions. Today, China wants to play on the world stage - and because they're China, they expect the world to play by their rules. But when it comes to human rights, the world is unwilling to do that.At least since Nixon and Kissenger opened up China nearly 40 years ago, the PRC's leaders have never been forced to play by the Western media's rules - rules that leaders in Western Democracies know by heart. For that reason, leaders in the PRC are essentially tone-deaf when it comes to Western-style PR. There is no longer a reliably sympathetic leftist media-and-activist chorus to praise their every statement. Even worse - at least from the Chinese leaders' point of view, that praising “Greek chorus” of international liberal activists who were, for so long, the PRC’s faithful advocates are now on a "Free Tibet" jag, which puts them at cross-purposes to the PRC's leadership. With no friends and no clues on how to manage the Western medi[...]



In Defense of the First Amendment (and reluctantly, Spam)

2008-04-01T11:48:01.215-07:00

By Ned Barnett (c) 2008 This is a bit of a diversion from the run-of-the-mill post here, but it does tie PR and Politics together. Since you asked, here, in a nutshell, are my views on Free Speech (commercial, personal and political) – please recall that these are linked to the US Constitution’s First Amendment, and may not apply directly to Canada and other democracies who handle Free Speech in different (but essentially similarly effective) manners. The First Amendment was written with an eye toward free political speech – it was written in reaction to the excesses of Good King George, who’d punished colonists for speaking out against their king (I think that’s called “Lese Majesty”). The former colonists wanted the freedom to express controversial and even confrontational political ideas without prior suppression. Which is why in one of its first actions, the Supreme Court struck down the Alien and Sedition act in about 1790 – and well they should have. This is also why the Supremes were right to side with the ACLU and the American Nazi Party in the mid-Sixties when the Nazis wanted to march in predominantly-Jewish Skokie (I lived near Skokie at that time in another predominantly Jewish suburb of Chicago – my father’s office was there – and I saw the chaos it created … nonetheless, that march was classic controversial political speech). This is also why the Supremes were WRONG (IMO) in upholding the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act, which limits privately-financed political speech (ads) close to election times – while permitting 527 groups, wealthy candidates and the media (on their editorial pages) to engage in financed political speech (ads and ad-like op-eds) close to an election. The First Amendment, because of the way it was written, has been applied to commercial free speech (which I don’t think the Founding Fathers meant, but which works) and offensive/pornographic free speech (which I am CERTAIN the Founding Fathers did not mean and would not have agreed with – they wrote and spoke on limits to free speech, and pornography is certainly “speech” they would have objected to). But to the area of commercial free speech, in 220 or so years, the Supremes have extended the First Amendment to commercial speech, with a few caveats (such as “truth in advertising”). And as PR people, we depend on that freedom. Let me repeat that: As PR people, we depend on that freedom. We exist to practice commercial speech on behalf of our clients (unless, of course, our clients are political candidates or issues-advocacy group, in which case our efforts are protected by the “original intent” of the Founding Fathers). Which means that bans or harsh limitations on annoying spam-faxes or annoying spam-emails are in fact bans or harsh limitations on our ability to function in a free society on behalf of our clients. For there is no practical way that I can think of to ban “enlarge your penis” types of spam without also banning legitimate email pitches to reporters and editors. Both are unsolicited. Both are essentially commercial. And, for editors, both are inbox-cloggers (I spoke to the editor of one of the Las Vegas business weekly newspapers in February – he told me he gets 300 or so unsolicited email pitches each day – he said that to emphasize the importance of picking up the phone and calling him, especially when the story was breaking near his deadline). Communications technology – if we’re to do our jobs for our clients – must remain free and essentially unregulated, unless the regulations are very tightly drawn (such as bans on emails soliciting sexual encounters – though this might also ban legitimate dating services, such as eHarmony – as I said, these regs must be very carefully drawn. I am always amazed at those [...]



Preparing the Perfect PR Pitch

2008-01-18T15:45:39.063-07:00

Ned Barnett, APR - Copyright 2008 OK — you’ve found the story. You’ve lined up a positive quote from within your company — and maybe (if you’re playing in the big leagues) a favorable comment from a professional business analyst. You have the facts, the figures, and the human interest that transforms facts into stories and news. Now what? Now you go down this four-item checklist and prepare yourself for success. 1. Perfect PR pitch - the note you need to strike in the pitch When you pitch a story, you’re selling an idea — an idea about you and your company. You’re selling it to a jaded individual who’s been there and seen that — but you’re also selling it to an individual who NEEDS story ideas and leads. Not yours — he or she is flooded with leads and ideas — but still, the self-interested reporter or editor is always looking for the next good story. Your job is to tell that story briefly and compellingly — just as if you were trying to hook a prospect during a 30-second elevator ride. To do that, you need a “perfect PR pitch” — a brief, compelling and well-told story that will link your publicity needs with the reporter’s rational self-interest. If you sell or have sold, if you know how to quickly grab the interest of a prospect, you already have the basic skills of pitching. 2. Shotgun vs. Deer rifle - focusing in on the right media You may not be a hunter (I’m not). You may not have ever even held a firearm. But you know — thanks to the media — the difference between a shotgun and a deer rifle. One, the deer rifle, sends a carefully-aimed shot for a long distance — if your aim is true, you hit your target. The other, useful at short range, sends a large number of shots — like a handful of gravel — out at a target. Because of the number of shots, if the range is close and the aim is reasonably accurate (not precise — why bother) you’re bound to hit something. Both approaches have impact — but which is right for your story? Shotgun press releases — those sent out over eReleases.com reach plenty of reporters and wind up on thousands of online databases where they can be found. To work with a shotgun approach, the news should be either really compelling (you’ve just bought out Microsoft) or so un-compelling that it makes more sense to cast your bread on the waters in hopes that somebody, somewhere will take a bite. Deer rifle press releases are distributed (or rather, the pitches are made) to very select news media — and generally to specific reporters at those newspapers and magazines. You choose the targets after reading the publications — and the stories your target has written (a quick Web-search on Yahoo! or Google should help you find online copies of those stories — if not, a trip to the library will pay hefty dividends). Deer rifle stories are generally important stories, but stories that require a special familiarity with your product line and market space. This is where the industry targeting offered byeReleases.com comes into play. One is right for you — but it may be a different one at different times. For a really big stories, both approaches may be right — five to ten targeted media followed by a shotgun-blast press release using eReleases.com. 3. Phone vs. e-mail (or even antediluvian fax?) Recent studies show that as many as 80% of reporters in a given (high-tech) market space prefer to receive a PR pitch via e-mail. This is a major change from past procedures, and even from preferences of just a few years ago (when many reporters were gun-shy of e-mail). Of the remainder, fax is preferred to a phone pitch by two-to-one. Since you’re not likely to know the reporter and know his/her preference, go with the default setting and send the pitch by e-mail (NOT as an attachment — those get de[...]



Public Relations and Lead Generation

2007-11-30T16:04:24.892-07:00

Public Relations and Lead Generation
By Ned Barnett and Daryl Toor (c) 2007-2008

Public relations can and should be part of an effective lead-generation business-building program that brings qualified potential clients into a company’s sphere of influence – leading, ultimately, to direct negotiations and closed business deals. PR cannot close – but, with proper handling, PR can lay the groundwork for effective closing of important business contracts and sales.

The biggest mistake most companies (and most PR professionals) make when it comes to using PR as a Lead-Gen tool is that they see getting great press coverage as the final step in the process. In fact, it is very nearly the first step. It’s what you do with a clip – to effectively and comprehensively leverage its impact AFTER you get it – that counts. Here are some things that can and should be done to maximize the impact of each PR success:

1. Put each favorable clip – as soon as it comes out – on your website press room.

  • a. Do NOT link to them – the media often “retires” articles after a period of time, whereas their use to you is timeless.
  • b. Best bet: use a screen-capture.
  • c. Second-best: post with a the media’s logo graphic to show where it came from.

2. Send out each clip, via email (with an appropriate cover note and a link back to your website to see the clip), to:

  • a. All of your clients, for referral-development purposes.
  • b. To all of your referral sources and “influencers.”
  • c. To all of your hot prospects.
  • d. To all of your longer-term prospects.
  • e. Through your PR firm or inside counsel, to media (reporters, editors, producers, bookers) who cover you or your market space – with an appropriate note that makes the clip a validater, rather than something that has “used up” the media’s interest.

3. Surface (or Fed-X) copies to priority internal (sales) and external (prospects, clients who need reinforcement or who could become referral sources)

  • a. Send them hard-copy clips (reprints, available from most media outlets, usually at reasonable prices) along with appropriate, personal (and personally-signed) letters
  • b. Or, less formally, with post-it notes and brief hand-written messages attached to the clips.

4. Put the clips in the sales kit.

  • a. If the kit is electronic, provide a link to the clips.
  • b. If the kit is printed, include a reprint of the clips with other sales-promotion and sales-support materials.

5. Quote from the clips in future sales tools and press releases.

6. Once sufficient clips are in hand, create a sales tool (a brochure, for instance, or a web page) that is little more than a string of linked-together quotes from clips, all singing your praises.

There are other, specific uses that can be made of effective PR clips in specific instances – for instance, trade shows permit clips to be turned into creative hand-outs (printed on coffee mugs, for instance, or in some other way made permanent). These solutions here are “generic” and universal in their application – anybody can (and everybody should) use them.



PR Media Relations Basics for Clients

2007-07-16T14:45:17.191-07:00

By Ned Barnett, APR The following listing of media relations basics for client firms; it is based on three-plus decades of working in PR, seeing what reliably succeeds for clients and seeing what essentially works one-time-only (based on distinctive or unique circumstances). To put this list of basics in perspective, I have presented the information as advice to a just-past-startup manufacturing client which has developed a brand-new “alternative” product. This client functions as a wholesaler, selling through retail distributors, with consumers as the end-users. If your business model is different, some of these recommendations will have to be adapted – but most apply across a wide range of business modes. After all, the essential nature of “basics” is that they apply reliably to a wide variety of clients and business circumstances.1. Although many decry the needs for press releases in this digital age, you need a core press release announcing and positioning your business to the media and the marketplace. This is important, though not always for the same reasons as those that once justified press releases. This “core” launch release should tell your story to the media briefly, succinctly and effectively. However, a launch press release isn’t enough – the initial release package needs to include two different elements:o Your launch release should be provided in digital format (and never in PDF – it is helpful to allow reporters and editors to cut-and-paste it – and this applies not just to the initial press release, but to ALL PR-provided materials). o Though it may sound odd, reporters are almost allergic to the idea of retyping anything – but if you give it to them in digital format, that will make getting coverage in print more likely. o With this initial release, you'll also want to include high-rez digital photos of the product, the product installed, the company logo and its founder/inventor.  Rather than attach a photo (if the release is emailed to the media), include a link to those high-rez photos available for media download.  In addition, include a concise and accurate photo caption and (if appropriate) a further link to permission-to-use statements signed by those in the photos.  This gives reporters and editors all the tools they need in order to use these photos.o Your media contact’s email address – not just the phone number – should be included on all releases and correspondence. So much of media work is done via email now that this is essential.2. To go with impressive and effective launch (or other) press releases, you need to have an equally impressive online press room. A good sample of an effective online press room can be found on the site of a former client of mine (this press room is effective, content-wise – I won't speak to design as that was beyond my ability to influence). This website can be seen at http://www.avalara.com/index.cfm/page/press_room. In addition, for an important feature often overlooked in online press rooms, check this out at http://www.avalara.com/index.cfm/page/In_the_News. What you need here for your own online press room includes:o All of your press releases (in reverse chronological order – most recent at the top).o The media is a "follow-the-leader" pack animal, and will be impressed by previous press coverage – having achieved solid coverage from other sources at other times makes the media more trusting of you, and more likely to also want to cover you. Therefore, be sure to include:o All of your favorable press clips (again in reverse chronological order). A strong hint here: do not assume that press coverage will stay online at the media’s website – create a "screen capture" of the article on your website, so [...]



Are Press Embargoes Dead?

2007-06-04T13:49:00.096-07:00

By Ned Barnett, APRPR/Marketing Fellow, American Hospital AssociationEmbargoes, once a valued tool used by most press relations-oriented PR professionals, are dead. Those who attempt to use them today are asking for trouble – or worse. Some who bemoan the demise of embargoes blame bloggers, but the real culprits predate the bloggers and strike at the heart of the 24/7 Internet-fueled endless news cycle.Embargoes were long used by PR professionals who sought to “prime the pump” on coverage by giving selected reporters advance word on a news announcement – with the agreement that the reporters wouldn’t publish until after the announcement went public. This would help ensure favorable coverage – and would give the reporter time to research and write about the topic. Here’s a classic example of how they once worked – several years ago, I pitched an embargoed story to a reporter from the Wall Street Journal. He agreed to respect the embargo – he didn’t leak the story or rush to publish before I made the coordinated, formal announcement – yet he researched the underlying news story and wrote his own take on it, waiting for the ball to go up. As scheduled, we dropped the announcement at midnight on a Tuesday; at 12:01 a.m. that same Tuesday morning, the Wall Street Journal popped their very detailed story online (it also made the morning printed version), making them the clear winners in the sweepstakes to be the first to publish major news. In this example, the embargo worked – I got a reporter interested, and he wrote an excellent article timed to hit the streets only moments after I made my formal announcement. I won – I got the coverage. He won – he got a big jump on all of his competitors at the New York Times and Washington Post.However – although that particular incident happened just a few years ago – it now seems almost like a quaint fable from a more innocent, long-ago time. Today, embargoes are dead – thanks in part to bloggers (who routinely ignore embargoes, making a mockery of this time-honored journalistic convention) – but there are other reasons as well.Embargoes were dead long before bloggers arrived. They were already dying even as the 24/7 cable news cycle was just being born, heralded with the advent of Matt Drudge – along with the less public, and more than a bit grudging, acceptance by major news media that the Internet was a growing source of “news” for a significant market segment, a trend that began more than a decade ago. Embargoes were already dying when “news” in Silicon Valley was measured in nano-second time-frames, and when literally hundreds of millions of dollars in venture capital money and IPO funds rode on who had the best, latest and most dramatic “news” – and when the media competed on the emerging Silicon CEO’s own 24/7 working lifestyle.By the time that “social media” emerged to reshape the post-9/11 Internet, the embargo was already dead … but the “social media” put the final nails into the embargo’s coffin. Angry leakers no longer had to find a sympathetic reporter with his or her own axe to grind – the disaffected employees, stockholders, clients or customers – or underhanded competitors – could just go ahead and post their often-distorted version of the news themselves, usually anonymously, and often with tremendous impact. And they did. And they do. Today’s corporate and organizational media PR professional is no longer looking for ways to schedule the release of news, s/he is struggling to stay ahead of the tidal flow of unauthorized news leaks.When anybody can (and does) post news on places like MySpace, YouTube, or on Internet bulletin boards frequented by angry investors[...]



Diversity in Public Relations - Great Idea or "PC Hell"

2008-04-16T10:32:55.526-07:00

By Ned Barnett (c) 2008 Intro: Recently, we've commemorated the death and birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. - a man who fought for integration and against what we now call "diversity" (but what he might have called segregation). Which is why, I guess, this has come up now. Recently, the topic of "diversity" came up on a PR list - the poster "assumed" that we'd all agree that "diversity" is a good idea, but based on 35 years of color-blind experience in the PR field, I think that "diversity" in public relations staffing is a terrible idea. PR is all about results, and the color, ethnic origin, religion, gender or race of the PR practitioner is absolutely irrelevant. Or so it seems to me. So I wrote to the list the following (which, no surprise, created a fire-storm of opposition from the terminally politically correct, and ultimately got me booted off the list ... ). So put on your asbestos jockey shorts and enjoy a controversy ... ****Basically, I think that "diversity" is a shibboleth - a false idol that distracts us away from what's really important in PR (effective communications); it also has the negative side effect of dividing people when we ought to be pulling them together (it does this by "labeling" people and making those labels more important than the people themselves). Let me give a few examples of where I'm coming from, then get down to the PR issue.I believe in the absolute equality of all people, and think that each person should be judged (as Dr. King said) on the quality of their soul, not the color of their skin (or their gender, or gender-preference, or any other artificial category). I've tried to live my life that way, and I know I've tried to conduct my business that way.Before I get into what that means to PR, let me give you a bit of background which will help to explain why I think "diversity" is a curse for PR, and for all PR practitioners, black and white, male and female.****** When I was in college at the University of Georgia, I was active in the local and state civil rights movement - this at a time when the police felt it necessary to chase civil rights marchers with batons and leashed dogs. One of my proudest moments was my role in helping to desegregate the Methodist Church in Georgia - at that time, there were three "conferences" - North Georgia (white), South Georgia (white) and Georgia (black). And, at that time, the ministers North and South were guaranteed a living wage, housing and insurance benefits, retirement and other bennies - all paid for by the Conference (churches supplemented that base salary, so some ministers made more than others, but all made a living wage, with benefits and housing). However, the (black) Georgia Conference ministers had no such guarantees; as a result, most black Methodist ministers had full-time secular jobs (to support their families), giving their congregations short shrift.This was discrimination, pure and simple. It not only hurt the ministers, it also hurt the black congregations, which needed full-time ministers just as much as did the white congregations (besides the fact that it seemed essentially at odds with the core message of Christianity, which all who were involved professed to believe). After lots and lots of behind-the-scenes negotiations, those of us pushing for equality arranged for the North Georgia Conference to merge with the Georgia Conference - black ministers throughout the state immediately got a living wage, benefits and housing - and they got a paid-up retirement plan retroactive to the day they were ordained. It was a huge triumph for real equality, and I have been proud all my life that I was able to have a hand in it.That early effort taught me that equality - that [...]



Case Study Guidelines - What A Case Study Needs

2006-10-22T21:32:27.576-07:00

Escape from Case Study HellBy Ned Barnett - (c) 2006A colleage wrote the other day asking about how to get out of Case Study Hell - how to please a demanding boss who's more focused on sales than PR. She was asking for suggestions on what ought to be in a case study, as well as how to proceed in developing effective case studies. I offered the following insights, based on some current case studies I'm developing for a project.Interview the clients; get them to offer sizzling quotes they'll stay behind. Write them up not as case studies, per se, but as if they were 450-word sidebar articles in the kinds of publications you're targeting (i.e., in a style where an editor could literally cut-and-paste the whole thing into his rag/mag - not that they would, of course , but along that line). In doing this, make each case study do just one thing (one thing that sales likes). Perhaps find examples of:a. Specific types of clients for specific case studies (i.e., one e-retailer, one heavy equipment manufacturer, one street drug dealer, etc. [ok, I'm kidding about types - but one for each kind of client you have])b. Specific types of benefits or features, with one benefit or feature per case studyc. Specific types of "oh my god, it's better than sliced bread with barbecue or cold beer on a hot day" kinds of quotes from clients, each quote ranting about one specific benefit or featureAnother approach - write them as if the clients wrote them - first-person testimonials (of course, you'd write them).I'm doing this exact thing right now. I'm a partner in a project to produce and sell a Christmas Carol DVD (with companion CD) that features a singing Santa and four terminally-cute elves. What I'm doing is having different people who have different angles write reviews (if they can write - since many of my friends are in PR, they can write); I picked them to represent: 1. A parent of a Santa-believing kid2. Jewish parents (whose kids still like to watch Christmas specials on TV)3. An aunt4. A grandmother of three young'unsEtc.I'm also showing it to some non-writer folks I can write reviews for (I'll interview them, then write the reviews in their "voice" for their attribution) - for instance, the oldest daughter (17) in a family of five girls, including an 8 year old - the family is devout (she's going to a faith-based college when she graduates from HS) and I'm sure will love the DVD because there are four religious songs out of 16 total songs, and because Santa briefly tells the elves the real meaning of Christmas (he also explains what "bells on a bobtail" and "figgy pudding" both mean).Each review will reach a targeted demographic; it will be released only to those media focused on that demographic (seniors, Parents/family, religious, etc.).Anyway, that's how I'm doing it, right now (I just picked up the demo DVDs this afternoon) for a product launch on November 10th - and that's how (based on the limited info you provided) I'd do it.Bottom line - your case studies can support targeted sales without sounding "sales-ey" - and you can do that by focusing them narrowly on specific markets and/or on single benefits. Get your sales-guy CEO to see them as credible sales support tools, either in print (media) or as printed sheets the sales team can use as leave-behinds, etc.Remember, he may not be right, but he's the CEO - and if he's sales oriented, meet that need for him and he'll like what you do.All the best, and good luck!NedBarnett and Toor on PR consists of a series of articles and insights by two senior PR professionals - Ned Barnett of Barnett Marketing Communications and Daryl Toor, CEO of Attention Group.[...]



Off-Shoring? A Dirty Word? You Betcha!

2006-10-22T21:28:04.883-07:00

Off-Shoring - A dirty word?
Ned Barnett (C) 2006

Apparently (and if you ask me, appropriately). This is from Bob
Scott, Editor-in-Chief of Accounting Technology, in his monthly
"Consulting Insights" e-newsletter. It really tells it like it is,
and is useful to all of us who have clients who off-shore client services:

OUTSOURCING IS A FOUR-LETTER WORD?

Properly, the word here should be "Off-shoring," not outsourcing. But
the term outsourcing has been entrenched colloquially as a synonym
for having a help desk overseas. What prompts this thought is the
American Flag placed brightly at the bottom of the home page of Cyma
Systems at www.cyma.com , with a note saying,
"Cyma is proudly developed and supported in the USA." And during tax
season, a couple of tax software vendors were so vehement in noting
they do not send calls to India anymore that they sounded like
reformed drunks promising not to touch another drop. The tax business
is tougher because many technical support calls also involve tax and
business issues. It's hard to put these in the same category as
answering calls about a problem installing a GL system. But the
emotional issues here are not going away. However, the real issue is
the quality of the support. If people get their questions answered
and their problems solved and are treated with respect, do you really
think they will spend a lot of time worrying about where the person
solving them answers the phone?



How Israel COULD HAVE Won the PR War Against Hezbollah in Summer 2006

2006-09-08T12:20:04.713-07:00

How Israel Could Have Won The PR War Against Hezbollah in Summer 2006Ned Barnett (c) 2006Updated from Article Published 7/26/06 in "American Thinker"Author’s note: The war is now over – for the time being – but few optimists expect the cease-fire to hold. The most logical assumption is that the now-emboldened terrorists will strike again, and when they do, it will be vital to Israel to secure world support – and especially US support. The following, originally published on July 26, 2006 (and updated with a few more recent stats) charts one PR path Israel could take to secure that US support.If Israel wants to sustain US support for its efforts to defend its homeland from terrorists (which is what this recent battle in the Middle East was all about), it needs to paint a word-picture that will cut through left/right politics and reach individual Americans. As a public relations professional and military historian, I have a few simple suggestions.Find a spokesman (as Israel did more than a decade ago, with the cultured, American English-inflected Benjamin Netanyahu) who looks as if he could easily be American. In PR, you want your target audience to identify with you – and if you want Americans to identify with you, you must put an “American-looking” face on the story.In framing the debate, use words that do not beat around the bush. For example, these are “vicious terrorists” firing “high-explosive war rockets” into “peaceful, innocent neighborhoods.” Calling them anything but vicious terrorists gives them a measure of credibility they don’t deserve. However, refrain from calling them “Muslim” terrorists, as this reframes the issue – and the issue isn’t that they’re Muslims, but that they’re vicious terrorists who are murdering civilians by raining thousands of deadly war rockets on peaceful neighborhoods.Another example: calling the high-explosive war rockets fired by Hezbollah “Katyusha” rockets hides their real meaning and awful destructive use. Ask yourself: how many Americans really know what Katyusha rockets are? The answer: not many. However, anybody can visualize “high-explosive war rockets,” and only a dullard could fail to grasp the horrific impact of 3,500 such war rockets on a peaceful neighborhood.Put the debate in terms Americans can viscerally understand. Ask them, “How would America react if cross-border terrorists had fired more than 3,500 high-explosive war rockets into Atlanta, or Kansas City?” Make it personal – make it American (we are, if nothing else, a fairly self-centered nation – even while showering the world with unprecedented charity, we still see things through our own perspective, and expect others to do the same).Tell the story as it happened (from Israel’s perspective) – cutting through the media clutter that has so far succeeded in painting Hezbollah as victimized freedom fighters instead of vicious terrorists attacking civilian targets in Israel. Define the terms of the debate, rather than letting others (the New York Times, Time Magazine and MSNBC, among others) define the debate for them. President Reagan was successful in large part because he “went over the heads” of the media and talked directly to the American people. Israel needs to do this as well.Begin reshaping the debate with a statement something like this:“As of August 13th, Hezbollah has fired more than 3,500 high-explosive war rockets at peaceful, innocent civilian neighborhoods in Israel. How would America feel – how would America respond – if cross-border terrorists (hiding among civilians in a neighboring country) had fired[...]



Winning the Public Relations War for Israel - Reprint from "American Thinker"

2006-09-08T12:17:23.456-07:00

Winning the Public Relations War for IsraelJuly 26th, 2006(c) 2006 - Ned BarnettIf Israel wants to sustain US support for its efforts to defend its homeland from terrorists (which is what this current battle in the Middle East is all about), it needs to paint a word-picture that will cut through left/right politics and reach individual Americans. As a public relations professional and military historian, I have a few simple suggestions.Find a spokesman (as Israel did more than a decade ago, with the cultured, American English-inflected Benjamin Netanyahu) who looks as if he could easily be American. In PR, you want your target audience to identify with you – and if you want Americans to identify with you, you must put an “American-looking” face on the story.In framing the debate, use words that do not beat around the bush. For example, these are “vicious terrorists” firing “high-explosive war rockets” into “peaceful, innocent neighborhoods.” Calling them anything but vicious terrorists gives them a measure of credibility they don’t deserve. However, refrain from calling them “Muslim” terrorists, as this reframes the issue – and the issue isn’t that they’re Muslims, but that they’re vicious terrorists who are murdering civilians by raining thousands of deadly war rockets on peaceful neighborhoods. Another example: calling the high-explosive war rockets fired by Hezbollah “Katyusha” rockets hides their real meaning and awful destructive use. Ask yourself: how many Americans really know what Katyusha rockets are? The answer: not many. However, anybody can visualize “high-explosive war rockets,” and only a dullard could fail to grasp the horrific impact of 2,000 such war rockets on a peaceful neighborhood.Put the debate in terms Americans can viscerally understand. Ask them, “How would America react if cross-border terrorists had fired more than 2,000 high-explosive war rockets into Atlanta, or Kansas City?” Make it personal – make it American (we are, if nothing else, a fairly self-centered nation – even while showering the world with unprecedented charity, we still see things through our own perspective, and expect others to do the same).Tell the story as it happened (from Israel’s perspective) – cutting through the media clutter that has so far succeeded in painting Hezbollah as victimized freedom fighters instead of vicious terrorists attacking civilian targets in Israel. Define the terms of the debate, rather than letting others (the New York Times, Time Magazine and MSNBC, among others) define the debate for them. President Reagan was successful in large part because he “went over the heads” of the media and talked directly to the American people. Israel needs to do this as well.Begin reshaping the debate with a statement something like this: “As of July 23rd, Hezbollah has fired more than 2,000 high-explosive war rockets at peaceful, innocent civilian neighborhoods in Israel. How would America feel – how would America respond – if cross-border terrorists (hiding among civilians in a neighboring country) had fired 2,000 high-explosive war rockets into San Diego, or El Paso? How would America react if Atlanta or Kansas City or Denver came under such a sustained, murderous attack? In the face of such horrific provocation – a cycle that was started when Hezbollah terrorists crossed the border and kidnapped two soldiers – would America be exercising near-miraculous self-restraint? Or would America seek out these terrorists – giving them no safe haven – if only to make sure that no m[...]



High-Risk (to the PR Person/Agency) PR

2006-05-15T16:13:01.310-07:00

I recently got a fascinating query from a colleague in the publishing field. She's about to announce - for a publisher - an article soon to be published in a forthcoming scholarly (i.e., peer-reviewed) journal, and she was concerned about how to do it right. This article is going to focus on research that claims that a specific U.S. company - a big one - contributed (apparently as a matter of corporate policy) to poverty in the U.S. I haven't read the article - I frankly can't imagine any company big enough and powerful enough to do that (nor can I imagine why any company would want to - where's the profit in poverty?) - but I took this at face value.My colleage asked about potential issues, concerns and PR opportunities - and I saw a bunch of them, and thought my reply to her might have wider interest. If you - on the agency side or on the client side - ever have to issue a release that names and attacks a corporation, individual or non-profit organization, here are some things to be concerned about (as well as some PR strategies that might work).Issue 1: Freedom of the Press - this applies to publishers (including the publishers of scholarly journals) but not to press releases - and freedom of the press doesn't protect even the dryest scholarly journals from the risk of libel/slander, defamation or injury lawsuits. A major US corporation accused of promoting and causing poverty in the US might sue the PR agency (and win) if the release constitutes (in a judge's eye) slander/libel, defamation - or even if it just hurt their business in any material way. Solution 1: Require the scholarly journal to indemnify their PR agency, completely, from all legal blow-back - and just in case, they ought to indemnify themselves, for the full amount of the cost of a lawsuit AND of the damage award (include punitive damages) that might come from really hurting a major corporation. The agency should get a good attorney to write the agreement - fast - and get the client to sign it before issuing the release.Issue 2: Personal Liability. If the agency is not an incorporated business, don't issue the release until the agency becomes incorporated (not LLC, either - full liability protection) - otherwise, the major US corporation (above) might sue the agency owners personally.NOTE: I did incorporate last year for just exactly this purpose. The potential suit didn't happen (instead, my client decided to stop fighting/suing the other company and form a joint venture, but that's unlikely to happen in this one).Issue 3: Paper Trail: Be VERY CAREFUL when talking to the press, writing pitch e-mails, etc. - if the PR person is quoted, that person (or agency) is toast. If you must pitch via email, at the very least, immediately delete from your hard drive (then do one of those "shred/scrub-with-bleach" kinds of things) all reference to that email, if for no other reason than to make sure your email pitches are not saved (so they can't later be subpoenaed). Do not put the instructions to delete emails in writing, either. You think I'm kidding? How many Enron execs will do time because they were hung by their own emails?Issue 4: Personal Risk Revisited: If the Scholarly Journal won't protect agency, legally (or if they are too small/too broke to really protect you), don't do the release - resign the account if you have to. Solution 4: However, there is a way around this. The scholarly journal can buy an indemnification insurance policy to protect the agency and it's staff (corporately and personally), regardless of their assets. They should buy one f[...]



Advice to an Aspiring PR Intern

2006-03-13T12:35:54.673-07:00

A proud father recently asked me for advice about his son's forthcoming college internship in PR. The advice I gave him might help you as well - whether you want to be an intern, or whether you "manage" an intern.An internship beats a conventional summer job - one summer I interned, and got a lot more out of it (except money) than I did working on a loading dock (which paid better, but all it did was teach me some real-world facts about being a non-union worker in a union shop). Actually, I had two summer internships - the first persuaded me to change my career path (away from something else and into PR - a long story ), the second was doing PR for a small manufacturing company. That latter was very informative and useful.Functions of an Intern:Event management is, of course, important, and can often involve interns - some PR agencies specialize in this, others just handle them on an as-needed basis. In my experience, interns at those shops are the folks who carry the extension cords and make sure the coffee pot is plugged in. Rightly so, they're not given much to do that requires real skill (events like that are high-risk/high-reward events for clients and agencies, and few savvy agencies would trust anything of real importance to Jr. AEs, let alone interns - that's not an insult, just prudence). I used to do a lot of events management, and I started in the mid 70s by being the extension cord/coffee pot guy (for the Governor of S.C.) - I also wrote his speeches and press releases, but when it came events (press conferences), I prudently wasn't trusted with anything of substance.Agency Size:Small shops like mine often do not use interns; but when they do, the interns generally get more useful experience than they do in a big shop. In a big shop, they may never leave the mail room (some big shops are, in fact, very decent with their interns and actually get them doing real work, though most of them are inclined to treat interns the way Southern Planters treated folks with permanent suntans back before Lincoln freed the slaves, if you get my drift).How would you prioritize your company targets for an internship?Excellent question. As an intern, I would NOT go to an agency unless that was the only opportunity available. I would go to a "client-side" employer - probably (and preferably) a smallish non-profit. Non-profits tend to have tighter staffs, and they are also generally (not always) more "caring" - so the interns are likely to be given real work, and maybe even mentored a bit. Back when I was on the non-profit side (as PR Director for a county hospital, etc.) I did use interns, and I gave them real stuff to do and explained to them why. However, when I went to the for-profit side, I didn't have the time for that kind of mentoring - if I needed work done, I hired somebody then expected that somebody to be able to perform without instruction and with minimal guidance - not a good situation for an intern, as those without experience are likely to fail in a situation like that.Philosophically, I don't think there are many folks gifted enough (gifted with insights into human motivations - this isn't about skills, but about orientation and attitude) to move into client service before they've spent a good deal of time (some of it in senior roles) on the client side. How can you meet needs you don't really understand? Before I launched my first agency 21 years ago, I'd worked on the client side for about 13 years - in that time, I'd had half a dozen or so agencies working for/with me, and I knew what I (a[...]



PRSA Drops the PR Ball

2005-11-01T12:49:25.293-07:00

This article was written for, and first appeared in Jonathan Bernstein's excellent crisis manager e-zine newsletter, available at no cost (but worth a lot) from Jonathan by using the "subscribe to" box on the home page of Jonathan's site, http://www.bernsteincrisismanagement.comNow, the article, complete with Jonathan's introduction ...Editor's Note: Ned Barnett is very well known to PR-related listserv members as one of our industry's leading curmudgeons (a category I use to describe myself periodically). After seeing all of the comments about PRSA's conference debacle on my favorite PR listserv, PR Mindshare (hosted on Yahoo), I invited any member to submit an article, and Ned graciously accepted.When it comes to making bad PR moves, few organizations excel quite as blatantly as the Public Relations Society of America. This is exemplified by their remarkably inept handling of the last-minute cancellation of their national convention, thanks to the intrusion of Hurricane Wilma.In handling this eleventh-hour cancellation of their annual PRSA Conference - scheduled for October 22-25 in Miami - PRSA's staffers demonstrated, not for the first time, their apparent inability to practice sound PR principles themselves. You might think that PRSA should know that conference pre-planning must include crises pre-planning - particularly when scheduling a conference for the heart of "hurricane alley." If so, you'd be wrong.When it comes to practicing what PR professionals preach, PRSA's staff are the original "gang who couldn't shoot straight."There is at least one reason for this organization's continual failure to "do" PR, one related to the nature of member associations. From personal experience at one of those associations, I know most "outsiders" assume that staffers are experts in their association's field. When I was at the Tennessee Hospital Association, for instance, members just assumed that our professional staff understood hospitals - in fact, only two of 64 staff members had ever worked in a hospital. I was one of those two, and key execs often hunted me down for a reality-check. They weren't about to say something about hospitals that would make no sense - at least to hospital people.The same situation appears to be true at PRSA - except that, apparently, PRSA didn't seem to have ANY staffers who've ever had a real PR job - or if they do, those individuals are clearly not being consulted.This hurricane snafu is only the latest blunder in a series of ill-considered staff decisions that have cost PRSA dearly. For example, until earlier this year, PRSA hosted an Internet listserv - a highly professional virtual PR discussion group. Then, someone on staff decided that non-members were somehow "stealing" a benefit from PRSA, and with no notice, they abolished this highly-effective list, replacing it with a highly-moderated web-based bulletin board that was purely members-only. Not only did this exclusionary policy destroy something of real value to participants (for the most part, members), but they also closed the door on what should have also been a useful member-recruiting tool.Worst of all was the way they handled it - abruptly, with no advance notice, and with no opportunity for participating members to approve - or disapprove. This so angered the listserv's members that - overnight - several new, independent discussion groups formed, continuing that useful once-PRSA-sponsored forum. There, a regular topic for discussion is PRSA's inept public- and member-relations.Instead of servin[...]



The "Seven Deadly Sins" of Using Pay for Play Public Relations Agencies and Campaigns

2005-08-15T15:09:01.306-07:00

"Pay for Play" - the "commission sales" side of public relations, is condemned as unethical by the prestigious Public Relations Society of America - and for good reasons, not all of them obvious. This brief analysis takes a look at seven of the most common problems/issues tied to Pay for Play.While it is possible for an ethical and upright public relations agency to execute a legitimate Pay for Play campaign for a client without scamming or otherwise taking advantage of the client, the risks of being scammed are significant, and the potential for abuse by the agency is even more significant.Pay for Play is quite frankly seductive to some clients - "we only pay for what we get," they say, thinking that they'll save money (they won't) and - perhaps more important, they won't waste money (which they, in fact, will). Like all "something for nothing" schemes, the risk is in the fine print.Here are just some of the risks:1. Motivation: This is primarily a risk clients assume when dealing with ethical agencies. Because everyone in business is revenue-driven, agencies that take on Pay for Play clients will quickly lose interest if they don't generate immediate results; and in effective public relations, it often takes months of hard work (laying groundwork, building relationships with reporters and editors, creating background PR materials, etc.), none of which is specifically covered in a Pay for Play agreement. At a point in time (generally six weeks, in my experience), the lack of immediate results causes the agency to lose focus and interest. Senior staff members are assigned to "paying clients," where they can generate billable hours, and only the more junior staff keep working on the client - even then, always giving priority to paying clients and billable hours. The end result is an ultimate loss of interest and activity, and a costly (in terms of time and opportunity cost) failure for the client.2. Loyalty: Good PR agencies develop strong bonds with their clients, and are constantly looking out for the clients' best interests. They scour editorial calendars (a time-consuming process), then spend months courting editors, ensuring their clients get covered. They seek out opportunities for product reviews (another very time-consuming process), comparisons, "shoot-outs," etc. - things which, when published, add real benefit to the client - but which are, by their nature, both speculative and time-consuming. The agencies do this because they are constantly looking to serve their clients' best interests, knowing that if they succeed, their clients will remain loyal to them. This is a two-way, long-term commitment based on mutual benefit - something that literally can't exist with a hit-or-miss Pay for Play arrangement.3. Continuity: Public relations is not a "hit-or-miss" activity - most companies, especially start-ups (who seem most attracted to Pay for Play because of budget limitations) need a measured, sustained public relations campaigns. They need to create awareness, generate interest and motivate action - both on the company itself and on their products - and this can not be done on a hit-or-miss basis. This process, from scratch, takes months of consistent, well-funded and highly-focused activity - something that Pay for Play cannot deliver. A company and a product that are both well-known are frankly the best candidates for a successful Pay for Play campaign (because it can build on previous awareness), but they are the least likely to[...]



Barnett's Top Ten Ideas for Transitioning From A Real Job to Gainful Self-Unemployment in PR

2004-12-25T14:44:23.950-07:00

By Ned Barnett (c) 2004 The good thing about starting a small side business is that you can do that and still look for a job - and once you get the job, if you negotiate the terms of your job properly, you can probably still keep working with your clients. I got my first free-lance clients in 1975/76, and kept getting a few clients (with permission) even while working for several employers - and that process continued for a decade, until I started my own first business in '85. When that business didn't quite work out as I'd hoped (in a nutshell, my partner robbed me blind), I got back on the job circuit, but still kept (with permission) a single client. Then, over the next decade and a half, I kept bouncing between job and self-employment (I'd go back to my business when the job went away), until finally, after 9/11/2001 and the "last great layoff," I decided I was functionally unemployable. However, hope sprining eternal, I occasionally still try for a job (but at 53, nobody will talk to me, let alone hire me), so I keep plugging away at the self-employment thing. And after two decades of trying to make it work, I think I've finally found the secret to success. Perserverence! A couple of suggestions - actually, my "Top Ten" ideas for folks making the transition to this freelance/small shop business thing: Barnett's Top Ten Ideas for Transitioning From A Real Job to Gainful Self-Unemployment in PR 1. Always get your money up front. If you work on the basis of being paid later, expect to have to fight tooth and toenail to get paid at all, and expect it to be late, and expect to get it only after much grief. This won't always happen, but it will happen often enough to make you wish you'd paid attention to me. Unless you get paid, in full and up front, expect to get stiffed at least some of the time. Trust me on this - the voice of experience now going on 30 years of doing this kind of work, and of being stiffed occasionally (OK, I'm a trusting soul and a slow learner). In one two-year stint of self-employment in South Florida, I had a 100% record - every client stiffed me, at least once, for sums ranging from under $200 to greater than $15,000. Ouch. As an adjunct to this, wait until the check clears before you start (as I write this, I'm still trying to collect on a bad check from a client I've worked with for a dozen years). 2. Put together a rate sheet, along with a rationale for why you're billing up front. I've attached mine as another blog at: http://barnettmarcom.blogspot.com/2004/12/barnett-marketing-communications-rate.html - feel free to steal from it, or copy it, or ignore it. It's free - and worth every damned cent you'll ever pay for it. 3. Create a website. Mine is a good example, though it's damned long (I like to write, and I have a lot to say - and after more than 30 years of freelancing and gainful self-unemployment, I've got expertise in a lot of areas). But long as it is, the website was not expensive - simply because it's got no bells or whistles. You probably have the skills to create a website, or know somebody who does - but if not, I'll be glad to refer you to my webmaster, who hangs the moon as far as I'm concerned. 4. Blog - but do it with a difference! I don't use blogs as a way of venting ideas of the moment - I use them to publish the kinds of articles that might be printed in trade journals (in fact, some of them have previously been printed in just that way). You can go to my Barnett on [...]



Barnett Marketing Communications Rate Sheet - Updated October 18, 2004

2004-12-25T14:29:25.516-07:00

Introduction I referenced this in a blog on ten tips for the newly self-unemployed, so I thought I ought to post it for those who'd like to see what I was talking about. In addition, because this is a fairly innovative rate schedule (with a sliding scale, and an up-front payment policy), it might prove helpful to others in PR and Marketing. So if you'd like to see how a consulting operation in business for 20 years has evolved it's rate structure, take a look. Ned *** Thanks for asking for my pricing structure and billing options. My rate structure is based on a sliding scale – the more work I do for you, the lower my hourly fee. I generally work on a month-to-month retainer basis, though I also take on project work. Because my rates are dramatically lower (for a professional with 30-plus years of experience and my level of credentials) than those offered by major agencies, I ask my clients to pay me up front (each month, for retainers, or at the start of the project, for project work). This keeps my operating costs down and my fees low – a win-win situation for both of us. Here is how I usually work: 1. Clients – those who agree to a monthly retainer fee – receive a much lower rate, a rate based on the hours retained. A retainer allows clients up to a given number of worked hours per month in exchange for a flat hourly rate. For instance, a retainer of $1,500 per month would purchase up to 10 hours per month at my base retainer rate of $150/hour. 2. This retainer fee is paid at the beginning of each month, before work for the month begins. Client-approved hours worked that are above the hours retained each month are billed at the lower retainer rate – this bill goes out at the end of the month, and is due to be paid by the 15th of the next month. _________________________________________ 420 N. Nellis Blvd., Las Vegas, NV 89110 Phone 702-696-1200 – FAX 702-696-1211 email: ned@barnettmarcom.com http://www.barnettmarcom.com Page 2 – Fee Structure - Barnett Marketing Communications Retainer rates (per hour) are based on the size of the monthly retainer budget: a. Monthly Retainer Budget – $1,000 - $2,499 – hourly rate: $150/hour b. Monthly Retainer Budget – $2,500 - $4,999 – hourly rate: $137.50/hour c. Monthly Retainer Budget – $5,000 - $7,499 – hourly rate: $125/hour d. Monthly Retainer Budget – $7,500 - $9,999 – hourly rate: $112.50/hour e. Monthly Retainer Budget – $10,000+ – hourly rate: $100/hour Because these quoted retainer rates are sharply discounted off of Barnett Marketing Communications’ standard base rates for stand-alone projects, each retainer payment must be made by the client at the beginning of each month (or at the beginning of each billing period). Bills for extra hours – and for expenses, if applicable – must be honored in a timely basis (i.e., paid by the 15th of the following month). Retainer agreements may be canceled by either party on 60 days’ written notice. 3. I prefer to work on a retainer basis, and as a result, my retainer rates are much lower than my project rates. However, clients occasionally need a one-time project completed, often on a “rush” basis, and in those cases, I offer them my standard project fee. My base rate for project work is $200 per hour. This rate is reserved primarily for one-time clients, and for unscheduled rush projects. Clients who prefer a project basis can work in one of two ways: a.[...]



Historically Failed PR Strategy Adopted for Presidential Campaign

2004-08-22T23:17:18.330-07:00

By Ned Barnett © 2004 Just heard this unanswerable question on Matt Drudge's talk radio program that got me thinking about the role of prior military service on a Presidential candidate's electability – and what I realized is surprising. Since 1960, honorable military service has had no positive impact on Presidential electability. Surprised? Me too. But that's not a "hidden" fact - anybody who's looked at post-World War II Presidential campaigns will draw the same conclusion after not much more than five minute's study. So why would a campaign base it's primary PR thrust, it's primary campaign message, on combat experience? Here's the question: "Who was the genius who sold Kerry on the idea of talking about Vietnam in 2004?" As a frequent "historical expert" (their term, not mine) on the History Channel, I decided to take a historical perspective view of that question – you might be surprised to find out what the answer was – I certainly was. Since Ike defeated Stevenson in 1952, there has been no obvious link between honorable service and electability – and since 1968, Vietnam has been a deadly "third rail" – nobody who tried to make the war a big issue has won the Presidency. Item: Navy veteran John Kennedy beat Navy veteran Dick Nixon in '60 – but both served, and their service was not a decisive issue in the election. Item: Navy one-mission (as an observer on a milk run) "veteran" Lyndon Johnson beat Air Force General Barry Goldwater – and even this early, the issue was Vietnam, and Goldwater (who wanted to either get out or capital-W "win") lost on his perceived stance on Vietnam. Item: None of the several prominent Democratic anti-war candidates in 1968 could even get nominated. The election in November was won by nominal (not particularly a hairy-chested combat vet) veteran Richard Nixon, who defeated non-veteran Hubert Humphrey. In that election, the decisive issue wasn't war service, but Humphrey's defense of the Johnson failed Vietnam war policy. Item: Nominal Navy veteran Nixon easily beat legitimate combat-pilot war hero George McGovern, over McGovern's strong anti-Vietnam war stance – once again, Vietnam proved to be a deadly "third rail" for those who made an issue of it. Item: Decorated Navy combat veteran Gerald Ford lost to former post-war Naval officer Jimmy Carter. Combat service clearly wasn't significant as a benefit for Ford. Item: Nominal veteran Ronald Reagan (he was an actor-in-uniform, and didn't consider that "real" military service) easily defeated Naval Academy graduate Jimmy Carter. Item: Nominal veteran Ronald Reagan defeated post-war Army corporal Walter Mondale. Item: Combat Navy Pilot George H.W. Bush defeated Dukakis, who served in the Army and was stationed in Korea after that war – both served honorably, and the varied nature of their service was not an important political issue. Item: Bill Clinton admitted dodging the Vietnam draft, but in 1992 he still beat decorated combat pilot George H.W. Bush – avoiding Vietnam was not a dominant negative issue for Clinton, though Bush tried to make it so. Item: Bob Dole has a crippling war wound, earned in heroic service against the Nazis, and he couldn't get to first base against admitted Vietnam draft dodger Bill Clinton. Again, dodging Vietnam was not seen as a liability, though Dole tried to make it so. Item: The Other Kerry (Senator Bob Kerr[...]