PR from the Other Side

This title might lead you to think that this is going to be a spooky blog post — only spooky if the idea of communicating with PR folks scares you.

I’m here to tell you from both sides of the field: it shouldn’t.

As a co-producer of online radio show “Michigan in Motion” on, I book guests for the program. In addition to being able to speak with a wide variety of interesting and noteworthy guests, I also get a distinct opportunity to work with their PR reps.

Now, this used to intimidate me. Would they decline to book their clients for my show if they discovered I was only a part-time radio producer?

Thankfully this is not the case. In fact, PR reps are usually relieved to work with a fellow public relations professional. We understand each other; they know that I will respect their clients (and the reps themselves) and follow through on my promises. In turn, I know they do their best to make clients available when we need them, respond promptly to my queries and are willing to lend a hand if I need a back-up guest.

A unique benefit is being able to see all the different pitches that come through my inbox. Long, short, dense, simple — I get to see first-hand what works to spark my interest and what isn’t quite ready for primetime. Here’s what I’ve learned.

  • Keep pitches short, simple and courteous
  • Bullets are a great tool to get the message across (clearly!)
  • Always make an effort to treat the person at the other end like you would want to be treated

As a PR rep, I don’t sweat it if a reporter or a news producer is having a bad day. I know how stressful those deadlines can be, or how hard it is to find a replacement guests when someone drops out at the last minute.

And when PR reps contact me to book their clients on my show? Well I try to be as nice as possible; I know how scary that call can be.

Step-it-Up: Tips for Taking on More Responsibility

Folks who work at small businesses know all-too-well the realities of working for a busy company. Sometimes you just have to step up to the plate and pick up where someone else left off. What do you do when you find yourself taking on more responsibility at work? Here are some tips for taking on the transition with a smile.

1. Talk it Out

If your job duties are expanding, it’s important to know exactly what’s coming your way. Take the time to talk to your supervisor and form a plan of action. Detail all of the new responsibilities, discuss anything you’re unsure about and document the changes for future reference.

2. Help Where You Can

Hey, you’re not an expert in everything. If you find yourself assigned to things you’re just not qualified to do, be honest! Respectfully inform your supervisor that you don’t feel comfortable taking on those roles. Do make a concentrated effort to help with things that you are qualified for, however.

3. Be Prepared

Whether you’re expecting them or not, changes at your business do happen. It’s best to be prepared for any curveball thrown your way. Stay informed about what’s going on in the office, and don’t be afraid to ask if there’s anything you can do to help!

4. Re-Organize Your Desk

This may sound simple, but having an organized desk can help you prepare to take on a larger workload. Know where everything is and build in more space for files as they come so that you’re not getting mixed up because of new tasks.

5. Be a Team Player

Are your co-workers stressed or overloaded? Offer to take the weight off and give them a hand. Ask to be involved in tasks that may not directly involve you and let your boss know that you’re ready to take on the world. This will score big points in the long-run.

The Top 5 Items on a PR Pro’s Holiday Wish List

The holidays are just around the corner, and you just might be thinking about what gift to get the busy PR flack in your life. Considering they have spent the whole year making moves for clients, getting in under the deadline and running out of room in their notebooks, your PR buddy could use a little holiday cheer.

Here are five gift ideas that will score big on any PR pro’s wish list.


  • Subscriptions – Magazines, news sites, online newspapers, query services … you can’t go wrong with getting a person working in PR any of these. PR pros need to be informed, and if you get them a subscription to a masthead service, not only will you make their jobs so much easier, you will also positively impact their results. Who wouldn’t love that?


  • Throat Lozenges and an Ergonomic Keyboard – Constant phone calls and emails are going to tire any PR person out faster than you can say “nervous breakdown.” Help their voices and prevent carpal tunnel with these handy gift ideas.



  • Spa Packages – After a long year of media relations, deadlines, campaigns and crisis communications, your weary PR pro would no doubt be thrilled to receive a massage and a cucumber mask. Treat your PR pro to a day at the spa or a gift certificate for a local masseuse. They will definitely be grateful for the chance to relax!

The Importance of Storytelling in PR

I was listening to

with David Carr, a writer for the New York Times, who said, “Everyone has a story to tell.”

So true, especially in my profession. Sure, there’s a list of criteria any business can follow that they can use as inspiration for a press release including the release of a new product, an event announcement, employee news, the list goes on. But what is the real story behind it?

There’s a difference between “publicity” and “PR.” Publicity gets news out there, gets your name in print. PR is all about making sure the story you want to tell is being heard … and repeated. One of the many benefits of good PR is that it tells the story of your company that makes people want to listen. When reporters listen to that story, their audience, in turn, is listening. Good PR makes the news, it doesn’t follow the news.

Another important aspect of storytelling is to anticipate all outcomes. Just like those old “choose your own ending” books (which I, admittedly, cheated at), it helps to know how your story will play out to different types of audiences. This will help you determine how to frame up the story, which source from the company to use for a quote and to which  markets you’ll pitch that story.

Carr is an interesting case for a reporter; he asks his sources what they think their story is about, and uses their response to help accurately craft his piece. He rarely publishes work without first making sure that those featured in the story are aware of what angle he’s taking. I think that’s admirable; he doesn’t want to catch anyone off-guard with a hard-hitting story and gives them the opportunity to tell their side of things.

As I’m working with clients, I constantly strive to see the bigger picture. This gives me a chance to flex my skills as a writer, to tell their story in a way that not only accurately reflects them, but will also catch the interest of the public at large.

It’s so rewarding to see their stories come to life.

The 5-Hour Energy Evolution

Michigan-based Living Essentials has had unique success the past few years, all thanks to a tiny red bottle. Oh, and about a $60 million marketing budget.

5-Hour Energy shots are a blend of vitamins and amino acids, and contain as much caffeine as “a cup of the leading premium coffee.” They are typically found on the counters of gas stations and convenience stores, but the brand has also broadened its reach to large retailers such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, Home Depot, Kroger and Wal-Mart.

This little 2 ounce miracle is worth more than $900 million,

of all energy shot market sales. Due to this success, 5-Hour Energy was named one of “America’s Hottest Brands” by Ad Age in 2009.

So why has 5-Hour Energy been so successful (aside from the serious marketing budget)? My guess is because of their target audience: office drones.

Living Essentials targets working adults and not teenage boys, like most of their competitors. Their ads feature office workers sluggishly going about their daily routines, and have labeled that black hole of boredom between lunch and quitting time “the 2:30 feeling.” Adults in the workforce, unlike already energetic teen boys, truly need products to keep them awake and alert on the job.

Recently, Living Essentials has heavily promoted the healthy aspects of their products. They stress that 5-Hour Energy shots contain no sugar, and are filled with vitamins and nutrients similar to those found in broccoli, avocado and bananas. The brand has even sponsored health and wellness programs on Michigan public radio to help push this message. The campaign seems to have made a big impact on how people view the brand.

What’s next for 5-Hour Energy? Since the product launched in 2004, the market has been flooded with similar brands promising to deliver big results in a short amount of time. Will these little red bottles be able to maintain their iron grip on the energy shot market? With clever marketing tactics and an interested audience, they just might.

Why Businesses Shouldn’t Fear “Anonymous” Threats

Members of the hacktivist group Anonymous have threatened a Nov. 5 attack on social media giant Facebook for the “sake of privacy.” Businesses shouldn’t let a threat like this one keep them from exploring a social media marketing strategy, and here’s why.

Control Your Information

Anonymous members in Guy Fawkes masks issued the warning via YouTube, citing that Facebook has been selling information to government agencies and giving clandestine access to information security firms so that they can spy on people from around the world.”

If this statement concerns you, you’re in good company. According to PCWorld magazine, 69 percent of Facebook account holders are concerned about privacy. But don’t worry! You have the ability to control your Facebook privacy settings, as well as all of the information found on your business page.

This excellent guide from Mashable has important information on privacy settings for everything from personal information to who can view your content. So, in the event that Facebook is infiltrated by any shady characters, the privacy of your personal and business information is secure. Just remember, if you shouldn’t share it on social media, then don’t.

Don’t Get Trolled

Turns out, not everyone at Anonymous is on board with Operation Facebook. This shapeless, hard-to-pin-down super l33t hacker group has no real leader, and a few rogues seem to have sent a very big message. An official Tweet from Anonymous (@anonops) yesterday warned: “To press … #OpFacebook is just another fake! We don’t ‘kill’ the messenger. That’s not our style.”

So, before you shut down your Facebook page or let this little hiccup (or others like it) keep you from starting an integrated social media campaign, remember that sometimes threats like this one are nothing but elaborate hoaxes. Even if these Anonymous members do happen to take down Facebook on Nov. 5, businesses have to keep in mind that Facebook is only one piece of the social media puzzle.

There are so many benefits to having social media that far outweigh the negatives. Having the ability to interact with customers in real time, promote products and services to varied audiences and connect with a worldwide market are just a few of them many reasons why you shouldn’t fear the threats of a few masked vigilantes.

Good PR is Music to the Ears

A recent episode of Fresh Air featured renowned conductor James Levine, who has led the Metropolitan Opera since 1971. During this interview, Levine revealed that conducting is something he actively tries not to do; his job is merely to provide the players with subtle cues and allow them to make their own beautiful music with his support.

PR is something like this, or at least it should be. Professionals work tirelessly behind the scenes to hit all the right notes, securing press coverage, social media mentions and positive public awareness. They make hundreds of connections a day with a variety of people, spinning a broad web of possibilities, just as an orchestra’s many instruments come together to create a broad, multi-faceted sound.

There are plenty of cases in which a PR pro, entrusted with a clients’ high-profile brand, uses it for personal gain. These people are so desperate to make a splash for themselves that they sometimes forget the real music comes from spreading their clients’ message and not from their own wild gesticulations.

As the person behind the curtain pulling the strings, it’s a PR pro’s job to not overshadow their clients’ needs with their own posturing. It’s not about them. PR is, essentially, about allowing clients – and their brand, services and products to shine.

What American Idol Season 10 Taught Me about PR

  • Then they brought on songwriter Kara DioGuardi, perhaps to lend a bit of industry credibility to the judging panel. She annoyed many.
  • The departure of loopy-but-loveable Paula Abdul, the inevitable canning of Kara and the subsequent one-season stint from Ellen DeGeneres made for a rocky couple of seasons.

But nothing could have prepared “American Idol” audiences for the shake-up in season 10. The moment Simon Cowell said sayonara to the show, producers were charged with the difficult task of finding a replacement.

The overwhelming sentiment in blogs, online articles and Internet commentary was that this was a PR nightmare. The show was finished. Even with steadily declining ratings in recent seasons, audiences stuck around to see Simon Cowell phone-in a few snappy critiques. How could the show stay on the air without Cowell to hold it together?

Simple. They took the changes and ran with them. Instead of trying to find an immediate replacement for Simon, someone who could offer up droll remarks like they were candy, the producers opted instead to find someone completely different with true star-power.

The rumor mill was swirling. At some point Mariah Carey, Jessica Simpson, Bret Michaels, Chris Isaak, Harry Connick Jr., Elton John and Howard Stern were all believed to be taking a seat at the judge’s table. The rumors, good and bad, contributed to a lot of buzz around season 10; the most anyone had talked about the show in years.

Landing Jennifer Lopez and rock legend Steven Tyler brought a sense of excitement back to the show. Along with new online voting through Facebook, cut-throat eliminations, amazingly high talent levels and interesting contestants, this show is back and better than it has been in several seasons.

What am I taking away from season 10? I’m learning that sometimes a shake-up is what you need to breathe new life into your brand or business. Let people talk; creating a buzz will get you noticed, even if it’s been three seasons since you were any good.

Does My Pitch Really Suck? – Exploring free online PR tools

One aspect of my job as The Bugler is to find outlets for our clients to speak about their expertise. Seeing our clients’ quotes in publications and newspapers is always fun and gives clients the opportunity for national exposure.

Because I want to reach as many potential journalists as possible, I decided to try out a few free online PR tools. Needless to say, I experienced varying degrees of success.

  • HARO (Help a Reporter Out) – HARO was the first site I signed up for, and it’s a really great service. HARO connects PR professionals with journalists from all over the world, similar to a newswire to which we currently subscribe. The difference with HARO is that the service is free, and it has a very fun atmosphere. I receive e-mails two or three times a day with journalist inquiries. I can either respond to them with my client pitch or forward them directly on to the client. This makes my process very streamlined and easy.
  • ReportingOn – This site works a little differently. Instead of queries that come to my inbox, I can seek out journalists and see what they are working on. Then, I can pitch my expert if my client fits their topic. A little more work, but definitely a good tool to create relationships with a wide variety of journalists.
  • Your Pitch Sucks! – At first, I wasn’t sure this was an actual site; it’s basically one page with some red ink all over it. But after submitting a mock pitch, I am confident that any PR professional would love to have their work this heavily mocked and torn up. Hey, it’s good for a laugh, at the very least.

Of the three I experimented with, HARO was the true standout. In my continuing quest to generate great opportunities for our clients, this is the site that I will probably store in the arsenal for the future.

Jumping In: Your First Day on the Job

Being the new person at your job has advantages and disadvantages, depending on what kind of learner you are. In a fast-paced environment, more than likely you’ll be asked to get right in and get to work, even on your first day. Here are some tips for how to come prepared for anything, even as a newbie.

Learn names

One of the best things you can do is learn names. Learn the name of the person who hired you, the name of the receptionist who took your phone calls that helped you land the job, and anyone else you meet prior to your first official day. The company’s website can be a great resource for putting a name to a face beforehand. Your first day, you’re likely to be inundated with new names and faces, and sometimes it can be difficult to keep up, so learning one or two names prior to starting, as well as who to go to when you have questions, can be very helpful.

Sharpen your skills

Haven’t used a skill on your resume since college? Bone up! Your skills got you the job, so chances are employers want you to use them. Pick up a book or check out a website to study over the weekend before your first day.

Be prepared

Wake up and arrive early, prepared for your first day. If it’s a fast-paced job, you’ll be expected to contribute as much as possible, so be ready for anything. Bring a notebook and a pen with you at the very least to take notes. There will be a lot of information thrown at you on your first day, so try to catch it all!


Breathe. That first day can be rough and full of challenges, but if you stay calm and take it one step at a time, you’ll be fine.