At Pivot PR we geek out over public relations (PR) and during this month of Thanksgiving, I am sharing why we are thankful for this stellar segment of marketing. And just so you don’t think we’re absolutely cuckoo, I’ve included some quotes from all-star business folks. They seem pretty thankful for PR too.
Thank-point #1: Lasting Memories
Which sticks out most in your mind? The store-bought pumpkin pie or the time spent with grandma every year making the pumpkin pie? Exactly. Along those same lines, how long does the 30- to 60-second paid advertising spot stick in your brain? Memories can’t be fabricated or paid for. They must be organic and that’s exactly what public relations is. Whether it’s media relations, community relations or influencer relations that’s behind the scenes of the article, event or social media post that creates a lasting memory with you, it’s all thanks to public relations.
As Barbara Corcoran, sharkette on The Shark Tank, stated at an Inc. conference, “If you’re not being quoted in the press, you’re losing market share by losing limelight.”
Thank-point #2: Dinner-Table Conversation
Do you sit around the Thanksgiving dinner table and discuss the banner ad that was served up to you 5x while you were reading an article, or do you talk about the article you saw maybe even just one time? (You might argue that you will poke fun at an ad but how many of you can remember WHICH product the ad is actually marketing?)
Forbes magazine wrote, “Data from influencer marketing platform MuseFind shows that 92% of consumers trust an influencer more than an advertisement or traditional celebrity endorsement.” An influencer could be a traditional journalist or perhaps a blogger or average person like you or me who has built an impressive following by covering a topic (e.g., food) as a hobby. Thing is, you believe them, don’t you?! Public relations efforts reach these folks and you pay more attention and believe what they say more than you do ads. Do you believe what paid ads (i.e., a brand) tell you?
And lastly, think about the buyer process with B2C or B2B customers: consumers are savvy these days and start their buying process by researching way before they contact you or step in your store, restaurant, etc. With public relations, you have blogs, media stories, social media content, reviews and more that consumers can consume – and that can tip the scales for them to decide on YOUR company! Not to mention the benefits in Google by way of constant content.
“Publicity is absolutely critical. A good PR story is infinitely more effective than a front page ad.” – Richard Branson
Thank-point #3: Big Things Come in Small Packages
With gift-buying holidays around the corner, let’s use that as our analogy here. Sure; you could spend thousands of dollars on a gift but will it have meaning? Will it be memorable? Will it make the recipient happy and feel loved? Or could you make something uber thoughtful from scratch or spend half the cost of the super expensive gift but tailor it to the recipient’s interests and have it be the gift that they never forget? Advertising costs can be through the roof and to point #2, will it even achieve your objectives? Don’t get me wrong; advertising has its place and is important to the paid-earned-owned triangle but you can’t rely ONLY on advertising (especially not on old-school, traditional advertising). On the other hand, consider a public relations tactic like blogging. According to InsideView, B2B businesses that blog achieve 67% more monthly leads than those that do not. Bottom line: PR is the big thing that comes with an extremely small price tag.
“If I was down to the last dollar of my marketing budget I’d spend it on PR!” – Bill Gates
We’re counting our blessings for more than just PR of course, including our family, friends, clients and fellow marketers and business owners in town. I’m also thankful you got to the end of this blog. Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!
We recently caught up with Ashley Mahoney, multimedia journalist for The Charlotte Post. She shared with us her thoughts on what sets the Post apart, how she turned a family tragedy into a way to help others, and the importance of knowing who you are pitching to.
What is unique about The Charlotte Post? What sets you apart from other outlets in Charlotte?
We are unique because we are covering almost exclusively what is going on in Charlotte. There is a lot going on outside of Charlotte, but we aren’t the Washington Post or the Seattle Post; we are the Charlotte Post. For example, in sports, you are not going to find the scores from every NFL game that happened that weekend, but you will find stories about most of the area teams. We have also started covering futbol (soccer, Queen City Football Chronicle) more extensively, which is unique.
We like to provide news from the perspective of those who historically haven’t been acknowledged by many of the major outlets; we have been “The Voice of the Black Community Since 1906.”
How do you reach people outside of the weekly paper?
We have recently started two podcasts; Sports Charlotte is all about Charlotte sports and the other is more political, called The Stump. It’s been a great way to reach more people who want to be informed about what is going on, but may not pick up a paper or go to an event. For example, with our recent interviews with the mayoral candidates, people didn’t have to buy a ticket or show up at a specific time to hear from them. They could tune in any time, while they were driving, while they were walking their dog and trust us to ask the questions they wanted the answers to.
Are there any big projects you are currently working on?
Yes! My mom died of cancer in August. We started a cancer awareness series called Racing Against Cancer. We wanted to raise awareness about cancer, while providing support and information. We have discussed what cancer is, what the treatment options are, how it impacts you financially, different ways to deal with the news and more. It is targeted at not just the patient, but also all those people who are fighting alongside them and who need to be educated.
We have been able to disseminate the information in a way people can more easily digest on their own time, when they are not terrified sitting in a doctor’s office. I am not a doctor, I am not on the Fortune 500 list, I am just a journalist in Charlotte. However, I can write about these things and help make it easier for people going through it.
What is your best advice for PR firms looking to reach you?
The relationship is key. As cliché as that sounds, it really is about the individual and their knowledge of who we are at the Post. You can tell when someone sends you the exact same email that’s been sent to hundreds of other people. When the sender knows who we are, what our mission is, what I write about, it makes it a lot easier. After I develop that relationship, I also begin to go back to that person, call them up and ask what’s going on or if they have anything I would be interested in.
Any big don’ts that turn you off?
Some big don’ts would be people asking me to print a press release directly. Nope, cardinal sin number one. Also, asking to see a story before it goes to print or changing a direct quote when we have it recorded. This is what you’ve signed up for and you must trust us to do our jobs. Of course, if there is a true issue we will go back and fix it.
Thanks to Ashley for giving us a glimpse into her life at The Charlotte Post.
You may or you may not be familiar with Charlotte Center City Partners (CCCP). Because we are a public relations (PR) agency with clients in Uptown, it’s crucial for us to have relationships with people like Steven Cole, Director of Communications. So, we caught up with him recently to hear what he had to say about CCCP and best practices for PR and communications professionals.
For those who aren’t familiar, tell us a little about CCCP.
We are a 501(c)(4) that collaborates with and convenes organizations, government and non-profits to make center city and South End a more livable, workable and playable place. Creating one central hub of employment and culture is great for the city because the infrastructure is already in place. We perform functions ranging from economic development, strategic planning and quite a few events like the Thanksgiving Day Parade and Charlotte City festivals. We also manage the 7th Street Market and Charlotte B-cycle.
Is your background in communications?
I practiced PR in the army for 8 years. I spent time with the Honor Guard doing media relations in Afghanistan and working jointly with the international agency, Fleishman Hilliard. Some of my most recent work was in Los Angeles in the film and TV industry where I did some fun and interesting things like product placement and brand management with entertainment media.
What skills and experiences have you taken from the army and applied to your role at CCCP?
Time management, which I know most PR/marketing pros can appreciate! Also, something that’s more similar than I thought is the importance of organizational thinking — always relying on and reminding yourself of the organization’s mission to help keep you on track.
You have a newsletter, right? What’s its purpose and how can marketing folks work with you?
Absolutely; it’s weekly, and you can sign up through charlottecentercity.org or our Facebook page here. The format can differ slightly depending on what’s going on but we typically have a feature article written by someone on staff, then we’ll also repost articles from other sources highlighting different events and economic development interests. I encourage anyone within our constituency to send me relevant story ideas or events for consideration. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What’s your biggest PR pet peeve?
I guess I wouldn’t call it a pet peeve, but people often think all you need is a relationship with a journalist to get quality coverage. Relationships are great, but you must have quality content first.
Any advice for PR folks in Charlotte?
Build a diverse team of subject matter experts. That way, you’re not relying on one individual for all interviews and/or content.
Tell us about your position as digital editor at QC Exclusive and how it is different from being a writer. What is your day to day like?
I do a little bit of everything now! QC Exclusive is really small. There are seven of us who are full-time and only part of that is editorial. The rest is sales. Magazines are a little different than any other media form because they take longer to come out. We curate articles for the magazine
As an editor, even though the official title is digital editor, I do a lot of the print stuff too: writing, editing, curating, helping with scheduling and then also assisting on photo shoots, as well as the website and all of the social media. I mean we all kind of have our hands in everything to a certain extent. When I was writing I was just writing and now it is a little bit of everything. And I still do the writing process too: setting up interviews, doing the interviews, transcribing the interviews, writing the piece — which is awesome, it’s all really fun. Our owner and editor is like an artist and is very passionate about the magazine. He does the layout. I think you can tell when you look at the magazine that the form and pictures matter to him a lot.
How does QC Exclusive balance what goes in print and what goes online?
Magazines are a little different than any other media form because they take longer to come out. We curate articles for the magazine that we know will look really good in print visually and that are a good story. But then it also must be something that isn’t super timely, because if it is and we miss it, then it doesn’t make sense to put it in the magazine. So, something that’s very timely we will put online.
Sometimes there is a really cool story or something super popular in Charlotte, but there just isn’t a good way to photograph it. So many times, those work better for the website as well. And then everything that is in print, we stagger on the website about a week after the magazine comes out.
Looking at what goes in the magazine and online, what does the split look like between earned and paid opportunities?
Well, it depends. We have advertisers who, for example, will get editorial if it makes sense for the magazine. But we also don’t take advertisers who we would never put in the magazine to begin with. We are definitely picky.
And that’s one of the challenges with print right now; a lot of people don’t want just an ad anymore, understandably. I always tell people, ads are great for your brand but that’s not what is interesting about your business. We do stories on clients, but we don’t sell those (except for an advertorial section, which we just started doing again in the last couple months). The end of the magazine is a sponsored content section. But other that, story-wise, it is pretty much true editorial.
As for you, what do you look for in your stories? What attracts you personally?
I really like people stories. A lot of times, even if that’s not the focus of the piece, say it is a restaurant opening and the focus may be more the actual restaurant itself, I enjoy getting to hear about the person who opened it. I really like that side of it. Sometimes it’s the main angle in an article and sometimes it isn’t, but I like digging that out either way. I’ve been in Charlotte for under 2 ½ years so pretty much everything going on in this city is still interesting to me. A lot of it is stuff I wouldn’t have otherwise heard of or done, which makes it fun for me personally.
I also love writing for a magazine and have always been more drawn to that than newspaper-style journalism. The form is a little more restrictive in terms of the type of writing you can do and more creative at the same time.
What is your advice for those reaching out to you for a story?
I think if someone addresses you personally where you can tell that it’s not spam, that’s awesome. We just get so many emails; sometimes when it’s a mass one, it’s not that I won’t read it, I just won’t read it first. And then I would say anybody who clearly understands the brand. For example, you were pitching a person and their story and that made sense for what we do. When you get e-mails where the person either doesn’t understand or didn’t take the time to figure out what we would put in the magazine or online, then the only real answer is “we don’t do that.”
However, Charlotte is a small enough city that when you can work with a circle of people, it’s very useful. You all might know something that we just don’t know about yet and that’s awesome for us!
Big Fish in a Little Pond
Katie, formerly a U.S. News & World Report economy reporter, moved to Charlotte, N.C., in 2015 and was hired on as the retail reporter. Her role has since expanded to cover breaking business news (e.g., HB2 issue, shooting protests) and sports business. She feels that she can make a big splash in a mid-sized city like Charlotte whereas her impact might be more like a drop in the ocean in Washington, D.C. She enjoys working alongside the award-winning staff at The Charlotte Observer – many of whom have won Pulitzers for their journalism.
What Gets Katie Out of Bed
When asked which stories she gets most excited to write, she very quickly stated it is when she can hold public officials or executives accountable – particularly if the story pertains to where the city’s/community’s/company’s money is going. She noted that it’s also fun to write the short, quick stories, such as a new restaurant with a cult following or a business that conjures up nostalgia for her readers.
I was also able to elicit some information from Katie that can serve as pointers for any of you who do, or will be, pitching her in the future. What falls in the won’t-cover box? Executive role changes and awards. Mainly it’s because we all must ask ourselves the, “Who cares?” question, and when it comes to that type of “news,” the only folks who do care are within the four walls of your company. Katie, as do all journalists, works in a shrinking newsroom and time is money. She must dedicate her time to stories that truly interest readers – the stories that make readers pick up the newspaper or click the digital edition open every day. Also – don’t write her a novella of a pitch. Short, sweet and to the point is best. She’s even drawn in sometimes by one or two lines that offer her a teaser of a story – and especially something exclusive or breaking. Lastly, if she feels like a certain topic has been fully covered by CharlotteFive or other local outlets, she might very well decide to not cover as the story has been told to the local community and she will free up time to tell a different story.
Here for You
I asked Katie what she wants our readers to know about her and/or The Charlotte Observer. I promise I’m not just saying this because she will read this as well but I thought she gave an impressive answer – simple in words but grand in its meaning. She wants all of you to understand how accessible she and her colleagues are. A quick google search on Katie and you’ll find her email address and Twitter handle. She invites you to send her tips, comments, etc. at any time. I can attest to her accessibility! She is always responsive when my team and I send her pitches (maybe I can also give oursevles a pat on the back for writing good pitches?), and she responded immediately to my invite to participate in our Q&A series.
She also expressed that she doesn’t have an agenda. She doesn’t insert her own opinions into her writing. She puts the onus on herself to tell you what you don’t know. It makes sense why “holding public officials/executives accountable,” is what excites her. She sees it as her job to uncover the story and tell it to you so you are fully aware of what’s going on in your city. No matter what you do, how old you are, Katie wants to hear from you.
Thanks again, Katie, for letting all of us get to know you better, and for keeping Charlotteans abreast of what’s going on in the Queen City
We’ve all been told to network so we understand the benefits but, whether you’re starting out your career or are 5, 10, 15 years in, you may feel out of your comfort zone at networking events. Some of you may even say these types of events aren’t worth your time. We want to open your mind to a slightly different approach this summer while you have “longer days” and maybe a slightly lessened workload. Follow our tips below to make the most of your time and make hay while the sun shines. Then, let us know how it went!
Ask the Right Questions
Many times we miss out on an opportunity to make a great connection because we are asking the wrong questions. Ditch the same old, “What do you do?” and open with:
- What are you reading these days? | The book someone has on their nightstand can tell you about them. It could give you a mutual jumping off point to discuss a book you both enjoyed or allow the other person to share some of their interests with you. It can also give you a great follow-up point: “Hey, I read that book you recommended and really learned a lot.” Our top summer suggestions include one oldie but goodie, and two new PR must-reads.
- Have you been to [insert Charlotte’s newest hot spot here] yet? | Charlotte is full of new restaurants, bars, activities (Top Golf, anyone?) and venues. As an industry with their finger on the pulse of the QC, there is a good chance whoever you are talking to has been to the new hot spot or is dying to go.
- Do you have a “wow-project” that you are involved with? | When you do want to delve into work, this question will allow you to dig a little deeper than just getting a generic job title and a company.
Sometimes the traditional model where you show up, get a drink ticket, listen to a speaker, pass your business card around to a few people and leave just isn’t what you’re looking for. We’ve pulled together a few other “networking” events to help you shake things up this summer:
- InstabeerupCLT | A casual monthly event hosted at a variety of locations that serve beer. As CharlotteFive said, “No sponsors. No agenda. No registration. You just show up and drink beer and hang out with people. It’s all very human.” Just follow #instabeerupclt on social media to find out when and where. Hint: It’s usually the last Thursday of the month.
- Take a class | An event doesn’t have to have networking in the title to be a place to meet new connections. Enhance your public speaking and presentation skills with a Public Speaking Masterclass at SkillPop or by joining the local Toastmasters Chapter. Step outside of your comfort zone cand give yourself you a casual atmosphere to learn about those you are learning with.
- Volunteer | Put your extra time to do some good! To double up on the benefits, look for opportunities with PRSA or a bevy of other communications professionals’ organizations. They are always looking for folks to help on the committees for communications, membership, accreditation, new professionals and awards. To get a feel for all of the organizations out there, join us at the Alphabet Bash in August to network with professionals from across the city, and support a local charity while you’re at
And Lastly, Just Reach Out!
If a group setting isn’t your jam, another way to get your toes wet is to reach out individually to someone in the community who you would like to get to know better; whether they are a colleague, a member of the media or someone at another company you admire, all you have to do is ask. Cleary state your intentions (no selling, no pressuring, just connecting), and suggest a casual place to meet such as a coffee shop or a brewery, depending on your connection with the person. If you want a little more backup, bring a friend who is also interested in the industry to break the ice and keep the conversation flowing. And hey, if they say no, give us a shout, we’ll grab a beer with you anytime!