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Making a Difference with Media Relations

By Hope Brown, APR

Principal, PublicCity PR

 If you ask the average six-year-old what he or she dreams of becoming when they grow up, I’m betting “public relations professional” doesn’t rank high on the roster of responses…you know, probably somewhere just behind fairy princess or superhero, I assume.   That said, even a “grown-up PR professional” can feel like they’re making a difference in the world, if given the opportunity.  The team at PublicCity PR (PCPR) was recently given such an opportunity, thanks to our partners at Brogan & Partners, and the dedicated team at the Michigan Women’s Foundation (MWF).  Together – with the support of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office and the Detroit Crime Commission (DCC) – we launched Enough SAID (Sexual Assault in Detroit) – a public/private partnership and fundraising campaign, which to date has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions, some of which can be directly attributed to media relations efforts.   More on that to come…

In 2009, more than 11,000 unopened, untested rape kits were discovered in a Detroit Police Department storage unit.  The kits represented thousands of unprosecuted sexual assault cases, and potentially thousands of sex offenders still on the streets.  Due to economic constraints in Detroit and Wayne County, limited funding has been available to date to address the backlog.  From this need, Enough SAID was created.

The goal of Enough SAID is to advocate for additional public monies and raise private sector funding (the first known effort of its kind in the country!) from major corporations, local businesses, families and individuals alike.  The funds will be used to finish testing the remaining kits, investigate resulting cases and prosecute the rapists.

On Jan. 6, 2015, PCPR executed a press conference to unveil Enough SAID.  Resulting press coverage appeared far and wide…and specifically traveled far enough to reach the viewing eyes of Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, and her husband, Dave Goldberg, CEO of SurveyMonkey.  They sent a $25,000 donation to Enough SAID about a week after the launch.  As Peg Tallet, chief community engagement officer of MWF told Crain’s Detroit Business in a subsequent interview about the surprise contribution, “National publicity for the campaign attracted the couple’s attention.”

See, so you can indeed make a difference as a media relations professional…no magic wand or cape required.

If you’re interested in learning more, contributing or helping to fundraise for Enough SAID, please visit


4 Myths About Being an Independent PR Practitioner

By Deborah Trivitt, APR

I’m not a fan of the recent fad to make a list of the “best,” “worst,” “most,” “least” of anything. I’m pretty sure the people making the lists are arbitrarily picking from their favorites or least favorites to make the list.  I doubt any real research goes into the making of any of them.

Recently PRSA Tactics columnist Tim O’Brien, APR, invited me to participate in making the list 4 Myths About Being an Independent Practitioner

As I prepare to begin year 18 as an Independent Practitioner, I can assure you his list is “well-researched, and insightful.”


Danger You Never Saw Coming

By Lisa Faulkner-Dunne, Lisa Faulkner-Dunne & Associates Public Relations

Social media is a great way to engage your customers and clients, and to share product information and announcements with people who already like you. But, if you’re responsible for handling social media for a client, you know that heartsick feeling when you realize someone you can’t control, with the most tertiary connection to your client or the brand you represent, is about to ruin your weekend. Usually, that’s not even their intent. The offending party makes a bad choice, engages in a poorly thought out prank, participates in a racist or sexist rant that they arrogantly assumed was private. Suddenly, if that person has any connection to your client, you’re dragged you into a train wreck you never saw coming.

After the OU fraternity videos surfaced, the Catholic high school one boy attended was forced to make statements about the school’s code of conduct, and its reaction to the event. No one at the school was part of the video, and representatives were obviously appalled by their former student’s behavior, but they were on the hot seat, shown on national news as if they were a little bit responsible.

How do you avoid getting embroiled in hot topic issues, so repugnant they go viral? Luck is the only way. But, you can work smart to mitigate the damage, much like the high school did.

  1. React – They came forward with a statement and an interview, indicating how disappointed they were to see a former student speak this way.
  1. Validate – They talked about the school’s teachings and discussed diversity among the student body.
  1. Finish- They faded away after. They didn’t clamor for more spotlight. Their part was over, and they wisely didn’t try to make it about them.

Of all the scenarios discussed at this school, I doubt they had played through this one—but, they responded appropriately.   A crisis doesn’t usually come from the direction you’re looking.


Apple Watch- PR Lessons for the C-Suite

By: Melanie McCraney, McCraney Communications

Apple watch photo courtesy of Associated PressWhen Apple chief Tim Cook unveiled the Apple watch with a typically unfussy flourish March 9, he accomplished something most CEOs only dream of; he made news with a product announcement. Even better, the event kicked off a lively conversation that’s been happily buzzing ever since. Media mentions have been in the millions and the PR value attached to those stories is calculated at many times more. Apple enjoys the elite position of not having to pitch its news to the media; the media knocks on their door.

NBC’s Today Show had Carson Daley on the story, setting it up with a clever tease,  “Fun at Apple’s expense?” Daley’s story, showcasing the $10k gold “Edition”  was upbeat , featuring huge, crisp digital images of three models of the watch , with price tags dangling . He did lightly poke fun at the prices, but so what? Apple had center stage and their product looked terrific.

The headlines, at least most of them, were a public relations consultant’s dream: “Apple’s Watch Is Almost Here Here’s What Wall Street Is Expecting”- Wall Street Journal, “Apple Watch arrives in April as most advanced timepiece ever created”- C-Net, and it goes on and on. Reuters took a scolding across tech media with their headline “Exclusive: Apple Watch not on shopping list for 69 percent of Americans: Reuters poll”, with Apple defenders chiming in to point out the bright side of nearly 40 percent of those polled having an interest in a product they haven’t even seen yet. Reuters followed up a few days later with “Nearly 40 percent of iPhone owners interested in Apple Watch: poll “

Giving Ambassadors the tools they need

Apple users have long played a crucial role in accelerating the company’s growth. Years before Apple even considered advertising , Mac users were creating a fiercely loyal user group that eventually led many prominent web developers to make the switch from PC to Mac. The brand’s popularity was built largely on the user experience and word of mouth marketing, staples of  public relations. Mac users take their allegiance to the streets- check out the popularity of the Apple icon displayed on the rear windows of cars and trucks coast to coast.

Apple’s appreciation of the power wielded by brand ambassadors shines in the Apple watch launch on a deeper level.  Apple introduced Watch Kit in 2014, giving third parties the opportunity to build apps to engage with the wave. ESPN, Major League Baseball, Target, Honeywell, Nike, American Airlines, Starwood, BMW and others were quick to jump in with apps to boost the watch’s relevance across multiple channels. That kind of third party endorsement is a fundamental PR tool.

Integrated messaging key to Apple success

Apple has long been known for its meticulous attention to marketing detail, and there’s a valuable lesson in there for the C-suite in any business or industry. While many companies push their  public relations strategists to the fringe of the inner circle (if they let them in at all), Apple does the opposite, embracing the message as a foundational element of organizational strategy. Mark Gurman’s Seeing Through the Illusion: Understanding Apple’s Mastery of the Media, a profile examining Apple’s PR strategy , is a must-read for anyone wanting an inside look the company that makes the Apple watch tick.

Strategy wins

Apple’s communications strategy favors substance over hype. Hype may spark a burst of publicity, but the impact is as fleeting as the clichéd “15 minutes of fame” it may garner. A carefully considered public relations strategy, appropriately integrated into the business plan, will yield results that resonate with core audiences for the long run. You can’t just talk a good game; you have a play a good game by creating an exceptional product or service and connecting with your target audience. Apple has cracked the code on that.

Melanie McCraney- McCraney Communications

Author: Melanie Berry McCraney is founder and president of McCraney Communications, a Birmingham, Alabama public relations consultancy focused on media strategy, integrated communications, relationship marketing, issues management and digital strategy. She also serves as President of PRConsultants Group. A collaborative of senior level PR agency leaders in the top 50 US markets, PRCG partners with major firms and organizations across the U.S.


Reporter Appreciation

By Melinda Kruyer, Kruyer & Associates

The recent losses of David Carr, New York Times, and Bob Simon, CBS News, juxtaposed to the fall of Brian Williams, NBC News, got me thinking about the reporters in my world and how much I value them as collaborators and respect them as professionals. Here is an example.

I learned about water technology when I signed on to lead the branding, marketing and public relations efforts for the new WTIC, the water technology innovation cluster covering Ohio, Kentucky and SE Indiana. The first thing that we did was to change the name to Confluence.

What is it?

  • Confluence is a 501(c) 3 organization composed of federal water laboratories and agencies, universities, large and small businesses, water utilities and regional development agencies.
  • The groups work together to expedite commercialization of needed water technologies, create jobs and spur economic development.

So, new organization in water technology with no burning buildings or celebrities, how do you pitch this?

Key for us was our relationships with great reporters who are gifted storytellers and worked with us to dig deep, boil down the information, sell it to their editors and create compelling stories. And they cared.

Even without caution tape, the Cincinnati ABC and NPR affiliates set a precedent by forming a partnership for a full week of stories on Confluence. WCPO and WVXU, partnered to produce one original content story per day per station for a week with all stories collected on a landing page titled Liquid Assets. We also had front-page coverage in the Cincinnati Enquirer and Cincinnati Business Courier.

Despite squeezed budgets, staff turnover and crazy news cycles, these talented reporters took the time, did excellent work and made it happen. Proving once again that at the end of the day, it is all about trust, integrity and relationships.


Lights, Camera, Action in Media Relations

By Natalie Ghidotti, APR

It’s no shocker that online video consumption continues increasing at a rapid pace. According to comScore’s Video Metrix, 190.3 million Americans watched online content videos last summer.

Videos are easily viewed from a variety of devices – whether that’s a smartphone, tablet or desktop computer. They’re also entertaining, while informing. Think of the number of videos you probably watch just in your Facebook feed alone. Don’t tell me you haven’t clicked on one of those Buzzfeed videos before. We all have!

So knowing that people like to watch things, it’s no surprise that using video in your media relations efforts can result in better engagement, clearer understanding and increased dialogue. Reporters and editors – (gasp!) they’re just like us! The gal you’ve been trying to pitch for a year at the New York Times likes watching engaging content just as much as you and your friends.

Our firm has worked over the past few years to incorporate video into all of our PR campaigns. We’ve had some great success in using video for everything from media relations to blogger relations to direct marketing. Here are two recent “wins” when it comes to using video for media relations.

Alliance Rubber Company


We wanted to tell the story of this 92-year-old family-owned company that is the world’s largest manufacturer of rubber bands. Alliance is located in a small town in Arkansas and represents U.S. manufacturers who are dedicated to keeping jobs and dollars in our country.

Our goal was to share the story of Alliance’s rich history and product innovation to key national media, including the Wall Street Journal. We conducted our normal background work and had chosen the reporters we felt would be most interested in learning more about Alliance. As part of our relationship building with these reporters, we sent them a video we created to give a good overview of the company and hit on all of our key messages.

A few days after we sent the video to our Wall Street Journal reporter, he emailed us with an interest in learning more and talking to Alliance’s chief executive officer. Through the power of video, we were able to quickly tell the Alliance story and pique enough interest for him to want to know more. The interview went well and was a great follow up to a story he had recently written on the manufacturing of paper clips.

Here’s a link to the story:

Alliance Rubber Company Overview Video

McDonald’s Central Arkansas Co-op


If you watched the Super Bowl or followed the commercial launches the following day, then you are probably familiar with McDonald’s “Pay With Lovin’” campaign. The company ran its first Super Bowl spot in eight years and launched a two-week campaign where customers were randomly chosen to “pay with lovin’” – a fist bump, a hug, a call to a loved one, even a Hog call (probably only witnessed in Arkansas).

We wanted to make sure the customers in Central Arkansas were well aware of the Pay With Lovin’ promotion. What better way to do that than to produce a video showing all the lovin’ from the first day (when 88 central Arkansas stores gave away free meals to more than 3,000 people)! We sent a video crew out to several of the restaurants, and had a 1-minute long finished product the next morning.

We used the video to push out on our social portals and, most importantly, send to local TV stations for use as b-roll. Our results were phenomenal. All four stations in the market used the video at some level – two that showed the entire video on air and online. All of them tweeted it, several posted to Facebook, and one radio station made the video its “Video of the Day.”

We garnered so much media social love that a reporter with MediaBistro contacted McDonald’s Corporate to ask what in the world was going on in Little Rock that the media was all over the Pay With Lovin’ promo! Needless to say, the power of video worked beautifully with this particular PR outreach.

Here’s a link to the ABC station coverage:

McDonald’s Central Arkansas Pay With Lovin’

When strategizing for your next media outreach, think of how you can use video to your benefit. Words are great, but seeing is believing!

You can find Natalie Ghidotti, APR online at @ghidotti. Visit the team at or


Writing Isn’t a Group Process

Barb Harris and Sharon Kreher, teamworks communication management

We increasingly are involved in creating content for our nonprofit clients.  They have great stories to tell and they are passionate about their work. As a result, they tend to want to be “involved” in the communication process. These organizations also have a variety of stakeholders – donors, board members, volunteers, staff – who also are dedicated to the cause and want to be involved.

The idiom, “too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth” quickly becomes applicable.  So many voices often muddy the waters and result in disjointed message.  So, how do you preserve the writing process, limiting it to one or two creative wordsmiths to work their magic, while ensuring that everyone on the broader team feels involved and heard?

Recently, we embarked on a project to help a local nonprofit revamp its communication tools. The website, newsletter and marketing materials were a mix of catch phrases, taglines, and conflicting or outdated messages. The organization was willing to start with a clean slate, creating new messaging that will help it move forward in its next phase.

Instead of trying to schedule sit-downs with all the staff, the board, and key clients, we developed a survey using Survey Monkey. A dozen clear, concise questions allowed each respondent to share their thoughts about the organization. How did they view it? What did they think its focus should be? What three words would they use to describe their organization? The survey was shared with a list of 45 stakeholders. The response rate exceeded 50 percent and the answers made it crystal clear what our messaging should (and should not) be.

Drafting a new master messaging document that included an “elevator pitch,” key media messages, a revised mission statement and organization descriptors flowed naturally from the data we received. It also brought some “challenging” questions to the surface about previous messaging and positioning that we were able to address with the leadership team.

Our resulting communication “broth,” so to speak, proved tasty. The client noted, “I like the feeling I got when reading it. You seem to have captured a precise, yet broader spectrum of who we are and what we offer.”

Our job as communicators and writers is not to tell organizations who they are. Rather, it is to guide them through the process of recognizing who they are, and then to help them articulate it. Writing doesn’t have to be a group process as long as stakeholders feel their input is heard and valued.