Pitching Big Bug Creek

Pitching Big Bug Creek

Community Newspapers & Small Town Media Relations

Whizzing down the Interstate 17 highway on my way home, I just flashed past a sign for Big Bug Creek. Two seconds later, it was gone.

I’d venture a guess that this small community has less than five hundred residents. It’s one of those “blink and you miss it” towns with a fascinating history dating back to the Gold Rush era, Daniel Boone and a “Battle of Big Bug” skirmish between miners and Apache Indians. There is even a connection to cannibalism, since the founder’s father actually traveled with the Donner Party. It isn’t clear if he was a survivor of that snowed in winter or if the timing was mercifully off. Let’s hope the latter.

Did you know that more than half of the Donner Party survived? I didn’t.

Forty-eight people staggered out of the Sierra Nevada’s that Spring, rescued FOUR MONTHS after being snowbound. It wasn’t one family in a cave, as I’ve always imagined it; the nightmare started with 87 people.

Yikes.

… Back to Big Bug Creek. Abandoned in 1910 and now considered a ghost town, a few families still live there. (The older I get, the more appealing a tiny town like this becomes!) Thinking about living in a small town like this one naturally makes my mind turn to small town media.

Big Bug Creek might be small, but it is large enough to support a community newspaper: Big Bug News.

How many times as a new PR pro did I include that poor editor in my mass blastings of press releases? Probably more than once. Ack. It sticks in my throat like a bad hairball. Since my training was nonexistent, I wouldn’t have known any better.

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Rock The Pitch #5: The New Product Launch

Rock The Pitch #5:
The New Product Launch

A friend of mine – we’ll call him Harzog The Bold – runs a technology blog out of New York City. When I asked him for samples of good or bad pitches, he was only too happy to spend a few minutes searching his inbox. This is what he came up with.

As I see more and more pitches come across my desk for this blog column, it’s interesting to see common trends begin to emerge, in terms of gaps and processes.

One of the most frequent mistakes is confusing content from a press release as a pitch. Journalists and publicists alike do it.

They aren’t the same thing. 

Why? Because a pitch takes a piece of news, such as a product launch, but repackages it as a customized story for a specific publication and journalist. It isn’t about resending the same thing they’ve already dismissed as uninteresting; it’s creating a new story based on your news.

This is different from using email to distribute a press release. Nobody expects a press release to be customized, right?

Here is the pitch Harzog The Not-So-Meek sent me.   [Read more...]

Public Relations, Steampunk Style

Public Relations, Steampunk Style

My son turns eighteen tomorrow and I’m not sure if I’m more horrified or thrilled.

Equal parts of each, I guess. My empty nest is looming like a tsunami but I’m completely delighted with the adult he is becoming. My talented daughter isn’t far behind.

These pictures are from our little celebration last night. Since I hardly ever get time with him lately, I grabbed him on the fly when he strolled into the house to raid my fridge and turned a quick trip to Sonic for tater tots into a party.

The photos tell the story perfectly if you look at them in reverse, right to left. The first one is my son completely embarrassed (yet secretly thrilled) at the brouhaha when I made him wear a giant, puffy birthday cake hat.

Yup, that’s a birthday candle stuck into his burger.

My gift was a fabulous steampunk hat that I discovered in Prescott, AZ last weekend. He’s wearing it in the next three pictures. Can’t you see him on stage, wearing it and playing his bass guitar? I can.

What is steampunk? Wikipedia says it well. “Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery, especially in a setting inspired by industrialized Western civilization during the 19th century. Steampunk works are often set in an alternative history of the 19th century’s British Victorian era or American “Wild West”, in a post-apocalyptic future during which steam power has regained mainstream use, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power.”

Translated – it’s a creative blend of victorian and western clothing with found objects such as old pocket watches, bullet casings, skeleton keys and more.

Think of steampunk as the love child of Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock and Lady Gaga. It’s fantastic. (tweet this)

Steampunk'd!

Example of a steampunker. CC photo credit: Alexander Schlesier

He’s been lusting over steampunk guitar modifications and clothing for over a year now, and once I recovered from sticker shock, I simply had to buy the hat.

It was so perfectly, totally Adam and I could easily visualize him on stage with his band wearing it as his signature look.

I think my debit card is still smoking from that transaction, but the stunned delight on his face when he opened the box made it worth every single penny.

You only turn eighteen once, right?

Public Relations is a bit like steampunk.  (tweet this) 

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A Delicious Facebook Brand Page Case Study: Smash Cakery

A Delicious Facebook Brand Page Case Study: Smash Cakery

I love cake. Who doesn’t? And it’s the perfect business to grow organically via Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest – the three social media platforms best suited to drool-inspiring photography.

With almost 14,000 likes, this small business in Texas is clearly doing something right with their Facebook pa ge.

And the best part? It’s for a home-based business operating under the Texas Cottage Food Law. I love that!

Since the owner is completely booked out for almost two months in advance, according to a post early this summer, I think it’s safe to say that her Facebook strategy is working.

Don’t get caught up in the number of likes – since everyone likes cake and admiring the creative ones, there is a natural advantage built in to help boost page popularity. It also helps engagement, since women love to enjoy cake without calories and comment on the design.

It’s simply too fun NOT to leave a comment behind, right?

Let’s take a look.   [Read more...]

Five Digital Tactics That Would Bring Fresh Life To PRSA

Five Digital Tactics That Would Bring Fresh Life To PRSA

(RANT ALERT!)

I love public relations. Passionately. Yet, as annual fees come due for my Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) membership, I’m wrestling with the decision to renew. Since it is a fairly big spend for a solo practitioner, I’m leaning towards channeling that $440 in another direction.

Public Relations Society of AmericaI’ve been a member in the past as part of agency memberships, but expectations change when it’s your own dollar being spent on dues. This last year was the first time I’d paid the dues out of my own pocket and I have to say that I’ve been disappointed.

As an organization, PRSA is falling further and further behind. In my opinion, it needs a massive infusion of fresh thinking and digital strategy to give it new life. It needs to become nimble.

To keep up with changes in the profession and play a visible, engaged role in the industry, I have some ideas on a few major gaps that need to be addressed. Add yours in the comments!

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Lost Friendships and Lost Customers

Lost Friendships and Lost Customers

Sitting with a parent as they fade away is one of life’s more difficult moments. It makes you think about what matters and what doesn’t.

My father is failing quickly after a five-year fight with glioblastoma multiforme, the most aggressive brain cancer with a 100% fatality rate. He’s losing the battle but is leaving this life surrounded by love and nothing left unsaid. I think we can’t ask for much more than that and I’m grateful.

FYI: To spend more time with my dad at the hospice facility, there will not be a Rock The Pitch post this Friday.

Because of a few things I’ve shared on Facebook about what is happening in my personal life this week with Dad (a huge thanks to those who have shared support!), I heard from a long-ago BFF today on Facebook. Friends who met in college, we shared a deep love of horses and similar timing in falling OFF said horses when jumping a course in our final exams for a riding class. I was the one who made her laugh through the pain as the doctor stitched up her butt (she fell on a metal cup that holds up the cross rail). I wish she were helping me laugh through my pain today.

Once we left college and started our lives as adults, she joined the military to fight for our freedom, then we both had children. We didn’t try hard enough to talk about what really matters over the years, so the friendship became superficial and faded away.

She only realized it today, but I had unfriended her almost three years ago. The unfriending was a passive-aggressive way to lash out, I think. My son had almost died and I needed her, but she just wasn’t there. I gave up. Since I had reached out many times over years prior with no response, then she stopped returning my calls for years at a time, I gave up. I was hurt  and I mentally walked away from a twenty-some year old friendship.

Perhaps the fact that she only realized it today is telling, since I did it years ago, but her hurt reaction made me stop and think.

Was it my fault? Did I try hard enough?

Or did I blame her lack of response on the failure, when perhaps I wasn’t there for her before that point and never even realized it.

Agency-Client Communication

Customers can be like that. Sometimes, the relationship is lost and the easy solution is to blame them for being difficult or stubborn. But the road goes both ways and if fingers are pointed, they usually should point both directions. But it’s easier to blame than accept responsibility, and use it to drive change.

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Rock The Pitch #4: The Guest Blog Pitch

Rock The Pitch #4: The Guest Blog Pitch

It doesn’t matter how large or small the audience…. If you have a blog, you get pitched. It’s part of the game. Some are hilariously bad, some are passable and some are excellent. Sadly, the bad ones seem to FAR outnumber the good, or even the lukewarm.

Take this one, for example. It’s clearly from a novice trying to earn a backlink; something that is all too common.

THE PITCH

This email landed in my own inbox this week. Lucky me.

From:<we’ll just say she is jane doe>

To: Carrie Morgan
Subject: Request for Guest Posting at rockthestatusquo.com

Hello,
I am really satisfied with your blog content, your posts are really good and you are keeping it well. I would like to publish my post on your blog (as guest post) with my website link in author bio. Please let me know if you are recognizing guest posts and I’m ready to discuss my content, I guarantee it with unique and quality content.

Looking forward to get your reply.

Thank You,
<name removed to protect the not-so-innocent>

I have to admit that having my own blog has been a remarkable gift in many ways. It’s taught me more about both sides of blogging than ANY amount of media pitching and guest posting for clients ever taught me. It’s been completely invaluable as a learning tool. I’ve learned perspective from the blogger side and how it directly connects to lessons learned on the PR side, chasing down guest post opportunities for clients.

But whether or not you are a blogger or a chaser, I think you can guess where my feedback might be headed with this one.   [Read more...]

Wire Services Adrift In Heinous Headlines, Crappy Copy & Invisible Visuals

Wire Services Adrift In Heinous Headlines, Crappy Copy & Invisible Visuals

Does storytelling have a place in press releases?     Is it the answer to wire service woes?

Since my first days in public relations twenty-some years ago (horrors!), press releases have long held the throne as THE primary way to get facts to a journalist. We were taught to keep them brief, newsworthy and focused on just the facts – no fluff or embellishment.

But times are a changin’.

With the onset of self publishing, brand journalism, content marketing and social media, that throne is looking more than a bit tattered. It’s also taking a heavy toll on wire services, as they struggle to transform themselves into something more valuable.

As I look over today’s feed for what I consider the top three newswires, PRNewswire, Marketwired and Business Wire, all three of them are a snoozefest of investor news and appalling, self-absorbed copy that only a mother could love. Certainly not a journalist.

You could argue that a press release is SUPPOSED to be self-absorbed, since they are intended to promote company news. I’ll buy that. It’s cool…

But I won’t buy how many companies are finding it acceptable to pay for wire service on a press release so poorly written that it’s an embarrassment to that company. Heinous headlines, crappy copy and invisible visuals abound.

“What are invisible visuals,” you ask? Even though most of us know the impact of adding a visual or social component to a press release, most wire press releases don’t include them. They are invisible because they simply aren’t there.

No wonder wire “news” is only picked up by syndicated, automated news feeds that nobody actually reads.

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Rock The Pitch #3

Rock The Pitch #3

The Product Review

Every now and then, it’s fun to take a break from pitch bloopers and faux pax to showcase something THAT WORKED.

Sent to us from the corporate side of the fence, this pitch landed a very, very nice product review placement on CNET, also winning the coveted Editors’ Choice product award for December 2013.

THE PITCH

This came from Kevin Raposo, who handles PR and outreach for SimpliSafe Home Security. Here’s what he did:

“You’re probably super busy, so I’ll keep this short. My name is Kevin from SimpliSafe. We developed a technology that makes security systems completely affordable and really simple — it’s some pretty cool technology you (and your readers) might be interested in.

We’re at simplisafe.com, and I have a sample I’d like to send your way to checkout or review if you’d be interested. Let me know!

Thanks,

Kevin Raposo, SimpliSafe

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Getting Your #Youtility Ducks in a Row…

Getting Your #Youtility Ducks in a Row…

Transforming push tactics to value-based is necessary, but hard. REALLY hard.

It takes time, patience and the ability to upsell management on the idea of marketing by giving away your expertise…. here’s the kicker…. without expectations of anything immediately measurable.

Giving without promotion, without fast results, without pretty pie charts and sexy numbers showing ROI to the c-suite when you need another bump up to your budget to pay for it.

JayBaerLast week’s #PRprochat had the fantastic Jay Baer as our guest.  He had a few tidbits to share with public relations professionals on how to line up our ducks in a row, when it comes to content marketing and providing value, instead of pushing our own agendas.

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