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Father’s day tribute: Edward Bernays “The Father of Public Relations”

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By Lauren Barnard

It’s almost Father’s Day, so we figured we should tip our hats in respect to one of the key founding fathers of public relations, Edward Bernays, who has been credited for founding and naming our profession.

In 1923, Bernays authored the first public relation book, titled “Crystallizing Public Opinion.” This book presented the profession as socially valuable and necessary in society.

We found a copy of the book, which reads as a passionate creed and constitution of what high hopes Bernays had for the field of public relations, and although some of the ideas are dated, we found a few snippets that still hold value in the field today.

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 “The social value of the public relations counsel lies in the fact that he brings to the public facts and ideas of social utility which would not so readily gain acceptance otherwise.”

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2011 Translation: Bernays believed that public relations should be a profession that serves the public ideas and facts that are useful. If we think about the most successful PR pitches we deliver to reporters, they almost always have an angle that provides utility to the publication’s readers, even if it’s something the reader had not previously known about.

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The public relations practitioner…

“must be able to generalize, as far as possible, from these points of view in order to strike upon the appeal or group of appeals which will be influential with as many sections of society as possible”

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2011 Translation: The best client PR campaigns should carry the ability to pique the interest of any targeted party, so long as the party’s needs are understood first. If a PR person knows what each section of a particular society needs, a PR practitioner can fine-tune client messaging to appeal to everyone.

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“Therefore, the public relations counsel must maintain an intense scrutiny of his actions, avoiding propagation of unsocial or otherwise harmful movements or ideas.”

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2011 Translation: Basically, public relations shall maintain an ethical profession that does not promote harmful movements or ideas. This makes me think of the film, “Thank You for Smoking.” Unfortunately PR does exist for harmful industries, but I’m sure when Bernays wrote this, no one knew how harmful cigarettes even were.

Bernays concludes “Crystallizing Public Opinion” with this hopeful line: “It is in the creation of a public conscience that the counsel on public relations is destined, I believe, to fulfill his highest usefulness to the society in which he lives.”

I think that for the most part, we would have made our founding father proud.

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Tales of a Public Relations Internship

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By Ashley Albert, aka “The New Girl”

As a student you tend to hear stories of less-than gratifying internships from classmates. I mean, what can really be learned from being a coffee-runner, filer or photocopier? I was absolutely terrified of this when I first started applying. How often do you hear of people saying they had the “best experience ever” while working as an intern?

But I was closing in on graduation and in need of some hands-on PR experience before being thrust into the “real world,” and so I reached out to LMGPR.

Here I am one month later and happy to report that my internship here IS the “best experience ever!” We’re a cozy, happy family and I fit right in from Day One. Never have I started working somewhere and felt so instantly integrated within the culture of the company.

I enjoy sitting in my cubicle where I sometimes find little gifts from Donna. The glow from the hot pink lava lamp always gets me excited to sit down and get to work. I’m actually helping out with one of our clients on a daily basis and whenever I have questions or I’m learning how to do something new, I can depend on others to help me out. I’ve done a briefing document, tons of market research and a bunch of side tasks… talk about an educational experience on steroids!

This internship has proven challenging on the tech-jargon front: SaaS? IaaS? MDM? What does it all mean? And why are there two types of MDMs? It’s like learning a different language! I can honestly say, however, that with all the news I read daily with these terms, I’m on way to becoming a stellar tech-based PR practitioner.

I realize not everyone’s internship will end up like mine, but I can offer some advice to potential interns:

New Girl’s Top 3 Reasons for Why You Should Intern While Still in School

1)     The classroom does not teach you all you need to know about the public relations field.

2)     In this current economic climate, it’s best to have all kinds of PR experience on your resume. Anyone can get a degree, but experience counts!

3)     The transition into the working world may not be so drastic if you get acquainted with the field ahead of time. What if you decide this isn’t for you? An internship will help you realize that before potentially wasting years in the classroom.

… and the best part of MY internship? It has opened the door to a permanent position here at LMGPR. Finding a job in your field upon graduation has become increasingly difficult these days, and I know without this internship the transition from classroom to workplace would have been far more difficult.

IT’S ONLY CHEATING IF YOU GET CAUGHT!

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By Michael Erwin

Tsk Tsk! The fallout continues after last week’s PR snafu involving Facebook and Google.

For those out of the loop, Facebook found itself in an embarrassing situation after it hired PR firm Burson-Marsteller to approach news outlets with negative stories about Google’s privacy practices on its “Social Circle” site. One of the journalists approached went public with the conversation.

Facebook denies the goal was to run a smear campaign against the Internet search giant, but admitted it had concerns about how Social Circle collects and uses personal data.

The issue has turned to an ethical one not only for Facebook, but for Burston-Marsteller as well.

The PR firm has vowed to retrain the the two employees at the center of the scandal. In addition, a code of ethics will be redistributed to all employees.

But is there really evidence of wrongdoing? While attempting to create negative press for Google could appear shady, these types of attempts are not uncommon. We see similar behavior in the political world constantly.

It appears the main ethical issue here is Burson’s failure to disclose who it was working for. The Public Relations Society of America’s Code of Ethics calls for members to “reveal the sponsors for causes and interests represented.”

Burson’s lack of transparency is being criticized, though it is not the first (nor the last) PR firm to withhold such information. The problem is, Burson-Marstellar got caught.

… and as part of damage control, the firm is doing the right public thing by admitting wrongdoing and taking steps to rectify the situation.

That’s what good PR is all about, right?!

GETTING THE ATTENTION YOU DESERVE AT RSA—A Journalist Perspective

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By Matt Sarrel

RSA 2011 is right around the corner and most, if not all, security companies are in full overdrive preparing for the show.  Despite the fact that I think otherwise, this is the one week a year when security is sexy.  News reporters, bloggers, and analysts flock to beautiful Moscone Center in San Francisco to find out what is new in the wild world of security.  How can you make sure that your efforts to capture eyeballs will bear fruit for your company?

As a journalist (10 years with PCMag.com, 3 with eweek.com, 2 with CIOUpdate, 1 with GigaOM), I’ve seen just about every attention getting tactic on earth.  And to tell you the truth, the more complex the tactic the less useful the meeting.  The guiding principle should be that journalists are rushed for time and you need to provide them with the information they need fast.

My biggest tip is NEVER hand a journalist a printed press kit.  This will end up right in the garbage can across the aisle from your booth.  I have enough to sift through and carry around that I really don’t want your printed press kit.  Besides, do you think I’m going to throw out some shwag so I can carry your folder?  Not!  Put the press kit on a USB memory key with your logo on it.  Now the journalist gets something of value that’s easy to carry.

An often overlooked resource is the press room and the online press center.  Distribute news through these channels.  Last week there was not a single vendor related press release up on the Virtual Press Center.  Could it be that no one wants to get my attention?

When booking meetings, understand a journalist’s coverage area, what he/she has written about before, how he’s covering the show, and whether the article will be a blurb in a blog or a fully crafted article for print.  Remember, you are there to meet our needs, not vice versa. For example,  I can guarantee you that you’re going to have the shortest meeting of your life if you thank me and PC World (who I have never written for) for meeting with you.

Speaking of meetings, it would be a good idea to prepare.  Have the journalists picture and read some of his relevant articles.  This way when I walk up to your booth you recognize me and we’re ready to go.  Be respectful of a journalist’s time and fatigue.  That should be your guiding principle.  Between pounding the show floor for 8 hours a day for a week and going to all the cocktail hours, dinners, and after parties, the VP of Marketing who pulls up a chair for me and hands me a bottle of water truly separates himself from the others.

During the meeting, pay attention to the journalist.  Don’t just drone on and on and on and on, oh, I got lost there.  Following your powerpoint or reading your press release to me isn’t going to help you get coverage.  You could have emailed those to me before the show.  Pay attention to body language.  Is the journalist taking notes?  If she seems checked out, then maybe suggest a follow up call for the week after the show.

One final bit of advice – don’t stalk journalists.  You know what I’m talking about.  We get a little red ribbon on our badges that says we’re press.  So there’s always some eager beaver PR guy who stands in the main entrance and essentially attacks every red ribbon wearing member of the press as we enter the exhibit floor.  No means no.  I have a strict timetable to adhere to – usually on the order of 60-70 half hour meetings over the course of the week – and you’re not going to get a positive reaction from me if you slow me down.  I once even went so far as to shove an insistent pitcher out of my way (it reminded me of the scene in Airplane where he can’t walk through the airport because the Hari Krishnahs are swarming him).    To be fair, this isn’t always a bad tactic, just be polite about it.

Just remember, in the words of Alexander Graham Bell, “before anything else, preparation is the key to success.”

The Current Role of PR at the Super Bowl

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By Lauren Barnard

The Super Bowl game always conjures discussion on the relationship between the leading teams and their players. Who will fumble, who will make a touchdown, and of course, who will be named champion?

But since we’re innately PR-obsessed at LMGPR, we’ve begun to analyze a deeper relationship that occurs on Super Bowl Sunday (and has potential to last through the entire year following the event): the relationship between Super Bowl commercials and public relations.

Can the Super Bowl commercials of large companies effectively stand on their own without the help of PR? The fact is, they probably used to. But social media is changing the playing field.

For instance, Coca Cola is using strategic PR to create anticipation about its 2011 Super Bowl commercial by offering a short sneak preview to its 22,000,000+ fans on Facebook. The caveat (or incentive) is that fans must visit Cokecheers.com to make a virtual “cheers.” Then the company will donate $1 to the participating fan’s local Boys and Girls club. What Coke will likely get in return is its outrageously large slew of social-networking active fans to create a seemingly viral hype about the commercials. A total win-win.

Snickers is also offering a preview of its 2011 Super Bowl commercial through its Facebook page. The candy bar company is offering fans a sweepstakes-style prize incentive if they watch the preview, in hopes that they will share it through social media outlets and build anticipation among more viewers.

After the Super Bowl is over, social networks serve as a perfect setting for discussion, critiques and laughs about the commercials. Through this, the life of the expensive commercial advertisements gets extended in a measurable way.

Do you think social networks are effective approaches to the PR behind Super Bowl commercials? Which commercials are you most looking forward to on Sunday?

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Social Media: No Longer Only a Consumer-Focused PR & Marketing Strategy

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Forrester recently came out with an Interactive Marketing report that gave a breakdown of the planned spending for B2B marketers. As the study indicates, social media spending is predicted to increase by 490%! Overall, internet marketing will raise from $2.3 billion in 2009, to $4.8 billion in 2014, with social media raising from roughly $11 million to $54 million, respectively.

Outwardly, this should come as no surprise. Social media is a phenomenon that seemingly cannot be stopped; rather than slow down on the number of users, buzz, and news surrounding the internet craze, social media’s popularity continues to rise. In February 2010, Facebook reached 400 million users. But the aforementioned statistics are based mostly upon personal use. After all, it is called social media for a reason; it’s people talking to people. Therefore, at first glance, you would expect to find these kinds of statistics more closely aligned to B2C marketers.

So how does this relate to B2B marketers? At LMGPR, we believe heavily in social media as an excellent way to further a business’ PR strategy; and PR and marketing are interrelated. And with the numbers I’ve listed above, this would seem to be an easy way to get attention. After all, reporters, CEOs, and customers are all people, and more than likely they are a part of the social media movement in some way. And yet, I am still asked, mainly by B2B clients: “Do we really need to have social media? How is social media relevant to us?”

I believe that Facebook is a classic example of how social media has made the leap from merely a personal/social tool, to a B2C tool, and finally, a B2B tool. When Facebook first started, it was only available to Ivy League schools. Next, it reached out to universities, then to state schools, and finally all colleges. And following its education trend, it next allowed high school networks. Soon after, businesses entered the realm. And finally, it opened up to everyone on the planet. Soon after, there came an emergence of “business accounts.” As soon as Facebook noticed this phenomenon, fan pages were created, to allow for a more business-aligned Facebook property. And in the instance of fan pages, there exists a perfect opportunity for both B2B and B2C marketing.

Once you are a fan of a page, news feeds evolve from personal status updates to advertisements and announcements. The “about you” section becomes a company profile and marketing collateral. And pictures and videos turn into commercials. Similarly, events become promotions, and so on. This transformation does not only exist within Facebook, but it is a good case study. MySpace followed a similar route, as did the other forms of social media – and the trend will still continue as new forms of social media are created – as PR and marketing professionals have seen the opportunity for client recognition.

SEO and PR

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I recently attended an online webinar that dealt with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and public relations. The main purpose of the presentation, at least in my eyes, was to learn about easy SEO strategies to apply to PR to increase media attention, in both digital and traditional media. I was excited about attending, because I have been curious about this topic for some time. SEO is a practice that has been applied to nearly everything. But how exactly does it work, when applied to PR? This was the question that I was hoping they would answer.

I am very familiar with the internet, website creation, as well as SEO and SEM. But, their relation to PR has remained a mystery to me. I understand the point of optimizing a press release; but at the end of the day it does make me question the value. The purpose of a press release is to alert the media, gain their attention, and get them to write a story about a) your company, b) the story you are telling with the press release, or c) to get them involved with the news of your company so that hopefully they will contact you to cover your company in the future.

Now, here’s a little background for those of you who are not familiar with SEO:  Without exhausting you with a lengthy explanation; the main aspects of SEO are keywords, and their proper placement. Keywords are determined by a variety of factors; some people use a keyword creation tool, some simply know the term that they know customers use to find them, and some place themselves against their competition. When working on a website for example, you want to make sure that you have the following areas covered: The title, the URL, and the heading of the page. All three of these should align (or be similar to your keywords, in order for your efforts to be successful, as shown in the photo below. So as you can see, if I want my customers to find me when they type in “Tech PR,” I would do the following; a) make sure my webpage title is “Tech PR,” or maybe “Tech PR – We’re the best in our field,” b) I would make sure that my URL had the words “Tech PR” in it, or some variation like “www.techpr.com,” or “www.websiteprovider.com/techpr,” and finally c) I would make sure the heading of my page had “Tech PR” in it, like “Tech PR: My company is the best at Tech PR.”

These were all things that they explained during the webinar. Yes, they are helpful to know, but I really was more interested in learning about how SEO and PR could be utilized together. That, apparently, was part 2 of the presentation.  In opening the discussion, the presenter stated a quote from an author who said that during his time as a reporter he received thousands of email pitches over the years, and he never utilized any of them to create stories. Why? Because when he wanted to write a story, he simply went online to a search engine, and found the information he wanted to write about on his own. Therefore, the presenter rationalized, the reason that you should learn to optimize your press releases, are so that reporters like this author would find your release, and write about your company, or the story presented in the release. 

How do you optimize your release? You perform a), b), and c) that I explained above but instead of website title, you have a press release title. Instead of website URL you switch it to the press release URL, and website heading to press release headline, etc. It’s that simple. There was some more information in their overview/explanation, but that was pretty much it.

While this information is all true, again, it doesn’t really apply to PR for a variety of reasons. One reason is that a website is static; the information stays there. One of Google’s results factors (which is pretty much the search engine that everyone targets first and foremost) is longevity. So, it won’t really apply to a press release. If you are sending out a press release on a topic that is well covered, websites will dominate in the search results. It is possible that you will pop up in the latest news results, but that is likely to be a flash-in-the-pan, unless you can drive more traffic to your press release, thus making it a more reputable and well-visited knowledge base for said topic.

Those are all possible, yet unlikely, factors. The main issue that I had with SEO in use for PR, is that of keyword selection. In writing press releases, you are trying to attract reporters. By limiting yourself to a range of keywords, you are really only reporting on the same news. As pointed out earlier, in order for your keywords to be successful, they must all be in alignment. How do you then attract reporters, when you are basically saying the same thing over and over again? And, you have to consider this on a larger scale; if you are putting out multiple press releases with the same keywords, how are you creating news? Aren’t you simply rehashing what you’ve said before?

To summarize the presentation, and my own feelings about attending; I felt that this was a decent webinar about learning how to create SEO. It went over the highlights of keyword selection, directed you to some keyword-building sites, and told you (for the most part, with a little deduction) where to place your keywords to drive traffic to your website. However, in terms of learning how SEO relates to PR – the real reason I attended the session – it fell short.

Donna Michaels Shares Insider Tips on How to Get Buzz for Your Company

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On Saturday December 5th, Donna Michaels, president and founder of the Loughlin/Michaels Group (LMGPR), was interviewed by the “Jeans T-Shirt and a TiE” radio show on KLOK 1170 AM: the largest South Asian Radio Show in all of North America. The Loughlin/Michaels Group works with many clients in the South Asian community and thinks the station is a smash hit for the Silicon Valley.

During the show Donna discussed PR 101; what public relations is and why it’s important. She also covered why companies need public relations and the benefits of PR over paid advertising. Donna explained how companies can create buzz in their industries through public relations techniques and relationship building with the media. Listeners called in with interesting and industry specific questions that Donna was able to answer from her extensive PR experience.

To listen to the whole interview click here.

PR Measurement is Not an Exact Science

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Public relations metrics and measurement have always been an industry “touchy subject.” A lot of agencies claim to have a magical formula or some sort of platform that will prove how their results have improved their clients’ bottom line. The truth is; PR measurement is not an exact science; measurement and metrics are purely subjective.

Recently I attended a webinar put on by PRNews called “PR Measurement Webinar: Linking Your Media Coverage to Business Outcomes (from the Mainstream to Tweetstream)” where three panelists discussed how they measure PR metrics. It was an incredibly interesting and informative webinar. Here are the main points that I got out of the presentation:

  1. The difference between Value and ROI: Value is a subjective measure which relates solely to personal measure of expectation, worth and importance while Return-on-Investment (ROI) is a qualitative financial measure which relates expenditure with business results. Demonstrating PR metrics in relation to value is obtainable, however, it is much more difficult to prove how PR results impact ROI.
  2. Success can be Measured Differently: What’s meaningful and reasonable to the client may differ greatly from the PR team. Most executives are thinking about the bottom line and how to generate new business. Public relations measures success through valuing the volume of press clippings, the amount of impressions, and positive vs. negative tones in key coverage. The only way bench marks can be reached is if these ideas of success come together otherwise both parties won’t reach their goals.
  3. The Executive Audit and Determining a Value System: The most critical aspect in generating a value system and producing results that can be measured is by conducting an executive audit. Having brief structured interviews internally with company executives can help a PR team gain mutual understanding with the company, assess needs of the client and preferences, set bench mark performance goals, improve over time, and meet/beat expectations. By setting objectives that both the client and the PR team have agreed upon is a way to reduce risk and prove value. If sales goals and lead generation are a part of the PR program, these objectives can be connected to ROI, but only if discussed at the beginning of a PR campaign.

By understanding how subjective metrics and measurement can be, it will actually help you determine a way to measure your success that benefits not only you, but your client. It is important to have an executive audit at the beginning of a campaign so expectations are understood. Once you have created bench marks and goals for the campaign that align with business objectives, you can truly measure PR success.

Why You Can’t Learn PR in a Classroom

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PR classes are incredibly popular among many college-age students seeking to learn the fundamentals of both business and communication skills. While being taught how to write a good press release or create a good pitch are all skills that can be learned and enhanced by lecture, much of what one needs to succeed in the PR world you can’t get from a classroom.

At my university there was actually only one PR class available under the Communication Department, and it was very hard to get into as it almost always filled up on the first day of registration. Once I finally got into the class I could see why. The environment was very relaxed, the teacher was funny and charming, and everyone seemed to get this sense of empowerment about their PR skills, often leaving the classroom thinking, “well I can do that.” I learned how to write concisely and accurately for releases- much different from all my journalism classes. I learned about Web 2.0, and all about business ethics.

While this was all great and merry, once I got out of the classroom and into the world of PR, it was a rude awakening. My first PR job at a small consumer PR agency in San Jose was one of complete and total chaos. A mixture of miscommunication, bad writing and angry clients; I was thrown into a world that was nothing like what my college professor had promised. No one was holding my hand, no one was letting me write, and no amount of lectures could prepare me for cold calls to reporters who were trying to make deadline, had no idea who I was, and hated me from the second they answered their phones.

After a few months of this heart-breaking reality,   I began to realize that not all PR companies are like this.  Upon leaving the position, I learned some valuable lessons about what makes for a good PR agency, while working at the Loughlin/Michaels Group, and perhaps most importantly, what makes for a bad one.

For one thing- you can’t possibly learn the value of having a good experienced team behind you in a classroom. Making sure each individual is working towards a common goal, and creating trusting and honest relationships with clients are all skills that only true field experience can teach. Another thing you cannot learn in a classroom is confidence- confidence in yourself and in your team. Learning to share responsibilities, media relations and who’s who of the industry are also things that only experience can teach.

 While some things like AP style and correct formatting for press releases can be learned in a classroom, sometimes it is the most important skills that you must learn from experience alone. In the world of PR, nothing is more valuable than experience and hard work, two things that no amount of lecturing can truly teach you.

To learn more about a PR company who has the experience as well as both the school and the street smarts to bring your business to a whole new level, check out Loughlin/Michaels Group’s website and see for yourself.

Loughlin/Michaels Group