Monthly Archives: February 2009

Target Practice

This is for you on-the-brink PRos who started following me lately on Twitter (I see you, UO seniors!)… and started following some of coworkers too. Weird.

picture-13When you have actual clients with actual stories, actual messaging, actual news, actual crises, actual partnerships, actual funding announcements, actual business-development, and actual launches, you need to know who is going to want to know about it. This requires a bit of digging on your part and I only bring it up because, yes, it’ll be YOU (the young PRo) who is expected to do it. Here are some tricks to finding “targets” so you don’t flounder and waste 3 weeks on a media list that you could have polished up in one if you’d had the right arsenal.

FIRST (and very importantly) Engagement:

  • Be reading a lot of stories/blogs. All the time.
  • Follow any reporter’s Twitter feed that you come across.
  • Know what’s going on in the news. All the time.

Finding targets (media contacts that you’ll eventually pitch):

  1. GOOGLE (duh – I know.): But how do you search? First off, competitors – see who’s writing about your vein in whatever industry you’re into. Second, product/company functions – what does your company do, who do they serve, who are their partners? See who’s writing about that as well. Google alerts: With great keywords you can find some fantastic news/blog targets.
  2. COMPETITORS: I know I mentioned it above, but this time, go straight to the source. Sometimes the best way to know who is going to write about you, is by checking your competitor’s press page. See who wrote that USA Today piece they’re boasting.
  3. SPECIFIC PUBLICATIONS: Do a search within the publication, much like your Google search – keywords on your topic and industry– to see who there is writing or reporting (or assigning) on your topic or if they do the kinds of stories you’re hoping to get (ie: funding stories, long-lead features…).
  4. TWITTER: Great place to find reporters or people talking to or about reporters (ie: “@so-n-so wrote a great piece on…”). Also, reporters will often talk about stories they’re working on and sometimes, if you’re lucky, they’ll have an open call for interesting leads. Twitter’s also great place to interact with reporters. They like knowing who you are, what you do, what you’re into.
  5. STUMBLE-UPON: Within this Firefox add-on, you can stumble through certain channels. I work in tech so I’ll do a stumble-through of tech sites and often find cool bloggers or podcasters.
  6. COMMENTS ON POSTS: Bloggers and reporters often chime in on each other’s posts as part of that community – in tech, you see this a lot on ReadWriteWeb and Lifehacker. It’s pretty cool to see their engagement, but it also gives you a chance to see what bloggers are into and what they might think of products similar to yours.

…So you’ve found your targets, what now?

Vetting Targets – Make sure they’re relevant to go after so you don’t look stupid for pitching them something that’s not in their beat.

  • Google them: Again, duh – but Google can sometimes be the quickest way to find out if they’re still at that publication
  • LinkedIn: Check out their profile, yes, they may be a staff-writer, but how long have they been in that position and on that beat? L.I. can often give you some insight into what and how they’re used to writing.
  • Check past work: Find other articles, blog posts, blurbs so that you can get a sense of their writing style, perhaps their interviewing style.
  • Check their Twitter feeds: Weirdly, some reporters don’t like PR people. See how they interact with them on Twitter, see if they talk about them – Yes, reporters and PR people alike can get very public (and very nasty sometimes) about their relationships on Twitter. Very important to see how they’d take being pitched.

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What I’d love here is some feedback– maybe from my coworkers or team members? Also, any tips out there that I might have missed. Good luck.

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Details, Details (Continued)… Resources to Help You Get There

picture-11In the last post, I stressed how important it is to adopt (or in my case, feign) a detail-oriented work style as a young PR professional. One of those things I wish someone had spelled out for me: “You. Will. Not. Survive. If. You. Can’t. Remember Master. The. Details!”

But in keeping my promise to return with some organizational tools, I realized that I don’t use a ton of tools in getting everything done and handled in an organized way. I generally just beat my head into a wall when I mess up, and then write everything I need to do everywhere until it gets done – and then I cross it off triumphantly. But if you are more organized than I am about being organized, here are some tools that can help.

  • Remember the Milk: My colleague, Lindsey, said it best when she declared in an organization training we had at LaunchSquad, “‘Remember the Milk’ has changed my life!” It keeps your list of to-dos handy so that you can keep track of deadlines for all of your tasks. It’ll tell you when something’s overdue, and let’s you know when you’ve got time with other tasks. It can also be a desktop application or it can live in your email so that you have your list right there to reference as you finish up your work.
  • Google Docs & Spreadsheets: Perfect for collaborative projects, tracking revisions, formatting bulleted content within emails, keeping track of large amounts of data, tracking coverage activity that you’ll need to have handy on the fly. And they’re completely searchable if you’re looking for a rarely-used document or spreadsheet.
  • Google Alerts: Part of being on top of the details, is knowing what’s going on in your client’s industry. For the most part, they’re very good for staying on top of industry news, cleint/competitor coverage. I use them mostly, though, as reminders to pitch (and great sources for finding targets). Using smart keywords, you can find some great authors and publications that are perfect for your clients.
  • Desktop “stickies”: I use these to keep account logins handy (ie: Marketwire login info, internet access account logins), client contacts and dial-ins for status calls, directions for releasing announcements onto the wire, client codes for billing – and of course songs/artists that I heard on Pandora that I want to remember to download. All in one place.
  • Jott: Great for notes/tasks on the go. Simply speak either into their iPhone application or you call a number and then it transcribes what you say into tasks. Set it up to email or text people for you – it connects to Google Calendar and Remember the Milk, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon.com etc. It also has an adobe air desktop app.
  • Evernote: I use Evernote’s clipping function for visually referencing competitors’ web-pages, important graphics, client coverage hits so that I can easily decide which clips are most visually stimulating. The tagging feature makes search functionality is very effective.

Just some pointers for the (recovering) detail-ignorant like myself.

*Photo courtesy of Details Magazine.

Details, details… Why You (as a young PRo) Need To Be Nit-Picky NOW.

picture-1I am not the most detail-oriented person. Not by a long shot. I am more what you’d call a “Big Picture,” conceptual person. Which is why, in the first months of my job, I struggled a lot with not seeing the value in details and not grasping for a while just HOW MUCH I needed to harness those details on all of my teams.

If your work environment is anything like mine, you’re on multiple teams and it’s very collaborative. Everyone does everything until the job gets done. It’s nice to see the managers of accounts chiming in and even sometimes drafting pitches and releases.

These are wonderful things to be able to expect from your teams and and managers. However, bear in mind what is expected of you at the bottom of the totem pole:

1. You are the gate-keeper of information. Your account managers will often be overseeing all of the high-level activity in several accounts, not just yours. It’s up to you to be on top of every single detail and moving part within your account so that if they need to know if a client has sent their feedback on a release, you can update them right away.

2. You are the task master. If someone’s been assigned a new Washington Post target, you need to check and make sure they’ve been pitched. You need to be sure of everyone’s pitching progress at any time. You need to know everyone’s progress on everything at all times. Don’t be afraid to manage up on this one.

3. Your clients probably care. Client-facing emails, especially with small companies aren’t uncommon for the young AA or AAE. Typos (and believe me, I am THE WORST with typos, just read some of my past blogs) look so bad to clients. Doesn’t matter if it’s a short, logistical (“Please use the usual dial-in”) message or a large, content-heavy correspondence. Same for client deliverables – PR reports, tracking sheets, whether hard copies, PDFs or Google docs, these need to be flawless.

4. Your teams DO care. They definitely care if they can’t trust you to send simple messages that are error-free to clients. Especially avoidable errors. Spell-check and have them proofed (it’s a killer to your writer/communicator’s ego, but worth it when you start to pick up the nuances of client communications). Never send a client email without letting your team know, or CC-ing them (once again, please learn from MY mistakes here).

5. It kind of becomes second nature. At some point you just learn how to do it without thinking about it. And you’ll find that as your organization increases so does your productivity. So it’s definitely worth the extra care and time that you put into it now.

6. Important: If you let them, disorganization and small mistakes WILL run the way you do things and define you as a professional. Small mistakes that go unchecked can quickly brand you as sloppy and unprofessional and will even faster become habits and harder to manage and rid yourself of.

This has been one of the most aggravating things to learn as I’ve gone out into the “real world.” Do whatever it takes to incorporate this into your work habits even if you’re cursing those detail oriented, anal-retentives who sit next to you. Eat some humble pie and learn from them.

*Organization tips to follow. Photo courtesy of Details magazine.