What does the PR team do to drive awareness for Dallas Fan Days? At TrizCom, it simply means giving maximum effort. More hours. More research. More heart. As a young PR professional, joining this team allowed me to dive head first into managing a huge event. I learned how to pull a story idea from every angle .
By Jeff Cheatham, Senior Account Supervisor at TrizCom PR
At TrizCom PR, we’re fortunate enough to work with some very interesting clients, one of which is Unequal Technologies. They’re a Philadelphia-based manufacturer of protective gear designed for sports and military use. Their products include the Halo 3 head band, proven to reduce concussions in youth soccer by 56 percent, and more recent items like bulletproof shield inserts for school backpacks and police vests.
Well, we live in Texas, so you can only imagine that the bulletproof products caught the attention of several school districts and sheriff’s associations in our state. Two products, the SafeShield (for backpacks) and the SapiShield (for bulletproof vests), became the centerpiece for a hastily scheduled news conference at the Texas State Capitol in Austin Oct. 17.
The happenings of that day would prove a vital point for public relations people—the importance of being there.
Ahead of the news conference, media alerts were sent to all applicable Austin-based press outlets and bureaus. The appointed time was 11 a.m.—we had booked the media room belonging to the Texas Speaker of the House.
My 6 a.m. flight on Southwest Airlines left the runway in darkness, and I had but one thought as I stared out the window at the daily gridlock of Dallas traffic below. Would anyone even show up for this news conference?
I arrived at the State Capitol Building at 9 a.m. on an overcast and dreary day. Ten minutes later, I would receive a text on my phone from a number I did not recognize. It was the local Austin NBC affiliate, asking if we would have samples of the bulletproof inserts available at the news conference. And just like that—we were off to the races.
We began unpacking suitcases full of the samples, placing them strategically at the podium of the room. Literature was distributed. Mannequins were dressed in bulletproof vests. It looked like a retail store by the time we finished. More media responded that they were on their way. Things were looking good for what I hoped would be an avalanche of coverage.
It was at that moment, while basking in the revelry my success, that the Texas Sheriff slated to speak at the presser brought me back to earth in an instant. “Son, you can’t be putting all that product up there on the dais of the Speaker’s room. The Great State of Texas can’t be seen as endorsing a product in front of all these cameras.”
I was afraid he could literally hear the record scratch sound go off in my mind.
I quickly devised an alternate plan to remove all of the products from the front of the room to a corner, where the media would be allowed to sample them after the speaking portion finished and the interviews began.
As the presser got started, we had three out of four local networks, and two statewide newspaper bureaus in the audience. The speakers did an excellent job and the media pushed back with thought-provoking questions. The presser then broke out into one-on-one sessions. Before it was all over, one of the reporters gave a live report while wearing one of the vests.
I got a call in the middle of this from a radio station back in Dallas, asking for audio. “If you can get soundbites to me in the next 30 minutes, I’ll blast it out to 132 affiliate stations across Texas this afternoon,” he teased. Done and done.
By the time I got back on the plane to head back to Dallas later that afternoon, I was exhausted and exhilarated at the same time—a rare feeling. We had pulled it off after all, a news conference with a lot riding on it. It took some fancy footwork at several different junctures to adjust to the challenges we faced.
I think one thing made all the difference in the world.
At TrizCom PR, that’s just what we do for our clients.
Whenever a business is in the news that is not an advertisement we call that earned media. Many times, people refer to this as free media vs. paid media. The word “free” is a misnomer as a earned media is not as free as we may think it is. Earned media requires significant manpower from start to finish.
The TrizCom Internship Program offers students the opportunity to work with industry professionals as part of our team. For the past few months we have had the pleasure of working with Laura Hogue and Jessica Donaldson from the University of North Texas’ Mayborn School of Journalism. As their time with TrizCom has come to an end, they shared their thoughts on their internship experience.
TrizCom has taught me to manage my time well. At an agency, things can change at the drop of a hat. Whether it is a last-minute press release or email blast, your everyday routine can be turned upside down by an emergency request. Managing your time well is crucial in surviving the fast-paced agency environment. Luckily, I have learned how to prioritize and manage my time, which has made a huge difference in the amount of work I can get done in a day.
As cliché as it sounds, teamwork really does make the dream work. At TrizCom, each employee has their own clients, but everyone helps when things get hectic. Working in a team helps build morale and makes things run smoothly. On days when I worked with my co- intern Jessica, we were always collaborating in any way that we could. This helped improve the quality of our work and minimize errors.
Over the last few months, I have grown both as a person and public relations practitioner. The skills and lessons I have learned at TrizCom will follow me throughout my career, and I cannot wait to see where my professional journey will lead me.
My time as an intern at TrizCom is coming to a close with the end of my undergraduate career, and as I reflect on my time here, I am so grateful to have worked at a place so committed to helping me learn and grow as a public relations professional.
I came into this internship armed with a plethora of knowledge from my many courses at the University of North Texas but almost no real-world experience in PR. This position has allowed me to put my academic knowledge to the test, improve as a writer and gain meaningful experiences that will shape my professional career in a way that classes alone could never do.
I have been able to work closely with everyone on staff here and see exactly what it takes to be successful in public relations. I have had direct client contact, written and edited press releases, helped with journalist research and even placed a few stories. TrizCom allowed me to gain a better understanding of what it means to work in public relations and reaffirmed my belief that public relations is the field I want to be in. Although my journey is coming to an end, I have learned so many invaluable things during my time here.
By Jackie Smith, Senior Account Executive, TrizCom Public Relations
Or, Avoid These Like the Plague
I have received no fewer than a dozen marketing emails in recent weeks that included the oft-used phrase “spring has sprung.” This hopelessly hackneyed phrase was the sole reason I groaned and deleted the emails immediately. Did I want to see what deals and cute shoes these retailers were offering? Yes, I did – but it was the principle of the matter.
Thinking to press releases or pitches I’ve sent that didn’t “land,” were they possibly deleted by their journalist recipients due to a poor turn of phrase? Journalists at a top-tier media outlet may receive 1,000 press releases a day. How do you make sure yours is even read? By choosing your words carefully. A press release is essentially a promotional tool, but it should not be written that way. It should be written in language a journalist will understand and respond to – it should be written as a news story. But just a cursory search on PR Newswire shows that PR pros are sending press releases riddled with clichés, written like advertisements, filled with wild claims and adjectives like “amazing,” “top-notch,” “cutting-edge” and “incredible.”
Google “spring has sprung” plus “PR Newswire.” I got more than 2,000 hits this morning.
Google that phrase plus "PR newswire." Or search the cliché alone. The result: 570,000 mentions.
You'll learn that spring has sprung for
Sprinkler system tuneups
Savings tips for electric bills
Best restaurants in America
Make-your-own Easter baskets
We all can slip into overrelying on jargon, clichés and vapid phrases. I get it. You’re in a hurry and have an hour to write this press release that has landed in your email, or you’ve got writer’s block and you’ve just got to get this one done, or you know what marketing speak your client or internal audiences like to use to describe their company or their products.
We use clichés because they are easy to remember, widely understood and don’t require creativity on our part. Writing meaningful press releases is an art and good business – but it’s bad business to keep using the same trite and tired terms. It’s also writing in a way that focuses more on sounding like you know what you’re talking about as opposed to really knowing what you’re talking about and risking the chance of muddying the message and losing the audience’s attention along the way.
Case in point would be a phrase like: Our innovative, cutting-edge technology is a turnkey solution for end-users. Sound familiar? It’s using clichés to convey a point without really saying anything.
Here’s a list of some of TrizCom’s most meaningless press release clichés, words and phrases for PR pros to avoid – unless undoubtedly true:
Next generation innovation
Innovative market leader
Outside the box
We’re excited to announce
At the end of the day
What are some others you would add to this list? What are you guilty of leaning on? How about some creative replacements? Or do you think there are times when the use of a cliché is warranted?
Most PR and marketing pros care about using language to communicate clearly, concisely and effectively and know we need to strike a balance between sounding intelligent and delivering a coherent message. Thinking on this may compel us all to think critically about the meaning and power behind the words we use.
It’s up to us to be the cliché killer.
Resources: This exercise reminded me of author of viral marketing specialist David Meerman Scott’s 2006 study and subsequent Gobbledygook Manifesto as well as Adam Sherk’s 2010 study. Both analyzed thousands of press releases for business jargon and revealed some of the worst – most frequent – offenders.
Managing expectations is a critical component of the agency-client relationship at TrizCom PR. We often begin a new business development meeting by simply asking why they are interested in a public relations campaign. Some have replied that they just want to see their name in the paper, but most are using it as a marketing tool to secure incremental business for their businesses. They believe—and are often proven correct—that earned media equals credibility in the marketplace.
Another caveat we explain in exploratory meetings is that PR is a marathon, not a sprint. It can take months of careful planning, pitching and execution before a client begins to see worthwhile results. We also never guarantee anything. PR firms that promise instant stardom for a client shouldn’t be considered true partners. That being said, we will work our tails off to ensure success, we just don’t promise it from the outset. Our proof points are the client newsrooms we maintain on our website, showcasing earned media wins for each of our existing and former clients.
If the image in their head doesn’t materialize into their version of reality, we encourage an extremely open and honest dialogue with clients. All PR plans are signed off on by clients before we begin campaigns. Each includes objectives, strategies, tactics and most important—how will success be judged by the client? If we can prove we’ve met that standard of success and they’re still not happy, then something changed. We find out what it is, adjust our plan accordingly and continue working.
By Jo Trizila, President & CEO, TrizCom Public Relations
Events: At TrizCom PR, we love events – not only because they are fun but because they are parenthetical; they have a start and an end date, and events are measurable. For many of our events, the pre-promotion is more important for selling tickets than actual event attendance. However, if your event is a press conference, for example, press attendance is imperative.
However, unless you are promoting a best-seller, crowd pleaser or limited offer, it is often difficult to get press coverage.
Here is a good tip sheet from TrizCom PR for attracting media to your event.
1. Create a plan. Think four months out for long lead pitches, 4-6 weeks out, a week out, the day before and post event.
2. Know what the cool factor is – i.e., don’t bury the lead. Be as concise and precise as possible.
3. What is press worthy of this event? Find the news hook. Is someone newsworthy speaking/headlining? Will a newsworthy person be in attendance (elected officials are always a great primer)?
4. Know your audience and where they are. Also know your journalist’s audience. Remember, selling the journalist is just part one to event PR – they must sell it to their audience. The topic MUST be relevant to their audience. I would not encourage inviting a technology reporter to a Junior League luncheon – unless Sheryl Sandberg is a member of this Junior League and has confirmed her attendance. Don’t forget your trade publications.
5. Target influencers – identify top industry influencers and bloggers.
6. Have images and video. An online press kit with downloadable high-resolution photos, biographies, agendas, etc. is always preferred, but place this information on a jump drive and you are just as good. The object is to make the media’s job as easy as possible.
7. Can you tie your topic into a current event? We call this newsjacking.
• If your association is holding a convention and there is a well-known speaker talking about insurance and the rise in premiums, pitch the reporter the speaker’s credentials and mention that he/she would be willing to talk on record about how the Affordable Care Act has impacted the xyzzy industry and their predictions for the future.
• If you are hosting a medical conference and a leading M.D. is there to talk about a recent study but also has a new product to unveil, make sure you mention that.
• If by chance you are hosting Fan Expo with Peter Mayhew (original Chewbacca from Star Wars), and a local woman who went viral for wearing a Kohl’s Chewbacca mask in her car has been personally invited to meet Mr. Mayhew – for the love of God, make sure the media is aware of this.
• We represent a Boat Expo. Recently we tied in boat sales as an economic indicator for the economy. It worked. In fact, the economy topic is considered an evergreen trend. It will always sell.
8. Write a press release or a media advisory. An ‘if we build it they will come” mentality just doesn’t work if they don’t know anything about it.
9. Prepare your spokespeople with message points. Knowing why you want media there in the first place will help with what you want the journalist to write about (i.e., message).
10. Have a person assigned to media. Nothing is worse than inviting a journalist to an event and they aren’t on the list or they wander around with no direction. Have a point person for them to text if they need anything.
11. Make your own media. Photograph, video and Facebook Live at the event. At a few press conferences we have hosted, I was afraid breaking news would interfere with their attendance. I have hired a few photo journalists to mimic press and tape the event. The strategy works twofold – the audience and the client don’t realize they are not press, and secondly, you have great video to pitch post event.
12. If it is a party, allow them to bring a guest.
13. Remember the 5 Ws plus…
• What? What is the event about? (20 words or less)
• When? When is the event? (Date AND time – if someone is speaking at a particular time, note that. If it is a drop in at any time, mention that.)
• Where? Where is the event? (Consider this when inviting the media to cover the event. I know of very few journalists who will travel for an event.)
• Why? Why should the journalist care about YOUR event?
• Who? Who will be there?
• How? How do they let you know they want to attend?
• Your personal contact information including cell.
14. The final and most important factor - to get a journalist to cover your event is to simply invite them.