The Keys to Communicating with Professional Journalists

One of those relationships we will inevitably have to build as public relations professionals is with news reporters and journalists. They may hold the power to get our stories, events, and clients in the press, but we have influence over the ever important brand. Business columnist Eric Wieffering talked to our PRSSA group about the best practices for a relationship between publicists and journalists. Eric has spent the last 25 years in journalism, with 14 of those being at the Star Tribune. Essentially, there are two situations where you will have to interact with reporters: when a writer calls you for information about a crisis or feature story and when you go to the reporter to promote a story. Eric gave guidelines to professionally navigate both situations.

Crisis Management

  • Be available – When there is a crisis or breaking news at your company, the best thing the spokesperson can do is answer the phone. Journalists are under tight deadlines; if you don’t talk to the reporter, you may not have a chance to get your side of the story to the public. Responding to the reporter’s needs is appreciated and critical. Eric also mentioned that it is generally best to give some sort of statement on the given situation opposed to saying “no comment”.
  • Be prepared – Part of the journalist’s job is to get accurate facts in a compelling manner. They may not always want to talk to the company’s spokesperson and may push to speak with a principal of the company.  Try your best to get the information they want to avoid negative images of the company.
  • “Become a counsel to your client. Figure out the risks and opportunities.” – In addition to being prepared, if a reporter comes to you looking for quotes or photographs, know what they are writing about. Don’t assume the story is going to be positive for the company; be proactive and aware. It is the publicist’s job to know what the story is and the possible repercussions.

Pitching Stories 

  • Know your reporter – For important stories, try to tailor your pitches to the specific reporter. Investigate what they like and what they typically write about. Of course, you can’t know exactly what everybody wants, but try to do your research.
  • Pitch new, fresh stories – A reporter is not going to write about ‘old news’. Pick the outlet you want most and try to offer some “exclusivity” with your big stories.
  • Keep it short – Between investigating, writing, blogging, and tweeting, the demand for a journalist’s time is a struggle. Many times, press releases go to the bottom of their to-do list. Be sure to include contact info so if there is interest, the writer can reach out to you for more information. “A good pitch is not a story. The pitch is going to sell the reporter, not the media kit.”
  • Write well – Creativity and originality are key to your press releases.  Even though your pitch may be short, spice it up with compelling writing.
  • “Be persistent, not overbearing.” – Be patient when waiting for a response. Reach out to the journalist a couple days after you e-mail them your press release. Don’t e-mail them at 6 p.m. on a Wednesday and call them Thursday morning expecting a response.

Thank you, Eric!!

This post was written by Brooke Ahlers (@blahlers) and edited by Kelsey Darnall (@KelseyJDarnall).


The Keys to Staying Organized

Are you finding yourself stressed out already this semester, and realizing we’re only three weeks into school? Time to take a break and get your self organized. Here’s how:

  • Don’t overload your schedule. Extra school activities, PRSSA for example, can be very beneficial for all of us. But, make sure you’re not trying to balance being on the cheer team, debate team, having a job, and going to school all the while. If you put your energy into one group you’ll end up seeing more success and feeling more satisfied with your schedule.
  • USE A STUDENT PLANNER. This can’t be stressed enough. I don’t know how I would have survived seven semesters of college without one. It can fit your personality, have a super funky design, or you can even use the normal “Gopher Guide.” Either way, a planner is essential and don’t feel like a dork for having one.
  • Write things down. I’ve found that it’s easiest to take all of your syllabi and mark down important dates at the beginning of the semester. Tests, readings, quizzes, and anything else should be written down. This will help you stay on top of things, and will hopefully help you procrastinate less.
  • Eat your vegetables first. Okay… not literally. Imagine yourself out to dinner. If you ate your dessert before your vegetables, what would you have to look forward to? Do the same for all of your homework and studying. Try tackling the hardest and least fun tasks first, so you know you’re on the way to an easier finish.
  • REWARD YOURSELF! This is important. After a hard week of school, it’s important to unwind. Whether that unwinding is heading out to Dinkytown for a night out with friends, or staying in and renting a movie, it’s important to take a break from all things school related.
Good luck!

This post was written and posted by Kelsey Darnall (@KelseyJDarnall).

What to Expect in 2012: Social Media

Tech Crunch recently published an article that applies to all things social media.. Here’s a recap:

2011 brought social media to a whole other playing field. While some corporations struggled to find their existence in social media, other companies, such as Best Buy and Target, utilized social media to their key advantage. But what should we expect to see in 2012? Here’s a breakdown:

1. Social TV Integration

Many shows have already begun to integrate social TV, either through polling or integrating social elements within the show. Social media played a pivotal role in the last presidential election, and it will likely be more integrated into political broadcasts.

As each news channel fights hard to keep their viewers engaged, networks like CNN and Fox have made significant strides to engage their audience, although some would argue that this social media integration has come at the expense of hard-hitting journalism and analysis.

2. TV Is Going Online in a Big Way

2012 will be the first time that the Super Bowl will be streamed live to the world. Since the Super Bowl is generally viewed as the mother of all advertising spectacles, it will add a new dynamic into the digital component to advertising and social media integration.

3. Facebook Credits Take Center Stage

Facebook in 2012 has the potential to project its power and truly take Facebook credits into a viable currency.

4. Big Business Has Woken Up

The way corporate entities approach social media is shifting. Many companies realize that setting up Twitter, YouTube and Facebook accounts is not going to cut it as their social media strategy. Brands will need to seriously shift their perspective by treating social channels more like communication channels and less like an advertising channels in order to make a difference. From my perspective this transition has already occurred, judging by the extent to which brands’ Twitter accounts are now used as channels for CRM and customer support, managing pissed off or happy customers in near realtime.

5. ROI Is Still Huge

ROI will remain a key metric to any social media strategy. The concept of engagement is now becoming more and more an excepted metric. CEO adoption of social media is improving, and more CEOs are recognizing the benefits of humanizing their brand by taking to Twitter.

This post was written by Joseph Puopolo at Tech Crunch and posted by Kelsey Darnall (@KelseyJDarnall).

The Midwest is on the Map

For years, riders have been trickling out of the Midwest, finally escaping the frozen, windswept tundra we call home to ride the spectacular terrain of the West.  The Leines brothers, Bjorn and Erik, are perfect examples of Minnesota riders who have taken their riding to the next level.  Then you have Chad Otterstrom, Mason Aguirre, Dan Brisse and Joe Sexton who have each added a dynamic style to the world of snowboarding.  Now the young guns are starting to take over.  Snowboarder Magazine published an article in their Aug. 2011 issue entitled “Feeling Minnesota,” a showcase of local riders and their distinct mentality from a life of riding in the Midwest.  We are a different breed; riders who have to battle some of the most brutal conditions to get in a day of sub-par riding.  There is no vertical, no powder, only the unforgiving rails of the streets and the iced over approaches of our small local resorts.

But it is these things that define us.  Despite all of this, we still go out and ride, constantly looking for the next spot.  Maybe we don’t live in a place where you get a powder day three times a week, but to us, this is a bountiful land with enormous potential.  If you look at the major videos that were released last year, namely ROME’s “The Shred Remains” and Burton’s “Standing Sideways,” you can recognize that many of the spots they hit are the same.  Mack Dawg Productions keeps a storage space full of equipment because they know that when we get snow, Minneapolis is the place to be for incredible street riding.

A couple of years ago I met one of the coolest guys in the Minneapolis snow scene. He was one of the guys on the floor at The House Boardshop named Brett Spurr.  He’s exploded into the industry with the release of his full edit, You Know My Function, a fantastic view into the lives of Minnesota riders.  At only 19 years old, you HAVE to watch out for this guy because he’s ready to take on the scene.  This is going to be a big year for Midwest snowboarding, already there have been several edits popping up from Trollhaugen Ski Area featuring Sexton and Burton young gun Ethan Deiss.

So as we come into season, be on the lookout for our local boys because of all the riders out there, they are definitely going to be working the hardest.

This post was written by Jens Heig (@JensRHeig) and posted by Kelsey Darnall (@KelseyJDarnall).

“The Skills Employers Desire in Today’s PR Professional”

Recently, Ragan’s PR Daily wrote and one of the most unique articles I’ve read about PR professionals.

Arik Hanson asked agency owners, recruiters, and HR people across the industry three key questions:

1. What’s one skill that every PR pro needs today and why?
2. What’s one PR skill that you see evolving—and becoming critical to success—in the years ahead?
3. What’s the one skill you currently have the hardest time finding in the marketplace as you recruit for new talent?

Check out the article for the answers!

This article was posted by Kelsey Darnall (@KelseyJDarnall).

The Next Big Thing: Red Frog Events


For you lucky members heading to Chicago in December prepare yourself to tour Red Frog Events, a local event planning company that’s starting to boom in the Chicago area! For those of you hoping to network and possibly gain a job out of this trip expect to put all your skills out on the table. They receive around 2,000 resumes EACH MONTH! Once someone is accepted into the company they are fortunate enough to call themselves one of the “Frog Army” members and become part of the office family.

Red Frog puts on events like the Warrior Dash, The Great Urban Race scavenger hunt, Beach Palooza and Red Frog Bar Crawl! Check out Red Frog’s website (linked above) and make sure to follow them on Twitter at @RedFrogEvents before you arrive in Chicago. Have questions ready for Red Frog and make sure you bring your ‘A GAME!’

This post was written and edited by Kelsey Darnall ( KelseyJDarnall).

5 Resume Tips from Jon Pushkin, APR

Last Thursday I took a trip to Denver and sat down with Jon Pushkin from Pushkin PR for a helpful informational interview. After talking about the Denver PR market, and different companies in the area, we talked about resumes and portfolios. Jon sees multiple resumes come across his desk on a weekly basis. Here’s 5 tips from Jon on how to make your own resume and cover letter stand out among the many:

1. Do your homework: Before sending a company or a professional your cover letter do your homework and check out their website, blog or any social media they are on. Find a way to connect instead of sending a general cover letter that you send out to everyone. Saying something along the lines of, “I’m interested in this client of yours because it’s similar to the work I’ve done on so and so..” will make your cover letter much more personal.

2. Talk about your extracurricular activities: Your resume should include more than just what school you went to, what your major was and when you plan on graduating. Any outside activities (like a sorority or fraternity, PRSSA, volunteer work) makes your resume stand out more. If you’ve traveled abroad make sure this is also included on your resume and talk about your oversea experiences.

3. Show how you’ve actually been active: If you are in any of the activities I mentioned above show what you’ve done and how this applies to the line of work you’d like to get in to. Just because you have a membership in PRSSA doesn’t mean you are more qualified then someone who isn’t a member. Explain how these organizations have benefited you and explain what you’ve done in them and what you’ve learned from them.

4. Show that you have interest in the world around you: Include information about what news you read and from what news outlets you get your news from. If you can’t include it in your resume because it doesn’t fit anywhere include this information on your cover letter. Jon said it’s a rare occurrence to find a young professional that shows that they stay up-to-date on news, but it’s appreciated when he does see it. Whether you watch CNN every night, or have a subscription to the New York Times, talk about it.

5. Have an easily accessed portfolio: Many of us in PRSSA know the importance of a portfolio. It’s beneficial to take to interviews and it shows the work you’ve done. But, when sending out a cover letter or a resume online, you can’t show your tangible portfolio. So, create one online. Your online portfolio can either be a link to a PDF file, or to your blog, or to an actual website of your own. Either way, show off what you’ve done so far in your PR field.

This post was written by Kelsey Darnall (@KelseyJDarnall). These tips were given by Jon Pushkin (@Jon_Pushkin).