Thursday, March 29, 2007

How To Spin Y-O-U

How do we get wired for success? What makes the telephone lines buzz about what “that company” or “that somebody” is doing? How does it happen that Britney Spears and Brad Pitt get a mention on cable, broadcast TV, satellite radio and AOL? On the other hand, the Iraq war gets airtime on CNN and PBS’ Newshour With Jim Lehrer? It’s all about being a buzz master that can spin you across all communication channels. The “you across all communication channels” can be you, inc. or Y-O-U, Inc.

Recently, brilliant minds in public relations dropped several dimes and silver dollars about the stage of development for public relations. They work in boutique firms, medium size and global goliaths of buzz, crisis management, angles and story pitching. One idea that they all share is the necessity to include Web 2.0 in the PR strategy. Web 2.0 is the catch phrase for social media, blogs, email, newswires and search engines that really make putting your face on your e-magazine that’s read around the world doable for any somebody. Not to use technology nor adjust to the presence of the web as a communication channel may be life-threatening. In short, PR firms have to grow or die. Julie Kehoe, head of Outcast Communications’ New York office, says her office uses viral marketing through bloggers, video news releases, ‘smart releases’ and pod casts to realize clients’ objectives. With the same zeal, Outcast Communications did traditional product announcements, media relations and brought reporters into RSA, a client that provides online technology security, to experience the product.

The other shared opinion was PR’s involvement in sales. While not directly responsible for sales volume, Chris Capra stated “Lotus PR wants to have a key role in the sales function.” Capra explained that most of their clients know the distinction between public relations and selling. “The fact is PR must go to the sales people to get information about the client.” Similarly, Mike Levin, Connors Communication Interactive Vice President, drew the proverbial picture that connected public relations, marketing and sales. Levin depicted the relationship as a funnel where public relations is the wide mouth end that drew attention to an item; marketing gave incentives to stir demand and sales is the narrow end that channels the closed deals.

As are most PR professionals, Gerard Crichlow, at Ruder Finn; Mike Levin, at Connors Communication; Lisa Bass at e-MediaPro; Julie Kehoe at Outcast Communications; and Christopher Capra at Lotus Public Relations are all sweethearts. The time and information they shared about the world of PR, on and off record, are surprising. They all love their jobs, which is to inform and engage you—the investor, the consumer, fellow business, and government—in their client’s point of view. Don’t all businesses and nonprofits need a professional in their corner? Regardless of staff size, territory or concern, every enterprise needs to toot its horn—hopefully you have the actual brass instrument and a digital music file. It comes down to tools and forming relationships. It is also respect for the power of one person who knows how to deploy technology. Lisa Bass, the Managing Director of e-MediaPro says that ’’All value resides in the individual. Given the change in the social economic order from post industrial to support technology, people are dictating the terms of engagement. Business now has to accommodate the individual. [This is true for media].” With the right tools a small shop can appear large and handle big orders. Bass recommends using Evite, Constant Contact and WhatCounts to manage bulk email and branding your email page using eBrandit or MS Outlook so that your email shares the same corporate face as your website, letter head, and business cards. Other tools include video/audio streaming, online media list management software and such web-based media relations management applications as Logix.

Chris Capra concedes that these tools give smaller firms flexibility in work configurations and capacity to serve. He says that they allow boutique and small firms to have a bigger presence and allow staff to work from various locations. Gerard Crichlow looks at these tools from the view of taking a “green approach” to work process and work product; i.e., the paperless office. Mike Levin views these technological advances as leveling the playing the field within the PR firm itself. Levin explains that the hierarchy has been based on “who you know”. The more contacts you had to get a story placed or make an event occur the higher up the corporate ladder one went. These tools replace “who you know” with “what you know”. The more you know and apply it, the farther you advance the client and yourself. Julie Kehoe adds balance to this topic by acknowledging, “human interaction will never go out of style.” Kehoe says, “There’s no substitute for personal contact and the power of relationships.” She tells her staff to make sure you’re reaching out to clients regularly. Make one phone a day to them.”

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