AWN editor in chief Sarah Baisley lays out the dos and donts of pubic relations so that animation companies and indies can promote themselves better and get more bang for their pr buck.
Small or new companies in animation and visual effects often question the need for publicity. A couple decades ago, when the community was small and a few countries dominated the business, one could perhaps get by. But along came the deregulation of broadcasting, a tremendous increase in broadcasters and a gigantic need for product. Couple that with growth of the Internet, which has brought democracy to producers the world over striving for access and attention. Corporate mergers and advances in computerized publishing have drastically reduced the number of media outlets and downsized staffs, often to a ridiculous level.
Do you think an overworked pool of journalists will find your work amongst many more players all being able to directly access writers and editors faster and at less cost due to the Internet? Your work is not going to speak for itself amongst the huge volume of productions out there which warrant coverage either by the quality, talent involved, breakthroughs in styles and means of execution, or even the new medium itself, such as digital channels and wireless via mobile devices.
While I normally strive to do stories from an objective, balanced news perspective, consider this an interview with myself, full of advice Im uniquely qualified to give. Ive spent 17 years as a journalist and 17 years as a studio publicist representing animation and live-action companies, as well as their ancillary businesses such as distribution, licensing and merchandising and retail. Since I have not spent time at an agency (but have employed them), I asked some who practice animation pr on a regular basis to share their tips and advice, that I have included at the end of this piece.
I cant think of any time where your need for some sort of pr is greater than it is now. That doesnt mean you need to run out and hire some big public relations agency to represent you, although this may be warranted depending upon the scope of the project and your goals down the line. Most importantly, you need to beat the drums. Your good work is not going to sell itself and you have much more competition than before.
So you can try it yourself, put a publicist from a pr firm on retainer or by project or bring someone in-house.
If you are looking to add someone in-house, places to look include agencies or studio and broadcaster departments where publicists there are feeling beleaguered from the pressure and politics. Becoming part of a studio family and the ability to stand out with their own abilities may come at a quite welcome time in that persons career. The same goes for members of the press, who may entertain such a position for the same reasons, as well as what are typically better working conditions, pay and often a chance to spend more time with loved ones. They will be at least flattered you asked, and hopefully the timing is right.
My experience has always been better with individuals or pr boutiques, as opposed to the big agencies. Boutiques/individuals have a better grasp of the client and the client gets the services of the person who pitched him. They tend to individualize the message better and dont have a cookie-cutter approach to releases.
Big agencies can be a plus when you are trying to attract investors, they can be more economical for covering multiple territories and some can leverage their big profile/celebrity clients to get journalists to profile an unknown or more pedestrian subject.
Its very important to designate someone within your organization to be the press contact and liaison to the outside pr people, should you decide to go that way. People on the outside will still need a fair amount of suggestions, contacts, help getting art created (both production art and photos of people and the process), as well as approvals for bios, releases, kits and art.
PR people are not people who are great with people. Dont pick someone who says they are a real people-person. What they need to do is think like a reporter, editor and art director or news producer. They need to envision the story, the angle. Then prepare the information, fact check-it, make good art available and scope good locations for video shots, plus make video and audio clips available. It helps if they think more like a stringer for the media outlet. A story should have news value and an angle, which is not, Do a story about company A. However, Shows employing this technology is a growing trend in the business and company B is a good example of how this is used.
If you cant or dont respond to requests quickly, youll miss out on opportunities. Journalists are too pressed and shorthanded to baby sit the process and will often have to go with the most cooperative and prepared subjects.
I appreciated this response I got recently from a company in Norway:
Sorry, your mail got stopped by my spam mail filter.
I will forward your mail to your PR supervisor and expect that you will hear from her in a short while.
Thank for your interest in our movie.
The days of scads of reporters covering beats, chasing down leads and hounding contacts have been replaced by individuals covering much greater areas, adapting stories for multiple mediums to feed their own organization. The staff box might look large, but in reality, most are freelancers contributing form their home offices. Some trade publications are just literally virtual offices now, with an editor in one state, the art director in another, the main business office in another plus the writers and sub-editors are spread out throughout the country, or even the globe.
With the volume of relevant information that streams in now (plus the still time-consuming spam deletions), as well as searches on the Net and of competitors to keep abreast, little time is left for todays reporter to seek out fresh info or dig.
Ill never forget when I got an irate call one day from a new studio exec from the animation studio I had just left, demanding more coverage. Little had been issued by that place when I left the pr operation Id built and returned to being a journalist. He had come over from a major but fading live-action studio to jump on the animation bandwagon and was accustomed to the limelight.
He barked into the phone, Dont you know who we are! Guess hed never read the company history, exec bios and scads of releases that still listed me as the contact for the studio. He expected me to be calling the studio on a regular basis to see what they were up to. Right. Soon as I go through a spindle full of phone messages, the two feet of mail delivered by the postman that day and the then 50 or so emails. This was 10 years ago, now the phone rings a bit less, the mail is down to half a foot in the emails number around 700.
The best approach is to find out how the journalist prefers to get a release and a pitch and abide by that. Most editors prefer written pitches. People collect their thoughts better in writing; you arent trying to make up a bad phone connection (which happens more frequently now with calls from cell phones) or understand someone with an accent. They can respond when they are not in the middle of something and not have to worry about the time difference. Then again, some in radio might prefer verbal,; they need to hear how the story will sound.
If you feel funny about attempting a press release, you can send a few lines about what has happened at your place to the editor (someone hired, project optioned, production begun). They can follow up with more of what they need. Or, hire someone to write it for you. Perhaps look into using a student at a local college studying pr/journalism. If you are not fluent in the language of the media outlet, hire someone to translate it properly.
This example from Georgia Scott answers all the elements and displays the basic format of what and editor needs. But dont be intimidated if you cant flush it out exactly the same way.
The basics are:
Who/what/where/why and how in first couple paragraphs.
Players involved, include partners, subcontractors.
Blurbs about the companies involved or bios on the key person(s).
Since we all pretty much deal on an international basis now, where is the company located?
Contact information for the person issuing the release and how to reach the company itself. When sending info about a market or trade show you are attending, dont forget to include the booth or suite number or an email plus mobile number to reach you at. What is the point of getting the word out if they dont know how to find you there?
Follow up to make sure they received it, either by phone call or by email. Spam filters or hasty cleanups may wipe you out. If you have not seen it run for a while, dont expect it to. Dont get huffy about it; just send it again as a reminder.
Dont send it as an attachment and no message about what they are receiving. Better yet, paste the info in the message window. Attachments are causing virus havoc and are often avoided. When sending images, break them up in sends, downloading a big batch chews up to much processing time. Dont put urgent or just press release in the subject line. Fit a couple words about it there.
Dont send a message, check my website. The majority of the time, we dont have time to go search out the info. It takes too long for the site to load and then to get through the Flash or other programs running that might make your site attractive to someone considering hiring you, but slows down getting to the heart of what you do and who you are. Websites frequently dont have addresses for companies, good contact info and production facts about the project. Often the downloads dont work. Some media prefer to go to websites, you better ask, dont assume.
Watch the publication or site to see when it runs; dont ask the editor, Just wanted to check in and see if anything has been posted online for this. This is a verbatim email I received. News sites are quite searchable. The point of being a site is for people to be reading and checking things out on it. This request is more understandable if you cannot afford a subscription to that outlet.
Another way to promote your business and will ultimately give you news to talk about is to enter festivals, submit your work to competitions (Annies, Emmys) offer to speak on panels at seminars and conventions. Join organizations, go to events related to your field and network the crowd.
- Please carry a business card at all times. People might not have a chance to talk at the moment and will want to follow up with you. Put them out on your booth at shows; dont make people ask you for them. They dont need to be beautifully designed and printed. There are plenty of programs to output them on via your computer. I have seen companies do this; it counts!
If you are looking to do your own pr, one resource written by a pr person Ive worked with over the years is Public Relations for the Franchisee: How to Create Your Own Publicity, by Lisa Bernfeld. Its available on Amazon and the International Franchise Assn. (www.franchise.org).
I feel I have opened Pandoras Box with this advisory. Let me know if there are any areas or questions youd like me to expand upon, and if the demand warrants, this may develop into a series on press relations and issues. Address those thoughts and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Press releases and events should go to email@example.com. That way the editorial staff can access these and not have to wait for a traveling editor or publisher to forward your news when they find the time and email connectivity outside the office. Dont hesitate to send your news; journalists are news junkies.
And now, a few words from animation pr practioners:
Mike Kunkes, owner, Preacher Public Relations, Los Angeles
Package your material as completely and as simply you can. The less tweaking an editor has to do, the better the chance your news has of getting posted.
Though it varies from editor to editor, Ive found that in most cases, its best to send your copy in the body of the message and send the photo in an attachment. Regrettably at times, the days of hard copy and fax are largely over. Write well, intelligently, and from a journalistic point of view.
Put yourself in an editors shoes. What would you like to read, something that adds to a dialogue about a technique, a concept, a piece of software, the art of animation? Or another, I did this last week, aint I great? and heres my credit roll story.
Make sure your project is real. Dont announce your clients latest cocktail napkin or a project is in the early stages of development. Its OK to talk about something that youve created that hasnt been bought or optioned picked up or back-ended or sweat-equitied or whatever. Creativity sells, bullshit smells!
Dont get too hung up on having your news appear in print media. Many trade magazines have fallen by the wayside and the competition for the remaining space is intense. Save your efforts there for really groundbreaking stuff. Its safe to say that the number of people who think the Internet is a passing fad is very small at this point.
Animation is a collaborative process, so be inclusive.
Define the roles other companies played in your clients production and credit them appropriately. If the other entities have their own publicists, try and work with them so that an editor doesnt have to read five stories about the same project. Youll only end up pissing off an already harried person.
Some things never change, and one of those is follow-up. Use your instincts. Understand that a lot of editors dont return phone calls, preferring to do business through email exclusively, so dont take it personally. Its up to the individual editor, but whether you can get the editor on the phone or not, follow-up remains the most important part of the process. If at first you dont succeed, try two more times, then give it up and move on with your life. In the Internet age, the shelf life of a story is short.
Why hire a PR firm?
Why not? My companys motto is We preach so you can produce, and thats the way it should be. A client of mine in the TV commercial industry used to say about his agency clients that they should be sending over wheelbarrows full of cash for the ass-saving work they do, instead of sending cost controllers and driving down markups. By comparison, a publicist is a small expense, and unfortunately, we dont work on a cost-plus fixed fee basis. So youre already miles ahead. Besides, its fun to tell your clients, Ill have my publicist take care of it. And no, we dont work on spec. Do you?
Dont wait until a week before your project airs, breaks, screens, goes online, on sale, beta tests, audience tests, whatever, before hiring a pr firm. The publicist who accepts that challenge is asking for trouble, and the client who puts that out there is setting their pr person up largely for failure.
Make sure the firm you hire has specialized in your area. Dont be fooled by big numbers. The firm that has the most offices and the biggest roster isnt always the best for you. Can they write? Are they connected? What range of services do they offer? How do they control and report costs and expenses? Do they work on retainer or hourly? Do they spell your name correctly? If you go with a bigger firm, dont get the bait and switch. You want the account person who pitched you the business, and not get switched to a junior after 30 days. Thats one advantage to a smaller company, or a boutique (as we so adroitly say); who you meet is who you get. The buck stops there.
For a client to successfully determine an agencys client mix takes a delicate blend of introspection and entrepreneurial intuition. If youre going into a new kind of business, will your prospective pr firm be able to grasp the potential market and seize the initiative? So review the industries in which your prospective pr firm has worked, see if theyve achieved their clients goals on consistent basis, assess their professional skills. Do all that, add some gut check and you are assured of being well-served.
Preacher Public Relations (www.preacherpub.com) specializes in the production and post-production markets. The companys animation clients have included Klasky Csupo, IDT Entertainment, Film Roman, S4 Studios, aka Cartoon, pmG Worldwide and other purveyors of fine art for the masses.
Keith Gayhart, creative director, Artisans PR, Los Angeles
For potential clients:
In general, a successful public relations campaign requires a sustained and consistent effort. Companies should take a long view and consider pr as a tool that can help them build their business.
Before a company hires a pr firm, it ought to have a clear idea of why they are doing it. What do they hope to accomplish? What would make the campaign successful? What kind of media exposure are they seeking? When they interview pr firms, they can then compare their goals with the actual results the firms have achieved with companies similar to their own. It is important that the goals a company sets are realistic. Companies sometimes overestimate the news value of their stories. Pr agencies, eager to land the account, can over promise. In either case that is a sure recipe for disappointment. Honest and open communication between the agency and the client is the foundation for any successful pr campaign-as with any other business relationship.
Michael Saltzman, owner, Saltzman Communications. Los Angeles
Journalists need basic facts information and background on the project. The who/what/when/where.
PR should not be considered the end all and or answer to all the projects wants and needs. Instead, I believe that pr should be part of an overall campaign involving
Marketing, advertising and pr together. Some of the most successful projects Ive worked on over the years have involved people who work together to actively promote a project.
Im a big believer that in order to promote a company or project (I dont work with individuals except for directors), that there needs to be a fair budget that pays for a pr person, a marketing person, and someone who knows something about advertising. When these three groups can brainstorm, magic can definitely happen!
One of the mistakes that clients make is they come to me at the last minute and think I can work magic/and or save a project. If given time, and a good project, I believe anything can happen. Done at the last minute, and thrown together, magic seldom happens.
Part of the pr Dos and Donts include:
Dont bug journalists i.e., dont call them at the end of the day. Start out your pitch with, Is this a good time to talk?
Study a journalists work and know what he writes/reports on. Dont pitch a TV person about a feature film. Have a good understanding as to what his expertise is.
Dont throw stuff against the wall. If you have a good idea where a release should be placed, spend your time getting good placement there. As much as most pr people try and look busy by sending out a lot of releases (releases by the pound) better placement can be had by sending the release to a handful of journalists who will cover the story.
Build relationships with journalists. They will fight for a story when they know you and your client more than a faceless release.
Remember to have quality artwork. Know what the publication requires and have it ready before the journalist asks for it!
If you cant attract a journalist in the opening paragraph, or the opening headline, chances are they will pass on the story.
Strategize when a release should go out! Look at calendars and see what important events are headed your way!
Plan what will happen if the journalist passes.
Have all your information ready before doing your pitch. Do you have headshots/art/press kit/web-site ready? Does the company have a working phone number? cCan they be found through information (411) or on the web?
Be honest and respect them. Dont waste their time.
Neil Dickens, president, WTD Communications, Inc., Los Angeles
Know how to create a story.
Know how and when to pitch.
Treat journalists as comrades, rather than demigods.
Understand that no one journalist, or indeed media outlet is the same.
Give the fullest attention to detail.
Act as an information resource.
Build trusted contacts.Dont:
Tell a journalist they should print your story.
Think of pr as advertising.
Give your clients guarantees.
Think a press release will be printed verbatim.Reasons to engage a pr firm:
Professional presentationHow to best utilize a pr firm:
Stay in regular contact.
Understand that information is potential news.
Trust the important role a pr plays as communications representative.
Knowing whether you need representation or not. Not all entities do.
When you work with an agency, Jessie Nagel says be prepared to provide information that the publicist needs: the who, what, when, where and why of your project.
Jessie Nagel, special agent, Hype, Los Angeles
When should a company or individual hire a pr agency? Although there are many reasons, including the need for writing services for marketing materials, assistance with special event production and promotion and/or overall brand development, the most common reason pr agencies are hired is to promote news. So what makes information newsworthy? A unique story, coupled with the intended audiences ability to access content or creativity, is at the foundation of a solid pr initiative. A new company, a completed project that is coming to theaters or television, the acquisition of new talent or technology, these are the kinds of elements that fuel the pr machine.
So when should you hire an agency? It is important to note that all media outlets have distinct lead times the amount of time needed for a lead (news story) to be translated into print, radio or TV. With some publications, the lead-time is short (a day or week) and, with others, it can be three or more months. Thus, it is always advised to work with an agency well enough in advance to accommodate these various lead times so that your news will appear when the project is fresh. Researching pr agencies a few days before your movie debuts in theaters does not provide enough time for the agency of choice to develop a strategy or meet the deadlines of many media outlets.
Why hire an agency? Any pr agency worth its fees will have the ability to communicate your story in a compelling fashion to media contacts that the company has developed over time. The agency should know the content and readership of the various publications, as well as the beats or specific areas of coverage for each editor/reporter. The best agencies are trusted resources information conduits for their media contacts. Additionally, most people feel uncomfortable touting their own accomplishments pr professionals love to sing their clients praises.
How to best work with an agency? Information is key, so be prepared to provide, at least verbally, the basic elements of journalism: Who, What, When, Where and Why. That said, the agency will help craft your message and can help determine which angles will best sell the story idea/news. Images and other media (QuickTimes, etc.) are generally needed, depending on the story, to accompany the story. Media outlets are often more interested in publishing news that has compelling images to illustrate or complement the item.
Hype is an entertainment communications agency that provides brand-strategic writing, publicity and marketing services to a diverse roster of clients in the feature film, television, commercial, music video, and music industries. We call them Hypesters because they are part of the club, a great and talented group of clients with whom we enjoy a productive and fun collaboration.
Opened as a counterpoint to larger agencies servicing the talents behind the scenes, our boutique agency features an extremely hands-on approach to clients and a working methodology that positions Hype as a resource to members of the media.
Bios, company profiles, press releases, articles: we craft prose that clearly and cleverly sends your message to its intended audience. Our staff is comprised of published writers who can translate ideas into action. We work hard on behalf of our clients and have fun at what we do because we enjoy promoting talent and creativity. Ever heard the phrase, Dont believe the Hype? Well now you can.
Anthony Vagnoni, president, AVagnoni Communications, North Caldwell, New Jersey & New York City
Here are some of my pr dos and donts, based on my experiences working as a pr guy for the past three-and-a-half years and, before that, as a trade magazine journalist for 15 years:
Make sure you have great art elements for your press push. Youd be surprised how many companies in the film and TV biz dont bother to send out great-looking images with their publicity materials.
Give your pr people more than enough time. Dont forget that often the reporters that pr people are pitching stories to, have to in turn pitch those story ideas to their editors. Even though we live in a web-enabled world, journalists still need time to evaluate feature story ideas.
Build in time for client approvals. When dealing with work for big media companies or big ad agencies, allow at least a week, sometimes two, for client approval of your publicity materials. Remember, getting your press release approved is not a high priority for them, so it will invariably get pushed off day after day. Be patient, and be prepared.
Make sure that your press materials are easy to understand and easy to navigate. Its great to send work on ftp sites and the like, but if your work has to be unzipped, or the site is password protected, it can be a pain to get to. Make the process as easy as possible for time-stressed, overworked scribes to get at your stuff.
Sarah Horner, owner, MediaVision, Madrid
Why take on a pr firm:
A good pr outfit brings an invaluable network of media contacts to your company. They know what the journalists want, how they want the information presented and when they need they need the information. A good pr executive acts as a catalyst or conduit between the client and the media -facilitating communication between the company and the outside world.
If you hire a pr company make sure they are well respected by the journalists, that they understand your particular sector of the industry and that they will deliver results.
Journalists dont like waffle and hyperbole tell the story, get to the point and avoid using too many adjectives!
When using a pr firm, Ruth Atherley thinks it’s best to let it develop an action plan that is proactive. This will help them obtain more coverage for you than if it was reactive.
Ruth Atherley, partner, AHA Creative Strategies, Vancouver & Sechelt, BC, Canada
Dont send out a news release unless its newsworthy. Publicity must be newsworthy to be considered for editorial coverage. Do a quick Who Cares? test ask a few people outside of your immediate circle at work what they think. If the only person that would be interested in this story is your boss and/or your mom send them an email instead of the media. It has to matter to the audience of the publication or station you are sending it to.
Give the media the details. Be sure to include the who, what, when, where, why and how of your news in the first paragraph of your news release. Be sure to include your contact information (youd be surprised how often people forget to tell the reporter how to get in touch with them!).
Make the information as easy to review as possible.
Put a date on the release.
Give the release a one-line headline to catch their attention.
Double space the release.
Keep the release on one page.
Be interesting, tell the story, but dont try to sell your company too much. Tell the story in the way that the media needs to see it, think about what their audience/readership needs to see (as much as its all about you, its really about the audience/reader).
Be brief write it, put it away for a day, review it, if possible have someone else review it and then cut the content in half.
Offer images. The media loves images, but let them know you have images available rather than just attaching them to your email. With so many computer viruses out there, many media do not open up email attachments unless they know who is sending it. High-res images work best. If the reporter does ask you to send images dont send huge files.
Respect the reporters deadline. If a reporter calls and wants to interview you, you cannot say, I am available tomorrow. That might be too late for their deadline. If you are not available when they need you, they probably wont call you again and they will find someone else to speak with possibly your direct competition. It can be very inconvenient, but they only turn to people that they know will make themselves available to them. Reporters work on tight deadlines respect that and give them the information they ask for as soon as you possibly (and accurately) can. If there is a delay in setting up an interview with someone in your company or you face a challenge finding the information they have requested, keep them in the loop. They will appreciate your efforts.
Dont ask the interviewer if you can see and approve the piece or photographs. Reporters and photographers wont let you go over the piece or look at a photograph theyve chosen before it goes to print. Editors, reporters and photo editors all have a say in what goes into the final piece and they are not going to make you a part of this team. If you want to send out a specific message crafted exactly the way you want and have it appear that way you may want to buy an ad.
Corrections, revisions, retractions: Upon seeing the article in print, many people feel misquoted or misrepresented. Make sure if you call the reporter to complain, that it is because there is an error in the story and it isnt because you dont like the article.
If there is an error, think about how important that error is a small mistake can happen to anyone and its fine to send a polite email to the reporter explaining that your name was spelled wrong. Dont demand a retraction for small things. If the error is bigger, call the reporter and discuss it, reporters dont want to get facts wrong either. Dont go over the head of the reporter to their editor unless you are not getting a response from the reporter.Reasons to use a pr firm:
A pr firm can be very useful to help promote yourself or your products and services. Often their fees are lower or equal to what you would spend on having a junior communications person in house but with senior staff results. Pr specialists develop long-term relationships with the media. They talk to reporters regularly and know what certain publications and TV and radio shows are looking for. They know the media because its their job. That expertise is invaluable to your business.
External pr consultants also are objective. They will tell you when the news release isnt newsworthy enough and save you the time and expense of sending it out. This also helps to establish and maintain your companys reputation with the media. pr professionals will ensure that the media sees your company as a reliable and reputable resource that provides newsworthy releases and pitches that are relevant to their audience or readership.How to best utilize a pr firm:
Let the pr firm develop an action plan that is proactive. This will help them obtain more coverage for you than if it was reactive. Often with everything going on in your day, you will need someone to take the lead and run with you pr, with your approval, of course and holding you accountable to approve campaigns, releases and other pr materials. Without a pr agency, you may be missing opportunities.
Steve Syatt asserts that effective pr will provide your company with dividends — branding, business expansion — even external and internal good will. It’s a trusting, positive relationship that can last forever.
Steve Syatt, ceo, SSA Public Relations, Los Angeles
The assignment from Sarah Baisley is for me, as a pr firm owner, to review some pr dos and donts things clients should do to get the most out of their publicity agencies. Whatever I write here is simply not going to be anywhere near enough to tackle in a column, so Ill try to highlight a few of what I regard as the really important points. Lets start with some questions I pose to clients and see where it takes us
What is it you as a company want to achieve from your pr? Have you had any experience working with pr agencies? How committed are you or your management to working with the firm to strategize and achieve results?
Then there are a few questions clients should have of the pr firms theyre looking at what are examples of projects youve completed successfully that closest resemble our own objectives? How will my account be handled and by whom in your agency? How proactive is the agency in representing clients? Can I get a list of your clients and call them for references? By the way, if the firm says, No you cant run, dont walk, away.
While pr should be part of a companys marketing mix, it really is a different animal. The best pr people 1) fully understand your business; 2) fully appreciate the intense work reporters have on their plate every day; 3) fully appreciate the hard work that the client undertakes in building their businesses. Pr firms have to understand that they dont represent merely clients they represent companies, investors people who are sacrificing a lot to grow their businesses. In fact, if a pr person cant get excited when a client brings a board a new broadcaster for their show, or a licensee for their brand, or a co-production partner for their project its time to hang it up. If a publicist cant get enthused about speaking or corresponding with a reporter, its time to choose something else to do.
This is what companies might think about wanting from their pr firms: 1) That every possible business or consumer constituency they want to reach knows their message in a comprehensive manner; 2) That they achieve the kind of editorial coverage that will contribute toward their ongoing business-building activities; 3) That their corporate brand is underscored across targeted b2b industries and/or consumer markets.
If companies have not had experience with pr firms they should expect a few things 1) pr firms have to get up to speed learning about the company, developing key corporate media messages, creating pr strategies and preparing media materials before media pitches can effectively begin. However, this phase should go quickly no more than a couple of weeks; 2) be ready for media interviews when reporters need something, whether its materials or access to executives they should not be slowed down by pr people (or clients); 3) You have to be proactive with your agency provide info as early as possible and as much as possible.
The best publicists are not necessarily salespeople or spin-doctors. Instead, I have found that they are solid communicators with a profound respect for media. My idea of the best publicists are those who have enthusiasm for their clients and media alike. They are organized and patient. They understand there is no clock on the wall. They understand and appreciate the important role they play. They want to succeed for their clients. They actually even angst about it.
The best clients are those who communicate regularly with their pr reps. They are there for reporters. They review press release drafts quickly and appreciate the deadlines publicists face in working to achieve placement opportunities.Some Dos:
Do some due diligence before you hire an agency. Talk to reporters, talk to clients, interview the firms management team and publicity staff, get a proposal. (If the firm doesnt do them, say thanks and move on.) When you hire an agency, participate in ongoing strategy calls, secure weekly or bi-weekly updates, sign up for a clipping service, be there for them with information, be there to review written press materials, be there for reporters, provide access for your pr reps and your advertising/marketing/promotion teams. It is also important, in industry trade pr, to utilize publicity in conjunction with trade advertising, direct mail, open houses, events and promotions. Sometimes a pr firm can handle it all (I know of one).
Effective pr will provide your company with dividends branding, business expansion even external and internal good will. Its a trusting, positive relationship that can last forever.
Jan Nagel remembers the pr nightmare with the U.S. Army recruitment center that needed a publicist’s assured hand to soothe over.
Jan Nagel, entertainment marketing diva, Los Angeles
Public relations is essential in this business. It is nice to see an ad in a trade. It means the producer is passionate about their show and is willing to promote it in all ways. But it is public relations that gives any ad and any show validation. When an article is written about a show, a producer, a concept, the reader automatically feels they are getting the whole truth that is not being colored by money.
When a producer chooses to be his/her own pr person, something is missing from the equation. It is like an attorney representing him/herself in court or a surgeon operating on oneself. It is just not good advice.
A public relations professional knows the editors and writers in the trade media. They have a long-standing relationship that carries some weight when making a decision about whether to run an article or a new story.
A public relations professional also knows what the media is seeking and what they will run.
A public relations professional can write a press release but will find the best angle to the story so that it will get in.
A public relations specialist can pitch the story, get the producer the interview and even monitor what is said so that the producer doesnt say something that will create a problem in the future for the producer.
And if the producer does say something unconscionable, the trained public relations pro will be able to help spin the story to soften the blow or even ask for the favor to get it out of the publication.
I have been a pr pro for many years. I will never forget the time I was working for NWAyer, the advertising agency for the U.S. Army recruiting. One day a local news station walked into a recruiting station and the sergeants were so scared they walked out the back door and turned off the lights, leaving the news crew in the dark, never asking what they wanted.
What a nightmare. I did several things when I found out. I directed the public affair officer to call and apologize to the news director. I had the soldiers also do the same. I arranged for an on camera interview with the commander in charge of the battalion to answer the reporter questions and I instituted a future training so that this would never happen again.
It never did, not under my watch. All soldiers knew their best approach was to be helpful: ask what the reporter wanted and then pick up the phone to call me or the commander. From there they would escort the news crew to the commanders office and the questions would be answered there, under my and the public affair watchful eyes.
Fran Koenig, owner, Fran Koenig Assoc., Greenwich, Connecticut
A pr person needs to provide accessibility. Make yourself available Pick up the phone when a reporter calls and answer emails quickly. When a reporter is on deadline, the last thing they want to reach is a voice mail. Always provide a cell number or forward all calls to your cell if youre out of the office.
Check for accuracy in press releases. If there are credits involved, make sure theyre correct and that names are spelled right, too.
I send most of my information by email since snail mail is slow and less effective. Fedexing information is okay if you have to send a DVD with the release. If I have a link to a spot, Ill include it in the release or in the email. The simpler the process, the better. A one click link is better than a user ... password process, but the latter is better than none. And make sure the link works!
Attaching large files is not acceptable unless requested. I usually provide a note at the end of the release stating frames and photos are available on request and then really have them available. Make sure the visuals are high quality digital images.
When you choose any kind of repping firm, you choose them for their contacts. That is true of sales rep as well as pr reps.
In terms of selecting a pr firm, find out: Who they know in the media and the contacts theyve developed. What theyve placed look at their book. Which companies are included in their client roster. References based on the quality of their work. And the comfort level between you and your pr rep. Trust your gut.
Sarah Baisley is editor in chief of Animation World Magazine and www.awn.com. She was editor in chief and, later, associate publisher of Animation Magazine from 1995 until 2002, taking it from a bi-monthly to a monthly international trade magazine. A specialist in animation publicity for 17 years, she has served as publicity director for Film Roman, Hanna-Barbera Productions, The Taft Entertainment Co., Ruby-Spears Enterprises and Southern Star Productions. Previously, she was an award-winning reporter for the Los Angeles Times. She is an officer of the Los Angeles chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists and Women In Animation.