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Taylor Harruff

Our Case For Why the Press Release Isn’t Dead

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Press release isn't dead

The commentary and opinionated articles regarding the future of the press release are hardly difficult to come by. Few of them, however, are in favor of press releases as the public relations landscape continues to shift. As a response to you press release haters (I’m looking at you, Forbes) here’s an ode to the press release, and our case for why it’s not dead.

Press Releases are an effective way to communicate news on a large scale

Press releases, media releases, news releases, whatever you want to call them, are designed to effectively deliver news to a large audience. A press release should contain only the facts (marketing language need not apply) and be no more than 500 words. A press release is the vehicle for communicating information about your client and their business to not just reporters, but potential customers and loyal brand followers. When drafted correctly, the press release is formatted to deliver the most important information first, allowing people to pull out what they need quickly. For journalists, who are more pressed for time than ever before, a press release contains all of the information needed without jumping hoops. That said, as a PR professional it’s vital to have a strong understand of what does and does not warrant a press release. If a client is insisting you craft a release based on a company cookout, for example, you need to pull the plug.

 Press Releases demonstrate company momentum

A press release, even if not used to pitch journalists or distributed via a wire service, is the perfect tool for demonstrating continued company momentum to potential partners, investors, new customers or employees. By drafting a press release that highlights a significant company update (think: office growth, increase in employees) a company is showing continued advancement that appeals to those looking for positive momentum. Similarly, a press release that is posted to a company’s newsroom or media page has a fairly long life span. In addition to being added to a company’s media room, that information can then be shared across a number of social media channels, thus expanding its reach. On the same note, a release can be crafted in such a way that it shows your company as the expert on a certain topic. By crafting a release that includes industry-relevant information and updates, a company can publicly take a stance to recent marketplace developments.

Press Releases are good touch points for media contacts

Press releases will always vary in terms of relevance to the media, but that doesn’t necessarily mean one release is more valuable that the other. Even when drafting a press release that will not be distributed via a paid wire service, you can still utilize that press release as collateral when reaching out to media contacts. When touching base with long-standing media contacts, a press release is a great introductory piece, but as the PR professional it’s up to you to flesh out the bigger company story, while using the release as a support tool for a journalist who is interested in learning more information.

Are you interested in learning more about how BLASTmedia can help your company get in front of the appropriate outlets? Email Lindsey Groepper with your questions!

SXSW 2014: What You Need to Know

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It’s that time of the year again! South by Southwest (a.k.a. #SXSW) is here and it’s all anyone can talk about.  If you were unable to make the trip to Austin, or simply opted not to follow the coverage of this year’s event, have no fear! The BLASTmedia team has compiled a list of the biggest happenings thus far to keep you in the loop.

BLASTmedia_Blog_SXSW

New technology start-ups are here to play. In past years, SXSW has been recognized for its array of social-networking apps, but one emerging theme at this year’s event has been the focus on health care. A fair amount of the panel discussions this year have fixated on the intersection of technology and human wellness while the business-pitch competition has included a number of emerging health gadgets including a “smart” pill bottle that sends reminders via text message and a smartphone-enabled thermometer. The Washington Post covered the final round of SXSW Accelerator this past Sunday, where 18 entrepreneurs pitched their new technology to a number of judges, all aiming to be recognized for the grand prize in six different technology categories. One San Fran company – ThriveOn – stood out within the health tech category for its app that offers a personal online program designed to improve mental health.

Women panelists and attendees are growing in number. Since its inaugural event in 1987, SXSW has been male-dominant, but this year’s forums and events have shifted. Bloomberg reports that about 25 speaker sessions are dedicated to women in technology, which is five times the amount of last year’s conference. Mindy Kaling, who is best recognized for her hit comedy The Mindy Project, spoke to over 500 people about her perspective on diversity in TV and stole the show with not just her wit and humor, but her insight into breaking boundaries as a women of color. Similarly, the star of HBO’s hit show Girls, Lena Dunham, presented the SXSW 2014 film festival keynote lecture where she spoke to the lack of opportunities and film work for females as compare to their male co-stars.

Edward Snowden speaks via videoconference from Russia. What is the possibly the most talked about happening at SXSW in years, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden didn’t actually present at the event, but rather dialed-in via videoconference from Russia. Snowden, who has been relatively unheard from until since releasing national securing documents to reporters, answered questions from the public submitted via Twitter to a crowd of thousands. During his discussion, Snowden spoke directly the masses of “techies” in attendance, urging them to help “fix” the U.S. Government’s surveillances of its citizens’ phone and Internet behavior. The looming question leading up and during Snowden’s presentation of “Why speak at SXSW?” was answered by the former CIA employee and NSA contractor in one simple sentence, “South by Southwest and the tech community, the people in the room in Austin, they’re the folks who can fix this.There’s a political response that needs to occur, but there’s also a tech response that needs to occur.”

Looking to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to trade shows, social media trends and digital campaigns? Contact Lindsey Groepper to see how BLASTmedia can assist you with your marketing needs!

Technology Outlets To Keep Your Eyes On In 2014

By | Industry Perspective | No Comments

Pardon the cliché but the only thing that is constant is change. Only one month into 2014 and the world of tech journalism has experienced a few major shifts: new websites have launched, industry influencers have ventured out on their own, and some outlets have bid us farewell. To be honest, it can all be a tad overwhelming to keep track of…

Luckily, all of us over at BLASTmedia are a bunch of news-hounds (as we should be, it’s a huge part of what we do for our clients) and we have been following the changes closely to ensure that we’re on top of what they mean for not only our clients, but the world of tech journalism as a whole.

Photo Credit: kpu.ca/arts/journalism

Photo Credit: kpu.ca/arts/journalism

Here are a few recently introduced news outlets to leep your eyes on in the New Year:

  • Re/Code: There’s a reason this one is at the top of the list. Re/Code is the brainchild of quite possibly two of the most influential journos in the world of tech reporting. Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher, formerly of The Wall Street Journal’s AllThingsDigital, have founded the new independent new site described as a ‘new destination for tech and media news, reviews and analysis.’ Walt and Kara are joined by a team of former AllThingsD reporters and editors who now work under their independent parent company called, Revere Digital. According to CNNMoney, the site is partnered with NBCUniversal News Group, a division of Comcast that includes NBC News and Windsor Media. Though the amounts have not been shared publically, both Windor and NBC will hold minority stakes in the relationship. Re/Code and its highly regarded pedigree of technology journalists is absolutely a site you should be following.
  • Yahoo! Tech: At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, or the largest consumer electronic trade show in the world, Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer announced that the company would be expanding in a major way with Yahoo! Tech. The new technology site will be steered by the former New York Time’s tech columnist, David Pogue, who may be as equally known for his life outside of tech reporting as his written word. Okay, jokes aside, what makes Yahoo! Tech different from other tech giants is its primary audience and objective of writing for the ‘rest of us.’ The site will shy away from tech jargon to focus on reporting for those who are not all too familiar with the space. Instead, Yahoo! Tech’s style will be simplified for the average reader who may be a bit ‘frightened or confused by modern technology.’ With Pogue running the site, the opportunity for Yahoo! Tech to gain an enormous following is definitely there. One thing is for certain, he’s already created quite the stir among other technology giants and we can’t wait to see how the site evolves over the years.
  • Wall Street Journal Technology: Though not new in the least, the Wall Street Journal technology team has changed up its entire lineup of reporters. In mid-December, The Journal announced an entirely new personal tech reviewing team with the hope helping its readers better understanding the saturated market of personal technology. According to a statement from The Journal, with the new team of reviewers the news outlets will aim to help its readers choose from the ‘dizzying array’ of gadgets, apps and software that have become such an integral part of people’s business and personal lives. So let’s talk about the new team. The WSJ raked in four of the biggest names in technology journalism including Joanna Stern, Geoffery Fowler, Wilson Rothman and Nathan Olivarez-Giles. All four are coming from what are to be considered the pick-of-the-litter in technology sites including ABC News, NBC News and Wired. Fowler is a reviewer and columnist, Stern heads up reviews with a focus on video, Rothman is a personal tech editor who will oversee all coverage from the team and Olivarez-Giles is a personal tech blogger who oversees the new online technology section set to debut in February of 2014. The following behind the WSJ and the combined expertise of each team member is sure to be a good combination in the coming years of tech reporting.
  • Last but not least, the New York Times recently announced that it would be replacing good ole’ David Pogue’s position with Farhard Manjoo, who’s jumping to The Times from The Wall Street Journal after only four months. Manjoo will take over Pogue’s column, ‘Start of the Art’ and go above traditional device reviews to analyze the tech industry more broadly. He will remain and work from his home of San Francisco and will begin his column early next month. We don’t know about you, but we are excited to see where his work will take The Times, specifically after Pogue’s departure.

Are you looking to get your product or service in front of some of the biggest names in technology reporting? Email Lindsey Groepper to learn more about what our PR, social and paid media teams can do for your business.

Three Things PR Pros Can Learn from the World Series

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While many spent their Sunday flipping between the latest round of NFL games, checking their fantasy scores, and screaming at their TV screens, others threw on their lucky gear and tuned into the fourth game of the 2013 World Series.

Whether you’re rooting for the Boston Strong or consider yourself the ultimate Cardinals fan (no judgment) there are a few things about America’s favorite past time that PR pros, or any professional for that matter, can learn from.

Photo: http://www.markgilroy.com/

Photo: http://www.markgilroy.com/

Teamwork is Essential. Like most sports, nothing is more imperative than working as one cohesive unit. Whether its making a double play at first or brainstorming the perfect pitch angle with your team, working together is a huge factor when determining a team’s success. Much like a defensive team with nine players on the field at one time, agencies are likely to have a handful of employees on various accounts, so it is vital that each team member understands each other’s strengths, and works to apply those different capabilities to the different needs of every client.

A Win is Never Promised. As someone who lives in a household of diehard Red Sox fans, this fact has never been more obvious. Though Boston came out strong in game one, they then faced defeat for two consecutive games. There are a number of factors that go into the final outcome of every game, and the same goes for PR. A win for us at BLAST is top-tier client coverage, but that ‘W’ is never guaranteed. Securing a piece of top-tier coverage takes work: researching the perfect editor, crafting the targeted pitch, and working to nurture a mutually beneficial relationship along the way. Even if an editor requests an interview with your client, that doesn’t guarantee he/she will also write a feature story. As your client’s PR representative, it’s a matter of working with the editor to get him/her what is needed for a story and serving as a resource, not a nuisance.

Always expect the unexpected. For those of you who have not been following the World Series, take a moment to watch this game-endingplay callthat resulted in a shocking loss for Boston fans everywhere. The controversial obstruction play was completely unexpected, and left the Red Sox team baffled, down 2 to 1 in the series, and left to pick up the pieces of a weird end to game three.

Photo: Eileen Blass, USA TODAY www.usatoday.com)

Photo: Eileen Blass, USA TODAY www.usatoday.com)

My take on the play? Always prepare for the unexpected. As a PR pro, it is our responsibility to anticipate any client-related mishaps that may affect a consumer’s opinion on the client. While we cannot predict a crisis, we can certainly prepare for one. Much like the obstruction call, a client mishap – big or small – can be a game changer. Aim to have a plan in place should a crisis arise, and work to execute that plan to the best of your ability.

Are you looking for an experienced PR team to give your company a push toward home plate? If so, shoot Lindsey Groepper an email to learn more about how BLASTmedia can assist. If interested in working with the BLAST crew, consider applying for one of our spring internships!

Five Signs You’re Not Cut Out for Public Relations

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Have you ever heard someone reference public relations as a “shark tank?” Well, they’re right. PR is a competitive, non-stop career that will challenge you every single day. Whether it’s drafting a press release over your lunch hour or getting into the office before the sun rises for a client call, PR will always push your limits as a professional. If you’re not fully prepared, it could eat you alive.

Photo Credit: www.solarnavigator.net

Photo Credit: www.solarnavigator.net

While every agency employs a handful of different personalities and work styles, many PR professionals have several traits in common. And conversely, here are a few foolproof signs that you’re not cut out for public relations:

1.     You don’t pay attention to the newsWe have stacks upon stacks of newspapers and magazines piled up in the BLASTmedia office. Some may call it hoarding, but we call it work. As a PR pro, it is expected that you be up to date on all of your clients’ industry news and current events. Whether it’s scrolling the pages of Mashable or making to a trip to Starbucks for the recent New York Times issue, we’re always on top of what’s happening.

2.     You can’t juggle multiple tasks at once. Though this certainly applies to almost any career, it’s especially true for PR. On any given day, you can be juggling 4 different clients with 6 different crises, attending 5 meetings, and dealing with a handful of editor requests – all at the same time. As any seasoned PR pro will tell you, time management is key to staying on deadline while always anticipating what’s coming next.

3.     You are not an excellent writer. Have you ever read an email that makes you cringe due to poor grammar? Yeah, me too. PR pros are responsible for making their clients standout, so we must write creatively and concisely in everything we do. Whether it’s an email pitch or a press release, excellent writing skills are vital to this profession.

4.     You only want to work 9-5. While fixed hours work for some companies, it will never fly in PR. With clients all around the world, it’s our responsibility to be the point of contact when anything (and we mean anything) comes up. While BLAST stresses the importance of taking time to enjoy life outside of work, we all have our emails connected to our phones and work to always deliver on (or before) deadline.

5.     You can’t deal with rejection. Breakups are bad, but has an editor ever blacklisted you? It’s worse. Editors can, at times, be downright cruel, and if you’re one who takes everything to heart, you’ll never make it. On the same note, your work will constantly be scrutinized (by both coworkers and clients), so having a thick skin is necessary. When mistakes are made, don’t cry in the corner and instead fix them and move on to your next project.

Think you’ve got the right skills to make it in the PR world? Be sure to browse BLAST’s other tips for working in the industry, or contact our team to learn more about agency life.

5 Tips for Better Client Communication

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Customer service feedback

What does every PR professional have in common with the bartender at a local pub?

Customer service.

We may not be dealing with intoxicated patrons on a day-to-day basis, but when it comes to working with clients the treatment is oddly similar.We’ve all experienced a moment when a client, new or old, is unhappy. But why? We did what they asked of us, we secured stellar coverage and thought the relationship was going well. What went wrong?

We forgot to communicate.

It happens all the time. We forget that there’s more to this business than just getting the work done. Building a relationship with your clients is important for both sides. It can increase work productivity and having open lines of communication allows for better brainstorming.

Here are 5 easy ways to make your lines of communication with a client is truly open:

  1. Don’t forget to ask the important questions: I’m not talking “When do you need this by?” Instead, ask “How are you doing today?” and “Are you happy with the work we have done so far and if not, what would you like to see be done differently?” Having conversations with your clients doesn’t have to be straight to business. It’s okay to allow yourself to have a conversation and interact person-to-person. Remember that you’re both people with personalities.  
  2. Take time to do the little things: If your client prefers Excel spreadsheets or prefers morning calls, make sure you do what you can to make this happen. If they’re more comfortable with video chat instead of a phone conference or emails, Skype them! Taking time to do the little things will make a lasting impression and help build trust. 
  3. Be willing to go the extra mile. We are all busy. We all have time crunches and we all feel stressed out at times. It’s important to take a step back and be willing to go the extra mile. No one wants to stay past 7 p.m. or get phone calls while you’re in your pajamas making dinner…but if there’s something important going on with a client, be willing to help them out. It’s important to remember that we’ve all been a “client” at one point in time. How would you want to be treated?
  4. Treat them as if they’re your only client. Chances are you’re balancing a handful of different clients, all with different needs, but they don’t need to know that. When you are interacting with your client it should be done in a way that they feel as if they are your only client. Make them a priority.
  5. Allow clients to generate ideas. Yes, you are the expert in your field but THEY are the expert in their product or service. Allow them to contribute some ideas. Together you can make a killer campaign. It’s a win-win situation.

If you are interested in learning more about how the BLASTmedia team can help your brand, contact our own Lindsey Groepper. PR pro yourself? Feel to browse our other PR Tips.

10 PR Tips for Navigating New PR Waters

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Need PR help Navigating the PR waterPR tips

With spring in full force, recent college graduates are just getting their toes wet in the overwhelmingly large pool known as the real world. Start dates are being set and brand new “work-appropriate” wardrobes are being purchased. It’s an exciting time – and one that can be equally as frightening for newcomers entering the fast-paced field of public relations.

So, if you’ve recently graduated with a job in PR (congrats!), or are in the process of making a job switch, here are 10 PR tips to navigating those new waters with ease:

  1. Do your research: So you’ve nailed the interview and received an offer, but your work shouldn’t stop there. Before you walk into the office on your first day, be sure you know a little about the company work environment. Is the office laid back? Do they encourage workday chatter? Make sure you know what is expected of you before you walk through those doors. We suggest planning out a route on your first day to guarantee you won’t show up late.
  2. Dress appropriately: This goes hand-in-hand with the first tip, but nothing is worse than showing up on your first day looking like a fool. Make sure you know the company dress code before showing up on your first day. If you aren’t sure what the standards are, aim for something business casual. It’s better to look over-dressed than like a slob.
  3. Agree to team lunches: Chances are you won’t remember everyone’s name your first day there, so tag along on team lunches and be chatty. Open up to your new co-workers and learn more about their day-to-day activities. This is a great time to learn more about your workload and your new teammates in a different setting. Ask them about their past PR experience or why they got into the field.
  4. Don’t be shy: Being a little reserved in your first few days at a new gig is fine, and almost expected but be sure you’re open to talking to everyone and sharing details about your life/past experiences. Remember, you were offered the position for a reason, make your personality known and don’t be afraid to respectfully show what you know.
  5. Don’t treat your first day like a happy hour: As a counterpoint to point number four, don’t share too much about your life outside of work right off the bat. You are there to work and help your clients/company excel, so don’t rub people the wrong way by spilling your weekend plans of bar-hopping right away. Feel your co-workers out and learn about the company environment first.
  6. Come prepared to learn: There’s nothing worse than a know-it-all, so don’t be the new employee who isn’t willing to take in new information. Chances are, you only know the basic information about your clients, so soak up as much as you can in those first few days. Take notes, ask questions and then ask a few more. Do extra research about the coverage your new clients expect and learn a few big media contacts you will be dealing with regularly.
  7. Keep a smile on your face: We’ve all been there, first days are scary! Even if you’re totally overwhelmed, keep smiling – it’s the quickest way to make a new friend and let your new co-workers know that you’re enjoying the time they’ve set aside to train you. In a job that revolves around communication, it’s vital that you come off as happy and eager.
  8. Try to stay off your gadgets: Though your phone is probably blowing up with “Good luck on your first day!” texts from friends and family, resist the urge to respond immediately. Your first days are designed to learn how you will be executing your new position – don’t give your new co-workers the wrong impression by texting all day long.
  9. Shake hands when you are being introduced: This common gesture may seem archaic, but it’s the best way to show respect to the executives in your company. Just like your smile, a sincere handshake is an easy way to say hello and let your respect for the person be known right away. The higher-ups are there to serve as a resource, so don’t be afraid to ask them questions.
  10. Don’t expect your new gig to be all glamour: Hopefully this goes without saying, but the world of media relations is no walk in the park. You will be expected to learn a lot and fast. Be prepared for a busy role that focuses on results – be prepared for high expectations. PR, while an awesome field to work, is a lot of hard work. Anticipate those long days and tough client demands; it’s bound to happen. On the flip side, take pride in your work. If you get a huge media hit in your first week – celebrate it!

Looking for more advice that will you make you a rock star at your new PR gig? Feel free to dive into even more of our PR Tips. If you’re interested in learning more about what the BLASTmedia team can do for your brand, get in touch with our own Lindsey Groepper.