Posts tagged “journalism

Modern Love with the PR Industry

Kara Simon, Assistant Account Executive

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My latest obsession has been The New York Times’ “Modern Love” column and podcast. I know, I know – I am late to the game, but…

IT. IS. AWESOME.

Not only are the stories told narrated by some of my favorite celebrities, but the writing styles, narratives and key messaging are the best, bar none. I am not just saying this because I majored in journalism, or because I idolize the all-knowing publication that is The New York Times. I am saying this because it is one of the best examples of storytelling today.

In the PR industry, it is our job to tell stories. A lot of the time they are happy, positive stories about industry successes and leaders making a difference. Other times, they are hard-hitting, pulse-rising breaking stories that you never see coming. Regardless of news’ tone, if we don’t turn it into a story, then it’s just another piece of news cluttering people’s inboxes or smart devices ready to be deleted.

So what goes into the making of a good story?

First, it is important to establish your characters. In our case, these are the individuals involved. What is their title? What is their position on the topic? Most importantly though, what makes them different from every other leader in the industry? The “Modern Love” column almost always establishes the character with a background story that makes them unique. It may not be completely relevant to the story at hand, but it is designed to make the character relatable, so the reader can place themselves in the shoes of that character and be more willing to accept the story. The same should be done in PR, so that a C-level executive can be seen as someone who an “Average Joe” would want to get to know.

Secondly, the plot. What is TRULY happening? Nobody, and I mean nobody, cares about all of the tiny intricacies of an event… So get to the point. For example, the best love stories are the ones that start with the two people who fall in love interacting from the beginning. The same goes for the best PR stories. They start with the headline upfront, and then gradually give way to supporting details.

Finally, the ending. The best endings are not endings at all. In fact, they leave the reader with a “But, what’s next?” thought bubble over their head. It is how you get them to think about your story long after their eyes depart from the screen the story was on. It is how you get them to wake up the next morning still thinking about your story, and begin looking for follow-up stories that may have come out the next day. The majority of the “Modern Love” stories do this as well. The last sentence leaves you with a lingering thought that draws your mouse downward and into the next love story. So, make your ending linger for as long as you want it to be remembered.

If there is one thing to take away from this article, PR professional or not, it is that stories have a way of impacting people. So, what is yours?

 

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The World on Your Doorstep

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Larry A. Meltzer, Agency Principal

Recently I interviewed a new grad from one of the public universities in the Dallas area. Of particular interest, this individual told me that the first comm class of every morning started with a current events quiz. The purpose of this exercise is to prompt students to read a physical newspaper every morning, since that’s probably the best way to gain a broad overview of what’s happening in the world – and to score well on the morning quiz!

Some might say this exercise is a relic of times gone by, especially in light of research indicating that half of Americans get their news from Facebook and 10% of Americans think Facebook is actually a news outlet. Anything that gets students – and adults – reading and learning about issues in the world around them is a good thing, but I wonder what we’re losing in terms of knowledge with the decline of print media.

There are advantages to online news consumption, of course:

  • There’s the immediacy factor. When news happens, boom, it’s right there in multimedia, so we read, see and hear about it, not only from news sources, but from those in our social networks.
  • The presentation of news online also offers outlets the ability to incorporate interactive graphics to help explain the story in a way that amplifies – or even replaces – the narrative.
  • There’s the general notion of a news encounter. We’re online, scrolling through our Facebook feeds, and interspersed with a photo of a friend’s lunch are news items that we might not otherwise have scanned.
  • There’s the consumption of news itself. With so few Americans subscribing to news – either in print or online – the availability of information provides access to news that individuals otherwise might not seek out.
  • And of course there’s an environmental benefit, with less paper being used to produce a print product with an extremely short life span.

But what do we lose with the move away from print?

  • We lose the pass-by effect that comes with reading a physical newspaper. We may not read every article, but by flipping through the pages, we’re taking in all the headlines as we evaluate what we want to know more about. So even without reading a story, we’re gaining topline knowledge of key issues or items considered important or relevant enough to put in print.
  • We also lose a depth of information. With all the events occurring around the world, we shortchange ourselves by not delving deep enough into the facts, implications and analyses. The convenience of a snapshot in our Facebook feeds can never compensate for that level of detail.
  • Encountering news – a benefit of online news consumption – also is not the same as following news. Stories and events often play themselves over time, revealing new layers and nuances that help us form opinions.
  • And finally, as the success metrics for media have become more focused on eyeballs and click-throughs, media are presenting stories online with which consumers have the propensity to engage. Sometimes, what consumers want to read, and what they should read, are vastly different.

Knowledge is cumulative. It builds over time through repeated exposure to facts and opinions, and we build our understanding through context and various points of view. A well-written article – whether in print or online – teaches you something. It might present something familiar from an unfamiliar angle.

At the end of the day, I’m not giving up my newspapers, although after the morning read, I’m constantly online, consuming news from these same outlets in their digital counterparts. News outlets deliver the world on your doorstep, so open the door and start reading!


Influencers: Today’s New Celebrities

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By Kara Simon, Assistant Account Executive

I used to sit at the dinner table growing up and listen to my parents talk about celebrities like Audrey Hepburn, Barbara Billingsley and Jim Backus, as if they were their closest friends. These individuals weren’t just stars to my parents, but people who were an integral part of their lives as they grew up to become the adults they are today.

But for me, celebrities are just that­ — celebrities. I am not saying they don’t have an effect on me. I still swoon as Jake Gyllenhaal’s face appears on any movie screen and deny that one time I screamed at an airport when I thought I saw Amy Schumer, but I don’t see them as people who shape my everyday life like my parents and many of those older than me do.  And, I know I am not alone in this thought.

Millennials, like myself, have our own form of celebrities — influencers. I am talking about bloggers, YouTube stars and Instagram sensations. The “Krystal Schlegel’s,” “Jenna Marble’s’” and “Shirley Braha’s” of the world. I wake up to emails from different fashion and food bloggers I subscribe to, scroll through my Instagram feed on my daily walks, and watch too many YouTube videos before falling asleep at night.

Why? Simple. They get me, and millions of others out there, too.

That is the beauty of influencers — there is someone for everyone. Let me say that again. Someone for everyone.

This is key for public relations and marketing professionals. No matter who your client is, or what the campaign entails, an influencer can significantly increase engagement with your brand. You can find an influencer who fits your exact target audience, which helps ensure that your campaign will have a positive return on its investment.

Plus, while influencers typically occupy one main medium, they are active on all. For example, if you are reaching out to a YouTube influencer, they most likely have an Instagram and blog with a large following. This means your message crosses multiple platforms by engaging only one individual.

Another great perk of influencers is that they are located everywhere – unlike celebrities – who are typically concentrated in L.A. or New York. If you are hosting an event and looking to increase attendance, inviting an influencer from your area is a more cost-effective way to attract a good turnout.

The greatest thing about influencers, though, is their price. While big names like Jenna Marble will come at a heftier cost, plenty of local and well-known bloggers come at a very reasonable price, especially when you consider the exposure you are getting in return. According to Inc. Magazine, most influencers range from $25 to $75 CPM, depending on their following.

So, the next time you’re starting a project, big or small, with a blank thought bubble over your head, hop on social media and see who you can find. Whatever you do though, don’t throw your copy of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” away.

 


Is Journalism Still Relevant?

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Rob Martin, Agency Principal

I can remember the first time I read an editorial comment that had somehow crept into a news story. It was in TIME magazine sometime in the early 1980s. Since studying journalism in college and launching into my career in communications, I had always followed the newswriting style in TIME – casual yet factual – as the standard that I would try to mimic.

I don’t remember the specific story I was reading, but I do remember the moment of surprise I experienced. What was that I had read? The writer’s opinion? I probably passed it off at the time, but now I see that moment as eerily prescient. Today we live in a world where it would be difficult to find any news story that doesn’t have at least an element of editorial opinion inserted somewhere – if not in the actual copy, then in the headline, placement, or sources included to support the idea. It’s the world we have built and chosen for ourselves, and it wouldn’t exist if it weren’t profitable – or at least perceived to be a path to profitability – for the media companies that propagate it.

So is there still a role in this world for basic journalistic principles based on truth, fairness, accuracy and objectivity? I certainly think so. I hope so. Not only is journalism one of the cornerstones of our democracy, assuming the role of public witness for members of society, but we all can benefit from experiencing the thrill of reading a well-written and thoroughly researched piece.

In the public relations profession, good writing still counts, and I’m excited to see new young professionals who bring these skills to their work. Part of what we’re selling is quality, and you can’t argue with a well-written sentence or clever turn of phrase.

In fact, respecting the principles of journalism in our work can provide a number of benefits:

  • Seeing multiple sides to a story
  • Learning what is newsworthy and what isn’t
  • Practicing objectivity and refining critical thinking skills
  • Speaking the same “language” as the editors and reporters we interact with
  • Adopting an approach to writing that is well suited to a variety of situations
  • Appreciating the craft of the p.r. business, not just the mechanics of it

I do believe that opinion is now an important part of journalism as well, and informed consumers will recognize the difference. In creating content for our clients, we can leverage the benefits of various types of media content while staying true to our roots in journalism. Don’t throw out that AP Stylebook just yet!


Is P.R. a Contributor to Fake News?

Blog image 5 26 17Rob Martin, Agency Principal

We hear a lot about “fake news” these days. But what is it exactly?

Usually the term fake news may refer to a story that is patently false, having been fabricated out of thin air. But some stories that earn this label may actually contain an element of truth that has been misrepresented or exaggerated in a way to mislead or generate profit. Thinking in those terms, does our work in public relations – with a focus on the positive and promotional aspects of a client’s business – qualify as one form of fake news?

First, some background. You may think “fake news” is a relatively new phenomenon, having achieved prominent notice during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Only the term is new, but the concept is quite old. Did you know that Roman politician Mark Antony’s suicide in 30 BC was due in part to a misinformation campaign conducted by his political nemesis Octavian? And there are many other examples of fake news through the centuries, including major instances during both world wars of the 20th Century, and Benjamin Franklin’s fake news story about murderous Indians working with King George III during the American Revolution.

Now, what about the public relations profession today? It may be true that we hope to present a positive outlook in our work, but our output doesn’t have to look like total propaganda. There are many things we can do to ensure quality and fairness:

  • Thoroughly check all facts to ensure accuracy.
  • Remain transparent, and don’t pretend to be something you’re not.
  • Use multiple sources to support the story, including analysts, customers and other third parties.
  • Recognize there are opposing viewpoints where possible.
  • Make sure it is clear that the client is the source of the material.

Finally, when writing a story, we should always adhere to sound journalistic principles.  That will be our topic for next week.