Public Relations

Nothing But Blue Skies Ahead — A Seasonal Update

Posted on April 28, 2015. Filed under: Public Relations | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Much has happened since we last met, was it in January (that “month of empty pockets,” as Colette calls it).

Last week saw the last snowflakes of the season, so I ordain. (Not that the weather gods pay much heed to me. But still, it’s time for winter to take a breather.)

Revved Up About Transmissions

Although, speaking of winter, I did write up a white paper contrasting the mechanical and operating characteristics of the two main types of transmissions for snow blowers – the continuously variable transmission (CVT) and the friction-disk transmission.

CVTs emerged as the up-and-coming winner, but not just because my client produces them. They are a superior technology, as the white paper illustrated – and as proclaimed by one of the foremost industry bloggers, James Sikkema. (If you do anything in the outdoor power equipment space, you need to know Sikkema, a Wisconsin blogger whose influence rivals that of Consumer Reports.)

To get the white paper into the hands of consumers, I used a national newspaper syndication service as a primary media relations tool. The syndicated release generated a blizzard of placements in newspaper-related outlets across the country, even penetrating sun-drenched states like Texas and Florida. Good leisure-time reading for the snow birds down there!

Educating The Educators

I’ve also been busy on the education beat, producing and distributing a series of email marketing newsletters for educators in various states. Did you know there are 3.5 million teachers in the United States? My client hasn’t worked up the budget as yet to reach all of them via email, but it’s a goal. Working on this account has opened my eyes to the tremendous market that is education today, especially in edutech – an area of great activity in Minnesota.

I’ve rambled on about a few things I’ve been working on of late. The point I hope to make is that I’m still out here, available for project work and/or something more substantial should the need arise.

As always, I am here to serve. Contact me anytime at Doug Hovelson. Comments welcome too!

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Edtech Entrepreneurs Gather At Twin Cities Bootcamp.

Posted on October 18, 2014. Filed under: Public Relations, Twin Cities region | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Change the business model, change the school.

Our challenge, which we readily accepted, was to change the college’s business model.

Make no small plans, said famed Chicago architect Daniel Burnham.

Make no small changes to our school’s business model, decided we three initiates to the world of higher education administration.

Just Change It.

So, we bent to the task at hand: breaking the mold of an heretofore successful traditional four-year liberal arts college. Our intentions were good. All we wanted to do was make sure the college was fit to compete against the new uber-barbarians invading the collegiate space.

We got only so far down our chosen path before realizing that the future of western civilization rested in our hands.

We muffed it.

The Sponsored Education.

Call ours the corporate sponsorship approach to higher education management. The big idea was to sell not just naming rights but content rights to college courses – and even major areas of study – to the highest bidders. Big companies, we assumed, would jump at the chance to forge untrained students  into tailor-made corporate gladiators.

But how to  attract students to a school with such a Machiavellian bent? Easy. Ignore the students, and pursue the parents instead. Scare Mom and Dad into believing that without a degree from Corporate U, the kids were bound for dismal lives of career mediocrity.

Money does change many things. No more would our college cater to the student seeking a broad-based, liberal arts education. Theater majors, philosophy hounds and English Lit enthusiasts need not apply!

Giving The Boot to Western Civilization.

On that note, we understood how seriously off the rails our little exercise in collegiate reinvention had careened. For our model to succeed, western civilization needs must end.

The ghost of George Orwell was invoked at this point.

An Exercise In Business Redirection.

Fortunately, it was only an exercise – a game of business reinvention, played out in just 20 minutes. No colleges, universities or civilizations destroyed in the process. We, the players, were attendees of the recent Business Models In Education Bootcamp, organized by Educelerate Twin Cities and Education Startup and held in St. Paul. The goal of the exercise was to give us a hands-on feel for the work of strategically redesigning a business or institution. Working in groups of three, we tackled the job with the aid of a worksheet called the Business Model Canvas — a concept ably explained by Teresa Marchek, a Twin Cities business consultant and event co-facilitator.

The idea of the exercise, as boot camp co-facilitator Rajiv Tandon said, was to give us a crash course in leading business and institutional transformation. The bigger the change, the better for purposes of the exercise, Rajiv advised.

Scribbling down our thoughts on Post-It notes which we attached to the worksheet as a record of our journey, we tracked the effects of our ideas across nine different areas of strategic importance to the institution:

  • Customer segments
  • Customer relationships
  • Channels
  • Value Propositions
  • Key Activities
  • Key Resources
  • Key Partners
  • Cost Structure
  • Revenue Streams

Getting all those pieces to fit together takes some doing, obviously. Our brief plunge into the process did show us the value of the approach. Using the Business Model Canvas as our guide, we plotted out a rough outline for completely making over  our unnamed liberal arts college. That it would have been the sure ruin of a fine institution renowned for its instruction was beside the point. Working with the Business Model Canvas was the point – and a good one at that.

I’ve been to a few Educelerate Twin Cities events now. This was one of the best, not least because of the classroom-like activity. All Educelerate events are  an open window on the world of edtech entrepreneurship in the Twin Cities. Steve Wellvang, a partner at the Minneapolis law firm Oppenheimer Wolff & Donnelly, is one of the genial Educelerate organizers.

A recent article in Forbes Magazine hailed the Midwest as the nation’s new breadbasket for business startups. Medical and alternative energy were two sectors labeled attractive to venture capital investors; edtech from Minnesota belongs on the list as well. (See the Forbes article here: Forbes: Midwest Land of Opportunity.)

What’s your experience in edtech or business startups and innovation in general? I’d like to hear from you…

Download the Business Model Canvas here Model from the Business Model Foundry website.

Information on Educelerate Twin Cities is here: Educelerate.

Doug Hovelson, author of this blog post, is an experienced media relations and public relations professional working out of Minneapolis. Some might call him a media junkie, in a good way. He’s written and placed thousands of press releases and company stories in almost every media outlet known to humankind. He’s always delighted to talk media relations strategies with people who want to see if they can do more with their media relations efforts. He can be reached at 612-722-5501 or at doughovelson AT MSN Dot COM.

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Dude, Get Out Of My Face With Your Extra Space!

Posted on September 12, 2014. Filed under: Public Relations |

I had to laugh this week when a reporter from a local daily newspaper peevishly Tweeted about a grammatical mistake she discovered in a press release sent her way (not from me, I swear). Rhetorically, she asked if she should publicly shame the author of that press release. She did not ultimately name him. We know it was a him since she concluded by pointing out to the offending “dude” that there’s only one space – not two! – between consecutive sentences in a paragraph.

Got that, dude?

Whether the dude was suitably shamed or not, I do not know. It seemed ironic to me that a reporter would vent about some poor PR flack’s grammatical transgression. (She did call him a flack, which is what the just call the unjust in the communications world.)

The Pot Boils, The Kettle Cringes

Then I got riled over the reporter taking such a haughty stand. Wasn’t the pot calling the kettle black?

I can’t remember the last time I read a newspaper – and I’m a pretty thorough newspaper reader – that wasn’t riddled with typographical and grammatical mistakes. Mistakes so glaring as to be obvious to a third grader, or even a caveman for that matter. Mistakes that break up the clarity of the copy, cause a reader to pause to try and figure out what the writer is attempting to say, and otherwise mess up the experience of reading the daily fish wrap.

But I don’t want to get caught up in the fish fry.

One Space Per Sentence, Please

Suffice it to say, I hope the reporter had a better day today than yesterday. And that the PR dude – maybe he’s a repeat offender, which might explain the reporter’s seemingly disproportionate frustration with his school dunce mistake – got the message. It’s also true that people have been taught different grammatical rules in school over time. Two spaces between sentences was in fact taught as a proper way to write, especially letter-writing, once upon a time. Maybe it still is. It almost sounds like something left over from a more gracious time in American letters. Emily Dickinson might have been a proponent of the double-space approach for all I know.

No Room For The Double-Wide Spacing

People who publish newspapers are more economical in their use of blank spaces in copy. To them, that second empty space is just a complete waste of space. And worse. The cumulative impact of using an extra space would be to reduce the amount of copy that a newspaper could publish, at least in its legacy print editions.

Printing costs would probably be slightly lower though. Bylines would be fewer however, since the cumulative effect of hundreds of extraneous, idle spaces across the paper would be reductive on the amount of real reporting that the newspaper could publish.

Case For The One Space

So, yes, I vote for the one-space separator between sentences rule. That’s because I like my newspapers to be as fat and copy-happy as possible. Especially today, with so many newspapers looking like they’re surviving on half-rations.

I also like newspapers, the ones I pay good money for especially, to be as readable as possible. I don’t enjoy stopping half-way through a sentence to try and figure out what the reporter is trying to say. That happens way too often today. There’s nothing in the AP Stylebook that says reporters should confound their readers; the whole intention of AP Style is just the opposite.

So let’s agree. There’s no place for that extra space between sentences, and newspapers are no place for sloppily written, hastily edited – or unedited as the case may be – copy.

Got that, dude and dudette?

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Kluwe delays lawsuit against Vikings

Posted on July 24, 2014. Filed under: Public Relations | Tags: |

Chris Kluwe and the Vikings, the story continues to evolve. Stay tuned.

BringMeTheNews.com

Chris Kluwe was expected to file a lawsuit against the Minnesota Vikings today, but according to the Star Tribune, it isn’t happening.

Instead, Kluwe and his attorney Clayton Halunen will resume settlement talks with the Vikings. Halunen met Wednesday with Vikings lawyer Joe Anthony and both sides agreed to delay the lawsuit with hopes of settling things outside of court.

“We have not set a deadline so I can’t say there’s a deadline but I think both sides are interested in trying to determine whether or not our conversations are going to be a productive in a very short period,” Halunen said, according to the Pioneer Press. “I don’t expect it to be very long.

Halunen added that he hopes to come to an agreement with the Vikings within a few weeks.

Kluwe said Monday in an interview with KFAN radio that he is seeking “maximum damages,” somewhere…

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How To Fire Up Your Media Relations Efforts.

Posted on July 3, 2014. Filed under: Creative Marketing, Media Commentary, Minneapolis, Public Relations, Public Relations Commentary, Public Relations Pointers, Public relations practices, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , |

Is traditional media relations dead? Not by a long shot. People still rely on the traditional news media for news. They may not receive the news in the traditional way, e.g. home-delivered newspapers or by faithfully tuning into the 10 p.m. television newscast. But they’re still paying attention to the news.

Which means it still pays for companies to invest in traditional media relations programs. By that, I mean a program in which news coverage is actively pursued by an actual human being attempting to make personal contact with other actual human beings. The “other actual human beings” in this case being, news people. 5Centurions1

It also means thinking through a media relations strategy.  Even better, a strategy might take into account multiple opportunities for creating news over a period of time — several months, six months, a year.

Go Beyond Doing ‘Some Public Relations’

Now I see a lot of people using press release distribution services to disseminate news about their companies. Some are of the paid variety, others free, or at least so low-cost as to be nearly free. Many come from small- to mid-size companies, in what appears to me to be an attempt to do “some public relations.” As in, we’ve got news, we should put out a press release!

If you have news, by all means put out a press release. But wait! Have you thought it through? Do you know what you’re trying to accomplish with this press release? Is it written in such a way as to appeal to news people? Does it conform to AP style? Is it interesting? Do you have graphics – photos, charts, etc. — to help make your story more compelling? Links to online supporting video?

Do you have a larger media relations strategy in place, such as one that identifies key news making opportunities for the company over time — and sets out a plan for pursuing those opportunities to your fullest advantage?

If You Release It, Many Still Won’t See It.

Recently, I helped a client get major news out about a win in a court case. The news was of both local (metro) and national significance. We agreed to put a press release out on one of the major paid news distribution wires. The release would hit all the major business and consumer media in the country — including almost all daily newspapers, television and radio news stations. Key editors covering our type of news were targeted.

Out went the release. In came a barrage of “hits” — mostly verbatim pickup of the release on a variety of web-based news sites that subscribe to the news distribution service. Nice, but not really high-caliber hits — the kind where a reporter is so struck by your news that he/she calls or emails to get more information.

Even before sending the release out on the wire, I had contacted a number of key reporters and editors to alert them to the news. (Did I know all these people? Certainly not. But I figured they would likely be most interested in the news, because it landed on their “beats.”) Most of the reporters I talked with were happy to hear from me. In many instances, they wanted much more information — including a copy of the court transcript — and they wanted to personally interview my client.

As the day went on, I called and emailed numerous other reporters, locally and nationally. Almost to a person, none had seen the press release that went out on the wire earlier that day. None. Even though it was news specifically pertinent to their beats — and of high interest to their audiences — they were unaware of the news until I brought it to their attention. Many of them did in fact request more information. Some wanted to speak with my client, Some very significant stories resulted. The news coverage — specifically that which came about from the personal contacts with the media — wound up generating more business for my client. Which was the ultimate goal of the press release and media relations approach.

I say all this not to toot my own media relations horn (although I can’t deny doing some of that) but to point out the fallacy of thinking the job is complete by simply sending out a press release. Or even doing a bit of media relations follow-up. if you’ve got news, make the most of it! Do the hard media relations work — and it is hard, time-consuming work to get the media’s attention, make no mistake — of leveraging your news to its fullest extent.

You may be surprised at how far your news travels — when it’s assertively presented and pitched.


Doug Hovelson, author of this blog post, is an experienced media relations and public relations professional working out of Minneapolis. Some might call him a media junkie, in a good way. He’s written and placed thousands of press releases and company stories in almost every media outlet known to humankind. He’s always delighted to talk media relations strategies with people who want to see if they can do more with their media relations efforts. He can be reached at 612-722-5501 or at doughovelson AT MSN Dot COM.

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Kickstarter Campaigns And Twitter, A Quick Note.

Posted on June 24, 2014. Filed under: Creative Marketing, Minneapolis, Public Relations, Public relations practices, Social Media | Tags: , , , , |

On the matter of Twitter marketing: a young guy, self-identified as a high school student, followed me on Twitter. I followed him back. Whereupon he DMed me (thati is,sent me a Direct Message, for me eyes only) to say he would appreciate it “alot” if I checked out his Kickstarter campaign. To which he featured a link. Interested in his approach, I did check out his Kickstarter page. Turns out he is raising funds to support his fledgling customized coasters endeavor. His coasters are the type used for placing wet beverage containers on.

He set the Kickstarter fundraising bar low, at $500. He’d well surpassed that amount according to Kickstarter’s running count of funds raised.

Since I’m currently involved in setting up a Kickstarter campaign for a client, I was interested in his marketing approach via Twitter.

A DM With A Valid Call-To-Action

His DM to me stood out from the normal stuff you get when you follow someone on Twitter. That’s usually something like “Thanks for following me. I post regularly at XXX” or some such useless drivel.

I’ll have to keep this approach in mind as the deadline draws nearer for dropping the flag on my client’s Kickstarter campaign. Will in fact use it. Seems like a good use of social media to me. It’s an honest approach: “I followed you for a reason, here’s my reason: I want you to support my Kickstarter campaign. And I also want you to know about my products, which you might be interested in purchasing yourself.” What’s wrong with that? Nothing, so far as I can tell. Twitter’s set up for just this type of thing — communicating a call-to-action to strangers.

I’m always interested in learning more about using Twitter as a promotional device. What are your thoughts?

My one criticism of my young correspondent’s DM is grammatical in nature: mashing together “a lot” into “alot.” Not a pretty sight, that.


Doug Hovelson, author of this blog post, is an experienced media relations and public relations professional working out of Minneapolis. He’s helped dozens of companies – from Fortune 500 size to start-ups — grow their businesses with effective public relations programs. He can be reached at 612-722-5501 or at doughovelson AT MSN Dot COM.

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To Avoid Media Mishaps, Think Like A Bank Robber.

Posted on June 12, 2014. Filed under: Media Commentary, Public Relations, Public Relations Commentary, Public Relations Pointers, Public relations practices | Tags: , , , , , , |

[Blogger’s Note: I take a semi-facetious tone in the article, but it’s a dead serious topic for businesses too. You always want to have a strategy in mind when talking with the news media. If you don’t know what you want to say to the media, don’t say anything.]

We’ve all seen it happen. Someone in a position of authority, such as a client, gets to chatting with a member of the media. The reporter is knowledgeable about the client’s industry; they know some of the same people; they start trading names and opinions, etc. Just shop talk, right?

Before you know it, the client lets his/her guard down — and starts injecting confidential information into the conversation.

What’s the harm? It’s just shop talk, right?

But the reporter’s on the clock.

Tripped Up While Tripping The Light Fantastic.

There’s a good way to think about watching what you say around reporters, especially the ones who cover your industry, company, etc.

Crime fiction offers a lesson in knowing when to hold your tongue. The bad guys know that every time they talk to a cop — even if it’s midnight in some honky-tonk bar somewhere and the cop seems to be enjoying the nightlife as much as they are — they are at risk of inadvertently incriminating themselves.

Sorry, Officer. We Can Let That One Go, Hey?

With one slip of the tongue, they might say something like, “Naw, we didn’t use that dim-wit Freddie on the bank job. Whadd’ya think, we’re crazy?” Oops. Cat’s out of the bag now, and can’t be coaxed back into it either. The cop’s probably not going to say something like, “Well, somebody was thinking straight there, keeping Freddie off that job.”

Nope, the cop’s now got knowledge that the bad guy was in on the heist. Just because the admission was made during a seemingly friendly, off-the-record conversation doesn’t mean squat. No rules were set, just two guys talking. Our guy reveals he was involved in a major crime. What’s the cop going to do? Tell him not to worry, since he’s off-duty and everything said to an off-duty cop is off-the-record?

Probably not. What’s probably going to happen is that the cop will either arrest him on the spot, call it in, or report it to whoever’s in charge of the bank job investigation. And our man, Mr. Bad Guy, gets yanked off to jail, protesting all the while that he didn’t know that what he said was on the record.

Better That The Cat Has Your Tongue Than It Crawls Out Of The Bag.

Same idea applies when talking to the media. They’re not bad people. They’re good people, most of them, but if they get a hold of a piece of information that can lead to a big story, they’re going to run with it. Odds are the client/confidential information leaker is not going to be able to talk the reporter — or the reporter’s editor — out of doing the story just because the information was shared in an informal manner.

These kind of situations do happen. People get careless, let slip something they shouldn’t, then realize they can’t take their words back. A good PR person might be able to mitigate the damage, but it is really hard to get that darned cat back in the bag again. Best not to let it out in the first place.

Oh, The Outrage! The Betrayal! Say It Ain’t So!

Tragically, some people, also known as clients, let such avoidable situations sour them on the whole idea of media relations in general. Or they get down on the particular reporter for “burning” them. “Never again will we deal with either that reporter or the rag he/she works for!” the client may bluster. “They can forget about any advertising from us, too!”

It happens, probably more often that you think. It’s very unfortunate when it does happen. All kinds of bad things can happen, once the beans are  spilled.

So take a page from our friendly if misguided bank robber. Never mistake a reporter, especially one that you don’t know well, for a confidant. If you want to go off the record with a reporter, negotiate that up front — and keep in mind that you’re playing a high stakes game. Even off the record stuff often shows up in print or on TMZ.

Maybe the best approach is that suggested by the criminal mind after all. The savvy bank robber, assuming he wants to retain his freedom and enjoy spending his ill-gotten gains, knows the risks of implicating himself, even off-handedly, in the caper. He knows that once he talks — even to his drinking buddy cop friend — he can’t take it back. His words will show up in a police report, which will be very unpleasant for him.

Just Don’t Do It!

There’s the best advice to keep in mind when talking with a reporter, formally or informally. Think before you speak. Think, “how will this look in print” (or on TMZ, assuming you have celeb cred)? It can save you endless hours of gnashing your teeth and scrambling (most likely in vain) to put out a fire that you yourself started.

But if you do say more than you should, best advice is to not try to put out the fire by yourself. Avail yourself of professional PR resources, the best you can get, to at least mount a credible job of damage control.


Doug Hovelson, author of this blog post, is an experienced media relations and public relations professional working out of Minneapolis. He’s helped dozens of companies – from Fortune 500 size to start-ups — grow their businesses with effective media relations programs. (He’s never robbed a bank, however.) He’s always delighted to talk media relations strategies with people who want to see if they can do more with their media relations efforts. He can be reached at 612-722-5501 or at doughovelson AT MSN Dot COM.

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General Motors’ ‘Not My Problem’ Problem.

Posted on June 10, 2014. Filed under: Media Commentary, Public Relations | Tags: , , , , |

Corporate culture gets the blame for the ignition-switch debacle at General Motors. It’s infuriating to think that people who knew better allowed the problem with the faulty ignition switches to persist after it first surfaced as a potentially lethal threat to drivers. The “solutions” offered up by the in-house geniuses included telling customers to remove all but their car key from their key chains so they wouldn’t weigh down the ignition switch while driving.

It makes you wonder, would these same people have advised their children to own and drive these hellish machines? Only a fool would have done so, knowing that something so innocuous as an accidental bump of the key chain with a knee — or just hitting a pothole — could trigger a disastrous lockup of the vehicle’s drive system. About the only use for such a car would be to sell it to the bad guys overseas — you know, our worst enemies — in the hope that it would take out a top terrorist or two. A CIA special, in other words.

It’s hard to see how this one got by the design engineers. Ignition switches aren’t products of rocket science. They’re known devices, about as complicated to automotive engineers as regular home on-off wall-mounted lighting switches are to certified electricians.

GM was a basket case at the time, sliding towards bankruptcy and its eventual emergence as Government Motors. Employees were demoralized, uncertain about their futures, frightened. That’s no excuse for what happened though. People inside GM signed off on the idea of staying quiet about the defective component. Callous, irresponsible, criminal, all words that come to mind to describe the mindset. An “I don’t give a damn if somebody gets killed. It’s not my problem.” mentality.

New GM CEO Mary Barra has done a masterful job of persuading the public that the new GM will be different from the old one. Gone will be the buck-passing, tell-no-one, just-pretend-everything’s-fine culture of old. Let’s hope so.

Barra herself is the proud mother of teenaged children, according to a recent Forbes article. Maybe she should just tell the world that GM will build and market no car that isn’t safe enough for her own children to drive. That would signal a true culture shift at the world’s largest automaker.

[Addendum: ignorance of ignition switch recall is bliss to GM dealers, according to CNBC: http://www.cnbc.com/id/101750700.]

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Contact Is The Name Of The Game For Media Relations

Posted on June 10, 2014. Filed under: Public Relations, Public Relations Pointers, Public relations practices | Tags: , , , |

(Caution: strongly voiced opinions ahead.)

[Blogger’s note: the idea of being “aggressive” in business seems to have gotten a bad rap of late. From a media relations standpoint, that’s too bad. An aggressive media relations program simply means setting up shop to take maximum advantage of all the potentially business-advancing news-making opportunities available to a company. It doesn’t mean charging at the media like a rabid dog. It simply means making the maximum effort to get full value from your news-generating opportunities. I could write a book on how to do this — and maybe I will — but for now, I offer up this commentary with the hope of inspiring business people to ratchet up their expectations for the payoff on their media relations efforts.]

• Media relations is all about working with the media on behalf of clients – and it’s not an easy thing to do well. But done well, the pay-off is incredible. My favorite approach to media relations is this:

• Media relations is always personal! Pick up the phone and call somebody on the news desk, get them to do your story!

o But first, make sure you’ve got your story sorted out.

o Second, be sure you’re calling – or emailing – the right person. Not as easy as it sounds.

Media Coverage Is Credible

o Prospects are always skeptical of companies’ self-generated content. Doesn’t mean it’s not valuable or interesting. But trusted unconditionally, by strangers? Not likely.

o News media coverage is always perceived as having more value by prospects, over the self-generated content that companies put out themselves.

o Many companies underplay their media relations strategies, leaving good marketing money on the table!

Don’t Wait For The Media To Call You

o Trust but verify when it comes to press release distribution services. They all promise to reach so many media outlets with your release. They do. But whether the release ever reaches the right editorial people who can act on it, that’s a different question. The only way to know for sure is to verify, by calling, emailing – doing some bread-and-butter media relations work to drive maximum news coverage. (There are ways to do this without making the rookie mistake of calling a reporter with to ask, “Did you get my release?”)

o Reporters and editors aren’t constantly monitoring the press distribution wires such as PR Newswire, BusinessWire or E-Releases for news they can use. It’s the followup contact to bring the story to their attention that works. They do look at their email, but they still miss a lot. Or they bank your story idea, thinking they’ll get back to it. They usually won’t. They’re busy, they miss items that pertain to their beat all the time. Don’t let them miss your story idea. Contact them, somehow, by phone, email, Twitter, etc. to call it to their attention. They’ll even thank you for it. Sometimes.

o Not that press release distribution services are always the right way to go. You can build your own media lists, work off of media lists supplied by trade show and conference organizers, and otherwise make your media relations efforts more meaningful. Just be sure to keep in mind – media relations is a contact sport.

Media Relations Adds Value To All Content Marketing Efforts

o The more media coverage you get, the more value you add to other aspects of your content marketing strategy. Someone intrigued by a news story on your company may visit your website, where they’ll be exposed to your blogs, social media sites such as Facebook and YouTube Channel, etc. You’ll get more readers, viewers and “likes,” higher your SEO rankings, and more buyers for your product or service.

o And if you’re advertising too – news coverage tied to the message of your advertising campaign makes your advertising dollars work harder, travel farther, win more business.

• Winning more business. That’s what media relations is all about. Use it or lose it.

Doug Hovelson, author of this brief overview of media relations, is an experienced media relations and public relations professional working out of Minneapolis. He’s helped dozens of companies – from Fortune 500 size to start-ups — grow their businesses with effective media relations programs. He’s always delighted to talk media relations strategies with people who want to see if they can do more with their media relations efforts. He can be reached at 612-722-5501 or at doughovelson AT MSN Dot COM.

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Lack Of Media Contacts No Reason To Sit On Stories

Posted on May 25, 2014. Filed under: Public Relations | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Which comes first, the story idea or the media contact relationship?

Believe it or not, I’ll take the great story idea first — if I have to choose. So should you.

I’ve worked with literally thousands of media outlets and their people — reporters, editors, program producers, photographers —  over the years. From that experience, I’ve distilled some basic facts about “working with the media” that I’d like to share.

  • It’s not necessary to be on a first-name basis with reporters before you can pitch them on a story idea. “Who do you know” at such-and-such a media outlet is one of the most common things clients and prospective clients ask. I understand why clients ask this question so routinely. They want to be successful. Having contacts is important. I don’t want to downplay the advantage that a PR person has in knowing a key reporter personally, especially at the larger, more influential media outlets. But there’s no reason to believe that you have to know reporters and editors in advance to pitch them on your story idea. Not if you’ve done your homework first, to figure out if the story you’re pitching is relevant to the type of the coverage that the outlet handles, and matches up to the specific beat of the reporter, editor or producer. If you’ve got news, and it’s of interest to the media outlet’s audience, then you’ve got reason enough to get in touch with the editorial people who handle the type of story you’re proposing.
  • Do your media relations homework. Be a student of the game. Read, watch, listen to what’s being said about your industry — and where it’s being said. Analyze stories to understand what makes them newsworthy. Put yourself in the reporter’s place — think like a journalist! Build up a file of stories similar to what you’re hoping to get for you own business (online storage services like Evernote and Microsoft’s OneNote are great for saving reference material like this).
  • Put it in writing. Most reporters will listen to your pitch, and then say something like “send me something written and I’ll taka  look at it.” Now you’ll send your press release, fact sheet, backgrounder, bio, news alert, white paper or whatever. Or maybe you’ve already sent the press release along as an attachment to an email pitch you sent to the reporter. You might have to send it again – or send more information that supports your story. Be sure to have this material prepared and ready to go in advance. You don’t watch to capture the reporter’s attention, only to lose it again because you can’t follow through with something so basic as a press release or fact sheet.
  • Concentrate on your story. Is it really newsworthy? Have you considered all the angles – are you looking at it from the journalist’s point of view?
  • I would never let not knowing the media stand between me and getting a good story placed. Neither should you. Let your story be your guide; if it’s a good one, and you’ve got the right attitude and know-how, you can be sure that the media will listen to you — even if they’re not in your pantheon of close personal friends prior to your contacting them.

Once again, I’m not saying that personal connections with the media aren’t important. They’re invaluable. All PR people of any standing have their personal media contact lists that they guard like family jewels. I’m no exception. But it’s no either/or situation. Enthusiasm for a good story can carry the day, no matter whether you’re pitching it to your best friend or to a complete stranger.

 

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Public Relations, Best Served With A Dash Of Magic.

Posted on May 23, 2014. Filed under: Public Relations, Public Relations Commentary | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Time was when magicians were loath to reveal their trade secrets to anyone. To do so would be akin to Coca Cola giving away its secret recipe for its eponymous soft drink. There probably isn’t enough money in the world to entice Coke to publicly expose its secret soda recipe. But the lure of television dollars broke the brotherhood of magicians. Who hasn’t watched one of those hoary TV shows in which a professional magician takes you behind the scenes to see how the magic is actually made?

Not that I don’t believe in magic still. I do, just as I believe – against all the sputterings of the stern-faced naysayers – in the Curse of the Billy Goat on the Chicago Cubs and in the theory that says Oswald didn’t do it by himself.

But most magicians are showmen and show-women, crowd pleasers who practice a learnable trade, it seems.

Let There Be Magic

Public relations people are often urged to go “do their magic” by clients. It’s a high compliment when someone – especially someone who’s footing the bill for your work – tells you that. It means they believe you as a PR person can move mountains of media coverage and publicity their way. That’s what PR people do, truth be told, especially if they’re on the agency or freelance side and must earn their way by performing magic on a routine basis.

But is there really magic involved? Public relations is certainly a learnable trade. It’s routinely taught in colleges and universities, alongside other disciplines such as accounting, public policy and law.
Sober-minded professionals will tell you that public relations is 99% hard work and 1% inspiration. Little room for magic there. But the wise public relations practitioner always keeps a little container of magic dust hidden about the office somewhere.

Because what clients, especially on the promotional side of things, want is real magic to take place. They want to see their story come to life through the media. They want to become more relevant with customers through social media. They want to see demand for their products and services soar. They believe in PR magic. And so should we, the PR practitioners. Because PR, when done well, does have an element of magic to it.

No Glory In Obscurity

How’s that, you say? (I won’t assume you’re a stern-faced naysayer if that’s what you say.)

How else to explain the sudden explosion of news coverage that occurs after a well-timed media event or well-crafted and disseminated news announcement? Yesterday, you weren’t even on the news media’s agenda. You were Mr. or Ms. News Nobody. Today, you’re in the news everywhere – or at least in all the news media outlets that mean something to you and your business. It’s a new day for you and your company. You feel good, like you just knocked in a 40-foot putt on the 18th hole at Augusta to beat a gape-faced competitor by one stroke.

Later in the week or month, as the case may be, after the excitement has died down some, you get to thinking: that was great, but what’s next? Is there any magic left in our story? How do we keep the momentum up, going forward!

Glad you asked.

This is where good PR people really earn their keep, by coming up with creative ways to keep their clients in focus with customers and prospective customers. We do it by recommending strategies and tactics that will engage and motivate customers to choose you over the competition. The selection of tools to use may vary, depending on a host of client-specific variables. Newsletters, social media, media briefings, feature story placements, new events, celebrity tie-ins, games – the PR toolbox is bigger than ever today.

The public relations world is bristling with opportunity for companies that are willing to open themselves up to it. Not all good PR ideas, it’s true, come from the outside PR experts. But a good many of them do, precisely because of that “outsider” point of view. That’s why it’s so important for clients – in my opinion – to engage with public relations agencies and freelancers (the aforesaid “outside experts”) not just on a one-time, gimme your best shot type of thing but for a longer-term engagement.

Inspiration Is Good Magic

Good PR people deliver outstanding value. There is a kind of magic in that. It’s a hard-won magic – public relations is the kind of profession where experience really counts, along with a near-rabid belief in one’s ability to make a difference in the world. Therein lies the true source of magic.

No good comes from trying to dispel the sense of magic that informs the world of public relations and marketing. True, they’re both disciplines, and in this age of big data driven marketing systems, it might seem that the scientific approach is dispelling any sense of magic that a PR practitioner might bring to the table. Can’t argue with the facts. Big data is impressive. Fixed up with a little PR magic and you might be surprised at just how impressive it can be!

So, to recap, PR is 99% hard work, 1% inspiration, leavened occasionally by a slight sprinkling of magic dust – some might call that mightily inspired thinking – by the PR practitioner who knows when and how to apply it. It all comes down to knowing what you want, knowing how to attain what you want, and then having the willingness to expend the time, effort and resources to achieve the goal.

The idea of magic might be off-putting to some. And yet, consider the Cubs and their Billy Goat problem. The last time they won a World Series was in 1908. They haven’t even been in a World Series since 1945. What’s really amazing is that Cubs fans still flock to Wrigley Field in droves, acting as if they believe every year that someone is going to wave a magic wand over the Northsiders and turn them into world-beaters.

What about you? Has the magical muse of public relations ever touched your life? Are you interested in making some PR magic for your own business endeavors? Feel free to leave comments, ask questions, even contact me directly and we could have good conversation about what type of PR magic might work best for your business.

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About Me – the author of the PRStar blog – professional version.

Posted on April 21, 2014. Filed under: About Me, Creative Marketing, Public Relations, Twin Cities region | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

Long overdue, if I do say so myself.

Here’s a biographical sketch of the author of this blog:

My name is Doug Hovelson. I’m based out of Minneapolis, working as an independent public relations consultant and writer.

Background Facts

  • Former newspaper reporter, editor, photographer.
  • Freelance public relations professional in the transition from newspapers to PR. (My take at the time: Holy cow! You mean there’s real money to be made as a writer?)
  • Account executive work at a small but very aggressive Minneapolis agency, Brum & Anderson Public Relations.
  • Public relations account executive to partner, Bozell Worldwide, Minneapolis office over a span of 15 years. (I’ve got the commemorative 15-year anniversary watch to prove it. Still works. Good watch.)
  • It was a major agency battleship,Bozell, part of a network that eventually reached beyond the Midwest into  New York City and then morphed into True North – which in turn gave birth to the global advertising and communications holding company,Interpublic,orIPG as it’s now known. Big accounts lent themselves to big opportunities to grow and do great work for clients in industries such as bookselling, retailing, consumer electronics, consumer finance, healthcare, packaged goods, commodities and food, travel and tourism. Learned along the way – the compelling value of great writing and creativity as key components to successful public relations programs, campaigns – and even one-off projects. Combining public relations with advertising and other communicationsdisciplinesdeliversmaximum value for the client – that was a lesson well learned at the agency.
    • When we introduced the Pork: The Other White Meat campaign, for example, we led with advertising and then used public relations to explain the startling and true facts behind the campaign (that pork was an actual healthful white meat, akin to chicken and turkey and in fact superior to those two fowl-born products in many ways).
    •  For Reading Rainbow, an Emmy Award-winning children’s TV show, public relations was the entire show – we garnered attention for the show with a national media relations campaign highlighted by coverage in such august media outlets as the New York Times, Washington Post, Good Morning, America, Today Show, CBS News, TV Guide and more. We also created posters, brochures, contests, and other promotional type materials and activities for distribution and implementation by individual PBS stations throughout the country.
    • Media relations led the way when we introduced the era of digital satellite TV to America via client USSB/Hubbard Broadcasting. From the floor of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to press conference settings in New York, Los Angeles and many other US cities, we dished out the news about this new way of obtaining basic and premium television programming via a small satellite dish that could be easily installed and enjoyed in homes across the country.
    • Those are just three of many examples that come to mind of the types of client challenges I dealt with while working at Bozell. The experience gained in working for large national accounts, often in tandem with advertising, direct marketing, market research and other forms of marketing disciplines helped me develop a very deep understanding of how to help clients successfully market their products and services with public relations strategies and tactics.
    • Big Thunder Public Relations, a boutique public relations agency – well, a solo PR firm with panache – owned and operated by yours truly. After working at a high profile place like Bozell, it sometimes feels like I’ve disappeared into the witness protection program as a solo entrepreneur. To combat that perception – and, frankly, to win more business and provide more and better services to clients – I’ve recently begun working on developing more strategic partnerships with other advertising and marketing agencies. And why not? The world is full of opportunities for agile, quick-thinking, creatively focused agency teams that can provide the right types of services for clients on a just-in-time or agency-of-record basis. I still leverage my background in journalism by emphasizing such specialties as great writing and content production, media relations in all of its contemporary permutations, and creative problem solving. In this latter capacity as a creative problem solver I often function as something of a general marketing advisor and promulgator of effective solutions, the goal being to advance the needle by whatever means work best. I’m not alone in this – some of the biggest public relations firms in the country have taken to calling themselves centers of client creativity of late – and I certainly believe that I and my style – and my strategic partners – fit that mode.

The Big Thunder Years – Client Experience By Type

Client experience in the Big Thunder realm includes:

  • • Healthcare technology – clinical management software
    • Conference and seminar marketing
    • Event marketing
    • Manufacturing
    • Outdoor power equipment industry
    • Consumer products – new product introductions
    • Automotive component manufacturing, US and international
    • Faith-based organizations
    • Non-profit organizations
    • Commercial real estate
    • Residential real estate
    • Professional services – law firms
    • Media
    • Food/specialty foods
    • Social entrepreneurship and social enterprise

Say Goodbye For Now

That’s about it for now. If you’ve a need for a fresh start with public relations for your business or organization – or simply want to talk with someone with an objective perspective on public relations and marketing – I hope you’ll think of me and Big Thunder. And don’t think that just because I’m located in the Twin Cities that my perspective is limited to the immediate area – the type of work I do and the level of expertise I can deliver can be of benefit to any company anywhere. In any case, I’d be happy to talk with you!

Contact information: doughovelson AT MSN Dot COM or 612-722-5501 in these United States, add the +1 in front of the number for international callers.

Interested in:

  • Queries from business people interested in upgrading their public relations approach for improved results
  • Simple introductory discussions with business people – including those who may be considering whether a public relations strategy is right for their business needs
  • Project work, including writing assignments of all kinds – PR, journalistic, promotional, research reports, etc.
  • Helping out any way I can – contacts, ideas, brainstorming, etc.

(more…)

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Target’s Foray Into Subscriptions Begs The Question: What About Your Business?

Posted on April 18, 2014. Filed under: Creative Marketing, Public Relations, Public relations practices, Retail, Small Business in Minnesota | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Probably no Twin Cities-based company is more closely watched by business locals than Target Corporation. Not that the Twin Cities is a one-horse town, corporately speaking — far from it! Rather, Target is the odds-on favorite in a multi-horse lineup of big hitters. So it’s interesting to us locally — and surely to many marketers nationally as well — when Target announces that it is pursuing more online sales by bolstering its subscription business. See Target Expands Online Subscription Sales.

Subscriptions Can Be A Sweet Addition To A Business

Subscription sales by major marketers is a hot topic at present. General Mills, for example, is building out a subscription business with a line of unique culinary treats — a healthy sweet treat a day keeps the dogs of want away, might be the underlying idea there.

Target’s idea is to motivate consumers and businesses alike to sign up for regular shipments of everyday products such as washing detergents, paper goods, cleaning products — the mundane stuff that no home or business can afford to be without. Purchase online, add them to your account, specify delivery intervals, and voila – your life simplified. It’s a good idea, not new, but good all the same. Many, many companies pursue a similar strategy of course.

But the question is, why aren’t even more companies doing it? Specifically, small to medium sized businesses — and non-profits too — with both products and services to sell? Why couldn’t a hair stylist offer to cut and beautify hair on a subscription basis – 12 sessions per year, sign on for the subscription to the service and get a 10% discount? A florist could initiate a bouquet-of-the-month club for consumers and businesses alike. Specialty food businesses are obviously ideal for this type of business development model — especially if they’re willing and able to partner with other food products marketers to provide customized food baskets.

A Little Creative Thought Can Reveal A Powerful New Marketing Niche

Even professional services companies could benefit from the subscription approach to client retention. A competitive-landscape-analysis-of-the-month club for clients of a public relations or advertising firm, for example. Or a monthly webinar providing an in-depth, value-added look at a topic of deep relevance to clients. This kind of approach could also benefit law firms, accounting firms, non-profits — the potential is limitless.

The moral of the story is, if it’s good enough for the likes of a mass merchandising giant like Target, it’s probably good enough for your business too.

Willing To Help

If you’d like to discuss such issues with an experienced marketing industry pro, feel free to get in touch with me. No fee for a brainstorming sounding out of ideas here.

Now then, Target as noted is not the only major retailer ramping up online sales. Home Depot is, by report of the Wall Street Journal, reducing its new-store openings drastically while promoting much more aggressively it’s online sales site. That’s a huge switch for the retailer, whose main growth strategy in the past has been based on new store growth. But the bricks-and-mortar segment of the business is over-crowded with competition, say Home Depot executives. And even the vastness of the Home Depot stores can only contain about 35,000 products versus the 600,000 offered on the retailer’s website.

Home Depot makes it easy for consumers to order online — and pickup goods at a local Home Depot bricks-and-mortar location. That’s called killing two birds, one virtual, one physically present, with one giant marketing stone.

 

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Pitching The Media, Channel Basics

Posted on April 3, 2014. Filed under: Media Commentary, Public Relations, Public Relations Commentary, Public Relations Pointers, Public relations practices, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Reporters even today, in this most post-modern of post-modern worlds to date, prefer to get their pitches from PR people under cover of email. Or, get this, they’ll even take a story idea by telephone — yes that strange little talking device that pre-dates even the VCR, microwave ovens and the use of the designated hitter in baseball — over getting hit up with an idea by, say, a Tweet.

Not to say that all reporters, news producers and the like eschew the social media avenues for pitch contacts. TV reporters and program producers seem to get an abundance of their story ideas from social media sources, according to the 2014 Vocus State of the Media Report. This makes sense, since television news is particularly keen on reaching out to viewers for news tips and just generally more open to engaging with viewers via social media.

Best Bet – Email!

Email emerges as the favorite medium for story pitching for a number of reasons. One, it’s private. Two, it’s fast and also because people pay more attention to what’s happening in the email streams than they do to what’s being beamed at them on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and the like. Three, it’s easier to keep track of pitches sent via email versus the social media circuits.

Keeping things private, Edward Snowden aside, is pretty much a given when working with the news media. Some news people — outside the aforementioned local TV news realm — are receptive to receiving tips via openly public media such as Twitter. But putting a story idea up on a public Twitter feed also cues competitors in to what a reporter may be doing. It’s no way to pitch an exclusive story, that’s for sure. Most reporters that I know and work with seem to work under the assumption that whatever story they’re doing is their own private business — and they just don’t want other people outside their organization to know what they’re working on until they’re ready to reveal it themselves. This makes email a better choice than a public Tweet, especially if you’re pitching a particular story angle to a particular reporter. Using the private DM channel on Twitter to contact a reporter is a better approach – assuming you have that option – but again, there’s the chance that the reporter isn’t checking the Twitter feedline that often.

By Any Means Possible

A nice option is to use Twitter as a story-pitch alerter – signaling the reporter that you’ve got a newsy idea to discuss, with a note that you’ve sent an email – if that’s the case or left a voice-mail message if that’s the case. Use it as another tool for getting a news person’s attention, in other words.

Reporters often use Facebook and LinkedIn as means of tracking down sources. LinkedIn has its advantages with its built-in InMail feature, which allows users to send private emails to others in the LinkedIn system.

I find Twitter to be of immense use as a media relations tool, less for direct pitching of stories than for staying informed about specific media outlets and reporters. In fact, I often find myself browsing through my list of people I’m following on Twitter to find reporters and media outlets that might be interested in stories I’m currently pitching. The list changes all the time, depending on what I’m working on.

Personal Contact Is Essential

But for pitching story ideas – when you’re the pitcher – the best approach still seems to be a combination of email and followup telephone contact, perhaps supplemented by contacts on Twitter and other social media outlets where the news person maintains a presence. The unsettling thing about email is that you’re never sure if your pitch has been seen by a reporter who probably gets bombarded by email all day long. (There are unobtrusive email tracking systems that you can use to see if your emails are being opened; they just let you know if and when someone’s clicked open your email. (I’m not real familiar with the technology, although I’m interested in hearing from anyone who does know how effective such systems are and so forth.)

And yet, there are no absolutes — whatever works best with individual reporters and news people is the best approach.

Active media relations is very challenging work. The digital age has made it all the more complicated and demanding. People who do media relations work well tend to live and breathe the media world. Many are former journalists — more of them now than say 10 years ago. Now I’m speaking of media relations as the practice of reaching out to the media to generate coverage for clients. This goes beyond the idea of simply pumping out a press release, throwing it out on a paid distribution service, and sitting back to see what happens. Many companies do this for quick-fix SEO – search engine optimization reasons. Nothing wrong with that. But if you’ve got a good story to tell, one that you believe should be of interest to the media, then it’s worth taking the time to personally pitch the story to the media as well. The keys to great results, as the Vocus study shows, are persistence and using the appropriate means of contact.

Good Stories Buried With The Bad

Let me finish with a quote from a reporter at a national news media outlets in Southern California, as identified in the Vocus report. The reporter responds to the question of whether she is open to receiving pitches via social media. Her response appears to indicate that she isn’t currently receiving many pitches via social media.

“Yes, I think. It is hard to say what the long-term effect of my social media experience will be if my Facebook instant message or Twitter Direct Message box becomes packed with pitches like my email box is now. I routinely miss important emails as it is now because they are buried within the stack of “story ideas.” I think a more elegant solution is ahead of us, I just don’t know what it is yet.” – See more at: VOCUS State of the Media Report.

She sums up the crux of the matter, from a media relations perspective, very well when she says that a lot of important emails get buried under the stack of story ideas in her email box. That’s where good media relations people earn their keep – by finding ways to call pitch-saturated reporters’ and editors’ attention to their clients’ good story ideas. (Because a good story is a terrible thing to waste, damn it!)

Hats off to VOCUS for doing the report.

Got a media relations story to share, commentary on my commentary, etc? I’d love to hear from you.

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Now Hear This, Mom! Public Relations Makes Perfectly Good Sense.

Posted on March 13, 2014. Filed under: Public Relations |

Now Hear This, Mom! Public Relations Makes Perfectly Good Sense..

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Now Hear This, Mom! Public Relations Makes Perfectly Good Sense.

Posted on March 13, 2014. Filed under: Family Life, Public Relations, Public Relations Commentary | Tags: , , , |

Public relations was hard enough to define in lay terms  in the analog age. Imagine trying to describe to your mother what you did in PR back in the day when the word processor was a marvel of technical wizardry, laptop computers weighed umpteen pounds, and daily newspapers still had multi-page classified sections thick with want ads.

“I help companies get their messages out through the news media, Mom,” you might have said. That in lieu of going into a lengthy explanation about the need to identify key publics, slice and dice the demographic aspects of your target markets, develop a media platform by which to tell your story, align your efforts with overall corporate marketing and business strategies, and blah blah blah. Mom, meanwhile, has turned the page and is wondering whether she remembered to get  stamps yesterday so she can some household bills into the mail today.

Visuals Overcome Cultural Barriers

So you might try using pictures. We had a client, back in the good old days of actual cut-and-paste layout boards, that produced a children’s television show for PBS stations. The goal of the public relations campaign was to create national awareness for the new season of this show — a show which, by the way, earned several Daytime Emmys and was sponsored by one of the largest breakfast cereal companies in the world, one that features a noble beast of the jungle as a signature character. Anyway, we were charged with not only doing media relations but also station relations. So we storyboarded part of our presentation, including various poster concepts, newsletter concepts and some graphic slicks that could be dropped in as-is into print publications. Those visual materials were easily grasped by Mom, as they were by the client for that matter. Now Mom had some idea of what I did – promotional posters and colorful newsletters, of all things.

Fast forward to today. Now Mom, who’s relatively computer-averse, has an even harder time understanding what I — or most any PR-oriented individual — does. Besides getting people news and blogosphere coverage for all the many newsworthy and compelling stories that they have to tell, I have to talk about using social media channels such as Twitter and LinkedIn, blogs, brand journalism and Native advertising, and YouTube to “engage with key client audiences.”

Mom, meanwhile, is still sticking stamps on envelopes and using the U.S. Postal Service to pay her bills.

Back To The Marketplace

So I just say that I do a lot of copywriting for companies, come up with ideas to help them stand out in the marketplace and get their stories told in a lot of different venues — including the good old, but now quasi-analog media such as newspapers, television and radio — and give important people (such as customers and prospective customers) reasons to know about them, and like them well enough to do business with them.

If Mom wants to see pictures, all I have to do is get on the Internet and call up examples of my work.

Mom, of course, is computer-averse as mentioned earlier. She doesn’t like looking at stuff on computer screens. So there’s not much chance she’ll look at what I have to show online.

Mom, most likely, is dealing herself a hand of solitaire — one of her favorite pasttimes these days — while I finish up my spiel about what I do in my PR life. Being an analogist, Mom is playing with an actual deck of beat-up cards, Bicycle brand. I could tell her that I like to play solitaire to relax too — but now I play online. I wouldn’t even know how to deal a hand of solitaire these days. I’ve forgotten how. The computer does it for me. God help me if I ever get stranded on a deserted island with just a deck of cards for entertainment and no computer. I’d have to reinvent the whole damn world of solitaire all over again. Holy Hoyle!

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Social media: love is not enough for most businesses to live on

Posted on February 6, 2014. Filed under: Public Relations, Public relations practices, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , |

Strikes me that one of the hardest things for companies to do is to do social media properly from the inside of the company.

So natural to use the time/digital space to talk about the company and its wonderful culture, accomplishments, etc. But is that of real interest to the readers companies most want to attract?

Employees and their families, company “friendlies” – the “choir”  — naturally like to see that. If that’s the target audience, fine.

Detached observers, such as prospects, probably want to see something else – content that makes them think, entertains them, inspires them, informs them, hits them where they live.

Content such as journalists, and outsiders such as PR agencies and freelancers, produce.

It’s great to be loved by those who know you. Even better for businesses to be loved by strangers who may want to do business with you.

More on the subject here, from an MIT study: If You Like It They May Not Come.

I like to help people get the most for their marketing and PR money. If you think you could use some help making your social media strategies more effective, maybe we should talk. I’m almost a certified outsider, journalist, agency guy and freelancer all in one. I’m at Doug Hovelson or simply respond to this post.

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Just-in-time Zen Moment For Holiday Shopper

Posted on December 20, 2013. Filed under: Public Relations, Retail, Society | Tags: , , , , , , |

Traffic lights

Traffic lights (Photo credit: Vít ‘tasuki’ Brunner)

A mobile holiday shopper in Los Angeles tweets this morning of driving around in the city for two hours in search of holiday gifts. She had a list of gifts that she wanted to buy, from the sounds of it.

None of the stores she visited in person had the merchandise in stock.

Then, a moment of digital satori arrived while she  paused at a traffic light. She grabbed her smart phone, jumped online and got her shopping done in the span of a Beverly Drive minute or two.

No telling what stores she patronized online, unless she covered that in a subsequent tweet unseen by me.

Obviously, she was making a statement about her shopping experience or lack thereof with the bricks-and-mortar retailers she attempted to buy from during her odyssey on wheels. The statement being, if I interpret correctly, that she was fed up with the whole thing – and probably not going to be doing so much drive-by shopping in the future.

Reading her tweet – which showed up as a random posting in my Twitter stream, sandwiched in between various notes of more earth-shaking news – made me think about an infographic I saw recently predicting continued massive growth in digital interactions of all kinds, including mobile shopping. If it — the sudden discovery that it’s easier, smarter and above all else more practical to shop online than to motor desperately and for hours on end from one outlet to another — can happen in-between traffic light stops in retail saturated LA, then this revolution in mobile retail is just beginning.

It occurs to me that our friendly LA tweeter could have phoned ahead to ask if the products she sought were in stock at the retailers she had on her radar. But she apparently didn’t.

One can only surmise why that was.

One guess is that making phone calls of that nature is kind of a pain in the ass. Maybe not as much of a pain in the ass as driving for hours in a fog of holiday desperation, but still…a pain. And who knows who or what is going to answer the phone when you call a business these days? Besides, what fun is that – calling up retailers to find out if they’ve got what you want in stock? Better to foray into the unknown, testing the limits of the physical world to meet one’s needs. And then, when all else fails, go online. Or maybe not. Maybe just sit at home in front of the computer for a bit buying stuff off of retail websites. But then, what fun is that? It’s kind of hard to feel the holiday spirit when you’re mixing it up with your keyboard and a monitor — no Christmas bells merrily jingling, no stimulation from the madding crowds and festive festooning of the stores themselves. No sense of awe, in short.

Ah well. it’s a dilemma. To mingle with the masses of the malls, or to commune in silent ecstasy with the online retailers.

But why choose? Slide that mobile device into your coat pocket while you’re heading out the door to hit the bricks — if the mall lets you down, you just might find yourself stopped before a long-winded red traffic light punching in online orders.

That would be me, behind you, leaning on the horn of my car as the traffic light turns from red to green.

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Friday Night Writing Thoughts

Posted on May 31, 2013. Filed under: Public Relations, Writing | Tags: |

English: Jack Kerouac by photographer Tom Palu...

English: Jack Kerouac by photographer Tom Palumbo, circa 1956 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Stephen King says he writes 1,500 words a day.

Chris Brogan says he writes 4,000 words a day.

Flaubert could struggle to get a single sentence written in a day.

Thomas Wolfe dashed off 10,000 words a day, then worked off the stress by prowling the streets of New York for hours on end.

Thinking about this, I figure I top out at about 5,000 words a day. That seems like a good day’s work.

Jack Kerouac wrote On The Road in 3 weeks. Seems like a good 21 days’ worth of work by Jack, although Truman Capote famously dissed Jack by saying, “It’s not writing, it’s typing.” Bit harsh, that, don’tcha think, Tru?

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Cruising The Mall

Posted on February 19, 2013. Filed under: Doug Hovelson Photography, Minneapolis, Public Relations, Ramblings, Retail window displays | Tags: , , , |

Highway and heavy way to cruise Nicollet Mall.

Construction vehicle on Nicollet Mall

Afternoon cruise on Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis

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