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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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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At The End Of The Day, We Move Forward No More Forever

Posted on September 20, 2012. Filed under: Media Commentary, Ramblings, Sporting life, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

English: Don Mattingly in Dodgers dugout.

English: Don Mattingly in Dodgers dugout. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just two words of wisdom for today: Talk Normal*

Case in point:

“What I really want, at the end of the day, is to make sure we do the right thing for Clayton moving forward. I know we’ll do the right thing for him, so that’s not really a concern.” – Don Mattingly, Los Angeles Dodgers manager, speaking about injured pitcher Clayton Kershaw. (Quote from Sept. 18, 2012 Minneapolis Star Tribune, Sports, page C4)

Rewrite (just for our purposes):

“What I really want — and what this organization wants — is what’s best for Clayton.”

Editorial notes:

“Moving forward” – a transition phrase, perhaps once notable for being novel, it now sounds as empty of meaning as “awesome.” Delete with extreme prejudice. (See also: “going forward,” its equally obnoxious sibling.)

“At the end of the day” – what’s with this end of the day stuff? Do the cows come in at the end of the day? Of course they do. Was Rome built in a day? Of course not. Can we not get through one day without hearing someone, somewhere, in a position of somber authority, speaking of their earnest ambition to conclude something of a serious nature by the end of the bloody f’ing day???

No Offense Intended, Don

Sorry, Don Mattingly. I don’t mean to pick on you. I know you mean well. It’s just that, to see two such mindlessly over-used clichéd phrases in the same sentence, for God’s sake, it defies comprehension. It drew my attention, and I took a grammatical hack at it — somewhat like you used to have your fun battering a lazy down-the-middle fastball back in the day.

Editor’s note:

“Back in the day” – yadda, yadda, yadda, sounds like an early Jersey Boy phrase that went viral via some TV cop show outa New York and now passes for virile man-talk. Backinnaday ya know. Pack it in, back-in-the-day sayers. It’s lost most of the street smart cred that it had back in whatever day it slunk out of.

So, at the end of the day here, let’s quit embracing cliché-talk in our speech, okay?

Editor’s note:

“Embracing” — a psycho-babble-ish distortion of a perfectly good word — to embrace, to clasp in the arms. Now used with great unrestraint to show affinity, as in “she embraces the culture,” or “the author embraces the poor, the oppressed, the disenfranchised, the forgotten and the immoderate.” If those are the author’s people, so be it. Actually, it’s not so far-fetched to assume that a writer of the depths, such as a Dostoyevsky, actually does emotionally embrace the lives of some such as the Russian dispossessed, as he did with great feeling and insight. Not to banish non-physical/romantic references of embracing from the vocabulary, then, but to urge more judicious use of the word at minimum. (Note: no mention of being more judicious going forward!) Gandhi may well have embraced all of humanity. Most people have a hard enough time embracing close family members, much less the multitudinous masses. (No embracing on the job. That goes without saying.)

Well, then. That puts a period to the cliché problem for now.

* A nod to Tim Phillips, author of Talk Normal, Stop The Business Speak, Jargon and Waffle, published in 2011 by Kogan Page Limited, an excellent book in which the author argues that people are more effective when they just talk like normal people do.

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No Country For Dull Press Releases

Posted on March 19, 2010. Filed under: Public Relations, Public Relations Commentary, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

(And Other Thoughts In A Public Relations Vein)

Here’s best-selling author Michael Connelly on the state of the newspaper world, as seen through the eyes of Jack McEvoy, erstwhile star crime beat reporter for the fictional L.A. Times, a major daily newspaper in the City of Angels. In Scarecrow, Connelly’s 2009 novel, McEvoy is going the way of all aging reportorial flesh. Which is to say, he’s been riffed, let-go, pink-slipped, fired, in short, a casualty of the ongoing catastrophe that is 21st century newspaper journalism.

“There was no newspaper out there in the market for an over-40 cop shop reporter…Like the paper and ink newspaper itself, my time was over. It was all about the Internet now. It was about hourly uploads to online editions and blogs. It was about television tie-ins and Twitter updates…The morning paper might as well be called the Daily Afterthought. Everything in it was posted on the web the night before.”

newspaper revenue projections

Connelly’s a former Los Angeles Times cop shop reporter himself, so he knows whereof his bloodied lead character rants.

Okay then.

The newspaper business is in a bad way, no argument there.

But where does that leave us, the scribbling foot soldiers of the public relations world?

Writing, Still A Primary Tool Of The PR Trade?

Does good writing matter anymore, PR-wise? And if so, how so?

I was thinking all this through the other day as I pondered a client’s reaction to a piece of writing I had produced for publication – on the client’s behalf — in a daily newspaper. In a slight bit of deadline haste – ever had an anxious editor say you have to make a few last minute changes just before the ink hits the newsprint? — I put in a sentence that might not have totally captured my client’s thought process. My bad. Expediency can be a killer. Fortunately I had an understanding client, who did not let one bad moment spoil what I believe to be a good working relationship.

But, let’s think about this for a moment more. Here we are, in the post-literate age supposedly, and words obviously still count for something. More to the point, the written word counts, even if its published in that most maligned of modern media institutions, the daily newspaper.

Why is that?

Writing Sticks.

I thought of all the words that pour forth from the mouths of politicians and corporate spokespeople, celebrities, athletes, scientists, lawyers, cops (a passing nod to the crime beat reporter there), experts of all stripes, luncheon keynote speakers, not to mention babes, all emptying into the mighty maw of broadcast, print, Internet and personal journalism (AKA the grapevine). Such a mighty roar, and yet the power of the printed word is such that it can make a grown man nearly cry if he gets it wrong.

And why is that?

The only thing I can think of is that the printed word, is still understood to have lasting significance. Maybe that’s granting it a magical essence that it really doesn’t deserve. Personally, I don’t think that’s true though.

People instinctively know that they can be moved by the power of well-written words, be they found in a press release, a corporate backgrounder, a brochure, a newsletter, even – God forbid – in a Twitter alert. Moved to think, to learn, to take an action. Stuff that moves markets, in other words.

It may be that ink and paper newspapers are slouching towards extinction. I don’t know for sure about that. Everybody seemed to declare them dead in 2009, but even so recently as yesterday I found someone willing to sell me a hard copy of the daily newspaper over the counter for 50 cents.

But words in print, hand-crafted for a specific commercial/social realism purpose such as selling a product, building brand awareness, establishing a position, informing and motivating a target audience (or audiences)?

Not Quite As Post-Literate As We’d Like To Think.

I think my client was dead-on in expressing a concern about the way in which the newspaper article – an op-ed piece, as it were – depicted the issue at hand. There is magic in the printed word (and let’s call it like it is, the Internet does bear a striking resemblance to the world of print in some ways, noticeably by its durability). Good writing is powerful. It has staying power. It is memorable. When applied commercially, it is a reflection of the company that sponsors it.

Newspapering may not be what it once was. Public relations isn’t what it used to be either (it’s better, in my opinion, more comprehensive, more multi-dimensional).

But good writing, good story-telling, there’s a need for that – quite possibly now more than ever, what with the increasing emphasis on content as a marketable business and social commodity.

So while Jack McEvoy might be out of a job (or maybe not, you should really read Scarecrow to find out what happens to him, it’s a good read), those of us who labor away in the PR trenches know this: you can’t keep a good press release down!

 

 

 

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