Boring is clearly not a word in Jake Sirianni’s vocabulary – the Washington State University communication student made news headlines this week in his quest to become Jimmy Fallon’s next summer intern.
Instead of turning in a standard application and cover letter, Jake created a video of himself inspired by Daniel Radcliffe’s 2014 “Alphabet Aerobics” rap spelling out all the reasons why he’d make a great addition to the team. The video went viral on social media, quickly getting the attention of Fallon himself and landing Jake with a one-way ticket to New York City this summer.
This story caught my attention for a few reasons. As a WSU alum myself, I was incredibly proud to see a talented Coug set a big goal and knock it out of the park. As a PR professional, Jake’s efforts seemed like the ultimate case study on how to execute a perfect pitch. Whether you’re trying to place a big story in a coveted news outlet, selling your boss on a cool new program, or bringing in new business to your agency, remember these proven pitching tips:
Know Your Goal In order for your pitch to be successful, you first have to know what you want to get out of it. In Jake’s case, his end game was obvious – but it’s not always so clear. Do you just need an interview? Do you want to land an exclusive story? Perhaps you’re looking for the chance to get in front of a potential client’s CEO? Once you have a definitive idea of what the goal is, you can figure out all of the ingredients you need to go out and get it.
Personalize the Pitch Reporters, coworkers, and clients alike want to feel known, so there’s nothing worse than a generic pitch that could just as easily have ended up in someone else’s inbox. Sure, it’s not exactly practical (or appropriate) to write a personalized rap each time you make an ask, but taking ten minutes to do some research works wonders. Do your due diligence and find out the basics about your target audience – what are they an expert on? How do they interact on social media? Would they appreciate a little humor? This little bit of effort ensures your pitch will take the right tone and that you can make the best of any personal connection that might be there.
Be Creative PR, like television, is a creative industry – which means you won’t get anywhere by doing the same thing over and over. If you’ve already done your research, you should have a good idea of the level of creativity you can get away with. Don’t be afraid to try a new medium – a video, infographic, or social media post might be the thing that sets you apart from the horde of others vying for your audience’s attention. Get stuck? Call Jake – he seems like he’d have some ideas.
Take a Risk I can only imagine how nerve-wracking it was to push “publish” on a project bound for the eyes of high-powered TV execs. The fear of rejection is always powerful, but this situation is proof that risk and reward are directly related – nobody has ever succeeded without having a little skin in the game. Take a deep breath, have a little fun, and know that you’re capable of great things!
Do you have a particularly successful pitching strategy? Share it with us!
It all started in the back of a Lyft when I had first heard about DisruptHR Denver. I know that sounds like a joke, but in all seriousness, my Lyft driver, a well-known professional speaker in the HR industry, told me about DisruptHR Denver after I poured my soul out to her about my love for PR and HR.
I let her know my company gives employees a professional development stipend, where staff can put money towards something they’re passionate about (i.e., learning how to use InDesign, taking a class on Social Media, going to networking events, etc.) to further their growth at the company. Once I heard about DisruptHR Denver, I knew that’s what I wanted to use my professional develop fund for – going to an event series that shakes things up, will make me think differently and leave me inspired.
Attending the event on a Thursday evening, you’re welcomed into a giant event center greeted by smiling faces, a cash bar (oh yeah) and free TACOS (double yeah). Not knowing what to expect, I walked away with several important points I learned from the presenters at DisruptHR Denver and I now can happily refer to my company as a “Purple Unicorn” – something so awesome that it probably doesn’t exist in real life.
So you want to be a rock star?
If I had a buck for every time I heard someone say “I learned everything I need to do my job in my current job and not in college,” I’d be stupid rich. While many companies provide internships to get hands-on experience before formal employment, DisruptHR introduced me to a new program that helps train employees and learn job-specific skills but with the promise of a job after completion. It’s called an apprenticeship. Employers offer apprenticeships to hire people who already know which career path they wish to follow. Granted, you’ve got to be real committed to a career path, which, if you’re anything like me, can be challenging for fickle folks. Apprenticeships, internships, you name it, if you’re a company that wants to hire young talent, you’ve got to have some form of “hands-on” training to prepare employees for the real deal.
Auto enrollment is a major key
Something I’ve learned about my generation recently, especially through my own experience, that unless I’ve got step-by-step directions in front of my face to do something that will benefit me in the future, I’m probably going to be really lazy and give up. Something so simple as setting up an IRA can be oddly daunting and without any encouragement or direction from my employer, I’m probably just going to opt out. DisruptHR introduced me to a new, world-changing idea to help prevent this: auto enrollment. The specific example used was about setting up a 401K or a retirement savings plan for employees to save money for retirement. So essentially I don’t have to do anything and I’m saving money. Hot dog! How cool is that? Fortunately for me, Barokas PR’s retirement program seemed difficult, but is actually extremely easy to enroll in and I do nothing (like, literally I do nothing) to save money for retirement.
Not your average employee comp and benefits program
Other interesting things I learned at DisruptHR Denver revolve around compensation and benefits because these days it’s not only about that pay check and health care – it’s about the office kegerator, unlimited PTO and recognition (queue #youknowyouworkwithmillennialswhen?). Many companies these days provide health and wellness programs that, you guessed it, help decrease the cost of healthcare via preventative measures! Just kidding, you probably didn’t guess that but health and wellness plans can be as simple as partnering with a local gym to get a discount for employees or as intricate as providing FitBits and having a monthly 100,000 steps competition. Something that other companies can learn from Barokas PR, is an added comp and benefits perk which we all cherish: Work from Home Fridays (WFHF) and the ability to bring dogs into our offices. Who doesn’t like working in your PJs on Fridays and getting to see cute lil pups at the office every week? A crazy person, that’s who.
Oh and did I mention that DisruptHR Denver is coming back in August? You can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be there again to learn more about how HR is changing and how we should (and will) approach in the future. Who’s coming with me?
Hate it or love it, all organizations need social media. Social media presence is a huge opportunity for companies and brands, whether they are B2B or B2C. If you’re anything like me, you think social media seems simple in theory, but the execution of a successful social program is not as straightforward as it may seem. In an age where social media is king, it has become a crucial aspect of building a brand’s voice and thought leadership. But how do you utilize a company’s social platforms efficiently? Below I have outlined the 5 common social media mistakes and how to avoid them.
Being Too Promotional
Whether it’s on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or another platform, don’t JUST promote your company. Social media shouldn’t be used to solely promote company news, coverage and updates. Social is all about engaging the end user — and nothing turns people off more than the feeling that they’re being sold on a product or service all the time. This does not mean that you should never post about your company, it just means that you should also share the love. The content you share should be a combination of original content and news that is relevant in the industry. Promoting content that complements your brand will showcase the company as a thought leader and active participant in the broader community.
A company’s social platforms should remain consistent in overall message and voice. This even includes Twitter handles of company executives. When starting a social program, make sure that the execs who are on social media are using the channels appropriately. When a CEO bashes a company or product on social media, it directly reflects the way people view the company where the CEO works. Inconsistent branding across platforms is also something that can turn away followers. Ensure your branding is recognizable and consistent so people are delivered the same message no matter where they are engaging with your brand.
The frequency of posts should differ platform to platform. For example, the lifespan of a tweet is much smaller than that of a Facebook or LinkedIn post. It’s important to figure out how often you should be posting in each channel. Spread out your posts and plan them accurately. If you’re getting good engagement on Facebook, plan to post 1-2 times a day and spread them out throughout the day to see when your followers are most engaged. LinkedIn posts can be more thoughtful and sporadic in the amount you post. Twitter is a whole different beast. On Twitter, people are consuming their information faster and in smaller bites. Aim to post at least 3-5 times a day and space your tweets throughout the day. It’s never a good thing when you go to a company’s Twitter page and they haven’t posted anything in two weeks and then they post ten tweets in one day.
Spreading Yourself Too Thin
Today, there are more social platforms than we can count. But just because they exist, does not mean that it’s appropriate for you to leverage every single one of them. Don’t feel like you need to be present everywhere. The worst thing a company can do is open accounts on every platform and then neglect them. For most enterprise and B2B companies, it doesn’t make sense for you to be on Snapchat or Pinterest. Choose the platforms where you can get the most quality engagement and where you are willing to invest your time.
Lack of Organization
Organize, organize, organize. It is crucial that you stay organized. Mastering and understanding this is mission critical when it comes to utilizing your social media platforms. When you don’t stay organized, your audience will notice. Continue to stay relevant and cohesive with each and every post. Luckily for us, there are hundreds of tools out there to help us stay on top of our social media game. Tools like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck allow you to schedule your posts in advance across all platforms, allowing you to plan in advance and spread out your posts without missing a beat.
Next time you’re faced with the daunting task of creating a social media program for a client, take a few minutes and make sure you’ve got all your bases covered so you can avoid making these very common mistakes.
On the very first day of my internship at Barokas PR, I walked through the doors with a basic understanding of what it took to be successful in PR. After a few short days, I could see that my definition of success was going to quickly evolve. I heard multiple teammates say that in order to be successful in PR, you had to be “aggressive.” Although this word usually has a negative connotation, everyone spoke of it in a very positive manner. As someone who, and I’m sure this will not shock most, is not naturally a very aggressive person in its traditional sense, I’ve interpreted the word to mean three things that I believe are key to being successful in PR – dynamic, unafraid and intentional.
Dynamic The world of PR, and the technologies that we represent at Barokas PR, are constantly changing and progressing. To be successful doesn’t necessarily mean that you must be forceful in your pursuits, but rather, actively (and willingly) adapt to whatever changes are thrown your way. For example, one day you could be working on a product launch and a few days later you learn the product launch has slipped by a month. Being comfortable with change is key to finding successes in the ever-evolving world of PR.
Unafraid It’s not fair to say that it’s not possible to ever be afraid because sometimes even the most successful people get scared, too. However, in PR, you must wholeheartedly embrace the opportunity – unafraid of the end result. Whether that’s taking on new projects that may be out of your comfort zone, reaching out to a reporter with a crazy pitch idea, or speaking up on a client call, you must act fearlessly in all that you do.
Intentional This one has proven to me to be the most important aspect of being successful in PR. Everything we do must be done deliberately and with purpose. From the reporters we pitch, to the potential clients we reach out to for new business, and everything in between – we must be aggressively deliberate.
A year and a half later, and now in a permanent role at Barokas PR, my biggest piece of advice to someone starting their career in PR is this: embrace the craziness and constant progress of our industry, and be fearlessly intentional in all that you do.
After spending 3 hours listening to “I am not your guru” motivational speaker Tony Robbins, I now understand why so many people flock to his week-long seminars and why he’s a best-selling author. For me, personally, one of the biggest lessons I learned has to do with the law of familiarity – avoiding complacency. Always try to be in a state of movement towards a new challenge. And, be grateful. Dwelling on past mistakes will put you in a state of suffering (“get in your head, you’re dead”), it paralyzes us from moving forward.
Instead, Tony talked about the science of achievement and art of fulfillment – the importance of happiness, growing, and making progress. Easier said than done, right? Actually, it’s pretty simple stuff.
Set a goal: The power of absolute clarity and commitment
Execute effectively: Massive action is a cure all
Have grace: end suffering (don’t beat yourself up)
And, right when you’re about to achieve your first goal, begin setting your next goal.
By no means does this short 200-word blog adequately describe my experience or do the topic justice. The only way to understand is to see Tony Robbins live yourself. I guarantee you’ll walk away with at least one “aha” moment. If you can’t see him live, the next best thing is his documentary on Netflix ,“I Am Not Your Guru”. Whether you believe what Tony says or not, his spirit and enthusiasm is contagious, and a little bit of that goes a long way!
At Barokas PR, we represent a wide array of emerging, high-growth markets. Recently, I’ve noticed a PR convergence point, across industries we represent, that’s shaping our media relations recommendations: mobile strategy.
Mobile disruption and adoption have been a focal point of tech conversations for the past decade. It might sound like a tired conversation, but smartphone sales surpassed “dumb phone” sales ONLY four years ago.
What I’ve noticed in the media, is that the stories getting the most PR mileage are increasingly focusing on mobile strategy; how this affects the business and consumer bottom line, success stories, innovative mobile tactics, etc.
Here are a few of my favorite mobile strategy success stories:
Because Barokas PR started in Seattle and we love coffee, let’s look at Starbucks. Two years ago the coffee powerhouse rolled out its “pre-order” service on its existing mobile app. Line-jumpers everywhere celebrated as they ordered on their mobile phones and had their food and / or drink waiting for them when they arrived. Starbucks didn’t stop with updates to the mobile app, updates to physical stores embrace more tech-savvy customers by offering wireless charging stations and WiFi-connected coffee machines. Suddenly what was once a simple coffee shop is now stepping further into the realm of tech.
More recently, Chipotle also announced an update to its mobile ordering service called “Smarter Pickup Times.” The technology allows customers to not only place orders on the go, but to schedule and reserve future pickup times. While testing the new feature, Chipotle found that wait times were reduced by as much as 50 percent. Updating their mobile offering allowed Chipotle to not only set the pace for online ordering in the restaurant industry, but they improved the customer experience and encouraged brand loyalty.
Just as the food industry has been adopting mobile to connect with their customers. Mobile is also emerging in newly regulated industries to propel them further. A great example of this collaboration is in the cannabis industry. Despite reports of high revenue, cannabis is still a relatively immature space that has utilized technology to bridge the gap between state and federal guidelines. Barokas PR client, CanPay, an electronic payment solution for the highly-regulated, cash-only cannabis industry, is working to innovate the payment process – only one facet of the existing void. In a field that typically isn’t associated with mobile apps, CanPay saw a need to extend payment options beyond cash and introduced the world’s first debit payment app for cannabis retailers. Not only does this put CanPay in the forefront of the media, but it gives Barokas PR a role to play in building the relationships CanPay has with their users and the public.
In every industry, there’s potential to implement a mobile strategy for increased and continued success. The PR takeaway here is that technology news doesn’t just come from tech companies, every facet of technology is represented through the work we do for our clients, whether they be in the enterprise, food, marijuana and whatever else you can think of-industry.
Recently, our W Bellevue account team had the opportunity to attend a brand immersion day to learn the ins and outs of the international hotel chain’s brand. We joined a room full of W talent (the brand’s term for staff) and discussed passion points, key messages, brand speak and target audiences while sipping coffee and nibbling on donuts. This was a rare experience for us, given the majority of our clients are startups, technology companies or both. Working with an established brand brings new opportunities – and challenges – and will surely be an adventure over the next few months as we launch the brand’s only new North American location this year.
Donuts aside, the brand immersion – and recent hard hat tour, see photo of Morgan and me in Timberlands – highlighted the importance of understanding a company’s brand and industry. For a PR professional, immersing yourself in the client’s brand is important. At times, we speak for the brand. Most times, we’re the first touchpoint media, analysts or the public have with the company. It’s crucial we understand your brand and industry enough to get it right.
With this in mind, we work diligently to become experts in our client’s field. Whether it’s researching the industry, following the news or attending brand immersions, we’re in the know on issues that matter to our clients. Our brands are constantly running through our head while reading the news, commuting or researching trends. What storyline will resonate with the media? Is the story timely? Does it fit within the brand’s key messages? Will the story translate to an increase in the client’s ROI? Trust us brands, you’re always running through our mind.
We take the time to get to know the brand – and you! – because it matters. PR is all about relationships, and we want to be in a relationship with your brand. Too weird? Sorry, not sorry. We’re always ready to throw on Timberlands and eat donuts (in reality, it’s usually reading the news, studying the industry and talking to you) in order to better understand the brand. Plus, we end up being great party conversationalists. Ask us about machine learning, data optimization, new venues opening in the region, space programs, mobile apps, the emerging cannabis industry, security, gaming, sports marketing, telecommunications and cloud technology. We’re ready.
It’s no surprise that the dresses and drama of the Academy Awards draws in millions of viewers each year – myself included. And while this year’s Oscars were both emotional and entertaining, 3 hours and 40 minutes of (actually pretty good) programming were overshadowed by a major mistake in its last few moments.
While you don’t need to be a public relations pro to recognize that things could have gone a little smoother, the aftermath of the Best Picture slipup illuminated three tried and true PR crises best practices:
No one likes to admit they’re at fault, but when a crisis hits, it’s crucial to get ahead of the news as much as possible. Since the Oscars were broadcast live this was virtually impossible, but we have no doubt PricewaterhouseCoopers, the accounting firm that oversees the Oscars ballot process, was putting together its statement at lightning speed, in an attempt to shift the message in its favor.
Accuracy, during a crisis, is also of utmost importance. Despite heightened tensions and phones ringing off the hook, it’s imperative to ensure said statement is as accurate as possible. When in need of more time, seasoned PR pros can first share a holding statement, providing media with an initial soundbite, setting forth basic facts and letting the press know the situation is being dealt with. PwC chose to share its statement via Twitter, instantly reaching millions of people and accepting full responsibility with regards to the mistake.
Ignore the critics, sometimes
For a company that’s managed the Oscar ballots for the last 83 years, we’d say PwC has kept a pretty good record. That being said, the Best Picture reversal instantly became the central theme of the Oscars, repeated endlessly on television and swamping social media. One of the so-called Big Four accounting firms was suddenly plagued by not-so-nice headlines, including “Oscars mistake could prove a major blow to PricewaterhouseCoopers reputation” and “#Envelopegate: How PwC will never live this down.” And while it’s always important to keep tabs on negative press, sometimes it’s best to just hunker down and stick to the plan.
Coming out on top after a crisis isn’t easy – even for one of the biggest firms in the world. But here’s a special thanks to the Academy, for reminding everyone how important PR is.
As a PR professional, one of my favorite things to do is study bad media interviews. If you’ve ever been on the internet, chances are you’ve probably seen some examples – think Sarah Palin, Charlie Sheen, and Kanye West. Aside from the obvious entertainment factor, these case studies are solid proof of why so many business executives are hesitant to put themselves in front of the media. Reputation matters, and a media misstep in front of the wrong person can spell disaster for a company that’s already fighting for the edge over their competitors.
At Barokas PR, we know that face time with the media doesn’t have to be scary – that’s why we love media training with our clients. It provides the opportunity for us to get on the same page in regards to key messages, our spokesperson’s starting skillset, and areas of improvement. Not everyone will approach media training the same way, but a good program should give your spokesperson the opportunity to do the following:
Develop a sharp media toolkit
Ever heard of bridging, flagging, hedging, hooking, or framing? They’re all tactics interviewees can use to maintain control of the conversation, regardless of the direction the reporter tries to take the interview. A well-trained spokesperson will understand how to transition away from tricky topics, highlight important messages, buy themselves time to think, or lead the reporter into a new set of questions without breaking the pace of conversation.
Practice your messaging
The worst media interviews meander around key talking points, which is why it’s important that your spokesperson goes into each interview with a defined purpose in mind. A well-trained spokesperson will tell your story in a conversational, engaging tone and back it up with the proof points that journalists crave. Ultimately, they’ll provide a call to action so compelling that your audience knows exactly what you want them to do. Perfecting this craft takes time, so the more practice you provide your spokesperson, the better off they’ll be.
Anticipate the reporter playbook
Your spokesperson won’t be the only one with a few tricks up their sleeve – reporters have their own ways of getting what they need for a story. A good media training program will anticipate tough interview situations ahead of time so your spokesperson isn’t blindsided when the reporter asks a loaded question or tries to put them on the defensive. When your spokesperson has a good idea of what’s coming, they can practice using their media toolkit to craft a purposeful response.
PR is all about relationships, and interviews are the best tool we have for building rapport with the media. They give us the chance to be personable, memorable, and in control of our story. With a good media training experience in their back pocket, your spokesperson can go into each interview with confidence knowing they’ve prepared themselves for success.
Valentine’s Day is a day filled with love, romance and…PR? Let me explain. While the average American is perusing OpenTable reservations or stocking up on ice cream for their date with Netflix, PR pros are spending their time brainstorming. How can we leverage this holiday for our clients? And, how do we position it in a way that makes our client stand out?
Take BPR client, Ibotta, for example. Ibotta is a mobile shopping app that delivers cash back to its users on everyday purchases. So think, how can we capitalize on Valentine’s Day for this client? Our team at Barokas PR did a Valentine’s Day shopping analysis, and discovered that Virginia is the most romantic state and that the cheapest days to buy wine and chocolate are on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, respectively. Take that information, share that story with journalists and voila, coverage for Ibotta. Ok, so it’s not as simple as it sounds (there are many more working parts to a PR campaign) but, hey, we got Ibotta coverage in USA Today so something worked, right?
Another great example of Valentine’s PR done right is Lush’s #BetterTogether campaign. The main message behind this campaign is that love transcends gender. While the campaign received some backlash (surprise, surprise), the end result clearly promoted the company’s value of equality, along with its bath products. Lush received coverage and high social engagement across all channels. We love brands like Lush that take a stance on issues and do it well.
Last, but never least, is Netflix. The streaming conglomerate released a video in advance of Valentine’s Day that suggests the way into someone’s heart is simply by liking the same shows as them. Couples who binge watch together, stay together right? Cheesy I know, but Netflix has never had trouble retaining and gaining subscribers and 65,000 views later proves the success of its campaign. A great reminder that digital media is our friend!
As you can see from these examples, PR can quickly drive buzz for your brand around a national holiday, especially if you do it right. Now let’s all reminisce in the power that is PR and be left with the words of John Lennon – all you need is love.