As PR professionals, the art of media relations is our bread and butter. How does one find the perfect balance of ‘not too creepy,’ while still being personable and hitting our client’s key messages? It doesn’t sound like an easy thing to do because it it’s not.
Today we’re diving into three ‘Rs’ for avoiding reporter fatigue, because after all, what’s worse than a reporter getting tired of you when you know you’re going to have to hit them up again?
Research – when it comes down to it, if you do your research into the reporter’s beat and past coverage, and think what you are throwing their way is actually something they would be interested in, it really doesn’t matter how many times you pitch them. This also means you need to dig in and make sure you are pitching the most relevant person at each publication. Another ‘R’ that ties in well with this is respect – if you do the research, you will in turn be respecting their time and we all know this goes a long way with a reporter.
Relationships – remember, there’s a human behind each email on your media list, and you need to make sure and treat them as such. If you represent a local organization, or know for whatever reason you will be pitching them frequently, building an actual relationship with them is crucial. Do your due diligence to know who you are pitching, what they like and dislike, and make sure there are personal touches in each pitch. Even if you just say something simple like “I hope all is well since we connected last month” or go more in depth to reference their alma mater or favorite sports team, personalization goes a long way. It’s pretty easy to spot when you are victim of a blast pitch, and it’s simple to avoid.
Resource – if you’re already working with a reporter on another story or on behalf of a different client, don’t be afraid to switch gears. Let them know you will still close the loop on the other chain, but wanted to pivot and introduce them to another client. This falls within the ‘reporters are humans’ reminder – they know we work with several clients and look to us to be a resource for them in more ways than one.
It isn’t rocket science, but if you can master balancing these ‘Rs’ when it comes to frequenting the same reporter, you’ll be in great shape no matter how many times you drop them a line. Happy pitching!
I had the opportunity to attend TechCrunch Disrupt in New York in mid-May. It was a whirlwind of meeting new companies, hanging with media, and getting to watch Pharrell perform with a new startup he’s supporting. It was a successful trip for sure.
When Will and I arrived Monday morning, we didn’t really know what to expect. We had our table, our branded merchandise (our coveted No BS Buttons) and we were armed with stacks of business cards. As soon as the doors opened, we were off: talking about Barokas PR, educating some on what PR is, but mainly talking about what makes us different. By the end of day one, our ‘pitch’ had evolved. I’ve worked at Barokas for nearly seven years so when people ask me, ‘what do you do?’ I pretty much have it down. But after hearing one of my teammates talk about us, and knowing what questions to anticipate, I came back Tuesday and Wednesday with a new approach.
Barokas PR has been around for almost two decades so we don’t necessarily fall into the startup category— although if you work with us, you know we are just as nimble and agile one—so it was surprising to me to see my pitch change from day one, to day two. It got me thinking about startups and their pitches. Walking the show floor, I heard a lot of pitches. Some great, some that were just OK and others that were down right dismal. If you’re asked, ‘what does your company do?” and you start with an audible ‘sigh’, I know right then and there it’s not going to end well.
Here are my tips to get any company thinking through a successful pitch:
Keep it Simple
There’s nothing worse than having to listen to someone talk around themselves trying to figure out how to explain their company, what it does, and its vision. You should take no more than three sentences to tell anyone (a friend, parent or potential investor) what your company does and why it’s important or different.
No, not the example, ‘it’s the Uber of fillintheblank’. Use a tangible example of how you solved a critical industry problem, or better yet, a customer use case. This can help people who are not familiar with your company, product/service or industry connect the dots.
I can’t tell you how many times I heard the words ‘AI’ and ‘Machine Learning’ during the conference. Some companies are doing incredible things to advance these industries, and others were just tacking the monikers to their company description because they are trendy. At the end of the day, the buzzwords might get you noticed, but anyone who has experience in these industries will know as soon as they take a deeper look that you’re full of shit.
I can’t stress this one enough. If my pitch changed in a day of talking to people, yours likely will too. Practice in front of different audiences and have them ask you questions. You might be missing critical information that is easy to weave into your intro. I’d also recommend asking others in your company to pitch you. It’s useful to hear how others within your organization describe your business.
Coming back from New York, I am energized. We made great connections with people and companies doing great work (sadly, Pharrell was not one of them). Most importantly, the next time someone asks me about Barokas PR or what I do, I know exactly what I will say.
So you’ve made the jump from intern to your first full-time position in PR. Now what?
Whether you have one internship or four, have been out of college for a year or have just graduated, your first entry level PR role will be sure to challenge you in ways you never anticipated – but that makes it all that more rewarding. Based on my experience as a recent graduate and Assistant Account Executive at Barokas PR, I’ve put together a highlight reel of things to know when starting your first job in PR:
Procrastinators and coasters beware
They’re not kidding when they say PR is a fast-paced industry. At Barokas PR, we’re all rock stars – which means expectations are high and the pace is quick. This isn’t meant to scare you off, in fact it’s meant to encourage and motivate (because who wouldn’t want to work with a bunch of rock stars?). A good rule of thumb when starting your first entry level job in PR is that each project will probably take you slightly longer than you think. As a new AAE, you’re still learning and your coworkers will understand that. Show them you’re on top of things by not only getting tasks done on time, but providing some wiggle room so you have time to incorporate feedback. It will go a long way.
Have a system. Find what works for you and stick to it! This means knowing what’s going on and who’s doing it, write everything down! The easiest way to miss deadlines is to have something slip off your radar and into the black hole of chicken scratch…believe me – I’ve done it. Develop a way to stay organized, whether that be a personal spreadsheet to record to-do’s, sticky notes or the good ol’ fashion handwritten list. More times than not, your coworkers will have a system that works for them and will be happy to share their tricks of the trade.
Read. A lot.
Or as I like to say, Always Be Reading. This is especially important when you are starting to work on an account in a field that is ‘new to you.’ Invest the time upfront to become an expert on the industry – it will boost your confidence and give your client confidence in your recommendations. As an AAE, you should read up on industry trends related to your accounts, determine which topics are making headlines, and bring your pitch ideas to your next internal team meeting. Not only will your account leads notice and appreciate the effort, it will also show progress in mastering core AAE responsibilities.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
Falling behind on your workload? Communicate. Starting a project? Communicate. Had an amazing weekend? Communicate. Do you get where I’m going with this? You would think that as communicators, this would come easy. However, communicating as a team is not always as easy as it sounds. The best way to build trust with your teammates and ensure the account moves smoothly is to be constantly sharing and talking about the next steps. Something that has helped me is the age old saying, “treat others the way you want to be treated.” When you eventually lead an account, you don’t want to be constantly wondering if your supporting team saw your email or is on track to meet a pressing deadline – you’d want them to tell you! When it doubt, overshare. It may seem annoying to your team, but more often than not they’ll appreciate it.
Volunteer and be uncomfortable
You’re not going to know what you’re doing 100% of the time. Even the most seasoned PR pros questions themselves at times to ensure the best outcome. As an AAE, this can be to your advantage if you take control and own it. If there’s a pitch or an event/award nomination that needs to be drafted, volunteer! The only way you’re going to learn and grow is to step out of your comfort zone and learn to do things you haven’t before. Not only will it show your initiative, but you’ll realize these things aren’t as daunting as they seem. Give it your best go, asking as many questions as you need to get the job done right.
Enjoy the ride!
Time will fly by. In your new role, you’ll meet some of the most impressive and badass people you ever have before. Enjoy the fun silly moments and embrace new friendships with your coworkers. We’re all here because we love what we do and it’s the laughing, joke telling and playful jabs that make every day fun to come to Barokas PR.
Public relations may be my primary occupation, but I have a side job that may rival that passion–PR pro by day, bulldog sitter by night. While the two may seem very far removed, they’re actually quite a few parallels between them.
For the purposes of this blog post, I’ll keep them short and sweet. Here are the top three:
Attention to Detail
The bulls I sit aren’t your every day dogs; they have very unique, individualized needs—just like a client. Living under the same roof, and raised with the same pup-parents, the two bulls require different care. Similar to client relations, two clients, even operating within the same industry, will need and want different things. No two are the same, so a uniform approach cannot be used. This is why it’s essential to build each account from the ground up, through close collaboration with the client. I can confirm that if I cared for the two bulldogs the exact same, regardless of their age difference, their medical needs, and their attention requirements—neither would be happy. While this may sound tedious, it’s actually the most fun part of both jobs. After all, variety is the spice of life.
Focus on Body Language
Being a bulldog sitter sure would be easier if both dogs could talk (as long as they had nice things to say, that is). I’d know about all their aches and pains and how to best treat them, when they needed to be let out, and what all the barking was about. But the hard truth is, they can’t, and they don’t. Instead, the bulls communicate in their own different ways, and it’s up to me to decode it. Are they wiggling their bulldog butts because they’re happy? Are they looking sad because they want attention? Are they standing by the door because they need out?
Both media and client relations, two key parts of PR, work in similar ways. While people of course have the gift of speak, they don’t always say what’s truly on their mind. Being an effective public relations professional means being able to read between the lines, and a big part of this is paying attention to body language. As they say, silence speaks volumes.
Their Needs Come First
When the bulldogs are in my care, their needs come first. Before I get ready for the day, I wake up the bulls and let them out, get them their breakfast, and give them their morning pills. When something or someone relies on you and your services, whether it’s to fill the food bowl or advise them through a funding announcement, that’s the priority. Just as I don’t leave for work without taking care of the bulldogs’ morning routine, I don’t leave work until my clients’ needs for the day are met.
With all these parallels, it’s obvious why the bulldog is the official mascot of Barokas PR. And that my friends, is not BS.
Internships. Ugh, am I right? As a college student, you’re told by your professors, family, and well-meaning strangers that you must have internship experience to be a successful adult post-grad. While not a requirement, internships do signal to potential employers that you took the time to gain experience outside of the classroom. The good news? Internships can be awesome and worth every second of your time!
At Barokas PR, we take pride in offering a fun, worthwhile internship program for current students willing to take the plunge. Our interns spend their days learning from team members and supporting accounts with real work (no coffee runs here, folks).
How do you land one of these awesome positions? After receiving many resumes, we’ve compiled a list of tips and tricks to earn you a position here (or wherever you’re applying).
Craft the perfect (brief) introductory email
We receive lots of these – usually during an incredibly busy workday – so make sure yours is brief, memorable, personal and has an attached resume. We want to be able to read the email and get to know who you are as quickly as possible. This may seem obvious, but do not send your resume and cover letter attached to an email with no body copy. Please.
Do your research on the company
We’re pretty cool if you take the time to get to know us. Call out what you love about Barokas PR (flattery is a powerful thing, people) in your first email and subsequent interview. Show us you care about working here enough to become a Barokas PR expert like us.
Check your emails and supporting documents for errors
That is all.
Highlight how awesome you are
You know you’re awesome, experienced, hardworking, etc. but we don’t…yet. Tell us why we should pull your resume out of a stack and bring you in for an interview. Provide tangible examples of past leadership and skills you can bring to this internship.
Name drop – Better yet, find a way to be referred from the inside
Become a LinkedIn pro and do a bit of connection stalking. Is there a BPRer who went to your university? Does your friends older sister work here? Reach out! Make a connection, express your interest, and then email about an internship.
Prepare for your interview
Internship interviews are usually 30-minutes long with two Barokas PR staff members. How are you going to make an impression? When a student comes prepared with knowledge of recent Barokas PR news, culture and clients (read the blog and follow us on social media) they standout. Bonus points if you bring a printed resume and work examples! 🙂
Connect with your interviewers on LinkedIn and send a thank you note, either through email or snail mail.
Apply for a term other than summer
We understand a summer internship is often the only option due to location and schedules during the regular school year, but competition is fierce for summer positions. Apply for winter, spring or fall if possible to improve your chances!
9. Be persistent
As with any potential internship or job, following up is key. The PR industry is hectic and emails sometimes fall to the bottom of the inbox. Your persistence shows your interest and dedication to interning at Barokas PR. Plus, it’s a great skill to have in PR. Trust us, coverage for our clients usually doesn’t happen without persistence.
Finally, BIG thanks to our two awesome spring interns, Darby and Ashley. We are going to miss you! Stay in touch. <3
In a recent blog post, we declared we give a shit with the launch of our Corporate Social Responsibility program. This program highlights our commitment to providing work pro-bono to non-profits. But before you start racking up pro-bono clients, it’s important to recognize whether or not your company is ready to take on this type of account.
Before you dive in, ask yourself these questions:
Does the organization’s goals and values align with those set forward by my company?
Does my team have the bandwidth to successfully manage the work?
How long is my commitment to this pro-bono account?
How will I measure success?
For Barokas PR, taking on pro-bono accounts perfectly aligned with our company culture and core values. And while a corporate social responsibility program is a giant step in the right direction, it is not necessary in order to start working with pro-bono clients. In fact, Barokas PR didn’t even have a CSR plan in place when we starting making pro-bono a part of our company culture, it simply made sense for us at the time. Additionally, most pro-bono clients will be happy to have your support, even if it’s on a short-term basis.
The first organization in Barokas PR’s pro-bono portfolio was Splash, a social justice organization dedicated to bringing water, sanitation, and hygiene (WaSH) solutions to children living in urban poverty in Asia and Africa. Our PR campaigns amplify the organization’s work around the world and promote the vision of Splash founder, Eric Stowe. Over the last two years, we’ve also had the opportunity to educate the market on the technology behind Splash’s water filtration system, which removes 99.999% of bio-contaminants and bad tastes and odors from water.
Denver Art Museum
Our work doesn’t stop there. We recently started managing social and media relations for DAM Contemporaries, a support group for the Modern & Contemporary department of the Denver Art Museum. Through PR, we support the organization’s programming and fundraising efforts which drive a vibrant contemporary arts community in Denver. We’re also partnering with Global EIR and Pledge 1% Colorado, which we will highlight in a future blog post.
So after all of that, what’s the answer to my question? Of course, go the pro-bono route, but only if it’s the right fit for BOTH parties. Now go forth and pro bono, you won’t regret it!
From flirting to Presidential addresses, just about everything about the way we communicate has transformed. Gone are the days of love letters and fireside chats and it seems like 140 character announcements, video messages that automatically delete in 24 hours and status updates are here to stay. With companies taking an increasingly digital approach to communications—both internally and externally—are our PR tactics adapting at a parallel pace?
Let’s take the press release as an example. Created during a much more traditional, and slower paced era of communications, the traditional press release was a valuable tool for firms to share important news with the only conduit to the public available at that time: the press. Yet, we now live in a world where attention spans are small, newsrooms are even smaller and a large percentage of people get their information directly through social channels, so can we continue to justify or even recommend the press release as a valuable PR tactic?
It’s clear that this debate remains a heated one amongst PR pros, media members and brands, which is why I won’t take a specific side, instead I’ll lay out some of the factors that play into the debate, and you can decide if the press release is dead or alive for yourself.
Some People Still Request Press Releases
One of the most common responses an entry level PR person receives as they call down newsrooms for clients is, “Send me a press release and I’ll let you know.” So, it seems that some press people actually want a release to get the relevant information they need to make an informed decision about whether they will pursue a story or not. The question is, is this a genuine response or a tactic used to shew eager publicists quickly?
Press Releases Can Help a Brand’s SEO
It’s true that Google changed their tune on the value of press releases in 2015, when the search engine announced their algorithm would allow companies’ own statements to appear atop searches, which was good news for proponents of the press release. As such, when releases include the right keywords and are distributed using wire services, they can help land higher search results. Yet, some still argue that press releases are not SEO tools and while national publications do pick up releases from the wire, most are relegated to obscure and hard to access areas of the site that get little to no traffic and fail to rank highly in searches.
Investors Want to See Press Releases
A common phrase heard from startup founders is, “Our investors need to see press releases so they know we are making progress,” or “We need these releases to secure more funding.” Like reporters, it seems that the real truth behind this statement is more art than science. While some investors may rely on press releases to stay abreast of their portfolio clients’ progress, others flatly state they’ve never read a release and don’t plan to.
Reporters Still Want to be Pitched
While some assignment desk editors request press releases ad nauseum, it is clear that most reporters still want to receive personalized, topically relevant pitches that highlight why their particular readers should care about a brand. Releases can serve as useful support in these efforts, but at the end of the day, they tend to be too long and full of corporate speak to provide a reporter with the real “story.” Reporters want the information that will help them pitch their editor successfully and complete a story quickly aka bullet points over lengthy releases.
Wire Services Are Expensive
If you are going to go ahead and take the time required to write a press release, it’s important that it is distributed through a reputable channel, which is most frequently a wire service. While there are several “top tier” options they all essentially utilize the same network of publications and portals. They are also all incredibly expensive for a service that may, or may not, be outdated. While a $1,000 price tag may seem small to a large corporation, that same cost could be a major investment for a startup, which begs the question: is the ROI really there for wiring a release?
Whether you believe the press release is still a worthwhile tool or think it’s as outdated as having a land line, what is clear is that having a compelling story to tell is more important than ever. Authentic brands that clearly and creatively communicate their value will be successful and break through the noise.
As we approach Barokas PR’s 19th anniversary, our family has some exciting news to share with you.
Over the past year, we’ve met a ton of incredible people and explored several burgeoning tech markets across the country. The most exciting takeaway is that tech is thriving everywhere. You can be a tech entrepreneur, on your own terms, and not have to move to Silicon Valley or seek out VC funding to build a business. The options are more plentiful than ever.
What this means for Barokas PR is that we’ve found our third home – Detroit. A lot of our friends and family have asked the simple, yet loaded question, why Detroit? To which we consistently respond, “Why not Detroit?”
Detroit is a place of unparalleled opportunity. The air is teeming with the excitement of a community experiencing a true renaissance. Having survived several decades in abandon and emerged from a city bankruptcy, Detroit is a place that echoes the values of hustle and grit; which has defined your Barokas PR team for nearly two decades.
Beyond the existential growth, Detroit is quickly finding its economic footing in the tech sector. The Michigan Venture Capital Association launched its annual VC growth report earlier this year, which highlighted a 48% increase in VC-backed startups in the state over the past five years. Furthermore, for every $1 invested in a Michigan startup by a Michigan VC firm, $4.61 out of state VC investments are attracted. Barokas PR clients are finding a home in Detroit, too. Techstars opened up their Mobility accelerator doors last year and Airbiquity has opened up an office in the city to keep a pulse on all things connected cars.
In addition to a growing tech scene, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the amazing music that’s come out of this incredible city. We’re in company of music Gods including the likes of Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Rick James, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, Gladys Knight, Big Sean and of course the almighty Eminem. The music doesn’t end with Motown and Hip-Hop; Detroit is also the birthplace of Techno.
Nothing goes better than great music played loud in bangin’ cars. I won’t get started because I’ll never stop if you get me talking about all my true loves on 4-wheels that were born in Detroit. I’ll only mention two; a 1964 Impala 2 door (what I bought when I was 16 and I still have) and what I’m going to buy someday – a 1959 Cadillac Coupe Deville. Oh, Detroit how I love you, let me count the ways.
And Detroit is only the beginning. Our presence in Michigan will more readily open up our PR services to the Midwest. If you’re in Chicago, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Minneapolis or any of the other growing tech corridors in the Midwest; Barokas PR wants to hear from you, work with you and help showcase the great tech stories flourishing between the coasts.
To start, you can find Barokas PR at WeWork Campus Martius on the 7th floor. Our team member, Rachel Fukaya, is heading up our Detroit office. You can always reach her at Rachel.Fukaya@Barokas.com. We’ll be looking to hire a few great employees and interns. Reach out to Rachel and the team, if you’re an awesome candidate.
If you’re in the neighborhood this week, come find us at our first event and happy hour with Detroit Startup Week. We’ll be at the Masonic Temple this Wednesday (May 24) at 3pm to talk “PR Minus the BS: How to get your startup press coverage,” with Adrienne Roberts (Wall Street Journal), Matt Burns (TechCrunch) and Chad Livengood (Crain’s Detroit Business).
For all of the above reasons, and at least a hundred more, we can’t wait to show you everything Detroit, and the Midwest, have to offer the tech community.
Barokas PR: Emerald City, Mile High City, Motor City.
Preface: This post was written by someone who has never himself used Tinder. Additional points for background research?
Technology has changed the way we view and experience the world, and perhaps equally as important, the way we interact with and learn about each other.
Since the day Al Gore invented the internet (fact check), we’ve progressed from “You’ve Got Mail” to ubiquitous digital footprints in the form of Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and yes, even Tinder.
While the benefits of our social personas being so public can be debated, their importance can’t be understated. It used to be viewed as a positive characteristic if you had no digital presence, now it’s suspicious.
To anyone who has grown up in the digital age, none of the above are groundbreaking revelations, nor are they meant to be. However, until a recent conversation with a colleague, I never thought about the amount of information that can be gleaned from these personas, specifically as it relates to a first interview, or in the case of Tinder, the first date.
According to my colleague Julia, the team had done a fair amount of stalking, errr, research, in advance of my first interview with BPR. While this isn’t surprising given the line of work we’re in, no detail went unnoticed, including the fact that I had a dog named Riley and a weird infatuation with weather.
Another colleague summed up the necessity to stalk rather poetically, “Interviewing is like a date, you want to know if the person you’re meeting likes Nickelback before you make a commitment – the internet allows you to do that.”
The other side of the coin? Digital personas aren’t specific to individuals. Organizations, just like their employees must be cognizant of their online presence. You can tell a lot about a company by taking a cursory glance at their website, social media properties, Glassdoor reviews, etc. Just like dating, interviewing is a two-way street and it is incumbent upon organizations to put their best face forward as they attempt to attract the highest caliber of talent.
The point of this post? The interview is no longer your first impression and you should prepare your digital persona accordingly.
While there is no substitute for in-person interaction, the first impression you make on a potential employer (or suitor), is made well before meeting them. A public Instagram filled with questionable pictures may be enough for a future employer to swipe left before you even have a chance to meet them – be sure to post accordingly.
Ever think you’ve got a foolproof plan in place, with everything mapped out perfectly? You’ve dotted every ‘i’, crossed every ‘t’, and just when you think things are coming up roses, someone or something comes along and takes your pretty little plan and smashes it to smithereens. No? Well then you haven’t worked in PR long enough.
In this crazy, fast moving profession we’ve chosen to make our own, planning is mission critical to setting our clients up for success and helping them achieve optimum business results. We plan out quarterly strategies, media outreach campaigns, social media calendars, speaker bureaus…you get the point. But here’s the thing about work, and life – sometimes things just don’t go according to plan.
Case in point: An article based on an extensive email Q&A with a top-tier reporter went live promptly at 7:01 am ET last Thursday morning, aka 5am in Denver. Woof. The article posted, the article was flagged, the story turned out great. But given the title of this blog post, you have likely already inferred that wasn’t the case. The client emailed us at 5:55am to let us know his peccadillos with the piece due to an accurate, but not preferred, description of the client’s product. To quote him directly, “[the CEO] is going to have a cow!” All hail our team that sprung into action to track down the reporter. See, she had just flown home from a few days in Vegas, so naturally she was catching up on some much-needed sleep. And even though it took a few nail-biting hours to hear back, we finally did and the reporter happily made our requested edits. All was well with the world once again. But so much for thinking we had it in the bag! Phew!
Second case in point, because why not regale you with a first-hand account of my latest brush with upended plans: Last week after a quick would-be day trip to Seattle, my travel buddy and I (hi, Holly!) missed our 7:45pm flight back to Denver. Missed the door closing by mere minutes. But here’s the kicker. We arrived to the airport with ample time to spare. Since we had a couple hours, though, we sat down to enjoy a meal before hopping on our flight home. Then next thing we know, we’re full-on sprinting to our gate, which we didn’t realize required a tram ride to reach…oy. With my bag full of Barokas PR tchotchkes literally ripping apart Kevin McCallister-style, I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry at our ridiculous blunder. Admittedly, I did a little of both.
Anyway, moral of the stories here is that sometimes, even when we put together the most detailed plans for our clients (or ourselves), things can still fall to pieces in the blink of an eye. But it’s at precisely these moments where we can prove our value for clients. They put their trust in us and when we’re confronted with obstacles, the onus is on us to be flexible and pivot when and where we need to at any time. Sometimes there’s something we’ve missed, like where our airport gate is actually located…blerg. Sometimes, there’s a force out of our control, like a rocket that doesn’t launch on time or an article that doesn’t please your client like you’d hoped. Whatever the circumstances, in business and in life, we have to be agile. The world is a complicated place, and we humans can be really dumb sometimes, so it’s good to be flexible and open minded about things. Instead of having one plan, have a few, and revise as necessary. And remember, unexpected turns are always the best learning experiences. Think I’ll ever miss a flight again?! Not this girl.