A Hinsdale Foster Mom’s Heart: When a Great Story Trumps Imperfect Timing

When considering your public relations campaign, it’s obvious that timing is a crucial ingredient.

Want to make a pitch about your cause or business that is tied to the Super Bowl? You’re pretty late–or extremely early, depending on which football title game you’re thinking of.

Interested in raising awareness about your work at a prestigious kitchen walk that happened on Mother’s Day? While it’s tempting to think the moment has come and gone—the occasion was 45 days ago, after all—don’t be too hasty in dismissing the potential.

If you have some other elements in your favor, then you still have a viable story to pitch.

And there’s no element stronger than a great story. Defining “great story” is subjective, of course. But having written thousands of pieces–some compelling, others not so spine-tingling–over the course of 20 years as a journalist, I am confident that I know one when I see it.

Shari and Tom Murphy, clients of Denise Hauser Design.

Such was the case recently with work that Denise Hauser of Oak Park-based Denise Hauser Design had provided for Shari and Tom Murphy of Hinsdale.

It wasn’t the design in isolation—it was how the design, recognized for its superior quality in the Hinsdale Cooks! House Walk on Mother’s Day, meshed with the bigger picture of a longtime foster family’s passion to care for the little children whose lives they touch.

You can read the story at TribLocal.com, among other outlets.

“Roadshow” Public Relations: 4 Steps to Telling, Then Re-telling Your Story

A traveling circus and an informational presentation performed in a variety of locations over a span of time.

What do they have in common?

Among other things, each represents an excellent opportunity for ongoing public relations. That is largely because they lend themselves to the approach of building a general news release that you can readily customize based on different dates and locations along the way.

There’s no need to re-invent the wheel–as long as you create a sturdy wheel that will hold up over time. And I have found that a “delayed lead” or feature approach to the release is most effective.

Most “roadshows” don’t merit a breathless, hard-news style. Ask yourself: do you truly need to jam in the date, time, place and topic in one self-important, run-on sentence that clunkily bangs readers over the head?

Instead:

1. Invite readers in conversationally.

2. Ease them into the topic with a big-picture illustration.

3. Drive home the central point with those pertinent what-who-when-where details.

4. Deliver the “why”–just what is it about this topic that makes it newsworthy?

5. Having touched lightly on the speaker’s background by now, close with more details and information about where the reader can find out more about the speaker.

One current case in point of this five-step strategy is Inside Edge PR’s media outreach for Jim Flanagan of Naperville-based Bentron Financial Group.

Flanagan, whose many volunteer activities include leading the Celebrating Seniors Coalition in the Oak Park area, is presenting “Social Security: More Than Meets the Eye” to a variety of audiences throughout suburban Chicago.

For example, you can read about this upcoming session at Addison Public Library.

Passion’s Vital Role in Effective Public Relations

Are you passionate in your pursuit to spread the word about your company or cause?

Before I bring aboard a new associate, he or she must review and buy into the Inside Edge Mission & Commission. After the Inside Edge PR Mission, the first words of the commission are “get passionate.”

Of course, in order to achieve an authentic and sustainable level of passion, you must learn enough about something or someone. This takes time and effort, but it’s well worth the investment.

Pitching a story you don’t really believe in is a drag–and that indifference come through. Believe in the value that your client brings to the world, and believe that you have something of value to share with the media when you speak on your client’s behalf.

If you don’t care, then why should anyone else?

Introducing the Inside Edge Biography Writing Service

Three years ago, in writing about the importance of writing your business biography, my tone was almost apopleptic as I related the widespread absence of such bios.

At the time, I conveyed three big reasons why it behooves you to craft your story:

1. Distinguish yourself from the competition.
2. Develop a deeper connection with your prospective clients.
3. Lay the groundwork for news releases that help promote your product or service.

That covers some of the “why,” but much more elusive is the “how.”

How exactly do you boil down your life and career path and, furthermore, how tight should you write? Is 750 words just right or too much? Is 500 the magic number? What if some contexts enable space for only for 50 or 100 words?

These are among the most frequently recurring questions that I field, often during my “PR Secrets From a Media Insider” workshops. In response, I have developed a special rate for biography writing–click here for more details.

Mega Millions Media Frenzy Recalls Surreal 1998 Powerball Scene in Streamwood, Ill.

USA Today Powerball lawsuit

My December 1999 feature story in USA Today.

All of the buzz about the world record Mega Millions jackpot has gotten me reminiscing about the surreal events of May 21, 1998 that played out in Streamwood, Illinois.

At the time, I was a reporter for The Courier News, and was dispatched to Bill’s on Bartlett Pizza Pub, a neighborhood joint that I’d frequented a few times over the years. Word had circulated that the winner of the then-record Powerball lottery ($195 million), Frank Capaci, was celebrating his mind-boggling fortune.

As I came upon the scene, all was jubilation as the 67-year-old Capaci, a regular at the pub, was bellied up to the bar and treating everyone to a round or two of drinks (capping it at $500–he hadn’t, after all, yet cashed in his ticket).

Perhaps the most compelling part of the story was how Capaci’s ticket had been purchased a day or two earlier on his behalf by a pair of bartenders, Patti Rooney and John Marnell.

Because Illinois did not partake in Powerball at the time, the duo had made the effort to trek north across the state line, to Wisconsin, to buy the tickets for him and other customers.

Later, as so often occurs when big, big bucks are involved, this feel-good story of honor and integrity descended into controversy. The bartenders contended Capaci reneged on a promise to give them $1 million from his take-home winnings (he had opted for a $104 million lump-sum payment, which became a `mere’ $68 million after taxes).

In December 1999, I wrote about the saga for USA Today. The bartenders’ lawsuit against Capaci was later settled out of court, for an undisclosed sum. (And believe me, I tried repeatedly to coax this piece of information from the plaintiffs’ attorney, Bob Winter.)

It’ll be intriguing to see what becomes of the new record sum, especially since only one name, from the winner in Illinois, is guaranteed to become public.

I can’t imagine that the other two winners, from Kansas and Maryland, would willingly go public with their identities, though that doesn’t mean their names won’t surface, at least at some point and in some fashion.