Calendar Listings Are Good, But Only Skim the Surface of Event-Based PR Potential

Calendar listings are among the most avidly read sections of local newspapers.

They provide succinct, at-a-glance information about events of particular interest to your community. And because each blurb is brief, there is a strong likelihood of successfully placing your organization’s fundraiser, workshop or other activity.

The key is to provide enough lead time (two weeks typically) to ensure it has a fighting chance of inclusion.

But why stop there?

In addition to posting a brief listing, it’s well worth your time to develop a more in-depth preview that can capture more prominent coverage.

Some recent examples from Inside Edge PR’s archives:

Five Seasons Family Sports Club in Burr Ridge hosting an event for Newcomers & Neighbors of the Greater Hinsdale Area:

The Calendar Listing…. and The Full-Length Release

Jim Flanagan of Bentron Financial Group’s workshop, Social Security: More Than Meets the Eye, held on March 15 at the River Forest Public Library.

The Calendar Listing …. and The Full-Length Release

TribLocal is just one of multiple local media outlets who receive both versions. By devoting just a little more time telling your story, you can exponentially expand your communication’s reach.


Three Signs That You May Have A `Deadbeat’ Prospect…So Run in the Other Direction!

This month marks my 13th anniversary of self-employment. Based on my experience over this span, I want to take a few moments to share a few tips to help other small business owners, present and future, avoid “deadbeat” clients.

Fortunately, 90 percent of my clients have been excellent about paying their bills in a timely manner. Another 8 percent have ranged from OK to good–they might take a month or six weeks, but they pay for the services rendered in a reasonable timeframe.

Then there are the dreaded 2 percent–those rare n’er-do-wells that can cast a shadow over the multiple bright lights in your portfolio.

These pointers apply to any profession, but especially those in the creative world whose product is often intellectual and susceptible to “leaving the store” without proper compensation.

As I convey these ponts, I will be using pronouns reserved for males. This is for simplicity’s sake and isn’t to imply that I deal only with men—plenty of clients are organizations or are headed by women.

Without further preamble, then, here are…

3 Signs That You May Have A `Deadbeat’ Prospect…So Run in the Other Direction!

1. Hurry up and wait (for the retainer).

He often waits till the last minute to seek help, jumps with zest at your proposal…and then hems and haws about making an initial payment to secure services.

Whether it’s only a few hours’ worth of work or a yearlong engagement, get some money up-front to ensure he is serious and seriously committed to holding up his end of the transaction.

This way, if he gives you the run-around on the back-end, at least you’re not entirely up the creek. How much to ask for at the outset? I suggest 50% on projects, and at least two months’ worth on engagements of six months or longer.

Gird yourself for bullying criticism that you’re only “doing it for money” and lame claims that bureaucratic challenges are preventing him from writing a simple check or passing along a credit card number for processing.

2. Pick your own brain, thank you very much.

He uses the phrase “pick your brain” within 10 seconds of your initial conversation. This is code for “get something for nothing.” I have no problem sharing insights and offering some help at no charge–this is the equivalent of stores giving away samples so that you try a new product.

Every week, I pass along story ideas to local media for non-clients, so I just chuckle when the occasional knucklehead charges me with being a mercenary when I balk at providing service until they make a payment that’s already been agreed upon.

Last I checked, here’s a rather vital ingredient for any business to survive: turning a profit.

So just as grocery stores don’t appreciate seeing “customers” camping out and loading up on a variety of food without buying, I have come to sense when someone is just looking to mooch off my knowledge or connections–and it often starts with variations on the “pick your brain” remark.

3. Beware of 50-Something-Year-Old Men

There, I did it.

I just painted 20 million Americans with a broad brush. Keep in mind, though, that I’m going to be in this group, God willing, in a little over six years.

However, based on serving more than 200 clients over the years, a clear pattern has emerged: men in their 50s, more than any other demographic, have been markedly more prone to a reprehensible lack of fiscal integrity than any other subgroup. (And if you’re reading this, guys, you know who you are.)

I’ve trained the media in numeracy (or mathematical literacy), for more than a decade, so I don’t make this third point idly. It’s obviously anecdotal–my sample size is not nearly large enough for you to take this admonition as Gospel.

But it’s my experience, this is my blog and if you don’t like it, well, then you’re probably a dude in his 50s who still owes Inside Edge PR a few bucks.

Make the Call: You’ll Be Amazed By What That Simple Act Can Accomplish

Growing up with a rotary telephone in the home, I thought I had hit the big-time when I moved up to a touch-tone phone in my college dorm room.

You mean I can actually hit the re-dial button and not have to burn 11 calories with my right index finger alone?

Now, it seems, more and more people are using their phones for anything but engaging in an actual conversation. And it’s not as if it’s that physically demanding to make a call–usually we’re not even tapping an entire number before our phone anticipates who we want to reach.

Note to 21st century citizens: this is a telephone.

This tendency to rely more and more on texting, e-mailing and other forms short of a real, live conversation is a shame–though not for the few old-schoolers, like me, who remember the value of a phone call, even if only to complement a written communication.

Earlier today, I called a reporter to give her a heads-up that she’d be getting a news release via email later this week. Now, when the release arrives, it won’t be a “cold PR call” but a much warmer one.

And one of my favorite Chicago Tribune reporting memories is when I called an $8,000-a-month lobbyist for the Town of Cicero. I reached him late one Friday afternoon, after he’d been ducking me for a few weeks, and the brief conversation that followed helped wrap up this story, “Cicero’s Lobbyist Gets a Closer Look.”

Premature Reports of JoePa’s Death: When Being First Trumps Being Sure

Growing up in journalism, I would periodically hear of the profession’s learning curve, which included making your first mistakes in smaller markets. The key was to learn from those missteps and thereby become less prone to major blunders at larger publications.

That was in the 1980s, when a story I wrote in the Marshfield Mariner took days to appear locally and wouldn’t show up globally unless someone boarded a flight at Logan International Airport and hauled a copy of the paper to another country.

Now, an inaccurate (or at least premature) report of former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno’s death goes from a student website (Onward State) to in the blink of an eye. And from CBSSports, of course, it goes viral….then backfires, due to the national site’s lack of independent corroboration.

It’s about 11 p.m. on Jan. 21 and Onward State has issued an apology by Devon Edwards, who announced his resignation as managing editor at the same time., by contrast, hasn’t issued an apology–though it should, especially if all it did was re-hash Onward State’s erroneous report without any independent verification.

While Onward State’s mistake might be something you would  expect from young reporters and editors, how can a major outlet get so lax that it is drawn into such a sophomoric slip-up?

The gaffe will surely be dissected in the days to come, but I’ll bet that near the heart of the problem is one or more individuals’ desire to put being first ahead of being sure.

PR Should Have Purpose—And is Even Better When It Can Be Re-Purposed

Public relations for its own sake is empty. It should have a purpose—some larger organizational aim that the PR serves.

For example, a feature profile on a Realtor should help that professional and his or her firm sell homes. A recent case in point: this Inside Edge PR piece on Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Gloor Realty’s Nancy Leavy.

And the development of quality content—often in the form of writing—is a great gateway for one of my favorite PR phenomena: the re-purposed piece.

A month ago, I identified one such opportunity with the Kenosha Area Business Alliance, an IEPR client. KABA President Todd Battle had written an excellent piece for the organization’s newsletter.

It focused on a group of business leaders who comprise KABA’s CEO Roundtable—and how, collectively, they possessed admirable qualities unlike the “fat cat CEO” depiction that so often dominates public perception.

Todd wrote the piece nearly two years ago, shortly after the Roundtable was formed. The timing didn’t deter me.

If anything, amid the Occupy Wall Street movement and related labor/class unrest across the country, Todd’s message is more relevant than ever.

And on Thursday, a significantly larger audience than those who follow KABA got that message: the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published the column as an op-ed piece, “Not every CEO fits fat cat portrayal.”

The success of this re-purposing approach, of course, rises and falls with the quality of the original content. Take the time and expend the effort to get it done well the first time, and you’ll be setting the stage for an excellent return on that investment days, weeks, months or even years later.