For Marketing & Public Relations Strategy, Quality of Questions Helps You Hit Target

Trying to get some PR focus? Answer these questions to get closer and closer to your bulls-eye.

The quality of your work is directly related to the quality of questions that you ask–and often, those queries should be targeted squarely at yourself.

In developing public relations and marketing strategy for my clients, these questions in the bulls-eye graphic (click to enlarge) are among the first ones that I ask.

The Q & A process isn’t a one-time phenomenon, of course. So when’s the last time you pressed yourself to come up with fresh and forward-looking answers to this type of self-examination?

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Want To Drive Online Traffic? Then Tweet!

To Tweet or not to Tweet?

That’s the question that has surfaced with increasing regularity the past few months. In addition to the compelling data about Twitter’s growth, anecdotal indicators abound: in the last week, I’ve seen that my pastor and the National Basketball Association are on Twitter.

(I’m following Pastor James, but don’t feel the need to be an NBA disciple just yet.)

Having attracted about 90 followers since opening my Twitter account almost exactly one year ago (May 15, 2008 was my debut), my presence on the social-media service is modest, at best.

But I have seen upticks in traffic when I post links to this blog and other writings on my Twitter account (you can follow me by going to my page on Twitter, “InsideEdge”.

Then, late last night, I got a compelling glimpse of Twitter’s power.

Around 11 p.m, I took a few minutes to provide links to two recent news releases that I had posted previously on Triblocal, with specific introductory verbiage so people would know the gist of what they would see. I had shared the releases with a variety of media outlets, including posting them on Triblocal.com, the Chicago Tribune’s citizen-journalism site.

Here are some preliminary findings:

Link I: After nine days, a piece on an upcoming skin cancer fundraiser at Five Seasons Sports Club in Northbrook had generated a mere four hits. Within 10 minutes of Tweeting about it, the hit count jumped to 14.

As of 8 a.m. today, the tally was up to 23–more than five times the pre-Tweet tally. What will the hit count say when you click on the above link?

Link II: Intrigued to measure the Tweet-pact (Twitter impact) on another Triblocal story, I offered a link to a two-month-old Scheck & Siress news release on a family’s efforts to address their infant son’s plagiocephaly, or flattened head.

Within nine hours, the number of people who had viewed the story climbed from 28 to 41. After a protracted period of stagnation–less than one visit every two days–that’s more than one hit per hour.

Granted, these figures don’t measure what, if anything, anyone will do about having read these pieces.

As a result of my late-night Tweets, will Five Seasons see more visitors at its skin-care fundraiser on Tuesday night, or gain new members down the line?

Will a parent who hadn’t thought about contacting Scheck & Siress do so now that they learned about the company’s various services?

We will probably never know–though any organization ought to be continually asking clients how they found out about them, so they can measure what marketing efforts are working.

Although the extent to which those Tweets make a difference may never be clear, much more obvious is the answer to the alternative question: What if, after having already invested hours upon hours in developing those news releases, I had not taken a few moments make that extra awareness-raising nudge?

My Two Cents on Humor’s Pivotal PR Role

Last Friday, when I let newspaper editor Helen Karakoudas know that I had a “timely and hilarious” news release coming her way, she immediately gravitated to the “hilarious” half of that promise.

“Now you’ve got my interest,” said Karakoudas, managing editor of Wednesday Journal, Inc.

I was referring to my effort on behalf of Charo’s Hair Design and Day Spa, involving former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his wellspring of hair.

Karakoudas posted the story on the paper’s web site a few hours later, and the media ball had begun rolling.

Communicating with a sense of humor, clearly, is an immense aid, no matter who you are and no matter what your professional (or amateur) pursuit.

When I was a newspaper reporter, having a sense of humor was an indispensable part of how I built rapport with people, either one-time interviewees or long-term sources.

Did they always appreciate my humor? I strongly doubt it. But at least I tried, and it’s something that I continually strive to weave in to my everyday interactions as I meet a steady stream of new people, from prospective clients to folks riding the elevator with me to dealings with the cashier at Trader Joe’s.

In my experience, the key is authenticity–to work with whatever humor God gave you, and not try too hard. In sports, this is called “letting the game come to you.” In day-to-day life, it springs forth from being an active, attentive listener–not constantly thinking of what I will say next–and identifying the lighter side of things.

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Understaffed Newsrooms Drive PR Approach

Over the years, Inside Edge PR clients have occasionally asked why my agency goes to such lengths to provide comprehensive news releases that can (and often do) gain word-for-word placement in respected publications.

My response flows from more than 20 years on staff or as an active freelance writer for newspapers and other publications: newsrooms are notoriously understaffed and overworked.

So anything that comes across with journalistic style and content has a huge advantage over typical news release puffery that more closely resemble advertising copy. (Having been on the receiving end of thousands of news releases in my career, trust me–I’m being kind.)

After being a journalist for so long, finding actual news hooks is automatic. If I can’t identify one, then a news release simply doesn’t happen. Of course, within 15 minutes of speaking with a prospective or current client, I always find one–even if it doesn’t always teem with eye-popping page 1 potential.

For the latest evidence of newspapers’ overworked/understaffed plight, check out this piece: Editor & Publisher’s Top 10 Newspaper Industry Stories of 2008.

The #1 story: record newsroom cuts.

Those cuts represent a significant opportunity for individuals and organizations that can provide timely, relevant material that bring mutual benefit.

The newspaper fills its paper with legitimate news, and those individuals and organizations in the news receive strategic editorial placement. And those placements carry many times the credibility and marketing potential than buying an advertisement–and often at a fraction of the would-be ad’s cost.