E-Mail Interviews Aid Shoestring PR Budgets

As a reporter, I rarely used e-mail to conduct interviews.

Among other drawbacks, it eliminated the opportunity to elicit insights that would take the interaction in an unanticipated and even more interesting direction. And in potentially adversarial conversations, it prevented me from catching a slippery source off-guard with a tough question or observing their body language and tone of voice.

But as a publicist, e-mail can be a tremendous ally, especially when working with clients on a limited budget. As a means to gather basic background information that helps put flesh on the bones of a news release, an e-mail exchange can be tremendously effective

Instead of taking upwards of a half-hour or more to extract that information, I can take five or 10 minutes to toss some queries at an individual and let them provide written responses.

The utility of this approach hinges largely on the client’s ability to offer detailed answers in a timely manner. If they don’t give enough detail–and don’t do it quickly enough to meet some looming deadlines to ensure the timeliness of a release–then trying the e-mail shortcut can backfire and result in an even longer, costly process.

A recent scenario in which this avenue worked very well: a news release I crafted for Brian and Jun Benakos (pictured), owners of George’s CARSTAR in Chicago.

You can see the release here at Triblocal.com.

PR On A Five Seasons’ Fitness Turn-Around

Sometimes, timing is on your side.

That was certainly the case about a month ago when I was at Five Seasons Sports Club in Burr Ridge to meet with leaders there and develop story ideas to share with the media.

Desarez Carlson, the club’s senior sales adviser, handed me photos and notes written by Sharon Anderson, who had lost more than 100 pounds since joining Five Seasons in early 2008. It was the foundation of a terrific story about the club’s impact on fostering Anderson’s newfound fitness.

But I would need to talk with Anderson. Ideally, it would be in person, to be able to do the story justice and enhance our chances of attracting media coverage. A few minutes later, as I gathered more story ideas, Carlson looked over my shoulder and out the window by the club’s stately front door.

“There she is,” said Carlson. “There’s Sharon walking in.”

I excused myself from the meeting. A short while later, a videotaped Q & A ensued. You can see it below, and you can see the news release on Anderson’s amazing transformation here at Triblocal.com.

PR on the Rise For "My Daisy Days"

What is a co-executive producer on the hit TV series “Lost” doing with a children’s DVD series starring a basset hound?

That is one intriguing question that revolves around “My Daisy Days,” a terrific pre-school children’s DVD series that Inside Edge PR has been working on behalf since May.

You can see the story about producer-director Mary Murphy’s role at Triblocal.com. (That’s Mary, pictured, above.)

Plus, there are a variety of tremendous resources on the “My Daisy Days” website.

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?

Biographies Help Differentiate and Connect

What’s your story?

If you run a business, do you have a well-written biography on your website and in any other communication materials? I am continually astonished by the prevalence of successful professionals who don’t have a bio.

Then there are those who have poorly crafted bios that appear to have been scrawled hurriedly as they strolled the aisles of a Whole Foods, hunting for milk and eggs. (Sometimes, it’s better not to have a bio at all than to have something slipshod that reflects poorly on you.)

If your biography (often found in the “About Us” section of websites) falls into either of the above camps, you are squandering a huge opportunity to:

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

A case in point: a month ago, I wrote a biography of Denise Hauser (pictured), a talented kitchen and bath designer who for 18 months had been running her Oak Park-based business, Denise Hauser Design, without the benefit of a concise, compelling bio.

Less than two weeks after I crafted her story, the bio formed the bulk of a news release on Denise’s recognition in a local charity kitchen walk.

The story (“Longtime biz exec carves out kitchen and bath design niche”) is on TribLocal.com and was prominently placed on page 2 of TribLocal’s weekly print edition, which went to some 10,000 subscribers in the three-town area (Oak Park, River Forest and Forest Park) that is in the heart of Hauser’s suburban Chicago market.

Without the bio in hand, the article would have been considerably less effective and much less likely to have gained inclusion in the Trib’s print version.

To see biographies embedded in other Inside Edge PR news releases, here are pieces on Andrea Donovan Senior Living Advisors and another on Five Accessories.