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Marketers shouldn’t use bad marketing to sell themselves

By Linda Moran

Every day for the past week or so I have been receiving emails – via the company’s general delivery box – promising me “Leads! Leads! Leads!” and that I will “get so many leads my sales will go up!” Though faintly reminiscent of Viagra-type communications, I’ve been reading these messages from a “marketing publicity” agency. As a marketer, I pay a lot more attention to the brochures, magazines, direct mail pieces and emails that are sent my way than most people would. As a person who also buys marketing services, I get a lot of this stuff.

OK, so the emails are promising me leads and huge increases in sales if I use them for my media relations program. Do I want more leads? Yes. Oh yes. That definitely plays into what most B2B tech companies are looking for. Do I want to work with a company that sends me multiple unsolicited emails, with hyperbolic claims, no Web site link and a call to action that involves clicking to have someone other than the signatory get in touch with me? No. And if this is how you are trying to engage prospective clients, how are you approaching editors? Because, surprise surprise, I actually know something about PR. (An aside: why do so many vendors assume we marketing communications professionals are a clueless bunch and need every single thing explained to us in detail?)

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OCRI Life Sciences Achievement Awards

By Linda Forrest

Yesterday, I attended several biotech-focused events that are part of National Biotechnology Week across Canada. In the afternoon, I had the opportunity to attend the Know the Money Life Sciences Financing Seminar featuring speakers from Gowlings, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Royal Bank of Canada, the National Resource Council and the Export Development Bank. Because a number of our clients, both past and present, are in the biotechnology space, it was interesting to learn about the challenges and opportunities that they face when seeking funding, whether through government programs, venture capital or other forms of investment. One point that stood out among the presentations was the fact that in the esteemed panel’s view, it’s the biotech equivalent to “rocket ships and not motor cars that are currently getting investment.”

After the seminar, it was time for Ottawa’s best and brightest life sciences companies and individuals to be honoured at the OCRI Life Sciences Achievement Awards Dinner. There were some fascinating projects and people that were recognized, including Variation Biotechnologies for its work in the creation of intelligent vaccines and Dr. May Griffith, the developer of an artificial cornea for both research and transplantation purposes who has created tremendous scientific success whilst moving labs multiple times, battling cancer and adopting a baby. Bravo! Our entire table was in awe of Dr. Griffith’s achievements in the face of such challenges. Congratulations to all of the winners.

Fiction: Bloggers are different from other journalists

By Francis Moran

When I started this little tech PR agency, the world of online media outlets was still very much in its infancy. And an early fiction we had to deal with was a widely held belief that online media were some kind of a different beast from their print or broadcast brethren, and that only a PR agency that specialised in online media could reach these brave new e-journalists.

Our conviction was that these outlets might well be new but that there was nothing at all novel about a time-tested best-practices approach to pitching them, one based on pegging the natural news value of a client’s story and then pitching it only to those who would see that value. And we were right; from Day 1, our clients enjoyed the same widespread coverage online as they did in other media formats.

Our conviction that online journalists responded to same imperatives as their offline brethren actually cost us a client or two early on because our proposals didn’t specifically stipulate we were addressing them. We’d write that we’d target “all appropriate media outlets,” and assumed our clients were as canny as we were. We quickly learned to expand it to read, “all appropriate media outlets, including online outlets,” and to include key online titles in our list of examples.

Time passed and the requirement to single out these new media types passed with it as everyone learned that the same fundamental principles applied to pitching online media outlets and journalists, and that our phrase, “all appropriate media outlets” included online titles as a matter of course.

Then came blogs.

And the latest entry in a growing collection of what I call, “Francis’s favourite fictions.” Or, “Everything I know that’s wrong about public relations I learned from technology company executives.”

Here’s the latest one, tossed at me a few months back by a seasoned technology marketer who really should have known better. “Bloggers are different,” she insisted. “And only a PR agency that specialises in Web 2.0 social media can pitch them properly.”

Well, that was red-meat bait, and I rose to it. “Give me an example,” I challenged her. And she gave me two names, both of them critically influential bloggers in her company’s WiFi space with whom we couldn’t possibly develop a relationship, she said, because we weren’t a Web 2.0 agency.

I recognised one of the names immediately, and a check of our media contact database confirmed that we knew this guy very well. In fact, we first started successfully pitching to him when he was a columnist at a print trade magazine, then as a columnist for the online version of the same magazine, then as publisher of his own online newsletter, and now as a blogger. And guess what? He is just as pitchable, and he responds to the same things, now that he’s breathing the rarified air of the blogosphere as he had as an ink-stained wretch.

The second name was also in our database, and also had been for years, but we generally didn’t pitch him any more because his blog was the equivalent of what we used to call a rip-and-read outfit. That is, like small radio stations that just read wire copy for their newscasts, he didn’t do any original reporting; he just wrote about things he had read about elsewhere. A useful conduit, perhaps, but not one we’d bother pitching directly; better we get a hit in one of the media he watches and let him write about that. Which he does regularly.

Point is, in my world, the bloggers who count are either bona fide, and often dyed-in-the-wool, journalists making use of this latest communications channel, or they’re newcomers to the game who think, act, and respond to newsworthy pitches, in exactly the same way as journalists.

Problem is, too many people think like my favourite-fiction spinner. So we’re careful to once again add a phrase to our proposals, which these days read, “all appropriate media outlets, including bloggers.” This, too, shall pass.

BPM, POS, CMS… Acronyms causing confusion

By Linda Forrest

Working in the technology realm as we do, it is inevitable that we encounter many, many acronyms in our daily work. A quick scan of the blogosphere reveals that it’s a hot topic amongst technology marketers like Chris Hoskin and analysts alike.

There are so many acronyms in play and unfortunately a lot of them overlap. When you see CMS, do you think it means content management system, or contact management system, or code management system, or client music synthesis, or…

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Not another bloody PR agency blog!

By Francis Moran

Blame it all on Alec Saunders.

By that I mean, Saunders is in good part responsible for our inflicting on the world yet another PR agency blog.

Over the past year or so, I’ve had several engaged conversations with Saunders, a tech company veteran and compulsive blogger, about the role this no-longer-new social marketing tool can play in a public relations company’s activities. There are two clear sides to that role.

The first, which I will address at greater length in a future post, is the role blogs play in reaching and influencing our clients’ target markets. On that score, I have never needed any convincing, and here at inmedia, we have included the right bloggers in our pitches for as long as there have been bloggers. But, as I said, more on this later.

The second role, around which I have long been much more skeptical, is whether a blog can be an effective outreach tool for a public relations agency or, indeed, for any company. Here, my skepticism lies not so much in the nature of blogs themselves as in the same sort of critical analysis I bring to the consideration of whether any communications tool is appropriate in a given situation.

Saunders thought me a non-believer. Not so. My thinking could well be summed up in the phrase, “A blog if necessary, but not necessarily a blog.”

By which I mean that, just as with any other communications tool, a successful company blog must be as effective as possible and must deliver a competitive ROI. Let me expand briefly.

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