Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump ignored a staple of political communications in his announcement of Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his running mate. The news ran on different platforms at different times, and lacked the cohesion that typifies many political campaigns. After the announcement, the seemingly disjointed communications continued in their first interview together in a 60 Minutes segment aired July 17.
Full Court Press (Release): It’s almost become de rigueur for sports superstars to take a retirement victory lap: Announce you’re retiring the following year and spend your last season being showered with gifts and accolades from opposing teams when you visit their venues for the final time. It’s fine when you’re no longer at top form. It’s a different matter when you club a home run or sink a basket to defeat your opponent, which hours earlier presented you with a custom-built rocking chair and a Harley. 40-year-old David Ortiz has done that all season. His 22 home runs and league-leading 34 doubles have given the Dominican his best first half in Boston. Basketball star Tim Duncan, also 40, would have none of the swan song hoopla.
Good journalists and editors can smell when brands are looking for media coverage about how wonderful they are. By contrast, editors and journalists seek pitches that will touch their readers. They want stories about interesting problems. Issues or problems that large groups of people may be facing can make excellent stories. A pitch about one brand’s journey, told in its own words from start to finish, will not.
We’ll likely never know if the companies behind Pokémon Go—Nintendo, the Pokémon Co. and Google spinoff Niantic—had a hand in spreading the word about the tall and tall-ish tales related to an augmented reality scavenger hunt. In any case, the release of the game has tapped into a wellspring of media coverage.
You know how bloggers have invented a writing subgenre of mocking the PR pitches they get? Recently I saw a lengthy takedown of a PR firm’s effort to publicize what the blogger felt was a hollow startup. The blogger portrayed the PR firm’s pitch as comically superficial. I’ll forego linking to the post because I prefer to avoid boosting ad revenue for crass blogs that bully people. Admittedly, the pitch material was superficial. It went against every principle of clear writing that I teach. All things being equal, the PR firm’s staff should have pushed back on the startup to get more concrete facts about the new company’s goals, what it does and why it’s credible. But that wasn’t the main problem, and it didn’t prevent the startup from ultimately succeeding elsewhere; more on that below. The biggest problem is where the startup’s material landed: in other words, where the material was pitched. Granted, the pitch was directed to a blog that’s well read among the startup’s target market: millennials. But this particular blog also is known for snarky opposition to PR outreach. It was like putting red meat in front of a gaunt, stray dog.
There is no secret recipe that will ensure good press—or even coverage. But executives still want their companies to be written about, so there has to be a way to improve your chances of getting picked up by the media. Media pitching is hard. It takes equal parts knowledge, skill and luck, but there are still new and engaging ways get the kind of coverage that’s sure to make the C-suite salivate.
When House Democrats began their sit-in on June 22 to force a vote on a gun-control bill before the House of Representatives begins a scheduled vacation recess, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) put the legislative body into recess, which meant the cameras and microphones were switched off. Soon afterward, C-SPAN began broadcasting Periscope and Facebook Live feeds of the sit-in shot by various House Democrats.
With the emphasis on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, video and other forms of digital marketing, the basics of writing, editing and media training can get overlooked. In truth, as someone responsible for brand communications, your remit includes all this and more. Being asked to personify the brand you represent by speaking with groups or participating in a one-on-one interview with media, or preparing executives or spokespeople to do so, remain critical to communications. With this in mind, Melissa Baratta, SVP at Affect, a NY-based agency, shares tips for effective interviewing.
It’s telling that, in the war between blog mogul and tech tycoon, the most substantive discussion is taking place in the pages of “The Gray Lady.” The Times, for many, is still the number one place to go to learn the facts or let the facts be known.
We’re not being political—that’s not our role—but we got a good laugh from stories that surfaced late last week about presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump allegedly posing as his own publicist. Since we write about the profession, we were amused.