Sword and the Script

The Soft and Subtle PR Pitch of Content Marketing



by Frank Strong

content-marketing-PR

He just started writing reporters one day.  It was a time before blog comments, and tweets, and Facebook updates; he sent his thoughts by email.

It wasn’t a pitch.  It wasn’t a call to action.  It was a note.  Just a conversation – a comment on an article he read.  He offered perspective – his own – but it was all done without an ask.

It took a while, but then he started to get a lot of press coverage. Instead of leading with his credentials, or his story, his emails offered the viewpoint of a person engaged in the daily activities of his industry.  He became a source. And reporters started asking him for his opinions.

This story is my recollection of one chapter in The Cluetrain Manifesto, a book I often reference in posts on this site. One of the authors, Doc Searls, is still quite active on the web from his vantage point at Harvard. Read More…

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Patriots Patriarch and the Pithy Press Conference



by Frank Strong

bill belichick press conference

Bill Belichick a man of few smiles and less words. (Flickr)

New England Patriot’s Head Coach Bill Belichick shies from media attention.  At least that the conclusion one might quickly draw from his demeanor in post-game press conferences. The man doesn’t smile.

The Wall Street Journal counted the number of times the blue hooded strategist smiled during press conferences this season.  Seven.  He smiled seven times.  Seven’s a magic number.

Watching video of every Patriots postgame news conference from this season, we counted seven incidents where Belichick smiled. This study surveyed 114.5 minutes of footage, so he smiles at a rate of once every 16 minutes—and keep in mind this is a season where New England won 12 games and the AFC East title. Read More…

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5 Good Reasons PR Pros Should Jump into an MBA



by Frank Strong
PR pros and MBA

There’s been some lackluster advice floating around the PR world of late regarding a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree. It suggests, with caveats, that PR pros that get MBAs are bored or indecisive careerists that want to schmooze with the future business leaders of America. 

Such advice lacks perspective — the perspective of those who have actually done it — which counts for a lot in evaluating the pros and cons of anything.  I know a bunch of lawyers but it doesn’t make me an expert on law school.

In an MBA program you’ll grow personally and professionally. It’s one of the best investments a PR pro can make in themselves.  I am a PR pro with an MBA, so I’ll take the liberty to offer a different point of view to PR pros based on my experience.

Make no mistake, such a degree is directly related to our work too. If PR pros get knocked around for a list of character flaws, I’d suggest those boil down to these three recurring themes: a) PR pitches are bad b) PR has inability to speak the financial language of business and c) PR has a poor understanding of business.  

Do you have to have one to succeed?  No.  However, an MBA will dramatically increase the likelihood that those are characteristics that will not apply to you. It’ll improve the chances of success. Read More…

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Reflections: 5 Lessons Readers Taught Me in 2013



by Frank Strong

best posts 2013

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I haven’t always published a “top posts of the year” on this blog, but Shift Communications recently published their “worst” posts of 2013 – a tactic I found to be a clever and transparent analysis – and it prompted me to have a look at the best and worst posts on this blog.

Generally I pour over the analytics on a mobile phone in those in-between moments, but it’s been a while since I took a comprehensive view in a proper web browser.  It was a very useful mental exercise and in reviewing data on the 130 or so posts published here in 2013, several things stood out for me.

Here are five lessons my readers taught me: Read More…

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Building, not Borrowing: What PR is Missing



by Frank Strong

PR lesson fad

A fad is something we already had. Content is no fad.

About a year ago I presented at a hat trick of speaking engagements in the PR industry. These ranged from national professional association – to a regional event produced by a trade publication – to a local event organized by industry peers. What struck me the most was the sociological difference – no two groups were even remotely alike.

These groups fell into what I thought was three broad categories:

a. The lost. This group primarily came from smaller shops – corporate and agency alike. They had no concept for the social web, content or digital marketing. This group literally didn’t know what they didn’t know.

b. The learners.  This group was mixed – people from all walks of life. They were open minded, fully cognizant the dynamics of PR had changed, knew they were behind and were present to catch up.  Every session was filled with people taking furious notes and asking good questions.  There was a sense of urgency in the air and the conference organizers did well to line up excellent sessions. Read More…

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PR: It is How We Discover Brands



by Frank Strong

PR branding

Source: GlobalWebIndex “Chart of the Day.”

Awareness, familiarity and trust are all essential elements of a brand that sells successfully.  It’s an evolution that begins but probably never ends, save for the termination of a brand.  It’s the latter that drives us down the road of analyzing whether or not PR facilitates a sales cycle.

The entry point however, should not be underestimated. The chances of a sales person closing a deal with a prospective customer that remarks, “Huh, I’ve never heard of your product before,” falls somewhere short of less than likely.

So how do we make customers aware of our brands?  The answer rests in PR. Read More…

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7 Tips for Reporters for Managing PR Spam



by Frank Strong

Wired PR Spam


Screenshot from Wire’s former Editor in Chief, Chris Anderson timeless 2007 rant against PR spam. He later hinted he regretted posting it.

Nobody likes spam, but everybody gets it. A lot of it.

Whatever new mediums arise, spam is just a moment behind.  It’s on Twitter, its infected commenting systems, and of course we get it by email. It is…pervasive.

For a reporter, it’s got to be the bane of existence.  What could be worse than the pressure of a deadline and having sift through erroneous messages that bombard your inbox in order to find the messages you need to confirm or otherwise relate to sources?

It’s a problem.  It’s probably never going to end in our lifetime.

The only way to fix it is to avoid using email, but then it’ll just spill over into other vehicles for interpersonal communication, like voicemail or social media.

What possibly can a PR pro tell you about managing spam?  Over the course of my career, here are tips I’ve found, including some from your peers, for avoiding spam. Read More…

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10 Timeless Creative PR Ideas



by Frank Strong

Creativity

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Where do creative PR ideas come from?  How do we develop ideas and what does the life cycle of an idea look like? 

There are those in our field that advocate a strict discipline of science – that is to say no idea is funded or given a seal of approval — without math. Data has the limitations of structure, yet we are not rationale beings.

On the other side, there are others that are purely creative — the Don Draper myth — they operate on instincts and gut feelings. However the very phrase “trust me” invites risk and suspicion.

The two approaches are at odds and I’ve found no better explanation than the words of Malcom Gladwell.  In a post titled, Art or Science: Creative Marketing and PR, I took a look at his analysis of the difference between puzzles and mysteries:

In the book, What the Dog Saw, Malcom Gladwell breaks down the distinction between a puzzle and a mystery. A puzzle is when we have all of the pieces we need to make a complete picture, we just need to arrange them in the proper order so that they make sense. With a mystery, information is scarce and we instead rely on intuition, interference or a gut feeling. Perhaps this is what Rumsfeld meant when he famously said, “unknown unknowns.”

If PR were a puzzle then we’d have all the pieces needed to simply assemble a creative idea. If PR were entirely a mystery, then we’d all be starting from the beginning with every effort. Maybe that’s how to make the uninteresting, interesting. Neither side is quite right, there is very little in our world that fits neatly into some bucket we’ve designed; the fact is that PR is a mix of art and science.

We can’t excel with just English (or a language) or just Math, we need them both. Read More…

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5 Creative Marketing, PR and Social Media Ideas



by Frank Strong

creative PR marketing social media

If reading too much can suppress creative thinking, then so too can habit.  Sure, Aristotle said excellence is not an act, but a habit, but how easy is it for marketers to fall into a pattern? The same old pattern.

Patterns are predictable and measurable; but they are also avoidable. It is consumer reflex to avoid a pitch. Consider email, for example, which is easy enough to mark as spam.  What would happen if email suddenly was not a tool in the marketer’s toolkit?

I’d suggest that a freak-out session would be followed by a creative session – and perhaps even better and more creative marketing ideas. To that end, here are five creative marketing, PR and social media ideas: Read More…

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Persuasion Theory: Power of a Story



by Frank Strong

persuasion theory

We remember stories (Photo: Flickr).

We see it a lot in corporate presentations:  slides that are heavy on text, but light on stories.  Presenters end up reading slide to a literate audience.

To be fair, businesses aren’t unique: you haven’t lived until you’ve sat through the tedium of a military briefing, especially those for “Command and Staff” or a CUB or a BUB or pick your pain.

Some of the most painful meetings I’ve ever had have been conducted in uniform – and unfortunately – I have at times served as chair for some of those. You can’t change the world in one rotation.

I’ve always found that presentations are most effective when they are heavy on images, have just enough content to hint to the audience as to the context, but mostly rely on the speaker to tell the story.

Think about some of the presentations from the big names in marketing and PR: Stratten, Shankman, Solis, or Scott. The key note presentations these people give are often based on slide desks with more images than words.  They use anecdotes to make points. Read More…

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