Sunday, March 27, 2011

Media Pitching Musts

Contacting media outlets directly can dramatically increase the chance of getting your story reported. 

Consider making your next pitch persuasive by:

•Keeping it short and concise. The two essential elements in a pitch are what you are offering and why it will interest people. Ruthlessly eliminate anything else.

•Using urgency and relevancy. Connect your pitch to a deadline, well known upcoming event or tie it to a current trend. Alternatively position your story as a contrary or unexplored perspective on an issue currently being reported. 

•Providing one or two links to relevant on-line material to backup your pitch. Think about creating a specific web page, blogpost or video as supporting resources. 

• Whether pitching verbally or in writing indicate if you can provide an expert to interview, video or audio material, imagery, additional statistics or other information that will enrich your issue and bring your story to life. 

•Maintaining a "pitch bank" of pitches that earned coverage and those that were less effective. Over time this database will help you improve as well as develop better pitches faster. 

(Thanks to to recent article in PRSA's "Tactics" by Ryan Zuk for inspiring this post.)

Colonial Clock Makers Were Good Communicators

The Tasmanian city of Launceston has a clock tower that has stood at the downtown post office for over 100 years.

Each hour the clock strikes the time and is heard throughout the central business area. On the hour it starts with a simple, melodic chime followed by a single strike for each hour.

It is a simple system of communication that has worked well for more than a century. The chiming sound attracts attention and is consistent and dependable. It is also a reassuring and familiar element in Launceston's urban soundscape. You could literally set your watch by that clock tower.

Consistent, dependable, trusted, attention-getting. Those early colonial clock makers must have known quite a bit about the essentials of good communications.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Simplicity Of An Idea

Design Forum Tasmania is a cultural institution in Launceston that presents the work of artists who work with the beautiful timbers from the island State.

On one of the gallery walls sculptor Peter Costello shares his thoughts on simplicity in art - a thought that applies equally to communication.

"I try and keep my work very simple. Each piece needs to be predicated by one idea only.

If it has two good ideas in the piece it is one good idea too many. It becomes too busy, uncentred so I work entirely on a single idea ... I believe almost any idea will do.

The success of it relies upon how you execute the idea. So in a sense there's almost no such thing as a bad idea."

Likewise the best ideas in marketing and PR are simple and uncomplicated.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sell In Your Big Ideas

I recently ran a session on "selling your ideas to the boss".

The audience were public affairs professionals working in Australia's three levels of public service. It was a challenging experience mainly because ideas are tools of trade for most PR people.

I think we all agreed that getting a good idea out of the door is sometimes the toughest task for any communicator. Simply getting the OK for a new way of working can often be harder than its implementation.

So consider these steps when it comes to succeeding with your next winning idea:

• Crystalise your big idea and make sure it is developed enough to make sense to others when you proudly announce it. Does it cover important issues like the benefits to be gained or the opportunities that may be lost if it is not taken up. What does it mean in terms of time, cost and effort? And is there a clear plan to roll it out?
Who do you need to consult to earn support and what relationships need to be sustained to execute your suggestion?

• But you need to balance the need to work out this fine print with the urgency of releasing your idea in sufficient time to have impact. If you take too long in thinking through an initiative it could be outdated by the time you announce it, or you could lose the energy to carry it through or worse still someone may steal it before you have the chance to act.

• Appeal to self interest when you sell ideas. Identify the benefits to others and to your organization if your suggestion goes ahead. Specify the time or money or effort it will save -hopefully all three? Your managers and team mates are more likely to support something new if they sense better outcomes on the horizon.

• The maths of innovation are simple: introducing a new idea involves continuing conversation. You can never over-communicate a new plan because just when you are thoroughly tired of talking, others are just beginning to understand.

• Welcome objections. Often we interpret legitimate concerns about our ideas as hostile criticism. You need to know all potential barriers so you can develop simple, clear responses to overcome the likely difficulties. Objections can be valuable in themselves when they attract attention and raise awareness of a new suggestion particularly in a jaded organisation.

• You need to convince more than 51 per cent of the hierarchy about the value of your vision. When the going gets tough, a slim majority can easily disappear and along with it can follow your great idea. Aim to get solid majority support for your plan but sidestep hostile opponents and leave them on the sidelines.

Above all remember new ideas are the lifeblood of any organisation. They are the propellant that makes a difference and reinvigorated your practices. So communicate with clarity and passion because if you are not excited about your big idea, why should others be enthused.

Good luck with your next grand plan.