PR Lessons Everyone Can Learn From the Cincinnati Zoo Incident

Earlier this month when a young boy fell into a gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo, concerned citizens from all over the world started weighing in on the incident and the ultimate outcome of the tragic events. The gorilla in the enclosure was shot and killed, infuriating many animal activists and raising questions from many parental groups. With so many different sides to the story, and so many different opinions on whether or not the gorilla should have been shot, there was no end to the media attention that the Cincinnati Zoo was getting.

No matter what side of the argument that you lie on, when it comes to this Cincinnati Zoo tragedy, there is one thing that every party can agree with; the events surrounding this incident can teach us all a great deal about public relations. Here are a few of the top PR lessons everyone can learn from the Cincinnati Zoo incident.

Always Respond Immediately
When a PR disaster hits, such as the incident that happened at the zoo, the best thing that your company can do is to respond immediately and to make sure that you focus only on the news. This is not the time to weigh in on opinions. In this particular incident, the zoo responded to the media reports right away and shared only the basics of what was going on, or the “who what, where, when and why.” There is no point trying to hide it when an incident like this happens, but it is important to stick to only the basics before you collect all of your information.

Don’t Undervalue the Importance of Counters
Counter reports, particularly counter visuals, can be a great help when a story goes viral and your company looks worse off for it. The Cincinnati Zoo’s team did this the professionals that they are. They countered the cell-phone videos showing the gorilla “caring” for the boy with more realistic images, accounts and visuals depicting just how much danger the boy was in and why their fast action in shooting the gorilla ultimately saved his life.

Find Experts to Weigh In
The camp who is at the center of negative controversy can say all they want about how they think a situation went down or what their opinion on a matter is. However, that will only go so far. If you really want to change people’s minds, then you need to bring in an expert on the matter. When the gorilla, Harambe was shot, some animal activists were infuriated with the zoo. However, the organization quickly had several experts come in and testify that their actions ultimately saved the child’s life and that any other professional would have made the same call.

Shift the Narrative
This can be a difficult one, but when done properly, shifting the narrative is a great way to make sure that people who want to keep talking about the controversy you are involved in are talking about it in a way that doesn’t directly impact your company. In the case of the Cincinnati Zoo incident, the narrative had shifted from the zoo to other organizations that had already weighed in on the manner. Parenting groups were blaming the mothers, animal-rights activists were up in arms about people caring for gorillas all of a sudden, while others wanted the parents to pay for the loss of the gorilla. Either way, the focus shifted away from the Cincinnati Zoo’s decision to shoot the animal at on to other issues surrounding the topic.

While incidents such as this don’t happen every day, when they do, it is important to take a moment to think about this situations and about what they can really teach us regarding public relations.

Why Local News Coverage is So Important

When it comes to building your brand and standing out in the market, so many CEOs only focus on the big picture and on the national coverage. While this is important, it isn’t everything. In fact, most business owners are ignoring one of the most important types of coverage that there is; local coverage. It is important to never miss the opportunity to speak with local journalists or to take advantage of local media coverage, and here are five of the main reasons why.

1. Local TV producers are actually very well connected. There is a really big misconception about the role that local news producers tend to play in today’s fast-paced media world. Chances are these individuals are actually some of the best contacts you can make if you want to start getting traction at a national level. You never know when that great relationship you built with a local producer can end up being a great relationship with an established news contact. 
2. Local news experience can help you build your media experience. If you want a national news organization to put you on air and you have never been on television before, chances are they are going to be hesitant about how you will perform. After all, it is very important for national news producers to have a quality program and this means quality guests. If you have a bunch of local news appearances on your resume, it will only help showcase the media experience that you have and prove to national producers that you have what it takes to be poised and professional on air and to handle any issues that may arise. 
3. Many times national news outlets simply take local news stories and re-tell them. In fact, this is often one of the best ways to get national coverage for the first time. If you are on air with the right story and the right angle on your local news outlet, and the right national producer sees it, it can easily be your foot in the door to the country-wide coverage you have been looking for.
4. You can gain credibility for free. Getting coverage from your local news outlet can start helping you gain credibility in your industry, even if it is only in your local market. The best part? You can gain that credibility for free. There are so many people who will end up paying for an on-air segment because they can’t get on the news. Don’t waste your money, when you can usually get local coverage for free. 
5. Local news still can still help you reach lots of people. The great thing about local news is that it is actually one of the fastest ways that you can reach tens of thousands of people. Trying to stand out in the national market without any experience, will not gain you this type of recognition. Plus, local news channels will still publish their stories online, meaning you are not only getting on-air recognition but building your online portfolio as well.

Keep these tips in mind whenever you consider doing local news spots. They may not seem like the most glamorous or headline-grabbing appearances, but they can really go a long way in helping you build your brand and your reputation in the market.

How to Bring a Little SEO to Your Press Release

The right news release can go a long way in promoting any company and any story. One of the great things about press releases today is that even if they don’t get picked up by a specific reporter, they are great promotional tools that can really boost your business’s online reputation.

This is why it is so important to not only make news releases clear, concise and professional looking, but to add a little SEO to these releases as well. Optimizing your news release for search engines is a surefire way to help build a strong online marketing campaign. 

However, creating optimized news releases is about more than just adding the right keywords. There is an art to ensuring the release still seems natural and ensuring that your document isn’t flagged by search engines. Here are a few of the best ways to make sure your release is well optimized and still professional enough for you to get the media coverage you have been looked for.

Don’t Forget About Quotes
Before you ever start writing your news release, you need to make sure that you have the right quotes. This can go a long way in helping your piece get attention and it is great for search engine results as well. A quote should have the following key features:
- It should be less than 100 characters
- It should be brief and to the point
- It should be newsworthy or tweetable
- It should add perspective
- It should include the keyword
If your quote has all of these features then it is truly adding the type of value you are looking for to your press release.

Keep Your Headlines Short
Headlines are a great tool for helping your news release get attention. However, this doesn’t mean that you should try to make headlines really long, or stuffed with keywords. Only the first 50-60 characters of a headline are going to appear in search engine results, so they need to be short and sweet. The headline needs to get to the point of the article, entice the reader to give the release a second look and it should include the keyword, if possible. The headline is the hook to get the reader’s attention, and this should be the ultimate goal when you write an engaging headline.

Put More Value in Your Sub-Title
The subtitle is a really important area of your release, yet it is one that is overlooked. You can keep your headline shorter by paying more attention to adding information with your sub-title. Let the subtitle expand upon your brief headline by keeping it descriptive yet different from your headline.

Keep It Easy to Read
Just because you are creating a news release, it doesn’t mean that your content shouldn’t have the same rules as any other type of online content. This means that your release should be broken up into small, digestible and easy-to-read paragraphs.

Keep paragraphs just a few paragraphs long. Use lists when you can and use sub-headers throughout to make sure that your content is easy to skim. After all, readers want to be able to browse through content easily to grab the information they need. The quicker they can read the content, the better, especially with a news release.

Easy SEO tips such as this can actually go a long way in helping any news release get the attention of editors, journalists and search engines alike.

Networking Tips That Can Improve Your Media Relations Efforts

When it comes to finding success with media relations, one of the best things that you can do is to have a strong network of contacts to rely on whenever you have a pitch or a story you need to get out in the public. Your contact list is one of the most important tools that you can use to reach out to the public and to the media. How do you build a strong contact list? Networking.

Networking is one of the most important things you can do to build your brand and your business and it can also come in handy when it comes to media relations as well. Here are a few “must-try” networking tips that can help you meet new people in the media and create strong media contacts that you can use later on with your PR efforts.

A Strong Network Connection is About Give and Take
When you go into the networking process and are looking to make a connection, remember that your goal shouldn’t just be to help yourself, but to help the other party as well. You need to be able to bring value to a reporter, in order for them to give you coverage. Don’t just focus on your needs when you make connections.

It’s Not About the Most Connections, But the Right Connections
Networking isn’t just about shaking the hands of the most people possible, it is about shaking the hands of the right people. You shouldn’t focus on just getting the most business cards possible at a single networking event, you should focus on finding the right people and forging actual relationships with them when you do meet them. Saying two words to five random people isn’t as effective as shaking the hands of and really having an in-depth conversation with one great media contact.

Have Realistic Expectations
There are some people that attend networking events and go into the process having some pretty serious expectations. Don’t expect that just because you talked to a journalist that they are going to go out on a limb for you and accept all of your pitches. You shouldn’t expect anything from the contacts you meet, you should know that you are slowing building a relationship. 

Don’t Start By Asking For Help
When meeting a new connection, start off by flattering the person you meet. Praise the individual and their work and try to use specific examples when you can. Don’t start off by asking for help, it can really turn another person off. You want them to feel like you are actually interested in meeting them and interested in what they have to say, not just getting a handout.

Always Try to Offer Value
When meeting people at networking events, you can’t just expect that your charm and good conversation will be enough to entice a journalist to want to cover your company. You need to always remember, when you are meeting people and when you are following up with them, that you need to provide them with as much value as possible. Be a resource to the journalist you meet. Answer their questions and try to solve their problems when you can. The more value you offer the better.

If you keep these things in mind when your network and remember that you should never take “no” personally and always keep working on expanding your contact list, you can start creating connections in the market that can really help you build your media contact list

How to Handle Media Rejection

No matter how much time you have spent creating a plan, honing the perfect launch strategy and fine-tuning your press releases, there are many business owners today who find that even with all of their efforts, sometimes the media just doesn’t care. You can do all of the prep-work you want and start pitching with confidence, but sometimes even the most talented pitches fall of deaf ears. So many of us have been there before, we try everything we can in order to get coverage, only to find the media never contacts you back.

Nothing can be as frustrating as putting in a great deal of time and energy into a pitch only to be faced with complete silence on the other end. You can have the most textbook pitch and something that looks utterly perfect on paper, only to find that you never get the attention you have been looking for. It can be frustrating, but there are some ways that you can handle this type of rejection so you can make the most of the situation you have been dealt. 

Know When It’s Time To Stop Following Up
If you haven’t followed up yet with your pitch, feel free to send a follow-up email. Be polite and don’t be pushy or even try a fresh angle. Sometimes a follow up can help. However, there are very few situations where multiple follow ups can help you. If you have not heard back from the media and already followed up, you need to know when to stop.

There are lots of reasons why you may not be hearing back, some could be your fault, others could just be what has been going on in the industry lately or what is going on with a certain publication. If you keep following up to the point where you become a nuisance, you can end up hurting your chances for attention in the future. Don’t annoy the media and don’t take it personally.

If you’ve been met with silence more than once, let it go until you have something new to pitch.

Add Some New Info
So no one responded to your pitch. It can be frustrating. However, this is a great time to go back and look over what you sent. If you are looking to get some media attention and your pitch sounds like you’re selling something, then this could be a problem. There are so many editors who are understandably put off by the idea of a company trying to sell them a product or service instead of selling them a story.

Take a new approach to your pitch. Add some research information or insight on trends to show how your company is leading your market or how they are different from others in the space. You need to make sure that you provide enough information and the right angle to show the editor that they have a story in front of them. Sometimes, adding something like this can be just what you need to turn silence into acceptance.

Go Back Through Your Email List
There are so many companies who create a contact list and then constantly utilize that media list every time they need something to go to press. If you aren’t getting the attention you want, then it may not be what you are sending, but who you are sending it to. Make sure you research your media list and make sure that your contact information is still correct, if it is an old list, and that you are actually sending something that would appeal to the people on your list. If you are trying to sell a story about a small local business, don’t send it to the finance editor.  

Don’t expect people to tell you that the story doesn’t fit within their realm of coverage either. Editors are very busy individuals and chances are they don’t have time to send an “I’m sorry but I don’t cover this type of story,” email to every message they get. If you want to find out if you are sending the wrong stories to the wrong people, you need to do the work yourself.

While it can be frustrating to deal with media rejection, if you keep these three tips in mind, you just may be able to get the answer you seek and prepare yourself to prevent rejection again in the future.

The Five Easiest Ways to Boost Your PR Success

When it comes to finding success in today’s in-demand PR market and getting the media attention your brand needs, there is no end to the different strategies you can implement in order to get the recognition you crave. One of the first things that any brand will likely do is develop a PR strategy that works for them and their company-wide needs. However, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t things that they can do from time to time in order to boost their PR success. 

Stay On Top of the Latest Trends
If you want to get ahead in this market, then you need to stay on top of the latest trends. Dedicate some of your time every day to reading up on the latest happenings in the PR world. See what is ‘hot’ and what is really getting the attention of the big names in public relations. You need to be up with the times if you want to get media attention.

Apply for Awards
If your company is doing alright when it comes to media relations, and you really want to start boosting the recognition you are getting, then one of the best things you can do is to apply for awards. You may have to pay a little in order to apply for awards, but try to put your name out there to as many awards as you can, including local awards. Don’t be afraid to apply for awards outside of your business’ niche either. You may not win the best software company in the country award, but you may be able to win awards for green energy use or sustainability. This is a surefire way to get your name in the news and it looks great on your company’s resume.

Get Client Testimonials
Yes, client testimonials are a great marketing tool, but they are also a great PR tool too. This is because a great article or media feature, always has quotes from multiple sources. If you are trying to get attention for your company, and to push stories to the media, you want stories that aren’t just from your perspective, you want to have some different views as well. The more testimonials you have in your back pocket, the better off you will be.

Don’t Forget About Press Releases
Press releases are perhaps the ‘oldest trick in the book’ in terms of media relations efforts, but for some reason, they have become increasingly less popular over the past few years. This doesn’t mean that reporters still don’t value a good press release. Try to switch things up and regularly send out press releases, every month if you can. Not all of them will get you the traction that you may want, but they are a great way to keep the public, including your clients, informed of what is going on with your company. 

Whatever you do, make sure that you are submitting press releases to actually get your company press coverage, not for SEO reasons.

Make New Connections
When it comes to getting press and media attention, it should come as no surprise that it is all about who you know. If you want to really give your company’s PR efforts a boost, make sure that you are reaching out to new contacts. Social media is a great way to do this and a powerful way to get in touch with reporters. 

While you’re at it, make sure that you contact some of your old connections as well, you never know what connection will get you the coverage you have been looking for.