Give PR Professionals some RESPECT

One of my favorite public relations professionals is Joan Stewart, who has a business called The Publicity Hound that helps other public relations professionals do better work. Her blog has this post: How to work with a PR firm: 15 do’s and 8 don’ts, and I’d like to add look at a few of the “don’ts” more closely:

Don’t demand that the publicist write and send a press release about something she knows is not newsworthy

A few years back, I was working as the local public relations representative for one of the major national mobile phone services headquartered on the East Coast (not to date myself, but this was when combining a cellphone with a PDA was news). One of my jobs was to take corporate’s press releases, edit them to make them relevant for the local market and send them out to the Chicago area media. Many times, the “news” had to do with personnel changes that would mean nothing to someone in the Midwest. Yet, I had to edit the releases, and get them to people who covered the consumer technology news. It was painful and a waste of time. I could have focused my efforts on more productive and relevant outreach.

  Don’t go behind the publicist’s back and send letters, gifts or anything else to media contacts

Wow, does this make me crazy. Many of my clients are very successful professionals. And I know they became successful by making friends and influencing other business professionals. However, some of them think that influence can be used to get a reporter to write something more favorable or give them more space in an article. Part of the value of earned media is that the “media” contacts decide how you “earn” space in what they report. Think of it like bribing a police officer to not give you a ticket, though it might succeed in the short-term, it might get you in deep trouble.

Don’t expect the PR firm to do it all

Amen to that. Public relations professionals help shape and carry the message to the right people. I like to think of it as getting news from the President of the United States verses his press people. The media is more likely to run footage of the President making a major announcement than the press secretary. That holds true for any professional that wants to be seen as the corporate representative. The PR person can set the stage, yet the client needs to step into the spotlight.

Joan has a wealth of information at her blog. Check it out.


The Importance of Jelly Beans in Today’s Legal World

All aboard the Jelly Belly Express with Tom and Elizabeth

 Recently, I was on vacation with my family in Racine, Wisconsin. The great thing about small towns near Chicago is that they can be as interesting as Disney World for our 22-month-old daughter. On the way home we stopped at Jelly Belly for one of the free tours that provides a multimedia presentation on the history of the company, how those little beans are made and a drive through the warehouse.

As you board the Jelly Belly Express train, they give you a paper hat because its a legal requirement in a food storage facility. You also have to wear a safety belt. Although I saw no real danger in a train that goes .5 miles an hour The “real danger” is Jelly Belly’s free sample kiosk in the store (I limited my requests to six samples).

I know we live in a litigious society where so much of life is about covering yourself legally. However, a Jelly Belly warehouse tour is a good example of being legal and having fun. Yes, you need to protect yourself by following rules and regulations, like having you hair covered in a food facility. Yet, as you can see in the picture, the hats were good fun for Elizabeth and me. And we can be sure that no one will sue Jelly Belly for finding one of Tom Ciesielka’s hairs in a cherry-flavored bean.

Additionally, the fact that they provided plenty of staff to monitor the safety for guests (and give away bags of free Jelly Bellys at the end of the tour) made it a very sweet experience.

I know that when law firms think about public relations they often think about presenting papers at trade shows, writing articles in business magazines, or sending out e-cards (to be “green”) at Christmas time. Those are safe ways to handle your public relations and they follow the “rules” of such a conservative profession.

However, why not have a little fun? Find a way to interact with clients in a unique fashion. I work for an attorney who brings his clients and prospects to karaoke bars for business development.  Sure there are a million excuses for not doing that, one being to avoid over comsumption of alcohol and another to guard against people singing “I Did It My Way” off-key. However, he’s not worried about that because he knows it will be a memorable experience.

I hope that lawyers and their marketing departments will find ways to lighten up. By the way, Jelly Belly offers a service where they can print a law firm’s logo on their product.  If you decide to try that at your firm, please send me a couple bags for our office. Thanks.