Archive for August, 2009

Make It Christmas

IStock_000003704809XSmall(2)Every minute of every day, we PR people are proving ourselves — to our managers, our peers, our media contacts, our tweeps, our clients, ourselves. 

It can be wearying.  Our to-do lists never seem to shorten.  It’s easy to let “completing the weekly status report” become a goal in and of itself.

But it’s important to set the to-do list aside for a moment every day; to take a deep breath and remember the big picture.  Because completing the report is not the goal.  The goal is to make that report feel like a freakin’ Christmas present to the client. 

When you’re in PR, every week should feel like Christmas Week to your clients. 

You can give the gift of RESULTS, the gift of QUALITY, the gift of GOOD WRITING, the gift of STRONGER RELATIONSHIPS. 

Give the gift of giving a sh**.

I Am Woman (Roar!)

This is a guest post by my SHIFT colleague, Colleen Wickwire.

Last week a handful of SHIFTers attended the Girls in Tech “Journalism 2.0 RoundTable” event moderated by Kara Swisher of All Things D. The panel of journalists included TechieDiva’s Gina Hughes, ZDNet’s Jennifer Leggio, Ubergizmo’s Eliane Fiolet, VentureBeat’s Camille Ricketts and Deborah Gage (formerly of the SF Chronicle, who’s now working with Reuters).

Topics ranged from the evolution of citizen journalism to how women in tech can earn respect in a predominantly male dominated industry. Answer:  Be on top of your game at all times, don’t let the doubters get to you and, if all else fails, resort to violence (Kara’s strategy).

Some of the best insight came when the panel shared their advice for young women starting out. I’m glad the consensus was to INTERN, INTERN, INTERN! I think it’s something that should be a no-brainer for every college student out there – especially in today’s market where graduates are competing against seasoned professionals for entry-level positions. Other discussion points included saying “yes” to everything (even if you’re afraid of it) and never taking “no” for an answer.

These are important lessons for PR newbies – and good reminders for pros. Taking advantage of every opportunity is great, but being proactive is even more crucial to success. Seek out opportunities on your own and be persistent. Journalists (and for that matter, everyone you work with) are busy and they are going to ignore you – if you are confident that you have a relevant story, don’t be afraid to keep at it until you get their feedback (within reason of course). I think the first few years in PR are the toughest, so if you can persevere then PR might be a good fit. Above all, be confident in the value you bring to the table – that’s how you’ll gain respect from girls (and boys) in tech and beyond.

I asked panelist Jennifer Leggio a few questions since her career experience includes a stint in PR (after she worked at the Orange County Register and before writing for ZDNet). I also started out in news and had my own misconceptions about the industry (no, we don’t just send pitches all day long), so I asked her what surprised her most – both positive & negative – about PR. Here’s her answer:

Beyond the Launch

IStock_000007951963XSmallHere’s a little secret of the PR industry: the news media likes news.

Any PR firm worth its salt will get any client a nice spike of coverage, when they have newsworthy information to share.

After the big news event comes the trough of despair.  That’s the point at which coverage slows to a trickle — and when clients start to wonder what they’re paying that fancypants PR firm for, anyway. 

You need to PLAN for that inevitable dip in coverage.  You need to create a schedule of events, a timeline for content creation and distribution, etc., to make that dip a shallow one. 

You might have gained a placement for a bylined article that gets scheduled to appear a few weeks after the Big Launch.  You might have created a series of case study videos to vlog about in the subsequent months after the Big Launch.  You could have netted a juicy speaking engagement for the client CEO in the month following the Big Launch.  You might have done all of those things, and more, in the months before the Big Launch.  (Just think of how relaxed you could feel, with all of that spadework already accomplished!)

You can’t promise the moon every month, but you need never fall into a pit, either.  A month without meaningful, “move the ball downfield” activity is a very, very bad month.

Successful PR is not about the Big Launch.  It’s about the follow-through.

Dear Sequoia: Please Call Off the Dogs

4242156_thumbnailHaving spent the bulk of the Summer in San Francisco, I am starting to sense a difference in the tone and tenor of the business mood between the East and West Coasts.

It used to be the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who were willing to bet big; their self confidence was infectious.  And indeed, when it comes to the quality of their technologies, that is still the case.  But, when it comes to “pulling the trigger” on their launches, I still sense a palpable hesitation that, in recent weeks, seems to have ebbed in Boston and NYC.

I blame Sequoia Capital.

The “R.I.P. Good Times” presentation that got all that buzz 10 months ago was timely, accurate, appropriate — and bone-chilling.  As TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington noted at the time: “Of course all this negativity helps create the very downturn that venture capitalists are warning their companies to defend themselves against, perpetuating a sort of vicious cycle downward. But that’s ok, sometimes the hedge needs to be pruned. And this is what makes Silicon Valley its ugly, beautiful self.”

Ten months have passed.  Has the hedge been adequately pruned?

The news outlets are starting to brim with cautious, tentative, but sustained enthusiasm about the direction of the economy.  According to a WALL STREET JOURNAL poll of economists this week, 57% believe the recession is already over, while another 23% believe that the economy will turn in the next month or two.

We can’t breathe easy, but we can maybe breathe a sigh of relief. This is what Americans do: absorb the body blows, shrug off the naysayers, and flip the bird at cruel fortune.

IStock_000006988345XSmallBut despite the trickle of good economic news — which used to be all that Silicon Valley needed; this is a place that subsists on the barest glimmers of hope — that hesitation in Silicon Valley persists.  It’s not just me who thinks this, by the way: I hear it from my Silicon Valley peers in the media, in PR, and in business overall.  It’s pervasive.  And depressing.

Maybe if the gang at Sequoia called off the dogs, it would set the Bay Area back on its natural, leadership course? The companies we work with in Boston and New York (and Madison and Miami, etc.) are done waiting.

It’s not enough to load-up on munitions.  Sometimes you gotta pull the trigger.

Club Med Taps SHIFT as Agency of Record

ClubMed_logoI’ve cryptically noted in past posts that we’ve been pretty lucky in the “newbiz” department.  Unfortunately I must still be pretty cryptic in most cases, but, at least I can now tell you about a recent victory!

Club Med recently selected SHIFT as its Agency of Record

That’s huge.

When we founded this agency, 6 years ago, I’d have enjoyed a good laugh if someone told me that we’d someday see an iconic, global brand like Club Med on the roster.  But we’re hitching up Club Med into a constellation of stars alongside other iconic brands like J&J, Virgin, H&R Block, et al.  I offer up my congratulations to the SHIFT squad for notching another great win, and my sincere thanks to Kate Moeller and her colleagues at Club Med, for their faith in our team. 

(Kate’s also been super helpful on other fronts, as well: remember the Corporate Social Media Policy Guidelines you all loved?  Thank Kate and her legal eagles for all the hard work and gracious sharing with the community!  I was stunned when she agreed to let me go-public with that document.  It bodes well for a great partnership.)   

As we get started with Club Med, I can only feel a profound sense of humility. We are deeply grateful but also wonderfully challenged.  We’ll make mistakes; we’ll hit rough spots; but we also know this — we cannot fail.  We know that Walter Winchell’s famous quotation is all too true: Nothing recedes like success.”   

We cannot fail to do excellent work for these big brands.  And we cannot fail to show our other current clients — those rising stars — that we have the talent and bandwidth to amply and rigorously serve their needs, as well.

It’s all about the striving!




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