Summer Pitching Tips 101

As the climate and seasons change, so does the world of journalism.  What might have been an effective PR strategy in the fall or winter, doesn’t always work in the summer; especially here on the east coast where the temperature raises and people flock to the beaches.

Tip #1 – KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE (really a good tip for any season).  If you are pitching a story idea to an east coast reporter or producer, try to anticipate what their audience is interested in.  If it’s a lifestyle or feature reporter from New York or New Jersey, think outdoor entertaining, sun protection, outdoor sports, and summer safety.

Tip #2 – TIMING IS EVERYTHING.  Know the ideal time to contact your target reporters and stick to it, unless you have breaking news.  Overall, Fridays, especially after 4pm, are a no-go zone.  Reporters have already filed their stories for the following business day. In fact, many businesses in the NYC-area have summer Fridays, so after 1pm your email will fall into the black hole.  Thursday is also a bit of a HOT zone if you are pitching a daily reporter.  Also, when there is important breaking news going on in that area or the world, don’t bother a reporter that covers “news” with your fluff piece.

Tip #3 – SUMMER IS A TIME FOR FUN.  Typically, summer is a time for family, travel and fun.  So, if you can spin your story to have a little fun or whimsy, do it.  Even if your client has a product that isn’t typically seen as “fun,” try to think how you could use it while entertaining or outdoors, and then make your client’s product part of a bigger pitch.

Happy Summer!

LvB

 

 

 

Why does being a mom of three MAKE me a better publicist?

I’ve worked in the world of entertainment PR for almost two decades. In the beginning of my career, I hustled. I commuted into NYC from central NJ on a smelly, crowded, sweaty bus for an hour-and-a-half each way, without traffic. In the summer or if there was a traffic jam, those 90 minutes turned into upwards of three hours. Then, once I arrived at my tiny cubicle, I worked until the very late hours of the night.  At least I think it was night, because there wasn’t a window to tell if the sun went down.  It was an unhealthy lifestyle but necessary for an ambitious, driven young woman in an industry that unapologetically ate the weak and spit their scrawny asses out on the sidewalk before a second cup of coffee.  I had something to prove. I wanted to leave my mark and make a name for myself.

I volunteered for every shitty task that no one else wanted. Who wants to go down to the loading dock at the ass crack of dawn in the dead of winter to get 300 copies of the morning newspapers, go through them for every tiny press mention, and make 500 collated copies?  Me. Me. I’ll do it. Who wants to hand deliver magazines across town, in the rain during rush hour because even the messenger service isn’t crazy enough to do it?  Me. Me. I’ll do it. Who wants to sit for 10 hours straight and transcribe countless hours of anchor chat, writing down every single “ah,” “eh,” “umm,” and loud, awkward clearing of the throat, “ahh-amm”?  Me. Me. I’ll do it.   Who wants to accompany the bitchiest anchor at the network to an appearance, carry her 50 pound Louis Vuitton purse (worth more than my monthly salary), write her entire speech for her, wait on her hand and foot, and be treated like a bug under her very expensive stiletto? Me. Me. I’ll do it.  I don’t need a “thank you!” No, I like being told I could use the extra cardio. Who wants to carry huge bags of props in a hot subway, then schlep them up 10 flights of stairs, make seven trips to the drugstore and grocery store for missing items for a TV segment at 6am? Yea, okay…I’ll do it.  And I did so with a plastic smile painted on my eager face for almost eight years straight.

Then, a life altering moment happened: I became pregnant!  I knew becoming a mother would change my career.  In fact, to be honest, I wasn’t sure at the time if it would end my career. In my industry, and many others, when you have children, employers look at you differently.  And, reflecting back, I get it.  Being a mother became my first priority. If my child was sick and I had no babysitter, I would call out and stay home to take care of him.  But I didn’t want to totally give up a career that I fought so hard for.  I still wanted to make money and feel like I was contributing to my profession. But, in the end I left corporate communications, the commuting, and my 1-by-1 cube for uncharted waters. In other words, I became a freelancer.

Working at home with one child was difficult. Ha! I laugh at my old self because I manage to do it with three now. What a naïve little lamb I was. Here’s the part where becoming a mother made me a better publicist. While I was navigating my way through babydom and how to be the best mother I could be, I was learning how to manage my time, multitask, and delegate (something I never did before!).

Let’s be real for a moment. Motherhood is not for the faint of heart. I’ve been sleep deprived for 11 years. I’ve been puked on, pooped and peed on, bled on, cried on, screamed at and choked within an inch of my life. My daughter could make that bitchy anchor from my past cower down in a corner and sob uncontrollably.  My son is the greatest combination of clumsy and fearless; therefore we are on first name basis with the local ER staff. What does this have to do with PR you ask?  One of the many tasks a publicist has to handle is crisis management. When shit hits the fan, you need to be able to think quickly on your feet and take action. And of course, do so while never allowing anyone to see you sweat. You may be crying and convulsing on the inside, but you save that crap for later when you are stuffing your face with Oreos in the privacy of your own home.  One afternoon, my son fell in the bathtub and cut his chin open. He asked, “Mom, how bad is it?” I certainly didn’t tell him blood was gushing and bone was hanging out, making me want to pass out. Nope. Everything was fine. Minor scratch. “Let’s just take a trip to the hospital immediately because Mommy ran out of big band-aids.” As much as you prepare and plan for an event or project, sometimes you get thrown a curveball. A reporter can ask a question that wasn’t on the talking points. A power point presentation can have a glitch. On-air talent can get lost or stuck in traffic. These are all stressful moments, however it’s what differentiates a good publicist from a great publicist.

Before having kids I didn’t have a clue what stress was. I was oblivious. Now that I’m a freelance publicist, I don’t even get phased by stressful moments. I eat them for breakfast.

Before most people get to their office, I’ve managed to wrangle and referee three small gremlins, bathed and dressed them, made and packed three different lunches, and carted them off to three different schools. My kids range in age from preschool to middleschool so I’m knee-deep in pimples, hormones, tantrums, Ninja Turtles and Shopkins.  I’m no longer scared of “difficult” clients. Ha! I’m raising them.

I know multitasking is a somewhat frowned upon term however it is what a working mother does. I now take a conference call, write a press release, update a client’s social media status and make my children’s breakfast at the same time. On a given day, I can drive the kids to gymnastics, t-ball, hockey and daycare and then head up to a convention, a TV segment, and a charity walk for cancer. And now with Bluetooth, I can do all that driving and take as many client calls as needed.

The other thing that has changed since I’ve become a freelancer is I’m no longer trying to prove my worth to colleagues or the world. The people I want to inspire are my children. I want my daughter to see that I didn’t have to choose between a career and motherhood. Just like her dad, I can have both. I want my kids to understand that if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish your dreams. That’s what drives me. My little nuggets. It’s amazing how when you have other lives to mold, everything becomes bigger. More.

I want to be successful not just to help provide for my kids, but to show them an example of success on your own terms. My career didn’t take a straight line. I had turns, pit stops and deviations. But I didn’t give up. I stayed on the path and picked up some little hitchhikers along the way! My children gave my life purpose and meaning. They are my happiness. Life is about balance. I wouldn’t want an employee who didn’t have a personal life. People burn out when they don’t have purpose and balance.  As a young publicist, I never understood this. Today, at 39 and-a-half (okay I actually just turned 40), I am more efficient and get more accomplished, then I ever did before. Why?  Maybe it’s because having kids inadvertently causes you to have time management. I know when the clock strikes 5 o’clock, my gremlins are going to be climbing the walls if they aren’t fed and tended to. Therefore, I better make those business deals happen by closing time.

But, at the end of the day it’s not brain surgery. I’m not curing cancer or saving the world.  Press releases can be sent the next day. Pitches can be made the following afternoon.  I don’t feel defeated.  I no longer fear the unknown. I am invigorated for what the future brings whether it’s a bitchy TV personality or a snarky reporter. They don’t scare me…I have kids!

IMG_1063IMG_0545

My pride and joy – Mack, Nina and Will. I feel the need to explain the second photo. I was on a conference call with a new client when my tweener decided it was a great idea to duct tape his feet and hands together and then hop down the carpeted stairs. The result? Rug burn down the entire right side of his body. We have stock in Neosporin so it’s totally a win-win. I’ve also perfected the art of networking. I now have a fantastic orthopedic nurse and holistic MD in my inner circle. I trade promotional tips for the occasional wound and/or rash consult. Improvise, adapt and overcome my friends!

Spring into Summer

So, here we are at the end of March and although most people have spring break or Easter on the brain; PR peeps are focusing on end of summer holidays such as Memorial Day and July 4th.  Even if you aren’t in the Public Relations industry, it may be a good idea to start thinking like a publicist.  You see, many successful entrepreneurs believe in order to grow and thrive, you need to plan ahead, strategize, and really think about where you want to see your brand in the next quarter.

For instance, if you have a product that is geared towards women, right now you should definitely be sending out story ideas for Easter and Mother’s Day.  Right?  Of course!  But, in a world where there are 50 million other brands that offer similar products, how do you get yours noticed?

The key is in the planning.  In order to reach and peek the interest of your consumer, you have to convey a thought provoking message that truly speaks to your core demographic .  For instance, for a holiday like Mother’s Day, you could just offer the typical coupon code or free giveaway like everyone else. Or, you could produce a heartfelt video post on social media offering personalized stories and images that engages your audience.  Perhaps at the end of the video you offer a fun giveaway or discount.

These types of promotional ideas take time to plan and execute.  We’ve all seen the off-the-cuff videos posted on Facebook or Instagram with smart phones.  Now, these videos can be very entertaining, but they aren’t going to garner a successful media campaign.  The videos I’m suggesting require proper lighting, a professional videographer and a script or a very clear outline.

Another idea worth mentioning is cross-promotion. Especially around holidays. You may offer an amazing brand or service, but there is definitely power in numbers.  The phrase, “If you can’t beat them, join them,” comes to mind.  If you find a like-minded company, why not partner for a holiday or event and offer a great package deal?  For instance, there are some really amazing charities that produce very successful fundraising events. If your brand is clothing and someone else makes delicious baked goods, offer a sweet deal for participants of a 5K event who are raising money for Breast Cancer or Children’s Literacy.  You can widen the reach with a contest for radio listeners and local newspapers. This will generate media for all parties involved.  And, in a world where we are becoming more environmentally conscious, health conscious, and socially conscious, it makes sense to have a brand that stands for these principals as well.

Happy pitching my PR friends!

Warm Regards,

Lindsey

What Does a Publicist Do?

timesquarereb

When I tell people “I’m a publicist,” I often get asked, “What exactly does that entail?” Well, that’s actually a hard question to answer.  I usually stick with my standard go-to phrase: “I help people and brands connect with the media and get their message across to the consumer.”  But, truth be told, there’s a whole lot of details, stress, and craziness that’s involved.  I suppose it’s similar to a fashion show or a Broadway play where stoic models and actors are on stage and the shit is hitting the fan backstage.  It’s ordered chaos though, of course. It’s stressful and high pressured but it can be very rewarding and entertaining.

In my nearly 20 years in the PR industry, I have seen quite a lot. Some things that were amazing and some things that made me want to bleach my eyeballs. I have met celebrities, industry icons, amazing philanthropists; but I’ve also met seedy, shady characters that belonged in straight jackets as well.  There are people in the “entertainment industry” that make you want to take a scalding shower after shaking their hand or people so void of morals that the minute you get home you squeeze your loved ones so tight they turn slightly blue.

Yes, I’ve endured cringe-worthy moments where either a reporter or a celebrity has spoken to me like I was a bug on the bottom of their overpriced loafer (or Manolo stiletto); moments where I definitely wanted to run and cry in the bathroom.  But as a publicist, you can never let them see you sweat.  So, I sucked it up and put my big girl panties on. As my mother used to say,  “Lindsey, you can cry into your Ben & Jerry’s while wearing your Hello Kitty PJs, later. Now’s not the time.”

What’s my best armor against snarky people in this business?

I do my research.  I know who my client’s audience is and what that consumer is looking for.  If I invited a reporter to my event, I know what he/she has covered in the past.  I know the tone in which they write their column.  It’s not often, but sometimes there is a need to push back.  So if someone is trying to discredit my client or poke fun at their product, I have an arsenal of data, statistics, and case studies if need be.

I have always been a team player. In my younger years that made me feel like I could hide behind the curtain. But now, it means I know the teams and the fields very well.   At an event, I’m often the one running around in a black suit with sensible shoes, an iPhone, and a folder.  I’m volleying between the celebrities, hosts and honorees; and the media.  Usually we hire an in-house TV and photog crew as well, so in addition to making sure the outside press gets their interviews, I also make sure our in-house crews get first dibs on all interviews and news worthy items.  What’s in the folder?  The folder contains bios, press releases, and photos of important VIP guests.  Did you really think I knew the correct spelling and title of everyone that walks the red carpet!?!  During an event, I probably burn a marathon’s worth of calories while escorting VIPs down the red carpet, coordinating interviews and putting out fires–we can’t have the fashion editor sitting at the sponsor’s table!  The real work however, is done weeks before we opened the doors and rolled out the red carpet.  In order to get a reasonable amount of press to show up at the event, I most likely have contacted over 1,000 reporters, producers and editors.  Yep. I emailed, called, left voice-mails, and IM’d everyone on my database, several times…to get 20 yes’s.

Imagine meeting one of your idols? I did.

One of my career highs was an event in Beverly Hills honoring Meryl Streep, right before the 2003 Oscars.  Working on that event was an amazing experience.  I worked on timing the event, writing scripts, seating charts, red carpet arrivals, satellite feeds and media placements.  Although I had worked with many celebrity publicists by that point, I had never worked with celebrity wranglers prior.  And, I had never worked with an industry icon like Lois Smith.

Wow. I’m not sure if I was more in awe of her or Meryl, who was down to earth and very gracious by the way.

Smith was responsible for forming careers like Robert Redford, Marilyn Monroe, and Martin Scorsese.  She didn’t have to hide behind niceties or a public image.  She oozed intelligence and power, which in the hour I was in her presence, I tried to soak up.  She was always at arm’s length to Meryl.  She buffered Meryl when necessary but also connected when appropriate.  A few times during the night I might have been caught pinching myself.  I sat next to Meryl’s dear friend Carrie Fisher and listened to her reminisce about old times in Hollywood.  Such a contrast to the night before when my husband and I were sitting in a cramped Chinese restaurant fighting over baby names!

Another lesson I’ve learned along the way is that publicity is a very results driven business.  I can often do the same amount of work for one client who gets awesome results, as I can for a client who can’t get one interview request. Why?  Well, it’s a tricky business.  It depends on timing, the news cycle, who you’re competing against, and how media savvy your client is.  If you’re pitching a fluffy lifestyle piece the same day as an Ebola outbreak or a celebrity lands in jail (that’s not Lindsay Lohan), kiss your chances goodbye.  If you have an event with several “B” or “C” level celebrities, the same night as a high-profile event like the Oscars, again, kiss your chances adios muchachos.

That being said, if you try to counsel your client and they still insist on having the event that day, and you don’t get a stitch of media but you still did ALL the work, you’d still expect to be paid, right?  It’s not a service where you pay for something and walk out the door with a product for your money.  But, with the right amount of finesse, publicity can bring a brand out of the woodwork and into the limelight.  

I have worked with some amazing charities and brought media attention to some great causes.  For instance, at an event for shelter dogs, I had Ice-T and Coco make an appearance, which they graciously did for free because they are avid dog lovers.  Their appearance garnered more attention for the event and therefore meant more dogs got adopted that day.  And that’s just one of the smaller examples…

A magazine I handle publicity for honors philanthropic women around the country each year.  These women are tireless pioneers, helping build schools, feed the poor, treat the sick, and fill a need where they saw a void in a community.  I have never been so humbled by an event.  I truly love promoting these women in their hometowns and to national outlets.  I still stay in touch with some of these women and their charities because they have forever changed me.  It’s moments like these that remind me why I entered this business.  When I was starting out, I wanted a fulfilling career that made me feel empowered, showcased my talents, and helped people.  I may not be saving lives or building schools in Africa, but I have promoted charities and women who have.

Because of my press release, a TV crew came to an event and several dogs found forever homes.

Because of my pitch letter, a remarkable woman got to tell her story on a national morning show.

Do you remember several years back when Jamie Lee Curtis stripped down to her underwear untouched on the cover of a magazine?

I was the publicist who sent that story to USA Today and Entertainment Tonight the week before it hit newsstands.  But no one (except those who read this blog) will know it was me that got that woman in that chair, telling her story, sharing her dream, with the country. No one will know it was me that stayed up until the wee hours of the night sending out that press release or that magazine article that made headlines. But does it really matter?  Nope, not to me. That’s not why I became a publicist. I just wanted to help others tell their stories.  I never wanted to be a celebrity or in the limelight. I just wanted to see the limelight shine from my kids’ eyes.  And this career has allowed me the flexibility to be around for every one of my kids’ milestone moments.  I may have been racing down the parkway at warp speed from some event in NYC, but I got to the bus stop on time, I got to the recital or game, or graduation.  I may have gotten a speeding or parking ticket in the process, but those details really don’t matter.

So what does being a publicist entail?  

I guess the short answer is I’m a juggler, a multi-tasker, a schmoozer, and a bit of a fortune teller.   However, the most important task is I’m a connector.  I connect stories and people to their audience, their consumer.   Sometimes that message is providing golf-wear to someone who wants to look stylish on the green or recipes to a frazzled mom looking for ideas for dinner.  But sometimes, the message I’m connecting is helping provide shelter and food to those in need.  All in a day’s work!

Photo is by Dr. Rebecca York @ York Wellness

Helpful Hints for Holiday Pitches

 

Snowman

Hey PR peeps!

As most people around the globe are gearing up for the holidays, stressing about shopping, wrapping and cooking…those of us in the PR realm are fretting (and sweating) about the competitive world of holiday segments and stories. If you are a business offering a service or product, the holidays are an optimal time to get your brand out in the public eye.

The snafu with this theory is that you are in competition with every other brand out there!  Even if you have a great unique product at an affordable rate, it’s hard to compete with powerhouse companies that have a media savvy spokesperson.

So what’s a small business to do?

First, to beat the competition you need to be ahead of the game. Start planning your holiday pitches at least three months in advance for long-lead media like taped television shows and monthly magazines.  When it comes to daily newspapers, blogs and live TV, you don’t need to send material that far in advance.

Keep in mind, reporters get thousands of emails a day. Make yours stand out with a catchy subject line and include photos in the text of email to bring your idea to life. However, try not to add attachments to initial email. These generally get red flagged and tossed in recycle bin, especially if you don’t have a relationship with the reporter.

Lastly, keep your pitch short and sweet.  Why would the outlet’s readers or viewers be interested in you or your product? Bullet a few ideas/talking points.  And make the deal sweeter by offering them a discount or promo code, especially in the spirit of the holidays!

Good luck and God Bless.

Warm Regards,

Lindseysig.jpg2

 

 

 

Photograph is by Julia Harrold