5 Tips to Improve Your Awards Entry or Nomination

by Josh Weiss

Similar to receiving media coverage, awards provide third-party credibility to your business or organization.  It’s someone else saying that you’re good, worthy of recognition and praise.

Which makes it surprising that a lot of companies fail to apply for awards. Some may be intimidated by the process or fear the time it will take to gather the requested information.  Others simply don’t view themselves worthy of recognition.  No matter the excuse, it’s a missed opportunity.

The good news is that it “thins the herd,” often reducing the competition for the companies willing to put in a little extra work to submit their nominations.

My team has submitted hundreds of award nominations for our clients (and ourselves) over the years.  In this process, we’ve developed our own internal cheat sheet to maximize the chance of our entries.  

Allow me to share a few of those tips here.

  1. Fill out the entire form.  Ask any awards judge, there are always entries where the nominee leaves out requested information.  Even when it says an item is optional, complete it if possible.  Don’t give the judges any excuse to think you don’t want the award or weren’t willing to put in the time. Don’t create an opening for another nominee to look better than you simply because they filled out the entire nomination form.
  2. Go for the points.  Nearly every award application clearly says what answers judges will be grading you on, and within each question it will specifically list what you are to answer. Most judges are instructed to give each answer a point value (such as one to five). If you fail to answer even a single requested fact or detail, you are likely to lose a point. You won’t gain the point back by answering another detail that was requested twice.  This ensures that everyone is judged equally, against the same criteria. With winners chosen by who gets the most judges points, you need to fight for every point, taking every point available to you. 
  3. Highlight your answers.  As you write your nomination, highlight every detail/response which directly answers a specific element of the question.  For example, a question may ask you to share the problem that you had to fix, followed by examples of tactics used to achieve the desired result, followed by your budget for the project. In your answer, highlight the phrase: the problem was; the tactics we used were; our budget was, etc.  Force the judges to see you answered every required detail within the question to ensure you get the full points available for each answer.
  4. Have a “judge” review your entry before submitting.  It’s always good to have someone review your writing to look for typos or to offer feedback.  When it comes to award submissions, we recommend asking a co-worker or peer not directly involved in the project to review your nomination as a judge would.  Ask them to tick off each detail you answered from the application’s questions. If anything isn’t ticked off, then you need to go back and add it into your application to make sure you get all the points available to improve your submission.
  5. It doesn’t matter if you think you actually deserve to win. We often hear from a client that they want to wait until next year when they think they’ll be more worthy or have a better chance to win. We strongly discourage that approach.  Apply now, and let the judges decide if you’re worthy.  If they don’t choose you, how is that worse than never having applied in the first place?  If they do choose you, all the better. Winning now doesn’t mean the company stops continuing to improve. Plus, applying now might improve your chances of winning next year. I cannot tell you how many companies we’ve nominated are named a finalist the first time they apply, only to win the year after when they demonstrate the improvement front one year to the next.

Once judging is complete, most awards announce their list of finalists to then start promoting the awards event.  When recognized as a finalist, I strongly encourage you to quickly and loudly celebrate this achievement. Immediately put out a press release to celebrate and promote this validation of your company and staff right away.  Add a logo of the award to your website stating that you’re a finalist.

A few weeks later if you learn during the awards ceremony that you won the top prize, you get to start the celebration all over again with a second announcement. If someone else is chosen for the top prize, you already got your moment in the sun and everyone already views you as a winner. And the finalist logo you already added to your website can stay there, continuing to promote your recognition for years to come.

Here’s another nugget we tell our clients. Sometimes it’s better for companies to only be a finalist and NOT win the actual top prize. Why? Because if you’re only a finalist, you’re likely allowed to apply again the next year whereas the winner cannot apply again for several years.  I rather put out several press releases over a couple of years for a client saying they were repeatedly recognized as an excellent company, than a one-time announcement.

Finally, I simply encourage you to apply. Worst that happens is you’re not chosen- which is the same result than not having applied at all. Plus, even if not selected, by completing the nomination it reminds you and your team all that your company is achieving, regardless of if the judge sees it or not. It might just be the morale boost you or your team needs at that moment to internally recognize your successes.

To Hibernate or Accelerate. That is the COVID Business Question.

A lot of business leaders are worried, and unsure what to do.  I get it.  Initially I was too but luckily, I’m past that stage.

Early in the crisis, I read a blog on LinkedIn written by an acquaintance, small business owner Derrick Mains, Founder of Playbook Systems and President of Phat Scooters. The blog had a big effect on me and gave me confidence in choosing my own path forward through the COVID crisis.

The Lookback

Here’s the gist… at least what I took from it. 

The blog talked about the fear that many companies have about going backwards in a bad economy, and how to prepare, protect, react, and recover from business setbacks. Too many business owners are stunned into paralysis if they have a big drop in revenue or business and are unsure what to do—putting the survival of the company itself at risk.

Instead, he suggests that business owners actually DO know what to do- because they’ve already been there. He refers to it as “the Lookback.”

If a million-dollar business loses 20%, it already knows what the company should look like at $800,000 because the company has already been there. He suggested simply going back to the same staffing levels, expenses, and footprint you had at that income level, then rebuilding yourself back up to that million-dollar company the same way you did the first time.

That thought process really resonated with me, removing my own fears of what I would do if my company, which had been steadily growing, started trending backwards in the new economy. With a potential path forward removing my impending paralysis, I didn’t feel the need to hibernate. Instead I choose to try and accelerate my business.

Hibernate vs Accelerate

When I say hibernate, I’m referring to companies taking a more defensive, protection-orient approach. Many of these companies are using the strategy of hording their cash and reducing expenses with plans to ride out this crazy time by retaining enough resources to quickly rebuild.

In contrast, companies that chose to accelerate took more risks and essentially “doubled down” during uncertain times. Working harder and faster in an attempt to pivot or grow their business while their competitors were sitting it out or waiting to see how things turned out before charting a path forward.

Both strategies are sound, and both can backfire. It’s really a decision of risk and comfort as you can’t choose either half-way and succeed.

Our Decision to Accelerate

Early March I made the decision to accelerate. With so many PR and marketing agencies struggling, a big piece of our strategy was to make sure everyone knew that we were strong, and that we were going to thrive in the new economy.  

I started by talking to my staff and making sure they felt personally safe, knowing that we’re full steam ahead. Even if we lost a few clients in the short term, we could weather the hits so not to become afraid or distracted. With the team confident that their jobs were safe, consciously and subconsciously they can pass that confidence along to our clients and others in the community.   

Next, I reached out to clients and asked if they needed help or flexibility in the short term. While our client base is pretty diverse, we still have some travel and real estate related clients who were getting hammered or faced a lot of uncertainty. Our early offer of flexibility not only demonstrated our good will, but potentially stopped clients from leaving, even if some had to initially pause or alter their budgets. To our great delight, several of the effected clients were able to return to their pre-COVID scopes of work within a few months- something that surprised us both. Had we not been flexible up front, we might have lost them altogether.   

The next major thing we did was invest back into the company. I renewed organizational memberships and subscriptions early, while I knew we had the money available in case I needed to stretch dollars later in the year. 

I also invested in advertising while others were pulling back. This gave us better placements at lower rates while other companies were hibernating.  Sure, fewer companies were looking for PR help, but there were also much fewer “window shoppers”. The few who were looking were much hotter leads and were much more likely to sign a contract with us, or someone else.

The strategy paid off quickly. While most agencies were losing clients, we added several new long-term clients. Some were COVID related, others were not. We celebrated these wins, announcing them to demonstrate that we were “open for business” at a time when a lot of companies were avoiding the news. This led to even more prospect interest and new conversations with additional companies.

Finally, we started offering free advice and PR tips to businesses that weren’t in a position to pay us. We created a series of 2-minute videos of COVID-19 Crisis PR Tips and shared them widely via social media. We offered free workshops through the Better Business Bureau and local Chambers giving away ideas and advice. Short term we knew this wouldn’t “pay off.” We just viewed it as the right thing to do, with the hope that it might show long-term benefits while growing our brand recognition in the short-term. 

What’s Next?

Now that we’re moving past the initial months and the initial shock of COVID, I’m predicting two big changes for the second half of 2020 that will again alter the health of economy and reposition companies long-term.

First, with the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) coming to an end, we’re likely to see a lot more layoffs in the coming weeks as the employee protections expire. We’re also likely to see a lot of companies announcing that they’re closing for good or entering bankruptcy. While the first wave of job losses particularly hurt hourly workers in the restaurant and hospitality industry, this next wave is likely to hit salaried workers even harder.

Second, I am predicting that more business leaders are going to start taking more risks as they realize that this new abnormal is going to last through 2020 and into 2021 until a vaccine is fully distributed. Hibernating companies are starting to peek their heads out again, trying to figure out how to pivot themselves in the new economy. This will create partnership opportunities for companies, and threats to others as they see competitors get more active and offer new variations to compete.

And that’s just the business-related changes in the second half of 2020. I’m not even talking about the news coverage related distractions (and likely chaos) with rolling COVID hot zones, the upcoming restart of professional sports (assuming they actually restart), social justice movements happening across the country, the start of the new school year (k-12, and college), and the November election.  

Predicting the future is impossible right now. All companies can do is choose a path. Accelerate or Hibernate. As for my current strategy, we’re keeping our foot on the accelerator. By helping our clients to grow and succeed, we help our own company as well. We believe that pushing for and securing a strong finish in 2020, it will carry us into 2021 and the new abnormal. 

And if we do take a few steps backwards– like a lot of companies will—there’s comfort in knowing that we’ve been there before and already know the path forward.

— written by Josh Weiss, President of 10 to 1 Public Relations

It’s Okay to Have Imposter Syndrome

Do you ever feel like an imposter? That at some point other people will realize you don’t have the answers? Here’s what got me thinking about these questions.

One of our clients hosts an annual convention each year where more than 10,000 people gather at a big resort to celebrate their success and to introduce new products.  We’ve attended the event for the last six years, and it’s a really well-done event. Last year was in Las Vegas, and this year was supposed to be in Nashville, but COVID-19 forced it to become a virtual event.

Anyway, this year’s virtual convention is just days away, but it got me thinking about last year’s event. One of the breakout sessions featured one of the more successful Ambassadors (Independent Sales Representatives) where she admitted to a room full of her peers of equal stature (around 1,000 people) that she was an imposter. She said she felt like a fraud. That people were fools on her team to think she knew all the answers and knew exactly what to do all the time. In truth, she was just making it up as she went along. Trying to copy what her mentors were doing and demonstrating for their teams and demonstrating it to her own team.

I thought she was talking about me. A year later, I still do.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m still extremely confident in my team on the work we’re doing for clients. I’m proud that we’ve won a lot of awards for our work. I’m thrilled that we continue to grow and have added clients despite COVID – that we’ve adapted to new realities that will result in us coming out of COVID stronger than when it started. All the same, I keep looking at my team and others in the industry expecting them to finally realize that I’m an imposter. That I don’t have all the answers and that I’m making it up as we go along.

And that’s the point. The point the convention presenter made in her confession. It’s okay to feel like an imposter, and it’s okay not to know all the answers. The key is to share the answers you do have as it helps lift those around you up.  It’s okay, no, completely appropriate as a leader to ask for opinions of your team and of those you consider mentors to help you make decisions when you’re unsure of what to do next.

I’m lucky to have a team where I can ask and trust their opinion. I’m lucky to be part of IPREX, an exclusive network of independent PR firms from around the globe where I can ask dumb questions and learn from leader of other amazing PR agencies that I’d love to emulate.

What I’ve learned is that it’s not a one-way street. They’re asking me questions back and requesting my opinion too.  Just as that convention speaker told the group, just because you feel like an imposter sometimes, it doesn’t mean you don’t have value to add.

Here’s the sad truth. We’re all just a bunch of posers seeking validation and approval. Imposter syndrome can be real, but it doesn’t change the work that needs to be done. It doesn’t change what you already know and can share with others. The final lesson is to follow your gut even when it’s not popular or when you’re unsure of what to do. Because in the end, you’re the one staring yourself in the mirror once time tells you if you were right or wrong.

– Josh Weiss, President of 10 to 1 Public Relations

Video Series: Public Relations Tips To Get Through COVID-19

As the novel coronavirus has spread across the globe, business as we have known it has been upended. While we work together to stop the spread of COVID-19, there are things companies can be doing to position themselves to withstand the pandemic, help the community, and ultimately come out of this crisis stronger.

Public relations can play a role in delivering on these goals. 10 to 1 President Josh Weiss has created a video series of brief videos to give you ideas on how you can best position your company utilizing basic public relations and crisis communications tactics.

You can check out our video series below or on our YouTube page.


PR & COVID-19: Share Your Expertise

https://youtube.com/watch?v=4rCj5Sf89oY%3Ffeature%3Doembed

PR & COVID-19: Find Opportunity for Every Story

https://youtube.com/watch?v=atS6Rv0KRDs%3Ffeature%3Doembed

PR & COVID-19: Walk Through Your Warehouse

https://youtube.com/watch?v=emdFN9dWdA0%3Ffeature%3Doembed

PR & COVID-19: Pivoting The Right Way

https://youtube.com/watch?v=pnpAuAJ82Dg%3Ffeature%3Doembed

PR & COVID-19: Follow The Leader

https://youtube.com/watch?v=3eroAMKpMNM%3Ffeature%3Doembed

PR & COVID-19: Be Honest With Your Customers

https://youtube.com/watch?v=E0drKp1XgoM%3Ffeature%3Doembed

More videos will be added on a regular basis – stay tuned!

12 Tips for Successful At-Home Remote Video Interviews with the Media

You’ve landed a remote interview with a television station, congratulations! How do you make sure it goes well and you get your message across? How can you best avoid any technology failures or unwanted interruptions?

There are several things to keep in mind to ensure that you are prepared for the interview, both when it comes to visuals and audio.

BEFORE THE INTERVIEW

1. Ensure you have the proper technology. Things to consider:

  • Make sure that you have the appropriate video software downloaded to your computer and that it is the most updated version.
  • If you have an external camera and/or microphone, ensure they are set up and working.
  • You can use headphones during the interview to enhance your audio, as the microphone will be higher quality than a standard computer microphone and be closer to your mouth to pick up your sound better. However, do not use large over-ear headphones as they will not look appealing on camera. Earbuds are recommended. If they are corded, use the one side with the microphone and hide the cord as best you can.

2. Identify your interview location. This should be a room in your home that has a door that can be closed to shut out unwanted interruptions. It should also be as close as possible to your internet router to ensure you have a strong internet connection.

3. Set up your space. Things to pay attention to:

  • Light source – You want to avoid any light coming from behind you. If you have to position yourself in front of a window, close the blinds. A “fancy” at home set up will include a “ring light” that will cast a favorable light on your face to make you look your best. If you do not have access to a ring light but your face lacks the proper lighting, find a lamp in your home that you can position that shines some light on your face.
  • Background – You don’t want a cluttered space in the background, but you also don’t want it to be barren. Positioning a bookshelf behind you is usually an appealing visual. Doublecheck the bookcase before the interview to ensure that all of the viewable titles are appropriate. If you don’t have a bookshelf, you can use a small table or desk behind you to arrange some memorabilia like photos or other décor for some visual interest. If you have merchandise or props related to your interview/company, they should be placed somewhere in the video frame.
  • Set up a comfortable chair – You will want to be seated during the interview to prevent any random movements that may be distracting. Avoid a swivel chair if possible.
  • Camera/Computer Position – Depending on how you will be seated, you will want to set up your computer or camera so that it is elevated. The camera should be level with your eyes for the optimal image. Elevate your computer by using a laptop stand or a stack of books. For the best framing, you’ll want to position the camera about an arm’s length away from you.

4. Run a Test. Using the appropriate video software with any external equipment set up, run a test call with a friend or colleague to ensure that your video and audio are working well and that you are happy with your setup.

DURING THE INTERVIEW

5. Prevent any noise interruptions. Items to check off:

  • Turn your phone to “do not disturb” mode.
  • Put a sign on your door that says, “do not disturb.” If necessary, do the same for your front door and ask people not to ring the doorbell.
  • Alert family members of your interview time and request that they stay quiet or in another part of the house.
  • Hide pets in another room for the duration of the interview.

6. Wear the appropriate clothing. Avoid bright patterns or colors that would blend in with your background. Solid pastels are best. Do not wear bright white or green, as these colors do not work well on screen.

7. Keep your body in check. Things to keep in mind:

  • Check your posture. While seated, make sure you are sitting straight up. Roll your shoulders back to check you have the right posture.
  • Stop bouncing your legs. It’s normal to experience some nerves before or during an interview. Keep your feet planted to avoid bouncing your legs.
  • Watch your hands. Some people are very expressive with their hands when they speak. This can be distracting during a video interview. Try to keep your hands in your lap while you’re speaking for the most part, a little hand motion during some of the interview is okay.
  • Grab a glass of water to keep by your setup in case it is needed during the interview.

8. Speak slowly and clearly. Speak more slowly than you normally would, it may sound weird to you but it will help you reduce the number of “ums” and allow the viewers to better follow your messaging.

9. Keep eye contact with the camera. It may feel awkward not looking at the computer screen when answering the reporter’s questions, but you’ll look your best for the interview when you are looking directly at the camera while you are speaking.

AFTER THE INTERVIEW

10. Thank the reporter. Ask if there is anything else that you can do to help them with the story. If the interview was recorded and will be used later, ask when they anticipate the interview will air.

11. Send b-roll and photos. If the interview was recorded, send the reporter any additional b-roll or photos that could help enhance their story.

12. Share the interview. Once the interview has aired or been posted, share it far and wide via your social media channels and email newsletter! Be sure to also post it to the media or blog page of your website. 

Following these tips should guarantee a successful remote at-home video interview. It is particularly important to consider these tips at this time while the coronavirus pandemic has forced many television news stations to shift operations and prioritize remote interviews like these. By providing an excellent interview, it’s more likely that you’ll be invited back for another interview in the future.

— written by Erica Fetherston, Sr. Account Exec at 10 to 1 Public Relations

The First 24 Hours of a Crisis: Offer Questions, NOT Answers

Boom.  Out of nowhere, a crisis hits your company or community. As the leader, everyone’s turning to you.  In part to see how you react, but mostly for instruction confirming how they’re supposed to respond. 

Everyone’s turning to you for answers- but that’s the last thing you should be doing during the first 24 hours of a crisis.  Your job the first 24 hours is to ask questions, and to avoid giving answers.

The first questions you ask should be directed to your employees.  What do they need to deal with the immediate problem? How can you help get them the help they need, quickly? These questions not only demonstrate your support to your team but instructs them to take action.

The next set of questions are to gather information.  How many people were initially, directly affected by the crisis issue?  Follow that with questions about how to prevent new victims from being negatively affected by the same crisis in the coming hours.

These questions upfront are necessary to gather the information you need to make strategic decisions and ultimately later, proclamations for the future.

Even when talking to reporters, customers or the public, you should still focus on asking questions during the first 24 hours, not giving answers.

During the first 24 hours avoid making declarative statements or accusations against others that commit you or your company to certain actions. Avoid giving definitive answers or suggesting long-term solutions that could be considered controversial as your statement will come across as opportunistic instead of as a genuine solution.

The only initial statements you should make are holding statements (see our earlier blog entitled Part 1 of what to do in a PR crisis). Otherwise, you essentially should be rephrasing and sharing the questions you asked your staff and the answers you were given.  Basically you’re going to say that your team is still investigating details of the incident to make sure it never happens again, but your immediate priority is to better understand the full impact to those effected and how best, and most quickly to help them.

It’s only on day two, after more facts are known and cooler heads prevail, that you can start delivering answers and rallying support for specific actions. 

If there’s a general uproar over the crisis, you can also ask rhetorical questions.  For example, if the crisis is a criminal act made against your company, ask aloud who would do such a heinous thing effecting so many. Share in the public outcry and frustration, but be careful in pointing blame outwards if you suspect a member of your team might be involved.

As the leader, your job when a crisis hits is to ask questions and support your teams in resolving the immediate threat.  After the immediate pressure of the crisis subsides, your job refocuses into identifying what caused the problem and initiating a long-term fix to avoid a repeat of the crisis and regain the confidence of your customers and the public.

A fantastic example and story of how to deploy the 24 hours of questions before providing answers strategy can be heard in a podcast called Without Fail where in an episode featuring Dayton, Ohio Mayor Nan Whaley talks about the immediate aftermath of the mass shooting outside a Dayton entertainment area called the Oregon District. Here’s a link to the episode https://gimletmedia.com/shows/without-fail/v4h8ow including a transcript of the discussion.

Does Your Company Have a Media Emergency Playbook?

How your Company Can Win By Preparing for a Media Crisis Like It’s a Game.

Remember from childhood the game “Mad Libs”?  It’s the grammar game where there’s a one-page story with a bunch of missing words in the narrative.  The game leader asks the other kids to yell out what’s called for in the blank space- like a Verb, or a City name, a person’s occupation, an Adjective, etc.  After all the missing words are filled in, the game leader reads the now silly story to the enjoyment of the other kids who help contribute to the narrative. 

Games are fun, but some games are more important to win than others.  If you want to your company to win during a media emergency/PR crisis, you need to prepare in advance.  One way to win is by copying the Mad Libs game structure to creating a media emergency playbook your company can use when needed.

Let’s face it, it’s not IF a media emergency will occur, but WHEN.  A bad response can create a significant, lasting negative perception for a company, while a well-handled crisis can earn you long-term customer, employee and investor loyalty. The good news is that it’s possible to manage a crisis well, aided a little bit of planning.

Here are some tips to create a media emergency response plan.

Start by creating a list of the five most likely negative crisis scenarios that could happen to your company. 

For example, if you have employees driving company branded vehicles, a likely crisis could be a bad crash.  If you have employees performing manual, skilled labor, maybe there’s potential for a significant injury or loss of life. If you handle personal information or credit card information, there’s a significant risk of a hack or stolen data.

Create a one or two paragraph written statement for each scenario of how you would respond. 

The initial statement is simply to acknowledge the issue and demonstrate to the public and media that you’re taking the issue seriously and professionally and are investigating it to gather more facts.  It isn’t supposed to be detailed nor is it to explain how you’re fixing the problem.

This initial statement (often called a holding statement) will give you time to provide a more meaningful update (several hours or even a day) later, when you would share more details and examples of how you’re dealing with the situation.

Get sign-off from Executives, Legal team, etc. on your proposed statement.

Get approvals for your template statements now, before the crisis scenario actually occurs.  Examples would be Executives or the Legal team, who most normally would delay a response in the moment because they’d insist on reviewing and wordsmithing it first.  With your pre-approved response, all you’ll need to do is “fill in the blanks” and update some of the details like names, locations, other vital stats, etc.  With the initial media statement out of the way, you will save the entire team significant time allowing them to focus on the actual crisis and to help get it resolved.  Your fast response will also help protect your reputation and influence the public’s response when they learn about the crisis.

Start over and create another list of five potential scenarios which may be less likely to occur, but which scare you (or your CEO) the most. 

Maybe it’s a #MeToo scenario, or fear of an employee being arrested at work even though their crime has nothing to do with your business.  Go through the same process of preparing a short response and getting Executive and Legal approvals.

Strategically share the Media Emergency Playbook with key Executives and company spokespeople.

Not everyone should get a copy of your template responses.  Only share it with the handful of people most likely and authorized to share them with reporters on short notice.  These aren’t public documents for all to see in advance.  While the circle of people with copies should be small, it needs to be a large enough group where the people who ultimately need them can’t locate or find them. Especially in the event the most obvious people are on vacation and/or unreachable. 

While there’s a lot more to be done to properly prepare for, let alone handle, a crisis, having a “Mad Libs” style media emergency playbook is a great start for any company.

Welcome to the Nerd Zone

Out of nowhere, a silly gif image made me swell with pride as a small business owner.

A couple weeks ago, a new employee joined my team.  At the end of her first week, she sent a note to her coworkers thanking everyone for making her feel so welcomed and for helping her to learn our processes, resources, etc.  

Another employee quickly responded with a gif of Stephen Colbert saying: “Welcome to the Nerd Zone, My Friend!”

I know that shouldn’t be one of the gratifying moments I’ve had as a business owner, but it felt that way.  Building a culture for a company is hard. You can be a good person, but not fit because company culture is a mix of personalities, passions, and experiences.  Culture is more than simply the employees that work for the company, but the clients that employees serve.   It’s why we have a “no jerks” policy (which includes both co-workers and clients).

I say this admiringly… while they might be cooler than I am personally, collectively my team is a super cool collection of nerds, dorks, and dare I say it, geeks. We aren’t for everyone, and we don’t want to be.  I want to work with people who are passionate about earning stories and getting results for their clients.  I assume those same likeminded people enjoy working here because we’re focused, like to work, and abhor office drama.  

Our clients tend to be similarly driven- albeit individually as people most are more “cool” than we are.  It’s when we see the same nerdy passion that we know we’re a good fit.  A “normal” person might think a company is boring.  It’s hard for some outsiders to see that electrical contracting has so many interesting stories attached to it, or that there are so many different neat facets and angles to topics like orthopedics or generic medicines. But get together two people with a similar interest or knowledge base and the excitement and passion you witness during a discussion can become riveting. 

That’s what we look for in a client. People who think their business or industry is fascinating, even if the general public (or a reporter) may not initially see it.  Passion is what’s contagious, and we want to catch your disease. Don’t forget, the word influenza (flu) is very similar to influence.   We want to spread your “cool flu.” 

Yes, we’re proudly in the nerd zone. You’re welcome here, too.  Click here to drop us a line and join us in the zone. 

The Best Time of Day and Strategy to Contact Newspaper and Magazine Reporters

As a former reporter, who transitioned into public relations, I’m well aware that reporters can be quirky, irritable and hard to reach. Not that I ever was any of those things.

In any case, if you want to play in the news media sandbox, to get your business’ news out to the public, you might find it useful to follow my advice for reaching them and getting their attention. It’s a matter of respect for them and their time.

It’s no secret news media staffing has been shrinking for close to 20 years and that means far fewer reporters are pressed to cover more news with tighter deadlines in a 24-hour news cycle.

Here are six tips to help you connect with reporters and get the stories you desire.

  • Find the Right Reporters

First of all, get to know who is covering or likely to cover your business sector at weekly and daily newspapers, magazines and online, as well as at broadcast outlets and trade publications. It’s vital to find the right target for your pitch to a reporter or assignment editor.

Some media websites will have this information listed. But do a search on a reporter’s byline to see if they’re still covering that beat. Assignments change often and the websites aren’t always updated promptly. You can also find reporters and editors on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.

  • The Best Time of Day to Contact Reporters

Secondly, it’s important to figure out the best day and time of day to phone a reporter or send them an e-mail. After three decades of working in newsrooms, I can tell you that many reporters are reluctant to answer their office phone unless the caller ID shows up as a number they recognize. Good timing can help but getting past that hurdle can be difficult.

Developing a relationship via e-mail or in person as a trusted source is not easy but it’s the best way to overcome that challenge.

With that said, I recommend trying to reach a daily news reporter earlier in the day and generally avoid calls later than midafternoon when they’re likely to be busy reporting and writing on deadline. Most reporters during my era would arrive by 9 or 10 a.m. and would take some time to get coffee and start their workday.

A call or e-mail pitch might get more attention in that window from about 9:30 to noon. Maybe hit them up a little later if it’s a Monday morning.

  • The First Thing to Do When Calling a Reporter

After introducing yourself and your business, you should ask if the reporter is on deadline.

If they say yes, then give them a brief summary of why you’re calling. Let them know you’ve already sent them an e-mail with some details or that you will be sending an e-mail.

  • What do When Sending an Email or a Leaving a Voicemail.

When sending an e-mail or leaving a voicemail message,  quickly provide the five W’s of reporting – who, what, when, where and why – along with all your contact information and any social media handles you’re comfortable sharing. If you’re leaving a voicemail, lead with you’re your name and a callback number, and also end with it a second time. That way if they’re interested in your pitch and need to listen to a message again because they didn’t write down your phone number and name fast enough, they have it at the start of your message so they don’t need to listen through the entire voicemail again.

  • What To Do If the Reporter Doesn’t Call You Back or Respond to Your Email

If a reporter does not respond to your call, e-mail or voice mail, you can try a follow-up e-mail to persuade them to cover your news. But don’t hold your breath. You’ve made your case and they’ve made their decision that it’s not newsworthy for them.

Aim high with your first outreach and then move on to other reporters down the media food chain who might be more interested in your story.

  • When to Contact Reporters of Weekly Newspapers or Monthly Magazines

If you’re pitching to reporters at weekly or monthly publication, figure out what day they publish and when their deadline is for final copy. Magazines have long lead times and will often list this information online. Weekly publications usually have deadlines at least two days before distribution. Getting information to these outlets as far in advance as possible is going to pay the most dividends.

While legacy media outlets have been disappearing for decades, there still are a significant number of neighborhood and community newspapers, monthly lifestyle magazines, business publications and digital outlets with an appetite for well written news releases they can publish with little editing required.

In conclusion, don’t be intimidated by reporters and don’t be offended if a reporter doesn’t write your story.  Just do what you can to set yourself up for success.  You’re two steps ahead of the game if you can write a good news release and find the right publications and media for your target audience. If not, a good public relations company like 10 to 1 PR can write one for you. We also have trusted media contacts and a list of thousands of media outlets to help tell your story.

About the author: Before joining 10 to 1 Public Relations, Peter Corbett worked for three decades at the Arizona Republic, Phoenix Gazette, Scottsdale Progress and weekly newspapers in Flagstaff, Sedona and Verde Valley. He most recently served as a public information officer for the Arizona Department of Transportation.

What’s with the Marble Wall? Explaining Why Companies Should Invest in a Signature Piece

When I first told people about my idea for a custom designed marble wall, some asked me if I was losing my marbles. It’s not your typical office artwork. There are flashing lights, bells and things that twirl. But once they see the 10 to 1 Public Relations marble wall, everyone loves it and just wants to watch it for a while because there are so many moving elements. 

The response grows even more favorably when they hear the story behind it and recognize how it visually demonstrates our unique strategic approach to public relations. They love how we’re using the marble run to showcase our team’s success on a regular basis, too.

I’ve been asked several times for the backstory on it, so I’ll share that in a moment. What I really hope this article does is encourage companies to invest in and promote some type of signature piece in their office that describes their brand and approach to achieving success.  Not just for their clients that visit their office, but for their staffs as well.

There are actually two different audiences that you’re doing this for. First are your office visitors, as you’re trying to give them something visual that they can remember that ties them to your brand or strategic approach. The second is your staff who see it or interact with it regularly.  It serves as an excellent reminder of your philosophy and the company culture whenever they see it and provides reinforcement and acknowledgement for their great work in promoting the brand. 

With that out of the way, here’s the backstory on our marble wall.  We recently moved into new office space and wanted to create something that would really stick out as a signature for the office.  Something worthy of sharing on social media, but also something that fit the company brand. 

To create this signature piece, 10 to 1 Public Relations commissioned an art piece that is a 4 ft. wide by 3 ft. tall marble run with a public relations theme that reflects our philosophy. 

We believe it takes 10 good things to be said about a company to make up for one negative comment, and our public relations strategies for clients generate lots of positive stories to create a “good will bank.” This helps our clients inoculate and protect their brands and their people when that negative story eventually occurs. 

We started out with an idea for a selfie-friendly wall graphic in our conference room that would reflect our philosophies towards PR. While the designs on their own were impressive, none felt right for 10 to 1 PR. 

Our team was trying to think of something unique around the 10 to 1 philosophy, and someone brought up the “drip” analogy that I use when describing our strategy to prospective new clients. The drip analogy refers to how small seemingly minor stories on their own (like new hire announcements or minor contract announcements) can add up to have a big impact. Like drips out of a faucet, if collected the water adds up and can be used however it’s needed in the future. We tried to think of alternatives to a faucet analogy and thought of a marble run where the marbles could each represent a different story and could be collected at the end like drips. 

That night I searched for artists that created marble runs and found Matthew Gaulden of Rolling Ball Structures. I sent an email to him and we quickly started talking about what a public relations themed marble run might look like. Ultimately, we came up with the following.

  • Bells that sound like the NBC news theme
  • A spinning “Breaking News” sign
  • An “On Air” light that would turn on
  • A press conference scene which would flash like flash bulbs
  • A spinning microphone
  • Reference to print and online media
  • A television set
  • A social media carousel

Matt added some additional elements including a waterspout where the marbles would drip out and be collected.

Every week, our team now counts out how many stories we helped our clients earn, and we do a “Running of the Marbles” to celebrate these successes. We then collect those marbles and add the count to a separate jar for the year. 

Since January, we already have more than 900 positive stories for our clients, and that number continues to grow daily. 

Every time we run the marble wall and share on social media our new count of stories generated for clients, it serves as a reinforcement; reiterating to our team, our clients, and our supporters that our 10 to 1 long-game public relations approach and strategy work, making it an office signature piece worth sharing. 

Click here to watch a short video with a tour of our new offices including the marble wall.