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Publicity: Getting The Most From Your P.R. And How To Get Noticed

By CJ La Clair


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In today's world of information and communications taking place on a 24 hour basis and increasingly sophisticated technology allowing real time coverage of events everywhere on a constant basis it is becoming increasingly difficult and competitive for public relations professionals to get their message heard and responded to. For these communications savants to be able to cut through the clutter and obtain traction is a combination of both art and science.

What are the strategies and tactics of successful public relations campaigns? How do you measure the effectiveness of a given campaign? What are some of the all important tips and techniques for standing out? How do you evaluate and hire a public relations firm? How do you establish a communications and media relations budget? What is the difference between public relations and media relations? How do you identify the exact audience you want to reach and how do you reach them? How do you differentiate between public relations and media relations? What is the difference between publicity and public relations?
These are just some of the questions and issues to be handled by this forum and between them our panelists have many years of wide ranging experience.

Lisa Shenkle launched press campaigns, developed speeches and media strategies for Maryland governors William Donald Schafer and Parris Glendening and has represented people as diverse as Billy Joel and Jerry Lee Lewis and William Shatner and James Earl Jones. Helen Mitternight, a former reporter for the Associated Press, has worked for former U.S. Senator Bob Dole, created public relations strategies for organizations including the Humane Society of the U.S., and is a columnist for the Washington Business Journal. Diana Ingraham specializes in program development, placement and promotion of commercial and non-commercial content into broadcast television and cable outlets as well as distribution to home, educational, retail and business video markets.

She has extensive experience and contacts with public television on both the national and affiliate level including PBS and American Public Television. Recent projects include "Pete Peterson: Assignment Hanoi" and "Block by Block: Reclaiming Neighborhoods By Design."
The nuts and bolts of an effective PR campaign are surprisingly simple, yet many people take an approach that is far more complex than is really necessary. Often, less is more but in taking the less is more approach getting the details right are critically important. In preparing a media advisory, also called a press release, for distribution what are the content elements required for it to be read and hopefully used rather than being unceremoniously tossed into the nearest trash can where it lies ignominiously with the god knows how many other advisories that came in that day.

For example, very few media advisories take advantage of using photographs or illustrations as attention getters. Well, fellow ITVA members, we work in a visual medium. Why shouldn't we use interesting graphics to stand out and grab attention? Also, how does one handle the requests for interviews and the interviews themselves that start coming in following the press release especially those for electronic media like TV? Believe it or not, if they are interested in having you or the person or persons you represent on their show, broadcast and cable providers have staff members whose job it is to make sure you are desirable for their program. These people spend much of their time screening prospective guests. Therefore, you should be prepared at all times to be your witty, interesting and influential self and take full advantage of the conversational opportunity with whomever may call, simply because it may launch you into the orbit of national TV. Make sure this concept is embedded into the brains of your representatives, as well.


Also once you have landed that all important slot on a show, think long and hard about what you will wear, what you will look like and what you will say. Again, really think visual. It never ceases to amaze me how people on TV have not dressed or made up to take full advantage of the type of show they are appearing on. The same sort of thought and planning must go into preparing for the interview. Rehearsing and doing a mock interview, ideally videotaped in advance answering the type of questions you expect to receive so you can see how you respond, can go a long way towards creating the sort of success that will be extremely helpful as opposed to one you would rather forget about or worse an interview you regret ever having.

Remember that you want to be quotable. Make your answers short and interesting. Speak in sound bites. Use a stop watch if necessary to keep your responses 10 to 15 seconds in length. To be a good interview subject, like most things, requires lots of practice. You cannot control when you will be interviewed but you can control what you will say and how you will say it. For every interview, plan to make certain remarks and rehearse and think about an appropriate time to make sure you say them.

These are just a few examples of the approaches that can be taken in the world of communications. More will be discussed. We look forward to having you join us and this event will prove to be a fascinating and useful forum on publicity and public relations.