Name Collection Boxes

There are many different ways to tell your story … and you need to tell your story in many different ways.

Math hasn’t changed since the beginning of time. The expression and the teaching of it has, however, and I’ve often struggled with helping my kids when I first had to learn how the teacher was teaching it this year.  There were numerous “Chicago Math” years that were particularly troubling.  It seems, however, that our schools are returning to a more traditional style of teaching math.

Tonight I worked with my second grader, Jack, on “Name Collection Boxes.”  In a box, he had to express one number in 10 different ways.  For instance, for the number 10 he could write it out as “ten” and “diez” as well as show 10 hash marks.  Of course, 5 +5 and 20 – 10 were in the name collection box as well.  We talked about Roman Numerals and he learned that X means 10.

It made me think that for anything that is a “truth” there are a number of ways to express it.  When doing media relations for an organization that wants to get a story in the news, there are a number of ways to share that story to make it meaningful for different audiences.  “Diez,” for instance, will be more meaningful to a Spanish-speaking audience than “ten.” 

When filling your “Name Collection Box” in preparation to tell your story, you might include the set of facts pertinent to the story in bullet points.  You might include third-party testimonials from clients or customers.  You might include statistics, especially if they can be shown to be part of a larger trend occurring in the marketplace.  You might include personal stories that illustrate your story.  You probably want to think about visuals, including pictures, video, and charts.  These help make a TV or web story more interesting than plain text ever could.  Sometimes your “name collection box” could include a personal experience you could provide to a news reporter, allowing them to experience what you want them to report on.

In my past work, all of these story-telling devices came into play.  When we developed ThisBizNow.com to help tell the Quixtar business story, it definitely included the facts about the business but it also included third party testimonials, videos, logos, charts and much more. 

When we promoted the ARTISTRY beauty brand to editors in New York, we brought them to our manufacturing plant to see our skin care and cosmetic products being made.  We took them to our R&D labs to talk with scientists and get their questions answered.  We used our technology to show them their very own skin under high magnification (a scary thought!). They had the opportunity to make their very own shade of lipstick.  They were brought to our very own spa and given the full treatment with professional aestheticians. Oh, and to ensure these editors understood that ARTISTRY is a prestige brand, they flew here on a private jet and stayed overnight at the JW Marriott.  Yes, they also were provided the facts and figures and pictures and video to take back with them, but without the actual hands-on experience, the story wouldn’t be quite the same.  

To ensure you are reaching people as effectively as possible with YOUR story, are you using all the ways at your disposal to do so?  A news release is a start, but it is not THE way to tell your story.  It’s only the welcome mat to the complete “name collection box” that will tell your story to a broad audience in the most colorful, meaningful way.

Journalists & Social Media

Much has been made within public relations circles about using social media to bypass traditional media to reach their target audiences.  There’s much to be said for this, as the web provides ways to interact with audiences that just aren’t possible through “earned media placements” within newspapers, magazines, TV news media and radio.

Even for PR professionals focusing on traditional media, however, social media cannot be overlooked. Too many of the journalists they work with are now seeking story ideas, interview sources and supporting facts from blogs, news sites and social media platforms like Twitter and YouTube.

According to a new study conducted by Bulldog Reporter and TEKgroup International, Inc., usage of social media by journalists continues to increase. According to the 2009 Journalist Survey on Media Relations Practices, nearly half of all journalists report visiting a corporate website or newsroom more often than once a week. Some 23% of journalists use RSS feeds to monitor five or more blogs on topics relevant to their news coverage.  Also, more than 82% of journalists use social media sites like Facebook and YouTube, up from 75% last year. About 25% of journalists are now using Twitter, using the site once a week or more.

The survey of 2,354 respondents, of which about 46% were editors and 35% were reporters or writers, isn’t entirely surprising. As an active Twitter and Facebook user with ever-broadening circles of “friends” and “followers,” local and national journalists are surfacing with increasing regularity. And some of them are doing a good job being part of a community and using it as a means to obtain story ideas or find sources. Like the rest of America, the numbers will only go up. It’s like years ago, when the question was “should we send that in the mail or should we send it to you via email?”  OR, better yet, “Do you have email?”  Today, those answers are obvious.

Some West Michigan journalists of note who are tweeting are @Kcorner, @GRgonzo and @jbauer5800 (Chris Knape, John Gonzalez and Julia Bauer of GR Press), @emilyrichett (Emily Richett of Fox 17), @PeterRoss13 (Peter Ross of WZZM 13), and numerous others. Some do a good job of blending personal and professional and keeping promos of the stories they’re about to air to a minimum.  I am always amazed at Emily’s online efforts.  That girl is always tweeting, facebooking, youtubing, and twitpic’ing.  I don’t know how she has time to do her job!  OR, is this all part of her job now?  Because, if people just *love* Emily Richett because they’re following her online, maybe that’s part of the new deal for journalists.  Creating a following beyond the confines of their particular media outlet.

A few weeks ago, several independent PR practitioners, myself included, had lunch at the Press Club with Paul Keep, Editor of the Grand Rapids Press. One of the discussions was the future of newspapers with the rise of online news. Finding the perfect blend of the traditional news media approach leveraged by new media’s reach and capabilities appears to be the solution, but creating a business model for that is going to be tricky.  But not impossible.  The Wall Street Journal seems to be doing a good job offering creative ad packages for its off- and online editions.  And, apparently, it’s leading to a potential tussle with USA Today regarding bragging rights for #1 circulation.  WSJ is counting online subscribers in addition to print, while USA Today only declares its print results.  Who will win that battle? Better yet, who will win the longer term battle of profitability.

In any case, social media is a great tool to talk directly to your target audiences. It also is an increasingly important tool to reach your target editors. No matter how you slice it, PR professionals have to master the art of social media.