Dec 6 2010

Facebook, twitter unleash the (cowardly) lions


Facebook and twitter were alive last week with mean-spirited, angry people who used someone’s misfortune to unleash their fury. That someone isn’t a high school misfit or attention-grabbing celebrity. That someone is Kyle Brotzman, a Boise State Bronco who has scored more points than any other player in the school’s history. He’s the NCAA’s active career scoring leader–a guy who has made numerous key plays for the Bronco’s.  A few missed field goals against the University of Nevada, and people start bashing him relentlessly. The treatment he got was so unfair that the Los Angeles Times took note in this article entitled, Boise State’s Kyle Brotzman is a kicker with enough foot but too much on his shoulders.

By now most everyone has seen or heard about this story. My points here are simple, and there are only two. First, this ridiculous state of affairs is reason #43 I say be wary of social media sites and the “friends” who frequent them. Sadly, many who are quick to point fingers, laugh, criticize and ridicule have found a platform-and a hiding place-on Facebook and twitter. Most everyone sees them for who they are, but best to ignore them.

Second, those who are too weak to address an issue with someone face to face, rather than whisper behind walls, and are so miserable that their only enjoyment comes from watching others in pain, should seriously consider a new gig.

Nov 18 2010

Joanne Taylor PR: Solid public relations pros think like journalists


 George Packer, The New Yorker

I just read “George Packer’s 5 Tips for Reporting on Anything,” from Steve Myers at Poynter. George Packer is a reporter for The New Yorker—a favorite weekly read at boise-based Joanne Taylor PR. Meyers asked Packer how he enters unfamiliar territory to report on complex subjects. I couldn’t help but liken this to the approach public relations pros take when preparing to launch a new product or service.

I’ve long thought that former journalists, or those who have trained themselves to think like journalists, are the best PR people. This article helps demonstrates why. We are familiar with Packer’s methodology, and we use it when we take on a new client, company, product or service.

I listed Packer’s five tips below and added to each one a similar practice that PR pros use on a regular basis. See if you agree with my analogies. If not, or if you have something to add, please leave a comment.

Don’t go in cold
We research the companies we plan to represent, as well as its products and/or services, its business objectives and sales goals, the competitive landscape, industry landscape, industry trends, related news and anything else that is relevant.

Find a guide to show you around
We ask product managers and sales guys to give us their pitch. We ask about target markets and the messages used for each one. We look at demos of the product and/or service, and ask questions. If there’s a manufacturing or shipping facility, we ask to see it. We also ask to be introduced to the people who work there. We talk to them and ask questions. Guides give us story angles.

Go in with a guiding question
What is it about this company, product or service that sets it apart from its competitors? Is it the first? The best? Is there something different/trendy about the way the company does business or the product is made? Who are the employees? What are their stories? Any of these can serve as guiding questions. We use them all the time, and often the answers provide news hooks.

Capitalize on your outsider status
As outsiders, we see fresh what insiders have been studying for weeks or months. We’re not tainted by company politics or hierarchy, emotional idea attachment or any of the other things that can sometimes turn a good communications plan to bad. We get paid to tell company executives what we think, so we do.

Capture those fleeting thoughts
Like journalists, we carry a notebook—a practice that is good for much more than capturing fleeting thoughts.

Sep 13 2010

With reputation on the line, companies respond to social media pressure


A lot of good has come of social media in the way of corporate responsibility and accountability. Now, companies that once didn’t give a damn about their publics are just as focused on reputation management as they are on revenue growth. This isn’t news. It’s long been the topic of discussion among business and finance media, bloggers and social media enthusiasts who herald the use of social media as a changing force in the dynamics of corporate responsibility.

Last week, Joanne Taylor PR, a boise-based PR and marketing firm, experienced and benefited from this phenomenon. During the summer, we worked on a campaign for a top search engine. Our contract does not allow me to discuss which one but you can probably figure it out. The campaign was focused on educating small businesses about a new set of services specifically designed for them. It was a fun, and a lot of work.

But payment, which was promised upon completion of the work and receipt of invoice, was slow to come. I let it go for a few weeks and then began to inquire about it. The agency that managed the work answered by saying, on three separate occasions, that the check was on its way. Last week, I found out that the check was not on its way, and I decided to get a bit vocal.

I found the names and email addresses of several people who managed the agency that managed the work. I sent them messages politely making them aware of the situation. I didn’t go twital (that’s like going postal but on twitter) but I did post a few tweets to @s who I knew would see them, and understand the implications if word started to spread. Several companies have experienced the results of social media outcry, and most who are aware of those results probably don’t want to go there. It wouldn’t look good for a company to launch a we-help-small-businesses-succeed campaign and then not pay the small businesses that did the work on time.

Anyway, the response was immediate, and three hours later I received an email saying I would be sent a tracking number in the morning and receive a check the next day. Both happened… now let’s just hope the check clears.

If you want to read more about companies that are doing more to balance reputation and revenue, here’s a related article from Forbes: Making Money in the Reputation Economy.

Thanks for your time and interest. Leave a comment, if you’d like, about how social media has helped you or your company.

Aug 31 2010

You can build your own website, really


I’m about to start building another website. It’s not that I don’t like this one or that I’m not happy with the work my sister and I have done on Travel Beauty Health, but I’m going to start to offer another service that will require its own voice. More about that later. Right now, I’d like to focus on my original thought, which is if I can build a website, anyone can.

For some, it might seem like an unsurmountable task, and getting started is daunting. But the only way to begin, as they say, is to begin. Do they say that? Maybe not. I might have made it up.

Anyway, the first thing I did when I was ready to start was to search for “popular WordPress templates.” Templates range from simple and free to complex and expensive, and everything in between. I recommend starting with simple and free, unless you know someone who is willing to help.

The level of difficulty and amount of time it takes to build a website depends on the complexity of the template you choose. So, keep that in mind too. Although you’re working with a template, there’s lots of flexibility.

Once you choose a template and download, there’s plenty of support to be found but you can save a lot of time if you have the ear and/or help of a friend or business associate. I could not have built either of my sites without my big sis’ Michelle.

Populating and updating the site is the easy part. And, it’s fun. So, don’t delay any longer. You can do this.

Aug 20 2010

AP Stylebook to news writers what butter is to cooks


According to the Associated Press (AP) Stylebook, website is website. Not Web site or web site or any other combination that you’ve seen in print.

E-mail, by the way, remains e-mail and Internet continues to require capitalization, says the book.

If you’re wondering what the AP Stylebook is, and you are a writer of any sort, I recommend that you consider buying it. If you write news releases, story pitches or any other kind of communication aimed at journalists, and you do not own a Stylebook, you need to get one right away. They are a requirement at Boise-based Joanne Taylor PR.

The AP Stylebook is to a news writer what butter is to a cook–an essential ingredient. It is the usage guide for most newspapers and pubic relations offices throughout the U.S. If you can’t afford the book, use Google or Wikipedia. Most of the guidelines can be found through search. Also helpful is AP’s online Ask the Editor FAQ.

Once you start using AP style guidelines, you’ll see improvement in your work. So will those who read it.

Aug 8 2010

Top 5 tips for pitching in the digital era


During the past year, I’ve seen several lists of tips and tactics for marketing and PR pros who are using social media. I tend to think of it a little more broadly, as our work online is not simply confined to social media, and some old rules apply. We just execute them differently. With that in mind, and as a follow up to my last blog post, which was quite a while ago because I’ve been on hiatus, I’ve come up with my own list: Top 5 tips for pitching in the digital era.

  • Brevity is key. Think twitter (140 characters). Attention spans are short, time constraints intense. Start with the hook rather than an introduction.
  • Use twitter or Facebook to pitch an editor or writer, if you notice that they allow direct messages. Again, start with the hook.
  • Make it easy for journalists and bloggers to access digital imagery, including screen grabs, photos and logos. Make sure captions are included with all images. If you can’t get the company you represent to put the images on its site, simply put them on Flickr or Photobucket.
  • Include a link to video or embed a photo in your pitch. Showing editors and/or bloggers what you’re talking about is more powerful than any amount of words.
  • Include links to related information, story resources, stats, and anything else that will help craft a good story.

Note: I submitted this to PRSA’s Tactics a few months ago, though not sure if it was ever printed. If you’ve seen it there, sorry for the repeat!

May 14 2010

For PR Pros, Digital Media Does Not Change Rules of Engagement


I’ve been gearing up for a somewhat unusual product launch the past couple of months. The product——is sort of like reverse eBay. People post the car they want, and dealers and sellers compete for their business. If successful, Autopitch could change the way people search for and buy cars online.

The launch plan called for direct outreach to auto, tech and mommy bloggers, print media, and industry influentials. Communication vehicles included email, twitter and Facebook, chat rooms, community forums and discussion boards.

How different this scenario is from something typical of 3 or 4 years ago. The product, and the communication methods being used to introduce it, would have been completely foreign to most in the PR profession.

The approach, however, is the same. We researched the automotive industry, our targets, their news outlets, and their readers. We became part of the auto industry’s most popular social media circles. We developed a couple strong news hooks, and identified several outlets beyond the obvious where the story got some play. Simply put, we did the groundwork. At launch (May 3), we were prepared.

For the most part, journalists want to talk to PR pros who can offer story ideas and resources. But they expect you to know the rules of engagement. They want you to know when their deadlines are, and they assume you will respect them. They appreciate a brief conversation that has more than just a bit to do with the topics they cover. They expect you to spell and/or pronounce their names right. The only way to ensure you get these things right is by doing your research.

Before you send a single text or direct message, post a tweet, or comment on a blog post, you must do research. There are no exceptions to this rule. If you aren’t knowledgeable about the product, service, trend or topic you are pitching, it will be noticed. If you aren’t familiar with your target and his or her audience, you’ll be mocked in the newsroom or, worse yet, exposed online. (See related TechCrunch article here).

Steve Casimiro, editor at Adventure Life ( and former West Coast bureau chief at National Geographic Adventure, backs this up.  “Social media, twitter, texting, email all support your message but the most powerful tool is still going to be your relationship with the press,” he said. “Direct, informed contact is always best.”

Pitching profiles posted on the likes of Media Atlas are also telling. BusinessWeek’s “Technology and You” Columnist Steve Wildstrom writes, “The best PR pros read my stuff so they can pitch me on the sorts of things I write about. Don’t send unsolicited products. Don’t call to find out if I got your email. If I don’t respond it’s either because I’m really busy and will get to it later or I’m not interested and don’t have time to respond saying so. The key,” he says, “is understanding how a product or service you are pitching fits into the themes I write about.”

Also remember that despite the brevity that digital communication begs and current generations accept, writing skills are still important. Jill Kuraitis, an editor at, says, “Grammar and punctuation absolutely still matter. The format of your pitch, not so much.”

“Remember,” says Casimiro, “PR people are valuable to the press because they help us do our jobs by providing information we can’t get or can’t get easily elsewhere.”

This was true before the digital age and remains so today.

Apr 16 2010

noise + confusion = turn off?

Promoted tweets, advertisements, spam – whichever term you use to describe paid content placement, it amounts to the same thing. You no longer can take for granted that thoughts or observations posted on twitter and other popular social networking sites are original and/or authentic. Isn’t this contrary to the premise of social networking?

I’m not sure about you, but my initial attraction to twitter was the idea that I could catch bits of information about the status of friends, relatives, co-workers, peers, students, mentors. Here, they were sharing glimpses of themselves, their families, and their work when asked the simple question: what are you doing?  

 That question soon changed to “what’s happening?” and media, politicians, and marketers joined the party. Don’t get me wrong, I love updates from the local and national media outlets I follow, and twitter is a great way to track politicians, legislation and contentious issues. But while I’m a marketer myself, I think many of them have gone too far. It pretty obvious who’s online primarily to sell. Now with paid (promotional) opportunities available on twitter, the marketing people are unleashed, and users are reporting confusion (see related Mashable article here). It’s a shame but I suppose it is similar to the natural progression of nearly everything that must be “monetized.”   

It is somewhat surprising to me, though, that twitter founders Biz Stone and Evan Williams didn’t think of something a little more inventive to raise funding—something more in line with the original brainchild. There are roughly 105 million registered twitter users. How many of them do you think would pay a small amount to keep the site free of paid tweets and advertisements? Then again, a business model that promises big advertisers would fair better on Wall Street.

In any event, take a look at “Promoting for dollars is new Twitter app” from Jessica Guynn at the LA Times. Paid tweets have been going on a lot longer than you might think.

Yes, twitter is a pop culture phenomenon. Yes, it’s cool. But at what point do you think people will tire of the noise and confusion, if at all?

Mar 16 2010

The trouble with internet trolls and stalkers


I planned to write a post about how to handle online trolls and stalkers, since I am lucky enough to have what I classify as a pseudo stalker of my own. The malicious and unproductive behavior of these pests is somewhat fascinating, in a sadistic sort of way, and certainly good fodder for an entertaining psychoanalysis. But everything I just said, and anything more, is exactly what a troll or stalker wants to hear.

Plus, once I started to research the subject, I discovered that there’s a ton of helpful information, web sites, posts and comments already available. So, anything I would have to say wouldn’t exactly be new (unless I made some stuff up, which would have been fun but misleading). Anyway, I abandoned the idea…but pulled together some of the resources I discovered, should you ever have trouble with trolls and stalkers.

The most important thing to remember when considering how to deal with a troll or stalker is that they enjoy creating conflict and doing harm to others. And, they want to get a reaction out of you. From How to Deal with Trolls:  “When you fight with them, they win. When you try to reason with them, they win. When you give them attention, they get exactly what they want.” I gave my slanderous friend the pleasure of all three of these things because I felt I had to defend my integrity. I was caught off guard. I didn’t know. Now I do.

The best way to deal with trolls or stalkers is to ignore them. When you ignore them, they don’t get the satisfaction of creating an escalated conflict. This is hard to do but be assured that most everyone else online will realize this person is a troll and will dismiss their comments.

Here are a few of the sources I found that might be helpful. Good luck!

Wikipedia: Trolls (Internet)

How to Deal with Trolls on Your Professional Blog

Beware of Online Stalkers

Internet Stalkers: Survive, expose and deal with the slime of the web (This one is from which generally is a great site to explore.)

Mar 2 2010

Pepsi: A bad social media day at the office


The Pepsi Refresh Project is a good study in social media campaigns. Pepsi has had multiple communication issues and technical difficulties. As a result, the company has received bad press from a wide range of news and information sources–from Tech Crunch to The New York Times.

Tech Crunch headlines Pepsi’s campaign as “Social Media Gone Awry.” The New York Times says, “Pepsi Charity Contest Trips Over Its Own Submission Rules.”

Why, if you’re a company the size of Pepsi, with the best possible resources at your feet, would you fumble like this? Common sense (and several failed/bad social media campaigns) tells us that the last place you want to mess up is among a bunch of social media enthusiasts who, by the way, are also consumers. Extremely vocal consumers.

Besides the communication issues and technical problems, I am suspect of the number of people who post comments saying, “Pepsi is the best soft drink ever” and “I love Pepsi.” This one is good: “I’m drinking Pepsi right now. I love it!”

Anyway, I have personally been involved in the Pepsi Refresh campaign. I have been working with the Boise Public Schools Foundation and a BSU PR student to vie for a grant for Boise public schools. Our idea is called “Refresh Boise Public Schools.” We submitted it on Feb. 1 for voting in March. But we found out yesterday that the submission had not been accepted. Pepsi said we would know one way or the other two weeks after submission. Then it became 3 weeks. Then it became Feb. 28 at 11:59 p.m. We weren’t notified until March 1 at 3 p.m. By that time, it was too late to resubmit our application for the next round of voting! Worse yet, we aren’t able to access our application to make modifications. So, we’ll have to start over. Other people have had similar problems. And, several are complaining about celebrities being able to vie for the grants, etc. Go to the Pepsi Refresh Facebook fan page and you’ll see what I’m talking about/can make your own assessment.

I expect we’ll hear more about this-through every medium imaginable. Time to pay attention, Pepsi, or the bad day you’ve had could turn into a year.