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A. Bright Idea was selected among 20 other agencies to work with the Yountville Chamber of Commerce on destination marketing initiatives, providing marketing execution strategies with the goal of enhancing the current branding, programs and promotions for the organization. Known as the “Culinary Capital,” Yountville is nestled in Napa Valley, California and invites visitors to “Taste Life Here!”

Yountville was named after George Calvert Yount, a settler who came to the region in Napa Valley in 1831. Two years after Yount’s death, the town was renamed Yountville in honor of its founder and his contributions. George Yount was the first person to plant grape vines in the valley, forever putting Yountville on the map.

Today, Yountville is a small eclectic town with less than 3,000 residents and a premier destination in Wine Country. Known as a “one-stop-destination,” the town’s busiest tourist months fall in September and October, however on average Yountville has 6,111 visitors per day! The city is home to many award-winning wineries, authentic small town markets and world-renowned restaurants. Visitors and residents enjoy a variety of activities from hot air balloon rides and golfing, to art galleries and shopping, to wine tours and exciting events. Yountville is a remarkable town, rich in history and flavor – a true delight certain to satisfy any palette.

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Many organizations welcome the opportunity to be highlighted with positive media attention, broadcasting their brand message among the target audiences. Conversely, there are also instances where organizations must face negative media attention, defend their brand, actions or operations tactfully in front of the court of public opinion. In both instances, when faced with media attention, its important for your organization’s leadership or spokesperson to be well versed and trained in media interviews.

At a recent event hosted by the Public Relations Society of America, Maryland Chapter (@PRSA_MD), our strategists exercised their media training skills, keeping abreast of the latest trends. We’ve shared a few of the basic points to keep in mind when preparing for media encounters. A good rule of thumb – consult your agency to develop a thorough media strategy, preparing you for positive or negative questions and appropriate responses.

Five steps to preparing for a media interview:

  1. Research the reporter/outlet prior to the interview
  2. Develop your core messages
  3. Prepare specifically for difficult questions
  4. Have your last question response ready – “I’d like to add…”
  5. Offer to provide additional information and have it on hand or readily available

The art of a good sound bite:

  • Make it locally relevant
  • Stay specific to your target audience
  • Offer something different – breaking news
  • Set up a visual
  • Provide an anecdote, analogy or third party endorsement

Do’s during an interview:

  • Be friendly
  • Translate technical terms
  • Build the relationship
  • Ask questions back
  • Provide follow up

Don’ts during an interview (and a few examples of an effective response):

  • Never say “no comment” (“I’m sorry I can’t respond to that question, but I can address..”)
  • Don’t go beyond your expertise (“I can’t speak to that but I can tell you…”)
  • Don’t speculate (“Here are the facts as I understand them…”)
  • Don’t bash the competition or complain (“Our company values dictate…”)
  • Avoid using or repeating negatives
  • Never go “off the record”
  • Avoid taking the bait (“Actually, contrary to that thought…”)
  • Don’t answer hypotheticals

If there is a media interview in your future or you’re looking to garner media attention, be sure your brand and your spokesperson are properly prepared. Need a little more training? Call one of our media experts for an in-depth media training session.

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A goal for many PR pros is to get the message out about their client or organization by landing a segment with Brian Williams or Diane Sawyer. Realistically speaking, the story would have to be not only timely, but also timeless, national and heartfelt in order to gain such high recognition in the media circuit. It’s also important to remember the power of local news, especially in considering small, local businesses and the impact they are making in our communities.

We recently attended a Baltimore Public Relations Council event hosted at WMAR (ABC 2) studios in Baltimore. The event included a panel of the WMAR news crew sharing tips to always consider for TV news coverage. Whether national or local, these tips along with our own experience demonstrating the importance of being strategic and prepared.

Think about the audience

Yes, it’s always important to think about your audience, but when pitching a news station it is equally, if not more, important to consider the station’s audience. Make sure your story relates to their viewers and don’t be afraid to do some research first to see who their key audiences are – what’s the age group, do they skew more male or female, what is the average household income, where is the audience geographically, etc. If your story proves to reach their core demographic the producers and news editors will be more inclined to pay attention.

Visuals are key

When pitching a news story it’s important to consider what viewers will actually see when watching your segment. This is usually the first question a producer will ask you – what visuals do you have? If you don’t have any thing to show the audience then you’ll likely lose their attention fast! In developing visuals, also consider the time of day, weather, lighting, season, etc. A segment on environmental protection at the scene of a toxic waste dump is a great visual, however, sharing the same story in a conference room is boring for the camera and the audience.

Have sound bites ready

Producers and multimedia journalists love when you can make their job easier by having the right people available and ready with ideal sound bits on cue. A sound bite is a simple piece of audio the camera can pick up to run with the segment or over b-roll footage. This should always be something memorable, including an important fact, statistic, offer or breaking news. Having these sound bites ready for the station allows them to film and edit the segment faster and more efficiently, so they can cover more news in one day.

Be flexible

With a news station it’s essential to remain flexible and ready to adjust at any moment. You may be scheduled for a live or recorded segment but the station needs to push because of breaking news that is taking their team to another location. If you’re able to be flexible and reschedule at a moments notice, without complication or hesitation, the station and crew will be more apt to work with you and come back to capture the segment at another time. Don’t forget, it’s their job to share the news with their viewers and breaking news is the most important and timely!

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With all the constant “tips” on the absolute latest social media tactics that appear in our inbox on a daily basis, we recently happened upon an insightful article titled 5 lies about social media, by Samantha Collier in PR News. Among some of the myths Collier dispels, including “You’re guaranteed a new client within X amount of days,” one in particular stood out for us:

“Social media is free.”

Don’t get us wrong – social media is a fantastic way to even garner organic support from your customers. You remember – that support you didn’t have to pay for because someone actually likes your product or service, and is willing to give you honest feedback without a chance to “win a $500 gift card?”

Still, have you considered the amount of time you need to dedicate to a legitimate and fruitful social media presence? The old saying “time is money” rings true here as well.

As Collier points out:

“This is one of the biggest misconceptions of them all. Social media is not free. It takes time, and the last I checked, time equals money. Even if you decide to keep your social media marketing in-house, you will always be paying someone to monitor your accounts.”

When considering your social media strategy, ensure that your budget accounts for the several-plus hours per week it takes to sustain, thrive and measure. This means that those labor hours you’re applying towards your tweets, posts and pins should be viewed as an investment in your organization. Investing in your reputation and client relationships earns more than revenue – it earns trust – something money simply cannot buy.

Ensure that your leadership or client understands that including social media as part of your communication strategy is a budget line-item, but also assure them of all the meaningful aspects that a two-way communication relationship yields with your client base.

This may not be the latest and greatest “tip” on social media – but rather old school advice that you need to remain budget conscious when considering your communication tools and tactics.

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The Public Relations Society of America recently released the modern definition of public relations (PR) as:

“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

A simple and to the point statement, the definition compacts an in-depth meaning about what PR really is and why it’s important. We’ve taken the definition and broken it down to really delve into the specific parts and how they shape this definition.

“Strategic communication process”

Let’s start with “strategic” or strategy – a plan of action designed to achieve a vision. No matter the task in PR, the question should always be “is it strategic?” A communication piece or tactic in and of itself is not the strategy. For example, a client or internal audience tells you they want a feature article in a lifestyle magazine touting a very industry-specific new product. A strategic approach considers first the overall vision of promoting the new product. This includes considering the target audience and in this case, you can more directly achieve the vision by focusing your actions toward trade publications that reach a more targeted, action-oriented audience. That’s a strategic move.

“Communication process”

Then we move to the “communication process” part of this first phrase. It’s not as simple as just getting your message out there. PRSA recommends four steps: research, planning, implementation and evaluation. Each step allows for the development and implementation of key messages, tools and tactics that are specific to each objective and target audience, geared toward the end goal, and over all, measurable.

“Builds mutually beneficial relationships”

The true foundation of public relations is in building relationships, but the new definition takes this a step further in promising PR efforts to build relationships that benefit both the organization and its publics. The benefit to the organization is the resulting response, action or new loyalty from its publics, and the benefit to the publics is the product or service received from the organization. PRSA takes its code of ethics seriously and insists its members and accredited professionals do the same. If the relationship isn’t mutually beneficial (just going through the motions) then the strategic efforts should be reconsidered.

“Publics”

Also known as stakeholders, stockholders, target audiences or supporters, “publics” refers to any and all people or groups receiving information from the organization. These “publics” are essential because the way they receive and perceive information shapes the way they embrace, actively support, deny or protest the organization.

The general public is often mistaken as a catch-all public. Often, communication tools are chosen based on what the organization feels comfortable with or wants to try rather than communicating through channels that reach their audience. For example, if your public relations campaign focuses on adults over age 60 and you are disseminating information via social media, your “publics” will likely not receive the information. Furthermore, if they do receive the message, they may perceive that you are trying to reach a younger demographic and therefore not embrace or support your efforts because they’ll mistakenly perceive the call-to-action isn’t applicable to them.

Despite the changing tools, trends and how people consume information, this new, modern definition of PR remains true to the foundation of communicating and effectively disseminating information.