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5 tips in 5 minutes – making sure media interviews run to plan

MicrophoneMedia interviews are a much-vaunted, much-loved staple of any PR programme worth its salt, but, like anything in PR, they can go horribly wrong. But even when an interview isn’t a complete car crash, as any PR pro will know, a lot of interviews can end up being merely a so-so experience – instead of being a sound-bite stuffed, charming-the-pants-off-journalists result that we all hope for.

It’s important to remember that every spokesperson you have is different. Some will have been media trained up the eyeballs over a long career in the C-Suite, others will be doing their first ever interview having never knowingly spoken to a journalist in their life. It’s also important to remember that interviews are arranged for any number of reasons, and so the approach you and your spokesperson take will differ accordingly. It might be a ten-minute chat on the phone to grab a few quotes for a feature, or it might be an in-depth hour-long profile piece.

Whatever the reason and however experienced your spokesperson might be – ensuring that you prepare the spokesperson thoroughly and give them all the information and context they need to feel confident, will pay dividends down the line. It goes without saying that providing a briefing note with valuable background on journalists, publications and talking points is essential. But often, more important that simply sending a document, is personally pre-briefing your spokesperson. Your spokesperson is highly likely to be a very busy individual, fully digesting all the info in a briefing document may not be high on their list of priorities.

So if nothing else, grab that five minutes before your spokesperson even utters a word and remember to reiterate the basics – here are just a few to get started:

  • Speak slow – remind spokespeople not to hurry or speak quickly, and to make a conscious effort to slow down – ensuring that the journalist can catch/record comments
  • Press pause – hand in hand with speaking too fast, is not giving the journalist a chance to speak, tell your spokesperson to pause when they’ve finished speaking to allow the journalist to ask questions
  • Check in – periodically, it’s useful for spokespeople to check with the journalist that they understand the comments they are making
  • Listen closely – remind spokespeople to really listen to the question a journalist poses and do their best to answer it specifically rather than too generally
  • Not knowing is OK – it’s fine not to know something, your spokesperson shouldn’t be afraid to decline to answer a question if they can’t answer, it’s far better than fudging it!
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Coverage Cup New Year round-up

Coverage cupWelcome to the first Coverage Cup round-up post of the New Year. Understandably, a lot of the coverage over the last few weeks has had a festive theme. Firstly, research from the JDA team revealed that nearly a third of online shoppers had trouble with their orders home in the run-up to Christmas – coverage included articles in the Daily Express, Daily Mail, The Independent and Computer Weekly amongst others. Continuing the Christmas theme, the Centiro team secured an opinion piece on Retail Gazette  looking at Christmas delivery experience. Elsewhere, Trustmarque featured in a feature on TechWeek Europe asking what IT managers should ask Santa for at Christmas. In non-Christmas related coverage, it was great to see B2B Marketing coverage for our new client, Apppli, who featured in the publication’s B2B marketing predictions 2015 feature. Finally, the Compuware team secured coverage on V3 and Forbes for a new product launch.  All in all, it was very good Christmas and New Year coverage wise :)

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Pre-Christmas Coverage Cup round-up

Coverage cupWelcome to this week’s bumper pre-Christmas Coverage Cup roundup! Over the course of December, we’ve helped our clients get some great coverage in a range of IT, vertical and national media. The Tier-3 Huntsman team news hijacked the Sony Pictures computer hacks, resulting in coverage in The Register and Computer Weekly. Remaining on the security theme, Egress revealed the findings of a Freedom of Information request to the Information Commissioner’s Office which showed that one-quarter of reported data breaches were caused by the accidental loss or destruction of personal data during the first three months of 2014. Due to some successful pitching of the findings the team achieved coverage in the likes of CBR and The Register.

Elsewhere, research carried out from JDA looked at the online delivery woes facing European shoppers, which resulted in coverage on Retail Systems, Essential Retail and Business Reporter. Also is the retail space, Trace One ran a media alert around the upcoming Food Information Regulation and achieved coverage on The Grocer, Food Manufacture and Retail Times.

Finally, the TAG Assessment team were really pleased to achieve coverage on the Daily Telegraph for an opinion piece looking at the state of the exam grading system.  Below is the list of all the Coverage Cup nominations over the last few weeks:

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Having no news is not an excuse for having no coverage: Get some facts, STAT

statistics-76198_640One of the biggest challenges in B2B Tech PR is the issue of news, or lack thereof. We are not in the business of having flashy new handsets to release, and while this does help us to avoid getting embroiled in any ‘bend-gate’-like sagas, it does mean that we have to be more inventive.

There are a number of tactics at our disposal, but one of the key ways to create news is through research and statistics. Journalists are often very keen to have new, independent statistics as they make for great headlines and can be used to get a broader picture of what is happening in the marketplace. We have found time and again that research is one of the best ways to get noticed, with the added bonus of being usable across the business for sales and marketing.

However, there is a lot of competition for airtime. The critical thing to make your research stand out is to ensure that the story you build is compelling enough for a journalist to see the news value – it needs to focus on the issues and customer challenges, not products. Journalists are bombarded with research every day, the only way to stand out is to really think about what will be interesting and tie research into current trends and issues. You need to know what message you want to get across and find a way of reinforcing this using third-party data to support your argument. There are many different ways to get this data, with pros and cons to each, but we have the experience to help guide clients on the best route to take, as well as generating creative ideas that get clients noticed. Here are some examples:

  • Analyst research: Having an analyst conduct research on your behalf often lends credibility making it more appealing to journalists. However, they can often be expensive, so it is important to think about the broader value and return on investment before embarking on such a project. Should you choose this route, it can be extremely rewarding. Take, for example, the recent iPass Global Market Index. The research not only received top level coverage in the likes of the Economist, BBC and The Independent – it was also turned into a global Wi-Fi map which is being used in customer meetings.
  • Headline-driven research: Using an analyst firm is not the only way to get verifiable stats, third-party research companies can too, often at a more reasonable price point. The strength of the story is extremely important though, as often these surveys can be met with journalist skepticism, if you get it right though you can get some fantastic results. For example, a mainframe research piece we conducted earlier this year resulted in nearly 20 pieces of coverage across trade and vertical press, such as ZDNet, The Register, The Manufacturer, and Retail Technology.
  • Freedom of Information requests: Under the Data Protection Act, all public bodies have to respond to any reasonable request for information made. This can be a particularly helpful tool if you are trying to illustrate the extent of a problem. Again, story creation is crucial. One example was a hardware encryption client, ViaSat; here we asked UK police forces how many electronic devices were stolen in 2013-2014, to show just how common theft is and why people should take care of their belongings. This resulted in tier one trade and national coverage in publications such as the Register and the
  • Media alerts: Another option for using statistics is to actually pull together information that is already in the public domain to create a call to action for the industry in the form of a media alert. An example of this was with our client ElasticHosts, an Infrastructure as a Service provider, who wanted to highlight the cost of wasted capacity to support a new product it had launched. By analysing existing data around under-utlilisation and comparing this with cloud spending, we were able to determine that $1.7 billion is wasted each year, resulting in 12 pieces of tier one coverage with the likes of ZDNet, Computing, and Cloud Pro.

Yet research and statistics are not the only way companies can get noticed and generate coverage outside of the news cycle; in my next blog, I’ll be looking at proactive pitching and how building a thought leadership platform can help to start conversations with the press outside of the regular feature calendar.

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Six top tips for organising and managing an international press trip

passport-315266_640Recently, I was tasked with organising press attendees and interviews for a client customer event in Barcelona. Now, I’m usually comfortable with organising and staffing press interviews. But doing this in another country, without immediate support from the Spark team, did test my comfort zone. Nevertheless, the event and the processes leading up to it all ran well and I learnt a lot. Here are my key tips from the experience:  

  • Double, triple, quadruple check everything – for me, this mainly meant making sure that the interview times between press and spokespeople synced-up, were logged correctly and communicated to the right people. We also had to book transport and accommodation for our press, so ensuring that they were correct and sent to them in time was critical. As obvious as it may seem, conducting meticulous checks well in advance will ensure that there are no costly and embarrassing problems during the event.
  • Keeping everyone in the know – organising a big event is always a stressful occasion for a client. Therefore, it is important to provide regular updates of your progress to give them confidence that all the PR activity is well in hand. During the run-up to the event, be sure to communicate up-to-date schedules and also inform them of any potential issues. In hectic times, such work may often appear to go unnoticed but it is still valued nevertheless.
  • Leave prepared – prior to leaving for an event, make sure that you’ve packed everything needed to see you through your trip (i.e. – journalist/spokespeople contact numbers, briefing schedules, travel and hotel reservations, passport, etc.). Additionally you should check that you have sent briefing schedules and event itineraries to journalists/spokespeople before you leave. Be sure to bring spare briefing documents and itineraries with you, as someone is always likely to want one.
  • Accidental run-ins – during events, it is common for spokespeople diaries to be stretched, which could impact your press briefing timetable. However, I found it useful to stage catch-ups with the relevant spokespeople on the morning of their interviews to remind them of their commitments, confirm the briefing location, and to ask if they had any questions. Doing this will jog their memory and can also help you flag any problems with their schedule way ahead of time.
  • Customer care – following interviews, in particularly those involving a client’s customers, always be sure to thank the spokesperson for their participation and willingness to speak to the press. Events provide an extremely good opportunity to build relationships that could be used in the future to open new PR opportunities for your client. Creating a good impression is essential in helping you do this.
  • Don’t panic – you can be the most prepared person in the world and have an event press schedule organised down to a T. But there will always be occasions where problems occur that are simply beyond your control. During times like this, it’s important to keep a cool head. However, make sure you are able to provide your client with a realistic explanation of the issue, and if possible, a solution outlining what can be done to avoid such challenges in the future.
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