Responding to Golden (State) opportunities

I was recScreen Shot 2016-07-20 at 2.16.36 PMently reminded that publicity is perhaps one of the most important tools for a non-profit organization. Athletes C.A.R.E., a student athlete organization focused on ending homelessness and hunger, received an unexpected shout out from Nick Young of the L.A. Lakers on a recent episode of Cupcake Wars: Celebrities.

This was an unplanned windfall for Athletes C.A.R.E., but absent a plan to respond and capitalize on the event, it would have ended as a one-time happening missed by many.

Fortunately, Athletes C.A.R.E. took advantage of its active social media presence. For non-profits, leveraging social media can mean a huge boost in messaging attention, and even fundraising.

The first step is to post about the event. Take to every platform where you have an active presence and let followers know your organization has been publicly recognized. In those posts, be sure to tag the relevant names and organizations. For Athletes C.A.R.E., this meant tagging Nick Young, the L.A Lakers, The Food Network and Cupcake Wars. By tagging the appropriate parties (and their social media accounts) you widen the reach of your post and expose your organization to broader audiences. Now not only will your followers see the post, but the followers of anyone you tag will see the post as well.

Additionally, you can reach out to your local newspaper and other local media outlets to alert them of events such as having Nick Young reference your non-profit on national television. Something at that level might warrant a local news story.

Finally, you can follow-up two or three more times via social media over the course of the following week, pointing out different aspects of the initial event to extend the message and the reach. However posting more than that will likely be unwelcome. And any additional social posts about the event should be broken up by other content on social media.

With limited budgets and personnel, publicity and social media are two of the strongest tools in a non-profit’s arsenal. The ability to capitalize on and expand your organization through opportunities such as the situation with Athletes C.A.R.E. will strengthen your organization and help spread your message.

This post is courtesy of Cassidy Taylor, Lafayette College class of 2017, Kimball’s summer 2016 intern.

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Get Heard With Fewer Words

As people get more and more news from blogs, Facebook posts and tweets, content is becoming shorter and shorter. In fact, new guidelines put out by the Associated Press request that stories be no more than 500 words. Simply put, people want to read something short, sweet and to the point.


Fletcher Prince / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

The same is true with journalists and editors. They get hundreds of emails a day, so chances are they aren’t interested in reading a long, detailed pitch and press release from you. They want to know the important facts as quickly as possible.

If your story isn’t getting heard, try making brevity and succinctness your focus. Here are some ways to do that:

Media Pitches:

  • Have a strong, attention-getting and short subject line
  • Make the media pitch a short and intriguing summary of the story in the body of the email
  • Be sure to focus on the timeliness and the local connection of the story, if applicable
  • Encourage interaction by providing multiple ways for the journalist to contact you, should they want more information

Press Releases:

  • Write more like a journalist, focusing on the news aspect of the story
  • Include the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How in the first couple paragraphs – that way if that’s the only thing they read they still get the gist of the story
  • Always limit press releases to one page
  • Save them as PDFs so they can be universally opened and send them as an attachment to your pitch email
  • Attach pictures if you have them that journalists can use to go with the story

Another suggestion is to use your media contact database to its full potential; at Kimball Communications our database tells us an editor’s preferred form of contact. Some prefer phone, email or Twitter, this is a good thing to use in order to follow up with them and gauge their interest in your story.

Four spring cleaning tasks for writers

You’ve been writing all day, right? Writing press releases. Writing carefully worded emails. Writing white papers and proposals and to-do lists and text messages and secret prayers to the gods of media coverage (and then apology letters to PETA about the Sacrificial Goat Incident).

Amir Kuckovic / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

When you spend most of your waking moments stringing together words and phrases, not every strand will be unique and stunning. Perhaps Thesaurus.com is the only browser tab that never you never close. Maybe you are leaning on weak link-bait phrases, like my headline (hey, you clicked on it).

In other words, your writing has gotten stale, lackluster and rote.

Recently, I noticed this in my writing. I was editing a white paper I had written, and found one phrase repeated over and over at the beginning of sentences: “that means.” It was an unnecessary, lazy and boring transition, but there it was, again and again.

I had the good sense (for once) to understand this as a wake-up call. I took a closer look at the next few pieces I wrote and took steps to refresh my writing. This is what worked for me. Maybe it’ll work for you, too:

  • Pick out the stale bits. When editing, look for areas of your writing that aren’t terribly effective. Like me, have your transitions gotten lazy? Does it seem like your vocabulary has shrunk? Name the problem(s).
  • Refresh your reading. In many ways, you write what you read. What are you reading for work? If you go back every day to the same two blogs, you are limiting potential growth in your vocabulary and writing style. What are you reading at home? The books and magazines we read for fun inform our writing just as much as the “serious” stuff.
  • Go back to basics. Listen, you don’t actually outgrow outlining and organized note-taking. We all just think we do. You might even want to try drafting with pen and paper, just this once. As I see it, writing by hand slows down your writing process and can help you be more thoughtful about word choice and sentence length.
  • Reacquaint yourself with clients. Going back to basics can also mean going back to the beginning with your clients. If your writing about or for them has become imprecise or not particularly compelling, you may want to look back at strategy documents created when you started working with them. Make sure you understand their mission and goals — these are easy to lose sight of.

I’m curious about what other people do to solve this vague and slippery problem. Do you have any good resources, tips or advice? Share them in the comments or on Twitter (tweet @kimballpr or @sammkimball).

Photo credit: Amir Kuckovic / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

The Picture – or Rich Media – Is Worth 1,000 Words

For the public relations practitioners out there, let’s take a poll: How important do you think visual elements are to journalists?

A) Very important.

B) Not important at all.

If you answered A) Very important, then your views align with 80 percent of the journalists polled in a recent PRESSfeed survey who said it is important or very important to “have access to photographs and visual images.”

While your answer might have matched up to journalists, nearly half of the PR practitioners polled said visuals in news stories are not important at all to journalists.

Of the surveyed PR professionals, 45 percent said visuals were unnecessary in news stories. Another 39 percent said the same for press releases. Even considering the wording of the survey and how answers might have been perceived, these results demonstrate a stark divide between journalists and PR practitioners regarding the value and need for visual content.

As social media trends continue to embrace highly visual platforms, such as Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter, I ask: how could the polled PR practitioners not answer in favor of visuals paired with news content?

Although journalists have controlled the media straps for decades with article placements, PR professionals have their hands firmly on the reigns regarding social media content and engagement. The polled PR practitioners should have considered the volume of pictures and video populating all social media pages as they were clicking in answers to the PRESSfeed survey.

PR Newswire also conducted a study demonstrating the increasing number of press release views where visual content is added. In that study, press releases with photos, video and other media receive 77 percent more views than text-only releases – a lesson PR practitioners know – or should know – instinctively, and need to consider when filling out future surveys on the subject. Get the picture?