Archive for May, 2011

The Secret Power of the Negative Headline: How Using the Negative Tease Can Get You Positive Press

May 31, 2011

You hear them everyday and especially during television sweeps.  You know what they are.  Negative headlines, news promos or teases.  News stations and newspapers have harnessed the power of the negative headline for decades.  They know that if you tease a story in a negative or “dangerous” way, you draw in viewers and readers.

There was a commercial airing in California within the past few years that was hilarious, though I must confess, I do not remember what the ad was promoting.  It was produced like a pseudo 11- o’clock news station promo and started with the reporter voice over announcing, “There’s something lurking in your kitchen that’s very dangerous.”  There were images of a kitchen counter loaded with food and a refrigerator door being opened as shots of various foods were panned inside.  Then the voice over continued, “It’s in your refrigerator and it could kill you.  Details at 11.”  The ad was an obvious parody on how news stations over sensationalize to grab viewers, but the satire is not too far from reality.

We understand that the overall goal of any public relations effort is to project a positive image for a product, service or brand, but all of those “happy” or “positive spin” headlines on your press release, media alert or email pitch may actually be sabotaging your efforts.  Think about it.  Which story would you rather read or tune into on the news, “We have good news about a new soft drink.  Tune in at ten,” or “As you hydrate during the summer heat wave did you know some drinks may be bad for you?  Find out what drinks you need to avoid.  Details at eleven.”  The second tease is a promo I heard on our local CBS affiliate and like it or not, viewers (and readers) tune in to the negative headlines.  So it’s obvious, your press release or media alert may get more attention if it has a negative headline or slug line.

Worried about obtaining the positive spin?  Don’t because all you’re doing with the negative headline is getting the media decision makers to actually read your pitch.  Set the story up with the negative thought and then position your product, service, or brand as a solution to the negative tease.  For example, if you’re a bottled water company or produce sports drinks containing electrolytes, you can use the CBS tease to your advantage and talk generically about avoiding drinks high in sugar during high temperatures and communicate how your product is exactly what a body needs to stay hydrated during the summer heat, replenish electrolytes, and people need to keep it on hand in the car, at the office and in kids’ backpacks.

CMP Media Café has been very successful in using this technique to get media attention when our clients have the right product or service to capitalize on it and when the clients understand that the negative springboards the positive.  Some of our successful projects have included:

Slugline: “Top Three Mistakes Parents Make with Preschoolers” Our client was a national leader in classes for kids and by identifying the top three mistakes parents make and using their service as a solution to correct one or more of those mistakes, it gave their service a very positive positioning.

Slugline: “Herbal Supplements.  Are They Safe?”  Our client was a nutritional supplement company that was responding to bad press and they put a positive message out about taking herbal supplements as recommended are very safe and how they adhere to FDA guidelines with their products.

But don’t take my word for it.  I’ve found several articles from ABC, FOX and MSNBC to see how they use the negative headline to grab an audience.  Any one of the following stories could be the launch for a positive spin on a variety of products, services or brands.

MSNBC – Five Biggest Mistakes Homebuyers Make

ABC – Medical Myths That Can Kill You: And the 101 Truths That Will Save, Extend, and Improve Your Life

MSNBC – What You Don’t Know Can Hurt Kids

ABC – Aged Tires:  A Hidden Danger on the Road

CBN – The Hidden Danger in Your Food

Now, keep in mind that some of the negative headlines do in fact report negative stories, however, you can use the same media tactics that producers and editors use to grab viewers and readers to grab the media’s attention.  So be brave.  Be Daring.  Use the secret power of the negative slugline and see your media exposure improve dramatically!

Peace & Coconuts,

Marianne Schwab, Executive Producer, CMP Media Cafe

Copyright (c) 2011. CMP Media Cafe. All Rights Reserved.

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The Number One Mistake Pros Make on Press Releases

May 25, 2011

When I was a producer at some major television programs, I would be deluged by press releases.  Unfortunately most of these press releases got thrown in the trash.  Yes, that was the day of hard copies being sent through snail mail or fax, but now, it’s even more difficult to cut through the media clutter.

Getting newsroom attention is not easy.  It’s harder and harder to get producers on the phone to give them your pitch even if you’ve developed those media relationships.  Now, everyone wants you to submit your pitch (aka press release and/or media alert) through email.  That is if they don’t just cut you off completely and put your emails into their spam filters.

There are also many outlets for press release distribution online but in most cases, they’re a waste of time.  Not because the services don’t do the job of distribution and getting your press release into the search engines, but because the press release is the problem.  So what’s the number one mistake even seasoned P.R. pros make on writing press releases?  The press release has a boring headline/slug line with no angle.

The headline is the most important piece of the press release and it needs to be strong enough to grab thejournalist’s attention so that he or she will actually read the rest of the story.

Think about it, what do news room assignment desks, producers and media decision makers see first?  The slug line or headline to your news release or media alert.  You’ve spent hours crafting every word of your press release and getting it approved by your client, but it’s never read because you’ve lost the decision makers before they read word one.   Here’s what I’m talking about. 

I’ve put together some good “bad” examples of headlines that I found at an online press release website:

SFR Company Gets New Home in Utah.

Sally Jane, Author of Crime Thrillers, Promotes Her New Book

R2D2 Company Concentrates on FANUC Echo Robot Sales

(NOTE: The names have been changed to protect the innocent)

Here are some good examples of headlines I found at that same online press release website:

Tiny Spacecraft Could Help NASA Find Unmapped Planets

Avoiding the Con in Construction

4AllPromos Saves Lives with Summertime Promotion Products*

(*although this could be better)

Your slug line should sound like a tease for a news cast.  The difference between the two sets of examples?  The good slug lines can almost be turned into a tease for a newscast and say, “details at 11,” whereas the bad slug lines say, “who cares?”  For example, “Tiny spacecrafts could find new planets?  Details at 11,” or “Tune into tomorrow at 6 and we’ll show you how to avoid the “con” in construction.”  Here’s how you might spin a better slug line from one of the bad headlines with something like, “She’s solved two crimes without leaving her office.  How’d she do it?  (Tune tomorrow and find out).”

Now there are definitely news releases that have certain restrictions where the SEC is concerned on financial reporting, but if you’re promoting a product, person, or brand, then start thinking how producers and news editors think.

With that said, do not resort to cheap tactics to make your story seem more interesting than it really is or use a marketing-hypefilled headline that reads like an advertisement instead of a news story.  Always practice good journalism ethics and craft a headline that reflect what the story is truly about.

Finally, if you do half their work for them (i.e. create their tease line or headline so they see how they’ll grab viewers or readers with your story), then you’re on your way to becoming a rock star in P.R.

Peace and coconuts,

Marianne Schwab, Executive Producer, CMP Media Cafe

Copyright (c) 2011. CMP Media Cafe. All Rights Reserved.

Are Co-Op SMTs Still Effective in Today’s Media Environment?

May 24, 2011

No doubt about it, broadcast public relations and how companies get the word out to the media (and ultimately the consumer) has changed drastically in the last several years.  And it’s definitely changed since I left network TV production 15 years ago and started producing for corporate clients.   The shift in broadcast media tools and newsrooms’ colder reception to these tools leaves a lot of public relations experts asking, “Are co-op satellite media tours (SMTs) still effective in today’s media world?” Although this small industry has seen some ups and downs largely due to an unwarranted and biased smear campaign by the Center for Media & Democracy, it’s constantly evolving.  Adjustments are constantly being made to ensure the media is getting what it wants and that all outlets of new media are being used effectively too.

The ultimate question is are you and your broadcast public relations tactics evolving to meet the changes of how public relation efforts are being delivered to the media and are SMTs still viable with new forms of media available to reach the consumer?  There are definitely a lot of new media tools available for your P.R. toolkit.

Internet Media Tours and Social Media.  Some stars with new sizzle in broadcast public relations devices include internet media tours and social media campaigns.  First, I will be blogging about this topic soon, but internet media tours may be the hot new flavor of broadcast P.R., but as someone who has one of the top ranked travel websites I can tell you that they are way overpriced for your true audience reach and the numbers being reported are very distorted. Second, social media has some amazing possibilities (I currently have over 2700 Twitter Followers as @TravelProducer and a Klout score of 62), but even if you’re using social media successfully, it’s still only one piece of the publicity outreach machine you need to be pursuing to maximize any public relations campaign.

All social media has done is increase our options in a similar way that the 500 television stations increased viewing options on TV.  There is no one single way to reach your audience, but an editorial feature of a product, expert or brand in broadcast media continues to the be gold standard to add credibility to your name.  As much as viewing habits are shifting and diversifying to the internet & mobile phones, TV is not only still the originator of most of the news, but it’s still the driving force of credibility.  You see, almost anyone can get featured on the internet these days, but it’s still an elite group that gets featured on television news.

What About Audience Reach and Consumer Impressions.  As a producer, in addition to being creative, I’m also a numbers person and clients are very concerned about audience reach (i.e. consumer impressions).  Let’s talk about audience reach numbers then but let’s ask a few questions first:  What’s the audience reach for the top rated prime time show?  What time of the day are these shows broadcast?  Should a satellite media tour (SMT) expect to reach the same amount of audience numbers that the top rated prime time show gets?  I think you can see where I’m going with this.

The top rated shows on TV in general will get up to 15 million viewers on average during the winter when everyone is home and the numbers can drop almost in half during the summer when the weather is good and people are out enjoying the nice weather instead of being glued to the tube.  Sure, you’ll hear the finale of <i>American Idol</I> will get high audience reach numbers exceeding those averages, but they are the exception to average Nielsen ratings.

So continuing on the numbers theme.  Let’s say a client pays a participation fee on the high end of $15,000 for a Co-Op SMT and the company guarantees an audience reach of seven million viewers (including sponsored content on syndicated television programs).  How much does it cost to reach each viewer (not the CPM, but each viewer)?  The answer is easy.  It only costs $0.002 to reach each viewer – way less than a penny per person.  Can any company produce a printed brochure with product information, purchase mailing lists and place stamps on envelopes to seven million people for that price?  Can you produce a commercial and purchase airtime for a DRTV spot for that amount per viewer?  Even if you could (which you can’t), would the product have the same credibility as the editorial news feature?

It All Boils Down to Credibility.  So the question remains: are Co-Op SMTs still effective in today’s media world?  Given the audience reach results for the dollar value, they’re still a very good bang for your buck.  It’s important to reiterate that no amount of advertising can give your product the credibility that an editorial feature on a television program can.

To find out more about Co-Op Satellite Media Tours and broadcast public relations options, visit us at CMP Media Cafe.

Peace and coconuts,

Marianne Schwab, Executive Producer, CMP Media Cafe

Copyright (c) 2011. CMP Media Cafe. All Rights Reserved.