Friday, July 29, 2011

In the Mix...Camp Red Kite Coverage

Camp is now in session at Chicago Children’s Theatre. Camp Red Kite that is, a summer theater camp tailored to meet the special needs of children on the autism spectrum. LCWA finds it particularly gratifying to help Chicago’s #1 children’s theater build awareness for the many programs that are part of Red Kite Project, a one-of-a-kind initiative which serves as a model for other arts institutions both nationally and internationally. Tune in to ABC7's recent report on Camp Red Kite by disabilities reporter Karen Meyer, and if you know any parents with children on the autism spectrum, please forward them this post. They’ll be glad you did. And so will you.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Weathering a TV Shoot

As storms rolled through the south last month, I rolled into Arkansas, prepared to weather an HGTV show taping with a client. Taped television segments come with their own set of benefits and challenges – there is the added control of being able to say “let’s take that again,” but also the added nerves that come with presenting the same information five different ways to find the most “natural” sound bite.

If you have a taped television opportunity on the horizon, below are some key lessons from my recent experience to help guarantee the best possible segment – for both your client and your media contact.

  • Think Visuals First – and Second, and Last! Cover the basics first: the dress code for anyone who will be near the camera, the preferred background for the shoot and the recommended b-roll visuals. If the shoot is on location, go over pictures of the “set” with the client to make sure everyone is on the same page. You’ll want to have these conversations when you still have time to ship in new product, rearrange accessories or choose a new location. Finally, the day of the shoot, be critical to remove distractions. If you can see debris on the floor, have someone sweep it. If a shirt looks wrinkled, iron it!
  • Put Your Preparations on Paper. Get organized with a master planning document, including key messages, talking points, dress code and emergency contact. Spokespeople tend to forget details when they are nervous and a camera can be very intimidating. Create a book to keep all of the essential information in one place and make a copy for your spokesperson to reference as often as needed.
  • Let Confidence Rule. Taped segments invite feedback and retakes, requiring your active engagement and ongoing counsel. Discuss your role with the producer beforehand to establish a rhythm for your relationship. If something said on camera is incorrect, should you interject or wait until the take ends? Keep in mind that if you won’t have any input in the editing room, you’ll want to be especially careful about what is captured on camera. On the client side, now is the time for confident counsel. Take each spokesperson aside several minutes before filming to prepare for the questions ahead and review key messages. And don’t be afraid to give constructive criticism between takes. “Speak louder,” “smile more,” “talk slower,” and “we’ll have to redo that, it’s incorrect” are all things I said recently to clients. And all feedback that led to a better overall segment.
  • Record it. Since you have paper handy, you might as well take notes! Record the takes you liked best and the time they filmed. Also note bad quotes, incorrect statements and awkward scenes. You can share your notes with the producer afterward as helpful input for the editing desk – just be careful not to overstep your role. You also can use your notes to help your spokesperson prepare for future interviews and to give feedback on his or her performance.

Stormy weather aside, our recent TV shoot was a big success, and I attribute that success to the full preparations our team took to develop messages, coordinate visuals and find the best faces to bring energy and life to our story. It’s something I’m sure will shine through on screen, despite the cloudy skies in the frame.

Monday, July 25, 2011

In the Mix...Raising Awareness for Hepatitis C Treatment and Prevention

Last week, we worked with Congressman Danny Davis and Dr. Nancy Reau of the University of Chicago to educate the public about a “silent epidemic” – hepatitis C, and a breakthrough new treatment from Vertex Pharmaceuticals. With interviews on four local radio stations and announcements on Chicago’s online media, we alerted citizens to this past weekend’s Health Summit, co-sponsored by Congressman Davis, where they can get tested for hepatitis C.

Friday, July 22, 2011

In the Mix...La-Z-Boy Helping Hands Event


Our helping hands came together to give the first La-Z-Boy “Helping Hand” award to a delivery driver at an event at the La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries store in San Diego today. During a routine delivery of a La-Z-Boy chair, Hugo Peña noticed his customer’s neighbor, Ed Ross, collapsed on his front porch. Peña acted quickly to call 911, alert Ross’ family and wait for assisting paramedics to arrive. The humble delivery driver then went on to make 17 more deliveries that day. Thanks to Peña’s quick thinking, Ross, who suffered heart failure, is now recovering at home. We worked with La-Z-Boy to plan the event honoring Peña, which was attended by local fire departments, the safety commission chairperson and representatives for local public officials, as well as KUSI-TV. Peña also received a “thank you” in the form of a La-Z-Boy “Carlyle” chair, and Ross was presented with a La-Z-Boy “Woodmont” recliner to help him enjoy a comfortable recovery.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

In the Mix…Social Media with a Social Conscience

To help our client First Alert spread the word about a new California carbon monoxide (CO) law, we enlisted regional mommy bloggers to promote CO safety and the use of carbon monoxide alarms to their followers. The response has been fantastic. Thanks to posts like these from A Mom Less Ordinary and East Sacramento Mom, parents throughout the state are educated, compliant and protecting what matters most -- their families.

Friday, July 15, 2011

In the Mix...Everest College Opening in Bedford Park, Illinois


This week, we worked with Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (third from right) to attend the grand opening event for Everest College's Bedford Park campus. ABC affiliate WLS-TV covered the ribbon cutting, which was attended by students and other dignitaries. Fun was had by all, and then it was back to class!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Summer's Must-See Movie

As is often the case, the trailer duped me. I expected Andrew Rossi’s documentary Page One: Inside the New York Times to be about the paper’s juggling its traditional role as the gold standard of U.S. print media in the face of increasing use of social media. The film touches on the issue, but it is so much more and fosters myriad debates.

For PR practitioners, the film is essential viewing. It doesn’t necessarily surface new themes, but it is a fascinating look at media of all types. Here’s a snapshot of some of Page One’s key elements:

  • Changing Media Landscape. We’re all aware of the ever-changing media landscape. The film opened on a particularly troubling time in 2008, when talking heads reported the demise of papers like the Rocky Mountain News. The cause? Ostensibly, lack of ad revenue and shrinking circulation. The traditional media revenue model is enough for its own documentary. But Page One leveraged this as a launch pad to introduce viewers to a handful of reporters and editors on the New York Times’ media desk. Through them and other sources, we also hear about:
  • Print vs. Social Media. The Times employees are better than any actors, and seeing their working style and peeking inside the newspaper editors’ meetings fascinate for a few minutes. In the midst, we follow David Carr, whom some professional movie critics accurately describe as “salty but brilliant,” to conferences where the place of newspapers in an increasingly social and interconnected media landscape is debated. Carr, a major advocate of print media who once wrote in the New York Times about caving in and setting up a Twitter account (at age 52), provides one of the most compelling and visual arguments for traditional media. On a panel with Michael Wolff, founder of media aggregate Newser, Carr asks what content would be featured in a world without traditional media. He displays Newser’s homepage in which he’s cut out all links sourced from traditional media. The Swiss cheese’d paper is telling.
  • Credible Sources. Journalistic sources could be another subject of an extended piece of prose or film, but Page One tries to scratch this surface, too. We meet Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks. Was WikiLeaks a publisher of content in cooperation with the New York Times, or was it a source? The film asks this question and gives viewers a brief glimpse at the internal debate and the aftermath of this cooperation. It’s an interesting thought that also overflows into another debate that the film brings to the surface: who and what are the sources of reputable news? Is it only traditional newspapers? Do bloggers count?
  • Who follows whom? The film even calls into question, perhaps unfairly, television news, but seems to suggest that both TV and radio are in the same category as newspapers. Thanks to some historic footage, Page One shows that TV news, even in the age of Walter Cronkite, followed print.
  • Facebook vs. Other Media? Facebook was mentioned only once, by Carr, but blogs (including the 80+ published by the New York Times) were included in this maelstrom of ideas, and viewers were treated to a who’s who of major bloggers. I would have enjoyed hearing more what Carr had to say about Facebook.

It’s certain that we’ll continue to evolve with the times, as will our sources of news, forever debated. For a PR guy, Page One made for a fascinating 96 minutes… One final thought from the film: Carr said that when he says he’s calling from the New York Times, that often scares people. Mr. Carr, rest assured that when the New York Times calls, PR people jump to it.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

With Media Training, the Mission is Still the Message

In this day of smart phones streaming video, bloggers with flip cams and 24/7 cable news shows, have we become such savvy consumers of media that we respond instinctively with a good sound bite when given the chance? Not necessarily.

From the media training sessions we conduct regularly at LCWA, it’s clear that the ability to deliver the right message with confidence and conviction is what makes an outstanding spokesperson. As the length of a typical broadcast news story gets shorter and shorter – now at 90 seconds or less on average – reducing that message to compelling sound bite is essential.

What makes a good sound bite? Here are some basic guidelines:

  • Keep it short and simple: Resist the impulse to overcomplicate your message. Pare down your thoughts to the most essential three or four points. Then pare down again. Ideally, you will have just one or two key thoughts to communicate each time you do an interview.
  • Make it memorable, but not glib: The best spokespersons have the knack of presenting the same information over and over – and making it sound fresh every time. It’s a skill that can be learned and honed through practice. Don’t try to memorize your answer. Rather, internalize the key thought and try new ways to tell your story each time.
  • Add color to your messages: Statistics can add meat to any message, but choose wisely. One pithy stat is better than a slew of numbers that will leave your listener more dazed than dazzled. Examples and analogies make your message come alive. Third-party endorsements will bolster the credibility of your claims. Even personal testimonials, which might not work well in other interview situations, can be surprisingly effective in sound bites.
  • Stay on message: In the end, the most quotable sound bite doesn’t accomplish your objective unless it reinforces the messages you want to convey about your product or your organization. You can answer every question a reporter throws at you and still not “ace” the interview unless you get your message across.

At LCWA, we believe that the message is still the mission with media training. That’s why our approach focuses on helping spokespersons to craft and then “own” memorable messages, support them with facts and examples, and deliver them in sound bites that capture attention.