Wednesday, January 26, 2011

eNewsletter Centers on Marcellus Shale's Regional Economic Impact

I just distributed the latest edition of The Question, a one-page newsletter I created to center on one timely question that relates to a business or communications issue of interest.

The theory behind this is that you’d probably rather hear from someone other than me from time to time, but I may be able give you access to some opinions or insights you may not get elsewhere.

In this issue, Kathryn Klaber, President and Executive Director of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, responded to the question: Where do you see the Marcellus Shale having the biggest impact on the region’s economy?

If you’d like me to send you a copy, just get in touch with me. My contact information is on my Web site.

Friday, January 21, 2011

When to Host a Press Conference

In one social media hot spot dedicated to communications, one poster recently started a great thread about how to handle an assignment to organize a press conference when she knew it was not going to be newsworthy.

The most important thing she did and should have done was communicate. It’s vitally important to keep those who decided to have the press conference informed and aware. They should not be surprised by attendance when they get to the event. Of course, that doesn’t make it any easier when attendance is lacking.

The best thing to do is to make the strongest case possible on when to do a press conference and when not to do one before a decision is made. Here are some factors to consider at that point:

Number One – Only have a press conference if you know you have such a big announcement that it will be a hassle to field a series of calls and perhaps miss some big news coverage opportunities because your spokesperson was doing another interview or is inaccessible. Never decide to have a press conference, thinking that the event itself will draw reporters. The days of “host it, and they will come” are long gone.

Number Two – Newsrooms are too understaffed. There just aren’t enough reporters to cover all of the events happening in a given news cycle.

Number Three – Technology has made the traditional press conference an endangered species. Reporters are used to getting information at their desks via Email or the Internet via Web casts or even through social media. This saves them time, transportation problems and enables reporters to be much more productive.

Number Four – Location, Location, Location. The traditional classroom style press conference with the podium up front may be great for truly big announcements, but if you are fortunate enough to draw media away from their desks and to your location, it is important to think visually. Take them into the plant or to a site where photographers can get what they need to tell the story visually.

Number Five – Local TV News Formats are Not What they used to Be. Very few local television newscasts cover business news today. They are more likely to cover fires, big snow storms and criminal arraignments than they are to attend a press conference about a job-creation program. Weather and sports now take up the lion’s share of a local television station’s resources and on-air time. Business news, good business news in particular, does not get ratings and in television, that’s what it’s all about.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Connecting in 20 Seconds

Comedian Dennis Miller is from Pittsburgh, and whether you think he’s funny or not, he said one thing that has always resonated with me. When asked about is home town, he said something to the effect, “When you meet someone from Pittsburgh, you have about 20 seconds to prove whether you’re the real deal or not.”

While this may be true anywhere you go, what I believe Dennis meant was that not only do you have only 20 seconds, but more importantly, to Pittsburghers it matters. The town cannot be compared to San Francisco, in terms of aesthetics, though it has some really great vistas. And fakery isn’t as broadly accepted as it is, say, in Hollywood or Washington. Rather, Pittsburghers tend to put a high premium on genuineness, and they reward it with open receptiveness and warmth.

Anyone who’s lived in the area for any length of time knows that it’s always best to be straight with people when letting them know where you’re coming from, and in return, they’ll be straight with you in letting you know where you stand.

In the early days of my career, I found that this approach to communications is a major asset in cutting through the clutter. When I worked for a large, national PR firm, the Pittsburgh people tended to win clients’ trust more often because of this trait. There were a few times when clients from other cities preferred to deal with Pittsburgh people over some in firms closer to them geographically as a result of this comfort level.

So if you want to save some money on professional development and you want to sharpen your communications skills, next time you’re in Pittsburgh, just take a few minutes to chat up a taxi driver, a waitress, or a cop on a beat. Chances are, he or she will give you a good 20 seconds to make that first impression, and in return, you will get the feedback you need to know how well you’re doing. I guarantee it.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Simplifying the Public Relations Process

I’ve waited quite a while to start a blog mostly because I didn’t want to start one without knowing this blog could add something to the ongoing dialogue on communications.

As time has gone by, a pattern has emerged at O’Brien Communications, where one common denominator seems to drive all client need, which is in a word – simplification. No matter what their specific communications challenges, it seems that all clients want their communicators to simplify the process, simplify the message and get results.

The field of public relations has become a huge umbrella for disciplines that resemble a management consultant portfolio: Crisis Communications, Issues Management, Reputation Management, Change Management, Business to Business Marketing, Professional Services Marketing, Employee Communications, Media Relations, Community Relations, Communications Training and Media Interview Coaching. And these are just a few.

In each of these disciplines, we have created systems and approaches to help clients become best engaged in the process from planning through execution. What I’ve noticed, however, is that the process, the jargon and the acronyms can at times get in the way of the fundamental effort to deliver a clear message to a targeted audience effectively.

Other times, the distractions are external. Businesses and organizations must communicate in an environment at times in competition with the general media, social media, and rumors and speculation at the grassroots level.

This blog will weigh in on a range of topics tied to communications, some timeless and some current, but at the core of each post will be an effort to simplify the communications process. But its potential rests in the quality of its conversation with you.

With that in mind, let’s get started.

Tim O'Brien is Owner of O'Brien Communications