Agency Life: Public Relations

Not until the end of my sophomore year did I figure out I wanted to major in public relations. I tried liberal arts- that was a no, I tried advertising- that was a no, but when I came around to taking a few PR classes, I liked being able to present in front of an audience (hello theatrical background!) and both technical and creative writing styles.

I quickly learned that if I wanted to land a job somewhere down the line, I needed to network like a crazy person. So I did. I went to every networking event I could, had countless people look over my resume, and kept hustling to get good grades while working long hours at Nordstrom. A few classes that really helped me understand what PR was all about was my campaigns class and my Chicago agencies class at DePaul. From learning in my classes, I started interning at a boutique firm, and when I say boutique, I mean a strong boss lady one woman show. I learned how to write a press release, what a media list was, and how to pitch media. After I graduated from DePaul, I later landed my first internship at Weber Shandwick, a global PR agency in the Hancock with 300+ employees. This was quite the culture shock let alone being able to comprehend how one agency can have so many clients. PR is all about work hard, play hard, and Weber knew how to have fun. At times you can feel a bit lost with so many people because we all want to stand out a little bit, don’t we? A lot of us interning were friends which was nice- we ate lunch together and went to happy hours after work.. living out our interning days in its best form. It was great to be able to work on reputable brands and feel like you were in the heart of corporate America straight out of college, but PR internships like to take you on a roller coaster ride, so I kept on networking and trying my best.

Then I interned at Olson: a 75 person mid-size agency with cool clients in a lofted space in west loop. Here I felt like everyone knew who each other was and could joke around the office. The work I was able to do was so hands on because the teams were smaller, so the more exposure for me the better! I decided after interning at Olson I liked the smaller office vibe. Everyone was friends, they had fun, and did great work.

We are almost there! Then I received a job offer at MSL. The coolest thing about MSL is it’s a global agency but with such a tight knit, boutique feel. There are about 35 employees in our office, and the best part is everyone is friends. I tell my work pals I count my blessings because I found great coworkers, and great friends too.. and sometimes those are hard to come by! Funny story: before I knew what PR or advertising was, I always envisioned myself working for Leo Burnett, not because I knew what I wanted, but because to me, Leo Burnett was the place to be if you wanted to be the catalyst of advertising (hello naive 20 year old self…). Little did I know a few years later I would be working in the Leo Burnett building, working with PR pros and advertising creatives and strategists in such an integrated way.

So I will say this, big or small, PR pros know how to have fun. I do think there is something to be said about being at a smaller agency: you are more hands on which only benefits you in the long run, and you get noticed pretty easily. It’s also cool to work at an agency where you have a mix of clients both national and local to Chicago. I did a round up of pros and cons for all agency sizes from my experiences- and I hope you find the perfect PR agency fit if you are looking to enter agency life!

Boutique Firm: 1-10 people. You will see every task from the beginning to end and you have to be willing to get down into the nitty gritty. Great way to learn about the industry quick if you are new to it! Very fast paced and sometimes overwhelming if you are new but don’t be afraid! Smaller clients and sometimes smaller budgets mean lots of creative thinking and workarounds. ūüôā

Mid-Size Firm: 15-75 people. Great client exposure and great brand recognition with all the perks. Small enough to be noticed yet big enough to execute ideas that might be a little more costly.

Full Size Agency: 100+ people. Brands with budgets and great perks. What I found at large agencies is that it is a great place to network and maintain relationships. You never know who you might run into down the line. Sometimes you might feel lost in the mix, but easy solve because you can get your hustle on and do great work.

Questions? Thoughts? Concerns? Ask away!

XO.

Lex

What does one do in Public Relations?

 

More¬†often than not I receive the question “So you’re in public relations. What do you do?” and part of what brought Al +¬†I together is our different backgrounds in PR – she has her own biz and I work in a public relations agency (hello corporate America!). Let me start off by saying: PR is fun. I think across all PR agencies, it’s the mindset of “work hard, play hard” that gets you through the day and everyone’s combined hard work really pays off.

So again, what is it that I do? Anyone looking to get into PR but not sure what it entails? I broke down a few crucial parts to what makes up being a public relations professional along with a few¬†tips I’ve learned so far in my career.

Who is a PR professional and what do they do?

 

A PR person is a people person: Media Relations

Ever wonder why your local FOX news covered the grand opening of the new grocery store down the street and interviewed by standers and C suite execs of the grocery store chain? Chances are they are working with a public relations agency with the goal of spreading the word about their grocery store on a local and national level. Now why is the grand opening of a new grocery store interesting you ask? That is where us PR wizards enter the scene. Our goal is to think not only creatively, but strategically. Does the Chief Marketing Officer of the grocery store brand have any local ties to the community? Does the company support a foundation that would entice more customers¬†to shop there over it’s competitors? PR people take all of these angles into consideration¬†when we are calling the producer of FOX news, ABC, NBC etc. because they want to know “Why is this story interesting?” and “Why does this story¬†matter?” If we only have 30 seconds to speak with the producer: we better be ready to give a five star elevator pitch and make it the most exciting story to date.

Since the world is turning into a digital, always plugged in society, we are also finding the perfect online news outlets that both you and I read. If the grand opening of the grocery store was happening in Orange County (southern California), our target consumer probably reads The Orange County Register online and in print. It’s our job as experts to find the editor who is writing about similar events, get¬†in contact with them, and again explain¬†to them why this story¬†is important and why it’s something they should share with their audience.

You might be wondering: do we pay the OC register to post about the grocery store grand opening? The answer is no. PR is free publicity. (*Note this is different than an advertisement.) The grocery store brand is paying my agency to hustle and get the word out about the grand opening. This means having write ups in well known outlets that have millions of monthly readers. If I had a friend post on her Facebook about the event, it would only reach the number of friends she has on FB. We want to earn the most impressions for this story so we go for the heavy hitters that make the most sense. In other words I am not going to pitch the San Francisco Examiner for an event happening in Orange County– it doesn’t make sense and unfortunately no one really cares in SF.
Felix Gray

 

A PR person is all about social media: Digital

I am in such a cool position at my job. I am the hybrid child at work being half consumer and half digital focused. In the PR landscape of things, digital experience is quickly evolving into something everyone needs to be an expert in. That being said, I work on different influencer programs with my consumer clients. I help find the right bloggers with the right audience that is the best fit for the brand. I help draft content briefs so our bloggers feel well equipped with relevant information about the brand when they go to write and really am the day to day liaison between our blogger friends and the brand to make sure they feel good about their post and are producing engaging, relevant content.

Happy client + happy blogger + happy team = winning.

One of my clients for example, sells¬†baking products. Through lots of research, I help find the perfect food blogger that 1) fits well with the brand and likes to bake 2) has strong photography skills 3) her audience is engaged with her content on both her blog and social channels and 4) is affordable for our brand to sponsor. Once all of these boxes are checked, I work with the blogger on selecting a¬†recipe that most likely centers around a holiday (for example, cinnamon rolls for a Christmas brunch) and will resonate best with their audience. I am also the one reviewing their content to make sure it fits the brand’s voice, and when the post goes live, we later report on her metrics! (Views, engagements, likes, shares etc.)

It has been really neat so far on my blogging journey to incorporate what I am learning at my PR job into my blog posts on Al + Lex and working with brands that best fit into my lifestyle. Of course I want to share information about products that I use in my daily routine, whether it be relating to fashion, fitness, beauty, travel or PR.

For example, one product I came across is Felix Gray. Think of Felix Gray as the go to eye wear for people who work (and stare) at a computer all day. I am quickly raising my hand volunteering as tribute as I am always staring at a screen whether it be at¬†work or for blogging. I wear my “Nash” style Felix Grays at work and when I am elsewhere typing up my blog posts. Before I started wearing my FG’s, I would ask myself ¬†“am i slowly going blind?” due to blurry vision throughout the day even when I was wearing my contacts! My Felix Gray eye wear has helped me alleviate eye strain by eliminating glares and filtering blue light.

FG sources their acetate (fiber used to make textiles) from Varese, Italy – a region with a 100+ year reputation for producing the world’s nicest acetates (think along the lines of Oliver Peoples). They did a ton of research and started working with a firm to create the perfect¬†lens, which does not use a coating to deflect blue light like other brands might, but filters the high-energy light by using a synthesized pigment naturally produced by the human body and adds it directly into the lens material. What I also love about this brand is that it is so affordable. The lens itself would typically cost $300+ from an eye doctor, and we all know that frames can be so expensive these days! Felix Gray is its own efficient tech company and with that, keeps the prices low and affordable¬†while selling a quality product.

See what I did there? I am on both ends of the spectrum being in PR and being a blogger – but I thoroughly enjoy matching influencers with our client’s brands at work, and I LOVE working with brands that positively impact my life too. Win win! And if you are like me and stare at a screen all day, check out Felix Gray! Your eyes will sincerely thank you.
Felix Gray

A PR Person is a story teller: Strategy

My favorite part about PR is we get to brainstorm and think of creative ideas for brands in hopes to tell a story, make an impact, and engage with consumers. We want our brands to resonate in the minds of consumers and create a campaign that lasts instead of being a one and done moment. The mind of a PR person is always churning with thoughts: How can we get through the clutter for our client? What is the next big thing in social media? How can we make a statement? What does the brand need the most? What can we do that no one else is doing?

When we are planning for the next¬†year for our clients¬†or have a new business pitch we are going after, we have numerous brainstorms to hear the ideas of our fellow coworkers. Ten¬†heads is better than one and I personally love hearing everyone’s ideas because everyone comes from a different background, bringing fresh ideas to the room.

 

In short, I love my job and the work I get to be involved in. If you are looking to get into PR, I recommend joining your local Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) chapter, grab coffee with someone who works in an agency who’s clients intrigue you, and most importantly be open to anything when it comes to PR. You will learn so much that goes beyond a job description that will help you both in the workspace and in your everyday life.

Smiling big as I wrap up this post because I love what I get to do and I hope with whatever you do as a career or hobby, you love it too.

XO.

Lex

Complimentary product was included in this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Photography by Brittany Benson.

How To Pitch Brands and Influence Media: The Basics

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Last week I talked about the FTC Blogger Guidelines and how Edelman is changing the data analytics game for bloggers- both important subjects to have a basic understanding of in the day and age of the career blogger.

When I first started blogging my Freshman year of college, I had no idea that in a few short years there would be a “business” side to something that I found pure enjoyment in. As I progressed in my blog and ultimately started working with brands, I had to learn the basics, like how to create a simple media kit and how to send a pitch to publicists and journalists. Being a PR professional, it is slightly comical to look back at something that caused me so much anxiety!

According to Webster’s Dictionary, the textbook definition of PR is: professional maintenance of a favorable public image by a company or other organization or a famous person. The state of the relationship between the public and a company or other organization or a famous person. While this is true, a PR person is as follows: the gatekeeper between you and the brand. To work with a brand, there are numerous people that have to approve: the marketing director, the PR director, the social media strategist…and on and on.

With blogger + brand partnerships being extremely prevalent, something I often get asked is “what does a proper pitch look like?” While that is a tricky question to answer because every PR professional has their own style of pitching, there are some basics that will help you get across the finish line in a brands’ inbox and hopefully a response!

Pitching brands versus media is very different. A brand pitch is tailored to one specific product and has a call to action. For example: “Would you like to partner…”, “Will you send me XYZ product….”. The question to ask yourself is, what do I have to offer this brand that the ten million other bloggers do not? Make sure you are asking for the right things. While these pitches will help you be professional, also know what level of goods to ask for. If you are a new blogger, request samples to review and start building a relationship with a brand you love.

Remember that when you are pitching media outlets, you are pitching to a writer/journalist. When you are pitching to a brand, you are pitching to a publicist. The job of a publicist is to protect their brands image and think about the business side of how actions will benefit the brand. Also, keep in mind timeliness: if you are pitching a holiday style segment positioning yourself as a fashion expert, give at least a month leeway for scheduling.

One thing that will help to set you apart is using PR to your advantage and aligning yourself with a brands current initiatives. If you directly link your blog or Instagram page and a brand immediately sees their product pop up, that helps set you apart. Below are an example of a brand pitch vs. a media pitch:

 

 

Example Brand  pitch:

Hi Kaylee,

I hope you are having a lovely week! I just wanted to shoot you a note getting Chicago based blog XYZ on your radar for the upcoming Spring months! We explore career, food and fashion combined with unique elements.

(Introduce yourself and tell the publicist exactly what you do!)

Utilizing our background in public relations and digital strategy, we have tapped into a demographic of 21-27 year old women that value experiences over physical items.

(What sets us apart.)

With “spring break” season quickly approaching in Chicago, I just wanted to reach out and see if you would be interest in a collaboration post with us across XYZ and¬† showcasing XYZ HOTEL as the ultimate alternate hotel from getting away from the craziness of the strip but still having all the amenities you could ever want at your fingertips.

(What are you asking for? What are you going to do in exchange for XYZ?)

I am more than happy to answer any questions you might have and am happy to shoot over my media kit.  Do you have any time for a call next week?

(Try to get on a call- it is MUCH harder to say no to someone on the phone than email. Offer to send media-kit if you have one!)
Alex
###

Example Press Pitch :

 

Hi Stanton!

Hope you are having a lovely week! I just wanted to shoot you a note getting XYZ BLOG on your radar for XYZ PUBLICATION. Utilizing our backgrounds in public relations and digital strategy, we decided to launch XYZ BLOG as a culmination of our passions. Do you have any “Real Women, Real Style” segments coming up?

(In this case, we are asking to be featured for a specific segment “real women, real style.” This lets the journalist/producer (if a tv show) know that you did your homework and actually know what they cover.)

XYZ BLOG is based out of Chicago and will be on the ground at Lollapalooza for activations. I just wanted to reach out and see if you would be interested in any kind of festival fashion piece or behind the scenes Snapchat takeover for XYZ or a “10 Craziest Things We Saw At Lollapalloza” segment for the WXYZ Morning Show?

(What can you offer that is different: come up with a catchy headline and offer it up. Also, mention specifics of what you can talk about.

 

Things to ask yourself when writing a pitch:

  • Who gives a crap? Why should someone care about what you are writing?
  • What makes your story outshine the others?
  • Where does your story fit into the writers world? How can they use you to make news?
  • When is this most important? (EX: if it is a pitch about Lollapalooza, make sure you send it out 4 weeks prior.)
  • Timeliness to a pitch presents a sense of urgency to the Journalist/Publicist.
  • Why would people want to read your story?
  • How can this story help readers?

 

 

General Tips on PR:

 

  • Have an idea for a specific niche collaboration? Offer it up!
  • If you aren’t comfortable with your stats yet, don’t offer them up right away! Focus on the gorgeous photos you take of your reader demographic.
  • Make sure your public image is clean, brands do not want to be associated with people with dirt in their closet (or on their timeline.)
  • If you can’t find the direct PR contact for a company, try multiple versions in the BCC. Ex: info@morescopr.com, alex@morescopr.com, am@morescopr.com. One of them is bound to work!
  • Know when to follow up: follow up a few days prior to your first email.
  • The best time to pitch is first thing in the morning when a journalist/publicist gets to their desk (9am) or midday when they are not buried in emails.
  • Have a catchy subject line that fits the length of the line.

 

I know this is a lot of information to take in, but it is worthwhile to know in the long run. Next week I plan on covering the basics of a brand phone call, a sample call agenda and what questions you should be asking. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments!

If you are looking for more information about the business side of blogging, please check out: FTC Blogger Guidelines + how Edelman is changing the data analytics game.

 

<3 Alexandra Moresco

Alexandra Moresco is the owner and founder of A Moresco PR + Digital Strategy.