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The Journalism Movies Post

journalism moviesI’ve wanted to write a journalism movies post for about two years now. I scrapped the idea the first time, because I was thinking more along the lines of writing a “best journalism movies” post. Even if I had succeeded in developing a sexy algorithm (oxymoron?) that yielded an objective list, it would still be wrong. My logic was flawed. I don’t think you can make a list of the best journalism movies ever made, because it’s too subjective.

For starters, what is a journalism movie? Is it a movie about journalism, like All The President’s Men, or would a journalist character be enough, as is the case with Superman? Then there’s the question of films like Capote or The Help, which don’t meet the former criteria, but have elements one could argue are representative of professional journalism. Would these films be worthy?

Then there was the issue credibility in recommending any films to watch. I’m not a film critic. I’m not a journalist. And for the most part, I haven’t seen all the films I would put on the list. Then it hit me – you probably haven’t seen a lot of these films either. Why not just put together a thoughtfully assembled list and let you decide which films appeal to your interests? I relied heavily on @journalistics‘ Twitter followers for suggestions, and thanks to them (and some research into the topic), I’ve come up with roughly 30 journalism-related films. Most you’ve seen, but my hope is you discover one or two on this list that you didn’t know about.

I’ve tried to provide a little background for each film on the list. Where possible, I’ve included tweets from our followers about the films – as an added thanks for their contributions. The list includes some great Oscar-nominees and winners, some incredible documentaries and a few less respectable works I’m mixing in there for the heck of it.

I view this post as a work in progress. It won’t be complete until you chime in with your suggestions for films I overlooked, or your opinion on the films you’ve seen on this list. The goal of this post is to help some of you discover a journalism-related film you didn’t know about before reading this post. If that happens, please let me know.

Without further adieu, here’s that list of journalism-related films I cam up with. Brace yourself, the post comes in just under 4,700 words. [Read more...]

Getting Coverage for Your News Should Be Easy

If you work in media relations today, and you’re having a hard time getting coverage for your news, you’re doing something wrong. Journalists exist to write about news. If you have a legitimate news story, you shouldn’t have a hard time getting coverage. When I reflect on the 15 years I’ve been doing some aspect of media relations as part of my job, I can’t think of a single instance where I had a hard time getting coverage for news.

When I’ve had problems getting coverage – while I didn’t realize it at the time – it was because the story wasn’t actually newsworthy, or I was talking to the wrong journalists. The purpose of this post is to help you figure this stuff out much sooner than the 15 year mark in your career.

First, Are You Talking to the Right Journalists?

Who covers your news? Which reporters write the most about the topics related to what you do? You should know who they are off the top of your head. If you don’t, start there. Subscribe to the publications they write for. Read the stuff they write. It only takes a couple of minutes a day to do this, and you’ll quickly find that you know exactly who to talk to when news bubbles to the surface in your organization. [Read more...]

Networking Online and Offline

Networking is a topic near and dear to my heart. Every single opportunity I’ve had in my lifetime to date has been born out of a relationship initiated by me or someone else. You can probably say the same. In my case, maybe it was a connector who introduced me to my former employer. Maybe it was me extending my hand for the first time and finding the next person I would decide to work on a project with. Maybe the relationship was born out of small talk waiting in line somewhere. Those of you that read this blog, and know me in real life, probably have an interesting story about how we met.

I found myself thinking about the topic of how networking has changed in my recent trip to SXSW Interactive. Think about the startups generating the most buzz coming out of SXSW the past couple of years. There’s Highrise, GroupMe, Twitter, Forecast, Plancast and Foursquare (this list could easily be 50 companies long, but you get the point). What do they all have in common? In one way or another, they help us to connect easier with one another. Isn’t that what social media is all about?

For the social media-savvy group, which I consider myself a member of, it’s helped us to develop hundreds (if not thousands) of new connections that wouldn’t have been possible using traditional networking. By traditional networking, I mean getting out there and meeting people in real life. It would take a lifetime of traditional networking to make the connections we can make in a few months using social media. Would you have known that the woman you work with went to school with your best friend’s fraternity brother? Nope, not without LinkedIn. How about the dozen or so people in your city you know through Twitter now? How long would it have taken to meet them the old fashioned way? You probably would never have met them. [Read more...]

10 Things I Love About SXSW

It’s that time of year again. No, not time to spring ahead… well, actually, it is time for that on Saturday, but I’m referring to the annual nerd pilgrimage to Austin for the mega conference SXSW Interactive (eh hem… Spring Break for grown-ups, disguised as a interactive marketing conference). This will be my third trip to the conference and while I’m no longer a SXSW virgin, I’m hardly giving lessons yet. However, I am entitled to an opinion, so here is my list of the top 10 things I love about SXSW:

1. The Energy – there is such a good vibe at this “conference”. Maybe it’s the free booze everywhere – but I’d prefer to think that the people who go share a passion for learning, and they realize that comes from meeting and talking with people.

2. The Friends – there are people I run into at SXSW that I can’t manage to catch up with in Atlanta or San Francisco (where I spend most of my time). Despite my efforts the past few weeks to broadcast my intentions to attend SXSW this year, I know I’ll see a dozen or so people there that will surprise me. I can’t wait.

3. The Content - if you can’t find sessions you’re interested in at SXSW, you shouldn’t be going. There are always three things going on at the same time – the conference forces you to make tough decisions every hour. [Read more...]

Quality Versus Quantity

When I started this blog back in 2009, I wanted to vent about media relations. At the time, PR people were taking a lot of heat for spamming bloggers. It seemed like every day there was some story about a PR person that had pissed off a blogger. Most of the attacks were probably justified, though the result of years of built up tension in most cases. As I started blogging, I didn’t think it would stick. When I launched my personal blog in 2007, I wrote two posts, then deleted them. I’d write them again, then I deleted them. I ultimately decided blogging wasn’t for me. I eventually came around.

With Journalistics, it was different. In 2009, social media was starting to take off. I had 12 years of PR experience under my belt – and I knew a thing or two about SEO. I never thought of myself as an expert, but as I started to share my suggestions, a lot of great feedback started coming in. I was actually helping people. Some people said my blog had become their favorite (but that’s what mom’s are supposed to say, right?).

If you had told me that hundreds of thousands of people would read my posts, I wouldn’t have believed you. But that’s what happened. Then the posts started being mentioned by people I respected in the industry. And then I’d have people come up to me at conferences and say, “I read your blog. I love it.” I always thought they had me confused for a similar-sounding blog. [Read more...]

Introducing ExpertEngine

Journalistics has launched a new service called ExpertEngine. ExpertEngine will help journalists (eventually) quickly (and anonymously) search for, find and contact experts for the stories they are working on. Before I give you the full scoop (and the sign-up info), here’s a quick story about why we – a blog about journalism and PR – decided to create ExpertEngine.

One of the best and worst things about working with start ups, particularly if you’re entrepreneurial like myself, is you inevitably find yourself wanting to do your own thing again. As some of you know, I majored in public relations and journalism at Utica College of Syracuse University. It’s one of the few colleges that combines instruction for journalism and PR – so since college, I’ve learned about both sides of the fence. I’ve always thought of starting a business related to PR/journalism – but not a service business like I did with my agency, but rather a product business.

Somewhere in the midst of Web 2.0, but before the social media craze, I started thinking to myself, “There has to be an idea I can take to market that PR people will love?” PR is hard work… how can I make it easier? What problem that hasn’t been solved yet? Surely there is an outdated or overpriced service that could be updated for the 2000s? I mean, what independent PR professional can afford $5K a year (at the time) for a media database? I ultimately settled on creating a FREE media database. You know, Vocus/Cision meets Wikipedia? If you ever read Wikinomics, you know there are plenty of examples of peer production and mass collaboration successes out there – I was sure it would work if I built it. I did start to build it, but then… [Read more...]

The Top 11 Journalistics Posts of 2011

best journalism posts 2011This is the third year I’ve written a “Top Journalistics Posts of the Year” post. The greatest hits meme is a little overdone, I know – but when you consider about half our readers are ‘new visitors’, a lot of these posts are new to them. I personally enjoy the exercise of reviewing our best posts from the year. Reflecting on my work from the past year gives me renewed focus for the coming year.

This couldn’t be more true this year. I took a look back at our Top 9 Posts of 2009 and Top 10 Posts of 2010 to see how the blog has changed over the past few years. The first thing that jumped out at me is how good the posts from 2009 were. Three or four of those first posts remain the most-viewed each year on the blog (I won’t reveal which ones they are, mainly because they’re great resources – but in desperate need of updating).

The popularity of these posts tells me two things:

1. Those posts were great – and well worth the effort that went into them (some of the more labor intensive posts to date)

2. If I was writing great content, posts from 2009 wouldn’t still be the most popular content in 2011

We have a lot of great content lined up for 2012. As always, we welcome your feedback. For now, without further adieu, here are the top posts of 2011: [Read more...]

Surviving in a Pay-to-Play World

Most PR practitioners quickly learn that the wall protecting editorial integrity from the influence of paid advertising can be, like the Pirate Code, “more of a guideline than an actual rule.” For better or worse, at a great number of well-known and respected media sources, advertisers are often given preference in coverage. Media ethics forbid this, but advertising packages often come with editorial opportunities, access to journalists or advertorials. Paid stories disguised as editorial.

Despite denials and indignation from journalists, money does talk at many print, electronic and online media sources; often in direct relation to the financial health and business prospects of its corporate owners. These quid pro quo arrangements are never in writing, and typically are communicated over a lunch with a publisher or sales rep who, with a smile or a wink, assures the client or agency that, “I have no influence over editorial…but I’ll see what I can do.” The more reliant the media outlet is on ad dollars, the thinner the line between advertising and editorial.

Trade and professional associations are not burdened with an obligation of intellectual honesty akin to that of the Fourth Estate. But it’s safe to assume association membership expects that guest speakers and “experts” featured on the agenda of their organization’s annual conference will be selected on the basis of experience, insight and presentation skill. A small number of these groups do restrict vendors from agenda participation, but at most industry conferences, any outside 3rd party can purchase a prominent place on the program agenda…and many of those presentations are poorly disguised sales pitches.

This sale of “thought leadership”– market visibility with inherent credibility – is neither a recent development nor a crime that deserves a congressional investigation. Pay-to-play is a fact of business life, and to deal with this reality, PR and marketing professionals can either:

  • Use the market advantage that deep-pocketed companies have over their (limited budget) client or employer as a convenient rationalization for their inability to generate (unpaid) thought leadership; or they can
  • Stop whining, get creative, and lacking economic resources, promote bona fide content and foster personal relationships as currency to generate thought leadership.

With the media, succeeding in a pay-to-play world means two things. First, it means creating content that’s timely, tailored for the recipient and never delivered in a press release. Secondly, it means building good will with key journalists by consistently providing them with relevant information and ideas, regardless of whether it relates to your company or client, without any expectation of immediate return.

With public platforms, succeeding in a pay-to-play world mostly means advance planning. It can begin by attending the prior year’s event to get a sense of the organization’s membership, priorities and culture, and to meet the group’s leadership. Conference agenda development can start 9 or more months in advance of the event, so it’s important to be on line early with a topic likely to resonate with members. It also helps if your proposal features a dues-paying member of the sponsoring organization.

In both cases, succeeding in a pay-to-play world means managing internal expectations. From the outset, your CEO or client needs to understand that you’re running against the wind, and in exchange for that effort, you must be given permission to fail.

What do you think? Is there a separation between editorial and advertising? Have you experienced an instance where a magazine was more interested in your news after you became an advertiser? Do you completely disagree and believe journalism ethics are alive and well today? Let me know.

About Gordon G. Andrew

Gordon G. Andrew is managing partner of Princeton, NJ based PR and marketing communications firm, Highlander Consulting Inc. (www.highlanderconsulting.com). He has more than 25 years of experience on the corporate and agency sides of the business. He blogs at www.marketingcraftsmanship.com. Contact him at (609) 987-0200 or @gordonandrew.

Tell Me About It

What does your company do? Do you have a description you can send me?

If marketing communications is a component of what you do, you know your “about us” paragraph is one of the most important weapons in your marketing arsenal. If you’re the type of person that starts fresh every time you get a request for a company description or about paragraph, you’re wasting a lot of time. Aside from being a drain on your productivity, rewriting your description can also lead to inconsistency in your brand message. Inevitably, it will dilute the impact of your brand message.

On the other hand, if you have a prepared company description and use it consistently in your communications, you’ll strengthen your brand message – and someday, if you’re lucky, people will remember what you do. It’s not just a reach and frequency formula. It’s more like reach, frequency and consistency. Memorization happens through repetition. If you hear the same thing over and over again, you’ll eventually absorb it.

The first step on this journey is having your About Us paragraph ready to go for that next request. Here are a few suggestions:

Your About Us paragraph should be two to five paragraphs (I’ve linked to some great examples at the end of this post) and should include all the pertinent facts about your organization. This is commonly what you do (products you make, services you provide), when you started doing it, where you’re located or who started the organization. If you use the five Ws and one H, you should be able to get a good draft going of your About Us paragraph.

Your About Us paragraph is the most important piece of content in your marketing materials, since it can be  adapted into a lot of other items, such as your boilerplate for press releases, an elevator speech for salespeople, or a long-form company backgrounder for your website. You can pull your key messages out and hang a cheat sheet in everyone’s office or cube to further reinforce your message – right alongside your mission and vision statements (a future post?).

Here are a few pointers for keeping your brand message clear and consistent. If you follow this advice and create your About Us content, you’ll save yourself a lot of time in the coming year.

Draft Your About Us With Friends

Your marketing team should create your About Us paragraph. This team should include your top business decision maker (CEO, President) and your marketing leader. In small companies, this might be the same person. I’ve always included more people in this process. You may want to include people form different departments, particularly those who work with customers on a daily basis. If you include them now, it may take longer, but you’ll have less people altering your copy later on. It’s always interesting to see how people from different parts of the company perceive what you do differently. Make the development of your About Us paragraph a collaborative process with your organization and it will be better and more reflective of who you are as an organization. 

Post in a Central Place

Despite wanting to be consistent with your About Us paragraph, things will change over time (e.g. the number of years you’ve been in business, your business location or the number of customers you have). It’s important that you have one version of your About Us paragraph (and all the other marketing materials you share publicly) in a central place – this way, when you update it, the fresh version is available for everyone that needs it. If you have an intranet, put it there. Google Docs or a wiki is a good option too. When you update it, let people know. There’s always somebody that downloads it to their desktop and ends up using a three-year old company description.

Enforce Noncompliance

I’m not much for rules, but if you find somebody is describing your company incorrectly, or using a three-year old version of your description, make them current. Educate them on what they’re doing wrong or give them the correct file version. If you do this, you’ll ensure that all your audiences (or publics for you PR purists) get the same message.

Have Different Word Options

A lot of times you will be limited by word limits for your company description. For your first draft, write as long a company description at you need to communicate all your facts and background. Once you have that version finalized, create smaller bite-sized versions in the final document. I’d suggest a 50, 100 and 150 word version for starters. You may want to have an optional paragraph that gets inserted for different instances. For example, if your description is being used in a communication for recruiting, you may want your “Recruiting Paragraph” that includes more information about that “Great Places to Work” nod you got and the number of employees you have or other key messages.

It’s probably a good idea to come up with a 140 character version as well.

Revisit Quarterly

Change happens. Take a fresh look at your description quarterly. There’s always some small detail that needs to be refreshed. Try not to change the essence of your message too often – unless what you do or your focus has really changed. On a quarterly basis, I suggest limiting your refresh to factual updates, such as the number of employees or customers you have. Of course, you may have some new information to add, such as a recent award or recognition worthy of inclusion in your company description.

Track Placement

Your about us copy can show up in a lot of places over time. Keep a running list of all the important places. If you make an update to your description, you’ll want to make sure it gets updated across all these places – particularly in directories or other listings that refer visitors to your site.

The SEO Component

Most of you know this, but your company description should have your top keyword linked to your most important page. In many cases, this is your website homepage and the most popular keyword for what you do. Since your company description will appear in hundreds or thousands of places over time, that can add up to a lot of inbound links. I would also include a separate written link to your website in the description, since people may not link your word, but they will include the link. Even if not hyperlinked, people will still find their way to your site.

Love in an Elevator

Most people can’t memorize your entire company description. Make sure you’ve got an abbreviated version you can spout off consistently in a short amount of time. Most people call this your elevator speech (hint, hint).

Put It Everywhere

In case this wasn’t obvious in the previous tips, put your description everywhere. Hang it up all around the office. Let people download it or copy it from your website. Put it in your About Us section and your pressroom. The more places your description appears, the more reach you have and the better chance you have for being discovered.

Examples

As promised, here are a few examples of “about us” company descriptions. Please feel free to add yours in the comments.

What can we learn from the examples above? What advice can you offer for people working on their About Us paragraph? Have a great About Us – share it!


The Name Game

about us paragraphPicking a name, whether for a new baby, pet or blog post can be intimidating. But when it comes to naming an organization or initiative it can be an overwhelming task. Before settling on a name, do some due diligence.

Let me start off by sharing a few branding and naming personal pet peeves:

  • Name and/or tagline that is arbitrary, lacks meaning, is overly clever or “too insider”. Mudpie is a store that monograms nearly anything. They have really cute stuff but the name certainly doesn’t tell you about that. I’m not sure if they have a tagline, their website doesn’t. The name/tagline should give some indication as to what the organization, initiative, etc. does.
  • Over reaching. OneHope.org is the Purina dog food’s non-profit arm. If your one hope in life is dog-related, you either have a very nice life or are delusional.

Where to Begin

Start by creating list of words that describe what your organization/initiative does. Then create a list of categories to help filter what words work best (remember the 5 Ws—Who, What, Where, When, Why). Categories could include:

1. Who will benefit—does your organization help moms or homeless; children or families?

2. What does your organization/initiative do—pass out food or blankets, arrange legal counsel, teach adults to read?

3. Where do you operate (geographic region)—is your organization global or country-specific; city-wide or a neighborhood collaborative?

4. When will you operate—year round or quarterly; annually or one time only?

5. Why is your organization/initiative important/needed—will people go hungry or sit at home bored; gain literacy or clean up a park?

With your list of words now categorized by the Ws, you are on your way to an organization/initiative/business name and a tagline to support/describe what you do. While you may not use any of these words, these words should bring focus to selecting the perfect name.

Some basic rules for creating an organization name:

1. If your name does not express what you do, then the tagline must or vice versa. The name and tagline do not need to work independently of each other but one should support the other to build a strong understanding of what the organization/initiative/business is or does.

2. Once you settle on a few name choices, Google them. Are there similarly named organizations that already exist? Do they do the same thing? If there are similarly named organizations that do similar things, then it’s best to scrap that name. Selecting a name that is similar to another organization with a similar function will cause brand confusion.

3. After Google-ing a few names, check to see if the domain is available (.com, .net, .org, etc.). If one domain is unavailable (.com for example), check to see what is at that web address. Is it a placeholder site or a similar organization? If it is a placeholder site, the person who owns the domain address is likely waiting for someone to purchase the domain from them at a premium price.

4. Now that you have narrowed down your name, know that there are no similar organizations with a similar name and your preferred domain is available, I recommend purchasing all domains that are available. By purchasing .com, .net and.org, you are preventing a similar organization from using the same name and creating future brand confusion.

Do you have any other naming guidelines? How did you come up with your name?

 

About Jocelyn Broder

Jocelyn Broder is vice president at Robin Tracy Public Relations. She has managed the communications efforts of one of the world’s most recognized brands–Coca-Cola–and launched turn-key communications initiatives for some of the world’s most respected ministries, non-profit organizations, authors and publishers (including two book campaigns that made all four national best-seller lists). Before finding her love for PR, Jocelyn was a writer at The Oregonian, a top 25 newspaper.

(Image Credit: “Hello My Name Is…” by Alan O’Rourke / Flickr)