In 2015, very new to the PR game in Phoenix, I had signed on a new PR client: A popular and talented photographer - who just so happened to be very handsome and always fashionably dressed. He had decided to branch out into a new venture: Male Makeovers.
It was a clever idea, and when I pitched it to a large local publication, they immediately jumped on the story. The writer assigned to the piece did a wonderful job with the subsequent article. We were “good to go,” in terms of writing, but the editor needed before and after photos - and he needed them quickly.
The client sent me a “before” photo of himself showing an attractive guy, casually dressed in a polo shirt, hair slightly mussed – a bit rough around the edges. Perfect!
I then received the after photo to illustrate the result of a male makeover. In the picture, he had his hair smoothly combed back and was wearing a dress shirt, tie, and glasses.
The Problem: He looked better in the BEFORE photo than in the after photo! I thought that I might be wrong about this, so I sent both photos to the writer. She felt the same way. What to do? We were under a deadline, and he (the client), felt it was a good photo. I had to submit those images.
The Mistake: Due to the nature of the article, I knew that the “after” photo could make or break the piece. If it was a fabulous photo, it would sell the story to the public immediately and possibly even attract national attention.
To this day, I wish I had been adamant about him retaking that photo. The client may have been offended, or he may have not had the time to redo it, but we could have gotten a more powerful image.
While well-written, the story didn’t attract much interest (which is unfortunate because it was good). It ran on the covers of a couple of community editions of the paper, but not in two other zones as promised. Why? The piece just wasn’t that strong given the photos, so it was an editorial decision. The client was upset about this and contacted the paper to complain. The writer and editor let me know about the complaints and emails were flying through cyberspace. I was as tactful as possible and did all I could to defuse the situation. Things blew over.
Why This Worked: The editor and writer were impressed with the way I handled the situation. When it was time to pitch a story idea for another client, a new STEM engineering program for kids, the editor assigned one of his best new writers and did a business profile. The resulting article was shared 375 times on social media and the company’s programs sold out.
Of course, this is of no consolation to the other client, but this is a reminder that being gracious can pay off – and never, ever, be afraid to speak up if you think something can be improved.
The Moral of this Story: Images have never been more important in terms of marketing and PR usage. Today, you simply must have good hi-res visuals that can illustrate a story and can be used digitally and in published pieces. Photography is one thing you do not want to skimp on.
In the early 2000s I was working as a Regional Account Manager of a consulting firm based in the Dallas area. I traveled often, appearing at large trade shows across the country targeting petroleum distributors.
My company had an upcoming big trade show in Las Vegas. I needed some inexpensive treats to give to the people who stopped by our booth.
I asked our very creative office manager to find some giveaways. I’m not sure where, but she discovered delicious taffy candies that also happened to have the coloring of a cow. This was a clever and cost-effective find. and fit in perfectly with the fact that our company was based in Texas.
At the show, I arranged our marketing collateral on the table with the taffy casually strewn about. They were so cute and unusual that people would stop by just to see what they were.
The Mistake: Do you know what happens when you eat taffy? You can’t talk! I would be chatting, prospects would pop a piece of candy in their mouths, and they were completely unable to speak for a couple of minutes. (I still wonder if anyone needed dental work after that show.)
Why This Worked: I soon realized that I had a captive audience! I was able to give the spiel about our services without interruption - or objection. This is what I call an HMA - a “Happy Marketing Accident.”
Moral of this Story: You do not, I repeat, you do not have to spend a lot of money on expensive branded giveaways. Sometimes the cheapest items can produce a great result and make your company stand out from the crowd. Just be sure to choose something that fits into the theme of your company, show, and target audience.
My Top Ten Marketing Mistakes – And Why They Worked Part 2: The Time I Snuck into The Mailroom Of a Major Publication
In 2007, I was working for a popular Santa Fe nonprofit when the Executive Director announced that we would be hosting an art auction to benefit our programs. There was only a short amount of time to promote the event, which was to feature the donated works of 100+ local artists.
In my role, I needed to attract the attention of the most prominent local newspaper in the hopes they would cover the event. None of their arts and entertainment reporters, however, were returning my calls. Zip. Nada. Nothing. Now what?
Ever mindful of our buck-fifty nonprofit marketing budget, I discovered some small, branded coffee cups in a storage room and had an idea. Perhaps a weird idea, but what the heck. I had to try something - the clock was ticking!
I placed event tickets with an invitation into the cups and decided to take matters into my own hands. I was going to stop by their office to introduce myself, drop off the (albeit somewhat cheesy) gifts, and tell them all about our event.
Well, when I got to their offices near the Santa Fe Plaza no one was there!
As I looked around for human life forms, I stumbled upon a wall of mailroom inboxes. Bingo! I squeezed the cups into the cubbies of the reporters and snuck out the same way I had come in. FYI: As I was wearing my customary 3-inch heels on the brick floors, I wasn’t exactly stealthy.
Why This Was a Mistake: New to the PR game, I didn't know that reporters are often told to refuse gifts to avoid compromising journalistic integrity (although some publications and media outlets are more loosey goosey about this than others). My little gifts could have easily offended the people I was trying to reach, and, even worse, they could have called my boss to complain!
If you don’t know a publication’s policy on accepting gifts, be sure to inquire first to avoid putting a journalist in an uncomfortable situation. At the very least, ask permission before handing a journalist a gift.
Why this Worked: I’m honestly not sure if this little stunt was the reason why, but the publication DID cover the auction, and the quickly thrown together event was a success. They became interested in our other functions and from that point forward the publication was more receptive to my pitches.
The (Marketing) Moral of this Story: When you are not getting through to a media outlet, or even a potential client, try a different approach. This will help your business or nonprofit stand out from your competition. Be creative. Be different. Be memorable.