Conference Blog

I think I’ve written about the ultra-savvy GM of the 76ers, Ed Stefanski before. He’s smart, articulate and understands solid medlia relations practices.

Stefanski held a conference call with 25 bloggers which is garnering heaps of praise especially in the same calendar year that Mark Cuban banned bloggers from the dressing room.

Respecting, valuing and engaging with your blogging beat is no longer a media relations luxury — it’s a necessity. You know you’re doing it right when they write this about you:

And they handled the whole thing with a smile. I didn’t feel for one second that in the minds of PR man Michael Preston, or Stefanski himself, they were talking to the JV.


Pitch, Feverishly

I recently received a pitch from a PR agency through e-mail. At first, I was a little annoyed. There was no possible way I could have been interested in the watery social media company the practitioner was acting on behalf of. I thought of simply deleting the e-mail. I thought I might publish the pitch and critique it in a “how to write e-mail pitches” post. I thought of sending a “STOP SPAMMING” reply. But after my initial displeasure subsided, empathy sunk in as I realized that I have been that practitioner. I have shot a thousand pitches from the hip and I have received angry, threatening responses from bloggers. So I decided I would send back some constructive advice to the coordinator. Here is my response:

Hi Elliot,

Unfortunately, Stractical doesn’t solicit pitches from PR agencies. Also, there are some glaring spelling and grammatical errors in your pitch. You really should take additional care before sending out mass e-mails, especially to bloggers as many will publish your contact information and vilify your client if they feel they have been spammed.

I’ve been in the position of intern/account coordinator and I understand the pressure to get media hits without having my own media contacts. Perhaps a more focused approach with fewer journalists/bloggers would be an effective strategy — something to consider and discuss with your supervisors. Often senior level practitioners preach relationship-based media relations yet bill on the backs of coordinators who are building media lists from software services and pitching for quantity.

Best of luck with your pitching.



Stractical: Very Public Relations

I run this blog, more or less, for my own interest and amusement and therefore do not use unsolicited pitches from public relations agencies. But I never explicitly state that on this blog — and I should. Blogger relations, as a subset of media relations, is an unfriendly, impossible to navigate terrain right now. There are billions of blogs about millions of topics and 99.99% of them are not interested in pitches. But if 0.01% do then it is in PR agencies’ best interests to explore that space. What we need is to start the conversation: between media/bloggers and PR, between PR and their clients and between senior and junior PRtists. Focused pitches, developed relationships take time and investment. Agencies need to provide the time and clients need to make the investment. Until then, media pitches will remain a numbers game, an obfuscated practice we’re not proud of, yet refuse to abandon. Good luck, Elliot.

A typical pitch environment?

PodCamp Toronto: February 23-24

An event I just learned about, PodCamp Toronto is going to be some sort of meet up for podcasters with a strong PR angle. Not a whole lot of details on the site right now (the downside of wikis?) but I’ll be checking again to see who’s presenting.

Blogs you should know about: PR Watch

I’ve always argued on behalf of a free and competitive mass media environment; one that is inherently skeptical of corporate interests and makes the jobs of PR professionals tough. PR is effective because it engages audiences in a credible forum that can only when the media has editorial independence and a natural skepticism that equals or surpasses the skepticism of a saturated public.

It is with the same impetus that watchdog, consumer advocacy and bloggers have become the de facto critics of the public relations industry. PR Watch, run by the Center For Media and Democracy is a portal for PR criticism. The blog takes on the gamut of communications topics including the US election coverage, lobbying efforts, the tobacco industry, corporate front groups and video news releases. The site rose to fame with its extensive coverage of the Wal-Mart/Edelman incident where Wal-Mart was found to have sponsored a seemingly independent blogger who was documenting his cross-country Wal-Mart tour in an RV. While PR Watch and the CMD are highly anti-corporate and their political biases are worn proud, the blog discusses issues that have broad interest and appeal.

Every media relations professional should be reading PR Watch regularly if only to determine what types of campaigns are getting slammed and why. Sites like PR Watch create a bar to which communications activities have to rise to in order to compete with credibility.

Scrabble to Scrabulous: Cease (7 points) and Desist (also 7 points)

I am an average Scrabble player. This troubles me as I consider myself to be a maven (10 points) of the English language, a connoisseur (13) of words and an expert of exposition (19). My averageness (you might want to challenge that one) is all the more exposed by the feverishly popular Scrabulous game on Facebook, an unauthorized online version of the Hasbro/Mattel classic. Everyone on my friends list can see my .500 record and I just know they’re judging me.

The game, created by two brothers in Calcutta, India has more than 600,000 players on Facebook and its popularity has prompted the copyright owners to take action through a cease-and-desist letter. While I won’t comment on the legality of the game, the communication play has been textbook:

The companies jointly issued cease-and-desist notices to four parties involved in the development, hosting and marketing of Scrabulous, according to a letter Hasbro is sending consumers who have contacted them about Scrabulous.

In a separate statement released Wednesday, Hasbro was not specific about who the four parties are, but said it was reviewing a number of options with them and hoped to find an amicable solution.

“If we cannot come to one quickly, we will be forced to close down the site and its associated distribution points,” Hasbro said.

Hasbro is clearly on the offensive yet they’re softening their message with an olive branch of an amicable solution which puts the onus on Scrabulous to concede. As well, the company’s statements repeatedly refer to concerned fans of the board game who are complaining about the rogue online spawn. It’s impossible to tell how many minions of devoted Scrabble fans sought the protection of Hasbro, but even the thought paints the toy brand in a sympathetic light.

19 Stractical points to Scrabble. You better shake the little velvet bag well, Scrabulous. It’s your move.

Sixers GM reaches out to depressed fan

In what may be the best display of blogger relations ever, Philadelphia 76ers General Manager Ed Stefanski decided to contact and ultimately be interviewed by a blogger referring to himself as the “Depressed Fan.”

Sixers GM Ed Stefanski

The Sixers are a “rebuilding” team which means the NBA playoffs are probably a few years away and that can be hard to stomach for die-hard fans. Former Nets GM and Wall Street money man Stefanski had the foresight to engage the increasingly crowded sports blogging community which is going to go a long way in bridging some goodwill until he’s able to steer the team in a winning direction.

Hats off to Mr. Stefanski.