Redefining Public Relations with a Little Magic

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When it comes to earned media (the kind of media you don’t pay for), Public Relations is an often misunderstood, sometimes misliked and occasionally despised industry.

We are trying to change the perception of the industry. We believe in the power of the press, especially when leveraged via social media, because it offers businesses and brands a unique ability to receive legitimate recognition. 

However, after hearing so many horror stories from our news contacts and our clients, who have had bad experiences with firms, we wanted to offer some tips to help you hire the right firm and approach your current PR relationship with realistic expectations.

No hidden agenda here. We love earned media and want you to see its value as well!

Expectations

If your goal for using a PR firm is to secure media in credible outlets that target your audience, they should do it. It sounds simple, but it isn’t. PR and kids’ sports (don’t get us started) seem to be the only places where effort is accepted and even rewarded. A seven-page report outlining all of the outlets your firm reached out to, is of no benefit if they did not secure actual media interviews.

Fees

There are many different pricing models in the market. We’ve heard of firms that encourage writers to spend hours writing a press release to increase the invoice. We’ve heard of firms who significantly increase the cost of posting press releases on a news wire. We’ve heard of firms who charge thousands on media kits. Some firms ask for a long-term commitment, some charge per media interview and some charge hourly. Our advice is to find a firm that aligns with your goals. Do you want to pay for time? Do you want to pay for materials to give to the press? Do you want to pay for someone to secure you interviews? 

Experience

To ensure your firm can secure earned media, they need to think like news reporters, writers and decision-makers. The PR professional handling your account needs to understand the difference between a package and vo/sot, an MMJ and a photog. In fact, they need to have written them so they know how to write copy that could actually be printed, published or broadcast. Only a media-centered mindset can be successful in securing regular and consistent media. For example, we rarely use press releases because we know, based on our experience as journalists, they are not reliable for securing regular media coverage. We believe in securing media based on the relationships we’ve built with media contacts across the country. Ask your firm what their placement rate is? How many of their clients have they secured media interviews for. (Shameless plug: We have a 100% placement rate, which means all the clients we’ve ever worked with have received media interviews.)

Practice

You are a (fill in the blank) expert. You are not a news anchor, reporter or host. You should not be expected to know how to do a good TV, radio or phone interviews. You should not know which camera to look at or how much makeup to wear or how to talk in sound bites. Request training and practice from your firm prior to each interview. Make sure they teach you how to handle a tough question during a live interview. Oh boy, do we have stories….

Provide ROI    

PR is often referred to as a marathon, not a sprint, and it can be difficult to show ROI. However, it is totally reasonable to request viewership and valuation reports so you know how many people are seeing and listening to your appearances. Whether it is client retention, new clients, new employees or increased brand recognition, you should expect to receive value from your relationship with a public relations firm.

At Media Minefield, we are redefining public relations with a little magic. We are disrupting the industry because accountability, honesty and results should be part of any PR relationship.

Masters of Sportsmanship

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In the final day of the Masters tournament at Augusta, all eyes were on two players – Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose. The two golf greats battled back and forth all day. The entire time, they were congratulating each other, high-fiving and showing the world what it is like to be Masters of Sportsmanship.

The day ended in a playoff with (spoiler alert) Sergio winning his first ever green jacket. But the classy behavior from these two continued. They hugged after the match and Sergio said Justin told him no one deserved it more than he did. In interviews, they both praised each other. On Twitter, Justin said, “Incredible battle out there. Sport in the moment is tough. But it’s just sport. Hope you guys enjoyed it.” Sergio said, “I think at the end of the day, we are all trying to win, but we’re all people and we have to represent our game… We wanted to beat the other guy, not the other one to lose it.”

Sergio is right on. He and Justin were representing their game. They have a personal brand, one that is on full display at the Masters. But as we remind our clients, athletes aren’t the only people who need to think about their personal brand. The CEO of a Fortune 500 and an entrepreneur both have personal brands they need to be aware of. Like it or not, they represent their company just like athletes represent their game or their team. Decisions, statements and actions should be filtered with that in mind.   

When it comes to public image, we have one piece of advice- make your mom proud. It is safe to say both Justin and Sergio made their moms proud. In our Media Training seminars with the Minnesota Timberwolves players, we encourage them to utilize “the mom test.” Would my mom be proud of this comment or decision or reaction? We will do our public images a great deal of good if we can avoid any situation where we answer “no.”

You may not have made all the best decisions about your public image in the past, but the public loves a good comeback story. Just ask Sergio. The Spaniard has not always made his mom proud. He has been accused of making excuses for poor play, blaming officials and even golf gods. He had a public feud with Tiger Woods that lasted for over a decade and found himself in the middle of a PR crisis after making a comment about Tiger many considered racist. Yet during this Masters, that Sergio was nowhere to be found. This was the Sergio concerned with representing his sport. This was the Sergio that would finally break an 18-year tour victory slump. This was the Sergio we were all cheering for. And this is the Sergio we are now calling a Master of Sportsmanship.

 

Death of the Press Release

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STRICT EMBARGO: Until April 1, 2017 (Who sends stuff that can’t be reported now??)

Contact: Media Minefield
Media-minefield.com
twitter.com/MediaMinefield

Death of the Press Release
~This press release is to announce the end of the press release era~

Minnetonka, MN (April 1, 2017) – On this day, the first of April, 2017, we officially declare the death of the press release. No longer will these .pdf-attached emails fill newsroom inboxes and clog fax machines. The practice of writing press releases has outlived its usefulness. Let’s be honest, how many people actually read press releases?

The press release is preceded in death by the typewriter, telegraph and rotary phone, which became obsolete when new technology and practices came along. It is the way of the world. Some like to call it “survival of the fittest.” And the press release is not fit.

“If you still rely solely on a press release, I’d suggest ditching your cell phone and mounting a CB in your car,” says Media Minefield CEO, Kristi Piehl. Mark Edwards says “It’s a waste of time.” “One time I got a press release delivered in a shoe. Fancy does not equal coverage,” says Andrea McMaster. “Delete. Delete. Delete. Delete. Delete. In my world, receiving a press release was quickly followed by hitting delete,” declares Michelle Lawless. “Not to sound callous, but I’m surprised press releases have survived for so long,” says Allison Ortiz. “My favorite press releases came with food. I liked to read the headline. And anything in bold,” exclaims Conny Bergerson. “I only opened press releases half the time, and I was not thrilled I had to do it,” confesses Christina Vandre. “Oh good! Another press release in my inbox. I’m so excited to read this,” says no reporter ever! Recycling bins everywhere say, “thank you.”

Blah, blah, blah… Wait? You’re still reading? We only put this here to make the press release seem longer and more important. We don’t have anything left to say. In fact, we know you didn’t really need anything beyond the first paragraph. So, please, go about your day.

About Media Minefield:
Media Minefield is redefining public relations with a little magic. Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota and with an office in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, our growing Media Team is comprised of former journalists who know what it takes to get a story in the headlines. There is a good chance you know our clients; from coast to coast they receive positive press in media outlets most valuable to help them share their individual messages. Our clients have been featured in national news outlets like Bloomberg Businessweek and USA Today and on The Today Show. In the past 12 months, we secured features in more than 700 distinct media outlets in cities across the United States. Media Minefield was founded in 2010 by a former TV reporter and prides itself on its 100% placement record, meaning we have secured media coverage for every client we have ever worked with. For more information, visit media-minefield.com.
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What We Can Learn From United’s Legging-Gate

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It seems social media, celebrities and the news media can’t get enough of United’s Legging-Gate (as we have dubbed it!)

In case you (somehow) missed it, United Airlines found itself in the middle of a PR crisis on Sunday after refusing to let two teenaged girls board a flight because they were wearing leggings. The scene played out in a series of tweets from another passenger and sparked massive social media debate. Days later, United Airlines and its social media team are still trying to get a handle on the situation. So, what can be learned from this PR nightmare?

One Shot To Respond
When faced with a PR crisis, we tell our clients: you have one chance to respond and get it right. In this case, United’s initial social media response did nothing but fan the flames of an increasingly upset Twitterverse. United said repeatedly via Twitter in those crucial first few minutes, “UA shall have the right to refuse passengers who are not properly clothed via our Contract of Carriage.

It wasn’t until hours later that we learned the girls were “pass travelers” who were subject to different standards than paying travelers. We would argue this was the most important information for the irate public to know; paying customers will not be denied passage on United for wearing leggings. While this information did come out, it was not in the initial response. United said it tries to always respond quickly to its customers. That is a great policy, but we tell our clients that, especially in a potential crisis situation, getting the facts straight is more important than the speed of your response. As Warren Buffet said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you will do things differently.”

Empathy Goes A Long Way
Not only was United’s initial response lacking the most important information to help curb disgust with the company, it also lacked emotion. A little bit of empathy would likely have gone a long way. We encourage our clients to take responsibility and apologize when they have made a misstep, as United did with its first tweet. The public is forgiving. However, if you dig in your heels, you can expect the public will do the same. United isn’t budging on its handling of the situation or its stance. All of the responses we have seen from the company have been matter of fact and defending the decision to bar the girls from boarding the plane. We aren’t suggesting United change its policy because of social media pressure; however, showing some understanding for why the public is so upset could have helped the situation. Again, it is important to note, in order for an empathetic response to elicit empathy, it needs to be your first response.   

Be Warned When Entering The Fray
Who said flying is friendly? Delta Airlines couldn’t help itself. It entered the fray with a tweet of its own that read, “Flying Delta means comfort. (That means you can wear your leggings.)” The obvious dig at United certainly had the impact Delta wanted. It has been retweeted more than 28,000 times. But, as some have pointed out, Delta has its own travel pass program with dress standards. A Delta spokesperson said it doesn’t have item-specific clothing restrictions but encourages no swimwear, sleepwear or underwear as outerwear.

To Delta and any other company that decides to try and take advantage of a competitor’s PR crisis, we say: be careful. You are putting yourself in the crosshairs. You can bet social media will be watching if Delta refuses any of its customers, travel pass or not, to board based on attire (or lack thereof). Because Delta put it out there that comfort is its standard, the backlash would certainly be twice as bad.

What should companies do to avoid their own Legging-Gate? The same thing we would tell United. Don’t wing it. Fly the straight and narrow. If you follow our tips, your brand should really take flight!

When Spin Becomes a Tornado

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Spin is defined as a usually ingenious twist; a special point of view, emphasis or interpretation presented for the purpose of influencing opinion. It is something we are quite familiar with in our business. However, spin is not something to be taken lightly. Too much spin and you could find yourself in the midst of a tornado; one that could level your personal brand and your business.

Know Your Spin
First and foremost, spin is not bad. Whether you are concerned about a corporate or personal brand, spin is understanding who you are. At Media Minefield, your message is our mission. Businesses and individuals need to know their message and take every opportunity to reiterate and reinforce it. Dippin’ Dots recently did this well, leveraging old tweets from the new White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, into earned media gold. Instead of being upset Spicer called Dippin’ Dots the “ice cream of the past”, the company CEO wrote a letter that said they “understand ice cream is a serious matter” and offered to throw the White House press corps an ice cream social. The exchange went viral and was covered by media outlets across the country.  

Understandable Spin
Spin can only be effective if it can be understood. At Media Minefield, our Founder and CEO, Kristi Piehl, uses this Albert Einstein quote when giving speeches about messaging, “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.” Consumers or clients must be able to easily understand your message. Take this statement from the J.C. Penney CEO after announcing the company was closing 140 stores across the country, “We believe the relevance of our brick-and-mortar portfolio will be driven by the implementation of these initiatives consistently to a larger percent of our stores. Therefore, our decision to close stores will allow us to raise the overall brand standard of the company and allocate capital more efficiently.” What?!? Did you understand the message?

Spin, Don’t Lie
Spin is not lying. It is an ingenious twist. Lying is never the right move in life or in PR. Blue Buffalo Dog Food found that out the hard way. The company claimed it never used poultry by-product in its dog food. Purina filed a lawsuit claiming false advertising after its testing determined otherwise. The CEO of Blue Buffalo came out immediately calling the testing “voodoo science.” Only when the company was faced with undeniable proof in court did it admit any wrongdoing.   

Control Your Spin
Spin can quickly get out of control. If you don’t do something immediately, it will endanger your business and your reputation. #DeleteUber was trending on social media after the company was accused by a former female engineer of rampant sexism and sexual harassment. The company’s CEO came out calling the accusations “abhorrent” and promising a full investigation, for which they hired former Attorney General Eric Holder. Good move, until users who were deleting their accounts starting posting the email they received from the company explaining they were “deeply hurting” and referencing the former employee who made the accusations by name more than once. The move to name the former employee was called intimidating and ignorant. Uber claimed it only sent a handful of emails and has stopped sending them.

When it comes to spin, it is best to keep in mind what Edward R. Murrow said, “To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; credible we must be truthful.”

Spin carefully.

New Dictionary Words, Media Minefield-style

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Yowza! Merriam-Webster added more than 1,000 words to the dictionary. At Margarita Friday, you will often hear Miners geeking out about what we are binge-watching, so we are thrilled these terms are now official. However, because this is a safe space, we must say we thought it was weak sauce that these Media Minefield favorites didn’t make the cut.

Miners
noun | mine-ers
: one who works at Media Minefield exceeding clients’ expectations, engaging in the culture and living out the core values each day

Miners at Heart
noun | mine-ers-at-heart
: a core value at Media Minefield, one with a deep commitment to Media Minefield and fellow Miners, who is all in and not afraid to wear a cape

News Ninjas
noun | news-nin-jas
: one who understands what it is like to work at the pace of news, who works well on deadlines and is constantly learning

Octopus
verb | oc-to-pus
: to share information through our internal system which has several arms to distribute information < similar to “google it” >

Drunk Octopus
noun | drunk-oc-to-pus
: when there is a hiccup in the internal system

Unicorn
noun | u-ni-corn
: official mascot of Media Minefield, a symbol to remind ourselves and others that anything is possible

Since we are on a mission to change the PR industry, we are quite sure these terms will end up in a Merriam-Webster Dictionary someday. Don’t throw shade or give us side-eye. We are aware that is a humblebrag, but what can we say? When your mascot is a unicorn, you know big things can happen!

*In case you didn’t catch on, all of the words in bold are from the list of new words added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

The Culture of Winning

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Who would have guessed that the 2017 Super Bowl would find the New England Patriots facing off against the Atlanta Falcons? The Falcons are looking for their first Super Bowl win, under the guidance of first-time head coach Dan Quinn. Quinn, it seems, has found the secret to winning – culture.

Focus on Team
You would be hard pressed to find an interview with Coach Quinn where he doesn’t talk about his team’s “brotherhood.” “Q,” as his players call him, stole it from Navy Seals when he invited them to run drills with the team and teach them teamwork, stress management, leadership and communication. That brotherhood extends beyond the players. The Falcons owner is flying all of the organization’s employees to Houston for the Super Bowl.

Team is central to our success at Media Minefield as well. We refer to it as being “Miners at Heart.” It is one of our Core Values and means we are committed to each other, all in and never afraid to wear capes!

Speak the Same Language
Ask anyone from Quarterback Matt Ryan to the last guy on the practice squad, they all understand Coach Quinn’s philosophy, and most importantly, they have all bought in. Quinn, his staff and his players are all speaking the same language.

At Media Minefield, we have The State of the Minefield to ensure we are all rowing in the same direction.  At this bi-annual, all-company meeting, our head coach (CEO Kristi Piehl) casts the vision and gives us details about where we are and where we are going. As EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System) has taught us, it is difficult to get traction and achieve goals if you aren’t all on the same page.

Have Fun
For the Falcons, fun centers around ping pong. Last spring, the team redesigned the locker room and put in a ping pong table. It was such a hit, they added two more tables. Coach Quinn has been quoted as as saying, “Usually, when you’re really good on the field, it starts in the locker room.”

At Media Minefield, we love a good dress-up day, everything from Superhero Day to our upcoming Punny Day. We have been locked in more escape rooms than we can count. We even had a personalized puzzle room designed for our last Christmas party. Weekly, our Margarita Fridays are a time for us to come together for lunch, laugh and drink amazing frozen margaritas. Team building is a key part of our culture and our success.

The Falcons may not be favored to win Super Bowl 51, but we wouldn’t count them out yet. As we have seen at Media Minefield, when you embrace the culture of winning, it is hard to stop.

Standing Out on Social Media | The Risk & The Reward

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It started with your everyday tweet from a fast food joint:
@Wendy’s: Our beef is way too cool to ever be frozen.

Then came a Twitter troll:
@Thuggy-D: Your beef is frozen and we all know it. Y’all know we laugh at your slogan “fresh, never frozen” right? Like you’re really a joke.
@Thuggy-D: so you deliver it raw on a hot truck?

The response was polite:
@Wendy’s: Where do you store cold things that aren’t frozen?

And more trolling:
@ThuggyD: y’all should give up. McDonalds got you guys beat with the dope (expletive) breakfast.

Next came the tweet read ‘round the world:
@Wendy’s: You don’t have to bring them into this just because you forgot refrigerators existed for a second there.

Wendy’s ignited a social media firestorm by “roasting” a Twitter user who questioned the fast food chain’s slogan. But social media couldn’t contain the frenzy; Wendy’s snarky tweet made headlines in some of the most widely read and watched news outlets: Forbes, Huffington Post and Fox News, just to name a few.

Wendy’s certainly reaped the reward for its sarcastic humor, but the company also took a few risks…

Risk | Going Off-Brand
Wendy’s is known for its square burgers, Frostys and founder Dave Thomas’ mission to find homes for adopted children. Now that Twitter users are asking the company to roast them, Wendy’s has a fine line to walk. Their roasts can be playful and teasing, but not disrespectful. When your company mascot is a red-headed girl with pigtails, you don’t want to turn your brand into a bully.

Risk | Going Too Far
Cheerios did it when Prince died. Cinnabon did it after Carrie Fisher’s passing. The internet is full of stories on well-intentioned social media posts that were deemed offensive. Wendy’s isn’t immune. The company had to apologize and delete a meme it posted with a hate symbol. (Wendy’s said it didn’t know the image was associated with hate.) Every social media post is an opportunity to connect with your followers, but you also run the risk of offending them.

Reward | A Captive Audience
Social media offers something traditional media can’t: an interactive experience with customers and potential customers. Building an engaging social media presence allows brands to capitalize on a captive audience. Take the TSA, for example. Believe it or not, but the government agency’s Instagram feed is being called one of the top accounts to follow in 2017. The TSA posts pictures of items people try to take on board and amusing stories from airport security. But it’s not all fun and games. The TSA’s Social Media Manager is quick to point out the posts have helped them gather 600,000 followers who they may need to reach with an urgent message someday.

Reward | Earned Media Wildfire
Wendy’s Twitter account has 1.24 million followers. However, if we added up the number of people who watched, read or listened to stories about Wendy’s Twitter battle on news stations and websites, it would dwarf that number. We call that earned media, and for Wendy’s, its social media roast spread on earned media like wildfire.

What We Hope Goes Away in 2017

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New fashion, new technology, a new President… there  is a lot to talk about in 2017. At Media Minefield, we are hoping “in with the new” also means “out with the old.” Here is what we hope to not be talking about again in the coming year…

Businesses That Don’t Know Their Message
From the CEO to the newest employee, everyone needs to know your company’s message, who you are and what is important to you. We create Message Maps for our clients to outline these Key Messages. If everyone is using the same language consistently, it will build a foundation and your reputation.

Companies Not Prepared for Crisis
In this day and age, it is difficult for a company to have longevity without some sort of PR crisis. An unhappy customer or a social media post is all it takes to set one off. That’s why we tell our clients to have a plan, know who your spokesperson is and always avoid a “no comment.” Take our word for it – “no comment” is definitely a comment. Recently, we helped a client navigate a media crisis and the national media spotlight. We encouraged the CEO to give interviews to the press and share the company’s side of the story; sales for the company’s product soared. A reporter even told us that she was shocked the CEO did interviews since the reporter (in a large metropolitan city) is used to only getting a statement or a “no comment” from the CEO of a company under fire. We agree with Warren Buffett who said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

The Press Release
If you read our press release announcing the death of the press release in 2015, you’d already know this one. If you didn’t, that sums up the biggest issue with press releases: no one reads them! One by one, we are proving to our clients there is a better way to get journalists’ attention. Perhaps this will be the year the rest of our industry and other businesses catch on.

“The PR Industry”
Speaking of our industry, we cannot wait for the perception of the PR industry to change. We are all too used to talking to potential clients who have been disappointed by PR firms who make promises but deliver reports rather than actual positive press. With a 100% placement rate (which means all the clients we’ve ever worked with have received press), we now consider ourselves experts in winning over media contacts. It usually takes time because most journalists have horror stories of PR reps who failed to deliver interviews, didn’t respond to media requests and who simply didn’t understand the speed of news.

Workplace Martyrs
Work can’t be fun. If we want to get ahead, we can’t afford to take a vacation. Being cranky is just a part of the job. If you ask us, all of the mantras of the workplace martyrs can go! At Media Minefield, we are committed to our culture, a culture that encourages fun: Margarita Fridays, dress-up days and capes. Miners have unlimited vacation for a reason. We understand that taking time away is good for us, our coworkers and our clients.

Here’s to the new in our New Year!

Media Minefield Christmas Wars

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img_5002

Metropolis

img_4994

Gotham

It started with a two-foot-tall tree with lights and little ornaments. Soon a string of lights appeared on a laptop. But, when a four-foot-tall tree showed up on the other side of the office, it was clear, Christmas Wars were on.

In true Media Minefield fashion, even decorating for the holidays turned into a friendly competition. With our office separated into two connected sides known as Gotham and Metropolis (yes, we believe we are superheroes), the decorations started flooding in. A pink Hello Kitty tree in Gotham… wrapping paper covered cubicles in Metropolis… a holiday themed desk display… cookies… Christmas lights… more desk trees… Santa mugs… snowflakes hanging from the ceiling… festive window stickers and then, the Yule log!

What does our founder and CEO, Kristi Piehl, think when she walks through our super-decorated, blinged-out work stations? She sees culture on full display and in bright, shiny color. Her dream for Media Minefield was to have a vibrant, quirky culture that empowered Miners so they could give their best selves to each other, their families and their clients. She does enough reading to know that culture can’t be forced, and it can’t be a policy. It must be created from within. Christmas Wars, just like dress-up days, came from Miners, for Miners.

At the end of the day, this is all about sharing holiday joy. Still, we have to know – who wins?!

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