Author Archive for Robynn

New SA Tool To Help Journalists And Benefit PRs

A free online tool is launching on Thursday, 21 May, to help South African journalists source relevant content for the stories they’re working on, by reaching a network of PR professionals who are in the best position to help.

Media Alerts will help journalists reach the people with the right contacts and information, whether they need people to interview, or facts and stats on a specific topic. Based on the American Help A Reporter Out concept, Media Alerts lets journalists receive the best selection of content in a short space of time.

How it works – leveraging networks
Journalists submit their specific requests online, which are then sent to the subscribers, who are mostly PR professionals. These are the people who have direct access to the CEOs, MDs, entrepreneurs, celebrities and other networks that reporters need to tap into.

Through Media Alerts, the PR practitioners have access to highly valuable publicity opportunities they may never have known about. Plus, by helping journalists find the information they need, they are also building stronger media relationships.

Relevant content only
The PR subscribers have been given one rule though - to only ever send content that is directly relevant to the journalist’s request. Any abuse of this rule will see them being removed from the service.

The first Media Alerts will be sent on Thursday, 21 May. In the meantime, journalists can submit requests here and PR practitioners can subscribe here.

It’s an added-value Encyclomedia service, so there’s no charge for either side.

Popularity: 24% [?]

PR Success Strategies Video Preview

Check out this 30 second video of the upcoming PR Success Strategies For Your Business conference, taking place on 20 November 2008 in Cape Town. The video was created using Animoto, which is a great tool for turning your pictures into synchronised music videos.

Popularity: 30% [?]

Talk About A Bad Subject Line

I’m sure you know how important it is to make your email subject lines stand out, especially considering that some journalists receive up to 800 emails a day - yes, 800! But the following subject line is not a good way to attract attention:

*********************************************[Company competition winner] Found! SHE’s one in a million!******************************************************

The journalist who forwarded this to me simply said “talk about a bad headline”. Yes, indeed, let’s talk about it.

Firstly, putting your name in stars doesn’t automatically deserve royal treatment from the media.

Secondly, who cares? I know that sounds awfully harsh and cold. It’s not that no-one cares about the winner, it’s that no-one knows the winner (except those people that do, of course). Journalists are looking for stories that can add value to their readers and give them something of interest or something newsworthy. Yet another competition winner is simply not newsworthy.

There are other angles that this company could’ve taken though. Considering that this press release was sent to a marketing journalist, they could’ve looked at the successful elements in the promotion of the competition. What created the biggest response, what made the competition stand out, why is this important to other marketers?

There are always various angles to any story. The trick is to match a relevant angle to the right audience. If you can get that right, the journalist will be happy to look at your content, with no stars and funny formatting needed.

Popularity: 25% [?]

PR Success Strategies For Your Business - PR Conference

If you’re looking to expand your media knowledge and learn highly effective practical PR skills, then the PR Success Strategies For Your Business conference is not to be missed. This full-day conference is going to be jam-packed with invaluable insights into the media, best practices in PR and publicity success strategies. 

- 20 November 2008.
- 08:30 - 17:00.
- The Forum, Victoria & Alfred Hotel, Cape Town.
- Early Bird Special: R2500 until 3 November (R2750 thereafter).
Limited seats remaining, register here.


- The power of PR & how to apply it to your business.
- How to think like a journalist & understand the needs of the media.
- PR and publicity best-practices and success strategies.
- Top publicity and media relations tips, direct from journalists themselves.
- How to effectively pitch your ideas to journalists.
- Best media relationship building ideas.
- Top tips on using social media for business.
- How to use online PR to boost your exposure and reputation, plus online reputation management.
- A practical workshop session on mapping your message - how to define and fine-tune your core message to the media.
- Discover new publicity angles and story ideas.

Find more details on the conference and the speakers here:

Popularity: 26% [?]

World’s First E-Ink Magazine Cover

Popularity: 21% [?]

Decor Editors Share Publicity Tips

I attended PR-Net last night in Green Point, Cape Town, where several top decor editors spoke about the unique selling points of their specific home/decor magazines, plus tips on how they’d like to interact with PR people and publicists.

I’ll share some of the tips with you here:

Anneke Blaise, Home/Tuis magazineAnneke Blaise from Home/Tuis magazine says that she really appreciates face-to-face contact. She wants to know who she’s dealing with and invites PR practitioners to visit their offices once a month, or whenever appropriate to discuss ideas, show products, or simply just put a face to an email.

Bianca Du Plessis, Conde Nast House & Garden

Bianca Du Plessis from Conde Nast House & Garden says that she finds it surprising that people don’t realise that they work three months in advance. That means that the issues for December and January have already been sorted. Bianca suggests that PR people should find out what issue they’re working on and enquire about the feature calendars.

Bianca also explained how tricky gardening features can sometimes be. Because of their three months production schedule, a picture of a beautiful Spring garden in full bloom wouldn’t reach them in time for the Spring edition. So unless they have a good library of pics, they sometimes work on their gardening features one year in advance.

Johan van Zyl, Visi“Be concise” is the advice from Johan van Zyl of Visi. They have a small editorial team and he fills the roles of three people, therefore he says he often suffers from “inbox rage x3″. Johan recommends that you familiarise yourself with the magazine and then speak to the right person depending on the section you want to appear in. Visi is different in several ways from other decor magazines, so Johan is looking for an angle (preferably exclusive) that would be perfect for the Visi reader.

Lauren Shantall, Elle DecorationBoth Johan and the next speaker, Lauren Shantall of Elle Decoration, spoke about the “non-exclusive exclusives”. No magazine wants to feature something that appears in several other competing titles at the same time. They lose credibility with their readers and you will certainly lose the editor’s trust. All that they ask is that you are honest about what other magazines plan to feature your product/brand/company so that they can decide what type of angle would work best for them.

On this topic, Brian Berkman raised a valid point. Journalists also have a responsibility here to answer PR emails on whether they plan to use the content or not. When you don’t get an answer, it’s difficult to know when you can start pitching the idea to other titles and you might miss the production deadline in the meantime. As Brian said, a “no” is better than hearing nothing.

Back to Lauren, she says that she prefers to receive the high res pics upfront, as it saves her time. Please note though that this is certainly not the case for all journalists - they won’t be happy if you crash their inbox. Use Encyclomedia’s media database research service to give you all the journalists’ individual  preferences and pitching tips.

Lianne Burton, House and LeisureLianne Burton from House and Leisure says that they aim to promote all the positives of life in South Africa. The new look magazine launches in January 2009 and, given that the competition was sitting right next to her, she couldn’t really reveal too much except that the new slogan is “stylish SA at home and play” and it includes a beauty section. They’re big into eco angles, so there are some great PR opportunities there too.

Thanks to Mike from Wesson Digital Photography for the photographs.

Popularity: 33% [?]

Beware The Bold Button And Bad Formatting

Formatting your email with bullets, bold, italics and caps can be functional and useful when used (very, very sparingly) at the right times. But, if you don’t have anything really gripping to say, then putting every second phrase in bold is certainly not going to help your cause.

This was exactly the type of press release a marketing journalist received recently. About 50% of the text was in bold. And just to add a little extra emphasis, the headline and footer were in red. I felt a little like a deer staring into blinding headlights, I wasn’t sure where to start or what I was supposed to do…except to close the email. Phew, it was far too much effort to try and read. See for yourself, here’s a sample of the press release:

[Name], Managing Director, [company name] and [company name], will bring his expertise in the independent sector to [event name]. [Name] serves as the elected Vice President of WIN (Worldwide Independent Network), Chairman of the Board for AIR (Australian Independent Record labels association) and is also a current board member of MIFF (Melbourne International Film Festival), PPCA (Phonographic Performance Company of Australia) and ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association).

This reminds me of the comments that Dorin Bambus, previously the editor of Blunt, said in some Encyclomedia research a while back on PR best practices. Commenting on email formatting, he said:

Press releases should make the reader think something is cool and interesting and newsworthy, not alert the reader to the fact that the writer thinks this to be the case. I can read, I don’t need every IMPORTANT piece of info “signposted” for me. It’s very annoying.

Popularity: 12% [?]

Great Example of a Pre-Pitch PR Introduction

Before sending out your press releases to the journalists in your media database, have you ever tried sending an introductory email to ask whether the journalist would in fact be interested in receiving the type of press releases and angles you have planned?

A PR professional named Scott Duehlmeier did just that when he sent a short, descriptive email to a well-known blogger, Chris Brogan, asking if Chris would be interested in receiving further emails with PR announcements from their clients.

Have a look at Scott’s email on Chris’ post “Great PR manners go a long way”. Chris refers to it as “a very polite, very personal-seeming opt-in letter”, which came across well because it was “human-sounding”.

Unfortunately, far too many journalists (and bloggers) are on the receiving end of the spray-and-pray press release distribution approach. Even though software can automatically enter the journalist’s name into the email, they can mostly tell that they’re part of a mass mailing, especially if it starts with “I thought you’d find this interesting”.

Nothing beats personalised, thoughtful communication if you want a good response from the journalists. Of course, if all you’re looking for is a long list of media contacts to tick off and show to your client, then you may need to revisit what your PR goals are.

For some great tips on how journalists like to be pitched to, sign up for this free media pitching tips email series. It’s full of advice on various PR-related topics from editors, producers and journalists across South Africa.

Popularity: 19% [?]

Have You Prepared Your Gift Guide Pitches Yet?

Christmas giftsMedia with long lead times, like consumer magazines, will be busy working on their end-of-year, Summer editions now. Those magazines with features or supplements covering December gift guides will need to start gathering their products and ideas now in August, while some would’ve already started in July.

If you have a product, brand or experience that you think will fit in the Christmas gift guides, make sure to do your research straight away to find the media you need to pitch to. Remember that many magazines will prefer to take their own photographs of the products to maintain consistency and quality. Once you’ve successfully explained why your product would be a good fit for the publication and the target audience, make sure to have the product ready to courier. If they don’t receive it in time for their photo shoots, you’ll miss out on a great opportunity.

Don’t send unsolicited products to the editors. They’re bound to receive so many boxes, packages, media kits and gifts, that your product might just get lost. Rather get in touch first and see what the journalists are looking for and then find an angle of how your product could match their needs.

Important question to ask yourself before pitching your product for the first time: Who would use/buy my product?
Be specific with your answer. Hint - there is no such thing as “the general public”, that creature does not exist. There are hundreds of different publications for a reason, because every person has different interests, values and priorities. Once you know who your real target audience is, only contact those media that actually talk to your target audience. Being relevant is critical if you want to build a good relationship with the journalist.

For help in finding the right media and the most relevant media contacts, have a look at Encyclomedia’s media database research service, where you can customise any media database you need and Encyclomedia will verify all the information just before you receive it.

Pic source: Flickr

Popularity: 8% [?]

The Art of Communication - It Starts with Values

I’ve attended two of Dr Demartini’s talks this week and I thought I’d give you some quick feedback before his third Cape Town talk tonight - in case you’re still um-ing and ah-ing about where to spend your Friday night.

Our relationships with people, whether personal or professional, can often be filled with so many misunderstandings and misperceptions, which prevent us from communicating effectively. On Wednesday night, Dr Demartini spoke to us about how to empower relationships and master the art of communication. Although it sounds pretty serious, he had us in stitches of laughter with his sometimes subtle, sharp innuendos and other-times overt, candid stories and illustrations. He certainly entertains as much as he teaches and inspires!

The Nature Of A Good Relationship:
In talks I’ve done for companies about media relations, I’ve covered the fact that a good relationship simply means that you give someone something that they really want, and then they’ll help you get what you really want. It could be giving someone money for a service you need; or giving journalists good, relevant content to fill their magazines, helping you get publicity. It’s all about giving and receiving. But when it comes to communication, we need to be aware and artful in how we “give” our message, so that we can “receive” the response we’d like.

Value Determination:
It comes down to awareness of your own values and those of the people you have relationships with. By values, I don’t mean the high ideals of honesty, ethics, liberty, etc. Rather, Dr Demartini talks about your priorities and the things (or people, activities, goals) that are most important to you. These are normally the things that you spend your most time and money on, how you fill your space and spend your energy.

For example, a stay-at-home mom probably has her priorities fixed on her kids and will spend her money on school books and kids’ clothes before even thinking of luxuries like a gym membership. A training athlete values his fitness so much that he couldn’t imagine not going to gym or buying the latest technology in running shoes and wouldn’t even notice the 50% discount on kiddies sneakers. Another clue to picking up on people’s values is to listen to what direction they steer a conversation.

Whatever is highest on your values is where you have the most order, motivation and inspiration. On the other side, you tend to procrastinate on the things that are lowest on your values, which have the most disorder and chaos. Every single person’s values are different and they act as lenses through which we view and filter the world around us. If you expect people to live and react according to your unique values, you’re living in a fantasy and setting yourself up for disappointment.

However, once you recognise different people’s priorities, you can start to communicate in a way that builds lasting and meaningful relationships, whether it’s in business, social circles or family.

Gosh, there’s so much more to this - Dr Demartini speaks really fast so you can imagine how much he covered in his 1hour 30 minute talk. Have a look at this video clip so you can hear him explain how you can determine your own values.

Art of Communication:
The art of communication is in communicating your values in terms of the values of others. Ask yourself, how can I phrase what I want so that it serves the other person’s values in some way? What’s important to me and what’s important to them and how can I link the two?

Tonight he’ll be giving a 1hour talk, followed by the screening of the movie The Opus. His talk, entitled Activating Vision, will cover how you can be the difference and live an inspired and amazing life.

It’s at the BOE Conference Centre (next to the Clock Tower, V&A Waterfront) at 19:00. Read more details on

Popularity: 10% [?]