How to Stay up-to-date with Oprah

Oprah - we all know that even when I tell you to stop focusing on her program you won't, so I figured I'd give you a few pointers....

I was talking to one of the executive producers at Harpo yesterday, and she let me know that they are currently working on their April programs so first of all, know that they are only about 3-4 weeks ahead in lead time at the if you are pitching, pitch accordingly.  Other pointers that will work?  Take some notes from our playbook!

* Go online and check out what the producers are looking for:  A show like the Oprah Winfrey Show creates amazing programming because they have outstanding producers creating it, and if you want a quick and easy sneak peek (and a chance to submit your brand for an appropriate story) just go to their website to see what they are working on next:

* Think seasonally, 3-4 weeks ahead, and big!  Pitching a product will most likely not get you a segment.  They may hold it for a future gift guide, or if it's appropriate for a different topic show, but you should really be thinking about how your story fits into a larger concept, and perhaps even bring a few more brands in on the pitch.

*  Remember that Oprah is now doing Hot Topics a la The View.....if you have a cool product or are part of a hot topic, this would be a better place to pitch.

* At Oprah there are actually groups of producers who are working on things in teams.  They have a schedule that shows what their specific shows are that they need to fill, as well as what other teams are working on.  If you create a great relationship with one, they can often find out who to pitch if they are not your best bet.  Want to get to know the teams and their styles?  Join them on Facebook!!  Read the Producers Blogs in the show's Facebook Group. 

* Watch the show!  Sounds silly I know, but if you haven't watched since you were in college you really don't know the current style and content.  Want to be an even better detective?  When you see an episode that is similar to content you cover, watch to see who produced it....this is the producer you should target for your pitch!

FINALLY....the more press you get in other outlets and in other venues, the more likely the producers will see you or hear about you and have you in mind for another segment!

Go get em!

Learning from your Competitors can help your Pitches

When branding our products or ourselves we often try to distance ourselves as much as possible from our competitors.  There are times, however, when we can actually learn a lot from them about what works for our pitching and outreach portions of our pr campaigns.

When you are launching your campaign you know your unique selling points, you know who the demographic is you're reaching out to, and you most likely have already created a pitch and a media list of the outlets to which you will be reaching out.  As you continue to pitch I encourage you to look at brands who create products similar to yours, or experts who work in similar areas to yours.  Look at where they have been placed editorially, and what television programs covered them.  This will let you know where there is bound to be interest in the categories and topic in which you work.  If you are a product-based brand it will let you know what outlets work well with your price point and aesthetic.  It can also show you which areas of the magazine or television show might be best to pitch - even which editors or producers work in your beat.

When you see products similar to yours in a blog or even in a newsletter like Shefinds or Daily Candy, check out their website to see other places they have been covered, as it could lead you to other placements for your own brand.  For example, I recently was reading's Style Section while checking out Michele Baratta jewelry, a popular picture frame jewelry brand we work with who was being profiled there.  While reading through the placement to review it, I looked at the other brands that were featured in the story.  I already knew they had to be fairly similar in price point and style and most likely shared similar customer demographics since they were in the same trend story.  Next I visited the websites of these brands to see what I thought of them and if they seemed like they could be put in similar product categories as Michele's jewelry, and I confirmed the could.  So the last step was checking out the press they've received in the past.  This led me to discovering a few great blogs that would be right up her alley, as well as discover that a popular magazine I never would have pitched her to in the past was now working on a new column her story would be a perfect fit for! 

Part of getting great placements in the press for your brand is a) pitching the right editors and outlets, and b) always learning about new places to pitch and reach out to.  With so many television shows, websites, magazines, and even taxi cab news programs emerging, there are hundreds of places to share your story and your brand.  In order to be sure you aren't ever barking up the wrong tree, and to help guarantee you aren't missing any great possibilities out there in the world of media, be sure you keep up -to-speed on where your competition is telling their story, and if you could be telling yours there too!

Now get out there and do some research!

Change in the Media Landscape calls for a Change in your Media Lists

It's no surprise that the lay-offs are rampant nationwide, and one place that has been hit especially hard is the media.  If you've been reading the papers - especially in a media capital like New York City, you've heard that everywhere from Time Inc to Hearst to the celebrity weeklies are being hit with heavy lay-offs.  Last week the Wall Street Journal announced it too would be cutting back on staff.

The Baltimore Examiner?  Closing.  Both Page Six Magazine and T the New York Times publication have cut back on issues, and both ABC and ESPN have witnessed hundreds of lay-offs.  These are only a few of the examples of one of the sad effects of the recession.  

So what does this mean to you, you many wonder?  I don't work in media, why should I be following this trend?

If you are working with the press -and all of you should be if you intend to raise awareness for your brand - you need to be doing two things.  First, be sensitive to the situation at the media outlets you frequently reach out to.  Understand that the staff who were retained are often stressed, overworked, and wokring in an environment where they've just lost friends & coworkers.  This is not the time to be demanding and unpleasant (not that you would ever do so, but give them extra time to respond to you and so forth).  

Second, remember to constantly be updating and checking your media lists, where you are recording your pitches and media contact information.  We here at Collective E have to check our contact lists monthly to ensure we're updating them regularly for our members.  Even if you subscribe to a service like Cision or Vocus (which shares media contact information) you still need to do your homework, these programs are often slow to update information.  I know for a fact they have yet to update Good Housekeeping Magazine after their latest round of lay-offs.  That means you need to be on top of your media contact game!  Check mast heads on magazines you frequently pitch, follow websites like Media Bistro in order to keep in touch with what is going on in the media world, and make sure you're regularly reaching out ot and maintaining relationships with your contacts so that if they do leave, you'll not only notice, but hopefully be notified of their upcoming plans.  Remember:  fewer employed journalists mean more freelance journalists, often the source of amazing stories in great outlets.  Again, I can never stress enough how much the relationships are what matters here.  Get to know people who should and and do care about your story, and keep in touch with them.  This ensures no matter where they go if a need comes for you or your company, you won't be far from their mind.

Remember that the more you keep up on your media lists, the less this task will turn into a mountain of work.  The job market is turbulent in all sectors and the media is no exception, so pay attention, stay on top of things, and adjust your media plans accordingly.

Best of luck!

Friend and Follower Management: When you are too popular for yourself on Facebook

What to do when you've got too many Facebook friends and Twitter followers. Sigh...too many people are following me! Chances are, you are thinking this because you have followed or friended most of those people back, and you don't really know who most of them are.

Media Kit Reminder: Always Be Prepared

We all know that media kits are essential to your brand, as they are you calling card to the press, buyers, investors, your sales team, really anyone who wants to know about you, your business, and your products or service.

As a rule at Red Branch PR, we always have at least 10 hard copy press kits created and good to go should they be requested by an editor, producer, or stylist.  Yes more and more often these days one can just email a media kit and save paper, but at least once a week (at least) we are mailing a kit that was requested, or sending it along with a sample to an editor.

To save yourselves the hassle, I recommend the following "always be prepared" tactics that are a rule in our offices, and should be in yours as well:

* Always have ten prepped media kits good to go with your "foundation material" which includes your biography, company backgrounder, one sheet (if necessary), a couple recent press releases, line sheets, photos, and product FAQs. 

* Only add in press pages to kits once you know where it's going.  Don't send a kit out to a media outlet with lots of their competitors' press in it, they won't cover you and you won't look original.  Only send press clippings from outlets smaller than the one you're pitching, or in a different medium (TV vs Print, Online vs Newspaper, etc).

* Always have a template media kit prepared that can be used as a model.  This way if you or someone else need to make one in a flash you can just follow the model. 

* Never send a media kit out without personalizing it:  add or subtract any material according to who is receiving it, add a personal note, and be sure your business card is included.

* Keep all your "filler" material organized by client next to the prepared media kits.  When you are running halfway through them, re-order so you never fall short in a pinch.

Be sure to give yourself monthly Media Kit Check-Ups and go through the material to be sure it is up-to-date and in line with your key brand message.

When a Celebrity Buys from You, Respect Their Privacy

Most "celebrities" probably don't even want to be called "celebrities", so let's just call them people who are in movies, for the purposes of this blog post.

I started this topic in the Forum to gather thoughts on the subject, called "What to do when a celebrity buys your product". But then I realized that there really is only one thing to: ship them the product and go about your busy day.  A "friend" of mine (because I would never do something this thoughtless, of course) had an order from a person who is in movies.  She knew this because the famous person just put down their name in the shipping area, just like any person would do.  It was the person in the movie's attempt at being normal, and not having to set an alter ego in order to perform a normal and enjoyable function of life: online shopping.

My friend went straight to her blog, and told the world. She not only told the world, but she speculated if the purchase was a gift, and if so, who it was purchased for. Bad bad bad.  This was a violation of her own Privacy Policy on her very own website, and why would she treat a customer in this way? Customers are the very best, and should be treated like diamonds. They are the purest validation we have in our product or service.

So, if this happens to you, just know, that even if your friends are doing it, and leaking to everyone that so-and-so bought this, take your hands away from the keyboard, get a glass of water (not coffee, because who knows what you're capable of at that point), and think.  If you feel that this person's testimony would help your brand, then treat them as you would any other person who is not sought after by cameras, and politely ask them, or let them know how to go about submitting a review, if you have such a function on your website.  Otherwise, they are just a normal person, a wonderful customer who enjoys your product.

Sure, there are creative ways you could work together if they think they can help your brand, but approach these ways with care and respect. Otherwise, you may be served with an email from a disappointed customer, and a lawyer letter, warning you of your actions.


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