One of our favorite things about building Change Communications has been the opportunity to get involved in new communities where we do business. We love doing good work and trying to give something back. Along the way, we get to meet and collaborate with passionate and brilliant entrepreneurs, dreamers, and do-ers. It’s a good life.
With our 10-year anniversary upon us and an expanding clientele on the west coast, we’re excited to announce Change Communications is expanding to the greater Phoenix area, with a new office opening its doors.
Dan Strickland, VP of Marketing, will lead the Phoenix office. “Phoenix has a wealth of talent,” said Strickland. “There’s an incredible network of entrepreneurs, creatives, and risk-takers here, and we’re excited to provide these businesses the PR and marketing services that they deserve.”
Phoenix was selected for its thriving economy and its vibrant business climate, driven by both dynamic young startups and established players in the technology, bio-tech, and hospitality sectors.
In addition, Phoenix boasts a rich diversity of innovative nonprofits. From social justice to youth counseling to yoga and mindfulness, all of them are doing important work, and we look forward partnering with them.
“We have ambitious plans for this thriving area of the Southwest,” said Katy Lim, Change Communication’s Managing Director. “We can’t wait to dive in and start getting to know our new friends and colleagues.”
Contact us to find out how your business can benefit from our PR and marketing services.
We are giddy with joy to announce that our client, TV4 Entertainment, was named one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies in 2019! It’s an incredible honor and we can’t thank Fast Company enough for the recognition. Congratulations to the hard-working TV4 Entertainment team and their many partners!
In the Film/TV category, TV4 Entertainment was named along with powerhouses Netflix, Participant, Warner Bros, Blumhouse and A24. Not bad company to be in! Read more about why TV4 Entertainment was honored here: https://www.fastcompany.com/company/tv4-entertainment
We always believe that it’s just an honor to be nominated, but to quote the great Vince Lombardi, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”
January 22 might have been known as the day the Academy Awards announced their 91st annual nominees but for us, it’s the day that SXSW announced their Interactive Innovation Award finalists. Included in this prestigious group was our very own client, SEAM Technic. We are so thrilled for our friends at SEAM! Take that, Meryl Streep! You might have 3 Oscars but do you have a SXSW Interactive Innovation award?? I didn’t think so!
We’ll be joining SEAM at SXSW and we’ll be showing off the Lotus by SEAM personal safety wearable in the Innovation Award finalist exhibitions at the Austin Convention Center Exhibit Hall 1 on Saturday, March 9 from 12pm – 6pm. If you’re going to SXSW, please stop by the booth and bring us a beer! Other things we’ll accept: Food, BBQ, a cowboy hat, money.
SXSW has grown into one of the must-attend annual events so we’re very excited to go and even more excited to see SEAM honored. Let us know your best tips, survival guides and places to go in Austin by tweeting us at @ChangePR.
Our sources are prepping their out-of-office replies, stories still have to be filed and we’re all just trying to hang on until the company holiday party (with a cash bar). It’s a special time of unrequited phone calls and frustration, with a pinch of lower standards at times.
With all this in mind, how can you successfully pitch journalists before — and during — the holiday lull?
We’re a little more accepting during the holidays
The stories we’re really chasing are likely about to go into a holding pattern, as government officials and CEOs get the luxury of taking long vacations around this time. Even the ones that stick around until a few days before Christmas Eve don’t really want to deal with the hassle of a journalist.
We’ve still got to post something to our websites and fill those column inches somehow. The closer we get to New Year’s Eve, the more we tire of hearing, “Hi, you’ve reached…” when we call someone.
This can be a great time to pitch stories that might be more on the fringe of our coverage base. If you’re responsive, can deliver your sources and have a relevant story wrapped up like a present … we’ll be more likely to put you on the nice list at this time.
Our readership is still hungry for content in December, so writers might be a little more flexible when you pitch.
With that said…
Don’t think we’re desperate
Just because our sources may be unavailable in December and we’re scrambling to get stuff posted, it doesn’t mean that you can dust off an old pitch, add a holiday keyword or two and expect us to publish.
If it’s something that we’re not going to be interested in at all in September, our feelings probably haven’t changed since then. While we acknowledge your plight — clients still want placement, no matter what — we know what our editor and readers will think if we submit something with only a flimsy connection to our beat or location.
As always, the more time you give us, the better. While we likely have more time to answer your email, DM or phone call, that also means we’re reading your pitch more closely. There are plenty of ways to refresh a story idea for the holidays, but it might take some digging and ingenuity.
You can look back at stories a website or publication has done around this time last year to get a better sense of what flies with the readership. A lot of the holiday content has been planned for weeks, if not months, so your best bet would be figuring out ways that your story could be complementary (or even unique) to what we’ve already got planned.
Get a jump on 2019
A bedrock of content around this time: predictions about the new year.
These are quick, easy and digestible pieces to which readers often respond well. If you’re scrambling to get your client one last placement before the ball drops, think about offering a listicle guest post or an interview where an expert from your client shines a light on the future of their industry.
This helps out in a few ways. It’s easy content to publish and it makes your client look innovative and forward-thinking. Some writers can even gain story ideas from these lists and want to follow up with your client’s CEO or expert at a future date.
December is a great time to pitch evergreen story ideas that we can work on now and post in early January.
You can also take this time to plant seeds for January and early spring. As we discussed before, the holidays can be a slow period for writers. If you were too late with pitching a holiday-related story, this could be a perfect opportunity to work together on something that helps us start the new year strong.
When you think of non-weaponized personal safety devices, most currently available ones are panic buttons or cheap GPS trackers – single feature solutions that only induce more fear.
With the new Lotus by SEAM and the SEAM personal safety platform, our Toronto-based client solves this issue by enabling you to share your contextual data – GPS location, full-streaming audio and images – real-time with your chosen contacts. This allows your chosen contact(s) to know exactly what the situation is, whether negative or positive, and how to help you, if you need it.
The Lotus aims to make people feel safer by connecting them naturally to their social circles. The sleek, gender-neutral wearable device works with the free standalone SEAM app to allow you to record your GPS location, images and full-streaming audio.
If you want to share your journey with one of your five designated guardians, you can do that. And for its coolest feature, if you’re in an emergency and can’t pull your phone out of your bag or pocket, you can press a button on the Lotus and it will call one of your guardians directly, allowing you to have a hands-free phone call. On Android devices, you can designate emergency services like 911 to be one of your contacts.
In addition, the Lotus features Voice Assistant access, so clip it on your shirt, press a button and ask Siri what the weather is, or have Google Assistant send a text message for you, all directly from the Lotus device.
The Lotus would come in handy if you’re traveling, work late at night, take public transportation (like I do), use Uber or Lyft, or often find yourself in a situation where you’re alone and not completely comfortable. It’s not about living in fear, but about love.
And we could all use some more love.
Interested in reviewing the Lotus? Hit us up for a review unit. Email katy(at)bethechangepr.com
While it’s becoming harder and harder to determine what is “fake news,” the real news has always been there for you — in physical newsstands all over your city.
As daily newspapers continue to suffer budget cuts and mass layoffs, they simply aren’t able to cover their communities as thoroughly as they have for decades.
That’s where the weeklies and alt publications come into play. These have become the bedrock of local media, uncovering corruption, giving small businesses a chance to advertise and letting people know when an art gallery is opening.
For PR professionals, alt publications should not be overlooked. The grim reality, as illustrated below by the Denver Post, is that with each day, our journalism counterparts are doing more and more with less and less.
The Denver Post took this group photo to celebrate winning the Pulitzer 5 years ago. Then hedge fund Alden Global Capital bought them. This is who's left after layoffs
If you have a hyper-local pitch or a tip that requires a little more investigation, you’re better off picking up the phone and calling your alt-weekly in many cases.
According to the National Newspaper Association, there are more than 7,000 non-daily newspapers in the country — compared to just over 1,400 daily publications. Non-daily newspapers have a circulation of more than 65 million people.
However, these community publications are in dire trouble. Pew Research Center tracks the state of journalism each year, offering a sobering reality. Their most recent findings show that average circulation among the top 20 U.S. alt-weeklies has dipped precipitously from just over 87,000 in 2012 to around 55,000 in 2017.
So what can be done?
1) Newspaper as a nonprofit
Many publications — daily and weekly — have converted into nonprofits in order to still serve their communities.
This eases newspapers of the burden of needing to turn a profit, but also comes with several hurdles. On the bright side, these journalistic entities aren’t beholden to shareholders and won’t be subject to mass layoffs out of need to be in the black.
However, this isn’t a perfect solution. In this model, newspapers lean heavily on benefactors, readers and other donors. It can be hard to remain stable when funding can change drastically from year-to-year.
While many papers have become nonprofits (or at least started the process), it’s too soon to say whether or not this is viable long-term. Some outlets have even turned to crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter to bankroll projects.
2) Refocus on strengths
Washington City Paper might be one of the lucky ones. Purchased last year by VentureHouse CEO Mark Ein, the new owner believes in the publication’s ability to connect with readers.
Most newspapers are purchased by firms that just want to run it like a traditional business — bleed it for profit, then flip to a high bidder. Rinse, lather, repeat. Reporters get laid off, corruption goes uncovered, underserved communities remain ignored.
But Ein purchased Washington City Paper (a mainstay in our nation’s capital since 1981) with the vision of staying out of editorial decisions. But even with a focus on high-quality coverage, there’s still plenty of room for a publication to be financially viable.
Recode wrote about Ein’s plans for the newspaper earlier this year:
“Arts organizations currently provide about 80 percent of the paper’s advertising revenue, Ein said. But there’s another audience that buys twice as many tickets in town — sports fans — so he hopes to attract ad money from that side of the aisle by adding a sports section that will cover ‘the behind-the-scenes-story of the athletes and the teams.’”
3) Tax Facebook and Google
Facebook has been on somewhat of a public apology tour this year, after the proliferation of “fake news” spread like wildfire on the network.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg has vowed to make things right after the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Facebook has even turned to traditional media — airing a commercial — promising to make changes and restore quality to the site.
As recently as August 2017, Pew found that 67 percent of Americans polled said they get at least some of their news from social media. Publishers are increasingly called to post stories to Facebook, but on Facebook’s terms.
If Facebook really wants to settle the score, it can pay up. A blossoming idea is for social media platforms — which have received so much content from media publishers — to be taxed, with money going back into newsrooms.
“A ‘public-media tax’ on Facebook and Google’s earnings would generate significant resources for a journalism trust fund,” wrote Victor Pickard, Associate Professor of Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication, in The Nation. “One percent of their 2017 net income, which these firms could certainly afford, would yield $159.34 million from Facebook and $126.62 million from Google/Alphabet—a combined $285.96 million. This money could seed an endowment for independent journalism, especially if combined with other philanthropic contributions from foundations and benefactors that accumulate over time.”
Facebook and Google have already started such efforts, but more can be done. Google has earmarked $300 million over three years for its News Initiative, aimed at battling misinformation and helping media outlets monetize their content. Facebook has also announced a $3 million journalism accelerator, but it’s to help organizations build content on the social network.
This is far from an easy situation to solve, but definitely a worthwhile one.
Besides losing our minds over The Pharcyde, the Cannabis Equity Summit raises critical issues about who is benefitting from the legalization of marijuana, and the fact that the communities who were most adversely affected by the war on drugs are still awaiting reparations. Let’s not forget that there are still thousands of people in jail over minor marijuana convictions – and let’s also not forget that most of these people are people of color. While opportunistic vultures like John Boehner attempt to cash in on the pot craze, people still sit in jail, or have had their lives irreparably damaged from marijuana convictions.
The Cannabis Equity Summit seeks to address these critical concerns with a distinguished panel of community activists and leaders in the marijuana industry.
After we get these heady discussions out of the way, it’ll be time to lose our minds over the brilliance of The Pharcyde, as well as performances from local artists Ryan Nicole, Shy’An G and Hip Hop For Change founder Khafre Jay.
I’ve written for publications as small as a suburban monthly newsletter to as big as newspapers and magazines with national reach.
I’m hardly an ink-stained wretch, but I’ve seen my fair share of lousy, off-target pitches from clueless PR reps. I want to help.
Over the years, I’ve deleted or ignored far more PR pitches than I’ve actually responded to. At one job, I actually had an email filter set up specifically to avoid wasting my time reading such messages.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, I’ve actually made friends with some of the better and more honest PR professionals I’ve encountered, leading to mutually beneficial working relationships.
So how can you develop trust with a journalist and avoid the spam filter? Take these 3 lessons to heart.
1) Give us the deets
At the most basic level, what a journalist really wants from an email or call from a PR representative is for the 5 W’s to be answered: Who, What, Where, When, Why?
If you’re trying to get placement for your client, to stand out from the hundreds of other emails in their inbox, you’ve got to make it clear and concise for them. Leaving out key information (such as how to contact you or someone from your client’s company) won’t always intrigue us to contact you for more information. You’d be surprised how often this happens.
Are you publicizing an event? Make sure you include time, date, place, as well as details not germane to the public, such as interview availability. Contact information is absolutely crucial, especially in a deadline situation. Before sending out the release or the email, ensure that yourself and/or the client contact has time to talk to a reporter. It’s quite frustrating to play phone tag, or wait until tomorrow for your company’s CEO to have time to talk on the record.
The most important W, though, is the Why. When writing to a reporter, the most valuable piece of information you can offer is why this matters to that writer’s readership. We both know why you’re writing the email, as your job is to get your client placed in my publication. If you have an understanding of who our readers are and what they want, we pick up on that. Journalists are perceptive enough to know the difference between a mass-produced scattershot email and one that is relevant to just the writer.
2) Get to know the writer
You want to know how the best partnerships with PR professionals start? An introductory email.
My name is Sarah, and I’m with Major PR Company. Some of my clients include Corporation 1, Startup 2 and Sports Team 3.
I’ve been reading some of your recent work, and I’d love to meet up with you for coffee when I’m in town for a conference next week. We’ve got some exciting news coming up, and I’d love to learn more about what stories are of interest to your readers.
Boom. That’s an email I’m responding to. The first ask isn’t for coverage that feels like thinly-veiled advertising, but to get to know what matters to my readers. If you introduce yourself first as a human, getting to know reporters as fellow humans, you’ll be surprised with how many doors (and future emails) will be opened.
Take a moment and check out the journalist’s LinkedIn page, Twitter account or Facebook profile. Try to find some kind of reasonable common ground, like an alumni connection or a mutual hometown.
We also know that your time is just as valuable, and that this may not always be feasible. But even just trading emails back and forth, getting a sense of what stories that writer’s readership wants to read will help you in two major ways:
— You’ll be able to craft pitches that appeal to readership, leading to higher success rates
— You’ll be top of mind when that writer has an idea your client can comment on
3) Pay attention
If you call me by a wrong name, refer to my competitor in your pitch or commit some other error, I’m not responding to your email. I’m forwarding it to my coworkers and laughing about it on Slack.
The most hilarious are the ones that start, “Hello (insert first name).” If you can’t put enough attention into your email, why should I?
If you and your company really want to appeal to a writer, it’s worth it to spend some time reading recent stories. We can absolutely see through it when you send one of us an email telling us how you have this incredible opportunity and how much you loved a story we wrote … five years ago.
Odds are, the journalist’s coverage and readership have changed over the years. Maybe the writer just wrote that one story because it had a tangential connection to her beat and it was a slow news day.
If your client makes widgets and the journalist covers the widget industry, “ACME Company releases new widgets” is a pitch that gets dumped. “ACME Company CEO Bob Jones offers predictions on how the widget industry will adapt,” is one that gets placement.
Look at the stuff your writer tweets about, as they’ll usually have their finger on the pulse of their beat. If you can craft your pitch to something the journalist is passionate about right now, your odds of getting placement rise substantially.
It all comes back to simply seeing the writer as a human, not just your next target.
Now that we’ve passed Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, social feeds will be filled with ads and marketing messages enticing shoppers to buy the perfect gift.
But when everyone from your cousin’s Etsy page to Fortune 500 brands are competing for eyeballs, clicks and dollars, how can a small business stand out among the noise?
Here are some ways you can meet your KPIs as the calendar turns to December.
1) Instagram Stories
Move over, Snapchat. The hottest time-bomb messaging program is baked right into Instagram. Boasting 300 million daily active users, Instagram Stories are becoming the go-to platform for brands big and small.
Users love watching Instagram Stories, and brands are able to include a Call to Action, such as directly linking to a landing page. Now you can even upload photos to your Instagram Stories that are older than 24 hours, allowing your marketing team to plan.
Instagram Stories allows companies to show off a fun, playful side — but the short life of posts means you can create immediate demand with limited-time-only sales.
For instance, Black Sheep Cycling used Instagram Stories to promote a new cycling kit. They announced the promotion in a traditional Instagram post, then used Instagram Stories to showcase the outfit — with a one-hour sale. They sold out in 30 minutes. You can also post coupons to drive in-store traffic, such as announcing a 50 percent off sale of a certain product or showcasing a hot new item.
Not only does this create immediate desire, it lets your customers feel like they’re in a special club with access to this discount. You can promote the Instagram Story sale on Facebook, or wherever your fan base is, to drive traffic there.
2) Be a Mobile MVP
It feels like old advice at this point, but it still needs to be said. Just having a great website or Facebook page isn’t enough. Increasingly, shoppers are checking mobile first, even if they convert on desktop or in store.
If you’re using Instagram Stories to drive customers to a dedicated landing page, make sure the mobile experience is top-notch. If you’re linking out to blog posts from Twitter, those pages need to load quickly, or else eyes will wander.
Adobe has predicted that nearly half of all retail website visits this holiday season will come via mobile (45 percent), nearly eclipsing desktop (46 percent). The percentage of mobile visits has grown considerably, up from 33 percent in 2015.
Unless you already have a dedicated userbase, don’t place too much importance on a mobile app. Adobe found that while 64 percent of shoppers have a retail app on their phone, only 32 percent would download an app specifically for holiday shopping. You’re better off driving traffic to your mobile-friendly website.
3) Charitable Efforts
More and more, people want to make sure they’re spending responsibly. As companies come under fire for derogatory statements by leadership or wasteful business practices, today’s consumer wants their dollar to go somewhere worthwhile.
The uptick in cause marketing and the success of cause-based for-profit companies like TOMs shows how critical it is for brands to do good and be good.
This doesn’t mean you need to donate all of your profits to world peace or pivot to becoming a charitable nonprofit. You can tie sales goals to a cause that your customers care about, such as announcing via Facebook that you’ll give a percent of profits on a certain item to a local homeless shelter or posting an Instagram coupon saying customers can get 25 percent off by donating school supplies.
Holidays are the time to make an emotional appeal, whether that’s laughter or tears. Brands all over the world have put away the schtick this holiday season to connect with their customers emotionally. You can do that on a local scale, by showcasing yourself as a charitable neighbor.
Bay Area clothing retailer Oaklandish has this down to a science. The company embraces its standing, partnering with local organizations and giving back. They know they’re not just a business in Oakland, but a member of the community.
Find ways that you can emotionally connect with your customers by getting involved with causes close to them, and to you — and tell that story responsibly on social.
It seems like almost every week, a major brand is in the news for a public blowup. Whether it’s the off-color comments of their CEO, a viral video of customer injustice or reports of the company’s food causing serious illness, a cycle has been formed.
There’s an incident, news about the incident, public finger-wagging and threats of protests, projections about the doom of the company, thinkpieces after thinkpieces (Medium must salivate after a company does something dumb)… and then, nothing. A month later, another incident happens and we’re right back to where we started.
Companies such as Uber, United Airlines and Chipotle have made waves in recent months for various well-publicized scandals.
The battle between Uber and Lyft has been the most public example of bad PR at work. As more rideshare riders realize how Uber treats employees and drivers, they start to second-guess their decisions.
Lyft has capitalized on this, as the dominant Uber market share is starting to shrink. USA Today reported recently that Uber once held 90 percent of the ride-hailing market share, but over the past two years, that has slipped to 75 percent. Meanwhile, Lyft has gone from 21.2 percent up to 24.7 percent.
This goes to show that bad PR goes simply beyond harming the bottom line. It opens the door to competitors. It forces consumers to make a choice. Sure, Uber might be the cheapest way to get from point A to B, but is it something you’d want to contribute to? While Lyft has been the biggest benefactor of this, a host of other on-demand apps have risen to give Uber-hesitant consumers a more conscientious choice.
However, in the cases of United and Chipotle, they often have a dominating share of consumer choice. Unless you live in a major metropolitan area, your choices of airline might be slim. Likewise, for more rural and suburban areas, Chipotle is your best or only option at Mexican food that doesn’t come from a drive-thru.
You might think that in the case of these major companies, they’re able to weather the storm because they’re often the only game in town. That can change, though. Smart brands can disrupt these areas. Lyft can offer incentives to new drivers, undercutting Uber strongholds. Mid-range and mom-and-pop restaurants can establish footholds where Chipotle is the only place for a fresh burrito. Budget-friendly airlines such as Southwest could open a few more routes in underserved cities.
There is a definite long-term effect to bad PR on even the most infallible of brands. Hearing about unspeakable acts committed by high-profile executives or extreme injustices captured on video would make even the most fiscally conservative consumer pause. That hesitation, if scaled, can be a nightmare for brands.
Millennials, a growing force in spending power, want to make sure their dollar goes somewhere worthwhile. This is where the Uber vs. Lyft and United vs. Southwest decisions really matter. Consumers want to feel good about their spending.
Toxic PR may not always be enough to shutter a company in a day, but it definitely weighs on the decisions that consumers make day in and day out.