Sealing the PR deal

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First published on http://www.mediaupdate.co.za in July 2015

Clinching new clients brings in revenue and is therefore an integral part of any business. When it comes to the public relations industry, practitioners need to constantly be looking for new leads, because the more clients a PR company has, the bigger and better their reputation stands to be.

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By Remy Raitt

Lucinda Boddy the managing director and part owner of Livewired says often clients come to them. “Clients normally seek us out, however we feel that seeking out new business is one of the most important aspects of running a business and should be a priority.” She says making these new connections is, at times, overlooked. “Unfortunately new business is often slightly neglected as you get caught up in current clients.”

The power of word of mouth

Judith Middleton the CEO of Duo Marketing and Communications says they are fortunate as most of their clients are a result of referrals from existing clients. Good news travels fast, plus, good work will be seen through the PRs interactions with the public on their client’s behalf.

And if current clients aren’t sharing their satisfaction organically, PR Couture recommends joining a referral group. “Essentially, it’s a group of professionals who agree to refer each other business.”

Use the internet

“In the past 90% of our clients found us through word of mouth, now a good chunk come from our digital assets,” says Middleton. Having a strong online presence means those on the hunt for public relations services will swiftly find the company they need. Social media channels, an easy-to-use, website and profiles on industry websites are also beneficial.

Middleton also recommends sharing what people have said about you on your digital platforms. “It’s good to have testimonials and case studies,” she says.

Keep opportunities top of mind

PR Couture suggests setting up a wall of reminders and intentions using company logos. “Just seeing those logos day in and day out keeps them top of mind for employees. When partners or prospective clients come in for a meeting, they get a clear picture of our current list as well as a clear understanding of the types of clients we are looking for.”

Meet potential clients

Once contact has been and the client’s interest has been piqued PR practitioners should set up a meeting. “The most important thing to do is to meet face-to-face with the potential client in order to fully understand what they are looking for,” says Boddy. “Once we have met with them we then put together a high level PR proposal and quote.”

It’s important to show, not tell. “You seal the deal through evidential proof of your commercial impact. This proof is what often clinches the deal,” says Middleton.

PR practitioners, are in essence, sales people, so they should be able to convince clients that their services will be beneficial. Boddy says it’s important to tailor each pitch to cover specific client’s needs. “We don’t do blanket presentations and we try and target each client as much as we can by doing research and getting to know them as much as we can prior to presenting.”

Meaningful maintenance

Once the deal has been sealed, new clients must be kept in the loop. Boddy says this can be done by “communicating often and by being passionate about their brand or offering”. Middleton says that maintenance is paramount and the PRs must set hard goals and report back often as “it’s all about output and value”.

Are you a PR practitioner? How do you clinch new clients?

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Without writing and editing training, PR can be perilous

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First published on http://www.mediaupdate.co.za in June 2015

Badly written press releases, while sometimes hilarious, are annoying. Typos and yo-yoing content display incompetence, something no PR wants to be associated with. “Writing is the single most important trait or talent for a public relations practitioners,” says Els de Bundel, acting executive manager at Provox Centre

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By Remy Raitt

“The ability to write easily and coherently distinguishes the public relations practitioner from others in the organisation,” says De Bundel. “It is a skill that transcends the entire public relations function, equipping the skilled writer with abilities that make him or her indispensable in the organisational communication function.”

Journalist, media consultant and trainer Marion Scher says it is imperative that PR professionals produce perfect copy as they are the mouthpiece for the organisations they represent. “No one will take you seriously if the work you produce is rubbish, and this goes especially for the media,” she says.

Don’t make the media mad

Scher says that sloppy copy and typos are an easy way to find your press releases in the trash. “The media find it disrespectful,” she says. And if you aggravate the press, the chances of your client’s content finding a public stage dwindles.

“Another thing with PRs is they send too much,” says Scher. “They must bear in mind, especially when sending to the media, that they’re lucky if it’s opened from the subject line.” She says that the first two or three lines are the most important.

Clean copy is capital

“Generally we’re in a crisis in terms of spelling and grammar, even in the media,” says Scher. She says without proper training, PR professionals and their work will continue in a downward spiral. “This must be taken very seriously,” she warns.

De Bundel agrees, and believes all PRs should be able to effectively edit their own work. “In the writing process, editing and proofreading form the critical safety net that ensure that the end product is free of grammatical, stylistic and other errors, and that it conforms to the organisation’s editorial style and policy.”

Write like a professional

“The ability to produce excellent public relations writing, in essence, requires strategic thought processes and training,” says De Bundel. “It extends an existing organisational persona by positioning its values, governance and leadership to a specific readership. The responsibility that comes with this skill is massive.

“Ethics come into play,” adds De Bundel. “The use of accurate and appropriate context lends itself to meaningful and sincere communication. Public relations writing, in essence, requires critical, factual journalistic thinking coupled with a creative, strategic flair that narrows and underpins the essence of what needs to be shared.”

And although PR professionals can learn how to write, prTINI’s Heather Whaling believes some natural talent is advantageous. “People can learn to pitch media, be more organised, measure, or use social media for business; however, if you can’t write, it’s nearly impossible to execute any of these tasks well. As communicators, writing is our foundation. And, while some communication is becoming more conversational, clearly articulating ideas is what we do.”

De Bundel says writing is a skill that transcends the entire public relations function; “equipping the skilled writer with abilities that make him or her indispensable in the organisational communication function”.

Scher agrees that the need for proper writing and editing training is paramount for professional success.  “What it boils down to,” she says, “is if the PR professionals, are having to write anything that the public will see, it has to be done well and correctly.”

What are your thoughts? Do PR professionals need writing and editing training? Tell us below.

Building your marketing army

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First published on http://www.mediaupdate.co.za in October 2015

A marketing agency, like any business, is the sum of its parts. Without the right employees, building a great reputation will not be easy. The question is, where should you look in order to minimise the pangs of growing pains?

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By Remy Raitt

There is no cut and paste marketing agency formula, because needs, teams and dynamics differ from agency to agency. There are, however, fundamental boxes an agency should tick in order to achieve a successful working environment and consequently successful offerings to your clients.

Two sides to the story

The chief disruptor of Integrated Marketing Solutions, Francois Vorster says there are two sides to every agency; client services and the creative team. “Client services need a good understanding of people, the media and strategy,” he says. The creative side of the agency will take care of all things, well, creative.

The wisdom to youth ratio

“A successful marketing agency is a combination of the wisdom of age and the exuberance of youth,” says corporate marketing analyst, advisor and media commentator, Chris Moerdyk. Vorster agrees; “In my opinion, youth brings energy and insights, they are the reality checkers but, they don’t always see the broader picture. Wisdom, on the other hand, knows what works and what doesn’t.”

Building your army

“Like anything significant, the ideal marketing team starts with a solid foundation,” says Kevin Barber in an article for HubSpot. “With the right foundation and plenty of grit, you can build (or even re-build) anything.”

Moerdyk believes four central roles make up this core foundation. “Right at the top you need someone who has grown up with the industry and all its changes over the last few decades.” He says this will prevent clients from making the same old mistakes.

Market researchers come next. “If they’re not personally doing the research they need to be able to commission the right researchers. This is a very tricky part of the work and it takes an awful lot of experience to ask the right questions to ensure you’re not just getting knee-jerk answers,” Moerdyk continues.

Another key player is a media specialist. “This person needs to be able to select the right media channels, not someone who is going to get talked into the wrong ones. You need someone who can rationalise the right media mix for the target market.”

“Another vitally important person, which few agencies have, is a salesperson who is very senior and very good at what they do. So many people just think their MD can do the selling, and that’s a weakness,” Moerdyk concludes.

Stacking up skill sets

Vorster believes the days of only offering one skill are long over. “I’m all for multi-skilled people. In today’s world, things are so dynamic you can’t look at one thing without looking at the other,” he says. “If you can’t at least develop multiple skills, you aren’t going to work out.”

Moerdyk says it’s imperative that the people at the top of the agency possess multiple skills. “Lower down the order, employees can have more individual skills, especially with regard to things like social media and analytics,” he says.

Relationship advice

“The strong foundation of modern marketing is building towards a team culture with integrity, character, creativity, love, and loyalty,” says Barber.” If your team loves the company they work with, and love serving the customers before, during and after the sale, you have a great foundation.”

Vorster slightly disagrees. He says he looks for trust over loyalty, because each individual employee has their own value set and, therefore, may cut ties with the agency in favour of something or someone else. “I look for trust and the real life work skill of the ability to learn,” he says.

Moerdyk says that if your employees don’t get along, your agency is in for a rough ride. “At the end of the day, human compatibility is the most important thing to consider,” he says.

How would you build your marketing army? Tell us below.

Figuring out your freelance rates

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First published on http://www.mediaupdate.co.za in September 2015

One of the trickiest parts of working as a freelancer is figuring out what you should charge. Working out your worth is not an entirely subjective process; as experience, the client and the type of work you undertake will all affect the monetary outcomes of each job. 
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By Remy Raitt

“Hustling is the nature of the freelance game, do it with swagger and you’ll go far, hustle with a false sense of authority and you’ll last five minutes,” says freelance writer and stylist Candice Meiring-Basnett. Here are some things to consider before you send out your next quote.

Do your research

Before you begin crunching numbers find out what your peers are charging and what industry overseers, like the Southern African Freelancers’ Association (Safrea) are recommending. Currently, Safrea writing rates vary between R2 and R3.75 per word, but double and triple if written for PR or advertising usage respectively. Copy editing rates recommended by Safrea fall between 35c and R1.75 per word, while hourly photography rates fluctuate heavily depending on the type of work done.

Samantha Moolman of The Writer’s College Times suggests calling up publications you would be interested in working for and enquire about their rates, this will help you get a sense of what people are paying.

Although Safrea provides useful guidelines, these rates will not be 100% appropriate for all freelancers as the experience and qualification of the freelancer as well as the type of publication, expectations of the work and constraints faced will all factor in.

Figuring out your first time(s)

“For newbies I would definitely recommend coming in at a competitive rate until you have a built up a strong portfolio,” says Meiring-Basnett. “Do the ‘everything for nothing’ jobs to start as the experience is priceless. These days I find students coming straight out of varsity charging phenomenal fees with only their university projects in their portfolio. Don’t be one of those guys. Always remind yourself that crappy paying jobs may lead to other work.”

This doesn’t mean those starting out should let clients take advantage of them. If you are aware of what your peers are charging you can work around these rates to find a happy medium that everyone can agree on.

Rate yourself

Figuring out your worth is essential for setting up your rates. Previous jobs – both permanent and freelance – your portfolio, your network and the varying types of services you can offer must all be considered. And still, as Moolman says, “it’s the perpetual paradox of the workplace: if you ask for too much, a client or employer will ask a more affordable writer to do the job. If you charge too little, you may be perceived as inexperienced.”

Once you’ve figured it out, you can create your own rate card. “The rate card works well for me,” saysMeiring-Basnett. “If some clients can’t afford it we enter into negotiation but the rate card definitely sets the tone. Some freelancers prefer to not use a rate card but I find using one less confusing and more above board. “

Ensure your rate card includes all the services you offer. For example, your pricing for magazines, newspapers and online will all differ.

You also need to decide rates for different billing methods, namely; per word or photograph, hourly and daily rates, and project rates.

Safrea says it’s imperative to charge additional hourly rates for meetings, interviews, and project management and coordination. If you travel using your own car while on the job they recommend using AA rates to charge for the kilometres driven.

It takes time and a bit of trial and error to work out your worth. As long as you remain honest and patient, take a few chances and avoid selling yourself short you’ll soon start sending out invoices both you and client are chuffed with.

Are you a freelancer? How do you go about billing?

 

A tour through travel journalism

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First published on http://www.mediaupdate.co.za in August 2015

Travel journalism seems like the dream job. Amazing adventures, luxury accommodation, sponsored flights and top-class cuisine. But, at the end of the day, it’s still a job; there are deadlines to meet, editors to appease and writers block to banish.

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By Remy Raitt

Still, the pros certainly outweigh the cons and consequently, it’s a competitive career choice. “These days, where anyone can be a blogger and take good photos, the competition is ridiculous,” says freelance travel writer Carrie Hampton.

Getting in there

Former Travel24 writer turned freelancer Nadia Krige caught a lucky break getting into the industry. Through a Media24 internship, she was placed at Travel24, who offered her a full-time job after her cadetship. “Obviously it doesn’t work out so easily for everyone,” she says. Like Jill Starley-Grainger says in an article for The Guardian, blogs can be a great ‘in’ into the industry. Krige agrees; “These days the best way to get into travel writing is to have a blog you update regularly with quality travel stories and photographs.” She says you don’t have to be jetting off to Europe and unearthing the Amazon to do this. “Travel need not be across continents for it to be meaningful,” Krige says. “The most amazing stories could be waiting in an obscure local ‘dorpie’ less than 100km away from your home.”

Niche is nice

“As a rather recent entry to the freelance travel writing market, I have come to realise that it’s really important to have a niche or a pet project that people associate you with,” says Krige. Hampton agrees. She personally specialises in safaris, giving her an expert edge.

Hampton suggests picking something you care or know about; a region, country, activity or a specific genre like budget travel or high-end escapes. Blog, tweet and Instagram it, and in time people will associate you with your niche, prompting editors to approach you to cover the topic for their title.

Craft it with style

Travel writers have to be able to craft a story. Hampton says a creative flair is also essential, with great journalists finding the balance between “facts and fun”. “Travel writing is very different from other forms of writing and I think a good travel article is more akin to a short story; it should be a complete narrative which comes to a satisfying end.”

Krige says another way travel journalism differs from beats like news is that the writer has to have their own opinion. “You actually have to be a little bit biased – I mean, people read travel stories to find out what you thought about a place or an experience, otherwise they could just have stuck to the brochure or the official website.”

She recommends pitching and writing listicles too. “While pieces like ‘10 best beaches in the Western Cape’ are no doubt useful, I think people always enjoy something a little more personal.”

She says besides that, and the ability to pack a bag in record time, travel journalists should possess all the other mandatory skills found within the broader profession; great grammar and spelling, correct facts, social media skills and ability to pitch and execute interesting, informative and entertaining stories.

Krige and Hampton agree that the perfect travel story will transport readers to faraway places. Krige suggests using genuine personal experiences, a touch of humour and links to real-world topics like politics or current trends.

More skills make an easier sell

The ability to write, take great pictures and handle social media will put an aspiring travel journo in good stead. Hampton says being able to adapt is crucial. She says the advent of the internet forced her to move with the times; “I didn’t grow up with social media but I’ve had to learn and embrace the changes.”

But the most crucial part, according to Hampton, is passion. She says a strong desire to pursue the profession will help overcome obstacles and motivate you to get out there, see the world and then share your stories.

Are you a travel journalist? What are your top tips?

The realities of being a reporter

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First published on http://www.mediaupdate.co.za in June 2015

Journalists don’t do it for the money, because there isn’t much, or for the marginal fame that comes with a byline. Journalists do it because it’s their calling. And while many believe it’s a glamorous job, there are a few pitfalls to this profession.

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By Remy Raitt

“I think people believe that journalism is fun,” says Johannesburg North Caxton local newspapers editor Megan Mclean. “That you can slap a few words together and bam, you have a story.” She says that being a journalist can be emotionally draining.  “People don’t always realise that with the fun comes tight deadlines and tragic stories. I think every journalist in our newsroom is haunted by a story they struggled with or are not able to get out of their minds.”

Dreaded deadlines

Every journalist knows the shadow a looming deadline casts. No matter the type of journalism it is, deadlines are a daily reality which turn up stress levels and activate panic modes. The fact that journalists have to rely on sources before they can get their work done adds to this pressure. Freelance writer Layla Leiman says having to constantly nag people for responses is a lousy part of the job.

Office hours don’t always apply

Chasing deadlines also means working late. News doesn’t always break within traditional office hours and a good journalist is available to cover a story no matter what time it is. “You also spend a lot of your time, especially after hours, at events,” says Mclean, “which means you are not with your family – no one ever said journalism was a nine to five job.”

Salaries are squat

“There isn’t a lot of money to be made in writing, particularly in the online space,” says Leiman. “Jobs and paying opportunities are limited. In South Africa, there is also the fallacy that online publications are inferior to print.” Chron.com states that one drawback applicable to almost all journalists’ is low starting pay. Although there is a bit of money to be made in broadcasting and higher editorial positions, extravagant yearly holidays aren’t on the cards for most news people.

Its hard work

“Writing is not easy,” says Leiman. “It takes time, sometimes inordinately long periods to write even the shortest thing. And then there’s the question of whether anyone even reads it.” Mclean says writing for varied audiences is also tricky. “As the group editor of a number of local publications, one of my challenges is to write something that is local, but still relatable. I have to find something that both the guy working in a spaza in Alex, as well as the businessman in Sandton can relate to.”

There are bright sides

Journalism is not a glamorous profession. “I think there is this misconception that writers get schmoozed a lot, but I think this is perpetuated by personal bloggers. And no one should take them seriously.” However there are some advantages that come with the territory. Media passes and the opportunity to attend high profile events and interview interesting people are all pluses.

“A large part of my job, before writing, is being informed about who’s doing what and what’s going on. So constantly researching and discovering new things is what I think is the best, albeit inadvertent, perk of the job,” says Leiman.

Like any profession there are pros and cons. They may spend time away from their family and never be rolling in riches but the thrill of nailing a story is one every journalist relishes.

Are you a journalist? What are the up and downsides of your job?

How to create a cracking media CV

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First published on http://www.mediaupdate.co.za in May 2015

Put simply, a CV is a sales pitch and if you aren’t selling yourself correctly then chances are you won’t land the job you want. When it comes to media CVs, it’s about showing not telling. Showing potential employers what you have done and what you can do, all in a clear and concise format.

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By Remy Raitt

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to crafting a media CV but there are some definite do’s and don’ts says recruitment manager Candice Clarke. She says the most important thing to remember is attention to detail. No matter if you’re applying for a job in TV, print or any other medium, frivolous errors suggest you have not taken your application seriously.

Take your time

Sending out a generic cover letter and CV for different job postings is a big no-no. “Align your strengths to the job,” says Clarke. If the application calls for a news journalist, harking on about your experience in lifestyle won’t be to your advantage. Rather focus on selling your qualities that are in line with the job listing.

“The professional profile (sometimes called personal statement) at the top of the CV is really important when applying for jobs in the media industry,” says Katy Wilson, managing editor for CVCentre.co.za. “It is your opportunity to really highlight your skills and your notable accomplishments. But remember different recruiters may be looking for different skills so you may need to subtly change this for each role that you apply for to maximise your chances of success.”

Keep it simple

“Cover letters should be a short, punchy paragraph about what makes you stand out for the job you applied for,” says Clarke. Elizabeth Mamacos from Careers24 suggests keeping it under half a page or 150 words. “Don’t waffle,” she says, “as your CV will tell your employers what they need to know.”

Drowning employers or recruiters in information is a sure fire way to get your CV chucked in the declined pile. As a media type it is imperative that you can show you’re able to be ruthless and only include the facts, show this in your CV.

It is also important your CV is legible. Wilson says to choose a font that is easy to read and to keep consistent in terms of style and design throughout your CV and cover letter. If you are applying for a writing job, allow your flair to show through your wording.

Order by relevance

Include your career history in reverse chronological order. “Start with your most recent work,” says Mamacos, “and don’t go too far back in time, recruiters don’t care about the waitressing jobs you did.” The HR team at Newsclip suggest using bullet points under each of your previous job titles as these are easy to read.

Share your online presence

“It is really important to showcase the different media assignments that you have worked on, but you also need to keep the CV brief,” says Wilson. “The best way to do this is to include a link to your online portfolio or website or even your LinkedIn profile. Also reiterate this in your cover letter so that recruiters can easily access your work.”

Recruiters and employers will without a doubt look you up online. “Be sure to keep your social media platforms clean and tidy,” says Mamacos. She also says you should ensure the information on your CV matches up to that online.

Have you recently crafted a CV? What are some key features you included or steered clear of. Tell us below.