Category Archives: Media Relations

Do’s and Don’ts of Pitching Tech Journalists

Houston Astros v Boston Red SoxI recently went to the PubClub’s “meet the media” event – Tech Panel: Pitching High Tech Reporters featuring Mike Farrell of the Boston Globe, Greg Gomer of BostInno, Maryfran Johnson of CIO magazine, Dan Primack of Fortune, and Dan Rowinski of ReadWrite. Whether you are newer to the profession like me, or a grizzled veteran, there is always something new to learn about how to best pitch tech reporters.

Here are my takeaways:


Have an interesting subject line headline AND first pitch line. For those journalists   who have email that allows them to see the subject line, what you write might be enough to inspire a story.

Make sure you know reporters with whom your client already has a relationship. Simple advice, but PR pros trying to prove they have the right relationships may never ask.

Pitch beyond the editorial calendar. Giving a journalist a great idea outside of mandated ed cals can catch their eye and let them know you’re following news trends. Be creative!

Follow reporters on social media. Tweets, status updates and comments can potentially grow into story ideas and you can better grab reporters’ attention. Primack specifically said “If you see I’m tweeting a lot or responding to comments, engage me there. If I don’t respond to you, then you’ll know with a certainty that I’m not interested.” Understanding what motivates journalists to share on social media can help you understand how to best approach them. If a reporter is active on Twitter, Facebook or other social media outlets, use that to your advantage and pitch them there rather than by email or phone.


Assume your pitch is important enough for the editor-in-chief; that’s a recipe for disaster. Instead pitch the proper beat reporter. Your news will have a higher chance of getting a response.

Send lengthy email pitches; they will usually be ignored. Keep it short and sweet. Any email pitch longer than 200-to-300 words will get deleted.

Send an unformatted email pitch. Anything you can do to catch a reporter’s attention, do it! Bold it! Underline it! Italicize it!

Be afraid to send images with your pitch. Infographics and other images are a welcome way to spice up what can be deemed as another generic/boring email pitch.

Tech reporters receive dozens, if not hundreds, of pitches every day from PR people. Follow these do’s and don’ts to make your pitch stand out.

Happy pitching!

Posted in Media Relations, Public Relations, Social Media | 3 Comments

News from Shanghai – Why HB Chooses IPREX and Is Glad IPREX Chooses HB

David Croasdale, Managing Director of Newell PR, Hong Kong, describes the "layered approach" to doing business in China

David Croasdale, Managing Director of Newell PR, Hong Kong, describes the “layered approach” to doing business in China

During one May 2013 week in Shanghai for the IPREX annual meeting, I worked with fellow leaders of marketing firms from around the world. As we collaborated on partner engagement methodology and best marketing practices, I kept asking myself, “Why do we all believe that the IPREX network is more effective for clients than a single global marketing firm?”

So I asked my colleagues, who came to Shanghai from firms in the UK, India, Mainland China, Australia, Hong Kong, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Canada, Spain, Ireland, Finland, Norway, Singapore, Peru, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Malaysia, Canada and the US.

Here are the top five reasons I heard regarding why they believe IPREX is more effective than traditional global marketing firms.

  1. Global agencies with in-depth local market knowledge are better than global branch offices. Many agencies establish offices around the world, but those offices are branches from a single tree. While that might give clients some assurance of centrally located control and command, it often works against true local knowledge and strategic counsel. Our clients’ goal shouldn’t be great translation. It should be uncompromising localization.
  2. Partnership and membership are at stake all the time. IPREX isn’t the kind of organization where you write a check and they let you in. Competency examinations, financial stability requirements, organizational reviews, interviews and agency visits are part of a stringent vetting process. Poor performance in a multi-agency engagement can mean the loss of reputation or membership. IPREX polices the partner agencies’ professional standards. Many offices of global firms are not under that kind of pressure, and it can translate to lower performance.
  3. We work with the partner we choose, not the one we must use. An IPREX partner in India might have the right competency to advance an international campaign. But if it doesn’t, we can choose a different partner that is better suited to the work. We are not obligated to go through any particular channel or office, which means we can choose the right agency for the right job.

    Mayte Gonzalez-Gil

    Mayte Gonzalez-Gil, CEO of poweraxle, Madrid, presents the international “St. Patrick’s Day Campaign” created with several agencies and the government of Ireland

  4. Best practices, globally sourced. The world is changing fast, and the best ideas and practices for PR and integrated marketing can come from any country. Unlike global agencies whose capabilities stem from a powerful headquarters, IPREX best practices come from around the world and evolve every year as the global agencies collaborate and discover new ways to remain relevant and effective.
  5. This is the age of speed. With no institutionalized chains of command, IPREX agencies can often do in a few days what takes global agencies a few weeks or months. We have the case studies to prove it.

The firms I queried in Shanghai represent only a fraction of IPREX’s 70 global partners (with 100 worldwide offices and 1,500 staff), which brings up my top reason: IPREX offers high-quality operations in every major market worldwide.

The resources IPREX partners put into traveling and meeting with each other also dwarf what many international agencies do. This creates collegial peer-group relationships that lead to high-quality work and a lot of fun doing the work. As one IPREX member put it, “If we didn’t believe this allows us to do better work for our clients, why would we be meeting here in Shanghai? And by the way, will I see you in Prague this fall?” Yes, he will.

Posted in Business, Hart-Boillot, Media Relations, Public Relations, Work | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Pictures are Pretty & Other New Paths for PR

Pretty pictures

Massachusetts is putting real muscle behind supporting its creative economy. We even have a Creative Economy Industry Director, a statewide position and industry resource to amplify the industry’s voice. Our creative economy stretches from firms like HB to colleges, technology companies and associations. As FutureM, the annual fall event focused on the future of marketing, often showcases (and rightfully boasts), the greater Boston area especially is a hub of marketing innovation.

This week, has been running a series called “We are the Creative Industries” series, providing a glimpse into the perspectives, people and organizations driving creativity. Why? It’s simple. The creative industry is a vital part of Massachusetts’ economy, with $1 billion statewide impact and more than 100,000 employees in the field.

I had an opportunity to contribute to this series. My piece, “PR: A Clean Slate,” showcases the public relations industry’s ability to learn from past oversights and finally deliver a communications experience that incorporates the many tools at our disposal today: media relations, SEO, content marketing and more. As an agency, HB is living on the cutting edge of what’s possible for its B2B PR clients. And the message to agencies in general is grow or fade away.

Please read the article here, and share, comment or disagree.

Posted in B2B Technology, Content Marketing, Design, Hart-Boillot, Media Relations, Public Relations | 3 Comments

The Flacktrack

By Dawn Sullivan, PR Strategist

Thanks to services like Songza and iHeartRadio’s “Perfect For”, customizing music to fit your mood or “activity” is a snap. But, for the modern PR agency professional, tunes designed for “working” hardly cut it. Our job is a constant state of flux – ups and downs, frustration and adulation, fire tamping and blue-sky thinking. It’s no surprise “PR professional” is one of the top five most stressful jobs on the planet. To help us get through it, we need a soundtrack that bobs and weaves right along with us.

As part of HB Agency’s Blog the 13th 2013 blog series, here are tunes for 13 common PR situations. The rest of the soundtrack is up to you…and I hope you’ll share it with me!

Go to HB Agency’s GrooveShark page and Hit PLAY for:

1.       Brainstorming an explosive idea – TNT by AC/DC

BONUS TRACK: Symphony No. 25 in G Minor, Mozart

2.       Writing a press release – Chariots of Fire, Vangelis

3.       Calling a reporter – Eye of the Tiger, Survivor

4.       Recovering from getting turned down by a reporter – Fighter, Christina Aguilera

BONUS TRACK: Mean, Taylor Swift

5.       Celebrating a piece of amazing, on-message, earned media coverage – Walking on Sunshine, Katrina and the Waves

6.       Needing some light at the end of the tunnel – Somewhere over the Rainbow, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

BONUS TRACK: Red Solo Cup, Toby Keith

7.      Finding Inspiration – It’s a Wonderful World, Louis Armstrong

8.      Winning a piece of business – You Can’t Touch This, MC Hammer

9.      Losing a piece of business – I’m Gonna Find Another You, John Mayer

10.    Thanking colleagues for always having you covered – Umbrella, Rihanna

11.   Receiving client praise – Can’t get enough of your love babe, Barry White

BONUS TRACK: Give Me All Your Lovin’, ZZ Top

12.   Tending to a fire – Rolling in the Deep, Adele

BONUS TRACK: Let Me Stand Next to Your Fire, Jimi Hendrix

13.   Having a happy client – Just Like Heaven, The Cure

What’s your Flacktrack? Tell me @dawnsullivan or

Posted in Blog the 13th, Media Relations, Public Relations, Writing | Leave a comment

Print Lives and Other Content Marketing Trends

Companies are realizing the power of creating and sharing “unedited” messages through channels that more directly reach their consumers, the need to infuse a strategy to support these branded content opportunities. We’re in a content marketing renaissance; HB suggests paying attention to the following trends:

  • Integrated marketing is back with a vengeance (and PR is part of it): Companies are choosing to work with firms that embrace and incorporate video, design, content marketing, search (SEO and SEM) and other creative tactics, coupling those efforts with public relations programs.
  • Video spreads like… a virus? Video is compelling, and websites and social networks now show and share video seamlessly. Companies are creating video at record levels, but not all video is good or accomplishes its intended goals. Successful videos tell good stories and move audiences to specific thoughts or behaviors.
  • Curation is not just for museums: Content curation is old school for the social media vanguard, but it is a new focal point for companies looking to develop independent “content centers” on their websites. These news and information centers can drive search, serve as educational portals and fill in the gaps between earned media (media coverage) and paid media (advertising).
  • Corporate journalists are in demand: Even the best executive blog posts can’t match the stories that trained journalists create. Larger companies have already started hiring journalists to frame their marketplace, share their information and define their industries through regular, in-depth reporting. This trend will continue as companies see the value in the independent and/or marketing content that staff journalists deliver.
  • TV is, well, TV: Broadcast outlets, television and radio, still aren’t capturing meaningful audience share to their websites. Master content creators for TV and radio continue to share redundant information through their websites, social media and branded content, ignoring the web’s major differences and opportunities.
  • Content marketing is seeing resurgence in college curricula: There is more hand-on classroom learning and internship opportunity for the next generation of content marketers. We hear about through our great interns and see it reflected in the online presence and savvy of new grads.
  • Content marketing budgets are increasing: According to a survey by MarketingProfs and the Content Marketing Institute, 60 percent of companies are increasing content marketing budgets this year.
  • White papers are evolving: Moving beyond static, lengthy and dry pages, white papers feature more digestible content, parsed out in smaller nuggets, supplemented and shared using social media. Video is emerging as a slicker, content-rich way to disseminate white paper findings and knowledge.
  • Print lives: Despite the troubles within the U.S. Postal Service and the dominance of digital, print marketing has reemerged as a tactile, creative and multidimensional way of sharing stories.
  • Truth-o-Meters are getting better: Socially networked audiences waste no time in sharing both good and bad content. Fact-checking, sentiment-creation, good and bad experiences race across mobile channels at unprecedented speeds. This keeps content creators up at night, and rightly so. With audiences so networked and willing to communicate, successful organizations must maintain uncompromising standards of truth and integrity in their communication, all the while keeping their audience interaction rapid and genuine – sometimes a difficult balance.

Interested in reading more about these trends? Please visit the Global Business Hub blog on for Mark O’Toole’s extended post.

Posted in Content Marketing, Hart-Boillot, Media Relations, Social Media, Video, Web/Tech | Leave a comment

Control vs. continuation: a shift in marketing strategy

Last week, I overheard a conversation between our PR team and a representative from a prominent wire service.

“When I started, we concentrated solely on media. We differentiated ourselves from our competitors through speed – as soon as you faxed something to us, we had two people proof it as soon as possible.”

That was only 10 or so years ago.

Then, media strategy stressed control. An agency suggested key messages – and that would be the only thing you heard from a business.

Lack of control

And then the internet happened. Through the birth – and rapid explosion – of social networks, companies soon learned a then-awful truth: they no longer controlled their messages and stories.

The customers had a new playground to express their opinions. Gasp!

Embrace uncontrollability

As companies learned to harness their networks over the last few years, the power of the customer grew exponentially. Companies now interacted directly with customers… and often, the customers drove business decisions. What a novel concept!

The shift to continuation

More recently, companies’ social strategies matured into something Gary Varynerchuk called “continuing the story.” Instead of fearing the uncontrollable, businesses began crafting their own story… and extending it online with a microsite, hashtag, or Facebook URL.

Customers are now characters, taking the beginning of an idea and crafting it into a story of their own, providing ample opportunities for brands to re-engage.

Now that’s continuing the story.

Posted in Advertising, Business, Content Marketing, Media Relations, Public Relations, Social Media | 1 Comment

Getting inside the problem

Knee MRI

Sometimes you need to go deeper.

This week I had knee surgery. Originally I was diagnosed as needing ACL reconstruction. However, an MRI revealed that the ACL was intact. My surgeon wasn’t sure how things would turn out. He advised that he should wait to make a judgment call once he was inside the knee and could really see what was happening. I agreed.

It’s ironic how closely this matches the work we do on a regular basis. Prospective clients come to us with a problem or a challenge and ask for our help. Too often they ask us to diagnose the problem and prescribe a fix in the form of a proposal… before we truly understand the real problem.

Our point of view is that we must get inside the problem and deeply understand the challenge prior to prescribing a solution. We propose a strategy/planning session, one where we can peel away the layers of business goals, audience, messaging and competition in a well-defined process that reveals the gaps and overlaps and informs recommendations. Getting inside the problem results in better knowledge, deeper understanding and more positive results.

Posted in Advertising, B2B Technology, Business, Design, Higher Education, Media Relations, Medical Devices, Miscellaneous, Public Relations, Social Media | Leave a comment

A Little Optimizing Goes a Long Way

What’s the point of having a great idea or product if it doesn’t reach the right people?  Recently, I had the opportunity to sit in on a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for Your Press Release Webinar. In this webinar, the SEO experts at Business Wire shared insights on how (and why) to apply SEO to a press release using proven techniques, tips, and tools.

Starting with free industry tools such as Google AdWords and, Business Wire walked me through optimizing a press release’s content for search engines.  Consider the following takeaways when you draft your next release:

  • Keep headlines between 2 and 27 words.  If you include less or more, Google News may reject it.
  • Avoid using special characters in headlines such as ™ (trademark) and © (copyright) symbols as they can affect how your press release is indexed. If a search engine does not recognize a particular symbol, it will not recognize the headline.
  • The first paragraph should be at least two sentences in length – three is better.
  • Include bullets and bolding as they highlight key points.
  • Multimedia should be incorporated when possible as images stay with your release and are attention grabbing (ex: in a release about a new company CEO, include a picture of him or her).

These SEO tips and tools help our clients (and HB) stay ahead of competitors on a targeted search list and ensure great ideas and great products do reach the right people.

Posted in Business, Hart-Boillot, Media Relations, Public Relations, Writing | Leave a comment

Boston GreenFest – a pleasure and an honor

A few words with Boston Greenfest organizer Karen Weber of the Foundation for a Green Future, and Hart-Boillot was on board. What better way to help advance some of our clients’ and our civilization’s causes than to contribute to such an event?

Boston GreenFest, which takes place on September 26 and 27 at City Hall plaza, needed assistance from all Hart-Boillot practices – media relations, to get the press and broadcast media interested and participating, creative services to design and produce numerous ads for all the media that have offered pro-bono insertions, and strategic communications to ensure that the look/feel and messaging are appropriate to the grass-roots mission.

While Boston GreenFest is a grass-roots initiative, it boasts an impressive list of sponsors and exhibitors. Get it in your calendar now, and get ready to learn about new technologies and ideas that can change our lives and help our planet at the same time. And, be prepared for great food, live music, and an expected 18,000 attendees.

Posted in Clean Tech, Green Living/Working, Hart-Boillot, Media Relations, Public Relations, Work | Tagged , | Leave a comment

How much should I spend on marketing communication?

A client of ours – let’s call him M – is wrestling with how to significantly increase lead generation within a tight budget. He told me that in 2007, his company cut its advertising budget significantly, yet leads actually increased. His question to me: how low can we take the advertising budget?

Finding the low line:
Having built market share and a leadership reputation over 25 years, M’s company is able to reduce its advertising spend while maintaining, or actually increasing, lead generation. Obviously, the question “how low can we go?” is bound to come up.

There isn’t a formula to figure out exactly how much you can limit your advertising frequency and reach before target audiences sense that you’re no longer around or start forgetting to look at your products when specifying new designs.

Continue reading

Posted in Advertising, Business, Media Relations, Miscellaneous, Public Relations | Tagged , , | Leave a comment