Category Archives: Public 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

People Like Pictures, So Start Pinning

blog-the-13thImages are powerful tools that can be incredibly useful and advantageous in marketing. We see more and more brands leveraging this power through various social media outlets. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram provide companies with engaging and personalized tools to optimize customer interaction. And there’s Pinterest, an image-sharing, graphics-oriented, ecommerce-enabled social platform.

People really like pictures, so here at HB we’ve stepped up our Pinterest game. Here are the top 13 tips and facts we want to share with you before you start a Pinterest page for your business.

13 Pinterest tips

How has your company used Pinterest to engage customers? Do you have any tips to share? We would love to hear them.

Posted in Blog the 13th, Hart-Boillot, Public Relations, Social Media | 3 Comments

13 Cures for Marketing and PR Phobias


Few of us are familiar with triskaidekaphobia, a fear or a phobia concerning the number 13. A seemingly irrational fear, it is rooted in myth and history as far back as the Babylonians and Vikings. But the superstitious among us may find evidence in the phobia: Apollo 13 and its ill-fated mission, hotels without a 13th floor, and the fact that enough people call in sick or delay travel on Friday the 13th that it costs an estimated $1 billion in productivity. Proof enough to avoid tempting fate? Regardless of where one falls on the “fear” scale, we frequently cling to long-held practices for fear of the unknown, fear of failure, or the inability to self-actualize.

As marketers, we need to get over our phobias – next time you face a tough situation, try one of these 13 techniques for breaking out of your comfort zone.

  1. Take the lead. Stepping up to embrace new challenges yields opportunities to add and build that you would not see from your current vantage point, especially with projects that fall outside of your job description. Leading can be uncomfortable, yet is almost universally rewarding.
  2. Send a note. I recently received a note from a colleague who works in a different department at my agency. His intentions for sending the note? Perhaps to build a bridge for a more trusted relationship, or possibly as a personal growth exercise in communications. This note prompted me to circle back to him and suggest we connect at lunch. The note pushed us outside our respective comfort zones and may well result in a strong relationship and the benefit of shared ideas and perspectives.
  3. Read. Simple? Not necessarily, if you read “big.” Bill Cosby remarked that he read in chunks – between 2-3 hours at a time – which seems difficult given today’s frenetic schedules. How about scheduling reading like you would a workout? With regular practice, reading will become a more meaningful pursuit, forcing you to reflect on the material versus consuming easy-to-digest, fit-it-in-when-possible, and generally less meaningful mass-media.
  4. Network. As marketers and communicators, we pride ourselves on providing advice to our clients to help them communicate with prospects, customers and influencers. We give them prescriptive nuggets daily. But when it comes to the first and most powerful channel – talking face-to-face – we often reflexively and irrationally pull back. Instead of approaching a networking event as a task or a ticket punch, challenge yourself to approach it as an exploration similar to traveling to a new country. Consider how your curiosity is piqued when meeting new people in your travels – are you not a better listener, absorbing what they say, and treating the experience like a gift to be remembered?
  5. Order something different on the menuliterally. Granted, this is not a technique for marketing excellence, but more so a straightforward and repeatable trial-run for stepping outside your comfort zone. It also provides an opportunity to explore new cuisines and even cultures. The point is that familiar habits such as ordering a salad or hamburger at a restaurant reinforce and telegraph our safe zones. “Ordering new” provides a self-administered jolt so that you can more easily make other, less comfortable out-of-zone decisions before.
  6. Seek out and surround yourself with excellence. When asked recently about his success with Virgin Airways, Richard Branson, its bombastic entrepreneur/CEO remarked that he surrounds himself with people who are smarter than he is. Quality is contagious; investing time with talented, creative and critical thinkers elevates everyone in the room, particularly you.
  7. Tell a joke. Writing and communicating with the purpose of entertaining is challenging, because it relies on the ability to distill a story down to its essence. Easy? Not really. Successful comedians like Jerry Sienfeld are keen listeners, building in feedback loops to relentlessly fine-tune this communication skill. Launching a joke can recalibrate our “tell-meter” into a “listen-meter,” bringing critical listening skills to play as we think about the joke and its impact, deliver it concisely and for effect, and after, listen to the audience’s reaction.
  8. Look around. What aren’t you seeing? We typically approach problems with familiar tools, yet they may not help find the path to success. I felt a particular frustration recently when working on a personal project, as I had envisioned the path to success ahead of time. As I tried in vain to craft a part of a wooden table, I met a serious setback. The moment of recognition came when, nearly throwing the work piece aside, I realized that I had ignored the most straightforward and elegant approach, too eagerly rushing down the wrong path because it’s what I knew. As I laughed to myself with the realization that this small epiphany had illuminated the way, it became a reminder to re-examine and pay attention for subtle clues that are not immediately recognized at the outset.
  9. Feel free to duplicate the wheel, but make sure it’s round. Or put another way, feel free to dig into your archive of ideas that you spent time developing – those ideas were original at one point. Our growth imperative in making them better comes with effectively adapting and improving upon them.
  10. Can you handle the truth? Jack Nicholson’s famous line from “A Few Good Men” makes for great mock-client/agency conversations; honesty can place both marketers and clients in unfamiliar and uncomfortable territory. While keeping an eye on their goals and uncertainties, dare to go over the wire with clients, sharing your honest feedback and ideas. If you feel they can’t handle the truth, frame and deliver it neutrally or, better yet, by demonstrating understanding of their viewpoint and position so they recognize that you empathize with them. The journey is not as treacherous when you travel with an ally.
  11. Make it spontaneous and original. Are we creating art as communicators and marketers? A colleague recently approached a client with an original idea, well out of the client’s typical comfort zone. The was delighted, and provided the green-light for the project, fully accepting the concept and prospect of an unknown outcome and appreciating the creative edge it brought to the business.
  12. Slow down. Sit and meditate. By doing so, you can recalibrate your internal clock, and  approach tasks with a new sense of prioritization and a clearer understanding of their true urgency and value to your clients. Slowing down can also help to more easily step into the other suggested techniques.
  13. Self-actualize. The path to achieving growth, including recognizing the roadblocks and understanding and moving out of your comfort zone, requires taking the first step and accepting uncertainty. The Psychology Foundation has a summary guide that explains these points, all of which can be applied to our professional lives if the intent is there.

What makes you suspicious and are phobias holding you back?

Posted in Design, Hart-Boillot, Public Relations | Leave a comment

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

13 Ways to Adjust Your Content Marketing Dial

If you are like me, every year you set good intentions with regard to your health (you know the drill: eat right, exercise, and drink water). What happens? Life gets in way. But don’t give up. While the calendar might read March, it isn’t too late to make changes.


It’s 2013 and HB is blogging the 13th. We recommend using the 13th of each month as a trigger to assess, reset, and change direction if necessary. I can’t help with your health commitments, but there’s always time to adjust your content marketing dial. Share, debate, and add to these 13 ways to keep your content fresh.

  1. Be bold. I routinely hit my Sunday spin class, but struggle to try new moves. Explore creative and unconventional approaches this month. Take an action today that will motivate you to get outside your comfort zone.
  2. Use authentic stories. What shows success? A success story. Go beyond publishing a quote on your web site. Provide your customers an easy-to-engage outlet to profess and help share their love for your brand.
  3. Less about you. Successful thought leadership programs position you as an expert in an area that supports your key product or service. Rather than tout specific features and benefits, the cogs in your content marketing wheel must communicate that you are an industry leader that prospects and customers want to work with, stat.
  4. Color outside the lines. Between our professional and personal lives we all have an extensive network of contacts. Find a smart, useful way to pull more of your personal contacts into your business world.
  5. Invest in mobile. Period.
  6. Know your reach. Do you truly understand the catalysts that influence your customers’ purchasing decisions at every stage of the experience life cycle? Establish touch points from discovery through engagement to create mavens for your brand.
  7. Set metrics. I aim for eight glasses of water a day. Having a specific number in mind helps me envision the end. Keep a close eye on what works and what doesn’t and course correct with light speed.
  8. Know the answer to “why?” Be certain that your customers truly understand why your product or service is relevant to them, and tailor your messaging to fit each audience. Go deeper than the “it’ll protect your bottom line” pitch. How will a prospect’s decision to go with your solution change his/her life?
  9. Check out the competition. Seeing the cool things that others do at the gym gets me going. Don’t plan on mimicking the competition, but keep an eye on those ahead of you, and behind, to understand where you fall in the industry landscape. Studying the competition enables you to identify opportunity gaps that may work to your advantage.
  10. Be habit-forming. Research shows that new habits take two to three weeks to form. Give yourself the flexibility and time to build profitable habits.
  11. Get a buddy. In my weight-loss efforts I often seek group support via my network of friends and family. Consult a colleague or your team to provide an additional layer of clarity to your strategy.
  12. Build the muscle. One trip to the gym won’t give you big guns. It takes time to get it right. Make a commitment to working on your marketing muscle every day.
  13. Fill in the blank. This list is just a start. Tweet your #13 to me at @perrinmcc.

Posted in Blog the 13th, Content Marketing, Public Relations, Writing | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Building Social Community Around Clean-Tech Initiatives – The Social Tactic Acid Test

Note: this was first published by AgencyPost and can be found here.

If you’re in business, you understand the concept of adding value. You evaluate every action in terms of whether it adds value to your business’ goals or bottom line. So how do you evaluate community-building initiatives?

The Conundrum of Social Community

In our business, we regularly hear from companies that built strong Facebook followings only to realize that they can’t figure out how the “community” adds to their bottom line. Yet they are deeply aware of how communities could take away from the bottom line and how a single bad experience could lead to a brand-destroying social media explosion.

Yet social communities cannot be avoided. Whether you’re in B2B or B2C, your customers and prospects want to know more about you and want to connect with others in your circles. And while the challenge used to be around which tools to use, now it’s about how you make the community valuable. We believe the question should be turned around: Ask not how your community adds value to your business, but how your business can add value to your community.

This is where clean-tech companies have a great advantage. Unlike many businesses that leverage subjective values for differentiation, clean-tech companies can leverage in-house expertise and experience to make a material difference to their communities. For example, apparel companies such as Lululemon and Life Is Good create communities around corporate social responsibility initiatives. Yet what they do best is make clothes and selling those clothes is how they make money. In essence, they run two businesses to make the apparel business successful: a clothing business and a social business. For a clean-tech company, the relationship between what makes money and what adds value to the customer is naturally much closer. Continue reading

Posted in Clean Tech, Hart-Boillot, Public Relations, Social Media | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Emotions of a First-Week PR “Newbie”

Transitioning from a career in healthcare marketing, I am now one week into my first public relations job, and there are so many thoughts and emotions running through my head. Over the weekend I realized that I’m essentially a newborn in this wild, ever-changing world of PR. Last week was a roller coaster ride of emotions and boy did I have a lot of feelings.

The first week in a new position is overwhelming no matter what job you’re starting or how long you’ve been working. Whether you’re the new editor at a media outlet, teacher at a school or barista at Starbucks—anyone can feel overwhelmed at times.

I’ve documented my thoughts during my first five days on the job. It’ll be fun to look back on them someday when I am deeper into my PR agency career, though I realize I’ll be a “newbie” for a while. Hopefully my newbie rants will bring you down memory lane to your first week in a a PR role. Walk with me through my first week in PR…

Monday - Wait, what just happened? I’m excited about this new work environment and great company culture but feeling confused–definitely confused. Am I supposed to know all that stuff already? Should I know all of the leading publications in the high-tech industry? Whoa. Okay. Calm down Julia. Was I awkward today? Boy I hope not. I hate being awkward. Especially being that awkward new girl. Shoot. Stop over-thinking. You’ll be fine.

Tuesday - I’m not as nervous about the awkward new girl-ness. Feeling even more excited, but still learning the acronyms our clients are using. I feel like Lucy from I Love Lucy in the chocolate factory episode when she and Ethel look terribly out of place and start eating all the chocolates off the conveyor belt. Yikes. Maybe I should go eat some chocolate. Deep breath.

Wednesday - Excited. Very excited. Maybe I finally took that deep breath or maybe I just had a better night sleep but I felt like a fire was lit under my you-know-what and my first day jitters seem to have disappeared. I’ve been told that it will probably take three months for things to really click but now I feel less intimidated by the transition period from newbie to three-month-I-know-what-I’m-doing person.

Thursday - I am beginning to make connections between the names of client contacts and what each client actually does. A very rough, broad, grasp of what each client does. But hey, progress! Keep reading everything you can and you will learn this stuff. And then read more. Keep soaking up as much info as possible. Onward!

Friday - A blizzard is coming. Must get enough food and water (and alcohol) in case I’m locked inside for a week. Today wasn’t a standard day in the office so we’ll have to check back next week but overall today went well. Was involved in searching for editorial calendars and spent more time reading about various clients. Feeling good and excited to start my second week on Monday!

Emotions aside, I have soaked up a few substantial takeaway points over the past five days and I know they’re just the tip of the iceberg.

  1. Always be honest with clients. If you don’t have the answer to their question then tell them. Politely state that you don’t have the answer at the moment and you’ll get back to them ASAP once you have it. Then do it. Your follow up is critical.
  2. Be the expert. While it is important to receive feedback from your client and work together to seek out new opportunities, they hired youto be the leader in their PR or marketing initiative. Be confident and specific in your suggestions and recommendations.
  3. Team camaraderie within the office is a must. We are all here for the same reason: to help our clients succeed. We are better at our jobs when we function as an optimistic and respectful team than a group of individuals who do not have the same goal in mind.

Was your first week as a PR professional similar to mine? Share your thoughts with me on Twitter at @jewelsbucchi or shoot me a quick email at

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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

No Snow Job Needed

The recent snow storm once again caused power disruptions across many towns in eastern Massachusetts, with notable areas concentrated along the South Shore, an area where I live. Although the snow itself was ultimately manageable, the resulting damage it caused to power lines led to several days of no electricity and cold homes for hundreds of thousands. The two companies responsible for restoring power to these areas have made very visible efforts this time in communicating to their customers, providing a toll-free line to speak with a live person to report downed lines to or request further information (if your phone works…), near real-time updates via their corporate websites showing where power outages exist and when affected customers can expect restored power, and regular statements from their senior executives regarding the status of their efforts.

First off, thank you to my power company for this, a tremendous improvement over prior efforts during Hurricane Irene, where the lack of consistent and straightforward, unspun communications left many in the dark, both figuratively and literally. Both companies now provide interactive maps and ETA for restoration of our beloved electricity. In the past, we might have seen messaging a bit off the top-line.

Making an honest effort to inform customers and avoiding much of the detached, self-congratulatory back-slapping that plagued past communications is critical to ensure customer trust. We’re in the same boat — the roads were in rough shape for all of us, weather was terrible and conditions far from ideal. And since I made it to work along those same roads, along with tens of thousands of others, you want empathy and information, not needless spin.

In times like these, how about directly cutting to the point – offering a strictly customer-centric voice to your communications – i.e. when is power expected to be restored, and where will this occur. For executives and companies that face the difficult task of updating customers and shareholders in times of crisis or those faced with conveying bad news, the best policy is often “just the facts,” without softening context and spin. Customers and the general public have a vast capacity to forgive and forget, and expect these challenges. Companies, executives and the professionals helping manage their public relations should also understand that in the era of immediate communications where customers can verify the veracity and accuracy of statements, a “just the facts” policy, whether those facts are either encouraging, or more of the same, makes the most sense.

Posted in Current Affairs, Public Relations | Leave a comment