“Who am I to Judge?” – The Pope, Gays and the Church.

“Who am I to Judge?” – The Pope, Gays and the Church

tellem2.featured-150x150By Susan M. Tellem, Partner, Tellem Grody PR, Inc.

In yet another surprising outreach to a group marginalized by the Catholic Church, Pope Francis continued his 21st Century communications by telling reporters, “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge him?”  He added, “The problem is not having this orientation. We must be brothers…You see a lot written about the gay lobby. I still have not seen anyone in the Vatican with an identity card saying they are gay,” he joked.

Pope Francis March, 2013 (Source: Wikipedia)

Pope Francis
March, 2013
(Source: Wikipedia)

While it’s too early for LGTB groups to celebrate a radical change in church teachings, it is another example of the Pope’s deviation from his predecessors’ “princes of the church” approach to talking at the faithful rather than to them.  Pope Francis went on to say that homosexual acts are a sin, and that’s where society and social media has not influenced his position or the Church’s teachings.

It’s important to remember that this is a 2,000 year old institution and change will not happen overnight or even in most of our lifetimes.  But not since Vatican II have we had a pope willing to listen to his faithful and talk with them rather than at them.

What is interesting is the fact that this does not appear to be the result of a Vatican public relations strategy, but rather a heartfelt conversation from a man far different from previous popes.

My father, daughter and one son are graduates of Jesuit education.  Jesuits are far different than priests from other orders.  In an article on Jesuit education, Jack Butler, mission and ministry vice president at Boston College, says,” Jesuits are networkers…but their networking is to be better able to engage society…Jesuit education prepares men and women to go out into the world.”  He added that Jesuit education should inspire students to want more and to seek to live with enthusiasm.

After his recent trip to Brazil where he kissed hundreds of children, exchanged his white papal skullcap with others thrown at him and embraced sports jerseys tossed at him by the crowd, “enthusiasm for life” sounds a lot like our new pope.


 About the Author:  Susan Tellem, APR, RN, BSN, is a partner with Grody Tellem PR, Inc. Los Angeles.  She was a member of the media advance team during Pope John Paul’s visit to Los Angeles.  A cradle to grave Catholic, she leads the crisis practice at TGPR.



New School Press Release Tactics

New School Press Release Tactics.

The recent PR Newswire webinar on New School Press Release Tactics was packed with great tactics and insights for innovative ways and new approaches for driving media coverage and generating business outcomes using press releases.

We’ve captured some highlights in this post, and if you missed the session, you’ll find a link to the full replay of the webinar at the bottom of this page.  Joining us on the call were:

Our own Sarah Skerik (@sarahskerik) vice president of content marketing, was the moderator.

New-School Media Coverage

Monaghan began the discussion by presenting the first case study, which was a press release they did for their client Vibes. Their goal with the press release was to position Vibes’ executives as thought leaders for retail marketers. InkHouse wanted to use data to insert Vibes’ point of view into the discussion about showrooming, which at the time was a hot topic in the press and retail segment.

The results they saw after putting the release over the wire included having media placements in 50+ top-tier outlets including Time and the Wall St. Journal, and the WSJ piece drove the top traffic day of the year.  They had zero coverage before putting the release over the wire, and had a 373 percent bump in coverage over the previous quarter. In addition, the press release had long-term news value – Monaghan noted they are still seeing reporters covering this story today.

There are several reasons why this particular case worked successfully.

  • Timeliness: It was a timely topic and putting out the release before the hype of the holiday season helped immensely.
  • Research-driven content: Also, in the release they included research-driven content; a contrarian point of view; practical strategies for combating showrooming.
  • Using a narrative headline:  The narrative of the headline helped, because they chose to lead with the topic vs. company name. When reporters would search for “showrooming,” they would find the press release.
  • Clear, fact-based writing:  The press release featured easy-to-understand content (i.e., no jargon) and was fact-based.

Building thought leadership

Blog traffic increases KCSA generated by using press releases to promote posts.

Blog traffic increases KCSA generated by using press releases to promote posts.

Donohue provided the second case study, which is on KCSA’s approach building thought leadership for the agency.  They realized they had an opportunity, as the agency generated a great amount of content that they weren’t leveraging.   To get started, the KCSA created a new section on their blog called “Diary of an IPO,” which included the expertise of KCSA’s CEO Jeff Corbin about investor relations. He had just released a new edition of his book, Investor Relations: the Art of Communicating Value, adding a section about investor relations and social media.  To develop that conversation, the agency capitalized on the Facebook IPO, which was underway at the same time.

To promote the new blog section and develop search visibility for Corbin and the agency, KCSA selected  blog posts from “Diary of an IPO” and distributed short abstracts, with links to the full blog post, in the form of press releases, distributing them via PR Newswire’s online press release distribution network.   The message was less like a traditional press release, and was instead more conversational in tone.  KCSA used this tactic repeatedly, capitalizing when was breaking news, and they wanted to again include Corbin’s message into the larger conversation.

Using press releases to drive discovery of blog posts, KCSA has seen blog traffic grow significantly, including a 77% increase in visitors and a 93% increase in page views.

Press releases & the digital marketing funnel

The digital marketing funnel, as described by Fathom.

The digital marketing funnel, as described by Fathom.

Before diving into her case studies, Pflaum first provided a new perspective on how press releases fit into the digital marketing funnel. The teams at Fathom are always looking for ways to loop people through the funnel and convert them into customers.  In their experience, the Fathom team has found find that press releases can really fit into any aspect of the funnel — acquire, convert, and nurture.

At Fathom, the main objective of the press release is to gain online visibility, and they focus the messages on their target audiences.  However, as you’ll see from the three examples Pflaum provided, the applications of press releases – and the outcomes they help achieve – are very different.

Example 1: A Missouri Law Firm (marketing funnel phase: acquire)

The legal search space is difficult to break into and expensive to show up in paid results. The goal of the press releases Fathom issued for this particular client was to help gain online visibility for and drive more traffic to their website.  Using press releases, the team promoted content that was emotional and engaging.  Over the course of this year, the press releases have driven about 500 visitors to the client web site this year, accounting for 1% of their total visitors.  More importantly, the visitors who arrive via press releases are engaged:  the visitors stay on the web site more than a full minute longer (on average) than the site’s usual visitors.

Example 2: ConsumerCrafts (marketing funnel phase: convert)

ConsumerCrafts, an online craft store, needed to increase sales. Fathom used press releases as part of a campaign that promoted Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, as well as other promotions.  In addition to increasing web site traffic, the client also benefitted from a corresponding increase in social interactions.  They’ve even been able to directly attribute revenue to specific press releases.

Example 3: A health care screening company  (marketing funnel phase: nurture)

This Fathom client needed convince customers who had shown interest and were conducting research prior to a purchase that health screenings are a good investment, and overcome negative information was at the top of the search engine results page. Using press releases to promote positive branded content, such as blog posts, earned media and new research, the Fathom team was able to build the visibility and authority of positive websites, profiles and articles to outrank negative articles in the SERPs.

How SEO tactics make press releases convert

The final example was presented by Jive Software’s Jason Khoury.   Jive needed to increase traffic to web sites and app downloads, and they were looking at their press releases as potential sources of visibility for these efforts.   Khoury first explained that the primary goal of press releases should be to drive awareness and education.  However, once someone is reading the message, there is real opportunity to inspire them to take another step, or in marketing lingo, to “convert.”

According to Khoury, the first job was shifting SEO from afterthought to forefront when creating headlines and subheads on their press releases.   Additionally, the Jive team realized it needed to abandon the old-school approach of simply putting a link to the company web site at the bottom of the press release.   New-school tactics Khoury advocates include:

Put a variety of links that serve as calls to action at various points in the release.

SEO terms need to be a key part of the initial story, which means you need to think about where you are putting the keywords while developing the content, namely the headline, subhead and lead paragraph.

Add tracking codes the links you embed in press releases, to connect the content to your company’s to marketing automation systems (meaning the embedded links will have backend code within them.)

Khoury also strongly recommended working closely with your demand generation/SEO marketing counterparts to review the keywords, but he also cautioned against going overboard, warning the audience to not overload the press release with keywords.

Using these tactics, the Jive team has seen a 200% increase in traffic to the web sites they highlight in press releases.

In addition to the slide deck at the top of this post, we also archived the webinar, in which you can hear the presenters discuss their tactical approaches and the results generated in more detail.  We invite you to view the webinar here:New School Press Release Tactics 

Written by Polina Opelbaum, editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources, and Sarah Skerik, our VP of content marketing.  To read more from Polina, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.  



Protect Your Profile: 3 Things To Do On Facebook

Protect Your Profile: 3 Things To Do On Facebook.

facebook1If you’ve been following the tech world news, you know that Facebook is getting ready to unveil “Graph Search” to US English users.  This service will allow all the profile info that you have updated over the years, all the photos you’ve added, plus all of the pages you ‘like’ to become part of Facebook’s database and available to just about anyone.  This means that now, anyone searching for a vegan, communications headhunter who is a Girl Scout, can find me.

This data is not new, it’s what has been in your profile—forever. All the stuff you wanted your friends to see.  Now, however, everyone will be able to access it.  If you would rather friends of your friends and their friends not be able to come up with your name, LAPTOP magazine offers the following suggestions:

1.  Limit who can search for you in Facebook:

– Click the Lock icon on the top right of your profile

– Click Edit next to “Who can look up your timeline by name”

– Select Friends from the drop-down menu that appears

– Click Close

2.  Check out your Activity Log to make sure you want all those pictures out there.

– Click the Lock icon on the top right of your profile

– Click Use Activity Log next to “Review all your posts and things you’re tagged in.”

– Click on the icon of two people’s head to the right of any post, like, tag, comment, photo, etc. that where you would prefer to limit the visibility

– Click Report/Remove Tag  (language for a photo might change)

– Select “I want this photo removed from Facebook.”

– Click Continue.  A message will be sent to the person who posted the item, requesting that they remove it.

3.  All of the above will automatically limit future posts.  Unfortunately, you may not have the same setting on old posts.  You will need to:

– Click the Lock icon on the top right of your profile

– Click Limit Past Posts next to “Limit the audience for old posts on your timeline.”

– Click Limit Old Posts.

Now breathe, have a glass of wine and relax.  This is not easy but it’s worth protecting your profile.  You never know who will be searching……


Published: July 16, 2013 By: THEHIRINGHUB

Critical Minute- Next Stop: Good PR

Critical Minute- Next Stop: Good PR.

After a week of unhappy customers, and an ongoing, open-ended battle with the unions, San Francisco’s BART system was in need of some good PR.

After the Verdict: The Acquittal Is In, But Now the PR Work Begins For the Trial Lawyers, the State of Florida—and George Zimmerman Himself | Bulldog Reporter

After the Verdict: The Acquittal Is In, But Now the PR Work Begins For the Trial Lawyers, the State of Florida—and George Zimmerman Himself | Bulldog Reporter.

 July 15, 2013

By David E. Johnson, CEO, Strategic Vision


The verdict in the George Zimmerman case came in on Saturday. As everyone knows, he was acquitted in the killing of Trayvon Martin. If ever there was a case that made use of public relations to define people’s attitudes, it was this case. Originally, 62% of Americans believed that Zimmerman was guilty based on the images that they saw and what they heard in the media, a poll a year ago showed. As the trial began, those numbers changed and we saw a divide on racial lines with African-Americans believing he was guilty and whites believing he was innocent. Nobody involved in the case came out as a winner. Now there is a great need for crisis communications for all involved—the trial lawyers, the state of Florida, and George Zimmerman himself.

The first thing for all of them is to develop a crisis communications plan that will be put into effect and conveying the key messages that are needed.  Next they must not give into a tendency to have a knee jerk reaction or off the cuff remark.  Everyone involved in the plan needs to know what their role is and how they must carry it out.

George Zimmerman

Zimmerman never took the witness stand. His voice has been largely silent as, his family, his lawyers, and friends have carried forth the public relations battle.  Now he needs to speak. Lawyers may not want him too, because of the threat of federal action and the ongoing civil lawsuit. I would recommend that he does.

An interview with Oprah.  It will be hard as we saw with Lance Armstrong but it could change many people’s opinion about Zimmerman and soften his image. Answer every question. Express sympathy for the family’s lost of Trayvon Martin but state the case again of what happened. He should denounce every form of racism in the interview.

  • Meet with African-American leadersto hear them out and also give his side of the story.
  • Go quiet after the interview and the meeting. Stay off of social media.
  • Let others defend himas he regroups.
  • Become involvedin minority-based organizations.
  • After a period of time, re-emerge and grant other interviews.

State of Florida

The State of Florida and its judicial system suffered a black eye in this case.  Many believe that the prosecution was racially motivated. Others are stunned and have lost faith in the State after it was revealed that the State withheld evidence to the defense. Firing the state employee who revealed that, hours before the verdict was reached did nothing to allay these concerns. African-Americans believe that the justice system betrayed them.

  • Governor Rick Scott should address the state. He needs to explain why the case was turned over to a special prosecutor and what led to the indictment of George Zimmerman. He should also explain that there are no winners in this case but perhaps it can serve as a lesson to bring people together.
  • He needs to state that the trial was colorblind in regards to its verdict.
  • He needs to reassure the public that if anyone in the State Attorney’s office acted improperly, they will be punished and have the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigate the allegations.
  • Governor Scott and other elected officials would be advised to hold meetings throughout Florida that address the racial issues and others that arose in the trial.
  • The Governor should directly engage the African-American community by meeting with key leaders and demonstrate that he gets their concerns and emphasize that the State is colorblind in justice and serves all citizens.

The Defense Lawyers

Many criticized the defense lawyers for being somewhat heavy handed with some witnesses and also there was the infamous ice cream cone photo of the one lawyer.  Their job is the easiest.

  • Don’t gloat in the post-trial interviews. Explain that you were doing your job in your cross examinations to ensure that your client was given a fair trial. Explain again the ice cream photo. Express sympathy toward the Martin family.
  • Don’t overplay your 15 minutes of fame. Do the round of interviews and fade away. 

In addition to the crisis communications, it also provides an opportunity in public relations. President Obama burst onto the political scene in 2004 with his famous speech saying, “there is no blue America, there is no red, America, there is only the United States of America.” He has a rare opportunity now to give a similar speech on race in America and the rule of the law. He has been accused of avoiding racial issues during his term. Now he has a rare chance to communicate a truly post racial vision of America, by saying—there is no white America, there is no black America, there is no Asian America, or Latino America, there is only the United States of America for all citizens.

David E. Johnson is the CEO of Strategic Vision, LLC, a public relations and branding agency that specializes in crisis communications, branding, and media relations.  Additional information on Johnson and Strategic Vision, LLC may be obtained at www.strategicvision.biz.

Twitter vs. Newswires: The Battle for ‘Breaking News’

Twitter vs. Newswires: The Battle for ‘Breaking News’.

Twitter vs. Newswires: The Battle for ‘Breaking News’

D.OBrien.featuredBy Daniel M. O’Brien, Executive Vice President & Chief Strategy Officer, Techimage

When it comes to “breaking news” there is no competition to Twitter.  The crash of Asiana Airlines flight #214 was immediately tweeted at 11:32 A.M., the exact time of the crash according to the NTSB, and was then linked through Twitter to the flight control conversations and KTVU’s live video coverage (in separate Twitter feeds).  Newswires can’t compete against Twitter for breaking news.  For all other stories, there isn’t an “either/or” when it comes to newswires versus Twitter.  It’s both, but media consumption requires dramatic changes in the way we practice PR today:

 Digital Media Channels

 Google and IPSOS did a study (http://www.google.com/think/research-studies/the-new-multi-screen-world-study.html) that revealed approximately 90% of all our information comes from screen-based devices (tablets, TV’s, laptops, smartphones).  This is an extraordinary shift in behavior that reflects the ubiquity of the internet and the mobile devices that fuel the consumption of information.  We have become a society of mobile information gatherers and this has changed the way PR professionals do their job, including:

  • For “breaking news” there is no faster distribution channel than Twitter.  Period.
  • The proliferation of media channels makes the need to clarify the strategy all the more important.  The strategic integration of the message across channels (traditional and digital) is the key to channel management today.
  • Keyword research must be integrated into the writing, titling and tagging of press releases, newsrooms and presentations and the rich media assets that accompany them (infographics, video, pictures).  As an example, Your title “Newswires Still Beat Twitter When It Comes to Breaking News” could be better optimized as “Newswire Distribution Still Beats Twitter When It Comes To Breaking News”.  The keyword “newswire” receives 11 X more search volume than “newswires” (6,600 versus 590).
  • Digital influencer research must be performed to identify the most authoritative voices on a specific topic, many of whom are not traditional journalists.
  • According to a Pew study on news consumption habits, 50% of Americans read news digitally.  This requires that the content we produce is “mobile optimized” or it won’t be easily read.
  • Realignment of priorities, recognizing that in most cases digital media reaches more people than traditional media.


Traditional newswire distribution is a good tool for specific geographic and audience reach, with benefits including:

  • Newswires operate more like syndication services today than actual “news” wires and provide instant distribution of appropriate opinion editorials along with news releases to 100s of news portals, in targeted categories and geographies.  Newswire distribution gets picked up by a large number of national and local media, casting a broad net for many different readers in big and small locations.
  • Pick up among a large number of media can lead to good search engine results for people searching the title of the press release.  Individual keyword searches don’t usually pull up press releases from newswires because the search engines favor original news stories from well-established media over newswire pickups.
  • Newswires offer the inclusion of rich media (for a fee) that contributes to both reader interest and enhanced SEO.

We must practice our craft differently today, using all the tools that make sense for the project at hand.  In this way, we’ll maximize coverage by adapting to the media behaviors that make both newswires and Twitter effective channels.


 About the Author: Dan O’Brien serves as executive vice president and chief strategy officer of Tech Image, a national, award-winning digital public relations firm. Dan is responsible for shaping Tech Image’s digital offerings as well as guiding client branding and strategic message development. In addition, Dan provides strategic counsel, including PR and marketing practices to Tech Image’s clients to help them accelerate awareness and achieve their strategic business objectives. Prior to joining SmithBucklin, Dan served as CEO of Vivid Ascent, a marketing agency that integrates strategic search engine optimization (SEO) into different marketing disciplines to improve the effectiveness of advertising, public relations, social media, website design and video production. Previously, he served as the senior executive partner of global advertising of Accenture, a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company.


Published: July 10, 2013 By: COMMPRO


10 things clients get wrong about the media

By Bruce Serbin | Posted: July 11, 2013

I’ve been infuriated lately. 

I’m sick and tired of all the bad ideas and strategies I’ve heard from some of my clients and the clients of fellow publicists. I figured I would redirect my frustration by sharing with you the top 10 things anyone working with a publicist needs to understand. 

Yes, I’m being blunt, but I’m doing it with the best intentions to keep you from making stupid mistakes that will cost you interviews or, worse, your credibility. 

1. No, we can’t ask for the questions ahead of time. 

I will never, ever, ever ask a reporter or TV producer for the questions they plan on asking in your interview ahead of time. So don’t ask me. It will make you and me both look like idiots. If you want to completely undermine your expert status and credibility, go ahead and ask for the questions yourself. You’re supposed to be the authority on your topic, and that’s why the media is talking to you. They expect you to be able to handle anything they throw at you. Asking for the questions tells them otherwise. While we’re at it, no, I also won’t annoy the busy reporter by asking when the story will run. Of course I’ll be happy to check in with him or her after some time has passed. 

2. You’re probably not going to get on the “Today” show, so stop asking. 

It’s still laughable to me whenever a client asks, “When will you get me on the ‘Today’ show?” The reality: If you and your topic are a good fit for “Today,” know that I am pitching “Today” and other similar shows. Also realize that just because I have put other people on “Today” and similar national TV shows, that doesn’t mean I can automatically place you there. Yes, my relationships and credibility with producers will help somewhat, but only to a point. The competition is extremely fierce at that level, and although breaking in is possible, it won’t happen for some people. 

3. Stop telling me you don’t care about local TV. 

If you don’t care about local TV and are interested only in national TV, you’re an idiot. If I hook a national TV producer on the idea of having you as a guest, the first question he or she will ask me is, “Does this person have any other television experience?” Local TV helps lead to national TV, plus it’s still major credibility in its own right. When someone looks you up on the Internet, what do you want them to see: only things you’ve written or produced about yourself, or credible TV interviews with you, even if they are on local TV? 

4. You’re probably not going to sell a lot of books. 

Unless you name is John Grisham or James Patterson, don’t expect to sell a lot of books from appearing in the media, and don’t ask me how many books you’re going to sell. You might sell millions. You might sell none. The one thing I’ve learned about forecasting book sales is that there is no good way to forecast book sales. Being in the media is about building credibility through a third-party implied endorsement, not about selling books. It’s about leveraging your media coverage to help build multiple income streams. Your book might turn out to be one of those streams, but it is more likely to help you earn other income than to be a major profit center in its own right. 

5. This isn’t a short-term strategy. 

People call my office and say, “Can I hire you for a month?” The answer is no, because you can’t do this for one month and expect to get big-time results. If you want to hire someone for a month, hire someone else who is happy to take your money and doesn’t care about disappointing you and undermining their own reputation. Publicity is a long-term strategy that takes time and the ability to develop new story angles and play off current events. Those events will happen, but they might not coincidentally happen during the first few weeks. Just as you might advertise for the life of your business, publicity should be approached the same way to continue to build your credibility. 

6. Your product, book, or service isn’t going to change the world. 

I believe in my clients and their messages. I really do. Otherwise I wouldn’t be representing them. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “The media is going to eat this up! This is really going to change lives! It’s a ‘game changer’!” I believe in you, but I hear it every day. Take a step back, and understand that the competition for precious minutes of TV time or inches of print is fierce. Although you probably have a very good idea, it’s not the only one out there, and just because you and I think it’s good, you can’t expect every media outlet to agree. 

7. Stop wasting your time with expensive press releases. 

You don’t need a publicist to write a press release and distribute it through a service such as PR Newswire or BusinessWire. You can do that yourself. Most press releases are self-serving and contain no news value. If you still want to pay these companies a lot of money to have your release lost in a sea of press releases so nothing much comes of it, I’m happy to help. I just think there are better ways for you to spend your money. 

8. Excuse me for trying to make you interesting. 

Sometimes it’s not what you say but how you say it. You might be the expert of all experts in your field, but if you’re boring, nobody is going to care. My favorite example of what I’m saying is my client Steve Siebold’s book, “Die Fat or Get Tough: 101 Differences in Thinking Between Fat People and Fit People.” His premise: If you’re fat, it’s your fault. That one phrase has resonated on television show after television show all over the world. Of course, he also has plenty of useful but more mundane advice like “eat better and exercise more.” But if he led with that, do you think he would have been featured all over the world? Nope. Spice it up! 

[RELATED: Register for our PR Measurement Summit by Aug. 1 to get an early-bird discount.

9. Lack of results isn’t always the publicist’s fault. 

With anyone I work with, have previously worked with or will one day work with, I give it my all, 100 percent dedication and commitment to doing the best I can. But after all, I’m selling you and your message. I’ve worked with really strong messages and others that aren’t as solid. If you’re not getting the media coverage you believe you’re entitled to, don’t always blame your publicist, but instead take a look at the goods you’re bringing to the table. Not all clients are created equal. Having said that, though, I won’t take a client whose message I don’t think I can sell. 

10. I don’t care what your branding strategist or social media team is doing. 

Many of my clients and the clients of other publicists have independent branding consultants, advertising teams, internal marketing people, and social media teams they work with as well. Though I’m always happy to jump on a call with them or hear what they’re up to, it’s usually a big waste of time and doesn’t concern me. I don’t care how many Facebook and Twitter messages your social media team is putting out; I care only about generating a lot of media coverage for you to help you build a massive amount of credibility that you can leverage forever. 

Bruce Serbin is president and CEO of Serbin Media, Inc. His work has been recognized by the Associated Press, League of American Communications Professionals and the Public Relations Society of America.

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