Succeeding in the new media landscape: Five tips from a top media trainer

February 12th, 2015

i-STONE HEADSHOT FOR PUBLICATION (2)Greg Stone began his career as a writer at Time Inc. in New York, and later worked as a TV reporter in Minneapolis, Boston, and on PBS. He estimates he has conducted at least 15,000 interviews.

In 1989 he founded Stone Communications. Since then he has been a communications and media consultant for high-level executives at Fidelity, IBM and 3M; deans at Harvard University; rocket scientists at the Smithsonian; inventors at the Worldwide Web Consortium; and numerous political leaders.

In a recent interview he offered the following advice for reaching today’s overextended editor:

1. Offer a package deal: Some daily reporters are expected to produce five or six stories a day. So make their job easy by providing and thinking of everything, including good photos and or videos, quotes, white papers, a ready-to-go spokesperson, and a solid story outline.
2. Tell a useful story: Your story should have inherent merit and provide information that people need or want to know. The best stories have three characters: Heroes, Villains and Victims. For example, the villain for a healthcare client would be disease, suffering or death  The victim(s) would be the patients and their families.  Finally, the hero would be efficient, effective and compassionate care.
3. Don’t be selfish: As a reporter, Greg would find only one out of 50 press releases useful and it usually came from a small handful of the same pr pros. Today, the odds are much worse, so take care to tell a story with wider social implications. Or connect your story to a current trend. If you focus solely on selling your client’s product or service you won’t have much luck.
4. Take away the terror: With increasing workloads, reporters are terrified of making mistakes. Be prepared with sources and statistics and make sure you know your own story inside and out. The good news is it’s easier to get a correction with online stories but make sure the error is not your fault.
5. “Brevity is the sole of wit” William Shakespeare, Hamlet: As a media trainer, Greg advises his client that every answer should be two minutes or shorter. Being concise not only shows respect for reporters’ deadlines, it also forces the communicator to tell his or her story with more impact. The same is true for an email or voice mail pitch.

You can reach Greg at: or @stoneidea

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How to stage and promote a Guinness Book of World Records Event

September 22nd, 2014

i-snakesMy son used to be obsessed with Guinness Book of World Records, — the weirder the better.  Like the woman who collected over 4,000 Winnie the Pooh and Friends stuffed animals or the man who held the record for putting the greatest number of rattlesnakes in his mouth.

Breaking a record can be a huge attention-getter and this article by Paul Maccabee spells out in detail how to make the most of it.

A few key tips:

  • Make the record you’re breaking relevant to your brand
  • Tie the event to a cause
  • Visuals, visuals, visuals: For example, show the scale of the event (e.g. a regular 18 inch pizza verses your super-sized record breaking pizza)
  • Show behind the scenes: (e.g. how did you bake or make your product)
  • Consider a record-breaker involving masses of people to attract broadcast
  • Go viral by promoting  your video online via youtube, etc.
  • Include a logo but be subtle

Check out the article:

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Delivering a One-Two PR Punch for the Bees

September 12th, 2014

i-beesBy now most everyone is aware that honeybees are in peril (I wish I could say the same for wasps.  We went on vacation for a week and by the time we pulled out of our driveway they had set up camp in eight different nests on our house.)  But the honey bees are a different story.  They are responsible for pollinating two thirds of our food crops and their numbers are decreasing substantially worldwide.  According to Friends of the Earth, “A strong and growing body of evidence points to exposure to a class of neurotoxic pesticides called neonicotinoids–the fastest-growing and most widely used class of synthetic pesticides–as a key contributing factor to bee declines.

Last week I visited my sister who is doing her small part to add to the depleting numbers by raising her own bees.  My two sons donned bee suits and joined her in her work.  I watched from afar. That visit motivated me to dig into who was behind the amazing pr effort to spread the word of the bees’ plight.  From the cover story in the August 19th issue of Time to a PBS documentary, the news is everywhere. I not only discovered the amazing PR machine, Friends of the Earth (FOE), but also stumbled across their second and perhaps even more important effort – to warn the public that pesticide companies like Bayer and syngenta are spinning the bee crisis to protect profits

FOE published a paper entitled Follow the Honey, a very readable, interesting and compelling argument outlining how these companies are using tobacco style pr strategies to mislead the public:

FOE has also set up an excellent website:  informing consumers on how they can take action to save bees. And, on Valentine’s Day they rallied activists across the country to deliver Show Bees Some Love valentines along with more than half a million petition signatures to Lowe’s and Home Depot stores. Brilliant work FOE!

As a footnote, my sister’s hive honey was way better than anything I’ve ever tasted from a store. Go bees.

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Learn the rules so you know how to break them — Dalai Lama

September 3rd, 2014

Learn the rules so you know how to break them.

This is one of Dalai Lama’s 18 Rules and so apropos for PR.

  1. tacobell image1. The rule: Tell the truth and tell it fast.  This is a golden rule for crisis communications and one I highly recommend to clients.  But sometimes it’s fun, and effective to lie. For example, when Taco Bell was trying to gain inroads in Philadelphia, they issued a press release stating they had purchased the Liberty Bell and were renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell. On a smaller scale, last April Fools, gearjunkie came out with an announcement that Vibram FiveFingers now had a cycling shoe. For a flash second I thought I had been left in the dark, then I looked at the calendar.  In both cases  UVs went sky high.
  2. The rule: Avoid head to head competition.  Well this is more the client’s rule.  From a pr standpoint, rarely are companies willing to instigate their own comparative review initiatives for legal and any many other reasons. But a direct battle can be a crowd pleaser. Case in point, in Asia, Burger King was getting creamed by MacDonald’s.  In response, they put BK tee-shirts on Ronald MacDonald statues and plastered footsteps leading from MacDonald’s to BK, along with other subversive techniques.   The ploy sent BK burger sales soaring.
  3. Rule 3: Avoid illegal activities when planning events. OK, you don’t want to get your client, or yourself thrown in jail but if you can pull it off without prison time, the fine might be worth the publicity payoff. In the UK, two streakers painted with a cell phone company‘s graphics ran onto the soccer stadium field.  The stadium was named for a competing company. The stunt was picked up by the major broadcast company filming the event and got lots of print play as well.

I’m not saying you have to strip down or put out bogus press releases to get attention but I do think you have to be extremely resourceful in this business to succeed. Whether it’s a small budget, tight deadline or stiff competition, sometimes the situation calls for a creative, alternative solution.   Don’t have enough money to fly the media in for an event? Then catch them at a tradeshow – you have a captive audience.  Don’t have time or luck getting through to Newsweek then try their daily blog, The Daily Beast.  Can’t compete with the heavy hitters when it comes to entertaining than go the other way and do something so simple that’s it’s different and a welcome change. Can’t come up with the change to hire a driver for a NYC media tour? Take cabs and wear your running shoes.

Check out for more guerrilla marketing inspiration and, sorry for the cliché, but keep thinking out of the box.


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Throw out PR measurement relics for more relevant metrics

June 26th, 2014

When a client asks for advertising equivalencies to justify pr, I always try to explain the inaccuracy of this measurement for many reasons, not the least of which is that editorial is several times more trustworthy and authentic and has a great deal more pass-on value. PR Newswire’s free webinar entitled How to Tie PR Metrics and Reporting to Business Results is a great resource for finding a mix of metrics that make more sense for today’s landscape, including measurements of social conversation, mentions and search term use. Here is the webinar and you can also just view the slides if you don’t have an hour to sit through the presentation.    

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Media Outreach Tips for Social Media

June 10th, 2014

i-family guyMedia relations for a company today should take advantage of contact through social media.  Bulldog Reporter offers a great at- glance guideline including:

Twitter: Most reporters prefer a pitch via email since Twitter can’t offer enough meat. But if you do use it, for example, to invite the media to an event, make sure your outreach is individualized since it will show up on your page. Also check the number of followers a reporter has. If it’s low it probably means they don’t rely on it.  A higher number indicates a more engaged editor.

LinkedIn: Use it more to build relationships and make the effort to do a personalized message when you ask for a connection instead of the automated “I’d like to add you to my network”

Facebook: Pretty much a no-no unless the reporter has a business page.  This is for their friends and family only so it’s best to respect their privacy

A couple of great tools are Hootsuite for tracking media twitter accounts; and HARO (Help a reporter out) a free-to-premium service that brings sources and reporters together.

Here’s the Bulldog Reporter article.


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12 Tips for a Successful Media Interview

May 27th, 2014

Scoring a media interview is exciting, but, for many, also frightening.  Follow the tips below to eliminate or at least reduce the dread and possibly even enjoy the experience. The first five basic tips, can also be found in PRSA’s ComPRhension .

  1. Set an agenda: Determine who you want to talk to and what you want to say.  And consider what your dream headline and quote would be.
  2. Develop three key messages: These messages should describe, differentiate and tout benefits.
  3. Prove your point: Offer supporting evidence in the form of expert statements, statistics, studies anecdotal stories, etc.
  4. Develop a detailed Q&A. Try to consider every imaginable question that could be asked – good and bad.  Also take into consideration, any current events that could be linked to the story.
  5. Go out with a strong closing statement that underscores the benefits.
  6. Tell the truth and tell it fast.  If it’s bad don’t expand but never lie.
  7. Work on using sound bites.  Offer shocking, contrary to conventional wisdom pearls.  Be funny and paint a picture.
  8. Never say the words “No comment .” Sometimes it’s just semantics but that phrase is very often interpreted as an admission of guilt.  Instead apologize that it’s confidential or promise to offer more when you have all the facts.
  9. Never ask a reporter for coverage.  They consider themselves objective journalists and won’t appreciate the request.  Go a step further after the fact too and instead of thanking them for coverage thank them for their interest.  They reported on your company or product because it was newsworthy not to do you a favor.
  10. Also think “Why should they care?” and craft the message accordingly.
  11. Be persuasive and not just informative.
  12. Tell a story about a customer or  your own experience. Not only is it more interesting but it offers another form of personal credibility.

For other resources, check out and

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Hooray for Huff Po: Anonymous Comments Now a No-No

April 18th, 2014

Our neighbor is a soft spoken scientist  — funny, kindhearted and a great dad.  And, despite a long working  commute to Boston, he manages to coach his sons’ basketball team.  One Friday his community service and reputation were maligned in an anonymous comments column of a local community rag. He was accused of screaming at his players during a recent game — an accusation vehemently denied by friends, family and strangers at the game.

The editor, in my opinion should follow Amanda Huffington’s lead and ban anonymous comments altogether. “I feel that freedom of expression is given to people who stand up for what they say and [are] not hiding behind anonymity,” Huffington explained. “We need to evolve a platform to meet the needs of the grown-up Internet,”

Everyone in pr has been requested by one or more clients to pen a letter to the editor.  Equally important as writing a compelling argument, is the willingness to own up to it.  Otherwise, you have wasted everyone’s time, since any reputable outlet will refuse to publish it.

So hooray for Huff Po for taking a stand against trolls and cowards   For my small part, I have boycotted that local weekly ever since.

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How and When to Choose a Hashtag

March 28th, 2014


i-stephen colbertI’m intrigued by the constant flurry of hashtags floated into the Twittersphere? So many seem random and, predictably, are left languishing in space. Of course hashtags like #cancelcolbert started by clueless viewers of The Colbert Report who don’t understand the satiric nature of the show are super hot.  But that’s exceptional.

So I was pleasantly surprised to see that Twitter itself came out with a brilliantly succinct and helpful “Choosing a #” graphic. It walks Tweeters through different scenarios, offering various solutions based on Yes or No answers.  First off, it suggests using an already existing hashtag if it’s germane and one a Tweeter can add value to.  If an existing one won’t do, Twitter advises  making it memorable through media integration.  The graphic also underscores the need to make it easy to understand and interesting to people that aren’t already following the Tweeter.  Finally, it warns that if the hashtag is based on an event or a current news item, be prepared for only a short term blitz.  Even a newsy hashtag  as notorious as cancelling Stephen Colbert will fade to grey very soon.

Thanks Twitter.


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Nine Habits of Highly Effective People Hits Home

March 13th, 2014

The PRNews Blog’s Nine Habits of Highly Effective PR People list offers no brainer advice that bears repeating.  For example, under Listen Hard, the author suggests always taking notes during meetings.  Duh, right? But then I remembered a client’s complaint that during weekly meetings, many of his employees wrote nothing down. Sounds shockingly unproductive but probably more common place than we know.

I also love the advice to Read Until Your Eyes Hurt and not only because it made me heart my hard core bookclub.  I also recalled listening to a colleague tell a client a very interesting tale and wondering “Where is she going with this?” And then POW, she hit us with the punch line – the story was so worth it!

There are seven more simple gems in there, but to sum it up “Any job big or small is worth doing right or not at all.” (Credits to my dad for the quote.)  Check out the article at:

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