PR in the USA

Posted on: 2012-08-17 in Resources   |   Tagged: b2b pr paul roetzer pr usa

Best practice from across the pond. By @TopLineFounder

Last week I had the opportunity to speak to Paul Roetzer, founder and CEO of Cleveland-based PR 20/20 and author of the must-read book for any agency head, the Marketing Agency Blueprint.  I was able to ask him about running PR campaigns in the US, and was surprised to find that it really isn’t that different from running PR campaigns in the UK.

My surprise was largely down to the fact that many of the US campaigns I have encountered have been based around newswires, advertorial, sponsorship and trade shows, and I had assumed that was how it was done over here. To the contrary, it seems that while these methods or areas of focus might be common, as in the UK, the best way to get a US PR strategy off the ground is through a combination of good old-fashioned media relations (pitching and issues management) and modern communication technologies, such as social media.

H: How do you get a PR strategy off the ground?

P: We offer an integrated service, which brings search, social, content and PR together, and we build the PR piece as part of the integrated programme.  We start with an assessment of the relationships already in place between the client and the media and we examine historical coverage they have achieved.

We then look at the opportunities to establish what kind of value we can create. We ask how we can make the client part of a trend or a story line. Media databases are used to collect editorial calendars for the trade journals to give us an idea of what they plan to write about, and we create twitter lists where we follow all the relevant people in that space so that we are monitoring what the influencers are talking about. The result is that our account teams are monitoring client issues in real time, constantly looking for opportunities by staying engaged with the media.

We regularly use original content to drive our strategies forward. Take for example a client of ours called, which was looking to build brand awareness. We worked with them to produce an annual luggage report – an online survey that looked at how buying behaviours had changed. This was written up into a report on consumer buying patterns, which we sent out to the media as targeted pitches and published as a free download on their blog. This published content was very search engine friendly.  

H: Do you usually email pitches, or do you find you need to pitch over the phone? In the UK, we tend to find journalists are busy and don’t read emails, so the best way to get them is on the phone.

P: We usually start with an email first and then follow up with a phone call giving the journalist a ten-second overview of why the story is relevant to them.

H: And how receptive are journalists to your pitches? Can they be rude and grumpy like in the UK?

P: The media relations side is challenging , which is why we do as much inbound as possible. We try to connect with journalists on social media, nurture relationships when we don’t need them and be as organic as possible, rather than approaching them with purely transactional relationships. That means following, retweeting and really focussing on building 1-to-1 relationships.

PR firms now more so than ever need to be building trusted relationships with the media, and this is the only way to handle media relations going forward.

H: Do you run a client’s Twitter feed, or simply advise them on how to run it themselves?

P: We will run their corporate Twitter feed, but when it comes to the individual contacts – we want them to do the work themselves. We will assist them, however, by sending them notifications and reminding them of when to post responses.

H: What is your feeling about newswires? I’ve noticed they are popular in the US, and I genuinely can’t see the value.

P: When it comes to newswires, I think corporate America as a whole has gotten by on meaningless metrics. Marketing executives look at the number of times a release appears online and use newswires as a security blanket, so that they can report back to their managers that they got 50 pieces of online coverage. However, the back-end story that matters is how many of those actually generated a lead. The problem with newswires is not that they can’t work. They can. It’s just that clients don’t use them properly. They just continue to use them, because that’s what they’ve always done.

H: Finally, can you tell me about the relationship between PR and advertising in the US?

P: There is supposedly a church and state separation between advertising and editorial: advertising dollars shouldn’t influence publications. The large dailies would like to say that advertising doesn’t affect editorial. However, as their profit margins shrink, it doesn’t hurt to have some advertising dollars that you can have your sales rep take to the publication. We try to stick to the valued editorial content strategy.  

You can buy The Marketing Agency Blueprint from Amazon here and you can follow Paul on Twitter @paulroetzer.

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About this blog

The B2B PR Blog is a resource for both PR professionals and people working in B2B industries on how to devise and implement successful B2B PR campaigns. The blog was founded by B2B PR specialist Heather Baker, who runs video production and corporate animation agency TopLine Film and digital PR and SEO agency  TopLine Comms. The B2B PR Blog takes contributions from sensible industry folk with something interesting to say.


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