Victory for Vick’s PR

It’s going to be an interesting season for the team of PR and image consultants who are delivering the winning strategy for reinstated NFL player Michael Vick. Known as one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the league, Vick’s rise to gridiron fame and fall to criminal intent has proven to be a PR challenge to tackle.

Without knowing the details of the team’s members and plans, their attempt to carefully rebrand Vick and map out a road to redemption following his release from federal prison is turning out to be a PR victory. nfl_a_vick_480

Since Vick’s admitted act of animal cruelty, his team has made a public effort to present him in a repented and reformed fashion. They recently positioned Vick to confess his sins and express immense guilt on CBS “60 Minutes” along side former NFL coach Tony Dungy, commissioned by the league to be his mentor, and President of the Humane Society of the United States, Wayne Pacelle, to be his community partner. We all know you’ve got to have a bit of cache to tell your story on “60 Minutes” and the PR team that knows Vick has to come back with some credibility.

Whether his remorse is scripted or sincere, you must admit his team is gaining yards toward the goal. Yet, the ultimate test of a winning strategy is whether the public believes you. Vick is going to have to walk the walk. If he doesn’t, his PR team will end up seeing a bigger chunk from that first $1.6 million to keep him on the straight and narrow. Judging by the execution and perceived outcome, Vick has gotten his money’s worth, but the team must continue to move strategically so the public won’t think Vick’s efforts are contrived.

Personally, I’ve always been an advocate for second chances. Only time will tell how Vick shapes up while his PR team shows out. Our culture often forgives, and, most times, forgets the sins of public figures. So the more touchdown passes Vick throws, the further his wrongdoings will be from our minds.

I Know I’m Write

Reading is fundamental. Writing is as well. But not all writing is created equal, particularly when it comes to writing for news.

Maybe you’ve been there before. You need to write a press release but don’t have the slightest idea of where to start. You’re unsure about the content, the news factor of your story or what it’s worth. But you were always good in English, so you’ll figure it out.

Or maybe you’ve been here: you have an important message to get out to the media and want give them all the details. You’re uncertain of how to send your press release or if it will even get noticed. But you’re a fairly intelligent communicator, so you’ll make it happen.

By journalistic standards, a story without an angle is a “non-story.” What you may think is news may not exactly be what journalists consider a topic of interest for their readers. In a TV newsroom, a story without a visual element to capture for viewers lacks appeal and may be conveyed as a waste of time. Thus, your beloved press release that you’ve sweated and slaved over adorned with all its’ elaborate details and superlative-like adjectives ends up in File 13.

On the surface, writing for news isn’t much different from what you’ve been taught. However, there is one exception: style.

Enter the Associated Press (AP) Stylebook. Considered the “Bible of the Newspaper Industry,” it is the gold standard of writing for news. AP recently released their 2009 Stylebook packed with rules on grammar, spelling, punctuation and usage, capitalization, abbreviation, word and number usage. It is the one reference with fundamental guidelines for news reporting that all writers, editors, students and PR pros will follow.

When it comes to writing, none of us wants to be told that we’re wrong. Writing for news requires a certain clarity and professionalism that writing for everyday purposes may not hold up. Weak, cloudy writing can be the worst because it reflects our intellect, skill and thought or lack thereof.

Your writing for news should be closely matched with the standards that professional writers go by. While writing in AP style won’t guarantee you any coverage, it tells journalists who receive your press release that you care about good writing and value their craft enough to learn their precise language.

Guard yourself when writing for news by proofing, tailoring and checking your press release. Oh yes, and go get an AP Stylebook.

Think Like A Journalist

Last month on Journchat, Twitter’s hottest new sounding board for journalists, bloggers and PR folks, there was lots of talk about where PR falls into the shift in news coverage by journalists and who bears the most responsibility in deciding what news stories are most relevant.

Journalists have the utmost requirement to be objective in their approach to storytelling, leaving a reader to determine how they feel about a topic and to draw their own conclusion. And even though most people probably don’t know or could care less about the seven elements of a news story, everyone knows a topic must be worth talking about or else it’s not news. thinklike1

As more news goes online, PR folks have to gain a greater edge on how to get a story placed. Journalists have to take a stronger approach to how they tell a story. Ultimately, that means companies have to challenge themselves a bit if they want better news coverage.

Identify the niche of your brand. Figure out what makes it stand out. Without any assumptions or false hope, be honest about where you are and why a journalist might take interest in your company.

If you were a journalist, would you write about your company? As a reader, what is it about your organization that others would find interesting? What unique facts about your business could a PR person use to publicize your business?

Try this. Write your own story about your business. No fluff – just tell the facts about you and your company in a creative way. Spend some time with it and question its level of newsworthiness. This will help you develop better expectations for your PR strategy and strengthen your ability to gain news coverage.

*** Learn more about Journchat, Monday nights on Twitter, at http://journchat.info