Our Favorite Pittsburgh Things—Summertime at PPG Plaza

One our favorite places in the City of Pittsburgh is a short walk from the Yearick-Millea office. Now that the weather agrees that it’s spring (and almost summer!), PPG Place Plaza is open!

The plaza is located at the center of PPG Place and has a seating area with tables, plants and a “Water Feature,” where water pulses from the ground. When I was a freshman at Point Park University 10 years ago, the plaza was my first “find” in the city.

The plaza is a great place to visit during a weekend trip to the city, and it’s an awesome way to break up your work/school day Monday through Friday. You can eat your lunch (packed or takeout from one of the many delicious downtown restaurants), read a book, people watch, and enjoy the sights and sounds of the city. At the plaza, you can find friends catching up, first-time Pittsburgh visitors marveling the city’s beauty and local children enjoying the Water Feature.

Have you ever visited the PPG Plaza? What’s your favorite thing about the spot?

PPG Place Plaza

PPG Place Plaza

Using Social Media to Connect With Reporters

Social media has changed the way journalists work on a day-to-day basis. More reporters/editors are using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other networks as a resource in content creation and research. They sift through information on social media to generate story ideas, promote their own articles and engage with the public and/or potential sources. Many reporters have their own professional Twitter handles and Facebook pages separate from their publication/station’s general account.

Public relations and marketing professionals should take full advantage of this new way to reach out to journalists because:

• You get to know the reporter/editor, their audience and their niche. Pay attention to what they share and post, and don’t hesitate to interact with some of their posts.
• You can, and should, develop a relationship before you have a relevant topic that is of interest to them. When/if the time comes to pitch an idea, you’ll already have established a connection. Avoid sending a pitch or story idea publicly on social media, however, because it takes away the feeling of exclusivity.
• Reporters sometimes utilize social media for “reporter want ads,” a brief statement in search of a source for a given topic. If you have a client or source who fits the bill, this is a great opportunity to refer them.

Though connecting with reporters on social media can help you in a number of ways, building relationships can take some time, just as it would in person. Once you have a working rapport, make the effort to maintain that connection.

How Less Content In An Ad Can Be More Productive

It’s long been the belief of some advertisers that “bigger is better,” meaning a company’s message should provide you—the consumer—with every little detail that can be wedged into a sales pitch. Make the ad big, bold and bright! That practice, fortunately, is beginning to fade.

Shoppers today are more selective about the advertising they choose to review. Readers/viewers are able to tell the difference between an ad that’s “over the top” with superfluous text and flashy graphics, and one that gets straight to the point and carries a focused message. With today’s hectic lifestyles, consumers don’t have the time to read lengthy claims. They know what they want to purchase and want to determine whether or not you have it.

Think about it: How often have you driven by an outdoor display but were unable to read its message because the artwork was so busy? Have you ever browsed through a magazine, newspaper or online ad only to have your interest disappear in a maze of words and useless glitter?

Thankfully, more and more companies that advertise on a regular basis are discovering the value of stepping back from their (or their agency’s) work, placing themselves in the role of their consumer and asking, “Is my message clear?” The answer to that question lies with the firm’s return on investment. If the leaner/cleaner new advertising is producing higher sales totals and improved revenue, then you’ve discovered the “secret” to getting more out of less.

Understanding Usage Rights for Photos and Images

At lot of creative planning and thought goes into developing a newsletter, brochure, ad, or other marketing collateral. You and/or your designer probably spend a considerable amount of time selecting the perfect visuals for your work, which almost always involves “buying” photos.

First, let’s be clear that when you purchase a photo from a photographer, you’re actually “licensing” it for use within specific parameters, unless you buy its copyright. When negotiating with a photographer, it’s important to accurately disclose how you will be using the photo to avoid paying for usage rights that you’ll never use.

Here are some general usage terms to cover:

Market Categories: How will you use the photo?
Editorial use includes using the photo for educational or journalistic purposes, such as newspaper or magazine articles.
Commercial use involves using the photos to sell or promote a product or service, and is the most expensive category. However, if you are using the photo for promotional efforts, but not in a print or digital ad or billboard, you can normally fine tune your needs and lower the cost.
Retail use refers to photos that are purchased or commissioned for personal use, such as family portraits, weddings, etc.

Usage Rights: How many times and in how many ways will you be using the image?
Limited: If you plan on using the photo in one brochure and printing a specific quantity, then you probably only need to purchase limited rights.
Unlimited: Unlimited usage rights grant you the ability to use the photo an unlimited number of times for the uses that you’ve negotiated with the copyright owner. However, unlimited usage rights do not give you the ability to transfer rights to a third party for their use.
Copyright: If you want to own the photo and do whatever you want with it, then you can purchase its copyright for a hefty fee.

Exclusivity: Do you want others to be able to use the same photo?
Non-Exclusive rights mean that a photo can be licensed to other people or companies at any time.
Exclusive-to-Industry rights mean that a photo cannot be licensed to anyone else within the same industry.
Exclusive rights mean that a photo cannot be licensed to anyone else during the length of your license.

Time Period: How long will you be using the photo? Licensing agreements typically last for one year unless otherwise specified.

Geographic Region: Will the image be used within your company, city, state, nationally, or internationally? As the audience size increases, so does the licensing cost.

Lastly, remember that images—like music—are intellectual property, and any image seen in print or on the Internet is protected by U.S. copyright law, with or without a copyright notice. This means that images found through a Google search cannot be legally used without purchasing usage rights or acquiring permission from the owner—no matter how harmless your blog or tweet may seem.

In future blogs, we’ll take a look at stock photos and where to find images covered by a Creative Commons license.

Questions? Leave them in the comment section.

Pinterest Launches Ads

Everyone’s favorite virtual pinboard, Pinterest, just launched ads for the social network this past week. Tearing a page out of Instagram’s book, ads are being tested by a small group of brands in the fashion, food and travel industries, all of which are highly visual industries, making them perfect for Pinterest.

To minimize user unhappiness over the introduction of ads, they will not be placed in users’ home feeds, the start-up page of the site. The ads will look just like regular pins, only being distinguished with “promoted pin” text at the bottom, similar to Twitter and Instagram’s ad models.


Once Pinterest expands its ad program to accommodate other businesses, it will be something for businesses in the retail, food, travel, home design or other popular Pinterest categories to consider. Another reason for businesses to consider advertising on Pinterest would be their target audience – if women (who account for 92 percent of all pins on the site) are your target audience, it should be something you explore.

Pinterest will need to lower its prices considerably for smaller companies to be able to advertise with them though, as reports are showing that the social network is asking for commitments between $1 million and $2 million for the testing phase.

Creating, Discovering and Sharing Quality Content– Even at the Last Minute!

Content. What is content marketing? It can be defined as marketing that involves creating and sharing of media in a variety of formats, including news releases, white papers, infographics, case studies, photography, email newsletters, guest blog posts, etc. – any type of educational material, basically.

The purpose of content marketing is to provide valuable information—or content—with the goal of building trust and brand awareness. What is it that makes content marketing campaigns successful? It’s a campaign’s consistency and the ability to establish you or your company as an expert in the industry.

We’re responsible for developing and creating content strategies for our clients – even for this agency blog. So much can be anticipated in advance, but sometimes we can be searching for new ideas to freshen up a campaign (and SEO results). If you’re struggling to find new and quality content for your latest campaign, consider a few of the following ideas:

Repurpose Owned Content: Check out publications or literature pieces already finalized within your company. There may be a feature story opportunity that includes an individual, which can be developed into a profile piece. You also might come across a graphic that wasn’t highlighted and now can serve as an educational piece to review with your target audience. Look for videos or photos that can relate to your company and/or brand and your current messaging.
Talk with Coworkers: Colleagues can be your best resource. Find out what is going on within other departments of the company. Focus on a team or an individual and the progress of an on-going project for internal audiences. Focus on awards or participation within the industry for external audiences.
Check Your Outside Sources: Public relations is earned content. Read through industry publications and local news sources to check for mentions of your company. Articles of interest to you and your company may be of interest to your readers. By writing an introduction to an article, you can ask readers for their thoughts as well, providing an opportunity to interact with a targeted audience. Include bloggers and social media channels, too.

It’s important to remember to always seek high-quality content. It will not only build trust, but it will establish credibility within the industry. Ultimately, your content strategy should play a major role in any overall marketing campaign.



Quotes in Press Releases: Do We Need Them?

Earlier this week, we wrote a blog about how the press release still is an important part of the marketing and public relations industry. While I agree with the post, I’ll be the first to tell you that as a reporter, I rarely used quotes from press releases in my stories. It wasn’t because I was ever against doing it, it’s because the quotes just weren’t good. Does that mean media relations professionals should stop adding quotes to their press releases? Absolutely not. Quotes give you the opportunity to tell a compelling story for your client, but they should follow these guidelines:

Avoid jargon and corporate talk—Businesses, government councils and police departments all have their own language, but that doesn’t resonate with the common newspaper or blog reader. If your quote includes industry terms and phrases, you might as well leave it out of the release because I guarantee reporters won’t use it.

Stop using generic quotes—Many press releases use the typical, “We are pleased to announce…,” “We are thrilled to have hired…,” etc.  quotes. It’s been done time and time again, it’s boring, and quite frankly, it’s lazy because it sounds made up. Don’t waste your time on this filler content.

Keep it conversational—Quotes in a press release should be used to add a human element to the business, nonprofit organization or corporation you are representing. Use a quote that will make your client sound relatable and intelligent. Take the time to interview your client and add quotes that are article-worthy.

Advance the story—Once you’ve determined what quote to use, take it out of the release. Does the release still make sense? If it doesn’t, that’s great! The quote should add value and information, an essential part of the storytelling.

Even though most writers prefer to do their own research and conduct their own interviews for articles, interesting quotes in a press release could be the content that compels them to dig more into the story. Take your time to make them good!

Is The Press Release Dead?

This question commonly pops up on LinkedIn groups and other forums devoted to marketing.  As a business owner and practitioner with a firm that derives income from writing press releases, I have a vested interest in the answer.

Even if that weren’t the case, I’d still argue that the basic press release is very much alive and well; and for good reason.  Here are five reasons why it remains one of the most cost-effective marketing communication tools any business or organization can use:

  1. They sharpen your message: We’ve all heard about the importance of having an “elevator speech.”  A press release helps you write one.  How?  By forcing you to distill the essence of your product, service or event into one or two short sentences in the lead paragraph.
  2. They’re cost-effective.  A compelling headline, a concise product description and a current media list may be all it takes to generate new sales leads for your company.  If the content in your press release is newsworthy, editors and readers will check it out.  If not, you’ve either buried the message or you need a more compelling one.
  3. More media consumes more content.  Chances are your press release won’t get picked up by the New York Times or Wall Street Journal. On the other hand, trade magazines, blogs, websites and e-newsletters are voracious consumers of content.  A well-crafted press release can sate their appetites and build awareness and recognition for your company, product or service at the same time.
  4. They’re SEO- and social media-friendly.  Search engines reward websites that update content. In addition to blogging about your latest company news, post a release to your online newsroom and let Google, Yahoo and Bing do the work of getting readers to your site for you.  Press releases are good social media fodder, too.
  5. They’re an easy pitch.  Press releases often generate calls from editors looking for more background information or photography. That creates new opportunities for you to pitch an interview, feature story, case study or plant tour. When you’re trying to build awareness for your business, it’s always helps when editors are calling you.

What do you think?  Is the press release dead?  Share your thoughts with us by responding here, or check out our tips for writing a good press release here.


5 Ways to Successfully Pitch to Journalists

Trying to get media placement can be a frustrating task, and no matter how interesting or important your event/product/information might be, it won’t get the exposure if you can’t catch a reporter’s attention. As a former newspaper and website reporter/editor, I was on the receiving end of many email pitches and press releases. Whether it was because of relevance or bad subject lines, many were deleted.

Here are 5 tips to help you get some media traction and successfully pitch to journalists:

  1.  Know who you are pitching to—Just as journalists need to be aware of who their readers are, PR professionals need to know about the reporters/editors/bloggers they intend to pitch to. Take the time to read reporters’ articles and familiarize yourself with their work. By doing so, it’s easy to pinpoint the best contact for an upcoming pitch. A reporter who often writes about the health industry in your area isn’t going to care about the education-related topic you’re pitching. Don’t be afraid to reference their previous work in a pitch, too. Show them you made an effort to get to know them.
  2. Avoid blanket pitches and be conversational— I can’t tell you how many times I received e-mail pitches beginning with, “Dear Editor.” That comes across as canned and generic. Customize the message. You want reporters to feel like your pitch is actually worth their attention. If they don’t feel like they are talking to an actual person and that your pitch is being made to several reporters at once, your angle automatically loses value. Reporters are interested in setting themselves apart from the competition. They’re less likely to chase a story coming from a mass, generic email that has been sent to other media outlets.
  3. Offer experts/angles—There are many different ways to approach a story. Rather than pitching one story idea to every media outlet in town, pitch different angles based on publication or location, or offer your clients as sources for broader topics. Stay on top of regional and national issues, and if your client could serve as a relevant expert on a specific subject, offer them for an interview.  If you have an event you want to spread the word about, look at it from every angle possible. Sure, the event in and of itself is a pitch-worthy topic, but are there spectacular people working behind the scenes? Find out where they’re from and pitch their community newspaper.
  4. Be brief and specific—Get to the point right away. Think of a subject line that is specific, packs a punch and avoids any type of fluff. If you fail to do so, your email might end up in the trash before it’s even opened. In the first few sentences of your email, make sure you outline what you want from a reporter and explain why your topic/story idea is important.
  5. Proofread—Please take the time to look over your email to catch any spelling or grammatical errors!

Feel free to share your own tips with us in the comments!