Breaking News: The Media and You

Running Your Own Halloween Haunted Attraction? You Need PR and Social Media.

 

By Alex Greenwood

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Just chillin’ like a villain. (Tweet this, will ya?)

Every September, the fever grips me. I gleefully examine the latest arrivals of spooky stuff at the store. I check my podcast stream for new episodes of The Halloween Haunt podcast (rest in peace, Hauntcast) and start doodling ways to make my little green corner house the spookiest on the block. I actually look for fun (safe), ways to scare little children.

I’ll admit it. I am a Halloween fanatic.

Why? I think much of it has to do with a visceral delight I (and many other “normal” humans) get from being frightened. I won’t psychoanalyze myself any further; suffice it to say I love Halloween and a good scare.

Apparently, so do many others. As writer Steve Cooper wrote in Forbes

Halloween is the fourth most popular holiday that gets consumers to open up their pocketbook—next to Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter, according to Alliance Data Retail Services (ADRS), a marketing and customer loyalty solutions provider. 

It gets better. According to America Haunts, there are at least 1,200 haunted attractions charging admission nationwide every year, with 300 amusement parks “dressing up” for Halloween and more than 3,000 charity attractions that open for one day on Halloween or one of two weekends in October.

The site also reports that the typical haunted attraction averages around 8,000 guests, depending on the market and size of the attraction. Some attractions do exponentially better. The haunted attraction industry generates between $300 and $500 million in ticket sales per year.

There’s even a trade group: The Haunted Attraction Association.

Imagine: this half a billion-dollar industry basically thrives in a six-week window once a year. If you own a haunted attraction, it better be good, it better be accessible…and people better know BOO about it. If you have a haunted attraction, you have to be damn good at marketing it, or you’re not going to make it (there are virtual graveyards of failed haunt attractions out there).

Forget for a moment that we’re talking about haunted houses. Let’s talk about any product or industry–for example, aluminum siding. Do you need aluminum siding every day? No. Every week? No. Every year? Probably not. Yet what do you see on local TV? Commercials for aluminum siding. Why? Do the aluminum siding salespersons presume everyone watching will “Call now”? No. What they assume is one of two things:

1. Some people out there in TV land do need siding in the near future, so why not reach out to them?

2. Many viewers will eventually need siding, so they want their company to be “top of mind” when that day comes.

It’s a basic precept of marketing–if people don’t know about  you, they’ll never buy anything from you. This means that even if what you sell is a rare purchase, you better make sure your name is out there.

Let’s apply this rule to haunted attractions.

One thing I see over and over (with a few notable exceptions) is that haunted attractions do a lackluster job of keeping in touch with patrons throughout the year. Now, no, I do not believe you should run a TV ad in February for your haunted house. It would be weird. (Though I do think a little pattern interrupt–say, an ad in July is a good idea–but that’s not the point.) No, you should not be running ads year-round. However, you should be doing something else to keep your name out there. You should be active in social media.

Wait, wait. Come back!

Here’s the good news: it’s free (of charge, generally). The bad news: it takes time, and if you do not consistently participate, it doesn’t work.

So, being active on social media costs you time and creativity, year round. The benefits? If you maintain a consistent, entertaining presence on your Twitter of Terror, Gothic Google +, Fearsome Facebook, Icky Instagram and even Lethal LinkedIn, you can foster a regular, top of mind relationship with haunted attraction fans. This way, when your hot and heavy marketing push starts in September, you’ll have an army of brand ambassadors ready to help you spread the word.

Can you imagine the increased bang for your TV buck if  hundreds of fans share your TV spot on YouTube and Twitter and Facebook? What if you have social media-inflamed excitement building over ticket or fastpass giveaways, or people posting pics with your scareactors from the wait line outside your attraction on Instagram?

And what if your haunt space is used for special events or other commerce the rest of the year? Social media is a great way to let your fans know what’s happening when the lights are on and the monsters are in storage.

If you need help creating a social media strategy (and/or operatives to run it) for your haunted house, hayride, home haunt or warehouse, I’d be thrilled to work with you. We do social media and public relations strategies for numerous businesses every day. It would be horrifically fun to create an affordable social media (and or PR) strategy to market your haunt. Call or email us today.

We ain’t scared!

Pitching Advice… I Promise It Didn’t Come from 50 Cent

 

 

By Brooklyn Lutz

In Major League Baseball, it’s tradition to have a celebrity or someone of extreme importance throw out the first pitch of every game. Whether they are baseball prodigies or not, these celebs usually take a few minutes to practice, as their abilities will be seen by the entire nation. Obviously this was not the case with 50 Cent, otherwise known as Curtis Jackson, who threw out  what may be known as the worst first pitch in MLB history on May 27 at the New York Mets game.

Just like pitching in baseball, pitching in the world of public relations also takes practice and is not something everyone is amazing at. Throughout my university career and my internship opportunities, I’ve learned how to make a pitch stand out from the crowd. And you guessed it. I’m going to share what I’ve learned about pitching with you.

Here are my top 5 rules for pitches.50-Cent-Threw-The-Worst-First-Pitches-Of-All-Time

Rule 5: Know Who You’re Pitching

Do you have to know the reporter on a personal level? It would definitely help, but it’s not a requirement. For those of us who are interning or are just beginning our PR careers, we don’t have the luxury of having personal relationships with reporters, so we have to do our homework. Check them out on Twitter and read their previous stories. Knowing small pieces of information about them or giving them compliments may simply put you over the edge.

Rule 4: Provide Multiple Angles

Every story can be told several different ways. Each person remembers it a different way and puts their own unique spin on it. Journalism works the exact same way. Reporters want one-of-a-kind stories, so before making your pitch, brainstorm a few different ways you could present it and pitch the most unique angle you come up with.

Rule 3: Subject Line = Interesting

Many reporters receive upwards of 500 pitches via email everyday. How many of those do they actually open? A very small percentage. So distinguish your pitch with a clever and creative subject line that will immediately grab the reporter’s attention.

Rule 2: Grammar and Spell Check

The worst thing you can possibly do is email a pitch to a reporter that contains a grammatical or spelling error. Not only will they completely disregard the pitch, but they will be more wary of opening future pitches from you, as well.

Rule 1: Keep it Concise

Reporters have a limited amount of time and prefer not to read lengthy emails that explain every single detail. Outline the “Who, What, Where, When and Why” of your message, so they can instantly see the most important details regarding your pitch.

Remember, pitching is something that requires practice. Don’t get discouraged when you receive an overwhelming number of negative responses or no responses at all. If you’re persistent and utilize these five rules correctly, your  odds of landing a story in a newspaper will continue to increase.

Follow Brooklyn on on Twitter at @BrooklynLutzPR.

Would the Real Obamacare Please Stand Up? Starts Today

By Alex Greenwood 

Years ago, I hosted a weekly, three-hour call-in radio show on an AM station in Oklahoma City. I’ve missed that job, so it makes me very I’m excited to get back in the host’s chair for a new weekly radio show that promises to help business owners and individuals separate fact from fiction about Obamacare.

Leading Kansas City insurance broker Greg Howard and I will host the weekly show, Would The Real Obamacare Please Stand Up?” on the Smart Companies Thinking Bigger Radio Network starting today and airing every Friday at 1 p.m. CDT.

“People are virtually bombarded with information and misinformation, which is why we call the show Would The Real Obamacare Please Stand Up?,” said Howard, a federally certified Affordable Care Specialist with USA Benefits Group and USA Benefits Exchange in Lenexa, Kan. “Radio is a fantastic way to reach people and explain the good, the bad and the ugly of ObamacaStand 3c. (1)re in a way that helps businesses make smart, strategic decisions about healthcare.”

Each hour-long episode features Howard and I discussing facts and fiction of Obamacare, often with guest experts. The show streams live at www.obamacarepleasestandup.com/ and is also available on demand (or by podcast) at www.ithinkbigger.com and on #iTunes.

All episodes are recorded and archived on the Smart Companies Thinking Bigger Radio Network website and are also available for free download as a podcast on iTunes, so listeners may check out the show on demand to suit their schedule.

As a business owner, I value Greg Howard’s gift for explaining this complicated subject. The information Greg and our guests share will be a tremendous boon to business owners and individuals with questions about Obamacare.

Known to many of his clients as “The Great Explainer,” Howard answers questions in simple terms to clear up myths and confusing misinformation. He also peppers his show with editorial comments about the Affordable Care Act.

“I pull no punches about the troubled rollout of Obamacare, along with the subsequent issues that continually crop up in the news,” he said. “But when you put that and politics aside, you have a tax law that really helps people by giving them access to quality healthcare.”

Information in the show includes discussions of how the ACA can benefit individuals, families and employers. Howard will also discuss general insurance questions, identity theft protection and other vital issues.

“I’m here to help, and if this program can aid just one business or family in understanding the positive potential of the ACA, then it’s worth it. I hope people will pop in their earbuds and listen or play it on their desktop computers every week.”

For more information, visit www.ithinkbigger.com/radio/ or www.ACAMadeEasy.com. Contact Greg Howard at 888.427.3270 or email info@ACAMadeEasy.com.

The Pollution of Flacking

 

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When I started my career, I worked a few years as a professional journalist. On balance I enjoyed it, except for days like the one when I was ordered by an editor to call the fiancée of a well-known local suicide victim and ask “do you have a comment?” Short answer: yes, yes she did. And I deserved every outraged syllable of it.

Most of my career I’ve been a public relations counselor and practitioner. It’s hilarious when you see PR pros portrayed on TV as vacuous, slightly evil sycophants. Perhaps that’s why “Seth,” the vice president’s press secretary on the delightfully devious House of Cards so freely owned his moral bankruptcy, stating to CNN’s Candy Crowley “I don’t know anything about professional photography, I’m just a flack.”

It’s considered clever, I suppose, for some members of the journalism profession to refer to PR pros as “flacks.” A cursory Google search reveals no clear etymology for the word, though a fellow PR practitioner I know reveals his take by proudly referring to himself as a “flack catcher.” Meh. Like him, I suppose some think the term is acceptable and not meant derisively, but I disagree.

I frankly chafe at this word being used about a profession that does, on balance, help people, companies, organizations and causes effectively tell their story. It stings a bit when we’re written off as disingenuous toadies. Yes, there are bad apples in the profession–in any profession, but to tar us all with that same tired brush? No. I mean, if you were to call a journalist a hack, she might try to bean you on the head with her rotary phone.

Back to CNN’s Candy Crowley: what the heck is she doing appearing on House of Cards, anyway? Does she care about blurring the lines between entertainment and credible journalism? I was totally taken out of the moment on the aforementioned House of Cards episode when I saw a steady stream of journos (who I assume wish to at least project an air of credibility) appearing as fictionalized versions of themselves on a TV show.

Sure, I expect that from those in the punditocracy such as Rachel Maddow or Sean Hannity; but when a legend like Morley Safer eagerly deigned to feign lobbing hardballs at fictional modern day Machiavelli Frank Underwood, all I could do was sigh and shake my head.

Of course, take my gentle criticism with a grain of salt. It’s coming from a flack, after all.

Public Relations Professionals Declare October 22 “Snark Free Day”

 A group of public relations professionals aim to make a single day in October one that is free of harsh comments, rude social media posts or sinister sarcasm. Declaring October 22 as Snark Free Day, the nationwide affiliates of PR Consultants Group (PRCG) including Kansas City’s Alex Greenwood at AlexanderG Public Relations are committing to a kinder way of communication and encouraging others to participate. The group often coaches clients on communication styles for messaging, media releases, web content, blogs, social media and more. Through October 22, they share these same principles with anyone who communicates face-to-face, pen to paper or screen-to-screen.

“We know that alienating the audience is never a good thing. And, with all of the focus on cyber-bullying, we have noticed that people aren’t held as accountable as we should be for what we say online. We’re asking others to commit to taking just a moment before we speak, send or post to think about the effect our words have on those who receive them,” said Greenwood.

To promote participation in Snark Free Day, the group has developed a sketch video featuring a “World Class Jerk” named Jonathan Snark. More information about Snark Free Day can also be found on SnarkFreeDay.com. Follow the discussion at #snarkfreeday.

“We’re asking our friends, colleagues, family and others to share Snark Free Day on October 22 as one day in which we don’t say or write anything snide, sarcastic or mean,” said Greenwood, who tweets as @A_Greenwood.

With less snark in the world, PRCG and Greenwood hope many great things may happen. Snark-attacked victims won’t be grumpy or lash out at others, people feel better about themselves and their relationships with others, and that other adults – and children – may follow the lead and be kinder to their co-workers, customers, family and friends.

About PRConsultants Group

PRConsultants Group (PRCG) is a nationwide group of public relations consultants, each an expert in their respective geographic areas and media markets. Clients who access PRCG, get personalized and targeted service in each local market with the broad reach of a national agency. The group was founded in 1992 and has grown to include 48 affiliates across the U.S. with the ability to form global partnerships.

 

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