AJR Spin Zone

A Blog for real PR and marketing pros (and students) to discuss client and agency-related challenges ... as well as random thoughts on the biz of spin. Should be fun. alec

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

PR can’t fix stupid

PR can’t fix stupid

PR can fix a lot of crises, assuming there is a basis of truth and honesty to start from and build credibility up from that base, always linked back to the truth.

But, with BP, PR can’t fix stupid.

To fix Stupid, BP needs to start acting smart. Here’s a list to start from:

  1. Stop the leak and end the spin- we are not dumb, we see the oil and know that you’re playing a numbers game with the amount of barrels you claim spewing into the Gulf . Stopping the leak or killing the well will be start in the right direction

  1. 2) There is no such thing as a “secret” in today’s hyper-connected social media world. So forget about trying to hide the truth and start embracing it by allowing media FULL access to site and all the dead animals, as they will wash up sooner or later. Allow your workers to speak to the media, as they will be more honest and believable than your CEO or PR teams. Forget staying on message, the oily birds and dead turtles defeat your key messages and media embargoes. We have eyes, digital cameras and all sorts of smartphones to be our own reporters

  1. 3) Pay all claims and stop hiding behind the “legitimate ” legalese. You legally fouled up the gulf, now pay for it and make the process easy and transparent for the fisherman and other residents of the Gulf to understand and file a claim

  1. 4) Communicate. Be open, honest and we can handle the truth. Just say it and do what you say, and say what you mean. Otherwise your brand credibility is still 5000 feet below the surface

  1. 5) Finally, what ever your first reaction is, don’t do it. Stop, think and then you may actually do the right thing and stat acting smart

These will not immediately improve your image, but it’s a start, people will hear your messages and debate its merits, and if they are true, transparent and not self-serving, BP may once again become a respected brand. But that is a long ways from today.


I started my PR career in the Oil industry first with Royal Dutch Shell and then with Texaco, and have crisis communications experience with oil spills in the Amazon. We also have beachfront property in Sarasota, FL


Thursday, October 08, 2009

New Client PR Red Flags: Clients to Avoid (maybe)

We work with a lot of small business and start-ups.  I enjoy working with entrepreneurs as I find the accounts exciting, high-energy and challenging both from a creative standpoint and from a business / financial management perspective. They keep us fresh with ideas and with our skills.

Over the last 20 years I have worked with dozen and dozens of successful start-ups started by serious entrepreneurs.

However, I have also had my share of kooks, from a guy that claimed a government conspiracy was preventing him from launching his anti-hurricane technology post-Katrina to a firm that insisted I did not need to know what his business did, who is customers were, all  he wanted was for me to perform a publicity stunt as if I was a trained seal.

Through the years I have seen it all, and here is a sample list of red flags when dealing with potential start up and new clients looking to hire a PR firm.

Some red flags are just out of naiveté in dealing with an agency, others are signs of something far more serious. So take these red flags with a grain of salt, my observations are just that and at the end of the day go with your gut!


  • We don’t need a contract

Translation: we plan on screwing you.


No contract = no work. That is our policy. Yes, learned this the hard way. That’s why I now use a  lawyer to review all contracts.


  • We’ll pay you at the end of the month (or we have good credit)


Translation: we want you to be our bank and finance our PR with your other clients’ fees or from your cash flow.And we will pay you when we can.


  • We want to grow with you

Funny how concerned they are about your business.

Translation: we don’t have money, but if you do a great job for almost free, one day we can hire your bigger competitor.


  • We want to do a one-month program and see the results


Translation: We don’t trust you and want a quick sales gimmick or a hit


Ans: if you want a quick hit, buy an ad, PR is an investment in your brand not a sales gimmick


  • Can you guarantee results?


Translation: We don’t trust you and want a quick sales gimmick or a hit


Answer:  we are a professional services firm, much like a doctor, lawyer or a CPA, and as such we provide professional services for a fee.


  • How can we trust you?


Translation: Because you can’t trust us.


Answer: (this one makes my blood boil and I never work with these people)


I’ve been in business xx years and have impeccable references, and what about you? Can I trust you and see your references? That’s what we have a contract.


  • We want to pay a success fee or a percentage of the fee then the rest based on results


Translation: you will never be successful for us to pay in full, because we will keep changing the definition of success 


  • We have no competition


Translation:  clients that say this either have no clue about their business or have the monopoly on Oxygen


  • We want to see creative ideas, strategies and tactics 


Translation: we want to steal your ideas and do it in-house.


We get around this by having a huge case study library and references.  We do not (almost never) give ideas away to clients. Period (mostly).


We want you to pay our expenses and bill us later


Translation: we don’t have money and want you to be our bank.

We will front wire fees and small expenses for solid clients, all other pay up front or pay direct. 


  • Can we pay you at the end of the project?


Translation: we’ll screw you at the end and pay you less than the agreed upon cost


Ans: if it’s a project we take 50 / 25/ 25


  • 50% to start (non-refundable)
  • 25% when halfway done or a set time  say 30 days
  • 25% at the end – this way all I have at risk is the profit margin, assuming the project has not gone south by that time anyways 

With all start-ups and small businesses we insist on payment up front and then we can slowly move them to net 15 or net 30 if they have proven themselves as creditworthy, because I’m not a bank.

PR is a major investment for these firms and I get that.  However, if they do not have the money to pay up front you put yourself at risk of being paid last, paid late or not at all.

You have to be ready to walk away from a deal if the client cannot pay his first month’s fee in advance, won’t sign a contract or other red flags. This can be tricky, especially of you are starting out as a solo pr person.

Some of my best clients are stat-ups and small businesses, but I have also lost money over the years because I did not listen to my gut.


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Behind the Scenes of a Front Page PR Hit

All clients want to get on the front page of the paper or a major magazine cover. Here is our story a recent front-page hit, one of many we secure on a regular basis for our clients.


  • Acct team: Alec J. Rosen (strategy development) and Typhanie Thomas (media outreach and pitching)

  • Media outlet: Miami Herald

  • Strategy – tested concept first via SM then went to traditional media

  • Pitch: Toyota puts women in drivers seat, breaks glass ceiling

  • Story headline:  Auto dealers shift gears, hire more women

Idea creation

In the beginning of any client relationship we get to know the client, by visiting offices, factories, warehouses, plants, showrooms, etc. For out-of town clients or international ones, we still make the effort to visit, but sometimes we have to do it virtually in order to understand their business from A-Z.

In visiting TOSF I noticed most if not all the senior managers were women – odd for a car dealer. After all I have bought, sold, leased many cars over the last 25+ years and really couldn't recall seeing so many women in high management positions.

I realized we were looking at a major story – one the client couldn't see, because of their proximity to it – working with the same people for many years, they didn't realize they created something unique and newsworthy.

Communications Strategy

First we had to convince the client that this was newsworthy --- we did our HW on women in the auto business and had the statistics to prove we had the right story, then we pitched the client.

Once we had their greenlight we did the following:

  • Interviewed all the women executives, understood their roles and responsibility and background

  • Conducted media training and role playing with several executives to understand their approach to the business and media Q&As

  • Created a press release for online and SM distribution only as a test of our thesis and to gauge pick-up / story interest

  • We fine-tuned our pitch focusing on : TOSF puts women in the drivers seat by breaking the glass ceiling and car dealer stereotypes

Media Outreach

  • Focused on those covering w omen's issues in business and focused it locally, as TOSF is a local car dealer and at the end of the day, we need to get people to the dealership to buy cars in this economy.

  • We sent the release to just 2 media, both resulted in follow-up interviews and photo shoots : a full page piece in a weekly community paper, and the front page Business story in Miami Herald.

  • Sometimes, the right strategy and pitch does not need massive distribution, just hitting the right people with the right pitch at the right time.


  • The Social Media outreach caught attention of bloggers and car buyers, driving traffic to the website and dealership - good for sales and online SM buzz 

  • Generated twitter traffic. and grabbed about 500 new followers – mostly local women – our targeted buyer for the dealership (our SM strategy allows us to engage them separately)

  • The pitch was well received by the media as it was already vetted w/ favorable comments online and on twitter – so we knew we had winner

  • front page story Miami Herald and full page in Doral Community Papers
Link to Miami Herald click here

Saturday, May 09, 2009

PR Budgets and Reality in Today's Economy

What a topic: PR budget's in today's economy. This is first in an occasional  series 

  • Clients are slashing budgets. But want SOW to remain the same. 
  • Agency's are trying to push back. 
  • New Business Prospects are retainer-weary, most want short-term projects.

What's an agency to do?

At AJR & Partners, we have looked at this very carefully and have designed several programs to help clients and prospects navigate today's economic waters and still continue their marketing efforts.

in a down economy when your competitors  are cutting back on their marketing, you have a chance to grab marketshare and build brand for the future, when the economy is sure to bounce back.  let's take a look at some options we are providing for our clients and that are working in this economic environment: 

AJR’s QuickStart program enables us to meet quick tactical PR and marketing needs while simultaneously creating a long-term strategic plan. In Today's economy, this agile approach saves time, money and drives results, especially for start-ups.  

Well-defined Projects
Some of our clients are only seeking short term sales goals, and here is where flexibility of a small shop rules.  Without high overhead, we can perform near miracles in 30-days or on specific projects like PR for a tradeshow.  

the key for success is to have a well-defined scope of work for the project and to prevent "mission creep" by the client, who is seeking more than a the project's parameters.  (of course some over-servicing is OK and expected to show that you are investing in the client, but there needs to be balance) 

Some clients are just Looking to enhance their  in-house PR capabilities or give their staff  an added edge in a challenging economy.  This is where we provide training without the strings of a retainer.

Our full-day PR seminars are custom designed to meet  specific client  needs and have the client's in-house  PR team working and thinking like an award winning agency.

Clients love seminars as it's a way of enhancing their team without the cost or commitment of an agency (can't believe I wrote that) 

Social Media and Web 2.0 refers to a second generation of web-based social-networking sites like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter as well as other online communities that cater to unique and diverse groups.

Many  brands are now engaging their customers directly through Social Media. AJR has created web 2.0 and social media programs for a variety of clients, ranging from start-ups to major consumer brands. 

While many of the tools of Social Media  are free, a skilled agency or in-house team member must devote time and resources in order to use these tools to their fullest extent possible.

We have built and managed communities for diverse groups such as Gamers, Toyota drivers, HDTV fans, audiophiles and many others.  

Finally,  whatever you do in this economy, don't stop marketing or you will lose momentum when the economy comes back to life.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

We did it again .. this time with AOC

AJR & Partners did it again.

yes, we won two more PR Awards, the Hermes Creative Awards  http://www.hermesawards.com/ 

2009 Platinum Award for Viral Marketing using Twitter for PR and tradeshow outreach (client AOC) 

2009 Gold Award for Integrated PR and Marking Campaign for "Gamer Certified Monitors" (client AOC) 

Incredible work, from an incredible team from AJR & Partners  

see all our awards here AJR Awards 

will post the case studies soon.


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Twitter PR Case Study Success Story

Using Twitter and Viral Marketing For Public Relations Outreach

An AJR & Partners Public Relations Case Study 


The 2009 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), held in Las Vegas served as a Social Media experiment on Twitter for our agency and clients. Over all, it was a success and AJR & Partners will incorporate Twitter in all future PR outreach efforts with current and future clients.

AJR & Partners focused our Twitter PR campaign on a core group of media that attended CES 2009 in Las Vegas.

All tweets were targeted to #CES09 attendees by employing the popular hashtag (#) symbol to track tweets (#CES09). Tweets were also sent to @ces09 who in turn, re-tweeted them to all CES09 followers.

By using Tweeter search, we were able to find and reach out to reporters attending CES or tweeting about the show. We followed and communicated with media directly. Naturally, not all media expressed an interest in our client, but a dialogue was created and established.

The twitter campaign was initiated several weeks before CES 2009, with once-a-day updates. As the event got closer, we tweeted several times per day leading up to CES and then as needed onsite for live updates on our clients’ activities, etc.

Tweet Pitch

The 140 character limit set by Twitter did not hinder our ability to craft targeted pitches. In fact, the short and to-the-point communication enabled us to quickly get our message across while providing hyperlinks to clients’ microsites to cut down on the number of characters tweeted.

How Tweets Were Used:

a) Client informative

b) Call to action to book actual interviews

c) Marketing driven – generate foot traffic to booth

Sample Tweet Pitch:

#CES09 - AOC will be at Bellagio Tower Ballroom 3 launching Gamer Certified WLED monitor: interview/ demos available (@alecjr)

#CES09 http://www.gamercertified.com/ Sponsored by AOC visit at Bellagio Tower Ballroom 3 - interview/ demos available (@alecjr)

some additional Tweets used in this campaign: 

  • http://twitter.com/alecjr/status/1097317729
  • http://twitter.com/alecjr/status/1084005017


Twitter resonated with the online media community more so than with “traditional” media outlets.

Through twitter, we successfully booked 16 interviews and had a higher PR response rate versus traditional “e-mail” pitching. We also generated more PR and a different caliber of reporter than originally targeted – including an increase in blogger and gaming oriented media interest.


Metrics for our PR efforts through twitter were measured by 1.) The number of media interviews booked and 2.) The number of articles / reviews published as a direct result of twitter.

Of the 16 booked interviews resulting from Twitter media outreach, 15 reporters showed up for their interviews / demos, resulting in 14 published articles.

Articles generated by media that were “pitched” via twitter were more engaged than those contacted by traditional PR practices due to pre-interview communications though Twitter.  

The use of Twitter before, during and after CES greatly expanded the number of niche media contacts in our database, resulting in larger and more targeted media lists.

Follow us: 




Saturday, March 28, 2009

Synopsis of an Award Winning Campaign: Branding and PR

As an award winning PR and MARCOM Agency, we will post our winning campaigns and select case studies in order to help other PR pros breaking into the agency game for the first time or starting their own shops due to the recession and job layoffs. here is the first of many posts.

An AJR & Partners Public Relations Case Study 

  • Synopsis of an Award Winning Camping  
  • Client: Sleek Audio 
  • Award: 2008 MARCOM for Best Corporate Brand,  Marketing and PR - Platinum 


  • Launch high-tech customizable in-ear headphones for use in iPods and MP3 Players.
  • Create an online community of audiophiles for Sleek Audio
  • Position Sleek Audios’ products as an audiophile’s dream come true with customizable treble and bass ports to create your own audio fingerprint


  • Start-up company with very limited marketing funds, but a truly great product with a father and son team that believe in themselves 


  • Communicate directly with audiophiles and build an online community of supporters
  • Get product into hands and ears of tech reviewers and other online influencers 


  • Created an Integrated PR and Web 2.0 marketing campaign with a pre-launch viral marketing site (http://www.youraudiofingerprint.com/)  and a microsite for news and reviews (http://www.sleek-audioreviews.com/)
  • Launched product at 2008 CES, focusing on media reviews with audiophile press and blogs
  • Conducted ongoing successful technology and audiophile media outreach program, securing reviews in the following influencer media:
these and other media hits can be found on the micro-review site we set up for Sleek Audio Reviews 

Synopsis of an Award Winning Campaign - Viral Marketing

An AJR & Partners Public Relations Case Study

As an award winning PR and MARCOM Agency, we will post our winning campaigns and select case studies in order to help other PR pros breaking into the agency game for the first time or starting their own shops due to the recession and job layoffs. here is the first of many posts.

  • Synopsis of an Award Winning Camping  
  • Client: Sleek Audio 
  • Campaign: "Find Your Audio Fingerprint" 
  • Award: 2008 MARCOM for Best Viral Marketing - Gold

  • AJR launched the site with a press release sent to audiophile and technology media as well as through PR Web and Business Wire

  • Members of the media contacted AJR for more information regarding Find Your Audio Fingerprint