Keep your presentations from becoming PowerPointLess

Successful media relations means a steady stream of engaging content sent out to targeted journalists.

Repurposing corporate messaging can be an effective and efficient way of feeding your press pipeline.

Maximizing a presentation, for example, not only increases its effectiveness to an audience, it can also increase its newsworthiness.

The following recommendations should not only please your meeting attendees but also your public relations staff:

– Don’t: Use your slides as a script. The info you’re projecting should be short and memorable. The majority of your talking points – even hardline financial data – should be related as a story that you’re telling, not a paper that you’re reading.
– Don’t: Skimp on the visuals. Stock photos are purchasable and downloadable at high resolutions. Make your tabular data visible at a distance and strong enough to be reproducible in the media.
– Don’t: Use showy fonts; don’t overdo the colors; use a font size of at least 30 points.
– Don’t: Remain chained to the podium. Relax. Move around. Engage.
– Don’t: Go in unrehearsed. Know your stuff. Cold.
– Don’t: Arrive in the nick of time. See the setup, check the tech, upload files and hit the bathroom before going on.
– Do: Have a tech-fail backup plan. Use your notes; soldier on; email details later.
– Do: Incorporate social media. Capture the event on video or broadcast livestream. Post pictures and talking points. The media can be pitched to the press online.
– Do: Make it easy for attending journalists. Consider their needs: power supply, thumb drive, speaker bios or access to/from a news van. Supply a branded press release (with contact info) and all supplementary information (graphs, photos, charts, tables).

Nothing beats the one-two punch of a presentation that wows the audience and gets picked up by the media. A well-executed PowerPoint can do that – far better than its forebears: the whiteboard, the flip chart, the overhead projector or even (reaching way back) the chalkboard.

Dan Weckerly is director of public relations at Lehigh Mining & Navigation, an advertising agency in Allentown. He can be reached at [email protected]

The secret sauce of public relations: creativity

Successful public relations professionals need skills that include the ability to write well, be organized, persevere, be personable and have somewhat of a thick skin.

But even with these talents, true success can still be difficult without one more edge: creativity.

Creativity in PR is not those high-profile, slightly wacky, social-media-driven stunts aimed at raising the visibility of a brand. It can be as simple as a clever email subject line to a journalist, something to make a pitch stand out in the inbox.

And innovative PR comes from having vision.

For example, a recent classical music concert by Boston’s Handel and Haydn (H+H) Society was interrupted by the voice of a small boy in the balcony. A Mozart selection finished, and a wee “wow” floated over the audience.

This could have ended badly. YouTube is full of videos of classical music performers angrily reacting to interruptions in their concerts (namely, cell phones). But this one resolved gloriously. The conductor smiled and the hall filled with applause.

Someone within the Handel and Haydn Society – someone with PR savvy – then had an inspiration: Find the owner of that small voice.

A Cinderella-style search ensued, with H+H president personally emailing every attendee, asking for anyone who may have brought a child with them that night.

The effort yielded Ronan Mattin, an autistic 9-year-old who had been brought to the concert by his grandfather. Ronan enjoys music, according to the family, but is nonverbal most of the time.

Unless Mozart is playing.

H+H’s issuance of the story was picked up by more than 450 media outlets and experienced by an audience of 250 million.

All from a story that could easily have been hushed, but that came to light because of those who creatively saw its potential.

In other words, by those who saw that the story was a “wow.”

Dan Weckerly is director of public relations at Lehigh Mining & Navigation, an advertising agency in Allentown. He can be reached at [email protected]

We could all use a dose of good news

Boy, there’s a lot of bad news out there.

At least it seems that way: The rancor in Washington, the early snippiness over Campaign 2020, the firestorm about reproductive rights, the recent rise in gasoline prices. All seem to occupy a lot of newsprint and airtime these days.

The media’s rule of thumb used to be, “If it bleeds, it leads.” But now, with virtually everything bleeding, it may be time for another catchphrase.

Maybe: “If it churns bile, let it rest awhile.”

In other words, in the name of balance, it’s appropriate for media to rally around the good news in our homes, businesses, neighborhoods, cities and even nation.

The Philadelphia Inquirer has adopted this outlook in a Sunday section called “The UpSide.” It is four pages of positive stories that celebrate unity, collaboration and selflessness. Likewise, CBS Philly airs “Brotherly Love” segments, spotlighting heartwarming stories.

Here in the valley, public relations professionals are stepping up to provide upbeat content.

Samuel Kennedy, director of corporate communications for St. Luke’s University Health Network, says that keeping an eye out for uplifting stories has been “woven into our corporate culture. The people we work with know that they’ve got to be part of the ongoing process of distinguishing St. Luke’s, especially in this competitive market.”

According to Kennedy, St. Luke’s pitches these stories routinely and also posts them on its own blog, strengthening the messages through social media.

We here at Lehigh Mining & Navigation worked to highlight the positivity of another area health care provider – Lehigh Valley Health Network. Last year, we earned a PR industry award for telling the story of LVHN’s treatment of a young father whose prolonged illness rendered him unconscious during the delivery of his second child.

I encourage colleagues in public relations and corporate communications to search for uplifting content and promote it. I look forward to sharing these stories – and their goodwill – in future columns. It may help swing the pendulum of current sentiment against the doom and gloom that seem to be everywhere.

Dan Weckerly is director of public relations at Lehigh Mining & Navigation, an advertising agency in Allentown. He can be reached at [email protected]