Peak Communicators
November 29, 2011

How to Capitalize on PR this Silly Season

For PR professionals, the festive period, or ‘Silly Season’ as it’s known, offers a unique opportunity. As companies and journalists alike unwind for holiday celebrations, there is a lack of news and news writers – leaving an empty void for the savvy PR professional to fill.

So how can you capitalize on this opportunity?

Firstly, choose the right story to tell. Inevitably, reporters will be flooded with pitches about consumer products as Christmas is the key trading period for retailers. However, if you’ve got hard-hitting business news, then you’ll have an attentive audience, hungry to hear about it – as business news is sparse at this time of year. Equally, it is a great chance to push ‘softer’ stories (for example, research or trend pieces) that you may otherwise struggle to place.

Secondly, know which journalists are in the office. As with most professions, there is a mass exodus in the media over the festive season, and you need to know which few, dedicated faces remain. When speaking to journalists throughout December ask about their holiday plans – so you know who is around. There is nothing more depressing than a lengthy sell-in where no one answers the phone.

Finally, use embargoes to your advantage. No one wants to be working around the clock at Christmas – including journalists. Give them time to write up an embargoed story (to be published between 26th and 31st December) before Christmas kicks-off; they’ll thank you for it. You get coverage, the journalist gets a break.

And as for social media? Social media usage, Facebook and Twitter in particular, rockets at Christmas. This is unsurprising given the increasing number of smartphones and the popularity sharing festive messages with friends. Again, use this to your advantage to push your message to an audience that’s more engaged than normal.

Of course, the downside is that while other professionals are drinking mulled-wine and being merry, PRs need to stay focused, work hard and think creatively to capitalize on this opportunity. However, what better Christmas present to give a client than unexpected, wide-spread coverage?

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November 22, 2011

Will the Reputation of Penn State Coach Joe Paterno Ever Recover?

Back in 1919, when Chicago White Sox star player Shoeless Joe Jackson admitted he knew about the fix to rig the World Series, it became one of the biggest stories of the year. Never before had the news media been so keenly interested in a sports story. Following his admission, the plea from millions of baseball fans could be heard across America – “say it ain’t so, Joe!” But it was so, and Jackson was banned from the major leagues for life.

Today, 92 years later, millions of fans are saying the same thing to legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno – “say it ain’t so, Joe!” But just like in 1919, it is so and Paterno’s fall from grace has been immediate and will permanent. This sports scandal will become the biggest news story ever to hit the multi-billion dollar U.S. college sports industry.

Paterno is, or at least was, a legend – not just at Penn State, but throughout the entire football world. A man of integrity who ran a clean program and was as just as interested about seeing his players graduate as he was about their performance on the field. He donated millions to the Penn State library, the conference championship trophy bore his name and many called him the greatest football coach of all time. He was universally revered at Penn State, almost like a god.

But all that is lost forever. Despite a spectacular career spanning almost 50 years, Paterno will always be remembered for what he didn’t do and not for what he did do. In grand jury testimony, he admitted to knowing that one of his assistants had been accused of sexually assaulting children. He admitted telling his supervisor, but his admission that he took no further action has stunned an entire nation. Like Shoeless Joe, Paterno could have and should have done more and that will never be forgotten.

For its part, Penn State has tried to put its best PR face forward; firing Paterno and the university president, and cooperating fully with police and state investigators. But there is only so much that can be done. The media has latched onto the story like a dog on a bone and in the weeks and months ahead,  when more victims come forward and more shocking stories come out, the reputation of this legendary coach and the school where he coached will continue to wallow in the gutter. No amount of PR can ever change that.

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