abbieI sent out a request a few weeks back on twitter looking for suggestions for the next HMA book club.  Several responded, and I selected Perfect Pitch by Jon Steel. One, because it talked about winning new business, which right now all of us in the professional services world are interested in, but also because my friend and author Steve McKee suggested it.  He’s got a book out now called When Growth Stalls, which I also happen to think is pretty terrific so if he recommends a book, I think it is worth a try.

Steel is the co-creator of the “got milk” campaign and works for one of the world’s largest marketing communications conglomerates.  He says he’s won more than 90 percent of the new business he has pitched.  That’s a pretty great track record so I’m inclined to put some of his suggestions to work.  He uses real-life examples and anecdotes from the wide variety of presentations he’s made.  I’ll attempt to summarize here:

  • Primary premise of the book is the belief that the methods we traditionally employ for presentations stand in the way of effective communication and presentation. In other words, the actual presentation itself may be the problem, not the content itself.
  • Art of influencing people lies with your ability to be a good storyteller.
  • When pitching business you are likely in a competitive situation – you don’t have to be right; you just have to be more right than the competitor.  Even just appearing to be more right or having the potential to be more right may be enough.
  • The success of any presentation is measured by its effectiveness not its technical excellence.
  • Consider the start of your presentation from the moment you are asked to present to the moment the account has been awarded.
  • Know your audience – every word, every action, will pass through the prospect’s filter to their experience, expectations, prejudices, hopes and fears.
  • Using the O.J. Simpson trial as an example – presenters (lawyers in this case) who pay attention to the effects of external social, economic, and cultural forces and understand how to use them to their advantage tend to succeed (Johnny Cochran).  While those that ignore or fight against them will fail (Marcia Clark).
  • Tried and true may not be suitable in every situation.
  • The only opinion that really matters is the person’s who makes the decisions.
  • Your audience needs to feel that nothing is more important to you than what you are saying and who you are saying it to.  New business pitches have fallen apart because someone left the room to take a call or a key member of the team didn’t stop in to say “hi.”
  • Most successful presenters – understand how to involve the audience; keep it simple; make it surprising, in surprise lies the energy that will change a mind, convince, inspire, recruit or persuade; believe passionately in what they are talking about.
  • The potential client wants to meet the team that will be working on the account – even if they have a minor role in the presentation, try to bring everyone with you.
  • When asked why the client hires the firm – “Because you wanted it more.” “You were a team; they were a bunch of individuals.” “Your presentation felt like the same presentation from start to finish.” “You seemed to enjoy what your colleagues were saying as much as I did.”

Five steps in preparing a presentation:

  • Gather raw materials – don’t jump straight into the solution until you know what you are dealing with. Specific information pertaining to the product, brand and general information about the relationship of the brand in the lives of those that use it.
  • Look for meaning – take all the facts and see how they fit together. Any ideas – no matter how stupid they may seem at the time – should be written down; the meaning will come later.
  • Drop it – walk away from it for awhile. Let your subconscious mind take over the thinking.
  • Adapt and Distill—hardest part because you need the patience to keep working with the ideas until you find the right one.  Share your thoughts with others that are involved in the project.
  • Writing the presentation – default position is to write a PowerPoint.  If you do this too early it is like putting the cart before the horse.  The story must come first, then the pretty pictures.

Many slides do not a presentation make – focus on the audience and the audience on you, rather than the slides, so that it is a two-way conversation not a lecture.  The only real benefit of PowerPoint is for the presenter.  It rarely is a benefit to the presentation or the listening audience (the client).

Clip art is nature’s way of saying you have no imagination.

Any successful new business strategy is to pitch only business that you really, really want and believe you can win.

  • Why is the client here – interested in us and the work we do, or did they get our name from a list
  • How strong is their brand – would be proud to represent it, believe in it
  • Is the client the right fit for the agency – will they participate in their success, listen to us as we listen to them
  • Will we be able to produce our best work TOGETHER – do they want us as much as we want them
  • Who does this client really want to hire – if it’s not us, do we have a chance of changing their mind
  • Do our existing client commitments leave us with the time we need to devote to this – first loyalty must be to the current clients
  • Can we put our “A” team on the pitch

When it is time for the presentation

Rehearse rehearse rehearse – if the President of the United States rehearses before delivering the State of the Union address, so should your new business team.

Rarely is the business rewarded on the spot – the “presentation” may continue for days or weeks, until the final decision has been made. A follow-up call or note the next day thanking them for the opportunity is essential.  Use the time to remind them of your core messages.

What you leave behind should be something that the recipients wouldn’t dare throw away – and this isn’t copies of your PowerPoint.

You are the presentation and nothing is more important that what you have to say.  Steel truly believes that the time spent in crafting a presentation is directly proportional to the seriousness with which it will be received.


These days a journalist’s time is more precious than ever. Once again, the local chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) are partnering to hold the one event that can result in less wasted time — and hope you’ll be able to be a part of it.

The 5th Annual Publicity Summit, bringing journalists and public relations people together to share information and to teach the right and wrong ways to pitch story ideas to journalists, will be 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 8, at the Memorial Union at Arizona State University in Tempe.

The summit committee – including Alison Bailin here at HMA – is now actively looking for local media from the television, print, online and radio worlds to be a part of the event.

Each media member will start the day as part of a panel of journalists with similar beats or areas of coverage, each describing their preferences for pitching, deadlines and content. They can also give some insight into their media outlet’s plan for the future in this changing world of new media.

Then, there’s a free lunch followed by a “Speed Pitching” session, modeled after speed dating, where PR people get three minutes to give each media member a real story pitch for immediate evaluation, praise or rejection. If the media member likes the idea, it’s his/hers to pursue, of course.

Proceeds go to the local chapters of the SPJ and PRSA for their many projects to improve each profession.

If you’ve ever muttered under your breath that somebody should tell these PR folks what not to do, well, that somebody is you. Won’t you please join in on improving the way journalists and PR professionals deal with each other?

Please email any questions or interest to Alison Bailin at As no one needs to tell you, time is of the essence.


NATAS LogoYou probably know this, but HMA Public Relations is all about public relations.  But, thanks to our great relationship with the local and regional media – not to mention HMA president Scott Hanson’s former career as an on-air sportscaster – we are proud to be members of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS), Rocky Mountain Southwest Chapter’s Board of Directors.

NATAS, who you can follow on Twitter by clicking here, is a professional service organization dedicated to the advancement of the arts and sciences of television and the promotion of creative leadership for artistic, educational and technical achievements within the television industry. Our chapter, which was formed in 1959, represents Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, and El Centro, Calif. Among our chief annual responsibilities are the regional Emmy Awards, the prestigious Gold and Silver Society inductions and university outreach/continuing education. Each member of the board has some tie to the television community. Alison Bailin at HMA, for example, is the on-air spokesperson for various clients and also performs pro-bono public relations efforts on the association’s behalf.

This week’s #FollowFriday recommendations are just some of our fellow board members:

NATAS Holiday FunAdam Kress – one of the Valley’s VERY BEST and most active journalists on Twitter – is the multimedia reporter for the Phoenix Business Journal. In addition to his work with the Journal, Adam can be seen reporting on breaking business news on ABC 15 and heard on News-Talk 92.3 KTAR.

Bob Adlhoch is a 13-year veteran of Phoenix Suns broadcasting and has been working in the Valley sports world since 1990. He is also the current national trustee for our NATAS region. Bob has been part of the sports production community in the Valley since 1990.

Jeramie McPeek – who also tweets here and here – is quickly becoming a national “go-to” guy for everything social media-related and just returned from a two-day international Twitter conference in New York City. Aside from his life in the Twitterverse, Jeramie is the vice president of digital for the Phoenix Suns.

Tiffany Jarratt wears many hats for her television station, FOX 10. Currently, Tiffany is the booker/producer/web reporter and even an on-air personality for the five-hour FOX 10 Arizona Morning show. Often Tiffany tweets when looking for great, visual story ideas, so she is a “must-follow” for any public relations practioner.

NATAS Silver CircleClay Stubblefield, who is always dishing out great advice with his tweets, is the production manager for Metro Studios in Phoenix. Beginning as a video production company in 1985, Metro Studios has evolved to become one of the most respected production entities here or anywhere and offers a wide array of advertising and marketing services as well as production and web services.

Doug Mummert is the division chief for the Phoenix Fire Department. Often quoted in both local broadcast and print media, Mummert is a go-to expert on fire and water safety as well as the alternate trustee for our association.

Theresa Maher is the director public and job seeker relations for in Phoenix and can often been seen on local television offering the community insight on possible jobs opportunities as well as career advancement advice.

Andrew Beneze is a videographer and photographer with Next Edge Video in Scottsdale. For more than 20 years, Andrew has traveled around the world, covering some of the most compelling and history making stories of our time. From sitting down with the President of the United States, to documenting life under the ocean in a nuclear submarine, you could say “He’s been there, done that” but he is always up for new challenge.

NATAS Vegas EmmysVik Narayan is the investigative and special projects editor for ABC 15 as well as the 1st Vice President and Awards Committee Chair of NATAS.  Over the past 16 years, Vik has directed, edited, composited, color corrected, and created motion graphics for projects ranging from high-end commercials to low budget long form documentaries. He has been widely recognized for his accomplishments including 13 Emmy Awards and a George Foster Peabody Award in 2008.

Syleste Rodriguez is currently a reporter on 12 News Evening Edition and an anchor on 12 News Weekend Today. She has also been an instrumental part of the Rocky Mountain Emmy Committee and spearheaded the association’s “Vegas theme” in 2008. Oh, and if you don’t see many tweets from here from time to time, cut her a little slack – she is about to have a baby!

Mark Reda is a coordinating producer for FOX Sports Arizona who also worked as the media director at Central Christian Church of the East Valley and as a broadcast producer at the Arizona Diamondbacks.

howard-stern-siriusThis morning on the Howard Stern Show on Sirius XM Satellite Radio, Stern’s news correspondent Lisa G came into the studio with a big announcement – Rosie O’Donnell was joining Sirius XM with a new program set to air on the Sirius Stars channel.

Now, this is interesting for several reasons:

  • Stern and O’Donnell ended a decade-long and very public feud about two years ago, and even became personal friends after Stern voiced his on-going support of gay marriage and O’Donnell’s popular family cruise documentary that aired on HBO.
  • In recent years, Stern interviewed O’Donnell on his channels to help champion gay rights and to give her the chance to tell her side of the story in her many on-going Hollywood fights, including issues with both Barbara Walters and Donald Trump (both good personal friends of Stern – so much so that both attended his 2008 wedding).
  • Stern pitched Sirius XM executives on having O’Donnell develop a program or series of programs for his channels – Howard 100 and Howard 101 – for the past year, even going so far as to personally tour O’Donnell around and introduce her to all of the movers and shakers within the company.
  • The new O’Donnell program – as Stern found out live on the air this morning – would have nothing to do with either of Stern’s channels, and the Sirius XM executives basically went behind his back to develop a deal with O’Donnell without him.

Now, Stern – who has one of the biggest inferiority complexes one has ever seen even after a decade of seeing a psychiatrist three-plus times a week – reacted to this news by going on a rant off and on all morning – not mad at O’Donnell, but at the executives at Sirius XM for taking his idea and developing it for a non-Stern channel. He was also angry he was not part of at least a brainstorming session to announce the big news. You see, since he was the face of the company, the executives often included him in this sort of thing and always requested he interview new Sirius talent on his program to introduce his audience (anywhere from 60-80% of the 20 million subscribers depending on the day) to the new programming opportunity on their radio.

rosie_odonnella300aBut I digress. This blog is actually (or eventually) all about public relations.

You see, in the midst of his fit, Stern took the promotion department to task for their utter and complete lack of a comprehensive and strategic public relations plan to announce O’Donnell’s new program. After all, in the 1990s O’Donnell hosted the top-rated afternoon talk show in the country and currently had legions of fans in the gay and lesbian community. Wouldn’t it make sense to think through the best way to announce O’Donnell’s new program and then create a campaign to reveal it to the world?

Nope. As it turns out, Stern’s producer reported, the head of promotions was off on vacation and no plan was in place before he left. So, Stern challenged the promotion department, “With Lisa G announcing the big news on Sirius XM – how would that attract NEW users to Sirius XM?”

How would it help get the word out in a controlled, strategic way to the media at large, he wondered aloud. It wouldn’t.

Stern then did something this public relations practitioner loved – he unveiled how he would have handled the media outreach to announce O’Donnell’s partnership with Sirius and had some Copper Anvil-worthy strategic and tactical ideas including:

  • Stern himself going on the David Letterman Show and coming out with O’Donnell on his arm for a dual interview with Letterman about the big announcement
  • A dual publicity tour with Stern and O’Donnell hitting all of the major newspapers in the country
  • A dual publicity tour with Stern O’Donnell hitting all of the major gay and lesbian media in the country
  • A series of tweets, press releases and media advisories teasing the big announcement and then a grand press conference at Sirius XM with O’Donnell
  • A cover story in People Magazine or another pop culture magazine announcing the new partnership

Now, love him or hate him, Stern has always been a master at getting attention. Turns out, every outrageous thing he’s ever done for that attention had a public relations plan behind it.

Oh, and my favorite part of his rant? When he sarcastically told the audience how great it was that now Sirius XM would spend a ton of money on advertising O’Donnell’s new program rather than planning ahead and taking advantage of the enormous amount of press a little public relations planning would yield.

alisonWhen I was in high school, teachers spoke ad nauseam about how computers and cell phones were turning us into a society of strangers. In college, while the professors had embraced each medium – as well as text messaging – themselves, they still spoke of the days when people had to actually speak to each other and meet face to face.

About two years ago, when I really started to use social network sites for both my work and personal life, I thought about how sad it was that I had become a society of one – a stranger to everyone but my computer screen.

However, a funny thing happened to my little society – it grew! With Facebook, all of the sudden I was able to see wedding pictures and family photos from the 702 (yes, 702) students in my high school graduating class. And, once my company built its Facebook fan page, my friends and clients got to see all of the great works and community service we perform on a daily basis. And now with Twitter, I am getting the chance to speak directly to my peers as well as people that I admire across the country – and they are talking back TO ME! What’s more, big corporations are getting in on the action.

For example, recently I sent out two tweets – one wondering if anyone had any ideas about activities in Sedona over 4th of July and one inquiring about the best hotel deal anyone found in Las Vegas. 10 years ago, chances are I would have emailed only my closest friends to get this information, but today, I was able to ask people around the world.

Hilton SedonaWithin minutes of the Sedona post, the Hilton Resort and Spa in Sedona sent me a direct message and eventually got my contact information so the gal on the other side of the computer screen could help me directly – what service! I am now a life-long fan of their organization and am staying there rather than the other hotel on my list.

Planet HollywoodAnd about an hour after the Las Vegas query, the PR gal from Planet Hollywood contacted me – and not with an automated response!

Actual humans just like you and me on Twitter, who didn’t know me from Adam, wanted to help me in any way they could.

So, to me, social networking sites are the ultimate irony.

A society of strangers? Hardly!

Today, with my social network, I feel like I have 1,100 friends…and counting.

HMA Public Relations is an independently owned and operated public relations and marketing communications firm here Phoenix.  But, thanks to our membership in the Public Relations Global Network, we are affiliated with some of the best public relations firms in the United States and across the globe.  You can find us on twitter at Scott Hanson or Abbie S. Fink

PRGN members are experienced and recognized authorities within their local markets and specialty fields of practice. Services provided include media relations, marketing communications, community relations, financial relations, public affairs, crisis communications, research, video production and special events. Each agency offers expert services and counsel at local, national and international levels.

This week’s #FollowFriday recommendations are just some of the members of our network.

Industrie-Contact in Hamburg, Germany has, for the past 26 years, been involved with the practice of public relations and marketing on both the national and international levels, giving it a background of experience that very few agencies can say they have. Uwe Schmidt

Landis Communications, Inc. of San Francisco has consistently been named “one of the Bay Area’s top PR firms” by the San Francisco Business Times and PR Week. LCI is a mid-sized, award-winning communications agency that creates, coordinates and implements a variety of communications activities, all aimed at supporting each company’s identified primary business goals. The team twitters include:  David Landis, Amanda James Lee Kravetz Kelly Taylor and Heather Platisha

The Castle Group in Boston is headquarters to innovative, driven and committed public relations and events management professionals that deliver value and results to a diverse client roster. The agency comprises full-service public relations and events divisions that can work in tandem or separately. A women-owned business that has grown each year since its founding in 1996, the agency prides itself on proactive problem solving and looking between the lines.  Wendy Spivak

Buchanan Public Relations is a full-service public relations and marketing communications firm in Philadelphia that provides a broad range of strategic public relations and marketing services to help grow clients’ businesses by building and nurturing their brands. Anne Buchanan

Currie Communications Pty Ltd (Currie) is an Australian-owned, medium-sized consultancy which assists clients to build high-value relationships with corporate, media and government audiences. The consultancy specializes in providing strategic and tactical support for issues-based and marketing communications campaigns which are closely aligned to an organization’s key goals. Mark Patterson

Since 1988, VPE Public Relations has grown to become the country’s largest Hispanic-owned public relations agency on the basis of its commitment to quality service, integrity, and grasp of the marketplace. Its specialty is serving the dynamic US Hispanic consumer market – an economic giant that surpasses Canada in population and spending power. Patricia Perez or VPEPR

Xenophon Strategies, Inc. is a strategic public affairs firm headquartered in Washington, D.C.  Within the core practice areas of public affairs, public relations, crisis communications and government affairs, Xenophon Strategies provides a wide range of services for a diverse portfolio of national and international clients including government, trade associations, foundations, public entities, Fortune 500 corporations and small businesses. David Fuscus

Established in 2001 Coast Communications of Stockholm, Sweden, is a full-service communications consulting firm specializing in PR, Public Affairs and Investor Relations. CC offers both consultation and production services. The Nordic network includes a solid network of affiliated PR-firms in the Nordic countries Denmark, Finland and Norway. KG Rickhamre

Adam Friedman Associates (AFA) is an independent corporate and investor relations firm specializing in representing clients that seek broader exposure to investors. AFA’s approach is based on a strategic analysis of Wall Street perceptions, stock valuation and peer group research. The firm serves a client base that seeks an aggressive approach to IR and demands measurable results. Adam Friedman

Based in Cape Town, South Africa, HWB Communications is a strategic communications and public relations company. Our national and local clients represent a range of sectors. Evelyn John Holtzhausen

SCR Relaciones Publicas Founded in 1986, SCR is an elite PR company in Barcelona, Spain, whose mission is to add value to the businesses of its clients through the creation and management of their communications and PR strategies that meet their specific necessities and objectives. or Verena Duchoud

Now in its 26th year, The Fearey Group is a full-service public relations, issues management and public affairs firm in Seattle that is distinguished by its deep, time-tested understanding of how businesses work and what they need to succeed. By basing the strategic planning process on the long-term objectives of the client’s business plan, the firm effectively and efficiently meshes messaging with business activities to build the bottom line. Natalie Price

L.C. Williams & Associates is a full-service public relations and research counseling firm headquartered in Chicago. It is a mid-size, independent agency employing 30 public relations and research professionals. The firm focuses on how effective communications can meet its clients’ goals and objectives. Kim Blazek Dahlborn

Pacifico Integrated Marketing Communications is a full-service marketing communications agency. The San Jose-headquartered firm creates brand value for its clients by delivering differentiated messages and images through appropriately targeted media. Pacifico is focused on technology-based business-to-business and business-to-consumer clients serving national and international markets.  Mary Curtis

GroundFloor Media, an award-winning public relations agency, is one of the fastest-growing companies in Colorado. Recently recognized by The Holmes Report as the Best Boutique Agency to Work For and one of three finalists named to the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business of the Year award, GroundFloor Media is no stranger to accolades and boasts a roster of notable clients from a variety of industries.  Ground Floor Media Laura Love Ramonna Tooley

DVL is a full-service communications agency in Nashville, Tenn., that gets results. We identify what will get your company where you want it to be and then we make it happen creatively. John Van Mol

JMC Marketing Communications and PR is an international public relations and marketing communications firm that provides strategic communications solutions. Headquartered in Kingston, N.Y., JMC works in the “real world,” where businesses are crunched by competing demands, too many distractions, and tight resources. JMC uses public relations and publicity, advertising, promotions, trade shows and special events, as well as publications and market research to help its clients create market awareness and reach their objectives.  John Mallen

social mediaHMA hosted a social media training session this morning for clients and friends.  Nearly 60 people attended to learn about websites, blogs, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.  We encouraged people to bring their laptops and if they were already engaging in social media to tweet out posts from the session.

We are strong advocates of the benefits of social media and look forward to working with our clients to create the important communications strategies to take full advantage.

Stay tuned for dates for additional sessions.

HMA Time Turns 1 1/2!

June 17, 2009

birthday cupcakeThis month HMA Time celebrates its half birthday!  We began this blog 18 months ago as a way to state our opinions about public relations, share information about our clients, make note of things important to us professionally and personally and, ultimately, take over the world.  Okay, not quite take over the world, but certainly introduce the HMA crew and our clients to the world on a more personal level.

When this blog made its debut, respected community blogs, such as ValleyPRblog stated:  “They’re the first strictly PR agency in town to launch (and hopefully sustain) a blog.”

And we’re happy to say that we have sustained it!  We hope you’ve enjoyed it so far and that you keep coming back for more.

Colin Boyd - Ueable - AZ Mills - 2 yearsOur client, Subway Restaurants of Arizona, held its annual statewide Subjammers contest this past weekend.  The lively tomato and lettuce-covered event held at Subway’s Arizona Mills location gave top sandwich artists from across the state the Brian Perry - Pablo Rios - Scottsdale - Pam Lanhan - Sinykinschance to make the fastest, most accurate sandwiches on the planet, competing for prizes and bragging rights.

Of the 70-plus finalists, sandwich artists Sal Rodriguez, Tiffany Perez, Jessica Frederick and Pablo Gonzalez Rios took home the Subjammer crowns. Each of the top finishers received hundreds of dollars in prizes, and Rodriguez, who has worked for Subway for more than 10 years, clocked in at 41 seconds to take the top spot.  He won an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. this summer to represent Arizona in the international Subjammers competition.

Full Group ShotThe local food bank also benefitted from the event – all of the 100-plus sub sandwiches created during the event were immediately donated after the competition.

scottIn an effort to hang on to a piece of the Cactus League spring training bounty, the city of Tucson is trying to convince the Baltimore Orioles that the Old Pueblo would be a better training site than Fort Lauderdale, Fla. 

GOODYEAR BASEBALL BROCHURETucson officials, i.e. the Pima County Sports and Tourism Authority, should talk to the folks in Goodyear, who successfully lured both the Cleveland Indians and the Cincinnati Reds out of Florida.

Goodyear had a new stadium and training facility to offer up, along with a slick marketing piece created by the HMA Public Relations team to use in their efforts to get the two clubs into the West Valley.

Here’s to hoping the O’s come west.  There’s never enough baseball here.