When story ideas hit home, major media outlets are quick to respond.

That was the case recently, when an idea from a Lenz PR team weekly meeting made it all the way to Good Day Atlanta on Fox 5, with a three-minute segment on the dangers high heels pose to women’s health. Read more

Bookzilla is back in his bunker polishing up his memoir as the AJC Decatur Book Festival team recaps the annual Labor Day weekend event.

While the more than 550 volunteers make the largest independent book festival in the country event run smoothly, it’s the PR team at Lenz that gets the word out to the estimated 70,000 or so attendees.

After running PR for the festival for six consecutive years, Lenz Public Relations Director Ryan Klee calls the festival “a great model of integrated marketing and PR.”

“We’ve learned you can’t just do one thing and be successful. We combine our work with TV, radio, and print media with a huge push in social media to get great results,” he said.

PR season for the festival kicks off with a media launch in mid June when Lenz invites local media and VIPs for an announcement of the year’s keynote speaker. That event is always followed by a flurry of attention as releases go out to local, regional, and national media outlets.

This year’s two big magazine mentions were in O, the Oprah Magazine, and Garden and Gun.

Publisher’s Weekly previewed the event, as did local magazines, including Decatur Living, where the festival scored the cover story with pictures of nationally known authors who live in the Decatur area. Atlanta magazine featured a review of Decatur author Amanda Kyle Williams’ The Stranger You Seek that debuted at the festival.

Television coverage came the day of the festival from Atlanta’s 11 Alive, while radio stories spanned the dial during the week before the festival — on stations from Dave FM to WABE to Christian station FISH 104.

Print media made a big splash for the festival with daily stories in the week leading up to the event in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution  — the festival’s title sponsor — and features in Creative Loafing, The Champion, Atlanta INtown, and local Neighbor weeklies.

But it was social media buzz that took the city and the region by storm. Lenz supplied information to popular online news sites and bloggers such as Atlanta PlanIt, Patch, Decatur Metro, and Baby Got Books, while sharing a daily stream of updates on Facebook and Twitter. By the start of the festival, the Decatur Book Festival page had more than 4,000 “likes” and Bookzilla BookMonster’s personal page had more than 500 friends.

Created for the 2009 festival by Lenz Creative Director Scott Sanders, the book monster — with an epic story worthy of a graphic novel — grew in scope each year with the festival celebrity even generating an interview on the popular Scout Mob site.

The one-on-one interview between Scout Mob and Bookzilla took social media marketing to a new level, with Bookzilla talking about his blog, where he enjoys hanging out on the Decatur Square, and top tips on things to do at the festival:

Then there was both a post and photo of Bookzilla on Smithsonian.com’s Dinosaur Tracking blog on Sept. 6, which answered the age-old question of  “What’s big, green, and loves books?

Klee called the massive PR effort a huge success because of its combined focus on traditional and social media.

“We told our story to all the right people, and the effort paid off,” he said.

There’s nothing quite like the adrenaline rush that comes from covering breaking news. Being in the midst of a news event on deadline makes my heart beat faster and all my senses sharpen in order to ask just the right questions and get the story out on time.

While it’s been a long time since I was a daily newspaper reporter, the rush of responding to a news event remains as fresh and exciting as ever. Now, when the news media calls the Lenz public relations team, we jump into fire-truck-chasing mode and get the information as quickly and accurately as possible.

Since our clients include a number of major health care practices, reporters know they can call us for comments from doctors.

In one two-day period, we received calls from television, radio, and newspaper reporters wanting to talk to doctors about a story on drug shortages.

As our Lenz PR Director Ryan Klee explained, “The reporters thought of Lenz as a great overall medical resource. To me, this means we’re doing our job of keeping the media aware of us and our healthcare clients.”

We arranged interviews for:

– Diana Davis of WSB-TV

– Sheila Poole of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

– Connie Cummings of 640 WGST

– Jennifer Mayerle of CBS Atlanta

Maybe the rush of covering breaking news as a reporter is a bit different from responding to a reporter’s request for help, but the result is the same — helping to tell important stories in a timely fashion so that people understand the impact of news events.

That’s what I call a banner day at the office.

— Alice Murray

 

Every marketing textbook tells you there are four Ps of marketing — price, product, placement, and promotion.

What the textbooks don’t tell you is that in the rapidly evolving world of public relations, there are three more Ps to remember — personal relationships, patience, and persistence.

Now that social media is more compelling than the printed press release, it’s easy to hit the send button and move on to the next big thing. However, building personal relationships with reporters and exercising patience and persistence pay off in the long run.

Below are two examples how our Lenz PR team used all three Ps of Public Relations to help our client Resurgens Orthopaedics:

Resurgens doctor Antenor Velazco: 

We first wrote about Dr. Antenor Velazco in February of 2010. After learning that he is an ultra marathon runner who travels the world to compete in races of up to 100 miles, we were hooked on his story. Reporters were interested, but never took the time to write about him.

But our PR Director Ryan Klee persevered. We tried to time the story to the 2010 Peachtree Road Race, but no luck. The story stayed in our files, resurfacing every few weeks. We nudged our contacts periodically as the months went by, but no bites. That’s when a personal relationship came in handy. When a reporter for the Atlanta Business Chronicle asked about candidates for their Executive Profile feature, Ryan immediately thought of Dr. Velazco. We quickly updated our story and sent it over. The result: a major feature in the Friday, Aug. 26, 2011 issue of the Business Chronicle.

http://www.bizjournals.com/atlanta/print-edition/2011/08/26/running-marathons-gives-surgeon-second.html

Resurgens patient Larry Castillo:

We regularly write patient success stories for the Resurgens Orthopaedics web site. http://www.resurgens.com/media/success-stories

And we are often able to interest local reporters in how Resurgens patients successfully return to their favorite activities after their treatment. But like the story on Dr. Velazco, some stories take longer than others to generate media interest.

We completed a release about Resurgens patient Larry Castillo on Jan. 4, 2011. Dubbed “the bionic man” by his doctor, Larry continues to win canoe races even after 16 different surgeries over two decades to repair his shoulders, hips, knees, and back. We loved Larry’s story, but knew mid-winter wasn’t the best time to make the local news. So we patiently waited, contacting local reporters periodically to tell his story. Then in mid-summer, our patience paid off. Both The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Fox5 News told Larry’s story to a citywide audience.

http://images.burrellesluce.com/image/10873/10873_1602

http://www.resurgens.com/media/news/2011/07/resurgens-orthopaedics-patient-featured-on-fox5

So yes, we’re always ready to respond to breaking news and help our media friends connect with our clients. But we’ve learned that the proactive process of interesting media in feature stories takes time. And we’ve found it’s well worth the effort.

— Alice Murray

2011 DBF Poster art by Scott Sanders.

“Decaturites” sense the excitement in the air, and have reportedly heard the stomping of Bookzilla echo ominously around the square. The AJC Decatur Book Festival is finally upon us.

As the host of the Author Hospitality Suite, Lenz anticipates welcoming authors from around the nation and world to the Festival. In our six years of marketing the Festival Lenz has witnessed Decatur become a literary destination of the Southeast with the Festival’s exponential growth.

This year the Festival once again will be bringing over 300 authors to our hometown. Festival-goers are looking forward to a bevy of events unique to this year including an adaptation of the Brer Rabbit Tales for the Atlanta Opera, a commemorative 9/11 storytelling event, and a ruthless, game-show-style match between competing writers.

Lenz is proud to present the Business and Marketing track this year. The Business and Marketing track features best-selling authors Greg Lindsay, Danny Kofke, Jim Beach, David Beasley, Chris Hanks, and Barbara Giamanco to discuss topics ranging from growing your small business to leadership strategy.

Our PR team has been busy this summer garnering media hit after media hit. Check out the interview Program Director Terra Elan McVoy did for this Sunday’s AJC, and an interview in Publisher’s Weekly with executive director Daren Wang. Even Bookzilla was interviewed.

Join us this weekend to understand firsthand what it means to have a massive celebration of the written word in all its forms and flavors. Understand that the Book Festival is more than a capstone to the summer season – it’s a Decatur institution.

Presently, Lenz is orchestrating a PR campaign for ChemoOrders.com—a free web site that helps doctors and nurses administer current chemotherapy treatments in a more accurate and efficient manner. While it may not sound exciting, ChemoOrders.com may revolutionize the way cancer care is delivered to millions of patients. But only if people hear about it.

So, our challenge is to take a new product and make it a household name…without the luxury of an advertising budget. That’s where PR, or public relations, comes in. We need the media to write and talk about ChemoOrders.com for free. Thankfully, we’re not asking for favors. That’s because PR is “at its best, a win-win partnership between publicists, the clients whose products they promote, and journalists,” according to Eric Yaverbaum, Co-founder and president of Ericho Communications. That means a good story benefits everyone. We’ve got the story. Now, we just need to push persuasive messaging to the appropriate media with repetition.

Here’s how we’re doing it.

PLANNING To organize the process, we developed a publicity plan that includes a product summary and key messaging, goals and timelines, the media we’re targeting, and the distribution channels we’ll use. The publicity plan spells out where we want to go and how we’ll get there.

PRODUCT SUMMARY AND MESSAGING Step one is understan ding the product you are pitching so you can recognize and communicate its relative benefits. With ChemoOrders.com, Lenz is in a unique position because we assisted in product development––we helped create the site’s intricate coding that matches patient-specific information with an appropriate treatment plan at the touch of a button. So, we know the product, but need to tell its story to everyone else. Unlike many PR campaigns, this one isn’t marketing our product against others, but against the status quo, or current way of doing things.

Therefore, our messaging aims to meet two objectives.

1) Explain ChemoOrders.com’s benefits over the standard way of prescribing chemotherapy. To do that, we state in our press release that ChemoOrders.com enhances patient care in three measurable ways: a. By providing oncology professionals the latest treatment protocols, with strict adherence to the published dose, schedule, and administration guidelines. b. By dramatically increasing the efficiency with which chemotherapy orders and related documents are generated. c. By significantly reducing prescribing mistakes, administration errors, patient risk, and physician liability.

2) Address any perceived barriers to entry, i.e., reasons doctors and nurses might be hesitant to start using our new product. Persuading people to change behavior is difficult under any circumstances, but it’s nearly impossible if it takes more time, costs more money, or yields unknown results. We needed to communicate that, here, the opposite is true, so we developed the tagline “Fast. Free. Reliable.” and extended this theme across our messaging.

GOALS AND TIMELINES After some preparation in December, we decided the first phase of the campaign will run January – March. After three months, we will measure the results, evaluate our status, and determine what to do next. It’s always a good idea to set measurable goals, and to recognize the difference between PR goals and product goals. A PR goal would be 50+ media hits. A product goal would be a 50 percent increase in web traffic.

TARGETED MEDIA For starters, we identified three primary media audiences that will help us promote the product. Dozens of media outlets fall within each category.

1) Trade publications Oncology professionals read oncology publications, which are often hungry for relevant content. Getting ChemoOrders.com coverage here shouldn’t be too difficult, but will raise the web site’s profile among our target audience.

2) Local media In Atlanta, we consider local media to be everything from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to the free dailies that collect dew on your front lawn. The audience isn’t as targeted, but doctors and nurses also read mainstream media, and the cumulative effect of a dozen stories in the Atlanta press could dramatically increase web traffic and catch the eyes of our primary target, the national media.

3) National health and business media This is unquestionably the largest investment of resources, but offers the greatest return as well. Whereas the trades and local publications might reprint your release the day they receive it, landing a story in the Wall Street Journal usually takes connections, weeks of effort, and plenty of luck. But the pay-off is huge: A single article in the WSJ business section could transform ChemoOrders.com into the new standard of cancer care.

DISTRIBUTION CHANNELS With the ChemoOrders.com release, we’ll use three primary distribution channels. I’ve listed them here from most narrow to most broad.

1) Mailing Members of the media love personal attention, and so small, memorable gifts that don’t insult their integrity can go a long way. We’ll pick a targeted group of reporters we want to cover our product and send them a package with the press release, some information about Lenz, and a token gift that is relevant to the story—perhaps a ChemoOrders.com pen or mouse pad. Each package goes out with a personal note. One week later, we’ll follow up, ask about the gift, and see if we can help with a story.

2) Blasting Through the years, Lenz has developed a deep database of local, regional, and national media contacts that we push our clients’ news out to on a regular basis. It’s too long and varied to deserve the personal attention described above, but they’ve covered our stories before, know our names, and will return our calls. We hit each of these contacts with a blast email or fax, depending on their preference.

3) Wiring Like many PR agencies, Lenz subscribes to a newswire service that distributes our clients’ releases to thousands of media outlets nationwide. These are people we don’t know personally, but want to reach. The distribution can be specified state-by-state or nationwide, to a general or specific news field, or to a combination of both. Equally important is the service’s ability to post our release on dozens of news wires where reporters often go looking for an interesting story on a slow news day.

CUSTOMER SERVICE ChemoOrders.com.com is one customer of ours. Each of our media contacts is another. We try to serve them well. Reporters are more likely to cover our story when it’s easy for them. We give the media our cell phone numbers and return their calls immediately. We supply additional product details and background information on their interview subjects. We ask what else we can do. Like all sales, selling to the media is about developing a relationship. We make sure ours are good ones.

TRACKING There’s nothing more satisfying than learning that all your effort produced a story, and nothing less frustrating than wondering if your product was covered somewhere without your knowledge. That’s one reason we track the media we get. Another is to show our clients that their investments are paying off. We track the media in these ways

1) We read everything we can Don’t make this your only tracking method because you’ll miss something. But, reading for yourself provides a sense of your product’s visibility to the average consumer.

2) We ask the media to let us know if something is running Be careful with this one, too. Most reporters are too busy to let everyone they write about know when something is running, and some resent the request. Still, your media relationship should be a partnership focused on producing quality news. When this is the case, your contact might be as excited about the story as you are, and more than happy to call with the big news.

3) We use media alerts Google, like most of the search engines, offers free and unlimited news alerts. We get an email when our selected keywords appear on their news page, and they get another web visitor. It’s win-win, but not 100 percent reliable. A lot can slip through the cracks. You’ll learn this when the local paper covers your story, but Google never lets you know.

4) We use tracking services Tracking services are the most reliable way to determine if your story has run. They use similar technology as Google––with an added manual component––but cast a much wider net that picks up more news. There is an expense involved, but Lenz, like most PR agencies, offers the service to its clients for free.

SAYING “THANK YOU!” Journalism can be a thankless profession. When a reporter covers our story, we let them know how much we appreciate it with a hand-written note and phone call. They deserve it, and will remember us next time.

Lenz recently launched a major media campaign for Georgia Retina—the largest retina-only private practice in Georgia—with the theme Better Eyesight Is In Your Future.

The spring 2011 campaign on radio stations WSB 750AM and 95.5 FM focuses on the cutting-edge services the practice provides. The nine physicians of Georgia Retina are board certified ophthalmologists who specialize in treating conditions of the retina and vitreous. The practice, with eight locations in the metro Atlanta area, selected Lenz in 2010 to shape their communication efforts.

The campaign messaging stresses that for the past 15 years, Georgia Retina has built a solid reputation based on the belief that providing the best care starts with the minds behind the technology:

“Look into the future, and what do you see? Whatever it is, you probably didn’t include quality eyesight on the list. But for people facing chronic vision loss, their future is unclear. Thousands of Georgians are affected each year, and thousands of Georgians turn to the innovative offices of Georgia Retina for help.”

The radio spots direct listeners to a landing page on the Georgia Retina web site where they can learn more about the practice.

Recently, the publicist for internationally best-selling author Michael Connelly came to Lenz for help with a small idea she hoped would have a big impact at this year’s Book Expo America conference.

Since a matchbook played a key role in the plot of “9 Dragons,” Connelly’s upcoming book, Shannon Byrne thought matches would be a perfect way to light a fire under advance book sales.

The challenge, according to Lenz Art Director Scott Sanders, was to incorporate a message about the book onto a 1½-inch-wide matchbook. His solution was to “keep it simple” and use color to provide extra impact. He used orange and white text on a black background to promote the author’s name, the book title, and the release date of the book — 10.13.09.

Sanders even included a quote inside the matchbook that was pivotal to the plot. “Happy Is The Man Who Finds Refuge In Himself,” said both the novel and the matchbook.

The matchbook text also included the author’s web site, www.michaelconnelly.com, as well as the name of the publisher, Hachette Book Group New York, NY 10017, a design task that was no small feat.

News of the “9 Dragons” matches, Byrne said, “spread like wildfire” and became the talk of the conference.

Celebrating its fourth birthday this weekend, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Decatur Book Festival Presented by DeKalb Medical (DBF) is drawing praise from both authors and participants.

International best-selling thriller author Lee Child, appearing on Fox 5’s Good Day Atlanta Friday, September 4, said, “In its fourth year, Decatur is already one of the major book festivals in the U.S. You’ve got to go to the L.A. Times Festival and maybe Decatur. This is now a big deal. It’s all very exciting.”

DBF Executive Director Daren Wang agreed, calling the festival a “tremendous success” and citing the standing-room-only groups at the 900-seat First Baptist Church of Decatur and the 700-seat Decatur Presbyterian Church. The 400-seat Target Children’s Stage was also packed throughout the weekend with families and children lining up to hear popular children’s authors such as Judy Schachner, Jon Scieszka, and Elizabeth Dulemba.

Rob Jenkins, DBF board member and Director of the Writers Institute at Georgia Perimeter College said that in only its fourth year, the festival has “come of age.”

Jenkins, who has been involved with the festival since early in its history, joined scores of participants in observing the overwhelming success of the event that brought tens of thousands of book lovers to hear more than 300 authors at venues around the Decatur Square.

Jenkins commented that the event ran so smoothly because of the maturity and experience of the organizers and 500 volunteers who worked on the event.

While total crowd figures are not available, organizers estimate a 15 percent increase over last year’s event.

Starting with a packed 800-seat Presser Hall at Agnes Scott College Friday, September 4, for the keynote address on the future of print by Sir Harold Evans, and ending with a Sunday evening picnic by the Southern Foodways Alliance and Concert on the Square by bluegrass group Sweet AlizAbeth, the festival provided something for everyone.

With 12 additional venues, ranging in size from 75 seats at the Decatur Conference Center Stage to 300 seats at the Old Courthouse, back-to-back events all day Saturday and Sunday afternoon were at or beyond capacity.

On Saturday night, those lucky fans who bought tickets early to the only festival-sponsored paid event, a sold-out concert at Agnes Scott honoring the 100th anniversary of Eudora Welty’s birth, were thrilled to hear Kate Campbell, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Caroline Herring, and Claire Holley perform in honor of the late Pulitzer Prize-winning writer from Jackson, Mississippi.

Comments filled Twitter and Facebook over the weekend from excited book lovers and festival attendees.

From Karlene Barger of Sandy Springs, “I think this is the best book festival yet. I especially enjoyed being one of the 1,100 or so people who attended the ‘Vampire’ session with Charlaine Harris, and Michael Malone was also wonderful! A very well organized (and fun) event!”

Decatur’s Steve Vogel wrote: “Just got back from the Decatur Book Festival — what a great event! Props to all who made it happen and those who came and enjoyed.”

Melanie Wright of Lawrenceville posted on Sunday, “The Decatur Book Festival yesterday was wonderful! Excited for today’s line up! No better way for me to spend Labor Day Weekend!”

Rachel Moore Hawkins of Auburn, Alabama, wrote:  “back from Decatur! Had a BLAST! Got to spend time with The Mama, see old friends, make new friends, hang with some truly kick-a** writers, and meet awesome bloggers. Oh, and got Richelle Mead to sign a book. All in all, a fabulous weekend!”

Interviews available upon request.

“We had record sized crowds for the Vampires session and Charlaine Harris signed everything she could in the allotted time. We also had a lot of compliments from booklovers, saying thanks for putting on this event.  The authors were great, the crowds patient and the weather beautiful.  We will be contacting the publicity departments of Random House, Penguin, Simon and Schuster with photos of how well their authors drew crowds in hopes that they will continue sending us such well-known writers.”

–Doug Robinson, owner, Eagle Eye Book Shop.

We have been proud and excited to organize the programing for — as well as do book sales at — the kids’ stage for the last four years (and the teen stage for the last two), and the 2009 festival was no exception.

The illustrators and authors sent to us increase in their prestige every year, and it’s because the publishers know what an awesome festival this is. But they aren’t the only folks responding with tons of enthusiasm — we had fantastic crowds and sales in the store and at both stages this year, and we’re particularly proud of how packed The Escape teen stage was. We are raring to go for 2010!

–Terra McVoy, Co-Director, Youth Programming, AJC-Decatur Book Festival, & Bookseller Extraordinaire at Little Shop of Stories