Monday, February 13, 2012

Interview with a PR Expert

I've known Marlene Saritzky for more than ten years. She's smart, funny, and articulate and a dynamo when it comes to Public Relations. So, last week after struggling with a press release it occurred to me to ask if she'd be willing to share of her expertise and let me interview her for the blog.

Marlene has more then 20 years of experience. In organizations ranging from Time Inc. to Lucasfilm Ltd. she's played key roles in creating compelling communications programs and in launching major businesses. Over the years, clients and represented companies have included Two Degrees Food, Center for Investigative Reporting, Petite Miette, Paper Punk, Chez Panisse Foundation, Bon Appetit magazine, FORTUNE, Mother Jones, Common Sense Media, Lucasfilm LTD, Global Green USA and more. She's a very busy woman so I sent her a list of questions and suggested she just choose a few to answer.

What do you like about what you do and/or why do you do it?
love the exploration of it. What's the product or issue or company challenge? How do we solve it, launch it, tell the story in a compelling way?

Have you ever represented an artist or designer? If so, what was your approach, successes, challenges, etc.
I'm currently working with Paper Punk, a new building toy for "kids from 6-99." The founder, the brilliantly creative Grace Hawthorne, teaches at the Design School at Stanford. We are just launching the product, which is always a challenge. There is a lot of noise out there and we have to find the outlets that will care with the audiences WE care about.

What are some proven internet strategies for artists / small businesses?
If you are going to hire PR professional, be very clear on what your expectations are - in order of priority. Everyone wants to get into Oprah and Martha Stewart magazines, which is fine, but you have to know what they cover and when to do that.  Sending out samples blindly without the story-behind-it to tell is, well, a waste of everyone's time.

Is sending samples to an editor ever effective?
Yes, if you are very, very targeted and know exactly why you are pitching THAT specific editor.

Do you have tips on how to get press releases into print?
Press releases are really just a tool. But if you don't have anything to say, except "here we are," then chances are you will not get coverage.

Are there any great ways/tricks to getting into magazine gift guides?
YES. If you know someone that has worked them in the past, hire THEM, because they know what works. If not, buy all the magazines or look at all the sites that have gift guides and be familiar with what their criteria is. Pitching for gift guides starts in August!

Does anyone use physical press kits anymore, or is that a thing of the past? 
Not really. For artists/craftspeople, the product itself is the press kit. A sample, along with simple press materials is all you need.  Don't waste space in the box with swag or messy packing materials.

Any tricks or secrets to getting someone interested in your work and your story? 
Artists and craftspeople are first and foremost people and you might have more luck telling the story of YOU with the product as your love, your obsession, your compulsion.  You can pitch that feature story to the feature section of your local paper more than you can pitch the product.  Example from the book world. Pam's brother Tom Corwin, wrote an unusual book that chronicles the life if his dog.  The Marin Independent Journal, the local paper in his hometown, did a big feature on Tom and how the book came to be. It wasn't a book review, but a full color spread on Tom that used the book as the "hook."  It did more for the publicity of the book than a three sentence mention in the book section could have done.

Marlene Saritzky
MSS Associates (under construction)