The Funny Thing About The Media

The media never ceases to amaze me. In my 15 years in the PR business, I am still amazed at the impact news outlets have in influencing its audience. Moreover, it is still quite enlightening to see how the press decides what to cover in their news outlets. I don’t typically cite clients when I’m wearing my PRBC blogger hat on, but I’m making an exception with this one to share firsthand experience on what I’ve learned from rolling out a publicity campaign for a little bake shop in the Philadelphia area called Cupcakes Gourmet

Our firm came up with the idea of the $55,000 sparkling red velvet cupcake, which features an 8-carat diamond ring on top of the sweet cupcake. Up to this point, it has garnered news coverage in national outlets like CNN, Washington Post, Huffington Post, etc.  It was even mentioned on the Today Show. To keep this blog post simple and to avoid making you deaf from tooting our own horn, here are the takeaways from this delicious campaign:

Don’t Set Limits on the Media — When we decided to execute on the idea, we basically said we’d be happy to secure local Philadelphia coverage since it is the market we were trying to hit. It is after all a local cupcakes shop with three stores in the area. As expected, we secured the local news to cover it. What we were surprised by was the interest from outlets outside the Philadelphia-area. When the local CBS in Philly covered the announcement, we never expected CNN to carry the segment.  After all, this special offer was only available in-store and not online. Additionally, outlets like the Baltimore Sun and other local media outside Philadelphia covered it. I even saw it air in the local CBS in Austin.

News Releases Still Serve a Purpose — Many experts who I believe have never pitched the media have been preaching the news release is dead. I think what they mean is that news releases that have no news value is dead. And in that sense I agree. I also understand how the news release has evolved to become a vehicle for Internet searches, but issuing out a release over the wire for simply this sake without thinking how editors will perceive it when it hits their email inboxes has had a negative effect for PR people. In this case, we supported the campaign with a wire distribution within the Philadelphia circuit. The end-result was news coverage across multiple markets. And to illustrate that the news release really isn’t dead, every news organization we proactively approached and the ones that simply reached out to us all asked for one thing–“please send me the release.”

Be Creative but Don’t Overcomplicate It — I’ve always believed in keeping things simple when conveying a message. If my 8 year old can’t understand it, then the message is too hard to understand. I’m obviously exaggerating here, but I’m talking about cupcakes not a new technology that has a million specs to analyze. We first thought of having the client make an entirely new cupcake for this campaign with exotic ingredients like edible diamond shavings to highlight that this is a grand cupcake. When the client said it would be too complicated to make, we backed off. To keep it simple, we decided to go with its most popular cupcake flavor – the red velvet – which was also a perfect flavor for Valentine’s Day. With all the competition for Valentine’s Day coverage, a red velvet cupcake alone would have been a snoozer for the press likewise if it were just a diamond ring. Put them together, you get media frenzy.

One Beauty Shot is Worth a Thousand Images — I’m all for having as much multi-media assets available especially when it comes to photos, videos, etc. In this case, we made a conscious decision of sharing one beauty shot to every media outlet that requested it. This ensured that the image used is identifiable and consistent across all platforms especially with a product like this one. If you Google Image Search, you’ll see what I mean. One image said it all. On a side note, we actually instagrammed it (yes, I’m using it as a verb.)

Are you curious to know what happened to the $55,000 sparkling red velvet cupcake?  Yes, it sold. And not to a local Philadelphia customer, but to a gentleman in Dallas. He bought it by phone like he was ordering pizza, and it wasn’t for a proposal, but for his wife. He obviously knows how to treat the love of his life. 8-carat diamond ring and red velvet cupcakes were shipped separately.

Joe Vasquez is the CEO of VASQ PR, a start-up firm he founded in 2010, when he left the bright lights of New York City for Austin. VASQ PR specializes in developing integrated PR and social media programs for clients in the restaurant, consumer technology, nonprofit and Internet sectors. You can follow him on Twitter @PRFlipside.

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  • Deb Trivitt

    When water temps at Omaha’s Fun Plex water park hit 95 degrees, the owner dumped ice into the pools. I thought maybe one local news outlet would cover the event, if we were lucky.  All 4 covered it and we had hits from more than 700 media outlets across the country and ESPN. Who knew?

    • That’s cool (literally). PR’s an art and a science. Thanks for commenting.

  • Marisa Vallbona

    Congratulations on your campaign! I couldn’t agree with your more that the news release is NOT dead. I send so many concise pitches to assignment desks and more times than not, they then ask for a news release. It helps the news desk write the final news story because the news release contains all the elements needed for the on-air story. A lot of these “pros” out there presenting on panels declaring the news release is dead, aren’t doing our job, and they aren’t in the field doing the reporter’s job, relying on the info we provide. Someone somewhere must have declared the news release is dead, somebody else heard it and thought it was a cool statement and it’s been wrongly perpetuated. The emperor has no clothes!

    • I agree with you 100%. I take issue with a few of my search engine marketing friends whenever they say I’ll get this news release out over the wire so it’s searchable not thinking that every news release actually hits an editor’s inbox. In turn, editors think it’s the PR people sending these non-newsworthy items and we end up getting the ire of the press. I wish there was some type of newsworthiness checklist on the wire distribution service side, but then they’ll lose a lot revenue. This is the world we live in today. 🙂

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