Here’s The Situation… Public relations (PR) is described by Wikipedia as “the practice of managing the spread of information between an individual or an organization (such as a business, government agency, or a nonprofit organization) and the public.” If you are an author or entrepreneur in the publishing industry, PR is an integral part of getting the word out about yourself, your book or business, and your brand.
The Situation Room with Michelle Cuttino sat down with Michelby “Coco” Whitehead whose Chocolate PR firm is “Adding Flavor to the Bland & Making Bitter Situations Sweet.”
Michelle: Please tell us a little about yourself.
Coco: A Louisiana native, I am a chocolate girl-wonder who loves all things media such as public relations, broadcast journalism, writing, and creative consulting. I am also a speaker who focuses on empowering younger girls and single women entrepreneurs.
Michelle: The name of your PR firm is Chocolate PR. Where did you come up with that name?
Coco: Great question! Like the slogan says, we add flavor to the bland and make bitter situations sweet. That means we specialize in image consulting and crisis management. Moreover, my target audience is women and studies show that women love indulging in chocolate. Research says that chocolate makes us happy, and ultimately that is my goal with every client. So, as you can see, there is a method to my sweet madness!
Michelle: Why did you decide to enter the public relations field?
Coco: I decided to enter this field very early in life. Jem & The Holograms had something to do with it! Someone was always doing a red carpet event or trying to publicize a new song, or handling a vicious, rumor-filled scandal started by The Misfits. In this industry there is never a dull moment. I don’t care what niche you focus on in PR; something is always happening and the same practices need to be applied. For example, if a client is running for mayor, you will spend just as much time polishing his image as you would for someone who just won American Idol.
Michelle: In your opinion, what is the biggest misconception when it comes to publicity versus marketing?
Coco: Thank you for asking this. Publicity is free and marketing costs money. That’s number one. Let me break it down: Of course you will pay your publicist for his or her expertise to secure interviews and media tours for you, but those media opportunities are FREE. You are paying for the service of the PR professional—all the press releases, phone call follow-ups, and mountain-moving he or she does on your behalf to make the interview happen for your brand. Marketing consists of purchasing advertising and such. If you want an interview in Essence magazine that talks about your new movie, that won’t cost you a cent because that is publicity. However, to advertise your movie in Essence will cost you whatever the rate is of the ad size you desire.
Michelle: What services do you provide as a public relations specialist?
Coco: We offer publicity services, social media services, branding services, blogging services, and so much more at getchocolatepr.com.
Michelle: On average, when working with new clients, how long does it take for an effective media campaign to garner results?
Coco: Let me give this disclaimer: PR is not an overnight pill or potion that you can swallow to become rich and famous. It takes work to create a successful, authentic campaign. At minimum, three months is a realistic time frame.
Michelle: How would one seek your assistance? What all would you require from them?
Coco: Each client has different needs, so I prefer for him or her to simply contact me and go from there.
Michelle: Many people are confused when it comes to communicating with different media outlets. Can you tell us what a press release is?
Coco: A press release is a written communication sent to members of the media for the purpose of announcing something that is newsworthy, or of value, to its audience. It should provide reporters with the basic information needed to develop a feature story.
Michelle: What should one include in a media/press kit?
Coco: A media kit, or press kit, is a packaged set of promotional materials, such as photographs and background information for distribution to the media before the release of a new product or upcoming event. Because time is of the essence, many PR professionals distribute EPKs, or electronic press kits for their clients. This is usually a PDF.
Michelle: What exactly is branding and how important is it to a business and/or personality?
Coco: Branding is the overall packaging of a business or personality. That packaging includes the physical image as well as it’s perception of how well it does what it claims it does. Your website, business card, out-of-office reply, voicemail greeting, tag line, attire, etc. is a part of your brand. Even the way you post on social media, be it your personal or business page. Branding is very important because it speaks for you when you’re not in the room.
Michelle: What is crisis management, and how do you help weather the storm?
Coco: Crisis management entails just what the term states—managing a crisis. Here’s an example: Remember when footage of Solange going Mike Tyson on her brother-in-law in the elevator went viral? That was the crisis. The statement Beyonce put out about a week later to diffuse the incident was the management of it. I could elaborate on how the whole situation was a possible publicity stunt, but I won’t!
Michelle: Why would someone require your services? Can’t they do all of the above for themselves?
Coco: There are some do-it-yourself tactics, but they would still have to be taught by a pro. For example, a good press release will take more than just using correct grammar. It has to be crafted in a certain manner or editors and talent coordinators will dismiss it quickly.
Michelle: What advice can you give to someone looking to market themselves, or their business, effectively?
Coco: Of course, you have to believe in yourself and your brand. But in all your believing, make sure that you are bringing something to your industry that people NEED. If you cannot solve your target audience’s problem or enhance their experience in some way, then guess what? You don’t have an audience to take interest in what you’re doing, which equals little or bad publicity and no sales.
Michelle: Please tell our readers how to contact and/or follow you.
Coco: It has been a pleasure sharing my time with all the readers. For more Coco, visit Chocolate PR.