Developing A Unique Selling Point

How does your business stand out among your competitors? What makes you different? If you can’t quickly answer those questions, you may be starting or running a business without a unique selling point (USP).

There are plenty of businesses like grocery stores and big box retailers that provide similar products, so what makes them unique? A USP provides a company with the point of differentiation it needs to stand out from the crowd and is the foundation for a solid marketing and sales strategy. An effective USP doesn’t need to be long or cumbersome; it should simply contain a piece of information to entice customers to use or purchase your product over that of a competitor.Unique-Selling-Point

One of the best examples of a successful, nationally-recognizable unique selling point is the one Avis used for many years, “We try harder.” Avis was the second leading car rental company behind Hertz and decided to capitalize on its silver medal standing and showcase the fact they may be number two, but they try harder to provide their customers with a positive experience.

Another example is how Domino’s distinguished itself during the pizza wars. It promised customers “fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less or it’s free.” Competitors weren’t promising a free dinner, so this effective USP quickly differentiated the company from its competitors.  And, what about M&M’s touting the fact that their “chocolate melts in your mouth, not in your hands?” Not every delicious chocolate candy can make that selling point.

Unique selling points are important to your marketing strategy and there are a few critical things to consider when developing one for your company.

  1. What makes you different than your competitors?

Are you the lowest price (Ex: Walmart)? Do you provide luxury or the highest quality product (Ex: Neiman Marcus or Rolls Royce)? Do you provide a larger selection? Do you provide a better guarantee (Ex: Domino’s)?  Are you faster? Friendlier?

  1. Who are your customers?

To determine the unique selling point that will resonate with your target audience, you need a crystal clear understanding of to whom you are marketing. Start by analyzing demographics such as age, gender, income levels, location, etc., and also dive into their wants and needs.

  1. How do you match your unique selling point to your target audience?

This is the “what’s in it for me” question.  Your USP is basically the compelling reason your customer should use your product. Is it going to make their life happier, more efficient, easier?

Because I look for any opportunity to pay homage to my favorite city (Nashville), here are a few USPs developed by businesses headquartered in our community.

If you are a country music fan, why would you think twice about where to travel to see a show? Obviously, you want to go to a venue that was responsible for making the music you love famous.

We can all agree that cleaning the house isn’t fun. Sign me up for the vacuum that makes housework easier.

Two things that we can always use more of every single day are time and money. If Dollar General can save you some of both, isn’t it worth a trip?

Do you promote your company’s unique selling point? Do you have a favorite? Let me know.

 

Robin Embry is a vice president at Lovell Communications. You can view more of Robin’s blogs here. Connect with Robin at robin@lovell.com

Photo credit: Olala

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Beacon 6 Video: Ongoing Relationships

Lovell Communications CEO Paula Lovell facilitates a panel on the art of negotiation. Elizabeth Crook, CEO of Orchard Advisors provides insight on how to approach negotiation depending on your relationship, or future relationship, with that person.

http://bit.ly/1tc8vIF

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No Surprises Here: Journalists Still Value Newsworthiness Most

Implementing an effective media relations strategy requires understanding the needs and preferences of professional journalists, and staying abreast of how those needs and preferences are evolving. So I was interested to read the results of Business Wire’s 2014 Media Survey, which queried 300 North American journalists to determine the types of information and assets they need to effectively cover a story.

While more than 300 members of the media participated in the survey, 50.4% of media-relations-newsroom
respondents identified themselves as having been a member of the media for 25 years or longer, and 51.1% identified themselves as an editor or editorial staff member. That compared to just 4% who identified themselves as a blogger, and only 8.1% who identified themselves as having been a member of the media for five years or fewer.

So do the results skew more towards experienced, professional journalists? Likely so. Is that bad? Not yet, but with the ever-growing number of bloggers and citizen journalists, it will be interesting to compare this year’s results to those Business Wire may publish just five or 10 years from now.

But for now, let’s look at the insights this year’s survey provide to help communications professionals and organizations more effectively execute their media relations strategies.

The press release is still a valid – and valued – tool

  • Nearly 90% of responding journalists said they had used a press release within the last week with most reporters (62%) having used one in the past 24 hours at the time they were surveyed.
  • The most highly sought information in a release includes breaking news (77%), supporting facts (70%), interesting story angles (66%), quotable sources (52%), company background (50%) and trending industry topics (49%).

Read more about the study’s findings on the value of press releases in this recent blog by Lovell’s Robin Embry.

Multimedia elements help, but only if it’s really news

  • Almost a third of today’s journalists (31%) want communications professionals to provide supporting multimedia elements – logos, images, audio files or video files – with the press release and more than half (54%) are more likely to review a press release that includes multimedia than one that does not.
  • In regard to journalists’ preferences for multimedia elements, photographs lead the way at 73% followed by graphics (43%), infographics (32%) and video (27%) also favored. Business Wire reports that several journalists emphasized the fact that more importantly, the news must be relevant whether it contains multimedia or not.

Social media pitch? No, thank you.

  • It’s important to communicate with journalists in the manner they most prefer, and of journalists surveyed by Business Wire, email alerts (64%) and press releases (28%) are still the top two preferred methods by media for receiving news. Take note that – overwhelmingly – reporters rated social networks as their least favorite way to be pitched a story idea with Facebook least favored (90%), followed by Google+ (88%), Twitter (83%) and LinkedIn (75%).
  • Despite not wanting to receive pitches via social media, social networks are used as a research tool by 74% of journalists surveyed with approximately one-quarter (26%) using Twitter and 23% using LinkedIn.

Time to beef up your organization’s online newsroom

  • After an organizations main website (92%), the online newsroom is the foremost destination (77%) for journalists when they need to research an organization. And despite the growth of mobile, media primarily access online newsrooms from desktop computers (96%).
  • The most sought-after content in the online newsroom is press releases (88%), followed by media relations contact information (80%) following closely behind. Journalists prefer press releases in an HTML/text format (55%) over a PDF format (9%). Fact sheets (69%), images (63%), press kits (53%) and executive biographies (52%) round out the most frequently sought content.

How journalistic quality is judged has definitely changed

  • 52.6% of journalists surveyed said the number of page views is used to evaluate their stories and 41.6 percent said the level of social media activity (likes, tweets, sharing, email, etc.) on the story is used in its evaluation.

Would a survey of 300 writers with no more than 10 years of experience yield a different result? Likely so. But as long as we have traditional newsrooms left, the elder statesmen (and women) of the profession are likely – or hopefully – running them. So keep the results of Business Wire’s latest survey in mind and we’ll tune in same time, same place next year to monitor how media preferences evolve.

 

Dana Coleman is a Vice President at Lovell Communications. You can view more of Dana’s blogs here. Connect with Dana at Dana@lovell.com or @lovelldc

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Soaked in Success: Behind the Marketing Strategy of the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS

If your Facebook news feed looks anything like mine lately, it’s probably full of videos of your friends participating in the #IceBucketChallenge. The Ice Bucket Challenge is a campaign to raise awareness for Lou Gehrig’s disease, which is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord, and there is currently no cure.

The campaign was started by a 28-year old man in Massachusetts who was diagnosed withice-bucket-challege the disease in 2012. He challenged his friends to either dunk a bucket of ice cold water on their heads and post the video to social media and donate $10 to ALS research, or donate $100 if they didn’t want to participate. It caught fire online and now the challenge has taken on a life of its own.

In a press release yesterday, “The ALS Association has received $31.5 million in donations compared to $1.9 million during the same time period last year (July 29 to August 20).”

Since the campaign started in July it has become a viral phenomenon that many celebrities and world leaders have participated in including, George Bush, Bill Gates, Jennifer Lopez, Oprah, Justin Timberlake, and many more. While reading about the buzz generated from the campaign, I came across this HealthLeaders article about three things it can teach hospital marketers. Not only is this relevant to hospital marketers, but anyone looking to incorporate a social media fundraiser in their marketing strategy can benefit from this lesson. Five ways the Ice Bucket Challenge applies to your marketing strategy:

  1. Make it personal— People are more likely to participate if you include a personal story or reason for the cause. The Ice Bucket Challenge directly calls out people so they feel an obligation to accept in some way.
  1. Make it relevant— Include a hashtag that relates to your cause. This increases brand awareness, and makes it easy to track the buzz. A good hashtag should include your organization/company name in some form, be easy to remember, and relate specifically to your campaign. #ALSicebucketchallenge is the perfect example.
  1. Include a Call to Action— After your hashtag is created, polish off your campaign with a call-to-action. The Ice Bucket Challenge uses two calls to actions, 1) dump a bucket of ice over your head and pay $10 to the cause, or don’t and pay $100, and 2) Nominate other friends to keep the challenge going. Think about the end goal in your campaign. What do you want people to do? Donate? Sign up for something? Join? Whatever it is, that should be what you center your call-to-action around.
  1. Share, Share, Share— That was the easy thing about this campaign, because it was personal, relevant and included a call to action, everyone wanted to share
    their video. If you do all the above, sharing is the fun part. Although the Ice Bucket Challenge seems to only be a Facebook campaign, consider sharing your campaign over multiple platforms to increase engagement and awareness with different groups or followers.
  1. Track and analyze results— Every few days the ALS Association has put out press releases announcing the amount donated in comparison to last year’s donations. Showing your success fuels more people to continue with the campaign. Everyone wants to be a part of something great. Make sure you measure the progress of your campaign multiple times, as you may have to adjust along the way.

If you haven’t been nominated to partake in the challenge yet, surely you’re next. Yesterday I was nominated by a friend for the challenge, check out my Ice Bucket Challenge video, and consider this my challenge to you—you have 24 hours!

 

 

Katelyn Fish is an Account Executive at Lovell Communications. You can view more of Katelyn’s blogs here. Connect with Katelyn at Katelyn@lovell.com, or @katelynfish.

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Breached: Tips for Rebuilding Trust After a HIPAA Violation

It finally happened. After years of helping hospitals communicate with patients about data breaches, I recently found myself on the receiving end of one of those letters. The language was factual, yet cold. I was advised to review my credit report and bank accounts carefully and given some oh-so-helpful tips to help keep my information safe (wait, wasn’t that their job?)

Frustrating? Yes. But I’m hardly alone. With more than 90 hipaa-violationpercent of hospitals reporting at least one data breach in the past two years, more patients are learning their personal information isn’t as safe as they thought. While data breaches at big box stores and restaurants may grab more headlines, healthcare breaches cut deeper. Fair or not, doctors and hospitals are held to a higher standard, which makes communication all the more important.

Here are a few simple – yet often overlooked –tips providers can use to minimize fallout when communicating a breach:

Act Fast – While providers have 60-days to notify patients and media of a breach, waiting until the last minute only invites questions. Make sure a communications representative has a seat at the table from the beginning – and begin sharing information as soon as you have all of the facts.

Transparency Is Key – Be upfront. Provide patients with as much information as you are able so they can make informed decisions. While it may feel counterintuitive to share the details of a negative event, transparency breeds trust and often reduces the amount of follow-up required.  The same approach applies to media notification when necessary.

Be Human – Patient notices often feel sterile and devoid of emotion – not exactly what most people expect when communicating with their healthcare provider. While the breach notification rule requires the inclusion of specific information, the letter shouldn’t read like a legal document. Use plain English to let patients know that you value their trust and take the matter seriously.

Be Prepared – Designate a single point of contact to handle calls from concerned patients and make sure those calls are returned promptly. Frontline employees, physicians and leaders should be provided with general talking points and trained on where to refer patients with specific questions. Also consider developing a media statement to use if questions arise – even when external notice is not required.

While there’s no way to completely soften the blow of bad news, good communication can go a long way in preserving hard-won trust.

 

Rebecca Kirkham is the Senior Vice President at Lovell Communications. You can view more of Rebecca’s blogs here. Connect with Rebecca at Rebecca@lovell.com

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Marketing to Seniors? 10 Tips for Reaching an Older Patient Demographic

Hospital marketers – like all marketers – can be distracted by the latest whiz bang promotional tool. But new toys can often turn off older patients, who represent an important piece of the patient mix pie for most hospitals.  Your new Instagram campaign or GoPro giveaway may leave 65+ set cold.  Here’s a handful of tried-and-true seniors marketing ideas – along with a few newsenior-marketing tips thrown in.

1) Newspapers.  Older Americans are one of the few demographic groups who are holding onto the daily print edition. The Pew Research Journalism Project tracked newspaper readership by reader age and found that while readership continues to decline across all age groups, the trend is mildest among seniors, who remain the group most likely to have read a paper in the last day.

2) Senior focused publications.  Many communities have a local (or syndicated with local content added) publication for seniors, and distribution racks are typically located in senior-centric locations like activity centers and physician offices.

3) Prescription bags.  Prescribed medication use by seniors is significant – and in many cases, recurrent.  When it’s available, Rx bags can provide an interesting unusual way of getting a message in front of this audience (and at a time when they likely have their glasses on).

4) Coupon mailers or weekly advertisers.  Seniors are often accomplished deal finders and coupon clippers.  Thrifty publications can be a great placement for a traditional ad – even better for bounce backs.Remember that the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008 (MIPPA) placed certain restrictions on marketing to Medicare beneficiaries, especially for managed care organizations and Medicare Advantage plan sponsors, so be careful about promotions or cross promotions that may trip the regs.

5) Social media.  Gramma’s on Facebook!  Forbes reported last year that the 74-plus demographic is the fastest growing demographic among social networks.

6) Online. Google ads can be targeted to senior-leaning opportunities, and websites like Lumosity.com and the many ‘senior mingle’ websites out there (including the AARP’s own dating site) are a direct line the older community.

7) Cable. Seniors watch TV. USNews in 2012 reported that American retirees engage in an average of 4.2 hours of TV-viewing each day, almost twice the all-age average, and people age 75 and older watch more TV than any other age group. Ever since Wilford Brimley began his fireside chats with Medicare beneficiaries about diabetes supplies, healthcare marketers have turned to TV to reach the senior market.

8) Sponsorships and events.  Most seniors have more free time than younger demographic groups who are more likely to have full-time jobs or obligations to young children.  In addition to health fairs and senior events, consider reaching seniors through arts and cultural events like concerts, plays, movie theatres, or at libraries.

9) Radio. Seniors still listen to broadcast (and many are listening online).  Talk radio and “oldies” stations (which are starting to sound frighteningly like ‘70s stations, by my standards) turn out favorably in Nielsen and Arbitron measurements.

10) Church. ABC news reports that church attendance is highest among seniors, with 60% of the 65+ crowd reporting they attend every week. The numbers are even higher in the South and among republicans. Bulletin ads, picnic sponsorships and “coffee with a doc” events can help tap into this audience.

So the next time you allocate hospital marketing dollars for graffiti sidewalk ads or college sports events, remember who is most often in your facility and who helps pay the bills.

marketing-to-seniors

Rosemary Plorin is president of Lovell Communications.  You can view more of her blog posts here. Connect with her at rosemary@lovell.com or @plorin.  

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How to Survive (and Succeed) as an Introvert in Public Relations

It was my biggest critique growing up. “Speak up, Jacq!” I heard it from my high school volleyball coach, my parents at the dinner table and my first boss. For years, I struggled to shout my name louder in sports practices and felt swallowed up during group gatherings. I was labeled the “quiet girl,” or worse, “stuck up.”

A few years ago, I found an accurate description for myself: introvert. I researched it extensively, had several ‘aha!’ moments, and I learned to embrace this trait. I gained significant confidence in who I was and better utilized my strengths. After successfully navigating through many interviews, and landing a great job at Lovell, I am here to attest that public relations can be an incredible industry for introverted professionals.

Maybe you’re wondering why I chose this profession. First, I love to write. Then introvert-public-relationsin college, I stumbled upon a few marketing classes and was hooked. When I learned that public relations was roughly a combination of writing and marketing, I made an immediate decision. Additionally, working in public relations does not mean you “love people.” (And if you want to work at Lovell, you better make sure you don’t say that in your interview!)

While I’m fairly new to the profession, I am already well aware that introverts represent a minority in the public relations field. But, as my colleague Rebecca Kirkham proved in her blog “Introvert Power,” introverts are not a liability in the communications field, they are an asset.

Introverted does not mean antisocial, shy or insecure. We have as much leadership capability as our extrovert counterparts, we just tend to take more time for thoughtful responses. Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts and TEDTalk lecturer, discusses how approximately four in 10 top executives are introverted, including some of history’s greatest leaders and icons: Mahatma Ghandi, Eleanor Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, Bill Gates and Audrey Hepburn.

Although this profession pushes me out of my comfort zone, I embrace the challenges and am also happy to know I am surrounded by many successful, introverted PR pros. These are a few tips I have relied on to help me excel in the industry as an introvert:

  • Form one-on-one relationships with coworkers and clients. As Catherine Fisher said, large group settings make it difficult for introverts to show off our personality and our opinions. Forming personal relationships helps us feel more confident in speaking out and ensures the other people know how much you have to offer.
  • Focus on your strengths. For me, it’s writing. Coincidentally, the best feedback I have received thus far has been about a blog post.
  • Have confidence in what you bring to the table. Know you are an asset and know why. This will help you feel secure in a company and in your role working with a client.
  • Remember that participating in social tasks and speaking opportunities are blessings in disguise. These provide great opportunities for you to form better relationships with coworkers and clients, and they also allow you to rise to the occasion and prove yourself.
  • Take time to close your door. If you do not have a door, take a solo lunch. Introverts require alone time to regain energy. Taking time each day to regroup will make you more productive. After you do, though, open the door (literally and metaphorically speaking) and welcome in the conversation.

Do you have any more tips for introverts? Do you have experience with introverted colleagues or clients? Share with us below!

 

Jacqueline Miller is an Administrative Assistant at Lovell Communications. You can view more of Jacqueline’s blogs here. Connect with Jacqueline at Jacqueline@lovell.com, or @JacqMills28

Photo cred: Michael Yip

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Why I Love Healthcare Marketing (And You Should, Too!)

As a (semi) recent college grad who studied sports broadcast communications, I get a lot of people asking me why I chose to focus on healthcare marketing instead of diving into the sports world. I would love to give you my life story but I am going stick with why I love healthcare (and you should, too!)

The short of it is that I had an internship junior year at The Rehab Documentation laptop and stethoscopeCompany (ReDoc) and worked under one of the co-creators of WebMD. That summer drew me to healthcare for good. Here are a few reasons why I’ve fallen in love with the field (and you could, too!):

You’re always on your toes: One of my favorite classes in college was crisis communication. At Lovell Communications we work on crises for clients, and in the healthcare field those types of situations come up often.

Learning and Growing: The opportunity to grow is around every corner, providing you the chance to become the best version of yourself.  I have always thought all things health related were wildly interesting. I constantly watch documentaries, read books – anything to find out more about the new health trends. Working in the healthcare field — especially just starting out — I have learned an immense amount about health topics, but what I find the most interesting is watching my superiors learn and grow as new clients are added and new projects come along. We are always teaching and learning from each other, showing that even the most experienced expert can be better.

Endless Opportunities: When most people think healthcare they think physicians and hospitals. And while healthcare public relations deals a great amount with those areas, I have had the opportunity to work on vastly different projects. From announcing the oldest mother to have her own child through IVF to beginning to work on an educational healthcare TV series to throwing baby showers for corporations, I am never bored when it comes to the project work in this field.

In the end – you’re helping someone: There is nothing that I find more fulfilling than helping people. The healthcare field lends itself to always helping someone in need. Yes, I realize it might  seem odd to considering the job of developing a marketing plan for a hospital or brainstorming a name for a new health App, as a way to help people.  But I love playing a role in helping educate people about their healthcare and the choices they can make.  It’s called healthcare marketing. .

 

Leslie Raney is an Assistant Account Executive at Lovell Communications. You can view more of Leslie’s blogs here. Connect with Leslie at leslie@lovell.com, or @lesliedr.

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BuzzFeed Reminds PR Pros Plagiarism Still Alive and Well

Just as the New York Time’s Jayson Blair episode begins to fade from memory, this week we’re reminded that plagiarism is still very much alive and well. BuzzFeed writer and editor Benny Johnson was fired after a review determined he had committed plagiarism and incorrectly attributed information in more than 40 of his posts for the online news site, according to a written apology from the editor-in-chief.

Talking Points Memo (TPM) outlines the incident in a recent post, and while this buzzfeed-plagiarismoccurrence may not rise to the level of Blair, who also fabricated sources and datelines, it still begs the question: Why do writers keep doing this?

A May 2014 PlagiarismToday post (yes, there’s a whole blog site devoted to bringing awareness to the epidemic of plagiarism) sites several reasons for an increase in plagiarism scandals, including a combination of decreased staff in newsrooms across the country, less oversight from equally overworked editors and “increased cross-pollination” or stories that appear in multiple publications through content sharing.

So what are some steps we can take in the public relations sector to avoid making these same mistakes?

  • Have confidence in your writing. Sometimes young PR professionals, and PR veterans too, can find themselves with a lack of confidence in their writing. PlagiarismToday says there are many different reasons smart people plagiarize, including struggling with their writing skills or not enjoying the task in general.
  • Take a break. Don’t overtax your thinking muscles. Taking a break from intense, prolonged periods of focusing on a single task has been shown to increase productivity and performance.
  • Ask for help. This goes hand-in-hand with having confidence in your writing abilities. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help from a senior level colleague or someone who is not closely associated with the project you’re working on. Often those are the individuals who can spot an error or suggest a new approach to your writing project.
  • Pay attention to other people’s work. You may find yourself in the position of reviewing others work. Especially in the world of healthcare marketing where data is abundant, it’s important to pay attention when someone is listing statistics, stating facts or if what you’re reading just sounds familiar. Unless your colleague is the subject matter expert on what they’re writing, facts, figures and quotes need to be sited and attributed.

What do you think about the continuing trend of plagiarism and how we can avoid these mistakes?

 

Amanda Anderson is a Senior Account Supervisor at Lovell Communications. You can view more of Amanda’s blogs at http://lovell.com/author/amanda-anderson/. Connect with Amanda at amanda@lovell.com or @maynordanderson

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Reporter Gets it Wrong? What’s a Public Relations Pro to do?

Neither journalism nor media relations are exact sciences. Both have a lot of room for human error, and errors do happen. Despite the best efforts of reporters and their sources, sometimes the final story contains mistakes.

I’ve been on both sides of this issue, as a reporter trying hard to achieve 100 percent reporter-mistakeaccuracy and as a public relations professional poring over every detail of a story to ensure accuracy. Those experiences have taught me a few things about how to achieve a favorable resolution when you spot an error in a news story. Here are a few tips:

1. Answer honestly: Is there really an error? Does the story say your company had revenue of $10 million last year when the number was actually $100 million? Or are you unhappy with the tone of an article or the way something was characterized? This is an important distinction that should influence if and how you approach the reporter.

2. If there’s an error, don’t let it slide. If you’re looking at a factual error that doesn’t seem to have a big impact, you may be tempted to say, “Oh well,” and let it slide. Resist the urge. If you don’t speak up, that error could reappear the next time the reporter writes about you. In my reporter days, I once had a public relations professional call me about the fourth story in a series of articles I had been writing about her organization, furious that I was using a certain “incorrect” statistic—the same statistic I had been using since story No. 1 appeared months prior. That’s not an easy problem to fix, for either party.

3. Contact the reporter right away. Pick up the phone and give the reporter a call as soon as possible. Explain the mistake and ask politely ask if he or she can make a correction. Today, that often means a quick fix in an online news story—and the faster the better, so fewer readers are exposed to the wrong information. If there isn’t an error, but you’re unhappy with some aspect of the article, calmly make your case and see if the reporter would be willing to make a few tweaks to make the article more balanced/accurate/complete.

4. Pick your battles. Sometimes a reporter will be apologetic, easy to work with, and will happily edit a story. Sometimes the reporter will disagree with your argument and resist making changes. If the latter happens, it’s important to think carefully about whether it’s worthwhile to escalate your complaint to the reporter’s editor. On the one hand, you certainly don’t want incorrect or potentially negative information available to the public. On the other hand, if the issue is small, you may risk damaging your relationship with the reporter or media outlet by pushing too hard.

Despite our best efforts, nobody gets it right all thetime. With these tips, you should be better equipped to respond when you spot an error in a news story.

 

Erin George is a Senior Account Supervisor at Lovell Communications. You can view more of Erin’s blogs at http://lovell.com/author/erin-lawley. Connect with Erin at erin@lovell.com or @ErinLawley.

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