Friday, June 19, 2009

This Blog is Moving...

...over to WordPress.
Please stop over and say, "Hi."

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Coverage of the MotoGP race from Mugello, Italy

I'd like to give a big thanks to Rob from for allowing me to cover this past weekend's Gran Premio d’Italia Alice from Mugello, Italy. My coverage can be found at

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

PR Perspective: Standing Out in the Show Crowd

If you’ve been working in public relations for more than a few years, especially if you came into the industry as a junior AE in the agency sector, you’ve undoubtedly put in your fair share of hours on the event floor. Although trade shows in some industries are experiencing a rapid decline in both attendees and exhibitors, they can still be a valuable weapon in your marketing arsenal. Although, for the most part, the marketing team proper may see trade shows and other events as tried-and-true lead-generation methods, they’re also one of the best ways to meet new media contacts face to face, strengthen current relationships and, most importantly, land some key media coverage now.

Even though the number of trade exhibitors has begun to dwindle, one thing remains the same: There will still be fierce competition to win the attention of the increasingly smaller corps of overworked, thinly stretched media professionals covering these events. Due to this year’s trade show reports across a range of industries, it is obvious that a large portion of exhibiting companies have cut back on the number of shows they’re attending and reduced their support staff at the shows they do choose to attend. On the same note, media organizations are cutting back on the staff they’re sending to cover the shows. Editors and writers are now finding themselves covering twice the space in half the time. So, in an attempt to make their lives easier and to increase our chances of capturing their fleeting attention, I’ve put together a few suggestions for increasing your chances of gaining positive media coverage in a crowded atmosphere.

Take advantage of the pre-registered media list.

Seems like common sense, right? Well, you’d be surprised at how many PR reps fail to take full of advantage of a show’s media list. You’d be even more surprised at how many PR reps don’t even know it’s available. What you probably won’t be surprised to learn though is how many PR reps go about ineffectively using - or blatantly abusing - the pre-registered media list. Please do not mass email your latest press release to the media list every two weeks in the months leading up to a show. Also, never distribute a pre-show press release with the headline “Company X to Exhibit at So-and-So Trade Show.” Anyone can pick up an exhibitor list and find that information. If you’re going to issue a press release, at least make sure it’s about a newsworthy subject. How about this approach: instead of blasting out a press release to everyone on the list, take the time to craft a nice letter to your key contacts. It doesn’t have to be a release. Include a map to your booth, perhaps. A recap of what your company has been working on. What products you’ll be showing. If you’re hosting a cocktail party or other after-hours event, forgo the email and instead send out some hard-copy invitations. If you’re hosting a press conference, send out invitations early enough so that you’re the first on the schedule.

Schedule a press conference – If your news is press conference worthy.

A new product launch is news, but it’s often not press-conference-worthy news. If you’re considering calling a press conference to announce a new product, now is the time for you to play devil’s advocate. Make sure you’re certain that a press conference is the proper forum for your latest announcement. If you’re not 100%, don’t schedule one. You want to be remembered by your target media, but you don’t want to be remembered as the guy who calls unnecessary press conferences. Doing so will not only guarantee you won’t get any coverage this time, but even the most story-strapped writers will think twice about attending one of your pressers in the future. And remember, free food & booze does not make up for the lack of a story. Make sure you have something new, something big and something worth writing about. If you don’t have the next big thing to announce, but you still want journalists’ undivided attention, there are other ways to host smaller, informal events. Hosting a media tour at your exhibit one hour before the opening bell is a great way to give your top five-10 writers semi-exclusive access to what’s new. It’s an event that’s rarely used by tradeshow exhibitors and I’ve found that this approach often has the tendency to become an impromptu industry brainstorm that can help your company’s strategy as well bring about story ideas.

Don’t make it about you. Make it about them.

OK, we all know about the elevator pitch. We also know how important a journalist’s time is, especially on the tight schedule I mentioned above. Logic and common practice would tell us that we need to sink the shot as soon as an editor approaches our booth. Not so in this case. A trade show-covering journalist gets hundreds of pitches whizzed at him throughout an event weekend. Anyone taking this kind of assault naturally begins to build up defenses. Catch your target off guard. Slow down the pace for once. Now is a great time to build a relationship, especially if you’re one of the few who are attempting such an approach. If you know the journalist, ask about the family or about a shared interest. If you’re not familiar, ask what stories he’s currently working on. Ask about him some of the other interesting products/companies he’s seen at the show so far. Ask HIM what cool things YOU should be checking out instead of simply telling him why he should be interested in your widget. Not only will he feel like he’s found a safe place to catch his breath, but he might also let you in on some industry buzz that you may have missed out on.

Lighten the load – literally.

The days of overstuffed-folder press kits are over. Fortunately for you, a lot of companies have yet to receive that memo. If you need an easy way to identify media professionals at the next trade show you attend, look for the people carrying ever-growing stacks of hard-copy press kits. Don’t be that guy. Consolidate your press kit into an electronic version. CDs are great. Flash drives are even better. Load them up with whatever will fit, and let your editorial contacts take from them what they need. Include text and PDF versions of your press materials, photos, logos and video, and don’t forget to include a links page with your website social media URLs. Arrange everything in an easy-to-use format, and place the flash drive and your business card (with on-site contact information) in a small, custom-sized plastic zipper bag and hand it to the journalists as you’re talking to them. I promise you’ll receive more than a few thanks for your consideration.

Follow up.

Not incessantly. Not with “Have you decided to do a piece on my company/product/etc?” A simple, quick response is all you need to keep your brand top of mind. For extra effect, get out the pen and paper again, and work on your handwriting. “Thank you for taking the time...” “I appreciate your interest...” Write with empathy. “I know you’re busy recovering from the show...” Now isn’t the time to hard pitch, but it is the time to solidify your position as an industry expert and a reliable, understanding resource.

Maintain relationships with customers like you do with your media contacts.

Your relationships with your trade media are similar to but different than your relationships with your consumer media. In general, trade tends to be more of a two-way street. They need the story ideas as much as you’d like to get the information out, but don’t simply settle on that exchange. An honest trade-pitching flack will tell you it’s really no problem getting new product releases printed – nay pasted – in an industry pub, but the key is taking your coverage to the next level. Your press kit and pitching efforts should contain at least three story ideas for every piece of product information, and an easy way to make this happen is to maintain contact with your most evangelical customers. An insider PR guy can do this more easily than a hired agency gun, but these efforts should be clearly included in your marketing plan, even if you’re pitching it to a client. Once you’ve established a network of reliable customers, maintain regular contact to collect story ideas and case studies that you may then relay to your media contacts as needed. For more information on cultivating customer relationships, please check out my previous post, “Making Brand Evangelism Work for You.

I will be exhibiting with my company, ShopBot, Inc., at the 2009 Bay Area Maker Faire, May 29-31 in San Mateo, CA. I will also be exhibiting at the 2009 Association of Woodworking and Furnishings Suppliers Fair, July 15-18 in Las Vegas, NV, where I will be presenting the “Strategic Brand Positioning” seminar (yes, I will be discussing social media) and participating in the “Marketing Lean and Green” panel discussion.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Raleigh Local Music

I just created the blog, Raleigh Local Music, out of my frustration due to the lack of support for original, hard-working local music in the Triangle. Stay tuned for more information

Third Friday Durham at Kung Fu Tattoo

On Friday, May 15, Kung Fu Tattoo hosted its first ever Third Friday Durham art exhibition. The event showcased the works of local artists Jason Strutz and Franco. Kung Fu Tattoo was the first stop on the Third Friday route, which winds its way through Downtown Durham and the surrounding vicinity. Third Friday events are free to the public and showcase the Bull City's cultural scene. Kung Fu will host its next Third Friday Durham event on June 19.

Following is a video highlighting Friday's event. More than 50 visitors came and went throughout the evening, enjoying refreshments, the work of some of Durham's talented artists, and many got a chance to speak with the artists themselves to discover where they get their inspiration and learn their thoughts on the blossoming Durham art scene.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Downfall makes the 96 Rock Garage Band contest semifinals

In what turned into a mad rush to prep three songs - yeah three - 96 Rock let us know on Saturday that we had been selected to the 96 Rock Garage Band contest semifinals. They then informed us on Monday (yesterday) that the semis will be held on Wednesday (tomorrow) at the Carolina Ale House in Cary. We were told that there would be three bands performing form 8-11, so we figured we had six songs or so to perform. That would give us enough time to set up, play and set down. Nope. We were then informed that we'd be allowed to perform three songs. That's it. Under normal circumstances, meeting at the studio, loading equipment, driving to a venue, loading in, playing three songs, loading out, driving back to the studio and unloading - all for an unpaid gig - would have been out of the question; however, 96 Rock has provided us with some incentive.

The 96 Rock Garage Band contest asked Triangle-area rock n roll bands to submit demos. From those submissions, nine bands were selected by 96 Rock staff & area music "people" as semifinalists. For each the next three weeks, three bands will perform a three-song set at one of the area Carolina Ale Houses. The three finalists - one from each night - will battle it out for the finals during a show at the Lincoln Theater. One winning band will be chosen that night, and the winners will receive eight hours of studio time at Osceola Music, $125 worth of Carolina Ale House gift certificates, $500 worth of music gear and - best of all - an opening slot at one of this summer's Raleigh Downtown Live shows.

If you have some free time tomorrow night, come check out the show from 8-11 at Cary's Carolina Ale House and show your support for Downfall.

As always, please check out are music and tell your friends - Downfall on MySpace Music.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Penguins fan in Canes country

Well, it’s finally here; the NHL Eastern Conference finals. And, in an exact chain of events, the match up will be between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Carolina Hurricanes. I’m a Pittsburgher - born and raised - and therefore, by definition, an unwavering Penguins fan. As luck would have it, life has me currently residing in the home of the ‘Canes, Raleigh North Carolina. In all sincerity though, if I had to be living in the city of the enemy for any part of any sports playoffs, I’d probably pick the one I’m in. Suicide would be a better option than living in Philadelphia or Manhattan during a Pens/Flyer or Pens/Rangers series. Even Boston would be hard to handle. But I’m here in the heart of the Triangle, and it’s really not such a bad place to be.

I attended the very first Carolina Hurricanes home game. It was October 1997, and the Canes opened their inaugural season at the Greensboro Coliseum against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Stationed at Fort Bragg, NC, I made the hour-long trip to Greensboro with two Army buddies who were also from Pennsylvania. The attendance for that first game was somewhere around 5,000 with 2/3 of the crowd proudly sporting Penguins gear. There was also a spattering of Whalers sweaters. The center-ice sponsor for that game was John Deere, and during the second intermission, Jeff Burton’s NASCAR racer was driven onto the ice. I remember looking at my buddy and saying, “This is never going to work.”

12 years does a lot for a team, and with the help of a Stanley Cup championship, the Canes have come into their own right as a serious hockey team, and – as a Raleighite for the past two years – I can honestly say their fans have come into their own as well. The handout at the first Canes game – along with the program – was a fold-out chart explaining the basic rules and the refs’ calls. Those first attendees didn’t know the difference between hooking and high-sticking, and explaining icing or – God help me – a two-line pass was an all-evening affair. Today, you’d be hard pressed to find a serious Hurricanes fan who can’t give you the stats of the leading goal scorers and assist men, not to mention his opinion on who belongs on whose line and the differences between the ways the Canes play the trap on each of their division rivals. Raleigh has slowly but surely (and I can’t say when it happened) become a hockey town.

It’s no Detroit or Philadelphia or Pittsburgh for that matter, but the Triangle has shed its Mayberry image – at least in the hockey world – and is proving that its team and its fans are the real deal. I even know a former Pittsburgh fan (or two) who now flies the storm warning flag from her vehicle, and I can’t help but think there’s some foul play at work when I look up and see Ronnie Francis’ number hanging from the rafters or stop and think that one reason Cam Ward has been en fuego this season is because he’s studying under the tutelage of the man who brought two Cups to Pittsburgh in the 90s. Even Bill Cowher - the guy who runs a vey close second only to Jesus Christ in the minds of Steel City residents - has been seen buddying it up to Paul Maurice. I guess if you’re going to model your hockey club after another great team, you might as well pick one with the same set of values and ideals as what you strive to become.

Tonight begins the NHL Eastern Conference finals (and how proud Mama Staal must be). While I can guarantee that none of my Penguins sweaters will be spending much time in the closet this series, I’ve also accepted the fact that my current circle of friends ensures I won’t be immersed in a sea of Black & Gold for most of this series. As I’ve become aware of twice already this season, I’ll also be a member of the minority at the RBC Center on Saturday and next Tuesday when I attend as a representative of the enemy.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Kung Fu Tattoo Hosts Its First Third Friday Event

Press Release from Kung Fu Tattoo re: Third Friday Durham

Kung Fu Tattoo Hosts Its First Third Friday Event

Durham, NC (May 5, 2009) – Kung Fu Tattoo, located at 1003 W. Chapel Hill St. in the heart of Durham, will host its first official Third Friday Durham event. The event is an exhibition of the works of local artists Jason Strutz and Luis Franco and takes place on May 15, 2009 from 7-10pm. Kung Fu Tattoo will be the first stop on the Third Friday route, which winds its way through Downtown Durham and the surrounding vicinity. Third Friday events are free to the public and showcase the Bull City’s cultural scene.

“We’re proud to be a part of this year’s Third Friday series,” said Kung Fu Tattoo owner Tim Lind. “We love the spirit of Durham and feel like hanging works done by local artists is a perfect way to celebrate that spirit.“

About the Artists:
Luis Franco's work is an illustration of American urban realism executed with a digital medium. Much of his work deals with class and race issues. Many of his thought-provoking images center around the iconic fist hair pick symbolizing the ‘70’s theme of peace, love and revolution. For more information, visit

Jason Strutz illustrates stories that do and do not exist. Both memories and nightmares come alive on his canvases. His works are more than art, but adventure by oil and acrylics. For more information, visit

About Kung Fu Tattoo:
Kung Fu Tattoo is the Triangle’s premier custom tattoo parlor and piercing studio. Kung Fu’s staff are dedicated, professional artists and piercers, committed to providing clients with the best in design, application and care of their tattoos and piercings. Kung Fu Tattoo strives to provide every client with truly one-of-a-kind work in a comfortable, unpretentious atmosphere. For more information, visit

About Third Friday Durham:
Third Friday Durham occurs each third Friday of the month from 6-ish to 9-ish. Art openings, exhibits, concerts, readings, dance, music, happenings- if we consider it culture in the Bull City, it's happening on some Third Friday in the general downtown-ish area. Durham - where "ish" is the rule. For more information, visit