Brand Journalists Will Help Your Business, Too

Fun work for a brand journalist! This photo has been liked and shared more than 30 times (and counting) since I shared it on ABC7 Chicago's Facebook Page.

Fun work for a brand journalist! This photo has been liked and shared more than 30 times (and counting) since I shared it on ABC7 Chicago’s Facebook Page.

Brand journalism isn’t just for the big names at the major outlets. When you think of journalists who have built brand names for themselves and have grown respect and audiences for their outlets, names like Walt Mossberg, David Pogue, Walter Cronkite, Susan Stamberg, Bill Kurtis and many many others come to mind.

But with so many easy-to-use and convenient content creation tools at our disposal, anyone can be a brand journalist.

In fact, Net News Check, has come out with its Top 10 Local Digital Media Trends for 2014 and the growth of local brand journalism is among them.

Are you ready to become a brand journalist for your company, non-profit or government agency?

Here are 7 tips for shining as a brand journalist in 2014:

  • Be a good observer — Paying attention to what’s going on around you. Does your business or organization have news that will help or inform others?
  • Ask good questions — Can you dig a little deeper to learn the significance of the news or events around you?
  • Know how to connect the dots — How do the events or activities within your organization have greater significance to your stakeholders? How does it affect their lives?
  • Write well, or have a good editor — Do your writing skills need polishing? If not, do you have an editor who can jazz up your writing, find errors, and do so in a spirit of helping you vs. criticizing you?
  • Take photos or videos — No fancy gadgets needed! Any current smart phone has a camera and video included, and you can go online for free apps and tools to edit your photos.
  • Use social media boldly and creatively — Here in Chicago, it’s snowing like crazy today. Everyone loves beautiful pictures of the snow. You don’t have to focus on business exclusively! Show your creativity and personality, post the pictures on your web site, Facebook and Twitter streams. You’ll be amazed at the likes you get.
  • Share Share Share — I shared some of my own photos yesterday on ABC7 Chicago’s Facebook page and that prompted many new visitors to my own Facebook Page for business. The “Likes” just keep coming, and I’ve received numerous new followers. Nice for an hourlong stroll in the snow yesterday!
Here's to a fulfilling journey in 2014

Here’s to a fulfilling journey in 2014

I’v got to get back to work, so if you have any other ideas for how to shine as a brand journalist, I’d love it if you left a comment. And Happy New Year! May 2014 be filled with peace, compassion, generosity and prosperity — and in THAT order!’s Value to PR Goes On and On


haroHARO may be a journalist’s best friend, but it is a very dear buddy to PR professionals as well. Today I offer up living proof that‘s value as a public relations tool lives on and on.

If you’re in public relations and you’re not registered to receive free,  3-times-each-day-emails from HARO, you are missing opportunities to connect with thousands of journalists seeking your client experts.

About a year and a half ago, a writer for a widely popular international  news portal (this reporter requested anonymity for herself and her employer), wanted to talk to people who had transformed their lives. I offered up a woman who trained with my client, Coach Brendan Cournane, and I was confident about getting the reporter’s interest, especially since I responded immediately after seeing the HARO query. As it turned out, my speed was my disadvantage, because the reporter never saw my email at the bottom of her email pile. So it languished in a HARO archive stored for subscribing journalists. Continue reading

Pay $10K for your news in Forbes, Fortune & Money?

Would you pay $10,000 to have your news story placed in Forbes, Fortune and Money magazines? That’s a question public relations and marketing professionals grapple with frequently and it’s an offer that I recently received on behalf of my client, a wealth management firm in Lincolnshire.

Welcome to the world of advertorials – paid content that appears objective and independent and often can’t be distinguished by an untrained reader from other “earned media” stories in a publication or broadcast report.

An outside content creation firm that partners with the publications is offering to interview my client for a 2014 story that will appear in issues sent to subscribers in the Chicago and north suburban areas. The story could be viewed by as many as 70,000 readers.

In addition to getting interviewed and providing his own images, my client has full rights to review the story to make sure it contains his key messages (which rarely ever occurs in an earned media placement). When it’s published, he owns the article, can place it in his online newsroom, email it to his clients, and mount on his web site a nicely formatted article with the banner line: As seen in Forbes, Fortune and Money Magazines.  It’s great credibility. But is it real and will readers value it? Continue reading

How to beat the competition & capture reporters’ attention

What’s a PR pro to do when a client’s event competes with two similar events on the SAME DAY?

In the middle of summer – July 24th – I was making the phone rounds to assignment desks to make sure their schedules included the Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago’s annual Back-to-School Fair held in partnership with Sam’s Club.  (I handle media relations for the Boys & Girls Clubs through my work with Marj Halperin Consulting).

It was a perfect media event — photogenic, bursting with energy in a carnival-like setting. More than 1,400 club members had a day-long blast at three club locations thanks to a generous Sam’s Club donation of cash and employee volunteer time. The day would end with each kid going home with a backpack stuffed with school supplies, courtesy of Sam’s.


The James R. Jordan Club was bursting with activity, thanks to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago Back-to-School Fair. Photos © Michelle Damico

During my calls, a photo editor revealed a bizarre PR coincidence: Two other high profile youth-services agencies were also staging back-to-school events with major corporate sponsors that day! Continue reading

You’ll want to follow The 606!


Mayor Rahm Emanuel joins community leaders to break ground on The 606 and The Bloomingdale Trail

Mayor Rahm Emanuel joins community leaders to break ground on The 606 and The Bloomingdale Trail  (photo credit: © Michelle Damico)

The 606, the exciting city project that includes the Bloomingdale Trail, promises to be the Millennium Park of Chicago’s neighborhoods, according to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who led the groundbreaking ceremony yesterday to kick off construction of this 3-mile, above-ground linear park. Think New York City’s Highline, but twice as long, allowing bikes and connecting the neighborhoods of Bucktown, Wicker Park, Logan Square and Humboldt Park. Continue reading

Food Network Serves PR Lessons in “Chopped”

ChoppedLogoMy family is addicted to Food Network’s Chopped, the contest in which accomplished chefs turn crazy mystery ingredients into beautiful, creative dishes during insanely short periods of time to win $10,000.  A summer rerun, “Wurst Case Scenario,” offered PR lessons to chefs or anyone who puts his/her work practices in the public realm – in this case – on the chopping block.

Chef Mor Amitzur is executive chef of The View at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Manhattan, which offers one of the best restaurant views of the skyline (see my photo taken from The View during a recent trip to New York).

View from The View Restaurant

View from The View Restaurant

Amitzur was one of four contestants and his creations were beautiful and — according to the judges — delicious, but his kitchen behavior and sanitation practices were appalling. I was grossed out and I am sure others viewers felt the same. Did he get any PR advice before he was Chopped?

What was so gross?

It was captured as he prepared every dish for the Chopped judges. He formed a fish patty appetizer with a hand bloodied by a food processor blade and balked when ordered to wear a plastic glove, throw out his work, and start over. He double-dipped during entree and dessert prep, and was called on it each time. It’s unacceptable and reputation-harming for a chef of his stature to use one tasting spoon and dipping it multiple times into food that he’s making (one judge commented about his total disregard for them!).You can watch it here or see his negative coverage in TimeOut New York.

What are the PR lessons here?

  1. Identify the risks of appearing on TV or any public forum that requires you to perform under pressure. An unscripted TV free-for-all contest is the last place to put  your unsavory work habits on display.
  2. If you’re appearing on national TV, ask colleagues and friends to help identify problems that may arise in a program like Chopped. He double-dipped as though it was instinct — heck, he didn’t even realize he did it. Why didn’t one colleague raise a red flag about the consequences of having the Chef’s bad practices on display for a nation of foodies?
  3.  Assess risks versus rewards. Can a restaurant (or any business) withstand a loss or embarrassment on national TV or on a stage before thousands of potential customers? How does a business handle the loss, especially when one’s personal behavior brings him down in flames?
  4. Rehearse your appearance early and often, in front of impartial judges, not cheerleaders. Surely Chef Amitzur rehearsed before competing on Chopped? Did he seek feedback from his own group of “judges?” Did they overlook his bad kitchen habits with a shoulder-shrug and an “everybody-does-it” attitude?
  5. Practice humility – expressing confidence when competing is laudible. For a loser to question or diss your judges or your fellow competitors makes you a sore loser and may irrevocably harm your reputation. In public or on TV, your actions are always louder than words – be gracious in defeat.
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9 tips for getting reporters’ attention

Newsradio 780 reporter Nancy Hardy interviews CEO Jim Keane of Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago. © Michelle Damico.

Newsradio 780 reporter Nancy Hardy interviews CEO Jim Keane of Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago. © Michelle Damico.

With all the stresses and deadlines that reporters face, it can be difficult to get their attention when you have a big story. But if you want to get positive placements for your clients, you have to make sure your name stands up when it shows up in their inboxes. Fortunately, there are a few proven ways to break through the newsroom noise and make stand-out pitches.

1. Print reporters and editors – Subscribe to the paper/magazine (truly a no-brainer) and send emails about their work. Often their print or subscription-only stories are different than what’s posted free. Email comments to the reporter about those pieces. Don’t be surprised to get a response thanking you for actually buying the online content/paper. It happened to me just last week and led to a conversation that resulted in a client interview for this Monday.

2. If a reporter/producer calls you seeking an expert – help him, even if you don’t have a client. He will never forget you, especially when you say “Hey, he’s not a client, but I always do my best to search my network to help you.” One producer calls me monthly and specifically says “I’m calling you first because I know you’ll help me out, no matter what.”

3. After securing a great news placement, follow up with a comment about the story, and suggest another angle worth pursuing in one month, two months, or even six months later. In the meantime, send links validating the angle.

4. Sympathize with their plight. I check in regularly with select reporters to see how they’re coping with their outlet’s downsizing. Make a point to call some at lunchtime and just listen as they describe the madness going on at their shops. I tell them how valuable their insights would be if they chose to work in the business world and offer my help if they are considering a transition.

5. Behold the lovely intern. Sadly, many unpaid interns are serving as general assignment reporters, photographers, or videographers for major newspapers in Chicago. When I work with young reporters I ask about their job status (full, part-time, non-paid). Upon learning they’re interns, I offer my job advice, based on my experience working with journalists. Most pepper me with questions, and more than a few have sent me thank you notes.

6. Broaden your horizons. Ask freelancers about the other outlets for which they write. Freelancers often work for several papers and magazines and more than a few of your clients may interest them. Share your resources, but do it at their convenience.

7. Cover for the reporter, even at your client’s expense. I had to notify a columnist that while my client was eager to talk to her for a story later this month, he’d be in a front page story next week, which would definitely affect her story plans a week or two later. I suggested she check with her editor first. She thanked me and canceled the interview.

8. When reporters cancel an interview, don’t begrudge – help them instead. That same reporter still needed a topic for her next column, and within hours I had a a new topic and source.

9. Leave comments on reporters’ online stories. They’ll appreciate the feedback and your willingness to start/contribute to a conversation over their work.

Are these tips helpful? Do you have others?  Leave a comment!

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Can’t create original content? Share!

When you lack the time or just can’t decide on creating content topics for your blog or social networks, try sharing material that will be helpful to your audience. With client work consuming my time recently, I’ve got some items to share and start conversations.

Check out some helpful PR, marketing and social media resources I’ve found lately. You can also scroll down the page and see some cool news coverage my colleagues and I have secured for my clients.  Either way, enjoy and leave a comment if you can.

Laura and I sprung into action immediately following this placement and pitched Manny’s Google Glass experience to broadcast and national media, offering his expertise about how shoppers might use Google Glass. As a result of our quick thinking, the client appeared not only in Chicago print, but on radio and nationally online at

  • The Chicago Newsradio interview is here:  

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    Or you can listen to a few short reports that excerpted Manny’s interview here:

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During our outreach, NPR reporter Brenda Salinas had us switch direction, asking about Manny’s retail client experiences with facial recognition technology. Thanks to Manny’s deep level of expertise, he became the focus a valuable national placement, which you’ll find at This enabled our client to continue building momentum for his PR initiative. It also proves once again that if you have a strong and credible expert, and if you target media with precision, every touchpoint you make will matter, as long as you provide reporters with content they need to please editors and meet their deadlines.

Screen Shot 2013-07-21 at 4.17.37 PMHere’s more cool news I’ve secured on behalf of other clients this past month:

I’m the senior communications consultant for Marj Halperin Consulting and her client The Trust for Public Land. TPL is partnering with the City of Chicago’s to build The 606. Here is some recent coverage we’ve secured:





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You’ve made the news! Are you capitalizing on it?

A client made my day last week.  He said his recent business’ news coverage in Crain’s Chicago Business is opening doors that his firm spent months knocking on to no avail. Now, armed with some powerful news about their agency, every team, from sales to creative, is actively spreading it. They’re emailing the link to prospects or clients, posting the article on their web site, and framing it at the office entrance to let people know that that Chicago’s top business outlet has showcased their leader’s expertise and their firm’s innovation.

Meetings they’ve been trying get on the calendar with at least two Fortune 500 corporate prospects were scheduled soon after the prospects read the Crain’s story! There’s a simple PR and marketing lesson here that unfortunately many companies don’t heed.

All your hard work at capturing the media spotlight is a waste of time unless you capitalize on it.

So what can you do to take advantage of that great story or compelling TV profile about your company or your expertise?


Email it. Target customers and prospects. Tell your mom and your friends about it — you never know who THEY know. Develop a list of those who’d benefit from learning about your news. Send them the link to your story along with the headline and a brief description of how you became a newsmaker.

For my client’s Crain’s story, the message might have been as simple as:

“Hi Bill, The head of my agency has a date with Princess Kate (yes THE Princess Kate) on June 13 and Crain’s Chicago Business just wrote about it. Check out this story: Kate Middleton’s untold link to Chicago that showcases our cool marketing work in the UK.” You can also visit Princess Cruises and see what we’re up to.

Make it social. Most firms require their employees to have a presence on LinkedIn, which is the best social network (in my opinion) for showcasing your business achievements and acknowledgements. Ask your colleagues to share your news on LinkedIn, as well as on Twitter and Facebook.

For news about business, LinkedIn and Twitter are my priorities, but some employees make Facebook their preferred social platform. Since you’ll want your entire team to be sharing your good news, give them flexibility in how they spread it. But also give them some guidance. Provide them with a cheat sheet about how they should present the news (casual vs. formal, including messages you might have already developed about your company). Suggest actual tweets, posts or updates. Encourage them to alter the content so it’s in their own voice. Explain that the suggested tweets are posts are aimed at ensuring they get their facts straight, and that your company messages are accurately positioned.

It’s often a challenge to toe the line between sounding like you’re bragging and being informative. Check out some of my tweets below and let me know if they sounded conceited or helpful.

Once you’ve made the news and emailed it to your key audiences, then what? Don’t stop after just one tweet or update.  How frequently should you be promoting your news on social networks? I’ll cover that topic in my next blog post, so please come back!

Here are some examples of the social network updates created to promote my recent news placement in Crain’s Chicago Business.


‏@MichelleDamico The hottest Chicago shop for #ExperientialMarketing? @CrainsChicago says its @UTRExp News at 

@MichelleDamico Cool first look-@UTRExp of Chicago scopes out #RoyalPrincess for big date w/ Princess Kate on June 13 


Michelle Damico Check out this great article by @CrainsChicago on #experiential #marketing highlighting @UTRExp


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Online Publishing is Easy with

Online publishing is a hot topic in social media circles and it’s something I discussed Tuesday morning during my monthly social media segment on Farm Week Now, a production of the Illinois Farm Bureau Radio Network. You’re actually a content creator, and don’t need to spend the time publishing original material. You become a valued source of information around the web, finding the content for which other’s lack the time to search. makes content curation easy, and visually attractive while making you look like an expert on the topic of your choosing. Why should you do it? Because  you don’t have to CREATE the content. You just CURATE it. It’ll help you grow your online community while positioning you as an authority on the topic(s) that your niche audiences find interesting. Since is a social tool, others can easily supply you with content or share your content with their communities, making your viral.

Want to see what is all about? See the Chicago PR Daily, created by my friend and fellow ex-City Hall reporter Sarah Skerik, who is now an executive with PR Newswire in Chicago. Sarah curates content on Twitter, uses it in her paper, and cites the friends and followers who originally tweeted about the content (in fact, I’ve been cited in her Chicago PR Daily on more times than I can count).
paperli-tcWant to follow the latest news about food to your table? Check out the Food & Agriculture Spotlight or The Daily Agvocate.

Want news about Chicago’s hottest restaurants and bars? See the Chicago Restaurants & Bars Daily. Maybe you’re tracking Restaurants of the World? There’s a Daily for that too!

Want to learn more about has an easy step-by-step process for creating your own online newspaper

Or check out How to become a Twitter publisher with 

If my post encourages you to create your own Daily newspaper, please let me know and send me the link to it.  Do Good!




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