Week 4 Guest Speaker Roundup – by Vickie Bates

A Conversation with Melissa Robinson of Weber Shandwick and Tara Settembre of The Walt Disney Company & When Tara Met Blog

By UCLA X425 Student Vickie Bates

PR and social media pros Melissa Robinson and Tara Settembre enjoy the comfortable collegiality of a classy ‘50s nightclub duo, one picking up a riff where the other leaves off and fielding rapid-fire questions as if they were requests for a favorite number.

For Erik Deutsch’s UCLA Extension class, “Best Practices in Social Media for the Communications Professional,” the double act of Robinson and Settembre kept our fingers flying across page and keyboard, as we tried to capture their insight and advice for public relations people working with bloggers.

Before the headliners hit the stage, a brief introduction:

Melissa Robinson (Twitter handle: @herword) is senior vice president of Consumer Marketing & Digital Communications for Weber Shandwick, the award-winning, full-service public relations firm. She is also an adjunct professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, where she teaches research, analysis and product marketing… and “infuses social media” into all of the above. She’s been with Weber Shandwick for 2½ years, working for brands as diverse as General Motors, Pepsi-Cola and Carl’s Jr.; when she arrived, she met Tara Settembre who “helped build the social practice there.”

Like a lot of PR people, Settembre (Twitter handle: @tarametblog) started out as a newspaper reporter (“I covered hit and runs. It was depressing.”). An early adopter of blogging, she created When Tara Met Blog six years ago before moving to Los Angeles, joining Weber, establishing the Los Angeles Cupcake Meetup Group, and landing her current day job as PR manager for the Walt Disney Company Consumer Products Division. “All day, I’m email-pitching bloggers,” she notes. “At night, I come home, and there are 200 emails pitching me.”

On May 3, they perched on stools at the front of our classroom and knocked us out with these gems…

Erik: “Let’s talk about media relations and pitching bloggers.”

Tara: “Be a friend first. Know my name, where I work. And just three lines to a pitch.”

Melissa: “You’ve got 1½ inches to get to the point. Use colloquial language in your pitch: I’ve got this, this and this you can use. Still, it’s important to be clear about what you want. Sometimes, all you need is brand awareness or a mention, but other clients want message pull-throughs or a call to action.”

Tara: “Be conversational, but don’t be too informal, like I’m dumb.”

Melissa: “Know what bloggers write about. What tone of voice do they use? What assets do they need? Photos, videos – bloggers love video.”

Tara: “Be a resource.”

Melissa: “If you want to be a resource, you have to give them something they value, that drives traffic to their blog.”

Tara: “Something that helps me tell the story.”

Melissa: “Offer a unique experience, like getting on the red carpet.”

Tara: “Something not everyone can get. Pitch a blogger by telling them what’s unique that they’ll get out of it.”

Melissa: “It’s so critical to read as much as you can of their blogs. Read very carefully.”

Tara: “How influential are they with the audience you want to reach?”

Melissa: “When looking at bloggers or influencers, I look at traffic to their site, tone of voice (are they snarky and high risk or nice, positive?), subject matter, and quantitative things, like links out and traffic. Over time, you establish relationships with bloggers. You know the bloggers who’re willing to work with brands.”

Tara: “I’ll get Direct Messages pitching me on Twitter or I’m asked to ReTweet something. Sometimes, when it’s something I won’t blog about, to get a pitcher off my back, I’ll give them a Tweet. I’ll re-post things to Facebook. But, I only use YouTube when I have video.”

Melissa: “You know, in the old days, creative came first, and social media was the add-on. Now, you start with creative that will get buzz in the social networks. We think about what will give us social legs.”

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2 Responses to Week 4 Guest Speaker Roundup – by Vickie Bates

  1. Tara says:

    What a clever lead in to your blog post. You definitely have a fun voice and a creative style for online writing!

  2. Melissa Robinson says:

    Clever & compelling synopsis of the evening, Vickie. The evening banter with your class was most enjoyable. Perhaps Tara and I should take our act on the road ….