Wag the dog

If I had any doubts about the increasingly dominating role of new media over traditional media, they were vanquished yesterday while watching ABC’s World News Tonight.

In the A-block of the evening news program (ranked second between NBC and CBS) Anchor David Muir told us a story about a tweet that Donald Trump sent earlier in the day to commemorate Cinco de Mayo.

Perhaps because Trump is the presumptive GOP nominee for the presidency and because his  tasteless Taco Bowl tweet had gone viral, ABC treated it as one of its top new stories.

ABC’s Taco Bowl Tweet story included reporting that Hillary Clinton’s team fired off a response tweet using Trump’s own words to discredit him. The story also mentioned that 81 percent of Hispanic Americans have an unfavorable view of Trump.

ABC was certainly not alone in covering the Taco Bowl incident. The social media gaffe was covered by every other network, including cable news giants CNN and FOX, not to mention the print media, including the Associated Press, USA Today and Reuters.

In each of these stories, something that transpired in the world of new media was being reported by the old media giants in a classic game of react and catch-up.

Trump tweeted his photo some five hours before ABC’s evening news broadcast. How many people had already seen the tweet?

I will not argue the newsworthy merits of Trump’s tweet, but it struck me that the once dominating news giants were again scrambling to keep up with their more nimble counterparts in the world of social media.

Whether it is a political campaign or your business reputation on the line, what you do and say on social media has significant consequences. That’s why I always tell my clients to be very careful and not post anything on social media that you don’t want to see on the front page of tomorrow’s newspaper.

The tables have turned. The rules have changed. You are the media. Take your role seriously.

Randy Seaver is a former newspaper reporter and editor. He also has more than a decade of experience as a strategic communications consultant, helping a wide range of clients overcome challenges in the court of public opinion.  Learn More

Press Releases: Think before sending

bluefin-tuna_478_600x450A high quality press release can open a lot of doors and  is usually the first step in landing your story, brand or project in front of a large audience.

Some people think that crafting and distributing a press release is easy while others consider it a daunting task. Both are somewhat true, but it’s likely that you are too busy running your business or managing your brand to give your press release the attention it deserves.

Before turning to a web site that offers “free” advice and “guaranteed” results, think about how important your press release is to your project, your company’s reputation or your marketing efforts. It makes sense to talk to a pro before hitting the send key.

What do you want to land?

In reality, sending a press release is like a day of fishing. If you just want to cast a line and hope for the best in a familiar watering hole, you’re probably okay on your own. Catch a couple of mackerel and call it a day.

But if you want to land a 400-pound bluefin tuna, it makes sense to have a knowledgeable guide with the the right equipment and the skills necessary to help you achieve success.

If you must absolutely go about it on your own,  then I offer a few basic tips of advice.

1.) Know it:  In fishing, you need to know the waters, the species you are going after and the right bait to use. When thinking about a press release, you need to know your subject matter and the media landscape. Who is writing, blogging or reporting on your subject matter? Do you know these people? Do you have relationships with them? Have you fished these waters before?

2.) Earn it: A good day of fishing requires getting up early and a serious commitment. There are basically two kinds of media: “earned media” and “paid” media. Paid media is advertisements that you pay for; liking buying tuna at the grocery store. Earned media is the result of your hard work and having the right bait.

3.) Hook it: Speaking of the right bait, your press release needs a good hook. Reporters are inundated with hundreds of press releases. How will yours stand out among the rest? What type of hook will you use to arouse the reporter?

4.) Pitch It: There are many species of fish in the water. If your are after a specific species, you have to know what you want and how to catch it. Before sending your release, make a few phone calls to targeted reporters. Don’t send a press release about a new chef at your restaurant to a reporter that covers city hall.

5.) Reel It In: You need to be patient and give the reporter room to do his or her job. Your press release needs to be well-written, succinct (no more than 1-1/2 pages) and contain basic information, including an e-mail and phone number for a primary contact. You should never send a press release as an attachment. Specify whether there will be photo opportunities and include links to your company web site.

If you just want to spend a day relaxing on the water, then you will be fine without a guide. But if you want a prize catch, then it makes sense to talk with a pro to ensure that your press release opens all the right doors.

Randy Seaver is a former newspaper reporter and editor. He also has more than a decade of experience as a strategic communications consultant, helping a wide range of clients overcome challenges in the court of public opinion.  Learn More

Dealing with the media

Photo credit: flydenver.com
Photo credit: flydenver.com

Do you know the definitions of “lede,” “nut graf” or “B-roll?”

These are common terms used by members of the media.

Reporters and editors have their own jargon and their own way of doing things, but it’s important to remember that they are also human beings. They value honesty, courtesy and respect.

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: the media is not supposed to be your friend. Reporters have a unique mission: to remain as objective as possible, to ferret out facts and to report that information to the public while working under crushing deadlines and  operating in an extraordinarily competitive industry.

Keeping these things in mind will help you navigate the media landscape, whether you’re sending out a press release or dealing with a crisis that is affecting your company, your brand, your campaign or your reputation.

Imagine this: the phone rings and it’s a reporter on the other end of the phone. He or she needs a quick comment for a story that will be published in tomorrow’s newspaper. What do you do?

Or imagine this: you step out the front door and you find a TV news van parked in front of your home or office and suddenly you are face-to-face with a reporter and cameraman, What do you do?

I offer my clients an insider’s knowledge of the complex media landscape. For more than a decade, I worked as a reporter and editor. I still have many friends in the business.

Drawing on my experience as a communications consultant; and with some input by my friends in the media, I’ve developed a brief list of things you should do — and things you should not do — when dealing with the media.

1,) Be honest: Consider this the golden rule of dealing with the media. Don’t play games. People will judge you by your words and actions, especially if you find yourself in a crisis situation. Don’t hype your press release. Be concise and straightforward. If you lie, you will only make things worse.

2.) Have a plan: Don’t wait until a crisis arises before developing your media strategy. A comprehensive media plan will include your basic talking points, and everyone in your organization should know who the contact person is for dealing with the media. Anticipate and develop a list of tough questions, among other things.

3,) Stay on message: When the cameras start rolling or the reporter starts writing, many people have a tendency to panic. They either freeze like a deer in the headlights or they ramble endlessly. If you do these things, your message will be lost. As part of your media plan, you should have a “message box” Before your interview, memorize your message box and learn how to pivot back to your core message. Tell them what you are going to tell them; tell them what you want to tell them; and then tell them what you told them. This way, your message does not get lost.

4.) Be respectful: Basic manners go a long way in helping you tell your story. Recognize that the media is working under deadlines. If a reporter calls you, ask about his or her deadline. Don’t spam their in-boxes with press releases that are actually advertisements. Step back and consider whether your story is newsworthy. Reporters are not part of your sales and marketing team. They only want news that is accurate, relevant and timely.

5.) Comment or No Comment? This is one of the toughest questions you will face when dealing with the media, and it should be considered on a case-by-case basis. Remember that the reporter has taken time out of his or her schedule to seek your input. By saying “no comment” you lose the opportunity to share your side of the story. That said, sometimes it is advisable to not comment, especially if the story is about a legal matter or involves proprietary information. Once you comment, you can’t take it back, and your comments can be used against you. (Refer to rules 2 and 3).

Dealing with the media does not have to be a headache or a frightening experience. Just remain calm, polite and on message. It also helps to have a PR pro on your side to help you navigate these situations. I invite you to contact me to learn more about media relations and how you can share your story with the public.


Randy Seaver is a former newspaper reporter and editor. He also has more than a decade of experience as a strategic communications consultant, helping a wide range of clients overcome challenges in the court of public opinion.  Learn More




Advocacy: The power of testimonials

Sample of testimonial flyer
Sample of testimonial flyer

How do you build support for your project, business or campaign?

There are a lot of tools at your disposal, but one of the most effective tools is garnering support via third-party testimonials.

Third-party voices reinforce your own messaging and they build credibility for your project.

The most powerful persuader in the marketplace, apart from a customer’s own experience, is the opinion of someone they trust, according to Cutting Edge PR.

Authentic testimonials can be produced in both traditional and non-traditional ways: from letters to the editor and op-eds in local newspapers to short videos that can be posted on social media sites such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

Consider the following research:

  • 90 percent of consumers trust peer recommendations over traditional marketing efforts;
  • 81 percent of customers reach out to friends and family members on social networking sites for advice before purchasing products;
  • 59 percent of consumers say user-generated product reviews have a significant impact on their buying behavior.

These trends are just as important when trying to rally support for a community project or a political campaign.

People trust authentic, independent voices.

A campaign sign placed by the side of the road is one thing, but a campaign sign on a person’s lawn reinforces the candidate’s support in the community.

Advocacy works best when it’s delivered by people outside your project team. I have been helping a variety of clients find and recruit third-party endorsers for more than a decade.

Third-party voices are an effective tool with proven results.

I invite you to contact me to discuss how I can put my years of experience in building community support to work for you.


Randy Seaver is a former newspaper reporter and editor. He also has more than a decade of experience as a strategic communications consultant, helping a wide range of clients overcome challenges in the court of public opinion.  Learn More


Political shakeup in Saco

Following the unexpected announcement that State Sen. Linda Valentino (D) will not seek re-election for a third term in the senate, there has been a seismic shift in the city of Saco’s political landscape.

State Rep. Justin Chenette — Valentino’s protegé —  announced simultaneously that he would seek Valentino’s seat. Both moves were kept secret until  they were announced on these pages just two  days before Saco’s Democratic Caucus.

State Rep. Barry Hobbins, a Democrat who served the district as a state senator for four terms before Valentino, said he was caught off guard by the announcement.

During Sunday’s Caucus, Hobbins praised Valentino’s leadership and announced that he also would seek his party’s nomination for the senate seat.

That leaves the city of Saco with two open House seats.

According to Chenette’s Facebook page, which has become his temporary, default campaign headquarters, Katie Purdy, a political newcomer and Chenette supporter, will seek Justin’s House seat that represents the north and western portions of the city.

Donna Bailey
Donna Bailey

A more experienced candidate will seek Hobbins’ House seat, which represents the south eastern section of the city.

Donna Bailey, a well-known Democrat, will make her first legislative run.

A former York County Probate judge, Bailey has lived in Saco for 23 years. She is married with two children and two grandchildren.

She previously served on the Saco Zoning Board of Appeals and is currently serving as a member of the city’s Planning Board.

She is an attorney practicing probate, family and real estate law.

No word yet on Republican candidates for either the Senate seat or two open House seats in Saco. Stay tuned.

The Write Stuff: Make your message sing

Writing is not a profession but a vocation of unhappiness — Georges Simenon

Most everyone thinks they are a decent writer, but there is always room for improvement.  Improving your written content — whether it’s a press release, a brochure or web-based content — is not difficult. It just takes practice and adherence to a few basic rules of grammar and style.

DSCN4461If you are knee-deep in developing a new product, launching a business or just wanting to share your message, you may not have the time or expertise to develop skillful messaging that will hook and captivate your audience.

People will judge you by the words you write and distribute. You want to make the right impression. You want your words to matter.

This is when you should consider hiring a professional writer who can craft written copy that is crisp, clear and compelling.


Crisp: Your writing should flow smoothly, not ramble. Stick to the main points. Keep on message and use words that grab your prospective reader’s attention. If you are writing a press release, think about the editor on the receiving end of your words. The old adage applies: less is more. Don’t make the reader work to understand your point. Avoid complex sentence structure.

Clear: Writers instinctively want to impress their readers, but unless you are writing a novel keep your sentence structure simple: subject, verb, object. Choose your hook wisely and then expand on that theme. Avoid cliches and jargon. (Example: “win-win” or “let’s be clear”)

Compelling: Think about your subject matter. Make a list of no more than 10 things that make your subject important. Remember: newspaper editors and the general public are barraged with thousands of written and spoken words every day. What is going to make your message stand out?

If you break your arm, odds are that you will seek the help of a professional. It’s really no different when it comes to producing written copy for your project, campaign or business. Do you really want to wonder if there is a split-infinitive in your copy, or do you want to leave that work to a professional?

The guidelines above are just a few easy ways to improve your writing, but there are many more.

For example, if you’re writing press releases think like a reporter or an editor. The best way to do this is to write like a reporter or an editor. Most reporters and editors use the AP (Associated Press) Style Guide.

If you want a refresher course on basic grammar and style, then you should spend a few dollars and pick up a copy of The Elements of Style.

Writing is important for your success, but it does not have to be a chore.

I invite you to contact me to discuss how I can put my years of experience as a newspaper editor and professional writer to work for you.


Randy Seaver is a former newspaper reporter and editor. He also has more than a decade of experience as a strategic communications consultant, helping a wide range of clients overcome challenges in the court of public opinion.  Learn More



Bad News for Saco, Good News for Saco

BREAKING NEWS . . . And this just in from over the transom:

ValentinoAccording to multiple sources, State Senator Linda Valentino, a Democrat, is expected to announce Sunday (March 6) that she will not seek reelection to the Maine State Senate.

Valentino, who has served two terms in the Senate and is now a member of the Senate’s Appropriations Committee, has reportedly made her decision for family reasons. After this term, she would have been eligible to serve two more terms under Maine’s term limits law.

On the heels of Sen. David Dutremble’s unexpected resignation from the State Senate a few weeks ago, a departure by Valentino will leave a noticeable void in legislative leadership for the tri-community area.

Dutremble, a fellow Democrat, represented the city of Biddeford. Valentino represents the communities of Saco, Old Orchard Beach as well as Hollis, Limington and parts of Buxton.

The two openings will surely delight Maine Republicans who already hold a majority in the Maine Senate.

During her tenure, Valentino has proven herself to be an independent leader who often questioned her own party. Her colleagues describe her as “passionate, meticulous and hard-working.” There is no doubt that her withdrawal from public service will leave a huge void in experienced political leadership in Saco.

Good News, Experience Matters

There is a silver lining in Valentino’s expected departure from politics. State Rep. Barry Hobbins, also a Democrat, could easily bring his many years of experience and leadership to bear for the district.

hobbbjFirst elected to the Maine House of Representatives in 1972, Hobbins has decades of experience and a proven track record of success. He is highly regarded on both sides of the political aisle and he has the insight and political connections necessary to deliver exceptional service. A skilled attorney, he has served a total of eight terms in the Maine House of Representatives and five terms in the Maine Senate.

Few people understand and can navigate Augusta’s political landscape better than Hobbins. He has won each of his elections with wide margins of support, and there is a reason for that. Hobbins knows the district and its people. He knows how to get things done.

In what is expected to be a bitterly partisan legislative session next year, Hobbins would be a moderate voice of reason who will work hard to ensure that state government does not roll off the rails because of political stalemates and tension between the two parties.

Hobbins will almost certainly step up and fill the void being left by Valentino. Such a move will be good for Saco, the tri-community area and the state of Maine. Saco Democrats caucus on Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Fairfield School, so the hall will be buzzing.

My prediction is the Dems don’t take any chances during the upcoming election cycle. They need a political heavyweight in that spot. Count on Hobbins being Saco’s next state senator.

Public Relations: the good, the bad and the ugly

handsAsk one hundred different people to define “public relations” and you’ll probably receive nearly 100 different responses, many of them with negative connotations.

A lot of people view PR as some sort of shell game, something that is auctioned off to the highest bidder. Pay us enough and we’ll convince the world that your product, brand or reputation is infallible.

There is an old joke in the consulting industry: “If you’re not part of the solution, there’s good money to be made in prolonging the problem.”

Even some PR pros think that a few “white lies” are often necessary to achieve success for their clients, as outlined in this story from USA Today.

I see things differently. I don’t think of PR as “public relations.” I think of PR as “public relationships,” and there is a distinct difference.

Take a moment and consider the relationships that are most important to you: your partner, your spouse, your friends, your boss or even your neighbors.

Good relationships are built on a solid foundation of trust. If you don’t trust your spouse, your marriage is likely doomed. It’s not different when it comes to public relationships.

The truth vs. The Narrative?

The public is more savvy than most PR pros give them credit for. The public yearns for truth and integrity, and will generally forgive a misstep, so as long as the offender is transparent and contrite about their mistake.

Sure you can fool some of the people all of the time, and you can even fool all of the people some of the time. But you simply cannot fool all the people all of the time.

Developing a strong and compelling narrative for your client is essential, but that narrative must be rooted in truth and genuine honesty. This is how you build strong relationships. And there is nothing more important in the world of PR than having a strong relationship with your audience.

As an example, I point you to the popularity of two very different candidates vying to be the next president of the United States: Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, two very different men on completely different sides of the political spectrum.

Sanders, a self-described socialist; and Trump, a billionaire reality TV star, have defied the odds and speculation of the pundits. As the two men continue their campaigns, the pundits now say that the candidates have both tapped into the anger of a very cynical electorate.

I beg to differ.

I think those who passionately support Sanders or Trump view their respective candidates as “honest” This trait causes those supporters to overlook flaws in either candidate.

Sure, voters always like a candidate who tells them what they want to hear, but they become passionate when they believe the candidate is being honest.

A relationship without honesty is like a bicycle without tires. Neither one is of much use.

Building relationships takes time and hard work. But every good relationship must be built on the foundation of honesty.


Randy Seaver is a former newspaper reporter and editor. He also has more than a decade of experience as a strategic communications consultant, helping a wide range of clients overcome challenges in the court of public opinion.  Learn More


So long, and thanks for all the fish

Robert Johnson Album Cover
Robert Johnson Album Cover

I have a lot in common with my hometown of Biddeford.

I am at a crossroads, and I have decided that all good things must come to an end. It’s been an incredibly fun ride, but it’s time for me to make some changes.

You may have already noticed, but last week I put All Along the Watchtower — my personal blog — to bed.

Going forward, this site will focus solely on my new business venture. The blog posts will be less personal and focused more on subjects such as public policy, politics, economic development, media trends and healthcare.

The timing for this seemed right. For many years, All Along the Watchtower focused primarily on the city of Biddeford and its political infrastructure. Because my wife was recently elected to the Biddeford City Council, it would be increasingly difficult to write about the city objectively.

And then, I decided to start my own business.

Many people have asked why I decided to launch Randy Seaver Consulting. A number of factors converged; some anticipated, some beyond my control.

Laura and I have been talking about doing this for more than a year, and finally the time seemed right. So, I find myself at a crossroads. A proverbial turning point in my life.

It is exciting and simultaneously terrifying. There is no safety net. Either I swim or I drown.

Now, with the disclosure out of the way, I would like to offer a few final thoughts on my hometown of Biddeford, a city that is facing its own crossroads; its own turning point.

Biddeford is in the midst of a renaissance, a revitalization that would be impossible to recognize 15 or 20 years ago. There is a new vibrancy here. The city’s narrative is changing and people all over Maine are noticing.

But still, there is an internal conflict in the city and it’s not so subtle sometimes.

I read something on Facebook recently that left me shaking my head. It was penned by a woman who claimed she moved here three weeks ago.

Essentially, this woman wrote that the city does not need a parking garage because downtown has nothing to offer but crime and crappy businesses. Who would want to come here? Why would they need parking? There is already plenty of street parking because Biddeford — basically — sucks.

I fought the urge to respond to this woman. I had a few questions for her. 1.) Why did you choose to move to Biddeford, if it is truly as bad as you say? 2.) Were you court-ordered to move here? 3.) Did someone force you to live here?

I understand that change is uncomfortable. I am experiencing my own incredible set of changes (and challenges). But change is part of growth while stagnation leads to decay.

I can appreciate the apprehension some people have about the city’s transformation. I also fully support the notion of constructive criticism from people who are worried about being priced out of their homes because of property taxes. These conversations happen in every community across the country.

But Biddeford has something unique, there is a strong element of self-loathing here.

Over the last few months, countless social media accounts have been set up for no other purpose than to spread negativity and vitriol through the city. No solutions are offered, none of these folks step forward to actually do anything other than gripe.

Self-hatred is prevalent here, and I wonder why more of our residents are not rooting for the city’s success. I don’t expect anyone to become a cheerleader. I respect different opinions and perspectives, but if you stay focused on the negative then you will find yourself in a negative place.

I am at a crossroads, and if I want to be successful, I must focus on success.

If I want my clients to succeed then I must keep my energy positive while also remaining open to constructive criticism.

It is the same for my hometown.

I am excited and anxious about my future. It’s no different in Biddeford.



What would you do?

reportersMany moons ago, when I was an editor at a weekly newspaper, we used to run a section in the paper that was known as the Police Notes.

It’s a common practice for smaller, local newspapers to run such police blotters, but we used to have a little fun with ours by giving each blurb a humorous sub headline,  and we never included names.

For example, a police report regarding a complaint about a neighbor’s dog doing his business in the neighbor’s yard might be titled “Canine Travels for Business” The blurb would read something like this ” An Elm Street man called police to report that a neighbor’s dog has been repeatedly defecating on his lawn.”

We sought out the most amusing police notes from the three communities we covered. More serious crimes were covered in other parts of the paper. But still, we had access to all police reports, so everything was theoretically fair game.

There are different standards when writing news stories. For example, if a city councilor were arrested for an OUI offense that story would likely be on the front page. If an average citizen were arrested for the same exact crime, it would likely end up in the police blotter without his name.

Police officers are also held to different standards than firefighters. Why? Because a police officer has authority over citizens and a sworn duty to uphold the law. A basic firefighter or public works employee has no such authority.

Bottom line: some people are treated differently by the media, most notably public officials and those who have thrust themselves into the public spotlight. An obituary for a long-time city volunteer and former school teacher would likely run longer than an obituary for someone who was not as well-known in the community.

These are always tough judgment calls for reporters and editors.

I remember one particular item that gave me pause. The adult child of a city official was arrested on a domestic violence charge.

Was this “news” simply because of the relation to a city official? I eventually decided it was not. Typically, domestic violence reports were covered in our Police Notes, not in the news section of the paper.

But if you were a newspaper editor, where would you draw the line? Do the actions of a municipal official’s relative (sibling, child or parent) warrant a news story?

What if the governor’s brother were indicted on charges of mail fraud? For me, that’s an easier question to answer.

On a higher level, the media usually keeps a clear distance when reporting on the children of the President of the United States, but President Jimmy Carter’s brother, Billy, seemed like fair game.

These are all tough judgment calls, and they become more murky as we descend lower on the authority scale. Certainly a city councilor wields much less influence than a state senator or governor.

So, I made a choice. I decided not to pursue a story about this councilor’s adult son. The action’s of the son were not directly connected to the councilor. Thus, in my opinion, it was not fair game and would be in poor taste to publish such a news story. In short, it would be sensationalism and had no impact on residents in that community.

Where do you think the media should draw a line?

I never wonder whether I made the right choice. I am as confident in my decision today as I was 13 years ago.

But what would you have done?