MP&F’s Top 25 PR Questions

December 26, 2012

McNeely Pigott & Fox is celebrating 25 years in business during 2012, and one of the ways we’re celebrating is by answering the 25 questions we are most often asked about our business.

Question 19: Why do I need a logo?

By Mike Pigott

My wife, Sharon, and I traveled to Russia earlier this year, and we can count on one of our hands the number of Russian phrases we learned. Trying to read Russian is something I have never attempted. Check out one of their road signs:

Logo 1







But the logos we saw throughout St. Petersburg spoke loud and clear, even though they were in Russian. It was a dramatic demonstration of the power of logos and branding and their ability to cross all language barriers if presented in a smart and strategic way.

Our company is called upon frequently to assist clients with logos and core messages that help drive their brand. We have not worked with anyone with an advertising budget anywhere near the billions spent by fast-food giants around the world. But we have seen strong evidence that a logo we helped create has resonated with consumers and has become very recognizable.

Here are some of the signs we saw in Russia. Check out the impact of the instantly recognizable logo, even though not a single syllable recognizable to English-speakers is attached.

Logo 3






Logo 4








Logo 2










A logo is only as powerful as the tools used to deliver it. But expensive world television advertising does not have to be the only driving force. Please consider whether your logo, if you have one, is being used to its full potential. And is it the right logo to tell your story?

If not, please consider a firm like ours for some assistance. Actions speak louder than words. But the evidence we saw in Russia showed that logos do, too.


MP&F’s Top 25 PR Questions

December 10, 2012

McNeely Pigott & Fox is celebrating 25 years in business during 2012, and one of the ways we’re celebrating is by answering the 25 questions we are most often asked about our business.

Question 17: Does MP&F work with clients outside of Nashville?

By Brooke Bloom


As we are the largest independent PR firm in Nashville, it’s no surprise that many MP&F clients are based in Nashville and the surrounding area. But not all. Throughout our firm’s 25-year history, we have led some of our most successful campaigns for clients outside Tennessee.

Whether it’s for a manufacturing company in California looking for crisis communications assistance or an advocacy organization in Virginia looking to plan an annual conference, MP&F is ready and willing to jump in and help.

We’re a communications firm, so naturally communicating is what we do best. No matter where a client is located, we go the extra mile to make sure every client’s needs are fulfilled. And that often means traveling across the country at the drop of the hat.

In this day of high-tech communication tools, it’s easier than ever to communicate, no matter where you are or where you live. At MP&F, we communicate with clients through phone calls, emails and Skype. Still, there are times when we need to be on the ground, working shoulder to shoulder with our clients.

In my three years at MP&F, I’ve gotten to see quite a bit of our great country. I hope 2013 brings many more opportunities to leave our mark on the map.

McNeely Pigott & Fox is celebrating 25 years in business during 2012, and one of the ways we’re celebrating is by answering the 25 questions we are most often asked about our business.

Question 16: “Can you get my story in the New York Times?”

By David Fox

Here’s a scenario for consideration:

Our client, Santa’s Trees, is having a banner year, with Christmas tree sales up, a new lot on 12South that’s become an instant neighborhood icon, and plenty of celebrity customers to whet the appetite of any news outlet looking for a holiday feature story. Add to that a national trend undergirding this seasonal enterprise, namely a nostalgic resurgence of real Christmas tree sales – and not just real, but fresh. Fraser firs cut last week in North Carolina. Or Noble firs, fresh from Oregon. We’re talking a perfect, old-fashioned Christmas. At a time of virtual, digital overload, the promise of chestnuts, open fires and REAL Christmas trees resonates with even the most cynical among us.

Santa's Christmas Trees operates Christmas tree lots in the greater Nashville area. Each location offers premium frasier fir trees, wreaths, garlands and other holiday greenery.

Santa’s Christmas Trees operates Christmas tree lots in the greater Nashville area. Each location offers premium frasier fir trees, wreaths, garlands and other holiday greenery.

So is that a story for the New York Times? It may be the hook on a national trend piece. What about the Wall Street Journal? We see stories like this all the time in USA Today. Could it be worth a pitch?

Virtually every newsworthy, local enterprise can make the case that it deserves national coverage. But can you really get national coverage on a local story, even one with national appeal?

Let’s start with the basic reality check: They, i.e., national reporters, don’t care about your story. They care about the story they want to tell, and if your story helps them do that, great. The trick is to find the reporter whose interest aligns with yours. And that is the proverbial needle in the haystack. But that’s what PR firms are trained to do.

The truth is, you gain national media coverage by building to it over time. That means building visibility for your brand, building relationships with national reporters and building the case for national coverage.

For example, the celebrity customers who have visited the Santa’s Trees lot in 12South include Hayden Panettiere, star of the “Nashville” TV show. The show’s current ‘newsworthiness’ could help interest national media. The visual appeal of the story is another factor that could help. A video capturing the excitement is another possibility. Anything that makes the pitch more compelling helps. It’s all about packaging the pitch.

Next is the process of getting it to the right reporter or editor in the right way. That means you have to know whom you want to pitch it to. Building relationships with national reporters is key. Having a friend at the New York Times works wonders but those are rare, and those who have them guard them carefully. Sometimes national publications have local stringers, so knowing that person can help as well. Ultimately, you have to figure out how to deliver the pitch. Social media has broadened the options, but it’s a matter of determining which vehicle makes the most sense. Does the reporter you have in mind have a Twitter feed? Perhaps he or she would consider a story idea shared as a tweet.

The bottom line is that getting a story covered in a national publication takes a lot of work, perseverance and a good amount of luck. And then there are those serendipitous times when the story falls in your lap, which is like a gift from Santa Claus.

MP&F’s Top 25 PR Questions

November 19, 2012

McNeely Pigott & Fox is celebrating 25 years in business during 2012, and one of the ways we’re celebrating is by answering the 25 questions we are most often asked about our business.

Question 15: What are some of the common mistakes people make when they hire a PR firm?

By David Fox

David Fox

One of the best questions we get asked is: “What are some of the common mistakes people make when they hire a PR firm?” When you get that question, you know there’s an understanding that “mistakes” can happen on both sides of the relationship. So here are a few pitfalls to avoid:

Mistake #1: Fuzzy expectations. Clarity is a beautiful thing. When you’re establishing a relationship with a PR firm, it is important to spell things out clearly from the start.

Begin with a clear statement of exactly why you are hiring the firm. What’s the goal? What do you hope to achieve? If you’ve gone through an RFP process to hire a firm, you’ve probably had to think through the answer and put it down in writing. That is a good first step. If you can explain clearly why the firm has been hired – not only the official reason but the cultural dynamics that led to the decision – you are giving your agency a huge gift. You’re giving them their marching orders.

Remember, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” That is, if a strategy is not in sync with your company’s culture, it will be the strategy that suffers. So if you have a strategy in mind when you hire an agency, be sure it is consistent with the company’s culture. And be sure your agency understands that culture on the front end.

Another place for clarity is in the area of budget. When you are beginning a relationship focused on communicating your good news, it can be an exciting time. But don’t let the excitement keep you from working to establish cost parameters and making sure everyone understands and accepts them.

Mistake #2: Lack of transparency. Like most relationships, a client-agency partnership is all about trust. You need to share all the information the PR firm will need to present your organization in the best light – in other words, they need to know a lot more than you want the rest of the world to know. It will then be up to the agency to use that information discreetly and wisely. If they fail, then they weren’t the right agency for you. But if you don’t share information openly with them, their chances of success are greatly diminished, especially if they are caught off guard.

Mistake #3: Taking only the advice you want to hear: One important value of an agency is its distance from the inner workings or your organization, which allows objective counsel. So take their advice, even if it’s not what you want to hear – even if it’s to talk to the media when you don’t want to.

Case in point: We represented a company that had reason to believe a local media outlet was biased against them. As a result, they had refused to talk to that outlet, and the resulting coverage they received was negative – thereby reinforcing the impression of bias. Our assessment, after reviewing coverage, was that the perception of bias was incorrect. We could see why our client had a concern; but we believed the media outlet would provide objective coverage if presented with information in an open fashion, and so we advised the client to visit the outlet. Reluctantly, they agreed. The result was a cathartic – and lengthy – clearing of the air between both groups, and resulting media coverage which was not only fair but extremely thorough and accurate, resulting in a happy client.

Ultimately, the worst mistake you can make is thinking your relationship with a PR firm will be mistake-free. Mistakes happen. Dealing with them is what good PR firms do best.

McNeely Pigott & Fox is celebrating 25 years in business during 2012, and one of the ways we’re celebrating is by answering the 25 questions we are most often asked about our business.

Question 14: How much commitment does a social media strategy require?

By Tara Knott, Intern

With 85 percent of marketers reporting that social media is increasing their companies’ business exposure, a well-defined social media strategy can be critical for your business’ success.

Between emails and meetings and the millions of tasks you have to cross off your to-do list every day, social media may seem like another commitment you just don’t have time for.

Thankfully, once you’ve done your homework, creating an effective social media strategy is easier than you think, and the commitment you put in will be well worth the results. Companies with great social media strategies have better relationships with their audiences and ultimately stronger online reputations, which is increasingly integral to overall business success.

1. Know the platforms and understand which one(s) work for you – If the prospect of managing Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/YouTube/Pinterest/Flickr/Foursquare accounts for multiple clients makes you sweat, don’t worry:

Not every company has to be everywhere all the time.

As Jason Kintzler, founder and CEO of PitchEngine, told Deirdre Breakenridge in her book “Social Media and Public Relations,” if the technology isn’t making your life better, “ditch it and move on.”

So if your business caters specifically to men, it might not make sense to be on Pinterest, since its users are mostly female. You should research companies like yours, see which social media platforms they’re using and then use those platforms better.

2. Set realistic goals – What are the goals of your company or client? How frequently can you realistically update social media? Once you have a better understanding of where you want to go, you can figure out how to get there.

3. Create a calendar – Once you’ve decided which platforms to use, you’ll need to create a content calendar. This can be as detailed or as flexible as you’d like, depending on the situation.

For one client’s Pinterest account, we’ve set up a very specific calendar with images, videos and captions for each day. All the text has been routed through our copy editors and is ready to post. While it took a few hours of work to set up on the front end, it takes no more than a minute to update each day.

For other clients, and for MP&F itself, we prefer a looser approach. We brainstorm what to post on our own social media accounts during weekly staff meetings, and the marketing committee spreads out those posts throughout the week. That way, if three of our clients have events on the same day, we know not to flood our followers’ timelines with content and can spread out our posts accordingly.

4. Build your audience – Even the best social media strategy won’t do you much good if nobody’s looking at your content. Start by creating shareable content: Keep it short, interesting and easy to read.

Check all social media outlets at least once a day so you can respond to anybody who is interacting with your page, and don’t be afraid to let them see the human side of your company. Sharing a funny picture of your staff at work or a behind-the-scenes video will help you connect with your audience on a more personal level.

5. Make sure all communications channels work together – Social media should not be just another way to push out your news releases. What works on your company website is different from what works on social media, so adapt your content for each platform

For instance, you might post a news release about an upcoming event on your website, upload an album of photos to Facebook, and pick the most compelling photo to share on Instagram or Twitter. Each platform should tell the same story in a different way.

If you have designed a social media strategy, we would welcome your feedback on what has or hasn’t worked.

Check out this social media marketing infographic from


MP&F’s Top 25 PR Questions

September 7, 2012

McNeely Pigott & Fox is celebrating 25 years in business during 2012, and one of the ways we’re celebrating is by answering the 25 questions we are most often asked about our business.

Question 13: Does MP&F do surveys?

By Kate Vorys

Kate Vorys

At MP&F we believe that solid research is the foundation for every communications strategy. Surveying people is one way to collect feedback from a designated audience about something they have experienced or on which they have an opinion.

So the short answer is yes, MP&F does surveys.

The long answer is that surveys come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from statewide public opinion surveys to customer- and employee-satisfaction surveys. Surveys can provide you with groundbreaking information that makes you change directions, or they can help you confirm scientifically what you already suspect. At MP&F, we can help figure out what survey type best fits your needs and your end goal.

Some examples of past survey projects include:

  • Statewide telephone surveys of Tennessee residents to get their opinions on issues pending in the state legislature.
  • Market surveys, both benchmark and tracking, to test top-of-mind awareness, preferences and effectiveness of media campaigns for regional hospitals in four different states.
  • Employee and customer surveys for large companies and organizations.
  • Association membership surveys to identify strengths and weaknesses of various programs and to prioritize initiatives.
  • Online surveys to gauge attitudes of professionals.

We really get into the nitty-gritty details of what people believe, why they believe what they do and how best to use the information on behalf of our clients.

Surveys can be used for something as insignificant as an intra-office consensus (where to go to lunch) or something as influential as who people are voting for and why? Depending on the size and scope of the survey, they can generate information to be used for a wide range of communications strategies.

Like this post? Please take a quick survey. Just kidding, but do stay tuned for a follow-up post in the next few days by MP&F’s Diane Hargrove about best practices for surveys.

McNeely Pigott & Fox is celebrating 25 years in business during 2012, and one of the ways we’re celebrating is by answering the 25 questions we are most often asked about our business.

Question 12: Does MP&F specialize in one industry? 

By Andrew Maraniss

When I was first looking to apply for a job at MP&F back in 1998, I was intrigued by the fact that the company listed the Tennessee Oilers as one of its clients. With a background in collegiate and professional athletics public relations myself, I had visions of joining an agency that specialized in sports.

NFL Yes!

MP&F provided full communications, marketing and strategic support for the Yes for Nashville grassroots organization, which was instrumental in bringing an NFL franchise to Nashville from Houston.

And when a good portion of my job interview consisted of questions about the strength of my throwing arm and my competitiveness, I really figured I was on to something. After I was hired, I discovered there was a flag football game scheduled at the company retreat a few weeks later, and one of my interviewers had been trying to determine whether I might be a good option at quarterback. Also turned out MP&F didn’t specialize in sports or any other industry.

And for that, I am thankful.

2012 MP&F Hackin' Flacks

This season, MP&F specialized in softball. Our Hackin’ Flacks won the league championship.

On a personal level, I think it makes for a much more interesting job for each of us. A key to success in this field is to truly understand a client’s industry, and with everyone here working on behalf of a number of clients in vastly different fields, we are “forced” into a situation where we must pay attention to just about everything going on in the world around us. For me, that meant no more just reading the sports section. On a typical day, I’m reading and learning about developments in the automotive, education, health care and economic development fields, just to name a few, and the same is true (though the industries vary) for everyone here.

As I’ve come to better understand over my 14 years here, maintaining a diverse client list is also good for business. Our company is not subject to the peaks and valleys of any one particular industry. And we’re better able to avoid the conflicts of interest that may arise when representing multiple clients in one niche.

The most important question is whether this lack of specialization works for our clients, and not surprisingly, our answer is a resounding ‘yes.’ I don’t think there’s any doubt that the cross-pollination of ideas and the exposure to thought-leaders across industries allows us to better serve our clients. One of the most important things a good PR partner can do for its clients is to make connections and open new opportunities for business; knowing the players in key positions outside a client’s own circle is often of tremendous value.

All of this is not to say that each and every one of our hundreds of clients over the last 25 years has been different, or that there aren’t some advantages to working with more than one client in a particular industry at any one time. It’s just to say that, over the years, we’ve earned a reputation for understanding how to help clients in multiple fields, not just one, ranging from education to restaurants to health care to transportation. And, as it now turns out, sports: We have at least six sports-related clients on our current roster. So, if I just have to watch ESPN and read Sports Illustrated in order to succeed at work, I guess that’s just the price one pays.