NORAD Santa Tracker: It all started with a little typo…

NORAD Santa Tracker
The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) has been tracking Santa since 1955…and it all started with a little typo.

The story goes that an advertisement for Sears Roebuck & Co. listed a phone number for children to call Santa.

Sears Roebuck & Co Santa ad

No one bothered to proofread the ad, and it was published with the phone number to NORAD, then called CONAD (Continental Air Defense Command). That’s why it’s important to proofread. And yes, that includes calling phone numbers.

Rather than be annoyed that CONAD would have to field calls from children wanting to talk to Santa, the Director of Operations at the time, Colonel Harry Shoup, embraced the issue and had his staff check the radar for indications of Santa making his way around the world. Children who called were given updates on his location.

The tradition still lives today as hundreds of volunteers man phones and continue to update children who call. There’s also an online tracker as well, as Santa makes his way around the world.

Shoup did what any great PR pro would do: took what could be an unfortunate situation and turn it into a positive public relations story. Sure, it took more staff hours and probably put them behind on their “real” work, but the ability to make Christmas magical for children, and the community spirit that came out of it was worth it.

The moral of the story? Proofreading matters. Unless you want to end up tracking Santa every Christmas.

App a Matchmaker for Journalists and PR Pros

upitch app

Forget an email or phone call, and a tweet is so 2014. No, the way to connect with a journalist now is to upload your pitch to an app where journalists can scroll through and choose which pitches they want to learn more about.

It’s a new app called UPitch that avoids the overflowing inbox and connects journalists and PR professionals. It’s been billed as Tindr for PR. I first heard about it while listening to the podcast “For Immediate Release.”

Do journalists use this? Seems like it doesn’t eliminate the fire hose of pitches journalists receive, but only redirects it to another platform. And do journalists and PR pros need yet another tool to connect?

Journalists complain about spammy pitches and irrelevant story ideas from public relations folks. And novel-length press releases are filled with so much industry jargon they are deemed unreadable. But will an app solve bad pitches?

Good PR pros know the kinds of stories and topics journalists are looking for and shouldn’t need an app to make it happen. They send targeted pitches and know which journalists to contact….in the most effective way.

I’ll be interested to see what becomes of this…I honestly don’t know that much about it. Could it become an easy way foster the journalist/PR relationship? Maybe…if both parties choose to use it.

We’ll see what happens.

#PRFail: If You Are Doing These Things In Your PR Efforts, You Are Doing It Wrong

#PRFAIL
This article first appeared on CUinsight.com
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If you are doing these things in your public relation efforts, you are doing it wrong:

Using long words when a short one will do.
We don’t “utilize” something…we use it. A longer, more complicated word slows down the reader and makes them work harder to understand. Make your sentences shorter and strive for a sixth grade reading level. That’s right. Many Americans read at that level, and if you are writing above it, you might lose them.

Starting your press releases (or any communication) with “We are pleased to announce…”
Yawn. Of course you are pleased. But why should anyone else care? Start with a statistic or a story. Refer to a recent news item and make it local. Tell your reader how your news is going to benefit them.

Not using visuals.
Photos, illustrations, graphics, infographics, video. The amount of visual content has skyrocketed in the last five years. Use it to your advantage. Sure, it takes time to create an infographic or snap and upload a photo. It’s worth it though, because it adds another element to your communication and can entice your audience to read more.