Tips for placing commentaries

Since February 2017, our team has placed nearly 40 commentary pieces primarily in education trades, blogs, and digital news sites including EdSource, The74, SmartBrief, GettingSmart, The Edvocate, and EdScoop. In the next few months, we expect to see three more placements, two of which are on the tip-top of our target list (I dare not reveal the names for fear of jinxing the outcome).

Why is our small firm so successful in this regard? We have an uber-talented group of freelance writers who work closely with the authors who have the byline. Our writers help the author craft the commentaries, helping them hone the important messages and discard the unnecessary. Back-and-forth collaborative work can be a little time consuming, but it’s well worth the effort. It is critical that the commentary appeal to the publication’s readership, which is difficult for company executives, academic researchers, educators and administrators. They are too close to their story to be able to strip out nonessentials and see the story from another angle. This is THE KEY. Commentaries cannot simply restate a company’s key messages. A problem-solution story also rarely works. Editors don’t care about products. They care about people so commentaries have to address something bigger than the product.

Where does product fit into commentaries? It is true that our clients are seeking visibility for their products but in many commentaries, the product doesn’t get mentioned. If it does get included, it must be material to the story line and not wrapped around self-promotional marketing-speak. A few outlets are willing to include mentions of a product providing it is relevant, but most top-tier publications are looking for more significant statements. Commentaries about social issues or interpretations of data, for example, are far more interesting to editors and more likely to get picked up.

Can you make value from a commentary without product mention? Usually the “about the author” section can include the company name and a URL, but there are several other ways commentaries are valuable without a product mention. At the onset, the primary goal should always be to build positive relations between the media and the client company. If a commentary piece is submitted to an editor and it does not abuse the opportunity to self-promote, the editor may develop a favorable impression of the company and the author. Furthermore, they might consider the author as a source for a future story.

If a product is not mentioned anywhere (and even if it is), the company can circulate and share the commentary. Editors appreciate when their content is shared in social channels or included in email campaigns (just be careful to respect copyright, don’t make claims beyond what is printed, and use the correct attribution). To connect to your product, give kudos to the highlighted school district or explain the backstory. Don’t overlook the simple value of having drawn attention to your users, engaging in public discourse, or in sharing your expertise in interpreting some research or data.

I’ve also recently discovered which adds a call-to-action link to direct readers of the commentary piece (or any content item) to your website. This is a great way to connect a relevant page on your client’s website to a commentary, especially when there is no mention in the piece itself.

Of the pieces we’ve recently placed, here are a few of our favorites. When our other pieces go to press, you can be sure we’ll share the good news.

By |2018-09-18T21:38:44+00:00September 17th, 2018|commentary, my 500 words|

Multimedia Boosts Press Releases

I had a happy surprise with a press release a few months ago. One of my clients decided to add an image to a press release after it had already been issued on Businesswire without the photograph. I’m not one to enjoy re-issuing a press release. An awkward statement is added to the headline “Correcting and Replacing” (usually in bold letters that scream out someone goofed). However, I’ve been around long enough to know that corrections and additions actually get more views than the original, uncorrected press release. It’s a perverse nature we have, hoping to spot someone else’s error.

In this particular case, our headline stated “Multimedia Added” which I knew would be a huge draw not only because of the oblique reference to an error but simply because images are golden. Press releases with multimedia receive substantially more visibility and pickup than those without multimedia.

At a luncheon presentation last week, Serena Erlich (@serena) of Businesswire made a compelling case for why visuals are more powerful (see a short segment of her session ). From my practical experience, visuals illustrate the story far better than words can tell and they do so quickly. Visuals are more sharable. Visuals show authenticity in ways we cannot convey with writing. Visuals are proof.

Yes, it does cost more to add multimedia to a press release (when using one of the more established wire services like Businesswire). As one simple example, one client’s press release received 3,243 views on the attached photograph alone, this is in addition to the 35,000 headline impressions a 4,200 full release views. Curious about the press release with “Adding Multimedia” inserted into its headline? It garnered a whopping 126,000 headline views and nearly double the number of full page reads as other releases from the same client over a similar time frame.

I’m not advocating making additions and corrections a standard practice. My point is that it isn’t the end of the world if you have to make changes and if you do, it is pretty smart to add an image.

Let me know how your additions and corrections turned out.

By |2017-09-29T20:57:40+00:00February 25th, 2015|commentary|

Education Week article on SXSW –Ed Businesses Seek to Learn What Educators Really Want

See the full article by Michele Molnar about SXSWedu popularity after only 4 years.

Most ed-tech companies attending the South by Southwest education conference last week would probably love to grow at the rate the conference itself has experienced: 650 percent since it began four years ago. “It’s a reflection of the community’s hunger for these kinds of conversations,” said Ron Reed, SXSWedu’s executive producer, explaining why more than 6,000 participants were converging for the four-day conference and festival.

By |2015-02-25T23:09:46+00:00March 28th, 2014|commentary, intellivol|

Education Technology Startups Raised Over Half A Billion Dollars In Q1

Education Technology Startups Raised Over Half A Billion Dollars In Q1
3/26/14 by Jonathan Shieber (@jshieber) @TechCrunch


Education technology-focused startups raised over $500 million already in the first quarter of 2014, marking the single biggest quarter for capital committed to the sector in the past five years…

”Expenditures in K-12 software is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the market,” said Schoology chief executive Jeremy Friedman.

Full article here

By |2017-09-29T20:57:42+00:00March 26th, 2014|commentary|

J Harrison Public Relations Picked Among Best PR Firms in EdTech

EdTechDigest announced finalists in their awards program. J Harrison Public Relations Group has been picked as a finalist for the Best PR Firm in edtech! It is nice bit of recognition for nearly 25 years of work in this market.

Adding to the honor is having three clients picked as finalists for the Cool Tools award as well:

  1. Schoology as best Learning Management System
  2. x2VOL by intelliVOL as best Reporting System
  3. SpringBoard from The College Board as best Digital Textbook

 See all the finalists and categories here.

By |2017-09-29T20:57:42+00:00March 13th, 2014|award, Client Articles, commentary, intellivol|

Invite Your Students to Create, Compose and Connect

by MiddleWeb · 03/04/2014




by Jeremy Hyler & Troy Hicks

Even before technology became embedded in the Common Core State Standards, teachers were being asked to make use of the Internet by having students do writing activities using different tools and modalities.

Thoughtful technology integration, however, is no longer about just using a word processor or having students create a slide presentation at the end of a research project.

Read the rest of this article and in particular, a section about Schoology as it is used in a middle school environment:

By |2017-09-29T20:57:42+00:00March 6th, 2014|commentary|

Celebration of Miracles Tickets Nearly Sold Out

FOLSOM, Calif – Oct. 25, 2013 — The Celebration of Miracles tickets are nearly sold out. Over 200 people will come together on November 2, 2013 at the Lake Natoma Inn in Folsom, Calif. to raise money for Friends of NICU. The organization supports families with premature babies in the neonatal intensive care units in Sacramento and the capital region.
By |2015-02-25T23:15:22+00:00October 25th, 2013|commentary|

Ah, the things I’ve seen…

My son just started middle school. Last night I went to his school’s open house and traipsed around the same halls he walks. Some readers may recall that I was the public relations manager for PowerSchool in the years prior to its acquisition by Apple in 2001. I’ve always been proud that our school district, Folsom-Cordova USD turned to PowerSchool a few years ago. Well, while listening to Elliott’s new Pre-AP math teacher (and while admiring her fancy interactive white board), she loaded a page of products she uses in her class. All three were products I have represented at one time or another: PowerSchool, Holt and SpringBoard.

While I now feel a little older than I did at, say, 2:00 yesterday afternoon (perhaps well-seasoned is a better word), I am feeling proud. I’m proud to have been part of these successes. It is amazing to know I’ve been a positive factor in so many company histories. I have my favorite products, which are typically those that do spectacular things to help children learn. But above all else, in my 25 years of education and PR work, the people in this industry are what inspire me.

Right now, I am working with a long-time friend and colleague, Pam Nelson at SpringBoard. I get to rub elbows with Michael Glover who manages to find the most exciting products in the world. There’s Bill Tudor, a GIANT in this business who has hit 3 (or 4) home runs and has selflessly shared his knowledge and enthusiasm with probably a hundred companies.

There are my old colleagues at PowerSchool and my new friends at Schoology. There is the gem of a lady, Michele Pitman, at intelliVOLwho patiently waited for me for a whole year while I recovered from a viral infection and is now my friend and client. Gosh, there are so many people I can’t even name them all.

No, I’m not retiring. Heaven’s no. I’m not even 50 yet. I figure I’m half way into my career. I’m just being a little introspective at the moment, happy to be in a business where my efforts are directly related to my children’s education and the lives of millions more.
By |2017-09-29T20:57:42+00:00August 29th, 2013|commentary|

Best Time to ReTweet- Social Media Guide

I love short bulleted articles. Here is one that suggests the best times to use Twitter. My simplified version:

  • What is the best single time to Tweet?
  • ANSWER: 9:00 a.m. PST
  • What is the best time to get retweeted?
  • ANSWER: 4:00 p.m. EST
  • Should you retweet your own tweets?
  • ANSWER from Guy Kawasaki: Yes! Every 6 hours!

Read the entire post to fully understand the content of the article, especially the part from Guy.

By |2015-02-25T23:31:30+00:00September 14th, 2010|commentary|

The Littlest Redshirts Sit Out Kindergarten (NYTimes quote)

I had the chance to talk with a New York Times writer about holding back kids for kindergarten. She quoted my reasons for keeping our son, Elliott, out until he was almost six. Now that he is a third grader, we realize we made a perspicacious decision four years ago. For the first time, he is not having too much trouble sitting through class. He is making good decision about his behavior and self-regulating when necessary.

Here is the link to the article.

By |2015-02-25T23:31:44+00:00August 23rd, 2010|Client Articles, commentary|

It’s All Water: Water Banking in Nevada

From the Nevada Water Environment Association’s newsletter Silver State Water Environment News, July 2010:

Vijay Sundaram, P.E. and John P. Enloe, P.E., ECO:LOGIC Engineering

…In Nevada and other states, an under-utilized water resource is municipal effluent. Adequately treated municipal effluent, or reclaimed water, is a reliable, high quality, drought-proof water resource. A critical question is how this resource could be saved (i.e. “banked”) for future use…

read more

By |2015-02-25T23:32:18+00:00July 13th, 2010|commentary|

Writing Traffic-driving Tweets — From PRSA

As a member of the Public Relations Society of America, I receive an excellent newsletter, Tactics. If you are even remotely connected to PR or marketing, you should belong to this association if only to have a subscription to its two monthly publications.

An article this month is about the key words that will increase the pass-along rate for tweets. A summary is linked here.

The key point is not to focus on yourself. Use key words like: retweet (duh!), post, blog, social, FREE, media, help, great, 10, follow, how to, top, check out. The losers? game, going, haha, lol, work, home, sleep, gonna, hey, tired, bored, and a few others.

Gee, seems like the difference between professionalism and egotism.

If you would like to see the entire article, send me a message or email. Or better yet, join PRSA!

By |2017-09-29T20:57:44+00:00January 23rd, 2010|commentary, Uncategorized|

Education Week: Is Education News Falling Off Front Pages?

Education Week: Is Education News Falling Off Front Pages?

Great story about the shrinking coverage of substantive education stories. A reporter with multiple beats has a hard time keeping up with the complexities of education and education policy. Yet, all other topics are losing coverage as well. New York City has a good option with GothamSchools. Politics aside, we are going to see more explorations into uncharted “reporting” waters.

By |2015-02-25T23:21:14+00:00December 10th, 2009|commentary, Uncategorized|