Yes, I'll take credit for getting Richard Laermer on this year's IAEM program. Richard came to me via Kevin Dugan of PRBlog (who was recommended by Dana Vanden Heuvel - so it was another of those "blog connection" benefits). Once the recommendation was made, Kip Eads did a great job in securing Richard's appearance in Atlanta.
Unfortunately I missed the opening 20 minutes of Richard's presentation (had to send out an email campaign for a client between sessions). But, it was definitely worth showing up for the balance.
The running theme I picked up on in this session is Richard's belief that every story can find a celebrity angle. His contention is that news with celebrity connections gets read while news that is probably much more important often goes ignored. Richard half-jokingly suggested the question, "How does Jessica Simpson tie into this story?" The point being, it's worth it to find that celebrity angle - or something close to it.
The secondary theme was "trendspotting" and how to work your message into a current trend. If you can identify trends and memes that can be attached to your story, go for it.
As an example of how to employ trendspotting, Richard introduced the concept of "Escapist News". This is news that is tied to a more sensationalistic angle.
A trade show example of this would be if I were to create a survey for Coverings and found that women considered tile and stone sexier than carpet. I'd then work to get that placed into selected trade pubs in the distributor/retail, architecture, design and residential building markets. Once there, we'd work on crossing the chasm over to general interest publications, like USA Today or People or even Cosmo. The result would be a run on tile and stone with downstream benefits to Coverings.
There were many other tidbits conveyed, but I'd suggest buying the book for the full impact, or seeing Richard in a longer form presentation. However, I'll note that one of the best questions - and one we all deal with - was asked by Tom Maher: "How do we measure PR success - what metrics should we look for?"
Richard's answer was somewhat surprising - PR can't be measured in metrics. How you gauge PR success really depends on how you acquire your customers. Measuring "success" is not in the numbers, it's in how do people (and reporters) feel about your company. Did your PR agency bring more people to you? Did they introduce you to more influencers? If you can explain what you want to accomplish via PR and your agency then provides that to you - that's success.