Philly Creative Guide

Creative Personality

Michael Kleiner | Michael Kleiner Public Relations and Web Design

Interview :: Michael Kleiner
by Juanita Berge, 1 Dec 2008

Michael Kleiner is the owner of Michael Kleiner Public Relations and Web Design and author of Beyond the Cold: An American's Warm Portrait of Norway, which traces the development of his affinity for the country, people and culture or Norway. Michael works in the Philadelphia area but has had clients from outside the area. He was president of the Mt. Airy Business Association in 2006 and 2007; served five years as secretary and one year as Vice President; served nine years total on the board. Michael has won several awards including the 2003 Home-Based Business Advocate of the Year Award from the U.S. Small Business Administration for Southeastern PA, PA and Region III (PA, DE, MD, VA, WV, DC); and the 2003 Communicators Award of Excellence in Feature Writing.

PCG: What was your formal training?

MK: I attended Rutgers University from 1976-80 where I received a B.A. in Journalism and History and then from 1993-1995 I attended Temple University where I received my Ed.M., Educational Media

PCG: What brought you into the field of public relations?

MK: The short story is I got tired of long hours and pay and decided to look elsewhere. The long story is I always wanted to be a writer from the time I could hold a pencil. I started early, writing poems and fiction. In high school, at Germantown Friends School, I was among the founders of the school newspaper. From ninth grade on, I covered GFS sports. In addition I covered GFS for the local newspaper, Germantown Courier, was paid, and was even named Assistant Sports Editor. I went up the ladder from sportswriter to Assistant Sports Editor to Associate Sports Editor to Sports Editor. In college at Rutgers, I also worked in the Sports Information Office, my first taste of PR. After graduation from Rutgers, I worked in the publications office at Medical College of Pennsylvania and Hospital, which worked closely with the Public Relations Office. I then moved on to Montgomery Newspapers for four years (1982-86). Tired of the long hours and low pay, I had to make a change. A staffer at Philadelphia College of Textiles & Science, now Philadelphia University, told me they really needed someone to fill in for the Sports Information Director. I took to the job. Having been on the other side of press releases, I knew what reporters were interested in. The job became permanent in 1987 and I undertook the first national campaign around men's basketball coach Herb Magee's pursuit of his 400th career win. We received great coverage including mention in Sports Illustrated. In 1992, we did it again as he went for his 500th win. Both times, I organized special nights recognizing the coach, which included appearances by Charles Barkley, Jim Lynam, and Mayor Rendell. Among other events I organized was a celebration of the 20th anniversary of the men's basketball team's national championship. Special events and milestones had become a niche for me.

Michael Kleiner | Michael Kleiner Public Relations and Web Design

PCG: What brought you into the field of web design?

MK: After Textile, I attended Temple University, where I received an Ed.M. in Educational Media, utilizing media in education or business training. While that didn't delve into web design, the concepts were there. The job I received after graduation was Director of Communications at Abington Friends School. After three years, I wanted to use my technology more. Web sites were just beginning in popularity and I found that while some sites looked nice, they lacked content. I could see that web sites would be an extension of a business' marketing and PR program.

PCG: How were you able to merge the two?

MK: My PR strength is media relations and my tag line is "Making the Unknown Known." In both PR and web sites, I like to think creatively. For an author, for instance, what venue beyond the book store could an author speak? Where might there be some opportunity at cross promotion? For the web site, the idea is to keep design consistent with the rest of the PR materials. You include the logo. Each page's main layout stays the same. Rather than overwhelm with graphics, I like to use graphics in a creative way. Always use link buttons representing something about the company. I like to say I build web sites with content and creativity. What colors represent the image that wants to be projected? When you do our one stop shopping with the PR and web site, then you can do things that mirror each other. Many times, with web sites, it's best to be simple. Surveys show ease of navigation as one of the most important features for users.

More and more reporters are surfing the Internet for stories. Newsrooms on web sites – and companies that specialize in building optimized newsrooms – have become more common. Reporters are even going to social network sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and YouTube for stories. They are subscribing to blogs and newsrooms so when something new is posted, they receive a notice. That's the orange and white RSS icon you may be seeing on more and more sites. A newsroom can feature a press release, reviews of the book, and photographs of the author and book covers, as well as contact information. So, a reporter can go to the newsroom and download photos for his or her story.

So the answer is not necessarily "... to be able to merge the two." Now it's essential to merge the two.

PCG: Who are your usual clients?

MK: Primarily authors, small businesses and non-profit organizations.

PCG: Has this enterprise been your bread and butter from the beginning?

MK: I began the business in 1999.

"I say web designers' greatest competition is the do-it-yourself, no HTML knowledge needed, on the web-in-minutes web site software out there. It's selling a misconception."

PCG: Why haven't you gone with one of the mainstream web development or PR agencies in the region?

MK: When I left Abington Friends, I found that I was overqualified for the PR jobs out there, and at the time under-qualified for technology jobs, which led to me creating my own business. My excitement for PR is about people, more than a corporate atmosphere or the launching of a product. I'm sure I can learn a lot from the "mainstream web development companies", but when you work on one web site, it can get boring. And being independent allows for freedom to handle more than one account and see my abilities grow. My web sites are not mirrors of each other, but have their own unique character and look. However, many independents say one key to success is to create collaborations and alliances with other independents where skill sets complement each other. You can offer a client more, and collaboration has a better chance of a bigger payoff for both.

I say web designers' greatest competition is the do-it-yourself, no HTML knowledge needed, on the web-in-minutes web site software out there. It's selling a misconception. The sophistication and complex process is "dumbed down." A similar stigma exists for PR. "Any body can write a press release." Anybody may be able to write a press release (although a good one may be debatable), but that doesn't mean you know how to develop a PR/marketing plan for the target audiences and publications that might be interested; access to media databases of thousands of writers and publications you may never knew existed; relationships with reporters; how to pitch; different deadlines for newspapers, magazines, radio and TV, and the Internet. Everybody has some area of expertise. I don't say I could do what you do. You call a plumber to fix the pipes. Call a web designer and/or PR practitioner to handle those issues.

Michael Kleiner | Michael Kleiner Public Relations and Web Design

PCG: How does your book figure into the grand scheme of things?

MK: That becomes part of the balancing act, too. Lacking ideas on marketing Beyond the Cold is not the problem. Making the time to work on those ideas is. I have an advantage as a professional public relations practitioner and web site designer so I can handle those areas.

PCG: How difficult has it been to promote yourself?

MK: Again, for me, it is mostly the balancing of time. One thing I've started to do is when I go to a networking event or someplace where I might be exchanging business cards – and that can be anytime – I bring my business card and my book business card. As much as I can, I hand out both. Some people don't feel comfortable promoting or talking about themselves. Let others – besides reviews – do it for you.

PCG: What advice would you give to those who are faced with trying to promote themselves, their book or their business?

MK: The biggest problem for creative arts people – writers, graphic artists, artists, musicians -- is understanding that they are a business, a professional, an expert, and understanding that no one can sell your product better than you. You have to believe in your product, believe what is special about it, and be enthusiastic. If you think that by publishing your book through a traditional publisher you are going to have all these marketing people at your fingertips, you're in for a big surprise. Even if they assist in some way, you still have to do most of the work. It's still you who will be interviewed, who will be doing the book signing. There is some statistic that 90% of the marketing budget at a traditional publisher is spent on the top 10% of the books. In this technological age, you have to have a web site. Make sure the web site address is on your business card and in your advertising.

When you get stuck, give me a call.

[email protected]

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