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Twitter Launches New Analytics Tool

  
  
  

There was a time in my PR life when I actually had to go through a client’s Twitter feed and manually count how many Retweets and favorites a Tweet received.

Luckily those days have been gone for a while now, thanks to add-on tools – but now things are about to get even easier for us metrics-loving PR folks. Recently, Twitter rolled out an enhanced Tweet activity dashboard to provide measurable insights into how organic Tweets perform. While the tool was released July 11, it was previously only available to Twitter advertisers, Twitter Card publishers, and verified users. But as of yesterday, the analytics dashboard is now available for all Twitter users.

The new dashboard includes data like total impressions and total engagements, including Retweets, replies, favorites, follows, link clicks and embedded media clicks. The dashboard aggregates that data for the past month, showing users how they’ve been doing compared to previous months. The system also allows users to export Tweet performance metrics into a CSV file, which will include both organic and promoted data. This will allow users to compare how their organic Tweets stack up to those that have been promoted.

Here are a few ways to use the dashboard to improve your brands content strategy and drive the highest engagement and impressions:

  • Pay attention to when you Tweet. Note which time of day and day of the week yields the highest engagement and impressions.
  • Analyze the frequency of your Tweets. Use your new insights to determine your Tweet cadence.
  • Identify what Tweet mechanics work, and which aren’t as effective. Keep an eye on elements like different calls to action, the inclusion of rich media and copy length.

In addition to the data included in the new Tweet activity dashboard, Twitter recently analyzed organic Tweets and the reach of those Tweets for 200 active brand advertisers. The data identifies a few insights and best practices for brands when developing a content strategy on Twitter. The advertisers Twitter looked at spanned multiple verticals and ranged from Fortune 500 companies to small business.

The results were insightful. First, Twitter saw that brands that Tweet two-to-three times per day can typically reach an audience size that’s equal to 30% of their follower base during a given week. This indicates that consistency is a key factor when it comes to maximizing your reach on Twitter.

According to the study, when brands pair consistent Tweeting with engaging content, there’s potential for even higher organic reach. In fact, Wheat Thins (@WheatThins) achieved organic reach equal to 95% of their follower base by Tweeting 2x a day per week, while Trident (@TridentGum) saw organic reach that was 5x greater than their follower base by Tweeting 3x per day.

Of the 200 brands, those that drove the highest organic reach utilized one or more of these tactics when it was relevant to their marketing goals:

  • Leverage real-time cultural moments like live sports events, awards shows or trending conversations.
  • Mention influencer usernames with large followings or high-volume hashtags in Tweets.
  • Include auto-expanded photos or videos paired with short, conversational copy.

So before jumping to posting a Tweet when you come across anything remotely relevant, take a few minutes to check out your analytics and see which posts are resonating the best with your followers and maximizing your business presence. Remember – its often quality, not quantity.

The Power of the Press Release

  
  
  

As PR professionals, it’s important to make sure that the recommendations we are making to our clients are with merit.  In my position, I often get the question “Is putting a press release out over the wire worth all of that money?” We all know that press releases are valuable for gaining exposure through inbound links and increasing SEO, but how about from a press perspective? My job is to help our clients achieve many goals, one of which is getting journalists and press to cover these press releases. So, are press actually reading them and are the worth the price? newspaper 400x276 resized 600

I think the vague answer to this question is, it depends. It depends on the client, the announcement, the goal for the announcement, and the overall strategy for the news outside of the press release (marketing, social media, etc.).  

But, to help us gain some first-hand insight as to what information journalists are looking for and how they want to receive that information, Business Wire released the results of its 2014 Media Survey.  They survey polled more than 300 journalists in North America from different industries (publishing/media, technology, government, healthcare, food/beverage, health/fitness, etc.) and numerous types of journalists (bloggers, editors, freelancers, producers, etc.).  And, here were some of the notable findings:

  • Almost 90% of responding journalists referenced a press release in the previous week, with 62% using one in the past 24 hours
  • The most sought after type of story information in a press release included: breaking news (77%), supporting facts (70%), interesting story angle (66%), quotable sources (52%), company background (50%), trending industry topics (49%) and supporting multimedia (29%)
  • 64% of journalists prefer to receive news via email pitch and 28% prefer to receive it via press release
  • Hardly any (.7%) of reporters want you to call them with news
  • Almost 71% of reporters surveyed use a press release from a newswire service at least once per week

There seems to be a relatively favorable response supporting the value of the press release specifically for journalists.  As a communications professional, more interesting to me is that the survey found journalists still prefer for me to send them our news via email pitch and press release.  I’ve had success with this personally, and often times we recommend our clients put a release over the wire and then we email both a tailored pitch along with the press release text to targeted reporters.   And, according to this study that strategy is holding strong.  And, although it might seem that social media could be an effective way to communicate news to the public, reporters don’t look to their social feeds to get the news or details for their reporting, according to the study.  

Ultimately, and despite the fact that this is clearly a survey sponsored by a newswire service, I think viewing reports like this is an important part of what should be an ongoing analysis of your PR strategy. It’s important with such an evolving media landscape to make sure you are regularly and continually looking at trends in journalism to ensure your clients’ news is being distributed as effectively and favorably as possible. Something important to keep in mind, however, is that no matter what general survey results report, it is best to form personal relationships with the journalists that matter to your clients and learn how they, individually, prefer to interact with you to get the best results and establish yourself and your client as a valuable and trusted resource.
 

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8 Tips for Planning a Successful Event

  
  
  

describe the imageI recently attended an industry conference and was so impressed by how smoothly it ran,how delicious the food was, and the general joy wafting from the attendees.

The event was so well done, that I started thinking about what tips I would give a client hosting an event to replicate the experience. As a PR professional, I regularly attend events for networking purposes and to support clients and some are hits and others unfortunately, misses. While it’s easy to lament about what went wrong at past events, I seldom hear about the success stories. 

So what makes an event so great?

Let’s start with the pre-planning: 

Define the target audience. The number one priority 

should be to clearly demarcate who the target audience is. All other decisions will fall into place in terms of format, content, location, etc. A structured approach towards the audience will assure the focus stays on achieving specific goals and will prevent the scope from become too broad or watered down.

Have a clear business purpose. If target audience is priority number one, then your business purpose is a very close number two. Be clear on why you are holding the event in the first place, because every decision after that should support your main goal. Is it lead generation? Is it to create awareness of your company or a particular product? Is it to become an industry thought leader? Or do you simply want to make money (which is okay too)?  Whatever it is, make sure the team is aware of the purpose, so that everyone remains focused. 

Know your limitations. While the goal is to throw a successful event, you need to be aware of what can realistically be achieved – especially given factors like budget, timing, etc. This is where creativity and a supportive team will come in handy to really know what is possible. If you have grand ideas for speakers but don’t have the connections or clout to secure them, you may have to think of other ways to draw the audience in. A big event will need several months of planning or if the budget is small, you may have to shoulder much of the workload. 

Now that we’ve defined our objectives, it’s time to plan:

SMART Goals. Specific – Measurable – Achievable – Relevant – Time-bound.  Many of these relate to the above pre-planning tips but it’s important to be mindful of them throughout the planning process.

S – Specific. Use action verbs to describe the 5 W’s of the event: who, what, when, where, and why.

M – Measurable. Goals need to be measurable – it will help report the success to sponsors and vendors later.

A – Achievable. Be realistic. It’s easy to think big, but plan for what your resources and time allow.

R – Relevant. Why are you planning the event in the first place? Stay focused.

T – Time-bound. Set mini goals throughout the planning process to help keep you and your team stay on track with time. 

Check the calendar. Be mindful of other industry events that have already been scheduled as well as holidays or popular vacation times when attendance could be low. Try to think of things that may be obscure, like elections days or times when schools would be closed – which can effect overall turnout.

Promote. The event cannot be a success without an audience – so start promtion early. Once the date and location have been set, put teasers out to the target audience. Send updates through social media and email campaigns as the agenda is set and keynote speakers are secured. If an amazing chef will be on hand, spread the word. Ask sponsors and speakers to help promote through their channels as well. You may need to spend a little money to garner awareness through advertising to ensure your target audience is reached. 

Back-up plan. Be ready to fill in the gaps. Although planning ahead is a great formula for success, it is never enough. Something unexpected always comes up.  Imagine the event, step by step, and make a 2-column list: what could go wrong in one column, and your contingency plan in the second. Be prepared for the unexpected. Maybe the sound system fails or maybe your keynote presenter bails. Can you cope and move on?

Once the event is over, the work is not yet complete: 

Evaluate success. After the event is all said and done, you will need to assess the return on investment (ROI), which takes us back to the SMART Goals. If you clearly defined your goals in the beginning, it will be easier to evaluate the data to provide hard numbers on success.

You might also want to ask for critiques from attendees. It’s great feedback for the sponsors, especially if there are favorable responses, but even negative will help with future event planning.

While there is quite a bit of work in planning a successful event, it can be done. Really thinking through the tough questions and creating an in-depth plan from the beginning will save you time and energy as the event starts to take shape.

  PR 101 for Startups Webinar

Ask the Influencers: Global Marketing Director Discusses the Evolving Role of Statistics in MarCom

  
  
  

Statistics Comic

As part of our ongoing series of influencer Q&As, I sat down this week with my friend Richard, who's the Director of Customer Programs for one of the world's largest global financial services companies.

Jonathan: Richard, thanks for agreeing to this. Can you start off by summarizing your professional role?

Richard: Sure. I lead development, implementation, and iterative improvement of our marketing programs across all business lines and all distribution channels.

Jonathan: Now before crossing over to this marketing role, you were a proper statistician. How does that background in statistical analysis influence your marketing philosophy?

Richard: Proper statistician is such an interesting combination of words. I don't think I've ever thought of myself that way. Statistics by nature is such an applied discipline. Biology, for instance, is the study of living things -- so describing yourself as a biologist means that you're studying a tree, or a bird, or a fish, etc. Statistics has no such inherent meaning; describing myself as a statistician at a gathering inevitably prompts the question "so... what do you do?"

In that sense, I think Statistics and Marketing are not too different. You're trying to understand something in a deeper way, in this case customer behaviors and attitudes, and then apply that understanding. Marketing has always made use of statistics, even if those calculations were fuzzier ones. Early on, if I'm selling two flavors of cola out of my store, I know which flavor sold better and order more of that flavor for my shelves. 

In that same example, we try to understand a few more things now to optimize our end-to-end engagement with the customer:

- Where should we locate the bottles? Do some locations result in more sales of cola? Do some locations result in fewer sales of cola but more sales of other products on the way to the cola display?

- Who is buying the cola? If I still have 2 flavors (or 20 flavors), are different customers buying different flavors of cola?

- Do different customers come in at different times of day? Should I service them differently when they come in or offer promotions geared towards the customers that I see at different times?

- Would some customers rather buy our cola online vs. in store? Which customers call us with questions vs. email us vs. browse our website to find the answers vs. wander in and ask at the counter?

- How do all of those questions interact with each other?

I'm constantly working on optimizing our customer programs to create measurable, statistically significant differences in experience. I don't just want to know I sold more; I want to know I sold 200% more because I put the cola display case in the back, offered a half price special when kids are walking home from school, and dressed like a clown to appeal to younger children. And I want to be confident that if I do the same combination of things 95 times out of 100, that it'll result in roughly the same lift.

Jonathan: What's changed since you began doing these analyses?

Richard: There is more data now on customer demographics, psychographics, and behaviors than ever before. There is data for every trigger point or life stage in a client's life, from having a baby to buying a house. Most importantly, there is your understanding of the customer and every interaction she has ever had with you. Almost everything marketers do is measureable. If creative #5 outperformed creative #6, we should understand why and then figure out how we can be more efficient. Was it because #5 had an image that appealed to younger prospects and there were more of them in the population we reached out to? Or was it because #5 was dropped in August and #6 was dropped in October? In iteration 2 of the same campaign, I may go out in August with #5 to a group of just younger prospects and use display advertising on the top 20 sites the responders from campaign 1 frequent.

As marketers, we can't be lazy. Customers are telling us exactly how they want to be engaged.

Jonathan: I'm interested that you said almost everything is measurable. How do data-driven organizations approach those "fuzzier," less quantifiable attributes like brand awareness?

Richard: Brand awareness is not difficult to measure necessarily. Using qualitative measurements like well run survey analysis can answer that question. At its simplest, ask 10,000 randomly selected people whether they've heard of a brand and you'll have a rough idea of how aware the general population is of it. If you're selling dog food, ask 10,000 dog owners.

The tougher question is quantifying the impact of brand awareness/attitudes on the bottom line. The largest of companies spend millions of dollars on this question and usually arrive at a fuzzy number using both quantitative and qualitative measures.

Jonathan: I want to delve into that question more deeply, but let's do it in a follow-up blog so I can guage the effectiveness of this post, then optimize accordingly.

Richard: You're a quick study.

 

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Spaced Out

  
  
  

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In the relatively young world of public relations, I’m considered senior (i.e., “old”) at just over 40 years of age. I don’t need to be reminded of this. And yet, I have been, time and again, by one simple writing rule: putting a single space after a period as opposed to two.

According to this post, double-spacing after the end of a sentence is a sure sign that you were around when Moses received the Ten Commandments. According to the article, double-spacing was ingrained in us old folks back in the days when typewriters – those old-timey things that used actual ribbons – were our primary writing tools. Typewriters did not know how to automatically adjust to a desirable typeset; thus, double-spacing helped the reader delineate where one sentence ended and another began. With computers we no longer have that worry, making double-spacing unnecessary.

Apparently, this double-spacing thing is an actual thing, one that’s driving all kinds of debate. Take a look at some of the comments to that article; people are ready to fight for their right to double-space, darnit! Apparently, there has even been scholarly research conducted on the subject (did taxpayers actually fund this?). 

The first I had ever heard about the double-space rule was roughly a year ago. Up until someone called me on it, I was blissfully unaware, throwing caution to the wind and double-spacing the heck out of my content. Thinking back on it – what a fool was I! Surely, I must have been driving editors crazy with my carefree, lackadaisical ways.

As it turns out, the single-space rule has been in practice for a while now. According to Ragan’s PR Daily, sometime in the mid-2000s, it appears the AP Stylebook – the bible for all PR professionals – called it: “Use a single space after a period at the end of a sentence.” As the author of the Ragan's piece wrote, “so, let me get this straight. It all boils down to the fact that I’m…old?”

Yes. Yes, it does.

When I discovered this (not that I’m old, which I knew already, but the horrible truth about spacing), I became very concerned. What other style rules have recently changed? Is there anything new that I should be aware of? Where are my parachute pants? Is Duran Duran actually still together??

More digging revealed that there have been some significant changes to AP Style guidelines over the past several years. Some of the more notable ones include: 

  • Names of states must be spelled out in press releases. No more abbreviations, folks – you need to figure out how to correctly spell Massachusetts after all. Some caveats: abbreviations are still OK in datelines, photo captions, and lists.
  • “Over” and “more than” are now interchangeable. AP used to state that “more than” had to be used as opposed to “over” when describing something in excess of something else (for example, “The company has been in business for over 10 years” would have been unacceptable). Thank goodness, since no one seemed to follow this rule, anyway.
  • “E-mail” should now be written as “email,” always and forever.
  • It’s “Web site,” doggone it – never “Website,” and most certainly not “website” (don’t even think of using that lowercase “w”).

Those are just a few. There have been many more over the past couple of years, but too many to illustrate here. And they keep coming; the best way to keep up is through the AP Stylebook’s Twitter feed.  I hear that’s what all the kids are using these days – oops, darn double-space!

In any case, if you're planning on writing your own press release anytime soon, you'll want to keep these things in mind. You'll also want to know about THIS:

Do-It-Yourself Media Relations CTA Blog  

Creating a blog strategy - the 4 categories

  
  
  

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A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, we started our blog.

I found strategy documents on our server dating back to 2006. The problem is, I haven’t seen an updated document since.
 
Whether you’re creating a new blog or looking to revamp or update an existing blog, creating a clear strategy and overview is essential. And continuing to review that strategy over time is probably even more important.
 
As I’m working to realign our blog with the SpeakerBox strategy, here are some of the important categories I’m evaluating: 
 
1. Blog goals
Defining short and long-term goals is a very important first step that a lot of companies overlook. This is much more than looking to build followers or subscribers. These goals should go deeper into why a corporate blog makes sense for your company. They should align with the business objectives you’re seeking to advance. That will help determine the blog’s content and style. Typical goals include: 
- building thought leaders within your company or industry  
- adding a new revenue stream 
- generating sales leads 
- increasing SEO
- gaining visibility for new products or services
 
2. Blog audience
Another main priority of a blog strategy document is to outline your target audience. In order to provide relevant, engaging content that spurs the outcome you’re looking for, you have to know exactly who you’re writing to. Taking time to think through your audience’s job function, time availability, concerns, business problems, and priorities will make sure that original content is useful (or at least interesting) to your target reader. 
 
3. Topic areas (i.e., keywords)
Some blogs (ours included) are like the wild wild west – they have a lot of contributors and cover a broad range of topics. Others are more precise in their coverage areas. Neither of these approaches are wrong or right - it’s just that the type of approach that’s taken should be dictated by the needs of the company. 
 
Clearly defining the topic areas (or boundaries) will help to make sure your blog is working towards company goals. The best way to define these areas is to put yourself in the shoes of your target audience and think about what would interest them the most. Or, ask! Send out a quick email survey or call up some friendly folks and talk about their goals and business problems. 
 
Once you’re writing about defined topics (or within boundaries) you’ll be more likely to bring in the readers you want.
 
4. Content development plan
Outlining the basic content specs may take only a few minutes, but it is the heart of what you (and the other bloggers) will be doing on a daily basis. Is there going to be a word count limit? Style guidelines? How many posts per month? When will content publish? Who will manage the process? Do posts and topics need to be approved? Defining the process and determining who will manage it can help ensure consistency and a style that works for your company.
 
Taking time to properly plan and organize the corporate blog strategy before going live (and making sure that plan is updated over time) can pay dividends. A corporate blog can act as the face of an organization and positively effect marketing efforts, business development, media placements, and much more, if done correctly.
 
Next up: blog measurement and promotion. 
 
 
photo credit: dimnikolov via photopin cc

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Which Social Media Platform is Right for Your Organization – A Beginner’s Guide to LinkedIn

  
  
  

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Social media, it’s something we talk about a lot here at SpeakerBox, with our clients and on this blog. We get a lot of questions from clients who are interested in using social media as a way to share their news and announcements with a larger pool of people. But with so many different options – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, SlideShare, and many more, which one (or mix of options) is right for you and your company? 

I’ve decided to spend some time looking at several of the most popular social media platforms and breaking down just who is using them, how they are being used and how a company should or could be using them. I’ll also add my own color commentary on pros and cons and final thoughts on each platform.

In order to save you from what could possibly be the world’s longest blog post, I’ll break the platforms down one by one and dedicate a single blog post to each one. For now, let’s start with LinkedIn.

For the purpose of this post I am going to focus on LinkedIn basics as well as company pages. Perhaps down the road I’ll share some thoughts about how individuals can use LinkedIn to join groups and share information relevant to their company or industry but not today.

The basics: LinkedIn bills itself as “the world's largest professional network with 300 million members in over 200 countries and territories around the globe.”

Demographics: Per the latest Quantcast report (which was generated on August 20), a quick snapshot of LinkedIn users looks like this:

  • Males outnumber females
  • The user base is wealthy with a significant number of users having an income of more than $100,000
  • The vast majority have at minimum a college education and even more indicate that they have also completed a graduate degree
  • When broken down into age groups (i.e., 25-34, 35-44, and so on), there is no one age group that represents a majority of users.  The average LinkedIn user could be 25, 64 or anything in between.
  • Asians use LinkedIn the most, followed by “other,” Hispanic, African Americans and then Caucasians

Access: While LinkedIn does have a mobile app, the majority of users access the site directly through their Internet browser.

How is it being used: At its most basic level, LinkedIn is a tool used for networking and recruiting. Beyond the basic user profile, the site also allows for company pages that enable organizations to showcase their business and connect to their target audience. Per LinkedIn, company pages can be used to “raise brand awareness, promote career opportunities, and educate potential customers on your products and services.”

Much like Facebook and other social media platforms, LinkedIn company pages allow other users to follow your page, like and comment on posts and share company updates. Companies are encouraged to post and share “rich content” daily with their followers including: news, industry articles, thought leadership pieces, or ask followers to weigh in on hot topics.  Posts can be shared with all followers or with a target audience. 

Analytics: LinkedIn has done a nice job of building some analytics into its company pages and you don’t need a premium account to access them. Under each update, page admins can see who the post was targeted to, the number of impressions (the number of times each update was seen by LinkedIn members), clicks (the number of clicks on the content), interactions (the number of times people have liked, commented on or shared each update) and the level of engagement (the number of interactions plus the number of clicks divided by the number of impressions).  

In addition to analytics listed under each post, LinkedIn has developed an analytics tab at the top of each company page (seen only by admins) that lists the analytics for every post ever made on the company page – allowing page admins to see what’s resonating with followers. The analytics tab also provides demographic information on followers, follower trends (how the number of followers has changed over a set period of time) and a sneak peek at how your page compares to your competitors.

Pros: Unlike some other social media platforms, LinkedIn is almost exclusively used for professional purposes, which means you don’t have to spend nearly as much time sorting through comments or posts that are not relevant. I also think they do an excellent job with their analytics and provide some valuable insight that companies can use.

Cons: Unlike other platforms where you can follow other users, LinkedIn does not allow you, as a company, to follow others. You can comment on your own posts if others comment and have questions but that is the extent of it for a company. In addition, while most journalists likely have a personal LinkedIn profile, from my experience I don’t see many of them following companies on LinkedIn.  

Final thoughts: I’m a big proponent of companies using LinkedIn to share their information. I think every company should have and maintain a company page on LinkedIn. I believe if you have a blog that every blog post you put out should be shared on LinkedIn. The same is true for news releases or positive articles about your company. LinkedIn is a valuable resource and one every company should invest in – it will truly only take a few minutes each day to keep it current. 

Create a Powerful Online Newsroom (or How to be a Better Media Resource, Part 2)

  
  
  

As a follow up to my last post (5 Tips to be a Better Media Resource), the second half of the Business Wire 2014 Media Survey focuses on how to best structure an online newsroom to be of value to the media. A company’s online newsroom (visited by 77% of journalists) ranks second only to the main website (92%) as the primary place where journalists go to research a company. Below, I’ll share some ideas about how to create a powerful online newsroom that will be the envy of your competitors and appreciated by your industry reporters.

1.    Be logical in the organization and navigation of your newsroom.

For brands with complicated corporate structures (a parent company with multiple “child” brands), journalists were split on whether they prefer to view a single corporate online newsroom or separate rooms for each child company. More than 45% of journalists said that it depends on the size and complexity of the brand.  

SpeakerBox client Corning MobileAccess offers a good solution for reporters.  Press releases and coverage related specifically to in-building and wireless infrastructure can be found on the Corning MobileAccess news page. A more comprehensive newsroom for the entire Corning family (including MobileAccess) lives on the corporate site.

 2.    Make your press releases as accessible and comprehensive as possible.

When it comes to formatting releases for the newsroom, journalists prefer HTML/text (56%) versus PDF (10%). However, a substantial amount of journalists prefer that both formats be offered (35%).

Journalists also use a company’s press releases to understand how the company has changed over time. About 52% of respondents ask for at least 1-5 years of historical press releases, and an additional 27% prefer to see an organization’s entire press release archive available online.

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3.    Make your online newsroom a one-stop-shop for reporters and update it daily.

Reporters are expecting to find a lot of information in your online newsroom, beyond press releases. Other desirable content, in priority order, includes:

  • Breaking news (87%)
  • Contact information: email/phone (80%)
  • Fact sheets (69%)
  • High-resolution images (62%)
  • Press kits (53%)
  • Executive bios (52%)

The big takeaway for me from these results is that your online newsroom should be dynamic. If there’s breaking news about your company or your industry, publish a response on your blog or a letter from one of your executives and link to it on your online newsroom. (Industry insights are the most valuable type of company branded content for reporters). Reporters are probably already planning stories about the breaking news. Maximize your opportunity to be included in those stories by offering thoughtful commentary that reporters can review as they research a story. And finally, it’s critical that this page be frequently updated; more than 50% of respondents believe an online newsroom should be updated at least once a day or more frequently.

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4.    Functionality matters – a lot

In addition to having the right content, it’s also important that the online newsroom offer all of the functionality that reporters are looking for. The priorities for reporters are:

  • Search functionality (74%). Reporters want to search by type of content and date, but go a step further and offer a simple keyword search to further refine the results.
  • The ability to download content (70%) is far more preferable than an embed code for videos or image files (24%)
  • The ability to register for news related to their beat (70%). This is especially critical since breaking news is the number one priority for many reporters.
  • Open access to press releases and press kits (70%). Reporters don’t want to register for content that they feel should be generally available to the media.

There’s a high-bar for an effective online newsroom, but if media coverage is a priority for your company it’s worth spending the time to keep the page updated and fully functional for reporters. Any tips I missed? Please share in the comments section below.

- Katie 

PR 101 for Startups Tips Refresh: Developing Media Relationships

  
  
  

A couple years ago, Jonathon Perrelli of Fortify.vc did a Webinar on "PR 101 for Startups." I've presented on the topic many times since and find myself in almost weekly conversations with startups about media relations. I've had three of these conversations in the past ten days, so I thought it might be good to share a couple of my thoughts and tips on questions that I'm getting more and more often.

Startups have the healthy challenge of agressive goals around visibility and traction that build credibility - it's hard to sell customers and investors without it. They also generally have limited financial and team/people resources.

I'm going to start providing refreshers on tips that I've been discussing recently and seem to be the more pressing questions that I'm getting of late.

The first one I get is always "How do I develop media relationships?"

I tend to think about media like many other business relationships. I'm not talking about business development - I'm talking about your network and ecosystem that surrounds your company that you want to have quality relationships. The reality is that building media relationships takes the same amount of time. The long-term goal should be getting to know what they write about, what their publications write, and learning to communicate with them in a way that articulates that you are paying attention. There is no short cut around it -- it takes time.

Most companies have multiple audience, whether it's business, consumer or specific vertical audiences. All of those audiences have specific media that reach them. You most likely will not going to have the bandwidth to focus on all of your potential media targets, so I generally advise for startups to make a Top 10 list. In making that list, the committment is to really spend time understanding what they cover, what the media opportunities are (authored articles, Q&As, customer case studies, executive profiles, etc.), and who the right reporters are to start building relationships with. That focus will be important to earning media coverage and expect that it can take some time.

A big piece of advice that I share is that "it's not about you." It's not that your product or services isn't potentially great, but there is credibility building that needs to take place in order to get coverage. Funding and launches can be somewhat easier to tickets to media coverage, but that is generally a short burst and you have create a strategy for times when you have nothing truly newsworthy to share.

So what can garner media coverage outside of big news? What do you mean it's not about us?

Most entreprenuers are passionate about the industry they're trying to disrupt. If you don't have a company blog, that's a great vehicle to start showcasing your knowledge. Many of your vertical publications (and some business and tech media too) accept contributed articles. If you've got a stance of a topic or best practices that your prospective customers might be able to learn from, draft and abstract of what you might like to write about and send it to the appropriate editor to see if they'd like you to write an article. 

Pitch your successful customer stories. Media are interested in presenting their audience with content that they can relate to. Customers relate to other people who share their same pain points.

Conduct a survey and generate new or update data for your industry. Use and online tool or have your team ask people to take a survey at a tradeshow or event. There are lots of ways to execute it, but the idea is that the end product could be interesting and help you develop data that the media and prospective customers could find valuable.

If they data lends itself to visualization, consider creating an infographic. Data visualization is great fodder for media and bloggers.

These are just a few ideas, but the general message is think outside of your corporate pitch and start creating opportunitys to showcase your expertise in your space and get more visibility. I should also note that once any of these types of ideas materialize, they can be redistributed through a newsletter, on your social channels, on your website, as a speaking abstract for a conference, etc. so really can be worth the investment.

Circling back to the media relationship development - get out of your office. My best media relationships have taken stronger root when I finally met the reporter. It might have been a local networking event, an industry conference, but that face time created ab opportunity for me to get to know them a little better as a person and opened the door to stay in touch and get to know them better over time.

Startups have a lot of pressure to move fast on all front, but it's better to move with a plan and long-term intentions when it comes to pursuing successful media relations. Get focused and be thoughtful and you will do just fine!

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Lessons in Branding from an Unexpected Source

  
  
  

You know who’s awesome? Pope Francis.

After years of bad press for the Catholic Church, the recently elected pope has been a much-needed breath of fresh PR air.   

During his tenure at the Vatican, Pope Francis has demonstrated excellent branding and communications skills, landing him a 92% favorability view among Catholics. Tactics that he uses daily are so simple yet effective that they could be applied by public figures and industries across the board. 

Here are a few PR lessons we could all stand to learn from Pope Francis:

 

Actions Speak Louder than Words

After his election, Pope Francis informed the Vatican that he’d forgo the lavish apartment traditionally occupied by the pope, he’d rather drive a ford focus than travel in a Mercedes limousine, and simple clothes suited him better than formal papal vestments. He wanted to make a statement loud and early that he would, quite literally, practice what he preached. 

The idea that actions speak louder than words seems so obvious, yet is forgotten in our profession all too often. It’s one thing to make a declaration that being eco-friendly is important or to pledge to research an issue that customers are facing, it’s another to actually step up and make a change as more than just a publicity stunt.

Luckily his tactics are catching on and Pope Francis isn’t the only one practicing what they preach. Another great example of a public figure implementing real change resulting in real media coverage is the President of Kentucky State University. Raymond Burse took a $90,000 pay cut so 24 low-wage workers on staff could earn $10.25 per hour. Talk about actions speaking louder than words….

 

It’s okay to be funny

In the B2B/B2G space (and I guess the Catholic Church as well) it’s easy to get caught up in formal presentation. In general, airing on the side of formality isn’t a bad best practice, but every once in a while it’s okay to remind the public that you’re human:

Not only does humor help others relate, but tends to make a public figures a bit more likable.

 

Embrace new Trends 

During his address for the 48th World Communications Day, Pope Francis called the internet a, “gift from God.”  While I’m sure everyone in PR would agree with that sentiment (most days) I was stunned to read that coming from the Pope. He went on to say:

“Good communication helps us to grow closer, to know one another better, and ultimately, to grow in unity,” he said. “The walls which divide us can be broken down only if we are prepared to listen and learn from one another.”

In an effort to break down the walls that divide us, Pope Francis has engaged in social media.  His twitter account is followed by 4.35 million people and is filled with prayers, calls to action, and commentary on current events. His papal selfie went viral. He created a twitter account in a dead language. He gets it.

Brands are often hesitant to jump on the social media bandwagon because they don’t understand how it works. This Pope understands that Twitter is a great forum to reach the masses and stay top of mind for demographics that may be distancing themselves from the church. That being said, all social networks are not appropriate for all influencers. When I see the Pope using Snapchat for example, maybe I’ll start worrying.

  

No matter your religion, it’s hard to disagree that this Pope has built up a great image. His hands on, “man of the people” approach has won him favor in circles that had previously started to migrate away from the church, like millennials.

Whether it is his progressive stances, accessibility, or the fact that he was Time’s “Person of the Year,” Pope Francis has effectively mastered his own brand.

 

 

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