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

  
  
  
describe the imageHello, November! I’m back again with another beginner’s guide to social media and this month I’ll be breaking down YouTube. As Kate pointed out in her post, video has become an integral part of PR strategy, and YouTube is obviously a big player.

Now, on with the show.

The basics: From their own website, “YouTube allows billions of people to discover, watch and share originally-created videos. YouTube provides a forum for people to connect, inform, and inspire others across the globe and acts as a distribution platform for original content creators and advertisers large and small.” Founded in 2005 by three former PayPal employees, YouTube has been owned by Google since late 2006.

Demographics: YouTube actually makes it pretty easy to find some of their basic audience stats and I’ve listed a few of them here:   

  • More than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month
  • 80% of YouTube traffic comes from outside the US

Access:  Like the other social media platforms we’ve already discussed, YouTube is easily accessed both from desktop computers and mobile devices. In fact, mobile use is growing quickly -- as of Oct. 2013 40% of YouTube traffic was coming from mobile devices. It’s not just viewing, either; creating and sharing videos from smartphones and tablets is also incredibly easy. The ease-of-use of the platform is one of the great things about it, and companies can and should capitalize on this. One of the easiest ways to do so would be to capture video when a company executive is speaking at an event and upload it to YouTube right from your phone. Additionally, if your company has a strong and fun company culture, taking videos of teams competing, whether at foosball, Wii or card games, can really showcase the culture in a way that just saying you have a “fun culture” never can.

How it’s being used: Like Facebook and Twitter, YouTube is a social media platform that is largely used by the general public. On the whole it is dominated by music videos, movie clips, and cat videos.

Businesses should not count YouTube out, though, and while this article is a bit dated (Dec. 2011), it details how five big name brands are using YouTube effectively.  It’s worth reading if you’re looking to set up your company’s YouTube channel – your company’s home page on the site.

The thing to keep in mind with YouTube is that it shouldn’t be used in a silo – don’t just post videos there and wait for someone to find them. Like with all good content, the videos you post on YouTube should be promoted to the masses through LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

Of course, there’s also social interaction to consider. Users are able to comment on videos, share content on other social media platforms directly within YouTube, or simply give a video a thumbs up or thumbs down.  As with other social networks this ability to comment does mean that company representatives need to remain engaged and keep up with the social activity that’s going on and be able to respond to comments as necessary or appropriate.

YouTube also offers unique privacy settings. You can decide if a video is open to the general public, completely private, or somewhere in the middle, allowing only those with a link to view content.  

Finally, YouTube also provides the opportunity to subscribe, or follow, channels that interest them (for me, this is apparently Baby Einstein). YouTube will also make recommendations on other channels you might want to subscribe to (for me, this includes College Humor – YouTube knows me well).

Analytics: It’s not surprising that YouTube seems to be making good use of Google Analytics (it’s a Google platform, after all) and YouTube’s analytics are some of the best I’ve seen for a social media platform. You can gather information on performance (number of views, estimated minutes watched), engagement (likes, dislikes, comments, shares), and demographics. You can customize the timeframe for which you view the analytics and keep track of how many subscribers your channel has. You can also download reports and compare how videos perform against one another.  

Pros: One of the biggest selling points about YouTube is it’s ease-of-use and the ability to access it from any device. Whether you go through the mobile app or direct to the website, YouTube has made its site all about the user experience. The ability to customize your channel, set your banner heading, and use your company’s colors and logos is a big plus too. And, as mentioned above, one of the best things about YouTube is the analytics, which provide a wealth of information about video and channel performance.

Cons: YouTube has very few cons, but if I had to come up with one it’s that, to me, it’s not quite as social of a site as Facebook (for example). What I mean by that is I’m not sure how many people are really subscribing to channels and following brands on the platform. But, as I mentioned above, YouTube is a great place to store your content for sharing on other social platforms.

Final thoughts: YouTube has become the default place to go for videos. Just as Google as come to be used as a verb, so has YouTube (as in, just Google/YouTube it).  In fact, per the infographic below, YouTube is the second largest search engine – processing three billion searches a month. If video is important to your organization (and it should be), having an active YouTube channel is a must. 

Youtube infographic

How to Pitch Challenging Brands

  
  
  
You know why the internet is great? You have access to information on anything. I realized this recently when I was browsing though PRSA’s website and realized that as a member I have access to hundreds of free webinars from industry experts on everything from account management to media relations. 

I found a webinar entitled, “How to Pitch Challenging Brands” and as this is an issue we face often working in tech PR, I thought it might be worthwhile. Here’s a recap and my key takeaways from the webinar:

Speakers included Brian Agnes, President of Family Features, Ellen LaNicca, SVP of Consumer Practice at PadillaCRT, and Susanne Vielhaurer, Director of Sales at Family Features[AR1] . While the speakers were more consumer than B2B oriented like most of our clients, they still gave some good insights and ideas for pitching strategy.

We started off by identifying a few key areas that make outreach difficult:

  • Snooze news (aka no news)

  • Socially awkward topics  - For instance, something that's generally not talked about like a bladder control medicine 

  • Social or legal woes - Who wants to talk about something their client has done wrong? 

  • Existing consumer perceptions - Especially, ones you'd really like to change 

Sound familiar? Of course it does, I don't know one PR person who hasn’t had to pitch with at least one of these factors. 

Brian went on to discuss the state of the media and what life is like as an editor, pointing out that sometimes PR people forget that editors have it rough too. With a rise in competition due to the influx of blogging [AR3] and a 30 percent decline in newsroom staff, reporters have it rough. They are getting more pitches than they can handle and have one too many stories on their plate. The 24/7 news cycle in tandem with the fierce competition to be the most factual and entertaining source of news has had a dramatic impact on the way editors approach their jobs. 

All of the stress on their end is ultimately what leads to the tension between PR pros and editors and lets face it, we’ll never successfully pitch a challenging story if we’re already on an editor’s black list. Brian pointed out a few things we can do to get on an editors good side:   

Make their job easier--consider what they have to do, think like an editor. Pitch them well thought out ideas that they can easily run with.

Keep it short—Yes you do want to give them a thought out idea, but keep it as short and sweet as possible. Editors have no desire to dig through paragraphs to find your point. 

Don't sell to them--they're not buying. While you live and die with your client’s latest product release, they don’t. The marketing lingo won’t get you very far in a pitch; in fact it’ll probably get your pitch thrown in the trash.

Brian also pointed out the easiest way to turn off an editor and that is stalking. Some PR pros think it’s a great idea to send five follow up emails AND call twice. Just don’t do it.  

Towards the end of the webinar, each of the speakers shared some of the tools and tactics that lead to some of their most successful pitches:

Add research

Research is incredibly valuable for pitching. Media has come to rely on research to validate stories, and when you can present a trend based on research, editors are far more likely to be more interested

Find a partner

Brian presented a case study about Sutter Home, and how they wanted to get into publications that banned the promotion of alcohol. They created a campaign called “Build your own Burger” that made it easy for the brand to partner with other brands. Sharing the cost of the campaign along with the recognition of multiple brands dramatically increased the results and interest from editors.

Align with key issues

Aligning with a cause or story that reporters already want to write about will exponentially increase their interest in the brand you're trying to pitch. Ellen discussed a time when she needed to pitch a company that manufactured kitchen counters. To get coverage she aligned the brand with sustainability. They hitched their wagon to a leader in the industry and enlisted him as an ambassador for the brand. His credibility in tandem with the hot topic of sustainability got a lot of placements in top tier media.

Be fun and timely

Is there a holiday coming up? Capitalize on it. Is there a current event that relates? Link to it. Is there a trend going on? Have fun with it. Susanne shared a case study on how a hardware brand used the zombie trend to get millennials interested and engaged in a hardware store. They built a campaign around "preparing for the zombie apocalypse" and incorporated both traditional and social media. The campaign was incredibly successful, showing us all that you can even make hardware interesting by being tying it to something fun and timely.

Capitalize on Opportunity

PR is hugely opportunistic. Every day there are things that happen that give you an opportunity to put your brand in the right place, at the right time. Ellen gave an example about how Peter Shankman tweeted "Hey @Mortons can you meet me at the Newark airport with a porterhouse when I land in two hours. K, thanks" Morton’s said, "challenge accepted" and met him at his gate with a steak two hours later. By moving quickly and identifying that Peter Shankman is a social media giant, then gambling that they might get a positive social response from him to his 22,000+ followers, Morton’s capitalized on the opportunity flawlessly, resulting in a ton of free media for the restaurant.

Overall the webinar had some great insights and anecdotes from the industry, and I look forward to watching more in the future! If you’re a PRSA member I encourage you to check out: https://www.prsa.org/Learning/ for webinars and training information.

 

Do-It-Yourself Media Relations CTA Blog  

5 Reasons Video Should Be Part of Your Content Marketing Plan

  
  
  

As younger generations begin to enter the workforce, there is a clear shift in the way content is being consumed.  We are now trying to reach an audience that is increasingly visual.  Video and graphic-driven social platforms are just one way to realize this shift – just look at the popularity social platforms such as Snapchat, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, etc.  In case you don’t trust me, seriously, just Google any form of video content and marketing and the stats will be up front and center – the new, visual consumer is here to stay. 

This is not just a social media trend, but has corporate implications as well. As public relations professionals who help clients plan and execute full-scope communication plans to reach these new audiences and buyers, we’re always trying to make sure our best practices don’t fall behind the trends.  That’s why we’ve been helping to manage and implement an increasing amount of video, infographics, and other visuals for inclusion in our clients’ content marketing plans.  So, if you aren’t in the video game yet, here are five reasons you should be: 

The Numbers Don’t Lie: Sometimes you just have to trust the facts.  Check out YouTube, for example. They’ve got more than one billion unique users per month and over six billion hours of video watched per month (almost an hour for every person on Earth, according to their site).  And, according to a recent Cisco study, by 2018 79 percent of all consumer Internet traffic will be video content.  That shows video is on the rise and will be for quite sometime. The good news is you aren’t too far behind now if you haven’t considered using video to enhance your content marketing efforts, but it should be on the agenda soon.

The Power of Engagement:  We already know that people are watching videos.  But, people are also sharing video like crazy.  Social Times writer Meghan O’Neill shared an infographic a while back called “Inside Video Marketing: Social Proof By the Numbers (Part 2)” and the takeaways shined tons of light on video engagement:

  1. Users are more engaged with content shared by friends, and videos are heavily shared
  2. Consumers that watch a video are more likely to purchase an offering than they are if no video is present
  3. Over 81% of users turn to word-of-mouth when making product decisions and video provides more earned, word-of-mouth attention
  4. Social video campaigns are booming – they generated 2.7 billion views in 2010, up from 820 million in 2009
  5. Video empowers viewers to share – if the content is good, they feel compelled to share it

You can check out the full infographic and article here.  But, the skinny is, people are sharing videos.  Those shares could be of your companies’ videos, and those decisions to spend money could be money in your companies’ pockets.   

SEO, SEO, SEO.  Because videos are incredibly more likely to be shared than traditional content, this means the effect on your SEO could be immense.  And for mega search site Google, they are starting to care way more about quality than keywords. Meaning, the more validated the content is via sharing, the better SEO you’ll get.  In addition, search is also including social media. So all of those shares could be worth even more than you think for moving your content to the top of the results list.  

Less is More.  We’re not talking full-length motion picture here. In fact, the shorter the video, sometimes the better.  We recommend our clients, depending on the projected use and content of the video, keep there videos to just a couple of minutes tops.  This means great things for the production budget and overall time and resources put toward the content. It can often be equivalent effort to that put into an extensive piece of written content.    

And, you can even repurpose existing content to get the job done. Do you already have an exceptional piece of written content that has generated a ton or leads or attention?  Don’t assume it’s been exhausted.  Get the most of out your content by giving it a fresh and entertaining makeover into video content that might help you reach a new audience with the same, great message. 

It’s not as hard as you think.  You don’t have to be a large company with endless budget and you certainly don’t have to dive in to video alone. Use your resources, especially your comms team and PR agency to help you along the way.  And, although it can be easier to use a professional production company that can handle the legwork for you, there are also some tools you can take advantage of to help kick-start a video content marketing initiatives.  Check out tools like Powtoon and Wideo for options that will help automate the process.  

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10 Things I Stole From Guy Kawasaki (That He Stole from Steve Jobs)

  
  
  
What a Guy

 

Now this is ironic.*

Last year, I went to Hubspot’s annual inbound marketing conference in Boston (the reasonably titled Inbound 2013).

I didn’t go to the conference this year (Inbound 2014). Was it because no one offered me an all-expenses-paid trip to Boston this year?

That would be a terribly gauche and accurate way to look at it.

But I also had this epiphany, see – that in our new golden age of inbound marketing, why would anyone physically go anywhere?

Surely, the whole conference would be sliced, diced, and delivered to my browser as clickable content, right? Instead of a plane ticket and a hotel room, all it would cost me is SPAM-access to a Yahoo! inbox I legitimately haven't checked since the Y2K fizzle.

So yeah, I might not have heard the keynote from former Apple chief evangelist Guy Kawasaki in real time, but thanks to my friends at Column Five, I now have all the salient takeaways. And today, I'm paying it forward to you fine people, along with some value-added snark you can't get anywhere else.

Here goes:

Guy Kawasaki's "The 10 Things I Learned from Steve Jobs" (written by Column Five and annotated by yours truly)

1. Experts Are Clueless.

No one can predict the future, and oftentimes experts are simply wrong. Kawasaki noted that Western Union found “no use” for the telephone technology, banking on the fact that the telegraph would sustain. To truly innovate, you have to follow your own vision.

(Oh, it is SO trendy to pick on Western Union these days. But last time I checked, they’re still cornering the "your nephew is in jail and he needs you to wire him cash in the next forty-five minutes and I don't want to answer any questions about it" market. And I check frequently. In fact, let me just... dang, they folded.)


2. Customers Cannot Tell You What They Need.

You have to drive your own innovation.

(This is true. Customers can't tell you what they need. In fact, in my experience, customers can’t even tell you what they think they need -- which is why focus groups tend to be such pointless boondoggles. “What I’d really like is for the product to be flashier, but in a subdued kind of way,” the respondent says. And then I stab him with my pen.)

 

3. Jump to the Next Curve.

“Most companies define themselves by what they already do as opposed to what they mean to [people]. To be truly innovative, you don’t change what you’re doing, you create the next curve,” Kawasaki says.

(I don’t totally understand what this means – maybe I should have gone to Boston afterall. Or maybe it's just a rehash of points 1 and 2, but using the word curve to sound more "innovative" and "curvulent.")

 

4. Challenge Big.

No risk, no reward. Mobilize your team to challenge the status quo.

(What’s the worst that could happen? If you fail miserably, you can always fake your own death for insurance purposes! I can't think of a single valid reason to make small, incremental changes to your entire business livlihood when massive, radical changes are possible... unless...)

 

5. Design Counts.

Apple always embraced good design, because “it counts for enough people.” No matter your product or service, good design only enhances the experience.

(No snark needed here. Design is incredibly important. It's like 90% of the marketing equation – and that’s coming from an ex-copywriter. Pains me to say it, but it's the curvulent truth.)

 

6. Use Big Graphics and Big Fonts.

The point of your presentation is not to give someone the text of what you’re saying, it’s to give them just enough anchor points to follow what you’re saying.” When you want to make a big statement, make it a big visual.

(Ummm... I feel like this list suddenly veered from “How to Succeed in Business” to “How to Succeed in PowerPoint.” But... he’s not wrong.)

 

7. Change Your Mind.

Being nimble and flexible is vital, even if it means completely reversing your strategy. Kawasaki cited Jobs reversing his stance on opening the iPhone up to third-party apps. “Changing your mind is a sign of intelligence. It is not a sign of stupidity or making a mistake,” he says.

(This point can’t be stressed enough. The original iPhone did not have a third-party app store and was never intended to have one. Remember that. If Steve Jobs hadn’t the courage to reverse course, we might not be playing a poor Flappy Bird clone right now or downloading that app where you click on the cow.)

 

8. Value Is Not the Same Thing as Price.

Price is what you pay on day one, but value is everything -- [the sum total experience]. Focus on providing value to your customer, and you can justify your price.

(This is a tricky one. Based on value, my iPhone should have cost me $800,000. And my Crest Whitening Strips should have been free.)

 

9. A Players Hire A+ Players.

When individuals are threatened by talent and hire people less capable than they are, the company soon suffers. “Hire people who are better than you,” Kawasaki says, to create a healthy company.

(Come on, I’m not hiring someone better than me. That’s just silly. It’s like introducing your girlfriend to Tom Brady, and then hooking up with Tom Brady yourself later that night because come on, the guy is amazing and, wait, where was I going with this...?)

 

10) Marketing = Unique Value.

If you want to make history, focus on providing your customers a completely unique product or experience.

(I really like this one. I’m going to steal it. To hell with uniqueness... Oh, and since we're giving secrets away, here's the best-kept secret to successful marketing and public relations ROI:)

Learn the Secret
*Unless you're going by the actual, non-Morrisette definition of ironic -- in which case this is in no way ironic.

Is a Project or Long-term Engagement Your Best PR Bet?

  
  
  

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These days, many businesses are eyeing the short-term. Enterprises purchase and consume only what they want and need right now – a key reason why monthly subscription models have become extremely popular. It’s a far cry from the days when big licensing fees ruled the roost; now, a business can pay a monthly fee for a piece of software for what amounts to a weekly Starbucks run.

But this is also an example of good long-term thinking. Enterprises are embracing lighter and smaller forms of technology that are cheaper to purchase and maintain, easier to use, hosted (so that if something goes wrong, someone else can fix it), and more scalable. These are all things that businesses have strived to achieve over the years; with the help of today’s on-demand technology, they may have finally nailed it.

It’s not just technology that’s being impacted by this, however. PR firms like SpeakerBox are feeling the effects, too. For example, we’re seeing clients ask us to create highly specific, short-term programs and projects for them. These range from the creation of messaging platforms, to the launch of particular products, to the development of content, such as white papers. Usually these requests stem from an immediate need: a client has a new product that’s getting set to make its debut, there’s a trade show coming up and they need some collateral, etc.

Often, these “one and done” projects take only a few weeks, but their impact can be felt for months, sometimes years. A well-written white paper, for instance, may answer a short-term need, but it can provide long-term value, especially if it can be leveraged for additional future opportunities. This is what’s typically known as “bang for your buck,” and it can be very suitable in some instances.

But not all instances. In fact, there are a significant number of reasons companies may want to employ an ongoing relationship with a PR firm. Some examples include: 

When you’re positioning yourself for something big. A sale, an acquisition, or simply large-scale revenue growth – all of these require something more than just a “quick hit.” They require reputation and awareness building. These things take time – sometimes months, maybe even years. If you’re in this position, you’ll want to develop an ongoing relationship with your marketing or PR firm.

When you’re looking to reinvent yourself. True reinvention goes beyond building a messaging platform, regardless of how strategic that might be. It should include a comprehensive plan designed to build your company’s reputation through ongoing media relations – not just press releases, but also proactive and frequent outreach to key reporters, and a never-ending effort to continuously hammer home the organization’s focus.

When you’re looking to stay in the spotlight. One-shot PR efforts can be great for certain things, but staying in the spotlight is not necessarily one of them. If you want to sustain awareness about your company, you’ll likely need to maintain an ongoing program that employs a combination of tactics, including a healthy dose of media relations, a good amount of content development, perhaps even a dash of analyst relations or social media management.

When you want an extension of your marketing team. When engaging in short-term projects, SpeakerBox becomes an extension of your marketing team, but that engagement goes dormant when the project ends (it doesn’t go away completely – you can always come back to us, we love that!). But a longer-term relationship inevitably leads us to a better understanding of your company’s goals, which allows us to develop a full-fledged program that is designed to continuously and fluidly help you attain them. In fact, this might be the best testament to the benefits of a long relationship – the ability to react and change our overall efforts as your business evolves.

In the months ahead you’re going to see some exciting things coming from SpeakerBox that will help address both your short- and long-term needs. We’re looking forward to helping on both accounts, supporting you when – and in the ways – you need.

Pete Larmey

PR 101 for Startups Webinar

Innovation Advice and Insights from FedTalks 2014

  
  
  

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FedTalks, the largest annual gathering of the top leaders in the tech and government IT community, is one of my favorite events. Hosted by FedScoop, FedTalks is a fast-paced, daylong event featuring lively presentations from government and industry luminaries. This year’s event, which was held on Nov. 6, did not disappoint.

One of the key themes of this year’s program was enterprise transformation – how both government and industry are using technology to transform into more nimble, agile organizations. In case you missed it, a few highlights from this year’s event are provided below.

James Watters, VP of Product for Cloud Foundry, an open source cloud computing platform-as-a-service, discussed the importance of agility and claimed, “the fastest response time wins.” Integral to this need for speed are small “two pizza box teams” that are empowered to respond quickly to new requirements.  

Department of the Treasury CIO Sonny Bhagowalia focused on the importance of “tapping into the ingenuity of the American public” using examples of the Open Government initiative and various challenges, grants, partnerships and creative funding programs that government employs to foster innovation.

Intel’s Curt Aubley discussed the democratization of high-performance computing (HPC) as a powerful tool to analyze large data sets. Once used exclusively by governments and well-funded research organizations, HPC is being used in new ways to address challenging problems. He mentioned Intel’s work with the Michael J. Fox Foundation to fight Parkinsons as an example of HPC in action. 

David Bray, the FCC’s CIO, heralded the “public service change agent and the intrapreneur” as desirable government employees that can help to transform government. He reminded the audience that expertise requires experimentation and that agencies shouldn’t be afraid to fail.

Roberta Stempfley, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity Strategy & Emergency Communications at DHS, spoke of the “exponential world.” Devices are connecting to networks at speeds no one could have imagined. The government cyber community needs to embrace this scale rather than fight it.

Chris Wolf, CTO of VMware, suggested that government transformation could be enabled by more agile, available and inexpensive IT solutions. He specifically referenced automation as a way to free up IT resources for other tasks and encouraged IT professionals to “lose the cape” and “think differently about how to be a hero.”

Acting DoD CIO Terry Halvorsen has some aggressive transformation plans in the works. He intends to decrease the DoD IT budget by $4-$5 billion over the next few years by embracing cloud solutions, reducing the number of applications, consolidating network infrastructures and rolling out new mobile devices. He’s also looking at ways to collaborate more closely with civilian agencies.

Tom Mendoza, Vice Chairman of NetApp, shared his no-nonsense approach to creating a successful company culture – motivation, risk-taking and employee respect. He also pointed out that the number one reason change fails is because of an inability to sustain a sense of urgency. Change is more likely to be successful if employees buy into the big idea or vision.

Bryan Sivak, CTO at HHS, shared several of the programs at HHS that are designed to transform the agency. Specifically, he shared some unusual recruiting strategies and programs designed to catalyze cross-departmental communications and foster change, such as the Ignite Accelerator, the HHS Ventures Fund and the Innovates Awards.

The final government speaker of the day was Stephen Warren, CIO of the Dept. of Veterans Affairs. He suggested that agencies focus on timely delivery of a development project rather than scope. He noted that since lengthier projects were more likely to fail, he required all VA projects to be delivered in six months or less. By taking this agile approach, the VA’s project success rate has doubled.

The packed house of more than 1,200 stayed until the very end to hear George Takei wrap up the day’s program. I’m already looking forward to next year. 

- Katie Hanusik

 

 

 

The Best and Worst of PR Measurement – Round 1: AVEs

  
  
  

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A huge part of public relations revolves around metrics. After all, like any industry, how do you prove success of a campaign without something to base it on? Metrics come in many forms and there is no industry standard for the best way to measure public relations success. In the next few blog posts I plan to dissect a few of the most common types of measurement, both traditional and modern, and their pros and cons when it comes to determining the success of a public relations campaign.

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While it is a question we (luckily) get asked increasingly less, it still rears its ugly head from time to time from both prospects and long-term clients alike: “How can we measure this placement in terms of advertising value?” 

Advertising value equivalencies (AVEs), while primarily defunct now, were at one time all the rage in public relations, and still are used by many to some extent.

What they are:

According to the Institute of Public Relations Commission of PR Measurement and Evaluation AVEs are: “The calculation of space or time used for earned media (publicity or news content) by comparing it to the cost of that same space or time if purchased as advertising.” AVEs are one of the most traditional forms of public relations measurement and were widely used at one time. 

Traditionally they are measured by calculating the space (column inches) occupied by a clip (for radio and television coverage, you measure time). Then multiply the column inches (time) by the ad rate for that page (time slot). Sometimes and additional multiplier would be used in the range of 3-10, to allow for the credibility factor of news coverage over advertising.

Benefits:

The main benefit of AVEs is the ease to which they are understood. While my parents still don’t really understand what I do, they understand what advertisements are. And while most clients are marketing savvy enough to have a much better grasp on public relations, having a number based measurement is one of the easiest ways to show success.

People are attracted to AVEs because it puts a dollar amount on media coverage and to some extent, compares results to advertising. Using dollar amounts allows clients to clearly measure the success against the budget they are paying. If there is a set number your budget can be compared against, it becomes much easier to justify the expense.

Weaknesses:

AVEs don’t consider the message of the article. If the article does not contain your key businesses messages or if the publication is not what your target audience reads, even a placement in the New York Times measured in AVE terms will be skewed when compared to business results and actual ROI.

Additionally, AVEs don’t take into account social media. Because AVEs has been around for quite some time, social media wasn’t what it is today at the time of their creation. Having key influencers tweet out an article can have a huge impact on your brand’s exposure that would never be captured in an AVE report. The same goes for online publications. While an article on TechCrunch would be considered a win by pretty much all of our clients, measuring that success with AVEs could show a drastically different impact that what would actually happen because of the nature of online advertising and its payment models.

AVEs measure what an equivalent advertisement in a publication would be. But a 3rd party article is not an advertisement – and has far more sway with consumers than an advertisement. Reporters are not paid for their comments, therefore providing readers with a sense of trust that will garner much more credibility than any advertisement.

To be honest, I could go on and on about the weaknesses. But most importantly, PR is not just media relations (and is something totally different than advertising), so it deserves a metrics system that measures more than just media content.

Overall assessment:

While the measurement tries to provide more of an ‘apples to apples’ approach when it comes to looking at budget vs. return, what we’re trying to compare is not ‘apples to apples’. Public relations is not advertising and it never will be so the comparison of article space to advertising cost just doesn’t add up. 

Thus, AVEs have been regarding as irrelevant in the industry for years. Yet, clients still love to see the numbers so it becomes a re-education process. There are numerous other ways to set expectations and measure results that are realistic and prove ROI even without dollar amounts. As a client, if you want to have a meaningful measure of your public relations efforts, talk to your account team and together set goals that are both attainable and at the end of the day would help your bottom line.

Public relations is not a science nor is its measurement. PR cannot be measured in one way as each company as different goals and marks for what they consider a success. In the next post, we’ll discuss alternative options to AVEs and what form of measurement might work best for your business.

MindShare Class Recap: Tips on Building a Strong Board

  
  
  

Last Thursday marked the final program for this year's MindShare class; I have written about MindShare before (see previous recaps!), recapping the events as I can, and promoting the participants who graduate and are accepted into this invite-only program. 

Some great material is shared in these sessions, and this last one on building a board didn't disappoint! Moderated by Mike Lincoln of Cooley, LLP, the panel included:

MindShare panel

From left:Dean Parker, Simita Bose, Mike Lincoln, Duke Chung, Todd Gibby

Simita Bose – Entrepreneur, investor and board member: Partner at Novak Biddle, a venture capital firm with over $600m under management and 65 portfolio companies. She is also the CEO and Chairman of Centrifuge Systems, a leader in big data discovery, and serves as a board member for several other portfolio companies. Simita brings the perspectives of an investor, CEO and board member. @NovakBiddleVP

Todd Gibby – Successful serial entrepreneur and MindShare Alum: CEO of BoardEffect, the premier Board Governance Platform for boards of directors. Previously, Todd was the CEO of Intelliworks, a higher education tech company which successfully exited to Hobsons, and where he later served as President of the higher education division. Earlier, Todd held executive leadership positions for seven years at Blackboard, a global leader in e-Learning software. Todd brings the perspectives of CEO and board member. @tgibby

Dean Parker – Successful serial entrepreneur and MindShare Alum: Founder and CEO of Callis Communications, the leader in cloud-based Unified Communications as a Service technology, which successfully exited to C Spire, the largest privately-owned telecommunications provider. Dean now leads investments in tech companies through his venture fund, Vita Capital, and currently sits on the board of Digital Global Systems, among others. Dean brings the perspectives of founder & CEO and building an independent board of directors at Callis. @deanparker

Duke Chung – Successful, serial entrepreneur and MindShare Alum: Founder and CEO of Parature, the leading cloud-based multi-channel customer service software, which successfully exited to Microsoft earlier this year. Duke advises numerous emerging and growth stage companies through his investments and board positions. Dean brings the perspectives of founder & CEO and board member. @paraduke

Here are some of the key takeaways at a high level--hopefully good fodder for anyone looking to build a board! Also included below is a video of panelist Dean Parker, sharing additional perspective on the event tonight, and the MindShare program for CEOs. Read all the way through...

Panel at MindShare

-  On the topic of when to form a board and why: the board can help you see things you don't see. It's a form of self-governance. You can only be as good as to what you hold yourself to be accountable. A lot depends on the stage of the company...most believed you should start a board from day one! Customers like to see a strong board, investors like to see it; it creates a culture of accountability. 

-  Look for at least one independent director, a person who has nothing at stake, per se, who will be honest with you and might even tell you your baby is ugly (if it is!) Look for a "brand name" who has credibility with the rest of the board, especially someone who has "done it before" and who can help round out the team. It helps to have that independent person who can validate how things work within your specific industry. 

-  You can shift your boards around, as you grow as a company. The people who might be with you when you start are not always the ones who will be with you as you grow. Look to your board members as "tour guides." For early stage companies, for example, look for people who can help you get the right partners. After fundraising, however, you might want to look for people who will help you scale, who have done it before, etc. Someone who can share business models, etc. Board members can help you “see what the movie will look like 5 years from now.”

-  On the size of the board, the panelists kept coming back to the number 5...most agreed it was better to keep boards smaller in size, nimble, but big enough to get varying opinions and insight. 

-  One of the most valuable board members? People who are actually there to work...to help...to roll up their sleeves. Be cautious about adding someone who has been out of the industry for a while, who might claim to open doors, as unfortunately, there is often a short shelf life for contacts, no matter how great they are. 

- Plan to meet with your board as often as it provides value. Most agreed that in the early stages, every six weeks was not too often. The board is there to help, take advantage of it! But it does take time to prepare, and you still need to run your business. You need to strike the balance between running the company and spending all your time in board meetings. One idea was to hold in-person meetings once a quarter, then do update calls once a month. 

- How long does it take to prepare? It's not uncommon to be preparing for at least a week - not always full time - but the time commitment needs to be considered. After a while, if you have good templates, it can get easier. One idea for structure: Share what's good, what's bad, and what's on your mind. Be sure to spend some time giving a little of the "rear view mirror," but also be sure to "look through the windshield."

- Another consideration: publish a list of the things you need to cover in the meeting and send it out early so people can read and address things ahead of time, and not spend time adressing them in the meeting.

- Just like any high-performance team, you should ensure you have alignment within your board. It's critical! If interests are not aligned between independents, investors and executives…it can derail any productivity you might seek.

- One idea was to film your executives giving their updates and recaps, and then send them out to your board ahead of time so they can process and hear from your team.

- Look for board members who are truly invested and who will show up and be active. The board is not always engaged with the day-to-day of a company, especially a tech company, and with things moving so quickly, you will benefit more by having a board who will be present in the meeting and engage. 

- For compensation, a lot of board members are willing to contribute, to give back, for no fees! Especially if they truly buy into your vision. If you elect to share equity, it does not need to be more than a fraction of a percent. Be wary of offering cash...most board members know that cash is king in a growing company, and should be reserved for growing the business, not incentivizing board members. For investors that are on boards, compensation is not required since they are already invested in the business...your success is their success. 

- Write a “board charter:” lay out your expectations, how they can help, how often they are expected to be present and how long you want their term to be. A 2-year stint is typical; depending on who they are. Investor board members will always want to be involved. 

- Expose your leadership to the board, as it benefits both the board to see your team, and also your executives who might benefit from seeing the bigger picture from the board.

- Consider inviting your board to internal celebrations; happy hours, team meetings, holiday parties. Let them be a part of your team!

- Never hold back from your board; there should be no secrets, no reason to "sell" or not be transparent. They are there to help you, and can only do that when they see everything that's going on. 

Any other tips and pointers you'd like to share? 

And now, a special word from our panelist Dean Parker, on a takeaway for when to build a board:

-- Elizabeth Shea, @eliz2shea

Potomac Tech Wire's Startup Outlook 2015

  
  
  

Startup Outlook 2015 panelists

Potomac Tech Wire hosted its "Startup Outlook 2015: Growing a Company in the Current Market" program last Thursday at the new Tysons Tower.

The event kicked off with a keynote from Phil Bronner of Quad Learning on "Understanding Both Sides of the Table: What Entrepreneurs Need to Know About Venture Capital." Bronner drew on his 12.5 years as a General Partner for Novak Biddle Venture Partners and experience raising $21 million for Quad Learning to craft his insights for the startup audience. One of my favorite anecdotes from his engaging presentation included Luke Skywalker and Yoda. Paraphrasing Bronner: "If you are selling light sabers, Luke Skywalker would be a great target investor. And a great way to get to Luke, would be through his trusted advisor, Yoda." 

Here are the highlights of Bronner's tips on things for entrepreneurs to consider as they pursue venture capital:

  1. Venture Capitalists want to do deals, but you have to FIND a way to break through.
  2. To break through, you have to find the right VC for YOUR deal. If you do, they will add more value and pay a higher price for your deal.
  3. You are FULLY vested the VC is not.
  4. All VCs are not alike. Even in the same firm there are huge differences in performance.
  5. The right VC can add a lot of value to your business. More than they cost.

Bronner's keynote was followed by an entrepreneurs' panel filled with leaders of successful startups in the region. In addition to Bronner, the panelists included:

  • Jon Chapman, Co-founder/CSO, EverFi
  • Ric Fleisher,Co-founder/EVP, Urgent.ly
  • Blake Hall, Founder/CEO, ID.me
  • Tien Wong, Founder/CEO, Appnetic

Paul Sherman, Publisher of Potomac Tech Wire moderated their discussion on raising venture capital, major tech trends, and growing new ventures in the current market environment.

Major takeaways from the panel were that the DC region is solid in its growing reputation as a great place to start a business; early stage talent is abundant, but growth stage talent is harder to find in the region; and cultivating a strong team and customer relationships continue to be as important as ever. One of the pieces of advice on hiring that stood out for me was to seek out the over-the-top positive personalities and avoid negative, wet rag types that will drain your energy and impede your progress.

It was a great event packed with even better insights.

My Experience Working Remotely in PR: 365-days of Opportunities and Challenges

  
  
  

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Note: Most of our blogs are about you, dear reader. This one isn’t. It’s about me. More specifically, it’s about SpeakerBox culture and how it accommodates someone in my situation – a remote worker.

Even though this post pertains directly to me, my hope is that my fellow clients who also work remotely will see some of themselves in this.


I remember both discussions – the one with my wife and the other with my boss – very clearly.

The former happened at dinner one evening in May 2012. It was an extension of a discussion that had actually been going on for some time. And it was finally time to make a decision.

 “Why don’t we move back?” she asked.

By “back,” she meant back to Raleigh, North Carolina. It was something that had been in vaguely mentioned for a couple of months. We had family back there, and friendships that had been built over more than a decade. It was familiar, and it was home. And home was calling to us.

One small problem: my job at SpeakerBox was in D.C., and moving back would mean working remotely. Even knowing the very open and accommodating culture at SpeakerBox – and the fact that we have actually had other remote workers before – I thought this might be a fairly big ask.

Which brings me to the second conversation. It took place the very next day. I asked Lisa Throckmorton if she would be comfortable with me doing this. Of course, she was.

Thus began my career as a member of the remote workforce. It’s a career that many other public relations professionals also partake in, including some of my clients. Indeed, PR is often mentioned as one of the top telecommuting fields.

The majority of what I do is actually quite suited for a home office worker. We’ve written quite a bit on The Sounding Board about how PR has changed over the years.  Skills like long-form content writing, social media monitoring, and even search engine optimization have all become integral part of PR campaigns. All of these can effectively be done remotely.

Technology has also allowed me to feel connected to both my clients and teams in the office. I’m on Google IM constantly, and have used Google Hangouts and Facetime quite frequently for a more personal touch to meetings. In fact, I would argue that telecommuting has made me even more connected through use of these various tools. That’s resulted in more iterative and adaptive work processes built on immediate brainstorming, the ability to edit and comment in real-time with other team members, and productivity through frequent, easy touch points throughout the day.

Still, PR is based on relationship building, and nothing takes the place of real, in-person contact. Hence, I travel up to the office every couple of months for quarterly meetings, client get-togethers, and such. And every time I’m glad that I do it; I don’t want to lose those connections.

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Yet most days I’m surrounded by solitude (well, when my kid’s not home and the dog’s not barking). It’s quiet here, but that quietude lends itself well to thoughtfulness. That comes in awful handy when writing an in-depth white paper, for example, or even a blog post suchas this. There are no real distractions in my office, save perhaps for my view of the woods and garden out back.

At the same time, I don’t want to make this seem like a love letter to telecommuting, because there are several real drawbacks. The well-known and obvious ones are all true: it is hard to tell yourself when to turn off work, even if your stuff is housed in a separate room that serves as an office, and it’s easy to feel non-productive if you do not develop a routine.

I find there are also challenges that are specific to PR and marketing professionals. For instance, it’s often not possible to drop everything and attend a local event that some of your co-workers may be able to easily use as a networking opportunity. And it’s sometimes too easy to get used to the comforts of home and eschew the chance to attend an in-person event that might further your relationships with reporters or other industry professionals.

Now that I’ve been doing this full-time for a couple of years, I can honestly say the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks, at least for me. Overall, I’m more productive, creative, and, most of all, happy to be back home.

That said, I also acknowledge that telecommuting may not be for everyone. It takes concentration and willpower to focus and not let the distractions of home and family become overwhelming. More so, it takes a willingness to be away from people, and yet continually stay connected to them.

Connections, after all, are the basis of all public relations -- even if they’re made from a distance. 

Pete Larmey

 

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