"Today is the day we stop running."
Let's play a game.
Imagine for a second that your favorite hamburger restaurant just started giving away free hamburgers. Not as a special offer. Not as a frequent-customer reward. Just free hamburgers. All day, all the time.
You'd be pumped, right? Until you finally ate one, and you realized they'd replaced the meat with insect protein and toxic levels of mercury. In fact the product isn’t even called a hamburger anymore. It’s called “Verizon presents hamburger-related entertainment.”
So what's preventing this Orwellian future? Well, some of us, for now at least, outside of mainland China, are willing to pay for reasonably untainted meat. What we’re mostly unwilling to pay for these days is reasonably untainted news and information. So all of that mercury and insect waste isn’t going into our stomachs, but rather our heads.
(That’s not entirely a fair comparison. With online media, the cost per unit is negligible, so you can make a free model work a lot easier. On the other hand, you probably only clicked this link because you thought you were getting a Wendy's coupon.)
So when and why did we collectively decide we’d pay for what we eat, but not for what we read?
I suppose it’s because what we read can’t literally kill us.
Then again, what we read affects how we think, behave, and interact with one another. It affects the rise and fall of nations, and the very fate of the planet. (What we eat affects little more than our own digestion.)
"Sure, you could get a version of the news that doesn't serve my own financial and political interests... for an additional dollar! Mwahahaha."
The more I think about this, the weirder it gets. We’ll not only pay for food in this country, we’ll pay for ridiculous food.
From The Today Show online:
“The 12-inch Luxury Pizza at Nino’s Bellissima in New York City costs a whopping $1,000, which breaks down to $125 a slice. The restaurant needs 24 hours' notice to create the pie because it is topped with six types of caviar, which have to be specially ordered. In addition, the pizza includes lobster, creme fraiche and chives."
Wait, what? That doesn't even sound good!
How much money does the average American spend on unnecessary food and alcohol each day? And yet the thought of spending 4 cents a day for a newspaper subscription is laughable to us.
Well, I'm sorry to have to show you this -- it's going to haunt you for years -- but this is where that line of thinking inevitably takes us. (Hat tip to Gawker):
That's the homepage of The Baltimore Sun from Labor Day last year.
This actually happened. And we let it happen while we were stuffing our faces.
So here's my thought: We take a tenth of our monthly cupcakes budget, and we spend it on legitimate news and information. We'll be smarter, thinner, and... nevermind, I'm gonna go get a burger.
When choosing a career in PR, college students tend to focus on its more glamorous aspects. Yes, there are times when we go to star-studded parties and drink champagne. But the majority of a PR professional’s career is spent sitting in an office, dealing with daily fire drills. There's a reason why PR is often listed as one of the top-5 most stressful jobs.
That said, I love my job in PR. It offers something new and different every day, a chance to build relationships with people in diverse positions, and a behind-the-scenes look at how news gets made.
But PR is hard sometimes. While I'm not sure my specific role deserves a spot on the world’s most stressful jobs list, it's certainly no cakewalk. This is a career (much like waiting tables) that isn't for everyone. PR pros need a certain set of skills and personality traits to be successful.
If you're thinking about going into PR, consider this list of requirements before making the jump:
- Patience - A lot of PR is waiting: waiting to hear back on a pitch, waiting for an article to go live, waiting on material from the client, waiting for edits, and on and on. If you can't handle the waiting (and finding something else to work on in the meantime) this might not be the field for you.
- Love of writing - In PR you will be writing every day. Pitches, blog post, press releases, emails, etc. You’ll need to be concise, compelling and clear in your communications. Since you'll be doing it so often, it's best if you enjoy it.
- Thick skin - Obviously, no one loves to be rejected constantly. But, in PR you get told “no” a lot. If you're lucky, it's communicated nicely; if you're unlucky, you get hung up on (or worse) by a reporter in the middle of your pitch. Of course it's upsetting. But if this is going to keep you up at night, beware.
- Love of people - You don't have to be Miss. (or Mr.) Congeniality, but it sure helps. We are constantly tasked with building relationships with new people - clients, reporters, influencers, and others. These relationships are the foundation of what we do. So if you'd rather not spend your time cultivating strong relationships, PR might not be your best career path.
- Good under pressure - Everything in PR is deadline driven, and we are always under the gun. Sometimes we don't even have time to procrastinate. To thrive in this field, you need to be good at putting out fires, setting expectations and checking things off the to-do list quickly and efficiently.
This afternoon, our client and digital identity solution-provider, ID.me placed branded home plates near DC metro stops and on sidewalks near the Washington Nationals Ballpark. Underneath each of the plates (there were 30 around the city) was a voucher that can be redeemed for two tickets to one of the following home games: Saturday, July 19 vs. MIL; Saturday, August 2 vs. PHI; Saturday, August 16 vs. PIT.
ID.me, in partnership with the Nationals, regularly offers a discount of up to 40% off tickets to members of the military community and first responders through their digital identification system.
Today's promotion was so well received that it won't be too long before the opportunity to score Nats ticket vouchers by flipping over a home plate presents itself again.
Here's some of the buzz it generated:
We have had a busy quarter at SpeakerBox, and fortunately it seems like the phone has been ringing, emails are coming in, on top of inbound leads. We adoped an inbound marketing strategy for our agency specifically, and it paid off by bringing in leads from all over the country that were qualified technology companies we wanted to talk to.
But it struck me when I really examined the closed business we have seen this year (versus the absolute lead count), that the best business came through a referral from a client, prospect or friend to the agency. Probably because they know us, they know our strengths and weaknesses, and can help get us halfway to understanding whether we would be a mutual fit. But no one has to do this, and that's what makes it so powerful.
We met with a new software client last week, and they too had metrics of a strong referral business has been built over the past decade, if not longer. More than 50% of their business came from a referral, which for a technology company specifically, is not always the case. Of course, there is word of mouth, branding, all those other pieces to marketing that are critical. But the referral...a promoter for your business when you aren't even looking...power still exists there.
Some best practices will always hold true. Get out and meet people. I often say that if I'm personally in the office, and I work primarily on business development, I'm not doing the job that I am best equipped to do.
Do them favors. Call your clients, go above and beyond when they least expect it. Cultivate your network to do things for them, help them, and it pays off in spades. Don't do it for the return favor, do it because you want to help them grow their business, grow their network, grow professionally.
A couple of weeks ago I heard Derek Coburn, local business influencer and founder of Cadre DC, speak about his new book, "Networking is Not Working" at the infamous CONNECTpreneur, and it reinforced this thinking.
Derek talked about how some people think networking is about going to events, eating rubber chicken dinners and passing out business cards. We used to set goals on getting three business cards per event. What a waste! Derek talked about the value in not just networking, but making meaningful connections and helping others before helping yourself. The old adage of what goes around comes around rings true.
His books touts the definition of networking: "Any activity that increases the value of your network and/or the value you contribute to it." And similarly, in reverse: "be true to yourself. NEVER put your reputation on the line with clients by introducing them to people you don't know much about."
A couple other thoughts about cultivating your referrals:
- Be sure to say "thanks!" Sometimes this seems obvious, but a nice gift, bottle of scotch, trip to the spa, those are gestures that communicate you really care.
- The best referrals are the ones you never know about, do right by them. When you ask how a prospect finds you, and they are in your network, be sure to do right by them, since they put their name on the line for you.
- Give a heads up. if you have listed professional references, make sure to let them know, so they aren't blindsided, and can share the perspective that you think is most important to the deal. If a prospect is taking the time to call references, they are looking for specific information, and you don't want to waste their time.
- Leverage mutliple channels to communicate. You don't have to spend a fortune on lunches, drinks, or breakfasts at the Ritz; connect through LinkedIn and share interesting information they might value. Follow them on Twitter. Pay attention to what's happening in their lives on GooglePlus or Facebook. Walk up after a conference where they might have spoken and shake their hand. Build the relationship, and it will help build your business.
-- Elizabeth Shea
P.S. And if you want to learn more about how we augment "thanking our referrals" in our marketing efforts, learn more about effective inbound marketing strategies!
This summer ING released a study entitled, “Impact of Social Media on the News: An International Study into the Impact of Social Media on the Activities of PR Professionals & Journalists, News, and News Dissemination.”
This study, conducted by Social Embassy on behalf of ING, asked 185 PR professionals and 165 journalists how the growing popularity of social media for news has impacted their work lives.
Here are a few insights from the research:
One of ING’s key findings was that social media decreases the reliability of the news, which wasn’t surprising to learn. What was surprising however was the willingness of journalists to publish first and correct later. In an era of real-time updates, journalists are increasingly willing to make an edit or recant a statement post-publishing than risk being “scooped” and come out behind the story. Social Embassy found that a worrisome 45% of journalists said that the majority of their work is published first and corrected later and only 1/5 always fact check before publishing. This begs the question: is the ability to easily edit and delete eliminating reliability?
The takeaway here is that up-to-the-minute updates often come at a price. Being the first to report the news has always been important to journalists but with social media, where anyone can post at any time, accuracy often suffers.
When asked, 53% of PR professionals said that social media posts were a reliable source of information while 40% of journalists agreed with the same statement. With so much competition, this drop in reliability could be due to the race to publish—and it isn’t ending any time soon. In fact, the Associated Press has even gone so far as to automate stories to get them up even faster.
In the less formal social media setting, 60% of journalists said that they felt less bound by journalistic rules and more willing to share their personal opinions than in traditional media outlets. While this might be liberating for reporters, it has the potential to be confusing for readers. If you follow a reporter on twitter will you always be able to distinguish when they are tweeting fact or opinion?
The study noted that 50% of journalists trusted consumer opinion to be a more reliable source than vendor statements, something we hear from reporters often. Social Media has made it possible for journalists to bypass vendor comments and get the opinion of consumers directly, an asset for reporters and an obstacle for PR professionals.
So what’s the bottom line? Reliable or not, social media has become a principal factor in reporting and spreading news, and it’s here to stay. 75% of the PR professionals surveyed said they could not do their jobs without social media, and 56% said that social media has reduced the impact of traditional media.
What are the expectations looking forward?
According to the study, journalists expect crowd-checking, using public opinion as fact, to grow in importance and be used more than fact-checking in the future.
Tweets, photos, and Facebook posts are already being incorporated in the news and looking forward that will only increase. Content generated from bystanders in real-time is more reliable than after-the-fact interviews and often more effective for storytelling.
Press Releases will become less of a focus and PR pros will spend more time building relationships and constantly engaging in dialogue
Perhaps the most discouraging finding that I noticed from the study was that journalism is trending more towards being driven by clicks and views than the quality of content.
While this study was small and made up of less than 400 international PR pros and journalists, I think that this study is a pretty accurate representation of where our industry is headed. Readers across the board are starting to want shorter news pieces with up to the minute updates, rather than longer more narrative stories. That being said I would be very interested in seeing a more targeted study that focuses specifically on the future of tech media.
What do you think? Will rapid-fire social media practices actually be the end of traditional journalism?
When I first started out in PR, it was a struggle to measure our efforts at the end of each quarter. We would create ad equivalency reports, share of voice reports, and set arbitrary goals that often just included a number of placements to hit each month or quarter. These measurements often didn't reflect the true value of our work.
Today, eight years later, measuring true ROI is still sometimes a struggle, but we are getting closer. After just going through a goal setting exercise with one client, measurement of our value has been on my mind.
After doing some thinking (and Googling), I came up with four strategies that could help to better measure PR efforts.
1. Set better goals.
When setting goals, really think about what would make the biggest splash for your end game. While a hit in the Wall Street Journal might be really cool, if you're buyers are IT admins and you're trying to boost sales, it might not be all that effective. However, a hit in Data Center Journal won't help all that much if you're ultimate goal is to get the company acquired.
With that, it's ok to set a number goal for the month or quarter, but break it down further - maybe a number of hits in a certain type of publication, or about a specific product or topic, or for a specific thought leader. Whatever will help the company reach its goals. You can read my other post on this topic here.
2. Analyze web performance.
As publications continue to increase online content, it becomes imperative that PR pros be well versed in web analytics. Whether through a paid service or a free service such as Google analytics, watching how online placements impact web traffic can put numbers behind key coverage, as well as show you which placements don't get enough traffic to be worth the effort.
Most companies are looking at their web traffic for other reasons and it's likely they'd share the log in info to get more context around their PR efforts.
3. Score placements.
This is pretty simple. Assign a value to each publication based on how important they are to you. Assign a value to the actual coverage based on length and tonality (ex: a mention is a 1, an positive mention and a quote is a 3, a feature is a 5, etc.). Add those numbers together for each hit and you've got a more relevant score.
4. Use lead tracking software.
Software tools such as Hubspot, Marketo and Pardot (as well as others) not only track leads for sales but provide insight on how those leads came to the website. While they don't catch every reader, just those that convert, they can provide valuable insight into which publications, topics, and placements provide the type of information that compels readers to become customers.
These tools provide hard and fast numbers around PR results, while I don’t think this is the be-all-end-all measurement solution, it certainly provides information that didn’t exist for most PR teams just a few years ago.
Obviously, each company with different goals will likely have a different way to measure their PR efforts. I’d love to hear more about what you’re doing in the way of measurement in the comments.
So, I think we all know by now that Facebook has made many of its users feel violated by conducting a secret study of more than 700,000 users. On the off chance you didn’t see it or just need a refresh, here is the scoop from The Washington Post:
“In the study, researchers at Facebook tweaked what hundreds of thousands of users saw in their news feeds, skewing content to be more positive or negative than normal in an attempt to manipulate their moods. Then they checked users’ status updates to see if the content affected what they wrote. They found that, yes, Facebook users’ moods are affected by what they see in their news feeds. Users who saw more negative posts would write more negative things on their own walls, and likewise for positive posts.”
Government, lawmakers, companies, media and pretty much everyone in the news seemed pretty heated about this violation. So, I found it odd that as an avid Facebook (and social media) user, I didn’t really seem to care or feel completely violated. Maybe it’s because I’m already used to Facebook trying to control my content, specifically when it comes to ads and company posts. Or, maybe it’s because I was one of the users not targeted, or targeted in the direction of more cheerful posts.
Contrary to my opinion, one company based in the Netherlands was outraged and is staging a protest. According to ReadWrite:
“Called “99 Days Of Freedom,” the project from Netherlands-based advertising agency Just asks people to drop Facebook for 99 days and document how this abstinence affects their daily lives. Participants will complete anonymous “happiness surveys” at the 33, 66, and 99-day marks, and the project will post results to its website after review.”
The creator of the project seems to think everyone would be much happier without Facebook and hopes that “people will think twice about staring at their screens when they can do things in real life instead."
Despite the fact that I find this protest ridiculous – couldn’t you say the same thing for video games and book reading, or even talking to your friends in person (if your friends are miserable)? – I think there is one important thing to keep in mind regarding the Facebook study, the protests, and the feelings of deception: social media is POWERFUL. More so, word of mouth is powerful. And that’s just another reason for brands to have thoughtful, strategic social media plans in place, whether they are using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.
So, what's your next move with Facebook? To carry on as normal, log in less frequently, or drop it all together?
For fun, I polled some of my Facebook friends in a very un-scientific study. My question was this:
“Quick poll: How do you feel about the Facebook study that may or may not have manipulated your mood? Will it have an effect on how/if you use Facebook? Is it ironic that I’m asking this question on Facebook?
Here’s what some of them had to say:
“I actually don't think I really care if they are changing what I see in my feed. It's annoying (particularly if I was forced to see tons of annoyingly negative posts) but I know it wouldn't effect what I posted. It might stop me from signing on though if I saw too much negativity.”
“I am not surprised that Facebook ran such a study, nor am I surprised at the result. I’m not one to complain about things publicly to get attention, as I feel a lot people do on here. All of the “Oh poor me’s” of the world would see a negative post and have to step up their pity party in order to get others to notice them and like/comment. As far as affecting the way that I use Facebook, it will not change anything. I feel like I would be the anomaly of their studies.”
“I think it is strange that something that is supposed to be a fun way to stay connected with friends & family is being used in such a way. My main questions are why are they wasting their time doing this? I'm sure there are way better things to research that actually matter. And how are they choosing who to monitor? ...Lighten up, people...and go live your life!”
“I don't think seeing more negative posts would change what I personally post on Facebook. In fact it might do the opposite! If I see a stream of negative posts I tend to think, "Well that's annoying, I don't want to be like that" and post more positive updates or nothing at all. If my feed was filled with negative posts I would be way less interested in signing on.”
“…That kind of makes me upset that they would personally try to ruin my mood! … there have been times I've looked at some posts, thought some/too many people were ridiculous, and decided to discontinue looking at Facebook for a while (a few hours or the rest to the day) so I don't have to be impacted by it. I have even un-followed some people because I thought they were too negative when in reality Facebook was apparently ramming their particular neg posts down my throat (so oops sorry to those people?)…”
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. This cliché applies to the world of media relations as well, according to a recently released report from PR Newswire.
The report focuses on the importance of visuals in press releases to drive online views. As you can see from the infographic (above), a multimedia release with more than one visual element is 5,000% more likely to be found online than a text release.
About 86% of press releases don’t include any visual elements, so it’s not hard to stand out in comparison.
Why are visuals so important for press release discovery? PR Newswire explains that:
- Visuals in a press releases are distributed as their own files, separate from the text of the release, and therefore have their own opportunity to be found online and shared socially.
- Visuals draw the reader’s attention to topics that might otherwise be glossed over. If you highlight an important data point with a graph or video, the reader is more likely to notice it since you’re effectively mentioning it twice.
- Reporters and bloggers may stumble upon your visual while looking for imagery for another story (which may result in a press release mention).
- Lastly, many of the reporters we work with are actively looking for visuals due to decreasing art and photography budgets. Providing visual content may just help the rest of your story be picked up.
Unfortunately, finding visuals to go with a release is not always easy, so we’ve assembled the following list of online tools for easy visual development (even for those with limited graphic skills). Many of these tools offer both a free and a moderately priced paid version. Take a look – a clever graphic or image could result in substantially more views and pickups online.
Canva: an easy-to-use, free graphics tool for press releases, blogs, social media and presentations.
Dipity: Web-based timeline graphics
Easel.ly and Piktochart: Both of these sites contain thousands of free templates for infographics that users can customize with their own data and images. (see below for a few samples from Easel.ly)
iChart: Interactive charts (your Excel pie chart on steroids).
ShareAsImage: A tool to turn text into graphic images, using photos, patterns or other images as backdrops.
How have visual releases worked for you? If you have other favorite tools please share in the comments section.
Writing is arguably one of the most important skills a public relations professional should possess. Even more important than writing though? Editing.
In today’s 24-hour news cycle, reporters are often rushing to get stories out the door as quickly as possible – and with that, thorough editing and proofreading is occasionally overlooked and seeing typos online has become commonplace.
The toughest aspect of editing it seems, is no matter how many times you personally go through a document – mistakes are often found later in the process. It’s easy to miss a typo or grammatical edit because you know the material so well that you are reading what you believe is there. Nothing is more frustrating then after internal, external and legal edits, a PR wire service still is able to find a mistake when it is uploaded.
And even if the content is in place, the best writing and storylines can be easily overlooked if there is a glaring error that makes the content seemed rushed regardless of how much time was put into it.
To avoid these mistakes and get your content in the best shape as possible before even the first round of outside edits, here are three tips to run through after finishing a draft.
Get some distance: It’s hard to edit something that you have just finished writing – it’s too familiar at that point and errors are more easily missed. If time allows it, put a bit of time and space between you and the document. Focus on a different task for a few hours, or even better, a day. When you return to the document you will have fresh eyes that won’t be as connected to the writing and will be a bit more unbiased to the content.
Read it out loud: Reading a document out loud helps you focus on each word as opposed to your mind skipping over it and seeing what it wants to see. Jonathan is always mumbling to himself next to me, reading over his work. Reading out loud helps with sentence structure and makes it clear when flowing transitions are missing or awkward. I tend to get repetitive at times in my writing and reading out loud helps me noticing if I have said something similar a few lines or paragraphs before.
From a proofreading perspective, reading out loud makes it much more obvious to spot a missing comma or a run on sentence.
Content first, proofread second: After you have taken some time away and are reading out loud, focus first on the content of the document. Have you done what the assignment requires and delivered on any promises that an abstract makes? Is the message clear and concise, with key points that could be easily extracted by the reader? As you are reading it over, be sure that your supporting points clearly reflect and support the overall goal of the document. Making a outline after the document is written can help with this, as you have to pick out the points that prove your argument - forcing you to make sure those points are there.
Once the heavy lifting of the content is done, the nitty-gritty proofreading can begin. Knowing that the key themes and supporting points are in place, you can now focus on grammar and sentence structure. Spell check helps a lot with this aspect, but is not a replacement. Spell checks should be used to help clean it up, but never as the sole source. Focus on looking at each sentence individually to make sure the punctuation is correct and no homonyms are being used.
Bonus tip: Cut, cut, cut. Over writing and rambling can be the kiss of death for an article. If you can say the message in 20 words, don’t use 50. Go through your document with a fine toothcomb and slash everything that is not absolutely necessary. This can be particularly hard if you have a word count to go by, but try to write without checking the word count at all. It will help you focus on the argument and not the number of words.
These are rules I try to live by when it comes to my own writing, what are your top editing guidelines for getting documents in tip-top shape?
A lot of a PR professional’s time is spent writing press releases for clients. Maybe too much time.
I assume clients often want press releases because they see them as being tangible and something that can not only live on their website but also pushed out across the wire. Sometimes clients (not any of mine, I can assure you of that) consider a press release pick up to be a huge win for them in the PR department.
As I’ve written before, press releases have their purpose and should not be discarded or just tossed aside. But, I think it’s also important for clients – and their PR team – to consider alternative options for sharing their news with the world.
Enter the media pitch, media advisory, and blog post.
Media advisories and blog posts can both be incredibly beneficial to telling your story to the outside world and should not be overlooked or considered less important than a press release.
While there are always exceptions to every rule, here are my general rules of thumb for when to use each of these tools in your PR toolbox for telling your story.
The press release is great for getting out hard facts and figures. Examples would be new product and/or partnership announcements, big contract wins, company financial information (especially for publically-traded companies where this is considered material information), new employee hires and other big company news. Equally important to the content in your press release is how you distribute the news. All too often people just want to put their release “across the wire” and call it a day. Depending on the type and amount of pick up you are hoping for this may be ok – but be warned, not all wire services give the same bang for your buck. This brings us to the media pitch.
Media pitching is another huge part of any PR professional’s job. Any agency or PR pro who just throws a release up on the wire and does nothing more with it is not someone you want to be working with. In order to get the most out of your press release you want to make sure it’s getting directly into the hands of those reporters who matter most. This is really what PR professionals do best – identify the right reporter at the right publication for your story, craft an engaging and interesting media pitch, and hook them with your news. It should be noted that while press releases should be supported with pitches, a press release is not required to create a media pitch.
Media advisories are often, unfortunately, overlooked. While they are shorter and more succinct than a press release, they can often fill in when a press release is too much. What do I mean by that? Well, like wire distribution services, not all news is created equal and needs a formal press release. Have a big event or promotion coming up and your goal is to get the media to attend to cover it? That’s where a media advisory comes in. Media advisories lay out the facts: who, what, when, where and why. Simple and straightforward. Sometimes media advisories are simply better and more effective than full-fledged press releases.
Just as media advisories are often overlooked, so too are blog posts. In fact, as Katie pointed out recently, per Vocus’s State of Public Relations, only 35 percent of marketing and PR professionals rate their blog as an important tool for content or news distribution. This stat makes me unbelievably sad because I, while apparently in the minority, can’t express enough the power of your blog. The great thing about blog posts is that, because they are often editorial in nature, they can move beyond just the facts and include color commentary. Additionally, they provide an avenue for sharing company news when management may not see the value. Case in point: management only wants to put out press releases about contract wins but you have other important company news to share, like a personnel appointment or award that your organization may have won. Put it on your blog, share it on social media and even pitch it out to reporters. I would even argue that press releases could be broken down and turned in to a blog post – thereby maximizing the amount of exposure your news gets.
So what do you think? Will you reconsider your use of the press release, or, at least, consider other PR tactics when planning your next big announcement?