I'm now going to spoil the movie Fight Club for you. (Yep, you had a full 14 years to see it, so this one's on you.)
At the end of Fight Club, we learn a shocking truth about our two protagonists: glamorous, carefree Brad Pitt and frumpy, neurotic Edward Norton.
We learn they're actually the same person.
Cool, right? It reminds me a lot of advertising and PR and social media and direct mail and digital marketing and guerrilla marketing and cardboard signs and poorly xeroxed Communist newsletters and every other Marcom tactic in the known universe.
It's all the same Pitt.
So why is this important to realize? Because when you stop needlessly dividing marketing components into silos, you start to save money and time, and the world is more colorful and smells nicer, and jeans fit you better.
It's called Content Relations and it's kind of a big deal...
Ah, now, are you going to go ahead and have those
TPS reports for us this afternoon?
We all know about the ways you should and should not communicate with the media (don’t spam reporters, know what they write about, don’t send them off topic pitches, etc.). But what about the proper ways PR agencies should communicate with their clients?
Recently, The New York Times reporter David Segal – a.k.a., “The Haggler” – wrote a column excoriating PR firms for the ways they typically communicate with reporters. Much of it was stuff we already know (or, at least, should), and have even discussed in great detail on The Sounding Board.
But one brief snippet definitely caught my attention. The reporter called one of the companies whose PR team pitched him on a certain product (in this case, some sort of self-chilling, iceless drinking glass) that was clearly not in his wheelhouse. He wanted to see if the client knew what his PR firm was doing, and if the client approved. Here’s the response:
“I’m happy to get this call,” he said. “We don’t know what (our agency) does on a day-to-day basis. They just send us a bimonthly report, detailing what they have been able to do for our company.”
I found this interesting, mainly because it struck me as being completely irresponsible on the agency’s behalf. If the only way you’re communicating with your clients is through a bi-monthly report, you’re doing it wrong.
One of the main challenges that PR agencies face is that we don’t work on-site at our clients’ offices. We’re not there day-to-day; we aren’t privy to the many internal discussions that take place (and in many cases of course should not be). On the flipside of that, our clients do not have immediate knowledge of what we’re working on – unless we actively tell them. I know this for a fact, because I’ve been on both the agency and client sides. There are communications challenges associated with both.
I’m proud to say that’s something that we, at SpeakerBox, make every effort to do. It’s our policy to provide our clients not only with regular written activity reports, but hold weekly team calls with them. Beyond that, however, we typically have daily interaction with each of our clients. We try to become an integrated part of their team, because deeply understanding their needs, at any given time, is a true pathway to success.
Now let me give the agency mentioned in The New York Times piece the benefit of the doubt. Maybe their daily interactions with their client did not filter up to the managing director that was interviewed for the story. That’s entirely possible. And it sounds like the client was also in the wrong for not demanding to know what their agency was doing (effective communication is, after all, a two-way street). But it’s also very likely that the agency was not being proactive in communicating what they were doing with that particular client. Although if they were, in fact, spamming reporters (as the story suggests), I guess that’s not too surprising.
Still, it goes back to this one statement: “We don’t know what our agency does on a day-to-day basis.” That is a problem. A client should never have to wonder what they’re paying for, and an agency teams cannot be successful without frequent communication with their clients.
Want to learn more about media relations? Check out our handy guide:
Image courtesy Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Source: UpWord Search Marketing
A good friend to the SpeakerBox family shared a Wall Street Journal article on Facebook today that got me thinking – can readers tell when they are in fact reading the news?
The article, “When Ads Look Like Content,” takes aim at the blurred line between sponsored content and unpaid editorial content.
Sponsored content is one form of what we in the PR world call “pay-for-play.” It is when a vendor pays a media outlet to run a piece about them. In this case, sponsored content is an advertising piece that has been written to look like a news article but is actually paid for and run alongside unbiased editorial content.
Sponsored content is not a new phenomenon, but as ad revenue has slipped publishers at some of the top media outlets (Forbes, The Atlantic and soon The New York Times) have started to embrace the revenue sponsored content can bring in.
In March The Washington Post launched a new section on their website titled “BrandConnect.” The idea is that it “allows marketers to offer content to Washington Post users and feature it on The Post’s homepage and throughout the site.” You can find examples of BrandConnect content here: http://goo.gl/kJEJRK.
In theory I don’t have a problem with sponsored content like that which The Washington Post is running, and I’ve certainly worked with clients who embrace it. However, when sponsored content is not labeled as such, the whole practice becomes sketchy and deceptive.
See, the thing is, in an ideal world, when dealing with the media there is typically a divide between the editorial and publishing sides of the house (or at least there should be). In an attempt to keep advertising dollars from influencing editorial content, editors and publishers each run their own operation.
Sponsored content runs a very thin line between the two sides and, unfortunately, it appears that many readers are unable to tell the difference between content that was paid for and content that was earned. In fact, the line between the two is so thin and blurred the Federal Trade Commission is about to take up the issue this week.
So what do you think – is sponsored content deceptive or do you see the value in it?
Personally, I’m young enough to understand the benefits of sponsored content but old enough to want to believe in the integrity of the news media.
If there's a problem Sarcastic Wonka can't solve, I haven't found it.
Like a bad poker player, the human race has developed a set of tendencies, one of which seems to be taking big, useful resources and filling them with garbage.
I mean, look at the ocean for goodness sake. Here we're handed this pristine, life-giving endowment from our creator. Why is our first impulse to go throw batteries in it?
What I'm really talking about of course (this being a tech blog) is the Internet, and what I call "content pollution."
Thanks to Googly Joe and his college roommate Russian Googly Joe, our modern Web runs on an economy of reciprocal linkage. And that means you don't need actual content to profit from this beast, just a link to content (or a link to another link to another link).
Typically we call this content curation, and it isn't an inherently bad system, provided the links lead somewhere useful.
But I think it's time to set some curation ground rules. (And, look, I'm willing to set a fairly low bar here.) All I'm asking is that we make sure the content we link to is A) semi-relevant to our intended audience and/or (OR!) B) non-idiotic.
We can do that, can't we Internet?
Okay, let's try this out. Here's an email I got this morning from Men's Health magazine:
Hmm... Well, I do enjoy weight loss. Best EVER, you say? And there's a healthy looking bowl of fruited oatmeal right there on the page? Perhaps I'll see what they've got up their sleeves.
(*Jonathan clicks the link with trepidation*)
See, here's the thing: when I click on a Men's Health email link, my natural expectation is that I'll be taken to an article about Men's Health. But in this instance, I'm taken to a slightly different article:
Wait, what? How did I...
You know, this is actually a pretty elegant way of letting me know these marketers haven't the slightest interest in respecting my time or interest as a consumer.
This can't possibly be relevant information, right? Because I don't have any ovaries.
But then, amazingly, I'm proven wrong yet again. Because here is the first of the best unisex weight control tips EVER ASSEMBLED that I'm presented with on the next page:
Oh for the love of fruited oatmeal!
No wonder they think this applies to both men and women, a brilliant tip like that. Come to think of it, it also applies to earthworms and phytoplankton. And vegans!
Somehow, this content has failed to meet either of my pathetically minimal linking criteria. Idiotic content, irrelevant to me as an audience.
Next time I'll just chuck my laptop battery into the ocean. (Or maybe I'll download this free resource...)
Where has the year gone? It feels like just yesterday that I was lamenting the summer heat and anticipating a hectic fall. Now the holidays are in full swing and 'tis the season for office parties and cheer with DC Tech friends.
Here's what's on my radar:
8:00AM – 11:00AM, Wednesday, December 4
AOL - (22000 Dulles Way, Dulles)
50 on Fire
6PM - 10PM, Wednesday, December 4
Powerhouse (3255 Grace Street, NW, Washington, DC)
8:00AM - 11:00AM, Wednesday, December 11
Loyola Columbia (8890 McGaw Rd #130, Columbia, MD)
DC Lean Startup Circle
6:30PM, Tuesday, December 17
Capital One Labs (3030 Clarendon Blvd, 8th Floor, Arlington, VA)
Startup Grind DC Hosts Gary Shapiro (Consumer Electronics Association)
6:30PM, Monday, December 16
1776 (1133 15th Street, NW, Washington, DC)
8:00AM – 11:00AM, Thursday, December 18
Microsoft Chevy Chase (5404 Wisconsin Avenue, Chevy Chase, MD)
What did I miss? Where will you be networking this month?
The November MindShare meeting was very fitting, because it was the last class for the 2013 season....all about exits! Financial exits that is, and the program was amazing. If you are new to MindShare, read all about it here...
The three speakers all talked about timing, financial multiples and experiences with each of their respective sales of their business. The panelists included:
From left: Nick Lantuh from NetWitness, Bryan Ware from Digital Sandbox, and Hemang Gadhia from Condaptive. Moderators were the infamous Mike Lincoln from Cooley, LLP (THE legal game in town) and Steve Balistreri from Deloitte (THE only accounting game in town).
Here are a few highlights from their stories:
Hemang: he kicked off the program touting that he started his business just a few months before joining MindShare, and then sold his business right before graduation! If that isn't a feather in the MindShare cap...
His company built one of the first products to provide behavioral / contextual insight into mobile platforms. He avoided needing to raise capital at the time because he was able to secure the best kind of capital, a customer! (They say revenue is the best kind of funding...). After bootstrapping with $300,000 they were able to get to product alpha. Then, it turned out, one of their best customers, Millennial Media, ended up becoming their "strategic" acquirer. They were bought just 9 months before Millennial Media went public, which meant they were able to participate in that process. The challenging part was wondering if they should sell as quickly as they did, or wait and raise capital? Hemang stated that one critical part of the decision should always be your acquirer, and he believed Millennial Media was a great company to be a part of, and they would enjoy the ride. He couldn't stress enough how important it is to consider WHO acquires you...it makes all the difference in the world. He loved that he had a "front row seat" through the process of their IPO.
Nick: He founded NetWitness, and then sold to EMC a few years ago. He talked about how he had been doing startups since 1993: one flameout, but four other successful acquisitions, with one company doing an IPO. Startups have been his life! He got a call in late 2004 to take a piece of intellectual property out of Mantech to market. NetWitness was squarely in the security space when they sold to EMC in 2011 for hundreds of millions of dollars. He talked about how once you get started and have something of value, the "conveyer belt" as he called it, takes over. And what a ride!
Bryan: A MindShare graduate from 2003, Brian was a truly engaging speaker, as his experience was very different from the others. Digital SandBox started as government contractor with a software solution to determine future terrorist attacks through offensive or defensive measures. He pivoted the company about a year after 9/11 when folks from the World Trade Center came to meet with them about how they can mitigate their risk. In late 2009, out of the blue, they got an offer for acquisition! But they had good revenue growth, profitability, and elected not to sell at the time. They loved what they were doing...so they continued on. Last year they got a good offer, and decided to sell. His message? MindShare touts this all the time: ALWAYS have an exit strategy…and for Bryan, their decision to sell to a private equity firm where he could learn from the new CEO in charge was really appealing.
So now, a few key points/highlights they communicated to the class:
- All three talked about how the timing was the biggest challenge: Should we sell now? Or wait? Is the valuation enough? Will my investors be happy? Will WE be happy? Even Nick said that the DAY they were about to sign, they still called each other in the middle of the night to ask, "should we be doing this?" It can weigh on the minds of the entrepreneur...Hemang suggested that they wondered if it was too soon; after all, they were just getting started! But in the end, for Hemang, it came down to basic math. They would either have to raise more money, and then build to get such a high valuation, or sell now. They decided that selling to such a strategic buyer made more sense.
- The panelists spoke about how everyone in the room at MindShare is a risk taker...so they encouraged everyone to "take some time to smell the roses," and believe that you should do good work, and you should enjoy what you do, and be meaningful. Exits DO change you.
- When asked the quesion about whether to cash out on a first exit early so your second could be stronger, the panelists primarily believed that "lightening doesn't always strike twice." So much goes into a successful exit, if you have a chance, take it! It may never happen again because of reasons that could be out of your control.
- The hardest thing is to know when to give it up, get a job, or start over, or stick in there. When to walk away is a whole different question, but one you should also consider when thinking about exit strategy. Timing is huge--being at the right place at the right time. The market chooses the time, so consider that in your planning. And as far as niche companies, usually the more niche the better, but niche companies are only as valuable as that niche at a certain time.
- Last point: from Nick...exits are a lot like dating: if you’re not looking for someone, you become more desirable. Acquirers have a way of coming out of the woodwork when you're not looking. Have an exit strategy, but if you run your business in a solid way, execute well, and position yourself in the market, you will do well!
Here's to graduation!!!
- Elizabeth Shea, @eliz2shea
Golden deep-fried turkeys. Sweet potatoes covered in marshmallows. Brightly colored cranberry sauce. Sounds like a pretty good Thanksgiving Day spread, right? Well, it also sounds very similar to my Instagram feed all day yesterday.
As Thanksgiving and Hanukkah aligned for the first time in over a century, families gathered together and documented the occasion the digital way – with Instagram uploads of friends, family and of course, food.
Apparently it wasn’t just my Instagram feed that was overwhelmed with images yesterday, as the company announced in a blog post today that Thursday was the busiest day in the social network’s history. Holidays have a once-in-a-lifetime collision and social networks reach record numbers? If that is not a sign of our digital times - I don’t know what is.
Unlike waiting for another Thanksgiving and Hanukah to cross paths, I don’t think it will take a few thousands years for Instagram to again reach record numbers. The social network, which has only been around for 3 years, has grown immensely in that time, currently boasting over 150 million active users around the world.
While Instagram didn’t provide specifics on the number of uploads it received yesterday, this was the second year in a row that Thanksgiving set the record for number of posts. Last year, the company said more than 10 million photos related to Thanksgiving were posted and for several hours during the day photos were uploaded at a rate of more than 200 per second. With this year’s steep increase in users and added video capabilities, we can bet that last year’s numbers were easily trumped.
Did you help Instagram set their record yesterday? While I am late to the Instagram game – only having joined within the last 6 months – I couldn’t help but document a few fun moments from yesterday on the network.
Now that Thanksgiving is over and we can all start looking forward to Christmas, I thought I’d take a minute to look back on the Thanksgiving shopping hoopla.
If you’ve been living anywhere with access to wifi you’ve probably been seeing ads for holiday sales since before Halloween. While millennials might be okay with Black Friday taking over the weekend and expanding in to Thanksgiving Day, most adults aren’t excited about the rush towards yuletide spirit.
A recent survey by Harris Interactive of 2,038 shoppers 18 and older found that 81% of adults think stores shouldn’t play Christmas music before Thanksgiving and 77% think stores shouldn’t be decorated for the holidays until after Thanksgiving.
The ‘Christmas Creep’ has been controversial for years, but this year the PR battle between opening stores and staying closed for the holiday has taken over the media. Today several retail giants have been carrying out proactive PR plans to defend the decision to open on Thanksgiving Day.
This morning Walmart’s US CEO Bill Simon made the round of morning talk shows to discuss the retailer’s rationale for opening their doors at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving. Almost simultaneously, Walmart distibuted a press release stating that their stores had a record breaking Thanksgiving Day with 10 million cash register transactions between 6pm and 10 pm Thursday evening alone.
In the release, Simon described Black Friday as the “Superbowl of retail.” He went on to say, “We ran a play that only Walmart could deliver and our customers loved it.”
While customers may have loved slashed prices, social media suggests that they may have loved the viral entertainment more. The record number of shoppers yesterday evening sparked a hash tag “#WalmartFights” where twitter users across the country tweeted and posted photos and videos about the injuries, fights, and arrests in the first few hours of true holiday shopping.
Additionally, workers groups and union activists across the country have lodged protests against many of the big box stores, but Walmart, the largest private employer in the US, has attracted the bulk of the attention.
The overwhelming financial success of Walmart’s Thursday opening may look incredible on paper but the question for retailers remains, is it worth the PR fight?
Other major retailers like Costco and Nordstrom refused to open their doors on Thanksgiving day, claiming that the decision to stay closed and let employees spend time with family is an easy one to make.
So tell us, did you rush out to the big box stores to shop after Thanksgiving dinner? Did you post something hilarious with the hash tag #WalmartFights? Do you believe that stores should let the holiday be a holiday? We’d love to hear your take on Black Friday’s creep in to Thanksgiving Day.
Last month was a standout month for our client SolarWinds. We garnered 13 placements over the course of the month including one TV spot, one radio spot and three placements in outlets that had not covered SolarWinds previously. Especially considering that we only focus on public sector, it was an incredible month.
I got to thinking - what goes into having a month like this and is it possible to do it again?
If I look at what went into creating these results I do see some repeatable tactics:
- Set up placements with different lead-times - If you could look through our list of placements you'd notice that there are quite a few different types of articles. There are articles based on interviews, contributed articles and TV/radio segments. Each of these comes with a different lead-time for publication or broadcast, and it just so happened that all of these closed in the same month. Additionally, we had pending placements with longer lead times that were secured in previously that seemed to know we were having a stellar month and decided to join the party. On top of the placements that posted last month, we were able to set up some articles to publish over the next few months as well.
- Proactive pitches to different segments/verticals - The government technology media world is rather small, so with a focus solely in that area we split our proactive pitches each month into sub-verticals within the vertical (ie: civilian, defense/security, education, etc.). Last month, each of our pitches garnered at least one placement. While this is what we strive for every month there is typically a small margin of error between what we are pitching and what resonates with reporters.
- Reacting to news with pitches - Timeliness is a major component of PR and being able to react quickly by sending expert source pitches that fit with high-profile news stories works wonders. Last month we were able to do just that by pitching SolarWinds' insight into the issues with the Healthcare.gov website.
- Build media relationships with in person meetings - We conducted a media tour with our expert source in September. He flew into town just to meet with specific reporters and to do his radio segment. So naturally, some of the resulting articles published in October. And, the in person meetings helped build relationships that will continue to be beneficial in the future.
On top of the sheer number of placements, we also hit our goal of getting into some new publications, having an article on a specific topic and getting a new radio segment. In addition, SpeakerBox was successful in making inroads with new reporters, getting an article from a specific reporter we've been targeting, and getting a long standing pending placement to run. Hopefully this great month of results will set us up for more success in the future.
Press release distribution services have been with us since dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Well, OK, maybe I’m exaggerating a teensy bit – but sometimes it feels that way.
The maturity of the news distribution market has led to an array of choices for the discerning PR professional. There are free press release distribution services (24-7PressRelease.com, the creatively titled PR.com), giant behemoths (PR Newswire, BusinessWire) and those somewhere in between (PRWeb, MarketWired).
Each of these has its pro’s and con’s. I feel it’s my duty as a PR professional to tell you about some of them.
Because there are so many of these services available, I thought it best to focus on the four biggies. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at what each of these services has to offer (and what you may want to be wary of):
Huge distribution network: If you put your release on PR Newswire, it’s likely to get picked up just about anywhere.
Dynamic media capabilities: They offer the option of including images, videos, audio and more to complement your written release.
Ability to track ROI: You can see who’s reading your news, where it got picked up, how your coverage ranks in comparison to specified competitors, etc.
Good customer service
Price: It tends to be more expensive than some of the other services.
Subscription and contract: Most likely you’ll need to enter into a contract of a specified length, such as 12 months. But doing so can often give you a better deal on prices.
Limited word count: Press releases can be a maximum 400 words. Anything over that costs extra.
Huge distribution network: Like PR Newswire, BusinessWire has a very broad reach.
Smart Marketing Pages: BusinessWire gives users the ability to build a “Smart Marketing Page” – an interactive page, hosted on BusinessWire.com, that provides a wealth of information about a company, its products and services.
Social media monitoring: Users can closely monitor how their news is playing on popular social media feeds, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google +.
Very good customer service (at least in my experience)
Price: Like PR Newswire, BusinessWire is NOT inexpensive. BUT, if you’re savvy, you can sometimes play them off one another to get a better rate (i.e., let your BusinessWire sales rep know you’re speaking with PR Newswire, and vice-versa). Don’t tell them I told you that.
Limited word count: Again, you’re limited on the number of words you can use, unless you want to pay more for extra.
Subscription and contract: Again, if you’re the type that doesn’t like being locked in a contract, you may want to pursue one of the other services, such as…
Inexpensive: You can put a news release out over PRWeb for as little as $99.
Easy to use: PRWeb’s online template is very easy to use and straightforward. But there’s a caveat (see the “Con’s” below).
Good reporting capabilities: They provide detailed reports of how many times your release has been seen, where it’s been seen (by region), etc.
No limit on word count
No subscription required: Anyone may post a release at any time.
Good customer service
Limited distribution: You’ll still get your release seen on Google News and elsewhere, but do not expect the type of pick-up you might see with BusinessWire or PR Newswire.
48 hour turnaround for some releases: If you go for one of the less expensive packages, you will need to wait 48 hours before your release crosses the wire (you can, however, pay $100 more to have your release go out quicker).
Limited to 1 link per 100 words
Commendable – yet insane -- authorization process: Remember when I wrote that PRWeb is “easy to use?” Well, it is – until it’s time for your release to be distributed. In order to combat unauthorized posting of press releases, Last year PRWeb instituted an authorization process that requires whoever is distributing the release to jump through more hoops than a circus performer, including authorization of websites, email addresses, phone numbers, social media feeds, and more. This is all very commendable, but you should be prepared to spend a little time trying to get through all this before your release hits the Web. Also, be aware that none of this can be done in advance, only after the press release has been uploaded.
More of a social media focus: MarketWired doesn’t really position itself as a press release distribution service. Instead, they offer a number of solutions that, in their words, “help our clients identify and tune into the conversations that count” (i.e., what people are saying on the Interwebs).
Ideal for social media interaction: MarketWired has a strong network of blogs and social media channels.
Less expensive than PR Newswire and BusinessWire
Anyone can post: Like PRWeb, there’s no subscription required
Very good reporting capabilities
Traditional media distribution network is not as strong as PR Newswire or BusinessWire.
Authorization process is similar to the one employed by PRWeb, which can be a challenge.
Even though press releases do not have the cache they once did, they’re still an important component of PR programs. As such, you’ll want to choose the best possible vehicle to get them out into the wild. But not every distribution service is the same. Knowing the pro’s and con’s of each may help save you some headaches and dollars, and ensure your release gets to where it needs to go.
For more information on press releases and media relations, check out our free guide: