Its that time again another Sounding Board Amplifier. I recently had a conversation with Josh Rehrer, Director of Sales at Business Wire
and got his thoughts on the evolution of press releases and the emerging trends of SEO. Think you know all the tricks of the trade when it comes to putting your news over the wire? Take a look at Joshs comments and you may surprise yourself.
- Mary EvansThere has been much PR industry talk about the proclaimed 'death of the press release.' What's your response? How has the press release changed in the past few years?
A well-written press release is a tremendously effective tool in an organization's communications efforts. In today's very fragmented audience environment, the press release provides a great platform to break news, inform, reinforce marketing messages and drive audiences to additional information and dialogue. Our press releases serve as a mini portal for the company or organization more than ever before. Releases now include
sharing links for popular social media services, photos and multimedia in a variety of formats for traditional journalists, bloggers and consumers, hyperlinked keywords to provide additional information and background for various audiences and search engine optimization (SEO) features, including back-end coding (XHTML language - an advanced version of HTML) and copy optimization.
Beyond the various features designed to provide relevant information for journalists, investors, analysts, consumers and other audiences, Business Wire both distributes
news to key media, news systems, disclosure destinations and individuals but it also licenses with content providers, sites and portals to post in full-text, often with multimedia, to services that directly reach audiences that pre-Internet would not have seen a press release.
So, the press release is a tremendously valuable starting point for dialogue with audiences.Earlier this year, Business Wire was the subject of posts by some high profile bloggers, after proactively claiming that companies and marketers can use Business Wire's reach to bypass journalists and bloggers to get into key news outlets like Techmeme, and to boost search engine rankings - a nod to the power of optimization. How has SEO, in your opinion, changed news announcements?
There was a blog post
on a Business Wire ranking highly in Techmeme but it was a bit off the mark. Business Wire always considers journalists a critical part of our network and a vital component in vetting news and information. But, we have long-recognized that the roll of the press release has changed from being a closed communication between a company/organization and a journalist. Since 1996
or so, Business Wire has been posting press releases on our website and other information services, available to all. And prior to that, we had contracted with Dialog, Nexis-Lexis and other information platforms to make releases available to researchers and the financial community.
So, we've long been an advocate of increasing the reach and the role of the press release so that it effectively reaches consumers, investors and others. Not every press release is reported on by media and even when they are, much of the information in the press release may not be included in the reported story. Having the company press release widely available helps more people access the company's information. And because we post releases in so many different locations, the press release will often show up alongside reported news.Any specific tips for press release optimization?
Write with an eye towards your audience and do some homework to determine the keywords and phrases that are being used to find your service, your competitors' services and your industry. There are a number of optimization tools that can help with that. Work those phrases into your press release, taking care not to over-stuff with terms. The release has to strike a balance between containing appropriately placed keywords/phrases and being a compelling story
to a human reader. Include relevant links to pages on your company's site - helps drive traffic and the reinforcing information on your site helps authenticate what you are saying is relevant for search engine algorithms. Unless you are a well-known brand, avoid using your product names and instead provide more descriptive, commonly used terms that someone unfamiliar with your company might use in a web search.Business Wire was acquired by Berkshire Hathaway just over two years ago. Have you met Warren Buffett? If so, what's he like?
Yes, I met him when he came to our 2006 international conference. After a two hour Q&A session, he came to our awards dinner, picked up a ukulele and sang a couple of songs.Are there any emerging trends you're keeping your eye on?Tools
to share press releases, measurement, advanced language technology - XHTML and XBRL, which open more doors to more sophisticated content being used in more advanced ways by information services, portals, engines and individuals.
In 2001, I attended my first industry tradeshow. I felt larger than life in my stereotypical black power suit, leather heels and devil-may-care attitude. After all, I was sent alone to represent my PR firm, solely responsible for making sure media interviews ran smoothly and leading (media) traffic to the clients booth. I remember it was an e-learning focused event held in D.C. and I was amazed by the grandeur of exhibitions and vendor displays, the quiet buzz of competition between booths and immediately hooked on the adrenaline that was generated within my clients exhibition that came from getting one shot to impress. We wrapped the day successfully (from a media standpoint) with a half-dozen or so briefings concluded with top-tier media.
I think back on my early days in PR and wonder, if I had known what I know now about tradeshows and the media, how much more competitive I could have made my client in that atmosphere. I have since managed all facets of tradeshow preparation and execution, and seen many clients through the process from start to finish. Here are my pointers, and things to considering PR initiatives for an industry event. Some are critical, and others tricks of the PR trade, and are in no particular order. This list is certainly not comprehensive that would call for a book, not a blog entry!o Prepare a new product announcement, survey results, or major industry milestone kind of press release.
You need to rise above the noise and be heard (sound familiar?). Media contacts can receive hundreds (depending of the size of the tradeshow) of briefing requests or pitches on news being released at the event. Why would the reporter you are targeting have interest in you? A news announcement gives reason for discussion, but its nature needs to really bring something exciting to the table for the reporter to see value in a briefing. Some ideas: a new product paving the way for the emergence into a new market, or the results of an industry survey led by an independent research firm (sponsored by you, of course) with yummy data or sound bites.o The era of a briefing for briefings sake, a meet-and-greet with no real news, or to brew a budding client/reporter relationship without a real driving issue at hand are out.
Todays media contacts at most tradeshows actually want to attend the sessions and hear the speakers presentations. For the media, their attendance is about keeping up with market trends and, typically, they arent looking as much for news (they can get this from our countless pitches via their laptop or blackberry without attending the show at all!), but for strong market trends, where the industry (at hand) is headed, and real life applications and how-tos that their readers are going to be thirsting for. Surely reporters will walk away from the tradeshow with some future story ideas in their pocket, and may even report on news announcements made at the show, or, occasionally, from the show floor.o Coffees and breakfasts are a good idea
, as these catch the reporter before the blur of vendor booths begins for the day.
o We all learn in PR 101 to pitch the tradeshow press list. But, avoid the tradeshow briefing request rush-hour
and send your briefing requests out right as soon as possible upon receiving the list. And BE SELECTIVE! If you do not sell to UK markets, then you really do not need to pitch reporters attending the tradeshow from UK publications.
o Remember that media contacts are people (really?). They are doing their job (of information gathering) just like you are doing yours (of trying to interest them). Tradeshows are exciting, and PR and marketing pros sometimes feel the adrenaline rush, the instinct to grab hold of every green-name-tagged individual (signifying media, I picked a color) and hook them arm in arm with your CEO. But resist. Be strategic. As with all media outreach, the idea is to think quality of media briefings, not quantity.
o Depending on your clients news or corporate positioning, consider pitching locally based press that arent necessarily attending the tradeshow
. SpeakerBox client Tresys
just made an announcement
at a Boston-based event
and our team took the opportunity to reach out to relevant Boston-based for face-to-face briefings while we were in the area. Several high-level interviews with IT trades were the result.o Spokespeople are extremely important to a tradeshows success.
We all know that a poorly trained spokesperson on the dos and do nots of media interviews does not mix well with reporter briefings at best, the reporter will instantly lose interest in your client, at worst, you could end up seeing damaging headlines and end up taking the hit.
Feel free to contact me for more dialogue on this topic at firstname.lastname@example.org
(Photo Credit: The Huffington Post
After causing furor
and concern in the blogosphere last week, the Associated Press
is looking to improve its blogger relations by forming guidelines to help bloggers determine how to property quote from AP materials. Last week, the prominent wire service sent a legal notice to blogger Rogers Cadenhead, author of the Drudge Retort,
a parody of the popular Drudge Report
site. In the notice, the AP stated that Cadenhead was to remove several entries in which the AP believed their stories were improperly used.
The legal action caused quite a backlash for the AP from bloggers, many of whom claimed that use of AP stories fell under the widely-used fair use
provisions of copyright law. TechCrunchs Michael Arrington wrote
that the AP doesnt get to make its own rules about how its content is used, if those rules are stricter than the law allows.
In response, the APs director of strategic planning, Jim Kennedy
, is planning to meet this week
with Robert Cox, president of the Media Bloggers Association
, to create standards that would both protect the APs content and allow bloggers to quote from AP stories as necessary.
This story hammers home the notion that the blogsphere and other areas of social media are still very much in their legal infancy. From lawsuits involving MySpace
to copyright challenges for bloggers, many aspects of Web 2.0 are just beginning to test the legal waters and both media companies and users are finding themselves in the middle of a developing area of law. Once developed, the AP and Media Bloggers Association guidelines could end up being the de facto standard for the blogging community with respect to copyright concerns so stay tuned
Our thoughts go out to the media community as well as communicators around the world, all of whom undoubtedly took more than a deep breath on Friday upon hearing the news of Tim Russert
. Our condolences go to his family for their loss.
We heard from clients who were in mourning or in shock, and our team reminisced about their experiences watching Tim Russert exemplify the integrity that creates great communicators.
We tip our hat,
I read this morning on TechDirt
that a concerned group of corn farmers wrote Congress demanding that the potential harm of a Yahoo-Google deal be investigated
. The author also notes that this is the same group of individuals who NBC claimed would be severely hurt by movie piracy through a loss of popcorn sales
. Supposedly, a lobbying/PR firm called Law Media Group (LMG) helped the farmers get their message across.
I know that this news is focused on lobbying rather than actual PR, but these actions run very close to the astroturfing (fake grassroots movements) employed by some media campaigns. While astroturfing is morally reprehensible in-and-of itself, something so blatantly ridiculous like choosing a farmers group to represent an Internet issue smacks of rampant incompetence
NBC at least had a (partial) leg to stand on with their claim, but LMG or whatever other firm is responsible needs to explain why farmers of any kind should care about Yahoo, Google or Internet advertising models at all. You couldnt slap together a concerned search engine users posse or maybe a front group from a somewhat-related industry?
If were just going to start selecting causes and citizenry at random, Im going to power up an effort by middle-American video gamers mad about the constant increases in stamp prices.
Congress, prepare for our letter.
I love celebrity gossip. There I said it. Please dont judge me or think less of my intellect when I tell you that I have both TMZ
and Perez Hilton
bookmarked on my home computer. Its not a hobby of which Im proud but its something Ive come to accept about myself. So imagine my delight earlier this week when two of my loves PR and celebrity gossip came together in the form of the yet-to-be-born Brangelina twins. (If you didnt know that Branglina is the widely accepted nickname for the super-celeb couple that is Brad Pitt
and Angelina Jolie
, then I feel both oddly sorry and yet somewhat happy for you).
The story goes like this Entertainment Tonight
(ET), the self-proclaimed most watched entertainment news program in the world announced to the world in a broadcast last Friday night that Angelina Jolie had given birth to twins in France. Citing a source who says she was in the delivery room, ET not only announced the alleged birth, but also mentioned the names of the newborns. Problem was, in their haste to break one of the summers biggest celeb news stories, ET got it wrong
. Dead wrong. The twins, whom Jolie said are expected to arrive in August, were still in the womb. ET took the story off their website and made no mention of it on their Monday broadcast but has yet to issue a retraction. The show did state that it is looking into whether an impostor posed as Jolies assistant to trick them with the fake news.
So what does this have to do with PR you ask? This story is a great example of how todays news media is frequently so rushed to break stories before competitors that the practice of fact-checking has become almost non-existent. Fact-checking was once a deliberate, thoughtful process whereby every fact in a story from the spelling of a last name to the exact amount of VC funding a company received was verified as accurate by a designated researcher. All media outlets used fact checkers frequently and while it was often considered a lowly job, some former fact checkers have gone on to make names for themselves (Jay McInerney
, Anderson Cooper
and Esther Dyson
to name a few).
While it was at one time uncommon to see numerous corrections and updates to stories, its now become the norm. Whenever theres a breaking news story, on-air reporters seemingly repeat anything that comes through their earpiece, regardless of veracity, in an attempt not to be outscooped by the competition. Its this drive to have the most interesting, compelling story that led to the downfalls of both Jayson Blair
and Dan Rather
, and may lead to the professional fall of some ET producers. It is also this drive that leads us to caution our clients that fact-checking isnt what it used to be and interviewees must use caution when making statements they do not know to be accurate.
For as much as I like the concept of fact-checking, I also acknowledge that the world has changed and I would be less inclined to check out a news site if I knew it was only updated after a tedious and time-consuming fact-checking process that its competitors skipped. The good news is that the time it takes to check facts has been greatly shortened by the Internet; the bad news is that the Internet is the culprit behind the need for quickly updated stories. I have yet to decide how I truly feel about the decline of fact-checking and the rise of quick updates but it will be interesting to follow the progression over the next few years.
-Jennifer Becker (media specialist and future wife of George Clooney)
We are excited to be able to talk about our latest client, InterAct 2008 - a conference scheduled for September 29th and 30th here in DC, focused on digital technologies and new media strategies. Its a great sign of the times and a great statement for DC that conferences traditionally held in Silicon Valley have a legitimate place here in our metro area!
Between InterAct 2008 and a few others in this region that took place in the past couple of years, it helps address the much-needed focus on new technologies, emerging web and social media businesses, and interactive digital strategies. Its sure to sell out, and there are some great names as speakers and panelists.
With an eye toward interactive media technologies and showcasing companies that have tried-and-true case studies to talk about, InterAct 2008 features speakers from companies and agencies around the world, including Google, local tech-darling Blackboard, National Geographic, Adobe, Avenue A/Razorfish, Viget Labs, Sapient, and many more.
The format will take attendees through four tracks: Strategy, Creativity, Technology and Web Solutions. Its case study-centric, so its not just theory, but practical counsel and strategy.
To be held at the Reagan Building in DC, InterACT 2008 is expected to attract over 1,000 attendees each day. The event will sell out, so register early to take advantage of early bird pricing! Early bird pricing expires July 31, 2008.
- Elizabeth Shea
Follow InterAct 2008 on Twitter
Add InterAct 2008 to your Facebook Events page
Join the InterAct 2008 Fan Page
So you’ve launched a new product and worked hard getting it recognized in the media, now it’s time for reviews. Everyone loves a good review but no matter how good you know your product to be, reviews are still cause for nail biting… who will review it? What will they say? Will they love it? Will they find holes in it? Below are some SBX tips on getting through the process with no sweat and a positive outcome:
1. Make Absolutely Sure the Product is Ready to be Reviewed
– Run every test imaginable to ensure that the product performs to the expectations set by the industry. The reviewer will do a comprehensive evaluation so the product should be tested for stability in a number of situations. Also, it is important to chose your reviewers carefully and avoid untenable situations where the client might not perform well.
2. Leverage the Pre-Briefing
– Conducting a pre-briefing with the reviewer prior to him or her testing the product allows you the opportunity to fully explain the product, its functions, audience, benefits and differentiators. It can also provide the reviewer critical background on the technical environment and industry.
3. Know Your Competitors
– It is important to be very familiar with your competitors since most reviewers will have researched them as well to use as a comparison. Position the client in the marketplace and draw clear distinctions that set the client apart from the competition.
4. Be Honest
– Honesty is the best policy… Reviewers work very closely with products and will be able to tell if they don’t meet expectations. They must be able to test all features outlined or they will assume that it doesn’t work or doesn’t exist.
5. You Win Some, You Lose Some
– There is no way to control the outcome of a review – sometimes it’s favorable and sometimes it’s not. Ultimate success depends on how the client reacts to the outcome. If the client focuses on the negative the entire experience will be negative but if the client focuses on the winning reviews and promotes those wins the outcome will surely be positive.
-- Ali Smith