Archive for the ‘Social PR’ Category
Guest post by Megan Totka.
Has social media ruined public relations? Can the images of business and public figures still be saved by a crisis management team? In a crisis situation, how long until people expect an answer? Can PR keep up in this online social world? These are all questions I’ll try to tackle here. The notion that social media can have a larger impact than public relations is fairly new. Many business executives see social media as an easy outlet for a business to spread positive information, but what about the flip side? Is your business prepared to avoid a PR nightmare if a customer utilizes social media? When you open your business up to millions of people, safely hidden behind their computer screens, anything and everything can be said. Is your business ready for this new PR battle?
In late January, a Midwestern mom had the horrifying task of trying to locate a source of lead in her home after her infant son was diagnosed with lead poisoning. During the examination, she used a home kit and found lead present on a bolt on a baby food blender made by Baby Bullet. After three attempts to get answers from the company via phone and email, the mom turned to social media. Baby Bullet’s Facebook page lit up. Comments were being posted every few minutes. Parents were outraged. One mom even took it a step further, using parenting blog to chronicle the full story.
It took Baby Bullet several hours to release a statement regarding the matter. They followed up with a detailed letter several days later and asked the outraged blogger mom to post their side of the story too. The entire situation was a PR mess. Something that could have easily been handled internally is now public knowledge to thousands of online users. The brand is tarnished in their minds.
Twenty years ago, this type of situation would have never happened. There wouldn’t have been a Facebook page for the mom to post on out of frustration by the lack of response. There wouldn’t have been a public forum for supporters and haters of the product to go back and forth on the significance and truth of the accusation.
Facebook and Twitter are the two most popular social media sites available today and they are leading the game of social PR trouble. Businesses have to be quick on their feet. They have to beat detractors to the punch. Someone from the business needs to respond to these big deal posts within minutes. There is no time to waste. PR teams cannot just issue a blanket statement. They have to empathize with the naysayers. They have to relate to and create solutions for the issue. Stick with basic guidelines for Facebook and Twitter. Now is not the time to go informal or rogue with your posts.
The public still wants to hear the business tell the truth, but it’s no longer just the complainer who is watching for a statement. It’s his or her hundred followers and maybe their hundreds of followers too. One tweet or one Facebook post or one trending topic is not just one complaint to your company, it’s one complaint that hundreds, or perhaps thousands of readers will see.
Social media has absolutely changed the face of public relations as we know it. This does not, however, have to be a bad thing. Stay on top of your pages. Preemptively strike with great news every once in a while to build up your name. Though a PR crisis is not quite inevitable, it’s still essential to know how to handle one if if comes your way; social media does not have to become your next nightmare.
Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.
Today’s explosion of media channels has made it simultaneously more challenging yet more vital for companies to present unified messaging and branding to their markets. Businesses need to break down the silos both within their marketing and public relations (PR) teams but also more broadly between other departments, including product development and customer support.
Becoming a social business means change, which is never easy. But in Marketing in the Round: How to Develop an Integrated Marketing Campaign in the Digital Era (Que Biz-Tech), authors Gini Dietrich and Geoff Livingston provide a roadmap to developing strategy, planning tactics, determining and executing the best approach, and finally measuring and refining a unified marketing effort.
Much more than just another tactical marketing field guide, Marketing in the Round aims to provide comprehensive strategy guidance. As noted in the introduction,
“Every contemporary marketing book is dedicated to the topic of social media, whether it be Facebook, return on investment, content, or customer relations. This proliferation of literature acknowledges the changes social media brings to marketing. These books fail to realize the full scope of the marketer’s challenge, not with social media, but in becoming a modern organization that works across media and tactics to achieve its goals.”
That description (as much else in the book) sounds a lot like web presence optimization (WPO), the framework for which has been covered here previously. But whether one speaks about WPO or marketing in the round, the fundamental ideas are the same: online, everything is connected. Marketing, PR and communication efforts within the enterprise need to be connected as well.
Throughout, the authors use the term “marketing round” as useful shorthand to describe the group of professionals from marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), PR, social media, content development, design and online advertising whose efforts need to coordinated in order to optimize online results.
The book, valuable to anyone who’s in (or aspires to be in) a marketing or PR leadership role, is divided into three main sections:
- Understand the Marketing Round and Develop Your Strategy
- Four Marketing Round Approaches
- Measurement, Refinement, and Improvement
The authors share a series of essential insights throughout section one, including:
- • “Rarely is one media moment, positive or negative, strong enough to form a full impression. Before the Web…a person needed to see a message seven times before a purchase decision is made. Today a person needs to see a message upwards to 20 times. Some of those messages can, and should, be delivered by trusted sources, including friends and family, and online friends.”
- Of course, for many b2b purchases, or infrequent and high-value consumer purchases, friends and family may not be much help. That’s where other types of trusted sources, from journalists and analysts to peers, can be crucial online information sources. Regardless, a web presence strategy is vital to achieving those 20 message exposures necessary for a purchase decision.
- • “Imagine your organizational structure as a wheel instead of a typical hierarchy. Think of marketing as the hub. The spokes are made up of public relations, advertising, Web, email, social media, corporate communication, search engine optimization, search engine marketing, content, and direct mail. They circle simultaneously.”
- This reflects the observation, noted elsewhere and in other contexts (such as in service and product innovation), that old-school command-and-control management structures don’t work any longer. Information no longer flows from the top down, but rather in all directions between multiple team members and stakeholders. The job of management is no longer to run things as much as to coordinate efforts and remove roadblocks to collaboration.
- • “Integration is not the same message on every platform, but you’re using all communications disciplines appropriately, with the correct massages for each.” True, though given the importance of search, it’s usually advisable to use common keywords.
- • “Communicate every week on how it’s going and what’s working, what’s not working, what changes you’d like to make. Keep the vision top-of-mind, and make sure it’s being communicated at every meeting, even if it’s in a small way.” This is where having a unified metrics dashboard can help coordinate efforts across marketing, PR, social media, search and online advertising specialists.
- • “(Metrics should also) include brand awareness, Web site traffic, and thought leadership, but be sure that all of those goals are combined with real, hard numbers, such as leads, conversions, sales, and profit—not just soft feel-good measurements, such as impressions, clicks, sentiment, likes, follows, fan, or plusses. In the end, your marketing round’s success will be determined by its ability to successfully impact business, not garnet attention.”
- Well…yes, but don’t ignore those other measures. While its true that maximizing online visibility isn’t the ultimate business goal (which is to earn a profit) in and of itself, that visibility is the vital first step. Without pursuing those “impressions, clicks, sentiment” and other soft measures, it’s unlikely that the “hard” goals of the business will be fully realized.
- • “In order to break down the silos, develop trust, and gain immediate buy-in, the marketing round should work on this task together. It’s not for you to develop in your silo and then impose upon the first meeting. It may take more than a few meetings to get it right, but it will be worth the time and energy spent later. Soon, you’ll be on your way to marketing in the round.”
- This is why a common, unified set of metrics that tracks all inbound online channels (press, social, industry, paid, and organic search) and content types (owned, earned and paid) is vital; it’s what gets everyone on the same page and keeps them moving forward in a coordinated manner.
There’s no question the authors know their stuff. Pages 25-39 of the book provide an outstanding examination of the pros and cons of nearly all possible media tactics, from TV, radio and print though direct mail, outdoor advertising, event sponsorships, and all manner of online channels. This reference is almost worth the cost of the book itself.
The second section of the book is built upon marketing application of the military strategies detailed in the classic text The Book of Five Rings by 17th-century Japanese samurai Miyamoto Musashi. It outlines the elements, tactics, potential benefits and risks of each of four market approaches: top-down, groundswell, direct and flanking. It also provides guidance on when to use each approach, based on the nature of the market and competition.
Among the most insightful passages in the middle section of the book is this on content marketing:
“As a team, take an hour or two and think about what content you can create that will be valuable to your stakeholders and also will be searchable. To generate topics, consider questions people ask during sales meetings, challenges your products or services have, pricing, and the ‘versus’ questions.
“The questions people ask during sales meetings are…the easiest to answer. Ask everyone to write down five questions they’re asked all the time. Even if they don’t go to sales meetings, everyone talks to customers…
“Creating content around challenges or issues is uncomfortable, but it’s that kind of content that people search for when they’re online. Do you want to confront the challenges head-on? Or would you rather your competitors handle that for you?”
The book’s final section addresses measurement and continual improvement. Chapter 10 in this section includes excellent examples of using calendars to sequence different tactics, for example the different types of PR and social media marketing activities utilized leading up to and then following up on a major trade show or industry event.
Although the book is excellent overall, one could raise a few minor quibbles with it:
The explanation of strength-weakness-opportunity-threat (SWOT) analysis in section one is presented a bit lightly; this is a critical exercise to get right, and getting it right requires a fairly significant research effort. The research can be outsourced, but not skipped.
In “Risks of the Direct Approach” in section two, the authors write of social media:
“The time investments—both manpower and long-term cultivation—are unattractive to businesses that need fast results. To succeed in social media, relationships need to be built within online communities. Often they have to spend months of community investment online to build enough relationship equity to start generating sales. And when the sales do come in, the value is negligible in comparison to the costs of the staff time and associated design costs.”
While technically accurate (perhaps, though with regard to that last sentence, mileage will certainly vary), the paragraph ignores the “asset value” of social media. Creating and sharing content, and building relationships, produces a long-term asset, the value of which compounds over time. Contrast that with an online advertisement, which has value only as long as it is active; as soon as the ad comes down, its value evaporates. Social media marketing is an asset; advertising is an expense.
“Search engine marketing (SEM) isn’t used very often, but it’s extremely effective.” Actually, SEM is used pretty often; in 2012, 64% of b2b companies and 73% of b2c brands used pay-per-click (PPC) advertising to drive leads.
From chapter 11: “You can’t skip to the end and start measuring before you know what you need to measure, and that’s why this topic is so far into this book. You need to build your marketing round, understand where the strengths of your team lie, really break down the silos (which is going to take some time), get your executives onboard, and discover which approaches and tactics you’re going to use before you can implement a measurement program.”
Uh…while specific metrics may be added, dropped or changed over time, it’s essential to begin efforts with a set of baseline measures to provide both a starting point and measure of progress as your strategy and tactics roll out. At a minimum, these should include presence metrics (e.g., number of backlinks to your website, keyword rank); competitive metrics (e.g., number of industry press mentions last month for your company and its top competitors); and performance metrics (e.g., web conversions by originating traffic source).
Still, these are at worst minor flaws. Overall, Marketing in the Round is a vital guide to coordinating not just marketing and PR but social efforts across the enterprise, to optimize business results in today’s Web-centric environment. It ranks among perhaps a handful of this year’s must-read business books.
Public relations (PR) or media relations has long been treated as its own world, separate from marketing. It was viewed as being about name recognition and industry credibility, not something as mundane as lead generation.
But as the world has shifted from marketing brochures and printed trade publications to everything online, the connections between PR and marketing have become more apparent; that white paper may be a lead generation asset, but it can also be used to pitch a bylined article. An online ad may be marketing, but the credibility built through PR makes prospective buyers more likely to click on it. A news release may be designed to get media coverage, but it can also create valuable backlinks for SEO.
In the online realm, PR, search engine optimization (SEO), social, advertising and marcom are all vital and intertwined elements of web presence optimization, and as such need to be measured and managed to coordinate efforts for maximum online visibility.
So how exactly does PR support SEO efforts? How can media relations skills be leveraged in social media? What do PR pros need to do differently to support online journalism? What are today’s best practices for B2B PR?
Find the answers to those questions and more here in seven recent expert guides to social and online PR.
8 Steps to Leveraging PR for SEO by iMedia Connection
Noting that news releases incorporate three elements that search engines love—trusted backlinks, social sharing, and fresh content—Krista LaRiviere provides a brief but helpful eight-step guide to improving rank and traffic to optimized content through the proper use of news releases.
7 secrets of a master digital storyteller by Get in Front Communications
Susan Young explains the concept of brand journalism, which “allows your company to tell its own story in an engaging way that we’ve never experienced before,” then reveals seven “secrets” of master brand storytellers such as “a master storyteller weaves images, video, audio, graphics, and other social tools to make stories pop and impact people.”
Why PR Should Take Social Media Seriously by jeffbullas.com
After advising PR professionals to take social media seriously due to its believability, efficiency and leverage, Jeff Bullas outlines eight major social media channels and contrasts their level of influence with the waning reach of old media. He ends with a discussion of PR values of new media, including Twitter, where “you are able to listen and to respond to what people are saying about your brand in the market place within seconds with worldwide reach.”
10 Simple Strategies To Boost Your B2B PR Campaign by Marx Communications
Wendy Marx offers 10 tips for amplifying hard-earned media coverage, such as promoting your press in your blog, spreading the word via social media, linking to your news from appropriate LinkedIn groups, and “Rework(ing) an article to function as an abstract for a speaking proposal.”
PR Pros Not Keeping Up with What Journalists Want by Spin Sucks
Gini Dietrich reports on recent research showing that “Eighty percent of journalists you’re working with in your media relations efforts want images and nearly that many also want video,” yet among PR professionals, “only four percent (believe images are) important to journalists and just a little more than half (56 percent) routinely add images to their media relations efforts.” And even among Fortune 500 firms, “Only 24 percent of the company sites offer images and 22 percent offer videos.”
Best Practices In B2B PR by Fast Company
Wendy Marx interviews Brian Kardon, CMO at Lattice Engines and formerly with Eloqua and Forrester Research, about PR and its integration with B2B marketing, social media and lead generation efforts. Among Brian’s recommendations are that B2B companies should partner with their outside PR and marketing agencies (“get to know them as people”) and should “Be generous to your influencers. Give them credit. Compliment them. Never shill for your company or products. Be helpful and genuine.”
12 Perspectives on How B2B SEO Can Better Support PR & Communications by Search Engine Watch
Derek Edmond shares guidance from a dozen PR experts including Stacey Acevero (it’s “essential for B2B PR, marketing and communications teams to have a concrete understanding of SEO elements – it results in a much more harmonious process”) and Elizabeth Sosnow (“You may not be a Sherlock Holmes fan, but you probably know that he couldn’t make it very far without his loyal wingman, Watson. B2B PR folks really need SEOs to help them solve mysteries for their clients”).
What is the distinction between “traditional” public relations (PR) and online / interactive / social PR? Is there really a difference anymore—or is the boundary blurring?
One part of the confusion stems from the fact that in PR, as in many other crafts, the tools change and advance but the fundamental skills required remain the same. PR pros now use tools like Twitter, PitchEngine, PRWeb and Vocus in place of fax machines, media packets, wire services and Bacon’s, but the fundamental skills of storytelling and relationship-building remain crucial.
Another part of the confusion is based on the changing definition of “media.” Every print publication now has an online version. Many “traditional” journalists now write blogs; does that make them bloggers? What really is the distinction between megablogs like TechCrunch or Mashable and an online publication? And some multi-author blogs have morphed into hybrid portal/news/blog sites that are difficult to categorize.
Regardless, while the “art” of PR retains some constants, the “science” has clearly evolved. What are the best practices for pitching journalists in this new environment? What are the (current) best practices for pitching bloggers? How can PR pros optimize their use of social media tools? How can you make a press release more friendly to blogs, Twitter and search engines?
Find the answers to these questions and more here in a dozen of the best social PR guides of the past year.
Pitching Basics – Rules of Engagement by Blogging PRWeb
Noting that “The perfect pitch is one that involves getting to know your target reporters and showing a genuine interest in helping them, rather than treating them as a means to an end,” the delightful Stacey Acevero of Vocus shares a helpful list of “do’s” (e.g., do your research, do be concise) and “don’ts” (e.g., send generic pitches) for successfully getting others to write about your product / service / news / client etc.
Blogger Outreach Remains Crucial for PR Pros by SocialTimes
Jay Krall of Cision explains why blogger outreach remains important, how to find relevant bloggers within a particular topic area, and how to evaluate–and not evaluate–blogger influence, for example: “take one of the many varied specialties of lawyers who blog on topics like e-discovery or a particular state’s tax code – a blog with fewer than 10,000 readers may in fact serve as the tastemaker for the entire topic space. What makes sense instead is to judge a blog’s performance relative to its peers in the same topic area.”
Leyl Master Black presents five creative ways for communication professionals to use social media, among them: tapping into breaking news (“social media opens the door to a number of new tactics that can be deployed in a matter of minutes … if you’re quick on your feet”), creating proprietary influencer networks, and connecting with media / bloggers at events.
How to Turn a Blog Post into a Press Release by ProBlogger
Erika Gimbel outlines a six-step process for turning a blog post into a press release (“Both have many of the same elements: strong headlines, top-down format (most important stuff up front), etc.” as she points out), starting with making sure the post is newsworthy (“how-to” guides work well for blog posts, not so well for news releases) and ending with using third-person AP-style writing for the release.
Small Business…Big Coverage! by Blogging PRWeb
Guest blogger Jon Gelberg contends that “you don’t have to be Apple or Google or Sony to get the attention of the press. All you need is an understanding of how the press (and online media) works and how best to get on their radar,” then describes how to find the right journalists and editors in a particular topic area and successfully pitch them on your story idea and expertise.
18 easy-breezy ideas for building a relationship with a journalist by Ragan’s PR Daily
Joan Stewart supplies “a handy list of how to prepare for, and conduct yourself during, a meeting” with a journalist or editor, from becoming familiar with that individual’s stories beforehand so you can discuss them intelligently, and bringing a media kit (or at least some brief background information) to asking how else you can help them and snail-mailing a real, paper thank-you note within 24 hours.
What brand marketers can learn from PR by iMedia Connection
Rebecca Lieb, author of one of the best SEO books ever, observes that “Press releases don’t work (the way they used to) any more. They are no longer a private, one-to-one communications channel (once mailed, later faxed to newsrooms). Now, the second a press release is distributed over a wire service, it’s immediately picked up by all the major news services and web portals.” Today, press releases have to be search-optimized, written for a broader audience of influencers than just journalists, and (ideally) discussed in the right forums.
Pitching to Google’s Fresh New Algorithm via News, Blogs, Events & Google+ by Search Engine Watch
Lisa Buyer reports that optimized news releases are now more important than ever given Google’s recent algorithm changes that promote the freshest content on news-themed web searches, then offers tips pertaining to PR SEO, online newsrooms, utilizing news blogs, capitalizing on events, the impact of Google+, content quality vs. quantity and more.
Six Tips For Making Your Press Release Twitter Friendly by Mediabistro
Pointing to a recent study showing that “Twitter drives more traffic to press releases than Facebook,” Tonya Garcia details half a dozen tips for making news releases Twitter-friendly, such as using numbers (““If you have data within a press release, call it out in the headline”), using hashtags properly, including multimedia, and making quotes tweetable.
David Meerman Scott passes along tips learned while promoting his most recent book, Newsjacking: How to Inject your Ideas into a Breaking News Story and Generate Tons of Media Coverage. Among his recommendations: don’t reveal too much too soon (“I never used the word “newsjacking” anywhere on the web prior to November 14, which was launch day. I find that people have short attention spans. If I say ‘a book is coming’ but people cannot actually read it, few will act. So I chose to keep quiet.”), inject some controversy, and respond to people in real time.
Suggesting “look around and you will see a huge gap between those who get it and those who only think they get it,” Priya Ramesh warns communications professionals not to do “dumb” things in social media like using a formal, business-like tone on social networks (nerdy); using social media as a broadcast medium rather than a conversational forum; and—my favorite—”joining the shiny-object bandwagon without a strategy.”
8 Steps to Leveraging PR for SEO by gShift Labs
***** 5 STARS
Krista LaRiviere of gShift Labs notes that PR has taken on added importance in web presence due to Google’s recent Panda algorithm changes, which reduce the value of directory links, increase the influence of social signals on ranking, and reward content in certain topic areas for freshness, and provides and eight-step process for getting SEO value from every news release—beginning with keyword research and working through optimization, backlinks, and online distribution through an SEO-friendly PR distribution service.
I took several creating writing courses back in junior high and high school. For a while, as a teen, I even considered pursuing a career as a novelist—until I did some research and realized that the probability of becoming a best-selling fiction author is on par with the odds of winning the lottery. While being attacked by a shark. And struck by lightning. Simultaneously. Twice.
So I went into engineering instead. But my love of writing and storytelling eventually drew me into marketing and PR, where I could bring true customer stories to life and help people understand the transformative potential of technology.
As it turns out, many of the elements of storytelling apply to writing customer stories, new releases, blog posts and other marketing content as well. A customer story or news release shouldn’t read exactly like a novel or movie script of course, but keeping in mind the elements of proper storytelling can help add life and draw readers in to your PR and social media marketing “stories.”
Setting: creating the context or setting the scene is the essential first step in storytelling. Almost everyone of a certain age can identify, verbatim, the setting for Star Wars (“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…”). A fictional story can be set in any place or time. A social business story, however, is always set in the present, the very recent past, or just slightly in the future, and always in your customers’ world—though the setting changes slightly for the different buyers of your product or service (e.g., the C-level, finance, technology or business buyer).
Protagonist: the hero of the story; in fiction, this can be a person, a group, an animal or even a thing. In a social business story, the hero is always your buyer, or in the case of a customer story, an existing customer whom you buyers can relate to.
Antagonist: the villain, the enemy, the bad guy; again, in fiction, the antagonist can take a wide variety of forms, from a person or group to an apparition, an object, the weather, or a monster. In a social business story, the antagonist is often a business problem (excessive costs, low or declining sales, inefficient processes, unhappy customers) but can, effectively, also be more personal (low compensation or recognition, long/late hours at the office, excessive travel, lack of advancement).
Conflict: a key element of plot, conflict is what draws us into a story, makes us wonder what will happen next, the source of suspense or uncertainty; it’s what creates the dramatic tension that makes a story interesting. Suppose someone were to write a story along the lines of: “Fred woke up one morning, then a bunch of good things happened to him, then he went to bed and thought about what a good day it had been.” That’s all fine and good for Fred, but it’s not much of a story. There’s no suspense, no mystery, no wonder, nothing to interest us. Too often, marketing materials are written that way: “blah, blah, our product, blah, features, blah, benefits…” As with Fred, that’s nice for the product or service in question, but not terribly interesting. When writing a news release, blog post or other content, ask yourself—what’s the “hook” that will draw readers in and make them care?
Plot twists: an unexpected turn of events, a surprisingly revelation about a key character, an unforeseen obstacle—these are often what set a good story apart from a great one. Business stories often have plot twists too: a budget cut, the loss of a key customer, an unexpected move by a supplier or competitor, a change in the market landscape, or other events that the alter the course of, complicate, or add urgency to a story.
Resolution: the hero triumphs, the smoke clears, the alien flies off back into space, the bad guy gets what he had coming, the boy gets the girl (or vice versa)—basically, the conflict is resolved and the dramatic tension is eased. How does your product or service help the hero (your customer) to emerge victorious, in a believable manner?
Denouement: the wind-down, the epilogue, the final resolution, the hero riding off into the sunset, the happy ending. In social business writing, this is where you explain how your customer/hero’s life ends up better than before, how their situation is improved, how their world is changed by what you provide.
Obviously, that’s not to say you should literally write a business story like a novel—that would be cheesy—but rather that business writing can be enlivened and inspired by considering the story elements of great fiction.
And don’t be formulaic; stories that are formulaic (Halloween) can degenerate into ironic, self-aware imitations (Scream) and then into parodic farce (Scary Movie). Don’t let your business stories turn into Scary Movie. Be original! But consider incorporating the elements of classic fiction to add life to your PR and social business stories.