For PR professionals, an election year can be pretty exciting. As candidates battle in the media, we get a snapshot of almost every type of PR best practice and disaster. From crisis management to cleverly spun headlines and media meltdowns -- we just can’t help but watch. However, this also means that the media will undoubtedly be wrapped up in politics for the duration of 2012, making it even harder to get noticed. So how can you turn this obstacle into opportunity? Do what the candidates do; focus on the issues.
- Jobs – Is your company hiring? Does your company make a product or provide a service that is creating more jobs? If so, you could be a valuable source for reporters looking to cover this topic.
- Policies and regulations - Are there specific laws being considered that will impact your industry? Take a cue from companies like Google and Wikipedia, who recently made headlines protesting the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). You can earn respect in your industry and generate influential coverage.
- Foreign affairs – Is your business being affected by newsworthy events in other countries? Or is your company providing a solution to a global issue? Putting a U.S. spin on international news can help raise awareness of the issue and your company.
- Education – Does your company educate others? Or do you work with partners or charitable organizations involved with education? Issues surrounding education, or lack thereof, are always in the spotlight, and this is especially true in an election year. If your company can connect with a heavily covered topic -- like education reform, school safety or technology in the classroom -- there is a good chance your story will be picked up.
Linking your story to one of these top trends may give you the edge you need to get results in 2012.
The 3rd Annual MegaTweetUp at Microsoft’s New England Research and Development (NERD) Center was filled with hundreds of local, passionate technology enthusiasts ready to network and share their ideas on business and social media.
If you weren’t able to attend the event, here’s what you missed:
The biggest highlight of the night for me was meeting Lane Sutton, 14-year-old entrepreneur, digital native, social media coach, KidCritic founder, speaker and blogger, who led the social media control center for the night. According to Lane’s statistics, the event created 429,185 impressions, reaching 60,000 people through more than 700 tweets.
Another highlight was witnessing Google’s Google+ ON AIR Hangout feature in action. Bruce Garber, Google beta tester, demonstrated the possibilities of ON AIR Hangout in real time along with singer and songwriter Ryan Van Sickle.
Never heard of Google+ ON AIR Hangout? Fear not, it’s fairly new.
ON AIR encompasses the standard Hangout (up to 10 people in a video chat room) but the ON AIR feature allows the host to broadcast the live Hangout publicly to an unlimited number of viewers. Google has documented numerous high-profile events including a conversation with the Dalai Lama. We used Google+ ON AIR Hangout to hear Ryan Van Sickle perform two of his original songs during the event. Bruce then uploaded the “concert” on YouTube for the world to watch.
The rest of the night was filled with collaborating conversations, meeting new people and learning about the latest and greatest on the Boston tech scene, proving this city is alive and kicking on the innovation front.
Check out our photos from the event on Google+.
What events are you attending in February?
A positive product review can be a gift for lead generation because of the third-party validation from a respected blogger, analyst or reporter (in other words, an influencer). Publications and blogs nowadays can’t always afford to keep technical product reviewers on staff, so their reviews can be few and far between. In addition, a review can take almost a year to appear within a roundup of multiple products instead of as a standalone article that provides an in-depth analysis of your product’s features, functionality and benefits.
Source: Embotics' V-Commander
So, with modern-day parameters in place, what should an organization do? Follow these five simple steps to help influencers create effective product reviews for positive product PR.
Have you ever had a bad product review if you’ve followed these steps? If so, tell us here.
- Keep the reporter or blogger engaged. Once the product review is scheduled, it is your job to make sure it happens. Usually, the reviewer is a busy freelancer and this is his second job. Be helpful and check in with the reviewer twice a week to determine his needs and wants around the project.
- Have a reviewer’s guide readily available. This serves as a useful tool for new customers and for reviewers, so it’s worth the effort of creating one. Reviewers shouldn’t get the facts wrong if they’re all in writing.
- Have your most engaging product manager give a demonstration. Product demonstrations can be boring, but not if you have a presenter who is engaging and can help the reporter or blogger understand the industry’s pain points while also getting him to understand the need for the product.
- Follow up with resourceful information. Make sure the reviewer understands the purpose and mission of the product by providing him with industry whitepapers, links to website materials and customer testimonials.
- Keep your product top of mind. If the review doesn’t appear for a year after a product demonstration is given, it’s important to help the reporter or blogger keep your product in mind so you’re not forgotten.
When you think of social media for your business, you probably think first of LinkedIn, Twitter, SlideShare or even YouTube. Facebook may fall to the bottom of the list. Many business owners look at Facebook as a platform for personal use rather than for companies. But with more than 800 million users, revamped pages for companies and an analytics package, Facebook should be part of your business’ social media marketing plan.
Whereas LinkedIn acts as the online business card for your company, Facebook shows the human side of your business. It has the flexibility to feature creative content and insight and to highlight employees and company-sponsored events. Facebook allows your customers and partners to get to know your company on a different level and engage in a friendly, open way not possible on LinkedIn or within the character constraints of Twitter.
There are a lot of positives to using Facebook for your company, but to play devil’s advocate, there are some negatives. You open your company up to the criticism of a wider audience. Your followers may not be the targeted, ideal business contacts you have on other platforms. Your executive team might not be open to the creativity that comes with a Facebook page. Yet, the positive outweighs the negative. Facebook provides a personal view of your company not as visible on other social media platforms. Also, it is the number one social media platform in the world.
Ideally, companies would combine Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook into a social media triumvirate. Twitter provides instant news sharing; LinkedIn is the business, networking platform; and Facebook is the face of the company.
Each social platform contributes to the company’s presence in its own way and is integral to creating a unified company presence on the Web.
What challenges and success has had your company had on Facebook?
The social echo, or reverberation of conversations around a brand, can make or break your company’s image. You need to maintain as much control as possible to influence these conversations in a positive way. Creating content to influence the conversation is important, but ultimately, you need to start with listening so you can understand who’s talking and what’s being said about your company, its competitors and the industry.
Then, begin to create and curate content. Said Sarah Skerik of PR Newswire in a recent webinar, “Compelling content combined with intelligent distribution becomes the earned media backbone.” In today’s media landscape, media evolves and owned media transforms into earned media. For example, when someone retweets your owned media tweet, they give it third-party validation.
There is a push-and-pull interaction between brand and audience, which, when done correctly, can positively influence social conversations. Push communications consist of owned media such as newsletters, social content and blogs. To improve push content, make it interesting, relevant and useful, and then target specific audiences. Also look for opportunities to encourage crossover sharing from your audience. For example, keep headlines short for optimal tweeting length and include video and images whenever possible.
Pull communications consist of search engines, editorial pickup, social sharing, reviews and other evolved content. Here, you can optimize by cultivating an audience, distributing content across various platforms to broaden its exposure, and researching relevant hashtags and keywords. By optimizing content for each distribution channel, you make it infinitely more findable.
It’s easy for anyone to have a voice online, so you need to do everything possible to make your content rise above the rest. Optimizing your push and pull methods gives you viral visibility.
So, begin rethinking the communication channels with which you’re familiar, and leverage them in new ways to better your results. You’ll have people transforming your owned media into earned media, and you’ll hear a positive social echo.
As a new year begins, we tend to reflect on the past 12 months. Did you achieve your personal and professional goals in 2011? If not, you may need to evaluate why. Here are 10 tips to help you through the process.
1) Set SMART goals.
Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant & Timely
Make a commitment and believe that you can achieve your goal.
3) Create an action plan and timeline.
Plan for what you will accomplish during the goal period. Write down the action steps you need to take in order to achieve your goals, and set a timeline.
4) Make your goals visible.
Write them down. Read them everyday so that you are always reminded of what your intention is.
5) Avoid procrastination.
Work toward your goals on a regular basis, and follow time-tested tactics for staying on track.
6) Track progress.
Be accountable. Keep a checklist of items completed toward achieving your goal.
7) Review and re-evaluate.
Measure your results at the half way mark. Look at your goals, identify obstacles and modify them based on your needs.
8) Ask for help.
There may be setbacks along the way. Enlist the support of a mentor, co-worker or manager.
9) Stay focused.
Stick with it. It’s okay to learn from mistakes.
10) Reward and reflect.
Reward yourself for a job well done. Build on your experiences -- both good and bad.
In an uncertain economy, all professionals are keen on doing what they can to secure their jobs. Jenny Schade, a communications strategist, moderated a recent webinar that outlined how to “bulletproof your career
.” Below are her tips and mine for getting ahead in PR and staying there.
- First, determine if you are in the right professional field for you. Industries constantly change, as we’ve seen with the introduction of digital and social media in the PR industry. If you’re not committed to the industry and not willing to adapt, it might be time to change your career path.
- Whether you’re looking to start a new job or just hoping to secure your current position, you must identify your value. Figure out how the activities you do each day add value to your company or your clients.
- Remember that you’re not just an employee. Really, you are an expert who adds irreplaceable value and you should market yourself accordingly. As PR professionals, we’ve built careers around marketing our clients or our companies; don’t forget about you. By doing your own PR, you’ll be able to attract opportunities to you instead of searching for them.
- Step outside of your comfort zone and challenge yourself to accomplish new goals in different expertise areas. Going above and beyond your job description is always noticed and appreciated, but hiring executives look for candidates with broad experiences. As companies go lean, employees are commonly responsible for more than one position, and people who have broad experience will be the ones to win (or keep) the jobs.
- Following on the last point, make sure you have a strong foundation of the skills required in your industry. For communications and PR positions, solid writing abilities are the basis for just about every job task, and demonstrating your skills is a necessity.
- Finally, be a “change agent.” Seek out new technology and embrace it. Look for ways to improve processes with technology and present it to management. The industry is always evolving, and companies want to be at the forefront of new technology.
Walking through each of these steps while evaluating your career and continuing to develop professionally will make you a PR superstar.
In a remote spot in northwest Spain, El Bulli Restaurant sits shuttered. The Michelin three-star dream of chef Ferran Adrià
was once open year round, then just for six-month stretches, and then finally closed for good last summer. Why would a hot spot that had 2 million requests for its 8,000 dining slots per year shut its doors? Adrià says the answer is all about innovation, and his approach poses an interesting question for startups and forward-thinking businesses
. Adrià recently told an audience
that he’s shifting El Bulli from a restaurant into a culinary think tank. What he’s after, he says, is the next omelet.
In the history of food, there are few omelets – completely new creations, not iterations on previous discoveries. Creating a new “first” in cooking – a conceptual omelet – requires time for creative thinking, for failure without punishment. So Adrià has decided production (his restaurant) should be secondary to creation (his think tank).
Can this translate to a business that is unable to shutter its doors to gain more creative time? Yes. You can build space for creative thinking into your daily business practices by:
- Failing faster: Have a great idea? Put it into action quickly, and then move on to the next idea if the first proves poor.
- Flattening bureaucracy: Multiple approval layers squelch creativity.
- Recognizing creativity: Celebrate individual successes, and let your team know you support new approaches to old challenges.
- Encouraging daydreaming and playing games.
For those of us without endless time for cooking up conceptual omelets, carving out that space during every workday is a must. It can be done, and the most successful startups are those that make it happen.
My two lives as a technology PR executive and mom don’t usually overlap. But in my five-year-old twins’ constant replay of their new CD, “Disney’s Phineas & Ferb: Across the 1st and 2nd Dimensions,” I found the sweet spot. The song “Carpe Diem” is about how to grab opportunities when you see them.
PR is just that – it is about seizing the day, grabbing those opportunities that are out there to raise awareness of a company or product. While attending a recent webinar on PR measurement, I was struck by one company’s report that LinkedIn conversations were at the root of many of their sales. LinkedIn was how they seized the day with their social media engagement and PR efforts.
Social media PR is that opportunity that companies need to grab. There can be no more waiting for the “right” time for you to join the conversation; the time to leverage social media PR, expand awareness and close sales is now.
Phineas and Ferb have it right. You have to make the most of every minute or opportunity. In the world of PR, that means grabbing hold of social media and using it to the best advantage for each company. Social media and online communication are quickly catching up (and in some markets eclipsing) traditional PR tactics. As Phineas and Ferb say, “Every day's a brand new day, baby, carpe diem!”
Creating a compelling story about your company resonates much better with prospects than spewing corporate facts. As we all know, content is king, and content marketing is a successful lead generation tactic, as well as a way to position brands as industry thought leaders. But have you thought about why? Consider this example from marketer Arnie Kuenn. At an event, someone handed him a business card that read on the back:
"I had my tires slashed by the KGB; locked myself, while naked, in a hotel fire escape in Las Vegas; worked as a pastry chef at a top London restaurant; and was a deep-sea diver. Which one isn't true?"
Wouldn't this stand out to you among a pile of business cards? The same can be said for content marketing. Your audience will be much more engaged if it can relate to your story. Ultimately, this can separate you from competitors. There have been a slew of successful storytelling companies. Think of the deeply engrained stories brands such as Apple and Levi’s have implanted in consumers’ minds. Never mind the technical differences between a Mac or a PC, or the quality differences between Levi’s and other jeans; consumers are immersed in the cultures of these brands.
No matter your company -- whether it is a B2C or B2B, whether you sell technology or household products -- incorporating a story into your marketing and PR efforts will benefit you in numerous ways. There are many options to easily incorporate content, such as through a company blog or videos.
Beyond what PR professionals can do to spin a story, remember that in our digitally connected world, even consumers can create brand stories. Consumers are constantly creating their own stories about brands on social media, and those brands are missing a huge opportunity for engagement if they don’t join the conversation. Give your prospects a reason to remember your brand. Tell them a good story.
Getting feedback from your customers is essential. It’s also a challenge. How do you reach them? How do you get honest, helpful critiques? A survey is a typical way to get this feedback, but in today’s fast-paced world, the survey must be delivered in an atypical way. Optimize your next survey by employing social media and Twitter and using these tips.
1. Don’t ask for the moon: Ask only for the exact information you want.
2. Keep it short: If you follow step one, your survey should take no more than 10 minutes to complete. Tweet your most interesting questions with a link to the survey to drive traffic.
3. Keep it simple: Avoid atypical sentence formation, jargon, abbreviations and lengthy sentences.
4. Form answer options the same way: Short and simple answer options such as multiple choice or “yes” and “no” make gauging responses easier.
5. Put your most important questions first: This ensures that your most important questions get answered.
6. Try it, and then try it again: Have trusted employees or customers test out the survey first.
7. Ensure anonymity: Post a notice of security and anonymity to guarantee the most honest and helpful answers.
7. Choose an appropriate time to release the survey: Twitter is most active at 12 p.m. EST (lunch time on the East Coast), which coincides with 9 a.m. PST (start of work day) and 5 p.m. in London (end of the work day). Release and tweet about your survey at this time to reach the largest audience possible.
8. Remind customers: Retweet the survey to maximize the number of participants.
9. Give participants incentive: How will taking the survey benefit customers? Tweet about incentives to drive participants to the survey. Offer additional incentives for retweets.
10. Reach out directly: Contact industry influencers and ask if they will promote your survey via their own Twitter accounts.
11. Use your results: Put the answers you receive to use. Congratulate yourself on things done well, and create a plan to improve weak areas.
Want to read more about creating survey success? Check out this article on wikiHow.