As a recent graduate from Kansas State University I am frequently asked by others, “What does it take to make it in PR?” I have four tips for recent or soon-to-be graduates searching for the keys to success in the world of public relations: be persistent, remain confident, listen and write.
Persistence: As noted in my previous blog post, Startup Technology Success Hinges on Persistent Public Relations, persistence is a powerful tool in the PR industry. As cliché as it may sound, persistence in PR means never giving up on fighting for your cause, idea, company or what you’re trying to communicate to your audience. Most importantly, never take “no” for an answer without a good explanation as to why. The “why” is important because it helps you listen. It helps you understand how to fine-tune your message to reach appropriate audiences.
Confidence: Whether you are pitching a new product to an editor or brainstorming website design ideas with co-workers, you must be confident with your words and learn to speak up. You need to know your subject, why you are talking about it and why others should care. In PR, confidence isn’t always about being right, it’s about being secure enough to say, “I don’t know, but I will find you the answer.” And the successful people in PR follow-up with those answers, no matter the question or situation.
Listen: If you start a new job with the attitude that you know everything, your chances of survival are minimal. As a new grad, you have no idea how your company conducts its business or interacts with clients or one another. It’s your job to listen to everything and absorb as much knowledge as possible. Whether you are taking instructions from your boss, listening to a client about a new idea or observing a conversation in the office, take in all the details. Emerging yourself into a new environment isn’t always easy, but by listening, you can gather a great deal of information. This advice goes triple for reading daily - take in as much news, content, advice and tips that you can.
Write: In today’s PR industry, the skill of writing is a necessary tool. As a new member of your PR team you will correspond with others via many written channels and create original content. It's even more critical that your message come across as clear as possible. The short, more concise and to the point your writing is, the more attention you will receive.
Obviously, there are numerous factors that make an individual successful in PR, but these tips should help you get a jump start in your career.
What other tips would you recommend to a new PR executive?
Advice comes from all sources. Whether it’s from friends and family in our personal lives to coworkers, partner and the media in PR, all of it matters. It’s whether you take it and become successful is the true test. In fact, two journalists I follow closely recently posted tips on launching new products and companies. Many of their points echo the counsel we give our clients here at Metis.
Jean-Jacques Maleval, editor of Storage Newsletter, recently told PR pros in his Editor’s Message to Public Relations to keep it simple and avoid certain “ecstatic” words within press releases. His “all-new,” “comprehensive” list of these “premier” words, which we are all guilty of using sometimes, includes “cutting-edge,” “innovative” and “world-class.” Maleval suggests announcements be “rock solid,” “phenomenal” and “tightly integrated” with company messaging – and free of overused clichés – prior to release.
And Scott Kirsner, Boston Globe columnist, provided a list of suggestions within his Innovation Economy column: Generating Buzz for Your Venture: 43 Bits of Free Advice from Entrepreneurs, PR Peeps and Journos. He gives some good advice for launching your company or product or announcing funding. His tips, similar to many we espouse, can be boiled down into three words: trust, truth and relationships. You need to build trusting relationships with journalists, and the way to do that is by telling the truth and by delivering what you promise.
This is the core of Kirsner, Maleval and Metis’ advice: Words matter. Truth matters. Don't talk to journalists in a way that undermines your intelligence or theirs.
Om Malik of GigaOm spoke earlier this year on Tech Crunch TV about a website service that aims to “buy, sell and distribute quality news content.” The site, eByline.com, was founded last year in Los Angeles to serve editors working with under-resourced newsrooms. TechCrunch put this question to Malik: Is eByline a viable business model?
His answer, in short, was, “no.” And we agree with him for several reasons. First, as Malik told TechCrunch’s Sarah Lacy and Paul Carr, if a journalist is skilled at her craft, she will succeed. If she is not, she will fail. Period. Whether she works in a traditional newsroom, as a well-connected freelancer or by stringing gigs together via eByline-like exchanges, the journalist’s experience, work ethic and talent determine her employability, not the vehicle through which she sells her work.
Journalists are moving to a new platform, certainly, just like every other industry. A successful journalist must understand social media and real-time content delivery in order to succeed. And if a journalist works as a freelancer, he probably relies on many forms of networking, including LinkedIn and other social media options. But once reporters and editors connect, it’s hard to see the need for the middleman. With so many organic methods for finding an expert journalist on virtually any topic, why would an editor employ someone else to do it?
eByline and other services like it are banking on the turmoil in the industry – the downsizing of full-time writing staff and the growing number of talented journalists stringing together freelance work. We give these startups credit for stressing the need for experienced, proven writers. The question, though, is whether any editors will bite.
As an editor, journalist or consumer of news, do you see a need for content exchanges?
The power of Twitter can no longer be underestimated and it has been this way for some time now. Once considered nothing more than a mindless fad, Twitter is now viewed as the go-to source for real-time information gathering. CNN.com is even reporting it aggregated more than 100,000 tweets about November's elections alone. But most people who use Twitter have no idea why they are using it and a large percentage of new users stop tweeting within a few days. For this reason, Twitter has hundreds of thousands of inactive accounts. One way to make the most of your time on Twitter and to keep this inactivity from happening to you is to engage beyond your own circle.
The power of social media engagement – and of retweeting – helps build a following and a reputation on Twitter. I tripled my followers in one day just by engaging Chris Brogan regarding a presentation he gave at a conference in Boston. It was a simple message, complimenting him on a comparison he drew during his talk. He retweeted and replied to me, much to my boss’ jealousy and excitement, with an appreciative “thank-you.” A few weeks later Boston TweetUp founder Joselin Mane retweeted a small message I wrote regarding the Chilean miner rescue that was going on at the time. Boom! Ten new followers in an hour. In a service where millions of messages are posted each day, it feels good to know someone is listening and that I have an opportunity to talk with people I really admire and respect who might not otherwise get a chance to talk with me.
Now I try to take the time each day to engage industry thought leaders, retweet things I find important or amusing, and mention certain people when posting tweets of my own if I think it pertains to them. This has helped me build my following even further, and it also provides a sense of self-satisfaction when I see people responding to me. It’s nice to be noticed every now and again.
Now go out into the world and tweet all that you can, we’re dying to hear what you have to say!
Customers are key for success in public relations. They indicate real revenue and validation of a company’s technology and strategy in the market. Every day we hear from external audiences: “Can I speak to a customer?” “Do you have a customer in such-and-such market?”
A handy dandy way to address these questions is to group customers by vertical markets, which leads me to think of the old song, “Hail, Hail, The Gang’s All Here! Having the whole gang of customers in a vertical market segment makes it easier to supply the customer needed meet a writer’s deadline. And when you find your client has several customers in the same vertical market or who all use the same technology platform such as VMware, it is time to bring the gang together and unleash the “blitz.”
Take, for instance, one of our data center clients, FalconStor Software. As a leader in the data protection and backup market, FalconStor has a number of customers across different vertical markets. Using the blitz approach, we focused on the healthcare sector earlier this year, announcing new customers and securing case study placements and interviews within healthcare-focused publications. And we are doing the blitz again – this time focusing in on the growing group of newer VMware-based customer environments through podcasts, press announcements, case studies and press interviews. Check out the results here.
The blitz provides companies another way to emphasize their leadership roles in specific markets, announce several new customers and provide validation to journalists seeking more than a quote from a corporate executive. It also gives us all a reason to belt out my revised version of the Pirates in Penzance.
Hail, hail, the gang's all here
DR and IT experts take care
Using FalconStor and VMware
Hail, hail, the gang's all here
Three cheers for FalconStor!
In early 1986, my dad was advised by a friend to invest in a startup called Microsoft. My dad’s friend was certain that this “Microsoft” company would change the movement of our society and eventually be worth millions, if not billions. At the time, my dad was interested in investing in his children’s future and he thought Microsoft would be the perfect solution, but my mom was in need of a new washer and dryer. I think you know the outcome of this story.
I recently remembered this after I read “Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal,” and I started thinking about how my dad’s friend first heard of Microsoft. He probably read a story in Technology Review or some other tech magazine. And more than likely it was a public relations professional who pitched Microsoft to these publications. That PR professional didn’t give up when the journalists didn’t care to hear about Microsoft at the very beginning. That PR professional was determined to spread the word.
Every day, thousands of startup companies develop products and solutions they consider to be the next best thing. Amidst the layers of competition, many of these startups find it difficult to develop the exposure they need to become successful. This is where a solid PR firm fits into the equation. We get the word out there for our clients.
Why do PR professionals work with startup technology companies? We like a challenge and the satisfaction that comes from making the difference between a company that becomes the next Microsoft and one that might have been great, but remains unknown.
Thanks to the help of the PR professionals who first pitched the story of Microsoft, my dad’s friend went on to become a multi-millionaire. My parents, on the other hand, spent 20 happy years with their washer and dryer.
A few of us at Metis attended an event last month about transmedia. (The event was called “Your Life Will Be A Transmedia Experience (It Already Is)” as part of the FutureM events calendar.) With all of the hype around “next-gen online marketing,” I even consider “buzzword” a buzzword. But at this event, we learned that while transmedia as a buzzword might pass quickly, the key concept behind it is already an integral part of the online marketing evolution. In fact, some say it’s unavoidable to live a transmedia life.
Metis won Transmedia Bingo!
We track buzzwords like it’s our job.
The event speakers discussed weaving transmedia into client storytelling, and this resonated with us. Storytelling is something that we do well. Very well. Transmedia storytelling implies that you invade the audience’s lifestyle and how they consume content.
Going into this session (and especially looking at the examples provided and in the above Bingo game), consumer-facing uses of transmedia seemed to make the most sense.
For instance, “Mad Men” (let’s not get into just how much Metis loves watching Mad Men) and other shows have taken to Twitter to expand the viewing experience for fans. Fans can catch Don Draper’s real-time tweets – entirely new character development adjacent to the episode. This is an empowering way for viewers to become a part of the story and creates different entry points to potentially attract new viewers via a medium other than television. Sure, we love to watch Don pour Roger Sterling a cocktail (it’s 5 p.m. somewhere, right fellas?) and simultaneously learn through Twitter whether that cocktail is gin or vodka, but we’re also interested in what this means to Metis and our clients.
As transmedia leaders tell us, forget the channel. Forget the messaging. Forget your tagline. What narrative is going to reach your customers and make them remember you, follow you and become a part of your story?
As we’ve discussed many times, the game of public relations is always evolving, thanks to social networks and the real-time Web. Transmedia is essentially part of the new age of PR: relating to your audience and not just throwing content on the wall to see what sticks. We must be more dynamic than that.
Storytelling takes patience and nurturing. It’s not a direct-marketing tactic. We propel the story across multiple platforms. We watch trends, and we adapt in order to be successful. So, you could say we cared about transmedia long before it was ever defined.
When I first started in PR more than 10 years ago, my impression of analyst firms was that they were known mainly for research data, market reports and occasional business leads. It usually came with a hefty price tag too. Nowadays, the relationship can be so much more substantial. With today’s fast-paced social media networks and instant communication, there are greater benefits for both analysts and vendors.
Analysts can act as an extension of a company’s marketing department but more importantly, as industry educators. They create content while also teaching technology vendors and end-users the value of certain technologies and viewpoints. They don’t just create long, dry technology reports; they create blogs, podcasts, videos and events.
An example of the “new” breed of analyst firm is Wikibon. In fact, Wikibon doesn’t call itself an analyst firm. Rather, Wikibon defines itself as a worldwide community of vendors, consultants and technology experts offering free advice, demonstrating its openness and embrace of social media collaboration. Traditionally, analyst groups are described as research and advisory firms that come across as experts, not as collaborative communities.
Anyone can read Wikibon’s blogs, view its videos or listen to its Peer Incites podcast, an interactive gathering of practitioners sharing insight to solve business technology challenges. Today they are hosting an event that looks at why backup is broken and data protection as a service. The discussion features our client FalconStor’s new CEO Jim McNiel, FalconStor partner and cloud service provider, nScaled, and its long-time customer Strand Associates.
Wikibon’s approach is indicative of how all analysts firms are changing. The outcomes of this Peer Incite event, including blog and podcast content creation, will drive the discussions and market awareness of Wikibon and FalconStor into the coming year. As with other media outlets, analyst firms are evolving due to the changing needs of the audience and the impact of social media.
I’m afraid to watch Hoarders, the show that details the disturbed lives of people who Never Throw Anything Away. I fear finding a scene that might indicate I have a problem.
Today, we meet a woman who refuses to discard books. Here’s a tattered copy of “To Kill A Mockingbird,” right next to two other editions. Three copies of the same book. It’s senseless. If we turn the corner, we’ll see she’s even kept seven different copies of “A Moveable Feast” and…oh my…”Chicken Soup For the Soul.” Perhaps the real red-flag in this house is here, where the owner hoards AP Stylebooks. This one is from 2006! It’s ancient! “Blog” isn’t even an entry in this guide.
Yes, I’m hanging onto an outdated AP Stylebook for posterity's sake. It comes in handy, occasionally. Comma rules rarely change. But modes of communication sure do. “Blog” is not anywhere to be found in the Associated Press lexicon of 2006, and yet, today, blogging is widely embraced by individuals, traditional media outlets and, increasingly, corporations
In its own blog last month, eMarketer wrote that 34 percent of U.S. companies will blog this year. The digital marketing research group went on to predict continued growth, with 43 percent of American companies blogging by 2012. eMarketer’s latest research report finds that blogging is becoming a vital activity for corporate communications, lead generation, customer service and brand marketing. The full report is available for a fee, but companies looking to start blogging can do so at little cost and with modest investments in time.
Copyblogger is a great place to start. This site delivers daily tips about content marketing, copywriting, SEO and keyword research. An e-mail subscription is free, won’t take up any room in your home or office, and provides always-current information, unlike a four-year-old reference manual written before blogging became a serious marketing device.
Are you hoarding outdated ideas about corporate blogging? We’d love to hear your questions about starting a company blog.
Metis Communications would like to take a moment to introduce readers to our newest addition: Miss Sandy.
A couple of weeks ago, Metis decided to embrace the ever-growing trend and make the office dog-friendly -- a dog mom’s dream come true!
Having Sandy accompany me to work not only lightens the mood for the entire office, but it also puts my mind at ease. I don’t need to worry about leaving her at home by herself or rushing home to let her out. Instead, I can remain productive knowing she is safely napping at my feet.
Sandy also encourages quick walks outside, something I rarely do when I am bogged down with meetings and action items. She reminds us that a trip around the block or a visit to the dog park will help us regain focus and give our brains a needed rest.
A dog can also provide a burst of humor in an otherwise stressful day. Work is piling up, the phone is ringing off the hook, but then all of a sudden, you hear Sandy snoring under the conference table (True story. Sandy snores.) and you have to take a minute to share in a good laugh with your coworkers.
Studies have shown that dogs can energize an office and promote team collaboration and creativity. As PR professionals, we need to keep the creative juices flowing. While Sandy doesn’t actively contribute to brainstorms, she provides the burst of energy needed to get over that 3 p.m. hump, thereby resulting in more productive afternoons.
Yes, Sandy provides many benefits to the office, but having her spend the day here benefits her as well. Dogs love people, plain and simple. Therefore, a dog is happier when she is surrounded by people, rather than home alone. Her tail doesn’t stop wagging from the minute we step off the elevator and she is all smiles (well, dog smiles). And a happy dog equals happy people. Happy people make a happy, productive workplace.