We talk often with our clients about building thought leadership online and harnessing social media to create brand awareness. That act – becoming an influencer – was the focus of a recent study conducted by a doctoral candidate at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.
Karen Freberg sought to find out whether certain personality characteristics contribute to a person’s potential influence, and she and her colleagues studied several prominent influencers, including digital analyst Brian Solis and author and PR strategist Deirdre Breakenridge.
Freberg’s findings, published in “Public Relations Review,” shouldn’t surprise you at all. Influencers are smart, ambitious, productive, poised, power-oriented, candid and dependable.
Doesn’t it make perfect sense that the people most likely to influence large groups in person are the same ones who influence us online? We all want to know what the smart, ambitious, productive, poised, power-oriented, candid and dependable people know. We want to know what they read. What they buy. What technology they promote.
The clients with whom we work are smart, ambitious, productive, poised, power-oriented, candid and dependable people, and our job is to help them show those characteristics online. Our job is also to help them see that becoming an influencer is not an activity that can be completed in an afternoon. Effective PR pros can give you a quick turnaround on a press release, a campaign plan, an editorial database and many other action items, but influence creation takes time and persistence.
As Freberg writes about her findings in a recent blog on Coherent Social Media, “...influence (or what others also call social authority) does not happen overnight. Like traditional reputation management practices suggest, having a presence in a community – whether online or offline, or even both – takes time, resources and commitment.”
The time, resources and commitment to which Freberg refers need to come from the client and the PR team, both of whom must recognize that to influence is not the same as to control. Social media influencers are effective because they are authoritative and conversational. The mix of the two is what makes them credible.
Recently a statement from Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign caught far more attention from the media than the average political press release might merit at this point in the election cycle. The statement, penned by campaign spokesman Rick Tyler, has been animated, analyzed and, most notably, dramatized by actor John Lithgow on Comedy Central’s Colbert Report.
Regardless of your political leanings, that kind of pick-up is worth noting. How did Tyler accomplish it? We’ve analyzed the text and drawn several conclusions.
Here are three ways to ensure your press release won’t be taken seriously:
1. Exaggerate everything.
Tyler’s text refers to enemies who thought they had “killed off” the candidate, and that the process playing out in the campaign is “the way it always worked.” Hyperbole gives your reader ample chance to poke holes in every statement you make. If derision is what you’re after, make sure to go with superlatives and embellishments throughout your copy.
2. Share your delusions of grandeur. Go beyond promoting your product or service and step boldly into the realm of self-aggrandizement. Tyler writes of his employer, “A lesser person could not have survived the first few minutes of the onslaught, but out of the billowing smoke and dust…emerged Gingrich.” This line gets Lithgow a lot of laughs from the Colbert Report audience. If that’s your goal, too, make sure your press statement puts your business or client above all others in every possible way. If you can belittle competitors and detractors at the same time, extra points for you.
3. Avoid facts.
Overwrite everything. Use a lot of metaphors. Tyler talks about “the sheep” and “the firefight” to describe critics and their actions. He peppers his prose with adverbs – “timidly,” “cowardly.” Rather than present objective information, the press statement’s author lashes out at “the political elite” and their “minions.” Here’s a mantra for mockery: broadcast style over substance.
Emerging companies constantly seek ways to gain an edge over their competitors and stand out in the industry. Some startups are determined to earn the title of "industry thought leader". Others look for media relations coverage in their target publications and some find gold in winning the SEO battle. Is it possible to connect with customers, receive great coverage, achieve organic SEO and be considered an industry resource all in one effort?
The answer is yes.
How? Create and share industry research reports.
Industry reports provide quantitative information of market happenings and data people can use. Our client SundaySky writes a quarterly report that covers the state of video in e-commerce websites, disclosing facts about the usage of video by top U.S. online retailers. The report covers industry trends and strategies from a vendor-neutral perspective, meaning they don't talk about themselves. When journalists and potential customers want to know who is using video, how and what the results are, they can turn to SundaySky’s report for information.
Here are the top five benefits they’ve seen:
- Industry know how: Due to the vendor-neutral quality of reports, company executives can speak freely on the trends and strategies occurring in the industry. The more companies know and prove they know about their industries, the more likely they are to be considered industry resources.
- Customers: The more quantitative information you provide to prospective customers, the more likely they are to connect with you.
- Content: Creating a research report is a great way to develop original content for websites, blog posts and editorial articles.
- Coverage: Journalists (and industry analysts) embrace research reports and data to tell a story. It’s easy for them to turn aspects of reports into stories that readers find resourceful, especially when articles are accompanied by graphics.
- SEO: Industry research reports that include graphics, statistics, company references and a range of keywords tend to be one of the most organic means to gain better standing in search results.
Chances are, your company is sitting on a wealth of data that your customers might find helpful and interesting. They won't if it's all about you but they might if you share your knowledge and best practices. If you don't, your competitors will.
Recently the team participated in a presentation from Emily Haahr, a HubSpot inbound marketing consultant and friend of the firm. Emily shared some tips for improving website search engine optimization, or SEO, as well as how SEO and PR can work together more efficiently.
We discussed that the first step to SEO is understanding the goal: Get Web traffic to your site, which will generate leads and new customers.
Seventy-five percent of SEO comes from things visitors don’t see on your page: inbound links from other sites, the quality of the sites linking to you and the level of respect your site garners. With this in mind, optimizing your site can be broken down into four steps:
1) Keyword research -- Make a list of 30 to 50 keywords for your product and industry. Once complete, adhere to the concept of longtail keywords. Instead of single key words, strive for a key phrase of three to five words to reduce competition in searches and improve relevancy.
2) Create optimized content -- Now that you have your keywords, you have plenty of fodder for blogs. Think of blogs like an annuity: Every post that you bank now will continue to pay off down the road by bumping you up that search ladder. But be patient and keep writing — it will take about 30 posts and three months before you start seeing traffic results from blogs. Remember to include longtail keywords in titles, create easy-to-read takeaways for each article, write a strong meta description, optimize each page for one keyword phrase and include a call to action with every post.
3) Promote the content -- Like a billboard in the desert, what good is content if no one sees it? Promote blogs through social media and in newsletters and e-mail signatures, and engage in conversations online.
4) Analyze -- Create a monthly PR and marketing report to track traffic, inbound links, mentions, leads and customers. Every six months, create a comprehensive assessment to tell you where you are succeeding, as well as which areas need more attention.
In Seth Godin’s new book, “Poke the Box,” he discusses how most organizations give employees a long list of all the things they’re not allowed to do. Not-allowed lists exist in relationships, in jobs and in public places. For example, the Starbucks by my apartment does not allow dogs to be tied-up on its outdoor furniture. We are constantly reminded of the things that we are not-allowed to do which leads us to feel restrictions and limitations in our daily lives.
Godin argues that the “allowed list” is harder to remember and to write down, but equally important. He believes that we tend to fear how much freedom we actually have, and how much we’re expected to do with that freedom.
So, what about the things that ARE allowed at work? The Metis team recently compiled a list of the “allowable” things that help us drive creativity, work output and overall success for our clients and our company.
Below are a few things that we're allowed to do:
- Spend hours reading
- Demand excellence
- Agree to disagree
- Ask why
- Request a question-free or uninterrupted time zone
- Do a favor and ask for one in return
- Have a bad day
- Work with people who make a ruckus out of great ideas
- Say no
- Juggle multiple tasks while playing flip cup
- Share highs and lows (no matter how low they truly are)
- Chase office pets
- Listen to music to reach the creative zone
- Passionately believe in aliens
- Call upon your co-workers’ superpowers
- Brainstorm freely with your team
- Develop a deep love for historical, Boston Irish bars
- Work from home
- Get it wrong from time to time
- Offer constructive criticism
What’s on your “allowable” list?
In PR or any business, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day. The nitty-gritty, if you will. We all experience it. Finding an aspect of the job that feels special, valuable and worthwhile, well, it makes the gritty all the more bearable. We have the privilege of working alongside and helping to promote an incredible organization, the Joyful Heart Foundation. Working with JHF puts things in perspective, and to put it simply, feeds our spirit.
The Joyful Heart Foundation, which was founded by “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” actress and advocate Mariska Hargitay, works to foster a community that turns toward the issues of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse. JHF provides knowledge, courage and compassion to survivors in order to end the cycle of violence and abuse and bring joy back to their lives.
In the past year, we have helped Joyful Heart Foundation bring to light important topics, from the implications of vicarious trauma, to the vast number of rape kit backlogs that exist in our country due to the lack of policies requiring lab testing. These are issues that affect more people than we like to imagine.
Later this month, we will celebrate a successful year, alongside leaders of this organization and supporters worldwide, at the Joyful Heart Foundation 2011 Gala (a recap of last year’s event can be seen here). We couldn’t be more excited, honored and proud. It is an understatement to say that it is our pleasure to support this great cause.
What feeds your professional spirit?
By Melissa and Mike
Corporate blogs are a great way to break company news, discuss industry developments, and promote executive thought leadership. Below are some practices to keep in mind for building your company blog.
- A strategy: Align topics with your overall communication and business goals.
- Your voice: Choose your primary bloggers and make their bios easily accessible.
- A posting plan: Frequently updated blogs receive more traffic.
- Develop content ideas at the beginning of each month.
- Identify top keywords or phrases that will attract your target audience.
- Prior to posting, work with legal to determine what is confidential.
- Evaluate the blog quarterly to identify achievements and mark progress against business goals.
- Join conversations. Offer opinions on industry developments via your blog and others.
- Have others blog. Do you have a star engineer who developed a new product? Invite him to write a guest blog about the experience.
- Start your own conversation. Encourage visitors to comment on posts and respond promptly. Blogging is reciprocal.
Once you’ve covered these bases, you’re ready to be exposed—in a good way. In “The Science of Timing” webinar, HubSpot’s Dan Zarella, shares some great tips for blogging ROI, including:
- Most blogs are read mid-morning. However, men report a higher rate of reading blogs at night than women. Know your target audience and post accordingly.
- Monday is the best day for page views, but, as on Facebook, sharing spikes on weekends.
- For more comments, blog on weekends. Because fewer blogs are posted on these days, a reader will pay more attention (and be more likely to comment on) to the few that are.
- If you want to get links to your blog and capture an SEO boost, meet what Zarella calls the “blogerati.” Of all the readers out there, a select group is able to create links and circulate your blog. To target them, publish your blog when they are just beginning to write theirs in the early morning.
Who is Kelly Cutrone?
I’m a huge fan of Kelly. She believes anyone can make a name for herself as long as she’s fearless, has conviction, tells the truth and follows her inner voice.
Kelly just released her second book, and Boston was not on the tour list. I tweeted @peoplesrev to ask if she had plans to come to Boston. No response. I tried again, but this time on Facebook. Late last night, I received a Facebook message from Kelly stating that Boston was not on the book tour schedule, but she would love to come if I could get 50 or more friends to e-mail her publicist and let her know that we want her here.
Well, Boston wants Kelly Cutrone. I asked for help from the Weekly Dig and received it. Please help us bring Kelly Cutrone to Boston and show your support by contacting her publicist. If you live in Boston and love Kelly, please let her know that you want to see her in the Hub.
I’ll leave you with a Kelly quote: “These days, I continue to call members of the media myself rather than outsourcing the work to my staffers, because you can never be too good for the things that first made you successful.”
PR professionals and journalists have a love-hate relationship. We need each other, and yet, the ways in which we do our jobs can either ease or impede the relationships between us. So what can we, in the PR field, do to change this? I recently listened to George Donnelly, editor-in-chief of the Boston Business Journal, give his insight about how to best approach a journalist. Some of his tips include:
Do your homework
An editor may be able to point you to the right contact, but he is often not the person to pitch. Find out who is, and take the time to look at reporter’s past articles. You will gain credibility if you can demonstrate you know what the reporter covers and why she writes on those topics.
Don’t expect immediate results
If you have the right story at the right time, that’s great. But it’s also rare. PR professionals tend to expect coverage to appear immediately after a story is pitched, but that’s not always in line with a journalist’s timeline. Remember that forming long-term relationships is just as important.
Understand how journalists work
Sometimes the best PR professionals are those that have crossed over from a newsroom, only because they understand the environment and know what reporters are looking for in their stories. For the rest of us, keep in mind that journalists work on a deadline. Also, although reporters are often responsible for bringing story ideas to editors, the best reporters do not rely solely on PR pitches to craft stories.
Create a mutually beneficial relationship
PR professionals want journalists to cover their clients, but how do we benefit journalists? Remember that you are dealing with a person first, and try to reciprocate courtesies in some way. Ask the reporter what he plans to work on and see if you can offer help.