This Week’s Shot of Fresh: Quarantine Your Influenzers, Retail Gets Pinteresting, and Media Relations Doesn’t Change With the Times
Shot of Fresh: our roundup of this week’s Fresh Ideas content.
It might be the peak of influenza season, but bad sharing has no season. What’s worse, there’s no vaccine. Check out the second video in our series as we doff our caps to the maligned corporate lexicon and coin a few useful terms of our own.
Target takes Pinterest into the tactile world with e-Pins on physical shelves. Even if you don’t have store shelves, it’s time to make your site more Pinterest-friendly and create a path from online inspiration to monetary purchase.
Has the digital age really changed media relations? Maybe not so much. It’s still about putting in the time, thought, and quality necessary to stay relevant. Is it a move back to the basics, or is it that the best way to do something hasn’t changed?
A few weeks ago as the new year approached, I took a stroll down Fresh Ideas memory lane by re-reading some old posts. As I did so, I ran across one I penned back in February of 2010, titled The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same.
Word geek sidebar: Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, a French journalist, and novelist in the 1800’s, is credited with the epigram “the more things change, the more they stay the same,” (technically, “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” translated to “the more it changes, the more it’s the same thing”).
Once again, I was struck that not much has changed in the realm of media relations. Sure, delivery methods have evolved with technology but really not much else. As a matter of fact, it seems to be the opposite is occurring—we’re going back to the basics.
It used to be that blasting out a bland press release to a ginormous number of media outlets was the thing to do — not because it was a good tactic, but simply because technology made it easy. We got lazy — and so did reporters. It became not uncommon for a newspaper to publish the release verbatim, passing it off as a story. So you got the “hit,” you scored eyeballs, people saw it. That means your media relations campaign was successful, right? Um, no, not necessarily—not if those eyeballs weren’t the right ones.
Let’s say your client is opening a new pub and grill catering to the young professional crowd. Are you going to target the AARP magazine? Okay, so that was a bit extreme, let’s try another example. Your local veterans organization wants to notify residents of a memorial for a soldier killed in action, so a release is blasted out to every media outlet and community groups in the area—but no one really looked at the list. If they had, someone would have noticed the Westboro church bulletin was on it. Essentially, you’ve just formally invited a hate group—known for protesting such events. Oops.
We’ve come to realize that just because it’s easy to do something doesn’t mean that’s the way it should be done. We are taking a step back—back to the basics. It’s okay to use the tools available to you (media directory database) but that’s the starting point.
- Do your research. Know who you’re pitching to. It’s easier now than ever to quickly look up a journalist’s (or blogger’s) body of work to confirm what they write about.
- Customize your pitches. Whether you use mail merge or truly customize each pitch email, there’s no excuse for “Dear Reporter” and other generic communiques.
- Think broadly. Link your pitches to greater trends, offer up newsworthy angles, tie your pitches into the media agenda, and be sure to seek great visuals. Media professionals are very receptive to thorough on-target pitches.
As this diagram shows, the realistic PR sweet spot tends to be with communications that are more personalized (though not necessarily individually-tailored), and sent to a select few, not just one person, and not massive email list.
E-Pins are landing on Target’s physical shelves. When last browsing the store’s home accessories section, you might have noticed Pinterest tags next to certain items. This is one recent example of how hybrid retailers translate digital pins into tags and use social media in their inventory and sales decisions. With top-pinned items selling well online, the question is, will top-pinned items become best sellers on the shelf?
For business and communications professionals looking to Pin-tegrate their social media presence, Target’s evolving Pinterest strategy provides lessons and steps, as Pinterest has become a significant part of their sales and traffic strategy.
In late 2011 and early 2012, Pinterest started driving increasingly significant amounts of traffic to retailers’ websites, becoming a top five source of traffic for several retailers, following Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Yahoo, though search is still all-dominant.
2013 was a significant growth year for Pinterest, particularly among women. In fact, Pew Research data says that Pinterest is used by one-fifth (21 percent) of adults, and that one in three women are Pinterest users.
Inspire and Create a Path from Inspiration to Purchase
Target launched its Pinterest page in March 2012, and introduced the Pin button in the lead up to that year’s holiday season. Bonnie Gross, Target’s VP of digital marketing and loyalty, said last August that Target is in fact “still experimenting … We are in the phase of doing a lot, learning a lot and figuring out what works.” Gross says that Target boards are meant to inspire and then “create a path from inspiration to purchase.”
Target.com users have been pinning (saving) favorite products on their Pinterest boards. Target’s Pinterest approach has evolved into featuring and calling out the most pinned e-items in the physical stores with Pinterest signage.
Other retailers are using Pinterest in creative ways, most recently for their Black Friday and Cyber Monday strategies. Steve Patrizi, head of partner marketing with Pinterest, says that Lowe’s created Pinterest boards of items that were about to go on sale. It was a new way of doing digital circulars to ensure they reach Pinteresters.
Retailers are leveraging their Pinterest partnerships because, as President and CEO of Walmart Stores Inc. Mike Duke said, “The biggest opportunity we have is winning the intersection between physical and digital retail.”
Follow the Money: Your Audience is Diversifying their Social Media Platforms
Is Pinterest a good marketing opportunity for your organization? Marketers tracking markets and their social media behaviors are honing their consumer connectivity accordingly. If your customers are diversifying their social media presence, your social media strategy should reflect that.
The growth of Pinterest does not mean that your audience is abandoning other social networks. Pew found that 42 percent of online adults in the U.S. use two or more social networks and nearly one-fifth use three or more social networks.
“People are diversifying their portfolios when it comes to [social networks],” Aaron Smith, a senior researcher at Pew, told Mashable. “The addition of a Pinterest user is not necessarily taking away a Twitter user or a LinkedIn user.”
Are you Pinnable? Making your Site Pinterest-Friendly
PR and marketing professionals are used to thinking about SEO and search-engine friendliness. With Google’s Hummingbird, which launched in September 2013, SEO stopped being about keyword quantity and link-building and became about content quality strategy. Pinterest, on the other hand, is image-driven and has different rules for directing the traffic to your site.
Pinterest’s visual focus can be a hard concept for some businesses, like news organizations. But even news editors are finding ways to turn text heavy articles into a Pinterest-friendly visual format. The Wall Street Journal has been using Pinterest, in conjunction with Instragram, to cover the New York City Fashion Week.
As with other social media platforms, the idea behind Pinterest is to foster community engagement along with self-promotion. You are more likely to have a follower share on Pinterest if you include a pin on your website. Pinterest has an application to install a Pin It button to the bottom of your page. You can also have the Pin It button appear when viewers hover over images on your site. Conveniently, Pinterest integrates with other social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
How has your thinking about Pinterest evolved? How much of a challenge is Pinterest’s focus on the visual? Are you finding ways to visually express your business and products? What kind of results are you seeing from pinning?
by Sharon Miller*
Content marketing is a hot topic in the PR community, but plenty of organizations are still trying to figure it out. Last week, I attended the PRNews Media Relations Next Practices Conference in Washington, D.C. and attended the session “Show & Tell: Examples of Content Marketing That Connects to the Bottom Line.”
The sessions presenters were Doug Simon, president and CEO of D S Simon Productions; Julie Craven, VP of corporate communications at Hormel Foods; and Blair Austin, marketing director at ILMO Products.
Simon began with his five-step process for content marketing and what he calls “PRketing,” which goes far beyond brand journalism. The steps are:
1. Identify the behavior you’re trying to change
2. Identify the people who you’re trying to reach and where they consume content
3. Create content that will effectively change their behavior
4. Place the content where they’ll find, view, and share it
5. Measure, assess, and revise
Simon used the American College of Physicians as an example. The college created an iTunes channel for its members, allowing them to download important news on studies in a digestible, user-friendly format. So they not only identified a new channel in which their members consumed content, but changed the way they delivered information they deemed important for members.
Next, Craven explained that we’re competing against everyone now on social media, and that means our messages must be on target or we won’t get any time with our target consumers. Craven advocates developing a hub-and-spoke model to drive awareness and conversion via branded content. This model requires setting a goal and defining what you’re trying to accomplish, and using content, set in the middle and connecting to every goal, to push toward that goal.
Craven stressed that hub content must be concise, graphically driven, and shareable. And of course, that content must be channel specific to provide utility and drive conversion.
Finally, Austin spoke about how to get attention with little money. She used a case study with ILMO, a medical, industrial, and laboratory gas provider. Their challenge was not only budgetary, but also that their industry doesn’t support marketing. The company’s goal was to generate national media attention with its 100th anniversary, and share that media attention on its existing channels to encourage its core audience and position ILMO as an industry leader in marketing and communications.
So, when the company turned 100 years old, it created an event: The organization gave each of its 100 employees $100 on the 100th day of the year. They fostered engagement by driving it to social media channels and spread brand awareness all on its small budget.
What content marketing strategies do you use to drive engagement? What new models have you developed to reach your target segment?
*Bio: Sharon Miller has been with BurrellesLuce for 25 years, and is currently the VP of Enterprise Solutions. She has Bachelor of Arts degrees in psychology and social work from Millersville University of Pennsylvania. She did her graduate work at Drexel University in Pennsylvania, and currently resides in Ohio. Facebook: BurrellesLuce LinkedIn: Sharon Miller
by Alfred Cox*
Yesterday I attended the PRNews Media Relations Next Practices Conference in Washington, D.C., at which BurrellesLuce was also a sponsor. Some of the most persistent questions in media relations center on reaching out to journalists in the most efficient and effective manner. I attended the session “Find and Engage With the Right Journalists and Influencers on Social Media,” which addressed these issues and more.
The sessions guest speakers were Kathy Grannis, senior director of media relations at National Retail Federation; David Ringer, director of media relations at National Audubon Society; and David Wescott, director of digital strategy at APCO Worldwide.
Grannis started out with her suggestions, and emphasized the importance of building relationships with journalists and influencers; she recommended keeping in touch through Twitter, to reach out and congratulate a journalist when they move organizations and positions. Such communication not only sustains a relationship but helps you stay on top-of-mind. Of course, communicating is key, but Grannis stressed that learning how to communicate correctly requires full-time dedication.
When it comes to relevant conversations on social platforms, Grannis recommends contributing transparently, positioning your brand as an expert on the subject matter. But Twitter is also about more than your message; Grannis point out you should be using Twitter to keep up with your competitors and what they’re tweeting, as well as what they’re publishing on other social media sites.
Finally, she advocated blogging. Content marketing has become integral to marketing, PR, and media relations strategies, but Grannis also pointed out that blogs are a tremendous source for getting your statement out there, and even stated getting your message out in your blog is just as important as getting your statement in The New York Times.
Ringer offered his insights next, and pointed out that too much email is boring. He said that Twitter is the best tool to interact with journalists, and that it’s important to find and engage with the right journalists and influencers on social media platforms. He strongly suggested following new journalists right away, and thinking of Twitter not as your personal account, but as your new Rolodex. The list-making function is a great organizational tool to make that happen.
Ringer suggested that once you’ve selected those key journalists and influencers, you should care about what they care about, even their more personal tweets, and interacting with those more personal tweets, and retweeting their tweets, helps build a relationship. But he also pointed out that everyone likes a name check on Twitter, so be sure to credit people for their work by @ing them. And don’t limit yourself to interacting with well-known, established media figures; befriend those bright new media stars, too.
Wescott followed with his observations, saying that Twitter is the best tool for PR people, and that they must have a presence. Something else that enhances your presence is having Twitter public conversations as well as private conversations, which also helps build relationships that will get new business.
Wescott advised that Twitter and blogging are excellent tools for presenting yourself as a thought leader and a bridge builder between PR pros. He also advocated for citing sources with @s, as well as using hashtags for context and engagement. Wescott recommended finding journalists not just on Twitter, but also on sites like LinkedIn and Muck Rack.
What other social media strategies do you have for engaging journalists and influencers?
Bio: Alfred Cox is a rare commodity of a performer who combines a relentless drive to succeed with the ability to provide “first-person” touch to his clients, creating loyalty and repeat business. He has a hard-nosed work ethic in a results- driven environment and he is often called the “Network King.” Alfred has been in the PR industry for the past 18+ years and joined the BurrellesLuce team in 2011. Connect with him on Twitter: @shantikcox Facebook: BurrellesLuce LinkedIn: Alfred Cox
The toxic air in Beijing and other cities in China is an environmental and public health disaster, but it’s an enormous opportunity for air purifier providers – Beijing alone has an estimated population of 20.6 million people. The US Embassy in Beijing recently placed a massive order for “more than a couple thousand” but “under five thousand” air purifiers. They ordered from the US provider of Blueair, a Swedish company, but the article also mentioned Blueair’s competitor, IQAir.
I lived in China for four years, and for almost a year before becoming a magazine editor, I managed the Beijing branch of a China-based company with exclusive dealer rights to an American air purifier brand. The most notable thing in the New York Times article: The brand I sold wasn’t even mentioned, and they’ve been in China for years. What happened?
I learned a lot about marketing from watching what happened at this provider. Here are a few things I noticed when I was there that caused the brand to miss out on what could have been a very valuable media mention.
Disregarding market differences. The dealer I worked for is headquartered in Shanghai, but expanded to Beijing when I arrived at the company. Their advertising and marketing efforts had modest success in Shanghai, and it was decided that Beijing would employ the same strategy and tactics as Shanghai.
Both Blueair and IQAir enjoyed far stronger brand recognition in Beijing than they did in Shanghai. Our retailer didn’t need to advertise and market aggressively in Shanghai, so declined to do so in Beijing. As a result, even years after I left the company, there still wasn’t widespread brand recognition.
Lesson: Be willing to go through a trial-and-error process when targeting a new market or segment, and adjust your strategy to the actual market.
Marketing with tunnel vision. The company relied on print ads in one magazine and attending international school fairs. Unlike the Shanghai market, the Beijing target market has more niches and is geographically more spread out, and between the ads and the fairs, we reached a very small slice of the target market and saw little return on those tactics. We concentrated more on that small return than on long-term growth.
Lesson: Continually assess ROI from all your efforts, and diversify marketing strategies; you can’t expect different results from doing the same thing. Don’t mistake making progress for getting results.
Not engaging the most influential media outlets. In Beijing, there are maybe half a dozen English-language magazines competing for the expat market, so advertising in these magazines is the best way to build recognition in the international community. Our brand spent almost all the marketing budget advertising in first one, then another, of the least-read of these publications.
The head office wouldn’t even talk to sales reps from the most-read publications in Beijing. They not only lost eyeballs on what could have been valuable advertising, but they also shut off any form of communication, meaning they couldn’t become experts or resources by providing comments or information in articles.
Whenever the big magazines wrote about air quality or air purifiers (which was fairly frequently, since it’s a prominent problem), our competitors, IQAir and Blueair, were mentioned and experts from their company quoted. The brand I worked for was never mentioned, which is exactly what happened in this New York Times article.
Lesson: Advertising doesn’t equal coverage, but don’t shut your organization off by refusing all calls. You can’t become a resource if you won’t talk to anyone. And if you’re going to advertise at all, make sure that outlet fits your strategic goals as well as your budget.
The opportunity to meet a reporter or blogger you need to pitch and interacting personally is hard to pass up. For this reason, media panels draw PR folks like flies to honey. I attended two such panels this past month. One was hosted by Business Wire and the National Investor Relations Institute (NIRI) Twin Cities Chapter, and the other by Minnesota chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (MNPRSA). The NIRI panel focused on business media editors and engaging them in a digital and social world. The MNPRSA focused on blurred media lines and included a non-traditional media panel. Here are some of the key points from each of the panels.
The truths in pitching
- Use email as your first resource and keep the subject short and to the point.
- Yes, journalists are all on social media, but it is probably not the best place to pitch them. They are using social media to find story ideas and share their work.
- Be professional.
- Don’t send automated emails with “Dear (wrong name or no name).” It’s obvious it’s not a personal email.
- Find a way to tell them what is different. Give them the story behind the story.
- Photos can differentiate your pitch, but don’t make them look like an ad.
- Bullets and lists in your email pitch make it easy to digest.
- Follow-up calls are annoying, but they often work.
The new and interesting
- Consider differentiating your pitch to a web publication with a professional video that is not sales oriented.
- Social media buzz around an ad can lead to media coverage.
- Missy Berggren, Marketing Mama, says a Tweet to follow-up with her on a pitch is OK with her.
- Reporters often go around the PR person and use social media to confirm stories. Dirk DeYoung, editor at the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, used LinkedIn to confirm layoffs at Target.
- Most of the bloggers are more open to having you reach out to the editor and various contributors than traditional outlets, because there are fewer full-time staff at the blogs.
David Fondler, business news editor at St. Paul Pioneer Press, reminds folks to own their negative stories, because any employee can confirm it to an editor on Twitter at any time.
Creating good quality content on your corporate or personal blog is a great way to get your message to consumers. Smaller specialty blog posts can lead to attention by larger blogs or mainstream media. MinnPost has the Minnesota Blog Cabin, where they highlight one Minnesota blog with good writing each day.
I created a Storify of the NIRI event. Missy Berggen wrote a great post with tips for working with bloggers on her blog. Plus, check out tips for pitching broadcast media and smart tips for media pitching success.
Debbie Friez serves as tech editor for the Capitol Communicator and is also a consultant. Previously, she worked as Vice President, Major Accounts for BurrellesLuce. She originally joined BurrellesLuce at their Minnesota Clipping Service affiliate.
Friez was a senior account director for West Glen Communications, a broadcast PR services company. While at West Glen Communications, she was a frequent contributor to the DC Communicator newsletter.
She has a broad understanding of the technologies that are transforming the marketing and communications profession. She serves on the advisory board for the Capitol Communicator, the membership committee for the Minnesota chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, the national marketing committee for the Association of Women in Communications, and is a member and past president of Washington Women in Public Relations (WWPR).
Friez is a graduate of the University of North Dakota. She lives in Minneapolis, MN with her husband Paul Croteau, their two cats, Smokey and the Bandit, and Gus, the dog.
LinkedIn: dfriez Twitter: @dfriez