Fresh Ideas from BurrellesLuce

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Fresh Ideas from BurrellesLuce. Although we’re at the forefront of PR - leading innovation in media monitoring and measurement - we don’t know it all. That’s why we are out there exploring and learning alongside you. Fresh Ideas from BurrellesLuce gathers our resident experts and industry insider guest bloggers to share their thoughts on media, public relations, and marketing and provide you with a place to share ideas about what matters most to you. Together we can ensure breakthrough communications.
Updated: 6 hours 37 min ago

How to Give a Meaningful Brand Apology

Jul 31, 2014

flickr user butupa under CC BY license

Apologies from brands and public figures are a thing now. Many have become so ubiquitous and trite that New York Times blog Dealbook even had an apology watch going on for a few months because the glut of apologies has such a hollow ring.

As most public relations and media relations professionals know, all apologies are not created equal; some are heartfelt and helpful, others lack effectiveness. Apologies – good ones – can be effective acknowledgements and the first step back into rebuilding what was lost of your brand. But a good apology is a fine line; apologizing repeatedly for minor things may seem meaningless and overdone, while an apology for something major (like a massive vehicle recall) can seem like it’s not enough if it doesn’t come with sincere regret and an action plan.

Tread carefully with social media apologies

Sometimes, you just have to apologize on social media, especially if the incident for which you’re apologizing happened on social media. But when it comes to customer service complaints on social media, don’t default to an apology, since a high percentage of tweets that are apologies can exacerbate the problem by sounding empty and unhelpful.

There are other ways to empathize and make it right. Did a customer lose his luggage on your airline? Instead of responding with, “We’re sorry,” try for “We don’t like when that happens, we’ll look into it immediately and respond ASAP.” The promise of action – not remorse – is more likely to make someone feel better and encourage confidence.

If you must apologize, do it well

Boilerplate apologies just don’t cut it, so if you decide an apology is called for, do it right. Your brand’s apology should communicate the three R’s:

  • Regret: acknowledge your regret that you caused harm or inconvenience. Tap into your empathy for the person or people to whom you’re apologizing; feeling empathy will make you more sincere.
  • Responsibility: your brand needs to take responsibility for its actions without blaming someone else or making excuses.
  • Remedy: arguably the most important aspect for brands, because when things go really wrong, people want to know that something will be done to make it right, whether it’s restitution, investigation, or expedited action.

It should be hard

If your brand is having trouble finding the words to apologize, or feels like it’s too hard to deliver the apology, that probably means it the right thing to do. Like other things in life, doing the right thing means sometimes choosing the hardest option.

Tips for Type A Personalities to Bring Life Into Balance

Jul 30, 2014

Lynn Ingrid Nelson at PRSA Midwest Conference. Photo by Tressa Robbins

Many of us in the communications fields refer to ourselves as being “Type A” or having “Type A” personalities. The term has become a catchphrase for those of us who tend to be high-energy, driven, ambitious, goal-oriented, competitive perfectionists with a sense of urgency in nearly everything we do.

HISTORY: The term “Type A” originated in the 1950s when Drs. Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman observed that those most likely to suffer a cardiac event also tended to have more driven, impatient, high-stress personalities, and the term propagated after their 1974 best-selling book, Type A Behavior And Your Heart, was published.

At the recent PRSA Midwest District Conference, one of the sessions I attended was with Lynn Ingrid Nelson, principal at Lin PR, and author of the book Getting Your Life into Balance. She talked about PR pros often running around with their “hair on fire” due to the urgent nature of our work, and that learning ways to handle this constant state of urgency improves our well-being and our effectiveness. In public relations specifically, our stressors tend to be clients, bosses, continual deadlines, round-the-clock demands, cranky journalists, and constant multitasking. This session was interesting to me as I have been the epitome of “work hard, play hard” most of my adult life, but in recent years found it not working quite so well for me anymore.

Not sure if you need to bring your life into balance? Nelson suggests you begin with asking yourself these questions:

  • Does anxiety, workaholism and/or a sense of over-responsibility get in the way of getting what you want out of your life?
  • Do you stay busy to appease your restlessness?
  • Are you obsessive compulsive about work and other areas of your life?
  • Do you do more than your fair share at home, at work, in volunteer activities?

Still not sure? Check out this Huffington Post article, 16 Signs You’re A Little (Or A Lot) Type A.

If you answered yes to many but aren’t sure just WHY you should focus on life balance, Nelson suggests you’ll have more compassion and better understanding of others, more energy for activities (less drudgery), more creativity/play, more intimacy, possibly better health, and more overall satisfaction.

Nelson suggests creating a sort of journal she called an “intentional time diet” where you record how you spend your time now (anyone who’s worked in a PR agency should be familiar with this drill), and then distinguish between discretionary and required time.

She spoke about clarifying your intentions by asking yourself things like: what are your three most important goals, what do you want to do less/more of, and are you willing to make the changes that would be required to meet those goals. Estimate much time are you willing to spend on what. Then, determine what you can do now to shift toward better balance. “Find your own shade of gray,” Nelson challenged.

Through her own struggle, she shared many things she’s learned. A few of the ones that really resonated with me were:

1. Going out of your way for everyone does not lead to good balance.

2. There is little upside to being the most responsible person in the group.

3. “Muscling” through tough situations is less of an option as we age. Intentional is a much better solution.

While I already had some things set in motion to simplify my life and make me more productive and less stressed, this session validated that I’m moving in the right direction.

What are you doing to find your shade of gray?

 

Mia Moo Fund: A Media Relations Dynasty

Jul 28, 2014

L to R: U.S. Rep Trent Franks, Mia Robertson, Reed Robertson, Missy Robertson, Jase Robertson. Photo by Johna Burke

A couple of weeks ago I attended the press conference and media event with U.S. Rep Trent Franks and Mia Roberts and her parents (part of the Duck Dynasty family) for the Mia Moo Fund. My niece, who also attended, was born with a cleft lip and palate, so the Robertsons’ admirable charity and the congressman’s invitation for Mia to speak was particularly meaningful. Amidst all of the Duck Dynasty fanfare I was most impressed by the master spokespeople, Mia’s parents, Missy and Jase Robertson.

The Scene: Your beloved daughter was born with a cleft palate and wants to help other kids with the condition, so you help her start a foundation. A congressman born with the same condition helps raise awareness of the condition’s struggles and provides leadership support to the many children affected. Your daughter writes a speech for the event and you take your family to Washington, D.C. The media interviews begin and you are asked about abstinence before marriage and your family patriarch’s controversial remarks. This IS media relations.

Rosie Fox (front), U.S. Rep Franks, and the Robertson family. Photo by Johna Burke

While it’s always imperative to prep answers to easy questions before a media interview, this event reminded me about the importance and potential perils in lack of preparation on the really tough questions. Mia, Missy and Jase all have strong conviction for their subject matter and their passion resonates in every syllable. That kind of conviction isn’t as easy for the average spokesperson, so in lieu of family conviction and faith, make sure your spokesperson is mindful of these quick tips:

Relevant news topics: If anything is trending in the news even tangentially related to your industry make sure to address the affects to your organization’s mission.

Key messages: All messaging related to the topic and also key messages as they relate to other potential topics that could arise during an interview. Always have strong sound bites.

Importance of rapport: Being relaxed is the goal, but looking relaxed is essential. Body language on camera can indicate when a spokesperson isn’t prepared. While you can’t avoid the tough questions your spokesperson’s ability to build rapport will translate into a more confidence which translates to their ability to control the interview.

A stand-out moment from the interviews was when Mia was asked “What is the coolest part of having a new lip or new palate for you?” Eleven year old Mia responded “I don’t know” and the reporter followed up with “So, no comment. But you’re much happier now.”

No, she didn’t say “no comment,” she answered a bad question honestly. Based on her initial interviews I have no doubt Mia will be bridging and saving reporters from their own bad questions in no time.

The Mia Moo Fund tagline is “Every kid deserves a smile,” and this event gave a proud aunt and PR person a lot of reasons to smile too. Thank you.

Mia Moo Fund: A Media Relations Dynasty

Jul 28, 2014

L to R: U.S. Rep Trent Franks, Mia Robertson, Reed Robertson, Missy Robertson, Jase Robertson. Photo by Johna Burke

A couple of weeks ago I attended the press conference and media event with U.S. Rep Trent Franks and Mia Robertson and her parents (part of the Duck Dynasty family) for the Mia Moo Fund. My niece, who also attended, was born with a cleft lip and palate, so the Robertsons’ admirable charity and the congressman’s invitation for Mia to speak was particularly meaningful. Amidst all of the Duck Dynasty fanfare I was most impressed by the master spokespeople, Mia’s parents, Missy and Jase Robertson.

The Scene: Your beloved daughter was born with a cleft palate and wants to help other kids with the condition, so you help her start a foundation. A congressman born with the same condition helps raise awareness of the condition’s struggles and provides leadership support to the many children affected. Your daughter writes a speech for the event and you take your family to Washington, D.C. The media interviews begin and you are asked about abstinence before marriage and your family patriarch’s controversial remarks. This IS media relations.

Rosie Fox (front), U.S. Rep Franks, and the Robertson family. Photo by Johna Burke

While it’s always imperative to prep answers to easy questions before a media interview, this event reminded me about the importance and potential perils in lack of preparation on the really tough questions. Mia, Missy and Jase all have strong conviction for their subject matter and their passion resonates in every syllable. That kind of conviction isn’t as easy for the average spokesperson, so in lieu of family conviction and faith, make sure your spokesperson is mindful of these quick tips:

Relevant news topics: If anything is trending in the news even tangentially related to your industry make sure to address the affects to your organization’s mission.

Key messages: All messaging related to the topic and also key messages as they relate to other potential topics that could arise during an interview. Always have strong sound bites.

Importance of rapport: Being relaxed is the goal, but looking relaxed is essential. Body language on camera can indicate when a spokesperson isn’t prepared. While you can’t avoid the tough questions your spokesperson’s ability to build rapport will translate into a more confidence which translates to their ability to control the interview.

A stand-out moment from the interviews was when Mia was asked “What is the coolest part of having a new lip or new palate for you?” Eleven year old Mia responded “I don’t know” and the reporter followed up with “So, no comment. But you’re much happier now.”

No, she didn’t say “no comment,” she answered a bad question honestly. Based on her initial interviews I have no doubt Mia will be bridging and saving reporters from their own bad questions in no time.

The Mia Moo Fund tagline is “Every kid deserves a smile,” and this event gave a proud aunt and PR person a lot of reasons to smile too. Thank you.

How PR and Marketing Work Together to Drive Growth

Jul 24, 2014

flickr user Flazingo Photos under CC BY license

by Chris Ourand*

In one corner, your marketing team is doing their darnedest to drive conversions and generate leads. And in the other corner, the PR people are working to generate awareness and tell a compelling story about your firm. This is historically how these two disciplines have been handled and understandably so, to an extent.

But in our increasingly digital world, firms that continue to treat public relations and marketing like separate entities might miss out on opportunities for significant growth. In reality, these disciplines can empower each other—the marketing team helping to create awareness, and the PR team contributing to lead generation and conversions. Here are a few ways to help get the most out of both.

Produce compelling, quality content for prospects. Changes in SEO and analytics have made it necessary to produce plenty of high quality, unique content. PR professionals are expert at making organizational and industry news into compelling content. Your in-house team understands how industry trends impact your firm and clients and can tell these stories in ways that engage prospects and generate interest in your firm.

Integrate news into marketing content. Take news packages (videos, press releases, articles, interviews, etc.) and work them into your content marketing. Integrate these items into your blog, email marketing campaigns, newsletters, guides, whitepapers, and e-books. Find ways of providing this type of content to different audiences. Your PR people will know the best angles for the stories and your marketing folks will know the best time and way to reach the appropriate prospects. Marketing’s ability to monitor and measure your channels will help you know how and when your re-purposed news items are striking a chord.

 Strategize your big picture and the details. Regardless of the particulars of your PR and marketing content, you’ll need a specific strategy. You can start with broad goals (like convey expertise in new market, or grow influencer audience), but the more specific you get, the more likely you’ll generate results and be able to track them. Having a clear idea of your firm’s overall strategy helps the two arms of your visibility/conversion team to work together. Your marketing folks can tailor websites, emails, etc. to combine expertly with your public relations department’s case studies, press releases, speaking opportunities and so forth.

 Connect with customers. Your marketing team is expert at talking to your audience … from a distance. Creating PR events and opportunities outside marketing’s normal comfort zone is a great way to build audience loyalty and get face-to-face feedback on your products, services, and initiatives. It never hurts to remind prospects that you’re part of their community. Nourish these connections and you’ll create brand ambassadors who will promote, support, and recommend you.

 Stick with your story. Sure, taglines are great and can make you quickly memorable. But the story of your organization needs to be told, not replaced by a bumper sticker’s worth of copy. You know why your firm is remarkable. There will be times to be brief, but make sure your combined PR and marketing efforts tell a consistent, compelling story. Include calls-to-action where appropriate and your narrative will drive conversions.

So bring your PR and marketing teams out of their respective corners. Meet in the middle of the room. PR and marketing are different in some very basic ways, but combining them will generate buzz through social media, connect you to the media and other influencers, and create actionable visibility that will result in growth.

 

***************

Chris Ourand is an Account Director at Hinge, a marketing and branding firm for professional services. Chris can be reached at courand@hingemarketing.com or 703-391-8870.

 

How – and Why – to Fact Check Your PR Writing

Jul 23, 2014

As the tragic story about MH17 broke last week, broadcast news networks (especially those of the 24-hour variety) scrambled for any scoop they could find. In the mad dash to find an eye witness, MSNBC got pranked pretty good when a caller who said he was a sergeant stationed at the U.S. embassy in Ukraine claimed he’d seen a missile hit the plane.

He then made a lewd reference and cursed at the host, Krystal Ball, who didn’t pick up on the rather obvious fact that he was pranking her. Both MSNBC and Krystal Ball come away looking rather poorly; someone manning the phones at MSNBC obviously didn’t bother to verify the man’s story – a simple Internet search would have shown that the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine is stationed in Kiev, which is more than 200 miles from Hrabrove, the site of the crash. At that distance, he wouldn’t have seen a thing.

Put that whole story next to the study released this week, which shows that journalists live tweeting during the 2012 election acted more as stenographers than reporters, as 60 percent of them just repeated what the candidates said, instead of fact-checking such claims for veracity.

As more and more marketing and public relations professionals are themselves becoming content creators in addition to their long-established role in working with journalists, it’s important to remember that with your organization’s reputation on the line, fact-checking is something we all need to do – not just journalists.

This doesn’t mean you need to employ a fact-checking machine a la The New Yorker, but it does mean that taking a little extra time to double-check that everything is in order can save you or your organization from making a silly but meaningful blunder.

Things that always need to be fact-checked:

  • Names, dates, locations, job titles
  • Quotes – always check that you have not only the words right, but the context as well
  • Numbers and statistics
  • Basic facts – because “facts” aren’t always completely factual

Google is a useful fact-checking tool, but if you’re Googling to find out whether a statistic is correct, make sure that the sites you’re using for verification are themselves reputable, and that you can find the same statistic in more than one place. While Wikipedia can also be useful, keep in mind that pages can be and are frequently changed and updated, so it should not be your independent source of information, especially if you’re doing an online-only fact check.

Email and the telephone are also great tools – if you need to make sure someone actually said what they said, just call. In journalism, fact-checkers won’t read a quote back to the speaker, but in public relations and marketing, there is no such restriction, so if there’s an error, it’s easy to re-work a quote.

Chances are that you won’t be live-tweeting election debates and that your account won’t be held up to as much public scrutiny as a journalist’s, but even if you’re at a conference and life-tweeting a presentation, keep in mind that if the speaker makes an assertion, you tweet it out, and that assertion later turns out to be incorrect, you could come away with a negative perception. You never know when what you tweet will come back to haunt you – just ask Justine Sacco.

Here’s the Media Monitoring Checklist That Will Enhance or Replace RFPs

Jul 21, 2014

The formal RFP process is time- and resource-intensive for both the requestor and the requestee, and in the search for the right media monitoring and analysis package, more public relations professionals and organizations either don’t have the resources, or are choosing to allocate them elsewhere, therefore making final decisions based on partial data.

To strengthen the ability to make a quick, at-a-glance comparison of media monitoring and analysis services, BurrellesLuce has created this free RFP resource, which consolidates the most important and frequently-asked questions that arise during the search process. This includes checklists for print monitoring, online monitoring, broadcast coverage, self-guided search, software, automated analysis, custom qualitative and custom quantitative analysis, services, and rates.

To help you make an informed decision that fits your needs, there are columns to compare media monitoring and analysis services and what they offer.

And because all good measurement strategies start with measurable goals, the first section is designed to help you outline your measurable goals, your audience, and your needs.

This media relations and PR RFP resource is designed to make the lives of public relations and media relations professionals easier, so click here to download this free resource.

 

Dealing With the Before, During, and After of Vacation Time

Jul 17, 2014

Edinburgh, Scotland. Photo by Ellis Friedman

On Tuesday night, I returned from a two-week vacation to Ireland and Scotland. Since it’s vacation season, I bet a lot of professionals are going through – or are about to – things similar to what I experienced, before, during and after the vacation.

Before

For some reason, American workers only use about half of their allotted vacation time. Some companies make it hard to do otherwise, but if you can take your vacation, you absolutely should. Even if you can’t take off two weeks at a time, take some time. Being on vacation (or just away from work) helps decrease stress and is good for your health. Plus, time off makes life more fun.

Before you head out of the office, leave yourself a list of what you were working on. You might think you’ll remember, and chances are you eventually will, but between the logistics of travel and the unfortunate realities of returning to the real world, there’s a good chance things will slip through the cracks. Take the last ten minutes of the day before your vacation to write down who you’re emailing with, the projects you’re still working on (even if they’re not due for weeks), and the first things to do when you get back. It will make your transition back a lot smoother – trust.

During

When you leave, unplug as much as you can. I brought my phone, no laptop, but I’ll admit, I scrolled through and posted on social media once or twice a day. (Funny thing: my parents were on social media way more than my husband and I were. Who says Millennials are the most connected?)

Isn’t it ridiculous to travel around the world – or go through the hassle of making vacation plans – just to sit at the breakfast table and realize everyone is on their phone? Yes, this happened. My husband, who wisely left his phone off, sat through a few breakfasts where we were all on Facebook. After that, I made an effort to only check social media at the beginning or end of the day and not at the table, but as I’m sure he’d tell you, I didn’t have a perfect record. Just put the phones down. It will be OK.

Finally, try not to work. I scrolled through my work email maybe three times, mostly because I was curious to see if anything was happening, but I didn’t open any emails. About 60 percent of people who do take time off do actual work on that time off. Please don’t work. Work makes a vacation cease to be a vacation.

Things will be fine. The work world will go on, but your vacation won’t.

After

It’s almost guaranteed that re-entry is going to be difficult. After walking five to 10 miles a day (sometimes more), being outside, and having no responsibilities, sitting in front of a computer and writing this is not the easiest or most amazing thing I’ve done recently. And after two weeks on my phone, I can hardly remember how to type.

Regardless, I feel pretty good, but not everyone does; the post-vacation blues are a real thing. Make sure you give yourself time to readjust. Even if you’re back at work the next morning, go easy on yourself. This doesn’t mean slacking, but do things to make your life easier, like simpler dinners, triaging chores, or just hiring someone to clean the house this once. But make sure to get right back into healthy habits like exercising and hobbies – it’s amazing how fast life’s stress comes back.

Brands Empowering Women—Are You Feeling It?

Jul 14, 2014

scan from National Museum of American History via Wikimedia Commons

In this day and age you would think that being intelligent and confident would allow women to be taking seriously in the board room, on the golf course and at home, but there are still many who struggle with self-esteem and the entitlement to feel empowered no matter where or what situation they are in.

Luckily, several brands have jumped on board and created campaigns that don’t just appeal to women that are housewives and mothers but to strong ambitious women. These brands are inspiring women to feel assertive when it comes to the way they look, act and feel.

Let’s look at a couple of brands that are leaders in empowering women:

Dove
Over the last couple of years, Dove, has certainly become the leader in the movement with their “Campaign for Real Beauty”. The goal behind the campaign is to “Imagine a World Where Beauty is a Source of Confidence, Not Anxiety.” The campaign started a global conversation about the need for a wider definition of beauty after the study proved the hypothesis that the definition of beauty had become limiting and unattainable. Among the study’s findings was the statistic that only two percent of women around the world would describe themselves as beautiful.

Ban Bossy Campaign

This is not your customary ad campaign; it is a PSA by Lean In and the Girl Scouts of the USA. Many celebrities have joined the campaign to empower not only women but young girls to take the leadership role, be ambitious, and know there are no limits to what they can achieve. And “bossy” is just the beginning. As girls mature, the words may change, but their meaning and impact remain the same. Women who behave assertively are labeled “aggressive,” “angry,” “shrill” and “overly ambitious.” Powerful and successful men are often well liked, but when women become powerful and successful, all of us—both men and women—tend to like them less.

Pantene
Last year Pantene launched The Global #ShineStrong campaign, which educates and enables women to overcome bias and societal expectations and celebrates strong women. A recent ad campaign was created to trigger water cooler talk regarding how women innocently minimize their power by always apologizing, even though there is no need to. The “Not Sorry” ad has already received over 2.5 million views, with hopes to be a successor of the Pantene Philippines “Labels” campaign from last year that has over 46 million views.

Kevin Crociate, marketing director of Procter & Gamble’s North American hair care business, said “We’ve struck a chord in terms of changing gender norms for women” and that they “used market research to look at what gender norms were holding women back and tried to tap into the most relevant and insightful areas. This problem of saying sorry, it wasn’t just something women in the U.S. were facing but globally. After the success of the first campaign, ‘Shine Strong’ is something we’re committed to as a brand.”

While many of the female species may claim that these brands are being condescending in their attempts to to empower women, I think that ads that enable women to show their true beauty and poise will continue to encourage all of us.

Do you think these campaigns are actually empowering, or are they calling us out for lack of confidence and implying that we hold ourselves back? Or worse, are they pandering?

How to Change the Conversation About Your Brand Through Disruptive Storytelling

Jul 10, 2014

flickr user Tsahl Levent-Levi under CC BY license

We all know that storytelling is a key component of public relations. We tell stories to enhance our brand, our client and/or our mission. You know your story is being heard, but is your audience really listening?

McDonald’s USA public relations manager Christina Tyler, APR, spoke last week at the PRSA Midwest District Conference on how to be disruptive to get your points across. She began by showing McDonald’s advertising clips, spanning four decades (that’s 40 years for those who are math-challenged), all saying their burgers are 100% pure beef. This message was loud and clear in the ads; yet, in nearly every focus group, the main question people had was “What’s in the beef?”

Tyler talked about consumers seeing Super Size Me and making (incorrect) assumptions about their ingredients. Or, perhaps they saw a Facebook post that was a hoax, myth or urban legend, but gets passed along by the uninformed as truth. She discussed how stimuli gets interpreted by our beliefs to form “facts” that may not be facts at all. Perception IS reality.

Time to get disruptive! It doesn’t have to be “in your face” or rude, and you shouldn’t feel obliged to engage trolls. What you do need to do is to interrupt the flow of information. Tyler laid out six disruptive tactics McDonald’s has used and why they work:

 1. Start on the inside of the organization

  • Make sure the customer’s voice is present. Be sure your messages, campaigns and programs support what the marketing team is saying/doing. Push your organization’s tolerance.
  • This works because consumers are naturally “me” focused. Consistency across all touch points improves the likelihood of being heard.

2. Play to the heart

  • Leverage your history and shared cultural experiences (like the Dove soap commercials, for example). Lead with your values. Step aside and let fans tell the stories that matter to them.
  • This works because it makes people feel “warm and fuzzy” so they are more likely to listen. People like to share their own stories—you simply provide the platform.

3. Transparency

  • Show them everything.
  • People need to see to believe.

4. Change the messenger

  • Move away from corporate spokespeople and toward real people. Credibility doesn’t always equal credentials.
  • Letting someone they trust share the story improves believability.

5. Provide unexpected access

  • First, broaden your idea of who should get access. Offer face time with CEO, or take them behind the scenes, or better yet—put them to work. Let them experience it–see it, touch it, feel it. Tyler gave the example here of taking a blogger to the farm where McDonald’s ingredients are grown and having them crack an egg or pick a piece of lettuce.
  • Seeing is believing; doing is even better. That’s why this works.

6. Take yourself out of context

  • Make it possible for customers to experience you in a new milieu. Surprise them by doing something unexpected of your brand. For example, last year, McDonald’s held a Top Chef event in New York where they gave top chefs the ingredients used in McDonald’s restaurants and had them create a menu. They invited 100 people to sample the results. People were amazed that these gourmet dishes came from the same ingredients as are found under their local ”golden arches.”
  • You can probably see from the example why this works. If you can truly set aside existing perceptions, then you have better odds at engaging in a new dialogue.

So, ask yourself, is what’s standing in the way of me disrupting the status quo and getting my message across the adherence to doing things the way it has always been done just because that’s the way it’s always been done? If the answer is yes, then get disruptive!

Branding and Marketing Lessons From Publishing a Book

Jul 7, 2014

Image posted with permission from Lauren Skidmore

by Lauren Skidmore*

You’ve written a book. Great! But that’s only the start of publishing. Even if you do public relations or marketing as a day job, marketing your own debut book can feel like shouting into a void, especially when you don’t have a built-in audience from a large publisher to do half of the work for you. My debut novel was released a month ago, but the work that went into marketing it began long before that. Here are three quick tips on how to jump start getting that book into the hands of readers.

Create an Online Presence

People need to be able to find you. The general recommendations are to pick two or three social media platforms to do, and then do them well. An author website is a must, even if it’s just a simple landing page – you can always expand it later, and you’ll be glad when you’ve claimed your domain name early.

Facebook and Twitter are also strongly recommended, but it also depends on which platforms your target demographic use. With a young adult fantasy novel, I split most of my time between Twitter and Tumblr because that’s where many of my readers are (and it’s where I have the most fun). I also use a Facebook page and my blog for big announcements so readers can always quickly find out what’s new with me.

Build an Audience

When I pitched my novel to potential publishers, one of the things they wanted to know was how many followers I already had online. As a hobby, I had a Tumblr with over 4,000 followers at the time – that’s 4,000 potential readers right there! Publishers don’t like to take risks, and if they see you already have thousands of potential buyers, that’s one more mark in your favor. Again, pick the place that works best for you. It doesn’t really matter whether you do this through blogging, Twitter, or elsewhere, just get that follower count high.

You also want to hold on to your audience, and newsletters are great for that. People can sign up and get updates right in their inboxes. I suggest only sending these newsletters when you have big announcements, such as a book release or promotions, and definitely no more than once a month so you don’t spam your readers. MailChimp and Constant Contact are two popular tools for creating your own newsletters, and if you’re under 2,000 subscribers, MailChimp is free!

Brand Yourself

What will people associate with your name as an author? For non-fiction writers, you should establish yourself as some sort of authority or expert in your field. You can write guest blog posts or maintain your own blog, participate in social media or forum discussions, or whatever you can think of to put your name out there.

For fiction writers, it’s a little different, although doing any of the above certainly won’t hurt. You’ll want to define your genre, as well as what you’re bringing that’s new. For example, my novel was essentially pitched to publishers as a Cinderella retelling in which Cinderella has to rescue the prince.

Genre? Fairy Tale Retelling. What’s different? Role reversal. My target audience knows right away if this was something they’d be interested in, as well as what makes it different from every other retelling.

The good news about doing all this early is that the groundwork will already be done when your release date is here, and you can hit the ground running on your next novel.  Because in the end, the best thing you can do is keep writing and keep releasing new material. Your books will begin to advertise for you as they take up more shelf space and loyal readers return to see what else you have in store.

***

Lauren Skidmore is the Broadcast Keyperson at BurrellesLuce by day and writes by night. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in English Teaching and double minors in Teaching English as a Second Language and Japanese. After graduating, she lived and taught in Japan for a year before returning to the United States where she spends far too much time on computers and the internet. What is Hidden is her first novel.

The State of the Top 25 U.S. Daily Newspapers – Infographic

Jul 2, 2014

The media at large can’t really decide whether print is dead or not, but a look at the change in newspaper circulation statistics for the top 25 newspaper outlets – and the savvy businessmen snapping those outlets up – provides a pretty definitive answer:

No, print isn’t dead.

Click here to download this infographic.

Using data from our 2014 Top Media Outlet list and its 2009 counterpart, we examined the circulation numbers for the nation’s top 25 newspapers. In light of how much talk about newspapers is of the doomsday variety, the numbers were somewhat reassuring: on average, circulation numbers among the top 25 newspaper outlets increased by an average 25 percent. Take a look at the below table for the actual newspaper circulation statistics:

The statistics for newspaper circulations show that some papers performed better than others; the paper with the biggest growth in the previous five years was the LA Daily News, with a 201 percent circulation increase. Not far behind was the San Jose Mercury News, with a 144 percent increase in circulation. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser and The New York Times also saw large gains of 99 percent and 90 percent respectively.

The Arizona Republic had the biggest decrease in circulation, with a 41 percent drop. The Washington Post saw a circulation drop of 31 percent, and the New York Daily News experienced a drop of 26 percent. 11 of the 25 publications (44 percent) experienced a drop in circulation, so clearly the newspaper industry still faces a myriad of challenges, however the gains the other papers made is indicative that the modern newspaper industry has stabilized significantly since the Great Recession.

Some of this stability and growth likely has to do with the fact that these papers have strong elements of editorial review and investigative journalism. Newspaper readership statistics show that local, high-quality journalism has been able to maintain a foothold – 54 percent of readers in 150 large markets read their local news only in print.

And if business tycoons like Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos, John Henry, and HF Lenfest are any indication, print still holds value. Their newspaper acquisitions in recent years show that newspapers may be not just a monetary investment, but an investment in influence and the 21st century incarnation of print and digital news.

Click here to download this infographic.

How the World Cup is like Media Relations

Jun 30, 2014

flickr user warrenskl under CC BY license

Did you have to Google an explanation of how the US Soccer team lost last week and still advanced to the next round of the World Cup? I did. While I was delighted with the result – the home team advancing – it wasn’t initially clear how they had pulled off such a coup. Once I better understood the brackets, that all ”wins” are not created equal, all “goals” weigh very important and that someone else losing helps, it made sense. It’s actually quite similar to the media relations ecosystem and enforces the importance of having qualitative and quantitative elements to any analysis program.

Brackets: Each day there’s a lot of competition for quality editorial real estate. Depending on your industry or vertical market and what’s happening that day, there’s a built in demand for certain types of coverage and dominant ”players” will get a lot of attention. I’m sure we all feel like we are in our own ”Group of Death.”

Win: While you may get some coverage, a true ”win” is subjective. For many organizations certain qualitative elements – i.e. positive tone, appears in a key outlet, features key messages and builds your organization’s reputation – is required for a true win.

Goal: When building your brand, every story is a brick in the foundation. Not only for the obvious SEO, but also for learning and developing messages that support overarching business objectives.

Someone has to lose: No matter how amazing your story, event or issue, a breaking issue will take precedent. When everything goes perfectly and all of your interviews lined up go through without a hitch, it’s a good day, but some days you’re Portugal.

Almost any aspect of business can be placed into these same elements. The real takeaway is to always do your best and play to win. Even in the toughest groups those teams who are conditioned and wholly prepared for the elements along with the slings and arrows of circumstance will prevail. Always keep your eye on the goal and with your best players at peak performance you’ll increase your chances to score.

If you don’t make the goal initially, you’ll ideally develop your strength where needed or identify the weakness that gives you an advantage and succeed the next time. Manage expectations and have contingency plans. One real dire risk of only using quantitative metrics in media analysis is on any given day you could be Portugal (look equal to a former campaign or program) but the overall score does not reflect comparative ”results.”

Disclosure: I write this as a former coach. I coached the Sharks (my brother’s soccer team for five-year-olds) to a winning (6-2) season, so I know a thing or two about the game and what it takes to win.

 

Morning Joe Shows Us Why Print Matters

Jun 26, 2014

screen grab of Morning Joe on MSNBC

If you caught Tuesday’s episode of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, you might have noticed that beneath all the political ballyhoo, something pretty notable happened. In the first three minutes of the segment you’ll notice a prominent prop. That’s right – it’s the front sections of The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Leaving all politics where they belong – on the side – this segment is a remarkable demonstration of the influence that print newspapers still yield. The entire beginning of the segment is not only structured around the content of a newspaper, but the anchors also wave it around prominently for three whole minutes. There aren’t many things that say “Newspapers matter” more than that.

MSNBC could have shown the anchors on their tablets viewing the paper’s digital edition, or they could have brought up a graphic of the homepage on the screen, but they didn’t. Why?

Because the front page is still notable. Despite our digital era, what goes on the front page of a newspaper is way more noteworthy because there’s not infinite space, and what goes on there is permanent. You can’t change out the headline after a few hours – once it’s the headline, that’s it.

The digital front page doesn’t have the same gravitas that the paper front page does because it’s the opposite of all those things: it’s impermanent and it changes in real time. Of course, digital news is still important, as Americans are accessing news digitally on many devices throughout the day. But homepages don’t command as much influence or as many eyes as the digital content.

The segment also shows that people just read print versions differently. People may trust print more (ironic given the content of the Morning Joe segment) than online because of its permanence. So thank you, Morning Joe, for reminding us just how much print matters – and why it’s not going away.

 

You’ll Never Believe What Upworthy is Doing With Their Online Measurement

Jun 25, 2014

Forget the number of pageviews and visitors to your site – you may soon be measuring in “attention minutes.”

Just last week we discussed Contently’s content marketing survey and the gaps in content marketing management. One of these biggest gaps came in the form of marketers choosing the wrong metrics for their goals and relying on the aforementioned pageview and visitor number to measure the success of their content. Why don’t those metrics work? They’re mostly used for buying and selling ads, not measuring brand awareness or engagement.

Upworthy announced on Sunday that they are changing how they measure their engagement. Instead of visitors and pageviews, they’re going for “attention minutes,” which measures “everything from video player signals about whether a video is currently playing to a user’s mouse movements to which browser tab is currently open – all to determine whether the user is still engaged.” For those with coding resources available, Upworthy is even making a sample of their code for attention minutes available for others to work from.

This change means that Upworthy can monetize their audience’s attention instead of their clicks. So while five different video posts may get the same number of visitors, those watching the duration of a 12-minute video will be far more engaged with the site than those who stay to watch a seven-minute video.

Upworthy’s not the only one basing a lot more on engagement instead of clicks: The Financial Times just announced that it will sell its display ads based on how much time its audience spends with content. While The Financial Times’s commercial director of digital advertising Jon Slade admits it’s still an experiment, he says he wants to prove “that the longer you show somebody a piece of brand creative, the more resonance that piece of content has with an audience.”

Of course, this doesn’t mean that this shiny new metric is infallible; for sites that publish short, quick-read posts, attention minutes would not be as effective a tool in measurement or content differentiation. But that’s OK – no one measure is effective for every kind of content, which is exactly why the innovation of attention minutes is important and very relevant to the PR industry’s measurement conversations.

If AMEC’s recent Social Media Measurement Framework User Guide has made anything clear, it’s that measurement is not one metric; it’s a spectrum of interactions and intertwined metrics that measures outcomes, not outputs, and is a process that should be specially tailored to each organization and its goals, contents, and channels.

Media Contact Lists and the Perils of Reckless Pitching

Jun 23, 2014

flickr user A DeVigal uner CC BY license

Media contact databases have long been considered a critical tool in the public relations pro’s arsenal. But such contact lists must be used with discretion, careful targeting, and common sense.

The purpose of a media contact list is to provide PR pros with contact information for relevant journalists, not to provide a recipient list for an impersonal press release blast. This may sound like Public Relations 101, but when journalists receive press releases that aren’t relevant to their beat, location, or publication, they get frustrated, and it gradually erodes the quality of relationships between public relations and journalism:

 

On mission to stop receiving stupid press releases that have nothing to do with my work. @BurrellesLuce is main culprit

— Dave Lieber, CSP (@DaveLieber) June 18, 2014

Media lists should be but one small component of our outreach efforts. Especially in 2014, when within minutes we can call up all the articles a journalist has written, take a look at his or her Twitter, and assess whether our information is of interest. Media lists cannot and should not be a substitute for meaningful, personalized connections.

Here are things you must consider for every journalist before sending them a pitch or press release:

  • Does this pitch pertain to their specific geographic area?
  • Does it pertain to the journalist’s specific reporting areas? i.e. an investigative reporter will have no use for the announcement of a new restaurant location opening
  • Does the publication run the types of story you are pitching?
  • Is this really newsworthy? Yes, it’s frustrating when clients demand coverage for something we know isn’t really news, but sending a journalist an irrelevant release just so you can tell the client you sent it will not help your case when you have something of true value in the future

It’s time to stop taking the short view of just sending a press release to say it was sent to X number of people. If it’s not relevant to most of those people, it’s not only the same as not sending it, it’s worse. Think of the long-term implications of repeatedly sending irrelevant press releases: it trains journalists to tune them out. It’s a classic Boy-Who-Cried-Wolf scenario: no one will listen when you finally have something valuable to say.

Though it might not seem like it, journalists and PR pros are fighting the same battle. We’re all fighting to do more work on less time in a saturated medium. So instead of using the challenge as an excuse, use it as a way to better relate to our journalist counterparts. It can only make it better for all of us.

How to Standardize Your Organization’s Social Media Procedures

Jun 19, 2014

Old-school tweeting. Jacob Spinks on flickr under CC BY

Streamlining your organization’s social media procedures is not a simple as merely designating a token Millennial as resident social media expert and letting it go from there. Creating an effective standard that many can and will follow takes time, thought, and continual checking in. Whether you’re starting from scratch or reassessing a current social media procedure, here are a few of the most important factors to consider.

Determine your goals

As with every project, standardizing social media procedures starts with establishing SMART goals, and you’ll probably have a lot of them. Maybe you’re looking to increase engagement, or get more reliable measurements, or establish a consistent presence. Whatever your goals are, each of the standards must contribute to those goals in order to create a sustainable, successful procedural.

Have measurement methods ready

The key to successful social media usage is knowing what works and what doesn’t, and the only way to do that is to measure, as accurately as possible, the outcomes of your social media efforts beyond shares and likes. A resource like the AMEC Social Media Measurement Framework User Guide is valuable in both the planning stage and throughout implementation.

Designate who’s responsible

In order for your standards to work, someone has to be accountable. Maybe it’s you, a person in marketing, or a few people who work together, but the people or positions who are held accountable and who hold others accountable must be designated from the outset.

Each responsible party should also know exactly what they’re accountable for, so outline the tasks and social media aspects each person must cover. Divide up responsibility by social media channel, types of outputs, or even by the schedule, but make sure it is clear and that everyone is committed.

Outlined responsibilities should also cover people who will participate but who may not manage efforts on a daily basis. This might include occasional bloggers who post links to their blogs, or other team members who pinch hit when a regular member is out.

Set the schedule

Determining how often and at what times you will post to social media is critical for consistency, which will create momentum and push you toward your goals. Set the posting schedule for each social media channel and stick to it. Part of scheduling should include determining how many of your posts are to your own content and how many of them are shares to other content sources.

Establish your social media voice

Of course, you’ll want your social media efforts to stay true to your corporate voice and image, so determine early on how social media accounts can best support that. If you want your social media accounts to spin off a new corporate voice, determine that before it goes live and test some potential posts to make sure it’s viable.

This leads into determining what types of content are appropriate for your social media channels, and what aren’t. Is your Twitter account silly and irreverent like Denny’s or DiGiorno Pizza’s? Or is it information- and marketing-focused like Ford’s?

Explain legal issues clearly

If there are any legal limitations as to what employees may post on social media, make it very clear, but don’t be heavy-handed in preventing employees from talking about work. Last year The New York Times reported that the National Labor Relations Board said “workers have a right to discuss work conditions without fear of retribution, whether the discussion takes place at the office or on Facebook.”

Create a guide

Just like a style guide, all this information should go in a guide that all relevant team members receive. Having it written makes it easier for reference, accountability, and future review. Within the guide, set a timeline for regular reviews with the social media team so that the procedures can be revised for efficiency and efficacy.

3 Measurement Gaps in Content Marketing – and How to Fill Them

Jun 18, 2014

flickr user Pawel Loj under CC BY license

When 90 percent of surveyed marketers say they’re uncertain that their key metrics are effective in measuring business results, you know you’ve got a measurement gap.

That startling statistic came earlier this week when Contently released its State of Content Marketing survey, which sampled 302 marketers split evenly across B2B and B2C businesses. Though social media metrics and measurement are hot topics in marketing and public relations communities, it seems the boots on the measurement ground aren’t sure what to do.

While that headlining stat does suggest a large swath of uncertain marketers (albeit in a pretty small sample), there were other statistics toward the bottom of the report that were far more telling:

Marketers are choosing the wrong metrics for their goals

The report showed that only 11 percent of marketers stated ad monetization as a goal for their content. Yet 69 percent of them measure the success of their content by pageviews, a metric which – the study points out – is primarily used for buying or selling ads.

That means that many of the more than 72 percent of marketers who identified brand awareness as the goal of their content are measuring that goal with the wrong metric. There is a world outside of the pageview. But multiple metrics does not cohesive measurement make – it doesn’t matter how many metrics you’ve got if you don’t have the right metrics.

Shares are overvalued

Luckily, many (65 percent of respondents) of the marketers who measure pageviews also measure for shares and likes. Unfortunately, a quick look at the next page in the report shows that shares and likes may not mean that much after all, since research from Chartbeat shows that there is zero correlation between reading an article and sharing it.

Lack of awareness

Nearly 50 percent of marketers said they wished they could measure how much real attention people are paying to their content, even though simple analytics like bounce rate or time spent on a page (which only 45 percent of respondents measure) are great basic indicators. Not to mention that how much attention people pay to content is exactly the type of thing Chartbeat measures.

How to fix it

Measurement is not easy, and the reason many of these simplistic, sometimes irrelevant metrics persist in measurement programs is because they are free and easy to obtain. Unfortunately, they’re just not effective measures of everything.

We need to start thinking of measurement as a spectrum of interactions instead of a slice of numbers. That’s why the debut of AMEC’s new Social Media Measurement Framework User Guide is so important; it looks at the stages of the marketing funnel over different channels and encourages users to think critically about their objectives, channels, and resources as it relates to their content and marketing process.

The difficulty of tracking measurement and conversations is why marketers and PR pros also need social listening programs to ensure they don’t just count the shares, but listen to what’s being said about their content so they can start tracking tone and sentiment in responses as well as in their media mentions.

Here are some BurrellesLuce resources to get you started on developing your measurement processes:

PR and the P&L

Finding Meaning in Measurement

Navigating the Terrain of Paid, Earned, and Owned Media

The Infographic Guide to Measuring Your Public Relations Efforts

Measuring the Success of Your PR Campaign

Up Your Measurement Game with AMEC’s New Social Media Measurement Guide

PR Team Building at PRSA-NY’s Scavenger Hunt

Jun 16, 2014

L to R: Athina Koutsoumadi and Josephine Lau of Anchin, Block & Anchin LLP; Colleen Flood and Alfred Cox of BurrellesLuce

by Athina Koutsoumadi*
On Thursday evening June 5th, 12 teams from PR firms participated in the PRSA-NY Annual Summer Social: Amazing Race 2014, sponsored by Anchin, Block and Anchin LLP. Our team, “The Analytics,” consisted of Anchin’s Josephine Lau and Athina Koutsoumadi, as well as BurrellesLuce‘s Alfred Cox and Colleen Flood. The race started at Stitch Bar & Lounge, located on West 37th Street. Our team was very eager to conquer the world but we were more in line with “Pinky and The Brain” as we managed to finish in third place…from the bottom!

 

All in good fun, we enjoyed running around the streets of Manhattan, starting from Midtown West, Times Square, circling a few blocks around, taking pictures of strangers, borrowing magazines (GQ w/ Channing Tatum – seriously) for a “celebrity” picture, getting yelled at by a school teacher while attempting to take a picture of a student holding a camcorder, handing over my iPhone to strangers to take a picture followed by a threatening line “If you run with my phone, we’ll catch you!”

 

Lau, Cox, Koutsoumadi, and Flood posing with Channing Tatum

We made it to the East Side while pretending to be Superman around the globe in the Daily News building, only to scare the life out of a lady who helped us with a group picture. It’s amazing to see how New Yorkers bond when they see you running, sweat dripping down your forehead, holding your hips as you feel they will dislocate and you ask them to take a picture. An elderly couple stepped up to the challenge of taking a group picture in the Fox News building, waiting patiently for the ticker to show “Fox News”… If only they had realized that our ticker was ticking as time was of the essence!

 

L to R: Athina Koutsoumadi, Josephine Lau, Colleen Flood, Alfred Cox

We took pride in not using public transportation, which gave us consolation as to our place in the race. Walking the streets allowed Josephine to find electronic stores to take pictures of tape recorders (who really uses those anymore?) and Colleen to use Google Maps for New York buildings. Ah!…. The joy of the iPhone app ScanQuest! As only one person on each team had to download the app and control the challenges and pictures, we faced a different type of challenge! Running and looking at challenges simultaneously, I held onto my phone “for dear life,” and also tried to control Alfred who loved leading the way, only for Colleen having to call him to find him! These unforgettable moments between the two firms have set the stage for next year’s team (only with a better name) and created a strong bond. We are going to be “The Incredible 4”, with the costumes to go with it. This was the beginning of a beautiful friendship! It doesn’t get any better than that!

*****

3 Ways Your Brain’s Negativity Bias Affects How You Communicate

Jun 12, 2014

Brains can do a lot of things computers can’t, but they still do some weird things that work against us. Take the negativity bias: our brains are built to react more strongly to negative perceptions. This means we’re more influenced by comments, experiences, or interactions we (correctly or incorrectly) perceive as negative which can adversely affect our performance.

We can work around the negativity bias, but we have to be aware of it first. Here are three ways it affects your work, and ways to mitigate that effect.

Marketing or PR campaigns

Next time you’re wording a media response, crafting a tweet, or tweaking your messaging, consider whether your audience could perceive what you say as negative. When you’re crafting words for public consumption, keep positive words top of mind and use them as much as possible, and avoid negative words.

Sit down and consider what you wrote from another angle. Try reading it out loud to see if it sounds different, and have someone else – even if they’re not familiar with your project – read it and give you their feedback. Getting a range of opinions and thinking about what you write from multiple angles could help mitigate the negativity bias.

Emails

When we’re reading emails from someone, our brains interpret messages that are neutral as negative, and messages that are positive as neutral. Part of the reason email is especially vulnerable is that there is no way to discern body language or tone of voice through a computer screen.

When you’re writing emails you want to make sure you don’t sound negative, a lot of times brevity is not your friend. Example:

That’s not what we discussed. Let’s talk.

It’s concise, but it also sounds terse and stands a good chance of putting off your recipient. Revamp:

I don’t have that listed as something we talked about. Let’s arrange a quick follow-up to make sure we’re on the same page

That sounds a lot more positive. It took you longer to type, but softening your language will ease your recipients’ negativity bias, thereby making your communications more effective.

If you’re on the receiving end of what reads like a terse or harsh email, before you get put off, remember the negativity bias: what you read as negative the sender may have meant as neutral. Consider also who it’s coming from; if it’s someone with whom you regularly interact, imagine the email in their voice and see if the negativity still holds.

Professional life

The negativity bias is everywhere, from comments your boss makes about your performance to offhand remarks from colleagues. We can even interpret negativity in compliments, such as “That’s the most compelling pitch I’ve heard from you.” Automatically we think: Well, what was so bad about all my other pitches? even though that (probably) wasn’t the intent of the compliment.

In your everyday work life, it can be hard not to let the negativity bias get you down and influence your performance. Try to move your attention to put you back in a positive frame of mind; a great exercise is to write down the things you’re grateful for in that moment.

And don’t forget to remind yourself of the negativity bias; once you know it’s there, it’s a lot easier to overcome.

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