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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: 3 hours 46 min ago

Measurement Week Interviews: Katie Paine

Sep 23, 2014

flickr user antony_mayfield under CC BY

Last week was AMEC’s International Measurement Week, and to honor it, we reached out to some of the top measurement experts to get their take on measurement dos and don’ts, common mistakes, and how they found themselves a member of the Measurati. We got such an enthusiastic response that we’re extending our celebration to include all their answers. We’ll be running their answers all this week, and be sure to check out our latest newsletter for measurement insights from 11 other experts in the field.

Let’s hear from today’s featured expert, Katie Paine, measurement queen and CEO of Paine Publishing. She has founded two measurement companies and is the author of three books about measurement. Her latest book, Measuring the Networked Nonprofit, Using Data to Change the World,won the 2013 Terry McAdam book award.

What is your “measurement moment,” the time you knew your career was becoming measurement-focused?

1,698 Measurement Weeks ago, I did my first research project for Fujitsu Semiconductor. I was 29, an Asian Studies major working in Silicon Valley. I knew nothing about semiconductors, but had to make a key decision about where to spend the budget. I did a cost per lead and cost per impression analysis of competing semiconductor trade magazines, relative to the media coverage they’d given us and the competition.

As a result, I was able to carve $100,000 out of my and put it to better use. My first benchmarking project followed shortly – I interviewed 20 of my peers in Silicon Valley to find out how much of their budget they typically spent on a product launch. – That got me a $3 million advertising and marketing budget for the following year.  I quickly learned that for an ex-journalist Asian History Major working for engineers in Silicon Valley, nothing impressed like data and charts and graphs

What is your proudest measurement moment?

Getting the Social Media Measurement Standards written, approved and published in 18 months

What is your most important piece of measurement advice?

Data without insight is just trivia, make sure your measurement report connects the dots, don’t just throw data over the cubicle wall.

What’s the most common measurement mistake you encounter?

Not tying results back to business goals (also known as confusing outputs and outcomes).

Tell us a breakthrough story, in which you took your client from metrics to KPIs.

In the last few years I’ve taken a tourism destination, a major pharma company, an international non-profit, and a bank from AVE hell to integrated outcome metrics that tie their communications activities directly to business goals.  And, as it happens, the tourism destination has used the metrics I created for them to mitigate disasters, save a ton of advertising dollars that were being wasted, and show the direct correlation between PR efforts and intent to visit.

What do you see as measurement’s biggest challenge ahead?

Lack of insight, or to put it another way, we need to integrate all the various types of “big data” with the little data such as what was the program, the post, the video that caused that big data to change.

Bonus question: You just won the lottery. What’s your dream job?

Writing the great American novel from my farm in Durham, New Hampshire.

Measurement Week Interviews: Mark Weiner

Sep 22, 2014

flickr user HeavyWeightGeek under CC BY

Last week was AMEC’s International Measurement Week, and to honor it, we reached out to some of the top measurement experts to get their take on measurement dos and don’ts, common mistakes, and how they found themselves a member of the Measurati. We got such an enthusiastic response that we’re extending our celebration to include all their answers. We’ll be running their answers all this week, and be sure to check out our latest newsletter for measurement insights from 11 other experts in the field.

Let’s hear from today’s featured expert, Mark Weiner, CEO of PRIME Research North America. Weiner was also CEO of Delahaye and was SVP of global research at Ketchum. He is also the author of Unleashing the Power of PR.

What is your “measurement moment,” the time you knew your career was becoming measurement-focused?

My first affirmation in the research and measurement field was when I created the company which later became known as Delahaye Medialink. Medialink Research was an organization that began with one person – me – and evolved to more than 100 through organic growth and acquisition to become one of the best known and most highly respected research-based consultants in public relations. Many of my colleagues at Delahaye Medialink now lead top research firms and agency research groups which is another great career affirmation.

Based on our success at Medialink Research and then Delahaye Medialink, I realized my ability to create, develop and advance a research and measurement business. Now, as the CEO of PRIME Research LP, I’ve been given a second opportunity to work with smart associates and innovative clients to build a strong global position among research providers. While considerable time has passed since my “measurement moment,” I continue to offer gratitude for the opportunities presented to me by my colleagues, clients and peers.

What is your proudest measurement moment?  

Through the good works of my colleagues and the clients we share, the quality of PRIME’s work is consistently represented by professional awards and recognition which is always a source of pride. But a recent experience comes to mind: At the end of August, I led two-day PR research seminar to some of Peru’s top communicators at the Universidad de San Martín de Porres in Lima. Following the second day, a student approached me to say that while she learned about PR research during her graduate studies, the subject never made sense until our class. Maybe not my greatest accomplishment but one special moment among so many I’ve enjoyed.

What is your most important piece of measurement advice?

“Begin simply but simply begin.”

What’s the most common measurement mistake you encounter?

“Conventional Wisdom” is the biggest obstacle to change, including the positive changes represented by research-based public relations. It’s a mistake to believe the conventional wisdom that PR can’t be measured; that PR measurement is too complicated; or that PR measurement is too expensive. What really obstructs the PR measurement movement? Unwillingness (not inability).

Tell us a breakthrough story, in which you took your client from metrics to KPIs.

MasterCard is one of PRIME’s most visible and innovative clients. When our partnership began in 2012, the focus was volume and data. Over time, our relationship and shared vision evolved to one focused on insights rather than data. Last year, PRIME’s social media analysis helped MasterCard recognize and overcome market concerns about mobile payments.

In year one, our research adapted social media conversations and analytics for problem detection research. Once marketplace concerns were identified through social media analysis and verified through a survey, the findings were adopted throughout the MasterCard organization to refocus advertising, marketing, product development and, last but not least, corporate communication to overcome market concerns. In our second year of the study, we found that marketplace concerns disappeared due, in large part, to the efforts triggered by PRIME’s research. When PRIME helps clients go beyond PR to inform better business-wide decision-making, it’s a very good day. And, thanks to PRIME’s expert systems and talent, exceptional days are no longer the exception.

What do you see as measurement’s biggest challenge ahead?   
PR research, measurement and evaluation occupy their third stage: The first phase was human-based content analysis. It was accurate and insightful but slow. The second phase represented a rapid swing towards automated systems which were fast and consistent (useful for the torrent of content originating through social channels) but content was irrelevant, data were inaccurate and the findings were flawed.

Now, at the cusp of third wave, research firms like PRIME combine the speed and consistency of technology with the relevancy, accuracy and insights offered only through human expertise. The next big challenge is already here: more and more, research consumers feel trapped by their legacy investments in automated systems when their aspirations have grown beyond the limitations of what pure technology can provide creating a demand for a delicate balance of assets. “Talent, technology and tools” are the future.

Bonus question: You just won the lottery. What’s your dream job?

I love my job. Plus, I’m a stats guy: I can’t justify the odds for playing the lottery.


Measurement Week Interviews: Kim Stokes

Sep 19, 2014

flickr user Iain Watson under CC BY

This week is AMEC’s International Measurement Week, and to honor it, we reached out to some of the top measurement experts to get their take on measurement dos and don’ts, common mistakes, and how they found themselves a member of the Measurati. Check out our latest newsletter for measurement insights from 11 other experts in the field.

Let’s hear from today’s featured expert, Kim Stokes, managing director of digital and social media and deputy director of digital integration at Marina Maher Communications.

What is your “measurement moment,” the time you knew your career was becoming measurement-focused? 

I conducted a conversation landscape analysis on behalf of a client which revealed such a telling nuance in the organic conversation that they changed their whole marketing strategy around a specific product.

What is your proudest measurement moment? 

I think I have had consistent moments of “aha” – both among my team and with clients when we have been able to cull great insights from social media driven data.

What is your most important piece of measurement advice?

Don’t use measurement just to measure results – measure all the time, particularly in advance of planning and then to course correct along the way.

What’s the most common measurement mistake you encounter?   

Thinking of measurement as something to look at retrospectively.  If you use data correctly, it can be predictive.

Tell us a breakthrough story, in which you took your client from metrics to KPIs. 

I had a client that was very hesitant to have a social media presence, as they didn’t feel that their core audience was engaging in social media channels.  We conducted an audit of the online conversation and we discovered how far behind they were against their competitors.  More importantly, we identified white space for them to own as thought leaders.

What do you see as measurement’s biggest challenge ahead?

The platforms, algorithms and audience behavior changes by the minute.  You have to stay on your toes, and even when you do you can be thrown for a loop.  The best you can do is respect data for its amorphous and ever changing nature.

Bonus question: You just won the lottery. What’s your dream job?

I am in it. Although speaking Mandarin and dancing salsa every day would be the icing on the cake.

Measurement Week Interviews: Lisa Binzel

Sep 18, 2014

flickr user Quinn Dombrowski under CC BY

This week is AMEC’s International Measurement Week, and to honor it, we reached out to some of the top measurement experts to get their take on measurement dos and don’ts, common mistakes, and how they found themselves a member of the Measurati. Check out our latest newsletter for measurement insights from 11 other experts in the field.

Let’s hear from today’s featured expert, Lisa Binzel, vice president at Edelman Berland, who has managed media measurement programs for nearly 15 years.

What is your “measurement moment,” the time you knew your career was becoming measurement-focused? 

I was working in the Research & Information Center at H&K in DC.  We had been working for a corporate entity involved in one those “David vs. Goliath” situations. Our client was Goliath … but all the client was seeing was big binders of clips that looked like great coverage. This was a VERY long time ago (cut & paste days), so as I labored over those clip books I could see from the articles that our client was getting hammered in the media.

The “David” had a lot of the discussion advocating their position on this issue that impacted consumers. I just thought it was so interesting that all the account team was interested in doing was sending big clip binders. About that time, I read an article about Katie Paine and the work she was doing – I think it was with the Department of Energy.  I was intrigued. I was in Washington, her company was in New Hampshire … where my family lived. I cold-called looking for a job … and a few months later I was on my way to Portsmouth, NH working for Katie and The Delahaye Group, where I quickly learned it was definitely NOT all about big clip binders!

What is your proudest measurement moment? 

I’ve been blessed to have many. I was fortunate to count several large tech companies among my clients in my early measurement days.  Quarterly presentations of results in Silicon Valley were the norm. The lessons I learned through those presentations – often to groups of 6-10 senior communications managers – was invaluable.  For one: always know everything about any negative coverage – even if it accounts for less than 2 percent of your client’s coverage. Trust me, they will ask.

Second: candy helps. Sometimes presentations can be long and it helps to have your audience awake with a little sugar buzz!  And never take for granted why you’re there. I had been presenting to one client for two years – every six months. During one presentation the most senior executive in the Comms function joined. Midway through the first set of slides he asked – in all seriousness: “Remind me again why we do this measurement stuff? What am I supposed to get out this information?”  Definitely NOT a question I was expecting – but answered through a rapidly beating heart.

What is your most important piece of measurement advice? 

Don’t let it get too complicated and don’t try to do too much with one measurement program, trying to please many audiences. In the end, no one will be happy.  For one of my tech clients, we set up a coding scheme that was very complex – but was meant to provide all the nuance the client was looking for. When the data was coming back, we realized there were problems. It was Katie Paine who took a look at what we were trying to do and said, “You’re crazy … your target audience does NOT read coverage that way, so you are wasting your time trying to make the analysts represent the target audience will all this coding!”

What’s the most common measurement mistake you encounter?

People seeking to measure “awareness” by doing media analysis. Coverage in the media will show you the *exposure* of your story … but it will NOT confirm levels of awareness; for that you need a stakeholder survey.

Tell us a breakthrough story, in which you took your client from metrics to KPIs.

I have a global technology provider making that journey right now. We conducted three phases of research last summer/fall. Phase 1 looked to evaluate best practices in measuring KPIs – what industry experts were advocating. The work of AMEC on the Valid Metrics Framework was a central part of our findings.

We also looked at what other similarly-sized companies – both in tech and other industries – were currently doing for measurement. We interviewed account leads on several large Edelman clients as well as some non-client organizations. The third phase involved interviewing key executives and staff across the global network of the client to uncover what, if any, measurement they were doing and what was on their “wish list” for showing the success of their programs.

Synthesizing all that research led to KPI recommendations and a pilot program. The implementation phase that was to kick off in Q1 this year was put on hold as the company went through some reorganization and revisited its communications priorities in light of a changing marketplace. Calls and meetings are underway now to restart the implementation of KPI tracking across both regional headquarters and local subsidiaries. Check back with me in six months and I hope to have an update for you.

What do you see as measurement’s biggest challenge ahead?  

With the explosion and growth of social/digital media, communications professionals are faced with much more content to monitor, track and measure. Finding the right balance (and budget) appears to be a challenge for many of my clients.

Bonus question: You just won the lottery. What’s your dream job?

Twenty years ago I would have said “choreographer for the Rockettes or the Super Bowl halftime show” … now I’m inclined to say “successful advocate for our military veterans.”

Measurement Week Interviews: Frank Ovaitt

Sep 16, 2014

flickr user Pink Sherbet Photography under CC BY

Measurement Week Interviews: Frank Ovaitt

 This week is AMEC’s International Measurement Week, and to honor it, we reached out to some of the top measurement experts to get their take on measurement dos and don’ts, common mistakes, and how they found themselves a member of the Measurati. Check out our latest newsletter for measurement insights from 11 other experts in the field.

Let’s hear from today’s featured expert, Frank Ovaitt, president and CEO of Institute for Public Relations. Among his long list of achievements and executive positions, Ovaitt is a member of the PR News Measurement Hall of Fame, was an adjunct professor of applied public relations and public affairs research at George Washington University, and was awarded the David Ferguson Award for contributions to PR education by a practitioner by the PRSA Educators Academy.

What is your “measurement moment,” the time you knew your career was becoming measurement-focused?

Let’s call it “research focused,” which includes not just measurement but a whole lot more in terms of the knowledge we must bring to bear to be the best public relations professionals.  One of my assignments at AT&T was to build from scratch a communications team to serve a new business unit.  Since this team would be 10 people, it struck me that if one was a research person, the other nine would be so much more effective.   As in-house teams became smaller, the need had to be met in other ways, but it seems to me the one-in-ten rule is as valid as ever.

What is your proudest measurement moment?

When a hard-nosed business executive told me to put more money in my budget because he liked how we used research-based insights to create and measure our programs.

What is your most important piece of measurement advice?

Don’t think of measurement as a report card, but as a GPS that tells you if you’re making progress and if there’s a better route.  Measuring public relations always makes it better.

What’s the most common measurement mistake you encounter?

Thinking that measurement is a report card.  Who doesn’t hate waiting for a report card, good or bad?

What do you see as measurement’s biggest challenge ahead?

Continuing to educate so many new practitioners, with new skills and points of view, on what research and measurement can do for them, their work and their careers.  The Institute for Public Relations’ work to deliver the science beneath the art of public relations is never done.

Bonus question: You just won the lottery. What’s your dream job?

Owning and running a small Kentucky horse farm.  Hey, priorities change when you win the lottery!

Measurement Week Interviews: Richard Bagnall

Sep 16, 2014

flickr user Randen Pedersen under CC BY

This week is AMEC’s International Measurement Week, and to honor it, we reached out to some of the top measurement experts to get their take on measurement dos and don’ts, common mistakes, and how they found themselves a member of the Measurati.

Let’s hear from today’s featured expert, Richard Bagnall, CEO at PRIME Research UK, SVP at PRIME Research Europe, and Chair of AMEC social media group. Bagnall is also the co-author of CIPR’s Share This Too books.

What is your “measurement moment,” the time you knew your career was becoming measurement-focused?

I’m a poacher turned game-keeper. Before I was working in measurement I used to be a PR practitioner gaining experience both in house and at a PR agency. It was while I was at the agency that I realised how important decent, credible metrics were for public relations.

I was standing in front of a very important client in the 1990s presenting our results which back then were based upon AVEs and other largely meaningless ‘output’ numbers.  The client started to ask me some rather awkward questions about what we had really achieved for them and I realised that the numbers I was presenting just didn’t make any sense.  The truth was I hadn’t given much thought to the meaning behind the numbers up until that point but I knew now that I had to take measurement more seriously.

What is your proudest measurement moment?

Gosh, so many!  Having built a business in the space from the early days I was fortunate to experience so many great things.  Winning important clients in tough pitches was always amazing.  But so too was watching my colleagues, many of whom had been with me since they graduated, blossom and develop into serious and accomplished measurement professionals was an incredible feeling.

And from the measurement itself perspective, nothing quite beats that feeling when a client calls you up to thank you for a job well done when the result of your work has led them to prove their value or improve their strategy successfully.

What is your most important piece of measurement advice?

Just like there isn’t, and will never be, one single number to measure the success of a communications campaign, nor is my best advice just one point. My best tip to anyone thinking about measuring their work is to follow the classic best practice approach which can’t be improved upon:

First – ensure you understand the goals of your organisation

Align your communications goals against these

Then plan you communications objectives by asking yourself what success looks like – what are the targets, what should the KPI’s be? It’s important to do this at the planning stage before the campaign, not afterwards.

Then measure the metrics that matter working through from the key outputs to outtakes to outcomes – such as the metrics chosen tell the whole story.

Finally feed the intelligence gained back into the planning stage for the next campaign. Don’t be afraid of the things that didn’t work – good measurement isn’t only for the successes, but is a strategic tool to be used to improve efficiency in all cases.

What’s the most common measurement mistake you encounter?

That an AVE is either a meaningful number or worse that it’s representative of the value of PR.  It’s neither.  Sadly despite so much hard work by so many people and organisations, the use of AVEs as a metric in our industry is still fairly common, estimated to be at use in about 50% of organisations.  It’s for this reason that ongoing educational campaigns like AMEC’s Measurement Week are so important and deserve all of our support.

Tell us a breakthrough story, in which you took your client from metrics to KPIs.

I was particularly pleased working with one of the world’s largest IT companies based in Silicon Valley on their global communications measurement programme.  Their business was vast and complex with many business units in many different sectors.  Working with their global communications leaders to help them bring clarity to their objectives and measurement programme, to create a measurement matrix and to identify some key metrics not just into KPIs but into some key numbers that their CEO wanted to see was a fabulous experience.

What do you see as measurement’s biggest challenge ahead?

Education, education and education.  As the media has diversified and proliferated and audiences have fragmented, measuring communications has got more complex, not less.  Yet there are so many SAAS platform providers in our space trying to convince clients that their one size fits all approach actually measures anything meaningful rather than is just counting stuff that’s easy to count.  AMEC’s role as a global educator of best practice in communications measurement has never been needed more – especially as the PR community is still slow at embracing CPD.

Bonus question: You just won the lottery. What’s your dream job?

Robert Parker of Parker’s Wine guides.  He gets to taste all of the world’s finest chateaus and vintages and is so powerful that his comments move markets.  What a position to be in!


Measurement Week Interviews: David Rockland

Sep 15, 2014

Today is the first day of AMEC’s international Measurement Week, and to honor it, we reached out to some of the top measurement experts to get their take on measurement dos and don’ts, common mistakes, and how they found themselves a member of the Measurati. 

Let’s hear from today’s featured expert, David Rockland, Partner at Ketchum and Chairman of AMEC.

What is your “measurement moment,” the time you knew your career was becoming measurement-focused? 

My Ph.D. dissertation was on the economic evaluation of environmental benefits. I suppose that the measurement of things that are not easy to evaluate has always been in my blood.

What is your proudest measurement moment?

Barcelona, June 2010.  I ran the session that resulted in the Barcelona Principles. It brought together the work of probably 150 people and companies and for the first time created a consensus around the good, better, best and ugly of PR measurement.  And, my Mom happened to be in the room that afternoon, as she was coincidentally on vacation in Barcelona at the same time.  Afterwards she told me it was the first time she sort of understood what I do for a living.

What is your most important piece of measurement advice?

Set goals first.

What’s the most common measurement mistake you encounter?

Not setting goals first.

Tell us a breakthrough story, in which you took your client from metrics to KPIs.

Not sure it was a breakthrough, but at this year’s International Measurement Summit in Amsterdam, four organizations that do tremendous good in the world (i.e. UNICEF, CARE, Cleveland Clinic and the Gates Foundation) spoke of how they have adopted the Barcelona Principles. By being smarter about how the communicate they each spoke of saving lives.  Frankly, I hadn’t really thought that good measurement can lead to making the world a better place or helping kids live better lives, but it really can.

What do you see as measurement’s biggest challenge ahead?
Having PR practitioners get over the insecurity that what this field does is somehow less valuable than other forms of marketing and communications. If the sound measurement tools that already exist can be applied more completely, PR as a field can really grow a backbone.

Bonus question: You just won the lottery. What’s your dream job? 

Job? What job?  I would do something that focused on creating economic benefit from natural resource conservation; actually, this is how we manage our farm in Maryland right now.

Measurement Week Interviews: Barry Leggetter

Sep 11, 2014

In honor of the AMEC’s International Measurement Week (which runs next week, September 15-19), we reached out to some of the top measurement experts to get their take on measurement dos and don’ts, common mistakes, and how they found themselves a member of the Measurati.

Our first featured expert is Barry Leggetter, CEO of the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC), the founding organization of Measurement Week. Leggetter held senior roles in global public relations for more than 25 years with Porter Novelli, FleishmanHillard, and GolinHarris.

Without further ado, let’s hear from Leggetter.

What is your “measurement moment,” the time you knew your career was becoming measurement-focused?

My job interview with AMEC! I had stepped down as Chairman of an international public relations group after more than 25 years in senior roles in global PR consultancy with Porter Novelli, FleishmanHillard and GolinHarris.

In deciding what to do next, a friend said AMEC was looking for its first Executive Director. My three weeks preparing for the job interview resulted in me seeing measurement through a different “lens” – and I was hooked.

As a respected friend said to me once, “there’s no ‘obvious’ career path into measurement”. But there are opportunities! That interview when discussion swirled around the interview table about my thinking was when I knew I had measurement focus because I wanted the job.

What was your proudest measurement moment?

Coming up with the idea that became the Barcelona Principles!

I felt AMEC needed to make a breakthrough in the way it was seen. I felt this could be achieved by putting down a marker on its views why Advertising Value Equivalents was a flawed measure.

My original name for the new initiative was the Barcelona Declaration but under the inspired hand of David Rockland of Ketchum, it developed as the Barcelona Principles. It was a magical moment seeing David lead the session at our International Summit in Barcelona in 2010 where a packed audience voted to adopt the Barcelona Principles. It continues to be an industry-leading measurement framework.

What is your most important piece of measurement advice?

To regard measurement as a vital part of your client service offer and not positioned as an optional extra.

In my experience, measurement and analytics in PR are as important as strategic counsel.

Every PR consultancy wants to retain and grow its existing client base. Client confidence starts with the agency’s ability to prove its program is working. Using measurement and analytics as a routine part of the way you work will give you that proof – often in near real time – which establishes the basis of earning the client’s trust.

What is the most common measurement mistake you encounter?

Fear! There are too many PR agencies and professionals who do not take PR measurement and analytics seriously enough and I genuinely think it is the result of them being frightened of engaging. I urge them to embrace it and see the difference it will make in the confidence they have with clients, or with their senior management team. And AMEC and its members can help.

Tell us a breakthrough story, in which you took your client from metrics to KPIs.

In PR I was European lead for a major electronics company. I tried unsuccessfully for two years to win the client’s support to introduce a measurement component across the whole program.

Fast forward another year and I led the team at my new consultancy team in a re-pitch called by the same electronics company. We used KPIs to establish a Reputation Index and show the European Leadership Team data that they had not seen before. The pitch was won and KPIs were established.

Sound simplistic? Perhaps, but I make the point that it shows what a personal belief in the importance of measurement and analytics can make.

What do you see as measurement’s biggest challenge ahead?

AMEC’s challenge is to be relevant.

We have to put even more resources into our Global Education Program.

We need to continue to bring new thinking forward as we have during 2014 with AMEC’s Social Media Measurement Framework.

We need to be the organization that reflects international thinking in measurement.

When I started with AMEC seven years ago it was UK centric with 20 members. Now it is an international body with 140+ members in 40 countries. Asia Pacific, Latin America and Africa must be regarded next as the huge geographies where we need to have an impact.

Bonus question: You just won the lottery. What’s your dream job?

To write a novel and not just think about doing it!

Image courtesy of AMEC

Three Updates to Journalism Ethics PR Pros Should Care About

Sep 10, 2014

Last weekend, the Society of Professional Journalists revised their code of ethics. There are two great reasons public relations pros should care: because PRs interact so frequently with journalists, and because being a PR pro now includes a lot of content creation and involvement in content marketing. While that doesn’t necessarily make you a member of the media, the SPJ standards provide an excellent guideline to follow in creating content.

The revisions address anonymous sources, which are an ethical rats’ nest. While anonymous sources might sometimes be the only way to break a story, when journalists protect their anonymity, it makes them and their information nearly impossible to verify (and we all know fact checking is vital). Journalists can also find themselves facing severe legal penalties, and even jail time, for not revealing their sources.

The new ethics code urges journalists to clearly identify sources and question the sources’ motives. Anonymity should be reserved for “those who may face danger, retribution, or harm.”

So if you’re ever talking to a journalist to give information, think twice about requesting anonymity, as it may conflict with the ethics journalists strive to follow.

The new code also addresses paying for interviews. Poynter reports that the previous code stated journalists should “avoid bidding for news,” while the update states unequivocally, “Do not pay for access to news. Identify content provided by outside sources, whether paid or not.”

In the same post, Poynter also noted that the Radio and Television Digital News Association has introduced its new proposed code of ethics, the first update in 14 years. Perhaps the most modern update is this one:

“Scarce resources, deadline pressure and cutthroat competition do not excuse cutting corners factually or oversimplifying complex issues. ‘Trending,’ ‘going viral’ or ‘exploding on social media’ may increase urgency, but these phenomena only heighten the need for strict standards of accuracy.”

These are all excellent reminders to pros in the journalism and public relations industries.

What do you think about the proposed revisions? How do you think they complement PRSA’s Member Code of Ethics?

Is Social Really Earned Media? A Look at Impending Twitter Algorithm Changes

Sep 8, 2014

flickr user marek.sotak under CC BY

When public relations pros class their media by POE – aka Paid, Owned, and Earned media – social media sites like your Facebook and Twitter pages are generally classified as owned media. But with last year’s unpopular Facebook algorithm changes and the apparently inevitable introduction of a Twitter algorithm next year, brands could be losing even more social media reach.

According to Digiday, one of the potential changes to Twitter could be a change to the chronological feed, so it may become more like Facebook in that the algorithm chooses what it thinks are the most important tweets to share. Anthony Noto, financial chief at Twitter, told The Wall Street Journal that Twitter’s feed as it is now “isn’t the most relevant experience for a user” and may cause important tweets to get lost at the bottom of a feed.

Such an algorithm change could also be a blow to real-time marketing – you may still be able to do it, but it might not be free anymore.

Of course, there might be some changes that work in your favor; The Wall Street Journal reports that there could be a better search engine and group chats, features which enterprising social media users will be quick to leverage to their advantage.

It’s too early to know exactly what changes will be made, but it’s a good reminder that while you may “own” the space that is your Twitter or Facebook page in that you can control the content you share, you don’t control how it’s published or how many of your followers will get to see it.

Early speculation also means it gives you time to diversify your strategies. As brands that relied heavily on Facebook for marketing and branding before the algorithm changes can attest, putting all your social media eggs in one basket can make it difficult to recover when, inevitably, the social media platform decides it wants to make more money and changes everything you’ve known.

So while you can’t devise specific strategies just yet, having an early awareness means you can continue to do what you do while adding focus to other channels in the event that Twitter makes changes that would affect your reach and/or budget.

Do you have a strategy for dealing with algorithm changes? How will you adapt your social media strategy?


In the Digital Age, What Is Private?

Sep 4, 2014

flickr user FutUndBeidl under CC BY

Could your kid suffer repercussions because of what you post on Facebook? That would be a yes, if you’re Ashley Habat, a mom from Florida whose son was expelled from preschool because of negative comments she made about the school on her Facebook timeline.

While Habat said the post was “private to [her] friends only,” she tagged the school in the post. “Why would you expel a four-year-old over something his mom posts to a private Facebook page only people on her friends list can see?” Habat asked.

Aside from the fact that tagging the school means it’s no longer just the people on her friends page, this story from last week ties in to the broader dialogue of what is private in the age of social media. Should we have the expectation that what we post on social media is absolutely private?

We shouldn’t, if we want to be savvy social media users. The Internet is not a private place, and screenshots and cached images mean that even deleted postings never die. This permanence can mean longer-lasting damage to personal reputation the reputation of the poster and the subject of their posting.

But you can also have private things online that no longer remain private thanks to malicious third party, as we’ve seen this week with famous female celebrities who had their personal photo streams hacked and the pictures leaked.

So what’s a savvy, everyday Internet user and public relations pro to do?

Think before you post – Always. You have the right to say what you think, just exercise prudent judgment about how it would reflect upon you if it were no longer private.

Enable every security setting you can – You also have the right to do what you want (within the confines of the law, of course) with your photos and content on your phone, email, and social media. But take as many steps as you can to prevent it, like two-factor authentication and better passwords, but know that even those steps might not matter much when it comes to hacking.

Value the privacy of your audience – It’s great to want to personalize brand experience, but because privacy is such a sensitive issue, campaigns should not be creepy or give the sense (or actuality) that the audience’s privacy has been invaded.

How do you define and protect your online privacy? How can organizations strive to protect the privacy of their audience?

Five Back-to-School Tips for Public Relations Students

Sep 2, 2014

flickr user katerha under CC BY

Mentoring, advising and otherwise helping PR students is a passion of mine. You may know that I’ve previously written about what public relations students should do during their summer break, what PR students can do to build their personal brand, and more. If you are an underclassman, you have the advantage of time; however, if you are entering your senior year, there is no time but the present.

Here is a mash-up of those tips (and some new ones) to help put you on the right path to becoming a new public relations professional.

  • First things first, clean-up and refine your online presence—including your social media accounts. Google yourself (be sure to hide personal results by clicking the globe in the upper right)–and don’t forget Bing and Yahoo!. If the first page results do not represent you and who you are, immediately begin digital damage control. (This is even more important if you have a common name or have a dubious doppelgänger out there.) There are free tools to help you keep an eye on your online reputation –personally, I use BrandYourself.

Human Resources professionals will likely tell you they look at LinkedIn profiles but not a candidate’s Facebook page or other social media, as they are prohibited by law to access any information that could be used in a discriminatory way. However, they will also admit that many hiring managers do vet job candidates through online/social sleuthing. Proof in point: According to the 2013 Jobvite study, 94 percent of recruiters use or plan to use social media in their recruitment efforts.

  • Read, write, repeat. Reading exercises your brain. Writing is a skill that requires practice. But it’s more than that. Reading improves your vocabulary, makes you a better conversationalist, gives you a broader understanding of language and improves your storytelling skills (a key component of public relations). Sure, industry-related content is important but also read general news and (try to) read for fun as well.

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” ~Stephen King


  • Volunteer. Get involved with an on-campus pre-professional organization (like PRSSA, AMA or AAF). That doesn’t mean show-up once or twice a month and sit through a guest speaker or meeting. Run for office and/or lead a committee (demonstrates leadership). Head-up a fundraising event, volunteer to be part of a team, work in the student-run PR firm (if there is one). If you have free time, volunteer at a local non-profit organization and offer to help with public relations, marketing, social media, blog content creation, special events. Do something that’s going to give you experience and help sharpen your skills—it all counts!
  • Network—virtually and IRL. Seek out and follow industry leaders on Twitter, LinkedIn groups, and blogs so you can learn from the pros; but don’t just lurk—participate! Attend industry events (not just those for students but where there will be pros as well). Research agencies, organizations, companies that you would like to intern with or work for.  Develop and practice your elevator speech; you should have a 30-second spiel that is memorable and opens a window to your personality, your passions and your mindset. Not a laundry list of skills, rather what you can offer to a potential employer. Use your smartphone to record yourself so you can play it back and make improvements. Then, reach out to your targets and request an informational interview. If face-to-face isn’t an option, Skype or Google+ Hangouts are good alternatives. Ask what (coursework, degrees, activities, skill sets) they are looking for when hiring. Ask, given identical academic backgrounds, what makes some candidates standout above the rest. Doing this NOW allows you time to make a quick change to a more pertinent elective, audit a course or self-teach additional skills.
  • Create an online portfolio if you haven’t already. Gather writing samples from internships, volunteer gigs, blog posts, class assignments. Be sure to include any public relations or marketing plans you’ve created, press releases, anything written in AP Style, newspaper/media clippings, presentations, creative design samples, reference letters, special certifications, etc. (NOTE: If you are including any work that was done as part of a group, be sure to notate this and identify which part you actually did.) PR professionals must view themselves as “brands”—it’s a very competitive industry. Your online portfolio, business cards, blog, resume, etc. should all present one cohesive message.

What else should students be doing to prepare for their PR career?  If you are a student or recent graduate, what have you done (or are doing) that’s helped to progress your career?

How to Create a Successful Email Newsletter: 4 Tips From the Quartz Daily Brief

Aug 28, 2014

This week Quartz launched its new site design, which notably features a homepage. Why is this so strange? Because it didn’t have a homepage before; instead, readers scrolled from story to story.

But now Quartz has a homepage – with a twist. At the top of the page is a top story, followed immediately by The Brief, which is updated throughout the day and based on Quartz’s popular Daily Brief email. Quartz’s Daily Brief hit 75,000 subscribers in May and has a whopping 40 to 50 percent open rate.

While you may not get to the 40 percent open rate right off the bat, here are some lessons from Quartz for creating a successful email or newsletter.

Send it early

Daily Briefs reach my inbox around 3 AM, but since I’m on Mountain Time, it’s the perfect 6 AM arrival time on the East Coast. And Quartz’s own insights found that 44 percent of global executives are focused on the news immediately upon waking up and that 60 percent of executives read an email newsletter as one of the three first news sources they check every day. Plus overall, emails sent between 6 and 7 AM are three times more likely to be opened than those sent at 4 PM.

Use it for content feedback

Quartz pays close attention to how many people click on each link, and then use that as editorial guidance. They’ve noticed that people don’t click on the links in the top half of the email, since those links tend to be synopses of the news, but they do click on articles in the lower half that focus on “random discoveries” and opinion pieces. If certain links are really popular, Quartz knows to do a follow-up on that subject for their site.

Source other content

Those lower half opinion and random discovery links are popular for a reason: they’re interesting. Start including a roundup of industry content that’s not always directly related to your topic, and go out of your way to link other content sources, not just your own, then look at which links get the most clicks. Use those for content ideas for your blog or your next newsletter.

Produce it as a team

Newsletters and regular email blasts are notoriously a lot of work. Quartz’s Daily Briefs are team efforts. Having more than one person on the newsletter project doesn’t just help with efficiency, it will also help with overall equality, as having another set of eyes will help catch typos or provide ideas. So don’t outsource your newsletter to just one person start to finish. Make sure at least one other team member is on it for feedback and editing.

What other strategies do you use for successful emails and newsletters? When do you get the highest open rate?

How to Re-Engage With Your Work

Aug 27, 2014

We took a few opportunities this summer to remind you about the importance of unplugging and taking a break or vacation. It’s summer – that’s what it’s for. But the quickly dwindling days of August mean that summer is just about over, and that means it’s time to re-engage with your work.

Why re-engage?

It’s sure tempting to stay in summer mode all year long, but let’s face reality: you’re going to be at your job for a number of hours each day. Unfortunately, only 30 percent of employees are engaged in their work, and only 36 percent of white collar workers in a survey said their work had a level of meaning and significance.

Engaging in your job not only helps you excel professionally, but can also make your personal life richer. A healthy work-life balance makes people more satisfied in their jobs and encourages professional motivation and productivity.

And even if you feel you’re not in the best place in your career, approaching projects with a more ambitious positive attitude can help you build your portfolio and ignite passions for your current work..

Take breaks

To re-engage, you need to be more focused. To be more focused, you need to take breaks. That may sound counter-intuitive, but those who take a break every 90 minutes report levels of focus 30 percent higher than those who don’t take breaks, and also report a greater capability to think creatively.

Shorten meetings

If you’re in the position to change the length and structure of meetings, you should (and if you’re not in that position, consider making a few thoughtful recommendations to your manager). Most meetings are a waste of time. Good meetings need a specific purpose and a hard time limit. I used to work at an office where planning meetings were limited to 30 minutes; while they could have easily gone on for 45 or 60, awareness of the limit meant we often finished in 25. That meant everyone knew meetings would be quick, and we wouldn’t walk into the room dreading a giant time suck.

Fred Kofman suggests holding meetings only “to decide and commit” to something. No meetings for reviews, updates, evaluations, or reports. Those things can be done in ways other than meetings. While it may seem strange to go from lots of meetings to only the occasional meeting, doing so frees up a lot of time for you and colleagues to think creatively and get things done.

Recognize your talents and utilize them

Feeling underused makes it easy to disengage from work, but if your strong points aren’t part of your work, it’s up to you to make them part of your work. First thing is to identify your strong points, and that doesn’t necessarily mean your task-driven talents; strong points can be how you think or solve problems. Then, identify a challenge you’ve had in your life or observed in others that you want to help others solve. Putting your strong points and challenges together can help you find more fulfillment in all your work.

If this means taking the reins and reworking your job description, do it, but start small. You can’t change everything overnight. Start with taking on extra projects that speak to your sensibilities, then grow them and find more opportunities to help your colleagues, your manager, and your company grow.

Be willing to break your non-engaged habit

Think of your non-engagement as a bad habit that needs breaking. While you might have to continue working on projects that don’t challenge you, find a way to make them better and more rewarding leveraging your strengths. Taking that approach will raise your profile and the awareness of your profile and other teams to want to use you in a more diverse way.

Remember that being engaged at work is a habit and a skill. And once you get engaged with your work, don’t forget to take a vacation or digital holiday. It can only help you be more engaged.

How do you get engaged with your work?


Your Media Interview Worksheet

Aug 25, 2014

If you’re a media relations pro giving media interviews or the public relations pro arranging such interviews and prepping clients, you know that preparation is a huge factor in making a media interview a successful one.

There are a slew of factors to consider in the preparation process, including defining aligned key messages and prepping for easy and hard questions, as well as staying on top of headlines, being confident, looking polished, and being adept at bridging so you can maintain your composure and control of the interview.

We cover all this territory and more in our most recent newsletter, Media Interviews: The Before, During, and After, but we know that what media relations pros need is an easy-to-use resource that reflects the basic media preparation needs. If there are ways these can be enhanced and you want to share with your colleagues, please share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below. We’re open to creating different versions of this worksheets for different mediums and making them available in our resource center.

You can download the worksheet from our resource center.

Five Grammar Mistakes to Stop Making Now

Aug 21, 2014

flickr user Nic McPhee, CC BY license

I may have mentioned that my nickname around here (and on Twitter) is “red pen.” There’s a reason for that – I like grammar and editing. In the interest of helping out public relations professionals in their constant quest to improve their writing skills, today I bring to you five grammar mistakes I see and hear very commonly.

As a pro, you’ve probably got a lot of the basics nailed, but with something as broad as language, there’s always more to learn, even for red penners like me. Whether you’re crafting marketing materials, updating your personal Twitter feed, or posting to company social media, here are the mistakes to stop making as of now.


I can’t tell you how often I see and hear this one. “Wary” means to be watchful or cautious; “weary” is to be tired or exhausted. So don’t say that we should approach a problem or danger wearily – approach it warily. And don’t grow wary of a bad attitude, grow weary of it.


Just because they’re practically homophones doesn’t mean they’re interchangeable. “He eluded to the possibilities” makes no sense because “elude” means to evade or avoid. When someone one alludes to something, they’re making an indirect reference to that something. So, “He alluded to current events” means he indirectly referred to a current event, but “He eluded speaking about current events” means he avoided and did not talk about current events.


This one particularly kills me, especially as a crossword fanatic (“eke” is a common answer to clues). “To eke” means to scrape by or manage with difficulty. “Eek” isn’t even a verb; it’s a sound you might make when you see a mouse or errant insect. So while one can “eke out a living,” one cannot “eek out a living.”

Punctuation and quotation marks

Periods, commas, semicolons, colons, and dashes should always go inside quotation marks. End of story (unless you are in Great Britain). Exclamation marks and question marks are a bit more nuanced. Here’s what Grammar Girl has to say:

“If the whole sentence, including the quotation, is a question or an exclamation, then the question mark or exclamation point goes outside the closing quotation mark; but if only the part inside the quotation marks is a question or exclamation, then the question mark or exclamation point goes inside the closing quotation mark.”

Here are some clarifying examples:

Did she say whether she had read “A Modest Proposal”?

I love the song “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?”

Would of/would have/had

This is a gnarly little trifecta of errors in the conditional perfect, the “I wish I would of taken school seriously” train of thought.

The first problem is that it’s never “would of.” This common error probably came about because it sounds similar to “would’ve,” the contraction for “would have,” which is the correct form of the conditional perfect.

But in these instances, the conditional perfect is not the correct tense. “I wish I would have taken the train this morning,” is incorrect; the past perfect is correct. One should say, “I wish I had taken the train this morning.” Let’s look at some more examples:

Incorrect: I wish I would have known that movie had a sad ending.

Correct: I wish I had known that movie had a sad ending.

It’s correct to use the conditional perfect (“would have”) in “then” clauses, not in “if” clauses:

Incorrect: If I would have been famous, we could have been rich.

Correct: If I had been famous, we could have been rich.

What are the most common grammar mistakes you make or see others making?

Thanx Hanx: Why Old-School Isn’t Going Anywhere

Aug 20, 2014

This week in odd pairings, Tom Hanks launched an app. Slickly doing away with that stuffy “ks,” the app is called Hanx Writer, and it’s an iPad app that looks and sounds like a typewriter. If you ever felt like all the swiping and tapping you did on your iPad was just too silent, Hanx Writer rights that wrong and kits you out with all the clacks, dings, and whizzes your 21st Century heart could desire.

It’s been number one in the iTunes App Store since its launch last week, so it’s clearly striking a chord with modern-day typists. Perhaps it’s not surprising, since repackaging of the old in the guise of the new isn’t exactly a groundbreaking sales or marketing tactic. But what makes the app so interesting, besides appealing to sensory satisfaction, is that so many people seem excited to reconnect with an old, some might say more traditional, time and technology.

Hanx Writer is yet another reminder that old-school technology doesn’t really disappear. Five years ago everyone thought books would die and be replaced by ebooks. Spoiler alert: They didn’t. Radio is still around as is its supposed replacement, television; hipsters love shooting on film; and though the news just loves to talk about the demise of print, it’s probably safe to say newspapers and magazines won’t become extinct. So instead of worrying that old technologies will be replaced, let’s just remember new technologies, like new movie stars, just elbow their way in.

The “old” is still there, and often, it’s just as useful and influential as before.

And of course, now there are apps for radio, TV, photos, and print publications. For anyone worried about Millennials who don’t experience the joy of writing on parchment with a quill and inkwell, I’m sure Tom Hanks will get right on that with his next app.

PR Etiquette for Content Marketing

Aug 18, 2014

Reddit has released some basic rules – called “pressiquette” – for writers or contributors to outlets, and if you engage in content marketing, they probably apply to you too.

The new rules require that, should you come across a story that tickles your journalistic fancy, that you message the original poster (aka “redditor”) to “ask for their permission prior to using it in an article or list, ask how they would like it to be attributed, and provide them a deadline … Please respect redditors who may wish to stay anonymous, or to not be featured in an article.”

There are also rules about engaging with transparency, subreddit behavior, and using images with permission.

While the rules are very Reddit-specifc, they’re also pretty universal. So let’s go over some more universal rules for PR etiquette, especially as it pertains to blogs and content marketing.

Always ask permission to repost

Did an organization’s blog do a write-up on you or your work that you want to share on your personal or company blog? Don’t just copy, paste, and link back; ask permission to publish the post in full. While there may not be any legal ramifications on reposting (and we are in no way guaranteeing there won’t be legal issues), it’s just good Internet manners to ask permission. Chances are a lot of outlets that want the exposure will say yes. And what better way to keep the “relations” in public relations than by contacting and thanking people who write content you appreciate?

Correctly attribute images

Reposting images can get tricky since you never know if your source has done their copyright-compliance homework. Unless they link back to an image source that specifically states it’s in the public domain or Creative Commons, go find your own image that you’re absolutely sure complies, and then attribute it correctly.

Don’t plagiarize

There have been a lot of stories about plagiarism in the news lately, from Buzzfeed to The New York Times to True Detective. It should go without saying that you should definitely NOT plagiarize. But sometimes the plagiarism lines are a little blurrier than people think; it goes far beyond copy-pasting whole chunks of text.

The Harvard Guide to Using Sources explains five types of plagiarism:

Verbatim plagiarism – Lifting copy word-for-word from another source

Mosaic plagiarism – copying snippets, rephrasing or changing a few areas without quoting directly

Inadequate paraphrase – failing to convey information in the passage in their own words

Uncited paraphrase – simply paraphrasing is not enough; the idea still belongs to the original author and thus must be cited as a source. Harvard’s rule of thumb: “Whenever you use ideas that you did not think up yourself, you need to give credit to the source in which you found them.”

Uncited quotation – quoting a source but not citing its author

While I’m sure everyone is following these steps, what are your experiences, have you found instances where someone didn’t properly cite you or another source, and how did you deal with it? What other PR etiquette rules can you share?

Take a Happy Break: Three Videos to Make You Smile

Aug 14, 2014

flickr user Neal Fowler, CC BY licence

It’s been a rough week in the news – heck, it’s been a rough summer in the news. It’s tough not to feel overwhelmed and dispirited with all the crazy stuff happening in the world. You may not feel like a video will help, but even the momentary lift in mood can do good things for your health. So here are three YouTube videos that will make you laugh, smile, or just regain your faith in humanity.

For a laugh

I challenge you not to laugh along with this round-faced baby, and I hope you fail at that challenge, because laughter is good for you. Laughing can soothe tension, moderate your stress response, boost your immune system and improve your mood. Plus, there’s nothing better than a baby’s old-man-style wheezy laugh.

For a smile

Without fail, I smile every time I watch Gene Kelly dance. Check out this silly, upbeat scene from Singin’ in the Rain and smile along – you’ll enjoy a rush of feel-good hormones dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin.

For regaining faith in humanity

The news makes it seem like the world is full of terrible people, but clips like this one, from a 2012 Britain’s Got Talent audition, will remind you that there are plenty of kind, wonderful people in the world. And if it makes you cry a little, that’s okay; tears release stress hormones and stimulate production of endorphins.

What videos always make you feel better? Share with us!

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