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: 3 hours 46 min ago

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.

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

Jun 11, 2014

It’s one thing to know we should be measuring our social media communications campaigns – and it’s quite another to know just how to do that. Today marks the start of AMEC International Summit on Measurement, and with it comes something big: AMEC’s Social Media Measurement Framework User Guide.

The guide provides an example of how to apply the framework. It does not focus on developing a single metric for measuring communications progress; rather, it is a guide designed to look at multiple metrics across different stages of campaigns and assess outcomes, not outputs, to make results meaningful, credible, and useful.

Within the user guide are two frameworks: the Paid, Owned, and Earned Framework and the Programme, Business, and Channel Metrics Framework. Both frameworks use the same five stages of the marketing funnel to measure outcomes and help PR pros better understand how each channel impacts the goals of your campaign:

Exposure: Potential audience exposure to content and messages

Engagement: Interactions that occur in response to content on an owned channel

Preference: Ability to cause or contribute to a change in opinion or behavior

Impact: Effect on the target audience. Can include but not limited to any financial impact

Advocacy: Are others making the case for you about something? Includes positive sentiment such as a recommendation, a call to action or call to purchase, suggested usage or change of opinion.

The framework is broken down into six steps:

Plan with SMART objectives. Remember, all your goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

Select a framework. Decide whether the Paid, Earned, and Owned framework or the Programme, Business, and Channel Metrics framework best fit your campaign.

Populate. Populate the framework with the metrics that matter to you and that represent a balance and broad view.

Data. Identify what data you will need, some of which you may need to obtain from specialist providers. Be sure to be clear how you will collect it and where it will come from.

Measure. Ensure the data covers all appropriate fields and determine when and how often you will need to measure the data.

Report. Put your results into reports that best suit your audience, whether that be charts and graphs, written reports, or videos.

Also, make sure to check out page 10 of the user guide, which gives 10 top tips for using and making the best of the frameworks.

How do these frameworks and models help your measurement processes?







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3 Reasons Not to Rely Solely on Software for Measurement

Jun 9, 2014

The Secret Service is in the market for a social media monitoring and analytics software that can, among other functions, detect sarcasm in social media posts.

Yeah. Because computers are renowned for their wit.

As The Washington Post reported, the Secret Service wants to automate their social media monitoring process and quantify their social media outreach and lots of other things public relations pros and their organizations want.

“More specifically, the orders ask for a long list of specific tools, including the ability to identify social media influencers, analyze data streams in real time, access old Twitter data and use heat maps.”

Is a computer program really the best way to detect sarcasm? Machines don’t have a sense of humor and are notoriously poor at correctly identifying sarcasm and irony; when given a pool of sarcastic tweets, computers identified sarcasm successfully only 65 percent of the time. And that’s when all the tweets were already sarcastic. So why search for a computer program to do a mediocre job when you could hire human analysts to do the job with more accuracy?

Here’s what we know at BurrellesLuce: Software makes an excellent first tier for sorting through data, but there are things computers just can’t do as well as humans. Here are just three reasons that computers are not the pinnacle in measurement:

  • Qualitative analysis improves predictive models: A human will produce more targeted results when going through a random sample of captured data. Those results will improve your predictive models for recurring situations.When you have a set of captured data, a human going through a random selection will produce more targeted results that can be used toward a predictive model for recurring situations.
  • Accuracy through qualitative measurements: When assigning tone, a majority of software programs default to labeling something “neutral” when tone is not clear. If increasing positive coverage is your goal and you know you’re using a program that defaults to neutral, you’re already starting at a deficit and looking at potentially skewed results.
  • Cost vs. Price: If you’re relying solely on a computer sort tone, there will be false positives and false negatives that a human must sort through. The resulting cost in personnel is – more times than not – much higher than outsourcing the original work to a company like BurrellesLuce, which has a dedicated workforce which specializes specifically in gathering and analyzing that data.

So maybe it’s more a question of why are we willing to cede tasks at which computers do not excel to computers? Maybe this is just the next step toward cybernetic revolt. Or maybe it’s time for us to integrate technology with the advanced machines that reside in our heads. CC John Connor.

When Prepping for a Media Interview, Don’t Forget the Easy Questions

Jun 5, 2014

When someone well-known puts their foot in their mouth, the media delights but the public relations pro cringes. The reps for Charlize Theron and Gwyneth Paltrow had very good reason to cringe this week when they both made ill-thought-out remarks about the nature of fame.

When SkyNews brought up her Google results, Theron replied, “I don’t [Google myself] – that’s my saving grace. When you start living in that world, and doing that, you start feeling raped.”

A few days prior, remarking on harsh online comments lobbed at her, Paltrow stated that such attention is “a very dehumanizing thing. It’s almost like how, in war, you go through this bloody, dehumanizing thing, and then something is defined out of it. My hope is as we get out of it, we’ll reach the next level of conscience.”

In case you needed us to point it out, fame is not like war or sexual assault. So why did they give these answers to what were certainly not hardball questions? Herein lies a very important public relations reminder: when you prep a client or spokesperson for a media interview, prep them on the hard questions and the easy questions.

No one is too good for prep

No matter how accomplished a person is at being interviewed, they’re never too good for practice. Jim Miller, formerly SVP at Dentsu Communications and current president at Momentum Communications Group, says that “the best value you can provide is to cover the basics: review anticipated questions, reinforce key messages” and get in a practice run. A good rule of thumb is one hour of prep for every minute of air time. If someone is interviewed frequently, prep them regularly to keep them sharp and prevent any lapses.

Consistency and Sincerity

Interviewees who get a lot of coverage are likely to be asked the same questions multiple times, and even if they’ve answered a question countless times, it could be the first time a particular audience hears the answer. In order for the audience to be compelled to care about the interviewee, he must be sincere and relatable. Sound bites, even for the repeat questions, are a great aid for avoiding feigned interest or any perceived defensiveness. Your subject needs to connect to the audience and if they get stumped on the “What are your plans for the holiday?” then the rest falls apart quickly.

Rephrase common questions

When you’re prepping, always reframe the same questions to ensure you don’t fall prey to reiterating a negatively asked question and fumbling your response to fit into how the question was asked. practice tailoring canned responses. For example, “Do you Google yourself?” and “How do you feel when you Google yourself?” or “What’s the most surprising thing you’ve seen when you’ve Googled yourself?” Using the same talking points with different delivery will keep your interviewees thinking.

Keep everyone up-to-date

Your client or spokesperson may be asked to comment on a topic that is related, even if tangentially. Make sure they know how to respond with a key message or are adequately trained to bridge back to the primary topic.

Assess what works, then build

The post-interview debrief is equally as important as the preparation. You can get the best assessment of “what we can do better next time” of “need to hit that issue harder” of “have more resources about X to demonstrate expertise on the matter.”

Storytelling is a very powerful tool in the media relations arsenal; unfortunately, when placed in the wrong hands can be lethal. Work with subjects to make sure the images they conjure are relevant and on target. What other tips do you have for prepping answers to the easy questions?

What to Do on Your Digital Detox

Jun 4, 2014

Leave those devices behind

Digital detoxes are all the rage, so you’ve disconnected wifi, silenced your devices, and put them out of sight and reach. Finally, you can be productive.

Now what? Whether you’re unplugging for a day or a week, the best way to take advantage of your newfound unplugged time is to know what the goal of unplugging is in the first place. Is it to brainstorm new ideas, forcibly manage your time, relax and recharge, or reconnect with a hobby? Your goal defines how to use your unplugged time.

Here are three ways to take advantage of your status as digital hermit and achieve your goal of getting it done or getting away from it all.

Free write

If your goal is to brainstorm, set aside time to sit down with a pen and paper for at least ten minutes and write whatever comes into your head. It’s helpful if it is related to what you want to work on, but it’s not mandatory.

This is an exercise I used to do at a writing retreat (and an exercise I should do more often), and it helps to loosen your thinking muscles – think of it as a warm-up to your productivity workout. Often, in what you wrote you’ll find a nugget, a great idea you hadn’t thought of before, which makes working that much smoother and more productive.

It’s important that during this exercise, you do your best not to judge what you write as “stupid” or “pointless.” It doesn’t matter what you write, just that you write something and get your brain whirring in a non-digital medium.

Savor the silence

So you want to relax and recharge; it’s not always as easy as you hope it will be. To keep from feeling unmoored once you unplug, think of what you do on vacation. Do you read, take a walk, nap, meditate, or play a sport? Do that!

If you’ve been so busy that you’ve forgotten how you unwind, you definitely need this unplug time, so don’t give into the digital withdrawal you’ll likely experience. The free writing exercise can help you relax your mind, but if you don’t want silence, consider reaching out (via telephone, not email or text!) to friends or family for a social visit (sans digital device). This can help you ease in to your unplugged state by constructively and beneficially occupying your mind.

Do your best not to give in to the voice that tells you you have to do something. Being connected tricks us into thinking we can do something all the time; connecting to the world outside your screen is doing something.

Manage withdrawal – or the dread of reconnecting

You may experience withdrawal, but the plus side is that it probably won’t last for long; people who are forced to disconnect often find their unplugged lives to be much more vivid and refreshing. If you feel withdrawal, put your device well out of reach. Some heavy Internet users experience a significant drop in mood once they’re disconnected, so keeping yourself occupied with friends or activities can help lessen that. If you’re only disconnecting for an hour or two – or even for 24 – moving to an unconnected area won’t rely solely on your willpower.

Chances are, you’ll unplug and never wish to go back. Unless your career and lifestyle can support that, it probably won’t happen, but you can commit to using your devices less. Delete social media apps from your phone and only connect on a computer; turn off notifications and only check email at designated times; or install an app on your computer that forcibly blocks you from the Internet.

How do you take advantage of your unplugged time?

Convergence Journalism: How Does it Affect PR and Media Relations?

Jun 2, 2014

The oldest school of journalism in the United States (and possibly in the world), University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, added its first new major in 50 years when it added Convergence Journalism back in the fall of 2005. Over the past several years, news consumers have witnessed a revolution take place whereby we consume news stories via multiple platforms (traditional, digital, social) and in various formats such as long-form, short-form, textual, auditory, visual, formal/professional reporting, citizen reporting.

I recently attended a convergent media panel event (hosted by PRSA St. Louis) which featured Kelsey Proud with St. Louis Public Radio, Caryn Tomer with Techli.com, and Perry Drake (formerly of NYU) now with UMSL.

Proud started off with showing a perfect example of media convergence in a story they’ve just produced on chronic absenteeism in schools across Missouri. In this series, they utilized audio (radio), research/analytics, data, dynamic visuals and text.

Tomer discussed tailoring the story presentation to what their readers want. The staff likes (pertinent) press releases but may also use video, audio, text, social, linkbacks and even gamification to enhance the user experience.

All seemed to agree on how they decide what content makes it. Of course, it has to matter to their audience but beyond that—it’s all about emotion and reactions.

As the late Maya Angelou said:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

How does this affect PR pitching/media relations efforts?

By now, most savvy PR pros know multimedia storytelling is no longer optional—it’s a necessity.

  • We must adapt and be flexible. Stories need to be told in different ways depending on the medium.
  • PR is no longer just accountable for the message—we’re now depended on for choosing the most effective modes and channels.
  • Effective public relations outreach does still include traditional media pitching (newspapers, magazines, television, radio) but may also include social media marketing, blogs, content marketing, web development and analytics, graphic design, SEO, and emerging technologies we aren’t even aware of yet.
  • Don’t be afraid to partner and/or collaborate as necessary. If you are ill-equipped in a certain area, take advantage of the opportunity to learn and expand your skill set!
  • This new media model is dynamic – making it fluid and spontaneous, requiring PR pros to be quick on their feet and adept at managing communities, not just a message.

How do you see multimedia journalism affecting your job?

The 2014 AP Stylebook Is Out – Here’s Why PR Pros Should Pay Attention

May 29, 2014


It’s that time of year again: your AP Stylebook is out of date. That’s because yesterday the 2014 Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law made its spiral-bound way into the world. This year’s edition features about 200 new additions and/or revisions, and adds an entire chapter with “more than 200 religion terms.” [Per what may be this year’s most controversial revision, the AP wrote “over 200 terms,” as the title, but it looks like they decided to toe the old-school “more than” line in their press release.]

Over the past few months, they’ve alerted us to the newest revisions: there was the aforementioned “over/more than” debacle; state names should now be spelled out instead of abbreviated in the body of a story; and it is now “Wal-Mart” in all instances.

We’ve written about media styles (and using AP style in the digital age) before, but it’s worth revisiting why the AP Stylebook is so important for public relations professionals.

Following AP style makes you look like you care

When a reporter clicks on your press release, his or her attention is yours to lose, and typos or incorrectly capitalized words make that release easy to ignore. Here’s what Dan Friedman, a journalist and my dad, has to say about that: “I get so many press releases that they’re like sitting ducks; if you make your press release easy to ignore or delete, it makes my day go that much quicker. But the clean, nicely done press releases I get are so compelling that sometimes I can’t say no.”

Following AP style rules (like most journalists do) makes it clear that you care about the English language, which in turn makes you look smart and shows you care about your readers.

Journalists will be more likely to give you a chance

You want to be known in the newsroom, but not as the flack who send press releases that require heavy editing. Sending clean news releases that adhere to AP style makes journalists much more likely to read your release without feeling itchy inside. That will, in turn, make them more amenable to working with you. That doesn’t mean that one AP-style news release will get you a mention, but consistent good writing can only help your cause.

It will improve your writing

Following AP style will improve your writing both in and out of press releases. Referring to the AP Stylebook as you write means you’ll be paying more attention to your writing, which can only improve it. Familiarizing yourself with AP style and adhering to it means you’ll also be on the lookout in your colleagues’ writing, which will also make you a better editor.

It’s true that I have a soft spot for both grammar and AP Stylebook (they don’t call me @ellisredpen for nothing), but I’ve also been a journalist and am the offspring of two of them, so I know of what I speak.  Remember: friends don’t let friends capitalize job titles when they appear after a person’s name.

How to Use Instagram for B2B Brand Management

May 27, 2014

flickr user Jason Howie under CC BY License

As a visual medium, Instagram is a product-friendly social media platform. But for B2B brands, leveraging such a visual platform is more of a challenge, especially if you offer a service, not a product. Plenty of B2Bs successfully use Instagram for brand management and user engagement, and while it’s not appropriate for every B2B, there are ways to make it work. And since Instagram is now in the top ten social networks, it’s a valuable marketing tool, so here are some tips for maximizing your B2B Instagram potential.

Remember the goal

The goal of putting your brand on Instagram is not to generate sales or leads; the purpose of Instagram is brand engagement, awareness, and management. Using Instagram may not even increase your blog traffic by much – if at all – since links aren’t live. So make sure your goals are in line with the reality of the platform, and that if you’re going to put in the effort, it’s a platform conducive to your brand.

Take compelling images

Don’t go posting grainy, under-lit photos; make sure whoever is in charge of the Instagram account knows how to take and edit a photo. Learn about basic composition, and try out some free photo editing apps like Snapseed or VSCO Cam. If your organization has a photographer on staff, get them to take pictures and send to the person in charge of Instagram.

Share your company culture

If your organization volunteers, goes on team outings, or attends a lot of industry events, Instagram is the place to post shots of the fun in action. Think of it as displaying the human side of your brand and promoting who you are as a community. This is an especially valuable tactic for brands that are very involved in the community and/or host a lot of events. For a B2B brand that has a very active, well-done Instagram, check out Cisco’s account.

Get creative

Think beyond your services to your brand values and your customers. How do your clients benefit from your service, and how do those fit in with brand values? FedEx’s Instagram shows their vehicles around the world delivering packages, but also uses a visually stunning – and sometimes amusing – format. Don’t be afraid to think beyond your brand and hijack a trend or two, like FedEx did with last fall’s hit song “What does the fox say?”

#Hashtag

Just like Twitter, Instagram is no place to skimp on the hashtags. They’re what make you discoverable, since search functions are only by user name or hashtag. Consistent use of relevant hashtags will help your content succeed, but don’t go overboard – stick to five hashtags. Beyond that and you’re annoying or spammy.

Hold contests

If your brand regularly holds contests or giveaways, start moving them to Instagram to grow engagement on that platform. Advertise them on other platforms, but make part of the contest include commenting or liking a photo. This drives engagement and helps build up and retain a base audience.

What Instagram strategies does your B2B use? How has Instagram worked – or not – for you?

Four Quick Summer Productivity Tips

May 22, 2014

Summer is less than a month away, and that means schools will be closing, beach houses will be rented, and swim trunks and flippy floppies will be on as temperatures rise. As we sit at our desk and fantasize about being anywhere but here, like on a boat or at the beach sipping a margarita or just outside enjoying a hike or run, these summer distractions will curb our workplace productivity and creativity. Here are four quick tips to help you avoid the approaching dog days of summer and boost your efficiency at work.

Plan Time Away. Everyone needs to step away from the world of emails, social media, conference calls and projects. When planning to take time away from work, make sure that you have arranged to have back-up while you are out and that everyone you work with or manage knows you will be off the grid and who they can contact during your absence. Even leaving a couple of hours early during the summer to enjoy activities can help with those summer blues; arrive to work early and get everything done so there is no reason why you can’t leave at 3pm.

Prioritize. Your boss is on vacation but you really need approval on this one project, which may leave you feeling stuck and not able to focus on something new, but try to move on to projects that require in-depth thinking. “This may be a time of fewer distractions because of people being out. Capitalize on that by focusing on projects that require strategic thought and planning so you’ll be ready to proceed with your fall proposals at a time when the pressure cooker environment returns. You’ll be glad you took advantage of any lulls.” says Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant.

Keep Working. Many people fall prey to thinking, “The boss is out; I can’t do anything or there is nothing to do.” This especially happens during the summer when lots of your co-workers are also away.  You are still receiving a paycheck so you should still be delivering the same quality and quantity of work.

“If you’re not productive simply because things around the office are slow, use the time to get a jump start on upcoming projects, or to catch up on many lose ends that have accumulated,” says Anita Attridge, a Five O’Clock Club career and executive coach.Just keep in mind that achievements trump hours spent. Just because you’re in the office for the required eight hours, doesn’t mean you’ve done your job.”

“The summer is not a ticket for slacking off,” Taylor agrees, “so don’t do it!”

Take a Walk. Recent studies have shown that taking a walk during the work day helps boost productivity and get the creative juices flowing, and as we all know, “Sitting is the New Smoking,” so it’s not healthy, either. Instead of sitting in that drab conference room with a sweater on because the office doesn’t have controlled AC, take your team meetings outside for a walk around the building.

Not only do walking meetings amplify productivity and creativity, they also boost morale and endorphins. To quote the famous Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.” And don’t forget that by soaking up some rays during your walk you are also getting a natural source of Vitamin D!

In her new book Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, Arianna Huffington explains how walking has helped her navigate the many challenges of life. So don’t feel guilty for leaving your desk to enjoy a beautiful summer day when you can’t be on vacation.

What are your tips for staying productive during the summer months?

Here’s How to Deal with Negative Comments Onilne

May 21, 2014

via McDonald's Twitter

When McDonald’s announced their mascot Happy, an anthropomorphic Happy Meal box with teeth, it quickly became one of the hottest –and most derided – stories of the day for looking “terrifying” rather than cuddly. McDonald’s issued a level-headed response later, and noted that “social media is a great place to have a conversation and express an opinion, but not all comments reflect the broader view.”

McDonald’s later followed that up with these humorous tweets:

Meanwhile at Happy Headquarters… pic.twitter.com/ljcoUIb5PF

— McDonald’s (@McDonalds) May 20, 2014

#CantStopSmiling about the #HappyMeal. pic.twitter.com/hTY6wl69SF — McDonald’s (@McDonalds) May 21, 2014

Clearly, McDonald’s knows how to roll with – and take advantage of – the punches, because when it comes to social media and online comments, you’re all but guaranteed a certain proportion of negative response. How to deal with the negative feedback? The McDonald’s story and their adroit handling of the reaction is the perfect time to revisit (and update) Johna Burke’s top tips for dealing with negative comments online.

1. Stay calm. Don’t let your adrenaline (fight or flight urge) get the best of you and cloud your judgment.

2. Respond publicly. Mirroring the original format is very powerful. If the original announcement was made on Twitter, put out a public Twitter response; same goes with any other platform. Domino’s Pizza’s viral video crisis and response in 2009 is an excellent case study.

3. Be courteous. Offer acknowledgement or an apology, whichever is most appropriate, with sincerity and gratitude for the opportunity to address the matter. If you run into a troll, refrain from calling them out until you’ve done your due diligence on their misdeed or erroneous feedback.

4. Provide resolution. In some cases this means a refund or some other compensation for the problem. In other cases this will mean “agreeing to disagree” on what is fair and what you can do based on the feedback.

5. Reflect. Consider the following options:

a. Why did this person make their grievance public?

b. Was this the only forum available to address the concern?

c. What are the opportunities you have to improve your product or service to strengthen your relationship with all of your customers?

d. Did you resolve the issue?

6. Be thankful. REMEMBER: Negative can be positive. Your public response will demonstrate your commitment to your clientele. Also, when a customer is talking to you, even if it’s negatively, you are still communicating and can improve the situation.

And, as McDonald’s has shown, a little humor can go a long way.

You can check out Mack Collier’s research on responding to negative comments, and of course, it never hurts to update your social media crisis communications plan.

How do you respond to negative comments, and what recommendations do you have for dealing with them?

5 Tips for Concise PR Writing

May 19, 2014

flickr user Nic McPhee under CC BY license

Perhaps the only thing nearly as frustrating as staring at a blank screen when a press release is due is staring at a press release that’s too long by half with nothing that can be cut. Well guess what: there’s always something that can be cut, and doing so will often improve the quality of your work. Brevity is the soul of wit, after all.

So break out your red pen; it’s time to get concise.

Cut the adverbs

Oh, those qualifiers that end in –ly, they add so much flavor to a dry press release, no?

No. Reduce unnecessary words by taking the strikethrough to adverbs in sentences like “Acme is extremely passionate about … ” or “Our incredibly talented team … ”  It’s enough to say you’re passionate or talented without embellishing.  You don’t have to slash and burn every –ly word in sight, but omitting the bulk of them strengthens the few that remain.

Bonus: Cut out more –ly filler like actually, basically, essentially, very and literally.

Avoid redundancies

Redundancies sneak in when we’re not paying attention: “It’s a unique product we’ve never seen before,” “We must ask ourselves the question … “ and “Our opinion still remains …”  If something is unique, it hasn’t been seen before; if it’s asked, it’s a question; something that remains is still there.

Instead, try: “It’s unique,” “We must ask ourselves,” and “Our opinion remains.” Avoiding redundancies requires some vigilance, so it’s worth consulting lists of common redundancies occasionally to remember what to look for.

Omit meaningless phrases

“Due to the fact that for the most part press releases are, for all intents and purposes, official statements for the purpose of providing information, they are still very much important.”

Let’s look at that sentence again with the meaningless phrases removed:

“Due to the fact that for the most part press releases are, for all intents and purposes, official statements for the purpose of providing information, they are still very much important.” Easily rephrased into “Press releases are official statements that provide information, and are still important.”

Meaningless phrases seem to slip right in, sometimes because we think they beef things up or lend authority, but this isn’t the case. Watch your word count dwindle when you excise phrases like these.

Get rid of “there”

“There” is not a meaningful word unless you’re pointing to a specific place. Sentences like “There are thousands of satisfied Acme customers” should read “Acme has thousands of satisfied customers” or “Thousands of Acme customers are satisfied.” There are, there is, and there were are all easy fixes for more concise copy.

Fewer prepositions

Fewer prepositions= fewer phrases = more straightforward sentences. “The idea behind our product is engagement with the community across multiple platforms” has three conjunctions: behind, with, and across. You can easily revise to: “Our product’s purpose is multi-platform community engagement.”

Do you have any tips for staying concise, or pet peeves that get you every time?

Set Your Brand Apart: Little Extras Make a Big Difference in Customer Retention

May 15, 2014

The little things add up

Here’s a little dose of reality: no one ever meets the expectations of their customers. You can exceed those needs or your can fall short, and it’s often the little things that add up to make a big difference.

The PRSA Counselors Academy Spring Conference was held last week, May 4-6, in Key West, Florida. Paula Whittington, VP of agency relations at BurrellesLuce, attended Stan Phelps’s keynote. Phelps, who is the founder of 9 INCH Marketing and the author of the popular Goldfish Trilogy (recently completed with What’s Your Golden Goldfish), discussed all the ways to make the little things add up in your favor to strengthen retention rates.

Phelps pointed out some brands that have good customer retention, like Wells Fargo, which obtains 80 percent of their business from current customers because they frequently upsell more products, making their clients less likely to leave. Another heavyweight in retention and acquisition is Southwest Airlines. During a time when airlines started charging for bags and continuing to charge fees for ticket changes, Southwest advertised free checked bags and no change fees. Finally there’s Zappos, which invests back in its customer experience with free shipping, returns for up to a year, and an easy exchange policy.

Differentiation is about the little things; while 80 percent of companies believe they provide a superior experience, only 8 percent of their customers agree. Here are a few tactics – and real-world examples –  from Phelps for setting your brand apart.

The Throw-In/ Add-on: Throw in something small but restorative to really ramp up customer experience. DoubleTree Hotels offers warm, fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies that make their guests feel welcome.

Sampling: This is the classic ice cream shop tactic, but you can take it to the next level like Izzy’s Ice Cream, which gifts a free scoop of a new flavor to try, and will also tweet or text when a customer’s favorite flavor arrives. Personalization and generosity go a long way in customer acquisition and retention.

First/last impressions: Enhance a client’s experience with first and last impressions. They’re the most lasting and visceral, so don’t overlook them. The Hard Rock Hotel offers Fender guitars and headphones in the rooms, as well as a TV channel featuring guitar lessons.

Pay it forward: Offer to do something nice for people, even if it means doing something for free. Unemployed, but really need your suit cleaned? Plaza Cleaners in Portland, Oregon will clean that suit for free. And Discount Tire will repair a flat tire for nothing. Paying it forward creates goodwill to create loyal future customers.

Add on a service: Like paying it forward, you can also create goodwill by providing more than just a basic service, like Safelite AutoGlass. Not only do they send you a picture of the technician coming to repair your windshield, but they’ll clean and vacuum your car during the ten minutes it takes for the windshield epoxy to harden and cure.

Follow Up: Handwritten thank you notes always go a long way. But it’s easy for follow-ups to slip through the cracks when something goes wrong, and that’s the most vital time to make an overture. Nurse Next Door, a home care service, does this with humble pie: if there’s a mistake, the company owns up to it, and delivers a fresh baked apple pie as an apology. Nurse Next Door estimates that the $1,500 they spend on pies annually saves them about $100,000 in business retention.

At the very least, think of Walt Disney, who in 1957 decided to have a parade in Disneyland every day in December. This cost him the modern-day equivalent of $4 million, and his financial advisors were against the idea, but daily parades survive to this day, the most frequently asked question at Disneyland is “What time does the parade start?”

Tactics that set your brand apart should be a signature product or service of your brand, and really make you different. It might cost you money, but if done right, the benefits will be more of an investment than a cost.

How to Host a Successful Twitter Chat

May 12, 2014

#Hashtag on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon

Twitter chats are great tools for motivating your Twitter-using audience to interact, and if you’re lucky, even get your hashtag trending for a bit. But as we saw with J.P. Morgan, Mark Emmert (president of the NCAA), and most recently, Roger Goodell (commissioner of the NFL), Twitter chats don’t always turn into the intellectually stimulating, informative fora marketing and public relations pros hope they’ll become.

So here are some ways to host a Twitter chat that doesn’t turn into a complete disaster.

Don’t be the subject of controversy

This tip may seem limiting since everything can be controversial, but if your organization or a prominent person therein is embroiled in scandal, controversy, or a communications crisis, it’s probably not a great time to host a Twitter chat. Of course, it’s rare that an organization’s image is squeaky clean, and snarky tweeters can always find something to rag on, but use good judgment. Also, you probably don’t want to hold a Twitter chat if your company was one of the harbingers of the banking collapse; people tend to have long memories on that one. Conveying your message in 140 characters is rarely easy, and complex issues should be addressed on a medium conducive to clear two-way communications.

Go in with the right expectations

Twitter chats will not sell more product, and they probably won’t create new customers; Twittter chats are tools for relationship and brand management. So don’t go in expecting to convert the coveted digital natives in one overarching hashtag. Instead, use your Twitter chat as a sort of real-time customer service help line and helpful resource. As such, tone down brand messaging and try to provide real answers to appropriate questions. Being a good resource of information and creating a communication vehicle to connect with potential customers is an asset in your marketing arsenal.

It’s OK to be funny

Chances are you and your staff can anticipate some of the snarkier questions you might get. So for the questions that aren’t outright rude or outrageous, have some witty but polite answers ready. Giving your brand a sense of humor can do wonders for fostering goodwill with your brand advocates. Taco Bell has proven to be a good example of wit and many millennials covet the Taco Bell RT. That said …

Don’t give in to the badvocates and trolls

It’s also OK to ignore the badvocates and trolls and focus on the positive, productive questions you’re getting. If your organization is high profile, it’s possible that some of the rude, ridiculous, and clever tweets will find their way onto online news sites.  That’s the nature of the Twitter chat beast, so …

Have your response plan ready

You’re probably going to get at least a few snarky tweets, and that’s okay – it’s the cost of doing Twitter chat business. Hopefully, your chat will go smoothly, but have a response plan in place just in case things take an undesirable turn.

Remember the payoffs

At this point, thinking about a Twitter chat may seem like more trouble than it’s worth, but remember, there are benefits to hosting a Twitter chat. Not only will it help you connect with your brand advocates (a vital aspect of brand management) on a group and individual level, but you can use it to share knowledge about your brand, product and common interests. It’s also a great time to promote upcoming events, giveaways, sponsorships, and shine a spotlight on creative people in your organization. Some of our favorite PR Twitter chats include, in no specific order, #prstudchat, #measurepr, #blogchat, #commschat, and #PRprochat.

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