Fresh Ideas from BurrellesLuce

Syndicate content
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: 1 hour 47 min ago

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.

Your Public Relations Career May Start With a Post-Grad Internship

May 8, 2014

flickr user Ian Norman under CC BY license

Hats off to those PR students who recently graduated, and to those who are about to walk—in your commencement ceremony and into the next chapter of your lives!

You are likely now focused on the job search.  Many grads will quickly realize that they don’t have what it takes to get that entry-level job. Yes, I know entry-level would seem to indicate just that—no experience required, but in PR (and some other industries as well) things work a bit differently.  Most entry-level public relations jobs ask for at least one year of experience. In some cases, they may also ask for additional skills such as graphic design, publication layout, web coding—ones that are historically outside the realm of traditional PR or summer internships. While it can seem frustrating that to get work experience you need work experience, there is a way to get that: the post-graduate internship.

Through various touch points, including being professional adviser to PRSSA-SE over the past few years (and previously PRSA-St. Louis’ PRSSA liaison), I have had occasion to talk with students, graduates, new pros, faculty and hiring professionals.  Post-grad internships seem to be a trend so I did a little digging, and to my surprise, found it wasn’t exactly a new trend.

I stumbled upon a post from 2009 on PR Channel’s (now abandoned)  blog, which quoted Meg Carosello (nee Fullenkamp), who heads up PR at Captiva Marketing in St. Louis, where she said, even if you’ve graduated without internship experience, it’s not too late.

First, don’t be afraid to do a post-grad internship. My first internship was after graduation at Opera Theatre of St. Louis. It was for 2 months, not much pay, but I learned so much and got to work with major editors at publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Dallas Morning News and more! This internship gave me valuable experience that made me more attractive to employers. Secondly, don’t be afraid to do more than one post-grad internship. After my time was over at Opera Theatre, I landed a position as an intern in the marketing communications group at Fleishman Hillard. I had applied at FH twice before and didn’t even get an interview. My internship at Opera Theatre made me extremely attractive on paper and I landed the job. While my six months at FH were crazy, it was great having such a large agency on my resume.”

I reached out to Meg to see how she felt about that quote today (and to ask permission to use it). She noted the PR world has changed a lot in the past several years and by adding web and digital marketing skills, she’s not only keeping relevant but it has made her a much better resource for her clients. She said, “By taking chances on something new and continuing to learn something new every day I have found my niche even though it was not necessarily my original plan when I graduated and I am much happier now because of it.”

As if to punctuate the point, I found a recent post by Nicole Bersani, who had plenty of undergrad experience between a couple internships and her work for ImPRessions (Ohio University’s nationally-affiliated student-run firm) but still chose to take another internship after graduation. She did this to get her foot in the door at a globally recognized agency, and successfully leveraged that internship into a full-time job!

Whether you’ve been told you need additional experience, want to check-out a new city (or country), or are simply trying figure out what you want to do, there are plenty of reasons to take a post-grad internship. You should expect to be paid, be committed to the job that you accept, and be willing to work beyond “normal” hours. Be inquisitive. Be open to all opportunities.

Most of all, don’t feel bad if this is what you need to do. The job title doesn’t matter. What matters is that you are moving toward your next goal—which is to find a job that is satisfying.

Which Celebrity is Your PR Spirit Animal?

May 5, 2014

Where do you fit in in the public relations animal kingdom? Which animal, and its celebrity equivalent, should be the spirit guide of your practice? We break down some of the PR’s most prominent spirit animals, then pair them with a celebrity for extra fun and clarification.

Georges Biard via Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-3.0

The Honey Badger – Brad Pitt

Whatever the PR equivalent is of eating a live cobra, honey badger does it, and he don’t care. Honey badger goes in and gets what he wants, even if he has to get stung by a thousand bees to do it. Honey badger PR pro is an ace at his job, and he don’t care about rumors or personal grooming norms. Why? Because honey badger is one of the biggest stars of the industry, so not only does honey badger not care – honey badger don’t have to care.




Sam Heughan, photo via Starz

The Groundhog – Sam Heughan

You probably know or know of a PR groundhog: not on the greater radar, but is about to get his day in the sun, shadow or not. Groundhogs do quality work for projects large and small, always putting in the hours necessary for a project to succeed. PR groundhogs have recognition in their niche, which bolsters their good reputation. But their time for spring is right around the corner; a lot of people are about to pay attention to the groundhog once it signs on to a visible new project. It doesn’t hurt if that project is the TV adaptation of a bestselling book series featuring men in kilts.




Tilda Swinton by flickr user aphrodite-in-nyc under CC BY

The Chameleon – Tilda Swinton

There may not be a public relations equivalent for being a woman who plays a man who turns into a woman, but chameleons don’t need one. Calls for tough and quirky projects go straight to them, and that’s the way they like it; chameleons like expanding their horizons, filling different roles, and thinking outside the box. Not everyone “gets” chameleons, but almost everyone can agree they do profound – and sometimes confounding – work.





Oprah Winfrey, via flickr user RubyGoes, cropped from original, under CCBy license

The Praying Mantis – Oprah Winfrey

The ultimate content marketer, a praying mantis can turn its head 180 degrees, so it’s serious about garnering full coverage in every type of media. A praying mantis is serious about getting out their message they’d print their own magazine and put themselves on the cover every month.  A formidable hunter always armed and ready with a plan, a few million Twitter followers, and the biggest journalist Rolodex in the class, a praying mantis can reach an audience wherever they are.




Tom Cruise, MTV Live Via Wikimedia Commons CCBYSA 2.0

The Dolphin – Tom Cruise

Dolphins are the power networkers because they’re extroverted, passionate, and work a crowd. You’ll find dolphins delivering navel/blowhole-gazing keynotes on abstract concepts and the future. They may or may not use a couch to emphasize their point.











Peter Dinklange, by flickr user Gage Skidmore under CCBY license

The Panda – Peter Dinklage

Everyone loves a panda. The critical darlings of the PR and animal kingdoms can do no wrong no matter how bad their British accent is. Whenever you run into them, they’re always working on a bigger, better, or worthier cause. Every campaign, every canned response, every tweet seems to hit just the right note.




Mindy Kaling by NoHo Damon via Wikimedia Commons CCBYSA2.o0

The Ant – Mindy Kaling

Ants are tough PR pros. Whip-smart and hard-working, ants may not fit the stereotypical image of their industry, and they use that to their advantage by fighting those stereotypes with determination, skill, and crazy strength. But ants are good – really good, and if people want to judge them, whatever, because while they’re out being all judgey, oops! There goes another rubber tree plant.

5 Ways to Improve Your PR Writing With Explanatory Journalism

May 1, 2014

Explanatory journalism is very popular right now, but it isn’t new; explanatory articles like “The Top 5 Things You Need to Know About ___” really jibe with the digital age, but the Pulitzer Prize Committee started awarding prizes for explanatory journalism back in 1985.

Explanatory journalism is, to use Digiday’s definition, a form of reporting that attempts to present nuanced, ongoing news stories in a more accessible manner. Basically, it’s explaining complicated topics in a straightforward, easy-to-understand way.

So how can that help you in your daily PR writing?

Roy Peter Clark at Poynter took a look at many explanatory pieces and determined the most common and effective strategies for good explanatory journalism, strategies you can apply in your press releases, pitches, and general copy to make your information more understandable to journalists and your audience. Here are some of Clark’s most relevant tips:

Envision the general audience

This is basically a rewording of the PR truism “know your audience.”  Envision your reader: what do they want to know, what context do they already have, and what do they care about, then frame your content around that. It’s a good exercise to do for every pitch or press release you send.

Don’t clutter leads

Yes, in a press release we’re “supposed to” include all the relevant information in the first sentence. But (good) sentences are finite; cramming in every single tidbit into one sentence is going to make it confusing and unreadable. Choose the most relevant information – not all the relevant information.

Also, don’t bury the lead in the clutter of extraneous information. Lead with the most salient bit first – don’t let it get lost in the shuffle.

Slow down the pace of information

Picture your pace of information like a gradual incline, not a vertical spike. Given time and space constraints, it’s easy to give into the desire to dump in all your information and run, but that’s a GIGO approach that won’t pay off.

Slowing down the information pace does not mean slowing down your writing; it means introducing facts and concepts one at a time and triaging what’s really necessary. It shouldn’t make your writing longer; it should make it clearer, more succinct, and easier to read and comprehend.

Develop a chronology

Something that can help with pacing is to envision your press release like a chain of events. Just as the groundwork must be laid for an action and its consequences, establish what the reader must learn in the first sentence in order to understand what comes next. This chronology will help your flow and increase the reader’s comprehension.

Tell it to “Mom” (or “Dad”)

You may think that your topic speaks for itself, but that is often not the case. What can seem straightforward and obvious to you will not seem that way to a lot of other people. So pretend your mom or dad is going to be reading your press release or pitch; would they understand your main points? Would they actually understand what the product is for or what you’re announcing? This is also a good exercise in slowing the pace of your information.

Finally, remember this gem from Clark: “When writers face and master the challenge of meeting the reader’s needs, they practice one of the truest and purest forms of journalism.”

It’s In the Stars: Your Public Relations Horoscope

Apr 28, 2014

by NASA Goddard Space Center on flickr under CC BY

In lieu of a crystal ball, we’ve consulted the BurrellesLuce “stars” to share what the month of May may have in store for you.

Find your birth month below and share the link with your peers so you’re all “aligned” in May.

January

This is the month to buckle down and start figuring out just what the heck people mean by social media ROI (hint: it’s sort of a misnomer. ROI is a financial figure) and what your metrics and methods are or should be.

February

Knowledge of the recent changes in the AP Stylebook – and an appropriate opinion thereof – can score points in your favor. A journalist who doesn’t have to go in and replace state abbreviations with full state names is a happy journalist.

March

You might be attending a panel, conference, or webinar coming up this month, and you’re in the mood to learn, so if someone tells you something basic like “know your audience” one more time, you might feel the need to deck them with your iPad. But stay patient and listen closely; there are always new things to learn, and buried in the repeated tropes and truisms of the trade will be a piece of advice that could really elevate your practice.

April

This is your month to revamp your social media swagger and take a broom to all your profiles and tinker with SEO and your images. Don’t go overboard with your makeover efforts, though – if you change too much, you’ll alienate a few key brand advocates.

May

You’ve got a lot of prep to do for a looming event or deadline, so hop to it this month. Sit down in a quiet place, put on your mood music, and get to work. But don’t forget to make time to party like you’re one year older.

June

You may be a networking master or shudder at the mere mention of networking, but either way, it’s the month to get yourself out there, so do your awesome but in-a-lull self a favor and attend a couple networking functions this month.

July
Focus on getting through your ever-growing to-do list.  It’s time to change up your productivity habits. Maximize your spring fever by taking some work outside. You’ll feel energized and reap the professional rewards.

August

Get back in touch with an old professional acquaintance this month. You may get not only an entertaining, nostalgic lunch or phone call, but also the chance to help or be helped by your friend. S/he may even let slip a key piece of industry gossip that will shed new light on things.

September

The extra work from clients and colleagues getting ready for summer vacation may be harshing your to-do list mellow, but a little extra planning and a happy hour or two will keep you on top of it. If you’re going on holiday take a cue and start planning ahead. If you’re not getting out of dodge for a few days, maybe you should, and if you can’t, consider a one- or two-day staycation.

October

Man, all these new apps and social media platforms you can barely keep track of make you feel old. So in May, put a little special time in to personal and professional self-improvement. Take a few minutes to find out what all that chatter about SnapChat is about, or learn just what the heck WeChat is anyway.

November

Remember that crisis communications plan you had? Yeah, it’s time to dust that off and review it again. If you just implemented a new or updated plan, consider trotting it out for a dress rehearsal. Don’t brush aside that absolute worst case scenario that has a miniscule chance of ever occurring – if you can think it, it can happen, unless it involves Godzilla (but maybe zombies; that could happen).

December

It might seem like a lot of people are asking you for things. So this month focus on selectively saying no. Some people might not take your polite and reasonable “no” very well, but that’s their problem, not yours. Just don’t get overzealous with your refusals; there are some things that just can’t be refused.

How to Make the Most of Your Public Relations Intern

Apr 24, 2014

I’ve been on both sides of the internship coin: I’ve been an intern, and I’ve been one of the people on a team responsible for an intern. Since we talked about making the most of a PR internship earlier this week, let’s talk about the best ways to manage an intern to make the most of the experience for both of you.

Know what you need your intern to do

Before your intern shows up, take a few minutes to write an outline of his or her duties. What do you want them to do, and what did they show interest in learning? Most interns are eager from the outset, so don’t let that eagerness fade; providing them with a list of things for them to do each day or week keeps them busy, but don’t forget to schedule in some time for them to observe you or other office mates in action, so they feel like they’re participating and learning.

Invest time up front

I was put “in charge of the intern” a few times when I worked as an editor at a magazine, and it seemed like of a chore, since it ate into time I spent on my assignments. But I realized that in the past, we had a hard time making the most of the talented interns we had coming in because with our team of only three editors, they didn’t get the proper training. As a result, they either didn’t know how to do what we needed them to do, or weren’t given enough direction to be meaningfully productive.

Once we started investing time in ensuring that interns were trained as thoroughly as possible, especially in the first week, we started getting usable content and great editorial suggestions from our interns, thus lightening the load for all of us. If you only have a day for training, use that day as best you can, but consider breaking up the training into a few hours every day of their first week. That gives you both the opportunity to ask and answer questions and for both of you to feel the intern is a part of the team.

Be inclusive

Invite your intern out with your group of work friends occasionally, or ask them to join you while you eat in the break room. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking the intern will harsh your group vibe or that it’s a babysitting job; though college interns are young, they aren’t children, and should be able to engage meaningfully with you and your colleagues. Don’t underestimate the value of reverse mentoring with a digital native.

Even taking a few minutes to stop by their desk every few days helps both of you feel like you’re on the same team. Try to be consistent with your interactions, so that communication doesn’t dwindle and interns don’t feel isolated.

Offer perspective

Grunt work makes up a significant portion of the internship experience, and while that’s just how it is in most places, the reality doesn’t always jibe with an intern’s expectations. So when you’re assigning an intern tasks that may not be the most challenging, be sure to outline how it contributes to overall goals and why it matters. That may not make the work more exciting for the intern, but it gives them a sense of being part of the bigger picture.

Provide feedback

Providing an intern with feedback can improve both your lives: your intern gets more learning out of the work experience and the chance to improve his or her work, and they produce progressively better work for you as the internship goes on.  It’s also part of fostering the next wave of new colleagues, employees, and industry influencers.

If you’re going to invest the time to interview, create a budget, and have new people come through your department, you should make sure there is a mutual benefit to all parties involved, and remember to always be open to the possibility of finding great future recruits in this pool of eager young interns.

How to Get the Most Out of Your Public Relations Internship

Apr 21, 2014

After my junior year at college, I had an internship at a film production company. It was an excellent learning experience, in that I learned a lot about both film production and the way the office world works. Looking back seven years later, there are a lot of things I wish I’d prepared for and known to make the most of my time there, lessons that can be applied to aspiring PR pros who might be stepping into a PR internship this summer.

Write a lot

Writing is a pretty critical skill in PR, and the only way to improve is to keep writing. If your organization has a blog, write for it. Depending on your organization, you may only get to post once a week, or even less often, so practice delivering multiple pieces of content per week by keeping your own blog. While you may not be sending out your own pitch emails, practice drafting them anyway and ask someone to provide feedback.

You should also become familiar with the concept of a corporate style guide and practice writing in accordance with it. Since most corporate style guides are based upon  a media style guide, familiarize yourself with the most important ones.

Ask questions

Lots of them. Don’t understand what your manager or co-worker asked you to do? Clarify. Need help? Ask. Don’t worry about looking stupid (you won’t) – remind yourself that not asking leads to mistakes down the road. Here are some good questions to ask during the interview or on the job.

Also, ask colleagues and your manager about what they’re doing – you’re there to learn, after all, and there’s only so much you can learn by just observing. Asking questions not only gives you a cache of knowledge for the future, it makes you more of an active participant in the organization. If you feel like your office mates aren’t available for questions on a daily basis, write down your questions and ask for a small chunk of time – coffee, lunch, or just a meeting – when you can ask those questions. Just don’t be afraid to ask for that time.

Do the grunt work

Being an intern generally doesn’t involve a lot of intellectually stimulating work – most of the time, it involves a lot of tedious – okay, boring – but necessary work. Don’t fall victim to the “I didn’t give up my whole summer just to file papers and do the Starbucks run” line of thinking. Yes, you did “give up” your summer for that (newsflash: once you graduate, the concept of summer all but evaporates), but to get the knowledge you came for, you need to look beyond the short-term boredom of a menial task to the greater context of what’s going on around you.

What are the workflow processes like? Which aspects of other people’s jobs do you find most interesting? How do things function outside of the classroom? How are your office mates communicating with journalists and audiences? How are they responding to praise, complaints, or crises? Just because you’re doing some grunt work doesn’t mean there’s nothing to learn.

Don’t get caught doing nothing

If you finish your work early, don’t sit around waiting for someone to give you more. Ask your manager or office mate what you can help with, or, even better, if you see that some work you think needs to be done, run it by your manager with a quick, “It looks like ____ needs to be done. Is that something I can help work on?” That shows you not only take initiative, but also ensures that you’re not creating more work down the line by doing something incorrectly or that doesn’t actually need to be done.

Manage your brand

It might be tempting to share with your office mates your social experiences, but resist that temptation. You want to be known as the professional intern, not the party intern. Remember that you are building and managing your personal brand with every person with whom you come into contact.

Know you know nothing

That’s not to say you should go in forgetting everything you know, but that you should go in with an open mind with a very eager willingness to learn. The actual practice of PR will probably be different than what you imagined it to be, so go with the flow and don’t get flustered when you encounter unknown territory – that’s what internships are all about.

Crunching the Numbers: How to Tie PR and Sales

Apr 17, 2014

Photo by PRNews

The PRNews PR Measurement Conference in Washington, D.C. earlier this month provided a platform for the industry’s measurement experts to share their knowledge and strategies. Yesterday, we wrote about Mark Stouse’s recommendations for thinking like a CEO to link PR efforts with sales numbers. Today we cover the second half of the presentation, in which Angela Jeffrey, managing director U.S. at Salience Insight, brought metrics and formulas to help realize those PR-sales metric connections. If you want to DIY and need an easy formula for calculating ROI and cost efficiency, here are the formulas Jeffrey explained.

ROI=Payback-Investment/Investment*100
Payback = incremental revenue
Investment = what you put into it [either in time (calculated as dollars per hour) or in dollars]

Here is a simpler formula for determining the correlation between ROI and PR. It is not a valid ROI but is valid a contribution toward it.

Revenue Event= (Payback-Investment)

Where payback is incremental revenue and investment is what you put into it.

To calculate cost efficiency metrics by your activities, use:

Cost-per-impressions (Tweets, Fans, Website Visits)
* Add up target impressions
* Divide campaign costs by impressions
* Results: Cost for one person to see your item

You can use the results for a specific survey or campaign to compare cost against the total of progress seen.

Cost-per-awareness (Attitude, Understand, Preference or Loyalty Uplift)
* Gather percent of uplift in survey scores
* Divide campaign cost by percent gain
* Result: Cost of percent gain in survey results

When it comes to measuring your web analytics, do your homework first.  Understand Google Analytics and be able to create goals and funnels. Having those goals and funnels in place actually helps you determine what you want your outcome to be. Most of us do not usually get the opportunity to influence sales. So where you can, define macro and micro goals.

An example of this was developed by Avinash Kaushik, where he created a formula or assigning dollar results to micro goals, which can show progress against macro goals, and can be established with a bit of internal research and agreement with management. An example of a micro goal would be a “contact me” sign-up form, and a macro goal would be a $500 sale or donation garnered from that signup form. So if it took ten “contact me” sign-ups for one sale or donation, that would mean that each sign up cost $50.

Once you have your goals established, set up a goal funnel to compare your web analytics with the channels.  Track visits and dollars spent from each channel and divide the revenue by number of visits from each platform to compare values-per-visit.

If you use a competitive share of voice, which is weighted tonality, to link outcomes, you can see the correlations. But earned media coverage analysis must include qualitative measures like message, prominence, or dominance, as well as quantitative measures like number of items or impressions.

Ultimately, successfully measuring the link between public relations and sales means a lot of math and careful analysis, but streamlining your processes and orienting them toward measurement will lead to reliable data that gives you deeper insight into your PR efforts. How are you tying your ROI & Outcomes/Outputs to your PR and Sales activities? Which measures give you the most insight?

Think Like a CEO: Measuring the Link Between PR and Sales

Apr 16, 2014

Photo by PRNews

How do you measure the link between PR and sales and drive brand revenue and engagement?

Last week I attended the PRNews Measurement Conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The annual conference brings together the most spirited group of measurement experts.

The session started off with its first speaker, Mark Stouse (Twitter: @markstouse), VP Global Connect at BMC Software. He stated that there are three big questions that every CEO wants the answer to, not just from the sales leaders or marketers but from everyone within the organization, including PR practitioners:

1. How well are you performing in your area of business?

2. How well are you leveraging the resources you already have?

3. What contributions are you making to the organization?

What the CEO or CFO of your organization cares about the most is revenue, margin and cash-flow. In order to make your way into a position of delivering value to the CEO and answer those three questions, you have to start thinking like a CEO. CEOs don’t care about possibilities, they care about probabilities; nor do CEOs care about how creative something is, they care about if it actually works. So, when CEOs talk about cause and effect, they want to see correlation (at a minimum), and preferably, causality.

Your c-suite expects you to understand what you do so well that you have the necessary data in-hand and are confident enough to present this data at any time. If you cannot predict what the outcome of your PR is going to be, then a CEO may see your success as luck, whereas if you’re able to use your data to predict an outcome, that would show skill. Showing the relationship between  public relations and sales through data-driven correlation and causality is critical to obtaining executive buy-in.

Stouse recommends four key steps to success:

1. Think like a CEO

2. Understand your functional performance
3. Understand what ROI really is
4. Connect the dots with sales productivity

Another way to tie your PR measurements and metrics to sales is to support the three legs of sales productivity (below) and to tie investment to revenue, margin and cash-flow.

1. Demand generation
2. Deal expansion (sale to the same person)
3. Sales velocity (close the deal quickly)

According to Stouse, we are all in sales. We have to sell to people on the outside and on the inside. It redefines the marketing mix model.

If you tie into the numbers and the money you will be credible and get that seat at the table.

Check back tomorrow for mathematical insights from the session’s second presenter, Angela Jeffrey.

Heels vs. Flats: The Qualitative Metrics Your Measurement Might Be Missing

Apr 14, 2014

Heels vs. flats; of course there’s a difference.

No, this isn’t a misdirected post intended for 5inchandup; this is very much about media analysis and intended for those of you who rely on technology alone to gain insights from your news coverage.

How are shoes relevant? Because if you rely on software alone to tell the story of your media results, you’re potentially sawing off the branch you’re sitting on – the branch needed to demonstrate the value of your media relations efforts to your organization.

You see, I love my Jawbone Up Band and app, which tracks fitness, food, and sleep. It provides me a baseline to understand how active or sedentary I am day to day. On any given day I wear heels or flats – some days both. There’s no way to log this into my app, but I feel the difference in my legs and shoulders depending on the weight of my computer and whether I’m wearing flats or heels. My app consistently tells me the number of steps and distance I’ve traveled, but without the ability to qualitatively alert my device to the external factors (heel height, weight of computer bag, flat or hilly terrain), the app is limited to what true insights I can gain.

The same goes for your media coverage.

All media coverage is NOT created equal. Often times an outlet is a primary sorting field for many organizations, but depending on the goal, a hyper-local outlet could be far more influential based on the measurable objective. Example: An organization has a production plant in Bisbee Arizona. The media relations department has a goal to reduce talent acquisition costs by 10 percent for the fiscal year. This includes recruiting more local talent who do not require relocation services. In this example, it’s easy to understand that The Bisbee Observer, the town’s weekly newspaper, would be far more critical to achieving the goal than, say, The Arizona Republic. Unless your goals are aligned with your efforts, it is nearly impossible to show anything more than activity.

One common misconception in the marketplace is that public relations practitioners have to settle for the metrics provided by their software because they either have no extra time to drill into the results qualitatively, or it’s too expensive. That’s simply not true. In order to better understand if you are making progress toward achieving your goals (and ultimately saving money on efforts that are not supporting the end goal), you can work with a random sample of your coverage to glean real insights.

Granted, if you are reporting on only a sample (i.e. Google Alerts) of data, the challenge becomes more problematic. Without a larger purview  your ”sample” could be very limited and as a result, your insights and ability to project future actions and insights is equally as limited. The ”cost” of not doing deeper analysis could be much more costly to your organization if you continue down a path that is not garnering the results needed to achieve your goals.

While I’m not a digital native, I love my technology. I wear it, carry it and I’m lost without it should a battery need charging. At the end of the day there are other factors that let me know my Up Band is really working, and those results are reflected on the scale, in blood pressure results, and in overall well-being, things which my device alone cannot provide.  There’s no silver bullet to health and without adding insights to the fast metrics available, there’s no silver bullet to bettering your communication efforts as they relate to supporting your organization.

Inside the Minds of Journalists: Tips and Insights From the Media

Apr 10, 2014

film screenshot by unknown, in public domain via Wikimedia Commons

In the modern era of newsrooms, journalists are trying to get out more stories, capture distracted audiences, and work within a number of financial constraints. In working with journalists, public relations practitioners in turn face more competition for coverage, an array of preferred approaches for working with journalists, and the challenge to provide more tailored pitches to reach a wider swath of audiences.

On April 1, PRSA New Jersey held a Meet the Media event on the future of journalism. Our VP of Agency Relations, Colleen Flood, attended the event, which featured a panel of five journalists who answered questions about their decisions, challenges, and relationships with public relations pros.

The panelists were Geoff Mulvihill of the Associated Press; Terrence Dopp of Bloomberg; Michelle LaRoche of The Wall Street Journal; Doug Doyle of WBGO radio; John Ensslin of The Record; and Walt Kane of News 12 New Jersey.

Moderator Ken Hunter, president and chief strategist at The PowerStation and membership chair of PRSA New Jersey, asked one of the most PR-centered questions toward the end of the event: When it comes to relationships with PR pros, what suggestions did the panelists have for PR pros to get to know journalists without being intrusive?

Mulvihill said simply to make sure your expert is truly an expert. Kane elaborated that is important that public relations practitioners know the topics on which he reports, and that the experts he interviews act like experts; what he doesn’t want to hear from people he interviews is “Go to my website” or “Read my book.”

Dopp wants PR pros to give him a strong reason why he should care about your expert, and reiterated Kane’s stance that the PR pro must know what he reports on. Ensslin said that it’s ideal to establish a relationship with the reporter before a breaking story, and Doyle added that the key is to be timely and know how your expert can connect with a story and why the news organization would run topic or expert.

When asked about what reporters feel is lacking on a corporate website, and how often the panelists would visit a corporate website, Kane remarked that media contact information is often difficult to find. Mulvihill added that many websites are also missing headquarters locations, and that information is not always up to date.

Hunter also asked whether it’s important to get a story first or to get it right. All panelists agreed that getting it right is vital. And while they all understand what it feels like to get incorrect information and have to issue a correction, Dopp noted that if the same source repeatedly provides incorrect information, trust is quickly lost, so it’s vital not only to the story, but to your relationship with journalists, to always double-check your facts.

The topic then turned to news cycle, when Hunter asked how a journalist knows a story has run its course. Ensslin looks at whether the story has legs – if every week there’s new information, they need to cover it. Doyle puts himself in the readers’ shoes, and when he selects stories he tries to think about what readers are thinking that day, though if there’s a breaking news story, that all goes out the window. These insights provided a few great takeaways – making sure any pitch is relevant and timely to the publication’s readers, and examining whether you or your expert can provide new information to give a story more legs.

What other methods have you found to be effective for working with journalists? How do you foster balanced relationships with journalists?

Connect with Us

  • facebook
  • twitter
  • linkedin
  • rss
  • Google+
  • YouTube

BurrellesLuce Newsletter: