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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.
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Measurement Week Interviews: David Rockland

Sep 15, 2014

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

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

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

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

What is your proudest measurement moment?

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

What is your most important piece of measurement advice?

Set goals first.

What’s the most common measurement mistake you encounter?

Not setting goals first.

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

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

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

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

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

Measurement Week Interviews: Barry Leggetter

Sep 11, 2014

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

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

Without further ado, let’s hear from Leggetter.

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

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

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

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

What was your proudest measurement moment?

Coming up with the idea that became the Barcelona Principles!

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

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

What is your most important piece of measurement advice?

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

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

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

What is the most common measurement mistake you encounter?

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

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

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

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

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

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

AMEC’s challenge is to be relevant.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image courtesy of AMEC

Three Updates to Journalism Ethics PR Pros Should Care About

Sep 10, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sep 8, 2014

flickr user marek.sotak under CC BY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


In the Digital Age, What Is Private?

Sep 4, 2014

flickr user FutUndBeidl under CC BY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five Back-to-School Tips for Public Relations Students

Sep 2, 2014

flickr user katerha under CC BY

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Aug 28, 2014

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

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

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

Send it early

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

Use it for content feedback

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

Source other content

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

Produce it as a team

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

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

How to Re-Engage With Your Work

Aug 27, 2014

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

Why re-engage?

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

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

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

Take breaks

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

Shorten meetings

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

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

Recognize your talents and utilize them

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

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

Be willing to break your non-engaged habit

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

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

How do you get engaged with your work?


Your Media Interview Worksheet

Aug 25, 2014

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

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

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

You can download the worksheet from our resource center.

Five Grammar Mistakes to Stop Making Now

Aug 21, 2014

flickr user Nic McPhee, CC BY license

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

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


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


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


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

Punctuation and quotation marks

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

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

Here are some clarifying examples:

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

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

Would of/would have/had

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aug 20, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

PR Etiquette for Content Marketing

Aug 18, 2014

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

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

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

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

Always ask permission to repost

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

Correctly attribute images

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

Don’t plagiarize

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

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

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

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

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

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

Uncited quotation – quoting a source but not citing its author

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

Take a Happy Break: Three Videos to Make You Smile

Aug 14, 2014

flickr user Neal Fowler, CC BY licence

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

For a laugh

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

For a smile

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

For regaining faith in humanity

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

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

4 Essential Components of a Successful Measurement Strategy

Aug 13, 2014

flickr user Randen Pedersen under CC BY license

Measuring the impact of your PR campaigns is the most important way to figure out what’s working, strategize, and prove the benefits of public relations. Here are four things every effective media measurement strategy absolutely must have.

Financial understanding

To demonstrate the value of your position and your department to the C-suite, you must think like a CEO and focus on the contributions you make to the organization and how you’re leveraging your existing resources. This also means you need to understand the basics of how your organization makes and spends money. Acquiring this information isn’t always a simple undertaking if your company is privately owned, but the information is crucial for setting realistic, productive benchmarks and measurable objectives. Start here if you need a primer on the ins and outs of corporate finance and how they connect to PR.

A framework

Your measurement program must have a clear, cohesive framework for measuring media coverage. To have a framework, you must know your metrics, the data you will need, and how you will collect if. Two excellent frameworks specific to social media measurement are part of AMEC’s Social Media Measurement Framework User Guide, and can also start as a good guide for measuring other media components as well.

For other media, you can integrate other tools like the Balanced Scorecard, the Barcelona Principles, and the Sources and Methods Transparency Table. Remember, these are only tools; you’ll still have to sit down and work out the nuts and bolts of your organization-specific measurement program.

A full range of metrics

When laying out your framework, you must make room for metrics that account for both quantitative and qualitative metrics. Quantitative metrics account for things that have a numerical measure, like impressions, circulation, and pageviews. Qualitative metrics include tone and key message delivery. It often feels easier to measure quantitative metrics only, since it’s easier to automate measuring software. But qualitative metrics give you a more multi-dimensional look into the progress of your efforts.

A better understanding of ROI

The way the industry talks about “ROI” is sometimes disconnected from what ROI actually is. Remember, ROI – or return on investment – is a financial figure. Hence, if you’re trying to calculate it, it should be a dollar measure. True ROI can only be calculated if you have a stated goal and you’re truly calculating all the costs that go into your efforts, and that calculation will depend on so many variables, some of which are intangible, that your result might be cloudy at best. ROI can be valuable in certain circumstances, but don’t get so carried away with all the buzz that you pin your entire measurement process on “ROI” that isn’t clearly defined or manageable.

Breaking it down into more specific metrics can help you get a more precise look at how much your efforts pay off. Other metrics that will potentially have more value than ROI would be cost-per-impressions or cost-per-awareness (here’s how to calculate those).

Media measurement is not easy – especially if you’re trying to do it all yourself. That’s why we keep talking about it. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as calculating how many retweets you got or how many media mentions you have versus how many you’ve earned. But the good news is, it’s possible. Start small, focus on doing it right instead of doing it quickly, and keep learning, and you’ll find your insights gained by your measurement efforts will improve each year.

Why Images Impact Your Media Measurement

Aug 11, 2014

Left: early edition Right: Later corrected edition. Image via Twitter user @suttonnick

Last Friday, The Daily Telegraph ran a very lovely picture of the royal family (the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their one-year-old son, Prince George) on its front page. Right above that photo ran a story with the headline “Toddlers at risk from extremists.” Someone overlooked the big picture of the layout and – whoops – all but called the Duke and Duchess religious extremists.

The paper quickly fixed the issue in its later edition, but the image survives online and the impact remains. Had you seen the headlined article online, or read a copy of only its text, you certainly wouldn’t have noticed the issue. While images have always been important, it’s the age of Instagram, selfies, and a “pics or it didn’t happen” mentality, so their value and necessity has arguably increased many fold.

So when we as public relations, media relations, or marketing professionals rely solely on a software to send us text and its metadata for media coverage, we’re not only missing the context of that coverage, but we’re missing the full impact that our audience experiences. And it’s an impact that ultimately affects both our outlook and measurements of our efforts.

If there’s an article with a photo of a celebrity with your product, that article will likely generate more interest and a higher action rate than a story without a photo. But if you’re getting media monitoring coverage that doesn’t even deliver the photo to you in the first place, you’re deprived of a driving factor in the article’s impact. Data just doesn’t give you the higher picture, especially if it’s only quantitative.

In a time when brand storytelling becomes more visual, media coverage isn’t just about the words, but the images the words convey and the images that accompany words. So how do you evaluate whether or not your work has an impact if you don’t even see the full scope of your coverage?

That’s why BurrellesLuce provides not only the full text of an article in its print and online forms, but its accompanying images in both forms as well. Because if you don’t know something exists, you can’t measure it, and if you don’t even know what you’re missing, you won’t even know your measurement is incomplete.

Are Shocks From Pavlok the Best Way to Achieve Your Goals?

Aug 7, 2014

How would your communications goals and habits change if your CEO managed you with electrical shocks? What if a device managed you with shocks, invited your friends to do so, and had access to your bank accounts? While the first scenario might be far off, the second is already here: Pavlok.

Pavlok is the latest in technology wrist bands and it doesn’t just track your activity, it shocks you into complying with goals you set. Let’s say you want to want to stop hitting the snooze button when you wake up – if you set that as your goal, Pavlok will shock you until you get up.

Ostensibly, Pavlok is about helping you achieve your goals and create positive habits. According to its site, “Pavlok will push you to stay on track and form [a] lasting habit” with negative feedback: shocks, monetary penalties, lost access to your phone, all “at the hands of your friends.”

We all know that habits can be tough to break, but is the equivalent to a shock collar taking wearable technology a bit too far? Experiments that use shocks on animals and humans to control behavior are already considered unethical, so putting a shock bracelet on the market seems like a bit of a gray area.

There’s also the issue of voltage; Pavlok shocks are up to 340 volts, and even less can be a deadly shock with direct contact to wires. While Pavlok presumably does not put the wearer in contact with wires, what happens if your wrist gets wet (making your skin a far more effective conductor) and you get shocked? What if there’s a malfunction?

Electrical concerns aside, creating new habits and achieving goals is not easy, but there are ways to do so without shocking yourself. For example, setting SMART goals makes it easier to track your progress and success. Developing new, positive habits also isn’t easy, and it certainly requires time, patience, and willpower; while it may seem like a wrist band might be able to crack the code on habits, the problem with positive or negative reinforcement is that it’s easy to become complacent. Sure, you might figure out how to not get shocked by Pavlok, but when the novelty wears off and you start leaving it at home, those new “habits” stand a good chance of not sticking.

That’s why sticking to proven habit-forming techniques like micro quotas and macro goals is probably a better tactic than pinning your hopes to wearable tech. Pavlok might believe that willpower isn’t enough, but research shows that motivation helps beget discipline.

While you probably wouldn’t want your CEO to put a Pavlok on you, comfort yourself by imagining what would happen if you put one on your CEO while they were being interviewed so you could shock them if they strayed from what you’d practiced. How would both of you fare?

Branding and Marketing Lessons From Car Sales Trailblazer Laura Toyota

Aug 6, 2014

flickr user Mike Mozart under CC BY license

A 25-year-old car saleswoman in Bozeman, Montana, has caused a bit of a marketing disruption at Ressler Motors, the Toyota dealership where she works. As Ad Age reports, Laura Madison won’t take walk-in customers, she won’t help remove snow from the cars on the lot, and she gives out her personal number, not the dealership’s.

She has her own site,, which she pays to host, and her personal car is wrapped to advertise that site. (The cost? $3,000, which she paid out of her own pocket.) Her strategy is working big time. While not every marketing and public relations professional has the freedom or the ability to do what Madison does, and her model would not work in every circumstance, there are a number of valuable marketing and public relations takeaways to give your efforts a big boost and greater return.

Forge real relationships

Ad Age reports that Madison sends regular (paper) notes to her customers for their car’s “birthday” or for the holidays. Old-school snail mailed cards carry a lot more personal connection than personalized emails, and since they’re a fast-vanishing, time-intensive tradition, are more meaningful.

Your customers get emails every day. But how often do they get addressed cards in the mail? Investing the time and funds into connecting with people in more personal ways can keep your relationship with customers fresh and positive for a much longer time than a monthly email.

Build your model on referrals

Madison builds her marketing model on referrals and direct content, a savvy strategy given that most Millennials seek out opinions and reviews from their personal networks before making a purchase decision. While there’s no demographic breakdown on her sales, it’s probably safe to say that she sells to people in other generations, not just Millennials.

Word of mouth marketing and referrals have always been vital for the best salespeople, a tactic that marketing and public relations pros shouldn’t ignore. Making it easier for clients and prospects to seek you out based on recommendations from friends will pay off. Consider implementing monthly seminars hosted by a company rep and promote the rep’s bio and expertise more than your brand. Or consider monthly articles from reps accompanied by their bios or getting reps engaged in social media; there are plenty of ways to market the people, not just the brand.

Be a trailblazer

The “we’ve always done things this way” mindset is an easy rut to stay in, but usually doesn’t have a great payoff. Instead of trying to put Madison back in the corporate box, her boss, Jeff Kayser, has encouraged her methods and helped her start educating sales staff to integrate her approach into the dealership’s overall strategy.

Being open to new strategies and ideas is important for any business, not only to harness new talent, but also to keep said talent at your organization.

Be transparent

Car buying is a notoriously opaque and frustrating ordeal, but Madison’s up-front, approachable strategy makes the process easier, which in turn makes more people want to buy from her. On her blog she has an abundance of car-buying advice, including questions to ask your car salesperson and the answers you should expect, an informative blog, information about how she sells, and information specific to hybrids.

This not only positions her as an expert, but also as a resource. Putting good information out in the open helps lessen potential frustration and confusion for buyers and puts her on their side.

Institute a results-based commission

On her site, Madison notes that the dealership doesn’t pay her or other sales reps based on the traditional commission structure, but rather on a pay plan based on volume and customer satisfaction. That in turn makes sales reps more responsive to customer needs, not upselling.

While a revamp – or abolishment – of commission structures isn’t something every organization can or is willing to do in full, it’s something worth considering if it could improve the process for both sales reps and customers.

Demonstrate trustworthiness

Madison’s personal marketing strategy has another benefit – it makes her accountable to her customers. They know exactly where to find her should they have a question or a problem. Most customers find accountability and trustworthiness appealing, and having that sense of security can only be beneficial to business overall.

Kayser reports that since Madison’s arrival at the dealership three years ago, the dealership’s monthly sales have increased from an average of 213 cars to 330 cars. There’s no information to indicate whether this is due solely to Madison’s efforts, or due to increased dealership advertising. Madison’s personal monthly sales almost nearly doubled over three years, from 12 to 20 cars, but it’s hard to measure whether that’s due to the dealership’s overall improvement in reputation and awareness, her natural learning progression, her reputation management acumen, or all of the above. But either way, there are plenty of branding, reputation management, and marketing takeaways from Madison’s drive and skill.

In the Office? Use August to Get These Five Things Done

Aug 4, 2014

While the most popular month for vacation is July, August is almost as peppered with vacationers. That probably means that you have a lot of colleagues and clients who are using up their vacation days this month. Take advantage of this quiet(er) period to catch up on the first half of the year and get ahead of the second by doing these things:

Think about the holidays

Perhaps the last thing you want to think about in the steamy summer is the prospect of another polar vortex, but now is prime time to get your product into the pages of magazine holiday gift guides. Late summer is also excellent for developing public relations and marketing strategies for products that receive a big boost during the holidays, like books, sweets, travel, and anything that’s gift-worthy.

Even if it’s not quite time to pitch television shows, newspapers, or blogs about the holidays, use August to form new connections or nurture existing ones with contacts at media outlets you want to work with. Examine potential holiday trends and work out your strategy now so you’re ahead of the game when the season arrives in full swing.

Prepare for all the upcoming industry events

September through October are busy months for public relations and media relations industry events; in addition to the PRSA International Conference in mid-October, PRWeek’s Good Business, Better Business Conference is coming up in mid-September, as is Content Marketing World Conference; there are lots of digital marketing and social media summits in September, October, and November; the Global PR Summit in late October; and PRNews’s Social Media Measurement Conference in early October.

While these may seem like a long way off, it’s only about two months, so use this month to prioritize which events you want to attend by determining what your learning goals are. Getting a head start will also help you draw up a budget for the events and anyone else attending and get approval for that travel budget. Plus, registering early can help save on costs.

Make time for your intern

It’s nearly back to school season, and if you’ve been working with interns on even an intermittent basis, catch them before they head back to the classroom. There are a few reasons to connect more deeply with them now: they may be mentally checking out, there may be more they want to learn, they may have a lot of questions or just want some feedback.

Make sure your investment in hiring, training, and working with an intern pays off for both of you by ensuring they learn all they can. Don’t forget that interns make for an excellent pool of potential future recruits, and that they might have some interesting insights into a lot of the work your organization does.

Revisit your measurement and social media standards and procedures

Use whatever down time you have to do some constructive retooling or critical thinking about your organization’s measurement procedures and/or social media standards. Since the world of measurement changes yearly, examine what you’re measuring and evaluate whether you’re getting the information you need. There are lots of new resources to use to up your measurement game, so seize the opportunity to improve while you have the time.

Take a vacation

You’re probably tired hearing this from us, but take a vacation. Just a day or two off will do. Since August tends to be a quiet month in a lot of sectors, you’ll miss less if you’re out. Plus, taking time off from work and the digital world is really good for you.

How to Give a Meaningful Brand Apology

Jul 31, 2014

flickr user butupa under CC BY license

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

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

Tread carefully with social media apologies

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

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

If you must apologize, do it well

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

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

It should be hard

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

Tips for Type A Personalities to Bring Life Into Balance

Jul 30, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you doing to find your shade of gray?


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