Author Archives: Amanda Hicken

9 Tips for Writing an Effective Online Headline

Writing headlines for an online audience poses different challenges than print. Here are 10 tips to help you write an effective headline for the web.

Writing headlines for an online audience poses different challenges than print.
Here are nine tips to help you write an effective headline for the web.

You spent hours laboring over a blog post.  You did your research and fussed over sentences until they were just right. The only thing standing between you and your next task is a headline.

You take a few seconds, jot down the first thing that comes to mind, and move on.

Don’t do that.

You’re cheating yourself out of more readers by not applying the same effort to your headline, as you did to the rest of your piece.

The headline is the first – and sometimes only — thing your audience sees before deciding to open your blog post.  It needs to be worthy of being clicked on.

During a Web Headlines seminar by the Poynter Institute, John Schlander, the Tampa Bay Times’ digital general manager, shared an easy-to-remember approach to online headline writing.

Your headline has three goals, he said. If it captures deeper meaning, reader interest and search value, you’re in good shape.

These nine tips will help you achieve those goals.

1. Keep it short. Although bloggers, online journalists, and other writers are not limited by a newspaper’s narrow columns, you do need to consider the web’s equivalents: Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) and social media.

After Google’s most-recent SERP redesign, Moz released new guidelines for page title/headline length.  There’s no magic number due to the varying widths of letters on Google. However, under the new design, Moz says 55 characters is a safe bet before your headline gets cut off in SERPs.

If your headline is close to or more than 55 characters (including spaces), make sure the most important information is near the front.

2. Don’t aim for cute.  I LOVE puns, so it pains me to say they’re better left out of your online headline.  Your headline has to live on its own in search results, as a tweet, or in a mobile news reader. You don’t have the luxury of a photo or subhead on the newspaper’s front page to explain “Scrape Me Up Before You Go Slow.”

If you saw that in your search results, you wouldn’t know the article was referring to a car accident involving George Michael.  Even if you can decipher the article’s topic from a pun, wordplay takes up room you don’t have. Clear, descriptive language that explains what the article is about would be more useful.

3. Keep your sights on why.  The who, what, when, and where of your story are very important to the headline, but you also need to demonstrate why your audience should care to click on it.  Is there an emotion this story taps into? What is the deeper meaning or impact this news has on your audience and its community? Ask yourself what would make you click on your own headline.

4. Understand your audience through research. Keyword research and website analytics give us insight into our target audiences’ behaviors. We don’t have to guess (as much) about what our audience will or won’t respond to.  By studying the different topics your audience is interested in, the words they use to search for those topics, and the headline triggers they respond to (numbers and calls to action are a good place to start), you can craft a headline that’s found, clicked, and shared.

5. Don’t be tone deaf. Once you’ve identified the ‘why’ of your story, you must consider the topic’s tone. Is it serious, informal, sentimental, or irreverent? Make sure that’s reflected in your headline.  If, like me, you struggle with capturing a funny tone, comedian Michele Wojciechowski offers advice on adding humor to your writing. Cultural differences also should be considered when determining what’s acceptable.

6. Be consistent with your site’s voice. In addition to recognizing the appropriate tone for your story’s topic, you need to understand and be consistent with your site’s overall voice.  Know how offbeat and radical you can be. How authoritative you should sound. You set your audience’s expectations. Although it’s sometimes OK to challenge those expectations, if your piece is going to seem out of place on your website, make sure it’s for a good reason.

7. Don’t fill it with “headlinese.” Because of newspaper formatting, some journalists developed a reductionist headline style, favoring short synonyms and jargon not typically used by their audience.  This ‘headlinese’ has led to many examples of unintentional (and hilarious) ambiguity.  Ambiguity doesn’t work online. Instead, use language you’d use in ordinary conversation.

8. Write more than one headline. Congratulations if your first attempt at writing a headline is perfect. Unfortunately, that’s usually not the case.  After the Poynter seminar, I now write three to five headlines because it forces me to focus on all of the details in my story.  Your headline variations don’t need to be dramatically different. Sometimes, it’s a slight tweak to your keywords or combining of elements from the other versions.  It also can mean flipping the action’s point of view.

9. Don’t save your headline until the end.  There are valid arguments on both sides of the “write the headline first vs. write it last” debate.  I used to advocate for waiting until the end to write my headline. Then I tried writing it earlier in my blogging process and found it helped the rest of my post.

I still do my newsgathering first; however, after reviewing my notes and seeing what the story is, I write the headline before anything else.  I’ll edit my headline after writing my first draft, but having one early on helps me organize the article and find my lede.

Don’t feel overwhelmed. There’s art and science to headline writing and the only way to get better is with practice.

Poynter’s next Web Headlines and SEO Essentials seminar with Schlander takes place in December. It will provide hands-on headline writing and an in-depth understanding of online best practices. You can find more information about this and Poynter’s other online classes at newsu.org/courses.

A version of this post originally appeared on Beyond Bylines. Keep up on media trends, tips for bloggers and journalists, and industry Q&As by subscribing to PR Newswire’s media blog or following us on Twitter @BeyondBylines.

Author Amanda Hicken is a media relations manager with PR Newswire. In addition to blogging on Beyond Bylines, she pens the local interest blog Clue Into Cleveland. Follow her at @ADHicken.

The Media Evolution and Its Impact on PR

panelists

Media Evolution Panelists Ellyn Angelotti, Theodore Kim, and David Cohn

Newsrooms traditionally reached their audience through one channel and measured a story’s success by its impact on the local community.

However, that’s all changed, said Ellyn Angelotti, Director of Custom Programs at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies.

Audiences now access a media outlet through multiple channels. In addition to traditional print and broadcasting, newsrooms maintain desktop and mobile sites, tablet apps, blogs, and social media.

Did you miss the webinar? Here’s the link to the on-demand version: The Media Evolution Webinar

The community has diversified and impact is measured on a greater scale.

Angelotti, who also teaches social media and law at Poynter, was joined by Circa News Director David Cohn, Washington Post Mobile/Tablet Editor Theodore Kim, and moderator Sarah Skerik for a discussion on how newsrooms are adapting to the ever-changing media environment.

At the Washington Post, Kim said, evaluating a story’s success depends on the individual piece. While the publication’s ultimate goal is to effect positive change in government and society, the Post offers news sections and 30+ blogs on a variety of topics. An entertainment or sports story may be guided by different metrics.

Each section looks beyond universal metrics to discover how specific engagement is influenced by human production.  The Post may examine a story’s clickthroughs to determine whether there is something in the user experience, headline, or story arc that worked well and can be replicated or improved upon.

Kim clarified, though, that it’s important to remember every newsroom – from the Huffington Post and New York Times to the Dallas Morning News – has different revenue strategies and ways it views its audience.

For instance, whereas news is commonly thought of as a one way stream, Cohn said Circa looks at it as a back-and-forth relationship between the outlet and audience.

The mobile news app measures success based on a unique metric. When a reader is on the app, they can “follow” a story that interests them. The next time someone visits the app, Cohn’s team delivers quick updates based on what’s changed since that individual’s last visit.

Keeping track of what readers consume allows the app to customize the best possible experience and build a relationship over time.

Metrics’ Impact on Journalists and Newsrooms

Although a journalist may be more focused on serving their audience than forecasting metrics, it’s clear that metrics have had an impact on storytelling and the role of journalists over time.

One of these changes is a breakdown in the inverted pyramid structure. Kim cited the popularity of the Post’s 9 Questions About Syria You Were Too Embarrassed to Ask and how it bridged the gap between old and new storytelling.

On the one hand, the story fit the traditional role of the media by educating its audience on the intricacies of an important and complex topic. However, its execution took a new approach. The headline was written to be very shareable on social media and the story format broke the issue down into 9 bite-size items of substance.

Circa, similarly, has found success by organizing its stories into atomic units: facts, quotes, statistics, events, and images. These “snackable” formats are gaining popularity because audiences want to get to the point quickly.

Metrics also come into play when determining which stories are published.

Newsworthiness used to be decided by editors and publishers, said Angelotti. But more often, we’re seeing it defined by what a newsroom’s social networks and online audience are talking about.

Kim agreed, with a caveat. If everyone is talking about something on social media, a news organization should pay attention to it; however, it may not necessarily be newsworthy.

We have to keep in mind that the number of active social media users is a fraction of the world population, he said.  When something is being talked about on Twitter, the tendency is to think that everyone is talking about it. That’s not always the case.

Because of this, most journalists use every tool that’s out there: They’ll have multiple columns up in Tweetdeck while filtering through incoming email and keeping an eye on Google News alerts, saved searches, and the newsroom’s other notification systems.

As Angelotti succinctly put it: “Journalists have gone from just being storytellers to sensemakers.”

It’s a journalist’s responsibility to sort through the glut of information, verify it, add context, and give the audience the resources to think critically.

How can PR help, not hurt this newsgathering process?

Kim estimated that he receives 600-700 emails a day. Conservatively, 10 of those emails are relevant pitches for stories.

To improve your pitch’s chance of cutting through the other emails, it’s important to understand a journalist’s audience. Journalists develop a niche and expertise. They know and understand who their audience is and how to serve them. “If your pitch can sync to that, all the better,” said Cohn. “If it’s out of left field, it’s like finger nails on chalk board.”

Angelotti said that a pitch is more compelling if you go beyond the boilerplate information, and tell a story. A good journalist will take that as a first step and push it further. They may not use your version of the story, but the process you undergo to research and craft your brand’s narrative surfaces valuable insight.

The same goes for multimedia, said Kim. Although it’s helpful to have images and video available, many reporters will not use your video package in its entirety. It’s important to make your materials editable and easy to break apart.

The panelists agreed that the best way to get your story heard is by building a relationship with the journalist. “Ask yourself: How many times have you engaged with a reporter on Twitter? Have you retweeted and read their stuff?” suggested Kim.

One thing is clear: While journalism and public relations are constantly in flux, thorough and thoughtful relationship building isn’t going anywhere.

Want to learn more about the issues and trends affecting journalists and bloggers? Subscribe to PR Newswire’s new Beyond Bylines blog to stay up to date with the media industry.

As a media relations manager at PR Newswire, Amanda Hicken enjoys helping journalists and bloggers customize the news they receive on PR Newswire for Journalists. Follow her at @PRNewswire and @ADHicken.

Social Media Lessons from The New York Times: They’re Not Just for Newsrooms

NYTimes

2013 was a big year for The New York Times’ social media staff; they added three editors to their team, expanded their role in tweeting the news, and grew @NYTimes by nearly 5 million followers.

Last week they took to the Nieman Journalism Lab to reflect on what worked and what didn’t. Although the post was intended for newsrooms, many of their lessons can be adapted by any organization’s social media team.

Social Media’s Human Element

Social media automation has a few benefits – it helps your feed stay live in the evenings or days your team is unable to consistently tweet.

However, as NYT’s staff has learned from automation gone wrong, “our Twitter accounts are better when we staff them.”

When a headline was auto-tweeted implying Andy Murray of Scotland was English, the mistake snowballed in a way it wouldn’t have had a social media editor been there. Their team has caught and quickly fixed similar errors.

“When our hands are minding the feed,” the @NYTimes team wrote, “errors like that either don’t happen or have less of an impact.”

Instead of auto-tweeting your blog posts as they are published, have your social media team take a second look and manually tweet them. In addition to catching a glaring error the original author may have missed, they may also come up with something better for the tweet.

The best headlines don’t always make the most engaging tweets. For instance, the headline “The Rock ’n’ Roll Casualty Who Became a War Hero” did not perform nearly as well on Twitter as @NYTimes’ rewrite:

Monitoring the original tweet helped @NYTimes see that they needed a different approach for social media.

Tweet What’s Interesting and Helpful to Your Audience

Not surprisingly, breaking news tweets about the Boston Marathon, Supreme Court rulings, George Zimmerman, and Nelson Mandela were among @NYTimes’ most clicked and retweeted last year.

The public has historically turned to The New York Times in times of major events to stay informed and updated. It’s what audiences expect in the print and online editions, as well as on social media.

Subsequently, The New York Times’ social media desk works “in concert with, not independent of, our main newsdesk.” They coordinate with their reporters and editors to send out tweets tied to their news coverage.

We say it all the time: Know your audience. Know why they turn to you and how your products and services can help them. Know what interests your audience and pick content for your social media posts that reflects that.

Just as the NYT team coordinates with their news desk, your social media team should coordinate with your product teams, customer service, sales, marketing, and PR. Everyone will develop a better understanding of your organization’s audience, and you’ll provide consistently helpful content across all of your platforms.

Don’t Lose Your Tweet in Crafty Clutter

The New York Times experiments with their tweets, occasionally putting posts out there that are witty or tease the story they’re trying to get people to click on.

However, they learned a simple tweet that sets clear expectations for the article was often the most effective. If readers could quickly determine what they were going to get by clicking on an article link, they were more likely to click.

When writing tweets, headlines, and lead paragraphs, a funny, cute, or extreme turn of phrase may grab readers’ attention.  However, don’t let it go too far and steal attention away from the actual story.

If your content and call to action get lost in the pursuit of wit, there’s no point.

Revisit and Recycle – with Restraint

Even a well-written tweet can get lost in the sheer volume of other tweets. And sometimes a person may see a tweet that interests them, but want to go back to it at a more convenient time.

This is why The New York Times schedules multiple tweets around one article.  They found that tweets scheduled on Saturday and Sunday had a much higher click-per-tweet.

Weekends may not see a lot of traction for your company’s social media; however, everyone can benefit from experimenting with their tweets’ timing.  Schedule the same tweet throughout the week at different times of day. Then monitor the results for a pattern of higher engagement.

However, as The New York Times cautions, show restraint. Don’t schedule duplicates of everything. Keep an eye out for tweets that worked well the first time, and choose tweets that link to the most interesting, evergreen content. For instance, breaking news first tweeted on Monday was no longer of interest the following Sunday.

Lessons from PR Newswire’s Twitter Distribution Network

We try to follow these best practices not only on @PRNewswire, but also our Twitter Distribution Network of nearly 50 industry news accounts.

The human element plays a significant role in these accounts’ success. From @PRNpolicy to @PRNtech, a team of social media ambassadors consisting of volunteers  from across the company curates content relevant to the industry topic of the Twitter account.

Curators volunteer to cover topics that interest them; they understand what sort of content audiences want because they’re part of that audience.

“Our volunteer curators are part of the topic communities they tweet about,” says Victoria Harres, VP of audience development and social media for PR Newswire. “Most of them are very passionate about the content they volunteer to curate and it shows. Our Twitter network of curators was the reason PR Newswire won a 2013 IMA Impact award for Twitter.”

Wire content also appears on these feeds through our SocialPost service.

Clients provide a tweet that is sent over three of our Twitter accounts with a link to their news release.  The tweets are staggered a few hours apart to increase their effectiveness.

We encourage clients to follow the above best practices when writing their tweet. The press release headline can be used as the tweet if it’s short enough and interesting. However, when looking at six months of SocialPost data, one of the most-clicked links belonged to a tweet that took a different approach than the release headline: “How to Handle a Medical Emergency” was rewritten for SocialPost as “Find tips for handling senior medical emergencies in this easy-to-use infographic”.

To have your company news appear on PR Newswire’s Twitter distribution network, select SocialPost on our News Release Order Form. Additional tips on how to write a tweet can be found on PR Newswire’s Knowledge Center.

Amanda Hicken is a media relations manager and member of PR Newswire’s social media team. You can find her on Twitter @PRNewswire and @ADHicken, as well as the PR Newswire Pulse Tumblr.

Join us for a free webinar titled “Newsworthiness: New Context & Opportunities for PR,” on January 23.  What’s newsworthy? The very definition of “news” is changing, and this evolution creates the opportunity for PR pros to create timely content that earns credibility, earns media and generates ongoing (and relevant) visibility for the brand. Taking pages from the journalistic and content marketing playbooks, this webinar will include a discussion on the evolution of news, how to map the resources within your own organization and ways to identify different opportunities a responsive PR department can capitalize upon.

Breaking News: Fast vs. Right and How the Media Continues to Adapt

new_news_cycle809

There’s no debating that websites and social media have made it easier to track breaking news as it happens. We saw that clearly with the tweets and photos around the Asiana Airlines crash earlier this year.

However, this immediacy also places pressure on the media to break news significantly faster than before – measured in minutes and seconds, 24/7.

In just the last year, Hurricane Sandy, Newtown and the Boston Marathon have demonstrated how our constant demand for immediate news can lead to misinformation.

With misinformation sometimes having serious consequences, the debate repeatedly comes up:

Which is more important: Getting news out first or getting it right?

Speed versus accuracy is an issue that affects all news organizations – from local media to the likes of the AP, The New York Times and CNN.  And it’s not a new concern.  Prior to social media, organizations had to adjust to the challenges of online news in the 90s and 24-hour cable news before that.

But with the ability to immediately post something on social media, how are journalists adapting to an even faster news cycle?

Accuracy = Credibility

Media’s value comes from how credible the news source is, and reporting the news accurately has historically been a key factor in credibility.

When a newsroom makes a mistake, trust is broken and the relationship damaged. Depending on the mistake, there can even be an economic impact from the loss of subscribers and advertisers.

Many newsrooms use the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics to preserve credibility.  Its concepts of seeking truth, being judicious, acting independently and holding oneself accountable are drilled into journalists’ heads in school.

Although no one is perfect, audiences and other journalists are less understanding when a news organization doesn’t own up to an error or makes a mistake because it was more important to break the news first instead of verify it.

When the Supreme Court ruled on the Affordable Care Act in 2012, two cable news leaders incorrectly reported the Court’s ruling.

In “Getting News Fast and Wrong,” Kate Culver, Associate Director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Journalism Ethics, argued that their mistakes were avoidable since these organizations had advance access to resources which could have helped them check their interpretation.

Unlike smaller organizations such as SCOTUSblog who correctly read the ruling’s summary, some newsrooms’ desire to be faster than their competition overran the need to be precise.

Culver says it’s not just a question of ethics, but with audience fragmentation and other issues facing journalists, “They have a fiscal interest to retain their credibility and differentiate themselves from the waves of information, misinformation and disinformation that pound digital media shores.”

Adapting to an Evolving Process

After the Boston Marathon, The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi interviewed media observers about the mistakes that had been reported around the bombing.

Many said that although mistakes should be avoided, they may no longer be as consequential thanks to the media’s ability to immediately self-correct on social media and online.

Reporting news during unfolding events has always been a chaotic practice. The difference now is that social media has opened up a wider view to a previously behind-the-scenes process.  Today the public can watch the gathering and verification of rumors as they develop into news stories.

It also gives everyone an opportunity to participate in the process.  In a talk at April’s International Symposium for Online Journalists, NPR’s Andy Carvin stressed that news organizations should use social media and other tools not just for promoting the latest headlines.

Instead, when a story breaks, media “should be more transparent about what we know and don’t know. We should actively address rumors being circulated online. Rather than pretending they’re not circulating, or that they’re not our concern, we should tackle them head-on, challenging the public to question them, scrutinize them, understand where they might have come from, and why.”

That means replying to tweets as events happen by asking questions and helping the public understand how to properly confirm information.

By approaching it as a two-way flow of information, media can still respond to unfolding events but wait until they have the substantiated story before providing a report. Similarly, the public can contribute to the reporting process and be patient with a work in progress.

Tools Helping Journalists be Accurate and Fast

Although the Internet has added to the pressures of getting news out fast, online tools can benefit journalists when used in line with their code of ethics:

  • Josh Stearns, the Journalism and Public Media Campaign Director at Free Press, recently launched Verification Junkie, a growing directory of fact-checking tools and sites.
  • HootSuite’s white paper 3 Ways Social Media Command Centers Improve Newsrooms offers up techniques that any newsroom can leverage.
  • PR Newswire works closely with journalists and bloggers to provide them with the news they need, when they need it. By registering for PR Newswire for Journalists, media can access press releases, multimedia and subject matter experts to meet pressing deadlines.

No one wants to be wrong, but the reporting process is changing and each organization needs to communicate what their priority is: Whether that’s responding early and updating on the fly, or waiting until they’ve confirmed the facts and not worrying about the scoop.

Once a news organization decides on their approach and follows it consistently, social media and other online resources don’t have to be viewed as a source of stress.

If you are a journalist or blogger, register for PR Newswire for Journalists at http://media.prnewswire.com or email media.relations@prnewswire.com. The site’s 28,000 unique active registrants are able to customize news feeds by geography, subject and industry and receive news as soon as it is announced.

Amanda Hicken is a media relations manager at PR Newswire.  She can be found on Twitter @ADHicken or blogging about the city she loves at ClueIntoCleveland.com.

8 Blogger Relations Tips from a Blogger

Photo by Jhayne/flickr, used under Creative Commons license

Photo by Jhayne/flickr, used under Creative Commons license

I dread checking my email sometimes. Outside of my job as a media relations manager at PR Newswire, I’m a local interest blogger. Like most bloggers, my inbox fills up with its fair share of pitches.

Some pitches are fantastic: To the point, clearly familiar with my blog, pitching me something my readers and I care about. Others, not so much.

I read every single one of them, though; all the way through. Even the ones addressed to “Andrea”.

The only reason I don’t hit delete on the bad pitches is because I want to learn from their mistakes. I look at what makes me happy as a blogger, as well as what doesn’t. Then I think about how I can incorporate that into my own blogger outreach.

Here are a few lessons I learned:

1) Start your research on the blogger’s About, Disclosure, and PR pages. These pages are a quick way to discover what the blog is about, whether the blogger accepts pitches, and how to reach them. Many of them also have guidelines on the topics they do and don’t blog about.

2) Then do even more research. In addition to looking at the About page, read blog posts. Dig back a month or so. If the blogger doesn’t write about your topic, post giveaways, or review products, your time is better spent pitching someone who does. Check out their blogroll for ideas on other bloggers you can reach out to.

3) Build the relationship before you pitch. Some pitches have caught my attention solely because I recognized the person’s name. That’s because the pitcher had previously reached out to me either by email or with a comment on my blog.

Next time you’re interested in pitching a blogger, try reading their blog and leaving a comment – not as the brand you represent, but as yourself (no pitching in this initial outreach).  A pitch later on may be more likely to catch a blogger’s attention if they recognize your name. Plus, when your pitch says you enjoy reading my blog, I know you’re being honest.

4) Provide advance notice. If you’re pitching an event or have a specific timeline for when you need coverage, don’t wait until the week of. Many bloggers plan their posts in advance. A blogger may make an exception if they have a previous relationship with you (see tip 3), or it’s such an incredible opportunity from a major player in their niche.

However, there is not always time to squeeze in a last minute post. Even if you don’t have all of the details ready for a blog post, pitch the basics with a heads up of when you’re looking for a post. Then ask if the blogger would like the rest of the specifics once they’re finalized.

5) Be clear, but realistic in your ask. If you expect a certain level of commitment from a blogger, communicate that in your conversation, but plan some flexibility to accommodate different bloggers’ availability. For instance, I may not be able to schedule two posts, but I could commit to one post and more social media pushes.

Consider the blogger’s short and long-term value and then decide what you’re ok with in return for the compensation you’re offering.

6) Think beyond the blogger. Know the blog’s audience. Always consider who will be reading a blog post and be careful about overlapping audiences. Don’t oversaturate a particular niche all at once.

Try identifying bloggers from a few different niches that are relevant to your pitch. For instance, a store opening could be pitched to fashion bloggers, local event blogs, lifestyle/personal bloggers, and mom or dad bloggers. Just remember to tailor the angle of your pitch to each individual’s interests. While there may be some overlap, each niche has its own unique audience.

Or spread your campaign over a longer period of time. After you determine the influence level of your target blogs, reach out to a group of high-value influencers, then stagger your outreach to your second and third groups.

Remember that the value of a blogger is not just how large their audience is, but also the relevancy to your brand and how likely it is that they’ll blog about you. A blogger with a smaller audience who is passionate about your brand may be better than a blogger with a massive audience who is not quite the right fit.

7) Be prepared. Be helpful. Short and sweet pitches are fantastic. However, after the pitch, the more resources you have prepared, the better.

When it comes to multimedia, think beyond your brand’s logo; have product shots, event photos, relevant infographics, or embeddable video ready. Similarly, be prepared with hashtags, social media handles, examples of tweets and other social media messaging. Don’t attach everything to your pitch, but offer its availability.

8) The relationship doesn’t stop at the blog post. How a brand interacts after the blog post could help or hurt future outreach just as much as the initial pitch does. A short email thanking the blogger is nice, as is sharing their post (and other posts) on your social media channels.

You don’t need to overwhelm bloggers with a lot of attention; however, the occasional retweet from a brand has helped keep them on my mind months after I blogged about them. Conversely, I try to extend the same courtesy by thanking the brand rep or retweeting their content.

Bonus: An example of good blogger relations.

There are a lot of bad pitches shared online. Instead, here’s an example of blogger relations that left this blogger smiling:

The Katz Club Diner recently opened in Cleveland and is in the process of developing a local coffee program. To build awareness, Emily Richardson of The Katz Club decided to host a blogger meet-up.

Although she had a few dates in mind for a coffee-tasting, her initial pitch was a simple introduction asking bloggers for feedback on what time of day was most convenient to them.

What she learned is that many bloggers were unavailable at a time the restaurant had been considering. Instead of planning an event and then learning no one could attend, Richardson maximized event attendance by engaging with influencers.

By seeking input, being flexible, and giving plenty of advance notice, she demonstrated The Katz Club Diner was honestly interested in what bloggers thought and wanted to work with them.

They were dedicated to building a relationship, which is at the core of all media relations. In turn, I want to build one with them.

Want to improve your pitching?  Hone your pitches and streamline your workflow with Agility, the PR Newswire platform that enables you to target and engage with journalists and bloggers. 

Amanda Hicken is a media relations manager at PR Newswire. You can find her online @ADHicken.

The Kick-Ass Guide to Cleveland for Content Marketing World Attendees

PRN_Guide_ClevelandContent Marketing World Special Edition:  In the run up to Content Marketing World, we invited Amanda Hicken, our Cleveland-based manager of media relations and the author of the Clue into Cleveland Blog to recommend her favorite must- see (and must-eat and must-shop) places near the Cleveland Convention Center, especially for Content Marketing World attendees.  

Cleveland's lakefront, home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Goodtime III, Great Lakes Science Center, and FirstEnergy Stadium

Cleveland’s lakefront, home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Goodtime III, Great Lakes Science Center, and FirstEnergy Stadium

I didn’t believe in love at first sight; then I met Cleveland. The Forest City, The Northcoast, The Rock and Roll Capital of the World.

When I moved here in 2007, I got the same questions you may be asking yourself: “Cleveland?!? The Mistake by the Lake?” “Have you seen the Hastily Made Cleveland Tourism Video?” “Didn’t your river set itself on fire once?”

Although Cleveland has had a tough past, I love that Clevelanders don’t know the meaning of quit and always look for new ways to adapt, innovate, and succeed.

A few years ago I started the blog Clue Into Cleveland, and with the world’s largest content marketing conference returning to Cleveland this month, I’m here to share my and my coworkers’ picks on where to go when you’re in town for Content Marketing World 2013.  We’ve also summarized my picks into the infograpic you see at the top of this post, and have plotted them on an interactive map for you, too. 

cl map cmw

Click on the map to pull up an interactive guide we created for you.

Where to Eat

Fun Food Fact: It was in Cleveland that Ettore “Hector” Boiardi – better known as Chef Boyardee – opened his first restaurant and started bottling the spaghetti and meatballs that would soon launch an empire.

Stop by James Beard Awards Finalist Chef Jonathan Sawyer's Noodlecat for happy hour specials on noodles, steam buns and sake.

Stop by James Beard Awards Finalist Chef Jonathan Sawyer’s Noodlecat for happy hour specials on noodles, steam buns and sake.

Recently, Cleveland has been going through a dining renaissance.  Fans of the Food Network and The Chew will want to head to Lola (downtown, East 4th Street) or Lolita (a short ride to the Tremont neighborhood) to eat at nearby restaurants of Cleveland-son-turned-foodie-celebrity Chef Michael Symon.

Other downtown dining recommendations include:

“Go Fourth” to East 4th Street for your pick of 14+ restaurants like Greenhouse Tavern (adventurous eaters should share the Roasted Pig Head with a friend), Chinato, and La Strada.  Society Lounge is a must for cocktail lovers, where you can find well-crafted cocktails, tapas and sophisticated nostalgia. Erie Island Coffee, on the other hand, will give you that jolt of caffeine you need in the morning.

In addition to being the second largest theatre district in the U.S., PlayhouseSquare is a dining destination with Cowell and Hubbard, District, and Dynomite Burgers. After dinner, grab a pint at Parnell’s Pub.

Food truck fans can grab lunch from CLE food trucks like Umami Moto, an Asian Fusion truck voted best in Cleveland

Food truck fans can grab lunch from CLE food trucks like Umami Moto, an Asian Fusion truck voted best in Cleveland

Hodge’s is home to Food Network Star and Great Food Truck Race finalist Chris Hodgson, as well as 2-for-$40 Tuesdays featuring 1 starter, 2 entrees, and 1 bottle of wine for only $40.

Cleveland’s playful noodle house, Noodlecat, offers excellent happy hour specials on ramen, udon, and soba noodles, steam buns and exclusive sakes.  (This writer is particularly fond of the Japanese Fried Chicken Steam Bun, College Ramen Noodles, and Spicy Octopus Udon Stir-Fry.)

Looking for an excellent sandwich? Try Cleveland Pickle at 850 Euclid Ave. or take a short drive down St. Clair for the biggest and best corned beef at Slyman’s.  Flaming Ice Cube specializes in quality vegan cuisine, Blue Point Grille in fresh seafood, and Colossal Cupcakes in dessert (try a cupcake shake for something especially indulgent!).

If you’re short on time and need food on the go, check out Cleveland.com’s guide to 31 of the city’s food trucks.  Weekly food truck gatherings like Walnut Wednesdays and Lunch by the Lake Thursdays are popular with the PR Newswire Cleveland office.

What to Do

Downtown Cleveland is more than just a foodie paradise.  After you check out the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at CMWorld’s Opening Night Reception, squeeze in a little sightseeing.

If you arrive in Cleveland over the weekend, enjoy the best 360 degree view of the Cleveland skyline from the Terminal Tower Observation Deck

If you arrive in Cleveland over the weekend, enjoy the best 360 degree view of the Cleveland skyline from the Terminal Tower Observation Deck

At the lakefront, visit the Steamship William G. Mather, the Great Lakes Science Center, and the International Women’s Air and Space Museum.

If you arrive in Cleveland early, see Cleveland from above with a visit to the Terminal Tower Observation Deck or schedule a Lake Erie cruise on the Goodtime III.

Lolly the Trolley and Take a Hike offer weekday guided tours of the city, but if you’d prefer to sight see on your own, our picks include the Old Stone Church, Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, PlayhouseSquare, the Cleveland Arcade, and the Cleveland Public Library’s magnificent Main Library Building.

Just need a few moments of peace and quiet? Cleveland is called The Forest City for good reason. Escape to over a dozen parks and green spaces in Downtown Cleveland, including three spacious green malls and Voinovich Park on Lake Erie. You can also take a drive around the Cleveland Metroparks (nicknamed the Emerald Necklace) or the Cuyahoga Valley National Park for scenic running and nature trails.

Take a tour, see a show, or enjoy dinner at Cleveland's PlayhouseSquare, the country's second largest performing arts center behind New York's Lincoln Center.

Take a tour, see a show, or enjoy dinner at Cleveland’s PlayhouseSquare, the country’s second largest performing arts center behind New York’s Lincoln Center.

Travel Tips

Get Around with RTA: The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority makes it easy to get around downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods. RTA’s trolley lines are your answer for convenient downtown travel, and you can hop on a bus or train to visit nearby West Side Market or University Circle’s world-class museums.

Downtown Cleveland Alliance’s City Visitor Guides: While Positively Cleveland is your go-to resource for all of Cleveland and Northeast Ohio, the Downtown Cleveland Alliance focuses specifically on the neighborhoods you’ll be spending most of your time in at CMWorld.  Take a look at their Sensational Places, Historic Spaces guide or Downtown Navigator for more ideas.

Bring Home a Souvenir: When you get home from CMWorld, show off your love for Cleveland with a t-shirt, tote or other merchandise from CLE Clothing Co. Their store is a short walk to the corner of East 4th and Euclid or you can shop online.

We have one last recommendation for Content Marketing World attendees. Learn how to drive discovery of the content you’ve worked so hard to create in my c0lleague Sarah Skerik’s session.   Sarah is our vice president of content marketing, and she’ll be giving data-driven tips and proven tactics for improving the results content generated in the session titled “10 Online Discovery Tips that will Get Your Content Promoted.”

Customer Content Specialists: What’s in a Name?

Content specialists in our Cleveland office. (Hi guys!)

When I walked into my first day at PR Newswire six years ago, I was excited to start my new job as an “Editor.” The news junkie in me was thrilled that I’d be spending my days proofreading and distributing organizations’ press releases to the media.

However, over the last six years, my job (along with my colleagues) has evolved to stay ahead of the constantly changing Communications industry.

Just as PR Newswire is now much more than a text wire service, I no longer perform only the duties that editors at PR Newswire once did. While we still process and proofread your press releases, our role is more about adding value to your content, helping it come alive, and increasing the visibility of your message.

This change didn’t happen overnight, though. It’s been a gradual evolution. As our industry has changed over the last few years, PR Newswire’s editors have likewise learned how to advise you on keywords, SEO, social media, the benefits of multimedia, and other ways to deliver greater audience engagement for all of your content.

And now I’m proud to say we have a new name that truly reflects what we are capable of:

The PR Newswire Editorial team is now Customer Content Services.

Your Customer Content Specialists are here to

  • help find a distribution that will gain you the results you’re looking for;
  • serve as a liaison between you and the audiences you want to reach by providing the know-how and technology needed to reach them;
  • take an active interest in how PR Newswire can best tell your stories to the world by counseling you on communications best practices;
  • and help measure and understand the success and reach of your messages.

Our editors haven’t gone anywhere and you won’t experience any changes in the service you have become accustomed to. Rather it was recognized that the title of ‘Editor’ was very limiting in what it conveys to you.

My colleagues and I can help you during every stage of the process – before, during and after each news release is distributed. From identifying how to best meet your objectives all the way through evaluating and measuring your message’s overall success, Customer Content Specialists are available 24/7 (even on holidays) to provide guidance.

Although we still proof and format your press releases and are available over the phone to answer questions about your account, we are also looking at how we can optimize your messages for search engines and social media; whether a localized, national or global distribution is best; how to target your news to media or investors specific to your industry; and how to best incorporate multimedia content.

Ultimately, our job revolves around driving your – our customers’ – content in a constantly changing industry, and improving the results our work together generates.

As happy as I was to be called an Editor when I first started at PR Newswire, my colleagues and I are energized by the change in our title.

And we hope you are too. By more accurately identifying ourselves as your Content Specialists, we hope you will actively take advantage of all we have to offer beyond just editing your news release.

Amanda Hicken is a Senior Customer Content Specialist in PR Newswire’s Cleveland bureau.  In her free time, she pens the blog Clue Into Cleveland and can be found on Twitter @ADHicken45 tweeting about comic books and the city she loves.