Author Archives: Amanda Hicken

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.

Mind Your S and Ds: Answering the EDT vs. EST Question

This is the latest in Beyond PR’s monthly series Catching up with Editorial, where a member of PR Newswire’s Editorial department shares tips and tools you can use to catch typos in your own content.

When announcing an event, it helps to identify the time zone for any times you have listed. This is especially true if you are targeting a broad audience with your message.

For instance, if your event is taking place in Chicago, but you are hosting a webcast of the event that will be readily available online, you may want to specify the event starts at 2pm Central Time. This way, potential audience members in New York know to tune in at 3pm Eastern Time.

If you do decide to include the time zone, be careful. There are a couple mistakes waiting to happen that you can easily prevent:

Convert between time zones correctly

On occasion you may need to include the time of an event in multiple time zones. For instance, your sentence could read: “Our chairman and chief executive officer will be presenting at the conference on May 17, 2011 at 12:45 p.m. ET / 2:45 p.m. PT.”

Did your eagle eyes notice the mistake in this sentence?  There were two.  First, there is a 3 – not 2 – hour difference between Pacific Time and Eastern Time.  Additionally, when converting Eastern to Pacific Time, the hours count backward not forward.

With these catches, the sentence should have read: “Our chairman and chief executive officer will be presenting at the conference on May 17, 2011 at 12:45 p.m. ET / 9:45 a.m. PT.”

Although these are both easy mistakes to make, they are also easy to prevent.  I always recommend using an online Time Zone Converter or World Clock, especially if you need to verify time zones in different countries.

Daylight Saving vs. Standard Time

When including time zones, many writers in theUnited States prefer to specify whether it is Daylight Saving or Standard Time (abbreviated EDT and EST, respectively, for the Eastern time zone).

Daylight Saving Time, which refers to when we “spring ahead” by one hour, begins in the U.S. in late Winter.  In 2011, for instance, we changed to Daylight Saving Time on March 13.

On November 6, 2011, we will switch to Standard Time when we “fall back” one hour.

When we spring ahead and fall back, it’s important to not just remember to change your clocks, but also keep an eye out for the correct usage of EDT and EST in your news releases.

A month after we changed over to Daylight Saving Time, Diana Dravis, an eagle-eyed editor in our Washington,D.C. bureau, was reading through a press release and noticed the client had used the EST abbreviation instead of EDT. After confirming the change with the client, Diana corrected the timing throughout the news release.

Although this mistake most commonly occurs around the months we make the switch, the rare EST vs. EDT typo does crop up on occasion throughout the year.

One way that this can happen is when someone copies the template of a press release they used earlier in the year.  If you do this, always doublecheck that you’ve updated any timing references — as well as years, months, dates and days of week – with the correct information.  Some individuals also shorten the abbreviation to ET to avoid any confusion.

Although Daylight Saving and Standard Time are common references in the United States, not all countries use it or they recognize it at different times of the year.  If you plan on targeting your announcement to a specific international audience, World Clocks can provide you with the correct local times if you want to include them in your announcement.

When promoting an event, it’s essential to provide accurate timing information to your potential attendees.  And by keeping global considerations in mind, your guests will know when to arrive on time – no matter where they’re coming from.

***

In April 2011, PR Newswire Editors like Diana caught 10,895 errors; year-to-date, our bureaus in DC, Cleveland and Albuquerque have made 44,726 “catches.”  Our April “catch rate” (an internal metric we track which measures the ratio of mistakes caught in press releases) was 667 catches per 1000 releases.

Author Amanda Hicken is a senior editor in PR Newswire’s Cleveland bureau.  In her free time, she pens the Clue Into Cleveland blog.

Image courtesy of Flickr user futureatlas.com

Press Releases Are No Joke on April Fools’ Day

Friday is April Fools’ Day. And although it may be fine to prank your friends and family on April 1st, press releases are not a laughing matter.

 

One of the key roles of a well-written news release is to build your organization’s credibility by sharing accurate information with the media and public. Providing valuable information helps set you apart as an expert in your field.

 

Subsequently, when a fake press release is sent to the media, you put this credibility at risk.

 

From a media relations and journalist’s perspective, hoaxes create a host of problems.

 

“While the issuer of a fake release may think it’s funny, it’s no laughing matter for the reporter on the other end who’s under deadline. Running a story based on a fake release is not only a waste of their time but it can have dire consequences, especially when it’s market moving news,” advises Brett Simon, Manager, Media Relations at PR Newswire.

 

Around this time of year, the media are always on the lookout for fake releases. However, if a media point is fooled by too subtle of a joke and reports on it as legitimate news, their credibility is not only damaged, but their perception of you as a trusted source may be permanently ruined.

 

Fake press releases for publicly traded companies are especially inappropriate – and can even lead to criminal investigations – because of their potential to impact the markets. There are stringent regulations set forth by Congress, the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) and other major exchanges about material news and publicly traded companies must always be in compliance with these rules.

 

“I remember there were a few fake releases around the same time last year. Once discovered, our reporters investigated the bogus releases by following up with the companies and by trying to find the perpetrator,” recalls an editor at one of the financial wires who asked to remain unnamed.

 

Finally, there’s the danger of annoying – or worse, offending – your readers if they don’t find the humor in your gag. By making light of a serious issue, you could end up alienating consumers and other audience members from your brand.

 

Because these risks far outweigh the benefits, PR Newswire will not knowingly distribute a news release that is a hoax or prank.

 

The media look to PR Newswire as a trustworthy source of legitimate news and such releases run the risk of seriously damaging this credibility.

 

Amusing though they may be, parodies and hoax releases are not appropriate for the public wire.  And that’s no joke.

 

Author Amanda Hicken is a senior editor at PR Newswire.  In her free time, she pens the Clue Into Cleveland blog.

 

Image courtesy of Flickr user Mykl Roventine

Press Release Pitfalls: Don’t Let a Typo Ruin Your Social Media Campaign

Some Editors in the Cleveland office take time out to smile at the camera

Welcome to our latest edition of Catching Up With Editorial – a new series on Beyond PR where PR Newswire’s Editorial team shares client catches that were made during the month and how you can avoid similar mistakes on your own press releases.

In our last entry, we discussed how to avoid math mix-ups in your press release.  This month’s topic focuses on how a minor typo can have significant impacts on your social media campaign.

 

If you follow Beyond PR, you’ll often read excellent insight into how you can utilize social media in your PR and Marketing campaigns. From increasing visibility with consumers and journalists to brand engagement and previously-untapped customer service opportunities, there are plenty of ways an organization can benefit from a well-planned social media strategy.

However, sometimes a typo in a news release can weaken these social media efforts.

Editors in our Cleveland office hard at work.

In February, one of our senior editors was checking the websites in a client’s press release and noticed the client had also included unlinked Twitter handles.  When the editor searched for those handles on Twitter, she discovered the client had included an extra underscore at the end of the Twitter handle which directed readers to someone else’s Twitter feed.

So, for instance, my Twitter handle is @ADHicken. However, if I accidentally include an underscore at the end, I’ll unintentionally direct readers to @AdHicken_ which goes somewhere else.

In our client’s example, the editor contacted the client, updated the release with the correct Twitter handle and later received excellent feedback from the customer when they emailed us to say: “We really appreciate the editor’s diligence in figuring this out. Please express our ‘thanks’ on our behalf.”

While it’s a good idea to double-check that all Twitter handles are typed out correctly in the text of your release, I would also recommend hyperlinking the text to the actual Twitter pages.  Hyperlinking @PRNewswire, for instance, will remove an extra step for readers who may be interested in following this Twitter feed.  It’s always best to create a direct link to the social media asset you want potential consumers or media heading to.

Twitter links aren’t the only social media where mistakes can happen.  If you are including links to your brand’s Facebook page, YouTube or other social media sites, double-check that the links go to the correct pages.

Something we see often in Editorial is a company linking just to Facebook.com instead of their organization’s specific Facebook page.  It’s better to give readers direct access to your page, because the assumption that they are willing to go to Facebook and search for your company is not always the reality.

Additionally, if you are going to embed your social media links within phrases in the text, follow anchor text best practices and link to phrases that are relevant. For instance, you can embed a link in a more descriptive phrase, such as “Follow PR Newswire on Facebook”  instead of words like “click here” or just “Facebook” and “YouTube.”

Anytime you include a hyperlink in your news release, PR Newswire’s Editorial department will double-check that it works properly.  Including the catches mentioned above, we caught over 10,875 client errors in February alone.

However, with these tips, you can prevent typos from occurring in your news releases before you submit them to PR Newswire’s Editorial department – typos that could hurt the social media campaign you’ve worked so hard to maintain.

Author Amanda Hicken is a senior editor in PR Newswire’s Cleveland office.

Avoid Common Press Release Pitfalls: Advice from our Eagle-Eyed Editors

The Catch of the Month board in our Albuquerque office

Even the most careful writer is susceptible to making a mistake. If that typo is in a company’s news release or other marketing materials, it can lead to substantial embarrassment and come at a great cost to you and your company’s reputation.

Fortunately, the most common pitfalls are easy to avoid if you know how to watch for them. Throughout 2010, PR Newswire editors caught more than 127,000 mistakes in press releases. Here are four of the most common mistakes we found, and how to avoid them.

Misspellings that could be caught in a spell check

From your company’s name to the spelling of a common word, conscientious use of a spell checker can prevent many embarrassing spelling errors.

The underused Ignore All button is your friend. When a word pops up that you know is correct, select the Ignore All – instead of the Ignore – button.  This often helps catch inconsistencies in the spelling of acronyms, proper nouns, and industry jargon mentioned multiple times throughout your text.

Of course, spell-checking programs aren’t perfect. They will pick up words that are spelled correctly in the text but not in the application’s dictionary. Don’t select Change or Change All unless you are absolutely certain the change is correct.  The last thing you want to do is accidentally change your CEO’s name from Galo to Gala because that’s what your spellchecker  suggested.

The spelling program won’t pick up all misspellings. It will overlook mistakes such as manger versus manager and the misuse of homophones like affect/effect, complement/compliment or it’s/its. To avoid a dependence on spellcheck, read your writing a few times out loud before running it through your spell checking program.

Nonworking or incorrect website links

Including the wrong website in a press release can carry significant consequences. Inverting two letters in a URL, typing .com instead of .org, or breaking the link with a space can keep readers from visiting your website.  You also lower the effectiveness of your SEO efforts by backlinking incorrectly or not at all.

Fortunately, there is a fast fix for preventing these mistakes – you just need to check that all of the links work (even the ones in your company boilerplate).

You can check a website by copying and pasting the link into your browser or hovering over the hyperlink in Word, hitting CTRL and clicking it.  To check an embedded backlink, right-click the linked phrase and select Edit Hyperlink.

When you visit the URL, check for two things:  one, that you don’t get a page error; and two, that the link actually takes you to the correct page. Sometimes a minor typo will take you to the homepage of another organization who uses a slight variation on your name. Or you may have linked to the webpage for Product X, when you intended to link to Product Y.

Don’t forget that websites aren’t the only hyperlinks prone to this mistake — more often than not, email addresses are incorrectly linked as well.  Although your text may include the correct email address, check that the backlink goes to the same place.  If the backlink in your address goes to your colleague’s email address, readers who click on it will be directed there instead of to your email.

Incorrect Contact Information

Incorrect email addresses are just one type of error that can crop up in contact information. You should also check that all phone numbers and names are correct.

Common phone number typos include using “800” instead of “877” in a toll-free number, providing the wrong extension, or accidentally including a mobile number instead of an office line. Check all numbers against an office directory or company website you know is accurate. If you’re still unsure, call the number. You should also use a trusted resource and follow the spell checking tips above to prevent the misspelling of a contact’s name.

What if the contact information is your own?  Don’t assume you’re safe from a mistake. Typos in our own name or phone number are the most common because we’re so used to seeing it and assume it’s correct.

Number Discrepancies

Discrepancies in numbers are not only common, but frequently difficult to spot. The good news? You can train yourself to keep an eye out for these most common culprits:

The date and day of the week don’t match: When you mention a day of the week in connection with a specific date, check it against your calendar. Make sure that January 31, 2011 is a Monday and not a Tuesday.

The year is wrong: Although this most frequently happens at the end and beginning of a calendar year, you should be on the safe side and always check that the year you’re referring to is the correct one.

The time zone conversion is wrong: If it’s necessary to write “12 p.m. Eastern Time (9 a.m. Pacific Time),” make sure you’ve converted your times correctly. Fortunately, you can find global time zone converters online that will convert both domestic and international time zones.

Errors in monetary amounts: From product pricing to a public company’s financials, an error in a monetary amount can have serious consequences. Be careful that decimal points are in the correct place, numbers haven’t been inverted, parentheses are included when you’re referring to a negative amount, and that you’ve included million and billion when necessary.

Multiple references to amounts are inconsistent: When a headline says there were 25 scholarship winners, make sure it says 25 throughout. If a bulleted or numbered list details each item, count them to doublecheck that the sum equals the total number you mentioned in other places.

Why you need a second set of eyes

It is essential to proofread, then proofread again to ensure a well-written and error-free press release. However, even if you’ve read the piece a few times and followed the above advice, it’s easy to overlook something on occasion.  Ask someone else to also proofread your work. A fresh set of eyes will often catch something you missed because you wrote it.

PR Newswire understands the importance of a second set of eyes – it’s why our Editorial department checks over your press release before distributing it.  We’re experts at proofreading, catching 127,584 mistakes in press releases in 2010 alone. From minor typos to incorrect financial figures, PR Newswire’s editors are the last line of defense – saving you not only the cost of fixing it after the fact, but also your company’s reputation.   In the meantime, we hope these tips help you catch mistakes in copy before it leaves your desktop.

Authored by Amanda Hicken, senior editor, PR Newswire.  Amanda pens the Clue Into Cleveland blog.

Want to fine-tune your press release SEO, and build visibility in search engines?  Read Press Release SEO: Writing Press Releases Effectively for Search Engines.