Author Archives: Christine Cube

Inside PRN: Editor by day; race driver by night

When Hurd reviews vehicles for Speed:Sport:Life, he occasionally gets to drive them on local tracks to get a better feel for their performance. Here, he’s driving a 2011 Lexus IS F at Summit Point Motorsports Park’s Shenandoah Circuit. Photo credit: Chase Adams

(This year, we’re highlighting some of the folks who keep PR Newswire operating smoothly. Meet Byron Hurd, a senior customer content specialist at PR Newswire, with a serious penchant for speed.)

Most people prefer driving either a stick-shift or an automatic.  PR Newswire’s Byron Hurd doesn’t much care. It just has to drive well.

Hurd, a senior customer content specialist at PR Newswire, is a bit of a car addict.  The obsession began innocently enough – Matchbox and Hot Wheels and by his teens, he toted the occasional car mag on long road trips to visit family in Texas.  Today, he owns four cars — a 2008 Mazda Speed 3, 1997 Jeep Wrangler, and two Mazda Miatas (1990 and 1994 – one is a parts car and doesn’t run). They all neatly fit into his driveway in Annapolis, Md.

In addition to driving cars on closed race courses, Hurd also participates in auto-cross events. Auto-crosses are held in parking lots on courses delineated by parking cones, and drivers try to beat times set by others in vehicles of similar performance. It’s not just for fun; auto-cross teaches drivers a lot about emergency vehicle control and allows them to explore the limits of their cars in a safe and fun, competitive environment.

Hurd also blogs for Speed:Sport:Life. And he occasionally spends weekends racing cars at the track.

“Driving for the first time on a racetrack is pretty intense,” said Hurd, 27. “But it’s the best rollercoaster ride you could ever take.”

Hurd got his blogging start with Speed:Sport:Life through a connection he made as a member of an online Volkswagen enthusiast group. The guy also happened to blog and was a racing driver.  They went out to the Virginia International Raceway. The rest is history – Hurd was invited to write for the blog.

When he’s not driving cars provided by manufacturers, Hurd tracks his personal vehicles. Here, he drives his 2008 Mazda Speed3 at Mid-Ohio Raceway, one of the nation’s premiere sports car and open-wheel racing venues. Photo credit: Dave Everest

That was a few years ago.

Hurd’s favorite thing about writing for Speed:Sport:Life is the ability to experience many different cars.  “They give me a car for a week and sometimes I get to commute in them and take them on racetracks. You can’t get that from a test drive,” Hurd said. “We’re just a few friends who like to write about cars. Something will occur to me about a car I drove recently, and I’ll sit down and write.”

Hurd has been on a racetrack dozens of times.  It’s usually an all-weekend situation, and he meets up with others from racing organizations and clubs. The groups usually are broken down according to beginners and advanced driving groups. (Beginners, for example, must drive with instructors and are only permitted to pass drivers in certain areas.)

Hurd’s longtime girlfriend Nicole – who also comes from a car family – is very understanding about his passion. “Her one rule is that we can’t have more than one car that doesn’t run so we don’t get overwhelmed,” Hurd said. “I don’t think I could get by with owning one car. The monotony would drive me crazy.”

Hurd’s next track weekend is this month in Summit Point, WVa.

There, he plans to drive a new Porsche 911. He also anticipates more track weekends in his future because the season for car racing is heating up in the Mid-Atlantic. (Most car clubs will get together between now and October.)

“Driving” press release distribution

When Hurd isn’t living and breathing his vehicular hobby, he splits his work day within the DC office of PR Newswire doing a variety of things. He spends half of his day proofing press release copy, reading and checking for typos. Hurd then puts the release into the system and spends the rest of the day talking with PR Newswire clients, confirming press releases, troubleshooting, and assisting with customer service.

He also curates the @PRNauto presence on Twitter for PR Newswire, sharing  auto and motorsports news and press releases from around the web.

Christine Cube is a media relations manager for PR Newswire and freelance writer. You can follow her @cpcube.

Reaching & Engaging US Hispanics Online

When it came to reaching U.S. Hispanics in the digital space, things were pretty tough early on.

In the 1990s, only 24 percent of Hispanics had Internet access, so there definitely was a digital and computer gap, said officials with Ogilvy who spoke during Social Media Week DC about reaching U.S. Hispanics online.

“Today, the Latino community is playing and engaging in social media,” said Kety Esquivel, vice president of digital influence at Ogilvy PR Worldwide.  Esquivel mentioned this provides a tremendous opportunity for those interested in reaching this growing audience.

Starting in 1997, things changed pretty quickly for the Hispanic audience with the popularization of instant messaging.  Two years later, Terra was launched and it became a very popular portal in Latin America, said Julio Valeriano, who oversees cause advocacy with Ogilvy.

Hispanics in the marketplace today represent $1.2 trillion in purchasing power. There are 6.4 million Hispanic homeowners, and Hispanics have the largest households with 3.6 people per home.

Contributing to this increasingly tech-savvy audience were huge milestones, including Friendster’s launch in 2002, MySpace and hi5 in Latin America in 2003, and Facebook in 2004.

Ogilvy officials said these factors really led to a boom of Hispanics in online media – a social revolution that led to iconic meetings like Latism and Hispanicize.

Esquivel pointed to SXSW, which this year has added a new award to Latinos in technology that “honors this very revolution.”

Nowadays, the numbers are growing by leaps and bounds:

  • There are 30 million Hispanics online. By 2014, it’s expected that 39 million Hispanics will be online.
  • Hispanics spend an average 29 minutes per day in social networking activities.
  • Seventy percent of online Hispanics are using Facebook.
  • Fifty-nine percent of online Hispanics are on YouTube.
  • Eight million Hispanics are on Twitter.
  • There are more than 1,900 Latina bloggers, compared with just 159 in 2009. (Source: Mamiverse, blogs by Latinas.)

The digital divide now resides between native-born and foreign-born Hispanics.

“Engage with the community,” said Esquivel. “Don’t just send messages out or just find out who to contact … we need to understand where the opportunities are.”

Phones are among the critical points of access to the Hispanic community, they said. Seventy-six percent of Hispanics own a mobile phone.

Valeriano said that five years ago, the recommendation would have been to reach Hispanics in Spanish. Now, it’s important to reach them in both English and Spanish.

Christine Cube is a media relations manager for PR Newswire and freelance writer. You can follow her @cpcube.

Need help developing engaging multimedia content for your Latino audiences?  Multivu Latino is here to help offering broadcast and interactive services and media training designed for reaching the Hispanic marketplace.

Inside PRN: Meet Our VP of Communications Strategies

Colleen Pizarev with a Flat Stanley that her young nephew gave her to travel with around the world. Here, Pizarev and Stanley are in Tokyo.

(This year, we’re highlighting some of the folks who keep PR Newswire operating smoothly. This is the first in the series, featuring Colleen Pizarev, our VP of communications strategies, and the architect of many of PR Newswire’s global news release distribution services.)

Colleen Pizarev remembers interviewing for her first job with PR Newswire.

Her least favorite question came up: “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

Folks who know Pizarev won’t be surprised by her frank answer. She wanted to still be working with the same company, especially in Silicon Valley, where job turnover was high.

That was 18 years ago.

“I said as long as I’m still having fun, I don’t see any reason for leaving,” said Pizarev, vice president of communications strategies for PR Newswire from her West Coast office. “It’s been 18 years, and I’m still having fun.”

Over the years, Pizarev has been credited with a bunch of milestones for PR Newswire.

She was the company’s first telecommuter in 1997. And since 1994, Pizarev opened PR Newswire’s first offices outside the US, namely, London, Frankfurt, Sao Paolo, Rio, Hong Kong, Singapore, Beijing, and Paris.

Her passports include stamps from every continent except Antarctica.

On the personal side, traveling around the world for work has been fabulous. She’s tried dog-sledding in Canada, climbed the Great Wall of China, rode an elephant in Thailand, and been on safari in South Africa.

“I’ve been able to see some wonderful places and do things that I’ve always wanted to do,” she said. “I work with great clients and even greater people.”

But the job didn’t come without its challenges.

As the director of international operations early on, Pizarev commuted from San Francisco to Hong Kong for three years, staying there for weeks at a time. Each international office that she opened took several months to get off the ground. Her husband and son were supportive throughout, and they now laugh about the mishaps that occurred during her long absences.

Today, Pizarev works entirely with North American clients looking to grow a global presence.

For them, her advice is simple: You have to know what you’re doing and where to go to get help.

“Every country is different. There are pitfalls that if you don’t know about, can seriously damage the outcome of your communications,” she said. “There are a lot of companies that don’t have the luxury of large agencies or people on the ground. They need to access people who know what to do.”

Pizarev knows what to do. Because of her deep global connections, it’s easy for her to help a company hold an event in another country, find journalists in a new vertical market, or reach microbloggers in, say, China. She helps clients take their communications plans and expand them in markets where they have little or no presence.

This kind of work especially can be daunting for companies that have never swum in these waters before.

“Smaller companies struggle with branding overseas, and there are a lot of things that can be done remotely that will assist them without significantly increasing effort or budget. With large companies, a lot of the struggle is with consistent messaging and global agency management,” she said. “I help them to realize that it’s not as complicated as they thought. There are things they can do to make it a lot easier for them.”

Pizarev has an MBA in international finance and is a member of the International Public Relations Association, where she credits getting most of her professional development. In addition to PR agency experience, she also has a background in journalism, freelance writing about technology for a couple of years while her son was young. She continues to write — blogging for her own site, The Travel Gods are Laughing, and writing for Older Not Dead.

Even in her off time, Pizarev enjoys travelling. Growing up, her father was in international business and at times would take the family with him.

So her plan always had been to have a job that would allow her to travel.

“I really love what I’m doing right now, working with clients and helping them with communications outside of their comfort zones,” Pizarev said. “And I hope to still be doing it in five years.”

Christine Cube is a media relations manager for PR Newswire and freelance writer. You can follow her @cpcube.

Pitching Business Editors

There are many things to keep in mind when pitching your news release to a business desk.

As a longtime business journalist, I’ve been on the receiving end of thousands of releases. But to fairly convey what these reporters and editors are looking for, I tapped some old friends for fail-safe words of pitching wisdom.

Many of these can be applied to nearly any news desk. Consider them best practices.

1. Know the news outlet before you pitch. Douglas Fruehling, editor of the Washington Business Journal, says No. 1 on his list is for public relations types to know the organization and the news product before a pitch even is made.

“If you read the business journal, you would know we [might not] cover that,” he said. “You have to know that what you’re pitching is something the organization would think about using.”

Marla Pugh, a longtime business editor-turned-PR maven from California, agrees.

“Think about the audience of the paper you are pitching and include a paragraph about why that publication’s audience should care,” Pugh said. “Is it a conservative daily or a hipster weekly? Adjust your message. Not all releases should be equal for all publications.”

2. Consider the publication’s deadlines and editorial calendar.   Timing can make all the difference in whether or not your story is picked up.

3.  Provide facts.    Pugh also wants to see hard data and numbers – percentage of growth, number of people employed, and customer base – all of that information shows impact.

To follow up, or not?

When it comes to the sensitive subject of follow-up calls, Fruehling admits he’s not adamant like other journalists about not receiving them.

“There have been times when I get would get follow-up calls for press releases, and I went back to reevaluate them,” he said. “I know others would say no follow-up call, but maybe a quick follow up [would be OK]. There have been a couple times when I have deleted a press release – I try to read everything – the subject line or the lede, and then I’ve gotten a call and revisited it.”

Other tips when pitching a business desk:
• Email always. Don’t fax.
• No attachments. (It’s frankly too much work, especially if you’ve got several things going on.)
• Get the journalist’s name right and send the release directly vs. some generic inbox.
• Use plain English and no jargon. Also, use correct grammar and spelling.
• Always include contact info and be accessible if a journalist calls for more information.
• Use a quote from a real person or include perspective (like a customer testimonial).

Need media contacts, editorial calendars and pitching tips?  PR Newswire’s MEDIAtlas is an affordable and robust media database.  It’s updated continually by our global audience research team.

Christine Cube is a media relations manager for PR Newswire and freelance writer. You can follow her @cpcube.

BlogHer: Implementing Community Features on Your Blog

As a blogger, when it comes to building a brand, your community plays an important role.

“Community is a brand extension,” said Sara Rosso, with VIP Services of Automattic. “Don’t feel like you have to do everything. Maybe just work on profiles for now or just the forums. You don’t have to turn on everything. You can test things slowly and see if you need to turn on more features.”

Rosso (@rosso) has two blogs, Ms. Adventures in Italy and When I Have Time. She was among the three-person panel speaking about blogger implementation of community features during the recent BlogHer conference in San Diego.

Blogger Adria Richards (@adriarichards) told the audience that it helps build communities and stimulate readers when you stay active within the community.

She encouraged bloggers to survey their readers. Ask them about their likes and dislikes. What could be done differently or better.

Reinforcing the point early on, Richards drew in the BlogHer audience by taking an informal poll on the blog platforms that the audience was using.

Roughly 95 percent of the bloggers in the room were users of WordPress. (That was interesting.) One-third had a BlogHer account. Already, common ground — and a community — was established in the room.

Holly Hamann (@hollyhamann), co-founder of BlueFrog, encouraged bloggers in the audience to reward their super users of their blogs.

“They’re community leaders,” Hamann said. “Recruit your superfans. You could have five or 10 community leaders. On Blogfrog, they have a special avatar. You can designate your community leaders.”

Here are some helpful tweets that came out of community features session (#bh11addcommunity):

  • Via @sofiaquintero: People hear “open source,” they think “free.” I think “community-developed” by people with common vision. – @adriarichards #bh11addcommunity
  • Via @debrasimpson: Book suggestion – “Don’t Make Me Think” – Steve Krug #bh11addcommunity #blogher11
  • Via @debrasimpson: Charging for content – better to have 10,000 free engaged mbrs vs 100 non-active pd mbrs #bh11addcommunity
  • Via @debrasimpson: When planning community look at where you want to be in a year not tomorrow #bh11addcommunity
  • Via @eva_smith: Q: Best way to filter community? A. Know your audience, connect the people, build the trust, become the glue #bh11addcommunity

Christine Cube is a media relations manager for PR Newswire and freelance writer. You can follow her @cpcube.

BlogHer: Your Blog Can Make You a Social Media Marketer

For blogger Marcy Massura (@marcymassura), Google+ has been a big help with social media marketing and building her brand.

Massura, who serves as a community manager and strategist for Weber Shandwick, said she amassed as many followers on Google+ in six weeks as it took for her to collect on Twitter over four years’ time.

“I’m in pretty deep,” Massura told a room full of bloggers during a BlogHer 2011 talk called Your Blog Can Make You a Social Media Marketer (#bh11smmarketer). “Google+ is the biggest change to blogging. It’s a game changer. It’s a long format publisher and in many cases can replace a blog.”

But that’s not something she recommends, Massura said. She said it’s still important for bloggers and brands to have business sites.

At the very least, it’s worth exploring Google+, she told the group.

Massura was joined by thousands of bloggers recently at the San Diego Convention Center for BlogHer 2011, learning from other bloggers and brands about doing business.

Elisa Page (@elisac) with Blogher.com said she preferred Google+ over Facebook because of the diversity of content there.

“I’m friends with lots of moms with small children and when I joined Facebook – there’s a lot of talk about moms and their children,” she said. “With Google+, the conversation is more about me. It made suggestions for me and found people like me. So I’m building a community there — more diversity of content and people.”

Other lessons from this panel via Twitter:

    • Via @halogenmedia: “when you represent a brand you are a digital spokesperson, 24/7″ – Marcy Massura @theglamlife #blogher11 #bh11smmarketer
    • Via @catherinekaram: Unlike social media gurus, bloggers are actually doing social media, not just retweeting Mashable. #BlogHer11 #bh11smmarketer // AWESOME!
    • Via @lyzl: “Stop tweeting inspirational quotes. That’s our PSA for the day.” @melissalion #bh11smmarketer #blogher11
    • Via @mummytime: If you’re a brand wanting to engage with bloggers. Forget about the ‘A’ list. Create and find your ‘A’ list. #blogher11 #bh11smmarketer
    • Via @juliey: @melissalion advice: Social media is all about content. Look at types of content hiring managers need. #bh11smmarketer
    • Via @bostonblogmom: Don’t say it on the internet if you wouldn’t feel comfortable saying it your boss’s office. @melissalion #bh11smmarketer #blogher11

Christine Cube is a media relations manager for PR Newswire and freelance writer. You can follow her @cpcube.

BlogHer ’11: Strategic branding or over-gifting?

Brands at Blogher: strategic marketing, or just too much swag?

I’ll start with the fake eyelashes.

Why fake eyelashes? Because at BlogHer 2011, sweets company Skinny Cow was offering them — and free ice cream — and the attitude at BlogHer was very much “Why not?”

So I snacked on an ice cream truffle bar and stood in line for a beauty professional to stick fake lashes to my eyelids. The gluing was less than pleasing, but I was incredibly amused by the whole experience.

I’m guessing that was the point.

The expo at BlogHer in San Diego last weekend took conference tchotchke to a new level, and brands literally handed over products by the boxes like we were trick-or-treaters.

Companies heavily wooed bloggers with swag, and the goodies were over the top. Free pens, reusable grocery bags, and big bowls of candy didn’t cut it with this crowd.

We’re talking some serious loot.

Pfizer (#pfizerblogher) handed out yoga mats, Robitussin, ChapStick, ThermaCare heated back wraps, Advil, and Caltrate.

Dr. Scholl’s was giving out smushy inserts for heels and reuseable flats for tired conference feet.

Lindt gave out big chocolate bars.

Quaker gave flip flops.

Ella’s Kitchen handed out baby food by the squeezy bottles.

Johnson & Johnson reps strolled the expo floor, unloading gift bags with toothbrushes, baby shampoo, and Band-Aids.

Office supplier 3M gave away Post-it products and highlighters.

Veteran BlogHer attendees (who clearly knew the takings were good) shamelessly deposited gifts into rollerbags.

I had never seen anything like it. As a journalist, there are major ethical reasons why the taking of such gifts is prohibited. But it seemed — at least at this conference — that the rules for bloggers are a little different.

All companies at the expo hoped that bloggers would like the products well enough to write something up.  And when brands didn’t have actual goods to give away on the floor, some companies chose a different tactic:  Send a gift box to the blogger’s home after collecting their contact information.

That was P&G’s strategy with its ‘Home Away from Home’ at house at BlogHer — a mock home on the conference floor that allowed bloggers to tour, and visit each room and product (Tide, Pantene, Swiffer, Cascade, etc.).  At the conclusion of the tour, bloggers could drop their info into a computer and order a gift box of products to be sent free to their home.

Other companies offered other experiences like cooking demonstrations and plenty of food stops.

Lee Jeans offered jean fittings with the help of a special tent on the expo floor.

Tropicana invited E! News host Giuliana Rancic to pose for pictures with fans, while other conference attendees sat in the back getting pedicures.

Google reps took the opportunity to showcase Google+ and show bloggers how to use Circles and Hangouts.

One mommy blogger said it took her four hours to get through all the vendors at the expo. The variety of companies at BlogHer truly was impressive.  For BlogHer watchers, it’ll be interesting to see how high the bar was set this year with conference swag.  Could this be a trend with blog and social media meetings?  Does the swag distribution pay off for brands?

We shall see.

Christine Cube is a media relations manager with PR Newswire and freelance writer. You can follow her on Twitter @cpcube.

Social Media: Driving Business Transformation

When it comes to transforming your business with social media, Jay Baer, author of the Convince & Convert blog, said companies must do more than be on Facebook.

“Having a Facebook page isn’t transforming your business,” Baer said. “That’s Yellow Pages 2.0. And having a lot of Facebook fans has zero ties to business success. It requires exactly one click of one finger.”  Amber Naslund, vice president of social media strategies with Radian 6 and co-author with Baer on the book, The Now Revolution: Transforming Your Business with Speed, Smarts & Social Media, agreed.

But you also can’t “wing” your social media strategy either, they said. There must be a policy in place.  During their keynote address this morning at the Online Marketing Summit, Baer and Naslund pointed to stories of business transformation influenced in part the changes in customer behavior and expectations social media has wrought.   Among them:  Fairfax, Va.-based ThinkGeek.

Recently, someone posted a question in binary code on ThinkGeek’s Facebook wall. Within seven minutes, a company rep responded in like type.  Baer said it’s that kind of interaction and cultural alignment that makes for ThinkGeek’s success.

They are geeks, and they hire for geekiness,” he said. “Their first interview question literally is: Star Wars or Star Trek? They have Dungeons and Dragons night. ThinkGeek hires based on cultural fit, and that voice of culture is baked into every employee.”

When it comes to social media, Naslund said it’s not enough for companies to respond only to positive social media conversations.

“One of the things we fear is that we’re going to get into the social media conversation and we’re going get a negative complaint,” she said. “All information is positive. We as businesses have the ability to sniff out negative issues as they’re happening.”

The process to address social media conversations must be tactical, they said. Every company must designate teams: coaches, booths, and players.  Coaches decide on the overarching social media strategy. They direct and call the plays.
Booths are the folks behind the scenes. These are people in HR, for example, who are impacted by social media so they can make decisions within their part of the business.  Players are the front lines people. These include a company’s public relations specialists and customer service reps.

In most companies, social media is literally someone’s job, Baer said. Soon, it’ll be designated a skill, and a company will not only handle problems through social media, but capitalize on its opportunities.  Employees must be empowered to join the conversation, he told the group.   Enterprise-wide empowerment requires a significant cultural shift.

Finally, listening to social media conversations must never end, the duo said.
“Social media doesn’t close at 5,” Baer said.

Christine Cube manages media relations for PR Newswire and tweets through @PRNewswire and @PRNAlert.

The Now Revolution has influenced other posts on Beyond PR.  See more references on these posts:

The Enterprise and Social Media Ownership

People, Content & Measurement

Writing the perfect headline

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. The old adage countless moms uttered to young ones while simultaneously patting down hair or straightening a collar is good advice for press release writers as well.

You already know what makes for a good headline: It’s the stuff that makes you stop what you’re doing to scan the news. A good headline grabs the reader’s attention, encouraging them to take the next step – actually reading your story.

Your headline has to work extra hard for you these days.  In addition to competing against other wire service stories in the newsroom, your headlines also are a key piece in press release SEO strategies,  informing and and attracting  search engine users.   Headlines have to stand out on Facebook and need to be easily shared on Twitter.

Writing headlines – like writing a good tweet – gets easier with practice.  To help you out, here are some tips to create that perfect handful of words that will help you and your company gain critical news coverage and online readership.

First, state your business, and keep your message concise.

Do:

  • Keep it active. If the headline sounds like old news, journalists (and your online audiences) will treat it as such.
  • Try to lose all fluff, adjectives, and jargon.
  • Stick to around seven to eight words. Bonus points if it’s less.

Don’t:

  • Editorialize.
  • Write long, wordy headlines.
  • Use a verb that doesn’t tell the reader/journalist anything.

That last point is very important. Rather than “Company A Announces Partnership With Company B,” try “Company A Partners With Company B to _______.” (That’s the way an editor would write it anyway, so do the work for them.)

More engaging verb examples include: “Company Terminates Contract With,” “Company Forms,” “Company Buys,” “Company Loses,” and “Company Invests in.”

See how these verbs clear up gray areas?

Let’s close with earnings headlines.  As you know, every publicly held company must release earnings on a quarterly basis. This is not new news.

So take the opportunity to tell journalists something about the company’s quarter: “Company Reports 20 Percent Increase in Q1 Profits.” A headline like this will stand out among hundreds of earnings headlines, and editors are likely to notice.

Kevin Helliker of the Wall Street Journal once advised a group at a PR Newswire media coffee to write the headline you’d like to see on your story in the Journal.  Spending a little extra time to craft that perfect headline will generate additional attention for your message – online and in newsrooms.

Media relations manager Christine Cube is our resident journalist. She contributes regularly to @PRNewswire on Twitter and also tweets under the handle @cpcube.

Photo courtesy of The Italian Voice via Flickr