Author Archives: Polina Opelbaum

13 Tips for Writing and Pitching Op-Ed Stories

New York Times writer, Jennifer Finney Boylan

Op-ed pieces are unique in their structure, length, voice in comparison to other non-fiction writing. Knowing how to merge your opinion with factual information is an important part of writing op-ed pieces and attracting readers to your story, is a skill that takes time and practice to finesse.  Jennifer Finney Boylan, author, speaker, and writer for New York Times Opinion joined our last #ConnectChat discussion, where she not only shared how she writes op-ed pieces and turn them into compelling stories, but also about how to pitch them to major publications. Here are 13 tips from Boylan all op-ed writers should remember:

Write a clear headline, but don’t expect it to make the final cut.
Writers almost never choose their own headlines. In fact, the editor won’t even consult you about the headline most of the time. This is an ancient writer/editor practice. Headlines are chosen based on space as much as anything else, and positioning. My recent piece in the NYT, “Home is Where the Horses Are” was originally titled “Why the Long Face.” Still, you need to have a headline on your piece when you submit it. That helps the editor know what you’re up to, especially if your piece is a “gimmick” piece.

Hook the reader in right away with an anecdote, humorous ones work best. Then try to “show” how the story connects to an issue in the news, or of note. Wrap up it up by circling back to the joke in a new way.

The ideal length for op-eds is 800 words; original pieces 1,200 words.The NYT prefers 800 words for a standard op-ed column, like the regulars: Brooks, Collins, Bruni, etc. If I’m pitching an original piece, I go as long as 1,200 words with a note to the editor saying, “This is long; I can cut.” Having a relationship with the editor is an advantage because I know she will read my work. Sunday columns are a bit longer as well because there is more space in the Sunday Review.

Tell a story that also advocates a “position” backed up by fact and research. Op-ed pieces differ from other nonfiction in that it really is about opinion -you can’t just tell the story and leave it at that. For example, acclaimed New York Times economist Paul Krugman discusses economic facts, but he makes those stats into a compelling, moving story. The story generally comes first, along with your own charming voice, then the research.

Be aware that your opinions become public, and will become associated with you. For instance, I’m the national co-chair of the board of directors of GLAAD, and I have to be careful. People will think that my opinions are GLAAD’s opinions if I write about LGBT issues. As a writer, I don’t draw lines — I want to write about everything! As a public figure, I have to be careful not to damage the brand of the organization. Bottom line is, I try to be very careful, and don’t write when I’ll jeopardize the organization.

Be true to your personal writing style. Each writer has his or her own style, of course. It might be cliché, but your best bet is to be yourself. People can tell if you’re faking it. I bet you could read a “typical” column by one of the Times’ dozen or so regulars and know within a graph who wrote it.

Target your pitch to the most relevant publications that will connect with that story. If your story has a strong connection to a place, go to the paper in that town. You can also build a portfolio of clips starting small and going more national. My first published column was for the Middletown Press, in Connecticut about graduating from that town’s Wesleyan University. If it’s your first story, it’s good way to establish your credentials.

Pitch stories tied to seasonal events a month ahead of time.
Timing is everything in pitching as is a hook. Editors aren’t interested in your random genius. So know that, the Monday before Father’s Day, editors will be flooded with pieces about daddies. So if you’re going to write a Father’s Day piece, write it in May and send it in early.

Prioritize breaking news stories. Finding a good hook is an art, but sometimes you have to wait for the news cycle to give you your lede as well. For example, I had a piece ready to go for the Times this spring when I heard the news about the new SAT on the radio. I sent a note to my editor saying, “Hold the other piece, I’m writing an SAT thing,” and sent it in next morning, which was published the day after. If I’d waited two days later, the editor would have been swamped in SAT pieces.

Take advantage of Summer writing opportunities. Regular NYT columnists take vacations in the summer, so they’re always looking for people to fill. That’s how I became a regular after the “postcard” series — I became a designated summer filler — columnist “substitute teacher.” For up and comers and freelancers, this is an ideal opportunity.

Format your email pitch appropriately. In addition to attaching your piece as an email to the editor, paste it in as text as well. That way the editor doesn’t have to open your word document to read the piece; It’s right there and your lede is already grabbing their attention. Also, seriously: use 18 point type in the email paste. Make it big. Editors are not in their 20s. Have pity. Also, even though this is very particular, use a serif font, palatino or, say, times. Never use sans-serif font.

Be considerate to your editor and continue to build upon your relationship. Be respectful. Don’t be too annoying. If they encourage you, keep conversing. Be pleasant on email, but brief; keep in mind that editors are usually overworked. If they say no, accept that no means no. But if they pass on your story in a nice way, send them something else, although not right away.

Don’t give up hope – opportunities arise when you least expect them. How I went from a one-shot column to a regular political “postcard” series in the New York Times is a good story. I’d had a really great lunch with the editor in NY. Later, I saw the Times building and thought it would be a good idea to stop in and say hello. Next thing I know, he and others were sitting around a table asking me, “What do you got?” Suddenly I realized they thought I was there to pitch.

Thinking quickly, I pitched a half-baked idea about two general stores in my hometown– one Republican, one Democratic. They sent me on my way, and I didn’t hear anything back. Three months later, I receive a call from the editor saying, “That thing about the general stores? Write it. Need it by tomorrow.” In my case, another columnist’s work wasn’t any good, so they needed a filler and remembered my story.  I scrambled and wrote it in a day and that’s how I landed the gig.  The moral of the story is: you never know when the publication of your dreams will need you, so don’t lose heart.

polina opelbaumAuthor  Polina Opelbaum is the editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. To read more from Polina, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.

 

How HuffPo Creates Value With Communities

HuffPost Code recently hosted an event featuring HuffPo’s Director of Community, Tim McDonald, and a discussion of how to develop and maintain communities, offering brands valuable insight into one of the web’s most enthusiastic communities.

The Meaning Behind Community

It is not about what is a community, but more about who is community. Community is about people and having relationships with these people.

McDonald wants his community to be a bunch of “little monsters” that are passionate about his brand and what he does. If he is going to spend his time engaging with this community, then he wants them talking to their friends and their community about his brand. McDonald goes on to say that community management is about being a magnet. You want to draw in your community members and have them be stuck, and you don’t want them to leave once they get there.

Community is very emotional, because people have an emotional connection to your brand. On the other hand, marketing is very transactional — it is a like, a click, a retweet. Those people are not fans, but they are the crowd. Don’t spend your time talking to the crowd, but spend your time talking to your community. Loyalty is about having an emotional bond to something. It is not about getting a discount or frequent flyer card, but it about being a firm supporter of a brand that you don’t work for. But you need to remember to give that supporter something — never forget that. You need to make it about them before you make it about you.

You also need to have a community that is exclusive, which can be as specific as providing an email address, or filling out a survey, or needing people to take the initiative of asking to be part of the community. The exclusivity will depend on the different levels of different objectives.

Case Study One: Exclusive Community

Murph, a Huffington Post member, who frequently comments on the site provides a lot of value because of the way he interacts with other commenters on the site. Murph was given the status of Community Pundit, which allows his comments to be longer and get text formatting. This member really likes it, because nobody else has it.

Murph is very valuable to McDonald, especially, when the change on Huffington Post occured to Facebook verified identies to comment. Before this change occurred, McDonald took the time to let Murph know. Even though Murph wasn’t happy about it, he understand why it was being done. Murph was then going on to other sites where people were bashing Huffington Post and would explain to people why they should give Huffington Post a chance. This isn’t something you can buy or do alone as a brand.

Case Study Two: Connecting With Community Members

When they started HuffPost Live, McDonald met a woman named Tash through customer feedback. In a polite way, Tash asked why they don’t have a search function on HuffPost Live, so she could be alerted to the shows that she wanted to watch instead of needing to tune in and not know when the episodes would show. This search capability exists now, but back then it didn’t, so McDonald emailed her back. He didn’t use the standard email, but he wrote an email thanking her, apologizing to her about her frustration and explaining to her that he doesn’t have a timeline on it but wants to try to make it happen. He ended by saying that if she has any other questions or if he can help her get involved in any other way, to please let me him know, and he provided his phone number and email.

Tash emailed McDonald back. They got in a Google+ Hangout and started talking about what she does and her passions. He was very helpful and interested in her, and at the end of the conversation she asked what she could do for McDonald. Since HuffPost Live just launched, they didn’t have a huge existing database of guests they could call on. Right after that Hangout, Tash introduced McDonald to two or three people, and then the next day she introduced him to more people, etc. Most of the people she introduced him to ended up being guests on HuffPost Live. Tash also gave McDonald the idea to start a small private Facebook group where he could invite some of these guests in and tell them when the shows would come up, and then they could suggest guests for them and McDonald could give these suggestions to the producers.

Experiment

McDonald suggests to always be experimental, because he has realized that if he isn’t failing then he isn’t trying hard enough. Most of us start thinking that we don’t have the finances, resources, or time to do something, but those are all just excuses. He explains that you don’t need to build a huge project where you get everyone to sign off to experiment. McDonald has three rules for testing things: 1) He doesn’t have to ask for anybody’s permission. 2) He doesn’t have to ask for any budget. 3) He won’t get fired for it. He also thinks it may be helpful to find one of the stakeholders that you might be helping and tell them what you’re doing, and make sure they think it is a good idea.

Final Thoughts

McDonald mentions that many people forgot about one amazing tool out there: the telephone. It has helped him connect with many community members in a deeper way than ever before by them hearing his tone, and by him being able respond to questions in an immediate manner. Of course, he says, you don’t need to get on the phone with every single person, but with the people that are valuable to your community — that small group of passionate, raving fans.

 Written by Polina Opelbaum, editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. To read more from Polina, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.

The Effects of Hummingbird on Search and Social

We’ve had a few months to digest and absorb the changes Google wrought with the launch of the Hummingbird search algorithm, which significantly chanted how the search giant ranks content.  

So what effect has Hummingbird had on search and social?  Earlier this year, the Social Media Club NYC hosted an event that assessed the impact the new algorithm has had for internet users users and brands. The meeting was moderated by SMCNYC board memberDanielle Simon, and the three panelists included:

Landsman put together the following PowerPoint to introduce the topic of Hummingbird. You can download it here: db.tt/rFVSLL2W.

Key points Landsman made include:

  • Google Senior VP of Search Amit Singhal explained this new change by saying, “Hummingbird is focused more on ranking information based on a more intelligent understanding of search requests, unlike its predecessor, Caffeine, which was targeted at better indexing of websites.”
  • With this new change to Google Search, content is still the most important thing. You need to be able to share content with context.
  • The change brings to bear Semantic Web, as Google seeks to deliver the results of semantic search.
  • Google really wants to understand what your search query means.
  • Google keeps a database of all things that were searched and then they look at your personal search history when you sign into your Google account, as well as your context and the context of you and your content. They call this Personalized Search.
  • Human language is getting more play at Google, especially with Siri and Android hearing what you’re saying.
  • Hummingbird leverages Google’s vast Knowledge Graph, which contains information about 570 million concepts. It then uses this equation thought of by Landsman: Words + Context + Knowledge Graph = SERPS (aka “hits”)
  • Google tells you keywords are not provided unless you’re an advertiser. The explanation behind this is when SSL (Secure Sockets Layered) is employed, keywords are not provided.
  • Google moved to SSL for all Personalized Search. As a security measure, this would secure the user’s identity.
  • Here are some things you can do since Google is not telling you the keywords: start listening; look at your referrer logs; look at time spent per page; look at what else shows up in search; write great copy on all of your pages; and be sure to use all the meta data tools.
  • It is more important to drive traffic to your site that is interested in what you have to say versus getting tons of hits.

Here are some of the questions that were asked by Simon and attendees, and their responses:

As a searcher, what type of change would we have seen that reflects this algorithm change?

Batista: When searchers need to type to search for something, they don’t want to type a lot. However, when you need to speak to search, you will be more verbose. It is easier for us to speak than type. From Google’s perspective, they are looking at two perspectives. These are the challenges that Hummingbird is enabling Google to solve.

What are the practical things you can do as a business, and how can you serve your customers better by coming up in certain queries?

Batista: Google started an initiative in 2009 called rich snippets to encourage more webmasters to annotate their pages and identify whether the page is about a place, review, recipe, etc. In return, this helped Google enrich their knowledge graph, which makes your search more compelling. If I have client where we implement these rich snippets, they have at least a 30 percent increase in click-through rate.

Another free tool you can use is Webmaster Tools. It is an SEO tool that Google provides you, and you have full access to the phrases that people are searching. With the query data that is typed, you will not have conjunctions, but with spoken words you will have prepositions. This is how you will be able to filter the query list provided by Google. You can also filter by searching for the type of device that was used to search. Once you identify the type of search, you look to see whether your page is serving the need of the user, and users are looking for.

Are your search results different when you search on your phone versus on your desktop?

Landsman: The most likely difference will be geographic. When a search is mobile, they take into account location. For example, if you type in “Chinese restaurant” on your mobile phone versus your office desktop, it will tell you more about what’s nearby and it will come up a bit quicker.

How is social starting to influence search?

Bernard: If you’re a local business, you need to make sure your content is optimized for mobile. This can be social posts, tweets, thumbnail sizes on images, or your website. The second thing is Google+, which is connecting a lot of the pieces of the Web together, i.e., email addresses, authorship tags. From a social perspective, don’t forget about Google+, because somewhere down the line this may become even more important than people think. It isn’t just about the content being there, but it is also about the social signals from Google+. We have done certain experiments in AOL with social signals that are coming off of Google+ posts, and we have definitely seen these more with engaging posts.

How Can You Pull Images into Google Search?

Landsman: Google is fascinated by Pinterest. Pinterest is more important to Google than a lot of other stuff, such as Flickr. For one client, whenever they put a visual on their site I would pin it, and Google would then show it immediately. Pictures on Google+ aren’t as loved as on Pinterest, but it is still close.

What Are Something Things That Can Be Done to Help Search?

Bernard: Write better headlines. The impact of writing better headlines from a search and social perspective is enormous. You almost have to get into the minds of people searching for when you’re doing your headlines. Your headlines need to be more conversational.

Landsman: You need to use the language of the searcher and visitor. What are they interested in, and how are they going to react to you? You also need to understand user experience, and with search becoming more semantic, it is becoming arguably that much more important.

What is future of Hummingbird for users and marketers?

Batista: Google wants to build a computer where you can ask any type of question and it will be able to answer. Being able to give you whatever answer you can think of — that is where things are heading.

Landsman: And the real dream is that they want to be able to anticipate what you want.

Written by Polina Opelbaum, editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. To read more from Polina, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.

The Future of Financial Services Communications

earlier this month,  I attended an event hosted by Business Development Institute and PR Newswire that focused on communications in the financial services industries, but included lessons most communicators can appreciate.

There were several short presentations with different speakers and topics that took place during the event. Here are some of the important topics and key points from topics each presentation:

Embracing Technology to Create Trust Among Small Businesses Presented by: Noah Breslow, chief executive officer of OnDeck

  • Technology is being disruptive to financial services.
  • Square is a form of classic disruption.
  • To gain trust with customers, you need to do the following: set the contrast; simplify your message; manage expectation closely; bring human to the online process; and engage your promoters.
  • Engage with your customers so they do not feel they are alone.
  • Use services like Yelp and build ratings to show customers they are not the first.

Big Data 101: What It Means for Business                                                  Presented by: David Ray, corporate vice president of corporate Internet at New York Life Insurance Company

  • “Big Data is data that is too large, complex, and dynamic for any conventional data tools to capture, store, manage and analyze.” (source: wipro.com)
  • Ninety percent of the data you have in your enterprise is unstructured.
  • If 90 percent is unstructured, at best, businesses are making decisions based on 10 percent of their data.
  • The present and future opportunity for big data may not be to process enormous amounts of data, but, rather, to tie together previously untied and/or isolated systems.
  • Lady Gaga uses big data. Her manager created a Gaga-centric social network by mining the singer’s Twitter and Facebook fans. This will effectively bypass other social media networks and allow them to keep 100 percent of future revenues.

Social Media and Compliance                                                                Presented by Joanna Belbey, social media and compliance specialist, and Victor Gaxiola, subject matter expert, at Actiance, Inc.

  • Social businesses can’t just use one collaborative technology to keep its      employees connected; they need to use them all.
  • Enterprises face the following challenges using social media: security, governance and enablement.
  • Successful financial advisors have been using social media all along, but now they have even more forms of electronic communications to further their reach.
  • Social media can be used to drive customer loyalty, leverage connections, and close new businesses.
  • The key is to come up with a communications policy in advance.
  • A salesperson emailed 200 LinkedIn connections and 158 got back to them. Perhaps social media will replace the cold call?

Finance: Community vs. Commodity                                                   Presented by: David Kelin, CEO and cofounder of CommonBond

  • You can’t buy a community; you have to build a community — and you need to build a community people want to belong to.
  • After someone applies for a loan with CommonBond, they will pick up the phone and call that person. It i a way of connecting on a human level.
  • Giving back is another important component to building a community.

Building Trust in a Content Rich World Presented by: Greg Matusky, president and founder of Gregory FCA

  • Consumers’ trust rate of financial services industry is at an all-time low.
  • Content bridges the digital divide between the business and consumer. It is the framework for building trust.
  • Eighty percent of consumers look for four sources of information before buying.
  • The five C’s of trusted content: compassion, credibility, creativity, contemporary, and compliance.

Allianz Global Investors Empowers Its Sales Force With Social Media Presented by: Erin Meijer, social media manager at Allianz Global Investors

  • Allianz uses social media to humanize their brand. Also, clients and prospects are on social media, so they need to be there too.
  • It is not social media — it is social business.
  • LinkedIn is the Google of the business world.
  • Your social media is your digital equity.
  • Here are some tips for social business: 1) Be visual (use charts/graphs, thumbnails with articles, infographics, etc.). 2) Create a content calendar for your social media. 3) Be authentic, and always add value. 4) Have a strong call to action. 5) Be social. 6) Use automation tools to minimize effort and maximize impact.

Optimizing for the Speed of Social                                                          Presented by: Sebastian Hempstead, executive vice president of North America at Brandwatch

  • Automation tools are absolutely crucial because you cannot manually deal with the amount of social data out there.
  • Some social media command centers are physical and some are virtual; some engage directly and some don’t; some are managed by social media teams and some are cross-functional.
  • Listening on social allows you to identify when there is a bigger problem going on, such as a system performance issue. When this issue happens, alerts are triggered among the different departments that this is going on.
  • To expand on social, engage with posts mentioning competitors, such as reviews and complaints.

Written by Polina Opelbaum, editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. To read more from Polina, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.

Driving Discovery of Your Organization’s Story

Late last month, PR Newswire hosted a free webinar: Driving Discovery of Your Organization’s Story. The webinar was led by Sarah Skerik (@sarahskerik), vice president of content marketing at PR Newswire.

Skerik discussion centered around these four topics: 1) evolution of media; 2) subsequent changes in audience behavior; 3) conversational search and the social media connection; and 4) tactics for earning attention and media.

Evolution of Media

It is well known that traditional media channels have lost ground to digital properties. Brands and individuals are publishing more content than ever, and this is creating an issue, because when people go online to get information they are getting swamped. An IDG study shows that 82 percent of IT decision makers are challenged to find trusted content during the IT purchase process.

Subsequent Changes in Audience Behavior

People are looking for really granular information. Each day, 20 percent of Google searches are unique and have never been seen by Google. People are also more acceptant of branded content. Native advertising (aka sponsored content) is commanding more views than original editorial content. Also, readers spend around the same amount of time on native advertising and original editorial content.

Why is Content Discovery Important?

In addition to the above IDG statistic, another statistic released by Sirius Decisions 2012 shows that B2B customers contact a sales rep only after 70 percent of the purchase decision has been made. The takeaway for organizations is that if you don’t have published supporting content for whatever you’re promoting then you’re eliminated from a consumer’s consideration right out of the gates.

Content discovery is also important because influence isn’t linear, but it is a continuous loop. Five or 10 years ago marketers and PR people would shoot out a message to their audience and get results. However, what is happening now is your audience is able operate on their own time frame. They are researching and buying according to their own needs. The key for communicators is keep their content up there, visible and credible as your audience begins its research and search process. Yet, the communications reality is that their competing for finite audience attention against an infinite ocean of content.

Conversational Search and the Social Media Connection

It is important to know that Google put in a whole new search algorithm called Hummingbird, and they are taking aim at all those new searches they get every day. Google is building more human behavior into their search algorithm by doing a conversational search. They are trying to build search results based on the true meaning of the phrase that a person enters. Seven of the top 10 Google search ranking factors are derived from social networks. Google is using social behavior as an indicator about what sort of content is relevant and important to the person searching. This is why when developing a marketing strategy or PR campaign, it is crucial that communicators drive relevant and committed social interaction with the content they distribute.

Media Outlets Are Retooling

New stories start out from a traditional outlet, such as a radio station, newspaper, magazine, etc., and are very often the catalyst for social conversations. Here are some examples of what media outlets are doing to drive social conversations.

1) Chicago Sun-Times eliminated their entire photography department and wanted to start sourcing photos from their reporters who were armed with iPhones. The reason for the change was because they need is lots of visual content and fast.

2) John Keefe, a radio guy at WNYC radio, has the title of senior editor of data news and journalism technology. He does not only present information but he also thinks about how to use information and how to make it interactive, writing apps and crunching data. This should make communicators think about whether the content they are pitching will resonate with him.

Tactics for Earning Attention and Media

Here are the tactics Skerik suggests:

1) Go look at the websites of news outlets that are important to your industry segment and then look at the stories that are most commented on, emailed and shared socially. It is important to not only look at the popular stories for the industry you are working on, but it is also important to see the ones which received the most comments. The most popular stories usually have a well-known brand name in the title, but when you look at the most commented stories they are usually ones that delve deeper into the industry. This will help you learn about what you audience is interested in and you can then fashion your brand’s content around those lines, as well as get some great story ideas.

2) Use the attention current events generate to grab some attention for your brand. FM Global, an insurance company, on the heels of a report issued by the government about Hurricane Sandy pulled together a press release with information they already had. This information wasn’t just for the general public but also for reporters and analysts covering this topic. And each link in the release was linked to a piece of content and was trackable.

3) Tie thought leadership to timely events. KCSA’s CEO published a new book and they also launched a new section on their blog called Diary of an IPO. To gain attention for the new section of the blog they wrote about the then impending Facebook IPO. They promoted the posts by sending them out as press releases. This resulted in significant increases in visitors, visits and views to their blog.

4) Use editorial calendars to guide your marketing team’s content calendar in terms of both topics and timing. You can do this by going to the websites that are important to your organization and looking for their media kit. In the media kit, you will find their editorial calendar which will show you the topics they will publish over the next year. You can then synch your content calendar with the topics that are being published in the industry.

5) There is a rise in the reporting of data, surveys and studies by news organizations. Media outlets are willing to use this type of information within their reporting. Even though organizations are aware of the importance of this information, there is still sometimes a lack of communication between PR and marketing after this material goes out. This is why it is essential for PR and marketing to align. Last year, Vibes did a study about mobile shopping behavior and issued an infographic, but then they did something different by pulling a news hook out of the study, hiring a PR company, and issuing a press release. They received a lot of media attention from the story and are still getting calls about it.

6) Market your marketing. You need to distribute the content that you publish. PR Newswire distributed a video they created explaining what MultiVu does, and prior to the content distribution they were six Facebook likes to the video. After distributing the video it received 196 Facebook likes the following day.

7) Remember to keep an eye on the results of your campaign well after it is over. If you do a good job of surfacing content in relevant ways, the tails will grow longer and longer.

Formatting Message Tips

1) Whether you’re sending out a press release, blog post, etc., keep your headline around the 100-character mark. This also works very well for tweets. Put all the important terminology within the first 65 characters. You can pick up more detail in the subhead.

2) Use some type of visual in your message. Instagram and Pinterest are leading visual-only networks, so if you don’t have a visual then you can’t play. Also, people are visual people who like looking at pictures.

3) Don’t lead with the boiler plate if you writing any type of written content or setting up a video. Save the “about company” information for the end of the document or video. Remember to build your reader’s interest with every element of the content you are producing.

4) Embed a call-to-action near the top of the page. When you are linking, think of it as a reader service and not just for SEO. You can link to profiles of key people quoted in the message.

Q&A

Q: How do links to existing content work regarding the new nofollow rule?

A: A few months ago Google said that certain types of content including press releases should have nofollow attributes in the link. Google wanted PR Newswire to change the link structure so content wouldn’t be counted toward search engine results. This meant you could no longer issue links in content you’re publishing online as a link building SEO tactic. However, this doesn’t have anything to do with the signals generated by social media. The takeaway is that if you’re publishing content that is valuable and people like and share it, then it will still be seen and will rank high in search engine.

Q: Where is the best place to post press release visuals? Also are there any fears visuals in press releases will trigger email spam filters?

A: You can post images on any social network with a link to the related press release or message you want to promote. You should also post visuals in blog posts and/or in the press releases on your website. It is less about where to post images, but more about posting them. If you are sending content out via email then you should include links to visuals and not include the actual video file or photo, because that will definitely trigger spam filters. You can also send out the email in HTML.

Q: What is an effective use of video in press releases?

A: You can embed a video in a press release that will play when people are viewing it on a website. The video stops the reader from reading and will take them to another place where they engage more fully with the brand and message. In addition, it makes the message more memorable for the reader.

Q: Is it OK to include a short phrase in the lead paragraph of a press release?

A: You need to think of your press release as a news story, because in so many cases your press releases will be seen by members of your audience in addition to bloggers and members of the media. You should really save the boilerplate for the boilerplate and write a real news lede in the press release that tells readers why it is an important announcement.

Q: What kind of PR news should a nonprofit foundation present?

A: Any organization needs to speak to their audience. What’s important to your audience? What can your organization offer that will make their lives better or spark their interest? It should be less about the organization and what they want to convey and more about what the audience wants to hear.

Written by Polina Opelbaum, editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. To read more from Polina, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.

Blogging Basics from Big Time Bloggers

The New York Women in Communications Foundation’s 2013 Student Communications Career Conference (#SCC13) was held earlier this month. The conference consisted of different breakout sessions relating to media and communications. One of the sessions I attended was about blogging. The panel was moderated by Lori Greene, digital content innovator/blogger. The panelists were:

Q: How do you know when your blog has hit and made a difference?

Morris: I knew it hit when it was being supported by the beauty industry. I specifically mean the brands that I write about, the publicists for the brands, and other writers in the industry. I also started getting real traffic to my blog.

Q: How do you get to those big traffic numbers on your blog?

Heitlinger: At some point I learned about Google Analytics and copied that code into my HTML. I spent a few hours every couple days digging in, learning and tracking things. I started seeing what time of day most people were reading; where in the country/world people were reading from; where they would click after coming to the homepage, etc. This information will really tell you a lot about your readers. And Google Analytics has improved a great deal since I started using it.

Dooling: When you’re first starting out, you need to really think about where you want to blog. If you want to have your own domain or be part of someone else’s that has a larger following. Also, you need to figure out who you want to work with.

Q: Elizabeth, how do you go about hiring bloggers? What do you find works? What’s the best way to pitch to be posted on a professional blog like Huffington Post?

Perle: For my section, anyone can blog. There are very few instances where we will say no to a writer (if it’s an offensive post). I actually think that our most effective posts aren’t the kids who are the best writers, but it’s about the strongest narratives. Readers can smell from a mile away if you’re being unauthentic. Also a lot of our best bloggers enjoy drawing infographics — there are many different ways to tell the narrative. Another important thing is being an active member of the blogger community.

Q: How do you make a living from blogging?

Morris: Making money changes by the month and even year. Sometimes I can find consistent work for three or six months at a time. The main way I make money now is through partnerships with brands, such as beauty, health and fitness brands – because that is what I really know. When you start a blog, you want to pick something you want to become an expert in and have a passion for.

Q: How do you keep your credibility to your followers when working with brands?

Morris: As an online blogger, I am always able to say when something is sponsored or when I am being compensated. I have picked everything I do that is sponsored very strategically. The power of no is bigger than the power of yes. I can’t tell you how many things, regardless of how much money it is, that I have turned down because it doesn’t represent me or my brand. The best advice I can give when starting a blog is to always put your audience first. It is not about you but it is about your audience.

Dooling: When I started blogging there were no guidelines about what you could and couldn’t say. Now the FTC does regulate what you do as a blogger. You need to have it listed on your post and About page if something is sponsored, and you need to list out any large partnerships that you have. There are many different ways to make money from a blog. I think freelance writing is probably what most bloggers do, because you’re already writing anyway. You can also do sponsored posts or banner ads for money. You can do this by putting on your About page that you are accepting banner ads. Another thing is to have your own following. There are many communities out there who are doing what you’re doing and you need to follow them.

Heitlinger: What I think is really important is having multiple streams of cash flow. For me, freelance writing did not work out, but being paid to come speak at places or hosting events is a great income. This is in addition to the sponsored content, banner ads, etc., on my blog. And the bigger your audience, the more you can ask for. You have a lot more power to say no to offers when you receive 30 requests a day for sponsored content and you’re only accepting 2-3 a month. You have that flexibility and freedom when you build that audience. However, when you start receiving income as a blogger, you should think about whether that is something you want to do full-time. You have to realize that you are taking your hobby and passion and associating a value with it, because once you start taking money it becomes a job. Knowing that you truly love what you’re doing and who you’re partnering with is much more important than the money at the end of the day.

Perle: If you’re going to blog for free, be strategic about it. Ask questions like, “Do I retain the rights to my own work?” Also, if you volunteer your time for free to write something for a publication, pick one that you want to work for.

Q: How often should you be blogging?

Heitlinger: I think it is a very personal decision, but I think they key is consistency. This doesn’t necessarily mean extremely high frequency, but it may mean that you write a killer blog post every Sunday night that goes up on your blog.

Dooling: Don’t put yourself in a position where you have to write something, because readers can smell that inauthenticity from a mile away. Figuring out when you have the time to put something up, goes very far.

Morris: Don’t make it into a chore, but always keep it as a passion. Your readers are coming to you because you are a source, so you have to be a source of credible information. You never want to post something to post it.

Q: If someone is starting their own blog, how much money should they be spending to start it?

Heitlinger: You should spend $0 starting your blog. Maybe buy the domain for $10, but if it is anything more than that, then find a new domain. The best thing you can do as a blogger is to spend as much time as possible building content, and then you can start to think about whether this is something you want to continue doing long term and if it will go somewhere. After all this, you can think about investing money.

Dooling: The best thing someone ever told me is that blogging is the great equalizer. Your dad doesn’t need to be a marketing executive to become a great blogger.

Q: How do you evolve your blog as something more professional?

Morris: You should crosslink with bigger blogs. You also need to really put yourself out there. So if your blog is fitness-related then a blog like Fitness.com might like something like that. Reach out to them by putting something on their Facebook page or tweeting them. Don’t be scared.

Q: If you want to publish original content and clips of content from another publication on your blog, do you need two separate blogs?

Dooling: I put my older clips on my personal blog. I differentiate them by adding an editor’s note at the top that says, “This was originally posted on [publication name] on [date of publication].” Or sometimes I will embed the image of the logo of where it was featured.

Written by Polina Opelbaum, editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. To read more from Polina, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.

Using LinkedIn for Business & Personal Gain

A recent Social Media Club NYC held a meeting about the best ways for businesses and individuals to successfully utilize LinkedIn. The meeting was moderated by SMCNYC board member Danielle Simon, and speakers included:

Here are the questions presented to the speakers and their responses:

Q: What are the keys to being successful on LinkedIn and using it as a business building tool?

Dodaro: Have a great profile that is professional, credible, and well-optimized for search in LinkedIn. Mostly, the profile should speak to your ideal client. One of the biggest mistakes people make when they use LinkedIn for business is they use it as a resume site or they just post their professional bio. One of the things I say to business owners and entrepreneurs is nobody cares about you, but they only care about what you can do for them. Your profile needs to really speak to the target market you want to attract.

Egan: When we speak to a corporation, in our pitch we tell them that their employees are websites. To be successful on LinkedIn and build a social business, you need to wrap around this and embrace it. You really need to empower your employees to be using these tools for relationship management and communication purposes. For a corporation, they have to start to look at these tools as a strategic part of how they communicate, recruit, market, sell, and do research. It provides a competitive edge over other companies.

Simon: It seems like there are companies are afraid to let their employees do too much on LinkedIn, because they think are looking for a new job. However, I have been hearing more and more that there is a real shift where companies are trusting their employees and working with them to help them on LinkedIn, which in turn helps the company.

Quinones: It is a mindshift for companies to understand that employees are like mini-campaigns. I am working with a company where you see the referring traffic coming from all these employees LinkedIn profiles just because they put the company link on there or shared a piece of content.

Q: Since there is that fear of employees using LinkedIn to look for another job, would you suggest that companies show how they are embracing LinkedIn from a company standpoint and as well as from a personal standpoint (helping the employee set up their personal profile)?

Egan: The way I would explain it to somebody is that this is a new shared responsibility. It is called cobranding. This means, how does a company put your personal brand as well as the work you do for the organization together in a cohesive way that works for you and the company. It should be positioned as an employee benefit, because it is a real way to say that the company is investing in you and not monitoring you. The company would be telling their employees, we trust you and hired you because you have great relationships and experience, so enroll in this program and we will make you look better online and help you communicate more effectively.

Q: What are some things people can do better on LinkedIn to promote ourselves and the company’s they work for?

Dodaro: Start at the top of your profile – your headline. Make sure your headline is clickworthy, so it should be interesting and appealing. You want to add one or two keywords in your headline, because your headline is very powerful for LinkedIn’s algorithm, which basically determines where you are going to show up in the search result. Your headline can contain 120 characters, and you want to be able to use as many as you can. Also, what you are putting in skills and the amount of endorsements you are getting is affecting the algorithm. The five most important things to affect LinkedIn’s algorithm: 1) your headline; 2) your current experience, you want to have it in your title and in your description; 3) one past experience; 4) your summary section; 5) you want to use keywords in your skills, and hopefully you get endorsed for them. Of course, there are other places in the profile, but these five are the most heavily weighed.

Egan: Start with your settings. Do research about privacy settings and talk to people. Then you can work on your profile, network, and activity. I would be very careful to over-optimize for certain search words, because you have two audiences. You have the Web, which is what you have keywords for, but you also have people who are looking at your profile. Curate as if you were designing your corporate website.

Q: Can you talk about network building?

Egan: The idea of curating those in your network will not only be valuable for you, but it will also be valuable for your network. If I do a search to find a specific person, but you keep popping up as the person in-between because you have a ton of first-degree connections, then I will just think you don’t really know this person. I would even suggest that you not connect with your colleagues unless you really know and trust them. Even in my own company where we have 30 employees, I have a process before I let them into my network. I shut down the ability for people to send me invites without knowing my email address and that sort of stops one layer of it. However, if someone knows my email and sends me a connection request, I won’t accept it but will instead respond. If there is no message, I won’t even respond. If there is a message, I will try to build a relationship and then connect. I will also go through and drop connections about once a quarter, and I will then upload my Gmail contacts and add connections this way.

Quinones: I am also judicious about whether the person I am connecting to has a good audience. I join groups that are beneficial for me and are in quantity. I have really benefited from LinkedIn. I went to Greece earlier this year because someone looked me up on LinkedIn.

Q: How important is geography in your profile?

Dodaro: Geography is only important if you service a specific geographic region. If you work and serve only a certain area then it is great to put your city name in there. However, if you have clients internationally then don’t put in a specific region.

In the next part of the meeting, a few attendees offered to show their LinkedIn profiles. The speakers then provided the following tips to help improve their profiles:

  • In your summary include your specialties and strategic key terms that will valuable to your audience.  –Quinones
  • Have one recommendation per title, so if you have someone who knew you from two companies, get it for the one you don’t yet have a recommendation for. -Quinones
  • You get up to fifty skills, so when people are endorsing you for skills you haven’t added to your profile – be careful, because it might not be what you actually do. -Quinones
  • I would join some of the larger groups, because being part of those groups makes me more visible. You get up to fifty groups, so take advantage of it. You should be part of your alma mater group; it can be common shared history. –Quinones
  • Having a vanity URL for your profile is very important. It helps for coming up in Google when someones searchs for your name. -Quinones
  • Change the words “company website” in the contact info section to the name of your actual company or whatever else is being clicking on. This will help with SEO on the bigger Web and people will be more likely to click on the Web assets that you are promoting. -Egan
  • You should put your high school in your profile, because it adds a human element to your profile. People are more likely to do business with people they know. -Egan
  • Less is more in your profile. Be selective with what you put out there. If you have fifteen PDFs and a lot of rich media for people to select from, then put the one that you want them to actually click on. –Egan
  • Change up your profile. If you change your profile picture once every six months it will drive up your click-throughs. People want to see that. –Egan
  • Don’t status update too much. If you status update a lot, then people are probably hiding you. –Egan
  • In your summary section, I wouldn’t recommend talking about yourself in the third-party. It might turn some people off. Also, if the action you want the reader to take is to contact you, then give them a little blurb and phone number/email address. –Egan
  • If you have LIONS in your network, I would tell them they shouldn’t be a LION. People question whether they are real and not just spam. -Egan
  • In your summary section, you almost have to think of it as an article. Since most people scan instead of reading the entire section, you need to make sure there are certain things that jump out for the reader. -Dodaro
  • Listen to the language your ideal customers/clients use for figuring out the best keywords to include in your profile. You don’t want to put your marketing spin on it, but you want to use their language. –Dodaro
  • Put your board and volunteer positions in the volunteer section. Anything you are being paid for should be listed in experience, and anything you are not being paid for should be listed under the volunteer section. –Dodaro

Written by Polina Opelbaum, editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. To read more from Polina, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.

The “Slow PR” Trend: Building Traction Over Time

Dear Q&A Team,

I was reading an article that mentioned a movement called “slow PR.” I had not heard of this movement before, so it would be great to get a better understanding of it. What does it mean? How is “slow PR” different or similar to traditional PR? What should companies do to move into the “slow PR” movement?

Need for Speed?

_____________________

Dear Need for Speed,

Most people have heard of the “slow movement,” so it is interesting to learn how this relates and affects PR. Here are six ProfNet experts who explain this movement:

Definition of “Slow PR”

Steve Capoccia, account director at Warner Communications, says, “If you want to move your objective forward in a meaningful way, you want a firm that demonstrates empathy, compassion and knows how to tell a story that builds relationships – this is ‘slow PR.’”

Christopher Penn, vice president of marketing technology at Shift Communications, adds, “Instead of aggressive outbound pitching and mass emails, ‘slow PR’ (inbound PR) is about cultivating relationships with journalists first and foremost, putting the relationship first; asking detailed inquiries of journalists to make sure the pitches that do get sent are 100 percent on target; and creating a ‘house’ audience that you can selectively direct to newsworthy pieces.”

“’Slow PR’ is about building relationships, mutual respect, trust and credibility with reporters and through the product of that, the larger audience,” reiterates Edward Hershey, principal of Edward Hershey & Associates. “This was never about releases, press conferences or staged events.”

There is also a greater use of social media in “slow PR” — particularly Twitter, explains David Johnson, CEO of Strategic Vision. “‘Slow PR’ highlights getting to know a journalist, their interests, and how they write by following them and then pitching them via social media rather than through massive emails and media lists that are often ignored.”

Capoccia warns that “slow PR” must not be confused with “forever and a day PR.” Speed is important. You can have “slow PR” and achieve results quickly if you are using a firm that knows how to deliver meaningful content in an integrated way that is appreciated by the intended audience.

“Slow PR” vs. Traditional PR

Johnson explains, “‘Slow PR’ takes a step back and is less hectic and isn’t about being fast-paced and the number of pitches sent to a reporter.  The more traditional PR is about the number of pitches you sent, how many reporters contacted, how many hits and is more fast-paced.”

Anne Isenhower, principal of Anne Isenhower Communications, agrees with Johnson. She says, “Traditional PR too often employs a scattershot approach to outreach that can reach too wide and thus miss the mark. “Slow PR” ensures that outreach is very carefully planned to generate the best coverage results and the best long-term relationships with influencers.”

Penn provides this explanation: “In traditional PR — which is a lot like outbound sales — you have a product and you shop it around until someone buys. In inbound marketing and ‘slow PR’ (inbound PR), you create and manage the audience, and then fit the product where it belongs.”

However, “slow PR” strategies still strive to preserve traditional PR while also educating, planning, and evaluating without time constraints, says Aliah Davis-McHenry, president and CEO of Aliah Public Relations. “As we see now with social media, PR practitioners have to act and react in the now so those that engage in ‘slow PR’ cannot afford to not take advantage of these timely opportunities. There is a need for churning out our client’s information in a fast pace but there is also a need to build those meaningful relationships and use technology in a slow way as well.”

Penn agrees that you need both traditional PR and “slow PR.” “Slow PR” won’t replace outbound PR, it’ll supplement it.

Transitioning into “Slow PR”

Johnson thinks: “A business should begin by evaluating if their efforts at traditional PR with massive pitching is working or not.  From that evaluation they should then begin adopting practices that fall into the ‘slow PR’ movement and explain to clients if they are an agency how this ultimately benefits them with better quality stories and stronger relationships with reporters. “

In addition, “you must see the relationships with your influencers and media as being a higher priority than that of the stories and pitches, and be willing to invest in the time and people it takes to make those relationships happen,” says Penn. “It also means possibly no longer working with some clients who are pushing you to make short-term pitching choices that can harm the long-term relationships — you have to be willing to walk away from a story or even a client.”

Capoccia’s suggests avoiding “robo-contact” at all costs. This can be accomplished by setting it up as a best practice with an individual or several key employees who are in charge of analyzing how the team/s are approaching journalists to make sure they are offering information that will impact and support the client’s and journalists objectives.

Most importantly, Davis-McHenry believes, “A company can move more into the ‘slow PR’ movement by putting care and consideration into their public relations efforts by not engaging in ‘spray and pray’ via email and social media and developing meaningful relationships with journalists, bloggers, and influencers; companies will see that their PR initiatives will grow and build business.”

Successful Examples of “Slow PR”

Isenhower felt the effectiveness of “slow PR” after spending about four hours preparing a single pitch to a very senior editor at The New York Times. She says that five minutes after she hit send, the editor called her and said, “I get at least a hundred pitches a day about this column alone. Yours was the only one I opened today, and I appreciate the time and thought you’ve obviously put into it.  I’d like to interview your CEO.”

“A good chunk of what we do at SHIFT is ‘slow PR’ (inbound PR), focusing on the relationships first,” says Penn. “For example, we’ll have a lunch and learn with a reporter from a beat and ask them straight out what they need, what stories they’re looking to cover, what especially they do not want, and then we use that guidance to decide which clients and stories are the best fit.”

Penn adds, “You know you’re succeeding when journalists are calling your account staff asking if they have any stories on X topic, because they did such a fantastic job the last time they worked together, and that happens on a fairly regular basis to our staff.”

Capoccia’s company works with an industry analyst firm as a client. Even though they are often in “breaking news” situations, they are also very careful to deliver what they say to the reporter contact and “drip-feed” information to the reporter by way of background to further establish credibility and relationships.

The use of “slow PR” resulted in a blockbuster exposé that made a difference for Hershey’s client. His story: “When a lead emerged about a potentially significant story earlier this year that would accrue to my client’s benefit I contacted the managing editor of a local weekly and sold him on assigning his top reporter (a Pulitzer Prize winner) to pursue the story. The reporter, too, was someone I had worked with before. Over the next two weeks I connected him with sources (who needed buttressing and reassurance as well) and otherwise maintained close contact without crowding him.”

But keep in mind that “slow PR” is in its infancy, warns Johnson. Yet, “one thing is true; reporters appreciate it and are more willing to work with those who take a slow and nuanced approach.”

Written by Polina Opelbaum, editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. To read more from Polina, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.

The Q&A Team: A Google Helpout Primer

Dear Q&A Team,

My marketing team wants to learn more about Google Helpouts. We want to get a better understanding of this service as well as how we can use it to promote any of our products and/or services. We also want to know whether we should charge for Helpouts, and if there are any legal issues we should take into consideration.

Help Me Out

_____________________

Dear Help Me Out,

It is always exciting to see whether you can integrate a new service into your marketing efforts. Here are four ProfNet experts who answer all your questions about Helpouts:

Explanation of Helpouts

Andy Abramson, CEO of Comunicano, says, “When someone needs help or assistance with a specific question or situation, they can now turn to Google Helpouts, a free or pay-as-you-go video help line where experts are available, or can be reserved, to assist with questions or needs by providing real-time advisory services face-to-face.”

The experts can provide advice on the following subjects: art/music, computers/electronics, cooking, educations/careers, fashion/beauty, fitness/nutrition, health, home/garden, adds Melanie Trudeau, digital strategist at Jaffe PR.

Sarah Hill, digital storyteller at Veterans United Home Loans, also explains that Helpouts are really Google+ Hangouts plus services plus financial transactions.

Hill says, “Helpouts are a new layer of e-commerce, ‘See-Commerce’ if you will. The difference between Helpouts and traditional Hangouts is there is a Google Wallet integration and customers have the ability now to pay for a service from within that Helpout.”

Marketing Using Helpouts

“Whether a marketing department should use Helpouts depends on the nature of the company’s core business. Marketing departments should ask themselves: What service about my product or business could I offer to the rest of the nation,” suggests Hill.

Trudeau thinks that marketing professionals need to look at Helpouts as another “channel” to reach their target audience. They first need to determine whether Helpouts will reach their intended audience, and then decide how they will “package” and price their offering.

In addition, “Helpouts are searchable, meaning, when you type in a search query in Google, you could see results pointing to Helpout sessions. My guess is that Google’s review ratings will play a strong role in ranking Helpout sessions in search results, i.e., the sessions with better reviews will raise to the top of search results. This is important for marketers,” says Trudeau.

Abramson believes that marketers can use Helpouts for remote pre-sales consultations and walk-throughs that can be conducted with groups where apps and services are shown off. It can bring the actual product owners closer to the potential users to gain real-time feedback and interaction.

He adds, “Helpouts are ideal for new product introductions as they allow prospects to discover more about the product or service in more complete ways. Prospects can ask questions, and the Helpouts can be recorded so others can view it later.”

“In admissions at Colgate, we are planning on using Helpouts to help parents and students understand the application process. Last year we did a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) about the admission’s process. This year, we plan to use Helpouts to help people in the same way,” says Matt Hames, manager of media communications at Colgate University.

To Charge or Not to Charge

Trudeau explains that a marketing department has three basic models to consider, they can: offer their expertise and charge for their services; offer free or paid support for their products; offer free information and advice that highlight their product(s).

If marketing decides to go with the first option, then they need to keep in mind that Google keeps 20 percent of their fees. Trudeau thinks that participants will be willing to pay for one-on-one attention to address their specific questions. But with free content readily available online, time will tell if personalized attention will command fee-based advice online.

If marketing goes with the second option, then people may be more inclined to purchase products knowing that they can get individualized support via Helpouts. Communicating this support option at purchase decision time will be crucial, warns Trudeau.

Last but not least, if marketing goes with the third option, it may give them the opportunity to connect with an audience that may seek out their product(s) and make a purchase after the Helpout.

Hill has another thing for marketers to consider. She says, “Offering your service for free can bombard your inbox with individuals wanting your service, so as a matter of supply and demand, you should seriously consider the consequences of offering a free Helpout as those sessions are indeed demands on your time. However, if your marketing department’s intent is simply to get individuals in the funnel and not as a money making endeavor, then a free Helpout is a great option.”

Abramson thinks, “Marketers should not charge for remote pre-sales consultations and walk-throughs. The idea is to service and support customers or prospective customers by being informational and demonstrative. Of course once it takes off, there can be a value added service offering based upon the same premise for more advanced discussions.”

Hames says, “We will never charge for Helpouts. Reddit, Hangouts and live chats are free, always will be.”

Legal Concerns

“Marketing should always be aware of legal and regulatory concerns as they always should avoid making false claims or misleading statements. The rule of thumb should be to never say or present anything that could come back to hurt you,” says Abramson.

Trudeau adds: “Certain professional services representatives may be excluded from using Helpouts due to state and federal laws. For instance, if lawyers want to charge for online advice, they must first contractually establish an attorney-client relationship, which would be impossible in Helpouts. If attorneys were to offer free advice online, they would need a fairly hefty disclaimer as dictated by the rules of their state bar. From a marketing standpoint, this may create a barrier to entry.”

“You must own the rights to the photos and videos used in the Helpout or the video trailer promoting your Helpout,” cautions Hill. “You have an option to decide whether to let your client record the Helpout. Both you and the client must agree to that recording and both of you get a copy of the video.”

Here are additional Terms of Service for Helpouts: bit.ly/18l0GoV

Have fun exploring Helpouts! Good luck!

Written by Polina Opelbaum, editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. To read more from Polina, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.

image via Flickr user emiliarossijewellery

Q&A: How to Incorporate Tumblr Into Your Marketing Campaigns

Dear Q&A Team,

My manager has assigned me the job of looking into new social media platforms that we can add to our marketing campaigns. I have been trying to learn about Tumblr and its capabilities. What type of content should we post onto Tumblr? What are some examples of successful Tumblr accounts run by businesses? Are there any legal issues we should be aware of when using Tumblr?

Stumbled Upon Tumblr

_____________________

Dear Stumbled Upon Tumblr,

It’s great that you are exploring other social media platforms. Here are three ProfNet experts who provide their expertise about Tumblr:

Reasons to Use Tumblr

Web marketing expert Lorrie Thomas Ross explains, “If an organization is looking to maximize awareness, information distribution, connections and service to support sales, then social media marketing needs to be part of the marketing mix. Tumblr is a blog platform that can help organizations harness the power of social media marketing.”

Christopher Penn, vice president of marketing technology for Shift Communications, agrees: “Tumbler is a rich content outpost, another blogging service that offers you an additional place to put content on the Web. Tumblr’s strength is its tremendous and active community that often re-blogs items that are worthy of attention and interest.”

Penn adds, “Tumblr’s secondary strength, especially for technologically less ambitious PR practitioners, is that it’s incredibly easy to use and quick to set up. You can begin on Tumblr in a matter of minutes, and its mobile apps make content creation simple and friendly.”

In addition, “platforms like Tumblr can be a great way to boost SEO,” says Ross. “Tumblr was architected to be search-friendly and help search visibility, so, if used effectively, it can help with a business’ SEO.”

However, you may want to disqualify Tumblr as a marketing medium if your company’s tolerance for risk is exceptionally low. It has an active adult content community, and many of its members enjoy blogging and re-blogging content they find, explains Penn. “For most brands, it shouldn’t be a significant problem — obscurity is a far greater risk than being discovered and re-blogged by someone whose content you might not agree with.”

Content to Include in Your Account

“People flock to Tumblr to be entertained and inspired, not to be pitched to,” says Francis Skipper, executive vice president of 451 Marketing. “Therefore, it is key to be very visual and to use humor on Tumblr. Pieces should be easy for your audience to digest and promote sharing. And try to provide evergreen content that will have a longer shelf life, so your content can be shared often.”

“Tumblr is also a great way to create a very human side of a brand by giving insights into the people and ideas behind your company,“ he adds.

Even though content needs to be engaging, it is important to remember that every organization has a different target audience. This is why it all starts with strategy – strategy first and execution second.

Ross suggests that marketing managers think about the content they have, their target audience, and what their target audience needs. Then they can decide what to post on Tumblr.

Once marketing managers are ready for the execution stage, it is important to know that the best content on Tumblr is graphical content — static images, graphics, animations, and video, says Penn.

Successful Examples

  • Comedy Central: This page is authentic, integrated and engaging. It supports the overall brand’s purpose. The purpose is very clear — to create viral clips, awareness and an audience.  –Ross
  • Capital One’s Bucket List and Art Institute of Technology:  Tumblr is a highly visual medium, and both these blogs maximize their use of imagery to make them eye-catching and appealing. –Penn
  • CNET:  They have been really smart about Tumblr posts, releasing “cliff notes” or abbreviated versions of their articles. They create a visual, multimedia headline that prompts the reader to click through to the full content on their site. -Skipper
  • General Mills: Their Tumblr focuses on whimsical content that taps into people’s inner child and even showcases some amazing DIY arts and crafts projects that were created from cereal boxes with tutorials. They create a fun lifestyle around their brands using Tumblr. –Skipper

Legal Issues & Tips

“As with any form of online content production, you will be held liable for intellectual property (IP) rights. Re-blogging something that falls afoul of IP rights can land you in serious, very hot water,” warns Penn. “For example, re-using an image from a licensed imaging service like Getty Images can cost you up to $60,000 per violation, even if the original content is not yours. By re-blogging it, you open yourself to the same liability as the creator.”

Also, remember to respect the FTC guidelines, says Ross. You can read more about them here: tinyurl.com/nxvvszl

Another thing to keep in mind is that companies need to commit to using Tumblr.

“Tools like Tumblr don’t make marketing magic,” cautions Ross. “It is how and why these tools are used that make marketing magic.”

Skipper reiterates Ross’ last statement: “First, have specific goals in mind before you start. Don’t just join Tumblr because ‘everyone else’ is doing it.” Some of these goals include: building brand awareness and identity, educating customers, and creating a brand persona.”

Last but not least, Penn cautions that “‘build it and they will come’ doesn’t work any better on Tumblr than it does on the Web. You still have to invest resources in outreach, awareness, advertising, and support of your initiatives there in order to make it successful.”

After deciding your Tumblr strategy with your company, I hope you have fun posting to this social media platform! Enjoy!

-The Q&A Team

Written by Polina Opelbaum, editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. To read more from Polina, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.