Author Archives: Polina Opelbaum

New School Press Release Tactics [Webinar Recap]

Last week’s webinar on New School Press Release Tactics was packed with great tactics and insights for innovative ways and new approaches for driving media coverage and generating business outcomes using press releases.

We’ve captured some highlights in this post, and if you missed the session, you’ll find a link to the full replay of the webinar at the bottom of this page.  Joining us on the call were:

Our own Sarah Skerik (@sarahskerik) vice president of content marketing, was the moderator.

New-School Media Coverage

Monaghan began the discussion by presenting the first case study, which was a press release they did for their client Vibes. Their goal with the press release was to position Vibes’ executives as thought leaders for retail marketers. InkHouse wanted to use data to insert Vibes’ point of view into the discussion about showrooming, which at the time was a hot topic in the press and retail segment.

The results they saw after putting the release over the wire included having media placements in 50+ top-tier outlets including Time and the Wall St. Journal, and the WSJ piece drove the top traffic day of the year.  They had zero coverage before putting the release over the wire, and had a 373 percent bump in coverage over the previous quarter. In addition, the press release had long-term news value – Monaghan noted they are still seeing reporters covering this story today.

There are several reasons why this particular case worked successfully.

  • Timeliness: It was a timely topic and putting out the release before the hype of the holiday season helped immensely.
  • Research-driven content: Also, in the release they included research-driven content; a contrarian point of view; practical strategies for combating showrooming.
  • Using a narrative headline:  The narrative of the headline helped, because they chose to lead with the topic vs. company name. When reporters would search for “showrooming,” they would find the press release.
  • Clear, fact-based writing:  The press release featured easy-to-understand content (i.e., no jargon) and was fact-based.

Building thought leadership

Blog traffic increases generated by using press releases to promote posts.

Blog traffic increases KCSA generated by using press releases to promote posts.

Donohue provided the second case study, which is on KCSA’s approach building thought leadership for the agency.  They realized they had an opportunity, as the agency generated a great amount of content that they weren’t leveraging.   To get started, the KCSA created a new section on their blog called “Diary of an IPO,” which included the expertise of KCSA’s CEO Jeff Corbin about investor relations. He had just released a new edition of his book, Investor Relations: the Art of Communicating Value, adding a section about investor relations and social media.  To develop that conversation, the agency capitalized on the Facebook IPO, which was underway at the same time.

To promote the new blog section and develop search visibility for Corbin and the agency, KCSA selected  blog posts from “Diary of an IPO” and distributed short abstracts, with links to the full blog post, in the form of press releases, distributing them via PR Newswire’s online press release distribution network.   The message was less like a traditional press release, and was instead more conversational in tone.  KCSA used this tactic repeatedly, capitalizing when was breaking news, and they wanted to again include Corbin’s message into the larger conversation.

Using press releases to drive discovery of blog posts, KCSA has seen blog traffic grow significantly, including a 77% increase in visitors and a 93% increase in page views.

Press releases & the digital marketing funnel

The digital marketing funnel, as described by Fathom.

The digital marketing funnel, as described by Fathom.

Before diving into her case studies, Pflaum first provided a new perspective on how press releases fit into the digital marketing funnel. The teams at Fathom are always looking for ways to loop people through the funnel and convert them into customers.  In their experience, the Fathom team has found find that press releases can really fit into any aspect of the funnel — acquire, convert, and nurture.

At Fathom, the main objective of the press release is to gain online visibility, and they focus the messages on their target audiences.  However, as you’ll see from the three examples Pflaum provided, the applications of press releases – and the outcomes they help achieve – are very different.

Example 1: A Missouri Law Firm (marketing funnel phase: acquire)

The legal search space is difficult to break into and expensive to show up in paid results. The goal of the press releases Fathom issued for this particular client was to help gain online visibility for and drive more traffic to their website.  Using press releases, the team promoted content that was emotional and engaging.  Over the course of this year, the press releases have driven about 500 visitors to the client web site this year, accounting for 1% of their total visitors.  More importantly, the visitors who arrive via press releases are engaged:  the visitors stay on the web site more than a full minute longer (on average) than the site’s usual visitors.

Example 2: ConsumerCrafts (marketing funnel phase: convert)

ConsumerCrafts, an online craft store, needed to increase sales. Fathom used press releases as part of a campaign that promoted Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, as well as other promotions.  In addition to increasing web site traffic, the client also benefitted from a corresponding increase in social interactions.  They’ve even been able to directly attribute revenue to specific press releases.

Example 3: A health care screening company  (marketing funnel phase: nurture)

This Fathom client needed convince customers who had shown interest and were conducting research prior to a purchase that health screenings are a good investment, and overcome negative information was at the top of the search engine results page. Using press releases to promote positive branded content, such as blog posts, earned media and new research, the Fathom team was able to build the visibility and authority of positive websites, profiles and articles to outrank negative articles in the SERPs.

How SEO tactics make press releases convert

The final example was presented by Jive Software’s Jason Khoury.   Jive needed to increase traffic to web sites and app downloads, and they were looking at their press releases as potential sources of visibility for these efforts.   Khoury first explained that the primary goal of press releases should be to drive awareness and education.  However, once someone is reading the message, there is real opportunity to inspire them to take another step, or in marketing lingo, to “convert.”

According to Khoury, the first job was shifting SEO from afterthought to forefront when creating headlines and subheads on their press releases.   Additionally, the Jive team realized it needed to abandon the old-school approach of simply putting a link to the company web site at the bottom of the press release.   New-school tactics Khoury advocates include:

Put a variety of links that serve as calls to action at various points in the release.

SEO terms need to be a key part of the initial story, which means you need to think about where you are putting the keywords while developing the content, namely the headline, subhead and lead paragraph.

Add tracking codes the links you embed in press releases, to connect the content to your company’s to marketing automation systems (meaning the embedded links will have backend code within them.)

Khoury also strongly recommended working closely with your demand generation/SEO marketing counterparts to review the keywords, but he also cautioned against going overboard, warning the audience to not overload the press release with keywords.

Using these tactics, the Jive team has seen a 200% increase in traffic to the web sites they highlight in press releases.

In addition to the slide deck at the top of this post, we also archived the webinar, in which you can hear the presenters discuss their tactical approaches and the results generated in more detail.  We invite you to view the webinar here:New School Press Release Tactics 

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

Dealing With Negative Comments on a Company’s Social Media Accounts

The Q&A Team answers questions from ProfNet readers with advice from our large network of experts. Has there been a question burning in your mind lately, something you’ve been wondering that none of your colleagues can answer? Please send it to

Dear Q&A Team,

A couple of weeks ago I was assigned to manage my company’s social media accounts. I started noticing negative comments being left on our different accounts, and I am not sure if I should delete/block or respond to these comments. What is the best and most professional way from me to deal with these attacks?

Lost in SM World


Dear Lost in SM World,

Congrats on your challenging but exciting new role! Here are seven ProfNet experts who provide their insight on managing negative commentary on a company’s social media accounts:

Define the Attack

“First, define who is attacking you, because it might not be worth your time to pursue,” says Penny Sansevieri, president/CEO of Author Marketing Experts, Inc.  “It’s important to know the difference between an online attack and a difference of opinion. We’ve worked with authors who have gotten bad reviews and wanted them pulled. A bad review is not an online attack — it’s someone’s opinion of your product or book. They didn’t like it and it’s their right to voice that.”

Therefore, “if the negative comments are constructive and have merit, it’s critical to respond in a respectful, conversational and non-defensive way. Explain in a fact-based manner the brand’s position,” says Lisa Gerber, president of Big Leap Creative.

In addition, there can be times where the comment may be a customer service issue rather than a blatant negative comment that is delivered via social media and seems aggressive in nature.

“How you respond, and who should respond, should be known in advance throughout the organization,” explains Chris Dessi, CEO and founder of Silverback Social. For example, he says, “Is there a customer service email you can refer people to? A customer service phone number?”

Responding to a Negative Attack

Wikipedia defines a troll as “someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as a forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional responseor otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.

Now that we know the “official” name of the individuals who attack, how do you deal with the attacks?

Peter LaMotte, senior vice president of LEVICK, says, “Your message needs to be clear and firm, and must communicate the company’s pre-determined position. If a firm is clear with their communication and stance, there is little more to add unless the conversation takes a new direction. A clear statement can also avoid time-consuming back-and-forth arguments.”

“The company should always be honest about how they are dealing with the issue,” added LaMotte. “If they legally can address the issue, they should never be anything less than transparent. Transparency shows that you have nothing to hide, so anything less than full transparency will exacerbate the issue. Finally, use your platforms to focus on the positive aspects of the issue. If steps are being taken to address the issue, use your blog to tell the story and then share that content across all of your social media platforms.”

Sansevieri  agrees: “Communicate on your blog, on Twitter, and on Facebook. Don’t stop talking. That’s the first thing many big companies want to do: go silent. Silence is not golden. Be communicative.”

Some issues should be handled outside of social media, says Bill Corbett, president of Corbett PR. “Major concerns should be taken offline for discussions and communications with customers with issues.”

Sansevieri says, emailing the person and having a dialogue may be the last thing you want to do, but “step back and realize that going directly to the source could fix this much faster.”

As far as how quickly you should respond to the attack, Dessi recommends responding “as quickly as humanly possible. Really. No matter what, you must respond quickly. The faster you respond (even if you don’t have a solution for someone), the better. We like to at least say to people: ‘We hear you. Thank you for posting. We’re working on getting you an answer.’”

When to Delete/Ignore an Attack

Complaints that are not respectful or not understandable may be subject to no answer or deletion; blocking of the individual; or other actions, says Corbett.

Specifically, “if there is any inclusion of personal attacks or personal information of employees or stakeholders, the company has the right to delete the comment,” says LaMotte.

Sansevieri shared a case where an individual had to be blocked from Twitter. “A few years ago, one of my Twitter followers asked me to market him for free (no kidding). When I didn’t, he started attacking me on Twitter. We reported him to Twitter and he was shut down, but that’s the extent of what we did. Now he continues to start up new Twitter accounts and tries to follow us, but he is always blocked.”

However, if a comment is deleted, you need to have something to fall back on and explain the reason for deletion, says Gerber. “This is where a social media policy is very important. In your policy you can state that comments that are disrespectful or contain profanity will be deleted. This policy should be posted online somewhere and available to all community members,” he explains.

*See Huffington Post’s comment policy: by Tim McDonald, community manager of HuffPost Live. You can also read his insight on dealing with trolls here:

A Positive Side to the Attack

“Sometimes, ‘negative’ comments are a good thing, and can be an opportunity for your brand’s customer service to shine and to solve a problem in front of your social media fans,” says Dessi. “I’ve done this for large retailers and it’s always a huge hit.”

In addition, if you’re doing your job well, your brand advocates will also come to your rescue, says Gerber.

Dessi agrees, saying “it’s always better when the community polices this type of activity. The best way to encourage this behavior is to give back to your community, engage with your community, and generate genuine interest and affection for your brand/personality. When there is affection there will be defenders in your corner, always.”

As far as getting involved in the conversation while the community comes to your rescue, Gerber believes that “as a brand, you’ve said your piece. Now your brand advocates are participating. Your job is done.” If you would like to thank your brand advocates for the supportive behavior, “you can message them privately thanking them.”

Managing Across Different Social Media Accounts

Handling negative comments for difference social networks requires different responses, says Dessi. “I like to say that they are the same language, but different dialects. Also, certain social platforms allow for different types of responses to complaints from the community. Recently, there was a long Facebook post response from the president of Carnival Cruise Lines speaking about a ship that has been stranded at sea. He couldn’t offer that depth on Twitter, nor would it be appropriate.”

“Twitter responses should be more immediate,” adds Corbett. “Facebook responses should be well thought-out and provide more information or ask questions.” He adds that tweets have a shorter life span than Facebook and other posts. “In many instances, a response alone is enough to solve and issue.”

Yet, the fundamentals of communications remain the same, said Gerber. “Don’t get defensive, never be angry, and end the conversation if you are going to agree to disagree. The tools simply dictate a change in tactics, but not in strategy.”

Do’s and Don’ts

Dan Grody, partner of Tellem Grody PR, provides some helpful do’s and don’ts for managing negative comments.


  • Remember that everything will be ok.
  • Respond to negative comments.
  • Take screenshot threads that demonstrate resolution and keep them on file. You will always be able to show your social media team examples of handling negative comments.
  • Direct conversations offline to address matters privately, if situation is not      easily resolved.


  • Don’t delete the comments (unless offensive, derogatory, etc.).
  • Don’t stress.
  • Don’t get defensive.

LaMotte adds to the list with a few more do’s:

  • Engage in the conversation where the conversation is already taking place, don’t try and create your own soapbox.
  • Use a single voice of the firm. Don’t allow any employee to engage on your behalf on their own accord.
  • Be a human being; don’t come across like a robot or party-line recording.
  • Be honest about mistakes or missteps. Don’t forget to address your next steps or solutions.

I hope this provides you with the information you need to effectively and successfully manage the trolls and different negative comments you receive on your company’s social media accounts. Good luck!

- The Q&A Team

Written by Polina Opelbaum, editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources.  The Q&A Team is published biweekly on ProfNet Connect, a free social networking site for communicators. To read more from Polina, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.

image via Flickr user cambodia4kidsorg

What Does ‘Off the Record’ Really Mean?

Dear Q&A Team,

I am putting together a presentation for all the journalists in my office. I want to have a friendly discussion about the meaning of “off the record.” Even though I have my own understanding of the term, I would like to learn of its origin, as well as if there are exceptions to when “off the record” information can be published, etc. It would also be great to share some anecdotes with the team.

Clearing the Record


Dear Clearing the Record,

That is an interesting topic for a presentation! Here are three ProfNet experts who answer all your questions about the term “off the record”:

The Meaning of “Off the Record”

Donald Mazzella, COO and editorial director of Information Strategies, Inc., explains the origin of the term: “Merriman Smith, the old national UPI correspondent, told me it was a term from the Franklin Roosevelt presidency, where he would bring reporters into his office and tell them stuff and say, ‘Remember, boys, this is off the record.’”

Today, when people say “off the record” to a reporter, they typically mean they don’t want the reporter to attribute the information to them or to use it, says Karen Friedman, former television news reporter of 20 years and author of “Shut Up and Say Something.” Often, says Friedman, people actually do want the information uncovered or reported, “as long as no one knows it came from them.”

Shirley Skeel, a journalist for more than 20 years who reported finance news for papers such as the Daily Mail and The Telegraph in London, explains how this term was similarly understood by journalists in London. “’Off the record’ meant you could not use the information given to you in print,” she said. “However, it might lead you to other sources or a better understanding.”

Establishing the Terms of “Off the Record”

Skeel thinks it is always wise to establish upfront that these are the parameters, as well as explain the meaning of “off the record.”

“Still, as all reporters far prefer information ‘on the record,’ it can be a tricky thing to know if and when you should suggest that this is an ‘off the record’ or ‘for attribution only’ conversation,” she says. “This situation usually arises naturally, as a source will show their reluctance to speak, and the reporter might entice them to speak either ‘not for attribution’ or ‘off the record’ and explain what each means. If this issue does not come up until late in the conversation, I think a journalist should allow the entire conversation to be whatever the source insists upon.”

“But, if you are not going to honor ‘off the record’, you need to make that clear to someone before they start spilling information,” says Friedman.

Ways to Post “Off the Record” Information

When Friedman was in a situation where a source said “off the record,” she would not use their name, but it would typically lead her to find information or sources that would confirm, deny or discuss the information. Though she warns that you consider the original source of the information.

“There are trustworthy sources who will tip you off to a lead, which enables you to pursue the story and break information. But there are other people in the community who may not be close to a situation and use the term (‘off the record’) because they’ve heard it thrown around,” explains Friedman. “It is still up to the reporter to check out every lead, whether it’s on or off the record, to get second and third sources and to make sure the information is confirmed.”

As far as telling the sources you pursue about the original source, Friedman says it depends on the situation: “If Joe Smith shared information ‘off the record’ with me, I would never disclose him as my source to anyone. However, if Joe Smith told me something ‘off the record’ and specifically said, ‘Contact so and so and tell him I sent you,’ then I would do that.”

After getting information from another source, Mazzella goes with the second source for attribution. But as a matter of courtesy and to maintain relationships, he always goes back to the first source and says he has the information from another source, and asks if they want to go on the record. His recommendation is to always keep relationships going.

“Not for Attribution”

Besides “off the record,” there is another important term to understand — “not for attribution.”

Skeel defines it as meaning that you can use the source’s information directly in your copy, “but you have to identify that this person cannot be named, and, preferably, why not.”

As with “off the record,” you have to establish the terms of “not for attribution” prior to having a discussion with the source, advises Skeel. “A journalist should work out with their source exactly which information falls in which category.”

In a situation where a source forgets to ask to be “off the record” but remembers later on after revealing information, you have two choices, suggests Mazzella. If you are dealing with a politician and he/she makes this mistake, “you can burn him/her or get an IOU.”

Mazzella continues, “On a beat, unless the story is too good or too important to ignore, you give the source the benefit. For people who are less press savvy, I always try to err on the side of letting them off the hook. Every situation is different, but we’re all in for the long haul — especially on a beat.”

Consequences of Sharing “Off the Record” Information

Skeel describes the possible repercussions for sharing “off the record” information:

  • Loss of a source, maybe even many sources if word gets around.
  • Loss of reputation among his or her peers, if they learn about this.
  • Depending on the editor and publication, there is a chance the journalist might even lose their job. (That would be an extreme case, but it is undoubtedly a serious breach of journalistic ethics.)
  • Even worse, the person quoted could be seriously damaged. They might lose their job, their reputation, etc.

“In a lighter story, it may only result in a personal grudge by the source — but the breach of ethics is still serious,” says Skeel.

Friedman agrees with Skeel, saying, “The bottom line is you have to protect your sources or they will no longer be your sources. They may also tell others that you are not trustworthy and then others will not share information with you either.”

“Off the Record” Anecdotes

Here is Skeel’s anecdote from when she was a cub reporter:

“I remember being at a party where someone I met, who knew I was a journalist, told me a great story. When I said I’d like to publish it, they quaked and insisted this was all ‘off the record.’ In my book at the time, information was only ‘off the record’ if you agreed on that ground in advance. Some journalists will simply ‘burn’ their sources and run with such a story, but I am pleased to say that I did not. Despite his promises to let me run the story when the time was right, he never came through. I think any reading of ‘off the record’ should be combined with your personal moral values. Rules are not a moral shield.”

Friedman also shared an anecdote from her days as a reporter:

“Back in the ‘80s when I worked in Milwaukee, there were rumors surfacing about drug use in baseball. The assistant news director knew I was friendly with a few players and their wives and asked me if I could find out what was going on. Some of these people shared confidential information with me but made it clear they did not want their names associated with the story. As a reporter, I knew it was a great story as well as how to get it. As a professional and a friend, I didn’t want to betray anyone’s trust ruin relationships or damage my own credibility. So I refused to cover it or share what I knew with my newsroom. I simply told my superiors that it could be a story worth pursuing but they would have to assign someone else. I never shared what I was told or where the information came from. When the story broke, my sources who had provided some direction were never mentioned, because the reporter who ended up covering the story didn’t know them. He got information from different sources on his own.”

Mazzella’s advice to remember: “The press is the watchdog and we need to do the best job of getting information to the public.”

I hope your presentation turns into a great discussion among your team. Good luck!

- The Q&A Team

Written by Polina Opelbaum, editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources.  The Q&A Team is published biweekly on ProfNet Connect, a free social networking site for communicators. To read more from Polina, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.

Every other week, The Q&A Team answers questions from ProfNet readers with advice from our large network of experts. Has there been a question burning in your mind lately, something you’ve been wondering that none of your colleagues can answer? Please send it to

How to Create a Winning Blogger Pitch Every Time

Every other week, The Q&A Team answers questions from ProfNet readers with advice from our large network of experts. Has there been a question burning in your mind lately, something you’ve been wondering that none of your colleagues can answer? Please send it to

Dear Q&A Team,

I am a PR professional interested in learning how to pitch mommy bloggers. How can I find the right mommy blogs to work with? What should – and shouldn’t – I do when pitching?  What are the benefits of getting my product or news covered on a mommy blog?


Pitch Perfect

Dear Pitch Perfect,

You’ve come to the right place! Here are five ProfNet experts who share their advice and the lessons they learned about pitching mommy bloggers:

Finding the Right Mommy Blogger

Wendy Hirschhorn, CEO of Wendy’s Bloggers, has reviewed over a thousand mommy blogger websites. The mommy bloggers she adds to her powerful network need to meet her professional standards. That includes the ability to write cohesive reviews; generate sufficient traffic to their sites; and use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Flickr and other social sites to promote their product reviews and giveaways.

Some other things Hirschhorn looks for when deciding to work with a mommy blogger include: 1) looking at the site to make sure it’s well-designed and easy to navigate; 2) checking to see the blogger blogs regularly, which means every day or close to it; 3) reading the bio to get a sense of the mommy blogger.

Last but not least, “I try to elicit feedback from them about preferences on companies they’d like to connect with, what their experience has been blogging about different categories, e.g., frozen food, restaurants, CDs, clothing, etc., to see what works and what doesn’t,” says Hirschhorn.

Karma Martell, president of KarmaCom Inc., had different criteria for the last mommy blogger she pitched on a new brand launch. She explains, “I picked her because although she wrote for a national-regional audience mommy blog, she lived in and was the perfect client demographic for the brand. I found this out from her Twitter profile.”

Martell warns that not all mommy bloggers are created equal. “They have many different foci. You really need to get a feel for the portal or their individual columns. Just because they are a mommy blogger does not mean they are writing or tweeting about raising kids primarily,” she says.

Finding the Right PR Professional

“I appreciate it when PR professionals take the time to read a few of my posts on each blog before pitching an idea,” says Dana Hinders, blogger for Smart Mom Picks and Modern Baby. “I receive a lot of pitches that are interesting, but not well-suited for either blog.”

Hinders adds: “Providing images with a pitch is very helpful, especially if the images are something eye-catching. We share a lot of posts on social media, and images tend to encourage people to click on the links. If I know I have good images to use, I’m much more likely to cover a product.”

If a post is about a specific product, it is important to provide Hinders with price information and a description of where to buy the item.

Jamie Lee, blogger for The Denver Housewife, also has certain things she looks for before responding to a pitch. Lee says, “I look to make sure they have my name right, if it’s a product that will fit my family, and if the opportunity is worth my time.”

Successfully Pitching the Mommy Blogger

Kate Connors, account executive at Media & Communications Strategies, Inc., says she has successfully pitched mommy bloggers on behalf of her client, Touro University Worldwide. She attributes her success to two things: 1) finding out the blogger’s niche and making sure the information being offered actually benefits their readers, and 2) making sure to have an expert who can offer to comment or write a piece.

Connors explains how she applied these recommendations when she pitched bloggers on behalf of Touro: “The university has taken an active role in supporting military families in light of the recent cuts in tuition assistance programs. There is a huge blogosphere of military moms who write daily about their struggles, both financially and emotionally. I reached out to each of them offering a release about the importance of Military Spouses Day and what kind of assistance Touro was offering.”   In addition, Touro has a Marriage & Family Therapy Department, so after the Sandy Hook shooting and the Boston Marathon bombing, Connors contacted mommy bloggers offering assistance from these professors on how to talk to children after a disaster. “Some bloggers wrote back asking for quotes, others for pieces,” said Connors.

What Not to Do When Pitching

Hinders says: “One thing I really dislike is when a PR professional sends several copies of the same email a day or two apart. I try to respond to pitches fairly quickly, but it does take a few days for me to get caught up if I put out a ProfNet request that gets a lot of responses. Sorting through duplicate pitches just creates more work for me.”

Her favorite PR professionals, says Hinders, are the ones who go above and beyond when it comes to communication.

In addition, for Smart Mom Picks, Hinders tries to shy away from covering products that are very expensive or not widely available in the U.S.

Lee doesn’t generally respond to PR professionals offering her one coupon for something, a discount code, or just nothing in return. “Writing the blog posts, reviewing the product, and editing the pictures all take time and I want to make sure that I am getting something in return that is also benefiting me and my family,” she says.

Benefits of Working With a Mommy Blogger

After Martell successfully pitched a mommy blogger, her ROI was twofold. Martell says, “The client got mentions and special promotions on the blog, and the client saw ROI in member signup from the blog’s users. We knew this because the offer was coded per promotion. In turn, we also developed a cordial relationship with the regional editor, who actually contacted us later to include another client in an event they were planning.”

After Connors successfully pitched mommy bloggers on behalf of her client, she said it greatly helped the university increase its online presence.

Connors adds, “We received this email from the university client in response to our blogger outreach: ‘By having several sites back-link to our site in a very natural manner, you helped to increase our search ranking with Google. Building our internal architecture in this way will help us greatly in the long-term.’”

Besides increasing online presence, it also helped increase the number of student applications, says Connors. “Media & Communications Strategies had potential students reach out to us after reading some of the expert commentary in a blog post. “

“The goal of building a successful online presence is creating a two-way relationship between you and the blogger. The more you can provide them, i.e. experts, the more likely they are to come back to you for further stories,” suggests Connors.

Martell reiterates Connors’ last statement. “Remember that when pitching mommy bloggers, you have to think about where you can give back to them. For example: something special for their readers, an invitation to an event, retweets and mentions, etc.”

Written by Polina Opelbaum, editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources.  The Q&A Team is published biweekly on ProfNet Connect, a free social networking site for communicators. To read more from Polina, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.


How Facebook Home Will Impact Marketers

Every other week, The Q&A Team answers questions from ProfNet readers with advice from our large network of experts. Has there been a question burning in your mind lately, something you’ve been wondering that none of your colleagues can answer? Please send it to

Dear Q&A Team,

Now that Facebook Home has been released, I want to understand how it will impact my work as a marketer. Is it worth taking a closer look at? What should I be aware of? I want to make sure I don’t frustrate and annoy our fans with ads. Any advice?

“Home” Run or Loss


Dear “Home” Run or Loss,

Here are three ProfNet experts who can address your questions about the impact of Facebook Home on marketers:

What is Facebook Home?

The Google Play store app provides the following description of Facebook Home:

“Facebook Home puts your friends at the heart of your phone. Replace your standard home screen with a steady stream of friends’ posts and photos. Get to apps with one swipe — just drag your profile picture up to open the app launcher. And when you download Facebook Messenger, you can keep chatting with friends when you’re using other apps.”

The app is available for download on various Android devices — including the Samsung Galaxy S III, Samsung Galaxy Note II, HTC One X and HTC One X+.

Pros to Using Home

Lorrie Thomas Ross, CEO of Web Marketing Therapy, simply says, “Businesses have to respond to Facebook Home — it’s here. The impact on the Facebook pages of organizations hasn’t been discussed enough. It is a big point for professionals to ponder.”

RJ Bardsley, senior vice president of Racepoint Group, says, “If Home takes off, Facebook marketing campaigns (paid and earned) become a lot more impactful. Home has the potential to turn Facebook from a primarily PC-based experience to a primarily mobile experience. This is important, seeing as PC sales continue to drop (14 percent this quarter according to IDC). If marketers invested in Facebook ads or another type of Facebook presence, they’re in for a treat as these move front and center on people’s mobile devices.”

Ross is also excited with the future potential of Home and says, “In theory, the new mobile app could create more inventory and advertising options, which can help address more monetization of the user base. This can also create more ad options.”

Cons to Using Home

Jacob Chapman, vice president of corporate strategy at Sazze, Inc., thinks Facebook Home will not prove to be an attractive option for most marketers of online businesses. Chapman has found that controlling where his message appears is just as important (if not more important) than controlling the content of the message itself.

“Controlling the ‘where’ provides us with insight into and control over our viewers’ moods and intentions,” he says.

Chapman explains that with most mobile advertising, the advertisement is placed within a certain app or collection of apps: “As the marketer, I know certain things about a viewer and their frame of mind if they open the Words With Friends app, or even if they open the Facebook app. Contrast that with Facebook Home, where all I know is that a person has turned on their mobile phone. This type of passive ad impression is phantom advertising and it is not going to be anywhere near as valuable as an ad that is served to someone who is primed for engagement.”

However, Chapman thinks this issue can be resolved if Home can serve up relevant location-aware advertising, which is advertising that is served to a user based on their proximity to the advertiser’s real-world location.

There are dozens of mobile companies trying to make this model work, but no one has been able to get the formula quite right (e.g., Groupon Now!, MobSav, Scoutmob, etc.), said Chapman. “If Facebook Home goes down this road, they will certainly have the brainpower, scale and financial resources to do it successfully where others have failed.”

How to Prepare for Home

Ross recommends that businesses interested in Facebook Home do the following three things: 1) monitor traffic from Facebook to see if there is more traffic driven to their site from mobile devices; 2) anticipate more ad costs to account for the additional inventory that could develop with the new real estate; 3) develop a strategy for the app experience — management, communications and measurement.

The more the marketplace adopts Facebook Home, the more businesses need to be prepared to monitor it and be present on it, advises Ross.

Bardlsey reiterates the importance of being present. He thinks that for good marketers, it should be all about improving the brand’s visibility by providing more value. “Now that marketers know their audiences will be more mobile, we need to think about how we engage and what value we bring to people on the go.”

Nonetheless, Ross thinks one concern for businesses is how Facebook pages will work on Home: “Will they have new features above and beyond the browser experience, or will experience be compromised with the smaller app screen? That will likely evolve in time.”

How Users Will Respond to Home

There is always initial frustration with ads, but consumers seem to get over the initial frustration fairly quickly, says Chapman.

“I definitely think Facebook will need to be very careful about how many ads they insert into Facebook Home, who they allow to advertise and what format those ads take. Tasteful and relevant sponsored posts can probably be worked in without horrendous backlash, but ads for diet pills would drive people to uninstall Facebook Home in short order,” he explains.

Bardsley agrees with Chapman, saying, “Too much of anything can be bad — and this is especially true in marketing.” He strongly suggests that any marketer focusing a campaign or part of a campaign on Home become familiar with the MMA. It has a great set of guidelines/best practices for mobile marketing.

As far as users staying away from the app due to security/privacy risks, Chapman says, “It isn’t as benign as a native operating system like iOS or Android, but there is nothing inherent in the app that makes it more dangerous than the standard Facebook app.”

However, he still urges users to be particularly aware of their privacy settings, because they will be engaging with the Facebook Home app constantly and passively. “Users may be okay sharing certain data, like their location, when they have to launch an app and take an action to share the data — but it is a different story if Facebook Home is always sharing that data whenever they turn on their phone.”

Even though the Facebook Home app may still be evolving, remember this advice from Ross: Slow is the same as stop in the social Web world. Being aware and engaged will only help your social media marketing efforts.

Good luck!

-The Q&A Team

Written by Polina Opelbaum, editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources.  The Q&A Team is published biweekly on ProfNet Connect, a free social networking site for communicators. To read more from Polina, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.

A New Way to Crowdsource a Campaign

The Social Media Club of New York City (SMCNYC) hosted an event last month  showcasing Ford Motor Co. on the floor of the New York International Auto show to reveal Ford’s fun, new marketing campaign for its fuel-efficient vehicle C-MAX.

Team Detroit, Ford’s agency, came up with print, TV and digital banners using the Italian “La Linea” character, but they needed social too. This is when the social group at Team Detroit stepped in to create a concept.

C-MAX Live Social Campaign

The group describes C-MAX Live by saying: “Imagine yourself in a live crowdsourced Instagram animation.” The concept they came up with integrates traditional, media, and social media in a way that hasn’t been done before by creating a live, crowdsourced animation, which is done through Instagram.

The Process Behind the Concept

Team Detroit needed to bring the “La Linea” character to life, so they decided to literally bring people into this character’s world. The group wanted to create an animation that would incorporate real people interacting with the character, but first they needed to create a story.

Team Detroit started storyboarding it out and seeing how many frames it would take to have people interacting and doing certain scenarios with the “La Linea” character. Shilo studios joined the project by doing the math that was necessary to figure out frame rates and make sure everything worked in size and scale. They had the line drawing put together into a storyboard. From that storyboard they pulled 68 individual frames that had people interacting with them. Those 68 frames were then used for traditional out-of-home buys, such as postings in malls, movie theaters, and events all over the country in their top C-MAX markets.

How People Can Interact With the C-MAX Live Boards

What they are asking people to do is to literally line their bodies up with the dotted line on the boards (see images below). Once you line yourself up with the “La Linea” character in the background, you take your picture through Instagram and apply the hashtag “C-MAX,” and through object recognition they are able to pull that animation and stitch it back together in real-time live.

You then go to a landing page and you opt-in through Instagram, and you can see yourself in the animation with people from all over the country in real-time. The animation is always dynamic and changing, so you will always see yourself but everyone else will change because it is pulling in those people from all over the country who are interacting with the boards. In addition, if you have an Instagram friend participating in a different city and at a completely different board, then you will see them in your animation.

This campaign launches on May 1 in various cities. Here is a list of the cities, along with a link to the animation:

Whether you’re a reporter, blogger, author or other content creator, ProfNet can help you with your search for expert sources. You can send a query to tens of thousands of experts and PR agents, search the more than 60,000 profiles on ProfNet Connect, or get timely experts and story ideas by email — all for free! Need help getting started? Email us at

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.

Social Media Club NYC Recap: Social Media Measurement

Last Thursday, Social Media Club NYC met to discuss the topic of social media measurement.  Doh Young Jung, data scientist at Brandwatch, was one of the speakers at the event. The second speaker was Martin Murtland, vice president of platform management at PR Newswire. The moderator for the evening was Howard Greenstein, president and organizer of SMCNYC.

Q: What is your role in your company?

Murtland: I am responsible for developing the roadmap for a lot of the products. Some interesting research is that 56 percent of brands and agencies are equating the value of their social media activities to their business outcomes. So we need to know how to show businesses the value of what they are doing with their social media activities. I am a firm believer that the key to this is for practitioners to talk the language of business, which isn’t necessarily talking about all the metrics you can have but more about trying to understand how you can link to those metrics with what you are trying to achieve from a business perspective.

Jung: I am part of the analytics team. We do a lot of consulting services with clients, and we try to help them understand social media as well as how to use our tools better. In addition, I do a great deal of reporting for clients when they have specific social media questions.

Q: What are we talking about when we say social media measurement?

Murtland: It goes back to what you are trying to achieve from a business perspective. You can look at it like a marketing funnel which you flip over, and then you have to push your leads through the different areas. And you have to work very hard to get them through. Try to think about what you are doing with your campaigns; what metrics are appropriate in each of those general areas, as well as what you are trying to do inside the marketing funnel. For me, it is important to look at where the industry is going and what companies are doing to create these tools to enable users.

Jung: Our goal is to always deliver relevant content in a timely manner. When we talk about relevance it is about understanding our client’s objectives in terms of the data that they want and knowing when they need that data. We always want to make sure that our tool is easy for the practitioner to use and the reporting is easy to understand. Many of our clients come from PR and marketing agencies, and then we also support their clients. In addition, we have some larger financial clients that use social media monitoring for their product offerings.

Q: Why is social media measurement more difficult than just turning on these tools that you offer and letting them do the work?

Murtland: The software providers know part of the puzzle but it also takes work on behalf of the user to understand what issue they are trying to solve. It is important to know what you want to achieve consistently over time. One of the key things from a measurement perspective is to benchmark yourself. Don’t worry so much about what metric you use in the beginning, but try to benchmark what are you doing — otherwise you will not know what’s having an impact and improving. If you are able to do it well then include in your benchmark some of your competitors. You want to try to create reference points to see how well you are doing. From there you can think about what kind of metrics you can cover and what metrics you should be covering from a business perspective. Then look for an overlap between these two groups of metrics, and that should be the metrics you use.

Q: You (Jung) are a data scientist, so what is the science of what you are doing?

Jung: We deal a lot with numbers. We do want to show the different trends going on with social media data. As companies start to collect this type of data and look into it, the more accurate of a vision they can have of relating it back to their business purposes, such as the their marketing or financial results.

Q: Do you consult with companies about the purpose of the stats they are collecting?

Murtland: We do have a team for that. The first question to ask is: What are you trying to achieve from a business perspective? No metric or tool will resolve your business problem, you have to start by identifying the problem and then let everything else drive it.

Jung: Our starting point for every discussion is helping clients ask the right question. For example, if there is a case where a company is starting with zero awareness about whatever they are releasing then we have to do competitive research. So if they are releasing something on the market that already has competitors, we go into competitive data sets and see how they are doing in the market and then we tell the client what the competitor is doing successfully or wrong. This gives them some type of strategy.

Q: Now that we have established a baseline and know what business goal we are trying to achieve with our social, what’s next?

Murtland: The next step is to understand some kind of cause and effect. It is important to log and record the type of activities you have been doing. You want to show that what you are doing is actually driving the change.

Q: Can you have a tool where you are can both send out your social and measure it?

Murtland: We have a product that is an engagement console where you are able to track some of your activities. Likewise we have different tools for more earned media. You are able to log your activities in there.

Jung: We started out as a monitoring tool, so that is our core focus. We have seen more requests for engagement, and this is an area we want to venture into.

Q: Not all the networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr, etc.) make their metrics available, so how do you bring all this stuff together into one global picture that you can start to understand as a marketer?

Murtland: Work out what metrics you can measure and what metrics you should be measuring. The other thing to try to validate is where that data is coming from and what it means. I think there is a lot of jargon and ways to express different things, so try to understand it.

Q: How do you view a single metric vs. combo metrics, because the combo metrics seem more accessible?

Jung: It depends on your business goals. Also different types of clients have different things they are more interested in, so there is no one easy formula. PR agencies are more interested in influencer identification, which is trying to identify whether a tweet from a personal account is different than a tweet from a more influential account. They want to find those Twitter handles that have more influence and impact on social media.

Q: How do you determine what is influential for that particular brand?

Murtland:  What is important to me is the contextual influence, so what is the person’s domain and whether they are influencers around that. You can also check if they are an influencer by seeing if their followers are active; look for retweets.

Jung: Our tool can collect historical data as far back as two-and-a-half years. We begin by identifying Twitter handles or any sort of users that mention a relevant brand or marketing campaign topic. We then delve into what they are posting about and look for the topic in their conversation.

Q: How much semantic or sentiment analysis are you doing, and how do you decide if it makes any sense?

Jung: We do have built-in universal sentiment engines and they are based on things like swear words. We are able to customize syntax and understand the language better of certain conversations that have been surrounding positive or negative topics. We can manually change the rules, tweak it, and make sentiment more reliable.

Murtland: There are a couple things you want from a sentiment tool. They are: 1) automated sentiment, looking and analyzing large volumes of content and identifying trends inside it; 2) manually being able to override the scores.

Q: What do we need to do next to tie what we are doing (getting inquiries, selling products, etc.) to some sort of a business metric?

Murtland: You need to start by looking at the peaks and troughs, and try to see if there is a correlation between them. You can try to see the causes and effects that are happening and the correlations, then you can begin understanding and seeing what’s working and not working. Do more of what’s working and less of what’s not working. Repeat and then see the effect.

Jung: As a company becomes increasingly savvy about social data, one thing they can do is set a target to reach. For a lot of PR agencies, the target is often key message penetration. They want to see that a message they crafted is actually being delivered through social media to the audience that they want to reach. An increase in key message penetration has resulted in positive/negative business performance.

Q: How do you keep out confounding data? An example of this was when the “Old Spice Guy” first came out and there was a huge spike in sales, but then someone noted that P&G had a major couponing campaign going on.

Jung:  Our entire app is based on Boolean, so if we see a peak we are able to delve into it. We can cut it out and see what the marketing volume was about as well as the coupon conversation. Then we look at the relationship there, and if we see both things increasing then that can mean both have worked.

You can watch a video of the event here:

(If you’re unable to view the video on this page, please go to:

Whether you’re a reporter, blogger, author or other content creator, ProfNet can help you with your search for expert sources. You can send a query to tens of thousands of experts and PR agents, search the more than 60,000 profiles on ProfNet Connect, or get timely experts and story ideas by email — all for free! Need help getting started? Email us at

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.