Author Archives: PRN Bloggers

Striking Out ALS, One Ice Bucket at a Time

If you have logged into Facebook over the last couple of weeks, you most likely witnessed many of your peers dousing themselves in ice water in the name of charity. At the time of writing on August 22nd, this grassroots campaign known as The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge had raised $41.8 million dollars in donations for the ALS Association. As of August 26, the campaign has accumulated a whopping $88.5 million dollars total from existing donors and 1.9 million new donors.

The enormous surge in donations for what was once a largely overlooked cause is in part due to elevated exposure from celebrities, political figures and corporate executives worldwide. What is even more amazing is that the ALS Association had not planned this massive fundraising initiative. So how did the Ice Bucket Challenge campaign work and what did the ALS Association do right in order to capitalize on these past few weeks?

The story behind the Ice Bucket Challenge

The social explosion  began when former college baseball player Pete Frates, whose career in sports ended when he was diagnosed with ALS in 2012, posted a video to Facebook on July 31st calling on friends and public figures to take the Ice Bucket Challenge in an effort raise awareness and donations toward research for the disease.  A short 3 weeks later, the ALS Association has experienced an exponential increase in donations –  $88.5 million vs $2.5 million raised during the same period last year (July 29 – August 26).

The significance of the Ice Bucket Challenge

Communicators who are unsure of how to tell their corporate social responsibility stories more effectively can learn a few lessons from the ALS Association and the Ice Bucket Challenge. It’s no secret that many mistake corporate-charity partnerships as a shameless effort by for-profit businesses to generate positive publicity. What many fail to realize is illnesses that affect a smaller group of people tend to have smaller initiatives and fundraising efforts surrounding them. Therefore, the organizations dedicated to fighting these rarer illnesses have to use every opportunity they can to get the same attention that more common illnesses do.

If you haven’t already donated to #StrikeOutALS, follow the link to donate now: http://prn.to/IceBucketChallenge

Lessons for communicators

Here are the key takeaways from the Ice Bucket Challenge that communicators should make note of:

1. Use positivity to tell a powerful and emotionally compelling story

The effects of ALS are devastating and there is no known cure, but the Ice Bucket Challenge shed light on the issue by combining humor and compassion to get people to pay attention. ALS patient Anthony Carbajal recently made headlines for his Ice Bucket Challenge video, which told the emotional personal story of being diagnosed with the disease at age 26 and how its hereditary nature has affected his family for generations.

With regards to the previous lack of attention surrounding ALS, Carbajal said, “Nobody wants to see a depressing person that’s dying and has two to five years to live. They don’t want to talk about it, they don’t want their day ruined.” Carbajal sums up a heartbreaking reality for many people and organizations who are trying to raise awareness for certain causes, and illustrates why the Ice Bucket Challenge is so important.

2. Know your social audience and what platforms will work best

One of the biggest reasons why this grassroots campaign proved so successful was the social media component. Most of the videos were housed and shared on Facebook, and there are several reasons why this was the best social channel to showcase the ice bucket challenge.

  • First, Facebook’s auto-play video platform meant that users scrolling through their newsfeeds didn’t even have to hit the play button to view the Ice Bucket Challenge videos that were shared, a key feature for grabbing attentions and piquing viewer interests.
  • Secondly, even though Twitter’s Vine videos also contain an auto-play feature, Facebook videos have no time limit. Challengers were able to nominate as many people as they wanted without having to race against the clock, proving that elongated content formats are still quite relevant.
  • Finally, when nominees were tagged in the videos, it appeared on their respective profiles seeding further awareness among their network of friends and family.

However, relying on social channels to power the campaign leaves important publicity on the table.  Even though the Ice Bucket campaign developed organically on social media and amassed an astonishing amount of media attention, the ALS Association has also capitalized on the visibility generated online, using paid distribution via press releases to continue seeding awareness around the issue and supplying the media with newsworthy information and data points such as the growing number of donations the organization has received thus far.

PR Newswire’s Support of ALS

Congratulations to our client, the ALS Association, on their tremendous success these past few weeks. As this campaign has spread like wildfire, PR Newswire employees from across the country stepped up to the challenge including Ken Wincko, SVP of Marketing, who graciously accepted the nomination from our friends at CommPro.biz. We’re proud to support such a worthy cause and be part of the fight to help strike out ALS!

For more on how the ALS Association turned a grassroots effort into a fundraising machine, read “The 3 Tactical Elements That Made the “Ice Bucket Challenge” a Viral Success”: http://prn.to/1vNqNhK

Co-authored by: 

ShannonShannon Ramlochan, PR Newswire’s Content Marketing Coordinator

 

 

Danielle croppedDanielle Ferris is a member of PR Newswire’s marketing team.

 

10 Tips for Creating Wildly Successful Infographics

PRN_Infographic_Tips

Infographics are playing a larger role in visual storytelling efforts. When they are thoughtfully designed, they provide attention-grabbing visuals that also help the reader better comprehend and remember the message. This added value to the reader often encourages further engagement and sharing.

Based on my experience creating infographics that are used in PR Newswire’s press releases, blog posts and presentations, here are some best practices for designing infographics that drive results:

Design Basics
These tips can be applied to any design process to get the best end result.

  1. Sketch first, polish later.Before you hop into Photoshop, Illustrator, etc., sketch out your ideas on some old-fashioned paper. My process often starts with a roughly drawn outline of grouped ideas. Once I get that initial visualization of my own thoughts, I can make quick adjustments in another layout sketch before I start work in Adobe’s finest.
  2. Solicit feedbackAs with most creative endeavors, having your work colleagues review your design can help you make the piece even stronger. I will often ask my non-designer teammates for their opinions early on in the process to make sure the concept is being clearly conveyed. I circle back to them again at the end on for fine tuning.
  1. Start in high resolution.
    You can always scale down the image, but scaling up takes additional time and resources.

Multi-Use Flexibility
Infographics can take on many forms and be used in multiple channels. Accounting for this early in your design process will save you some time and money.

  1. Align to your story.
    The first thing to consider is your reason for creating this image – to support the story in an email campaign, blog post, press release, etc.  The information you share in your visual should closely align with the accompanying text of this primary placement. Be sure the terms, structure and tone are consistent to provide cohesive support to your written story.
  1. Strengthen it to stand alone.
    You probably want your users to share your image on social media, so it needs to make sense without the accompanying text of your written story. Be sure to include a clear title of what a reader should expect from the graphic. If you’re targeting a niche audience, make sure you clarify this context in the title and/or subtitle.
  1. Plan for alternate uses.
    We all have limited resources, so you won’t want to spend extra time reformatting your amazing design after the fact. Be aware of common re-purposing and plan accordingly.Generally, I’d say you should always be prepared for these two scenarios:

    1. Presentations: Someone in your organization will want to include it in a PowerPoint deck at some point. I always make sure that the featured data of my infographic is in a landscape layout, which can be easily cropped and dropped onto a slide.
    2. Print-friendly PDFs: Whether for use as sales collateral or an event handout, it’s likely that someone will want to print out your rockstar infographic somewhere down the line. Bearing this in mind, I begin all my layouts in standard paper size (8.5 in x 11 in) in high resolution, allowing for a minimum 0.25” margin of white space.

Viewer Friendly
The trend of long-scrolling, everything-and-the-kitchen-sink data visualization has come and gone. Readers are looking for shorter bursts of visual content .

  1. Narrow your focus.
    Keep your audience’s limited attention span focused by narrowing your visual scope to the core of your message. Your ultimate goal should be to clearly convey one idea.If there are additional thoughts and ideas that you want to include, consider the following options:
  • Supporting items should take a visual backseat to your key point. The reader’s eye should clearly flow from the title to the key idea first.
  • Similar but equally strong ideas might benefit from their own separate graphics. Why squish everything into one, when you can create a short series.
  • Perhaps a single infographic is not the best visual solution for your message. For compound, complex ideas, a video might be a better fit to clarify your message. Or, to unify a series of infographics, consider creating a Slideshare presentation and/or a PDF.
  1. Cut excess words.
    Infographics should always be easy to scan—and understand—quickly. Limit supporting text to a single sentence whenever possible. If it takes a paragraph to explain a visual, it probably isn’t the right visual to use. Even if you’re creating a visual list, brevity should still be top priority.

Mobile-Minded
Audiences are spending more and more time on their smartphones and tablets, and that includes viewing your infographics. Make sure it’s just as easy for them to view on smaller devices.

  1. Avoid tiny text.
    Don’t make your mobile audiences squint. As a rule of thumb, I try to keep my detail text at or above 12pt (in the original 300 dpi source file).
  2. Account for retina displays.
    Even though screens have gotten smaller, the resolution has doubled. Ensure your work doesn’t look blurry or pixelated on high definition tablets by doubling the standard length and width of the 72 dpi specs.For example, if you are posting a graphic to your blog where the standard image size is 500×250, you’ll want to save your image to 1000×500 with 72 dpi.

Now that you’ve created your wildly successful infographic, be sure it gets the attention it deserves by promoting it across all “PESO” channels – Paid, Earned, Social & Owned.

PR Newswire offers a benefit to members that allows them to easily store, organize, and incorporate visuals into campaigns using Media Studio in the Online Member Center. Click here to learn more.

jamie_400x400Author Jamie Heckler is the Senior Creative Manager at PR Newswire. Follow her on Twitter @jamieheckle

How to Choose A Regional Accent for Spanish-Language Broadcast Campaigns

Tips for Regional AccentTo engage Hispanic audiences, many companies must decide whether their Spanish-language broadcast outreach should employ a voice-over talent with either a neutral or a regional accent.

At first glance, a neutral accent may be the best solution as it’s the easiest for all US Latino communities to understand. But, using a regional

accent may deliver the same message with a level of genuineness that could make for a stronger connection.

The Mexican accent may immediately be your first choice when choosing a regional accent, simply because Mexicans make up the largest percentage of US Hispanics. Plus, it’s also the regional accent most requested with voice-over talent.

Armando Plata platavoice@gmail.com www.armandoplata.com

Armando Plata
platavoice@gmail.com
http://www.armandoplata.com

“The Mexican accent is the most recognizable throughout Latin America due to the influence of Mexican cinema and the fact that the majority of TV shows and movies are translated over there,” says former journalist and voice-over talent Armando Plata.

A Bogotá, Colombia native, Plata credits his training as an actor as key to mastering regional accents. He feels in order to fully embrace an accent, it’s necessary to partake in each culture. That’s how he’s been able to manage Cuban, Mexican, and Argentine accents.

“On several occasions, I have gotten requests for regional Colombian accents, as

Raul Escalante esraul1@gmail.com raulescalantevoice.blogspot.com

Raul Escalante
esraul1@gmail.com
raulescalantevoice.blogspot.com

well as to narrate with a Mexican accent,” says Raul Escalante (Raul Escalante Productions – raulescalantevoice.blogspot.com), who’s also from Bogotá and can do a variety of local Colombian accents, including the Paisa, Valluno, Tolimense, and Cachaco. He also can speak with Mexican and Argentine accents.

Plata and Escalante agree that mastering a neutral Spanish accent has been a plus in their voice-over careers.

Escalante has worked as Jorgen Von Strangle, in ‘Los Padrinos Mágicos’ (Fairly OddParents) and with major brands such as Johnnie Walker, Univision, McDonald’s, and Lexus.

Plata has performed narrations for Disney, Coca-Cola, Walmart, AT&T, and Western Union.

Both agree that national and international brands generally request a neutral accent to reach a wider range of potential consumers.

Jessica AlasJessica Alas is Media Relations Director, Multicultural Markets and Hispanic PR Wire with PR Newswire. Follow her on Twitter at @alasjessica.

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Content We Love: How the Wire Helped a Family of Pittsburgh Bald Eagles

ContentWeLove

Click here to view the entire release

Click here to view the entire news release

The story

Earlier this week I received an email from my mom (who is fondly nicknamed “Bird”) with the subject line: “A – the eagles are in danger, can you help???” As my team here in Cleveland knows, my mom is an avid eagle enthusiast who is obsessed with watching the first bald eagle family to nest in the Pittsburgh area in over 250 years via webcam. The webcam across the street documented the three eaglets being born, the mom chasing a raccoon from the nest, and an owl picking on mom as she slept. You can view the eagles on the webcam by clicking here.

The danger to the eagle family? Rat poison. An abandoned recycling center across the river from the eagles’ hunting territory was overrun with rats – thousands of them apparently. The company that purchased the center said the health department was forcing them to use rat poison to eradicate the rats. The problem with this is that eagles eat rats! Webcam viewers had seen them eating three rats in the past week alone. If the eagles consumed rats that were poisoned it could kill them with the eaglets especially being at risk. I spoke to a few sources including the owner of the Facebook group Save Hays Eagles (a group my mom and I belong to) and decided to take action by issuing a press release via none other than PR Newswire.

The release

I quickly drafted a press release titled, “Save Hays Eagles: Pittsburgh Bald Eagles at Risk Due to Rat Poison Presence,” and consulted my boss for editing. He kindly reminded me to include hyperlinks within the first paragraph, which drove traffic to our group’s Facebook page and provided further information around the cause. Once I received content approval from my contact at Save Hays Eagles, I downloaded a high res photo from a local Pittsburgh photographer who has been photographing the eagles for over a year, uploaded it to the Media Studio within the Online Member Center, and just moments later, the release hit our wire.

The results?

Earned media from local news

The media contact at Save Hays Eagles received numerous calls and four requests for media interviews, including an on-air appearance for Pittsburgh TV to discuss the issue.

Social engagement with key audiences

Sally Wiggin ReTweets

The next day ReleaseWatch reporting showed 13 mentions on Twitter thanks to PR Newswire’s targeted industry Twitter accounts PRNEnv and PRNPets and a retweet from local TV legend Sally Wiggin.

Increased visibility for our message

  • Over 309 websites had reposted the content
  • The release received 421 click-throughs
  • 2,145 total online & search views
  • 817 photo views
  • A total Visibility Index of 99 and an Engagement Index of 99

Two days later, it was reported that a safer alternative to the traditional poison used to kill rats will be used:  http://wesa.fm/post/health-department-tries-terminate-rats-not-eagles-pittsburgh

Local residents will likely be monitoring the situation and keeping a close eye on their eagles via the webcam. You can rest assured my mom will be one of them!

Amanda MeriwetherAuthor Amanda Meriwether is a manager of customer content services at PR Newswire. Follow her on Twitter.

10 Insider Tips for Pitching Your Story to the Morning News

Chicago’s morning news shows air earlier and earlier, and local producers have to fill a combined 15 hours of news each morning. However, that doesn’t mean they are an easy sell, since these decision-makers tend to reject 95-98 percent of ideas sent them. What separates stories that air from those that don’t?

A panel, moderated by WGN’s Bill Moller, included Platform Manager Michael Batkins of WMAQ; Producer/Booker Emerald-Jane Hunter of WLS’ Windy City Live!; Supervising Producer Tracy O’Brien of CBS/WBBM; and Executive Producer Sandy Pudar of WGN, offered PR pros insider tips on the pitches that wake them up.

Pitch according to the station’s interests and reference relevant topics that were previously covered

Lackluster pitches showcase little knowledge of the person who is being pitched, the station being pitched and, worst of all, blanket generic pitches. Media experts expect PR professionals to be familiar with their shows and what they are looking for to fill their time. Even though all journalists would like to get exclusives, they appreciate that even when they are given the same guests and topics, the pitches have different spins.

Pudar suggests that PR people “become familiar with what’s being been done and refer to [topics] we’ve covered. [Let us know] you watch our show. Tell us who will be a fit for our program and why. This catches our eye. Avoid boilerplates! It’s all about relationships so show that you are aware of our personalities, our shows, our themes and reference them. Mention names!” Summon your creativity to find a newsy niche to a story.

Include visuals to tell the story

Batkins’ advice is to “Spell out the visual components of the story and show me why it belongs on television. What will we see? What can you provide? I need to know what I am going to get.”

Hunter, whose segments all live online, is a major proponent of creative pitches. “Put thought into your pitch and figure out how to make it interactive so we can have fun with it,” advises Hunter, “Check our Web pages, Facebook, and Twitter. Find ways to tie-in that pitch so it fits.” She also adds that providing a YouTube link for viewing your client on camera in action is key.

Be concise in your text

The panel unanimously admonished the audience against making long-winded or unclear pitches, which are among their greatest pet peeves. Pudar states it bluntly, “I don’t need to know everyone’s history. Just give me one or two sentences saying, ‘This is my client. This is what he can talk about.’”

O’Brien suggests that bulleted pitches are preferable, with Hunter adding that the subject line should be clear, concise and include a news hook.

Use numbers to communicate value to the viewer

“Consider the viewer benefit,” suggest Pudar, “like providing ‘five crunches to flatten your tummy immediately.’”

O’Brien agrees that putting a number with the pitch adds value. “Give me unusual facts we have not heard before, like ‘three things to know before hiring a nanny,’ for example.” She added, “Offer a two-sentence tease line then a fact sheet once you already have us.”

Enhance your pitch with social media

Assistance with social media promotion offers a slight edge. “Social media has changed media pitching dramatically. Everyone can get the word out much faster about what we have coming up and what we’ve just done, “ O’Brien explains, “We find more breaking news on Twitter and Instagram. Promise us a client who is big with social media and will blast when they’ll be on TV and retweet it to show your traffic. If you can get that done, you may get on.”

Don’t be overly promotional

Never make a pitch that is too self-serving or merely a product commercial. Moller acknowledges that “telling stories about clients may not have been something the client wanted, but if it gets them on the air via a ‘soft sell,’ it will help polish their brand.”

Be aware of each station’s specific lead times

“If you get a ‘no,’ it might just be about timing,” explains Hunter, whose guests on Windy City Live! are booked three to four weeks in advance. However, if your pitch is especially good, keep in mind that it may be archived in case they need to fill a gap at the last minute. Other guests on the panel preferred pitches with only two weeks lead time to avoid feeling overwhelmed unless there is an approaching holiday.

Do not pressure producers for an immediate response to your pitch

Another one of O’Brien’s pet peeves is being harassed by phone several minutes after receiving an email pitch. “Give me a day or two to follow up with you if I am interested,” she says, “but if I am not interested, I am not interested”

Hunter on the other hand, would rather not receive phone calls at all, “When I am on the phone, I am distracted. If it is written, I can track it down. Phone pitches never work.” Remember not to oversell, overpromise or act pretentious.

Showcase your client’s expertise

All media love when professionals are tuned into the news and can offer sources proactively. “If there is something in the news, I love to get a note in my inbox offering a source. It really makes my job easier,” said Pudar.

If you’ve seen a segment covered on a different show and have an even more qualified expert to offer on the subject, don’t be shy about pitching them as well. O’Brien says to “Know the personalities of the different anchors and try different things. Tie stories to a news peg.” She greatly appreciates expert opinions when it comes to stories that involve schools, communities, and large groups of people where “there’s a lot of action and emotion.”

Prepare your guest with proper media training

Potential guests must be passionate and comfortable public speakers who can tell the audience something they don’t already know. Under most circumstances, it is best for guests to do their interviews live from the studio rather than using unreliable video conferencing such as Skype. If they can be flexible about the times they can appear, it reflects positively on you and your client. “If someone can come into the studio at 4 a.m., that goes a long way with us!” says Pudar.

Want to learn more about pitching your client to the morning news? Our ProfNet Connect service can help you showcase your client’s expertise directly to the media. Follow the link to learn more: http://www.profnetconnect.com/

sueAuthor Sue Masaracchia-Roberts is a crisis management and media relations expert and a member of the ProfNet Connect community.

4 Best Practices for Distributing a Global Press Release

Brand Marketer Summit

Your boss comes into your office and says that the major new product release you’ve been working on for the past month now needs to be sent all over the world.  “Global” is what he says before walking out the door and into a meeting, leaving you in a panicked frenzy of where t0 even begin. These four tips can help you reduce your anxiety when distributing a global press release:

Decide on the specific countries or regions you wish to target

The first step is to determine exactly what your boss means by “Global.”  Unless this is truly breaking news and you have a large budget, sending it to every country on the planet isn’t likely what he meant.  You’ll need to pin down the countries that are most important to your company, your client, or your news. If you don’t know which countries to target, check with your marketing department.  Mirroring their efforts is usually a good idea.

If they come back to you with general regions, such as “Europe” or “Asia,” it’s best to try to pin it down a bit more.  Western Europe?  Scandinavia?  The EU? What about Eastern Europe?  Do the same for all regions where you received generalities until you have a target list of countries or mini-regions.  This will help you keep your costs down, and your boss happy.

Modify your release to create localized versions

Sending one release to all markets globally sounds like the easiest way to go – one release to run up the corporate approval chain – but that is not always the best way to get your news to generate quality earned media.  Having tailored versions targeted at specific countries, regions, or mini-regions is your best bet if you’re measuring results by the number of clips your receive. I usually counsel clients to prepare a few different versions of the news release, clearly marked for the destination, and send them up the approval chain at the same time.

You don’t have to make too many changes to see a tangible difference in your results.  Modify the release in the headline, subhead, first paragraph, any bullet points or quotes, and make sure the changes are specific to the target area.  For example, “XYZ Inc. announces a new chip designed to regulate power in ________” as a headline.  Insert country, region or mini-region in the space. The quote can be completely localized in each version, and frankly, works best that way.

If you have a local contact, be sure to list that person first on the release destined for that country or region.  It will increase your chance of getting a journalist call if there are any questions, or if a follow-up interview is requested.

Provide accurate translations

Once you have your list of countries, you will need to translate the copy into those respective languages or adjust certain phrases to accommodate specific markets. Look to see if you have translation capability in your local offices that will help you keep your costs down.   If you don’t have those resources, or your local teams don’t have time, be sure to ask if they want to see the translations you’ll have done to further localize.

Translations take about 1-2 business days per 800 words of your release, so plan accordingly when working on your timeline.  If you have requested to approve the translations prior to sending out, please add time for your internal approval chain to the processing time.

Coordinate your distribution times  

Sending to all regions of the world simultateously isn’t a good idea.  Because of that whole ’round world’ thing, someone important  is going to be asleep and miss your news.   You can target the timing for simultaneous distribution in Europe, Middle East and Africa at the same time as the Americas (if you don’t mind a very early distribution time), but Asia will need to wait until later on in the day, when they get in.  You don’t need to change your dateline for the Asian release if you don’t wish – it should only slightly affect your results, if at all.

Distributing a global press release doesn’t have to be as daunting as it seems. It essentially all comes down to targeting your news specifically to each country and paying close attention to cultural distinctions and time zones of each region.

Interested in learning more about sharing your news around the world? View the on-demand webinar, “Thriving in a Mobile Driven World” and learn how to format your press releases to reach the global audiences who are increasingly relying on mobile devices to consume information.

Register here

Author Colleen Pizarev is PR Newswire’s Vice President of Communications Strategies in International Services. 

Telling Your High-Science Healthcare Story to Consumers

Future of Health Summit Logo

Video has often been a tool to help simplify a complicated message, and a way to add comments of credible, third-party thought leaders on a specific topic. In the healthcare space, this is common practice. For years, pharmaceutical and biotech companies have been using interview-style soundbites to simplify and support their message. While this is still common, we’ve also seen an increase in companies using production styles like kinetic topography, animation and illustration to also support their campaigns and announcements. Over the past year, Multivu has produced and distributed these types of videos for healthcare programs, such as:

  • FDA approvals and commercial launches
  • Life-cycle announcements
  • Disease awareness campaigns
  • Data publications
  • Live presentations/roundtables

A recent video used as part of an FDA approval announcement of an oncology treatment is a good example.  While it’s typical to add video to support an FDA approval, this example was interesting because the video was unbranded and focused more on explaining the disease state and tumor type rather than the treatment option. Often times, the content that is distributed by the pharmaceutical company is found online via search and editorial websites. The video made it possible for those potential patients and caregivers reading about the newly approved drug to have a better understanding of the disease itself. The video itself utilized whiteboard animation (or, video scribing), which was particularly engaging for a lay audience.

Many might think that a video about a complex and high-science disease state would not be as impactful as the traditional “talking head” video featuring a key opinion leader (KOL) or Chief Medical Officer (CMO), but what we found was the video did very well in terms of views and engagement. This confirms our thought that both the media and online news seekers are looking for what we refer to as “explainer videos.” This type of content, if produced correctly, provides insightful information in a very digestible format.

For more about this, I welcome you to attend our very own Michael Pranikoff’s presentation at the upcoming Future of Healthcare Communications Summit on February 25th  presented by Business Development Institute.

Follow the link to register now: http://www.cvent.com/d/l4ql1w

George HeadshotAuthor George DeTorres (@georgedetorres) is the Divisional Vice President at MultiVu.