Author Archives: Sarah Skerik

PR is Alive & Well In the Information Age

Is PR dead?   According to a post on Marketing Profs today titled How the Information Age Killed Public Relations… and What You Can Do About It, “…Edward Bernays’s flavor of PR is dying, and we’re in the process of watching a whole new era of marketing rise from the ashes.”

According to a recent study sponsored by InPowered and conducted by Nielsen, content marketing is 88% less effective than public relations, due in large part to the outsize influence earned media wields over the public.    Why? It’s simple. Earned media – defined as content created by credible third party experts – consistently provided more benefit to brands than did user generated or branded content.

Source: InPowered & Neilsen

Source: InPowered & Neilsen

Arguably, earned media is more important than ever.  It drives social buzz, has a powerful influence on search ranking, and holds significant sway with audiences, and last time I looked, PR owns earned media generation.

But earned media isn’t the sole preoccupation of PR.  The information age has transformed reputation and influence.  If we’re assessing the health and viability of PR,  we need to ask a couple more questions.

Is reputation management dead? 

Heavens, no, and it’s more important — and visible—than ever.  Online reviews and social buzz have immediate impact on brands today, and can have persistent long-tail effects digitally.  Reputation management is an increasingly complex and vitally important practice.

Do influencers matter?

Any communicator worth their salt knows the value of the influencer.  How do you influence your brand’s influentials?  Building relationships with key media, bloggers and analysts  – the emerging practice of influencer relations – is the cornerstone of building visibility for a brand.

Fact is, PR continues to evolve, and it’s not marketing.  If anything, the information age has created myriad opportunities for public relations practitioners.  I’d argue that we’re entering a golden age for PR.

Today’s PR pros are charged with building brand authority and credibility, devising reputation management strategies and generating the relevant earned media on which strong digital brands are based.     And they’re doing all of this in real time, marshaling and deploying resources, experts and messaging proactively, getting in front of crisis before and finding opportunities for the brands they represent.

Public relations does have a PR problem, and that problem is exacerbated every time a brand or agency engages in a campaign that isn’t authentic.  We are living in an age of radical transparency, and whitewashing unsavory stories doesn’t work.  The truth will out, and it will be ugly for the brand that is attempting to hide it.

But it’s silly to say the profession is dead.  From my point of view, the rapidly-changing discipline of PR only grows more important for brands and organizations as the media and information markets continue to fragment.

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of  the ebook  New School Press Release TacticsFollow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

For Brand Messages, Distribution Matters.

Why do press releases still matter?  I tackled this question in an interview with The Pulse Network at the Inbound Marketing Summit a couple years ago.

A post on PR Daily today questions the value of press release distribution, given the declining number of journalists. [link]

So who really does read press releases these days? 

In short, the audience is still vast, and it includes all of your organization’s key constituents.  Press releases are extremely public means of communications.

  • The tens of thousands of credentialed media on PR Newswire for Journalists tally more than one million press release reads each month.
  • On PR Newswire.com, the press releases we issue garner more millions more reads each month.   Most of those readers find the content via search engines.
  • On Twitter, if you search the term “PRNewswire” you’ll see an avalanche of tweets referencing press releases – often several per minute.

Our clients tell us the press releases they issue have resulted in coverage on Good Morning America (with no pitching!),  increases in landing page traffic of more than 200%,  record app downloads and the generation of qualified leads for sales teams.   The key take-away is this:  all of your brand’s constituents are reading the PR content you distribute.  Failing to calibrate your content accordingly leaves measurable results on the table.

Distribution drives results. 

What drives these results?  Distribution.  Distributing messages beyond the realms of the journalists on your targeted media lists and your brand’s followers on social networks delivers specific and measurable results.   Well-crafted messages are found by new audiences, re-distributed across peer and professional networks and are surfaced in search engine results – often for months after the messages are originally issued.    Distribution is the key to driving ongoing message discovery and introducing your brand to new constituents.

Disappointing results?  Take a hard look at the message.

If your press releases aren’t generating results, before you blame your distribution channels, take a look at the messages.    Here are some tips for making your press releases relevant, useful and effective in today’s connected digital environment:

  1. Is your content truly interesting and useful to your target audiences?  Framing your message in the context of what your audience cares about or will find interesting will enliven your message, and prevent it from reading like a missive from the ivory tower.
  2. Do your headlines convey the messages that will appeal to audiences?  Headlines aren’t for branding.  They shouldn’t be coy.  Headlines need to arrest the eyes of your reader, and inspire them to stop, and read your message.     Keep the headline short – about a hundred characters.  Use a subhead to add the brand mention and additional detail – you needn’t be so mindful of length there.
  3. Do you embed specific and measurable calls to action toward the top of your messages?   Give your readers a path to take by providing a link to a relevant web page that will further engage them with your brand.  Invite them to read an excerpt of a white paper, view a demo or provide robust Q&A that will answer their obvious questions.    In addition to courting media coverage, the press releases you issue are also portals for your brand, and can deliver new audiences right to their doorstep.  Don’t rely on a link to your homepage that’s buried down in the boilerplate.  Make it easy for people to find relevant information, and take the next step.
  4. Is the copy you distribute designed to be easily scanned by readers on all kinds of devices, using bold subheads and bullet points to surface key themes?  Many people are reading press releases on tablets and smartphones.  Organize the body of your press release content into easy to scan chucks, and use numbered or bulleted lists to draw attention to key points.
  5. Does your PR team illustrate press releases with visual content, such as videos, images and infographics?    We really can’t emphasize the value of visuals enough.  Search engines and social networks are increasingly visual, and plain text simply doesn’t carry the same weight. Relying on plain text reduces the effectiveness of messages.

The practice of public relations today requires an increasingly deft touch.  PR Newswire’s own distribution network is designed to deliver customized content to the journalists, bloggers, web sites and media outlets that subscribe to our news feeds.    Ensuring the content they receive from us is relevant to their interests and areas of coverage is the cornerstone of our media relations programs and services.

Likewise, the development of e-mail pitches and press releases takes a similar deft touch.   But don’t leave distribution out of the picture.  If your organization wants to increase inbound web site traffic, acquire new followers, find new audiences and earn some media along the way, broad outbound distribution of your messages via a service like PR Newswire will deliver measurable results.

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of  the recently-published ebook Driving Content DiscoveryFollow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

6 Keys to Using the New Twitter Design for PR

Actor Channing Tatum’s Twitter profile shows off the new format.

Twitter’s new design – mirroring Facebook’s layout and emphasizing visuals – reinforces the importance of using multimedia elements in communications. However, the new layout offers more opportunity for brands than initially meets the eye.  (See related: Coming soon from Twitter)

Surfacing granular content (& winning attention)

The brands that do it best know that Twitter is about granular information. The short format requires brevity, and forces tweet authors to get straight to the point. Best practices for tweeting links are straightforward:

  • On Twitter, your tweet is your headline. Its role is to arrest the reader’s attention and get them to take a next step, such as clicking on the link or re-tweeting the message.  lil tweetAvoid generalizations. Instead, carefully craft your tweet to give followers insight into what the link contains (and incentive to click!)
  • Include visuals that are strongly related to and illustrative of the content you’re sharing. Pictures and videos stand out in the newsfeed and command attention, and they convey messages in their own right.
  • Use relevant hashtags. While hashtags can be used to convey side commentary or emotion, for brands, hashtags are also how content is found. Scan your own Twitter feeds for relevant hashtags, and also use the Twitter search function for research. Don’t use a hashtag without first looking at the related tweet stream. You want to make sure your messaging is in relevant and appropriate company.

Drill into the angles
You can surface (and illustrate!) a variety of themes and elements for the story you’re promoting. In most cases, the stories we create –whether in the form of a press release about a new product, a blog post about an industry trend or pitches about an important development at the companies we represent – contain multiple hooks and angles and elements. Every tweet is another opportunity to engage your audience, and sharing different story angles increases the message’s appeal.

So for PR pros whose brands have cultivated strong presences on Twitter, some new tactics are in order:

  • Don’t get in the habit of tweeting the headline and calling it a day. Instead, create a series of tweets highlighting different elements of the story.
  • Share individual visual elements. And when sharing large infographics, consider having your designer create image snippets that illustrate one key fact. A simpler image will render better in the Twitter feed.
  • Don’t be afraid of tweeting multiple messages about one piece of content. One white paper or press release could reasonably offer a host of tweeting angles – quotes from people mentioned, a host of key findings, a variety of charts and graphs. Stagger the tweets over a few days (or even longer) to maximize visibility.

One final note: as Twitter rolls out the new design, we all need to be mining our image files for visuals that will fill the new space. Larger profile pictures and a Facebook cover-style banner are key features of the new look, and offer brands the opportunity showcase their visual identities.

Learn more about using visuals in B2B campaigns by viewing the on-demand webinar: Powering B2B Content with Multimedia.

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of  the ebook  New School Press Release TacticsFollow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

 

 

Satellite Media Tours: Moving Beyond the TV

A sure-fire way to gain TV exposure for your organization’s story is with a satellite media tour (“SMT.”)  SMTs enable your spokesperson or expert to virtually visit a variety of television markets in rapid succession via a series of interviews that are pre-booked with participating  stations.

In reality, though, SMTs deliver more than TV exposure.  Most stations have robust web presences, enabling online audiences to see segments even if they missed the newscast on which a piece originally aired. Additionally, by incorporating audio and online interviews,  the SMT can rapidly morph from a television-only campaign into one that encompasses radio and online audiences, as well.   We’re even doing Blogger Media Tours, focusing on delivering interviews directly to targeted bloggers.

 SMT options:  solo or co-op

Most organizations work with a vendor (such as PR Newswire’ s MultiVu™ division) that coordinates pitching the story to TV stations and other outlets, coordinating  media bookings and managing all of the logistics, including the recording location (whether in a studio or elsewhere) and the communications with the media outlets and bloggers.

 

There are two different approaches to satellite media tours:  your brand can either go it alone, or you can join a couple other brands telling related stories on a cooperative effort, something we call a “co-op SMT.”    The magnitude of your organization’s story as well as your budget are two of the key factors in determining which approach to take for your story.

A co-op tour is a satellite media tour featuring two to four participants focusing on a particular topic or event, such as fitness, beauty, personal finance or sports. Each participant is given 20 seconds to convey their message.  Because resources are pooled the participants, co-ops provide a cost-effective option for reaching consumer audiences.

 What to expect:

Once you have decided to go ahead with your SMT, your MultiVu representative will work with you to coordinate all aspects of your media tour and will ensure that your SMT achieves optimum results. MultiVu will advise on tour date as well as coordinate all onsite logistics, whether at a studio or at a remote location.  We will also discuss key messages, create a one page media alert for use in pitching and determine the most effective overall strategy.   Pitching ideally gets underway a minimum of four weeks prior to tour date.  Strong, up-to-date media contacts mean everything when it comes to booking a media tour.  MultiVu maintains excellent relationships with individual producers at TV, Radio and internet shows who we know will be interested in your story.

On the day of the media tour, plan to have talent arrive approximately an hour before the first interview, this usually means around 5:00 or 5:30 AM ET.  “Business casual” attire is generally most appropriate, and  spokespeople should not wear white or heavily-patterned shirts.  Once at the studio, the spokesperson will go into makeup and your onsite SMT producer will review the morning’s activities and ensure that all technical facets of the tour are set. If possible, sit the spokesperson down for a quick dry run interview before the tour gets underway.  TV interviews will typically be between 2 and 3 minutes long, radio and web interviews will typically be longer (up to 10 minutes.)  The spokesperson will be alerted beforehand as to whether the interviews are live or taped and where the interviews are originating.

The day following the media tour, MultiVu will provide a preliminary report listing airings, audience reached and equivalent advertising values, and if available, streaming video links to the TV segments.  MultiVu will also produce a DVD copy of the entire satellite media tour for your records, which can later be used to assemble a highlights reel.

An evolving resource for media:

Media tours have evolved significantly over the last several years in step with the changing media environment.  For example, in years past, a “traditional” SMT took place between the hours of about 6:00-10:00 AM ET and included interviews solely on morning TV newscasts. Now, SMTS are often extended to 11:00 AM ET or even later to allow for increased booking opportunities, as some stations prefer to tape segments for later use.  Additionally, we’re also incorporating radio and online interviews into the tour, as these additional bookings mean significant added audience and return on your investment.

With the proper guidance, media tours can be a highly effective tool to convey your messages to the media as well as to the public at large, via both broadcast and online outlets.  If you have questions or want to learn more, contact the MultiVu team.

Learn how to empower your communications with visuals — join next week’s free webinar – details below. 

Click to register for our upcoming webinar on utilizing visuals to boost the effectiveness of B2B content.

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of  the ebook  New School Press Release TacticsFollow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

 

Does Your Story Belong on TV? Look to Your Audience for the Answer

 

“How do I get my story on to TV?”

When we hear this question (and we hear it a lot) we know that the person asking it is really trying to meet a few different challenges. In reality, they’re asking “How do I reach a broad audience?” “How do I generate a high-impact message?” and “How do I tell my story visually?”

As you might guess, these few questions have a lot of answers. We’re going to tackle them over the next few days in a series of blog posts about using visual content to reach core groups.

multimedia comms webinar

Learn more about incorporating visuals into your B2B mix – click to register for our free webinar!

The best way to begin building a visual strategy is to start with your audience.

First, ask yourself who the brand really needs to reach with the message. That’s the key question you need to ask when setting the course for your visual story, and determining whether or not TV really is the best channel for your message. Morning talk and network news shows do reach a broad swath of consumers. If your story truly has broad public appeal, pursuing television coverage may in fact make a lot of sense.

It’s worth spending a few minutes thinking specifically about your story in the context of the audience, too. TV and radio producers are looking for “news you can use” content with easy-to-understand consumer messages. Stories need to be useful, interesting and relevant to the media outlet’s audiences if they’re to win consideration by the production staff.

Pro tip: Frame your story in the context of what the potential audience will find most relevant. That will give you the best shot at creating messages that will win media attention and resonate with target audiences.

However, if an honest assessment of your audience reveals that it’s more niche than national, TV probably isn’t the best route to take – but that doesn’t mean leaving video by the wayside. An array of online videos – including expert commentary, a real-life demo, and customer stories – can draw audience and be re-purposed for use in email campaigns, on social networks, in newsletters and on blog posts (to name just a few.)

Coming tomorrow: Getting your story onto TV (and other channels) with a satellite media tour.

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of  the ebook  New School Press Release TacticsFollow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

PR is 80% more effective than content marketing.

Source: InPowered & Neilsen

Source: InPowered & Nielsen

According to a recent study sponsored by InPowered and conducted by Nielsen, content marketing is 88% less effective than public relations, due in large part to the outsize influence earned media wields over the public.    According to the study, earned media – defined as content created by credible third party experts – consistently provided more benefit to brands than did user generated or branded content.

Credibility is the key

The stat is interesting for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is the simple fact that marketers are very good at measuring outcomes, something that PR has continued struggle with. The fact that Nielsen has identified the potent effect of credible third-party mentions has upon potential customers across the various stages of the buying cycle should make PR measurement mavens sit up and take note.

With all the conversation about, investment in and discussion of content marketing over the last few years, one has to wonder exactly what makes PR efforts so much more valuable in terms of driving business than content marketing campaigns.

The answer is credibility.  It’s devilishly hard to produce branded content that is truly credible.  The content brands publish (even this little blog post!) all have underlying agendas, and sometimes, those agendas aren’t too thinly veiled.

Earned media & influence 

Earned media, on the other hand, is widely perceived as being more credible and authentic.  Therein are the keys to its influence – and that’s where public relations can really shine. PR practitioners understand influence, how it accrues and from where it flows. PR pros understand the subtleties of the story and how to wrap information in context that makes sense to an audience.

It’s little wonder that PR is behind the blockbuster headlines, viral videos and other content that fills our newsfeeds and floats to the top of search engine results.

Marketing tactics PR should steal 

All that said, as a content marketer myself, I do believe that there are opportunities for PR to steal some important tactics from the content marketing toolbox.  Digital marketers test and refine messages continually, and have developed a range of best practices for developing web-based cntent that works, and other communicators can borrow those tactics to improve their own campaigns.

Designing press releases and other content with reader actions in mind is one such recommendation.  Think of it this way: every piece of content your brand issues online- press releases, blog posts, articles, backgrounders, etc. — becomes a web page. That specific web page can be seen in search engines and  shared on social networks. When that page captures the fleeting attention of a visitor, your organization has the opportunity to communicate powerfully and personally with that person. Within that moment, you have their attention and with it, the opportunity to channel their next actions.

Marketers obsess over this opportunity to drive audience action: they test different scenarios and obsessively tweak language and layout to determine what works best. While it’s not reasonable to think that we have the opportunity to send 25 different versions of the same press release to see which generates the best results, we can definitely take some broad best practices from digital markers and apply them to our messages.

Those tactics are detailed in the recent blog post titled “Extreme Makover: Press Release Edition,” and the slide deck embedded above.

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of  the ebook  New School Press Release TacticsFollow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

A look at how PR Newswire serves the media

We talk a lot about the online visibility of press releases, but we’ve never lost sight of the fact that the #1 reason why most organizations use PR Newswire is to reach professional journalists  with their message.  Media pick up is still vitally important.  We know that, and we make a point of catering to the tens of thousands of reporters, editors, bloggers and producers for whom PR Newswire is a trusted source.

Free on-demand media webinar! 

The new PRNJ home page

The new PRNJ home page

We’ve made some big changes to how many of the journalists subscribing to PR Newswire see the news you issue, and thought you’d be interested in seeing how we present your news to them via PR Newswire for Journalists (“PRNJ”,)  our private, media-only web site.

First, let’s talk about why we have a media-only site – something no other newswire service offers – rather than relying upon our external web site to serve journalists.    First and foremost, many organizations still distribute news releases that truly are for media eyes only, such as invitations to press conferences and other media events, media and analyst calls and embargoed releases.    Additionally, many of our clients prefer not to make media contact information public, which is we mask the names and phone numbers of PR contacts at the bottom of a large portion of our press releases on our public site.   However, media contact information is vitally important, and it’s on every release on PRNJ.

Because of the sensitivity of this information, we credential each and every journalist and blogger registering for PRNJ.   Furthermore, we have a team of media relations professionals on staff who assist new PRNJ registrants as needed with things like setting up news feeds and using ProfNet.

This level of service and detail is expensive – there’s no doubt we could save a lot of money if we didn’t have tools and teams in place to build and serve the community of journalists and bloggers that access PR  Newswire news.  But we think you’ll agree that this is pretty important audience, and it’s not one we choose to ignore.

Beyond Bylines - our new media blog.

Beyond Bylines – our new media blog.

A few weeks ago, we launched a gorgeous, sleek new version of PRNJ, featuring fast and simple navigation, advantageous display of news releases and the compilation of a host of tools and other goodies for PRNJ members, including:

  • A responsive site optimized for all devices, from desktops to smartphones, and everything in between.
  • Saved news searches: the ability to turn a simple headline search into custom news feed that dynamically updates simply by saving the search.
  • Headline links to other news releases from the same issuer: When viewing one of your press releases, PRNJ users also have at-a-glance access to other news issued by your company or organization.
  • Fast access to Profnet experts.  ProfNet is now embedded within PRNJ, enabling journalists to search the expert dB or issue a query seeking expert commentary from within PRNJ.
  • A new community page featuring a new media-focused blog, Beyond Bylines,  a digest of media industry news and moves and a jobs bank.

We know PRNJ works – the numbers don’t lie.  Almost 30,000 registered users access the site each month, and together, they average more than a million press release views each month.  (Pro tip: check your Visibility Reports for a summary of PRNJ activity each of your press releases receives when you order media distribution for your news.)

Want more ideas on how to make your news and pitches stand out? View our FREE on-demand webinar about how newsrooms have been impacted by the changing digital media environment featuring a panel from the Poynter Institute, the Washington Post and new mobile news site Circa.  Register. 

Video courtesy of our friends at MultiVu.