Author Archives: Sarah Skerik

Transparent Business Drives Great PR

A trip to the mechanic for a simple car repair delivers a lesson for our blogger in the PR ramifications of  how the availability of digital information can impact a business.  Conclusion: Transparent business practices are an important driver of great public relations. lil tweet bird

My coffee maker was on the fritz and the thermometer read -9 degrees Fahrenheit last Friday morning when I arrived – under caffeinated and frankly pretty grumpy — on the doorstep of the auto dealer I’ve used to service my car for the last few years.  One of my headlamps had burnt out, and while replacing the bulbs is usually a pretty quick fix and one I’ve handled myself previously, I decided to seek professional help due to the freezing weather.

What I ended up getting was an object lesson in how today’s age of radical transparency and the availability of digital information can impact a business.

As Tony, the service consultant at the dealer, pulled up my records and started the paperwork, he mentioned that replacing the bulbs in my headlights would cost almost $200.

“$200? How much do the parts cost?” I asked him.   That number sounded really high.

He told me the lamps cost between $20 -$25 each, but the labor involved was considerable, given the fact that the wheels and parts of the fender needed to be removed in order to change the bulbs.   He made it sound like A Very Big Deal.

But it also sounded fishy to me.  The daughter of an auto parts dealer, I know enough to be a little dangerous.  One of my most satisfying life moments was this exchange with a sales manager who was who was trying to sell a fluffy-haired 22 year-old me an over-priced extended care package on my first new car.

Him: “You know, if your carburetor goes kaput in five years, you’re covered.”

Me: “It’s fuel-injected.  It doesn’t have a carburetor.”

Back to my story.  The point is this: I’ve changed the bulbs on almost every car I’ve owned.   And I can assure you, I didn’t have to remove the wheels to get the job done.  EVER. 

Enter the connected customer

So I did what any connected consumer would do. I whipped out my iPhone and Googled “how to change headlight bulb 2009 Subaru Forester,” and within a second was watching a video of how it’s done.  It looked pretty simple, and I held my phone up so Tony could see.  He shrugged, saying they took the wheels off to change the bulbs.

By now, I was getting pretty angry.  I may be blond, female and (at the time of this incident) suffering from woefully low levels of coffee, but I wasn’t impaired enough to buy the story he was feeding me.   I killed the video, consulted Google again, and called another Subaru dealer, located a few suburbs away.

As a few other interested women wandered in from the adjacent waiting room to hear what was going on, I got connected with Johnny from the other dealer’s service department.

“I have a 2009 Forester XLT, and one of the headlamps has burnt out.  I’ve replaced bulbs in other cars, but not in this one,” I explained, staring levelly at Tony, who was starting to squirm a bit. “I’m trying to figure out if it’s something I can handle on my own, or if I should bring into the shop.”

“You can do it yourself, but we charge $15.61 for the labor to change a bulb, so you might just want to bring it in,” Johnny told me. “It’s a quick and easy job for us.”

Fifteen dollars and sixty-one cents? At that point, part of my brain short circuited.

“Johnny, let me level with you,” I said, reeling a bit from the huge disparity in potential charges.   “I’m standing here in the service department of another dealer, and they’re telling me they have to take the wheels and part of the front end off to change the bulbs, and it’s going to cost me almost $200. What gives?”

There was an uncomfortable silence, then Johnny replied, “Well, it *is* easier if you put the car in the air – that’s what we do.  We take the wheels off too, and go up from underneath.  But as I said, it’s an easy job for us and takes just a few minutes.  We charge $15.61 labor for each bulb replacement.  I think your dealer is charging too much.”

I thanked Johnny, told him I’d be there in about an hour, hung up, and told Tony I wanted my car brought back up.  It would be well worth my time to drive 15 miles to save over a hundred bucks.

Implications for brands

As I waited for my car, I thought about how transparency burned this particular dealer.   Brands simply can’t charge unreasonable prices, or make unreasonable claims in today’s networked information environment.  Information, examples and copious feedback are available via the smartphones in our pockets.

Assuming that your customers are uninformed and that you’ll get away with it is a recipe for disaster.   There are apps that provide instant access to reviews and can suggest the best repair shops for your make and model of car, which I suspect are going to problematic for my old dealer.

For businesses that have used information asymmetry to their advantage, the transparency evolution will be a particularly rude awakening.  Simply put, times are changing, and you can’t bet that your customers are clueless.  (Related:  App-Armed and YouTube-Educated, Taking Care of My Baby.)  In fact, some brands are using information to empower their customers, creating advocates and gaining efficiencies.

Bad service = bad search rank

However, before we even get into the big data argument, there’s another reason why organizations need to abandon models that capitalize upon their customers’ ignorance – these practices are risky, and can result in bad PR, detrimental online reviews and negative buzz.  Google has a history of cracking down on bad merchants, sinking their search rankings, and promised last year that they’ll continue to bury bad actors.

Transparency is good PR

Folks in the SEO space have been saying things like “The best SEO is great customer service,” for years now.  Their counter parts in social media have a similar corollary: “Want viral social buzz? Start with a great product!”   I’m going to create a maxim for PR:  “Transparent business practices drive great PR.”

Transparency ensures your front-line staff will never be hamstrung between mission statements that purport to put the customer first, and business practices that do anything but.  Operating under the assumption that everything about your organization’s practices can be discovered at any given time by any person effectively insulates the company from unwelcome surprised, whether it’s the ticked off customer or rogue ex-employee.  If there’s no fuel, there can be no fire.

As social and search become inextricably entwined, it’s crucial for brands to evaluate their business practices and ask themselves whether their practices can stand the test of transparency, and the PR team should be the catalyst. It’s good for business, and it’s good for PR.

Stay in on top of what people are saying about your brand with our MEDIAvantage media monitoring suite.  

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.

Content We Love: Showcasing News for All Audiences

ContentWeLoveIn the run up to the 2014 iteration of the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), exhibitors have been clamoring for media attention, furiously booking interviews with media, scheduling press conferences and satellite media tours, prepping visual communications assets and priming their social media presences — and for good reason.   CES is a monster show that generates a massive amount of news coverage and social buzz.

LG CES

As I was scanning the burgeoning feed of press releases the show has already generated, one from LG grabbed my attention – an not solely because it was about a 77-inch OLED television. (Please, don’t tell my husband about the existence of this thing!)  

LG To Showcase OLED TV Lineup at CES 2014

No doubt, the TV looks cool.  Scratch that, it looks amazing.  I found myself reading the whole press release, clicking on the pictures, and then Googling prices (let’s just say, it’s still in the “if you have to ask, you probably can’t afford it” range for most people.)  But as I said, it looks pretty amazing. 

However, this edition of Content We Love isn’t about a stunning TV picture.  It’s about the fact that LG have elected to engage the audience who won’t be at CES this year.  The folks who will be at the show probably won’t be able to miss the LG booth.  The monster OLED TV will undoubtedly be front and center in the display, drawing in booth traffic like moths to a flame.

But for the majority of us who won’t be at CES, LG have done something pretty interesting.  They have used a big industry event to drive attention to their products, prior to the launch.   A few years ago, LG may have elected to keep the unveiling of their new OLED TV range under tight wraps, in order to make a splash at the show.

But today’s information environment is different.  Social buzz can help garner media attention. Both media attention and social interaction send potent signals to search engines, and can increase brand visibility.  Messages and campaigns simply do not exist in isolation anymore.

In the days before next week’s big event, LG can provide important runway for the debut of their new TVs by starting to build social buzz and media awareness right now.  And one way they’re seeding that interest is by sending a news release, loaded product details and handsome images, out to the media and the broader public in advance of the event.  With this LG release, we see evidence of a truly integrated communications strategy.

Kudos to the LG team on a well planned – and executed – communications strategy.

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.

The Content We Most Loved in 2013

ContentWeLoveAs we wind down 2013 and look forward to the new year, we took a look at some of the campaigns and messages highlighted this year on Content We Love.    The most popular posts for the year fell into three categories:  examples of  multimedia/multichannel campaigns, message distribution and writing tactics.  here are the top posts of the year, for each of these key categories:

Multimedia & Multichannel Campaigns

Content We Love: the Press Release Behind the Dove “Real Beauty Sketches” Campaign :  http://blog.prnewswire.com/2013/04/19/content-we-love-the-press-release-behind-the-dove-real-beauty-sketches-campaign/

Content We Love: A Message in a Bottle (and a Multimedia News Release) http://blog.prnewswire.com/2013/03/22/content-we-love-a-message-in-a-bottle-and-a-multimedia-news-release/

Content We Love: Michaels Stores Crafting Multimedia http://blog.prnewswire.com/2013/02/22/content-we-love-michaels-stores-crafting-multimedia

Content Distribution: 

Content We Love: A Feel Great Story Gets A Boost:  http://blog.prnewswire.com/2013/12/13/content-we-love-a-feel-great-story-gets-a-boost/

Content We Love: Curating Company Content & Keeping it Current
http://blog.prnewswire.com/2013/08/30/content-we-love-curating-company-content-keeping-it-current/

Writing Tactics: 

Content We Love: Backbone of Storytelling : http://blog.prnewswire.com/2013/05/10/content-we-love-backbone-of-storytelling/

Content We Love: A Press Release Built for Action
http://blog.prnewswire.com/2013/11/08/content-we-love-a-press-release-built-for-action-2/

Content We Love: Social Media Makes This Release Pop
http://blog.prnewswire.com/2013/05/17/content-we-love-social-media-makes-this-release-pop/

Content We Love: A Masterful News Hook
http://blog.prnewswire.com/2013/01/18/content-we-love-a-masterful-news-hook/

Content We Love: A Feel-Great Story Gets a Boost

ContentWeLove

Have you seen the WestJet “Real Time Giving” video yet?  If you have, I know you want to watch it again.  If you haven’t, you really must. Either way, here it is:

As of this writing, the video has been viewed more than 19 million times since its release earlier this week, and I think it’s safe to say that this is just a start.

As totally lovable as the video is, however, it’s not the subject of my adoration this week.   That honor is reserved for the press release the WestJet team used to promote the video, seeding the media coverage and social visibility that triggered viral sharing. lil tweet

WestJet Today

Like the kid who circles everything in the catalog, the West Jet had the waterfront covered, creating a variety of visual assets, and wrapping them into a fully loaded press release.

A press release about promotional video?  Yes. The team deftly used paid media to promote their owned media, resulting in an earned media avalanche, with pick up in USA Today, the Today Show, Mashable, Huffington Post and Forbes, to name just a handful of outlets running the story.

westjet mashablePromoting content via a newswire service like PR Newswire (or, in this case, our sister company up north, Canada Newswire,) to promote owned content may strike some PR people as strange.  However, it’s a tactic that has proven to work well for the content marketing crowd, who don’t blanch at the idea of marketing their marketing.

Using a newswire to promote content delivers a variety of benefits, including:

  • Reaching a larger audience.  When you distribute content online via PR Newswire, for example, it is re-posted on thousands of web sites, exposing the message instantly to new audiences.
  • Seeding social interactions.  Search engines weigh social interactions heavily in their algorithms, and sparking a spate of tweets or a bevy of +1s can give content a significant boost in search rankings — as well as reaching an expanding audience and setting the stage for viral growth.
  • Capitalizing on the opportunity to earn some media, while you’re at it.  The WestJet video is a great case in point.  The video itself isn’t terribly newsworthy, however, its popularity is.  WestJet was beautifully prepared for that possibility, distributing related images and several other videos, including a blooper reel and a more serious interview with Richard Bartrem, the company’s vice president of communications and community relations, in which he spoke  about the inspiration and logistics behind the airline’s second annual holiday surprise video.

westjet usatoday

According to Todd Wheatland’s Content Marketing World presentation earlier this year, most viral videos have been given a big leg up through paid promotion.  If you want your video to go viral, Wheatland said, first you need to be certain that it is fantastic.  The next step? Buying some promotion. And distribution of the content via PR Newswire is a fast, efficient and cost-effective mechanism for driving the content into new audiences and seeding social visibility – the foundations of viral spread of content.

So kudos to the WestJet team on job very well done, and thanks for brightening our day.  This is truly content we love!

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

A sampling of the media coverage:

NPR: Must Cry Video? Watch WestJet Airline’s ‘Christmas Miracle’

Forbes: The Real ‘Christmas Miracle’ of WestJet’s Viral Video: Millions in Free Advertising 

New York Daily News: WestJet Airlines Surprises Passengers With Gifts After They Touch Down From Flights 

Buzzfeed: This WestJet Christmas Miracle Will Make Your Day 

Huffington Post:  WestJet Finds Out What Passengers Want For Christmas, Leaves Presents at Baggage Claim

 

A News Release for Media …. And Enthusiasts

ContentWeLoveI grew up driving an old Ford Mustang (a ’64 ½ convertible, to be exact) and simply put, I love those cars.  So any press release from Ford about the pony car is bound to get my attention.  I’m an enthusiast.

As I was scanning the wires this week, I spotted the announcement from Ford about the new designs and other innovations debuting for the Mustang, just in time for the 50th anniversary of this iconic car.

Be still my heart, they’ve  brought back the fastback. 

It. Is. So. Pretty.

It. Is. So. Pretty.

While the pictures in the press release made me swoon a bit (Dear Santa, I want a pony.  I mean, pony car …) the treatment of the press release by Ford got the attention of my practical side.  It is beautifully constructed to convey key messages to journalists, and to feed the interest of bloggers and enthusiasts. lil tweet

Let’s break it down.

The headline, “Ford Mustang Marks 50 Years with All-New Sleek Design, Innovative Technologies and World-Class Performance,” doesn’t beat around the bush – it tells what’s to follow, and stands alone.  No subhead required.

The lead comprises three bullet points, and is built for busy journalist.  It cuts straight to the key messages in the press release, and the bullet point treatment surfaces those messages easily for readers who are quickly scanning the copy.

And then there are the pictures, which had a galvanizing effect on this enthusiast.  These are not staid PR shots.  The stills treat the Mustang like a piece of sculpture, a nice juxtaposition to the picture of the car on the road, in which you can almost hear the growl of the 420-horse V8 (at least I can.)

One message, multiple audiences 

I thought the treatment of the quote and descriptions in the release were particularly deft.  It’s here that the company’s ability to balance delivering information to news media and juicy tidbits to the blogger and enthusiast crowd are on display.

As the reader works their way through the release, the tone changes from stringently factual to more descriptive and relatable.  Journalists working on deadline can easily find the facts and stats they need toward the top of the page.  After that, the company is speaking to the driver.

One question I get a lot is whether it’s a good idea to create multiple versions of a press release for different audiences.  With very, very few exceptions, my answer has always been “No.”   I advise the approach Ford has taken – write the press release with your primary goal in mind, and then cater to any secondary goals later in the message.  This release is about the media first, and the driver second, and it delivers the goods for both.

Distribution is still important to reach media, and your publics

A representative from another US car company told me about some unexpected results they garnered from a couple multimedia press releases they issued via PR Newswire at the beginning of this year, to support two important new models at the North American International Auto Show.   The company had booked dozens of interviews via a satellite media tour, but they also packaged MP4 video of the new models in the multimedia press releases.  Numerous media outlets picked up and ran that video, delivering extra value for the company.

“With the MNR we gained exposure to a rather large audience, and it was a separate audience,” our contact (who asked to remain anonymous) told us.  “Our message reached new people from viral pick up and viewer sharing. We were looking for additional eyeballs, and that’s where we succeeded with the MNR.”

Even as organizations build media relationships and cultivate social followings, distribution of messages beyond those groups is necessary, in order to continually build new audiences and earn media (and attention) for brand messages.

Press releases – and newswire services – are still important tools in the new school covercommunicator’s arsenal.  That said, they both work better when the organizations issuing press releases make a point of developing the sort of interesting, visual and interactive content audiences appreciate today.  I’ve written an ebook detailing new approaches to press releases that are generating results, and it includes real-life examples and tips.  Here’s the link: New School PR Tactics  .

So kudos to the Ford team this week, on creating a message that resonates with professional media as well as Mustang fans.  (And thanks for bringing back the fastback!)

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

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Do Newswire Services Work? PR Newswire Does.

In the wake of the recent conversation about the value of newswire services, I thought I’d share an email I received from an old friend, who works at a major print outlet in Chicago.

 Hey Sarah!

 I’ve got a work-related problem and wonder if you can help me find a solution:

I’m a digital news editor at XXXXX. For years we’ve had access to PRN releases through our subscription to the [major paid wire service] wire. It’s been a great source of business news, particularly before the markets open, and our early morning editor depends on it. But we’re about to end that [major paid wire service] subscription and switch to [another major paid wire service] — which offers PRN through its terminals, as you probably know, but not through the web-based portal we’ll be using to access the wire service.

 I’m wondering if there’s a way to get direct access to PRN releases right on our desktops. We’d be interested in filtering the tons of releases you move to focus on Chicago and Illinois and a universe of our top companies — but that might get into more detail than you care to know at this point, so I’ll stick to the primary question: How can we keep getting our PRN fix?

 We’re ending our [major paid wire service] sub at the end of the month, and our early morning editor is already getting the PRN-withdrawal shakes. Let me know what you think about this.

 Significant base of media subscribers

Across the US, and the rest of the planet, for that matter, thousands of media outlets devote technical resource and computer space to receiving PR Newswire press releases.  We know the technical and newsroom contacts at each outlet, and we work with them to tailor the news feed to fit the outlet’s needs.

In addition to the news feeds that are hardwired into news rooms as described above, more than 30,000 credentialed journalists and bloggers access PR Newswire for Journalists each month, where they tally more than a million press release views monthly.

Why do professional media & bloggers use PR Newswire?

So why is the PR Newswire feed of press releases still used by so many journalists and bloggers?  There are a few reasons why:

  • Efficiency:  It’s easier for an outlet to get a streamlined feed of news releases filtered by topic and geography from a company like PR Newswire than it is to manage individual messages from all the agencies, brands and organizations reporting news.  Press releases are coded and formatted using according to news industry standards, making it as easy and efficient for news editors to manage their press release feed as it is for them to manage their paid news feeds from sources like the AP, Dow Jones and Reuters.
  •  Credibility:   Every press release PR Newswire runs to its media circuits is authenticated – only people who are authorized to do so can issue a press release on behalf of their organization.   Additionally, we have stringent standards around attribution, requiring sources and contacts on every press release.  Receiving media know that the copy they get from PR Newswire is reliable and trustworthy.  As a result, major wire services frequently re-run press releases we issue in full text over their circuits and their spot news editors rip headlines from our wires to run on theirs.  Press releases received via email or found on the web have to be first verified, which takes valuable time in today’s deadline-every-second news environment.
  • Quality:   PR Newswire has a variety of copy quality standards, to ensure the press releases we issue contain newsworthy content our receiving media and bloggers can act upon.   Advertorial copy and stories about threatened (but not actually filed) law suits are two examples of the sort of content that doesn’t pass muster for distribution to one of our media circuits.

The audience is bigger than the media

Real time tweets of PR Newswire press releases.

Real time tweets of PR Newswire press releases.

We all know that the media environment is far different today than it was five, 10 or 15 years ago.  One reason why PR Newswire still delivers results today is the fact that our press releases are consumed by audiences directly.

  •  About 15% of the traffic to PR Newswire.com comes from people researching products and services via search engines.
  • Press releases are widely shared on social networks.  (Live feed on Twitter of tweets of PR Newswire press releases: https://twitter.com/search?q=PRnewswire&src=typd&f=realtime )

To get a better handle on audience behavior, I embedded trackable URLs within the press releases I issued to promote blog posts in the month of November.  Those links, which were all embedded in the third paragraph of the release (meaning people had to open the release, and really read it to get to the link) generated almost 1,000 clicks.  And think about it – by the time someone finds press release, reads it and then clicks on the link you offer them in the release text – they’ve demonstrated some real interest in your message.   The click-through numbers represent enormously valuable traffic.

So, press releases – and newswire services – still work.  That said, they both work better when the organizations issuing press releases make a point of developing the sort of interesting, visual and interactive content audiences appreciate today.  I’ve written an ebook detailing new approaches to press releases that are generating results, and it includes real-life examples and tips.  Here’s the link: New School PR Tactics  .

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

Content We Love: Turning Owned Media into Earned

ContentWeLove

Preparing the weekly Content We Love post is an interesting exercise.  When it’s my turn to do this feature, I cruise over to PR Newswire.com, and let my eyeballs wander over the headlines.  Invariably, an item will leap out at me, and without fail, those that do are stellar examples of press release writing.

avg huffpoToday’s example is no exception.  The headline garnered my attention, the subhead kept it and the body of the release sealed the deal over and over again, keeping my attention with crunchy facts and links to additional information. 

avg 4 traders

The press release referenced in the HuffPo piece. It was issued via PR Newswire & syndicated across the web, building visibility for AVG’s story. 

Here’s the title: ‘Over 1-in-3 small businesses spend more time tidying their desks than backing up their data.’

Issued by AVG Technologies, a provider of security and privacy software for computers and mobile devices,  the release is also a great example of what I see as a growing PR trend for 2014:  using owned media (in this case, a survey) to generate earned media.

 

AVG’s PR team pulled an irresistible news hook out of the data findings, wrapped it up into a tight press release, graced it with their colorful branding and generated some fantastic news coverage.

avg small biz media

In addition to the media hits, the story is also one of the most-emailed on the PR Newswire web site, an important indicator of reader value.  Getting eyeballs to a story is one thing.  But generating interaction is another story entirely. In addition to amplifying the story, search engines pay attention to stories generating interaction, and they use that information to inform search rankings.  

So across the board, this is a real PR win – in terms of earned media wins, social media traction and ultimately in search engine visibility.

Kudos to the AVG team on a story well played!

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

 

 

 

PR Trends for 2014: Focused Content & Multiple Formats Appeal to Niche Audiences

pr trends 14It’s that time of year when we start to reflect upon the past and consider the future, and take stock of our personal skills and development. The significant changes in the digital media environment that are so instrumental in shaping public opinion today require us, as communicators, to continually update and refresh our strategies and tactics.

Here some PR trends we’re seeing for the coming year.

Niche amplification: As of this writing, Google’s revenues are greater than the US newspaper and magazine markets – combined – and their business is built on delivering niche information.   And social signals play an important role in how Google (and other search engines) categorize information – in fact, according to the latest data I could find, eight of the top ten factors Google uses to index information are derived from social interaction.

All that orange at the top of the graph signifies the role social media play in informing search results.

What does all this mean?  Simply put, it means that digital audiences are drivers of message visibility, and generating interaction around messages – likes, shares, tweets, pins and clicks on links – are crucial components of digital visibility today. lil tweet

To generate the authentic sort of interest among audiences who care, communicators are driving deep into niche interests.  They’re not targeting the top 100 food bloggers, for example, for a pitch about gluten-free ingredients.  Instead, they’re drilling into the gluten-free community, identifying and connecting with active and well-connected members of that group. Additionally, communicators are doing something else.  They are crafting increasingly ….

Focused content designed to engage audiences, not just media and influencers:  From Google’s emphasis on conversational search to the strength of niche magazine sales, one thing is clear: tightly focused content is eagerly consumed by audiences, especially when it offers unique insight or real utility.

What does this mean for PR pros?  Audiences are telling us what they’re interested in and what they value, and this intelligence creates an important contextual framework for a variety of communications, from the pitch to the press release.

new school banner

This means framing messaging in the context of the audiences’ interest, in the form of answers to their questions, solutions to their problems and advice that ultimately makes their lives better – whether it makes a job easier, a hobby more fulfilling or a cause more compelling.   This trend – the development of more focused content, is also having an impact more broadly as …

PR teams are publishers & creators of more owned content:  One could argue that the definition of newsworthiness has changed, as media outlets are changing up their model and chasing the digital golden rings – namely, larger audiences and more web site traffic.    In addition to emphasizing stories designed to grab public attention (such as CNN’s spectacularly comprehensive coverage of Miley Cyrus’ performance at the Video Music Awards), journalists and bloggers are actively curating content on social networks, working to bolster their own social media presences, as well as those of the outlets they represent.   As a result, the digital news hole is huge, and outlets are very willing to reference owned content, including market research or user surveys.   A few years, ago, a PR team probably would not have dreamed of pitching these kinds of content, but in reality, company data can offer insight and provide significant story opportunities.   Savvy PR teams can work with their marketing counterparts to acquire rich visuals they can repurpose to add richness to a pitch, and they also know content that may not make the cut for a column or show can still gain exposure if an influencer shares it with his or her followers.  To maximize a message’s potential; communicators are grasping another trend, which is …

Employing multiple message formats & content distribution channels: It’s a rare campaign that doesn’t have multiple news hooks or angles, and it’s a rare audience that is found in just one place.   To ensure maximum uptake of a message, public relations professionals are increasingly employing a variety of message formats, and they’re deploying this content across multiple channels.  Done well, this approach does two things – it acquires new audiences for the organization, and encourages deeper engagement from the audience.   Delivering content across multiple channels is a sure-fire way to bring messages to new audiences, as long as the communicators behind the message are sure to synch the content with each audience. And employing a variety of formats – short form video, long form text, illustrative infographics, snackable posts and pithy tweets – ensures that people will find content in the format that is most appealing to them – which is the first step in building engagement.

Measurement of outcomes not outputs It wouldn’t be a PR trends report without a reference to measurement, but this year, there’s a twist.  Marketers are growing more and more adept at measuring campaigns, channels, messages and outcomes, and that’s increasing the pressure on PR to tighten the screws on the key performance indicators we use to describe our work.   The nails are in the coffins of the equivalency metrics (such as ad value equivalencies, or worse, ad cost equivalencies) as communicators are learning to correlate message outcomes and interactions across channels, and are developing the ability to connect message reads and interactions directly with the marketing funnel and lead-generation databases within the organization.

PR is a bigger job than ever before, and the profession is growing in rigor.   What’s on your radar screen as you head into 2014?

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

A Provocative Headline Breaks the Rules, and Really Works

ContentWeLoveIf you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that press release headlines are the subject of frequent conversation.  We’ve discussed why a good headline can make or break your press release and have offered myriad suggestions on length, inclusion of keywords and news hooks.  Write the headline you want to see published, we say.  Shoot for 100 characters.

While I still stand by that advice, I’ll also admit that sometimes, it goes straight out the window.

The news release that caught my eye this week has a 16 character, two-word headline, “Where’s Dental?

It’s provocative and timely – the Affordable Care Act is very much in the news this week, and without even reading the release, I knew what it was about – the exclusion of dental care from the new healthcare insurance laws.

The funny thing, though, is the fact I wasn’t aware that the ACA didn’t cover dental.  But in that simple two-word headline, I realized that it didn’t, and I couldn’t help it – I clicked and read!

And that’s the point.  This headline – this simple, provocative, two-word query – not only got my attention, but it made me think, and it set up the desire to learn more.

Responses to the statement, “Taking care of my teeth and gums is as important as taking care of my general health,” on the recent survey fielded by the Washington Dental Service Foundation.

The only suggestion I’d suggest for this release would be the inclusion of a visual, preferably, a simple infographic illustrating the survey data.  Adding a visual punch to that fantastic headline would have carried the message even further.

Kudos to the PR team at the Washington State Dental Service Foundation on crafting a timely, interesting and effective news release!

Want more tips on driving discovery of your messages by new audiences? Join us Tuesday, November 19, for a webinar all about content discovery.   You’ll learn how to craft messages and strategies that will be found by and resonate with new, relevant audiences. 

Free webinar registration: Connecting Messages with Audiences: Tips & Tactics for Driving Content Discovery 

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

Interest vs Attention. Which is Your Goal?

int attnA conversation I had with a peer yesterday got me thinking about press release outcomes, specifically, generating interest versus generating attention.

My colleague, a senior VP at an integrated communications agency, was telling me about a news release his PR team wrote, promoting a presentation he was giving at an industry event.  Instead of leading with his name, or some discussion around the topic, the lead sentence they employed was a jargon-heavy corporate positioning statement.

He pushed back, asking why the release was emphasizing a specific keyword phrase, rather than the topic of the presentation, which was strongly related to the agency’s business.  The answer – they were trying to seed awareness of that particular keyword phrase, in conjunction with the brand.

Generating attention means nothing if audience doesn’t take a next step lil tweet

Again he pushed back, arguing variously that the phrase was an obscure one nobody used (and thus, not useful from an SEO standpoint), the lead paragraph was fantastically boring and no one would read enough of the release to get to the core message, that they were missing the opportunity to connect with the people who were interested in the the timely topic his presentation was addressing and finally, by not highlighting involvement with the conference, the message was failing to leverage the significant attention the event was generating.  He didn’t win, and the team lost the opportunity to position the brand as a thought leader around a key industry topic, and to garner additional credibility on the subject through their involvement at a big industry confab.

But that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Because the headline and lead paragraph didn’t reference the interesting topic, the content wasn’t indexed under that valuable key phrase in search engines. 

As a result the agency was absent from search results pertaining to that hot topic.

Which meant that people overlooking information on that topic didn’t consider that agency.

And that means they lost business.

Oh, and because the lead was boring, people wouldn’t continue to read past the first few words of the awful lead. 

Which means they wouldn’t share the content on social networks, thus hiding the message from view of all the people sharing content from the event.

Fewer people went to his session.  The agency saw its ROI diminish from its investment in the conference.

The focus of that press release should have been promoting the brand’s leadership on a key issue, using the presentation and the conference as the hook, not upon building association with an obscure term no one uses  for the brand name.

Words mean things, and nowhere is that more true than in the communications we craft for the brands and organizations we represent.   And more than meaning, words inform search engines and spark social conversation – the kind that can amplify messages and win new relevant and valuable attention for the company – the sort of attention that turns into active interest on the part of the audience.

Simply put, attention isn’t worth much if the audience isn’t inspired to take a next step.  “Seeding awareness” of a phrase in conjunction with a brand name is the kind of objective that is impossible to measure, and is frankly of dubious value.    As we craft press releases and other messages, we need to be deliberately building interest, and focusing on leveraging the attention we create into real benefit for our brands.

Turning attention into interest starts with driving the discovery of your brand’s content.  Join us Tuesday, November 19, for a webinar on the topic of content discovery.   You’ll learn how to craft messages that will resonate with new, relevant audiences and will generate better results for your campaigns.

Free webinar registration: Connecting Messages with Audiences: Tips & Tactics for Driving Content Discovery 

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