Author Archives: Sarah Skerik

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. 

[Webinar] How Newsrooms are Adapting to the Changing Digital Media Environment

As the digital age transforms how people find, consume, and share information, media outlets are being challenged to retool their newsrooms and evolve their coverage. Despite limited resources, news organizations are investing heavily on people and technology to deliver stories that satisfy audience appetites for rich visuals, mobile-friendly design, and up-to-the minute reporting.

The panelists include:

Ellyn Angelotti, senior faculty, the Poynter Institute 

Follow her on Twitter at @ellynangelotti 

Theodore Kim, mobile/tablet editor, the Washington Post Follow him on Twitter at @TheoTypes 

 

David Cohn, news editor, Circa 

Follow him on Twitter at @Digidave

Join us for what promises to be a fast-moving conversation on how today’s media is evolving as journalists adapt to a faster news cycle.

The panel discussion will cover:

  • The changing roles of journalists and bloggers
  • How news media are adapting news to new formats and mediums
  • Tips for how PR pros can provide more value to today’s news media

View the on-demand webinar

Trend ID Algorithms: What Communicators Need to Know

During the height of the Occupy Wall St. movement, some speculated censors were at work, because the related hashtag didn't trend.

During the height of the Occupy Wall St. movement, some speculated censors were at work, because the related hashtag didn’t trend.

Trend ID algorithms - such as the one powering trends on Twitter - reward spikes,  which is why Occupy didn't stand a chance against a Kardashian wedding.

Trend ID algorithms – such as the one powering trends on Twitter – reward spikes, which is why Occupy (the cobalt blue line, with consistent levels over time) didn’t stand a chance against a Kardashian wedding (purple line), Steve Jobs (yellow) or a popular hashtag used by individual tweeters (grey.)

You may not realize it, but much of what you see online is determined by the algorithms that power search engines and social networks.  Designed to surface the information that is most compelling, and likely to get you to read the article/view the video/take the survey – and then share it with your friends – algorithms are doing more than serving information.  They are shaping journalism and arguably, having a negative impact on democracy, according to Heidi McBride, a senior member of the faculty of the Poynter Institute and Gilad Lotan, chief data scientist for Betaworks, during the discussion they lead at South by Southwest.

“Trend identification algorithms are all over the web,” Lotan stated. “We have to think about the power they encode, and that is the power to draw attention.”

Learn more about how the digital evolution has impacted newsrooms and journalism by viewing our on-demand webinar, “The Evolution of Media: How Newsrooms are Adapting to the Ever-Changing Digital Environment.”

On web sites everywhere, data scientists are using algorithms to find and display content that is likely to draw readers and inspire social sharing (thus drawing more readers.)  These numbers have an economic impact – after all,  Google, Facebook, CNN and the New York Times are all add-supported, and more visitors to their web sites (and visitors who stay longer) equal more ad impressions, and thus, more dollars.

In building the trend ID algorithms, data scientists are looking for trends away from the norm.

“We look for spikes, things out of the ordinary, outliers,” noted Lotan. “And activities around celebs spike much more dramatically than other conversations.”

There’s a self-reinforcing effect as the journalism companies respond to the algorithms, as the algorithms have an economic effect on the journalistic companies, effectively steering news coverage.

Lotan reminded us that algorithms are created by humans, and thus may reflect their creators’ biases or preferences.  Additionally, he noted that algorithms can be selectively manipulated, citing as a case in point changes Twitter made when Justin Beiber was constantly trending, causing user complaints. The team changed the algo, making it more difficult for Beiber to trend.  Another example of selective algorithm manipulation happens on the search engine side of the house, such as when Google penalized JC Penney for poor SEO practices by dropping the Penney website to the bottom of the rankings heap.

What’s needed, McBride and Lotan posited, is more public understanding of how these algorithms work, and more transparency from the companies employing them.

“The companies that control our attention to so without any transparency,” McBride stated. “We build our understanding of ourselves and the world around us through the stories we tell, and if algorithms only reinforce certain types of stories, it reduces our understanding of ourselves and our communities.”

The session did offer one important tactical take-away for brands.  Stories take hold fast and algorithms reinforce this.  If a problematic story is gathering steam, swift response is absolutely essential. The more quickly you can correct information, the more quickly the entire news democracy can reference that information as the topic trends.  But if you miss the gap, your message will be left by the wayside. Click to register for the our free webinar on March 20 at 1:00 ET.

Click to register for the our free on-demand webinar 

You can also read more from this session on The Guardian’s extensive recap.

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.

Beat the Clock: Investigative Reporting In the Digital Age

 

Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports and Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated swapped  war stories at SXSW this year.

Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports and Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated swapped war stories at SXSW this year.

 

What has changed about investigative reporting in today’s fast-moving, socially-fueled digital environment?  To hear Charles Robinson (@charlesrobinson) a senior investigative reporter for Yahoo! Sports, and Pete Thamel (@SIPeteThamel), a senior writer for Sports Illustrated tell it, the answer is, “Just about everything.”

The two hosted a discussion titled “Investigative Reporting in the Digital Age,” at South By Southwest, drawing a packed house.

The day the news cycle changed 

Thamel set the tone, telling about a stint at a Dallas-based freelancer in the early 2000’s during which he acted as a stringer for the New York Times, pursuing a story about a missing Baylor basketball player that quickly turned into a story of murder.   In the days after the story broke, there were no new developments, and he had his nose to the grindstone, pursuing people who knew the player and suspect.  Progress was slow, until he got a call one day from the Times, telling him that the Dallas Morning News was reporting a significant development.  Thamel pushed back, saying he had read that paper cover to cover, and there was no story.

It turns out, the Dallas Morning News published the breaking news development on their web site.

“What!?!  They put it out there on the web before the paper!?”  Thamel recalls saying.

“It blew my mind,” he told the audience. “That was the first time the news cycle changed.

The two agreed that digital media has increased the clock speed of the news cycle, and the competition for not just stories, but for details.

“You ‘re not alone in your reporting,” said Robinson. “ Eveyone is out there digging.”

Deep background & social media 

Robinson told an entirely different tale, about the utility of social media in investigations.  He was on the cusp of breaking what would have been a blockbuster story about a high-ranking person in NCAA basketball placing bets on their school.   But to be absolutely certain of the identity of the person captured on video placing bets, they needed to see some more casual pictures of her – everything they had were polished head shots showing the woman in professional attire.

On her son’s Facebook page, they found current photos with which they were able to confirm the identity of the person on the video — she was the official’s sister.  The women looked uncannily alike, however, the reporting team noticed subtle differences between the two sisters in the casual images on Facebook.   The person on the video was the sister. There was no story, after all.

“Literally, in one day a story was born and it died – all because of what we can do digitally,” said Robinson. “Digital journalism saves you money, and it can save your [behind.]”

Social media is a tool, not a primary source

Ultimately, the mechanics of investigative journalism haven’t changed – the reporter develops a list of people, and talks to him.  However, social media provides a treasure trove of information for reporters and very helpful both as a starter tool for an investigation, as well as for background

Data mining through social media has added a ton of value for investigative journalism, Robinson noted, significantly shortening the time needed to build a story

“You can come to understand who people are,” Robinson told us in describing how he uses social media to get a sense for the people he’s researching.  “They will tell you who they are, their likes and dislikes, where they’ve worked, what they were doing – it gives you a sense of who the being is.  It gives you a head start that you didn’t have 10 years ago.”

Learn more about how the digital evolution has impacted newsrooms and journalism on our upcoming webinar, “The Evolution of Media: Howe Newsrooms are Adapting to the Ever-Changing Digital Environment.” 

Click to register for the our free webinar on March 20 at 1:00 ET.

Click to register for the our free webinar on March 20 at 1:00 ET.

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.

Trust at Scale: Harnessing Authentic #Advocacy for Your Brand #SXSW

influencers v advocatesMedia fragmentation and information overload stymies ad effectiveness. Consumers are ignoring digital ads, and overall, trust in brands is declining, a trend which according to the Edelman Trust Barometer, is accelerating.

Influecers vs. Advocates

How can brands convey communications in a trustworthy matter that resonates with their audiences?  The key, according to Jim Larrison (@jlarrison) of Dynamic Signal, is advocacy, and this doesn’t simply mean paying an industry bigwig to tweet on your brand’s behalf.

Jim’s presentation centered on importance of finding passionate advocates amongst employees and the “mid-tail” of the influence spectrum – connected people who have enough social media pull to move the needle in a particular sector, and who really care about the industry or segment.

These trusted peers who are talking about relevant topics have the real ability to drive individual behavior.   And those ‘trusted peers’ include employees, who have significantly more credibility than the C-suite, according to the aforementioned Edelman Trust Barometer.

Why advocacy works is simple: it’s centered on trust, and done well, it’s trust at scale [tweet this].  But brands and marketers need to realize they’re not renting trust – it’s not a transactional relationship.  Herein lies the challenge, because most marketers today stop marketing at the buy.  They are optimizing for the purchase event, not building advocacy.

Rewards for advocacy can be surprisingly simple

The rewards advocates value are simple.  Employees are motivated by simple recognition, as are brand fans and followers.  Access to unique content and authentic relationships are also rewards they value.  And tangible rewards – membership in a group, swag and prizes, are also important — but not as much as the recognition and access.

Marketers who develop advocacy programs dramatically increase marketing effectiveness.   In addition to being authentic and credibility, empowering and cultivating advocates also covers more surface area within the marketplace.

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 Twist on Crisis Planning: When Allies Attack

You’ve heard the adage “Familiarity breeds contempt,” and arguably, there’s no place it’s more true than in the realm of online opinion.  Today at SXSW, a session titled “Breaking the Mold: What to Do When Allies Turn” tackled the subject of frangible online alliances, and what to do when things go south.  The discussion was lead by:

  • Jehmu Greene, TV Commentator & Media Trainer at Fox News (@jehmu)
  • Joanne Bamberger, Editor/Publisher, Broad Side Strategies (@jlcbamberger)
  • Sally Kohn, Writer & TV Commentator, Movement Vision (@sallykohn)
Mmes Kohn, Bamberger and Greene.

Mmes Kohn, Bamberger and Greene. (Sally, thanks for making sure I knew who you were, but I recognized you from Crossfire. Just saying.)

Dealing with blowback is never fun, but when people or organizations that were you thought were in your corner turn the tables and attack, working through the situation can be demoralizing.

Kohn advised getting in front of potential problems by building credibility and goodwill within your community.  While goodwill won’t insulate you from online attackers,  building a credible and engaged network is a way to develop virtual comrades-in-arms.

When haters go “all sharknado” on you, it’s important to remember their motives, advised Bamberger.

“Haters are all about control,” Bamberger advised. “It’s not about you, it’s about them trying to stake out their territory.”

Kohn referenced the “Disapproval Matrix” created by Ann Friedman as a guide for discerning the difference between critics and haters.

Sussing out the difference between critics and haters is an important tactic in managing online attacks.  Critics care about the issue, and on some level are offering constructive feedback.  Haters, on the other hand, care more about themselves.  Embrace critics, and try to tune out the haters.

Planning for controversy is also crucial, all three agreed.  Anticipate reactions and have your facts locked down.

When dealing with rampant haters – the avalanches of nasty tweets and relentless evil e-mails – all three offered tips while also acknowledging the fact that meanness stings.

“Laughing at them takes their power away,” said Kohn.

” If you step in it, remember that $#*^ can be wiped off a shoe.” Greene agreed.

Ultimately, if everyone is agreeing with you, you’re not making an impact Greene reminded us.  Challenging conventional wisdom is leadership, and Kohn noted that sometimes, being liked isn’t part of that equation.

“You can’t worry about being liked,” summarized Kohn. “Negative blowback is one of the costs of leadership.”
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.

The Secret to Real-Time Storytelling Revealed at #SXSW

What’s the secret sauce for real-time storytelling? Telling a story as it unfolds requires significant planning.  At SXSW today, I got a look behind the scenes at the making of the Melbourne Remote Control Tourist campaign, an extraordinary piece of work masterfully produced by Clemenger BBDO Melbourne, Tool and Exit Films for Tourism Victoria. Our guides were:

Dustin Callif, managing partner of digital, Tool North America

Jason Nickel, interactive director & technologist, Tool North America

Jason Zada, director, Tool North America

Together, the three told the story of creating the Remote Control Tourist (“RCT”) an example of what they call real-time storytelling, which they describe as the merging of social media and live action, and having the audience impact what’s happening with a narrative.

The project started with the task of “curating the city,” which involved finding the best and most interesting things in Melbourne, but doing so with an eye toward the logistics of filming.

“You have to start from the standpoint that this will be something good that people will want to watch,” noted Zada. “The second you started being boring, people start leaving. When you are doing  a show like this, every single second needs to be as interesting as it can be.”

The user interface also required an extraordinary amount of work. There were a lot of moving parts, starting with an interactive map, into which the team built a lot of functionality including realtime updates on the RTC’s status as well as background  information and context for each location.  All of this was framed around the live video, and overlayed with near real-time social interactions.

The campaign exposed the fun and positive messages about Melbourne to more than 100MM people worldwide, and resulted in the world’s first crowd-sourced city guide.    Thousands of people made requests of the tourists during the live window, and the wide-ranging RTCs garnered some surprising celebrity cameos, too.  Despite the visibility generated, at the end of the session, Callif noted the value of high quality owned media and recognized that even more could have been done.

“There’s a PR hook in this stuff that needs to be capitalized on,” he said, noting that in the next project, he’d want to more emphasis on  leveraging the content to earn more attention.

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.