Author Archives: Sandra Azzollini

Building Credibility With Online Communities: Tips From Professional News Rooms

Developing credibility is the first step in building an online community for your brand.  Simply put, if your organization isn’t credible, online communities can still gather around the brand but they may have torches and pitchforks in hand.

Community building starts with an audience that returns regularly to a site. You can keep your audience coming back for more with posts focused on a few specific subjects you know to be of interest. Creating this content for your online community must not be an afterthought – you have to plan ahead to create credible and compelling content. The best way to do this is to take advice from a group of people who have been doing this for decades — journalists.

Newsroom rules

The Poynter Institute suggests that any content creators follow some basic rules of a newsroom, and offers these guidelines:

  • Make an editorial calendar and hold weekly editorial meetings for your content creators. An editorial calendar can very easily help you get organized and see where regular columns can fit in. The meetings give you time to reflect on what is working and what is not. Giving people the time to create content (according to a calendar) and being held accountable for your content (editorial meeting), takes away some of the pressure and focuses content creators on quality, integrity and ethical standards.  This is paramount to establishing trust with the audience which leads to community building.
  • Develop (and stick to) a regular schedule of publishing.  A regular flow of content will build (and keep) audience attention.  This may not mean every day depending on the subject but you need to establish a frequency on which your community can rely.  At ProfNet Connect, we have seen success with posting at least 3 blogs a day. This keeps our audience coming back and allows them to become familiar with our voice. Reliability also helps to establish the trust we need for a community.
  • Positive communities are not built around a silent host. Your brand needs to actually participate and promote conversation around your content to build a community.  Request that appropriate people from your organization comment on your posts. Be sure to respond to comments added to your content and add your own comments to content posted to your community. Go out to like-minded web sites, LinkedIn and Facebook groups. Participate in chats and reply or retweets on Twitter. Just make sure you are engaging in actual conversation and not straight promotion. No one minds you mentioning your brand when it’s appropriate but you will be flagged right away if you are spamming a conversation.
  • Care for your community platform. Keep on improving your site. Add features and functionality that allow people to carry content over to other communities and social networking sites. Play around with new features. Some will be appreciated by your users but be prepared that not everything you add will be a success; some features may be ignored, others may cause an uproar. If you are not 100% sure a change will work, have a quick exit strategy where you can roll back to the previous version. If you have truly built a community around your brand you will be easily forgiven for most missteps.

Author Sandra Azzolliniis PR Newswire’s vice president of online communities, and oversees Profnet Connect, a free online community linking thousands of professionals.

The Social Media Habits of Consumers & Individual Investors

A Five Part Series Based on Insights from Independent Research Firm for

PR Newswire

Part Four: Social Habits of the Individual Investor and the Product Researcher

Now for part four of my blog series on the wide range of audiences on PRNewswire.com; I bet you all couldn’t wait for the holidays to pass so you could get to the rest of this information!

If you are new to these posts, check out parts one, two and three first. It will put this post in a bit of context.  If you don’t have time, the information here will still stand on its own.

As in all of those prior posts, I refer to the survey PR Newswire commissioned Forrester Consulting to conduct (PR Newswire: Web Site User Analysis & Opportunities, September 29, 2010) of our web audiences on PRNewswire.com and PR Newswire for Journalists (PRNJ.com).   As mentioned three times before (sorry for the repeat!), the purpose of the survey was to understand more about our user demographics; their current habits on the web and what they were looking for in the future.

In the survey, PR Newswire confirmed and discovered the existence of specific audiences on our primary web site, PR Newswire.com and our media web site, PR Newswire for Journalists (www.prnewswire.com/media).  In my last two posts, I wrote about the individual investor and product researcher audiences.  For the purpose of this post in particular, I will refer to these together as a “consumer” audience as we do not believe that they are coming to our site in a “professional” capacity.

The consumer audience on PRNewswire.com is one that is heavily involved in social activities on the web.  In the survey, we asked them to describe their online habits. From their answers, we were able to position them on Forrester Consulting’s Social Technographics ladder, which orders web users on seven separate rungs based on activity.

The rung starts out with Inactives who neither create nor consume social content of any kind. Next are Spectators, which is the lowest form of true engagement.   Spectators read blog posts, status updates and tweets for example.  While Forrester Consulting’s US average is at 70% for Spectators, PRNewswire.com’s consumer audience participates in these activities at 89%.

The next level of social behavior on the Forrester Consulting Social Technographics ladder is the Joiner.  Joiners actually maintain social network profiles and check them regularly.  At this point on the ladder, the PRNewswire audience is a bit below Forrester Consulting’s national average, at 54% versus 59%.  I suppose this is because the individual investors and product researcher do so much more than just join these networks.

The fourth rung on the ladder is the Collector.   Per Forrester Consulting, Collectors gather their online resources by subscribing to RSS feeds or adding tags to content for retrieval later.  Once again, the PRNewswire.com audience is above the national average with 35% of individual investors and product researchers acting as Collectors versus 20% for the US.

The next level or fifth rung of Forrester Consulting’s Social Technographics ladder is the Critic.  Critics are willing to post reviews and comment on blog posts.  They also contribute to online forums and wikis.  The individual investors and product researchers on PRNewswire.com are Critics at a higher percentage than the US average, 41% over 37% according to the survey.

The Social Technographics ladder continues upwards with the Conversationalist.  This category of online users updates their Facebook status or tweets at least weekly, though some may do it on a daily basis.  Oddly enough, only 20% of our consumer audience indicated this was their level of activity as opposed to the 33% for the US average but we make up for it, with the next level on the ladder.

Finally, the level with the highest social behavior according to the Social Technographics ladder is the Creator.  Just by name association, you can surmise that this user creates content.  This can be done by publishing a blog, publishing web pages, uploading videos or music, and/or writing articles or stories.  36% of the individual investors and product researchers who read news releases on PRNewswire.com are also apt to create content online.  This is 12% greater than the US average of 24% of online users.

In addition, further evidence from the survey conducted with Forrester Consulting indicates that the PRNewswire.com consumer audience is actively engaged online even on other sites.  Over 70% of individual investors and product researchers on PRNewswire.com read customer review’s of product and services at least monthly.  More than 60% of them read online forums monthly.

What does all of this mean to PR Newswire’s customers?  The PRNewswire.com consumer audience, which is made up of individual investors looking to buy stock and product researchers, looking to purchase goods and services, is actively consuming content on our web site and other social networks.  If you are looking to sell stock or product, you will want your message in front of this audience.  Consumers on PRNewswire.com are also critiquing, updating and producing other content online so having your message in front of such an influential group will take it to other potential investors and product purchasers, multiplying the original reach.  With this level of information consumption and creation, our customers have the advantage of engaging opportunity on PRNewswire.com and beyond.

Authored by Sandra Azzollini, Director of Online Content & Community, PR Newswire

Engaging Consumers: Influencing Buying Decisions

A Five Part Series Based on Insights from an Independent Research Firm

for PR Newswire


Part Three:  The Buying Decision: Discovering the Product Researcher

In my previous blog posts (parts one and two), I referred to the survey PR Newswire commissioned Forrester Consulting to conduct (PR Newswire: Web Site User Analysis & Opportunities, September 29, 2010) of our web audiences on PRNewswire.com and PR Newswire for Journalists (PRNJ ).   The purpose of the survey was to understand more about our user demographics; their current habits on the web and what they were looking for in the future.

For part three of our series,  I would like to introduce you to a previously undiscovered audience on PRNewswire.com, a group we’re calling “the product researcher”.

Now,  announcing a new product through a press release has been a pretty standard routine for those in public relations, but the idea that PRNewswire.com could be used as a directory of product knowledge is fairly new.

We were aware that people who searched for product names via Google landed on PRNewswire.com as our site is optimized for just that.  What we did not fully realize was the extent to which these product researchers were using PRNewswire.com.

Per the data from our Forrester Consulting survey, product researchers account for 15% of the traffic on PRNewswire.com.  They come expressly to look for information on something they are thinking of buying or have already bought.  And even though 63% of product researchers identified by the survey come in through Google, they visit on a regular basis.

These product researchers actually frequent PRNewswire.com on a very regular basis.  The Forrester Consulting survey revealed that just under half of those interested in product information, 43% to be exact, come to PRNewswire.com at least weekly.

According to the Forrester Consulting survey, 20% of those identifying as product researchers come to PRNewswire.com on a DAILY basis.  For this 20%, PRNewswire.com is an integral part of purchasing or researching products.  These same people also visit sites such as Amazon.com and eBay.com. If you are a marketer, this information is critical.  For much less than you would spend on advertising, your product can be in front of people proactively looking for it.

On top of proactively searching for PRNewswire.com product knowledge, product researchers, along with the individual investors from last week’s post, create, consume and share content in high numbers, amplifying messages and increasing the audiences for product news.

I’ll share with you what we learned about their creating, consuming and sharing habits next week.

Authored by Sandra Azzollini, Director, Online Content & Community.

Image courtesy of Flickr user nicksarebi.

Engaging Individual Investors: Insights into PR Newswire’s Online Audiences

A Five Part Series Based on Insights from Independent Research Firm for PR Newswire
Part Two: Getting in Front of Individual Investors

In my last blog post, I mentioned that recently PR Newswire commissioned Forrester Consulting to conduct a survey (PR Newswire: Web Site User Analysis & Opportunities, September 29, 2010) of our web audiences on PRNewswire.com and PR Newswire for Journalists (PRNJ.com).   The purpose of the survey was to understand more about our user demographics; their current habits on the web and what they were looking for in the future.

This is part two in the series of five that I mentioned in the first post.  This week we are going to have a look at the answers from our retail or individual investor audience on PRNewswire.com.

Before I do that though, I would like to share some more general demographic information we learned from our Forrester Consulting survey.  An overwhelming majority of our survey respondents, 85%, were from North America.  They have an evenly split income range with each answer (100,000+, $99,999 – $50,000, up to $49,999, and I would prefer not to answer) taking just about 25% a piece.   They are slightly skewed male and their age range is from 35 to 54 years old.

To identify the different audiences, PR Newswire and Forrester Consulting, asked users to tell us why they came to site.  Thirteen percent of our users said they came to PRNewswire.com looking for information about a company as an investment.  With investment houses using different sets of research tools, we assumed these investors were on their own.

This information matched our web analytics and past surveys we conducted without the help of Forrester Consulting, so we were not terribly surprised to know that individual investors were using our site in these numbers.  What is surprising is that 81% of the individual investors we surveyed were male and older than our general web site population and the majority at an age range of 45 to 64 years of age.  As a result of the Forrester Consulting data, we now have a pretty good persona for our individual investors.

When we asked the PRNewswire.com investor audience how they found the page they were on, 66% of them answered Google.  This speaks to the power of search engines and the visibility news releases have on the search engine optimized PRNewswire.com versus other web sites.  The Forrester Consulting survey also told us that these investors are repeat customers.  As a result of their Google habits, 62% of them visit the site on a regular basis (daily or weekly) with 38% of these investors visiting PRNewswire.com daily.

This is extremely valuable information, not only for PR Newswire but also for investor relations professional s trying to get in front of this audience.  Individual investors are not just looking for the financial media’s commentary on company’s news releases; they are looking to get the news straight from the company source as well.   So if you are in investor relations and need to engage retail investors, look no further than PR Newswire.

On tap for next week – insights from the survey on the consumer audience, including how consumers looking for product information find their way to PRNewswire.com and your press releases –  so be sure to come back and check it out.

Authored by Sandra Azzollini, Director of Online Content & Community, PR Newswire

Engaging Opportunity (and Journalists and Bloggers) on PR Newswire Web Sites

A Five Part Series Based on Insights from Independent Research Firm for PR Newswire

Part One: Reaching Professional Media & Influential Bloggers

In the summer of 2010, PR Newswire engaged Forrester Consulting to conduct a survey (PR Newswire: Web Site User Analysis & Opportunities, September 29, 2010) of our web audiences on PRNewswire.com and PR Newswire for Journalists (http://media.prnewswire.com).   We were looking to understand more about our user demographics; their current habits on the web and what they were looking for in the future.  With almost 3,000 respondents to the survey on both sites, we received a good deal of insight into who uses these sites and how.

Since it took weeks to analyze the data and hours to present it, I am going to spare you all the agony of a long, drawn-out blog post.  Instead, I will boil down the information into five posts, each focusing on one of the groups we identified as frequenters of our site.  These five groups include: the media (both traditional journalists and bloggers), our customers, individual (retail) investors, product researchers and social visitors.

We’re focusing on media this week on Beyond PR, so I would like to begin this series of blog posts by tackling how our survey respondents on PR Newswire for Journalists (PRNJ) answered the questions we posed to them.

First off we found that the PRNJ members were more loyal and more “social” than visitors to our public web site.   We were pleased when 50% of PRNJ respondents answered that they visited the site daily.  Of those responding to the survey, 73% said they came to the site looking for story ideas.  This is a tremendous opportunity for PR Newswire customers.  We are front and center in the media’s workflow, with 89% of the journalists responding that they visit certain websites weekly and 81% of them said PR Newswire for Journalists was one of those sites.

In terms of being “social,” by nature of their jobs, journalists and bloggers are the highest on Forrester Consulting’s  Social Technographics Ladder (link to http://www.forrester.com/empowered/ladder2010) as Creators.  Obviously, this group is very active online when it comes to publishing their own blogs and web pages, uploading video and audio, and writing content online.  What was surprising was that they were active all along the ladders, doing things like tweeting or updating their status (conversationalist), rating products or commenting on our blogs (critics), using RSS feeds or tagging (collectors), maintaining profiles on several social networks (joiners) and reading online (spectators) .  With this level of participation on the web, the journalists and bloggers of our PRNJ site are not just more social than the average user, they are actually social superstars!   Getting your message in front of these superstars is sure to have it go viral.

In addition to the journalists and bloggers on PR Newswire for Journalists one-fifth of the audience on our public web site are also journalists.  The public web site, PRNewswire.com, is a powerhouse for online visibility, with an average of 3.2 million daily unique visitors.  With your message on both of these sites, you are not only reaching professional media and influential bloggers, but also their audiences and our audience as well.   I’ll tell you more about those 3.2 million daily unique visitors next week.

Authored by Sandra Azzollini, Director of Online Content & Community, PR Newswire