Author Archives: Victoria Harres

8 Tips for PR Pros Who Want to Avoid Being Muted on Twitter

With Twitter’s announcement this week of the ‘mute’ feature, which will allow people to hide from their feeds tweets by Twitter accounts they follow, PR pros have to think even harder about their Twitter strategy.

You may think that because your brand has thousands of followers that you are reaching thousands of people. No. It wasn’t so before (people aren’t watching their Twitter feeds 24/7) and it may be even less so with the new mute feature.

According to Twitter, users can expect the following results when muting another Twitter account:

  • Muted users can follow you and interact with your content.
  • You can follow a user you’ve muted. Muting a user will not cause you to unfollow them.
  • @ replies and @ mentions from muted users you follow will still appear in your Notifications tab.
  • Muted users you follow can still send you a direct message.
  • When you mute a user, their previous Tweets will still be displayed; only Tweets from the point you muted them will be hidden.

From the receiving end of managing brand Twitter accounts, this feature could be useful. You can silence someone tweeting in a manner you don’t like while still leave the communication lines open. They can still message you (unlike blocking) and they can still send you a direct message (unlike unfollow).

But the situation is not so appealing from the other side of the coin. People can mute your brand and simply forget about you. You’ll think you have a lot of followers listening, but you might be wasting resources better spent elsewhere.

So how can you prevent your brand from being muted, or even unfollowed by your followers?

As I started to write my thoughts on this subject it occurred to me that I should ask the PR Newswire audience what would drive them to hit mute, so I posted the following question on Twitter and Facebook:

Tweet ie mute button May 13 2014

And here are the responses I got most often:

  1. High frequency: Don’t tweet excessively. Too many tweets, too often, or in a short span of time is very annoying to people.
  2. Too promotional: Mind your manners. All brands need to find their balance in content that is simply useful to their audience and what is simply self-promotional.
  3. No engagement: Talk to people. If all you’re doing is broadcasting your messages and not engaging your audience you are missing the point of social media, and your Twitter account won’t be very interesting to follow. Of course there are exceptions. Newsfeeds like @AP, for example.
  4. Non-relevant tweets: If you are a fashion brand and frequently post about football or politics, you will probably lose audience. And that goes the other way around too.
  5. Too personal: This is business. Having some human/personal touch to a brand Twitter account can be very useful to connecting with people, but you have to know your boundaries.
  6. Too many @’s and #’s:  Overused, they can make reading a chore. There are times when you are going have a lot of mentions and hashtags, like during a Twitter chat, but it shouldn’t be a daily thing.
  7. Boring! I don’t think this needs any explanation. You don’t have to be entertaining, but you do have to hold people’s attention.
  8. Too much automation: some automated tweets mixed with human curation and engagement can work fine. But again, we have to mind the frequency.

These responses are a clear reminder to all of us about what people expect and what people will tolerate.  In general, people appreciate useful content and don’t mind the occasional promotional message, but we have to strike the right balance. We have to know and understand our audience.

Of course, one concern with the new mute feature is that people may hit mute during a Twitter chat when you are posting a lot, intending to un-mute you later, of course. But what if they forget?

In that case, you better be unforgettable. As PR pros we all need to make sure that people would miss us if we were silenced.

At least one respondent on Twitter stated she wouldn’t bother with the mute. She would just unfollow:

Diversify distribution of your brand’s content with SocialPost from PR Newswire.  We’ve created dozens of topic-specific channels, curated by real humans, to deliver your messages to broader online audiences. 


Victoria HarresVictoria Harres is VP, Audience Development & Social Media at PR Newswire and is the original voice behind @PRNewswire. She leads the media relations team that provides customer service to the members of PR Newswire  for Journalists, and in her spare time, she Instagrams the world around her.

What do FB Newswire, Storyful & PR Newswire for Journalists Have in Common?

FB Newswire, powered by Storyful is serving up pre-verified status updates from Facebook users who share their content publicly. This is something that can be incredibly valuable to a journalist when an event like last weekend’s tornadoes destroy homes and lives without much notice.

In that kind of circumstance, the best on-the-spot reporting and photography will frequently come from an eyewitness with a smartphone posting updates to their Facebook page, and Storyful is there to verify and curate that content for easy media pick-up.

But that’s not all. FB Newswire also offers journalists and others who follow the feed, human interest and lifestyle posts that could include content which started its life cycle as a news release on PR Newswire, like the #catcafe story that appeared the day of FBN’s launch.

FB Newswire post about Purina One's Cat Cafe.

FB Newswire post about Purina One’s Cat Cafe.

The story originated a couple of days earlier as a multimedia news release on PR Newswire. It was a great story, and Purina One did a great job of telling it.

Coverage from FB Newswire was a bonus.

At PR Newswire, our media relations staff took note of this immediately and realized we could help Storyful in its verification process since we run news from thousands of organizations, celebrities, and brands.

We have media relations teams across the globe, covering every continent, and since Storyful is based in Ireland, our U.K. group reached out and offered our services. Now, the Storyful editorial team has full access to our media-only website, PR Newswire for Journalists, where they can search for the latest news and contact information from thousands of sources.

So what do FB Newswire, StoryFul and PR Newswire for Journalists have in common?  Content from verified and authentic sources, large and small, from around the world.


Victoria HarresVictoria Harres is VP, Audience Development & Social Media at PR Newswire and the original voice behind @PRNewswire. She leads the media relationsteam that provides customer service to the members of PR Newswire  for Journalists. In her spare time, sheInstagrams the world around her.

Strategic PR Can Lead to Strong SEO

SEO has finally matured. It is no longer about tricks, games and hats of black and white. SEO is now about broader business strategies that take careful planning and time to execute. It’s about your PR approach and your content marketing. It is about excellent user experience and creating content people will want to share.

Conference organizers and former presidents of DFWSEM: @dansturdivant @marksbarrera @seanthinks @tonynwright

Conference organizers and former presidents of DFWSEM: @dansturdivant @marksbarrera @seanthinks @tonynwright

I recently attended the DFWSEM State of Search conference in Dallas, and what stood out most clearly at the end of the day was that wise PR strategies can have excellent effect on a site’s SEO.

“Make friends with PR,” said speaker Wil Reynolds. “Follow PR’s influencers and map the keywords that are important to them.”

Brand recognition and a keen understanding of a brand’s influencers can be leveraged for search optimization efforts, and that’s an area of expertise for PR professionals.

There’s no SEO bag of tricks any longer. Major search engines like Google and Bing are not favoring content that is keyword stuffed or optimized with hidden text.

Strategic branding and influencer engagement will pay off in the long run with quality links and social sharing that send strong signals to the search engines.

Relevant and timely content such as social posts, blog posts, multimedia and well-crafted press releases can lure and engage your audience.

Done well, “content brings them in , educates them, then keeps them engaged even after conversion,” said speaker John Doherty.

Just remember to make it super easy for your audience to share your content. “Social signals are expert signals to search engines,” according to Bing’s Duane Forrester.

And let us not forget about media pickup which can result in powerful earned links and quality traffic back to your site or product page. Concentrate on getting more buzz and authority for your brand.

“PR is how content marketing works,” said Sean Jackson. “Get your name out there!”

To sum things up, here are some action items for improved SEO (note that the top three were Duane Forrester’s top three focus recommendations):

  • Quality content: Create well-crafted content to lure quality traffic and social shares.
  • User experience (UX): Provide your audience with excellent user experience. Not only is it good for your visitors but it’s a signal search engines are watching.
  • Social Media: Create useful and sharable content to inspire tweets and other social posts that send strong positive signals to search engines.
  • Branding: Build brand awareness and authority.
  • Discoverability: Write content that people can find. Use keywords appropriately and make sure you distribute content to places where people will be seeking it.
  • Sharing: Make the sharing of your content super easy. This affects both traffic and SEO.
  • Media pick-up: Earning media pick-up can translate into very valuable links and quality traffic.

All of the above can and should involve the expertise of your PR department. To be sure, SEO is now a long game that requires strategic planning. No quick tricks, but lots of devotion put into building your brand, finding your audience and offering useful content people will want to share.

Victoria HarresVictoria Harres is VP, Audience Development & Social Media at PR Newswire and the original voice behind @PRNewswire. She speaks and writes about social media, PR and marketing…and occasionally SEO.

Media Databases: A Valuable Research Tool in the Right Hands

Media ResearchA good tool can only live up to its potential with the skill of a good craftsman. The carpenter’s motto of measuring twice and cutting once makes that point clearly. If a cut is made in the wrong place it doesn’t matter how many features the saw had.

Many years ago, when I first started with PR Newswire, I worked in the media research department. We contacted journalists in particular regions and industries to collect or verify their information, including what beats they covered and how they preferred to be contacted, for better targeting from our media database.

We spent a lot of time on the phone asking questions and explaining the importance of having the details correct so that mismatched pitches could be avoided.

I was rather passionate about PR Newswire’s database being an accurate targeting tool: a sharp and precise implement.

One day I was forwarded a call from an editor at a major publication who was upset because a PR person had called her with information about something that was of no interest to her and when she inquired where the person had gotten her phone number they directed her to us.

“I want to be removed from your database,” she said emphatically, explaining that she only takes pitches via email. Unsolicited phone calls were very distracting to her.

I sincerely apologized if information we had shared with our clients had been incorrect and led to an unwanted phone call. “I’ll gladly remove you completely from our database,” I said. But then I explained to her what I have explained so many times, “Removing your details may cause more unwelcome phone calls than it resolves. People can still find your contact information on your website and will make their own assumptions about how you want to be contacted.”

I looked up her information and found that actually we had her record correct. Quite possibly the person who had called her didn’t read all the information. It clearly stated she preferred to be contacted via email.

“My suggestion is that together we craft a very detailed pitch-note for your record,” I said.

She agreed and we came up with something that explained not only her dislike for unsolicited phone calls, but we also wrote something very specific about what she did want to hear about, because in the end she said she didn’t want all PR contacts to stop. She wanted better targeted pitches.

She and I were of the same mind and I continue to advocate for journalists to contribute to media databases, and to educate communicators on how to use media databases well.

A good PR professional will have a clear understanding of who they are reaching out to before an email is written or a phone number is dialed. That is how it should work and I think there are a lot of good PR people out there who do just that. They’re the successful ones who actually build relationships with the media.

Unfortunately people don’t always use their tools correctly. They don’t always measure twice before emailing.

How can you use a media database effectively and wisely?

  1. Know your audience before you start. Do some research and have an understanding of who you are trying to reach. Everyone wants to see their news in The Wall Street Journal , but will your audience be looking for your information there, or are you more likely to find your audience via a regional trade publication?
  2. Be creative with your searches. A good database will give you a variety of ways to search for outlets and contacts by name, subject/beat, region, circulation, etc. Do multiple searches and don’t select too many parameters in one search or you’re likely to have limited results.
  3. Try a keyword search combined with a region or industry. Just like any search engine, your results are only as good as your search terms.
  4. Refine your list. Don’t ever pitch everyone that came up in a search result. Good targeting, which results in media pickup requires careful screening. Start by scanning the publication names and subjects that came up. Remove contacts that are obviously not a fit. The keyword ‘cable’ might be in someone’s profile, but if it’s referring to television and your information is about a steel product, then that contact is not going to do you any good and you’ll be wasting their time. Continue scanning the data and removing contacts as needed.
  5. READ. There is no shortcut to understanding what a journalist or blogger writes about. Read their work to understand their focus and style. They may write about the industry you are targeting but perhaps it’s a blog that pokes fun at industry mishaps.
  6. Connect socially. A good database will provide links to a journalist or blogger’s Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ accounts. Follow journalists and bloggers that seem to be a fit and pay attention to what they are talking about and what they are interested in. What is it that currently holds their attention? Engage appropriately with thoughtful comments or by reposting/retweeting their work.
  7. Understand the pitch-notes. Before sending an email or picking up the phone to call anyone on your list, arm yourself with the information in the pitch-notes and be mindful of any special instructions or requests.

PR professionals should look to help journalists and bloggers by being a useful source of relevant content that is wisely pitched after careful research. Bonus points are earned if you are helpful beyond your own pitches.

Like those many years ago working in media research, I’m still passionate about helping journalists, bloggers and PR professionals make good matches. However it does take both sides working together: the journalist or blogger making their preferences known and for PRs to do the research necessary to make sure their story is reaching the people who want to hear about it. Working together we are all more efficient.

Victoria HarresVictoria Harres is VP, Audience Development & Social Media at PR Newswire and the original voice behind @PRNewswire. She speaks and writes about social media, PR and marketing. 

Twitter’s Two Factor Authentication May Not Help Those Who Need it Most

There are a multitude of vulnerabilities for brands in social media and none so famous perhaps as the recent hack of the Associated Press Twitter account, which had a lot of people in the media pointing fingers at Twitter for not having a more secure platform.

Many called for two factor authentication, like Facebook offers. Adding this feature to your account will require you to enter a code that is texted to your cellphone when you attempt to log in.

This week Twitter announced that it has now added that very feature.

Per Twitter’s instructions, you can enable the new security feature in three simple steps:

1)      Visit your account settings page.

2)      Select “Require a verification code when I sign in.”

3)      Click on the link to “add a phone” and follow the prompts.

However, if you share management of a brand Twitter account, this new verification process may not work for you. Ask yourself, whose cell phone number is going to be attached to the account and how certain are you that person and ‘their cell phone’ will be available each time the code is needed?

Jim O’Leary on Twitter’s product security team states on Twitter’s blog, “With login verification enabled, your existing applications will continue to work without disruption. If you need to sign in to your Twitter account on other devices or apps, visit your applications page to generate a temporary password to log in and authorize that application.”

That sounds good. Most brands use a third party application like Hootsuite to manage Twitter. But sometimes authorization fails. Sometimes you need to delete an erroneous tweet quickly. Sometimes you get a new laptop and what if the person with the cell phone attached to the account is traveling. I can think of too many reasons why I don’t want one of our brand accounts attached to a single person’s cell phone. Not the least of which is if an account is hacked the person able to act quickly on your team to log in and change the password may not be the person with the cell phone needed for the security code.

Twitter’s security solution is a start, but it’s not a solution that will work for all, and certainly not in all situations.

In truth, the bigger problem to be addressed may be internally. Educating  employees on not clicking questionable links in emails may be in order. The Onion, which was recently hacked, kindly shared exactly how the attackers got in. It all started with an employee clicking on a link in an email that should have been questioned. The AP admitted that it was hacked similarly, because an employee clicked on a link that came in an email.

What should we be doing until all social networks are secure from hacking and the threat of spam emails has been eradicated? As marketing and PR professionals managing brand social media accounts, we should all be having serious and hopefully productive conversations with our information security officers, as well as keeping ourselves educated on what the current threats are.

Information and awareness are essential.

Victoria HarresVictoria Harres is VP, Audience Development & Social Media at PR Newswire, the main voice behind @PRNewswire, social media lead for @Business4Better and a frequent speaker and writer on social media for business. 

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4 Best Practices Brands Should Implement, Now That Twitter is a Yahoo News Source

Last month a single 61 character tweet (12 words as a matter of fact) caused the S&P 500 to drop $136 Billion in mere minutes.

It boggles the mind and makes one try to find some sense in it. What does it mean?

Well, it certainly proved the tremendous reliance we all have on the content that comes from Twitter. Some would say investors rely too much on automated trades based on tweets.

It also proved the great value our society places on Twitter as a provider of content and information.

Tweets will now be featured in Yahoo’s news feed.

Yesterday Yahoo announced that it was taking Twitter very seriously indeed.

In her blog, Merissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo stated, “Tweets have become an important information source for many of our users, so we are thrilled to announce our partnership with Twitter to bring Tweets directly into the Yahoo! newsfeed.”

She went on to say that over the next few days users would begin to see Tweets “personalized to their interests and preferences” appear in their content stream, delivering on earlier promises that the search and new aggregation giant would move toward more personalization of content for its users.

[An interesting side note is that the title of Mayer’s blog post “@Yahoo delivers #bestoftheweb” is really not very tweetable. Oops. To start a tweet with a Twitter name is a mistake unless you are talking ‘at’ that person/account. It will not appear as normal tweet.]

Yahoo’s big search competitor, Google wasn’t able to keep its former relationship with the microblogging giant. Twitter results disappeared from Google some time back, making this an quite a win for Yahoo.

But what does this move mean for communicators?

While few details have been revealed, it’s probably safe to assume that Yahoo will feature tweets that are popular, influential and of course meet certain criteria for authenticity and newsworthiness.

As communicators we should be prepared and simply take this as a reminder of some best practices for content creation:

1)  Create share-worthy content with tweetable headlines and by highlighting crunchy, interesting facts in bold font or in bulleted lists.
2)  Cultivate social networks. Build credibility for your content and your brand.
3)  Build relationships with influencers.
4)  Calibrate your team for rapid response to current events.

Perhaps your content will make it to the Yahoo news page along with relevant content from trusted news sources which Yahoo customizes based on user interest.

One thing a fast-moving PR team needs is information. Stay on top of issues and opportunities as news breaks by incorporating MediaVantage into your communications strategy. Learn more about our real-time media monitoring suite.

Victoria HarresVictoria Harres is VP, Audience Development & Social Media at PR Newswire, the main voice behind @PRNewswire, social media lead for @Business4Better and a frequent speaker and writer on social media for business. 

Vulnerabilities in Social Media: The AP Twitter Hack and How They Recovered

Hacking happens. Today it resulted in the following false and malicious information being tweeted from the @AP Twitter account: 

“Breaking: Two Explosions in the White House and Barack Obama is injured.”

S&P 500 dips drastically after @AP Twitter hack.

S&P 500 dips drastically after @AP Twitter hack.

Unfortunately the Associated Press, a normally very credible source of information, was victim to a hack and the results were devastating for the stock market. According to Bloomberg, the malicious tweet tanked the S&P 500 by $136 billion within two minutes.

@AP quickly tweeted that their account had been compromised and it was soon suspended and remains so now. The stock market regained strength and I think a lot of people nervously took their first breath after several long minutes.

Who should we blame?

Of course there are lots of people playing the blame game. At the top of the list is of course is the hackers themselves, and I agree! But who else holds responsibility for this crisis? The AP? Re-tweeters? Twitter?

The fact is, we’re all as vulnerable as the AP. I recently attended a panel featuring Eric Carvin, social media editor at the AP. He spoke of the efforts they put into securing their social accounts and gave some very sound security tips.

They were doing their due diligence. Unfortunately, there are always people out there who can get around almost any online wall.

The tweet was retweeted thousands of times within minutes. All of us with the power to retweet or repost messages ‘must’ be more vigilant about confirming through a second and even third sources, information that seems incredible.

Social media is a powerful tool that can be used for good, and which can easily turn to evil by our very own laziness to verify what we’re posting.

Is Twitter to blame? Perhaps Twitter can put better security measures around its service, but in the end, online vulnerabilities are everywhere, and that includes all social media platforms. Not just Twitter.

After securing our passwords and linking social accounts to something other than an easily hacked free email address, part of doing our due diligence is to have a plan of action in case such a crisis occurs.

The AP made the right moves to recover quickly today:

1. They quickly caught and countered the false tweet on their own twitter account, @AP.

2. They had AP journalists with strong Twitter presences Tweet out that the tweet was false.

3. They put out a media advisory with information making sure the story was clearly represented.

4. They told their own story on their own web properties.

At the end of the day the stock market was stable and I don’t think anyone questions the AP’s credibility as a source of news anymore than at the beginning of the day.

UPDATE:  The AP Twitter account is back up and running this morning.

Victoria Harres

Victoria Harres is VP, Audience Development & Social Media at PR Newswire, the main voice behind @PRNewswire, social media lead for @Business4Better and a frequent speaker and writer on social media for business.