Author Archives: Victoria Harres

Not Yesterday’s News: Social Media in the Newsroom

Would you like to know what’s happening around the world, in real-time? Search Twitter for “WTF was that,” says Andy Carvin, senior strategist at NPR’s Social Media Desk. It’s a common question people will tweet in the event of an earthquake, for example.

Andy Carvin (NPR), Ayman Mohyeldin (NBC News), Meredith Artley (CNN Digital) and Jim Frederick (Time International)

Andy Carvin (NPR), Ayman Mohyeldin (NBC News), Meredith Artley (CNN Digital) and Jim Frederick (Time International)

Carvin was on a panel at SXSW which discussed how media organizations are approaching news gathering in a real-time world. Others on the panel included Jim Frederick, Editor, Time International, Meredith Artley, Managing Editor, CNN Digital, and Ayman Mohyeldin, foreign correspondent for NBC News based in Egypt.

Of course you’ll get lots of tweets and lots of twitterers during a natural disaster, but that’s where traditional journalism tactics come into play. Carvin figures out who his trusted sources are and puts them into a Twitter list (brilliant!), then proceeds to collect information and verify. “You end up using a lot more sources,” he said, “and you have to figure out which characters work best in that moment.”

One problem brought up by Frederick which is prevalent during major news events like Hurricane Sandy is all the misinformation and outright lies that can go viral via social media. Think of the fake photos that were being tweeted and posted during Sandy, like sharks swimming in the flooded streets of Manhattan.

Mohyeldin offered that the public has a certain responsibility along with the media, especially when they have the power to instantly feed bad information to hundreds or thousands of people via Twitter and other social networks. “You have choice as a user to decide what you trust and you should be responsible in reposting things.”

And what of the responsibility of governments and others that hold great power in controlling how information gets shared?

“The first couple of days of the Egyptian Revolution cell phone connection was cut off by the government,” said Mohyeldin. But governments have become wise to the power of social media and are now using it to communicate with the masses, and surely to ‘listen.’ “You wonder how the regimes 2.0 will use these tools.”

But back to news organizations, what are the social media tools they see making a splash in how news is reported in the future?

Carvin gave a brilliant answer to this question. “Whatever gives critical mass the opportunity to have a voice.” How true. A tool can only be powerful when it empowers the people. And that’s where the stories come from.

And what about money? “Can news organizations monetize social media?” asked Frederick.

Artley said this is a subject that is frequently brought up. “Social media attracts new audiences and that is value. Also, clients and advertisers want to do business with companies that are doing things in the social space.”

Carvin added that rank and file journalists now have to think about the money side of journalism more and more. They use their personal brands to promote their work and the organizations they work for. They drive traffic.

Does this mean news organizations have a claim on a journalist’s personal social media accounts?

“That was a conversation that happened years ago when Twitter was new,” said Carvin. A personal Twitter account has the value to the brand of helping to drive traffic, but it still belongs to the individual journalist. “Authenticity [offered by personal brands] can pay off dividends.”

“We have a vibrant social media team that projects an experience, what it’s like to be a reporter,” said Mohyeldin. “That is translated into viewership.”

But social media has also given new power to the audience. They have greater awareness and expectations.

“Social has broken new grounds, we now can be exposed if we’re not covering events, conflicts around the world,” said Mohyeldin.

But the most interesting change social media has caused in the newsroom is in how they start their day. They listen to the audience.

“When we meet in the morning, we talk about what people are talking about in social and what is trending,” said Artley. “We also find stories that way which are unique and we wouldn’t have heard about in another way.”

This of course leads us back to how the panel started, with Carvin speaking of using social to learn what is happening in real-time during a major news event. Social as a listening tool seems to have the greatest impact of all for the media.

What impact has social media had on how you do your job?

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

Content and Trust: Highlights for Communicators from Social Media Week NYC

Social Media Week 2013New York is the global capital for media, so it is not surprising that during Social Media Week NYC much of the conversation centered on journalism and the people that are helping it evolve. But perhaps that is my perspective because that is what I personally was interested in and gravitated to.

Since this is my story – and my highlights — we’ll go with the idea that New York City is at the center of the media universe.

One thing is certain, in the words of Aaron Sherinian of the United Nations Foundation, “There’s never been a better time to be in communications.”

Look at all the tools now available to communicators. The Internet and social media have opened up a whole new world of opportunities for sharing and distributing information.

But with opportunity comes challenges.

“More and more people will take an image that they did not shoot and share it on Twitter and Facebook,” said Rubina Fillion, social media editor at The Wall Street Journal who spoke on a visual media panel. They don’t bother with source and attribution, which then leads to an issue with trust. “People don’t trust as easily anymore,” Fillion added. Think about fake images from Hurricane Sandy.

But the issue of trust is not simply about images that may or may not honestly represent a situation.

The lines of demarcation for journalism are perhaps easily blurred as media companies try to figure out how to keep the revenue stream alive, how to staff a publication when advertising and subscriber monies are no longer enough to keep the books in the black.

People don’t start their days by opening up a newspaper (either in print or on the web) and reading through its content anymore, according to Ben Smith of Buzzfeed who spoke on a panel which addressed the issues of funding a newsroom and the boundaries of journalistic ethics.

People are looking at their Twitter feeds and checking for top stories and trending topics before they get out of bed. And “part of that experience with news now includes cat videos,” said Smith.

Steve Rubel of Edelman and Eric Carvin of AP

Speaking on a panel at the Associated Press offices, Steve Rubel, chief content strategist at Edelman spoke of the history-making moment during the Super Bowl this year when @AP ran a sponsored tweet from Samsung. In the midst of what has always been editorial content from the AP was an advertisement.

It was a first, but not the last, according to Rubel, “Media companies are more and more accepting of marketing content.”

The walls between the marketing department and the newsroom seem to be getting thinner.

Rubel stated, “More and more journalists are acting like marketers.” They are marketing their work as well as the media organizations they work for. And, “marketers are starting to operate in real-time.” Think of Oreo’s marketing move during the Super Bowl. They are acting like each other.

Andrew Sullivan (The Dish), Derek Thompson (The Atlantic) and Ben Smith (Buzzfeed)

Andrew Sullivan (The Dish), Derek Thompson (The Atlantic) and Ben Smith (Buzzfeed)

Andrew Sullivan of The Dish, who was on the same panel as Buzzfeed’s Ben Smith, spoke with passion and sadness when he stated, “It used to be clear when you were reading an article or an ad. Now they have things called ‘native advertising’ or ‘sponsored content.’”

To repeat the words of Aaron Sherinian, “There’s never been a better time to be in communications.” There are so many avenues available to us and so much potential for making good choices and bad ones.

I would like to think that we are all trying to take the high road, make ethical choices, although sometimes we make mistakes. We lose sight of the path we intended to stay on. We lose the trust of our audience.

What are you doing to keep your audience’s trust?

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

Twitter’s New Vine App: Perfect for PR Pitches

Remember when we had to figure out how to condense a 400 word press release into a 140 characters? Daunting as the prospect seemed at first, eventually talented PR professionals became quite deft at the micro press release and we all learned a great lesson about brevity and the modern attention span.

But now we have a new challenge, the six-second video.

vineTwitter has launched its new Vine app, which lets you capture a six second video that loops continuously. The app is very simple to set up if you already have a Twitter account, although it is not a prerequisite, and you can share your micro-film with your Twitter followers, your Facebook friends and the Vine audience.

Brilliantly captivating, the six second video format is both a challenge from a PR perspective and an opportunity.

You couldn’t embed your four minute product demo video in Twitter. The best you could do was to link to it and hope that people would want to leave the platform and go watch elsewhere. At this point you can add page loading time and video loading time to your 4 minute production.

Not something that people are very willing to do for a product demo.

But think how often you’re willing to hit ‘play’ on Facebook and watch videos. All sorts of videos you would otherwise ignore. Why? Because you don’t have to go anywhere and if the video turns out too boring to watch, you click stop and move on. No big deal.

Vine makes videos on Twitter no big deal. And at six second length, people don’t have time to turn off your demo before they’ve seen the whole thing!

Opportunity! It’s the video elevator pitch.

So what kind of content should you be thinking about for your six second PR video? I asked Bev Yehuda, VP of Web Engagement Products for MultiVu and here are her suggestions:

  • Behind the scene clips
  • How-to segments (think time lapse, as Vine allows stitching of 3 segments)
  • Product demo
  • Presentation clips
  • Quick take from speakers at a conference
  • Create a “sneak peak” of a longer video (making-of-a-video clips perhaps)

So go make some videos and share them. As we’ve frequently written about here on Beyond PR, people like visual content. Multimedia press releases blow the socks off traditional text-only releases.

Victoria Harres is PR Newswire’s director of audience development, and the primary voice behind our @PRNewswire presence on Twitter.

Top 10 Best Practices for Social Media

editorial guidelines sticky noteI recently challenged myself to come up with the top-ten best practices for social media for a presentation. As it turned out, it was hard to keep the list to only ten items.

So I did some research and much scrapping of excessive rules and realized that it all does boil down to ten very basic principles to be successful in social media:

#10 – Have good tools

Sure you can do social media with nothing but web access to Twitter and Facebook, but if you want to measure success and if you want to have a well-orchestrated presence for your brand (personal or business) then you need to think about tools that can save you time and give you useful stats. Some of my favorite include Hootsuite (web and mobile), SocialOomph, Buffer, Twitter lists, SproutSocial, and Topsy.

#9 – Be nice

This may sound simplistic, but I can’t stress enough how important this is. Social media is about being human, participating in the big virtual cocktail party, as some like to call it. So that means being nice and helping others where you can. Offer answers when people are looking for it. Especially when you have nothing to benefit from it. People notice and remember.

Want a journalist on Twitter to remember you fondly? Give them a tip that helps them and does nothing for you.

#8 – Be responsive

You have to ‘man’ the social accounts. Clients will expect you to provide customer service there. You have to be present to respond to questions and handle concerns. It’s better to have one or two well manned social channels than a multitude of accounts you have trouble keeping track of.

#7 – Engage!

No need to buy a diamond ring for this, but you do need to engage your audience. A stream of tweets that have no or few @replies or mentions is really no different from paid media. If you want earned media you have to participate in the greater conversation.

#6 – Have clear editorial guidelines

Your editorial guidelines may be very simple and fit on a sticky-note (guilty) but you do need to write them down. Even if you are the only social media manager. You need it clear in your own mind what topics you will or won’t discuss on your brand’s social accounts.

This, of course becomes significantly more important when you have multiple people managing social media.

#5 – Have a crisis plan

Again, even if fits on a sticky-note and you have it stuck on the wall above your desk, this is a must. List who needs to be contacted or consulted in case of a potential situation. If you have multiple managers you better also clearly state what constitutes a crisis.

And keep it simple. No need to be over-specific and risk confusion.

#4 – Have a clear mission

You should have a reason for your social media endeavors and you should be able to put that clearly into one or two sentences. Again, as above this is especially important if you have multiple people working together, but even if it’s just you, put that sticky-note up as a daily reminder.

#3 – Listen!

Listen to your clients, listen to industry experts, listen to your competitors and then listen just a little bit more to a few more people. Listening is like learning, you can never learn too much.

#2 – Set social media policies and guidelines

Your policies and guidelines don’t need to be complicated, preferably they’re not, but they do need to exist and they need to be housed where all employees have easy access to them. Everyone should be familiar with them and more importantly have a clear understanding of them.

And, last but not least:

#1 – Like your mom said, “Be real!”

Maybe your mom didn’t say that, but I’m sure someone’s did. Seriously, be human, be yourself, be ‘real.’ The greatest gift of social media is the opportunity to humanize a brand and being real is the only way to do it.

What did I leave out? Do let me know if you think there should have been a  #11. I would love to hear your thoughts on best practices.

All press releases and other content distributed by PR Newswire have social sharing built in, and the amount of social interaction these messages generate is pretty amazing.  Get the most out of the content you publish by incorporating some of the easy tactics we recommend here: Headline Hashtags & Other Tweetable Press Release Tips.

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

To Disclose or Not Disclose: FTC Disclosure Guidelines for Bloggers

If you bring up Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations in front of writers, especially bloggers, a lot of ‘opinion’ and hearsay come up.

I posted about a Social Media Club of Dallas blogger panel a couple of weeks ago. The panel covered tips and recommendations from bloggers for PR and communications professionals and received quite a bit of attention and lively conversation on the subject of FTC regulations around endorsement and disclosure.

One Dallas journalist in particular wrote that the bloggers I mentioned and others are not complying with FTC ‘disclosure of material connection’ regulations.

So I did a bit of research on the FTC website and discovered a terrific video explaining what they expect:

FTC Endorsement Guidelines for Bloggers Video

FTC endorsement guidelines for bloggers explained by Mary Engles.

I have included the full transcript of the video at the bottom of this page, but take particular note of the following statement by narrator Mary Engle in particular: “What does the FTC’s announcement mean for bloggers? Well for most bloggers not very much. We know that most bloggers are out there talking about their daily lives and their thoughts, and so it really doesn’t mean much for them. But if you’re one of those bloggers that is in a marketing program with an advertiser and you’re being paid to blog about a product, or you’re receiving a steady stream of products from a company, then you need to disclose that relationship you have with the company.”

Not nearly as scary as some might believe.

And if a blogger ‘does’ have a  relationship with a company that needs transparency it’s really simple to be in compliance according to Engle: “You can just say, “ABC Company gave me this product to try,” or, “XYZ Company sent me to their theme park to try it out for a day.” It’s not too complicated, and it should just be straight forward and upfront.”

Disclosure of receiving something from a company that one writes about is simple and in a lot of cases perhaps not even ‘officially’ required, although as a consumer and as a regular reader of blogs I would hope that anyone (blogger, journalist or otherwise) that gets into an event for free or receives product or a gift and writes about the company would be transparent about it.

Transparency contributes to credibility for the writer and assures that consumers (all of us) are protected from potentially false advertising.

Here are a few more good links to FTC information. Do check them out:


Transcript for the FTC video “The Endorsement Guide”:

What’s new about Endorsement Guides?

Mary Engle:
The Endorsement Guides have been around since 1980, and they’ve always required that endorsers disclose their relationship with advertisers. What’s new here is that we’re applying this principle in today’s world, in the world of social media, where you can’t always recognize an advertisement just by looking at it.
Why did the FTC update the Endorsement Guides?
Mary Engle:
There’s been a lot in the news about the FTC’s Endorsement Guides lately. What’s the story? Well the FTC cares about protecting consumers, and we know that nowadays when consumers want information about a product or a service they’re thinking of using, they often go online to check it out and see what other consumers have to say. Don’t you want to know if the reason a consumer is giving a rave review is because they’re being paid by the advertiser to say it, or they’re getting a steady stream of free products from that company? We just want to bring some transparency to the process so that when there is a relationship between an advertiser and a reviewer the reader knows about it.
What do the Endorsement Guides mean for bloggers?
Mary Engle:
What does the FTC’s announcement mean for bloggers? Well for most bloggers not very much. We know that most bloggers are out there talking about their daily lives and their thoughts, and so it really doesn’t mean much for them. But if you’re one of those bloggers that is in a marketing program with an advertiser and you’re being paid to blog about a product, or you’re receiving a steady stream of products from a company, then you need to disclose that relationship you have with the company.
How do bloggers follow the Endorsement Guides?
Mary Engle:
If a blogger does have a relationship with an advertiser that needs to be mentioned, it’s pretty simple. You can just say, “ABC Company gave me this product to try,” or, “XYZ Company sent me to their theme park to try it out for a day.” It’s not too complicated, and it should just be straight forward and upfront.
Is the FTC planning to sue bloggers?
Mary Engle:
Is the FTC planning to sue bloggers? Well, let me put it this way: that is not why we issued this guidance. We issued this guidance to make it clear that everybody should be playing by the same rules, whether you’re a professional reviewer or an amateur reviewer. Just be upfront about the connections you have and any conflict of interest you might have with the company.
Where to go for more information.
Mary Engle:
To find out more about the FTC’s Endorsement Guides, go to our website at There, you’ll find the Guides themselves. They have a lot of practical examples that really may help answer a lot of the questions that you have.


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

‘Dear Blogger’ & Other Pitch Mistakes PR Pros Make

“My time is worth something,” said fashion and celebrity blogger Cynthia Smoot, aka @OhSoCynthia, at last week’s Social Media Club of Dallas monthly meeting.

A PR person in the audience had asked the panel if bloggers always expect to get something for free. Every head in the room turned in unison to see who was at the microphone. I think I also heard a gasp from somewhere.

Cynthia took it in stride, lifting her chin with her Oh-So-Cynthia grace and crossing her legs to show the fabulous pair of boots she was recently given for covering a fashion event.

Dallas bloggers: @OhSoCynthia @TexasHolly @FoodBitch @LivingLocurto @Pelpina

Holly Homer, @TexasHolly contributed that they are bloggers, not journalists with a salary and expenses being paid for by a media company. They blog because they are passionate about what they write about and sometimes have a day-job. To cover an event or try a product they have to give of their personal time.

Food critic @FoodBitch works at an advertising agency by day and writes about food by night. She said some PR people have even expected her to pay for entry into their event, even though they invited her to come and cover it for her popular Dallas food blog.

I cringed. We in PR still don’t quite fully comprehend those writers who call themselves bloggers. And yet, our industry is constantly seeking to ‘work with bloggers,’ i.e. get them to promote our stuff to their audiences.

So let’s cover a few basics about working with bloggers that we’ve all heard before, but apparently we need to hear again.

First, a pet peeve, “Dear blogger,” is tops on FoodBitch’s list, as is “Dear _____.” Or how about “Dear Mommy Blogger,” suggested Amy, @LivingLocurto. All the bloggers nodded in agreement. This certainly aligns with the daddy blogger sentiment I wrote about two years ago in a post appropriately titled Don’t Call Us Daddy Bloggers.

Pelpina Tripp, @Pelpina asked that PR pros do their research. Don’t send her pitches if you’ve never seen her work and don’t know what interests her audience. She gets a lot of email. She doesn’t have time for pitches that are not appropriately targeted. Holly added, “If you don’t bother to check out my blog why should I care about your pitch?”

And while we’re on the research subject, Amy begs that if you mention someone in your pitch that you link to somewhere online that explains who they are. “Don’t make me do the research. I don’t want to Google the person you’re talking about.”

Cynthia then mentioned that a huge pet peeve for her are press releases without images to use in her blog or to see the product you’re talking about.

A PR practioner in the audience said, “But a lot of publications don’t accept attachments.”

“Bloggers accept attachments!” responded Cynthia. All the other bloggers agreed emphatically. They need images and only get them in less than 5% of pitches.

A few more suggestions included:

  • Make your pitch interesting for the blogger’s audience you are pitching
  • Write subject lines that capture the attention of who you are targeting
  • Make your email subject line clear about why you are contacting them

If you are a blogger or a PR and would like to add to this, please leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you!

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

3 Basic Perceptions of Content You Should Have For Successful Marketing

Adrian Parker (left), Brett Relander, Eddy Badrina, and Victoria Harres

When you bring three people together for a panel, who don’t know each other, chemistry is almost impossible.

I lucked out.

On April 3rd PR Newswire teamed up with the Business Development Institute to bring together three experts on content marketing in Dallas to share knowledge and thoughts on the subject. I had the pleasure of being the moderator for the event.

I expected good conversation from the group. What I didn’t expect, and have never done before, was to be taking notes as much as the audience while being on stage.

Although not planned, and completely at different points during the forum, each of our three experts made statements about how content should be perceived.

I took notes mentally and on paper and in the end I had a new perception, or perceptions that really help me in my approach to content.

Content As Food 

This came from Eddy Badrina, co-founder of Buzzshift: “You have to create/share content people actually want. Think of content as food for the mind. People want to be fed good content.” Brilliant, and so true. The most successful content marketers share information that is truly useful to people.

Eddy also said we should remember there are three types of content to share: (1) created content, which you create yourself or pay someone for, (2) contributed content, which can be attained from guest bloggers, and (3) curated content, which you do not own but can add context to when you share.

People want content that has value, but you don’t necessarily have to create it or own it to benefit from it. I myself share a lot of content on Twitter that I did not have a hand in creating, but I do curate what I find valuable, and hopefully the audience appreciates that.

Content As Opportunity 

Content gives you the opportunity to engage with your audience, an audience that may become customers, according to Brett Relander, co-founder of Tactical Marketing Labs.

If you post an intriguing and informative blog or video you audience will comment. They become engaged and you have the opportunity to respond and add strength to that relationship.

Guest blogging is one opportunity that should not be overlooked. Some may scoff that putting content on online property you do not own diminishes the value to you. Not so. Guest posting gives you access to audiences you would otherwise not be able to tap, and if you link back to your own property, say in your byline, then you will hopefully lead that audience back to where you might engage them further.

Content As a Service 

Adrian Parker said content should teach, illustrate and inform. It should be word-of-mouth worthy. Hence it is a service you are providing to your audience.

“Content is the currency of social media,” said Adrian, and oh how right he is. Look at all the most successful people doing content marketing. They are excellent content creators.

One might say that the content creators will inherit the Internet. Or perhaps they already have.

Adrian gave us one last bit of advice, to not look at content life in a straight line. Think of it in a cycle: distribute, post, and repurpose. Good content can always be repurposed because there is always an audience that did not receive it before. Just make sure you update for relevance.

In this blog post I’ve tried to follow the advice that Eddy, Brett and Adrian gave. I’ve tried to share information that is useful, that feeds, that opens the doors to opportunity and that serves our audience.

Let me know if I succeeded.

Victoria Harres is Director of Audience Development at PR Newswire, the main voice behind @PRNewswire, and a frequent speaker and writer on social media for business.

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