Author Archives: Victoria Harres

Who Do You Trust: Journalists, Bloggers, Social Media?

My notes and thoughts from the SXSW 2012 panel: Vetting In The Age of Social; Who Do You Trust?

SXSW 2012 Panel: Vetting In The Age of Social; Who Do You Trust? - with Alicia Stewart, CNN; Shelli Whitehurst,; Michael Pranikoff, PR Newswire; Tony Uphoff, TechWeb. Tom Miale, (far left) of PR Newswire moderated.

It was a provocative question addressed by the SXSW 2012 panel sponsored by PR Newswire:  When it comes to news and information, “Who do you trust?”

Tom Miale of PR Newswire/MultiVu brought together an interesting panel to tackle this discussion.

As brands, we have to understand what our audience trusts, so I was sitting front-and-center taking notes.

Shelli Whitehurst, aka @CodeNameMax, who calls herself an information junkie says she reads sources she likes before she reads ‘official’ news sources. She loves what bloggers have to say. She wants to read the opinions of real people.

“By the time the news covers it its just verifying rather than vetting,” stated Shelli, with her beautiful Australian accent.

Everyone on the panel admitted to starting most days looking at their smart-phones while still in bed and checking either the news organizations they work for or Twitter.

So what is the role of media in a world where the first place so many of us go to for news is not traditional or ‘official’ news sources.

At another panel a day earlier, Richard ‘Koci’ Hernandez said that he heard of Osama Bin Laden’s death on Instagram. “Others saw it first on Twitter [where the story broke] because that is where they are. I’m on Instagram” he said, “and so is CNN iReport. So I heard about it there.”

Is the role of media now just to vet after the fact?

Alicia Stewart said at CNN they would rather be right than be first, and she does make a very good point. In the case of Bin Laden’s death the citizen journalist was correct.

But breaking Twitter news is not always right.

Michael Pranikoff of PR Newswire said people just don’t trust the media today, and there’s some truth to that.

Remember Dan Rather? He represented an official source, but one mistake of not verifying information before broadcasting it brought to center stage the fact that even official news sources sometimes get it wrong.

“You can say whatever you want, but it’s my job as a journalist is to vet the sources/story,” chimed Alicia Stewart.

Yes, but that takes time. We live in a world of real-time expectations.

“Quality scales and good journalism always rises to the top,” said Tony Uphoff. “We’re not going to fall back into the search/RSS model. People want to hear what others opinions are.”

But can we tell what quality journalism is? And do enough of us care?

I sure hope so. I hope we are not loosing sight of strong reporting which digs deep in to matters that affect our lives.

In the end I suppose we the audience now carry a greater weight in the vetting process. We have to decide who and what we trust more carefully than ever before, because information is reaching us via more avenues than ever before.

I suppose I continue to trust that CNN and other more traditional news organizations will do the homework for me, the fact checking. But I’m still going to go to Twitter at the first whisper of anything because repeatedly I find that breaking news is being talked about on Twitter minutes before anything appears on any ‘official’ news site.

So now the question goes to you. Who do you trust?

Victoria Harres is Director of Audience Development for PR Newswire and the lead voice on @PRNewswire.

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5 Keys to Developing Your Organization’s Online Voice

Brett Simon, Thomas Hynes, Victoria Harres, Christine Cube: Four people, one team, one consistent voice on @PRNewswire.

I regularly have people say that they know their business needs to be “doing social media,” but they just don’t know what  to say.

“I don’t want to make the mistake of making my organization sound silly,” they say, often with a pained look on their face.

Truth is, they have good reason to be concerned.

An organization’s online voice is what people “hear” from a brand through blogging, tweeting and community conversations. It’s what people engage with. It can give a brand a human connection to its audience. Or, if inappropriately done, it can confuse, or worse — irritate the  audience.

The latter, of course, you will avoid, and you can do it by keeping a few key things in mind.


People speak of authenticity quite often when talking about how brands should represent themselves online.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s really much more than just being ‘verified’ on Twitter. It’s about being genuine.

Think of the last cocktail party or networking event you attended. Remember the people who came across as trying to be someone they’re not?

Don’t do that.

Your online voice should represent who and what your organization really is. This gains trust. And trust is not an option when building a credible voice.


Your online voice should not sound like messaging from your legal department, and you certainly should avoid traditional PR and marketing jargon. It should represent the things your organization stands for and promote those things that benefit the business, of course, but you must say it in a human way.

Also, don’t forget those little human details like owning your mistakes with dignity and humility, and sharing some of the details of everyday life. But take care you don’t overdo the latter.

Remember, people want to connect with people. They want to have intelligent conversations. They want to know if they comment or reach out to a brand online that they will get a real human representing the organization responding in a genuine manner. A human manner.

Reflection of Culture

Every organization has a unique internal culture. It may include skateboard races with the CEO on Friday afternoons, or perhaps high standards of corporate social responsibilities.

Your culture should be reflected in your online voice. This is your organization’s “personality,” and it goes hand-in-hand with presenting a human identity online.


Credible sources get respect. Respect gets you meaningful relationships. So be a source of useful, reliable information, and keep that content flowing on a regular schedule.

Remember that it doesn’t have to be all your own content. Promoting or linking to credible content (with appropriate attribution, of course) from other trusted sources would also gain you credibility.

Finally, don’t forget that part of being credible is being responsive. You can’t just be a megaphone of information. Traditional marketing is good for that.

If you want to have a strong voice online you must engage and be responsive to your audience.


Whether you are writing a blog post for your company blog, a comment on an industry community site, posting a video to YouTube or a tweet on Twitter, your brand needs to have consistency of voice.

This gives your audience a sense of trust and comfort when connecting with you online. If you have an industry authoritative voice on your organization’s blog but a mostly silly and not very credible voice on Twitter, it will confuse people and certainly hurt your credibility.

Is it really that simple to create a credible voice for your organization online?

Yeah, pretty much.

Sure, there are lots more granular things to think about (details, details), and you may prioritize things a bit differently, but the five key points above will get you a long way to a strong online voice and a meaningful relationship with your audience.

Victoria Harres is Director of Audience Development for PR Newswire and the lead voice on @PRNewswire64

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Tips And Tactics for Managing PR Through Social Media

This summer I was asked by Tim Moore to speak at SocialCrush, a nuts and bolts social business conference for small to medium sized companies. Tim asked me if I could talk about how PR has changed because of social media, along with the things businesses need to consider in doing PR in this new environment.

At its core, PR really hasn’t changed much. We are still an industry of communication. It’s only the tools and opportunities for engaging the audience that have changed.

Here are some of the highlights from my presentation:

Audience Relations (Huge! opportunity through social networks.)

  • Use Twitter to find journalists and bloggers in your target industry
  • Read what they are reading and what they are writing
  • Help promote their work to build relationships
  • Target ‘your’ influencers, but remember they are not necessarily the people with the highest Klout scores or the most Twitter followers


  • To what your industry is saying
  • To what your customers are saying
  • To the media and bloggers are saying
  • To what others are saying about you
  • To what others say about your competitors
  • To what others say about your industry

Create sharable press releases

  • Write tweetable headlines
  • Use anchor text with links that lead back to your site, to your product
  • Optimize your release for search
  • Include multimedia which is proven to make your releases more sharable
  • Make sure your release is super sharable with social buttons
  • Don’t forget to share your own releases!

Break a press release down for sharing and post accordingly on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Flikr, etc.

  • Quotes
  • Stats
  • Photos
  • Videos
  • Slides
  • Audio

Crisis management

  • Crises now happen in real time – have a plan for action in real time
  • Use your social channels to communicate in real time throughout a crisis
  •  Be aware that little issues can become a full blown crisis on channels like Twitter if not handled appropriately and in a timely manner

And don’t forget the greatest gift of social media: the opportunity to humanize your brand. Use social channels to connect on a human level with your clients and others in your industry. It’s now time for truly ‘public’ relations.

Author Victoria Harres is PR Newswire’s director of audience development and the voice of @PRNewswire.

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Flipboard as a Content Reflection Tool

The Flipboard rendition of the @prnewswire Twitter feed

You did everything by the book. Your company now has a Facebook page, a Twitter account, photos on Flickr, an active blog with contributors from throughout your organization, and a multitude of other social media presences that you track on an Excel sheet with columns for IDs and passwords.

You work hard coordinating a fresh flow of content to these networks and deserve a like, a +1 and a follow. You’re doing well, my friend.

But when was the last time you stopped and took a good long look at yourself in the proverbial mirror?

As marketers, we start tweeting,blogging and sharing with a certain business intent, but it’s easy to keep cranking out content while getting quite lost or side-tracked from your original objectives.

Sometimes you have to stop and look back to see where you’re going.

Not long after I got my iPad last year I downloaded the popular app Flipboard. If you’re not familiar with it, Flipboard collects content from social networks and displays it in magazine fashion.

One of the first things I connected to my Flipboard was @PRNewswire, and I was immediately struck by the fact that my content looked like a real publication.

I was mesmerized by it.

Sitting in my armchair with my feet up on a Saturday morning, I got a fresh perspective on what @PRNewswire had become, and it actually helped clarify what I wanted it to be. I knew all along that I wanted it to be super informative about issues in our industry, but until that Saturday morning I really didn’t have a clear concept of how it was coming across.

For the most part, I was successful in creating something that was a combination trade publication and meetup, but it wasn’t perfect. The “not working” bits became glaringly obvious in this format, making it much easier for me to adjust.

Now I stop regularly and look back through the Flipboard looking glass.

Along with Twitter, try looking at your Facebook, blog, Flickr, Instagram or anything else you have with an RSS feed through Flipboard. To add, just click on the “More” tab and do a search. Flipboard will give you available options.

Through Flipboard I learned how to balance content to provide a more pleasant experience for the reader, creating something I, myself would want to read, in my armchair on a Saturday morning.

Let me know what you learn.

Author Victoria Harres is PR Newswire’s director of audience development and the voice of @PRNewswire.

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Five Key Elements of Community Management & Crowdsourcing

Daniel Honigman and Len Kendall of the The3six5 Project.

“A great tool for community management is guilt.” – Len Kendall, Better Crowdsourcing: Lessons Learned from #the3six5 Project, SXSW 2011.

When Len said those words, I reached for my iPad.  A new tool, I thought. Then the room started laughing and I froze. Ah, guilt! As in that very traditional tool used by mothers everywhere for thousands of years.

Len went on to explain that he didn’t mean badgering people, but simply making sure that people understand that the  community is depending on them. They can’t let the community down.

Having participated in The3six5 project in 2010 I knew exactly what he meant.

The3six5, nominated for a 2011 Webby Award, recorded the year 2010 with 365 stories told by 365 different writers. I penned April 23rd. The only rule was to tell about your day from your perspective, rather than some general news report. The results were varied and fascinating to read. In a way, the3six5 recorded history in a much more authentic way than history books will ever aspire to.

Len and his brilliant partner on this project Daniel Honigman were quite successful in giving each participant, or community member responsibility for their day. I can attest to having felt a great sense of responsibility over my assignment. Others were counting on me to do my small part to make this project work.

Tight Deadlines
I heard something similar at a SXSW panel for Star Wars Uncut. The community managers for that project, which assigned 15 second scenes from the movie to fans around the world for re-filming in their own creative ways – a monumental undertaking –  said they managed by keeping people to tight deadlines and impressing upon individuals that the project was depending on them.

One Emmy later and there is no question that Casey Pugh, Jamie Wilkinson, and Annelise Pruitt succeeded in managing a ‘very’ large community. If you haven’t checked out their project you should.

June Cohen of TED, who also presented about crowdsourcing and community at SXSW said something that should ring as ‘duh,’ but is oh so worth a reminder. She said you have to give people credit for their work. Not only is it the right thing to do, but people will also take greater pride and have a deeper sense of responsibility over their contribution when their name and a link to their personal site is provided.

Clear goal
Perhaps most important, June reminded us that to gather a community and inspire contribution, you have to have a clear goal that people will get excited about.

Another thing I remember distinctly from being part of the3six5 community is that Daniel and Len kept everyone talking. Now and then one would direct message me on Twitter and ask if I would help promote another writer or would reach out to thank me for promoting the project.

In short, they kept me engaged the entire year of the project and I’m sure they did the same with others. Clever!

I would love to hear your thoughts on good community management practices and crowdsourcing.

Author Victoria Harres is PR Newswire’s director of audience development.

Scaling a Brand Twitter Presence To a Growing Community

The @prnewswire Twitter team: (l-r) Brett Savage, Tom Hynes, Vicky Harres, Christine Cube

The following comes from a presentation I had the pleasure of making last week at Web 2.0 in San Francisco about the need for careful planning to scale a brand Twitter account to a growing following.

There was a time, when I first started tweeting as @PRNewswire when the account was very intimate. The community was intimate. The people I followed and those who followed me were all part of the same industry in some way. We got to know each other quite well. I read ‘everything’ people posted.

Because I could.

I read every bio of every twitterer that followed @PRNewswire so that I could understand my audience. I spent countless evenings and Saturdays doing this. It took until around follower number 2000 before I threw up my hands and decided it was no longer possible to do this. There were just too many new followers per day to keep up.

But it was a valuable lesson in understanding that audience and I don’t regret it for a moment. On a regular basis I still look through bios of recent followers to keep myself clued-in to who this community is made up of and who I am communicating with.


At some point along the way I realized the followers of @prnewswire on Twitter were not an audience. We are a community. We share information, promote each other, cheer each other on and do favors for each other. When we meet in real life we often hug each other as if we were long lost friends. Pen pals meeting for the first time.

I sometimes miss that intimate community of my early days on Twitter, when the most followed person had around 20,000 followers, which may have been everyone on Twitter.

When PR Newswire reached 1000 followers it was a really big deal. We put out a news release! A multimedia release that included a video of me talking about why PR Newswire was on Twitter. We gave $1000 to the charity of choice of follower number 1000.

Things were intimate then and I really didn’t have any big aspirations about having a large following. To be honest I thought the fairly quick growth in the first four months to 1000 was a fluke. Surely it would take at least another year to hit 2000.

I’m not sure anyone foresaw the rapid growth of Twitter that would affect all our following.


As the followers for @prnewswire grew so did my need for structure to manage the needs of my community. I started by dividing the community into groups by creating columns on a dashboard. I made decisions about what was truly useful tweeting and what was fluff or filler. I pared down and honed my content to only that which was the most useful to the community.

I started using scheduling for PR Newswire promotional tweets to both save time on something that would be very repetitious and to make sure I was spreading them out appropriately and not annoying people.

Eventually I realized I couldn’t continue managing this community on my own and enlisted the help of the three people that were already part of my audience development team at PRN. They took to it quickly aided by some guidelines I put in place for content management, engagement, editorial duties, customer service, promotions, scheduling and how to deal with crises big and small.


People have asked me what the biggest challenge is to serving a large following for a brand on Twitter. Most think it would be customer service, but actually it’s keeping the authenticity of the voice, keeping the human touch. The greatest gift of Twitter to a brand is the opportunity to humanize it. As the following grows and the demands on the person behind the Twitter account grow, the biggest challenge is just keeping that human touch present.

If Twitter is done well, personality will replace the brand logo.

Author Victoria Harres is PR Newswire’s director of audience development.  She’s also the author of the free white paper: The Straight Tweet: Giving Voice to a Brand .

Gluttony and Other Things I Learned About During Social Media Week

Written while flying back to Dallas after Social Media Week New York City 2011.

Earlier today I was telling some friends over lunch that my memory is not what it used to be. I’ve actually worried about it quite a bit lately, wondering if my mind is going old much faster than it should. I even purchased special vitamins said to enhance memory, and perhaps if I remembered to take them they might actually work.

But at one of the Social Media Week NYC sessions I attended this week, someone said that research has shown that consuming large amounts of information daily will cause your mind to have trouble remembering things and processing information.

All that rich data my friends and follows have been sharing on Facebook and Twitter have turned me into an out of control data glutton.

Not quite the kind of thing I expected to learn during this week’s social media lectures and panels, but indeed it has turned out to be one of the most comforting.

So here I sit on a flight back to Dallas, my mind feeling a bit bloated with facts and data gathered and I’ve decided to brave the heavy turbulence to share what has resonated with me most before I forget it.

  • Twitter has become a significant tool for journalists who are using it in a variety of ways:  for doing research and finding information, for creating lists to follow certain feeds by category, for finding experts, and as a replacement for RSS readers.
  • Search is headed in a direction that gives much more weight to content that is ‘shared’ or ‘liked,’ furthering democratization of content curation.
  • Publishers are concentrating on creating experiences for their audiences. The Daily recently launched with much ado about the experience, but as it turned out the experience seemed less exciting without solid content behind it.
  • Mashable gets more engagement with their content on their iPad app than on their website. – Adam Ostrow
  • The Huffington Post needs the paid contributors they are now hiring, but it would never have grown to what it has if not for the non-paid bloggers it has depended on in the past. – Jay Rosen
  • Something that will never change in successful publishing and PR is the need for story telling.

So now as my flight is approaching landing time and I have given the flight attendant all my trash, I consider what it is about the bits of information above that have caused them to stand out so in my mind. The direction of publishing of course is the main pattern here that seems to concern me.

But there’s something else.

I find myself questioning whether we are headed in a direction that moves us away from putting quality of information first. Is all this concentration on technology, ‘experience,’ and engagement with content leading us to telling likable stories, but not necessarily worthy stories?

A friend told me recently that he has completely stopped reading news sites or print newspapers.  Instead he trusts that any news worth knowing about will find him through his social connections. This is a successful businessman. He said it has greatly reduced the plethora of information he was previously consuming, and he doesn’t miss it.

Will this affect his ability to make good business and personal decisions, I wondered.

And what about this ‘experience’ many publishers are working so hard on for us? I raised my hand at the end of the Publishers as Technologists panel and asked if we are perhaps headed in a wrong direction in thinking that giving people an ‘experience’ with our content is truly what they want or need. I myself don’t have time for ‘experience’ everyday. I want the information I need in the simplest and easiest to consume fashion possible. But don’t get me wrong, on a Saturday morning I am found in my reading chair enjoying a good experience with my favorite iPad news apps.

Of course I may be worried for nothing. I do tend to wring my hands together more than is truly needed. This is probably due to the fact that I can’t remember why I shouldn’t worry. <Note to self: take magic memory vitamin when I get home.>

I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Do you, or would you trust your friends and follows to provide you with content you need? And do you like your content with a good side of ‘experience?’

Post authored and image created by Victoria Harres, director, audience development, PR Newswire.