Category Archives: Online Influence

8 Blogger Relations Tips from a Blogger

Photo by Jhayne/flickr, used under Creative Commons license

Photo by Jhayne/flickr, used under Creative Commons license

I dread checking my email sometimes. Outside of my job as a media relations manager at PR Newswire, I’m a local interest blogger. Like most bloggers, my inbox fills up with its fair share of pitches.

Some pitches are fantastic: To the point, clearly familiar with my blog, pitching me something my readers and I care about. Others, not so much.

I read every single one of them, though; all the way through. Even the ones addressed to “Andrea”.

The only reason I don’t hit delete on the bad pitches is because I want to learn from their mistakes. I look at what makes me happy as a blogger, as well as what doesn’t. Then I think about how I can incorporate that into my own blogger outreach.

Here are a few lessons I learned:

1) Start your research on the blogger’s About, Disclosure, and PR pages. These pages are a quick way to discover what the blog is about, whether the blogger accepts pitches, and how to reach them. Many of them also have guidelines on the topics they do and don’t blog about.

2) Then do even more research. In addition to looking at the About page, read blog posts. Dig back a month or so. If the blogger doesn’t write about your topic, post giveaways, or review products, your time is better spent pitching someone who does. Check out their blogroll for ideas on other bloggers you can reach out to.

3) Build the relationship before you pitch. Some pitches have caught my attention solely because I recognized the person’s name. That’s because the pitcher had previously reached out to me either by email or with a comment on my blog.

Next time you’re interested in pitching a blogger, try reading their blog and leaving a comment – not as the brand you represent, but as yourself (no pitching in this initial outreach).  A pitch later on may be more likely to catch a blogger’s attention if they recognize your name. Plus, when your pitch says you enjoy reading my blog, I know you’re being honest.

4) Provide advance notice. If you’re pitching an event or have a specific timeline for when you need coverage, don’t wait until the week of. Many bloggers plan their posts in advance. A blogger may make an exception if they have a previous relationship with you (see tip 3), or it’s such an incredible opportunity from a major player in their niche.

However, there is not always time to squeeze in a last minute post. Even if you don’t have all of the details ready for a blog post, pitch the basics with a heads up of when you’re looking for a post. Then ask if the blogger would like the rest of the specifics once they’re finalized.

5) Be clear, but realistic in your ask. If you expect a certain level of commitment from a blogger, communicate that in your conversation, but plan some flexibility to accommodate different bloggers’ availability. For instance, I may not be able to schedule two posts, but I could commit to one post and more social media pushes.

Consider the blogger’s short and long-term value and then decide what you’re ok with in return for the compensation you’re offering.

6) Think beyond the blogger. Know the blog’s audience. Always consider who will be reading a blog post and be careful about overlapping audiences. Don’t oversaturate a particular niche all at once.

Try identifying bloggers from a few different niches that are relevant to your pitch. For instance, a store opening could be pitched to fashion bloggers, local event blogs, lifestyle/personal bloggers, and mom or dad bloggers. Just remember to tailor the angle of your pitch to each individual’s interests. While there may be some overlap, each niche has its own unique audience.

Or spread your campaign over a longer period of time. After you determine the influence level of your target blogs, reach out to a group of high-value influencers, then stagger your outreach to your second and third groups.

Remember that the value of a blogger is not just how large their audience is, but also the relevancy to your brand and how likely it is that they’ll blog about you. A blogger with a smaller audience who is passionate about your brand may be better than a blogger with a massive audience who is not quite the right fit.

7) Be prepared. Be helpful. Short and sweet pitches are fantastic. However, after the pitch, the more resources you have prepared, the better.

When it comes to multimedia, think beyond your brand’s logo; have product shots, event photos, relevant infographics, or embeddable video ready. Similarly, be prepared with hashtags, social media handles, examples of tweets and other social media messaging. Don’t attach everything to your pitch, but offer its availability.

8) The relationship doesn’t stop at the blog post. How a brand interacts after the blog post could help or hurt future outreach just as much as the initial pitch does. A short email thanking the blogger is nice, as is sharing their post (and other posts) on your social media channels.

You don’t need to overwhelm bloggers with a lot of attention; however, the occasional retweet from a brand has helped keep them on my mind months after I blogged about them. Conversely, I try to extend the same courtesy by thanking the brand rep or retweeting their content.

Bonus: An example of good blogger relations.

There are a lot of bad pitches shared online. Instead, here’s an example of blogger relations that left this blogger smiling:

The Katz Club Diner recently opened in Cleveland and is in the process of developing a local coffee program. To build awareness, Emily Richardson of The Katz Club decided to host a blogger meet-up.

Although she had a few dates in mind for a coffee-tasting, her initial pitch was a simple introduction asking bloggers for feedback on what time of day was most convenient to them.

What she learned is that many bloggers were unavailable at a time the restaurant had been considering. Instead of planning an event and then learning no one could attend, Richardson maximized event attendance by engaging with influencers.

By seeking input, being flexible, and giving plenty of advance notice, she demonstrated The Katz Club Diner was honestly interested in what bloggers thought and wanted to work with them.

They were dedicated to building a relationship, which is at the core of all media relations. In turn, I want to build one with them.

Want to improve your pitching?  Hone your pitches and streamline your workflow with Agility, the PR Newswire platform that enables you to target and engage with journalists and bloggers. 

Amanda Hicken is a media relations manager at PR Newswire. You can find her online @ADHicken.

7 Essential Business Practices for Growing Entrepreneurs

Photo via Susan Ng

Photo via Susan Ng

According to the 2013 State of Women-Owned Businesses report, more than 8.6 million U.S. women-owned businesses account for nearly 7.8 million jobs and over $1.3 trillion in revenue. Despite the tremendous opportunities created by women entrepreneurs, there is still doubt over the impact that female leaders are capable of.  “When women start businesses, the term ‘small business’ is automatically applied,” says Peggy Wallace, managing director at Golden Seeds. The first annual WomanCon event held last week in New York City addressed these challenges with real-life lessons from established women entrepreneurs. The presentations covered a range of topics including how to start a business, pitching the media, raising funds, building stronger brands, and balancing work and family life.

Identify your competitors

Growing entrepreneurs may find it hard to admit that their business concepts are not entirely unique. “Anything you can think of has been thought of by at least 5 other people in the world” says Yao Huang, founder of The Hatchery, “Ideas are useless, execution is key.” Compare your business model with competitors and identify your competitive advantage. Think about what you do that is more effective or cost efficient.

Customize your pitch to the media

“Pitches aren’t one size fits all,” advises JJ Ramberg, host of MSNBC’s It’s Your Business and founder of Goodsearch, “Think about your audience and who you are pitching to.” Find out what reporters are interested in and tip specifically to them. Colleen Debaise, director of digital media at the StoryExchange suggests that writers are typically “drawn to the challenges of building your business and how you overcame them.” However, Christine Lagorio, senior writer at, adds that business owners should remember that some journalists write features while others create product guides.

Find investors by networking with friends and family

“The human capital network is priceless no matter where you are in the change of development” says Kay Koplovitz, CEO, Koplovitz & Co. and founder of USA Network. Seeking out friends and family to raise money for your venture puts less pressure on how you choose to manage your business. Be sure to formalize the agreement in writing and do not take out debt unless you can pay it back.

Define a powerful brand promise

BrandTwist founder Julie Cottineau believes that entrepreneurs often neglect their most valuable business asset, which is the brand itself. “Brands are a consistent promise you deliver that makes people loyal” she says, “If you don’t have a promise, you are leaving potential revenue behind.”  This promise defines what the fundamental role and purpose of your business is and how you are able to empower your customers.

Hire based on personality

Your employees are essentially your brand ambassadors and should be hired not only based on experience, but also on how they embody your company’s culture. “Hire for personality, not skills,” recommends Ms. Ramberg, “Skills can be taught, perseverance and ambition cannot.”

Make business decisions based on customer needs

“Every business decision you make needs to benefit the customer in some way” says Janine Popick, CEO and founder of VerticalResponse. Business partnerships may not always be successful. Do what is best for your clients, even if it means dissolving a partnership.

Be flexible between business and personal life

“One thing that is important for me to realize is that not every family looks like mine,” says Pamela O’Hara, co-founder of Batchbook Software. Ms. O’Hara requires each of her employees to take a 5-week vacation to ensure that there is a proper balance between business and personal life. Implementing policies that recognize family diversity can create a healthier and happier environment for employees.

The presentations at WomanCon 2013 highlighted a shifting paradigm in the way businesses are established and maintained.  Today’s age of big data means that aspiring entrepreneurs have more opportunity to focus their brands and build stronger relationships with stakeholders based on greater access to competitive research. New communication technologies like social media allow for open dialogue between business-owners, clients, employees, investors, and the media. Therefore, it is imperative to create promises with each stakeholder and follow through in order to establish loyalty.  With an astounding 59% rise in women-owned businesses over the last 16 years, it is clear that female entrepreneurs will continue to break barriers.

PR Newswire tools such as Agility and iReach can help rising entrepreneurs target the media and creating engaging content to propel brands forward at an affordable cost.  Visit to learn more.

Author Shannon Ramlochan is a proud Brooklyn native, a pop culture enthusiast, and a member of PR Newswire’s marketing team.


Pitching the Media: It’s not what it used to be

Life was so simple back when I was a reporter all those years ago. A pen, pad and a mic were all I needed to report the news of the day.

There were really only two ways someone could pitch a story idea to me for the television station I worked for.

Calling the newsroom was by far the most popular pitching method. My assignment editor was the gatekeeper of all incoming calls.  Amazing guy. He could juggle the phone lines, monitor the police scanner and fax machine all to the steady hum of news alerts spewing from the AP printer in the background. You had to get pass him before you could get to me.

If you couldn’t get through by phone, PR folks simply dropped their release in the mail.  That’s right, good ole snail mail!  A batch of releases and letters were neatly stacked on a designated corner of my assignment editor’s desk waiting to be weeded through daily.

It’s a lot different today. We have email and social media to thank for that. PR folks have a multitude of new tools they can now use to deliver their message to the media.

But some pitching rules hold fast.

“Know what the reporter is looking for,” says JJ Ramberg, host of MSNBC’s Your Business. This is #1 on every journalist’s list I’ve come across as a media relations manager with PR Newswire so let’s start there.

  • Do your research: A journalists can tell right away how much you know about their publication or show. JJ says the tip off for her is when people pitch companies.

“We don’t profile companies or people. We feature lessons in small business. That’s what PR folks should pitch to my show.”  Make a good first impression by learning what the media point specifically covers; who their audience is and the various platforms they report on.

  • Personalize your pitch:  A canned pitch is not an effective pitch. Target your pitch to appeal to the media org’s readers/viewers. Be flexible and willing to change your strategy to fit the needs of the publication you’re pitching. Your objective may be to get coverage of an event, but the publication may be interested in another angle of the story. Be open to switching it up to accommodate the journalist.
  • Keep it simple:  Stay away from industry jargon.  “Journalists are not venture capitalists. Our eyes roll when we hear words like “synergy” or “next-generation” or other management-speak buzzwords,” says Colleen DeBaise, former special projects director of and current digital media director at The Story Exchange.  Colorful words don’t make the story more attractive. In fact, it can be a total turn-off.
  • Be available:  Remember, you are on their time. Though you may not grab their attention at first, they may need you later down the road. And when that happens,  be ready.  When they call, answer. Whatever they need, get it. Believe me, they will be forever grateful that you helped them out at crunch time.

The art of pitching the media is forever evolving and changing depending on the nature of your story and the type of media you’re pitching. This Wednesday, I will be moderating a “Pitch the Media Live” panel at the Woman Entrepreneurs Conference in NY. Attendees will have the opportunity to pitch a panel of journalists on the spot and get their honest feedback.  Here are the conference details, agenda and the place you can register.

Work smarter!  Hone your pitches and streamline your workflow with Agility, the PR Newswire platform that enables you to target, monitor and engage with traditional and social media, all in one place.

Author Brett Savage-Simon is a senior manager of media relations for PR Newswire. 

Media Moves and News for September

MEDIAware, PR Newswire’s Audience Research Department newsletter, features recent media news and job changes in the industry. Here is a sampling of this month’s edition:

Newsweek Magazine owner IAC has sold the magazine to the International Business Times. According to the Daily Beast, the International Business Times is a global news publication founded by Etienne Uzac and Jonathan Davis in 2006. Newsweek was originally sold by the Washington Post Company to philanthropist Sidney Harman in 2010, and then merged with The Daily Beast in November of 2010; ultimately leading to a shared ownership between Harman and The Daily Beast owner IAC. The short joint venture ended in 2012 when the Harman family decided to sell their investment in the company shortly after the death of Harman. Newsweek will part ways with The Daily Beast once the sale is complete, and continue to operate as a digital publication.

CBS and Time Warner Cable reached an agreement on the retransmission contract, which had ended in June. The two conglomerates had been at a stalemate causing several CBS affiliates to lose content. More than a dozen stations were blacked out during the dispute. The Federal Communications Commission was poised to step in but did not have to in the end. Read more details at:

Patch ( is planning to shutdown 300 of its 900 local news sites. AOL, the parent company of Patch, is trimming the 300 that are not creating enough revenue. Each “Patch” ( provides news and information for a localized area. They are hoping to sell some of the sites or partner with another company to cover costs in producing the Patch sites in some areas of the country.

A recent study by two business school professors (Feng Zhu of Harvard Business School and Robert Seamans of New York University) showed that craigslist, the online local classified website took a big bite out of newspaper advertising. They state that consumers saved over $5 billion by using craigslist ( from 2000-2007 instead of the local newspaper. This study puts craigslist at the top of the list as another contributing factor in the decline in newspaper revenues. Here’s more information from the study:

HD radio set numbers are up: Ibiquity the company behind HD Radio ( projects over five million HD radios will enter the market this year up from three million previously. Car manufacturers are the impetus in this growth by including HD Radio in their model offerings this year.

The Toronto Star ( has put up a paywall. Canada’s largest daily newspaper gives you 10 free stories per month but after that it will cost about five Canadian dollars a month. If you already subscribe to the newspaper digital access is included for free.

BH Media Group, a subsidiary of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Company, acquired The Press of Atlantic City ( and named Matt Blum ( Publisher. Previously Blum was the Publisher of the Morning News in Florence, S.C. and is not new to The Press. From 1989 to 1993 Blum was the papers’ Controller.  BH Media currently owns 30 daily newspapers and weeklies in Virginia, the Carolinas, Florida, Iowa, Texas, Nebraska and New Jersey.

Meredith Corporation ( supports the list of broadcasters approving the TVB analysis who provide local live + same day ratings:

ABC ( owned stations are to lay off 175 employees within the Disney/ABC Television Group as part of restructuring operations:,0,4888715.story

You can view the entire September Issue of MEDIAware here:… and the Regional Changes here:

You can also follow all of the latest media moves and news from PR Newswire’s Audience Research Department on Twitter at:

The Future of Media Relations: Changing Audience Behavior

martinet quoteSocial media has created the unprecedented ability to form direct brand-to-consumer relationships and share news in real-time. Its influence is so powerful that just last month, Yahoo! announced a groundbreaking new partnership with Twitter that would integrate the site’s social media feed as a news source. This rapid shift in relevance from print to online content puts the future of media relations into question. Stacy Martinet (@stacymartinet) Chief Marketing Officer at, joined Business Development Institute and PR Newswire in a roundtable discussion to share her insight on the latest trends in content marketing and the future of media relations.

According to Martinet, most of todays’ content marketing is concentrated online. With a new emphasis on storytelling, PR and marketing are no longer disjointed industries. In fact, Martinet predicts that PR specialists will soon be held more accountable for metrics. However, the number of ‘likes’ or ‘followers’ on social media is simply not enough to accurately measure ROI or KPI.

“In media relations, ROI is more about asking, ‘have you changed the behavior of the customer?’ ” says Martinet.

Producing customized content is one of the ways to change customer attitudes. mr works with brands on building a “custom mission” or goal that embodies the brand’s culture. It is crucial to manage a product content portfolio to sustain a positive brand image with customers.

“Corporate websites are more important than ever,” Martinet says. “Images, info graphics and other rich media are a must.” More importantly, the sites must provide an immediacy of information in order to build trust. Martinet suggests that content be delivered via stream. It should be clear what the stream is about and updated on a regular basis.

Traditional journalism still matters

With the current emphasis of online content marketing, what does this mean for the future of journalism? Now that news is breaking faster on Twitter than other sources, the future of “exclusives” appears to be grim. Although they can offer behind-the-scenes opportunities, “To me, exclusives are the end of an era. [They] tend to only matter to journalists or news outlets” Martinet admits. She also emphasizes that fact-checking is still more important than breaking the news first.

Martinet says that although technology is changing, “Remember, the mainstream media still matters so that’s still a huge get!” Using social media tools in conjunction with mainstream media can provide insight on branding, audience development and purchasing.  Sites like Twitter can also identify consumer influencers who may not be journalists, such as users with a massive number of followers.

Updating your media outreach tactics

Martinet offers a few tips for media outreach today:

  • Even though Facebook is among the most popular social networking sites, journalists rely on Twitter for sourcing.
  • Email is still an effective way to communicate with journalists.
  • Be sure to get straight to the point, offer exclusive content and provide visuals and screen shots when possible.
  • Remember that anything you write can be posted; it is important to explicitly state if none of the information should be shared on social networks.

Martinet believes that mobile technology will lead the new wave of media relations. She says, “In many countries mobile consumption bypasses desktop usage, but the products and platforms currently available are lagging in a changing business model.” Therefore, investing in advanced mobile technology and content streaming is vital to prepare for the future of content marketing and media relations.

Despite the shifts in media relations from print to online technologies, the core approach remains unchanged. As Martinet says, “We still must develop and create a compelling message as always. We just have several tools now to use.”  Conveying meaning through powerful words and images should always be the main focus of a PR or marketing campaign. Strategically pairing a captivating message with technological elements will resonate with audiences and be the driving force for a successful media relations campaign.

Co-authored by PR Newswire’s  Shannon Ramlochan, marketing, and Brett Simon, media relations & audience development. 

Dealing With Negative Comments on a Company’s Social Media Accounts

The Q&A Team answers questions from ProfNet readers with advice from our large network of experts. Has there been a question burning in your mind lately, something you’ve been wondering that none of your colleagues can answer? Please send it to

Dear Q&A Team,

A couple of weeks ago I was assigned to manage my company’s social media accounts. I started noticing negative comments being left on our different accounts, and I am not sure if I should delete/block or respond to these comments. What is the best and most professional way from me to deal with these attacks?

Lost in SM World


Dear Lost in SM World,

Congrats on your challenging but exciting new role! Here are seven ProfNet experts who provide their insight on managing negative commentary on a company’s social media accounts:

Define the Attack

“First, define who is attacking you, because it might not be worth your time to pursue,” says Penny Sansevieri, president/CEO of Author Marketing Experts, Inc.  “It’s important to know the difference between an online attack and a difference of opinion. We’ve worked with authors who have gotten bad reviews and wanted them pulled. A bad review is not an online attack — it’s someone’s opinion of your product or book. They didn’t like it and it’s their right to voice that.”

Therefore, “if the negative comments are constructive and have merit, it’s critical to respond in a respectful, conversational and non-defensive way. Explain in a fact-based manner the brand’s position,” says Lisa Gerber, president of Big Leap Creative.

In addition, there can be times where the comment may be a customer service issue rather than a blatant negative comment that is delivered via social media and seems aggressive in nature.

“How you respond, and who should respond, should be known in advance throughout the organization,” explains Chris Dessi, CEO and founder of Silverback Social. For example, he says, “Is there a customer service email you can refer people to? A customer service phone number?”

Responding to a Negative Attack

Wikipedia defines a troll as “someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as a forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional responseor otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.

Now that we know the “official” name of the individuals who attack, how do you deal with the attacks?

Peter LaMotte, senior vice president of LEVICK, says, “Your message needs to be clear and firm, and must communicate the company’s pre-determined position. If a firm is clear with their communication and stance, there is little more to add unless the conversation takes a new direction. A clear statement can also avoid time-consuming back-and-forth arguments.”

“The company should always be honest about how they are dealing with the issue,” added LaMotte. “If they legally can address the issue, they should never be anything less than transparent. Transparency shows that you have nothing to hide, so anything less than full transparency will exacerbate the issue. Finally, use your platforms to focus on the positive aspects of the issue. If steps are being taken to address the issue, use your blog to tell the story and then share that content across all of your social media platforms.”

Sansevieri  agrees: “Communicate on your blog, on Twitter, and on Facebook. Don’t stop talking. That’s the first thing many big companies want to do: go silent. Silence is not golden. Be communicative.”

Some issues should be handled outside of social media, says Bill Corbett, president of Corbett PR. “Major concerns should be taken offline for discussions and communications with customers with issues.”

Sansevieri says, emailing the person and having a dialogue may be the last thing you want to do, but “step back and realize that going directly to the source could fix this much faster.”

As far as how quickly you should respond to the attack, Dessi recommends responding “as quickly as humanly possible. Really. No matter what, you must respond quickly. The faster you respond (even if you don’t have a solution for someone), the better. We like to at least say to people: ‘We hear you. Thank you for posting. We’re working on getting you an answer.’”

When to Delete/Ignore an Attack

Complaints that are not respectful or not understandable may be subject to no answer or deletion; blocking of the individual; or other actions, says Corbett.

Specifically, “if there is any inclusion of personal attacks or personal information of employees or stakeholders, the company has the right to delete the comment,” says LaMotte.

Sansevieri shared a case where an individual had to be blocked from Twitter. “A few years ago, one of my Twitter followers asked me to market him for free (no kidding). When I didn’t, he started attacking me on Twitter. We reported him to Twitter and he was shut down, but that’s the extent of what we did. Now he continues to start up new Twitter accounts and tries to follow us, but he is always blocked.”

However, if a comment is deleted, you need to have something to fall back on and explain the reason for deletion, says Gerber. “This is where a social media policy is very important. In your policy you can state that comments that are disrespectful or contain profanity will be deleted. This policy should be posted online somewhere and available to all community members,” he explains.

*See Huffington Post’s comment policy: by Tim McDonald, community manager of HuffPost Live. You can also read his insight on dealing with trolls here:

A Positive Side to the Attack

“Sometimes, ‘negative’ comments are a good thing, and can be an opportunity for your brand’s customer service to shine and to solve a problem in front of your social media fans,” says Dessi. “I’ve done this for large retailers and it’s always a huge hit.”

In addition, if you’re doing your job well, your brand advocates will also come to your rescue, says Gerber.

Dessi agrees, saying “it’s always better when the community polices this type of activity. The best way to encourage this behavior is to give back to your community, engage with your community, and generate genuine interest and affection for your brand/personality. When there is affection there will be defenders in your corner, always.”

As far as getting involved in the conversation while the community comes to your rescue, Gerber believes that “as a brand, you’ve said your piece. Now your brand advocates are participating. Your job is done.” If you would like to thank your brand advocates for the supportive behavior, “you can message them privately thanking them.”

Managing Across Different Social Media Accounts

Handling negative comments for difference social networks requires different responses, says Dessi. “I like to say that they are the same language, but different dialects. Also, certain social platforms allow for different types of responses to complaints from the community. Recently, there was a long Facebook post response from the president of Carnival Cruise Lines speaking about a ship that has been stranded at sea. He couldn’t offer that depth on Twitter, nor would it be appropriate.”

“Twitter responses should be more immediate,” adds Corbett. “Facebook responses should be well thought-out and provide more information or ask questions.” He adds that tweets have a shorter life span than Facebook and other posts. “In many instances, a response alone is enough to solve and issue.”

Yet, the fundamentals of communications remain the same, said Gerber. “Don’t get defensive, never be angry, and end the conversation if you are going to agree to disagree. The tools simply dictate a change in tactics, but not in strategy.”

Do’s and Don’ts

Dan Grody, partner of Tellem Grody PR, provides some helpful do’s and don’ts for managing negative comments.


  • Remember that everything will be ok.
  • Respond to negative comments.
  • Take screenshot threads that demonstrate resolution and keep them on file. You will always be able to show your social media team examples of handling negative comments.
  • Direct conversations offline to address matters privately, if situation is not      easily resolved.


  • Don’t delete the comments (unless offensive, derogatory, etc.).
  • Don’t stress.
  • Don’t get defensive.

LaMotte adds to the list with a few more do’s:

  • Engage in the conversation where the conversation is already taking place, don’t try and create your own soapbox.
  • Use a single voice of the firm. Don’t allow any employee to engage on your behalf on their own accord.
  • Be a human being; don’t come across like a robot or party-line recording.
  • Be honest about mistakes or missteps. Don’t forget to address your next steps or solutions.

I hope this provides you with the information you need to effectively and successfully manage the trolls and different negative comments you receive on your company’s social media accounts. Good luck!

- The Q&A Team

Written by Polina Opelbaum, editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources.  The Q&A Team is published biweekly on ProfNet Connect, a free social networking site for communicators. To read more from Polina, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.

image via Flickr user cambodia4kidsorg

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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Media News & Moves for May

MEDIAware, PR Newswire’s Audience Research Department newsletter, features recent media news and job changes in the industry. Here is a sampling of this month’s edition:

Fort Lauderdale’s South Florida Sun Sentinel ( won the prestitgious 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for its outstanding series “Above the Law: Speeding Cops”.  The series led to numerous police officers being suspended and one who got fired for his excessive abuse of speed. Investigative Reporter Sally Kestin, Investigative Editor John Dahlburg and Database Editor John Maines were part of an entire team at the Sun Sentinel that worked on this series. You can read the winning series here:

The Denver Post ( won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News with its coverage of the Aurora Movie Theater mass shooting last year.  The Pulitzer cited the Post’s use of social media, video and the written word in their winning coverage of the story. You can check out their winning coverage here:

The Alcohol Professor ( is a new blog about liquor, spirits & ale. It was started by beverage connoisseur Adam Levy ( who also founded the New York International Beverage Competitions. The sites main contact is Senior Editor-in-Chief Amanda Schuster (

Minneapolis’ Star Tribune ( won two 2013 Pulitzer Prizes for Local News and Ediorial Cartooning. Glenn Howatt, Brad Schrade and Jeremy Olson won the Local News Pulitzer for their work on a series about the rise in infant deaths at Minnesota day-care centers. You can read that series here: And Steve Sack won the Editorial Cartooning award. You can view a bunch of his great political cartoons here:

Columnist Daniel Ruth and Editorial Editor Tim Nickens won the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing for the Tampa Bay Times ( Their op-ed pieces and columns were a campaign that helped reverse a decision to take fluoridation out of the water system in the area. You can check out pieces of their work here:

The New York Times has made its own crossover as for the first time ever, they have published an article in Spanish. “A Drug War Informer in No Man’s Land” will go down in NYT history.
You can read it in Spanish here: or in English here: 

Representing The New York Times in the category of Investigative Journalism, David Barstow ( and Alejandra Xanic von Bertrab were selected as Pulitzer Prize winners for their year and a half long project which centered on Walmart’s interests in Mexico. The journalists investigated the Multinational Retail Corporation’s use of coercion as a means to gain a competitive advantage in Mexico. Eventually, the exposé led to an investigation by the Justice Department into whether Walmart violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

A series of 10 articles which covered the business practices of Apple and other technology companies, won a group of journalists at The New York Times a Pulitzer Prize in the category of Explanatory Journalism. The series focused on the question of whether or not the United States could be considered a lucrative place for innovators to manufacture new products. Apple’s choice to employ cheaper manufacturers in China, passing over the opportunity to invest in the United States’ turbulent job market, was one example used in the series. The reporters included Keith Bradsher (, David Barboza (, Charles Duhigg (, David Kocieniewski (, Steve Lohr (, John Markoff (, David Segal, David Streitfeld (, Hiroko Tabuchi (, and Bill Vlasic (

The Pulitzer Prize in the category of International Reporting was given to David Barboza (, Shanghai Bureau Chief of The New York Times. Barboza composed a series of articles that focused on the overwhelming wealth which many of China’s top leaders have kept in hiding. According to Barboza, over the span of a year he “pieced together hundreds of names and a web of connections among more than 100 companies found in China’s official financial records.”

Sports Reporter for The New York Times John Branch ( was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in the category of Feature Writing. Branch composed an article entitled “Snow Fall: the avalanche at Tunnel Creek,” about a fatal avalanche in the Washington Cascades. Branch combined text, online video and graphics to vividly illustrate what took place.

The Pilot newspaper in Southern Pines, N.C. is launching yet another magazine. It already publishes PineStraw and O. Henry. Now it adds Salt magazine to its line-up of cultural publications. As with the other magazines, Jim Dodson will head up Salt as Editor. The free, monthly magazine is scheduled to launch later this month with a distribution of 18,000.

Following up on a Charlotte, N.C. story previously reported on in MEDIAware, the FCC gave final approval on the sale of WYMT-TV and WJYZ-TV to Fox Television. With the ruling, the stations were free to hire more personnel. Lynda Grahl was chosen as VP of Finance and Jay Abbattista was added as VP of Sales. Both report to the previously hired GM Karen Adams. As a result of this purchase by Fox, another local Charlotte station, WCCB-TV, will switch affiliations from Fox to the CW this summer.

There have been two personnel changes at the Cooking Channel and Food Network. VP of Digital for Emerging Brands Mark Levine ( has been promoted to VP of Programming and Multiplatform. And new to the stations is Todd Weiser, who was hired as VP of Programming and Development. He arrives from Animal Planet, where he was previously Director of Development.

After 21 years in print, The Rhinocerous Times ( is now an endangered species. The publication originally had two editions: Greensboro and Charlotte. It folded the Charlotte edition back in 2008. Now with a growing debt, the Greensboro edition is closing as well. The website will remain but for how long is not known.

Culture Critic Philip Kendicott of The Washington Post won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. In one of the articles submitted for the award Philip examined the use of controversial photographs in the media. You can read the piece here:

Aereo ( been hit with a copyright lawsuit by almost every major network trying to prevent Aereo from creating a free streaming of their content. This is something to keep an eye on, as it can change the way networks will distribute its content if Aereo wins the case.

KSL-TV, the Salt Lake City NBC affiliate, has announced on its Facebook page as well as its website that it will no longer air episodes of the network series “Hannibal.” This decision was made due to the extensive graphic nature of this show. The time slot will be replaced with a special edition of KSL 5 News at 9 pm. “Hannibal” is a TV show about serial killer Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a literary character created by author Thomas Harris and initially made famous by the movie “The Silence of the Lambs.”

KMOV-TV in St.Louis won the 2012 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award. Craig Cheatham and Jim Thomas won in the category of “Ware Zone: The Destruction of an All-American City.” Read more at

Mike Herrera, Long-time New Orleans broadcaster, passed on April 6 at the age of 66. Herrera who for the last five years served as an engineer at WWL-TV previously worked as a staff announcer, Weathercaster and Producer/Director at WVUE-TV for more than four decades.

William Glaberson says farewell to The New York Times. His 25-year career at the newspaper came to a halt on April 26th. He most recently served as Court Reporter, throughout these 25 years he covered Guantanamo Bay and the Crown-Heights trail.

Highly respected Chicago Sun-Times Movie Critic Roger Ebert has passed away. Over the course of his expansive career, Ebert hosted various television programs such as “Sneak Previews”, “At the Movies with Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert”, “Siskel and Ebert and The Movies”, alongside Gene Siskel, and the series “Ebert & Roeper & the Movies”. He also produced his most recent show, “Ebert Presents: At the Movies”. Ebert was an author of more than 20 books and won a Pulitzer Prize for Criticism.

Nils Larsen has stepped down as CEO at the Tribune Company. He managed Tribune local stations, WGN America and WGN Radio. Jonathan Wax has been named Senior Vice President of scripted programming for WGN America. Wax currently serves as Vice President of drama development at Twentieth Century Fox, Inc.

Edible Milwaukee, a new magazine set to launch its May issue, will focus on the production, distribution and consumption of food in the greater Milwaukee area. The magazine reaches out to the local and regional food consumers and buyers who are zealous about food quality. Jen Ede will serve as Publisher and Editor for the quarterly. You may reach her at or

You can view the whole May issue of MEDIAware here:

And all of the Regional Updates here:

You can also follow all of the latest media moves and news from PR Newswire’s Audience Research Department on Twitter at:

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. 

Casting a Story: How Journalists Select Subject Matter Experts

If sourcing a story is like casting a movie, experts are like celebrities. They can impart gravity and credibility and eloquence that the facts can’t on their own. They can boost ticket sales.

But finding the right expert is easier said than done. Subject-matter experts, like celebrities, don’t pick up the phone for everyone. But good reporters know when and how to work the phones and email to put top sources in their stories.

How do they do it? To find out, we recruited reporter Bob Van Voris, a legal reporter for Bloomberg News.

Bob Van Voris of Bloomberg News and John Hazard of Contently

Van Voris, a former practicing attorney, was the featured speaker at a freelancer meetup we co-hosted with Contently. He shared his advice on and experience with finding sources, vetting their expertise, identifying the ones that will give you great quotes, and more. It was a great event, and Van Voris was generous with his time and experience.

Here is a recap of some of his insight and advice. A tip of the hat to Contently’s John Hazard, who did a great job moderating the discussion.

What was the source that was farthest afield from what you were covering?

What I was at the National Law Journal, I was covering a story about a lawyer in California who developed a practice specializing on litigation involving penile augmentation gone wrong. My editor suggested I contact a mohel.  So I did, and I awkwardly asked him what happens when there’s a mistake. Needless to say, he really didn’t want to talk about it. I went back and convinced my editor that the story didn’t really need a mohel.

But when you’re writing about something that’s complicated and you need to explain it to readers, you don’t want it to sound like a seminar. If it’s dry, you need people who can make it understandable. You need to give readers something a little fun, a little compelling.

How do you identify someone who will give you a great quote?

It’s definitely trial and error. First, start with a pool of people to choose from. You can find them through ProfNet, or on the lists of people who attend conferences on the topic. Talk to a few of them and see how is good at expressing the point in a way that will appeal to readers. You have to put in the time and talk to people.

Of course, sometimes you don’t have that luxury and you have to talk to a specific person. If you aren’t getting what you need, don’t be afraid to bring them to the same point two or three times. Ask them, “How would I tell this to my mom?” to get them to simplify. Sometimes, by the second or third time through, they’ll be a lot looser and will give you a better quote.

There will be conversations that will go nowhere, but those can still be useful because you can learn about the topic, especially if it’s something you’re not too familiar with.

What about using other reporters, like at niche publications, as sources?

Members of the local press are good sources for background; trade magazine reporters are too. They know the gossip, and they like to talk about what they know. They like to talk.

How do deadlines affect this “audition” process? I would imagine you have very tight deadlines at Bloomberg.

I often have three bylined pieces a day, so I don’t have a lot of time for those. But for my second-day stories, I find ProfNet to be a good tool. I’ll put out a query in the morning, and when I’m ready to start in the afternoon, I have several emails waiting.

What do you do when you hit the source “wall” and you don’t know whom to contact?

I recently had to get sources quickly for a story covering a gay-marriage case in the Second Circuit. It’s not ideal, but I’ll look at who has been quoted in the Times that I can contact quickly.

How do you then make sure you get something unique?

You try to get them off their talking points. Anyone on a wire deadline will have two or three go-to people. You’re not going to have a really deep interview with them. The interview will be two minutes long, and you’ll get a good quote, but those people tend to get over-represented. That is a really good reason to go on ProfNet, go on Google, call two or three new people — so you’re not getting the same people.

On a short deadline, the important thing is getting your call answered or getting a call back in two minutes. The source who is new to you today might be a regular source down the road.

How do you vet the experts who’ve responded to your query?

If I’m on deadline, it’s pretty ruthless. If I get 20 emails, I can kind of sort through them just by their responses. You don’t want people who have been in every newspaper or program.

You can check their education, what kind of committees they’re on, their résumé, if they’ve written about the topic. You can’t spend hours on it, but you need to do it. Sometimes I do it while I’m on the phone with the source.

I don’t want to sound like a commercial (and they didn’t ask me to say this), but I like ProfNet because the people are motivated and they know how it works. Responses usually come from PR people. You can tell them, “Here’s my story. Make sure the expert really fits. Give me an idea of what they have to say.”

My biggest fear is, I don’t want to be played; I don’t want to look like an idiot. Anytime you have a new source, you need to question them about their position, but you also have to use your instincts.

Have you ever been played?

Yeah, sure. Back when the AGs were suing tobacco companies, there was one guy who would spin you aggressively and would tell you things that would make you look dumb. When that happens, or when someone lies to you, you freeze them out.

Do you ever have trouble getting someone to talk?

You’d be surprised what people talk about. If you ask a question, people will usually help you out. I’ve always been shy, and I was nervous about talking to people in the beginning, but people like to share their knowledge. They do have a vested interest in getting publicity, too, but people also like to get their knowledge out.

How do you balance getting a story out quickly vs. doing the best story possible?

Everybody is a wire service now. The good thing is, you can always update. You can get the story out now and then add depth later.

Who decides, you or your editors?

It’s a mix of both. I have to be satisfied with my story, but sometimes my editors will say, “We need another voice.”

Do you ever give experts quote approval?

I always let them see the quote, but I’ll never let them change it or take it back. But it’s not an adversarial relationship. You don’t want to make them look bad.

Sometimes they do try to edit the quote. What I’ll do is say, “OK, let’s talk about this a little more,” and I might get a better quote.

I do sometimes run paraphrases by them if it’s not something I fully understand, but always by phone. And I never show them the story – just the quote.

Do you get quotes by email?

Yes, but it’s not going to be the freshest quote. It’s going to be labored. If I do use a quote I got by email, I will mention it in the story for the readers. I think it’s kind of dishonest not to tell them.

ProfNet, a service of PR Newswire, connects PR professionals with journalists and writers in need of subject-matter experts.  Each month, ProfNet users are quoted in hundreds of media outlets, ranging from major newspapers like the Wall Street Journal and New York Times to trade magazines like Risk Management and QSR magazine.  Users receive queries about potential story opportunities daily, and can manage the type and volume of queries received.  Want to know more? Get a quote or request a free trial at: