Tag Archives: campaign management

An Emerging PR Trend: Content PR Strategy & Tactics

Content PR.  You’ve probably seen this phrase bouncing around the blogosphere recently, and no wonder, it’s an emerging PR trend for this year.  But what is content PR?  To discover the answer, we need to look to marketing first.

ContentPR-infographic-loResOver the last couple years, we’ve seen a significant change in marketing tactics, and the subsequent rise of inbound marketing.   Driven by generating interest rather than causing interruption, inbound marketing tactics, including content marketing, draw the audience to the brand, rather than pushing messaging out and hoping that someone pays attention.   Doing this requires a brand to be in tune with its audience, know what they’re talking about (and where the talking is occurring) and the creation of content that speaks to the audience’s interests.

The Genesis of Content PR

Within that last sentence you see the genesis of content PR.    More than any other department, public relations is dialed into the sentiments of their brand’s constituents.  And knowing where influence and conversations are to be found is PR’s stock in trade.  And finally, PR pros are an organization’s master storytellers.  In a word, they do content.

What is Content PR?

Content PR is the extension of content marketing principles applied to PR.  The core content marketing principles include:

  • Understanding audience interests,
  • Creation of relevant and compelling content
  • Deployment of that content in various formats and across different channels in order to reach audiences where they live

New strategy & tactics

In practice, content PR requires some shifts in the traditional PR mindset and tactics.

From episodic campaigns to ongoing presence.   It can be tough to get away from the traditional idea of a campaign.  But as we all know, audience interest isn’t dictated by campaigns.   While campaigns do a great job of building interest, opportunities are lost when brands don’t serve the organically occurring interest that develops when a person has a gift to buy, is researching charities related to a new cause, or is researching vendors or a project at work.   Content PR is crucial to developing a plugged-in brand presence that understands – and delivers – what constituents are seeking, and what they need to make related decisions.

Reflecting the audience point of view in messaging.   While there’s still a place for news announcements of record, savvy brands are changing their messaging to reflect the audience point of view.   Rather than simply issuing a message from the ivory tower to the masses, brands today are communicating in the context of their customers and other constituents, building audience values into their messaging.   A brand that’s launching new software, for example, might develop content supporting the launch around related customer challenges, bringing in expert advice about dealing with a particular issue, and work in details about the new software’s capability within that context.  So instead of “NewSoftware from XYZ Corp. Offers Improved System Performance,” the headline might read “5 Ways to Improve System Performance.”  And instead of a simple text press release, the content might include an array of elements, including an infographic, slides or a short video with an expert.

Measuring pull, not push.   While we’ve been talking about “push vs. pull” communications for years now, fully embracing a “pull” mentality is crucial for the successful practice of content PR – and measuring it.  How do you measure pull?   While metrics will vary for each organization, here are some ideas:

  • Search rank, and inbound search terms used to find brand content.  A dive into website analytics tremendously revealing.  A look at the search terms people used to find your web site shows you pretty clearly 1) the terms for which your content ranks in search engines and 2) the terms your audience is using to get to your web site.  If those terms don’t jibe with the larger PR strategy, a focused content PR effort can help.
  • Traffic to specific content – and the resulting activity. Measuring the visits to specific pages is one obvious measure.  But take it a step further, and look at what happens next.  Are people sharing the content published on social networks?  Are they clicking on the links embedded in the content and taking the next step (see Outcomes, below.)   Looking deeper into page traffic will reveal whether or not your audience is truly engaging with the content your brand has published.

Collaboration.  More than ever, integration with marketing is crucial if content PR is going to work.  Key challenges that collaboration will address include developing a consistent and coherent experience for your audiences.    It’s also important to realize that one piece of content can trigger a variety of outcomes, and brand need to have their ducks in a row to capture all of the potential results.  For example,  in addition to generating interest among media and bloggers,  the direct connection the audience has with the content brings with it the opportunity for the brand to move prospects ahead in the decision process.   PR and marketing should collaborate to ensure the content is accurately mapped to the customer decision process, and appropriate next steps are offered to readers. Designed to further inform – and qualify – your brand’s prospects, next steps can include access to more specific information (such as case studies), tips for doing something better and access to staff.

A hallmark of content marketing is creating content that can ultimately represent the brand’s voice and POV within the timelines of an individual person’s search for information or buying process.  Content PR shapes opinion contextually.  When coordinated with the brand’s marketing efforts, content PR shapes opinion generates lasting visibility and delivers measurable, top line business results.

Join us for the upcoming webinar on Wednesday, January 23, 2013:  Leveraging Converged Media’s Impact on Content Marketing

Additional resources:

White paper:  Maximizing Content Marketing – A 6 Step Plan for Agile Engagement

4 Ways to Attract Qualified Audience With Content

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of social media.   See her in person at the upcoming Online Marketing Summit in February, where she’s hosting a workshop on Driving Qualified Audiences Into the Funnel Using Rich Media and Distribution Networks.

PR Trends for 2013: Outcomes & Tactics

google trends prYesterday we discussed the evolving media environment, and some of the emerging PR trends that will impact our business in 2013.  Today, we’re going to drill down into more tactical PR trends, and discuss how the practice of PR is changing on a fundamental level.

Evolving outcomes

The outcomes expected of PR are evolving, and that’s where we’ll start today.   Traditionally, PR outcomes have been campaign based, and in many cases, have been measured fairly narrowly, in terms of media pick up and AVEs.  Tying PR output to the business bottom line has long been a challenge.   It’s a different story today, however, and it requires an expanded view of measurement across the enterprise.

“What we measure is part of the puzzle,” notes Deirdre Breakenridge, CEO of Pure Performance PR and author of Social Media and Public Relations: Eight New Practices for the PR Professional. “When we look at the metrics we capture, we have to be working with other business areas to gauge the full impact.  The pieces connect. We’re not in a silo.  We have to make correlations between the data and the outcomes.”

So what are some of the outcomes we’re seeing PR departments charged with delivering?

Reputation & mindshare:  In today’s connected business and social environments, PR is charged with developing reputation and generating lasting mindshare.

Example:  Today’s buyers (both consumer and B2B) conduct extensive research before contacting vendors. If a brand doesn’t have a good reputation, positive reviews and strong search and social visibility, it will be eliminated from consideration well before the prospect gets serious about buying.  Instead of building episodic awareness, the new imperative for PR is to develop ongoing brand visibility and a strong reputation.

Related reading:

Lead generation, web site traffic, conversion rates:  Yes, you’re still reading a post about public relations.  One of the strongest emerging trends is the requirement for PR to deliver hard, measurable business results, whether that’s measured in an increase in web site traffic, or leads generated.    Delivering results that hit the top line, while formerly the domain of marketing, is increasingly expected of PR departments, and to PR’s benefit (in my mind, at least.)   Information drives many purchasing decisions today, and it’s only natural that the department responsible for conveying much of an organization’s information plays a strong role in influencing customer decisions.   However, doing that requires PR to become much attuned to the audiences, and to develop messages within that context.

“We have to ask how we differentiate ourselves,” says Shana Harris, COO of the Warchawski Agency.  “What are our goals, and what are the audience’s pain points? We have to put ourselves in our target audience’s shoes, understand the target audience and understand the experience we want to create for them.”

Related reading:  Demand More from Your Press Releases

Practical tactics

It goes without saying that PR tactics are evolving in tandem with shifts in the media, information and attention markets.   Emerging trends that are gathering steam as we head into 2013 include:

  • “Content PR”:  You’ve undoubtedly heard of content marketing – the practice of deploying content designed to interest, educate and inform an audience, in order to attract them to the brand and to influence decisions in the brand’s favor.   Many of the tactics adopted by content marketers are pulled straight from PR’s playbook, but the way content marketers are using them should awaken PR pros to the opportunities in their midst.

Specifically, content marketers focus on developing content that serves the audience, answering their questions and giving them the information and education they are seeking.    Conversely, PR has traditionally spent a lot of its time crafting the message the brand wants the marketplace to hear.  “Content PR” is an emerging trend that combines PR’s access to influencers and its traditional role as the storytellers in chief for the organization with the audience-focused approach advocated by content marketers.    The most effective PR departments are evolving their message strategy, developing stories their respective marketplaces will eagerly devour (and like, post, tweet and share.)

Related reading: Content marketing case study: It sure looks like PR to me

Communicating visually:  We’ve been talking about multimedia here at PR Newswire for years: as previously discussed on this blog, we know empirically that press releases that include some sort of visual (image, infographic, video, etc.) generate better results than their plain-text brethren.  At this point, it’s probably safe to say that multimedia communications are less of a trend, and more of an imperative, for communicators today.  However, the mechanisms by which our audiences access, ingest and share the images, resources and video we publish continue to multiply.    Developing the ability and means to communicate key messages visually is an important skill required of today’s PR pros, and an investment required of PR departments.

Related reading: Press Releases With Multimedia Get Better Results

In just a few days, I’ll be celebrating my 18th year with PR Newswire.  While that is a staggering number and I’d be willing to argue that I can’t possibly be *that* old, this post caused me to reflect on all the changes I’ve seen during my tenure with “the Wire” (as we affectionately call it.)   PR is an infinitely interesting discipline, and the changes enumerated in my last couple posts underscore the simple fact that we are getting closer and closer to the intersection of information, interest and intent that is really the golden ring for communicators. Are you as excited about what’s in store for communicators in 2013 as I am?

Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of social media.

Want to dig deeper into the evolution of PR and trends to watch for in 2013? Access the archive of a recent webinar titled PR Prepping for the New Year: A Look at the Evolution of Modern PR & What It Means for You discussing the evolution of PR and trends for 2013.  Panelists included:

  • Deirdre Breakenridge (@dbreakenridge), CEO of Pure Performance Communications

PR Trends for 2013: Evolving Media & Social Business

What’s on tap for PR in 2013?  The answers we received when we asked PR pros to complete the sentence “PR is _____”  provided a harbinger of what the industry can expect in the coming year.

The answers were myriad and varied:  Mind share. Cross-channel conversation.  Content that adds value for readers.  Creating understanding in a complex world.  Engaging dialogue.  A connection between a company and its publics.

And all the answers were correct and point to an emerging reality – PR is getting a lot “bigger.”    The scope of the job is greater, the audiences more vast, the information marketplace is more fluid and the integration with other departments more crucial.

To gain a better angle on the trends for 2013, it’s also important to consider the underlying drivers of trends.

Social Business :   There’s no question that changes in the media environment has had an effect not just on PR departments, but on entire organizations.     Social media has changed customer expectations and introduced an age of radical transparency.  Smart organizations have recalibrated their entire enterprise to connect with, communicate to and serve their customers and prospects.   So what do these changes mean for PR?  A lot, it turns out, from a tactical standpoint.

  • Collaboration & integration:  Silo-busting has taken on a new urgency – it’s crucial for different departments to collaborate in order to deliver a cohesive message strategy and experience for customers across channels.   Social media, inbound and outbound marketing and print buys, for example, all have to work together and make sense.    Print media often drives online behavior, and brands need to plan for (and capture) those actions.
  • Listening & response:  Today’s transparent marketplace puts new pressure on businesses to respond quickly to queries  and comments from their constituents.  This requires communications departments to spool up their social listening efforts, and calibrate their processes (such as review and approval) to speed response.

Evolving media markets:  Journalistic model evolution:  The underlying business models of traditional media continue to evolve – the fact that Newsweek is going all digital in 2013 was probably the most dramatic example from 2012.   What does this mean for PR?  As journalistic models change and go digital, chances are excellent that the folks creating content for digital entities will change how they measure success. Instead of news stand sales, for example, digital metrics, such as the number of times a story was read, shared and commented on – will take precedence.  But the digital environment wages war every second for reader attention .  How can an organization succeed?  By consistently publishing unique, useful and interesting content. Therein is the opportunity for PR pros.

  • Digital media does a great job of serving niche interests, and while the audiences may be smaller, they are enthusiastic and informed.  Find unique story angles to share with tightly focused digital media for maximum visibility to your core audiences.
  • Just because something isn’t “hard news” in the traditional sense doesn’t mean that it won’t be of interest to your audience.  Content that will help your constituents and addresses their pain points plays very well.  Find your internal experts who can offer tips, tactics and advice to your readers.

Mutable social networks:   As we build our communications plans and strategies, it’s important to remember that social platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest have the right to change their service offerings, algorithms and terms of use – and they do.  For example, in November, Twitter ceased to render images from Instagram (owned by Facebook) within its news feed, in order to give images generated by using its own suite of photo filters more visibility to Twitter  users.   Organizations that had created rich content on Instagram, and used Twitter to share it to a wider audience, found themselves in a tight spot, as visibility for the images they distribute was reduced.   At the same time, Pinterest announced that (for the time being at least) they added support for Twitter cards, thus ensuring images shared via Twitter via Pinterest will render  on Twitter’s web site and apps.  Confuzzled?  You’re not alone, and there is no safeguard against these sort of changes, which can negatively impact the investment an organization has made in developing a strong presence on a particular network.  So what should communicators do?

  • Don’t become solely reliant upon a social network.   While social networks are incredibly useful for finding, connecting with and engaging audiences, at some point, the brand needs to develop a more direct relationship with audiences.   Encourage your social connections to participate in events, refer them to content on your own web site, and provide engagement options (live chat, comments, etc.) on your own web site to enable your audience to communicate directly with the brand, via channels the brand owns.

In subsequent posts, we’ll discuss trends in PR tactics and outcomes for 2013. Watch this space for more!   In the meantime, you can access an archive of a recent webinar titled PR Prepping for the New Year: A Look at the Evolution of Modern PR & What It Means for You discussing the evolution of PR and trends for 2013.  Panelists included:

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of social media.

 

PR Trends for 2013: Free Webinar Dec.12

PR trends for 2013 are driven by changes in external forces, and the tactics and opportunities today's environment affords.

PR trends for 2013 are driven by changes in external forces, and the tactics and opportunities today’s environment affords.

What are the big PR trends for 2013? It’s a broad question, and it receives an equally expansive answer.  I discussed this question with Deirdre Breakenridge, one of the panelists on the webinar titled PR: Prepping for the New Year .

At the end of our conversation, one thing was clear – the job of PR is “bigger” than ever, with more scope – and more potential impact – than either of us can recall.   And, not surprisingly, the forces driving changes in the public relations marketplace bring new opportunity and new challenges for those practitioners who are staying on top of the trends, and have acquired the skills needed to take full advantage the opportunities at hand.

We isolated for key areas in which change is particularly evident:

  • External forces – the changes roiling traditional media and how information is consumed, and the ramifications of those changes that require organizations to re-tool;
  • Tactics – new tools and tactics PR pros are using to find audiences and make messages stick in today’s environment
  • Outcomes – PR pros are facing a host of new expectations which demand new outcomes of our PR campaigns
  • Resolutions & Job Skills – What skills do PR pros need to acquire to deliver results from their efforts in 2013?

We’re going to really dig into the evolution of PR and trends we’re spotting for 2013 during tomorrow’s webinar.  I’ll be moderating, and the panelists include:

  • Deirdre Breakenridge (@dbreakenridge), CEO of Pure Performance Communications
  • Shana Harris COO of Warschawski

Please join us for the discussion tomorrow! Attending is free.

PR Prepping for the New Year: A Look at the Evolution of Modern PR & What It Means for You

It’s that time of year when all of us reflect on the pros and cons of the past year, and excitedly plan for the next. And in the multi-dimensional world of public relations, there is much to consider – particularly at a time when communicators are acutely focused on integrated campaigns that will enable them to reach and foster an ongoing dialogue with relevant audiences across traditional, digital and social media.

Join PR Newswire for this FREE webinar as we discuss the evolution of modern PR, including a review of current trends as well as tactical recommendations for 2013.

Date:     Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Time:     10:00 AM Pacific; 11:00 AM Mountain; 12:00 PM Central; 1:00 PM Eastern
Duration:  One hour

Registration

 

PR & the Presidential Election: Commentary from Michael Steele, MSNBC Political Analyst & Former RNC Chair

Michael Steele giving his keynote at PRSA’s International Conference.

Michael  Steele was the keynote address for the final day of the 2012 PRSA International Convention where he highlighted the top events and issues of the 2012 presidential campaign.  According to Steele, Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign was a PR nightmare all summer and has made a great PR and image turnaround rather quickly.  The Obama campaign, on the other hand, used effective message targeting to paint a scary picture of Romney as the “Rich Boogeyman” who appeared to be unapproachable, distant and disconnected with voters.

“This put the Romney team on the defense, which looking back was a very good thing,” said Steele. “ It made the campaign focus and gave Romney the opportunity to undo the professionally crafted messaging on paper and the TV screen.”

“In one debate, Romney redefined the landscape with the perfect PR persona,” Steele continued. “ The public got to see two men, hear their own words, and in fact, do their own PR.  Romney clearly did that by re-defining himself in that moment…. He won the debate in the first 30 minutes.”

A case study for media training

Steele mentioned the body language of the president, such as how looking down during Romney’s responses came across as weak, which in essence was perceived to be an image disaster.  We in PR understand the media training basics of keeping direct eye contact, addressing the speaker, audience, or in this case the opponent, stay on message, and respond clearly and succinctly.  And at the top of the list — always preparing for the unthinkable, which in this case was a strong Romney attack.

Steele addressed the fact that after all is said and done, good PR means effectively playing your role, positioning your narrative with your persona to make a connection with the voters, using appearance, body language, cadence, content, and effective messaging.  In other words, effectively engaging with your target groups.

The VP debate – a contrast

In contrast, Steele noted that the VP debate was unlike any other as it was critical for the Democrats to re-charge and re-energize their brand, which they did.  He noted that both candidates played their positions well.

“Joe Biden did everything right,” said Steele.   “He was engaging, energetic, and pushed back on the issues that needed to be addressed.  He promoted the Democratic team well.  Paul Ryan held his own, was respectful of the VP position, and didn’t push too much.  He was clear, articulate and stayed on point.”

Paid vs earned media, election-style

Steele also discussed how the constant flow and billions spent on campaign ads may be for naught.

“In the state of Ohio,  73,000commercials ran and for all of the money spent  it has barely moved the needle in the polls,” commented Steele. “ Voters have made up their minds very early.”

So what does this all mean in the end?  Have voters really made up their minds?  The first presidential debate created a flurry of upsets and shifts in the polls, with Romney appearing to win a large number of undecided voters, and closing a double digit gap of women voters who previously were in favor of President Obama.  According to Steele and some polls, women, the working class now view Romney not as the “Rich Boogeyman” but as the billionaire who can make things happen.

I guess with how the polls appear to be shifting as a result of these debates, image (at least with our voters) is everything.   Now, let’s sit back and watch the coverage of last night’s contentious debate unfurl.  What did you think of the candidates’ behavior and tactics?

Larene Pare is a new business development manager for PR Newswire.

Our connected society offers the potential for paid and owned media to make the leap into valuable and credible earned media.  We call this “evolved media.”  To learn more about this phenomenon, and how you can harness it for your organization, read our free white paper: Earned Media, Evolved.

A note on comments for this post:  With the election around the corner, and enthusiasm running high, we’re receiving a lot of politically-oriented comments on this post.  However, the post (and this blog) isn’t about partisan politics – our focus here is communications strategy.  As such, commentary that isn’t related to communications won’t be displayed.

How to Amplify Messages by Cultivating Audiences & Influencer Relationships

It’s not a comfortable question, but in today’s connected world, it’s one we communicators have to ask ourselves.  And here it is:

How many of the media and influencers in our  media databases hear regularly from us (or our brands) other than when we have a press release in hand or a story idea to pitch? 

In many cases, the answer is “Rarely.”  However, social media offers us the ability to develop relationships at our fingertips, as well as some opportunities to significantly improve our personal effectiveness, and the resonance of the messages we publish, specifically:

  1.  The ability to create a landing pad for messaging, by cultivating an interested audience; and
  2. A way to develop personal relationships with key influencers that will keep you “present” and top of mind.

Creating a bouncy landing pad for messages by cultivating your audience before you communicate:

It’s not unusual for a PR campaign to still operate on the “Ready, aim, fire” principle.  The audience is targeted and the message is subsequently distributed.  Follow up calls are made.   This approach misses one of the greatest gifts to PR from the inventors of networks like Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest – the gift of ongoing audience attention.  Any content marketing strategy worth its salt makes social channels a key distribution network for messages.  PR pros need to embrace this strategy, too.  Why?

Every day, on social networks all over the world, with absolutely no regard at all or whatsoever for our various and sundry communications plans and corporate schedules, conversations are happening relating to the products, services, ideas and causes we spend our days promoting. People are looking for information.  Bloggers are blogging. Consumers are considering what to consume next.  If we’re lucky, several of these actors might alight upon a message we published.  If we’re unlucky, however, they may overlook our brands completely.

Now, some folks aren’t considering capturing these spur of the moment opportunities.  However, those communicators who are more dialed in to their marketplaces – and, arguably, their company KPIs (key performance indicators) – do care deeply about these opportunities – and they’re wise to do so.   The ability to capture the ongoing attention of your audience can result in extremely measurable outcomes, and create a soft, springy and receptive landing pad that can bounce your messages around to different people who will amplify it for you.

Modernizing media relations with meaningful digital connections

The second opportunity social media offers public relations practitioners is a more modern approach to media relations.  And no, I’m not talking about simply sending out pitches on Twitter.   By paying attention to what journalists are doing on social media, you can:

  • Develop a good idea of what sort of stories interest them. (What do they tweet, bookmark or read via social reader?),
  • Identify other opportunities for coverage or exposure beyond their primary beat (Do they pin images on Pinterest? Contribute to a blog in addition to their beat?  Create vlogs or podcasts? These are all parts of the news hole.)
  • Learn what sort of content is popular with the larger audience.  (Which stories trigger enthusiastic sharing?)
  • Find non-traditional influencers who weren’t on your radar screen but are nonetheless influential, especially in niche areas of interest.
  • Understand what topics are near and dear to the hearts of the audience.

The act of simply paying attention to the conversation around topics central to your organization is always informative.   An added bonus is that you’ll be able to subtly introduce yourself into the conversation (and to the key players) by adding value when you start sharing useful information, and sharing content posted by others among your own social network.   Tweeting a journalist’s story is a positive way to get on his or her radar screen, especially if you have cultivated a solid and relevant following yourself.

Developing digital relationships

The good news is that cultivating audiences and developing good digital relationships with media and influencers on social networks are achieved through similar means.    Here’s how you do it.

  1. Develop a focused presence on the social networks germane to the topic you’re promoting.   This presence is ideally branded, but it can be a personal presence bearing your name, as well.  If you’re ambitious, you can do both.  Either way, be transparent about who you are, and where you work.
  2. Delve into the topics at hand. Become an expert, share your expertise, and share good content.  Engage in conversation.  Focus on being helpful, interesting and authentic.
  3. Research hashtags, follow lists and read what others tweet.  Get a handle on the nature of the conversation in your space.  Learn what sort of content resonates with the influencers who have gained your interest.
  4. Look at your media list and connect with key media who have also developed professional presences on social networks.  Important: pay attention to how these folks use social media.  If they don’t talk shop on their Facebook wall, you should avoid doing so too.
  5. Commit to building these presences over time.  It takes time to gain traction with an audience.  Along the way, you have to care for and feed your social presences.
  6. Practice the 90:10 rule.  Fully 90% of what you share shouldn’t be brand-focused.   Act as an editor at large, finding and sharing lots of interesting stuff.   Yes, you can drop one of your messages into the stream every now and then.  But if you want to create and maintain interest, you’ll need to be selfless with the content you curate and the presence you construct.

As you proceed, you’ll pick up more followers, and find interesting people to follow. You’ll identify influencers.  And if you do it right, you’ll become a valued member of the community, one who others rely upon for great information.   You’ll be creating a receptive audience for key messages, and positive relationships with influencers who matter, and triggering a loop of incredibly valuable attention, interaction and opportunity.  We call this new approach to PR and content marketing Agile Engagement.

Author Sarah Skerik (@sarahskerik) is PR Newswire’s vice president of social media.

Image courtesy of Flickr user  stevendepolo.

Embedding calls to action for multiple audiences in press releases

Press releases are read by a wide array of people.  When drafting a message, it’s important to think beyond the professional media audience.  Enthusiast bloggers, industry and financial analysts, employees, customers, advocates, shareholders, industry peers and potential business partners are all likely to read your press release.  This means we can reasonably expect to engage numerous audiences with our message.  But are our press releases up to the task?

Traditionally, the outcome we use to gauge press release success has been media pick up.  The call to action embedded within most press releases is the media contact information, supplied so journalists have ready access to the PR staff in the event they need more information for a piece they’re writing.

But what about everyone else?  What about all those other stakeholders who are reading our messages?  Are we serving them well?  Helping support the buying (and other) decisions they’re making?

Capitalizing on fleeting reader attention

It’s safe to assume that readers of press releases assume the same behavior we see of the average web surfer.  They flit from page to page, consuming what interests them, ignoring what doesn’t, and following links that promise a deeper dive into the subject the reader is pursuing.

Sure, any press release worth its salt has ye olde boilerplate gracing the end of the message, in which one can usually find a URL.  But let’s think about this for a minute.  Most of us (correctly) use a version of the inverted pyramid when writing a press release.  The most interesting and important components of the message are toward the top of the press release.

It’s dangerous to assume that all your readers are going to make it to the end of the message – especially if the release is a long one.   A more effective strategy is to add different calls to action throughout the press release that make the most of those fleeting moments when you have the reader’s attention.

Embedding multiple calls to action that appeal to different audiences

People read press releases for different reasons.  In addition to covering a beat, your readers may be researching a purchase, learning more about the company before or accepting a job or evaluating marketplace players to lay the groundwork for a partnership or deal.   The trick for the PR pros behind the press release is to identify which audiences are also likely to be interested, and include links for them to follow that mesh with their specific interests.

Here’s an example.  In talking about this very subject with a client last week, we discussed a current press release about a new type of over-the-counter drug that significantly reduces some of the side effects endemic to this particular type of medication. [For the sake of this example, let’s say this is a new type of decongestant called EasyCold that is given in a standard dose for both children and adults, ending confusion over dosage.]     The press release itself was data-heavy.  It was designed to inform savvy journalists who have some familiarity with subject and have probably been on the healthcare beat for a while.   The original release went out with the standard media contact information.  However, there were other opportunities to engage consumers and other audiences with this message, including:

  • Signal the availability of the data in the headline (and subhead) by using benefit statements to tell the story and attract a wide variety of readers, and adding phrasing that indicates immediately the assets available within the content.

Safe Cold Medicine for Kids and Adults: EasyCold’s Standard Dose Formula Removes Risk of Inaccurate Dosing

Results of study prove standard dose is efficacious for people of all ages.

  • Instead of a jargon-heavy technical lead, describe in clear and simple terms what this new drug means to consumers, and the company.

EasyCold takes the guesswork – and risks – associated with giving children the correct dosage of a cold remedy out of treating sick kids: dosage is the same for both children and adults.   It’s safe cold medicine for kids that also works for the rest of the family, according to a recent study of the efficacy of variable doses …

  • Embed hyperlinks from keywords that will appeal to different audiences, connecting them with the specific information they’re seeking.   You can rely on your readers’ self-interest to guide them.

EasyCold takes the guesswork – and risks – associated with giving children the correct dosage of a cold remedy out of treating sick kids: dosage is the same for both children and adults.   It’s safe cold medicine for kids that also works for the rest of the family, according to a recent study of the efficacy of variable doses conducted by XYZ Pharma …

In this simplistic example, the popular search term “safe cold medicine for kids” could be linked to landing page offering information (and a coupon!) for parents who are struggling with the challenge of finding cold medicine they can feel safe about using.  In the next line, a link to the phrase relating to the study could link to the full study results for a journalist or professional interested in that angle of this story.

These simple links – and a few tweaks to an otherwise technical press release – will broaden the appeal of the story for both industry professionals (media and otherwise) and potential consumers – and the different media and blogs those disparate audiences consume.   With just a little more effort (and no more spend) you can significantly expand the audiences for your press releases – and track the different outcomes they deliver.

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of social media, and is the author of the free ebook Unlocking Social Media for PR.

Related reading:

Writing press releases that generate better results

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Dear Gracie: Personal Branding Tips Every Social Media User Should Know

Each week, Dear Gracie answers questions from ProfNet Connect readers with advice from our network of nearly 50,000 ProfNet 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 grace.lavigne@prnewswire.com

Dear Gracie,

What are some general tips that I can give my clients about creating a personal brand on social media?

Branding for Beginners,

*****

Dear Branding for Beginners:

“Because of the open Web, explosion of user-generated content, social media and mobile apps — anyone who uses the Internet has a personal brand, whether they know it or not,” says Stefan Pollack, president of The Pollack PR Marketing Group.

Therefore, all public interactions must ultimately contribute to a controlled perception of how one wants to be perceived, Pollack continues. Whatever the objectives, only contribute information that supports that identity and an online personal brand will be formed.

“The Internet has already branded you, so it is up to you to cultivate that into a brand that supports your ideal online identity,” he says.

Determine Your Personal Brand

  • There are six ingredients for an engaging personal brand, says Joellyn Sargent, principal of BrandSprout LLC. Consider:
    1. Who you are
    2. Who you want to be
    3. How you see yourself
    4. What you want people to see
    5. What others perceive (how they receive your message)
    6. What they believe (what resonates, or “sticks” from your message)
  • Like company brands, consider what your personal brand has to offer that competing brand don’t, says Catherine Kaputa, author of the book “Breakthough Branding: How Smart Entrepreneurs and Intrapreneurs Transform a Small Idea Into a Big Brand.” Analyze your strengths and weaknesses, and do some fun brainstorming with friends to determine what sets your brand apart.
  • Share a compelling narrative, instructs Kaputa. The best profiles tell a personal or career story that ties all of the pieces of the journey together into a coherent whole. Profiles with captivating narratives are sticky — they’re easy to remember.
  • There are so many social media platforms, it can be overwhelming, says Kaputa. Begin broadly where you can catch the most clients by focusing on Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter. Then branch out to Google+, Pinterest, etc., that are more targeted to your industry.

Create a Plan of Attack

  • Try to express your brand idea in one catchy, differentiating line that defines your brand, says Kaputa. (Analogy can be a memorable device, e.g., a market researcher calling herself the “Oprah of Madison Avenue” or a finance executive calling himself the “Steve Jobs of Finance.”)
  • Set both short-term and long-term goals, and come up with a mission statement to identify what you want to be known for, says Bill Corbett, Jr., president of Corbett Public Relations.
  • Determine which vehicles are best for promoting your brand and reaching your target market, says Corbett. For example: website, blog, videos, social media, e-newsletters, real-world marketing, networking, speaking, trade shows, etc.
  •  “Create a social media and marketing schedule for your brand marketing,” says Corbett. “Identify how much time you will spend each week on social media and stick to it.”
  • Consider automating tweets, blog posts, updates, etc., using services like Feedblitz, HootSuite or Social Oomph to help you manage your brand, suggests Kaputa.
  • “The real challenge is not discovering your personal brand; it’s adjusting and augmenting your brand to work across multiple social mediums,” notes Elliot Tomaeno, head of consumer technology at Morris + King Company. Your voice on Twitter is not your voice on Facebook — each medium requires a different approach.

Share Compelling Content

  • If you only tweet client news, you will not be establishing any personal brand — you will only be furthering your client’s agenda, explains Tomaeno. Share original thoughts, and add personal comments when sharing other’s work.
  • “Your brand is most effective if you mix your personal experience with business interests, skills and expertise,” Corbett continues.
  • “Publish your brand content and messages frequently,” says Corbett. The content should be interesting, helpful and consistent. This will drive people to your brand and lead them to become regular followers, and eventually customers.
  • Keep the content simple, and keep it you, suggests Grace Kang, founder and chief buyer of Pink Olive Inc. “You don’t want to overload people with information, but you do want them to be able to see your overarching style and philosophy.”
  • Balance sharing best practices from thought leaders with original content, says Jeff Bunch, digital strategist at LANE PR.
  • Support complementary brands and businesses, and they’ll be more likely to spread the word about your brand in return, explains Kang. You’ll build a community with similar ideals and audiences.
  • “Make sure you have quality photos and headshots on your social media sites,” says Corbett.

Monitor Feedback and Activity

  • Develop key talking points and see what resonates with your audience, says Bunch. Where does your community think you’re adding value?
  • Ask for feedback from trusted fans and brand ambassadors, says Corbett. Don’t be afraid to change your approach!
  • Protect your reputation online by monitoring your brand by using Google Alerts and regular online searches, says Corbett.
  • “Make it easy for people to pass along your content or your professional information,” says Kaputa. Consider adding Twitter and Facebook buttons, for example, to your website or blog so that people can spread the buzz about you. “People tend to pass on what moves them emotionally.”
  • “Create a system for capturing contact information from people you meet in the real world and online,” says Corbett.

Be Generous, Interesting and Inspirational

  • Be generous and promote good work by others, says Bunch.
  • Don’t try too hard to make your personal brand about only one thing, says Tomaeno. Everyone is multifaceted! Clients, partners and even your boss want to know that you have a life outside of work. Have a sense of humor sometimes!
  • Be inspirational and inspirational, says Kang. “Customers want to find experts that they can trust and follow implicitly. Hold yourself and your brand up to a high ideal and only post what you feel truly represents the core of your brand and vision.”

Gracie

Written by Grace Lavigne, senior editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. Dear Gracie is published weekly on ProfNet Connect, a free social networking site for communicators. To read more from Grace, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.

5 Emerging PR Trends & the New Public Relations Skill Set for 2012 (& Beyond)

We’re well into 2012, and I think we can all agree that the new trends and opportunities for public relations are continuing to develop on what feels like a weekly basis.  At least I hope that I’m not alone in the weekly bout of panic I seem to suffer, as I survey the communications landscape and think “Ye gods, I really need to get a handle on [insert trend du jour here.]  I suppose it’s all good news – with the advent of social media and the ever-increasing role of digital media in all our lives, there are a lot of opportunities for public relations.  There new ways to find audiences, new mediums through which to convey messages, tons of opportunities to connect your brand’s fans and all sorts of ways to engage with influentials.  And best of all, digital campaigns can be measured, and we all know that measurement is an age-old challenge for PR.

However, in my travels around the web and discussion groups, and in talking to our own customers,  there seems to be some disagreement about the skill set PR pros need to succeed in today’s environment, and there are three points of view emerging:

  • The traditionalist, who values the ability to write, build relationships, isolate and convey key messages and build publicity strategy above all else.
  • The digital enthusiast, who values social media acuity, digital content production and editing and coding skills highly.
  • The quant, which focuses on data, analytics and how PR integrates with business processes.

If you spend any time reading the viewpoints from the pros from a different quarter than your own, you’ll probably break out into a cold sweat as you think about all the work you need to do to bolster your own toolbox.  (Personally, I swear that one of these days I’m going to learn HTML & CSS.)

At this point, it’s useful to look at some of the new trends in our business for guidance in determining what tools we really need to add to the PR toolkit.

  • Storytelling (and “story selling.”)  There’s decided difference between writing well and telling a story, and a good story is valuable currency today.  Stories are sticky, stories are relatable and stories are effective:  these are the reasons why stories are the cornerstone of the content marketing strategies and social media programs that are becoming meshed within public relations.  But there’s more to storytelling than good writing.

Required skills:  Curation.  In order to develop a story that will gain traction with your audience, it’s necessary to spend a little time learning about their interests, otherwise, the risk of missing the mark is very real.  Curate content (which is a fancy way of saying “find interesting stuff and share it) and see what sort of information (and format) resonates with your audience.   Observe what they’re sharing (and re-sharing) too. The intelligence you glean will be invaluable to your writing process.

  • Quantification.  The measurability of digital outcomes requires communicators to dust off their analytical skills, because “big data” is here to stay, and it is strongly informing communications.   Knowing how to organize and crunch data, correlate results and correctly interpret and apply data are core skills that enable communicators to turn the masses of data available to us into valuable business intelligence and ROI metrics.

Required skills:  Data analysis & advanced spreadsheet skills.  The good news, especially if you’ve been out of school for a while, is that today’s spreadsheet programs like Excel include powerful data analysis functions that make it things like correlation and statistics work fast and easy.  Developing advanced understanding of the spreadsheet programs and the data analysis toolkits they contain is an important first step.

  •  Visual communications.  The rise of the infographic and the emergence of platforms like Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram – all of which trade heavily if not exclusively in visuals – has accelerated the trend of using visuals in PR.  Using multimedia and video to engage and attract audiences is rapidly becoming stock in trade for PR.

Required skills:  Basic videography, photography and design are important, as is the ability to “think visually” and develop visual concepts to accompany and illustrate messages.  Bonus: multimedia production and editing skills.  Even if you have a design team at your disposal, learning how to think about messages visually is an important skill, because communications are becoming more and more visual. And if you don’t have a design team at hand, learning how to develop, edit and publish visuals to augment campaigns is crucial.

  • Proactive & Predictive Monitoring.  We’re in an age of radical transparency, which is fueled in part by the lighting-fast flow of information.  Instead of monitoring “downstream” for media pick up that has been published, PR teams are switching gears, and monitoring conversations and trends in order to predict events and communicate proactively.  In a nutshell, PR can influence outcomes, rather than simply measuring them.

Required skills: Social listening.  Developing acuity with social media monitoring and understanding of social audiences is the cornerstone for good monitoring.  Learn how to use a social media dashboard to evaluate what folks are talking about, and identify the recurring issues that are of persistent interest to your marketplace.  Get involved in social media and industry discussion groups to observe first-hand how conversations work, and how ideas flow.

  • Adaptability.  Content marketing, SEO, video production – it doesn’t sound much like PR – or, more specifically, PR as we’ve traditionally thought of it.  The truth is many public relations job descriptions are reading more and more like a catalogue of communications skills.  The mushrooming demands on PR departments – and subsequently, on professional communicators – is in itself an important trend, and the successful PR pro will know how to navigate these changes with grace and aplomb.

Required skill:  Learning.  The ability to succeed in changing times is really part of the DNA for PR.  After all, this is the department that cuts its teeth on curve balls.   The only thing predictable about PR is change.  Make time in your day to read, practice and learn.

In my mind, the requirements for PR blend aspects of traditional PR with digital tactics and quantitative skills.  And these demands are ever-changing.   Annette Pinder, associate publisher and M.E. at Buffalo Healthy Living, put it very succinctly in a related discussion of PR skills over on LinkedIn:

“I think that in a lean economy it is essential for professionals to be skilled in many different areas — and to essentially become a renaissance person. Important skills include writing, speaking, networking, research, and social media marketing and public relations. Being aware of what is happening in the community and globally is vital.”

Another commenter in the same discussion, Steve Leer, a communications consultant/senior writer at Purdue University Department of Agricultural Communication, detailed the varied requirements demanded of public relations professionals by employers today.

“Today’s professional communicator needs to know how to shoot and edit photos and video, be proficient in social media, create graphics, possess at least a basic understanding of Web design and know how to work with outside vendors for printed materials,” he observed, adding, “Now, it might just be that employers will demand all those skills and never actually expect their new hires to do them all on the job, but if the employer asks for the moon and stars you’d better be able to at least enter outer space.”

This is food for thought, without a doubt.  And it’s useful to consider the drivers of these trends – namely, the influence of the digital domain on communications and the very measurability digital offers us.  Will these influences be fleeting? Personally, I doubt it.

How is PR evolving from your perspective?  What new skills have been most valuable to you?

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president, social media.  We’ve just announced The Crowd-Sourced eBook: The Definitive Guide to Social Influencer Engagement and invite you to contribute.