Tag Archives: media monitoring

MEDIA News: Media Moves at U.S. News & World Report, Bloomberg News, Sports Illustrated, People and More

http://prnbloggers.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/agility-logo.png?w=127&h=125&h=125PR Newswire’s Audience Research Department makes thousands of updates to the  database of journalists and bloggers that underpins our Agility media targeting and distribution platform.  Below is a sampling of recent media moves and news from the research team.  Learn more about Agility media targeting here.

U.S. News U.S. News & World Report (Washington, DC): Gary Emerling (@gcemerling) is the new Senior News Editor and Alan Neuhauser (@alneuhauser) is a new Reporter at @usnews.

Bloomberg News Bloomberg News – Washington Bureau (Washington, DC): Former Politico White House Reporter Jonathan Allen (@jonallendc) joins @BloombergNews to cover the same beat

Sports Illustrated Sports Illustrated (New York, NY): Former Oregonian Sportswriter Lindsay Schnell (@LindsayRae19), former Denver Post football scribe Joan Niesen (@JoanNiesen) and New York Times Sports Writer Greg Bishop (@nytbishop) have all joined SI (@SInow) as Sports Reporters.

People magazine People Magazine (New York, NY): Entertainment Weekly Managing Editor Jess Cagle (@JessCagleEW) will succeed Larry Hackett as Managing Editor.

SELF Magazine Self Magazine (New York, NY): Adina Steiman (@adinasteiman) is the new Features Director.

O The Oprah Magazine O, The Oprah Magazine (New York, NY): Megan Deem (@MeganDeem) is the new Executive Beauty Editor @O_Magazine.

Crain's New York Crains New York (New York, NY): Emily Laermer (elaermer@crainsnewyork.com) (@elaermer) has been promoted to News Producer.

Wall Street Journal  The Wall Street Journal (New York, NY): Adam Auriemma (@adamauriemma) is the new Deputy Bureau Chief for the Management and Careers Bureau.

NYT Magazine The New York Times Magazine (New York, NY): Jim Rutenberg @jimrutenberg), 13-year veteran of The New York Times, has left the newspaper to join the magazine. He has been named Chief Political Correspondent.

Bloomberg View Bloomberg View (New York, NY): Former Huffington Post Reporter Kavitha Davidson (@kavithadavidson) joins @BloombergView as a Sports Columnist.

 

AOL AOL (New York, NY): AOL (@AOL) has relinquished its controlling interest in Patch (@PatchTweet). All sites are said to remain operational as Hale Media takes majority control of the local news outlet.

CBS Newspath CBS Newspath  (Dallas, TX); Omar Villafranca (@OmarVillafranca) is the News Correspondent for the Dallas’s CBS NewsPath television news service.

TechCrunch TechCrunch (@TechCrunch) (tips@techcrunch.com): Co-Editor Eric Eldon (@Eldon) has left.

InStyle InStyle Magazine (New York, NY): Diana Tsui (@Chupsterette) is the new Senior Editor at InStyle Magazine.

Curbed Chicago Curbed (@Curbed): Ian Spula is no longer Editor at Curbed Chicago (@CurbedChicago).

Greatist Greatist (@Greatist): Abby Lerner (@LiveandLerner) is now Editorial Director at this fitness site.

Detroit Metro Times Metro Times (Detroit, MI): Vince Grzegorek @vincethepolack) has been named interim Editor of the alternative newsweekly (@metrotimes), replacing Bryan Gottlieb. He will continue to serve as Editor and Web Editor of Cleveland Scene Magazine (@Cleveland_Scene).

The Boston Globe Boston Globe (Boston, MA): Beginning in February, Senior Correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter John Allen (@JohnLAllenJr) will join the Boston Globe

Houston Chronicle Houston Chronicle (Houston, TX): Ryan Holeywell (@RyanHoleywell) leaves Governing (@GOVERNING) to join the Chronicle (@HoustonChron) as an Energy Reporter.

Pioneer Press St. Paul Pioneer Press (St. Paul, MN): Sports Editor Mike Bass (@MikeBassPP) has left the newspaper after a decade plus of service. And Tad Reeve (@TadReeve) has been promoted from Deputy Sports Editor to Sports Editor @PioneerPress.

Los Angeles Times Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, CA): The Los Angeles Times Media Group (@LATimes) has launched a new online retail shopping website called District West (@DistrictWest).

Hollywood Reporter The Hollywood Reporter (Los Angeles, CA): Hugo Lundgren (@hugolundgren) moves from New York to serve as Acting Editor for @Hollywoodreporter.

Ladies Home Journal (New York, NY): Hilary Merzbacher (@hmerzbacher) is no longer Assistant Food Editor.

Scott Monroe Kennebec Journal (Augusta, ME)/Morning Sentinel (Waterville, ME): Scott Monroe (@ScottDMonroe) is the new Managing Editor for both papers.

The Montana Standard The Montana Standard (Butte, MT): Al Balderas (@sportsphann) is the new Sports Editor at the Standard (@mtsbrk).

ChieftainNews Pueblo Chieftain (Pueblo, CO): Randy Rickman has been hired as the new General Manager at the paper. He most recently served as Regional Publisher for the Independent Record in Helena, MO and the Montana Standard in Butte, MO.

Maintenance Tech Lubrication Management & Technology (Chicago, IL): The trade outlet has ceased its independent publication. The print edition has merged with sister publication Maintenance Technology (@MTMagazine). Jane Alexander will serve as Editor for the new combined title. For additional information, go to http://www.mt-online.com.

NYCandG New York Cottages & Gardens (New York, NY): Former Country Living Assistant Market Editor Paige Alexus is the new Associate Editor @NYCandG and Hamptons Cottages & Gardens (@HCandG).

MEDIAware’s full weekly version can be found at:www.prnewswire.com/knowledge-center/medi…

PR Newswire’s Audience Research Department provides daily updates on Twitter (twitter.com/PRNmedia).

Detailed outlet and contact information is available at Agility (agility.prnewswire.com).

Do Newswire Services Work? PR Newswire Does.

In the wake of the recent conversation about the value of newswire services, I thought I’d share an email I received from an old friend, who works at a major print outlet in Chicago.

 Hey Sarah!

 I’ve got a work-related problem and wonder if you can help me find a solution:

I’m a digital news editor at XXXXX. For years we’ve had access to PRN releases through our subscription to the [major paid wire service] wire. It’s been a great source of business news, particularly before the markets open, and our early morning editor depends on it. But we’re about to end that [major paid wire service] subscription and switch to [another major paid wire service] — which offers PRN through its terminals, as you probably know, but not through the web-based portal we’ll be using to access the wire service.

 I’m wondering if there’s a way to get direct access to PRN releases right on our desktops. We’d be interested in filtering the tons of releases you move to focus on Chicago and Illinois and a universe of our top companies — but that might get into more detail than you care to know at this point, so I’ll stick to the primary question: How can we keep getting our PRN fix?

 We’re ending our [major paid wire service] sub at the end of the month, and our early morning editor is already getting the PRN-withdrawal shakes. Let me know what you think about this.

 Significant base of media subscribers

Across the US, and the rest of the planet, for that matter, thousands of media outlets devote technical resource and computer space to receiving PR Newswire press releases.  We know the technical and newsroom contacts at each outlet, and we work with them to tailor the news feed to fit the outlet’s needs.

In addition to the news feeds that are hardwired into news rooms as described above, more than 30,000 credentialed journalists and bloggers access PR Newswire for Journalists each month, where they tally more than a million press release views monthly.

Why do professional media & bloggers use PR Newswire?

So why is the PR Newswire feed of press releases still used by so many journalists and bloggers?  There are a few reasons why:

  • Efficiency:  It’s easier for an outlet to get a streamlined feed of news releases filtered by topic and geography from a company like PR Newswire than it is to manage individual messages from all the agencies, brands and organizations reporting news.  Press releases are coded and formatted using according to news industry standards, making it as easy and efficient for news editors to manage their press release feed as it is for them to manage their paid news feeds from sources like the AP, Dow Jones and Reuters.
  •  Credibility:   Every press release PR Newswire runs to its media circuits is authenticated – only people who are authorized to do so can issue a press release on behalf of their organization.   Additionally, we have stringent standards around attribution, requiring sources and contacts on every press release.  Receiving media know that the copy they get from PR Newswire is reliable and trustworthy.  As a result, major wire services frequently re-run press releases we issue in full text over their circuits and their spot news editors rip headlines from our wires to run on theirs.  Press releases received via email or found on the web have to be first verified, which takes valuable time in today’s deadline-every-second news environment.
  • Quality:   PR Newswire has a variety of copy quality standards, to ensure the press releases we issue contain newsworthy content our receiving media and bloggers can act upon.   Advertorial copy and stories about threatened (but not actually filed) law suits are two examples of the sort of content that doesn’t pass muster for distribution to one of our media circuits.

The audience is bigger than the media

Real time tweets of PR Newswire press releases.

Real time tweets of PR Newswire press releases.

We all know that the media environment is far different today than it was five, 10 or 15 years ago.  One reason why PR Newswire still delivers results today is the fact that our press releases are consumed by audiences directly.

  •  About 15% of the traffic to PR Newswire.com comes from people researching products and services via search engines.
  • Press releases are widely shared on social networks.  (Live feed on Twitter of tweets of PR Newswire press releases: https://twitter.com/search?q=PRnewswire&src=typd&f=realtime )

To get a better handle on audience behavior, I embedded trackable URLs within the press releases I issued to promote blog posts in the month of November.  Those links, which were all embedded in the third paragraph of the release (meaning people had to open the release, and really read it to get to the link) generated almost 1,000 clicks.  And think about it – by the time someone finds press release, reads it and then clicks on the link you offer them in the release text – they’ve demonstrated some real interest in your message.   The click-through numbers represent enormously valuable traffic.

So, press releases – and newswire services – still work.  That said, they both work better when the organizations issuing press releases make a point of developing the sort of interesting, visual and interactive content audiences appreciate today.  I’ve written an ebook detailing new approaches to press releases that are generating results, and it includes real-life examples and tips.  Here’s the link: New School PR Tactics  .

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of  the newly-published ebook Driving Content DiscoveryFollow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

Chicago Sun-Times Lays Off Photographers &amp Underscoring Need for Newsworthy Third Party Content

Summary:  As media outlets continue to cut newsroom resources, new opportunities for brands emerge to fill content voids.  But is the visual content your brand creates newsworthy enough to make it into your favorite digital news sites?  Here are four questions you can ask to guide development of effective visual content. 

The Chicago Sun-Times’ decision to lay off of its entire photography staff opens the door for PR professionals to garner visibility using visuals for the brands they represent, as long as they keep the audience’s interests firmly in mind.

As resources become more and more dear for mainstream media, brands have the opportunity to fill voids with newsworthy content.  However, before we get too excited and start thinking about opportunities to promote our products within the venerable pages of the Sun-Times and other media outlets, it’s important to keep objectivity, transparency and newsworthiness in mind.  Purely promotional content will not fill the bill.

Keep branding and promotion in check

“Brands should avoid overtly branding their content,” advises Jill Ulicney, PR Newswire’s manager of photo products.  “For example, if you add a logo to an image of a product, a journalist would be less likely to use an image than just the plain product shot.”

According to reports today, the Sun-Times plans on asking reporters to provide pictures and videos to accompany the stories.   Including a newsworthy visual with the PR pitch or press release just became more important.   To sharpen your organizations’ news nose when it comes to visual content development, spend a little time looking carefully at the media outlets you most admire and are valued by your key audiences.

Adopt the audience point of view in content planning

“When producing or conceptualizing a video, brands should take off their marketing and PR hats and ask themselves instead what grabs their attention when they’re NOT working,” suggests Brett Simon, a senior media relations manager with PR Newswire, and a former television reporter. “What do you stop and watch on a weeknight after work or when you’re surfing the web?”

4 questions that should shape your visual content strategy

Additionally, there are four important questions you can ask that will help inform your visual content strategy:

  1. What sort of stories do your target media outlets run?   Framing your brand’s content within the context of the media outlet’s stories will increase your chances at success. 
  2. What are the top stories on their web sites?  Many web sites feature their most popular content.  Look for what stories are most-read, most-emailed and most-shared.  Notice how they’re illustrated, and inform your visual planning accordingly. 
  3. What sort of visuals to the user will illustrate the stories?   Don’t limit yourself to pictures. Does the outlet use video?  Do they use charts and graphs to illustrate trends?   Developing content in the same vein as what you see on the media site will help you not only improve the likelihood that your visuals will be useful to media.  You’ll also increase the utility of the content to your audiences across the board.   
  4. What digital platforms do they publish upon, and what content do they share on those platforms?  Outlets that are active socially often curate third party content, which creates an opportunity for a different type of earned media – when an influencer shares your content on social networks; it acquires more credibility and exposure.   Additionally, many organizations are publishing mobile and tablet editions of their content.  Take into account whether or not the outlet publishes shorter video segments on mobile platforms, for example, or which images from a larger gallery they decide to embed in the mobile content.  You’ll pick up clues about what works you can use in planning your own content strategy.

Using these questions and considerations as a guide for creating content, an organization can start to incorporate a more journalistic approach.  In many cases this will mean telling the story from the customer and or audience perspective and developing the ability to frame elements of the brand story with in these larger contextual frameworks.  The good news – whether or not your content actually makes its way into the outlets published work, you’ll end up with content that is more attractive to your own audiences and more effective in conveying your organization’s message.

The ongoing importance of visuals to communications

Visual content is rapidly becoming the cornerstone of digital media.  Almost all of the new developments in content sharing, digital media consumption and social media are centered on visuals.  Entire social networks like Pinterest, Instagram and Vine are built on visual content.  YouTube is the world’s second-largest search engine. Facebook and Twitter have put digital content front and center for their users. The algorithms that search engines and social networks used to determine what we see all give visuals more weight.

These are just a few of the reasons why it is difficult to overstate the importance of visuals in today’s information environment and communications arenas.  Humans are visual animals, and if you want to attract a human audience, you need visual content, period.

“Visual means just that,” notes Ken Dowell, executive vice president of audience development and social media for PR Newswire. “You want content that is interesting, unique and catches the eye.  It should attractive and of good quality in terms of clarity and focus.”

Most news organizations are actively trying to build digital audiences and keep those audiences on their sites for longer periods of time in order to expose them to more advertising.  In many cases, they are also attempting to increase the number of paying digital subscriptions.  In order to achieve these objectives, the media outlets need to produce more rich media and compelling content.  Observing how successful media outlets are using visuals can give your communications a competitive edge, whether you’re pitching a story our publishing content on branded channels.

Related reading:

Effective & Unexpected Content: Experimenting with Multiple Content Formats

Tips for using photos for PR

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of the e-book “Unlocking Social Media for PR.”  Follow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik .

The Costs of In-House Media Monitoring

at what cost

Have you ever stopped to think about how much media monitoring costs your company?

Your PR department has been collecting clips for your company for a while and you’ve even managed to come up with some metrics to trend for tone. But how do you know you’re capturing all the coverage that’s meaningful to your business? How many sources do you examine?

Have you ever really considered the cost of doing this kind of thing manually?

Well, we did.

We made a few assumptions, adjusted for inflation, and voila!  We figured out what a North American company spends on average per year on monitoring its media coverage. When trying to justify a monitoring service, consider these figures.

How much time would it take to compile a clipbook manually?

This depends on the size of the company but, on a regular day (no issue to be managed or crisis to quell), let’s assume (if you’ve had your morning coffee)…it takes:

  • 2 hours every morning to scan the news sites, broadcast sites, video sites, RSS feeds, and collect news clips
  • 1 hour to manually generate a clipbook
  • 1 hour converting the information into manipulate-able data…if you’re an Excel wiz
  • few hours for tone analysis and reporting brings you to your full 8-hour work day

Some days will be worse than others. You might be sluggish because it’s a Monday or maybe your company recently released its earnings and there are a higher volume of mentions.

Now let’s talk money. According to the American Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2012, the mean hourly wage for a Public Relations Specialist is about $33.50.

Let’s say that he/she spends about 95% of their time working on media monitoring-related things. So, based on the 40-hour work week, your company pays about $1,200.00 per week towards manual media monitoring – which rings you in at about $65,000.00 per year.

Now, if yours is a larger company, you could be paying 2 or 3 staff members to share that work. Or consider if your PR pro is at the higher end of the pay scale and makes closer to $40.00 per hour – now it’s costing your company about $80,000 yearly.

Either way, media monitoring may already represent a large resource drain and hidden spend for your group.  If that’s the case, it might be time to consider a full service media monitoring service, like our very own MediaVantage.

Social media, the SEC & the impact for public companies

Author Scott Mozarsky is PR Newswire's Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer.

Author Scott Mozarsky is PR Newswire’s Executive Vice President and
Chief Commercial Officer.

The Securities and Exchange Commission issued guidance yesterday that permits public companies to disclose material information such as earnings through social channels — such as Facebook and Twitter – as long as investors have been alerted about which social media will be used to disseminate such information.  The SEC guidance related to an investigation that it has completed concerning a post by Reed Hastings (Netflix’s CEO) on his personal Facebook page that contained material information regarding Netflix’s performance.

So, is the SEC guidance a good thing or a bad thing, and what is impact do we expect this guidance to have on disclosure and the investing public?

We believe fact that the SEC is embracing social media and encouraging companies to use social channels to disseminate information is a very good thing.  Companies benefit by disclosing information as broadly as possible.  Using social channels in addition to company websites and press releases to distribute material information ensures more engagement with a broader audience.  In fact, PR Newswire is encouraging our customers and other public companies to complement their disclosure of material information by using social channels in addition to press releases, their websites, emails, etc.

That said, similar to the guidance that the SEC provided regarding web disclosure back in 2008, yesterday’s statement by the SEC was ambiguous and could be read to permit disclosure of material non-public information solely through social channels.  This would not be a good thing for companies, investors, capital markets, analysts, traders, journalists, or anyone else with a stakes in public companies.  We believe it is highly unlikely that companies will use social channels as their sole means of disclosing material information.  Doing so would limit severely limit the audience.

What does this mean for our customers?

The SEC has clearly stated that the purpose of Regulation FD (Fair Disclosure) is to promote broad and simultaneous disclosure of material information.  Investors should have an even playing field.  Selective disclosure is not a good thing and is prohibited by Reg FD.  Given that the internet and social channels have become a central part of everyone’s lives, the SEC wants to encourage companies to use their web sites as a core part of their overall disclosure strategy and this now extends to social media.

Companies that use their websites as the sole means of disclosure run the risk of uneven disclosure that disadvantages certain types of investors.   The SEC has been clear that the idea that investors might have to go and look for the information rather than getting it through a broader distribution is far from ideal.  The SEC has also previously noted that some investors don’t have easy access to the Web.  Additionally, law firms have consistently been advising their clients that the only way that such clients can be certain that they are meeting their disclosure obligations is to push the information to investors using press releases and other online distribution.

For more on the implications and risks of this ruling for the financial markets and investing public, please see Scott’s discussion on the Building Investor Compliance blog titled, “PR Newswire applauds SEC guidance on social media.”

Which Newswire Service Do Journalists Prefer?

PR Newswire (http://s.tt/1oqEK)

Of the journalists surveyed by Vitis PR, 54% found that PR Newswire was the most valuable newswire followed by PA** (38%), SourceWire (37%) and Businesswire (34%).

Technology PR and search agency Vitis PR has announced the results of its recent survey of UK journalists, which reveals which newswires/press release distribution* services journalists actually read and to what extent they find these services useful in their work.

Vitis PR surveyed 80 UK journalists from its own contact lists across a variety of industries. The survey targets included consumer and business technology, marketing, cleantech, ecommerce/retail and the automotive sectors. The agency believes that these results are also applicable across other vertical sectors.

Journalists, from daily newspapers to well respected websites and freelancers took the time to help the PR agency to understand:

  • How often do journalists use newswires?
  • Which newswires are the most valuable?
  • What newswires are used for?
  • How newswires should interact with journalists?
  • How often do journalists use newswires?

Many journalists make newswires a regular part of their news gathering and research routines.

Respondents were asked to indicate which services they found most valuable in their work.Of the journalists surveyed, 54% found that PR Newswire was the most valuable newswire followed by PA** (38%), SourceWire (37%) and Businesswire (34%).

Newswires specific to particular verticals were also mentioned by individual journalists, including:

  •  NewsPress (automotive)
  • Headline Auto (automotive)
  • Gamespress
  • Technology4Media

Based upon the comments Vitis PR received, journalists indicated (perhaps unsurprisingly) that industry-specific services tend to be more valuable.

What are newswires used for?

78% of respondents said they use newswires for news stories, while 56% use wires for article or feature ideas and 56% for monitoring industry trends.  Many also cited newswires’ role in factchecking.

“Writing news for a monthly print publication I simply use newswires as an easy way to find/verify information, “one respondent noted. “They are often faster/easier than navigating corporate websites and press rooms. Links in wire releases to images and more information are particularly useful.”
Jas Sahota, Director, Vitis PR commented: “We believe that the best way to target a journalist is to follow them, understand what they write about, pitch a story to them exclusively and provide them with good content. While wires offer the ability to provide additional information the feedback from our respondents is that (on the whole) newswires need to find a way to help cut through the volume of less valuable releases.”The full results of the survey, including more insights gleaned from the journalists who responded, are available on the Vitis PR web site: Which newswires do journalists actually read? 80 journalists surveyed.PR Newswire (http://s.tt/1oqEK)


Small Business Communciators Monitor Online Conversation With Multiple Channels

Anyone who has implemented a plan for monitoring online conversations and social media mentions knows how tough tracking all these discussions can be fore even the most ambitious and well-intentioned communicator.

That’s why findings from a survey conducted by PR Newswire and PR News aren’t terribly surprising.   Fewer than 40% of small business communicators monitor conversations daily, despite the speed with which conversations and rumors can take hold  online.    The good news is that only 3% of communicators reported that they don’t do any monitoring.  Another 18% indicated they monitor conversations weekly.

One reason why the majority of communicators aren’t listening on a daily basis likely stems from the simple fact that many people find themselves relying upon multiple channels in order to keep tabs of key social networks and online groups.

The the survey found that the topics monitored were roughly even, distributed between monitoring for the brand, the industry and (to a slightly lesser degree) competitors.

The Small Biz PR Report covered the survey comprehensively in the article titled 37.7% of Communicators Monitor Conversations Throughout Each Day.

PR Newswire is conducting another survey , this time on the topic of content marketing.  Your participation is invited!  Take the content marketing survey.

We know that monitoring social, online and traditional media can be hard.  PR Newswire’s new Agility platform puts monitoring different channels in one place.   Monitor your media, interact with your audience, identify media & influencers and distribute your content – all in one place.  Learn more about the Agility Influencer Engagement Platform.

Introducing Agility: Media Targeting, Monitoring & Response

It’s taken months and months to develop, and more than 300 customers have road tested it.  We’ve done the market research, listened to the feedback and have tested it and tweaked it and tightened it and polished it.  And today, it launched.   “It” is Agility, our new workflow platform for public relations.

Agility makes agile engagement possible, marrying a giant media & influencer targeting database with powerful media monitoring and real-time response tools.   Users can define audiences, research influentials, distribute messages, monitor results and manage responses in real-time all in from one sleek and intuitive dashboard.

Agility is covered with fingerprints from all across PR Newswire – it seems like everyone had a hand in its development.   We’re all very proud of this unique – and very useful – new platform.  We hope you’ll take a second to view the video, and scan the press release.  If you like what you see, we’d be happy to give you a demo.

Related reading:

TechCrunch: Beyond the Press Release: PR Newswire Launches Agility Dashboard

PR Week: PR Newswire Debuts One-Stop-Shop Media Tool

AdRants: PR Newswire Unveils Marketing, Social Media Workflow Product

Our announcement: PR Newswire Unveils Agility

5 Tips for Using Social Collaboration to Inform Your Content Strategy

The "sweet spot" exists at the intersection of audience interest, social discussions and relevant topic areas. The audience will have a high level of interest in good content focusing on the issues and topics surfaced in the sweet spot.

A secret to success in today’s communications arena is not just the actual production of content, but incorporating the voices of our social audiences into the content mix by building social collaboration into the strategy. In other words, it’s an exercise in agile engagement, in which the brand listens to what people are talking about in networks, and uses that information to shape and guide content development to serve audience need – and gain their interest. The efforts your brand commits to building social collaboration as part of its strategy will be repaid with an engaged audience that trusts your brand’s content, and is willing to share it with their own social graphs.

Here are some easy ways to start building social collaboration into your content strategy.

  1. Train your social media teams to interact with your audiences, re-tweeting generously and responding to comments and wall posts.  Interaction is the pathway to engagement.
  2. Curation can lead to more than an interesting news channel.  People are flattered when others tweet their blog posts and re-post links they’ve shared.  And often, curation is a two-way street.
  3. Find the online groups where enthusiasts live, and participate.  These plugged-in groups are fantastic sources of intelligence, ideas and influence. Listen to the conversations. Which questions come up over and over?  Which complaints never seem to go away?  Within these conversations are opportunities for your brand. (Here are some ideas for developing traction within these types of groups:  Virtual Focus Groups for Communicators.
  4. Look to your own customer service teams and customer surveys.  Mine customer questions and problems, and turn those into content in the form of blog posts about the solutions. (Related reading from BlogBrevity: Content Marketing Biz Blog Idea: Turn Customer Problems Into Solution Blog Posts
  5. As you get to know members of your online audience, seek their opinions.  Interview them for blog posts, invite them to preview content, solicit their opinions.  In addition to generating good feedback, you’ll have solidified relationships.  These folks are more likely to amplify your messages.

So what does the output of social collaboration look like?  It can be as simple as incorporating relevant tweets or quotes from your audience into a piece of content. On a larger scale, collaboration can steer the direction a particular piece of content takes. And writ very large, social collaboration can lead to significant use of user generated content and crowd-sourced projects.

All of the resulting content has one important common factor: the voice of the audience comes through, loud and clear; signaling unequivocally that this brand is paying attention. And, as a bonus, using incorporating social collaboration into your strategy will virtually ensure that your audience will be interested in the content your organization publishes.

At the outset, collaboration with audiences can seem daunting.   And there’s no doubt that on a larger scale, communities require resources.  However, building social collaboration into your organization’s communications approach gets easier as your team gains experience – and as the audience’s respect is gained – triggering a loop of authentic interaction, and message amplification.

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

It’s Fryday! (Lessons learned from #frenchfries)

Today is Fryday - a national promotion from McDonald's, derived from social media intel.

Social media monitoring is something we all know we should be doing, but winnowing out the signals from the noise can be difficult, and beyond that, figuring out what to do with the resulting data can also be a challenge.   To be successful, an organization needs to be agile – its business processes need to be able to ingest the data and recalibrate communications on the fly.

Erm.

That last sentence in can sound pretty daunting.  Business processes, ingesting data, recalibrating communications … at this point many folks are inclined to think “that’s for other companies, we simply can’t do that…” and turn quietly away. Fact is,  listening isn’t so hard, it can be done by any organization for little to no money, the changes can be incremental, and in order to be successfull, all you really need to do is pay attention, and use what you learn.

I heard a great example of this from Heather Oldani of McDonald’s earlier this week at PR Newswire’s Social Content Leadership Forum in Chicago.   McDonald’s has real traction in social networks, and they’re paying attention to online conversations and building relationships with different communities and constituents.  Conversations encompass everything from environmental, parenting and nutritional topics to tracking national availability of the McRib to discussions around menu innovations, such as Fruit & Maple Oatmeal and apple slices in Happy Meals.   Conversations ebb and flow, but the McD’s team has noticed a constant.

In less than an hour, McDonald's Facebook post had garnered thousands of likes, shares and comments.

“French fries are social,” Heather noted.   Topics and issues may come and go, but people love McDonald’s fries, and they talk about that devotion online.

Now, in the grand scheme of McDonald’s menus, the fries are certainly a lynchpin, but they aren’t the headliner.  New sandwiches, salads and coffee drinks steal the headlines and are the focus of the company’s menu-oriented promotions.

But because McDonald’s was paying attention, they realized that there was more lasting, ongoing enthusiasm for fries than for pretty much any other menu item, unless you’re this guy:

Bet he likes fries, too. #fryday

But I digress.

McDonald’s realized it had a unique opportunity with the approach of Friday, 11/11/11 – an aesthetically very French-fry appropriate date.  Using the palindrome as a hook , McDonald’s developed the Fryday promotion, offering fries for $.50 today.

In the Chicago area, McDonald’s is using billboards to promote Fryday, but true to the roots of the promotion, a lot of activity is happening on social networks, too.  The company’s Twitter team (follow them @McDonalds) is chatting up the deal online, and several franchisors are also getting into the game.   The Twitter hashtag #fryday is busy and the McDonalds New York Tri-State Area Restaurants have created a check in for the promotion on Four Square.  Is the suggestion of hot, crispy, salty fries powerful enough to get people in the door?

My guess is the answer is yes.   Not bad for a little promotion derived from simply paying attention to what people are talking about online.

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.