Tag Archives: PR measurement

Interest vs Attention. Which is Your Goal?

int attnA conversation I had with a peer yesterday got me thinking about press release outcomes, specifically, generating interest versus generating attention.

My colleague, a senior VP at an integrated communications agency, was telling me about a news release his PR team wrote, promoting a presentation he was giving at an industry event.  Instead of leading with his name, or some discussion around the topic, the lead sentence they employed was a jargon-heavy corporate positioning statement.

He pushed back, asking why the release was emphasizing a specific keyword phrase, rather than the topic of the presentation, which was strongly related to the agency’s business.  The answer – they were trying to seed awareness of that particular keyword phrase, in conjunction with the brand.

Generating attention means nothing if audience doesn’t take a next step lil tweet

Again he pushed back, arguing variously that the phrase was an obscure one nobody used (and thus, not useful from an SEO standpoint), the lead paragraph was fantastically boring and no one would read enough of the release to get to the core message, that they were missing the opportunity to connect with the people who were interested in the the timely topic his presentation was addressing and finally, by not highlighting involvement with the conference, the message was failing to leverage the significant attention the event was generating.  He didn’t win, and the team lost the opportunity to position the brand as a thought leader around a key industry topic, and to garner additional credibility on the subject through their involvement at a big industry confab.

But that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Because the headline and lead paragraph didn’t reference the interesting topic, the content wasn’t indexed under that valuable key phrase in search engines. 

As a result the agency was absent from search results pertaining to that hot topic.

Which meant that people overlooking information on that topic didn’t consider that agency.

And that means they lost business.

Oh, and because the lead was boring, people wouldn’t continue to read past the first few words of the awful lead. 

Which means they wouldn’t share the content on social networks, thus hiding the message from view of all the people sharing content from the event.

Fewer people went to his session.  The agency saw its ROI diminish from its investment in the conference.

The focus of that press release should have been promoting the brand’s leadership on a key issue, using the presentation and the conference as the hook, not upon building association with an obscure term no one uses  for the brand name.

Words mean things, and nowhere is that more true than in the communications we craft for the brands and organizations we represent.   And more than meaning, words inform search engines and spark social conversation – the kind that can amplify messages and win new relevant and valuable attention for the company – the sort of attention that turns into active interest on the part of the audience.

Simply put, attention isn’t worth much if the audience isn’t inspired to take a next step.  “Seeding awareness” of a phrase in conjunction with a brand name is the kind of objective that is impossible to measure, and is frankly of dubious value.    As we craft press releases and other messages, we need to be deliberately building interest, and focusing on leveraging the attention we create into real benefit for our brands.

Turning attention into interest starts with driving the discovery of your brand’s content.  Join us Tuesday, November 19, for a webinar on the topic of content discovery.   You’ll learn how to craft messages that will resonate with new, relevant audiences and will generate better results for your campaigns.

Free webinar registration: Connecting Messages with Audiences: Tips & Tactics for Driving Content Discovery 

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

Measurement & Connection: Takeaways from the PRSA International Conference

Brian Solis maps the future of PR. Image via Vanessa Bravo (@vanessabravoCR)

Brian Solis maps the future of PR. Image via Vanessa Bravo (@vanessabravoCR)

This year’s PRSA International Conference in Philadelphia reprised many themes common to public relations, but with a new twist.  The influences of social media, content marketing and digital marketing measurement were common threads, linking discussions about pitching, strategy and measurement.  There’s a good reason for this – digital activities are incredibly measurable, and our peers in marketing gleaning spectacular amounts of insight about audience interests and behavior from their data, and that data is impacting other communications practices.

Communications success starts and ends with the audience.

“If you keep trying to earn relevance, you will always matter,” said Brian Solis in his keynote, summarizing neatly what many other presenters before him emphasized.  Developing understanding of what your audience is interested in, and using that context as the framework for brand messages, is the key to creating content that people will read, share with their social networks, and act upon.

However, developing understanding of the audience requires us to get comfortable with data analysis, noted Stephen Loudermilk (@loudyoutloud), director, media and industry analyst relations, LexisNexis, in his presentation titled, “Using Big Data and Analytics to Increase PR and Marketing Brand Awareness.”  According to a stat from Ragan Communications, 54% of PR people don’t know what big data is.  This is disconcerting, as another study titled “Analytics: The New Path to Value,” conducted jointly by the MIT Sloan Management Review and IBM Institute for Business Value, revealed that top performing organizations use analytics five times more than lower performing organizations.

Social amplification of content matters.

Brian Solis noted that 77% of consumers are more likely to buy a product when it’s recommended by an advocate, and we all know that social networks are hotbeds of personal connections and recommendations. However, there’s another important reason why developing relevant social interaction with PR content should be a priority. Seven of the top ten search engine ranking factors according to a study this summer by SearchMetrics are derived from social interaction.  

When you think about it, this isn’t surprising.  If a network of savvy, connected people with a similar interest all find a piece of content valuable, and they share that content with their personal networks, it’s easy to see how those actions can be interpreted by search engines as a measure of the value of that content.

Link PR to real business outcomes

“As PR pros, we need to recalibrate our thinking to understand how what we’re doing helps achieve one or more of these things,” insisted Shonali Burke (@shonali) in her session with Heidi Sullivan (@hksully) titled, “Building Your Bottom Line: Integrated Communications Strategies That Work. “We need to ask ourselves: What are we trying to do, and why is it important?”

It’s also time to stop reaching for equivalencies in measurement strategies.  There was some talk about “ad cost equivalencies” supplanting AVEs as a metric PR should be tallying.   However, ACEs (and AVEs) both fail to quantify the value of recommendation and reputation that a good PR message also conveys.  For this reason, and because digital media are incredibly measurable, I believe that PR should focus on linking communications activities to business outcomes, and learn how to correlate ongoing activities and interactions with those outcomes.

Evolving media platforms …. Is PR keeping up?

My own session was devoted to the evolution of media models and news coverage, and what PR needs to do to keep up with those developments.  Media outlets are developing apps, creating infographics and shooting video on the fly.  We have to ask ourselves if we’re providing the right sort of data and content that will work in these evolved presentations of news.  Failing to do so means that our brands will miss valuable opportunities for exposure.

The setting in Philadelphia provided a nice analogue for public relations.  On the one hand, Philly is steeped in history and tradition; however, it’s far from stagnant.   The city has reinvented itself as a foodie and culture mecca, inviting new demographics to discover what it offers.    There are good lessons in Philly’s success for the practice of public relations.

For some additional ideas on developing relevant public relations and marketing content for your organization, download my free ebook, “Driving Content Discovery.” In it you’ll find tips, examples and ideas for improving the discoverability of your content by making it more timely and relevant to your audiences.

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of  the newly-published ebook  New School Press Release TacticsFollow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

 

The Media Evolution: Is Your Content Keeping Up?

suntimes iphotogs

In response to sea changes in how people find, consume and share information, traditional media outlets are retooling their newsrooms and evolving their coverage.   Despite the still-challenging economic environment, many outlets are investing heavily on people and technology, in order to deliver a news product that satisfies audience appetites for rich visuals, tablet-friendly design and up-to-the minute reporting.  This begs the question: is PR content keeping up? lil tweet

PRSA attendees: Visit PR Newswire at booth 401 for fun photos & prizes, and mark Sarah’s session (Tuesday morning, 8 a.m.) on your calendars.

Outlets are creating expansive digital teams of reporters, web editors, social media managers, data specialists, designers, photographers, app developers and mobile editors.   They’re also requiring journalists to learn new skills and produce content in a variety of formats.

The Chicago Sun-Times offers an extreme example.  The venerable paper laid off its entire staff of photographers earlier this year, electing instead to equip and train reporters to shoot and edit photos and video using iPhones.

Can a reporter, newly trained in creating visuals, provide the paper with same sort of visual storytelling and evocative images that a Pulitzer Prize winning photographer once did?  Of course not.  But that’s not the point.
PRSAoneworld

Attend the Newsworthiness: New Context & Opportunities for PR session at the PRSA International Conference, Tuesday, Oct. 29, 8–9:15 a.m. Room: Franklin 3 (Hotel Floor 4)

Spectacular images gracing the front page of papers and the covers of magazines drove newsstand sales – once a core revenue stream for print media.  As newsstand sales dwindle, those images offered less return to the Sun-Times.   Digital content and news cycles running at the speed of the internet changed the game.  The timeliness of an image is more important today than its composition or artistry.  The Sun-Times determined that a fleet of reporters armed with iPhones are better equipped to deliver the visual content the organization needs to compete in today’s media environment.

These changes at the Sun-Times, and at other news outlets across the US, beg an important question of PR pros:  Is the content your organization produces meeting the needs of your key media outlets – and your digital audiences? Visual content – images, video and graphics – are all eagerly consumed by digital newsrooms, and by journalists who curate topical content on blogs and social network presences.     And the underpinnings of visuals – facts, figures, processes, trends and other information that lends itself well to visual illustration is particularly useful.   Look at the front page of every issue of USA Today, and you’ll see a mini infographic in the USA Snapshots section.

In order to earn media coverage – and attention in social networks – visuals are almost a requirement, and can certainly help boost the coverage and social media attention a story generates.

If you’re in Philadelphia for PRSA, attend my session, Newsworthiness: New Context & Opportunities for PR,  tomorrow morning (10/29, 8 a.m., room – Franklin 3) 

For some additional ideas on developing relevant public relations and marketing content for your organization, download my free ebook, “Driving Content Discovery.” In it you’ll find tips, examples and ideas for improving the discoverability of your content by making it more timely and relevant to your audiences.

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of  the newly-published ebook  New School Press Release TacticsFollow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

Multi-channel distribution of multimedia content drives results

sodexo caseThe lines between marketing and PR are blurring, as social media and content marketing continue grow in importance. The reasons for these changes are many, including the evolution of the media environment, changes in how people find and consume information, how search engines index and serve up results and the swift adoption of mobile devices and tablets by both consumers and business decision makers.

“Shift your mindset from news-making to conversation-joining.” lil tweet

audinece at the centerCommunications tactics have evolved, and a great example of a blended approach that reaches audiences in new ways – and achieves new outcomes for the brand – is Sodexo’s use of PR Newswire’s ARC engagement platform to reposition the brand as a quality of life provider, reflecting the company’s expansive portfolio of services.

To capitalize upon the publication of the company’s annual “Workplace Trends Report,” the Sodexo team worked with PR Newswire’s MultiVu division to create and host a variety of content elements within an ARC.

 

sodexo case mnr

The ARC is essentially a custom microsite, albeit with an important twist.  Dynamic, multi-channel distribution of the content housed in the ARC is built into the platform.  The result?  The Sodexo ARC provided an in-bound microsite, designed specifically for the brand’s target audience.  But with content distribution built into the platform, the ARC also provided strong outbound traffic to Sodexo web properties.

“The ARC functioned much differently in this respect than our corporate web site,” noted Stacey Bowman-Hade, director of public relations for Sodexo. “I think the ARC is a great tool for combining your marketing and public relations efforts. If you have similar goals in marketing and public relations for pushing out different pieces of content, the ARC is a very good tool for the collaboration of those departments in achieving the same goals.”

And in an interesting twist, the company’s sales team found another application for the ARC, using it as a ‘mobile app’ enabling them to engage customers with highly visual thought-leadership content.

The ARC delivered a variety of results for the company, including increased awareness of the company’s new positioning, and even more importantly, engagement and conversation around those efforts, in addition to significant media visibility.

“To date, we’ve seen 56 million impressions that the ARC has given us just in content, and that is across many media outlets,” said Kevin Rettle, director of marketing at Sodexo. “I think more importantly, when you look at traditional strategies, the quality of the content that we’ve delivered is much higher; for us, it is so much more about the ability to stay top of mind with a client with research and true thought leadership rather than just flat and static advertising.”

Read the full case study, along with interviews of the Sodexo team and view Sodexo’s ARC here:  Using a Campaign Microsite Presence to Establish Industry Thought Leadership

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of  the newly-published ebooks  New School Press Release Tactics and Driving Content Discovery. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

eBook: New School Press Release Tactics That Grab Attention & Get Results

new school cover

According to Google’s Eric Schmidt, every two days we create as much information as we did from the dawn of recorded human history up to 2003.  For communicators, the implication is clear – there’s an infinite amount of information available, however, audience attention if finite.

We’ve been talking a lot this summer about new tactics for creating press releases that stand out in the sea of content, and garner the attention of the right people.  Today we’re announcing our new eBook, “New School Press Release Tactics,” which aggregates our research, learning and some great real-life examples.  

Download New School Press Release Tactics here!

 The content and structure of a press releases have a significant on the visibility of the message, and as competition for attention increases, the formula for a successful press release is changing.  Here are eleven ways to freshen the news releases your organization publishes, and get more results for your campaigns.  

Make generating social interaction a priority, because that triggers amplification.

  • Serve your audience first. Frame the brand message in the context the audience craves.
  • Content needs to do more than inform.  It has to be interesting and useful to the audience if they’re going to amplify your message by sharing it.

Re-think links.  Use them strategically to provide more information for journalists and potential customers.

  • Link the name of the person quoted in the press release to their bio or a related blog post they authored.
  • Embed a call to action for potential customers toward the top of the press release.  Real-world example:  PR Newswire client Jive Software, Inc. reported a 200% increase in web site traffic to a specific page when they moved a call to action for readers toward the top of the press release, embedding it right after the lead paragraph. 
  • Encourage on-the-spot social sharing.  Highlight the key message or best piece of advice in your press release, and then embed a Click-to-Tweet link within. [Tweet this!] (See? Pretty slick, eh?)

cliktweet

Format the press release to maximize sharing. 

  • Write a perfectly tweetable headline and keep it to 100 characters.   (Use a subhead to add more detail.)
  • Employ bullet points to highlight key points, and draw the readers’ eyes deeper into the copy.

Develop a visual communications habit.  

  • Including visuals can increase visibility (social networks and search engines both give visual content preference.)
  • Visuals extend the reach of your messages into channels like Pinterest, which requires a visual element and other visual-centric social networks.

Incorporate storytelling into press releases to make the messages more memorable and interesting.

  • Include a quote from someone other than an executive.  Quote a customer service person noting how a new product has reduced support calls, a happy customer or a member of the team that designed the product.
  • Break the formula for the press release, and dive into the value propositions, case studies and benefits that your audience really wants to know about.

More press release tips and a variety of mini-case studies are available the ebook.  It’s available for free download here:  http://promotions.prnewswire.com/LP_NewSchoolPR_ebook_201308_JTL_PRD.html .  We hope you enjoy it – please let us know what you think!

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of the e-books Unlocking Social Media for PR and the newly-published  New School Press Release Tactics.  Follow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

The Top 10 Reasons to Send a Press Release

Much of the discussion about press releases lately has centered on the role they (may or may not) play in influencing search results, and Google’s new guidelines for links within press releases. Over the weekend, PR Newswire made an important change to our feed, implementing no-follow links in all press releases distributed to third-party web sites. Put more simply, the links in the content we syndicate across thousands of web sites are in compliance with Google’s guidelines.

As we’ve discussed previously, this change doesn’t affect how press releases will be found, read and shared online. They will still be indexed by search engines, and readers will still be able to click on the links you embed in your messages.

With all the focus on links lately, it’s important to not lose sight of all the other reasons to send out a press release. Here are our top 10!

Top 10 Reasons to Send Out a News Release

10. Archive. News releases get saved, stored, archived and become a kind of official record on where you’ve been, what you’ve done and what happened when. The archive may vary in length – on Yahoo Finance, press releases are archived for six months, while Lexis/Nexis has PR Newswire releases dating back to 1980. If you have a MediaRoom or some other type of online newsroom, your archive updates every time you send out an announcement. It’s like a Facebook timeline for companies and organizations, but it’s been around so much longer.

9. Expertise. The news release can help you establish yourself and your organization as a and expert source or authority about topics that are central to your business. Many of our clients use press releases to offer their official responses or reactions to marketplace developments, commenting on legislative developments and other news events. Other clients use press releases to promote thought leadership content, such as surveys, infographics and white papers. With the proper news release distribution, including search, social and syndication, your content becomes co-mingled with other content on the topic and your organization becomes a participant in the conversation.

8. Mobile. This is an increasingly important part of every organization’s communications because mobile is assuming a larger and larger role in how we all access news and information. According to the 2013 Internet Trends Report issued by Kleiner Perkins Caulfield Byers, mobile internet usage has been growing by 1.5x each year, and will continue on that trajectory. Mobile readership of news releases is keeping pace with this growth – PR Newswire’s mobile site, m.prnewswire.com, has logged an increase of almost 100% over the prior year.

PR public relations press release twitter social media

Press releases shared on Twitter – click to see the live stream!

7. Social. A quick search on Twitter illustrates the popularity of press releases – PR Newswire content is tweeted multiple times per minute. As a result, the news release is an effective anchor from which to create more awareness and to reach new audiences for your messaging. Use the news release as the landing page and issue a few days’ worth of tweets or status updates. You can drive traffic to your release and at the same time use the release to provide a depth of information beyond the short-format social media message.

6. Multimedia. It’s been pretty well documented how much more attentionyou get when you use imagery and video messaging. News releases with multimedia are viewed more than those without. You can also turn that around and say

best press release format tips multimedia news release

Press releases that offer readers a variety of multimedia options (e.g. video, images, downloads) generate almost 10 times more views than plain-text messages.

multimedia assets with news releases are viewed more than those without. Whether you use a full, branded Multimedia News Release or simply add a multimedia asset to your document, the news release becomes a vehicle for the distribution of the images and video clips and provides the context for the visuals.

5. Targeting. News release distribution is generally perceived of as a blast/send sort of method. In fact, PR Newswire distribution is actually pretty finely targeted based upon a combination of tagging, taxonomies and filters that are in common use. This usually happens in one of two ways. News organizations and journalists arrange feeds that are based upon their coverage interests or individual media users access the releases through platforms that allow them to filter based on their needs. The results? Broad reach, even to narrow niches.

4. Placement. The syndication of news releases by the commercial news release distribution services has given companies and organizations the opportunity to be publishers, to have their content placed on both widely trafficked news sites as well as long-tail specialty sites. And by using these syndication networks the content is published in its entirety and as it was originally written. At PR Newswire the online network includes more than 9,000 sites worldwide. That dwarfs the size of many other types of online syndication services and at a much lower price point.

3. Discovery. The acuity of search engines and the tribal nature of many social platforms have made it easier than ever for individuals to do granular research and find specific information. It’s no wonder, then, that the volume traffic that comes to news releases on PR Newswire’s web site based upon appearing in search results (on Google and other search engines) is consistently significant. Seeding search engines and social networks with press releases is one more way to make your brand and message more easily discovered.

2. Authority. For your company or organization you are THE SOURCE. You’ve got the inside information, you’ve got the scoops and you’ve got the last word – but only if you use it. And the news release is the vehicle to do that, conveying your organization’s point of view, unedited, clearly and credibly to your constituents.

1. Pick-up. Let’s not forget that news releases still go to journalists, and journalists read them. PR Newswire for Journalists, a private news site for credentialed media and bloggers, has more than 30,000 active users on average each month. In addition to PRNJ, journalists can access press releases right in their newsroom systems, their inboxes and in many cases they set up one type of custom feed or another to make sure they see the releases that are relevant to them. So when you send out a news release you could get coverage. You could be in a newspaper with tens of thousands of readers, a TV station with hundreds of thousands of viewers or on a news Web site with millions of visitors. Earned media carries powerful exposure and credibility, and press releases still provide important entrée to newsrooms worldwide.

So next time you draft a press release, spend a few extra minutes contemplating the variety of channels on which it will be seen. There’s far more to press release visibility than search engines. It’s the distribution of the message to various audience that ultimately powers real discovery.

The Really New Rules of PR & Marketing

Worthwhile reading from David Meerman Scott

Listening to the webinar with David Meerman Scott (@dmscott) hosted by MarketingProfs today reinforced the speed of change in the PR and marketing arenas.  Over the course of the discussion, David offered his perspective on how the communications arena has changed since he published the first edition of  The New Rules of Marketing & PR in 2007 (and has since been updated numerous times,) and the opportunities available to PR and marketing pros today.

His advice is great, but here are the three messages that really resonated with me.

Developing a real-time mindset:  Future planning is necessary.  But too much focus on a future email campaign or upcoming product launch will result in opportunity passing you by.    Newsjacking, the  art of getting in front of a trending news story and inserting the brand POV into the conversation & coverage, is one way to capitalize.  For an organization that gets it right, speed and agility are decisive competitive advantages.   To get there, the organization needs to develop the ability to monitor social media and identify news opportunities and develop response quickly.   This takes some doing – the organization will need to up its clock speed, streamlining a host of processes. Organizations that are focused on the future and don’t cultivate fast-twitch communications muscle will miss out on myriad opportunities. 

Buyer Personas:  You have to understand your buyer personas.  While this has always been important, the personalization of information on the web today makes crafting content that speaks to specific personas crucial.    David challenges us to create content around your buyers, not your products.

Gamification:  Don’t be put off by the term ‘gamification.’  Put simply, gamification means giving your best customers – the people who are engaged with and have a strong affinity for your brand – incentive to stay engaged, and to talk about their engagement.   Digital acknowledgement, such a badge, as well as real-life recognition can work together to give your customers a reason to keep coming back, and to keep talking about their experiences.  If you’ve ever wondered how to identify and cultivate your brand’s advocates, this is where you start.

If you issue press releases, you have an immediate opportunity to ratchet up your organization’s visibility and the business results your messages generate.  We hosted a fantastic webinar last week on new school press release tactics, in which the panel gave examples of using press releases to drive customer conversions, manage online reputation, build executive thought leadership and create ongoing media coverage and follow-on earned media.  The recap, slide deck and a link to the replay are here: New School Press Release Tactics

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 Author’s Role in Press Release Optimization

12 seo factors

Yesterday we discussed how PR Newswire optimizes press releases. Today, we’ll focus on the role the content’s author plays in the whole optimization equation.

The search engines’ focus on the actual on-page content puts a lot of responsibility on the author of the content.  In fact, the content itself plays the most significant role in ultimately generating results.

All content has the same shot at generating visibility.  The difference between the web’s winners and losers isn’t in the optimization characteristics of the content itself.  The most popular content — specifically, the content that is at the top of the search engine results page — has been proven to be more useful and more interesting than its less visible brethren.

Creating content that generates visibility 

In addition to using PR Newswire to distribute press releases and other content, there are other tactics you can employ to improve the visibility of your press releases in search engines.   It’s hard to overstate the importance of the quality of the message itself when it comes to press release visibility; because the structure of our web site will amplify your message, and so will your audience.

For these reasons, we have written extensively on content optimization and  have just issued a mid-year update on press release optimization best practices that you can use right now . 

Out with the old, in with the new

Just as we have to continually fine-tune our web site, it’s also important that press release writers update their tactics, too. Our advice necessarily involves as search engines update and change their algorithms. Some tactics we recommended a few years ago, including keyword density guidelines and emphasis on using anchor text,  have fallen out of favor following the significant changes Google deployed in the Panda and Penguin algorithm updates, which started last year and continue today.

13 google guidelines

Google’s webmaster guidelines emphasize content quality and utility, not SEO mechanics.

Today, SEO tactics focus less on technical aspects and instead are focused on user experience.   You’ll notice that a lot of the advice that we offer as well as the advice offered by SEO experts centers around creating content that  earns credibility when people actually read, use and share it in their social networks.    These interactions generate positive signals about the content that search engine recognize and reward, and are a crucial to creating lasting visibility for the message.

Arguably, it’s harder to “optimize” content now, because doing so requires the organization to ascertain what the marketplace is interested in and where the gaps in available information are.   It’s no longer as simple as weaving a few important keywords and links into the copy.  However, the results can be more profound and long-lasting, in terms of visibility and audience engagement,  and are well worth the investment in time and energy.

Stay up to date with what we’re thinking about the interplay of SEO, PR and content marketing: http://blog.prnewswire.com/tag/seo/

 

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 Press Release as Discovery Tool

Today’s noisy media environment poses challenge for brands:  how to get for important messages when there is so much fragmentation of the audience — and competition for their attention.  People share and consume incredibly granular information, and a fundamental communications vehicle – the press release – is proving remarkably adaptable and effective, provided communicators refresh their approach to using this PR workhorse in this new environment.

“Press releases have a chance to be something so much more relevant,” notes Steve Farnsworth, chief strategist at Jolt Digital Marketing, and publisher of the widely-read Steveology blog. “But they have to be immediately specific and relevant.”

Who’s reading press releases (and why?)

A couple minutes' worth of press release tweets from this morning.  Click the image to see the live feed.

A couple minutes’ worth of press release tweets from this morning. Click the image to see the live feed.

According to research PR Newswire conducted with Forrester on the visitors to PRNewswire.com, a significant portion of millions of monthly visitors are engaged in researching a product or service, and they find  press releases through their use of search engines.  People are also accessing press releases increasingly on mobile devices –views to PR Newswire’s mobile site have almost doubled in the last year. 

What’s the attraction? Press releases, as on-record statements from the organizations issuing them, are viewed as credible sources of information, and they are read and shared by the public, as well as journalists, analysts and bloggers.

“Most press releases that are produced aren’t read by the media, they’re read by the people,” says Farnsworth. “Your readers are going to be your stakeholders, and you’ll reach more directly that way than through the media.”

The long tail of the press release

Many communicators distribute the press releases in one way or another, whether through an email to industry players, a newsletter to customers or a commercial newswire service.  Once distributed, press releases develop an amazing ability to work their way into key industry niches, attaining the credibility of earned media status as they are liked, commented upon and shared.

Additionally, press releases are read long after they’re issued and the PR department has moved on to other things.  PR Newswire’s data indicates that most of the views the average press release will accrue over the four months following the distribution of the message – longer than many communicators expect.   A good message can actually increase its audience’s attention span.

To capitalize upon the ongoing attention the message generates, the press release also needs to provide direction for interested readers to take.

“The press release needs to be a guide to something bigger or better than itself, such as an infographic or ebook,” commented Eddy Badrina, co-founder and chief strategy officer at BuzzShift, a digital strategy agency.  “In fact, all those things you spend time creating probably deserve a press release.”

The recent “Dove Beauty Sketches” campaign included a exemplary press release that – while also loaded with multimedia elements – was also masterfully written to capture attention behind-the-scenes information about the wildly successful social media campaign.

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 .

 

Social Media Club NYC Recap: Social Media Measurement

Last Thursday, Social Media Club NYC met to discuss the topic of social media measurement.  Doh Young Jung, data scientist at Brandwatch, was one of the speakers at the event. The second speaker was Martin Murtland, vice president of platform management at PR Newswire. The moderator for the evening was Howard Greenstein, president and organizer of SMCNYC.

Q: What is your role in your company?

Murtland: I am responsible for developing the roadmap for a lot of the products. Some interesting research is that 56 percent of brands and agencies are equating the value of their social media activities to their business outcomes. So we need to know how to show businesses the value of what they are doing with their social media activities. I am a firm believer that the key to this is for practitioners to talk the language of business, which isn’t necessarily talking about all the metrics you can have but more about trying to understand how you can link to those metrics with what you are trying to achieve from a business perspective.

Jung: I am part of the analytics team. We do a lot of consulting services with clients, and we try to help them understand social media as well as how to use our tools better. In addition, I do a great deal of reporting for clients when they have specific social media questions.

Q: What are we talking about when we say social media measurement?

Murtland: It goes back to what you are trying to achieve from a business perspective. You can look at it like a marketing funnel which you flip over, and then you have to push your leads through the different areas. And you have to work very hard to get them through. Try to think about what you are doing with your campaigns; what metrics are appropriate in each of those general areas, as well as what you are trying to do inside the marketing funnel. For me, it is important to look at where the industry is going and what companies are doing to create these tools to enable users.

Jung: Our goal is to always deliver relevant content in a timely manner. When we talk about relevance it is about understanding our client’s objectives in terms of the data that they want and knowing when they need that data. We always want to make sure that our tool is easy for the practitioner to use and the reporting is easy to understand. Many of our clients come from PR and marketing agencies, and then we also support their clients. In addition, we have some larger financial clients that use social media monitoring for their product offerings.

Q: Why is social media measurement more difficult than just turning on these tools that you offer and letting them do the work?

Murtland: The software providers know part of the puzzle but it also takes work on behalf of the user to understand what issue they are trying to solve. It is important to know what you want to achieve consistently over time. One of the key things from a measurement perspective is to benchmark yourself. Don’t worry so much about what metric you use in the beginning, but try to benchmark what are you doing — otherwise you will not know what’s having an impact and improving. If you are able to do it well then include in your benchmark some of your competitors. You want to try to create reference points to see how well you are doing. From there you can think about what kind of metrics you can cover and what metrics you should be covering from a business perspective. Then look for an overlap between these two groups of metrics, and that should be the metrics you use.

Q: You (Jung) are a data scientist, so what is the science of what you are doing?

Jung: We deal a lot with numbers. We do want to show the different trends going on with social media data. As companies start to collect this type of data and look into it, the more accurate of a vision they can have of relating it back to their business purposes, such as the their marketing or financial results.

Q: Do you consult with companies about the purpose of the stats they are collecting?

Murtland: We do have a team for that. The first question to ask is: What are you trying to achieve from a business perspective? No metric or tool will resolve your business problem, you have to start by identifying the problem and then let everything else drive it.

Jung: Our starting point for every discussion is helping clients ask the right question. For example, if there is a case where a company is starting with zero awareness about whatever they are releasing then we have to do competitive research. So if they are releasing something on the market that already has competitors, we go into competitive data sets and see how they are doing in the market and then we tell the client what the competitor is doing successfully or wrong. This gives them some type of strategy.

Q: Now that we have established a baseline and know what business goal we are trying to achieve with our social, what’s next?

Murtland: The next step is to understand some kind of cause and effect. It is important to log and record the type of activities you have been doing. You want to show that what you are doing is actually driving the change.

Q: Can you have a tool where you are can both send out your social and measure it?

Murtland: We have a product that is an engagement console where you are able to track some of your activities. Likewise we have different tools for more earned media. You are able to log your activities in there.

Jung: We started out as a monitoring tool, so that is our core focus. We have seen more requests for engagement, and this is an area we want to venture into.

Q: Not all the networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr, etc.) make their metrics available, so how do you bring all this stuff together into one global picture that you can start to understand as a marketer?

Murtland: Work out what metrics you can measure and what metrics you should be measuring. The other thing to try to validate is where that data is coming from and what it means. I think there is a lot of jargon and ways to express different things, so try to understand it.

Q: How do you view a single metric vs. combo metrics, because the combo metrics seem more accessible?

Jung: It depends on your business goals. Also different types of clients have different things they are more interested in, so there is no one easy formula. PR agencies are more interested in influencer identification, which is trying to identify whether a tweet from a personal account is different than a tweet from a more influential account. They want to find those Twitter handles that have more influence and impact on social media.

Q: How do you determine what is influential for that particular brand?

Murtland:  What is important to me is the contextual influence, so what is the person’s domain and whether they are influencers around that. You can also check if they are an influencer by seeing if their followers are active; look for retweets.

Jung: Our tool can collect historical data as far back as two-and-a-half years. We begin by identifying Twitter handles or any sort of users that mention a relevant brand or marketing campaign topic. We then delve into what they are posting about and look for the topic in their conversation.

Q: How much semantic or sentiment analysis are you doing, and how do you decide if it makes any sense?

Jung: We do have built-in universal sentiment engines and they are based on things like swear words. We are able to customize syntax and understand the language better of certain conversations that have been surrounding positive or negative topics. We can manually change the rules, tweak it, and make sentiment more reliable.

Murtland: There are a couple things you want from a sentiment tool. They are: 1) automated sentiment, looking and analyzing large volumes of content and identifying trends inside it; 2) manually being able to override the scores.

Q: What do we need to do next to tie what we are doing (getting inquiries, selling products, etc.) to some sort of a business metric?

Murtland: You need to start by looking at the peaks and troughs, and try to see if there is a correlation between them. You can try to see the causes and effects that are happening and the correlations, then you can begin understanding and seeing what’s working and not working. Do more of what’s working and less of what’s not working. Repeat and then see the effect.

Jung: As a company becomes increasingly savvy about social data, one thing they can do is set a target to reach. For a lot of PR agencies, the target is often key message penetration. They want to see that a message they crafted is actually being delivered through social media to the audience that they want to reach. An increase in key message penetration has resulted in positive/negative business performance.

Q: How do you keep out confounding data? An example of this was when the “Old Spice Guy” first came out and there was a huge spike in sales, but then someone noted that P&G had a major couponing campaign going on.

Jung:  Our entire app is based on Boolean, so if we see a peak we are able to delve into it. We can cut it out and see what the marketing volume was about as well as the coupon conversation. Then we look at the relationship there, and if we see both things increasing then that can mean both have worked.

You can watch a video of the event here:

(If you’re unable to view the video on this page, please go to: youtu.be/TXGg6rXLMcs)

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Written by Polina Opelbaum, editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources.  To read more from Polina, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.