Monday, November 7, 2016

Oh, the places you'll go... in PR

A bit of Monday fun. Feel free to add to this list in comments or on Twitter using the hashtag #PlacesYoullGoInPR
  • Vegas (for a tradeshow)
  • Your boss'/client's house (for a meeting)
  • The bathroom (to cry)
  • The event venue of a fraternal order
  • The bookstore (to buy an adult magazine that features your business/client)
  • A reporter's house
  • A town you've never heard of (for a tradeshow)
  • A cab line
  • The most expensive restaurant you'll ever dine in
  • Somewhere in your boss'/client's car
  • Fedex Kinkos (where you will arrive 1 minute after the package drop off deadline and plead for some to take your delivery so you won't get fired)
  • Starbucks
  • A farm, data center, manufacturing plant or other location where your company's product or service originates from
  • A video editing suite (where you will stay for hours... and hours.... and hours)
  • The airport (not to travel but for a meeting)
  • A ridiculously expensive hotel (where you will have a room that you will not use because you will be working all night)
  • A drug store (for antacid)

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Buy storytellers, not relationships

When I look at PR manager job posts or PR agency tenders, I often find some variation of this requirement listed - "Existing relationships with national media and related trade press."

As a PR professional, this line is always a red flag for me. There are two reasons companies ask about media relationships and neither of them suggest the organization has a strategic approach to their communications.

The first is that they are trying to gauge industry knowledge. While industry knowledge is important and can shorten the learning curve, a close look at a candidate's prior experience or an agency's past clients is a much better indicator than media relationships. Organizations asking about media relationships as a way to gauge experience haven’t done their homework and that indicates to me that they don’t have clear goals for their communications program.

The second reason is that companies are seeking a quick way to buy relationships with media so they can accelerate their growth. Unfortunately, this is a wrongheaded approach and doubly so if it comes at the cost of hiring a great storyteller.

Here's why:

Companies, especially start-ups, frequently miscalculate their importance in the market. They’ve invested so much time, talent and treasure to developing their products, routes to market, partnerships, etc., they believe they've created the "next big thing." They may have, but getting a reporter to believe that is a tall task. Reporters need facts, data, third party validation, customer stories, etc. to be convinced. They also need to see a company consistently deliver over time.

A company who hires a candidate or agency with existing media relationships in their category can certainly expect that a reporter will more readily take their call but if they don't have a strong, convincing story to tell, that advantage quickly evaporates.

The key to success in this approach is transferring the trust a reporter has in the new hire or agency partner to the company brand. To accomplish this, the PR professional has to be able to credibly deliver a story that resonates with the reporter. Reporters will take the call because of a preexisting relationship with the PR representative but if they can't deliver something newsworthy, they won’t write. Not only that, but the company's brand and the PR manager's or agency's relationship with that reporter will have been damaged. Just like Persian kings, they will kill the messenger if they don't like what they hear.

The PR agent’s relationship that was an advantage for the company no longer exists and the company will quickly find it has to make a new hire because media will no longer take their calls.
On the flip side, great storytellers can always develop the necessary relationships BECAUSE they have created content that is compelling. It may take time for the right pieces to come together and PR representatives without pre-existing relationships may take longer to get a reporter’s attention but the value then can deliver over the long run is much higher.

Organizations looking to buy media relationships are looking for quick wins and that indicates to me that they have less interest in building a sustainable, long-term PR program.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Seattle Interactive Conference Day 2 Round-up for Comms Pros #SIC16

Seattle Interactive Conference 2016 is underway and there are many key takeaways for communication professionals. Below is a curated tweet stream of all the most important information shared at the conference. (As of 3:30 p.m. October 19, 2016)

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Seattle Interactive Conference 2016 Roundup for Comms Pros

Seattle Interactive Conference 2016 is underway and there are many key takeaways for communication professionals. Below is a curated tweet stream of all the most important information shared at the conference.

(As of 4:30 p.m., 10/16/2016)

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Don't forget the last mile

In telecommunications, the last mile refers to the portion of the network that physically connects service from the utility pole to the end users home or business. Historically, the last mile has been a speed bottleneck that has prevented telecom and content providers from improving service to customers.

I frequently see PR professionals ignoring the last mile in their service delivery – specifically, the connection point with journalists and other influencers. The most visible example of this is the press site on their web page. After working long, hard hours preparing for their announcement, many post their work to a web page that may be the least appealing on the Internet – a long list of linked headlines.

These sites deliver little value. Journalists and bloggers who are producing 4 to 6 pieces a day have little time to spend clicking through links, downloading press kits and finding imagery. If you can’t provide it to them in a consumable way, then they will go elsewhere to get it – either to competitors or to sources that you as a PR professional can’t control.

Increasingly, PR pros need building (or rebuilding) their press site to ensure the content is easy to digest and easy for influencers to incorporate into their stories. That means there needs to be a blog post that puts the news into context and can serve as a linked asset, images that can be quickly repurposed into stories and slideshows, infographics that are easy to digest, video that can be added to an influencer’s post and a social media stream that allows them to quickly reshare the news.

There are other ways to improve your press site and they all boil down to reducing the friction for reporters and influencers.

You’ve put in the hard work to attract the attention of a journalist or influencer; if you can speed them through the last mile it improves the chances that you will get future calls.

Some other favorite press sites:

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

PR Needs to Measure Its "Beautiful Snowflakes"

Many PR people view the articles written about their organization like snowflakes - each one beautiful and unique. But, in many ways, that shouldn’t be true if they’ve done their job correctly. A journalist may take some license in how they present the information but you should be able to look across multiple articles and see some consistency in message, spokesperson, products, tone, etc.
Increasingly PR pros need to understand that articles need to be treated like data points that add up to something much greater than their “feel good” impact that comes from seeing the company's name in print.

The basis for good PR measurement comes from finding ways turn words into data. The modern PR team needs to get comfortable with topics like database management, meta tags and correlation if they want to show the business value they deliver.

Key to this effort is setting up strong systems and tools that allow teams to look at individual elements like message pick up, executive presence, tonality, performance on key competitive attributes and other elements of the earned coverage and correlate them to marketing and business data like web traffic, brand perception, net promoter score, MQL, AQL and even sales.

 Here's a couple ways to get started with that process:

  •  Database your and the competition’s coverage - every piece if possible but at the very least a representative sample from key publications, websites and other outlets. Only by looking at coverage in a consistent way over time will you be able to identify the factors that have the greatest impact on your business data. Capturing your competitors coverage gives you a way to benchmark yourself against industry performance.
    Databases can be as simple as an Excel spreadsheet or a more complex online system but be careful to distinguish between content collection or monitoring systems and a measurement solution. Content collection systems can help you populate your database and may offer some services to meta tag that coverage with message pick-up, tonality, competitor mentions, etc. but unless you have customized your database to align with your communications goals, you’ll be overwhelmed with data that offers very little value.

  •  Meta tag based on how you are spending your PR program dollars. If you are spending money to drive product reviews or executive visibility or trade show briefings, you'll need a way to evaluate what coverage resulted and the quality of that coverage based on the goals of those programs. Your database should allow you to identify the factors that drove coverage so you can gauge how those programs are performing, not just in driving coverage but also where they contribute to business performance.
  • Start integrating your data into marketing reviews. Only by taking the time to review what you've collected against business data will you start to uncover the impact. It may take several review cycles before patterns emerge as you isolate various factors. Don’t over commit to how quickly you will be able to show value from the measurement program. You may need 6-9 months to get the database structured correctly and find correlations with other marketing and business data.
  • Value quality over quantity. Many measurement projects start as an attempt to perform a coverage census – namely, capture every single mention of the company or organization. Instead, look to perform a survey by capturing a representative sample of coverage and focus your resources on improving the quality of insights you are deriving from your database. That could mean improving the meta tag structure to allow for better correlations or spending more time teasing out insights or streamlining the project to focus on only the high value programs so you can better tie those results to the business impact.

While PR will continue to be an art, applying science to how we portray our results can help ensure that the winter wonderland our beautiful snowflakes create get just as many “oohs” and “aahs” from our colleagues as the coverage itself.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

4 Tips for Securing B2B PR's Holy Grail

For B2B PR pros, the customer case study is a bit like the Holy Grail - highly sought after but hard to find. As peer- and influencer-driven purchasing habits continue to rise, customer references are increasingly important to driving sales. And as PR pros know, customer references are usually a journalist's first request.

But getting customers to agree to provide a reference can be difficult for a number of reasons. Customers often cite the belief that your product or service offers them a competitive advantage, a desire to control how their brand is presented to the world or managing the volume of reference requests as factors preventing them for participating. For the individual who fields your reference request, it can also involve securing approvals from multiple layers within the company (departmental leads, the executive team, corporate communications, legal, etc.). At the end of the day, asking a customer to share their success story requires a significant effort and a whole lot of trust.

So, what can PR pros due to lower the barriers for the customer participation while establishing the strong relationship with the buyer necessary for securing a case study? By starting with small asks that are easier to fulfill, you can demonstrate your value while you build a relationship with them.

Here are 4 ways to get customers involved, starting with the ideas that take the least investment on their side:
  1. Ask for customers to participate in social media - Social media remains a simple way to get customers engaged and offers many opportunities to build stronger relationships. Start by asking customers to share your news. Often times this type of request significantly lowers the internal barriers that your buyer faces. They can use their personal social media channels vs. the company channels to promote your product or service which reduces the internal approvals required. They can also support you without having to share details about their specific implementation. You can amplify that support on your social channels and point reporters to it. Once a level of trust and participation is established, you can
  2. Write a guest blog post for them - This can be another easy ask of customers especially if you offer to ghost write it for them. If you make your buyer sound like an expert in their field while laying the foundation for future sales, you both benefit. Blog posts don't have to be about a customer's specific implementation, either. Your buyers can lend their credibility by establishing the need for your product or service; outlining key buying decision factors; or reviewing specific features and functionality.
  3. Logo usage - Asking a new customer to use their logo on your website and press materials might seem pretty straightforward but starting here can be risky. What if the customer says "no?" A company's logo is an extension of their brand and many like to keep tight control over its usage. Being told you can't use the customer logo makes all future requests for support more difficult. Some vendors don't ask at all, either in their haste to take advantage of the new customer win or as a deliberate strategy to avoid being told "no." For PR pros trying to decide how to move forward, it comes down to your organization's level of comfort with asking forgiveness vs. asking permission. If you use a customer's logo in presentations to media without asking, your sales and executive teams may end up having an uncomfortable conversation later when your customer discovers the unauthorized use. Work with your sales leaders, customer relationship teams and executives to develop an approach that best fits your organization's relationship with customers and appetite for risk. The best path forward may be some hybrid approach.
  4. Event participation - This can be a larger ask but if you are willing to invest to get the buyer to attend, it can yield tremendous benefits. Even if the customer doesn't participate directly in meetings with the press, video of stage presentations at the event can be repurposed with reporters without requiring additional participation of your buyer.
While it may take time to secure a full blown customer reference, this approach offers PR teams with numerous opportunities to take advantage of that new customer win. For more reading on how to create willing customer advocates, check out this great piece.