PR, marketing and communication news and views.

Posts tagged “Social Media

My best bookmarks from the last two years


I have a very bad habit of bookmarking things and then never getting around to looking at them again.

Over the last two years this has resulted in hundreds of bookmarks and favourites – otherwise known as a big, unorganised mess.

This week I’d had enough and decided to sort them out.

I found some gems – here’s some links I found that I just had to share:

SOCIAL MEDIA:

1. Behind the scenes of 8 social media campaigns:

This post can’t fail to get you excited about the potential of social media. From the talented peeps over at Mashable, it gives 8 examples of innovative and successful social media campaigns which have captured their target audiences’ attention and generated some great results for clients.

2. What the f**k is social media

Does your boss (or you?!) still need convincing of the validity of social media? This no-nonsense slideshow is just what you need. It contains some impressive statistics and examples – though it is two years old now so it might be a bit outdated.

3. Seven deadly sins of social media

I’m a sucker for a list – and I love this one. It gives us the seven ‘deadly sins’ of social media including ‘Deafness’, ‘Phoniness’ and ‘Greed’.

4. Fifty digital resources you might have missed

Another great post from Mashable. This mammoth list gives you 50 resources worth reading including ‘How to make a 3D YouTube video with two cameras and a roll of sticky tape. I can’t wait to try that one!

PUBLIC RELATIONS:

5. Nissan’s online news room

WARNING: This post will make you want to work for Nissan. It talks about the company’s in-house newsroom which creates and develops news for the brand across all platforms, from video to print. In my opinion – all brands should be striving for this, or at least taking elements of it. A great, inspirational read.

6. Big list of free press release sites

I don’t use these sites, but they can be useful as an additional tool when selling in news releases.  This post lists LOADS of sites which you can upload your releases to for free.

7. How and why to write SEO releases, plus where to submit them:

SEO should be a skill which every PR pro is willing to learn – and it should be built into all content you create which may find itself a home online. This article is a great crash course into why SEO is so important, and how to use it for press releases.

8. Times Style Guide

Every newspaper and magazine has its own particular style, and PRs should always try and take note of these. It’s also worth having you own ‘house’ style. If you’re still trying to implement one then this could be a good post to refer to.

PHOTOGRAPHY:

9. Photography challenge:

I have a secret desire to become a photographer. Two things stand in my way; a lack of decent camera and a lack of talent. When I get these things, I will definitely be doing this challenge from the White Peach Photo blog. It gives you a photography challenge every day for 30 days – from ‘Self Portrait’ to ‘Clouds’.

OTHER:

10. Top 16 UK marketing blogs

Looking to expand your blog repertoire? Well, look no further. This post offers up 16 of the UK’s best marketing-focused blogs.

Are there any gems hidden in your bookmarks? If so, share them here.


How to get more Twitter followers – the definitive list?

How do you get maximum Twitter followers?


I received an email from a friend yesterday asking for my advice on how to get new Twitter followers; and I thought I would share my response.

It’s by no means a definitive list, but I hope that my advice is of use to Alex (follow her here NOW!) and also to any other Twitter newbies.

The topic of how to get new followers has been covered a lot – but I’m interested in seeing what other people’s answers may have been.

What have I missed? What would you add/take out if a friend asked you the same question? Indeed – are there any hard and fast rules?

I’d love to hear your comments – perhaps we can make this a definitive list after all?

So, here’s my response:

1.       Twitter followers take time – a loooooong time to build up. I would say that you have to choose what you want to be known for, and stick to it where possible.

2.       For example I tweet about public relations and social media – so most tweets that I post are about these subjects and share some kind of value to others who are interested in those subjects too (i.e.: links to blog posts, interesting news articles, podcasts, videos, hints and tips etc). This is where a lot of time is spent – trying to source interesting stuff to share!

3.       You should also use hashtags where possible – for example if I search #PR on Twitter then loads of tweets come up from other people who have used that hashtag – you should then follow these people if they interest you (and hope they follow you back) and also start using the hashtag yourself to try and attract people to you. There’s hundreds of hashtags – play around and see what ones are suitable for your industry.

4.       Search for people who work in the same field as you who you find interesting and follow them – re-tweet their posts and reply to them (try and engage them in conversation) they should then hopefully remember you and eventually follow you back.

5.       Add your Twitter handle to emails/business cards/LinkedIn profile/ blogs etc.

6.       Create your own content – if you have a company blog or personal one tweet this content so it’s completely fresh and you’re not always relying on third party content.

7.       Try using a system like Hootsuite which allows you to shorten links (meaning when you’re sharing content you aren’t using up loads of your 140 characters) and track the statistics (so you can see what posts people are clicking on and therefore find interesting).

8.       Try and get involved in a Twitter chat that’s around your industry – for example #commschat is a weekly Twitter chat about PR and communications (try Google to find suitable ones)

There’s loads more tips but hopefully that will get you started. I think it’s worth saying that it does take a lot of time but don’t get disheartened. It took me ages to understand Twitter!

On reflection I would also add the following:

9.       Tweet regularly – not too much and not too little.

10.   Learn how and when to use the ‘@’ signs and ‘DM’ function. I.e.: If you put the ‘@’ at the front of a tweet it will only go to the person you are speaking to – it won’t show up in the news feed of other followers. If the tweet is aimed at someone in particular but you think it would be of use to others too, use the ‘@’ function at the end or in the middle. And DMs should definitely be used when a conversation is becoming irrelevant to your other followers (organising a jolly down the pub with friends or something).

FINAL POINT: Follwers aren’t everything – like many things in life it’s quality not quantity!


Valentine’s Day: Love letter to social media

Dear Social Media: I love the way you make me feel connected

Dear Social Media,

I know you don’t know who I am, but I know you. In fact, I’ve been trying my very best to get you to notice me for the last year.

But I know I’m not alone in my admiration of you – there is something about you, your way of making people feel connected, which means that there are many others vying for your attention too.

But I wanted to take this chance to tell you how I feel.

For years I watched you from afar. I think I was too scared, like many people, of embracing you and letting you know that I wanted to get to know you better.

In fact, I’m still trying to persuade people that by being near you I’m not going to get hurt – and nor are those closest to me, like my colleagues, clients and friends.

I’m trying my hardest to explain to them that yes, although through your connections we may at some point encounter hardship – the odd bad mouth comment, or mudslinging match – that this is far outweighed by the positives our relationship could bring.

I honestly feel that as long as we have the right principles, and we handle our relationship the way that people should handle every relationship, then we’ll be fine.

People also tell me they’re worried about how much time I and others spend thinking about you. But I know that I need to invest the time in our relationship for it to work. I don’t expect to snap my fingers and have overnight everlasting love and success with you. In fact, in my eyes I don’t invest enough time in you. I’m trying my hardest to give you the time you deserve at the moment, but sometimes it’s hard with everything else that’s going on.

Ultimately, the negatives of us being together are far outweighed by the positives. At least if we are together for the right reasons, and we know from the outset what we both want to achieve.

You make me feel as though anything is possible, as though everyday there are new people to reach and something new to learn, to see and to experience. You’ve made me more creative, more able to think outside the box and be innovative.

But I also know that you’re not everything. Although I want us to be together I know that to make it truly work I must balance you with my over loves. I cannot rely on you; I cannot get you to carry the burden of all that I want to achieve for me and for everyone else.

And most of all I must be willing to except that you aren’t right for everyone; perhaps you are not even right for me.

But I think that if I proceed with caution, fully aware of your good side and your bad, then I truly feel that we can be successful together – that we can help each other achieve our dreams. Or at least make them that little bit easier to reach.

Yours,

@brooke_nolan

Photo by Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot via freedigitalphotos.net


10 reasons NOT to be on Twitter

Now, don’t shoot me but I’ve been feeling a bit ‘social media outed’ (yes I know that’s not a real word) over the last few days. It seems as though it’s ‘social media, social media, social media’ constantly – with Twitter being the Holy Grail for many. Or at least many who suddenly feel it’s the time to join the Twitter masses.

Yes, Twitter has its good points – and I’m enjoying starting to learn more about it and increase my own activity. But just because everyone’s talking about it doesn’t mean it’s right for you.

With that in mind here are ten reasons NOT to tweet.

1). You don’t have the time

One tweet a week is going to achieve nothing – it needs consistency, not complacency. If you don’t have the time yourself then create a team of ‘tweeters’ who can help create and post content. Vodafone does this particularly well –and signs off with initials which is a nice touch.

2). You have nothing to say

No one cares that you can’t get the kids to sleep or that you’re off to buy a chocolate bar (unless you’re planning on buying them one too). Think about what you’re saying – does it give value? The odd personal or sales tweet is fine but you also need to source third-party articles, and multi media – videos, SlideShare presentations, and podcasts. Build up a bank of websites suitable to your sector which you can draw on for content – useful for when you have nothing to say yourself that day!

3). Your customers aren’t there

If you sell microwaves would you go to a networking event for baby clothes retailers? No – because your audience isn’t there. You know your industry well enough (or should do) to know if your clients and customers are on social media. If not, why bother?

4). You don’t bother listening

You want to tweet but you don’t want to listen. Not good. Run searches for your brand and industry and respond where you can.

5). You ignore everyone

I’ve seen some classics of this the last few days. It’s basically like someone saying hello and you, at best, ignoring them and, at worst, saying ‘p*ss off’. Check your DMs and @ messages everyday and reply! RTs you can get away with although I always think it’s nice to say thanks if you can.

6). You’re not ready to let go of the approval process

If you’re going to outsource your tweeting or leave it to the marketing department you HAVE GOT TO LET GO OF APPROVAL!!! Twitter should be about instant engagement and speaking to real people – not track changes and streams of amendments. A good approach is to set out a social media policy stipulating tone and content. If there are any tricky situations – that’s where approval becomes necessary.

7). You aren’t going to evaluate

There’s still lots of talk about ROI in social media – but as a minimum at least track the rise in followers, RTs, @ mentions and DMs, as well as clicks on the links you’ve posted (check out Hootsuite which creates some great graphs).

8). You’re doing it because you feel you should

If you’re only on Twitter because everyone else is then is it really worth it? Because the likelihood is that you’ll certainly not be spending the time and effort on it that it needs to work.

9). You’re not willing to wait

It takes time. Loooots of time. Not seen a return in three months? It’s really not surprising – it’s those who persevere who will see results.

10). You can’t take anyone seriously who speaks the Twitter language

If you hear someone saying the words ‘Twitter’ ‘Tweet’ ‘Tweeters’ etc, and you instantly think the word ‘tw*t’ then the whole thing probably isn’t for you! In fact I’ve had a fair few conversations with people where part of the reason they aren’t on Twitter is because it ‘sounds ridiculous’. Which, you can’t argue – it really does.


Quality or quantity when it comes to social media accounts?


I had an interesting discussion with a fellow creative earlier this week, about whether a brand should be utilising all of the social media channels available to them, or focusing on a chosen few.

His thoughts were that as marketers we should utilise every channel available for our clients – even if they don’t seem relevant to their product or service. That way you can continue to engage with the target audience on one or two main platforms, but you also have a presence on others in case they happen to look for you on there.

I suppose there is some truth in what he is saying – after all social networking sites are increasingly being used as search engines – but should this shift in the way networking sites are being used mean that you should compromise a brand’s identity?

For example, should a serious technical brand really have a Facebook or Flickr profile – and does a fashion brand really need a presence on LinkedIn?

I was, and still am, of the stance that you should choose a few key platforms, which reflect the brand’s personality and aims, and do them well. It’s important to explore new trends as they emerge – but these should be analysed to see if they fit into a brand or organisation’s overall marketing strategy.

You shouldn’t just jump on the bandwagon – which would surely result in a poor presence across a whole host of sites instead of a sustained, focused, coherent presence, with quality content, on just a couple.

What do you think is better?  Not having a presence on every platform, and potentially missing engagement if someone only uses that platform? Or using social channels which aren’t quite right for your purposes or brand and which don’t get as much content TLC as others?

Here are some pros and cons of each strategy – I’d love to hear your thoughts.

I’m on every social media site going and its great because:

  • I can be found everywhere
  • I have maximum exposure
  • I can have all of the pretty icons on my website – which makes me look active and current

It sucks because:

  • I find it hard to update all of the sites with fresh content regularly
  • Not all of the platforms suit my brand messages
  • I find it hard to create meaningful connections across all platforms

I am selective with my social media sites and it’s great because:

  • I have a very strong presence on the ones I use
  • My time is spent well – I’m not spread thinly across lots of social networks
  • I am able to build up real repertoire with peers and customers

It sucks because:

  • I may miss customers on other sites
  • I may be too far behind on other platforms when they really gain popularity
  • I am not fully aware of other site’s capabilities and often worry I may be missing out – even if I think on the surface they aren’t suitable, or that I wouldn’t have the right content

Social media doesn’t just break the new latest news – it IS the latest news

Having a flick through the papers this week I noticed an article on celebrities who are using Twitter to promote products – without letting their followers know that they are being paid to do so.

Now, to me, that’s not a particularly interesting story.

But it got me thinking – we all know that more and more frequently news is breaking on social media instead of via traditional news channels – but when did social media become news itself?

Below are 10 examples of social media hitting the headlines:

1. Man arrested for threatening to bomb airport on Twitter:

Paul Chambers, a 27-year-old accountant from the UK, was arrested under the terrorism act for ‘threatening’ to blow up Robin Hood airport in Doncaster. The tongue-in-cheek tweet, which was sent after the airport was closed due to snow, said “Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!” Despite appealing the judges decision Chambers was made to pay £2,000 in legal costs and lost his job. The judge called him a ‘menace’.

2. Foursquare stalker:

An anonymous 26-year-old male from Edinburgh in Scotland said he was stalked relentlessly by a female admirer for nine months on location-based platform Foursquare – sparking a warning from the Crown Prosecution Service which now promises a ‘tougher crackdown’ on cyber stalking.

3. Celebrities threatened with suing after promoting products on Twitter:

Celebrities including Lily Allen and Liz Hurley face possible court actions after tweeting about products and failing to mention to their followers that they (may) have been paid.

4. Facebook friends blamed for woman’s suicide:

Simone Back, a 45-year-old woman from the UK, killed herself after posting her suicide note on social networking site Facebook. At 10pm on Christmas Day she wrote “Took all my pills, be dead soon, bye bye everyone.” There has since been controversy around why none of Back’s 1,048 Facebook friends raised the alarm.

5. The general election – how social media swung the vote:

The 2010 general election was called ‘the social media election’ and there was speculation throughout the campaign about the role it played. Of particular note was the use of Twitter during the first ever televised election debates.

6. The Social Network:

Social media didn’t just make the news last year – it made the big screen too. The Social Network was the hit blockbuster film about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, and it sparked a series of newspaper reviews and features.

7. Woman sacked after abusing boss on Facebook:

One of the older examples but a good one nonetheless. Back in 2009 a woman known only as ‘Lindsay’ was sacked after moaning about her boss on Facebook – forgetting he could see her comments. I have one word. Doh!

8. Tory Councillor arrested after stoning tweet:

A conservative party leader was suspended after publishing a racist tweet. The offending comment said “Can someone please stone Yasmin Alibhai-Brown to death? I shan’t tell Amnesty if you don’t. It would be a blessing, really.” The comment, which (now ex) councillor Gareth Compton, described as an ‘ill conceived attempt at humour’ is a stark reminder to think before you post.

9.House trashed after party advertised on Facebook:

I’m pretty sure that kids trashing a house isn’t particularly newsworthy. But thanks to Facebook it is! The above link is just one example of this sort of story hitting the headlines.

10. BP oil spill:

The BP oil spill was one of 2010’s major controversies – and the multi national firm’s poor handling of public relations also hit the headlines – especially after a fake Twitter account @BPGlobalPR was set up. The account, which still has 180,000 followers made a mockery of the oil giant’s already dwindling reputation.

 


5 communication ‘dont’s’ for 2011

As it’s the start of a brand new year, most people are busy making positive predictions and resolutions for 2011.

But, as I’m a complete pessimist at heart, here’s my list of things you SHOULDN’T be doing in public relations this year.

1. Don’t be ‘on’ social media:

It has been said by many that 2010 was the year that social media really took off. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr – 2010 was the year that you HAD to be seen to be using these channels, and many more besides. But simply being ‘on’ these channels – and by that I mean you’ve set up a profile page with a nice bit of blurb about you or your business, a flattering profile picture and the odd sales tweet/post/video – isn’t enough. If you’ve set these channels up but aren’t utilising them for customer or peer interaction – ala Tesco’s Twitter feed – then they really aren’t worth having at all. Work out what you want to achieve (higher brand profile, a communication channel for customer queries), look at what your competitors are doing, listen to your customers and then spend time on putting together a plan – and investing the time – to make these channels work for you.

2. Don’t give up on traditional media:

Yes, traditional paper and magazine circulations are dwindling rapidly. But I for one firmly believe that they are, and always will be, here to stay. And although social media and online publicity is definitely where communications is headed, there is a lot to be said about the power of a really strong piece of coverage in the correct publication. Local newspapers seem more receptive than ever to targeted content, and there are also many niche trade publications, catering for sectors across the board, which have strong and loyal readers. Also, if you target traditional press you’re usually killing two birds with one stone, with most print coverage appearing online too.

3. Don’t cut your marketing budget (too much):

I hate to use the dreaded ‘R’ word – but even a couple of years since it first hit, the recession is still biting many companies hard. And with the public sector cuts happening this year, and the knock on effect that will have on the private sector companies which supply them, it looks like this year may be one of the hardest yet. One of the first departments to be hit is usually the marketing department and all that falls under that banner – PR, advertising, online, internal comms. Cuts need to be made but it is often companies which are investing in their marketing departments – and therefore their reputation – which reap the benefits.

4. Don’t get stuck in a rut:

It’s very easy to continue your marketing and communications strategy as you always have done. But is it really working? It is important to evaluate last year. What worked and what didn’t? Do you need to invest more (or less) time and/or money in particular areas? There are new communication channels opening up every day – why not explore these and see if they fit into your strategy for 2011? For example – perhaps you’ve always focused on magazine advertorials and haven’t yet branched into blogs or online forums? Consult experts for their opinions but also consult your staff (across the company – not just the marketing team). What do they think of the firm’s communications strategy? What reactions do they get from the people they deal with on a day to day basis? Where do people hear about you?  Use this feedback to structure your comms plan for the year ahead – ensuring you’re investing in the areas which will give you the most return. 

5. Don’t think communications is quick, or easy:

In 2010 there was a lot of talk about the return on investment for both traditional PR and also social media. But unfortunately it’s not always a simple equation which can be tracked to the bottom line. People don’t always ‘like’ your Facebook page, read your news article or visit your website and then instantly purchase your products or services. I hate to use the cliché but sometimes ‘background noise’ is important. It takes time, and consistent and quality material, to build up a reputation online and in the press.


New blog resolution

This year has been my first foray into social media and blogging.

It has been fairly successful – my Twitter followers have grown steadily, as have the conversations I’ve had with peers, I’ve become a contributor for PR Daily Europe – which means I have an excuse to consume far more social media and PR news each day than should be deemed necessary – and my blog has started to slowly attract more readers with each post.

Of course, it’s nothing in the realms of some of the master bloggers who we all look to for inspiration everyday – but they’re achievements nonetheless.

2011 is the year I want to step it up a gear.

But I know that in order to be truly successful I require one thing above all else – dedication.

Having just completed a 30 week blogging programme for a client, where I helped him draft a weekly blog, I know how hard it is to get the inspiration – and perhaps above all else – the time, to dedicate to creating regular (and high-quality) content. Especially when you’re busy with your ‘day job’.

But I also know that if you form the habit then it’s hard to break.

Next year will be the year that I make the time – after all, I help clients everyday with their social media strategies – and it’s a bit contradictory if I’m not practicing what I preach.

But I think that’s something that many PR practitioners are guilty of. How many times have you come across a company or individual that claims to be able to help you with public relations, social media or marketing and yet they are using none of these channels to promote themselves?

To this end, I have given this blog a bit of a makeover, hopefully making it easier to understand and digest.

Along with the new look is a new Facebook fan page. And there’s also a new domain name on its way www.prtips.co.uk

I’ve created a content schedule packed with ideas along the same line as my more successful advice-led articles and aim to update this blog at least once a week – more if I can.

My only problem is I don’t exactly have the greatest record when it comes to keeping new year’s resolutions.

Last year I was supposed to spend no more than £25 per month on clothes (that so didn’t happen!) and the year before that I was supposed to learn Spanish.

Let’s just say ‘no hablo español’ two years later!

But, I have a feeling this one might just be different. I’m passionate about communications, and the great thing about the industry at the moment is that there is something new to learn every day.

What about you? What are your new year’s resolutions?


New social network – on the Path to success?

I read with interest earlier in the week the announcement of a new social networking site which is launching – Path.

Referred to by some as ‘the anti-social network’ and by itself as ‘the personal network’ it promises to limit friends to just 50 people.

On its blog Path says;

‘Because your personal network is limited to your 50 closest friends and family, you can always trust that you can post any moment, no matter how personal. Path is a place where you can be yourself.’

Bit full on for my liking, but I get where they’re coming from.

On Twitter there is a constant pressure that you need to impress – you have to be funny and intelligent, and source amazing articles, and engage with strangers without sounding pushy or false. Everyone who’s on it wants to be an industry ‘expert’ and, no matter how many blog articles there are saying that ‘it’s quality not quantity’ when it comes to followers, there is still that pressure that you should have more.

Then there’s Facebook – where you have a constantly updated stream of boring ‘I’m eating a sandwich’ or ‘I hate my boyfriend’ status updates and over-shares. Plus, you have the constant de-tagging of hideous photos to worry about, which instantly appear on your profile even if you don’t want them to.

The idea of only having 50 of your closest friends is very appealing.

But it does make me wonder if it will truly work.

It is very easy to limit the size of your existing social networks – you simply IGNORE the random friend requests from old school friends and the weirdo you met down the pub last Saturday.

But the fact is that the majority of people don’t ignore them.

Perhaps its people’s natural curiosity – they like spying on their ex and seeing how much weight they’ve put on, they enjoy nosing on the school ground bully and seeing that she’s now an unemployed chav with a bad taste in bomber jackets.

On Twitter – people like the idea that they are being followed. Indeed even the name ‘followers’ makes you feel special, like some kind of cult leader, or perhaps Jesus.

So, for these reasons I’m intrigued.

Has Path got staying power or will people get bored of just seeing the same 50 people?

The fact its launching on iPhone I see as a good thing – iPhone owners already feel slightly holier-than-thou, so the fact they will now have their very own social network (for the time being at least) will no doubt only serve to be benificial. And a great way to test if the concept works.

And besides, with social networking heavyweights behind the project including former Facebook senior platform manager Dave Morin, Macster co-creator Dustin Mierau and Napster co-founder Shawn Fannin I have a feeling that they won’t take fail as an option.

What do you think – are you going to sign up to Path? Or would you miss the banalities of other networking sites?



Does the press release need rebranding?

Apparently the press release is dead, or dying, or something like that anyway.

If that’s the case then I’ve just spent the morning trying to resurrect the dead. And the coverage the extinct press release got me for clients last week must surely have been imaginary.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary (a trusted resource I hope you’ll agree) a press release is ‘an official statement issued to newspapers giving information on a particular matter.’

Quite ambiguous, but ultimately it means news.

So how can the press release be dead? It’s like saying that news is dead.

Back to the dictionary: news is ‘newly received or noteworthy information, especially about recent events.’

And unfortunately, for those press release haters out there, most ‘news’ is in some way related to a person, a business, a product, an organisation or a brand – which is going to give someone, somewhere some publicity.

So, a press release is simply a way to get that news to the journalist and the reader quicker.

Yes, there are an awful lot of PROs out there who are still spamming newsdesks with terrible press releases which barely function as cohesive sentences, let alone news.

But the ones that are doing it right – creating targeted content for particular titles, with relevant case studies, statistics and local hooks, are providing newspaper journalists – whose workforces have been cut down to the bare minimal – with decent content.

Perhaps the issue isn’t with the function, but with the name.

‘Press release’ – it has so many bad connotations – poorly written copy, thousands of people cc’d into the same email, that annoying ‘have you received my press release’ phone call.

So, maybe it’s about time the press release had a brand overhaul.

Let’s give it a new name which sums up what it does when it’s done right.

Perhaps:

-          ‘Great filler for overstretched journalists?’

-          ‘Starting point for an even bigger story?’

-          ‘Strong local news story?’

-          ‘Real news about real people?’

-          ‘A well written article which will add value to your readers?’

Much of the ‘press release is dying’ talk is put down to the fact that the traditional media channels are declining and everything is becoming about social media and online news sites.

But this isn’t affecting the tangible product – those 400 words or whatever still need to be written – they’re just distributed in a different way, with key wording no longer an afterthought.

And I for one can’t foresee a time in the near future when distribution via social media and SEO platforms will be entirely exclusive of being combined with traditional media.

Advertising Age has also been involved in the debate asking in its weekly poll ‘Is the press release dead?’

I’m pleased to note that the result is a resounding ‘No’.

What do you think?


5 reasons why hyperlocal news sites could help your PR campaign

At least one sector is benefiting from the decline in newspaper sales – online publications.  In particular, hyperlocal news sites which cater for individual cities, towns or postcodes.

These news sites have been popping up across the globe, and mix community news and issues with the fundamental characteristics of social media – encouraging readers to share content, comments and conversations.  

In the US you have AOLs Patch which describes itself as “a community-specific news and information platform dedicated to providing comprehensive and trusted local coverage for individual towns and communities.”

Patch launched its 100th site in August, and is planning to increase to 500 sites spanning 20 states by the end of 2010.

In the UK, as well as independent sites covering slightly larger areas, such as Bristol247, there are also chain sites including publishing company Northcliffe’s Local People. Currently it has over 120 sites covering areas across the UK.  

And, although there is some scepticism on the commercial viability of these sites, they only appear to be growing.

But what role can they play in your PR campaign and why are they important?

As an industry we’re already moving away from traditional media and embracing all things social – there’s no reason why hyperlocal news sites can’t also become a powerful part of the communications mix.  

For national campaigns it could perhaps prove more difficult, but for regional campaigns, tapping into these resources will become increasingly important.

Not sure how?

Treat the sites exactly as you would any other media outlet – get to know the community editor, research the subjects and sections and pitch with the ‘hyperlocal’ audience at the forefront of your mind.

Still not convinced?

Here are five reasons why you should consider hyperlocal sites in your next campaign:

1). Reach a niche audience

Hyperlocal news sites cater for a particular town, village or postcode. This is an incredibly small audience, but it also means that you can really target those that are important to your campaign – and more importantly – build trust with them as they start to view your product or service in relation to their daily lives.

2). Upload news for free

A lot of the sites offer news upload facilities. As a PRO it’s a great advantage – enabling you to publish your news release exactly as you want, along with images and photo captions.

Please note that I’m not encouraging spamming here – you need to make sure that your content is suitable for the audience. Most community editors are hot on removing content that isn’t relevant. You have been warned!

3). Multiple channels

Most sites have Twitter feeds which push its content out – meaning it pushes your content out too. Some also have daily newsletters. That’s three ways of communicating with your audience – in one fell swoop.

4). SEO

If you can get a link in your article back to your client’s website then that can only be a good thing. Also, hyperlocal sites have pretty good rankings (from my experience and opinion). If you include key words within your copy you’ve got a good chance of your story being found by those from outside the area too.  

5). Conversation

Community websites are rife with conversation. People are passionate about what’s happening on their doorstep – and as communicators we need to be getting involved. We’re already engaging on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook – why not here too?


Twitter for business – beginners guide

In my day job I deal with a lot of businesses who are unsure about social media, and Twitter in particular. The questions and the opinions are usually the same – they feel ‘it’s a waste of time’ or they ‘don’t understand how it works.’ 

Hopefully this post will explain the basics of what all this ‘tweeting’ is actually about – and more imortantly, how it can benefit your business. 

Anything to add let me know! 

What is Twitter? 

Twitter is a ‘micro-blogging’ site. It allows users to post updates of no more than 140 characters. You can follow people who interest you, and people can follow you – and with over 140 million active users world wide, it is a huge online networking opportunity. 

Twitter dictionary:

  • Tweet: Updating your status in 140 characters or less
  • Follower: People who are interested in you ‘follow’ what you say. Your followers are effectively your audience
  • Re-tweet: Someone is interested in what you’ve said and tweet it to their followers
  • Direct message (DM): Private message sent from one person to another. You need to be following each other to do this
  • At (@) reply: A public reply to something you have tweeted
  • # (hash tag): A hash tag can be used in front of a word to make relevant posts easier to search for
  • Tweep: a combination of ‘Twitter’ and ‘people’. Commonly used to refer to followers
  • Trending topic: A trending topic is the most popular topics on Twitter that day. They often use the hash tag i.e.: #budget
  • Lists: The list function allows you to create a ‘group’ of people you want to follow. I.e.: ‘businesses in the South West’ or ‘UK football clubs’

Profile page - this is the page that your followers can see. backgrounds can be changed, and you can add a biography and website details. This is where your 'tweets' appear.

 

 
 

  

This is your private home page. Only you can see this.

What is Twitter used for?

Although you do get people who use their accounts to tell the world that they have ‘run out of milk’ or they are ‘feeling tired’ (not surprisingly, no one follows them), in a business environment Twitter can be used for: 

  • Sharing company news
  • Sign-posting articles that are of interest to your followers
  • Replying to customer questions and complaints
  • Monitoring your competitors
  • Seeking out business opportunities
  • Building trust with your consumers

Useful Twitter tools:

There are hundreds of tools out there to help make using Twitter even easier. Here’s just a few. 

Hootsuite – this website allows you to update numerous social media accounts at once, have multiple users, shorten URLs (meaning links take up less of your valuable 140 characters), provides statistics on click throughs, allows you to set up automatic searches for key words and phrases and lets you schedule tweets.

Social Mention – allows you to track your tweet and see how many people you have reached 

Twitter Search – people often forget about Twitter’s own search facility 

Tweetdeck – similar to Hootsuite but needs downloading to your desktop 

What are the rules? 

Well, there are no rules – but there are things that will make you popular, and things that will make followers delete you before you’ve even hit the ‘tweet’ button. 

Do: 

  • Develop a voice. Twitter is an opportunity for consumers to hear from you, the face behind the business. Show a sense of humour!
  • Listen and engage in conversations. There are tons of online tools to monitor conversations on Twitter (such as Tweetdeck). Search for words related to your business and join in the conversation.
  • Follow people who are of interest to you and your industry. With any luck they will follow you back and voila! you’ve started to build your audience (it’s worth noting though that just because you follow someone it doesn’t mean they have to follow you)
  • Say thanks. If someone ‘re-tweets’ something you say, or asks you a question, make sure you reply. You wouldn’t ignore someone in person and it’s sometimes just as rude online!

Don’t: 

  • Constantly tweet about the boring things you’re doing. Unless you’re about to sit down and have dinner with Richard Branson then no one wants to know. 
  • Don’t ignore your account. There is no point setting up an account if you’re going to update your status once every fortnight, but at the same time you don’t want to ‘shout’ at your followers by tweeting 50 times a day. Balance is key. 
  • Constantly promote yourself. The rule with Twitter is that you need to offer your followers something which adds value to their online experience. If you have something you want to promote then that’s fine, but balance it out with industry news and third party articles. 
  • Don’t get too personal: Once you’ve hit the send button whatever you write is in the public domain permanently. Be sure of what you’re saying and don’t mud sling in public. 

How much time and money do I need to spend? 

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that Twitter is easy and quick. It requires time and dedication to get a decent amount of followers – but more than that, a decent amount of followers who engage with you on a regular basis. 

Set yourself goals – 5 updates per day, add 5 new followers each day etc, to make it seem more manageable. 

How do I measure return on investment? 

Now this is a question which always gets asked and one where there is no black and white answer. It’s incredibly hard to measure tangible results on Twitter – and almost impossible to measure the effect it has on your bottom line. 

Although you can take a quantitative approach – how many followers do you have, how many click throughs have there been to your website etc, it can be much more beneficial to take a qualitative approach – who is engaging with you, are people re-tweeting your content? Is what you are saying having an impact? 

Whatever approach you decide to take, it’s important to remember that despite Twitter being the buzz word on everyone’s lips at the moment, that doesn’t mean it will work for your company. 

Think seriously about your objectives and goals; research, and listen to the conversation – are your target consumers on Twitter? What are your competitors doing? before you invest any time.


The end of PR as we know it?

I was out having dinner with some friends last night, when one of the girls started talking about her job doing Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Pay Per Click (PPC). I understand the theory and importance behind both of these, but as for putting it into practice, that’s something I wouldn’t be able to do.

But that’s fine right? As a PRO my role is to manage client’s reputations and promote their brand, not worry about Google rankings.

But is it that simple anymore?

Everyone is talking about the fact that journalism and PR are dead. Now, it’s all about blogging, tweeting, rankings and numerous other ‘ings’ I have probably never even heard of.

Everywhere you look it’s digital and social media, and PROs and agencies are having to embrace these platforms in order to maintain clients.

But with all of these added media channels, the different areas of communication, and the role they play, are becoming increasingly blurred.

For example, there is already much conversation in the blogosphere about who social media should belong to – digital agencies or public relations.

So how long until PROs are expected to be able to deal not just with traditional PR (which, against popular belief is more than just spamming journalists with press releases) and social media, but also with SEO, PPC and web design, social media releases and optimising blog posts, online photos, presentations and You Tube videos.

As I’m writing this I know that it’s something that we should all be doing already – or at least have knowledge of. But sometimes it can feel like an impossible task to keep up – especially for a technophobe like me.

What do you think? Are you focusing on traditional PR and social media, or are you sat there reading ‘Idiots Guide to Web-Related ‘Ings’, awating the day when you’ll need to put them into action?


Why have some businesses taken so long to blog?

It’s been a busy week in the office with four of our clients taking up an exciting opportunity to blog on a regional business news website.

Blogs were one of the first forms of so-called social media. They offer a platform for commentary, an opportunity for reflection and, of course, encourage comments and discussion among peers.

But ultimately, a blog is there to make you a thought-leader, to get your name out there and boost your SEO.

So, why has it taken so long for some businesses to catch on?

Writing a blog can be a scary experience fraught with questions: what do I say? Am I good enough to say it? Who is going to want to read it? How can I talk about my business without giving away too much?

All of these are valid questions and ones PRs have to tackle on a daily basis when persuading clients of the potential of these platforms.

But they are questions that can be answered easily by examining your objectives and looking for examples from those in your industry that are already using blogging to their advantage.

Like all social media it can seem a bit daunting or confusing. Alot of businesses perceive it as a ‘fad’ or something the ‘kids’ do.

But don’t underestimate the power of blogging, or indeed other social networking methods like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

It’s not a fad – it’s a fundamental shift in the way the world communicates.

And it doesn’t matter what your business is, whether it’s a PR agency, a firm of solicitors or a paper clip factory.

Somewhere, there are people who want to read about your company, your news and your opinions.

There are over 9 million blogs out there with 40,000 new ones popping up each day.

Some of them are primitive, but a lot of them are incredibly powerful, and if you utilise the skills of the communications and IT professionals around you there is no reason why your blog can’t become one of your greatest assets.


Oriella survey – are the findings really that surprising?

A report, which studied over 770 journalists from across the globe to find out how digital technology is affecting journalism, has been issued by Oriella PR Network.

 A lot of the findings are to be expected; nearly half of journalists surveyed expect the print press to decline even further, and many realise that future editorial opportunities exist online.

 There were a couple of stats that made me chuckle though.

Around 46% of journalists said they were expected to produce more work, 30% said they are working longer hours and 28% have less time to research stories.

So, realistically, 54% of journalists are working the same amount as before, 70% are leaving bang on 5.30pm and 72% have loads of time to research stories!?

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not complaining.

A busy journalist is far more likely to accept a (decent) PR story than one who is brimming with their own ideas, and the time and resources to develop them.

The Guardian breaks down the report quite handily into ‘the good’, ‘the bad’ and ‘the ugly,’ and for me there were two findings that I found particularly interesting:

1. PRESS RELEASES STILL THE BEST WAY TO PITCH STORIES TO JOURNALISTS

Surprisingly – in my view – The Guardian has put the fact that 75 per cent of journalists still want emailed press releases and photographs into the ‘bad’ section of their report:

Journalists are less interested in receiving multimedia content from PRs; 75% want emailed releases and half want photographs. Does this mean less imaginative and experimental editorial?

Now, I know there has been all this talk about ‘the death of the press release’ but for me, and the clients I work with, it’s still a vital part of a successful PR programme.

As long as it’s done well and features targeted content, a strong news or local angle and a decent supporting photo, it can, and does, get great results.

2. PAID FOR CONTENT COULD BECOME THE NORM

There was huge controversy when The Times announced they would be charging for their online content (check out my previous post here).

But it looks as though, despite the outcry from The Times’ competitors and readers, that more newspapers may be set to follow, with 30 per cent of publishers exploring paid-for websites and 22 per cent looking at charges for smartphone apps.

Personally, although I don’t like the idea of having to pay (when I can still get it for free), the fact that journalists contributions are being given a tangible value I actually find quite refreshing.


What is the relationship between PRs and Journalists really like?

I recently blogged about the PRs perfect journalist – a post which has been the cause of a few interesting conversations with friends in the industry.

It’s also got responses from as far as America, with one PR professional in San Francisco contacting me to see if I could help with a survey they are currently undertaking to try and get to the route of the relationship between journalists and ‘the dark side’.

The survey, which looks at skills within the profession, is here. If you’ve got a few spare minutes please do fill it in.

It’s currently aimed only at Americans but they are interested in international responses.

Unfortuntely there’s not an international option on the survey – so just pick a state!

I’m also planning to write the ‘other side’ of the story with a post about the ‘journalist’s perfect PR’.

If you’ve got anything to contribute let me know!


Using Twitter for PR

Everyone who is anyone in the industry should be on Twitter by now, or so we are led to believe by the countless blog posts and news articles.

But it’s all well and good being ‘on’ Twitter – but how can it actually help you to build relationships with journalists or get coverage for your clients?

56% said social media was important or somewhat important for reporting and producing stories - Graphic by Cision

The Guardian recently reported that more journalists than ever are using social media as a way to research stories.

 Here’s a few tips to make sure you don’t miss out:

1. Follow the publications you target

Whether it’s national consumer press, trade titles or regional publications and newspapers that you’re interested in, many of them can be found on Twitter, opening up a whole new method of communication and research. Check out the list of Twitter accounts here or search Twitter for publications in your area. Following publications can give you a good idea of what they’re covering and some even use their account as a way of asking for information or interviews.

2. Search effectively

Freelance journalists have been using Twitter for a while now to help them find content for stories. However, it can be a nightmare navigating though Twitter to find the right posts. Many have started using the hash tag #journorequest. Search for this every day on Twitter to make sure you don’t miss any opportunities for your clients.

3. Follow journalists

Follow journalists relevant to your area. Ste Davies (previously PR Blogger) has done an amazing job at compiling a list of UK journalists on Twitter. Don’t expect them to all follow you back though – unfortunately it doesn’t work like that! It’s also worth checking out Muck Rack, which gives easy access to journalist’s latest tweets.

4. Don’t spam

Just because you’re following a journalist or a publication on Twitter doesn’t mean you should spam them and send them links to every press release or feature you write. Use Twitter to listen to them and monitor what they want and how they interact with other users.

5. Make your own Twitter account interesting

Post links to your press releases on your Twitter site and have links through to your company’s website too. If it’s interesting enough then you may just get journalists following you too.

6. Be nice

Building relationships on Twitter is hard and time consuming and its best to start with the journalists you already have a relationship with in the real world. It’s always nice to promote someone’s Twitter account – a good way to do this is ‘Follow Friday’ where people recommend fellow Twitter users to their followers. Check out hash tags #ff or #followfriday to see how it works. This is a bit sneaky but a good way to make first contact with journalists without being overtly sales driven.

7. Pitch carefully

Twitter, in the grand scheme of things is still a fairly new platform for the industry, and it is yet to be decided if pitching stories directly to journalists via this medium is OK or not. Play it by ear and use your PR instinct.

8. List it

A new tool on Twitter is ‘lists’ which allow you to create lists of Twitter users from the same industry, or who tweet about the same topic. It’s a great way to find new Twitter users to follow. EConsultancy has put together a great list of some of the best ones to follow.

9. How not to do it

Another hash tag worth checking out is #PRfail – posts usually written by disgruntled journalists who have been on the receiving end of some bad PRs. Take note – bad PR is talked about, so don’t make the mistakes in the first place!


Does spelling matter if it’s social?

I’ve just logged into my LinkedIn account and a poll came up titled ‘Does your company have and follow an editorial process for social media to avoid typos and grammatical errors in postings?’

At the time of writing this, the results were 64% No and 35% Yes (whatever happened to the other 1% I’m not entirely sure!)

I find this statistic quite interesting. After all – in what other instance would copy be issued into the public domain without being proofed? I work in a fairly small B2B team and every press release and feature written is proofed by at least two members of staff.

The quality of written work is of the utmost importance in the PR industry. It’s the one thing we should be able to do with our eyes closed.

I would be mortified if I sent out a press release full of grammatical errors and spelling mistakes.

But with social media it appears that it’s OK.

In fact, even if you did have an editorial process in place, as suggested in the LinkedIn poll, would you actually be able to follow it?

After all, if the apostrophe in ‘there’s’ or the space between a full stop and the start of a new sentance means you total 141 characters instead of 140, what would you do?

Delete the apostrophe of course! Surely it’s accepted with such a tight word limit?

(I’d like to see the papers use that excuse next time a sub editor is struggling with a headline).

It’s interesting to see if this will ever stray into more traditional PR and media, especially considering the high use of ‘text talk’ over the last few years.

However, I can’t see it happening any time soon. As an industry, I think we’re still too proud for that.


Would you quit Facebook?

Last week saw ‘Quit Facebook Day,’ a day set up by a Canada-based duo Matthew Millan and Joseph Dee, who wanted to get the masses to quit the social networking site after the controversy surrounding its privacy rules.

Unsurprisingly, the day was a huge flop with only 33,000 users reportedly quitting.  

But why? Especially when so many people have been complaining about the site?

The fact is Facebook has become an integral part of modern life. Just like you couldn’t imagine living without a mobile phone, most people now can’t imagine living without Facebook.

Think about how many times your phone breaks, or the signal leaves more to be desired. You don’t turn round and say ‘well, that’s it I’m quitting mobile phones.’ Hell, most people won’t even go through the hassle of changing service providers!

Facebook is the same. Yes, it has its negatives but they are far out-weighed by its positives and despite the rise of other social networking sites such as diaspora I still don’t think Facebook will fall from grace for a very long time.

I’ve had my profile for 6 years and keep in touch with friends and family all over the world. It’s used for arranging events, sending birthday wishes, making friends, joining new activities and god knows how many other things.

Socially, it’s become a lifeline and the idea of having to start all over again elsewhere is quite frankly, not something I can be bothered with.

And I’m sure I’m not the only one.

I’ve just got back from a university reunion in sunny (yes, really) Preston, Lancs and Facebook was integral in organising it. Where else can 14 people liaise so easily – and for free?

And to be honest – is the privacy thing that hard?

Of course online privacy is incredibly important but I feel strongly that it’s the user’s responsibility to ensure that they have their settings how they want.

Social networking sites are essentially a business and what they sell is YOUR personal details and access to your likes and dislikes.

The owners of the sites have no commercial interest in making things too easy. As long as the privacy options are there they have covered their responsibility, it’s up to us to utilise them.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 99 other followers