Twitter Forces PR Pros to Get to the Point (Journalists Love It)

pointIs it just me, or are journalists and PR people playing nice in Twitter? For some reason, the media have embraced Twitter as their platform of choice. It’s hard to find an organization (or journalist) that has avoided Twitter’s inertia. Of course, where there are journalists, there are PR people. The most popular PR people on Twitter have tens of thousands of followers on Twitter (and they all follow the media too).

Despite there being many different directories and lists of media on Twitter, there has been little backlash from the media community. And to the best of my knowledge, the “PR spam” issue has yet to rear its ugly head in Twitterland. If that weren’t evidence enough, there’s the wildly popular #journchat (and several copychats) that regularly pull participants from both sides of the aisle (journos and flacks). That’s worth repeating… you have a bunch of journalists openly tweeting with PR folks about how to work more effectively together. The ratio of PR to journos does seem to be more skewed in favor of PR lately though, so it may not last much longer. That’s probably the case with most “tweet chats” in general, but that’s a future post.

So why is Twitter such a great place for journalists and PR people to exchange ideas, get to know one another, and go back to building relationships? PR pros only get 140 characters to get their point across. Which is why a lot of people like Twitter. It forces all of us to get to the point for a change. Let’s face it, some people use too many words. I’m one of them. I could have done without this entire sentence in this paragraph.

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Journalism Isn’t Going Anywhere

woodwardA lot of great journalists have lost their jobs in the past year. A lot of great newspapers have gone under in the past year. Despite what many might want you to believe, journalism is not dying. Google is not to blame. And there is a strong and vibrant outlook for journalism – it will probably just look a lot different.

I’m fortunate to have shared passions for journalism, public relations and technology. As time goes by, I see more and more of an intersection between these three areas. We’re now at a point where technology is going to be even more critical to connecting content producers with sources of information, as can be seen with the rapid growth in popularity of new communication platforms like Twitter.

Regardless of how many journalists find themselves out of work in traditional newspaper environments, there are many new business models out there that will support the continued need for professional journalists. Whether a newspaper, website, blog or tweetstream, few individuals are better suited than a professionally trained journalist to deliver the news. There will always be a need for journalists, no matter how much the medium changes.

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14 Free Resources for Building a Media List

magazinesNot everyone can afford a subscription to Vocus or Cision. If you are one of them, and you need to build a media list (and you don’t have a friend that will do it for you), I suggest doing the legwork yourself. You can find most outlets for free on the Web, as there are tons of free directories of media information out there.

If you need to build a media list from scratch, I suggest starting with identifying the outlets you want to target. Once you have a list of target outlets, visit the website for each outlet to research it thoroughly. Each media organization provides different levels of media information you can use to fine-tune your lists.

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Managing Client Expectations In PR

Now more than ever, it’s critical that your clients understand what PR is and isn’t. Many of the negative perceptions surrounding PR can be traced back to a lack of understanding of what PR is and isn’t. Helping clients understand the PR process and what they can expect for realistic results can dramatically improve their satisfaction with your services.

Here are some tips that have helped me set client expectations accordingly in the past:

  • What outlets are important to them? – it’s important that you understand your clients expectations before you start working with them. Do they expect to be featured in BusinessWeek or invited to be a guest on Oprah? Do they have a story that is strong enough for either of those outlets? If not, tell them upfront. Help them understand what makes a good story for these outlets.
  • The Best Outlets for Your Goals – develop a PR strategy for your client that clearly outlines the best outlets to reach their target audiences to generate the best results for the campaign. Help them understand the reasoning behind the outlets you’ve selected, and why it doesn’t make sense to pursue opportunities in outlets that will have no interest in covering them. A product review in a vertical trade can often deliver more sales than a brief mention in a business magazine – clients may not understand this like you do, so you have to educate them.
  • There is Only So Much Real Estate to Work With – while online opportunities increase the number of options for placing stories, there is still incredible competition in all areas to be featured in a story. At a typical trade publication, only three out of 15 or more interview sources may make it into the final article. Regardless of how effective you are at lining up interviews for your client, there is a small chance that the information you provide will be relevant or useful for the story the journalist is working on. Clients need to understand that it’s a long-term process of building relationships with the media, one that will eventually pay off if you stick with it and prove yourself as an expert source.

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Create Your Expert Profile to Reach More Journalists

Everyone is an expert on something. Are you an expert on something? Do journalists and bloggers know about your expertise? I’ve recently wrote about how journalists and bloggers find expert sources for stories, but this post is focused on how you can better position and present yourself as an expert. If you’re an expert that is interested in being a regular source for the media, you’d be well-served to create an expert profile.

What’s an Expert Profile?

There is no one correct answer to this question. From my perspective, it’s a personal online press room. While a traditional online press room has all the information a journalist or blogger might want to know about your company, an expert profile should have all the information a journalist or blogger might want to know about you. How often has somebody asked for your bio, or asked you to provide more information on yourself as background? Having a pre-populated site with all this information available can save you a lot of time, and help you stand apart from other experts in the market.

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MediaOnTwitter Wiki 2.0

As announced on this morning, the MediaOnTwitter wiki is getting an upgrade. The new MediaOnTwitter wiki will be powered by TrackVia’s online database, and will be the “first shareable media database available to Twitter users.”


To generate interest for the database, the MediaOnTwitter team is giving away a Kindle 2 to on lucky winner on April 13. Anyone can enter by completing two simple tasks:

  1. Enter a media contact through the form found here.
  2. Post a tweet before April 13th that references MediaOnTwitter and the tag #mediatweet

The new MediaOnTwitter database will launch after April 20th. Some of the new improvements will include:

  • Improved Data Entry – rather than relying on editors to update the wiki, anyone can submit media contact information through a convenient Web form. Editors will review submissions and approved entries will be populated across a shared database.
  • Improved Organization – users will have more options for how they can browse media records across the international database, making it easier to find contacts by country, media outlet, name, beat, etc.
  • Enhanced Collaboration – the database will be open to more users in more places, encouraging more mass collaboration and peer production to maintain and expand the database across the globe.

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Quick Tips to Improve Your PR and Marketing Writing

Learning to become a better writer, like any skill you want to master, takes practice and a desire to improve. Most professionals, myself included, want to become better writers. From my experience, it’s the practice part where things fall apart.

I still have a long way to go to become the writer I want to be. For starters, I use too many words. My sentences are too long and for certain formats – blogging for instance, my posts are too long. I’m working to improve at this. My writing would also improve greatly if I would write, re-write and revise more often. I think a lot of people fall into this trap, when publishing content for a blog is more about speed than quality.

As I’ve started to write more this year, I’ve been reminded of some of the tips that have helped me along the way. These tips apply to different types of writing, but they can be applied across many formats depending on your need.

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CAN-SPAM and PR Pitches

I’ve thought a lot about the topic of PR and spam in recent months. Coming from a PR and marketing background, I’ve managed PR and email marketing campaigns. I understand the rules of CAN-SPAM compliance as they apply to email marketing, but not so much when it comes to the unsolicited PR pitch.

On the surface, it’s easy to assume that if a journalist or blogger hasn’t opted-in to receive information from a PR firm, it must be a violation of CAN-SPAM. If you read the CAN-SPAM guidelines on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website, you could easily see how PR messages could be considered spam by some media professionals. For example:

  • You must include an opt-out – a lot of agencies provide – and PR database vendors – provide mechanisms to be removed from a distribution list. There are many that provide no opt-out, and those that do, may not have adequate systems in place to ensure others in the organization don’t send to the email on the next campaign.
  • You can’t use misleading information in the subject line – a simple reference to “the world’s first” or “the leading company” could be interpreted as misleading, along with any other tactic that attempts to convince the journalist to open your email. But that’s nit-picking, and not really what the law is designed for, right?
  • If a recipient opts-out, their request must be processed within 10 days, and the sender must have a system in place to manage opt-outs for at least 30 days. Technically, if a journalist says “take me off your list,” you can’t send them information again for at least 30 days, regardless of the subject matter.

Do PR agencies violate CAN-SPAM? The short answer is “not really.” Journalists and bloggers do not have to opt-in to receive information from PR, but they do have the right to opt-out. The real issue with the PR spam problem is that many journalists and bloggers do not opt-out, but rather work to solve the problem on their own, creating email filtering rules or their own homegrown list of PR spammers.

If they did formally opt-out, and the agency continued to send them information, it would technically be in violation. A journalist could file a complaint with the FTC, but there is no guarantee that this would be enforced, given the fact that most agencies are not serious offenders. And most of the journalists we’ve talked to said they simply don’t have the time or desire to take such drastic measures, even though they are frequently frustrated with the amount of “PR spam” they receive.

Regardless of whether a journalist opts-out, or takes things to the extreme and files a complaint, agencies are within their right to send unsolicited emails to journalists and bloggers. However, those who have not opted-in may be more inclined to report your agency’s email as spam, potentially affecting your ability to send email with a high deliverability rate.

If an ISP (Internet Service Provider) regularly receives complaints that your email is spam (when they click the “report spam” button in some email clients), you may be added to the ISPs blacklist, and all email you send to users of that ISP will be labeled as spam.

Read on for “Best Practices for Staying Off Spam Lists”. [Read more…]

How Many Press Releases Are Sent Out Each Day?

Any journalist or blogger I talk to says they receive a lot of press releases every day. I recently got a message from a reporter working at a small local paper who received 80 press releases in one day – of which only two were relevant to the information his paper covers. This didn’t surprise me, because I hear this story over and over again. It did get me thinking though, “I wonder how many press releases are distributed each day?”

I’ve tried to find this information before with no luck. I decided to give it another try, this time using Twitter to issue the question to popular news distribution services PR Newswire, BusinessWire, Marketwire and PRWeb. Within a few hours, PR Newswire and BusinessWire responded with almost identical answers: they both send out about 1,000 releases each day (2,000 total), though special features and busy news times can drive this number even hire. Holiday tie-in news releases for example.

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How Do Journalists and Bloggers Decide What to Write About?

How do journalists and bloggers decide what to write about?

If you guessed they get all their ideas from PR people, you’re dreaming. Though a surprising number do. While it may be common sense for some of you, some might not know how journalists and bloggers decide what to write about (or which stories to produce in the broadcast arena).

So how do journalists and bloggers decide what to write about? Here are a few of the most common responses we’ve heard from talking to dozens of them:

  • They get assigned a story from editors, along with the sources they should interview for the piece – often from an in-house database of go-to sources, built through long-term relationships with experts and PR professionals.
  • They write a story based on recent news events – in other words, they write about the news of the day. This is one of the biggest areas of opportunity for PR pros, since they can latch onto the hot stories to position their experts as spokespeople or suggest new and exciting angles to cover. Tie-ins to Twitter and the Octo-Mom coverage are two current examples.
  • They get an idea for a story based on their knowledge and experience covering a beat, and reach out to their trusted sources to flesh out the details.
  • They have original ideas for stories that aren’t out there. They come up with story ideas we’ve never thought of, do the research, and entertain us with their findings. PR can play a role here, if pros can point out a story-of-interest that hasn’t been told yet.
  • They expand upon coverage another journalist or blogger has written about, offering us fresh perspective or counter point, or telling the article as it relates to us locally.
  • They talk to people. They stay in close contact with their best sources or they attend industry events and conferences. The challenge for you is

This is only a sampling of ways journalists and bloggers decide what to write about. Understanding how story ideas originate can help you be a more effective media relations professional.

Keep reading for more information on Where Journalists Find Information About Your Company and Where Journalists Look to Find Expert Sources. [Read more…]