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How To Create A Message Platform

As promised in my Message Planning post, here is the first post in my series on message planning. If you don’t know how to put together a message platform, this platform will help you understand some of the components most commonly found in them. If you already know how to create a message platform, I hope you’ll pick up a tip or two that you can use the next time you have to put one together – and I hope you’ll chime in with your suggestions for the less-experienced readers of this post. Please keep in mind that there are many different approaches to developing a message platform. Not all platform components outlined in this post are necessary or appropriate for every organization. I’m providing these suggestions as guidance for those going through this process for the first time. It’s up to you to evaluate and decide which components will help you best meet your communication goals.

Rather than drone on about all the reasons why you should create a message platform for your organization, I’m going to assume you have already gone through that process. If you need a reason, I think a message platform is a great way to get everyone in your organization on the same page with who you are, what you do and how you want to communicate all those things in various formats inside and outside of your organization. Let’s get started…. [Read more…]

Message Planning

This is the first post in a series on the importance of message planning in the communications process. I’ve been thinking a lot about message planning and message management over the course of the past couple of months. For one, we’re in the thick of the political campaign season. Few communication disciplines provide such a deliberate look into the effectiveness of communication planning to deliver a measured outcome as politics. While I personally have zero campaign management experience, as a communications professional, I appreciate the work campaign strategists do to manage messages over the course of a campaign. Say what you will about any of the candidates running for office at the moment, but behind all of them are talented communications professionals that know how to leverage market data to adapt – and in some cases manipulate – messaging to persuade audiences in one way or another.

It’s also a great time of year to start thinking about your own message strategy and planning process. If you’re like most organizations, you’re probably entering some form of annual planning. Budgets are being set for the coming year, and you’re most likely starting to think about the campaigns you’ll kick off in January. Most of these campaigns will include strategies for communicating with the target audiences most important to your organization. This is where message planning comes into play – or should come into play. Organizations that overlook the importance of message planning will waste valuable marketing resources trying to communicate sporadically with their audiences. Don’t make this mistake. [Read more…]

Are Blog Posts Better Than Press Releases?

Why are we still writing press releases? If press releases are part of your work life, you’ve probably asked this question once or twice in the past year (or more). Really though, press releases require a lot of time and effort to produce and distribute. There are hard costs associated with the process. And I’ll go out on a limb here and challenge the return on investment from press releases – the results tend to be pretty lackluster, even from those fancy multimedia or social news releases. There has to be a better way, and I think that way is a news blog.

What would happen if you stopped writing press releases and instead started a blog dedicated to your company news? If I were working for a brand new start-up today – a company that’s never issued a press release – this is the path I would take. If you build an audience around your news blog, you create an earned media channel for instantly sharing your news with the most-interested audiences. This could be your most-trusted and most-likely-to-be-interested journalists and bloggers, but also could include customers, prospects, employees and all the other key audiences interested in your news.

A blog doesn’t charge you by the word length of your post, or try to upsell you on additional distribution. Distribution is earned by the quality and relevance of the information you share through the blog. Here are a few suggestions for using a news blog as an alternative to writing and distributing press releases. I think you’ll at least consider that blog posts could be better than press releases.

1. Make It Official – let all your existing contacts know that you’re no longer going to be sending out press releases. Send an email to all your contacts and encourage them to subscribe to the blog (make this announcement your first news post on the blog). If you have different types of news announcements, offer segmented subscription options to give your contacts more flexibility (this will drive better conversion, but also allow you to segment your distribution to the best targets).

2. Plan Your News Calendar – you’ll want to publish more frequently on the blog than you would probably send out press releases. This is your opportunity to play editor-in-chief of your own news blog. Develop some themes that will build interest for your content. You’re no longer limited to the tired press release format – you can write news stories on your blog. For example, maybe you have a monthly Q&A column with the CEO about what’s going on in your industry. You can profile a different person in your company each month. You can post your comments on major news and events going on in your industry. You can share insights into internal decisions guiding the development of new products, or share success stories your current customers want to share. Of course, you can post graphics, images, video and other multimedia to the blog as well. Maybe you have your product marketing leader discuss your latest product in a video, supported by an overview of features and a demo – that has to be more engaging than a press release. Over time, this content will lead to interview requests from journalists and bloggers.

3. Build An Archive – before you launch the blog, publish all of the past year’s press releases as posts on the day they appeared. These back-dated posts will serve as your news archive, but also give you valuable content to encourage search engines to rank your posts. This will help you pull more traffic to your news blog. Be sure to enlist the help of your interactive marketing or search engine marketing resources to optimize your posts for the relevant keywords you’re trying to rank for. The archive also invites new contacts to subscribe to your blog, because it gives them some history on the types of news you’re capable of delivering over time (granted, the quality will only get better from here).

4. Solicit Reader Feedback – unlike press releases, your blog is built for comments. Let people comment on your news – you’ll be surprised by the feedback you receive. It’s great to get instant feedback from your audiences on your news announcements. This also enables you to address any issues across your audiences that you might not have learned about through the traditional PR process.

5. Encourage Sharing – with integrated social sharing, your news will have equal or greater reach than before (depending on how social-friendly your releases were). You benefit from this sharing, versus the place your press releases used to be hosted. All the traffic comes back to you, providing you with more opportunities to engage your audience.

6. Track the Results – when all your news is on the blog, you’ll be able to tap into more in-depth analytics on the reach and interest surrounding your news announcements. You’ll know which outlets wrote about your news and linked back (great for SEO), but also be able to report to management (or your client) about the success of various news announcements. If you’re using a lead management or automation system, or an email service provider, you’ll be able to track the reach of your news down to specific journalists (and know whether or not the received the news, read it or read it several times). This type of intelligence is incredibly valuable for your media relations team that is responsible for securing coverage. With this gauge of interest, your team will be able to make better real-time decisions about who to call and follow-up with to secure coverage.

7. Save Money – how much did you spend last year on sending out press releases?  I bet it was more than the cost of hosting the blog. Sure, you’ll still have to pay people to write your content – and pitch those stories in some cases. If you do a good job building your audience, the press requests will come to you and not the other way around. This is inbound PR 101.

8. More Likely to Be Read – finally, press releases just aren’t that interesting to read. Blog posts stand a better chance to be read, provided you write them as stories. When you share a link to a blog post with a journalist about your latest news, I predict you’ll get a much stronger response than if you send them a press release. Try it on your next announcement and see what happens. I suspect you’ll make the switch.

This is a crazy idea, isn’t it? It’s not that crazy really. There are a lot of smart companies moving to the news blog as an alternative to traditional press releases. Google and HubSpot are two companies that come to mind. Both use their blogs as the primary channel for communicating their news – and it’s worked really well for them. You too can find success switching over to a news blog as your primary channel for communicating your news. If you’re not ready to jump in full force, you could always launch a news blog to test the waters and compare the results you get there versus your press releases. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

What do you think? Can a blog replace the traditional press release archive on your website? Is a blog post better than a press release? Do you still think a press release is the better option? Share your thoughts.

 

The Journalism Movies Post

journalism moviesI’ve wanted to write a journalism movies post for about two years now. I scrapped the idea the first time, because I was thinking more along the lines of writing a “best journalism movies” post. Even if I had succeeded in developing a sexy algorithm (oxymoron?) that yielded an objective list, it would still be wrong. My logic was flawed. I don’t think you can make a list of the best journalism movies ever made, because it’s too subjective.

For starters, what is a journalism movie? Is it a movie about journalism, like All The President’s Men, or would a journalist character be enough, as is the case with Superman? Then there’s the question of films like Capote or The Help, which don’t meet the former criteria, but have elements one could argue are representative of professional journalism. Would these films be worthy?

Then there was the issue credibility in recommending any films to watch. I’m not a film critic. I’m not a journalist. And for the most part, I haven’t seen all the films I would put on the list. Then it hit me – you probably haven’t seen a lot of these films either. Why not just put together a thoughtfully assembled list and let you decide which films appeal to your interests? I relied heavily on @journalistics‘ Twitter followers for suggestions, and thanks to them (and some research into the topic), I’ve come up with roughly 30 journalism-related films. Most you’ve seen, but my hope is you discover one or two on this list that you didn’t know about.

I’ve tried to provide a little background for each film on the list. Where possible, I’ve included tweets from our followers about the films – as an added thanks for their contributions. The list includes some great Oscar-nominees and winners, some incredible documentaries and a few less respectable works I’m mixing in there for the heck of it.

I view this post as a work in progress. It won’t be complete until you chime in with your suggestions for films I overlooked, or your opinion on the films you’ve seen on this list. The goal of this post is to help some of you discover a journalism-related film you didn’t know about before reading this post. If that happens, please let me know.

Without further adieu, here’s that list of journalism-related films I cam up with. Brace yourself, the post comes in just under 4,700 words. [Read more…]

Getting Coverage for Your News Should Be Easy

If you work in media relations today, and you’re having a hard time getting coverage for your news, you’re doing something wrong. Journalists exist to write about news. If you have a legitimate news story, you shouldn’t have a hard time getting coverage. When I reflect on the 15 years I’ve been doing some aspect of media relations as part of my job, I can’t think of a single instance where I had a hard time getting coverage for news.

When I’ve had problems getting coverage – while I didn’t realize it at the time – it was because the story wasn’t actually newsworthy, or I was talking to the wrong journalists. The purpose of this post is to help you figure this stuff out much sooner than the 15 year mark in your career.

First, Are You Talking to the Right Journalists?

Who covers your news? Which reporters write the most about the topics related to what you do? You should know who they are off the top of your head. If you don’t, start there. Subscribe to the publications they write for. Read the stuff they write. It only takes a couple of minutes a day to do this, and you’ll quickly find that you know exactly who to talk to when news bubbles to the surface in your organization. [Read more…]

Networking Online and Offline

Networking is a topic near and dear to my heart. Every single opportunity I’ve had in my lifetime to date has been born out of a relationship initiated by me or someone else. You can probably say the same. In my case, maybe it was a connector who introduced me to my former employer. Maybe it was me extending my hand for the first time and finding the next person I would decide to work on a project with. Maybe the relationship was born out of small talk waiting in line somewhere. Those of you that read this blog, and know me in real life, probably have an interesting story about how we met.

I found myself thinking about the topic of how networking has changed in my recent trip to SXSW Interactive. Think about the startups generating the most buzz coming out of SXSW the past couple of years. There’s Highrise, GroupMe, Twitter, Forecast, Plancast and Foursquare (this list could easily be 50 companies long, but you get the point). What do they all have in common? In one way or another, they help us to connect easier with one another. Isn’t that what social media is all about?

For the social media-savvy group, which I consider myself a member of, it’s helped us to develop hundreds (if not thousands) of new connections that wouldn’t have been possible using traditional networking. By traditional networking, I mean getting out there and meeting people in real life. It would take a lifetime of traditional networking to make the connections we can make in a few months using social media. Would you have known that the woman you work with went to school with your best friend’s fraternity brother? Nope, not without LinkedIn. How about the dozen or so people in your city you know through Twitter now? How long would it have taken to meet them the old fashioned way? You probably would never have met them. [Read more…]

10 Things I Love About SXSW

It’s that time of year again. No, not time to spring ahead… well, actually, it is time for that on Saturday, but I’m referring to the annual nerd pilgrimage to Austin for the mega conference SXSW Interactive (eh hem… Spring Break for grown-ups, disguised as a interactive marketing conference). This will be my third trip to the conference and while I’m no longer a SXSW virgin, I’m hardly giving lessons yet. However, I am entitled to an opinion, so here is my list of the top 10 things I love about SXSW:

1. The Energy – there is such a good vibe at this “conference”. Maybe it’s the free booze everywhere – but I’d prefer to think that the people who go share a passion for learning, and they realize that comes from meeting and talking with people.

2. The Friends – there are people I run into at SXSW that I can’t manage to catch up with in Atlanta or San Francisco (where I spend most of my time). Despite my efforts the past few weeks to broadcast my intentions to attend SXSW this year, I know I’ll see a dozen or so people there that will surprise me. I can’t wait.

3. The Content - if you can’t find sessions you’re interested in at SXSW, you shouldn’t be going. There are always three things going on at the same time – the conference forces you to make tough decisions every hour. [Read more…]

Quality Versus Quantity

When I started this blog back in 2009, I wanted to vent about media relations. At the time, PR people were taking a lot of heat for spamming bloggers. It seemed like every day there was some story about a PR person that had pissed off a blogger. Most of the attacks were probably justified, though the result of years of built up tension in most cases. As I started blogging, I didn’t think it would stick. When I launched my personal blog in 2007, I wrote two posts, then deleted them. I’d write them again, then I deleted them. I ultimately decided blogging wasn’t for me. I eventually came around.

With Journalistics, it was different. In 2009, social media was starting to take off. I had 12 years of PR experience under my belt – and I knew a thing or two about SEO. I never thought of myself as an expert, but as I started to share my suggestions, a lot of great feedback started coming in. I was actually helping people. Some people said my blog had become their favorite (but that’s what mom’s are supposed to say, right?).

If you had told me that hundreds of thousands of people would read my posts, I wouldn’t have believed you. But that’s what happened. Then the posts started being mentioned by people I respected in the industry. And then I’d have people come up to me at conferences and say, “I read your blog. I love it.” I always thought they had me confused for a similar-sounding blog. [Read more…]

Introducing ExpertEngine

Journalistics has launched a new service called ExpertEngine. ExpertEngine will help journalists (eventually) quickly (and anonymously) search for, find and contact experts for the stories they are working on. Before I give you the full scoop (and the sign-up info), here’s a quick story about why we – a blog about journalism and PR – decided to create ExpertEngine.

One of the best and worst things about working with start ups, particularly if you’re entrepreneurial like myself, is you inevitably find yourself wanting to do your own thing again. As some of you know, I majored in public relations and journalism at Utica College of Syracuse University. It’s one of the few colleges that combines instruction for journalism and PR – so since college, I’ve learned about both sides of the fence. I’ve always thought of starting a business related to PR/journalism – but not a service business like I did with my agency, but rather a product business.

Somewhere in the midst of Web 2.0, but before the social media craze, I started thinking to myself, “There has to be an idea I can take to market that PR people will love?” PR is hard work… how can I make it easier? What problem that hasn’t been solved yet? Surely there is an outdated or overpriced service that could be updated for the 2000s? I mean, what independent PR professional can afford $5K a year (at the time) for a media database? I ultimately settled on creating a FREE media database. You know, Vocus/Cision meets Wikipedia? If you ever read Wikinomics, you know there are plenty of examples of peer production and mass collaboration successes out there – I was sure it would work if I built it. I did start to build it, but then… [Read more…]

The Top 11 Journalistics Posts of 2011

best journalism posts 2011This is the third year I’ve written a “Top Journalistics Posts of the Year” post. The greatest hits meme is a little overdone, I know – but when you consider about half our readers are ‘new visitors’, a lot of these posts are new to them. I personally enjoy the exercise of reviewing our best posts from the year. Reflecting on my work from the past year gives me renewed focus for the coming year.

This couldn’t be more true this year. I took a look back at our Top 9 Posts of 2009 and Top 10 Posts of 2010 to see how the blog has changed over the past few years. The first thing that jumped out at me is how good the posts from 2009 were. Three or four of those first posts remain the most-viewed each year on the blog (I won’t reveal which ones they are, mainly because they’re great resources – but in desperate need of updating).

The popularity of these posts tells me two things:

1. Those posts were great – and well worth the effort that went into them (some of the more labor intensive posts to date)

2. If I was writing great content, posts from 2009 wouldn’t still be the most popular content in 2011

We have a lot of great content lined up for 2012. As always, we welcome your feedback. For now, without further adieu, here are the top posts of 2011: [Read more…]