- Member Type(s): Expert
- Title:Principal and Co-founder
- Organization:InkHouse Media + Marketing
- Area of Expertise:Public relations, social media
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Thursday, October 10, 2013, 4:01 PM
Message clarity and simplicity are some of the most fundamental, and often overlooked, tenets of good PR. The average newspaper is written at the third grade reading level, yet innovative companies often ignore one of the easiest ways to draw attention: storytelling.
I was reminded of this importance yesterday on my drive to work by NPR’s Steve Inskeep and Richard Harris, who reported on the winners of this year’s Nobel Prize in Medicine for “Morning Edition.”
James Rothman, Randy Schekman and Thomas Sudhof shared this year’s prize for their discoveries of “machinery regulating vesicle traffic,” as NPR’s segment noted. This is not the language of the average third-grader, or the average NPR listener.
So Inskeep and Harris spent most of the piece providing real-world analogies and plain language descriptions of the discoveries to make the story accessible.
The discoveries have massive implications. Yet, without an easy-to-understand explanation of their impact, no one would know (save the Nobel Prize Committee, of course).
So how did they describe it? You can read or listen to it for yourself, but here are the basics of this very important story:
What is the discovery? Inskeep opened with this: he said that the three scientists had, “figured out how cells package up material like hormones, and how they deliver those materials to other cells. This is one of the most basic functions for living cells, and diseases can result when the machinery goes awry….”
How does it work? Inskeep provided this: “This is how cells communicate with each other. The cells transmit substances to one another. This is the phone line. This is the FedEx system.”
Why is it important? Harris made it very clear: “….this is very, very basic stuff that you need to understand if you’re going to cure diseases like diabetes or some neurological diseases or immune system dysfunctions.”
I am certain that the scientific community would laugh at this simplified explanation. However, it is instructive for communications professionals. At its heart, a successful PR program must tell a compelling story. And a company that has a transformational breakthrough is deserving of media attention. Yet, a company that cannot translate that breakthrough into everyday language will never be heard beyond its own community.
Wednesday, July 17, 2013, 9:45 AM
In between reporting on Edward Snowden, the crash of Asiana flight 214, and the Boston Marathon Bombing suspect’s appearance in court, Anthony De Rosa, the relatively new editor-in-chief for Circa, graciously answered a few questions for me about this innovative news platform he is presiding over and the future of journalism.
Circa is the mobile news app that breaks stories down to their core facts to make them easier to read and share. For more on how it works, read, “The Message and the Medium: Mobile News, Circa and Anthony De Rosa.” I wanted to find out more about how De Rosa and his team source news stories (Circa’s stories are written by aggregating credible sources into unique articles), and how he views the evolution of investigative journalism. Here’s our conversation:
Beth: How do Circa editors determine which sources to cite? I love the approach of using a string of facts and quotes to build stories and am curious about the process of mining through the chorus of voices to determine which is the most authoritative source on any given topic.
Anthony: We check multiple sources we’ve become comfortable with over a long period of time for their reliability. In some cases we may even contact primary sources (officials, the journalist who broke the story, emergency personnel, main subjects of the story) in order to confirm information. Nobody owns the facts, we track them down and verify them to create original storylines. We write original storylines that are made for mobile. Concise, fact-driven and to the point.
Note: On the Snowden story today alone, there are 22 citations alone, from a wide variety of sources including Wikileaks, CNN, the Guardian, Reuters, The Daily Beast, RT News, LaJournada and many more. See below.
Beth: What are your views on investigative journalism? How will it evolve in the new media model? Investigative news is still very much the purview of newspapers (with some notable exceptions), but even amid the Boston Marathon Bombings, The Boston Globe was the go-to source (although I was watching Anonymous constantly as well).
Anthony: I think local news organizations are essential to investigative journalism, as well as things like Pro Publica and data driven investigative journalism by people like Brian Boyer and Dan Sinker. There’s going to need to be a variety of ways to keep this alive. I think crowdfunding and grant-based funding are two options. I also think we’re still so early in the game that we haven’t really tried enough business models to throw our hands up and declare investigative journalism dead. There needs to be more experimentation in the monetization of this area. I would gladly pay a premium for this type of reporting.
Finally, when I asked De Rosa if he’d rather quote a press release or a blog post to cite an executive’s point of view, he said, “I’d prefer neither. We’re not in the business of publishing press releases.”
As we’ve seen over the past few years in particular, the open discussions enabled through digital and social media have brought it to the age of transparency and authenticity. This means that PR tactics are ever-changing. The release is not dead (stay tuned for my next post), but the ways in which companies communicate their points of view and news are changing dramatically. To stand out in the voices competing for attention and headlines, we must be trustworthy, interesting and quick.
Follow Beth Monaghan on Twitter @bamonaghan
Thursday, May 30, 2013, 8:30 AM
Does the medium shape the message? At Circa, it seems that it does, and I tend to agree. Circa, a very cool mobile news app, just hired Anthony De Rosa, the social media editor for Reuters. He is one of my most relied-upon social media news sources (you should follow him @AntDeRosa), so I was sad to hear that he was leaving Reuters, but happy to discover that he will remain in the business of the news. Fast Company’s Co.Labs has the details about his move.
At InkHouse, we’ve been thinking about how mobile will shape the news business since we had the pleasure of debuting the Fluent Mobile “mobile newspaper” back in 2009 (Fluent Mobile laid the foundation for what is today’s wildly successful Fiksu, a mobile app marketing platform).
Circa is taking a unique approach to mobile news by making a story available in one place, but broken down to its core components and facts to make it easier to read and share – more mobile. According to its home page Circa offers, “News without the fluff, filler, or commentary: Circa’s editors gather top stories and break them down to their essential points — facts, quotes, photos, and more, formatted specifically for the phone.”
I also like Circa’s approach to citations. The nature of the news is changing with many more inputs than ever before. Crowdsourcing is not the right word, but there are certainly many more voices of various influence involved in the making of today’s news. Circa compared this evolution to that from the encyclopedia to Wikipedia and quoted David Weinberger who said that, “transparency is the new objectivity.” Circa’s editorial policy echoes this evolution: “Every fact, quote, statistic, image or event in every story gets a citation.”
The Circa model is somewhat of a mirror for how PR has evolved to adjust to social inputs to news, and now how it’s evolving to mobile formats. What does this approach mean for PR? The changes are already underway.
At a time when PR is involved in so much content creation, transparency and citations are critical. They confer credibility to the content, and make it more social. Circa editors cite all sorts of documents, not just news releases. This too has become an important change in PR as we think far beyond the press release. Circa notes that its editors cite “news articles, Tweets (especially for quotes), scanned documents or reports, primary source legislative documents, first-person blog posts and more. We don’t believe everything we read online.”
What good PR people already know is this: PR content must be authentic, transparent, sharp and short. It must engage quickly and be easy to link to, cite and share. I am excited to see what happens with Circa. If you want to check it out you can download it for iPhone here.
Side note: If you want to read more about the medium shaping the message, check out Christopher Mims’ piece about the new blogging platform, Ghost, for Quartz. Ghost is also founded upon the premise that the medium shapes the content. Mims wrote that Ghost founder John O’Nolan’s goal is “to change how writers think, by changing the basic nature of how they write for the web.” According to the Quartz piece, the goal of Ghost will “create a system that makes it easy for writers to express thoughts without interrupting themselves to construct the elaborate, multi-media layouts that characterize articles on the web.” I’ll be watching closely!
Read more from Beth Monaghan
Follow Beth Monaghan on Twitter @bamonaghan
Wednesday, April 10, 2013, 3:54 PM
Has InkHouse succeeded because we’re lucky or because we’re smart and we work hard? According to Facebook COO and Lean In author Sheryl Sandberg, while men tend to take credit for a company’s success, women often ascribe success to “luck, help from others, and working hard.”
Sandberg has started a national discussion that has gone from the Silicon Valley, to Oprah, to The Daily Show and last Friday, to Boston at a breakfast hosted by the New England Venture Capital Association at the Harvard Club (if you missed it, you can watch the livestream video).
One of Sandberg’s tenets is the importance of fostering confidence in women. This week, Andrew Ross Sorkin interviewed Irene Dorner, president and CEO of HSBC USA in The New York Times. She said the problem of the glass ceiling is matched by the “sticky floor” (women who don’t proactively seek higher-level positions).
How can we build this confidence? Sandberg reminded us that we should feel free to make our own rules, since the old ones aren’t working that well. Women need to mentor other women. It’s an easy slide into the “I did it the hard way and so should you” mentality, which discourages young women who need mentors more than critics. Don’t be a queen bee (a woman who achieved success in male-dominated environments and tends to oppose the rise of other women). Sandberg said, “A great boss gives credit to everyone else when things are going well and when they are not, says how can I fix it?”
Following are a few of my favorite pieces of advice for women from this broader discussion:
- Balance. Sandberg said, “Families with more balance are happier.” Anyone who’s interviewed at InkHouse has heard us talk about the importance of balance – it is a foundational element of our culture. You have to show up for work and your personal life with equal passion if you want to be good at either one. Of course, balance is not something that is attainable every single day or week. A culture that strives toward balance is also one that fosters teamwork and wards off resentment when deadlines bring late nights.
- Process is not progress. Irene Dorner said, “Women do funny things. They do things like work very hard and expect to be noticed for it — and they’re not, because it doesn’t work like that.” Knowing the difference between hard work and smart work is elemental to success. At InkHouse, our clients don’t give us credit for working hard. We get credit for getting great results. It’s up to us to shine a light on those great results. No one is going to do it for us.
- Done is better than perfect. In InkHouse words, you need to know when good enough is good enough.
- Sit at the table. Not in the back of the room or at the side of the table. When preparing for important meetings, we tell employees that you only get one chance to make a first impression. Walk into the room, look the person in the eye, shake his or her hand confidently, and behave as though you belong at that table.
Sandberg’s Lean In foundation is doing amazing things to support women and to move this from discussion to action. Last year I was thrilled to see Liza Mundy’s piece in Time Magazine about the progress women have made. Nearly four in 10 working wives out-earn their husbands (up 50 percent from 20 years ago). More needs to be done, and as with all change, it starts with small steps. Sandberg suggested that each person begin by simply inviting a woman to the table, today.
A big thank you to C.A. Webb at the NEVCA for organizing this amazing event. She leans in to every single thing she does, and this event would not have been possible without her grace and energy.
Monday, April 8, 2013, 4:00 PM
According to The Pew State of News Media 2013 Report, there was a 3.6 to 1 ratio of PR people to journalists in 2008 (up from 1.2 to 1 in 1980). I am not surprised. InkHouse grew 45 percent last year, and we’re on course to do the same or more in 2013. Why this growing gap? In short, the news media’s business model is in painful flux. As the Pew notes, “newsroom cutbacks in 2012 put the industry down 30 percent since its peak in 2000 and below 40,000 full-time professional employees for the first time since 1978.”
The opportunity for PR is growing as we see new ways to engage with audiences directly and plentiful opportunities for content. Is the news business going away? Absolutely not. It’s changing.
The Content Opportunity
From our Content Bureau (read how to use content for PR in my piece for PRWeek), it is clear that thoughtful content designed to spark conversations drives engagement and often action. The content inflection point is here.
On one side, media outlets are looking to provide their content expertise to marketers. As the Pew notes, Fortune’s TOC (Trusted Original Content) program pairs Fortune writers with brands to create original content for exclusive use by marketers.
On the other side of that coin, more outlets are experimenting with contributed content from external sources. Business Insider was one of the first to introduce this model with its Business Insider Contributors (Huffington Post, as well, was an early entrant and has a host of contributors). Today, Forbes has a full roster of contributors and The Atlantic’s Quartz offers a unique approach for digital content that is organized around its stated current “obsessions.” Lauren Brown who headed up contributed articles for Business Insider is the deputy ideas editor for Quartz. And of course, many many many other high profile blogs consider guest posts that meet their editorial standards and focus, including GigaOm, TechCrunch, AllThingsD, etc.
New models of content curation and syndication are bubbling up to proliferate content beyond the boundaries of its original home. PandoDaily took the bold step of making its content freely available for reuse (through a tool called repost.us). As we recommend for infographics, the repost feature uses an embed code that likely gives PandoDaily credit for the Web traffic anywhere those articles land (it also looks like the ads get embedded with the article).
Then there are newer media models such as Buzzfeed, which I started following regularly after its “26 Moments That Restored Our Faith In Humanity This Year.” Read it. You won’t regret it. Mathew Ingram of GigaOm wrote that, “Newer digital-native publishers such as BuzzFeed are pinning their revenue hopes to sponsored content and other forms of ‘native’ advertising, in which the site creates content that is indistinguishable from its regular content.”
Don’t forget your press release, the original PR content. Releases are great for SEO, but given that “reporting resources” are “cut to the bone” with “fewer specialized beats,” (according to Pew) your press release has never been more important. Often, it provides language we see verbatim in news stories.
The Social Opportunity
The Pew report confirmed what good PR people already know — if you have great content, to make it take off, you need to get the press to pay attention and get it into your audience’s social streams. According to the Pew:
- 72% of U.S. adults most commonly get their news from friends and family (in person or by phone). Of those, 63% somewhat or very often seek out a news story about that event or issue.
- 15% of U.S. adults get most of their news from friends and family through social media. 77% of those follow links to full news stories.
- Almost 25% of those between 18 and 29 rely on social media as their primary source of news.
Like the rest of the world, we at InkHouse are interested to see which news media model will ultimately win. I think (and hope) the tide will shift back to thoughtful reporting and I applaud some of the media outlets with which InkHouse works regularly for their part in driving important conversations, including Xconomy, PandoDaily and GigaOm, which have made their brands through thorough and thoughtful reporting and analysis.
People have not lost interest in thoughtful news, they just need to be able to find it easily and understand its importance quickly. This is the job of PR.
Follow Beth Monaghan on Twitter @bamonaghan