- Member Type(s): Expert
- Title:Principal and Co-founder
- Organization:InkHouse Media + Marketing
- Area of Expertise:Public relations, social media
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Wednesday, May 25, 2011, 10:45 AM
As the embargo debate heats up, many members of the media are placing themselves on either side of the issue. For those unfamiliar with the embargo, it is a tool PR professionals use to provide all reporters with equal time to cover a story, and to enable them to do their research in advance of the news becoming public. This is very much a handshake agreement that has been broken so often at this point, that many in the press are simply opting out.
The system is obviously broken, so we at InkHouse are on the hunt for a solution. We’ve asked a few journalists – Marshall Kirkpatrick of ReadWriteWeb, Scott Kirsner of The Boston Globe, Wade Roush of Xconomy and Jon Swartz of USA Today – who have agreed to join me for a conversation about embargoes.
We’ll be talking on June 1 and I will post the highlights here shortly thereafter. In the meantime, I have assembled a list of potential alternatives to the embargo, which follow below. Please add your suggestions in the comments below. We want this to be a session that is representative of the issues we’re all facing with the embargo. We’ll be tweeting about this using the #embargo hashtag, so feel free to join in the conversation.
Potential alternatives to the embargo:
- Exclusives. Are exclusives a good alternative? In which scenarios? Are you more likely to consider news from a smaller startup if you are offered it exclusively?
- Distribute the news as it happens. How would you feel about receiving the news as it crosses the wire? Does this make the news instantly old? Does it limit your interest in longer, in-depth stories? Would you need a new piece of information to do a longer story?
- Advance notice that news will happen (without providing the details). How would you feel about notification that XYZ company will be making a product/financing/merger/etc. announcement on Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. without hearing any more detail until the time of the announcement? Would this help you plan for the news or would it be the same as distributing the news as it happens?
- Advance copy of the press release without an embargo. In this scenario, you would receive a copy of the press release 2-3 hours in advance without the restriction of an embargo time. All of the target media would have the same notice. To me, this seems like it would create a mad dash to post quickly (assuming the news is interesting), but it does provide an opportunity to cover the news as it happens with a little bit of notice? Would you be angry then if another outlet posted a piece first?
- Press conference. What about getting a little retro and holding a press conference call (for all invited media) a few hours in advance of the formal news during which you could ask questions and after which you would receive the formal press release?
These are just my starter ideas. I'm collecting others here -- just add yours into the comments: www.inkhouse.net/should-the-embargo-go/
Friday, May 13, 2011, 12:20 PM
Reporters sometimes complain about the staid phrases PR people use in their pitches, rightly so in some cases. Erica Swallow at Mashable has a post on this topic, which inspired the InkHouse team to write the worst pitch we could think of during one of our recent FOFs (forced office fun for anyone who doesn’t work here).
Granted, we’ve all used pieces of some of the phrases in our pitch below. When I write, “I hope you are well,” which I often do, I mean it. And sometimes my emails end up in someone’s junk folder, so I am genuinely concerned that it did not come through.
The difference is authenticity and simplicity. The late 1990s and early 2000s led the marketing world into a frenzy of buzzwords (see my post from December 2010 on the buzz words we should eliminate from our vocabulary). Social media has changed that for the better. We now understand the importance of telling stories in simply phrases that actually mean something to their intended audiences. We are heartened by the recent surge back to the basics of good storytelling, which Meg outlined for us in April.
In homage to our friends in the media, following is the worst pitch we could write. Enjoy, and we promise that it will not be coming to your inbox any day soon.
To read to pitch, go to www.inkhouse.net/the-worst-pitch-we-coul...
Friday, May 6, 2011, 12:42 PM
This morning Wade Roush of Xconomy posted a piece on embargoes. He’s not going to agree to them anymore, which is different than not honoring them. Wade told me that, “I will stop agreeing to them. If I ever did agree, I would certainly honor the agreement.”
This is a debate between PR and journalists that has been going on since TechCrunch famously announced that it would no longer honor embargoes. We’ve written about the topic here at InkHouse a number of times – we’ve written about how embargoes can damage relationships and we spoke with Scott Kirsner of the Boston Globe about his perspective on embargoes and exclusives.
As Wade points out, the embargo is designed to provide all reporters with equal time to cover a story, and to enable them to do their research in advance of the news becoming public. This handshake arrangement between the media and PR works, but only if everyone honors their word. And as Wade has written, this does not happen all of the time. We see frequent tweets about TechCrunch breaking embargoes, and internally we bemoan the fact that someone clearly did not understand how TechCrunch and other technology blogs operate when it comes to embargoes. It’s critical to understand who honors them, who does not, and the difference between an embargo and an exclusive.
Keeping track of the list of reporters who don’t honor embargoes is a new challenge for PR people. It’s an ever-changing list, and frequently gets updated when someone breaks their word, and it’s created an environment where exclusives are more popular because they eliminate the problem altogether. In some cases, exclusives make a lot of sense, but in others, they reduce the amount of awareness for our clients because it eliminates a larger pool of media who might have covered the news.
To read the rest, go to www.inkhouse.net/?p=574&preview=true
Thursday, May 5, 2011, 2:49 PM
This week, I had the privilege of speaking with David Meerman Scott (@dmscott on Twitter) the author of the #1 bestselling book, The New Rules of Marketing and PR, as well as a number of others that have dispelled traditional notions about public relations and marketing. We talked about the fundamental shifts he’s witnessed over the past 25 years, examined some corollaries to the bond market’s shift to real-time communications and discussed how companies should leverage social and online channels at a time when instant access to information drives news coverage. We also talked about the unraveling of control over corporate brands, and the best ways for companies to become part of online and real-time conversations.
Following is an edited version of our conversation.
BAM: In your 2010 book, Real Time: How Marketing & PR at Speed Drives Measurable Success, you discuss appropriate measurements for online communications and document some interesting findings, including the fact that, as you wrote, “on average the publicly traded Fortune 100 companies that engage in real-time communications beat the S&P 500 stock index while the others, on average, under- performed the index.” For lots of companies still though, online communications programs can have a “hidden value” as you describe it. What kind of measurement system do you recommend for smaller start-ups that frequently look to PR and social media as the first and only marketing expense?
DMS: If you’re using a form of measurement that was devised for an offline world, it will give you false data. For example, lead generation as a strict measurement was developed for things like trade shows and direct mail campaigns. Today, you can measure lots of things. For example, where do you appear in search results? How many people are reaching out to you? How many people follow you on Twitter or like you on Facebook? The most important metric though, is how is business? For startups that live and breathe how business is, you can see an immediate tie to growth and what you are doing online.
Scott’s World Wide Rave Measurement recommendations:
1. How many people are getting exposed to your ideas?
2. How many people are downloading your stuff?
3. How often are bloggers writing about you and your ideas?
4. (And what are those bloggers saying?)
5. Where are you appearing in search results for important phrases?
6. How many people are engaging with you and choosing to speak to you about your offerings?
BAM: It can be easier to convince big companies whose brands are already being discussed through social channels to participate because the conversations are happening with or without them. What do you recommend for smaller companies and startups that are looking to break through with a new idea and are essentially starting from scratch?
DMS: If someone doesn’t know the name of your company it’s harder to get traction in the beginning. But it’s only a small setback at the outset. After that, any organization can do well. In fact, it’s a lot easier for smaller companies to do well because there’s no baggage – no branding police. Bigger companies have something to lose, so it’s more of a risk. Smaller companies have no reason to play it safe, and a lot of incentive to go big with something more provocative. But be careful not to hang your entire company’s future on coming up with next Old Spice commercial. A viral video, in and of itself, is not a strategy.
To read the rest of our conversation, go to www.inkhouse.net/david-meerman-scott-on-...
Wednesday, April 27, 2011, 2:43 PM
We’ve been busy this week conducting social media training sessions, which reminded me that Twitter is still an evolving channel.
The first question we often hear is: How can I get followers? Dan Zarrella (@danzarrella) at HubSpot (@HubSpot) created a great infographic this week about this very topic. His advice is the same I’d give to someone preparing for his or her first networking event. Let people know who you are, but don’t talk about yourself too much; respond when people talk to you; identify your areas of expertise so people know that your point of view carries weight; and stay positive.
The second question we get is: What do the abbreviations mean? Here’s a cheat sheet to get you started:
- RT = Retweet. Put an RT in front of a message to rebroadcast someone else’s tweet to your followers. This generally means that you liked what someone else said and are passing it along.
- MT = Modified tweet. Similar to a retweet, this means that you are passing along a tweet from someone else, but have modified it from its original form (this frequently happens when a tweet is too long and you need to use some shortcuts to reduce it to 140 characters)
- PRT = Partial retweet. This is a cousin to the MT, and means that you have truncated someone else’s tweet.
- @ mention. An @ mention happens when someone else mentions you in a tweet. If the @ mention is at the beginning of the tweet (e.g. @bamonaghan Thanks for the RT today), only that person, and the people following you and that person can see the message. It’s NOT private though. If you want everyone to see an @ mention, simply embed it in the middle of a tweet (e.g. Great seeing @moleary today) or place a period before it in the tweet (e.g. .@moleary and I had a great meeting today).
- D = Direct message. These are private messages that only you and the sender can see. The person you are DMing must be following you though for this to work.
- HT = Hat tip. This is the Twitter version of acknowledging someone else’s information – you are tipping your hat to them.
- CC = Carbon-copy. Works the same way as email.
- OH = Over heard. This is just that, something you overheard that you want to tweet.
To read the entire post, including tips on composing a good tweet, go to www.inkhouse.net/getting-started-on-twit...
Monday, April 18, 2011, 3:58 PM
Getting Over Bloggers’ Block
It’s usually fairly easy to convince a company that it needs a blog. As my business partner, Meg O’Leary, evangelizes: having a social media presence without a blog is akin to a direct email campaign without a Web site. While not every social media activity will lead back to your blog, you do need a landing page for social. This is particularly important for companies who want to use their blogs for thought leadership campaigns. We consider the blog to be the hub for thought leadership.
Setting up a blog is easy. The issue that keeps companies from doing it is the nagging question: “What will we blog about?” Companies can always come up with three or four starter posts, which are typically strong articulations of their perspectives on major issues affecting their industries. These are great, but what next?
Following are some blog post idea starters that have worked for us and some of our clients. Feel free to add your own ideas in the comments.
Lists. Lists. Lists.
Read any consumer magazine and you will notice that lists dominate their covers. The current top story on the home page for Cosmopolitan right now is, “20 Spring Dresses You Will Love.” A quick perusal of some of the main pieces in Business Insider’s The War Room section shows that the most read articles include, “The 20 Most Hilarious, Well-Executed Office Pranks” and “10 iPhone Apps That Will Make You Incredibly Productive.” This tactic works for startups too. Daniel Chalef (@danielchalef), the CEO of KnowledgeTree (an InkHouse client) wrote a post on the “10 Cloud-Based Apps That Give Mid-Sized Companies a Competitive Edge,” which led to record traffic on his blog.
Here are a few ideas to get you thinking about the lists that you could create:
- Lists of leading companies in your space (those that are complementary to your business model). Chances are that they will appreciate being included and might help spread your post through their own social channels.
- Lists of the top business tools relevant to companies in your market.
- Lists of your favorite Twitterers in your market.
- List of major mistakes you see potential customers making (be sure that this list is helpful though, and not offensive!). The most read post of all time for the InkHouse blog was “Nine Ways to Sabotage a Good Press Announcement.”
Tips and Tricks.
You undoubtedly have learned a few things along the way – lessons important for peers and lessons important to your client/customer base. These could be the foundation for a long series of posts, no doubt. Think about the knowledge you have that others could benefit from. Neverfail (an InkHouse client) regularly posts tips that are highly relevant for its customers who are looking to maintain uptime during disasters. One recent example was its post, “DR Tip: Think Small,” which identified the most common “disasters” as those that you can see coming, and plan for.
To read the rest of the post, go to www.inkhouse.net/getting-over-bloggers%E...
Tuesday, April 5, 2011, 1:27 PM
As a PR person, I regularly see tweets from reporters and bloggers regarding bad PR practices. Frequently they use the Twitter hashtag #PRfail, which has been gaining popularity. Give it a shot and you’ll see what I mean.
The complaints aren’t new to PR. In fact, many are the same things reporters were saying 10 years ago. Sure, there are plenty of mistakes made in the field — but I would argue no more than are made in any other. The challenge for PR practitioners is that the people on the receiving end of the mistakes have “mighty pens.” That said, there is definitely room for improvement on many fronts. And now that the media can voice complaints in an even more public way through blogging, the stakes have been raised for PR practitioners who now worry that a pitch letter or email will be taken the wrong way and published for all to see.
If we look closely at some recent tweets about bad PR though, there are some important reminders about the right way to do it:
1. Return reporters’ calls. If you send out information to a reporter and he or she replies with questions, the hard part is over. Now all you need to do is respond. Peter Kafka of AllThingsD (@pkafka) was having a hard time getting information for a story last week and tweeted the following:
“Dear Amazon PR: Last night you sent me release about Cloud music and asked if I had questions. I did! But haven’t heard back. Everything OK?”
Later the same day, he tweeted:
“Perhaps Amazon PR’s inbox is broken. So may as well try this route (h/t @hblodget). Three queries re Cloud:”
2. Understand how embargoes work. If you are offering an embargo, make the date and time clear to every reporter you are contacting. If you are offering an exclusive, it means you’re talking to one reporter. The easiest way to burn a bridge with the media is to screw them on an embargo so they are late to covering major news. Jon Swartz at USA Today (@jswartz652) tweeted about his dislike for embargoes on 3/28:
“Please don’t contact me re embargoed crap. With rare exception, it is a waste of both our time.”
“My screed about embargoes is shared by many reporters. Not sure why companies insist on them.”
Marshall Kirkpatrick (@marshallk) of ReadWriteWeb tweeted this about a Google news announcement and embargoes:
And on April 1, he tweeted this:
“Google is on speaking terms with RWW again it seems, they sent us an April Fools day press release ”
3. Know the basics. When you call a reporter, anticipate the questions he or she will ask and have the answers ready. And when you email a reporter, nothing says I’m sending out 100 emails just like this than addressing it to the wrong person.
Laura Blow (@Blowsie84), a financial reporter in London, tweeted: “Phonecall summary – PR: what’s your deadline for your magazine? Me: Which magazine and which issue? PR: I’m not sure….#prfail”
Bari Lieberman (@fitchicnyc), NY editor of Vital Juice tweeted: “Just got a pitch about how people should “stop exercising and stop eating.” I’m a fitness and nutrition editor. #PRFAIL”
Alison Delory (@aldelory), a freelancer wrote: “Wanted to issue a #prfail to person who sent me a “Dear Jennie” letter but she followed up w/apology. Not exactly #prwin, perhaps #prtie?
To read tips 4 and 5, go to the full post at www.inkhouse.net/five-pr-lessons-from-tw...
Friday, April 1, 2011, 10:00 AM
Blogging is a powerful tool that spans a broad range of marketing initiatives. It can become the centerpiece of your thought leadership campaign, bring in leads, support search engine optimization and much more.
Everyone is doing it, and no one wants to be the last one to hear about a great party. But before you dive in and commit resources to creating and maintaining a blog, make sure that you are creating content that your audience will want to read, and that also maps back to your goals.
Here’s how to get started:
- Identify your goals. Your blog should support your corporate goals and it should also have some goals of its own. Do you want it to be a thought leadership vehicle? Is it primarily there to drive SEO? It is primarily a lead generation tool? Do you want it to foster community among your user base? It’s hard to do everything at once, so make sure that the mission is clear at the outset.
- Create a calendar. Unless you love to write for a living, your blog needs an organizing force to keep it fresh. Identify one person to manage the blog and have that person create a content calendar complete with topics and authors. Then start cracking the whip!
- Create great, consistent content. The person in charge of the blog should also identify the ways in which you will develop topics. You can tie them to seasonal events that matter in your market such as holiday shopping or back to school. You can tie them to industry trends that you mine through Twitter, RSS feeds and the news. Or, you could create a timeline of your own thought leadership path. Maybe you are debuting new research in May and need to set the stage for the research and then parse it out to the relevant vertical markets. Also remember to think more broadly than text – infographics, videos, images, etc. can help create interest in your content.
For more tips, read the full post at www.inkhouse.net/what-to-blog-about/
Tuesday, March 29, 2011, 11:17 AM
Your top competitor just tweeted that your product underperforms compared to theirs. A reporter didn’t like your SXSW party. A competitor tells a lie about one of your employees to a prospect. A disgruntled employee starts blogging about why he was “laid off.” Ann Coulter says that radiation is actually good for us.
Should you respond? There’s no easy answer, and it depends on the situation. Here’s my viewpoint on when to take the bait, when to throw the first stone, and when to think twice.
How it Can Hurt You
Losing it in any public forum makes you look crazy
Celebrities have given us a long list of examples of what not to do: Chris Brown’s recent interview on Good Morning America that reportedly resulted in a broken window, Tom Cruise’s accusation that Matt Lauer doesn’t know the history of psychiatry, or Dennis Green’s rant about “they are who we thought they were!”
Acknowledgment can embolden passionate critics
If someone has attacked you in a cruel way, a response is rarely helpful. Regardless of your amazingly compelling rebuttal, you will inevitably write something that will fuel additional missives. If you stay silent, the originator of the negative comment will lack the confidence that comes from any kind of response – be it positive or negative.
Responding can pull you into the fray
The fray is a sticky place to be, so if you must respond, stay above it. Point by point rebuttals rarely work, so stick to the higher-level issues at hand. Answer the question that should have been asked in the first place and change the discussion to the one you want to be having. Above all, do not take a defensive posture and welcome a spirited debate.
Click here to read the rest of the post and how it CAN work for you: www.inkhouse.net/should-you-go-negative/
Tuesday, March 15, 2011, 8:58 PM
When I think of “influence,” I am reminded of the preparations for my sister’s wedding. For some strange reason, her caterer required equal numbers of the fish and steak at the reception. The week prior to the wedding, they had too many orders for the steak. My sister was worried, but her fiancé, an attorney, was not. He said, “It’s no problem. I’ll get my family to choose the fish. I’ll just ask them the question in a way that ensures they will order fish.” As I’ve been thinking about the issue of influence, this story keeps coming back to me.
Following my post on Measuring the Influence of Influence, I had the opportunity to ask Klout’s Joe Fernandez (@JoeFernandez) about his perspective on influence. I began by asking him how he defines influence. His answer: “Influence is the ability to drive actions.” Following is the rest of our conversation. We cover an eclectic array of issues, including why Justin Bieber has more Klout than Obama, Joe’s perspective on our “attention economy,” how the number of followers affects your Klout score, how The Adjustment Bureau is using influencers as early screeners, how to increase your own score, and much more. I hope you’ll enjoy Joe’s comments as much as I did.
BAM: Why does online influence matter?
JF: I believe we are living in an attention economy. There is so much information coming at us online. We depend on our friends to help broker our time and attention. Your ability to drive others to action is critical in this new economy. We are seeing this in the real world too. People in sales and marketing positions need to have the ability to broadcast their network with authority and trust and leverage social media to get their message out at scale. Now we hear that HR departments are looking at Klout scores as an attribute in the hiring process.
BAM: When you founded Klout, how did you go about determining which factors create influence? Are they the same today?
JF: Thankfully we have added people to the Klout team since we started and I created that original algorithm who are way smarter than I. The biggest change is that there are more signals now. Originally we were only on Twitter and now we have added Facebook and
LinkedIn. There are few things that haven’t changed. I never thought follower count was a very important signal. The concept of it pretty much doesn’t exist in our calculation.
BAM: Online, of course, influence measures are different than offline, but do you marry them with a Klout score?
JF: Online versus offline influence is one of the things we argue about late at night at Klout. Right now our score is purely based on a person’s online influence. We have some exciting ideas about how to address offline influence though. It’s one of the big challenges we are looking at.
To read the rest of the post, go to www.inkhouse.net/interview-with-klout%E2...