Tag Archives: Public Relations

Use Storytelling Skills to Transform Your Web Content

Courtesy of PR NEWS.

By Stephen Terlizzi

Traditional PR approaches relied mostly on a well-defined network of contacts to whom you pitched news or an idea and some facts, and the reporter created a story. However, like that famous book about the moving cheese, many PR professionals are asking lately, “Who moved my reporter?”

As the economics of the information age have taken their full toll on the publishing industry, the “well-defined network of contacts” is looking more like a ghost town than a thriving metropolis. What’s key to remember is that these folks didn’t just disappear into thin air. Instead, many of the old school journalists have shifted and are now independent consultants who are writing for their own blogs and the Web sites of others.

The tables also have turned on traditional publications during the past 10 years, and they are now syndicating more content from major online sites. In today’s new ecosystem, a well-placed story in TechCrunch or GigaOM can have significantly more impact than any single article in a major local paper.

This means that if your company isn’t a major industry player, you shouldn’t expect to get much share of mind in a fast-paced digital world where everyone is competing for eyeballs—unless you have an exceptional story to tell.

Becoming the person who knows how to mesh “what will be published” with “writing what will be published” puts you in the perfect position to develop ready-to-go stories that will stand out from the digital noise bombarding online reporters, editors and bloggers. Let’s examine what makes a compelling story and how it translates to digital public relations.

Meet Both Needs
Regardless of the type of story, there are always two people in every story: the author and the reader. The author, or client, has a point to make while the reader wants to learn, be informed, entertained, amused, etc. An effective story meets the desires of both parties, whether it is written for an online audience or traditional media.

In the book The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell, the author talks about three types of people that are critical to the success of any word-of-mouth initiative: connectors, mavens and salesmen. As you can image, the connectors connect, the mavens inform and the salesmen convince. I think it is an excellent analogy for the purpose of writing a PR story for a client—a story to promote, a story to envision or a story to validate.

Note the use of the word “or” in the last paragraph. You must write stories that have a single, simple objective and have simple elements, as online writing must be more direct and shorter. So focus on doing one of the three points well as opposed to doing none of them well. In today’s time crunched society, deliver the point succinctly and close the story. We are not writing Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment.

Stephen Terlizzi is the managing partner and head of the social media practice for Tanis Communications.

This article was adapted from PR News’ Digital PR Guidebook, Volume 4. This and other guidebooks can be ordered at the PR News Press online store.


Internet Talk Radio:The Newest Social Medium


“Social media is not an ad. People don’t see your post, tweet or LinkedIn profile and buy. The purpose (and promise) of all social mediums is simply to start a conversation with someone you’d like to meet.”

I belong to a group called CRITICAL MASS FOR BUSINESS. It’s a facilitated CEO PEER GROUP that meets once a month for 4 hours. The group is limited to 12 members, all of whom own similarly sized businesses in non-competeing industries.

Our typical agenda starts with a recap of what happened to all of us over the prior month including reports on whatever we did (or didn’t do) to implement the suggestions, ideas and “action plans” from our last meeting. For many of us (me included) this “accountability to someone other than yourself” may be one of the most important features of this group. We’re all entrepreneurs, not used to reporting to anyone but ourselves. The problem with that approach (however) is that it’s far too easy to make excuses or put off painful decisions when there is no one looking over your shoulder, prodding you to improve and move forward. “I’ll do it tomorrow” too often means it never gets done.

Then comes the truly transformative part of the meeting: the “round table discussions”. Here is where the rubber meets the road and people really get to the heart of their issues. Using a strictly controlled “question and answer process” (guided by our professional facilitators) we probe, distill and digest whatever issues each member wishes to bring forward. It’s not always a pleasant experience to be on “the hot seat” but it’s always informative and often illuminating. This is the only true “no spin zone” I know. You’re in a confidential setting with 11 other struggling entrepreneurs, many of whom are wrestling with the same issues and obstacles you are. And it s the only place I know where you get really honest, no bs feed back. Who else is gonna tell you such truth? Your friends and family (who don’t want to hurt your feelings?) Your employees (who don’t want to lose their jobs?) Or some consultant (who really wants to please you and keep getting paid and whose narrow expertise may not allow them to see the whole picture?)

This is the magical “mastermind” part of the meeting: 12 individual minds coming together as one urging, adding to and otherwise improving upon each previous thought. Organized brainstorming, proving once again that the sum is greater than the individual parts. How can this help? Well, it’s hard to describe unless you’ve experienced it. But let me say that (in my own case) it gave birth to a whole new business.

I was a long time PR person whose core clients (billiards, hot tubs and other home improvement products) had seen a dramatic decline during the recent “Great Recession”. Hot tub sales alone fell by over 70%. So, one by one, my clients were either going out of business or cutting back dramatically on their overall marketing services (including me). I entered the group to find a way to revitalize my business. Instead, the group opened my eyes to a whole new business opportunity.

As I recanted my problems to the group and discussed how foolishly I’d put all my “eggs in one basket” (by narrowly focusing on just one niche), how “fat and happy” and complacent I’d become in the process and how I’d generally stopped learning, growing and aggressively marketing my services to others, it became clear that I needed a new fire or passion to prod me in a new direction and a distinctive service to offer. Then, after casually mentioning that PR companies were being asked (more and more) to take on the role and responsibilities of “social media strategist” for their clients (since ad agencies-used to making ads–and marketing people-used to collecting and analyzing data–neither knew how nor wanted to explore this new aspect of marketing), the group started prodding me to explore this subject and educate myself on this opportunity. That led to long discussions about “what is social media”, “how is it different than traditional advertising, PR and marketing” and what is its fundamental purpose?

That, in turn, led me to some remarkble insights such as “social media isn’t an ad on the Internet”. People don’t just read your blog or “tweets” and buy. Instead, its something we’ve never seen before. The purpose (and promise) of social media is that it allows you to start a conversation with anyone you want to meet, from which you can learn, explain, explore and otherwise engage them in a meaningful dialog in which (hopefully) both sides receive some benefit. That means you can’t just “ask for the order” anymore. You have to be willing to offer some ideas and information for free, upfront, before you start the sales process. Information that your audience (hopefully) will find so interesting and informative that they pass it onto others in their network and community (creating “brand advocates” or “viral marketing” for your goods or services in the process). Then you have to respond to their questions and comments and keep them coming back for more. In other words, you have to have something interesting to say and then keep saying it regularly and often.

That’s why most social media programs fail. Most companies aren’t prepared to become their own media production companies. They run of out meaningful things to say and they don’t regularly keep at it, primarly because it takes time and discipline and it may not show immediate ROI. And quite often, no one in the company is prepared to take on the additional role of “social media spokesman”, which is why it defaults to the traditional PR people (who are used to regularly speaking for their clients).

And that’s when it occurred to me. This is what I should be doing, particularly since I originally started off in radio broadcasting and communication right after college (as a traditional DJ on WMYK, “K94”, in Norfolk,Virginia). Then came the even bigger insight that “I think I know a simpler and more powerful way to do this!” For if the purpose of social media is simply to start a conversation with someone you want to meet, then what could be easier than simply calling them up, interviewing them over the phone and then streaming that conversation live to the world? You could even record, archive and store it on some server, making it available 24/7 as a download for others to listen to and enjoy later as a “podcast” on ITunes and elsewhere.

Wouldn’t that be much easier to produce than trying to research and write a new blog or mini-article each week? And (ultimately) wouldn’t it be much easier for your audience on the Internet to consume (given the fact that most people would rather watch or listen to something on the Internet than read it?) And wouldn’t these weekly live conversations be more interesting and stimulating than just talking to yourself ? (a problem that plagues most other social mediums like blogs, tweets and traditional podcasts) And wouldn’t a live, weekly broadcast, at a regular time and place, be more likely to engage your audience, particularly if they could call-in their questions (just like any traditional talk show) or log-on, in real time, and tweet their comments ? And wouldn’t your guests immediately tell all their friends, customers and clients to listen? And wouldn’t they put a link to that recorded interview up on their site after the fact (which would help drive traffic and links to your site, thereby raising your search engine rankings and giving you a free ad on their website forever?) The answer to all this was “yes”.

Thus was born a new “social medium” and the business to go with it: OC TALK RADIO, Orange County’s only community radio station giving local businesses a voice on the Internet. For more information, check us out at http://www.OCTalkRadio.net.

The Agency of the Future


By Uwe Hook  Courtesy of IMediaConnection

A few weeks ago, news broke that ZenithOptimedia U.K. will be going through a restructuring. There are rumors that Starcom MediaVest Group might also shuffle things around in the U.K. And this is just the beginning: Every week we learn about marketing professionals coming and going, departments being dissolved, departments being merged or created. In addition, new agency models are coming to life, from the crowd-sourced to the brand innovation studio for the 21st century.

What will it take for agencies to prosper in the new marketing reality?
As the marketing industry continues to mature, and as new channels and platforms need our attention each and every day, it’s imperative for us to contemplate the structure of the agency of the future. Our livelihood will depend on it because not being ready for the demands of the future will likely lead to the demise of your agency.

Office mansion or garage? Neither.
Just this month, Bloomberg and Fast Company painted a black and white picture of the future of advertising agencies. Bloomberg believes in big agencies:

“The little hot shops, says Lubars, who are thumping their chests and declaring the end of mass marketing and the death of the Big Dumb Agencies, do so as a business posture, an attitude for journalists, and a sales pitch to clients. ‘They don’t believe a word of it,’ he says.

“What he sees instead is an evolution, firms heading to the same place from different directions. Technologically able marketers are trying to scale up into full-service agencies; and full-service agencies are mastering the new channels and a world with 6 billion individual markets. ‘They’re racing to figure out what an idea is,’ says Lubars. ‘We’re racing towards technology. It’s easier to pick up the technology. That’s why we got there first… They are desperate to take down the agencies that are doing it now.'”

Meanwhile, Fast Company predicts Armageddon for holding companies:

“In its fight for survival, the advertising industry is at war with itself. Generalists are competing with specialists. Interactive shops are vying to become full-service agencies, while traditional shops are yearning to become digitally integrated. ‘The Great Race,’ as Forrester Research dubbed it in March, drives a more intense competition over an already shrinking pie, and there won’t be room for everyone. En route to the center, agencies are chasing one another to the bottom. ‘I spoke to a high-level CMO the other day,’ says Profero’s Reitkopf. ‘She said, ‘I work with a holding company’s promotions company, its social-marketing company, its response-marketing company. Every time we’re in the room together, it’s fine, but the minute I walk out to get a cup of coffee, someone will follow me and tell me they can do what the other agencies do for cheaper.’ Adds Harley CMO Richer: ‘Agency networks supposedly combine all these experts together on your behalf, but it only really happens when the business is at risk of walking out the door. Before then, these creative entities are locked off in separate P&Ls. They’re not built to solve clients’ problems, they’re built to satisfy individual P&Ls.’

“That may be a vision for the industry as a whole. With all the defections of top agency talent over the past year — Alex Bogusky from Crispin, Gerry Graf from Saatchi, Kevin Roddy from BBH — it’s easy to imagine a new advertising ecosystem of pods built around industry stars who have left their lumbering institutions behind. The holding companies will still exist, but around them could emerge a chaotic pattern of startups, independent talent, and connectors who thrive with minimum overhead. That kind of industry would be a fraction of the size of the current one. It would create opportunities for the most talented and hurt everyone else. It would be harder work, with fewer assistants and fewer million-dollar paydays. But this smaller business would be aloft on its new creative potential rather than sinking under the weight of its past.”

As usual, the truth is somewhere in between: The likely solution is that successful agencies of the future will have a core group of professionals. This core group will accommodate both the size of the brand and the scope of engagement. Account management will continue to be crucial for client retention and, more importantly, better understanding the heart and soul of the brand. Small agencies often have challenges becoming part of the organization, while bigger agencies often see account management as being account servants. The core group will consist of highly paid professionals from all facets of life to serve the brand better and deliver real value based on insights.


7 Steps to Avoid Disaster When Your CEO Starts to Tweet.

Courtesy of Rob Rose and IMediaConnection.


I’ve been chewing on a couple of recent articles recently about CEO’s and social media.

The first is a study conducted by PR firm Weber Shandwick called “Socializing Your CEO”. That study found that a shockingly low percentage of CEO’s maintain their own social media profile. They go on to say that “removing Wikipedia [entries] leaves the online CEO space rather barren – only 36% are engaged through their company websites or in social media.”

The accompanying whitepaper goes on to prescribe 6 “Rules of the Road” in order to socialize your CEO. The one that caught my eye was #4 “Develop a C-suite social media strategy”. They prescribe that “c-level executives should strategically select social media outlets to get the company point of view across…”

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase


Then, the second piece is an article in Harvard Business Review called “What’s Your Personal Social Media Strategy?” This is a piece directed at C-Suite executives extolling the benefits of leveraging social media and providing an outline of why it’s so important to both them and their company.

Really? Didn’t we just finish our brand’s social media strategy? Okay… sigh… File/New/WordDoc…

I think I Want To Twit
We’ve all been there. We’re happily jamming – mid-morning in the office. The Starbucks Venti latte just kicked in – and we’re in the zone. The new White paper is just awesome. The analytics report just came in from the Web team and we’re rockin’ it. The PR agency just called and the analyst event is all set and under-budget. Even the VP of Sales just called with nothing but praise about the new demand generation program.

Okay, maybe that last one is a bit much….

Anyway, we’re having a great morning – and then it happens. There’s that soft rapa..tapa..tap tap (shave and a haircut… two bits) knock on our door and there he stands; the CEO of the company. “He never comes down to this end of the building. Why is he here?” you think as you fumble to turn down Pandora, and blurt out just a little too loudly.. “oh.. hey there.. Hi… How are ya..”.

He holds up a rolled up copy of the latest Harvard Business Review magazine in his hand, and waves it like a wand. “I think….” he says in a tone that’s not quite a question, but not quite a statement either, “that it’s time for me to start tweeting and blogging. You know…. So, let me know how we do that.” And with that, he’s gone before you can even say “um, yeah okay”.

Ready. Set. Tweet.
So, according to the Web Shandwick study, some of the main reasons that CEO’s aren’t as socially minded are because

…they’re not convinced of the ROI
…they’re worried about perceived risks of engaging with consumers directly
…and they concerned about real risks of legal and investor relations issues.

So, assuming that we’ve got those three things covered – what are some of the best practices we can start with to set up our new “engager-in-chief” so that he or she has the best chance at success.

7 Steps To Avoid Disaster

1.Understand the “why” first. Get a common ground with your CEO to understand how he or she will measure success. Unlike the corporate brand – you (or they) may want to be very careful about the following/follow strategy or the content of the blog. The tools that they will utilize and what and to whom you want to say it should be carefully thought through.

2.Easy does it. Your CEO does not need to compete with other accounts for content velocity. It’s perfectly okay if the CEO tweets once per week to start. It’s okay if they blog once a month. Or, if they’re frisky – once per day. But, if possible, it’s better to ease into it than bombard with content.

3.Whatever you do – don’t ghost Tweet or Ghost blog. If they’re not prepared to compose their own Tweets and/or blog posts, then they shouldn’t be doing it. You need to set the expectation with the CEO that this is not something they should just “try out” and then delegate if they get tired of it. This is a marathon – not a sprint.

4.Leverage it. Done well this will be an amazing new conduit for your organization and your content marketing efforts. Don’t let it stand in isolation. Integrate it into the other corporate social media channels. Bonus points for showing how far your extending the CEO’s content into the marketing message.

5.Yes, they can work ahead of time. If they want to compose a few tweets or blog posts while they’re on that flight to London – that’s great. In fact, creating an editorial calendar and working together to make sure those tweets or blog posts are timed well is a great way to get ahead in case they get busy with that quarter-end sales scramble.

6.But, don’t automate it. Even though there are lots of people automating Tweets – and most find that it’s perfectly acceptable for brands to automate some level of Tweeting – your CEO should not have Tweets emanating from Hootsuite, as she is speaking at the opening ceremony of the customer appreciation event.

7.Listen & Measure It. Unless you have *that* kind of CEO (and you already know if you do), it’s almost a certainty that you’re going to need to devote some bandwidth to watching @Replies, blog comments or the blogosphere in general to monitor the reaction to the content. Make sure that there’s an effective listening process, a measurement methodology – and most importantly a way for the CEO to react to content that’s being generated from their tweets/blog posts.
That last one is important – because remember with this new blog or Twitter account, you’re now opening up a direct channel to the CEO. More than replies or comments, you’re likely to get pro-active requests through this channel than anything they’re used to (job requests, partnership requests, sales calls etc..). You need a policy and a method of reacting to both the good and the bad for these requests.

We all know that social media is changing the way we do business – and how it’s affecting our personal brand strategy. Just know that the C-Suite is likely to want to get in on these trends – and this is a good thing. We can be the kid who’s parents tell them they’re “digging” their favorite rock band (and thus ruining their music forever). Or, we can be the leader we want to be – helping our CEO and our company transform into new avenues of communication.

And, you? Has your CEO gotten onto the Social Media train yet?

Leveraging the Next Wave of Social Networks for PR


I don’t often post items about upcoming  seminars or webinars, but this one caught my attention.  Maybe it was the title “Leveraging The Next Wave of Social Networks for PR”.  Anything with the words “next wave” is bound to be worth reporting and repeating!

Join PR News tomorrow, May 13, at 1:30 P.M. EST for the PR News Webinar “Leveraging the Next Wave of Social Networks for Your PR”. We’ll showcase some of the most innovative social media applications below the radar and how you can use them for your PR. This Webinar is geared toward making you the go-to person at your organization when these questions arise – and they will arise.

For more information and to register, go to www.prnewsonline.com/webinars/socialmedia0513.html.

If you have questions, contact webinar coordinator Saun Sayamongkhun at 301-354-1610; saun@accessintel.com. If you’re not available at this time, still register, you’ll have access to the program and materials for 1-year from date of Webinar. Register Now!

PR and Marketing Are Blurring

From March 10, 2010 to March 31, 2010, Vocus surveyed 966 public relations professionals about their perceptions of
integrated communications. Survey participants were provided the following definition:
• In the context of this survey, the term “integrated communications” means a management concept that ties all aspects of
marketing communication, including, but not limited to advertising, search marketing, sales promotion, public relations
and direct marketing, together to function in a unified an comprehensive fashion as opposed to functioning in isolation
or silos.

Key findings include the following:
• The lines between PR and marketing are blurring. Marketing and PR have formalized working relationships,
but data suggests “formal” does not necessarily mean “functional.” 78% of marketing and PR professionals say they report
to the same boss, while 77% of the same group report formal working relationships to create a common communications
strategy. However, 67% hold cross-functional meetings only “sometimes.”
• “Turf battles” still evident. Despite formalized processes or structures, 34% cited “organizational structures,
functional silos, or turf battles” as the single largest barrier to integrated communications. The next largest barrier is budget
shortcomings with 20% of respondents.
• Ownership of social media and blogging still undecided. PR and marketing each have a strong sense of
ownership. 43% of PR professionals feel they should own social media, while 34% of marketers make the same claim.
37% of PR professionals think PR should own the corporate blog versus 23% of marketers expressing the same sentiment.
• Benefits and communication measurement provides common ground. 56% of marketing and PR
professionals say integrated communications increases overall effectiveness of their outreach programs. 48% cite sales
and ROI as the single most important factor in measuring the results of an integrated communications strategy.