In a world where coverage on the top three technology blog can generate less than 3,000 page views yet client’s blog posts routinely torch the top of TechMeme, what role does the media play in the future of media relations?

website traffic from tech blogs

Thanks to @percival for sharing a look at what a few writeups on tech blogs brings. Direct and links combine for a large part of his traffic.

Well, the role of trusted opinion will likely not go away. But the role of informant and source of original information is shifting to the companies that are providing the news. This is a trend that is not unique to technology companies either.

Non tech story tellers

The Seattle Police Department has had a couple of viral successes lately. The articles are penned by a former journalist and are informative, entertaining and readable. And they don’t come from a news outlet. Similar story in Milwaukee where the police department there launched one of the most content-forward websites I’ve ever seen. As a former cops and crime reporter, I could only wish I had this level of access.

We’re seeing the evolution of message control in the entertainment space too. The lead singer of Machine Head, Robb Flynn, just launched a well-written diary/blog that’s already getting external coverage.

There’s tons of other examples of companies using their own properties to break news, control a conversation and establishing themselves as the definitive source of information on a topic. This tactic is not new. What is happening, however, is that the concept of media relations can be facilitated by an RSS feed. But here’s a big caveat here:

Using a blog as a trusted media source only works if there is a solid content strategy in place.

Using your blog as your news hub

We know that content strategies hinge on one important thing: content. But what kind of content works best? While the safe answer here is “it depends,” I’ll offer that the best content is what drives action. A simple product update can drive a fresh round of signups or sales and help drive the bottom line. All you need to do is ensure there’s a call to action that is clear and accessible.

But the real answer is simply to be present. Post about more than just news and invite a community to form around your content and embrace that community when it does form. Encourage your bloggers to be involved in the comments and establish their voice in the public.

But what’s this have to do with media relations? A lot. Access to information and exclusives puts a continuous strain on the relationship between flacks and hacks. Conditioning not only your consumer audience but also the media to seek information out from you first helps both parties.

The challenges of an open business

Now, there’s a couple of challenges with this evolution. Namely, not everything is news and not everything is public. For the first one, that’s the beauty of the blog. A blog post of product updates and features may not generate coverage, but it gives you an opportunity to share some deep links to product pages and show some product images.

As for the fact that you’ll still have embargoed or NDA information? Well, that’s where the relations part of this equation comes into play.

While press releases and creating link bait have been marketed as a great SEO tactic, I’ve finally had my epiphany: Search Engine Optimization is a public relations tactic. Public relations is not an SEO tactic.

As I recently had the great pleasure of attending SMX Advanced, I listened to a presentation on how to use elementary PR tactics as an SEO tool. In addition, SEOmoz recently published a post outlining the potential dangers of SEO managing PR and vice versa: “At the risk of writing with very broad brush-strokes, the PR world still knows nothing about SEO. This ignorance is reciprocal. …As SEOs, we know very little about how public relations actually work, but we should. Applying PR fundamentals can turn your PR Agency into Linkbuilders on Steroids…” Continue reading

We deal with them every day. We spend hours crafting pitches, preparing background documents and making sure they’re happy. But how do we decide who is and isn’t an influencer?

I was fortunate to be able to attend the Social Fresh conference in Portland (for some other takeaways, you can read them here)  recently and I wanted to know how some of the attendees defined who they considered an influencer.

As you can see, the definitions covered the spectrum. In a world where everybody is a publisher, we need to be wary of who we call an influencer. As PR practitioners, we are trying to maintain gold standards while making sure we are getting our clients the best results possible.

Time management

The biggest challenge on PR pros in a world where “influencer” is a fluid term is managing our time asks. Sometimes it’s the smallest of outlets that take the most time.

So how do we decide where to spend our time? In my opinion, we can look at some simple metrics to determine how we allocate our most precious resource.

Impact: This isn’t about eyeballs. This is about action. When this person publishes an article, do people listen and act? Do they generate traffic, signups or sales? Spend some time with them.

Engaged: If they seem to genuinely care about the announcement, chances are they can become a champion for you. Spend some time with them.

Audience: There are two parts to this: Passion and interaction. If the person’s readers are commenting and a conversation generally happens around each post, this helps the “long tail” of an announcement. Spend some time with them.

So, who should you not spend some time with? Quite simply, anybody who can’t help you define your goals.

Now it’s your turn: How do you define an influencer? What effects your perception of a potential pitch recipient? What causes you to say no?

The life and times of the in-house PR counsel at most companies are a changin’. Silos are being built as a result of silos being torn down. Specialists are generalizing and generalists now have a specialty. What is happening?

Those are some of the topics I’ll be talking about at this year’s Seattle PRSA Jumpstart event. PRSA Jumpstart is an event for the next generation of PR pros that  are coursing through the pipelines of the various schools offering training on what we collectively call PR.

But what are they training to do? They’re still being taught how to write press releases, but is that important? How about we teach technical skills such as HTML/PHP, SEO techniques, video editing or visual journalism?

The future of in-house PR

Here’s my theory: In-house corporate PR will become a strategic counsel, relying upon external agencies for execution, measurement and reality checks. In the next 10 years, in-house corporate PR teams will essentially shrink to as few people as possible, depending on the size of the company.

I’ll get into the hows in a bit, but for now, let’s focus on Why? I think that as public relations as we know it continues to blur the lines between marketing, sales, customer support and PR, the focus will be more on strategic communications and less on day-to-day PR activities.

As we continue to realize that social media (or pancake media) is simply media — a way of sharing information — we’ll get less hung up on the tools were using and again focus on the messages we’re sharing.

Peter Shankman is fond of saying that good writing will save society and I think this is essential for the future of PR especially.

But how will we shift?

The shift from a traditional client/agency/consultant model to a more fluid and collaborative effort is already happening. Ubiquitous methods of broadcasting to a public that’s more willing to consume information are emerging and systems for effectively using and measuring them are evolving.

The focus needs to be on quality. It’s no longer enough to throw up some blog posts and *poof * you’re a social media guru coach rawkstar. The challenge with PR as it stands today is that people are treating the Internet like a public access TV station. Everybody. This blog included.

But the problem with public access TV is that a lot of it sucks.

The good is rising to the top. The herd is being thinned. But how? By providing quality content. Social media tools have leveled the playing field of who has access to the public. But they don’t make you a good strategist or a good analyst or a good communicator. Those are traits that need to be honed and refined with experience and execution.

So, what will corporate PR look like in the future? I think it will look a lot different. Corporations need to think like a network. Find good shows that people want to watch and your audience will come.

Tell me your thoughts about what the future of public relations looks like in the comments. I would love to hear them.

A word of advice: I am not a lawyer. Nor am I a registered financial adviser. This is my opinion only and should be treated as such. For guidance, consult your legal counsel.Originally posted at PRBreakfastclub.

If you are in PR, IR, corporate communications or social media, chances are you’ll run into fun rules such as Sarbanes-Oxley, Regulation FD and FINRA guidelines. One of these things these rules have in common is that they are behind the times.

But the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has taken a pretty large step in modernizing the rules that financial services companies must follow while engaging in social media and PR. You can download the FINRA social media guidelines as a PDF.

The big takeaways

The important pieces of this update are the changes to the definitions of static and interactive content. Under the new rules, “Examples of static content typically available through social networking sites include profile, background or wall information.” This information is treated like an advertisement and is subject to regulator approval processes.

Interactive content is a bit more flexible. Tweets, blog comments etc… are interactive content and do not require the approval of an approved regulator. One of the interesting challenges, however are the monitoring and archival requirements.”firms may adopt procedures that require principal review of some or all interactive electronic communications prior to use or may adopt various
methods of post-use review, including sampling and lexicon-based search methodologies as discussed in Regulatory Notice 07-59.”

Others are discussing these social media regulation changes and giving advice on how to proceed as well.

The big impact

I know this is a bit more heady than what we normally discuss, but it’s important. Our society is changing. The way brands interact with us is changing. And the need for the government to monitor those interactions is changing.

As communications professionals, we need to be able to provide sound guidance for our client. But at the same time we need to be innovative in our approach to engaging with our target audiences. To that end, the best advice I can give is know the rules and come as close to breaking them as possible.

Having a policy in place is also essential for firms looking to engage in social media. Having a set of rules that outlines approved interactions will help avoid confusion and potential violations. But in doing so, make sure you’re consulting your legal counsel.

The times, they are a-changin’…