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.

What I really mean is that this job is fucking awesome, but it’s bad form to cuss in a headline.

Essentially, I am convinced that public relations is one of the best jobs in the world. My entire day boils down to being able to tell as many people as possible a story. Sure I have to prove I’m doing it well and there’s a lot of people to keep happy.

But at the end of the day, my life is one that is creative, fun and fulfilling story I get to tell. Do you get to do what you love? Why not? What’s stopping you from getting happy?

Find your happy.

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Tweeting and facebooking are SEO because Twitter and Facebook have become search engines. According to a study just released by Seattle-based SEO analytics software maker SEOmoz, Facebook shares had the highest correlation of the factors it examined that influenced where a page ranked in search results. Shares had a higher correlation than link authority, keywords in a domain and anchor text. Adding in data from the study on the correlation of Facebook likes and comments leads me to believe that a strong presence on Facebook will help your content rank better in the search engines. In spite of the appearance of correlation data showing that Facebook has a tremendous impact on search engine ranking, this is really showing that people share quality content. Continue reading

Posted in PR

Do you want to know who has influence? Celebrities. Celebrities have influence.

Such as one tweet from Ashton Kutcher generating more than 13,000 views of a YouTube video with a single tweet. Click on that link, because it contains a slight shift in the definition of “influence.” It renames it leverage. It’s not influencing a purchasing or life decision, it was just a lot of people clicking a link. Leveraging your popularity to get people to do stuff.

When rapper 50 Cent tweeted about a small cap public company that he turns out to now be a minority equity shareholder, he caused shares to jump 290% to 39 cents, boosting the company’s market capitalization to around $82 million, a jump of roughly $60 million in a single day. Monday’s volume reached almost 9 million compared the issue’s usual churn of less than 30,000.

But, when we as communications professionals define influencer (hint: it’s not this), we often think of self-anointed gurus that have labeled themselves as such and we completely forget those that have the power to shift the direction of a brand.

I wouldn’t normally name names, but let’s consider a tech reporter such as Aaron Ricadela, a tech reporter whose byline is frequently found in Businessweek and Bloomberg. If we apply the metrics such as Twitter followers or Klout score, he is not influential at all. He’s only tweeted four times and has 14 followers.

But he’s absolutely influential.

My point is, if you approach influence with a narrow perspective based solely on social media metrics, you are missing out on engaging with a ton of people that can shape the perspective of your clients or brand. And isn’t that why we’re in this business?

Embargoes are generally more controversial than the stories they were designed to tell. They’re broken daily. Through errors by humans and machines, a post agreed to publish at 6:02 am but goes at 5:58 am.

But these errors, I can’t help but wonder if they’re the result of poor execution of if the embargo is inherently flawed. As PR practitioners, we want to have a way to get our news out to as many people as possible and having journalists who agree to them is a great way to do that. Plus they piss off journalists.

The challenges with embargoes are that some people like to break them, sometimes PR people screw them up and sometimes they’re not worth the effort. But what are they inherently flawed or are we as PR practitioners simply failing to do our jobs well?

In defense of the embargo

Timing can be everything in the public relations world. Our clients want to see the most results possible and depending on the scope and impact of the news item an embargo is a good way to go. The clients get to spend quality time with the reporter and go in depth into the news item.

When the embargo lifts, you can monitor the outreach easily and pull the coverage in a more efficient manner. But I think the great thing about embargoes is that they help keep the time line of an announcement intact. If news breaks before a Web site is ready or before an executive is ready to talk about it, the perception can quickly turn negative.

Proper execution

I think the best thing to do is go to your list of outlets and just ask them what they want. A simple concept that rarely gets acted upon. Talk to your influencer and know what he or she wants. That conversation, regardless of the outcome, will help you down the road.

So, how do you properly execute an embargo?

Plan. A proper plan makes all the difference in the world. Are you seeding exclusives? Are you looking for video? Radio? Print? How will you optimize for inbound interview requests? So many criteria can make or break an embargoed announcement.

Research. Executing a successful embargo partly depends on who is receiving the news. Have you worked with a particular reporter before? Does he/she have a reputation for breaking them? Making a tiered list of outlets that you wish to offer pre-briefs and embaroed news to is almost as important as the news you are sharing.

Have news. Not all press releases are created equally. Make sure the news you are trying to have released under embargo is actually newsworthy.

Communicate. Work with the writer. Make sure they have all of the information and materials they need in order to write the best post possible for their audience. That’s the key, making sure their audience is happy.

Monitor. Sometimes mistakes happen. Be ready for those mistakes. Post published early? Have the release ready for the wire and be ready to react.

As I said before, the embargo can be a valuable PR tool if utilized properly. What do you think? Let me know in the comments!

Posted in PR