Posts Tagged ‘buzz’

Will a New Buzz-Predictor Tool Change Journalism?

February 10, 2012

It had to happen. Computer scientists have just come up with a way to predict before publication whether or not a news story has the potential to create buzz.

MIT bloggers wrote on a “Physics arXiv Blog” post this week that computer scientists at HP’s lab in Palo Alto, Calif. did research that showed they could test news articles to see whether or not they would spread widely on Twitter. Since Twitter buzz about news stories has been shown to be a predictor of general interest beyond Twitter,  the ability to

test an article in advance could have major implications for journalism, and, of course, for public relations as well.
The HP scientists used an automatic online news aggregator to collect news stories for a week. Then they scored each story on four different criteria: what news organization published the story it, what category the story fit into, how subjective the language used in the story was, and what people or things were included in the story.  They tracked these stories on Twitter to see how far and how fast they were spread. They were able to use the data to identify what levels of scores in each of the four criteria were correlated with the popularity of a news story on Twitter. Then they used these criteria and their scoring formulas to predict in advance how popular a story would be on Twitter.

The MIT bloggers speculated that it probably wouldn’t be long before someone would use this type of data to develop a “popularity checker” tool, similar to the grammar and spelling checkers that are built into word processing programs. They commented that it might be detrimental to journalism to have such a tool, since journalists would surely be pushed by their employers to write for the tool.

But think of what a boon to PR a popularity checker would be!

PR industry newbies would be able to test their news sense to get objective feedback on their news releases and media pitches. PR team leaders could use the checker to demonstrate tactfully to their employers or clients that promotional language really does not work in a news release, or to point out the lack of newsworthiness of an announcement proposed by senior management without having to argue about it.

If anyone hears that such a tool is under development, please let me know so I can sign up as a pre-release beta tester and invest in whatever company is behind it!

Lucy Siegel

Read my e-book: “Public Relations Around the Globe: A Window on International Business Culture”

Eight Myths About PR (Truth or Consequences)

February 7, 2011

When I was a kid, there was a TV game show called “Truth or Consequences.” The host  asked the guests trivia questions, and if they failed to answer correctly, they would have to pay the consequences, involving embarrassing stunts. In business, as on this old game show, there can be painful consequences for not knowing the truth. Executives at start-ups and from overseas at foreign companies are particularly vulnerable to these myths. So, in an effort to spare some of you from suffering the consequences, just call me Myth-buster, to the rescue, with some important truths about PR.

“Our services/products are so great that we don’t need public relations.”   There are a few situations where a new product is able to generate a huge amount of buzz all by itself.  For example, when your company already has the brand visibility and the market clout of Nintendo, you can launch the Wii and be fairly confident that it will be widely written and talked about. The same goes for Microsoft and a new version of Windows.  But if your company and brand aren’t widely known, you have a big mountain to climb to get the media (traditional and social media) to pay attention.  Success in this area isn’t just a matter of hard work, it requires a good strategy, careful planning and experience.

“PR people are publicists; they manage the media.” To me, the word “publicist” evokes a “Mad Men” image of men in suits smoking cigarettes and drinking martinis while they hang out in bars and restaurants with journalists.  This is so far from the truth it’s laughable, since journalists don’t have time to hang out in bars and restaurants and neither do PR people, and there are more women than men working in PR these days.  PR professionals are consultants (often to senior management) who manage the messages and communicate with (not manage) the media. We also listen to a company’s important constituents to identify key issues and help management communicate constructively with them.

“Any PR is good PR.” Tell that to Tiger Woods, BP and Toyota.  Negative media coverage can cost a company billions of dollars – or even destroy a company.

“Using social media is free.”  It takes many hours to create a social media plan, put it to work for you and build a social media presence. Is your staff’s time free? What are they neglecting so they can spend hours building a social media presence? Some paid help to jumpstart this effort can actually be economical.

“We aren’t ready for PR – our product is many months away from being launched.” Technology start-ups often feel they should work in stealth mode until they’re ready for market. However, it’s likely there are a couple of other start-ups working on the same breakthrough idea.  I’ve seen situations where companies have waited to announce their new technologies and competitors have suddenly and unexpectedly beaten them to market. Even with a better product, they may never catch up if a competitor has already grabbed the limelight. This can be avoided by starting earlier and getting the buzz out that something exciting will soon be unveiled. If you were a buyer, you might not be so ready to jump on the first product to hit the market if you knew that something else is about to come out that could be better.

“Our sales people can reach our target market more cost-efficiently than PR.” PR isn’t a direct sales tool. It’s a tool for building the visibility and the reputation of a product and/or a company (which, over the long term, are prerequisites for sales). Sales people have a lot easier time doing their jobs if their prospects have heard of the company. 

“We don’t have any news, so PR wouldn’t work for us.” Public relations is not just about delivering news.  It can also be used to bring make the senior executives of a company more prominent as thought leaders who will be consulted and quoted by the media.  PR can be used to create news for you, as well, through developing communications programs that will bring attention to your company.  For example, a cause marketing campaign might position your company well for both increased sales and media attention. 

“What happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas.”  With wire services, email, Twitter and YouTube, what happens in Las Vegas can be broadcast around the world in seconds. This obvious fact should (but doesn’t) stop people from doing or saying things publicly in one country that can be damaging to their companies in other countries.  For some reason, business people in countries with languages not widely spoken elsewhere (such as Japan and Korea) often mistakenly believe they’re an exception to this rule. However, news from those countries is translated immediately and distributed to the world at large.

Lucy Siegel


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