Posts Tagged ‘social media’

The Extinction of Physical QWERTY Keyboards

April 2, 2013

The Blackberry Z10 made headlines recently. A million units were shipped in the last three months. But I’m more excited about the company’s Q10 (scheduled to be released this month). It’s not that I’m a Blackberry fan, I’ve never even used one before; it’s that the Q10 is part of a dying breed of smartphones with physical QWERTY keyboards. UnderwoodKeyboardTheir disappearance has largely been blamed on the success of the iPhone. During the iPhone’s first few years, competitors offered plenty of physical keyboard/touchscreen combo smartphones: just look at this top ten list from 2011. However, as the iPhone came to dominate the market, smartphones all started to look more and more like iPhones.

The smartphone is an essential tool for most people who work in PR. At a recent industry event, one of the panelists chided the audience (all PR pros), that more of us weren’t live Tweeting the event. We’re expected to be constantly connected, at the very least while working at events or when dealing with a crisis. At Bridge, we specialize in PR for overseas-based companies, and we often need to communicate with clients and media in different time zones, so work hours can vary a lot, too. Most of us would probably agree that we’d feel lost without smartphones.

I bought my first smartphone in 2010, the LG Ally, and I stuck with it because I never found a much better option with a physical keyboard. I’ve been an iMac user for years and I always wanted an iPhone for the syncing capabilities, but I couldn’t fathom using a touchscreen keyboard. The keyboard has always been the most important factor for me when choosing a phone. I text like a rabid teenager (I’ve sent/received 1,036 text messages in just the last 7 days), and I take lots of lengthy notes. There is also something much more satisfying about pressing down on actual buttons versus tapping on a screen. I type much faster on a physical keyboard, and I never quite took to autocorrect. I’d rather a few typos than have my phone try to guess what I’m trying to write. After three years with the same phone, I finally came to terms with the fact that touchscreen keyboards are here to stay. I begrudgingly started shopping around when I stumbled upon this gem: a Bluetooth slide-out keyboard for the iPhone 5! I happily traded in my old phone for an iPhone 5 and after fumbling with the touchscreen for a few days, I ordered the Bluetooth add-on from Amazon. Without further ado, here’s my review.

Abco Tech® Bluetooth Sliding Keyboard iPhone 5 Case (White)

Abco iPhone 5 Keyboard

Set-up was extremely easy and intuitive. I paired it with my iPhone like any other Bluetooth device, and the phone snapped snugly into the top part of the case. It comes with a micro-USB charger and as far as battery life, I’ve been charging it at least every other night and have had no issues (though I expect battery life will decline over time). The keys take a bit of getting used to, but if you type a lot, you’ll be fine with a few days of use. There are “lock” and “home” keys, as well as two “command” or “Apple” keys which let you use basic keyboard shortcuts (ie: copy, paste, select all, undo) without having to touch the screen. There are also 4 arrow keys which let you navigate long bodies of text with ease. If you compare the proportions to a normal keyboard, the space bar is very small and off-center. This is quite annoying because you have to strain your right thumb to reach it. Functionally, this is probably the biggest flaw in the design.

Aside from the space bar, there are other obvious aesthetic flaws. The keyboard just about doubles the thickness of the phone which may be a huge turnoff for many. I got the keyboard in white, which has a matte finish that gets dirty very quickly. I haven’t tried to clean it yet, but from reading other reviews, there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to do it.

At the end of the day, whether you’ll like this product or not will largely depend on how much you value function over form. Most of my friends react with disgust when I whip this huge thing out of my pocket. The iPhone’s sleekness is its main draw and if Steve Jobs saw this bulky case, I’m sure he’d be rolling over in his grave. However, if you’re like me and often feel the need to draft entire novels on your smartphone, you should give this keyboard a try. It’s about the price of a normal iPhone case ($25-$29) and Amazon has a solid 30-day return policy so you don’t have much to lose.

 

Diana Kim

Trials, tribulations, and the impact of social media on the media industry

March 26, 2013

This blog post is courtesy of Joy Scott of fellow PRBI member firm Scott Public Relations:

From Vocus’ 2013 State of the Media Report

Looking for media coverage? Ignore social media at your own peril. About 80 percent of journalists use Twitter and Facebook for research. If you are not there, your story may be overlooked.

The 4th annual State of the Media Report from Vocus examines how social media impacts the digital media revolution, and how journalists and news organizations use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and others as tools to gather, promote and disseminate information.

Some of the key findings in this report surprised us (more than 100 newspapers folded in 2012), while others (media professionals still prefer to receive pitches through email) were expected.

Highlights from the report include:

Social media has empowered newspapers with the ability to “break in” and report the news immediately. David Coates, managing editor of newspaper content at Vocus Media Research Group, says, “It (social media) is very effective if journalists are providing a service, like breaking news or interesting and funny observations. It helps build their personal brands with readers”. These social media mechanisms help journalists draw traffic and maximize page views by building loyal followers.

Social media is now also used to supplement coverage. Some professionals give blow-by-blows of events, trials and television broadcasts now regularly include feedback found from monitoring social media sites. According to Julie Holley, managing editor of television content at Vocus Media Research Group, “Social media has been a gold mine for TV because it is cheap to use, easy to implement technologically speaking (short and easy set-up time), and viewers want to be part of the conversation.”

Engagement has become a main reason that many journalists choose to use/follow social media on a regular basis because it connects viewers/readers on a more personal level with the journalist covering their community.

Magazines have social media presence today – the direct interaction opportunity is too big to ignore.

In 2012, 165 magazines debuted, with 97 print and 68 online launches.

In 2012, 152 newspapers folded; 91 were weekly papers and 34 were online. The Orange County Register defied trends in 2012. Since Aaron Kushner has taken over, the paper has been on an editorial hiring and expansion spree.

PR professionals need to make sure they supply journalists with the materials they require to pursue a lead. Julie Holley advises PR professionals to “Control the message. Interact with the journalists. Follow them, comment on their stories and suggest story ideas. As always, know your audience and that of the journalist.”

Findings from the Vocus survey of media:

*all graphs are from Vocus’ State of the Media Report 2013

 

Change Your Expectations For Top-Tier Media Coverage

March 19, 2013

The rise of inbound marketing is tied inexorably to the decline of both advertising and the traditional media.

By now most of you who read the Bridgebuzz blog have heard my rants about the death of the mainstream media.  The Pew Research Center, a non-profit research organization, recently reported that for every dollar newspapers are earning from online advertising, they are losing $10 in print ad revenue. Print ad revenues now are less than half what they were in 2006. It’s no wonder that  the newspaper industry alone – not including any magazines, TV or radio, all of which have also had massive layoffs – cut 39,000 jobs between the beginning of 2008 and the end of 2012, according to the website Papercuts, which tracks newspaper layoffs.

The number of (employed) journalists in the U.S. continues to shrink, according to the Pew Research Center’s newest annual report, “The State of the News Media 2013.”The Pew report concludes that a continued erosion of news reporting resources has taken place at the same time that capabilities have improved for bypassing the media altogether and going directly to the public. This is the crucial message that I want the readers of this blog to understand.  Clients and prospective clients, hear this: you can no longer depend on the media to get your messages out to your target audiences.  No matter what your PR firm is telling you about their stellar media relations capabilities, you need to know that:

RIP Newsweek

  • There are now 30% fewer U.S. journalists employed than in 2000.
  • The number of stories produced by CNN has been cut in half since 2007. (You must have known this – how many times can they repeat the same stories over and over again in one evening!)
  • The number of live events produced by the three U.S. cable news channels has decreased by about 30% in the past five years, while interview stories, which require much less resources to produce, are up by about the same amount.
  • Newsweek bit the dust last year and now the only remaining weekly news magazine is Time, which made another cut in its editorial staff just recently.
  • According to the Pew Report, an increasing number of media are using a new automated technology that produces editorial content without the need for any human reporting at all, believe it or not. Forbes is one of the publications using this technology (ostensibly to supplement what its reporters are doing, since it’s inconceivable that a computer algorithm could totally replace the editorial staff – yet, at least.
  • People are noticing that the media they used to rely on for news is a shadow of its former self.  The Pew survey shows that 31% have stopped reading or listening to a news outlet because it no longer provides the news it used to provide.

PR agencies know this has been happening and understand what it means for the work they do: it’s much, much harder to obtain media coverage for our clients than even a few years ago, because the media are producing dramatically less news and information. But companies that hire PR agencies don’t seem to grasp this. Every potential client we speak to is looking for top-tier media coverage, yet getting into that level of media just doesn’t happen as frequently as it used to. As I said, no matter what PR firms are telling you about their ability to do this for you, beware, because there’s very little chance they’ll be able to deliver, no matter how good they.

If you’re one of the many communications and marketing professionals demanding what you have always been able to get in the past from your PR agency, top-tier media coverage and lots of it, please open your mind to new communications techniques.  After all, it’s the end that counts – reaching your audience with the information and messages you want to convey, rather than the means, isn’t it? As the Pew Center Report pointed out, technologies have been improving all the time for totally bypassing the traditional media and going directly to your target audience. The most savvy PR people have already acknowledged the need to do this and have become “PR journalists,” producing their own high-quality materials (articles, videos, podcasts, white papers, etc.) that they distribute online in a variety of ways, including use of social media and other online platforms. You’ll hear this called content marketing, inbound marketing and permission marketing. The same content can be used and repurposed in many ways, a method an NPR executive once called “COPE,” “Create Once, Publish Everywhere.”

In order for this type of communications to be successful in meeting your goals, it must be of very high-quality. It can’t be promotional, it can’t be self-serving, and you must provide value from the point of view of the audience – not the point of view of your boss or your company’s CEO. Luckily, there are some really good PR journalists available these days (some were trained as journalists before they went down the PR agency path). Don’t try to find them at ad agencies or digital marketing firms – look for them where you’ve always looked for help in communicating with the media: agencies that provide public relations and corporate communications services.  They will understand what you’re trying to accomplish and have the skills to be able to help.

Some of you who are reading this are thinking, “But my boss [or the CEO, or the CMO, or the company’s board, or all of the above) wants top tier media coverage, and that’s what I need our PR agency to get if I want to keep my job.” I’ll put the ball in your court. It’s up to you to educate that internal audience about the changing reality in the media today.

I’m sure as hell not saying that PR firms can’t get top tier media coverage anymore. Obviously, we do. But we don’t get it as frequently as we used to or as you’d like us to. There, I’ve put my neck on the line. You can believe me and start thinking hard about inbound marketing and content marketing as a way to inform and persuade your target audience, or not. If you’re curious to know more about how it works, read our new e-book about inbound marketing.

 

Lucy Siegel

The Catholic Church & Social Media

March 15, 2013

PontifexWhite smoke was first seen rising from the Sistine Chapel chimney on Wednesday at 1:06pm EDT. Just hours later, at 3:33pm, the Vatican tweeted “HABEMUS PAPAM FRANCISCUM,” which translates to “We have Pope Francis.” The tweet was retweeted 25,000 times in under 10 minutes.

Pope Benedict XVI made headlines back in December when he became the first pope to start tweeting via the Vatican’s official Twitter handle, @Pontifex. This wasn’t the church’s first foray into social media. Back in 2010, the Pope asked priests take to the web to help spread the gospel. That the Catholic Church has warmed to social media so quickly may come as a surprise. After all, this is the same institution that took over 300 years to apologize for persecuting Galileo in the 1600’s for believing that the earth moved around the Sun. However, if we look at the very tenets of the religion, moving onto social networks was but a logical next step.

Evangelism is a key aspect of many Christian religions, and Christians have successfully used other types of media for this purpose. (Remember the televangelists of the 70’s and 80’s?) Furthermore, the need to gain more followers has never been stronger. The Pew Forum recently reported that “the percentage of U.S. Catholics who consider themselves ‘strong’ members of the Roman Catholic Church has never been lower than it was in 2012.”

Despite having almost two million Twitter followers already, Pope Francis still has a huge, common hurdle to overcome. Religious belief is a very personal thing, and it’s one of the most taboo topics to talk about. Given the very public nature of social media, many believers are hesitant to associate with religious figures and institutions on the web.

Opening a Twitter account was clearly a PR move- a good one, but it was only a start. Pope Benedict XVI’s 36 tweets since December have mostly been one-way broadcasts. Though he invited people to start conversations with him with the hashtag #askpontifex, it quickly became a joke on Twitter and very little was achieved. Pope Francis is starting with a clean Twitter slate, and we hope he makes more of an effort to engage with followers than his predecessor.  To start, he should probably look over our latest eBook on social media.

Calling All Baby Boomers: It’s Time to Embrace Inbound Marketing

March 5, 2013

Despite our cultural obsession with baby geniuses—college students who launch tech companies right out of their dormitories—the fact is that baby boomers are now behind a large proportion of startups, and are becoming more entrepreneurial than ever before.Baby Boomer Marketing

According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, the self-employment rate for adults over 54 is 16.4 percent, and research by the Kauffman Foundation suggests that entrepreneurship among this group will continue to surge. Some boomers are launching startups to bolster their retirement nest eggs. Others simply don’t want to retire yet—they are passionate about what they do and want to leverage their years of experience to grow their own enterprises.

To successfully market their ideas, baby boomer entrepreneurs will need to look beyond the traditional marketing strategies they grew up with, such as print and broadcast advertising, direct mail and telemarketing. These methods can still work to generate business, but from a consumer’s perspective, they represent unwanted interruptions, and often are not tailored to the individual’s unique needs. And from a business perspective, these strategies usually require a significant investment.

In recent years, the Internet has enabled an alternative approach, in which a business creates content to attract visitors to its website and collect information from the visitors that will allow the company to tailor its marketing to various types of people to convert visitors into customers. This approach is referred to as inbound marketing. If you’re not a marketing guru, this may be a new concept, but don’t let the jargon scare you. Inbound marketing isn’t complicated: if you have a website, then you’ve already started the journey. Here are the 3 stages of inbound marketing.

1.      Get Found

The first step of inbound marketing is attracting visitors to your site. Here are some proven ways to do it:

Search Engine Optimization SEO:   Many customers start the buying process at a search engine, so your site should be listed as prominently as possible. At a minimum, you should regularly analyze and edit your content to make sure you’re using appropriate keywords.

Blogging:  The best way to attract new visitors to your site is by publishing a blog that provides relevant and credible information. Companies that blog get 55% more leads than those that don’t.

Social Media:  When people go online, they’re interacting with friends and sharing content on social media. These sites provide a great opportunity to expand visibility of your company and drive more visitors to your site.

Content Marketing: In addition to publishing a blog, think about creating other content, such as white papers, webinars and videos that provide valuable information to attract visitors.

2.      Convert Your Visitors

As you start attracting visitors to your website, your goal obviously will be to convert them into paying customers. Here are a few ideas:

Calls to Action: When you develop new content for your site, you’ll need to create a call to action that encourages the visitors to act (e.g. “Download the Whitepaper”). Other possible calls to action could be “Request a Consultation” or “Get Product Sample.” The offer you’re making must fulfill the needs of your visitors for the call to action to work.

Landing Pages:  When website visitors click on a call to action, they should be sent to a landing page. This is where prospects submit information about themselves, which will help you determine whether they are a good sales lead or not..

Email Marketing: You will get many leads that aren’t immediately converted into customers. One effective way to nurture a longer-term relationship with these people  is through a series of emails providing content targeted to their interests.

3.      Analyze

You should measure outcomes at every stage of your marketing strategy to figure out ways to make it more efficient and determine the return on your time and investment In addition to looking at common metrics, such as number of unique visitors, page visits and click-through, you should also monitor:

Conversion Rates: The percentage of people who convert from visitors to leads or from leads to customers.

Benchmarks: Benchmarks are data used to measure your marketing performance against peers. For example, conversion rate benchmarks allow you to see how your own conversion rates compare to those of similar companies.

Content Performance: You want to see how well each type of content you produce is attracting people to your website so you can get better and better at providing content that works for you.

Jacob Seal

Learn more about inbound marketing – download our free e-book:
     

Unconventional Ways to Get PR Work Experience

March 1, 2013

A few weeks ago, while going over applications for our summer internship program, I wrote a post with tips for landing an internship in PR. Shortly after it went live, I got a call from veteran journalist Jack O’Dwyer, who’s covered the PR industry for over 40 years. He said that while he enjoyed my post, the market for internships at traditional PR firms is so competitive, students and recent grads may need to think outside the box to gain real world experience. He suggested that they go door to door to local businesses and offer their services for little or no compensation. “Do anything they need including sweeping the floor and washing the windows. Do what the regular employees won’t. Bring them news of new products or what the competition is doing. Show them how to create a website if they don’t have one,” he said.

At first, the whole conversation made me very uncomfortable. He was essentially saying that people with little to no PR experience should start freelancing. It sounded like a disaster waiting to happen. Interns make mistakes – it’s a part of the learning process, and a traditional internship is a safe, supervised environment where this can happen (usually) without dire consequences. I couldn’t see how any good could come of letting inexperienced 20-somethings run amuck with a company’s public image.

Over the next two weeks we reviewed over 300 applicants and finally hired one. The process made me reconsider Jack’s advice from the perspective of any one of the many qualified candidates we didn’t hire. If you haven’t had much luck finding a traditional internship, you really don’t have much to lose. You don’t have a professional reputation at stake, and you most likely won’t be signing any major clients. As long as you’re careful and only offer services you’re relatively equipped to handle, it just may be what gets your career started.

Andrea Marilyn GarciaJust ask Andrea Marilyn Garcia. Before becoming an Account Executive at Jaffe Communications, she gave herself a head start, making industry connections early on. “While at school I had an art blog for a journalism class and was looking for fresh new media content,” she said. “I realized that if you have a camera, anyone will want to speak with you. I would go to events and take video and interview people. Before I knew it, I was working with PR and marketing people at institutions and events.”

Christina Dela CruzChristina Dela Cruz, now an Assistant Account Executive at a PR firm in Atlanta, got her start with a virtual internship. “I graduated from college right when the economy took a nose dive in 2009, so I found it extremely challenging to find relevant internships in my area. I decided to take up ‘virtual interning’ as a means to gain experience,” she said. “I was able to intern for a small content marketing and digital PR consultant company based out of Virginia (I am located in Atlanta) via email and Skype.”

Nick Patrikis 3Nick Patrikis, a senior at Ithaca College, took a long shot, answering an ad on Craigslist for a VP of Marketing position at a record label startup. Though he didn’t get that job, the head of the company replied and agreed to meet with him. They talked basic marketing strategy and Nicholas left the meeting with his first assignment: developing a new logo for the record label.

The takeaway? Think beyond traditional internships. There are so many small businesses that haven’t even considered PR – each one is a potential client. The owner of my favorite taco truck once offered to pay me in tacos if I’d manage his Twitter account (sadly, I had to decline because I was moving). Though traditional internships may seem like a safer way to get started, in many ways, they may not be as edifying as branching out on your own. Many firms won’t let interns take on important tasks out of fear, precisely because they do have a professional reputation to consider and client accounts on the line. Mistakes will be made, regardless where you work, but fear of failure should never deter you from taking risks.

Diana Kim

Ask Not What the Media Can Do for You, Ask What You Can Do for the Media

February 13, 2013

Unfortunately, most emerging companies have approached public relations as little more than an extension of their sales promotion efforts, narrowly focusing their messaging on attributes of their products or services with the expectation that reporters will spread the word to the masses. At best, this approach usually yields a limited number of media placements originating around a product launch. At worst, reporters will view the announcements as editorialized sales pitches and discard them. Then comes the inevitable question from the corporate brass: “What value are we getting from that PR budget?”

kennedy

This scenario often could be averted if the question were turned around: “What value can the media get from our company?” Marketing professionals should appreciate this question—they are accustomed to defining value for potential customers, but reporters are not potential customers. Their needs are completely different.

To effectively engage reporters, it is important to understand how they evaluate information. Their raison d’être is to uncover what’s “newsworthy” to their specific audiences and to report this information in an easy-to-understand format. Thus, for a company’s message to resonate with a reporter it must be perceived to have a certain quality of newsworthiness.

Newsworthiness is a very abstract concept. It differs from company to company. A management change at a large conglomerate, for example, would be considered more newsworthy than a similar change at a startup. It also differs from reporter to reporter. Trade reporters, for instance, view newsworthiness through a narrow lens focused on a specific industry, while reporters with general business and consumer media often (not always) view newsworthiness through a broader lens focused on major social, economic or technological trends.

We’re at a time when major brands seem to wield more and more media influence, and reporters are becoming more and more immune to unsolicited story pitches. So how can a startup company demonstrate newsworthiness in such a tough climate?

The key is to start developing a PR plan early. It’s not uncommon for startups to focus their early-stage efforts on building out core business functions, such as sales channels, product development, logistics and other back office functions, putting off PR until the product launch approaches. This is understandable—resources are always an issue, and expenditures and staff time have to be prioritized. We also understand the competitive reasons for some companies to operate in “stealth mode” until they’re ready to launch sales. However, postponing PR planning until a month or two before going to market can seriously limit the company’s opportunities to drive greater visibility and lead to pitfalls that could have been avoided with proper planning.

As you begin crafting your PR plan, a key component is to identify story angles that will interest the media. This involves brainstorming with your management team and PR advisors to collect pertinent information about your company and its founders that is often scattered across many minds, and identifying the facets that could be used to create compelling story angles. Significant product news creates potential angles, as well as any anticipated milestones (e.g., acquisition of new management, new external partnerships, new funding, etc.). These events may offer good opportunities for exposure in some media outlets, with the highest potential usually being in trade and business media.

But there is no reason to limit the company’s story angles to these business events. PR planning is a creative process that requires you and your PR advisors to look beyond the obvious characteristics of your business to discover other aspects that could distinguish you from the flock. A great example of a company that has succeeded at this is Ben & Jerry’s. The company has been able to command media interest at will. Its products, however, are rarely what grab the headlines. Rather, much of the media coverage has focused on the company’s eccentricities: its unconventional founding (it was originally conceived as a bagel shop), its offbeat management practices (e.g. its erstwhile salary ratio policy) and its reputation as a champion of social issues.

Admittedly, the comparison between the media strategy of an emerging IT or biotech company with that of Ben & Jerry’s is tenuous, but there are opportunities for most companies to seize the limelight in unconventional ways if they try. Before they became iconic brands, companies like Microsoft, Facebook, Groupon and Flickr were successful at this, getting attention for quirks in their corporate cultures,  business models, operational development or founders’ stories.

The bottom line is, in order for your company to derive value from its media strategy, it has to first prove its value (i.e. newsworthiness) to the media. The art of PR is storytelling: mining the various facets of your business to uncover what sets it apart—its newsworthiness—and packaging that information into compelling story angles to engage the media.

Jacob Seal

13 DOs & DON’Ts to Make the Most of Digital Communications

January 14, 2013

The new realities of the digital era of communication can sink organizations quickly or can help them to thrive, all depending on what actions they take. Here are some do’s and don’ts to make the best use of digital communications:

What helps

  • Be active rather than reactive communicators.
  • Communicate both bad news and good news about the company openly.
  • Aggressively create and share good “content” to tell the company’s story (since the traditional media is a shadow of its former self and can’t be depended on as much as it could in the past to get the story out).green thumb
  • Engage with the target audience regularly to develop good relationships and credibility. The target audience includes everyone from employees, to individual customers, to community groups, to influencers such as bloggers , journalists and analysts.
  • Since people will be talking about your company whether or not you give them information or are there to listen, be there online where they are, to hear what they have to say and to respond if necessary.
  • Treat every individual with the greatest respect, since he or she has the power to call global attention to behavior that is disrespectful.
  • Learn the new rules and use the new communications tools of the digital era. For example, be aware that the vast majority of consumers now research purchases online even if they buy in stores.
  • It’s a given that your website is a crucial tool in winning new customers, but you also have to be aware that consumers trust what others say about your services more than what you say.

red thumbWhat hurts

  • Don’t try to hide negative information – in the digital era, information knows no boundaries. Companies must assume that everything will eventually be made public.
  • Don’t be self-serving by only communicating when there’s something to promote. This annoys people to no end and is harmful to an organization’s image.
  • Don’t ignore persistent questions being asked online. Companies that do this are met with considerable backlash, and once that starts, it’s very hard to control.
  • Don’t assume that what you say in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas. It doesn’t.  What you say in Las Vegas can be reported online in different languages almost instantly in Tokyo, Moscow, Beijing and Buenos Aires.
  • Don’t assume that your brand is safe simply because it’s well-known. You’d better be looking over your shoulder at startups with no-name brands, since the cost of building a famous brand has declined.  Even a small startup can use the Internet (and hire a company like mine to build visibility and brand equity at a reasonable price) to compete with you!

Lucy Siegel

How the Digital Era Redefined PR Story-Telling

January 1, 2013

Story-telling has always been the core of any company’s public relations. But a lot has changed in recent years as news and interpersonal communication have been digitalized: the way companies’ stories are told, who tells them, what channels are used to tell them, the time frame in which they are told and the amount of control a company or other organization has over the telling.

Here’s a summary of the way the traditional “who, what, when, where, why and how” of story-telling has been affected by the digital era.

Stories are passed around, from one computer to another

Stories are passed around the digital campfire, from one computer to another.

Who communicates about the company

The old way:  

  • Company spokespeople – CEO and other selected senior executives
  • PR/corporate communications department, investor relations staff

The new digital way:  

  • In addition to those above, any employee can communicate and has easy access to worldwide audiences to do so, whether or not the company approves
  • The company’s various audiences share information and opinions with each other constantly

How they communicate

The old way:  

  • Mostly via traditional mass media, filtered by journalists – news reported by newspapers, magazines, radio and TV news
  • Via analysts

The new digital way:  

  • All of the above plus online, via web versions of traditional media outlets, newer online-only news outlets and bloggers
  • Increasingly companies also filter data to micro-target their desired audiences one-on-one directly via email, texting and social media networks

What to communicate

The old way:

  • Companies communicated what they wanted people to know

The new digital way:

  • Companies must respond to questions, rumors and incidents that they previously could refrain from discussing

Decision-making process about what to communicate

The old way: 

  • Company management and PR professionals decided what to communicate
  • Professional reporters selected and developed stories using both company announcements and their own investigations

The new digital way:

  • Company engages in a conversation with its target audience to tell them the company’s news
  • However, the audiences have their own agendas, are super-critical and powerful enough to demand information they want. There is no use in trying to hide bad news, because in today’s digital environment, it always comes out
  • Self-proclaimed journalists – bloggers without credentials – select what they want to communicate about the company

Where to communicate (which channels, which geo. areas)

The old way:

  • Company management  and PR team decided which communications vehicles to use to tell their stories
  • Company chose which countries it wanted to communicate in

The new digital way:

  • The company is still often able to choose what publications to use to break a story, which can influence the way the story is reported, not only by the media outlet that breaks it, but by others who are influenced by the first media outlet
  • Stories are picked up by media from other media and reported almost instantly
  • News reported in one country can spread globally freely and instantly

When to communicate

The old way:

  • Company chose announcement time frames
  • Time frame could be planned over the course of a week, a month or more

The new digital way:

  • Company prepares announcements and selects optimal timeframes, but must be prepared to answer questions as they arise, anytime, due to the buzz that social media can generate online
  • Time frame may be instantaneous because information can be spread to millions of people at once

How the  target audience is selected; how much is known about the target audience

The old way:

  • Companies selected general demographic groupings, such as young males in their 20s, retired couples, people with incomes above $X, women with children under 12, etc.

The new digital way:

  • Companies micro-target their audiences, using the ability to manipulate data to finely target individuals they want to reach, one-on-one
  • Companies use digital data to gather large and complex profiles of individuals, ranging from standard demographics to previous buying habits and likes/dislikes that will influence future buying

Next blog post:  do’s and don’ts to make the best use of digital communications

Lucy Siegel

Advance Approval of Interview Quotes: a Self-Destructive Media Policy

September 19, 2012

We’ve all been there: despite training and practice, the CEO blows a good media coverage opportunity by saying the wrong thing to a reporter, and neglects to say what should have been said to communicate the company’s key messages. We all want to see the best possible media portrayal of our companies, or clients’ companies, and there are times we’d love to rewind the interview to answer differently.

We’re finding out that within the political realm, this is indeed possible. It came out this summer that the staffs of both Presidential candidates have refused to grant media interviews with the candidates, their wives and their key aides unless the media outlet would agree to submitting the quotes used from the interview to the campaign staff for approval. Big influential media outlets like the New York Times have been acceding to this demand.

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This practice clearly undermines the quality of the reporting by allowing the campaign staff to sanitize remarks made in interviews by changing quotes to make them more vague and less likely to offend anyone. Never mind that the quote reflected what the person actually said. The purpose of checking the quotes goes way beyond simple fact-checking; it’s aimed at damage control.

Quote approval gives the candidates the power to use the media to shape public perception.  The media play an important role in a democracy as independent third-party voices reporting the facts as objectively as possible. Allowing the candidates to control the reporting to the extent that they can take back what they said weakens the veracity of the reporting.

The cat is out of the bag. Some major media outlets readily admitted that reporters have been allowing quote checking (and alteration) by campaign staffers as a condition for obtaining an interview. Readers who are paying attention and now realize this is happening are bound to have less trust in the media.

This morning I attended a meeting where Bob DeFillippo, Chief Communications Officer at Prudential Financial, spoke about the ways social media has played a role in blurring the lines among earned media (i.e., what is reported by independent news organizations), paid media (i.e., advertising, and paid editorial coverage, often called “advertorial,” which is not earned media but advertising) and owned media (i.e., content that companies create and disseminate themselves, which is neither earned nor paid media). He pointed out that the definitions of the three are becoming more blurred every day, and commented that we need to respect the definitions, not contribute to changing them, because earned media plays such a significant role in building corporate credibility.

He concluded that it’s in the interest of PR people to safeguard the integrity of earned media in order to protect the powerful contribution it can make towards reputation-building. I totally agree with him.

There are many reasons for the blurring of the lines among paid, earned and owned media, not just the proliferation of social media. For example, “pay for play” media coverage – where a publication insists that an organization be an advertiser in order to receive any editorial coverage – is more and more common these days, unfortunately, due to the desperate financial straits many media companies find themselves in. My firm advises clients to stay far away from “pay for play” media situations.

It’s the responsibility of public relations professionals to prepare clients well for media interviews. Sometimes despite our best efforts to do this, clients aren’t portrayed the way we would like them to be in an interview. The solution is not to insist on the right to see and change their quotes. It is certainly not better to rely on “pay for play” media. We just need to see to it that clients get as many media opportunities as possible so that one media mishap doesn’t play a major role in defining the client’s reputation.

Lucy Siegel


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