Surviving Conference Season: How to Thrive Via Digital AR

Digital Board
Credit: ilker, FreeImages

Every summer the conference season kicks off here in San Francisco, prompting many tech communications teams to ramp into overdrive. There are many large conferences every year – prominent examples in the second half of the year being VMworld, Oracle OpenWorld and Dreamforce. It’s a busy time for communications teams.

Digital communications strategies are (rightly) an expected component when it comes to planning communications for an event. Analyst Relations teams have historically been somewhat conflicted about the use of digital within AR events. This is for many reasons, but the main one is cultural: integrating digital into an AR event strategy can feel a little counter-intuitive for AR specialists. This is because much of the critical value analysts provide – candid insights, often confidential – takes place in behind-the-scenes conversations via inquiry calls, in-person meetings and strategic advisory sessions. Nonetheless, analysts are active on online channels and a digital strategy should be something that an AR team considers when planning an event.

Many of the strategies and tactics used by PR and social media teams are very transferable to digital AR plans for events. However, there are some clear differences that need to be considered first in order to run a first-class digital strategy. When planning, the below are essential ‘to dos’:

  • Matrix Participating Analysts: While many analysts are active on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook – some may be more active on a specific channel than others. Levels of social participation can also vary greatly from firm to firm and from analyst to analyst. If you have key analysts that have yet to catch the social media bug, then set expectations accordingly with your execs. Alternatively, if you know the majority of your key analysts prefer LinkedIn to Twitter, then factor that into the kinds of digital content you prep for your event. Prioritize activity around the analysts who are not only active on social media, but who base their business models and marketing strategies on being seen and heard on digital channels.
  • Assume Nothing, Ask Smart Questions: When prepping digital content, there’s no better way to plan for an analyst event than to actually ask analysts what they want to hear, what worked well last time and then follow their advice.Run a pre-event audit of your analysts – make sure you have the right execs, right customers and right content onsite to meet their research needs. Leverage inquiry access – either your own, or your PR agency’s – to speak with analysts and ensure that you’ve bullet proofed your agenda, topics and digital assets.There’s no better way to get analysts sharing and commenting on digital content than to ensure the topics discussed on the day interest them professionally.
  • Absolute Clarity on Sharable vs. Confidential Info: We’ve all heard the odd horror story about an analyst tweeting out confidential information – usually roadmap details or confidential customer info. It’s an AR pros worst nightmare. There’s no magic bullet here, but comms teams must cover all possible scenarios. Be clear on what’s sharable, and what absolutely needs to stay under NDA. Be sure to reference this clearly on slides and materials and always verbally re-emphasize what’s under NDA.Make sure attending analysts know they have to be on their very best digital behavior.
  • Thoughtful Content and Discussions Generate Online Commentary: This one sounds pretty obvious, but vendors sometimes become so over focused on their own product specific message, that they can accidentally side-step some really interesting industry centric discussions. Make sure you ask the analysts smart questions on what they’re seeing and hearing – and what their customers ask them about. Be sure to also give them relevant data points and graphics that they can share online with their followers. Remember that analysts care most about:
    • Solving the problems that their end user clients are dealing with
    • Successfully predicting trends and demystifying technologies
    • Level setting industry hype, with their own perspective

Digital content that addresses these areas will be intellectually compelling and highly sharable.

Are you running an industry analyst event for the first time this year? Not sure on where to start when executing your digital AR program? Feel free to email me at tris.clark@blancandotus.com

Should We All Scream for Live Stream?

Thinkstock Photos
Thinkstock Photos

It wasn’t that long ago when social media changed the way we looked at PR and marketing.

No, seriously. The very first tweet was sent out in 2006, but for a good half-decade, most were simply tweeting to let everyone know what they were having for lunch. I never fell into that category. Over the past several years, companies have now gotten a firm grasp on how they can leverage social media to engage their different audiences.

Now comes the latest social content evolution: live streaming.

Live streaming apps like Meerkat, Periscope and Hang w/ are now all the rage for sharing content, and are perfect for real-time viewing. People and brands are using these apps to share thoughts, answer questions and connect more personally to their followers, in the moment. But since the concept of live streaming content is still in its infancy, some of us are still trying to decipher how this latest form of sharing can be leveraged.

There are many pros for content marketers using live streaming apps to promote their brand. For starters, it can be used as a live “ask me anything” segment with the company’s CEO or other key figures. Having a prominent brand advocate speak live to the company’s audience makes for great expert commentary and brand transparency (because sometimes blog posts and event tweets can sound robotic when all your content is so carefully edited). It can also be used to stream live company events, announce a promotion or offer a great limited-time deal. A celebrity takeover might also work wonders for the company – imagine if Steph Curry or LeBron James live-streamed a party at the Google campus. This could easily go more viral than your typical 30-second TV spot – and without any media buy required.

Now for the cons. Live streaming means you’re doing it all in one take, meaning if you screw up, you can’t get all Bill O’Reilly and ask for a do-over. Second, some live streaming apps have a built-in forum for followers to comment in real-time. You know what that means? Trolls! Even though trolling has been around longer than email, it can still be a nuisance when the comments are directly attached to your brand’s content. Periscope has tried to control the situation with its follow-only mode, which allows for only your Twitter followers to view your stream and content. But that doesn’t do much good for companies with tons of followers (some trolls, undoubtedly) or that are looking to engage non-followers. If you have an idea on how to keep all trolls off live streaming apps, then the rest of the Internet will be happy to pay you millions of dollars to have them removed from other platforms, too.

Most importantly, understand that there are great risks when live streaming on behalf of your brand. Trolls can be ignored during those “ask me anything” segments, but what about those who begin asking questions about topics you really don’t want to discuss? Just like any live in-studio interview, be prepared for any unforeseen questions that might come your way. It’s up to you if you choose to ignore it, or want to acknowledge it. Regardless of how you want to handle it, remember that everyone’s looking at you, and it’s important to stay composed throughout the recording.

My advice: Though live streaming at our fingertips isn’t necessarily a “thing” just yet, it could be very soon. And if you want to leverage this new technology to push your brand and messaging, be sure to have a fully scoped plan behind your campaign. It’s just like shooting a live, one-take commercial … and the feedback will be instantaneous. So know what you want to say, have the right person in front of the camera and please be safe when filming live.

How to Secure Coverage for Your Startup Client

"I can't believe no one wrote about this. *refreshes Google News*" (Thinkstock Photos)
“I can’t believe no one wrote about this. *refreshes Google News*” (Thinkstock Photos)

These days, the world of business-to-business (B2B) tech is saturated with new companies on a daily basis – meaning that media coverage is no longer guaranteed for every funding round, partnership announcement or executive Q&A. But if you follow these guidelines, your chances are bound to improve:

  • Pin down positioning. In B2B tech PR, it can be difficult to secure your startup client coverage when there’s no hard news or innovative, disruptive, world-changing product announcement, so that’s where positioning comes in. A relatively new startup has to have some sort of quantitative or qualitative edge. When positioning them in the media, it proves more fruitful to discuss the hard facts about what the company is doing rather than trying to convince reporters your client is an innovative disruptor. Empty buzzwords will make their eyes will glaze over (and shift their attention to a startup another PR agency is pitching).
  • Manage client expectations. This is an important one. Managing your client’s expectations is key when trying to secure them coverage. Building a relationship with media takes time, but unsurprisingly your client will want tier-one business press coverage now…and again next month. Assure them that when getting their feet wet in the fickle world of tech reporting, going for trade publications first can be an effective way to reach a target audience. That way, when working your way up to higher tier, more coveted coverage there will be examples to share with reporters and show that your client has established itself in the media.
  • Jump on trends. Asserting your client into the conversation and positioning them as a thought leader on their subject matter is another good way to ensure they get coverage. Stay up to date on what’s happening in key industries by following the right influencers on Twitter and bookmarking the appropriate target publications. Newsletter services like HARO and ProfNet that connect reporters with potential sources are also effective ways to keep up with and comment on trends. Browsing every HARO and ProfNet posting and acting quickly to pitch relevant opportunities have produced effective, quick and easy wins on many occasions.
  • Use your connections. Don’t have any? Make them! One thing that we may all forget sometimes is that it’s not the outlets that write stories – it’s individual writers that do. Get to know the reporters you target for stories on social media, whether it’s on Twitter, Facebook or personal blogs. By connecting and interacting with them it makes it that much more likely they’ll open your email pitch if they recognize your client’s name or yours. In other words, be a good PR person and do some research (but be cool about it – see next point).
  • Don’t be a pest. As we’ve discussed in a recent blog post on PR myths, there is a right way and a wrong way to pitch and follow up with reporters you are trying to get to cover your client. Although the format of a pitch, length, style, etc. are all subjective and depend on the pitcher and pitched, one thing is for sure and it’s that reporters do NOT enjoy bothersome “call-downs.” Sure, a quick call after an email may be a very efficient way of getting a reporter’s attention, but just use your best judgment and don’t risk having all your future pitches flagged immediately as spam. Similarly, don’t spam or stalk reporters too rigorously on social media – striking a balance is key.

So, what do you think? If you have comments, concerns or questions about PR for your own startup, feel free to drop me a line.

The New Rules of News and Content Values

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Thinkstock

The line between news and content is rapidly blurring. As many BuzzFeed readers will attest, it’s no longer strange to see an article on Hillary Clinton’s approach to campaigning beside a list of 22 (very important) questions Muggles have for wizards.

An increasingly social and searchable web mixed with commercial pressures has seen online news publications with softer, more positive and humorous voices emerge. At the same time, brands now have the ability to complement media relations programs with content published on owned channels, making brand stories and content more discoverable and shareable that ever before.

As media look beyond traditional news values the amount of news articles featuring cat exploits and brands celebrating 4/20 will only increase. However, the craft of storytelling, journalistic inquiry and understanding of traditional news values remains an important core competency for the modern PR practitioner.

News values, as articulated by Galtung and Ruge (G&R), continue to form the backbone by which media judge the newsworthiness of a story, and should continue to be factored in when developing angles, pitches and media materials. This criteria is also great for keeping corporate blogs grounded, engaging and relevant – lest they become the home of shallow self-promotional waffle and puff pieces.

So if you’re producing content for a brand’s blog or developing a pitch for media, here are some of the modern news/content values you might what to consider:

  • Frequency: An event that occurs suddenly and fits neatly within the content schedule (think Haley’s comet) is more likely to be selected than a one that takes place over a long period of time – sorry, evolution. When it comes to your content calendar, don’t linger too long on a topic.
  • Threshold: According to G&R, events have to pass a threshold before they are news/content worthy – the greater the intensity (the bigger the acquisition or the greater Grumpy Cat’s book deal), the greater the impact.
  • Proximity: How close events are to an audience will have an impact. The smaller the intensity of the story, the closer the news has to be to the audience. From a content perspective, remember where your primary audience is located.
  • Unambiguity/Simplicity: The more clearly a story can be understood and interpreted without multiple meanings, the better. When it comes to content, you are always going to be able to say more, but is it really necessary?
  • Meaningfulness/Familiarity: News/content should be culturally familiar – be kind and keep your audience in mind.
  • Consonance/Predictability: Does the story align with media’s experience? If there are predictable elements they’ll be more prepared to cover the story. Similarly, what stories/content is your team in a good position to tell?
  • Unexpectedness/Unusualness: Unexpected, rare or unusual events/stories are more likely to pique media interest. At the same time, these stories make great blog click bait. Just kidding, but seriously.
  • Continuity: A story already in the news has a good chance of remaining in the news (even if its impact has been reduced) because it has become familiar and easier to interpret. A blog post on a hot topic is a great way to get a brand involved in a conversation where they may have expertise.
  • Composition: Editors often look to find balance – they don’t want too many Apple Watch follow-up stories. In the same vein, your brand’s blog should be mixing it up and adding some content diversity. Variety is the spice of life.
  • Reference to elite nations/people/companies: G&R are talking hard news so references to global superpowers will increase the newsworthiness of the story. From a PR perspective, the same could be said in terms of referencing elite companies. Is there a partnership with a large company you can mention to make your brand more interesting? How many blog posts can you name-drop Apple in?
  • Reference to persons: According to G&R, the best stories are presented in terms of individual people rather than abstractions. Bill Rundle agrees with this statement. Quote and profile customers and partners on your blog, and attribute posts to actual people.
  • Conflict/Negativity: Bad events are generally unambiguous and newsworthy, and opposition or viewpoints that conflict are more likely to hold the media’s ear. Similarly, a blog post with a contrarian perspective will often find favor with like-minded people.
  • Exclusivity/Niche-knowledge: Content that helps solve specific problems in an area that doesn’t receive much media coverage can quickly find an audience and drive search traffic to your blog/website. These posts can also build credibility and position a subject matter expert as an essential source of commentary.
  • Humor/Quirkiness: Newer digital publications are increasingly including funny and quirky stories, which often get widely shared on social channels. When it comes to owned channels, even corporations are allowed a sense of humor.
  • Kids/Animals: ‘Never work with kids and animals’ has become ‘Always work with kids and animals.’ The Internet loves this stuff; give it what it wants. What’s your misbehaving Llama strategy?

This list is by no means exhaustive, and every news publication and blog will give each of these a different weighting depending on the audience. We’re curious to hear from other PR pros and journalists – what are some other modern news / content values? Tweet us @BlancandOtus.

Social Posting 101: The Skinny on Sharing Good Content

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Thinkstock

A few months ago, we discussed the optimal time for posting on social media. Here we are again to set the record straight: more content doesn’t always mean better content, and posting for the sake of posting should be avoided at all costs. Social media content should be aimed to delight, engage, educate and (sometimes) even create some controversy with your audience. Follow these tips to make sure you’re on track with your social content:

Facebook

Facebook doesn’t make it easy for brand posts to be successful. In short, if you want promotional brand posts to appear, it won’t be free. However, this does not mean that all content goes unseen – Facebook is mainly filtering out posts they consider to be “promotional,” meaning that quality content will still be organically distributed. Now the questions remains, what is quality content?

Kevan Lee, content manager at Buffer, has pulled together a list of what makes the “perfect” Facebook post:

  • Must contain a link: Research conducted by Facebook itself found that users prefer displayed links over photos with text displayed above.
    • This same research found that 80 percent of users preferred not to see “click-bait” headlines, but rather headlines that helped them decide if they wanted to read the story or not.
  • Keep it short: A study done by Buddy Media found that posts that contained 40 characters or less received 86 percent more engagement than longer posts.
  • Relevance is king: Guess what? People want to share real-time news with their friends! No surprise there, but you might not know that the Facebook algorithm boosts posts that are “trending” or being mentioned across the platform. Follow conversations and see what your audience is talking about to boost engagement.
  • What’s your content strategy? The most engaged-with brands on Facebook have a strategy when posting content. Consistence and frequency are crucial, though this doesn’t mean post five times a day. But make sure you have a regular cadence of content being shared with your audience.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn has about 260 million users and leads the pack for professionals among the social networks listed. It can be both a way to connect with old colleagues, as well as a powerful tool for lead generation. Econsultancy found that LinkedIn sends four times more traffic to your company’s homepage than Twitter and Facebook. Additionally, the platform has the highest visitor-to-lead conversion rate at 2.74 percent. How do you make sure you’re maximizing this potential?

  • Let us repeat ourselves, consistency is crucial to the success of your profile. Whether it be a personal or brand page, consistent messaging ensures that your profile effectively conveys your message if a visitor decides to read one post or twenty.
  • Make sure your content is appropriate for the platform. LinkedIn members are professionals; they aren’t looking for cute cat videos (albeit, don’t hesitate to share these elsewhere). In fact, according to research from LinkedIn, 6 out of every 10 users are interested in reading industry insights, followed closely by company and product news (53 percent and 43 percent of users are interested in this type of content, respectively).
  • LinkedIn has two tools for marketers to determine what content is resonating best with their audience: Content Marketing Score and Trending Content. You can learn more about both tools here. These aim to arm you with the insights needed to post the most relevant and engaging content to both personal and brand pages.

Twitter 

Twitter is a bit like the Wild West of social media. Finding the best content to post often takes some experimenting to see what hashtags, articles, and voice resonates the best with your audience. Nick Lewis, PR and social media expert, compiled a list of the components of a good Tweet:

  • Don’t tweet with nothing to say: Does your Tweet serve a purpose? Does it warrant engagement from your audience? Over-posting without adding any value will likely result in reduced engagement, so the purpose of your content should be clear.
  • Link to associated sources: Due to Twitter’s character count, it’s sometimes tough to convey your whole message in a single tweet. This is where directing your audience to a related source (i.e. an article, blog post) comes in handy.
  • Include images: It’s simple. Tweets that include an image receive 150 percent more retweets than those that do not.

Instagram

Instagram is the fastest growing major social media network in the world with over 300 million users, including more than half of all online young adults. It’s no secret that visual content is exponentially more engaging than written content, especially with millennials. What is the secret to Insta-fame? Let us explain:

  • Context and relevance are key: Think before you hit the ‘Share’ button. What value does this add to my customer’s life? How do they benefit? Why would they be interested? How can I make this relevant to my followers?
  • Hashtag brilliance: Branded hashtags are a great way to not only engage with your audience, but also a great way to curate photos to share on your brand’s account. The clothing brand, Aritizia is a great example of a successful, branded hashtag.

For examples of what not to post, check out this article from The Huffington Post.

Regardless of the network, one piece advice rings true – know your audience before you say anything. What trends do they care about? What annoys them? What content are they seeking out on social media in the first place? And what are they posting?

Once you begin to answer these questions, you’re well on your way to posting engaging content.

Spring Forward Your Social Channels

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Thinkstock

It’s finally springtime! While you adjust your sleeping schedule and relish in the longer evenings, now is also a great time to embark on some spring cleaning – and we’re not just talking about your hall closet and under the bed; you should also make it a habit to revisit your social media channels.

Two channels in particular, Twitter and LinkedIn, are now used by approximately 25 percent of online adults, according to a recent Pew Research Center report. Here are a few easy to implement changes to ensure you’re getting the most from these platforms:

Twitter:

  • Follow-up! Twitter is only as interesting as the people you follow. Think about the last five articles you’ve read or shared with friends, then add those reporters to your list. Made some new PR contacts lately? See if they’re regulars on Twitter. If you’re still at a loss, check out these lists for inspiration: Top 10 Techies to Follow on Twitter, Refinery29’s 10 Best Comedians or TIME Magazine’s ever-popular Twitter 140.
  • Plan your attack. If you’re using Twitter for more than listening, tweeting consistently is critical to adding new followers and engaging in conversations. Third-party tools like Hootsuite or Twitter’s TweetDeck can help you stock up on tweets at the beginning of the week so you’re using Twitter more regularly.
  • Get a social content face-lift. Aesthetically, make sure your Twitter page represents you as well as possible. Try adding a new Twitter background to liven things up. Check out your short bio and make sure the details are still relevant. Add some recent photos or videos for viewing on your profile page. Thanks to recent features added by Twitter, users can now capture, edit and share videos right from the Twitter app.

LinkedIn:

  • Practice makes perfect. Check out your list of skills and make sure they’re up to date. Start by spending five minutes thinking about your most challenging projects from the past year. What were your biggest roadblocks and what skills helped you tackle them? Now add those skills to your LinkedIn profile. Think of your profile as your personal brand – keeping it updated ensures you’re putting your best foot forward and offering an accurate picture of who you are in the real world. Don’t have time? Here are nine more reasons that will help you get motivated.
  • Mix and mingle. Engaging in groups related to your professional interests will expand your network. From the “Groups” button on the navigation bar you’ll be able to search for new groups or manage the ones you’re already in. Start by using groups as a way to keep up with industry information and when you’re ready, start proposing and answering questions to make new connections. There are more than 200 conversations happening every minute across LinkedIn groups, so if you look you’re bound to find something that appeals to you!

The best part about these easy-to-make changes is that they can be implemented in under an hour. Talk about a quick turnaround!

Pitching Shades of Grey

The phenomenon that is Fifty Shades of Grey is sweeping the nation – nay, the world. We’ll admit it…we’re not immune to the buzz. We love buzz! Buzz is what we do. So buckle up, strap in and come up with a third innuendo for this sentence, because we’re sharing the five things Christian Grey taught us about media relations.

1. Be clear and keep a cool head.

greyspam.tumblr.com
greyspam.tumblr.com

When pitching, be clear about the story, and provide all the top line information right off the bat. Also, don’t get overly excited when a reporter expresses interest – it could scare off your target, and the opportunity could finish prematurely.

2. Subject headings are vital. 

imyours90.tumblr.com
imyours90.tumblr.com

In the book, Ana and Christian talk a lot via e-mail and their phones (enterprise mobile collaboration, or sexting?). They keep those subject headings interesting. That’s something to keep in mind when pitching a reporter who’s already sifting through hundreds of emails with stale subject headings.

Also, cool it with the ellipses, guys. Don’t start a sentence in the subject field and finish in the body – the body of the e-mail! Get your minds out of the gutter.

3. Mutual satisfaction. (What’s in it for them?)

foreversours.tumblr.com
foreversours.tumblr.com

Sure your client gets coverage, but what’s in it for the writer? Pitch a story that will lend itself to the larger scope of your media target’s work. That way, both parties come away satisfied.

4. Do your research. 

zoesaldans.tumblr.com
zoesaldans.tumblr.com

As the head of a giant corporation – or whatever the heck his job is – Christian needs to always be in the know. He takes it a bit far when he finds out Ana’s email address, place of work and life history without permission – but hey, the guy’s got balls – and not the kind your thinking of.

This should go without saying, but you must research your targets before pitching. Understand their coverage areas, and read as much of their material as you can. Reporters can smell a cookie cutter pitch from a mile away.

5. Tie up loose ends. 

havecoloursinyourlife.tumblr.com
havecoloursinyourlife.tumblr.com

We know it’s a bit obvious, but humor us – you’re still reading this thing after all. What we’re talking about here is closing the loop. Always follow up to thank the reporter and provide any additional materials – but don’t go overboard. One email is usually plenty.

Whether you choose to see the movie, or lie and say you didn’t, we won’t judge you. You can just tell everyone you were doing research on pitching!

What OkCupid and Other Dating Sites Can Teach You About Media Relations

Fact: There are 54.3 million single people in the U.S.

Fact: 41.3 million people in the U.S. have tried online dating

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Thinkstock

Are you surprised by these stats? I was. Even living in Silicon Valley – where online dating is pretty much the norm – I was still amazed to see that 76 percent of single people have tried it. Assuming of course that not too many “taken” people are trying their luck online.

A recent conversation with a friend currently navigating the online dating seas got me thinking. He was talking about his “approach” to communication on OkCupid and my PR mind couldn’t help but drift to how much of a parallel there is between the approach one takes to online dating and the approach for media relations.

So I decided what better topic for a blog post, right?

Know Your Goal

First and foremost, a person should know what they are hoping to accomplish in terms of a relationship. Are you just looking for casual dating or are you ready to settle down? The answer to this may change which online dating site you should select. Tinder has a notorious reputation for being casual. Match.com is known for more serious relationships – just take a look at this Reddit thread.

How does this relate back to media relations? Well, the first thing you need to consider is what media goal you are trying to accomplish for your client. If they are eager to get in front of C-level folks, then business press is where you should go. If they are keener to reach the line of business group then you should pitch the story to HR, sales, finance and other specific vertical publications.

Selecting the Right Target

The fun has only just begun. Once you’ve identified the site that best suits your needs, it’s time to go fishing. You can scroll for days and days trying to find which matches tickle your fancy. You’re looking for someone who likes yoga, hiking and wine tasting. Honestly, that shouldn’t be too hard to find in the Bay Area, but maybe you also want someone that has a specific quirk or a creative “About Me.”

As is the case when selecting the characteristics that make up your perfect mate, selecting the right media person to start a conversation with begins with selecting the right publication. Then comes the harder task of narrowing it down and finding which writer is most relevant to the story you are pitching. Media often complain to PR people about receiving pitches that have nothing to do with their beat. So make sure to do your research and pick the reporter who would actually cover the story!

Grab Their Attention

Short and punchy? Long and heartfelt? What’s the best way to grab your new online interest’s attention? Be creative!

Same rules apply with media, although I’m pretty sure a reporter at Bloomberg would not appreciate a long, heartfelt pitch. This goes back to doing your research. Use what you do know about the reporter or fellow online dater to craft a personal note that makes them feel special. A generic email you can mass-send to potential matches rarely works as well as a tailored, specific pitch for each individual.

The Follow Up

Now this one threw me for a loop. My guy friend said that sometimes a girl will respond to him once and then go silent. “What the heck?” I said, at first.

But then I thought, “Wait…I know exactly what he’s talking about.” Ever get a response to your pitch saying they’re interested in speaking to your client, but then when you follow up with availability they no longer respond? I’m never really sure about what happens here but I try to get creative in my follow up notes. No, I’m not one of those PR people that simply keep sending emails saying “just following up on my previous note.” Try relating back to something they just wrote and get the conversation going that way.

In both online dating and media follow up, maybe check back in once or twice, but if you don’t hear anything the message should be loud and clear: MOVE ON.

The Pay Off

Bam! You’ve started a conversation with the lucky dater and secured the coveted in-person meeting. The hard work is mostly over.

The same goes for finally securing that phone or in-person briefing with a reporter. You are on the line, listening to your client give the company elevator pitch, and you’re just thanking your lucky stars that both joined the conference line on time.

Now if you especially lucky, the meeting leads to a follow-up date (also known as an amazing article)…but don’t bank on it. Nothing’s a 100 percent when it comes to dating or the media.

Show Interest

Even though you got the pay off, your work isn’t done. It’s important to now nurture the relationship. With online dating, that is if you liked the person, maintain that communication and set up another date.

With media, keep the lines of communication open. Shoot them notes every now and again commenting on an article they just wrote and offering your perspective or flagging a piece of news you think they would be interested in writing about. The best relationships media have with PR folks are beneficial for both parties; the same can be said for partner relationships.

Well, you get the gist. If you need to work on your media relations, head on over to an online dating site and put your skills to the test.

There’s a Platform for That: Medium vs. LinkedIn

In an ultra-competitive world where companies are constantly battling to be heard, corporate websites and traditional

Credit: nemo, 29822, pixabay
Credit: nemo, 29822, pixabay

marketing platforms alone are no longer enough. But articles in high-readership publications can be tricky to secure as well.

That is why many brands – and for that matter, individuals – are starting to act like a publisher and embrace the brand journalism concept.

But where should you start? LinkedIn and Medium are the two most frequently used by business leaders to publish articles. In fact, everyone from celebrities to corporate CEOs to the White House are using these services.

Which site is a better fit for you and your business? The honest answer is – it depends.

LinkedIn and Medium both allow you to publish content, but that’s where the similarities end. Before you choose one, ask yourself:

Who am I trying to engage?

What do they care about?

What am I trying to accomplish?

How do I want my audience to react?

Feeling like this, right about now? Well, don’t despair. There is a lot of great information out there about how the two platforms compare, including this article that looks at how one CEO fared when he used both platforms for the same post.

Still confused? Well here’s our take on how the two platforms compare on reach, ease of use, design and engagement:

Reach

LinkedIn: As an established platform, people and brands have had a lot of time to build up a network/following on LinkedIn. Any content published on LinkedIn goes directly to its user stream, where it typically appears in the news feeds of the people users share the most connections with — particularly shared connections who are frequently on LinkedIn via their browser or mobile app.

Medium: Since Medium was founded by Twitter’s Evan Williams, it easily integrates with Twitter. This can be a good or bad thing. Good because if you have a large amount of followers on Twitter, you automatically have them on Medium. Bad because if you don’t have a Twitter following – or if you’re not on Twitter to begin with – it’s like adding an extra (and time-consuming) step to building your platform and audience. Like LinkedIn, Medium also sends out weekly updates to your followers, showing them the fresh content for the week, increasing the likelihood of your content getting read.

Ease of Use

LinkedIn: It’s pretty straightforward. Just click on the pencil icon in the status update bar and begin writing (or pasting). The problem comes when you start to consider how to make your content stand out. Because people go on LinkedIn to network with peers, look for jobs and connect with recruiters, it can be easy for your content to get lost in the shuffle.

Medium: It’s hard to imagine how Medium could be a more intuitive platform. It’s got a full WYSIWYG interface, as well as an HTML5 text editor for any word you want to highlight. That’s pretty sweet. Unlike LinkedIn, where the pencil icon is subtle, there’s a huge “new story” button on Medium you click to get started on your content. That button’s almost asking you to “click me and let your thoughts run wild.” 

Design

LinkedIn: If all you want to do is push content … and not worry about how cool it looks, it’s all good. There’s a headline, your headshot and an option to add a photo in the body copy if you’re interested. Not much else.

Medium: Clearly the better platform for your creative juices to flow. You can add hi-res header images, better looking text and annotations for each paragraph is available instead of your typical comments section at the very bottom of the story. With Medium, you feel like the content is yours and for a second, readers might mistaken it for your own website. This makes Medium an awesome platform for longer, more thorough and cutting edge thought leadership pieces. (A long article on LinkedIn just looks like a long article). Need some inspiration? Check out these great posts – Monday NFL Hangover: Super Bowl Edition and Ubuntu 14.10 Running on my MacBook.

Engagement

LinkedIn: More LinkedIn users are turning to mobile apps because they’re on the go. They’re likely to read content if it’s quick and easy (say 500 words) – just the right length to kill time while waiting in line at Chipotle. It’s one thing to reach your audience, it’s another to actually engage with them. One advantage LinkedIn has is that as your network is already familiar with you, users are more likely to share your content (how many times have you seen a post that starts with “Check out this article …”)? Also, most people are on LinkedIn to read stuff — not write stuff. That means it’s easier to find influencer content on their stream while scrolling. LinkedIn continues to send users weekly emails with status updates and recommended posts. Your article will be there too.

Medium: What’s great about Medium is that anyone can use it. What’s bad about Medium is that – well … anyone can use it. It’s a strong vehicle to attract readers and share your stories. At the same time, you’re battling other users who apparently forgot to take English class in college and just spew out rants (usually about sports or politics). After that, there are businesses that are just looking to push marketing materials and press releases. This makes it that much more important to generate thought-provoking content and publish it across social channels, instead of simply posting it and waiting to see who finds it.

So you should pick …

There isn’t necessary a “winner,” but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. No one said you have to pick one platform over the other and instead, this is one of those times when double dipping is perfectly acceptable as long as you keep Google’s duplicate content rules in mind.

So try both. Even The White House is using both. Just prior to President Obama’s State of the Union Address, the White House announced what he was going to talk about on LinkedIn, while posting the entire transcript on Medium (you can also see the amount of views and shares).

This process may take some time (try a couple of months), but over time you’ll see the metrics yourself and formulate your own conclusion on which platform is right for you. If you can’t wait that long and need a recommendation right now – give us a call.

8 Ways to Improve Your Google Results

Thinkstock
Thinkstock

Have you ever searched your name on Google? If not, have you searched your favorite celebrity? Chances are you have, and what you may uncover is not always good. For example, my latest search of my favorite actor (Brad Pitt) brought up a whole host of articles about his relationship with Jen. Unless they’re hoping to profit off the old breakup story forever, Pitt’s PR team likely wants the ranking of those articles lowered.

During the past few years, Google has made multiple algorithm updates nicknamed Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird and, most recently, Pigeon. While these algorithms change the way paid SEO firms must operate, they do not significantly change the best practices. There are still ways that you can raise positive content or bury the not-so-pleasant articles about your product shortfall, or latest breakup!

Here are some tips to help raise the good content and hide the bad: 

  1. Issue a press release: Increase the number of press releases on the wire. While we don’t always encourage extra press releases, if you are not issuing at least one a month this is a simple solution to increase rankings.
  2. Comment on news articles:  Results coming from a domain like The New York Times are considered very credible by Google. While this doesn’t necessarily have the same impact as coverage in The New York Times, it’s better than negative articles.
  3. Optimize brand videos: YouTube is often considered the second largest search engine, and promoting images and videos can help push negative content down further. Some experts say Google ranks your YouTube content higher than pages from your own website. This article also highlights more reasons for why videos are awesome for search.
  4. Contribute content: Draft content for some of the most credible publications, such as Wired or Fast Company. To optimize reach you can also pay to promote, giving your content an extra boost.
  5. Sponsor content: We’d recommend considering sponsored content or paid ads. There are a whole host of publications, such as VentureBeat, that allow you to publish advertorials while ensuring that it’s contextually relevant, and then of course you could try mastering AdWords.
  6. Update/add online presence to search directories: Make sure directories, such as Crunchbase and BigSight are up to date with your latest messaging, as search engines consider these credible when it comes to your rankings.
  7. Increase owned content: Continue a strong cadence of publishing to your brand’s blog and social media profiles. Also, investigate ways to republish content on other platforms such as SlideShare, Vimeo or Storify.
  8. SEO consultant: If you have tried all of the above and want to try and fight Google’s algorithms, work with an SEO consultant to determine if your SEO is optimized appropriately.

What did you find when you searched your name or brand? Any other tips that have worked well for you? Let us know @BlancandOtus.