Should We All Scream for Live Stream?

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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.

#PRmyths – “Get Us in the Wall Street Journal!”

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Thinkstock

The media landscape is changing. This is not breaking news: anyone who works in the PR or media industry knows this. But while this is true, and as we move towards a world in which businesses of all types and sizes are becoming their own publisher, certain habits die hard – habits like considering a cover story in The Wall Street Journal to be the ultimate PR accomplishment.

It’s easy to understand how that habit formed: many top-level executives read The Wall Street Journal on a daily basis, and therefore they want their PR departments (and the agencies they work with) to land that prized coverage. As a result, PR pros have been conditioned to put marquee business press coverage on a pedestal. And look, this can be warranted! Perhaps your clients’ prospective customers are just like your clients’ CEOs and do read the WSJ every day – in which case coverage in the Journal is PR gold. But the likelihood is that just like most of us, the folks your clients are trying to reach are consuming content and information that influences their buying decisions in a huge variety of ways – including through social media.

Want evidence of how the landscape has changed? As of October 2014, The Wall Street Journal had a daily circulation of almost 2.3 million readers. Meanwhile, BuzzFeed draws 200 million readers each month, and 18.5 billion impressions through Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Turns out that many people would prefer to debate the color of a dress than dissect the growth potential of tech companies – and you and your clients need to adapt accordingly.

Again, a marquee piece of business press coverage can be hugely valuable, but if you’re not questioning why it might not be the best fit for your clients’ needs, you haven’t adjusted to the new media landscape – and might be leaving some huge PR opportunities on the table.

Your Brand Is Probably Not Bae

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Thinkstock

If you’re a social media-obsessed public relations professional like me, you may have noticed a certain “ep-bae-demic” spreading across brands’ social media conversations over the past several months.

In the midst of developing an identity on social media, several brands – many in the food and restaurant industry – have chosen to adopt a voice that resonates, or should I say “seeks to resonate,” with a much younger audience.

Introducing “bae”: A common term among millennials that often refers to one’s boyfriend or girlfriend. For example, “Can’t wait to come home and curl up with #bae (insert long list of lovey-dovey emojiis).” Interestingly, The Wall Street Journal also adds the following definition: “Bae can be aspirational – someone of romantic interest. The term has also inevitably evolved to apply to inanimate objects. On Instagram, a particularly mouthwatering plate of BBQ could be #bae, for example.” Among brands tweeting the #bae hashtag are Taco Bell, Burger King, Chili’s, Applebee’s, IHOP, Jimmy John’s, Mountain Dew, Walmart and Gain. (To see more brands that have been caught in the act, check out the “Brands Saying Bae” Twitter account.)

In an effort to sound “less corporate” and more like the 14-year-old kid next door, brands are aging down their social conversation to better connect with their younger audiences. The real question though, as discussed in a recent article in Digiday, is “whether it makes sense for brands to go down that road – and at what point they begin to risk looking ridiculous.”

The article suggests that brands that age down their language by adding in terms like “bae” and “on fleek” are struggling to connect with their audience in a meaningful way. This is because brands that don’t understand their audience enough to develop a natural connection find it easier to mask their message in more youthful terms. (“On fleek,” for the record, is defined as being “on point.”)

The key to creating an engaging and meaningful relationship is understanding the audience, and using the right language is one way for a brand to show it understands its audience. Brands such as Taco Bell and Mountain Dew might find it more beneficial to use this type of language because of their youthful following. However, brands such as Walmart and Gain, with an audience of predominately women and mothers, might want to think twice before tweeting their “bae.”

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.

Human Marketing: Innovations We Love

Humans. They’re everywhere you look!

We’ve been fans of the Humans of New York phenomenon for a while now. With a camera and simple stories, Brandon Stanton has been able to tap the power of global communities, along with the Internet and social media to create a New York Times best selling book, nearly 10 million followers on Facebook, and many copycats and satires seeking to ride its coattails.

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(Mike Mozart/Wikimedia Commons)

We’re drawn to the authenticity, simplicity and lack of pretense that Humans of New York offers. It showcases humanity, reminding us that we are all connected and similar, experiencing triumphs and defeats, challenges and opportunities in our lives.

Humans are definitely back in vogue. And as such, they are getting a bigger piece of the marketing pie. Look no further than the recent campaigns of Coca-Cola and Beats by Dre to see human marketing in its full form. Coke’s campaign is all about celebrating relationships. It’s not about consuming a soda, but sharing a moment with Jenny, Mike, a Star, a Friend – whatever name you are lucky enough to find on your can. Not only was this a brilliant, people-inspired campaign, it also sent consumers out in droves to search for cans with their desired name on it.

The Beats by Dre campaign appealed to the human spirit of various athletes in major sporting competitions – from tennis, to football, to the World Cup.  The campaign was not about headphones, it was about the athletes’ stories. The music of their life set the tone for a heart-tugging commercial. The headphones were simply a vehicle.

You may be thinking that sure, it’s easy for consumer companies to appeal to humans, but if you search across the websites and campaigns of major tech companies, including OracleIBM’s People 4 Smarter Cities and GE, what you will find is humans. Humans using technology to make their job, their industry and the world at large better.

So what are the implications of human marketing for the technology sector and how its stories are told?  Here are three takeaways:

  1. It’s all about the customer experience. Customer experience may be a buzzword, but we don’t expect it to fade into the well-worn woodwork of tech trends anytime soon. The customer, potential customers and basically every constituency a company interacts with has the power to voice their experience via social media and make headline news.  Look no further than one bad Comcast call to see this scenario in action.
  2. Stories need characters, not speeds and feeds. Marketers have spent years telling you how they are bigger, badder, faster. They need to stop thinking about themselves and put themselves in the shoes of their customer. Customers today need to feel that vendors understand them and their unique needs. There is always going to be some shiny new technology knocking at your customer’s door – one that tries to lure them away from you with the promise of something better. But empathy and understanding of your customer delivers lasting competitive advantage.
  3. Simplicity is key. Remember when you used to open a website and you could not make heads or tails of what the company actually did? It was a game of “he who uses the fanciest language and most buzzwords wins.” But no longer. Humans need language they understand – they need you to talk to them like, well, humans. Content needs to cut through the clutter and deliver simple, compelling messages that are easy to grasp and understand in seconds.

Humans may not be innovative or cutting edge – they’ve actually been around for quite a while.  And while they may have fallen into the trough of disillusionment for a while when it came to marketing, we for one are glad to see them back. For starters, one simple fact remains true. Companies need people to buy stuff.  So why not appeal to them as people. After all, being human is the one common factor we all have.

This blog post continues our series on PR innovations we love that kicked off last week. Co-written by B&O VP Kris Reeves.

Should Seasoning Be Saved for Steaks? The Value of Experience in PR (Part 1)

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Thinkstock

It’s easy to fall back on the number of years’ experience we have. We all do it. It’s often a badge of honor on LinkedIn profiles, many agencies boast the collective experience of their management teams and it’s clear from a quick look through our website that we are proud to be one of the longest established tech PR agencies in the world.

But how important is it? How relevant is experience gained in the eighties, nineties and even noughties to the way we engage audiences today? And can experience be more of an anchor than an asset?

The answer of course depends on how that experience is applied. As the Harvard Business Review recently pointed out, the way that marketers engage customers has changed beyond recognition in the past decade. And PR has been at the forefront of that change. The changes across traditional, social and digital media have been well documented (and they are nothing compared to what will happen next with mobile), but knowing the changes and understanding the implications can often be two very different things.

When trying to navigate these changes, there can be the temptation to lean on past experiences. But when, as the HBR explains, “strategies and tactics that were cutting edge just a few years ago are already becoming obsolete,” that can be a dangerous approach.

Take messaging and positioning. Almost every traditional PR program contains a messaging exercise, but to get people’s attention in today’s economy, such exercises are about as relevant as a mission statement pinned to the wall. Instead, over the last few years, people have begun to recognize the power of storytelling. But just like in Hollywood, all stories are not created equal. If storytelling fails to tap into the audience’s imagination and follows the same structure as traditional messaging projects, it simply becomes the same old marketing messages masquerading as a story.

And it’s not just the larger strategic initiatives where rigidly applying past experience can be less than helpful. As even if we do completely rethink exercises like messaging and positioning and adopt approaches such as viral storytelling, it’s not much use if we then use the same tactics from 10 years ago to tell said story.

To look at how those tactics have changed and see if experiences from the past can still be applied, the next post in this series will take on the changes in the way we reach our audiences.