Wait! What? 7/10: Let’s Get Social!

Facebook...like...obviously. (Thinkstock Photos)
Facebook…like…obviously. (Thinkstock Photos)

This week we bring you the social (Facebook) edition of Wait! What?

Facebook, Facebook, Facebook. It’s all about Marky Mark and his band of merry followers.

  • Sorry Jay-Z, it looks like this may be the end of TIDAL for good. Facebook is getting into the music game – the social network is reportedly bringing music videos and perhaps a music streaming service to its platform.
  • And in other video developments, Facebook has added floating videos, so you can watch and scroll at the same time. Our attention spans needed this.
  • Furthermore, media institutions finding it increasingly difficult to compete in the digital world are now giving up their autonomy and working with Facebook to publish articles on the platform.
  • Meerkat is also turning to FB to drive growth after being snubbed by Twitter. Hopefully, the social juggernaut can save the struggling live streaming service.
  • And in case Facebook’s apparent world domination is making you a little anxious, now there is Joyable, a new app to curb anxiety, which we initially found out about via an ad on Facebook.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter @BlancandOtus! Have a great weekend!

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.

The Butterfly Effect in the Digital Age

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Thinkstock

The butterfly effect. Yes, it’s a movie starring Ashton Kutcher but what I’m really talking about is how a single action, no matter how small, can have larger, more drastic (even detrimental) effects on a bigger event. One commonly used example: a butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil, dramatically altering the course of a tornado in Texas.

Today, a number of small events have generated larger-than-expected outcomes, primarily because of the Internet. The Internet is the ultimate catalyst for this phenomenon, which we’ve now seen play out in the media over and over again. Events that may have flown under the radar in the past are now center stage.

Why has this changed? Platforms like blogs and social media give people a stage to speak their voice and bring national attention to small, localized occurrences. What was once a single, forgettable event can now blow up in your face or become an instant hit overnight. Take these, for instance:

Alaska Airlines’ ‘No Note to Fly’ Fiasco

Alaska Airlines recently booted a woman off a plane traveling from Hawaii to California because she had cancer and appeared ill, but didn’t have a note from her doctor allowing her to fly. Seriously? In their defense, they were following a (probably flawed) protocol and probably didn’t realize how this small event would blow up and get national attention. But it did, and the brand paid the price for what happened on one of its many flights on a global scale. Alaska Airlines was quick to issue an apology and offer a full refund, but the damage was done. The woman missed a chemotherapy appointment and the airline’s reputation was tarnished.

In this case, the butterfly effect triggered a negative outcome, but that doesn’t always have to be the case.

The Blue Dress Incident, and it’s not Lewinsky’s

You may remember the hullabaloo last month over the questionable color of a dress. After the image hit Tumblr, the debate over the dress’ real color exploded all over the Internet. It was covered by numerous leading news sites, and even celebrities joined the online debate. Is it black and blue, or white and gold? Seriously, who cares? Apparently, everyone and their mothers.

This is a perfect example of how one small thing – in this case, an oversaturated photograph of a striped dress – can get national attention. Not your usual example of the butterfly effect, but nonetheless an example of a small event exploding into absurd proportions and becoming a bigger issue than expected.

Good or bad – we see the butterfly effect phenomenon play out in the media on a daily basis. One thing is certain though, hope that your brand doesn’t find itself in a situation like that of Alaska Airlines.

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!

#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.

Wait! What? 3/6: Deep space branding and Vince Vaughn’s stock photo debut

It's really not that different from other stock photos. (Getty/Fox)
It’s really not that different from other stock photos. (Getty/Fox)

Thousands flocked to Barcelona this week for sunshine and sangria – er ahem – Mobile World Congress, meaning we’ve seen a ton of posts about cool new gadgets and cutting edge tech. Aside from this delightfully weird smart pocket watch, here’s what made the headlines this week:

  • Apple will bump AT&T off the Dow Jones Industrial Index at the end of March, providing more evidence of technology’s dominance in the U.S. economy.
  • Twitter plans to give advertisers access to 1,000+ target audiences who have expressed “purchase intent.” We clearly didn’t already have enough ads in our streams.
  • Vince Vaughn and his co-stars posed for ridiculous (and free) stock photos ahead of the release of their newest movie “Unfinished Business.” A great example of how PR stunts can bring joy to the Internet, which can always rally around ridiculing stock photos.
  • Speaking of PR stunts, or rather, missteps, the controversy over Hillary Clinton’s year-long use of private email for government business, is a good example of what not to do when it comes to email security at work.
  • Finally, in case you were wondering about the universe, it turns out innovative technology for deep space missions also needs social media for branding. Just ask NASA’s Jet Propulsion Labs.

Those were our favorite stories of the week; hope you enjoy! Otherwise, you’re free to continue debating whether Jarod Leto’s or Kim Kardashian’s big blonde reveal was better.

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.”

Wait! What? 2/27: Snapchat’s musical venture, Re/code’s high-profile interview, and … Nihilist Arby’s

Arby's: Accelerate your stomach ache. (Thinkstock)
Nihilist Arby’s: Accelerate your stomach ache. (Thinkstock)

Wait, what happened in tech media this week? For one, the FCC decided it will regulate broadband Internet as a public utility. But let’s skip the big picture stuff and dive into some random, less momentous stories:

  • Sometimes parody Twitter accounts do better than the brand’s official channels. Nihilist Arby’s totally gets capitalism and PR – consumers really only care about the BIG questions.
  • Speaking of solid social media campaigns, ever wondered what makes a truly baller PR campaign?
  • And once you’re done mulling over the meaning of PR and/or life, you should probably watch Slow Mo Lab’s video of a rubber ball exploding in slow motion. The company’s approach to online video content is not dumb.
  • Also, in case you were wondering about what is actually important in life, Hillary Clinton just did an interview on the future of the Internet with Re/code’s Kara Swisher.
  • Finally, Snapchat, possibly the newest media titan, is breaking into the music market. Jury’s still out about whether their newest endeavor will be as fleeting as their photos.

That covers it for this week’s top picks – thanks for stopping by. You’re free to return to House of Cards.

Wait? What! 2/13: Happy Valentine’s, Galentine’s and/or “Blood-soaked Conspiracy”

I don't know, we just thought this was cute. Stock photos are hard. (Thinkstock)
I don’t know, we just thought this was cute. Stock photos are hard. (Thinkstock)

Whether you’ll be celebrating Valentine’s Day, Galentine’s Day or just boycotting the occasion entirely, we’ve collected the best news for you to digest along with all of those sugar heart candies and chocolates.

On a more serious note, the media world lost some true greats this week. With that in mind, don’t be afraid to get out there and show some love this weekend.